The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Apr. 30, 1996

Fourth Session


Bus. & Cons. Serv.: Provincial Tax Amnesty - May 1st-July 31st,
Hon. D. Downe 1172
Fin. - Pension Plans: Unfunded Liabilities - Reduced,
Hon. B. Boudreau 1173
Res. 383, Nat. Res. - World Wildlife Fund: Nat. Areas Protection -
"A" Rating Congrats., Hon. D. Downe 1176
Vote - Affirmative 1176
Res. 384, Youth - Nat. Week (29/04-05/05/96): Commun. Contribution -
Congrats., Hon. J. Abbass 1176
Vote - Affirmative 1177
Res. 385, Health - Persons With Disabilities: AdHoc Comm. -
Work Recognize, Hon. R. Stewart 1177
Vote - Affirmative 1178
No. 17, Halifax Regional Water Commission Act, Hon. J. Abbass 1178
Res. 386, Portia White - Memory Preserve: Family/Black Cultural Centre -
Salute, Dr. J. Hamm 1178
Vote - Affirmative 1178
Res. 387, Fin. - Privatization: Schemes - Nonsensical, Mr. R. Chisholm 1178
Res. 388, Culture - Gaelic Songs Festival (Iona): Organizers -
Congrats., Mr. A. MacLeod 1179
Vote - Affirmative 1179
Res. 389, Justice - Correctional Facilities: Privatization -
Consequences Explain, Mr. J. Holm 1179
Res. 390, Nat. Res. - Parks and Protected Areas: Comm. Meetings -
Applaud, Mr. R. White 1180
Vote - Affirmative 1180
Res. 391, Dartmouth North MLA - BST: Imposition - Oppose,
Mr. G. Archibald 1181
Res. 392, Fin. - Surtax: Corps. Profitable Layoffs - Levy Support,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1181
Res. 393, Health - Needs (N.S.) First: Priorities - Examine,
Mr. G. Moody 1182
Res. 394, Fin. - Reading Material: Enlightened Approach - Urge,
Mr. J. Holm 1182
Res. 395, Nat. Res. - Wayne LeBlanc (Sydney):
Coal Award-Lifetime Achievement - Congrats., Mr. A. MacLeod 1183
Vote - Affirmative 1183
No. 182, Fin. - Casino (Hfx.): ITT Sheraton - Construction Schedules,
Dr. J. Hamm 1184
No. 183, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Details, Mr. R. Chisholm 1185
No. 184, Devco - Viability: Announcement (Gov't. [Can.]) - Details,
Dr. J. Hamm 1186
No. 185, Fin. - Casino (Hfx.): Contract - Operator's Fee,
Mr. G. Moody 1187
No. 186, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Haircuts - Implications,
Mr. R. Russell 1188
No. 187, Environ. - Sydney River: Lead Contamination - Testing,
Mr. J. Holm 1190
No. 188, Agric. - Hfx. Reg. Mun.: Livestock Fencing - Action,
Mr. B. Taylor 1192
No. 189, Nat. Res. - Natural Gas Rights: Mobil/Shell - Details,
Mr. G. Archibald 1193
No. 190, ERA - Bluenose II Preservation Trust: Letter (Royalties) -
Authorization, Mr. D. McInnes 1194
No. 191, Mun. Affs. - Hfx. Reg. Mun.: Amalgamation - Cost,
Mr. A. MacLeod 1195
No. 192, Health - QE II Health Sciences Centre: Operating Rooms -
Availability, Mr. J. Leefe 1197
No. 193, Health - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Suicides - Report,
Mr. T. Donahoe 1199
Mr. J. Holm 1200
Dr. J. Hamm 1203
Mr. R. White 1206
Environ. - Sydney River: Lead Contamination - Accounting Provide:
Mr. J. Holm 1210
Hon. W. Adams 1212
Mr. A. MacLeod 1214
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., May 1st at 2:00 p.m. 1216
[Page 1171]


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

12:00 P.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to call the House to order at this time to commence the afternoon's agenda.

Before we get underway, we have an introduction, I understand, of some guests who are in our midst.

The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, through you, to the members of the House, it is my pleasure to introduce to the Members of the Legislative Assembly, sitting in the Speaker's Gallery, three representatives of the World Wildlife Fund: Mr. Allan Hackman, who is National Director for the World Wildlife Fund; Mr. Colin Stewart is the Nova Scotia representative of the WWF; and Mr. Doug Linzey who is with WWF. I would ask all members of the House to give a warm welcome to these very fine gentlemen. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Hackman is from Ontario. They will be leaving shortly but later in the order of business I will making a resolution which will reflect the reason why these fine gentlemen are here in Nova Scotia.






[Page 1172]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform you and all members of the latest initiative by the Department of Business and Consumer Services. From May 1st to July 31st, a provincial tax amnesty will apply to all businesses and individuals in Nova Scotia. For three months, overdue and unreported taxes may be paid to the province without any charges or penalties being laid.

Anyone or any business that owes health services tax or tobacco, gasoline and diesel taxes will be eligible for the amnesty. Individuals who have made big ticket purchases such as boats or cars are also eligible. These buyers either do not pay provincial tax in the province of purchase or if they do are reimbursed by that province. They are expected to pay the sales tax in their home province.

Contractors who import construction materials for use in Nova Scotia are also eligible for the amnesty program. These materials are sent to Nova Scotia without taxes being paid to the exporting province. The tax is to be paid to Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the vast majority of businesses and individuals remit their provincial sales tax on time and in full. There are some, however, who for various reasons have not forwarded tax revenues to the province. In almost all cases these monies have already been paid by the customer. It does not come out of the business owners' pockets.

The Provincial Tax Commission will be waiving any penalties or charges against any individual or business that voluntarily comes forward to remit unreported or overdue provincial taxes. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, this amnesty is available to those companies or individuals not currently the subject of an audit or contacted by the tax commission about an audit.

This government is very sensitive about the concerns of business that collect taxes on government's behalf. For this reason, we are offering this window of opportunity to remit these taxes that have already been paid by the customer or to pay taxes owed to the people of Nova Scotia.

Registered vendors will be directly notified of the amnesty program. I hope all eligible companies and individuals will take advantage of this opportunity. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I must tell you that I appreciate the minister making this available to us in a very timely fashion and making sure that we were in our place in the Legislature prior to his reading. I think this is a good announcement and I do hope that people will, in fact, take advantage of this opportunity that is presented to them.

At the present time, one of the topics of discussion, certainly in my constituency, is the growth and the development in the underground economy. So hopefully this will be a signal to those people who are operating in the underground economy and not paying any kind of tax on the businesses that they are operating that they should, in fact, cease that activity and start paying the tax that is owed. If this is helpful to people who are in arrears and are a little bit concerned about coming forward for fear of penalty or any kind of prosecution,

[Page 1173]

well, I think this is good and I do hope that Nova Scotians who are in this situation will take advantage of this opportunity that the minister has presented to them. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly echo the comments of the previous speaker and I do hope that many businesses avail themselves of the opportunity to take advantage of this.

I cannot help but notice however, Mr. Speaker, that when one takes a look at the Estimates Book that certainly the ability of the Provincial Tax Commission to do its monitoring and auditing will actually be reduced, it would appear, on the basis of the figures. When you look at the amount, for example, accounts monitoring, registration and processing, this year as budgeted compared to last year, it is down by approximately $0.25 million. When you take a look at the accounts monitoring and collection, that is down by another couple of hundred thousand dollars.

If the department is not going to have the resources that are necessary to be doing the monitoring and administration to ensure that those businesses that are importing products, whether they are construction materials or used within the businesses, bringing them in from outside without paying the proper taxes, if there is not the proper monitoring system and staff there to ensure that is happening then, of course, the problem that we are experiencing and that has led the minister to make his moratorium announcement today, will only get worse.

I hope, certainly, that the figures that the government has included under its Provincial Tax Commission, which has been redirected from the Minister of Finance now to the Business and Consumer Services Minister, that those reductions will not, in fact, lead to an increase in the amount of monies that are due to this province not being collected.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report to the House, impressive performance in the pension plans of Nova Scotia's public servants and teachers. Almost $300 million in unfunded pension liabilities have been removed in one fiscal year. (Applause)

For the first time in the history of the Public Service Superannuation Plan, the plan is now fully funded. The fund is sufficient to cover 100 per cent of present and future demand. This result, Mr. Speaker, is even more significant, given that 1,100 additional civil servants took advantage of our early retirement plan over the past two years.

Compare this to recent history, Mr. Speaker. In 1987, the Public Service Superannuation Plan was funded at just 75 per cent. In the last year alone, a $135 million unfunded liability has been eliminated. How did this come about? By prudent fiscal management and shrewd investment.

Our pension funds, Mr. Speaker, are outperforming similar funds across Canada. In the Public Service Superannuation Fund, the return for the year ending March 31, 1996 was 17.3 per cent. (Applause)

[Page 1174]

This impressive performance puts Nova Scotia in a very favourable light with national and international investment houses, Mr. Speaker. But more significantly, today's news gives our public servants the comfort they deserve, knowing their current and future pension benefits are secure.

Mr. Speaker, I also have good news for teachers. The Teachers' Pension Plan is yielding impressive results as well, returning 17.1 per cent in the fiscal year ending March 31, 1996. (Applause)

Not too many years ago, teachers faced an uncertain future. Just five years ago, the plan was less than 50 per cent funded. A program was developed with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, including increased contributions, to put the pension plan back on sound financial footing. The target, Mr. Speaker, of that plan was 65 per cent funding by the year 2003.

[12:15 p.m.]

I am pleased to report, Mr. Speaker, that those estimates proved quite cautious. Today, years ahead of schedule, the Teachers' Pension Plan is approximately 78 per cent funded. (Applause) This represents a $158 million reduction in the unfunded liability and an 8 per cent improvement in the funded ratio in just the last year.

Again, the right investments and solid management yielded better results, more quickly for the teachers.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to publicly commend the superb performance and capability of Department of Finance staff responsible for managing these pension funds, namely: Rick McAloney, Executive Director, Investments, Pensions and Treasury Services; Peter VanLoon, Director, Investments; Robert Jack, Director, Pension Services Group; and all the members of the Investment Advisory Committee, who have given such valuable advice leading to this impressive result for public servants and teachers. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that there is no one who can dispute the fact that it is good news when the pension funds are approaching 100 per cent funding. I wish we could say that for the Workers' Compensation Fund. I would hope that maybe the minister would take some of the expertise from the Department of Finance staff who have been managing these funds and apply them to the Workers' Compensation Fund, which is $500 million, as I understand it, in unfunded liability.

Mr. Speaker, as I say, I am delighted for the news but, however, I would suggest that in some ways it is perhaps not surprising that this should occur. We know that the markets are buoyant right now, the Dow Jones is up to an all-record high, the Toronto market is establishing a record every day for the past week or so, so markets are good and buoyant and things are generally good. People who manage pension funds are normally quite conservative in their investment tactics and I am sure these particular funds are managed in that fashion. However, the fact that the markets themselves have been particularly good of late I think probably explains the remarkable improvement.

[Page 1175]

As I say, I am delighted that the Teachers' Pension Fund, which is jointly managed incidentally, I don't think it is all the Department of Finance, it is jointly managed along with the Teachers Union and they have achieved impressive results as has the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union fund.

So, Mr. Speaker, yes, it is good news and I am delighted for the teachers and I am delighted for the public servants of the Province of Nova Scotia.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to acknowledge this news is good news about the stability of the Public Service Superannuation Fund as well as the Teachers' Pension Plan.

With respect to the former, the Public Service Superannuation Fund, I have raised some concerns in this House about the impact on that fund in the future as a result of the combination of the early retirements and a shrinking of those people that are going to be contributing to that fund, certainly, that the fund is returning to a better position and now will certainly help prevent that. I hope though and I am sure that the managers of the fund will take that into consideration to ensure that that type of pressure is avoided in the future.

Again, certainly it must be mentioned that it is a joint committee that manages that fund, involving representatives from the employees, the NSGEU, and others, Mr. Speaker, as well as representatives from the minister's staff. Also, the Teachers' Pension Fund we must recall, I believe it was two years ago when taxpayers as well as teachers made a significant contribution . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: In 1993.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . in 1993, when teachers as well as the taxpayers of this province made a significant contribution, not only in terms of putting up money to deal with the unfunded liability, but also teachers not only increased the amount of contribution to the pension fund but they also reduced the levels of benefits and the amounts of benefits that they will be realizing through that fund.

Again, I have the same concerns with this fund as I did with the Public Service Superannuation Fund and that is the impact of the early retirements and a shrinking of the contributions to that fund. Unless we prepare for that at the earliest opportunity, then we may be faced with problems down the road.

Certainly this is good, as the previous speaker said. The markets are buoyant and have been for some three years now and that has contributed. Whatever you want to call it, we have seen that governments in the past and certainly financial managers have been able to blow it even though conditions have been right. So it is not to be taken for granted that just because circumstances are good out there, that the people who are managing these funds are, in fact, going to respond properly.

Again, as I take my seat, I say that it pleases me and my caucus to know that these two important funds, and the people who contribute to those funds, will be better protected in the future.

[Page 1176]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.


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

Whereas in its annual report card on Endangered Species Campaign, the World Wildlife Fund of Canada has awarded the Government of Nova Scotia an A Grade for its efforts to protect natural areas over the past year; and

Whereas this is the highest grade awarded by the World Wildlife Fund for 1995 and Nova Scotia is one of only two provinces receiving this high rating; and

Whereas the Parks and Protected Areas Systems Plan which brings 700,000 acres of provincial Crown lands under protection is the key reason an A Grade was achieved;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House endorse the government's good work with respect to protected areas in Nova Scotia and applaud the World Wildlife Fund for its recognition of our efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.


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

Whereas April 29th to May 5th is the second annual National Youth Week; and

Whereas this week has been established to recognize the contributions which young people make to Canada and to encourage greater youth participation year-round; and

Whereas youth groups across Nova Scotia have organized events in celebration of this week including supporting community service groups, sprucing up their communities and learning about global change;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the young Nova Scotians who are contributing to our communities this week and every week during the year.

[Page 1177]

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Minister of Health.


HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I have a resolution and an introduction following, if that pleases you.

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

Whereas the Ad Hoc Committee for Persons with Disabilities in Health Care have held a series of town hall meetings to identify the issues and concerns raised by persons with disabilities; and

Whereas the committee received a great deal of input upon consultation with communities across the province which resulted in a series of recommendations and a signature quilt being made; and

Whereas the Ad Hoc Committee for Persons with Disabilities in Health Care have completed their report to summarize their activities and the input received from the community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the work of the Ad Hoc Committee for Persons with Disabilities in Health Care and thank them for their work.

Mr. Speaker, in the gallery visiting us today and bringing with them the quilt that was prepared to mark their work, are representatives from the ad hoc committee, sitting in the west gallery, Ms. Cathy Irving; Sue Boutlier; and Cheryl Gaudet. We welcome them and ask the House to accord them a warm reception. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I have taken the liberty of circulating to all members an Executive Summary of their recommendations, and also the quilt is on display in the foyer and I invite all honourable members to have a look at this fine piece of work and to recall, with gratitude, the work of the group.

MR. SPEAKER: I believe that was a notice of motion, was it not? Is it agreeable to the House that the motion be put without notice?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1178]

The motion is carried. (Applause)


Bill No. 17 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 55 of the Acts of 1963. The Halifax Regional Water Commission Act. (Hon. Jay Abbass as a private member.)

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas the late Portia White, a native of Truro, Nova Scotia, was internationally acclaimed as a classical singer; and

Whereas Portia White brought recognition to her family, her race, her community and her province; and

Whereas the accomplishments of Portia White are being celebrated tonight with a tribute at the Black Cultural Centre in Dartmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that this House salute the family of the late Portia White and the Black Cultural Centre for keeping alive the memory of this great Nova Scotian.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable 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 Minister of Finance has reportedly said of privatization, if it makes good sense we will do it; and

Whereas the evidence we have seen proves that the privatization of Highway No. 104 is not good sense, because it will end up costing Nova Scotians more in the long run; and

[Page 1179]

Whereas the evidence we have seen so far shows that the privatization of school buildings, correctional facilities or health care services would not make good sense either;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance acknowledge that none of this government's privatization schemes make good sense, and that they will, therefore, be abandoned.

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 Cape Breton has long been recognized for its efforts to preserve and promote the Gaelic culture and language; and

Whereas the Village of Iona in Cape Breton is holding a celebration of Gaelic Cultural Awareness in May; and

Whereas the first Festival of Gaelic Songs will be held, Saturday, May 4, 1996;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the organizers of this festival, and all Nova Scotian Celts, and wish them every success in their attempts to preserve this important link to our historical past.

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 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 most effective way of reducing the cost of correctional services to Nova Scotians is by reducing the number of inmates and the length of stay in correctional facilities; and

[Page 1180]

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas for-profit companies are primarily accountable to their shareholders and their profit margins, as can be seen from a letter from the President of Esmor to its shareholders whereby he states that the company is "aggressively pursuing our longer term goal of Company growth and shareholder value enhancement."; and

Whereas this government has embarked on a process that would see for-profit firms, such as Esmor or Management Training Corporation managing Nova Scotian correctional facilities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House order the Minister of Justice to explain to Nova Scotians how a for-profit company, whose economic interests would be in an increase in the number of inmates and the length of stay, can truly reduce the costs of corrections in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.


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

Whereas the Public Review Committee for the proposed Systems Plan for Parks and Protected Areas in Nova Scotia held 26 afternoon and evening meetings in 13 locations throughout the province in 1995, with an estimated 2,000 individuals; and

Whereas the committee received 582 submissions, an indication of the high level of public consultation and input which has accompanied the proposed Systems Plan for Parks and Protected Areas in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia has received the highest grade awarded by the World Wildlife Fund for its efforts to protect natural resources;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly applaud the efforts made by the Department of Natural Resources, the committee members and all Nova Scotians who have participated in this process.

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.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 1181]


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

Whereas Page 1420 of Hansard, dated March 30, 1990, records a resolution from the member for Dartmouth North; and

Whereas the member for Dartmouth North complained that the federal GST will be implemented "even if the people of Canada don't know what it means."; and

Whereas the member for Dartmouth North called on the Premier and the Minister of Finance to tell their friends in Ottawa that they will not accept this tax until there is a better understanding by Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Dartmouth North hold fast to her principles and demand that her Cabinet colleagues not impose this new BST until the real effect on every Nova Scotia family is known.

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 employees of Maritime Tel & Tel are taking their fight for fair treatment from their employer to the company's annual shareholder's meeting today; and

Whereas hundreds of MT&T employees are losing their jobs because of downsizing and contracting out, while top executives continue to enjoy inflated salaries and bonuses; and

Whereas there is absolutely no justification, during periods of chronic unemployment, for rewarding corporate executives for creating joblessness;

Therefore be it resolved that this House support the levying of a surtax on profitable corporations that reduce their workforce without economic justification.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

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

Whereas the phrase "oppression and tyranny" was used in this Legislature on March 10, 1981; and

Whereas a resolution tabled in this Legislature on April 29, 1992, contained the terminology "quack medicine"; and

[Page 1182]

Whereas a resolution tabled in this Legislature on April 30, 1992, contained the word "witless";

Therefore be it resolved that since the member for Cape Breton Nova was permitted to use these words in this House of Assembly, yet now finds phrases such as "head goat" as not being temperate language, the Legislature's Internal Affairs Committee meet and approve appropriate wording to lessen the confusion for members in drafting resolutions for use in these hallowed Chambers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I believe the Rules of the House are clear that if a member disagrees with a ruling by the Speaker, he is to challenge that ruling by way of a substantive motion at the earliest opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader is entirely correct. The notice I find to be offensive and in contempt of the Chair. Therefore, it is out of order.

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 hospitals in Nova Scotia are already severely understaffed; and

Whereas the Minister of Health, who previously said another 2,000 to 2,500 health care workers will be cut over the next three to four years, will cut an additional $32 million from hospitals in fiscal year 1996-97; and

Whereas despite not having money to maintain adequate staffing levels in our hospitals, the Minister of Health now has five communications officers, a $140,000 part-time commissioner of Emergency Health Services and a $115,000 a year Physician Liaison Officer;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health examine his spending priorities in his department with a view to putting the health care needs of Nova Scotia before his own political self-interests.

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 tax harmonization proposal, better known as the BS Tax, would increase the tax on books, magazines and newspapers by 8 per cent to a total of 15 per cent; and

[Page 1183]

Whereas in the first year of the GST book sales dropped by 10 per cent and subscriptions to magazines dropped by 50 per cent; and

Whereas the first tax on reading has already been shown to have reduced reading in Canada, driven Canadians to shop for books and magazines outside the country and harmed writers, publishers, bookstores, libraries and students;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Liberal Governments to back away from their attack on reading and follow the example of enlightened countries such as the United States, Japan, Australia, who have recognized the value of tax-free reading materials.

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 Wayne LeBlanc, a Cheticamp native now living in Sydney, was the recipient of the Coal Award for lifetime achievement in mining, presented last night at the annual convention of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum; and

Whereas this 26 year veteran of Devco not only served as a general mine manager of the No. 26 Colliery, but was also Devco's ventilation expert and an organizer of the Westray rescue attempt; and

Whereas at the ripe old age of 49, Wayne LeBlanc continues to be a miner, working as an engineer with Devco's Prince Colliery;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Wayne LeBlanc for his award and his 26 years of mining, along with best wishes for a continued safe and successful mining career.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

Are there further notices of motion? If not, that would appear to conclude the daily routine.

The Clerk has conducted a draw for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 p.m. The winner this afternoon is the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party. He has submitted a resolution for debate as follows:

[Page 1184]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment, who has been responsible for the cover-up of lead contamination in the Sydney River area, provide a full accounting to Nova Scotians for the actions of his department.

The honourable Leader can outline that matter at 6:00 p.m. for the consideration of the House.

That will now conclude the daily routine. We advance to Orders of the Day. The Oral Question Period today will last one hour, from 12:39 p.m. until 1:39 p.m.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation. The minister is quite aware that today is the day. Today is the day that ITT Sheraton is required to submit casino design documents, budget and construction schedules to the Gaming Corporation for approval. My question to the minister is simply, have these documents been received from ITT Sheraton up to 12:00 p.m. today and if not, does he expect them this afternoon?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry I can't indicate one way or another on that, I haven't checked. But I would certainly expect them today, yes.

DR. HAMM: Well, the minister was very forthright and he is expecting the documents today. In a press release package released by the minister on December 19, 1994, he talked about a Halifax permanent casino costing $121.2 million and he talked about $5.98 million of tax revenue annually for the City of Halifax taxing that casino. My question to the minister, since he is expecting the documents today, is he expecting documents that will fulfil the expectations that he raised in Nova Scotians when he issued this press release on December 19, 1994?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the Province of Nova Scotia has not agreed to any amendment or any extension so one would presume the documents that will come forward will be on the basis of the original proposal, yes.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, what the minister appears to be saying is that he expects to have in his hands or at least in the hands of the Gaming Corporation by the end of the business day today, documents from ITT Sheraton confirming that a $121.2 million casino will be built in Halifax that will generate revenue annually to the City of Halifax of $5.98 million. Will the minister confirm that that is the case?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the proposal that was submitted by ITT Sheraton had a very detailed proposal associated with it involving the type of facility that was to be built, the estimated cost of that facility, the estimated return in the various areas. So far as we are concerned at this point in time, we anticipate a plan to come forward to meet those original proposals.

[Page 1185]

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Finance. Yesterday when the federal Finance Minister was in town he received a presentation from booksellers, publishers, writers and librarians on the impact of the harmonization of the GST and PST on their industry. In response to that representation, rather creative representation, I think most people would agree, having brought that issue to his attention he is quoted in the local news as having said, with respect to the impact on that industry, "It's obviously something we are going to look at and continue to discuss. And there may well be a multitude of solutions, but we're simply going to have to get at it.". (Interruption) The federal Minister of Finance, his name is Martin. I am not on a first name basis, I am sure our Minister of Finance is. Our Minister of Finance has repeatedly said that once he had an agreement in principle with respect to harmonization he would let Nova Scotians in on the details. I would like to ask the minister if, in fact, he could give us some indication as to whether we are going to be privy to those details in the immediate future?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, we have made public the Memorandum of Understanding which we signed with the federal government and I think that outlines the agreement in principle. I am not sure if that is what the honourable member is referring to but if not perhaps he could clarify it in his first supplementary.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I guess my question relates more to whether we are going to get the details of not only the deal itself but also the impact that deal is going to have. Even people who say that overall this scheme will be good for Nova Scotia, agree that the question of who the winners are and who the losers are in many cases is extremely grey, is extremely unclear. We have, in the case, booksellers, barbers have been listed and other people.

[12:45 p.m.]

I would like to ask the minister whether, in fact, he will agree to commission public hearings and studies to determine who the winners and losers are before deciding on the final details of this tax harmonization?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, we have, I think, been in touch with any groups. Some of the contact we initiated from the department, some of the contact came from groups and interested citizens to us. We have indicated that we are prepared to sit down - and we have a year before this thing has to be implemented to sit down - and discuss with them challenges that individual groups and organizations may feel and we are prepared to do that and we are going to be doing that on an ongoing basis. Some of the larger and more organized groups, we have been in touch with putting a process in place a month and one-half before we had even reached an agreement in principle and the process was put in place on the condition that we did reach such an agreement. With the agreement now having been signed, we are moving ahead to do that consultation and discussion.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister indicated here in this House on a number of occasions that studies have been done, that models have been developed and used in order to reach some determination on the potential impact of this and on the question of winners and losers. For a lot of people, again, the winners and losers are not clear. In fact, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council representatives, while they support this harmonization deal, agree about the fact that the actual determination of who the winners are and who the losers are and the actual impact on the economy is not clear and that those studies need to be done.

I would like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, will the government, will he, table any studies, models that they have, that have already been done on the impact of the GST and PST harmonization and/or [Page 1186]

will they commit to do those kinds of studies in a public way, making those public and having public hearings so that people will be able to get a sense before the deal is concluded on what the impact is going to be on individuals, on businesses and on the overall economy?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, let me repeat an undertaking to that honourable member that I have given, I think, to another honourable member earlier. In fact, it is this. Our department has conducted modelling and various studies and investigations probably over the last 18 months in all sorts of directions. We have done that on an ongoing basis and in consultation with others. What I have asked my department to do, because I anticipated that the House would be interested, I asked my department to put those studies in report form so that I might table that report in the House of Assembly. I have given the undertaking to the House that I will do exactly that. Now, I have to tell you as well, I also indicated to my staff that their first priority at the moment is getting the budget and supporting documentation ready for the House but as soon as the budget is through, and to fulfil my undertaking to table it in this House, in this session, they have indicated that that report will be ready and I will be tabling it here.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Premier. The Premier had occasion on the weekend to respond to the press about a question regarding the viability of Devco and the plan afoot to preserve a coal mining industry in Cape Breton. The Premier made reference that he had information about an impending announcement by the federal government and that he, in fact, had some information.

My specific question to the Premier, is the announcement that is to come from the federal government one that is really one that will announce such things as an early retirement package, separation package, the assumption of certain environmental costs for Devco, which in reality will lead eventually to a cessation of coal mining in Cape Breton, or is the federal announcement going to be a realistic plan to develop a self-sustaining coal mining industry in Cape Breton?

HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, what I have spoken of is our wish to work with the federal government which we will do in the interest of Cape Breton but it would extremely presumptuous of me to indicate that there is a federal policy that I know what is in it and that I intend to announce it in the House of Assembly in Halifax.

DR. HAMM: I thank the Premier for suggesting that he is going to work with somebody to resurrect and what is happening to Devco.

My specific question then to the Premier - because he makes reference to doing something and so many have made reference to the fact that the Premier has been doing nothing on this issue - so my specific question to the Premier, in definite terms, what role is

[Page 1187]

the provincial government prepared to play in developing a self-sustaining coal industry in Cape Breton? The specifics.

THE PREMIER: Perhaps the words that he used, the resurrection of Devco, was an unfortunate term but let him live with that. What this provincial government will do is we will work with our federal colleagues in whatever way we can to strengthen the economy of Cape Breton and to look at an overall plan which deals with the unacceptably high level of unemployment in Cape Breton.

DR. HAMM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am not getting the detail from the Premier that I was hoping I would get, in terms of specifics, but let me try again. Has the Premier indicated to any special minister in his government that they are responsible for working with Devco, with the unions, with the federal government, with the municipality in the Cape Breton region, any specific member of his government? For example, the Minister for the ERA; for example, the Minister of Natural Resources. Has anyone been specifically designated to act on behalf of his government in the resolution of the problem in the Cape Breton coal industry?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I have said quite publicly is that this particular plan, the strategy we are working on, has been vetted by many members of our Cabinet, that it has been discussed with the MLAs and is still being formulated and will be discussed at an appropriate time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.


MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance, who is responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. As the minister is aware, the Gaming Corporation has released quarterly reports. I wrote the minister a month or so ago, seeking some clarification on several points in the last report that were different from the first report. One of the categories I was interested in was Category and Schedule One. I am sure the minister is familiar with Schedule One of the Halifax Casino Report, that lists $553,000 as the operator's fee. I am sure the minister was aware that this was not in the schedule of the first report that the corporation released.

Would the minister advise what exactly is the operator's fee and where is it provided for in the contract? I have gone through the contract and I couldn't find it in the contract. I wonder if the minister would indicate what it is and where I would find it in the contract.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to contact the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, specifically the Chair, Mr. Fiske, to refer him to the inquiries the honourable member has made. I have received some information back. I haven't had an opportunity to review it yet so I may be in possession of all the information required to answer your accounting questions. I can't give it to you off the top of my head.

I might offer to deal with these issues perhaps more expeditiously, to have the Chair and the senior accounting people meet with the honourable member and deal with the accounting questions directly.

[Page 1188]

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I will consider that. I am sure that the minister, being the one responsible, would want to know these things, as well as myself and other Nova Scotians. I am sure he is kind of interested as to why there are changes in schedules and whether or not they are provided for in the contract. Those are pretty important questions.

I would ask the minister then, given the fact that he has received some information, could he indicate to me when it is possible that he might divulge this information to me or would he suggest that even if he has the information, it might be quicker to find it out from the corporation itself?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I don't know about quicker but I think it would be better because we have some very competent people with tremendous accounting backgrounds and experience to whom we have given the responsibility of running the Gaming Corporation and its affairs. I have no hesitation in saying to the honourable member that their explanation would probably be much better than mine, but I will leave that to the honourable member. If he wants to take me up on the offer and sit down and meet with them, I would be more than happy to assist him in arranging that. On the other hand, if he wants me to respond to it, I will undertake to indicate to him that I will be in a position to respond by Thursday.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I don't have any difficulty with as late as Thursday. I guess, given the fact that I would have to set up the time, that is probably as early as I would get the information anyway. Given that fact, I will wait and see what the minister has for me.

I would ask the minister also, in another category of overheads of $1.1 million, the minister is aware that we have a temporary casino and I guess after today, we will know when construction will start on the new casino. I would ask the minister, given the fact that there are some details and loose ends, if he would provide those Thursday in those two areas, and if not, I will go to the corporation. Obviously, what I can't find out there, I will have to come back to the minister. Would the minister agree with that?

MR. BOUDREAU: I am not certain what additional information the honourable member wanted but I would say, as a matter of course, I would have no objection - and I would communicate to the chair of the corporation - to any honourable member of this House sitting down and getting into as much detail as he wanted to get into with respect to the accounting processes. In some cases, I assure the member that the answers he will get from them will be better than the answers he will get from me because accounting was never one of my strong suits.

However, I will indicate to the honourable member with respect to the construction of the casino, as of May 1st, as he knows, the clock is running for construction of the casino along the lines of the original proposal. It is open to the parties at any time - today, tomorrow, next week, next month, six months from now - to amend that but the clock starts to run, and, in fact, it is running on the basis of the submission that they made originally in their proposal to the Casino Project Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.


MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon and the Minister of Finance was there from the province, as well as the federal Minister of Finance. I was wondering if the Minister

[Page 1189]

of Finance would agree with a statement that was made by his federal counterpart during his address to the Chamber of Commerce, when he said that one of the things that is going to happen with the imposition of a blended tax is that some things that were previously free of PST would no longer be taxed and he mentioned haircuts. He said although the actual tax on a haircut will increase that, in fact, the price of haircuts will probably fall because the barber will at least get an input tax credit for the tax on his scissors. Would the minister agree with that statement?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Well, I think I can remember the example that was given. I think the point that the federal Finance Minister, the Honourable Paul Martin, was making was there are some businesses who, at the final stage of a transaction, will be charging a blended tax when in the past they did not. What he pointed out was that with respect to inputs for those businesses, whether it be inputs for supplies, electricity, renovations to the business or for any number of taxes, those businessmen now pay provincial tax on those items, on those inputs, exactly. (Interruption)

They do, they pay input tax credit on those. The barber buys some lumber to repair his shop or to lay in a carpet, he pays provincial tax, I think. I don't recall any barber exemptions that we have in our provincial legislation, so he pays tax. Does anyone believe that he doesn't charge the customer sitting in the chair to recover that? I think that is what he does, he is not a charitable institution, not a charitable organization. He charges his customers, as any business does, to recover his costs and hopefully to make a little bit of a profit. So what this particular measure does is it takes out all of the embedded taxes along the way and that results in lower costs for the businessman and one would presume those lower costs will be passed along to the customer, just as higher costs would be passed along. The other little question on the barber I might add, since we are dealing with barbers, if in fact the barber is making less than $30,000 then he will enjoy a full exemption.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't give the barbers very much of a problem, I know that. I think that what the minister is saying is hogwash because any service that is provided that is essentially all labour, that service is not going to decrease in price no matter what the minister says and certainly, barbering is one of them and everybody gets their hair cut, even people like me that haven't got too much.

My next question to the minister is, as I understand it at the present time there is no GST on insurance services. Would the minister confirm that there is no intention under this blended tax scheme that he has cooked up with his federal counterpart to impose upon the insurance industry a combined GST/PST whatever the name for that tax is, on that industry?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I think just to go back for a moment to the first question, the issue is not whether or not a given service will cost either a little more or a little less. The issue that the Minister of Finance was trying to make federally and I think it is a legitimate point, is that the embedded taxes, in any service that is delivered there are embedded taxes in bringing that service to the customer, those will be reduced. By whatever extent they are reduced, that savings will be passed along. Now, talk to an engineer and ask him how much provincial sales tax he now pays on equipment and renovations and items that comes into his business that he charges the customer for now? Talk to him about that and you will see where the embedded taxes are.

[Page 1190]

In any event, I don't want to lose track of the second question which was insurance. The agreement in principle, the Memorandum of Understanding which we have made fully public indicates that the point on which we proceed is the present GST base.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, this agreement that is being reached with the Atlantic Provinces is the agreement which will essentially be used as they spread the blended tax across the country. I am sure that the minister is aware that in some provinces, whereas there is no GST applied to the insurance industry, that in some provinces there is a provincial sales tax applied to insurance premiums. Would the minister confirm that under this agreement, those provinces that presently collect a health services tax on insurance premiums will have to write those taxes off when they sign on to the blended GST/PST, or else the feds will extend their umbrella to cover those items that are presently covered by PST alone?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the essential element of this new national sales tax is that it be exactly that, a national sales tax with a national rate and a national base. So the base in Nova Scotia will be the same as the base in Ontario or Saskatchewan or British Columbia. If on the present point of departure, yes, the member is right that if there is a province now charging provincial sales tax on something which is not included in the base, that would be a loss of their revenue. They would be entitled to apply the same formula that we did and Newfoundland did and New Brunswick did in terms of federal compensation. But I can tell you, based on the present Memorandum of Understanding that we have signed, there are really no other provinces in Canada that would qualify for significant amounts of compensation.

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question through you, sir, to the Minister of the Environment. The government and the minister's department have known of the contamination of the Sydney River homes and the properties that resulted from the PetroCanada sandblasting of the storage tanks since 1992. Disgracefully, however, there was a cover-up, one that the minister and certainly his department have been aware of. Although they didn't initiate the cover-up, they certainly have been part of that cover-up because this minister and this government knew about the potential health risks to the residents who live in the surrounding area, yet, neither this minister and this government, nor the previous minister of the government before this one, let the residents know about that risk, nor did the ministerial order of January 30th order that those neighbouring homes and properties be tested for lead contamination.

My question to the minister is quite simply this. Why didn't the minister, when he made his ministerial order, order that an independent testing of those properties that his department knew were at risk, surrounding the MacKenzie property, be tested for lead contamination?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I think the allegation of a cover-up at this point in time is a bit unfounded and a bit unjustified. We have found the answers to the questions and, as I said last week in answer to the questions, we could not be and will not be responsible for those things that happened in 1992.

[Page 1191]

As I said last week and I repeat again today, when we became aware of this problem in 1995, we took the necessary action and brought about a resolution to the affected household that was bringing the matter to our attention. Mr. Speaker, we have heard from some other residents who expressed the same concern and, as I said last week, we are meeting with those people with the proper expertise, the Department of Health, PetroCanada, the residents and our department officials. I am satisfied that we are moving toward a resolution.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure this minister that I do not expect him to answer for the irresponsible actions of the former Tory Government in this regard. I am not asking him to do that. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, this reminds me of the kind of cover-up, on a smaller scale, of Junky Jims, St. Margarets Bay area. This minister and this department knew about that since 1992 -not this minister, personally, but his department did - and this minister and this government was responsible since 1993. You don't have to be an engineer, you don't have to do major studies to know that a property adjacent to one that is contaminated, that there is a very high probability that the neighbouring properties are also going to be contaminated.

My question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister. Why did this minister allow that cover-up to take place? Why didn't he take the appropriate actions to ensure that those residents' health was not going to be further compromised because of the continued irresponsible actions by the Liberal Government that are on top of the irresponsible actions of the former Tory Government?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, he talks again about a cover-up that we were part of, and we were not. What he is talking about is a lull in time that occurred between 1993 and 1995. That lull in time can be put to, if you will, to protect the interests of the individuals involved. The family were in litigation with the old company. That was no role for the government to play and certainly not our department. When that time period passed, the family brought it to my attention personally, with the MLA for the area, and we went to work and resolved the situation. The accusations we hear are not founded.

MR. HOLM: A lull in time but, unfortunately, not a lull in the health risks to the residents. Mr. Speaker, more than one family is involved. The minister keeps going back to the MacKenzies, but there are the Campbells and all others who live in that general area who are also faced with a very serious health risk that this minister and this government knew about yet they did absolutely nothing about it. I call that a cover-up.

Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister. The residents in the area have confidence in Anna Steele in the minister's department. Since she became involved, some things started to happen for the MacKenzies, yet this minister's department refuses to assign her to be the contact person to deal with the other residents in the area. My question to the minister is quite simply this. If the minister is, indeed, trying to restore confidence and a small sense of credibility back - one that they don't deserve - will this minister . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Please!

MR. HOLM: . . . ensure that Anna Steele is, in fact, going to be assigned to liaise and deal with the other residents, so that hopefully some kind of action will be taken to test and remedy the problems that the other neighbours are also having?

[Page 1192]

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe it is appropriate for the minister to stand in the House and name an employee that he is going to assign to a particular task. I have a deputy minister who is ultimately responsible for assigning responsibilities for the government, and the deputy minister knows where I stand on this issue. He knows what instructions we put forward and I expect him to deliver, as he has in the past. (Applause)

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


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. The minister has been aware, for some time now, that for several months the Doug Saunders' family in the Musquodoboit Valley and, to a lesser degree, Mr. Saunders' neighbours have had to endure the transgressions and misdeeds and marauding of a herd of cattle. The cattle have caused somewhere around $5,000 damage to the lawn and the landscape of the Saunders' family. They have posed a hazard to the motoring public, and of course school buses, and things of that nature, have had to stop and have had very near misses with accidents.

Most farmers - and the Minister of Agriculture will agree - look after their cattle properly and do keep an eye on their cattle. Mr. Saunders tried repeatedly to resolve this situation in a friendly, neighbourly and peaceful manner, and it all has been to no avail. The Minister of Agriculture's department has been contacted, the former deputy certainly kept the minister apprised of what was taking place - municipal officials, by-law officers, enforcement officers, the RCMP - and unfortunately nothing has happened. I ask the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing, what action has the minister taken to alleviate this protracted and very frustrating and dangerous situation?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for raising the question. As I pointed out to the member last night, the department has been looking at this personal matter of his and I certainly acknowledge that the individuals involved, I certainly would not wish this upon anyone in particular. But I wish to point out to the honourable member that the fences arbitration committee responsibilities are under municipal jurisdiction. However, I did indicate to the honourable member that we would, certainly, be in contact with the new Halifax Regional Municipality Council to get some indication how exactly they are looking at this present matter. I certainly undertake to provide the honourable member with an update as soon as we receive a follow-up on this particular matter.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that response from the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. However, the minister will know that the Halifax Regional Municipality has forwarded a request to the minister requesting that the Governor in Council designate the new Halifax Regional Municipality as a municipality under the Fences and Detention of Stray Livestock Act. Before the fences arbitration committee can take corrective measures the municipality must be designated under the Fences and Detention of Stray Livestock Act. Will the Minister of Agriculture this coming Thursday when Cabinet meets request that the Governor in Council designate Halifax Regional Municipality as a municipality under the Fences and Detention of Stray Livestock Act?

[Page 1193]

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member did raise this issue this past Thursday. As I pointed out to the honourable member, this past couple of days have been relatively busy with my budget estimates, I haven't had a chance to look at this resolution. As soon as the estimates have gone through the Red Room proceedings, I will certainly undertake personally to look at the resolution that has been forwarded off to our department. We will provide the honourable member with a full update on whose responsibility the fences arbitration committee is, follow up to the resolution that has been sent by the Halifax Council directly to our office and I undertake to provide the honourable member, as soon as possible, with an update on this issue that I certainly appreciate hearing about. I understand how critical it is for the neighbour of his who has to certainly bear this problem at the given time.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, again, I appreciate the response from the Minister of Agriculture but I had asked a specific question. Will the Minister of Agriculture at the next Cabinet meeting which, I believe, is this Thursday, request the Governor in Council to designate Halifax Regional Municipality as a municipality under the Fences and Detention of Stray Livestock Act because it is extremely important that the municipality have that designation in order to alleviate this situation? Will the minister do all that he can to hasten up this very serious concern?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again, I undertake and I did mention this to the honourable member that I undertake full responsibilities, once the estimates have been dealt with. I will personally look into this personal matter and that I will do what our office can do to certainly provide a quick solution as soon as possible to the immediate problem that the member raises.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.


MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Last fall the Government of Nova Scotia announced a pipeline project and oil and gas exploration off our coast. The gas business, as you know, has changed greatly in the past few months and years. Last year the price of natural gas in Alberta was decreased by 12 per cent, contracts that used to be for several years in duration are now almost weeks and months in length of time. During the time of the market change and the fluctuation of gas prices, Nova Scotia gave the rights to natural gas and the rights to the pipeline to the Mobil and the Shell oil companies. Could the minister provide some brief detail, what in exchange for this gift did the people of Nova Scotia receive?

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite doesn't have quite accurate information and if he would like, I could provide him with more accurate information. We didn't announce a pipeline, there is a consortium in place and the pipeline was announced by someone else. We are in the process, as the member opposite may know or may not know, it is obvious to me he doesn't have as much information as he perhaps should have or thinks he has but we are in the middle of negotiations with the consortium with the gas off Nova Scotia and those negotiations are ongoing. We remain very hopeful and very optimistic that those negotiations will come to fruition and we will move forward from there. I think if the member would like further information, more accurate information, I will provide it to him on another day.

[Page 1194]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, as a point of correction for the honourable minister, the Government of Nova Scotia was certainly taking great credit and bows for the announcement. The Premier was there, the minister was there, some Cabinet Ministers were there, it almost looked like a government announcement. Now maybe all of those fellows just had nothing to do that morning so they all decided to arrive at the press conference. I don't know. But it certainly looked as though it was a government announcement. But the people are wondering, what in exchange did Nova Scotia get for signing off the rights to our natural gas and the right to a pipeline. The negotiations are ongoing for the royalties to the oil companies and we want to know is there any opportunity for Nova Scotia to see a settlement so that we can understand why your government signed off the natural gas and oil in our offshore?

MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, once again I would say the member opposite doesn't have all of his facts. The government is getting out of the oil and gas business. The government shouldn't be in the oil and gas business, it is better left to the private sector. The private sector has leases that they take from us and the government is negotiating and the benefits that will come to government will be royalties and taxes and other economic activity and jobs and that will be the benefits to Nova Scotia.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, look, that may very well be. NSRL provided a working document, they provided a worksheet, they provided a business plan for the future of NSRL. It was presented to the minister who accepted it, it was taken to Cabinet and rejected. Shortly thereafter, the minister indicated this company was going to be sold. Now, you have indicated that I don't have any information, I don't know what I am talking about, every question that I have asked the minister there is no answer for it. So perhaps the minister could tell us, this oil company was supposed to have been sold not later than January 1st of this year, does the minister know whether or not the oil company has, in fact, been sold, has NSRL been wound up?

MRS. NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, NSRL, in fact, is being sold. I have to remind the member opposite, we are not just selling a piece of real estate or a house here. This is a very complicated issue, it is a very complicated sale. We have hired experts to exercise our interests for us in the sale of NSRL. Rothschilds has been involved in that. Some parts of it have already been sold and we are making sure that it acts in the best interests of the province, which I would say that the members opposite don't know a whole lot about.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.



MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. The Chairman of the Bluenose II Preservation Trust has embarked on a fund-raising campaign which has left a few people scratching their heads. Trust Chairman, Wilfred Moore, paid approximately $7.00 the other day to courier a letter to the owner of a local stamp making company telling her that she had to give the Bluenose Preservation Trust 10 per cent of what she makes on her stamps or to cease and desist making them immediately.

The Preservation Trust spends $7.00 to demand a fee amounting to approximately $5.00. My question to the minister is, did he authorize Mr. Moore's letter?


MR. MCINNES: Well, I appreciate that he didn't authorize that letter, but the concern is that the Bluenose II is a very important Preservation Trust Fund and the people who make images of the Bluenose are also very important and play an important role in the crafts of Nova Scotia. I would just ask the minister what is his reaction or what is his opinion or what is he going to say to these people who are making the Bluenose images for crafts to be made available for tourists and people who are interested in them in Nova Scotia?

[Page 1195]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I think our government's record is clear in terms of supporting the craft industry throughout Nova Scotia. I think it is also clear in its support of the Preservation Trust, a group that came along and has attempted, I think extremely well, to bring this vessel back to the people of Nova Scotia, to treat it with the kind of pride and respect and dignity that was all too often missing in the previous government's handling of that vessel.

So, the question I guess is, what is the position of the government? The government's position is that the Preservation Trust is a fund-raising organization, a group that has entered into a partnership with government to look after the vessel, has received tremendous praise and accolades from the people of this province for its work to date.

On the specific issue of the letter and the issue of royalties, they have acquired, they have the design rights and the intellectual property rights, the copyright, to the original Roué family design and hence are in a position to ask those who are making commercial benefit off those royalties, for part of the royalties to be returned for the preservation of the vessel.

MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I guess the minister's answer was basically that he was in favour of the letter asking for funding. That is my understanding is it not, of what the minister just said?

MR. HARRISON: I think the question was whether I had authorized the letter. The answer was clearly no, I didn't authorize the letter. The question is whether or not I support the Preservation Trust effort to raise funds for the Bluenose? Yes, I support that. Do I support the issue of royalties and copyright issues? I am not a lawyer, Mr. Speaker. I don't have the grounds or the basis to know what a royalty is, what a copyright is, in terms of this design. What I do know is that the trust has acquired the design rights and they are asking those who are making commercial benefit to help pay for the vessel.

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


MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, before I proceed I would like to table some pictures from the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley for the Minister of Agriculture in relation to the question that was asked earlier. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: All right. Let's get to the question now.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I believe I said on behalf of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. In any case, my question through you is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It has become apparent that the cost of the amalgamation of the new municipality of Halifax is expected to exceed $20 million and Mayor Walter Fitzgerald

[Page 1196]

believes that this figure will be somewhere between $22 million and $24 million. Can the Minister of Municipal Affairs provide this House today with a detailed figure of exactly what these costs will be?

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think it has been quoted any number of times, in the media, and I know if the honourable member should ask the municipality, it is very much available, those particular costs. As I have answered in questions previously, of that amount of money which was discussed, of approximately $20 million, $11 million of it is to be used for early retirement and severance pays which the municipality would suggest is a way to treat their employees quite fairly. (Interruption)

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, this whole thing has a lot of resemblance to what took place in the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton. The minister said there that there would be lower taxes and increased efficiency with her plan and with the legislation that this government put in place and now the ratepayers in industrial Cape Breton have seen an increase in residential taxes. Those who used to live in the former County of Cape Breton, the industrial base there has seen an increase in taxes. (Interruption)

Bob Harvey is one of many of the councillors in this area, Mr. Speaker, who is extremely frustrated . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Is this a question?

MR. MACLEOD: . . . with what is going on with these increased costs of amalgamation.

MR. SPEAKER: A question please.

MR. MACLEOD: Can the minister advise this House today of the areas where these miscalculations were made so that other areas, such as Pictou and other places that the minister has advised that the status quo just won't do, can take all these facts and figures into account when trying to decide about amalgamation?

MS. JOLLY: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I think it is very important to note here the savings that are available because of the amalgamation which these people opposite like to try and deny all the way through. It has always been stated in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality that there was a $4.6 million cost to do the amalgamation and there is a $4.2 million savings. Within one year, they are going to be able to recoup the cost because of their annual savings of $4.2 million. The ongoing long-term cost of $4.6 million is going to allow them in just a little over one year to recoup that expense. Then they will have the $4.2 million to utilize all the way through. That is a savings.

There is no question, though, Mr. Speaker, and this member knows full well, that six of the municipalities there were in very difficult financial situations. Just imagine where we would be today without the amalgamation. Where would we be today with Glace Bay and New Waterford? Where would we be today without the amalgamation? We made some tough decisions there and they are the right ones.

[Page 1197]

[1:30 p.m.]

Let me tell you, I was there last weekend and I had 12 people come up to me and say, thank you very much for the amalgamation, we feel like we are on the right road, we are on to recovery and we are on our way to being a good regional government, a good regional economic area. (Applause)

MR. MACLEOD: Thank you very much for the applause. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that 12 people out of 150,000 people is not very good odds, even in a casino in Sydney.

Mr. Speaker, as a resident of that area, I know that taxes have gone up. I have felt that and so have you and others in this Chamber. Is the minister prepared to sit down with the officials of the new regional municipality and address their concerns so that they can form a compensation package to assist with the increased costs of amalgamation that was forced on them by this government?

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you one thing that this government can say every time, we have sat and talked and consulted with each and every person who asked us to. That is something I can say that from the people opposite has never happened. All I have to do is think back to the days when they went to the previous Premier, Donald Cameron. The union was asked to come in, one or two of them. They sat there, Premier Cameron told them exactly what he wanted, what he thought was going to happen and then they were told to leave. No consultation whatsoever, Mr. Speaker.

There is no question that we have been able to meet and consult with those people each and every time it has been requested. I can go even further than that, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Finance and myself sat down with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and negotiated an opportunity for them to deal with their financial implications. This province put forward $2 million to assist that region to be able to deal with their financial difficulties. Even more important, the people of Cape Breton, the people of industrial Cape Breton and the regional council have come forward with solutions to their own problems. It is a made-at-home solution, which is the most important. Community development, community opportunities, the community deciding what it needs and how it should be working. That is very important.

My final point on this, Mr. Speaker. I talked with Mayor Coady on the weekend and told him that we would be more than happy to sit down and speak with him. I phoned him with regard to the harmonization. I talk to these people on an ongoing basis. You will be glad to know that I am having lunch with Mayor Fitzgerald tomorrow, so there are other meetings that are ongoing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.



MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health and I am going to be quoting from a letter that I will table. The letter is from Mildred A. Conrad, a constituent of mine. Mrs. Conrad suffers from Dupuytren's contracture. I will quote briefly from the letter. The minister will see that I have not quoted anything out of context.

[Page 1198]

Mrs. Conrad says, "Some time ago I was called to be at the VG, for the operation on the other hand, on March 21, 1996, at 11:30 a.m. . . . I was there before 11:30. Around 1 o'clock Dr. Parkhill called me but not as I expected for the operation. He told me he had been at the hospital since early morning, and at that time had not yet had an O.R. to use. He said I might as well go home as while he is willing to do all his patients he is not allowed to operate after 5 to 6ish.".

My question to the minister, is it true that doctors are not allowed to operate at the VG after "5 to 6ish", as stated by Mrs. Conrad, speaking on behalf of Dr. Parkhill?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I can't answer for that particular department. I can see operating room time being 24 hours a day in the Victoria General Hospital, or the QE II Hospital, as it is now known. I don't know what that means.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Conrad goes on to write, "I then asked him . . .", that is Dr. Winston Parkhill, ". . . if all the O.R.'s were busy. He told me some of the O.R.'s are closed, unstaffed and unable to be used.".

My question to the minister, is this true, that operating rooms at the VG are unavailable because they are closed, unstaffed and, therefore, unable to be used because of funding cuts to hospitals?

DR. STEWART: No, Mr. Speaker, operating theatres are used and that particular facility is very efficient in its use of operating room and theatre facilities. I can only tell you that we do more procedures in the QE II than we did several years ago. That is a matter of fact in the record. (Interruption)

MR. LEEFE: The answer may be of some comfort to the minister but I am sure it won't be to Mrs. Conrad.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to hear the honourable member for Queens, if the member next to him could please be a little quieter.

MR. LEEFE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mrs. Conrad closes her letter by noting that her Dupuytren's contracture is not life-threatening. My question to the minister is, what is he going to do, as the minister responsible for health care delivery in Nova Scotia, to alleviate legitimate complaints of people like Mrs. Conrad, whose conditions, while not life-threatening, certainly impact negatively on their quality of life?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I will not comment on a specific case, except to say that facilities are available in this province to do necessary surgery and the clinicians will make their decisions on when and where, and that is the way it should be. It should not be brought to a political arena where shots are taken at clinicians' decisions. Clinicians will decide that, they should decide that. We fund those facilities and they are making very efficient use of those facilities as seen by the increase in the number of surgical procedures done on a yearly basis in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

[Page 1199]


MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: My question through you, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Health. I want to ask the Minister of Health if in recent days, having discovered, I am sure, there is no legal justification for the withholding of reports relative to the unfortunate suicides which did occur in Cape Breton, as to whether or not the Minister of Health has changed his attitude in terms of making available to the families involved, some detail as to what just has happened by way of the quality of psychiatric assessment given to those who, unfortunately, are now dead, and what explanations have been given to the families of those suicide victims. Has the minister changed his attitude in that regard?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I continue to assert that the initial evaluation of the three cases by Dr. Kutcher and his colleague, and that report is in the hands of the hospital and they are dealing with the recommendations. We are satisfied, as the Ministry of Health, that those recommendations are being followed, in particular the recommendation that a broader investigation of mental health services in Cape Breton and at the regional hospital be carried out forthwith. The hospital has proceeded on that recommendation, hiring an independent evaluator to come in and look at that, including the initial report, and to make those findings public and to be presented to the public and to the families involved. We are in agreement with that procedure, as had been indicated by the hospital, that they would follow the recommendations by the original reviewers and they are following those. What will follow from that is a public disclosure of all of those findings.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order and I am just trying to be helpful to the Minister of Finance by raising this point of order. Last Thursday I had asked the Minister of Finance if he would table a signed copy of the Memorandum of Understanding that he had signed with the federal minister with regard to the new harmonized, or I should say the blended sales tax, the BST. He said he would provide me with a signed copy; he couldn't agree to do it by the end of the day, but he said either by the end of the week or, at the latest, the early part of the following week. Well, tomorrow marks the middle of the week and that means that the earliest part of the week is gone. I am just trying to help the minister to remember the commitment he had made so that he certainly wouldn't be in breach of the commitment that he made to me last Thursday.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the helpful reminder from the honourable member and I see a member of my staff in the gallery so he obviously is taking careful note and we will be supplying that directly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs.

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on an introduction in the House for the honourable member for Cape Breton West. I am pleased to advise the honourable member we are very pleased to have with us today the Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Mr. John Coady. I would ask him to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 1200]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome these opportunities as we go into Supply to be able to stand and to speak on pretty well whatever topic we wish and that we consider of importance to bring forward. Today, I would like to talk briefly about an issue that I had raised during a late debate last week but during which I wasn't able to complete my comments. That has to do with the government's short-sightedness and I might even want to choose some stronger words, some of the ones might not even be considered parliamentary that I might want to attribute to what the government is considering doing in terms of privatizing correctional services in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Last weekend after we left this House, I decided to go home and to do what the government is always telling us to do and that is to use the information highway. So I went home and turned on my computer and I went into my Internet connection and I turned my browser and the minister responsible for the spider-web would understand these high-tech terms, of course, but I turned my browser to the word corrections. I asked for the computer, through the World Wide Web, to do a search on correctional companies, private, for-profit correctional companies, so that I could find out a little bit more about some of these companies that are involved and that are taking part in this, what is seen by those companies to be a major growth opportunity for them in the United States and around the world. I say to the minister through you, of course, Mr. Speaker, in the most respectful way that I possibly can, maybe it would be helpful for the Minister of Justice to turn his browser to the World Wide Web as well and to start to look up some of the information and problems that have existed with some of these correctional companies around the world and around the United States.

I had no difficulty in a very short time, downloading, literally, what some would classify as a small book, everything from their financial statements to the difficulties that some of those companies have been involved with, the investigations of the companies, the kinds of practices that they have been involved with and they have not all been pretty pictures. There was and there have been news reports, I know I heard it on CBC today, talking about one of the companies that the government has been shortlisting and talking about the fact that supposedly a lot of the information that was provided in a press conference yesterday was not completely accurate.

[Page 1201]

I don't know what information was provided at that press conference and I certainly don't know what kind of verification there had or hadn't been done but I will say this, even the Esmor president, in his letter to the shareholders, acknowledged that there was the problem at the New Jersey facility. I would be happy in fact, if the minister wants it, to table or provide him with a copy of that shareholder's letter where he complained about the media reports and talks about how irresponsible the media was and the fact that they were unable to control those media reports and do you know, it led to a drop in stock prices, a loss in share value.

[1:45 p.m.]

In that same letter, Mr. Speaker, to the shareholders, the president of that company says, as I said in my resolution today, that one of their primary goals, of course, is to ". . . aggressively pursue our longer term goal of Company growth and shareholder value enhancement.". Let's face it, let's be upfront about it. I don't fault businesses and I fully understand that when a company is in business, they are in business to make money. That is the name of the game and there is nothing wrong with that. That is appropriate, it is proper and I can't think of too many businesses that knowingly would go out and try to lose money. That just doesn't make sense.

Mr. Speaker, when you take a look at the obvious conflict of interest situation we are placing those businesses in if we privatize private, for-profit correctional facilities operations, one has to sit back and scratch their heads and ask the government what their commitment is to things like a rehabilitation program. When you look at those reports, these companies, of course, make their money by having their beds full. They make money by having those correctional facilities stacked to the rafters. The more inmates, the more persons who are kept and the longer they are incarcerated, the more money those private for-profit companies are going to make.

Where is the motivation, where is the incentive for those companies on their own to be trying to run effective, efficient rehabilitation processes? Where is the business sense in their business plan? Does it make sense to try to shorten the length of stays, to ensure that you don't have returnees, repeat offenders, Mr. Speaker? They make their money on ensuring that they have a lot of clients to maintain or to keep in their facilities. So, we are automatically, if we privatize for-profit correctional facilities, setting up a conflict of interest situation where the best public good is going to be in direct conflict, I would suggest, with what are the best social and economic policies for the province.

When you take a look at the reports, and I won't go through all the details now, Mr. Speaker, but when you go and take a look at the studies and the analyses in the United States which talk about the number of persons who are now in jails throughout the States, and you compare that to the increase in crime in the States, you find that in fact the number of persons who are being kept in jails has skyrocketed over three times in about the last 10 years or 11 years, while the crime rate has increased modestly and actually, violent crime has decreased. Only, in some of the reports I have read, South Africa and the Soviet Union had a higher incarceration rate.

Where is rehabilitation in this process? Where are we going if we are going to be trying to concentrate our efforts strictly on incarceration so that private companies which are capitalizing on that and which are trying to stir up, I might add, public sentiment in favour of longer incarceration, where is the good social and economic policy in that? We will end up paying a lot more in the long term.

[Page 1202]

Mr. Speaker, I was looking at one of the documents put out and talking about the industry and the areas where they see that they can make savings. These companies talk about how they are going to produce savings for the taxpayers. Well, let me say this thing first. There are several tiers and I haven't got enough time to go into talking about the different levels of the companies in the States, the top tier which is made up really of two major companies and then a sub-layer of companies that are providing correctional services. I won't get through all of the difficulties they have had, but governments, like the Province of Nova Scotia - and the Minister of Justice was Finance Critic for a lot of years for the Liberal Party and he will know better than I do that the long-term bond rating, borrowing rate for the province is almost always lower than it is for companies, except for the extremely large corporations that have more assets than the province does - so if we are to finance these operations, the new correctional facility construction through a private company, built into those costs are going to have to be the increased borrowing costs.

Now there will be an advantage for this government - not that it is going to be less costly - the advantage is a political one in that they have hidden those new construction facility costs on the books of their private partner rather than having them shown publicly on the finance books for the province; that will make it harder to appear as if we have balanced the books next year, and make it harder to appear as if we have a surplus. That shell game doesn't hide the fact that there are, in fact, going to be longer term, increased costs.

Under the report, and I believe this one is out of the Esmor one where they are talking about things they can do and why they can make savings, it talks about, for example, labour costs. They said because of an estimated 60 per cent to 70 per cent of an institution's operating costs, since 60 per cent to 70 per cent of those are personnel costs, privately manned companies can save money by doing a number of things. One of them, of course, is designing facilities that minimize the number of blind spots. Those would be spots in the correctional facility around which visibility is not going to be impaired. You have good, clear views, clear planes of vision.

Mr. Speaker, that is not a consequence of it being designed or built privately, that is a consequence of good design work and having people who are knowledgeable being involved in it. That is a function or as a result of a new facility being built, instead of using an older, dilapidated, run-down, out-of-date facility. It has nothing to do with it being privatized or not, it is just the fact that it is a new design. Government can do that every bit as well as anybody else.

They talk about the fact that the number of guards would be reduced in those facilities. They talk about the fact that there would be reduced or lower salaries than comparable government positions, Mr. Speaker. Of course this is one of the things that the workers and others have talked about: these companies will make profits by reducing the level of wages being paid, so that more money can be siphoned off to the American private, for-profit company that would be running the correctional facility.

These are not my words, Mr. Speaker, these are out of these documents that the minister can also find, or his department staff can, or anybody can if they want to cruise the Net and look up the word corrections. It is amazing the list of things you will find.

They talk about food, that you can make economic savings in food because they do bulk purchases. Well, you tell me why a private company can do bulk purchasing for food when the Province of Nova Scotia can't. It is interesting, though, that one of the private companies doing correctional services was founded by the same people who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken. I don't know if that is a regular diet, but one of them was founded by the Kentucky Fried Chicken founders. So, it's a different kind of plucking, Mr. Speaker, plucking the taxpayers rather than plucking the chickens.

They talk about the fact that they won't have to do things like go out to tender. Well, Mr. Speaker - and I see that you are telling me that my time is again running short - I want to say in all sincerity to the minister, and I know that the minister is under tremendous pressure to keep the costs down, but I also believe [Page 1203]

the minister has a sense of what is proper and just. I don't think that the minister would favour having a system put in place - at least I hope not and I hope that his government colleagues won't force him into this - a system that would compromise rehabilitation, would compromise public safety, would compromise the decent living wages of correctional officers, in favour of hiding the costs on somebody else's books that ends up resulting in some American company taking and doing that plucking, taking the profits from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and shipping them off, down to their U.S. partners.

I hope the minister will stand up and stand tough against his colleagues who appear to be trying to force him into such a venture.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to make a few remarks going into the Supply debate. The government has spent the last several days since the introduction of its budget attempting the very physically challenging activity of patting itself on the back. I would like to take a few minutes to just bring the government back to earth and to suggest to them some of the real problems facing Nova Scotia.

You remember back in 1993 when the government took office, there were 58,000 unemployed Nova Scotians looking for work. Today, after three years, after 30-60-90, 62,000 Nova Scotians are unemployed. Last month, in March, 8,000 jobs disappeared in Nova Scotia. In that same month of March in New Brunswick, 3,000 new jobs miraculously appeared. Last year in Nova Scotia we lost 3,000 full time jobs.

For the total year of 1995, employment gains were recorded in all provinces in this country except in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The number of Nova Scotians now collecting unemployment insurance is up over last year. Total wages and salaries are down. Housing starts and housing sales are down. Nova Scotia will experience a decline of 5.4 per cent in total capital expenditures in 1996.

Now here is an important one because the government continually says that our salvation will be in the growth of small business. From March 1995, to March 1996, employment in small and medium-sized businesses increased by only 1,850 in this province, compared to 11,021 in New Brunswick. In other words, the rate of employment growth in small and medium-sized businesses in New Brunswick is almost six times what it is here in Nova Scotia. These statistics come largely from the figures of the Department of Finance, a bleak picture of this government's success in creating jobs and in revitalizing our Nova Scotia economy.

Now despite all the pain that Nova Scotians have suffered by way of government cuts to health and education, the outlook for 1996-97, according to the Bank of Montreal, is not at all encouraging. The Bank of Montreal predicts another year of slow growth here in Nova Scotia. In fact, the Bank of Montreal predicts that our economy will grow at the rate of only

[Page 1204]

1 per cent, bearing in mind that they predict double that in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island for the same fiscal year. The only province in this country that is predicted will have a slower growth rate than Nova Scotia in the entire country is Newfoundland.

Now the Minister of Finance says don't worry, the new blended sales tax is going to generate all sorts of economic activity. He said that it will create a growth in our economy of an additional 0.5 per cent. He says 3,000 new jobs will be created. He has not provided a single scrap of evidence, not a single piece of paper, not a single study, that will back up what he says is going to happen.

[2:00 p.m.]

Trust me, he says. Well, Nova Scotians trusted the minister and the government when they promised jobs and economic prosperity, and look where it got them. More people are looking for work today than in 1993 and our economy isn't firing on all cylinders. I cite these figures to introduce a sense of balance and reality into a debate that has come about as a result of a budget introduced by the Minister of Finance, which has provided unrealistic expectations because it is not backed up by any clear-cut evidence, only by statements by the Minister of Finance.

Just because the Minister of Finance says that things are good is not going to mean that we are going to have new business and new jobs coming banging at the door here in Nova Scotia. I want to say to the Minister of Finance that there is more to drafting a budget than simply a bottom line. There is also a need to protect the integrity of essential programs and services and that we don't destroy the quality of life that makes us an attractive alternative to other areas of the country, areas that have already posted either a balanced budget or a surplus; this is what I fear is missing from the minister's budget.

The minister - and again I am referring to the Minister of Finance - likes to pride himself on conservative projections, particularly as it relates to equalization program payments that are coming from Ottawa. In fact, he has what I believe is a calculated strategy and, politically, I have to give the minister credit for his strategy. Time and time again, he has been able to show up at press conferences and boast that the numbers are much better than he estimated, leaving the impression that the government has done a far better job of managing the province's finances than is actually the case.

Now we have achieved - in the minister's words - a modest surplus on the current side of the ledger in about half the time the minister projected it would take him to balance the books. On face value, that is great news. But no one for a moment would suggest that this is not good for the province. It is good news for the province, but let's look at how we arrived there and let's see how much credit we should extend to the Minister of Finance and the government.

In the three years since this government has been in power, it should have shaved close to $0.5 billion from its books by way of equalization payments and consistently low interest rates. Now there is no miracle worked here, no magic on the part of the Minister of Finance, just a combination of poor economic performance resulting in higher equalization payments from Ottawa, and a number of external factors beyond the control of this province that saw interest rates fall to record low levels, certainly the likes of which we haven't seen for over a decade. The result was a major windfall for the province, enabling the minister to proudly display some pretty impressive numbers.

[Page 1205]

To quote the Minister of Finance, when he received an unexpected $100 million windfall in 1994-95, "Nova Scotia has found itself on the good end of some bad numbers.". To be fair, I have to say that it is not all luck - if you dare to call it that - that brought us where we are here today. Indeed, the government did design a plan, a four year expenditure control plan, and the minister likes to boast that the government achieved its four year expenditure control targets in half the time initially predicted.

I would like to briefly quote from a document which was just released. It is a federal document and I quote, "A measured pace ensures that short-term savings will become long-term savings, a down payment towards restored fiscal health.". This federal document goes on, "Indiscriminate cutting, on the other hand, raises the real risk that short-term savings will become long-term costs.". I hope the members of the government backbenches are listening to this as they are trying to put all of this in balance when they go back to their ridings and they are talking to the unemployed and talking to those who are suffering because of the downturn in the economy in their area. Those words were the words of the Honourable Paul Martin. The federal Finance Minister was basically saying that indiscriminate budget cuts might result in temporary relief from deficit financing but long-term solutions to our fiscal problems require careful and strategic planning. This is a fundamental point that this government has completely missed.

A few examples are in order and I only wish that the Minister of Finance could give us more examples when we are questioning him about what all this means in terms of $120 million in tax savings and a blended sales tax. Nothing has been brought forward to substantiate what he is proclaiming will happen here in Nova Scotia.

This government has all but decimated the health care system. There are literally thousands of Nova Scotians who can't find a family doctor and the exodus of physicians from this province is not over. Last month alone, 29 more doctors have withdrawn their names from the list of registered physicians practising in Nova Scotia and they are not, despite what some would have us believe, simply leaving for bigger salaries south of the border. If that were the case, the doctor crisis in this province would have been around for decades. Doctors are leaving because of indiscriminate cuts to the health care budget by the Minister of Health and these cuts have frustrated them to the point where many believe that they no longer can provide adequate patient care.

The consequence of this is that seniors are going to emergency departments to have their prescriptions refilled and parents are lining up at outpatient departments to have their children treated for a common cold and I might add, at a significantly higher cost to the government and to the taxpayer, a higher cost than the same treatment in a doctor's office.

Recently, Nova Scotian nurses have spoken out about the consequences of releasing new mothers from the hospital before they are ready and the mothers return days after their release with their dehydrated infants in tow, infants who must them be readmitted for treatment. I challenge the Minister of Health, if the nurses are wrong then dialogue with the nurses. Don't tell me the nurses are wrong, talk to the nurses. They have had to go on a junket around this province because they could not get the ear of the Minister of Health and the department. Daily we are hearing horror stories about the shortcomings of the Home Care Program that this government has sold as a cornerstone of its health care reforms.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I can't hear a word that is being said. The House will have to be quiet, please.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, daily we are hearing horror stories about the shortcomings of the Home Care Program. Individuals are being discharged early from hospital without an adequate or appropriate level of home or community-based services in place to fill the gap. Frequently we hear of significant delays between the time of assessment and the time that care is arranged. Health care professionals tell us of patients who are readmitted to emergency departments only because home care wasn't arranged, was inappropriate, or was completely inadequate.

[Page 1206]

This government is going to cut another $32 million from the hospital budget this year. That means $32 million less in hospital care than we had last year. That is to be compensated by an increase in the hospital home care budget of $3.7 million. I challenge the minister to provide in this place a single scrap of evidence that will allow him to say unequivocally that $3.7 million of home care will replace $32 million of hospital care. Let us see the evidence, let's see the minister's figures to show that he is not further compromising health care delivery in this province. Strange it is that we have no money to maintain adequate hospital services, but we have millions to establish four mini Departments of Health. We have no money to provide adequate staffing levels in our hospitals but we are pumping health care dollars into new bureaucracies for administering emergency health services.

Now earlier on I referenced how indiscriminate budget cutting can destroy essential services and programs and undermine our quality of life. Our quality of life has always made us an attractive alternative to other areas competing for investment dollars.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time has expired. I am sorry, I tried to give you signals.

DR. HAMM: I missed your cue, Mr. Speaker, but I apologize to the House that I don't have the opportunity to provide all the information I have prepared but I am sure that I will have an opportunity on a future day to deliver the rest of my remarks. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on two topics prior to going into budget estimates. The first is community economic development within Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. In the House there were two resolutions introduced, one from the member for Queens and one for the member for Digby-Annapolis, expressing concerns over fees that are going to impact on many of the fish processing plants throughout Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury in Nova Scotia.

As people know, eastern Nova Scotia has been impacted by the downturn of the fishery and also the challenges facing the area. But despite that, Mr. Speaker, I want to share with you some thoughts about efforts of constituents within my constituency to find opportunities to address economic development. I will use a few examples. Following that, I will be talking about the PCDT.

The first item I want to talk about is community economic development in the Strait area. I want to applaud the work of the Port Hawkesbury Waterfront Development Corporation, which has been funded for the last two years by the Province of Nova Scotia and other agencies. They have brought the community back to the waterfront. They are developing what is called the creamery building, which is hosting craft shows and fairs, and bringing a new enthusiasm and life into the waterfront of that community. That is a case, Mr.

[Page 1207]

Speaker, of a community identifying the potential for economic development and doing something about it.

The Stora expansion has produced in the Strait area a very positive economic climate. That is shown by the recent developments of new businesses, apartment buildings and so on in the Strait area. The Port Hawkesbury Chamber of Commerce is to be commended for its active role, not only in developing economic incentives for its members but bringing forward concerns of the community.

One of the things we don't think about in economic development is the role that recreation departments play. I want to use the example of the Port Hawkesbury Recreation Department, which recently sponsored and worked with Stora to promote a 10 day hockey tournament. The impact of those young hockey players coming into that community was significant. This weekend I had the opportunity to attend part of the Lions Provincial District Convention in Port Hawkesbury. Again it is a case of a community using its assets to generate economic development.

The Strait Highland Regional Development Authority has been very active in promoting the Strait area as a whole. Recently they brought together businesses to look at what opportunities may present themselves when and if the Sable Gas project becomes a reality. This is the case of an area identifying its potential and developing on those. I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if I did not compliment the hundreds of constituents who served freely on these boards and commissions.

Going across the Strait, I look at the Town of Mulgrave, which has what is called the Mulgrave Action Committee and also working in conjunction with the town council. They have identified areas of potential growth. One of the challenges for Mulgrave was to draw people off the Trans Canada Highway - much like parts of Guysborough and Port Hawkesbury - to see what we have to offer. Working with the action committee, they have built, constructed and operate a tourist bureau at Auld's Cove. Through the marine eco-tourism promotion, they have set up lookouts to highlight the history of Mulgrave. Also, with the opening of ACL trading, the shrimp company has created over 45 jobs. This is a case of a community working together, again local economic development, to look at options and much remains to be done.

[2:15 p.m.]

Throughout Guysborough County, we have the RDA which has just celebrated its first year in operation and that involves the Municipality of the District of St. Mary's, the District of Guysborough County and the Town of Canso. They have been very proactive and I want to give you one example. We heard earlier today a comment about the Internet where one of the campgrounds in my constituency recently put an ad on the Internet. They have already received bookings from as far away as Florida. This is where the RDA is helping businesses promote themselves, not only provincially, not only nationally, but throughout North America.

One of the areas of economic development that was highlighted in today's resolution in the House which talked about protected areas in Nova Scotia throughout Guysborough County, they are working on the Trans Canada Trails Development, they are looking at Black Duck Cove, again for eco-tourism potential, which is located in the community of Little Dover, and the newly opened Chapel Gully Trails which go along the Atlantic Coast in Guysborough in the Canso area.

The Canso waterfront group is developing an in-town park and, again, these community areas have looked at tourism as one of the pieces of the puzzle to help develop the economies of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. The ERA, the Economic Renewal Agency, has provided throughout Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury staff who regularly travel to different communities to meet with budding entrepreneurs, to look at potential business start-ups and also ACOA has provided resource people again throughout the area to help people who have business ideas. They have been successful at opening businesses in areas such as Sherbrooke.

[Page 1208]

The community of Goshen have formed what is called the Goshen Leisure Park Association and they operate what used to be the Goshen Game Farm as a community development project and they are, indeed, to be congratulated for that effort. In the Goldboro area, there is the development, Mr. Speaker, of a marine park. Again, people have looked at that potential and are working on it in the area of local economic development. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Seafreez Ltd. have committed $2 million for upgrading and diversifying that plant. Also, Fisheries Resources Ltd. has just started hiring additional people to work at that project. That is an example of private industry and the communities both looking at opportunities as it relates to economic development.

I recently had the opportunity to attend two meetings: one sponsored by the St. Mary's River Association in Sherbrooke and one sponsored by the Sherbrooke Village Commission and the community. In both cases they are looking at the assets of the greater Sherbrooke area, what can the community do, working together to develop the area and increase economic opportunities. Earlier today I mentioned some of the developments. The Liscomb River has been part of the trail development, again, building on the assets we have in the community.

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the communities for their input, for their involvement, both through the RDAs, the municipal councils and the development groups. A great deal remains to be done in Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, but in standing, I want to compliment the local citizens who themselves have taken the initiative to look at opportunities.

Now I want to change a little bit since we are talking about the budget, since we are talking about coming down to earth. I want to talk about the PCDT which I will allude to later. Well, I think it is time to talk of exactly what I am going to say. PCDT in my mind is the Progressive Conservative debt tax that has been left hanging over this province as a legacy of the Cameron-Buchanan Government. How I want to comment about that is, I have gone through some of the budget clippings in the library and I picked out some comments to compare, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that Nova Scotians should look at alternatives. I think we can look at alternatives, look at press clippings, comments made by former members of the PC Party, as it relates to budgets and the impact it has on Nova Scotia, and also looking at some of the clippings and comments made about our budget and what we have done as a government.

One of the clippings I noticed and one of the comments was that John Buchanan, who briefly served as our Finance Minister in the former government, after being elected, started the province on a trail of 18 years of operating deficits. I find that somewhat ironic when I hear members of the Opposition stand and say, well there is nothing to balancing a deficit. If there is nothing to it, then why, in any one of those 18 years, did that not happen?

Then I look at comments in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald that says Boudreau is ahead of deficit reduction. So there is the alternative. The Tories for 18 consecutive years put this province further and further in debt and we have a minister here who is only three years as

[Page 1209]

Finance Minister, and - what are the headlines saying - we are ahead of deficit reductions. (Applause) That is not the alternative that Nova Scotians want, Mr. Speaker. I think we have to keep reminding them that that is the alternative that is there and it is scary.

One of the former Finance Ministers, Mr. Kerr, said - and this is important to remember - that the bigger the deficit, the higher the interest payments on the debt and the less money available for social programs. We can thank the PCs that there is less money available for roads, less money available for hospitals, less money available for all the things that we want to do in this province; Mr. Kerr was right and we have seen the results.

Let's look at the other side of the picture. What has our minister said and what have the media said?

MR. SPEAKER: You have two minutes.

MR. WHITE: Two minutes, I don't have enough time.

Nova Scotians should stop borrowing to meet day-to-day expenses. That is significant. Another important comment is that this is a province that started later than any other province to deal with its fiscal situation. Why didn't the Tory Government, when they were there? They left us with a mess. Taxpayers must get the news. Unfortunately it takes the Liberal Government to clean up the Tory mess.

The Leader of the Opposition talked about predicting budgets. It is interesting to note that in 1991 the deficit under the PC Government was 541 per cent higher than they predicted. Is that the group we want to manage the finances?

Another comment. How, for Heaven's sake, can a government - referring to the PC Government giving this province a record deficit of $340 billion - promise that within two years they were going to balance the deficit? Did they do it? The record stands for itself.

Mr. Speaker, you are indicating that I am running out of time. The PCDT, I think is a legacy that not only present Nova Scotians but also our children have inherited. That legacy is an $8.5 billion debt, and the PC debt tax, the tax that is now facing every Nova Scotian, $9,100. That is not good enough. The obvious comparison is, we had years of a PC Government, did they balance the deficit? No. We have had three years of the Liberal Government, did we balance the deficit? Yes. The alternative is very clear. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:24 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]

[5:58 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

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

[Page 1210]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, after Question Period tomorrow, we will be debating Resolution No. 156 and Resolution No. 382. If there is any time after that, we will, obviously, do some House Orders. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will sit tomorrow from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

The motion is carried.

[Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment, who has been responsible for the cover-up of lead contamination in the Sydney River area, provide a full accounting to Nova Scotians for the actions of his department.]



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


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise to speak on the resolution proposed by my Leader, the member for Halifax Atlantic.

Mr. Speaker, the issue that we are talking about this afternoon is the contamination of homes in the Sydney River area and, more importantly, not only the contamination that those homes and properties suffer from lead as a result of the sandblasting at the PetroCanada bulk storage facility, more importantly, we are talking about the inaction and, I would have to say, the reprehensible behaviour of the government and the Department of the Environment in this regard.

[6:00 p.m.]

This afternoon during Question Period, Mr. Speaker, I suggested that the minister - I would cast it further, I would say that the previous minister, also, that being now the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency - were, in fact, involved in a cover-up because we have, certainly in this province and in this country, a well-held position of ministerial responsibility. The contamination of these homes and these properties has been known since 1992.

[Page 1211]

I want to touch on a few items and I know that there are some others who would want to speak on this as well. Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go through all the chronology of details and events but surely to Heavens, this minister and his Liberal colleagues know of the health risks and the dangers from lead contamination. Surely to Heavens a government that has information that homes have been contaminated and that people's lives and their health could be at risk as a result of that, have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that those residents are notified and to ensure that the proper remedial actions are taken so that those residents' health will not be compromised.

Mr. Speaker, the government, by its inaction, I would suggest, has, in fact, compromised the health and put it in jeopardy for those who live in the surrounding area. Soon after the sandblasting took place one family started to raise concerns, the MacKenzie family. Their home is located in close proximity to other homes in that area. They moved out in March 1993 and their home was actually condemned by the medical officer.

Throughout this period of time, and when I raised this earlier in Question Period, the minister responded by saying that I was exaggerating a bit when I said that the government was involved in a cover-up; only a bit, Mr. Speaker, so obviously I wasn't exaggerating very much. I must have been pretty close to the mark when I was talking about the cover-up and the government's inaction.

You know, Mr. Speaker, it is interesting and when I accuse this minister and this government of being involved in the cover-up, they knew about the health risks, they knew about the contamination in some properties and they knew that others were raising concerns. Yet the ministerial order of January 31, 1996, almost four years after it happened, years after the concerns had been brought to the attention, and where the minister, in his third whereas says; "AND WHEREAS the Minister is of the opinion that it is in the public interest to do all things and take all steps necessary to comply with the Environment Act or to repair any injury or damage, or to control, eliminate or manage an adverse effect;".

While he says that and affixes his signature to it, there is absolutely nothing in this ministerial order requiring that testing of adjacent properties be done, nothing, Mr. Speaker. If that is not a cover-up, not only did they not require in the ministerial order, they didn't even inform the residents of that fact.

Memoranda were tabled in this House by the member for the area. Mr. Speaker, he tabled them on the floor of the House. One dated January 17th, a good two weeks before the ministerial order, in a memorandum sent and signed by the director of the regional offices, included to Ms. Steele that, ". . . your first task will be to draft the Ministerial Order. Please note that the Order should encompass not only the MacKenzie home but as well, any additional sampling deemed necessary for the area.".

I have looked at the ministerial order. I do not know if the member for Cape Breton West has found that requirement for testing in here; I have not. It does not seem to be there. It is only two pages, not too complicated or hard to read. It is not there. Is that not a cover-up, Mr. Speaker? What is the minister afraid to find out? Is he afraid that neighbouring properties also will be found to have lead contamination on those properties? We know from reports that at least one other family where the testing has been done, it has been suggested by their physician that they move out of their home because of elevated levels of lead found in blood and hair samples, even in their seven month old child. I consider that to be dereliction of duty in the highest degree. It is reprehensible. I use that word and it is a very strong word, but I do not use it lightly.

[Page 1212]

Another memorandum suggested that copies of the files and the information - again signed by the manager - "I would strongly suggest that we just provide all parties involved with whatever documentation and reports we might have in relation to tests or investigative measures conducted by our department.". That one was signed December 4, 1995. Has that been done yet? Not from what I understand. Is that not what you call a cover-up?

I believe very strongly that the residents in the area have a right to believe whether they live in Sydney, Sydney Mines, Sydney River, Yarmouth or Sackville, that if the government has in its possession any evidence, any records or any concerns about an environmental contamination that could affect the health of the residents in that area, they have reason to believe that a responsible government and a responsible minister would ensure that information gets to those families that could be affected. They also have a right to expect that the government that is responsible, supposedly, would ensure that proper testing is done to determine the health risk and then to take the appropriate actions to mitigate against them.

Mr. Speaker, I am not as familiar with this area as you are, for example, but you do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if lead contamination falls on one property, there is a very good likelihood that it is also going to fall on the immediately adjacent properties. I hope that the minister, when he stands up, will announce that he is going to order that the testing be done. I also hope that he will announce that Anna Steele, the one person within the department in whom the residents in the area seem to have confidence, and the person whose intervention resulted in that action starting to happen, I hope that this minister will, in fact, start to show some responsibility and put somebody in charge in whom the residents, who have been so ill-treated, have in fact some confidence.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, for all kinds of reasons I am pleased to have this opportunity to respond to today's late debate. In my department, I would like to point out at the outset, nothing takes second place to protecting the environment and, indeed, protecting the people of this Province of Nova Scotia.

The Scriptures teach us that the truth will set you free. In considering the phrasing of the resolution put forward by the member for Sackville-Cobequid, I can see no one more in need of emancipation at this particular time. Mr. Speaker, there has not been a cover-up. I say that as clearly as I can. This case has received more than its share of departmental resources and, indeed, my personal interest and attention.

Much of the unfounded allegations that have surrounded this case are built on the weakest of foundations. Some people will try to use this situation to further their political ends. What is worse, they have tried to do it by calling into question the competence and the dedication of the non-partisan Public Service. Mr. Speaker, I think many people will share that as being an unfair practice.

However, I think it is important to deal with the important matter, the protection of the health and the environment of the people who live near the PetroCanada tanks in Sydney River. Going back late last year, I met with the family known as the MacKenzies and their MLA, Alfie MacLeod. At that time, I assured all of them that we would give their situation the close attention that it deserved. I pledged my personal support and attention to the matter.

[Page 1213]

Since that time, Mr. Speaker, I have been given regular updates and I have shared that information with the MLA for Cape Breton West. Between the years 1993 and 1995, there have been lulls in activity regarding that case. But legal action between the family and the oil company caused most of those delays. The government has no intervening authority or role, I don't believe, between people who are having personal or private legal battles. I wish to inform the House that the MacKenzies and PetroCanada reached agreement yesterday that will see the company buy the property and close full compensation. Rather than being responsible for a cover-up, as the MLA for Sackville-Cobequid has laid claim to today, Mr. Speaker, I am the minister who ordered PetroCanada to fulfil its legal obligations with respect to the environment.

Now, let's talk for a moment about the other families in the neighbourhood of which we heard a great deal of fanfare earlier. My department, especially the Sydney office, has been working closely with the medical officer of health to ensure that we give those residents the clearest information available. Last week, for example, there was a meeting to address the concerns raised by the neighbours. Dr. Jeff Scott, officials from PetroCanada, a lawyer for the residents and departmental staff attended.

I note that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has copies of all kinds of notes and memos relevant to the case, but there is one he didn't care to share with anybody tonight, and that is that Dr. Scott has reviewed the blood samples of four families in the area. He informs my department that none of the results he has seen contained detectable traces of lead in the bloodstream. The doctor is still awaiting the results of two other families.

With Dr. Scott, Mr. Speaker, we are arranging more blood samples for nearby residents. This is a precaution. They should arrange these blood samples by the end of this week. We have also instructed PetroCanada that we want testing done in nearby homes and all properties. The testing will be done within the next two weeks. I want to reaffirm that we will share those results with all the residents in the area.

Mr. Speaker, I am more interested in effecting solutions than placing blame. The term blame suggests that something wrong has happened. I want to make it clear tonight that is not correct. Back when the case began in late 1992, early 1993, there was no evidence to suggest that the sandblasting operation had affected any other homes than the MacKenzie home which was the one in question. In fact, soil tests taken at the perimeter of the tank showed lead levels were within acceptable limits. No other households reported any problem with sandblasting dust. In fact, when the department did receive a clear indication of the possibility of the slightest health risk, we moved rather swiftly.

There is a chronology of events prepared by staff in Sydney that has received wide distribution thus prompting the debate today. But they are giving it connotations that a careful reading of the document will refute. It is a chronology and that is about it, Mr. Speaker. Those of you who have had the honour to serve as ministers will know that staff often engages in vigorous debate before reaching a consensus on the proper approach to a solution.

That is simply the healthy exercise of experience and opinion that causes better public policy. The only difference with this case is that one side of the debate was on paper. We don't have the benefit of a written record of other considered views.

[Page 1214]

[6:15 p.m.]

Much has changed in the past few years. At the time of the sandblasting the Department of the Environment had only preliminary draft guidelines to control dusting from bridge cleaning operations. Now, thanks to the new Environment Act and new regulations, we have clearly defined requirements which in this case would require full enclosure during sandblasting and monitoring of the same.

With the assumption of environment health responsibilities, the Department of the Environment has staff trained to consider not only the environmental effects of a situation such as this one, but also the possible health risks as well.

The truth does set one free. The truth is the oil company could not do today what it did in 1992. The new Environment Act and regulations have seen to that. The truth is, the MacKenzies and PetroCanada have agreed over the deal of the property.

The department has moved swiftly to have the residents and their properties tested and as of today, no traces of lead have been found in their bloodstreams, that is significant. I give you the same assurance that I have given the MacKenzies and all other citizens who have come to the department and asked for individual help. We will do everything within our power to protect this province and its citizens from the ravages of pollution. Our department is not into cover-ups. We are the department of clean-ups. On this particular issue, we would like for the rhetoric to be clear, the definitions to be well spelled out and that emotion not take the place of common sense and deliberate positive action and deliberate remedial action.

I was pleased today when my staff reported on these findings of the blood tests. I am not pleased to know that there were lulls in activity between the years of 1993 and 1995 but they were absences, if you will, of the left hand waiting to see what the right hand is doing and vice versa. That is very human when one understands that there was civil litigation between the homeowner in the first case and the PetroCanada oil company.

Having said that, I want to again do my best to tell members on the opposite side of the House and other members of the public who would hear one side of the story to look at the whole issue and try to understand that human factors do break down sometimes. We are pleased that since last fall when we got the details in our hand and the report on the family situation, we moved swiftly, we got the provincial health authorities involved and we had delivered, as of yesterday's date, the full compensation package by PetroCanada which compensated the MacKenzies for their property damage and loss of property and we are looking for the damaging effects that may bring about, if you will, compensation for the remaining families. Having said that, I am glad to have added this version to today's late debate.

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

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I just don't know where to start. To say the very least, I am surprised by what the minister tells me and what the minister has said in his comments. If I would take the time, I would like to make an introduction of a couple of people that are sitting in the gallery. In the west gallery we have Gordon and Dorothy MacKenzie, the family that has been effected, the family that brought this case first to my attention and they are residents of the beautiful constituency of Cape Breton West. The other thing that really annoys me is that these people who you say have got compensation have just finished telling me that their lawyer has had no response from the ministerial order

[Page 1215]

whatsoever from Petro-Can. There has been no money or cheques pass hands. Their lawyer has not heard from your department until late today and again, these are the people who are directly affected by this; these people today were here to meet with their lawyer. Their lawyer stayed in their offices until well after 5:00 p.m., the close of a normal business day and still had not received word from PetroCanada that there was going to be compensation for them.

The minister spoke on Wednesday, April 24th and I quote from Hansard, ". . . we went to work and gave some pretty strict directions which resulted in a ministerial order by myself issued to PetroCanada. I can report today that PetroCanada has delivered on that order and has indeed bought the property and are in the process of compensating the family in that household.".

Well, Mr. Speaker, I would like to know who is going to tell the family. Who is going to let the people that are directly affected by this know what is going on and when are they going to find out? It has been four years and still nobody has bothered to talk directly to the couple that has been involved.

When I first became aware of this problem, I brought it to the minister's attention and he did make some movement and did move forward. But there are other things in question here. What has happened in the Sydney office over the last four years? Why did it take this long? A bigger question and a more important question is, Mr. Speaker, when we identified a major problem with the MacKenzie home, why wasn't it that when the other residents of that area brought forward their concerns, they were not acted on immediately by the department and then the department go after PetroCanada.

Mr. Speaker, we have had many debates on the floor of this House about this subject which I have brought forward. I have had private meetings with the minister and members of his staff. But the fact of the matter is, the Environment Act here has been ignored. Section 3(c), "`adverse effect' means an effect that impairs or damages the environment, including an adverse effect respecting the health of humans or the reasonable enjoyment of life or property.". Well, the MacKenzie's have been out of their home since 1993 and the Campbell's have been out of their home for the last two and one-half months, thereabouts. That is an adverse effect. That is what is baffling to these people and those are the types of things that we have to address and we have to address them sooner than later.

Mr. Speaker, I challenge the minister here in the House tonight to find out if, indeed, the ministerial order has been complied with, as he has been led to believe and, if it has, to bring that information to the House here tomorrow when we sit. But if it has not, I challenge the minister to put in force the effects that that ministerial order will have and to charge PetroCanada under the powers that he has as the Minister of the Environment of the Province of Nova Scotia and bring this thing to a quick and final resolve.

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: A question, Mr. Speaker. Could he explain to me how we charge a company that has complied with an order?

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I challenge the minister to bring forward the information that they have complied with. I would like him to also let the people that are involved, the MacKenzie's and their lawyer know. After all, it is those people that are suffering. As of this point tonight, as we speak here, these people are not aware of the order being complied with. They are not and their lawyer is not, because they left their lawyer at 5:00 p.m. this evening.

[Page 1216]

Mr. Speaker, it is not too much to ask that that happen. The minister saw fit to issue a ministerial order and I know that that does not come lightly. Now if the order has not been complied with, it is incumbent upon this minister to make sure that the full weight of his office, the full weight of the Department of the Environment of the Province of Nova Scotia deals with PetroCanada and puts to rest, not only the MacKenzie case, but the Campbell case and the rest of the people in that area.

We are dealing with human lives. We are dealing with people and there is no more valuable resource that this province has, Mr. Speaker, and it is incumbent upon the minister and it is incumbent upon this government to make sure that these people get their just desserts.

Mr. Speaker, there are other questions that have to be answered, there is no question. I have spoke on this on numerous occasions here in the House and at other meetings with the minister. There are certain people in the office in Sydney that seem to have been negligent in their work, not the whole office, but some people. I don't know if that came through incompetency or through prejudice, but, either way, the people that have suffered are not the people in that office, but they are the homeowners and the people that reside in the Parkdale Drive area of Sydney River. Those are the people that we should all be accountable to.

So if the minister is sincere, and I am sure he is, then what he has to do is make sure we have a public inquiry into why this case took four years to come to a head; why, when the rest of the families in the area had a problem, it wasn't reacted to immediately; why the testing hasn't begun, even if the Department of the Environment had to do it under their own stay; and why the ministerial order, which his office has issued, has not been complied with?

All the people from that area are looking for is what is properly theirs, Mr. Speaker, and what they want is justice. They want what they deserve. (Interruption) We want a clean environment. This is only one example of some of the problems that we have run into in the Sydney office. We can look at Floral Heights, we can look at all other types of areas, the tar ponds, and we can go on and on, but the buck stops here. This minister has the power, this minister has the opportunity and the responsibility and the information that requires him to make sure that the people in that area get to know why it took so long to make sure that this matter does not happen to any other resident of the Province of Nova Scotia, anywhere else, at any other time. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I believe that the number of speakers who can participate is exhausted; therefore, the debate is adjourned.

The House stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

[The House rose at 6:26 p.m.]