MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time to commence today's proceedings. Are there any introductions of guests in the gallery before we begin? If not, we will commence the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas November 14th is designated National Operating Room Nurse Day to acknowledge and generate awareness for the many achievements, responsibilities and contributions of operating room nurses across Nova Scotia; and
Whereas registered operating room nurses perform a variety of roles in the provision of pre-operative, intra-operative and post-operative care; and
Whereas operating room nurses are highly skilled professionals who ensure quality nursing care in the operating room; are committed to quality patient care and education; collaborate with the health care team, patient and family; and who actively promote and advance peri-operative nursing practices;
Therefore be it resolved that this House and Nova Scotians acknowledge the dedication and commitment of all operating room nurses in the province and recognize November 14th as National Operating Room Nurse Day in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried. (Applause)
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Minister of Education is on record as having made the commitment to circulate a draft Education Bill before presenting it in this Legislature; and
Whereas the minister broke that promise only weeks before the Legislature session began, leaving the school boards and the teachers and even his own caucus without any chance to preview a piece of legislation which overhauls and combines two current pieces of legislation, as well as collective bargaining rights; and
Whereas once the bill was finally released to the public and the stakeholders and the Members of the Legislative Assembly, the minister was alerted from all sides of the dozens of serious problems that the bill raised in its present form, particularly as to adverse consequences for our province's students;
Therefore be it resolved that had the Minister of Education stuck to his promise and reviewed the legislation with those affected, the province's schools - the boards, students, parents and teachers - would not be in the present state of confusion they now find themselves in.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
It appears to be a commentary on a bill before the House, but I will allow it to be tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Education Minister is assuring Nova Scotians that the many alarming and offensive provisions of his new Education Act will be changed in the twinkling on an eye through negotiations among lawyers; and
Whereas the minister is also telling Nova Scotians that everyone knew and no one opposed the Act's provisions before he introduced it; and
Whereas as the minister spins his conspiracy theories about the Teachers Union, many of who are dedicated Liberals, he is single-handedly creating one of the largest credibility gaps in Savage Government history;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Education Minister to recognize that many parents, students, teachers and school staff are just now learning the exact provision of the Education Act so that his efforts to quickly, sign, seal and deliver final legislation are bound to increase their mistrust.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, again, I'll allow that to be tabled, but I hope that that will be the last one today that seeks to comment on a bill that is now before the House. It is really out of order, but I am allowing them to be tabled in the spirit of charity.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas in the span of a couple of weeks, the deficit in the new Cape Breton Regional Government has jumped from approximately $4 million to approximately $15 million today; and
Whereas the taxpayers in the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality, who will be forced to pay this huge deficit through lost services, increased taxes or a combination of both, are entitled to an explanation as to how their promised surplus turned into a deficit; and
Whereas Mayor John Coady has said, the policies of the Department of Municipal Affairs are responsible for their financial crisis;
Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the architects of this regional government in Cape Breton, own up to their responsibility for the financial mess in Cape Breton, that they recognize the people of industrial Cape Breton are entitled to a full and complete explanation and that they immediately call on the provincial Auditor General to review the reasons for this huge deficit facing an administration that is barely three months old.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I would first of all want to make sure that this is not a double-barrelled resolution.
It is not. All right, I will take the member's word for it that it is not.
Is there unanimous consent that notice be waived?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Elmsdale Lumber Company, run by the Wilber family since the turn of the century with 70 employees, has recently completed a $3 million modernization of the plant, which has increased its production by a third and raised the quality of its lumber; and
Whereas by upgrading its sawmill and kiln with new state-of-the-art technologies, Elmsdale Lumber Company is better poised to compete on the global market and increase its domestic and external markets; and
Whereas recently the completed modernization was financed with loans from ACOA and the Nova Scotia Business Development Corporation;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Wilber family and all the employees of Elmsdale Lumber Company on the completion of the $3 million modernization of their plant and wish them every success in the expanding Nova Scotia sawmill industry.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that there be waiver of notice?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Argyle.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Mr. Laurent d'Entremont of Lower West Pubnico assists tourists at the Acadian museum in Pubnico under the auspices of this government's Summer Works Program; and
Whereas Mr. d'Entremont also conducts tours of the community in vintage cars such as Model A's and Model T's; and
Whereas Mr. d'Entremont was awarded the Travel Trade Award of Excellence at the 1995 Tourism Conference and Trade Show held at the World Trade and Convention Centre;
Therefore be it resolved that this House extends to Mr. d'Entremont its congratulations and best wishes on being awarded this prestigious award for his role in the promotion of tourism in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas many Nova Scotians were justifiably proud when the member for Cumberland South, as Housing and Consumer Affairs Minister, acted quickly to prevent negative-option marketing of cable TV services in Nova Scotia; and
Whereas eight days ago, Maritime Tel & Tel began negative-option marketing of phone services, delivering three new options without advance notice or customer request, ready to bill for any use made by anyone; and
Whereas this provides an opportunity for the new Housing and Consumer Affairs Minister to demonstrate that she is equally ready to protect Nova Scotia consumers;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs to effectively and vigorously ensure that MT&T adheres to the ban enacted by this House in 1994 on negative-option marketing.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
I see a class coming into the gallery, perhaps the member for that district could introduce them when they fully arrive.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Premier stated on Thursday that it is his role as Premier of the province to speak to his federal counterparts when federal matters will impact on Nova Scotia; and
Whereas this same Premier was singing a different tune in 1993, when he refused to speak on behalf of Nova Scotians to his federal counterparts regarding such matters as the EH-101 helicopter project; and
Whereas in 1993, the Premier admitted that he did not try to fight for the high-tech jobs and the renewal of the military and land and sea rescue capabilities of our helicopter fleet - which were lost with the federal Liberal's decision to cancel the project - for fear he might embarrass his counterparts in Ottawa;
Therefore be it resolved that this Premier be commended for finally recognizing Thursday that his duty is to represent the best interests of Nova Scotians and not those of the Liberal Party.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Eastern Shore.
MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Eastern Shore Community is proud to recognize the many talented artists and writers including Lesley Choyce; and
Whereas this resident writer and publisher recently released his new book of poetry called The Coastline of Forgetting; and
Whereas this poetic journal documents his time hiking and recording the life along a small part of our beautiful Nova Scotian coastline from Lawrencetown River to Grand Desert;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly congratulate the outstanding writing talent of Lesley Choyce for his reflections of a community's pride in our culture and heritage along the Eastern Shore.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.
MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Goldboro/Isaac's Harbour Community Development Association has received a grant to develop Goldboro/Isaac's Harbour Wharf as a tourist facility; and
Whereas this beautiful and tranquil harbour, along the Marine Drive, has the potential to attract sailing enthusiasts and recreational fishers to the area; and
Whereas the restored wharf will include a docking facility, boat launch, parking area, outdoor toilets and picnic tables, which will make the area more attractive for local residents and visitors alike;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Goldboro/Isaac's Harbour Community Development Association for their efforts in advancing this important project to further develop the tourist infrastructure of the Marine Drive Nature Tour.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas businesses in the Annapolis Valley are extremely upset about the premiums imposed upon them by the Workers' Compensation Board; and
Whereas the situation surrounding costs has placed a terrible economic hardship upon some Annapolis Valley businesses; and
Whereas the situation is reportedly so severe that some business owners in the Annapolis Valley may have to close up shop because they cannot pay the premiums;
Therefore be it resolved that the government show some heart and reassure employers and employees that they will keep their word that the premium appeal process is independent, that financing will be made available to those employers who need it and that intimidation will not be used to enforce the new rules recently passed under the new Workers' Compensation Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
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 students at the Adult Vocational Training Centre in Dartmouth gained a meeting with the Minister of Education by coming to Province House last week; and
Whereas the student association has since emphasized the concern that valuable instructors and training quality may be lost due to the uncertainty created by the campus' looming shut down; and
Whereas within two weeks the minister is to be in touch with the Adult Vocational Training Centre students about such commitments as ensuring that the unique AVTC programs continue at other metro campuses and about the course review;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Minister of Education to fully involve students and instructional staff in the review of AVTC and community college courses and to address the many concerns and outcomes that are arising from his preemptory shutdown of the AVTC and four other campuses.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Shaw Group has recently opened a wood pellet fuel plant in Milford, under the name, Eastern Embers; and
Whereas the new Eastern Embers plant represents a $2 million investment in community economic development in Hants East and will in time create 10 direct jobs; and
Whereas wood pellets are an environmentally friendly fuel, which adds value to the raw wood product, and will use waste product from four local sawmills: the Ledwidge Mill, Elmsdale Lumber, Julimar and the White Lumber Mills;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Shaw Group and the employees of Eastern Embers for developing this new wood pellet fuel industry in Hants East.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage with debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Minister of Community Services.
HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce to you and other members of the House, in the east gallery, 22 students from the Grade 6 class in Mount Edward School in Dartmouth. They are accompanied by their teacher, Robert MacDonald and volunteers: Mrs. Giberson, Mrs. Brooks and Mr. Crosby. I would ask them all to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Spring Haven Canoe Outfitting of Tusket is a locally owned and operated business; and
Whereas Spring Haven Canoe Outfitting is very active in the tourism industry of this province; and
Whereas Spring Haven Canoe Outfitting was awarded the Adventure Tourism and Recreation Award by the Academy of Tourism Awards during the 1995 Tourism Conference and Trade Show held at the World Trade and Convention Centre;
Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations and best wishes to Larry Muise of Spring Haven Canoe Outfitting for his outstanding accomplishment in the promotion of tourism in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Cape Breton municipal employees suffered months of uncertainty with the loss of hundreds of jobs, labour unrest and disruption supposedly so that amalgamation would reduce tax bills and provide more efficient government; and
Whereas like many private sector employers, the regional municipality has combined massive job losses with a jump in cost, confusion and the resulting higher taxes; and
Whereas any worker or labour representative who believed Liberal promises about amalgamation has been burned by this government;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to ensure full open and audited accountability to the public and to public employees for the metro amalgamation and all others conducted under the direct authority of the province.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
I wish to advise the House that the late debate at 6:00 p.m. this afternoon will feature the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on the topic that was drawn Thursday of last week. (Interruption) What is the topic? The topic is:
Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government live up to its commitment of openness and accountability by responding to freedom of information requests responsibly and not place an excessive price tag on its original commitment to openness.
That is the topic and we will hear a discussion on that at 6:00 o'clock this afternoon.
That would appear to conclude the daily routine. The time, we will say now, is 12:24 p.m. so the Oral Question Period will run for one hour, until 1:24 p.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The minister, on occasion, uses terms like world-class education and academic excellence, and on November 1st in debate, he related that he had joined with other provinces to develop a core curricula on the regional level and also on a national level, that he was developing national standards and national indicators of success.
Would the minister confirm that he has, in fact, developed new curricula guidelines in math, science and language arts?
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I think it would be unfair to suggest that I did this, but the four Atlantic Provinces have developed a core curricula which is now being piloted in some schools in Nova Scotia.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer. Will the minister confirm that while these were developed in conjunction with other areas, that these curricula guidelines have been circulated around the province and will be the basis of curricula development in this province in these three particular study areas?
MR. MACEACHERN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable Leader of the Opposition that that is the plan. Now, as to when it can be fully implemented, that will depend on how the progress is. I can remind him that about two years ago, the four Premiers of the Atlantic Provinces met and gave the direction to the four Ministers of Education, in fact, to develop a core curriculum with graduation outcomes and other accountability measures and that it be developed, and we are in the process of doing that.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will be tabling three documents regarding the curricula in these three study areas. Would the minister inform the House why it is, when he speaks about world-class education, that these three study areas each have an objective that reads, "By the end of grade 6, students will have achieved the outcomes for entry-grade 3 . . .", which means a completion of Grade 2; "By the end of grade 9, students will have achieved the outcomes for entry-grade 6 . . .", meaning they have completed Grade 5; "By the end of grade 12, students will have achieved the outcomes for entry-grade 9 . . .", meaning completed Grade 8?
AN HON. MEMBER: That is some standard.
ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: That is disgraceful.
DR. HAMM: Will the minister explain why it is that the recipients of a Grade 12 matriculation certificate will mean, for some students, they have a Grade 12 education; for another student, a Grade 11 education; for another student, a Grade 10 education; and others, they merely had an academic achievement completing Grade 8? Can the minister explain that in light of his declaration of world-class education?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I don't understand the honourable member's question. If I might for a moment, the graduation outcome is when the students graduate from Grade 12; they will have graduated from Grade 12 and the graduation outcomes that are there. I think what he is referring to, very specifically - I am guessing - it is, for example, mathematics. That comes from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Those numbers are there and they refer to very particular standards. I will provide him with some information relative to that as soon as I can.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to direct questions to the Minister of Education who, just a very short while ago, held a press conference downstairs and talked about the new approach that he and his government is taking, saying that the government is trying to work its way through the very complexities of the many changes it is trying to bring forward.
My question to the minister, however, is quite specific. Given the importance of the changes the minister is supposedly trying to bring about in the education system and given the importance of the changes that the minister is trying to bring about which are going to impact upon all of the children and the communities across this province, my question is, quite simply, why is it that the minister is not prepared to do, as has been done with other complicated and complex issues in the past in other legislation, and that is to set this bill aside and to have public hearings held on the new bill between sessions?
MR. SPEAKER: I want to state, before allowing that question, that this is a procedural question and it does not relate to the content of the bill in any way.
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, by the way, I just glanced through the House, I had four members at the end of the House on Friday direct, actually, that they wanted me to continue to consult with people. The people I have been talking to, the proposals that they are making are not substantive or deal with the principle of the bill that has been canvassed across the Province of Nova Scotia for the last two and one-half years. The questions being asked are very specifically about the language and the intent and to find out if the language does, in fact, express the intent. We are dealing with those; in fact, the progress we are dealing with the largest quantity of objections, in fact, is moving very well. I don't see any need. We have the Law Amendments Committee, we have Committee of the Whole House on Bills, and we will scan those very carefully.
There isn't a detail in this that hasn't been canvassed across the Province of Nova Scotia over the last two and one-half years.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister's interpretation of the public reaction is a little different from that of many others. I would suggest that many might challenge the statement that the things that are in the legislation have not had broad public consultation, but I'm dealing with process, Mr. Speaker, so I am not going to get into any of those details.
My question to the minister then, since he has said that he is not prepared to have public consultation, how is the minister going to ensure that those in the communities, parents and so on across the province, not just the major organizations, are able to find out about the legislation and actually have an opportunity to have meaningful input, given the fact that the minister is unprepared to have public hearings on the bill?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I am a bit puzzled here. The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party was part of the group who asked us last day to take a week to bring this to the Law Amendments Committee, that was the request that was made the last day, and I don't know what he is asking now. It is like he is getting back to his hoist concept that he had the week before.
The agreement that was made by the House was that this go to the Law Amendments Committee next Monday, that it pass through Law Amendments, that it comes back to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, and that I be given the week to work on concerns that people have and I am doing that.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the minister that, indeed, I wanted to ensure that there was a minimum of a week instead of the two days that probably would have been provided, had the bill not gone through on Friday, which is the implication that was given and we would like to slow this down so that the people in this province will get an opportunity to find out what is going on.
My final question to the minister is quite simply this, if the minister genuinely values input, the minister has already acknowledged that there are major problems with the legislation that he, on behalf of all members of the Liberals caucus, introduced. My question is, why is it then that the minister did not provide the bill to the education partners in advance as he promised instead choosing to fast-track the legislation to try to get it in and out of here before the general public has had a meaningful opportunity to find what was in the bill . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Now, that seems to be imputing motives.
MR. HOLM: . . . and have their input?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question, I've given twice in the House already, but I would be pleased to give it again.
It was the intent of myself to bring this, in a draft form, out for consideration at least two weeks before it was tabled in the House. The caucus and the Cabinet wanted to examine it line by line, which they did and they had significant input during those two weeks. It was the Wednesday before it came to the House that, in fact, I was able to do that. But in return what I have done, by the way, and we have been doing it, I've offered to the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the School Boards Association, and anyone else, the time of myself and my staff. In fact, even last day, I offered members of the Opposition my time and my staff's time to answer any questions and take any input they might want to have as well, because of that very circumstance I wasn't able to do.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question, as well, is to be directed through you to the Minister of Education, and it relates to procedural elements relative to Bill No. 39 as well.
I would ask the minister, Mr. Speaker through you, in light of the fact that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has scheduled a strike vote for Friday of this week, I ask the minister to indicate here in this House now, if he has developed a strategy to ensure there is no interruption in the province's schools, particularly as the students are now approaching Christmas examination time, a most crucial time for thousands of young Nova Scotian students?
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Well, Mr. Speaker, if I might, we had an announcement on Monday morning that, in fact, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union were about to have a strike vote on Friday, that might be executed at some particular time. Such a strike would be illegal and we would have to deal with it accordingly.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, learning that there is no contingency plan, by way of supplementary, I would ask if the minister has, in fact, met with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to address the numerous concerns which the union has raised in relation to Bill No. 39. Has he, in fact, either personally or by way of senior officials had meetings with the NSTU to respond or address the NSTU's concerns?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I personally met with the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, as I did with the President of the School Boards Association. I met with CUPE. I met with the home schoolers and I met with several other groups who wanted to discuss some concerns with the Education Act. I met with the full executive of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and recorded their concerns and any other group who has an interest in education, I would be pleased to do that, because it is very important to recognize that the teachers and the students of this province, we have to protect the programs that are there and we have to build from where we are to make the education system stronger.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, it occurs to me, Mr. Speaker, what is very important to recognize is that if the very meetings which are now taking place had taken place prior to the introduction of the bill, we would not be in the mess and the chaos that we are.
I ask the minister, through you, if I may, Mr. Speaker, if he will tell this House whether this minister has given commitments to the Nova Scotia Teachers Union that he will indeed make amendments, come forward with amendments to Bill No. 39 to respond either in full or in part to the issues and concerns raised with him by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that in fact I gave commitments to this House on Friday that if there were concerns that could be addressed in the Law Amendments Committee that I would propose such amendments and that they would introduced the first day. That was actually an agreement of the members of this House on Friday and that is the direction under which I am working.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel, a new question.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Education through you is to ask if he will tell this House whether he has given a commitment to the Nova Scotia Teachers Union that he will make changes, that he will come forward with amendments or proposed changes to Bill No. 39 to respond to any or all of the concerns which the NSTU has raised with him?
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, if I might, I repeat that I stated publicly in this House that if there are concerns that the bill does not express the intent that I have publicly stated across this province, then, yes, we will work to make changes. As an example, there is a general consensus across this province that school councils be advisory. If there is some doubt in the language that that is what they are, we will solve that doubt by changing the language. I made that commitment to this House and I am sure that, in fact, members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union were in the House when I made that. So, I am certain that that commitment has been made.
MR. DONAHOE: I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if I may ask the minister, through you, if he will indicate to this House if he has a sense or an estimate of the number of clauses of Bill No. 39 in relation to which the minister will be proposing amendments or changes in order to respond to the issues raised with him by the NSTU?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, it would be a guess, and I am not here to guess. We will know next Monday, but I can assure the honourable member that there will be many fewer than the amendments that the previous government made to the privatization of the Nova Scotia Power Corporation.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, again, through you to the Minister of Education, I wonder if the minister will indicate to this House whether or not he has given a commitment, upon which he will act, to the Nova Scotia School Boards Association to make changes, to come forward with amendments to Bill No. 39 to respond to concerns and issues raised with him by that association?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I did meet with the Nova Scotia School Boards Association. They expressed some concerns that they had with the bill, none of them substantive, about the principles of the bill. I told them that I would take their concerns back and I think that some of those can be accommodated, yes.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Through you, Mr. Speaker, again, if I may, to the Minister of Education, would the Minister of Education indicate to this House whether or not he has made a commitment to either the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, the NSTU or the Nova Scotia Federation of Home and School Associations, or to any individual that the, the minister, or any of his officials or anyone on his behalf, will review such amendments with those individuals or organizations before any such amendments are, in fact, proposed to this Legislature's Law Amendments Committee?
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that, in fact, the amendments in the form that they will appear before the Law Amendments Committee will be tabled in the Law Amendments Committee, that is where they will appear. It is entirely correct, I think, to discuss concerns that people have about the present language and consider possibilities of language changes. That will be there.
The final amendments will, in fact, be placed before the Law Amendments Committee for further consideration because that is what my job is, to propose amendments to the Law Amendments Committee and to this House, not to commit that the amendments be finally passed through this House. They are just to be proposed to the Law Amendments Committee for consideration and that will happen.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Education if he will indicate to this House why it is that the minister failed to make these changes and have these discussions which are leading to, what I understand from his press conference a little while ago, a very extensive or substantial number of changes, why the minister did not make these changes and have these discussions prior to the introduction of Bill No. 39 so that we wouldn't be in the very difficult and messy situation we are relative to that bill?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I read in this morning's paper that the honourable member suggested that I shouldn't be talking to these people at all. I have great difficulty when, in fact, the House agreed that that is what I was to do, before we dismissed on Friday, but the honourable member obviously didn't check with his Leader because that was the concern we had.
I can tell the honourable member and I will give a very concrete example here, we travelled the province to talk about school councils. We expressed and we thought we had expressed very clearly in the bill that these be advisory. Under its role it said, give advice, give advice, give advice, so we gathered that that would be advisory. However, there was some discomfort because the title of that clause says school councils and we were requested to put school advisory council. Well now, that is not a profound amendment and if the honourable former Leader of the Opposition would suggest that that requires significant debate, I have great difficulties because that is just comfort. Those kinds of things can be accommodated very quickly and we would discuss them one after the other.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to get into a debate, and I am not permitted, as you would rightly point out to me, about the substantive issues relative to Bill No. 39. My understanding, from discussions with a number of people over the weekend, is that in order for the minister to come within light years of responding in anything like a fulsome way to the concerns raised by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Nova Scotia School Boards Association, Nova Scotia Federation of Home and School Associations and parents groups, there will have to be, when the minister comes forward to the Law Amendments Committee, an awful lot more than what he likes to refer to and did in his press conference downstairs just now as, " . . . comfort amendments.".
I ask the minister this, if I may, I think it is clear that some many if not all of the amendments which the minister will present to the Law Amendments Committee next Monday, will be amendments and changes to the bill which are the direct result of discussion and meeting and dialogue with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Nova Scotia School Boards Association and perhaps others and that those other organizations will be full participants in the development of the language which the minister will present to the Law Amendments Committee. As a colleague legislator here in the Legislature of the Province of Nova Scotia I ask the minister this, will he give a commitment to his colleague members of this House that prior to making his presentation to the Law Amendments Committee, he will share the substance of those proposed amendments with all of the members of the Legislature, as he will have with Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Nova Scotia School Boards Association and others, so that those of us who will participate in the Law Amendments Committee review and work will have the same kind of advance understanding of the impact or an opportunity to assess the impact of those changes which will already have been discussed with bodies outside of this Legislature? Will the minister give such an undertaking?
MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, my understanding, the direction that I received last day and I was just reading some of the comments, for example, the honourable member for Kings, he suggested in his comments that, "Well, we know it isn't perfect, . . ." referring to the bill, ". . . and we will find out from the government whether they are really listening, if those changes will be made before they come back from the Law Amendments Committee.", so his recommendation is that I do that, "If not, I guess I will have another opportunity, . . ." to speak to this.
My understanding is that I am to take to the Law Amendments Committee, because that was the arrangement made last day, the proposed amendments, and if, in fact, I can get clearance from my House Leader that that is the due process, then, Mr. Speaker, maybe I will even speak to you about this, about how that could be provided. I have no difficulty in providing it, because it is not being done in secret as the honourable member seems to be implying.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Last week, I asked the minister if she would confirm the deficit in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality was between $10 million and $12 million. The minister indicated that if I wanted clarification, I should contact the municipality. Well, in light of the fact that the deficit now appears to be closer to $15 million, I was wondering if the minister would tell the House of any action that her department is planning to take to help alleviate this crisis for the regional municipality as well as the residents that live there, the crisis which Mayor John Coady has indicated is the result of her government's policies?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to tell the honourable member, as I told the honourable member I believe last week when he asked questions, that we had a meeting with the council and some of the staff of the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality. They brought forward some suggestions as to what they thought might be possible solutions to the difficulty. I offered my staff to meet with them and, in actual fact, that meeting is taking place today.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, again, I would like ask a question through you to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The former City Manager for the City of Sydney indicates that the $4 million figure being bandied about for a debt that arrived from the City of Sydney was, in fact, not correct. He indicated that on August 1st there was no debt within the City of Sydney to be transferred to the new municipal government. He indicated that he would like to have an audit done but the Department of Municipal Affairs and officials in the new regional government indicated that that would not be possible. Would the minister advise us why her department would not allow an audit to be done of the figures that were coming from the City of Sydney?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the honourable member has his information quite correct.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: That is not unusual.
MS. JOLLY: Yes, that hasn't stopped him in the past. (Laughter) Mr. Speaker, when the new Cape Breton Regional Municipality took over effective August 1st, they hired a number of accounting people to do audits on the eight municipalities. Those audits, I understand, have been completed and those audits have been done on all eight municipalities. My understanding is that the City of Sydney had requested a separate audit to be done on their numbers and as the regional municipality was doing audits on all eight municipalities, they felt one audit would be sufficient.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, perhaps, Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, again, your department felt that would be adequate but there are those in Nova Scotia, those in Cape Breton who do not feel and are not happy with the decision of your department. Last week, we asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs if she would request the Auditor General to go down and do an independent audit, one that the Nova Scotia taxpayer and the people of Cape Breton could have faith in. Would the minister ask and allow the Auditor General for Nova Scotia to go to Cape Breton to get to the bottom of this very serious discrepancy, a deficit that in weeks has grown from $4 million to $6 million to $8 million to $10 million to $12 million and now, $15 million? Would that minister request the Auditor General to go down and investigate this so that we can find out whether it is a $4 million or a $15 million deficit or, indeed, perhaps when we check at this time tomorrow it may be $20 million, the way it is growing? Would the minister get the Auditor General involved?
MR. SPEAKER: All right, we don't want it to go any further.
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify the honourable member's initial statement; it was not the Department of Municipal Affairs that thought the single audit wasn't required, it was the Cape Breton Regional Municipality that was handling the figures, that was handing the audit, that is handling the running of the municipalities.
Mr. Speaker, I can't make it clear enough to this honourable member that we have a level of government up there, it is a municipal level of government and they are trying to deal with the issues they have on their table in the most common sense way they can. They had an audit done and those are the numbers that are there.
If the city administrator from the City of Sydney is not comfortable with the numbers that have come forward from the audit, I would suggest that that honourable person speak with the staff and I am sure would have an opportunity to speak with the auditors and be able to clarify or put forward his position with regard to the City of Sydney.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The amalgamation of the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton was done under the full authority of the Minister of Municipal Affairs. We understand that the former manager of the City of Sydney has reported that not only did Sydney join the regional municipality without a deficit and allowances to cover all expected costs but, in fact, sought an independent audit in order to confirm those numbers.
Now we are learning that the deficits are continuing to grow for the regional municipality. I would suggest that residents of the new Municipality of Cape Breton are wondering just how high their taxes are going to rise as a result of this amalgamation.
I would like to ask the minister if she could perhaps explain why it is that when the City of Sydney joined the regional municipality and turned over the books they had a clean slate but now, all of a sudden, there are figures in the range of upwards of $3 million being assigned to their part of the ledger. Could the minister explain to this House and to taxpayers in the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton why the discrepancy in the cost of amalgamation?
MR. SPEAKER: I don't know if that question is within the minister's knowledge reasonably. But, in any event, the minister can respond as she sees fit. Beauchesne makes it very clear that ministers can only be questioned on matters that could reasonably be within their own immediate knowledge.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite is quite right, the amalgamation was a decision we made in the Cape Breton area and also in the metropolitan area. In the Cape Breton area we specifically made the decision of amalgamation to try to deal with five or six municipalities that were having a difficult time meeting budgets and financially being able to survive, as well as to give a single voice to that unit, to that area, a single voice that would allow for economic development and for a strong mandate to come forward. The honourable member is quite correct in that sense, that the amalgamation came forward by the government.
But I would say again, Mr. Speaker, as I have said on many occasions, that was also at the understanding and discussion with six of the municipalities there that felt amalgamation was the right way to move, that they had to do something in order to deal with their financial situation. So the amalgamation moved forward.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let's not forget that it was this very minister, on behalf of her government, who sold amalgamation to the people of Cape Breton, on the basis of the fact that it was going to be a more efficient government, it was also going to mean lower taxes, irrespective of the fact that emergency funding was taken away . . .
MR. SPEAKER: A recitation of past history is not a supplementary.
MR. CHISHOLM: This isn't past history because the people right now in Cape Breton are realizing increased taxes, Mr. Speaker. That is the question I am trying to get at here.
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated. A recitation of past history is not a supplementary question. A supplementary question, please.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what I am trying to get this minister to set her mind to, is a true accounting of the costs of amalgamation that the taxpayers of the new Regional Municipality of Cape Breton are going to be faced with paying for. I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, why it is that she is so afraid to have an independent audit done, for example, of the City of Sydney's recording of the balance sheet when they became involved with the regional municipality?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think I have already answered that question, put by one of his colleagues. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality did have an independent audit done of the eight municipalities, each and every one of them, and that is how they developed the numbers that they brought forward as of July 31st into August 1st. That audit was done. If the honourable member is suggesting that the accounting firms in the City of Sydney are not reputable and that their work is not good, I would suggest that he speak to them directly.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am just trying to get some clearance here in terms of the heavy cloud that is hanging over the whole amalgamation process as it applied to the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton and as it is affecting Halifax. I would like to ask the minister, in the case of Glace Bay, when they appeared to be proceeding down a road that she did not agree with in terms of expending money, she was prepared to use her authority and step in. Now she is saying that she doesn't have the authority to make decisions with respect to expenditures.
I would like to ask the minister, why, in fact, she will not ensure that her commissioner here in metropolitan Halifax prepare a budget of full cost accounting of amalgamation for the councils that now exist in order that their taxpayers, the people who are going to have to pay that bill, can understand exactly what is coming down the road?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member obviously doesn't understand the kind of authority and power that the municipal level of government has. I would suggest that he is suggesting to me that the four councils that are out there or the eight councils that were in Cape Breton, I should walk in and appoint a person and take away all authority of those councils. Obviously the honourable member certainly doesn't understand the role and the authority of the municipalities. (Interruption)
Mr. Speaker, I guess he is not interested in the answer.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. On July 28th, a spokesperson for the department commented that the department will be negotiating through the Atlantic Freight Transition Program certain highway projects for the province. We haven't heard much about it since then and I wonder if the Minister of Transportation would bring us up-to-date as to the progress of those negotiations?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, yes, I was negotiating with the Honourable Doug Young, the federal Minister of Transport. I believe it was during a trip to Ottawa in September with the Premier to meet on the Marine Atlantic situation and other issues that I came home with the signed agreement from Mr. Young. If the honourable member recalls the comments made in July, I was very clear that because of our expenditure control plan in Nova Scotia, that any projects, any expenditures, any matching funds to the transitional funds coming from the federal government, would have to be matched from existing programs that the Department of Transportation and Communications presently has as our ability to generate new income or new funds, in fact, would violate the expenditure control plan.
The agreement was signed, the work has been done on the projects and I can provide the honourable member opposite, perhaps as early as tomorrow, with a list of those projects if he would like to have them.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I do have a list of the projects which we received from Ottawa. It is quite an exhaustive list of projects. My question to the minister is, since a number of projects have been approved, and obviously the minister has been satisfied that this agreement has been in place for some time, would the minister explain why we Nova Scotians haven't been informed as to exactly where the funding is going and what projects are being funded under the transition program?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, each and every one of those projects went through the public tender's office; they, in fact, were tendered the same way that other work in the Department of Transportation is tendered. I indicated to the member that I would provide him with a list. He says he has that list, so I am not exactly sure what else he is looking for here.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, we only received this very recently. I don't believe it would be possible through the tendering office to know where the funding was coming from, I think that is the point.
My final supplementary for the minister is, of the projects that are outlined in the agreement that the minister has with Ottawa, how many have begun and how many were actually begun before the project was approved by Ottawa?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would have to look at the exact dates when tenders were called. I can assure the member, as I indicated in July when I made the statement, that the projects which were going to be funded with transitional funding had to be projects which were included in the traditional program of the Department of Transportation and Communications. That was made quite clear to the Honourable Doug Young; it was made quite clear to federal officials who, in fact, had access to our expenditure control plan and who did realize that we could not pull new money out of the air which would, in fact, put us over the expenditure control plan and over what was approved for the Department of Transportation and Communications.
So, a fair number - perhaps quite a number - of the projects identified as being funded 50/50 with the federal government, the tenders were called prior to the t's being crossed and the i's being dotted on the agreement, but with a clear understanding, which I, in July - and the honourable member could revisit my remarks on that - quite clearly stated that that would have to be the case; otherwise, we could not take advantage of the money being offered by Ottawa because of our inability to come up with new monies to match the program.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: My question goes to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. We tried unsuccessfully, through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to get a copy of the agreement and a list of projects. But, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to tell you the Department of Transport in Ottawa was much more Opposition-friendly, if you will, and they provided us with a list of the projects, which I have here today; 34 projects and they appear to be all in Liberal-held ridings.
Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Transportation is, simply, what matrix, what criteria did the minister use when he derived this list of projects to be undertaken through the transitional funding?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I thought the honourable members opposite had this information, because there was no attempt not to be forthcoming with it; in fact, I think we had indicated to the former Leader of the Opposition, the member for Halifax Citadel, that it would be coming. I can tell the member that I think there are probably upwards of 20 freedom of information requests presently in my department, or have been recently. The vast majority are from members of the Opposition, and we attempt to comply as best we can. However, the staff in my department has work to do for the department, as well, and work that they have always had the responsibility to carry out. So, they have not been assigned full time to comply with the freedom of information requests for the Opposition members. We do deal with that as best we can and they whine and go on about the cost of producing this information, but that is fine.
Mr. Speaker, I have referenced in this House on several occasions and I will provide the member with a list, if he would like, on the matrix and scoring system that was applied to each and every one of these roads. Almost without exception - there are a couple of exceptions, with very valid reasons why they are excepted from the list - each and every one of these projects was done based on the provincial priority list, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, under projects to be undertaken during this agreement, on project number one it talks about shipper assistance initiative, some $3 million is to be distributed in the 1995-96 fiscal year under the category of shipper assistance. Can the minister define for me exactly what criteria he is using to define what is being referred to as shipper assistance initiatives in the freight transition program?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that the member was familiar that part of the transitional funding could be used and was identified by the province many times - he is usually so astute on picking up these comments - that some of the transitional funds would be used to assist hardship cases, shippers who might otherwise be put out of business. So a portion of the funds, the transitional funds, was turned over to the Economic Renewal Agency to establish a program on shipper assistance. I would ask the honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency to explain.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to partially respond to this question from the member opposite because the Canadian Manufacturers' Association has been working with the Government of Nova Scotia to develop an opportunity for applications to come forward for hardship cases affected by the federal cuts in transportation subsidies. I would be pleased to provide for the members opposite the details of the application of that program, and will send him copies being sent to the members of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association and other industries in the province hard hit by federal cuts, but affected by a program that was positive and created by the Government of Nova Scotia, in harmony with, in keeping with, and we are working with the manufacturing industry that is so important to the employment picture of this province. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, a final supplementary. Now before you begin, I know you have read from that document, so I would ask you to table it when you have completed your questioning.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I certainly shall do that. Perhaps one of the ministers - and I will leave it up to their discretion as to which one would answer - through you, could one of the ministers provide me today with a detailed list of exactly where the $3 million in shipping assistance will be allocated for the four remaining months in this fiscal year, 1995-96?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I know he will read the word application in Hansard, but I will repeat it again. Money has been set aside for industries hard hit by federal cuts in transfer payments, based on subsidies to get goods to central Canadian markets. This government has responded by consulting with the industry sector to devise a program that will help and assist those very shippers to preserve jobs here in Nova Scotia. Applications will be made, funds will be expended in accordance with those applications.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I go to the Minister of Transportation and Communications. As of last Friday at 2:00 p.m., the Minister of Transport's office in Ottawa advised us that none of these projects have been approved by the federal Department of Transport. If you look at the list you will see there is no signature on behalf of the Management Committee representing the Government of Canada. Can the Minister of Transportation and Communications for this province explain?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Typical. Mr. Speaker, the work done under federal-provincial agreement is submitted to the federal government later in the year for the province to be reimbursed on the portion of the funding that comes from the federal government. It happens each and every year. The Management Committee meets in the fall to sign off on the documents. This is standard practice; it has gone on for many years; there is no deviation from that course in what is happening now.
When invoices are received by the Department of Transportation there is a hold-back; there is a certain period of time before expenditure is made by the department. When expenditure is made by the department the invoices will then be sent on to Ottawa. Ottawa will approve them and reimburse the portion of the money to Nova Scotia that it has coming.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I have a newspaper clipping here where the member for Hants East announced a project that is listed in the projects to be undertaken during the agreement relative to the transition funding. I wonder if the Minister of Transportation can explain why the member for East Hants on July 14th announced a project in his constituency that is included in the list of projects submitted to Ottawa in connection with the Freight Transition Program, some three months in advance of the agreement being signed?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, I expect, as I have pointed out, that the honourable member when he saw the tender called, announced it to his constituents. The authorization to tender is circulated, I believe it is probably seven, 10 days, sometimes two weeks in advance of it actually appearing in the newspaper. Many honourable members use that window of opportunity to announce the projects in their own riding. I am sure the honourable member has done that himself in the past.
As I indicated, the majority of these projects were announced, were tendered, well in advance of the agreement being signed, the t's being crossed and the i's being dotted on this project, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to take advantage of the federal dollars.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, in July the Minister of Finance at a meeting on Canada Day told Sydney residents that money to repair the Beechmont Road was simply not available. A few short months later, the minister changed his position and is now saying that the money is available. My question for the Minister of Transportation is this, is his department using funding from the Atlantic Freight Assistance Program to carry out projects not on the list I have tabled here today, that the province submitted to Ottawa months ago?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, the money I use to do any project in Nova Scotia is money that is contained in my budget, I would think that would be quite clear. Beechmont Road is not a project, I believe he said he has the list that was provided and it is not there. Well, then that should answer his question.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. The minister and I had a private conversation concerning this matter last Friday and I am sure he has answers that will allay concerns raised by several of my constituents. There has been a rumour circulating in Queens, particularly among the legal profession, that there is an intention on the part of the Ministry of Justice to close the Registry of Probate for Queens County. If, in fact, that were done it would be . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister indicates he can't hear you. Could you speak up please?
MR. LEEFE: Yes, I will do my best. I have had concerns expressed to me by a number of practitioners in the legal profession respecting a rumour that the Registry of Probate in Queens County is going to be closed. If, in fact, that were done it could only be done with an amendment to the Probate Court Act, for Section 12 and Section 2(e) dictate that, in fact, letters of probate must be registered in Probate Court in Queens. I wonder if the minister could allay the fears that have been raised respecting this matter which is of some significant importance to my constituency?
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, as a part of overall court reorganization for the whole province, there are changes to where certain work and procedures are carried out in different offices. The plan is, as the member suggests, that as of December 1st the probate work for the County of Queens will be handled out of Bridgewater. I didn't know, I am not aware and I did some checking on it, that the Probate Court Act had to be amended in order for that change to take place.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to delay the House. I wonder if the minister could review that fact for me, with respect to the Probate Court Act. Again, I refer him to Section 12 and Section 2(e) and if he would be kind enough to write to me and explain what the process is that the Department of Justice has in mind with respect to the delivery of probate court services in Queens?
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to ask my officials to check into any legislative changes that might be required and to get back to the member. In the meantime, I assure the member that as a result of some general concerns across the province, only current files will be worked on in the adjacent Justice Centre, files that are a year or two years old. All of the rest of the files will be kept in the county where it will make it easier for various research on legal matters. That hopefully will help the situation. I will undertake to get back to the member and respond to his questions.
MR. LEEFE: My final supplementary arises out of the minister's most recent answer, Mr. Speaker. May I take it then that if a situation arose whereby a number of current files being worked on in Bridgewater were required for action by a barrister in Queens County, the staff from Bridgewater would be prepared to ensure that those files were brought to Queens and that the matter could be resolved there rather than having barristers having to run to Bridgewater on behalf of their clients?
MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, under court reorganization, as a general procedure, the probate work would be done in the Justice Centre. But this does not rule out, to put it another way, that if there were several or a number of files and it is maybe a complex matter, that arrangements could not be made for the officials from the department to travel to the county in question. I understand, in fact, that something like that is scheduled for December after the change occurs. So I hope there would be a certain flexibility but I wouldn't want to give the wrong impression, that for every file the staff will come down. Why make the changes? It wouldn't work. But there is some flexibility.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you, sir, to the Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs. The minister, of course, will know that under the Consumer Protection Act, it prohibits negative-option strategies. The minister, of course, will also know that approximately a week ago, MT&T put on customer services three new services, which would fall under the option or the category of a negative-option strategy.
My question to the minister is quite simply this, has the minister instructed her staff to be in touch with MT&T and to tell them to remove those options from customers' phone lines unless they request that those options be in fact placed on the phone service?
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I have had discussions within the department on this issue. I have to say that the department isn't entirely clear that this does fall under negative-option billing. We have asked lawyers in the Department of Justice to review it and report back to us.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, when one takes a look at Section 24A(1)(b) which describes what a negative-option is, that is a service that is put on a phone line or a service that is provided that the customers have not asked for by a prescribed date, that says that it is a negative-option. The Act goes on quite clearly to say that, Section 24A(2), "No seller shall use a negative-option strategy in the delivery of a service.". My question to the minister is, why isn't she prepared to act as quickly as her predecessor, the present Minister of Labour, when he simply told the cable companies that negative-option strategies would not be permitted in Nova Scotia, as the law in this province says? Will she ensure that MT&T has to abide by the laws of Nova Scotia, the same as cable companies?
MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, my concern is mainly with the consumers of Nova Scotia as well as with the businesses of Nova Scotia. We have lawyers within government that can look at legislation and determine whether anyone contravenes that Act, and if the member opposite has expertise in that area, perhaps he would offer it to us as well. But we are asking Justice to look into the whole issue. One thing I want to make clear is that the customers in this case do not pay for the option that has been offered to them unless they use it. It is a fee for service that would be charged so there is an area there that I would like to have clarified before taking further action.
MR. HOLM: It is an option that was put on the phone services without the request of the customers and I remind the minister that the minister is responsible for consumer protection rather than for the promotion of business, Mr. Speaker. Her job is not, of course, to promote MT&T or to try to save them the advertising dollars to try to sell their service, it is to protect the customers, many of whom don't even know this is on and could face sizeable bills as a result of it.
MR. SPEAKER: This is not a question.
MR. HOLM: My final question to the minister is quite simply, will the minister advise us when her review will be complete and when she will be making a decision on whether or not MT&T will be told that they have to abide by the legislation that we passed in this House in 1994?
MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member opposite would not ask me to act without having proper authority and without having a good legal opinion on this case. Once it is reviewed, I will act accordingly.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. As Minister of the Environment, the minister wrote over his own letterhead to those constituents in the area of Preston that he was opposed to locating a landfill in the area of that community. He, obviously, is very personally familiar with the environmental effects as he is very familiar with that community.
Is the minister prepared to become as equally familiar with the situation of the strip mine in Stellarton and will he show the same concern, after he becomes completely familiar with that situation - and I mean personally familiar - and will be give the same consideration to the residents of Stellarton as he did to the residents of the community of Preston?
HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I feel obligated to answer the question by saying that I do commit myself to resolving those things I know best of. Certainly the case of the Stellarton strip mine, which the honourable Leader refers to, we have gone through the extensive environmental assessment process that is required in this case, and indeed the Stellarton strip mine underwent a process, the most rigorous in our history.
I am confident that the results of those findings are keeping in mind the public safety, the environmental safety and the right to do business in Stellarton by both the proponent and the community. I do believe that when one looks at the feedback to date, that we have, indeed, honoured the wishes of the Environmental Assessment Board, in keeping with the wishes of the people of Stellarton. The numbers of people who have opposed the decision are very small and those who have supported it have supported it for the right reasons, in that they do see the means whereby we can protect the environment and protect some jobs at the same time.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue with the Minister of the Environment. The minister's department is reviewing the regulations which relate to the pits and quarries Act and these guidelines clearly state that no mining or no pit or no quarry can take place closer than 800 metres to an existing home.
I visited on Sunday the area to be surface mined in Stellarton, bearing in mind this will represent a hole in the ground some 280 feet deep, and there are homes that are much closer to that particular pit than 800 metres. Will the minister explain why we are looking at regulations that would limit a pit or quarry being any closer to a residence than 800 metres, and yet we now have approved a project which will result in a pit being much less than 800 metres to an existing residence?
MR. SPEAKER: This will have to be the last question and answer of the day because the time has expired. With a brief answer, the honourable Minister of the Environment.
MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, it is a good question. The pit and quarry regulations guidelines refer to blasting and in regard to the Stellarton approval, there is no blasting permitted on that site. We are talking about extraction of surface coal and the depths where we have permitted it is less than 280 feet, so therefore we again have complied with the environmental concerns of that community and the protection of the well-being of the citizens.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.
With an introduction, the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.
MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce to you and through you to the other members of the House, approximately 22 students from Mount Edward School who are in the gallery opposite here today. They are accompanied by their teacher, Joanne Stonehouse, and two volunteers, Mr. Crosby and Mrs. Froud. I would like to ask them to please rise and to accept the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 33.
Bill No. 33 - Internal Trade Agreement Implementation Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address this bill which enables the implementation of the Agreement on Internal Trade. The agreement is a joint initiative of the provinces, territories and federal government whose objective is to reduce and eliminate barriers to the free movement of persons, goods and services as well as investments within Canada.
Specifically, the action is an attempt by these three levels of government to extend Section 121 of the Constitution Act by agreement rather than by amending the constitution. Section 121 deals with the free admission into each province of articles of growth, produce or manufacture from any other province. The agreement provides a framework for dealing with trade in 10 specific sectors and for resolving trade disputes between and among provinces, between the federal government and provinces, and between private partners and governments. The bill we are considering enables the Province of Nova Scotia, as a signatory to the agreement, to proceed with implementing it.
By way of background, Mr. Speaker, the Agreement on Internal Trade is a framework built on four principles associated with the free movement of persons, goods, services and investments across the internal boundaries of Canada. Signatories agree: (1) not to erect new trade barriers; (2) to treat equally economic output, regardless of where it originates in Canada; (3) to reconcile relevant standards and regulations; and (4) to ensure administrative policies provide for the free movement of persons, goods, services and investments.
In this sense, the structure of the agreement reflects models for liberalized international trade like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the GATT, the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement. In addition to these principles, the agreement applies five basic trade rules, Mr. Speaker: reciprocal non-discrimination; the right of entry and exit; the removal of obstacles to internal trade; reconciliation of standards; related and regulatory measures and transparency. The agreement ensures flexibility. However, by applying an additional rule, legitimate objectives, which draws reasonable limits to these trade rules, such that there is neither totally unrestricted internal trade nor more restrictive trade rules than are necessary. This flexibility is particularly important for our province and its economic interests.
The 10 sectors encompassed by the agreement are: (1) government procurement; (2) investment; (3) labour mobility; (4) consumer related measures and standards; (5) agriculture and food products; (6) alcoholic beverages; (7) natural resources processing; (8) communications; (9) transportation; and (10) environmental protection. Agreement on an eleventh sector, energy, was not reached in time to be included when the agreement was signed by First Ministers on July 18, 1994. Nova Scotia is the third province to introduce enabling legislation and other provinces are currently drafting similar bills.
The impact of this agreement - this agreement effectively provides a framework within which processes can proceed to dismantle barriers to interprovincial trade that have built up in the years since Confederation. The agreement provides, for the first time in Canadian history, an orderly system of rules with an impartial dispute resolution process for resolving trade differences between and among provinces. The agreement opens up public procurement, a potential nation-wide market of $50 billion annually to all Canadian companies. The agreement establishes a code of conduct and incentives, ensuring taxpayers' money is responsibly managed when competing for investment opportunities. It also reinforces a process that will allow qualified Canadian workers to seek employment opportunities anywhere in Canada, an adherent right of their citizenship.
On this point, I would add that the agreement ensures the qualifications of trades-people and professionals are fairly recognized nationwide, but I stress that the agreement does not address seniority within the provinces and does not guarantee work for non-residents of Nova Scotia. Thus the agreement provides equality of opportunity to qualified workers throughout Canada but does not mean that workers from outside Nova Scotia will displace Nova Scotians in the hiring order. Indeed, labour leaders, among others, have urged our government to adopt and implement this agreement and have expressed support for this bill.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this agreement enables us to reconcile standards and regulations across the nation and avoid these becoming unnecessary obstacles to internal trade. That is very important, for jobs, for business and for the responsible management of taxpayers' dollars by our governments. It is also important to note that this agreement is a framework that sets out a process. In that sense, it evolves and continues to evolve. Negotiations will continue on such critical sectors as agriculture and food products. Currently, only those trade barriers resulting from differential agricultural regulations and standards are the subject of the agreement and work in this sector will continue among Ministers of Agriculture until 1997.
Exclusions from the agreement. There are some issues which are excluded from this agreement and many of these are critical to the further renewal of our provincial economy. Regional economic development measures can be excluded. Matters pertaining to aboriginal peoples are excluded. Culture and cultural industries are excluded. And issues pertaining to national security, taxation, excepting investment incentives, and the financial sector, fall outside the framework of this agreement. In addition, certain nonconforming policies, such as those affecting alcohol beverages can be retained for an indefinite period under the terms of this agreement.
In summary, to conclude my remarks on this bill and the agreement it enables us to implement, this bill ratifies the Agreement on Internal Trade; it establishes ongoing representation and responsibility; it addresses the payment of various costs; it establishes an impartial mechanism for dispute resolution; and it amends legislation for conformity to the agreement and prevents future noncompliance.
I am pleased to introduce this bill for consideration before the House, Mr. Speaker, and hereby move second reading.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to offer a few remarks relative to Bill No. 33. What at first blush looks like a somewhat innocuous bill in the sense - and I don't use that in a derogatory sense - that it is simply ratification of a previous initiative or undertaking by this government and by the other governments across the country of the provinces, the territories and the Government of Canada, it is, as I am sure the minister who had just now spoken and moved second reading of this bill would undoubtedly agree, one of the most important pieces of legislation in many ways with which we will deal here in this session of the Legislature.
This legislation, this bill, as the minister has said, Madam Speaker, is a bill intended to implement the Agreement on Internal Trade between the Government of Canada and the governments of all the provinces and territories, and upon its execution and upon ratifying legislation - which is really what we are dealing with here - it is intended that there would be a reduction or an elimination of barriers to the free movement of persons, good, services and investments, all of those things to which the minister alluded. In preparing, though, for my remarks in relation to this bill, I would quite honestly say that this is one of the most technical pieces of work which I have ever seen and with which I have had to deal.
You may well be aware, Madam Speaker, having undoubtedly read it carefully, clause by clause - as the minister has, I am sure - that the Internal Trade Agreement, a copy of which I have here, contains something like 1,814 articles and it has several annexes attached to those articles. It is no less than 217 pages long, so it is a pretty prodigious piece of work and, as has already been said by the minister, it is the result of work actually done by officials - I hesitate to say functionaries - of governments from all across this country to pursue an initiative begun by the previous Conservative national government.
Now I think I have learned some things about this agreement in the course of attempting to prepare for debate on this piece of legislation. I was assisted, Madam Speaker, by finding a couple of publications relative to this agreement. One with which the minister may well be familiar I found very helpful along the way. It is entitled Getting There, An Assessment of the Agreement on Internal Trade, edited by Michael J Trebilcock and Daniel Schwanen and produced by the C.D. Howe Institute. I perhaps will have reference or have opportunity to make reference to that publication along the way.
I have attempted, in order to offer a few remarks relative to this legislation, to review legislation being presented in other provinces. I have here in my materials copies of legislation which has been introduced in Newfoundland and in Manitoba and in Alberta. I am struck, and again I am sure the minister has had a look at those as well, by the fact that while I had expected I would find what we sometimes refer to as mirror image legislation being passed by those other jurisdictions, the legislation passed in other places appears not to be really very similar in form and content to the bill which our minister has before us now. That prompts me to wonder, and perhaps as he closes debate the minister might be prepared to offer an observation, as to whether or not he could give this House an assurance that the legislation which has, in fact, been introduced and passed in Newfoundland, in Manitoba and in Alberta, does, in fact, do in those provinces what he purports to do here, namely effect ratification of the Agreement on Internal Trade. If one looks at those other pieces of provincial legislation in other jurisdictions, I think one comes to a couple of legitimate questions as to whether or not that really is the result.
Alberta and Manitoba's bills, Madam Speaker, when you read them you will find put forth a measure that provides firms and individuals and other levels of government a remedy before the Court of Queen's Bench, in order to impose a fine or some other kind of judicial sanction under the Agreement on Internal Trade. So they have decided in those other, this minister's partners or our province's partners, having introduced their legislation, felt it appropriate that there should be a fine and judicial sanction provision in their legislation. I am not so sure that I see references in our legislation to such sanctions and I wonder again if, when he closes debate, the minister might offer some comment on that particular principle.
I note with interest, too, that the bill we debate here, Bill No. 33, sets out that the Ombudsman can be appointed as a, I think the term is, screener. The word screener comes from the agreement itself, the Agreement on Internal Trade, that our Ombudsman can be appointed here in Nova Scotia as a screener for the purposes of Clause 12 of the bill. I note as well that Alberta in their legislation appoints their Ombudsman as a screener.
However, what I do find interesting and curious and again an issue in relation to which I would hope the minister would shed some light, the Alberta legislation, which, I repeat, was, I thought, intended to be mirror legislation of what we would be doing here in Nova Scotia, spells out the process which the Ombudsman must carry out if there is, indeed, a conflict. I don't see such a process described or outlined in the legislation which we have before us. It begs the question, therefore, what is the process that is in place here in Nova Scotia in the event of conflict?
As one reads the legislation in other jurisdictions, I think it is safe to say and appropriate and accurate to say, that all three bills seem just to bring them into line with the Internal Trade Agreement. In the bill before us, I don't see a line that says clearly, definitively and in a manner that cannot be interpreted in other way except what the words actually say, and that is that the other legislation in other jurisdictions, unlike ours, seem not to use language which says, and the agreement, dated whatever date - and the minister was good enough to reference that date a moment ago, July 1994 - is hereby ratified.
Again, I am a little bit concerned as to whether or not we here in Nova Scotia are taking a step which purports to ratify the agreement, which means that we are prepared, as a province, to abide by, to live by and be subject to every one of the provisions appearing in the Agreement on Internal Trade, which I mentioned a moment ago is a tremendously lengthy and complex document. At the same time, while the minister indicates, and I don't say this critically of him but he did make the indication, that other jurisdictions are in the process of ratifying this agreement, my concern is when I read the legislation elsewhere, I don't find them going nearly as far at all as we do or purport to do, in this legislation, in Bill No. 33 which is before us.
I would very much appreciate as the minister closes debate whether he would indicate to us whether there is a difficulty or an uncertainty which now arises, relative to the legal relationship as between the Province of Nova Scotia and those other jurisdictions, if the language in those other jurisdictions does not contain language that says clearly, precisely and definitively, Alberta hereby ratifies the agreement, Newfoundland hereby ratifies the agreement.
I am not here to debate legislation from other jurisdictions, but what this whole bill purports to be, Madam Speaker, as I know you understand, is Nova Scotia's statement that we are ratifying an agreement which we, through the minister who sponsors the bill, are being told is supported by all other provinces, territories and the Government of Canada and that they are, in fact, ratifying it elsewhere. I simply make the point that the language in some of that other legislation seems not to be on all fours with our language here.
I ask the question and I think it is a legitimate question, does this minister have any reason to believe that the difference in language is in any way, shape or form an impediment to proceeding with the terms and provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade or does it represent something perhaps closer to a lukewarm acknowledgement of the Agreement on Internal Trade and a willingness to make certain consequential legislative changes in other jurisdictions but stops short of a statement by those other jurisdictions of the ratification of the document? If we ratify it and one or two others ratify it but six or seven provinces or supposed partners introduce legislation which doesn't clearly indicate ratification, then I wonder about the integrity and the fabric of the regime which is intended to develop on a country-wide basis.
Therefore, again I would ask the minister when he closes if he has any reason to believe that the language employed by those other jurisdictions in any way, shape or form, to his mind represent any reservations in those other jurisdictions about the terms and conditions of the agreement itself?
Now, Madam Speaker, the principle and the underlying philosophy of Bill No. 33 which the minister has introduced is, without question, an important and very laudable one. I know from some previous experience in a former incarnation and from discussions with various people that one heck of a lot of people, ministers and politicians of various partisan colours and stripes and one heck of a pile of senior officials and bureaucrats and functionaries in all governments across this country, have worked extremely hard to get as far as we seem to have gotten in the Agreement on Internal Trade.
I think, if I may say so in the aftermath or the backwash of the recent Quebec Referendum, much of what is done here is helpful inasmuch as it responds in a manner not requiring difficult and contentious constitutional change, some matters which shift some authorities to certain of the provinces. So from that point of view I think there is value.
In fact, some of the writers which I have had a chance to look at raised the question in the early parts of their narrative about the value or lack of same of the agreement itself, the Agreement on Internal Trade, they open up with a question why Canada must rid itself of inter-provincial trade barriers. They answer their own question, and the minister alluded to it, by saying that there are probably greater obstacles to trade between the provinces in Canada than there are to trade between Canada and the rest of the world.
Well if that is the case, and I think there are many examples and that number may be as high as 500, clearly if, in fact, we have more obstacles to trading with ourselves as a nation from coast to coast than we do by way of trade as a nation with other nations, then clearly something is very wrong and very amiss. On that basis, again I repeat it is important that this province and all provinces have executed an agreement which is intended to do away with some of those barriers.
However, it has also been estimated, Madam Speaker, that the benefits of free trade for Canadians, if we can get through all the barriers which impede our internal trade across this country, if we can get rid of those there would likely be represented in this country something in the order of a 1.5 per cent permanent increase in income. That figure, interestingly enough, was cited by the McDonald Commission of the mid-1980's. Then, unfortunately, we had the Charlottetown Accord in 1993 which failed. At that point the minister, Michael Wilson of the Government of Canada, announced that a different approach would be taken relative to internal trade matters. Negotiations have taken place, as the minister has described Trebilcock and Schwanen, the authors to whom I referred earlier, have called it a macro-approach, as opposed to a micro-approach. I think it has to be a macro-approach because if you ever sat down any number of people across this country and attempted a micro-approach to eliminating some 500 trade barriers across this country and stayed at it until you had the resolution of each and every one of those 500 barriers, then they would be there until the next millennium. So the macro-approach taken was the appropriate one.
So, the agreement, which is referenced in this legislation which we now debate, was executed on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia in July 1994. All the provincial governments signed in September 1994. The Honourable Ross Bragg, as he then was, was the signatory for the Province of Nova Scotia. I think it is important, as we consider the impact of the bill before us and the fact that it does ratify this Agreement on Internal Trade which commits Nova Scotia to certain public policy positions, I think it is important that we remember that Section 92 of our country's Constitution Act provides, among many other things, for the province to have control over trade and commerce within their boundaries while the federal government, under Section 91(2) of the Constitution Act, has power to regulate inter-provincial trade. Historically, as I know you know, Madam Speaker, provinces have used Section 92 to erect both tariff and trade barriers in areas such as tobacco and alcohol sales and production and some of the areas to which the minister has already made reference.
The agreement, and it is not of any value to read the legislation which we have before us, in my view, unless one also takes some time to attempt to wade through the agreement itself because, as I say, we have a bill that says this bill ratifies a particular agreement. Well, it only makes common sense, I think, to attempt to have some understanding of what the agreement is that this bill purports to ratify. While the agreement itself, substantial as it is, seems to overcome some barriers, as I read through the agreement, I note that there are specific rules and exemptions and some sectors are not even mentioned - the minister made reference to that as well in the agreement - such as cultural and financial service industries and measures pertaining to aboriginal people and measures relating to taxation. Those items are referenced in Article 200 of this agreement.
Cultural industries are described in the agreement itself as meaning persons engaged in any of the following activities: the publication, distribution, or sale of books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers, in print or machine-readable form, but not including the sole activity of printing or typesetting any of the foregoing; the production, distribution, sale or exhibition of film or video recordings; the production, distribution, sale or exhibition of audio or video music recordings; the production, distribution or sale of music in print or machine-readable form or radio communications in which the transmissions are intended for direct reception by the general public; and all radio, television and cable broadcasting undertakings and all satellite programming and broadcast network services.
I wonder if the minister, when he closes, might offer an opinion or a view as to why it is that those cultural industries were, in fact, exempted from this agreement? It occurs to me as a Nova Scotian, when one reads the definition of cultural industries and we talk about books, magazines, periodicals and film or video and the sale or exhibition of audio or video musical recordings and the publication, distribution or sale of music in print or machine-readable form and so on, this part of the world, and our province, in particular, is, I suggest -and the minister has commented positively on it on other occasions and in other contexts - this little Province of Nova Scotia of ours is coming to be understood in the cultural community across this country, particularly in the field of music production and distribution and presentation, to be one of the absolute leaders and hotbeds of musical and related cultural activity.
I will be completely candid, Madam Speaker; I don't know, if I understand from my attempt to wade through this agreement, I am not really sure if I understand that the exemption of the cultural industries, from the Agreement on Internal Trade, means that there will be, for our Nova Scotia cultural industry, still be, following passage of this legislation and ratification of this agreement, will there still be impediments to them in regard to their presentation, production, sale and performance in other places in this country, which will result in remuneration being realized by those Nova Scotia artists? If it does I would, with respect, greatly appreciate it if the minister would be kind enough to address that issue for us, because if it has that effect, I would express some real concern that the agreement itself -not the minister's bill, but the agreement itself - is seriously deficient and seriously impairs the shorter and longer term prospects of hundreds and hundreds of the country's leading artists, of all kinds, in pursuing their craft and their art in other places across the country for gainful return.
There is also a broad exemption in this legislation - and again the minister made reference to it in his remarks in moving second reading - a broad exemption in this Agreement on Internal Trade, Madam Speaker, from measures that are part of a general framework of regional economic development. We know that there have been discussions regarding procurement policies here in the Province of Nova Scotia. Indeed, I might point out that back in April of this year, the Minister of Supply and Services indicated, by way of press release, that, "The Nova Scotia government is proposing new procurement rules to ensure an open, fair and transparent procurement process that will be among the best in Canada, Supply and Services Minister Gerald O'Malley announced today.", and the date on my copy is April 21, 1995.
At that time, Minister O'Malley produced a document and made public a document, entitled Fairness in Government Procurement, White Paper For Discussion. Mr. O'Malley told us that the goal of that White Paper was to enable every business to have an equal opportunity to sell to government within a fair and open procurement system. I won't belabour the substance of the release, but later in that same release, Minister O'Malley says, "The white paper stipulates that Nova Scotia manufacturers and suppliers may be shown preference, within five per cent of the otherwise lowest qualified bid, on those requirements that fall below the thresholds outlined in the Atlantic Procurement Agreement. These thresholds are $25,000 for goods, $50,000 for services, and $100,000 for construction. Any requirement above these thresholds is subject to the agreement and Nova Scotia preference will not be applied.".
That is a laudable provision when we deal with an agreement on procurement and we are dealing, as that document does, with our brother and sister provinces in Atlantic Canada.
In Chapter 5 of the Agreement on Internal Trade itself, that chapter contains provisions that ensure that for those agencies listed, procurement will be conducted on a transparent basis. But as I read further, Madam Speaker, those agencies exempted from the procurement provisions are very long. As an example, in Annex 502.2A of this agreement, government entities excluded from Chapter 5 reads in part that the annex includes entities that are not accountable to executive branches of government, of the parties, entities whose objective is national security, business of a commercial nature, or in competition with the private sector, and state monopolies involved in the transformation and distribution of goods and services.
Newfoundland, as an example, indicates on their exempted list: Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, their Hydro Corporation, the Liquor Commission, and their Workers Compensation Commission; Nova Scotia has no exemptions listed; P.E.I. exempts their energy corporation, Enterprise P.E.I.; and New Brunswick, as an example, lists Algonquin Properties, Forest Protection Limited, the New Brunswick Liquor Commission, the Power Corporation, Research and Productivity Council and so on. Quebec has a list of probably 18 or 20, and on and on it goes.
The concern I have, and again it may be a failure on my part to understand or read the document accurately, but I would appreciate it for better understanding, because we will be at the Law Amendments Committee and it will be important for all of us in the Law Amendments Committee to not only understand the words in Bill No. 33 but to understand as much of the language of the agreement itself, if the minister could give us an indication as to just what those exemptions really do mean and what impact they have on Nova Scotians' ability to deal with the entities described in those exemptions.
In the definition section of the agreement, Madam Speaker, there is a list of other legitimate objectives which are public security and safety - and if I can just find that - the legitimate objectives, as defined and described in this Agreement on Internal Trade means any of the following objectives pursued within the territory of a party: public security and safety; public order; protection of human, animal or plant life or health; protection of the environment; consumer protection; protection of the health, safety and well-being of workers, or affirmative action programs for disadvantaged groups, considering among other things, where appropriate, fundamental climatic or other geographical factors; technological or infrastructural factors or scientific justification. Except as otherwise provided, legitimate objective does not include protection of the production of a party or, in the case of the federal government, favouring the production of a province.
So as I read the section on legitimate objections, I started to wonder a little bit as to whether or not there are enough exemptions and exceptions here to make it very difficult to determine exactly what is to be included in the agreement. I know it is a difficult and a complex and a voluminous document but I would very much appreciate, when he closes debate on second reading, if the minister would be kind enough to give this House an indication as to whether or not my fear is well-founded or otherwise, namely that there appears to be in this Agreement on Internal Trade, a national agreement, so many exceptions and exemptions as to make it very difficult to determine with any degree of precision what is to be included in the agreement and what economic activities undertaken here in Nova Scotia really are advantaged and improved as a consequence of the agreement.
Trebilcock and Behboodi, two authors to whom I have made reference, say on Page 85 of their article on this agreement that they are, " . . . troubled about the major areas exempted from the agreement such as agricultural quota, financial services, energy and the extensive list of provincial entities exempted from the Government Procurement Chapter." and that is exactly the point that I am trying to make and they say it so much more effectively than I. I guess I run the risk of being a little bit repetitive but again, I would ask the minister when he closes debate on this bill, if he would offer some assurance, particularly if he will, by way of reference to the agreement because in that way those of us who have attempted to come to some understanding of what this Internal Trade Agreement really does represent, could have a chance to review the language in the agreement to which the minister might refer us.
If these authors and commentators on the agreement are expressing the fact that they are troubled about the major areas exempted and they make specific reference to the extensive list of provincial entities exempted from the Government Procurement Chapter, then frankly, that heightens my concern. I would very much appreciate the minister, if he would be kind enough to address that when he closes.
Another difficulty which I had for some time with this agreement and long before I saw Bill No. 33, has to do with the dispute resolution process. The minister will be aware, I am sure, that on June 8, 1995, many months ago, I wrote to the Premier of Nova Scotia and I copied the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and I copied the Minister of Supply and Services. In that correspondence I asked questions about Bill C-88 and Bill C-88 is the federal legislation which purports to enshrine and ratify in the federal Parliament, this national Agreement on Internal Trade. I did that because there is some language in Bill C-88 and there is language in the Agreement on Internal Trade which is, if I am reading it correctly and I acknowledge I have found it difficult to understand and wade my way through the 217 or whatever number of pages and be sure that I was on the right wavelength all the way through and getting the drift.
Section 9 of Bill C-88 and again, I don't propose otherwise than to attempt to make the point that what legislation is introduced and passed at the federal level relative to the ratification by the Parliament of Canada of this agreement, may, depending on the language of that federal bill, have very real impact on the relationship between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia which now purports through Bill No. 33 to be ratifying the same agreement.
Section 9 of Bill C-88 allows the federal government where it is a party to a complaint against another party and that could, indeed, be a situation where the Government of Canada is a party to a complaint against the Province of Nova Scotia, where the federal government is a party to a complaint against another party to this agreement, that federal government under the powers accorded and afforded the Government of Canada by virtue of Bill C-88 in the federal Parliament, the federal government may take any action that may be considered appropriate and includes the ability and these are the words which are threatening and these are the words which, I would trust, the minister would be able to address when he closes debate on second reading. The feds may take action that may be construed appropriate and includes the ability of the federal government to, Clause 9(1)(a), "suspend rights or privileges . . .", and/or, Clause 9(1)(c), "extend the application of any federal law to the province;".
Now, it occurs to me on my reading, and I may be wrong, but the issue did come to my mind and I raise it seriously here as a potential concern. My reading of Bill C-88 against the agreement itself and in the context of what this minister has brought to this Legislature in Bill No. 33, makes me wonder whether or not the Government of Canada by virtue of Bill C-88 has not have now clothed itself with immense powers to impose retaliatory measures in case of a dispute. If we are in a dispute between the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia, where the federal government is a party to a complaint against the Province of Nova Scotia, what are their authorities to take any action that may considered appropriate -appropriate as far as the feds are concerned - and including the ability to suspend rights or privileges? It is unclear as to what rights and privileges might be suspended. And that the federal government could, Clause 9(1)(c), "extend the application of any federal law to the province;" those words struck me as being very troublesome. As I said, they raised the spectre, in my mind, of the possibility of retaliatory action by the Government of Canada.
That concern, Madam Speaker, came to my attention as I attempted to understand some of this stuff back in June. On June 8th, I wrote to the Premier with copies to the Minister for the ERA and the Minister of Supply and Services, asking if the Government of Nova Scotia, our Premier or this minister or any of his ministerial colleagues had made representations to the Government of Canada to amend that clause with a view to limiting the powers of the federal government in the case of a dispute, if, in fact, I was correct that in such a dispute there might well be under Bill C-88, the federal legislation, a retaliatory power available to the Government of Canada. God knows what form such retaliation might take if, indeed, the dispute was a complex and a significant and heated one.
Well, that was June 8th that I wrote the Premier of Nova Scotia and these ministers asking that question, would you please help me understand what these retaliatory powers are or might be and would you please tell me, Mr. Premier, Mr. Minister, whether or not you made representations to the Government of Canada and to your provincial colleagues relative to the potential retaliatory powers? Well I wrote on June 8th and my letter, Madam Speaker, you will be pleased to learn, was acknowledged by the Premier's Office on June 26th. So I wrote back on June 30th indicating that I looked forward to an early response.
Then, Madam Speaker, I followed that up on September 27th, some two and one-half months or three months later, because even by September 27th I had not yet had a response from either the Premier, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency or the Minister of Supply and Services on this particular question. What are the potential retaliatory powers available to the Government of Canada under the Agreement on Internal Trade? Can you respond to that? Will you tell us what that might mean or does mean? On behalf of Nova Scotians, as signatories to this agreement, did you make representations to ensure that those retaliatory powers would not be to the disadvantage of the Nova Scotia Government or more to the point, to the men and women running businesses and engaged in economic enterprise in the Province of Nova Scotia?
So I followed that up. As I said, I wrote on June 30th, having learned that the letter got to the Premier's office on June 26th. Then there was a lot of dead air. I wrote on September 27th because I had not had a response and then I wrote again on October 27th because I had not yet had the courtesy of a response from the Premier or either of those ministers. That was October 27th. That is three or four pieces of mail from me, asking what I felt was an honest, legitimate, not a loaded question. It was simply please give me some information as to what you ministers and you, Mr. Premier, think the retaliatory powers available to the Government of Canada might be.
My last communication was October 27th. Bill No. 33 that we debate today, without any response to my four communications, was introduced in this Legislature four days later, on October 31st.
I might point out for what it is worth, Madam Speaker, that I have still, on November 14th, not received a response to my June letter and, I might say, I was disappointed. Perhaps I naively made the assumption that perhaps knowing he had the communications from me and that the Premier did as well, perhaps naively I believed that the minister might address the issue which I had raised with him in four different letters when he moved second reading of the bill here in the House today. But you will notice that he did not do that.
It is my understanding from my analysis of the bill, my review of the Agreement on Internal Trade, Madam Speaker, that legal counsel from the Province of British Columbia asked four questions regarding the federal legislation, Bill C-88. I will repeat, our bill and the Agreement on Internal Trade, has direct relevance in the context of the language which appears in Bill C-88. I understand that all trade ministers received that B.C. document in June.
The questions asked were these, and I ask them of our minister today and I would sincerely ask him to provide answers to this House when he closes debate on Bill No. 33. Does Bill C-88, the federal legislation, go beyond the minimum requirements needed to fulfil the obligations of the federal government under the Agreement on Internal Trade? The Province of British Columbia has concerns that it does. My reading, although I am sure less scholarly than the reading of the officials in British Columbia who have addressed this issue, prompts me to believe that that is a completely legitimate question.
British Columbia asked further, Madam Speaker, relative to this legislation, what alternative language could be substituted in Bill C-88 that would fulfil the minimum obligations of the federal government? I would appreciate the minister indicating to us if he could tell us his view as to what, considering the interests of the Province of Nova Scotia, what alternative language could be substituted in Bill C-88 which would fulfil the minimum requirements and obligations of the federal government.
The third question put, Madam Speaker, was whether or not Bill C-88 as introduced, might it have implications regarding Canada's obligations under NAFTA, particularly with respect to the federal government's obligations to ensure compliance with NAFTA? That is obviously a highly important and relevant question and I would appreciate some help and guidance from the minister on that question as well.
The fourth question put was whether or not Bill C-88, as introduced, would or could alter the legislative or other authority of the federal government or of the provinces under the constitution? Madam Speaker, I think that question is an extremely serious one. It is serious from this point of view, because it is important for us to understand, as we support or decide we should not support a piece of legislation which purports to ratify a national Agreement on Internal Trade, it is important for us to know, I believe, and I put the question to the minister now and hope he will respond when he closes, will Bill C-88 be seen as changing the constitutional roles, in particular by that I mean the terms and provisions and authorities and responsibilities set out in Sections 91 and 92 of this country's Constitution Act?
I put the question because in my discussions and my analysis of representations made in this regard by the Province of British Columbia, Madam Speaker, I have come to the understanding that British Columbia answered their own questions, those four questions which I have just put in, this fashion:
In relation to the first of the four questions, they said, yes, that question being, does Bill C-88 go beyond the minimum requirements needed to fulfil the obligations of the federal government under the Agreement on Internal Trade? B.C. thinks it does and they have expressed that concern. I have no knowledge or information that our minister or our Premier, or anybody on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia, has expressed the same or similar concern.
In regard to the second question, what alternative language could be substituted in Bill C-88 that would fulfil the minimum obligations of the federal government? British Columbia, although in the documentation I was able to secure, I did not find the actual language, but they did say to the federal government that, yes, they do believe there is better language and they would be prepared to sit with the federal government and the provincial partners to address that issue and design better language.
The third question, could Bill C-88 have implications regarding Canada's obligations under NAFTA, particularly in reference to Canada's obligation to ensure compliance with NAFTA? British Columbia has expressed the view to the Government of Canada, and presumably to this minister because these issues were shared with all of the provincial ministers across the country, British Columbia said in that regard, yes, they do believe that if Bill C-88 were enacted in its current form, there could be significant implications re NAFTA.
Finally, could Bill C-88, as introduced, alter the legislative or other authority of the federal government in the provinces under the Constitution, could it impact in any way on Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act? British Columbia has expressed the concern that it might well change the constitutional interpretation.
So, knowing from my limited analysis of the legislation and the agreement, Madam Speaker, that at least one other signatory to the agreement, namely the Province of British Columbia, has asked, what struck me as I observed them, pretty substantive and substantial questions, I would ask this minister if he will, when he closes, or failing that - and in fairness to him there may be some issues here that I am talking about that he might want and require to have some consultation with others and with other officials - but in as timely a fashion, and by that I mean 24 or 48 hours maximum, I think would be sufficient to enable him to respond.
I think it is important, before we get to the Law Amendments Committee stage relative to this bill, to know whether or not these questions have been reviewed by our legal counsel here in Nova Scotia. It is important for us to know what concerns, if any, and the minister didn't really allude to much in the way of concerns that the Province of Nova Scotia has or that he has on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia about the ratification of this bill, and if my information is correct, the concerns raised by the other provincial jurisdictions were, in fact, shared with us here in Nova Scotia, particularly with the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. Will the minister provide Nova Scotians with an indication of his and the government's analysis of those concerns and share that information with us?
How much time to I have, please, Madam Speaker?
MADAM SPEAKER: You have until 2:32 p.m.
MR. DONAHOE: Eight minutes. If you look at Article 1710 of the agreement itself, you will find language which I have been attempting to address and which I think raises some potential problems. It is only about four or five lines; I would like to read Clause 3 of Article 1710 of the Agreement on Internal Trade. It reads as follows and I won't get into all the gory details but there is a committee establishment process in the agreement, "Subject to having discussed the matter with the Committee under paragraph 2, the complaining Party may suspend benefits of equivalent effect or, where this is impracticable, impose retaliatory measures of equivalent effect against the Party complained against until such time as a mutually satisfactory resolution of the dispute is achieved.".
That, I believe, is an exceedingly strong and sweeping authority made available which could potentially very much hurt the Province of Nova Scotia if it is not responded to.
I would appreciate it very much, when the minister closes debate here on second reading, if he could tell us whether or not it is the case that the Provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec have, in fact, indicated that they have some problems with the enforcement provisions of Bill C-88 and the provisions to which I have just read. It is my understanding that that concern was raised at a June 7th meeting of the Internal Trade Ministers. I would appreciate it if this minister would confirm that this matter was indeed raised at the June 7th meeting of Internal Trade Ministers and, if so, what was the outcome of that meeting. I would appreciate the minister's indication as to what representations Nova Scotia, through him or through the Premier, but presumably through him, has made on the very contentious Clause 9 of Bill C-88.
In the Senate debates of June 7, 1995, Senator Fernand Roberge indicated under the heading, "Federal-Provincial Relations", Effect of Enforcement Provisions of Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Bill on Interprovincial Trade - Government Position, he said:
"Honourable senators, at least three provinces, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, have problems with the enforcement provisions of Bill C-88, the internal trade bill. They state this bill may give Ottawa powers that go beyond what was agreed to last year. For example, there is a worry that Bill C-88 will allow the government to apply any federal law to a province, and take any measure that the cabinet feels is necessary. While the Minister of Industry may disagree with their interpretation, those concerns do exist, and the provinces have put this matter on the agenda for today's meeting" - this was the same date that the ministers were to meet and I guess did meet, on June 7, 1995 - " of the internal trade representatives. In the interest of removing irritants that may delay passage of the bill before the July 1 target date, would the Leader of the Government inquire of the Minister of Industry whether he is prepared to make amendments to address those provincial concerns?".
It is in that regard that I would appreciate very much if the minister would let us know what position was adopted by the Government of Nova Scotia.
I note - and I am just ready to wind down and conclude as my time clock indicates I must - at the tail-end of what is a relatively short bill here, we have Consequential Amendments indicated, amendments to the Civil Service Act, the Gas Utilities Act, the Lightning Rod Act, the Mineral Resources Act, the Pipeline Act, the Real Estate Brokers' Licensing Act and the Wildlife Act and I would very much appreciate the minister letting us know, as he closes, whether or not it is his and his officials' assessment that those are the only legislative changes necessary to ensure that the Province of Nova Scotia is in a position of full and complete compliance with the Agreement on Internal Trade?
Madam Speaker, there are so many issues here. In truth, I think not only are there so many issues, there are so many unanswered questions and there has not really been an opportunity, particularly if I may - and not to beat it to death - when a member, for what it is worth, at the time I wrote to the Premier and to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, I don't say it for any other reason than to indicate it happened to be the office which I occupied at the time, but I wrote as the Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, to the Premier and to two ministers, to ask a couple of questions about potential retaliatory measures to be taken or able to be taken by the Government of Canada in the event that this bill goes forward and I don't get the courtesy of a reply and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, as a consequence, don't get a reply.
Accordingly, as I close, because there are so many questions that still need answers. I would close, Madam Speaker, by making a motion to you and I would move that the words after that be deleted and the following substituted:
Bill No. 33, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, be not now read a second time, but that the subject matter of the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development to seek information regarding the impact of the provisions of Bill No. 33 on the citizens of Nova Scotia.
MADAM SPEAKER: The amendment is being circulated.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, before you make a ruling, I would like to suggest that certainly in my opinion this proposed amendment would be out of order. The first part of the amendment begins the process to actually hoist the bill, that the bill not be now read a second time. That part of the motion would, in fact, kill the bill, Madam Speaker. If you are going to kill a bill, how can you then refer the subject matter to a Standing Committee of the House? It seems that two amendments that are acceptable during second reading have been combined here. In fact, one seems to negate the purpose of the other. That type of double-barrelled resolution certainly is not in order. For example, I think Beauchesne clearly states that you cannot, on one hand, be against the principle of the bill and then make a reasoned amendment to the bill. In fact, if the bill is to be killed, as the first part of this sets out, that it not now be read a second time, then it is gone and it seems a moot point to then suggest referring it to a Standing Committee of the House.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would permit one intervention from each Party on this point, if you would be so kind as to follow that.
The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Well, it will come as no surprise to you that my interpretation of the amendment which I put forward does not jibe at all with that offered now by the Government House Leader. It simply indicates that we are in second reading and we are saying, by way of this amendment, that we not have it continue through the second reading process. But we don't stop there, that is not a hoist motion. We are simply saying that we not conclude second reading but, rather, we follow a different course. Of course the different course is the reference of the subject matter to the Standing Committee on Economic Development.
That is the point, it is clear, as I think it can be, that we are not attempting to kill the bill and hoist the bill but we are attempting to have it go forward to the committee so that it would be possible for the minister and all of us and those in the commercial and industrial and economic communities of our province to make representations relative to it, at which point it would come back.
I say to you with the greatest respect that there is no intention and the language does not support the contention that the amendment calls for a hoist, but, rather, it simply indicates that we cut off the second reading process to make the reference to the committee, not to kill the bill.
MADAM SPEAKER: The Third Party is passing on an intervention? Thank you.
It is very clear in Beauchesne that a reasoned amendment and a hoist cannot be moved in one motion but this is not a combination of a hoist and a reasoned amendment. I have a problem with the wording and it was one that I cautioned the honourable members on Thursday last in that I strongly referenced the use of the word provisions in the amendment that was accepted on last Thursday. I would expect that any amendments coming after last Thursday would have respected that ruling. Therefore, I am ruling this amendment out of order.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak for at least a few moments on Bill No. 33, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade. When this bill was first tabled in the House a week or so ago, I took the opportunity to leaf through it, as I am sure other members did, and read the accompanying press release or statement by the minister. I was concerned with some of the subject matter in the bill, in particular those areas under the section, Consequential Amendments, because it appeared to me that what was happening was - whether it related to the Civil Service Act, the Mineral Resources Act, the Pipeline Act or whatever - that the Province of Nova Scotia somehow, some way, was losing their right, their authority, basically, to make economic policy that would be beneficial, in their determination, to the people of this province.
Our office then began to try to search out what, in fact, was behind this bill. I don't know what happened; I don't know whether I was asleep at the wheel and missed the announcement back in the summer of 1994 or what happened exactly. That is certainly always possible, although our staff is extremely diligent and attentive at statements that are made by any ministers of this government. I don't understand why it is, in fact, that we missed it. Maybe I didn't pay sufficient attention to the announcement when it was made. Regardless, when this bill was dropped on my desk, I was not aware and it took me some time to make myself aware of the contents of the Agreement on Internal Trade, the agreement to which this bill refers very specifically.
As was indicated earlier, with some 1,800 different articles, the length of the agreement is well in excess of 200 pages. It is an extremely complicated and complex agreement, I would suggest. It is a political agreement that was reached by the different governments within this country and it was a political agreement which dealt with the whole question of internal barriers to trade, the free flowing of goods and services and labour, Madam Speaker. The agreement was signed, as was indicated, in September 1994, and it was basically agreed to in July by the ministers. There were nonetheless a number of concerns remaining with the ministers of various provinces as to specifics within the agreement, and I will get to those in a moment.
In, I think, a sign of good faith, the ministers of all jurisdictions in this country signed on to the Agreement on Internal Trade in recognition of the need to deal with some of the concerns that have been raised over the last number of decades, really, about the barriers that exist to trade and the need to, hopefully, try to free up what some have suggested - in fact, I refer to the Canadian Manufacturers' Association who have suggested that the barriers and tariffs from one province to the next in Canada represent costs to the economy in excess of $6 billion.
I would suggest to you, and it has been suggested by some that those estimates are greatly exaggerated, in fact, should perhaps be considered more like if not one-half, one-tenth of those costs, and that the costs have a lot to do with individual provinces being able to deal with issues of economic development, whether that pertains to the ability of a government to be able to create more jobs in any given province, whether it is to ensure, for example, that through supply managed agricultural trade, to ensure that there is a protection of small farms within a given jurisdiction so that we don't have all of our chicken, milk or cheese needs or whatever met by an operation down in the States. We know, Madam Speaker, that a number of those operations can easily do that. The same thing goes for beer, that clearly the needs of Nova Scotia and a great part of Atlantic Canada can probably be met by one of the existing breweries in Milwaukee or in Minnesota.
So, I think we have to recognize the fact that right off the top there is some considerable disagreement as to the true impact of the internal barriers to trade that exist, as to whether or not they are of such sufficient negative impact that they require the kind of legislation that is being proposed here and, more importantly, that is being proposed by the federal Bill C-88, that, in effect, completely challenges and diminishes to some considerable degree and some would say takes away the rights of the provinces to make determinations on economic policy that are based on the circumstances within their particular jurisdiction.
Madam Speaker, Bill C-88, when it was introduced - which this legislation is supposed to mirror to some extent - in the Parliament of Canada by Liberal MP Raymond Chan, he introduced it by saying that the government has felt strong and repeated pressure from the private sector to deal with the problems associated with internal barriers to trade and conflicting regulations on cross-border flows of people and capital. He says that they have received representations from the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council on National Issues, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Bankers Association, the Canadian Construction Association and so on. He goes on to say that the bill, in this case Bill C-88, and relates specifically to the bill that is before us now, will provide a supportive environment for the economic transition process we are now experiencing. He says, to grow and prosper, business needs an efficient and open market place, an environment that encourages innovation and expansion, competitive advantage free of unnecessary barriers in trade.
In order to do that, Bill C-88 authorizes Cabinet to suspend rights or privileges granted by the Government of Canada to the province under the agreement or any federal law. In other words, to modify or suspend the application of any federal law with respect to the province. Further, to extend the application of any federal law to the province and to take any other measure it considers necessary to enforce internal trade.
Madam Speaker, what that final comment means, in effect, is that the provincial governments are giving up the rights that they have had historically in this country to make determinations on matters of economic policy. I would suggest that an important lesson of Canadian economic history has been that provincial action is required to regulate north-south linkages in the interests of economic development and diversification because anyone who understands the history of this country, understands how strong the pull has been for the provinces in this country to trade with our partners to the south and that a great deal of the trade in this province has, in fact, been north-south. But in order for this country to exist and to be sustained, that initially Canada put in tariff barriers between Canada and the U.S. to manage trade from one country to the other.
Also, the provinces have had the opportunity to ensure that trade from east to west and from west to east was managed, Madam Speaker, and that provincially we were able to ensure that economic development was the first priority of our provincial governments. As a result of that, we have had various protections in this province and in other provinces with respect to, as he indicated earlier, the whole question of supply management, with the question of the ability of other jurisdictions to ship beer and wine into our province and the requirement that various activities in this province or in other provinces, whether it be oil drilling or with respect to the building and construction of gas pipelines, that that work primarily be done by, in this case, Nova Scotians. In the case of Manitobans or people in Saskatchewan or in the case of Newfoundland and the Hibernia project, there is a provision in that agreement, the development of Hibernia, that a certain percentage of the work goes to Newfoundlanders and people from Labrador.
Now what happens, as best as I can tell, with this trade agreement and, therefore, through Bill No. 33 that is in front of us, is that we give up a lot of that authority here in this province and other provinces are expected to give up a lot of authority. That is provided for, Madam Speaker, in Bill C-88.
The speaker earlier went through some detail on the specifics of that particular piece of legislation and the Agreement on Internal Trade. I don't expect that I will attempt to do the same, but suffice it to say that a number of the signatories to the Agreement on Internal Trade have argued, in fact complained, to the federal government that Bill C-88 goes well beyond what is necessary in order to implement the agreement they were signatories to. In fact, it still is the case that there are several provinces who have made submissions to the federal government to try to ensure that various provisions called for within Bill C-88 do not, in fact, go forward, whether that be through draft changes or through changes in the legislation or whatever, Madam Speaker. Certainly I think it is clear that many provinces, unless some of these important questions are dealt with, are not going to bring forward enabling legislation.
Madam Speaker, it is somewhat ironic that we are being faced with significant liberalization of trade in the country, which is really - I should say that it is under the guise of the liberalization of trade, but really it is the usurping of the provincial powers by the federal government to effect economic policy in their jurisdiction, at the same time that we are having the federal government decentralize so much of its social policy and social programs, at the same time that they are abandoning responsibility for maintaining national social standards, some would say back to the way it worked in the 1930's, where if anybody wanted any relief they had to go to either the province or the municipality. Whereas now under the standards that now exist, it is provided by national standard through the Canada Assistance Plan that everyone who is in need is entitled to some assistance.
Some would suggest that that particular process of decentralization is coming from some of those people that Member of Parliament, the Honourable Raymond Chan referred to when he talked about who was behind the introduction of Bill C-88, the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the Business Council on National Issues, the Bankers Association and so on, organizations I would suggest that have never been friends of ordinary people in this country, have never been friends of workers, never been friends, for that matter, of Nova Scotians and regional interests in Nova Scotia. (Interruption) Yes, they have been employers.
I would suggest to you that what is in the interest there is the bottom line and that if they can service the needs (Interruption). No, no, you are going to talk about this in agriculture, George, so pay attention. My point is, if the needs of this region can be serviced by one manufacturing facility in Ontario instead of having any kind of manufacturing facilities here in Nova Scotia, then that is what will happen. It is the same thing that I talked about before, you get rid of supply managed agricultural trade and all of the small farms in Nova Scotia are going to be run out of business and all of our needs here are going to be met by operations down in southern United States or on the Eastern Seaboard. That is exactly what kind of pressures are being applied here.
It was referred to by the President of the National Bank of Canada, that decentralization is a process of shifting power down to the lowest level of public administration, in other words, of shifting power to people or to layers of government that have the least ability to borrow. In other words, if you shift the authority and the power for these programs, in the case of social programs, down to the provincial and municipal layers where they are less able to borrow money in order to meet their obligations like they are at the federal level, then there is going to be a lot less likelihood that those programs will be able to be maintained.
Again on the other hand, you have the Agreement on International Trade where the federal government will now have sweeping controls over the provisions of inter-provincial trade and economic policy in this country. It deregulates provincial standards on the environment, health and safety and it gives corporations the same rights they now enjoy in the NAFTA bloc. It limits public sector activity and restricts the ability of governments and communities to influence corporate activity.
In other words, what this bill is going to do is limit the ability of Nova Scotians to make decisions on economic matters that are in the best interests of Nova Scotians, whether our willingness to pay a higher price for Cape Breton coal would be ruled out of order under the provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade. In other words, the kind of suggestion is then that if Nova Scotia Power can get coal offshore, regardless of what it does to Nova Scotia in terms of the loss of jobs and loss of benefits to the economy, not only in Nova Scotia but also more importantly, in Cape Breton, then we will not be allowed to do that. We will not have control over those kinds of policies. It applies the same way to procurement.
We had a discussion in this House the other day with the Minister of Supply and Services about whether that department should be able to examine the health and safety record of a company that is applying to get a tender and whether or not, if they had a bad record, they would be able to be ruled out. Well, there is some question, because of what the provincial government seem to be giving up in this legislation, as to whether or not they would be able to apply those kinds of conditions on those companies.
The same things are true that tenders over $25,000, when it comes specifically to goods, that we will not be able to give preference to companies from Nova Scotia. In fact, there is some suggestion, in terms of the implications of this bill and its connection with the free trade agreement and NAFTA that, in fact, we won't even be able to ensure that that business is kept in the country, that if we begin to show preference - Canada-wide even, let alone Nova Scotia - that U.S. corporations will be able to apply under this Act to show discrimination. Again, Nova Scotia giving up its responsibility, giving up its autonomy, giving up its right to make decisions on the economy and decisions about how, in fact, we are going to regulate our economy.
We talked, again, about the whole business of this determination, the whole idea of taking down all of the barriers to trade and the free movement of goods and services because it is efficient, because the economic argument is that if you allow, basically, each region to do whatever they can do best and that everything will shake down and we in the region in the Atlantic Provinces will all of a sudden, I don't know, be manufacturing widgets, or whatever, because that is what we do best. But the thing is, that is not reality. What is not recognized in that whole theory is the fact that there are a lot of things that go by the wayside when you are considering that baseline economic argument, Mr. Speaker.
You talk about the supply management argument and having large agricultural businesses being able to supply our needs for produce and other agricultural products, instead of having the small farms. The Minister of Natural Resources remembers this argument well when he was working on behalf of the Federation of Agriculture in the GATT negotiations, to try to protect supply management programs here in Canada. He knew, as well as the rest of us, that if you get rid of those supply management agreements, if you take away the ability of our governments here in this country to make decisions which benefit us, then we will be following down that road of having factory farms in the United States providing the needs of people in this region.
That is no different when you are talking about fishing, and this has been made to me on a number of occasions by the former executives of Clearwater - that we could have two or three or four factory freezer trawlers off the coast of Nova Scotia that could handle all of the fish in Nova Scotia. That is the most efficient way to handle it, instead of having the thousands of fishing vessels that go out there with 2, 3, 4 or 10 fishers on it, who come back and keep the small processing facilities going. You would have three or four factory trawlers and maybe you would have one or two plants. But that is the efficiency argument, but what happens to all our coastal communities if that is what happens in Nova Scotia?
I think it is a matter of some concern and I am concerned. I don't at all want to suggest here that I completely understand this agreement because, as I said, I have had it for about a week. As the earlier speaker would have suggested had he thought it, it is written in somewhat lawyerish language. Not being a lawyer, it is not that easy for me to comprehend its intentions but I have referred to other people, other experts on this matter. Believe me, Mr. Speaker, I think it is of sufficient concern, the questions are sufficiently significant and varied and the impact on this province is such that we should not debate this in isolation, we should not be considering the questions being addressed here in isolation. We should be giving and providing an opportunity for Nova Scotians to understand what are the benefits if, in fact, that is going to be the case, or what are the impacts, what are the negative impacts if there are going to be any?
In other words, if this is as significant as the minister indicates it is - and I would agree with him, but perhaps for different reasons - then we should take some time to debate the merits of this particular agreement. Mr. Speaker, the bill is one thing, the bill is the enabler, but the matter of real concern that we should be focusing our attention on is this 200-odd page agreement, this agreement that has 1,800-plus articles in it that affects everything as it relates to trade in this country.
You know there have been attempts by jurisdictions in this country to deal with internal trade, undoubtedly since before the 1970's, but let's look at since the 1970's, where they have attempted through, first, the Macdonald Royal Commission that spent considerable time on it, and then it was part of the various constitutional discussions and debates. I think it was recognized, for example, in the debate around the Charlottetown Accord that you can't take the social issues of this province, of this country, the social programs and deal with them separately; you can't take the economic policies and programs that affect this country and deal with them separately; and the same with the environment. The three are inextricably interwound. They are all together and you cannot deal with them separately. That is, in fact, what is being attempted here, I would suggest, and I think it is a matter of some considerable concern.
At the very least we should have the debate. I know that the amendment that the member for Halifax Citadel brought in didn't get passed because of the way it was written, the amendment which suggested that this matter be referred to the Economic Development Committee, but I think that is something that has to happen. I don't think it is good enough for this minister, for the minister responsible, to come in and draw up a bill like this and say, here it is, let's pass it, without us having an opportunity to deal with the implications provided for in that bill, Mr. Speaker.
You know, to my knowledge there is only one provincial jurisdiction that has passed enabling legislation and that was Alberta. Manitoba and Newfoundland have legislation before them. In the case of Manitoba, for example, Mr. Speaker, the bill that deals with this has effectively one clause in it - two clauses, but one clause - as it relates to the responsibilities of that provincial government. It deals with the awarding of costs provided when a matter goes through the dispute resolution mechanism provided for in the agreement under Article 1700. I understand in Newfoundland that in fact the legislation is also very specific and very limited in terms of what it does. I have talked to people in other jurisdictions in the country about what we've got before us today and people that have been involved, for instance, in the negotiations around the Agreement on Internal Trade; they can't understand why it is, for example, that under the Consequential Amendments section of the bill before us today, that this government is appearing to give up as many powers as it does. Under Clause 25, for example, it says "Where there is a conflict between the Agreement . . ." meaning the Agreement on Internal Trade that I am referring to, " . . . and an enactment, the Agreement prevails.".
It sounds to some, Mr. Speaker, as if it is a complete abdication of provincial responsibility in many of these areas. The question is why? Why this province is prepared to do that, I think, is something that has to be dealt with. We have to focus on that because there are legitimate objectives, for example, that are listed in the agreement. There are a number of them, including health and safety, environment, and a number of different items that the minister raised when he first introduced the bill at second reading. In other words, there is still in the agreement opportunities for local governments it seems to make local decisions. It is still somewhat ambiguous, it is up in the air and it could be overturned by the feds but that is something that other jurisdictions - Saskatchewan and B.C. for two - are seeking clarification from the federal government.
Here is the Province of Nova Scotia, seeming to just give up that authority to be able to even question the rights of the federal government on the one hand or to be able to make its own rules and regulations on some things and then fight it out on whether or not the agreement allows it to do, Mr. Speaker.
I don't know if people have had the opportunity to look at the bill, let alone the 200-odd page agreement. Under the bill, there are a number of - and I refer to Consequential Amendments. The amendments, one after the other, deal with things like the Civil Service Act. It is amended. What is amended is the ability of the province to give preferential treatment to Nova Scotians, Nova Scotia companies and Nova Scotia workers, Mr. Speaker.
The question under the Gas Utilities Act, there is a whole question here about being incorporated in the Province of Nova Scotia. In the Mineral Resources Act, it is taken out of here, no person shall remove from the province for processing. In other words, there is some question here as to whether or not the Province of Nova Scotia, once this is passed, is going to be able to set stipulations on whether any of our mineral resources need to be processed in this province before they are shipped out.
You and other members will recall that over the years there has been some considerable debate about the whole question of value added, as we have tried to stop the flow of our natural resources, our common resources, the resources that we all own a part of, to stop the flow of those out, without gaining as much value as we possibly can for this province. Well according to these changes, that authority, that ability will be greatly restricted, Mr. Speaker.
The same thing applies to the Pipeline Act, where the whole reference to preference to Nova Scotians is taken out, whether that be to employment - there are provisions in there, Mr. Speaker, that says the nature and extent of employment of Nova Scotians has now been changed to residents of Canada - in terms of the nature and extent of supply of goods and services, that has now been changed to residents of Canada. So in other words, when the pipeline comes ashore or when gas comes to ground in Ship Harbour, I bet you there are residents of the Eastern Shore who are expecting they are going to get the jobs.
Well, I tell you, the ability of the Province of Nova Scotia to ensure that is very seriously impacted by these changes. Not only was it difficult before but we had legislation that specifically provided for that preference. But now that preference is no longer there, Mr. Speaker.
It goes on, Mr. Speaker. Again one has to ask one's self why it is that Nova Scotia, as opposed to any other jurisdiction that has even drafted legislation, is going to the extent that we have in ensuring that there are no questions, we have abdicated our responsibility for providing any kind of preference for Nova Scotians.
You know in British Columbia there is quite a battle going on right now because they have a major campaign called Buy British Columbia. They have been continuing to fight with the government, in fact got some changes to the agreement itself, over that specific provision, to enable them to continue that campaign so that British Columbia companies would get preference in procurement and other things.
What has Nova Scotia done to ensure that the interests of Nova Scotians are, in fact, not only protected but promoted? I know there are some who will say well, you know if you open it up wide open, you open the borders and you ensure that it is fair for Nova Scotia, it is fair for Ontario and it is fair for B.C., that in the final analysis we will come out on top. Well that was the argument on the free trade agreements and with NAFTA and so on. But I would suggest that if you ask a lot of Nova Scotians today, especially people down in Yarmouth, in the western end of the province, how they fared from the free trade agreements, I would suggest they would say to you they have not fared too well.
From the deregulation of transportation policies, the fact that there no longer are any buses other than one route going down to Yarmouth, there are no trains. Is there a stopover now for any of the planes? One, maybe two. These kinds of policies have an impact on us here. It is not good enough to just hang on to some kind of free market ideology that says that we have to leave it all to free enterprise and let the chips fall where they may. Those aren't the realities of our province, those aren't the realities of our country.
If the agenda here is to dismantle this country and to get rid of the borders and just have it so the country is now North America, then let's call it that but let's have a debate about that before the decisions are made behind closed doors, without Nova Scotians or Canadians knowing exactly what is going on. Even though, in the free trade deal and NAFTA where some of us talked about how as we continue to lose our ability to set made-in-Canada economic policies, we are going to lose our ability to set made-in-Canada social policies.
What, in fact, is happening is that the pressure on this country to reduce its commitment to social policies has never been greater. I would suggest to you that that is not benefitting Nova Scotia one iota. All we are doing is we are losing in this whole debate. When you see legislation like this that continues to exacerbate those problems, I would suggest that perhaps I need to have the opportunity to debate at some considerable length, maybe not even to debate, even just to listen and ask questions about the rationale behind some of these decisions and how they are going to be so good for Nova Scotia because I can't see it.
Let me say as I begin to wrap up, that this is a piece of legislation that is going to have a phenomenal impact on this country and on this province in particular. I don't know how many people in this House even have looked at this agreement, have looked at the 200-plus pages of this agreement and considered the impact of the federal government taking over our opportunities, the provincial jurisdictions opportunities, to make policies within our jurisdiction, economic policies, based on our own circumstances.
I don't know if members of this Legislature have had the opportunity to review the implications of this legislation but I would suggest that there are a lot of people out there across Nova Scotia, more importantly, who haven't had an opportunity to talk about the impact and the implications of the Agreement on Internal Trade and the legislation that is before us right now, sponsored by the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. I think it is incumbent upon us to take that debate out to Nova Scotians.
I think it is incumbent upon us to start to talk in real, frank terms with Nova Scotians about the kinds of choices that are before us, the kinds of choices that this government is taking. The kinds of choices that say that we don't have, as a province, the right, let alone the opportunity, to make decisions within our own jurisdiction that will benefit us as a province, that in some areas have unemployment rates in excess of 50 per cent. That we don't have an opportunity in the process of developing our economy to give preference to indigenous companies, give preference to workers from Nova Scotia who in some communities are experiencing rates of unemployment that are not only over 50 per cent, but also are lasting a much greater length of time than they have ever seen in our history. We have to be able to do something about these things.
If we are going to ensure that we are going to explore and develop offshore gas reserves - and I think we have to have that debate on whether we do or we don't - then at least we can ensure that that work goes to Nova Scotians, that work goes to people on the Eastern Shore where unemployment levels are unreasonably high, that in communities in Guysborough County people have the opportunity for that work in order that those communities struggling as a result of the downturn in the resource sector - in particular in fisheries - are able to try to use some economic activity to benefit their community and to keep their community going. We have to have that authority, and I think this legislation, together with the Agreement on Internal Trade, is abdicating that responsibility.
I would like to have the opportunity, nonetheless, to debate whether, in fact, that is the case. The worst thing about this kind of legislation, the worst thing about things like the Canada Health and Social Transfer, is that we are making significant change in the way this country works, in the way government works, in the whole constitutional delegation of powers, and we are doing it without having a public debate on which way it is that we are going down the road and why. I think that is wrong; I don't think that is a very positive way to govern, Mr. Speaker.
I was in support of the idea of this bill going to a committee to do just that, to be the forum for the debate, to hold public hearings and so on, but that was ruled out of order. So, what I am going to do is I am proposing to introduce another amendment, Mr. Speaker, which will provide this minister with an opportunity to come clean with Nova Scotians, to have the debate in Ship Harbour and Guysborough and Canso and Port Hawkesbury and Sydney and Glace Bay, about what is going to happen if this legislation goes through, about what the Agreement on Internal Trade - all 1,804 articles - the implication that this agreement is going to have on us here in Nova Scotia. It will provide that minister with the opportunity to use whatever means are at his disposal, whether it is an all-Party committee, whether it is a standing committee of this House, whether it is an independent task force, to have the debate not amongst the Canadian Manufacturers' Association and the bankers and the Chambers of Commerce, but to have it amongst them and the leaders of the communities, other people, workers, representatives of various organizations in this province that are concerned about what is going to happen.
We can have that debate, not among a select group, but amongst everybody, in order that we try to get to the bottom of this, because in the final analysis I think we would agree that if there are things that need to be done in terms of economic policy, to make this country work better for the benefit of all Canadians, then that should be done. But I don't agree that we should give up our authority, our autonomy in Nova Scotia to make decisions which will benefit residents of Nova Scotia. I think that is something that we have to shy away from.
I would propose to introduce an amendment, Mr. Speaker, that says as follows, "That the words after "that" be deleted and the following be substituted therefor: `Bill No. 33 be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.'". I send that down to you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The Pages are passing around the proposed amendment now. I will not rule on it until all members have had a chance to see it.
All members have a copy of the proposed amendment. I have had an opportunity to review it and I find the amendment is in order.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: I am rising in my place to speak to you, Mr. Speaker, and members of the House of Assembly on an amendment to Bill No. 33 that will, in effect, read this bill a second time six months from now which means that this bill disappears from our Chamber which, depending on your point of view, may or may not be a good idea, Mr. Speaker.
Now, this bill is very small, wherever it went. It is so small I cannot even find it. Here it is. There are only a few pages. There are four pages in this bill that we are discussing now. The agreement on it goes like this, you see, the bill is here but the real stuff is here so if we pass this, we get this.
We have to be very conscious and very concerned about trade, whether it is international, national, local or whatever. Nova Scotia had a heyday up until 1867. It was based on one thing and that was trade. We traded in every nook and every cranny of this world. Every village that was on the water had a wharf. They were building ships for international trade. Our province was built on trade, our country was built on trade but the rules have changed, Mr. Speaker. In those days they really did, I think, have free trade. They might have paid excise tax and duties when they arrived home but they could trade anywhere they wanted. They could load the boat with lumber and coal, gypsum in Nova Scotia, salt fish and off they would head to the Caribbean or somewhere else to pick up molasses, sugar or whatever else they could get in the boat, wool, and bring it home.
You know, things have changed. We do not get a fair shake in Nova Scotia. We have not had a fair shake in trade in Nova Scotia since 1867. The time to stop fooling around has arrived. This bill will not, I am afraid, protect Nova Scotia and give us the level playing field. When you talk to people about trade, they want the level playing field just like this, Mr. Speaker. They want everybody playing by the same rules. I think if we all played by the same rules in trade, there is not a country, there is not a people that would be any better at it than we are.
The rules are not the same for us. We have the finest harbour, truly, in the North Atlantic, but is it the busiest? No, it is not the busiest, and why isn't it? Because there are some artificial trade barriers stuffed in our face day after day, both by our federal government and by our neighbours to the south. Now, we would expect a foreign country, the United States, to put the wood to us from time to time, to the advantage of their own country but, Mr. Speaker, when constantly, we in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada have the wood put to us by the federal government, regardless of who is in power . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I think the member for Kings North, perhaps does not realize what we are debating is an amendment to hoist the bill six months hence, not the pluses and minuses of the bill, itself. I would ask the member to restrict his comments to why it is in the best interests, in your view, to hoist this bill for six months, not the pluses and minuses of the bill; you will get an opportunity of discussing that on second reading. (Interruption)
MR. ARCHIBALD: (Laughter) Did you hear that comment, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: No, I did not.
MR. ARCHIBALD: If you did, I would throw them out if I were you because you have the power. (Laughter) Now, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your interjection. I think that if you follow what I am saying, you will agree that it may take six months and it might take a little bit longer to get us on this level playing field.
We have problems in Nova Scotia but we also have solutions. This bill in its present form, I think could be altered and fixed up a little bit. I think we can get the kind of deal that Nova Scotia both wants, needs and deserves but, obviously, it is going to take six months to do it. This bill is the type of a bill that is going to be passed in each and every Legislature in Canada because that is what this is all about, it is internal trade within the country.
You know, are we the first to say we are going to take this bill whole hog, we are going to take this Agreement on Internal Trade, are we the first to say, we are going to hop on-board? There is nothing wrong with being first if you are in a foot race, boat race or car race but, you know, this is not a race; we are talking about the future of our province because trade is the future of our province.
I think that, since 1984, when this thing was signed by the Honourable Ross Bragg, things have changed dramatically. One of the biggest changes that has to be addressed and might take six months to do it is the railroad. In 1994, there was not a suggestion that they were going to sell CN to anybody in particular. I made a presentation to the federal Standing Committee on Transportation, indicating that the rail should not be sold without careful consideration, should not be privatized at the expense of the Port of Halifax and jobs in Nova Scotia.
What has changed suddenly and where has this minister been with regard to the railway? He needs this six months to get that straightened out because there is no assurance from the federal government in Ottawa, there is no assurance from the federal minister from New Brunswick that we will even, in fact, have a railway that reaches from the Port of Halifax to Montreal. There is no assurance of that.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you sure?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, I am sure; that is true. There is something that the federal government said that they are sure of in this privatized railway, that the headquarters of the railway is going to be in Montreal. It tells you, Mr. Speaker, that our wishes are not as important as another province's. I would think that where the national headquarters of the railroad is, is not as important as the fact that there is a railway. I am not concerned and neither are other people, probably, if the headquarters of the railroad is in Montreal, Toronto or Halifax, but we are all concerned that we, in fact, have a railroad. If this minister had six months, perhaps he could come back and say, I've talked to the federal government and they have agreed that we will not privatize CN unless there is an agreement that says the railroad is going to run from Montreal to Halifax forever. But, if they can say the headquarters is in Montreal, why can't they say the railroad is going to run to the East Coast. Given six months, he might be able to work that out for us.
If you look at some of the happenings in the last few years in Nova Scotia, we've got a serious problem. Coca-Cola left town, Pepsi left town. This is how trade works. They make the product in another province and they ship it in here. There is a solution. Make it here and ship it there. Isn't that a better idea? Keep the jobs local. Given six months and a little foresight and a little faith in Nova Scotia, the minister just might be able to turn that around. But I think the minister might agree that six months would help. Give him the opportunity. The GATT talks have been going on since 1948. They never solve anything in 20 minutes in one session, they take time to try to get it right. You never get it right the first time apparently. They keep going back and making improvements and twisting this and turning that and making things a little better perhaps, but are we ready in Nova Scotia for wide open, unencumbered trade with each province? I say we are if everybody is treated equally and if you look at your strengths and build on them.
Now we should have a list before us today of the strengths of our province and areas where the minister is going to put emphasis to show that we can really make things happen. Maybe in six months time he could have a list for us so that we would know where we are going because there are opportunities in this province. We do have some comparative advantages that others don't have. We have a labour force that is second to none. We have an education system that is second to none. We have universities (Interruption) Well, he is working on tearing them apart, but at the present time, he hasn't had a chance, but we can build on some of our strengths. Our universities are world-renowned. We have strengths that the minister needs six months obviously, to learn about, so he can get an agreement with the rest of the country that is as good as each and every other province has. At the present time, we are being short-changed slightly or greatly.
One of the things that happened, the transportation subsidies are gone. That used to be to help level out the playing field in Atlantic Canada, but the federal government took them away but said there is an interim payment for you fellows. Now what do we do with them? Well, we did a little paving on some 100-Series Highway, we are going . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Once again, I am going to caution the member. Speak to the amendment so I would ask the member to refer his comments to the amendment. This is my second warning.
MR. ARCHIBALD: How many do you get, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: You have had them all.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I only get two?
MR. SPEAKER: Just two.
MR. ARCHIBALD: What happens then?
MR. SPEAKER: The third time, I will ask you to be seated.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, it is good to know the rules. I have never had such an educated Speaker before I guess because he has never kept me quite in line. But really and truly, given six months, I think the minister could bring in a bill that does guarantee Nova Scotia a future in trade.
We have been talking about international, we have been talking about national and we have been talking about Atlantic Canadian Trade, but what are we doing about it? We have seen Pepsi and Coke go to New Brunswick and we have seen Moosehead leave here and go back to New Brunswick. We need six months for the minister to come in and tell us how he has prepared Nova Scotia to enter into this agreement in a position of strength so that we can grow and not continue the rapid diminishing that has been happening in the last couple of years. We have been drifting along and it is unacceptable to Nova Scotians.
Certainly, Nova Scotians are concerned right now about their jobs, about their future. What is in this bill that is going to help? I think this government and this minister have an obligation to the province to come forth and tell us the plan. Sure it is fine, he wants to take on an Internal Trade Agreement, but how has he prepared us and until the minister can tell us how Nova Scotia is ready, I think he has not done the whole job. I think it is going to take six months for the minister to gather his thoughts, to gather his people together because at the present time there does not seem to be a plan. This is a major undertaking and I know the minister wants to be first and then he can urge his other colleagues to sign up but are we ready? There is not point in rushing into this unless we are ready and we can improve the economy in our province.
Six months is not a long time. In six month's time we will be sitting right here in this Chamber and the minister can stand and say look, thank you for the six months reprieve. You took the pressure off me and I have come in and I can identify how I can work and how I can make all these general rules work better for Nova Scotia under procurement, investment, labour mobility, alcoholic beverages, natural resources processing. There are so many topics, there is not a man, woman or child in our province that will not be directly affected by this agreement.
At the present time, do we have any assurance from this minister or his government that all these Nova Scotians that are going to be affected directly are not going to be all adversely affected. Given six months the minister might be able to come in and say here are some examples of how things are going to look better. This is what we have done as a government, this is our plan, this is where we are today, this is where we want to be in a year's time and in two year's time. I am not sure if the government sometimes know where they want to have lunch, let alone where they want the province to be in two years time.
I think, given a little bit of time, this minister just might be able to pull himself together and pull this bill together so that we could all support it because trade is the future of all of this region, but you know, we can either be part of it or we can be standing on the sidelines and watch it go by. I think that is quite an amendment and I do not think that the government would be too opposed to giving the minister some time to bring forth some explanatory notes, some plans, some ideas, so that Nova Scotians will know where we are going in the future. Right now, it is sort of like buying a pig in a poke. I think the minister would like the opportunity to convince me and others that he really is in command and he is in charge and things are going to be better.
I will take my place and somebody else can explain to you and others their opinion on the six months' hoist. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and particularly thank you for your lesson in parliamentary democracy, it was most helpful.
MR. SPEAKER: The member is quite welcome.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with a pretty serious piece of business here with Bill No. 33. It is an important bill and again we have come to a bill whose ramifications are going to be with us for many years to come. As a practising lawyer, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you are aware of what we are about with this piece of legislation, but some of the other members are not, and I would just like to elaborate for a moment on what we are really doing.
With this piece of legislation what we are doing is giving force and effect to a piece of legislation which everybody has been waving around but I can't wave around because I haven't got a copy in front of me, a massive piece of legislation. We are giving force and effect to this legislation, which is federal legislation. The Ministers of Trade and Development or the Ministers of Development, or in our case, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, have agreed that what they will do it put in place mirror-image legislation, which means a reflection of what this bill does, so that the province is firmly on side and then the federal government's bill becomes law in this land.
I in my time in the House have only run into, I think, two or three pieces of legislation like that. I remember there was certainly one that dealt with the offshore, where this province put in mirror legislation the same as the federal legislation, so that the same regime operated insofar as the Government of Nova Scotia was concerned as with the federal government. There have been a couple of other pieces of legislation that I can think of, Mr. Speaker, that have gone through this House where we have aligned ourselves with other provinces of Canada and passed legislation. In fact, on one day, I think it was about four or five years ago, every Legislature in Canada passed a piece of legislation to mirror a piece of federal legislation. For the life of me, I can't remember what that was but, however, there was that one particular case that I remember. In all these cases we have had legislation that has been identical from province to province, or between the province and the federal government.
This bill on internal trade, the principle of which is to provide freedom of movement of goods and services across provincial boundaries in Nova Scotia, if that is the principle, and quite obviously it is, well surely the reason we are agreeing to that is to put in place a level playing field so that the rules in Nova Scotia are as the rules are in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. In other words, we are all operating under the same regime of law, we are all operating with the same regulations, et cetera, with regard to those matters we are talking about, the transfer of goods and services across provincial boundaries.
Now if, indeed, provinces themselves can put in their own appeal process, as a for instance, in other words, the appeal process in Nova Scotia. If we are having a scrap with New Brunswick or Ontario about whether or not we are living up to the federal bill, then there has to be a body to resolve that particular quarrel. If we said that in the Province of Nova Scotia we are going to have an appeal process which involves, we will say just for argument's sake, the Public Utilities Board, and the other province says, oh, no, we are going to use the federal Ombudsman and another province says, oh, no, we are going to use the Supreme Court. In other words, when you have a variety of appeal mechanisms that are not common, well, then you don't have mirror legislation because you are creating an unequal playing field for a dispute resolution mechanism. And that is just one of the things that I have against this particular piece of legislation, because that is actually happening.
MR. SPEAKER: The comments the member is making are most interesting, are very relevant to the principle, but what do they have to do with the amendment?
MR. RUSSELL: Well, I am rather slow getting to is and my apologies. In fact, I will get to it right now, if you wish. What I am saying, Mr. Speaker, the relevance of putting this legislation - and I would have hoped there would have been a committee - on hold for a period of time isn't going to affect anything. There is no effect whatsoever; as I understand it, at the present time only one other Legislature has actually put an Act through, only one. (Interruption)
You know, the Minister of Transportation makes a few cracks about, you want to hoist everything. No, what we want to do is do it right the first time, not like what the Minister of Education was doing trying to ram his piece of education reform through this House. We want to make sure that this legislation is examined and goes through this House, because it is not only going to be the law of this province, it is going to be the law of the land. In other words, it is going to apply right across this country and it is going to apply until such time as the provinces agree among themselves to change that legislation. As I say, it is a very important piece of work. By putting this bill away for a period of time, we are not going to lose anything, but we are going to gain time for people to examine this bill and what, indeed, the ramifications are.
We have another piece of legislation, just strangely enough, Mr. Speaker, before this House at the present time. In fact, it will be coming up for second reading, possibly today, and it is called the Revenue Act. If this bill passes, the Minister of Finance is going to have to bring that Revenue Act back to this House to amend. In fact, I would say to the members opposite that there are dozens and dozens of pieces of legislation that this bill is going to impact on. So, we have to be very careful of what we do.
What I am suggesting, Mr. Speaker, is that by holding this bill up for six months, we can get out and get all of the players - and we need an awful lot of players - we need those in transportation industry; we need those in the banking industry, in the insurance industry; we need those who are involved in straight trade of goods, the people who import and export from this province; we need all of those players to take a look at this legislation and to discover exactly where Nova Scotia sits. I am not against inter-provincial trade, please don't get me wrong, but I want to make sure that when we put a piece of legislation through this House, that we are not disadvantaged. That is why I say, why are we acting in unholy haste to get this piece of legislation through? Why do we have to be the first or second Legislature to put this bill through?
The minister has now come forward with the legislation and I say good, that is fine, because we have to do it. We are going to have to eventually come forward with a piece of legislation, but there is nothing that says that we have to pass that piece of legislation this fall. There is nothing that says we have to pass it next spring; in fact, probably a fall, 12 months hence, would be a suitable time to put this piece of legislation through.
All I am saying, Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, is for goodness sake, don't let us rush into this. I think most people - perhaps the NDP would not agree - but I think most people in this province would agree that we should have inter-provincial trade and, indeed, there should be no barriers between provinces. There may be a case that can be made, which I will talk about when we get to the bill, in some particular instances where, perhaps, we do need a slight edge, but however that still does not affect inter-provincial trade and I will talk about that at a later date.
For the moment, Mr. Speaker, I would like to urge every member of this Legislature to support this amendment that we have at the present time, not because we are against the principle, not because we want to embarrass the minister, but simply because we want to make sure that we have a piece of legislation that is going through this House that does, indeed, satisfy the requirements of this province and does, indeed, put us into a level playing field position with regard to the other provinces in Canada. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, timing in everything is absolutely vital. So it is true with this bill we currently have before the House this afternoon, timing is of the essence. Now one should not confuse timing with haste. There is no reason to make haste with respect to the passage of this legislation. There is every reason to take our time in a measured way, such that in advance of calling this bill for a vote, each and every member of this Legislature who has economic interests in his or her own constituency will be assured that by taking the position he or she does with respect to voting that he or she is taking the position which is in the best interests of their constituents in the narrowest sense, and their constituents' interests in the broadest sense, that is with respect to the national interest.
To my knowledge - and the minister will correct me in this if I am wrong - there are no demands being made of him or of this government to move post-haste with respect to the passage of this bill. I am sure that the minister, through his enthusiasm, has wanted to move this bill forward quickly, but I would ask him to put the brakes on himself and ensure that we have the proper kind of information available to all of us, to our business community, to our community in its broadest sense, so that we understand exactly what it is that the legislation would do. So there is one reason why the bill should be hoisted for a six month period, in order to provide time, time to ensure that we clearly understand what it is the bill would purport to do.
Secondly, I think we must have time in order to do a cost-benefit analysis to create the kind of mathematical models, economic models which one now can do, with a relative degree of facility, using various computer programs to determine what, once this bill is enacted, would be the impact on the Nova Scotian economy. Surely the minister would not bring a bill of this nature forward without wanting to have that information himself. I have not yet heard the minister make reference to that specific kind of analysis and if that analysis exists, he can very easily pull out of the mix, which I am presenting in debate on this motion, that requirement that time is necessary in order to undertake a cost-benefit analysis. If it is done, I would ask him to table it so we can all see it and understand it. If it is not done, then I say to the minister that I would hope he would give not only consideration to, but support to the motion before the committee this afternoon.
Timing is absolutely critical with respect to language. It is absolutely essential, if we are going to have legislation that has national implication, that the legislation say the same thing in each of the 11 jurisdictions. I am assuming here that the Legislatures in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories do not have similar legislation prepared for them but, rather, that it is the 10 provinces which, within their own realms are sovereign under the Constitution and the national government which will be dealing with this. We must take the time to ensure that each of those 11 Parliaments, with respect to their own unique responsibilities is legislating the same thing so that at the end of the day when the bill is passed, it says the same thing to Nova Scotians as it does to Albertans or British Columbians and it says the same thing to each of our Provincial Parliaments as it does to our National Parliament. It takes time to do that.
We have no assurance from this minister that that currently is the case. If it is not the case, then I think it behooves this Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency in this province, to go back to the drawing board and to ensure, working in concert with his colleagues across the nation, that not just complimentary legislation is being put forward in each Legislature, that in fact that uniform legislation is being put forward in each of our Parliaments. So that, should we come to the point, as undoubtedly we will, where the courts are called upon to adjudicate on the meaning of various sections of this legislation, they will be adjudicating on the basis of a national standard, not on the basis of 2, 3, 5, 10, perhaps 11 different pieces of legislation.
Timing is absolutely critical with respect to understanding how our business community and investment community would see this legislation impacting upon us. I think if the minister was prepared to accept the motion before the House that it would give him an opportunity to ask Voluntary Planning to assist his staff in conducting the very counter-cross benefits analysis to which I referred to a few moments ago.
Voluntary Planning has done wonderful work for this province and continues to do so. I would hope that Voluntary Planning would have been a partner to getting the bill to this stage and that may be so. If it is, I have not heard the minister say that that is the case. If it is so and that is the case, I would ask the minister to table any information which may lend comfort to those of us who have raised concerns respecting this bill. If, in fact, it is not so, that this bill has not been vetted and vetted in-depth by Voluntary Planning, then I say to the minister, here is a great opportunity to do this.
There is absolutely no reason why this legislation has to pass second reading today, tomorrow, next week or indeed, before Christmas. There is no gun to the head of Nova Scotia or Nova Scotians. Nobody is berating the government for not moving forward quickly on this legislation. We know that it is at a similar stage with a couple of other provinces. I don't believe that a majority of provinces or the federal government have this legislation in place, under discussion in their Parliaments. It strikes me that for all of those reasons, plus understanding that, although we take much pride as Nova Scotians in our province, that we are neither one of the largest economies in Canada nor unfortunately, according to the Atlantic Canada Economic Outlook as we got today, are we one of the fastest growing economies, not even within the Atlantic region
AN HON. MEMBER: We are low; we are the slowest.
MR. LEEFE: In fact, we are the slowest growing economy in the Atlantic region, my friend from Kings North tells me. Therefore, it again gives me cause to be concerned that we understand exactly what it is we are being asked to do in advance of doing it.
This is very much a lock step arrangement, once this is passed there is no going back. We must ensure that we deal with the bill in a timely fashion. The most timely way to deal with this bill because there is no clock ticking, excepting a clock that the minister himself may wish to wind and one which he can turn off at any time, therefore, we have ample time available to us. The best way that we can now deal with that, is to hoist the bill and to give the minister and all of those who have interest in it, the time to make the kind of analyses that then can come back to the House, can support the appropriate kind of legislation, legislation which is uniform with legislative activity being taken coincidentally or in concert with all of the other Parliaments of Canada so that we do get it right and get it right the first time because the first time is the right, the first time is the essential time. I would ask the minister to accept this amendment and to encourage his caucus colleagues to vote in favour of it when the question is put.
MR. SPEAKER: Are there further speakers to the amendment? The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic moved it, I believe.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Yes, he did and after having given an excellent address, I might add, and one which, if any members are absent from the House and were not able to hear it, may wish to read.
I hear the question from the Government House Leader asking who made me the judge. I guess we are all judges of that which we hear.
MR. SPEAKER: Judge not that ye be not judged. Speak rather to the amendment.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and I am just trying to be helpful to the minister, but I appreciate your advising me that I should not be side tracked by the rabbit tracks from the Minister of Transportation and Communications.
I want to say a few words on the amendment that is before us and, quite truthfully, it is not the amendment that I would personally have preferred to have been debating at this point in time. I would have personally preferred as my colleague would have, as he said himself when he spoke in moving the amendment, what he would prefer to have is something constructive going forward and that the bill would be referred to a committee of this House, whether it be a standing committee, a select committee, but some kind of committee where there would be a procedure set up where there can be formal hearings on the legislation. Even though we are not dealing with that amendment because that was out of order the way it was written, there is nothing in this six months' hoist that would preclude such a mechanism being established to review the contents of the bill and the implications of the bill on Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I think, everybody in this House recognizes that we need to have a fair and even playing field and that we have to be trying to move forward in terms of trade and the movement of goods and services across boarders and also to make it easier for Nova Scotians to seek employment elsewhere. We all, I am sure, remember the outcry when some members from Cape Breton were going to London, Ontario trying to seek employment. So, we all recognize that we do live in one large country and that it is in our best interests to try to ensure that, as a whole, the economy of Canada is strong and that the benefits of that strong economy can spread to all parts of the country.
When I take a look at the legislation that is before us and, more important by, when you take a look at the huge agreement, the several hundred pages that are contained in that agreement, I am not convinced that, in fact, that is what we have. I fail to understand and maybe the minister can explain and I would even welcome an intervention from the minister, if he would like to stand and make one, why is it so critically important that this legislation clear through this House during this fall session? If my information is correct and again, the minister can correct me if I am wrong, there is only one other provincial jurisdiction that has actually dealt with this legislation and that is the Province of Alberta. Yes, indeed, the dispute mechanism that was instituted in the Province of Alberta is different from that which is provided for in this legislation.
What we have is a possibility of a hodgepodge of legislation being established across the country which is supposedly aimed at creating a standard, and a level playing field. We need some time in Nova Scotia to look at the impact. A question was raised by the previous speaker that, I think, was a very important and valid question. Has there been a cost benefit analysis done? To find what kind of an impact, when and if this legislation, and of course it will go through, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade, unamended, if that is the wish of the majority of members on the government benches. That is reality. (Interruption)
I will avoid the rabbit tracks for a moment. We also have to take a look at not only what a majority of members can pass, but what we also have to take a look at is, is this in the best interests of Nova Scotians because I know you were, Mr. Speaker, as I was, were elected as a member of the Legislature for the Province of Nova Scotia. My responsibility is to try to ensure that the interests of Nova Scotians are safeguarded and that there is the greatest economic opportunity and tools in the Province of Nova Scotia and for the Government of Nova Scotia to ensure that Nova Scotia businesses - and that also means Nova Scotia workers -are going to be able to have economic tools to promote employment and economic activity in the Province of Nova Scotia.
When one takes a look at this - and I think Nova Scotians deserve to be consulted - and just to be helpful if you can imagine if I am a little bit negligent sometimes in not inserting the phrase, but I don't want to be overly repetitious - six months time will give us an opportunity, and that is prefacing all of my remarks pretty well, so things are in context of the motion. Six months will give the business community, those who are member of the Manufacturers' Association, the bankers association in Nova Scotia, the Chambers of Commerce but also representatives of the workers, the communities an opportunity to have some input into what are the net costs of such a program here in Nova Scotia. Why is it at a time when provinces, including ours, are looking for a decentralization, for example, and are looking at it with a great deal of glee, the changes in the transfers under the CHST, the federal government is going to be transferring funding in a block to the provinces so the provinces can be making decisions on social and economic policies within the province to affect, as the provinces are saying, to the greatest benefit of that provincial government? Why would we as a province want to give up a power that has been so crucially important to us? That is, control over trade and commerce within our boundaries.
At a time when we are talking decentralization in some areas where I have a lot of problems with the proposed decentralization, I might say, in certain areas like health and education, because I believe in maintaining and ensuring that we have national standards in those areas, but here we are talking in this legislation and six months will give Nova Scotians an opportunity to express their views. I notice that look in your face, Mr. Speaker, so I want to preface my remarks by saying what six months will give us a chance to do.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I very much appreciate your inserting that because it did not seem to me that you were speaking to the amendment but rather to the bill, especially when you were dealing with the advantages of a strong central government. I couldn't quite see how the six months' hoist was directly related to that, but you have now brought it all into focus so I thank you.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, that is why I said earlier, just to be helpful that you can always preface my remarks with that six months phrase. You can assume that that is always there, or almost always assume it, anyway.
Now, Mr. Speaker, here we are giving to the federal government control, basically abdicating our responsibilities. This provincial government, the Liberal Government in Nova Scotia, was elected on the promise of jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs.
MR. SPEAKER: That is not within the context of the amendment, surely it is not. That whole thought is outside the amendment.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to be argumentative and challenge you because I don't want to leave right now, if I can be so blunt and so bold, but this legislation has the potential to have a major impact upon employment. My point is that during a six month period of time, there will be an opportunity for Nova Scotians not only to review the agreement, to review the legislation, but hopefully, also, for the government to develop and distribute a cost-benefit analysis that would look at what kinds of impacts this legislation would have on social concerns within the province, environmental concerns, concerns about health, concerns about education. This legislation and that agreement puts their fingers into all of those areas.
For example, I will just mention one item first, that over a six month period, I believe very strongly, has to be analyzed in terms of cost-benefit. It is an issue that is of grave concern and great importance in the part of the province that you are from, sir. Here I am talking about the coal industry. The jobs in the coal industry in Cape Breton have been crucial to the economy in that area.
Yes, indeed, Mr. Speaker, it may be possible for Nova Scotia Power Inc. to obtain a fuel supply at a price lower than purchasing Cape Breton coal, but that will have major cost implications as well as social implications for all of the population in industrial Cape Breton and, I might add, for all of Nova Scotia. We are a province, we are one family, so if the economy in industrial Cape Breton is harmed because of this legislation and our giving up our ability to have some control over the economic activities within the province, that certainly is going to be a severe blow to the communities in Cape Breton. Any severe blow in the economy of industrial Cape Breton is also going to have negative ramifications for the rest of the province, because if one part of the whole body is not well, then none of that body is healthy in its full extent of the meaning.
Mr. Speaker, we have parts of the province where we have very high unemployment rates. We have to have the debate. We have to have a discussion in Nova Scotia. What is it that we are trying to achieve? Are we primarily concerned with the bottom line for the shareholders of Nova Scotia Power Inc.? The majority of the shares are owned not only out of province, but out of country.
Six months, Mr. Speaker, will give us an opportunity to look at the ramifications for the economy of Nova Scotia, for the economy of Cape Breton to say, for example, here, that we are giving up control over our trade and our economic development strategy to the federal government. We cannot say as a legislative body, as the elected representatives of the people of Nova Scotia, or the Government of Nova Scotia - leave the Legislature and the Opposition members out of it - but the Government of Nova Scotia will not be able to say that we will provide preference to Nova Scotia businesses, Nova Scotia firms that will address crucial economic and social concerns within our province.
Surely, Mr. Speaker, that is a debate that needs to be held. Six months may provide sufficient time for that kind of debate. Certainly, there is nobody who could argue that the amount of time that we have had since this bill was introduced and since this huge agreement was provided, there is absolutely no way that we have had an opportunity to do that.
One of the provinces that this government likes to try to follow the lead on all of the time, our neighbour to the north, New Brunswick, they have decided that they aren't even going to bother introducing an enabling Act because they don't believe that that is even necessary. So why are we here in Nova Scotia, who is the government trying to butter up, whose favour are they trying to gain by introducing this legislation?
We are hearing a great deal and the hype is built up, it is like back in the early 1970's when a former Premier stood up and held up a little vial of oil or gas, oil I guess it was . . .
MR. SPEAKER: It was oil.
MR. HOLM: Yes, around 1974 or 1972, I cannot remember the exact year . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Around about then.
MR. HOLM: . . . around that time, anyway.
MR. SPEAKER: And this amendment hadn't even been dreamed of back then.
MR. HOLM: No, Mr. Speaker, you are absolutely correct, this amendment had not been dreamed of, nor had this legislation been dreamed of. But you know, this legislation and the six months will give us an opportunity to review and to evaluate certain aspects of this. One of the things would be an amendment to the Pipeline Act.
Nova Scotians are quite encouraged that there may be the possibility for some jobs to be created in Nova Scotia as a result of offshore oil. I think that we need to have an economic study done, a cost-benefit analysis to find out if such development is to take place, how are those economic benefits going to accrue to Nova Scotia. Are those economic benefits and the jobs that would be created going to be going to non-Nova Scotians, maybe even to non-Canadians? Six months will give the Minister of Natural Resources an opportunity to assess and to analyze this and many other points.
Obviously, there can be an argument put forward that if this goes through and we open things up totally, that maybe some services can be provided cheaper. It is quite possible there could be one brewery in all of Canada to provide the beer and spirits for the entire country. I heard it said once that the Campbells plant in Chicago could put on one more shift and provide all the products that are purchased in Canada. That might be cheaper on the bottom line and it might be more profitable for that particular company. But is that in the best interests of Nova Scotians, that kind of a process where the jobs are not going to be in the province, where the economic benefits are not going to go into the communities which circulate around?
If a small business in Nova Scotia is able to operate and maybe that small business is given a slight preference over a non-Canadian business, but if that means that people in that community are employed and spending their money back in that community creating even more employment and therefore they are not collecting assistance, they are being productive instead of a drain on the system, surely the Nova Scotia Legislature and Nova Scotian legislators have some or should have some ability to control those kinds of policies to ensure that they are in the best interests of the people who elected us to represent them.
We here were not elected to push for the concerns of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the majority of whose members don't even live in Nova Scotia. Six months . . .
MR. SPEAKER: If I could interrupt again, I fully agree that we weren't elected to represent the Canadian Manufacturers' Association but in no way can I sense anything in that amendment that relates to the fact that we weren't elected to represent the Canadian Manufacturers' Association at all. What I am trying to say is that the debate on the amendment should be to the amendment.
On second reading of the bill, I think you could say everything that you are saying right now and not have to insert six months every third or fourth sentence to try to make it germane to the amendment. But these thoughts could be saved and used on the second reading debate.
As it is right now, they invite intervention by the Chair because they are so obviously irrelevant to the amendment.
MR. HOLM: My discussion about the six months' hoist will be coming to a close very soon. Not just because of your intervention, I wish to add, because I believe the kinds of rationale and arguments that I have been putting forward basically covered the points that I am trying to get at. We may have some disagreement over whether certain points are or are not relevant for the six months and I can appreciate that and I am not trying to be provocative when I make those observations. What I am saying is that during a period of a delay of six months, I believe very strongly that we have to be doing something in a proactive, constructive manner.
I was trying to put forward cases, arguments about the kinds of things that we should be looking after and looking into and we have to bear in mind who it is we are elected to serve and that is the men, women and children in the Province of Nova Scotia. We have to ensure that this bill and the agreement that goes with it gets the greatest amount of public discussion and not only just discussion, but also detailed analysis as to the implication upon the men, women and children living in the Province of Nova Scotia. The points that I have been trying to make and the points for my intervention have been to try to put forward ideas and arguments as to what kinds of things can, in fact, and should, in fact, be done during that period of time.
I would suggest, quite honestly, in the absence of any kind of counter-argument from the minister or from the government members, our arguments on this side of the House in support of a six months' delay go unchallenged, obviously. I have yet to hear from the minister when he introduced the bill or from any other member of the Liberal benches a reason why it is essential or that it even matters that this bill go forward at this point in time. As I said, Mr. Speaker, only one other Legislature has introduced and passed legislation and it differs in substantive ways from what we have here.
Another province has said they are not even going to bother introducing legislation because they say it is not needed. So, one has to ask, and that can be over the six months period of time, why is it that Nova Scotia is introducing legislation when others do not even believe it is necessary? Why is it that Nova Scotia is making amendments to other pieces of legislation in this bill that is before us, beyond what is in that agreement and which is going to even more than that agreement restrict the ability of the duly elected representatives of the Province of Nova Scotia and the Government of Nova Scotia to ensure that the economic tools are there to benefit those communities and those people in the province who need that help?
This bill and the amendment may not be about jobs or may not have the word jobs in it, but Mr. Speaker, jobs are a fundamentally important issue as we are discussing the debate on this amendment. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon and speak in support of the amendment as put forward to hoist this piece of legislation, Bill No. 33 for six months. What looks like a very harmless, safe innocuous bill is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation we will deal with here in this Legislature.
The bill is to implement the Agreement on Internal Trade between the Government of Canada and the governments of all provinces and territories. What we have to ask ourselves during the six months' hoist is the question, is this legislation in the best interest of Nova Scotians? We also have to ask ourselves, why is this government in such a hurry to rush this legislation through?
This legislation is very important. It will have very far-reaching consequences and, as I am sure you are aware, Mr. Speaker, it is most substantial, most noteworthy. Now, by supporting this legislation a true cost-benefit analysis can be done. We understand from previous speakers that there is some grave concern relative to the dispute mechanism, or the lack of a dispute mechanism, relative to settling agreements and disagreements and things of that nature.
I know the Leader the Third Party talked briefly about the coal industry in Cape Breton, an area, I am sure, and a topic that you are very familiar with and I believe there are some individuals, constituents, perhaps yours, in Cape Breton who would like to see this legislation hoisted. Mr. Speaker, perhaps other MLAs from different areas of the province have an industry in their backyard that is very important to the economy of this province. It will give those MLAs an opportunity to go and talk to people in those industries and just find out what they think of the agreement on internal trade between the Government of Canada and, of course, the governments of all provinces and the territories.
We understand that only one province in this nation has passed like legislation.
AN HON. MEMBER: There were two more before that.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, there were two other provinces that gave consideration to a legislation like this, but we wonder if, in fact, what happened in their respective Legislatures, if perhaps the bill was successfully hoisted. Perhaps those governments considered amendments. We also know that the Internal Trade Agreement goes up to Article 1814 and it has several annexes.
AN HON. MEMBER: It took a little trip.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, it did take a little trip.
AN HON. MEMBER: 1814 was it?
MR. TAYLOR: No, I don't know if it was 1814 or 1995, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, if you don't know if it is 1814 or 1995 we are in big trouble. (Laughter) Please try to come back to the amendment, if you could.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker. We are not trying to be parochial or narrow-minded here, but I think it is important that we understand that this legislation should represent a standard level that is seen right across the nation. We could have the Province of Newfoundland, for example, coming in with legislation that does not mirror this legislation. We could have the Province of Quebec, and it is very important that inter-provincial trade flows from Quebec not be affected in an adverse way. So there are many ramifications relative to this legislation and many consequences that are, for the most part, unknown. That question is, why do we have to hurry this legislation through?
Mr. Speaker, a lot of our natural resources are leaving this province. I know the minister, just by his comments over there, and I certainly would not be distracted by the rabbit tracks, but there is a lot of wood fibre leaving this province. Any Internal Trade Agreement that is in force by legislation could possibly effect that particular industry. So I would dare say that this province has a very profound interest in an Internal Trade Agreement that truly reflects the wants and the wills of the people of this nation.
So, Mr. Speaker, I find it very easy to support this amendment and I look forward to some comments and statements from other speakers. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I rise briefly to speak on the amendment to effectively hoist Bill No. 33. Now, I am in favour of the Agreement on Internal Trade and certainly this caucus supports the concept of a freer movement of goods, services and investments and so on across provincial barriers in the province.
I saw an interesting comment on the bill, which I think bears on the wisdom to allow a little more time for us, as a province, to look at our participation in this country-wide process. The statement was made that there are 500 barriers that are eliminated from inter-provincial trade by the agreement that was signed by the provinces and the federal government. The difficulty that I have when the bill was dropped in our laps to look at and debate here in the House, is that as you read through the bill, you can't identify by reading the bill what those 500 barriers are that are eliminated.
So you also look at the piece of information that there have actually been books written on the federal-provincial agreement, some 217 pages, books have been written to try and explain what it is that this agreement will realize for the country. While most of it certainly seems good, one would feel a lot more confident if we could identify and the minister could provide the different scenarios that our participation in this process, the different scenarios that we will create here in the province. I just have a little bit of difficulty in passing a very thin document that ties us into a very thick document and we really don't have all of the information in our hands.
There isn't a great deal of urgency. There is time to spend analyzing what this means for us, as a province. There has only been one Legislature, I understand, that has passed the bill. The other understanding I have is that if it is to be truly effective then the pieces of legislation we are passing across the province should mirror each other very closely. My feeling is that that is not going to occur. Bearing in mind that we are going to meet twice a year in this place, a motion to delay this bill for six months to allow a proper analysis of the situation will not prevent the government from either reintroducing the bill or reintroducing perhaps an improved bill that will still get us up and running in time to coincide with all the provinces providing the legislation that will allow this to happen.
Already, some differences have arisen in terms of approach, as to how we are going to handle the internal aspects of the dispute mechanism. Our bill makes reference to an appointment of an Ombudsman who will deal with it, as has Alberta. The Albertan legislation points out very clearly what the role of the Ombudsman will be and what process he will carry out if, indeed, there is conflict. Our particular piece of legislation, Bill No. 33, other than to appoint an Ombudsman, does not specify any particular piece of procedure that the Ombudsman will follow. It would seem to me to be eminently wise that we would, within our legislation, have a process set out for the Ombudsman. That could be achieved by spending some time looking at the bill and by passing this amendment which effectively is a six months' hoist.
So while I speak in favour of the amendment, all of us on this side who are speaking, certainly from our caucus, are saying that knocking down the barriers to inter-provincial trade is worthwhile. In fact, there will be some 500 barriers knocked down. I don't have a good understanding of what barriers we are, in fact, knocking down. It would be useful if in the information provided by the government minister that we would have a clearer concept of what this very thin piece of legislation accomplishes for us. It well may be, for example, that the government has not had enough time and the government minister does not have enough understanding as to what this bill will achieve in its entirely.
My point, Mr. Speaker, is simply that this is a good process; however, we don't necessarily have to be the second province to jump on the bandwagon and ratify a piece of legislation that brings us into the picture. Let's take a little more time to look at this, study it, understand it a little bit better. Perhaps there are a few barriers more that can be knocked down, perhaps there are a few barriers less that should be knocked down. So, I will be voting in favour of the amendment. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to the amendment to hoist Bill No. 33. There is no question that internal trade is pretty important to this province; it is important across the country. But what we have to understand in this provincial legislation is that the bill we have before us affects internal trade, affects all Nova Scotians. The question that comes to mind is, is this the kind of legislation that is going to make sure that our people in Nova Scotia involved in internal trade are going to be well-protected, are going to have the same advantage as other provinces?
What concerns me is that we have New Brunswick - a neighbouring province that is out there looking for business, and growing - that isn't going to introduce such legislation. I would think there must be some rationale as to why Frank McKenna is not going to introduce this legislation. I have not heard the minister here say why New Brunswick is not; I haven't even heard the minister say whether every province in Canada has legislation that mirrors the legislation there. I don't believe that is true, because some of the provinces that have passed legislation regarding internal trade, the legislation is very different from the legislation that we have here.
I think probably what we could find out if we allow this bill to be hoisted, we could find out exactly what is happening in other provinces with regard to the federal legislation, Bill C-88, that in Nova Scotia are we putting forward the kind of legislation that will make sure that our jobs are protected. We all know with internal trade that there are ups and there are downs. How much down is involved for Nova Scotia with this document? Are there more minuses than pluses? We know there is only room for one brewery in this province; we lost a brewery. There may be other industries that we may lose because of this piece of legislation. So, we have to take this legislation and have some time.
I have never heard the government, when they signed the agreement, promote this agreement. I have never heard the government talking with business or with workers about this kind of legislation and how it will affect them; I haven't heard that. This government seems to think that their job is to surprise everybody with legislation without the kind of process that would normally take place. I am sure the government felt that Bill No. 33 would go through with a 20 minute to an hour debate in this Legislature, with nobody asking any questions. But there are a lot of questions and the minister didn't answer the questions when he rose to introduce the bill. He read from a prepared text outlining some of the legislation, but didn't really answer the questions that many Nova Scotians would have on their minds. By hoisting this bill, it would allow some opportunity for Nova Scotians to participate. This government, when it ran, obviously indicated one of the things they wanted to do was consult. One of the things they have done the least of, in the last number of months, was consult. What they do is bring in legislation and expect Nova Scotians to just follow through.
There is some question about the dispute mechanism. I know in the legislation in Alberta, this legislation doesn't spell out, although it could be the Ombudsman, and I would think, Mr. Speaker, by giving this a hoist, we could improve that clause to make sure that we, in actual fact, have the same kind of dispute mechanism with the same kind of people from one end of the province to the other. What six months would also allow us to do would be to talk to other provinces. Surely other provinces have a stake in this Bill C-88, every province in Canada does, but all of a sudden, Nova Scotia says we are going to be first to wrap ourselves around the federal government and wrap ourselves around C-88 and say to Nova Scotia, this may not be good for you. Other provinces are going to take a different approach which it ends up will be better for them, or it could be like New Brunswick and not have any legislation, then where does that put us? Does it put us at a disadvantage with Bill C-88?
Now the minister might come back and say, well, I didn't explain it very well, it puts us at an advantage. Well, I have not heard that. So what this hoist will do, it will not only allow us as legislators to have a better understanding of Bill C-88 and this legislation and compare, it will also allow Nova Scotians to have some input and allow further study on this bill to make sure whether the economic impact that this legislation has on this industry and workers is positive and not negative and that we still can compete from one end of the country to the other and economically we can grow. That is what this is all about. Internal trade has its ups and downs; it has its pluses and minuses but we have not heard from this government, who introduced this bill, to tell us what this legislation means in those terms. So by allowing this to be delayed for six months, I know our caucus is hoping that we will get some answers. I believe Nova Scotians deserve answers. I believe the industry and workers deserve answers, we all deserve answers and so, if we don't get them, then we have no other method but to ask for a hoist so hopefully some of these answers can come forward.
So what I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is that I support the amendment and will deal with parts of the bill that I know are troublesome when we debate it in second reading. But I will be supporting the hoist and hope other members will give that due consideration.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to offer a few remarks in relation to the amendment which is now before the House relative to Bill No. 33. I had the opportunity earlier in the day to address some of the substantive provisions on the principles of the bill on second reading. At that time I indicated that I found it, as I am sure all members have, and I would expect even the sponsoring minister would have some real study to relate this legislation, if I may, to the agreement itself which is really what this is all about. This is the Agreement on Internal Trade and it is this agreement which this legislation purports to ratify.
Now this agreement, Mr. Speaker, aside from the signature pages at the back, is 216 pages or 217 pages in length and it is an agreement of hundreds of articles and annexes to those articles and so on. It is a very complex and comprehensive and, may I say, difficult document.
So the bill which we debate, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, cannot be discussed or considered in isolation of the agreement which it purports to ratify. If you look at Bill No. 33 itself, as I am sure you have, it indicates that the purpose of the bill is to, Clause 2, ". . . implement the Agreement on Internal Trade between the Government of Canada and the governments of all the provinces and territories of Canada and thereby reduce or eliminate barriers to the free movement of persons, goods, services and investments . . .", and so on.
In this Bill No. 33, referencing back to this Agreement on Internal Trade, the bill indicates, Clause 6, "The Agreement is hereby ratified.". Well, there are many issues and questions, I submit, Mr. Speaker, which certainly, to this point, have not been explained by the sponsoring minister in his remarks. By way of moving second reading, he simply, and I don't say this cynically or critically, gave what I thought was a very cursory overview of the fact that we all signed, we meaning himself and Nova Scotia and the provinces and the feds and the territories, this agreement and the agreement has the purpose which he describes and everybody else in the country, all the other Legislatures are proposing to do the same. Some have done the same, namely ratify, and therefore he urges this House to pass Bill No. 33 to effect ratification of the bill.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, when you take a look at what has happened in a couple of other jurisdictions, I honestly believe that you do not find legislation in those other jurisdictions which goes as far as the bill which we have and, in fact, says, in clear, precise, definitive, unequivocal language, that those other Legislatures are, in fact, ratifying this agreement. There are some amendments being made to a number of pieces of legislation in Alberta, as an example, which purport to be as a consequence of the execution by that province of this Agreement on Internal Trade.
You then go further into your research and you find that the Province of British Columbia, for instance, while coming forward with some legislation, has asked a great number of questions, not only of the Government of Canada, interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, but a great number of questions which they have shared with the Province of Nova Scotia through this minister and the other provinces and territories of the country, because they have a great many concerns as to just what the implications are of this Agreement on Internal Trade.
There is not question - I speak for myself and I think I am reflective of the attitude of every member of the caucus of which I am a member - that we applaud the philosophy of this or any other bill, and by that I mean that anything which we can do as a province, along with the territories and the Government of Canada, to meet the purpose of this bill, namely to break down those trade barriers as set out in Clause 2 of the bill, is, of course, an important initiative to be pursued and actually accomplished.
It is noteworthy, I think, however, and one of the reasons that I think there is some merit in us supporting the amendment which is now before your House, Mr. Speaker, is that this agreement, if you will permit me reference to it, because it is really the substance of what we are debating, in Article 502 of this agreement, Mr. Speaker, we find as but one example a provision, an article entitled "Scope and Coverage". The agreement itself says in Article 502.1 that "This Chapter applies to measures adopted or maintained by a Party . . .", meaning one of the provinces or the feds or the territories, ". . . relating to procurement within Canada by any of its entities listed in Annex 502.1A, where the procurement value is:", and these numbers are important, I believe, "(a) $25,000 or greater, in cases where the largest portion of the procurement is for goods;" and "(b) $100,000 or greater, in cases where the largest portion of the procurement is for services, except those services excluded by Annex 502.1B; or (c) $100,000 or greater, in the case of construction.".
Now, Article 502.4 of the agreement says, and this is an issue which I believe has to be addressed clearly and carefully and in considerable detail here in the Province of Nova Scotia before we ratify this agreement, Article 502.4 of the agreement itself says, "The Provinces, pursuant to negotiations under Article 517(1), agree to extend coverage of this Chapter to municipalities, municipal organizations, school boards and publicly-funded academic, health and social service entities no later than June 30, 1996.".
Now, I guess the question that arises then is whether or not, knowing that if we ratify this agreement we are committing ourselves to an obligation to extend coverage of this chapter, this chapter relating to specific rules on procurement, we are committing that we will ensure, as a province, that we will extend coverage of this procurement chapter to, Article 502.4, ". . . municipalities, municipal organizations, school boards and publicly-funded academic, health and social service entities no later than June 30, 1996.".
Well, I would ask, and I believe that during the time if this bill were to be given the hoist we could assess these issues with the municipalities, I would ask what arrangements, if any, have in fact been undertaken or pursued even, what discussion has been opened up with municipal units and municipal organizations and school boards and publicly funded academic, health and social service entities, to ensure that those organizations in the Province of Nova Scotia understand the implications and the administrative requirements which would befall them upon ratification by the Province of Nova Scotia of this particular agreement.
Have we, in fact, had negotiations with the municipal units? I think it is important that even if we have, even if those negotiations have opened up - and I don't know that they have, I have no indication from the minister sponsoring this bill or from the Minister of Supply and Services or from the Premier, from anybody that such negotiations have opened up - but even if those negotiations have opened up, are we satisfied, Mr. Speaker, and are the municipal units which are in somewhat of a state of flux, by reason of amalgamation and merger legislation, are they in a position to redesign their administrative structures and their procurement practices, so as to meet the terms and provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade? Has an administrative regime been set up with those municipalities and so on to ensure that they are ready?
I note, too, and one of the reasons I read the references to the dollar limits relative to the scope and coverage, as it relates to procurement, is that in his release of April 21, 1995, the Supply and Services Minister, Minister O'Malley, when outlining the new procurement rules in a document entitled Fairness in Government, a White Paper for Discussion, and if I can find that I would like to . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Perhaps, while you are searching for it, I would ask the honourable member to please reflect upon the very narrow and limited wording of the amendment, that Bill No. 33 be not now read a second time but be read a second time this day six months hence. That is all that we have before us for debate. Now I have allowed the member great latitude and I like to do that. I think that is an honourable precedent to follow, but I think that there must be some boundaries in this discussion and surely the member himself would recognize that the scope of that amendment is quite limited.
MR. DONAHOE: I take no issue with anything you have just now said, Mr. Speaker, and with the greatest respect, if you will reflect back on the things that I have just now said in the last not so many minutes, the principal proposition that I was putting is that if we pass this bill now, it commits, pursuant to Article 502 (4) of the Agreement on Internal Trade, not the bill, but the agreement which would be ratified, it obligates that coverage relative to procurement practices would be and must be extended to municipalities, municipal organizations, school boards and publicly funded, academic health and social services, ending these no later than June 30, 1996. The question I raise in the context of the amendment which we debate is, we have no indication whatsoever that any work has been done, any dialogue has been opened, any administrative rearrangement has been undertaken or effected or, indeed, is even understood by the municipalities, universities, school boards, or any of those organizations or entities referred to in the agreement.
I am saying to you in support of the amendment that if we give it the hoist, it then makes it possible for us to have the time to ensure that all of those organizations in concert with the proposing minister and the Minister of Supply and Services, that they - those organizations in the Province of Nova Scotia - will be able to make the necessary changes. I honestly do believe that we run the risk if we ratify the agreement here now, of then having to try to pick up the pieces between when we pass the legislation and effect ratification of the agreement and the cut off point of June 30, 1996 to work out all of those arrangements under the threat of that time limitation with the municipal units, the universities and so on. It occurs to me that one of the values and advantages of the hoist would be that meaningful and substantive dialogue could be opened with them without the ratification having been hanging over their head and I think that would be a better course of action.
I was about, as Your Honour interjected, to make reference and I think again it is relevant in the context of the amendment which we debate today, to make a brief reference to a press release issued by the Minister of Supply and Services, back some few months ago and the reason I think that is relevant to the amendment we now debate is simply this, that in that release which I am having difficulty finding, the minister - here we go, I just have to find the right piece of paper - Minister O'Malley on April 21, 1995 issued this White Paper addressing the issue of government procurement here in the Province of Nova Scotia. In that paper he said, "The white paper stipulates that Nova Scotia manufacturers and suppliers may be shown preference, within five per cent of the otherwise lowest qualified bid, on those requirements that fall below the thresholds outlined in the Atlantic Procurement Agreement. These thresholds are . . .", and these numbers are important, ". . . $25,000 for goods, $50,000 for services and $100,000 for construction.".
The reason those numbers are important and worthy of attention is that they happen not to jibe with the numbers which are set out in the Agreement on Internal Trade, which we presume to ratify here by way of Bill No. 33. Again, I say to you and I say to the minister sponsoring this bill, that if we were to give it the hoist, it would afford us the opportunity - us meaning the Province of Nova Scotia - to ensure in concert, dialogue and discussion with its Atlantic procurement agreement partners that we are not in breach of the Agreement on Internal Trade by virtue of the Atlantic agreement on procurement. I think that is a significant and fundamental piece of business that should be out of the way, clarified and resolved before we commit ourselves to a document, the Internal Trade Agreement, which has implications for us nationwide.
Earlier in the day I had the opportunity, as well, to indicate to this House that I had attempted and I have attempted since sometime back in June to have the Premier, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and the Minister of Supply and Services answer what I think is a vitally and fundamentally important question. If we pass this bill, we ratify a national Agreement on Internal Trade which has already secured a ratification at the federal level by way of federal legislation. In the federal legislation there are provisions which allow the federal government where it, the federal government, is party to a complaint against another party to the agreement to take any action that maybe considered appropriate. This includes the ability to suspend rights or privileges and/or extend the application of any federal law to the province. I said to the Premier back in June, by way of correspondence, that gives the federal government immense power in imposing retaliatory measures in case of dispute.
I wrote on June 8th and I asked the Premier if he would let me know what the position of the Government of Nova Scotia is on that provision. Has the Government of Nova Scotia made representations to the federal government to amend this clause limiting the powers of the federal government in case of a dispute and it is our understanding that there were several specific principles basic to the Internal Trade Agreement. I went on to make reference to Minister O'Malley's paper. I said the White Paper stipulates that Nova Scotia manufacturers and suppliers are to be shown preference. This may be deemed contrary to both the principles of the Internal Trade Agreement noted above. Would you kindly advise what commitments the Government of Nova Scotia secured from the other parties to the agreements which represent approval by those other parties that Nova Scotia manufacturers and suppliers may be shown preference.
The fact of the matter is that following three more letters to the Premier copies to Ministers Harrison and O'Malley, I have had no answer back yet from the Premier. The point I make in the context of the amendment which we address right now is that if we have the hoist, we have the opportunity, in concert with the business, commercial and industrial leaders of this province to address those issues and, may I say, a range of other issues. What kind of a mess are we in if, in fact, we were to find, after the fact, after ratification of the national agreement, that the Atlantic procurement agreement runs counter to and is offensive to and contravenes the provisions of the national agreement? Then we have the unseemly spectre of having very real difficulty with another policy of this government relative to regional preference or local preference. I say that it is possible in debate and discussion and dialogue during the time that the bill would be hoisted, in the event that that were to happen, for us to be able to review that issue and a whole range of other issues which really scream out for attention.
I go back, very briefly, to the provisions in the federal legislation. We cannot read Bill No. 33 in isolation from the Agreement on Internal Trade or in isolation from those pieces of legislation which have been passed in other Legislatures which purport to ratify that same agreement. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that when one looks at the federal legislation, there are provisions in that legislation which enable the Government of Canada to retaliate, but in ways which are not clear or specified, against another party to this agreement.
I say to you, Mr. Speaker, what happens if this province is engaged in a matter which is covered by the Agreement on Internal Trade, is found - in the opinion, at least, of our federal partners - to be in contravention of this agreement, and the Government of Canada decides to come forward with retaliatory measures? Who knows what those retaliatory measures are; who knows what serious impact might well befall the Nova Scotia Government and at what cost, or Nova Scotia business and at what cost? Issues of that kind, in the context of the amendment we debate here at this moment - namely, the hoist amendment - are able to be addressed so that we do not, either consciously or through inadvertence, walk ourselves into a situation where we could disadvantage the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia or any individual business or industry or commercial enterprise here in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I truly don't know how many members of this Legislature even have seen a copy of the Agreement on Internal Trade, let alone have read it. I have a copy and I have read it. I don't purport, having said that, to truly understand all of the complexities and the implications of this agreement. This document, the Agreement on Internal Trade, has the potential to do wonderful, positive things. At the same time, with respect, it has the potential, I believe, unless we understand some of the provisions of that agreement, to subject this province and businesses in this province to retaliatory measures by the Government of Canada, and those could redound to the serious disadvantage of the Nova Scotia taxpayer or to individual Nova Scotia businesses.
It is that kind of discussion and debate that we haven't yet had any indication, and the minister, when he moved second reading, didn't make any mention of any of that difficulty with retaliatory measures. The point is that other provinces have raised those issues and other provinces have raised those issues with the Government of Canada, but more important, other provinces have raised those issues by sharing their correspondence, as I understand it, with our Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. Our Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, to this point at least, has not seen fit to indicate to this House that any of my comments or the comments of those other provinces - and I think specifically of the Province of British Columbia - that any of the concerns which they raise are in any way to be considered a threat to the Nova Scotia Government, the Nova Scotia taxpayer or any business in the Province of Nova Scotia. Well, again, it is that kind of thing which we are able to address if we were to give this bill the six months' hoist.
If you would just give me one second, there is just one other reference that I would like to make, Mr. Speaker. Just as I am looking for that reference, I will perhaps try to flip back to the bill itself for just a moment to make mention of an issue that I think does relate to the amendment before us.
The legislation talks about the establishment of panels and panels established under the agreement awarding costs in favour of a government Party against a person in our province or in any province and so on. I think it is exceedingly important for us to understand what are the terms and conditions under which the province, meaning the taxpayer, or an individual business or commercial enterprise in the Province of Nova Scotia could be found liable by one of these panels. Again I repeat, the value and the merit of the six months' hoist amendment would be that, with the help of officials who have been engaged in the development and drafting of this agreement over so much time, we could find some answers to those questions which I believe are necessary before we go ahead with the ratification of the agreement.
The last comment I would make is that the Province of British Columbia asked four questions regarding Bill C-88, which is the bill passed in the Parliament of Canada to ratify this agreement. As I said a moment ago and I think it is vitally important, all Trade Ministers received a copy as far back as June of the issues and concerns raised by the Province of British Columbia. They asked among other things whether Bill C-88 goes beyond the minimum requirements needed to fulfil the obligations of the federal government under the Agreement on Internal Trade. That, I believe, is exactly the kind of question, particularly now that the minister has been on notice since June that the question is of importance to one of his partners, one of our partners, namely the Province of British Columbia, that is a fundamental issue relative to this Agreement on Internal Trade, which were we to hoist the bill, we could assess, address and answer before coming back with a bill that we knew satisfied the issue and did answer the question.
What alternative language could be substituted in Bill C-88, again, the federal bill, that would fulfil the minimum obligations of the federal government? I repeat, the Province of British Columbia indicates and has indicated to our minister that they believe there is such language. I haven't seen it and the minister hasn't made any public reference to it. Again, that language could well be made available during the period of a hoist and discussion and dialogue with this minister could ensure that that new language is sought.
British Columbia asks as well, could Bill C-88 as introduced alter the legislative or other authority of the federal government or the provinces under the constitution? That, Mr. Speaker, as I am sure you would agree and understand better than some as a member of the Bar, is an extremely serious question. Will Bill C-88, the federal legislation, be seen as impacting upon the powers available to the provincial governments and the federal government respectively under Sections 91 and 92 of the country's Constitution Act?
I understand that the Province of British Columbia, which is wrestling with the same kinds of questions and issues that we are, has come to the conclusion that they believe that Bill C-88, the over-wrapping federal ratification legislation, very well might change the constitutional interpretation. So I wonder if these questions have been asked and answered by the minister, by our Ministry of Justice, what concerns, if any, on the strength of what strikes me as being very legitimate concerns by another partner province, in this case British Columbia, what concerns do we now have. I have the same concerns now that are expressed by British Columbia and they could, during a period of a hoist, be addressed.
What is the Province of Nova Scotia doing about those concerns? We don't know any of that. The Premier and the two ministers didn't bother answering four pieces of mail from me, asking a couple of questions about the retaliatory provisions which I understand are available to the Government of Canada in relation to this Agreement on Internal Trade. They didn't figure that it was worth even the courtesy of a response. They did acknowledge receipt at the Premier's Office of my mail but that is as far as it got. I am forever indebted to the secretary who was kind enough to acknowledge the mail.
The amendment to which you make reference, Mr. Speaker, makes it possible, if passed, for us to have answers to the kinds of questions I have put and which other jurisdictions have put. It will afford this minister, I am sure, to come back to this place with a piece of legislation which has those questions answered and we would not be in the state of uncertainty that I honestly believe we are at the present time in regard to this bill.
So, Mr. Speaker, this along with a couple of other pieces of legislation we have before us are vitally important. There are approximately 500 by count of various people and people who understand these issues, there are approximately 500 nettlesome and troublesome trade barriers that exist between the provinces and the territories and the Government of Canada within our own country. Anything we can do to tear those down and dispose of them, we should.
However, there are all kinds of issues and questions which are raised not by the legislation, because when you read the legislation it is innocuous enough, but the legislation really enshrines this document. This document is highly complex and one which, in my opinion and in my submission to you, Mr. Speaker, and to colleagues here in the House, deserves considerable study and scrutiny and attention. There is question after question which arises when one reads the agreement. The six months' hoist would afford all of us the time and interested business and industry and commerce in the province and the municipal units and the universities and the school boards and the hospitals and other organizations which are swept up in this legislation, none of whom to my knowledge have been drawn into the discussions leading to the development of this legislation. It affords us and them an opportunity, as well, to come forward to share their views.
So, Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that the Province of Nova Scotia is disadvantaged in any way, shape or form. If we were to give this bill the six months' hoist we would afford the minister the opportunity to respond to each and every of the concerns which have been raised here in debate by other jurisdictions, by Members of Parliament and members of the Senate of Canada relative to the debate of Bill C-88. I won't get into a reading of Parliament's Hansard or the Senate Hansard, and you probably wouldn't let me anyway, Mr. Speaker, but if you take a look at the Senate Hansard and at the Hansard from the House of Commons, you will find a wide range of questions are asked there with, in my opinion, very unclear and unsatisfactory answers coming back from the relevant ministers as to just what the impact of Bill C-88 really is. Bill C-88 and this agreement are what we are really riding with here if we pass Bill No. 33.
I would urge all members of the House, Mr. Speaker, to support the amendment which is before the House now, to support the hoist, to make it possible for those issues to be resolved, for those questions to be answered, for municipal units and school boards and universities and hospitals and others in Nova Scotia who will be swept up by this legislation relative to procurement practices, to be able (a) to understand the rules by which they will, upon passage of this legislation, be required to play; and (b) to set up the administrative and procurement practices necessary to ensure that they are in compliance; further and finally, (c) we would have the opportunity - which would appear to me, we will not get if we do not support the hoist - to answer what I think is the most threatening of all of the questions which has been put relative to this legislation, and that is the power which appears to be excessive and extreme, which resides of virtue of Bill C-88 in the Government of Canada, in retaliation for glitches in the effecting of the agreement as between this province, any other province, indeed, all provinces, but this province and the partners to the agreement, to exercise or effect by Order in Council at the federal level, a statement that other legislation which, as it now reads, does not apply in the Province of Nova Scotia, could apply and that there are provisions whereby certain retaliatory action could be taken.
Those, Mr. Speaker, are, to our mind and our way of thinking, vitally important questions, none of which have been explained or responded to in any way, shape or form, by the minister who moved second reading of this bill. I would urge all members to support the amendment which is before the House, that the bill be given a six months' hoist. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: A call for a recorded vote has been requested. We have two members who request a recorded vote. We will ring the bells until the Whips are ready.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.
Are the Whips satisfied?
The amendment that you are voting on reads: "That the words after `that' be deleted and the following be substituted therefor: `Bill No. 33 be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.'"
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Donahoe Mrs. Norrie
Dr. Hamm Mr. Downe
Mr. Russell Dr. Smith
Mr. Moody Mr. Boudreau
Mr. Holm Mr. Gillis
Mr. Chisholm Dr. Stewart
Mr. Archibald Ms. Jolly
Mr. Leefe Mr. MacEachern
Mr. McInnes Mr. Mann
Mr. Taylor Mr. Casey
Mr. MacLeod Mr. Gaudet
Mr. M. MacDonald
Mr. W. MacDonald
THE CLERK: For, 11. Against, 33.
MADAM SPEAKER: I declare the amendment is carried in the negative.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, for a few seconds before we start the late debate, I wonder with the consent of the House could we revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Madam Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills.
Bill No. 28 - Regional Municipalities Act.
Bill No. 31 - Personal Property Security Act.
and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House with certain amendments.
MADAM SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.
We have reached the moment of interruption and the successful resolution for debate this evening was presented by the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley indicated that if I wished, I could speak on this topic. Since I asked the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency a couple of questions about freedom of information in the last few days, I really felt quite compelled and quite anxious to speak because we are quite disappointed with the government in the performance on the freedom of information.
When the government was in Opposition, I recall the Minister of Education being very disappointed at the difficulty in finding information that he felt was pressing and desirous for him to have. He said, we are going to fix that, we are going to provide the best freedom of information legislation in all of Canada. Well, they brought in a bill, as you know, and the bill didn't change anything in particular, except when it changed it made it even more difficult now than ever to get information from the government. It should not be referred to as the freedom of information, it should be the cost information because letter after letter has been received from one department or another, indicating that, yes, you can have the information but it will cost you.
For instance, if you look at this letter from the Department of Transportation, they indicated that for a total cost of $125 they would be willing to provide the information that was requested. Is that freedom of information? How can people even think for a moment that this government is practicing what it preaches regarding openness? We are supposed to have an open government. In fact, what we have is the most tight-knit, closed government, the most paranoid, autocratic, arrogant government that this province has ever seen. They will not share information with anybody. Their first reaction to a freedom of information application is none of your business. Why should we tell you anything? You don't deserve to.
Look, it is a circus, Madam Speaker. We applied for information on the G-7. We asked a question in this Legislature last May. Both ministers - we have co-chairs - both of them indicated, I will provide that information to you within days. Well, we put in a freedom of information when it wasn't forthcoming. We had a phone call from a person in the Economic Renewal Agency saying look, if you don't push me, I will get it to you by the end of June. I said, okay, send it along.
Well at the end of June, nothing; July, nothing. So we put in another freedom of information in August for the same information. Lo and behold, the same person called and said look, if you give me a little time, I will get it for you. I said no more conversations on the phone. From now on when you want more time, write a letter indicating you want more time. If you want to deliver that message, then stand by the message with a letter, something we can have in writing to say, this is the kind of information we get from the government.
Well, about the same time this gentleman called and said, I am going to give it to you shortly, we got a letter from the minister's office indicating that we sent the freedom of information request to the wrong department altogether. After five months, they decided it was in the wrong department. But he said, I will forward it on to the right department. Well, about a month after that, we did get a freedom of information from the person we sent it to in the first place, so I cannot wait to receive the freedom of information from the department that it should have gone to in the original situation.
You know, who is minding the store?
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Who sent it to the wrong department?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Who sent it to the wrong department? Well, it was a little difficult. We had two co-ministers, so we sent it to the Economic Renewal Agency and they indicated that they could furnish the information if they were given a little time. In fact, they sort of did. Six months after the original application, we got some information the other day. Certainly it was not the information that we expected. We wanted some indication that there had been some tenders called. We wanted some information that there was some forethought into some of the projects that were undertaken. However, very little of that came to pass.
The most galling, the most frustrating freedom of information that I have received was a very simple freedom of information asking the Minister of Economic Renewal about the travel from his department. Now, everybody knows that any employee of government leaving the province must fill out a form. The form goes to the minister's office and he looks it over and he says, yes, the province and the taxpayers will benefit if you, indeed, take the trip and you go to the conference or you go to some place and learn something and come back with valuable information to share with the people of Nova Scotia.
So we asked for the minister, the political staff, the agency employees, the Premier, because sometimes, in order to keep his expense account down to a minimum in the Public Accounts, he will get the Department of Economic Renewal to purchase his tickets. So we asked for him as well, and any non-government travellers that they picked up the tickets for. Well, I don't think that is a tough request because all those travel forms pass over the minister's desk and if they do not, it certainly is a peculiar thing and they should, because the minister should know where people are going.
However, we received a letter saying that this information is not readily available; we do not know where the people are travelling within North America, within the world, in fact, because we have had people from the Economic Renewal Agency in China, in Korea, in Japan, all over Europe, all over North America, all over South America, the Caribbean. They said, we do not have any idea where they are, but if you pay us, send us a cheque for $2,960, . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: We will find out.
MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . actually it was $3,000 minus two free hours. I think if you give a big cheque, they give you a discount of two hours.
So, it is amazing that this government, which was going to be open and tell the people what is happening with the taxpayers' money, is now holding up letters saying we need $3,000 or we are not going to tell you. Is this freedom of information? Is there one single minister, is there one single backbencher in this government that can stand in his place and say, we are providing information that is requested by the members of the Legislature, by the media, by the general public?
There is nobody that can say this is freedom of information. The only thing they can say about this government is they are hiding behind dollar bills and $3,000 for a simple freedom of information tells you one of two things. They are either hiding or they have no idea what they are doing. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Madam Speaker, I wish to advise the member when he asked if there was someone from the back benches who could stand and say this, yes, there is. I can, and there are many more because I think it is important to note that when one addresses this House, one has to be clear. When I say clear, I mean you must to say all of the truth, not most of the truth, not part of the truth, not leave out things that would lead people to draw the wrong conclusion because that is the same thing as misleading, and I speak in the hypothetical, of course.
I must tell you that the previous speaker referred to a letter that he had written requesting information from the minister and then referred to that minister's answer. In my place, I heard the member refer to out-of-province trips, everyone heard that. Then, he referred to North America or maybe the world, immediately realizing that he had made a mistake and tried to cover, because I have a copy of that response. In that response it is quoted, the request, "`Schedules and cost of all government funded trips." - not out-of-province trips - ". . . paid for through the Economic Renewal Agency that were taken by: The Minister, Political Staff, Economic Renewal Agency Employees, The Premier, Staff of the Premier, All non-government employees . . .'".
Have we missed anybody here? Perhaps the cleaning people in this building, they didn't check on whether they took a trip down home and paid a quarter for the bus. They wanted all the trips taken by all of the people because he just decided he would like to know that, and you better snap right to that, quickly, and don't charge me anything, this is important stuff here. It was $2,900 worth of government money that member was prepared to waste for nothing. I am not prepared to support that; I am not going to support that. How can I go back to my people in Hants East and say, oh, we just threw $3,000 away because the member for Kings North decided he would like to know where everybody is this weekend, and it is at your expense.
Do the members of this Legislature remember that time a while ago where there was a grant sought by a teenager of this province to go on a trip involving a beauty pageant and a grant was given for $2,000? Now, I am not saying I support that grant for this teenager to go to this important event in her life, but I can tell you, the Opposition thought it was horrendous; $2,000, for this teenager to go to what many would consider a worthwhile cause under recreation, but they don't blink an eye to pay $3,000 so the member for Kings North would know where everybody was, the minister, the political staff, the Economic Renewal Agency employees, the Premier, the staff of the Premier, all non-government employees, anywhere. Well, I can't support that; it is absolutely ridiculous. But let's go deeper.
Let's look at what the resolution really said: "Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government live up to its commitment of openness and accountability by responding to freedom of information requests responsibly and not place an excessive price tag . . .". The request is excessive.
What was the purpose behind this bill? Well, I just got interested when I heard this resolution and I decided to go back and have a look at the bill itself. The purpose of this Act is to ensure public bodies are fully accountable, to provide for the disclosure of all government information with necessary exemptions, and to facilitate informed public participation in policy formulation. Now, what is this going to do? It is going to facilitate informed public participation in policy formulation because the member for Kings North wanted to know where everybody was under the sun that day? To ensure fairness in government decision-making? I think not.
Permit the arrogant reconciliation of divergent views. Well, there is a divergent view all right, I will give you that; there is no question about that. So let us look at when we passed this bill. What was said when this bill was submitted? Well, I just decided to take it upon myself to whip back and look at the Assembly Debates, November 8, 1993 when this bill was brought forward and I am quoting the Minister of Justice, and I must tell you, Madam Speaker, the more I am in this House, the more I am starting to realize just how much wisdom a couple of the senior members of our caucus have and one of them is the Minister of Justice, the member for Antigonish. He has been here a very long time (Applause). He even smelled this type of thing coming, even back then. Two years ago before this foolishness started to take place, he smelled the possibility.
Listen to this, quoting the Minister of Justice, Hansard, Page 2195, "The fact is that many requests . . ." he is referring, by the way, that when he put this bill through he checked out other jurisdictions to see how their Freedom of Information Acts were working out and here is what he found out - ". . . are extremely labour intensive. In fact, some requests appear to be fishing expeditions. We have had a number of requests where an intensive amount of searching and review was required and where the applicant then had not bothered to even pick up the material. Clearly this is an abuse of the taxpayer's resources.". Now he said this when he was putting this bill before us: watch out for this and we are not going to allow it. He gave notice, that is November 8, 1993. Was he right on? Is this a fishing expedition?
"When researching the experience of other jurisdictions, we were told of instances of 200 applications in one day by one individual. We heard that costs of staff time exceeding $100,000 are not unheard of.". What are we going to do? Set up this foolishness in this province? What is the purpose of this bill? If you want to know where a particular employee is or if you want to know about a particular trip or if you think something is going wrong here in a particular area, you make that request and you are going to get that answer. That answer is going to be coming forth from the ministers, all the ministers, no question about it. I never had any trouble and I do not believe any of the Opposition members did. Nothing but cooperation from our ministers.
When you just take out a pad of paper and say, listen, I want you to do $3,000 worth of government work and give it to me by Friday, because I am busy on Monday morning; get it to me by Friday. This kind of foolishness will not be tolerated by the people of Nova Scotia. No wonder we are bankrupt from 16 years, is that what they used to do, $3,000 here and $2,000 there, this is foolishness? It really kind of makes you mad.
We bend over backwards to put in a good bill which was supported by most of the people in this House. The minister warns us ahead of time, I will not tolerate this and the Act is not designed for it, that is not the purpose of this Act and what do we have? This kind of request. The next thing you know they are going to mimeographing them and sending them to all of the ministers. Can you imagine now, I want to know where all the employees of the Department of Health are on Tuesday, please? Imagine that? The hospitals and perhaps you would like to know where the municipalities are employing people these days and get it back to us at your expense and don't you dare send a bill.
If this matter is important enough, if there is an issue to be considered, I will support that member. If that member says, look I have a worry about a particular issue here; I think there is wasted money; I think somebody was in a place they should not have been; I think we are paying somebody's expenses that we should not be paying. Set it forth, put that information out and I believe everyone in this House will support that member to make that request and I believe we will have no problem with getting an answer. Just the waste, the absolute foolishness of such a request to this department would set a precedent.
One other thing before I leave, Madam Speaker, because I know I am running out of time. There is another tool and I should not have to, a member for two years, advise a senior member of this House about the Rules of the House. If there is a particular thing and you are worried about the cost, there is such a thing as requesting things through an Order in Council, by putting in a request for House Orders right here. That is the method. If you have specific things, put them into a House Order and the minister says he does not want to give it you, he has to explain the reason why. But, no, just send off a little note.
I am running out of time? Madam Speaker, I enjoyed having a chance to chat to this issue. I am going to speak to the member on it personally and I think we will be able to work this matter out. I want to commend the minister by being tough on this matter and having the integrity not to waste the taxpayers' monies in Nova Scotia frivolously when it could have been easy and nobody would have said anything about it because I am sure the Opposition was not going to complain.
Madam Speaker, I think my time is now up.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I must admit I did enjoy the comic relief that we just heard from the previous speaker and his interventions. When the member has been in this House for as long as some others have been, for example, he will find out that when you put forward House Orders, not Orders in Council as the member described them, but House Orders which you bring forward and put onto the floor of this House, that even when this House passes those House Orders the chances are very good that you will, in fact, never receive the answers to those questions or that they may be a year or six months, at the earliest, down the road. So, Madam Speaker, House Orders applying before this House for information, even when it is passed, is certainly no indication and gives one no satisfaction or guarantee that you are going to be successful in getting the information.
I am glad that the Minister of Transportation and Communications is saying we will remember that, Madam Speaker, because it would be very helpful if government members did, in fact, remember that and did provide the information that they have been ordered to do by this Chamber.
But, Madam Speaker, what we have before us right now is another topic and that is:
"Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government live up to its commitment of openness and accountability by responding to freedom of information requests responsibly and not place an excessive price tag on its original commitment to openness.".
Well, Madam Speaker, the unfortunate reality in many situations is that the Freedom of Information Act is really being used as a freedom from information Act. The reality is, and I know we have had the experience in our caucus that it has been necessary to file appeals to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to ask for a review of the decisions made by government departments to deny access to information, information that we obviously, when we submitted the application for information, felt we had a right to and that it was in the public interest.
Now of course, Madam Speaker, there is a process where, if the government does reject the request, you can appeal and you make your arguments and a review officer listens to your arguments and then to the responses of the government department that had rejected it in the first place. One of the things that comes through in a number of the decisions, and I have a couple of them here, one of them deals with the Minister of Transportation and Communications' own department, dealing with the Andersen Report, the Highway No. 104, is that when you read the summaries and you read through the report it is amazing how often the review officer has agreed with us and said that the government didn't have reasonable grounds to reject or to turn down the freedom of information request.
That is not to say that we win 100 per cent of those, Madam Speaker, it is not to say that each and every time we have filed an appeal that we have received and gotten back 100 per cent, in terms of answers that we might have liked. But it is amazing how often you have to go that route to get the information that you should not have to go that route in order to receive.
We have a piece of legislation. Our Act is supposed to ensure that the public has fair and reasonable access to information that is used as a basis for public expenditures, for government decisions. But, unfortunately, far too often you have to challenge the government's rejection. For example, the one that I have before me is a report dated August 28, 1995, signed by Darce Fardy, the Review Officer. This was a situation where I (Interruption) Yes, the Minister of Transportation and Communications is very adept and astute; he said, you mean you. Madam Speaker, that is all perception and where you happen to sit but I am sure the minister, I am really pleased to see that the minister, who is a Government House Leader, takes these issues so seriously. I am really thrilled about that, I am sure it warms the hearts of Nova Scotians and it really instills a sense of confidence in those who are trying to believe there is any way that this government wants to be open and accountable.
Anyway, Madam Speaker, I had asked for the "copy of the assessment and/or report prepared for the department regarding the Highway No. 104-Western Alignment by Arthur Andersen & Co.". I "asked for the breakdown of all fees, expenses, stipends, et cetera, paid and/or owing to Arthur Andersen & Co. in respect to the Highway No. 104-Western Alignment Project and for a copy of the contract with Arthur Andersen & Company of course paid for by taxpayers' dollars, Arthur Andersen & Co. who were doing the work that properly would have been being done by the Department of Transportation staff.
You know, Madam Speaker, I received a response on June 6, 1995 from the Director of Public Affairs and Communications with the Department of Transportation and Communications, who wrote to me denying my request for a copy of the Arthur Anderson Report, citing Section 17(1) of the Act. In response to that, I, of course, wrote back and sought information again, a requested for the fees paid to Arthur Andersen & Company and for a copy of the contract with the company. The information we got back from the minister's staff said ". . . the department would grant partial access to the fee schedules and the contract.". However, she went on to say, "`. . . the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to harm their competitive position or interfere significantly with their ability to negotiate future work.'". It goes on to point out in the report that there are no sections of the Act even cited.
Madam Speaker, I have not got time to go through the whole thing, but just to hit at a few of the points at the end. This is the kind of thing that we end up finding. To use a quote from the report of the review officer, Mr. Fardy, he said, "I agree with Mr. Holm, that the Report is background material as defined in Section 3 of the Act.".
HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think what all members should realize here is that when Mr. Darce Fardy makes his report, it is several months after the fact and to put his decision, which is certainly in hindsight, in perspective, when the request was made, it certainly is not as clear as the honourable member opposite would have us believe. As I stated at that time and which I will repeat again today, if I am going to err, I am going to err on the side of caution with respect to the Nova Scotia taxpayer and not with respect to accommodating the Acting Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MADAM SPEAKER: That is an interesting point, but I would not agree that it is a point of order.
MR. HOLM: I have to admit that the minister did a very good acting job pretending that he is supposedly erring on the side of caution to protect taxpayers when, Madam Speaker, what the minister is acting on is to protect something, but it is not the taxpayer. He might be trying to protect a certain portion of the government, but it certainly is not one aimed at trying to provide accountability. It is interesting, too, how many months it does take them, in fact, to do it.
The minister and the government denied that report on the basis that supposedly you would have to get the permission of Arthur Andersen & Company to release that report because it is a separate company. That was a report paid for by the people, the Province of Nova Scotia and by the taxpayers, prepared for the Department of Transportation and Communications and used as material for this government to make its report, Madam Speaker. When that report was paid for and turned over to the government, it became the property of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Madam Speaker, all the government was trying to protect was their backsides because they do not want information exposed that could, in fact, disagree or contradict what some of their public statements are or could shine some light on it. What we need in Nova Scotia is not only a good Freedom of Information Act, but we have to have a government that is committed to the principles of that Act.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Adjournment debate has expired.
We will now revert to the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading and the debate was on Bill No. 33.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
Bill No. 33 - Internal Trade Agreement Implementation Act. [Debate Resumed]
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, I do appreciate the opportunity to speak on this bill in the Legislature on second reading, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade. So this is an Act that concerns all provinces in the Dominion of Canada and the federal government, working together to make each province stronger.
This looked like a very humble, innocuous bill, only a couple of pages in the whole thing from start to finish. You could probably read it in five minutes or 10 minutes, perhaps even quicker. (Interruption) Well, if you like, I could read it clause by clause. But the point of it is, you could read it clause by clause in 5 minutes or 10 minutes and you wouldn't know any more about it than you would if you had not read it at all because this bill really speaks about the major agreement, some 250 pages, that the federal government and each province has signed.
This trade agreement from province to province is something of great concern. Now, in Nova Scotia, we have been traders for ever. We built our fortunes as trading people. When you go through the Town of Amherst or go down to Annapolis or any of these old towns in Nova Scotia, you can see these enormous houses, and you wonder what on earth was going on to have so many large houses. Those houses were built by people who were in the trading business years ago, about the time of Confederation or shortly after, so Nova Scotia is no stranger to trade. We do not fear trade. We do not fear standing up to be counted but we do have a problem when it comes to an unlevel playing field. For years we have been plagued with an unlevel playing field.
Since Confederation, we have seen the tables shifted against us by the federal government through one trade policy or another and they bring in artificial trade barriers that keep Nova Scotia products out. We used to build great stoves in Amherst, Enterprise, I think they called them - was that the name of them - but any way, they were the finest wood stove and, I think, in 90 per cent of the kitchens in Atlantic Canada and they were exported to Quebec and Ontario. We could build those and we could ship them and we could move them but suddenly the trade barriers shifted around by the federal government and said, let's build everything that we can lay our hands on in Ontario and ship it east. That is what happened and it has not worked to our advantage.
I want to know what does this bill do to guarantee that we will now have a level playing field because I guarantee you and everybody else that Nova Scotians can manufacture as well as anybody else. We can trade, we can export, but we cannot have the rules stacked against us. Up until this point, the rules have been stacked against Nova Scotia because we are a small province, we only have a handful of Members of Parliament in Ottawa to represent us and they have not had the power nor the clout to make up for the overwhelming odds that we face from central Canada.
Provinces in western Canada sometimes feel the same way as we do. We can trade. We have to trade, using our competitive advantage and the biggest advantage we have is our ice-free port. For years, this port has been underutilized. We have the capacity to handle more ships than the port of New York, however, we don't because our population is so small. In New York, 80 per cent of the product is consumed locally and they trans-ship 20 per cent. Well that small 20 per cent they tran-ship is 10 times as much as we put through our port.
One of the difficulties that makes the playing field less than level is that we are competing directly with New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. They are our competitors just as much as any internal trade agreement because the end destination from Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York is very often Ontario and Quebec cities that have shipped through American ports. Why do they do that? Because the rail rate between Halifax and Montreal and Toronto is too darn high.
Now about four years ago CN decided that yes, we do have a problem in Atlantic Canada and let's make a commitment. CN has made a commitment, after the province decided the only way to level the field was through double-stacked rail cars. So the province did that to help trade. The province did it. The Premier of the day said that this is the only way we are going to get ahead in the train business so let's get at it. The province put $11 million into the program and CN put the rest of the money in so that we could double-stack the rail cars. That helped to level the field. CN came down with better rates. CN and the Port Authority began negotiating with shippers to make Halifax more viable. The only way we are going to succeed in trade is if the Port of Halifax is working to capacity.
Now after we saw the double-stacked rail cars we saw the intermodal terminal as well built for $15 million by CN. That is the commitment that CN has shown in the last five years. But where is the commitment from the federal government with regard to Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada? CN is going to be privatized. Who will argue with privatization? I don't think anybody will really say that privatization is a bad thing.
The federal government realized that CN is a pretty sensitive issue in one province of Canada so they said that the headquarters is going to stay in Montreal, even after it is privatized. But did the federal government say that the other undeniable necessity after privatization is a rail link to Halifax? It is not there. Why isn't it there? We are going to be in dire straits with internal trade if we don't have a rail line. Now I don't think for a minute that we are going to lose the rail line next week or next year, but who would have thought 15 years ago that we were going to lose the rail line to Yarmouth and to Bridgewater? Who would have thought that? Nobody. So is it just conceivable that perhaps after privatization somebody is going to say, I don't think we are going to operate to Halifax any more. Certainly if CP had been able to get their hands on the railway it was very doubtful because it would be in direct competition with their lines coming out of the United States.
When you compare the deal that the Americans are giving their rail lines to the deal that we offer CN, you have to wonder again, where is the level playing field? With the free trade agreement across North America, you have to think of the trade in the United States because the rail lines in the United States are not looked at as a cash cow for municipal taxes, many of them are tax free. The State of Massachusetts is going to spend a few billion dollars upgrading their rail system to compete with Halifax. We must be ready.
Is anybody in this Dominion going to stand up and say, we are going to spend money on CN so that the Port of Halifax can compete? I have not heard the federal politicians say that yet. We need them to say that, we need our minister and our Premier to demand the same compensation that was given to the Province of Quebec that said that the headquarters will stay in Montreal no matter who owns it. Wouldn't it be just as easy to say that the rail line is going to run to Halifax no matter who owns it? It is hardly fitting to call a rail line from Montreal to Halifax a short line.
We have seen an example of how you can build trade in the Annapolis Valley. The Windsor-Hantsport rail line, I wish you had been there, Madam Speaker, you would have enjoyed it. They had their 1st Anniversary family picnic about three weeks ago. I think next year they are going to try to move it up into August.
MADAM SPEAKER: The picnic is very interesting, honourable member, but it does not have anything to do with the bill.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, it does, if you will follow. It shows how an ambitious short line railway can build through trade. We are now seeing as many cars in a month that are hauling product other than gypsum, than the former owners, CP, used to haul in a whole year. Can you believe it? They are doing as much in a month through aggressive trade. They are exporting from Nova Scotia to another province, pulpwood and logs. They are hauling grain from the West by rail up to the Valley. They are going to be building a spur line in New Minas that is going to be a grain terminal. They are going to have a pulpwood terminal, as well as a general purpose terminal. They have been around to the farm machinery dealers and said, look. Why don't you folks bring your new machinery from the factory to the dealer on the train? It is a lot easier than bringing it on a truck. This is trade and it is internal trade. It is inter-Canadian trade. It is North American trade.
This shows you what an aggressive company can really do when they get a hold of the situation. The same thing can be said about the line that is going from Truro to Cape Breton. They have increased trade on that rail line. So it is not impossible. Nova Scotians, given a level playing field and an opportunity, can outshine anybody. But we cannot continue to be put at a disadvantage by the federal government. It just will not work. You can see the difference on the line between Truro and Cape Breton because they are hauling products that have not been on a rail bed for years, a brand new business. When businesses like that increase, it means trade has helped all of us.
Some people said, well, gee, you know, when this government was in Opposition, they fought like the devil for rail line privatization from Truro to Sydney. They fought. They said it was awful, that it would not work. But now, I see that they are all on-board. In fact, the first bill they brought in was a bill that enabled that rail line to work. Because they could see how the advantage and how trade would increase if the playing field was level. So we need the level playing field.
What does this bill do to ensure that Halifax, as the finest port in the North Atlantic, has a rail link to Upper Canada? Nothing. What do we hear from the Premier, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency? We need the guarantees. We need it in this. We have seen too many businesses leave Atlantic Canada and leave Nova Scotia: Coca-Cola and Pepsi. They left us and they are shipping it back in here. Why do you suppose that is? What does this bill do to say that we are going to have Coca-Cola and Pepsi putting up product in Nova Scotia again? What is there that we could do? How could we ensure that we could have some manufacturing here in the area of soft drinks?
One thing we could have done a couple of weeks ago was when the Minister of the Environment brought in his bill, he should have said that all soft drink and beer containers will be refillable. He said they have to be recyclable. There is a great big difference between recyclable and refillable. But it creates inter-provincial trade if you have refillable containers because who is going to bottle a product in another province and then have to ship the empty bottles back and forth. But if you say you are going to fill them here and you are going to consume them here, that immediately creates more business and more trade.
It is perfectly safe within the GATT that everybody is concerned about now. The first question everybody says is, is it GATT-able? Well, it is. It is perfectly within the rules of GATT and that is important when you are talking trade because GATT, trade, has a great deal to do with inter-provincial trade, because you cannot do anything with regard to inter-provincial trade that somebody can take you to the GATT talks and say you are wrong, stop doing it and here is your fine. Anything we do in the internal trade must coincide with all the agreements that we have under GATT.
This bill is without question the most important job creation tool that we are going to discuss. When Nova Scotian entered Confederation we were the richest province in Canada because of trade. We can regain that same position again and trade can help us. Are we the first to enter into this agreement? What is the rush? Why are we rushing headlong into doing this when no other province in this Dominion has done anything as grandiose and all encompassing as this bill. We are the first province that says we have to adopt everything willy-nilly without allowing the former minister, the honourable Ross Bragg signed the agreement in September 1994, but how many of us have seen that 200 page document and looked at it and studied it and questioned the ramifications. There are a lot of things to consider and I know that the members can say, oh, who cares, but really and truly you must care and you must be interested.
Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland have considered the legislation, but they have not, as yet, passed the legislation and they have decided that their Ombudsman is going to view the disputes. They have not ratified this 200 page agreement that all the provinces sign. So what is the rush, why is the minister indicating that we must do this today? Why don't we allow the member for Hants East to really stand up sometime and tell us what he is thinking instead of mumbling away in the background.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I think the member for Hants East can choose to stand when he chooses, but right now you have the floor.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well then we have to come to an agreement that he stops interrupting, all right.
MADAM SPEAKER: Just don't be side-tracked honourable member. Keep your focus.
MR. ARCHIBALD: What process are we going to put in place in Nova Scotia that will work as well as what they are proposing in Alberta? Now in Alberta they have decided the Ombudsman is going to handle disputes. That is the progressive step. Have we decided that in Nova Scotia? Why don't we make sure that each province in Canada passes mirror legislation so that we don't wind up signing the piece of legislation first to adopt the whole thing and then have everybody do what they have been doing for the last 125 years.
Let's get on a level playing field. We have industries in Nova Scotia and the Minister of Transportation says don't forget Sarsfield. Well, no Sarfield is a great company. It started in the kitchen and Fran Sarfield started making one pie at a time and then 200 a day and then from there they moved across the street and now it is 100,000 a day. Find me another success story that starts from the kitchen, across the street, into a factory. With our building laws and our planning department that we have in Kings County now, they could not get it because they could not move from the kitchen to the barn across the street anymore. We brought in more regulations.
You have to have a level playing field, but it is frustrating to think of how many backyard or kitchen businesses are frustrated by the planning rules and regulations we have today. We are telling everybody where you can do this, you can do that, you can't do something else, but you know who we are competing with? We are competing with people that have no rules at all. If they want to make pies in their kitchen or across the street, fine. They are coming in here and competing with us, but yet we have every rule you could think of and some I bet you have not even thought of that make it difficult for Nova Scotians to get ahead.
If you look at the outfit, Tibbett Paints, for instance - I think that is the only Atlantic Canadian paint factory - what protection do we have in this bill so that Tibbett Paints will continue to grow and to prosper? I am concerned. We have an organization in New Glasgow making overalls and work clothing. What protection do we have by this bill that says that they are going to be able to compete on a level playing field and another manufacturer in Upper Canada isn't going to come down and put them out of business by dumping product? Who is going to be the overseer to make sure that doesn't happen? In Alberta, it is the Ombudsman.
Who is going to make sure that Grohmann Knives, who make probably as good a knife as you can buy anywhere in the world, what assurances do we have that unfair competition isn't going to be hounding on them? Are we buying a pig in a poke, so to speak, or do we know and understand all of the ramifications of this legislation?
In Amherst, SCL Technologies - it used to be Northern Telecom - Northern didn't want to bother with that small factory anymore because they are interested in things on a big scale, the bigger the better and everything was technology and robotic construction, anyway, SCL Technologies was born out of that factory by Simmonds Electronics in Toronto, and do you know what? That factory working with the trained staff in Amherst is now a bigger employer than it was when Northern Telecom owned it. They have found products to manufacture, some for Northern Telecom, some for other organizations and they are competing on a world market. We can trade. We have nothing to fear in the trade business, but make sure that we understand what we are getting into and that it is fair.
I have got a lot of concerns too about agriculture. One third of all agriculture production in Nova Scotia comes from Kings County and I am one of the three people that represents the Kings County riding. The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency represents a very significant agricultural development; a poultry processing facility is right in the middle of his riding. Is that plant going to be able to function under this new bill? Are we going to guarantee that we are going to have supply management for poultry? Without supply management in Canada, I can guarantee there won't be any poultry in this country, the same as the State of Maine. Twenty-five years ago, I used to go down to Maine and look at poultry production. You don't anymore because poultry has moved down south. There is one fellow growing turkeys in Pennsylvania and he grows as many turkeys as every producer in Canada does. We would be swamped if we don't stay on a level playing field.
Now at the GATT talks everybody was concerned about supply management. The Minister of Natural Resources took part in a rally organized by the Federation of Agriculture where there were 10,000 farmers demanding that we stuck with . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: There was 100,000.
MR. ARCHIBALD: No, there was 10,000. Anyway, the Minister of Natural Resources took part in a rally in Ottawa and there were a lot of people there and it was in support of supply management. He was involved with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture at the time and he was dedicated to supply management (Interruption) Well, tell your folks in Ottawa that you are dedicated to supply management because supply management involves inter-provincial trade and if anybody can tell me that it doesn't involved inter-provincial trade, then there is something wrong.
There are poultry products going back and forth from Nova Scotia to Quebec and Ontario every day. There are dairy products coming across Canada every single day. The dairy producers and the poultry producers are working among themselves to make sure that there is as level a playing field (Interruption) Is that right? The Minister of Agriculture is - I don't know if he is nodding his head or not, certainly the guy beside him is - so, the farmers are taking a leadership role in inter-provincial trade. We have to make sure that that role can continue.
The farmers in Nova Scotia that are taking part are small businessmen. Ninety per cent of agricultural production in supply management in Nova Scotia is in the family farm situation. They are involved in internal trade. If anybody thinks that that is not involved in this bill, then there is something wrong. The only way we are going to succeed and grow is if we continue to have supply management.
Years ago, we used to have assistance from the federal government, months ago, for transportation in Atlantic Canada. That's gone. The federal government decided that we could get along on our own in Atlantic Canada. They decided they could get along better out West. They have done away with Feed Freight Assistance in Nova Scotia. They have done away with the Crow Rate in western Canada. They have done away with the Atlantic Canada Transportation Assistance Programs. In order to do that, they sent the money that they normally would pay for five years down to Nova Scotia and the Minister of Transportation got his hands on the transportation subsidy money that they sent down here and he has decided he is going to spend it on local roads. Well, that was his choice.
Some people would have said, well, we could spend it on Highway No. 104, then we wouldn't need toll highways which is an impediment to internal trade because it puts Nova Scotia at an absolute; a month ago our caucus went to the Debert Industrial Park. Now anybody in this Chamber who has not been to the industrial park located in Debert should go and talk to some of the manufacturers that are there. All their product, their raw material, is coming in mostly by truck from outside of Nova Scotia. It arrives here, it is processed, changed, altered. For instance, window glass comes in and they change from big 8 foot by 10 foot panes of glass into window frames and ship them out. Every piece of glass that comes in is going across the toll, every finished window is going out of the province. That is a barrier to trade.
Now, sure, it is only going to be $18 or $20 per truckload, and per window, it perhaps won't make a whole lot of difference on an individual window. But at the end of the month when that industry looks and says, we had 20 trucks last week, and 400 trucks at $20, pretty soon you can see how it adds up. One at a time it is not much, but with the whole total, so that is an impediment to internal trade. This is not anything that we can be proud of.
Now the Minister of Transportation could have avoided that by using some of the subsidy money the federal government sent down to phase out, to put that into that highway. But he would rather have a toll booth so that is what he has done. That was his choice. The transportation subsidy for feed is also . . .
HON. RICHARD MANN: Would the honourable member entertain a question?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Oh, I would love to.
MR. MANN: Would the honourable member be prepared to give me a letter recommending that all the secondary road work done in the areas across Nova Scotia be cancelled for the sake of one project?
MR. ARCHIBALD: I think the minister asked that partly seriously and partly in jest. Part of the work that has been done with the transportation subsidy that is disappearing has been on 100-Series Highways. I saw the list today and some of it is 100-Series Highways, some of that work. A lot of the work, I don't know if it is 50 per cent, is it half of it, a lot of it is on roads that are not 100-Series. I would certainly recommend to you and I know that every Nova Scotian would say, listen, we would rather you fix the road that is four lane through the Wentworth Valley without a toll . . .
MR. TAYLOR: Twenty-four projects are not 100-Series.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Twenty-four projects. Those 24 projects, that money would be long-lasting. It would last forever. It would be a monument to the minister.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Another question, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite is a former Minister of Agriculture and he is a former Minister of Transportation in this House of Assembly in this Province of Nova Scotia. Would he agree that one of the difficulties, and he is constantly on his feet talking about resources and resource industries, would he agree that one of the difficulties we have in Nova Scotia is having all of the resource industries located along the 100-Series Highways and the secondary road system is very valuable and needs to be maintained and enhanced so that we can get our goods to market? Try as we might, we have not been able to get the fish to grow along Highway No. 104. Now, I wonder if the member would agree that the secondary road system is extremely important to transport the goods to market, the goods he speaks about as he is on his feet today?
MR. ARCHIBALD: That is a very good question and I am glad that the Minister of Transportation got it through his head that fish don't grow on our roads. Anybody in any resource industry will tell you that you need the 100-Series Highways and we need them four laned as quickly as possible. It doesn't matter if you are living in Ecum Secum or Wolfville or New Minas or Cape North, they will all agree. There isn't a single area in Nova Scotia that will not say that the primary road - and if the minister wants to talk about priorities and he said he just wants to talk about that - the busiest road in Nova Scotia is from Truro to Amherst; 6,600 vehicles per day, the busiest road in the province. That minister knows that and if he had any concern for the well-being of industries in the region, he would have put the money to four lane that highway.
He has absolutely stopped construction on that road since 1993, he has held it up with road blocks, with everything you can think of, so that he wouldn't have to do the road. He will tell you it is because he doesn't have any money. Well, if he doesn't have any money, he found money to commit to the Fleur-de-lis Trail, he has found money to commit to 24 non-100-Series Highways. This was a transportation subsidy that was sent down here to help the trucking industry overcome the difficulty of the lack of subsidy. Is there any road in Nova Scotia you can identify that has more truck traffic per day than the road from Truro to Amherst? Not at all, not an area. (Interruption)
I would certainly tell him, if I thought for two seconds that he would do away with the tolls, I would write him 10 letters and sign them all that he put the money from the transportation subsidy into Highway No. 104. I bet you I could get half the members of this House, even his own Party would sign that letter indicating that a better use of that money could have been found, than playing politics with the list of 24 roads (Interruption) We have the list, the minister wouldn't give it to us, but we got the list of the roads that he (Interruptions) Yes, a lot of trade, he says. Well, if the minister was as interested in trade as he is (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: All right, I must interject here by asking the House for order. I hear a lot of catcalling from members who do not stand up in their places but instead stay in their seats. It is out of order to do that and I would ask honourable members to allow this member to continue his discourse on the bill.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you, I agree with you, Mr. Speaker. Those guys who are catcalling should get up on their haunches and speak, I think, and be heard. This standing back with catcalls does not show a whole lot of courage.
Nova Scotia has an opportunity to move ahead and become the province in all of Canada. This trade agreement, this 200 page document may be the vehicle we have been looking for. But we must make sure that we are buying and we are signing exactly what we think we are getting. One of the things Nova Scotia has to do is look at its strengths. Our universities should not be looked at, as they are at the present time by the Minister of Education, as a cost and an expense. They should be looked upon as an opportunity for growth. We have to look at our industry and say, how can we unite our universities to create jobs for the people? How can we best use our universities and how can we best use the people who are graduating from those universities to make Nova Scotia a stronger place? What does this bill say it is going to do to help unite universities to business so we create jobs?
We have one of the best educated labour forces. When I talk to the people in the industrial parks who have moved their businesses from other provinces and other countries, one of the things they constantly tell you is that the labour force in Nova Scotia is dependable and it is long term. We talked to a company in Amherst the other day. They were familiar with doing business in another province. They said that the turnover was unbelievable. They said, we came to Nova Scotia, we set up the business. He said, our employees want to know where our products are going. They want to know, is there a cheaper way to make them, is there a better way to make them? The employee interest is there; the skill is there.
Look at our location, right in the middle of the shipping routes of the world. If we are going to do anything with trade with the rest of Canada, we have to be able to run things through. The Sarnia Tunnel makes it 12 hours shorter to get to Chicago and that is a help. But we can't stop with that, we have to look at all the advantages our location provides for us. Our natural resources. We have gypsum, I guess we have the biggest gypsum mine in the world. I was up there looking at it the other day, it is the biggest hole in the ground I ever saw in my life and they are not through digging yet. They will be digging that same old hole for another 25 or 30 years and perhaps they will find more to dig around there, too. You know, that is a real industry, providing jobs.
We have other resources. We have coal. Where are we headed with the coal industry? We are talking about natural gas and we are talking about coal. The coal and the natural gas, are they two industries that are going to be meshed together, hand in glove? Or does the onslaught of natural gas mean the demise of the coal industry? What does the minister have to say about that? I can tell you there are 2,200 people in Sydney who are interested in the coal industry and natural gas. These are our natural resources, this is what we have to start with and we have to build on them.
Tourism is being built on our natural resources. Next spring you are going to be able to go to Iceland. I can hardly wait. I don't understand what happened to KLM; 100 per cent seat sales. I flew on their airplane, it wasn't even KLM, it was Martinair. I thought I was going to get a KLM ride to Europe because we gave $1.5 million but they had Martinair, which is kind of a feeder service, I guess. They flew across and every seat in the plane was full. It was lovely service. Now they are not going to fly here any more. I hope the minister can find somebody else to fill that void to take advantage of our natural resources so it will increase trade. Everybody who arrives here spending money is a help to our natural resources, and tourism is one of them.
What happens with natural gas? This bill talks about natural gas. What are we going to do with the pipeline when it comes onshore and where is it going to stop? Everybody will tell you that the jobs are at the end of the pipeline. If the pipeline just roars right straight through Nova Scotia, we are exporting the jobs to the end of it. We all know it is going to stop in Bangor. (Laughter) Well, good that I got the reaction. That is what I wanted. The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and the Minister of Natural Resources are killing themselves with glee, humour. But when it comes to internal trade, that is something that is quite critical.
Where does it stop? The company has said that they are going to have 35 jobs in Nova Scotia. How many jobs are going to be created elsewhere along that pipeline? Well, this is most interesting and it is going to be exciting as time goes on and we see. Can the Minister of Natural Resources furnish a contract to sell any gas to the City of Boston? Is there one contract signed? You see, his agreement is sort of like this: sign here, details to follow and if you don't like them, it is going to be too bad. That is what this bill is telling us. The details are not furnished to us and we are the first people to sign on, the first people who say that we have to do it.
Truly, Mr. Speaker, is this the kind of government we are interested in, the kind of internal trade that is going to create a strong future for Nova Scotia? I don't think so because there are no provisions in this to settle disputes. What process? It is just not here, Mr. Speaker.
The bill is very short, but the book that follows it has the details and we certainly need some details that we are not getting from the minister. He had an opportunity when he introduced the bill to tell us why we had to be the first province to ratify this arrangement. We don't know yet why he is going to do that.
With all the kerfuffle that this government has created in the last two and one-half years, I don't know why they said they had to get into this bill today. They have got the school system, the health care system, the highways, they have got pretty near everything they have touched in an uproar.
AN HON. MEMBER: We are trying to keep you confused over there.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I think you have done a better job in around your Cabinet Table, because pretty near everything is in an uproar and the minister says, well, trade internally is kind of getting along. Let's see if we can stir up a hornet's nest there. So away we go. We get this bill and now we are talking about it today. The minister has not yet indicated one job is going to be created by this bill.
There are a lot of difficulties that we have in Nova Scotia that could have come before this bill. We need an opportunity for Nova Scotians to get jobs in Nova Scotia. The time the minister spent studying and reading and trying to figure out how to be the first in Canada to ratify this, they could have spent it on bringing in a policy of job creation because we certainly need it. The statistics will show you that there are fewer people working this year than last year.
You talk to the people in Nova Scotia today. They are concerned about their jobs whether they are working as a civil servant or they are working in a hospital. I don't know of anybody who says they feel secure about their future employment, about their future income. I talk to grandparents and they say, I don't know whether my grandchildren are going to have a good job or any job. We are talking to the people and they are telling me, day after day, where is Nova Scotia headed? There does not seem to be anybody in charge. (Interruption)
Now, look, if the honourable member for Cape Breton South wants to speak, he can take his turn. He has had lots of opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, the minister had a unique opportunity to come forth with a plan and show Nova Scotians where the jobs are going to be created. Jobs are going to be created in our province through trade, through economic development. But unless we are playing with the same rules in Nova Scotia as they are playing with in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, it is not going to work. So far, the rules are stacked, time and again, against Nova Scotia.
Why didn't the minister busy himself insisting that we have a rail link from Halifax to Montreal? He would rather do this. Well, I am telling you that the rail link is more important to the future of Nova Scotia than this agreement that we are talking about today. How can we have internal trade in this country if we do not have a rail line? Sure trucks haul a lot of product, but as we have seen on the route from Truro to Sydney and the Hantsport-Windsor, given a choice, shippers are using rail if it is cost-competitive.
They opened the module terminal up by the old Volvo plant just before you get to the bridge. That hauls tractor trailers by rail from here to Moncton and beyond. Even after they get the truck loaded, they prefer to use the rail. But has this minister done anything in this bill to assure us we are going to have rail transport in Atlantic Canada? Not one single word from the minister or the Premier's Office. This is something that could create jobs and, by golly, I can guarantee if we don't have the railing it is going to guarantee the loss of jobs.
We have to develop our strengths and our strongest development tool is our port. We could do a lot to assist and aid the port, but instead we are getting this. An agreement that was signed by all the provinces and we are looking and studying it, most members have not seen a copy of it, if they have, they have not read it, it is huge. We are the first to try to adopt it. It is sort of like Nero with his fiddle while the place is burning. We have very pressing problems and we have solutions to find and this is not the major solution.
Internal trade in Canada is a difficulty. We have been trading in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and we have been breaking down the barriers slowly. About four years ago, Mr. McKenna refused to allow fishing boats to be built in Nova Scotia with grant money from New Brunswick. He has since relented on that. We have purchased snowplow blades in New Brunswick. The barriers are coming down. Quebec and New Brunswick have been having great discussions and great rivalry and pretty near fights about labour crossing the borders between a New Brunswicker working in Quebec or a Quebecer working in New Brunswick. Those disputes are slowly being settled. We are all working towards a freer trade.
In 1993, Mr. Chretien said he was going to rip up the Free Trade Agreement with Canada and the United States. He said it was no good, but what did he do? He signed one with Mexico instead. So we all agree that trade creates jobs and a stronger Canada and it will create a stronger Nova Scotia. We have to have a lot more meat on the bones than this legislation is providing. We have to have a lot more leadership than this government is providing because there is nothing this government has said or done that would indicate to me or anybody else that trade is anywhere near the top of their agenda. None of us are certain exactly what is at the top of the agenda, but we know for sure that it is not trade and development because the results are not there.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important bill and I know there are others who wish to have a few minutes to speak on this bill. I urge some of the government members to study the documentation that accompanies this bill. If you can get a copy from the minister, if you cannot, I will give you a copy because I have one. You should all take it home and read it so you will have an understanding of what this bill means to each and every person. How can you vote without first having had an opportunity to look at the document that the province signed us up for?
Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and I welcome other speakers, if there are any, to stand in their place and discuss this bill. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening and speak on Bill No. 33, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade. What looks like a very harmless bill is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation that we will deal with here during this session. This is to implement the Agreement on Internal Trade between the Government of Canada and the governments of all the provinces and territories and upon signing, reduce or eliminate trade barriers to the free movement of persons, goods, services and investments.
The previous speaker made a very good point when he suggested that all members take a look at this bill. Mr. Speaker, as you well know, it is a bill with approximately 15 or 16 clauses. One of the points and one of the principles of this bill that disturbs me and I believe it should disturb the Minister of Natural Resources, is the fact that this bill amends the Wildlife Act. This bill with the stroke of the pen removes the word "resident". I am not sure whether the Minister of Natural Resources is aware of this or not.
We have several outfitters across this province, we have several guides and we are talking about jobs. I believe it is one of the clauses around the end of the bill that strikes out the word resident. There is no protection for the guides and the outfitters in this province. Clause 24(2)(1), "The Minister may license as a guide a person who meets the qualifications set out in the regulations or the Minister may issue a special permit to authorize a person to act as a guide.".
I believe this flies in the face of what the Department of Tourism is telling residents of this province and telling residents right across this nation. We see brochures, I have some myself, pamphlets that explain and encourage and entice people to come to our province, meet our outfitters, meet our guides. In fact, last year the Outfitters Association and the Department of Tourism, in their budget, spent over $90,000 to produce calendars to advertise our province. That is a significant piece of change by anybody's imagination. I think that across this province in the 52 various constituencies you will most likely find some outfitters and guides who will be very disturbed when they find out that with the stroke of a pen, the minister can eliminate those jobs. Clause 24(2)(1), "The Minister may license as a guide a person who meets the qualifications set out in the regulations or the Minister may issue a special permit . . .".
Now, going back to the bill, I will be careful to try to stay on topic. During some of my preparation for this bill I learned a great deal for this debate from a book called, Getting There. Getting There is an assessment of the Agreement on Internal Trade by the C.D. Howe Institute. (Interruption) Perhaps the Minister of Transportation and Communications is correct, it is half the fun getting there, I don't have any difficulty with that at all. Quite often, I find that I don't agree with the Minister of Transportation and Communications, but in this instance I do. (Interruption) It is irrelevant who the author is. We have to stay on topic.
The Provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland have considered this matter in their Legislatures. Alberta and Manitoba bills put forth a measure that provides firms and individuals and other levels of government a remedy before the Court of Queens Bench in order to impose a fine or some kind of judicial sanction under the Agreement on Internal Trade. Was this provision considered here and if it wasn't, why wasn't it considered?
Alberta also appoints their ombudsman as a screener under Article 713 of the agreement. Clause 12 of this bill before us provides for the appointment of the Ombudsman and that is as far as it goes. Why didn't we give some consideration to the Alberta model? The Alberta legislation spells out the process the Ombudsman must carry out if there is a conflict. This legislation before us does not spell out the process relative to a conflict. So, the question begs to be asked, what process is in place here in Nova Scotia? Perhaps the minister will indicate during his summation.
All three Acts seem just to bring them into line with the Agreement on Internal Trade but do not seem to ratify the agreement. The question is, why do you suppose these other provinces did not endorse this piece of legislation?
In the past there have been a number of attempts to reduce or remove inter-provincial trade barriers. There are probably greater obstacles to trade between the provinces than perhaps there are to trade between Canada and the rest of the world.
It has been estimated that the benefits for free trade for Canadians is a permanent increase in income of 1.5 per cent, a figure cited by the Macdonald Royal Commission of the mid-1980's. So there certainly are benefits, Mr. Speaker, to removing trade barriers.
Now, after the failure of the much talked about Charlottetown Accord of 1993, the Honourable Michael Wilson announced that a different approach would be taken. They talk about a macro approach. Everything was put on the table and in the agreement, and then exceptions were written into the agreement. The provinces and the federal government reached agreement in July 1994 and all provincial governments signed in September 1994. I should mention, Mr. Speaker, that the Honourable Ross Bragg was signatory for the Province of Nova Scotia.
So we must remember that Section 92 of the constitution Act provides for the provinces to have control over trade and commerce within its boundaries while the federal government, under Section 91.2 has power to regulate inter-provincial trade. Mr. Speaker, my learned friend, the honourable member for Hants East, tells me that is correct. Historically, provinces have used Section 92 to erect both tariff and trade barriers in areas such as tobacco and alcohol sales. Of course, alcohol and tobacco sales and production. While this agreement seems to overcome barriers, and believe me, it is a little difficult trying to read through the agreement, I note that there are specific rules and exemptions and some sectors are not even mentioned in the agreement.
Mr. Speaker, there is no mention of culture, cultural and financial service industries and nothing that talks about measures pertaining to aboriginal people or measures relating to taxation. There is also broad exemption for measures that are part of the general framework of regional economic development.
So, the principle, I believe, of the bill is one that is extremely hard to define. I had a call relative to this piece of legislation from a welder and the individual expressed concern respecting the natural gas project off Nova Scotia and I believe there are some 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off there. (Interruption) My colleague, the honourable member for Guysborough indicates in fact that give or take a few cubic feet it probably is around 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
We know there is a lot of discussion going on relative to the natural gas . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: There is enough gas coming from over there. (Laughter)
MR. TAYLOR: . . . that is sitting off our coast. But, Mr. Speaker, did you know that Mobil Oil is sitting on top of those reserves and not paying any tax on those reserves? In any other jurisdiction where there is a natural resource that is being held in abeyance, if you will, by a company, they have to pay a tax. The tax acts as an incentive to develop but Mobil Oil is not paying any taxes on the 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Mr. Speaker, I believe that is wrong.
We know there have been discussions regarding procurement policies in Nova Scotia. Chapter 5 of the agreement, I believe it is, contains provisions that ensure that for those agencies listed, procurement will be conducted on a transparent basis, an open, honest, fair and, I believe, that is a fair policy. But when you read further, you find out that the list of those agencies exempted from the procurement policy is very long. So what we find out in the bill is that there are certain agencies that are affected by the procurement policy but there are many more who have been exempted.
Now in the definition section of the agreement which is on Page 6, there is a list of other legitimate objectives which are: public security; safety, public order; protection of human, animal or plant life; health; protection of the environment; consumer protection; protection of the health, safety and well-being of workers and Affirmative Action Programs for disadvantaged groups. Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker . . .
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me that we are in a clause by clause debate on second reading. We are, this reading, where principle of the bill, even though it is allowed wide latitude, I think that latitude has been exceeded extensively by the honourable member opposite. He is in a clause by clause reading of the debate and that is for another time.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I thank the honourable member for his observation. It is a pertinent one. I am in great difficulty here in attempting to restrict the debate overly, because of the nature of the bill before the House. It is an omnibus provision in the first place, that amends a number of Statutes at one stroke and then, further to that, it is an implementation of an international trade agreement that, while it has been made available to the Opposition Parties, has not been tabled as part of moving the bill for second reading, and yet, the bill implements that. So I find that much as I perhaps may tend to wish to restrict debate at times, this is not one of those times.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, could I just add there is an old saying and I would like to remind the minister who rose on that point of order that the best way to succeed is to act on the advice you give others.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, that is not germane to the bill at all. (Laughter) I could quickly rule on that one.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, that member sat in Opposition . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Nor is an attack on that member sitting opposite. Get back to the bill.
MR. TAYLOR: Okay, Mr. Speaker, back to the bill. It seems to me that there are a number of exceptions and exemptions in here to make it very difficult to determine exactly what is to be included in the agreement. It is an exceptional bill.
Now another difficulty I have had for some time with the agreement is the dispute resolution process or that mechanism that deals with disputes. In fact, on June 8, 1995, the then Leader of our Party sent off a letter to the Premier, with a copy to the Economic Renewal Minister and Supply and Services Minister. The member for Halifax Citadel asked questions regarding Bill C-88, which is an agreement on internal trade and implementation Act. There were no answers that came back.
My colleague, the MLA for Halifax Citadel, indicated that he is forever indebted to the secretary to the Premier who was kind enough to acknowledge the letter.
AN HON. MEMBER: Did he not already say that?
MR. TAYLOR: Oh, I have no idea, I was in the Law Amendments Committee for a good portion of this afternoon. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I am getting . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I question whether this line of discourse relates to the bill, I do. You were doing all right, up to a point, but now you seem to be off track.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, Clause 9 of that bill allows the federal government, where it is a party to a complaint against another party to the agreement, to take any action that may be considered appropriate and includes the ability to suspend rights and privileges and/or ". . . extend the application of any federal law to the province;".
MR. SPEAKER: Now that is Clause 9 of what you are reading?
MR. TAYLOR: That is Clause 9(1), Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Of the agreement?
MR. TAYLOR: Of Bill C-88, An Act to Implement the Agreement on Internal Trade. As you know, this bill is being effected . . .
MR. SPEAKER: It is Bill No. 33 that we are on.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker, but you - are you making a ruling?
MR. SPEAKER: That is a bill in the House of Commons that you are reading from, is it?
MR. TAYLOR: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: All right, that relates to this bill?
MR. TAYLOR: Absolutely. What I am suggesting, Mr. Speaker . . .
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Supply and Services on a point of order.
HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Since the honourable member is quoting from a document that is not a bill before this House, if he would care to table that document, Mr. Speaker, it is a document to be tabled.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I would agree to that request, I think it should be tabled.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I don't have the Agreement on Internal Trade and Implementation Act, Bill C-88 (Interruptions) I am referring merely, Mr. Speaker, I referred to Clause 9 of that bill, I did not read a direct sentence out of that bill. I did not, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: We are wandering far afield then. I would think, surely, if there is legislation in the House of Commons that relates to this particular topic and members wanted to quote from it, they ought to have the text of it in their possession. But if you do not have the text and you are just referring to it as you recall it from memory, then I will accept that.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, what I am trying to point out is that the federal government has given itself immense power in imposing retaliatory measures in the case of a dispute. Surely to goodness we, as a province, should be able to stand up. Where are there any clauses in the bill, the bill that is before us, that protect the workers and the employees of Nova Scotia? There is absolutely nothing to protect the workers of this province.
As I pointed out before, Mr. Speaker, even the Wildlife Act is being amended. Guides in this province have no protection, outfitters have no protection, pipefitters have no protection, welders have no protection. That is my interpretation of the bill and I have had calls from tradespeople. I have had calls from pipefitters, steamfitters, welders, mechanics, plumbers. People are very concerned that we are taking down the trade barriers.
On June 8th of this year, the member for Halifax Citadel wrote asking if the Government of Nova Scotia had made representations to the federal government to amend this clause, Mr. Speaker, the dispute mechanism clause, if you will. As I pointed out, the member for Halifax Citadel's letter was only acknowledged. The Premier did not write back. The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency did not write back. So, you know what? The member for Halifax Citadel wrote back on June 30th. He sent his letter on June 6th, I believe it was, but he wrote back to the Premier and he wrote back to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and suggested that he look forward to an early response. Well, Mr. Speaker, he waited until September 27th.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: A question, Mr. Speaker. I was just wondering if the honourable member had any problem with Nova Scotia workers working on the fixed link?
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, that is an absolutely ridiculous question. Do I have any problems? I would like to put another 50 or 60, maybe 100 workers from Nova Scotia working on the fixed link. But I will tell you what I do have some problem with is the fact that Centre 200 is in debt nearly $2 million. I have some problem with that. (Interruption)
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I did not receive a satisfactory answer to my question. The member opposite cannot have it both ways, Mr. Speaker. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth over there. I just asked for a simple answer to a simple question from the honourable member, that is all, I was going to say something else, but.
MR. SPEAKER: That intervention is out of order.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I understand that legal counsel from British Columbia asked four questions regarding Bill C-88. I understand all Trade Ministers received the document from the four barristers. The questions asked were simply this. Does Bill C-88 go beyond the minimum requirements needed to fulfil the obligations of the federal government under the Agreement on Internal Trade.
MR. SPEAKER: Bill C-88. We are on Bill No. 33.
MR. TAYLOR: What we are trying to establish, Mr. Speaker, . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I cannot allow a debate in here of legislation in the House of Commons. That is too far afield.
MR. TAYLOR: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, but members of this House are very much cognizant of the fact, I believe most members are, I think, specifically, members with a legal background, that this particular piece of legislation, Bill No. 33 certainly is going to interact very much with the federal piece of legislation, Bill C-88. But I always appreciate and respect your ruling. I will get away from the federal Bill C-88. We will get back to Nova Scotians. We will get back to the Nova Scotia welder. We will get back to the people in this province and there is absolutely no protection. This government is going to build a highway between Thomson Station, Cumberland County, and Masstown, Colchester County. That highway will enable the goods from this province and the goods from other jurisdictions to move much more efficiently than they presently do. (Interruptions) Nobody will argue that point.
When we are talking about trade flow and inter-provincial trade, whether it comes from Quebec, New Brunswick, nobody will deny the need for that highway - I am just going to get off course for a moment, Mr. Speaker - and it will greatly reduce the death and the carnage that has taken place, injuries, personal property, things of that nature. We appreciate that, but the fact of the matter is that the toll is going to act as a detriment to economic development in Cumberland County, in Colchester County and, in fact, in Nova Scotia. What protection under the public/private partnership is there, again, for the Nova Scotian worker? Absolutely none. The same thing can be said for Bill No. 33, absolutely no protection. To tell you how far-reaching - again, I have to emphasize - the Wildlife Act is even amended that it affects the guides and outfitters in this province.
MR. SPEAKER: This is repetitious; we have heard that argument before.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, you have heard it before. I shall not make that again. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, as you well know, under the procedures in the House, only one member speaks at a time.
I did have a couple of other points that I wanted to raise here. Nova Scotia is in the middle of the shipping lanes of the world. There is no safeguarding the rail line from Montreal to Halifax; there is no safeguarding that line in this bill and that is a major concern. We have to ensure that rail line, which is an essential mode of transportation not only to this province, but to New Brunswick as well. Prince Edward Island sends over some of their goods and they ship it by rail, we know that, but there is no protection. There is no protection for the worker and there isn't a lot of protection for the industry. So we do have a lot of concern for Bill No. 33.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to listen to comments from, perhaps, another speaker relative to this Bill No. 33. I thank you for your indulgence.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity, I think, tonight to stand and say my two cents' worth on the bill that is before us and the implications of that bill on the Province of Nova Scotia. What we have and, in a sense, what we are debating, but what we cannot hive off, is really the big attachment that goes with the bill. I am not going to try to get into clause by clause description or any of that, I am going to try to restrict my comments to those kinds of comments that, when I was speaking earlier on the hoist, you said would be relevant for second reading debate on the principles and so on of the bill. (Interruptions) Is it a full moon, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, we have 15 minutes to go before Adjournment, so carry on as best you can.
MR. HOLM: I know we have 15 minutes, but as I am looking at the reaction that I am getting even before I say anything, I am wondering if there is a full moon or what has been going on today. But, anyway, I am pleased to see that members of the government benches are taking so seriously the intervention I am making.
Mr. Speaker, what we have before us is a bill that is four pages in length; and the bill, which contains 26 clauses, is the subject matter that will be going to the Law Amendments Committee. It is this bill, 4 pages, 26 clauses, that the general public, the people of the Province of Nova Scotia will have an opportunity to come before the Law Amendments Committee and make comments on, make suggestions, give their observations.
This bill does more than what I am about to say, but one of the principal things that it does is puts into effect this 216 page long Agreement on International Trade. This agreement, these 216 pages - actually 200 pages of agreement and 16 pages of annexes at the end - does not appear at the Law Amendments Committee. There is not going to be the opportunity for the public to analyze and to see the implications of this other than by the vaguest way, by making reference to this, the bill.
What we have before us is a very important piece of legislation which will have a major impact upon what happens within the Province of Nova Scotia and upon the future economic prospects for the people of Nova Scotia and I might add, on the ability of those of us in this Chamber and those of us who will come later to implement policies and programs to increase the economic activities and employment within the Province of Nova Scotia.
This bill, An Act to Implement an Agreement on International Trade, supposedly is about trade, but it has major implications for jobs. It has major implications for the existence and survival of many of our communities. I believe that we have to give extremely careful and detailed analysis, not only of that piece of legislation, but also of the agreement that has been put in place. We also have to look at this legislation and see if, in fact, that legislation is needed or if it goes much farther than is required to implement the legislation.
I have not heard a single person in this House say that they are opposed to enhancing trade between the provinces. I have not heard a single person say that they are opposed to one province to another placing unreasonable and unproper restrictions on the movements of goods, of people or investments from one province to another. In fact, I am sure that you shared a bit of the sense of outrage that I did when some citizens from Cape Breton were going to go to try to seek employment in Ontario and a particular community or I should not say community, that is unfair. Certain segments of a community spoke out in opposition to these 15 Cape Bretoners coming to try to seek work in the City of London. I guess I have the view that we are one large country and that we should be able to move as freely as possible from one region to another to seek employment. We do have that right now.
Nothing new is being provided here in this legislation. I heard the comments from the member for Cape Breton South talking about the Fixed Link.
MR. SPEAKER: Do not get distracted, speak to the bill.
MR. HOLM: No, Mr. Speaker, but the point is that it makes a good case in point for what I am saying. That is, currently workers from Nova Scotia do have the ability, whether that be to go to New Brunswick and P.E.I. to work on the Fixed Link or go out West to work in the oil industry or some other trade.
What we also have to remember is that we in this House were elected to the Legislature of the Province of Nova Scotia. We have a responsibility here to try to ensure that we do not advocate our responsibilities and to give up, as we are doing it appears, with this legislation the abilities to have control over matters that are crucially important to us here.
We do have tremendous opportunities in Nova Scotia. We have here in Nova Scotia an excellent location: on the coast, on the major shipping lanes up and down the coast of North America and Europe through the Panama Canal to the Far East and via rail and road links to the rest of North America. Those are links that are being enhanced. Surely to Heavens, we should have in the Province of Nova Scotia the ability still to be able to build on those and not to give those up to the federal government, as we are doing here.
We have a skilled work force, we have a dedicated work force. We still have and hopefully we will after the government gets finished, a top-notch quality of education to provide those skilled workers of the future. Surely, before we proceed down the road with this legislation, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency has a responsibility to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia to put on the table an economic analysis, a cost-benefit analysis, to show how this legislation is going to impact upon Nova Scotia.
No such analysis was done with casinos, we were told to take the word of certain ministers and of a certain government. We saw the folly of the government's ways there. I would suggest, here, that we need to have an economic benefits analysis done to find out what the implications are going to be for Nova Scotia.
One could also ask the question, why is it that Nova Scotia is going farther than any other provincial jurisdiction to date? Three Legislatures and three Legislatures only, have so far, before ourselves, introduced any measures in their Legislature dealing with this agreement: Manitoba, Alberta and Newfoundland. In all three situations what they did is they introduced amendments to bring them into line with the agreement but not one of those Legislatures ratified this agreement.
It is interesting that we are the very first province that feels that it needs or should introduce legislation to ratify this agreement. One might ask is that because, as the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley says, the government thinks they are being trendsetters? Or is it because other jurisdictions are not prepared to ratify this agreement because they see serious problems with it?
We have already had some considerable discussion today about concerns that British Columbia has raised with this agreement. They certainly haven't ratified it and by the sounds of things, they aren't likely to be quick to jump on that train either, given the serious problems that they see with this legislation.
The Province of New Brunswick, our neighbour, the one government that this government likes to tout as a great example and seems to be in competition with all the time, the Province of New Brunswick has decided that they don't need to introduce any legislation to implement this agreement and they don't plan to introduce it. So why is it, who is this government trying to cosy up to? Why are they trying to appease? Who is this aimed at?
Some provincial governments are of the view that no legislation is even required to implement that agreement, especially when the legislation that we have introduced, meaning the government of the day, has introduced, goes far beyond that agreement and has major implications for Nova Scotia, whether it is dealing with natural resources under the Wildlife Act or whether it deals with the ability to have some control over our natural resources to ensure there is secondary processing going on in Nova Scotia, whether it has to do with development of pipelines and what jobs may or may not be created, whether it has to do with preferences that would be provided or allowed to Nova Scotians, our bill goes far beyond what is needed to implement that agreement and it does so to the detriment of Nova Scotians.
Obviously we are going to have as well a major bureaucracy created by this agreement and by the legislation, but even those bureaucracies from one part of the country to the other are not even going to be consistent. In terms of a dispute-resolving mechanism, under Alberta and Manitoba legislation there is an opportunity for individuals, for firms and even the government to go to the courts to seek redress. In Alberta they say there can be an ombudsman appointed to look into and try to resolve disputes, Mr. Speaker. But you know in Alberta they spell it out. In their legislation they spell out the procedures to be followed in terms of filing a complaint, how the ombudsman is to hear those disputes and also with the whole mechanism to be followed in that.
Here in our bill it is silent, as it is with so many things that this government does, I guess they don't want to make any decision in public or to spell it out in public. They would rather have all those decisions being made either by the minister or by the minister and his colleagues in the bunker, downstairs in the Cabinet Room, Mr. Speaker.
Obviously for some reason or other this government has decided that the way to perform is to be the lemmings and to just automatically follow whatever instruction or advice is given to them by the federal government, whose bill, Bill C-88 which I am not going to get into a major discussion of right now, that bill goes way beyond what is required to implement that legislation and gives the federal government tremendous powers to take retaliation against provinces that are trying to do things to protect the businesses and the individuals in their province for very much localized economic reasons.
Mr. Speaker, I know that my time for tonight is just about up and you would like me to adjourn the debate. But the economics and doing things cheapest isn't always the only way or the best way to look at things. Sometimes for local economic advantages, and I will get into processing, I will get into coal, I will get into natural gas and other things on another day, but sometimes for the economic benefits to regions and to provinces it is better for those things to be done locally. This legislation does not provide for that.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I am cutting off in mid flight and in mid thought as well. So I will try to pick it up at that point the next time the minister calls this matter for debate. I would move the adjournment of the debate.
MR. SPEAKER: You will have a further 45 minutes left. The debate is adjourned.
Now tomorrow is Opposition Day. Is there a representative from the PC caucus going to advise us on the business for tomorrow?
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The business for tomorrow, we are going to call Private Member's Bill No. 38 and Resolution No. 544.
MR. SPEAKER: All right, that will be the order of business tomorrow.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: I would ask the honourable member, would there be any intention to do House Orders following those resolutions and bills?
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I believe we will be calling some House Orders, yes.
MR. SPEAKER: All right, very well.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. The House will sit from 2:00 p.m until 6:00 p.m.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise, to meet again tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 2:00 p.m.
The motion is carried.
[The House rose at 8:00 p.m.]
By: Mr. Alfred MacLeod (Cape Breton West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services:
(1) A breakdown of all funding allocated to date on a project-by-project basis by the four government departments responsible for the $1 million to be used for youth on Cape Breton Island.
By: Mr. Alfred MacLeod (Cape Breton West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services:
(1) A list of recipients with children age 19 or under presently drawing benefits from the Department of Community Services;
(2) A community-by-community breakdown of where children age 19 and under are drawing benefits; and
(3) A county-by-county breakdown of the number of people on provincial social assistance in Nova Scotia.