|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS||803|
|TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:|
|Anl. Rept. of the Human Rights Commission, Hon. W. Gillis||804|
|STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:|
|Agric.: Beef Producers - Initiative, Hon. W. Gaudet||804|
|Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Drivers' Licences: Birth Date Renewals -|
|Implement, Hon. D. Downe||805|
|NOTICES OF MOTION:|
|Res. 250, ERA - Film Dev. Corp. (N.S.): Actions - Review,|
|Mr. T. Donahoe||807|
|Res. 251, Fin. - Taxation: Reform - Consultation, Mr. J. Holm||807|
|Res. 252, Bible Hill Vol. Fire Brigade (50th Anniv.) - Congrats.,|
|Hon. E. Norrie||808|
|Vote - Affirmative||808|
|Res. 253, ERA - IMP Plant (C.B.): Assistance - Cease, Mr. R. Chisholm||809|
|Res. 254, Sydney Tar Ponds Clean-Up Inc.: Environ. Ass't. -|
|Undertake, Mr. A. MacLeod||809|
|Res. 255, DFO - Processing Plants: Fees Increase - Consult,|
|Mr. C. Huskilson||810|
|Vote - Affirmative||810|
|Res. 256, DND - Militia Units (C.B.): Assistance Meeting (21/04/96) -|
|MLAs (C.B.) Attend, Mr. R. Russell||810|
|Res. 257, Sydney Tar Ponds Clean-Up Inc. - Hazards: Commun. Input -|
|Seek, Mr. J. Holm||811|
|Res. 258, Culture - Art Gallery (N.S.): Open House - Support Express,|
|Mr. D. McInnes||811|
|Vote - Affirmative||812|
|Res. 259, Educ. - Week (15-21/04/96): Parents' Contribution - Commend,|
|Mr. A. Surette||812|
|Vote - Affirmative||812|
|Res. 260, Health - Patient Records: Security Procedures - Implement,|
|Mr. G. Moody||813|
|Res. 261, Health - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Suicides -|
|Judicial Inquiry Establish, Mr. R. Chisholm||813|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Mr. B. Holland||814|
|Mr. C. Huskilson||819|
|Mr. T. Donahoe||821|
|Mr. R. Chisholm||834|
|Mr. G. Moody||846|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., Apr. 22nd at 7:00 p.m.||846|
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily business at this time. We usually begin with introductions of guests and I think we have a number of guests here today that members may want to introduce.
I would like to introduce, myself, in the Speaker's Gallery directly ahead, a long-time friend, Mr. David Julian. Mr. Julian is the Fire Chief of the Florence Volunteer Fire Department in the constituency of Cape Breton North and is Chairman of the Fire Chiefs Regional Association for Cape Breton and he is up here today to promote the cause of fire awareness. Mr. Julian would you like to stand up. (Applause)
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you and all members of this House, on behalf of the former member for Halifax-Fairview, the former Leader of the New Democratic Party, Alexa McDonough - I would like to introduce on her behalf and on my behalf - a Grade 6 class from Burton Ettinger School in Halifax-Fairview. This group of students are here with Tom Ryan and Iris MacLean. I would like to ask them, perhaps, to rise and receive the warm welcome of the Members of the Legislative Assembly. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Now, are there any further guests that members wish to introduce before we begin? If not, I would also like to announce that there is, on every member's desk today, a new and revised version of the Members' Manual. It has been updated by our Legislative Librarian, Margaret Murphy. The new edition includes updates of the Legislature Internal Economy Board Regulations and Guidelines, the House of Assembly Act and the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act. Extra copies are available on request, of the new Members' Manual.
The daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Premier.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report, for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1995, of the Human Rights Commission.
MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.
HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to be advising the members of this House of an initiative directed towards the beef producers of Nova Scotia. There are approximately 2,000 beef producers located in all counties across the province. Many of these are small, part-time producers that have developed this industry into one that has farmgate sales of over $27 million. Beef prices have been low over the last few years and this has made it very challenging for beef producers.
Although all the details of the program have yet to be worked out, we have set aside $400,000 for the beef industry. The program will be designed to help beef producers participate in NISA, an income stabilization program.
We have been working closely with the beef industry on this and I want to recognize the producers for all of their efforts. I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, to make this important announcement today. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I want to first of all thank the Minister of Agriculture for providing us with a copy of his announcement previous to the House opening. We are certainly pleased that the beef industry is going to get some money, $400,000. I am a little disappointed, though, that the minister has not said exactly how it is going to be worked out with the beef producers. There are 2,000 beef producers in the province and, as we talked yesterday while we were doing the Meat Inspection Bill, that beef producers do have a very hard go. I am pleased that the minister is providing $400,000 but we will be waiting to see how that program is going to be developed and how it will assist the beef producers.
There are additional programs available to the beef producers - the Improved Sire Program and the Agri-Focus 2000 Program are in place and the NISA Program, which has not been used very much by the beef producers, as I understand it.
Again, I want to thank the minister for making this announcement today. We will be looking forward to hearing how the program is going to develop as times goes on. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me say first of all that any efforts to help an industry like the beef industry in this province is welcome, but the details in the announcement are very scarce and therefore I think it is difficult for us to comment other than to say that. Certainly any efforts that can be [Page 805]
undertaken by the government to assist and to promote Nova Scotia produced beef in our stores and to increase sales in this province, would be appreciated.
One does have to wonder, though, when you see these kinds of announcements coming out with $400,000 going somewhere, whether or not the rumours about the impending election don't have, in fact, a little bit of basis. One would suggest that the election that is cooking on the old barbecue, Mr. Speaker, is pretty close to being done. Anyway, we will wait until the details come out before we comment any further. Maybe it will come out on the campaign trail. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: All right. That concludes the honourable Minister of Agriculture's announcement.
We next have an announcement from the honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.
HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to inform you and all members of the first of many customer service improvements to be undertaken by the new Department of Business and Consumer Services. Beginning May 1st, we will be renewing drivers' licenses on the drivers' birthdays rather than at the end of the month. For example, in my own case, I will renew my license on or before my birthday of December 13th. (Interruptions)
I hope every member of the House remembers that fond day, December 13th, in the upcoming year.
The birthday renewal will result in better service to Nova Scotians because license renewals will be distributed throughout the month, eliminating the end of the month rush at the local Registry of Motor Vehicles. Mr. Speaker, the 16,500 people, who will be renewing their licenses next month have already been informed of this change. We are promoting this improvement with a slogan, "Renewing your driver's licence before your birthday will be a piece of cake.". (Laughter) We are undertaking this change for one reason and one reason only: Nova Scotians have asked for better, faster and more convenient service. This government has listened and is delivering. (Applause)
I look forward to many more such announcements in the months ahead as the new Department of Business and Consumer Services delivers on its mandate of providing better and more responsive service to all Nova Scotians. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Some of us shouldn't eat cake, that's for sure, I am sure. Mr. Speaker, this announcement to avoid the line-ups that have occurred at the Registry of Motor Vehicles in the past is a positive step, but one of the things that I keep hearing from the general public, is people who work during the week don't have an opportunity to get in. I think a Saturday opening or a period of time when the customer can go, other than during the
day. It is okay for people whose jobs are flexible or they have an opportunity, but not everybody can spring away from their job during the week and go and have it done.
I agree with the minister. Things that can be changed to prevent those end of the month problems, the worst time to go to the registry is right at the end of the month when everybody is rushing, either to get their license renewed or register their car, all those things happen at the end of month. So, this is a positive step.
I know the minister is open to suggestions and I hope he will really look at providing opportunity for people who cannot get there during the week and office hours, and that they can open up during a period of time where it will be convenient for them as well. Mr. Speaker, I do support this announcement.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: The minister says, in his announcement, "`Renewing your driver's licence before your birthday will be a piece of cake.'". Well, Mr. Speaker, if this is all the government can bring forward in terms of supposedly providing good news, it shows how small the pieces of cake are. Certainly, they are prepared to lather it heavily with a lot of sugar-coating and a lot of icing.
Mr. Speaker, what this has to do with is not for convenience for the consumers, or for those who are trying to renew their licenses. What this has to do with is the government trying to increase the convenience for itself by meaning that they will not have to have as many employees working throughout the month. (Interruptions)
In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, if will, in fact, create some hardship, I would suggest, for many motorists. I wonder if the minister is aware that the driver's license fees, for example, have been cranked up by this government during its term in office, and that many Nova Scotians get paid in the middle and at the end of the month. They do not get paid on their birth dates. That will create a problem, quite honestly, for many people, to say nothing of the inconvenience. (Interruptions)
I know, Mr. Speaker, what the minister did not say is that presumably on December 14th, if the minister has not renewed his license before the end of the month, by December 13th instead, that he will now be charged for driving without a license. So, this really has nothing to do with improving the services for those who want to renew their licenses, because people, right now, can renew them if they wish before their birthday. (Interruptions) It has, instead, to do with this government trying to spread it out in such a way so that they will not have to have as many employees working within the registry.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. You know, there have always been line-ups at the Motor Vehicle Registry and the former government put satellite stations in. I have always mailed my applications for a driver's license or for plates. I want to say I mailed mine Monday and I was home in Pictou last night and it was there.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has made his point. I do not know if it is a point of order or not, but he has made his point. Are there any further announcements by ministers?
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTIONS 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 many members of Nova Scotia's film community are extremely worried about the process that resulted in the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation rejecting a proposed sound stage and suspending its president, Roman Bittman; and
Whereas Michael Donovan of the internationally recognized Salter Street Films has lost so much faith in the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation that he is concerned that he may have to move production of $13 million worth of film work out of Nova Scotia; and
Whereas Mr. Donovan, three other prominent and successful producers, and the ACTRA performer's guild are calling on the provincial government to render the corporation accountable for its decisions;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency heed the call of the film industry's major players, take responsibility for the corporation's actions, and immediately launch a review of the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation's recent actions, to endure that the growth and vitality of Nova Scotia's world-class film development industry is not stifled.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Liberal Government that promised open and honest consultation and a fair tax commission before ever considering changes to the GST/PST have now pulled their red curtain of secrecy around their deal with their federal cousins; and
Whereas the Minister of Finance and the Premier have refused to give Nova Scotians any details about the back-room deals except for his assurances that it is a win-win situation; and
Whereas the Minister of Finance is negotiating with the cost of life essentials for Nova Scotians, including home heat, children's clothing and shoes, school supplies, not to mention the consequences for our already strapped municipalities and school boards;
Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government stop their arrogant back-room dealing and wink-wink, nudge-nudge assurances by guaranteeing that Nova Scotians will be included in a meaningful and respectful way in any process of tax reform.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, prior to moving this resolution, I also want to recognize the fact that David Julian, the Fire Chief from Florence is in the Speaker's Gallery. This has to do also with the volunteer fire brigade, which I think a lot of the brigades across the province are recognizing a 50 year Anniversary.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Bible Hill Volunteer Fire Brigade offers an invaluable contribution that distinguishes and enriches our community; and
Whereas volunteer firefighters willingly offer year-round fire protection and prevention education, generously fund raise for charities and fire department equipment, offer time in the administration of fire services and willingly participate in training programs that often take them away from family and friends for days at a time; and
Whereas this year the Bible Hill Volunteer Fire Brigade will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of their many selfless actions;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly extend congratulations to the Bible Hill Volunteer Fire Brigade on the occasion of their 50th Anniversary and recognize the many outstanding contributions in our community that make our neighbours happier, our community safer and our future brighter.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried, unanimously.
I might note that the Florence Fire Department is celebrating their 35th Anniversary at this time.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
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 management of IMP continues to deny their employees in North Sydney the time they need to produce a viable plan to take over operations of the plant in which they work; and
Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency has continually refused to become involved in the situation because of IMP's status as a "private sector" company; and
Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency this week participated in the handing out of $452,000 in public funds to help that private sector company and others in the aerospace industry;
Therefore be it resolved that the minister and IMP stop trying to have it both ways and if IMP is indeed a private sector company, let it remove its snout from the public trough.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the cover-up solution for the Sydney tar ponds was announced amidst great fanfare by the Liberal Government on January 15, 1996, but has not yet been registered for an environmental assessment; and
Whereas identification of PCBs points clearly to larger amounts than the government projected at the time of the Liberal cover-up announcement; and
Whereas together with all Nova Scotians, except the Savage Liberals, the federal Minister of Health and the federal Minister of the Environment are expressing concern about this cover-up proposal;
Therefore be it resolved that the Savage Liberals immediately take steps to ensure the federal government undertakes a full environmental assessment of the provincial government tar ponds cover-up proposal.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled. (Interruptions)
The honourable member for Shelburne.
We can debate this resolution perhaps on Opposition Members' Business Day, but for now, I have recognized the honourable for Shelburne.
If this disorder continues I am going to have to get a gavel and start rapping the desk with a gavel.
The honourable member for Shelburne.
MR. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Shelburne County is one of the most productive fish processing areas of the province with a skilled workforce and professionally run fish processing plants; and
Whereas the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is set to introduce an unreasonable fee structure for fish processing that will do a great deal of harm to small processors; and
Whereas the proposed fee structure was announced with little warning and little consultation by DFO;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature urge the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to change its proposed fee structure and to consult with the industry before it does harm to our coastal communities.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried, unanimously.
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 the Department of National Defence is presently conducting a study on the role of the Armed Forces reserves; and
Whereas the Cape Breton militia plays a very significant role in the development of adolescent youth by providing such things as financial assistance to assist people through school and university; and
Whereas the honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Battalion of the Nova Scotia Highlanders, Alex Morrison and Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor John Coady, have invited community leaders and provincial and federal politicians to a meeting in Sydney on Sunday afternoon, to discuss the potential downsizing of the militia and the impact such a decision will have on the Cape Breton militia units;
Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature representing Cape Breton constituencies make it a point to attend Sunday afternoon's meeting to see what assistance might be provided to Cape Breton militia units.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the former Tory Government approved and blew $60 million in a failed process to clean up the Sydney tar ponds without even conducting a full environmental assessment and without knowing the extent of PCB contaminants; and
Whereas the Liberal Government put a halt to the Tory plan only to approve an encapsulation plan without knowing the level of PCB contaminants and without registering the project for an environmental assessment; and
Whereas testing which should have been done before any options were even considered is now showing that PCB levels are at least 25,000 tons or more than five times higher than previous guesstimates;
Therefore be it resolved that the Savage Liberals should stop repeating Tory mistakes by looking for the cheapest way out and instead recognize a serious health and environmental hazard posed by the tar pond site and by committing to involve the community in seeking a permanent solution that will include a full environmental assessment with public hearings.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia held an open house on April 17th last; and
Whereas this event, like others held by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, was first class; and
Whereas the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia would like to make this open house an annual event;
Therefore be it resolved that this House express its support for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and encourage it to hold an annual open house.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
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 today marks the final day that this House is sitting during Education Week, 1996; and
Whereas throughout this province parents volunteer their time helping in schools with a wide variety of activities both curricular and extra-curricular; and
Whereas many activities during regular school hours and after school hours would not be possible, if it were not for the volunteer work performed by the parents;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend all parents for their volunteer contribution to the education and well-being of the youth of this province.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried, unanimously.
The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas in February of 1996 the Nova Scotia Hospital admitted selling a computer containing patient information; and
Whereas a computer hard drive was recently sent out for repairs from the Infirmary site, Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, containing approximately 10,000 extremely confidential patient medical files; and
Whereas these breaches of security threaten the privacy of patients and their families;
Therefore be it resolved that this House instruct the Minister of Health to immediately implement security procedures to assure patients and their families that no further releases of confidential patient information will occur.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
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 board of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital has appointed a narrow, one-man, closed inquiry to investigate five recent suicides at the hospital; and
Whereas families of the victims say this move was nothing but a public relations exercise to prevent the release of an already completed report on three of these suicides; and
Whereas the process chosen by the hospital is clearly inadequate to ensure accountability to the families of the suicide victims and the mental health consumers;
Therefore be it resolved that this House calls on the government to establish a full and open judicial inquiry into the tragic events at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
Are there any further notices? If not, that would appear to conclude the daily routine. We will now advance to the Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
MR. SPEAKER: The adjourned debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.
MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my warm words of welcome to Mr. Julian and to say that I hope the Grade 6 class enjoys their tour of Province House. Mr. Ryan, one of the teachers, is actually a constituent of mine and a friend as well. I truly hope they enjoy their time here.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to continue with my Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. When I left off I spoke to the section of the Speech from the Throne that dealt with those great Nova Scotians who were sadly taken from our midst over the last year. They lived their lives in such a way that it is a model for the rest of us. The recent passing of Mr. Gerry Godsoe was also greeted with great sadness by members of this Chamber. I believe both the Premier and the member for Halifax Citadel were most eloquent in honouring Mr. Godsoe. He lived his life in such a great manner that his true wealth should be measured by his many friends and the love of his family.
As members of the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, it is incumbent on us to carry out our duties in such a manner that it would do honour to our positions as members. In this way we may inspire the next generation to build a better Nova Scotia and a better Canada. I believe the present government has gone a long way to improving the way we are governed. That is evident in the Speech from the Throne. There has been a great deal of change in Nova Scotia in the last few years, both in government and in society as a whole. Change at times can be upsetting, there is no question about that, but the world is full of constant change and throughout those changing times I believe we must always remember our roots. We must remember who we are and where we came from.
The constituency of Timberlea-Prospect is secure in its knowledge of the past, Mr. Speaker. In this way, with the knowledge of our past and our heritage and when we look back on how our parents and our grandparents struggled to make this great province what it is, it lets us know that we can overcome the challenges of the future. Timberlea-Prospect is similar to so many other ridings in this province; it has an urban element but its roots are essentially rural. In the modern world there are some who look with disdain on a rural background but I am a firm believer, however, that traditions of community pride and mutual support are solid foundations upon which we may build the future.
Mr. Speaker, the fishery is an integral part of the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect. Communities like West Dover, East Dover, McGraths Cove, Terence Bay, and Prospect, these are all traditions of fisheries in these villages. The fishery is an extremely important part of our economy in Nova Scotia. I am pleased that our Premier and the Minister of Fisheries, the
Honourable Jim Barkhouse, have supported the concerns of the fishers in Timberlea-Prospect and in Nova Scotia as a whole.
The recent controversy in the fishery require our support and I am pleased to have had the opportunity, over the last number of years, to support the men and women in the fishery. I have worked hand-in-hand with our local fishing organization, the Prospect Area Full-Time Fishermen's Association, and I have been pleased to deal with the many fisheries concerns since my election to office, and I will continue to vigorously support the fishery.
As the member for Shelburne mentioned in his resolution earlier, there are still many issues of concern to fishers in Nova Scotia, and they are issues of great importance to these people and we cannot expect them to absorb the tremendous impact that they are being expected to absorb all at once. Yes, I agree that changes are needed, but I think there has to be an approach taken that they can anticipate and be able to deal with in a proper manner.
I would like to thank, Mr. Speaker, - speaking of the Prospect Area Full-Time Fishermen's Association - their Past Chairman, Mr. James Collier, and their present chairman, who has been extremely busy, especially in recent months, the Chairman of their Executive, Mr. Bill Bell and Perry Richardson, the Vice-Chairman, for their tireless work on behalf of the fishers in Timberlea-Prospect.
Mr. Speaker, the groundfish fishery is not as healthy as it once was. This perhaps understates the case because there are other underutilized species that fishermen are starting to work with and to develop. The fishery in Nova Scotia is diverse and it has always been diverse. In other provinces - in Newfoundland in particular, I should say - it is more concentrated on groundfish. In Nova Scotia we have a diversity of fisheries. We have tuna, crab, lobster, mackerel; the list goes on and on of the other species that are underutilized and can be quite lucrative, and they are being developed. Aquaculture, for instance, is becoming more and more important in Nova Scotia.
It is important that our fishers have every opportunity to make a livelihood in these areas and DFO regulations must take this into account, and I urge them not to put roadblocks in the way of the people's prosperity. They are trying to make a living and they are not extremely rich people. There are some who are a little more well-to-do than others, but the vast majority of fishers are out there scratching to make just a livelihood. In an increasingly complex world, it is the job of government to allow every individual to live up to their potential.
Many governments have paid lip-service to this concept, but our Liberal Government has acted upon it. The greatest hindrance to our economic growth is government debt. I think this is becoming more and more evident to people from all sectors of society, Mr. Speaker, we are starting to realize how draining the debt is on our economy. Government debt and deficits will ensure higher taxes; there is no question about that. So if you want to have lower taxes, get rid of the deficit, get rid of the debt, you will have more money to put into government programs and the economy. Owing money to foreign bondholders saps our economic strength and chips away at our independence. We must not spend beyond our means. It is incredible that such a simple idea was lost to the previous governments.
For the first time in 25 years, our government will balance the provincial books this year. (Applause) We will no longer have a capital and operating deficit and we will embark upon a new era of economic independence and diversification. We are seeing this more and more every day, Mr. Speaker. We see confidence from our small businesses; all sized businesses in Nova Scotia, becoming more confident. We see other countries and other provinces becoming more confident in our ability to provide good business solutions and we are starting to sell those solutions abroad and it can mean nothing but prosperity for Nova Scotia.
Through these actions our Liberal Government will ensure health care and education, as well. We will continue to defend those who cannot defend themselves and every individual will have the opportunity [Page 816]
to succeed. Mr. Speaker, I can say from personal experience in dealing with the many constituents in my riding, that I see this on a daily basis. People who have been dependent on the social network are starting to come back into the work stream, are gaining more confidence that they can actually obtain employment, and this is a direct result of the government's policies and programs to get these people back into the workforce and they are happy about that.
This is no small feat and I applaud our government, our ministers and the Premier for their bold leadership in these areas. It is hard to believe that less than three years ago, our province faced a deficit of over $600 million. Soon we will say goodbye to deficit financing in Nova Scotia and I, for one, am very proud of that accomplishment. (Applause)
Now there are critics who say we have gone too far too fast, Mr. Speaker. Opposition Parties are constantly on the attack but they offer little in constructive criticism. Most recently, the esteemed member for Digby-Annapolis alluded to this fact. He urged Opposition Parties to stop offering the people of Nova Scotia doom and gloom. On other occasions, members for Yarmouth, Victoria, Cape Breton South, Lunenburg, Cumberland South and others have also challenged the Opposition Parties to at least offer the people of Nova Scotia some constructive criticism instead of just political rhetoric and fear-mongering.
Our Premier and caucus, on the other hand, have offered the good people of Nova Scotia hope for a better tomorrow. Deficit reduction is not our reason for being, Mr. Speaker, although it is important. We continue to ship $1 billion out of this province each year in debt service. That is $1 billion unavailable for roads, schools, senior citizens, youth, health and social assistance programs. It is money that does nothing for our economy and nothing for the citizens of Nova Scotia. This is the result of the disgraceful government of those members now sitting on the Opposition benches. We have embarked upon a course of fiscal responsibility that will ensure that all we cherish is protected.
Our government has not balanced the budget on the backs of the poor, Mr. Speaker. It has been a calculated approach to deficit reduction, taking into account those in need. Now the NDP always likes to take the moral high ground on social policy. They always attack big bad government, yet they rarely look at the true Liberal record. Liberals understand that fiscal responsibility must be balanced with social responsibility. This is an important and integral part of any government's agenda. Since taking office, our government has provided tax relief to 155,000 low income Nova Scotians. This fact underlies our Premier's commitment to protecting the poorest in society from tax they cannot afford. It is an example that our government is committed to tax fairness and a reduction on the overall tax burden to Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, our government's commitment to social responsibility is further underlined by the fact that our government has allocated 250 subsidized day care spaces since taking office, including most recently 50 announced by the Department of Community Services. Our Liberal Government has also instituted family violence prevention initiatives.
As a society we must treat this issue more seriously. I am pleased that our government is leading the way.
Now these three initiatives are just several of the programs that are a demonstration of our commitment to social justice. It hardly qualifies us for the club of governments led by Conservatives Ralph Klein and Michael Harris. The Leader of the NDP doesn't like us to compare ourselves with other governments but I would say we stack up well against other governments as more caring and more devoted to all of society. Few governments come close to our achievements. The Leader of the NDP often likes to give us the NDP example of Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, Mr. Romanow of Saskatchewan makes Mike Harris look like a socialist when it comes to hospital closures. There is hardly one hospital left in rural Saskatchewan.
I might add, Mr. Speaker, that Mr. Romanow is being fiscally responsible in trying to eradicate the debt in Saskatchewan but I still don't believe that he is being as socially responsible as the Government of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, closer to home, our government has gone a long way to improved health care. When it comes to home care, we were behind the rest of the country in 1993. In the last years our government doubled the home care budget and added 13,000 new clients. We still have a long way to go but I believe this is a step in the right direction.
I would like to take up the rest of my time talking about some of the achievements in Timberlea-Prospect. While every region is in need of infrastructure, I believe Timberlea-Prospect's growing needs require attention on a constant and continual basis. While there is much to be done, here are a few examples of some of the government's actions in the constituency. While many people would argue that our roads are in poor condition, I think that is as a result of years and years of neglect by previous governments. I can say that I feel confident that these infrastructures and just the maintenance to this infrastructure will continue to be looked after.
Improvements to roads, such as the entrance to the Brookside Road Subdivision. On the Brookside Road itself there was a hill we called Falls Pond Hill and it became known as Thrill Hill because instead of actually doing the work that was necessary to repair it, they just kept patching the top of this hill. It kept cracking and falling. Eventually it got so high that when you went over it in the car you actually came right off the ground and your stomach came up and everybody started calling it Thrill Hill. Last year we took the top right off the hill and now it is a nice smooth drive down over it. Those are the kinds of things that are important to local people, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)
AN HON. MEMBER: Typical of this government, taking the thrill out of life. (Laughter)
MR. HOLLAND: A second entrance to Greenwood Heights in Timberlea, Mr. Speaker, was one of the most important projects that could have been accomplished in Timberlea-Prospect. There are approximately 800 to 900 homes in Greenwood Heights and Maplewood Subdivision. During the last election on almost every doorstep in Greenwood Heights I heard the same thing; the traffic is getting too heavy in this subdivision, there is only one way in and one way out. What are we going to do if there is an emergency, if there is an accident at that entrance? There is no other way to get out.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and thankful to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and the government for providing the necessary funding to install a second entrance to that subdivision, which was recently done.
The addition to the Hammonds Plains Elementary School, which actually is in my colleague's riding in Sackville-Beaverbank but many of the students in my riding from Haliburton Hills and the Hyland Park area attend that school. It was a small, old school that was overcrowded which was in desperate need of [Page 818]
renovation. That job is almost complete. I can say that the staff and students are enjoying that facility very much, Mr. Speaker.
Various other paving projects in the riding are all very important and all very much appreciated by the residents of Timberlea-Prospect.
I truly want to thank the Honourable Robert Harrison, the Honourable Wayne Adams, the Honourable Gerald O'Malley, the Premier, the Honourable Jay Abbass and many other members of the government, the Minister of Natural Resources was involved in this to a degree. All of them were involved in the clean-up of the PCBs at Five Island Lake. That project is going extremely well, in conjunction with the Community Liaison Committee, Mr. John Hoyt, Joyce and Chris Milley were on that liaison committee and they have all worked well with these government departments and these ministers to bring that to a successful conclusion. The people in that area are extremely thankful that that project has received the attention that it has.
Government wharves in Terence Bay, Shad Bay, currently looking at repairs to the one in East Dover, those projects are all important to the fishermen. I would like to thank the Minister of Fisheries, the Honourable James Barkhouse, for his assistance in providing funding for a motor at the skidway in Terence Bay and other repairs that went on there, the haul-out wench on the wharf. Those things, although they may not seem that important to some people, are very important to the fishers in Timberlea-Prospect who are out there day in and day out trying to make a living.
A very important thing also happened in the fishery with the formation of the Terence Bay Harbour Authority. As all governments are doing today, they are trying to move toward a more participatory form of government and harbour authorities are an example of that, where the people in those local communities are taking responsibility for those harbours and local wharves. I would like to thank, Mr. Bert Reyner, who was elected President and Mr. Jim Scott, Vice President, Cheryl Harrie, who is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Terence Bay Harbour Authority, Willie Jollimore, who was the Harbour Master was extremely important in the formation of that. There are a number of other people, Glen Hartlin, William Bartlett, Mike Slaunwhite, Keith Slaunwhite, Waldo Smith, Ed Jollimore, Danny Forgeron, Henry Nailer, Rick Slaunwhite, Brian Slaunwhite and Dick Harrie, all serving on the Harbour Authority in Terence Bay, a very important milestone in the history of Terence Bay. I would like to add my thanks to those people for their service to the community.
Those projects that I mentioned and there were a few others that I didn't mention that are just as important, represent an investment in Timberlea-Prospect of over $3 million. I am confident the future holds even greater promise of infrastructure improvements in Timberlea-Prospect.
Have we, as a caucus, done enough? Have our Premier and Cabinet done all they can to improve the lives of Nova Scotians? They have done a great deal. There is much more to do and I am sure, as they haven't done for the last three years, that they will not sit on their
laurels. They will continue to progress, there has been a great deal of progress in recent years and there has been more progress in three years with the Liberal Government than we have seen in the last 15 years of the previous government.
We have balanced fiscal responsibility with social responsibility. While we have much work to do we have reached the turning point in the history of Nova Scotia. Now our government must turn its eyes to sustainable growth and a reduction of the tax burden on Nova Scotians. I urge the government to continue that course and that is why, Mr. Speaker, I am proud to lend my support to this year's Speech from the Throne. Thank you very much. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne.
MR. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour that I stand before you, the honourable members of this Assembly and all guests present in the gallery today, to reply to the Speech from the Throne.
I would like to commend our Lieutenant Government, James Kinley, for presenting this government's vision for the future of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to our former Sergeant-at-Arms, the late Buddy Daye. The relationship between my father, Harold Huskilson, the former member for Shelburne, and Buddy Daye spanned many years and he was always held in the highest esteem by my family. Like my father, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with an all-round champion of a man. (Applause)
As well, Mr. Speaker, I want to pay my respects to the honourable Leader of the Opposition, John Hamm, and to the Leader of the New Democratic Party, Mr. Robert Chisholm.
You, Mr. Speaker, have earned the respect and the confidence of your constituents for over 25 years. I recognize your work as an accomplished MLA. As Speaker of this House of Assembly, I trust you will carry out your duties with continued fairness and objectivity.
To all the members of this House who have earned the trust of the electorate, I extend my compliments as we work together in the responsible governing of this province.
To the voices of those members who have already congratulated the Premier, I add mine also. Mr. Speaker, it has been under the leadership of John Savage that this government is fulfilling the vision that people across the province have helped to shape, knowing that this government will continue to do it in a responsible manner, as our Premier says, while living within our means.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my address in reply by recognizing the people of the constituency of Shelburne. It is an honour for me to work with these fine people and to represent the interests of Shelburne County in the provincial Legislature. The people of Shelburne County have worked hard to support me, our Premier and the many accomplishments of this government. The people of Shelburne County look forward to the coming year as an important turning point in the life of our community within our province.
Mr. Speaker, Shelburne Harbour is the third best natural harbour in the world. In the past, the port has proven to be economically viable by showing a surplus of over $20,000 due to traffic averaging over 22,000 tonnes annually.
Mr. Speaker, earlier this year it was announced that the Iceland Steamship Company is beginning a direct bi-weekly container service to the Port of Shelburne. This new service will provide direct links to and from Icelandic, European and U.S. markets. Now, with the addition of this new steamship line, many companies including those in the Shelburne Industrial Park will have the unique opportunity to tap into the markets worldwide.
The industrial park in Shelburne has a new business that has just recently opened. I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate Tom Darrow of Darrow Wood Products and to extend my best wishes for his success and to his partners, Wayne King and Donnie Acker. At present, this business employs six people to make flooring from Nova Scotia hardwood. They are interested in attracting markets in Germany, the United Kingdom, Iceland and China.
Since we have several coastal communities in Shelburne County, the fishery remains a very important industry to our county. Lobster landings in our area account for 57 per cent of all lobster caught in the Scotia Fundy Region. For this reason, Shelburne County has received the designation of the Lobster Capital of Canada.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, aquaculture is also doing well in Shelburne County creating employment opportunities. The tuna fishery is doing well and has contributed significantly to the pelagic landings. It is well know that Shelburne County is famous for their groundfish fishery catches. In 1994, Shelburne County recorded the highest groundfish catches compared to other counties in the province.
Mr. Speaker, throughout Shelburne County, there are a number of spin-off businesses that support and enhance our fishing industry. There are many fish plants, fish buyers and trucking companies that rely heavily on the MV Bluenose Ferry link to the New England States. During the last session of the Legislature, you will recall, I gladly took the opportunity to raise during emergency debate on the continuance of the MV Bluenose Ferry Service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine. I have worked hard to advocate on behalf of the people of southwestern Nova Scotia to urge the federal government to maintain this service due to its vital role in the economy of Shelburne County. I have had several phone conversations on this issue, attended meetings in Yarmouth, corresponded with the federal Transport Minister and discussed the matter with South Shore MP Derek Wells and South West Nova MP Harry Verran.
Mr. Speaker, the tourist industry relies on this ferry service, as well. Tourist numbers throughout Nova Scotia were up last year and Shelburne County was no exception. Lockeport, last year, saw the greatest rise in visitors due in part to the new Crescent Beach Centre, the marketing of Lockeport's beach and the new beachfront cottages. In Shelburne, there is now another permanent tourist attraction on historic Dock Street. With financial assistance from the provincial government, a portion of the set from the movie A, The Scarlet Letter remains as a permanent site for tourists to visit.
Mr. Speaker, when tourists come to visit Shelburne County, I would say they are most impressed with the natural beauty throughout the county, including our beaches, rivers and waterways. It is through the continued support of this government's Department of Natural Resources that the Islands Provincial Park is able to offer a picturesque coastal setting for camping, picnics, boating and exploring the local area. The people of Shelburne County are pleased to show off their communities through the many festivals, events and parades. These special events give many community groups the opportunity to fund raise and to have fun.
However, Mr. Speaker, events such as these would not be possible without the enthusiastic spirit of the many volunteers in community groups and local businesses. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the many hard-working volunteers who contribute to the organization, promotion and scheduling of so many of these wonderful events. Social gatherings are of vital importance to our communities' life. That is why I am pleased that this government supported the funding of a number of infrastructure projects that saw completion last year. The new Shelburne Fire Hall and Community Centre is now replacing the outdated fire hall and, as a result, has increased fire protection for the residents of the Town of Shelburne and area, while providing a convenient location for social gatherings.
Mr. Speaker, the Shelburne County Exhibition has a history in Shelburne County that dates back to the 1800's. Last year it was made clear that the building had to be brought up to fire code. Thanks to the financial support of this government, this building has had a new sprinkler system put in place and will continue to function as an important part of our community. Money was contributed to the construction of the Barrington Arena. Just this past weekend, I attended a number of playoff hockey games and I am pleased to report that the arena was full to capacity and the enthusiastic support of the fans was overwhelming.
Mr. Speaker, it was also through provincial funding of the infrastructure agreement that the Clark's Harbour Main Street received paving. When a town or city receives an infrastructure project, it improves the quality of life for the residents, puts people back to work and encourages future investment in the area. Nova Scotians have proven they are able to adapt to changing economic conditions. This is particularly true of the Nova Scotians who live in the beautiful rural areas of the province, like Shelburne County.
I am convinced, Mr. Speaker, that under the leadership of this government, the people of Shelburne County, together with other Nova Scotians and this government, will succeed. That is why it is with a great sense of pride that I will be voting in favour of this government's Throne Speech. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin, if I may, before embarking upon some remarks in response to the Speech from the Throne, by introducing to you and through you to all members of the Legislature a group of students from Armbrae Academy, in fact the Grade 8 class of the Armbrae Academy, which is situated in my constituency of Halifax Citadel. They are accompanied today by Ms. Lucy Alexander. They have had a tour of the building and are here now in our Chamber to observe our proceedings for a few moments. I would appreciate you, Mr. Speaker, and all members extending the usual warm welcome to the Grade 8 class of Armbrae Academy to our Legislature. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, as you well know and as all members realize, it is a very real honour to have the opportunity to come to this place and to function as a member of the Legislature and an honour to have the opportunity to rise and reply to the Speech from the Throne. For almost
18 years the people of, first Halifax Cornwallis and now Halifax Citadel have accorded me the privilege of representing their needs and concerns here in the House of Assembly on both the government and the Opposition side of the aisle.
I want to begin by thanking the voters for the trust they have continued to place with me. On a personal note, this is the first occasion in those 18 years where I have the opportunity to reply to the Throne Speech as a backbencher. So while I might not have the weight or influence, if such there be, of a provincial Cabinet Minister or as Leader of the Opposition, I will continue, with the support of my constituents and my family, to serve the area of my native City of Halifax that I have served and that my father and my brother have also served and dedicated so much of their lives to, as well.
I think I have noted in this place on earlier occasions that if one does a little mathematics and adds the time that my father and my brother and I have been members of this place, the total now is 48 years. That is a period of service, I hesitate to say record of service, but certainly a period of service of which I, and I know my dad and my brother are very proud. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, it is traditional, and again the tradition was followed this year, to remark early in the Speech from the Throne the passing of men and women of significance both to this Legislature and to our province generally. This year, of course, unfortunately was no exception. I want to just ever so briefly join in the sentiments of respect and condolence that were made relative to the passing of a couple of people well known to all of us in this place and some perhaps not so well known. I want to mark the passing of one of the most interesting members of this place ever, I refer of course to the honourable Benoit Comeau, former Leader of the Opposition, and the member for Clare, a wonderful person and a wonderful family man and a great tribute to his community, to his Party and to this place.
I also want to remark, as others have, on the unfortunate and untimely passing of Buddy Daye. My brother Arthur, who was a member of this place and happened to be home from his work in London, England, about three or four weeks before Buddy died. Arthur and I went to see Buddy at the Victoria General Hospital and spent some time there visiting with him.
I was struck, as was Arthur, by two things: how apparent it was that Buddy was as ill as he was and that he knew it but, at the same time, how apparent it was that Buddy's wonderful, wonderful sense of humour was displayed on that occasion, as I say, a matter of just a few weeks before he died. We talked, the three of us, about remembrances of our time together here in the Legislature, and Buddy talked about some of his just wild, outlandish, crazy boxing stories, both from the Nova Scotia scene and of course, from the worldwide scene. He was a man of great spirit and a man who will long, long, for many generations, be remembered as an advocate for the aspirations and the hopes of the Blacks of Nova Scotia and an inspiration not only to the Black community but to all of us in the community that, with enough perseverance and diligence and commitment, many, many obstacles can be overcome and Buddy will be greatly, greatly missed.
I would like to remark as well on the very untimely passing of a man who made a great influence in this province and, indeed, in connection with an institution which is located in my constituency. I refer in this instance to the late, Reverend Ed Aitken. Ed Aitken was the former President of the Atlantic School of Theology and he was a fine, fine man. His unfortunate and untimely death left a void at the Atlantic School of Theology and the fact that he has died will be remembered for a great deal of time. More to the point, the contribution which he made to the life and the work of the Atlantic School of Theology and to ecumenism in the Province of Nova Scotia will be remembered for a great time.
There are two others, not to be overly maudlin, but the deaths of two other persons that I would like to comment on ever so briefly. One relates to my friend, Gerry Godsoe and we had the opportunity to pay respects to Gerry, upon his passing not so many days ago here in this place. Gerry's death is, in so many ways, a terrible, terrible tragedy. One of the brightest, ablest, most genial and congenial people to work at the highest levels of politics, business and of law here in the Province of Nova Scotia and it is sad and tragic [Page 823]
in the extreme that he should be taken from us and from his family at age 54, as he was. He will be greatly, greatly missed by so many.
Finally, I would like to refer to a person who perhaps isn't known to all the members of this place but a man who was well-known to me and who was, in terms of my political activities, interests and aspirations and, indeed, successes, was very, very important. I refer in this instance to my very good friend and the friend of some I know in this place, Mr. David Covert, Q.C. David died an untimely death a couple of weeks ago and my wife and I went Easter Sunday, I think it was, to visit with his widow and his three children by his first marriage. His first wife had died of cancer some years before and David had just remarried six or eight months before his own death. David was a senior partner at Stewart McKelvey Stirling Scales and a tremendously fine man. He was a great Tory. As Gerry Godsoe was a great stalwart of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, David Covert, in his fashion, was very much a stalwart of equal value to those of us in the Tory Party. He was a fine decent man and he will be missed greatly by myself and my family and certainly, by his widow and his family and so many others.
So, as we read Speeches from the Throne annually, Mr. Speaker, it is an occasion for us to remember, as I think we should in this place, the men and women who have really made a difference. I believe in all the cases of those to whom I have made reference to this point, they certainly did make a difference and a positive difference it was.
Mr. Speaker, as I know you know, the constituency of Halifax Citadel is home for several of our province's most important institutions. There are seven universities in metro Halifax and six of them sit in my constituency: Dalhousie, Saint Mary's, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, the University of Kings College, the Technical University of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic School of Theology. They are all located in Halifax Citadel. So, needless to say, issues relative to post-secondary education are vitally important to us in Halifax Citadel.
I have a particular or a personal attachment to Saint Mary's and to Dalhousie having received a Commerce degree at the first and a Law degree at the latter but I have attempted in all of my time as Minister of Education, some many years ago and at all times since, to represent as best I can the interests and the aspirations of all those institution which do reside in my constituency. The modest campus, as a matter of fact, of the Atlantic School of Theology is situated just a few doors down the street from where my own home is and so I am familiar with that on a neighbourhood kind of a basis.
Some of Nova Scotia's major health care facilities also find their home in my riding, Mr. Speaker, as I think you are aware. The new QE II Health Sciences Centre is still known to most of us as four separate institutions: the Victoria General Hospital, the Nova Scotia
Rehabilitation Centre, the Camp Hill Hospital and the Cancer Research Foundation. Whether you are more comfortable with a merged hospital or four separate facilities, it makes no difference, you will still find those institutions and the thousands of men and women who work in them situated in Halifax Citadel.
The IWK-Grace Hospital for Children has been providing quality care for people throughout Atlantic Canada for many years and the ability of the IWK-Grace staff to provide this quality of care is much appreciated by residents right across Atlantic Canada, Mr. Speaker. Each June, as I know you know, millions of dollars pour in through telethon donations by kind-hearted and good-spirited individuals who believe in this kind of quality care for the children and young people of our Atlantic Region. I can only hope that the health care facilities in Halifax Citadel and may I say, the health care facilities across this province do not become solely dependent on the individual generosity of telethons and good-spirited Nova Scotians. With the direction we have been travelling under the rubric of health care reform, I have some concerns.
Mr. Speaker, Halifax Citadel also encompasses our downtown core, the core of the capital city of our province and we as Nova Scotians proudly participated in G-7 festivities last June while our very downtown core was put on display for all of the world to see. Our hospitality industry, with downtown hotels and the World Trade and Convention Centre leading the way, took advantage of the opportunities presented by the G-7 at that time.
I was extremely pleased to see and am pleased to see that the grand old lady herself, the former Hotel Nova Scotian is likely to reopen this spring under the Westin Hotel banner. As it happens, I spoke this morning with representatives of the corporation which will be reopening the hotel and I have meetings slated with them next week to provide what assistance I can to ensure that the final elements of the closing will, in fact, take place. That will be a very important addition to not only Halifax Citadel but to all of the City of Halifax and the tourism and hospitality infrastructure here in the metropolitan region and across the province and, as important, it will employ some hundreds of people once that hotel is back and up and running.
Halifax Citadel, Mr. Speaker, as you and colleagues will know, has a pretty sizeable share of this city's port facilities. After a few declining years, the Port of Halifax improved its international reputation thanks to the actions in part - in part, I acknowledge - of the government of which I was a member.
What frustrates me a little bit these days, Mr. Speaker, with respect, is that we have not really heard very much about the benefits of container facility modernization from the men and women on the other side of the House here in the last little while. There are problems, and very significant problems, for the Port of Halifax on the horizon, however.
The Canadian Coast Guard, as you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, is recommending that a flat fee be charged on any cargo loaded or unloaded into Canada's ports. At 17.6 cents per ton and a 50,000 ton cap, this means that a maximum of fees ranging from $6,800 on the low side to $13,600 on the high side on ships making just one visit to Halifax may well face the shippers visiting this port. Now, if I am the manager of a shipping company with goods heading to a U.S. market and I wanted to save a couple of thousand dollars, the Canadian Coast Guard, if it gets its way, quite frankly, will give me an easy reason to pick Boston or New York instead of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I believe it incumbent upon this Premier - if he ever gets back from Sweden or wherever he is - and the Minister of Transportation and the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and indeed every member of the Cabinet, it is absolutely, fundamentally important that as a united voice, the Cabinet of the Province of Nova Scotia says loud and clear to the Prime Minister of Canada and to the national Minister of Transport that we simply cannot allow a fees regime to desiccate and destroy the viability and the integrity of the Port of Halifax.
How long do we have to watch, in the City of Halifax and the Province of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada, over the course of years, hundreds and hundreds of millions of our taxpayers' dollars - and I [Page 825]
underline the word our, they are our taxpayers' dollars just as much as anybody else's - to ensure that the St. Lawrence Seaway is ice free annually. We have one of the world's most magnificent harbours here in the City of Halifax, ice free year round, and I believe we could, with the right approach and a concerted effort by our Premier and by the present government, we could make great impact, we should be able to make great impact with the Government of Canada to ensure that no steps are taken which seriously impair the viability of the Port of Halifax.
Both Halifax's - the Halifax Regional Municipality, now, I guess, as opposed to the City of Halifax - and the province's burgeoning tourist industry will suffer from this fee charge if, in fact, it is imposed in the fashion and to the extent that it is now being discussed. The Halifax Port Corporation, Mr. Speaker, estimates this year Halifax, alone, will benefit from $3 million in economic spinoffs from cruise ship visits. Cruise ship companies are making plans to deal with tens of thousands in charges here now. I submit that those plans could very well include dropping Halifax as a port of call and dropping Halifax as a destination for visitors if this fee structure is allowed to be imposed in the way in which and to the extent that it is now being discussed.
Now the shipping industry recognizes that the federal government must recoup the cost of providing navigation aids to our ports. That is why they, the shipping industry, are proposing several alternatives to the Coast Guard's proposals. Yet, the Coast Guard, I believe, and I am scared to death that this is the case, and it is incumbent upon the Government of Canada to determine if I am right and, if I am right, to immediately do something to stop it. The Coast Guard is, I believe, ready to move ahead and, according to one witness to the House of Commons Fisheries Committee just within recent days, is ready to publish the fee increases in the Royal Gazette without any study of the economic impact on the Port of Halifax. How can that be right? How can it be right that this Savage Government - if, in fact, it is right, and I believe it to be the case - sit on its thumbs and not pound the tables loud enough and make the visits to Ottawa and make sure that that very debilitating result does not befall the Port of Halifax?
I am surprised that I haven't hear the catcalls from the opposite side, that we shouldn't be discussing this because it is a federal responsibility. Mr. Speaker, our Leader, the Leader of the Official Opposition, pointed out in his Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne that everyday Nova Scotians, those men and women who are trying to go about the business of maintaining their employment and raising their children and surviving from paycheque to paycheque and working very hard and contributing to Nova Scotia, those Nova Scotians don't section off their concerns as federal or provincial or municipal responsibilities.
The port fee issue is one concern that our government, regardless of political affiliation, should be taking a leadership role in defending Nova Scotia's interests and working to find a solution to this issue which, if we don't find an acceptable solution to, will cost
dearly not only Halifax Citadel, the constituency which I represent, but all Nova Scotians in terms of employment and the opportunity to create new wealth.
When given the chance to shine, Mr. Speaker, the people of Halifax Citadel rarely drop the ball. I wish the same could be said for this government. Now I will not repeat the myriad of mistakes this government made in determining policy directions - they appear to be their own best messengers for presenting that to the people of Nova Scotia - what I will talk about is how, when this government acts, it should not have, so more often than not and when this government does not or refuses to act, the people of my constituency, like the other 51 constituencies, are left scratching their heads wondering, why did we ever vote for this gang?
Mr. Speaker, the universities I spoke of at the beginning of my remarks didn't wait for the Savage gang. It is no great surprise that there was precious little on education at any level in the Throne Speech, which I address now. Almost three years into its mandate, the Liberal Government has delivered precious little in terms of improving the quality of education in Nova Scotia. The Minister of Education's reforms have brought only chaos in my opinion and, more to the point and more important, in the opinion of thousands of men and women who live and work in the education system at all levels, on a day-to-day basis.
With this in mind, the seven metro universities took it upon themselves to become agents of change. I think they should be applauded for taking the first steps, forming the Metro Universities Consortium and drafting their business plan; I repeat, drafting "their" business plan. (Interruption)
Well, I hear the honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing talking about the Minister of Education. The Metro Universities Consortium and their business plan was done despite the Minister of Education and not on account of the Minister of Education. (Interruption) No, I won't, I promise I won't.
At the same time the devil is in the detail; the consortium still must decide - just as a few examples - the programs which will be kept; how to reduce staff; what types of admissions and registrar office is to be available to students; how many institutions will students have to attend before getting just one undergraduate degree, and so on. Everybody agrees that there will be increased transportation between and among the institutions, yet there is only one line on this topic in this business plan. Now that isn't necessarily a flaw in the plan, Mr. Speaker, but it indicates just how much work the universities have yet to do.
I am concerned that if the consortium makes decisions that do not please the Minister of Education, that he will do as he has done with school board amalgamation and site-based management, damn the torpedoes, father-knows-best approach, where the minister listens to no one but those who happen on that particular occasion to agree with him.
If university reform is to succeed and it is vital that it does, I say then those who are its principal stakeholders, the universities, the faculty, the staff and most important, the students must be at the centre of the decision-making process. This Minister of Education, I think, would be well advised to remember that. While he's received similar advice in the past, the minister should look on the initial success of the consortium as proof that the Savage Government and yes, even the Minister of Education, does not have the magic solutions to what ails Nova Scotia.
The Minister of Education in this province seems hell-bent on imposing his vision, some might say nightmare, of what the province's public education system should be, regardless of what our students or our parents and the staff, the thousands of dedicated teachers in that system, think is best. Education is just simply too important to let one individual determine its future. It is clear that this one individual, this Minister of Education, has an attitude that it is my way or the doorway kind of approach to education reform. When it came to site-based management, the minister, may I say, to his credit, allowed eight pilot projects to run. But the Minister of Education's common sense disappeared, I think, when, without having any results from the pilot programs, he decided that site-based management should be expanded across the province. He set up the pilots, the pilots were supposed to provide him and all Nova Scotians in the education system with experience to give us some indication as to whether or not they work or don't work, what improvements or refinements might be necessary to make them work better and even before any of that evidence is in, we have the Minister of Education, as the lawyers might say, off on another frolic of his own.
Whether it is Oregon or Ontario, the evidence from other jurisdictions relative to site-based management is, as I know you know, very, very mixed. From increased bureaucracy at the local level to weaker programs for students, site-based management often creates more problems than it solves. One report of site-based management offered this critique of the program and I quote from it, "The new system is unable to operate as intended . . . major policy changes must be implemented, or the broad goals of equal educational opportunity will be lost.". So this isn't, notwithstanding the fact that we are dealing with young people in the education system, this isn't child's play. This is vitally important work and I say, without hesitation, that I am not at all satisfied, nor am I impressed at all that the Minister of Education has anything except his visions at play in relation to this vitally important issue. I am frightfully concerned as to what we are going to reap from what he has sown in that regard.
So, while the Minister of Education increasingly engages this province to site-based management, an unproven administrative system of education, what becomes of our existing administrative system, the school board? Now, as a former Minister of Education, I had a few run-ins with school board officials myself, I remember them and I can still feel some of the scars. But during my tenure, with the cooperation of parents, students, staff and school boards, the number of school boards decreased from 66 to 22. The current Minister of Education decided that no one person or group should stand before his vision of education in Nova Scotia. In came Bill No. 39 last fall.
For so many areas of education, there was a dramatic switch of authority from duly-elected school boards to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education, in that legislation, assumed unto himself and unto his ministry, a range of powers which, frankly, and I said it during the debate on the bill, were absolutely frightening and I am no less frightened as we see the outfall of the passage of that legislation. I am going to take a moment, if I may, to speak about school board amalgamation, that portion of Bill No. 39, or the minister's amalgamania, if you will.
Simply put, seven school boards for this province is too small a number. For example, many problems will and are beginning to arise from bringing communities as disparate as Annapolis, Digby, Yarmouth, Shelburne, Queens and Lunenburg under one school board. You know the size of that piece of geography. You know the fact that the community of interest between many of those communities just simply is not there. They are just simply not the same kinds of places, one to the other. This minister has brought them all together under one board jurisdiction.
Mr. Speaker, I think common sense leads one to ask, how can a school board properly function when its members will be travelling five hours and six hours to attend board meetings? Where do the savings come from when these school boards, spread out over tremendously large geographic areas, cover the cost of increased expenses for travel, meals, overnight accommodation, even just to allow the men and women, who will be the members of the board, to meet to attempt to make some sense of the kind of quality education that they wish to deliver? How can a member of these new boards act effectively if he or she does not have a working knowledge of much of its jurisdiction? That is going to be a real problem for people who live five hours or six hours away from the other end of the school board jurisdiction. Will these members be forced to rely even more increasingly on the advice and counsel of school board staff and not have their own day to day, intimate working knowledge of the reality of the school system? I believe that we are starting to see that happen and I believe that that is in the long-term worst interest of education in this province.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg on an introduction.
MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Since we seem to be talking about education, I would like to introduce three teachers in the gallery: Paulette Cormier Duncan from Halifax; Mary Evelyn Ternan from Halifax and Bill Broom from West Northville Elementary. I assume you are in here on union business today, but I also would like to say that Bill is on my Liberal executive and I am very pleased to have him there and we welcome the three of you. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am not saying that 22 school boards is the necessarily or absolutely right number and that the province could not benefit from a reduction in the number of school boards, but I am saying - and forgive me for being repetitive - that the seven school boards, as configured by this government and by this minister, is too small a number. These boards, with the potential for more education bureaucracy, will be unmanageable for all those with a stake in education. But then again, they don't have to worry about their education system because this Minister of Education continually tells them, don't worry, I've got all the answers.
It leaves me to wonder, however, Mr. Speaker, why this minister would increase the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of school boards - which is what I am concerned may well happen - while at the same time, promote the untested site-based management approach. A sceptical person might say that the Minister of Education is intentionally undermining school boards in order to promote his own pet projects regardless of the effects that this will have on the students of the province. When it comes to education, there are plenty of skeptical people in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, some may ask what our public schools governance has to do with educating our young people. As long as our schools and our teachers are there to educate and help our young learn, what does it matter which structure - site-based management or school boards - governs our education system. The answer, is because the stakeholders in the system, the students, parents and teachers, want a system that is effective, efficient and accountable to them. An education system that does not work at the administrative level, trickles down to the classroom as surely as water trickles from a tap. They know the problems in the current system that need to be addressed, but I am of a view that this minister has failed or refused to listen or listen seriously or, if listening, has failed to hear the concerns which have been raised with him by members of school boards, by teachers individually, by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, by the Parent-Teacher Associations, by the home and school associations. We hear this minister, perhaps more than any other in this government, talk about his love of consultation. Well, he may have a love of engaging in dialogue but we have little or no, as I far as I am concerned, evidence that that dialogue has resulted in him hearing and acting upon the concerns that thousands and thousands of Nova Scotians have about what is going on in our public schools in this province.
They know the problems in the current system, those teachers and those students and those parents know the problems in the current system that need to be addressed but the minister keeps telling them that he has the solution. His solution is, as I hear it from hundreds of people across this province, school boards [Page 829]
which are made more unworkable just to give him the excuse to replace them with the gamble of site-based management. Our students and educators feel left out of the reform process, sadly realizing their future depends on this one minister's gamble.
Where we really need help, in my opinion, Mr. Speaker, and I haven't seen evidence of it from this minister or from this government, where we really need help is for the classroom teacher.
AN HON. MEMBER: The besieged classroom teachers.
MR. DONAHOE: I don't know what the Minister of Education knows any more about what the reality is in the classrooms of the Province of Nova Scotia. He was in them at one time. He has been away from them now for some time. I don't know if he knows the reality, but I have, in the last 12 months or so, attempted to become more and more familiar with the reality of what really is facing the classroom teacher in so many schools across our province. They are, as my learned friend and colleague, the member for Queens has just said behind me, they are besieged or under siege, many, many, many, many of them.
The problems and the conditions which they face daily are more and more oppressive. They face violence, poverty, hunger, drug addictions, lack of supplies and materials. If you can believe it, they face a situation where a principal of an elementary school, not very far from this very building, went to the school yard to attempt to break up an altercation involving three elementary school children and in the middle of attempting to break up the altercation, a sawed-off shotgun was pulled and pointed at the principal of the school. What kind of a society are we living in, if we have elementary school children on the school yards with sawed-off shotguns? What is going on?
Not so very long ago, at Queen Elizabeth High School, also in my constituency, a similar kind of an incident, where one of the teachers there was forced to disarm a student, with a rifle in that case, I think, at the high school. We have teachers in the classroom being physically abused and we have teachers in the classroom being verbally abused. We have teachers in the classroom and I know one personally having their personal property, their car, if you can believe it, their car is parked in the parking lot, they came out at the end of the day after school, the car is missing. Later that evening or the next morning, that teacher's car is found in the ditch, demolished, down in Lunenburg County somewhere. Upon investigation, it turns out that three 13 year olds stole the car and rolled it into the ditch down in Lunenburg County. Those three 13 year olds, this happened about 12 months ago, are now back on the street and they have had three or four further incidences of violent contact at the school in question.
We really have to take a look at what goes on in our schools. We really have to provide some help to our poor, beleaguered and besieged classroom teachers. I don't profess or presume to have the answers, I really don't, but there are enough educators in this place and
there are enough educators available to the Minister of Education and there are enough men and women, professionals, in all of the helping agencies which can bear on the question that I now raise, that I say to the Minister of Education, through you, Mr. Speaker, that it is absolutely incumbent upon him that not more than a couple of months pass before he has designed and convened a province-wide seminar, symposium, meeting, call it what you will, that addresses what is the state and the circumstance of the classroom teacher in the Province of Nova Scotia and how are we going to find ways to bring support and assistance to the classroom teachers?
Joining education, Madam Speaker, on the Throne Speech omission list in my opinion, is one of today's so-called hot topics as well. That, of course, is justice, law and order. That extends beyond a mere buzzword. I believe fervently that a priority social and legal policy issue in Canada, in this province and in this country is personal and community safety and security. Generally speaking, people fear random acts of violence perpetrated by strangers. My colleague, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley raised these concerns from his constituents with the Minister of Justice last week, as you will recall.
Madam Speaker, before coming to this place so many years ago, I spent most of the 13 years or thereabouts prior to that, practising family law; more specifically, in the last five years or so of my practice, my responsibilities and my activities were almost exclusively in the area of child abuse. I acted for a number of Childrens' Aid Societies across the province and for the Administrator of Family and Child Welfare. So some of my experiences during that time have left indelible marks on me and it is perhaps for that reason that certain violent crimes, notably family violence, spousal violence, violence against our children, sexual assault, child abuse, date rate, workplace assault and murder spark a very personal interest in me.
Madam Speaker, I read a report the other day in the course of preparing a paper to deliver at a little policy conference. I read the following from a presentation made to a Canadian panel on family violence. I quote the woman who made the presentation and, as a former member and Chair of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women you will understand the tragic impact of words such as these. This woman making this presentation to this panel said the following, "My husband struck me on our honeymoon. He killed our first child by kicking the four month-old child out of my uterus. My doctor asked me what did I do to make him so mad, our Minister reminded me that I had married for better or worse, the lawyer wanted to know where I would get money to pay the fees and my mother told my husband where I was hiding.".
Clearly, if we are going to live in what any of us can honestly say is a decent and enlightened society or community, clearly we must break the debilitating cycle in our society that devalues women and leaves them continually vulnerable. Equality for women in our society must, I think, be the foundation of an effective, long-term community safety and crime prevention strategy. It can't be just talked about, it has to be acted upon.
Attitudinal change, as I know you know, Madam Speaker, is frightfully difficult, but in the context of violence against women, we must, as a society, adopt a principle of zero tolerance. We must adopt an attitude that says violence is simply never, under any circumstances, acceptable behaviour. We must fundamentally re-examine ourselves and our institutions, our schools, our health care facilities, our police forces and our courts, our social services systems and our families and, dare I say it, our media to reflect our commitment to end violence against women.
We should applaud and I do applaud the Minister of Justice's announcement last fall of the government's policy of zero tolerance against spousal abusers and violence against women overall. The Family Violence Prevention Initiative is a welcome step, but I have made some inquiries and we are, unfortunately, not pursuing the zero-tolerance policy. The words of the minister's statement are simply not the action on the street, day-to-day, with all of the organizations who must be a part of the process. It takes more than the minister's announcement and government agencies to successfully implement a zero-tolerance policy. Perhaps progress is a better term to use, meaning a significant reduction in violent acts against spouses and their children. As far as I am concerned, we will never be completely successful as long as one woman or child is abused.
The police and prosecutorial staff clearly do not have the resources to enforce current laws, let alone a zero-tolerance policy. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, again the other day, made this point loud and clear when he noted that the RCMP have yet to apprehend a single suspect in the rash of home invasions along the Eastern Shore. Far from being a fear-mongerer, my honourable colleague asked a question that many Crown Prosecutors are also asking, how can we enforce and apply of the law fairly and effectively when demands increase, but the resources decrease?
The Liberals, you will recall, Madam Speaker, promised that all issues involving the office of the independent prosecutors would be resolved within a year of taking over office. Well, those problems are not resolved, another promise down for the count. Government lawyers, at present, await a government response to their grievances, so they can avoid a strike for the first time in their history. Our Minister of Justice promised last month to take their grievances to Cabinet and report back to them. I really don't know whether those grievances have ever gone to the Cabinet table. Another promise yet to be kept, because I have reason to believe that they perhaps have not gone to the Cabinet table.
In the past three years, our police officers and prosecutors have dealt with wage freezes and roll-backs, extra work from the Task Force on Prostitution, extra work from the Task Force on Gaming, extra work from the Task Force on Violence, the implications of the Stinchcombe decision which relates to ongoing disclosure obligations for prosecutors, and the greater workload from the new requirements relative to Victims' Services. Work with DNA experts which is a new feature and a new element of the work of the prosecutorial staff which didn't confront them a matter of only a few years ago, now is another complex and perplexing element of their work. Work with the accused and witnesses who do not have a facility of English; increasingly, the prosecutorial staff is having to deal with trials which are required to be conducted in some language other than English or with the use of translators. All of these conditions and these changes, I say, to the Minister of Justice, cry out for a serious revamping of the work conditions and the remuneration for our provinces prosecutorial staff.
Despite all of these pressing concerns, the Minister of Justice seems quite content to take his own sweet time, make popular zero-tolerance announcements, but leave the dirty work to police and prosecutorial staff who are, quite bluntly, under intense and increasing public scrutiny. Before the minister sees his zero-tolerance policy become the third Liberal broken promise on justice, I suggest that he should immediately open a dialogue involving prosecutorial staff, the police, the judiciary, probationary staff, parole staff, and other key players in the justice system. The Throne Speech should have outlined this government's plan for putting zero-tolerance into words, not just into positive press releases.
The Liberal Government is at least consistent. They consistently make decisions - as demonstrated in Education, Justice, and most other government departments - without consultation and discussion with the affected stakeholders, without proper analysis of the current environment and such decision's effects on that environment, and without the honesty to stick with what they promised in the 1993 election. Name any other topic I did not mention, job creation, health care, municipal amalgamation, the thirst tax; no positive-spinning Throne Speech can make up for the Liberals consistently dropping the ball at any challenge that faces them. This government could learn a thing or two from my constituents of Halifax Citadel, Mr. Speaker.
Now the Premier and the Minister of Finance, Madam Speaker, are Canada's two biggest cheerleaders for harmonizing the GST and the PST. Once again, they are taking the same approach that has created chaos in every other initiative. They have not consulted with affected stakeholders. I doubt very much that they have consulted even with Cabinet colleagues and with back bench government members as to what they are talking about in this regard. Only in this case, the stakeholders here are the 900,000-plus Nova Scotians who will pay this merged tax. Does the Premier discuss his tax grab opinions with - as he calls them -the small people of Nova Scotia? Of course not. The Premier replies that Nova Scotians should trust the Liberal Party and its tradition of protecting the small people.
After unkept promises and poor policy planning on job creation, health care, education, justice and municipal amalgamation, Nova Scotians, I think, Madam Speaker, can be forgiven if they do not trust the patronizing and arrogant assurances of the Premier. Nova Scotians are worried about how much money this tax grab will take out of their pockets. Nova Scotians are worried about how many jobs will be lost as the cost of business may well increase. Nova Scotians are demanding that the Premier support his claim of 3,500 new jobs and a 1 per cent increase in the Gross Domestic Product of this province, thanks to his friendly, neighbourhood harmonized tax.
The Minister of Finance, Madam Speaker, as you have noticed, refuses to talk about GST/PST harmonization because he says to us, when we ask him about it, well, it is a hypothetical question. The minister should spare Nova Scotians further condescension, if I may say so. If GST/PST was a really hypothetical question, then the Premier would not be shooting his mouth off, talking about an announcement in the last two weeks and then launching into great bits of hyperbole about the benefits of this harmonized tax. If it is hypothetical, where does the Premier get off talking about the tax being such a boon for Nova Scotia? If it is hypothetical, the Minister of Finance should give Nova Scotians some credit for intelligence, should back up his Premier and release the analysis to prove it. It is not hypothetical. It is real. The Minister of Finance was in Ottawa doing his thing the other day. It is not hypothetical. He would not be there, talking to the Honourable Paul Martin, if this was all hypothetical. This is real life stuff that is going to affect every taxpayer in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Two weeks, or thereabouts, before this visit by the Minister of Finance of the Province of Nova Scotia to the Minister of Finance in Ottawa yesterday, the Premier of Nova Scotia is offering comment to taxpayers of Nova Scotia that what his Minister of Finance, Mr. Boudreau, is about is going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It is going to be revolutionary, it is going to be win, win, win. Then we ask questions about it and the answers are well, hold it now, this is all hypothetical. There are rules in this Legislature about not answering hypothetical questions. Well, it is not hypothetical, it is hypocrisy, is what it is. (Interruptions)
Madam Speaker, I find it very interesting how the Liberal Party of Canada can promise in 1993, and I quote from the red book, "abolish the GST", . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Replace.
MR. DONAHOE: The red book says, "abolish the GST". (Interruptions) Yes, that is before the country voted Liberal and the word abolish got transmuted (Interruption) It got abolished. It became transformed to amend, refine, merge, harmonize. The word abolish was abolished.
In 1993, the Liberal Party of Canada promised to abolish the GST. Now we have the Minister of Finance for Canada, the Honourable Paul Martin, playing footsie with the Minister of Finance for the Province of Nova Scotia; trying to sing harmony is what they are trying to do. They are trying to harmonize the PST and the GST. I find it interesting how the Liberal Party of Canada did as they did in 1993, promised to abolish the GST, yet now they proceed with merging the federal and the provincial sales taxes, on the back of, unfortunately, Canada's poorest region. Make no mistake, Madam Speaker, as the Premier demonstrated by sticking up for his friends in Ottawa on EH-101 helicopters and unemployment insurance cuts and on the MV Bluenose matter, federal Liberals are the provincial Liberals and vice-versa, absolutely. (Interruption)
I hear my good friend say, that is why we hold such majorities in both Houses. You know, Madam Speaker, the history of the politics of this province and of this country is that in direct proportion to the amount of smugness which grows with a government, also grows -more to the point, also shortens - the time that that smug government finds that it is on the Opposition benches. You can quote it as Donahoe's law; all you want to do is read the history of the politics of Nova Scotia and the politics of Canada and you will find that that is true. The arrogance and the smugness of this provincial government is overpowering. It is just overpowering. It is matched, Madam Speaker, as I know you know, by that which emanates from our Liberal friends in Ottawa.
Madam Speaker, a promise is a promise. The promise was supported by all of my friends and colleagues here who are provincial members of the Liberal Party and Liberal members of the Nova Scotia Legislature: yes, vote for the red book, vote to abolish the GST. Now we are being asked, sight unseen, being told that when we ask questions about the harmonization of PST and GST, we are asking about something hypothetical. Meanwhile, our Minister of Finance is off meeting with Mr. Martin, cooking up a deal to do exactly that, harmonize the GST and the PST. How is that hypothetical? It is real. The concern that I and many others in the Province of Nova Scotia have: not only is it real; it may, when we see the detail and it sees the light of day, be very cruel indeed. A promise is a promise, but I guess if you are a Liberal, you make them on the theory that after awhile you believe that people will consider that they are just vague memories.
In my final minute, Madam Speaker, I would say to you and to all members, that the Minister of Finance does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up in this place and address the concerns of Nova Scotia. I think it is shameful and I think it flies in the face of every Liberal promise of openness and accountability and transparency. As stated by the honourable Leader of the Opposition some weeks ago, Nova Scotians are not adverse to change. They support government change and in fact these times, we recognize, demand change. Notwithstanding this demand for change, Nova Scotians also require the government to do
three things before it makes any policy decision. Government must listen and consult with those affected by the decision, government must properly analyze the public environment and its policies' effect on that environment and government must be open, honest and accountable to the people to whom it is responsible. This government continues to fall far short . . .
MADAM SPEAKER: Your time has expired.
MR. DONAHOE: This government continues to fall short of these benchmarks and therefore, Madam Speaker, I cannot and will not support this Speech from the Throne.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to respond to the fourth Throne Speech of this Liberal Government. As I begin, I would like to join with other members of the House in extending my condolences and those of the New Democratic Party to the family and friends of the distinguished Nova Scotians whose passing was noted in the Throne Speech. They all served their communities with distinction and they will be sorely missed. I would also like to extend my condolences, and those of my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, to all those who have lost loved ones in this past year.
It is certainly a pleasure to say, welcome back to the staff: the Pages, the Messengers, Mike Laffin, the staff of the Legislative Library, the Clerk's Office, to Hansard and the Legislative Television crew. I know they will continue to serve us and the citizens of Nova Scotia extremely well.
Before I begin my comments on the Speech from the Throne, Madam Speaker, I would first like to make a few remarks about my constituency, Halifax Atlantic. Let me say, as I begin, that I am pleased and proud to have had the opportunity to represent the constituents of Halifax Atlantic now for nearly five years. I say that in the present climate of downsizing, restructuring and uncertainty, when communities are being asked to do more with a lot less, it is heart-warming to know that there are individuals working in communities who continue to make a difference and that certainly is the case in Halifax Atlantic. Even while the infrastructure is torn out from underneath them, their budgets are being squeezed, many of their colleagues are being laid off, those who choose to remain are being asked to do more with less, often working with increasingly marginalized clients.
It is with great respect that I would like to acknowledge a few of the outstanding individuals working in the communities of Halifax Atlantic because clearly it is their spirit and commitment that does make a difference. First of all, Linda Roberts, Madam Speaker, is the Coordinator of the Multi-Service Centre at the Captain William Spry Community Centre. She is a social worker who, for the past 11 years, has served the people of Spryfield. I have spoken in the past about some of the projects that she has directed, the award winning project which focused on women's abuse. Her focus on anti-racism and the ground-breaking, first of its kind, research project on parent abuse by teenage children with its Canada-wide distribution.
Most recently she has launched a health project which is designed to make health reform understandable and relevant to marginalized groups including youth, seniors, persons with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities and people living in poverty and isolation. This spring, Linda is helping to coordinate, with other people in the community, an effort to start a boys and girls club in Spryfield. With goodwill and energy, she enables those groups to cooperate under the multi-service model, to achieve, where individually they would not.
Secondly, St. Paul's Family Resource Institute is a mainstay in Halifax Atlantic and the program coordinator, Heather Coffin, is a major influence in its success. Activities there range from adult upgrading, unemployment support workshops, the GED classes, to the operation of a food bank. One of the most visible accomplishments is the Spryfield Community Garden. Families and individuals, Madam Speaker, particularly those with access to backyard gardens or the knowledge to get started alone, are encouraged to join the [Page 835]
project. People help each other. Some plots are shared and produce is grown for the food bank. There is a sense of community in the operation of the gardens; neighbours working with neighbours and it is in large part owing to the commitment of Heather Coffin and her ability to find a way to make projects happen.
You, Madam Speaker, and other members, may be aware of Heather's success in 1995 in securing donations of materials and the recruitment of the U.S. Navy to build a much-needed fence to keep the deer out of the vegetables. The community garden will begin work tomorrow between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., if any members are interested in participating.
Thirdly, Sister Joan O'Keefe of the Single Parent Centre is a community resource, clearly, all by herself. Known for her tenacity and her great sense of humour, Joan is a tireless advocate for the poor and the disadvantaged. Her leadership at the Single Parent Centre in Spryfield is an inspiration. Her concern for the well-being of single parents and their children is a driving force behind the most recent program of the centre, the Doula Project. In partnership with the IWK-Grace Health Centre, this new program will provide support to pregnant women. Women experienced in childbirth will provide physical, emotional, practical and informational support to a mother before, during and after childbirth. Volunteers from the community are recruited, with particular emphasis on matching mothers with members of their peer group.
Although Sister Joan has a very hectic schedule, she makes time to contribute her expertise to many other committees and groups operated in Halifax Atlantic. I must say, Madam Speaker, that she has been counted on by me and my staff for counsel and re-energizing when things get tough, as they do from time to time.
Also, Madam Speaker, clearly volunteerism is not dead in Halifax Atlantic. Another example is Kevin Johnson who, to his credit, has a full-time job but finds volunteer hours to put into Scouting, Police Venturers and the Multi-Service Advisory Committee. He also volunteers with the Halifax Regional Municipal Police Force as part of the community support team. This past winter Kevin was recognized for his outstanding contribution to the police force by being presented with the Nova Scotia Crime Prevention Award for volunteerism in crime prevention and program development. I clearly add my congratulations and acknowledge the service that Kevin and the people like him provide to communities like Halifax Atlantic and like Spryfield throughout Nova Scotia.
Our community is also the beneficiary of the energy and dedication of many environmentalists. I would like to state a constituent, Whea Mahr, who is the coordinator of Evergreen Foundation School Ground Naturalization Program. It is fundamental to the future of society that children learn to respect the benefits provided to us by the natural environment. Studies have shown that children are happier in natural school yards than in paved school yards. The school ground naturalization projects are aimed at making school yards more natural. Whea and members of the community have started projects at two schools so far in Halifax Atlantic, John W. MacLeod School and Elizabeth Sutherland School. In the
latter case, the school is in the process of adopting the local pond so that it can become a study area and community resource. Madam Speaker, Whea's enthusiasm has made a difference.
Another exciting example of a group making a contribution to greater environmental awareness is the Harrietsfield Elementary School. Under the leadership of the Environmental Club at that school, they have been participating in the SEEDS Foundation Program. This program encourages schools to complete projects which either help the environment directly or make someone else aware of the importance of the environment. When a school completes 100 projects they become a green school and are allowed to hang a banner depicting this. Each time a project is completed, a page is added to a special binder. They have received a trophy and an earth ball, which goes to a classroom on completion of a project.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to announce that this school has now completed 250 projects in a little over two years and will be achieving jade status. On the Monday coming, April 22nd, Earth Day, they will be presented and I will be participating in a ceremony where they will be presented with the jade badge, clearly an example of an important contribution made to our community and an example of contributions made by groups and communities around this province.
Clearly it would not suffice to speak about contributions to the community of Spryfield and surrounding areas without mentioning the Lions Club in Spryfield. I am told from Lions in other parts of the province that when you talk about Spryfield, the first thing that comes to mind is the contribution that that Lions Club makes to the community. They have established and maintained the wave pool, which is an important draw and plays an important role in the recreational activities in our community; the Lions Rink; they raise money through bingo and other activities and spread that money around the community. They participate in the Multi-service Advisory Committee and in many ways make a significant contribution to our community, as do the Lionesses, who also raise money in addition to that done by the Lions Club and they too are counted on by many groups to provide support and assistance. We certainly have found them to be extremely helpful in our efforts to provide support to families in need and to special and worthy causes in our community.
The volunteer fire departments in the county part of our constituency make an important contribution. The Herring Cove Fire Department is a focal point of much of the community activity in Herring Cove. The District 5 Volunteer Fire Department, covering Harrietsfield, Williamswood, Sambro and the Pennants, makes an important contribution in terms of responding to accidents, responding to crisis situations, as well as responding to fires.
We have also seen a significant contribution made to our community by the Halifax Recreation Department and I want to take the opportunity to thank them at this time. The recreation department conducts after-school programs, recreation programs. They have a drop-in centre program that is run by a few people. I think particularly of Kristin and Suzie, who run this program that is well attended and used by members of the community. I thank, also from the department, Larry Stewart, for his efforts in getting a minor basketball franchise up and running in Mainland South.
Other examples, people like Sam Elsworth and Donny Hart from Sambro, who have been involved in the fishery for so many years and are steadfast in their efforts to participate with their fishermen, with fishermen around this province in trying to grab some greater control over the management decisions that are made by the federal government. They work closely with the provincial government on many initiatives. Sambro Fisheries has a a pilot study under way, contributing to the growth of aquaculture in this province and I commend them for their efforts.
Other people have been involved in the Coastal Communities Network. People like Laura Loucks, Jim Legge have worked with that group and worked with members of the community to try to help sustain the fishing communities that are suffering from the downturn in the groundfish fishery. People like Donny Hart and Ivan Blades and others who are working through the District 5 Development Corporation to try and [Page 837]
provide additional or supplementary employment opportunities. The contribution that people make in our community, I think, is extremely important.
Let me go on a couple further. I think, perhaps, of Rose Obeid and the staff and students of B.C. Silver Junior High School and what they have been doing. Through Rose's initiative and the support of her Principal, Gordon McKelvie, a project linking the school and the community with businesses called Career Connections has been started in Spryfield. It provides real life social and work skills and experience to Grade 9 students and encourages community members, leaders and businesses to invest in education. The students job shadow various employees as a way of obtaining knowledge of that business. Career Connections develops and promotes entrepreneurial skills in students of diverse socio-economic and socio-cultural backgrounds and develops a mutual empathy between a school and community. This is a unique project at the junior high level and to date, 47 students have been involved in the first year of this program's existence.
The students and staff at B.C. Silver have also been involved in starting a new mentoring program. They have set up a mentoring program, an anger management program and set up a community kitchen to provide lessons in low cost cooking to families in the community. Madam Speaker, I think you would agree with me, as would other members, that initiatives of this kind deserve recognition at any time but are particularly noteworthy in this time of transition in our education system.
I would like to say finally that I am proud to have the opportunity to work with these and many hundreds of people, residents in Halifax Atlantic, who make such an important contribution to their community. Madam Speaker, residents in Halifax Atlantic are not unlike those in other regions of the province. Many live with anxiety about the future and the future of their children. They have concerns about the lack of well paid, meaningful employment, concerns about what is happening to our health and education systems. Many also share my deep disillusionment with the lack of leadership, compassion and candour shown by this Liberal Government.
Almost three years ago, Nova Scotians elected this Liberal Government because they sincerely believed what Liberals said during the campaign about jobs. The Tories talked about restraint and privatization. The Liberals talked about jobs. People were concerned about jobs so they voted Liberal. As soon as they took office, the Liberals forgot about their job creation promises. They threw out their policy book and adopted Don Cameron's. In the name of deficit reduction they have cut and slashed and downsized. They have broken faith with their own employees, they have offloaded and downloaded on to the school boards, the municipalities, the hospitals, the universities.
When the Premier spoke in the Throne Speech debate several days ago, he spoke of how his government has spent most of its energy rescuing the province from the financial mess left by the previous Tory Government. I do not know how much credit this government
actually deserves for improvement in the province's bottom line. We know that the main reason for the books being in better shape now than they were three years ago is a matter of luck, both good and bad, depending on what side of the line you are on. It is the result of a series of windfalls in federal transfer equalization payments, luck for the government and for all of us trying to pay off our bills, but bad luck because this province has received all that money because our economy has been doing so badly relative to the rest of the country.
Whether they deserve a bit of credit or not, I find it galling, when this government talks so smugly about cleaning up a financial mess, when it has created a chaotic mess in so many other spheres of life in this province. The comic opera otherwise known as the government's beverage container program is just the latest example of the chaos and disruption created by this government. Indeed, the beverage container fiasco is comic relief in the chaotic world created by this government. Think, Madam Speaker, of the chaos that funding cuts have caused in our schools, in our overcrowded classrooms. Think of the chaos that cuts and neglect have caused in our mental health care services. Think of the chaos the deficit driven hospital bed closures have created in home care. Think of the chaos that exists among civil servants who are being invited by this government to walk the plank. Think of the chaos that exists amount correctional service workers who fear privatization. Think hard about the chaos that exists in the Pharmacare Program because of the ill-advised and poorly communicated changes implemented by this government and the concern and anxiety that has been created and has been dropped on the backs of many senior citizens in the Province of Nova Scotia.
This kind of chaos is not comic. It contains the potential for tragedy. Only a government firmly in the grip of neo-conservative dogma, Madam Speaker, would sit in the bunker admiring its budget figures while the services that public money is supposed to provide are crumbling around us. Only a Premier who has lost touch with reality would justify his government's shortsighted policies by trotting out the old saw about "getting your financial house in order and investment will follow". Getting your financial house in order is a good idea. This Party, dating back at least to Tommy Douglas, has always advocated keeping government's financial house in order. This Party has always known that in the long run it is the bondholders and the coupon clippers who benefit from accumulated government debt. The Premier knows that, or should know that, about this Party, but this Party has also believed in balanced judgment as well as balanced budget. That means that unlike this government, we in the NDP do not make a fetish out of balanced budgets. That is why, faced with a cut of some $90 million in social transfers from Ottawa, this Party would ensure first that essential social services were protected, even if it meant postponing the balanced budget by a year.
In the real world, unlike the world inhabited by the Premier and the Minister of Finance along with their corporate friends, people wonder, what good is a balanced budget if it comes at the expense of adequate health care, adequate social services or accessible post-secondary education? The Throne Speech makes one wonder what world this government is living in. In case they have not heard, Nova Scotians are very worried about the federal cutbacks.
They are worried about a health care and education system that is already straining under the effects of misguided and chaotic reform. They are worried about a post-secondary education system that is already becoming inaccessible to many students. This is a province where thousands and thousands live with uncertainty about whether they will have a job to support themselves and their families tomorrow. This is a province where businesses struggle to survive, due to a loss of consumer confidence and spending power. Madam Speaker, pretending otherwise wouldn't change reality and make these problems vanish.
The Premier and his colleagues don't live in the real world. They live in some kind of corporate never-never land where people say things like get your financial house in order and investment will follow. It is a cruel and telling irony that as the Premier was repeating that mantra in this House, the computers of Statistics Canada were crunching up the numbers for the monthly labour force report. When the numbers came out a few days later, the news was not good for Nova Scotia: 8,000 jobs were lost in the month of March, Madam Speaker. Just a few hours after the Premier boasted that Nova Scotia was on the move because 26,000 jobs had been created under the Liberals, 8,000 of those jobs disappeared. Yes, Nova Scotia is on the move all right.
We now have 55,000 officially unemployed. The only reason we don't have more officially unemployed is that in the last month alone, 5,000 Nova Scotians gave up and quit the labour force. When you combine that with the 30,000 to 40,000 Nova Scotians who are working part-time, but would prefer full-time employment, you get a scary picture. Scary for most Nova Scotians, the nearly 100,000 Nova Scotians who are either unemployed or underemployed. Yet this government continues in the dogged, mistaken belief that the way to grow the economy and to create jobs is to destroy jobs. They continue in the dogmatic and erroneous belief that the way to create jobs is to give more and more tax breaks to business.
Madam Speaker, the back-room plot to harmonize the GST and the PST is one more example of that. The GST, which Canadians rejected in the 1993 federal election, shifted taxes from business onto consumers, harmonization will accelerate that shift. Ordinary Nova Scotians will pay a 15 per cent tax on things like home heating fuel, children's clothing, footwear and even funerals. Madam Speaker, even the dead will not escape this harmonization. Why? So that the federal Liberals can pretend to honour their red book pledge, so that businesses will get another tax break.
These Liberal ideologues say that harmonization will create jobs; they say lower corporate tax rates will create jobs. If that were the case, this country and this province would be booming. But it isn't, Nova Scotia has the lowest corporate tax rate in the country and is looking at one of the lowest economic growth rates in the country for the coming year. Across this country, governments have been handing huge tax breaks to corporations for the last 20 years. Over those same 20 years, unemployment has become chronic, the economy has been virtually in a permanent recession, but still they cling to their dogma. Just one more tax break they say, just one more cut to the public sector and everything will be fine. They say shrink the public sector work force and the overall work force will grow. I mean, talk about voodoo economics, Madam Speaker.
This government prepares to hand Newbridge, a company with over $300 million in the bank, $10 million to create up to 50 jobs sometime. That is at least $200,000 a job, Madam Speaker. On the same day that the deal is announced, we find out that they have laid off 38 community college teachers who may make $40,000 a year. Think of it, 38 jobs cut to save money, money that is then handed out to create jobs sometime in the future. More voodoo economics, Madam Speaker.
In February the Premier and the Minister of Finance had their press conference and announced that they had reached their goal, a balanced budget. Since that magical day, 10,000 jobs have vanished in this province. Think about it; get your financial house in order and investment will follow. It reminds me of the line from that movie, Madam Speaker; build it and he will come. I, for one, would put my money on Shoeless Joe any day.
The government boasts in the Throne Speech about the Canadian Business Magazine prediction that Halifax will gain 6,000 new jobs this year. Let's hope it does, even though it is off to a very bad start, in fact. According to the latest reports from Statistics Canada, instead of gaining 6,000 jobs, that number has been lost in metro during the first three months of 1996. Unemployment is up 3,000 during those same three months and 1,000 people have left the workforce. But still the government boasts about the unemployment [Page 840]
rate in metro Halifax. You don't hear it boasting about the fact that the official unemployment rate in Cape Breton was 19.8 per cent when the Throne Speech was read and now it stands at 23 per cent. Despite these numbers, the government continues with the same old attitude towards workers and the people of Cape Breton.
Madam Speaker, when Devco workers come to this government seeking help with their jobs, to keep their industry alive, what do they get? They get excuses and the claim that the coal resources of Cape Breton are a federal responsibility. The coal resources of Cape Breton belong to the people of Cape Breton and the people of Nova Scotia, something we can't forget. They were turned over to Ottawa on the condition that the federal government revive the economy of Cape Breton. If the federal government doesn't live up to that undertaking, I say this government should be prepared to take back control of the coal resources on behalf of Nova Scotians and Cape Bretoners.
When workers at IMP in North Sydney seek government support for their efforts to negotiate a takeover of the plant from a fleeing Ken Rowe, this government again washes its hands. The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency trots out some foolishness about global competition to explain why he won't do anything to help those workers, even though his government and the previous one did plenty to help Ken Rowe.
While we envision a day when Nova Scotians can look to the Throne Speech for some sense of hope, there is little to provide such hope in this one. This Throne Speech is about hopelessness and it is about helplessness. This government is hopeless and it is helpless. It can't do much of anything about anything. It's all under the control of mysterious global-scale market forces. All it can do is balance the books by hacking indiscriminately at public services. Nova Scotians not only expect but they deserve more.
The 1996 Throne Speech is consistent with this government's single-minded pursuit of a balanced budget at the expense of the human deficits it is fostering. The government is now promising new balanced budget legislation too, and I remind you of that phrase, prevent any future government from taking our province back to the brink of financial ruin. The question that has to be asked is what will balanced budget legislation do for workaday Nova Scotians?
Experience from provinces shows that balanced budget legislation is all about the further dismantling of public sector services, redistributing income and wealth in favour of the rich and powerful in society, and cutting services to the unemployed, the poor, and yes, workaday Nova Scotians.
Being preoccupied with a balanced budget is also about using phoney and concocted bookkeeping tricks to keep a favourable bottom line. It is about sacrificing good government for the PR value of a positive balance. We've already had a taste of that trickery during this session when the government put through Resolution No. 38. The government claimed the resolution was about paying compensation to victims of abuse in provincial institutions. We know that that wasn't true. It was about getting that spending on the books in the past fiscal year so it wouldn't show up this year or next and spill red ink on the phoney concocted
balanced budget this government intends to try and fool the people with in the next election campaign.
This preoccupation with a balanced budget, rather than using balanced judgment about the needs of the province, is reflected in other ways. Nova Scotians are only too familiar with them. Because this government is preoccupied with the balanced budget, our health care system is in a state of crisis.
It is a sad state of affairs when an issue as important as health care warrants only one sentence in the Throne Speech. The Throne Speech says and I quote, "The Home Care program, launched last June, has helped more than 13,000 people . . .". What does this tell us? How has it helped? What has it done for the hundreds of people on hospital waiting lists? What has it done for Nova Scotians who require palliative care; Nova Scotians who are sent home from hospitals to die at home where they and their families are forced to pay out thousands of dollars for nursing care and prescription drugs?
There are many reasons to worry about the Home Care Program and the future of health care in this province. The strike by the Victorian Order of Nurses is a very serious symptom of a growing sickness in our health care system. The VON nurses don't want to be on strike. They care deeply for their patients. The government, however, has pushed them to the wall so they had no choice. I believe that we are seeing a glimpse of what is to come for the Home Care Nova Scotia Program. And it is part of this government's cheap labour strategy and privatization of health care.
In order to compete with the proliferating private for-profit health care agencies, the 100 year old, non-profit VON is being pressured to cut the salaries and benefits of nurses. The striking nurses are not seeking a wage hike. Like so many other workers in Nova Scotia, they haven't had a wage increase since 1991. But so that they can compete in the bidding for provision of home care services . . .
MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, would you please tell the honourable member that it is not the VON that is on strike. It is one branch, the VON in Halifax, that is on strike. Get it right, please. It makes it sound like all the VON is on strike and they are not. One branch of the VON is on strike.
MADAM SPEAKER: That is not a point of order but it is an interesting point.
MR. CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I wish the member for Lunenburg would be a little more concerned, perhaps, with resolving the strike between the nurses and the VON than worrying about semantics in this House.
Like so many workers in Nova Scotia, these nurses haven't had a wage increase since 1991. But so that they can compete in the bidding for the provision of home care services against U.S.-style health care franchises, the VON is being forced to treat its workers like the Savage Government has treated civil servants. It is the Nova Scotians who are the most vulnerable who will once again pay the highest price.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to call for order, please. It is getting increasingly more difficult to hear the member who has the floor in response to the Throne Speech.
MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you, Madam Speaker. The Throne Speech says that the government will work with the federal government to develop industries in health care. I ask, is this a sign of future privatization and an Americanization of our health care system?
Is the government's willingness to push the phoney, cheap labour solution the reason it has been so quiet in the face of federal cuts to transfer payments? The Canada Health and Social Transfer came into effect on April 1st. Despite its serious implications to the people of this province, this government hasn't taken a single action to protest the federal downloading.
We would have hoped that faced with such a potentially disastrous scenario for health, education and social services, the government might have done something more than simply promise balanced-budget legislation. The Premier should have challenged the federal government's downloading; the government could have stood up for Nova Scotians. They could have given encouragement to the many Nova Scotians who have mobilized to fight the cuts but, no, they did nothing. They just balance the books and hope that somehow investment will follow.
"Our road to new economic prosperity begins with education," reads the 1996 Throne Speech. Unfortunately, as my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, has noted in his contribution to the Throne Speech, the road to economic prosperity is being maintained like our highways, with huge potholes and cracks developing everywhere.
This government has used the forced amalgamation of school boards as a smokescreen behind which they continue to starve the education system in this province. Our children are still in classes that are too large and growing; in classes without textbooks; and our children with special needs are not receiving the services they require and deserve. We know that there is worse to come as this government squeezes more money out of schools in order to achieve their magical bottom line.
Another red herring this government has come up with is its much ballyhooed public/private partnering of its high-tech new school. This program is a case of galloping corporatism and misplaced priorities. This government has lined up a corporate Who's Who -IBM, MT&T, SHL Systemhouse, Deloitte Touche, among others - to help them run the schools. They have provided no rational justification for their decision to privatize something that the public sector has always done. They are creating a perception of two classes of schools and two classes of students: those who attend high-tech schools and the rest. They are confusing education, Madam Speaker, with high-tech gadgetry.
This government, and all the right-wing governments, pretend that they are tackling the debt because they want to help the next generation, but I say that they are not helping the next generation when the cost of balancing the books is to deprive children and adults of the education that they deserve, and the education that they need in order to make a contribution to this province in future years. That, Madam Speaker, is a false economy and it is a very cruel deception.
If this government wants to truly empower the next generation then, I say, provide it with adequate funding for education. If the government must balance the books, balance them by stopping the handouts to international business tycoons who don't need the money. Stop giving expensive golden handshakes to departing senior officials and stop giving out lucrative contracts to south-end lawyers. Balancing the budget at the expense of our children's education, Madam Speaker, is lunacy.
It is a lunacy that isn't restricted to this government, unfortunately. Despite clear and uncontradicted evidence to the contrary, this government and many others in the world cling to the view that the way to cure the deficit and the debt is to cut spending on education and social services. But education and social services did not create the debt and the deficit. They were caused by tax breaks for the rich and the corporations, and by high interest rates. They have been aggravated by the loss of tax revenue brought about by unemployment which has resulted from those high interest rates. Everyone knows that, Madam Speaker, even the Premier must know that, somewhere in the back of his head, but he, the Prime Minister, Mike Harris, Ralph Klein and the rest cling to the myth that if we just cut social programs to the bone, all our troubles will be solved.
If the government and its Liberal cousins in Ottawa would recognize what has and has not caused the deficit, then perhaps they could move on to a solution. Part of that solution is at the federal level. Since high interest rates have helped cause the deficit then a cure for the deficit has to involve lower interest rates. Lower interest rates would do more than simply reduce the government's debt servicing costs, they would also provide a needed boost to the economy and to job creation.
Job creation, Madam Speaker, and not as this government is practising, job cremation, is the real key to fighting the debt and the deficit while preserving and enhancing our health services, our social services, our educational services. Get people working and you reduce social program costs, you increase government revenues, you give people a sense of security and well-being, you give them a sense of hope for the future. Nova Scotians know that job creation is the key. That is why they listened to the Liberal Party in the first place when they were talking about jobs in the election campaign three years ago. That is why many Nova Scotians are angry at this government, because they let them down by embracing the very neo-conservatism they believed they were rejecting when they threw out Donald Cameron.
In 1993 the Liberal Party talked about jobs; in 1996 in the Throne Speech the government says that economic renewal is their fourth priority. The Throne Speech didn't need to acknowledge that; everybody knew that it wasn't a top priority of this government. The continuing high level of unemployment and lack of action is testimony enough. Since 1993 this government has talked about community economic development as the cornerstone of their plan to turn this province around. After the 30-60-90 embarrassment their chosen vehicle last year was the Access Nova Scotia Centres. Now the government restructuring plan says Access Nova Scotia Centres will become storefront offices to provide the public with everything from birth certificates to driver's licenses. Community economic development initiatives will now have to stand in line.
You know, community economic development, even if done properly, which is something that this government doesn't understand, is only part of the answer for our rural and coastal communities. There also needs to be a critical mass of economic activity in those communities. Employment in resource industries must be maximized through greater secondary processing of natural products in Nova Scotia. Government services must be maintained in those communities and there has to be a commitment to the decentralization of government jobs and, Madam Speaker, the government must fight to preserve jobs and incomes of rural Nova Scotians.
Clearly the government has failed in its duty to do so. Fishers and other seasonal workers who are demonstrating against UI cuts and changes in fishing regulations are fighting for their industry, their way of life, their communities. They are fighting to defend the very fabric of rural Nova Scotia. Not a mention of this is contained in the Throne Speech. Fundamental to the survival of coastal communities, not a mention is made, yet the government says it is committed to rural communities.
It is not just the Throne Speech that has been silent. Where was the government when the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resource Development was studying the Employment Insurance Bill? Not a word of protest was heard from this government when the committee did not see fit to move outside of Ottawa to experience first-hand the anger and concern about changes to unemployment insurance. The UI reforms of 1990, 1993 and 1994 attacked all workers. The 1996 changes continue that attack and zero in on two particular groups, the part-time worker and the seasonal worker.
How could this government not be concerned about the most vulnerable members of our work force? By continuing to make UI more restrictive, the federal government, with the full support of this government, is encouraging the phoney belief that jobs exist but people refuse to work. A more restrictive UI program, Madam Speaker, does not create jobs, it simply creates misery and despair.
A tragedy for economic renewal is that UI changes won't just harm unemployed workers and their families, the changes will also harm the businesses in many of our communities, especially those with high unemployment. While the government is always quick to talk about the multiplier effect when new jobs and incomes come to the community, they are noticeably silent when the reverse happens and jobs and incomes are ripped out.
It appears this Liberal Government is ready to acknowledge that there is a job crisis in Cape Breton finally. At least they have included a reference to it in the Throne Speech that Cape Breton is ready for special emphasis. Let's hope the special emphasis will address the consequences of Devco's plan to permanently lay off 800 miners in the next two years. The very future of an industry which contributes $216 million to the Cape Breton economy, is in jeopardy. Of course, this government promised similar treatment in the past, they even promised to decentralize government by moving jobs to Cape Breton. Instead, figures our caucus obtained through the freedom of information Act show a net decrease in civil service jobs to Cape Breton.
This government has embraced public/private partnerships as a panacea to the economic recovery of Nova Scotia. It means, I would suggest, they have succumbed to the myth that private administration is inherently better and more efficient than public administration. But you know what? There is absolutely no evidence to support this view. I made reference earlier to the concerns we have with the privatization of schools in this province. Time will tell just how bad this approach really is.
I think a Throne Speech can and should provide a plan of action along with an honest accounting of past accomplishments and failures. I am proud to say that a Throne Speech from a New Democratic Government would be much different than this one. Nova Scotians are reasonable people. They don't expect the impossible or miracles. They do expect their government and elected representatives to be forthright with them. They expect their politicians to put the interests of this province and the people ahead of their own partisan considerations. New Democrats believe in the dignity and worth of all people. We believe in the strength of community.
New Democrats would have provided some glimmer of hope. We would have joined with the many concerned citizens in Nova Scotia to fight a national campaign against the Canada Health and Social Transfer. The fact that the CHST came into effect on April 1st does not mean it is carved in stone. Ottawa's disastrous policies can and must be reversed.
We would have recognized that we need legislation to guarantee the viability of our public health care system. If we cannot rely on Ottawa to enforce the Canada Health Act, then we must proceed as a [Page 845]
province to ensure that our health care system is universal, accessible, comprehensive, affordable and publicly administered.
We would recognize the fact that starving our universities and our public schools is a form of social and economic suicide. We would have recognized that students should not be denied access to university due solely to financial circumstances.
We would have avoided offloading provincial financial problems onto the hospitals, universities, school boards, community organizations and the poor. We would not have indulged in the celebration of a balanced budget while ignoring those who have borne the cost of that achievement.
Instead of downloading restraint onto others, we would have put an end to spiralling administration costs, the creation of new Cabinet Ministries, contracting out, the provision of expensive golden handshakes to senior civil servants and expensive business handouts to firms that don't need the money.
We would have removed the special tax breaks that have been handed out to lawyers, doctors, dentists and accountants. While we don't know the total cost of this tax break, we suspect it will be in the tens of millions of dollars. These giveaways are the kinds of social programs that Nova Scotia can no longer afford.
We would have placed a moratorium on cutbacks to hospitals until a home care program was fully established. We would have announced that the regional health board legislation would be amended to facilitate the establishment of community health boards.
Instead of balanced budget legislation, we would have brought forward legislation that would prevent any future government from breaking collective agreements. Instead of pretend consultation like that done by the Minister of Finance who invited himself to a luncheon with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss his White Paper, we would have convened a conference involving business, labour and community leaders to develop a strategy to work together to grow the province's economy as a way to eliminate the debt. Before entering into any negotiations with the federal government on harmonizing the GST and the PST, this Party, Madam Speaker, would have carried out extensive consultations with Nova Scotians on the whole issue of fair taxes. A government I lead would not engage in back-room political dealings on a matter of such importance in people's daily lives.
Our Throne Speech would have included commitments to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Without these changes, the government will continue to use this legislation as the exclusion from information Act.
Finally, Madam Speaker, we would have acknowledged that the best way to deal with Canadian unity is to ensure that this country has national standards for health, education and income support and a strong and prosperous economy where people can have hope for
themselves and for their children. That's what this Party would strive for above all, giving Nova Scotians a sense of hope and a sense that through their government, they can bring about positive change in their lives and in their community.
Madam Speaker, that is why I have to stand and indicate that I will not be supporting the Speech from the Throne. I will be supporting the amendment introduced by the member for Sackville-Cobequid, that shows a complete lack of confidence in this government, and which shares the very clear sentiment that all Nova Scotians have, that this government does not have the courage, let alone the conviction, to lead this province. Thank you very much.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, because of the lateness of the day, I would move adjournment of the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
MADAM SPEAKER: The motion to adjourn the debate is in order.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on Monday, we will sit from the hours of 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. I expect we will conclude the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and we will move on to Public Bills for Second Reading.
I move that we adjourn until 7:00 p.m. on Monday.
MADAM SPEAKER: The motion to adjourn until 7:00 p.m. on Monday is in order.
We stand adjourned until Monday.
[The House rose at 1:57 p.m.]