MR. SPEAKER: I will call the House to order at this time and commence this afternoon's business. Are there any introductions of guests or visitors? If not, we will commence the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs.
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a list of all the programs and services provided by the Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs to all the people of Nova Scotia. I am tabling it for the information of the House, to all members, so people in Nova Scotia can receive the information.
MR. SPEAKER: The material is tabled.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform you and the members of the House of the position of the Government of Nova Scotia with regard to the future of the public inquiry into the Westray Mine disaster.
The Government of Nova Scotia has decided to amend the terms of reference of the Westray Mine public inquiry to provide that the inquiry shall not hear evidence until all the evidence at the Westray criminal trial is heard. This approach, of course, allows the public inquiry commissioner and his staff to undertake any other necessary preparations for the public hearings and the taking of evidence. Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that the Government of Nova Scotia is fully committed to the public inquiry, although we feel strongly that we cannot risk jeopardizing the ongoing criminal trial. This approach will satisfy both concerns.
As you are undoubtedly aware, Mr. Speaker, last Thursday the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, technically, it is possible for both the criminal trial and a public inquiry to proceed simultaneously. The court ruled that if certain safeguards were built into the inquiry process, the constitutional protections afforded the accused in the criminal trial could be assured.
Mr. Speaker, there are two fundamental elements to this situation. The first is the undeniable presence of risk if both the prosecution and inquiry proceed simultaneously; and the second is that the Government of Nova Scotia bears the responsibility for that risk. In making its ruling, some members of the Supreme Court expressly referred to the risk involved in conducting both the prosecution and the public inquiry simultaneously. If that were to happen, the Supreme Court has left room for defence counsel to raise Charter issues such as the fair trial rights of the accused. These issues would create further delays, confusion, and prolong the final resolution of the trial and the subsequent inquiry.
There is, to say the least, a reasonable risk that the Charter rights of the accused in the trial could be found to be violated, as the unpredictable proceedings of a simultaneous inquiry and a criminal prosecution unfold.
The Government of Nova Scotia is not alone, Mr. Speaker, in acknowledging the risk involved in this situation and taking reasonable steps to avoid it. We share this concern, as publicly expressed, with the Westray families group, as well as the prosecution and defence counsel at the Westray trial. As well, we recognize that recently in New Brunswick, the government there found itself in an identical situation and took a similar stance, delaying a public inquiry into the Kingsclear Reformatory until the criminal prosecution of one of the counsellors there had ended.
Mr. Speaker, as would be expected, there are those who feel that the inquiry should proceed and that all necessary protections can be made available and the risks can be kept to a minimum. Although the Government of Nova Scotia can understand and appreciate that opinion, we feel that any risk is too much risk. It is not the size of the risk that is at issue here, it is the fact that the risk exists at all. Despite safeguards that may be put in place, the Government of Nova Scotia feels that there is a real and identifiable risk that the inquiry would give rise to Charter issues that could lead to the premature end of the criminal trial.
It has been the consistent position of this government that, although both the trial and public inquiry are very important in providing answers to the questions beyond the Westray explosion, the criminal prosecution takes precedence over the inquiry. Moreover, the trial will provide a base of accepted fact about the disaster. Our position has not changed. To that end, Cabinet this morning approved an amendment to the terms of reference of the Westray Mine public inquiry, to provide that the inquiry shall not hear evidence until all the evidence at the Westray criminal trial is heard.
Government agrees with the substance of the position of the Commissioner of the Public Inquiry in that there should be no undue delay in getting on with the inquiry. To that end, we encourage the Inquiry Commissioner and his staff to take whatever steps are necessary at this time to prepare for the commencement of public hearings, just as soon as the taking of evidence has ended at the trial.
Mr. Speaker, the wishes and concerns of the Westray families have played a very important role throughout this decision-making process. At this hour in Pictou, the government's decision and the reasons behind its decision are being conveyed to the families. We trust that they will understand what we are trying to achieve.
To conclude, Mr. Speaker, let me state the government's position in terms as clear as I can make them. The Government of Nova Scotia is committed to holding a public inquiry into the Westray Mine disaster. At the same time, we recognize that there is an undeniable risk to the Westray criminal trial if the prosecution and the public inquiry hear evidence simultaneously. The Government of Nova Scotia is not prepared to take that risk and jeopardize the criminal trial. Therefore, in conclusion, it is the firm position of the Government of Nova Scotia that the Westray Mine public inquiry shall not hear evidence until all the evidence at the criminal trial is heard. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond briefly to the statement just now made by the Minister of Justice. I say to him, as a general statement, that I find myself, as does my caucus, in accord with the decision which has been taken.
However, the statement does not perhaps go quite as far as it might or is perhaps not as clear as it might be. The minister said three times, Mr. Speaker, in his statement that the government has decided to amend the terms and, indeed, the minister confirms that they did at Cabinet this morning amend the terms of reference of the Westray Mine public inquiry to provide that the inquiry shall not hear evidence until all the evidence at the Westray criminal trial is heard.
I am a little bit concerned that the sentence doesn't go a little further and say, not only until all the evidence at the Westray criminal trial is heard, and that a decision is rendered. Now I recognize when I say that that I am posing a situation which may, and probably would, add some additional time before the inquiry could commence. The reason I say that and express that as a concern is that, as this Minister of Justice would know and all members will know, one of the things that is available to Mr. Justice Anderson, hearing the criminal trial, is to make decisions as to the credibility of certain witnesses and to make decisions about the admissibility of certain evidence and the exclusion of other evidence. It may well be that, as has been said in this statement - it is here somewhere and I have lost it. I highlighted a couple of remarks - it does concern me a little bit and I simply want to put to the Minister of Justice that concern, that he might consider with his prosecutorial staff and officials, whether or not stopping at simply the cessation of the taking of evidence in the current trial is sufficient.
The only other comment I would make is that when the Minister of Justice says, as he does on the third page of his statement, "To conclude, Mr. Speaker, let me state the government's position in terms as clear as I can make them. The Government of Nova Scotia is committed to holding a public inquiry into the Westray Mine disaster.". I just simply want to put it on the record, so that it is not lost on anybody, that what the minister is talking about is holding a public inquiry into the Westray Mine disaster, which was ordered by the previous administration, a continuation of a public inquiry which was undertaken and committed and Order in Council passed to establish by the previous government. So, this is not - and I do not say this in a critical fashion - a statement of anything more than the intention on the part of this government to continue, at what it considers to be an appropriate time, the holding of the public inquiry which was ordered by the previous Conservative Government.
Notwithstanding some of the references made in the Supreme Court of Canada decision, I would conclude by simply indicating that on balance, I believe that the proper decision has been taken. I know that there will be many miners, many families of miners, families of miners lost, others who will be concerned and perhaps disappointed and take objection to this decision, but I say, with respect to the minister, that speaking for our caucus, we believe that in all of the circumstances, the correct decision has been taken here.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I just want to say at the outset that this caucus is not particularly pleased with the decision by this government. When one looks at the weight given to the whole question of risks on this whole matter, one would have wished that the same level of consideration of the risk factors would have been given by the federal and provincial governments before the development of the Westray Mine began in the first place.
Clearly, the fact that the wheels of justice are grinding so slowly on this matter does not foster public confidence. We have seen charges laid, then we have seen charges dropped. We have seen the inquiry started, then we have seen the inquiry stopped. This government has been fighting the inquiry at all stages. The government, over the past year, has put the people of Nova Scotia through a year of wait and frustration while they sought direction by the Supreme Court on how to proceed on this whole question. They have received the direction from the Supreme Court and they have ignored it.
I would suggest to this minister and to this government, that if it has always been their position to delay the analysis of the role government and government practices and policies has played on this whole question, then they should have come up-front and said that and saved people a whole host of anguish, let alone the costs of the various legal battles.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear for the families, for the surviving miners, other miners, any workers, any Nova Scotian concerned about questions of health and safety at the work place, in terms of all issues with respect to this mine and with respect to getting at the issue as to how this was allowed to happen, what actually contributed to it and what needs to be done in the future in order to ensure it doesn't happen, that this chapter will not be closed until there is a full and open inquiry. Let me say that on behalf of our caucus we are disappointed that this government is continuing with this delay strategy in order to put off the inquiry for some time into the not foreseeable future.
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs.
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia is the only province offering unilateral home repair programs for seniors and has committed $1.5 million to Senior Citizens Assistance Program, $1.4 million to a Small Loans Assistance Program and $1.5 million in the Provincial Emergency Repair Program and has committed $600,000 to the Parent Apartment Program which helps homeowners adapt their homes to accommodate a related senior; and
Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia pooled resources with the federal government to more effectively and efficiently deliver the RRAP program which will assist more than 1,300 households this year with needed home repairs and has allocated $11 million to this program over a two year period; and
Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia offers more than 7,600 units of rent-to-income housing for seniors in communities right across this province, which provides affordable, comfortable and secure accommodations for seniors;
Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia be commended for its commitment to seniors, and its foresight in cost-sharing and delivering the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and in doing so has eliminated overlap, duplication, augmented the funds available for this vital home repair program and has ensured that more Nova Scotians are able to access funds for necessary home renovations.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?
I hear a No.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable Premier.
HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I trust there will be some support for this one.
Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas for centuries successive in generations of Nova Scotians have toiled underground to provide for their families; and
Whereas Nova Scotians know only too well the heartache of mining disasters that strike down young hardworking men, leaving behind shattered families and communities; and
Whereas today, sadly, we have been reminded by the devastating tragedy that has taken place in the Western Transvaal, South Africa, that Nova Scotians share this legacy with mining communities all over the world;
Therefore be it resolved that this House express the sincere sympathy of Nova Scotians to the people of Western Transvaal and most particularly to the families of the 106 men whose lives were so tragically lost by sending condolences to His Excellency, Andre Kilian, the South African Ambassador.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and ask that the House honour the memories of all victims of mining disasters with a moment of silence.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?
It is agreed.
We will then put the motion first and then observe the moment of silence. Would all those in favour of the motion please Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
[One minute of silence was observed.]
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Carmen Young, in her 14 short years, showed a level of wisdom and courage achieved by few in her battle to raise awareness for the importance of organ donation, while at the same time fighting a battle for her own life; and
Whereas the Town of North Sydney has shown just how proud they are of the memory of the young Cape Bretoner who died three years ago by renaming its recreational facility the Carmen Young Sport Complex; and
Whereas Carmen would be proud to know that in just the last few years the number of donors has doubled from 11 per million to 22 per million;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the Town of North Sydney for finding such a fitting and lasting reminder of the legacy of Carmen Young who bravely and valiantly fought for a cause which eventually claimed her life.
I would ask for waiver of notice, Mr. Speaker.
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. (Applause)
The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
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 cost to Nova Scotians of essential public services is being driven steadily upwards by the Conservative and Liberal privatization; and
Whereas greater base costs, new and higher fees, premiums, tolls, layoffs, duplication of effort and a slice off the top for profits are some of the ways that privatization pushes costs up; and
Whereas despite Liberal protestations, this is already happening in Nova Scotia health care with patients forced to use private for profit companies to replace cancelled public health and hospital care;
Therefore be it resolved that the Health Minister should acknowledge and report on the extent to which he has already shifted the cost of health care onto the sick and the elderly by slashing the public contribution instead of truly reforming the health care system.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
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 Mayor of Springhill believes the new Highway No. 104 toll will have a detrimental impact on tourism and business in Cumberland County; and
Whereas the Mayor of Springhill said that the highway toll is also certain to play havoc with the town's tourism industry and businesses such as the Anne Murray Centre and the Miners' Museum; and
Whereas the Mayor of Springhill is also convinced the highway toll will only add to the cost of doing business in Springhill and elsewhere in Cumberland County;
Therefore be it resolved that if the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Tourism are convinced such a toll will have no detrimental impact on Springhill, they immediately undertake to meet with the Mayor of Springhill and provide her with detailed information on how they came to such a conclusion.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.
MRS. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoprtion of the following resolution:
Whereas Bedford Junior High School's concert band and jazz band won four 1st place awards at the International Festival of Music held recently in Toronto; and
Whereas Grade 9 student, Paul Deveaux, who plays alto saxophone, was the soloist award winner in the jazz category; and
Whereas with the support of parents and teachers, the 73 enthusiastic members of the two bands dedicate many hours to perfecting their musical skills and abilities;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate band leader Gary Adams and all the members of the concert and jazz band from Bedford Junior High School for their stellar performance at the Toronto International Festival of Music and recognize the integral role of music and fine arts programs to the educational development of young Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed that notice be waived.
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.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Municipal Affairs Minister took $36,000 from her department's discretionary fund for her executive assistant, her campaign manager and another of her Liberal supporters, to spend in the name of the Harbourview Senior Citizens Club; and
Whereas the minister has refused to explain or document how some of this money was paid directly to her assistant and his wife; and
Whereas the minister has consistently been misinformed even on such basics as the fact that the Harbourview seniors are not incorporated under the Societies Act;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should explain whether all ministers are allowed to divert public funds for the private use of their closest political associates, without accountability, or whether this privilege is reserved for the Municipal Affairs Minister.
MR. SPEAKER: I don't believe I will be willing to entertain that motion.
An identical one was submitted for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 o'clock. The legal advice I have received is that the accusation of the conversion of public funds to private use would constitute criminal conduct under the provisions of the Criminal Code and would not be appropriate for debate in these Chambers.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Justice Minister yesterday refused once again to make any representation on Bill C-68 on Nova Scotia's behalf, even though fellow ministers from Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon and Manitoba, along with Liberal Opposition Justice Critics, have spoken to the committee hearings currently being held in Ottawa; and
Whereas the minister's reasoning was that the provincial minister has enough on his plate dealing with provincial concerns and need not wade into the territory of federal government justice decisions, regardless of how greatly they affect Nova Scotians; and
Whereas although certain sections of the bill, An Act Respecting Firearms and Other Weapons, have received support for its effort to stiffen sentences for the criminal use of guns and introduce penalties for weapons trafficking, there is a great concern of the need to catalogue the country's firearms and introduce a new multimillion dollar system of licensing;
Therefore be it resolved that this minister take the many concerns of the people of this province on Bill C-68 to Ottawa so that Nova Scotians are given a voice while there is still time for the federal Justice Minister to make amendments to this piece of legislation.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: See if I have better luck with this one.
Whereas two years ago, the Liberal platform promised that "within six months of forming government, we will publicly table a three-year secondary road maintenance plan", and that this plan would be based on, "objectively measuring road condition and wear"; and
Whereas in Victoria County alone, the Transportation Department says it will do some work on only one-third of the 25 to 30 roads in bad shape; and
Whereas those forced to use Highway No. 236 through South Maitland suffer thousands of dollars of damage from the frequently patched pot-holes;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to actually present a secondary road maintenance plan that spells out how long Nova Scotians must endure substandard and dangerous road conditions, while the minister pursues costly privatization schemes and David Dingwall's latest wishes.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the member for Hants East said in the Weekly Record on May 26, 1993, that his responsibility as an elected member of this Legislature would be to the people of his constituency first, the Liberal Party second; and
Whereas Route 236 in eastern Hants County is in deplorable condition and is now even costing some motorists thousands of dollars to drive on it; and
Whereas citizens of Hants East are demanding immediate action from the member for Hants East concerning the conditions on Highway No. 236;
Therefore be it resolved that the member for Hants East live up to his election promise to the constituents of Hants East and tell the Minister of Transportation like it is, instead of worrying about harming his chances of a future Cabinet position.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I don't know about that one either. The honourable member for Hants East is not here but (Interruptions) There are certainly many conventions that we have normally observed in this House with reference to the appropriate conduct and courtesy between members. I am sure that I don't need to lecture the House on courtesy. Perhaps that could be dealt with at a future time.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thought that out of courtesy it wasn't mentioned when people were not directly in the House, because some people may be on the premises or thereabout. It has always been a practice of members not to do that. Is it now the Speaker's practice to do that?
MR. SPEAKER: I hesitate. There are two ways that we could have dealt with this. The member has voluntarily agreed to defer the matter until a future time. So, I accept that that is an appropriate solution for the time being.
MR. MOODY: But on my point of order, Mr. Speaker, will you rule on my point of order?
MR. SPEAKER: No. I will say, however, in a general sense, that had I taken this motion under advisement, I would then be prepared to, at a future time, issue a ruling.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On that resolution, I would be quite prepared to read it when the member is in the House and I certainly have no hesitation to do that.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well. We will deal with it at that time.
Are there any further notices of motion? If not, that concludes the daily routine.
The Clerk did conduct a draw for the Adjournment debate, but no motion was submitted that met with the conventions and standards of the House. Therefore, there will be no Adjournment debate this afternoon.
The time now being 12:37 p.m., Question Period will run for an hour, until 1:37 p.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: My question is for the Premier. As you will know, Mr. Speaker, and as all Nova Scotians are aware, the Premier has been widely reported in the last 24 to 48 hours as saying that the question of whether or not the inquiry into the Westray tragedy is a political matter. I wonder if the Premier could explain, having concluded that the decision to be made there was a political matter, if he would enlighten this House and all Nova Scotians, what political considerations were at play in the decision just recently announced by the Minister of Justice?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is quite simple, it was a decision that government had to make. Therefore, it was a political decision in that sense. I explained that quite clearly yesterday.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I guess I missed the explanation that he refers to yesterday. I take it then, using the definition that the Premier just now describes, if I may, by way of supplementary, ask the Premier to perhaps help me and Nova Scotians understand his definition and use of the expression, political decision, when he tells people, as he did in the last few days, that the decision to be taken was to be a political decision. Could he explain what he means or how he defines, political decision, in that context?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the matters of judicial responsibility are made by judges. The matters that we decided are made by politicians. That is a political decision, it is quite clear.
MR. DONAHOE: So, I take it then that when, in fact, it is my view and I think the right view, that the decision to be taken is not a political one but, rather, is one to be based on legal practice and precedent and is in the control and domain of the Minister of Justice and not of the Cabinet, I wonder if the Premier would then acknowledge that he was mistaken and, frankly, ill-advised to refer to the decision taken on this crucial matter as a political one, and not one which was to be made on the basis of appropriate legal precedent considerations and not on what he describes as political considerations?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this was a decision by a government made up of politicians. It is quite clear that we were guided by my colleague here, who had all the legal advice in the world on all sides. Ultimately, it boils down to a decision that we accepted, one that we said we would take and it is one that we have made.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question through you to the Premier. In the last few weeks we have raised an issue here with respect to an individual who had a debilitating disease that required extraordinary drug costs. In order to afford those drug costs, that individual was forced to go on social assistance, in order to quality for Pharmacare.
The Minister of Health has said publicly, has acknowledged there is a major gap and that they are, in fact, looking at the issue and sometimes dealing with it on an individual basis. The Minister of Community Services has said absolutely not, that it costs money and we are not going to deal with the issue at all.
I would like to ask the Premier if, on behalf of his government, he would resolve these divergent public statements and indicate clearly his government's position on whether people will be required to go on social assistance in order to be able to pay for catastrophic drug costs.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, once again I rise in my place to say that I have appointed very competent ministers and the Minister of Health, who is standing in for the Minister of Community Services, will be talking on this issue.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I would correct the view of the honourable member opposite, at least his perspective that there are divergent views. There is no divergency of views in terms of the problem. There is obviously a problem and people feel that they cannot obtain medications due to their financial status and the Ministry of Community Services has been very understanding in dealing with this problem. I have publicly stated, as the minister himself has stated, that there remains much to do in this area, to examine each case individually, to help as much as we can in view of the fiscal situation that faces this government.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Premier passing this question on to one or the other of the two ministers involved but the whole issue here is the fact that we have a commitment to look into the matter by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Community Services has said no, we are not going to deal with that, that is a matter that will cost us too much money.
My question to the Premier, has he met with his two ministers in order to see that this matter is resolved and that there is a clear policy being put forward on the question of catastrophic drug costs and whether individuals will be forced to go on social assistance in order to be able to pay for those costs?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, before passing this on to the minister who will answer this, as he should be, I should point out that we are exercising considerable economy by having one minister answer for both.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, Oh!
DR. STEWART: Yes, I feel the weight of the burden, Mr. Speaker. However, the question of the honourable minister opposite is a real one, it is a question that this government has dealt with since we came into office some months ago, to look at the gaps that may exist in the provision of necessary medications. Both the Minister of Community Services and myself have met frequently on this issue. We have had conversations. We even have, in my own department, a group looking at the problems that are faced by the working poor. I said that in this place. We, in fact, have discussed it on a national level. I had the pleasure of discussing it with Ms. Grier, Health Minister for Ontario, prior to the Trillium Program being introduced.
There is no divergence of views. What we face here in the province is how to provide help for those who would need it through social services and our family support services or through any other programs that we might combine and we are looking at some innovative ways to do that. I pledge to the honourable gentleman opposite, we will continue in that regard until we have an answer.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, you know it was that kind of response from the Minister of Health which gave me some comfort, and the individual involved some comfort, in thinking that the government was going to deal with that, but it was no more than a day or so later that the Minister of Community Services came out and said that the kind of response by the Ontario Government, in terms of the Trillium Fund or any other way for that matter to deal with the catastrophic drug costs, was too expensive. That is why I am trying to get the question resolved.
I would like to ask the Minister of Health, then, in my final supplementary, has he or his department officials, or anyone from government, assessed what the savings would be if people in this kind of situation, people forced to go on social assistance in order to afford their drug costs, were permitted, in fact, to work and earn a living to try to support themselves, at the same time being qualified either for Pharmacare or being given some assistance in order to respond to some of the difficult and debilitating costs of those catastrophic drugs?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, those data to which the honourable member refers would be extremely useful, but the fact is that we do not know individuals and how many individuals would be in that category. We have looked at various numbers and we have consulted, in fact, with the Trillium Program and their initial projections, but we do not have any way of determining who might be part and parcel of these kinds of programs. It is almost impossible to determine. Individuals, however, have been considered in the past by Community Services under social service programs. They will continue to do that, as the honourable minister has referred to, and we will go on to look for innovative ways, as we have done in health reform throughout our tenure here in this province.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: My question, through you, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Supply and Services. I was wondering if the minister could tell us if the policy of his government is to provide a written explanation to companies that submit a lower bid than the winning tender, listing the reasons why the low tender was rejected?
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Yes, Mr. Speaker. As the honourable member is well aware, just recently we introduced a White Paper on the floor of the House. It has been widely circulated from one end of the province to the other; that includes all 66 municipalities, by the way. They received individual mailings from the Department of Municipal Affairs. That document, the honourable member will know that it states very clearly that any person or any business, tendering on any project, if that business were to lose the tender, if they request, they will be provided with a full explanation of the reason why they lost the project.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you again to the minister. On Page 16 of his policy, under 8.6.1, it certainly indicates that, ". . . valid and written rationale for the contract award [is] available . . .", if the lowest tender is not accepted. Now according to the policy in place, that I just read, can the minister tell us, at what point in the tender process is the department expected to provide this written explanation for rejecting the bid that a company has submitted when it is, in fact, the low tender and they did not get it?
MR. O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, it is fairly obvious that, what point during the tendering process would be at the completion of the jury's decision on the successful tender, at the completion of the successful tender and upon the submission of those who were not successful in acquiring the tender, upon their submission for a response as to why they did not receive such a document. Upon that submission, it will be responded to in full.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Supply and Services. I was wondering if the minister could tell us in the House, are there any circumstances under which the department can refuse to provide the written explanation to a company as to why their low bid was rejected?
MR. O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, the only conditions under which they would not have the degree of specificity are clearly outlined in the document. As an example, if the tender required a confidentiality protected by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act because of a specific technique or knowledge upon which the tender was ordered, that information could not be released to the unsuccessful bidder. The unsuccessful bidder could obtain the information in a general way, that he did not have the specific qualities that were unique to the particular organization that did receive the tender.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness, on an introduction.
MR. CHARLES MACARTHUR: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the House, I want to introduce, in the east gallery, a group of Grade 8 students from Mabou Consolidated School. They are accompanied by Mr. Daniel Rankin and Mrs. Marjorie Beaton. I would ask that they stand and receive a nice, warm welcome from the House, and welcome them here. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In light of the answers that the Minister of Supply and Services gave to the member for Kings North just a few moments ago - and I am sure the minister was listening - with respect to the government's procurement policy, can the minister tell the House, through the Speaker, why the Department of Health refused to provide a written explanation to the losing bidders as to why their bids were rejected and a substantially higher bid was accepted for ambulance service in the Pictou area?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware that we refused to do anything. I am sure we followed precedent in this regard and I would take the question under advisement and check to ensure that precedent had been followed.
MR. MOODY: I thank the honourable minister for giving me that assurance. Two companies that actually submitted lower bids have advised that their attempts to get a written explanation, as in the procurement policy, from the Department of Health have been refused. They said they could go and get it maybe in 60 days, through the Freedom of Information Act.
I am wondering if the minister, since he said he would follow the procurement policy, would go back to his department and ask them to follow the procurement policy and give that information that has already been written up in the department to those two bidders who have requested that information.
DR. STEWART: Well, I might again reiterate, Mr. Speaker, that I am sure precedence was followed in this way. The paper to which the honourable gentleman referred is a procurement policy White Paper. It is not policy of the government as yet but I certainly will check into that. I would be happy to do that.
MR. MOODY: Well, given the fact that I think the minister said publicly why Metro & District Ambulance was awarded the tender, because it demonstrated that it provided a higher level of service than the losing bidders, would the minister live up to the procurement policy and table in the House, in the next day or two, the specific reasons, along with any documentation for awarding the contract to Metro & District Ambulance Service?
DR. STEWART: Yes, as I said, I would give assurances that I would follow precedent and I would give the information as it has been given in the past. I am sure that my staff followed that.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health as well and it is along the same lines. With respect to the recent tender awarded to Metro & District Ambulance Service for service in the Pictou area, it was my understanding that the request for proposals required bidders to list, at the time of their tendered submissions, the qualifications of the employees. Given that the winning company is only now, and I say only now, recruiting employees for the Pictou area, could the minister explain why Metro & District Ambulance Service bid was considered and accepted when it did not meet the requirements and requests for proposals? That is my understanding.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, this bid and this request for proposals and the subsequent bid was subject to scrutiny by a committee in which I have every confidence. They reported to me the results of that, as they did publicly. Part of the consideration was the ability of the particular company, I am sure, to either recruit or have in place medical personnel who are qualified. The track record of such companies would be taken into consideration as well. There are many other factors which are spelled out and which were followed. I have confidence that that was done to assure a high quality service in Pictou.
MR. MCINNES: Again to the Minister of Health, the bidders package that accompanied the request for proposals stated that the service was to be budgeted on the basis of about 45 calls per month. It is my understanding, I am told, that before the tender was awarded, it was agreed that Dort's Ambulance Service would continue to provide routine transfers and the new ambulance operator would provide emergency ambulance services only.
Given that the average number of emergency calls in the Pictou area is roughly 8 to 10 or 12 maybe, can the minister explain why his department did not revise the tender document to reflect the actual calls volume to be handled by the new operator?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I don't have the specific figures referred to by the honourable member opposite. I can certainly get them and review them and report further on what I would interpret from that. May I, however, say that I have reviewed with the committee, with the Director of Emergency Health Services, the tendering process to ensure -because the low bid was not chosen - the details, and the reasons for the choice. The committee is a very solid committee. It is a group that was in place. Medical input was very solid and I accepted their recommendation on the basis of their analysis of all of these issues and I stand by their choice.
MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am only asking the questions on the information that I have been provided and I want to explain that to the minister very clearly. I am pleased that the minister is saying that he is going to look into the matter and report back. My second supplementary question is, will the minister confirm that Metro & District Ambulance Service will receive $17,250 per month and that the taxpayers of this province will be paying in excess of approximately $1,700 for every emergency transfer based on the average emergency call volume of 10 per month?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I cannot confirm that that is the case. I certainly would have an analysis done and I would be happy to report back to the honourable member. Again, I don't have the figures he has suggested. They have not been represented to my by any party, either unsuccessful bidders or not, but I certainly have noted them and will take them under advisement.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Labour. Yesterday in the House, when I urged the Community Services Minister to take a more proactive role in trying to help ensure that there is a settlement in the dragged-out labour dispute at Bryony House, the minister quite properly indicated that this government is squarely on the side of the women and children whom Bryony House serves and I commend him for that. He correctly pointed out that a conciliation process is in place if the two parties would agree to make use of it.
Well, the problem, Mr. Speaker, is that the board has steadfastly refused to avail themselves of the conciliation officer's services. The board has refused to make a joint submission to the Labour Minister to establish a conciliation board and the situation is utterly stalemated. My question to the honourable Minister of Labour is whether he would agree, in collaboration with the Community Services Minister, to communicate directly with both parties, urging that they avail themselves of the resources and the services of the conciliation program that is available to try in the interests of the women and children served and also in the interests of fairness to the workers at Bryony House, to gain a fair settlement?
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for her question. I was here yesterday. However, she knows full well that it is difficult for me, as Minister of Labour, to become directly involved until requested to do so. But I will certainly talk, in fact, we have talked about the issue with the Minister of Community Services. It is very difficult for a Minister of Labour in this province, and I understand your points and I basically agree with them, with the situation with the women and the children, but if I went out and got involved in any way without their request under the Act, with the labour movement or with the management group, then that is not in the best interests, in the long term, of the Province of Nova Scotia and labour relations.
So, I will talk to the Minister of Community Services, but my hands are basically tied from getting personally involved in the dispute at this time.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to say that it would not be my intention, or I think anybody's, to urge the minister to get involved directly in the dispute, not in the issues at dispute and not even in the process, but rather, and I guess I would like to ask by way of supplementary, if the minister could clarify here in the House, if not by way of inquiry, what the status is at this point in regard to the conciliation process? Because the chair of the Bryony House Board has indicated to a number of persons who have expressed concern that, in fact, the board has asked for the conciliation services to be re-established, to be reactivated and yet no such request has been made known to the staff. In fact, the staff have checked it out and have been told that there, in fact, has been no request by the board to the conciliation officer to become directly involved or for a joint application to go for the establishment of a conciliation board.
I would ask the minister, could he clarify, is there any truth to the indication as given by the board that the conciliation services of the department have been requested to become involved again?
MR. BROWN: I am only aware of the one request, when they gave us notice with regard to strike action and I am not aware of any other requests at that time. I will certainly check it with my departmental staff today and try to get an answer for the member today.
MS. MCDONOUGH: I am not sure if the Minister of Labour knows, the Minister of Community Services certainly does, that a very broad cross-section of women concerned in this community, made a joint submission to the board, urging that they either go the route of conciliation services to the Bryony House board, that they either go the route of reactivating conciliation services or they be willing to explore some other mediation process. Because it is desperately important that this protracted strike be settled.
I wanted to ask the minister again, that if he finds that the board has, in fact, misrepresented that they have applied for further conciliation services, will he not, in collaboration with the Minister of Community Services, communicate even-handedly to both Parties, without getting involved in the issues at dispute, to urge that some process be activated that will allow for there to be some coming together of the Parties to get on with settling this matter in the interest of the women and children and also in the interest of that hardworking staff who are caught in the stalemate situation not of their own accord?
MR. BROWN: I cannot answer for the Minister of Community Services but I say through you, sir, to all Nova Scotians that our department has services available and we are prepared in whatever we can do in this dispute upon request or in any other dispute in this province. We all have a concern with regard to any dispute but, however, management - that is why they have a union, that is why they voted for it, that they have a group there - and I encourage both Parties to sit down and I'll do whatever I can with regard to that situation or any other in the Province of Nova Scotia. We are all partners and surely both groups there are partners and let's see the situation resolved.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: My question, Mr. Speaker, through you, is to the Minister of Health. I wonder if the Minister of Health will tell the House, through you, whether the province is or has ever co-signed the paycheques of Metro & District Ambulance Service?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I don't think co-signing paycheques, I believe, there was a grant which because of some financial difficulties in that particular company, we were offering further subsidy in order to provide the service. In order to do that, we had to examine the situation very closely and we were not willing to just provide the grant without assurances that we were involved in a real sense in the financial overseeing of that project and of those arrangements. I believe that the signature of the person in the ambulance section was on the cheque provided by the subsidy, yes.
MR. MOODY: I thank the minister. In other words, I guess it wasn't co-signing cheques it was additional subsidy. I would ask the minister then, since he said that the taxpayers, through his department, are giving Metro & District Ambulance Service additional subsidy, could he explain to Nova Scotians why he would award a contract to Metro & District Ambulance Service to do additional ambulance service in the province when it was only through his kindness of additional subsidy that the company is staying financially afloat, can he explain the rationale behind doing that?
DR. STEWART: In this case, Mr. Speaker, there was certainly an attempt on our part to provide in terms of additional subsidy recognizing increases in needs and particularly we were concerned about the employees in that particular company. They have, since that time, I think, proven themselves to be very diligent and I am sure that was taken under consideration by the committee, who were aware, I believe, of the situation.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister if the province made a commitment to Metro & District Ambulance to provide them with one of the 150 ambulances that I understand are being built by Tri-Star - the minister hasn't made the announcement but I understand that they have been awarded the contract - were they given a commitment that one of those 150 ambulances would be made available to them?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, if that commitment was made, I am not aware of it as yet. I haven't been back today but I certainly will check into that.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: I thank the minister for that answer and I hope he will provide me with that information.
On a new question, Mr. Speaker, about a year or so ago the minister indicated that there would be an air ambulance for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia at some time and there were proposals put in. Would the minister today confirm whether or not there is an air ambulance service in a joint venture with New Brunswick for the Province of Nova Scotia?
HON. RONALD STEWART: No, there is not as yet, Mr. Speaker.
MR. MOODY: Would the minister confirm that as of today, I have been told that the IWK will not have available to them helicopter, air ambulance service as of today or tomorrow and would the minister confirm that that is now true because of the delay in getting this whole air ambulance service off the ground?
DR. STEWART: I am not aware that the IWK has represented this to us in the ministry. I certainly will take that under advisement and inquire, but I am not aware of that this afternoon. (Interruption)
MR. MOODY: The Premier whispers over, who told me? Well, the people who told me are concerned about the transportation of young children in this province. I would ask the minister, since the fact is that there is no longer air ambulance service by helicopter to the small communities of this province, which can be so vital, as of today, will the minister ensure that if that is the case that that service will be reinstated immediately, so that the IWK can use that ambulance service as they have done in the past for the kind of emergencies that they have dealt with?
DR. STEWART: Again, Mr. Speaker, I will give the assurances to the honourable gentleman opposite, the same as I would ask of him to be considerate enough to retract what he said if in fact that was not the case today. So, I will look into it and I will be happy to do that very much so. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Transportation and Communications. The economic growth of many areas in our province is limited by the condition of our secondary roads. Future tourism depends on safe, well-maintained roads. I want to know, as does Craig Beaton and his classmates from the Grade 9 Maritime Studies class of Mabou Consolidated School in Inverness County, what commitment the present government can make to provide safe road conditions in Inverness County to further the tourism industry experienced in that area of the province?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting today, in the daily routine some of the resolutions that we heard and we hear reference to all the roads that are in advance states of disrepair in various areas of the province. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I guess, wants to represent all areas of the province. Perhaps he would be so kind as to submit his priority list for the province to the Department of Transportation, because, quite frankly, the letters I get from him do not focus on the rest of the province at all, but simply on Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Perhaps if he has concerns for the areas of Cape Breton that he is talking about now, he would send us his priority list. What I have heard from him in this House for the past several weeks is nothing but condemnation for initiatives in Cape Breton Island.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation and Communications ran away from the question again, as he always does. He runs away. We asked a question on behalf of the citizens and a class from the consolidated school in Inverness County, and again he refused to answer a question. When the Minister of Transportation was campaigning during the 1993 election, and certainly after forming this government, the minister espoused this great three year plan that he has for secondary roads.
MR. SPEAKER: I am sure he did, but this is not a question.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am getting to the question shortly. I have requested that the Minister of Transportation table this three year plan relative to secondary roads. I am just going to ask the minister again, I have asked him several times, does the minister have a plan for the secondary roads in this province?
MR. MANN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and I also have access to the books, the way it was done before. There is no secret and there has been no denying the neglect that certain areas of this province have suffered under for 15 years. We have seen that some areas have some 70 per cent of their roads paved and other areas, with Opposition MLAs, with 35 per cent of their roads paved. I can assure you, that is not going to happen.
Inverness County has one of the finest MLAs in this province. (Applause) There is not a day of the week that Charlie MacArthur doesn't come to me with the concerns of the people of Inverness County, about the roads in Inverness County. Charlie MacArthur was a superintendent of highways in Inverness, dismissed in 1978 by the Tory Government, dismissed despite being recognized as one of the fairest superintendents of highways that they have ever seen. Just last week, Mr. MacArthur brought constituents of his in who had concerns about a number of roads in the county. We sat down and talked to them. We do recognize the concerns and I guarantee you that we will spend every penny we have to maintain the roads in Inverness and other areas this summer. I can assure the member that Inverness, as well as all other areas, will get due consideration and will get fair treatment.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I want to concur. Not too often do I agree with the Minister of Transportation and Communications, but I want to concur, too, that the member for Inverness is a fine member and I am sure that he does represent the citizens well. (Applause) So, we are getting somewhere here today.
Now in my final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, through you, of course, again to the Minister of Transportation and Communications, I sense that many of the professional engineers who are working for the Department of Transportation are as frustrated as Nova Scotians are. The minister talked about a needs-based road assessment matrix. Again, I ask the Minister of Transportation, does he have such a matrix system? I supported it verbally, I committed to that merit system, but so far, he refuses to table it. Will he simply answer the question, no or yes, do you have a needs-based matrix system?
MR. MANN: It is interesting, Mr. Speaker, isn't it, that he gets up and he gives a two minute preamble, which we should ignore and focus in on a very tiny question at the end of it. You know what Nova Scotians are fed up with? Do you know what the highway supervisors are fed up with?
AN HON. MEMBER: You. (Laughter)
MR. MANN: That 26 cents out of every dollar that we take in this province is gone. In 1978, Mr. Speaker, the Department of Transportation budget was about 13 cents out of every dollar that Nova Scotia had to spend. Now it is down to 5 cents to 6 cents out of every dollar. Why? Because 26 cents has gone off the top. Where has it gone? It's gone to Zurich, it's gone to New York. It's called debt service and it is paying for the legacy that the Progressive Conservative Government have left the people of this province. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just say, as I begin, that I think the Minister of Transportation has built his own western alignment around the answer to the question of where his matrix is. (Laughter)
Mr. Speaker, let me direct a question through you to the Premier, if I may. The Premier has stated often in this House his support and the high priority that he places on the economy in Cape Breton. Certainly, in this House, we have endorsed on a couple of occasions the proposal developed by the United Mine Workers on the question of developing the Donkin Mine as a way to ensure and certainly progress the future viability of the coal industry in Cape Breton.
Mr. Speaker, as I am sure all members realize, the Minister responsible for Devco, the Honourable Anne McLellan, is coming to Sydney next week to meet with officials at Devco, including the union, on the question of the coal industry in Cape Breton and the proposal to develop the Donkin Mine. I would just like to ask the Premier, that given the high priority that he has obviously set and given for the economy in Cape Breton, given the commitment that his government has often stated towards the coal industry, would the Premier confirm that he has made arrangements to meet with the minister, the Honourable Anne McLellan, Minister of Natural Resources, while she is in Cape Breton next week?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that the honourable member must be prescient. The minister is calling us this afternoon at 4:00 o'clock.
MR. CHISHOLM: I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker, but I still didn't get the answer specifically, it is great that she is calling him about it, maybe I misunderstood the answer, but would the Premier confirm that he, on behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia, will be meeting with the federal Minister of Natural Resources in order to press for the development of the Donkin Mine and the further protection and viability of the future of the coal industry in Cape Breton and in Nova Scotia?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I won't say that I misled the House but I should say that we called first, couldn't get her this morning, and she is calling back at 4:00 o'clock. That's the explanation of the 4:00 o'clock call.
Anything that concerns the future of Devco, the future of Cape Breton miners, is of great importance to this government. It will remain an important plank in our platform and I can assure the member opposite that we will be discussing, as we discussed not too long ago, the whole question of the extension and the potential for continuing mining in Cape Breton.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary question to the Premier is, in his meeting with the federal Minister of Natural Resources, will he be in fact representing a position that this House has endorsed, to look favourably on the proposal by the United Mine Workers, that the Donkin Mine be further developed in order to ensure the viability of the future of the coal industry in Cape Breton?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to comment on the issue that we will be discussing because the agenda primarily is a federal one, but I can assure you that we will be discussing anything that affects the potential of Cape Breton coal mining.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness, on a brief introduction.
MR. CHARLES MACARTHUR: Mr. Speaker, it is again a great privilege for me to introduce to you and to all members of the House, Grade 8 students from the Mabou Consolidated School. They are accompanied by Cameron MacQuarrie, one of the teachers, and Cathy Campbell, as well as the bus driver, A.J. Beaton.
I want to assure them, although the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley brought up the concerns of the roads of Inverness, that I bring them up daily, and I want to assure them that I will continue to do it.
I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Would the minister confirm that an executive consultant has been retained by her department to aid in the search for a suitable candidate for the position of CAO of the proposed metro Halifax Regional Municipality? If so, how much will the contract be and how much will the cost be to Nova Scotians to engage this consultant?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that the coordinator for the metro Halifax Regional Municipality has, in fact, hired somebody to assist with the selection of the CAO.
DR. HAMM: One would presume, though, that the coordinator is, in fact, using taxpayers' money to hire the executive consultant. I presume that the cost will eventually be borne by the taxpayers and with that in mind, would the minister indicate how the search contract was awarded to, I believe, Robertson-Surrette Ltd.? Would she confirm that this was done by tender; how was the tender advertised; and how many companies responded to the tender call?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that the department made a fund allocation to the coordinator of approximately $225,000, of which the coordinator has the authority to expend that money in order to deal with the regional municipality. I do not personally have the details of how the coordinator hired this individual and the process that he went through, although I do understand it was a call for proposals. I will take under advisement the additional information that the member has asked for and I will obtain it for him.
DR. HAMM: I thank the minister for the commitment to provide the details of how the tender was awarded. Would the minister make a commitment that those who are engaged by her department and are given monies that might result in tendering, that the tendering process - bearing in mind that the cost will be borne by the taxpayer - will follow the government tendering process?
MS. JOLLY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have no problem giving that commitment.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of the Environment. We have in the gallery today, as has already been noted by the honourable member for Inverness, a number of students from the Grade 8 class at Mabou Consolidated School. As a person who has spent some time in the classrooms of this province, as have you, Mr. Speaker, and you will certainly understand this when I say it, that Grade 8 students who are very quickly taking their place as responsible young adults are very concerned about the environment. That certainly is the case with this Grade 8 class that is with us today. One young lady, Ambrah MacNeil, has expressed particular interest in this matter.
So, my question to the minister is a fairly simply and straightforward one. I wonder, could he advise the House and, through the House, the students who are with us today as our guests, what environmental programs he has functioning in his department at this time which focus on sustaining industries, in the province, such as the tourist industry?
HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, there are a wide variety of programs which relate to the tourism industry, in terms of, I guess we can use the theme green. We have the protected species which we are working in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources. The Minister of Natural Resources has done a commendable job in that regard in terms of communicating the program to the public and as well as across the government lines with our department and that is one I would hold up high, at this point in time. Special places in the province, green areas protecting wetlands and working with Ducks Unlimited and those kinds of organizations, I think augers well for what we do to protect and enhance the environment of Nova Scotia.
MR. LEEFE: One the minister left out and I am sure inadvertently, of course, would be the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps and I had the honour to present the legislation that created that, so that is another important program. My second question to the minister is with respect to sustainable development. Can the minister succinctly as is possible for him, advise the House what the role of his department is with respect to sustainable development and building a sustainable economy in Nova Scotia?
MR. ADAMS: We have done a commendable job and I give credit to my predecessor in terms of the work he did. With regard to the Environmental Industries Program, we have a management consortium that volunteer their time to contribute to the economic development, if you will, of this province to environmental opportunities. What we used to describe as difficulties and problems have been real economic opportunities.
Just yesterday we had the pleasure of opening up a company in Elmsdale known as Phase Remediation Incorporated, whereby a process is employed in using water and no chemicals for the cleaning and separation of minerals and it can be used across the province as a portable unit or it can be operated on-site with materials brought in. That is a small example, if you will, of the kinds of opportunities we are unfolding to benefit the economy of Nova Scotia and find new job opportunities through what were at one time called difficulties, such as garbage and the recycling and the composting operations which we see in Lunenburg County is a prime example of what we are doing in that regard. (Applause) In other words, we are using our capacity to make a better tomorrow in that regard.
MR. LEEFE: Yes, the minister, of course, is quite right, we no longer talk about garbage, we now talk about municipal solid waste resources. Absolutely. My final question to the minister and he will understand this both with respect to the particular interest of the students from Inverness County and also myself as a member representing a rural area, could the minister cite a couple of examples of programs that he has operating in his department which very specifically benefit rural communities?
MR. ADAMS: Right off the top I could look at the Youth Conservation Corps program which we just referred to. It is one that certainly involves the young people with the rural parts of Nova Scotia in terms of enhancing the environment. Just recently, a few weeks ago, I had a presentation by a group of young people from rural Nova Scotia who were looking at development of eco-tourism and their own definition. It is the kind of thing that my staff can partner with and help promote.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: My question is for the Premier. Mr. Speaker, through you and to the Premier, I would like to know, as would Alan Rankin and his classmates from the Grade 8 Social Studies class from Mabou Consolidated School, why it seems that rural Nova Scotia, in their view, shoulder so much of the burden when it comes to cuts and government expenditure? With regard particularly to Inverness County, community groups have been looking at specific cuts to health care and municipal funding and education and the proposed relocation of services from the court-house in Port Hood to Port Hawkesbury provides an illustration of the manner in which rural communities are being faced with the cutting of very important and much-needed public sector services. Those are services that have been run efficiently and have served the residents in the case of the court-house in Port Hood, extremely well. I wonder if the Premier might comment as to whether or not he feels that these cuts are unduly severe for rural Nova Scotia and, in particular, for Inverness County.
THE PREMIER: I would like to congratulate the student who wrote that. It is well phrased indeed. The cuts to health care, I am sure, would be claimed by many areas as being, in terms of their change in status of hospitals, for instance, would be applicable across the province. I do not think there is any doubt that we are all concerned about the difficulties of the Inverness, the Guysboroughs. This government has taken as its goal, Mr. Speaker, in the next two years, the alleviation of the kind of de-population and the difficulties that rural communities find themselves in. It is a major concern for us that the opportunities in community economic development will have to be created in communities that are losing numbers.
In terms of the change in Justice and Municipal Affairs, these are quite significant to these areas. They are part of the budget problem that we have and they are part of the legacy that the Party opposite left. When the actual report came in, for instance, for the change in court-houses, it was actually brought in by the previous government - you might remember that - in January or February 1993. The changes that have occurred are not changes that we can be very happy about in terms of their impact on the rural communities, but they are necessary for departments to get their budgets under control.
The real issue is the question of significant employment, not government employment, in terms of the people of Inverness. This government will continue to work hard and will have new programs and discussions coming to Cabinet very shortly on community economic development and what, we hope, will be some of the answers for the people of Inverness.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, it has been two years, thereabouts, that we have heard this Premier talk about community economic development and the idle expression of his hope that there will be new programs coming. Well, Christmas is coming too.
I ask the Premier, if I may, by way of supplementary, if the Premier will agree, notwithstanding what he has just said now, that the cutting of basic services in rural areas, that are already very much limited by the number of exiting opportunities, whether the cutting of those basic services, and the infrastructure which they represent, is detrimental to the social fabric of the rural areas of our province and that, in fact, what has been allowed to happen in the last two years is that the social fabric and integrity of rural Nova Scotia has been disintegrating and not being consolidated at all? Would the Premier comment?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, let me say quite sincerely that the damage to the infrastructure in this province, whether it is in Inverness or whether it is in Halifax County, has been done by 15 years of wasted money and debt. That is the damage. We have inherited, as a result of the misspending, the accumulation of a deficit of close to $7 billion as a result, in effect, of what happened with the people over there who were in government. That is the reason why the infrastructure has problems. What we are talking about here . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: You shouldn't run the province if you can't handle it.
THE PREMIER: I can handle it, thank you very much, sir.
AN HON. MEMBER: Quit blaming the past.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
THE PREMIER: The slanted inference, as usual, in the question. Cutting basic services, basic services have not been cut. There has been a consolidation of services, which may be regretful from the point of view of Inverness, but do put it in a fairly honest kind of way because it is slanted when you talk about cutting basic services. The changes that have resulted are not ones that we would have chosen if we had our druthers, but we did inherit the mess and we did inherit the infrastructure damage, thanks to them.
MR. DONAHOE: By way of final supplementary, I wonder if the Premier might answer this for me. Would the Premier, here today, describe for me one, perhaps even two - maybe two might be better - initiatives or programs undertaken by his government in Inverness County, through either the famous or infamous 30-60-90 project or through all of the talk about community economic development projects? Would the Premier name two projects that have been undertaken in Inverness County, so that I could report back to Alan Rankin and his classmates in the Grade 8 Social Studies class, so they can go home to Mabou Consolidated School and at least be aware that there are perhaps two initiatives of this government which represent an improvement of the economic circumstances of Inverness County?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, once again, we are going to give the Leader of the Opposition good value for his question. Let me say that I will write personally to Alan Rankin with some of the advantages that have come in the past two years, but it is more appropriate that the Economic Renewal Agency will comment on the particular initiatives that may have occurred there.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition laughs when the Premier asks me to answer a question on details which would fall under my responsibility, more so than the Premier's.
MR. DONAHOE: It was a gas pain.
MR. HARRISON: No, it is a laugh actually, and I hope the children are watching because, in fact, he used the expression a moment ago that places like Inverness are limited by existing opportunities. Mr. Speaker, we are the only province in the country to be paying more on the interest on our debt than we use to educate our children, and that distance is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The people of Inverness County are not limited by opportunity. There are examples of a fish plant that opened just the other day with full private sector dollars that will employ neighbours, perhaps fathers and mothers of the very children in our gallery.
There are examples in Cheticamp, Mr. Speaker, right next door to these students, of wonderful community economic development initiatives that are providing sustainable employment in the private sector for the people of Inverness County and I personally will follow up the Premier's commitment to describe for these students from Mabou exactly what other initiatives are taking place in the area in the private sector.
But don't, Mr. Speaker, let these students be guided for one moment by the member opposite's comment about being limited by existing opportunities. There are limitations. We are cleaning those limitations up. But there are no limitations to the dreams of these children. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: One of the limitations that we have is that the Question Period only lasts for an hour and the time allotted for the Oral Question Period has now expired.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, 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 motion is carried.
[1:37 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]
[2:40 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 Committee 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 member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, unfortunately I am not the person who adjourned the debate. It was the honourable Leader of the Opposition and he is in your other committee and he will be here momentarily. So, if we could just wait for one moment.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation.
HON. RICHARD MANN: We would agree to wait for a moment or two for the honourable Leader of the Opposition who is just entering the Chamber.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, my apologies for being delayed on the phone for just a moment. (Interruption) Apology accepted. Thank you.
I had had an opportunity to make some remarks and perhaps, Madam Speaker, you might give me an indication of time.
MADAM SPEAKER: Yes, you had used 19 minutes.
MR. DONAHOE: Okay. I don't frankly anticipate that I would use the balance of the time that is available to me, but I do want to make some comments relative to this bill because I think we are walking ourselves into a very difficult, complex and unnecessarily convoluted piece of business here.
The difficulty I have, Madam Speaker, with this bill, my starting point as to why I have some difficulty is basically as follows. There are a number of principles established in this bill and among them are these. There is a corporation to be established, the Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation, and the bill purports to suggest that as public policy principle that that corporation will not be an agent of Her Majesty in the right of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Further, the bill proposes, as another public policy principle, that the share capital of this corporation would be one share, but, interestingly enough, while it is not an agent of Her Majesty, the one share is to be held by Her Majesty. Further, the bill provides that the sole object of this corporation is to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the western alignment highway contemplated by this bill. Then, further, the principle is established in this bill that the corporation is to be managed by a board of directors.
Well, that is not unusual at all, but, interestingly enough, having a provision or a public policy principle which says the corporation is not an agent of Her Majesty and that there is one share which will be owned and held on behalf of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia by Her Majesty, the legislation goes on to say that the corporation will be managed by a board of directors, and, lo and behold, first of all, the number of directors of the corporation are to be determined by Cabinet and all of those directors are to be appointed by the Cabinet. Then, Madam Speaker, again by way of public policy statement enunciated in this piece of legislation, we find the provision that the directors, officers, servants and agents of the corporation are not agents of the province.
So, it is very clear that as the Minister of Transportation and others got around the table to decide how to, with I am sure the officials from the office of the Legislative Counsel and others, got around the table to try to decide how to design this particular piece of legislation. I suggest to you that one of the basic, underlying, clear provisions, or public policy principles, which was adopted by the Governor in Council and by the minister is let's design a piece of legislation about which either no questions can ever be asked, or as few questions can ever be asked, or as little analysis of the doings and affairs of the corporation can ever be undertaken.
Why do I say that, Madam Speaker? I say that because there are a number of other public policy principles enunciated and stated in this bill. The bill provides among other things that, Clause 11(1), "The Corporation is not liable for any damages suffered by any person by reason of any defect or insufficiency in the design, construction, operation or maintenance of the Western Alignment.". Okay, so, if we have a problem and there are damages suffered, if you or I, God forbid, should suffer any damages by reason of any defect or insufficiency in the design, construction, operation or maintenance of the western alignment, we can't, having been injured and having suffered damages, we cannot turn to the corporation to ask the corporation to make good on those damages.
Then we have a further public policy principle which describes that, Clause 15, "The Corporation is not a public utility within the meaning of the Public Utilities Act, the Western Alignment is not a service within the meaning of that Act and, for greater certainty, that Act does not apply to the Corporation or the Western Alignment.". So, it means that what this corporation does is not subject to application to, and review by, those who are the members of the Utility and Review Board established under the Public Utilities Act. Again, there are elements that may well deserve and require attention by the Public Utilities . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. It is getting more difficult to hear the speaker without the necessity of him raising his own volume. If you wouldn't mind keeping the tone down or taking the conversations outside the room. Thank you.
MR. DONAHOE: Further, there is a public policy principle enunciated in this bill which says that, Clause 16(1), "The Corporation is not a public body within the meaning of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and, for greater certainty, that Act does not apply to the Corporation.". Why is that? How can that possibly be justified by a government which came to office talking about openness and fairness and equity and access and transparency of activity, and that the poor beleaguered taxpayer would be able to have access in a way, said they in Opposition and on the way in the election campaign of April and May 1993, said those who are now government, was not available when those of us who were government were on the Treasury benches.
Here is a perfect example of how this government loved the rhetoric in April and May 1993, talking about openness and fairness and equity in transparency and then they dream up this piece of legislation to establish this corporation. The corporation isn't an agent of the Crown, all of the members of the board are appointed by the Crown, the one share of the company is held by the Crown but, yet, the corporation itself is, Madam Speaker, exempt from assessment or analysis or review pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. What could be clearer than that, that the public policy principle enunciated here is an attempt by this government to ensure that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia have no, or limited - and in this instance, I think, no - access to information which might be vitally important in terms of an analysis of the doings of this corporation.
Then there is a further public policy principle enunciated in this piece of legislation, Madam Speaker, and I know you are familiar with it. The bill provides that this corporation, I repeat, the corporation where the number of directors is going to be chosen by the Cabinet, the appointments of directors are going to be made by the Cabinet, the one share of the corporation is going to be held by the Governor in Council or by the government on behalf of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, and it says, as a public policy statement in principle, in Clause 16(2), that, ". . . Corporation is not a department or a crown corporation within the meaning of the Provincial Finance Act, . . .".
They go further and say, that ". . . 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, . . .", the Provincial Finance Act, ". . . that Act does not apply to the Corporation.".
Well, Madam Speaker, if you read the Provincial Finance Act, and I have had an opportunity to take a look at a couple of the relevant sections, I note that in particular the particular section of the Provincial Finance Act, which is by specific reference excluded from operating here, that reads that and I repeat, it is the Provincial Finance Act, that provision of that Act says in Section 72(5), "The provisions of this Section shall apply to every crown corporation, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other Act or in the memorandum, articles, letters patent, by-laws or other corporate charter or constitution of such corporation, but shall only apply to such corporation while it is a crown corporation.".
So, again, in the bill which is before us for debate on second reading, the government has gone out of its way to find legal language to extract or remove or shroud the corporation from analysis under the Provincial Finance Act.
Well, maybe it isn't a Crown Corporation, maybe it isn't an agent of the minister or of the Crown. But the concern that I have, Madam Speaker, is this. I have very real difficulty, as have other members who have looked at this legislation, understanding who is it who will have a legal authority to make an analysis of the doings and the financing of this particular corporation.
If you look further at the Provincial Finance Act, you will find other sections, Madam Speaker, in which there is an obligation imposed upon the Governor in Council to do certain things under the Provincial Finance Act. If you will bear me just reading very briefly from a couple of those sections, the Provincial Finance Act, Section 65, requires, "(1) 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 by the Governor in Council, and may pay the accountant or accountants such salary or remuneration as . . ." they think is appropriate.
"(2) Such accountant or accountants . . .", and we are now talking about the accountants who are charged with the responsibility and paid a fee each year to examine the accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia, those 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."
Then there is a further provision, "(3) 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 . . .", this place, ". . . . the House of Assembly during the session next after such examination and audit.".
Then finally, Section 66, "Any annual return which is required by statute to be made by any public official to the Attorney General or to the Minister shall be made on or before the thirtieth day of April for the year ending on the thirty-first day of March next preceding.".
So, I have a very real concern, Madam Speaker, that we now have a situation here where we are, if this legislation passes in its present form, we are going to have a corporation which is shrouded in so much mystery and protected by so much legal language that I have very real difficulty in understanding and I would hope, I really do, I would hope that the minister when he closes debate on second reading will explain who is it and how is it that the affairs of the corporation to be established here under this legislation can and will be analyzed and assessed.
Why do I think they should be? Why do those of us who have read this bill think they should be? Well, I have said in part already, there are a couple of reasons, because it is the government, it is the men and women who represent the taxpayers of the province who are establishing the corporation. It is those same men and women on the Treasury benches, Madam Speaker, who are deciding how many directors there will be. It is that same group of men and women who are on the Treasury benches, elected by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, who will make the appointments as to who those directors shall be. It is also, and I think vitally important, to realize, as I am sure you do, that as this corporation goes about its business, and we were reminded by one of the ministers, perhaps the Minister of Transportation, in debate here the other day, that the business of this corporation is going to be, in large part, potentially if not in actuality but certainly likely actually, is going to be, as is provided in the legislation, with the approval of the Governor in Council.
What this corporation will be doing will have to be approved by the Governor in Council. With the approval of the Governor in Council, the minister, on behalf of Her Majesty in the Right of the Province of Nova Scotia, on behalf of all the taxpayers, on your behalf and mine, Madam Speaker, may enter into agreements with this corporation with respect to some things which are crucial, fundamental and basic to the operation of this corporation.
They can enter into, that minister can, with the approval of your Cabinet and mine and the Cabinet of every taxpayer in this province, enter into agreements with this corporation, Clause 10(2), ". . . with respect to the financing, design, construction, operation, maintenance, leasing or acquisition of the whole or part of the Western Alignment and, for that purpose, the imposition, setting, amendment and collection of tolls for the operation of any vehicle or class of vehicle on and the charging of other fees for services relating to the operation of the Western Alignment.".
So, we have a corporation over which this government has virtually total control. They have the control of the appointment and the directors and all of that. But they have this control now to which I refer, Madam Speaker, because the imposition of the tolls and, let us not forget, Clause 10(2), ". . . the charging of other fees for services relating to the operation of the Western Alignment.", they are going to be done under terms and conditions established in agreements executed by the Minister of Transportation and the Governor in Council, all of the Cabinet is going to give that minister the approval or the authority, as they consider appropriate, to execute those agreements.
So, why, if the government is up to its eyeballs in the operation of this corporation, up to its neck in the operation and construction and maintenance and design and financing and operation of the leasing and so on of this highway, and they are, they are up in over their eyeballs, they are up in over their heads in relation to the way in which this corporation will function. Why is it, how is it that it is not possible for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, either through the terms and provisions of the Provincial Finance Act, by way of assessment and analysis by the Auditor General, by way of an obligation of the corporation itself or of the Minister of Transportation, to table, annually, here in this place, audited statements of the corporation, how and why it is that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia should willingly suggest that this is a wonderful deal for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and never have access, over what we are told will be a very extended number of years, to the financial circumstances and dealings of this particular corporation?
You will note, Madam Speaker, that there is another very interesting - and it relates to the financial elements and aspects of this corporation - public policy provision established in this bill and that is that, Clause 12(2), "Her Majesty in right of the Province is not liable for any debt of the Corporation and no debt of the Corporation . . .", which the government is establishing and owns and to which it appoints all the directors and decides how many directors and in relation to which it engages in all these agreements, ". . . and no debt of the Corporation constitutes any lien or any other charge on the Western Alignment.". Well, the government is not liable for any debt of the corporation. ". . . no debt of the Corporation constitutes any lien or other charge on the Western Alignment.".
I ask the question, what happens - it could happen and it is only going to happen by way of the agreement which the Minister of Transportation and Communications executes with the corporation - if a set of tolls is established here and with perhaps the very best of intentions and on the basis of the very best engineering and actuarial and financial advice and guidance made available, a toll structure is established, lo and behold, the toll structure and the traffic counts are such that the corporation goes bankrupt? Then where are we? I would like very much, when he closes debate, if the minister would explain to me, as I have been asked by a number of taxpayers, where is the liability of the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia in the event that that situation should pertain and should result?
Madam Speaker, there is another principle, of which I know you are aware, set out in this legislation. Again, the minister may have a completely lucid and sensible explanation as to why the provision is there or why the public policy principle is adopted, but I really do not understand from my reading and analysis of this piece of legislation, as to how it can possibly be justified that this public policy principle is enshrined in this legislation. The legislation purports to impose an obligation on the corporation, whereby this corporation to be established under this legislation, Clause 17, ". . . shall comply with all building code, safety, construction, fire, environmental, health and other standards under any enactment except that . . .", interestingly enough, ". . . (a) the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act and Planning Act do not apply to the Western Alignment;". I really have very great difficulty in understanding how it can be possible that the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act shall not apply to this western alignment and, more to the point, to the construction of this western alignment.
Again, I suggest, Madam Speaker, it bears very directly on the question of potential liability in the event that there is, as there can be - there isn't always but there certainly can be and we have seen it, unfortunately, to our dismay, in other situations - very real glitches and problems and, indeed, some negligence in the construction of any major undertaking. The provisions of the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act - which I had somewhere handy me - carry with them, and I may not find them immediately, but from memory, that legislation carries with it an authority for such public officials as the fire marshal and inspectors appointed pursuant to this legislation, to go on the construction site and make inspections, to ensure that the terms and provisions of the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act and all of the codes that relate are, in fact, being met and that the construction work is being done in a manner which is consistent with those various codes.
I really find it boggles my mind. I am certainly hopeful that the Minister of Transportation and Communications can offer some rational, defensible explanation as to why the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act doesn't apply to the construction of this western alignment.
I would expect - I may be wrong - that, indeed, there are going to be tollbooths, and I presume they will be electrified. There will be some lighting along portions, if not the whole stretch of this highway. It will be electrified, by definition, it will be lighting, and if it is not electrified, it is probably not going to cast too much illumination. (Interruption) Well, unless this minister is going to get into oil lamps, and who knows.
But seriously, there will be undoubtedly miles and miles of electrical installation as part of the construction of this roadway. How can we possibly have a piece of legislation which says that the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act doesn't apply? Why? Can you, Mr. Speaker, can anybody in this place, as you consider the construction of a major piece of roadway, consider the logic of why it is that the electrical elements involved in the construction of such a piece of highway should be excluded and that the fire marshal and the inspectors under that legislation, who are provided for in that legislation, are not allowed on the site?
That Act, by the way, and I wish I had the precise references but I did somewhere along the way in my earlier reading, from memory, says it is against the law to refuse access to the inspectors to the construction site.
So here we have a piece of legislation which passed in this House. It is part of the law of this land and of this province and it talks about the right of those inspectors to be able to have access. It talks about penalties. If you or I, Mr. Speaker, were engaged in a construction project to which the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act applies and the fire marshal or one of the inspectors empowered under that Act said, Mr. Donahoe, I am coming on your site tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 o'clock, and I said, oh no, buddy, you are not at all, you are not getting on my site to inspect. You know perfectly well what would happen, Mr. Speaker, and so do I. The inspector would say, thank you very much, Mr. Donahoe, but if you would read clause whatever it is a little lower down in the legislation that gives me my authority as inspector, you had better let me on the site because if you do not, you are committing an offence against the Electrical Installation and Inspection Act.
It strikes me as being complete and absolute idiocy, stupidity, as to why we would construct a major piece of highway and we would not have every piece of legislation on the books of the Province of Nova Scotia, which has as its base foundation and public policy principle in and of itself, the protection of the public and, in this case, the protection of the travelling public on this highway, every single one of them should apply.
I don't understand and, frankly, I don't think there are too many Nova Scotians who are going to understand why it is that that legislation does not and cannot apply.
There is another public policy principle in this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, which just simply boggles my mind as well, that is that the Planning Act is not going to apply. So I guess what it simply means is that the government will establish this corporation, they will appoint all the board members and they will do all the things they want to do and they will execute all the contracts and agreements that they want to do and as they are authorized to do under this particular piece of legislation, having to do with the financing, design, construction, operation, maintenance, leasing and so on. Then they will just say to the corporation, go ahead and do your thing, you don't have to worry about electrical inspection and now you don't have to worry about the Planning Act. So you just send your bulldozers wherever you want and you just do whatever you want to do and you don't have to have any reference to Colchester and Cumberland Counties that are very much concerned about the planning implications of this particular piece of construction. You just go ahead and you do your thing. I just simply don't understand the logic of any of that.
I was much taken, Mr. Speaker, today's Mail-Star editorial offers a couple of very interesting comments and I am not going to, and don't want to, finish my comments in relation to this bill without making at least brief reference to those comments. I read from an editorial and I will read briefly and sparingly from today's Chronicle-Herald, Mail-Star editorial entitled, "Throwing salt on highway wounds.".
There I read, "Transportation Minister Richie Mann should concentrate on mending fences, rather than looking for skeletons in Tory closets, when it comes to defending his controversial toll highway. . . . Mr. Mann got off on the wrong foot . . ." - says the editorial comment - ". . . when auditor general Roy Salmon . . ." - not the Tory Party but the Auditor General, the servant of this place - ". . . revealed his secret deal . . ." - the minister's secret deal - ". . . with Public Works Minister Dave Dingwall to divert funds, earmarked for replacing the so-called Death Valley stretch of highway in northern Nova Scotia, to paving the Fleur-de-lis tourist trail through the ministers' own ridings in Cape Breton.".
The editorial goes on further to say, "He denies allegations tolls are necessary only because he diverted $26 million to his cherished Fleur-de-lis trail.". I will come back to that in a moment, but the editorial comment goes on further and it says this, "Truck drivers are especially vocal in opposing the tolls. They charge they will be penalized with round-trip tolls as high as $20.". Yes, and what a wonderful present to the men and women who run businesses in this province, who are engaged in import and export, whose business is dependent upon transportation of their product in to and out of this province. What a wonderful economic renewal initiative, an economic initiative which, I am sure, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency supports wholeheartedly.
I am sure, as I said the other day, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency will undoubtedly, he has probably already now gone to the writers and the PR people in his department and he has said, boys, we have a new feature; we have a new feature here in Nova Scotia relative to economic renewal and economic development and the creation of new wealth and that is that we now have a new toll and, so, it is going to cost more money for those who rely on transport and trucking to do business in the Province of Nova Scotia. So I will bet you the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency is redoing his promotional brochures already to tell the rest of the world that this is another new added feature to doing business in the Province of Nova Scotia.
This editorial - and I will close with a couple of quick references further to it, if you will indulge me - "Obviously stung by opposition charges the Liberals have put politics ahead of highway safety in diverting funds to pave the Fleur-de-lis trail, Mr. Mann tabled four-year-old letters from Tory partisans urging then-premier Donald Cameron to pave the Fleur-de-lis for purely political reasons.".
He did that and he stood up and he said, ha, ha, ha, look at this, I have a file full of stuff. The Conservative ministers were getting letters from their political friends and their political friends were urging them to do Fleur-de-lis Trail. Well that is where he stopped and the point, as made so well in this editorial, is that is where it did stop because the editorial goes on to say the following, and I will conclude with this, "Two wrongs surely don't make a right. Yet, the fact is, Donald Cameron didn't pave the Fleur-de-lis trail and didn't divert funds earmarked for more vital highway construction, despite . . ."
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear. Hear.
AN HON. MEMBER: Read that again, Terry, he didn't . . .
MR. DONAHOE: He, ". . . didn't divert funds earmarked for more vital highway construction, despite some obvious political advantages clearly stated by his partisan friends.". That Premier resisted the partisan urgings made of him and he did the right thing.
AN HON. MEMBER: Good Premier.
MR. DONAHOE: The concluding line . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. DONAHOE: . . . concluding line of the editorial comment, "Indeed, the real truth - and real problem - is that Mr. Mann did just that.". That is what we are dealing with here. We are dealing with the construction of a toll road here which is the direct result of the crass partisan pork-barrel politics engaged in by the Minister of Transportation by the super Minister of ACOA and by federal Minister Young. That is what we are dealing with.
The mathematics is interesting, as well. We now have a situation where the minister says, well, there wasn't enough money in the SHIP agreement to get this done. There wasn't enough money to get this program done. So, rather than leave what money was in the SHIP agreement to have a significant investment already ear-marked for it, available to do the chore, and to build the highway, what does the Minister of Transportation and Communications do? He rips off $26 million of the money that was already there intended. So what does that mean? Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, as well as I do, what it means. It means, then, when he was caught out by the Auditor General - he hasn't shown much embarrassment but he should be embarrassed by the remarks from the Auditor General - when he was found out by the Auditor General that he had ripped off the $26 million, he then had to scramble like Billy Be Dammed to try to make a public/private sector arrangement. But then, when he was doing his scrambling, and he was going to the table to represent all of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, his fancy mathematics, his new math, his new Fleur-de-lis math, put him in this position. Rather than going to the private sector potential partners and saying, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia have $50 million to dedicate to this project and we need a partnership which will address the balance and get this job done, he put himself in the position of going to the private sector consortium potential partners and saying, gee, guys, I only have about 30 per cent of what is involved, instead of 50 per cent.
I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that one of the results of this piece of legislation and one of the results of this minister having ripped off the SHIP agreement money, is that the tolls which the Nova Scotia taxpayers and the Nova Scotia business men and women in this province, who are going to be very greatly hurt by his toll, and will of necessity have to be far greater as a result of this SHIP agreement being ripped off than was the case previously (Interruption)
Well, I just love it. Mr. Speaker, you come to learn, it doesn't take very long. When the decibel level of the catcalls across the way rises and rises as it has been in the last little while, it is so patently obvious that the remarks which are being made from the Opposition benches are cutting to the quick, (Interruption) and they know exactly that the remarks being made are absolutely right on the money. (Interruption)
Well, you get up and talk about the five years and talk about, through you, Mr. Speaker, I invite at any decibel level. I invite the distinguished Minister of Education to get up and explain to the people of Nova Scotia his support for the establishment of the toll road that we are now talking about in this bill. (Interruption) Well, you will have your chance when I am finished. You get up and speak for an hour and you tell the people of Nova Scotia, through you, Mr. Speaker, why that minister thinks this is such a great deal. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Perhaps all members should realize that the Leader of the Official Opposition has the floor, so I would ask you to keep it down to a dull roar, just a dull roar would do.
MR. DONAHOE: How much time do I have?
MR. SPEAKER: You have 1 minute and 40 seconds.
MR. DONAHOE: There were a lot of interruptions, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, there are no interruptions right now, so the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition has the floor.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The difficulty I have here, and I expect that we will have a chance to address it, not only in Law Amendments Committee but when the bill comes back here I think and I am seeking some advice and I sincerely hope that the Minister of Transportation and Communications has thought or is seeking advice as well.
My real concern, Mr. Speaker, and you are a lawyer, I am very concerned that the bill is so poorly drafted, contains so many contradictory provisions, implicates the minister and the Executive Council inextricably with the work and the operation of this corporation, that the clauses which purport to be exculpatory clauses to relieve the Cabinet and the government of the day, from responsibility and liability, simply will not stand the test of judicial scrutiny. I am very concerned that if this bill passes, not only for the reasons that I have mentioned but also for reasons that I think we have a very big legal mess on our hands here, as far as the taxpayers are concerned, this bill should not go forward. I will vote against it on second reading. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak at this second reading stage on the bill before us, Bill No. 10, entitled An Act to Provide for the Financing, Construction and Operation of the Western Alignment of Highway 104. I want to say at the outset, Mr. Speaker, it must be a rather revolting spectacle, from the point of view of any member of the general public who is actually interested and concerned about this issue to observe, if they are doing so on video Hansard, that the politics of highways, the politics of paving, are alive and well in Nova Scotia in 1995, despite the supposed official policy of the previous Conservative Government to finally drum patronage politics out of highway construction, maintenance and operation in this province and despite the assertions by the new Liberal Government when it sought a mandate in 1993, that such politics were a thing of the past.
In the short time that I have available to me, I don't want to speak on the bill that is before us to spend a lot of that time going back over the sorry chapters that precede the introduction of this bill. I think the earlier chapters are well-known. I suppose we could spend all of the time nit-picking over exactly who made the decision, when and for what reason, to divert $26 million from the agreement which supposedly was in place to provide for the paving of this new diversion of this long overdue highway construction project.
I think what we know is that even if there weren't a very alarming chapter that preceded this one, even if it wasn't a cause for concern by the general public that $26 million that had been earmarked for this particular highway construction project to deal with the most unsafe highway in this province, to deal with the highway on which there have been the most fatalities in recent history, even if that whole business about the pork barrelling and the diversion of these funds, coincidentally, I am sure, diversion of these funds through the ridings of the federal patronage don in this province, the member for Cape Breton-East Richmond, and the Transportation Minister himself, even if this sorry chapter had not preceded what we now are faced with, on the merits of this bill itself this project is not supportable.
Even if there was no issue about the diversion of $26 million from one project to another that just is so tainted with patronage that nobody can escape the smell, the job that we have as legislators is to examine what the legislative project is that has been brought before this House, to try to understand the principles that lie behind it, to evaluate whether this is a sound piece of public policy or not and to take our responsibilities as elected members to decide whether we will vote for it or against it.
Having taken that responsibility seriously, having set aside the question of whether there is a patronage taint to the fact that these dollars were diverted inappropriately and unacceptably, I have no difficulty whatsoever in coming to the conclusion that this bill that is before us is just simply not acceptable. It may be useful for members to stop and think for a moment what the last corporation was that, I suppose, wouldn't quite be described as a public/private partnership - partnership doesn't seem to be quite the description of what a creative corporate undertaking it was - but what the last sort of quasi-governmental agency was that a government decided it would place basically beyond the reach of the normal checks and balances.
I wonder if people can just think what that particular non-Crown but quasi-governmental undertaking was that the Conservative Government of the day decided in its wisdom should be exempted from the usual rules, the usual accountability, on some notion that it is better if the government just doesn't get involved. It is better if the government leaves it to community interests, to private sector interests because they know how to get the job done, they know how to be business-like and ensure the most cost-effective way of doing things.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I think there may be others that come to mind but the one that certainly seems to me to be instructive and entirely relevant for our purposes here to take a moment to think about, and that would be the Bedford Waterfront Development Corporation. I know when the previous government decided to set up that Bedford Waterfront Development Corporation, effectively beyond the reach of any meaningful accountability, exempting them from the normal checks and balances, that the NDP caucus said, we don't think this is acceptable. We think that there will not be any basis for believing that the Waterfront Development Corporation will act in the best interests of the people of Bedford, from the point of view of that development in their own backyard. We don't believe for one single minute, that the Bedford Waterfront Development Corporation will function in such a manner that it is accountable for the tax dollars that are expended in that corporation. No, the government of the day, in its wisdom, the Conservative Government at the time said, no, it is not a problem here, it will be properly accounted for.
I don't know how many millions of dollars ended up being expended in the Bedford Waterfront Development Corporation, in ways that were not fully accountable, that certainly could not be described as cost-effective, before it was finally recognized that it is just not a good idea to set up that kind of body without a very stringent set of checks and balances and the maximum financial accountability that can be brought to bear. Yet, it was very evident from the first inkling of this western alignment of Highway No. 104, that this government was going to be extremely interested in placing the dealings, the transactions of the corporation that is to be established, beyond the normal reach of public accountability.
Before we ever got to see the piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, we were treated to a rather unusual spectacle in this House. It is not a secret to anybody. It is not the first time that we have seen a government - I have been here through 14 years of watching how this works. With the previous government, there is no question that there were many occasions on which the Auditor General, doing his duty on behalf of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, because that is who the Auditor General is accountable to, through this House to all of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, not to the government. The Auditor General is not accountable to the government, although there are ways in which our Auditor General Act still needs to be amended, to more accurately and properly reflect the full independence that is necessary and that is intended for the Auditor General to have, if he is to be able to fully discharge that role on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia and to remove any possible confusion about whether the Auditor General is in part accountable to the government itself.
It is well established, well understood that any government can expect from time to time to smart a little when that public watch-dog function is carried out conscientiously and competently by an Auditor General and the Auditor General brings forward, in an annual report, a number of concerns about how taxpayers' dollars have not been safeguarded to the extent that is in the interests of the public. So, understandably, governments cringe a little when they know to anticipate the Auditor General's Report. I think it is fair to say there has probably never been any government - it is not peculiar to Nova Scotia, it has certainly always been true of the federal government - that can expect that when the Auditor General's Report comes in, there is going to be a certain number of exposes of unhappy accounts of how the government has not acted in the best interests of the taxpayer to expend public dollars in the most responsible and cost-effective way.
So, it was not surprising when the Auditor General brought in the most recent report and blew the whistle. Basically, that is the Auditor General's job, to blow the whistle when it would appear that dollars authorized for a particular undertaking, monies that are allocated for a particular purpose, end up being expended for quite a different purpose. Not surprising when the Auditor General blows the whistle on that, that is his job.
What was surprising, Mr. Speaker, was to hear the howling from the Minister of Transportation supported by a good many of his colleagues. I have to say in fairness that it probably is not true that all of the members of the government caucus are really supportive of that unacceptable diversion of funds. I would be very surprised if all members of this government caucus can honestly say, in good faith and good conscience, that it is supportive of the next chapter of what is to happen with the western alignment of Highway No. 104. I guess we will never get to know that for sure.
But it was quite unprecedented, frankly, to have the Minister of Transportation stand up in this House, and he did it publicly outside of the House as well, and not just cast aspersions, not just indicate his annoyance - I suppose that is a normal emotional response when you have just been called to account in a very public way - to watch the Minister of Transportation conduct an almost unprecedented attack on the Auditor General by very clearly expressing the view that this was reflective of some kind of an anti-Cape Breton sentiment on the part of the Auditor General.
I think it shocked most people, Mr. Speaker, because I think that we all bear a responsibility as participants in the public accountability process to see that the Auditor General is not dragged into political controversies in a self-serving way by the government of the day or by any other member of this House. I think we all try to walk a careful line. It may be sometimes a bit of a tightrope not to be guilty of dragging the Auditor General into a political controversy.
If we are to do that, then the Auditor General's independence is going to be compromised. It would be no more acceptable for the Auditor General to be captive of some other set of particular forces or special interests or, certainly, of some other political caucus than it is acceptable for the Auditor General to be the lap-dog of the government of the day instead of the watch-dog of the people of the province.
So, it was an unhappy incident it seems to me, Mr. Speaker, one that was quite unacceptable. But it is probably safe to say that it was a somewhat telling forerunner to the piece of legislation that is now before us. What is evident when one goes through that bill in detail is that there is practically nothing in this bill that would provide for the normal required necessary public accountability of the operation of this Highway No. 104 Western Alignment Corporation.
I know that in estimates debate, earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to raise some questions in a general way with the Minister of Finance on this matter. It would not have been appropriate and it would not have been permitted for me to try to draw the Minister of Finance into a detailed discussion about the specific piece of legislation because when there is a bill before the House, then the appropriate manner for dealing with that bill is in the various stages of legislative debate. So, we are here now, at the second reading level, dealing with this bill in the normal legislative process.
I did have an opportunity to raise with the Minister of Finance, the whole question about this government's thinking with respect to the whole love affair they are having, uncritical love affair with stars in their eyes, with public/private partnering. As if that is the new solution to the fiscal disaster that the previous government has gotten us into and that this government has become so totally paralyzed by and, Heaven knows, it would be difficult enough to have to deal with it. But the government has become so completely and totally obsessed by and exclusively preoccupied by, that it has absolutely lost its senses with respect to many other aspects of public responsibility that a government has to the people of a province.
Let me say clearly, that being responsible to try to figure out how to get us out of the debt that the previous government has gotten into is a very tall order. The challenge of trying to figure out how to cut down on that annual deficit is a very major challenge. But when a government, using the excuse of the debt, using the excuse of the financial mess that we have gotten ourselves into in this province, brings in a piece of legislation, as they are doing here -or a lot of other public policy initiatives that have invited a good deal of public criticism - losing sight of what its many other functions are and its many other responsibilities are to the people of the province, then it becomes a very serious problem.
When I try to understand from the Minister of Finance, really what the principles are that underlie this notion of public/private partnerships, he was very hard-pressed indeed, he was virtually silent in his ability to be forthcoming at all about what the principles are that underlie this public/private partnership notion that the government has embraced in such a wholesale way.
So, Mr. Speaker, in this instance we find ourselves in something of a vacuum because the government really has not spelled out either what its philosophy is or how it really intends to make it work in the public interest. Then we get to this bill and the bill itself is extremely thin, is virtually silent on how this particular public/private partnership is really to be made to work in the interests of the people of Nova Scotia. That makes it very difficult when it comes to really debating and analyzing not just the words that are on the paper in the form of Bill No. 10, but it makes it extremely difficult to really analyze and predict and project in any informed way, what the likely outcome is going to be of this particular Highway No. 104 western alignment initiative.
I know the Minister of Finance has said, well, those who would make the argument that because government can borrow at a lower rate than this private highway consortium, that it is therefore not sound to go the private corporation route. The minister has said, those who would make that argument are ignoring the fact that that isn't the basis on which we are entering into these partnerships or that isn't the basis of this one, because if it were just a question of whether it is government or whether it is a private corporation that can borrow money at a lower rate, then obviously you would stick with government because it is a known fact that a private corporation is going to have to pay at a higher rate in order to borrow the dollars necessary for this highway construction project.
Well, I guess that was fairly obvious, but, of course, what that does is create an even greater onus on the government of the day to explain what those other considerations are. The Minister of Finance tried to say that we are in such debt in this province that we simply cannot afford to borrow any more money to construct this Highway No. 104 diversion. Well, Mr. Speaker, surely neither the Minister of Transportation, who is sponsoring this bill, nor the Minister of Finance, who is responsible for the overall financial implications, thinks that this highway project by putting it on the basis of a public/private partnership, is going to be financed in some manner other than having the people of this province and the government of this province pay for it.
So, there surely is no mystery about that. To say that the province can't afford to pay for it and then turn around and put it through a private consortium is not some kind of a solution to the problem that the government can't afford it, because it still has to be paid for. When you stop and think about it, there is a whole list of reasons. It certainly seems very clear to us as to why this is a more expensive route to take in paying for this Highway No. 104 diversion.
Mr. Speaker, it is usually about this time in the debate when somebody starts chanting or taunting, well, they must be opposed to the Highway No. 104 western alignment. They must want for us not to do this project and to continue to leave people vulnerable to the extremely dangerous route that now exists. Well, let me say, that if I ever needed to be persuaded, and I didn't, because the statistics speak for themselves, the residents of that area have spoken loud and clear for a very long time about the desperate need for this highway construction project to go ahead. Certainly, anyone who earns their living, whether it is as a travelling sales person or a trucker, any number of those who earn their living through any means that requires them to travel that dangerous highway on a regular basis, have offered persuasive arguments for why this should have been a top priority project long ago.
So, it wasn't that I needed to be persuaded of what a top priority claim this project should have on the public resources, but last weekend, Mr. Speaker, I travelled that Highway No. 104 route that is so hazardous, and I have to say that I came back over that route in quite a bad snowstorm - I was wishing that I wasn't out there on the highway - but I am really almost more struck by the terrifying recollection I have of having driven up there in very sunny, clear weather, under the safest possible road conditions last Friday afternoon . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: What were you doing up there anyway?
MS. MCDONOUGH: The member sitting next to me wants to divert me into a discussion about what I was doing on the road at that time. If I start to respond to his questions, then there is no possibility whatsoever that the Speaker won't rule me out of order. So, as much as I would like to be able to elaborate on why I was driving the Highway No. 104 last Friday afternoon, I won't abuse the Rules of the House and answer those questions at this time.
Let me say, Mr. Speaker, all joking aside, that perhaps all the controversy around Highway No. 104 is what has brought to public view why this is such a high priority project. But from my own personal experience of driving up through that part of the province last week, I realized that I had never fully appreciated how totally unsafe that road was, despite all the talk and the controversy until I, myself, caused a very near accident on that road and, I think, came closer to having a severe car accident on that road last Friday than I have ever come in my - I'll stop and do the math on this - in my 30-some years of driving on Nova Scotia highways.
I was literally terrified when I realized how close I came to causing a very serious accident that would have involved a number of other cars. So, Mr. Speaker, for the record let me be very clear that I was persuaded long before that terrifying experience last week of the necessity of a Highway No. 104 alternate route. But any tiny glimmer of doubt that might have remained was certainly removed when I had that near accident and would have been responsible for having caused a very serious accident in the situation in which I found myself.
So, surely there is no one that will still try to discredit the criticisms and the opposition to the way in which this government is proceeding by saying, well, you must be opposed to this being a high priority. I hope I have removed any doubt about that.
The Minister of Finance, when I asked about the financial accountability for this project to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, said he didn't understand why we were asserting that the normal, full, public accountability would not be brought to bear in relation to this project as with other government expenditures. Well, the minister, himself, knows what is in the bill, he knows that there is absolutely nothing in this bill that makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Auditor General will have full access to conduct a public audit and fully disclose the findings of that audit. The Minister of Finance in some sort of half-hearted way seemed to suggest that it was a lack of faith on my part or perhaps corporate paranoia on my part to not be willing to recognize that any old audit conducted by a professional auditor will do the trick.
Well, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that that really threw me for a loop, because it left me with the question of whether the Minister of Finance of this province even understands, let alone is willing to properly safeguard, the role of the Auditor General, which is very, very different from the role of any audit firm that might conduct a normal business audit of such a corporation. If the Minister of Finance doesn't understand and respect that, we are headed for even bigger trouble with this government than I thought.
When I said, well, the legislation does not provide specifically for the Auditor General to be involved in the financial accounting, and it is very clear that this corporation is defined in such a way that it is not an agency of government for purposes of auditing, the Minister of Finance said, well, it is not altogether clear that the Auditor General won't get to audit the books. In fact, said the Minister of Finance, I think probably the Auditor General, if you asked him, would suggest that he does have a role to play in terms of auditing the books of this corporation that is to be created here.
In all due respect to the Minister of Finance or anyone else on that side of the House that might try to dismiss the argument that way, and it certainly is not intended as any disrespect whatsoever for the Auditor General, the issue is not whether the Auditor General may think that he can gain access through some extraordinary means to these books to be able to do a full public audit. The issue for this government and in this debate at this stage of second reading of Bill No. 10 is whether the government in this legislation has properly and appropriately provided beyond a shadow of a doubt by making it absolutely explicit that this corporation will come under the full financial accountability mechanisms of this province including the reporting to the public by the Auditor General.
It is not a question of whether the Auditor General thinks that ought to be. The Minister of Finance knows perfectly well that when it came to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, the request for the Auditor General to have access to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation books - which handles hundreds of millions of dollars of public money, it is unbelievable, in 1993-94 alone, the corporation's gross revenues of $0.5 billion, $172 million of it spent just in operating costs and in commissions, with Nova Scotia being a full partner in that Atlantic Lottery Corporation - when the Auditor General asked to have access to perform what any Nova Scotian would assume would be a normal audit, the Atlantic Lottery Corporation denied access.
What is clear is that this matter had not been defined in such a way in legislation as to remove any doubt about that and so what you had, in fact, was a difference of opinion. An Auditor General who said that the provision should clearly be there for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation to be properly audited by the Auditor General and no such provision was there. I know there was a bit of a dispute and the Minister of Finance at the time said, well, you know, we are willing to indicate that as far as we are concerned as one of the partners, we think that the Auditor General of Nova Scotia should have that kind of access but that is not the issue. The issue is whether it is clearly prescribed that such a corporation will be subject to the full scrutiny analysis and reporting by the Auditor General. It is very clear in this instance that the legislation makes no such provision.
That would be a concern in the abstract, that would be a concern just as a matter of principle in any situation where such a corporation is created, but let me say that in this instance it becomes a particular concern. It becomes more of a concern than usual. Not only because of the unacceptable earlier diversion of $26 million which makes you realize that this government doesn't seem to worry too much about $26 million here or there, but also because of the fact that this government has launched this particular public/private partnership supposedly on the strength of the Andersen report, supposedly on the strength of the expert advice they have received from the Andersen consulting firm. Yet, Mr. Speaker, there has been no willingness on the part of this government to publicly release, to publicly reveal, what precisely it is that the Andersen consulting firm advised this government. In fact, this government has not even fully been accountable to answer questions about what it is that the Andersen consulting firm was asked to give advice on.
In a general way, the government says we asked them, we hired these consultants to advise us on how best to proceed with construction of the new western alignment for Highway No. 104. What they don't necessarily tell you, Mr. Speaker, is that they didn't ask the Andersen consulting firm to advise whether going the route of privatizing this project was the most cost-effective thing to do, they didn't ask for advice on whether that was the preferred option available to the government. Now if they had, I suppose we would have been pretty skeptical about that because it seems that this government can get advice to privatize from any company interested in being in on the privatization to whom they are willing to pay money. But it is completely erroneous and deceptive and dishonest for this government to create the impression that what they got was expert advice from the Anderson consultants that privatizing this highway is the most cost-effective thing to do, is the thing to do in the public interest.
That is not the advice they got from Andersen consultants because the terms of reference for the Andersen consultants study was to give us a proposal for how to carry out the privatized project that we intend to undertake with the western alignment to Highway No. 104. So, nobody should be suffering from any illusions that there was some independent advice, on the basis of which the government considered the pros and cons, considered the options and that the Andersen recommendation was based on looking at going the public sector route, the private sector route, some combination thereof. Rather, the Arthur Andersen & Co. consultants were asked to advise how this Liberal Government could implement their decision made in 1994 to privatize construction of this highway project.
Well, Mr. Speaker, that being the case and understanding that it was within that framework, what are the financial details? What are the financial projections of the Andersen consultants report, on the basis of which we are supposed to be able to determine whether this is a solid piece of legislation, whether this provides for appropriate accountability, whether this is an acceptable way to go. That is the task we have to come to some conclusion about that.
Well, Mr. Speaker, this government has been - I was going to say strangely unwilling to make available the details of the Andersen report - I won't say strangely unwilling because I guess it was fairly predictable that they wouldn't be willing. They never have answered the question that arises, the confusion that is generated by the fact that they did clearly commission a summary of the Andersen consultants report that was prepared and that was intended for public distribution and yet, to this day, unless I am mistaken, the government has still not seen fit to bring forward that . . .
HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the day we made the announcement, we released the report, and what I have found very amusing and I will send a copy over to the member right now. What I found amusing in a lot of comments that have been made here ever since, they keep asking for the entire report. I kept saying, no. The summary was released the day we announced the project. It was given to most of the people at the press conference.
MR. SPEAKER: It may well be a point of clarification, I cannot rule it a point of order.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Well, actually, I accept the minister's clarification. It may not have been a point of order but it was a useful point of clarification. In fact, the minister may be quite right to say to me, well, I should have been aware of that. I wasn't aware of that because I wasn't in attendance and I will say without hesitation that I applaud the minister's making it available and will retract my statement that it was not previously available to me.
I was of the impression that the only reason that I was aware of any of the contents in it is because, in fact, some excerpts from it were made available to the Transportation Critic and Leader of the New Democratic Party precisely because people felt that the information and the details should be public and that the government was not prepared to make them public.
In any case, Mr. Speaker, it appears quite evident that what we have in the way of a summary report is a sanitized report. It is a report that does not reveal all of the details to which the government was privy when it made its decision and I think that causes further concern. I think it is clear that people are not satisfied with the fact that all they have is a summary report and, in fact, what is clear from the summary report is that even based on the information contained within the summary report, it is very difficult to understand how the government, acting in the public interest, could make the decision to go the route that they have and to enter into the kind of contract that they have with this proposal.
It is frankly puzzling, Mr. Speaker, and certainly a cause of concern to the public that given the likely revenues that will be generated, if the projections for the traffic volumes are accurate at all, and given what would seem to be a reasonable evaluation of the costs, it is very hard to understand how the government came to the conclusion that it should enter into a partnership deal which will have toll revenues being generated on that road for a period of over 30 years when the financial calculations would seem to indicate that the actual costs of that project could very well be fully discharged within 13 years.
Now I know that these calculations are always subject to uncertainties and you have to be prepared to say, well, we will assume a certain interest rate on the borrowed money, we will assume a certain volume of traffic and so on in order to get some calculation of the costs and the revenues, but that is what the government has to do to arrive at any decision about how to handle this or any other public undertaking.
From the facts and figures that are available, that the government has provided, it is very difficult, indeed, to understand why the government would get the people of Nova Scotia and all others who come to Nova Scotia and travel over this road, into an arrangement, whereby the costs for the highway construction project and the maintenance costs associated with it, could very well be paid off in somewhere from 13 to 15 years. Yet people are going to be generating tolls on that project if the government has its way, for over 30 years.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I suppose the government could say, well, you have to provide a rate of return if you are going to have a public corporation and operate this highway. Well, of course, you would and that is precisely why, not because we are anti-business, not because we don't understand that if you bring a private corporation in to do the job, that they understandably are not going to just want to be able to show a profit but are going to need a profit to survive. That is precisely the reason why we have consistently argued that we don't think that is the way to go with something as basic as our highway system.
I know this is another topic altogether, Madam Speaker, and I don't pretend any expertise in it whatsoever, but I personally remain very puzzled at how it would even be possible for a provincial government - this one or any other - to actually take a segment of the Trans Canada Highway and put tolls onto that segment of the highway. It sort of blows my mind. I mean, it seems to me that it is not only ill-conceived but it seems to me that it is symbolic of how this government has just lost touch with what really matters to people. Because a coast-to-coast trans-national highway is one of the things that does truly bind this country together. In fact, it was one of the things that the united, the three-Party delegation that went on behalf of Nova Scotians into that - now in retrospect - unbelievable constitutional round that crash-landed with the Charlottetown accord, that one of the things the three Party leaders took into the constitutional negotiations was a unified position. A united position that nothing should be permitted to in any way sever that national transportation ribbon.
Nova Scotia was the province in the constitutional talks that fought for that and actually, if I am not mistaken, I think we even had a press conference to proudly proclaim that we had gained the support for that position. You can imagine how stupid that looks to the rest of the country these days, when Nova Scotia comes along and says, we are going to put a toll road now on this critically important ribbon of highway that links us to the rest of the country.
I think that the government has really parted with its senses on this. I don't want to stand here and say the constitutional argument is the one that should win out. But I think it is quite laughable, frankly, and must grate on people elsewhere in the country, to have a Nova Scotian delegation representing all three Parties in constitutional talks, argue that no such thing should be permitted and less than two years later to have the Liberal Government of the day come in and really decide that that is not so important after all any more. We are going to do the unprecedented thing, something that no other government has even dared to try to do in this country and that is, effectively, bar access, because that is what it is, for people who cannot afford to pay the toll to transverse that part of the Trans Canada Highway.
Madam Speaker, I think that there are many unanswered questions and this government has refused to be accountable, even at this stage in the debate, for its own financial decisions in regard to even going the route of this private project, with respect to the western alignment for Highway No. 104. No wonder Nova Scotians are concerned about what the financial accountability is going to look like as the project is actually constructed and fully implemented and then operated. The government does not even want to be accountable now for the financial decision that it is making. It brings in a piece of legislation here that in no way safeguards the taxpayers' interests and in no way provides for the kind of full, financial accountability that is absolutely customary, that it is just a given in regard to all other kinds of public undertakings by this province. Then the government wonders why people are so opposed to what the government is doing here.
I know that it is not appropriate to be involved in a free-wielding, wide-ranging debate about public/private partnerships when we are dealing with a specific piece of legislation. But I have to say in the end, Madam Speaker, that it is the complete failure of the government to provide any convincing argument of why this particular public/private partnership really serves the interests of Nova Scotians, that is the real explanation why people simply do not accept this decision by the government.
I know the government is very fond of trying to create the impression that anyone who speaks against it, anyone who subjects it to critical analysis, anyone who points out all of the flaws in the legislation and the unanswered questions in the financial calculations and so on. The government is very fond of saying, well, that is just people who resist change, that is just because other people do not have the imagination and the creativity to realize that we have to do these things in new ways and that is the only way we can afford them.
Madam Speaker, I think what has to be said is that there are many ways in which we have to change our way of doing things. There are a lot of changes needed and there are a lot of changes that are welcome. But then there are some things, surely, there are some basic principles, there are some established practices, there are some long-standing precedents that ought not to be subject to change, that ought not to be just tossed aside at the whim of the government. Some of those principles are that there must be full public accountability associated with the expenditure of any public dollars.
Surely, another principle that ought to be immutable, that ought not to just be tossed aside, is the principle that people, regardless of their financial circumstances, should have the same access to the safest highway route that is being provided as part of the supposed Trans Canada Highway.
I do not think this bill that is before us meets the test of either of those principles. I think the government has shown itself to be extremely irresponsible in its refusal to be accountable up to this point in regard to its actions with respect to the diversion of the $26 million to the Fleur-de-lis Trail, with respect to how it arrived at this decision to go the route of a private corporation. It is no wonder that members of the Opposition and a heck of a lot of Nova Scotians have no confidence whatsoever that this whole undertaking is going to be fully accountable in the manner that is absolutely necessary.
In conclusion, Madam Speaker, I know that when the government is under duress, when it is taking heat, when it is really feeling the press of adverse public opinion, it is understandable what they are going to try to do to get off the hook, to get out of the hot seat, they are going to say, yeah, but you should see what the previous government did. I know that the Minister of Transportation got really quite a few laughs here the other day. It was well done. It was pertinent - nobody can say it wasn't when he blew the whistle on the manner in which the previous government dealt with this whole issue of the Fleur-de-lis Trail. That is fair game, you know, that is what goes on in the cut and thrust of politics.
When the government is being embarrassed, they try to throw back in the faces of the previous government something that will be just as embarrassing. We all enjoyed it; it was a bit of a spectacle; it was entertaining; it was telling. You know, it was a revelation that deserved to be brought to public light, but it does not remove the fact that this government, in this session of this Legislature, has brought in a piece of legislation which simply does not meet the test of several important principles. It does not, based on its merits regardless of the practices of the past government, deserve support and so I, too, will be voting against this bill as my colleagues have already indicated they will be doing as well. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, what a pleasure it is to speak on this bill because it is nice to be here today.
This bill, An Act to Provide for the Financing, Construction and Operation of the Western Alignment of Highway 104, or as it has been called and referred to in the Amherst area as, An Act to Isolate Cumberland County because the people in Cumberland County feel isolated by this bill.
I went to the municipal council meeting up there last week . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Good member.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I told them some of the background of this highway choice of routes and financing and so on and then there was an open discussion with the councillors. You know, it was quite surprising to me certainly that the Municipal Council of Cumberland was so upset and they truly are upset about this bill, they are upset because they feel the placement of tolls in Cumberland County is unfair to them. They ask, why have we been singled out? They feel unfairly treated.
The other day when I was here, I read into the record and into the Legislature the position on Highway No. 104 and from their very reasonable position, you can see how upset they really are. There are just simple things like we want the return of the $26 million that was earmarked for Highway No. 104 construction. Cumberland County should not be singled out.
They had a suggestion to the western alignment that really is not an option and that was to twin the existing road through the Wentworth Valley. Now, that was the first option that was looked at by the Department of Transportation five or six years ago. This project has been going along for five or six years because the Department of Transportation personnel met with residents of the Wentworth Valley, they met with residents of communities throughout the region to see what they felt. Then there was an independent assessment done by a consulting firm out of Halifax, to choose the route, based on all the consultation that had been done, based on safety, weather, costs, all of the factors that you would assume would be taken into consideration when you are planning the route for a brand new highway, going through a very difficult area of the province, particularly in winter, with wind and snow whipping across the water and so on. So they had their work cut out for them and eventually they did pick the shortest, cheapest, safest route.
In addition to that, they met with people in the community and there was an environmental assessment completed for that routing. They had public meetings in Cumberland County, I guess probably in 1993 or late 1992. Anybody in the communities affected was quite free and encouraged to go and discuss the environmental assessment and make their pitch. Even after that, there was still some unrest about the choosing of the route.
I think I am satisfied and I know this government is satisfied that by hiring an independent consultant to pick the proper route for the Highway No. 104 Thomson Station area, the proper route was chosen. If you had chosen another route, there would have been another group upset. I don't think when you are building a new road through new territory that you can please everybody. In fact, it would be very difficult and it would be amazing if they did.
So I don't think the chosen route is in dispute in this Legislature today but I do think that this bill is in dispute. Also the position from the Cumberland Municipal Council was they wanted support of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, who are meeting on May 17th, which I guess is just a week from yesterday, in Parrsboro. They want their support, to try to get the money returned to the Highway No. 104 construction.
Well, you know, to say the meeting was fiery and upsetting to many would be an understatement because the meeting was fiery. The people at the Cumberland County chamber that evening were very upset.
HON. RICHARD MANN: A question, Madam Speaker. I was attempting to listen but I did have a little side conversation going. I apologize for that. I wonder if the member could repeat or indicate whether he said the support of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has been given or if it is just being sought?
MR. ARCHIBALD: What it was exactly, and I am sorry if I was not speaking loudly enough, the Cumberland position on Highway No. 104 indicates, position No. 4, that they will be seeking the support of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, through the regional meeting in Parrsboro on May 17th. They have not received the support of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities but they would like to have the support of the union.
Now I am not sure if the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has any more clout than anybody else with this current administration. However, they certainly think it would be an advantage if they had them. They have the support of their local MP and she has been much in the press and so on and not much has happened. Dianne Brushett has been trying, as best she could, to get this wrong righted and, up to this point, has been unsuccessful. However, we wish her well in her endeavours on the Ottawa scene.
I do know that she is not alone. There are other MPs also who are concerned about Highway No. 104 and this toll road. In fact, the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party will be in the area this weekend, I believe. He also will be looking firsthand at this road and I am sure he will lend the support of himself and his other caucus person, to try to get the federal government to see the error of their ways and right the wrong.
This municipal council meeting was kind of an open forum that was well attended. There was not an empty chair in the room. In fact, when I arrived, they had to carry in a chair for me to sit upon and my colleague for Kings West was with me and together we had a very interesting evening. They had mayors and councillors from throughout Cumberland County and every single mayor, every elected person from Cumberland County was outraged at this travesty. What is interesting is there are other locally elected people that they want to hear from. They want their stated clear position on the Highway No. 104.
Now, Highway No. 104 and the diversion and the tolls, it all sort of has come together now as rallying cry and, in fact, the residents of Cumberland County feel isolated. They feel cut off. It went so far as Councillor Ruth Allen indicated, "We should consider if we'd be better off in New Brunswick . . .". Those are pretty strong words from a person who has been a Nova Scotian all her life, to say maybe we better be part of New Brunswick. Maybe Nova Scotia should start and stop at the toll booth. That was the feeling and that was the tone of that meeting when we were in Amherst and it was not a pleasant evening because the people are rightly upset. They are not going to take this decision of this government easily.
Each councillor, the mayor, the warden, they all said no to these unfair tolls. They were referring to the tolls, not as tolls, but as unfair taxation, taxation without calling it a tax. They felt isolated. They said, why is this government picking on Cumberland County. They said, look, we cannot even get the Department of Transportation to build a decent ramp so that the tourists can get into the tourist bureau. They said, this government closed the School for the Deaf. They said, this government promised us 75 jobs and the jobs are not there either and now a toll road.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I just would like to bring you back to the discussion on the bill. The School for the Deaf and other facilities, perhaps, is not relevant to the discussion on the bill.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I am coming right back on the Highway No. 104, but I wanted to tell you so that you would understand the feeling that there is in Cumberland County at the present time. Their feeling is, what will the government do next and, really, the tolls are the straw that broke the camel's back. Those people are so upset now. It is just almost unbelievable they were so angry.
The minister had a briefing and a news conference when he announced this revolutionary kind of a way to build a highway. One of the things that he suggested was the model that Andersen, and Andersen is a consulting firm that the minister hired to study the road and make a suggestion on how they could get the tolls high enough to make it feasible for private industry to build it. "The model that Andersen identified as workable for the new Highway 104, envisages a tolled, 110-kilometre per hour, four lane highway. Initial traffic volumes are currently projected to be 6,000 vehicles per day, with 57% from outside the Province.".
Well, that sounds to me as though, really, it is going to be great because almost half the money going to the toll is going to be from outsiders and that is new money that we did not do a thing to get. We just built the road and they are going to get rid of their money on the way by. But you know, this is not really the case. Mr. Andersen went on to say, I have heard some concern from the Wentworth area that Cumberland-Colchester residents will pay for the western alignment. Now the Minister of Transportation said they will not, through traffic will.
"One advantage of the toll collection point at Oxford, rather than Thomson Station, is that residents will be able to travel through the Valley without crossing that toll collection point. Trucks, high-speed through traffic will, however, prefer to pay the toll and remain on the new Highway . . .". Now, this is what the Minister of Transportation is telling us, but when you read all of the Andersen report that we have access to, it indicates that this is not just exactly what Mr. Andersen said, because he indicates quite clearly in the report that the Oxford toll barrier scenario produced traffic volumes 31 per cent greater than putting the toll booths on the Highway No. 104 highway and revenues 24 per cent greater, than if the tolls were put on the new section of highway they are going to construct now.
So, what does that tell you, Madam Speaker, and members of the Legislature? It tells you very clearly that this government decided they absolutely had to build the road, this toll booth in an area of the highway where it is going to capture the greatest number of people, be they local or visitors. Thirty-one per cent greater than putting it on this section of road we are talking about, than putting it in Oxford. So, by putting the toll booth at Oxford, they are going to get 31 per cent more traffic. Now where is this traffic coming from? I mean, is it just springing out of the air and where is it going? Thirty-one per cent of the cars that are going up and down the highway are only captured if they move the toll booth several miles up the highway, so they can get at these people.
Twenty-four per cent more revenue. This tells me that we are looking at local people. The local people are going to be asked to increase the revenues by 24 per cent. If integrity had anything to do with building a toll road, you would put the tolls on the road. What surprises me, is that this minister hasn't put the tolls over here on the Dartmouth bridge to pay for that road because there is more traffic going to be running back and forth across the bridge.
The fairness would have been to put the tolls on the road they are trying to pay for. But, no, that wouldn't gather up all the local people. The local people would escape. So, in order to make sure that nobody can escape this toll, they moved it up the road several miles and they are going to catch everybody they possibly can. This is not what the minister said. He was indicating that the local people won't pay for the western alignment. Well, they won't pay for all of it but they are going to pay 24 per cent more than they would if the tolls were right exactly where they belong on this road that he is building.
There was a choice to put them on the Thomson Station-Glenholme Road or put them at Oxford. This government made the choice that will bring in the most money. They weren't interested in the people of Cumberland. They were interested in the greatest revenue from taxation. If this is so good, and if all of these things the minister said in his press conference, why can we not get the full, entire copy of the Andersen report? The only report anybody has seen come to light, is one that said, this one has been altered for public consumption. We don't want the public to really see the entire report. So, we want the whole report and hopefully we are going to get it. Now, the Andersen report has a lot of things in it that are of great interest to the people of this province and they should all read as much of it as possible.
One of the other suggestions in the Andersen report that this bill is based upon, ". . . is a financing structure is required which would raise sufficient monies for the construction of the highway but which allows principal payments to be deferred for several years and then paid down gradually. A three phase . . .", construction financing, bridge loan financing and long-term financing was found best suited to the cost and revenue characteristics of the road. Well, that's all well and good but there is somebody in that equation that we have forgotten about. That is the motoring public and the taxpayer of this province. By putting the toll in an area where you capture 31 per cent more traffic, much of it local, is that the best for the taxpayer of this province? Was it best for the taxpayer of this province to move $26 million away from this road in Cumberland County? I am not being critical about the Fleur-de-lis Trail construction.
It was a priority of the former government, in fact, the minister last week was tabling letters from people. If he had looked a little farther he would have found correspondence from the former minister and the Minister of Economic Development and ACOA because we were negotiating with the federal government to bring in a tourism development agreement for that very specific purpose. Do not be misled by any single person that would have you believe that this caucus or the progressive conservatives have anything but support and wholehearted support for the Fleur-de-lis Trail. I want to make that perfectly clear.
You know, what about the taxpayer, the forgotten person in Bill No. 10? He talks about financing and the only way to do it was to shift the toll-gate up the highway. I am almost surprised that he didn't put the toll-gate right at the border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to really catch everybody but no, he just moved it up to Oxford so he can catch all the people who live in Oxford.
Was that fair? One of the things the legislation said was the public partnership. You know, the only consideration of the public of Nova Scotia and the only partnership that the public have in this bill is the $30 million that the public are providing through the funding. The rest of it is totally and completely within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Transportation and the Cabinet. They are going to be naming the board of directors of this organization, they are going to be on their own deciding what does and what does not happen. The public aren't involved at all.
The public paid once and the public is being asked to pay again day after day and it is time that we heard from the members of the constituencies closely associated to the Highway No. 104. Do they go along and do they believe some of the rhetoric that we have heard about this public partnership? That is a bit much of a stretch to call this a public partnership when all we are doing is building a road, putting tolls on it and then what? What do we know? We do know that the bill requires no regard for building permits, no regard for anything else that all other businesses have to exist under in Nova Scotia.
Listen to this, they are exempt from all kinds of good things in here. They are exempt from the Planning Act, can you believe it? Look, the last time we saw anything listed under exemptions were the casinos we are talking about. Nobody wanted them either but this government when they get something that is so unpalatable, so unpopular, the only way they can get it pushed through is to exempt it. If this had to go to the Planning Act maybe the planning people in Cumberland County would say, no, I don't think we want that motel on that road, no, I don't think we want that service station build right there, no I don't think that is the location for the restaurant. But when you have a wide open exemption and the ear the Minister of Transportation, you can build restaurants, filling stations and any darned thing you want. Is this part of the deal to help the consortium that is going to build the road to make their money? That they are going to be given a special advantage when it comes time to build whatever other buildings that they plan to stick on this road.
As far as the general public is concerned, this is going to be a road with five interchanges on it. It may be and in fact, they tell you, it will be, the only limited access highway in Nova Scotia that could have signboards on it, it could have restaurants, filling stations. All other 100-Series Highways are limited access and that means that you don't have service stations, you don't turn off. If you want a service station you drive right off the road and go into a little village.
You don't need a building permit. Look, I get a lot of calls from people in the Annapolis Valley who want to build a house, but, then they run into the problem of the building permit, the health permit, all of these permits that hold them up and cost them money. Even at home, if you want to renovate a building you have to get a building permit. If you are one of the lucky builders of this highway, don't worry, you don't need a permit to renovate, you don't need a permit to build new, you just ask the minister and his Cabinet and he says, you betcha, build whatever you want. Don't bother with the Planning Act. Don't need a permit and, the best part of all, you don't even have to pay taxes. What kind of a bill is this? What blanket authority is this giving to some people and some organizations that members of this Legislature know absolutely nothing about.
The legislation is very broad and all powerful for the Minister of Transportation. It is most unusual that the Minister of Transportation is the only government official named as part of this bill - just for the ease of doing things in five years' time and, maybe, in five years he will be the minister - I sort of doubt it - but whoever is the minister following him would probably like to be able to ask the deputy minister or another minister, what happened at that meeting anyway? What did this government agree to? Well, the minister is the only guy that knows and he does not work here anymore. So all you have is a guess.
Is the corporation going to have a system like that? Is the president of the corporation the only guy who is going to know anything that is going on. I mean what kind of a bill is this? We really should have a little more input on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia. Now maybe everybody in the building and everybody in Nova Scotia is satisfied that the Minister of Transportation has our best interests at heart, but there are people in Cumberland County who would seriously challenge that and for good reason. I really and truly do believe that the minister should also have staff at any and all meetings that he has with any consortium that wants to build a road.
Just to escape the building permit, I cannot tell you what a joy that would be if you are in the construction business or if you want to build a home. It does not matter what you are trying to build; if you want to put a patio in the back of your house, you need a permit. But not these guys, they can build a $3 million, $4 million or $5 million structure and maybe they are going to put a casino on there and really trap the people on the way by. Dear knows what. Maybe they will put a theme park. There is nothing in the bill that says they will not. What the bill says is they can if they want to. Now maybe that is ridiculous, maybe they will not build a theme park up there, but that makes the very point that if they want to, they can.
MR. JOHN HOLM: They might have their Cabinet ministers sitting up there and call it a comedy park.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, it would be a comedy park. That is where they are going to have their Cabinet meetings. That is what my friend, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, suggests.
It says that the bill provides that the corporation it is not a public utility within the meaning of the Public Utilities Act. Why? When we have the Utility and Review Board with an opportunity (Interruption) Pardon? The Minister of the Economic Renewal Agency wants to help me out. Now what are you saying?
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: . . . make one more mistake.
MR. ARCHIBALD: He is suggesting that he is going to build another school at Horton. I think that is great. You know, for their protection (Interruption) The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency is indicating that he wants to be the member of a government with a mistake a day, and this is it for today.
AN HON. MEMBER: Well, they make more than one a day.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Why when you are dealing with, it could be as many as 6,600 vehicles a day going through the Wentworth Valley at the present time. I believe that Mr. Andersen suggests that number will be deleted down to perhaps 5,200 a day. If there are 5,000 or 6,000 vehicles a day going to be using this new toll road, don't you think that the Utility and Review Board perhaps could have their best interests at heart . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: No, they want to raise the tolls.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Maybe the truckers association, who have paid millions of dollars in fuel taxes, millions of dollars in licensing fees, shouldn't somebody be able to say, now look, guys, the tolls are too high, give us a break. Would that not be reasonable?
AN HON. MEMBER: No.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I think it would be. Now perhaps the member or the speaker does not. I do not know, somebody does not because it is in there. I really feel that it would be a reasonable request and I know if those members were in Opposition, they would be demanding it. You have to know that the people deserve to be represented. They are paying the fare and they deserve to have somebody, besides the Minister of Transportation, watching out for their good selves.
Now, we have been hearing some chatter about other areas of Canada where they have had experience with toll roads. Well, there is one in British Columbia that they talk about, but it is not part of the Trans Canada Highway, we are going to have what you call a first. We are going, Madam Speaker, to have the first toll road on the Trans Canada Highway in all of Canada. We are leading the pack. We are doing some ground breaking, revolutionary ideas and revolutionary thinking down here now.
The Ontario Government was going to build a road, Highway No. 407 was going to be built by a consortium. Do you know what? It is not, the consortium backed out. They could not do the road construction. It is odd. Don't you find it odd? There are a few more people in Ontario than there are here. If you have a toll road, what you need are vehicles, trucks and cars, people to pay, in Ontario they have a lot more of them than we do, and they can't make a toll road pay. The big difference is, the toll road in Ontario was going to be built and financed by a private corporation and they said, we can't do it. So how can they do it in Nova Scotia?
Well, one thing (Interruption) That's right. This government, the government has given away $30 million to the private corporation and this is the contribution. Well, look, if it takes $30 million to do it and there was $26 million before and now this consortium is telling us that the whole road can probably be done for $80 million, the estimate before was $110 million and now they have it down to $80 million. Well, if you put $26 million and $29 million together, you are not that far from $80 million. So why did the minister suddenly decide (Interruption) Well, $55 million is a lot closer to $80 million than $30 million.
The minister decided that $30 million would be the public's contribution. He said, that's a breakthrough. The Ontario Government said, after they investigated, they decided they didn't want to do that. They were thinking of the taxpayers, you see. Some places, apparently, the taxpayers come first. Here, the government, I think, comes first or perhaps it is the Premier's review that is coming up in June, maybe that comes first, I don't know.
What I don't understand is why this government is going down this road when nobody else in the country can even figure out why? We don't have the traffic flow to run a toll road. The only way it is even close to being economical is by giving $30 million away. It's bizarre. Madam Speaker, what does the honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency have to say? Good. Now, we are going to hear. It is going to be a word of wisdom.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Madam Speaker, I am just wondering if the member would entertain a question and I gather by his conduct that he would. It would appear from the comments by the honourable member and I know that in his days in Agriculture and in many comments in this House in the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne that we have someone who sings the praises of Nova Scotians that are innovators from integrated pest management to agri-food innovators, such as Mr. Sarsfield in Kings County. I am hearing a contradiction. I guess my question is, am I hearing correctly?
Could it be that the member opposite has suddenly changed his position on the fact that Nova Scotians are capable of being world-class in their innovative thinking and practices such that they might actually do something that no other jurisdiction in the country, or perhaps even in the world, might have accomplished? Is there an opposition to that at the moment or has the gentleman just lost his train of thought for a moment?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Boy, I sure appreciated that question. Now, I am going to give you an answer. You mentioned Leonard Sarsfield, now, Madam Speaker, I am going to have to get off track just a whisker, but he did in his question so I will go off just barely for a moment. But, you know, Leonard Sarsfield and his wife, Fran, started baking pies and they were making about 5,000 pies a day, 10 years ago, and now they are up to over 100,000 pies a day. Now, this is amazing. They are selling them all across Canada into the United States as well. But you know something, when you pay your $3.00 at the grocery store, you get a pie and it is a Sarsfield pie. But when you pay your $3.00 going through the Wentworth Valley, you are just going to get nothing, you are going to get hosed. That's the difference. (Laughter) The Sarsfields created something that was useful, innovative, providing employment for Nova Scotians, over 100 people making their living working there and we can go on. (Interruptions) Do you see what I am talking about? For the $3.00 toll, you are getting a . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Well, I think you are talking about apples and I would rather you talk about the bill.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I know. This guy asks the craziest questions, doesn't he? I don't know how he got so side-tracked, but we are going to work on it. You see, you are getting a raw deal.
AN HON. MEMBER: Nothing for something.
MR. ARCHIBALD: You are getting nothing for something. Yes, that is about it. That is a quote from the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. You are getting something for nothing. (Interruptions) We are having a lot of help here. I must be the last speaker. Anyway, the Cumberland Counties (Interruption) I don't know what school the honourable minister attended when he can come up with such silly ideas that this was a good idea and that Nova Scotians are getting something for their $30 million. I mean, it is the most bizarre bill.
AN HON. MEMBER: They are getting hosed here.
MR. ARCHIBALD: They are getting hosed. This government and the Premier and the Minister of Transportation and all the Cabinet and his caucus colleagues, how can they all stand up and be the only ones, the only people in this province that can see the wisdom of this bill? Now, is there anybody else that can see it? I haven't seen it in the media and I have all kinds of media stuff here that tells me that editorial writers from across the province are saying, put the $26 million back. The mayor and the warden and the councillors from Cumberland County said, put the money back. The council in Cumberland said, let's move to New Brunswick.
Is this Liberal Government the only people in the province that can understand this stuff? I say no. They are the only people that want to do it. It is not fair. Listen to what the truckers association said. The truckers association indicated that in the last five years, they have spent $78 million on fuel taxes and many more thousands on licenses.
AN HON. MEMBER: Where did that go?
MR. ARCHIBALD: That is what they said. Where has the money gone? Why do we have to pay for our highway construction through our licenses, through our gasoline and fuel taxes and then turn around and pay again? They want to know. (Interruption) Well, they are asking. You are the government.
Not only that, trucks travelling through Nova Scotia from out-of-province have to pay the tax even if they did not buy fuel here. It is an arrangement truckers have. Did you know that? Even though they did not buy fuel here, they pay the tax on it as though they did. That is to help pay for the roads. A trucker coming to Nova Scotia and dropping off his goods and then leaving has to pay a special tare. He has to pay a $100 permit just for the privilege of being here. Then, on top of that, these devils are going to charge him $25 or $30 just to get in. I mean, come on. Is that fair? Is that encouraging business?
AN HON. MEMBER: Are they going to give them a rebate for the taxes?
MR. ARCHIBALD: A rebate? They should give every person in Nova Scotia a rebate on their gas tax for every penny of toll that they pick up. The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency (Interruption) You know, about two years ago there was an election and, unfortunately, the Liberal Government won. They are still asking questions, Madam Speaker. Have they not taken charge yet?
The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency is very encouraged by this bill, he says it is new, it is innovative, it is all of those words, it is probably another jewel in the crown of road building or something. You know, the people in Cumberland County are saying this is not good for economic development. They say it is added to the (Interruption) What is that guy laughing for? (Interruption) Well, it is the tapestry of the trolls. There are so many little buzz-words floating around over there that it is hard to keep up with them.
Economic renewal and economic development, the people in business in Cumberland County are saying this is an added penalty, this is an added cost for them doing business. But yet, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency says it is not. But, as an example, a gentleman in business that is hauling aggregate from Colchester County through Cumberland to sell to somebody in New Brunswick, is going to pay the toll. It is going to mean he is going to spend at least $24 per trip extra, more than he had to pay before.
Who is going to pick that up? Is he going to reduce the price of his goods by $24 or is he going to try to add it on? I will tell you what is going to happen. The people in Amherst are not going to be buying from someone in Cumberland, they are going to be buying it from somebody in New Brunswick. This is what you call economic development for New Brunswick and by the press reports that you see every other day, they don't need the help of the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency from Nova Scotia. They are doing very nicely on their own.
The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency for Nova Scotia had better start putting Nova Scotia first and start listening to the small businessmen. The Truckers Association of Nova Scotia is made up of small businessmen. Isn't he the minister that represents them? Shouldn't he be speaking to the Minister of Transportation trying to make some sense out of this? But where are they? They seem to have forgotten the people that elected them.
The Savage Government admits it is putting tolls on an old section of Highway No. 104. That is not fair, putting it on an old section of road, it is just not fair. Why are they picking on the people who live in Oxford, the blueberry capital in Canada and pretty near the blueberry capital of the world? They are picking on those people, "Mad enough to join N.B.". "Secession! Let's join New Brunswick!". This is what the newspapers are telling us. "Highway toll raises threat of secession". We haven't heard talk like that since Joe Howe was leading the charge against Confederation over 100 years ago and now we are hearing it again (Interruption) No, but I can read.
What did Brent Fox from The Kentville Advertiser have to say? "The whole thing may not have been outright highway robbery, but it certainly was a bad call on the part of Transportation Minister.". This is what the editorial writers are saying, this is what Nova Scotians are saying. But is this government listening?
"Highway tolls and casinos signs of the new times". I wouldn't want to be part of a government that the only thing the Cape Breton Post can say is casinos and toll roads. "Nova Scotia will get a user-pay highway.", the newspapers suggests, "The users are already paying.", and the users feel they are already paying. When you get down to it, they certainly are paying, because last year in fuel taxes the Department of Transportation and this government collected $197 million, for motor vehicle registration $58 million; that comes to a total of $255 million, now that is a lot of money. This year the capital and current budget for the department is $220.853 million.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, the Department of Transportation and Communications does not collect fuel tax.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you for the point of clarification.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, isn't that a revolutionary thought. The Minister of Transportation jumps to his feet to say the Department of Transportation doesn't collect the fuel tax. You know, come on. Why don't you stand up and tell us where this foolish idea to put the tolls came from and tell us in a reasonable explanation of what happened to the $26 million and why won't you put it back? That is what the people want to hear.
Oh, I know the Minister of Transportation will dig out more letters from two years or 10 or 20 years ago, why the greatest thing was all those papers he had rattling away last year, bring them all out, bring out my letters, it doesn't bother me what letters you bring out, the more the better.
But you know, nobody is interested in yesterday. People are interested in tomorrow and what you are doing today. I don't mind standing around telling you and telling Nova Scotians that there was a government that was committed to four laned highway construction and infrastructure in this province. I am not embarrassed about that in the least. (Interruptions)
Oh, you keep saying you don't tell us where the money is. Listen, how many times do you have to tell the gentleman where the money was to build the road. I mean, time and again, he is the minister, tell him to look it up.
This what they said in the Truro Daily News, John Savage should be giving that money back now and forcing Mr. Mann to retire. Now I believe that is a fact, the Premier should ask for the resignation of the Minister of Transportation. He should put the money back because what has happened now is not (Interruption) Well, the writer said resign or retire, I think you ought to resign. In all honesty and sincerity . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: You are a tad off the mark here in your debate on the principle of the bill, honourable member, so I would like you to try and draw it back in now, if you would be so kind.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you. From the Amherst Daily News, as a businessman in Cumberland County, we feel we are being singled out by imposing a toll on a new highway which we must use to do business with the rest of the province. Nowhere else in the province are the people required to pay for the use of the 100-Series Highways.
Well, the purpose from time to time reviewing some of the highlights from the press clippings from around the province is simply this, the Minister of Transportation has heard many people in this Chamber and on the street and on the airwaves say, put the money back. He has chosen to ignore their pleadings. I am reinforcing the opinion of Nova Scotians. If the Minister of Transportation can find one person who says it was a good idea to shift the money from where it was supposed to be under the SHIP agreement, well, I hope he reads their letters because there can't be too many. (Interruption)
Oh, he says Alfie MacLeod, President of the PC Party of Nova Scotia. Alfie MacLeod said, build the Fleur-de-lis Trail. I told you a few minutes ago, I announced we were building the Fleur-de-lis Trail and we were working in conjunction with the federal government to bring in a federal-provincial tourism development agreement to do just that.
Now many years ago, the Fleur-de-lis Trail was a high priority with the government. But, unfortunately, part of that road, 20 kilometres, goes through a federal park and the federal government said, you are not building roads through the park. The federal government has now changed its mind and said, yes, you can build a road through the federal park. The interesting thing about this is this will be the first road built through a federal park by a provincial government that the provincial government pays for. All other roads in federal parks, the federal government picks up the tab, but not here. Why doesn't this minister go to Ottawa and negotiate with his federal partners?
The opportunity is there to negotiate with Ottawa because upon the cancellation of the Halifax Harbour clean-up, there is over $200 million; with the cancellation of the landing system that IMP was building in Sydney, there is another $70 million. Now if the minister was so dedicated to Nova Scotia, why aren't they talking to Ottawa and saying, listen, we need assistance building infrastructure in Nova Scotia. We know that the railways have been on the course of abandonment through this province; they have been privatized, they have been sold and now the whole works is being sold. When that happened in Newfoundland, the federal government came in and built them some roads as replacements.
What happens in Nova Scotia? What happens to all the money from the transfer and the loss of the federal transportation assistance, what happens to that money? What does the minister have planned for that? You see, there are opportunities to share with the federal government but you sort of have to ask. They are not coming to town and saying, look, why don't we do this, guys. The Nova Scotia Government has to get a few priorities and they have to go to Ottawa and say, these are our priorities but it is a lot easier just to say I will just stick it to those people in Cumberland County. We have beaten up on them so bad now, they are mad at us, they can't get any madder, so they stick it to them again. This isn't fair.
Now there are a couple of things I know the minister is going to talk about. One of them is the SHIP agreement. He talks about it all the time but clearly in the SHIP agreement, it indicates that this is for infrastructure on . . .
HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order. We should not be talking about the SHIP agreement because it is not in the legislation.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you on that point of clarification.
MR. ARCHIBALD: He made it much clearer. Alfie McLeod's letter wasn't in either but yesterday he was talking about it. Do you see what I mean? This guy is a real piece of work.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I just would like to caution you. We are not guys in this Chamber, we are honourable members.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Some more honourable than others and he is an honourable member. Well the SHIP agreement is a highway strengthening program for national infrastructure. I was sitting there talking to the federal government, it was for infrastructure on the national highway system. They would not have given the $100 million if they had thought we were going to build anything but the infrastructure of the Trans Canada Highway. The government has changed, yes, (Interruptions)
Well, this is a marvellous thing too. The minister said, well, why did you put the money. The great thing about it is that the Minister of Transportation has what you would call a selective memory and a selective library because he just pulls out the letters from the air that he wants to. He doesn't pull them all out.
The Minister of Transportation should know full well when I stopped being Minister of Transportation, we had the agreement signed, the total dollar value was there. There was not any designation of which roads within the national highway system were going to be receiving the funds. You see? This is the great thing about the minister. He forgets that it was October 1993 when the final decision was made where all the money was going to be located.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, the agreement that he is quoting from, the clauses of the agreement clearly point out Schedules A and B. Now he is talking about the sign off of Schedule B. Schedule B may have been signed by department staff in October but it was decided in April or previously by that administration.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, in speaking to that point of order, I can't help in pointing out as the minister raises the different schedules, that the minister when he was tabling all of his documents the other day, as amendments to particular SHIP agreements, that the minister failed to table the amendments that were made to the particular SHIP agreement that has been discussed, the one dealing with 1994-95, and through to the present.
MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. I think these are interesting sub-debates but they aren't points of order.
MR. ARCHIBALD: It is very difficult to sort out all these points of order. There is absolutely no justification. Now the minister can turn cartwheels if he wants. He can bring out all the agreements, he can bring out a stack of paper twice as high as this. He is not going to convince any Nova Scotian that there is anything in here that says you should put the $26 million off the Highway No. 104 project into any other project.
Now it just doesn't make sense. I know originally the minister stood up in his defence. Well the first defence was that it was just a bureaucratic attack. In his next defence he said, well Ron Giffin and Jack MacIsaac, two former Ministers of the Crown, made him do it. It was their idea to do this. He blamed them for it. Then he blamed me for it. I don't know who he is going to blame next. I can't wait . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Not the Premier.
MR. ARCHIBALD: No, not the Premier. No, the Premier is too busy opening schools and hospitals. (Interruption) Yes. So you see, there is no justification for this. We read in the paper that a Cabinet Minister said this was not even discussed in Cabinet in any depth or detail. It whooshed through.
AN HON. MEMBER: Who said this?
MR. ARCHIBALD: I don't know. I forget which one said it, but it just whooshed through and it was not brought out very clearly that money was being diverted. You know, it is not right. It is not fair and the minister, I believe, in all honesty, owes an apology to Nova Scotians, particularly Nova Scotians in Cumberland County because they have been singled out as no other region in Nova Scotia past or present has been singled out. Well, in the future, people are living in fear and terror of where this government will strike next, because no other region of the province could stand the attack that we have had on Cumberland County.
Now, on this Bill No. 104, an Act to isolate Cumberland County, or, as they refer to it, the Highway No. 104 Western Alignment Act, it is not an agency of Her Majesty; Finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the western alignment and isolate Cumberland County and bankrupt the trucking industry.
Our office had a call from one trucking company executive last week and he said that for his business, it would add $400,000 a year to the bottom line of his company. It is going to cost him $400,000 a year for that toll road. Now, can you imagine what he is already paying through his fuel tax and through his registration fee. You know, this is a businessman trying to get along and this is a new $400,000 tax that he cannot escape if he wants to keep doing business in Nova Scotia.
The Governor in Council will determine the number of members on the board and they will appoint the members on the board. Now, we have seen, from the Human Resources Board appointments who gets appointed. It is not on your ability to know business or know how to build highways, it will be solely on your ability to wear the red tie and vote Liberal in the next election. The criteria for board appointments are: (1) be a Liberal supporter; (2) be a Liberal supporter and that is it. This committee meets and, day after day, that is who is appointed.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: You are on that committee, too, aren't you?
MR. ARCHIBALD: I am on the committee and I see them go by every two weeks and it is Liberal after Liberal and this board will be no different. You know, it goes on, issue bonds, debentures and borrow. Now, look. The Government of Ontario said, we can borrow money cheaper than a private corporation, we might as well build the road. The Government of Nova Scotia can borrow cheaper than a private company, but one of the objects is to shift the debt somewhere else so that it does not show up on our books. Well, that is great. It is out there. Nova Scotians are responsible for it, only this way the Nova Scotia taxpayer is going to pay more. Nobody is going to build a road for nothing. This is not a charity that we have set up here.
AN HON. MEMBER: Do you think they want to make a profit?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Sure they are going to make a profit and I believe profit is a great thing. Companies should make a profit. Buy, by gosh, you know, when you set up a company to gouge the living daylights out of Nova Scotians before you start, it is not fair and it is not right. The Government of Nova Scotia can borrow money a lot easier and a lot cheaper than this corporation will ever be able to borrow and no tax. (Interruption) Well, as long as they don't do what you did and go to Japan and cost us over $1 billion this year . . .
The single biggest increase in the provincial debt happened in the last 12 months. (Interruption) Well, the yen, all right, maybe not dollars, but it is over a $1 billion increase in the provincial debt by shifting the money. Now, if the yen goes way down and our dollar goes up, you will have made money, but if things stay the way they are, it is $1 billion. Now, no tax. They do not have to pay tax. What a break. Freedom of information does not apply. Of course, it probably would not make much difference if it applied or not anyway.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to inform you and other members of the House that I shall not be supporting this bill. I will be voting Nay when I am given the opportunity and I hope that some of the members of the government caucus will stand up for their convictions and stand up for Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians from one end to the other are saying this is unfair on two counts; they want the $26 million returned and they don't want to pay the tolls.
Now, Mr. Speaker, one question I get asked time and again, how much would the tolls be if the $26 million was still there? You would only have to borrow $15 million. Well they are going to build the road for $80 million and they have $50 million (Interruptions)
AN HON. MEMBER: No, they would have to borrow $46 million.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well the estimate for building that road goes from $120 million to $110 million and the other day they indicated $80 million probably. You see it would be a lot easier, a lot cheaper if the $26 million was still there, whether you are building a toll road or whether you are building it under normal construction practices for Nova Scotia.
There is going to be a hardship with construction companies in Nova Scotia because apparently there is only going to be one company that is building the road. What are all the other construction companies going to do in this timeframe? Are we placing an unfair advantage in the hands of one company by this bill and are we going to be devastating all the other construction companies that we need to build other roads in this province? There are more questions than answers as a result of this bill but the primary question on every single Nova Scotian's mind is, when will the minister put the $26 million back and when will the Premier stand up for the rights of Nova Scotians? Nova Scotians do not deserve the kind of treatment they have received.
I urge the Minister of Transportation to return the money or he should resign his position as Minister of Transportation. It is as simple as that, either resign or put the money back. I will be voting against the bill.
MR. SPEAKER: Any further intervenors? I am afraid the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party cannot speak twice.
If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate. (Applause)
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to spend a lot of time because, quite frankly, if you look back at the last few days, there has been very little talk about the principle of the bill. We just heard from the member for Kings North, and I will start where he finished.
I don't believe he once, with the exception possibly of 30 seconds, referred to the bill. Not once did he refer to the principle of the bill. Instead, he spent an hour talking about the Fleur-de-lis Trail, $26 million and so on and so forth.
What is amazing, and I kept notes, Mr. Speaker, and I went back and revisited the comments of the members whose comments I missed, not one member of the Progressive Conservative Party in this House mentioned safety. (Interruptions)
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On three separate occasions during my talk in the last few minutes I mentioned that the primary concern of building the infrastructure was for safety. If the minister had been listening rather than chatting with his neighbour, he would have heard me clearly say that safety is a primary concern of construction of the four lane highways. All the time we had public hearings around the province discussing that route, safety was the number one priority. For that minister to try to mislead the people is not right.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, now we are dealing with one point of order, so if you both will be seated. I am going to rule on that point of order and then I will recognize anyone if they have another one.
On the point of order, I don't believe it is a point of order. It is a difference in facts. I find there is no point of order.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a new point of order, Mr. Speaker, a couple of different times and occasions I asked the minister in Question Period about the 110 kilometres per hour speed posting. Also, if the minister had been here instead of up in Sarnia, Ontario, he would have heard my speech in the debate where I mentioned again my concerns about safety and the construction and the weather and things of that nature. I heard this member about five minutes ago relate his concerns about safety. So safety certainly has been mentioned. Mr. Speaker, we feel these are valid points of order.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Once again, a difference of views, I think I would have to rule there. It is interesting but not a point of order.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a different point of order. During earlier debate this afternoon, my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, made reference to the summary of the Andersen report and the Minister of Transportation, I understand, stood up and said that that report was circulated at the press conference. I am sure that the minister may have intended to do so because it was, in fact, prepared for public distribution, but I think if the minister would like to, and maybe he already has, check with the others who were there, along with myself, all the media members and so on, he will find that he misspoke himself, I am sure inadvertently, this afternoon and that that report was not, in fact, distributed when the minister gave the announcement that he was releasing the bill. The member for Kings North, who was also present at the time, also said it was not. In fact, he was quite interested to read it after I provided him with a copy.
HON. RICHARD MANN: On the point of order . . .
MR. SPEAKER: This point of order?
MR. MANN: . . . I never misspoke myself at all this afternoon, I was very careful about what I said. I said the report was distributed to some today. There were about six different kits that went out the day we announced this. This went out to some, it did not go out to all, just as parts that the members opposite would have received of the press release were not included in some of the other kits. So, if you check Hansard, you will see, what I said, that it was distributed to some. What I said is that members of the Opposition, every time they requested the Arthur Andersen report, requested just that, the Arthur Andersen report. Anyone who had requested a summary of the report has received a copy of that summary, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: On the point of order, I think that we have a difference in views. So, once again, while it is interesting, it does not constitute a breach of order. Therefore I will not allow the point of order.
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, we heard a great deal from the member for Kings North, it was his words not mine, about rhetoric, the appointment of members, where did the money go, the truckers and everything. Now, when you talk about the truckers, we acknowledge that it is going to cost the truckers money to go through the tolls. The reason that Highway No. 104, the present alignment through the Wentworth Valley is so dangerous is because of the mixture of the different traffic that is there. It is not all through traffic, it is local traffic, it is traffic that is trying to travel at different speeds, it is a heavy volume of commercial truck traffic. An effort to make that highway safe, as well as construct a safe alignment west of Highway No. 104, is to divert that commercial truck traffic. There is no secret about that. We are not trying to hide anything with that.
The location of the booths, we have acknowledged, you try to get as much traffic as possible to pay a toll so that this project is viable. Always keeping in mind that the alternative to this is simply not to do the project. I don't think anyone has stood up yet and said they don't want to do the project. I certainly have not said that. This government made a decision, it made a policy decision. It made a policy decision to go forward, the Highway No. 104 western alignment and to collect tolls on that in order to finance the construction, operation and maintenance of that highway. We stand behind that decision, Mr. Speaker.
He says there is only one construction company going to be involved. How does he know that? We haven't gone out for a call for proposals yet and he is telling us that only one company is going to be involved in this.
He talks about gouging. Going through the provincial authority to borrow would be much easier because we can borrow money cheaper. We presently pay 26 per cent in debt service. That is not cheaper, Mr. Speaker. That may have started out to be borrowing at 4 per cent or 6 per cent or 3 per cent but accumulating the deficits, accumulating the borrowing and building up the debt to where it is at today is costing us 26 per cent to service that debt. We cannot continue to add to that debt without running the risk at some point that it is all going to crumble. We know they were good at borrowing. We know that borrowing was easy. We see the results of that today. It is a debt that is crippling this province. So, no, we are not going to continue to gouge our children and our grandchildren and our grandchildren's children by continuing to add to the debt because it might be easier. That's simple, isn't it? Let's borrow money. Let's put it on the credit card, we won't have to pay for it. We won't ever have to pay.
You talk about the lack of money for social programs, health and education. Where did it go? Since 1978, education spending in this province has doubled. Debt service has increased by about 400 times. Is this lost on those people opposite that this has to stop? To just borrow more money and put it on the debt doesn't work. That we continue to lose more and more off the top. We know how the financing was done in this province. As the member for Halifax Fairview, when she got up said, privatization. Why don't we do it the way it has been done in the past? The member for Kings North said it and others. If they don't realize the way we did it in the past has resulted in the debt we have today and in the financial problems that we have today, then God help us all. That is what has created the problem, doing it the way it has always been done.
We talk about if we had $26 million to add on we wouldn't have to borrow so much. We wouldn't have to charge so much. Mr. Speaker, let me say this clearly. If I could go out and negotiate any private/public partner deal, I will attempt to do it with as little public money as possible, not as much, but as little. I don't know why they would want to enter into an agreement to throw as much public money at it as they possibly could. That is not the principle behind public/private partnering.
Mr. Speaker, I am getting carried away, but the corporation, this whole principle of this bill is to provide for the completion of the western alignment faster than would be possible in any other way. It allows the Province of Nova Scotia to achieve $100-plus million infrastructure with a $30 million investment, and one-half of that $30 million is federal dollars. For $15 million, the Province of Nova Scotia gets $100-plus million. The vehicle by which we will do this is through the creation of a non-Crown Corporation.
Now I know we have heard a lot of rhetoric about what this corporation is, what it will do, how it will be made up, who will be on the board of directors, who will appoint them and so on. Mr. Speaker, the corporation, for the most part will be the successful consortium. It is not going to be a group of Liberals that is picked out and put on a corporation, it is going to be the consortium. The Government of Nova Scotia will enter into a contract with that corporation to do everything that has to be done in this. The Government of Nova Scotia will have the say in what is done. The corporation will not have a unilateral say in any other thing, in tolling, in maintenance. That will be done and set out in advance by contract between the government and the corporation.
The honourable member for Pictou Centre said, this is a fundamental change from the way we do business. He's right. That is the one comment I heard that is right on the money. We talk about setting out to exclude this corporation, setting out to exclude this from public scrutiny, not all, Mr. Speaker. We have to attract the private sector to the table. If we want to tie things up with processes that we have used for years, that have frustrated a lot of people,
AN HON. MEMBER: Was the Auditor General . . .
MR. MANN: Talk about the Auditor General. There is no exemption in the bill for the Auditor General. In fact, the legal opinion I have says the Auditor General can look at these books if he wants to. But we have heard from any would-be lawyers over there who have suggested that they know exactly what the law is. Well, I sought legal counsel on this and am advised that the Auditor General can look. We invited him to look at the process so far. We invited him in, no problem. He doesn't want to come but that is his decision.
Mr. Speaker, we have heard from several members that this will be the first toll on the Trans Canada Highway. Well, I thought the Trans Canada Highway went from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Newfoundland. Now one member said, you could travel from the end of Vancouver to the end of Newfoundland without paying a toll. Well, I don't know what you called the fee when you went across the ferry. I don't know what you call the fee you would pay when you go across the ferry to Prince Edward Island. I don't know how you got from the mainland of Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island for 40 years. I don't know what they called that when you stopped and put a token in some place. I don't know what you called that. But this is not the first toll on the Trans Canada Highway.
Madam Speaker, the first trans-Canada route in this country was by rail and that was user pay. That is what this will be, user pay. This is not to penalize anyone. We have listened to the people who said they want a safe route, they want infrastructure. We are trying to give it to them. Money is not and was not in the agreement to do that. We are trying to find an innovative way to do it.
We heard the member for Halifax Atlantic talk about a pot of money and at the same breath he talked about management. Well, that showed me clearly the lack of understanding of the financing and the ability to draw down the finances. There is no pot, there never was a pot. There is an agreement that gives you the ability to draw down funds over a number of years and we spend as much money as we can every year, the money that is given to us.
Mr. Speaker, they talked about the Minister of Transportation having the ability to sign an agreement on behalf of Cabinet, Cabinet on behalf of the government with a corporation. Well, who else would sign it? Who else would sign an agreement, a contract with the corporation? Who else is in a position to do that? No one. It has to be government and the Cabinet as it always is and as it is in many bills, Statutes that are on the books have the authority and the responsibility to do that.
The minister sponsoring the bill, the Minister of Transportation in this case, will represent the government by being the signing authority. I guess just as the Minister of Finance is when money is borrowed for the province or many documents are signed, but I do not know who else would do that. Again, I would say the consortium that bids successfully on this, they will for all intents and purposes become the corporation. The investors are the ones who will put it up.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: I wonder if the minister would entertain a question, I know members of Opposition readily entertain questions. I wonder if the minister would.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the Minister of Transportation entertain a question?
MR. MANN: I thought that the Executive Council entertained questions quite often as well, sure.
MR. SPEAKER: The minister would be more than pleased to have a question from the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Minister of Transportation can tell us when this private consortium is awarded this contract if the truckers and members of the Truckers Association will be paid, if there is any stipulation that is going to ensure that the truckers receive the transportation rate as it now applies?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, we have not even gone out, as I said before, with a call for proposals. How can I tell them what is going to be in the proposals when we have not even asked for them yet.
The Arthur Andersen report that has been waved around, or the summary, has in it a section called conclusion and the first section in that conclusion section says, the final deal or what is received from the proponents, what is received from the contractors, from the developers will differ greatly, probably from what has been presented here. What this is is a sample. It is a model that shows the project can be done. We hope that the private sector will come to us and do better than this. We certainly hope that, but what we have (Interruption) We will award a contract, yes, to design, build and construct.
All I can speak for, Mr. Speaker, is any jobs that are done by the Department of Transportation, we have rates. What comes in from the private sector has to be negotiated, considered and dealt with. I do not even know who is going to bid on this yet. We have three. We anticipate the three will give us bids. If you are asking me if I have a crystal ball to look forward and see what is going to be included, absolutely not.
We heard, Mr. Speaker, about damages, liability. At present, every road that is constructed in the Province of Nova Scotia is constructed by the private sector. The Department of Transportation puts out a tender, it is awarded, the private sector builds the road. They do so, adhering to the specifications with respect to the environment, with respect to safety, with respect to the quality of work, and that job is then under warranty for a period of time. This will be no different.
At the end, when the Department of Transportation presently accepts a road, they also, because it is owned by the province, accept the liability. This road will be built with adherence to the same specifications as we do presently and, when the Department of Transportation accepts that road, they also accept the liability, as they do now.
The member was at the press conference. He knows full well that we anticipate that the corporation will sign a maintenance agreement with the Department of Transportation, protecting and increasing the number of Civil Service jobs, not taking them away as has been suggested by the New Democratic Party, but adding to the network and having it paid for and guaranteed. That is, Mr. Speaker, the sort of thing that I am glad we have an opportunity to correct. So there is no difference here, no risk, no increased liability to people than there is now.
Now, one member, I think it was the Leader of the Opposition, got up and said, well, my gosh, what happens if we build this road and open it and then the corporation goes bankrupt? Wouldn't that be something? We would have a road built and paid for by investors that would be ours for a $15 million investment. Wouldn't that be absolutely terrible? The risk here is by the investors. That is why the corporation does not assume the risk; the investors who loan the money are assuming the risk. The only asset they have is the ability to collect tolls. That is the only asset here. That is why, Mr. Speaker, the investors have the risk, not the province. The very worst the province could do here is to have a road completely built and paid for, for $15 million, and that was completely missed by the Leader of the Opposition. There is no recourse to the Province of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, they talked about the poor advice we got. We went out and we got a consulting company that has international experience in public/private partnerships. They brought in one of the leading engineering consulting companies, McCormick Rankin. They brought in one of three, world-renowned companies on toll revenue-generation that was accepted by the financial community, an English company. Isn't that terrible advice we sought?
You know, we heard the member for Halifax Fairview talk about patronage - but I am not going to get into that - she talked about the anti-privatization aspect and, again, I would remind . . .
MR. JOHN LEEFE: I wonder if the minister would be kind enough to entertain two questions? I am pretty well following the order in which we spoke and there are two matters in the event that if he was not intending to reference them, I would ask him to respond to in wrapping up his remarks.
First, I would like to know why the policy position was taken by government not to subject the level of tolls to the Utility and Review Board for scrutiny and, secondly, can the minister assure the House that although certain sections of the Provincial Finance Act do not apply to the highway that, in fact, the highway will be subject to audit by the government's own auditors and, therefore, reported on in the House of Assembly when the government's Auditor General's Report is tabled by the Minister of Finance annually?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, with respect to the tolls and the URB. You know, it is interesting. Some of my staff met this morning with the Transportation Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, including the President of the Trucker's Association who was here today and who has spoken out against this, Mr. Easson, I believe it was, and when it came up about the URB, he said, my God! let's not subject this to the URB; the increased tolls on the bridges, the first year, is spent paying for the hearings. So don't suggest that everyone is in favour of this.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is fairly obvious, as we did with other bills and I think perhaps some legislation brought forward by the administration of the honourable colleague when exempting certain Acts from the URB is a time process. The URB approve rate increases.
What we have clearly said here is that there will be no rate increases here, other than to cover inflation; there will be no rate increases to generate additional profits or to pay down the debt in a shorter period of time. This will be less than what the URB could be asked to do and a better protection for the people of Nova Scotia. But also, it again brings the private sector to the table, knowing that if we are going to get on with the process, we can get on with the same process, the same reason it is excluded from the Building Code Act so that a building permit is not required because these are items that can be used to unnecessarily delay the project for maybe the wrong reasons, Mr. Speaker, that is why.
Let's talk about the Provincial Finance Act. The corporation is exempt from the Provincial Finance Act because the road is going to be owned by the Province of Nova Scotia. Therefore, given that ownership, it would automatically be assumed to be a Crown Corporation, as per what is contained in the Provincial Finance Act.
The Provincial Finance Act then would limit, would put restrictions on the borrower. In order to not put those restrictions on the borrowing, it is exempted from the Provincial Finance Act. That is why, not to escape public scrutiny. We will insist, we will demand, we will ensure by contract that it is audited. Why, in Heaven's name, would we not want to have it audited?
What we will not do, and if you look at some of the players in the consortia, we will not try to use any legislation to get into the books of companies like Wood Gundy Inc. or Barclays Bank of Canada. We will not do that. We want the investors to come to the table and, Mr. Speaker, as we engage in public/private partnerships, we are going to have to be innovative in how we do that. The benefit of this will be to the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, on a further question. I just want to make sure that I truly understand the minister. Is the minister then saying that the provision respecting the Provincial Finance Act will, in fact, prevent the provincial auditor from auditing the Western Alignment Corporation and, therefore, whatever audit is done privately will not be tabled in the House by the Minister of Finance?
MR. MANN: Well, I am looking back at a little note I made when the member for Queens spoke and he said categorically that the Auditor General is exempted from this. I do not have his legal expertise, I do not pretend to have his legal expertise.
I have not intended, from day one, to exclude the Auditor General from looking at the books. I do not have a legal background, I do not have legal expertise but I did seek a legal opinion. That legal opinion tells me that the Auditor General can look at this if he wants to. (Interruption) I am saying that as far as I am concerned and what I have been told by legal counsel, the Auditor General can look at this.
MR. SPEAKER: The one thing, just to intervene, I realize perhaps the question wasn't particularly talking about it but it is against the Rules of the House of Assembly to seek a legal opinion. So I think the question that has been asked has been answered as best as it is going to be. (Interruption)
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I am going to sum up here by saying, I guess the last thing I would say, the member for Halifax Fairview said - I believe what they said - is that the profits will continue to roll in long after the debt is paid. There is a clause in the bill that says when the debt is paid and the other provisions are looked after, the tolls will cease. So they can rest assured that if this generates more money, as they have been suggesting, and I hope they are right, I really do, then the tolls will cease when all the debt is looked after.
Mr. Speaker, I was pleased that I got accused of whistle blowing the other day - this is a bit of an aside to wrap up - I think the whole point of that was missed. I was not trying to embarrass the previous administration, I couldn't care less. The people of (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Transportation and Communications.
MR. MANN: The people of Nova Scotia have already made that decision. I need not beat on that any more. The point I was trying to make is that the people opposite cannot be all things to all people. You cannot one day kick the living daylights out of something and the next day pretend you are supportive of it, depending on where you are making your statement. That is simply the point I was trying to make. They are on record, they have been on record but when they go to one part of the province, all of a sudden they do the big flip-flop, that's all.
Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 10 and that it go forward to the Law Amendments Committee.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 10. There has been a request by two or more members for a recorded vote.
Ring the bells.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied? I would just advise the members that by all-Party agreement, we will be going through the moment of interruption. There will be no late debate and we will conclude at 7:30 p.m.
We are ready for the question on the motion.
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mrs. Norrie Mr. Donahoe
Mr. Downe Mr. Russell
Mr. Boudreau Mr. Leefe
Mr. Gillis Mr. Holm
Ms. Jolly Mr. Chisholm
Mr. Mann Ms. McDonough
Mr. Casey Mr. Archibald
Mr. Gaudet Mr. Taylor
Mr. O'Malley Mr. McInnes
Mr. M. MacDonald
Mr. W. MacDonald
THE CLERK: For, 30. Against, 9.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 14.
Bill No. 14 - Provincial Dog Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words in moving second reading of this bill. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has sometimes been called Nova Scotia's best kept secret and with good reason. Until the mid-1970's and early 1980's, few people outside the province knew . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Argyle has the floor.
MR. SURETTE: Today, there are approximately six breeders here in the province and two dozen across Canada. The Toller is also known as the Little River Duck Dog due to its place of origin, Little River Harbour, Yarmouth County, found in the constituency of Argyle.
This breed has over 300 years of documented existence in this province. The early use of tolling dogs was recorded in 15th Century Holland. Later these dogs were introduced into England, Belgium and France and it may well have been their presence in France that led to their introduction here in Acadia, which is now known as the Maritime Provinces.
There is documentation that states that the toller was not at any stage of its development influenced by breedings in any other country. The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever can be called the only true Canadian dog. It was developed here in Canada by a Canadian for Canadian hunting purposes.
The retriever was developed to resemble a red fox as it would have the ability to lure game. For some unknown reasons, fox playing on the shore of a body of water will attract waterfowl much like a swallow to a crow, for example. Furthermore, the dog was developed to retrieve game. This duality distinguishes this breed from its European counterpart.
It has, Mr. Speaker, received recognition once before. To mark the 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Kennel Club in 1988, Canada Post unveiled four new dog stamps, each bearing a truly Canadian dog, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever being one of the dogs portrayed.
The preservation and promotion of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is due to the efforts of a handful a dedicated owners and breeders. Colonel Cyril Colwell of Colwell Brothers of Halifax was in large part responsible for promoting the dog until his death in 1962. In 1945, Colonel Colwell succeeded in gaining national recognition for the breed. The Canadian Kennel Club officially recognized the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever as a distinct breed in 1945.
In Yarmouth in the early 1960's, two other breeders, Eldon Pace and Avery Nickerson, devoted much of their time to developing the breed.
Mr. Speaker, on August 12, 1995, this summer, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club of Canada will be holding a national specialty dog show at Cole Harbour Place. This event will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of recognition of the retriever as a distinct breed by the Canadian Kennel Club.
In closing, I find it very appropriate to declare the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever the official provincial dog as it is a living part of our heritage. With that, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, just briefly, I would like to commend the member for bringing forward this bill, the Provincial Dog Act. It is nice to see a bill come before the House that has some teeth.
Mr. Speaker, the first dog that my family and I owned was a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and the breed is a very fine family pet. A provincial mascot bill would be an idea, but my caucus and I just want to express, we do support the bill. We support the member. We think it is a fine pet and it will represent the province well.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, us too.
MR. SPEAKER: I am sure the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley notes that our mutual friend, Eldon Pace, is mentioned by the member for Argyle.
The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 14. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.
[6:10 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. Robert Carruthers in the Chair.]
[6:13 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. Robert Carruthers in the Chair.]
MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:
THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bills:
Bill No. 4 - Utility and Review Board Act.
Bill No. 7 - Financial Measures (1995) Act.
and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read for a third time on a future day.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform all members of the House that the hours tomorrow will be between 9:00 a.m. until we complete business. Following the daily routine, we will do Committee of the Whole House on Supply and, as well, the Subcommittee on Supply will meet in the Red Room.
I move that we adjourn until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.
MR. SPEAKER: We have a motion to adjourn. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The House will adjourn to meet again tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.
[The House rose at 6:17 p.m.]
QUESTION NO. 26
By: Mr. Ronald Russell (Hants West)
To: Hon. John Savage (The Premier)
(1) I want to know, as does Mr. A. Amero of Kings County, what is the rationale of the present Liberal Government in allowing 50 per cent of the revenues from the Sydney casino to be allotted to the native community?
QUESTION NO. 27
By: Mr. George Moody (Kings West)
To: Hon. Ronald Stewart (Minister of Health)
(1) I want to know, as does Mr. C. Whynot, Bridgewater, how the minister can support the new seniors' Pharmacare Program, which unduly burdens some seniors, while he himself is not willing to come clean on his expense accounts before the House of Assembly and the Nova Scotia taxpayers?