The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Fri., Dec. 6, 1996

Fourth Session


Educ. - Post-Secondary: Funding Cuts - Cease, Ms. E. O'Connell 3075
Housing & Mun. Affs. - Municipal Government Act: Proposed - Hold,
Mr. R. Russell 3076
Environ. - 911: Areas Served - Extended, Hon. W. Adams 3076
Law Amendments Committee, Mr. William MacDonald 3080
Law Amendments Committee, Mr. William MacDonald 3080
Res. 1034, Halifax Explosion (06/12/17) - Remember: Silence - Observe,
Hon. G. O'Malley 3081
Vote - Affirmative 3083
Res. 1035, Women - Violence Against: Purple Ribbon Campaign -
Organizers Commend, Mr. D. McInnes 3083
Vote - Affirmative 3084
Res. 1036, Commun. Serv. - Transition Houses: Funding Full - Restore,
Ms. E. O'Connell 3084
Res. 1037, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Canada Post -
Double Standard, Dr. J. Hamm 3084
Res. 1038, Speaker's [Deputy Speaker Cosman] Ruling:
Adjournment of Debate (05/12/96) - Overturn, Mr. J. Holm 3085
Res. 1039, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Economy (N.S.) -
Effect, Dr. J. Hamm 3085
Res. 1040, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage MLA:
PST & GST Harmonization - Condemn, Mr. R. Russell 3086
Res. 1041, Halifax Explosion (06/12/17) - Remember, Mr. T. Donahoe 3087
Vote - Affirmative 3087
Res. 1042, ERA - Job Creation (C.B.): Plan - Develop, Mr. R. Chisholm 3088
Res. 1043, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Effects - Realize,
Mr. G. Moody 3088
Res. 1044, Premier - PST & GST Harmonization:
Dartmouth South Meeting - Attend, Mr. G. Archibald 3089
Res. 1045, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Avoid - Hibernate,
Mr. R. Russell 3089
Res. 1046, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Legislation - Withdraw,
Mr. J. Holm 3090
Res. 1047, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Election - Awaited,
Mr. T. Donahoe 3090
Res. 1048, Fin. (Can.) - Banks & Corpns.: Taxation Fair - Ensure,
Ms. E. O'Connell 3091
Res. 1049, Health/Lbr. - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Environmental Illness -
Action, Mr. A. MacLeod 3091
Res. 1050, Nat. Res. - Forestry: Mgt. Policy - Release, Mr. G. Archibald 3092
Res. 1051, Educ. - Dal. Univ. (W. Andrew MacKay Alumni Scholarships):
Recipients (Sara Swim & Michael Murphy [Queens Co.]) -
Congrats., Mr. J. Leefe 3092
Vote - Affirmative 3093
Res. 1052, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Small Commun. -
Downloading, Mr. A. MacLeod 3093
Res. 1053, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Economy (N.S.) -
Weakening, Mr. J. Leefe 3094
Res. 921, Rules of the House (Amendment - Extended Sitting Hours),
Hon. R. Mann 3095
Mr. G. Archibald 3095
Previous Question 3110
Vote - Affirmative 3111
Main Motion 3111
Vote - Affirmative 3112
House of Assembly - Sitting Hours (9-10/12/96), Mr. A. Mitchell 3112
Vote - Affirmative 3113
No. 48, Sales Tax Act 3114
Hon. W. Gillis 3114
Dr. J. Hamm 3127
Amendment moved "bill be read six months hence" 3139
Mr. R. Chisholm 3140
Mr. J. Leefe 3152
Adjournment of House Moved 3162
Vote - Negative 3163
Mr. R. Russell 3164
Adjourned debate 3165
Commun. Serv. - Kids: Recreational Activities - Provide, Mr. K. Colwell 3165
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., Dec. 9th at 8:00 a.m. 3166

[Page 3071]


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

10:00 A.M.


Hon. Wayne Gaudet


Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now begin with the . . .

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the Rules of this Legislature, Rule 5A(6), it reads, "Subject to paragraph (7), on each sitting day the Government House Leader shall advise members of the House with regard to the next sitting day in respect of . . . (b) the hours of meeting ; and (c) the time of adjournment.".

Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that we did not receive the time of Adjournment when the House finally rose last evening, would you confirm that the sitting hours for today will be the normal sitting hours, which is three hours, or will we be sitting for four hours?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether the point that the honourable member makes is a point of order or is he asking . . .

MR. RUSSELL: A point of order.


[Page 3072]

MR. MITCHELL: Well, speaking on the point of order, Mr. Speaker, my understanding of the rule that the honourable member quoted, it is a duty of the Government House Leader to state what the hours of the House are the next day, the order of business and the time of Adjournment. At the close of business yesterday, I think Hansard will clearly show that the hours were stated to be from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. being the hour of Adjournment and the order of business was stated. So, this rule is an obligation on the Government House Leader to state to the House what the order of business is and what the times are and that is what I did as Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The point of order is not in order. As all members can recall last night at the closing of the session, the Speaker indicated the hours of today's proceedings. The House will be sitting between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Before moving to the daily routine, I would like to address the House. Honourable members, as a result of certain events in this Chamber during the last sitting day, I would like to bring the following to the attention of the House.

First of all, that the Government House Leader or Acting Government House Leader has control over the calling of the business of the day except for certain provisions under our rules relating to matters on Wednesdays.

Secondly, that should a matter under debate in the House continue under debate until the time of Adjournment, the Government House Leader can advise the House of the sitting hours of the next day. As a matter of fact, there is duty imposed under our rules to provide such information including, of course, the nature of business to be called. I would remind all members that if such were not the case, not only could the government not call its business but neither could an Opposition Party in respect to its Opposition Day.

Thirdly, that while it may be that no new business can be embarked upon after the hour of Adjournment, there has been a long-standing usage of the House, at a time approaching the time of Adjournment, whereby certain unopposed business or announcements have transpired. For the House to lose such a practice does not appear to be in the best interest of the House and all its members. During the last few minutes of the day, regardless of the pure legal effects of any rulings of the Chair to date, the Chair is prepared to protect the rights of any members of this place who may wish, for example, to adjourn debate of the matter then before the House on which the member is speaking during the last few minutes of the legislative day. To do otherwise would run contrary to the practices, customs and traditions of this place. The Chair has the duty to protect the rights of all members of this place and will not take this duty lightly. It is hoped that the House can now move back to the congeniality which has been missing of late. I so rule.

[Page 3073]

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I take it from your remarks that we now have two rules in regarding adjournment of debate. We have one for the government and one for the Opposition, and I should suggest to you that that is just going to cause further confusion.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I just want to respond very briefly to your comments which I appreciate, the sentiment and the rationale behind them. Let me just make the following comment. Where you talked about the whole question of losing the way that we tend to try to accommodate the needs and the wishes of each other in a way that is, as I believe your word was, in a friendly manner; it would be a shame for us to lose that. You also suggested that the practice of adjourning debate a few minutes before the time runs out at the end of the day is a long-standing practice of this House, and I would certainly acknowledge that. That is the way things have worked.

So, too, has it become a practice of this House to make decisions with respect to - not only has it become a practice, but it is also part of the rules - the hours of sitting and the time that the business commences and the time that the business adjourns, by agreement between the Government House Leader and the House Leaders of the two Opposition Parties, that is the way things have been done; you are absolutely right.

For example, when it comes to Friday's business, it has always been the case, in my five and one-half years here, that we have reached agreement to instead of going from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., which are the hours stated in this book, that we have agreed to accommodate members who have to travel long distances, to advance the commencement time to 8:00 a.m.; therefore, the hours to sit would be from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. That is what we have done in the spirit, as you suggested, of cooperation and so on.

Let me just say, as a result of the resolution that is now under debate, this government has taken upon itself to change all those rules, to change very much the whole question of long-standing practices, Mr. Speaker. That is the whole issue there, and I find it very difficult to accept (Interruptions) I am on my feet; why don't you sit down.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: On a point of order, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is already on a point of order.

MR. MACEACHERN: No, he isn't. If you will check the record, Mr. Speaker, please . . .

[Page 3074]

MR. CHISHOLM: I am up on a point of order. May I finish?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party is on a point of order.

MR. MACEACHERN: Then, make the point.

MR. CHISHOLM: The point is simply that I appreciate very much what you are suggesting to this House, that we need to maintain - and I respect that - the long-standing practices and precedents of this House in order to make sure that we maintain a sense of cooperation and civility in these Chambers. But I would suggest to you that the resolution we are now dealing with has thrown that all out the window, because the government (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Point of order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . because the government has decided to take over responsibility for any changes in rules unto itself. Therefore, my point of order is that the point you make about maintaining the rights of all members should also pertain to the resolution that is now under debate, that takes away the rights of all members to come to agreement on the time the hours of business commence and adjourn each and every day.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am going to be very brief, and I appreciate the sentiment that you are trying to express. (Interruptions) I just, as a point of order, for clarification from the Speaker's ruling, I remember, Mr. Speaker, on one occasion - and I am trying to find out in terms of your ruling - in this House a number of years ago, with about 10 minutes remaining in a day, a speaker rose and started their speech: given the time of day, they said, I move adjournment of the debate until another day. With 10 minutes remaining, the government of the day said no. They called a vote and won, and that person lost their place to speak on a future day because they moved adjournment and, therefore, lost their place.

The reason I raise that, last evening during the discussion, the concern was, from a number of us, if the person who rose to speak at the end had moved adjournment, if a vote had been held, they would have lost their right to speak on future occasions. So, what I am trying to get from you is the assurance - and I take your word, sir - that if a speaker on a motion stands to move a motion for adjournment with a short period remaining in the day, whether that is 10 minutes or so on, that a vote would not be held and they would not lose their place to speak on a future occasion if the government were deciding that they wanted to shut down the debate and hold the vote.

That, Mr. Speaker, would take some checking in the old Hansards, but that situation did happen and I think it is an important point that has to be clarified.

[Page 3075]

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is talking about congeniality. Last evening at 7:10 p.m., with all members who were available in the House, this honourable member asked for an Adjournment motion to be called, which it was. We called for the vote. Immediately they asked for the bells to be rung and we saw people exit here in the most interesting sort of ways. We waited for 30 to 40 minutes in this House to have a vote. The reason for that was very clear. My difficulty as we are working our way through with respect to the decision of the Chair is that wasting of time is something that has to be considered by the Chair. The honourable member as he spoke of, there is nobody trying to remove (Interruptions)

[10:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACEACHERN: Nobody is trying to take away their time, but at the same time there has to be respect for the House itself and some members of this House seem to discard that as a matter of course, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

We will now begin with the daily routine.


The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: I beg leave to introduce a petition from the students of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, members of the Student Unions of Nova Scotia and members of the Canadian Federation of Students. I have affixed and signed my name to it and endorse it. It has 170 names, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to read into the record the operative clause.

"We demand that the cuts to post-secondary funding be stopped. We demand that the funding of post-secondary education from the government be re-instated at previous levels. We demand that pan-Canada standards be set for post-secondary education. We demand the fair taxation of corporations be implemented to bear the burden they have been avoiding for years. We demand that students be respected, consulted, and included in all dialogue concerning the future of post-secondary education.".

Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table this petition.

[Page 3076]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I would like to table a series of letters which form a petition. The operative clause being: "This letter is to inform you that . . . I feel strongly that the proposed Municipal Government Act in its present form should be put on hold until such time that the Fire Service has its input. Let us come up with an act collectively that we can live with.".

That is signed by every member of the Windsor Volunteer Fire Department.

MR. SPEAKER: These letters are tabled.




MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: It is my pleasure to rise and share with the House this morning that the security blanket of enhanced 911 will be extended to cover another area of Nova Scotia beginning Monday. On December 9th, 911 will become operational in Lunenburg County, the Municipality of Hants West and those areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality that are patrolled by the RCMP.

Mr. Speaker, the people in these areas will be able to obtain police, fire and emergency medical assistance by simply dialling one easy to remember telephone number.

The expansion of service to Lunenburg, West Hants and most of the former Halifax County will bring 911 service within a touch-tone of 78 per cent of the population. As of Monday, 90 per cent of the landmass of Nova Scotia will be under the umbrella of 911.

Last March just 8 per cent of Nova Scotia had 911 service. On April 1st Cumberland, Colchester and Hants East were connected to the system. Three months later Pictou, Guysborough, Antigonish, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby and Annapolis joined the 911 family. Service to Cape Breton was established two months earlier than the original schedule. On October 31st, with the switch-over of Cape Breton, 911 protection was made available to 55 per cent of the population.

[Page 3077]

The expansion of service on Monday coming to Lunenburg, Hants East and that part of the Halifax Regional Municipality that is patrolled by the RCMP means that 911 will be available to 78 per cent of Nova Scotians. We will have 100 per cent coverage early next year, with Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford coming onstream, making Nova Scotia the first province with province-wide enhanced 911 in all of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, 911 handles about 1,000 calls for help every day. In an emergency, seconds really count. The average time between someone dialling 911 and a dispatcher answering a call is just over three seconds. One study has shown that if one minute can be saved from the fire emergency cycle, property damage can be reduced by as much as 11 per cent. That would translate to a saving of $1 million a year in Nova Scotia. But what is more important, 911 can save lives, and no one can put a cost on the saving of a human life. In this business, time equals life.

I want to take just a moment to thank many Nova Scotians who have worked hard to see 911 become a reality. We have faced our share of challenges. But the knowledge that we are working for the common good has kept us going. I want to salute our partners in municipal government, the people of MT&T and, just as importantly, the members of every fire department, police department and ambulance operation in the province.

The Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, has invested some $6 million so far in setting up 911. Over 560,000 civic addresses have been assigned across the province. This is, indeed, an incredible feat. We know of no other place where rural civic addressing has been accomplished on such an extensive scale. The rigorous quality control program, including backup systems and other technological innovations employed by MT&T will make our system among the safest and most advanced anywhere on the continent. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister in charge of the EMO for providing me a copy of his statement prior to the opening of the House and I really appreciate that.

The fact that we are going to get 911 across over 75 per cent of the population of Nova Scotia I think we are all pleased and thankful for that. The minister also said in his statement that we could expect 100 per cent coverage early next year, making Nova Scotia the first province that will have a 911 system altogether.

One thousand calls a day. That's a lot of calls. I think it is important that the system works well. I might say, not to be critical, but I did raise a resolution in the House last week, one day or maybe it was two weeks ago, about the fact that there have been a few calls from cellular phones that have not been directed in the right direction and there are calls going to other places. I also understand that party line telephones doesn't work as well either. I would

[Page 3078]

just raise that with the minister. As I say, I am pleased with the announcement but the fact is that they should look into that because it could save lives. Anything to do to save lives is very, very important.

I would also like to congratulate all those people who were involved, MT&T, municipal governments and, of course, every fire department and police department and ambulance people, it is important that we thank them for their efforts in this matter.

It was not cheap. It was I understand about $6 million, but it is an investment in our safety across this province, with over 560,000 civic addresses. I know we had a lot of calls and I know that the Department of Transportation had a lot of calls from people trying to get their addresses marked and the names and the roads put on but I think that is helpful, so when the ambulance or fire department go out they will know exactly where they are going.

911 is a very important technology for all of Nova Scotia and I thank the minister for making this announcement today.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the minister, I very much welcome the minister's announcement and I appreciate that the announcement was sent over to me in advance of his remarks. I also want to congratulate the minister on what I think is a very honourable and extremely important practice and that is that when a minister has an important statement to be made to the public of Nova Scotia and when that announcement is to be made at a time when the House is sitting, that announcement should be made in the Chamber first, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the minister for making his announcement in that manner.

Mr. Speaker, certainly the 911 service has been a very long time in coming. I can remember and I am sure the member for Sackville-Beaverbank can remember former Chief Harold Parker. Back in the very early days we were both - I think the member for Sackville-Beaverbank was also - on the Fire Study Relocation Committee in the community and they were trying to look at ways to enhance and improve the service and get it established. It would be around 1980 or 1981, in that range, trying to get the 911 service up and running at that time. It made sense from that very beginning when I first heard of the concept and it makes even more sense today.

The minister is absolutely correct, time is crucial. Whether you have a fire, if you have an accident, if you have a medical emergency, if you need police services, every second, every minute counts. We know that the response time can often mean not only the difference between a tremendously increased loss or damage to a property but it can, in fact, mean a difference between life and death. Hopefully, Mr. Speaker, consultations with his colleagues, the Minister of Health, for example, the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act will be ensuring that the health care service in this province has the proper equipment, the

[Page 3079]

proper training and sufficient ambulances, for example, to be able to respond in the fast times that are needed. You can have great equipment but if it isn't able to get there, you can have the 911 service call through and you can know what the emergency is, but if there isn't the equipment and the trained personnel available that is needed to respond, then it fails to meet its stated objective. You just know faster where an unmet crisis is located.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome this. It is one very important cog in ensuring that Nova Scotians receive the fast, efficient services they need. It is a great improvement. I know there are a number of bugs that will have to be ironed out. I am not going to dwell on those at this moment. Anything like this, any complicated system with the technologies and all that is involved is bound to have a few bugs in the very beginning. Hopefully, those will be minimal.

I also want to add my words of appreciation to all those who have worked for many years, doing the groundwork, doing the education, to ensure that this important service does get up and running. I look forward to the day when it is a blanket coverage from one end of the province to the other. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment very briefly on this ministerial statement since my area is the area under (Interruptions) I think it is a well-known tradition in this House that when a member's riding has implications from a ministerial statement, he has the right to say a few words. I will be very brief. I am delighted that 911 service is being extended to West Hants.

However, I would like to simply point out that in his third to last paragraph the minister says that some may ask, what are a few minutes worth? Ask a husband who is waiting and praying for an ambulance to take his heart-stricken wife to hospital, ask someone who is trembling with fear while an intruder breaks down the door to their house.

Mr. Speaker, I would implore the minister to use his influence with his Cabinet colleagues to point out that, for instance, in Hants West we do not have any police coverage between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. For three hours we have no police protection whatsoever because you have to get Mounties from Sackville to come up to West Hants. So there is a tremendous number of break-ins that occur around about 3:30 a.m. in my riding.

Secondly, with regard to ambulances, with the ambulance that services Windsor being parked most of the time on the No. 1 Highway, halfway between Sackville and Windsor, I would certainly appreciate him speaking to the Minister of Health to make sure that we have an ambulance on duty in Windsor. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 3080]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.


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

MR. WILLIAM MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as Acting Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 41 - Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act.

Bill No. 44 - Dalhousie-Technical University Amalgamation Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

[10:30 a.m.]

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank.

MR. WILLIAM MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as Acting Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 43 - Condominium Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When reverting to a former order of business, I understood that the question had to be put to the House and had to be agreed to with unanimous consent. I wonder if you would care to inform the House whether or not that is so.

[Page 3081]

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: On that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think the rules are very clear that the Orders of the Day may be taken up at the discretion of the Government House Leader. It is his responsibility to call whatever the Orders of the Day are and, in the case of an Opposition Day, it is the responsibility and the right of the Opposition House Leader to call the Orders of the Day.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The point was raised by the member for Hants West. It has always been my understanding, although we have, and we have talked in here a great deal about congeniality and we, in fact, did offer that cooperation when the member for Sackville-Beaverbank got up, having missed his opportunity during the regular order of proceedings of the debate in the House - the Acting Government House Leader says that our rules state that the order of business is at the call of the Government House Leader; I would invite him to show us where that is the rule - it has always been the practice of the House that, and we have almost always given that, but the rules do state that you have to have the unanimous consent, which, if we had been asked, certainly we would have agreed to, I am sure, on this occasion. That is a rule and I certainly would not like to see our practices being interpreted as the rule.

MR. SPEAKER: The point is noted, but I think if we go back, looking at the practice of this House throughout the daily routine, the Government House Leader or the Deputy Government House Leader or the Opposition House Leader, it has been the practice to revert back to the order of business. (Interruptions) I will take that under advisement and report back to the House. Thank you.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat.


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

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Speaker has indicated that he is going to take the matter under advisement, but the committee has made a report to report the bills back. Has that committee report been accepted?

MR. SPEAKER: Absolutely.

MR. CARRUTHERS: Has the committee report been accepted?

MR. SPEAKER: The report from the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee has been accepted by the House.

[Page 3082]

The honourable Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat.

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

Whereas the collision of two foreign ships on December 6, 1917, in Halifax Harbour . . .

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I rise only to ask if I could be informed under what order of business the honourable minister is now addressing the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Government Notices of Motion.

The honourable Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat.

HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Do I now have the floor, Mr. Speaker? Maybe it's time some others read some of the Rules of this House. At least in the tone of this resolution, surely a little respect can be given for the resolution, if not for the member.

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

Whereas the collision of two foreign ships on December 6, 1917, in Halifax Harbour and a subsequent explosion caused the largest such disaster in Canadian history and destroyed parts of Dartmouth, Tufts Cove and two square miles of Halifax North End; and

Whereas those who suffered were citizens of every sector of society, including firefighters and servicemen doing their job to protect the citizens from what is now known as the greatest man-made explosion before the development of the atomic bomb; and

Whereas the disaster brought out a response from throughout Nova Scotia, all of the provinces of Canada, the British Empire and our great neighbours to the south, the United States, demonstrating a bond of friendship that has lasted to this day, as has the memorial service many citizens held early this morning on Fort Needham;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge this great human tragedy and have a moment of silence in its honour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3083]

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The motion calls for one minute of silence.

[One minute of silence was observed.]



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.


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

Whereas in Montreal on December 6, 1989, 14 young women engineering students were brutally murdered; and

Whereas the Purple Ribbon Campaign was born in order to celebrate the lives of those women by raising public awareness about the pervasiveness of violence against women and children; and

Whereas on this sadly special day we also remember all women who have died violently or continue to live with abuse;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend those who organize the Purple Ribbon Campaign each year and pause for a moment to think about all the lives lost because of the violence of one person against another.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

[Page 3084]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


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

Whereas December 6th marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women; and

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia has ceremoniously recognized December 6th and has actively promoted the Purple Ribbon Campaign; and

Whereas one of the goals of the Purple Ribbon Campaign is to raise funds for the under-funded and overworked community organizations across the province who provide direct services to abused women;

Therefore be it resolved that on the occasion of December 6th, this House urge the Minister of Community Services to immediately restore the 3 per cent funding cut to transition houses and other community organizations providing direct services to abused women and children.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice on this motion.

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

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 pending BST Act requires retailers to include the tax in the price, stipulating penalties for non-compliance of maximum fines of $5,000 per day with a 30 day jail sentence for failure to pay; and

[Page 3085]

Whereas retailers maintain that the high cost of included pricing will result in increased prices and/or layoffs; and

Whereas the only exception to tax-included pricing relates to the cost of postage which will continue to be tax-exclusive pricing;

Therefore be it resolved that the government explain why there is a double standard with one law for Canada Post and quite another for Nova Scotia's retailers.

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 on December 5th at approximately 3:01 p.m., Madam Speaker ruled out of order a motion for adjournment of debate on Resolution. No. 921 by the member for Kings West; and

Whereas Madam Speaker wrongly based her ruling on an assertion that adjourning the debate in the middle of the debate on the resolution flies in the face of the rights and privileges of members to speak; and

Whereas Madam Speaker based her ruling on an erroneous interpretation of Rule 42 of the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly;

Therefore be it resolved that the Speaker's ruling of December 5th on the motion for adjournment by the member for Kings West be overturned.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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 Minister of Finance has said that the BST will be a great creator of jobs; and

[Page 3086]

Whereas retailers will be heavy hit by the tax resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs in that sector of the economy; and

Whereas on December 3rd, months after the agreement has been arranged, the government, through the Department of Transportation and Public Works, decided that it was time to determine the effect on the trucking industry;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance admit that he doesn't understand the tax or its ramifications on the Nova Scotia economy and call a halt to this process.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.


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

Whereas the Liberal Government maintains that it is carrying out the wishes of the people of Nova Scotia in implementing the BS Tax; and

Whereas Wayne Coady of Cole Harbour, a member of the Liberal Party for 25 years, is so angry over the arrogance of this Liberal Government in implementing Resolution No. 921 and introducing the BS Tax legislation, that he called the Progressive Conservative Caucus office to enlist our support; and

Whereas Mr. Coady said he and hundreds of other constituents of Cole Harbour want their Liberal representative to stand on the floor of the Legislature and speak up for the concerns of his constituents relative to both the resolution debated yesterday and the BS Tax;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage comply with the wishes of his constituents and that he condemn the heavy-handed motion that allows his government to ram the BS Tax legislation through the House and that he further take a stand in support of his constituents and vote against the BS Tax.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

[Page 3087]

[10:45 a.m.]

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for waiver of notice on the notice of motion which I propose to read and, in light of the notice introduced a moment ago by the Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat, I had to make a slight change because I, too, was going to call for a moment of silence but that has been done.


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

Whereas 79 years ago today, the face and future of Halifax and Dartmouth were radically and instantly changed as the Norwegian cargo ship the Imo and the French munitions ship the Mont Blanc collided in Halifax Harbour; and

Whereas the explosion that resulted killed 2,000 men, women and children, injured thousands more and levelled large areas of the cities; and

Whereas the tragedy that befell the people of Halifax and Dartmouth on that dreary December day will always be remembered for the tremendous devastation it caused and for the incredible courage, compassion and generosity of spirit it demonstrated in the face of great turmoil and anguish;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remember with deep gratitude the thousands of people from all over the world who came to the aid of a community and people in a time of great despair and great need and that we call upon all Nova Scotians to remember the men, women and children whose lives were tragically lost on the morning of December 6, 1917.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[Page 3088]


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

Whereas Cape Bretoners learned this week that after months of back-room bargaining the deal to sell Sysco to Global Steel was nothing but a pipe dream of the Minister of Labour; and

Whereas this deal collapsed in the same week that Statistics Canada revealed that unemployment in Cape Breton was 24.2 per cent and the number of jobs on the Island declined by 1,000 between October and November; and

Whereas those events are further proof of the abject failure of this government to deal with the economic problems of Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Liberal Government to develop a comprehensive plan for protecting and creating jobs in Cape Breton.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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 the government has recklessly included tax-included pricing in its regional BST plan; and

Whereas retailers maintain this will mean significant cost increases that will be passed on to consumers, along with the increased tax or layoffs; and

Whereas this flies in the face of this government's claims that consumers will benefit from a 50 per cent pass-through and prices will go down, a preposterous claim denied by virtually everyone but the Liberal Government;

Therefore be it resolved that this government wake up from dreamland to the reality of the disastrous effects of the BST on consumers and our economy.

[Page 3089]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas in commenting on the lack of public consultation on the BST the Premier said "There has been a lot of discussions on it. We on this side of the House have met with our constituents on many occasions and we will continue to do so in the next few weeks"; and

Whereas the residents of Dartmouth South are still waiting for the Premier and their MLA to have an opportunity to tell him just what they think of his BST; and

Whereas the residents of Dartmouth South are presently planning an open public meeting on the BST and they expect their representative to attend;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier be a man of his word and attend the public meeting, which he will receive an invitation to today, so that he can enlighten them on this win, win, win appeal of the BST.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.


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

Whereas funerals will cost more as a result of the BST; and

Whereas the government claims appliances such as freezers may actually go down in price, but only if retailers are still around to sell them; and

Whereas Nova Scotians who are subjected to this government's deadly health reform politics would be wise to take action now, to forestall any unnecessary tragedy or expense;

Therefore be it resolved that all Nova Scotians who are on waiting lists for surgery buy a freezer, get in it and hope that they awake from their frozen sleep after the Liberal Government, the BST and its irresponsible health reforms are a distant, albeit bad, memory.

[Page 3090]

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 a business coalition that includes the Atlantic and New Brunswick Chambers of Commerce reports that the BS Tax, with its tax-in pricing feature, won't save consumers any money; and

Whereas businesses say that increased operating costs due to tax-in pricing means they will be unable to pass on to consumers the savings from input tax credits; and

Whereas this government has claimed that passing on of input tax credits means that the BST is not an $84 million consumer rip-off and these claims are now seen to be unfounded;

Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize that it is not too late to withdraw the BS Tax and rescue the consumers of Nova Scotia, the economy of Nova Scotia and maybe even the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.


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

Whereas the Liberal Government is using the hammer of Resolution No. 921 to nail consumers with the BST; and

Whereas this is just another nail in the political coffin of this failing Liberal Government; and

Whereas funerals will cost more as a result of the BST;

[Page 3091]

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government be aware the public is chomping at the bit to pull the plug on it and ready and eager to pay the extra tax on the government's funeral with their ballots in the next election and to deep six it forever more.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


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

Whereas the Royal Bank of Canada this week moved to the head of the annual parade of profits by ringing up a record $1.43 billion for fiscal 1996; and

Whereas the Royal's piggish performance pushed 1996 profits for Canada's big six banks comfortably over the $6 billion mark; and

Whereas a federal excess profits tax, as proposed by the New Democratic Party, would, if applied to the big six banks bring $300 million into the federal Treasury this year alone;

Therefore be it resolved that this House tell Jean Chretien and Paul Martin to stop cutting transfers to Nova Scotia for health care and social programs and instead ensure that the banks and greedy corporations like them pay their fair share of taxes.

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 yesterday in this House I asked the Ministers of Labour and Health questions about the plight of workers who have been struck by environmental illness as a result of working at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital; and

Whereas neither minister had any recollection or new information to offer these workers on the status of their plight with respect to what their departments may or may not be doing; and

[Page 3092]

Whereas I have two letters dated late September and early October, one from the Minister of Labour and the other from a representative instructed by the Minister of Health, and that both of these letters promise to look into the plight of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital workers;

Therefore be it resolved that these two ministers put the full might of their departments behind their promises to these workers and reach a settlement that allows these employees to get on with their lives.

Madam Speaker, I will also table a copy of the letters with the resolution.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas the chair of the Voluntary Planning group which held public meetings across Nova Scotia concerning a forest management policy for our province said today, this paper should not be used as the basis for government policy; and

Whereas the president of the Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association has resigned from the coalition stating, "to continue is an insult to the hundreds of citizens who recently protested against the work"; and

Whereas despite this public outcry from the experts, the Minister of Natural Resources does not plan to review the document until after Christmas;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources stop evading this important issue and put forth a forest management policy for Nova Scotia that shows both substance and credibility leading us into the 21st Century.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.


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

[Page 3093]

Whereas Sara Swim of Port Mouton and Michael Murphy of Liverpool have been awarded W. Andrew MacKay Alumni Scholarships by Dalhousie University; and

Whereas scholarship should be commended by the community at large as well as the academic community; and

Whereas Sara Swim and Michael Murphy in their success remind us that the youth of today are Canada's strength for tomorrow;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate Sara Swim of Port Mouton and Michael Murphy of Liverpool on the occasion of being awarded W. Andrew MacKay Alumni Scholarships by Dalhousie University and offer their best wishes as they stride confidently into the future.

Madam Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

MADAM SPEAKER: Waiver of notice is sought.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.


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

Whereas the Town of Mulgrave, with approximately 1,000 residents, has declared that it could be insolvent within two years in large part due to the Savage Liberal Government who, in a one-shot deal, is increasing the residential property assessment by 50 per cent; and

Whereas an additional nail in their insolvency coffin is due to the new BS Tax being forced onto Nova Scotians by the Savage Liberal Government, requiring that Mulgrave shell out at least an additional $15,000; and

Whereas even if the communities wanted to, this government has made it impossible, under their new amalgamation legislation, for communities in this area to join together;

[Page 3094]

Therefore be it resolved that through its increase in fees, licences and taxes, and most especially the BS Tax, this government has picked the taxpayers' pockets clean and, by emptying the taxpayers' pockets through continuously downloading, are signing the death warrant for small communities in rural Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.


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

Whereas the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council cited the fact that an 8 per cent tax increase will result in a 4 per cent reduction in spending by consumers and a 5.7 per cent rate of inflation; and

Whereas APEC also says that price inflation on clothing alone will be nine times greater with the BS Tax than if there were no BS Tax; and

Whereas APEC's report estimates that Nova Scotians will spend $8.3 million less than they would if there were no BS Tax;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, in creating the BS Tax, has set the stage for further weakening an already staggering Nova Scotia economy.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.


MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 921.

[Page 3095]

Res. No. 921, re Rules of the House (Amendment - Extended Sitting Hours) - notice given Nov. 29/96 - (Hon. R. Mann)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North adjourned the debate last evening. You have 57 minutes remaining.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, last night was an eventful commencement to this delivery. You weren't in the Chair; however, we did manage to get through that very brief enterprise without you. We missed you, sincerely.

Madam Speaker, the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, under the resolution, are going to change forever. What it means is that the Government House Leader will stand in his place at the close of business and say, Friday morning we are going to sit from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 midnight. Then he can arrive in the House on a Monday and say, Tuesday we are going to meet from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 a.m. We can, in fact, sit from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m., 24 hours a day, every day except Saturday, Sunday, Christmas and March Break.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're exaggerating.

Madam Speaker, well I am hearing one of the enlightened backbenchers, who hasn't stood on his feet to complain or defend this piece of legislation, saying that I am exaggerating. Well, I want you to know that if this minister wants to have the floor, he has an opportunity to stand and speak and tell me I am wrong. (Interruption) He says I am dreaming.

[11:00 a.m.]

This is the problem with this government. The backbenchers are unaware of what is happening here. What is happening is that the rules are fundamentally changed for the hours of sitting by this resolution. This would be the very first time in the history of this Legislature, in living memory, that the rules have been changed and altered without unanimous consent of the House. I have only been a member for a few years, since 1984, and this is the second time. The first time was about six month ago under this government.

The rules have always been changed by unanimous consent of the House. Between 1984 and 1988 the government, who was Conservative, at the time had 42 seats. The Liberals had six. The NDP had three. During that time there were rule changes. The rule changes were not brought in by resolution that could have been forced through because the governing Party had two-thirds of the members of the Chamber. They were brought in by unanimous consent.

[Page 3096]

Particularly, what did the rule changes do? The rule changes were to give the Opposition Parties more opportunity to speak and more opportunity to have their message spread through the Legislature. That seemed fair. It seemed reasonable by a government that at that time was even larger than this majority that the Liberals are now sitting under. It was a change in attitude, Madam Speaker. The attitude of this government is we can do it so we are going to do it. We are going to force this legislation through and this is how we are going to do it.

Remember the hue and cry when there was no Throne Speech. Members opposite screamed it was undemocratic. The then Premier did not like the Legislature. He had no respect for the people of the province. It was pretty outrageous the things that were said, simply because we did not have a Throne Speech.

If you think back to the election of 1988, it was a very close election. With the smallest of majorities, through consultation with the members on the government side of the House so each member of the government knew what was happening and what was going to come next and by co-operation and explanation with the Opposition, business was carried out. Some very substantive business was carried out under that government with a majority of one. It was not carried out by trying to change the rules so the Opposition could not speak. It was carried out through co-operation.

I am always reminded of the words of that American President, Harry Truman, when he always said that if you want to get ahead, you've got to get along. This government should have those very few words tattooed on their arms so they could look at it every day; so they could realize if you want to get ahead, you've got to get along. This government is not getting ahead and it does not care whether it gets along with the Opposition, with the backbenchers on the government side or with the people of this province.

Without a majority government or a majority of one, the former government privatized the Nova Scotia Power Corporation. That was not an easy undertaking for such a small majority, but the government was able to do it without restricting debate. Do you see the difference? This government looks pretty foolish to the general public. You have a caucus of 39, the Opposition is 9 and the Third Party is 3, and, truly, the only way you can get legislation through is by bringing in this dictatorial piece of garbage.

Madam Speaker, I would like to hear from one of the members of the front benches, from the Treasury benches, why the government cannot seem to get its business done with such a huge majority. Every other government in Canada seems to be able to work with a huge majority or a small majority except this one. They have to resort to the most undemocratic, autocratic resolution that has ever been tabled on the floor of this House. This is the government that said we are going to have two sittings a year. We cannot wait to get into the Legislature. Well, they waited this fall and they waited and waited and people said, are they ever going to call? Finally they called the Legislature and they said, now we cannot

[Page 3097]

wait to get out. They could not wait to get in and now they cannot wait to get out. It is amazing that a government that claims to love the Legislature would bring in a resolution that absolutely, totally and completely strips the Opposition and the backbench members of this government of any opportunity for meaningful and helpful dialogue and debate.

We have seen resolutions come through this Legislature this year. The NDP member for Sackville-Cobequid brought in a resolution that was passed unanimously by this House and it was condemning Imperial Oil. The government said, I am a little embarrassed that it slipped through without proper consideration. While this resolution slips through, all Nova Scotians forevermore should be embarrassed. It is not slipping through without consideration, but it is, indeed, going to go through because we cannot stop it.

"Grits admit mistake", was the headline in the paper, but the comments from the government members and the Government House Leader indicated what they feel about a resolution; it is an opinion of the House and thus should be considered very strongly, but it is not binding. The Minister of Finance indicated that it is not legislation and there is not a legal requirement. This is the opinion of two senior members of this government.

Mr. Speaker, my question is, if it is an opinion of the House and it is not legally binding, then why did they bring it in? You cannot have it both ways. Either it is binding or it is not. I believe it is binding and we have changed the rules. This, again, shows what Nova Scotians realize and have come to expect from this government and it is selective democracy. From time to time, business of this House is binding and it means something, but other times, it does not make any difference, we just did it on a whim. What are people to think? What is a member to think? What are the backbenchers to think of the exhibition by the front benches?

The member for Cape Breton West brought in a very legitimate concerning the concerns that the Whites have with regard to the investigation and the public inquiry into the suicides at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. I sat and I listened in the House as he read in very distinct terms. I watched the Government House Leader and he was sitting there when it came time to vote with a puzzled look on his face but he didn't say no. That resolution passed. What did the minister and the Government House Leader have to say? What he said when that resolution was passed was sickening to the ears of Nova Scotians and particularly to the Whites. He said it was no big deal, it was Friday. In the eight years that I have been in the Legislature something strange usually happens then. Where has he been, on Mars? What is strange about an MLA having compassion for his constituents and bringing in a resolution, in defence and request the government to action? Is that strange? Indeed, I believe it is from the point of view of this Liberal Government. It would be strange for the members to have compassion for Nova Scotians and very strange for them to represent their constituents.

[Page 3098]

Mrs. White said, what is wrong with these people? How can they pass something and then do nothing about it? This is why the government is despised by 75 per cent of Nova Scotians because the Government House Leader is so typical of this government. It was no big deal, Friday morning something strange usually happens. Well, something strange happened to this government after it got elected, it forgot all the high ideals that it professed during the 1993 campaign.

The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, the Government House Leader, is in the newspaper saying that the member for Cape Breton West's resolution passed, he couldn't comment. He said, I wasn't in the House when the resolution was read. Mr. Speaker, I saw him, he was sitting in this place as big as life. He went on to explain, it is not a concern to us, a lot of this is games that are played by the Opposition.

You compare this resolution that was introduced by the Government House Leader and then you compare the resolution that was brought forth with compassion, thought and concern by the member for Cape Breton West and you tell me where the Government House Leader could get the gall to say that. I don't consider it a game to represent your constituents. What I do not understand is the selectiveness of this government. Everything they think, say, or do is okay but anybody else, any Nova Scotians with an idea or a desire doesn't count.

It is terrible, this change in rules that will forever alter Nova Scotia's Legislature, it is not fair. One of the reports in the media said the Liberals were smart to bring it in this time of year, it is Christmas, nobody is paying attention. Everybody is out shopping and thinking of family and decorating their trees and putting their lights out. Everybody is working hard in the stores and the shops, trying to get in the extra hours and earn some extra money. They are having office parties and family get-togethers. You know people are doing what they do this time of year.

[11:15 a.m.]

So one of the commentaries said, they are smart. They will kind of slide it through when nobody is noticing. Well, maybe that is the logic of the government, slide things through when nobody is watching. But I don't know that that could be true. In fact, I think it is not. Nova Scotians know what this government is up to. Nova Scotians aren't crazy about this method.

Nova Scotians are puzzled. I had a constituent call me yesterday with a problem and afterwards the question was given to me, why are they changing the hours so you can sit all day and all night to pass things when there are 40 of them and only 9 of you? Can't they just pass things? I said, yes they can but I said they don't know how to get along. They don't get along with each other and they don't get along with Nova Scotians.

[Page 3099]

I think the most appalling, disgraceful and the worst thing that I have seen were the statements to the media by the Government House Leader that was going to Sears to buy a hammer to beat up - I am from Cape Breton. What a way to talk. Is this the type of attitude that we want to pass on to young people who may be looking at a career in politics? Is this the idea that we want to put forth that this is what politics is all about? I am the tough guy. I have 38 other guys behind me and I am going to get the hammer and beat up. What kind of an attitude, what kind of government, what kind of a Premier allows that talk to take place and then seems to agree with it? Is that good parliamentary example for our young people?

I was concerned when I read that. There didn't seem to be anybody in the government think there was anything wrong with talking about beating up, hammering people. There is a problem. This government has the attitude they can do whatever they please. Two Nova Scotians, two duly elected members of this Legislature and it is okay. There used to be a guy in the 1930's and 1940's who tried to change the face of the Earth and, in fact, he did. That was his attitude. The end justifies the means. That is scary. When we have the most senior person in this Legislature talking about buying hammers so he can beat up on the government, it sends a most peculiar message to the people of Nova Scotia; not a message that I would be proud of, Mr. Speaker, and not a message that I would think any member of this government would have anything to do with.

Where is the hammer-wielding Government House Leader when we are going through this debate? Why doesn't he stand and defend his comments? The editorial in the newspaper said it very well. They said perhaps he should have said, we are going to buy a bicycle so we can go around the province and meet with Nova Scotians. What would be wrong with that?

AN HON. MEMBER: Get a helmet.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, yes, somebody just said and he should get a helmet. You know it is hard to believe that this government sends out such mixed up messages. They are concerned about people driving bicycles so they bring in helmet legislation and at the same time they bring in a tax that makes it so difficult for people to buy the bicycle to begin with. Talk to the young people in the province and the young families with two or three children and find out how they enjoy buying the bicycles.

Mr. Speaker, there was a letter to the editor the other day addressed to the Premier and it was titled, "We won't forget . . . Could it be that his going to bed with Prime Minister . . . over the BST and the natural gas pipeline will mean a Senate seat . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, is there any relevance in your comments relating to the debate on the resolution?


[Page 3100]

MADAM SPEAKER: I fail to see it.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, then pay attention.

MADAM SPEAKER: I am paying attention.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Nova Scotians would be advised . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I will call it to your attention one more time, if you would like to take your seat for a moment. I fail to see the relevance in your comments and I fail to see the relevance in your sarcasm. I am prepared to recognize you one more time if you would like to contain your remarks to the debate on the resolution.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, thank you. You are very kind. We are so fortunate to have you in the Chair.

Let me read a little more of this letter so there is no misunderstanding. "Premier John Savage seems prepared to inflict severe hardship on his 'little people' to achieve some future political reward. Could it be that his going to bed with Prime Minister Jean Chretien over the BST and the natural gas pipeline will mean a Senate seat after his defeat in the next provincial election? The spending power of Nova Scotians has . . . been eroded by his increase in the provincial sales tax from 10 to 11 percent . . . Nova Scotians would be wise to inform both in the provincial and federal elected representatives that, if they support the BST, their names will not be forgotten . . .".

Well that is exactly the point of this resolution and I will go over it again because this resolution was prompted because of the desire of this government to help fulfill a campaign dream and a campaign promise of the federal Prime Minister, who said he was going to cancel and rip up the GST. Three Premiers in the weakest area of all of this Dominion decided they would help him out. This is why that letter was written to the editor of the newspaper, because the writer felt that there was an ulterior motive that would someday reap a benefit to the Premier of our province for going along with this BST. The BST is the reason for this resolution. Is that a clear enough link, Madam Speaker?

There were other letters to the editor which I shall not read for fear of going off track, although when you come to letters to the editor from people right across the province, and you realize what people are saying about this government, about this Government House Leader - enjoy the time you have Richie, your time is coming - referring, of course, to the election. That was from e-mail on the Internet from a constituent of the Government House Leader. That writer was not any more amused than I by the Government House Leader's blatant use and his blatant example of his preference for violence when he said he was going to get the hammer to the Opposition. What a terrible example for Nova Scotians.

[Page 3101]

The other day, Mr. Speaker, one of the media said to me, why, in all that is good and holy, would you stand in your place and speak against this resolution? Why do you even bother coming in here to talk about this BST? They have got you outnumbered. They have got you beat. They are going to wear you down and they are going to pass it.

Mr. Speaker, why, indeed, is the Opposition bothering to speak on this legislation? Why do we put up with the barbs, the jibes, the laughter and the total lack of respect for the Legislature or the constituents by the government? I think we have to, I think we have a responsibility, even though the government has a large majority and they have to resort to bringing in pieces of legislation, resolutions that alter forever the Rules of the House. With their heavy-handed manner, we have to because the people elected us as members of the Opposition to represent their views.

There is not one single person living in the constituency of Kings North who has told me that it is a good idea for the Government House Leader to change the rules, so you can sit any hour that he decides, you can sit up to 20 or 24 hours a day. Not one of my constituents said this will bring forth good government.

This goes back to the 1970's. The government in the 1970's, under Premier Regan, had unregulated hours of sitting. The Government House Leader would rise in his place and say to the members assembled, tomorrow the hours are from 3:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. If we accomplish some work, maybe we will leave at 6:00 p.m. We will see tomorrow.

This government likes to remember the 1970's, when Premier Regan was in charge, so much so that the chief advisor to the Premier, Mr. MacKay, who was advisor to Mr. Regan, perhaps it was his idea to change the rules. Perhaps he said, listen, when Gerry was Premier, we used to be able to tire the Opposition out like you wouldn't believe; we would keep them in there all day and all night and that broke down their spirit and they did what we wanted. That brought them to their knees.

I think that the advice from Mr. MacKay, the same fellow who has been so helpful to Natural Resources and probably cost the province $500 million so far this year, this same advisor that Gerald Regan had is now advising our Premier. "Premier" Harrigan was around when Regan was here, too. He is over there being helpful. Every day in the paper you read notes. You don't know if it is Savage or Harrigan who is the Premier, he is in the paper so much.

One of the problems with the government is the advice that they are taking is from the old days. Every since the 1970's we have been changing the rules by unanimous consent that would be helpful to the Opposition and helpful to the people of the province. Why on earth would a government that is looking to the next century want to go back to the 1970's? It doesn't make sense. I suppose it is easier to use your sheer weight of power of numbers to

[Page 3102]

beat the Opposition around than it is to rule by consensus, common sense and common decency.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you now, if I am fortunate enough to run for office again, get elected and become part of a government, one of the first items that I would commit myself to is the withdrawal of this disgraceful, undemocratic, autocratic resolution. This is not the type of resolution that helps Nova Scotians but it is the type of resolution that will reinforce 75 per cent of the people's opinion of this government and this Premier, that they are incompetent and totally unable to deliver the goods. When you have a majority of 41 members in this Legislature and you can't run a Legislature without every fiasco known to man and then in the three years since, you lost one member when he couldn't stand to support some of this autocratic legislation and then you lost another when he resigned. I will tell you that I admire those two people's courage and I admire their fortitude for standing up to be counted and saying, there is a problem, you can't treat the Opposition the way you do in here and have people respect the government. People are looking out there wondering, what kind of government did we elect? We gave them a majority and they have to change the rules just to get something through. A total lack of respect for the traditions of this Legislature. You are supposed to represent the people that elected you to come here. You are supposed to kind of keep them in mind all the time you are here.

[11:30 a.m.]

Being an MLA is a lot more and it takes a lot more than just showing up every few years at election time. I don't know how the government is going to defend this resolution during an election. (Interruptions) Madam Speaker, did you hear that? Can I address some of the agricultural issues of concern just for a little moment?

MADAM SPEAKER: You can address the resolution, honourable member.

MR. ARCHIBALD: This is not on the resolution but to some of the heckling from the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, he says the farmers all want this. I would like to talk to that member a little bit about what the farmers are saying and if you would give me five minutes I could explain to him something he obviously, you see this goes exactly right to this resolution.

That member was a very active farmer, active in the Federation of Agriculture, provincially and nationally. I would like to know how that member could defend this resolution anywhere? I would like to know if he has forgotten the farmers who he went to Ottawa for? Remember when he was on television leading all of the farmers in Ottawa complaining about the Free Trade Agreement and worried about the GATT. He was saying, we are going to rip up the Free Trade Agreement, it is going to ruin the business. I haven't heard him say one single thing about that GATT, Free Trade Agreement or agriculture since

[Page 3103]

he got in here and neither have the farmers and they are starting to wonder what happened to him.

Getting back to this resolution I would like to hear how he could tell his constituents, and he has a larger constituency than just the ones that elected him because the agricultural community were looking for something from that member that they are not getting. They would like him to defend this resolution and he cannot because there is no defence. When you are trying to take us from 1996 back to 1970 because Robert MacKay is working in the Premier's Office and he knew how to run it in the 1970's and he knows how to do it now, I don't believe that for a second that that is what the people of Nova Scotia wanted. They want a government that is looking ahead. They want to know where we are going to be in 20 years. They know where we were in the 1970's and they want to know where we are going in the future.

If this is the best this government can come up with with a majority government, goodness, gracious (Interruptions) Madam Speaker, could you rule that member out of order, please? He is just a real heckler and he just seems to get away with it. Perhaps he is behind your bench and you can't hear him but I can and I find him both offensive and vexatious.

With a government majority and this is the best you can do, little wonder people are fed up. It is hard to believe with this majority that this is what you can do. What it tells me is the voters in Nova Scotia - you remember what Abraham Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Well, that was true when Abe was in business and it is still true. This government may have been able to fool people in 1993 but this resolution would scare people a great deal because they elected them and gave them a huge majority and they have to resort to tactics like this to get the work done. What is that telling you? It is telling me that either what they are trying to do is awful or they don't have any idea how to get along with anybody. (Interruption) Oh, we are hearing now from the great popular Premier, the most popular Premier perhaps in his own mind, because the people of Nova Scotia have an opinion that differs from himself.

It is hard to believe, Mr. Premier, that you who spent your life and your entire career caring for people could be part of bringing in a piece of legislation that shows, really, I don't care about democracy. That does not sound to me as though it is the same philosophy that you have shown through your career and through election campaigns.

The other day I was listening to one of those media scrums and they were talking about this revolution, they were talking about the BST. The Premier indicated that it was the media that was the problem with this government's poor showing in the polls and the disgust of the people and so on. You see, he wasn't saying, look, we've got a problem and I am going to sit down with my Cabinet and we are going to see what in the devil we are doing wrong. He didn't say that. He said, we're doing it right; it is you devils in the media that are doing it

[Page 3104]

wrong. Sometimes you look up in the gallery and you can count them, all the media people that this government has hired in the last three years. I think they made a mistake because they should have just kept giving them interviews and holding the carrot - we are going to give you a job, keep writing good stories - because now he has got them all working for him. He was blaming the media that is still there, that hasn't been hired by this government, for the problem of the government.

I don't think that is the media's fault. The media did not write this resolution. The media did not close the Eastern Kings Hospital or the Berwick Hospital. The media did not take the librarians out of the schools. The media didn't do this resolution. The Premier has to first look in the mirror and decide. That is why the people are saying what they say about this government. The Liberal MLAs should look at this resolution and they should look at the attitude that brought this resolution forward. They should not be blaming the media for the poor showing.

The government was elected on openness, transparency. It wanted to sit twice a year when in Opposition and in an election they said one thing but now look at them. What a difference a day makes. They brought in the most autocratic pieces of legislation twice that this House has seen since the 1970's. They really used to say we want to sit twice a year, but now they have changed, they want to sit twice a year, we would like to have a Throne Speech and get out of here and then we would like to have a fall opening and get out of here the next day. I mean, two days wouldn't be quick enough for this government.

Then we haven't had the Legislature on television this session. We have this resolution (Interruptions) We bring in this resolution, which is really very interesting, and we are going to have a meeting of the Legislature Rules Committee on Assembly Matters next week to discuss television. Now, we are going to have a meeting of the committee to discuss television, but we don't have a meeting to discuss this resolution. You see it just shows how shallow this government really is. We will talk about TV because it really doesn't matter, but don't talk about this because it does matter. Do you see what I mean?

Madam Speaker, it goes on and on, the blame that these ministers attach to everybody. The Premier blames the media for the poor showing. You know, the Premier, at the same time, he said John Hamm made him bring this in - the Leader of the Opposition made me do it, not me, I didn't do it. Sounds like a schoolyard kid - the Premier said that John Hamm made this resolution come into this House because he threatened to hold up the House, he was going to do tricks. I don't understand where in the dickens this Premier gets the idea that the Leader of the Opposition wrote this resolution.

The Leader of the Opposition indicated to you and to me that he was opposed to this BST and we were going to do everything within the Rules of the House to keep it from getting through; force the government to listen to the people; force these backbenchers, who have time, to listen to the people. The Premier says, no way, I am not letting the Opposition

[Page 3105]

have their time to talk about that. I am bringing this in. The Premier can't stand up and say, I want to do this. He says, the Leader of the Opposition forced me to do it. He blames someone else for his misfortune, he blames the media because nobody likes this government. I am sorry, 25 per cent of the people in the province are lukewarm, I guess, to it, but 75 per cent are fed up. That is really why, because you can't take the responsibility. Find someone else to blame.

Do you remember two weeks ago, Madam Speaker? The doctors and the nurses were the problem in the health care, according to the Premier. There is nothing wrong with health care, there has never been; it is those darn doctors and those darn nurses scaring everybody. I heard him say that, did you? Blaming somebody else. Instead of blaming his former Minister of Health or the current Minister of Health, he was blaming the doctors and the nurses. I, for one, know a lot of nurses and people working in the hospitals, they are working very vigorously, many of them are working beyond capacity and many of them are stressed.

It is just like this resolution they brought in; the Premier won't accept any responsibility for the actions of this government. It is like when he fired the Deputy Minister of Health, move blame on to somebody else. You cannot shift everything to somebody else, Madam Speaker. This Premier and the Government House Leader brought in this resolution. They should be taking the responsibility for it and explain it to Nova Scotians. Why doesn't the Premier just get up the gumption to say listen, there is a lot I like about dictatorships and this is going to help me, or stand up and say we have to get this through before Christmas and this is how we are going to do it, or he could say, I have a trade mission that I want to go on so I can hobnob with the Prime Minister and lobby for my Senate seat. I have to get this done so I can go away with the Prime Minister, be like one of the boys in that club he speaks about.

Madam Speaker, what I would like to know is why the Premier just doesn't stand up and come clean, instead of

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . jobs created . . .

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, we have lost about 9,000 jobs in the last year. You know the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, we have his number now because he knows full well what I said a moment ago about the disappointment in him from the agricultural community, not only that, I was speaking to some road builders last night and I asked, how much pavement did you put down? They said, 200,000 tons less than last year - that is quite different than what this minister said - he also said if we have one more year of that man as Minister of Transportation, there won't be a highway construction crew in the province. That's what they are saying.

[Page 3106]

[11:45 a.m.]

Why doesn't this Premier stand up and take responsibility for this. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, the truth hurts that minister from Bridgewater because I asked the road builders. Now, maybe he has got somebody else laying asphalt beside road builders, I don't know. But they are pretty well fed up with him and this government.

It is really quite surprising when you think of all the things that this government could have done with a majority, all of the good feelings that were from the people. The people of Nova Scotia wanted to support this government. The people of Nova Scotia showed, at election day, that they wanted a change. But they said, look. We want a change into the 21st Century. They said, we don't want to go back to the 1970's. But all this government heard was, let's get back to the 1970's. We are going back to the 1970's where we have secrecy in government, where we have a very small budget book now so nobody can follow the budgeting numbers and we want to go back where there are unlimited sitting hours of this Legislature so that the Premier can get away on his holiday trip with the Prime Minister.

Let's be truthful about this and stop beating around the bush, Mr. Speaker. It is like so many things of this government. When the former Minister of Health came in, he promised great things in ambulances and we have seen they are not even the same ambulances that he promised.

AN HON. MEMBER: What has that got to do with this resolution?

MR. ARCHIBALD: What that has to do with this resolution is this resolution is here because of the broken promises and the misleading information of this government. Remember the day we debated the ambulance. I remember the Minister of Health stood up and told us that this is what we are going to have. Look out the window and there is a Triple K ambulance out front. Go look at it. It is a great big cube van. What he bought was a very stripped down one, not what he wanted.

When they had amalgamation, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Municipal Affairs said that we were going to save a fortune with amalgamation. Then, by golly, do you know what? When they brought in amalgamation, they are $60 million behind in Cape Breton and they think they might save $100,000 in Halifax.

AN HON. MEMBER: What has that got to do with the resolution?

MR. ARCHIBALD: What it has to do with the resolution, I guess, is the reason for it. The government has no credibility with anybody in Nova Scotia, nobody in municipal politics, nobody in provincial politics, nobody in the health care system, nobody in education, nobody in agriculture. So when you lack credibility for leading everybody down the garden path, this is the only way you can get anything done. We know, as Opposition members, we are right

[Page 3107]

to fight this government tooth and nail on the BST legislation. The government knows they are losing. The government was happy as the dickens when they found out there was no television coverage of the Rules of the Legislature because they did not want . . .

Madam Speaker, I have gotten another request for an agricultural debate. May I have 30 seconds to talk about agriculture to this member? (Interruption) I tried to address your agricultural issues, but the Speaker will not let me. But, boy, I would love to give you both barrels, because if you think the farmers are in love with you, forget it. They cannot wait. You go to a Federation of Agriculture meeting today, I don't think they would let you in the front door. We have got letters like you would not believe from people, from Kings South, particularly. They have been writing in. They have been e-mailing and they have been calling on the phone saying, we are against the tax. Do what you can to fight it.

HON. GUY BROWN: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am very pleased and honoured that the Federation of Agriculture has invited me and other caucus colleagues to their meeting this weekend and I look forward to spending part of this afternoon at that meeting. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: It is a point of information, but it is not a point of order.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I want to thank the honourable Minister of Agriculture for that intervention because he did call to light that the federation's meeting is in Truro today and tomorrow. The great thing about it is it started this morning at 10:30 a.m. and the president of the Federation of Agriculture is making his address. All Ministers of Agriculture in the past, and probably in the future will be invited to attend that meeting as well as all members of this Legislature. In fact, my honourable colleague Brooke Taylor is in attendance this morning at the Federation of Agriculture meeting. I wanted to go myself but I was going to be here enjoying the Legislature. (Interruption) Give them my best, will you? Thank you very much.

Well, you see this shows so clearly, Mr. Speaker, why this thing had to come in here. The school board amalgamation was going to save $11 million. Remember that? I remember that Minister of Education saying, these cuts will not affect the classroom. I do not know if he has been in a classroom lately but perhaps sometime he should visit one because the cuts to the classrooms are hurting and hurting and hurting. I had a letter yesterday from a very excellent teacher who is teaching in Kings South. She wrote me a letter, e-mail even. I like to get e-mail. It is modern, up-to-date and all that sort of thing. You know, it is difficult when you are trying to teach youngsters. (Interruptions) Can I talk about agriculture? I cannot. I would love to address your question. I would love it. (Interruptions)

[Page 3108]

The teachers are telling me that they are being overcrowded in their classrooms. (Interruptions) I am getting to that in a minute. The teachers' classrooms are overcrowded. They were promised an $11 million boost to the education budget through amalgamation. All we have seen is the change in the ruling.(Interruptions)

Where it is in the resolution shows the need for this government to bring in these autocratic resolutions because you cannot get anything done without using brute force and might. You cannot get there on simple logic or explanation.

Now I have had so many people talk about the BST and we are not in the BST debate. If I get off on that too much I will get ruled out of order, but on with this resolution.

Farmers, now. The day before yesterday I happened to meet one of the largest farmers from the great constituency of Kings South, a constituency I drive through to get to Halifax, a constituency I shop in sometimes and I even buy gasoline in that constituency. If I cannot get it in Kings North, I will go to Kings South to do my purchasing. Failing that, I will come to town but I try to buy locally. It helps the local business. Anyway, I met this farmer from Kings South a couple of days ago and he said, without me saying boo, he just walked up to me and said, this BST thing is going to kill me.

I said, pardon me? The Minister of Education from Kings South just said that you like it. He said, "It's going to kill me. You know, I have to buy gasoline for my car. I have to buy electricity for my home. I have to buy (Interruptions) Okay. Well, I'm going to tell him he can now get a tax credit or a rebate for all the expenses that he has because the Minister of Education said he could. You see, this is where the poor Minister of Education shows his ignorance. He thinks everybody likes it because of all these tax credits. Look, if I had that piece of paper today that was in the paper, it would explain it. It said exactly what it says. I will tell you what the farmers are saying. The import tax credit is one thing. The BST is something else. (Interruptions) There is a real failure of this government to understand. There is a great failure. (Interruptions)

You see, even the worst situation you can find yourself in there might be a small glow in a small corner. Sure, there might be one little bit of this miserable thing that people find tolerable but overall it is a penalty. This farmer told me point-blank that he did not want the BST. He said he did not want the BST. On balance, he said it is going to hurt him and hurt his business. Now if the Minister of Education doesn't agree with me then maybe he should spend a little time in his constituency so the farmers will tell him what they are thinking.

This is where the rubber hits the road. The government thinks that they have something that is good, but we have gotten letters, e-mails, telephone calls and faxes by the thousands from people who are saying, don't let this pass, fight the resolution, kill the BST. The government isn't listening. We all know the Premier doesn't answer his 1-800 line . . .

[Page 3109]

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, the time for your debate has concluded.

MR. ARCHIBALD: How could that be?

MADAM SPEAKER: You have used your time.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Are you sure?

MADAM SPEAKER: Yes, I am quite sure, thank you.

The question before the House is that the motion be now put.

There are two requests for a recorded vote.

Ring the bells.

[11:56 a.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[12:55 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are the whips satisfied?

Before we proceed to the vote, the honourable member for Halifax Citadel on an introduction, please.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I will only take a moment. I am very delighted to have the opportunity to rise and to introduce to you and through you to all members, a Grade 6 class from Sir Charles Tupper School in my constituency. They are accompanied today by their leaders, Kimberley Burstall, Kim Kierans and Colin Fox. As I think other colleagues, the Minister of Community Services and the member for Sackville-Cobequid will attest, this group of young people put us through our paces in relation to BST and all kinds of issues. I better not get into other issues that raised with us. They are touring Province House. They are touring many of the significant landmarks in the City of Halifax. They began their day, the Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat will be interested, at the ceremony to mark the Halifax Explosion and they are doing a videotape and they have a pen pal class in Boston and the video will be sent to their pen pal class in Boston, as an expression, not only of what we are all about here in Halifax, but as an expression of thank you to the people of Boston for their tremendous help at the time of the Halifax Explosion. So I would invite the leaders of the class to rise and receive the usual warm welcome of all of the members. (Applause)

[Page 3110]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the House ready for the question? The motion before the House is that the question be now put.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[12:58 p.m.]


Mr. Barkhouse Mr. Donahoe

Mrs. Norrie Dr. Hamm

Mr. Downe Mr. Russell

Dr. Smith Mr. Moody

Dr. Savage Mr. Chisholm

Mr. Gillis Mr. Holm

Ms. Jolly Ms. O'Connell

Mr. MacEachern Mr. Archibald

Mr. Harrison Mr. Leefe

Mr. Casey Mr. McInnes

Mr. O'Malley Mr. Taylor

Mr. Surette Mr. MacLeod

Mr. Adams

Mr. Brown

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. Carruthers

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. MacAskill

Dr. Stewart

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Richards

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

THE CLERK: For, 31. Against, 12.

[Page 3111]

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The motion now before the House is that Resolution No. 921 do carry. The vote on this motion requires passage by two-thirds of the members present and voting.

A recorded vote has been requested.

Will the Clerk please take the count.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[1:02 p.m.]


Mr. Barkhouse Mr. Donahoe

Mrs. Norrie Dr. Hamm

Mr. Downe Mr. Russell

Dr. Smith Mr. Moody

Dr. Savage Mr. Chisholm

Mr. Gillis Mr. Holm

Ms. Jolly Ms. O'Connell

Mr. MacEachern Mr. Archibald

Mr. Harrison Mr. Leefe

Mr. Casey Mr. McInnes

Mr. O'Malley Mr. Taylor

Mr. Surette Mr. MacLeod

Mr. Adams

Mr. Brown

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. Carruthers

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. MacAskill

Dr. Stewart

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Richards

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Fogarty

[Page 3112]

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

THE CLERK: For, 31. Against, 12.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

According to the results of the vote, there is a two-third majority vote necessary on this motion.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: Mr. Speaker, just on a point of interest, to our guests in the gallery, they may be interested to know that the fine gentleman on the wall back there in the frame is their school's namesake, Sir Charles Tupper. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Rule 5(c), I move that on Monday, December 9, 1996, the House meet at the hour of 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 midnight and further that on Tuesday, December 10, 1996, the House meet at the hour of 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 midnight. I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: This motion is non-debatable. Is the House ready for the question?

There is a request for a recorded vote.

The Clerk will call the roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[Page 3113]

[1:05 p.m.]


Mr. Barkhouse Mr. Donahoe

Mrs. Norrie Dr. Hamm

Mr. Downe Mr. Russell

Dr. Smith Mr. Moody

Dr. Savage Mr. Chisholm

Mr. Gillis Mr. Holm

Ms. Jolly Ms. O'Connell

Mr. MacEachern Mr. Archibald

Mr. Harrison Mr. Leefe

Mr. Casey Mr. McInnes

Mr. O'Malley Mr. Taylor

Mr. Surette Mr. MacLeod

Mr. Adams

Mr. Brown

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. Carruthers

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. MacAskill

Dr. Stewart

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Richards

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

THE CLERK: For, 31. Against, 12.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 3114]

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 48.

Bill No. 48 - Sales Tax Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the debate over the most important tax legislation introduced in this province in almost 40 years. In doing so, I move that Bill No. 48 be now read a second time. This bill, the new Sales Tax Act, serves to give our province a badly needed economic boost. By dramatically lowering taxes in Nova Scotia, we will create the climate for our entrepreneurs to expand. By lowering taxes, we will help businesses make new investments. By lowering taxes we will put more money in the pockets of Nova Scotians. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the harmonized sales tax system is a simpler system, it is a more efficient system. There is one tax to be collected, there is one rate with which to deal. There is one price to calculate. There is one set of rules to administer and there is one set of civil servants employed to do the job.

Mr. Speaker, no one in this House should lose sight of the fact that sales tax reform is part of the government's overall tax reform program. Along with the sales tax changes come the general tax reductions, enhanced reductions for those on low income and direct assistance for many of those who do not benefit from the income tax cuts.

Mr. Speaker, these changes have been a long time in coming. This is no sudden, overnight idea. The calls for reform of our PST system have emerged almost from the day it was introduced. If I may, I would like to take members of this House back to the spring of 1958, April 21st to be exact. Now I can't say that I was there to personally attest to it but I will relate it from Hansard. In 1958 Robert Stanfield was the Premier. On April 21st he stood in this House to introduce a resolution that called for the introduction of the province's first retail sales tax. It is with some sense or irony that the immediately preceding business that day was to suspend the Rules of the House, in order to allow extended hours. There seemed to be a more generous spirit in the air in those days, as the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Henry Hicks, apparently had no objection to the move. The resolution passed unanimously.

[Page 3115]

Mr. Speaker, I digress. The point is that in 1958 Premier Robert L. Stanfield introduced the province's first sales tax. The hospital services tax, also known as the HST, was initially set at 3 per cent, as I am sure some members would remember, on all tangible personal property, excepting automobiles. In addition, it was applied to cigarettes, spiritous liquors and clothing, although not children's clothing. I guess at that time beer was exempt. Three per cent, Mr. Speaker. We have come a long way since those days.

The tax now sits at nearly 12 per cent. That rate, combined with the federal GST, puts the cost of most goods and services almost 20 per cent higher. Today consumers in this province have options; they can shop elsewhere, they can order from catalogues, they can look in the newspapers and order from New Brunswick or Toronto. They may use the Internet to order from California or the United Kingdom. They may use the mails to send their films to Montreal. They can and do travel extensively. They buy elsewhere. They shop for good value and buy when the price, including tax, is less. In each case, Mr. Speaker, our merchants here at home are helpless to compete. The reason for this inequity is the tax. The current rate, combined with the GST, is so high that people find it worthwhile to go elsewhere and the current law provides no effective way to require these customers to pay.

Mr. Speaker, the current system is breaking down. The imperative to reform is compelling, and so reform we shall. We are not the first; no, the road to changing the sales tax system is long and very winding. The federal government has always played a major role; it was the first into the field with the federal sales tax. This was an indirect tax; a tax was levied on the manufacturers, the beginning of the goods production chain. It, too, started out as a little tax; it, too, grew over the years. In its final form it was a staggering 11 per cent on the manufacture of goods in this country, an 11 per cent weight around the shoulders of those who would sell abroad, including our main trading partner, the United States, an 11 per cent hidden tax paid by unwitting consumers.

The federal government, Mr. Speaker, knew this tax was killing jobs, especially jobs in the heartland of this country where the manufacturing base was so strong. A high federal tax meant vehicles made in Oshawa or Windsor or Oakville were more expensive when they were sold to the United States. The tax had to go.

As all of you know, the GST replaced the manufacturers sales tax. (Interruptions) Now, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that honourable members might do well to use their ears and listen. I am not here to defend the creation of the GST. Admittedly, this has been an unpopular tax. It is a broad-based tax. It has a high profile, it is still a relatively new tax. In fact, it is only a few years old. Part of the problem is that five or six years ago governments missed the opportunity of creating one tax system; instead, governments opted for two. That missed opportunity has created some of the ill will today.

[Page 3116]

From the beginning the Mulroney Government tried to get the sales tax systems harmonized. As I understand it, it wanted Nova Scotia to come on side but the Government of Canada was not prepared financially to help ease the transition. And that is an important point, Mr. Speaker, because harmonization means a major loss in sales tax revenue for this province. Our estimate of the loss in revenue is somewhere around $100 million on an annual basis. In general terms, this is good for the economy. That money goes to work. It does not sit idle under someone's bed or in the vaults in the basement of the Provincial Building. There is no place where construction companies, shopkeepers, sawmill operators, for example, put the extra cash. They do not stash it away. That money will be spent.

[1:15 p.m.]

It might be used to invest in new equipment. That may help that business expand, win new customers and create jobs. Jobs. It might be used to modernize, help the companies to become more efficient and help to preserve jobs. It might be used to pay an owner/manager or a worker a few extra dollars - money that they will use to buy their children some more toys for Christmas, for example, and that helps a business decide to hire another part-time clerk. (Interruptions) It might be used, Mr. Speaker, to lower bid prices on a contract and allow someone to do more work. That could mean that the construction crew stays on for an extra week or two.

Mr. Speaker, some of the members opposite do not seem to like the word jobs and putting people back to work. We do. (Applause)

No matter how you cut it, more money in the economy and more efficient businesses means more jobs. Ask any economist. Ask any retailer. Ask anyone who has any experience in this matter. It makes fundamental sense and if we could we would lower taxes even further, Mr. Speaker, but we must also pay for the programs and services that people want. We must pay the interest on the $8 billion or $9 billion debt run up by the crowd over there.


MR. GILLIS: Shame it is, that's for sure.

We know we will be better off after harmonization. We know that in time with more people working we could make up the lost revenue, but how do we get from here to there? I would like to touch on that, Mr. Speaker. That is where the agreement between Ottawa and Nova Scotia comes in. Unlike the previous federal government, the current federal government has agreed to help our province get from here to there.

Ottawa has given us $249 million in transition funding in order to help us. This money will help to preserve services for Nova Scotians while we grow the economy - that is grow the economy, put people to work. Mr. Speaker, that is why we were able to take this firm

[Page 3117]

step into the future. The federal government has given us a boost. All we need is a boost. We can take it from there. This legislation assists in moving towards a long-standing goal for Nova Scotians. The target is the ability to stand on our own two feet and we all support that.

Mr. Speaker, the principles of transitional assistance were part of the original Memorandum of Understanding signed last April. The principle of one national base - the GST base - also was set. The principle of one rate - 15 per cent - also was decided. The principle of significant rebates to municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals also was enshrined. What was left to negotiate, was the mechanics of how the system would operate; what the rules would be.

It was on that basis that this government has been consulting for the past six months. Mr. Speaker, we take our responsibilities seriously. We were elected by the people to form a government and to act, not sit back and dream about rainbows, pie in the sky. We take policy decisions all of the time. We are elected, we are not like some group that may never have the chance. At least the members of the Official Opposition have been on this side and I know that. Some of the others, Heaven forbid that they get to the seats of power. It is our responsibility to show leadership, not to be led. It is our job to look at all the options and choose the best course for Nova Scotia. Our government did that on harmonization.

Once we made the policy decision, the decision to proceed in principle, it was important for us to make sure we had the details right. That was the basis on which we opened the 1-800 line and met with many individuals and organizations. It was an important exercise for us and those who took part with us.

We spent countless hours with the home building industry, for example. We wanted to make sure that the harmonization was good for the home building industry and it is. The rebates make sure home builders and potential new homeowners will benefit from the lowest interest rates in decades. Today is a good time to build a new home in Nova Scotia. It will still be a good time next spring. I guess the Opposition on the other side of the House does not like good news, they don't like the low interest rates which put people back to work. We are in favour of that.

A similar amount of effort was spent with the municipalities. We wanted to get an agreed position on the impact of the new tax system on them. At the end of the work we agreed that in broad terms harmonization may cost municipal units between $6 million to $8 million more once harmonization is in effect. That is on aggregate municipal budgets of approximately $900 million. We are continuing to work with the municipalities in order to see whether the province can offset some of the additional municipal costs.

What some municipalities are realizing and what all members of this House should realize is that there will be significant benefits because our economy will grow.

[Page 3118]

AN HON. MEMBER: Who says so?

MR. GILLIS: I will come to that, just pay attention. More people will have jobs, buy houses, need business services and open new offices. This increased economic activity will mean a growth in the municipal assessment base.

I also must mention the time we spent listening to this province's authors, booksellers, librarians, students and just about anybody else interested in literacy. They argued that reading was the basic building block for creating a democratic society. We accepted that argument and that is why our government has effectively exempted books from any extra taxation and that is good news. (Interruptions) They don't like good news when we fight for literacy. That is why we prevailed upon Paul Martin to relieve the federal portion of the tax on some books. The Premier was the leader in that fight, and he fought right to the top. We won a bit there. Through our concerns and the concerns of groups such as the Don't Tax Reading Coalition, we have made progress. I should say and remind the House that books purchased by the so-called MUSH sector will be free of any HST and that is real progress. I guess they don't like the good news.

We listened to the concerns of small businesses on the growth of the underground economy. There will be increased enforcement on this issue, starting at the time that the tax comes in. Cheating the taxpayer is really cheating (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, a fair and level playing field obviously isn't of much interest to the members of the Third Party because they keep chirping in. I think they should listen and give me my chance; they will have their time.

Mr. Speaker, cheating the taxpayer is really cheating your neighbour, your friends and your future. The less some pay in sales tax or income tax, then the more the rest of us have to pay. Tax evaders are freeloaders; they use our health care system, they use our schools, they use our highways and our provincial parks, but they do not pay their fair share.

We listened to the volunteer and municipal fire departments. These people form the backbone of an important public service. We are determined that the cost of acquiring most fire vehicles does not increase and we have a rebate program to make sure that that does not happen. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, my officials spent a long summer listening and negotiating. Every second week we were at the table with our colleagues from Newfoundland and New Brunswick and the Government of Canada. Over time, the shape of the final agreement began to take shape. The bill before you today incorporates that fundamental document. The Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement (CITCA), signed in October of this year, puts the flesh on the principles agreed to last April.

[Page 3119]

CITCA achieves several very important goals for the government. First and foremost, we will have revenue predictability for the first few years of the agreement. Mr. Speaker, that means we can plan programs without worrying whether we will have the money to pay for them.

Secondly, this agreement ends a long-standing inequity for Nova Scotia retailers. For the first time since 1958, they will face a level playing field when it comes to competition through the mail. Earlier I referred to catalogue shopping. Right now, the mail-order businesses do not have to charge PST on the goods they send here in the mail. That automatically gives them, those outsiders, a cost advantage of nearly 12 per cent over the local merchant. That is an unfair advantage, but one that we have been unable to end until now.

Under harmonization this inequity is ended. The out-of-province firm will charge 15 per cent; the in-province firm will charge 15 per cent. All is fair, and we know that this will mean more business for the local firms and more jobs, of course, for Nova Scotians. (Applause) The improvement is not just at interprovincial borders; our new partnership with the federal government means that tax loopholes at international boundaries are closed, too.

Mr. Speaker, when I talk about a partnership, I mean a real partnership. The tax agreement means we will have a real say in the administration of the entire sales tax system. We will have a representative on the new Canadian Border and Revenue Service. We will be on the inside when it comes to creating the rules. We are not signing on to a federal agreement and then sitting back to collect the cash; this new agreement means we will continue to have a say in setting the regulations and directing the priorities. (Applause)

We also managed to achieve a very fair arrangement for our employees and for this government that is important. If you don't believe me, why not listen to David Peters? I would like to quote from a news release by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union on the harmonization agreement as it affects them. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, the members of the Third Party don't like good news, the gloom and doom they like. I think they should listen to the good news.

[1:30 p.m.]

The headline on Mr. Peters' release was: "Union praises government approach on BST employee transfers.". (Applause) (Interruption)

I guess the flat earthers do not like the good news, Mr. Speaker, but I am going to persevere. Maybe they don't like Mr. Peters, maybe they are trying to overthrow him, maybe they want me to (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister has the floor.

[Page 3120]

MR. GILLIS: It may be that after the next election, the Leader of the Third Party will be looking for Mr. Peters' job. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the press release goes on to say that there was some good news mixed in with all the criticism of the government's plan to harmonize the blended tax. The president of the province's largest union is praising government officials for the consideration shown the union and the employees of the Provincial Tax Commission. Now that is good news and we should hear it. (Applause)

That is the NSGEU. Seventy employees will be transferred to Revenue Canada. The balance of the Tax Commission workforce will find jobs in the slimmed down tobacco and fuel tax section, move to new challenges elsewhere in the government, or take early retirement. We believe the employees will not be thrown out of the work because of sales tax harmonization and that is good news. (Applause)

The bill before this House is a symbol of a more efficient, smaller tax system. The province will no longer be administering a retail tax system. Instead, we will be participating in the revenue sharing of a federal system. There has been some question about the length of bills, but I just want to say here, now, in order to accommodate the changes, naturally the federal bill is much longer. For us, it is simply necessary to have this House authorize Ottawa to collect the tax on our behalf.

That is what the first section of the bill, and I am sure all members have gone through it, is all about. It approves, confirms and ratifies the agreement between the province and the federal government. It also preserves the rights of this province to debate significant changes in tax policy. I want to repeat that. It preserves the rights of this House to debate significant changes in tax policy. Even though the tax system is the federal system, we may have future amendments, we may have future changes up or down. In each case, this Legislature will have an opportunity to debate the matter by way of resolution. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, these issues are dealt with in the document that the bill ratifies and confirms. There is no secret here. There is no uncertainty. The Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement, CITCA, is a public document. In fact, I have tabled it in this House and I have mailed it to people that have requested it. The new system is clear. This bill strikes an appropriate balance between the need to enshrine the principles in law, whereas preserving the need for some flexibility in implementation.

Mr. Speaker, I ask honourable members to consult with others on the issue of why we need to put the details in the regulations, rather than in the law itself. We are moving carefully here, especially when it comes to tax-included pricing. We must make sure we can respond to unusual business situations and new developments. To require the Legislature to ratify every twist and bend along the way to implementing this benefit for consumers would be unrealistic.

[Page 3121]

Mr. Speaker, we are continuing to work with interested groups on these issues. For instance, over the past few weeks, newspapers and magazines argued for more flexibility on the rules governing subscriptions. We listened and we agreed. The rules are better for it. The same was the case for leases such as motor vehicle leases.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation allows the government to smooth the way between the old and new systems for very large items such as automobiles and heavy equipment. Consumers and businesses will see their costs go down on these items, starting April 1, 1997. The amount of tax collected will fall from nearly 19 per cent down to 17 per cent. On a $20,000 new car that is a significant amount of money. It adds up to nearly $400 off the price of that car. Moreover, even at $10,000 for a new car, there is nearly $200 in tax savings.

The savings get larger the following year and the year after that. The point is that they do not all come in at once. As a result, there is no significant reason to postpone the purchase of a new car. In fact, Mr. Speaker, we know that many dealers are selling most of their cars by leases. Harmonization provides that there will be real, guaranteed lease reductions on April 1, 1997, on April 1, 1998 and on April 1, 1999.

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to turn my remarks to what the new sales tax system does for consumers, what it does for the economy and what it does for the future of this province. First, the consumers.

The fairest way to look at the impact on consumers is to look at the spending patterns of average Nova Scotians. This is a fairly easy task because that is what Statistics Canada does every month. It looks at the spending pattern and measures the changes in prices. So what our economists did was to look at that basket and to analyze what will happen to the prices, if you just look at the sales tax rates and not look at any other changes in prices. In other words, what price changes will occur just because of the sales taxes.

The economists discovered, Mr. Speaker, that even without a single business lowering its prices because of competition, the inflationary impact was negligible. It is predicted that there will be very little change in the cost of the average basket of goods for the average consumer in Nova Scotia. The reason is simple. Most of the things we buy will either go down in tax or stay the same.

I want to give you a few statistics, Mr. Speaker; 42 per cent of the average consumer spending in this province goes for things that are not taxed now and will not be taxed after April 1, 1997. Such non-taxable items include residential rents and mortgage interest, medical care, medically required home care, public transit and child care. These are examples. Another 34 per cent of consumer spending goes for items and services that are going down. That is 34 per cent more. Only 24 per cent of consumer spending goes for things that face a tax increase. That is the reality; 76 per cent there is no change or are down. The maximum

[Page 3122]

impact, even if there is not a single penny of business savings passed on to consumers, is a rise in the Consumer Price Index of 0.2 per cent or 0.3 per cent, not 2 per cent; 0.2 per cent or 0.3 per cent.

Has the Opposition been telling people that, the whole story? No, Mr. Speaker. As all honourable members know, the Opposition has been telling people every day that sales tax reform will cost them hundreds of dollars per year. The Opposition has indulged in an orgy of half-truths. They have failed to look at the whole picture. The big picture shows there will be significant tax savings on the things we buy to use every day and the things we buy to last for years, the so-called durable goods. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, they don't like good news, only the gloom and doom. When they mentioned, for example, the power bill, they neglected to mention the telephone bill or the cable bill or the bill you get from the pizza delivery person or the Visa bill that includes the Christmas presents. Those will be down because the tax rate will be down almost 4 per cent. (Applause) When they talk about the gas bill they fail to mention the lease payments on the car or the bill you get when your vehicle needs repairs. All will cost less.

Mr. Speaker, members of the Opposition speak about the oil bill but they do not talk, for example, of a visit to the hardware store. Such a visit could include the purchase of a new toaster (Interruptions) Maybe a shovel for some of the members. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I was just going to mention a few of the things; a toaster, a rake for the garden, grass seed, buckets of paint for new shutters, pieces of lumber for the new deck. The tax on each of these items will be lower, going down 4 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, there is a balance here and for those who are in the lower income groups there is more than balance. In fact, there will be directed assistance and a significant stacking of income tax reductions, in order to make sure that those in the lowest income groups receive a fair share of the benefits for tax reforms. There is a general tax reduction and there is a low income tax reduction which was brought forward by my predecessor in Finance, the present Minister of Health. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has been quoted as saying at one point and I guess it is so, that he will tear up the deal; he will invoke Clause 70 of the CITCA agreement if his Party happens to be elected by the people of this province. Well, I know that once the people of this province have an opportunity to see how balanced this total package is, they will not be giving the Leader of the Opposition a chance to do anything as foolish as that. (Applause)

[Page 3123]

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that his Party, the present Leader of the Opposition's Party, is elected to government some day in the century after the next one. I dare the Leader of the Opposition, if he is then Premier, to tell the people of this province he is reversing the 3.4 per cent decrease in income tax and put them back up. I dare him to do it. (Applause)

I would also like to see him explain to the people of Nova Scotia that he is raising taxes on the things they buy 4 per cent, 5 per cent and maybe 6 per cent. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition will say, oh no, we can just put it back the way it was in the good old days, the $8 billion or $9 billion debt.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I can assure him that the people of Nova Scotia, seeing a mammoth tax grab on the horizon, would set off the biggest spending spree in the history of the province; the slogan would be, buy now before the tax goes up. How much does he think they would buy afterwards? A great deal less, I can assure you. So I think he would have a major problem if he tore up the deal and went on to something else.

The result would be disastrous for the Nova Scotia economy; a freeze in consumer spending and nowhere near the same amount of money raised by the old rate, if he tried to roll the clock back. It would have to be higher.

Mr. Speaker, the provincial part of the tax next April will be 8 per cent. Will the Leader of the Opposition tell the people of Nova Scotia that he wants to raise it back to 12 per cent at a minimum and likely up to 13 per cent or even 14 per cent. I don't think he wants to do that. Then, if he does that in the old system, add on the GST to make it 22 per cent or 23 per cent from 15 per cent, that is quite a change.

[1:45 p.m.]

If consumers rush out to beat the tax increases, what does he think the business community will do? Does he think they will sit back and wait for 12 per cent or 13 per cent or 14 per cent tax to be slapped on their purchases? What would ever lead the Leader of the Opposition to believe that after the Nova Scotia economy has adjusted to a fresh new competitive environment, raising taxes on business costs by 12 per cent or 13 per cent or 14 per cent would be a good idea? They are going to be down by that rate, why would they put them back up? It would be a disaster and he knows it. If those taxes went back up to 11 per cent or 12 per cent or 13 per cent those businesses would no longer have to pay to be more competitive, it would be a disaster for our local businesses, never mind those who compete across Canada and around the world, because that is going to be big advantage and even Ontario and other provinces that are not harmonized have expressed concerns already.

[Page 3124]

Our government puts this bill forward because we know it is good for the economy. That is good news. Lower business costs mean more jobs and I repeat that. It is as simple as that. This is not rocket science, this is not even advanced economics. I am going to give a little example, just run them through. I don't want to detain the House too much longer but I just want to mention a simple approach. Ask any Grade 5 child setting up a lemonade stand how much more money he will have if it costs him or her less to build the stand and buy the glasses or the ingredients he has to have to make his lemonade. Ask him or her if he thinks he can sell more lemonade if he can afford to offer a lower price than his competitors down the block. Ask him or her if he thinks that means he will have some more money to spend in the local store. Of course, all of those things are true. Competition works from the Grade 5 student right up to all of the businesses and all of the people of Nova Scotia. We want to be competitive in Nova Scotia.

If a Grade 5 child can understand these things, I am convinced that the Opposition can too. You know, I think they understand this although they are not quite bringing it all out and maybe when we hear them in this debate as they come on side then we will know where they really stand. They understand, but anyway we will see how the debate goes. The Leader of the Opposition also has been quoted as saying that if there was no net impact on consumers he would not tear up the deal. He has been asked, well what would you do if the rate was lowered by a percentage point, in other words if the harmonized rate were 14 per cent rather than 15 per cent? Would that be okay? I understand the Leader of the Opposition said that would be fine.

So, we now understand this is a terrible deal and the Leader of the Opposition would tear it up, unless, of course, he could make the consumers better off. The conclusion follows in my books and on our side of the House that this is not a principled stand against taxing electricity, this is not about a tax on children's clothing, this is about how high the rate is. The gap apparently is one percentage point. I can relieve the Opposition Leader of any worries. I can tell him that the so-called $84 million hit on consumers is already offset. He can sit back and forget his threats. His trapdoor is already open. I am going to tell honourable members, because the member for Hants West was interested, that the income tax cuts and the targeted help combine to move Nova Scotian consumers in the right direction. Moreover, every economist we have consulted has told us time and time again that under competition, the business community will not be able to keep all of its own tax savings. In fact, customers will benefit and overall, Nova Scotia consumers come out ahead on the whole package and that is good news. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I will tell the honourable members reputable organizations that support now that he brings it up. If those members of the Opposition do not believe me on the benefits, what about the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council? What about the Conference Board of Canada? I suppose they do not have credibility in their eyes. They say consumers will benefit. They say, all on their own, with no prompting from us on this side, that

[Page 3125]

harmonization is good, good for retailers and good for the economy in general because consumers will have more money to spend, more coin in their jeans.

Or let us look at some others who think it is a good idea. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, they will have their turn. I think they should listen, those interested in agriculture. I am going to move on. I know the Minister of Agriculture is interested with the federation meeting coming up. I will cite, for example, Kings County as the most important agricultural county. I know the Minister of Education knows the benefit to agriculture, but the other two members from Kings County might be interested in this information.

The information, Mr. Speaker, is from the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. In a recent activity report sent to the members of the federation, and I want to just quote briefly from it, "Harmonization of the GST and the PST appears to provide a significant advantage to the farm sector.". Mr. Speaker, that is not the end of the quote. The quote from the federation goes on, "The harmonization expands the number of farm inputs that are tax exempt to include areas such as building materials, vehicles and electricity." The power bill. Ask a farmer that wants his barn repaired or even a barn built from scratch if harmonization is a good deal or not. The answer will be a resounding yes.

Mr. Speaker, once the various tax reductions come into effect, the impact will be felt in all parts of Nova Scotia, from Sydney to Yarmouth and points in between. It will be felt in the sawmills, which will have an even better margin to price their lumber when selling outside of the harmonized zone. It will make bookkeeping for this industry simpler when they do not have to track intricate vehicle movements in order to see whether their equipment can remain PST exempt, because they will be exempt. There will be input tax credits for the whole thing. It will allow sawmills, for example, to build up cash in order to modernize and remain competitive into the next century. We are thinking ahead to the millennium, Mr. Speaker. We are for the people. More people will be employed in those sawmills, making more sophisticated products.

Mr. Speaker, once these tax reductions come into effect, especially the harmonized sales tax - and this is to give another example - the film industry will have a field day. The TV and film production efforts on the South Shore, for example, about which we are hearing a good deal lately, will see a dramatic reduction in their costs. Meals, vehicle rentals, accommodation, film and video equipment, lighting and sound equipment, and computers all will cost less in Nova Scotia than they do in Vancouver or Toronto. Mr. Speaker, the good news is that more films will be made here, more people will be working here. Again, jobs.

Some honourable members were wondering about the tourism industry. Well, I am going to say a couple of things. Once these tax reductions come into effect, tourist dollars will go farther. When people come from Europe and the United States next summer, they will find the cost of their accommodations will have gone down dramatically. (Applause)

[Page 3126]

Good news, Mr. Speaker, for the people is bad news for the Opposition. In the case of foreign visitors, these visitors from abroad will get the entire 15 per cent HST back. (Applause) They cannot do that, they will not be able to do that in B.C. or Alberta or Ontario. They will find here that the cost of (Interruption) They do not like good news. You hear them buzzing like mad hornets. You've been getting the truth and you would do well to listen.

Mr. Speaker, tourists will find the cost of car rentals will be less.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . not included, they will be cheaper elsewhere. In P.E.I. . . .

MR. GILLIS: Yes, I imagine they will. I am sure they will. What are these tourists going to do? They will stay here longer and spend more because they are getting their 15 per cent HST rebate. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I am sure those foreign visitors would like to pay the 15 per cent more in P.E.I. and, in fact, the combined rate there is 19 per cent or 20 per cent. The rate is here is 15 per cent and they will get it back. They are really going to like that. I know where they are going to be; they will be in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I think there are some potential members of the funny-money Party across there, the Reform. I think some of them should look at it. I am not going to belabour tourism. It is going to mean more jobs and more people to work, and that is important. A $1 billion industry and we believe in it in Nova Scotia; the Savage Government believes it and we will promote it.

Mr. Speaker, once these tax reductions come into effect, there are others who will benefit. I am not going on like the litany of the saints until midnight on this; I want to conclude within five minutes or so, but I just want to mention that our consulting engineers, our emerging environmental technology companies and consultants, our software computer developers, manufacturers and multi-media experts, all will find they have an edge based here. A company came here in the last week and, on their own, said one of the reasons they like it here is the Harmonized Sales Tax, more competitive. (Applause) If that company is bringing 138 high-paying, new jobs in Nova Scotia, that is good news for the government led by John Savage, but the gloom and doomers don't like it. (Applause)

Our industries, Mr. Speaker, will have the Atlantic advantage. Their costs will be lower than their competitors. The math is simple. A computer in Ontario has a 7 per cent GST and an 8 per cent Ontario PST added to the price. In that province, the business gets the GST back under the input tax credits on GST, but the 8 per cent PST in Ontario or other provinces, whether it is PST, is a cost of doing business. In Nova Scotia, there will be a 15 per cent HST and business will get every penny of it back. (Applause)

[Page 3127]

Mr. Speaker, compared to Ontario, that is an 8 per cent advantage for Nova Scotia. It is an 8 per cent advantage for Atlantic Canada, it makes a difference and as I said earlier, it is the Atlantic advantage.

[2:00 p.m.]

I thank all honourable members for their tolerance in listening to me. As I draw my remarks to a close I want to mention what this means for the future of Nova Scotia because we are concerned about the future. We cannot depend on the old economy forever. We must adapt to the new realities or fall by the wayside. We must make it less expensive to communicate with the rest of the world. We must make it less expensive for business to modernize and to reinvest because that is what it is all about. We must make it less expensive for our engineers, inventors and creators to develop their ideas so they can sell them elsewhere in Canada and around the world.

This legislation does that and I recommend it for second reading by this House. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to address the friends of democracy on Bill No. 48. Strange it is that we are just finishing up the third week of the House and as a result of a unilateral decision we will sit 16 hours on Monday and 16 hours on Tuesday.

I was very, very pleased to hear the Minister of Finance endorse the actions of the former federal government in eliminating the manufacturers tax and in fact, their solution to the problem. It has changed immensely since he crossed the floor of the House. May I say as a preface to my remarks, I have a genuine respect for the member for Antigonish, the now Minister of Finance. I say that because I do not attribute the conviction with which he read his speech to a deliberate attempt to deceive the House but merely as a reflection of his lack of understanding of the issue of the day.

Let's really start putting it where it is, this is a bad tax. It is a bad tax because it hurts those of lower and modest incomes as consumers in this province. It is becoming increasingly clear, day by day, that it will hurt thousands of small businesses and thousands and thousands of consumers in this province. It is a bad tax because it fundamentally alters the tax regime in our province and our region and it is so confusing that even this government or this Minister of Finance cannot, or at least has not, shared a detailed explanation here in the House of its implications.

[Page 3128]

The minister did make reference to economic studies, backing up what he said. I invite, in the strongest of terms, the Minister of Finance to table those economic studies that fly in the face of all of the information that comes our way. It is clear that no such explanation or clarification can be given to Nova Scotia taxpayers who will collectively and individually bear the consequences of this increased taxation on the consumer side of this province.

Now the government makes a false assumption, that other provinces with bigger, stronger economies, will join in the creation of a blended sales tax when it is obviously clear that they have no intention of doing so. I noted with some interest that the Minister of Finance said that he expects within a very short time that we will be joined by Prince Edward Island in implementing this tax. Well, the minister obviously is a clairvoyant and we may have opportunity in the months and years to come, to indicate to him how wrong he was in this prediction, as he will ultimately be proven to be so wrong in many of his other predictions regarding this tax.

This is not a national harmonized tax. This is not harmonization; it is simply a Balkanization of not only Canada but of Atlantic Canada in that it doesn't even include all of the provinces on this side of the country. It will hurt all citizens and hurt most those Nova Scotians who are the most vulnerable: seniors, people on fixed incomes, the unemployed, single mothers, students. It will hurt business in Nova Scotia and will adversely affect employment. It will separate three of the four smallest provincial economies in Canada from the mainstream of Canadian consumerism and thereby weaken our economy and further deepen the recession that is mentally so prevalent in Nova Scotia today. It will impinge on the right of Nova Scotia to set its own financial goals and ties us into decisions made in St. John's, Fredericton and Ottawa. This BST tax is nothing but a transparent attempt by the Savage Government, which is now a lackey of the federal Chretien Government to try to have Nova Scotians and Canadians believe that the Chretien Liberals are making good on their promise to scrap the GST.

Mr. Speaker, this is an ill-conceived tax grab on the consumers of Nova Scotia. There is no question, and I tell you and I tell all Nova Scotians, that upon being elected Premier of Nova Scotia following the next election, whenever the Premier has the nerve to call it - and I challenge him to do so on this issue, this issue which apparently this government is so convinced will help our province and our economy. Let the electorate decide on whether or not this tax should, in fact, be implemented. We must get rid of this dangerous agreement, this blended tax deal that is so harmful to many sectors of the Nova Scotia business economy and to all consumers. If I have the opportunity to lead a government in this province, I will reconvene the Legislature and pass all and any laws and resolutions to kill our participation in this deal. (Applause)

Now, having seen the agreement on, I believe it was, November 19th, signed by the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Government of Canada, and I see now the legislation introduced just a few days ago by Finance Minister Gillis, I

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realize that the legal steps to disentangle us may in fact be cumbersome. But let me make it very clear. The government I lead will untie the knots and will design a tax reform that makes sense, a shoe that fits in Nova Scotia, one that does not hurt and does not squeak. It will be tax reform, not something designed in Ottawa and foisted upon an all too receptive provincial government but a proper tax reform that is the result of consultation with the people and that helps and not hurts the average Nova Scotian.

Well, what can we do now? We are and will continue to do, although the government does not afford us much time, we will continue to fight this tax in this Legislature and we will encourage citizens to come and rise up and stand and tell this government what they think about the tax. They have ample opportunity to do this. They must deluge their Liberal MLAs who are elected to represent them and give them their views, with the demand that this government revisit this whole tax reform process. The best solution for each and every Nova Scotian, and, in fact, the best solution for this government is simply to cancel the deal and design a proper arrangement with the federal government that makes sense here in the province.

We would convene cross-country meetings under an all-Party committee of the Legislature, giving citizens the opportunity to recommend how Nova Scotia can best extract itself from this deal. One of the difficulties that this government seems to have is to understand how much interest there is in the blended sales tax. You know I received a letter from Rick Clarke, who is well known to all members of this House, who indicated a very simple act of democracy should take place at this time, simply for the Law Amendments Committee process to travel around the province to allow those people who called me from Glace Bay, who called me from Yarmouth, called me from Amherst and Truro and Antigonish, to allow them the opportunity to, face-to-face, deliver their message to the government. All they are asking for is fair and equitable taxation.

What is fair taxation? I don't like taxes any more than any other Nova Scotian likes taxes but I like health care and I like education and I like helping those less fortunate than myself. I like being able to do what government can do to help Nova Scotians in a real, meaningful way.

I don't think any tax should be instituted unless it is fair. But there is a proper balance between consumption tax, corporate tax, income tax. That is all we are asking. I find it offensive when it is suggested that all taxes, in fact, can be paid by the corporate sector because I simply don't believe that. (Interruptions) Well, you know, the message is very simple - taxes are inevitable but taxes must be fair, taxes must be equitable.

I can tell you that in 1993 I had an opportunity to knock on every door in my constituency. Not a single Nova Scotian said to me that it was a legitimate solution to government to solve the problems of the day by increasing the tax load. People said to me, look, increase my property taxes and I might lose my home; increase the sales tax and, in fact,

[Page 3130]

I won't have money to buy those things that I absolutely need. They said to me that government solutions must not involve more taxation.

Now the Minister of Finance had an excellently prepared speech (Applause) but, unfortunately, he talked about all of the items that are, in fact, going to go down in price. But the bottom line is, when you balance it all up and you look at what is here in the $75,000 ad, which attempts to legitimize the blended sales tax that is before us, they have a very long list of items that are down and a longer list on which there is no tax on the items and a very short list of items going up. But what it neglects to say is that if you add it all up, the cost is $84 million and that is what the Nova Scotia consumer will be faced with.

[2:15 p.m.]

The only difficulty I have with the $84 million is when I look at the tax tables that have been presented back in the spring and I start doing budgets for low income Nova Scotians within the income levels that are contained in the tables, I come up with a higher level of consumer taxation than the government has presented to us in their tables. So if that number is going to be revised, it certainly is going to be revised upward and not downward.

So I think if we look at the government's attempt to bring information to the people, I think they should perhaps increase those items that are going up, because they left out a few very important ones. When you look at the items that go down, they talked about window coverings and bedding and kitchen utensils and they will go down, and they talked about a new automobile. One of the things they left out was school supplies, because school supplies are going to go up in price. They neglected that one. They did not talk about driving schools and they did not talk about safety supplies and they did not talk about fitness clubs and amateur sport and private dance and music lessons. They did not even talk about the fact that funerals will be more expensive. You even have to pay more to die.

I think the most enlightening statement that was made, and I believe it was made by the previous Minister of Finance, and I was hoping he would be here to hear that, is that when we were discussing in the House last spring and we were talking about the increase of the price of gasoline and he said, you know, that is all right. Gasoline will go up. It will go up 8 per cent, which, if you buy $30 of gas a week, it means that it will cost you $32.40 and that is a very real increase for most Nova Scotians. But he said, you know, go buy a new car and you will save far more than you spend on gas. I think that is a very unique solution. If you cannot afford gas, go buy a new car and then you will be able to afford it. I just fail to follow the logic. The whole logic behind this really does not hold together.

I think the important point is that virtually every family under $80,000 a year, and in this I am including the proposed decrease in personal income tax, and this is not just John Hamm spouting off and being a fear mongerer, this is Table 6 of the Report on Tax Reform. It was tabled on the last day of the sitting of the spring Legislature. Table 6, these are not my

[Page 3131]

figures, it goes and it compares the average sales tax increase, and it is broken down by family income, $0.00 to $10,000; $10,000 to $20,000; $20,000 to $30,000; $30,000 to $50,000; $50,000 to $80,000; $80,000 and above. Then, in another column, it is the average decrease in income tax paid. You know, until you get to a family income of $80,000 a year, you end up paying more consumer taxes with the BST than you save with the decrease in the personal income tax. I believe that results in about 4 per cent of Nova Scotians, in fact, with the decrease in the personal income tax will actually pay less taxes once the blended sales tax is in effect.

So, when I say this tax does not help low-income and middle-income Nova Scotians, Table 6, tabled by the then Minister of Finance, fully illustrates that which I say. I am not talking about figures that I have made up, I am talking about just simply reading the documents that the government has made available for us so we can understand what this very complex matter is all about.

I don't mind coming here on Monday and Tuesday and sitting 16 hours a day; I really don't find this place tiresome. Perhaps I haven't been around as long as many, and the Acting Government House Leader has certainly been here much longer than I. In reality, it does not serve as well to have the government, in fact, take something that is as fundamentally important and, even by the minister's own admission, fundamentally very important to this province and to introduce a resolution that allows the government to ram this piece of legislation through, bearing in mind, there just possibly might be something to what the Opposition says. I really and truly think there is. I think this is harmful and Nova Scotia consumers will be badly served by this change.

The other thing that disturbs me as well is that business as they look at this more intensely, is gradually backing away from its initial enthusiasm - I will have more to say about this later in my speech - unfortunately, those who are the most vulnerable will be hit the hardest, the lower and middle class, the working poor, seniors, students. Who could fail but to be moved by the demonstration that was outside yesterday? It was not a large demonstration, but a number of people who came to Province House to express their frustration that they have not had the opportunity to engage in debate about this issue. No public meetings were held, there was no opportunity to get down and stand opposite either the Minister of Finance, current or past; the Premier; a member on the government benches or a government MLA and to simply say what this tax means to me as a consumer.

Let's look at what has happened. There is something wrong when the government comes in with a tax change that makes it cheaper to buy a fur coat and more expensive to buy socks or a child's jacket or a pair of child's pants or sneakers, there is something really wrong. That is not the kind of tax reform that we need in this province, but that is really what this is all about. There is no balance to what is being done. There is no consideration for the day-to-day reality of what faces the average Nova Scotian, our necessities, which will be taxed at a higher rate, our electricity, our fuel oil, our gasoline.

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As an MLA, one of the difficulties that I face, that we all face as MLAs, and it always seems to happen on a Friday, when a constituent comes and says I am out of furnace oil, it is cold, my children are cold, I have no money and I have to get some furnace oil today. Of course, in more affluent times there was a solution in that there was discretionary funding available through the municipalities that would look after this particular crisis. That discretionary funding is gone and we all face that. We face it, unfortunately, on too many Fridays. What does this do? Is this going to make that furnace oil any more achievable? No, it is not.

It is going to cost the Nova Scotia consumer $15 million more to buy furnace oil. Maybe they have electric heat or maybe they have an electric heater. Too often those who are having financial difficulties have their electricity turned off and they come to the MLA and say, look, I need some help, can you help me with the Power Corporation? Can you appear on my behalf and see if I can get the power turned back on and I will arrange a repayment program? That same electricity, after April 1st, will cost Nova Scotians $15 million more.

Let's say that you have to drive to work, and most of us in Nova Scotia do have to get to work and many of us go in cars. This is a staggering amount. It is going to cost Nova Scotians at the gas pump, with this new blended sales tax, an increase of $54 million a year. That is an accurate figure, Mr. Speaker. We purchase in this province $700 million worth of gasoline and it is going to go up 8 per cent. If you do the exact math, that is $56 million, but I rounded it off, it is actually only $54 million. People are going to have to buy an awful lot of the lower priced goods if they are going to be able to have the money to purchase these necessities of life that are going to be so much more expensive. It is not achievable because their disposable income is going to be reduced by $84 million. That is the bottom line. It is what the Minister of Finance fails to understand, fails to explain, fails to tell the House about.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there is an introduction that a member wishes to make and I would be pleased to take my place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education and Culture on an introduction.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I thank very much the Leader of the Opposition for this brief interruption in his speech in response to the Minister of Finance's speech. I would like to introduce two citizens in our gallery today from Kings County, Gerry and Shane Buchan who are here visiting in the gallery today and visiting this Assembly while we are debating this rather historic move. Gerry is the President of Perry Rand Limited and his son works with him the Valley. They are very successful bus contractors in the repair and renovation business, as well as in the transportation sector. I won't comment on their feelings about this particular bill or the subject matter today but I am sure the members of the Opposition will be interested in their views on the HST.

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I would ask all members of the House to welcome Gerry and Shane Buchan to this House. (Applause)

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I too welcome our guests to the gallery.

I think one of the reasons that we like to live in Nova Scotia and perhaps we don't live in Toronto or in New York or in a major city is that one of the expectations, one of the dreams of every Nova Scotian is to eventually own their own home. I think it is one of the benefits, perhaps, of living in Atlantic Canada where there hasn't been a huge inflationary spiral in the cost of new homes or in the cost of homes. Real estate, compared to many other parts of the country, is still relatively affordable.

You know, that dream is just a little less of a reality after this tax comes in because despite the offset that the Minister of Finance has provided to those building a new home, the Homebuilders Association of Nova Scotia have provided the figures. The cost of a new home, in fact, despite the offset, will increase by 4.5 per cent, which means a $100,000 new home will cost $104,500, not a great increase but just makes that dream a little bit less affordable.

Something that I think is very relevant to people who are living here in the city, this really kind of sneaks up on one because it is not really included when you look at the consumer tax increase because it is not a direct consumer tax, but rents are going to go up. I have some figures here. These come from the Investment Property Owners Association. If you live in a 200 unit apartment complex in Dartmouth, the BST will increase annual expenses by $96.21 per unit. If you are in a 48 unit apartment complex in Halifax, you would face, as an owner, an additional $68.73 increase per unit. It is not the owner who is going to absorb those costs. It is going to be the renter. In other words, rents are going to go up.

[2:30 p.m.]

The argument, and this was not very scientific, was of course that there is a low occupancy rate here in Halifax. Well, I would suggest very strongly to the Minister of Finance, that the low occupancy rate has already resulted in a levelling off of rents here in Halifax. That has had its effect. What will next have its effect is the increase in the cost to the landlord which he will then have to pass on to the renter. The logic and the scientific basis on which the minister defended the increase in rents leaves me absolutely flabbergasted.

Earlier I talked about school supplies. I do not accuse the government of being insensitive to the plight of young people.

AN HON. MEMBER: I do. Don't be a gentleman.

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DR. HAMM: What I do think is they really do not know what it is they are doing. Now I had a visit, actually, earlier in the fall and I was in Sydney, Cape Breton. Among other places I visited the Women's Centre. There was a program there that was organized through the Women's Centre and it was a program whereby they went out and they solicited donations of money to provide school supplies for needy children. They provided the basic school supplies - a basic school bag, some scribblers, some erasers, some rulers and some pencils. They put a little kit together for 450 Cape Bretoners in the Sydney area whose families could not afford that basic investment to get their young people off to school. It did not end there, Mr. Speaker. There were 450 more young people on the list that could not be accommodated. There was not enough funding collected to provide the remaining 450 with those basic school supplies. Those school supplies come next fall will be more expensive, more unaffordable, more unaccessible for our young people.

I am looking here and transit services are going to go up and taxi services are going to go up as a result of the BST. I had a ride in a taxi the other day, something I do not do very often. It was probably the first time in several months I had been in a taxi. It was just after we were starting to get the details on what this was all about so I said to the driver, how is the taxi business. He said it is tough, it is really tough. He said, and he did not recognize me - he is like many Nova Scotians, I can still move around the city with relative anonymity. (Interruptions) You're right. He was very serious about this because most taxi drivers have to work long hours. You cannot make a living driving a cab eight hours a day. That is just not possible. Most drive 12 or 14 hours a day to make a living. What he said to me is that this will simply be another blow to his business. It will result in fewer cabbies being able to simply make a go of it here in metro and, of course, right across Nova Scotia.

I think the Minister of Community Services understood. Very few cabbies buy new cars, they buy used cars. So, really, they are not going to benefit. They buy used cars which, in fact, will not benefit the way that the new cars will by this tax. (Interruption) They buy a lot of gas. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, the government members, by making their observations, are absolutely convincing me that they fail to understand what this is all about because the total revenue available to a cabbie is the fee that he collects, the fare, which is totally taxable now at 15 per cent. Do you think, by any stretch of the imagination, if he takes in $10,000 worth of fares, which would have $1,500 worth of tax, that to carry those people around for a month, that he is going to buy $10,000 worth of gasoline to have an input tax credit to cancel that off? That is absolutely ludicrous.

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't understand anything.

DR. HAMM: The Minister of Community of Services, I can certainly understand why he is not the Minister of Finance and it is absolutely ludicrous what he is suggesting. (Interruption)

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MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has the floor.

DR. HAMM: What is this all about? This blended sales tax will aggravate the problem that we have in this province with poverty. That increase in consumer taxes will drive more people into the poverty income level in this province. You know, the greatest cause of misery in Nova Scotia, or in any jurisdiction, is poverty. Now the government says that it will offer assistance to those most severely hit. They plan to offset $84 million of increased consumer taxes, plus the pass-a-long in increased property taxes, due to the effect on the municipalities. But it is going to set aside a fund of $8 million, which even the Premier has publicly said - and who speaks with more authority for this government than the Premier? The Premier has acknowledged - that it is not sufficient to cushion the impact of the BST. The Premier said that, not the Minister of Finance. He failed, really, to mention this at all, but the Premier said that and we have yet to see how even this $8 million will be distributed.

This blended sales tax is being touted by members on the government side as being a tax break but, in reality, it is a tax mistake. The government members are, it seems, honour bound to support this, regardless of what information they are getting. There has been no opportunity, they have had no opportunity for input. When the Minister of Finance went to Ottawas to sign the deal last spring, they had no understanding of what this deal was all about. They didn't know there was $84 million in increased consumer taxes and they are now honour bound, through Party discipline, to support the government in what is essentially unsupportable.

The Premier says that he is just honouring the wishes of Nova Scotia. I would like to know how he knows, since he did not have the courage of his convictions to face the public in an open forum. There was not a single town hall meeting about this tax. So I would like to know just who the Premier thinks he consulted with? (Interruption) Some members had town hall meetings after the fact.


DR. HAMM: After the fact. The deal was signed, the ink was dry. I will challenge the members in the House who have held town hall meetings, and that is admirable. They are not the problem, they are just puppets to all of what is happening. I will encourage, when I am finished, the members who held town hall meetings to get up and indicate to the House what they heard at their town hall meetings about the blended sales tax and what changes they were able to have brought about as the result of their town hall meetings. I will await an itemized list from those members.

Now, this deal, this agreement, this arrangement, is a disaster waiting to happen. Many businesses, a growing number of businesses, agree that it is simply a disaster waiting to happen. I defy the Minister of Finance or the previous Minister of Finance to convince Nova Scotians otherwise. Why is business opposed? Well, talk with the retail sector. They employ

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40,000 Nova Scotians and they provide some $4.8 billion in annual sales; 40,000 Nova Scotians are employed in the retail sector. The retail sector says that tax included pricing on a regional basis will result in one or a combination of two things, prices will go up or jobs will be lost.

Now 10 major companies, 10 major retailers - and I believe I have the report here from the Retail Council of Canada. For any government member who doesn't have it, I will provide the report. This is what they say. Those 10 companies in Atlantic Canada - bearing in mind they are only 8 per cent of the retail trade but they are the companies that are large enough so that they have the resources to go out and really make a study of how this will affect them - have said that the start-up cost for them will be $28 million. There will be, for those 10 companies only, an ongoing yearly cost of $34 million. That's a year. That will go on. The $28 million will be there the first year, plus the $34 million in operating the first year. That will be a big hit, but here it is. You talk about tax credits. The total savings that they will have from input tax credits is $6 million a year. So the one time cost of $28 million and the ongoing net costs will be passed on to the consumer, and because they have $34 million annual costs, they will save $6 million. That means every year their increased cost to retail in Atlantic Canada will be $28 million.

Do you know who is going to pay that $28 million? It is not the corporations, not the retailer, not Canadian Tire or The Bay. It is not Eaton's. The consumer, that is who will pay that, because they have to pass their costs along. You say competition will do it, but competition is there now and competition is tough and nobody is making big dollars in the retail business in Atlantic Canada. It is one of the most fragile sectors of our economy. They will either pass on the price to the consumer or they will be gone. The jobs that they provide will be gone also.

That is why it is so difficult, when I bring up figures - and people have done analysis about the economics of this - when the Minister of Finance simply says, well I have economists who say, and then he gives you a figure, but he has no paper. He has no paper. What does he have? He has no paper but he has 39 people who sit with him in this Legislature who are prepared to support his bill whether or not he has any documentation or any proof. That is what the Minister of Finance has, no evidence, just colleagues who are prepared to support him here in this House regardless of the implication of what it is that he does.

[2:45 p.m.]

A look at the headlines in today's paper say, No saving from BST. That is interesting because it is not even from Nova Scotia, it is from Fredericton. (Interruptions) I am talking about how much they like this deal. That is the problem, you see, the Minister of Education needs an education because he says he loves the BST, he says it is great because somebody says they like the BST, and then they say but it is going to put us out of business. Never mind the details as long as the philosophy is great. It is like buying a nice pair of shoes; there is a

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great pair of shoes here for sale but they don't fit but we will buy them anyway because they look nice.

It is interesting, and perhaps this would be the time to mention that the day after this thing really got off the ground, MMG Management issued on the wire a release, because they had been studying what this was going to mean to their business. MMG Management have 19 stores in Nova Scotia and I have looked at the areas where those stores are and maybe I can quickly come up with them. Most of those stores are in small towns in Nova Scotia. As a matter of fact, one of those stores is in my area, New Glasgow, and another one actually is in Antigonish in the constituency of the Minister of Finance. They have a store in Antigonish, North Sydney, Sydney, Kentville, Yarmouth, Liverpool, Lunenburg, New Glasgow, Sydney River, Antigonish, Greenwood, Digby, Windsor, Glace Bay and Bridgewater. All these are in towns of much the same size, part of the fabric of rural Nova Scotia. Jobs are hard to come by in rural Nova Scotia and I am sure the government members are reminded of this from time to time.

There are 19 stores, they have 519 employees, and 11 of those stores will be closed if this blended sales tax goes through. They have provided a very excellent analysis of the costs that they will have to absorb if, in fact, the blended sales tax goes forward. They talk about warehousing, they talk about ticketing, they talk about changes in the cash registers and so on. It creates for them a very difficult situation and will make 11 of their stores no longer financially viable and over 300 of their employees will be laid off.

In the towns that I mentioned, those are very important jobs, over 300 jobs. The government which has been singularly ineffective in doing job creation for rural Nova Scotians cannot simply ignore the fact that overnight, with the stroke of a pen, 300 jobs in one chain alone will disappear. I invite any government member who hasn't seen this particular study, because I think it outlines for all of us the difficulty our retail sector will have in surviving with this new approach to taxation in this province.

The government loves to make reference to the harmonized sales tax and the different ways you can do your receipts at the cash register and it actually gives you three possibilities. The interesting thing is, depending on which sample you use, on multiple sales purchases you actually end up with a different price and it has to do with rounding off. In order to accommodate that, unlike what the Minister of Finance would have you believe, that it is simply a matter of adjusting the kinds of cash registers that 90 per cent of businesses have today, it really means a replacement of cash registers of a more significant nature to deal with the complexities of dealing at the cash register with the new tax-included pricing.

What the government failed to realize, and while I agree with all Nova Scotians that having it indicated on the shelf, the price including the tax, is relevant, it creates a terrible downside for merchandising and marketing. An accommodation must be made to the retail trade to offset the tremendous costs being generated by dealing with this simply because we

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have bought into a national sales tax change that, in fact, is not national at all; it is regional and it simply will not work as a regional tax.

Now there has been comment before, but it bears repeating, Mr. Speaker. All businesses with tax-included pricing will be obliged, under penalty of fine or imprisonment, to comply with the piece of legislation that we have before us. They will be obliged to take every item in their store and reprice it, come April 1st, to include the taxes on the price that is displayed, a very difficult matter because most items that come into stores today are pre-priced.

Now, for example, I have in my constituency a chap who runs a second-hand bookstore. He also sells second-hand CDS and second-hand tapes and second-hand books. He has 40,000 items in his store. The cost for that small entrepreneur to reprice that stock is a horrendous price for him.

We talk about small business. One of the reasons that the economy has not grown under this government is that the small business sector has not created new jobs. The interesting thing in the last two fiscal years is that small- and medium-sized businesses in New Brunswick created six times more jobs than small- and medium-sized business did here in Nova Scotia. It is approaches like this that really indicate to us why that all happens.

Another very interesting aspect to all of this is what does it do for the underground economy? All of us realize that as taxes go up, so does the underground economic activity. Now in Quebec - and Quebec has a form of harmonization, and when we addressed the problem of the underground economy with the Minister of Finance, he simply said well, we will deal with it as we deal with it - I don't know the size of the underground economy but it is probably in the order of perhaps $200 million. Wouldn't it be great if we could capture that $200 million and put it into provincial revenues? Just think of the good we could do. Quebec has the strongest underground economy in the country simply because they have a blended tax. We will see in this province an increase in our underground economic activity, and that will be to the detriment of the Minister of Finance and his ability to generate new revenues in this province.

It is interesting, and an observation, the situation in Quebec with the underground economy, is so bad that the Quebec Separatist Government is running English ads telling people who purchase their goods and services from the underground economy that they are hurting the province, and they are running those ads in English. That is how serious they feel that the underground economy is in their province. That is how serious it well may become in our province.

Now let's talk about tourism. We didn't have a great year this year in tourism. The year before, we had the great celebration at Louisbourg and we had the G-7 and we did have a great year in tourism. But this year was not so great, particularly in off-trail Nova Scotia, when you go into the areas like Guysborough or down to the Meteghan area or in the

[Page 3139]

Cheticamp side of Cape Breton, things were not so good. Even in Louisbourg, I had an opportunity to visit there and it was down about 40 per cent. They had a great year last year, but it did not carry over. So what does the BST do? Well, one of those who are objecting most vociferously against the BST are country inns. They are against the deal. So on and on it goes. There is no question that the increased cost of gasoline to our tourists will have a very negative effect on our tourism.

The other thing, too, this is kind of interesting and somebody pointed this out to me, I did not come up with it myself, that if you take a flight from Halifax and go out to the International Airport and buy a ticket, if we fly inside the country, we are going to pay the BST on the ticket. If you buy a ticket to go outside the country, you do not pay the BST on the ticket. That means, if I am making a choice, am I going to have my holiday in Canada, or am I going to fly outside the country - just another little incentive to make a Nova Scotian decide - well, I don't pay the tax if I fly out of Canada, well then perhaps I will do that rather than take a trip inside Canada. It is not a very good way to promote in-Canada vacations, Mr. Speaker.

Time is moving along, there is so much to say about this bill and so little time in which to say it and, certainly, so few days in which to say it. One of the situations that we are faced with as an Opposition is that the government continues to encourage Nova Scotians that this is a big boon to business and, yet, they don't really understand what it is going to do to various sectors of the economy.

I was most surprised the other day when I received a memo from the Department of Transportation and it was dated December 3rd. The department is attempting to determine the impact of the new BST on the trucking industry. It said, can you give me an idea of the types of costs an independent trucker would incur? For example, how much gas would he use annually, how much would he spend on repairs and tires? Are there other major costs? This is it. This will give us an idea of the real impact they can expect. Now this is December 3rd and all of sudden we want to know what will happen to the trucking industry, that is a big industry. I look around me and I see members who are from constituencies where the trucking industry is a real big employer. On December 3rd, with a signed agreement in place, we are going to find out what the impact is on the trucking industry.

Mr. Speaker, when I first came to this place in 1993, I did not feel that I would ever be able to speak an hour but, in closing, I am moving that the words after "that" be deleted and the following substituted: "That Bill No. 48 - An Act to Implement the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia, be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.". (Interruption)

[Page 3140]

MR. SPEAKER: The amendment is in order.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise to speak to this resolution and thank the member for Pictou Centre, the Leader of the Official Opposition, for having introduced this amendment. I do so because of the way this particular piece of legislation has been introduced to Nova Scotians as well as in this Legislature. I want to talk about why I think that we require a further six months in order to properly deal with this legislation and to communicate to all Nova Scotians exactly what it is that we are dealing with here with respect to this significant tax change.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the government refers to this as the most significant tax change since Confederation. If that . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The last 40 years.

MR. CHISHOLM: Oh, the member for Cape Breton Nova tries to correct me and tell me it is only 40 years. I had to take his guidance when he was in your place, Mr. Speaker, I do not have to take it now.

Anyway, it has been the Minister of Finance, the former Minister of Finance and the Premier who have made the following statement, that this is the most significant tax change in the history of this province since Confederation. People have said to me that if that in fact is the case, why would we be dealing with a bill, that makes so many changes, just seven pages long? Why would we be faced with a process to discuss such a major change when the legislation and the agreement has really been kept hidden? It has been kept hidden from many Nova Scotians. (Interruption) Yes, a few select groups and individuals have had an opportunity to talk to the former Minister of Finance and his officials and this Minister of Finance, but the great majority of Nova Scotians, probably the people who will be paying the piper when this bill goes through, when this agreement is ratified, have not had the opportunity to look at this agreement and to look at the details.

One of the things that this tax change does is it cedes a significant responsibility and decision making over tax changes in Nova Scotia to the federal government. That is not really talked about to any great extent in this legislation, Madam Speaker, yet, part of what the legislation does is it gives up that authority - holus bolus - to the federal government. As the Minister of Finance said when he introduced the bill at second reading, we do not have to have all kinds of details here because now the feds are looking after it for us.

[Page 3141]

That makes me ask the question - and I think many Nova Scotians are wondering - exactly what are those responsibilities that we have now given up to the federal government? What are the details that the federal government is going to bring in that will affect the kinds of taxes we are going to have to pay here in the Province of Nova Scotia forever and a day? What are the details of the responsibilities that allow the federal government, not the Province of Nova Scotia but the federal government, to make decisions with respect to how we can change the tax system in the Province of Nova Scotia?

Madam Speaker, I would like to show you something that I got my hands on this morning. It was not easy because there is no copy of this and Revenue Canada does not have it. This is the Ways and Means Bill that has just been tabled in the House of Commons . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: How many pages?

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . that basically sets out what we have given up here in our legislation and gives the details of this tax change. It is 354 pages, this Ways and Means Bill. Now, this Ways and Means Bill is not the legislation itself. I have been informed by the House of Commons that the bill that is now under work, I guess, because nobody has it. We have contacted the local MP Mary Clancy's office, she doesn't have a copy of it, they don't have it there. We have contacted the Revenue Canada offices here in Halifax and Dartmouth, nobody has the bill. But anyway the bill is going to be pretty much, except for maybe a bit of editing, this Ways and Means Bill, 354 pages, that is what we are talking about. (Interruption)

The member for Sackville-Beaverbank made a real sharp comment, as usual, who paid for that photocopying. That is part of the problem, right? That is the attitude you get, God forbid I get an opportunity to see the details of a tax change that is going to affect Nova Scotians, me as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, for Heaven's sakes. Heaven forbid Nova Scotians get an opportunity to see the details of such a significant tax change, their largest tax change since Confederation.

You tell me why in the name of Heaven, if this is such a good deal for us, if this is such a good deal for Nova Scotia, why are we being asked to debate, under duress let's say, a seven page piece of legislation? The details are in Ottawa, the bill hasn't even been printed yet for Heaven's sakes. The details in this Ways and Means Bill are currently being amended in the House of Commons. The Bloc has introduced amendments to this. In other words, these may not even be the final details.

This is serious business. Look at the detail, the degree that we are talking about in terms of tax changes. I am no accountant, I am no financial wizard, I would gladly and quickly admit that. Even more so, there is a need for me to have an opportunity to digest what this tax change is all about and so too is it important for Nova Scotians to have an opportunity to examine, to digest, to consider, to reflect and to make representations to the government before the changes take effect. Are we going to get that opportunity? That is what this

[Page 3142]

amendment provides; part of it provides an opportunity for us to examine in some detail what the House of Commons is doing, what it is that is going to get passed through there and what kind of impact it is going to have on Nova Scotia.

It is all well and good for this Liberal Government over here to have such wonderful, warm, cuddly faith in their federal cousins; I just think that is admirable. Although, I must say I questioned it when it came to the changes to UI for example which took tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars out of Nova Scotia and from people who are unemployed, through no fault of their own. It was a decision made unilaterally by the federal government and it is going to kill many communities, let alone individuals in this province. That coziness hasn't done us any good in the past I guess is my point. Yet, they still have this faith. They are still prepared to present to this Legislature a seven page piece of legislation which cedes major, massive responsibilities, decision-making authority to the federal government, Madam Speaker, without giving us an opportunity to understand what it is all about.

I don't accept that, I don't believe that is right, I don't think that is fair. Let's not forget. You know I hate to continue to harken back to the past, although this government likes to do it and blame all of what they have to do on the former administration. There is lots of blame there, there is no question, but this government has been in power for three and one-half years and surely to Heaven they are going to take responsibility at some point for something.

The point I was going to make was that in 1992 and in the election campaign of 1993, this government, the former Minister of Finance, when he was the Finance Critic sitting in Opposition, introduced a resolution in this House in 1992 urging the then Cameron Government not to proceed with harmonization because he said it was an unfair form of taxation and to immediately establish a fair tax commission. He went a step further, not only he but also the Premier and the now Minister of Finance and all the rest of the colleagues there, on both sides of the House, said to Nova Scotians in the election in 1993, we do not support harmonizing the GST and the PST. They said that what we need in this province are fairer taxes and we, as a first step towards making the changes necessary to do that, will establish a fair tax commission.

Nova Scotians believed that. Nova Scotians understood how important that was because what they had seen over the past 15 to 20 years was a real change in the burden being carried by ordinary Nova Scotians. Ordinary middle and low income Nova Scotians, Madam Speaker, have increasingly been carrying the burden of paying for public services in this country and in this province as the taxes being paid by corporations and wealthy individuals continue to decrease. You can easily track that shift going back to the 1950's. In the past 15 years it has been remarkable how much of that burden has shifted onto individuals and families.

[Page 3143]

In Nova Scotia the economy is still reeling from the effects of the GST, a tax that even the Minister of Finance acknowledged that Nova Scotians are still completely unhappy with. They are unhappy with it for a very good reason; it was partly responsible, I would suggest, for the recession in the early 1990's and it has brought the economy of this province, along with things that this government has done, to a halt. The economy of this province continues to struggle on; we are on our knees, even taking into consideration the cheerleading and the exhortations by members of this government.

Madam Speaker, we continue to have 57,000 unemployed people in Nova Scotia. The economy continues to grow at a rate less than 1 per cent. Bankruptcies continue to be high and consumer demand continues to be low. People are not working, people have lost confidence in the government. They are afraid of losing their jobs, they are afraid of losing their ability to earn income and they are increasingly paying more taxes when they go to pay for the basic necessities. So people were very much receptive to the message in the 1993 election campaign that we will not proceed with harmonizing the PST and the GST, which we already saw under the Tories; the plan to harmonize those taxes under Premier Don Cameron was very similar to this one, only it was to be over a broader range of goods and services. They talked about including food back in those days, and what consumers recognized, what Nova Scotians recognized and what Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in 1991, 1992 and 1993 recognized was that consumers were going to pay more and consumers could not afford to pay more.

[3:15 p.m.]

The problem with the lack of jobs in this province is not reducing the tax burden on corporations. We continue to have the lowest corporate tax rates in the country in this province. The problem in terms of jobs and in terms of economic activity is consumer demand. Consumers do not have the confidence, let alone the money, many of them, to go out and buy the goods and services that are required in order to make this economy grow.

Speaking of growing the economy, when the Minister of Finance in his speech, introducing this piece of legislation in second reading, talked about how this BST bill is going to grow the economy, I almost gagged because that is exactly what the Liberals said in 1993. Both levels, the federal and provincial, said, we are not going to do what the Tories did. We are not going to cut and slash and reduce public services and reduce the public sector workforce and cut down public expenditures because we know how important the aggregate demand created by the government is in the economy. We know what has to happen is that we have to grow the economy. We have to get people back to work. We have to participate as government in the economy along with the public sector, working shoulder to shoulder. Madam Speaker, you know. You talked about it as well on the campaign trail. That was the mantra. That was what this government talked about and that is what their federal cousins talked about six months after that. Now we see something completely opposite.

[Page 3144]

We have seen three and one-half years of this government attacking public services, attacking public sector workers, doing everything in their power to hold the economy back, to contribute to the lack of confidence by Nova Scotians. We continue to have record unemployment levels in Cape Breton, for Heaven's sake. It is up to nearly 26 per cent, seasonally adjusted. Imagine. And that is overall. In many communities in Cape Breton, the unemployment rate is over 50 per cent. That should be considered an economic disaster. In fact, I think I heard the Premier talk about that a couple of years ago. Actually, maybe, he has talked about it every six months or so since getting elected, that they were going to focus - this government - their attention on the unemployment problem in Cape Breton. Well, maybe that is the problem.

Maybe that is why this month there were another 1,000 people without work in Cape Breton, because the government had been focusing too much attention, because we have seen Madam Speaker, that this government, where they do focus their attention, things end up going very badly wrong. But the point is that this government is introducing a very important piece of legislation and they are just wrapping it in all kinds of promises, once again, 3,000 new jobs, economic activity that people are going to have to belt themselves in because things are going to be moving so fast that we are going to have a hard time preventing whiplash because the economy is going to take off so fast.

The Minister of Finance has talked about the $100 million in revenue that the government is going to forego, that consumers are going to have all this money jangling around in their pockets - sloshing, I believe was his word - and that is going to be in the economy sloshing around and something is going to happen, something good, something wonderful, something magical is going to happen as a result of that. The problem with that is that we have not seen any facts or figures. I am going to wait until I talk on the bill itself to get down to some of the information we do have and to analyze that and talk about how many questions are unanswered about how incomplete the study, for example, the analysis by APEC is in terms of examining some of those important questions.

Again, the government is wrapping this bill and this announcement and this agreement in all kinds of promises that are fanciful in the extreme, Madam Speaker, and that is why it is so important for us to take six months to examine this whole package. I want to take you back to April 1996. I think it is important that we examine how this government has handled this bill, this agreement, this plan, this proposal to change the tax system in this province, unlike any tax change since whenever. You have heard it. It is big. It is huge. It is a phenomenal deal.

Let's go back a little bit further before we get into the kind of fanciful things, and I am being nice here, that the Minister of Finance told this House. Let's look, first of all at the fact that we found out by accident that the ministers - the federal Finance Minister and the former Minister of Finance, and whoever else; we do not know for sure - were meeting out at the Halifax International Airport, behind closed doors, doing some kind of major deal on the

[Page 3145]

taxation. We asked questions about that in this House. I asked questions of this minister, day after day. He stonewalled. He did not answer the questions. We were told we could not get any details on the agreement, if there was an agreement, which he would not admit to. We could not get any details on it until the agreement was reached.

Some of us suggested, at that particular time, that it might have had something to do with the federal Liberals trying to get out of the pressure they were under at that particular time about their promise to Canadians about breaking the GST. The former minister, during the week of April 15th, told us there was no deal on the BST. He told Nova Scotians right here in this House during an exchange with me and other members of this House, there was no deal on the BST. We come to find out, we got a copy of a document which became the deal, with the minister's signature on it, dated April 12th, nearly a week after that minister stood in this House and told us there was not a deal, told me, told Nova Scotians, told all members of this House that there was no deal and, yet, we produced a document and tabled it in this House which showed the minister had signed a deal with the federal government on April 12, 1996, Madam Speaker.

When we finally got an agreement, by producing the goods, that there was a deal, well, this former Minister of Finance stood in his place and he was some proud, wasn't he? Members to the left, the right, behind and across stood in their places and clapped and cheered that Minister of Finance because he got on his feet and talked about what a win-win situation this was for Nova Scotians; he talked about - let me see if I have it written down here, let me check - I don't have it written down but I remember it pretty well. He talked about how this is one of the most significant tax breaks for Nova Scotians ever, he actually said that. In fact, you may recall seeing a flyer that came out during the Halifax Fairview by-election. I had it here in the House and I showed it to you. It said, one tax, many advantages. That is what it said. Every single doorstep in Halifax Fairview saw a copy, at least one if not 8 or 10 because we gave them out. We wanted Nova Scotians, we wanted the people in Halifax Fairview to see what kind of lies were being distributed on behalf of this government.

Do you know what? They responded, I think, didn't they? What kind of percentage did the Liberal candidate get in that election? I think she got her deposit, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: Well, I hope so, honourable member. I think I would like you to try to talk to the hoist amendment that is on the floor. I have been giving you quite a bit of leeway but you really are pushing the boundaries now.

MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Madam Speaker, what I am trying to do is explain why it is so important for us to have the six months to examine the details because the details have been slow in coming. The problem from the beginning has been - it is almost, I wouldn't ascribe this to this government, surely, but it has almost been deceitful the way the information has been withheld and then handed out. It is like a game of peekaboo or something, with Nova Scotians about these details.

[Page 3146]

Let me finish; after having stood up here in this House and talking about what a wonderful thing this was for Nova Scotia and for Nova Scotians, a win-win situation, major tax advantages and tax savings for consumers in this province, on the last day of this House, a day that we had agreed unanimously that things would end by, I believe it was 2:00 o'clock, at 12:40 p.m., business had almost finished in this House. In other words, any opportunity for members of this House to get up and raise issues or to talk about anything had gone by (Interruptions)

Yes, you are right, the Minister of Education is absolutely right. They came forward, oh boy, I tell you, the honour of this bunch is truly remarkable, it takes my breath away. This document, Madam Speaker, Economic and Fiscal Analysis, all about Nova Scotia tax reform, was being handed out to the media by this minister's officials. When we went outside to get one, do you know what we were told by this minister's officials? We were told that it was being delivered to our caucus office. So I got on the phone and I called the caucus office. Had we received Economic and Fiscal Analysis? No. It had not arrived yet. In fact, it did not get to the caucus office until after 2:00 o'clock. Funny coincidence. Anyway, we were able to get our hands on this document and what did we find?

AN HON. MEMBER: Does this have relevance?

MR. CHISHOLM: Yes, it does have relevance and if the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage would pay attention, he will catch it.

[3:30 p.m.]

The point is that this information, as far as I am concerned, was being withheld. It was, I think, for a reason and that is because after the Minister of Finance stood in this House and told Nova Scotians that this is a win-win deal, big tax break for consumers, this document underlines how Nova Scotia consumers are going to pay $84 million more. What we heard in Halifax Fairview was, how can this government talk about this being a significant tax saving for consumers?

What this document told us, Madam Speaker, is what we feared, that once again, just as the Tories did with the GST, these Liberal Governments, both provincially and federally, are again shifting the burden for paying taxes in this province on to consumers. They are giving businesses, mainly major corporations, a $240 million tax break. Consumers are going to pay for it in two ways. They are going to pay for it because they are going to pay more for the necessities of life. Low income and middle income Nova Scotians are going to pay more for that range of items they buy on a daily basis to heat their homes, put gasoline in their cars, clothing for their children, clothing under $100. You are going to have to pay more to die and for a number of other things that we will talk about in more detail later on.

[Page 3147]

Consumers are going to pay in that way in terms of higher prices for those basic necessities. They are also going to pay in another way because when all is said and done, when the bribe - and I will talk about that further in a minute - is expended, probably before the next election, this government is going to be at least $100 million short in tax revenue. Now, APEC has said it is going to be (Interruptions)

Madam Speaker, the member from Glace Bay got up in the House the other day and told us how poor he was and how he understood poverty. I am sickened by how trivially he and the member from Kings South can deal with many of the concerns expressed by ordinary Nova Scotians. I guess that is why the Minister of Community Services can preside over a reduction in shelter allowance from $350 to $225. It does not bother him a bit. He, at the same time this government stands here and pats itself on the back for doing all these great things to deal with violence against women, presides over a 3 per cent cut which translates into a 6 per cent cut for many agencies that deliver services to women in communities across this province. So I shouldn't be all that surprised but I am not immune to that level of cynicism and certainly the irony of the interjections by these two ministers. One of these ministers is responsible for delivery of services to the poor, to the needy and to the infirm in this province and the other one is responsible for delivering education, for investing in the future of our province. These are the kinds of ministers that we have looking after those important portfolios.

The second point I was trying to make was that this government was going to be short by some estimates, their own document said $100 million in tax revenue; APEC says $120 million; the last technical document says, I think, it was $961 million; let's round if off to $100 million. The former Minister of Finance is still trying to figure out this as well. That may be the reason why he jumped ship and ran off to Health because he was having a hard time getting a handle on why this was a win-win for Nova Scotia. I think he is still reeling from the fact that he was standing there and his notes told him it was a win-win for Nova Scotia taxpayers but then all of a sudden somebody in his department produced evidence to suggest that consumers are going to pay $84 million more.

The minister is still scratching his head trying to figure out who did that to him, who set him up. Who made him present such inaccurate information to Nova Scotians? Nonetheless, he is running for the leadership of the Liberal Party and he knows how important it is to be a team player so he is going to hang in there because this is the direction the government is going to go in. The least the Premier could do was get him out of there because his confidence had been shaken in his own commitments.

We now have a government that is taking in $100 million less in tax revenue not from consumers because consumers are paying over $80 million more. What is going to happen to the funding of health care in this province? Madam Speaker, you may have heard us talk in this House and you have heard it I am sure in your own constituency, the problems being faced by many Nova Scotians being shoved out of hospital early, trying to live in their homes,

[Page 3148]

trying not to go into nursing homes and being cut off home care services. The social service and housing portion of the Home Care Program is basically being cut out entirely. People are being left without support in their community in order to allow them to stay in their home or in order to allow them to cope with the decision of having released them from hospital early or allow them to cope with the long waiting lists for surgery or other medical interventions.

The government's explanation for that is that we can't afford it. They cut the eligibility and the scope of the Children's Dental Program in order to save $3 million because they need the money or because they don't have it or whatever. As I have said, they cut 3 per cent out of the budgets of agencies, services that are being delivered around this province to children, to single mothers, to women, to teenagers, services that are more and more in need in our communities as a result of cuts and services from Community Services itself. But now, these non-profit volunteer agencies, are having their grants and funding cut by a further 3 per cent. Why? Because the government can't afford it. The government doesn't have the money. The government needs to balance its budget. What is going to happen after this deal goes through and the government is another $100 million short? Madam Speaker, what is going to happen?

How many more hospital beds are going to be closed? How many more communities are going to be left without doctors? How many more Nova Scotians are going to be without home care services? How many? What is going to happen? See, this stuff hasn't been considered. That is why we need the time. The member for Cole Harbour, can he answer the question that the Chief Economist at APEC couldn't answered for me, and that is, how is the province going to all of a sudden make up this $100 million? He didn't know that. Maybe the member for Cole Harbour knows. Silence, you see. That is the issue. That is the point.

MADAM SPEAKER: Were you yielding the floor, you mean, or are you staying?

MR. CHISHOLM: He always sits in his seat and just yells out, so he can yell out and answer now. Go ahead.

AN HON. MEMBER: You sit down and I'll stand up.

MR. CHISHOLM: I'll tell you, isn't it great? The coziness of the back bench. You just sit back in your seat, shoot your mouth off and don't have to be responsible for anything. Anyway, that is the issue, you see. The Chief Economist at APEC couldn't answer the question. The Minister of Finance can't answer the question. The member for Cole Harbour can't answer the question. Nova Scotians want to know what is going to happen, Madam Speaker? What is going to happen?

The Minister of Finance has said, this $100 million is going to slosh around in the economy. He is trying to suggest that the consumers are going to have all this extra money. Consumers aren't going to have all this extra money. Scotsburn Dairy, the minister from Bridgewater - I can't even remember what portfolio he represents anymore, he has been

[Page 3149]

hopping all over the place, but he - and the Minister of Education and a few others have been talking about, and having been shooting across the aisle here and saying, well, Scotsburn Dairy is happy. Michelin is happy and Trenton Car Works are happy. Well, isn't that great? Who else? The farmers are happy. Who else? How many Nova Scotians who have to pay more for their products, are happy?

We have seen a table, we have seen petitions totalling nearly 20,000 names, tabled in this House. Have you talked to any of those people? No, of course not. But Michelin is happy, Trenton Car Works are happy. It is like, how low can we go? How low can we go? We have the lowest corporate tax rates in the country in this province. We go out across this country, Madam Speaker. We hold cocktail parties on the Bluenose II in Toronto Harbour. The former, former Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency talked about the cocktail parties that they were having in Toronto Harbour on the Bluenose. The radio ads that were run that cost $75,000, and we asked the Economic Renewal Agency, Madam Speaker, what kind of benefit did we get out of all this money being spent? The government is out there saying, how much do you want? How much money can we give you? We got, I think it was four jobs. This was two years after that cocktail party that cost us at least $75,000 and we got four jobs. Well, four jobs are important, but is that money well spent? I ask you.

[3:45 p.m.]

The other part of this process has been so bizarre is that there have been very selective consultations held this summer. We finally get a deal (Interruption) Madam Speaker, do you want me to sit down and let the minister here intervene? Do I have to put up with this?

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, if you do sit down, you will be losing the rest of your time on the debate. If you are willing to sit down, that is your choice.

MR. CHISHOLM: So, in other words, I have to put up with this kind of talking and yakking around here, Madam Speaker. Don't I have any rights to participate here in the debate without having two or three members yelling back and forth so loud that I can hardly hear myself think?

MADAM SPEAKER: I will call for order in the House. Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you, I would appreciate that.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, once we finally did get the release of the agreement, no, let me go back a little bit, we didn't actually get the tabling of the technical document until we got in here, before that, when the announcement was made and the press conference and so on, before the House sat, they announced that they had put these deal

[Page 3150]

together. We still could not see any details, but the deal had been done and it was going to be wonderful and we were all going to be happy and live happily ever after and we need not have any concerns for the rest of our lives here in Nova Scotia.

Then what happened? Well, the Premier, on November 14th, told us downstairs on his way out of the Cabinet Meeting that no, we were not going to see the legislation because there is no rush. We are going to bring it in in the spring; you don't need to see the details. We are going to bring it in in the spring; we are not going to deal with it now. They were being, as usual, pulled and pushed around by their federal cousins.

No sooner had that been said, and Nova Scotians had been told you cannot see the details - you are too stupid or not smart enough; you are not going to be able to understand - the Premier, with his two amigos go to Toronto on - what is it called? - Atlantic Advantage or Advantage Atlantic? (Interruption). But it is AA, Madam Speaker, and I think the Premier should spend some time trying to get off the habit that Premiers in this province have had for too long, and Premiers in this country have had too long and that is soaking ordinary Nova Scotians and ordinary Canadians and allowing the corporations and the wealthy to get off without paying their fair share. That is exactly what this is all about.

What happened was that the Premier goes to Toronto on this big sales deal about the BST. Nova Scotians had not had the opportunity to see it; the details had not been presented to us. We were not going to see them until the spring and here the Premier was and they were running ads and the three amigos, they are in Toronto telling everybody, come on down to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and Newfoundland because it is going to be cheaper. They offered as an example a computer company to come down here and they were going to give them, what was it, $175,000?

AN HON. MEMBER: Tax free.

MR. CHISHOLM: Tax free, absolutely. The Minister of Education thinks this is wonderful. You can tell that it just sends shivers up his spine, giving tax breaks to the big corporations. You know when the announcements came out about the big banks, all of them making over $1 billion, he must have had a hard time sitting still, I am sure, so excited. Maybe he is a major shareholder in those banks, I don't know. Maybe that is why he is so excited about the corporation because that is who is benefitting here.

Because of actions of this minister and his colleagues, it is the corporations, it is the shareholders of the corporation. It is the powerful and the privileged once again, Madam Speaker, they are the ones who are padding their pockets at the expense of ordinary Nova Scotians, at the expense of hard-working Nova Scotians, who are trying to scratch out a living in this province, no thanks to this government and their policies.

[Page 3151]

Again we are told it is a great deal and so on, but what is the rush? This is the biggest thing since sliced bread, the biggest thing since Confederation, it is going to be a marvellous thing for Nova Scotians. Well, why rush it? Why doesn't the member for Cape Breton Nova want to go into Cape Breton Nova and have some public hearings and explain to his constituents what a wonderful thing this is going to be for Whitney Pier? Maybe he can explain to those hard-working constituents of his just what this BST is going to mean to them, because they want to know, they are concerned. They are desperately concerned when they know that what they put in their furnaces is going to cost more, what they put in their cars to get to work or what they put in their cars to go around and try and find work is going to be more expensive, clothes they put on their children's backs are going to be more expensive.

When we talked about MMG, the company from Quebec that had some businesses in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that talked about leaving, the Premier said - and I have had some calls on this - those are marginal businesses, you don't need to worry about that. Well, do you know what? The people who are going to be affected by this are marginal. The people who have slim margins, the little Nova Scotians that the Premier often talks about, have small margins, they don't have much extra disposable income to go out and buy a new car or a new house or a fridge, all these things. The luxury yacht is now going to be cheaper. They don't have that kind of money. Those are the people who are getting smacked around.

Maybe the minister, the member for Kings South wants to go into Wolfville and Hortonville and Gaspereau and talk to those people. (Interruptions) Well, maybe if the minister has, he would like to stand up here and talk to us about it, about what kind of impact it is going to have on them, represent their concerns. The other people who fall into that, what the minister in such a dismissive (Interruptions) The Premier referred in such a dismissive fashion to marginal businesses. You know, most small businesses have a small profit margin; they are run on a small margin. Do you know what they are worried about? They are worried about the kind of impact that this is going to have on consumer demand, the same thing that the GST did.

I am going to talk a little bit more about the analysis that APEC did that compared the impact of the GST and BST. The GST put many tens of thousands of small businesses in this country under and it did that because it impacted on consumer demand, the analysis is clear. What small businesses and APEC acknowledge is that the BST is going to do the same, it is going to affect consumer demand. If it affects consumer demand then it is going to affect small businesses and their ability to hang on. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

The former Minister of Finance talks about trotting out our economists. Why doesn't the former Minister of Finance, the one who jumped ship, the one who didn't have the intestinal fortitude to stay with it, the same minister who brought us Minmetals. That shut people up, didn't it? That brought a gasp from people, right, the same guy. He is worthy of

[Page 3152]

having confidence in isn't he? I haven't seen a whole host of economists running out here and standing and telling us what a great deal this is going to be.

I have seen three economists get trotted out by this minister, actually it wasn't by him, he didn't have the guts to come to that briefing, it was his deputy. Did they ever get hung out on a limb, did they ever get caught when the tough questions got put to them and they couldn't answer them? It is all hocus-pocus, it is all based on faith, it is all based on that old trickle down theory. You take the burden off the wealthy, you take the burden off the corporations, you let them run free and clear and it will all trickle down to the little people. That doesn't work. Look at the problems that our economy is suffering from right now.

We have shifted so much of the tax burden from corporations and wealthy individuals onto ordinary hard-working Nova Scotians in the past 20 years and what do we have to show for it? We have unemployment in this province that equals the Great Depression. We have devastation in many of our communities. We have the rate of child poverty in this province which has gone from 8th place to 4th place. My God. The minister responsible may not know what that means but that means that more children are living in poverty today than they did when this government first came into power. Boy, I will tell you that is something to be proud of, isn't it?

I just wanted to speak for a few minutes in support of this amendment that would delay the passage of this bill for six months to give us an opportunity to take a look at it. If this government is so confident, if the member for Timberlea-Prospect is so confident that this is going to be a good deal for Nova Scotians, then don't stop at what some people have called the misleading advertisement, the propaganda that goes into the major newspapers. Go out and talk to Nova Scotians. Go out and talk to the tens of thousands of Nova Scotians who are expressing their concern on this and then . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member your time has expired.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . if everybody decides that it is a good deal then maybe . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Your time has expired.

The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, it has been said by those on the government bench who have defended this tax initiative that this is the most important single tax change that has occurred, some apparently say since Confederation, which makes it in the past century and one-quarter. Others say in the past 40 years, which in a sense, I suppose, would almost take us back to the last expansion of Confederation, to the time when Newfoundland joined Canada.

[Page 3153]

[4:00 p.m.]

It strikes me that when we have a tax change which is mooted to be of such tremendous significance, which is deemed to have such tremendous impact, that it should be crafted with great care. It should be debated with full and great deliberation. It should be canvassed thoroughly with the people of the province in advance of its implementation. We have not seen the government approach this legislation in that way; in fact the government has approached this legislation in quite an opposite direction. We have, Madam Speaker, here in Nova Scotia seen a government negotiate an agreement which, in the very beginning, it denied negotiating at all, and then, once being caught, did admit that the negotiations were taking place in secret in the back-rooms at the Halifax International Airport or at a motel close by.

We have now before us legislation which is rather meagre fare, at least with respect to the number of pages it takes up; legislation that is quite imprecise with respect to what it is this government would do in order to be a partner with three other governments in the creation and implementation of a blended sales tax for three of the four Atlantic Provinces, with the Government of Canada as a partner.

The Ways and Means motion which has been tabled in the federal House is rather more substantial than the modest seven page bill which is currently before this House. We know in fact that the Ways and Means motion is preparing the way for rather more substantial legislation which will be introduced in the Parliament of Canada with respect to the creation of what our legislation refers to as CVAT and the PVAT and what has been variously referred to as BST as well as other pseudonyms, some suitable, some not.

I think that Nova Scotians as of rights, since it is they who will be most affected by this tax, either positively as the government would have us believe or negatively as we to date believe, they have a right to understand with precision the nature of the legislation which will create this, the most significant tax change in Nova Scotia - depending on which Cabinet Minister one speaks to - over the last 125 years or over the last 40 years.

It would appear that there is some greater reason for haste when we are dealing with this legislation in Nova Scotia than is the case in the other partner jurisdictions. As noted, the legislation has not yet been tabled in the Parliament of Canada and probably will not be now until after the Christmas break. I do not believe that the Government of Newfoundland or the Government of New Brunswick can table their legislation. Yet, there is tremendous haste, not only to table the legislation here, but to move it with undue haste through this place which deals with the public's business.

If this is such a good deal for Nova Scotians, then surely the government would want to take the time to ensure that all Nova Scotians understand not just that this is a good deal for them, but why it is a good deal for them and why they should support it and why they

[Page 3154]

should advise us in the Opposition, who are representatives of many of them, to vote in favour of the legislation, rather than in opposition to it.

Why is it so urgent to move this bill forward? Why is it urgent to the extent that the government found it necessary to make a permanent change in the House Rules in order to expedite this bill through the Legislature and into law? Why was it necessary when introducing that resolution to, at the same time, invoke closure on it, thereby denying the opportunity for the fullness of debate? Why was that necessary? How was that in the public interest? Why was that in the interest of the practice of good, sound, democratic principle in this place? I do not know, nor do I believe most Nova Scotians know. Yet, no one sitting on the government benches has even tried to give a satisfactory explanation for the critical path by which this government has chosen to explore and to descend upon. I choose the word descend with deliberation.

Why is it so urgent to bring this bill before this place and to have members of the Legislature sit for inordinately long periods each day, hours each day, in order to deal with it? If we are to debate this bill seriously, surely it is incumbent upon the government, which does measure an exercise of control over this place, as it should, having been duly elected government, to ensure that all members, their own as well as those on the Opposition benches, have adequate time to read, to research, to reflect, to prepare for the kind of debate that Nova Scotians rightly demand that we attend to the great questions of the day, as well as the lesser questions of the day. This, by the definition of the government, is one of those great questions.

Yet, we find that, on Monday next, that we will be forced to debate this legislation from 8:00 o'clock in the morning until 12:00 midnight, 16 hours, and that the same hours will apply on Tuesday. It is very clear that the government has an agenda, an agenda which constricts them with respect to time, an agenda which they feel they must drive forward in order to confine any criticisms, any views contrary to theirs which may be registered in this place. They know full well, as do I, that no matter how much the Opposition soldiers on, we cannot possibly do as adequate a job working those 16 hours a day as if we were working even 10 hours a day on debate in this place. Perhaps that is the very end that they seek. Perhaps they hope to drive the relatively small Opposition here, composed of two Parties, 12 members, into a state of exhaustion whereby they would hope that the media would simply shut down on us, would pay no more heed to us, will be more reflective of getting home to their families at Christmas, getting ready for Christmas than reporting the events of this place. I think there are some members on the other side who might be that machiavellian; in fact, I firmly believe that to be the case. If so, then that explains the reason that this government is determined post-haste to drive this legislation through here in a very few days indeed.

If this legislation is so sweet, if this legislation is so good, if this legislation is so well defined and so much in the public interest, why then was the agreement upon which it is based conceived and created in secrecy? Why was the agreement kept from the public purview for

[Page 3155]

so very long? I would think if the news were good that the government would have wanted to make that information public at the first opportunity, but the government did not do that; the government made that information available at the last opportunity. That causes me to be suspicious.

Why has there been no attempt made by this government, in advance of negotiating then creating the secret agreement and then making it public and then working towards the legislation, why did the government not before the fact seek the opportunity not to go and tell Nova Scotians what it is they intend to do and why it is so good for them but, rather, go to Nova Scotians and seek the advice as to what their government should do for them and then abide by that advice? It seems to me that the government has very much put the cart before the horse.

Yes, there have been public meetings but they have been, by and large, higgledy-piggledy, here and there, after the fact, the creation not of an opportunity for the public to put forward their ideas as what should be done, so much as a government and, most particularly, a Department of Finance lecture series whereby the government tells the people what is going to be done for them and why it is going to be done to them and what, in the government's view, is going to be the result for them.

I think the government has sold itself short and I think the government certainly has sold the people of Nova Scotia short in not undertaking this form of consultation in advance of making the agreement, in advance of signing the agreement, in advance of creating the legislation, in advance of introducing the legislation, in advance of driving the legislation through the House.

I have asked myself and I have looked through the 1993 campaign document that the now government, then Official Opposition, touted so loudly in 1993, to determine if at that time this now government, then Opposition, said to the people of Nova Scotia, we intend to blend the Nova Scotia hospital tax, the Nova Scotia provincial sales tax with the GST. Not only is that not explicitly laid out in that 1993 Liberal election manifesto, even by the greatest stretch of the imagination it cannot be found there implicitly.

This government did not seek a mandate on the basis of this kind of change. Surely if this government, in Opposition, believed that it had the key to Nova Scotia's economic woes and had at its fingertips the most important tax change since Confederation, that it would have trumpeted that concept, those ideas and the resolution to carry it forward, in their election manifesto. But it was not there and I defy any member of the Opposition to show it to me or to any other Nova Scotian. It is absent, the document is entirely silent on that very important fact. This government was dumb with respect to this issue in 1993 when it fought that election. This government has no mandate to undertake a change of this nature, least of all by dragooning it through the one forum the public has available to it, the Legislature of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3156]

[4:15 p.m.]

In fact, I recall distinctly in this House, the former Minister of Finance standing in his place, right over there, and talking about the goods and services tax in 1993. I recall, and I invite all members to look at Hansard because this is where I checked to make sure that my memory had not failed me, because that former Minister of Finance who sponsored the secret agreement and who handed the Pandora's box that he had opened to the present Minister of Finance, saying don't worry about the GST, when Jean Chretien is the Prime Minister of Canada, he is going to abolish it and we will never have to worry about it again.

Now those were not the words of a man who believed that a value-added tax was good public policy. Those were the words of a man and a Minister of the provincial Crown who believed that a value-added tax was bad public policy. Yet, in less than two years, that very same minister is prepared not only to closet himself in the back rooms of airport meeting rooms to create a perverted version of that value-added tax, he, in fact, was prepared to play a leadership role in the creation of that perversion.

Something strange happened to that minister between those heady days in early 1993 and the rather more sobering times which this government has created for itself and for all Nova Scotians in the intervening months and years. In the creation of the BST which is a value-added tax, an excise tax, a tax on commodities, whether to see that or it be that, as the bill describes, no matter what appellation may be extended to it, it is nonetheless a value-added tax. In so creating the Nova Scotia John Savage/Bernie Boudreau/Liberal value-added tax, they have in effect created their own GST. I anticipate that when the time comes, when the day of reckoning is nigh, when the people have the opportunity to have their say, that those who created the BST will be eaten up by it precisely as those who created the GST were when the people had their opportunity to take its measure at the polls.

I don't suppose I will ever know but I will always be inquisitive, what happened to Minister Boudreau on that road to Damascus? What was the great epiphany which he experienced? Wouldn't it be wonderful if he could share it with us, so that we could understand better what that tremendous flash of insight was that caused him to move 180 degrees from being dead-set opposed to a valued-added tax and calling for its abolition to a position where he not only is prepared to accept the value-added tax but, indeed, is prepared to play a leadership role in imposing it on Nova Scotians.

This bill has very significant ramifications with respect to the fiscal sovereignty of this province. This is an impact which should be fully addressed in public, to the public and with the public. For by passing this bill we, in effect, are handing over to the Government of Canada and to two other partners, in Saint John's and in Fredericton, our capacity as a sovereign Legislature in one of the two orders of government in Canada to order our own fiscal affairs.

[Page 3157]

It is important for us to note - and this is something that I will speaking of later in second reading in the event that the amendment which is currently before the House is not passed - that until this bill becomes law, it has always been a requirement that changes in taxation be done through statutory authority. This bill changes that. It is true, as the Minister of Finance said earlier today, this House will still have the opportunity to debate, but think how much more significantly that debate would be limited. There will be no more second readings, and there will be no more opportunities for amendments at second reading; there will be no more Law Amendments Committee; there will be no more Committee of the Whole House on Bills with the opportunity for further amendment; there will be no more third reading and no opportunity for even the most modest of amendments in third reading; in fact, Royal Assent is not even required anymore, once this bill passes for changes in this value-added tax.

All of that power of the purse will be wrapped up in a simple, single motion which can and, undoubtedly by this government, will be put, and the Previous Question called to limit any opportunity for amendment, and be made available for the most perfunctory of debate. We will have surrendered, by this bill, the most important basic sovereignty that this House has within its grasp, and that is the power of the purse. Every member who is not a member of the Treasury benches is surrendering his or her responsibility to their constituents and to the people of the province, and to this House to the federal Parliament of Canada which is where the real decisions with respect to changes in this legislation will occur.

I suppose there may be those who will argue that the Parliament of Canada surely is a democratic institution, all Nova Scotians are represented there by 11 Members of Parliament and on the face of it, one would have to agree, yes, that is indeed the case. I defy anyone in this place or anywhere else in Nova Scotia to convince me that those 11 mutes who sit in the Liberal Caucus in Ottawa will speak up on behalf of Nova Scotians. They certainly have a sorry, quiet record to date. So Nova Scotians can look for no respite from federal Liberal Members of Parliament, should the federal Liberal Government bring such a measure before it.

So we lose a vital, central, essential piece of our fiscal probity by surrendering it to another government. Not, as some might think, another level of government, because we do not have two levels of government with respect to the provinces and the Government of Canada, but rather we have two orders of government, each of which, under our Constitution, has specific responsibilities to meet and it is wrong in principle and it is wrong in practice for this provincial House or any other provincial House to surrender its sovereignty to that other order of government. It belongs to Nova Scotians and it should continue to reside here in Nova Scotia.

In fact, in all of Atlantic Canada, in all of these four provinces, three of which are caught up as partners in this agreement and in this legislation and in this BS Tax, there is only one Member of Parliament who has had the fortitude to speak out on this measure in the

[Page 3158]

House of Commons and who had the fortitude to go out to the constituents of her province to give them the opportunity to respond to what they think is a bad piece of business, and that is Elsie Wayne, the Member of Parliament for Saint John. Thank Heavens there is one Member of Parliament in all of Atlantic Canada who is prepared to stand up and fight for Atlantic Canadians in the Parliament of Canada. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, the member for Digby asked me, what did she say in 1991? Well, I say to the member for Digby, what has his MP, Harry Verran, said since November 1993? What did his MP, Harry Verran, say about Cornwallis? Nothing. What did his MP, Harry Verran, say about lobster license increases? Nothing. What did his MP have to say about the changes . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: We are not talking about Cornwallis. We are talking about the GST.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will remind the honourable member that you are speaking to the amendment and you will address your comments to that amendment.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, there will be no legitimate debate in this place with respect to this value-added tax if this bill is allowed to pass. We need the time, Nova Scotians need the time to reflect on such a surrender of sovereignty in advance of this legislation being passed. We know from the very document that the former Minister of Finance tabled in this House in mid-May 1996, that the cost to Nova Scotian consumers, and this is a Department of Finance report, it is not a report created by the Opposition, that the cost is going to be to Nova Scotians, the cost of implementation of this tax, something in the order of $84 million.

We know that this bill, with respect to consumer Nova Scotians, will be short on savings, by the admission of the Department of Finance. What we have never seen are the econometric models upon which this government has determined to move down this road and, again, I choose the word down with the deliberation. Where are the analyses upon which this most important decision regarding taxation since Confederation are based? Have they been put out for public discussion? Have they been provided to Nova Scotia businesses? Have they been given to groups across Nova Scotia who have an interest in this value-added tax? Mr. Speaker, the answer is no.

My honourable friend the member for Preston would wish to seek the floor for an introduction.

[Page 3159]

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: I want to thank the honourable member for Queens for yielding the floor. I would like to introduce from the Speaker's Gallery through you, Mr. Speaker, to the members of the House, a very special guest, one who exemplifies the trade agreements that we have between the West Indies and Nova Scotia. I would like to introduce a graduate of Dalhousie who is now the Deputy Director of Fisheries in Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Carlisle Jordan. (Applause)

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, we have a bill, literally a bill for Nova Scotians, that is going to cost $84 million. We have heard the government say, yes, there are costs associated with this but the net benefits far outweigh the net costs. Yet we have not seen any costs/benefits analysis. It has not been provided to us. We do not know with any definition whatsoever what real impact this will have on employment in Nova Scotia. The government says there will be thousands of jobs created. I think 3,000 is the number. Our great concern and our great fear is that in fact this will cost jobs. I realize that for many of you this is small potatoes but to my community it is very important. In fact, it is vitally important.

MMG, a Quebec firm, has been referenced on many occasions in debate in this place. MMG owns the Red Apple stores that are sprinkled throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. We know what MMG has said about the Red Apple stores in New Brunswick and that their future is on thin ice. We in my constituency, in the Town of Liverpool on the main street, have a Red Apple store. We are thankful that that little department store is there functioning in and serving our community. My constituents are afraid and most of all, I think the workers at that Red Apple store and their families are very much afraid of the impact that this legislation will have on them and on workers like them.

If we are going to have 3,000 jobs created as a result of this legislation, then let the Minister of Finance table all the documentation which will give us and all Nova Scotians proof positive that this is the case. Of course, we and all Nova Scotians would expect that the information thus tabled by the Minister of Finance, by the government would not only demonstrate clearly that there are going to be 3,000 - or as my good friend and colleague, I believe the member from Bedford Basin, said a few moments ago, more than 3, 000 jobs - but what will be the quality of those jobs? Will they be low paying, part-time, full-time, no benefits, service sector jobs? Or will they be good paying jobs that provide futures for workers in Nova Scotia and especially our young people? Will they be jobs in the high level service sector we associate with the new economy and the Information Age? Will they be jobs in the industrial sector? Where will those jobs be? What economic plan has this government created to advantage from this value-added tax if, in fact, there are advantages to be wrung from it. Where, specifically, are they piloting Nova Scotia with respect to the sectoral jobs which will be created?

[Page 3160]

It is true that we should welcome every new job in Nova Scotia, but job A is not equal to job B, nor job B equal to job C, nor job C equal to job D, and so on. Some jobs are measurably more valued than others. A job at McDonald's does not equate to a job at Bowater Mersey. A job with the local recycler does not equate to a job in a plant which manufactures computer software. A job which has no benefits does not equate to a job which has full benefits, pensions, medical benefits, dental benefits, insurance benefits, the kind of benefits that those who are still left in the Civil Service enjoy, and the jobs that full-time employees throughout Nova Scotia enjoy, and jobs which do provide, because they are full-time, long-term jobs, a significant level of protection, either by those workers having chosen to belong to a certified bargaining unit or, if they have not chosen that, the kind of general protection that is made available through the Department of Labour for long-time employees. Or, will they be part-time jobs, which provide no protection whatsoever to the worker.

If this government is going to sell this legislation on the basis of 3,000 or more new jobs, then it has a responsibility with precision to tell the people of this province - either through this House or elsewhere, it doesn't matter where, providing that Nova Scotians are told - where those jobs are going to be and what the nature of those jobs is going to be and what benefits they will have to Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotians do not know that now; the government has not shared that information with them. That is why it is so important that this bill be hoisted at this time, in order that that very kind of information be shared with all the people of this province, all of whom will be participants in paying this tax.

This is not a tax which will accrue solely to persons who have reached more mature years, for even the smallest children spend money as consumers throughout our communities and they, too, will be touched by this tax and they, too, have a right to understand it.

Mr. Speaker, I have every reason to believe that last spring, when this initiative was first hinted at in the media - and hotly denied, I hasten to add, by the then Minister of Finance, and one wonders what it was that he wanted to hide so badly from Nova Scotians - I firmly believe that then polling results showed that a significant majority of Nova Scotians opposed this concept. We now are away from the beginning of spring and very close to the first day of winter. I am very much of the opinion, very much of the view that even more Nova Scotians today are opposed to and have fears of this taxing initiative than they did last April when the government began its striptease of showing it little by little to this place and to the people of this province.

How many are opposed? Well, I would venture to say that there are probably about the same number that are opposed to this government with respect to its husbandry of the public's affairs, a government which has an unfavourable rating of 75 per cent; 75 per cent of Nova Scotians are either somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with this government.

[Page 3161]

AN HON. MEMBER: And the other 25 per cent is undecided.

MR. LEEFE: The other 25 per cent is largely undecided. One can make a reasonable assumption that this being one of the most important, in fact the most important, single economic advances that this government is taking, will be measured by the same people, by the same Nova Scotians, in the same way and that probably there are 70 per cent to 75 per cent who are opposed to it. Now the government will say, but they don't understand. No wonder they don't understand, because they have not been taken into the confidence of the government with respect to creating this legislation and they have not been taken into the confidence of the government with respect to providing all of the information one would need in order to understand the full implications of this initiative. The only confidence that the public has experienced is the confidence game that this government is endeavouring to play out on them.

Six months would give this government an opportunity to undertake that exercise. I will go out on a limb and I will say this to my colleagues and my friends in the Liberal Party who sponsored this motion and who stand by it, this legislation, that if they are prepared to go these six months and if they are prepared to go to an honest, open public process and as a consequence of scientific polling done by an apolitical agency that the majority of Nova Scotians favour it, then I would be prepared to vote for it providing I had the support of my constituents. (Interruptions) Surely, Mr. Speaker, if the majority of Nova Scotians were in favour, the majority of my constituents would be in favour.

Well, my honourable friend, the member for Lunenburg West, says what an awful way to run the province, by polls. (Interruption) Well, if you absolutely refuse to listen to the people when they try to convince you . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I reminded the honourable member once and I am sure he has understood me before, . . .

MR. LEEFE: I say, through the Speaker . . .

MR. SPEAKER: . . . to the amendment, right?


MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. LEEFE: That one must seize every reasonable opportunity to measure public opinion. Now, it may be by organizing meetings throughout the province; a perfectly acceptable way to accomplish that. It may well be by holding workshops throughout the province, by inviting the people of Nova Scotia and organizations in Nova Scotia to come

[Page 3162]

forward, not to be told what is going to be done to them, but to participate in creating what is going to be done with and for them.

Although I don't like them, it may well be that this government might want to entertain a referendum on this, the most important single initiative undertaken by any government in the past 40 or 125-plus years, depending on which member one speaks with. Or, indeed, this government may decide to put this question to the ultimate test. The ultimate test is to be found, not in this Chamber and not in meetings around the province and not through scientific polls and not through referenda, but through one simple short walk of a very few blocks, a short walk that the Premier would make from his seat right over there, up to Barrington Street and down three or four blocks to Government House to advise His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, to issue a writ and call for a general election in Nova Scotia, a general election on which this government would then stand or fall on the basis of this taxing initiative. If this is so important, if this is so essential, if this is so good for Nova Scotians, then Nova Scotians, who are pretty smart people, will understand that during that general election campaign and will reward this government for its initiative. But if this government is not able to convince Nova Scotians, cannot provide the information, cannot provide the answers, then I anticipate that the people of Nova Scotia would give them another message, loudly, clearly, definitively and they will pay a very great price for having created their own mutated version of that very beast that they so decried all those years and all those times before only a short while ago - their very own version of the goods and services tax, the GST, which Canadians and Nova Scotians love to hate.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this is a good motion. It is a motion which deserves full debate. It is a motion on which all members should be given time to ruminate in advance of speaking to it and then deciding how they are going to vote on it. That being the case, I believe that we should, today, give ourselves that time, now and through the weekend, to prepare for 8:00 o'clock on Monday morning in order to accomplish that.

Mr. Speaker, with that in mind, I move that the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a motion for adjournment. The motion is in order and we will now take a vote. A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[4:49 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[Page 3163]

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[5:47 p.m.]


Mr. Donahoe Mrs. Norrie

Dr. Hamm Mr. Downe

Mr. Russell Dr. Smith

Mr. Holm Mr. Boudreau

Ms. O'Connell Mr. Gillis

Ms. Jolly

Mr. MacEachern

Mr. Harrison

Mr. O'Malley

Mr. Adams

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. Carruthers

Dr. Stewart

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

THE CLERK: For, 5. Against, 22.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My question was simply, I missed what - I heard members calling the question and (Interruption) Oh, no, I believe another person was going to speak.

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I tried to call the question.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I regret to inform you that I am going to speak, John.

We are speaking to an amendment, Mr. Speaker, which is an amendment to hoist the bill. It is a six months' hoist. That amendment, of course, theoretically anyway, would kill the bill. However, a six months' hoist, of course, can also be for a moment of reflection as to whether or not wiser heads will prevail and the government, on their own initiative, will scrap the bill before it becomes the law of the land.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I think a six months' hoist would do would be to provide the House to take a look at the title of the bill. We had, by federal legislation, a tax bill for a value-added tax called the GST, which wasn't very popular, and in the province we had a tax which was called a health services tax, which was abbreviated to HST, of course. However, we have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous and now we are told that the BS Tax, the blended sales tax, the harmonized sales tax in the name of the minister, is going to be called the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. I believe that in the bill, as we go through it, it is abbreviated to CG (Interruption) No, it is not, it is the CITC Agreement. Anyway, that is probably what they are going to call the tax.

I think that anybody who looks at this bill and reflects on it is going to reflect on that title. Why not call it what it is, which is a blended sales tax, a B sales tax, a BS sales tax. So anyway, so much for that.

Why would we want to postpone this bill? Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, it doesn't always pay to be first. You will note there are two other provinces, along with the Province of Nova Scotia, plus a federal government, involved in this legislation and neither of them has rushed into driving a bill through the Legislature. It is only the Legislature of the Province of Nova Scotia which has decided that they are going to go ahead and push this bill through and get it all finished by Christmas. Well, what a heck of a Christmas present for Nova Scotians, to give them a brand new tax.

Now if it was a tax break, I think we could understand it, but it is not a tax break, Mr. Speaker. Contrary to what the Minister of Finance has told us, we know from his own officials that this tax is going to cost the consumers of Nova Scotia at least $84 million in extra taxation on consumer purchases. So, you might ask yourself, why are we doing this in the first place? That is a good question. Certainly the minister hasn't told us why we are imposing this new CITCA tax on the people of Nova Scotia; he certainly has given no reason.

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I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, if we hoisted this bill for six months, at least the people of Nova Scotia would be given the opportunity for the Premier of the Province and for the Minister of Finance to travel around this province, to have town hall meetings, speak to the people and find out what it is that the people are concerned about.

We are told there was a poll taken by either a radio station or a TV station very recently in which 96 per cent - can you imagine - 96 per cent of the public that phoned into this radio station or this television station, 96 per cent of those who responded as to whether or not they wanted to have a BST said no, no, no. Yet this government is determined to rush into this particular tax. As I say, what a heck of a Christmas present to deliver to the people of Nova Scotia.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if we had, as I said before, a six month period to examine this bill and the tax itself, before its passage through this Assembly, we could put in place, I would suggest, a select committee of this House that would be empowered to travel around to all the major towns and centres across this province . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That's a creative idea.

MR. RUSSELL: I think it is very creative. To speak to the people in open, town hall meetings, where they simply would give the information that they have given to this House to the people who assembled in the hall and then provide the opportunity for the people at that particular meeting to come up to an open mike and tell the Minister of Finance or the Premier exactly what they find to be a shortcoming in the bill.

Mr. Speaker, by prior arrangement with the Government House Leader, I am going to adjourn the debate on the amendment to Bill 48 at this time and will return to the debate on Monday morning, probably sharp at 8:00 o'clock.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: I wish to thank the honourable member for yielding the floor and acknowledge that that was the understanding that we reached. Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to introduce a group in our audience here. They represent the Marine Drive Fighting for Futures Association. I will

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just introduce each one. Mr. and Mrs. Romo, Cheryl McManamy, Jean Nieforth, Stephanie Borgal, Rachel Goldsworthy and Alicia Nieforth.

The group is with me this evening to see the presentation of this very important petition that has been signed by 284 constituents and signed and supported by myself. I will just read the petition.

"Please help the kids!! They need to be off the streets!! They have no place to go - yet they are not allowed to hang out ANYWHERE. It is our responsibility as parents, friends and loved ones to help give them the opportunity for enjoyment and a safer place to live. They need a recreational centre with pool tables, dartboards, etc. The recreational activities will help them feel good about themselves and they need our help to do this. They deserve it!! We owe it to them!!

I would like to table that petition. I would like to thank the House for the opportunity to do this. It is a very important thing to my community and to the children of my community. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: That concludes Government Business for today. I wish to advise the House that we will sit next on Monday, December 9th, and that the order of business will be, after the daily routine, Public Bills for Second Reading, Bill No. 48 and the amendment that we now have under debate. The hours of sitting, pursuant to the motion that was passed earlier today, will be 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m .midnight on Monday night.

Mr. Speaker, I would move we adjourn until Monday at 8:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 5:58 p.m.]