The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

















HALIFAX, MONDAY, MAY 8, 1995



Fifty-sixth General Assembly



Third Session



2:00 P.M.



SPEAKER



Hon. Paul MacEwan



DEPUTY SPEAKER



Mrs. Francene Cosman





MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to call the House to order at this time so that we can commence the daily business. The daily routine.



PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS



PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.



MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:



Bill No. 2 - Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company, Limited Act.



Bill No. 6 - Centre Falmouth Cemetery Company Act.



Bill No. 8 - Bridgewater Museum Commission Act.



Bill No. 11 - Halifax County Charter.



Bill No. 12 - Hopewell Cemetery Act.



and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.





1545

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



The honourable member for Hants East.



MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:



Bill No. 9 - Train Station Inn Cabooses Act.



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



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



TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS



STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.



HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise members of the House that this is National Forest Week across Canada and, indeed, in Nova Scotia. I commend the Nova Scotia Forestry Association for their support and sponsorship of this particular program and for their leadership in National Forest Week activities over the years.



As members of this House know, the forests of Nova Scotia are a rich and diverse natural resource. They play a vital role in the economic, environmental and recreational life of our province and its people. Our forests are the natural habitat for more than 250 wildlife species. They also provide an ideal setting for people to go camping, hiking, bird-watching, hunting or fishing.



A majority of candidate sites in the proposed parks and protected areas systems plan that is currently undergoing review are forested areas, including the 250,000 acre Tobeatic wilderness area in southwestern Nova Scotia. In addition to their recreational value, forests make a major contribution to our industrial base.



As our largest resource-based industry, forestry contributes approximately $800 million to the provincial economy each year. Directly and indirectly, it also provides jobs and incomes for approximately 20,000 Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, this includes self-employed woodlot owners, sawmill workers, logging contractors, silviculture workers, professional foresters, pulp and paper mill workers, truckers and wood workers. As minister for forestry in this province, I salute the men and women who work so hard each and every day to make our forest industries successful. Forestry has traditionally been the backbone of our rural communities since the turn of the century and remains a cornerstone of the rural way of life in Nova Scotia.



Mr. Speaker, it is especially important at this time of year for Nova Scotians to pause and ponder the importance of the forestry and to think about sustainability of this important resource and the new integrated approach that is necessary in managing this resource. This year's National Forest Week Theme "Urban Forests - Everyone's Back Yard" reminds those of us who live in urban areas that we also have a responsibility to help ensure that our forest resource is sustainable.



Urban forests are equally important as the traditional rural forests we are familiar with in Nova Scotia. Many cities and towns have programs to maintain and sustain their urban forests. Towns like Truro, that through an Act passed by the Legislature in 1972, formed the Truro Tree Commission. Today the commission has a total of six volunteers and three staff who carry out elm tree sanitation and Dutch Elm disease surveillance, street side tree sanitation, tree planing, insect and tree monitoring, watershed forest management and public educational programs.



Mr. Speaker, here in Halifax, we enjoy one of the best urban forests in all of Canada. This is no accident. The forests of Halifax are an excellent example of what has been referred to as urban forests. They are managed by the Arboricultural Section of the Parks and Grounds Division of the City of Halifax. The work they do includes tree selection, tree planting, fertilizing, pruning, hazards assessment and removal, chipping, stumping and pest control.



Mr. Speaker, they manage over 18,000 trees and by the early 1980s, they had a complete tree inventory on computer that made them more efficient in their management programs. Only a few years ago, this information was incorporated into our own department's geographic information system, GIS.



Truro, Halifax and dozens of other towns and cities throughout the province are working with our government and together, we are committed to thriving urban forests. Trees play a vital and important role, part of our urban setting. They provide a place for birds and animals to seek shelter and food, they provide a beautiful environment for walks and relaxation. They also provide us with a key necessity for our health and life and that is clean air.



Mr. Speaker, I encourage all Nova Scotians to celebrate National Forest Week and participate in activities in their communities, whether they live in rural or urban areas. Show your support by planting a tree yourself or helping the tree planting programs by the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, who do very good work for Nova Scotia. Thank you. (Applause)



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



MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservative caucus is pleased to recognize this as National Forest Week and I certainly commend the minister for his statement. I applaud the Nova Scotia Forestry Association for their support and sponsorship of this particular program. The coalition of forest interests suggests that they are preparing a new forest management program and I think it is important that the Minister of Natural Resources examine the forest management plan that is going to be put forward. It is another plan that the coalition, I understand, is putting forward and I hope the Minister of Natural Resources gives that very careful consideration.



I would like to say that the recently expired federal-provincial forestry agreement did enable the forest industry to attain many sustainable forest development objectives. There is an old Kenyan proverb that states: the Earth was not given to us by our parents but was loaned to us by our children. Mr. Speaker, it is important that we do have a resource, it is important that we do have an industry. It is important that we recognize this very important industry for it is the biggest natural resource industry in the province.



Technology has greatly changed and the Minister of Natural Resources talks of how the demand comes in cycles and how it comes and goes, but the technology is more advanced than it ever has been. Did you know that a fellabuncher has the capacity of harvesting some 600 acres in a month? A fellabuncher with one man can harvest 600 acres in a month or a tree processor with one man has the ability to do the work that it took eight men previously to do. So, technology is changing. It is important that not only we all plant a tree today, but I think reforestation is important to all of us. The minister recognizes it. The Progressive Conservative caucus recognizes it. We are again pleased to recognize this as National Forest Week. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I too just want to advise the House and the minister that we congratulate him on his statement and thank the Nova Scotia Forestry Association for their support and sponsorship of this particular program and the designation of this as National Forest Week across Canada.



Mr. Speaker, I think it is important at this time, as it is at most times, to recognize that there have been serious concerns raised in Nova Scotia about the management practices that we are employing, to ensure that we have sustainable forests in the Province of Nova Scotia and the fact that we need to change such practices as clear-cutting of hardwood forests and the use of particular areas, reforestation and so on. These are problems that are of importance to all Nova Scotians, to all Canadians and we must do our utmost to ensure that this government works with not only the industry but all Nova Scotians to ensure that we have not only sustainable forests in terms of the benefit of all Nova Scotians, not just sustainable harvesting but sustainable forests for the environment, for the ecoculture of this province.



Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I would again commend the minister and the Nova Scotia Forestry Association for the designation of this as National Forest Week.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.



HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I want to report to the House today that the province has issued ten and one-half year bonds on the Canadian market this morning. The $200 million issue is roughly one-third of the total anticipated borrowing of the province in 1995-96.



[2:15 p.m.]



It is a sign of our continued fiscal recovery that Nova Scotia can now borrow at rates just 43 basis points - that is 0.43 per cent - higher than the rate of the Government of Canada. Less than six months ago, the spread between the Nova Scotian rate and the Canadian rate was some 64 basis points. (Applause)



The rate for this $200 million Canadian is 8.5 per cent.



This latest issue is primarily intended for debt retirement purposes, as is most of the province's borrowing program this year. In essence, we are borrowing today at a lower rate to pay existing debt financed at a higher interest rate.



This Canadian issue is consistent with the government's commitment to increase the domestic component of the province's debt. That general direction will be pursued in concert with our aggressive debt management strategy, designed to reduce the cost Nova Scotians pay for the massive debt built up by previous governments. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we must applaud any effort to lower the effect of interest rates on existing loans. Certainly, this is a move in the right direction. But I think even more importantly, it is a move in the right direction in that we are borrowing in Canadian funds so that we are not at the mercy of the turmoil in the money markets of the world. You borrow a dollar Canadian and you repay a dollar Canadian.



Mr. Speaker, I wish the minister luck in placing another $400 million of debt this year on the Canadian market, because he may find that somewhat difficult but, however, certainly, any move to maximize the amount that is placed in the Canadian market, I think, is something that we should all support because certainly it is for the benefit of the taxpayer of this province.



So, Mr. Speaker, I would hope that later in this year, as the minister continues to make placements on the market, that he will be coming forward with Canadian placements and at comparable interest rates, preferably though, less than 8.5 per cent, if that is possible.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome the announcement. Some might suggest that maybe this is a response to the Auditor General who had raised some concerns as a result of the large borrowing that the province did last year in the Japanese market, I believe, for which Nova Scotians, of course, are placed at a great deal of risk because of the fluctuations in the money market and particularly, the fluctuation of the Canadian dollar.



We all remember what happened to the bridge debts, Mr. Speaker, as a result of the borrowings on the international market. So I am pleased to see that we are, in fact, bringing our money home and that we are making our borrowings in Canadian issues.



The minister points out how we are borrowing at a level that is very close to that of the federal government, at rates that are just 43 basis points behind that of the Government of Canada. I am not sure if that is because Nova Scotia has been upgraded or if the feds have been downgraded that that gap may have narrowed. But regardless, Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased that we are able to get it at 8.5 per cent at the Canadian rate.



I can't help but throw in here, Mr. Speaker, that if we were going to be through the Province of Nova Scotia rather than through the private sector, financing the construction of the Highway No. 104 by-pass that the costs for the financing of that project would also be much lower and based on the projection rates of the revenue, of $12.4 million that are projected to come in in the way of tolls, at 8.5 per cent that road would have been able to have been paid off in total in less than approximately 11 years.



So I am very pleased with the minister's announcements and, hopefully, the government will continue to see the light and stop placing us at the risk of the international money markets. We can't afford too many bridge type of increases in the life of this government, given the financial state of the province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.





GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: I recognize the honourable member for Inverness, on behalf of the government.



RESOLUTION NO. 279



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



Whereas today, May 8, 1995, we mark the 50th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, heralding the end of the most horrendous conflict in human history; and



Whereas the end of World War II in Europe came about through a major contribution of Canadian men and women on the battlefields of Europe, on the sea, in the air and here at home in Canada; and



Whereas our nation is one of the world's leading democracies in promotion of peace, due in large part to the international respect Canada gained during World War II;



Therefore be it resolved that on this day, May 8, 1995, the members of this House of Assembly of the Province of Nova Scotia honour those who fought for the liberation of Europe during World War II, so that we may enjoy all the rights, powers and privileges accorded to citizens of a democracy, while remembering that we must always defend our freedom, so that we maintain it always.



Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate and would ask that the Assembly take one minute's silence in honour of those who paid the supreme sacrifice.



MR. SPEAKER: Is that course of action agreeable to the House?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



We will now observe one minute of silence.



[One minute of silence was observed.]



The honourable Minister of Health.



RESOLUTION NO. 280



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



Whereas May 8th to 14th is National Nursing Week in Nova Scotia; and



Whereas registered nurses and nursing assistants provide quality care and support to patients in hospitals, homes and communities across the province; and



Whereas government health renewal has and will be strengthened by the insights and experience of these men and women;



Therefore be it resolved that we recognize the valuable contributions these women and men make in our communities, not only during National Nursing Week but throughout all months of the year.



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



MR. SPEAKER: 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



NOTICES OF MOTION



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.



RESOLUTION NO. 281



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



Whereas May 8th to 14th is National Nursing Week; and



Whereas nurses are hardworking, dedicated and committed professionals who are on the front lines in delivering health care services to Nova Scotians; and



Whereas these same hardworking, dedicated professionals are a tremendous resource that should be actively consulted, as opposed to shut out of the decision-making process for reforming Nova Scotia's health care system;



Therefore be it resolved that all members acknowledge the tremendous contribution nurses make to the health and well-being of Nova Scotians and urge the Minister of Health to clearly demonstrate his appreciation by openly committing to making them true and full partners in the health reform process.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



Is there a request for waiver of notice? I believe there is.



Is it agreeable to the House to waive notice on that motion?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 282



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



Whereas 50 years ago today Canadians officially celebrated victory in Europe following the May 7th German surrender; and



Whereas the commemorations and celebrations taking place in Canada, and all other countries who fought in Europe, are an occasion to remember those who gave their lives and the cause for which they made their sacrifice; and



Whereas today, Europe and the world remain very far from a lasting peace, with nations and people living in common security;



Therefore be it resolved that we best honour the sacrifices that won victory in Europe by vowing today that, as Nova Scotians and Canadians, we will stand up against the forces of division, hatred and exploitation that so tragically lead to war.



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



MR. SPEAKER: 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 Bedford-Fall River.



RESOLUTION NO. 283



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



Whereas the 50th Anniversary of VE Day provides an opportunity for all of us to remember and salute the very significant contribution made by many thousands of Canadian women in the war effort to end conflict and achieve peace; and



Whereas nearly 50,000 Canadian women sacrificed family and security to serve in the Armed Forces, 4,500 served as nursing sisters - many of whom worked dangerously close to the front-lines - with another 750,000 women working at home in various war-related industries; and



Whereas approximately 1,700 Nova Scotian women served in the three branches of the Armed Forces, with an additional 323 Nova Scotian women serving as nursing sisters;



Therefore be it resolved that today, as the world pauses to remember the liberation of Europe 50 years ago, the members of this House of Assembly pay tribute to the vital efforts and sacrifice, in the pursuit of lasting peace, made by the women and families of this great country and province.



Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived on that motion?



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 Hants West.



RESOLUTION NO. 284



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



Whereas today marks the 50th Anniversary of VE Day; and



Whereas 50 years ago today Nova Scotians joined all of Canada and, indeed, all Allied countries around the world in celebrating the victory of freedom and democracy over oppression and Nazi rule; and



Whereas this victory, which came at tremendous cost to thousands of Nova Scotians, secured the peace, freedom and democracy we all live under today;



Therefore be it resolved that this House, the seat of democracy in this province, acknowledge with gratitude the tremendous sacrifice made by those who fought and secured our freedom 50 years ago today.



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



MR. SPEAKER: 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 Atlantic.



RESOLUTION NO. 285



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



Whereas the 1994 Throne Speech declared that this government's "primary task is clear; we must get Nova Scotians back to work" and boasted about "a positive climate for job creation"; and



Whereas in the subsequent year there has been no increase in the number of jobs for Nova Scotians, with April marking yet another month when job creation was worse here than in any other province; and



Whereas the proof of the pudding is in the eating;



Therefore be it resolved that, as the 2nd Anniversary of this government's election approaches, Liberals should reread their own pledge to make jobs the number one priority.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Pictou West.



RESOLUTION NO. 286



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



Whereas the Pictou District Instructional Technology Committee wants to give students better control of what they learn; and



Whereas the Pictou District Instructional Technology Committee has introduced the use of computers in four separate county high schools; and



Whereas two elementary schools are scheduled to be introduced to computer programming in September;



Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature commend students in Pictou County in their initiative to become computer literate and learning the technology which is required in today's business climate.



I would ask for waiver.



MR. SPEAKER: There is a request for waiver of notice.



Is it agreed?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



[2:30 p.m.]



The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.





RESOLUTION NO. 287



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



Whereas the Canadian Red Cross Society is part of a world-wide humanitarian movement; and



Whereas volunteers, blood donations, and financial contributions are needed to support the work of the Red Cross here in Canada and around the world; and



Whereas for nearly 100 years, the Canadian Red Cross Society has been an essential ingredient of Canadian life, providing humanitarian assistance whenever and wherever it is needed;



Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly commend the Red Cross in their efforts to protect the dignity and human rights of individuals and urge all citizens to donate their time and resources to support the Red Cross activities.



Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Queens.



RESOLUTION NO. 288



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



Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency several weeks ago promised a full accounting of all expenditures related to the Bluenose II refit; and



Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency was unable to provide even the most modest information the other day respecting hiring of an operations manager for Bluenose II; and



Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency seems determine to delay as long as possible the tabling of information pertinent to the Bluenose II refit;



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency make good on his promise and table all information relevant to the Bluenose II refit at the latest by May 16, 1995.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.



RESOLUTION NO. 289



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



Whereas the memories of war and occupation being shared on the 50th Anniversary of VE Day remind us that women are among the first victims of war, vulnerable to attack, losing their homes, families and lives; and



Whereas here in Canada, women were indispensable to the war effort and the victory which was won, just as women's work in the home and outside their homes has always been essential to Canadians' well-being; and



Whereas the preservation and advancement of peace has been and remains a critical priority for women;



Therefore be it resolved that on this anniversary the House recognizes that peace is the best memorial to the sacrifice and contribution made by women to victory in Europe.



Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might request waiver of notice.



MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?



It is agreed.



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



The motion is carried.



The honourable member for Queens.



RESOLUTION NO. 290



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



Whereas the Minister of Community Services has recently combined the Social Service Appeal Boards of Queens and Lunenburg; and



Whereas the Minister has chosen to use these appointments to pay back political friends, undoubtedly hoping to shore up Liberal support for the Premier; and



Whereas neither the chair nor the vice-chair of the board is resident in Queens County;



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Social Services who is himself from Queens, ensure that in all future chair and vice-chair appointments to the Social Service Appeal Board, one position will be filled from Queens County and the other from Lunenburg County.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Pictou West.



RESOLUTION NO. 291



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



Whereas this government is forcing the residents of Cumberland County to become the first in Canada to pay tolls in order to drive the Trans Canada Highway; and



Whereas this government is now reneging on a commitment to transfer 75 government jobs to Amherst and the construction of a highway ramp leading directly past the Nova Scotia tourist bureau;



Whereas the present Liberal Government has now added insult to injury to the people of Cumberland County by printing maps for the G-7 Summit featuring Pugwash, Wallace as well as Tatamagouche on the Glooscap Trail, instead of where they rightfully belong on the Sunrise Trail;



Therefore be it resolved that the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and his government stop inflicting damage on the economy of Cumberland County and do something constructive that will assist with job creation in northern Nova Scotia.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



RESOLUTION NO. 292



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



Whereas Nova Scotians and other Maritimers have been targeted by the Liberal Government for major reductions in federal transportation infrastructure with both airports and weather services on the list; and



Whereas it has been revealed that the federal government withheld evidence that the failure of automated services contributed to an air crash in northern Quebec; and



Whereas the federal Transport Minister is nevertheless racing full-steam to maximize the use of automated services and minimize existing protections of air travel safety;



Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the federal government to suspend its rush towards automated air travel and weather services and to, instead, study carefully the effect on safety and the economy of its plan to withdraw most air transport services.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.





RESOLUTION NO. 293



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



Whereas the Finance Minister, Government House Leader and other Cabinet Ministers spent much of the last year declaring that it was unconscionable to permit any kind of a vote on the proposals or leadership of a government in power; and



Whereas those ministers are now engaged in just such a vote on the Premier's leadership, boasting that as many as 60 per cent of the Liberal Party support him; and



Whereas the City of Halifax wishes to conduct a plebiscite on amalgamation;



Therefore be it resolved that the Municipal Affairs Ministers should be moved, by the new spirit of democracy sweeping through the Cabinet Room, to agree that she will respect the wishes of citizens expressed in amalgamation plebiscites.



MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



Are there any additional notices of motion to come before the House this afternoon? If not, that completes the daily routine. We will now advance to Orders of the Day.



ORDERS OF THE DAY



GOVERNMENT BUSINESS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



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



GOVERNMENT MOTIONS



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



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



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to take the opportunity this afternoon, as we go into Supply, to talk a little bit about the Andersen report, which I was unable to do on Friday as a result of your rulings on the resolution. I think that it is crucially important that Nova Scotians have a full knowledge and understanding of as much information as they possibly can in the way of the secret documents and the secret information that the government is trying to keep from them.



Mr. Speaker, I think it is especially important that we take a look at the Andersen report and some of the comments and suggestions that are made within it, especially today in light of the Minister of Finance's bragging about how we are able to borrow money at an 8.5 per cent interest rate on the Canadian market. Given the fact that that is only going to be 43 basis points higher than the federal government, the way and how financing of this highway is done is very important because, of course, it is going to be driving up the costs if that is being done through the private sector.



Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you or other members of the government even know, but there was an executive summary that was prepared for the Department of Transportation on the Andersen report, an executive summary that was sanitized by the consultants. So, supposedly, if it has been sanitized for them for public distribution, one would have expected that the government would have rushed out to make sure that that sanitized executive summary was made public but, in fact, it did not. It hid even the sanitized executive summary and I am going to talk about some of the information that is contained within it.



One of the things that it says quite clearly, Mr. Speaker, is that it was not the private partners, not the Andersens, not the consultants who suggested the $29 million was the optimum amount of funding for the province to be putting in; that was the amount of money that the provincial government said it was prepared to put in. That is, of course, all it was prepared to put in because it had decided already to withdraw $26 million from that fund so that that could be rediverted to things like the Fleur-de-lis Trail.



But, Mr. Speaker, they talked about several scenarios and how that road, this western alignment, this by-pass, could be built. They talked about a baseline route, and the baseline route would be placing a toll in the middle of the new road that is to be built. They pointed out that that baseline road would not be sufficient in a downturn if the revenues drop by 14 per cent, it would not be enough to pay for all of the construction costs. Therefore the government, because that baseline would only produce $10 million in revenue with 5,214 vehicles, I think is what they projected would use that baseline route, was not enough to pay for it. Yet, of course, the government is using the figure of $10 million as being the amount of money that they expect to be collected in the way of tolls on the toll road that they are going to build.



The government has opted for, in their announcement, the scenario that, in fact, Arthur Andersen recommended and that was the Oxford toll barrier, which would place the toll between Oxford and Thomson Station. That is just between Exit 6 and Exit 7, which Andersen's report said would increase the capture rate by 31 per cent. Mr. Speaker, 31 per cent means 1,616 more vehicles and the revenues by 24 per cent. So that would bring the total number of vehicles up to 6,800, almost 6,900 vehicles with total revenues of $12.4 million.



Now, the government is talking in terms of bond rating and how much it will cost now on this new $200 million bond rating. We have argued and the government hasn't denied it that the only reason they are doing this by a private venture is that if they went public the cost of building that road would appear on the provincial bottom line, Mr. Speaker. It would show up as a provincial debt.



Well, one has to ask how much is the province prepared to pay to hide the true cost of that road? If the government were to borrow $85 million, not $70 million that they say that they are going to have to do to finance or the private sector is going to have to do to finance, but if they were to finance $85 million which would allow the interest and the costs during the initial construction stage at 9 per cent, Mr. Speaker, and if they are receiving $12.4 million a year in toll revenues, if you just put $12 million a year against the principal and interest, that could be paid off in 11.3 years. Leaving almost $4.5 left over in the way of surplus money.



Now, we hear that they can borrow at 8.5 per cent, that would reduce the length of time that it will take to pay it off from 11.3 years down to about 10.8 years. But at the rate that they are going and the plan that they are taking, by collecting just this $12.4 million over 32 years, that means that after paying the amount of principal and interest, as that could have been paid off in 11.3 years, that is going to cost the province and that means the motoring public, the taxpayers in this province, $256 million more, minus the modest cost for maintenance and operation of this 45 kilometre stretch of highway; over $250 million extra, or when you take the operating costs out, about $200 million.



The only alternative and the province is following the lead, they are following the advice that is given in the Andersen report is to cut it off in such a way to capture as many vehicles and to force anybody, except for trucks because they aren't going to be allowed to use this, to go down around Route 204.



Now, you know, according to the Andersen report, even the Andersen report, is saying that there will be a surplus of 21 per cent in terms of cash after the interest payments and so on are made, during just the bridge financing section alone. During the bridge financing period, there will be no requirement on the operators to pay down the principals of that, Mr. Speaker. In fact, they don't have any requirement at all for a quick pay down of that.



We also know that the tolls that are being suggested are not the final goals, because it is the projections and it is the plan, that the tolls will be increased on a regular basis, in line with inflation. So, as inflation goes up, if it goes up by 5 per cent or 10 per cent, so too do the tolls. Yet, there is not even a commitment that those concessionaires, those who are going to be building the highway, will maintain it, because the Andersen report is suggesting that the Department of Transportation and Communications be contracted to maintain the Highway No. 104 by-pass road not to a higher level of standards, but in fact to the 100-Series Highway standards that we currently have. That is what they are projecting and they are saying that that will be contracted back to the Department of Transportation.



[2:45 p.m.]



Twenty-one per cent. The Utility and Review Board will have no say in looking at those tolls, none whatsoever. The Auditor General cannot examine to find out if, in fact, the cost projections and the advice being given are the best. Instead, the businesses in Cumberland County, those who want to set up a business, the existing businesses and anybody who is travelling between Amherst and Truro and vice versa, unless they are prepared to go down along the coastal route, down along Route 204, unless they are prepared to do that, Mr. Speaker, they have to pay, they are going to get socked with the full debt.



Do you know, Mr. Speaker, of this surplus, guess who - it comes probably as a great surprise to most members of the Liberal benches - is going to benefit from excess costs? The Premier might know. I am sure the Minister of Finance knows. I am sure they worked this out in their calculations. It is like the casinos; it is a hidden tax, it is a tax on the users, to be coming back into the coffers of the Province of Nova Scotia. Even during the construction stage, even during the bridge financing stage, even before they have started to pay down the debt, they are anticipating a profit of 21 per cent.



Now of course, in the long term, all of that will not come to the province. Do you know, according to this arrangement and the suggestion being put forward by the Andersen report, there is not even a requirement for the partners for the province to put up any of the financing themselves. The long-term debt will be done in two forms. Of course, there will be the senior debt, which will have first security, so in the event that there is a drop in revenues, the senior debt will have seniority. It will be protected. Then we have a subordinate debt. Those who have subordinate debts do not really need to worry very much anyway, according to the Andersen projections. The Oxford baseline or the Oxford toll route can withstand a 30 per cent drop in revenue and still meet all the obligations. So in other words, they are saying at least a 30 per cent profit.



Of course, those who are the subordinate debt holders will be able to charge and receive a higher rate of interest because it is a greater risk. It is also suggested that if there are any excess cash flows, any additional revenues coming in above and beyond the cost that is needed to retire the debt portion that year and the interest payments, that those subordinate debt holders will get to share in that increased revenue. Sounds like even a sweeter deal than Nova Scotia Power got, where they were guaranteed excessive rates.



AN HON. MEMBER: How about tabling that information?



MR. HOLM: Well, I am getting a request and before I sit down, I may very well table the information because after all, it is a sanitized report. It is a report that the government has, that was prepared for public distribution. So, why not, if it is a sanitized report? It is probably a good idea to do that.



Mr. Speaker, I have not even got into talking at all yet about whether this is or is not the best route. But you know, if $26 million had not been diverted, had not been redirected from that fund, there would not have been $29 million to put in, there would have been $55 million put in. If the government wanted to proceed at a fast-track pace and build that road -it is interesting, of course, the road is still going to come onstream, even at the government's new fast-track rate, a year behind when they said it was going to in the first place - if they were prepared to do that and wanting to do it on a fast-track base, they could borrow the money at 8.5 per cent and the cost would be reduced yet again. In fact, the cost for that road certainly could have been paid out of - I see you are telling me I have two minutes - the toll that would only be charged on that new section of road, instead of trying to snare everybody and charge all the businesses, all the individuals, anybody who would use it, whether they use the Wentworth route, whether their pavement even touched the asphalt of the new section of road, which is what they plan to do.



Of course the government has to agree they are going to expedite the environmental approval process. We have already seen that the new Minister of the Environment has done that because he extended the old environmental approvals, even though many of the conditions of that were not met, Mr. Speaker. He did extend it back in March, quietly, without any public fanfare, because of course he knew, as a member of the Cabinet, what the government's plans were.



Mr. Speaker, what the government is doing here is a travesty. The extra amount they are paying, in terms of increased costs because their little shell game is going to be more than enough to build 8 or 10 Fleur-de-lis Trails over the time that this highway is going to have the tolls being collected on it.



Nova Scotians deserve to have the full information put on the table, a full financial accounting, and certainly as the barest of minimum, the Auditor General for the Province of Nova Scotia, who has the task of looking out for the public interest of the people of this province, as the barest minimum, all the information should be provided to the Auditor General so that the Auditor General can scrutinize, can examine the very costly boondoggle that the government is trying to enter into. To save $70 million off the Minister of Finance's bottom line, at 8.5 per cent, the government is prepared to sacrifice hundreds of millions of dollars and charge all kinds of Nova Scotians, thousands of Nova Scotians, a toll and harm the industry and the economy of Cumberland County, and probably the entire province, by placing a toll on a road when the motorists are not even going to be putting their rubber on the asphalt that is built on this new section. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians deserve to see the full facts and information on the table. Thank you.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few minutes of the time of the House today to reflect, in fact, on today. Of course, the 8th of May is a very special day. It marks the day in which peace came back to a war-torn and war-weary world. It also, of course, marks a very special anniversary in that it is now half a century since we have had a global conflagration on this planet.



Driving home on Friday, I was reminded of one particular aspect of the joy with which we should greet the peace that occurred in Europe on May 8, 1945, but also of the tremendous sorrow, that must be associated with a peace, that was necessary to end a very horrible time in the history of humankind.



While driving home, I picked up a tape that my daughter had left in the car and popped it into the tape player. One of the selections on it was from one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's well-known musicals, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. One of the early songs that Joseph sings in that, one of the lines in it is, "The people of Israel are never alone.".



Right away that sharpened my focus and made me think of those six million men, women and children, some of them babes in arms, who were sacrificed to one of the greatest evils that has ever been perpetrated by human beings on this planet, sacrificed in what has come to be known as the Holocaust. I thought to myself how, when all other things had fled from these people, they were left at least with the belief and the understanding and the final comfort that while they may have been abandoned by their fellow human beings, wherever they found themselves, if they did not survive the Holocaust, and even for those who did, they, as the people of Israel, were never alone.



I think that is one of the great tenets of Judaism which has been maintained by those of us who have been brought up in the Christian faith as a basic belief and one in which we should, I would hope, be able to find the same level of comfort as I know all of us hope that those people who experienced the Holocaust felt during that awful time.



It also reminded me of all of those men and women, some of them, in fact, not much older than children themselves, who took the decision between September 1939 and May 8, 1945, to offer themselves, quite potentially, quite possibly, in some cases quite probably, for sacrifice in order to stop war, in order to stop the great evil that was being perpetrated in so much of the planet and who entirely selflessly left their farms, fishing boats, factories and families and marched off to war, so many of them never to return, having made the supreme sacrifice themselves.



I thought too of those others, many of whom are known to us, who did return. Some who came back whole in body but shattered in spirit. Others who came back shattered in body but nonetheless whole in spirit. I thought of how dramatically their lives were different and are different for those who are still with us than is the case for those of us who have never experienced war or, at least, do not remember very much of it, as is the case of people who are my age, who are just barely old enough to remember the bits and pieces of the war itself. How that whole generation's very existence must have been conditioned by the experience of that six years or fewer years when they served in the air, on the land or on the sea.



It caused me to think, too, of how much we owe that generation of men and women for the vision they provided our country which caused us to be able to wax so strong and to play such a great role, a role inconsistent with our relatively small numbers of Canadians in that period following 1945. Surely it was because of the unselfishness of those men and women that we, as Canadians, in the time in which my generation grew up, came to have a vision and an understanding of what we, as human beings, might do to help make this world a better place. I really don't think it would have been possible for us to have any of that kind of understanding, certainly not the depth of understanding that we enjoy, were it not for those men and those women.



Yesterday I caught a little bit of the service in St. Paul's Cathedral. A section of a war diary, one of Nicholson's war diaries was read, and Sir Winston Churchill was quoted. These are the words that Churchill spoke to the House of Commons just after peace was declared on May 8, 1945. He said, "The evil doers lie prostrate before us.". That was absolutely true. Those evil doers did lie prostrate before us. But I think Churchill, as was almost always the case, had a deep meaning attached to those words. For while that evil lay prostrate before us, that evil was not dead and that evil still lurks in the dark corners of the human spirit and in the dark corners of this world.



While we have not seen it played out to the same extent as it was played out in that period from 1939 to 1945, we can see it raise its ugly head sometimes in small but very dramatic numbers, as was the case in the Oklahoma bombing a few weeks ago or in much larger numbers, numbers that are difficult for us to comprehend as is the case in central Africa over the past year with the internecine warfare and the murders of innocent men, women and children in the battle between Tutsis and the Hutus in central Africa.



[3:00 p.m.]



Again, I was reminded of the tremendous sacrifice made by these men and these women on our behalf, on behalf of all of the men and women and children of their generation and, they hope, the future generations of that very kind of obscenity carried out by humankind would cease. I think we can be grateful to them that this great obscenity is rather more infrequent than it might otherwise be. I believe it points out to each and every one of us that we have a responsibility if we are going to remember what these poor people who served Canada and served the world did for us; the tremendous sacrifices that they made, both those who returned and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.



If we remember today only as the anniversary of the end of the war, we do them an injustice, but that we do them a great justice if we remember this as the beginning of a peace, a peace in which it is our responsibility as citizens of the world, not solely as citizens of Canada but as citizens of the world, to fight against the ugliness of anti-semitism, the ugliness of racial discrimination, or indeed any other form of discrimination which would cause one group of human beings to set others apart and cause them to be treated as less equal.



It is only by, in our day to day lives, ensuring that in whatever small way we can and one when we are called upon in large ways to help the oppressed, to defend the weak, to uphold the law, to root out the evils of discrimination that we will truly be able to honour that glorious and wonderful sacrifice made by the men and the women who celebrated this wonderful victory day either through a death given that others might live or through their lives as they lived out those lives in civilian life after May 8, 1945.



Every day each of us, I am sure as members of this House, attend a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion on November 11th and every year we join with all of those men and women whose comrades served so gallantly in that war, a war which we hope will result in enduring peace, at least on a global scale and we always say in that time that we will remember those who served and those who sacrificed. The best way for us to ensure that that remembrance is a continuing remembrance, one which will be understood and lived out by our children and our children's children, is to ensure that the ideals for which those men and women fought, and for which they sacrificed so much are given not just lip service by us but are practiced by us and our every day lives. Then and only then will we have earned the tremendous sacrifice which they made for us. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: Are there any additional speakers on the motion to go into Supply?



If not the motion is carried and the House will now be resolved into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply.



[3:04 p.m. The House resolved into CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]



[7:04 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]



MADAM SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Whole House on Supply reports:



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



MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed?



It is agreed.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.



PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 10.



Bill No. 10 - Highway 104 Western Alignment Act.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Supply and Services.



HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Madam Speaker, I was unaware that I had begun any remarks, I simply moved adjournment of the debate. However, I would indicate that the initiative put forth in the bill is very strenuously recommended by this chair and, with that, I will take my seat.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.



MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak to the amendment to Bill No. 10 that would refer this bill to the Public Accounts Committee, I would like to expound for a moment or two on why, indeed, this bill should go forward to the Public Accounts Committee.



This is an entirely new venture, as I am sure every member is aware, for the province to venture into. The passage of this legislation, as is well-known, will provide for tolls, which means that we are giving to a private corporation the ability to tax motorists on public highways in the Province of Nova Scotia. Now, the reason that this bill should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee for examination and have the opportunity to call witnesses is because, first of all, I think the public as well as the Public Accounts Committee would like to know, for instance, why a private corporation of any type, which has jurisdiction over an essential service to the public should have the right to have taxes that are not reviewed by the Utility and Review Board. I believe it has a different name these days, but what was the Public Utilities Board or the board that is presently carrying out that function. I think it is essential that that be adequately explained to people, why indeed this particular entity, this corporation that would be set up to own and operate this Highway No. 104, the new highway by-pass, is not subject to review by the Utility and Review Board.



I think that is increasingly important from the point of view that this highway is not being built for a short period of a year or two or three years or so, Mr. Speaker, this highway is going to be in place until such time as the debt is retired. So, if this public corporation, in which the province has a 30 per cent interest, decides at some future date that they should double or even treble the tolls on this highway, there is nobody, there is no board, there is no regulatory apparatus anywhere that is outlined in this particular legislation that would prevent them from doing that. We certainly would not permit that for any other public utility, I would suggest, in the Province of Nova Scotia or for any other corporation that is providing an essential service.



Mr. Speaker, another reason that this bill should be reviewed by the Public Accounts Committee, is because we, of course, are preventing this corporation from being bound by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This Act, under this legislation, does not apply to this corporation. I think we must remember that the province, in owning 30 per cent of this corporation, has a financial interest in this corporation and, as such, I cannot think of any other corporation in which the government has a substantial interest which is not open to scrutiny because of the fact that they can say that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not apply.



However, even considering those two items, Mr. Speaker, I think that the main reason, the primary reason why this corporation and this bill in particular should be scrutinized by the Public Accounts Committee is that, Clause 16(2), "The Corporation is not a department or a crown corporation within the meaning of the Provincial Finance Act, the funds of the Corporation are not public money within the meaning of that Act and, for greater certainty, and notwithstanding subsection 72(5) of that Act, that Act does not apply to the Corporation.".



What does this mean, Mr. Speaker? I would suggest that what it means is that, for instance, the Public Accounts Committee cannot call this corporation before them for an examination of their accounts. I would suggest further that it means that the Auditor General of this province is denied access to documentation to review that corporation. If this was an entirely private corporation, I would have no argument with that. I would have no argument at all. For instance, if this company was building the highway and the province had no financial interest within that section of highway, well, then I would suggest to you that possibly it would be quite acceptable to the members of this House and to people of Nova Scotia from a point of view of the fact that that is their business entirely.



When the province has a substantial 30 per cent interest, then I suggest every taxpayer has the right to know and the need to know exactly what the operation of this corporation is and should have the power to call them as witnesses before the Public Accounts Committee, to have their books examined by the Auditor General and thus provide a check on any misuse or abuse of the clout that this corporation has because of the fact that it is operating a monopoly. In other words, if you want to travel on the 100-Series Highway out of Nova Scotia, well then you are going to travel on a private road which is owned by this corporation which is not, in any phase whatsoever of their financial matters, open to examination.



By referring this bill to the Public Accounts Committee for examination, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that we could call, for instance, the people from the Department of Transportation and Communications who are handling the negotiations and are looking at the various proposals that they have before them. We could call the officials from the Department of Finance to determine exactly what the rate is going to be on this highway and what the future outlook is while we are taking into account the maintenance of this highway, particularly when it has been operation for four or five years and will require major upgrading, et cetera, to determine what it is that the motorist is going to have to pay to use this highway and what is going to be the impact on the road transportation system operating out of this province.



It is my understanding that this bill, for instance, will cause all trucking to move through that particular toll section of highway. So it is going to have an impact on those transportation companies which are bringing in goods and taking out goods from the Province of Nova Scotia and will probably have a great impact on the cost of goods delivered to and exported from the province.



The Public Accounts Committee will enable the Minister of Transportation and Communications or his officials and the Minister of Finance and his officials to explain to the Public Accounts Committee who in turn can open up their committee to representations from the trucking industry, from such organizations as the Canadian Automobile Association, et cetera, those groups that speak on behalf of those who use our highways in this province. Thus, Mr. Speaker, I believe that not only will the committee be able to come to a decision as to whether or not this is the way we should be moving, but also perhaps the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation and Communications, in particular, will be made knowledgeable of what the impact will be if this bill goes through as brought forward.







[7:15 p.m.]



So, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to delay your committee but I am sure that every member in this House will regard the amendment favourably that we presently have before the House. I am hopeful that indeed, it will be referred to the Public Accounts Committee and that you will have a much more knowledgeable public to either say yea or nay as to whether or not we need toll roads in the Province of Nova Scotia.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the amendment which is before the House this evening. I think there is a strong rationale for all-Party acceptance of this amendment where, in fact, it will not delay the government's desire to move forward and find a private sector partner and to construct the highway and to subject traffic on that highway to tolls. It would, indeed, appear an almost mandatory situation, so that the government's schedule and plans and determination to move forward are not impacted by this amendment.



Rather, what this amendment would seek to do is give direction to the Public Accounts Committee, which I have the honour to chair, to immediately undertake a review of the decision by government to divert funding from the Highway No. 104 construction, between Thomson Station and Masstown to the Fleur-de-lis Trail.



My view, Mr. Speaker, is that I don't really care where it was sent to. The fact that it was the Fleur-de-lis Trail is, in my view, irrelevant. The important point is where it was taken from, that is from the funds that were initially dedicated for the construction of that Highway No. 104 by-pass around Wentworth Valley.



I could not help but notice that the SHIP agreement itself is clear and unequivocal in that its intention is to fund projects which are part of the Nova Scotia highway system. In fact, it is my clear understanding, particularly from reading, particularly reinforced . . .



MR. SPEAKER: Does this relate to referring this bill to the Public Accounts Committee, in a direct sense?



MR. LEEFE: Yes, absolutely - that the funds under the SHIP agreement are specifically intended for the construction of the national highway system and that alone. The diversion of funds from that particular task would, in fact, be a diversion of funds away from the substance of the agreement.



Now there are other criteria which can be used with respect to determining where those funds would be spent under a SHIP agreement, that is for the reduction of accidents, the reduction of fatalities, the reduction of property damage and, where demonstrable, for other socio-economic benefits.



Again, the Auditor General makes it very clear in his report that there is no material available, at least not available to him, in the Department of Transportation and Communications to suggest that any kind of a socio-economic study was undertaken with respect to the diversion of funds from the . . .



MR. SPEAKER: I fail to find this debate relevant to the amendment. That is the second time I have had to intervene.



MR. LEEFE: Well, the amendment, Mr. Speaker, is to refer the matter to the Public Accounts Committee. The Public Accounts Committee has as its servant, the Auditor General, as does this House. I am referring to the Auditor General's Report. It is the function of the Public Accounts Committee, among others, to review the Auditor General's Report and to undertake to review such matters as are found in the Auditor General's Report and which are appropriate to be brought before the Public Accounts Committee. I believe that in the principle of this bill we find exactly that kind of situation prevalent.



The fact is, as I interpret it, that funds which were intended to be used for strengthening the national highways system, in fact, have been diverted to strengthen a road which is not part of the national highway system. The result of that is, that we are going to have a highway which has tolls placed on it. Those tolls may not need to be there if those funds had been retained for that project or indeed the dimension of the tolls might well be lower than is necessary as the result of the diversion of that funding from the Masstown-Thomson Station By-pass. For those reasons, I think the amendment is absolutely in order and I would look forward to all members supporting that amendment when the vote is taken, Mr. Speaker.



MR. SPEAKER: The question is called. Is the House ready for the question?



A recorded vote is being called for.



Ring the bells. Call in the members.



[7:22 p.m.]



[The Division bells were rung.]



MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?



The Clerks conduct the roll call vote on the amendment: That the subject matter of Bill No. 10 be referred to the Public Accounts Committee for study.



[The Clerk calls the roll.]



[7:40 p.m.]



YEAS NAYS



Mr. Moody Mr. Barkhouse

Mr. Donahoe Mrs. Norrie

Mr. Russell Mr. Downe

Mr. Leefe Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Holm Mr. Gillis

Mr. Chisholm Dr. Stewart

Ms. McDonough Ms. Jolly

Mr. Archibald Mr. MacEachern

Mr. Taylor Mr. Mann

Mr. McInnes Mr. Casey

Dr. Hamm Mr. Gaudet

Mr. O'Malley

Mr. Harrison

Mr. Abbass

Mr. Adams

Mr. Brown

Mr. M. MacDonald

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Rayfuse

Mr. Richards

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Carruthers

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Fraser



THE CLERK: For, 11. Against, 28.



MR. SPEAKER: I declare the amendment carried in the negative.



We are now back to the second reading of Bill No. 10. Are there any speakers to Second Reading of Bill No. 10.



The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.



MR. JOHN HOLM: There is so much to say about the bill that is before us, the hide and seek bill or the peekaboo bill, whatever you might want to call it. It is even hard to know where to begin. (Interruption) Well, the member for Hants East wants to give me added time. He wants to amend the rules so that I can sit down to collect some thoughts and then to stand up and begin again, but I won't transgress on the rules and I think that although it may be difficult to figure out where one exactly should want to begin, it is no difficulty to begin. I think that maybe what we really want to do is take a very brief history as to how we got to where we are at.



You know, Mr. Speaker, the chronology of events or the timetable that led to where we are at at the present time, and that is the bill that is before us, is aimed at creating as much secrecy to keep as much information as is humanly possible from the public view and to prevent there being any accountability, or at least any more than is absolutely mandatory. There is not much that is mandatory in terms of accountability, in terms of this legislation. Really, the only accountability is going to be at the polls the next time when the government has to face the electorate in a few years time.



If we want to take a look at the chronology of events and it all began when the decision to follow the western alignment, subject to an environmental assessment, was made by the former government, the Don Cameron Government, back in September 1991. That is when it really all began. Then, of course, in March 1993, the environmental approvals were granted for the western alignment and there were a bunch of terms and conditions that were attached, many of which have not yet been met and, of course, there were many considerations that still were not addressed.



We are talking about the western alignment route so hopefully it is permissible to talk about the western alignment and whether or not that is or is not necessarily the most suitable option to take. When we hear about, for example, obvious problems do exist with that route, the bogs and the mine shafts, I may come back to that a little bit later on.



Then of course in 1993 we had a change in regimes. The Liberal Regime had been quite critical of the Tory Regime when the roles were flipped. When the blue team was over here and the red team over here, the red team was very critical of the route and the process that was followed by the blue team. In fact, Mr. Speaker, they promised to reconsider and to look at the whole route and whole direction that was taken. But along came the new captain and the new captain, if it wasn't his first, it was almost his first decision, and that is, the Premier. The Premier said that construction along the western route, and this was in June 1993, I believe the government was sworn in on June 11th. So, they took a great deal of time to reflect upon it. In six whole days, the Premier turned around and said, well, construction is underway and we seem to have reached the point of no return, in terms of the route that would be followed. To change the alignment at this stage would mean a construction delay of at least three years. The delay would also exact a needless toll in lives lost and injuries.



[7:45 p.m.]



The delay would also jeopardize federal funding, as Ottawa has put up $37 million.

Of course, it went on to say that if we were to change the route, then we would have to reopen the negotiations, reopen the discussions with the federal government about that. He also said at the time that the highway will be built over three years instead of the initial two years that it was supposed to be done and so that would mean, according to the timetable as given by the Premier in June 1993, the ribbon should be cut in just a little over a year. Because, you know, it was originally supposed to be done in two years, that would mean maybe the ribbon would be cut sometime in 1995. But the Premier said, no, because of financial restraints it is going to take three years instead of two, so now it is 1996.



Lo and behold! We are now being told it is being speeded up by this government, that they are going to do it faster and now they are going to open in 1997. Isn't that wonderful, Mr. Speaker? Real creative thinking here. You bump it back a couple of years and you say you are doing it sooner. You take $26 million out of the fund and send it somewhere else, but you say that we cannot change the route because then we would have to change the SHIP agreement. We would have to re-negotiate with the federal government. Didn't have much trouble when they wanted to get the fingers into the cookie jar and take some money out, but oh, cannot change the route, cannot alter that. No, cannot do that unless there is a good reason.



Of course, we know that we have an agreement and this government always adheres to the agreements. They never break promises, never. Never does this government shake hands with Nova Scotians and then break their word. Heavens, can anybody ever remember them doing that, from 1993 to the present? Only if they have a memory that short can they remember, because if they have a long memory, their minds would not be able to hold all of the occasions that this government has broken its word and the trust that it made with Nova Scotians.



Then, of course, in June 1994 there was a proposal made, a request for expressions of interest from the private developers to design, construct and operate the western alignment. Those were to close on June 30th. So, people were given 30 days to put forward. The estimated cost for doing that was in the $10 million range. In July, we find out that there were seven expressions of interest. We did not know, of course, that the government was in the process of getting ready to take a bunch of money out, but we do know from the minister's Estimates Books of 1994 that yes, indeed, they were taking money out of the those funds, but we, the poor public, because we hadn't won our freedom of information request yet, we did not have access to this information. Of course, the lowly public and lowly members of the Opposition do not need to be told such fundamental details as how the government is planning to go into the funds and take $26 million out so they can be redirected somewhere else. Anyway, there were seven expressions brought forward.



In September we had a call for proposal issued for consulting services to evaluate the expressions of interest. So they hired consultants, they put out for expressions of interest to get consultants to send in these expressions of interest, then they turned around and hired consultants to evaluate those. Then, of course, they hired in January, Arthur Andersen to identify and negotiate with the private sector partners on the roles of developing this. We had a little bit of discussion about the Arthur Andersen report already and what that report is recommending.



In keeping with the Andersen report which is suggesting that the government has to expedite the environmental assessment process, the Minister of Environment, at the end of March without any fanfare, without even a whimper - without so much as a, get this, government did not put out a press release. Can you imagine? They are doing something good supposedly and they did not put out a press release, not even under the Premier's name. Maybe in this case, especially not under the Premier's name because what they did was - extended the permission under the old environmental assessment, very hush-hush like.



Is it any wonder then, Mr. Speaker, that articles appear in the newspaper such as this one with headings such as this? This is not even new, this is from April 25th. The heading is called, Selling out the Public. Yes indeed, a familiar sounding phrase. The legislation also effectively allows a corporation to escape public scrutiny by exempting it from the Freedom of Information Act, this very wise, Springhill editorial says. People in Springhill have a special interest and concern about this highway.



The editorial did certainly say, Selling out the Public, why would Richie Mann's bill place this corporation above the law? A lot of us are trying to understand that. I wonder why. It effectively allows a corporation first to hide its mistakes and secondly not be held responsible for them if they are discovered.



MR. SPEAKER: This is no doubt heavy stuff, but the honourable member is aware of my previous rulings that speeches are not to consist of extensive readings. I do not mind brief quotations, but not a full reading of the editorial, please.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have far too many pieces of paper and thoughts in my head to speak that I could not possibly spend too much time going through these without having to miss much of what I wanted to say. There is only one other sentence that I will read from that article and it is a very short one. Richie Mann and the Department of Transportation sold us out.



Mr. Speaker, let us take a look at why so many people, not only the author of that editorial, but so many other Nova Scotians, anybody who has taken the time or the energy or has been able to beat their way through a lot of the malarkey that the government has put out there, feel the government has sold them and all Nova Scotians out.



I want to concentrate for a few minutes on a number of items. I may get to cost elements later on, but I want to deal specifically for the next little bit with some of that secrecy, some of the lack of accountability that this government is trying to get away with. I cannot go through the bill clause by clause, I know the rules well enough for that. But, Mr. Speaker, I am allowed to talk about principles that are contained in this bill. Now it is very hard to find principles sometimes with this government. But you know principles don't have to be good principles, you can have all kinds of principles. This bill is full of a lot of not so good principles. In fact I would not be overly proud of some of the things done here.



Now you know, Mr. Speaker, what this bill is basically doing is setting up a corporation, supposedly a non-profit a corporation, also a non-public corporation, one that is fully protected behind that red curtain of the Cabinet Room, in terms of secrecy but I will get to that. That corporation is going to have a board. Does anybody in here know who is going to appoint the board of that corporation?



AN HON. MEMBER: John Holm, the government watchdog.



MR. HOLM: I hear the honourable member for Hants East suggesting I should. I want to thank him for his confidence in me, Mr. Speaker. But quite honestly, I don't think that I have the expertise to do it, plus I wouldn't want to have the responsibility forced on me to do this the way the government is doing it because this corporation, the board of directors, are going to be appointed by the Governor in Council, the Cabinet bunch. I can already see the prominent Liberals lining up, row after row, waiting to get appointed to the board of directors of this corporation. That board and whatever members it should consist of, appointed by the Governor in Council.



We have seen how they have done these things before. I won't go into the corporation for the casinos, I won't go into the names of certain prominent individuals who have been appointed to some boards, where it has been said that being a prominent Liberal shouldn't hurt because you want to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that you appoint people who have the same philosophy, the same ideas as the government.



So quite obviously, when you take a look at what is in this bill, Mr. Speaker, you are going to have to dig deep and hard to find people - and I guess only the Cabinet has the ability to do that - who are prepared to forego the fundamental principles of democracy, of openness, honesty and accountability, from which this board is going to be protected, in terms of the corporation. (Interruption)



I don't know who is going to - somebody is asking me who is going to be protecting Nova Scotians. I have no idea who that is going to be. I guess what we have to depend upon is, and this is a really scary thought, the Cabinet, the same ones who are hoisting this legislation on us, the same ones who have sold us out, the same ones who are setting up a bill and a corporation to hide a few million dollars off the financial bottom line for the Province of Nova Scotia, as it will appear in the Budget Books of the Minister of Finance, so they will look better, supposedly, when the next election rolls around, and yet pay hundreds of millions of extra dollars to pay to hide a few million dollars off the bottom line, Mr. Speaker.



Now, Mr. Speaker, when a board or an agency is appointed by the Governor in Council, one would automatically assume, well, if you take a look at the Auditor General's Act, that hey, we don't need to worry then because the Auditor General, because this Act says that the board shall be appointed by the Governor in Council and the numbers will be as the Governor in Council determines they are going to do it all.



When you take a look at the Auditor General's Act - getting too many thoughts going here at once, Mr. Speaker - the Auditor General can do certain things. For example, it says that an ". . . `agency of government' means any department, board, commission, foundation, agency, association or other body of persons, whether incorporated or unincorporated, all the members of which, or all the members of the board of management or board of directors of which, (i) are appointed by an Act of the Legislature or by order of the Governor in Council, . . .". So, automatically you read that and say, no problem. The Auditor General can audit the corporation, Mr. Speaker, so that supposedly sets your heart at ease. The Auditor General who has a responsibility and does a fine job and whom all Nova Scotians, in all seriousness, should be in gratitude towards and grateful to him, because the Auditors General in the past, as well as in the present, have served this province well and many of the suggestions that they have made as a result of things that they have uncovered in their audit have been corrected by future governments.



[8:00 p.m.]



So one would say anyway, Mr. Speaker, when you read how the board is appointed, that we should not worry because the Auditor General can audit. But, that is for being an agency of the Crown. What does this Act say, Highway No. 104 Western Alignment? Under Clause 5(2), the principle of which I would speak to, says, "The Corporation is not an agent of Her Majesty . . ." and it goes further. It wants to underscore, it wants to emphasize that that corporation, the Highway No. 104 Corporation, is not an agent of the Government of Nova Scotia because they go on to say ". . . for any purpose". If they are not an agency of the Crown for any purpose, well, that includes the Auditor General; it cannot be any clearer.



If that is not the intention of this government, to exempt the corporation from the perusal of the Auditor General, then I invite the government members to stand up and to say clearly that they will amend this legislation, if there is any confusion, to make sure that the books of the corporation are totally open to the Auditor General's Department for a complete review, Mr. Speaker. Instead, when I raised it the first day in the House, when in fact the legislation was introduced and the minister made a statement down the hall in the Red Room, I raised questions of the minister and accused the minister of exempting this bill from the Auditor General, from the Utility and Review Board and the Freedom of Information Act, and the minister stood up and told me to read the Act.



AN HON. MEMBER: Yeah.



MR. HOLM: Well, I have read the bill, Mr. Speaker, and I have read it again and again. It is not many pages long. Do you know what? I still have not found anything in this bill that says and clearly spells out that the Auditor General has the authority to audit this corporation. In fact, when I raised it in Question Period, I was accused of living - I think it was - in the 1960's and told that we have to find new ways to do things.



AN HON. MEMBER: Without accountability.



MR. HOLM: Well, that may be the case, but I don't think accountability is an old-fashioned idea. I think that accountability is quite modern. I think that accountability is what Nova Scotians, the people in this province and, in fact, right across this country have been demanding and calling for, accountability from the government, not more charades and shrouding of information.



The Auditor General has the legal authority and the responsibility to audit the accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia, agencies and corporations and to ensure that the best interests, financial - and business - practise-wise of the people of Nova Scotia are being protected by their government. Mr. Speaker, this government is working on the basis of the Andersen report. The Andersen people were at the table with the minister when he gave his announcement. When he talked about the bill that he was going to introduce, they were there. When you take a look at the things that the government is planning to do - I don't claim to have seen the full report - but even the executive summary that I talked about this afternoon in this House, it had been prepared in a sanitized way for distribution to the public by Arthur Andersen's company and which, of course, the minister did not release and it still hasn't been made public to the best of my knowledge by government. Even that has enough financial information in it that surely to Heaven, the Auditor General or an independent body should be asked to look at this and to comment upon the appropriateness of what this government is doing.



Mr. Speaker, what this legislation is really aimed at doing, is allowing the government to put off about $70 million in financing. They said, that is the government said, we are prepared to put up $29 million. So we want the private sector to build the road and we want the Andersen group to tell us how to do it if we only put in $29 million. They did and they chose the $29 million because the province had already taken out $26 million.



Mr. Speaker, that report indicates that the tolls are going to be placed between Exit 6 and Exit 7 on Highway No. 104 and the people are going to have pay a toll if they use the Wentworth Valley route, even the existing route, without putting their tires on one fresh inch of new asphalt from the by-pass to be built.



Mr. Speaker, that is being made necessary and being done by this corporation through the government, placing the toll where they are, meaning those truckers are going to have to pay that higher rate; meaning the people in Cumberland County are going to have to pay to use that; meaning, in fact, that each and every Nova Scotian to travel between Truro and Amherst is going to have to pay the toll unless they make a major detour down along the coastline, down along the Northumberland Strait on Route 204.



AN HON. MEMBER: Guy says it is not true.



MR. HOLM: Well, I wait for him to get up and speak later on then. Now, there are going to be $29 million of public monies spent, supposedly, that is what they are saying, I can't speak to what is going to be reality. But they are saying $29 million of public monies are going to be put into that corporation but do know what, Mr. Speaker? That corporation is not a public company, it is not a public agency. Not at all, it is not a public agency. Not only doesn't it have to pay taxes or any of those who are involved with this paying the taxes but it is not a public body, the corporation. It is not an agency of the Crown for any reason, so once that $29 million of public funds go into it, the Auditor General can't even examine those funds. They have gone down that hole, into that hole called the corporation that is going to be administered by the red team, probably with the appointees who are big supporters of the red team and unaccountable.



Lo and behold! The Freedom of Information Act doesn't apply. The legislation itself spells out that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to this corporation which is going to receive over $29 million of public funds, which is going to be collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in tolls over a 32 year period and dealing and having these financial arrangements with these concessionaires, which we won't have any right to know about. Mr. Speaker, that corporation, if it is dealing with the concessionaires, whoever they may happen to be, whoever it is who gets this wonderful deal to build this highway, the private company won't have to release the information and this public - it is not a public, excuse me, I made that mistake, I was thinking that since it is being appointed by the government and accepting government money, it should be public, but no, it is not because the government said it isn't -it is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, so we can't get any of those bits of information, legally, under the Freedom of Information Act. They take our money, they run, they hide and they tell us we are doing what is good for you. Yes, indeed, Mr. Speaker, the line I have used several times is that that promise plus a loonie will get you a cup of coffee in the Province of Nova Scotia.



I am getting some what I am sure is intended to be helpful hints from members of the Conservative Opposition who, after all, chose the route back in 1991, Mr. Speaker. Of course that is wondering if it is exempt from the provincial Finance Corporation. Well, of course, we know that it is not considered to be a corporation for the purposes of that, so there are certain tax exemptions, something like the hotel operators who want to bring in conventions and who will be given about a $1.5 million tax break, as a result of the decision not to charge the provincial sales tax for convention people coming in from out of province and others, money that, of course, this government says we have plenty of, so we don't need to worry about foregoing $1.5 million in revenue that way. I guess the casinos will make it up.



Also, Mr. Speaker, so too will this road because the way that this is set up and the government's own studies show that the revenue that will be generated is not the $10 million that the government had told us about. In fact, when the minister announced the highway and he said it would be in the $10 million range of tolls collected, their own reports say that by placing the tolls where they are, between Thomson Station and Oxford, that the capture rate -a lovely word, the capture rate, and that capsulizes what this government's view is - will go up by 31 per cent, to bring the number of vehicles that are trapped every year to about 7,000, that is on a daily basis, and that the revenues will go up by about 24 per cent, to about $12.4 million, something that if they were prepared to take $1 million a month of that money and put it directly towards the principal and the interest, would pay that road off in less than 11 years, at the rate of financing that the minister talked about today that he was able to get in his recent bond issue.



Instead, Mr. Speaker, they want to extend this over 32 years, to the year 2030, a time beyond which many of us certainly may not be driving. I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, if in 32 years I am necessarily going to want to be driving or, more importantly, I am not necessarily sure that others in this Chamber who may also be on the road at that time would want me on the road 32 years from now. But tolls will still be collected and the profits were going to be, they said that the revenues that will be collected from that road in the bridge financing stage they project to be 21 per cent above that which they need for operating and maintenance and finance costs.



As that debt gets paid down, that revenue surplus will escalate and increase, Mr. Speaker. Thirty-two years to pay it back and a good part of the reason, I would suggest, and that is not all because I forgot to say, a major point here, the Utility and Review Board which supposedly regulates monopolies for the public interest, lo and behold the government forgot to include them here in giving them any powers but they didn't forget to say, of course, that they are not covered by the Utility and Review Board. They remembered to say that the Utility and Review Board has no jurisdiction over this corporation which intends to increase the tolls on a regular basis according to the minister's own report with inflation.





[8:15 p.m.]



You know, they are going to increase the tolls with inflation but the debt charges are going down as you pay off the principal. So, the costs needs should be decreasing not increasing. What we know also, is that money is going to make its way, some of it, around the back door into the bottom pockets of the Department of Finance and what the government is intending to do here and that is to charge residents of Cumberland County and all the others who use that road, impose a surtax on them, a way to subsidize other highway construction undoubtedly, in other parts of the province.



We know that the government had planned to spend about $11.3 million on the Fleur-de-lis Trail to complete it to Louisbourg back in 1992, I believe it was. Mr. Dingwall obviously, didn't have the clout. He didn't have any clout to get the federal government to be willing to cost-share or to provide any money.



MR. SPEAKER: You are veering here somewhat from the principle of Bill No. 10.



MR. HOLM: I think that you may be correct just as I would be correct if I said that Mr. Dingwall certainly steered away from the principles of the SHIP agreement from which he shipped the money to his own riding. But, I won't get into that because you might correctly want to say that I am certainly straying a tad. I understand that he was saying that it wasn't him who strayed anyway, it was the Minister of Transportation, who the editorial that I quoted from, Springhill said, sold us out. The Freedom of Information Act that I referred to earlier that is exempt from this bill or the corporation exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. I think that it is very important that we all remember what the purpose of that Act is.



It says it very clearly and the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act is to ensure that the government is fully accountable. What is the flip side of that, Mr. Speaker? If the purpose of having the Freedom on Information Act to cover something is to ensure that the government is fully accountable, the flip side is to ensure that the Government of Nova Scotia is not accountable, not fully accountable and that is quite obviously, and quite clearly, what this government's purpose is. We have heard, we have taken a look at and you can consider what the consequences of this legislation are and that is an important principle. New highway may take toll on sure firms, central Nova Scotia's new pay highway could take its toll on North Shore businesses that rely upon large trucks to import and export goods unless the government constructs a new all season road between Oxford and the Sunrise Trail. Except the government plans to say that they cannot use those unless they are local traffic. So not even that can help those firms.



Even here in the Halifax-Dartmouth area, those who live in Cape Breton all receive and buy products that are brought in by truck. Check the price of cabbage and lettuce and so on today, Mr. Speaker. Part of the cost of that has to do with transportation costs.



MR. SPEAKER: This is drawing a very long bow relative to Bill No. 10. The price of lettuce surely is not what Bill No. 10 is about.



MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, maybe it is a long bow in your, I am sure very learned, view. However (Interruption)



AN HON. MEMBER: A totally unbiased view at that.



MR. HOLM: Yes indeed, I am being told, a totally unbiased view, but there are lots of heads of lettuce and there are lots of pieces of furniture, there are many thousands of different types of items that are brought in by truck each day. (Interruption) I have gotten the Minister of Transportation's attention, Mr. Speaker, and he has come awake. The point that I am getting at is that as those tolls are charged, those tolls mount up and are going to be passed on to the consumers. Those are going to be adding to the prices of all Nova Scotians.



Mr. Speaker, those may seem very insignificant, and compared to what we here are going to pay, compared to what they are going to pay in Cumberland County, compared to those businesses that depend upon trucking which are going to have to pay for those fees on a regular basis which will place them and make them uncompetitive or less competitive with other trucking industry, our price is very small. It is not insignificant to the residents and the businesses of Amherst, or Pugwash or all of those areas where they will have no choice but to use that road.



Mr. Speaker, had this government not diverted the $26 million, I have to be careful of the term I use. I cannot say something that they misappropriated, but if they had not creatively relocated the funds, if they had not creatively taken $26 million from the SHIP fund that was aimed for the 100-Series Highways and somehow moved it up to the Minister of Transportation's and the federal Minister of ACOA's ridings to work up there then there would have been enough money, not to build the road, but if they had decided to go with tolls they would have been able to place the toll only on the new section of road and leave the existing road that you and I and all other taxpayers and those who have had their tax dollars or gas taxes to work for them, paid for.



They are putting the tax to capture 31 per cent more people on a road that is already bought and paid for. Mr. Speaker, I think this is only the opening shot because my information is that many months ago there were, I do not know if I want to use the word consultants or if I want to say creative thinkers who were looking for ways to maximize their profits, were brought to the Province of Nova Scotia from our southern neighbour to advise the government on how they can be putting tolls on more roads, more of the 100-Series Highways in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think that is a very good probability and what we are seeing here and what all Nova Scotians had best bear in mind is that that is a probability for other areas.



Highway tolls will make Cumberland a No Man's Land, warden says. That is from the Oxford Journal, Mr. Speaker, that is just the heading. I am not going to bother to go in to read the article. I do not think there is any need to. The heading in itself. He wasn't talking about a minister with that same last name. He was talking that the highway tolls will make Cumberland County a no man's land, not implying that the Minister of Transportation wasn't welcome, but saying that it is going to help desolate the county and drive jobs away.



AN HON. MEMBER: They will put the welcome mat out for him.



MR. HOLM: Cumberland County is once again being treated unfairly by the province. The President of the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce is pointing an accusatory finger at the county's two MLAs. I wonder where they were when the decision was made? I could keep going on and on about the press clippings and articles but I am sure the Minister of Transportation and Communications has read them all before and decided to ignore them all before. So I am sure there isn't any need to bring them up again because, if I just read them, the minister is going to say, yes, I heard that argument and I chucked that one aside before. Maybe the Premier has not read them and the Premier, of course, is the head of government. I don't lay all of this blame on the Minister of Transportation.



AN HON. MEMBER: You read yours, he'll read his.



MR. HOLM: Quite honestly, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation is but one member of the Cabinet. He couldn't have made that decision to charge this high toll to harm Cumberland County on his own. He had to have the support of his Premier, of his boss, and of his Cabinet colleagues, although this bill, An Act to Provide for the Financing, Construction and Operation of the Western Alignment of Highway 104 would only be here if it had received the approval of the Cabinet and, if normal practices are followed, of the caucus.



Now I don't know if the members from the Liberal Caucus were involved in the decision-making here. I don't know if the member for Yarmouth was consulted . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: Cape Breton South was though.



MR. HOLM: He can tell us if this bill went through the entire caucus process but if it did, Mr. Speaker, then of course the responsibility doesn't just lie with the Minister of Transportation and the Premier but it lies with 41 members of the Liberal Government . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: No. Russell MacKinnon wasn't there. Russell wasn't in on it.



MR. HOLM: Excuse me, yes, 40, the would-be Mayor of Cape Breton wasn't here as far as I know.



AN HON. MEMBER: It was his riding.



ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Speaking of which, when is the by-election?



MR. HOLM: However, Mr. Speaker, all members of this government bear responsibility for this legislation. I would like to know how members of the government benches can go back and say that we support exempting this corporation, which is receiving public monies, which is entering in negotiations to take money out of the taxpayers' pockets of the Province of Nova Scotia, how members of this government, I don't care where you sit, I don't care if you are a man or a woman, if you are in Cabinet or not, if you are a Cabinet Minister or a wannabe, you all have a responsibility, each and every one, to explain how it is you can support a piece of legislation aimed at pulling down a veil of secrecy and to keep that secrecy around this whole project: exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, exempt from the Auditor General, exempt from the Utility and Review Board, which has a responsibility for protecting the public interest, in monopoly situations.



Try to get the power rates to go up without the Utility and Review Board.



AN HON. MEMBER: . . . must be feeling threatened.



MR. HOLM: Has to be. Go through that, Mr. Speaker. But not the increased tolls, not the increased tolls for this highway.



Travel across the bridges, these bridges, Mr. Speaker, that were financed by the former Liberal Government, if my memory serves me correctly, in offshore dollars that drove the debt way up when the dollar went down. When they want to change the toll rates on the bridges, they have to get the approval of the Utility and Review Board but not this company with the Liberal Government 1995 style.



[8:30 p.m.]



AN HON. MEMBER: A good government.



MR. HOLM: Well, the member for Cape Breton South says, a good government. Mr. Speaker, some seniors yes, may like them. Some maybe not so much. But you know, I guess that depends on your definition of good government. If good government means you hide the facts, you hide the information, you are not prepared to be accountable or to put the information on the table, yes, it is good government. But if you believe in openness, honesty and accountability, something that 40 members of this red team ran on, then, with respect, it is not very good government.



Mr. Speaker, there are many environmental concerns with this particular route. How are they going to get across the Londonderry Mine shafts, which exist in the area that is to be followed? The Jacques Whitford study, the engineering study, had recommended choosing another site, another route because of those problems. What about the 11 kilometre stretch of wetlands where the bogs are basically bottomless across which this road is to be built?



We are hearing, of course, that this route is being chosen for safety reasons. We know and for very good cause that there is a lot of concern about Folly Mountain, but this new route is going to be about 250 feet higher than the existing route over Folly Mountain. The fog, the winds and the high blowing snow that come off the Minas Basin are notorious in the area that this western route is going to be going through.



Mr. Speaker, there was a very serious accident this past winter on another section, an existing section of road outside of Truro and, yes, it is not in exactly the same location, obviously, (Interruption) but it is in the Minas Basin area. This road is going to be closer to those winds and those snows and on the side than the existing road. Yet, we are being told that this is the safest route. Many, many, I would suggest, who know the area would challenge that and would challenge that it is a safer route.



We were told back in 1993 by the Premier that we cannot re-examine the route, despite the wetlands, despite the concerns for safety because of the proximity to the Minas Basin and the winds, the fog and the snow that come off of that and the elevation, despite the mine shafts, because it would cause a delay. The construction had begun and any delay would mean that it could not be completed in three years and we would have to renegotiate. Well, Mr. Speaker, three years is well over halfway gone. This highway will not be opened for, in fact, a year after the date, at least a year after the date the Premier said that it would and two years after the date that had originally been promised.



The monies have been taken elsewhere, approximately one-half of the money that was left in that fund. It was this minister and this government that decided where it was going to spend that money in the SHIP agreement and they are the ones who decided that only $29 million would go to this road.



Mr. Speaker, this legislation is not worthy of support. I honestly don't know how much time I have left but I will say that it doesn't matter how you look at it, whether you look at this as a good business deal for the Province of Nova Scotia, because you know if you only finance $70 million and if you have to figure out that $70 million won't be collecting any revenue for at least two years, during the construction phase, and you put the financing costs for the first two years onto the capital that is borrowed, you still won't need to borrow $85 million. But if you borrowed $85 million at the bond rating that the Minister of Finance was able to stand in this place and brag about today, of 8.5 per cent Canadian, that $85 million that would be taken to build that road could be paid off in total in under 11 years. Instead, we are going to pay for 32 years.



There shouldn't be any need for the tolls even in the first place, especially not on anything that is an existing road. But if there is to be a toll placed, that road could be paid off in one-third of the time that the government is planning to pay it off and still, in 11 years, have almost $4.5 million left over for maintenance and operation costs on that section of road; $85 million financed at 9 per cent interest would cost $140.2 million to pay off over 11.3 years, in other words, 11.25 years. Yet they want to drag it out and to collect at least, without taking into consideration the toll increases for inflation, in 1995 dollars, they want to collect almost $400 million. There just ain't no way, Mr. Speaker, that that makes sound business sense unless this government is trying to get its hands into the pockets of the motoring public in a big way, to redirect that money elsewhere. Or, if it has very big benefits that it is planning to pay in the way of huge profits to certain individuals and/or companies that may take a portion of the action to build this road.



It makes no sense, this legislation. It is aimed at trying to hide $70 million. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, if you want to be crass, if the government is going to be collecting revenues at this rate, it would even improve our bond rating if you want to gouge the people, to say that you are going to be charging these revenues and making these horrendous profits because the Department of Transportation, according to their own study, it is the intention that the Department of Transportation will continue to maintain that section of road at the 100-Series Highway standards. So, Mr. Speaker, that is not a great new cost.



This is bad legislation, it is not deserving of being supported. I am rather surprised that a government and members of the government who say that they are far-seeing and concerned for the best interests of the Province of Nova Scotia, could themselves even contemplate for one minute supporting such legislation which is aimed totally at deceiving the public, denying the public from the facts, figures and information and any access to any information, in terms of what the government will be doing with this legislation.



So with those few brief comments, Mr. Speaker, I will be wrapping up my remarks this evening and resuming my place in anticipation that there may be somebody else who would like to stand and speak on the bill, hopefully somebody from the government side, who is going to stand up and tell us why this is such a good deal for the Province of Nova Scotia.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I have spent, as I am sure have all members, some considerable time going through this bill trying to understand it. I think I understand the general nature of the bill. I believe I understand many of the specific provisions of the bill and I am greatly alarmed that what I see as certain aspects of this bill are indeed very much contrary to the public interest.



In essence, as I understand the bill that is before the House tonight, it gives the government the opportunity, if it so chooses, to establish a corporation which may or may not have a private partner associated with it but certainly which will definitely have public funds associated with it and which will build a highway from Thomson Station to Masstown. Those two communities are not referenced here explicitly, but they are implicitly. Then it provides certain management tools to be used by the corporation or by the government with respect to that toll highway.



I think it is important that we focus on the fact, and it is fact, that this will be the only section of the Trans Canada Highway which has tolls placed on it, that is, which is not a toll-free highway. I think that is a bad precedent for indeed the whole concept of the Trans Canada Highway was to provide a highway which could move goods to and fro, from one side of this country to the other, unimpeded, which would result in an increase in trade across this country from one side to the other, which would enhance that trade and which would encourage growth in the economy. For that reason, to date at least tolls have never been imposed on any part of the highway. So we here in Nova Scotia have what certainly will be, I think, viewed by many as a most dubious first. There is a book in the library, First Things in Acadia, and there are all kinds of wonderful achievements in there. In the next edition, there will be a less wonderful achievement listed, for the first toll highway in Canada, among the firsts in Acadia, in Nova Scotia.



There is a body corporate established by this legislation, to be known as ". . . the Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation;". It is unclear in the bill whether this corporation is a private corporation or a public corporation, whether there will be private ownership in the corporation or whether the ownership of the corporation will all lie within the public sphere. That is unclear and it is something I would like the minister to assist me in understanding better.



There are many reasons why that is unclear, not the least of which is a provision in the bill which very clearly states that, Clause 5(2), "The Corporation is not an agent of Her Majesty in right of the Province for any purpose.". That suggests to me that for some reason or reasons not given in the bill and not to date given by the minister or the government that the Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation is going to be some kind of a hybrid, perhaps might be a useful word in this context. Perhaps hybrid is too kind a word, perhaps we should think of another word which would more satisfactorily describe something which is a mutation. It is a mutation that word is far better than hybrid. It would suggest that this corporation is a mutation, at least, within respect of the kinds of corporations with which we are familiar as Crown Corporations and which are so well-known to Nova Scotia.



[8:45 p.m.]



We also understand with respect to the provisions of this bill that a board of directors will be established to provide a management for the corporation. I ask myself why if a substantial portion of the funding for this highway, perhaps 50 per cent or more of the capital dollars and we do not know how much of the operating dollars are going to be provided by the private sector funder, why then the board of directors would be appointed by the Governor in Council and not by a partnership accepting that there is no partnership referenced here, at least, not explicitly. In fact there is no reference to partnership at all in the bill which means that the bill then seems not to reflect, at least explicitly, the stated intention of the government, stated both outside and inside of the Chamber.



I always find it interesting when bills such as this provide the corporation of this nature has all ". . . the capacity, rights, powers and privileges of a natural person.", it would seem in this case, while it may have the privileges of a natural person it is with respect to its committing what, within the context of the Canadian Trans Canada Highway Systems, is an entirely unnatural act.



At the heart of this bill is not the question of whether there should or should not be private participation, but more whether there should or should not be tolls levied on this highway, once built. The bill is unclear with respect to the matter of determining the size of tolls, the collection of tolls, et cetera. I say that because there are, as far as I can determine, at least four clauses which reference the setting of tolls. It would appear that authority is given in one place with a corporation to set tolls, that was Clause 10(2). Yet in another clause of the bill in Clause 10(3), it appears that the minister may set tolls. Then again in Clause 13(1), there is a provision that the Governor in Council may set tolls. Then, finally, in Clause 19(1)(d), there is a provision that tolls maybe set by regulation.



I question why it is prudent to provide the authority in four different ways to set, among many other management measures, what the level of tolls will be. More damaging than the question of why is that authority spread over four different entities is the question of why the determination of the size of the toll is not left to an independent authority. I think almost everyone in this province is a client of Maritime Tel & Tel. I think that almost everyone in this province is a client of Nova Scotia Power Inc. If Nova Scotia Power Inc. or Maritime Tel & Tel want a rate increase, they must go to an independent quasi-judicial authority and make their case as to why the toll should be set at a certain level.



That authority has the capacity to allow the rate asked for, to provide, in fact, a rate greater than asked for or to order a rate less than that asked for based on the quantitative and qualitative information provided to the board in its capacity as a quasi-judicial instrument. So, independence is well served, the public is well served by an honest broker making that determination.



Yet, this bill which will create the only toll highway on the Trans Canada system, the only toll highway in Nova Scotia, a toll highway which it will be very difficult for any motor vehicle operator to circumvent without going very much out of their way - and this is particularly true of commercial traffic - do not have available to them an independent body to determine what a fair and reasonable toll is for that road.



Instead, it will be determined by the corporation itself, which is a direct beneficiary of the earnings from that highway or by the minister or by the Cabinet or by regulation. Why is the Utility and Review Board which, it would seem, has a perfect rational role to play with respect to the setting of tolls forbidden an opportunity to participate in this process and thereby protect the public interest? Why has the government taken that step in this bill? Why is it circumventing what many in this province would deem to be due process?



There also is the question of liability with respect to the Highway No. 104 toll highway. The corporation, according to the legislation, is deemed not to be liable for any damages suffered by anyone as the result of a defect or a deficiency in the design or the construction or the operation or the maintenance of the western alignment. Yet, that very same liability accrues, it would seem, to the Crown, to the taxpayer. (Interruption) The minister says to me, as it does in every road in Nova Scotia. My question to him is, if that is the case, when every other road in Nova Scotia has been financed by public money, and it therefore is appropriate that the liability for any damages relating to that highway accrues to the Crown, why should then not a reasonable proportion of any liability arising out of suits, relative to the Highway No. 104 western alignment, not accrue to the corporation and therefore accrue proportionately to any private funding partner which is deriving financial benefit from that corporation.



If the private sector is going to be given the opportunity not only to make money off this toll highway, but indeed to be able to participate in setting tolls without any reference to an independent body such as the Utility and Review Board, why then, at the very least, should the private sector partner not share with the public sector partner any liabilities which might arise out of any incident in reference to this. (Interruption)



So the minister would like to provide some information now, Madam Speaker, and I would be pleased to have him answer the question.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, the honourable member is quite right when he says the corporation is not liable for design and construction failures; the contractor who builds the road is responsible for those, just as they are now, when a road is built by a contractor, they assume the responsibility for that. Those plans have to be approved by a professional engineer and it goes forward. Once the work is complete, that work is under warranty by the contractor and it is accepted then or rejected by the Department of Transportation and Communications.



Don't lose sight of the fact that this road will be owned by the Province of Nova Scotia. Once the Province of Nova Scotia approves the work that has been done, as it does on every single road in the province right now and takes it over, then the responsibility for the road will be with the Department of Transportation and Communications, just as it is now on every single road in the province, no difference. Once the road is approved and accepted by the province, then it is the same as every road. Right now it is approved and accepted by the province.



MR. LEEFE: I thank the minister. I understand exactly what he is saying. But, nonetheless, it still causes me to wonder why it is that the private sector partner is going to have the benefits accruing to it with respect to its investments but is not going to have to share the liabilities which will accrue or may well accrue to the province. It strikes me that this is potentially a tremendous benefit to the private sector agent.



Madam Speaker, I also notice that the Crown is not liable for any debt of the corporation and also, with respect to tolls, and I have made some reference to them, particularly with respect to the Utility and Review Board, I notice that there is a reference in the bill to the cease of imposition of collection of tolls. That, it seems is after all the costs and liabilities, including financing, design, construction, operation, maintenance, repair and improvement, et cetera, are looked after.



Well, it strikes me that any highway I have seen in Nova Scotia requires regular maintenance, some of it of a nature that can be taken out of current account funding but, in fact, most of which would have to come out of capital account funding. I seriously question whether, in fact, the circumstances will ever arise where within the meaning of Clause 13(2), the road will ever be paid for in that very wide context and, therefore, lead to the end of the imposition of tolls and their collection.



It appears that the situation probably will arise where the highway in that respect will never be paid off. Therefore, a change to the definition might well result in accomplishing the ceasing of the imposition of tolls.



The corporation, although not a Crown Corporation and not a public corporation, not really a private corporation either, I suppose, although it will have a significant private partner, is not subject to taxation. Does that mean that the profits that accrue to that highway and which are earned by the public sector partner are not subject to taxation?



I will be pleased when the minister wraps up to answer that question specifically.



[9:00 p.m.]



I think, Madam Speaker, that it is assumed by most Nova Scotians, that anybody who makes money should be subject to paying taxes. I don't see why the private sector partner in this should be any different than any other citizen. After all, it does say in the bill that this corporation is like a natural person. Any natural person that I know, even some people of recent notoriety, have to pay income tax. Some of us pay it not under duress but as a matter of good citizenship. (Interruptions) At any rate, I think that that is an important point. (Interruptions)



Madam Speaker, I looked at the clock this evening and thought, third time is trying time. How lucky can a fellow be? This is not the first, not the second, but the third Monday in a row that I have had the opportunity to speak around 9:00 p.m. (Laughter)



"The Corporation is not a public utility within the meaning of the Public Utilities Act,". That means that the Utility and Review Board has absolutely no role to play whatsoever and I think that is wrong. That is a matter of policy on the part of the government and the public will have to decide whether in their view, the government is right, or those of us who believe that the Utility and Review Board should have a role to play, are right.



There is a curious prohibition in this bill, one which prohibits the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act from coming into play. This is a government which not many months ago, prided itself on the passage of this bill and says that this new Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was on the cutting edge with respect to protecting the rights of the people of Nova Scotia. It could be held up as an object lesson to all the rest of Canada with respect to fine legislation. Well, here we find it being held up all right, but being held up not to be examined for how useful it is, but being held up in the sense that it cannot be used with respect to this particular corporation.



Is this an attempt, inadvertent, I am sure, Madam Speaker, to make it more difficult for the general public to gain information about the corporation? Or, good Heavens, to make it more difficult for the Opposition to get information about the corporation? Or perhaps even, to make it difficult for the media to gain access to information that the media deems to be in the public interest with respect to this corporation? Why is it that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not apply to this corporation?



There is another prohibition in the bill. This prohibition is one which should concern us, perhaps even more than the prohibition against the Utility and Review Board having a role to play in the setting of tolls or the prohibition against the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act coming into play. It is one which references the Provincial Finance Act. I went to the Provincial Finance Act to try to understand better just what this section means. It appears to me, as unlearned as I am in the law, that this Act may very well cause it to be that the corporation is not subject to review by the Auditor General. With respect to the Provincial Finance Act, I am quite convinced that this bill goes even further than disallowing the Auditor General inspection rights with respect to the corporation.



I say to you, Madam Speaker, it even goes so far, if one looks at Part VII of the Provincial Finance Act, and that is the one that deals with Audit and accountants, to prevent the government's own auditors from auditing this corporation. For in Section 65(1) of the Provincial Finance Act - and here I am referring to it within the context of Clause 16(2) of the bill before the House this evening - Section 65(1) says, "The Governor in Council shall annually cause the accounts of the Province to be examined and audited by a chartered accountant or accountants appointed annually for that purpose for the Governor in Council, and may pay the accountant or accountants such salary or remuneration as the Governor in Council determines.".



Access to information, Section 65(2), "Such accountant or accountants shall have access at all times to all sources of information under the control of any department, officer or person expending or collecting public money.". So it would seem to me, Madam Speaker, that this bill not only circumvents the Utility and Review Board, not only circumvents the Auditor General, but also circumvents the government's own auditors, that audit laid out in Sections 65(1) and 65(2) of Part VII of the Provincial Finance Act.



Further, and this may be the real key, in Section 65(3) - Report of auditors and tabling of reports - "The accountant or accountants so appointed shall report in writing to the Minister respecting such examination and audit and the minister shall cause such report to be presented to the House of Assembly during the session next after such examination and audit.". Madam Speaker, it would seem that what this bill does is to ensure that the government's auditors will not have the power to audit this corporation and, therefore, the activities of this corporation, not being subject to that audit, will not have their souls laid bare in the report which the minister is required to table here in the House of Assembly.



One is prompted to ask again, why is it that this Act revolves so much around secrecy rather than around the openness that this government promised when it first came to power? This is not an open information bill, Madam Speaker, this is very much a closed information bill.



We are told in the bill that the corporation has to comply with building standards, safety codes, construction standards, environmental health and other standards and so on, all of which the public would fully anticipate but, then again, we find that there are Acts with which this corporation does not have to comply, Clause 17(a), "the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act and Planning Act do not apply to the Western Alignment.". I ask myself, and I ask my colleagues in the House and, most particularly, the minister, why is that so?



Probably not many Nova Scotians are familiar with the first Act, but I would expect that most Nova Scotians who take even a cursory interest in their municipal governments will want to know why the Planning Act does not apply, after all this road does pass through two municipal units, Colchester County and Cumberland County. I wonder why the Planning Act - and they certainly would have an interest in the Planning Act - is prevented from coming into play here? There may be a perfectly rational explanation. I do not know what that rational explanation is and I would ask the minister to share it with me.



Certainly one thing we know for sure, no building permit is required for the construction or the renovation or repair of the western alignment. Now, I would guess that a building permit is not required to construct a kilometre of 100-Series Highway, but remember that with a toll road, we are going to have buildings associated with it, tollbooths, for example. We also may well have, as the result of a private sector partner being involved here, other types of buildings being erected as well; for example, service stations, food shops and restaurants.



Now normally those kinds of buildings would be subject to the Planning Act and they would be subject to building permits and fees would accrue to the municipal units in which those buildings were constructed. It appears that any of that kind of construction which is owned by the corporation and which is built in conjunction with the Highway No. 104 by-pass is not going to have to be paid out. So, it is another kind of a tax that the corporation can avoid paying. If you build an addition on your home, Madam Speaker, you would go and acquire a building permit from your municipal unit. If any kind of an improvement, if a new house is built, a building permit must be acquired. Yet, for some strange reason, the corporation will not be required to acquire a building permit, irrespective of what kind of building may be raised in conjunction with the Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation's operation.



Is there something in the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act which protects the public, for example, with respect to safety at service centres to provide fuel, which is in the public interest, and may somehow be avoided as a result of not causing this Act to play a role here? I do not know the answer to that question, but I would like to know and I think it is a reasonable question to ask.



Madam Speaker, this bill is curious perhaps not so much in what it will do as it is curious with respect to what it will prevent being done. Here I am wrapping up my remarks with reference to second reading on this bill. It is less curious in that we know why the government has chosen to create a private sector partnership, to erect tolls, to put in place the first toll highway on the Trans Canada Highway system and, one would anticipate, probably the only toll highway on the Trans Canada system, one which will have tolls which surely will be higher, because $26 million of the dollars that originally were allocated to this project, have been reallocated to a highway which is not part of the national road system. I do not think even the minister can argue that the toll would not be lower if that $26 million were in the pot instead of out of the pot.



It is a bill which is exceedingly curious with respect to the denial of the right of the agencies which are normally associated with these kinds of activities of government and of monopolies to be able to inspect and determine how well the public interest is being met, for here we have the Utility and Review Board cut out, we have the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act cut out, we have, I believe, the Auditor General cut out, we have the government's own auditors cut out and that means that we have this corporation cut out from review by the government's auditors and public information being made available as a result of that auditor's report being tabled in the House.



[9:15 p.m.]



I think it is in those intentional omissions that this bill is most dangerous. Nobody wants to pay tolls, many of us are prepared to argue with the minister with respect to that. There may be some who are prepared to pay the tolls but I would think that upon closer inspection, one would be hard-pressed to find any Nova Scotians who do not believe that those independent watchdogs of the public interest and the public purse do not have a direct, immediate and entirely appropriate role to play with respect to this bill and with respect to this western alignment.



Madam Speaker, that is the biggest question that at the end of the day this minister and this government are going to have to answer because at the end of the day the public will be satisfied with nothing less than a completely open accounting of the operation and the financing and the profits which will arise out of the construction and operation of this toll road in Nova Scotia. Thank you, Madam Speaker.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.



DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, I rise to speak for a few moments on Bill No. 10, An Act to Provide for the Financing, Construction and Operation of the Western Alignment of Highway 104. This is a short bill and yet it is one that introduces a fundamental change into how we will finance road construction in this province.



Earlier speakers have made particular reference to the fact that this will be the first toll road to be introduced in Canada. The bill makes very specific reference to the fact that it makes provision for the introduction of tollbooths and, in fact, makes specific reference to tolls.



Now those Canadians who are used to travelling back and forth in a south direction to the southern United States have been introduced to tolls. But certainly in Nova Scotia and in Canada in general tolls are relatively uncommon phenomenon. But when you look at what a toll really is, it is, in fact, a tax.



When I was thinking about this just while listening to the previous speaker, I was thinking about how perhaps Yogi Berra, the ball player, would have described this. I think what he would have said, of course, is that a toll is a tax in sheep's clothing. I think that is really what it is, it is just another form of tax because Nova Scotians are certainly used to having the use of their highways provided for them through other forms of taxation, other than a toll.



Those who will be particularly hard hit by the introduction of toll roads are those who will be using the road most frequently. The groups that come most readily to mind, of course, are the truckers, many of whom travel the Wentworth road perhaps several times a week, or perhaps those who are forced to travel that particular piece of road going to and from work each and every day, bearing in mind that this will cost them $6.00 a day for a return trip on the highway, five days a week would be $30. So for the residents of Cumberland County and parts of Colchester County who are using this road on a regular basis, that provides them with a considerable increase in travel costs.



This bill was certainly introduced with a great deal of haste, I think, brought upon by the publicity that resulted in the realization by Nova Scotians that, in fact, $26 million had been removed from the SHIP agreement to provide funding for the paving of the Fleur-de-lis Trail. There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about this bill in terms of whether or not this particular solution, as introduced in this bill, is the only one which would provide a sooner rather than later approach to improvement of this very dangerous stretch of highway between Masstown and Thomson Station.



There is nobody who is aware of the situation who is not anxious to have a better road provided over this and to by-pass this particularly dangerous piece of road through the Wentworth Valley. On an earlier time there was an amendment to this bill, of course, suggesting a referral and that amendment was defeated in the House. The purpose of that amendment, of course, would have perhaps allowed an examination of some alternative funding for this particular piece of road in the hopes that something other than a toll road could be constructed to by-pass the so-called death valley.



My understanding of the situation is that some 45 kilometres of new road will be constructed through this program and I believe at a total cost of some $110 million. To effect this and to supervise and administer, to finance and to plan and so on this particular road, a new bureaucracy is going to be established and that is the Western Alignment Corporation and provisions, as you know, Madam Speaker, are made in this particular bill for the setting up of a corporation.



It occurs to me that this seems to be a rather bureaucratic way to administer this particular piece of road. I can't see, for example, the advantage of having a corporation and if, in fact, the project were to go ahead, my understanding is that it could go ahead,without the formation of something as elaborate as this corporation with the necessity of appointing people to the corporation to administer . . .



HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order, the corporation is a vehicle. It is a vehicle that is created to take advantage of tax exempt status and so that the debt of building this road will not be incurred by the Province of Nova Scotia. That is why it is a non-Crown Corporation. It is a vehicle by which to do the highway. There will not be a bureaucracy as such. The successful consortium will probably become the corporation



The construction, the operation, the maintenance, everything to do with the road, will be done by contract with the Government of Nova Scotia. So the authority, if you will, the approval for everything, the corporation will not have the authority to do any of that, the Government of Nova Scotia will have the authority to do that in contract with that corporation which will be the vehicle by which to get it done.



MADAM SPEAKER: I think that is a point of clarification but not a point of order.



DR. HAMM: I thank the minister for paying attention to the debate and I thank him for his helpful intervention. At an earlier time, of course, he provided some information in terms of liability and I think that is appreciated. However, and while I thank the minister for his intervention, that is not to say that I necessarily agree. What I was suggesting is that, it well may be that the department could function and carry out the same duties and responsibilities as the corporation. In fact, the financing and so on could be left to the successful company which obviously will have to be contracted by the corporation to carry out this particular endeavour.



It would seem to me that if in fact the successful bidder, which will engage in a contract with the corporation, will have some difficulty if, in fact, this corporation is going to function in the way that I sense it will, if, in fact, all of the appointments to the corporation are going to be made by the Governor in Council which is what the bill specifically states. All I am saying is, that there seems to be a tremendous amount of government involvement and government appointments to run 45 kilometres of road. There must be a simpler way to affect this and yet to achieve the kind of arm's length involvement that the government seeks to have with this particular operation. Hopefully, the solution for all new improvements to 100-Series Highways is not going to involve, for every 45 kilometres, setting up a very elaborate bureaucracy to deal with 45 kilometres of road.





Now the minister earlier had described who in fact was going to be liable for the design and the construction of the road to give some measure of protection to those who use the road. My understanding of what the minister was saying is that the corporation would not bear liability, but, in fact, the contractor building the road would in fact bear the liability until such time as the road was turned over to the province at which time the province then assumes liability. I assume that the government wouldn't assume that liability until the proper inspections and so on are carried out. (Interruption) I thank the minister for that clarification because it is not obvious to one reading the bill itself but it certainly makes sense what the minister is saying.



Now one of the things that has concerned a lot of people and in fact there have been, in our area, some radio news stories suggesting that other roads in the province are in fact potential candidates to become toll roads. Looking at the bill, it is certainly my understanding that this bill is very specific and in fact does not have any provisions that would allow tolling on other roads in the province. There has been a lot of discussion with the introduction of this bill that tolling will become a way of life in terms of travel in Nova Scotia. Many people who travel along, depending on how you like to call it, the north-south corridor of the province from Cape Breton down to Yarmouth are worried now that improvements to portions of that road which are necessary in many areas and my area is one of them, that in fact the government is now planning to introduce tolling as a way of financing road improvements in that area.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. As indicated in Question Period last week, it is not a plan of the Government of Nova Scotia. In fact, those comments were totally unsolicited and came, I believe, from John Pearce of Transport 2000 who, as far as I know, has not spoken to anyone in my department. He certainly hasn't spoken to me. I can say, and I wouldn't say where, but there have been requests coming forward from people in the Province of Nova Scotia, with what support I do not know, asking that the department look at other sections of road where people have been wanting roads built or twinned for a number of years. People said, if that is what it takes, we would like to consider doing that. I will not say where that has come from. I do not know how much support there is for it, but at least three other requests have come forward, Madam Speaker.



[9:30 p.m.]



MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. I think that it is, again, a point of clarification and not a point of order. I would ask the members if they would try and keep their conversational level down a bit, please. It is getting more difficult to hear the member who has the floor.



DR. HAMM: Madam Speaker, I appreciate, again, the minister's intervention in once again reassuring those people who were concerned on hearing these radio reports that in fact there was going to be other roads in the province subject to tolls. Again, I thank the minister for reassuring other areas that they are not facing the prospect of tolling by this minister.



One of the things that has received a lot of comment and is obvious through the bill is the exclusion of this corporation from the terms of some of the provincial Acts. One of the ones that, I think, sticks out in my mind is the exclusion of this particular corporation from the Public Utilities Act. There certainly seems to be a very recognizable parallel between the service provided by a road and services provided by other utilities. It seems that it would be left to the determination of the corporation to decide when the toll comes off, what in fact the toll is in terms of how much and these are things that certainly would be handled better by an arm's length situation, by an independent body who would be able to be more objective and perhaps protect the public interest better than the corporation who certainly cannot claim to be at arm's length from the operation of the highway.



It would certainly seem that, for example, and it is my understanding that the Bridge Commission here in Halifax does fall under the Public Utilities Act, and in other words, in order to effect an increase in the bridge toll, they have to make application rather than simply the Bridge Commission deciding, well, we are going to put up the cost of the toll now from 75 cents to $1.00 just because we think it is a good idea.



Any operation that has the advantage of monopoly and it would seem that the Western Alignment Corporation in effect will have what essentially serves as a monopoly in that they will provide a twinning highway which will be used almost exclusively by all through traffic through the area concerned. By reason of them having a monopoly the inclusion of the corporation under the terms of the Public Utilities Act seems most reasonable and appropriate.



The operation of the corporation in terms of the management and financing of the road, as well, is excluded from the Freedom of Information Act and it certainly is in the public interest that all of the financial arrangements connected with the planning and design and construction and operation of this highway, that all that information should, in fact, be public knowledge.



There is a tendency now in government that public and private partnering is becoming sort of a buzz word and the way which many governments are deciding to go. All private companies that enter into agreements with the public sector must realize that in doing so, they relinquish their right to the privacy they have in normal business transactions. I think that applies whether or not we are talking about casinos, whether or not we are going to be talking about private/public partnering in building a new school, or private/public partnering in looking at solid waste management, or private/public partnering in building a road. Public/private partnering should be open to full public inspection. Any private corporation entering into this kind of agreement should recognize that fact and the public should insist on full disclosure.



Now, it was interesting, Madam Speaker, that the minister would make reference to the fact that he is receiving requests from other areas of the province who obviously need an upgrading of their roads, to look into the possibility of tolling in their area. Now I would suggest that obviously the minister is receiving that kind of request or he wouldn't bring that to the floor of the House. But I would also suggest to you that I would think he is not being inundated with requests to build toll roads in the province.



I look at the response from the area concerned. I mean, obviously this bill deals very specifically with a very specific area of the province and a very specific piece of road. The people in the Cumberland County and Colchester County, which are the counties concerned, do not seem particularly enamoured with the idea of having a toll road. I would suggest that the response from the Council of the Town of Amherst, in which one of the councillors was suggesting that maybe the solution to this problem is for their area to join New Brunswick since they look upon a toll as somehow isolating them, in the economic sense, from the rest of the province and certainly will do nothing to encourage travel from their part of the province to the other areas of Nova Scotia. In fact, if it is going to influence travel and commerce, it is going to have negative influence, in terms of encouraging commerce with other Nova Scotians.



So from that point of view, I certainly get a very strong feeling that the people in the areas that will be most affected by this toll road are very upset about this proposal. They would like to feel that their portion of the Trans Canada Highway be treated no differently than all other portions of the Trans Canada Highway, be they in Nova Scotia or right across this country.



Therefore, Madam Speaker, with those few words you will probably have no surprise in understanding that I will be voting against this bill.



MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable member. Are there further speakers on the bill?



The honourable member for Kings West.



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I think there are a couple of parts to this bill that concern me. I guess one area is, why are we into toll roads. I think in attending a meeting in Cumberland County last week, it was very clear to me that there was nobody in that area who had lobbied the government to have toll roads. As a matter of fact, the people there felt they were not getting the answers from this government that convinced them that toll roads were the best way to go. Now maybe if the government had an opportunity to meet with those people and explain to them the decision to go with toll roads, maybe those people would change their mind. At the municipality council chambers in Amherst last Wednesday evening, when all the mayors and municipal leaders as well as the trucking association and others - there wasn't anyone there that liked the idea of toll roads.



I know the Minister of Transportation and Communications goes on at great length about the amount of money that was spent from the fuel tax. When I look at 1995-96, the estimate, we get $197 million in fuel taxes and $58 million in the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which makes up $255 million of taxpayers' money going into fuel taxes and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. I look at the Department of Transportation and they are spending net expenditures of $104 million on the current side and $112 million on the capital side, which does not add up to all the money that Nova Scotians are paying for fuel tax and the Registry of Motor Vehicles.



When I go back a few years to 1993-94, which was our last budget, $257 million was spent on Transportation, including current and capital. I go back to the fuel tax, of which part of that had an increase from this province, from this government of 1 per cent. It still only added up to $225 million. So what the people were asking is, why is it that we have to have toll roads in one end of the province when we always felt that our fuel taxes and our Registry of Motor Vehicles tax - which is a tax, the Registry of Motor Vehicles - should all go into highway expenditure? Now we find it is not. So, for the minister to say, well, they put it into general revenues, you can argue about general revenues but you cannot argue . . .



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I have in my hand and I am going to table this, Page 31.17 from the estimates of 1992-93. The minister is correct, it was their administration. The $33,750,000, "Less Chargeable to Transportation Trust Fund", it says here on this paper, your budget, "Now included in Ordinary Revenue;". Ordinary revenue, Madam Speaker, is used for the current account, health care, education. If the minister is advocating that we should go in, now that they have transferred this fund into the general revenues and pull out $33,750,000, then please tell us from what programs we should take it.



MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. I think that is a point of rebuttal. It is a point of rebuttal but it is not a point of order.



MR. MOODY: Why did I know it was not a point of order? I guess I knew that.



Madam Speaker, if a Minister of Transportation is not strong enough to go around the table and say, the people of Nova Scotia pay fuel taxes and pay the Registry of Motor Vehicle tax for the highways of Nova Scotia - what is it for? It was always understood that those taxes would be put back into Transportation. (Interruptions) Now we find out that the minister was not strong enough to argue the case, that there were other ministers who got more money out of those funds.



MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Madam Speaker, would the member entertain a question? If the member for Kings West - I am most intrigued by both the comments of the member and the point of order. I just wondered, since I was not here in the House in 1992 and I do not understand the details, I wonder if the member who was the minister then could tell us why he put it in general revenues in the first place?



[9:45 p.m.]



MR. MOODY: Well, actually, it is unfortunate the member was not here in 1992. I wish he would have gotten elected then, but obviously he did not. Actually, I was not Minister of Transportation in 1992, but I was in 1989. The point I am making, Madam Speaker, is that most people of this province will honestly feel that their . . .



MR. CARRUTHERS: You are not going to answer me?



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member has the floor.



MR. MOODY: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. We will come around to the answer like they do, but let me explain.



MADAM SPEAKER: Order please. The honourable member has the floor.



MR. MOODY: Let me explain, Madam Speaker, that the people of this province always understood that, yes, we needed to pay for our highways. They always understood when you pulled into the gas pumps that that fuel tax, and when they registered their motor vehicles and paid their registry on their trucks that that went directly to maintain the highways of this province.



Now what we find out is this government is spending less on highways than people are paying for fuel tax and for the registry of motor vehicle . . .



MR. CARRUTHERS: Why did you put it in, in the first place?



MR. MOODY: You can argue about whether, in 1989, when that special diesel fuel tax was separated and it was put back in general revenues, always with the understanding that that money would be used for the highways.



MR. CARRUTHERS: Why did you put it in in the first place?



MR. MOODY: So, Madam Speaker, how can you argue the fact that if you look up the revenues that this government is getting in those two areas, but yet not spending it on the highway and what the people in Cumberland County are saying, that if you are going to build extra highways why not have that pain shared by everybody in this province and not by a select few around Cumberland County?



HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. Let us not lose sight of the fact that in their last year in government, they failed to take in $471 million to cover what was being spent. Now to suggest there was enough money coming in in the Department of Transportation to cover transportation and enough money coming in health services tax to cover health, where is the $471 million shortfall?



MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. I would rule that is not a point of order.



MR. MOODY: Again, not a point of order.



MR. CARRUTHERS: I asked a question. You said you would answer it.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member has the floor.



MR. MOODY: I am trying, Madam Speaker.



MADAM SPEAKER: I know you are trying.



MR. MOODY: There are so many distractions . . .



AN HON. MEMBER: He's very trying.



MR. MOODY: So much noise that I am having difficulty and I hope you can appreciate that, but I am trying. I guess what we have to understand, Madam Speaker, and I guess the people from Cumberland County are trying to understand, I know the minister talked about the SHIP agreement, but the SHIP agreement was signed in 1993 by that government, yes, we can talk about it being negotiated by the former government, but it was not signed by the former government. The SHIP agreement was signed by this government in the fall of 1993 because I have seen a copy and I have seen the signatures. So for this government to stand up and say, well it was that other government that signed the SHIP agreement that we now have to live by, when I looked at the signed document it was signed by this government.



AN HON. MEMBER: George Archibald signed it.



MR. MOODY: George Archibald did not sign it; it was signed in the fall of 1993 by representatives of this government. You can get the SHIP agreement out and you can look at it because I have looked at it.



For this government to tell everybody up in Cumberland County, no, no, the former government signed the SHIP agreement that we now have to live by was not, in fact, signed by the former government but signed by the present government. So, you can argue about blaming somebody else but, Madam Speaker, one of the, Mr. Speaker now, I am sorry, there has been a change in the Chair and I apologize.



HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order, when the previous administration negotiated what projects were to be included in the SHIP agreement did he ever once make representation that the funding that was designated for Highway No. 101 should go on the Highway No. 104 western alignment?



MR. MOODY: Well, no I didn't lobby for the money to be taken.



MR. JOHN HOLM: On a question, Mr. Speaker. I am just wondering if the member, when he is answering questions, in terms about whether or not negotiating the money goes somewhere else, could he indicate whether or not they had negotiated the transfer of the monies from the 100-Series Highway to the Fleur-de-lis Trail?



MR. MOODY: Well, I can say no to that one. I don't think the previous government ever negotiated or changed the agreement that took money from 100-Series Highway and put it on another secondary road, never. For this government to say that that was a common practice, it was not a common practice, as a matter of fact it never occurred before. Anyway, the agreement was actually signed in October 15, 1993 by this present government. I was always led to believe that the SHIP agreement was signed by the previous government but as a matter of fact, it wasn't.



MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would indicate if that is the agreement or the appendix to the agreement.



SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, Oh!



MR. MANN: The agreement was signed April 1st, George Archibald and Elmer McKay for Jean Corbeil.



SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aha.



MR. MOODY: It was the appendix which outlined (Interruptions)



AN HON. MEMBER: Resign, resign. (Laughter)



MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.



MR. MOODY: . . .which outlines where the money is to be spent. The minister knows that you sign a formal agreement and later you sign the agreement of where you spend the money and how you spend the money. That was what was signed by this previous government.



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member for Kings West would indicate on that appendix where it indicates where the money that had been agreed to, where it is to be spent. Is there anything on that appendix that says something about the Fleur-de-lis Trail?



AN HON. MEMBER: You better thank the member for the question now.



MR. SPEAKER: Are we dealing with Bill No. 10? The appendix, is that part of Bill No. 10?



MR. MOODY: The appendix is the signed agreement that funds Highway No. 104, where $29 million is now coming from that is going in this Bill No. 10 and of which $26 million was taken out of this agreement to put on the Fleur-de-lis Trail and that is not in here.



HON. RICHARD MANN: I wonder if the member would entertain another question? Maybe he has the appendix there, perhaps he could say which member of government had signed that or if in fact, this would be the bureaucrats signing off on the agreement agreed to by the federal and provincial ministers earlier in the year. (Interruptions)



MR. MOODY: I am sure no bureaucrat from this government would sign anything without the approval of the minister and the government because it is binding and all of those have to have the approval of the minister before any bureaucrat would go and sign. I am sure the schedule on here was agreed to by the government before it was signed by anybody.



AN HON. MEMBER: It was Liberal George Archibald.



MR. SPEAKER: There is a great deal of disorder, please, let us have one member at a time. The honourable member for Kings West has the floor.



MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that nobody in bureaucracy would sign an agreement without the consent, obviously, of the government of the day (Interruption) No, it wasn't all already spent. But, anyway, I have to go back to Bill No. 10 because I am getting sidetracked.



MR. SPEAKER: Yes, it would help. Back to Bill No. 10.



MR. MOODY: I apologize for that. I want to talk a little bit about how this corporation works and about how it is not an open process. I think that one of the things that if we are putting in $29 million of public funds, there ought to be some accountability. In other words, we don't have in this bill for the Auditor General, we don't have the kind of accountability because under freedom of information there is a lot of information that is hidden, that is not made public. I think that any time the government invests in a project, even in partnership with the private sector, that ought to have the same accountability as the Auditor General has of going into a hospital or a school board or any other level of government to audit those funds and to see that they are spent in a way so that the taxpayers of this province are protected.



Now if the government said that there is absolutely nothing to hide in this corporation in the way that it is being run, well, then why, Mr. Speaker, would it not be in the best interests that we get this legislation changed, that allows the Auditor General to go in and do the kinds of audits so that the Auditor General could come back and say, in actual fact our public funds are being spent in a manner that is fair to the taxpayers of this province. There are many areas here that are more secretive than needs to be. Honestly, if this government is saying, this is what is best, then why not have it an open process from the Andersen report straight down? If it is above-board, it would seem to me that would be the way to go, that the government would be open and allow all the information that is available, to the general public. If the government feels that the Auditor General has no right in this corporation, then I don't understand because we are putting in taxpayers' money. So if it is all on the up and up, what's wrong with the Auditor General having a look-see, coming back and giving a report?



Now the government might say, well, we don't want the Auditor General nosing around, it may not be positive. Well, the Auditor General is only going to report what the Auditor General finds, whether it is positive or negative. But I think that is a very important part of the process. I see nothing in this legislation that guarantees or allows the Auditor General to do just that.



Maybe, Mr. Speaker, due to the lateness of the hour, I would move adjournment of the debate.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the debate on second reading of Bill No. 10 be adjourned.



The motion is carried.



The honourable Government House Leader.



HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be sitting from the hours of 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. Following Question Period, we will be going into Committee of the Whole House on Supply resuming the estimates of the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs. I understand the Law Amendments Committee will be meeting in the Red Chamber and following the estimates in the House, we will resume debate on Public Bills for Second Reading.



I move that we adjourn until noon tomorrow.



MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon.



The motion is carried.



[The House rose at 9:59 p.m.]





NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)



RESOLUTION NO. 294



By: Mr. John Holm (Leader of the New Democratic Party)



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



Whereas in the 1993 provincial general election the Liberal platform stated that "School Boards across the province have been underfunded and we will address this problem as part of our commitment to education"; and



Whereas the Liberals noted the illiteracy, innumeracy and drop-out rates caused by underfunding, pledging that "a Liberal Government will stand by our commitment to education; we have no choice but to respond to the real needs of our time"; and



Whereas in 1995 three years of deep Liberal cuts are causing a crisis in education, which the Liberals simply shrug off;



Therefore be it resolved that the government should honour their very specific Liberal commitments to properly fund and motivate education as "the means by which Nova Scotia will keep pace in a competitive world".





NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER

Given on May 5, 1995

(Pursuant to Rule 30)



QUESTION NO. 25



By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)

To: Hon. Wayne Adams (Minister of the Environment)



In July 1994, the Minister of the Environment took part in the announcement of the Coastal 2000 initiative.



(1) What is the current status of that initiative with respect to the role of the Department of the Environment?



(2) The Coastal 2000 Highlights, which was included in the press package announcing the initiative, named potential sources for funding, including the Canada-Nova Scotia Cooperation Agreement on Sustainable Economic Development and the Environmental Trust Fund. To date, what financial resources have been made available to Coastal 2000 from these two funds which fall under the supervision of the Minister of the Environment?



(3) The Executive Summary of the Coastal 2000 consultation paper clearly states that, "point source discharged into the marine environment will be reduced or eliminated". Is this a firm commitment by the Liberal Government to proceed with the clean-up of Halifax, Sydney and Pictou-Boat Harbours by the year 2000?