The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., May 26, 1999

First Session

WEDNESDAY, MAY 26, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Fish. - Seniors: Licences - Fees Exempt, Mr. B. Taylor 6205
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women Newsletter,
Hon. F. Cosman (by Hon. R. Harrison) 6206
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Environ. - Water Licence Fee Credit Program, Hon. M. Samson 6206
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2977, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Export Rally (C.B.): Business (C.B.) -
Attendance Encourage, Hon. Manning MacDonald 6208
Vote - Affirmative 6209
Res. 2978, Status of Women - Advisory Council: Work - Commend,
Hon. F. Cosman (by Hon. R. Harrison) 6209
Vote - Affirmative 6210
Res. 2979, Educ. - Teaching Excellence (PM Awards 1998):
Charles McMillan (Truro JHS) & Sylvia Gunnery
(Park View Educ. Ctr.) - Congrats., Hon. W. Gaudet 6210
Vote - Affirmative 6211
Res. 2980, Nat. Res. (Can.) - Sustainable Energy Calendar:
Students Involvement - Encourage, Hon. K. MacAskill 6211
Vote - Affirmative 6211
Res. 2981, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Housing Starts: Increase -
Commend, Hon. R. White 6211
Vote - Affirmative 6212
Res. 2982, Justice - School Prog. (Smart Life Choices):
Mr. Derwin Swinimer (Lun. Co.) - Commend, Hon. R. Harrison 6212
Vote - Affirmative 6213
Res. 2983, Environ. - Week (Cdn. 30/5-5/6/99): Participation -
Encourage, Hon. M. Samson 6213
Vote - Affirmative 6213
Res. 2984, Sports: Boxing - Encourage, Hon. K. MacAskill 6214
Vote - Affirmative 6214
Res. 2985, Health - Air Medical Transport Prog.: Work - Recognize,
Hon. J. Smith 6214
Vote - Affirmative 6215
Res. 2986, Health - IWK-Grace Health Centre Auxiliary: Kermesse -
Thank, Hon. J. Smith 6215
Vote - Affirmative 6216
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 104, Coastal Properties Study (1999) Act, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6216
No. 105, Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act, Hon. K. Colwell 6216
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2987, NSGEU - Dave Peters: Contributions - Acknowledge,
Mr. R. Chisholm 6216
Vote - Affirmative 6217
Res. 2988, Fish. - NSSA Scholarship Award 1999: Matthew MacLean
(Middle River, Vic. Co.) - Congrats., Hon. K. MacAskill 6217
Vote - Affirmative 6218
Res. 2989, Foreign Affs. (Can.) - Stan Faulder: Execution Texas
(17/06/99) - Clemency Support, Mr. D. Dexter 6218
Res. 2990, House of Assembly - Gov't. Business: Commitment -
Demonstrate, Mr. J. Holm 6219
Res. 2991, Sports - Swimming: Michael Smith (New Minas) -
Officiating Commitment Congrats., Hon. R. Harrison 6219
Vote - Affirmative 6220
Res. 2992, Sports - Handball Champs. (Can.): Antigonish Team -
Congrats., Mr. H. Fraser 6220
Vote - Affirmative 6221
Res. 2993, Sports - Cabot Trail Relay Race (Victoria): Congrats. -
Extend, Hon. K. MacAskill 6221
Vote - Affirmative 6221
Res. 2994, Girl Guides (N.S.) - Camp Kanada (Musquodoboit Hbr.):
Opening - Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 6222
Vote - Affirmative 6222
Res. 2995, Sysco - Future: NDP (N.S.) Indifference - Better Expect,
Mr. P. MacEwan 6223
Res. 2996, Environ. - Industry Sector: Growth - Dartmouth South MLA-
Staff (Environ.) Meet, Hon. M. Samson 6223
Res. 2997, Educ. - Chedabucto Place School (Guys.): Announcement -
Commend, Hon. R. White 6224
Res. 2998, Culture - Anna. Commun. Play Project: Organizers -
Congrats., Mr. L. Montgomery 6225
Vote - Affirmative 6225
Res. 2999, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Eastern Shore: Tourism Operators -
Contribution Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 6225
Vote - Affirmative 6226
Res. 3000, Health - Eyeglasses Campaign (C. & S. America):
Kts. of Columbus, Lions Club & CNIB - Congrats., Mr. G. Fogarty 6226
Vote - Affirmative 6227
Res. 3001, RCL (N.S. Command): Convention 1999 (Pt. Hawkesbury) -
Congrats., Hon. R. White 6227
Vote - Affirmative 6227
Res. 3002, Sysco - Bd. Member (Lbr. Rep.): NDP (N.S.) -
Approval Awaited, Mr. P. MacEwan 6228
Res. 3003, Health - Care: Quality - Future Gov't. [NDP (N.S.)] Doomed,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 6228
Res. 3004, Educ. - School Reach for the Top Champs.: Cobequid Educ.
Ctr. (Truro) - Luck Wish, Hon. E. Lorraine (by Hon. W. Gaudet) 6229
Vote - Affirmative 6230
Res. 3005, Sports - Athletics (Hfx.-Dart. DHS Track Meet): Record
Breakers (Dart. East) - Congrats., Hon. J. Smith 6230
Vote - Affirmative 6230
Res. 3006, Sports - Basketball (N.S. Prov. Team): Nick Baskwill
(Bridgetown RHS) - Selection Congrats., Mr. L. Montgomery 6230
Vote - Affirmative 6231
Res. 3007, Scouting - Woodlawn Group (First) [Dartmouth]:
Anniv. 45th - Congrats., Hon. J. Smith 6231
Vote - Affirmative 6232
Res. 3008, Culture: Storytellers (Can.) Conf. [N.S. 29/7-1/8/99] -
Welcome, Mr. G. Fogarty 6232
Vote - Affirmative 6233
Res. 3009, NDP (N.S.) - Donations: Detail - Provide,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 6233
Aza Avramovitch - Death of: Sympathy - Extend, The Premier 6233
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 996, Fin. - TD Bank: Commun. Presence - Maintain,
Mr. R. Chisholm 6234
No. 997, Fin. - TD Bank: Service Centre - Closure Discuss, Dr. J. Hamm 6235
No. 998, Fin.: Credit Unions - Use (Gov't. [N.S.]), Mr. H. Epstein 6236
No. 999, Health - Nurses: Shortage (Yarmouth) - Prevalence,
Mr. N. LeBlanc 6237
No. 1000, Fin. - HST: Relief - Promise Unfulfilled, Mr. R. Chisholm 6239
No. 1001, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Staples Call Centre: Negotiations -
Status, Mr. G. Balser 6240
No. 1002, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Shipbuilding Policy (Cdn.) -
Pressurize (Gov't. [Can.]), Mr. R. Chisholm 6241
No. 1003, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Pictou Shipyards: Marine Slip -
Repairs, Mr. C. Parker 6242
No. 1004, Health - Physicians: Shortage - Info. Table, Dr. J. Hamm 6243
No. 1005, Health - Cancer Care Nova Scotia: Chemotherapy Drugs -
Funding, Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 6244
No. 1006, Health: Deputy Minister Former (Mildred Royer) - Status,
Mr. G. Moody 6245
No. 1007, Health - Mother Berchman's Centre: Nursing Home -
Status, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6246
No. 1008, Health - Ambulance Serv.: Hospital Transfers -
Fees Eliminate, Mr. M. Baker 6247
No. 1009, Health: Melville Lodge - Status, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6248
No. 1010, Gaming Corp. - VLTs: Non-Profit Groups - Quota,
Mr. B. Taylor 6250
No. 1011, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - East Preston: Intersection -
Flashing Lights, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6251
No. 1012, Health - Lab Techs.: Education - Availability, Mr. P. Delefes 6252
No. 1013, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Aerospace: Growth - Ensure,
Mr. G. Balser 6253
No. 1014, Health - Illness Catastrophic: Drug Costs - Assistance,
Mr. P. Delefes 6253
No. 1015, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101 (Mt. Uniacke-
Windsor): Twinning - Plans, Mr. G. Archibald 6254
No. 1016, Exco - Deputy Ministers: African Cdn. - Number,
Ms. Y. Atwell 6256
No. 1017, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Employees - Recall, Mr. M. Scott 6256
No. 1018, Lbr. - Construction (C.B.): Older Workers - Proposal Action,
Mr. F. Corbett 6257
No. 1019, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Secondary Rds.: Tenders -
Announce, Mr. E. Fage 6258
No. 1020, Health: MSVU (DePaul Ctr.) - Funding,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6260
No. 1021, Health - Info. Confidential: Security - Future,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6261
No. 1022, Nat. Res. - Forests Act: Amdts. - Implementation,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 6262
No. 1023, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Mac Timber: Bankruptcy Sale -
Proceeds, Mr. D. Dexter 6263
No. 1024, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. Construction: Tenders - Delay,
Mr. B. Taylor 6264
No. 1025, Nat. Res. - Barrachois Marina (C.B.): Operation - Review,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 6264
No. 1026, Environ. - Truro: Flooding - Plans, Mr. J. Muir 6265
No. 1027, Fin.: Budget (1999-2000) - Date, Mr. H. Epstein 6267
No. 1028, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwys.: Upper Stewiacke &
Musquodoboit Valleys - Improvements, Mr. B. Taylor 6267
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 106, Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Act, Hon. R. White 6268
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 2858, Health - Nurses: Shortage - Address,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6268
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6268
Hon. J. Smith 6271
Mr. G. Moody 6273
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 6276
Hon. Manning MacDonald 6279
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 54, Whistleblowers Act 6280
Mr. R. Chisholm 6281
Mr. P. MacEwan 6284
Mr. M. Baker 6285
Mr. J. Holm 6288
Hon. M. Samson 6292
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Econ. Dev. & Tourism - NovaKnowledge Report:
Economy (N.S.) - Growth:
Mr. Charles MacDonald 6294
Mr. P. Delefes 6297
Mr. G. Balser 6299
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 27th at 2:00 p.m. 6302

[Page 6205]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 26, 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 advise members that the late debate this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Inverness and it reads:

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotia's good grade in the annual report card from NovaKnowledge, an organization which promotes the information technology sector, is proof the economic climate produced by this Liberal Government is contributing to the growth of the new information economy in every corner of Nova Scotia.

As I say, that resolution will be debated at 6:00 p.m. this evening.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave, once again, to table a petition from Nova Scotians and it 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.". I have affixed my name to the petition and, again, I remind all members in the House that it is an original petition.

6205

[Page 6206]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Community Services, I rise in the House today to table the latest newsletter of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Copies are being circulated and distributed to the House and I encourage all members to read the update to get a much greater understanding of the significant progress and accomplishments that are being carried out by the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to share with the House details about an innovative Department of the Environment program that is helping numerous conservation groups protect and preserve our waterways throughout Nova Scotia. In 1998 alone, more than 30 organizations received funding under our department's Water License Fee Credit Program. Support, through this program, is provided for fish habitat improvements, water quality monitoring, water related research and stewardship promotion initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, this innovative program is one of the ways the department is working with stewardship groups to help restore and maintain waterways for future generations. It is a successful partnership with a range of environmental enhancement initiatives supported by volunteers in communities throughout the province.

For example, the East Shelburne County Rivers Association, Millbrook Fisheries, Pictou County Rivers Association, St. Mary's River Association, Kings County Wildlife Association, Cumberland County Rivers Enhancement Association, Sackville Rivers Association, New Waterford Fish and Game Association and the Margaree Salmon Association are just a few of the groups benefiting from our fee credit program. All Nova Scotians, in turn, are benefiting from their initiatives; initiatives that are helping to ensure Nova Scotia continues to reap environmental, economic and recreational benefits associated with our many waterways.

[Page 6207]

This program also provides support to research projects by academic institutions such as Dalhousie University and Acadia University. In addition, we are supporting initiatives by the Clean Nova Scotia Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps. The Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture are also involved through related programs.

Mr. Speaker, this program is a direct result of the public, corporate and not-for-profit sector getting involved in restoration efforts of our waterways. Program funding comes from companies that are required to pay a licensing fee for withdrawing large quantities of water from provincial waterways. The program enables those companies to use a portion of fees owing to environmental enhancement projects. In 1998, Nova Scotia Power Inc., Halifax Regional Water Commission, Stora, Minas Basin Pulp & Paper Company and Bowater Mersey qualified for the fee credit program.

Since the fee credit program was introduced in 1993, the province has helped support more than 100 projects in communities throughout this province. I would like to thank the countless people who have made this program work for all Nova Scotians, from the many volunteers and organizations who are constantly working to restore our waterways for the benefit of all Nova Scotians and the companies themselves and the many dedicated department staff involved in this project. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (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 the advance copy of the announcement. That is always appreciated.

I would like also like to say that we are always pleased to receive information about innovative programs like this and to get a greater appreciation for the amount of energy and effort that is put into protecting and preserving our waterways in Nova Scotia. There is certainly a valuable contribution being made through this program, which is one of the more mysterious programs, in some respects, that comes under the Department of the Environment. This is a very little known program. So, receiving information about it is certainly helpful.

I hope to be here some day when the minister rises, given his concern about protection of water resources, and hear an announcement on funding for some clean-up in Halifax Harbour. Hopefully, that will not be too far away. There are other waterways, like Muggah Creek in Sydney, that could use a little bit of financial support for some clean-up as well.

Mr. Speaker, I also have to express my bewilderment as to why this information is being shared with us at this time because I see absolutely nothing in the announcement that indicates this is a significant point in the program or a significant anniversary. We seem to be getting daily announcements from the minister and while it is helpful to get new information, or information that is time relevant, I think we are going to have to restructure the order

[Page 6208]

paper one of these days so that in addition to ministerial announcements, there will be a slot for this minister's daily announcement. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to rise in response to the minister's statement. Programs that work toward providing support for initiatives such as fish habitat improvements, water quality monitoring, water related research and the promotion of stewardship are of obvious significance to all Nova Scotians.

I would like to extend my congratulations to all the groups who benefit from the fee credit program and wish them continued success. However, I would also like to take this opportunity to note that the minister has provided us with a number of good news statements since this Legislature resumed. I have noted that this is rather old news because I picked this announcement off the Internet, I think, one month ago. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEWOLFE: We are pleased that there are people and organizations benefiting from the programs and initiatives implemented by his predecessors. I would like to ask the minister to turn his mind to preparing programs and plans that work towards addressing long-term plans for the residents of Frederick Street, or the fact that some communities are still without access to adequate drinking water, or the concerns raised regarding the PCBs at Five Island Lake, or the Halifax clean-up, and the list goes on. Thank you. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

RESOLUTION NO. 2977

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

Whereas on June 15 and June 16, 1999, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism will be holding a Cape Breton Export Rally at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's; and

Whereas the rally will follow a successful event that was held in Truro earlier this year at which experienced exporters were linked with people who had never exported in the past; and

Whereas the export rally will help Cape Breton business operators to learn all about breaking into new markets from a stellar group of experts;

[Page 6209]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly encourage all Cape Breton businesses interested in expanding their markets to attend Cape Breton's first export rally.

Mr. Speaker, I will ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2978

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I do this on behalf of the Minister of Community Services.

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women is committed to its mission of advancing equality, fairness and dignity for all women in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Advisory Council does this by providing government with valuable advice and information on matters relating to the status of women; and

Whereas the council chair, with valuable experience and a record of excellence, serves to inspire and guide new council members to reach for the same superior level of commitment to women's equality;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend and congratulate the Advisory Council on its outstanding work and its chair on unflagging dedication to the very important issue of equality for all Nova Scotia women.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

[Page 6210]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2979

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

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas teachers, Charles McMillan, of Truro Junior High, and Sylvia Gunnery, of Park View Education Centre, will receive Certificates of Achievement as part of the 1998 Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence; and

Whereas the awards honour elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada who have best prepared students for the challenges of a changing society and knowledge-based economy; and

Whereas both teachers will be featured in Exemplary Practices, a publication of winning ideas and innovative teaching methods that is shared with educators across the country and around the world via the Internet;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Charles McMillan and Sylvia Gunnery for their national awards.

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.

[Page 6211]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2980

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

Whereas for the past 10 years, Natural Resources Canada has produced a sustainable energy and environment calendar with children's artwork from the provinces and territories; and

Whereas this calendar encourages children to show examples of energy efficiency by environmentally responsible means; and

Whereas through the provincial government, elementary students from across Nova Scotia are being asked to participate in this educational project that we all can learn from, regardless of age;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in encouraging students to become involved in this project so they can demonstrate their creativity and show all of us ways to save energy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 2981

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

[Page 6212]

Whereas Nova Scotia's housing starts are rising in contrast to the national trend; and

Whereas housing starts in Nova Scotia are predicted to increase by 20 per cent by the end of this year; and

Whereas this rise reflects the positive effects of new projects, a strong economy and a heightened consumer confidence;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the rise of housing starts in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2982

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

Whereas Mr. Derwin Swinimer, a correctional officer at the Lunenburg County Correctional Centre has instituted a program designed to teach young people about smart life choices; and

Whereas this program brings willing inmates into local classrooms to teach young people about the dangers of life on the streets and addictions that can follow; and

Whereas this program allows the correctional centre to build important relationships with schools, police agencies and the community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Mr. Swinimer for his initiative in putting this important school program in place and providing students with an opportunity to learn from others willing to share their personal experiences.

[Page 6213]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of the Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 2983

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

Whereas the 1999 Canadian Environment Week is to be held from May 30th to June 5th; and

Whereas this is a week used to celebrate the commitment and efforts of Canadians who are working towards a clean and healthy environment; and

Whereas during Environment Week, there will be a number of activities which will highlight our local and global environment;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House make an effort to participate in such activities and promote actions that will help preserve our natural environment.

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 6214]

The honourable Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority.

RESOLUTION NO. 2984

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

Whereas on May 20th, at the Halifax Metro Centre, a long awaited Pro-Am Boxing card was held that included seven amateur and four professional fights; and

Whereas over 3,700 people attended this excitement-filled event which showcased a number of established and promising local boxers, many of whom have been successful in winning medals at the National, Commonwealth and Olympic Boxing levels; and

Whereas this Night at the Fights event proved very successful in working towards returning the fight game in Nova Scotia to the glory days it enjoyed 20 years ago;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in encouraging all boxers in Nova Scotia to do their utmost in reaching their personal goals in the sport of boxing whether it may be in the amateur or professional ranks.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2985

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's Air Medical Transport Program celebrated its 3rd Anniversary last week in Yarmouth; and

[Page 6215]

Whereas this celebration reunited former patients with the men and women who immediately responded to them in their time of need, demonstrating care, concern and a high level of expertise; and

Whereas the success of the Air Medical Transport Program relies on the teamwork of ground ambulance paramedics and first responders across Nova Scotia, as well as the communications paramedics who dispatch and help coordinate the arrival and departure of the air ambulance;

Therefore be it resolved this House recognize the work of all those involved in the Air Medical Transport Program who bring critically ill and injured adults, children, babies, and expectant mothers at risk from across Nova Scotia to hospitals in Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2986

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

Whereas May 29th marks the 88th year of the ever-popular Kermesse fund-raiser organized annually to benefit what's now known as the IWK-Grace Health Centre for Children, Women and Families; and

Whereas since its existence, Kermesse has successfully raised more than $3 million to go towards purchasing room decorations, furniture for a family lounge, TVs and VCRs to help make a child's stay at the health centre as pleasant as possible, as well as supporting medical research projects and the purchases of new and advanced equipment; and

Whereas the goal of the Health Centre Auxiliary, the organizers of the Kermesse, is $125,000 this year;

[Page 6216]

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to recognize and thank the IWK-Grace Health Centre Auxiliary and the over 800 volunteers for their hard work toward Kermesse . . .

MR. SPEAKER: That is getting very close to being too long.

DR. SMITH: . . . as well as to encourage Nova Scotians to attend Kermesse this year to help raise funds for the IWK-Grace Health Centre.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 104 - Entitled an Act to Provide for a Study of Non-resident Ownership of Coastal Properties in Nova Scotia. (Mr. William Estabrooks)

Bill No. 105 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 25 of the Acts of 1996. The Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act. (Hon. Keith Colwell)

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. 2987

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

Whereas Dave Peters will soon be retiring from public service and from his position as President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union; and

[Page 6217]

Whereas Dave has given exemplary service and direction to the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union for more than three decades, during which time the union and public servants have come under great challenges; and

Whereas under Dave's leadership, the NSGEU has achieved its greatest growth in representation;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge Dave Peters' contributions and wish him well on his retirement.

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 Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2988

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

Whereas earlier this month the Nova Scotia Salmon Association announced the recipient of its 1998 NSSA Scholarship Award given to assist an individual who enhances by any endeavour the well-being of Atlantic salmon or trout in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas one of the only two successful recipients named for this scholarship was Matthew MacLean from Middle River, Victoria County; and

Whereas Matthew has shown his leadership qualities while working for the Highland Bras d'Or Sportfishing Association in their efforts to complete a river mapping project of both the Middle and Baddeck Rivers;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this extend their congratulations, along with me, to Matthew for being selected for this award and offer our best wishes for continued success in his future endeavours.

[Page 6218]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2989

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

Whereas Canadian Stan Faulder is presently on death row in Texas and is scheduled to be executed on June 17th; and

Whereas Texas officials violated the Vienna Convention by failing to notify the Canadian Government of Stan Faulder's indictment until 15 years after his first trial; and

Whereas interventions asking for clemency for Mr. Faulder have come from the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Archbishop Desmond Tutu;

Therefore be it resolved that this House support the request for clemency and the proper observation of the Vienna Convention.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 6219]

RESOLUTION NO. 2990

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

Whereas yesterday, the Liberals once again adjourned the Legislature early; and

Whereas as of yesterday, there was still no budget in sight; and

Whereas the Liberals seem content to fritter away valuable Legislature time and ignore pressing issues like the legislation already on the order paper;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government stop wasting taxpayers' dollars and demonstrate a commitment to making the Legislature work for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2991

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

Whereas Michael Smith of New Minas has been an avid volunteer swimming official for the last 20 years, serving 16 of those years as Chairman of the Swimming Officials for Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Michael Smith has officiated at provincial, national and international swimming events, including the Commonwealth Games in 1996, and has been the province's representative on the National Officials Association; and

Whereas recently Michael Smith was named Sport Nova Scotia's Official of the Year at the annual IKON Amateur Sports Awards Ceremony;

[Page 6220]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Michael Smith for his commitment to the sport of swimming and for his many hours of contribution as an outstanding official.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 2992

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

Whereas the Canadian Handball Championships were held in Burlington over the weekend; and

Whereas players from Nova Scotia made an admirable showing at the event; and

Whereas members of the Antigonish handball team were successful in capturing four titles at the national tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Lavonah Madden, Carla Seewald, Leah Chisholm, Kelly-Ann O'Toole, Karen MacDonald and each and every player who gave their all at the recent Canadian Handball Championships.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[2:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6221]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2993

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

Whereas this upcoming weekend, May 29th and May 30th, my riding of Victoria will host the 12th Annual Cabot Trail Relay Race; and

Whereas over the years, this international event has become an increasingly popular competition that sees participants challenged by running over the steep inclines of the world-renowned Cabot Trail; and

Whereas a sure sign of this race's prominence was when Attractions Canada, a national organizations, recently nominated it as the top sports event in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to all the organizers of this event and offer best wishes to the 55 registered teams for a fair and successful race this year.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honorable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

[Page 6222]

RESOLUTION NO. 2994

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Provincial Girl Guides of Canada is dedicated to developing the physical and mental skills of young women; and

Whereas their membership is 5,901 strong, which includes the areas of Halifax, Carter, Fraser, Dartmouth Lakes and Marine Shore, and ranges in age from 5 to 18 and includes Sparks, Brownies, Girl Guides, Pathfinders, Cadets, Rangers and Junior Leaders; and

Whereas Camp Kanada, located in Musquodoboit Harbour, has been financially secured through several supporting organizations and by the Girl Guides' efforts in selling cookies over a five year period where they have raised a grand total of $156,000 for the renovations needed at Camp Kanada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Nova Scotia Provincial Girl Guides for all their hard work and dedication and wish them well at their grand opening on June 26, 1999.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver. That notice of motion was also getting very long.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I bring to your attention visitors that we have in the west gallery today. We have the Grade 12 students of Sir John A. Macdonald High School. Accompanying them are two of their teachers who still admit in public, they are friends of mine: Art Campbell and Kevin McNair from the staff. I would be remiss if I did not point out that among that class is a member of the class of 1999 by the name of Jana Estabrooks. I would ask the class to stand and receive the greetings of our House. (Applause)

[Page 6223]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2995

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

Whereas the NDP pre-election slogan and theme is that Nova Scotians expect better and deserve better from their government; and

AN HON. MEMBER: Demand better.

MR. MACEWAN: Demand better, all right.

Whereas Sydney steelworkers expect better and demand better than the non-support they are getting these days from the Official Opposition; and

Whereas Sydney steelworkers need help now, with the Tory onslaught against Sysco's very existence, yet all they get from the NDP is stony-hearted indifference;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians expect better and demand better than the apparent total lack of interest the New Democratic Party has towards the future of the Sydney steel industry.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of the Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 2996

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

Whereas yesterday, in this House, I presented the results of the 1998 Nova Scotia Environmental Employment Report; and

Whereas the member for Dartmouth South raised questions about the accuracy and nature of this announcement; and

Whereas staff within the Environment Department collected this information from the industry itself;

[Page 6224]

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Dartmouth South take this opportunity and invitation to meet with my staff to gain a better understanding of the positive news regarding this emerging sector of our economy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 2997

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

Whereas last week, the Premier along with the Minister of Education announced the construction of 16 new schools; and

Whereas at a gathering of over 400 students and parents in Guysborough I informed them that Chedabucto Place, a new P-12 school for Guysborough, was part of the announcement of the 16 new schools; and

Whereas at the conclusion of the press conference confirming one of the new schools was Chedabucto Place, the full group stood up in unison with a resounding ovation for all involved;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the government on its announcement and the people of Guysborough for their resounding support of their government's initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 6225]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2998

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 Annapolis Region Community Arts Council has developed a creative and unique way to celebrate Annapolis in the Year 2000; and

Whereas the Annapolis Community Play Project is planning a community production to take place at Fort Anne National Park and will involve as many citizens as possible; and

Whereas this project is now looking for a playwright to draft a play that incorporates the people of Annapolis and their history;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the organizers of the Annapolis Community Play Project on their innovative way of celebrating our culture and wish them luck as they prepare for their new millennium play.

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 Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2999

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

Whereas the 6th Annual Marine Drive Tourism Day was held on May 15th in Sheet Harbour; and

[Page 6226]

Whereas the number of tourists visiting the Eastern Shore is still on the uprise with room sales up 8 per cent over last year with 117,000 rooms sold; and

Whereas these impressive results are a direct result of strong efforts by government and industry working together promoting tourism along the Eastern Shore;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to the many individuals, businesses and communities who have all contributed to this outstanding success and wish them continued success in the tourism industry on the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 3000

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

Whereas this afternoon at St. Theresa's Church in Halifax, the Knights of Columbus Council 1097 will hold a closing ceremony for their eyeglasses campaign; and

Whereas the campaign, part of the Knights' millennium celebrations, collected more than 1,200 pairs of used glasses for people in Central and South America; and

Whereas the eyewear will be distributed with help from the Lions Club and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club and the CNIB for their efforts to promote vision care in poorer countries and thank the many gracious donors of used eyeglasses.

[Page 6227]

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 3001

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Command of the Royal Canadian Legion held its annual convention this past week in Port Hawkesbury; and

Whereas over 400 delegates from across Nova Scotia attended the convention; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Command of the Royal Canadian Legion has provided exemplary service to the Nova Scotia veterans;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Nova Scotia Command of the Royal Canadian Legion on a most successful convention in the beautiful community of Port Hawkesbury.

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 6228]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3002

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

Whereas the indifference of the NDP group to the fate of Sydney Steel is not confined merely to their lack of support for the business plan; and

Whereas this government, for the first time in history, placed a representative of labour on the Sydney Steel Corporation Board of Directors; and

Whereas John Kingston, District Director for the United Steelworkers of America, brings to the Sysco board invaluable knowledge of steelmaking as well as the perspective of the rank-and-file labourer;

Therefore be it resolved that this House expresses its surprise that not one peep of approval, let alone indication of enthusiasm, came from the NDP when this government put labour on the Sysco board.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 3003

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

Whereas today the Chronicle-Herald ran a column on a study of life expectancy rates in the western provinces; and

Whereas the study found people in Saskatchewan are dying sooner than they did in the early 1990's and infant deaths are up during the same period; and

Whereas the early 1990's marked the beginning of the Saskatchewan NDP's closure of 50 rural hospitals and slashing of health care staff;

Therefore be it resolved that quality health care in this province would be doomed under any future NDP Government since the Leader of the Nova Scotia NDP promises to copy the NDP model of governing in Saskatchewan.

[Page 6229]

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 Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3004

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of my colleague, the honourable member for Colchester North, the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing, I would like to make this resolution on his behalf.

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

Whereas Mark Pearce, Philip Carpenter, Jonathan Adams, Wendy Vissers, Grant Vanzeumeren and Jamie Burgess of Cobequid Education Centre in Truro have won all 10 games at the Provincial School Reach for the Top Championship; and

Whereas by winning all 10 of these games they will represent Nova Scotia at the University of Toronto on May 28th at the National School Reach for the Top Championship; and

Whereas this accomplishment reflects their high caliber of academic achievement;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize their accomplishment and wish them the best of luck as they represent this province on the national stage.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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.

[Page 6230]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3005

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

Whereas Lower Sackville played host to the Halifax-Dartmouth District High School Track Meet on May 19 and May 20, 1999; and

Whereas a total of 26 records were broken in various events during the course of this two day track meet; and

Whereas Jeff Englehutt, Adam Schaus and Andre Boudreau of Dartmouth East broke records in the junior boys 1,500 metres, intermediate boys javelin and senior boys discus respectively;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend our appreciation to all volunteers and officials for another successful Halifax-Dartmouth District High School Track Meet and congratulate Jeff Englehutt, Adam Schaus and Andre Boudreau on their record-breaking performances.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3006

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

[Page 6231]

Whereas 17 year old Nick Baskwill recently scored the basket which won the provincial championship for Bridgetown Regional High School; and

Whereas Nick's skill on the court and dedication to the game has earned him a spot on the Nova Scotia Provincial Basketball Team; and

Whereas this is a unique achievement since Nick is the first student in the history of Bridgetown Regional High School to make the provincial team;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Nick Baskwill on his success and wish him luck in his future both on and off the basketball court.

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 mined, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3007

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

Whereas scouting represents the largest youth organization in Canada, as well as the world, with members found in over 150 countries; and

Whereas on Sunday, June 6, 1999, the 1st Woodlawn Scouting Group will be celebrating 45 years of scouting in the Dartmouth-Woodlawn community; and

Whereas this celebration will feature a campfire 'like no other' and a parade of uniforms that spans Woodlawn's 45 year history;

[Page 6232]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mrs. Mary MacMillan, Chair; Tena Boutilier, Co-Chair, and their organizing committee for organizing this celebration of 45 years honouring Scouts of the 1st Woodlawn Group, both past and present.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[2:45 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 3008

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

Whereas from July 29th to August 1st, Nova Scotia will be the talk of the nation as we host the 7th Annual Conference of the Storytellers of Canada; and

Whereas the event will feature storytellers from across the country and offer workshops on developing storytelling skills; and

Whereas the conference is an excellent opportunity to highlight the rich oral traditions of our many small Nova Scotian communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House welcome to our province all participants in the upcoming Conference of the Storytellers of Canada and wish the organizers luck for a successful event.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 6233]

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 Premier.

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, it is my sad duty to notify the House that the husband of the Minister of Community Services has passed away. I know that all of us join with her and their families in saying how deeply sorry we are for this terrible loss. I would ask that you, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all of us in the House, extend to the families our deepest regret and our sorrow at this occurrence. If I might, sir, I would like to ask for a moment of silence for the families.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for a minute of silence. Please rise.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated. I will look after that matter.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 3009

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 NDP accepted a $60,000 donation from the Cape Breton Building and Trades Council; and

Whereas the council admitted this money did not come from union dues but it came out of the pockets of contractors on the Island; and

Whereas the NDP have been trying to deflect attention away from donations they receive from out-of-province unions;

[Page 6234]

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP give full and transparent account of all funds, services and volunteer help their Party obtained so that Nova Scotians can decide if the NDP owes political debts to organizations from outside of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time being 2:49 p.m., we will continue until 4:19 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - TD BANK: COMMUN. PRESENCE - MAINTAIN

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. Today we have learned that the Toronto-Dominion Bank has notified at least 100 employees at its Regional Financial Services section that their jobs will be wiped out and that our region will now be served by a centre in southern Ontario. I want to ask the Premier, what steps has his government taken to see that chartered banks like the TD maintain a significant community and regional presence?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have nothing official to substantiate what the Leader of the Opposition has said. I have heard those same stories, that same information, but I have not had anything official. I think the public's attitude on this will be measured by what they feel a corporation should provide to a community, and they will act accordingly.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what this announcement, today, indicates to all Nova Scotians is that this very profitable, large bank in this country shows that they are ready to abandon regions like Nova Scotia despite their privileged position. I want to ask the Premier, is his government prepared to start moving some of its deposits and other business to credit unions and other institutions that are prepared to make a local commitment to the communities in Nova Scotia?

[Page 6235]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is a little premature to say what the Government of Nova Scotia would do, because we do not have any official notice as to what has transpired. As to what the reaction to a privileged corporation would be, I think that Nova Scotians will voice that in their own way under any circumstances that reflect, by any corporation, a disregard for their jurisdiction.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a trait of this government to want to act after something has happened; that is a clear trait of this government. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: There was a clear warning that the banks might be seeking retribution as a result of the fact that their merger plans were vetoed.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, if he will ensure that his government will seek a combined federal-provincial response to ensure that banks serve the country that make those banks wealthy, as the U.S. does with the Community Reinvestment Act?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I cannot say what the Province of Nova Scotia will do until we receive official notification. I have to be absolutely sure that what the Leader of the Opposition is alleging has, in fact, taken place. Once we have received official notification and we have had a chance to review it, which shouldn't take too long, then I would be in a better position to respond.

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

FIN. - TD BANK: SERVICE CENTRE - CLOSURE DISCUSS

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has indicated that he has only received this information a very short time ago, but the employees at the financial service centre were told today that, in fact, the centre would be closed by September and the centre would be moved to London, Ontario. My question to the Premier is, is the Premier prepared to discuss with the Toronto Dominion Bank the economic ramifications of the loss of this centre to the Nova Scotia economy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I understand the sentiments of the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, but I think it would be irresponsible, as Premier, to comment as to what the government would be prepared to do in light of allegations of which we have not been officially informed. I really do not think, at this point, that I can respond to his question.

[Page 6236]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue with the Premier. I can understand the Premier's reluctance to jump out too far ahead of the situation, but the situation does exist and there will be an opportunity, and I would hope that the Premier would seize this opportunity, to look at it.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. HAMM: My question to the Premier is, is the Premier aware that there are circulating, perhaps one would say rumours, that, in fact, the major banks in this province are considering closing a number of branches in rural Nova Scotia and is the Premier prepared to discuss this with the major banks in Canada?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the further closure of branches in Nova Scotia is something of concern to the government. I want to say to the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, and all members, that the banks are doing very well in Canada and we expect, as a government, that they would be fair with not only the Province of Nova Scotia but the whole Atlantic Region. As a government, we will certainly be watching that.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for his answer. All of us have been caught off guard by this announcement. On the other hand, it is a fact that the employees have been told that by September they will either be working in London, Ontario or they won't be working for the Toronto-Dominion Bank. My question is, will the Premier give us an undertaking to give us an explanation why these good, high-paying, middle management jobs are leaving Nova Scotia and going to Ontario? Were they spirited away by Ontario or in fact are they going simply . . .

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can't explain why anyone would want to leave the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't have the information for the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party but once we receive official notification and some of the background information, we will certainly be prepared to respond further.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN.: CREDIT UNIONS - USE (GOV'T. [N.S.])

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Premier. It seems clear that we don't need official notification to believe in keeping money available for local investment here. Can the Premier explain why the government won't commit right now to putting just a small percentage of its business through the credit unions?

[Page 6237]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would say that the comments of the member for Halifax Chebucto are quite irresponsible. We do need official notification of something as major as has been alleged here today. The fact is that we have to act responsibly as a government if we expect corporations in our jurisdiction to act responsibly. Whatever they do that is irresponsible should not be responded to in kind by this government.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, last year during the discussion about the proposed bank mergers, Nova Scotia stood to lose up to 1,000 jobs if those bank mergers went ahead. Can the Premier explain why it is that the province, why his government, was completely silent on this issue and did not stand up to protect Nova Scotia jobs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer this question to the Minister of Finance. He has further information.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the House that I was out. In fact, I was in touch with the Toronto-Dominion Bank to find out exactly what was going on.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, our office has already heard from some employees who are firmly of the belief that their jobs are gone no matter what. The question for the Minister of Finance is, what steps is he prepared to take to try to protect those jobs?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I just got off the phone with a representative of the Toronto-Dominion Bank. The announcement that was made this morning is that in fact, almost 100 positions will be moving over the next number of months starting in September and again in October, to London, Ontario. I will say, if the House would listen to this, that these are technical administrative jobs that are really behind the bank loan offices in the province and that the individuals who are affected, each and every one of them will be offered other alternative options with regard to jobs here and outside the border of Nova Scotia.

That is what I have been able to find out and obviously, we have pointed out the concerns of the province but we have to go forward and find the information.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HEALTH - NURSES: SHORTAGE (YARMOUTH) - PREVALENCE

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker my question through you is to the Minister of Health. Last Thursday evening representatives of the Western Regional Health Board met in Yarmouth with the medical staff of the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. As the headlines say, "Diagnosis Critical". It was reported that the board's official estimate is that the Western Regional Health Board has a minimum of 81 full-time nursing positions that they are short, and at the present time they are only operating with . . .

[Page 6238]

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. LEBLANC: . . . 17 casual nurses. My question to the minister is, after his claim last week - with our concerns about health - that we were fear-mongering, can he tell the House today as to whether or not his belief has changed and whether the situation in Yarmouth is prevalent across Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the nursing profession is certainly the backbone of the health care system. I think the profession, it is safe to say, is undergoing a lot of pressure in areas, a lot of casual work instead of full-time employment. We will be debating a resolution later this afternoon and I will be making a statement in there relative to nursing. It is a matter, we have a concern, and I have discussed that with the CEO of the western region as late as last evening and we are looking at all situations in the regional areas.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I think we all agree that there is a nursing shortage in Nova Scotia and this minister has brought about the report that is supposed to come out, - the Health Human Resources Planning Section report - to come forward, and two or three times it has been delayed. I will table for the minister his own letter to the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. LEBLANC: . . . saying it was delayed until April 30th, and that has come and gone. Can the minister say today when this report will be made public so the nursing crisis in Nova Scotia will start to be addressed?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is a Human Resources Committee on nursing. The Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and many of the other stakeholders are, in fact, involved in that. It is that group that is bringing forth a report to me. I have not received the report. I am looking forward within the next week or so, or I am hoping at least by the end of this month, but there was a lot of work to be done, a lot of stakeholder group focus sessions were held, and I will make that available when I receive that.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, at the same meeting your CEO from the Western Regional Health Board heard loud and clear that they are not happy with the doctor recruitment program. Can the minister, here today, indicate as to whether or not he is prepared to meet personally with the medical staff of these hospitals which are having doctor shortages and what he will do personally to start the process whereby those doctor shortages will be addressed today?

[Page 6239]

DR. SMITH: I have met with medical staff in several different hospitals, including the Yarmouth hospital. I would just like to say that today we know that two family physicians are on their way back from the U.S. to set up practice in Yarmouth. A family physician will be visiting, a surgeon has been recruited, an obstetrician/gynaecologist will start in June/July. Other family physicians are looking at coming this summer. Two radiologists have visited lately, as well as an ophthalmologist. That's activity, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - HST: RELIEF - PROMISE UNFULFILLED

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. One of the Premier's main promises as he campaigned for the leadership of his Party was BST relief on home heating fuel, electricity and children's clothing. He didn't deliver on that commitment. I ask the Premier. When will he finally admit that his government is never going to keep its promise of BST relief on family essentials?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I did say was that I felt that the HST on children's clothing and heating oil placed an unfair burden on the families of Nova Scotia, particularly low income families and, where I could, I would help to relieve that burden. That is exactly what I said. Now, I understand the Leader of the Official Opposition needs remedial reading, but the fact is that is what I said.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in last year's Budget Address the Minister of Finance said that the government's intention was to continue to offer the 5 per cent electricity rebate. Yesterday, the Premier wouldn't confirm that this rebate, as small as it is, will continue.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Again, he didn't deliver. My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is, when did his government change its policy and drop this small measure of BST relief?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has not changed its policy of helping low income families in the best way possible. We will continue to do that and we will help them in the way we feel is going to have the most important impact on them. As far as the HST is concerned, the honourable Leader of the Opposition will have to wait and see.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this Premier is making a career out of promising BST relief to low income Nova Scotians but not coming through. I want to ask the Premier when he will stop acting like a federal backbencher and start doing something about BST relief for low income Nova Scotians?

[Page 6240]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would seem that the Leader of the Opposition is making a career out of BS, never mind the T (Laughter) and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the Premier to please withdraw that.

THE PREMIER: . . . I would suggest to him that the government is going to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I asked the Premier to please withdraw that remark.

THE PREMIER: Well, I will withdraw it but it depends what . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Unparliamentary initials.

THE PREMIER: These are letters in the alphabet, Mr. Speaker, but I will withdraw them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: I want to say to him, the fact of the matter is, instead of posturing, there should be more concern for people in need in Nova Scotia from his Party.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - STAPLES CALL CENTRE:

NEGOTIATIONS - STATUS

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is directed to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. On April 7th, in response to a question regarding the Staples deal, you indicated that negotiations had been concluded and that the Staples deal was a done deal. Then one month later to the day, on May 7th, in the local media, you said that negotiations with Staples were ongoing and should be completed in the near future. In light of your tendency toward obscurance . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Who wrote that?

MR. BALSER: Who wrote that, good question. When will we know about the deal? What is the current status of the Staples deal?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to tell the honourable gentleman that we are still negotiating with Staples and we will be making some public announcements soon.

[Page 6241]

MR. BALSER: When you talked about the Staples deal before, you indicated that it had been brought to Halifax after some extensive negotiations. The taxpayers need to know what type of incentives were granted to Staples to lure them to Nova Scotia. What did the deal include?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that honourable gentleman should know by now, I am after telling him 20 times in this session and the last sessions, I don't negotiate deals on the floor of this Legislature. The details of that deal will be discussed openly at the appropriate time when we meet with Staples.

MR. BALSER: If nothing else, the minister is consistent. One of the concerns that is being expressed is that the Staples location has been indicated as being Sackville but now that site seems to be in question. Will Sackville remain as the site for Staples or will the decision be based on political expediency?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Staples operation will remain in the constituency of the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM:

SHIPBUILDING POLICY (CDN.) - PRESSURIZE (GOV'T. [CAN.])

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go to the Premier with my question. Shipbuilding is critical to the economy of Nova Scotia. There are 1,400 direct and up to 4,200 indirect jobs at stake in this province. Today, marine worker representatives have gone to Ottawa to convince the federal government of the need for a national shipbuilding policy. I want to ask the Premier why he has been so silent during the intense efforts by the marine workers to pressure the federal government to come up with a national shipbuilding policy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government has not been silent on the need for a national shipbuilding policy. We have said this repeatedly. We said it when we were putting a guarantee in place to help the shipbuilding plan at the Halifax Shipyard, again when we were putting a guarantee in place to allow for workers to be able to work at Secunda Marine, and we have said so on numerous occasions. The fact is we have had to take it on as a province when the federal government did not see fit to follow what the honourable Leader of the Opposition . . .

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the marine workers have met with two other Premiers, Theriault and Tobin, but they cannot get a meeting with this Premier. The workers consider our Premier the most silent in all of Atlantic Canada on this issue.

[Page 6242]

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, why has he not bothered to even respond to an April 29th letter from the marine workers asking for an immediate meeting to discuss this critical issue?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the workers know exactly where the Province of Nova Scotia stands. They know, in fact, and actually applauded this government for taking the initiative to institute programs that allow for shipbuilding at the Halifax Shipyards and Secunda Marine. No other province has done that. We could not wait for the federal government. We moved so our workers in Nova Scotia have jobs.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to give the Premier the cell number of the Secretary-Treasurer of the Marine Workers Federation. He can call him this afternoon and find out what the marine workers think of this government.

My final supplementary, the Halifax Shipyards will effectively be shut down the middle of June, next June, I want to ask this Premier why is he the only one in Atlantic Canada not publicly promoting the critical need for a national shipbuilding policy in this country?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are promoting it, but this government is not waiting for the federal government to act. We are acting if they are not going to and we have actually put into motion what we wanted to do, but next June? I mean, my goodness, is this NDP Party really so stuck for things to complain about that they have to refer to next June?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - PICTOU SHIPYARDS:

MARINE SLIP - REPAIRS

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is also to the Premier. I met with the Premier on April 16th to discuss repairing the government-owned marine slips at the Pictou Shipyards. The Premier said they would work quickly to fix the damage there, but today I learned that the company that owns the yard learned from the government that it is refusing to fix the marine slips. My question through you to the Premier, Mr. Premier, why are you failing to live up to the commitment to the people of Pictou County?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the questions from the NDP continue to get more bizarre, but I will ask the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism to answer that question.

[Page 6243]

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, first of all, the honourable member opposite states that he received word today that we are not negotiating with the Pictou Shipyards any more. That is simply not true.

MR. PARKER: The company owner received a letter stating that there was no money for the marine slip. So I am going to ask again, to the Premier, there are 700 direct and indirect jobs here that are in limbo. Your government's refusal to repair the slips has put these jobs in jeopardy. So, Mr. Premier, why are you jeopardizing up to 700 jobs in Pictou by refusing to fix the marine slips?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we, in fact, are anxious to fix the marine slips. We are anxious to get workers back at Pictou Shipyards. I would ask the honourable member to table that letter to which he refers.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Premier, fair is fair. You have given lots of money to the Halifax Shipyard. When are you going to help the Pictou Shipyards?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I cannot give any credence or any kind of status to the concern of the honourable member until I see the letter to which he is referring.

MR. SPEAKER: I will rule on this immediately. The honourable member did not quote from the letter so there is no need for him to table it. He may, however, if he wishes.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

HEALTH - PHYSICIANS: SHORTAGE - INFO. TABLE

DR. JOHN HAMM: I have a question for the Minister of Health. Lack of doctors in Yarmouth County, lack of doctors in Pictou County, lack of doctors in Richmond County, lack of doctors in Cumberland County, and yet the minister continues to talk about, he has the doctor problem in hand. From 1992 to 1997 we have lost 180 full-time physicians. Will the minister table today the information that allows him to stand in this place and say that he has the situation under control? It would be of great interest to the tens of thousands of Nova Scotians in this province who do not have a doctor.

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the health care system is an extremely important function of government and within this province. Nova Scotians value that system, but for that member to get up today and say doctors, doctors, doctors, that really shows what some of the problems are. Those are the issues that we are trying to address, we are trying to address primary care. We probably have enough physicians in Nova Scotia; the distribution of them is a problem and we are working on that. (Interruptions)

[Page 6244]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. HAMM: Will the minister be prepared to back up his answer, to show that he really knows what is going on in this province by tabling a document that shows the openings for specialists and family practitioners in every community of this province? Will he table that information to show that he knows what is going on?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think there is a way that the distribution of health care personnel will evolve throughout this province. It involves building teams and it does not mean assessing to every area that feels they may need a physician here or a physician there. There are manpower programs and there are manpower plans; this is planning within the regional health boards and the non-designated area. We are not micro-managing the system, these people are managing the system.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that perhaps the problem is that they are micro-managing the system. My question to the minister is simply this, has the minister just finished telling us that the tens of thousands of Nova Scotians who do not have a doctor will receive any kind of solace from what the minister has just said?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, what I am saying to that honourable member is that there is something wrong with the primary care delivery of health care in this country. Well-respected people will admit to that. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I saw you taking a deep breath and I did have some concern that you might require a physician and there would be nobody there to attend to such an important person as yourself.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians value their health care system and we are going to make a major investment in that, and part of that will be addressing the primary care and the physician services in this province.

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

HEALTH - CANCER CARE NOVA SCOTIA:

CHEMOTHERAPY DRUGS - FUNDING

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Minister of Health. Rural cancer patients are routinely sent to Halifax or Sydney for chemotherapy, even though many rural hospitals do have chemotherapy units. Regional health boards just do not have enough money in their budgets to buy chemotherapy drugs for their

[Page 6245]

hospitals. Will the Minister of Health take the pressure off regional health boards, will he provide Cancer Care Nova Scotia with global funding for chemotherapy drugs?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue because there are new medications coming out all the time, some of them are experimental and some have been approved. Our staff and myself have met with Cancer Care Nova Scotia, the chairman of the board and also the commissioner, Dr. Padmos. We are looking at budgets at this time. We have approved budgets, we are working on them, and we will be making the announcements during budget time.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, travelling long distances for chemotherapy adds to the cost and strain and stress for cancer patients. Why isn't the minister making sure Nova Scotians get the best cancer care possible, close to their homes?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that was exactly the proposal that I made, that we have programs where internal medicine specialists, family physicians, people with expertise and interest in cancer care in the regions, come into Halifax for training. Those are the initiatives that we are looking at. This is an important area, but right in Cape Breton alone there are 50 people now being treated at any one time who would have had to come to Halifax. We are delivering services closer to the people in Nova Scotia.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, the minister is missing the point. I spoke about rural Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is a regional centre. This government just keeps bungling regionalized health care and cancer care. Why is the minister allowing rural chemotherapy units to go unused when the need for cancer care is so great?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this government and this Department of Health has done more for the health of rural Nova Scotians in the last couple of years than has ever been done, and we debated that last night in the Legislature. I would stand on what I said last evening. We are doing special training for physicians, those who are interested, and we are even looking at an additional three oncologists before September, in Halifax, who will be able to train physicians who work in rural communities.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH: DEPUTY MINISTER FORMER

(MILDRED ROYER) - STATUS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Premier. The Premier appoints the deputy ministers of this province. I would ask the Premier if Mildred Royer is still a deputy minister employed by this province?

[Page 6246]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the party to whom the honourable member refers is on leave and I can't comment on the details of that but, as the honourable member knows, there is a Deputy Minister of Health in place and she is doing an excellent job.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, we are not debating the present deputy. I would ask the Premier if the past deputy, or whatever her role may be now, if she is on leave with full pay?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would have to get back to the honourable member on that, but it is sufficient to say that the circumstances are such that they are of a confidential nature and I wouldn't feel comfortable in disclosing them.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, we are short of nurses, we can't hire, and we are short of many people in the health care system. I would ask the Premier under what policy Mildred Royer or any other person working for this government can be on leave with full pay? Under what policy and, if there is a policy, would he table it please?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows there are circumstances where a person is on leave and is receiving an income as a result of that. As the honourable member knows as well, there can only be one Deputy Minister of Health and that is the Deputy Minister of Health who is serving the province right now.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - MOTHER BERCHMAN'S CENTRE:

NURSING HOME - STATUS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. A few months ago, this minister promised the Sisters of Charity that he would license Mother Berchman's Centre and fund 5 to 10 long-term care beds by the end of this year. He said he would get back to them with a plan and they haven't heard from his since. My question. Since your meeting with the Sisters of Charity in March, what has your department done to end a 10 year delay and keep your promise to the Sisters of Charity?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to respond to a question in a fair and honest manner when it is filled with irregularities and misinformation. I have discussed this with the representatives of the Sisters of Charity. We are treating them like we are treating everyone else. We are evaluating the system, we are accepting proposals, and our senior staff have been meeting with that particular group.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it costs over $1,000 a day to keep a long-term care patient at the QE II but it only costs $118 a day to keep the same patient at this centre run by the Sisters of Charity. My question. Why hasn't the minister taken advantage of a quality long-term care service that could save him money?

[Page 6247]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would not debate that long-term care is cheaper, and should hopefully remain cheaper than acute care, there is no question. What we are building and what Nova Scotians are telling us that they want is a continuum of care, long-term care, home care. Those are the problems that we have inherited, and we have built on that. We are making major investments in health care and long-term care will be a large part of that.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, neither the former Conservative Government nor this government has dealt fairly with the Sisters of Charity. Will the minister confirm whether his department hasn't funded the Sisters of Charity because he would rather give the funding to Liberal supporters such as Shannex?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health. I am not too sure about that question.

DR. SMITH: I would wonder if that is in order. Does the honourable member have any evidence that we have shown any favouritism to so-called Shannex as opposed to the Sisters of Charity? If she has that information, I would really demand that she table it here this afternoon. I resent that comment.

MR. SPEAKER: That question came very close to imputing motives.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

HEALTH - AMBULANCE SERV.:

HOSPITAL TRANSFERS - FEES ELIMINATE

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health has had his much vaunted (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I cannot hear the question.

MR. BAKER: . . . ambulance service, and he has been telling Nova Scotians what a wonderful ambulance service we have in this province and how lucky we are to have the ambulance service that his government created. We have been getting literally dozens and dozens of phone calls at the caucus office . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Do you have a question, please?

MR. BAKER: . . . from Nova Scotians who are upset because they are being charged . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Is this a question?

[Page 6248]

MR. BAKER: . . . for the transfers between hospitals. My question to the minister is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Quick.

MR. BAKER: . . . what is the government going to do to reduce or eliminate those costs?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is right, the ambulance fees have not been adjusted in this province for a period of time. We are much cheaper than say, New Brunswick, for instance, but the honourable member also does have a good point. It is very much a time of irritation to people to receive bills for inter-hospital transfer. We are reviewing, we have a committee that is reviewing that whole system of ambulance fees and we have to reassess that whole picture. I accept that.

MR. BAKER: My question to the minister is, what does his policy about ambulance fees do for people in Nova Scotia who have no income or very limited income, who are living below the poverty line and get bills for ambulance services that exceed one-quarter of their total income for the month?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, when people in Nova Scotia receive bills from health care services that are beyond their means, they are dealt with on a special basis. I would be pleased to address any special case that the honourable member might have, under those circumstances.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is when can Nova Scotians expect a policy from this government that is going to be fair, and detail when and under what circumstances ambulance fees are going to be paid?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are reviewing ambulance fees, and they are low in this province relative to many other provinces. Whether we will be able to have a program of universality within the ambulance system, that would be very unusual and that is one that I would have to give a great deal of serious consideration to.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: MELVILLE LODGE - STATUS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. In the gallery today are family members concerned about the care of loved ones at Melville Lodge. The minister probably doesn't recognize these people because he has refused to meet with them to listen to their concerns. My question is, would the minister show

[Page 6249]

that he is at least aware of these people's concerns by telling the House what is going on at Melville Lodge?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it has been some period of time since I visited Melville Lodge, but when I did I must say I was very impressed as this is one of the finest nursing homes and residences for seniors that I have ever visited. I know the matter of which she is speaking, I have received correspondence from that member. We have responded to her and her recent letter of the 18th. I think I sent a letter as late as yesterday.

We have offered to meet with any members of any families of any residents there, with administration and that has been refused. Our staff has conducted visits there at that place and the institution has also recently received a three year accreditation by a national body.

[3:30 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have not received the letter from the minister yet. These families feel the dignity, comfort and safety of their loved ones are at risk because of inadequate staffing. My question is, why has this minister not modernized the ridiculously outdated staffing guidelines in the Homes for Special Care Act?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, long-term care is a priority of this government. We put $22 million in last year, but issues like this, the matters that this person is bringing before us have nothing to do with staffing patterns. It is more like responding in a way to cause some discredit to this particular institution and yet when the people will not meet with the Department of Health and the administration of that institution, I do not think that is fair and it is not right.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, a meeting between this Minister of Health and these families would not cost this province one cent.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is, will the minister, today, commit to meeting with these families to hear their concerns without the presence of the administration of that house?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, members of our senior staff made an unannounced visit and an audit of that facility. They found absolutely no problem. I have offered that our staff would meet with this family along with the administration of the facility which I think is fair and right and that should satisfy anybody that have just claims against a nursing home.

[Page 6250]

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

GAMING CORP. - VLTs: NON-PROFIT GROUPS - QUOTA

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister responsible for the Gaming Control Act. Yesterday in the Nova Scotia Legislature here, we had it confirmed that in this government's demented lust and addiction to the profits from VLTs, it is prepared and served notice to Legions and non-profit organizations that if those machines do not reach the limit of $275 net per week, this government will yank them out and place them in more lucrative markets.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: My question to the minister is simply this, does the minister realize that non-profit groups, such as Legions, redirect their profits into charitable organizations, such as the Red Cross, Callow Wheelchairs, Boy Scouts? They fund bursaries for students in need. Does the minister not realize how much non-profit . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do realize how important the Legions, as well as other volunteer organizations, are to the social fabric of this province.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, if he realizes that, it is funny he is doing what he is doing. The PC caucus learned today that the Provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland do not have any such stipulation in their contract as a retailer to the province, to those sister provinces.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: Why is it in place in Nova Scotia if this minister is not prepared to yank them out and place them in lucrative markets?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I understand that through ALC and the Gaming Corporation, in fact, had dealt with the retailers, lounge and beverage groups, as well as the Nova Scotia Command, which is the overriding body of the Legions across the province, informing them about this agreement. I understand that they have all been aware of it. They have signed the agreement, the retailers' agreement, and they go forward from that basis.

MR. TAYLOR: My question is simply this, Mr. Speaker, through you, is the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation prepared now to intervene on behalf of the non-profit organizations, like the Royal Canadian Legions in this province, so they do not find themselves disadvantaged by this very unfair ruling?

[Page 6251]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in fact, I understand very clearly that ALC will be working with all organizations and all individuals that are involved with VLTs. If, for example, there is a deficiency notice that comes out, that they are prepared to work with them to give them three months to try to find solutions internally. That is all part of the agreement that was signed.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - EAST PRESTON:

INTERSECTION - FLASHING LIGHTS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. This weekend a young girl was struck by an automobile at the intersection of the Upper and Lower Partridge River Road in East Preston. Fifteen days before a request for a flashing light at this dangerous intersection was denied because, according to Department of Transportation officials, two reportable collisions have to occur each year for at least three years.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Will the minister consider a review of this reactive road safety policy?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as I have stated before, we have engineers and we have workers out in the areas who look at these situations. Yes, I will discuss with the engineers this very subject.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The key words are, reportable accidents. Why does this minister and his department and this policy, require accidents before acting, when local residents bring dangerous situations to the department's attention and they still do not listen to local residents?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I want to assure him that we do listen and that we have had several meetings in different areas across the Province of Nova Scotia where community groups will come in and present to us. I could name several places across the province where we do listen and we want to listen to the public of Nova Scotia and react.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Well, you didn't listen to the residents of East Preston. This policy is reactive, it is cruel. Mr. Minister, do young children have to be hurt before you will change this policy?

[Page 6252]

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as I have said in this House on many occasions, and I keep saying, safety is key on the roads in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

HEALTH - LAB TECHS.: EDUCATION - AVAILABILITY

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In 1995 the Nova Scotia Community College stopped training medical lab technologists for our province. Retirement predictions indicate that Nova Scotia will experience a severe shortage of trained laboratory professionals within five years. My question is, why has the minister not made entry level education for lab technologists available in Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thought maybe that might be for the Department of Education running a program at the community colleges. The alternatives, of course, would be a university program. This is a very important issue and it is one that our department is working on - it is very similar to the nursing issue - whether there is a diploma type program or there is a university program. This is something we are looking at, we are concerned that there may be a shortage of medical technologists in the years ahead.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, we are facing a severe shortage of lab technologists and we are not training any new ones. Again, what are the minister's plans to ensure this shortage does not become a crisis?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there are alternative programs and it is one that there isn't a lot of uptake in right now and that is a concern in itself. So there are issues relative to recruitment and having a program in place.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, this is another example of this government's failing to plan ahead to meet our health care needs. When is the minister going to table a long-term plan for the training and supply of all health professionals in this province?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that needs are different in different health care professions, if you look at the team, the department is actively pursuing. We have a human resources planning committee that is actively looking at this the same way that we will be addressing issues within the nursing profession.

[Page 6253]

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - AEROSPACE: GROWTH - ENSURE

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. The aerospace industry has created 600-plus jobs in Nova Scotia since 1995 and it has been a vibrant part of the local economy for all of that time. What is your department doing to ensure that the aerospace industry in Nova Scotia will continue to grow and prosper?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we consider the aerospace industry to be a very important part of Nova Scotia's economy and whenever initiatives come forward that are consistent with their aims and objectives, we try to be as much help as we can as a department.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, will the minister then confirm that his department no longer has a staff person with any expertise in the aerospace industry? Will he also confirm that the Aerospace Industry Association will have to close their office this fall due to a lack of funding from the province?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there were two questions there. Which one would he like me to answer?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, that is right, that is one of the better answers so we are going to assume that they are not doing anything to help. One last question, the Cormorant helicopter deal is worth $575 million nation-wide. Quebec is slated to get $333 million and Atlantic Canada is supposed to get $40 million. What is your department going to do to ensure that Nova Scotia gets more than its $2.9 million it currently has tendered as contracts? What will you do to help?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, first of all I don't agree with the premise to his question that the aerospace industry is being forced out of the province. What I am telling you is the aerospace industry is very much alive and well in this province and our government is continuing to support that industry.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

HEALTH - ILLNESS CATASTROPHIC:

DRUG COSTS - ASSISTANCE

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct another question to the Minister of Health. I recently spoke with a young man whose chronic illness forced him to leave a very good job and go on CPP disability. His total monthly income is now $550, his

[Page 6254]

employment benefits had run out and he faced drug costs of over $250 a month. How would the Minister of Health suggest that this man pay for his necessary prescription drugs?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have the Seniors' Pharmacare Program and we have within social assistance a program as well. (Interruption) I understand he is not a senior, I heard the honourable member but these are areas of special consideration and there are mechanisms in place so that person could apply, have an assessment done and perhaps he would qualify for a pharmaceutical program.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, if people aren't eligible for family benefits or Pharmacare, this province offers no help to people who cannot afford prescription drugs. Why don't we have a program to cover the expenses of catastrophic illness?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we do have some programs, the Multiple Sclerosis Program last year, over $1 million, various other programs that are addressing special needs. But on the particular issue of reviewing our Pharmacare Program, after the recent changes that we have made to the current Seniors' Pharmacare Program, we will continue and evaluate and look at making sustainable a program for low income families. We want to do it not like Saskatchewan, that they have a universal program but for seniors it is over $700 a year . . .

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, other provinces have programs specifically to cover the expense of catastrophic illness. What will this minister do to make sure that Nova Scotians with catastrophic illnesses don't have to choose between buying their drugs and buying their groceries?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think this is a very important issue and I take this very seriously, particularly when it is related to children. Children are impacted probably as much or more than adults because sometimes they don't have the choices. The committee that we had looking at changes in the Pharmacare Program will continue and we are having a consultative process where we are looking at moving toward at least a partial universal program, not as insurer of first resort but one in conjunction with private plans.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWY. NO. 101

(MT. UNIACKE-WINDSOR): TWINNING - PLANS

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and it is concerning Highway No. 101. I was going to ask the minister if he could explain why the federal Minister of Transportation never heard of Highway No. 101 but I thought that wouldn't be very nice. So what I am going to ask the minister instead of asking him that is, is his government is going to do any work this summer on Highway No. 101 between Mount Uniacke and Windsor?

[Page 6255]

[3:45 p.m.]

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I have had several discussions with the federal minister, Mr. Collenette, on Highway No. 101. As we speak, there is work that is going on on this highway. We have our engineers at work, we have the assessment on the environment going on in this area. They are also looking for where the quarter is going to go. There is work going on.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I want to thank the minister through you, Mr. Speaker. I did see the work being done too; they are driving along the ditch with a tractor cutting down some of the bushes. What I had in mind is are we going to be getting any closer to having a four-laned highway from Mount Uniacke to Windsor? I know the minister said other things, but what I am really interested in is there anything meaningful going to be done this year on Highway No. 101?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, the budgetary process is going to be involved in this. I have put in requests for additional money so that we can do some engineering work, more engineering work in defining where this quarter will go, and I will advise the honourable member when we know exactly what we have to work with in the budget.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, there was so much work done prior to 1993. There was some engineering work, the environmental work. I would have thought that there would have been some grubbing and staking being done by now. This highway . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . from Windsor to Mount Uniacke is the busiest road in Atlantic Canada.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Is this the government's number one priority for twinning in Nova Scotia?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, this is a very high priority for the Government of Nova Scotia.

[Page 6256]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

EXCO - DEPUTY MINISTERS: AFRICAN CDN. - NUMBER

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Back in February, the Premier took steps to correct the fiasco he created when he defended the hiring practices of downtown law firms, but now it is time for the Premier to look in his own backyard. My question to the Premier is, how many African Canadian deputy ministers are working within government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that the discussions on the question of the IBM program are going extremely well, that the committee is meeting bi-weekly, and that all of the groups are participating; in fact, additional members have been added to the committee. We hope to be able to get a report before too long, and this will be a starting point for what we do in the future.

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the Premier answered the question. The 1996 government commissioned task force regarding services to the Black community shows that the absence of Black deputy ministers in departments such as Education, Justice and Health has contributed to the feelings of exclusion to the Black community. My question to the minister is, since 1996, what have you done to address this issue with Cabinet?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I have been trying to tell the honourable member for some time, we are trying to make major strides forward. The exclusion has been over a long period of time. It is important to make a meaningful beginning and to do something constructive so that the people in this province can see the progress. This is what we are going to do. We understand the need to move forward on this, but we have to do it in a constructive way.

MS. ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, out of 1,300 managers working for the Civil Service in 1995, only 13 were Black. My question to the Premier is, is the government recruiting Black Nova Scotians for these positions?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: EMPLOYEES - RECALL

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Will the minister confirm to the House, today, that he feels employees of the Department of Transportation and Public Works in this province are valued employees, many of whom have dedicated a large portion of their adult life to this province?

[Page 6257]

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Yes, Mr. Speaker. To the honourable member, yes, our employees are very valuable and we have a lot of trust and faith in our employees.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, that being the case, can the minister justify how, today, in Cumberland County, 14 employees; Colchester County, 13; Pictou County, 9; Hants County, 5; these employees are sitting home today waiting for the phone to ring. How can you justify that they are not back to work today?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, there are several contracts that will be going out and there will be people that will be called back to work. As I stated last year here in the Legislature, it is cyclic, the way it works, it is a cycle. It is up and down, that is the way it is with the employees. What I would like to say is that I will monitor this very closely.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister, many of these employees have 20-plus years service, a lot of them in their 50's, and today they are facing their EI benefits running out. Will the minister commit today that every employee who worked for the Department of Transportation and Public Works last season will be recalled to work this year?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, that is impossible for me to do at this point in time. As I said, I have to wait for the budgetary process to unfold and then there will be contracts going out. For me to say how many are going out at this point in time, I cannot do that.

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

LBR. - CONSTRUCTION (C.B.):

OLDER WORKERS - PROPOSAL ACTION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, last fall in this House we debated a proposal for a third party voluntary corps by the older workers' committee of the Cape Breton Island Building Trades and Construction Council. At that time the minister advised he would look at this proposal in developing a market strategy. Can the minister tell this House what action he has taken since that time to implement his undertaking?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I indicated by letter and I indicated personally to representatives from that organization that I was very supportive of their initiatives. Unfortunately, the president of that particular organization indicated that he was not appreciative of my perspective and, quite frankly, I have been busy trying to help the rank and file within that organization who have been unable to receive pertinent information as to the function and financing of that operation.

[Page 6258]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it goes so far from answering the question. It is a personal vendetta by that minister. My question. The Labour Market Study Secretariat released in March its report on its consultation with the Nova Scotia market partners. They are consulting again with those partners to develop a labour market framework.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question.

MR. CORBETT: Would the minister responsible please advise what consideration he has given, if any, to the older workers' proposal?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I want to ensure all members of this House that I am giving very serious consideration to the proposal by the older workers in Cape Breton, particularly the construction workers but, again, I want to reiterate that I am dealing with some very serious matters before this organization that are detracting a tremendous amount of time and energy, dealing with issues of extortion, dealing with issues of forgery, and dealing with issues of financial mismanagement. That is a major concern before this province and this department.

MR. CORBETT: Obviously, Mr. Speaker, this minister is more involved with petty politics than helping older workers. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CORBETT: So would the minister either return his copy of the proposal to the Cape Breton Island Building Trades and Construction Council or pass it along to someone in Cabinet, or show one iota of support for these older workers; he is not showing one. (Applause) Return the document.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly submit myself to the rank and file of that organization, or any organization, and demonstrate quite clearly what I have been doing to help them, but I will not be distracted by the leadership within a particular organization that even deals with forged documents. I have major problems and these are the issues that are detracting and taking away from the legitimate rights and concerns of organized labour membership within this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - SECONDARY RDS.:

TENDERS - ANNOUNCE

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my spot today to address a question, through you, to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. It is an issue that is extremely serious to all Nova Scotians and visitors to Nova Scotia, and that is the state of

[Page 6259]

secondary roads, where our tourists travel, where daily commerce and health and safety issues are conducted by Nova Scotians.

One year ago we faced an election. The minister at that time said to Nova Scotians, we will announce road tenders in a timely manner and begin in December . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. FAGE: We have not seen that. Is there a new policy out there on the announcement of road tenders that we did not start this year the same as last year, Mr. Minister?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I want to just let him know that we have put out tenders already. If he has been reading the paper, he will see that tenders have gone out in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. FAGE: I thank the minister for his response, but we are talking about actually putting down paving not micro-resurfacing with a shovel. To the minister, we want contracts and tenders in this province to do something about secondary roads. I would like to table this document, Mr. Speaker. This document is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. FAGE: . . . from the resident of a road and it says, (Interruption) would like to join the campaign to have the . . .

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

MR. FAGE: . . . conditions of the Tundal Road paved . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Put your question or sit down!

MR. FAGE: When are we going to have some tenders announced, Mr. Minister, on secondary roads?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I might just add that if I had the $800 million per year that goes to pay down the debt that that government ran up, we could pave a lot of roads in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the minister has lot of good remarks this afternoon but no asphalt, and the people of Nova Scotia are looking for some asphalt on roads so they can actually get to work, can actually have an . . .

[Page 6260]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Question, please!

MR. FAGE: . . . ambulance come to their home or a fire truck. Let's have some tenders out there. When are you going to start announcing some projects in this province?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, when my budget is finalized, there will be tenders going out in the rural areas of the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: MSVU (DEPAUL CTR.) - FUNDING

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. The DePaul Centre at Mount Saint Vincent University has 36 beds for outpatients and family members of people in hospital. It costs about $30 per day to stay there, one-half of the cost of Point Pleasant Lodge or the Westin, but the government does not provide funding. My question is, why does the minister not provide provincial funds to allow people to use these less costly beds?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there have been arrangements made with certain facilities, but this is not an area that is expanding at this juncture. It is one that one would like to be able to assist in, but it is an area that is outside the programs of the Department of Public Health at this juncture.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, last fall the minister said he would cut the QE II deficit by sending recovering patients to one of the province's most expensive hotels. My question is, will the minister who is, after all, a physician, please explain the health benefits of recovering in a hotel room instead of a health care hostel?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the program is very innovative and I think is to be complimented; the QE II administration, particularly the new administration there, seems to have a really good handle on the operation of that facility. They made that in the best interests in their professional judgement; it had to do with the closeness of those rooms that were available and to have access back and forth to the hospital. I compliment the institution for that innovative . . .

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: The same could be said of the Sisters of Charity who run this centre. My question is, will the minister please explain why he is shunning community-based health care services that can do the job for less?

[Page 6261]

[4:00 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member already indicated, this is a program of QE II and other facilities. This is not a program of the provincial Department of Health, nor do I think it should be. We have four regional health boards. We have four non-designated facilities, tertiary care hospitals. They have programs in place and they will be part of the continuum of home care, long-term care and acute care.

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

HEALTH - INFO. CONFIDENTIAL: SECURITY - FUTURE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Health. The federal Liberals are trying to push through Bill C-54, a bill dealing with privacy rights and personal information. Many health care professionals are concerned that this bill will allow confidential health information to be shared with private industry, or even with government, without the patient's consent.

My question is, what is the Minister of Health doing to make sure that Nova Scotians' confidential health information does not become a commodity?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there was a conference in Alberta last year, I believe it was, on this particular issue. This is a very important issue. We are looking at having systems that can speak to each other and not need to be having overriding IT. But the programs that we are putting in place will have security equivalent to the military confidentiality and that is the level that we are looking at.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, misuse of personal health information can have a negative impact on a person's access to insurance, employment and overall quality of life. My question is, why has this government remained so quiet about an issue that poses such a threat to Nova Scotians?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this has always been a concern, this issue of confidentiality, there is no question; there is really a concern about open records and transfer of records. There are lots of areas where there can be leaks and there can be a breach of confidentiality. We are putting a system in place. That will be part of our new initiative, that we are hearing from health boards and hospitals that we need an information technology. There can be safeguards done. We are looking at that. We will work with the federal government, as well.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question for the minister is whether or not he is prepared to intervene in Bill C-54 to ensure that private industries do not make even more profit by showing their patients' private health information?

[Page 6262]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, when people enter into agreements with private insurers, that is an undertaking that they have and that is a legal arrangement. But I can assure you that the professionalism and the governance of groups like the College of Physicians and Surgeons - and they have committees of investigation and of discipline for any breach of that - plus the accreditation system that is in place across this country, those are the groups that are responsible and will deal with those issues.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

NAT. RES. - FORESTS ACT: AMDTS. - IMPLEMENTATION

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Natural Resources, through you. I have spoken to forestry representatives from right across Nova Scotia. They are very concerned about the sustainability of our forest industry. DNR staff told the legislative Resources Committee yesterday that the Forests Act amendments would not be in place until next fall. Will the minister commit, today in this House, to fast-tracking these amendments?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for raising the issue today. I think the staff from Natural Resources made a good presentation yesterday.

AN HON. MEMBER: You should have been there.

MR. MACASKILL: I didn't have to be there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister will address the Chair.

MR. MACASKILL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, thank you. We are working on that. That is a large job and we are now at a crucial stage in bringing these implementations forward.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again, to the minister. You have indicated that a public review process will be undertaken prior to enacting regulations with respect to amendments to the Forests Act. Mr. Minister, we have already been through one set of public hearings pertaining to this Act. Why do we need more?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, this was part of the negotiations that we heard during the tabling of the Forests Act and it came from those honourable members, that we travel the province to receive input from all of the stakeholders and we are attempting to do that. Most of these hearings will be held in the month of June and that is the earliest we could do it.

[Page 6263]

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister, the amendments were proclaimed in this House last December by the Lieutenant Governor. Why has it taken so long to have public meetings scheduled again? I would have thought more progress could have been made in this regard, given the importance of this Legislation?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the members on that side of the House asked for this public review and we are doing that. We hope to have these in place starting in early June and we hope to have that complete and ready for implementation this fall.

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - MAC TIMBER:

BANKRUPTCY SALE - PROCEEDS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Mac Timber Ltd. fiasco continues to haunt the troubled Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Recently the remains of the bankrupt company which the province had given $200,000 was offered for sale. I want to ask the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism how much taxpayers' money does he expect to recover from this bankruptcy sale?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. We are negotiating with a new firm, the receiver. Hopefully, we will have something positive to say about Mac Timber Ltd. in the very near future about its start up. All I can tell is once that procedure is finished we will then take a look at any other proceedings that our department may want to enter into.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, he won't recover a dime because he didn't have the sense to secure taxpayers' money when they invested in this fly-by-night company. I will table the financial projections filed by Mac Timber Ltd. with the government which predicts revenues of $4 million by January 2002. My question is what procedures has his department put in place to ensure that it will be able to detect when a fly-by-night company is inflating revenue projections in an attempt to get its grubby hands on taxpayers' money?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Government of Nova Scotia deals with over 900 companies on a regular basis at any given time; with loans, with loan guarantees, with employment incentives. There is no way the government can know in advance that somebody or something is going to go wrong with a company. All we can do is continue to monitor those companies on a regular basis and we do that.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism about his promised investigation of his department's involvement with Mac Timber Ltd. What has the minister discovered during his internal investigation into this failed investment and will he table that information today?

[Page 6264]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there has been an ongoing investigation of Mac Timber Ltd. and all I can tell the honourable member is that we are certainly not satisfied with the outcome of that particular company. What happened to that company is a matter that we are very concerned about but nevertheless we are trying to get that company up and running under new ownership.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWY. CONSTRUCTION:

TENDERS - DELAY

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works. It has been indicated earlier that highway construction tenders have not been called this year or at least not very many have been called. As a consequence, the Nova Scotia Roadbuilders and many divisional crewmen that work with the Department of Transportation have not been called back to work. In previous years, governments, even that government, called tenders. My question is, why this year is the Minister of Transportation waiting for the budget to be tabled?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I think it is only appropriate that you have the money committed to Transportation before you spend it.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, governments in the past have spent at least up to 50 per cent of their budget. Why is this government procrastinating? Is it because the Department of Transportation and Public Works budget has been cut again this fiscal year?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is trying to trick me into saying what the budget is. He is being very crafty here today, but I will assure you, when the budget is tabled I will let you know.

MR. TAYLOR: I promise the Minister of Transportation, I am not trying to trick him, but we want to know is the budget coming in a manure spreader or an asphalt spreader?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I assure you there will be several asphalt spreaders working in this province this summer.

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

NAT. RES. - BARRACHOIS MARINA (C.B.):

OPERATION - REVIEW

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The Ombudsman recently documented the failure by the Department of Natural

[Page 6265]

Resources to properly permit a group that is now operating the marina in the Barrachois in Cape Breton. Yesterday I received a call from a man who has put his boat in the Barrachois for over 20 years without any trouble, but this spring he was told by the group that they no longer wanted his boat and in fact they would ask the RCMP to haul it away.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: My question to the Minister of Natural Resources is, why is your department continuing to give a permit to a group that is restricting people from using the cove, people who have used that cove for years . . .

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat confused which would not be unusual but if the honourable member is talking about the Bras d'Or mooring grid then I will answer the question if I can.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: The Minister of Natural Resources, I can understand his confusion because he has repeatedly ignored the requests of this community to meet with them and to talk about the recommendations in the Ombudsman's report. My question for the minister, why aren't you acting to solve the problems and the conflict that has been created by you and your department?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I guess we are talking about the Bras d'Or mooring grid and if it is. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Final supplementary.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: My final question for the minister is, what is the minister going to do to ensure that the group he has permitted to operate the Barrachois marina will stop denying access to people who have traditionally used that cove?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the history of the Bras d'Or mooring grid goes back to when I first came into the department two years ago. I met with the two groups, there is a community feud there. The minister has issued a permit to the group that we feel were best qualified to operate the mooring grid. Our staff has met with both groups on many occasions. I met with Mr. Clifford MacNeil twice personally. The issue just won't go away and we are continuing to give the mooring grid to the people who we feel can best manage it.

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

ENVIRON. - TRURO: FLOODING - PLANS

MR. JAMES MUIR: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. As the minister very well knows, my constituency and a couple of the others who are neighbouring

[Page 6266]

have been subject to flooding. I have been assured by the government there would be work to improve the flooding situation in and around the Truro area this summer. Will the Minister of the Environment be kind enough to tell the House what this work will be?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I certainly thank the member for the question. As the members of the House are well aware, this has been a long-standing problem in this area with flooding. There has also been a question of what the proper remediation should be in light of the fear that some farming property would be damaged by any changes that our department might make, the Department of Transportation and Public Works or our agencies.

[4:15 p.m.]

We are going to continue to work on this, and we are waiting for the budget to come through so that we have the proper financing in place.

MR. MUIR: Again to the honourable Minister of the Environment. It is discouraging to stand on this side of the House or sit over here, and you say that all your plans are contingent on the budget. Surely those plans are in place now. Would you be kind enough to tell the House, and the residents of Truro-Bible Hill, what are the plans for remediation of that flood plain area this summer?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, this has been a work in progress. We continue to work with our staff in that area and with the different interest groups in that area to ensure that the work being done is done in consultation with that committee. We will continue to work on that and, as I said, we will wait until the budget has been tabled and passed to decide what work will be done.

MR. MUIR: Again it sounds to me like the minister and his department have no plan. Could I ask the minister, in that case, is it the Department of the Environment or the Department of Agriculture that is going to carry out this work this summer?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate this member would say there is no work that has been done on this file. Most members of this House will know that this has been an ongoing issue for many years. My staff have certainly spent a lot of hours and days dedicated to this file to try to find the proper remediation that best serves the needs of the community and of our department.

We will continue to work with the different government agencies involved here. This is a work in progress that we are going to do in cooperation with the other departments and with the community itself.

[Page 6267]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN.: BUDGET (1999-2000) - DATE

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia now has the distinction of being absolutely the only province in this country that does not have a budget. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance, where is the budget? What is the problem? (Applause)

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, there is no problem and it will be soon.

MR. EPSTEIN: We are now two months into the fiscal year. By the time the budget is introduced, if it is introduced soon, it will be three months. We have now spent $750 million, and we will have spent $1 billion by the time it is passed. Does the honourable Minister of Finance believe that this is a responsible approach to the finances of this province?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I know that this member opposite is really interested in the budget. It will be coming soon and he will have to hold his breath for just a couple more days.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I do not find this satisfactory. If the honourable minister would care to borrow my calculator, I would be happy to lend it to him if he needs it.

MR. DOWNE: It is nice to know that the member opposite is going to at least have the courtesy and the integrity to read the budget this time before he happens to make his decision or not supporting it before we even give it to the public of Nova Scotia. Take your calculator and start reading.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWYS.: UPPER STEWIACKE &

MUSQUODOBOIT VALLEYS - IMPROVEMENTS

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Is the Minister of Transportation planning on doing some highway improvements to Route 289 and Route 224 in the Upper Stewiacke and Musquodoboit Valleys?

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I ask that we revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills.

[Page 6268]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that we return to the order of business, Introduction of Bills?

It is agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 106 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 103 of the Acts of 1981. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Act. (Hon. Raymond White as a private member.)

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have distributed to the other Parties the order of speakers. Time allocations now have to be adjusted one minute, as we have gone a little later.

Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Motions Other Than Government Motions.

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 2858.

Res. No. 2858, re Health - Nurses: Shortage - Address - notice given May 19/99 - (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this resolution is a resolution which calls on this government to do more than make vague promises with respect to the nursing shortage, but, in fact, act convincingly and immediately to deal with a crisis which is developing in our health care sector.

In the past few days that we have been back in this House, we have seen a series of resolutions dealing with the situation with respect to nursing shortages. I think this demonstrates the seriousness of the problem and the concern that we, as members, here in the Official Opposition and, indeed, in the Third Party, have with respect to the nursing shortage and our concern that it not be allowed to escalate into a full-blown crisis.

[Page 6269]

Two-thirds of all health care professionals in the field are nurses; therefore, the old cliché that nurses are the backbone of the health care system is based on that reality. Nurses are central to good health and they are central to good health care. Without nurses, patient care in areas such as acute care, long-term care and, indeed, home care, would not be there for people in our province. Nurses also play a central role, a very important role, in the field of health promotion, public health and community health care. So imagine the implications of a nursing labour shortage for people in this province.

We have seen probably some of the worst implications of this with the situation in Yarmouth, the potential for bed closures in that area, an area that is under-serviced in terms of family physicians, and it has to be an issue of extreme concern to the Minister of Health. I think that the answers that we have gotten from that minister with respect to this very serious situation have not been good enough, Mr. Speaker. Hopefully, this debate will impress on him the need to act more responsibly and, certainly, to take these matters more seriously when they are dealt with here and raised here by members of the Opposition.

Patient care, in the long-term care field, will be and is being very negatively impacted by this crisis in nursing care. The Homes for Special Care Act has not been overhauled for many years. If it were to be, I would suggest that the crisis would even be worse because, right now, in long-term care facilities, it is not unusual to have a registered nurse responsible for a very large number of patients in that facility. Imagine the implications of a nursing labour shortage for patients and for families. I know, from my own personal experience, that families (Interruption)

The honourable member for Inverness may check in his own community and find out how many family members in his riding have had to go into hospital and acute care facilities where they have relatives to provide baths and change of clothing, assistance in getting to the toilet, and feeding people. It is not an uncommon experience for family members these days and it is directly the result of the reduction in the amount of nursing hours that are available for patient care in these facilities.

The pressure that this places on the nurses who remain in these facilities to carry out the work is enormous. Their work has been intensified threefold or fivefold. This has occurred at a time where the acuity of the illness that patients have, both in acute care facilities is greater and the fact that we now have many more patients requiring Level 2 care in nursing homes rather than what previously was a majority of people requiring Level 1 care, has resulted in an inordinate amount of stress placed on the nursing professionals who are in these facilities.

Imagine what this has done for physicians and surgeons in these facilities. They no longer have the same nurses assisting them in the operating rooms. They do not have the opportunity to get to know the personnel in the same way. This also has a very great impact on other health care professionals like the licenced practical nurses.

[Page 6270]

How did we get into this situation where a profession that was a profession of choice for many young women is no longer the case? This is a profession that is not attracting people in the same numbers and certainly not in the numbers that are required for a stable health care system.

We have seen a reduction in the number of people graduating from the nursing schools. A feature of this has been a closing of the teaching hospitals, closing earlier than planned. The money that was saved in that process has not been reinvested in the nursing schools. I stand here today with no real plan from this government for a nursing human resource plan. (Interruption) The Minister of the Environment asks what is my plan. Our plan has been laid out here very clearly. We have said that what is required is retraining, a retention and a recruitment process that will work for Nova Scotians.

We have said that the casualization of nursing jobs has got to stop and it has to stop now. We have said that we need to look at the conditions under which nurses are working in these hospitals and we have to ensure that no longer are nurses having to work many hours, moving from one location to another, and not having benefits or seniority as a result of their work. Too many hours have a negative impact on the quality of their family life, on the quality of their working life and on their career potential. That is our plan. That has not been your plan. That is crystal-clear.

One of the things that we think is a very important part of addressing this critical situation is to examine the number of spaces that are available to train nurses. It has also been our view, and we have argued this for quite some time, that we need immediate legislation to allow nurses to use their full potential and skills as nurse practitioners. This would both address critical needs in community-based health care service and it would take some pressure off family physicians, particularly in areas where we have had a difficult time attracting and retaining physicians. So the development of a human resource plan for nurses goes hand in hand with the development of a human resource plan for doctors.

[4:30 p.m.]

I think finally, Mr. Speaker, we have to be clear that the nursing profession has been a predominantly female profession, and when you are dealing with women in work this means that there are particular public policy features that need to be addressed. We need to develop family-friendly workplace policy that will allow for women to choose the nursing profession, a profession that demands, very often, a very high level of commitment, shift work, unfriendly family work time and leaves people in a situation where they need perhaps child care at hours when child care isn't necessarily available to them.

In the development of a plan to deal with the nursing crisis, we need to situate this nursing shortage in the context of the particular needs that women have when they are in the labour force. Nursing as a profession is a good job. It is a great job for women. It is a much

[Page 6271]

better job than many of the McJobs, the growing service sector that we see providing much of the employment in our society today.

It is unbelievable that we would be in a situation where we have opportunities for good, well-paid employment for women who historically have been disadvantaged in our labour force and we have not, this government has not, made any progress, has not taken any initiative to deal with that. The shame is not in what I am saying, the shame is in your lack of action to deal with this problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise this afternoon and debate Resolution No. 2858. Certainly we are very aware not only of pressures on the nursing profession within our own province but particularly across Canada where we saw provinces that are usually considered to have a reasonably stable health care environment, we see strikes in Saskatchewan and we now see matters before the courts relative to those particular issues. I think it is a sad state when that does evolve.

We have work to do here in Nova Scotia, and I am really pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to share some thoughts. Nova Scotia is fortunate to have a high-calibre group of women and men in the nursing field. They are high-quality individuals solidly committed to their profession. This government recognizes nurses are indeed under tremendous pressure and under tremendous strain. We recognize that they are over-worked and under a great deal of stress. We have to be fair about that and I want to acknowledge that.

Nurses working in acute care, long-term care and home care settings are asking for government to respond to their concerns. I assure you that we have and are taking the appropriate steps to correct the current situation. We have heard from our nurses, we have heard from Nova Scotians and the time has come to respond to the nurses' call to action. This process has already begun. It was this government which introduced wage parity for nurses right across this province. Whether a nurse works in New Waterford or in Yarmouth, in a large hospital or in a small hospital, the wage rate is the same. We have done that, and that is wage parity for nurses across this province.

This was a major undertaking for the government and one which came with a major financial cost. The honourable member who introduced this resolution for debate here says we have done nothing. I would point that out just as one major financial cost, a great commitment in times of difficulty within financial matters and trying to manage a large overwhelming debt in this province that we inherited. It was one that this government was prepared to take in the interest of fairness and in recognition of the vital role that nurses play in Nova Scotia's health care system.

[Page 6272]

Ensuring that the province has the nursing resources required to meet the needs of the new millennium will be a challenge. It is an issue which requires a joint approach. Health Department staff members have been working closely together with the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, the Licensed Practical Nurses Association, Senior Nurse Administrators, the University School of Nursing, and most of all, with front-line nurses.

A nurse advisor seconded by our department from the field has been instrumental in helping us determine our approach to dealing with nursing issues. It is our intention to make the job of senior nursing advisor a full-time position. Today I want to make it clear to the nurses of the province and to all Nova Scotians that it is this government's intention to take immediate - and I repeat, immediate - action with respect to the challenges facing the nursing profession.

We will deal with the major issue of casual versus full-time nurses in our upcoming budget. This will involve a significant and an unprecedented investment in the nursing profession in this province, something that has never been seen and you will see it in the upcoming budget. Full-time nursing positions will be created.

There will also be money for nursing education and for recruitment programs to bring nurses back to Nova Scotia. We will provide incentives for nurses to remain in this province after they return. We are working on other initiatives as well, including defining and subsequently funding appropriate enrolment levels in our nursing schools. Also, we want to review the Bachelor of Nursing and Registered Nurses programs to help enhance training and clinical skills. We want to have two Bachelor of Nursing programs, one at St. Francis Xavier University and one at Dalhousie University, both to have outreach programs to various other communities.

These measures will have a significant impact on recruitment and retention challenges, especially in rural and regional areas of our province. One example of this initiative is the Dalhousie Nursing Program now available at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. Training of nurses in specialty areas, such as operating room or intensive care units, is another priority which needs to be addressed.

The scope of practice for nurses is being reviewed including looking at expanding the role of nurses as part of the primary care initiative. In addition, the College of Physicians and Surgeons has been working with the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia regarding enhancing the role of nurses in certain critical care areas where services are traditionally delivered by physicians such as administering intravenous medications.

Mr. Speaker, we can no longer put off making a major investment in Nova Scotia's health care system. Earlier in the decade the federal government reduced health transfer payments by hundreds of millions of dollars. The Government of Nova Scotia responded by

[Page 6273]

putting provincial dollars into the health care system in order to try and fill the gaps. Ottawa is now starting to put some federal funds back into the health care system. The money is certainly welcome, but it's certainly not enough.

Nova Scotia can no longer afford to just fill in the cracks in the health care system. It's time to do what is right. That is to make a real, long-term investment in our health care system. Nova Scotians understand that health care is underfunded and they want that corrected. It won't be easy. Health care costs are rising faster than revenues. The current trend would see a Nova Scotia health care budget of $2.7 billion in just five years and that is $1 billion more than we see today.

The right thing to do, Mr. Speaker, is to make a major investment in health care today. We need to invest in programs designed to take some of the pressures off our hospitals. This can be done by sharing the load with other parts of our health care system, such as home care and long-term care. With the right investment today, we can slow the rapid rate of growth in our health care system. This is the only way to provide Nova Scotians with the health care system that is dependable, sustainable and affordable.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to dealing with health care issues, including those facing the nursing profession. We will invest money to hire more nurses. We will provide more training for nurses and we will have a recruitment plan to bring nurses back to Nova Scotia. We will have a health care budget that promotes better care today, while securing the health care system for tomorrow. This is clearly Nova Scotia's priority and it is the priority of this government. I thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate this resolution dealing with nurse shortages and the issues of nursing in the Province of Nova Scotia. You know this is one of the most important issues that we could debate all session. Last week our caucus put in this very type of resolution to debate on the floor of this House. The NDP knew that last Wednesday. What did they do? They put in 34 resolutions so we couldn't debate this very important resolution. (Interruptions) They put in four today. How come it was so important to put 34 in last week? We put in zero today because we knew that this resolution was being called and we knew we should give ample time to the nurses so we could fully discuss the issues that need to be discussed. So you talk abut grandstanding, the group to the right is not interested in the issue. They proved it last week but this week we finally got to the issue. (Applause)

You know the member for Halifax Needham talked about the profession being only women. Mr. Speaker, this profession has men and women in it, that anyone would be proud to be part of. This goes back a number of years of nursing problems. In 1997 the Canadian Nurses' Association reported on the significant shortage of nurses that was going to occur.

[Page 6274]

We had a Royal Commission in this province that gave a report on health care. One of the recommendations of that Royal Commission had to do with the nursing task force. A nursing task force was struck. A nursing task force reported and this government put the report on the shelf. It is collecting dust and nothing has happened with that task force report. Many nurses across this province, from Yarmouth to Amherst, to Sydney, around Halifax and all areas between, contributed to that nursing report.

When I hear the minister say, we are going to resolve this, we are going to do that, the only way to resolve the issue is to make sure nurses are involved in the solution, that they play a role in finding the solution to the problem that has occurred. Without that, Mr. Speaker, we will never get to a solution that is going to work. Anyone who takes time to talk to nurses understands that they understand what is going on in health care. They understand where money can be saved.

When the minister talks about how much money is being spent on health care, it almost seemed to me that he was sort of blaming the nurses. You know, Mr. Speaker, we are actually spending less money on nurses. It is not the nurses' fault that we have had an increase in health care costs. Part of the problem is that the government chose to go the casual route in hiring nurses. In 1990, 61.8 per cent of the nurses in this province found full-time employment. In 1997, 12 per cent were hired on a full-time basis.

[4:45 p.m.]

It is very discouraging, Mr. Speaker, to put all your effort into graduating with a nursing degree and then find out that you are only employed on a casual basis or on an on-call basis. Sure, some of these nurses leave the province, and some of these nurses go elsewhere looking for full-time work. We have to make, in this province, full-time opportunities for our nurses so that when our many other nurses retire, we have a replacement.

Mr. Speaker, in the next 15 years, 50 per cent of the nurses already working are going to retire. In 1993, we graduated 327 nurses and in 1998, last year, we graduated 80. From those numbers and the numbers that are going to retire, a real crisis in the nursing profession is going to occur in this province. We are not going to be able to fill positions that are going to occur. We have to start treating the nursing profession with the kind of respect it deserves. We have to stop this casualization of the profession. We have to make sure that no matter what health board it is, no matter what institution it is, that those nurses are hired on a full-time basis, they are given benefits, they know that they are needed and they know that we appreciate their effort in helping in our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, no matter who you talk to that has been in the health care system, the lasting impression and the person who makes the most impression on anybody using our health care system are the nurses, they make the system work. If you talk to patients, they will tell you that nurses in this province are run off of their feet, that they are not staffed to the

[Page 6275]

capacity that they should be staffed. We know that it is becoming more and more difficult to find nurses in outpatients and, in the operating room there are beginning to be shortages already.

Mr. Speaker, we do need a plan. We do need a vision. I know that RNANS and the Nurses' Union are working toward that goal. They are willing to participate, but we have to have the government to participate to make it work. We can talk and talk, and it is going to take more than money to find a solution to this problem, it is going to take a concerted effort by the government of saying, yes, we recognize that this is a priority, that the nurses in this province deserve that kind of priority and that we set this in motion.

There has been a group working on solutions and that group was to report by the end of April. We still don't have the report. I believe it is in the hands of the minister's staff, but wherever it is, we have to get on with that report. Mr. Speaker, it can't be like many other reports that come out. It cannot be like the last task force on nursing. It can't collect dust. It has to be implemented and implemented right away. The minister keeps saying, well, wait for the budget. Like I said, yes, funds are needed to hire full-time nurses, but also a plan is needed to make sure that it is not a patchwork solution to the nursing crisis in this province, that we have a long-term solution.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at what has happened in this province, we have reduced hospital beds, but, yet, we are still short of nurses in that area. Yes, we have had nurses move into home care and to other areas of our health care system. Another area they can move into, as the minister talked about, is primary health care because there is where the real dollars can be saved and where the real benefits can be gotten from some primary health care projects in many communities in this province. Who better to be involved in those but nurses? They know and can be of great assistance in setting up such a thing.

Mr. Speaker, thus far, since 1993, this government has had no money, no plan and no action in this area. Now they are saying, all of a sudden, we are going to put money in. I haven't heard the plan and, yet, we have no action. So really we have none of the three, although we get promises.

Mr. Speaker, yes, this issue has been raised a number of times in the Legislature by many people in resolutions this spring and in Question Period, but we are going to have to continue to raise the issue until the government shows and proves its commitment to the nurses of this province that it will commit the money, it will go along with a plan, and that there will be a plan of action. We have to compete in this province with nurses that are going to be needed not only in other provinces in Canada but in the U.S. So we are going to be competing because already recruiters are coming from the U.S. and offering our nurses that graduate, full-time positions. When nurses hear that, they do not want to leave Nova Scotia, they want to stay here in Nova Scotia, but if you are looking at maybe a part-time job, maybe

[Page 6276]

an on-call job versus a full-time job, most of us would like to get on with our lives and go to a full-time job. Mr. Speaker, we have to address those very issues that are out there.

Working conditions are another issue. We have allowed, I believe, a lot of stress on our nurses in this province. Nurses are stressed because of cuts that have been made and the government will say, no, we have reorganized with the regional boards. With the regional boards we have put a lot of money into supervisors that never see a patient, but the nurse on the floor has to do her duty and yet there have been cuts made to those people that actually see a patient, hands-on. Somehow we have got to get back to making sure that the money we spend is spent directly on the needs in the health care system and not on supervisory people that have been hired and we have another layer of bureaucracy.

Mr. Speaker, today is just the beginning of this issue. Nurses in this province have shown leadership. They are now looking for government to show leadership. All of us, regardless of what Party we represent, we do represent people back home who understand the importance of nursing in this province. The onus is on us to make sure that the nursing profession is treated in a professional way and that the problems in the nursing profession are resolved with the aid of the nurses in this province. If we can do that, we will go a long way in making our health care system a lot better in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

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

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to the resolution that my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Needham, introduced a week ago or so. I have been privileged to work in the health care field as a surgeon for the last 34 years. When I say here in this House that I am most impressed with the nurses of Nova Scotia, then I mean it. We have absolutely and by far the most professional group of nurses that I have ever been privileged to work with and so it is a very important issue when my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Needham, has asked the Minister of Health what we can do to prevent a nursing shortage to develop into a nursing crisis.

Mr. Speaker, it comes easy to me to look at the two main reasons why we have a looming crisis.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could we have less chatter in the House, please. If people need to pursue private conversations, perhaps they could take them outside.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. One of the reasons that there are too few nurses and that we will soon see a nursing crisis is, of course, that there is a higher demand on nursing positions. That that comes as a surprise to the Department of Health, that has been splintered in its responsibility over the last six years, having a new

[Page 6277]

minister every two years, is not a surprise to me, but it is quite clear that health care is changing and we have to change with the changes that are around us.

One main reason that we need more nurses in the future is, of course, that we live longer. With longevity comes increased morbidity, and with increased morbidity there are new tasks ahead for health care. One major sector in health care that has to expand is the chronic care, chronic long-term care, whether that is facilities, whether that is nursing homes, whether that is home care is totally irrelevant. Wherever the aging population of Nova Scotia will have to be cared for and will be cared for with good, excellently trained nurses that are at peace with the government and with themselves, will be needed.

Another sector that leads to a higher demand on the number of nurses is that there is a trend worldwide into sub-specialities. A 100 years or so ago - and I am not too sure whether the number of years is exact - what one Florence Nightingale could do for a whole bunch of British soldiers is now done by specialist nurses that go many years through a very thorough training that travel, not just within Nova Scotia but that travel to Europe or to other parts of Canada, to the U.S. to acquire skills that are needed here. But unfortunately once you travel you see that what is at home is not necessarily conducive to returning home. I will come to that a bit later. The sub-specialization of nursing is one of the major reasons that we need more nurses in the future.

Nursing practitioners are a much needed contribution to health care in this province, because having lost all those doctors, we have to do something for those people that need care, whether it is acute care or chronic care is irrelevant. Having nursing practitioners that can step in and ease the workload of our overworked GPs out in rural Nova Scotia, if there are any GPs at all, is very important. I started with the one side of the scales, why there is a higher demand, for that reason we need more nurses.

Mr. Speaker, that very fact that there will be a higher demand is not new. That fact was known to the honourable member for Kings West when he was still sitting in government. Health care planning has to go a decade at a step, you can't plan for health care just a few days before budget and a few days after. The Liberal Government at this moment has totally abdicated itself of any planning because they stumble from budget to budget trying to pull the wool over our eyes, but it won't work.

The nursing crisis that we will have is the result of the fact that the Tories overspent and the Liberals used the Tory overspending as an excuse to slash health care costs. That was the initial idea, but what they have done in their amateurish running of health care is that health care costs have expanded and so here they have put pressure on our nurses when we least needed it.

[Page 6278]

I come now to the reasons why at a time of higher demand, we have a lower number of nurses than we should have. One of the reasons I already mentioned, the environment of health care in which I live - and I can speak with authority about it, I have been privileged to work at the QE II, first the VG and now the VG site of the QE II for the last 18 years - the environment of health care delivery is changing. There is more stress, there is more need for continuity, not a budget-to-budget type of stumbling along. That stressful environment in which our acute care or chronic care nurses find themselves is not conducive to retaining them.

[5:00 p.m.]

There is a burn-out of nurses, Mr. Speaker. There is absenteeism that is not because morale is down, it is because our nurses are stressed out. They are not absent because they do not want to work, they are sick. For many years they were under the pressure by this Liberal Government of wage restrictions and roll-backs. The nurses that the Minister of Health lauded today were underpaid for four or five years. They had to claw back what they needed and that was not good for retaining nurses in Nova Scotia, everybody knows.

North America is a free market place and if the going is not good and the stress is too high and the burn-out rate is too high in Nova Scotia, our nurses will leave and they have left. They have voted with their feet. It is very difficult to get them back. If the Minister of Health needs a few more days, or weeks, to come with an answer, because the budget is not tabled, any health care planning that stumbles along budget to budget is non-planning.

That is the problem, Mr. Speaker, we have health care mismanagement. It costs more but we get less for it. Our nurses are the front-line care deliverers. They are the ones that get the pressure. They are the ones that get the complaints. They are overworked. They care for more patients than they should and for that reason, if they happen to be abroad, they do not come back. If they are in retirement, they are not rejoining the labour force. If they are young and have just gotten their diploma from the Dalhousie Nursing School, they will apply for jobs in Alberta or in Illinois.

Why should they stay in Nova Scotia with a Minister of Health that has to read his propaganda for 10 minutes instead of talking from his heart to a problem that is all our problem. It is not the problem of the Liberal Party. It is not the problem of the Tories. It is not the problem of the NDP. It is a Nova Scotian problem and instead of speaking sense, he is standing there, as usual, whether it is the doctor retainment, whether it is the retainment of practitioners and GPs in rural Nova Scotia, or whether it is nurses, he has to read what his deputy minister is producing for him. That is not good enough. Our nurses lose faith in that type of health care management.

[Page 6279]

A major problem, Mr. Speaker, that our nurses are not returning to work when they have been to Alberta, or why they stay in semi-retirement, or why they never start working here when they have graduated, is casual work. Because health care has been mismanaged to the point that we now spend $200 million more per year and getting less in return, the Minister of Health and his deputies have started to create these regional health boards that then have a say over how many nurses are re-hired, how many nurses are to be used in any particular setting. The answer of a stressed-out health board that is a layer of bureaucrats - whether they have Liberal Party membership or not, it does not really matter, they are bureaucrats - it is a new layer of bureaucracy that stymies a good, well-functioning health care.

Mr. Speaker, those health boards have a solution. It is casual work. Well, no professional with the background of Nova Scotia nurses would be attracted to work casually, a bit here and there, without any future, without any hope to raise a family decently. So, in conclusion, the nursing shortage is not any longer a shortage, it has developed into a crisis. I thank you for your time. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, how much time is left on this resolution? There seems to be some dispute about it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister did not use his full allotment, but the other speakers have each used their full 12 minutes, so there are three minutes left.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, since we do have a couple of minutes left, I would like to join this debate for a few moments and take particular note of the comments made by the member for Chester-St. Margaret's who continues day after day, whenever he gets the opportunity, to tell this Legislature what a terrible system we have here in Nova Scotia. (Interruption) Well, he tells the truth, but he is doing very well by this system, I will tell you that. If he doesn't like this system, why doesn't he go somewhere else to practice medicine, instead of being here in the Legislature? (Applause) He is doing very well by this system, I will tell you that, in his part-time job as an MLA and full-time job up at the QE II, he is doing very well by this system. If he doesn't like it, he should go somewhere else.

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask the honourable House Leader to apologize for his derogatory and very insulting remarks. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: I would suggest to the honourable Government House Leader that he has come very close to imputing motives.

[Page 6280]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, you just confirmed what I suspected. (Interruptions) Well, you try it all the time, Mr. Leader.

Mr. Speaker, if I might make a comment that is of a serious nature for a moment . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order please, we will have order in this Chamber.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's made some points about the health care system of this province that would lead one to believe that we are something a cut above Third World status here. Mr. Speaker, I have a daughter who is a nurse in this province who spent seven years nursing in the Northwest Territories and up on Baffin Island and came back to Nova Scotia to work because she wanted to come back to Nova Scotia. She is proud of Nova Scotia and of her profession.

I take exception, Mr. Speaker, when that member for Chester-St. Margaret's states that nurses do not want to come back to Nova Scotia. I can tell you that is not true. I can tell you that my daughter chose to come back to Nova Scotia and is gainfully employed in this province as a nurse. I am quite proud of the fact that she feels Nova Scotia is a good place for her to practice her profession as a nurse. (Applause) For that member to suggest that nurses don't want to come back to Nova Scotia is absolutely ridiculous.

I would also say, Mr. Speaker, that there are a number of points that were raised here today that were valid points. Everything is not perfect in the health care system in Nova Scotia, nor is it perfect anywhere - we don't live in a perfect world. I can tell you that this minister here is trying to do what he can, in the best interests of the health care system in Nova Scotia and he is doing one heck of a good job doing it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader. (Applause)

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I certainly do appreciate the applause from the opposite side of the House. Would you please call Bill No. 54.

Bill No. 54 - Whistleblowers Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 6281]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill No. 54, a bill that I was happy to sponsor last fall. It is called An Act to Protect Civil Servants Who Disclose Government Wrong-doing. This is otherwise known as whistle-blowers legislation. It provides protection.

What do we mean by whistle-blowers, Mr. Speaker? What we are talking about here is individuals who work within an organization and who need the opportunity - whether it is on behalf of the public interests or whether it is on behalf of the personal professional interest - to be able to make aware happenings, occurrences, practices within an organization like a government department that they believe are wrong. Whistle-blowing may well be a means by which individuals can regain their responsibility within a giant corporation or bureaucracy.

Mr. Speaker, the impetus, moving a whistle-blower, in most cases, is the knowledge that the privilege of insulated decision making in the public interest has been defiled. When an individual becomes aware that the public trust has been broken, then the individual feels that he or she can no longer be party to this breach. It is a question of obligation of our . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Can we have some order, please. I would suggest that whistling is inappropriate in the Chamber.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think most Nova Scotians that are paying attention to this debate, and there are a few, recognize the behaviour of government members on an issue that is so important to civil servants in this province, that they take with about as much seriousness as they do so many issues facing the people of Nova Scotia. That is why it is so important that we have the opportunity to deal with a piece of legislation like this.

This legislation, as I said, is to protect civil servants who blow the whistle on government wrongdoing. It would ensure workers would not face reprisals if their disclosure was based on a reasonable belief. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I would be quite happy to let the young Minister of the Environment get to his feet and have something to say if he wants to say it. I know that important issues on the environment, the clean-up of Muggah Creek, the clean-up at Five Island Lake, are issues that minister cannot deal with. He doesn't have the courage to take on those important issues and that is why legislation like this is so important. So that officials within his department, officials within the Department of Economic Development can, in fact, report on the level of ineptitude that, in fact, is taking place as a result of some of the decisions made by those ministers. (Applause)

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition is light years away from the topic that he is supposed to be up talking about.

[Page 6282]

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. I have no difficulty in seeing the connection.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate what it is that government members have to say because it provides, front and centre, the examples for exactly why it is so important for civil servants to have this kind of protection, especially when you are dealing with a government that is incapable of making decisions and that often is making the wrong decisions. Government workers are demoralized because they cannot speak out about government actions they feel run counter to the public good. That is the issue and why it is that civil servants need that kind of protection.

Mr. Speaker, this bill would protect government employees (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If I cannot have order in this Chamber, I will follow through on the threat that was issued by the Speaker the other day and will name members and you can take it outside.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this bill would protect government employees who reveal, and I talk about three particular categories: one is a violation of the law by government; two is mismanagement, gross waste of funds or abuse of authority within government; or third, a danger to health or safety or grave damage to the natural environment posed by government. The bill provides also for any other wrongdoing that is in the public interest to reveal.

The bill forbids any employment reprisal against a whistle-blower; it also offers the would-be whistle-blower the opportunity to release information to the provincial Ombudsman. In this case the independence of the Ombudsman is crucial. The Ombudsman, under this piece of legislation, is given additional powers to investigate and report on the alleged wrongdoing.

[5:15 p.m.]

The Whistleblowers Bill has been introduced here. Bill No. 54 is based on federal and state legislation in the United States. A substantially similar version of this bill was previously introduced by my colleagues and me back in 1994. What the issue is all about is that this is intended to raise the level of public administration in Nova Scotia. Now I know this government would not be interested in that because they are trying to bring the level of public administration down about as low as it can possibly go, but we are doing our best, on behalf of Nova Scotians who demand better and expect better from their government, to bring in this kind of legislation to begin to clean up public administration in the province.

[Page 6283]

We have other bills along this theme which have been introduced. I talk about the new Lobbyists' Registration Bill, you know, to get out behind closed doors of those corporations and those individuals who are trying to curry favour with government to influence public policy, so that the public knows exactly who it is that is in the favour of this government. Amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Members of this Legislature on all sides know what this government thinks about freedom of information, they thumb their nose at it. They do everything in their power to thwart the powers of the Freedom of Information Commissioner and to try to prevent any information no matter how important it is to the public interest, they do everything that they can possible to prevent that information from coming forward. So we have introduced amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to prevent that.

Also, there are amendments to the Gaming Control Act. You will recall that there has been some considerable debate in this House over the direct involvement of government in the operation of the casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia. We think that needs to be addressed and that we need some transparency in the issues. The other issue that relates to the whole question of public administration and raising the bar in the Province of Nova Scotia, has to do with the Provincial Finance Act under the rubric of: tell the truth about public finances in this province once and for all.

We owe it to the civil servants who slog away day after day, who have committed themselves for many years and have pledged their careers to this province; we need to show them a level of trust and commitment so that they can involve themselves when they believe that there is wrongdoing taking place in their particular departments. Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that had we had this kind of legislation in place when Westray was being developed, then that might have prevented some of the problems and ultimately the tragedy of the loss of miners' lives in that mine.

The other concern, of course, is increasingly the whole involvement of this government with the casinos, the fact that they are right in there. Some would say that the casino operators are right in this government pulling the strings, but there is no question that the relationship between the government and those casino operators is far too cozy. Were civil servants to have the protection provided for in the bill, An Act to Protect Civil Servants Who Disclose Government Wrong-doing, we may be able to protect in a better way the public interest from a government that has no interest whatsoever in ensuring that public administration is in fact the best instead of the worst.

I know that other members of my caucus and others will have an opportunity to say a few words on this bill and I hope that members will recognize the commitment that needs to be made to civil servants in this province by supporting this legislation. (Applause)

[Page 6284]

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak to Bill No. 54, the title of which is An Act to Protect Civil Servants Who Disclose Government Wrong-doing, I note on the order paper that it is listed there as the Whistleblowers Act. That may be fine, but I find it somewhat ironic, because my humble observation is that there is no political group I know of that is more intolerant of whistle-blowers or of whistling than the sponsors of this legislation.

One only needs to blow the whistle on British Columbia and on the Clark fiasco to note that they become extremely unappreciative of that particular whistling. One only needs to whistle about how Bob Rae turned Ontario into a rust bucket, and you will find that they don't appreciate that kind of whistling very much at all. One might perhaps blow the whistle on Saskatchewan, the hospital closures, nurses threatened with jail, power corporation workers locked out, then legislated back to work with a 2 per cent legislated pay cut, a workers' paradise supposedly which actually is a workers' purgatory.

You will notice that they will blow their whistles with rage at that kind of whistle- blowing, yet they introduce legislation to protect whistle-blowers. I think perhaps the bill should be amended to protect whistle-blowers so long as they do not blow their whistles against the NDP. I suggest that that perhaps is what they might more have in mind. So much for opening pleasantries. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, there is no need for this proposed legislation. The Opposition itself admitted in their news release when they introduced the bill that it is modelled after legislation copied from the United States, in various states, dealing with issues in those states, states that do not have the same high level of protection for the working person that we have here in Nova Scotia and in Canada, states where civil servants or public servants do not have good collective agreements to provide effective grievance procedures.

In Nova Scotia, a civil servant cannot be dismissed or even disciplined without just cause. Existing legislation such as the Civil Service Act and the regulations based on that Act, along with the collective agreement already in place, provide that level of protection. We in this government believe that it is far better to work together in an atmosphere of trust, rather than creating a watchdog world where employees have no trust, where the atmosphere is one of suspicion, where every employee is looking over his or her shoulder for fear.

Mr. Speaker, what we wonder in this government is if the Opposition were able to get this piece of legislation through, where would they go next? Would they want electronic chips in every computer that would record and report on the activities of individual employees? Because according to the Opposition, the employees of the Nova Scotia Government cannot be trusted to do the right thing, to do their jobs. We have a much higher opinion of civil

[Page 6285]

servants than they do. We believe that civil servants do a fine job of providing services to the people of Nova Scotia. We have trust in that and we believe in that.

It is times like this when such legislation is under debate and up for examination that the Opposition clearly shows their real attitude towards the employees that constitute the Public Service of this province, and further demonstrate their lack of knowledge and experience in running a large organization and an appropriate means of motivating and retaining the loyalty of employees.

Mr. Speaker, what the Opposition is proposing in this legislation would muddy the waters of labour relations. It flies in the face of modern labour relations practices and good human resources practices. It would create a negative atmosphere where every civil servant is seen as a potential wrongdoer with no regard for the public interests. The Opposition may see civil servants as all capable of wrongdoing, of not being trusted to carry out their responsibilities; we don't share that view. Our experience has been that civil servants are committed to their jobs and to serving the public interest.

If one were cynical, one might wonder why the Opposition has trotted out this legislation for debate today. Could it be that they feel the need to put up some sort of an exhibition or a display of some sort for the opening day of the NSGEU's biennial meeting which gets under way in Halifax, starting today? In fact, the Opposition periodically trots out this particular piece of legislation as an exercise in recycling old ideas. This is essentially the same bill that the honourable member's predecessor introduced in this House not in 1996, I think it was that he stated, but in actual fact in 1991, demonstrating, I think, a major problem existing in the NDP; namely, a lack of new ideas, leading to the recycling of the same old refrains year after year.

Well, Mr. Speaker, while the Opposition may be locked in the past, we, as a government, are dealing with today's issues in today's workplace. The legislation we have in Nova Scotia, the regulations, the collective agreements and the labour relations practices that we have here in Nova Scotia do an adequate job, I submit, of protecting employees. We therefore believe that there is no need for Bill No. 54. That concludes the observations I have on this Act and I invite other honourable members to join the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on this bill today. As an observation on this bill, the real problem in this province is not with whistle-blower legislation, the real problem is the freedom of information. There clearly is a problem in this province because for years Opposition Parties of all stripes, including the honourable members opposite when they were in Opposition, talked about the importance of freedom of information, but they rather quickly forgot about the importance of freedom of information when they were on the government side of the House.

[Page 6286]

It is freedom of information legislation which gives an opportunity to all Nova Scotians to have access to government information. Government information is not the purview of the Civil Service or of the minister, it is not the property of the Crown, it is the property of the public. The people are the ones who have the right to know the information that is in the hands of government.

This government is notorious in refusing to give that information. Clearly one of the best examples of that is the request for the Sydney Steel business plan which we have been clamouring to receive for weeks now. In fact, it is the same business plan that was allegedly tabled by the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. We found out that, in fact, that wasn't the business plan, that the business plan for Sydney Steel has not been disclosed.

We have been told that the Sydney Steel business plan is the subject of great proprietary secrets but no one on our side of the House is asking the government to disclose anything that would in any way jeopardize the Sydney Steel business plan. What we are asking, however, is to know the basis on which $44 million of taxpayers' money is put at risk and which literally billions of dollars of taxpayers' money has been spent over time. That is what we are asking to see; that is the kind of information that the people of this province have a right to have disclosed. That information is not going to be disclosed through whistle-blower legislation. That legislation isn't going to provide that information so that the people of Nova Scotia can make their own decisions.

There are lots of other issues. The health care system in this province, the people of Nova Scotia have been clamouring for information on the health care system in this province, clamouring for information such as the minister's information that we are still requesting, which is the information about the doctors that are being attracted to this province, what the breakdown is, the ambulance contract. Where is the ambulance contract? We have not been provided with that. The people of Nova Scotia have a right to that information. Whistle-blower legislation is not going to solve that problem. The problem that needs to be solved in this province is that the government will not disclose public information.

[5:30 p.m.]

What is really incredible is that earlier today, my colleague, the member for Kings West, asked a question about Mildred Royer, a very simple question about what she is being paid. He was stonewalled, no information, no answer. In next year's Supplement to the Public Accounts we will get the information. But, at that point, it will be too late. Whatever will have been spent will have been spent. That is public information. What the province pays its employees is available in the Supplement to the Public Accounts. Why can't we see it now when the money is being spent, not after the horse has left the barn? That is the appropriate time for disclosure information.

[Page 6287]

I am appalled at the prospect of the lack of disclosure of public information but the whistle-blower legislation is not the method to get the disclosure. To make the civil servants in this province into snitches is not the solution. Good, honourable, hard-working people who work in our Civil Service are not the problem. The problem, Mr. Speaker, is that fact that the government is not producing the information. Clearly, every citizen of this province has an obligation in the case of criminal wrongdoing to report that to the police. I don't think anyone is suggesting that anyone is going to be disciplined for reporting criminal wrongdoing. That right exists. Likewise with respect to occupational health and safety violations. There are laws in this province to protect occupational health and safety and anyone who has information about breaches of that law has a duty to disclose that information to the appropriate authorities. We don't need whistle-blower legislation to allow that disclosure to be made.

I listened with some curiosity to the Leader of the Opposition who was talking about lobbyists and lobbyist registration. I thought it was rather unusual that he was talking about that because I am wondering if his legislation deals with large trade unions from out of province that are influencing elections in this province, who are trying to subvert the electoral process. I suspect that that might have been missed in the fine print. So for the Leader of the Opposition to lecture members in the House about the propriety of lobbyist registration (Interruption) Not only do business people lobby, so do others. It is not a single issue where you can point a finger at free enterprise in this province. You have to look at both sides of the issue. Unfortunately, it seems the Leader of the Opposition isn't very good at looking at the other side of the issue, particularly when the other side of the issue involves money in his Party's pocket, so to speak. One wonders how independent one is when one receives very large cheques from a single individual.

The other suggestion I would make, Mr. Speaker - we talk about whistle-blower legislation and the purpose of it. We have to be very concerned in this province that we don't undermine the very fabric of our Civil Service. The member referred to the fact that the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union will be meeting here shortly. I am not sure, in fact, I am quite sure that the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union does not want to turn its members into spies who spy on each other all the time. That is not the purpose. That would not be in the interest of our civil servants.

What is in the interest of our civil servants is to have administration in this province that is interested in disclosing public information, to make that information available, to be debated in the public and, frankly, whistle-blowers in this province have a very healthy avenue to blow the whistle. It is this House that provides the opportunity for whistle-blowing. Any member of the Civil Service who clearly has information that involves wrongdoing, if that person wants to make that information public, I am sure that there can be a phone call made to members in this place and they will be very glad to bring it to the public attention because that is our duty as members of this House. (Applause)

[Page 6288]

We forget that the purpose of this place is not simply to debate the legislation, but it is things like Question Period. Question Period exists for a reason. It is a unique institution to the British parliamentary system and it gives an opportunity for members of Opposition Parties to hold the government accountable for its actions, to make sure that the decisions that they make while governing this province are brought to public attention. We spent an hour and one-half in this place earlier doing just that - to hold this government accountable for its actions. That is the whistle-blowing that will make the difference in the long run because it is a whistle-blowing that is going to talk about the administration of our province, about the policies that make a difference to Nova Scotians. It is not going to talk about individuals. It is not a spy versus spy game. It is a debate about public policy.

Mr. Speaker, in dealing with this issue, I think it is a shame that the Official Opposition continues to see that the panacea for every problem is a new law, you know, the solution to every problem is not to add another level of regulation. The solution to the problems in this province are in many cases to enforce the laws we have. If the Freedom of Information Act were properly administered in the spirit in which it was designed, I do not think whistle-blower legislation would be of any purpose.

I think that there is clearly a problem and the problem lies with misguided attempts to recycle old ideas. The reference was made to the United States. There is a very good reason why in the United States the whistle-blower legislation exists. They have a congressional system of government where there is no real opportunity for a legislative branch to ask questions to force the government to answer. We have a completely different system, in my opinion a better system, but certainly a different system where we have an opportunity to ask questions of government members.

I defy any member of the Official Opposition to indicate in this House that they have not been privy to information in the past that has been made available through Civil Service contacts that have not led to questions because, in fact, we all know that happens. It happens quite legitimately, but we do not need legislation to encourage that. We do not need legislation to make this place work. What we need is good administration.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that when you look at this particular piece of legislation, it is a lot of words which I do not think will accomplish any useful objective. What will accomplish a useful objective is if we have a Freedom of Information Act in this province which truly allows all members of the public access to information. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I never thought that I would be standing in my place and saying that I could not tell whether it was the honourable member for Lunenburg speaking or the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, but it would appear as if, you know, no issue is uniting the Liberals and their Tory auxiliary more than this kind of

[Page 6289]

legislation and that is legislation that is aimed at getting off the blinders, getting out from the traditions and practices of the past, and ensuring that we have accountability and openness in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Lunenburg talked about how the Freedom of Information Act is in need of amendments to bring it into the modern age so it can do the job that it was intended to do. We could not agree more. That is why there is legislation introduced by this caucus and already called for debate to amend the Freedom of Information Act and to bring it in line with the recommendations that were proposed by the Jobe Report.

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about apples and oranges. We are talking about two separate things here. Now, get your head around this. We are in a sense running a corporation with a budget, an operating budget in the what, $4.2 billion to $4.5 billion range, well over $4 billion of public money is being entrusted to the members of this Chamber.

It is widely accepted and recognized in the corporate world that rather than punishing and penalizing employees who blow the whistle on mismanagement, on abuse of power, those employees are rewarded. Over $4 billion and the public servants, the men and women who work for the people of the province who are very dedicated, hard-working, conscientious civil servants, by and large, they, better than anybody else see many of those abuses.

I heard the Minister of Economic Development talking before in this Chamber about how there had been misuse and mismanagement of Sysco by both Liberal and Tory Administrations in the past. If a civil servant knew that abuse was going on and blew the whistle and brought forward examples, they could be punished, reprimanded and in fact, fired for doing what they honestly believe is in the best interests of the Province of Nova Scotia.

We have seen abuse and we have seen sweetheart contracts for liquor warehouses that have cost the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia millions of dollars. We have seen mismanagement with Nova Scotia Resources Limited and the list can go on and on.

This legislation isn't a frivolous piece of legislation. I would have thought that the members on the government benches, even if their auxiliary has not seen the light, I would have thought that the government members, who espouse openness, accountability, and honesty to the people of the province, I would have thought they would have supported with open arms the principles as espoused in the purpose of this bill to, "(a) provide for the disclosure of Government information by employees who reasonably believe that this information evidences Government wrong-doing; (b) expand the role of the Ombudsman . . .", who is not a political person. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 6290]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the rabbit tracks from members like the Minister of the Environment don't really distract me. If they distract other members, certainly you can call them to order but I can continue on without them. (Interruption) I don't expect to reach him.

Anyway, it would, "(b) expand the role of the Ombudsman . . .", an employee or servant of this House, not of the government, not of the Liberal Government, not of a Progressive Conservative Government and not of a New Democratic Government, an independent body, ". . . to serve as a vehicle for Government employees to disclose Government wrong-doing;". So you would be going to a servant of this House with those disclosures of wrongdoing. "(c) protect from employment reprisals employees who internally disclose information that the employee reasonably believes evidences Government wrong-doing;".

Are we telling our public servants that we do not want them to draw attention to items that they know are wrong where there is an abuse of power? Is that the message we are trying to send? If that is not then I challenge you, have this legislation pass through this House, go down the hall to the Law Amendments Committee process and then the general public can come in and make their comments on this legislation. We are not suggesting for one second that this legislation, as it is written, is 100 per cent perfect, we won't suggest that for a moment. But we are saying that we believe in the interest of accountability and in good government that what we should be doing is enacting measures to provide the greatest level of accountability and good government that we possibly can. If the member for Cape Breton Nova or any other members of the government benches, if they have some suggestions as to ways to improve it to make it more effective, we are certainly open to those.

[5:45 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, this would be where an employee would be reporting a violation of the law, of the rules, or of the regulations. Don't we want employees to bring forward information? Are we expecting, are we telling employees that the only way you can do this - as the member for Lunenburg seemed to be implying - is to pick up the phone in the middle of the night or to send a brown envelope through the mail which won't be disclosing any information? Why can't they stand up freely and, when they know that there is wrongdoing, they can go to the Ombudsman and identify that wrongdoing and then have the Ombudsman, through the process that is outlined here, have that investigated. It is a process.

Management, gross waste of funds, that has been done by both of the previous governments. I can understand why they may not want to have these kinds of things being disclosed if they intend to continue with these practices, but if they want to put an end to gross waste of funds, then I would have thought they would be endorsing this with open arms. Abuse of authority, a danger to the health or safety. Should we not be encouraging employees, who know where there are situations where there is an abuse of authority or where there is a threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians, to bring that information

[Page 6291]

forward and to know that they can do so without fear of reprisal, to know that they can do so without this government turning around and saying, you are out of here, you are fired, for living up to their responsibilities as a good citizen of this province and as a good public servant?

Quite honestly, somebody brings forward that kind of information, as a civil servant, I would commend them and I would say they are doing a fine job and a tremendous service for the people of the province and they should be rewarded rather than punished. You certainly should not be ridiculing them, for having any suggestion that we would empower them with that kind of trust.

Mr. Speaker, I hear the members opposite, I hear the rabbit tracks, I hear the gums flapping, I hear all these noises. The only thing I don't hear from government members, and I have not seen from any of them yet, is any legislative changes that are aimed at improving accountability, improving openness, making it more available to get free access to the information that the public should have a right to but, instead, what they do when that kind of legislation is brought forward, I guess the member for Cape Breton Nova is the - he is still trying to get into Cabinet, Mr. Speaker - he has been designated as their heavy-hitter, I guess.

He is the spokesperson for the government and he, therefore, I guess espouses the policies of government. So they talk out the bills, they talk out anything that is aimed at trying to actually accomplish those very kinds of things that they committed to do when they sought office. It is amazing how, when they were in Opposition over here, then they had certain principles they were quite prepared to espouse and take to the people of the province, but when they got over there, how quickly they adopted the practices of the Conservatives they replaced.

Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that even the red team that currently occupies the government benches and those who sit in the bunker down in the Cabinet Room who are making the policies, surely to Heavens, even that bunch have a bit of a memory and they do recollect those kinds of commitments they made to the province and to the people of this province because that is what this is about.

This legislation, there are many clauses and we are not in the clause-by-clause debate and, based on the kind of decisions or comments I have heard from government members, I don't imagine this is going to make it to the Law Amendments Committee process, so we probably will not get to the clause-by-clause. I can be perceptive, Mr. Speaker.

That having been said, I think it is fair to point out that the way this legislation is structured would give the Ombudsman the opportunity to investigate complaints. It would give the Ombudsman the opportunity to go to the heads of the department or the minister to seek information on the complaint and ask that it be investigated. If that complaint or if disclosure of that information would be a violation of the privacy provisions of the Freedom

[Page 6292]

of Information Act, that information cannot be disclosed. That would not be disclosed. So the government doesn't need to fear that information that is truly of a personal or a private nature that should not be disclosed would not be by this legislation. It would provide recourse to the courts as well, under the decision and the advice of the Ombudsman who is appointed by all Parties in this House, who is an independent servant of this House, not affiliated to any political Party.

Mr. Speaker, I know that my time is running down.

MR. SPEAKER: Your time has run out.

MR. HOLM: So with those few brief remarks, I would like to hope that the Liberals and their friends in the Conservative Party would reconsider their positions and be prepared to vote in favour of this bill going on to the Law Amendments process. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment. You have five minutes.

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to be able to speak on Bill No. 54 that is before us today. I must start by saying that having to listen to the speech, first of the Leader of the NDP and then the member for Sackville-Cobequid, having to listen to the hypocrisy coming from that side of the House, and that they actually believe what they are saying is almost beyond belief. That intelligent people would say this stuff and actually think that it is true and think that they live in a little bubble in a perfect world and everyone else is bad. That is what they believe.

I wonder with this legislation, this whistle-blower, who does it apply to? With their perfect world, who would this apply to? I wonder, do the unionized workers in Nova Scotia who work so hard to make this province what it is, would this legislation allow them to find out who were the union executives out of province who took their money and gave it to the NDP, their hardworking money and gave it to the NDP? I wonder, will they be allowed to find this out? Will we be allowed to ask the NDP who gave them this money? What favours in return are they giving? Will they register as lobbyists under this legislation? Will we be able to ask those questions? I wonder.

I wonder if this legislation applies to the staff inside the NDP office, and I wonder if they will have this same courtesy extended to them? They will have the whistle-blower and when they blow the whistle, they will be rewarded? I am curious. I wonder if that protection was there for the NDP staff? I am curious if they could tell us what did that Party know, and what did that Leader know when he signed the nomination papers for the member for Cape Breton East? I am just wondering if they would be allowed to say that and then be allowed to be rewarded? Would they be allowed to talk about the fact that there were already reported infractions with the Nova Scotia Bar Society, public documents? I wonder if they would be allowed to say things like that and be rewarded for it?

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In talking about the staff, remember that single mom that used to work in the NDP campaign office? Remember her? I remember her working in the NDP campaign office, I remember her one day saying to the Leader of the NDP, saying, look I can't work weekends, I can't work overtime, I have children at home, I am a single mom, I have responsibilities, I can't put the amount of hours in that you are asking me to put in. What did they do to that single mom? Fired her. Is that what they call a reward? Is that what the member for Halifax Needham would call a reward for single moms in this province? When they said, I can't put in the amount of hours you want because you are too power hungry and I will not sacrifice my family for you. Fired.

Where was the whistle-blower legislation to protect that single mom? Where was the whistle-blower legislation where she could say openly to the Leader of her Party, I am overworked, I have a family to care for, I have responsibilities at home, I can't do what you are asking me to do. Fired. No protection. They accept union money, but she certainly didn't get union protection.

Yet this Party preaches to us how much they love single mothers, how much they are out there to protect them. When they had an opportunity to make changes and provide employment to a single mom, and look at her unique situation when she said I have to protect my family, fired. That is the Party over there. The member for Sackville-Cobequid was there, he said, fired. That is what that Party said. They live in a glass bubble and they said, fired, to that single mother, Mr. Speaker. That is what they said.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am hearing the blathering from the Minister of the Environment and I am hearing the minister making all kinds of accusations which, of course, he cannot back up. So my point of order is simply this, is it the practice of the government members to simply stand in their place and recite anything and everything that they wish to, whether it has a semblance of truth or not in the pretense of debate?

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

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is ironic because while I was working with a law firm, that very single mom was there and she told me that she was fired by that Party there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the House will sit from the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. tomorrow. Following the daily routine and Question Period, we will be calling Private and Local Bills for Second Reading, Bill No. 103 - Gaelic College Foundation Act and, also, Public Bills for Second Reading, Bill No. 102 - Petroleum Resources Removal Permit Act.

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

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

The motion is carried.

We are now at the moment of interruption.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness. (Applause)

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - NOVAKNOWLEDGE REPORT:

ECONOMY (N.S.) - GROWTH

MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House this evening and speak on this important topic. The resolution before us tonight reads:

"Therefore be it resolved Nova Scotia's good grade in the annual report card from NovaKnowledge, an organization which promotes the information technology sector, is proof the economic climate produced by this Liberal Government is contributing to the growth of the new information economy in every corner of Nova Scotia.".

This is an exciting topic because it is about a real Nova Scotia success story. NovaKnowledge is saying that Nova Scotia has what it takes to make the grade in the global knowledge economy. In 1999, we can no longer talk about the emerging economy or the new economy. The information technology is the economy. Nova Scotia is a leader in information technology now.

Our province was built on the backs of our fishermen, forestry workers and miners. These industries lie at the heart of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians. They continue to be important contributors to our economy, but a new leader is emerging. We have diversified. Nova Scotia companies are now world-class competitors in such things as global information systems, mobile radio equipment, multimedia production, Internet service and much more.

According to the Information Technology Industry Association of Nova Scotia, the industry now employs 30,000 people and contributes $3 billion to the province's economy. Where in the past, Nova Scotia grew because we were rich in natural resources, our most valuable resources today are education and innovation. These are resources many Nova Scotian companies have in abundance.

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Last year, seven Nova Scotia companies or firms made the Financial Post's list of Canada's Top 25 up-and-coming information technology companies. These companies include Marshall Media Group of Halifax; Media Spark of Sydney; Progeny Software of Wolfville; Fitzgerald Studio of Sydney and others.

[6:00 p.m.]

With this industry growing at such a rate, Nova Scotia needs to produce more young people with the basic skills necessary to allow them to continue their education with good technological training and this government is working on that by creating an atmosphere where more and more people can become comfortable with the latest technology.

One effective way is the Internet. Nova Scotia is near the top in North America for per capita use of the Internet. This Liberal Government has been working closely with Industry Canada to provide funding for community access programs across the province. These CAP sites, as they are called, are being established in schools and libraries. In my own area of Inverness County we now have CAP sites in Cheticamp, Inverness, Judique, Creignish, Mabou, Margaree, Pleasant Bay, Port Hood, Scotsville, St. Joseph Du Moine and others. The number of sites is still growing.

They allow people of all ages to take advantage of the educational and economic opportunities offered by the Internet and information technology. This government is working with local organizations to see these CAP sites become community learning centres. In my area the perfect example of this is the work of the Strait East Nova Community Enterprise Network. This organization is using local CAP sites to create business and educational opportunities. As of last fall there were more CAP sites in the Strait area than in the entire Province of Saskatchewan. This government is also working with the educational system to provide the new labour force.

In 1998 we joined with the federal government to make the largest technology investment in Nova Scotia history - $62 million is being spent to put computers and Internet access into the hands of students, businesses and communities across Nova Scotia. Our universities, like Acadia, UCCB, and Dalhousie are upgrading their technology infrastructure and creating new training programs for students and, of course, we cannot speak about the success stories without Opposition critics bringing up businesses that were not so successful.

The favourite broken record for the NDP is Dynatek. Dynatek was brought to Nova Scotia by the Tory Government and at one time had sales approaching $100 million and employed more than 70 people, but with all the investments this government makes in high-tech companies, I would say our record remains extremely good. Our overall loss rate is just 4 per cent. (Interruption) That is included in the 4 per cent. So we have 96 per cent that are good; 4 per cent that go bad in Nova Scotia, but it is good by any standards and certainly better than most banks are doing in Nova Scotia or any other economy in Canada today.

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Companies like Fast Lane Technologies are doing better than expected. We also have successful companies like CISCO Systems, Watts Communications, Keane and many more and this government is working hard to nurture local Nova Scotia companies. Last year this government sponsored a high-tech mission to Washington, D.C., with 20 Nova Scotia companies. These companies are working to forge partnerships with businesses in the U.S. A government-sponsored trade mission is often the only way a small Nova Scotia business can afford to explore new markets in the U.S., but what is the Opposition saying about trade missions?

Let me quote the Leader of the NDP in a statement he made on CBC's Provincial Affairs in January 1997. He was talking about job creation when he said: "What the situation demands is that the energy that has been going into other initiatives - foreign trade missions, deficit fighting and so on - be redirected.". He must be saying we should not fight the deficit and we should not worry about it. The Leader of the NDP said two things in that statement. First, he said investment in trade missions was a waste of time, money and energy. Second, he said he did not care about the deficit. He seems to be very unconcerned about it. Later on in that same address the Leader of the NDP went on to praise the NDP Government in British Columbia for following those policies. I do not need to tell you what is wrong with that statement.

If I were a small business owner in rural Nova Scotia these plans of the NDP would worry me tremendously. I don't expect the Opposition to fully understand the vital role these missions play.

The NDP wants to stop giving any kind of incentive to business. I started off talking about the NovaKnowledge report card on information technology. The Chairman of Nova Knowledge, Dan Montgomery, said that information technology companies need more investment from government, not less like the NDP says. My point is this Liberal Government knows how to help Nova Scotia businesses.

Just today an announcement was made that will see a $2 million investment alliance agreement to help Nova Scotia information technology companies. We are also helping businesses help themselves by creating a stable financial climate and a high quality of life. Now more than ever, Nova Scotias are prepared to create their own future in information technology.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, the honourable member's time has expired.

MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: I am just finishing, Mr. Speaker. I see a future where people in rural areas see a niche and fill it by starting their own business. I see a future where Nova Scotians put themselves to work and create jobs for people in their communities. Thank you.

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this resolution in which the Liberal Government is purporting to claim that its policies are contributing to the growth of the knowledge economy in this province. I have read NovaKnowledge's second annual report card on the progress of Nova Scotia's knowledge-based economy and I am pleased to note that there continues to be growth in knowledge-based industries, including software, computer services, film and video production, life sciences and engineering. This is not unexpected, since Nova Scotia does have 11 universities and, in fact, more Nova Scotians study at universities than any other Canadians on a per capita basis. In this riding which I represent there are, in fact, four universities so I am certainly aware of the importance of knowledge, research and information content and their connection to wealth creation and employment.

The report card does point out that human capital is an important element in the success in the knowledge-based economy. The report card indicates that government should take a long-term strategic approach to the cultivation of our human capital. The report card also points out that the government has to collect information that reflects the true role of the knowledge economy. Only with such knowledge can government policies be formulated to stimulate the growth of the new information economy. In fact, there is a lack of policies that drive information and the knowledge economy.

The resolution is stated is such a way that the government is not seeking to take credit for direct support for those government agencies, Crown corporations and businesses which have the capacity and potential to grow the knowledge economy; rather it is suggesting that in some general way, in some nebulous way, the current economic climate in this province is contributing to the growth of the information economy. In fact, this government has done little to create and promote technology as a key driver of the economy.

I have met with many leaders in the IT sector of this province, people in business and in industry, leaders in business and industry. The message that comes from them is clear and unequivocal, there is no information technology policy in this province which can serve as an economic development engine. There is lots of lip-service about the importance of the knowledge economy to Nova Scotia but very little is done by this government to provide direct assistance to information and computer technology economic development. As we know, this technology is essential to develop the knowledge economy. That is why the initiator of this resolution isn't taking credit for specific measures to promote information technology in a knowledge economy because there aren't any specific measures being taken by this government.

We do have a couple of means by which this province can really help grow the knowledge economy. Innovacorp is a Nova Scotia Crown Corporation whose specific role is to help build strong technology-based industry sectors in the province. In fact, Innovacorp

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is committed to building three knowledge-based sectors in Nova Scotia and one of them is information technology. The other two are life sciences and engineering.

I have had the opportunity to visit the Innovacorp facility at Woodside on a couple of occasions and have been impressed with the companies that are being assisted in bridging the gap from concept to commercialization. Innovacorp was established a few years ago to commercialize Nova Scotia high-tech industry. It is the one place, Mr. Speaker, that high-tech industries can go for business skills, for technical expertise and for quality assurance. We know these are all essential for successful commercialization.

Innovacorp and its forward-looking CEO, Dr. Ross McCurdy, are a remarkable resource for this province, yet Innovacorp has been underfunded by this government. Direct government grants last year total $3.5 million. This is a paltry sum, I can assure you, if Innovacorp is to carry out its commercialization mandate.

A recent survey of Innovacorp's technology innovation centre, the incubation facility where the commercialization process occurs, indicated that investment in the centre has been very beneficial to a sample group of clients from the centre. From the sample that was surveyed, on average, each firm grew by 15 per cent a year for the past five years. The companies contributed $5.5 million to the local economy and employment doubled in those companies, to 90 full-time and 35 part-time employees. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the payback does not occur overnight. Investment in Innovacorp will be returned many times over in a few years. This government is slow to realize the importance of investing in innovation. In fact, recent studies show that internationally, Canada is falling behind the pack when it comes to investment in research and development. In a small province like Nova Scotia, where we have to compete globally, investment innovation is our only hope. It must be a priority.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that Innovacorp is one of the principal tools in this province for growing technology-based companies and strengthening the economy of Nova Scotia. Next week, when the budget is introduced, let's see if there is financial support to allow Innovacorp to do its job. This is the true test of whether or not this government is truly committed to fostering innovation in this province or in just paying lip-service to growing the Nova Scotia economy.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned two means of growing the knowledge, Innovacorp is one. The other is TARA, the Telecom Applications Research Alliance, a membership-based corporation whose mission is to help its members to become world leaders in the development and exploitation of communications network applications and services. As we know, these network applications, of course, are basic to Internet development and Internet development is basic, of course, to the growth of the knowledge economy. The organization maximizes member opportunities to create wealth from communications. Again, it grows the knowledge economy.

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I have had an opportunity to visit TARA's unique lab facilities on Sackville Street in Halifax and to meet its president, Dr. Brian Penney, another innovator who has a vision and the means of assisting member companies to develop new communications-based products for Nova Scotia. If the government is sincere about promoting the knowledge economy, it can certainly do so by providing additional assistance to TARA.

Mr. Speaker, this morning I was pleased to be present at the TARA building on the announcement of a strategic alliance between Innovacorp and TARA, a partnership which will provide capital to Nova Scotia information technology companies with high growth potential.

Mr. Speaker, we recently have seen this government try to sell Nova Scotia as a cheap place to do business. I would like to table an article from The Daily News on May 21st, entitled "Report pans low wages". Certainly this does little to help promote our growing knowledge-based economy. We know that at present there are 44,800 people unemployed in this province and that our wages in Nova Scotia are 15 per cent below the national average. Highly mobile, knowledgeable workers want competitive salaries, challenging work and a high quality of life. We certainly are not going to keep our locally trained, knowledge-based employees or attract others if we are promoting a low wage economy. We don't want to turn this province into a "Mexico with bagpipes" by portraying Nova Scotia as a province based on low wages and high unemployment.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, we really need to take specific measures to grow the new information economy. I have mentioned two - support for Innovacorp and TARA - we also need to see this government develop a real policy to develop and foster technology. Let's bring together leaders from government, the private sector, the universities and the public, to develop policies to champion technology development in this province, then we will see how the government can really claim it has done something to contribute to the growth of the knowledge economy in this province. Thank you.

[6:15 p.m.]

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

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise tonight and speak to the resolution that was presented by the honourable member for Inverness. I was fortunate enough yesterday to attend the NovaKnowledge summit, at which time they unveiled their 1999 report card. Certainly it built on the experience of the previous report card and provided a great deal of information about direction.

Nova Scotia's economy is growing - there is no question about that - but it still has a long way to go. It is fragile and it certainly needs careful monitoring and nurturing in order to truly reach its full potential. The second annual knowledge economy report card sends a

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very powerful message to government and to business about what it should be doing. It is well-crafted and thought-provoking.

The document will provide information and a sense of direction for planning for the future. Certainly, I know from hearing the presenters yesterday talk of how well the previous report card was utilized in terms of thinking of a new focus for the community colleges, it was proof positive of what is possible when business and government sit down together to truly plan. It certainly helps to dispel any myths that might exist and at the same time provides suggestions about improving the business economy.

That is what this is truly about. Part of the resolution speaks to the positive climate that currently exists in Nova Scotia, and that is where I would like to take my comments tonight. Being competitive in a global market is not just a matter of being a low-cost exporter or a branch facility, it is much more than that. What we need to do is take a long-range plan.

The report card suggests that what government should be doing is monitoring and understanding the dynamics of supply and demand and trying to put in place a long-term strategic plan that will cultivate and grow our human capital because, time and again, one of the strongest attributes that Nova Scotia has to offer is its rich workforce. The fact that we have, per capita, among the highest post-secondary educated workforce in North America is truly a calling card, especially for companies that are going to develop IT-related industries.

One advantage that government has been touting is that Nova Scotia is a low-wage economy and, in fact, that is a two-edged sword. What a low-wage economy truly means in terms of a technology-based economy is that you can force a brain drain, that is that the most highly-skilled and technical and managerial-type people, the people who will be the driving force behind economic development in IT-related industries, can be drawn away from this province because of job opportunities existing outside the province; in fact there are many areas in the United States that are actively recruiting from our colleges and universities.

So, on one hand where you can argue credibly that a low-wage environment is a positive attraction for business, on the other hand, especially when you are talking about IT-related industry, it can be counter-productive. The other thing is that the small size of Nova Scotian companies tends to limit training and career opportunities. We are doing things well, and one of the advantages that we do have is that our small companies are able to react quickly and develop niche markets but, on the other hand, because of their limiting size, career opportunities may cause some of our brightest young minds to look elsewhere. This means that the knowledge-based economy can be inhibited just because of those factors.

Education outcomes. We have heard many speakers talk about the quality of education, and I did it myself in terms of the number of post-secondary graduates but, in actual fact, when you look at the outcomes for high school leaving, our performance is no better than the rest of Canada. We do offer a great many universities and training and certainly the new

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direction that the community colleges are undertaking are positive signs for the future, but the reality is, if we really want to tout our education system as one of the most attractive parts to coming to locate in Nova Scotia, we need to address what is happening in terms of outcomes.

They also have said that in actual fact many perceptions about Nova Scotia are running decades behind fact, and that was one of the overwhelming messages in the report card. They took information and very clearly presented the information that was fact versus the perceptions. Government spending, in fact, can be a hindrance to business. It is often argued that government spending will be an attraction to business, but what actually happens when there is a feeling that the government is there to hand out money and, in the last little while, IT has certainly become a trendy industry and there seems to be a natural tendency on the part of government to look favourably upon strategies that will develop IT-related industry, I am a little concerned that we may, in fact, be putting all of our eggs in one basket.

That is not to say that the IT industry shouldn't be nurtured and grown, but it should be only a component of a much larger economic plan. The thing with government spending when it is there and available, it can actually destroy, to some degree, a business-oriented mindset. That is that we can always lean on government to bail us out if we are making mistakes. It can work against that entrepreneurial spirit, which we are so proud to see re-emerging in Nova Scotia.

The other thing is that there is a genuine need for capital investment - a strategy that ensures that business plans can have access to funding. At the presentation yesterday, a number of new companies who were small and, in fact, looking to start operations or looking to expand slightly, weren't actually looking towards the large amounts of money that venture capitalists tend to want to put forward, but they needed small seed money. So what needs to happen is that we need to have a multi-layered strategy that addresses the crying need for venture capital, particularly venture capital at the low end, the introductory stage, and, later on, venture capital that will be patient. In fact, there is a new terminology coming out that they are looking for angels to help finance these operations, people who take a vested interest in where these companies are going and where they are going to go, that are in it for the long haul. Oftentimes, venture capitalists are looking for a quick return on their dollar investment and sometimes, because of the nature of the front-end-loaded costs of developing new software and the time it takes, they need money and they need patience to see them grow.

NovaKnowledge also cited the difficulty around small, fragmented markets in terms of what that means for us to grow a strong economy. The markets are broken up and many of the more successful companies in Nova Scotia, particularly small IT companies, are focusing on particular niche markets. That means that if something happens to that niche, their ability to sell and prosper changes. So we need to develop a strategy that looks at where the opportunities will exist. That is happening, but we need to develop policy that encourages it to happen on a greater degree.

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One of the other problems that is cited is that while we are all very proud of Nova Scotia's location, and it does have access to the New England markets in terms of accessing venture capital funding, it is somewhat removed from the mainstream. Certainly, the people on Bay Street think it is quite a distance from Toronto to Nova Scotia and, oftentimes, that works as a counter-productive measure to developing venture capital. So what we really need to have in this province is a provincially organized and structured venture capital strategy that makes sure that money will be there, because, oftentimes, for small businesses, that is one of the major stumbling blocks.

The other thing is that when the resolution was read it was touted that the government is there and has fostered, in some grand way, this climate of prosperity. Many small businesses, whether they are IT-related or just in manufacturing, value added and so on, have cited repeatedly that the bureaucratic red tape that has been introduced around regulations, licensing and so on, makes it very difficult for businesses to grow and expand. That is a problem that needs to be addressed and, with all due respect to the minister who introduced legislation last week that tended toward that, I think there still needs to be a serious look at where we are going in terms of the regulatory regime that hamstrings small business and their ability to compete.

To be successful, Nova Scotia has to begin to focus on productivity. More and more we are hearing about that - Nova Scotians' ability to be productive compared to other areas in Canada and North America. So we have to focus on getting the largest return for our investment. That is what it is about. The climate that has to be nurtured is one that ensures that people with good ideas have the opportunity to finance those good ideas and bring their plan to fruition and, at the same time, that they have the opportunity to reap the rewards of that initiative and idea. That is another area that needs to be addressed, tax incentives to help have Nova Scotians invest in their own future.

There have been many examples in this province where the Nova Scotia tax credit structure has been used very effectively by small communities. That, too, is an issue. We are very glad to think that metro is growing and prospering and it is, but there still exists, in this province, very much a dual economy; that is that in many regions of this province, there are people who cannot find work. It was good to be able to talk tonight about the report card. As I have said, there is a great deal of information contained in that, information that should help government develop policies and strategies that will take them through to the next year.

In closing, I would like to commend NovaKnowledge for working so diligently to ensure that these serious issues were brought forward.

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 6:25 p.m.]