The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Dec. 10, 1996

Fourth Session

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Oppose, Mr. R. Chisholm 3375
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1067, Agric. - Federation (N.S.): Charlie Keddy (Ex-President)-Thank -
Jim Austin (President)-Support, Hon. G. Brown 3376
Vote - Affirmative 3376
Res. 1068, Human Rights Day (10/12/96) - Observe, Hon. J. Abbass 3376
Vote - Affirmative 3377
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 49, Gaming Control Act, Dr. J. Hamm 3377
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1069, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Cancel, Dr. J. Hamm 3378
Res. 1070, ERA - Corpns.: Tax Breaks - Prosperity Absent,
Mr. R. Chisholm 3378
Res. 1071, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Jobs Creation -
Substantiate, Mr. R. Russell 3379
Res. 1072, ERA - Dev.: C.B. - Funds Focus, Mr. A. MacLeod 3379
Res. 1073, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Scrap, Mr. D. McInnes 3380
Res. 1074, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Sitting Hours -
Prolonged Condemn, Mr. J. Holm 3380
Res. 1075, Gov't. House Ldr. - Appear: Music - Face, Mr. R. Russell 3381
Res. 1076, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Hfx. Reg. Mun.: Creation -
Expenditure Add. Explain, Mr. T. Donahoe 3382
Res. 1077, Sports - Volleyball (Boys-Div.I [N.S.]): Margaree Forks HS -
Winners Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 3382
Res. 1078, Educ. - Budget (1997-98): Teachers - Consult,
Mr. G. Archibald 3383
Res. 1079, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Home Care - Exempt,
Mr. R. Chisholm 3383
Res. 1080, Educ. - Clare DHS: Aquaculture Work - Acknowledge,
Mr. D. McInnes 3384
Vote - Affirmative 3384
Res. 1081, Liberal MLAs (C.B.): Election Defeat - Prepare,
Mr. A. MacLeod 3385
Res. 1082, Nat. Res. - Protected Areas: Barren (Jim Campbell) Site -
Change Consult, Mr. J. Holm 3385
Res. 1083, C.B. East MLA - Health: Hospitals (Rural) - Cause Adopt,
Mr. G. Moody 3386
Res. 1084, Culture - Music: Peter Latulippe (Pictou Co.)-Drum Snare
Improved - Congrats., Dr. J. Hamm 3386
Vote - Affirmative 3387
Res. 1085, Radio Can. Internat. - Funding: Heritage Min. (Can.) -
Corres., Mr. T. Donahoe 3387
Res. 1086, Commun. Serv. - Poverty: Increase - Condemn,
Ms. E. O'Connell 3388
Res. 1087, Agric. - NSAC (Carol Goodwin & Lloyd Mappleback):
Plants (Wild to Garden) - Research Commend, Mr. G. Archibald 3388
Vote - Affirmative 3389
Res. 1088, Health - All Saints Hosp.: Emergency Dept. Closure -
Address, Mr. G. Moody 3389
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 418, Coast Guard (Can.) - Vessel (Henry Larsen): Retention (N.S.) -
Intervene, Dr. J. Hamm 3390
No. 419, Justice - Institutions: Abuse Victims - Trust Betrayal,
Mr. J. Holm 3392
No. 420, Health - Homes (Nursing/Aged): Serv. Exchange -
Payments Delay, Mr. G. Moody 3393
No. 421, Health - Care: Commun. Institutions - Ownership Transfer,
Dr. J. Hamm 3395
No. 422, Health - C.B. Reg. Hosp.: Admission - Weekend,
Mr. A. MacLeod 3397
No. 423, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Speech Pathologists -
Exempt, Mr. R. Chisholm 3398
No. 424, Justice - Institutions: Abuse Compensation - Changes,
Mr. T. Donahoe 3400
No. 425, Commun. Serv. - Family Benefits: Eligibility - Delays,
Mr. R. Russell 3402
No. 426, Sport & Rec. - Office Accommodation: Lease -
Sole-Sourced, Mr. B. Taylor 3404
No. 427, Justice - Institutions: Abuse Compensation - Payment Improper,
Mr. J. Holm 3406
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 48, Sales Tax Act 3408
Amendment [PAC - debate resumed] 3408
Mr. G. Moody 3408
Mr. B. Taylor 3421
Mr. D. McInnes 3434
Mr. G. Archibald 3442
Mr. A. MacLeod 3458
Ms. E. O'Connell 3469
Vote - Negative 3485
Mr. R. Russell 3485
Amendment moved 3498
HOUSE RECESSED AT 4:50 P.M. 3498
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:03 P.M. 3499
Amendment out of order 3499
Mr. B. Taylor 3499
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Care: Concerns - Listen:
Mr. G. Moody 3513
The Premier 3516
Mr. R. Chisholm 3518
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 48, Sales Tax Act [debate resumed]
Mr. J. Leefe ^Hon. J. MacEachern ~ 3533 3521
Mr. K. Colwell 3536
Mr. J. Holm 3539
Amendment [Reasoned] moved 3552
HOUSE RECESSED AT 8:49 P.M. 3553
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 9:03 P.M. 3553
Amendment [Reasoned] Points of Order 3553
HOUSE RECESSED AT 9:11 P.M. 3555
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 9:14 P.M. 3555
Amendment [Reasoned] In order 3555
Mr. G. Archibald 3555
Dr. J. Hamm 3564
Mr. R. Chisholm 3569
Mr. J. Leefe 3581
Mr. R. Russell 3586
Adjourned debate 3592
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
House of Assembly - Sitting Hours (12/12/96), Mr. A. Mitchell 3592
Vote - Affirmative 3592
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Dec. 11th at 2:00 p.m. 3593
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1089, Culture - Country Music: Wilf Carter - Life Celebrate,
Hon. S. Jolly 3594

[Page 3375]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

8:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Wayne Gaudet

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now begin with the daily proceedings of the House.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table 459 signatures on a petition that I think you have heard before but let me just indicate a little bit of what it is all about. It is an anti-BST petition. It says the following, "We hereby call upon the Liberal Government to scrap the BST and live up to their commitment to bring in fair tax reform.". I think that probably brings us up over 4,000, close to 5,000 signatures and I will affix my signature and table it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

3375

[Page 3376]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 1067

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

Whereas Charles Keddy, the President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, served his term and retired as President this past Saturday; and

Whereas Jim Austin was elected as President at the 101st annual meeting of the Federation of Agriculture; and

Whereas the Federation of Agriculture has used its professional ability to improve agriculture in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank Charles Keddy for his leadership and support and all members place their full support with Jim Austin in his endeavours on behalf of agriculture in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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. (Applause)

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1068

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

[Page 3377]

Whereas December 10, 1996 marks the 48th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948; and

Whereas 1996 has been proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations as the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty; and

Whereas the United Nations has called upon member nations to observe this anniversary in a manner which will serve the cause of human rights; and

Whereas Canada, with the support of all provinces and territories, has acceded to a number of United Nations international instruments, conventions and declarations to promote universal respect for an observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly do recognize this day as Human Rights Day in Nova Scotia and urge all citizens to make a conscientious commitment to work towards the promotion of a just society in which every person is free and equal in dignity and rights without regard to: age; race; colour; religion; creed; sex; sexual orientation; physical disability or mental disability; ethnic, national or aboriginal origin; family status; marital status; source of income; political belief, affiliation or activity.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 49 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Gaming Control Act. (Dr. John Hamm)

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

[Page 3378]

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1069

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 BST agreement will hurt low and middle income Nova Scotians and decrease their ability to provide for the necessities of life; and

Whereas the BST agreement will hurt the retail trade in Nova Scotia, creating higher retail prices and fewer jobs in retailing; and

Whereas the BST agreement will increase the cost of recreational activities, negatively affecting the health of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the government take a sober second look and cancel the BST agreement.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1070

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

Whereas the Premier entered the BS Tax debate last night to argue that Nova Scotians need this Liberal tax deal to repair the economic damage caused to Nova Scotia by the GST, a Conservative tax deal; and

Whereas the Tory inspired GST raised taxes on Atlantic Canadian consumers by $3 billion in order to give corporations a tax break; and

Whereas the Liberal inspired BS Tax deal proposes to fix the damage by again raising taxes on consumers so that corporations can have another $240 million tax break;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind the Premier that if tax breaks to corporations were the key to prosperity, the streets of Nova Scotia would be paved with gold.

[Page 3379]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1071

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 Minister of Community Services last week tried to explain the merits of the BST to a Grade 6 class visiting the Legislature; and

Whereas the Minister of Community Services said that the BST was definitely a risk, a gamble; and

Whereas this is not consistent with the findings of the Minister of Finance who categorically claims the BST will result in 0.8 per cent growth in GDP and create 3,000 jobs;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance acknowledge that he has no information to substantiate his claim of 3,000 new jobs and an increase in the GDP and that the BST is a huge gamble, a huge risk and that has the potential to bring our already sluggish economy to its knees.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1072

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 Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency was more than happy to wave $4 million at a high-tech company to relocate from Ontario to Halifax, despite the firm's reluctance to accept much of the government funding; and

Whereas Metro Halifax's unemployment rate for the month of November stood at 8.1 per cent, 4.8 per cent below the provincial average and 1.9 per cent below the national average; and

Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency and his silent Liberal colleagues are spending little time or dollars on helping to alleviate Cape Breton's unemployment rate, which at 24.2 per cent is one of the worst jobless rates in Canada;

[Page 3380]

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government focus scarce economic development dollars on areas of the province which are most in need of investment and business growth.

I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

RESOLUTION NO. 1073

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

Whereas 2,000 people in northern Nova Scotia lost their jobs in November; and

Whereas the regional BS Tax with tax-included pricing will cost northern Nova Scotians many more jobs, with the retail sector particularly hard hit; and

Whereas Nova Scotians want a fair and equitable tax system in which there is a balance between consumer, personal income and business tax;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government listen to the vast majority of Nova Scotians who are saying no to the BS Tax and scrap this extremist job-killing measure.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1074

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

Whereas the government has used its majority to force members of this House to sit for 16 hours per day to debate its BS Tax legislation; and

[Page 3381]

Whereas the government is expecting members of this House to grant quick approval to legislation locking this province into a complex 350 page tax agreement with the federal government, New Brunswick and Newfoundland; and

Whereas there is no justification for this travesty of democracy except the political convenience of the Liberals here and in Ottawa;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the government for putting the political convenience of the Liberal Party ahead of the interests of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1075

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 Government House Leader proudly states that he is from Cape Breton and did not grow up sitting back and taking it when someone was dumping on him all the time; and

Whereas the same Government House Leader has used the hammer of Resolution No. 921 to nail the consumer with the BST; and

Whereas like the typical schoolyard bully the Government House Leader cowardly retreats when the heat is on;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government House Leader come out of hiding and that he face the music struck up by his band of discordant Liberals and that he further apologize to the people of Cape Breton for suggesting that he is at all representative of their proud fighting spirit.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel. (Interruptions)

Order, please. The honourable member has the floor.

[Page 3382]

[8:15 a.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1076

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

Whereas the Premier and his Cabinet attempted to sell metro amalgamation on an estimated $10 million in savings to ratepayers; and

Whereas amalgamation costs have now reached nearly $25 million; and

Whereas total savings at the salary level of the mayor and councillors is projected to be at $10,000;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government explain to all municipal ratepayers in the Halifax Regional Municipality why amalgamation has resulted in a cost of millions of dollars as opposed to the promised tax relief.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1077

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 Margaree Forks High School is a small, rural Cape Breton school with a student enrolment of only 122 students in Grade 10 to Grade 12; and

Whereas the Margaree Forks Panthers boys' volleyball team made volleyball history this past weekend by winning the Division I provincial championship, even though two years ago the school was competing in Division IV; and

Whereas this school, that is a fine example of rural spunk and determination, is scheduled to be closed down;

Therefore be it resolved that this House pass on its congratulations to the Margaree Forks boys' volleyball team and its commitment to develop a policy supportive of small rural schools, so that the school and students are around to repeat history in next year's championship.

[Page 3383]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1078

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

Whereas a teacher from Horton District High School outlined to me this past week his concerns for our education system; and

Whereas at the top of his concerns is the fact that classes, which supposedly are to average between 15 to 25 students, instead are averaging 29; and

Whereas in addition he has indicated that the teachers have no textbooks or reading collections for use and that the budgets are so limited they do not permit any such purchases;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education, who has in his backyard the very school to which I refer, start talking to the teachers and hear their concerns so that when the budget is drawn up for 1997-98, some of the fundamental voids outlined by this one teacher, who is echoing the worries of thousands, can be fulfilled.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1079

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

Whereas a Department of Finance spokesperson recently told a seniors group that home care would not be subject to the BS Tax; and

[Page 3384]

Whereas the government advertisement that appeared in newspapers last week says that the no tax provision applies only to medically necessary home care; and

Whereas it has been well established that non-medical home care is, in fact, a key factor in helping seniors to remain in their homes and a key factor in helping seniors maintain good health;

Therefore be it resolved that this government provide clarification for Nova Scotians by ensuring that no form of home care will be hit by a 15 per cent tax increase.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1080

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

Whereas students at Clare District High School are working on an innovative project involving the trout and salmon fishery; and

Whereas biology teacher David Melanson and his students are engaged in such projects as the incubation of salmon and trout brook eggs in two custom-built tanks; and

Whereas if this project succeeds it could very well involve the replenishing of 50,000 trout and salmon in local watercourses;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the ingenuity, dedication and hard work of biology students at Clare District High School as they continue their work on the developing science of aquaculture.

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

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 3385]

RESOLUTION NO. 1081

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

Whereas 5,000 Cape Bretoners have lost their jobs in the last 12 months, pushing the November unemployment rate to 24.2 per cent; and

Whereas the member for Cape Breton Nova recently stated that the construction of a Tim Horton's coffee shop in Whitney Pier represented "the most visible symbol of progress" in the community; and

Whereas the member for Cape Breton Nova's statements represent the most visible symbol of scratching the empty barrel of Liberal job promises;

Therefore be it resolved that Liberal MLAs, including the member for Cape Breton Nova, prepare themselves for the next election when their defeat, at the hands of Progressive Conservative candidates, will be known as "the most visible symbol of progress" in Cape Breton politics.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1082

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

Whereas just a matter of months ago, this government basked in praise from the World Wildlife Fund when it accepted recommendations to protect 31 sites, including Jim Campbell's Barren, under the Parks and Protected Areas Systems Plan; and

Whereas the decision to protect the 31 sites followed extensive public consultations involving thousands of Nova Scotians; and

Whereas a recent decision to flip-flop and remove protection from Jim Campbell's Barren was taken with no public consultations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government not to un-designate a protected site until it follows the same process of public consultation it used to designate the 31 protected sites.

[Page 3386]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1083

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

Whereas on June 9, 1992, the member for Cape Breton East called on the government to develop a policy that maintains essential programs in all Nova Scotia hospitals, no matter how small or how rural; and

Whereas the Liberal Government has proceeded to slash away at numerous rural hospitals, ranging from the closure of Eastern Kings Memorial Hospital in Wolfville to cuts at All Saints Hospital in Springhill and Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro; and

Whereas the future of many rural and community health care facilities are now threatened by regional health boards as of January 1997;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton East, who currently serves as Minister of Community Services, take up the cause of rural hospitals and tell his colleague, the Minister of Health, to call off their government's attack on rural health care.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1084

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

Whereas Pictou County metal worker Peter Latulippe is attracting universal attention with his recent invention; and

Whereas the Pictou County worker, over a period of 18 months, invented an improved drum snare used by drummers in pipe and drum bands; and

Whereas this past summer, a Toronto pipe band, using Peter's improved snares, won the North American Pipe and Drum Band Championship;

[Page 3387]

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature extend best wishes to Peter Latulippe for his energetic perseverance in improving the quality of pipe and drum band music across North America.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 1085

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 federal government late Friday axed the long-lived and loved Radio Canada International Service; and

Whereas the reason given by the corporation was that the government could not find the $16 million needed to keep the service going; and

Whereas Canadians around the world relied on RCI to keep on top of the news of their home country, so that RCI was considered a beacon or a flag for those living or travelling permanently or temporarily outside of the country;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House send a letter to the federal government asking why Heritage Minister Sheila Copps could find more than $20 million to buy flags and millions more to set up a questionable new federal office, but could not find the money to sustain RCI.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice without debate.

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 3388]

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1086

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 10, 1996, commemorates the 48th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Proclamation of the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty; and

Whereas the poverty rate in Nova Scotia has risen during the 1990's from 13 per cent to 17 per cent; and

Whereas the Liberal Government of Nova Scotia has presided over reductions in shelter rates for social assistance recipients, the elimination of diabetic assistance programs, cuts to the children's dental program, the elimination of a shelter allowance for people who live with relatives and the imposition of wage rollbacks and tax and fee increases;

Therefore, be it resolved that this House condemn the actions of the Liberal Government that have directly contributed to the increase of poverty in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1087

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

Whereas the ornamental shrubbery business imports an estimated $12 million worth of plants annually; and

Whereas horticulturalists, Carol Goodwin and Lloyd Mappleback of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro are working on a project that would enhance transplanting flowers and shrubs from the wild to flower gardens; and

Whereas the project at the Agricultural College involves plants from the wild being grown in controlled conditions to better understand their potential as garden plants;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature extend our congratulations and our best of luck to Carol and Lloyd in their ongoing research.

[Page 3389]

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

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1088

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

Whereas residents of Springhill are very angry over the fact the emergency department of All Saints Hospital remains closed; and

Whereas concerned residents are simply not satisfied with the government's sloppy handling of this crucial community health issue; and

Whereas because of no emergency services at All Saints Hospital in Springhill, patients suffering from aneurysms, broken ankles and other emergency care needs have been forced to wait up to seven hours to be seen by a doctor in Amherst;

Therefore be it resolved the Minister of Health immediately address this serious emergency situation in Cumberland County and implement procedures to provide residents of Springhill and surrounding areas with a measure of relief in providing emergency health care.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The time now being 8:28 a.m., we will run for one hour until 9:28 a.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 3390]

COAST GUARD (CAN.) - VESSEL (HENRY LARSEN):

RETENTION (N.S.) - INTERVENE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. In the last three years, we have seen an unprecedented number of federal jobs simply disappear from Nova Scotia. The list is very exhaustive but I will remind the House of a number. A significant number of jobs were lost when our naval presence left for the West Coast. CFB Cornwallis has been ravaged despite federal promises and assurances from even the Prime Minister. Kingston, Ontario seems to be the beneficiary of federal largesse. The gun registry went to New Brunswick. We lost the oil storage facility to Newfoundland and on it goes.

My specific question to the Premier this morning is, will the Premier outline for the House the interventions that he has made to the federal government to keep the Canadian Coast Guard Ship, the Henry Larson, here in Nova Scotia?

HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I have obviously not congratulated the federal government on these moves but we have accepted that many of them have been necessary in the sense that cutting their costs has been part of the federal deficit cutting. Although we do not particularly like the individual application, we applaud the federal government that, for the first time, has managed to reduce their deficit and is now producing, for instance, much cheaper money as a result of what they and the provincial governments have done to reduce their deficits and attack the debt.

The issue of what we are doing with the proposal at the moment is before MPs and I will continue to push it.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I think those who followed the Premier's answer came away with the realization that he was quite prepared to let this happen without any intervention.

[8:30 a.m.]

I wonder, Mr. Speaker, is the Premier aware, for example, that when a transfer of a vessel to Newfoundland was first discussed publicly that it was to be actually the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Radisson from Quebec that was to be redeployed to Newfoundland and the officers and others in Quebec made submissions to the Prime Minister and, all of a sudden, the plan was changed and it wasn't the Radisson that would go to Newfoundland, it was the Larsen, our Coast Guard ship here in Nova Scotia.

I wonder if, bearing in mind that there were submissions federally about moving the Radisson, would it not have been appropriate, bearing in mind that 40 jobs are directly involved, that this Nova Scotia Government would become involved when obviously it became a political decision and not a Coast Guard decision as to which vessel would go to

[Page 3391]

Newfoundland? Would the Premier acknowledge that he had a role to play in this political decision to defend Nova Scotians in this transfer of Coast Guard responsibility?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, let me say first of all that these casual slurs I find quite offensive, dropping them regularly as he does in questions is a well-known tactic. I find them personally offensive and I think that the House deserves a little more in the way of courtesy than the casual way in which they are dropped by an indifferent Leader of the Opposition.

The issue of what I have done, obviously, Mr. Speaker, this is in my riding. I have worked, obviously, but the implication that these are all political is in the imagination of the speaker across the floor. Many of these are decided after a great deal of thought and it is obvious, as your Party discovered when Mr. Mulroney tore up the tracks to the railway down towards those guys. The feds do these things, my friend; the feds do them regardless of Party.

What they are attempting to do here, in terms of the transfer of the Coast Guard, is not to my liking and I have made that abundantly clear in federal sources.

DR. HAMM: The Premier suggested, I slurred him. All I am asking this Premier is to start doing his job and get out there and defend Nova Scotians and do his job the same way that other Premiers look after their provinces. Get out there and challenge the federal government each and every time that they are going to disadvantage Nova Scotians and make political decisions that disadvantage jobs and job holders here in Nova Scotia.

There is a pamphlet of information that I will table and I specifically ask the Premier if he will avail himself of this information that clearly indicates that a real, non-political decision would have resulted in the Larsen staying here in Nova Scotia. Will the Premier commit to look at this information and, following that, to make an appropriate intervention on behalf of Nova Scotians and try to keep the Larsen here in Halifax Harbour? Will the Premier make that commitment?

THE PREMIER: Well, Mr. Speaker, the slurs get louder, not more accurate. Obviously the Leader of the Opposition has no understanding of how things are attempted or done. You do not stand up in public and berate, you attempt to do it behind the scenes.

We have worked with the MP for Dartmouth, we have worked with other MPs, in an effort to change the federal government's mind. The implication that these are all political is just an indication of the twisted way in which he always thinks.

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

[Page 3392]

JUSTICE - INSTITUTIONS: ABUSE VICTIMS - TRUST BETRAYAL

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to direct a question through you, sir, to the Premier. Last spring, on behalf of the government, the Attorney General of the day apologized to survivors of abuse at provincial youth institutions. They pleaded for forgiveness and they offered that there would be fair and respectful compensation awarded to those survivors. An alternate dispute resolution process was worked out, the government signed it and then unilaterally last week they changed the rules most particularly distressing, in those areas dealing with the privacy of those victims. My question is, since that whole process was based on trust, I would like to ask the Premier why his government betrayed the trust of those survivors and in so doing has inflicted increased pain and suffering upon them and their families?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat what the Minister of Justice stated at that press conference, that those that have been injured in any way will be compensated. That is the fundamental issue. We went with the alternate dispute resolution, you are quite right, in an effort to avoid as much pain for the victims as possible. It was not an easy decision because we were aware that there might be some difficulties. We were not aware, anymore than some of the lawyers who are now prattling on about this, that there would be as many. We are interested in pursuing and we will dedicatedly pursue the issue of bringing justice to those people who deserve it, but we will not hand out money until we are absolutely sure that the person concerned requires it.

There is a delicate balance in this which has given us, no question, heartache, but to portray this as a betrayal of people is absolutely wrong. These people will be compensated, they will be compensated properly and those who are not entitled to compensation will not receive compensation.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, so much of this has to do with trust. It seems that the Premier and his front benches are now deciding who does and who does not qualify for compensation, who does or does not deserve money, who does and does not deserve to get on with the healing process after the many, many years of abuse that some of these survivors suffered. I want to ask the Premier a very direct question. How can he can assure any of those survivors that they can trust what this government is now saying to them? What guarantees can he now provide? After you have already torn up and taken back your word on one occasion, betrayed the trust once, what guarantees can you give to those survivors that you and your government will not yet again unilaterally change the rules midstream as you have done once already?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat for the member of the Third Party, the Premier and the Cabinet do not decide. Who decides as to whether they get it is the staff, the very loyal and dedicated staff appointed by the Minister of Justice. The courtesy that we have extended will remain to those people.

[Page 3393]

This is not an issue that we should in sepulchral tones convey disgust. It is an issue that needs to be discussed sensibly, to be discussed compassionately. We will continue to say that those people who were injured as a result of previous governments' problems and damaged by the staff who were there in the time of previous governments, all of those people will be justly dealt with. We will make every effort to be as confidential as possible but I am not prepared to hand over money to people who were not injured in the home.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's final comment tells it all; it is about money. I remind the Premier, as civilly as I can through you, that this is not a matter of courtesy; this is a matter of justice, this is a matter of a legal agreement that the government signed, it is a matter of trust. It was the government, not staff, that suspended the process. It was the government, it was his Cabinet Minister, his colleague, who unilaterally changed the agreement. So I go back to the Premier and I ask the Premier very directly, what guarantees, what assurances, how can anybody know that you will keep your word this time? What guarantees will you give to survivors that you and your government will honour the new rules that you are laying down, instead of unilaterally ripping them up and changing them again if the new agreements don't seem to meet your approval sometime down the road?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is about two fundamental issues, justice and it is also about money. Yes, it is about money. With typical NDP abandon, doesn't concern money, $33 million, whatever the rest is? Of course it concerns money, but the fundamental issue is one of compassionate concern and I repeat what the minister has said and what we will continue to say, that those people who were injured and damaged will receive compensation; those who were not and who are not able to convince the committee that they were damaged will not receive compensation, and that justice, that concept of justice, also extends to the management of this province's finances.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - HOMES (NURSING/AGED):

SERV. EXCHANGE - PAYMENTS DELAY

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. I am sure the Minister of Health is aware that the nursing homes and homes for the aged are having some time delay in receiving payments for residents since the government assumed the care cost of public supported residents, resulting from the service exchange that went on with the municipality. I am sure he is aware of that. I understand, in talking to a number of these people, that this delay is causing some problems regarding loans and overdrafts, and so a cash flow problem has developed because of this delay. I would ask the minister what steps his department is taking to deal with this crisis that operators are finding that has happened and were unaware that it would happen when the service exchange took place?

[Page 3394]

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the information the honourable member brings; I would not characterize it as a crisis. No one has characterized it as a crisis to me, but rather than give only half-information, I will try to get the full update for the honourable member and supply him the information.

MR. MOODY: I guess anybody who has a cash flow problem - he may not think it is a crisis - somebody who is having the problem might think it is a problem. Since the minister knows a little about it but not a lot about it, he is vaguely aware of it but not really aware of it, I wonder if he is aware that there was a recommendation put forward by the nursing homes and homes for aged of an advance payment, with monthly reconciliations, as a means of addressing the cash flow? Since the minister has had some discussion, obviously, with his department, I wonder if he knows if they are seriously considering this proposal as put forth by the nursing homes and homes for the aged?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions with respect to the difficulty that he refers to, again, which no one has characterized to me as a crisis. There obviously is a cash flow problem for some institutions. That is nothing new, I might add, but when the matter is resolved, I certainly will report in full to the honourable member and to the House.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, the minister has admitted that there is a cash flow problem in some institutions and he also has indicated that it has been that way for some time; he probably then would admit that it is even worse because of the situation.

I wonder if the minister is aware - I am sure he is aware of this too, he has probably had some discussions with the nursing homes and homes for the aged and he has probably met with them - of the problem with the increasing number of uninsured physician services. As the minister knows, we have the option, as private individuals, on some of the uninsured services. When some of those services are required or needed by residents, they have no means to pay whatsoever. I am wondering, since the budgets have been frozen and he wouldn't expect the nursing homes and the homes for the aged to pay, if his department is also discussing a way to reimburse the homes that have to pay for those individuals regarding the uninsured services that are in effect and that may be in effect when the department and the physicians, without the consultation of the consumers, decide what further services will be de-insured, I wonder if the minister could give that undertaking?

[8:45 a.m.]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any change in the arrangement for uninsured services that is taking place. It is the same now as it was when the honourable member was minister.

[Page 3395]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - CARE: COMMUN. INSTITUTIONS - OWNERSHIP TRANSFER

DR. JOHN HAMM: I, too, have a question for the Minister of Health. The minister is aware that the process which we are calling designation is going on. That process is simply that the ownership and management of local community health care institutions is being transferred away from the community and being placed directly on the desk and under control of the regional health boards. I wonder if the minister would briefly give the House the rationale of transferring ownership and management of community health care facilities in many cases outside the community to have them administered and controlled and directed from a community afar?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: The honourable minister raises an interesting topic which, unfortunately, in Question Period we cannot discuss in as much detail as it deserves but I hope that maybe in the House we will have an opportunity to debate that. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has departed from positions stated by his Health Critic supporting regionalization and the Blueprint process of health care reform in the province.

He has indicated here in the House quite recently that he will do away with regional health boards should he be elected. That is an interesting position, especially when he combines it with a position that says he is going to keep community health boards. That would be an interesting scenario to see how he plans to develop that. We may get into that on a future day.

The issue is simply this. We are looking, in the process of regionalization, to take the important decisions with respect to health care out of the Joseph Howe Building here on Hollis Street and put them in the communities. They will feed from the community health boards who develop health care plans for their communities up through the regional boards where the decisions on budgeting and such are made. We will not have the situation where there are 47 - health care facilities in the province - separate budget silos. We will have a situation where four regional boards will be able to properly establish priorities, giving due regard to community input.

DR. HAMM: The minister clearly just outlined for us the problem because what he has simply done is he has taken and created over the last three and one-half years four mini-Departments of Health, functioning exactly in the way the Department of Health used to function. In fact, he has lifted control of community health care facilities and has simply transferred it to another community. He has generated enormous costs in doing this; surprising costs. What the minister has done, through ministerial appointments, he has appointed members of the regional health boards who now effectively control community health care delivery. Would the minister confirm that this will simply enable the minister through these regional health boards to have his way with community health care delivery and

[Page 3396]

has effectively removed any opportunity from the communities to have community input into the debate as to what will happen to community health care in any individual community in this province?

MR. BOUDREAU: First of all, ministerial appointments, yes, the regional health boards are appointed by Order in Council, as, by the way, the hospital boards have always been appointed. There is nothing new about that, except regional health boards have responsibility over an area of the province for hospital budgets and indeed for other budgets as well so that we can rationalize this health care delivery, focus it, and receive input from the community. There are now something like, I think, 17 community health boards across Nova Scotia up and running and another 14 or 15 in development. We will have well over 30 boards shortly and more to come. That is the channel of input from communities in developing community health plans to the regional health boards. That is what is going to work. I would be curious as to what role he would see for community health boards once you take out that piece of regional boards. Is he going to give them budgeting authority? Perhaps they will just be able to write to the Minister of Health or the Leader once a month and give him their views.

You see, what he is now suggesting as policy has not worked anywhere in the country. As a matter of fact, they have tried it in British Columbia and just recently, a few days ago, announced that they were backing away from it in total disarray. That is the system that the Leader of the Opposition is proposing now for health care in Nova Scotia.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister in his answer seems to indicate that the community health boards, in fact, will have some role, some effect and will be capable of providing some direction to health care reform, yet he continually is working through the regional health boards. There is no established relationship between regional health boards and community health boards. The community health boards, while they are starting to be formed, still have no specific mandate and have no specific way in which they can influence the regional health boards and have no specific way in which they can influence this minister.

Will the minister simply indicate to the House how there will be any community input into the health care reform that this government has foisted on the people of Nova Scotia, or is he going to continue down the path of ministerial appointments to regional health boards, which will simply give him absolute control of the direction of health care delivery in this province without any community input?

MR. BOUDREAU: I think the best guarantee that community health boards will have a substantive role - and they will and they do - is the membership on those community health boards. These are community minded people. They have been selected by the community. They are not there simply as rubber stamps. They are there to develop community health plans and to feed into the regional health boards. Every single regional health board has established mechanisms for feeding that community health plan into their deliberations. Those mechanisms are in place all across Nova Scotia and more are coming in place every day.

[Page 3397]

I have a single, simple question for the Leader of the Opposition and his health care plan. Does he plan to give community health boards their own budgets? Is that what he is talking about? Once he rips down the regional health boards, takes them out, is he going to give the community health boards budgets? Answer that question.

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

HEALTH - C.B. REG. HOSP.: ADMISSION - WEEKEND

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is also to the Minister of Health. My question is simple. I would ask the minister if he is aware of any hospital refusing admission to a doctor-referred patient on the weekend, saying that they do not do that because of a critical staff and bed shortage?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: I have not had such a report, but if the honourable member has information, I would be pleased to get it from him.

MR. MACLEOD: My question to the minister is again through you, Mr. Speaker. I will give you a little preamble and a little history. I am sure you will appreciate that. Our office was contacted (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACLEOD: Are you guys concerned about what is happening to this woman or do you just want to make noise over there? The minister said he was interested in hearing what is going on and I am just trying to tell him, Mr. Speaker.

Our office was contacted by a Mrs. Allison Parsons of Cape Breton, who was transferred to the IWK-Grace Health Centre in early November because of a blood complication. After spending over a week at the IWK-Grace Health Centre and giving birth to a baby boy, she asked her doctor if she could be moved closer to home because she had another small child at home. The doctor agreed, but the condition was that the newborn had to be admitted into the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. This was all to take place on a weekend. The baby was denied admission and the doctor who tried to arrange the admission was advised that they do not have enough staff on the weekends and they do not admit on the weekends.

Can the minister indicate if he believes this is acceptable and, if not, can he indicate what he will do to ensure that this does not happen in the future?

MR. BOUDREAU: Well, as I indicated to the honourable member, I will take the information from him and attempt to get some further details. Unfortunately in this case, as probably in the future, we are not necessarily going to be able to allow inter-hospital transfer

[Page 3398]

in every case. I understand the woman was in hospital with her baby, here in Halifax, and presumably was being well cared for. It is unfortunate if she couldn't get transferred with her baby to the Cape Breton Regional but I don't think we will ever be in a situation where we can guarantee that kind of accommodation.

Certainly I will look into the matter in more detail.

MR. MACLEOD: I can understand what the minister is saying but the fact of the matter is that this woman and her child were turned down because they said they had staff shortages and bed shortages and they don't admit on the weekend.

Can the minister indicate if he is prepared to review why this hospital denied Baby Parsons admissions? Will he commit to addressing staff shortages that prompted this hospital to deny this baby's admission at that time?

MR. BOUDREAU: Well, I said to the honourable member that I will seek further information but you have to be careful here. Are we talking about an emergency admission situation or are we talking about a routine transfer to accommodate a mother closer to home? They are two different things. I can't imagine that a hospital anywhere in Nova Scotia, in Cape Breton or anywhere else, would not have any admissions on the weekend, in an area such as obstetrics - call the woman and say, I am sorry, you are going to have to wait until Monday morning to have the baby because we are not admitting.

Quite frankly, I don't believe that and I don't think that is the example that the honorable member gives. This was a woman who wanted to be transferred. I can understand that, she wanted to be closer to her family but this is not an emergency situation, Mr. Speaker.

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

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: SPEECH PATHOLOGISTS - EXEMPT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Finance. Since this notice of Ways and Means motion was tabled in the federal House of Commons we have begun to find out some details on tax changes that that government is proposing and the effect that will have on some Nova Scotians. I have a couple of questions for the Minister of Finance, in order to suss out some more of those details.

It appears from this information that speech pathologists that are not covered under MSI are now going to be charged - they were originally exempt from the GST - the 15 per cent BST. Mr. Speaker, this is in a situation where it has been noted that this province is seriously under-represented by speech and language pathologists and, increasingly, what families are having to do with children in school is they are having to go out and purchase

[Page 3399]

privately the services of speech language pathologists at $30 per half hour session. The tax would add $4.50 to that fee, a significant additional cost to those people.

I would like the Minister of Finance, if he would explain that this is, in fact, going to happen and would he explain why speech pathologists and other such professionals have not been notified of this change?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I dropped off the document at the Leader's desk, based on a request he made to our department for the details of the federal bill, and also to the Leader of the Opposition. I just want to be perfectly frank; I don't know all the details of every word in the 300 or 400 page document but I would be happy to undertake to check into the specific matters that the member raised and I will have that information on a future day.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I guess it is unfortunate that maybe out of those few groups that were consulted about the changes to the tax system in the province, these professionals who provide such an important service to families and children in the Province of Nova Scotia haven't been sufficiently considered.

Another question for the Minister of Finance; there has been some confusion over whether or not this tax change is going to be applied to home care services. At one point a few weeks ago we had an official at the Finance Department of the Province of Nova Scotia tell Nova Scotians that home care services would not be subject to the BST but now we have learned that there is a slight variation in that decision in that home care services, which are medically necessary, will be exempt from the BST.

I would like to ask the minister, given the fact that there are a number of services provided under Home Care Nova Scotia, home support in particular which wouldn't fall under the classification of medically necessary in that definition, would the minister please try to clarify here today just how the determination is going to be made about applying the BST to home care services and who is going to make that decision of what is medically necessary?

[9:00 a.m.]

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, that is part of the advantage of having regulations. As the honourable member said, medically necessary home care services will not attract the harmonized tax. I think all honourable members would realize if a person chooses and it is some type of home care, if they choose to have someone clean their apartment, for example, because they don't choose to do it, I don't think it is something that should be exempted.

The regulations will be developed and the general rule is if it is medically necessary home care services it will not attract the harmonized tax.

[Page 3400]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am increasingly concerned about the lack of information that this Minister of Finance can provide us, can provide all Nova Scotians as to what the impact is going to be on them. Home care is increasingly an essential service in the Province of Nova Scotia for vast numbers of ill and infirm Nova Scotians, in particular, seniors. I believe that they are owed an explanation by this minister as to exactly what they can expect when this decision is made. This just underlines why it is so important for us to have more full, open and honest discussions about these tax changes.

My final supplementary to the Minister of Finance again has to do with these changes being made in the House of Commons. As it currently exists, businesses billing under $30,000 a year have been exempt from the GST and there is some confusion as to whether this is still going to be the case under the blended sales tax or whether people earning under $30,000, like somebody that babysits and earns $5,000, a free-lance writer earning $20,000, a $15,000 a year handyperson, whether they are now going to have to employ the services of an accountant in order to figure out how much of the BST they are going to have to pay? I would like to ask the minister if he could explain to those Nova Scotians who are in that category of earning under $30,000 a year whether they are going to continue to be exempt from paying the BST or whether they are going to be subject to this additional cost and this additional burden?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the rule is that if the business is under $30,000 it will be exempt. The member makes comments that they shouldn't have to keep track. We have to have a level playing field so that people don't use the underground economy to victimize legitimate businesses, we must pay our fair share. If it is fairly done and if the business is truly under $30,000 they will be exempt. If they are running over $30,000 and not taking time to keep track, I don't think that is fair and Revenue Canada will be looking at that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

JUSTICE - INSTITUTIONS: ABUSE COMPENSATION - CHANGES

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. A few days ago the Minister of Justice either out of a total lack of respect for this place, this Legislature, or maybe out of some feeling of cowardice decided to hold private media scrums in his office as he gutted the program for restitution or compensation for victims of institutional abuse. The new program now requires the alleged victims to deal with the RCMP and to be subjected to become witnesses in dramatic and, what I am sure, will become traumatic legal proceedings. A move has been made to move away from a fair, sensitive and compassionate alternative dispute resolution process.

My question to the Attorney General is, could he explain to me and through me to those victims and those who represent them and their families, why those changes were made that he announced the other day?

[Page 3401]

HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, the alternative dispute resolution process, which was commenced back in June of this year, was the right process at the outset and it still is. The changes which we announced as of last Friday were simply, and very specifically designed, to ensure that the ADR process continues into the future.

MR. DONAHOE: The minister, very glibly, says that the ADR process is still in place and it continues and so on, but the minister also knows, and fails to say in response to my question, that the ground rules relative to the ADR process have significantly changed in the sense that those who are the alleged victims are now going to be subjected to interrogation, in many cases, by RCMP officers and that the possibility and the likelihood is that many, if not hundreds, of the alleged victims are now, as a result of the new ground rules, going to find themselves in the courtrooms of Nova Scotia as witnesses to offer evidence relative to claims against alleged perpetrators of institutional abuse. This minister knows that he, in this process, is dealing with men and women who are absolutely terrorized by (Interruption)

Excuse me, do you have a question? Do I have the floor, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. (Interruption) Order, please, the honourable member has the floor.

MR. DONAHOE: The difficulty is, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the Minister of Justice, he knows that the physical and the emotional and the psychological integrity and capacity of most of those victims is so fragile that to subject them to the RCMP process which has now been injected into this process and to force them to face the spectre of offering evidence in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia is a very real terror to all of them.

I want to ask the Minister of Justice if he can explain to us how many of the witnesses, who will be investigated by the RCMP, does he expect will be required and be called upon to offer evidence in the courts of Nova Scotia, relative to any charge or charges laid against anybody who is an alleged perpetrator of any of this violence?

MR. ABBASS: As the member opposite knows, the Attorney General does not instruct either the independent public prosecutor, nor the RCMP on how to lay charges, when to lay charges and how to conduct their investigation. I can only assure the member opposite that I put the very concern that he has raised concerning the formality and, I guess, the possible appearance of an interrogation to the RCMP when I met with them. I have urged them to be as sensitive as possible to the sensitivities of the people with whom they might be speaking. The use of the word interrogation is not fair. It is not designed to be an interrogation anymore since Friday than it was before Friday and it is intended to have some sensitivity and some concern for the fragility of the people with whom the RCMP or the Internal Investigations Unit members might be speaking. I can only assure the member opposite that that concern has been brought to the attention of the RCMP.

[Page 3402]

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I guess I fail to understand why the much-toted procedure which was in place previously, whereby this minister's predecessor and this minister attempted to have us believe that the file review process which had been in place previously, whereby the men and women who were alleged victims, were dealing with persons called file reviewers and who, I might say, were being far more sympathetically considered by the file reviewers than they were by the initial reviewers, the departmental people.

I would like to ask the Minister of Justice if he will please explain why it is that the file reviewer process, which had been working effectively on behalf and in the interests of the victims of institutional abuse, has been downgraded, if not eliminated, in favour of rolling in the RCMP to conduct these investigations and to interrogate the victims, which is guaranteed - and he knows it - to result in some very significant number of these traumatized men and women being called as witnesses in the Supreme Court, or other courts, as this thing unfolds and, indeed, being called as witnesses even prior to any settlement for them as individuals of any compensation claim? Can he please explain why the file reviewer process has been overtaken and replaced by the RCMP involvement?

MR. ABBASS: The member opposite is incorrect in describing the file review process as having been downgraded, if not eliminated. Using such a long preamble, he can say almost anything of whatever insulting nature he wants to say, however inaccurate and untruthful he wishes to say, Mr. Speaker. The fact is, is that file review has been saved, that the ADR process has been saved, that people who were abused will be compensated in as fair and as timely a manner as possible, that the best available information and evidence will find its way into the hands of staff reviewers, staff assessors and, if it comes to that, into the hands of the file reviewers.

The principle that we have adhered to and continue to adhere to is that those who were abused shall be compensated and will continue to be compensated under this ADR process. The alternative dispute resolution process has been saved and that is just as it should be, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

COMMUN. SERV. - FAMILY BENEFITS: ELIGIBILITY - DELAYS

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. As the minister is well aware, the natural progression for someone who is, through no fault of their own, on municipal assistance, and is going to be on for a long time, finally finishes up on the provincial Family Benefits Program. Unfortunately, there seems to be a planned system in place to prevent that transition taking place in what we would call a reasonable time.

[Page 3403]

I was wondering if the minister would confirm that the delays of up to 10 months, 12 months to get onto family benefits, which is becoming quite common now - that is with the beneficiary meeting all the basic requirements of going on family benefits - if there is a plan by the Department of Community Services to download the costs of welfare onto the municipalities?

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would the minister then provide to the members of this House and to all Nova Scotians and, in particular, those who are presently on municipal assistance who have been waiting an extraordinary long time to get onto family benefits, could he tell us why there is such a long delay? As I say, delays are stretching up to 10 months, I am told, at the present time and possibly even longer.

MR. MACEACHERN: Well, as the honourable member would know, Mr. Speaker, that depends on the cases. If I could, he said something which I think I take exception with. He said that the natural progression if you are on municipal social assistance is that you end up on provincial social assistance. One of the things that we are trying to do, and we are working very hard at, is people who land in the social assistance system is to get them to work. We are working very hard to get them to work, Mr. Speaker, but to suggest for a moment that the way to do this is to apply to municipal social assistance and then you go on a pension of some kind and provincial social assistance. That may be the way it used to work, but it does not work like that anymore.

[9:15 a.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: First of all, to correct what the minister thought he heard, I said that people who are on municipal assistance and going to be on long-term assistance and meet all the requirements, the time element to get from municipal assistance to family benefits has been stretched out by this government in a deliberate attempt to download the costs that should be picked up by the provincial government onto the municipal units.

I will ask the minister just one question and it requires a very simple answer. Would the minister tell us in the House how long, on average, it takes to go from municipal assistance now, if you are qualified to receive family benefits, how long that process takes at the present time. What is the administrative lag?

MR. MACEACHERN: First of all, I take exception to the honourable member. What we are in fact doing and we have done it in metro, we are doing it in Cape Breton and now we are moving . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Eight months.

[Page 3404]

MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member did have his say. At least, I heard him say it. He said I did not hear what he said he said but I wrote it down as he said it and that is what he said.

We are now moving so that municipal social assistance does not exist. We are moving very quickly to take over social assistance in Nova Scotia single tier. We are working in co-operation with the municipalities and I can assure the honourable member that even the application of his question will not be relevant in a very short period of time.

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

SPORT & REC. - OFFICE ACCOMMODATION:

LEASE - SOLE-SOURCED

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Sport and Recreation Commission. Tenders closed and bids opened on leased office accommodation for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission on February 29th of this year. Despite these bids being opened, the tender was abruptly cancelled shortly after. Will the minister explain why he sought permission through Priorities and Planning to sole-source the tender so that negotiations could begin directly with Sport Nova Scotia?

HON. JAY ABBASS: The Sport and Recreation Commission will very soon be moving into premises that are owned and operated by Sport Nova Scotia which is a body that is very largely funded by government itself. You might characterize it as a quasi-government agency. In fact, it was started 25 years ago by government, the Liberal Government of the day.

It makes a whole lot of sense, Mr. Speaker, to locate the commission with one of its major clients, if you will. Sport Nova Scotia represents upwards of 65 to 70 sport and recreation governing bodies in this province. Having the commission in such close proximity to the people and organizations that the commission serves just makes good common sense.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it may make good common sense but one has to wonder why the minister and his department would call for tenders and open bids. When one looks a little further into the situation, I wonder if the minister would explain why, when one looks at the tender summary of which we were able to obtain a copy, we wonder why it shows in the tendering process that of the nine bids submitted Sport Nova Scotia had the second highest one. Their bid came in at $14.50 per square foot. The only one higher was for $17.73?

MR. ABBASS: Again, the member opposite is asking a good question. Why is the commission going to the trouble and extra effort, if you will, of moving itself into the premises owned by Sport Nova Scotia. Again, there are some compelling reasons why the commission should be located along with approximately 65 to 70 sport and recreation governing bodies. They will share everything from computer time and equipment to

[Page 3405]

boardroom space, a training room. It will be just that much easier for staff, for example, sport representatives, to leave the commission and travel to the Sport Nova Scotia offices and assist the bodies that they are supposed to help. Likewise, the recreation directors can easily be in contact with the clients. It is very straightforward.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I don't question that it makes sense to locate in the Sport Nova Scotia building but I still have very serious concerns as to why the minister called for tenders. The other seven bids submitted were all at a lower cost than the $14.50 per square foot that Sport Nova Scotia submitted in their tender. If you go over the sheet, you will see that one of the proposals submitted, for 2,462 square feet of office space, contained three months of free rent. Their price was only $12.75, yet we are accepting a tender for $14.50. Other prices submitted were for $10.35, $14.00, $11.75, $11.00, $13.81 and $12.50, all lower than Sport Nova Scotia's proposal. Why did the minister call for tenders and why did he accept Sport Nova Scotia?

MR ABBASS: The member opposite is going to one figure on, I think, one or two pages. He is going straight to what I presume is the net per square foot amount. As he should know, the way in which a lease is appraised by Supply and Services or anyone who is renting space in the downtown core, is not just on the basis of the price per square foot, net or gross or otherwise, but also on the basis of the operating expenses of that space, the term of the lease, the amount of free rent, the amount of leasehold improvements that are available.

The member opposite is not doing justice to the tender document that he has in his own hand. It is not just a matter of comparing $12.75 net with somebody else's rent down the road. It comes down to a present value calculation and all those various factors go into the mix. So again I would just urge the member opposite, if he wishes, to approach the commission and ask for a final version of the lease. Then he could fill his boots and have all the numbers he wishes. He is oversimplifying the tendering approach in this province.

Again, the way in which the commission is being located so close to its clients can only serve to improve the way in which the commission serves those clients. Those are both sport and recreation serving organizations that have work happening throughout this province, Mr. Speaker, in every single community of the province. Finally some common sense was brought to bear and we are moving the commission out of what would be considered B-plus or A space in an office tower to what can only pass as maybe B-minus to C space in the Sport Nova Scotia building.

If the member opposite wants to take a tour of the office space into which the commission is moving, he would satisfy himself that it is very modest, modest in the extreme. He would be unfair to the commission, to Sport Nova Scotia and all the volunteer-led sport and recreation governing bodies if he were to criticize this move.

[Page 3406]

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

JUSTICE - INSTITUTIONS:

ABUSE COMPENSATION - PAYMENT IMPROPER

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Premier on a question that I raised earlier. The Premier will know or should know that the alternative dispute resolution process only provided compensation and only was set up to provide compensation and counselling services to those individuals who had suffered abuse while under the care of the government at provincial youth institutions. The Premier, in his earlier response, confirmed that a major reason why it decided to change that agreement unilaterally was to save money - that is what he indicated in his response - and that compensation would be provided only to those who had suffered abuse.

I would like to ask the Premier very directly then, is it the government's position that many or, in fact, maybe just some of those who have been compensated to date under the ADR process that was in place, had received compensation and had not been abused?

Is it the government's position that some of those who received compensation did so and received it improperly and they had not been abused and, therefore, they received money to which they were not entitled? If that is the government's position, will the Premier table, on the floor of this House, evidence to support the claim that some of those compensated did not deserve it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the government's position before the stance that we took and, to correct the obvious poor memory of the speaker, I indicated there were two reasons: one was justice and compassion that were necessary; and the second one was money. I am not ashamed to say that we will direct money to those who received injury and we will not direct money to people who did not receive injury. As to the process, I will hand that over to the very competent Minister of Justice because that is a departmental issue.

HON. JAY ABBASS: The member opposite is asking how many cases have been demonstrated to be fraudulent; I think that is what he is asking. In fact, only one case has been referred to the RCMP, Mr. Speaker, so this whole question of fraud or legitimacy should not be overplayed. What can be said is that having studied the ADR process and having taken the five week hiatus to take a look at all of its moving parts, it was clear that I could not confidently look the taxpayer in the eye and say that not only are we compensating abuse victims, but we are ensuring that the best available evidence finds its way into the hands of the staff assessor and into the hands of the file reviewer and that, in due course, the perpetrators of these crimes will be brought to justice. I have the responsibility to satisfy both conditions.

[Page 3407]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister said only one case, supposedly, of abuse. I know that some people have withdrawn from the ADR process - we have been informed of that - because of the traumatic effect that this government's betrayal of its commitment has already made and forced them to withdraw.

My question finally then to the minister is simply this. How many dollars is the government banking on saving by changing the rules and by denying those who are going to have their appeal heard now and forcing them to operate under different rules from those who were compensated in the first part?

MR. ABBASS: The member opposite is obviously not adhering to the comment that he made to me in this House only a few weeks ago, that he would not attempt to score political points on the back of this issue. He is not being fair in the way he is dealing with this whole issue.

What I am very heartened by is that when I approached Cabinet - and I did on at least a couple of occasions to update them as to the comings and goings in this important issue - I was given nothing but support, as was the ADR process. The Cabinet and this government remain committed to dealing with a problem that was left standing and unattended to and ignored by previous governments for up to 40 years. I can only say that I am very heartened by the way in which Cabinet has responded and committed to funding compensation to those who were abused and equally supporting me in my effort to ensure the perpetrators of the abuse are brought to justice. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired. Before moving to government business, I wish to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the late debate and the honourable member for Queens will debate at 6:00 p.m. this evening:

Therefore be it resolved that this government stop and listen to the very serious fears and concerns of Nova Scotians with regard to our health care system which, although the accusation is denied by the Premier, has been wounded by the Savage Government cuts.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

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

[Page 3408]

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 member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, in speaking to the amendment to refer it to the Public Accounts Committee, actually I thought yesterday that I would not really have a whole lot to say, but I was inspired, I guess, this morning by the Premier on CBC Radio. After listening to the Premier, I have a lot to say, I discovered. The Premier was saying that all of the things that the Opposition are saying are wrong and he wanted to set the record straight.

Mr. Speaker, I don't recall anything I said yesterday being incorrect. If there is a reason or an argument that one might have that we would send this to the Public Accounts Committee, it is to set the record straight. I do not believe for a minute that the Premier seems to know all the details of how the new BST is going to work. As a matter of fact, after listening to the Premier I am quite convinced that he doesn't know the finer details of the BST.

[9:30 a.m.]

Part of the reason that I feel very strongly that this should go to the Public Accounts Committee is that we can not only have the Nova Scotia officials that are dealing with the blended sales tax but we could have the officials from Ottawa who could also appear before the Public Accounts Committee because we have the general public out there who are quite confused about the issue.

The Premier said yesterday that the BST was going to revive Nova Scotia, create jobs and put people back to work. My memory is not great but it is pretty good, I remember the Premier saying in 1993, 30-60-90 is going to put people back to work, Nova Scotia is going to boom, just believe me, I am your Premier, vote for me, 30-60-90, the answers. We are going to have a very vibrant Nova Scotia, he said, everybody is going to be working, the economy is going to be great. I don't blame people if they are cynical about hearing the Premier when he says 30-60-90 is going to put everybody back to work. Now he is saying the BST is going to put everybody back to work.

You talk about a credibility problem, this Premier has a credibility problem with the people I talk to. People say again and again, the Premier said it so it must not be. We already went down the road with him once before with the commitment that 30-60-90 would make

[Page 3409]

this province vibrant, everybody working and booming and it didn't do it. Now he wants us to believe that he has a new magic solution that is different than 30-60-90 because he is going back to the polls and he wants people to again believe that he has a plan to revitalize the economy of this province. It is not 30-60-90 anymore because that didn't work, it is the BST that is now going to work to do just that. So, if the government allowed this to go to the Public Accounts Committee, the public could be better informed.

I also heard the Premier on CBC this morning say, you know the Opposition is fear-mongering when they talk about the BST being applied to home care. I don't know if the Premier knows or not and he probably doesn't because he doesn't seem to mind himself of any details of anything is that we already have and I did clearly say yesterday, I didn't say it was home care provided by the provincial government, I very clearly said it was the home care, the personal care side that is provided by private industry. We now have the private sector which I didn't hear the Premier allude to that is providing home care to many Nova Scotians in this province who are on a waiting list for the provincial home care, who have needs that don't qualify for enough provincial home care. In other words, the amount of time the provincial home care gives them is a couple of hours a day. They have to go out and provide or buy private personal care or home care from those private companies.

I checked and right now if you are buying services from a private company, you pay 7 per cent. I am of the understanding that it will be 15 per cent as of April 1st. I noticed the government put an advertisement in today's Daily News and they have been putting this advertisement in the paper for some time. I didn't want to mislead anybody so I assume it was put in by the Nova Scotia Department of Finance. It certainly says that it is sponsored by the Province of Nova Scotia.

It talks about personal services, Mr. Speaker. It talks about hair cuts, obviously going up from 7 per cent to 15 per cent. It talks about shoe repair which is 7 per cent going up to 15 per cent. For a lot of those seniors and working poor, they cannot go out and buy a new pair of shoes. They have tried to repair their old ones and now they are going to be hit with a higher tax.

We also know dry-cleaning is going to go up from 7 per cent to 15 per cent because this is what it says in the ad produced by the government. (Interruptions) Oh, oh. He is desperate. Well, he had better do it before April 1st. It is going up. This is according to the ad that the government has produced. It also says, et cetera. That means other personal services are going to go up from 7 per cent to 15 per cent as of April 1st.

In case the Premier does not know it, home care that many seniors have to buy privately is one of those personal services. For the Premier to say on CBC, look, the Opposition mentioned that home care will be taxed 15 per cent, obviously he is incorrect. He should have said, the home care provided by the government is not taxed 15 per cent but that services

[Page 3410]

provided by the private industry will go up as of April 1st to 15 per cent. There are a number of areas where the home care obviously is going to go up and not as the Premier indicated.

Now, we wonder why we should go to the Public Accounts Committee. Mr. Speaker, over in P.E.I., the committee, before they decided whether or not they, as a province, would harmonize the tax, they decided that they would have an all-Party committee of the Legislature hold hearings around P.E.I. and let the individuals and businesses appear before this committee. Then the Government of P.E.I. would make a decision on whether or not they would blend the provincial tax and the GST in the Province of P.E.I. Well, they did have their hearings, Mr. Speaker, much like our Public Accounts Committee could have its hearings here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

One of the things that I think the Premier is having difficulty with and the reason we are getting two different answers is, one of the things that that committee pointed out that I think the Public Accounts Committee here would soon realize, that if you harmonize or blend the two taxes, the province would lose its constitutional authority over direct taxation. In other words, the Minister of Finance, in this House, gave out a toll-free number with Ottawa so that we could check out what is going to happen in this province with regard to the blended sales tax. What that committee in P.E.I. said, and I think we would find out if the Public Accounts Committee sat here, is that we would lose a great deal of autonomy.

One of the things, Mr. Speaker, that we have already found out, when I raised the issue on the books of how that tax system has to work, if the Province had its own autonomy, the tax on books that are bought by the retailers in the book business, would not have to pay the 15 per cent to begin with. They would only have to pay the 7 per cent which they could charge the consumer.

Because of this government not having total autonomy - because they have now given a lot of that autonomy to Ottawa - the book retailer has to pay 15 per cent and obviously adds 7 per cent on the sales but that 8 per cent they have to apply for to Ottawa and will receive back a credit for that 8 per cent. A lot of the retailers say that is causing them a great deal of problems, it is costing them a lot of money, whereas if this provincial government had the autonomy under a blended sales tax, we would say no, this is the way we are going to do it. Then it would save the retailer money and also the store owners obviously would be much happier.

So if we went to Public Accounts Committee, maybe some way could be worked out that there would be some autonomy. What this government did when it went to Ottawa, it not only sold itself, it sold its soul, by the fact that as I understand it, the federal government will have more autonomy in how this actually works than the provincial government. So when you don't have authority over matters that affect you, as a province, we all know and I heard the Premier say today, when the Leader of the Opposition questioned the Premier over an issue that was federally controlled yet had an effect on the people of this province, that once

[Page 3411]

we give that autonomy away, as the Premier says, we can complain but we really have no control over what happens.

The second thing that the committee found in P.E.I., which is one that the Public Accounts Committee could look at here, is the compensation package that this government received, will that replace the long-term revenue that the province will lose? That is a question. I think in the document that the Finance Department produced, there has been great debate from the Premier, which differs from the papers produced by the Department of Finance with regard to how many dollars the consumer will either pay or not pay.

As you and I know, Mr. Speaker, people in this province don't put much faith in what politicians say. Obviously they don't put much faith in what the Premier says, because of his past record. So politicians are not the most believable people, from any side of the House, in the public's mind. What we need is, if we went to the Public Accounts Committee, and you know they have great faith in the Auditor General, and we all do. The Auditor General is a very capable individual, he makes sure that the documents he produces can be substantiated and Nova Scotians, press, everybody believes and should believe the work of the Auditor General because it is unbiased, it is not political, it is not grandstanding from any sense.

So if we had this referred to the Public Accounts Committee, then had the Auditor General produce a document, Nova Scotians then could make a decision on whether they felt that the blended sales tax was actually good for them or not good for them. They would have obviously some basis to make their judgment call from. So as long as we debate this back and forth, everybody will get up and obviously the government, besides the Premier I expect, at some point in the debate, will get up to argue why they think it is good for Nova Scotia, as the Opposition argues why it is not good for Nova Scotia.

What does that really settle for John Q. Public out there, Mr. Speaker? You think your side is right, we think we are right. Now if the government felt that they were right and that, in actual fact, this would come down on their side and that they have nothing to fear in revealing all of the details about this blended sales tax, what would be wrong with the Public Accounts Committee - which I think every member of this House agrees is a well-functioning committee, and with the Auditor General they have produced some very good reports and have produced a very good report; one that has credibility - then the general public would be able to make an assessment. Not only would the general public be able to appear before the Public Accounts Committee, but business could appear as well.

[9:45 a.m.]

One of the things that I heard the Premier say today on CBC - I think this was on at 7:30 a.m. was that he is hoping that business will come forward. But they have not been rushing forward to support this blended sales tax. The government has continually said that this is good for business in this province. There has not been a rush of businesses that have

[Page 3412]

come forward that says it is. There has been a rush of businesses that have come forward that says that with the price included it is not good.

I had a business call me this morning who said, doesn't the government understand that with having the price included that the consumer is going to pay more? I spoke about this yesterday, after having spoken to a number of businesses. I had not, Mr. Speaker, contacted this particular business and so this business wanted to know if I would raise the issue again; that maybe the government MLAs who do not understand the workings of business would really get to understand the point that he was trying to make that in fact the consumer would actually pay more with the price included. This businessman said exactly what I said would happen. That is, when he buys an item at $100 or whatever and he adds his mark-up, he will not just add the 15 per cent. He will take his mark-up from the $100 plus the $15 and then the consumer will end up paying more. In every case, he said to me, that is true.

He said, we as a business are not going to take the brunt of why higher prices occur. He said, I will tell everybody in my business that all my prices went up and they are paying more because of the provincial government insisting that I do it this way and that is why you are paying more. He said consumers would actually pay less if the price was not included. I said the government said this is what the consumers of the province want. He said, George, was the government honest with the consumer? Did the government do its research so that they would be honest with consumers about price-included meaning higher prices for the consumer? Did they explain to them how the retail business works? I said I do not even know if the Premier knows how it works. He has never been in retail and I do not know who he has talked to. I cannot tell you that they do know. I would hope if they do not know, that they would talk to business people like yourself. (Interruption)

They are not calling me because they are political. They are calling me because they are business people and they are concerned. In this case, I happen to represent the area. I said you do not have to convince me. I understand it. You are going to have to call members on the government side so they can fully understand the message you are trying to give me. What you are saying to me I fully acknowledge as absolutely true.

If the government allowed this to go to the Public Accounts Committee and the business people were able to come in and work this thing through, I honestly believe, Mr. Speaker, that if the government announced that they were going to amend it, that the tax was not included in the pricing, that you would have hundreds of businesses down here supporting the government. The reason they are not supporting the government is that one very issue.

I know the government gets stubborn and when it gets to a point of introducing a bill feels that they don't want to make a change. Good government has second thoughts and does listen. Good governments aren't always right on everything they put into a piece of legislation, that when it is drafted they think, this legislation that we have drafted, this Bill No. 48, is done in a perfect manner. Nothing is done in a perfect manner and I think any one of

[Page 3413]

us in decisions we make in life can sometimes have sober second thoughts about some of the things or some of the decisions we make.

Here is a government who hasn't learned in over three years and that is why a lot of people are upset with them, is the fact that yes, maybe once in a while we ought to have a sober second look, not that we are going to change, that we are not going to do the blended sales tax because we have made the decision to do it but that maybe in some of the things that we are attacking or doing could be done better and could be improved upon. To me, that is good government.

As I see this government when they bring in a piece of legislation no matter who puts an argument forward on how you can improve it, their idea is if you don't like what you see, too bad because that is the way it is going to be. So as I get these calls and I hear the Premier pleading, he could get what he wants, he could get business calling here and saying they support it but he would have to change one thing. You know it is funny because I am sure the business who called me wasn't privy to the Prince Edward Island report. I know that this government is privy to it as are all members of the Legislature and I am sure all of the backbenchers and everyone who read the report because regardless of what side you are on you want to be as knowledgable as you can about every report that is written about it so that you can have a better handle on it when people ask you questions that you are very knowledgable about issues that are debated before the Legislature even though as a backbencher you may not have to get up to speak but I am sure you have read it.

If you have read the report you have probably noticed on the bottom of Page 5, one of the issues that came up when the committee had their public hearings in Prince Edward Island. It said, "Finally, the provision for tax-included pricing that is part of the tax harmonization proposal is a matter of concern within the business community.". So it is not unique to Nova Scotia that the business community here in Nova Scotia have the same concerns or are not rushing to support this provincial government on this tax issue. The business community in Prince Edward Island had the same concerns that the business people in Nova Scotia are having. They talked about a number of practical concerns and I wonder if this government understands about practical concerns that business people raise when we have a taxation measure such as them that effect them.

There are concerns over national advertising which if we went to the Public Accounts Committee could be addressed because that is a real concern. The transitional costs - I talked to this business individual today who said you know George, the cash register company I am dealing with says that right now they can't give me a cash register that will produce for the customer how much tax, because it is price-included and I can't ring in on top of that, of how that cash register is going to break down what it is that was taxed that I actually paid on the items that I bought.

[Page 3414]

He said the cash register company is checking in Japan where they are made, I guess, but the problem that the company says, you know, it is going to be a great cost for us to do this for three little small provinces. If it was done nationally across the country, then companies would be interested and it would be more cheaply done, if that was the way we were going to conduct our business across the country. But that is not the way we are going to conduct our business across the country. There is going to be no other province in Canada, except these three provinces, where we are going to have tax included. In other words, the sticker price is the price that you pay. As for the consumer, he or she never knows when she gets a receipt of actually what it is that was taxed and what was the actual price of the goods.

Maybe, Mr. Speaker, it is not important to people in this province that people will notice when they come here and people don't stop to think, when they see a sticker price, even though I know when I go in a store and I see the sticker price on an article and I know that when I pay for it, it is going to have tax on it today. You know, most times, one fails to realize that and you get to the cash register and it is always more. It is sort of a custom. Do you think visitors here are going to see the sticker price and realize right away, my gosh, I better buy that, it is tax free.

Mr. Speaker, if I am from the United States today and I shop here, I can go home and get my GST rebated, as you are aware, if I am a visitor. Now if I am in a store and I cannot get that broken down on the cash register, I cannot get it rebated when I go home because right now, if you are a visitor in this province, you have to send the cash register receipt in to the GST people and they send you back the money that you paid. If the cash registers cannot break it down because it is price-included, how in the world can you say visitors are going to spend more money here? It is absolutely not true, but if we did not have the price included, the cash register would show the added tax and they could continue to do as they do today, a lot of visitors, send it in and get the rebate.

On small, little items maybe some visitors do not do that, but I know they do it on large items and I know if you go, Mr. Speaker, like you probably noticed at malls and so forth, they have available at the information booth the papers from the GST people, which will now all be one, and I have seen it advertised in malls, where visitors from outside, from the United States can actually get a rebate back and encourages them to spend money in the province and encourages them to shop and that all has a spin-off effect. Now, the government is setting up a roadblock to that very thing.

So for the Premier to keep harping that my oh my, this is going to really make Nova Scotia boom, I think we have to do an analysis. What the government fails to do and anything that they have decided to do, whether it be casinos or anything else, an analysis becomes unimportant to them. By referring it to the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. Speaker, as you and other members know, if you are going to start out in business or you are going to start anything, one of the things you do first - and you know it is funny because if you were after a loan from the Province of Nova Scotia or some assistance to start a business from the

[Page 3415]

Economic Renewal Agency, one of the things they would want you to have is an analysis done before a business plan, before you ever started. This government says, it is good for other people to have analysis done, but for the government itself, we do not have to have an analysis. So by making an amendment to refer to the Public Accounts Committee, it is a great opportunity.

[10:00 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as I understand the deadline for starting this tax, we are going to start it on April 1st, but we could have the Public Accounts Committee meet in January and we would still have time to get the report back, so that the government would still be on target as of April 1st. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that by referring this to the Public Accounts Committee the government doesn't want to delay it beyond April 1st. I understand that, that is part of the process. The government is insisting that we ram this legislation through before Christmas. There is an opportunity with this amendment. I don't know what the hurry is because, as I understand it, New Brunswick hasn't even introduced it. I don't know what it is and the government has failed to explain it to me in all the debate. The Premier never addressed it when he spoke yesterday, because he doesn't ever address the real issues. Why is it that we have to pass this by Christmas and we can't take the normal time, or at least some part of January, to get the information?

I don't know if you are aware, Mr. Speaker, but we have had - I have talked to people who have called the federal 1-800 line that the Minister of Finance has given us to call. They tell us that some of the details haven't been worked out. Now why are we rushing through legislation before the details have been worked out? I fail to understand that. I am sure - I had Bill No. 48 in front of me a minute ago - that you, as well as your colleagues, have read this legislation and if you have, you will know that a lot of things can be done by regulations.

If the Public Accounts Committee had the opportunity to meet, I think the government could make better regulations with some input. I fail to understand, as a legislator, why it is that the government says that having input by the consumer and by business is wrong; in other words, to have the Public Accounts Committee meet and to address all of the issues and to bring the provincial Finance and the federal Finance people in so that the issues could all be addressed. We would get better regulations out of Bill No. 48.

Mr. Speaker, given the fact that the P.E.I. report was useful - and I think the P.E.I. report was done, obviously, before we ever started this debate because it was tabled on October 15, 1996 - said that many of those issues that they raised have to be addressed before we agree to join a harmonization or the blended sales tax, those issues are still with this provincial government in Nova Scotia today and have not been addressed, yet the government has made the decision to move on.

[Page 3416]

With the fixed link to P.E.I., Mr. Speaker, I think you will see an influx of people visiting P.E.I. If you are over there you definitely can save money on children's clothing and footwear and books and anything under $100. You are there and you happened to go over for some other reason - you are going to find that visitors to P.E.I. are going to spend a lot more money than when visitors come to this province.

I think one of the things that we could find out in Public Accounts is that if this blended sales tax is so good, and why does the Premier think that he is so much smarter than all the other Premiers in Canada who are not joining the blended sales tax? What makes him feel that he is one of the smartest Premiers in the country? Well, I suppose he knows that from 30-60-90, maybe, I don't know, but what makes him feel that he has got all the answers and all the other Premiers say, no, no, it is not good for our province. So, for the Premier to stand up in this House and say, I have got to set the record straight, it makes me wonder.

I notice the Premier did not talk about all of the issues that he got up and talked about. I would be pleased at any point if the Premier said, you know, George, some of that information that you are saying is not true, it does not apply to the things that you say. If he would give me that in writing with his signature over it, that I could publicly give out so that the public could be assured that the things he said that we are all talking about are not going to be taxed, whether it be toothpaste - and, you know, it is very funny that this government said to the children of this province, we are going to cut the dental care - we all know, Mr. Speaker, that toothpaste is not a luxury; toothpaste is something that you have to use because, if you do not have healthy teeth, you can end up with an unhealthy body. Toothpaste is something that is not a luxury; it is a necessity that can help lead to a healthy individual, and for the government to say, don't worry, there is 7 per cent on toothpaste today; it is going to be 15 per cent after April the 1st.

Now, if I am incorrect - and the Premier says that I am spreading false information - I am taking it out of the advertisement that the government is paying to advertise in the papers across the province, so if that is not right, then I would ask the Premier to see if he can get this ad changed to reflect what it is his government is really trying to do.

Some of the things that I did not get into the other day, that we could talk about that maybe could come up at Public Accounts was, he says in here, personal services. You know, the Premier is pretty tricky because he only lists haircuts, shoe repairs, dry-cleaning, et cetera. What he does not say is what et cetera is; in other words, what other personal services are going to be hit by the 15 per cent?

Well, one of them, I am told, is driving schools, because that is a personal service. Mr. Speaker, I am sure that people who go and learn to drive through driving schools become much better drivers than those who do not take the course, and insurance companies recognize right away that drivers who go to driving school are less of a risk insurance-wise than those who do not go to driving school. But what is the government going to do? That

[Page 3417]

is one of these et ceteras that, under personal services, is going to see an increase from 7 per cent to 15 per cent as of April 1, 1997.

You see, Public Accounts could analyze that, Mr. Speaker. Public Accounts could look at all the personal services. You see the only thing that I understand, and I talked to the federal people, is that their understanding is that everything that is a personal service that has 7 per cent today will have 15 per cent as of April 1st. If the Premier could stand up and say no, that is not correct, and when he says that he has to indicate what personal services that are 7 per cent today aren't going to be 15 per cent on April 1, 1997. Not only does he have to say it, he has to produce documentation because when I hear the Premier talk, he has no substance. He just says that what they say on the other side is giving out misinformation. Well, I can say the same thing about the Premier.

If we had the Public Accounts Committee go over this item by item, we wouldn't have an argument. We would have the tax people from Ottawa and the tax people from Nova Scotia sitting at the Public Accounts Committee saying yes, this has 15 per cent or no, this doesn't have 15 per cent as of April 1st. Then the people of this province would have a full understanding of the total impact.

For a government that wants people to be aware and for the Premier who spoke yesterday who wants Nova Scotians and pleading for businesses to come to his support and wants people to know the facts, what is he afraid of? Is it the process? What is it that he is afraid of, that he will vote against this amendment which would allow the public to get the details on the BST?

We all know that school supplies are taxed 7 per cent. Now, my understanding, as I have said before, is that everything that was 7 per cent goes to 15 per cent. I would like the government to run an advertisement in the newspaper showing everything that is at 7 per cent now - and it is not hard to get that list - and then show everything, from that 7 per cent list, that will or will not be 15 per cent after April 1st. I think they have everything in here at 18.77 per cent that will be 15 per cent and I don't see anything in there that is not correct, and I acknowledge that. If there is more, I don't have any difficulty with that being on the list.

The point I am making, Mr. Speaker, is the more people know, the better. Do you think people know what et cetera means? To me, if the government were more clear and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, I am sure that you are trying to make a point as to why this discussion is relevant to the Public Accounts Committee but I am just wondering if you could make it more clear to me and to the members in the House as to how the list that you are now referring to is relevant to the Public Accounts Committee referral?

[Page 3418]

MR. MOODY: Well, I did get sidetracked just a little bit and I apologize for that but what I was saying, and to make it clear to you, Mr. Speaker, is that the Public Accounts Committee could then put a list in the newspaper that wouldn't say, et cetera, it would actually list what personal services would and would not be charged 15 per cent after April 1st. I think that if the Public Accounts Committee had the people from both the provincial and federal Departments of Finance and went through all of the items that were listed at 7 per cent today on the personal services side, then they could put an advertisement in the paper similar to this. I was agreeing that I have no difficulty that the ad could also have what is going down from 18.77 per cent to 15 per cent. I think that is only fair, but the Public Accounts Committee could produce all of the information so that the general public would know exactly what is going to be taxed at 15 per cent.

[10:15 a.m.]

Now, I think the Public Accounts Committee, and I know this and I know you know this to be true, can take out an ad in the newspaper. They have that authority, as we know, Mr. Speaker, and under this ad then everybody would know exactly what the government is taxing.

The point I was trying to make - are we getting short there, Mr. Whip? (Interruption) As long as you have more than you need, you are all right (Interruption) Not if you got more than we need - I am hoping, Mr. Speaker, that you understand what it is, how I am relating this ad to an ad that the Public Accounts Committee could then put in the paper, with the details that I think you and I all agree would benefit - probably of benefit to you, as government, as a benefit to us, in Opposition, a benefit to all consumers of what actually was going to change.

Mr. Speaker, I think the reason for referring it to the Public Accounts Committee, and I think you agree with this and I know the Premier does, is that there is confusion out there with a number of people on how this blended sales tax is actually going to affect them. I think that being the fair-minded man that you are, Mr. Speaker, you want all Nova Scotians to be as informed and as unbiasedly informed as one could be. I don't know if that helps clarify why I was referring to this ad but basically, that is why I was referring to it. I hope I have convinced you that in some manner we could achieve something that we both would agree would be beneficial.

One thing about the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. Speaker, that I know you know and during your term in this Legislature you have become well versed on committees and how the House functions, that you know that when the Auditor General reports and is very much part of how the Public Accounts Committee works in this province, you know as well as I do that the Auditor General is very unbiased and you know and I know that that committee, and maybe you have sat on it, has produced information that is factual; in other words, that people feel comfortable with the report.

[Page 3419]

What we are asking and that I think the motion is very clearly saying, would actually help the government. It wouldn't hinder the government on this kind of legislation that we see go forward. Also in Public Accounts Committee, Mr. Speaker, we could bring in the people who were on this committee in P.E.I. They could appear before the Public Accounts Committee. You know, as I know, there is information that you could get from them because you know it is difficult to put everything in a report and it is hard to know everything that was said. They could bring a perspective of why they recommended to their Legislature not to accept this. We could even bring in other Premiers from across the country so Nova Scotians would know exactly why they made the decision, when the federal government offered to harmonize the sales taxes across the country, that they could give their reason for not joining.

As you know and as I know, Mr. Speaker, and you know that your capable Premier could appear before the Public Accounts Committee and ably report the workings of his government and the discussions that the caucus had and the Cabinet had and that the final decision was made, as a government, by everybody in the caucus, that actually this was what was best, by looking at all the information. The reason why the government then made the decision to bring in Bill No. 48 and to bring in the sales tax. Then you would have a balanced lot of information and then it could be put out unbiased and Nova Scotians could then make a judgment call on whether or not they favour the BST.

We always know we will have a difference of opinion on some issues. I think what actually would come out of that would be information that would be very useful. It would be useful to me because whether I sit on the committee or not I would have the benefit of the committee's report and I would be totally much clearer in my mind about the workings within the two Finance Departments of what they say will be affected and not affected by this blended sales tax. I think that even I as a member would benefit from Public Accounts. As you know, Mr. Speaker, in many cases when we ask the Minister of Finance about some of the details he gives us toll free numbers to call. If those people answering the phones on the toll free numbers were able to come to Public Accounts, they could be asked directly the information that we seek and that Nova Scotians seek. Mr. Speaker, I know that you are like myself, when you get a constituent call, you call back and you try to get the information. I think we all try to do that. I think you in particular try to do that.

One thing that we could get from the Public Accounts that would be very helpful that I cannot seem to get and that I do get referred to the 1-800 number, is that we then could get information so that we could have them answer all of the questions, be it from a constituent from a business point of view, the details, or it could come from a consumer. Then I would not have to say to a business that would call me, that got sent out new sales tax information by the Department of Finance a disclaimer, that in actual fact they would have the correct information. I cannot imagine this government rushing forward with this information and still having a disclaimer in the information they send out to retailers.

[Page 3420]

Retailers could come and I think the Premier said that he wanted them to support him. I think if they were given the opportunity and some small changes were made, there might be obviously more support. I think that there are other issues that we could understand in Public Accounts of why they made the decision. I know there is an upset individual in Annapolis County who spoke with me and I know there are others in the province who want to know why fitness clubs are going to be taxed 15 per cent instead of 7 per cent April 1st. We could in Public Accounts have the Department of Health over. I know the Department of Health, having been there, has a section on fitness and wellness. We have said to Nova Scotians, and there have been many reports, that we are not the fittest of the country. In other words, we could do a lot better at being fit. If we were fit, Mr. Speaker, we would have less burden on the health care system. In other words, it is a proven fact that prevention through fitness and looking after oneself can prevent illnesses that cost us money, as taxpayers.

Now we could have the Department of Health over to tell us about how important fitness is and how that works and we could have the Department of Finance over to tell us in the Public Accounts Committee why it is so important that we tax people who want to become fit and who are going to be less of a burden on the health care system. Then I could go back and explain to people why it is that this government is going to tax you because you feel that you want to become fit so that you are not a burden on the health care system. I think that would be a great opportunity. Maybe the two departments are having a discussion on this but it is obvious that if they did, that the Department of Finance has won out in this particular area.

If we had that debate in Public Accounts Committee, it just might be that the government would then realize that maybe for the small amount of money, or the large amount of money, and I don't even know how much it is but obviously the Department of Finance in the Public Accounts Committee could tell us and that would be the benefit of Public Accounts Committee, that we would have at our fingertips, which we don't have here because the Minister of Finance doesn't have it, actually how much money is involved in charging people who go to fitness clubs because they want to live a healthier lifestyle. Are we talking thousands? Are we talking millions? I don't know, Mr. Speaker.

If it went to Public Accounts Committee we would be able to understand, then we could say, now this much money that we are taxing, it would be better if we didn't tax because actually the Department of Health could prove to the Committee on Public Accounts that in actual fact you will save a lot more money down the road than you are collecting in that tax. Then the government could make a decision, based on the presentations by the two departments - the Department of Finance on why they needed the money and the Department of Health on why it would be a good investment if they didn't charge it. In other words, down the road you would save money.

[Page 3421]

There is a lot to be said about having a Public Accounts Committee address those very kinds of issues that I know I am interested in and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you are and I am sure many other members are. To me that is a logical way to address these particular issues. Sometimes we can get up and argue and say no, we shouldn't tax this or yes, we should tax that. A lot of us have no way of knowing how much money is involved; we have no way of knowing the effects it has on individuals but here is a rational way we could do this, in an orderly fashion, and yet actually come out with some data at the end that could help make our decisions.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, my time has run out. I thank you and all members of the House for allowing me to take part in this very important debate.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning and speak in support of the amendment before us this morning. As you know, the amendment is to send this bill to the Committee on Public Accounts.

Let's not try to fool anybody and let's make no mistake, this deal does take a minimum of $84 million out of the pockets of the consumers of Nova Scotia. (Interruption) Now the Minister of Human Resources tells us that is wrong, Mr. Speaker, but I am supporting this amendment because the figures we have been provided by his government, members of the front benches, tell us that at least $84 million, others have suggested that the cost could go as high as $100 million or $125 million. That is going to come out of the pocketbooks of the consumers of the Province of Nova Scotia. Let's make no mistake about that. That, in itself, I believe is reason enough to send this bill off to the Public Accounts Committee.

This government is fundamentally changing the tax regime and the formula in this province; nobody disputes that either. There is no point in arguing over which list is longer, the one that goes up or the one that goes down, Mr. Speaker. This government acknowledges, somewhat hesitantly, but this government does acknowledge consumers will pay more as a result of the BS Tax. Now, in that, there is no dispute.

[10:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think, being responsible legislators, we have to ask ourselves, who is this deal really for? When we are asking ourselves who this deal is for, we should also ask ourselves, who is for this deal? Two very different questions.

Virtually every family under $80,000 per year will pay more, and I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that a number of families, a large number of families are under the $80,000 threshold. Given tax-included pricing, it is arguable whether those over $80,000 will be better off also. The most vulnerable hit, the people hit the hardest, are the lower and middle class,

[Page 3422]

the working poor, those on minimum wage, and the seniors on fixed income. Many people are going to be hit and negatively impacted as a result of the BS Tax.

Now, I believe there is something wrong when the government makes it cheaper - and it has been mentioned many times, but it bears repeating, Mr. Speaker, and I did not mention it in a previous submission, I assure you of that - to buy a fur coat than to buy boots or a new winter coat for your children. Something is fundamentally wrong when a government comes in with legislation that is changing the tax regime in this province. Day-to-day necessities are going to be taxed at a higher rate. Electricity, fuel oil, gasoline, children's clothing are all going up.

This government will accrue, through those tax increases, relative to home heating fuel, $14.9 million. All we are asking is that this legislation, that this bill go to the Public Accounts Committee, a very reasonable and well thought out request, Mr. Speaker. Electrical taxes will generate an additional $15 million for this government.

Mr. Speaker, my constituency - I am sure, no different than yours - has a number of people who are on municipal assistance and a number of people who are on Family Benefits. There is not a week goes by that some family does not phone and ask, could you maybe get hold of the Nova Scotia Power Corporation? They are threatening to shut off my power. They are in arrears, these people are presently very hard-pressed; financially, they are in a bind. The BS Tax is going to exacerbate situations like that. Because of the increase in the gasoline tax, this government will accrue another $54 million. Nova Scotians are going to have to buy a heck of a lot of dog food and paper towels to be able to afford to keep their lights on and heat their homes.

So who is really for this deal? Who is speaking up for this deal? Who is in support of the BS Tax? Mr. Speaker, if this was go to the Committee on Public Accounts, perhaps some of the people who are supporting the legislation would come forward.

Again, who is for this deal? Not the young people, not young Nova Scotians working and struggling to build a new home. The cost of their new home is going up over 3 per cent, thanks to the BS Tax, a cost that can make the difference between building or not. A cost, Mr. Speaker, that young people can ill-afford.

Now, of course, if they are not living at home with their parents but, rather, staying in an apartment, the BS Tax will not be an attractive prospect either. Landlords will be forced to pass on the increased costs of repairs and renovations, snow removal, garbage collection, management, legal and other professional fees, cleaning, et cetera, these costs will be passed on to the tenant. (Interruptions) Now the member for Sackville-Beaverbank, a very honourable member as are all members in the House, is receiving calls - I have heard from constituents in the honourable member's riding and they are filling out the questionnaire, they are registering their complaints.

[Page 3423]

Many constituents in the riding of Sackville-Beaverbank are opposed to the BS Tax and the MLA acknowledges that and he is saying they have a right to register their complaint. So let's make it clear, a good number of Nova Scotians, particularly the low to middle income are really upset and afraid of this new tax. If it is such a good bargain for Nova Scotians what objections would this government have with sending this legislation off to the Public Accounts Committee where witnesses could make application to appear and the committee themselves could request people to come in and speak for or against the legislation?

I don't believe that families trying to raise kids are in support of this BS Tax. (Interruptions) Well, we have a member in the front bench who wants to be politically correct this morning, that shouldn't surprise anybody. He doesn't know the difference between kids and children, well pity him. These young families will be paying more to clothe those children, to buy their school supplies, to drive them to the rink or to music lessons and then to pay for the ice time or the music lessons once they get there, if they can afford the gas.

Are the senior citizens of this province in favour of the BS Tax? Has any legislator, any Nova Scotia MLA heard from a senior that is in favour of this legislation? Not one senior has telephoned the Progressive Conservative Caucus in support, to my knowledge and said that they were in favour of this BST legislation.

Many seniors live in apartments and they will have to be subsidized because the landlord's costs are increasing and these huge new costs will be passed on to the tenants, the renters. Many of our seniors rely on public transit and taxi services and of course, public transit and taxi services will also jump as a result of the BS Tax. Many of our seniors rely on privately arranged Homemaker Services because Home Care Nova Scotia is just not working out for them. The vast majority of our seniors are on fixed incomes.

We have established, without much rebuttal, that families trying to raise kids are not going to be in support of this legislation. Young Nova Scotians working and struggling to build a new home are not in favour of this legislation. Senior citizens are not in favour of this new legislation. Now how about the working poor? They are already struggling to make ends meet. They will have to pay substantially more to keep warm, to get to work and to provide a quality of life for themselves and their children. Many Nova Scotians are working for the minimum wage and this is going to hit them especially hard.

The Savage Government says it will offer assistance to those most severely hit. The government has put aside $8 million, it is a sum even the Premier acknowledges is not sufficient to cushion the impact of the BST. What we are very simply asking is would the Premier or the Finance Minister provide details as to how this money is going to be dispersed? This is a very reasonable question. Poor people are going to be hit very hard. This government is coming in with an assistance package of some $8 million. The Premier admits that it is not enough. All we are asking is to show us the details as to how the money is going to be expended and dispersed.

[Page 3424]

The Premier and the Finance Minister tell us that this is a win/win deal. So my question, again, to the Premier or the Finance Minister or anybody on the government side of the House who can answer it is simply this. Who is this so-called win/win deal for? The Premier says he is just honouring the wishes of Nova Scotians. That is what the Premier tell us. He is honouring the wishes of the seniors, the low to middle income, the working poor. He is honouring the wishes of Nova Scotians. Because they are surely Nova Scotians, they have to be included in that collective group.

I would like to know how he knows that since he did not have the faith or the courage of his conviction to face the public in an open public forum. There was not so much as a single town hall meeting held by the Premier relative to this legislation. I would like to know just who the Premier thinks the people are, the Nova Scotians that are in support of this legislation. Now the Premier feels that he has - and I say feels because we heard yesterday, Mr. Speaker, what the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce had to say relative to the legislation, and they would love to appear before the Public Accounts Committee. I am sure if the Premier or the Finance Minister were to call the President, Ed MacDonald, he would very graciously accept their invitation.

The Premier believes he has received an endorsement from the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, but the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has some very serious concerns about the tax-included pricing on a regional basis. They recognize that it will hurt retailers. So for the Premier to say that he has the endorsement and support of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is just a tad bit misleading.

The Premier tells us, Mr. Speaker, that the BST will do a favour for the majority of businesses in the Province of Nova Scotia. I tell the Premier that he better do a re-evaluation of some of the statements he is making because the people that I am talking to from the business community, and consumers, tell me that they do not like this deal. They are against this deal. They understand that we in the Opposition are doing what we can to bring the concerns that they have to the House of Assembly. That is what we are doing. We are bringing concerns from people. We are reading from articles. We are reading from letters. We have documents. We have news releases. We are talking on behalf of everyday Nova Scotians, not just the low to middle income, not just what the Premier calls little people, we are talking for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, this morning in the Chronicle-Herald we see where well drillers are speaking out against the blended sales tax. The story begins this way. "Well drillers have joined the long list of businesses opposed to the 15 per cent blended sales tax.". Now the Premier and members of his government - not all members, but the Premier and a good number of his government MLAs - tell us that businesses think this is just great, but this morning we are finding that the well drillers have joined a long list of businesses opposed to the 15 per cent blended sales tax.

[Page 3425]

The article goes on, Mr. Speaker. Reading from the excerpt, "'Imagine their disgust when they have to pay 15 per cent tax on these jobs', said Greg Johnson, president of the Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association. Mr. Johnson said Monday he wants the province to exempt well drilling and digging from the BST, since water is a necessity of life.".

[10:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, on average about 75 per cent of the cost associated with well construction is for labour. The consumer pays provincial sales tax only on the materials. The consumer pays provincial sales tax on only 25 per cent, at present, but the provincial sales tax is not charged on labour. After April 1st people that are requesting that wells be built and constructed will have to pay an additional 8 per cent on top of the 7 per cent that they are paying now. How is that going to help the well drillers? How is that going to help young people starting out? Mr. Speaker, did you know, and I am reading from Mr. Johnson, the President of the Well Drillers Association, that, "Nova Scotia has about 50 licensed well drillers who drill deep wells and another 350 licensed well diggers, who use backhoes and excavators to dig shallower wells.". Mr. Johnson concludes, "It appears the only group who will receive financial gain from this tax will be the current government. Small business will be forced to do the dirty work of tax collection, scratching it off the backs of the helpless consumer.".

Somewhere I read that the president of the Well Drillers Association stated that in rural Nova Scotia close to 95 per cent of the residents depend on ground water from wells. I am sure the member for Chester-St. Margaret's is aware of that fact; 95 per cent of the residents in rural Nova Scotia depend on either a drilled or dug well. In rural Nova Scotia we do not have municipal services. In some areas such as the small community I come from we are very fortunate in Middle Musquodoboit that we do have in the village water that is supplied by the Halifax Regional Municipality. Of course, the serviceable boundaries are very distinct and myself, for example, I live just outside the serviceable boundary so I have a drilled well. If my well malfunctions, acts up, something happens and I should be required to drill a well, it is going to cost me, on average, $240 more because of the BS Tax. How is that good for an end consumer? How is that good for the well drillers? Mr. Johnson tells us that many Nova Scotians are already going to his company and saying, look, I only have $2,000. I do not have money for the BS Tax. I am going to build a home in the spring. I want you to drill the well for me. How about if I pay you under the table? That is what they are saying.

One has to wonder if this government has a cost-benefit analysis. (Interruption) Well, some members were apparently born with a silver spoon in their mouths, Mr. Speaker. Others were not quite so fortunate. That is not new. (Interruptions) Anybody who does not recognize and respect the will of the people obviously must have been born with something in their mouth.

[Page 3426]

Let me tell you why business is opposed. I will start with the retail sector which employs 40,000 Nova Scotians and provides over $1 billion - billion with a b - in income which accounts for $4.8 billion in annual sales. The retail sector says that tax-included pricing on a regional basis will result in a combination of two things: prices will go up or jobs will be lost. (Interruptions) Ten major companies - I don't want to be repetitive and name names but the 10 companies, and we can produce the companies that have said that, Mr. Speaker. So the total savings resulting from the input tax credits is just over $6 million but their costs are going to be around $34 million. You see, the input tax credits are not the economic saviour that this government will have Nova Scotians believe. So the one-time cost of $28 million and the ongoing net costs of $28 million will be passed on to guess who? The consumers, in the form of higher prices, not lower prices as the government maintains, but higher prices. The increased cost to this sector of our economy will be borne by the employees who, for the moment, still work there.

This legislation has the very real potential to be a job killer. That is the potential this legislation has. Instead of creating 3,000 jobs, I wonder how many jobs we are going to lose as a direct result of the BS Tax? We have already seen 79 jobs leave New Brunswick and that same company which employs over 500 Nova Scotians and operates 19 stores here in Nova Scotia, is currently reassessing its future in Nova Scotia.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries brings us to another point and another reason and very good rationale as to why this bill should go to the Public Accounts Committee. Last night when the Premier was making a few comments, a few very partisan comments, he talked about eliminating the GST. That is what the Premier said. In fact, the Premier accused the Opposition of planning to bring the GST back, should we form the next government. (Interruptions) That is what he said.

The fact is that the GST is not going anywhere. Where is the GST going? The GST is not going anywhere. (Interruptions) Well, the Silver Spoon is talking again, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) I want to read from a document. The Silver Spoon is still squawking on, that is okay. Let the Silver Spoon squawk along.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we find when we read from the technical paper, Harmonized Sales Tax, now this government and the Premier tells us we are eliminating the GS Tax; how about motor vehicles? "The general place-of-supply rules described above for supplies of tangible personal property by way of sale . . . With respect to motor vehicles supplied outside a participating province that are subsequently brought into a participating province, if the motor vehicle is acquired from a registrant in a non-participating province and the registrant collects tax at the GST rate of 7 per cent, . . .". There it is, right in black and white. Many times in the technical paper is the 7 per cent GST represented. So this government isn't eliminating the GST, don't try to fool - not a Nova Scotian believes that you are trying to do that, not one. So to say you are eliminating the GST when the documents relative to the harmonized sales tax say otherwise, is very mischievous and very misleading, I might add.

[Page 3427]

Now the Premier refers to the company from Quebec, MMG. He says that the jobs it provides are marginal. I say to the Premier and to the Finance Minister, Mr. Speaker, they are jobs and one job is worth fighting for in my opinion. They are real jobs held by real Nova Scotians; 500 Nova Scotians operate 19 stores and those people rely on those jobs.

This morning I had an opportunity to hear the Minister of Finance on 920AM, CJCH, on the hotline. The host of the show asked the Minister of Finance what he thought about the well drillers' complaint. The well drillers were saying that it is extremely expensive now to construct a well. They said that sometimes they drill wells and they are dry, no water is found. A lot of times the customers are young people starting out. He said to the Finance Minister, what would you suggest to the well drillers of Nova Scotia? Do you know what the Finance Minister said? We have it on tape. We tabled a tape here the other day, we can do that if the request comes forward. He said they should consider lowering their prices to drill a well.

How arrogant, how conceited and rude can the front benches be, as rude as the Minister for Housing of Municipal Affairs? I would suggest that is as rude and insolent. That is pretty conceited to tell a Nova Scotia company, that if you find it expensive, this BS Tax, and you think it is really going to adversely impact young people, well why don't you lower your price? These people are operating now with a very thin profit line, very marginal. Why doesn't the Minister of the Environment perhaps go on the CJCH hotline and tell us how he told us . . .

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. What does this have to do with the motion to refer this matter to a committee? This is way out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: I will ask the honourable member to return to the debate on the motion that is before the House, please.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate and respect your rulings. I think the well drillers would dearly love an opportunity to appear before the Public Accounts Committee.

I quoted some numbers relative to MMG, the company out of Quebec that operates the retail chain stores. The numbers I quoted are not my numbers, they are numbers of the Retail Council of Canada which stated it had received literally thousands of calls from businesses in the BST zone that claim the BS Tax will put them under and put their employees out of work. That is what the Retail Council of Canada is saying, yet I don't believe this government will support a motion to go to the Public Accounts Committee. This has the potential to be a real job killer in Nova Scotia.

Businesses in Prince Edward Island stated very clearly and emphatically that should they receive some economic boost from the BS Tax, they would reinvest in their company or bolster their already very thin profit line. That is what the business community is telling us.

[Page 3428]

Why won't this government listen to Nova Scotia businesses? Why do they take the approach and view that we know what is best for you, we don't have to consult with you?

There might be a psychological benefit to tax-included pricing but there certainly isn't a financial one, in fact, quite the opposite. The government maintains that cash registers do not have to be replaced. This is just not so. If retailers are to follow the GST laws, laws applicable to multiple sales, the tax collection differs from the calculation of tax-on unit sales. Financial officials admit that this is a glitch but do you know what they say? They have no answers. We brought this up with the Finance Minister and he told us to trust him and if we had an opportunity we should call the 1-800 number.

The government has two standards with respect to the BS Tax and tax-included pricing. One is for itself and one for everyone else. The only exception to tax-included pricing is in the cost of postage. The government will not insist on postage in the blended zone including the tax because it knows it would be too costly to run two issues.

[11:00 a.m.]

Those are very important concerns and statements, Mr. Speaker. The Public Accounts Committee has a mandate. I had an opportunity to serve on the Public Accounts Committee for approximately one year and it is a very good committee. It is chaired by the honourable member for Queens and there is a reasonably good spirit of cooperation on the Public Accounts Committee. Even though it is top-heavy with Savage Government Liberals, it is still a reasonably objective and very worthwhile committee.

The government, Mr. Speaker, does have two standards with respect to the BS Tax and tax-included pricing, but we are receiving mixed messages relative to the deal. Oddly enough, the Quebec Government, which harmonized its tax, but maintains control over its administration, rejected tax-included pricing, recognizing it to be a disaster in the waiting. So is this government even aware of that fact that, yes, the Quebec Government did harmonize the taxes, but the Quebec Government still has control over the administration, and the administration rejected tax-inclusive pricing? Did this government even have the wherewithal or the sense to go and find out how it is operating in other jurisdictions like the Province of Quebec? I don't believe they did.

The tourism industry, I feel certain, would love to make some presentations. The government tells us that it is going to be good for tourism, the BS Tax, but members of my caucus are hearing differently, Mr. Speaker. The tourism industry spends millions and millions to promote Nova Scotia. We promote Nova Scotia because of our uniqueness, because of our rural and our cultural appeal and, yet, the BS Tax threatens a mainstay of our tourism sector, our country inns. Our country inns are against this deal. This deal means you do not have to pay the BS Tax on flights originating in the BST zone for flights outside the country, but if you wanted to fly, for example, from Halifax to Deer Lake or Halifax to Sydney, you are

[Page 3429]

taxed at 15 per cent. So much for promoting stay-at-home vacations; that is going to be a real disincentive for somebody who wants to travel locally.

What about the small craft-making and retail businesses in Nova Scotia? Again, a very important mainstay of our economy is the small craft-making and retail businesses. They employ thousands of Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote directly from a letter that I recently received. The constituent states, "To summarize, it is my opinion that the BS Tax will harm the small business community immensely and will work to the advantage of businesses located in non-participating, non-BST provinces, in the area of retail and catalogue sales. Should this harm prove to be as severe as I fear, it will result in lay-offs within our company.". This is not me, I am just conveying the message, and that is what the people in the small craft-making business are saying.

I have heard this time and time again, Mr. Speaker, and I have no doubt that the government has heard this. I know a couple of honourable members did hold town hall meetings in their constituencies and I cannot help but wonder what the feedback was that they received. The glitches in the BS Tax are just too numerous to mention; again, another substantial reason to send this off to the Committee on Public Accounts.

Now let's spend a moment, and process is always important when you are discussing anything, especially public policy, be it social or be it economic, one has to look at the process. For the moment let's revisit, as painful as it will be, just how this deal came about because when issues go to the Public Accounts Committee, as honourable members of that committee know, many people will come in, make presentations and during their introductory remarks they comment on process, Mr. Speaker. This all started with a broken promise by the federal Liberals to scrap the GST. They said they were going to scrap it, the Chretien Liberals. Nobody disputes that. So the government thinks that increasing taxes, taking an additional $84 million plus, out of the consumers' pockets and millions more through property taxes, is scrapping the GS Tax? Is this what the Chretien Government thinks? Is this what the Savage Government thinks?

Now, Mr. Speaker, every time I am told that this government is replacing the GST, all I have to do is pick up this book and it talks about the GST rate still being applicable to many commodities. So don't tell us and don't tell Nova Scotians that story because all you have to do is pick up any of these documents, Towards Replacing the Goods and Services Tax and it tells us that the GST is still very much a part.

Did you know, Mr. Speaker - I made a notation - at the present time phone calls from pay phones have a threshold of 70 cents whereby your call is not taxed, but did you know that when this BS Tax is implemented that threshold is lowered to 25 cents. Did any of the government members know that? Did any of the front benches? Did any of the backbenches? Nobody in this government knew that fact.

[Page 3430]

Many people use pay phones. As the member for Halifax Citadel says, in my former employ I was working in the trucking industry. There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't use a pay phone and sometimes I was on the phone more than I wanted to be. Now members of the trucking industry, travelling sales people, people like tourists and so on who make calls that are over 25 cents, have to pay the BS Tax. Now at present the threshold is 70 cents. I have some very real difficulty with lowering the threshold from 70 cents to 25 cents, relative to a phone call made from a coin-operated pay phone.

Government dangled a multimillion-million dollar inducement fund or hush money in front of the province and the province ate it right up. The former Minister of Finance said the BS Tax would represent the single biggest tax cut in the province's history. In the last hour of the last day of the last session we saw a document that said consumers will be paying more, not less. So how can you trust this government, Mr. Speaker? They tell you one thing and, when you find out about the very thing they are talking about you find out that it is much different. The deal was signed and government told us they would work the details out later.

The Finance Minister admits he signed the deal before he had the answers to hundreds of different questions. After the deal was signed he says he will have a period of limited, formal consultations to avoid any unintended consequences. I fear the unintended consequences will be higher prices, lost jobs and a blow to an already sluggish economy.

The Minister of Finance admitted he signed a deal before he really had a good grasp as to what the deal was all about. After the deal is signed he says he will have a period of limited, formal consultations and he is going to do this to avoid any unintended consequences. I will tell you just how preposterous this deal is, this is a real mess here. It has the potential to be a very real job killer.

On December 3rd, just a few days ago, the Department of Transportation sent a memo out to truckers asking them what the impact of the BS Tax would have on their business. Can you imagine this, the government signed a deal, signed an agreement, tabled the legislation and now they are asking questions about the impact it will have on business. That is sheer lunacy.

The BS Tax means Nova Scotians and the Province of Nova Scotia, this government surrenders its autonomy over its traditional taxing authority. Can anybody in good conscience tell my why this government is giving up its taxing authority? Ottawa is going to administer and collect the tax. If this province wants to change its taxing regime again, as I understand it, it has to get the consensus from the Provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and from Ottawa, the capital.

In the spring the government said the BST would mean the province would lose $120 million in lost revenue. In October, after the government announced a number of rebate programs to offset the ill effects of the deal on some business sectors, it claimed the deal

[Page 3431]

would cost up to $100 million in lost revenue. So there is a difference here of $20 million and the government can't explain it. They can't explain to what adds up to over $30 million. We have asked financial officials, we went to the Finance Department, we have looked for an explanation and they simply admit that they don't have an answer. One day they are saying lost revenues are $120 million and the next day, $100 million. Very inconsistent, Mr. Speaker. The deal in itself is indiscernible for businesses and for consumers. This is absolutely a very good reason why this legislation should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee.

Now, $30 million is the difference. One day the government is telling us they are going to lose $120 million and the next day it is going to be $90 million, people crunch some numbers. What can the consumer believe? You say why is it so critical? Well, why this is so critical is because this government passed a law that said that net program expenditures cannot exceed net program revenues by more than 1 per cent. I am sure all honourable members are aware of the Expenditure Control Act. These are points that could be brought up in the Public Accounts Committee. It would seem very appropriate.

If the government underestimates the lost revenue and I am convinced they did since they didn't take into account the impact the BST would have on the underground economy, this government is going to be in quite a pickle trying to achieve their promised budget. Is it going to mean further cuts to health care, Mr. Speaker? Is it going to mean further cuts to education? If only this government would subscribe to and support the amendment. These are the types of questions that have to be answered. The Minister of Finance will tell us, from time to time, that it is a complicated deal, but it is going to create 3,000 jobs. What I am charging is that this has the potential to be a very real job killer.

The Liberal Government campaigned on the slogan that leadership starts with listening. Mr. Speaker, I have to say it has been very selective listening and I am implore this government to support this amendment, send this off to the Public Accounts Committee, send it off to a committee that will examine and evaluate and assess all of the ins and outs relative to the BS Tax.

P.E.I. listened to its taxpayers and rejected the deal. Mr. Speaker, even Prince Edward Island businesses, who appeared at the public hearings - there were public hearings, I have the document here and I got into that yesterday and I will not repeat myself - said, promises of reduced prices were hollow. That is what they said, promises of reduced prices were hollow. I say that we have many similarities, many likenesses to the Province of Price Edward Island. The Premier-elect has said P.E.I. will increase a number of items that will be exempt from the PST to take advantage of the BS Tax which is being shoved down the throats of individuals in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

A good number of Nova Scotians that I speak with, Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, are outraged that this government will not listen to them. This government out and out refuses to listen to them. It is a very reasonable request to ask any government, to consult. The

[Page 3432]

government seems more concerned about what the tax is called than how it will impact Nova Scotia businesses and consumers. You remember when this government first announced the deal and we have documents and booklets referring to it, they talked about a BS Tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: The government never talked about a BS Tax. It is not a BS Tax. It is the HST or the VAT you could call it.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I will just respond to that in very few words. There is not a whole lot of difference in what comes out the end of a bull or a horse. I think this job creation strategy, because I call it a job killer, but the government calls it a job creation strategy, I think it is a little bizarre - 3,000 jobs, a first for government. Now you tell me, in any other jurisdiction, where a government has increased consumer taxes to get the economy going. The government cannot do that. How are you going to create jobs by increasing taxes?

Mr. Speaker, if this government believes what is says, that increasing consumer taxes will get the economy going and create jobs, why doesn't it double the taxes and double the amount of jobs it is going to create, if it really believes what it is saying? Any effort to get the economy going should have started with a tax break for consumers, not a tax grab. Yes, consumers' confidence was barely starting to recover. BST is one sure way to kill that confidence. What good are promises, no matter how outrageous they are? 50 per cent pass- through ridiculed by economists of reduced prices at the cash register. How good are those promises if the consumer stays at home in the first place?

[11:15 a.m.]

How about input tax credits, Mr. Speaker? Members of the government tell us everything is hunky-dorey. Everything is just sweet and great in the farming community. That is what they tell us but the Minister of Agriculture, a very honourable gentleman, and I am sure he spent some time with the Federation of Agriculture on the weekend. I am wondering if the minister heard the comments of the outgoing president when he said that the (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, that is the bow and the stern. The outgoing president said that the Savage Government is as unpredictable and as unfriendly as the Nova Scotia weather can be in the wintertime. That is what the outgoing President of the Federation of Agriculture said. I have his statement.

To tell us everything is sweet and hunky-dorey in the agriculture sector, Mr. Speaker, is just not being fair to honourable members in the House to tell us that.

Here is a concern that the farming community has. The honourable Minister of Agriculture may not be aware, I am not certain, but under the existing (Interruptions) I think another silver spoon is starting to emanate, Mr. Speaker. Similarly, under the existing legislation bulk fertilizers are zero rated. In practice, compost is sold as top soil and bought by farmers and other consumers for use other than as a fertilizer and should be treated as

[Page 3433]

taxable. Accordingly, it is proposed that the legislation be amended to clarify that the supply of compost is taxable. That can be found on page 84 of the booklet Towards Replacing the Goods and Services Tax. It is under Agriculture. If the agriculture community is so in support of the BS Tax perhaps they would like to come in to the Public Accounts Committee.

HON. GUY BROWN: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am just so pleased that over the last six months we have had many meetings with the outgoing president and even in the Valley last week they said, Guy, you gotta get that bill through. It has to go through. I want to tell you - Yes, they did, the applegrowers. - and anyway. Well, you only read selective reports. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister has the floor.

MR. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that the Federation has supported this, has supported me as minister. Guy, you have to get that bill through the House. It is not the best thing that ever happened to agriculture, but it sure is the best thing under taxation that has happened in a long time. They claim they will be far better off.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker through you to the honourable member, I will take their expertise any day when it comes to basic agriculture and not some of the members of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for the point of information.

MR. TAYLOR: I thank the honourable Minister of Agriculture for that very illuminating point of order, Mr. Speaker.

There is a lot of talk about input tax credits, claims respecting input tax credits and pass-throughs of 50 per cent are out and out preposterous, Mr. Speaker. The primary costs to the vast majority of businesses is labour. This cost will remain the same.

Another major cost is rent. The government says don't worry, be happy, you will get an input tax credit. Businesses don't pay PST on commercial rent at the present time. Well, I appreciate that you don't have a propensity to suppress democracy, Mr. Speaker, it is really appreciated. I think all members of the House enjoy you presiding over the House. Other members, unfortunately, we can't say the same thing.

Mr. Speaker, in effect the government is just giving back what it takes in the first place. We are no better off. I think it is absolutely despicable that the Minister of Finance will go on a public radio show and say that the well drillers of Nova Scotia should lower their price if they don't like the BS Tax. Has the Minister of Finance lost touch with reality? Doesn't he understand that the profit margins, at best, are marginal now? Businesses in Nova Scotia are hard-pressed. So I find it very arrogant for the Minister of Finance to go public and say, if the

[Page 3434]

well drillers don't like it, they can lump it, lower the price. If the young people who are trying to get a necessity of life - water - don't like it, they can lump it, they can pay it. He said it this morning on the radio.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate your indulgence. Jean Chretien's promise, we all know - just in closing, just in conclusion - that, in fact, he would eliminate the GST. We know what this government is doing. The proposal was submitted to all 10 provinces and only three Liberal provinces accepted, only three. A government that won't listen to the will of the people, remember, does not deserve to govern. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Agriculture for welcoming me to the floor. I want to speak this morning on the amendment to Bill No. 48 which basically says that it would be referred to the Public Accounts Committee. I said to myself last night, why do I want to do this? Why does the Opposition want to do this? Why is the government doing this bill anyway?

I guess we have been delaying the government's passage of this bill, I guess there is no doubt about that, from discussing this bill. I am saying to myself, should I get up, too, and rattle on and on and talk about basically the same points that the others have done? I said to myself, I think I should because (Interruptions)

You know, after listening to all the members speak, all the things that are tabled, I will just have to take a little time and talk about why the government is harmonizing the tax at this time and the manner in which they are harmonizing the tax. (Interruptions) No, the House Leader said to me, Donnie, if you want to speak a little while, go ahead and if you don't, you don't. If I don't want to speak, I wouldn't and most of you know that, too, as a matter of fact.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, most of you know that I wrote an article last year about the harmonizing the tax, that I spoke in the Legislature during one of the speeches last year, again about harmonizing the tax but not on a regional basis but on a national basis and not on the backs of the poor, average consumer of this province.

[11:30 a.m.]

That is why I feel I have to take some time this morning to try again to persuade the government to take the opportunity to second this bill to the Public Accounts Committee, which is a good committee. It has the government's majority, of course, but it is a good committee and it would give the people of this province an opportunity to participate and to have some input and maybe the government could see that there should be changes made to the bill, or at least even throw it out.

[Page 3435]

Our Leader, in his wisdom and our wisdom, advertised in the paper, Stop the BST. We have literally got thousands of that little piece of paper cut out, names signed, put in an envelope, stamped and mailed to us. That blows me away, Mr. Speaker, the number of people that took the opportunity to use that ad.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: There were 3,000.

MR. MCINNES: My colleague for Kings North says it is over 3,000 and I think it is 3,300 to be exact, which is a tremendous response to an ad in the local papers. Our Leader tabled over 13,000 names that were against this bill. The Leader of the Third Party, the NDP, also tabled, I am not sure of the number, but it is a significant number of people who had signed petitions who were against this bill. These people are concerned. When we decided to do the ad, I did not know whether it was the right thing to do or not, but I sincerely say to you that I could not believe the fact that people took the time, cut it out and wanted to make their views known, to let us know and to let the government know that they were concerned about the BST and that is why I am speaking on the amendment to have it come to the Public Accounts Committee.

People talk to us about what this government is doing. I have had the pleasure of being a member in this Legislature for more than 18 years. I can honestly say to you, Mr. Speaker, that during the last year and one half, that I have had more people come up to me, not only in my own constituency, but in Halifax or in Truro or New Glasgow, or wherever you happen to be and say, Donnie, what is this government doing? What are they doing? We know that if you people had been elected, we were not elected and your government got 41 members and they wanted a change.

The problem is that this government does not listen to the people. They say to me, what are they doing about health care? What have they done? They closed hospitals and they did not have the home care in place. We may have had to do some of that, but I hope we could have done it in a humane way. Here we are, putting a bill in now that is going to tax the average consumer of this province to death. They cannot afford it. What else did this government do? They forced amalgamation on Cape Breton.

AN HON. MEMBER: They invited, not forced it.

MR. MCINNES: They invited it, did they? Well, I want to tell the Minister of Community Services that there will be, and this is not me, I am quoting from the paper, "There will be a $61 million accumulated funding shortfall if there are not changes.".

What else did they do? They forced amalgamation on Halifax. The fact that these are things that the government is doing that should have been given to the people to discuss, that is why I am saying that this should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee, Bill No. 48.

[Page 3436]

I met the Mayor of Halifax, Councillor Rankin and others on the street the other day. They said, where is this tax bill? I said that it was being introduced that day. They said, when is it going to get to the Law Amendments Committee? We want to go and we want to talk to you about the extra costs that it is going to put on the taxpayer.

Again, because they had no consultation, I am told, and I am only told by rumour that there are 40 groups now that are interested in coming to the Law Amendments Committee when this passes, and it is going to pass. We know it is going to pass second reading, eventually. Over 40 groups now.

Now I hear we are sitting on Saturday. Again, we are jamming this bill through and it should be given out to the public. Let the Public Accounts Committee sit here and give people the opportunity to come in and have their say.

There were no savings with all those amalgamations. Why are we doing this bill? What do our 39 government members of this Legislature think? I am really not quite sure. I know what the Minister of Finance thinks because he spoke to the bill. I did not particularly agree with all he said but he has a right to what he says and that is his privilege, about creating jobs. I hope it creates jobs. I hope it can but I don't think it will. It is not only me who thinks that, all kinds of people have expressed their thoughts that it will not.

We heard from the Premier for a few minutes last night and I think it was good that the Premier decided to give a response to this but I honestly do not feel he said a lot that persuaded me to be in favour of the bill. I think I am a reasonable person, if someone has their points that are showing it is correct, that perhaps we could favour. But I have yet, Mr. Speaker, to hear the people who want it. We hear all kinds of people who do not want this. That, again, is why it should be referred to the Public Accounts Committee. I think it was a very good amendment. I was in favour of harmonization for the right reasons but this is not being done for the right reasons.

I want to now, Mr. Speaker, go to some notes that I have. I did want to mention about the cost of amalgamation of Halifax. I mentioned it was over $61 million in Cape Breton. (Interruption) Yes, that is on the amendment. The fact that this government did things without listening to the people, that is why we want to have Bill No. 48 brought back to the Public Accounts Committee, because of these extra costs that are going on in these amalgamations. That is why they did not force Pictou County to amalgamate, which is a good job they didn't, because they realized what was going on and they started to listen a little.

Now, the Halifax costs have been pegged by the new municipality at $23 million. Wow! Is that saving? I don't think so, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 3437]

The honourable MP from Saint John, New Brunswick spoke in the House of Commons recently in regard to the BST, that it was being produced. Again, this member spoke strongly saying that the retailers - she said that the minister was saying that retailers will be able to take advantage of the input tax credit, their costs would be lower and they would be in the position to pass the savings onto consumers. Contrary to that statement, retailers will not pass on any savings to consumers because there are no savings to be had. Jobs are already being lost and we had referred to the MMG group which operates Greenberg and Metmart Stores with 12 stores and the loss of 150 jobs as a direct result of the HST in New Brunswick; 79 people have been told they are being laid off.

The government says they are going to increase jobs. I say fine but they have not shown us how they are going to do that. I think it should come back to the Public Accounts Committee to give us an opportunity to have the people come in, make their views known on what they think about this bill. I have had numerous telephone calls against the bill in my own constituency. I have not had anybody say to me, Donnie, you fellows go in there and pass that bill.

The firm of Ernst and Young did a study for the Department of Finance and they stated that the annual cost to retailers in the harmonized provinces is expected to be in excess of $100 million. What does this mean to the consumer? It means they will pay more. To the average consumer of this province who, if they are making under $30,000, can really not afford to pay more taxes; they will have to pay it on their electricity, everybody has electricity, most everybody has a car in their family, some of them have two, it is going to cost them more for that fuel, it is going to cost them more to heat their house and in this province we have to heat our houses in the wintertime. Those people of fixed incomes and the average wage earner in this province can't afford any more taxes.

I know we have been through the Prince Edward Island study many times but again I think it is important that we put it on record that the Government of Prince Edward Island, before they jumped in with the other Maritime Provinces, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for this harmonization, decided that they should have a committee appointed to review the proposed harmonization of the federal goods and services tax with the provincial sales tax.

In their wisdom, P.E.I. appointed an all-Party committee and went across the province, which is just across the water from me and gave the people an opportunity to have some input. That is why this amendment is on the floor today, to give people an opportunity and the committee could call people too to come in and see what they thought, what the businesses thought, whether they would be in favour of having this harmonization done.

If it was being done for the right reason, if it was being done nationally, that is fine. Apparently that is not going to happen. I think, Mr. Speaker, they had about 47 public presentations made to that committee in P.E.I. A strong majority stated opposition. What did

[Page 3438]

they decide? They decided that they would not go along with this harmonization. What is that going to do to Prince Edward Island? I think it was a smart move on their part. It is unfortunate but that is what the people wanted. They had the guts to listen to what the people were saying and as a result they will not be taking part in the harmonization.

[11:45 a.m.]

We saw the federal bill here yesterday. I stand corrected on the number of pages, but I think someone said it was 365 pages that have to be reviewed. Our bill is, what, seven pages, but I think it important that we bring it back to the committee. Give it to the Public Accounts Committee, a non-partisan committee chaired by my colleague the member for Queens. I think it is a good idea that an Opposition member chairs the committee. That happened when we were in government too. I think the member for Antigonish was the chairman of that committee for a number of years, and did an excellent job, I might say as well.

I want to mention, too, that sometimes in the summertime you are home and you are around your area and they are saying no Legislature sitting today? No. They will ask you in September, you are not in Halifax in the Legislature? I know most members get those questions. When is the Legislature sitting? I think they think it is sitting because they see clips on TV from time to time and they do not understand this system. The people in Nova Scotia know today that we are sitting because of the hammer coming down on us and having these long hours to debate this bill that the people do not want. They know. We all watch the news. It is on the news all the time. They do not know ordinarily, but you go out and ask them on the street today and I will bet the people know we are sitting in here.

Why are we sitting in here? We are trying to pass a bill that the government in their wisdom decided to bring forth. That is fine, but let's give the people an opportunity to come to the Public Accounts Committee. We tried to get them to do a six months' hoist. They did not agree to that. I think it is reasonable to have it referred to Public Accounts and let the people have their say. I think it is important to listen to people. That is how we all got here, every one of us, because we listened to what the people say, in most cases. You take the member for Cumberland South and the member for Digby-Annapolis and the member for Antigonish. They were here a long time, those fellows. Why were they here? Because they listened to the people. Why aren't we over there now? I guess we did not listen to the people too well in 1993. We were not listening. If you do not listen, you will be over here and we will be over there. The minister nods his head at me. That is a fact.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where does that leave them?

MR. MCINNES: They are nice fellows but they will still be over there.

[Page 3439]

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that this bill have the opportunity to be placed before the Public Accounts Committee. I think it would really be worthwhile.

I want to read an article from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald of December 6th. What does the article say? The headline is, "No savings from BST, says biz rep". I don't know if this was tabled or not before but, at any rate, I will take a few minutes and just quote from it so that you will be aware, Mr. Speaker. I know you were not always in the Chair and you might not have had the opportunity to hear this good stuff. "Business representatives in Atlantic Canada made it crystal clear Thursday the new blended sales tax with tax-included pricing won't save consumers any money." Is that the NDP saying it? Is that us saying it? No. (Interruptions) "According to officials with regional boards of trade and chambers of commerce, companies will not be able to pass along savings from the BST as promised by the premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.". The provinces are going to merge the three, the sales tax with the federal goods and services tax on April 1st and we know they are going to do it. The three provinces have a majority and it will be done.

The three governments say there will be significant savings for consumers at the cash register. That is because businesses will realize big savings in their tax bill. That is supposed to translate into lower prices.

Do you know what it says then? It says not so, said the business coalition, which includes the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, the New Brunswick chambers and boards. It is no question it will be the consumer who is going to bear the costs. The businesses say they are not really opposed to the blended tax itself, which they think is a good thing. However, their anger is focused exclusively on the government's decision to hid the 15 per cent tax in the cost of the products, so-called tax-in pricing.

Again, Mr Speaker, here is a group that is expressing their concerns. I think we should refer this to the Public Accounts Committee to give Nova Scotians an opportunity to take part in the discussion on this bill. Maybe the government might get some direction from it as to where they should go with it.

Now also in this article, the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce called on Premier Savage to re-examine Nova Scotians' participation in the BST deal. It goes on to say, we want Premier Savage to seriously revisit their position. That is not the Opposition, that is the business community, that is the representatives of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce and the groups from the New Brunswick chambers of commerce saying that this should be revisited.

Now, this cost is going to go onto a lot of people. I got a letter last night; I have a condo down at Waterfront Place. Your board has kept in mind that from April 1st, 1997 on, the new blended sales tax will add substantially to the operating costs of the condo. I will table that letter, if anybody wants to see it.

[Page 3440]

In our last session on the last day of the House the Minister of Finance tabled in the House a document that said it was going to cost Nova Scotians $84 million. Then he also said that he would have a paper available to us to explain what the tax would be on and a technical paper. We waited and we watched in the mail to see what would come by fax, by carrier, or whatever. Mr. Speaker, there was nothing forthcoming.

On October 23rd, the minister went to Ottawa and signed the deal and, after that, they started to release information as to what was going to happen. The ordinary people out there do not know what is going to happen and I think it is important that we, again, bring it back to the Public Accounts Committee. The Public Accounts Committee is a fine committee and they could deal with it and hear the concerns of the people of Nova Scotia.

Virtually every family under $80,000 per year will pay more. The most vulnerable hit are the lower- and middle-classes, the working poor and seniors. Day-to-day necessities are going to be taxed at a higher rate, electricity, fuel, fuel oil to heat their home - a lot of people heat their house with fuel oil - gasoline, and if they have children, their clothes, all up. The figures that I have - which I believe to be correct within a ballpark figure - are an additional $14.9 million on home-heating fuel, $15 million on electrical taxes, $54 million on gasoline taxes. Boy, that is a bit increase in taxes. People cannot afford it. Let's put it back to the Public Accounts Committee, let the people come in and let them have their say.

Is this deal good for young people and seniors? No. Many of the people who live in apartments will have to subsidize the increased cost to landlords for the new huge new costs they have to pay under the BST. Many people rely on public transit and taxi service and that is also going to jump. The Minister of Finance and the Premier said that they are going to offer $8 million to help offset some of those that are hardest hit. I think that is good but, the fact is, the Premier has said that that is really not enough money because we still don't know the details of this tax. So, again, it has to be referred back to the committee.

Who is going to win? I am not too sure who is going to win. There are 10 major companies across Nova Scotia who have indicated that tax-included pricing will cost over $28 million in start-up costs and $34 million in annual, on-going operating costs. We have already seen 79 jobs leave New Brunswick and I did mention that, so I don't want to be repetitive. I mentioned about the Retail Council of Canada that has received literally thousands of calls from businesses, in the BST zone, that claim that the BST will put them under and their employees out of work. That is not us saying that, Mr. Speaker. The government maintains that cash registers will not have to be changed. Well, I am told that is not so; they will have to be changed and that costs money.

What about the tourism industry? I don't remember hearing many people talk about that one. My understanding is that it is quite a threat to our tourism sector. Our country inns, they are against the deal. Why don't we have the Public Accounts Committee meet in here or we could meet in the Red Room or wherever - we might have to have a bigger hall than that to

[Page 3441]

have all the people that are going to come in and talk about why - so that they can explain why. I have not really heard why this government is doing this.

[12:00 p.m.]

How did the deal come about? The deal came about because the Prime Minister of Canada, the Honourable Jean Chretien, said that he was going to scrap the GST. That is what he said, it was in the Red Book. So he tried to get a bunch of Premiers together to see who would go along and he did. He got the Premier of New Brunswick, he got the Premier of Nova Scotia, he got the Premier of Newfoundland and they decided they would go along with the deal. They paid us how much money upfront, $250 million? What happens after that is gone? I guess we have the money now.

As I said, I know it is going to happen but I think it would only be right if we would let the people of Nova Scotia have their say on what they think about this and they have been telling us over and over again with thousands of replies and signed petitions, over 13,000 and whatever you fellows tabled, the New Democratic Party, they tabled quite a number, thousands and thousand. People don't just sign petitions for nothing but they did this because they are concerned.

The Liberal Government campaigned on, leadership starts with listening. Well, if they have been listening it has been very selective. I think that they should let this amendment go, to vote for this amendment and give the people of Nova Scotia an opportunity to come in.

I did talk about the P. E. I. situation at great length. The other concern which I don't think I mentioned too much was the fact about children's clothing. Under $94 you are going to pay the big tax. I think they have got it reversed, it should be the other way around as far as I am concerned. What about school supplies? We didn't mention that. They are going to be taxed at 15 per cent. Driving schools, for taking driving lessons - I think it is important for people today to go to a driving school and take lessons because your insurance is cheaper. Here we are going to charge them more money and discourage them from taking part. My wife went to a driving school years and years ago and she learned to be a better driver than I did so I think those driving schools are important. It is a shame and we would encourage them to take that off. Safety clubs, safety supplies were previously PST exempt, now it will cost 15 per cent for tax for helmets and life jackets.

We just passed a bill in this Legislature the other day, it got third reading, that we have to wear a helmet. Now we are turning around and taxing the poor young people to get helmets. Is that fair? I really don't think so. The fitness clubs will now be taxed at 15 per cent. For years the federal government advertised Participaction, we all saw it on television, participate for healthy living. I think it is unfair that we would put this extra tax on fitness clubs. Music, private dance and music lessons, musical instruments, all taxed at 15 per cent.

[Page 3442]

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you, Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of going to Pictou where my granddaughter was playing in the junior band. There were three bands - West Pictou, Pictou Academy and Westville. They have a beginners' band, a junior band and a senior band. It is tremendous for these young people to have the opportunity to play in a brass band. This equipment costs a lot of money. Some of those big horns, and my granddaughter plays a cornet, I guess, or whatever, but it is a great thing for them. It is wonderful for them. The instructor there spends time - and how he can stand it, I do not know - with those beginners. I think it is important for young Nova Scotians to have an opportunity to participate in things like that. Here we are again making the costs higher for them.

As I said at the beginning, I considered whether I would get up for five minutes or half an hour or whatever on this bill. I did think about it very seriously last night. I think it is important that people realize what is going on here. We are trying to have the government look at this bill to give it consideration, to give it time. We tried an amendment to delay it six months. Now we have an amendments for it to go to the Public Accounts Committee. How many members of the government spoke on this bill? Two. The Minister of Finance - I did not agree with all he said when he spoke, but that is his right and privilege - and then the Premier spoke last night and talked about 3,000 jobs. I wish they could show us where those 3,000 jobs are. I wish they could show us. (Interruptions) They promised in 1993 no taxes. Now they are saying 3,000 jobs. They promised other things too but I, anyway, here we go again.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to participate in the debate on the amendment to Bill No. 48 and I guess you understand that I will certainly be voting for the amendment when it comes up.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: I am very pleased that you did recognize me, Mr. Speaker. I would have felt kind of bad if you had not. Yesterday, we were treated to a rare and wonderful opportunity. The Premier decided he was going to speak and he spoke. He spoke in the time that is normally allotted to the Leader of the Third Party, this left-wing crowd that sit on our left. Normally the Leader of that crew would have been up on his feet speaking. However, the Premier said look, my turn. So he hopped up and was recognized by the Speaker who sort of broke the tradition of the House, but not seriously. I said look, do not panic. The Premier is going to speak. He is going to tell us something we did not know about the BST or, as he calls it, the HST.

After he finished I hustled around and I said I have to get me a copy of that speech. I do not know if I heard all of what he said. Maybe I thought he was going to say something and then he said nothing.

[Page 3443]

The Premier made it so evidently clear last night that not even the most ardent defender of this government, the most fervent Liberal you could find, would have any objection to sending this bill to the committee for study. This is one of those bills that is begging to be looked into because there is absolutely no foundation for any of the claims that the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health or the Premier have attributed to this bill. This bill is so disgraceful, awful and beneath the contempt of Nova Scotians that the government had to resort to changing the rules unilaterally to force it through before Christmas.

What is the rush? It is like the unwelcome guest that you have at your house and you say, here is your hat, what is your hurry, and you open the door. This is the unwelcome guest of this Legislature. This is the bill that Nova Scotians, by the thousands and thousands, have been regretting. (Interruption) What?

AN HON. MEMBER: It's the tax who came to dinner.

MR. ARCHIBALD: This is the tax who came to dinner. Yes, indeed.

This bill, Mr. Speaker, a seven page song. You compare that to the epistle that was sent down from Ottawa and you have got to wonder how . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The backgrounder was longer than the . . .

MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes. How in the name of time, what are we getting into here?

The same person who negotiated this famous BST is the same minister who negotiated that marvellous deal with Minmetals, and then he went and found those fellows from Global Steel and so on, and then he ducked out. Is this another Minmetals deal? How do we know?

The member opposite will recall that when his government took over . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . you were there for 15 years, that's why the problem is there. All you did was bankrupt the province. Why don't you sit down?

MR. ARCHIBALD: This member opposite is wondering about Sydney Steel and the record. If he will look at the previous two years . . .

MR. SPEAKER: But we are going to talk about the amendment, aren't we?

MR. ARCHIBALD: I am on the amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Sydney Steel has got nothing to do with the amendment, so we will talk about the amendment, right?

[Page 3444]

MR. ARCHIBALD: I think we should talk about the amendment in committee. You know, the order book was full, the quality was there and this member opposite would like to discuss it. Perhaps we should turn that over to a committee and have a look at the last three years. That would be a good precedent, perhaps.

Why will this government refuse to go to committee with this bill?

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . the steel plant?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, we cannot talk about the steel plant, as much as I would like to talk about the steel plant and what you people have done to it in three years.

AN HON. MEMBER: I'd love to get into a debate on that.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, we have to talk about this bill, and I want to refer you to last evening, those of you who took the time to listen and wait with anticipation to what the Premier had to say for himself when he spoke in the House. Now, the Premier pre-empted other speakers, he hopped up in the middle of debate, he got himself on the CBC. I suppose Premier Harrigan arranged it so that the CBC would be waiting to carry him.

You know, what in the name of time did the Premier bother to speak in this House, with a speech that was prepared by somebody in great need of both a speech writing and an idea category. The speech was pretty amateurish. I mean, this is the Premier of the Province. He comes in here and delivers a speech that is full of little handwritten jargon here and there, little handwritten quotation marks. I was disappointed to say the least.

The Premier said - and I will quote and I will even table it if you want - "This is the greatest economic boost since Confederation. The HST will mean a fair and simpler tax system which will result in substantial benefits for business and consumers.".

Now, the Premier can come in here and tell us all the moon is made of green cheese and then he can go on his merry way; that would have the same amount of weight, the same amount of authority as what he did last night. He came in and made outlandish statements without anything to back them up.

I can find thousands of Nova Scotians who will disagree with the Premier. Can he find one study that he will table that indicates this is a boost? How can the tax system be simpler? I mean if it is so good, how come we are the only guys involved? Misleading - ". . . the tax is reduced from 19 per cent to 15 per cent.". Well, let's get real. In some places the tax is going from nothing to 15 per cent; in some places it is going from 18.8 per cent to 15 per cent. Taxes are going up $84 million at least.

[Page 3445]

[12:15 p.m.]

The part I like the best, the part that is so unfair, misleading and untrue and is a disgrace that a Premier would read it without filing some kind of a study, some kind of information to back it up, ". . . jobs will be created . . . at least 3,000 new jobs and best of all, attracting investment and creating jobs for Nova Scotians that will help us on the road to self-sufficiency.". Those are just words, Mr. Speaker. The committee needs time to study the report that told the Premier that 3,000 jobs would be created. The new Minister of Finance - not the real Minister of Finance but the stand-in Minister of Finance that we have at the present time - indicted yesterday on a talk show that, well, the 3,000 jobs were not firm. There was not a guarantee of 3,000, it might be a few less. It might be 500.

At the rate we are going now, last week the government paid $4.5 million to try to get 55 jobs in Nova Scotia. Part of it is a loan, part of it is forgivable, part of it is even another loan to a parent company, apparently, but to create 55 jobs.

This is kind of a strange situation, Mr. Speaker. The Premier said 3,000 jobs and, believe me, we need every one of those jobs in Kings County because in the last 12 months our employment has decreased by 3,000 jobs. So is this really the BST bill that is going to benefit the Annapolis Valley because the Premier is so concerned that we have lost 3,000 jobs that he brought in this to try to get them back?

You can see the ridiculousness of the Leader of a province standing up and saying, we are going to create 3,000 jobs. Why didn't he say we are going to create 2,800? Why didn't he say 25,000? I mean pick a number. Any number you want is as good as the 3,000 number that the Premier has picked. He has no basis of fact only a hope, and Hope is the little town in British Columbia that the Premier told us he visited two or three years ago.

You see, Mr. Speaker, what we need is information. The government backbenchers need the information, the Cabinet needs the information and the Opposition needs it as well. It is not for us that we want the information, it is for the people we represent. The people asked us to come to the Legislature and to do a good job but how can we do our work when the government refuses to give us the information to work with? Are they sliding this through, hopefully between now and Christmas Eve so that the people in the province are so busy with Christmas that they won't notice it? Maybe that strategy will work. It was indicated last week by a professor at Acadia that that was a good strategy and it would work because people are thinking about Christmas dinner and presents and family and loved ones and everything else at this time of year and they are too busy to get sidetracked with something as frivolous as a bunch of 51 people hanging around this building from 8:00 a.m. until midnight. I have no problem with working these 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight hours. There are people in the province that do this 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

[Page 3446]

This is a regular day for some Nova Scotians and some of them even get paid a lot less than an MLA for putting in those hours. Farmers in this province are getting up, generally, at 4:00 o'clock or 5:00 o'clock in the morning and they go until after supper and in the summer, when the harvest is on, they go longer. This is not a hardship for Nova Scotians to have us in here for 16 hours a day. It does not bother me if the honourable Government House Leader, who is not quite with us yet again, if he wants to bring in rule changes to have 24 hours a day, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition will accommodate. We will neither be intimidated, nor will we be pushed around. We were asked to represent the people of our constituencies and we will do it no matter what kind of bullish, boorish tactics this government comes up with. It would be nice, though, if all members of the Cabinet benches who spoke in favour of bringing in these new hours were here to join us, just to put in the time. It looks pretty hollow, shallow and shameful when some people advocate one thing and do something else. It looks kind of two-faced.

Mr. Speaker, this whole bill, this whole debate is most peculiar. The government said, when we came in here, the Premier said, a little legislation, in a few days we will be out. We didn't sit very early. We waited until the end of November to come in here. We were going to be out in a few days. As late as two weeks ago, we were going to be out in a few days and then, all of a sudden, what do they do? They drop this bill in the Legislature. Talk about planning, talk about organization. If Nova Scotians ran their households the way this government runs this Legislature, I don't think anybody would ever get anything done.

It is the most peculiar, unorganized, unorthodox way to try to run a province. One week there is no pressing business and then, all of a sudden, zip, the Rules of the House are turned upside down, closure is brought in again.

AN HON. MEMBER: Again?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Again, yes, twice we have had closure by the same government in two years. With a majority like this, you would think they could run something without having to resort to closure, but, indeed, they can't. It is a reflection on the hospitals, the schools, community services. The departments in government are a shambles. Daily we hear of people who are falling through the cracks because there is nobody there to provide the safety net that government is responsible for.

Mr. Speaker, we hear, every now and again, mutterings from the Minister of Community Services. It is great. I enjoy listening to the Minister of Community Services. The minister of I know absolutely everything and I am not going to listen because it interferes with my talking, I love to hear him heckling. Beside him, he has got the guy who was thrown out of the Chair as Speaker by the government and he still sits over there liking them. Boy, I mean, he has no pride. I never saw anything like it. I never saw the beat of it, heckling over in the corner. It is marvellous. You would think, when the Premier was standing up, they are so quick to speak up when an Opposition person is talking, why didn't they ever ask the

[Page 3447]

Premier to furnish the tables, studies and documentation that indicate there are, indeed, 3,000 jobs in this document. Where is the documentation that says there are 3,000 jobs? There is absolutely nothing and the Minister of Finance who currently, the stand-in Minister of Finance for the real Minister of Finance, indicates maybe that is kind of a soft number. It is a very peculiar thing.

The other thing the Premier said last night on Page 3 of his paper was, look, I have to read this so that I don't misunderstand it or mispronounce it. We have to study this in committee so that we fully understand.

The Premier announced last night, "We will also be announcing shortly a very special $8 million program for low income Nova Scotians who won't benefit from the drop in the income tax rate.". When is the Premier going to announce this $8 million program? Do all the backbenchers know about the $8 million program? Did any of you ask the Premier this morning about it? Maybe he told you about it yesterday. (Interruptions) Pardon me? Well you see I think it came as a big surprise to everybody that this Premier is shortly going to announce a special $8 million program for low income Nova Scotians. When is he going to announce it and have any details been worked out or is this sort of like the rest of the things the government does, they announce it and a few days later they start trying to plan it and figure it out?

I think the Public Accounts Committee could probably look into and help the Premier decide about a program with the details prior to the announcement. That would be quite strange for this government because usually the announcement is there but in fine print it says details to follow.

The Premier went on to say with this blended sales tax, the BST, "Business will no longer pay sales tax to Nova Scotia. The result will be an immediate competitive advantage for Nova Scotia over places like Ontario where businesses will still pay . . ." (Interruptions) What? Did you say something Mr. Premier?

AN HON. MEMBER: He is your mentor.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Oh, you want to be my mentor? I don't think so, thank you for the offer, Mr. Premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tormenter.

MR. ARCHIBALD: " . . . immediate and competitive advantage for Nova Scotia over places like Ontario where businesses will still pay the 8 per cent PST in most items they buy.". I thought that Ontario has an 8 per cent PST and they have a 7 per cent GST, that is 15 per cent. In Nova Scotia the province is instituting a 15 per cent sales tax, so this is a great advantage to all businesses.

[Page 3448]

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes it is, they get it back.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Ah, they all get it back and the marvellous part of it is you would think they would be swinging from the rafters talking about these tax credits that they are going to be getting back. You know, there aren't a whole lot of businesses that are excited about it because they aren't (Interruptions) I am amazed that this government and this minister, about every two days, whenever I am speaking or many of our other members, they will stand over and say, the farmers like it.

Look, I don't want to burst your bubble, the farmers in Nova Scotia are at their wits' end trying to deal with this government and I think we should refer a lot more than just this to the Public Accounts Committee because we should be referring the Agriculture Minister's budget to the committee so that they can find out why there has been an 8 per cent reduction in the last few years in funding to agriculture in Nova Scotia and why program funding has been decreased and why the budgeted amount for agriculture this year will not be spent and why the minister has cancelled a five year program after 15 months? This goes on and on and yet the gentleman in the front row keeps saying, the farmers like it. Well, let's talk about the farmers and what they do and do not like.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I wonder if the honourable member could tell me what part of the budget is not going to be spent because I have lots of places for it to go?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, now if we were to refer a few more things to the Public Accounts Committee they would find the reduction in interest rates, the money loaned out by the Farm Loan Board to farmers is at a lower rate, so the differential is there, and the agricultural community is sitting there wondering why the Minister of Agriculture isn't transferring some of the money that was allocated in his budget to look after the interest rate of the Farm Loan Board isn't being supplemented to some other programs. That is just a start, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) Well, if he has a budgeted number and he wants to move it from one area to another, it is quick enough to do it. (Interruptions) This is more fun than a barrel of moneys, listening to the minister.

[12:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to listen to you speak to the amendment.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Okay. Well, referring back to the Premier's speech from last night, it was kind of a disappointment to me and to most members of the House. The Premier was talking again this morning about Mentor Networks. Mentor is moving to Nova Scotia from Ontario and that is nice and we are going to loan them some money and we are loaning their parent company some money and they have to create 55 jobs and, if they do, they don't have to pay the money back apparently.

[Page 3449]

You know, Mr. Speaker, this deal is so hot, according to the Premier, that they should have been paying us to let them come here. Instead of that, the Premier had to give them $500,000 that they don't have to pay back, another $1.5 million that they may not have to pay back if they create 55 jobs. It is the same thing as he did with the other computer company, gave them $10 million and told them to see if you can create 50 jobs. Now we haven't heard any more about that yet - Newbridge, we didn't know whether they were coming to Nova Scotia or not.

This deal is so good that they should be paying us just to come and be allowed to set up here. You see nothing that the Premier says about this is backed up with any facts; nothing that the Minister of Community Services says is ever backed up with any factual information, it is just wishful thinking and daydreams that turn into nightmares for Nova Scotians. The HST will be the greatest stimulus to economic growth that this province has ever witnessed.

Are you sure, Mr. Premier, are you sure, Cabinet, that this is the best thing since sliced bread? Well, if you are so sure, could you bring in somebody who agrees with it? Bring in somebody who will indicate that this is the direction we should be going. Bring in somebody who indicates that this is better than the Minister of Finance setting up a tax review board so that we could look into taxation in Nova Scotia. This is absolutely the best that we can do? Or is this just the way that Nova Scotia is trying to help the Prime Minister live up to his red book promise of doing away with the GST?

I don't think you can convince many people anywhere that this is a great deal. If it was such a good deal, why isn't anybody else buying into it? Why are the poorest provinces in Canada, they are the only ones the federal government can beat up on, I guess. Certainly British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario are not paying much attention to what the federal Prime Minister wants to do with the blended sales tax; they say it would not be good for their provinces, stay at home. That should be telling me that maybe there is a reason why we are in it and they are not, because it ain't that great probably. (Interruption)

Well, my gracious, we are having a good discussion here but I am having more discussion on the Premier's speech than the Premier had on his speech. Now that ought to tell you something, Mr. Speaker, either they weren't listening to him or they were too polite to ask him questions. I tell you, the next time you get him in caucus or you get him in a Cabinet meeting, don't be so bashful, ask the Premier a question. He can't punch you in the nose; all he can do is answer your questions. The Premier says 3,000 jobs, the best thing that ever happened, then let's find out why he said that. Did he make it up? Did he dream it? Did the Minister of Finance tell him? Did the Minister of Community Services tell him? Who told him that? How do we know? Everything we have been able to learn and find out indicates that the benefits are not there.

[Page 3450]

The harmonization does not apply to tenants and landlords. A landlord has no reporting requirements under the GST and also none under the PST. He cannot get any simpler than that. A landlord's business will be adversely affected by this tax, costs will increase and there will be no difference in time spent on tax-related administration. There is no advantage to the landlord-tenant business to having this new tax. Did the Premier mention that?

In Prince Edward Island, they zipped around the province. It did not take them long, because Prince Edward Island is somewhat smaller than Nova Scotia so they took a little more than a month. They covered the province and they had several meetings in Charlottetown, Pooles Corner, Summerside. The important point is, they took the time to make sure everybody in Charlottetown, Summerside and Pooles Corner who wanted to meet with them and make a presentation to the legislative committee could do so. It took them about six weeks.

They heard presentations and we all know what the presentations said. Stay away. A blended sales tax will not help businesses locate in Prince Edward Island. It will not help attract them there and it will be detrimental to tourists. They said, leave it away. What does this province say? Our province says the opposite.

Now, look, you cannot be over here and over here at the same time. Somebody is wrong. I am inclined to agree with the folks in Prince Edward Island because they, unlike this Liberal Government - the Liberal Government in Charlottetown at the time did a study - they consulted and what they did was they listened.

Very often, we will hear the Liberal Government here say, well, we consulted with this one and that one. You see, this Liberal Government here, their idea of consulting, Mr. Speaker, is you put an ad in the paper that you are going to have a meeting, you buy those little plastic earplugs, you plug them in and you smile, and then in some cases you fall asleep and then you go home. Pay no attention to what anybody said.

In Prince Edward Island they actually had meetings. They listened, they made notes and they decided this blended sales tax is bad for Atlantic Canada. But we did not do that. We sent the Minister of Finance, the same guy that brought you Minmetals and Global Steel, we sent him to Ottawa, he came back and he said, we've got the deal. Then, much to his surprise, after he tabled the book in the Legislature, he found out that it was going to cost consumers $84 million and what a shock that was to him. He did not know that until he read it in the book. Neither did his caucus, neither did the Premier.

Now you are all trying to defend him. Well, fine, you defend him but ask the questions and don't be bashful, backbenchers. You know, they can't hurt you. They are not going to throw you out of the backbench for asking questions. (Interruptions) Your people elected you to represent them. Now, right across the province, Nova Scotians are indicating they want to appear at committee to study this bill.

[Page 3451]

Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia School Boards Association are not in favour of this. They are estimating an expense increase of $2.148 million for the boards. You see, that will go well with the former Minister of Education because they have lots of money to pay that back because by forcing that big amalgamation, remember, they now have $11 million extra that is just like money from home so they will not have any trouble paying that $2 million because of all the money he saved them. That is not right, is it? The Minister of Education, who is now the Minister of Community Services, that $11 million went up in smoke, didn't it? It evaporated.

You see, this is the problem. The government brings out these foolish announcements that they are going to do something and it does not happen. This government said that they were going to save school boards $11 million and they wound up costing more than $11 million. There are fewer teachers. There are fewer teachers aides. There are bigger classrooms and no supplies. Talk to the teachers. They will tell you amalgamation doesn't work. Talk to municipal politicians and they will tell you that amalgamation did not save money in Cape Breton and it did not save money here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to return back to the motion that is before the House, please, on the amendment.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I am glad you brought us up short, Mr. Speaker, because what I was pointing out so clearly was that if this government had taken the time to submit to the Public Accounts Committee, amalgamation of school boards or amalgamation of municipal units, prior to their announcements, they could have foreseen the mistake and they could have seen the error of their ways before it was too late. By example, if this government would submit this bill to the Public Accounts Committee, prior to its implementation, they will see the error of their ways before Nova Scotians are unduly harmed.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, and as you witnessed last week, the honourable Government House Leader wants to talk about buying the hammer and beating us up and the rest of the caucus just goes along with him. They subject themselves to the same tar as he paints himself with. Travelling Times, they even indicated how fearful they are about this new tax that is coming on in Nova Scotia. They are recommending that you book your flights right now and pay for them right now to escape the tax. What will be happening shortly, too, is the simple thing that people will be buying their plane tickets in Charlottetown and so on, trying to beat this foolish tax.

They also pointed out that one of the miserable tricks that this government is trying to pull that must be shown at committee level is where they advertise that by going on public transit, the tax does not apply. Well, it does not on a metro bus, apparently, but if you want to use the Acadian Lines bus, or the New Brunswick SMT Bus Company or MacKenzie's or Zink's up the shore or the airport, all those forms of public transit do attract this new tax. If you want to hop in a taxi, the new tax is going to be placed there. If you want to go on a

[Page 3452]

train, the new tax is there. So there are very few ways in public transit you can escape this tax unless you can talk the Metro Transit bus driver into driving you home to Yarmouth you are going to be paying the tax if you use public transit.

This consumer tax by family income level is very frightening and I think the committee should have a little gander at it to see if it is correct, because unless you are making $80,000 a year or above, you are not going to save much money. Somebody who is only making $30,000 a year, you might as well forget it.

This is the other thing the Premier forgot last night. All these assumptions assume a 50 per cent net pass-through. The other day, the current Minister of Finance is here and I don't know where the real Minister of Finance is, but the person standing in for him now, he was on a radio program the other day and he indicated that this 50 per cent flow-through, that is the tax savings that the companies are going to have, that they are going to whish it right through to the consumer, the Minister of Finance the other day on the radio indicated that that was a very optimistic number, not likely to be reached. He said we are looking at maybe a 25 per cent flow-through. That is what he said and I think he cut his wishful dreaming in half and I think I will cut it in half, too, after talking to business people that are in business. I am not dreaming this up. This is what people are telling me, there is nothing to flow-through. They have had a very difficult time in the last several years, not just the last three. It has been going on longer than that. The last several years have been hard for businesses to make ends meet and to show profits. They are going to have a hard time trying to pass something through. If there is anything to pass through, they are going to try to pass it through to their bank loans and try to pass it through to their back pockets and so on. So we can forget about pass-throughs because they are not there.

[12:45 p.m.]

I guess even the Premier has come to the realization that some of the statements they were making earlier are not right because he didn't harp away on the pass-throughs last night either. It was nice that the Premier spoke last night. I anticipate that most government members intend to speak during the 20 hour closure. There are only 20 hours of debate allowed and anybody can fill it up, so I suspect the government members are going to be filling that up.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that what you are doing now, George, filling it up?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you very much. I am glad to see that you are listening.

My hope, Mr. Speaker, is that during this debate we will win over and influence more and more members of the Government Party. Maybe they won't stand up and vote against the government right here in the open but maybe if the government ever has a caucus meeting where backbenchers are allowed to speak freely, they will stand up and say, we don't like

[Page 3453]

what you are doing to the people in this province and we don't like this new tax increase of $84 million.

If you look at the costs associated with this new tax, it is just unbelievable the new costs that are going to be absorbed by businesses. It is not fair, it is not right and it is not nice. Yesterday I was reviewing some information on a drug store, one simple, average size drug store. His increased costs will be $50,000. For one year's operation he will have an increased cost of $50,000. He will get a tax credit of $11,000. It means a net cost increase in operation for one year of $40,000. (Interruption) All right, $39,000. It is still a pretty hefty tax.

Where did all the money go? Why does it cost so much? Well, I can tell you. Listen up. The software charges for a typical store will be about $600. When you are looking at all the goods, they all have those little labels. It is hard to believe - I can table this for you if you would like - that the shelf label changes will be about $3,800.

AN HON. MEMBER: You mean he never has to change his labels otherwise?

MR. ARCHIBALD: From time to time but you don't do it all at once, with this final, in-cost price. The cost of labour for changing all the prices will be $41,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who are you hiring, brain surgeons?

MR. ARCHIBALD: I love it, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday I went over this and nobody was listening and today they are. I am telling you, if there was ever a time that shows you so clearly that this must go to committee, the shock shown by these members opposite indicates how little they know about the costs associated with this tax.

His total cost for the year is an additional $51,000 to administer this new blended sales tax. (Interruptions) Listen to it. Do you believe it, Mr. Speaker? There is so little knowledge and so much interest that it just pales. The government absolutely must rule in favour of this amendment and send this bill to the Public Accounts Committee. You saw how interested they were when they found out how much it was going to cost. Repetitive argument seems to get through even to these Cabinet Ministers. So, I think that they support the suggestion and the motion to send this bill to the Public Accounts Committee. (Interruptions) If I thought for a moment that there was a hope that these members would refer it to committee I would sit down.

This blended tax has been doomed a failure since that day last May when it was introduced. It was suddenly discovered by all members that this blended sales tax had a cost associated with it and it was $84 million. Now there is not a member in this House who can tell me they knew that before we discovered it in the document tabled just before we left for the day that time.

[Page 3454]

The new tax will hurt the building industry. The housing people are indicating that there is going to be an additional cost. If you are building a $100,000 home, the cost will be about an additional $4,500. The province is going to be giving you a rebate of $3,000 so you are out $1,500. That rebate the province is giving can be taken away by the stroke of a pen just as all of the programs for senior citizens to help them stay in their homes was withdrawn by this government, just as the municipal tax rebate was withdrawn. This rebate for new home builders will probably be withdrawn by this hard-hearted government with no vision.

A lot of people are buying homes that require renovations. How big of a tax credit and how big of a grant are the people doing the renovations on their homes going to receive? This is one of the reasons why the building contractors are saying, we don't like most aspects of this tax.

The federal Minister Jane Stewart indicated, "The issues that the legislation raises will be in full debate, so the process still has a way to go . . .". If you don't like the proposed harmonized sales tax or the effect it will have on you, speak your mind, speak up. Just do it quickly because this government means to pass this as quickly as possible.

The government has been so quick to say the farmers love this new idea and the board of trade loves this new tax but they only tell you half the story, they only give you half the information. Just as they learned moments ago, it will cost the average small drugstore type operation an extra $40,000 this year to operate, a complete shock to the members. They didn't know until I told them that this morning, they just learned it. Wouldn't that be good if it went to the Public Accounts Committee? Even the Minister of Community Services, if you sat him down and wouldn't let him talk for at least an hour, you might be able to get through to him. Nobody has been able to get through to him yet but I think it is worth one more try. (Interruptions) Well, he said there is no point, nobody can get through. (Interruption) I would like to tell you something too.

AN HON. MEMBER: Table it.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Now they want the document tabled. I told you how interested they are, how shocked they are. Let's see if they will vote in favour of getting not just that document, you will get the people who wrote the document to come to the Public Accounts Committee if you want them there.

Every time the government finds out how terrible this is, they think of something else and they ignore it. Tax-included pricing should be postponed. I do not know who the genius was that thought up this tax-included pricing . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: People. People want it.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Consumers want it.

[Page 3455]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Consumers do not want the tax. They do not want the tax. When you put out this little table with the support, you had a number that said the majority of people want to know the final price. Okay. Why didn't you give us the other numbers? The number of people who do not want this BST? The majority of Nova Scotians do not want this tax and the majority is climbing in numbers every single day.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . tax-included pricing and that's why we did it.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, you did tax-included pricing, my goodness sakes alive, it is a revelation to understand how your mind thinks because it certainly is backwards. It makes the best of a real bad deal, and the majority of Nova Scotians do not want it.

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce, you can usually count on their support for some of these ideas that you come up with; sometimes they seem to like your ideas. I do not know why. I cannot figure them out. Anyway, they are saying they do not like tax-included pricing and it should be postponed.

AN HON. MEMBER: Consumers like it . . .

MR. ARCHIBALD: The consumers, the last person on this Minister of Finance's mind is the consumer of Nova Scotia. If the consumers were anywhere near his thought process, they would not be sticking the consumers with an $84 million tax burden.

We are already taxed beyond belief since 1993. When you came in you raised the hospital tax 10 per cent; you raised the gas tax $22 million; you raised electricity 3 per cent; and you have increased fees, licences and fines over $40 million since 1993. Give us a break. The taxpayers cannot pay it any more. The taxpayers are looking for relief; the taxpayer is not looking for things that are going to cost more money.

This tax-included pricing, where the price you see on the article in the store is going to cost the store owner more than it is worth. I just quoted the numbers from a typical drugstore of about $40,000 to keep up to it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to table the document?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I might, later on, if I can find it again. It is in my pile of stuff here. I might just show it to you, but I might not too.

Local retailers would not be able to use national advertising materials. This is important. Has anybody in the government benches been in business? There is one fellow who used to run a hardware store; he knows about going bankrupt and he knows about running a store. National advertising comes through and you need national advertising to help out once in a while. No longer can they use that.

[Page 3456]

We heard from Gow's Hardware in Bridgewater. We heard from Gow's Hardware and they are having a real problem trying to get through with this. The existing cash register point-of-sale system would have to be reprogrammed. Prices within the zone would appear to be more expensive. Tax-included pricing will not generate additional revenue, but will create added costs.

Will somebody who understands business on that other side please talk to the Cabinet Ministers and the caucus, so that they will understand the hardship they are putting on businesses? Will somebody who has actually operated a cash register tell these ministers what it is like to have 25,0000 or 30,000 stock items and all the problems you are going to have? All the magazine pricing you have to change. Will somebody in this government stand up - who has ever worked in a store or managed a business - and tell them what they are doing? Will you stand up and tell them this is not good for Nova Scotians?

Mr. Speaker, this is not a good idea. Furniture is going to go down. Rugs, mats, household appliances, all the good stuff. The ordinary Nova Scotian who has to buy groceries, (Interruption) What did you say? Did you know that when you go to the drug store, (Interruption)

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would entertain a question.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I would be delighted. I hope it is on this bill and the fact that it is going to the Public Accounts Committee.

MR. CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, it is actually on the comments that the member was making. He referred earlier to labour-intensive work. He also referred to the housing industry. I wonder if the member has any idea what percentage a new home's costs are with relation to labour versus materials? I wonder if the member knows that kind of relationship, what the ratio is? If so, what comments would the member make considering the vast majority of the costs of building a new home or materials? Those materials now attract both sales taxes, equalling 18.77 per cent. They would lower it to 15 per cent and that is not talking about the input credits. I wonder if he knows that relationship and if he does, what comments he would make?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Look, I am not an expert, (Applause) in house building. I have only built three houses, myself, personally. Now, I don't know how many houses you have built. Perhaps it is more than three. If I had built 100, I would probably say I am an expert but I built 3 myself and I know a little bit about building a house; not everything. I would tell you that there are about three components in the house. This is on the bill. Do you want me to keep going? Okay, I will.

[Page 3457]

MR. SPEAKER: Let's stay to the amendment that is before the House, please.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, if you want to have a little discussion about home building later, maybe we can talk. If you are looking for somebody to build a new home for you, I am a little busy right now. If you would like, Mr. Speaker, my honourable colleague, the member for Hants East, if he wants some help in home construction or if he is trying to plan a new home and figure out what he should use for construction materials, I would be more than happy to sit down out in the hall and we will discuss it further. Anything I can do to help you in the construction of your new home, I would be more than happy to do that.

Now, besides labour, many other services involved in the purchase of a house will be subject to the entire tax, as well as including the financial and the legal services. Now, you will know about the legal services because you are getting to be able to put on the new tax now. (Interruption) Yes, you will be able to put the new tax on yourself. This should be of great benefit to you in the practice of law. You will be able to bill all your clients an extra 15 per cent.

The Nova Scotia Housing Authority indicates that the increase in the cost of buying a home will be about 4.5 per cent. Because of the large sums of money involved, this is substantial.

Mr. Speaker, this is pretty much an agreement, we have to agree that houses are going to cost more due to this tax. Now, you can't get around that. Now, if the minister wants to dispute it or he wants some more information in home building, we can talk later.

You know, wouldn't it be marvellous, Mr. Speaker - and it shows so plainly the absolute need to go to the Public Accounts Committee with this bill. We have had several questions raised about the costs of this new tax on small store owners. We had another question a moment ago on the cost to home builders. So, obviously, there is interest among those members over there regarding this new tax.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member entertain a question? If I understood correctly what he was saying, he was eluding to the fact that housing will go up 4.5 per cent. I would like to ask the question - two or three questions, actually. One was, you are saying 4.5 per cent at the end when the house is completed and the individual goes to buy it, total-in costs of 4.5 per cent. That is different from the numbers that I have seen. I understood the overall impact could be as much as 1.5 per cent and, then on top of that, this government, under this administration, has offered a support program up to $150,000 to mitigate those increased costs. I was wondering if the member opposite would be so kind as to table the documentation and information that he has that would substantiate the allegations of a 4.5 per cent increase in the cost of housing?

MR. SPEAKER: We will ask the honourable member to table his documents, please.

[Page 3458]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Alfie needs it, but, anyway, you can table it. What is shows so clearly is that this absolutely must (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I would like to wring that guys neck about four times. Do you ever get the same feeling with that guy?

MR. SPEAKER: I don't believe, honourable member, that is parliamentary language.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I find that heckling minister to be about the most offensive son of a gun that I have ever met in my life, Mr. Speaker, and I am not an easily rattled person, but that guy does drive me to distraction. (Interruption) They are urging me over here to go over and do. They are sick of you too, fellow.

The cost of housing is going up 4.5 per cent. Where the minister's confusion comes in is there is a $3,000 rebate coming from the province and on a $100,000 home, it is a $400 to $500 increase in cost. If you take out the rebate that the province is giving, you are left with $1,500 and that is where this minister's confusion, I am sure was coming in, because he was mixed up and he was thinking it was $150,000 grant to buy a house, but the difference on a $100,000, you are still going to be out about $1,500. (Interruption)

We are out of time, but will you give me extra time, so I can answer his foolish questions? There is no point in you asking me a question if I don't have time to answer it. Mr. Speaker, the only thing I can say in the one minute that I left is that I truly and sincerely hope that the honourable Minister of Transportation will stand and take his place in this Legislature and tell us why this is such a good thing for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. It is not right and it is not fair that we are being forced to pay increased taxes by the government that was elected on the premise of no new taxes and, since they have arrived, they have done nothing but legislate Nova Scotians into paying more taxes.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you have anything to say after that now, Alfie?

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: The question of is there anything to say, there is lots to say and we are going to have a chance now, Mr. Speaker, to bring forward some other concerns and some other problems that have been brought forward. I am proud to be able to stand here and speak on this amendment to send this bill to the Public Accounts Committee.

I think there is something that a lot of people in this House are missing. I think they are forgetting just how serious a business this is. I think it is time that the members of this House, the government members, the ministers and the media realize that this is more than just talking for the sake of talking. Mr. Speaker, this is more than just ravings by the Opposition, myself included. This is more than trying to catch a media headline. This is more than having the Premier stand up, out of sequence, so that he can catch the CBC News. This is probably the most important bill that this session of the House will see. This is probably the most important

[Page 3459]

piece of legislation that any of us who have the honour of sitting in this House will ever have to deal with, but there are some members on the government benches who are not treating it as a serious matter.

There are many Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, who have cried out and said they wanted to be listened to. That is our job here. Some might laugh at what we are doing and some people might make light and some people will say, well, we come to work at 8:00 o'clock in the morning and we stay until 12:00 o'clock at night. Well, I think that it is not a funny matter. It is called getting the crumbs. When you work in the pit and you stay two shifts, you have got a crumb. Well, I would be willing to stay here right through until April 1st if this government would take it in their head to listen to the people and have this go to the Public Accounts Committee and be heard. (Interruptions) The only problem with a sit-in is that we have to be sure the food keeps coming.

Here we go again, somebody tries to be serious and the rabbit tracks take you off to the side. You know it is not in my makeup to ignore them, as the honourable member has suggested.

AN HON. MEMBER: You have to learn.

MR. MACLEOD: Well, I guess if I was a member of this government I would know how to ignore people, but I am not, I am a member of the Opposition. I am a member who is here to deliver some concerns on behalf of the people who were kind enough to elect me.

Why should this amendment be sent to Public Accounts Committee? Why should this bill be sent there? First, and most importantly, Madam Speaker, it is so that our employers, the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, can tell us exactly how they feel about the BS Tax. We have lots of time, this doesn't come into effect until April 1st. With the government's Resolution No. 921 we have lots of hours, we can sit for many hours so time is not a constraint, Madam Speaker.

As I said earlier, I am willing to work all the overtime needed so that my employers, the people of the constituency of Cape Breton West, can have their input. We have three more months, Madam Speaker, so we have lots of time, we have all kinds of time. The calls and the petitions from thousands of Nova Scotians tell us that we have the need. The introduction of this amendment to send this to the Public Accounts Committee shows that we have, at least in the Opposition, the will.

What is missing from all this formula? Well, it seems that what is missing is the will of this government to open up the doors and allow people to come in and have extra time to say what they want to say. Madam Speaker, when this government was elected in 1993 they said that good government begins with listening. Now this government has an opportunity to live

[Page 3460]

up to that commitment. This government has an opportunity to actually live up to one of the promises that were made during the 1993 campaign and that is to listen.

I don't expect for this government to agree to this amendment because I have asked them to. I have not been here that long to think that I am that important and I probably never will be. Madam Speaker, I don't even expect them to agree to this because the Opposition Parties are asking for it. I think that this government should agree to this amendment because it is what a majority of the people of this province have asked for and want. They want ample opportunity to be heard. If, for no other reason, this government were to decide to send this bill to the Public Accounts Committee, they could live up to their commitment to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, the commitment made in 1993 that good government starts with listening. That is where they should be. So they don't have to do it for the Opposition, they don't even have to do it for themselves if they don't want to but this government should do it for their employers, the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, I have an article here that is pertinent and I will table a copy of it but I would like to read into the record what it says. It was printed in the Chronicle-Herald and the Mail-Star on Tuesday, November 5, 1996. It says, "If you do not like the proposed . . . sales tax or the effect it will have on you, speak your mind. That's the message federal Revenue Minister Jane Stewart sent to Nova Scotians on Monday, saying the legislation enacting the blended 15 per cent tax is not etched in stone.".

[1:15 p.m.]

It goes on to say, "She expects parliamentary hearings on the proposed tax in early January, meaning anyone can voice concerns and suggest changes. Ms. Stewart said retailers across Canada have spoken out against the HST.".

Madam Speaker, this is not the Opposition. This is a member of the federal government who is a partner to this deal. She is telling us that there is no hurry; it is not etched in stone and that people should be listened to. Businesses say it is a bad tax. The government does not want to listen to the Opposition. Maybe, just maybe, the government will listen to their federal cousins.

By going to the Public Accounts Committee and having Public Accounts do their job, many more Nova Scotians could have the opportunity to express their views on this BS Tax. Public Accounts and the members who make it up are, I am sure, willing to work overtime to make it happen. I speak as a member of that committee. I know that I would be willing to travel this province to hear what people have to say.

We keep hearing that the people who are most affected by this tax are the poor people. We cannot expect those people to come all the way to Halifax to sit in front of a Law Amendments Committee. The thing we have to remember as members of this House is that

[Page 3461]

Nova Scotia is a lot bigger than a two square block radius around Province House. There are many people in many parts of this province who need and deserve to be heard. It is our job as their representatives to go out and listen to them. There are many places that we could travel. We could go to Yarmouth and we could listen to what they have to say there because it would be easier for us to travel to Yarmouth. We could go to Bridgewater and we could listen to what people have to say there. We could go to Digby and listen to those people. The list continues. We could go to Truro. We could go to Amherst. We could go to Antigonish. We could go to New Glasgow. We could go to Falmouth. We could go to Port Hawkesbury. We could go to Canso.

All these people, every one of them that lives in these communities are residents of the Province of Nova Scotia. They are people who are going to be affected by this tax. I have talked to many people who live in Louisbourg and New Waterford and Canso. They all have concerns. Some of them do not understand what this tax is about, but they are all concerned. They have no faith in government. They are worried when they hear about the most significant tax change in this province's history. They are scared that they are going to be the ones who are going to take the fall.

We could go to Baddeck or we could go to Sydney Mines. We could sit and listen to people. I do not believe this would happen, but if people did not come, if people did not express their concerns, then we could move on. I believe from the phone calls, the letters and the petitions that people want this opportunity. They want the chance, Madam Speaker, to be heard and we could give them that chance by putting this to the Public Accounts Committee and having Public Accounts go on the road and listen to the people of the province.

There is no need of reinventing the wheel. We have a system in place and people are accustomed to it, they may not like it but they are accustomed to it. Right now consumers are scared of changing, they are scared of the effect that this new tax is going to have on them. They are scared that every time they turn up their thermostat it is going to cost more money. They are scared that every time they turn on their lights it is going to cost more money. They are scared when they go to buy their children's clothing that it is going to cost more money. They are scared that they are not going to be able to afford to give their children the quality of life that they deserve. When you have to go out and buy school supplies for your children and there is going to be tax on it, you have to wonder what we are doing to the people of this province.

Prince Edward Island heard from the people of that province. They went out and did something very similar to what I am proposing here today and what this amendment would allow us to do. They had a committee and they sent it across Prince Edward Island and what did they find out? They found out that the people of the Province of P.E.I., people I might add who have very similar interests to many Nova Scotians and very similar concerns to the people of Nova Scotia, they went around and said what is it that you want to know.

[Page 3462]

The committee told them that the federal government had put forward a proposal for the four Atlantic Provinces to harmonize their provincial sales taxes with the federal goods and services tax. Then, they outlined the key elements of the harmonization program. What were those key points? The same points that this province is dealing with, that the province would adopt a provincial value-added tax to replace the PST. The value-added tax would be 8 per cent and the GST rate would remain at 7 per cent. There would be no tax on tax, a good thing.

So what was the result of going out and around and talking to the people and listening to them? Of the 47 public presentations made to the committee, a strong majority stated opposition to Prince Edward Island joining the federal government's sales tax harmonization plan. The most often cited reason centered on the belief that the consumer would end up paying more taxes and in particular, low income families. Low income families would suffer disproportionately. The fact that the provincial sales tax would apply to such basics as electricity, heating, fuel, clothing and reading materials was often cited as having a severe negative impact on consumers. These are all of the same things that Nova Scotians are tell us, the same types of worries, the same types of concerns. The difference is we haven't given them the opportunity to say them to a committee. By putting this bill to the Public Accounts Committee we are giving the people of this province that opportunity.

During these hearings that were held on Prince Edward Island, many business presenters confirmed the doubt they had in this whole process by indicating that they would likely reinvest a portion of the savings or that they would use a portion of the savings to bolster their already weak profit margins. They didn't talk about passing the savings on to the consumers and that is what is scaring people.

There were other reasons given for opposing the harmonization tax, other reasons such as it was a common view that the federal compensation package was insufficient to offset the shortfall to be experienced over the long run by the province. There was plenty of concern about tax measures that would eventually have to be undertaken by the province to replace lost revenue.

As I say, Madam Speaker, we don't have to reinvent the wheel, but these are the kinds of concerns that our own people are talking about. What we want to do, what we need to do and, more importantly, what is the right thing to do is put this bill to the Public Accounts Committee, let people come in, have their chance to have their say and then put the Public Accounts Committee on the road and let the people come in the different areas and talk to what is going on.

There are other issues that have been talked about, Madam Speaker, and this tax bill has a lot of people scared. Even well drillers in the province are now speaking out about what is going on. Well drillers have joined the long list, and I repeat that, the long list of businesses opposed to the 15 per cent blended sales tax. Imagine, the story goes on to say, their disgust

[Page 3463]

when they have to pay 15 per cent tax on jobs such as drilling wells. Water is a necessity of life. Good water is an important thing for all families, but the labour that is going to be on the drilling of wells is now going to be taxed. On the average, 75 per cent of the cost associated with well construction is for labour. The consumer already pays provincial sales tax on materials, but the PST is not charged on labour. It now will be. This is not a luxury item. It is water, but it is the most important issue and resource on the earth today and every day. Water is more important than food, yet food is tax exempt. The system is unbalanced again.

Mr. Johnson, who is President of the Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association went on to say, "It appears the only group who will receive financial gain from this tax will be the current government. Small business will be forced to do the dirty work of tax collection, scratching it off the backs of the helpless consumer . . . Nova Scotia has about 50 licensed well drillers who drill deep wells, and another 350 licensed well diggers who use backhoes and excavators to dig shallower wells.", and those people will be put in the uncomfortable position of doing the dirty work for this government, a government who does not consider the people of Nova Scotia important enough to listen to, a government who has only thing in mind, and that is reaching into their pockets, tearing out their money and saying, tough luck. Madam Speaker, that is not the way it should be. So that is only one organization. It is only one group of people that this tax is going to have a negative effect on.

Madam Speaker, a majority of the people who live in Cape Breton West have to get a well dug, so it is another tax that is being passed on to those people, the same people that this government said they were going to save a fortune for in amalgamation. We have already gone through that horror story and the increased property taxes, the lack of services and the cuts in services.

[1:30 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, people have had enough. They do not want this new tax. They want this government to actually listen to them, to hear them and then to do what is right and for once, do what the people of the Province of Nova Scotia want and, I repeat, not what the federal Liberal Party wants them to do.

There was an article in the Chronicle-Herald on December 6th, Madam Speaker. It talks about a pharmacy operator in New Brunswick, granted, but still, a small-business person. It talks about the effect that this sales tax is going to have on that individual and on his business. What they have done, Madam Speaker, is they have made a tally of what this tax is going to cost them: software changes, $600, a one-time cost; shelf label changes, $3,890, a one-time cost; labour costs, $41,640 a year; extra advertising, $5,200 a year; sales lost to sticker shock, 5 per cent to 10 per cent a year.

AN HON. MEMBER: Due to what shock?

[Page 3464]

MR. MACLEOD: Sticker shock. When you go in and an item that you had bought in March cost you $9, and now you look at the same article and it costs you $10 and some cents. It is sticker shock.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is like, stick it to them, right?

MR. MACLEOD: That is like, shove it to them; that is what this is like. This government has a tendency of putting their hands in the pockets of the consumers.

We will go back, sales lost to the sticker stock and the total estimated cost of the BS Tax is $51,331 a year; total estimated tax credit is $11,000 a year; so the cost to the pharmacy is $40,331 a year, Madam Speaker, over and above their operating costs.

Now, I am sure, if the Premier was here he would say, well, it is only a marginal business and they are probably only going to go out of business anyway, but the people that had those jobs, Madam Speaker, don't think they are marginal jobs. They think that those are the jobs that help sustain their lifestyle and help sustain their family. There is no such thing as a marginal job. Anybody in this province who has a job is grateful for it.

Then we hear a little bit about this great tax. This great tax is going to create 3,000 jobs. We have asked, time and time again, for this government to prove it, to show a piece of paper, a single piece of paper that says, yes, it will create jobs and this is how it is going to do it. You would think, for no other reason, that the government would like to shove that in our face to shut us up, but, Madam Speaker, what is the result? More silence. No proof.

It is amazing, Madam Speaker, when we are giving a talk and if we read from something or we make a statement, we hear from the government benches, table it, table it, but the Premier can get up and make all kinds of statements. What does he have to table? Nothing. What does he have to prove? Nothing. The BS Tax is appropriately named and it is being delivered by the appropriate person.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . Public Accounts Committee?

MR. MACLEOD: If the member had been here, he would know that I have talked about the Public Accounts Committee on many occasions. (Interruption) When the member gets in the Chair, I am certain he will give me the guidance. The Speaker in the Chair now is doing a great job and she should be commended on the good job she is doing. (Applause)

AN HON. MEMBER: What do you want?

MR. MACLEOD: To survive. (Laughter)

[Page 3465]

Madam Speaker, the amendment before us is, indeed, as the honourable member has pointed out, to send this bill to the Public Accounts Committee. Even if we make light about some of this stuff and some of the statements that are being made, the issue is still not a light issue. The worst mistake that any of us in this House can make is to take ourselves too seriously, but the worst thing that anybody in this House can do is not to realize how serious a business it is we are in.

What we are doing will have an impact, an impact for a long time to come on many individuals in this province. So, why all of a sudden do we have to push it through the House? We still have three months. This government said we are going to do some housekeeping; it is going to be in and out. We have time, we had all fall. They knew that this legislation had to come forward. They knew that people would want a chance to have their input.

My question is, why now do we have to push it through the House but, more importantly, why can't we give the people of this province an opportunity to make presentations to the Public Accounts Committee, a committee that should be travelling around the province and listening to what people have to say so that each and every Nova Scotian, all of them have an opportunity, and if people don't take that opportunity and if people decide that what this government is trying to shove down our throats is appropriate we can live with that. But not knowing and not giving people the opportunity is not right and is not what democracy is all about. We have an opportunity to do the right thing and I wonder why we are not going to do that.

There are many other issues that this BS Tax brings out. The Premier said yesterday that the government would offer assistance to those most severely hit by this tax and, Madam Speaker, I would be the first to say that that is an important thing. I would also like to know what it is he plans. Where are the plans to help those people? What is it that is going to be accomplished with the $8 million that he talked about and when is he going to see fit to let the people of this province know what it is all about? It is important that if there is information on this bill that people have to know that it indeed be passed on to the individuals of this province.

We all want to know how this program that the Premier keeps talking about and how the money that he is talking about is going to be distributed and how it is going to help people. I ask the Premier, through his front benches, to let the people of the province who are going to be affected by this tax, let them know.

MADAM SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member would yield the floor on an introduction, briefly.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[Page 3466]

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: To all members of the House, I would like to introduce to you in the Speaker's Gallery, Mr. Andy Bush who is from the good State of Wisconsin in the United States and he works for the Hudson Institute. He is Director, Welfare Policy Center, and is visiting here in Nova Scotia and exchanging with my staff ideas that they are using and ideas that we are using. With him is Tracey Williams from my staff. I welcome him to Nova Scotia and on behalf of the House I ask you to stand. (Applause)

MR. MACLEOD: I too would like to welcome the audience in the gallery. I would like to go on with our talks and discussions about this BS Tax and about the amendment.

Madam Speaker, the question that is on the mind of a lot of Nova Scotians is who is this so-called win/win deal for? The Premier says he is honouring the wishes of Nova Scotians yet we have thousands of people who have contacted our office; we have thousands of people who have signed petitions that have been tabled in this House that say they are not in favour of this tax.

Now, Madam Speaker, if the Premier is serious in his statement that he is honouring the wishes of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia, I suspect that very shortly he will be tabling all the petitions and the phone calls that he has gotten from people who support this initiative and he will put them on the table. Or, when they call the 1-800 number, do they just get that recording?

The question is, who is this tax for? Is it for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia who the Premier and his government were elected to represent? Or is it for his federal counterparts in Ottawa, to make them look good so that Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister of this country, can honour his "scrap the GST." We have to know; there are a lot of people in Nova Scotia who would like to know why, if the Premier and this government, his government, are listening to the people of Nova Scotia, why don't they put this to the Public Accounts Committee and let the people have their say? At the very least, he would be able to point his finger at the Opposition and say, shame, because I was right and you were wrong.

We all know that he is scared to do that. Why, Madam Speaker? Because he knows, as do the other members of this government know, that the Opposition is right on this, that the people of the province do not want it; the consumers of this province do not want it and, more importantly, the consumers of this province can't afford it.

Madam Speaker, there was not so much as a single town hall meeting, not one, not a single town hall meeting to discuss this tax. Now the Public Accounts Committee can go out and have those town hall meetings. There are many communities, and I have listed a number of them, all those areas are part of this province. Some of them, when you are driving over the road, you wouldn't think they are part of this province but they are.

[Page 3467]

Where do we go from here and what do we do? Do we just pay lip service or do we actually try to do what is best for the people of this province? This whole scenario, Madam Speaker, it started with a broken promise by the federal Liberals to scrap the GST. They said scrap it - not disguise it, not change the name of it, they said scrap it. Now I don't know how a government can sit and say that by increasing the amount of taxes that they are changing the tax. They are taking $84 million more out of the pockets of consumers. It is a report released by the government by the former Finance Minister. It is not my words, it is certainly not my numbers. I would like for one of the ministers, for any member of the government to stand up and explain how you can take $84 million away from people and tell them that you are saving them money. It is not a hard question, it is a question that is pretty straightforward and it is a question that is on the minds of a lot of Nova Scotians.

[1:45 p.m.]

The former Minister of Finance said that the BST would represent the single biggest tax cut in the province's history, but on December 10th we hear that the former minister believed that the BST deal would be risky. I will be pleased to table this, Madam Speaker. It is in the Chronical-Herald, December 10th, "We didn't go into this unaware of that (risk), but it only begs the question: 'Why would we put the life of the government at risk if we didn't believe in this?'". That is a fair question and I compliment the minister on his honesty. The only thing I would like to know is when is the minister going to tell us what it is all about, give us the real story? You have the opportunity, you have the resources.

AN HON. MEMBER: At the Committee of the Whole House.

MR. MACLEOD: The minister says that we will hear all of the details at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

AN HON. MEMBER: That would be an opportune time.

MR. MACLEOD: It would be an opportune time to let people know now. If the minister is serious in making sure that the debate is true, if the minister is serious in letting us do the right thing, tell us now.

The present Minister of Finance admitted he signed a deal before he had all the answers to a hundred different questions. We are pushing forward, we are using hammers, we are using all kinds of other tricks, but for what? So that a commitment can be made to the federal Grits.

The minister said that after the deal was signed he would have a period of limited, formal consultations to avoid any unintended consequences. What better chance for the minister than to use the Public Accounts Committee? What better opportunity for him to do exactly what he said he was going to do for the people of this province? This amendment

[Page 3468]

would allow that to happen but I fear that the consequences already are and will be higher prices, less jobs and a severe blow to an already sluggish economy. I am not sure if our province can take another blow. I am not sure, I am convinced that the Island of Cape Breton cannot take another blow. The BS Tax has the makings of putting Cape Breton in a very desperate state. The people of Cape Breton Island and the people of this province deserve, need and demand the right to be heard.

I think that the amendment to bring this to the Public Accounts Committee to allow people in every part of this province to have a say by making that committee travel around would be the right thing for this government. I am going to be voting in favour of the amendment and I would wish and hope that the other members of this House will give it some serious consideration, some long thought. When the time comes maybe, Madam Speaker, you would be so good as to have a secret ballot so people could do what they really want to do instead of what they are told to do by their Party. They know in their hearts, as I know, that this is not the right thing for Nova Scotians.

AN HON. MEMBER: What does your Party tell you to say?

MR. MACLEOD: The Minister of Transportation wants to know what my Party is telling me to say. Well, my Party is not telling me to say anything but the people that I represent are telling me that this is a bad tax for them. They are telling me that if this government was truly meaning to help people, they would not be putting this tax in place. They are telling me that if we had a real Minister of Transportation, the roads that we are travelling over would not be like cow paths. That is what the people of Cape Breton West are telling me and those are the people that I am here to represent. They are telling me that if my government was in power, the wildlife park would still be funded probably, not being closed by a government that does not care.

MADAM SPEAKER: I would like the debate now to get back to relevance on the amendment, please. (Interruption) Order, please. I would like the debate to become more relevant to the amendment, at this point in time. Don't get sidetracked, in other words.

MR. MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, I was ready to sit down. I was ready to end my part of this debate, but the Minister of Transportation was so kind to give me some extra fodder (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: He will speak when they tell him what they want him to say.

MR. MACLEOD: But the interesting thing, Madam Speaker, is that, indeed, I am allowed to get to my feet and speak. I am allowed to give the opinion of the people that I represent and it is a shame that the people in the government benches, even some of the ones in the front benches, are not allowed to get up and say what they really think.

[Page 3469]

Madam Speaker, I want to say that it was a very proud day in my life when I first came into this House, but the actions and the shenanigans of this government, and the actions they have taken to push and jam this legislation down the throats of the people of this province, make me sad, but they make me, also, more determined to have my say and to tell the people of this province how we feel as an Opposition, and how the people I represent feel.

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I will vote in favour of this amendment and, again, I would urge you to allow a secret ballot so that some of the other people that are not allowed to speak would have their opportunity to do the right thing, too.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of my Party's amendment to 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.

Madam Speaker, the amendment states, "That the words after 'that' be deleted and the following be substituted therefor: 'the subject matter of Bill No. 48 be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.". I stand in my place today to tell you why I support this amendment. I went home earlier last night than some members, and I did not do it because I was lazy or to sneak off. I went home a little earlier than some others last night because I had to make an important phone call. I have been trying to reach Santa Claus for several days now. He is hard to reach this time of year because it is his busiest time of year. I wanted to reach him because, unlike this government, I think it is very important to consult the citizens and so does my Party. Whose views could be more reliable, I ask you, than those of the jolly old elf himself.

Madam Speaker, I reached him at home last night on his cell phone, actually he was in the workshop late last night. I was pretty sure he could not come to the Law Amendments Committee because this is his peak season, but I wanted to find out whether he could come to a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, if one were called in the new year. Good news, he can do that but, more than that, he had such strong views on the damage the BS Tax would have on his business that he asked me to bring them to you today and he asked me, Madam Speaker, to help persuade you to move this bill to the Public Accounts Committee, so it could be discussed in that forum. He says this tax is devastating to his business. It could wipe him out; there is no question about that. So he asked me, and my daughter, to write a poem expressing his very great concerns about this issue, and we were very happy to oblige such a model citizen and a taxpayer. I would like to ask your permission to read a verse expressing his concern about the dire consequence of this tax.

Madam Speaker, I ask you so we can all respect here the spirit of Christmas.

[Page 3470]

MADAM SPEAKER: You are looking for a lot of indulgence. I really hope this is relevant to the amendment.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, it is. He wants to go to the Public Accounts Committee.

MS. O'CONNELL: In the nights before Christmas, down in the House,

One member was calling another a louse.

In spite of the fir trees and garlands of holly,

The Premier was Savage, though Sandy was Jolly.

Those opposite were Moody---no turkey, just Hamm

Because of chagrin at the BST scam.

The bells they were ringing an hour each day

In hopes of opposing by dint of delay.

The whip in a frenzy prepared for the vote,

They stood to be counted, going by rote.

On, Casey, on Colwell, on Cosman, on Downe,

On Stewart, on Norrie, on Gillis and Brown,

And Robbie and Richie and Jimmy and John,

On Gerry O'Malley---oh, must we go on?

And what with our horrified ears did we hear?

A shiny new tax for Christmas next year. (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, we are hearing a number of interventions about the use of members by name in your . . .

MS. O'CONNELL: Well, I do apologize and I did think about that, but . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: . . . poetic efforts.

MS. O'CONNELL: . . . this is art . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: It is art and it is poetry, but I do not think it is debate. I would like this to become more relevant to the amendment on the floor.

MS. O'CONNELL: Madam Speaker, if I promise not to mention anyone's name, who is present in the House, may I continue?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.

[Page 3471]

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Point of order, Madam Speaker. On an amendment to a motion, surely it has to be on the amendment, the matters before the House and it is not; it is irrelevant and the honourable member should come back to the matter that is being debated, apart from using member's names and various other things.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, you might consider if you wish to send your poem to the members that are mentioned. You might just circulate your poem to them. I would ask that you now come back to the debate on the floor.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: On the point of order. I am never much of a defender of these people at the left, that's for sure, but the government has subjected us to 12 hour days, and if this honourable member . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: 16 hour days.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, 16 hour days; it just seemed like 12. I think it would be a little bit appropriate if we were allowed to listen to a poem. It will only take about another one-half minute from her one hour deliberation and I am sure these honourable members could recall that it is Christmas, even though they are trying to break every rule in the book, they have done it through brute force and if this honourable member simply wants to read a poem, I cannot see what harm it does. It is not malicious and it was brought forth in good fun and good humour. If the members would listen just for a moment and stop their knee-jerk reactions, they might get some enjoyment out of the poem that they are not getting from the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.

MADAM SPEAKER: That was not a point of order, but it was an interesting point.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Madam Speaker, there are two items I would like to raise on a question of order. The first one is the intervention by the previous member. The member rises on a point of order. The Chair had just made ruling. The member rises on a point of order and says I think we should, after you have ruled we should not. There comes a point that once the Chair makes a ruling, that raising on a point of order and saying, I don't agree with you, that is out of order.

[2:00 p.m.]

Once the Speaker makes a ruling, you cannot simply rise on a point of order and say, I don't agree with you, and that is what just happened here. Your ruling was absolutely correct in the first place. (Interruption) Of course, not. This is not something to make fun of, this is the House of Assembly.

[Page 3472]

MADAM SPEAKER: Now, I would just like to rule on that last point of order which is not a point of order but it is quite a good point, I have to admit. We get these little challenges to the Chair's rulings in innocuous ways at times and I don't want to be the grinch who stole Christmas. There have been a number of points of order raised. Are you making a point of order?

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order on the point that was raised by the member for Hants East, Madam Speaker, there is an old saying and an old adage that goes something like, blessed is he who in having nothing to say refrains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: Well, now, we will all take our own advice. I have cautioned the honourable member to get back to the debate. I have advised her that she could circulate her poem and I am going to add one minute to your time, honourable member, because you have had four interruptions. I will add one minute to your time.

MS. O'CONNELL: That is too bad, Madam Speaker, I was hoping to drag this out. But thank you.

I must say, this does remind me, Madam Speaker, of a time when we had a long debate at a convention of my Party about whether to have fun or not. I will be happy to circulate my poem, although I do feel that Santa Claus has a very excellent point. I do want to say, again, that I feel he would be present as a citizen of the world, a man who can vote everywhere, that he would be happy to come to the Public Accounts Committee on behalf of his own opinions as a citizen. But I do agree that Santa Claus is not the only person who wants to have his say here at the Public Accounts Committee.

Madam Speaker, I went to the green book that is given to new members to find out exactly what the task of the Public Accounts Committee is and I can think of at least three good reasons why this is an ideal place to send this Bill No. 48. The first thing is that, according to the little green book, the function of the Public Accounts Committee is to review, ". . . the public accounts, the annual report or other report of the Auditor General and any other financial matters respecting the public funds of the Province.".

Now, that sounds like a really good place to send this important bill, because it is a bill that will certainly affect the public funds of this province.

The second thing I learned in the little green book, Madam Speaker, is that the minister responsible for the bill is not able to sit on the Public Accounts Committee - at least that was my reading of it - for the consideration of this bill. That is at least if I am reading it right. It says right in the book, "With the exception of the Attorney General . . .", and then there is some stuff in the middle, ". . . no Minister shall be appointed to a Standing Committee established for the purpose of considering matters normally assigned to or within the purview

[Page 3473]

of that Minister or that Minister's Department.". Now, that would lend a great deal of credibility to such an exercise. It would, I think, reduce the political grandstanding which seems to work against true scrutiny of something that is in the taxpayers' interests.

Madam Speaker, the third reason I think the Public Accounts Committee is a good place for this bill to go is that it is chaired by a member of the Official Opposition. Now, I don't say that in a mean-spirited way. When you have a majority government, allowing the Opposition members to chair this committee provides some balance. Then, surely, this too would reduce the political point scoring and increase the chance of serious examination of this bill.

Now, Madam Speaker, we have to have a good reason for making this amendment and there is a good reason. We need to understand it. We have talked and talked and we are going to keep talking as long as we can here and we still don't understand this bill.

I know that I and my colleagues have the benefit of a highly skilled, professional staff and they help to steer us right. They do not always succeed, but they have been able to collect information and to help us to use our time efficiently and to help us digest a great deal of information that has to be absorbed in a short time.

Madam Speaker, I know that other Parties have resources and I know that they have even more resources, but I refuse to believe that they do the job any better than the people who work so hard for us. But none of us, it does not matter how good our resources are, or how many our resources are, I think it is fair to say that there is not a person in this House who understands all the ins and the outs of the bill, its implications, it ramifications, its short-term effects, its long-term effects and so on. We cannot say that it is good for all or bad for all. We cannot say what sectors may be helped and what sectors may be ground down by it, what groups may be affected most, what groups affected least. We do have a rough idea of that, based on the information that we have been able to gather and share and discuss with one another, but it is a general idea and that is all. We need to know more and the people of the province need to know more.

Madam Speaker, that assumes my whole argument about sending it to the Public Accounts Committee, assumes something that I think we have to assume that is very important. I am making the assumption here that we are all conscientious people, that we all want to represent our constituents and that we all want to make our decisions with the interests of our constituents at heart. I believe that we all are those people, and that is in spite of the general cat calling and the hubbub and having the Chair rule against art and all those other things that go on in here from time to time.

[Page 3474]

I have come recently from another place, Madam Speaker, with a lot of give and take and general commotion sometimes. (Interruption)

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please, the member has the floor.

MS. O'CONNELL: Madam Speaker, I was saying that I have recently come from another place that tends to have a lot of give and take and I have to say, truthfully, that sometimes it suffers from a lot of commotion and that is a junior high school. But I can say, on the basis of my experience there, without hesitation, that in the hubbub and the commotion and the general to-ing and fro-ing that a great deal of learning and good work goes on there and I am sure it has not stopped in the short months that I have been gone. So I can extrapolate from that and I can say that that happens here and I see it. So I am going to assume the best of us all and I am going to say that we would, with all the good will in the world, come together in our proportionate numbers on the Public Accounts Committee, and that whatever rules apply in that committee, whether witnesses can be called and people can be questioned and so on and so forth, that all of that process would be of great benefit, not just to our knowledge, but to the use that we could put to it, which would be to help us to make a decision that this government itself said was really significant for the people of this province.

Madam Speaker, I want to say right now what I am going to do for the rest of my time, or in as much of it as I use, because what I did was I made a list of all the questions that I could think of in a short time that should go before the Public Accounts Committee. So I want you to know that these questions are being asked in that framework. I am saying that if we have Public Accounts, here are some of the questions, and by no means all of the questions, that we could ask that committee. I will try to remind myself and the Chair that that is the framework for this but that is the approach I am taking here because I think there are so many unanswered questions.

The first question has to do with the federal legislation. My Leader waved it around here yesterday. Somebody else had it. I understand that after I went home last night each Party got a copy - that is my understanding anyway - of the federal legislation which is, I think, 356 pages long. I haven't read it. How many people in this House have read it? What does it say? There are a few things that we know from briefing sheets and so on, but I don't think there is anybody in this House who could say they truly understand it. All right?

My first question for this Public Accounts Committee should we get this bill there is, how can we pass the bill before we scrutinize this big pack of federal legislation? My second question to that Public Accounts Committee would be, what does it say? Can we work to understand it before we proceed in some way with our own process of binding ourselves to it? So that is one thing, Madam Speaker.

[Page 3475]

The second thing that I think we should take to Public Accounts Committee, through our members - I think my colleague from Sackville-Cobequid is on the Public Accounts Committee. I am going to give him this list, Madam Speaker, just in case we can do that. What about health care practitioners? Now, the Leader of my Party asked some questions this morning about that and really it raises the whole question of who is going to be taxed and how much for what under this new legislation. Can the Public Accounts Committee clarify some questions, for example, about psychoanalysts, osteopaths and speech therapists? This big federal document replacing this little federal document, Towards Replacing the Goods and Services Tax, Simplification and Fairness Measures - and I might add that I think there is some punctuation missing there - is very clear about dietitians. It says dietitians will be exempt.

Then it says that there are new criteria that will involve these other occupations. There are a whole lot of questions around that that we need to ask in Public Accounts Committee. Is a psychologist the same as a psychoanalyst? Is a family counsellor a psychologist? And so on and so forth. How come we are going to charge more - if we are - for a speech therapist, Madam Speaker, when this province is short at least 60 speech therapists? That is a question I want to take to Public Accounts Committee.

Madam Speaker, we also raised a little bit of the contention around home care. I think that the Public Accounts Committee ought to clear the air on that. Medically necessary home care, we are told, is exempt. Well, I want to know before I sign on who decides what home care is medically necessary and what is not. In other words, who decides whether it is taxed or not? Does the federal government have some kind of a say in this, which is an area of provincial jurisdiction?

Madam Speaker, if it is true that any home care that is not medically necessary is taxed at this rate, all kinds of horrible scenarios arise. A bedridden person, perhaps, who needs household chores pays more, or is that a medical necessity? If it is household chores, maybe it isn't, but if it is household chores for someone who is too sick to get out of bed? I don't know, I don't have the answers to this and I don't think a lot of us do.

[2:15 p.m.]

The next thing I want to talk about is exemptions and I want to take those questions about exemptions to the Public Accounts Committee. We are told that under the GST, businesses billing less than $30,000 don't have to register and that is the way is was before, but we are hearing other things from people out there who think that maybe this isn't true. They are hearing that that exemption is going to be lowered to zero and all kinds of horrible scenarios arise.

[Page 3476]

What about the babysitter who makes a few dollars? Is that babysitter going to have to register to pay the BST? Is that babysitter going to have to get an accountant just to keep things straight? What about a freelance writer who doesn't make enough money to make a decent living or a handy person with a very small income? Will they have to do that, charge the BST and further hurt their small businesses and will they have to hire accountants for sort the matter out? I say that I don't know the answer to those questions and let's take them to the Public Accounts Committee and find out.

We have talked in here before about the next thing - and I am almost afraid to mention it, it causes such to-ing and fro-ing in the House - that is the tire recycling tax, or fee or tax or fee. It appears not to be exempt, but my question to the Public Accounts Committee would be, will the bill per tire be $2.65 plus 35 cents BST, or will it be $3.00 plus BST? I heard that the government is lobbying to have this made exempt. My question is not what you might think it is. My question is, why should the government have to lobby anybody? It is the government. So I want to know who they are lobbying? Do they just go in a closet and talk to themselves or what? I am very confused about that and I need to know and I think the people of this province need to know, so let's buzz that right off to the Public Accounts Committee too. I really do get so confused by all of this.

I mentioned housing yesterday and other people did, too; I know the member for Halifax Citadel talked about housing. To be truthful, we asserted some things, we had some figures. He asserted some things and I asserted some other things, but we made assertions based on incomplete knowledge because that is what we had to do and it was all we had.

Do we really know and can the Public Accounts Committee tell us, will a landlord pass increased costs onto tenants? I don't know that right now. How much of it will they pass on; will they pass on all of it or will they split the difference? Then, when they do that, do you think we can find out at the Public Accounts Committee what the percentage of tenants is that will have to move because of increased costs, and what happens when those people do have to move? Because of the increased costs to all landlords, do they have to move to substandard or more substandard housing? The other thing that we have to ask the Public Accounts Committee is, given that everybody's costs are going up, will there be any cheaper places to move to?

I think we need to look harder at the housing sector and what is going to happen not just for landlords in their business costs, but for the poor, the less well-off and the people who may be impacted severely, vividly and clearly by increased rental costs. I want to take that to the Public Accounts Committee.

We have talked a little bit - not nearly enough - about the poor in here. The minister a couple of weeks ago said to the House, I believe it was the Premier, my recollection is that is was the Premier who said a couple of weeks ago that there would be some way to alleviate the increased costs on poor people, the increased costs of the BST. They are going to fiddle

[Page 3477]

with the income tax but that only affects people who make $15,000 a year or more. They have got $8 million to fool around with. Madam Speaker, I want to go to the Public Accounts Committee and find out because they have not told us and in fact the Premier himself said, we don't know what we are going to do with that money. There is one thing we do know and that is that there are certain people in this province who are excluded from any share of that $8 million and these are some of the poorest people on fixed incomes. This is a serious question and I think it is one that we would have to address in the Public Accounts Committee.

I know a little more right now than I did a second ago because my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid has just shown me a letter from the Canadian Bar Association, there has been a lot of talk about tabling in here, I have never tabled anything before. I will read a little bit into the record but I assume I would have to table it then? "Unfortunately . . .", this letter says, ". . . there are individuals in our communities who are financially disadvantaged, for whom an 8% increase in the cost of legal services will impede their access to justice at a time when the Province of Nova Scotia is actively promoting enhanced access to justice.". So it isn't just housing for the poor, there is more of it right here that shows what that means to the poor.

For example, this will result in more Nova Scotians being unable to seek representation when applying for child maintenance against a former spouse or partner, when their landlord evicts them or withholds their security deposit, obtaining a divorce or an appropriate and binding resolution in a divorce, defending themselves against unjust allegations, obtaining a fair settlement with a former employer, applying for benefits under social welfare legislation such as EI or social assistance. So, Madam Speaker, it isn't just in housing that these costs will profoundly effect the poor but housing is certainly one of them.

We talked a lot about business in here too, another issue that we should take to the Public Accounts Committee. I just got a letter today about a business that our Party hasn't heard from before and it pointed up something to me that I hadn't realized before in spite of reading this big briefing book, this tax will affect sales of service more than sales of goods. I thought we had a service-based economy here and I thought that that might be extremely harmful and sure enough I have here a letter from the Nova Scotia Registered Barbers Association and I am going to read it from the bottom up which doesn't make sense unless you know what the bottom says, the bottom says, this motion was carried unanimously and the motion that was passed by the Nova Scotia Registered Barbers Association says similar to all labour intensive businesses our industry sells primarily services. Therefore, there is little or no recovery of the taxes paid as there would be in most retail businesses. All of this increase will come directly from our incomes.

The letter goes on to say, and I will table it, that there is a combined surplus of barbers and hairdressers in the province and the letter goes on to say that a great many barbers and hairdressers tend to work in the underground economy as a way to make a few dollars and

[Page 3478]

so that will increase the business in the underground economy and that is a question I had, so in this one sector at least I know what the answer will be there but I don't know what it means for all the other sectors, will it increase or decrease the activity in the underground economy? I will be happy to table that. I think that is a significant thing that maybe we haven't addressed enough and we would have time in the Public Accounts Committee to address that, there is no question that we would.

I read something in the minister's speaking notes for October 23, 1996. He says, and I hope I wrote it down correctly because it is not a direct quote, most businesses registered for the GST will be eligible for the full refund of the BST. I have to say, Madam Speaker, I don't know what that means and there is nothing else in those notes to tell me. Does this mean some will not? Who are they and why not? Maybe I am just forgetting something, but I don't know the answer to that right now at this moment either.

What are the real costs to business? Maybe the Public Accounts Committee can help us answer that. Who will be hurt the most? Who will be hurt the least? How many Nova Scotian businesses are, in fact, marginal? I heard the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley talk about marginal businesses today. Who will go down and who will survive? Surely there are enough statistics out there to predict who will be the worst hit and can't we plan through this knowledge that we get from the Public Accounts Committee to do something to alleviate the worst effects of it.

Madam Speaker, there is another whole area of inequity that we have not even touched upon yet in this sort of high speed, fast forward debate that we are having on this bill. I would like to ask the Public Accounts Committee about the inequities between our province, or three out of four of the Atlantic Provinces together and the rest of the country. Will current inequities increase or lessen in the coming years? What can we do about those? There are so many questions that we can take. Will business be able to pass tax breaks on to consumers? Well, we know that marginal ones will not and we know that service industries might not be able to, but who will be able to and how much? How will we know who they will be? The Public Accounts Committee might help us to answer the question, what will really happen with cross-border shopping, catalogue shopping and so on. Will the underground economy expand or contract? What is the real cost of redoing all those fliers for Atlantic Canada and how will that hurt business sectors here?

Several people have already talked about the MUSH sector, about municipalities. I am no expert on this, but the Mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality has been around a while and he says that the taxes are going to go up a lot for property tax owners. Let's get him into the Public Accounts Committee, Madam Speaker, and ask him about that. Let's have him explain the figures. Let's find out what it is really going to cost to download and download right down until we are down to the very last person on the bottom of the heap that I talked about yesterday.

[Page 3479]

How much will those taxes go up, Madam Speaker, I don't know? I think the member for Kings North mentioned schools. Schools are being ground down, stripped to the bone by the cutbacks that are already there and the downloading. I think the member for Hants West, or somebody, said that school boards will lose at least $2 million. So that is a lot of money to take out of education right now. It is bad enough that I saw on television last night, on the late news, an entire school being moved out to another school so that the students could go to school in a place that wasn't covered with mold and with the air full of mold spores that made them sick and they were loading up big trucks with every single thing that had been in that school and washing every book and every pencil and every piece of furniture down so that they would not take the mould spores off to 300 more children in another school.

That is the kind of costs in a time of drastic cutbacks and those kinds of costs themselves are the result of years of cutbacks to education. Now we are going to say that school boards are going to pay big bucks because of this tax? I want to hear the school boards and the School Boards Association and the Teachers Union, I want to hear them at the Public Accounts Committee, and especially the parents and the students too. I want to hear them talk about what it has been like to cope with those cutbacks and what more cutbacks will do to them.

[2:30 p.m.]

I want to talk about fairness, a little bit more general a concept here, Mr. Speaker. I have been talking about fairness; a lot of those questions are about fairness and about balance and about who wins and who loses in this fantastic win/win situation that we are purported to have here. How are we going to ensure that there is any kind of fairness here? Do we have the numbers that we need for all these sectors and all these types of businesses and services versus sales of objects and things? Surely if we go to the Public Accounts Committee we can get some of those numbers and work it out and say to people, well okay, this is bad but this is better and both of those things involve you; if you put it together you are going to come out even. That is not the way now, Mr. Speaker, I don't think, but I want to know so I want to go to the Public Accounts Committee and find out.

Mr. Speaker, I know that it would probably be fairly easy - I shouldn't say I know, I think it is fairly easy - to get statistics, for example, on car and truck sales, because they are durable goods - well, sort of durable goods; some of them are more durable than others. Cars and trucks are sold and bought, they are bought every few years so it is probably pretty easy to get the statistics on who buys a car and when and how long they keep it and what it costs them and so on and so forth. Do you know what is bugging me to death about this bill? It sounds silly but I am going to say it anyway; has anybody compared, for example, how many pairs of socks a family buys in the course of the six or seven years that they drive a car, the same car they bought six or seven years ago? (Interruption) Well, that depends and that is one of the things we need to know.

[Page 3480]

I agree with the member for Halifax Needham, you have to look at all the numbers and put them together but at least you can get a picture; you can say, what are the nickel and dime things put all together for a family of two or a family of four or a family of one or whatever. When you do that, Mr. Speaker, you have a lot more information than you had before and that is so much why I want this bill to go to the Public Accounts Committee. Questions, questions, so many questions.

AN HON. MEMBER: And no answers.

MS. O'CONNELL: And we need answers; the member for Sackville-Cobequid is quite right, we need those answers.

I guess the question about that is, how much, what proportion of this new tax will be paid by each income group? What will the offsets and the compensations mean, Mr. Speaker? I think one of the most important questions that I think I only heard asked in here once before is, once we have done this, will that tax rate ever go down?

I have a newspaper article here, and I am learning all about tabling documents today and I guess you would want me to table that, Mr. Speaker? I don't have to? It is in the press. I will table it anyway, just to be sure because I like to follow the rules. This is from the Truro Daily News and it is dated November 21, 1996. Now this is a story about the comments of a political scientist from Acadia whose name is Agar Adamson. (Interruptions) Has it been tabled? Okay.

Mr. Speaker, what is interesting about him, and this is just based on my memory but I remember in 1993 following on the radio very closely the political campaigns of all the Parties and the commentators who commented on the political campaigns. Professor Adamson was one of those commentators and I recall very vividly, he is not some what some members of the government might call some left-wing, left-fielder, wing nut from the outside. This Professor Adamson, in 1993, was full of praise for this Party when it was running, before it became the government. (Interruptions) I am just learning something else here today, I am told that this is the same man who set up the Legislative Intern Program here so he is a man, obviously, who is interested in democracy and respect for it.

I just want to read a couple of things and I want to just give you the context. The story begins, "Say goodbye forever to the idea of a provincial sales-tax cut in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, says a political analyst.

'We can never, . . .', he says, ". . . 'look forward to a reduction in the tax', says Agar Adamson, a political science professor at Acadia University in Wolfville. N.S. 'I can't fathom . . .'", he says, ". . . 'how they . . . put us in this position . . .'". The article goes on to say that "The deal locks the three Atlantic provinces and the federal government into the new rate for four years, starting in April. After that . . .", the story says, ". . . the rate can be adjusted.",

[Page 3481]

but Professor Adamson says, the problem with it is that it is a tax where, "A rate increase needs the agreement of only a simple majority . . .'", while a cut requires ". . . the unanimous consent of all . . . provinces . . .". Well, talk about having the deck stacked against you. "'What that means . . .", says Professor Adamson, ". . . 'is that the rate will never go down.'".

Now, he does make one qualifier to that remark. There may be some hope when the massacre is over. He says, ". . . 'the only real reason you'd drop a consumption tax is for electoral reasons.'". Then he says, "'All three provinces would never be going to the polls at the same time.'". That doesn't bode well for this province's power to make its own decisions in the future. I want to know if that is true so I want it to go to the Public Accounts Committee and I want them to be able to tell us.

I want to talk for just a minute about job creation, about jobs, about the mythical jobs that will come and go, the real jobs that will go. I racked my brain last night, that was while I was waiting for Santa Claus to call, I racked my brain and I racked my brain and the only new job that I could come up with, the only one I could think of under this new BST regime and I don't even know what the name would be, I called it a sticker-sticker-onner because if we have to reprice everything maybe there will be a few low wage jobs where people can run around stores that I hear sometimes have as many as two million and three million objects in inventory items and they can stick the new stickers on the old stickers and they can be sticker-sticker-onners. (Interruptions)

That is right, the member for Hants West points out to me that we could actually double that number of jobs because we could have sticker-taker-offers first. So we could have sticker-taker-offers and sticker-sticker-onners. I have to say though that they don't sound like really fulfilling jobs to me and I am not sure they would be to many but let's find out. Let's go to the Public Accounts Committee and find out. Let's find out about these jobs. Let's find out where these 3,000 jobs are going to come from. I can't believe we will have 3,000 sticker-sticker-onners, I just don't believe it.

The other thing that I think is really important and hasn't been aired enough here and needs to be aired there, what is going to happen to the $250 million? Are there any rules for how that is going to be spent? Where is it now, is it in a sock somewhere under the Minister of Finance's bed? What kind of rules are we going to have for the spending of it, the saving of it, the conserving of it and so on? I can't help thinking, especially because I was thinking about the Minister of Finance and we come from the same place, the same town, I remember getting my allowance on Saturday to go to the Capitol Theatre in Antigonish to see the movie. I would spend all my allowance in the candy store at the movie theatre. It worries me. These kids like me who went out and they blew the whole wad the first day. They took their 25 cents and it was gone, just like that. Is that what is going to happen with $250 million?

AN HON. MEMBER: Gone on election goodies.

[Page 3482]

MS. O'CONNELL: Madam Speaker, I am worried about that. I really want to know what forum we can take this to and I think Public Accounts may indeed be the right forum to take this to.

I want to talk about books. There was a lot of fanfare around the federal government's decision to lift the tax on books and, I believe, periodicals to institutions that provided literacy such as universities and schools and public libraries. We live in Canada and that is good. We use the public library and we are happy and I am sure the library here would benefit from that. We also live in Nova Scotia and we are going to have these two pieces of legislation. What do we do, Mr. Speaker? If the feds turn around and say that is enough of that; we are not going to do that anymore, can they change those rules on us? Can they do that any time?

Do we have the power to prevent them from changing the rules at any time? The member for Sackville-Cobequid says we do not. That is really too bad because we are citizens of this province as well as citizens of this country.

Does that mean then that if they can change the rules about books, can they change them about anything else that is in this deal? It worries me. Let's get it out there and discuss it. I want to know some big questions. What powers do the provinces actually lose? It sounds like we are in trouble here. It sounds like it to me. I am not a lawyer. I am not an accountant. I want to know. I want these people who know and know how to read this stuff to be able to say this is really bad or, to be perfectly fair to the government, this is really good. This might be something that would work out over time.

The other question that haunts me and that I think we have to talk about somewhere. Why would any other province want to go along? We talked a lot about the Chambers of Commerce and how they want this but they do not want it. They are kind of in but they are out. They are a little confused. They want it but they want it without the tax-included price.

So there they are, Mr. Speaker. The premise behind it and again I am open to education on this, the premise behind it is that other provinces will jump on and then we will have a kind of Canadian unity plan for the economy. Quebec is already there. They will be the first. We will all have this great big economic fest of taxing unity.

AN HON. MEMBER: United in BS.

MS. O'CONNELL: That is right. We will be united in BS, as the member for Sackville-Cobequid says. Why in the name of heaven would any other province want to join if its tax rate were lower. I do not know why they would and I want to go to Public Accounts and I want to find out.

[Page 3483]

Since the last time I stood on my feet here, I read something that I had skipped over or that I had not focused on the first time through that massive comprehensive briefing book. That was the report from Dun and Bradstreet. I do not know if the other members have seen the Dun and Bradstreet report, but one of the things that this report says, at least I think it says and maybe we should take this report out there to the committee and find out, is that the imposition of the BS Tax, Mr. Speaker, would make it much easier down the road for this province to implement a flat rate income tax. I think it is this province that it said. There is a whole bag of snakes. There is another whole barrel of monkeys. There is another whole set of questions here. What are we doing this for? Are we really doing this now for something later? Is this a sort of skirmish for a bigger battle? Does that mean that our taxes are going to get more and more regressive in this country and that this is just the kind of warm-up to the main bout or the main attraction? Is it true that these pieces of legislation will make it easier to levy a flat tax on Canadians or on Nova Scotians? I am really worried about that.

[2:45 p.m.]

Another question and it is probably a minor one given the major questions and the seriousness of it all but I still want to know it. I want to know what it cost to create and promote this monster. Tote up the ads. I want to know what the Bluenose jaunts cost, I want to know what Nova Scotians are paying. Maybe the Public Accounts Committee can say to the appropriate people in the government, here we go, here is what we want to know. Go away and get those numbers and come back to us, give us the real financial picture here.

The last couple of things I want to say, I want to talk for a minute about logic. I didn't study a lot of logic in school because I wasn't in the right program but I seem to be able to hold my end up a little bit in here. One of the things I remember from the study of logic is faulty first premises. I would like the Public Accounts Committee to look at all of this stuff and help us decide whether or not this whole thing is constructed on a faulty first premise. If so, Mr. Speaker, if we should find that out in Public Accounts, then it follows that if the first premise is faulty, the whole thing is wrong from there on in and it doesn't matter what you do along the way because the mistake was right there at the beginning. Let's take it out there to Public Accounts and find that out. Let's look at it piece by piece from beginning to end.

Is it a game of dominoes, you push the first one and they all go down? Is it like staggering around in the dark with a blindfold on? How little we know. I am reminded of the President of the Canadian Home Builders Association who wrote a couple of weeks ago in Atlantic Progress. We used it in a resolution here. His name is Jerry Roehr. He said that the BS Tax ". . . was the public policy equivalent of mad cow disease.". I think we need to know, is it that bad, is it true, is it worse?

I would like to suggest to my colleagues on this side of the House, to my colleagues on the other side of the House, I would like to say, let's get together, let's take this to a legitimate forum that has balance, consideration, reduce the point scoring, talk about it

[Page 3484]

together, get information, get what we need from the people that we can bring in and then let's make a reasonable, reasoned, intelligent decision that is beneficial to the people of this province. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[2:49 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[3:48 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: Are the whips satisfied? The motion is on the amendment, "That the words after 'that' be deleted and the following be substituted therefor: 'the subject matter of Bill No. 48 be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.'".

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[3:49 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Donahoe Mr. Barkhouse

Dr. Hamm Mr. Downe

Mr. Russell Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Moody Dr. Savage

Mr. Chisholm Mr. Gillis

Mr. Holm Ms. Jolly

Ms. O'Connell Mr. MacEachern

Mr. Archibald Mr. Harrison

Mr. Leefe Mr. O'Malley

Mr. McInnes Mr. M. MacDonald

Mr. Taylor Mr. Adams

Mr. MacLeod Mr. Lorraine

Mr. Carruthers

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Richards

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

[Page 3485]

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

THE CLERK: For, 12. Against, 28.

MR. SPEAKER: I would declare that the motion is carried in the negative. Now we will move to the main motion.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak again on Bill No. 48. Actually, I get the pleasure, I think, that you get when you are in a classroom and you have a bunch of people that you are trying to teach something and certainly this crowd has a lesson to learn and I do not know if it is coming through or not, but eventually I have some hope that they will finally realize the error of their ways and take Bill No. 48 and scrap it because that would be in concert with the wishes of the majority of the people of this province. No matter where you go in this province, from Meat Cove down to Yarmouth or from Amherst to the Eastern Shore, people will tell you the same thing, they do not want the BST.

I think we are finally getting to them, because last night we had the Premier get to his feet in the House and deliver a plea to the Opposition to please lay off the government and to accept what they are putting forward in the way of legislation to consummate this deal made with Prime Minister Chretien, in order to save his political skin in the next election by not having to talk about the GST, at lease in the Atlantic Provinces.

The federal government likes to tell us that one of the reasons they want to get the blended sales tax is because they want to keep their campaign promise to abolish the GST. It is surprising because you find that no matter what you read, whether it is put out by the provincial Department of Finance or by the federal Department of Finance, they are still talking about the GST. I think the first thing that you have to recognize and I think the first thing that the government has to recognize is that the GST is not going to disappear simply because they call it by a different set of initials; in fact, I would suggest that the connotation you get from the BS Tax is worse than what you got from the GS Tax.

[Page 3486]

Be that as it may, as I said a moment ago, the Premier has decided that he is going to have to do something in order to try and gain some credibility for his government and he rose to his feet last night and made a speech and then this morning - I do not know if you caught it, Madam Speaker, because I think you were, along with the rest of us, in this place at 8:00 a.m. - the Minister of Finance was on a radio station also trying to . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you listen to the radio all the time?

MR. RUSSELL: No, unfortunately, I do not listen to the radio all the time because I have a Minister of Community Services across the way who keeps yacking and I cannot hear the radio.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is too much static.

MR. RUSSELL: Much, too much static. I do not know what he does in his department, but whatever it is I wish he would go and do it. I really do. It would be a great pleasure to rise in this House and not have to listen to the Minister of Community Services. I guess every Party has an official heckler. I think what has happened in the Liberal Party is that when Premier Savage formed his Cabinet, he said well, I don't know what I am going to do with that fellow, what's-his-name, John MacEachern, but he said I need an official heckler so I will put him in and he can be the official heckler. We have the official heckler, the official hammer, we have the variable Minister of Health and of Finance and what have you. It is a great group they have over there trying to run this province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Kind of miss the big guy though.

MR. RUSSELL: Oh I know, I really miss the fact that the Government House Leader is not here. In fact, I expected that he would be back the next time I got on my feet because I have some remarks that I - well, this is about the bill, really, because (Interruptions) I thought that was an excellent cartoon this morning, Madam Speaker. I don't know if you saw the cartoon in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald but it was certainly an excellent cartoon. There was no doubt about who it was, it was fairly obvious.

So what did Premier Savage have to say last night when he spoke here? As I said last night when I spoke, I spoke on the amendment last night and I was saying at that time, because it was just after Premier Savage had announced that he was going to make this important speech in the House and everybody was on tenterhooks and in the House and sitting glued to their seats, waiting for the words from the Premier because we all expected that the Premier was going to have some announcement of substance to make, something that he would say that would reverse the fortunes of this government that he heads, something that would alleviate the concerns of the people who are going to be the recipients and, unfortunately, the bad recipients of these tax changes that are coming forward in Bill No. 48.

[Page 3487]

Now the Premier, when he started off, he gave a little bit of a motherhood speech in general all the way through. One of the first things he had to say, Madam Speaker, and this is a direct quote; "But what is hard to understand is why the Tories and the New Democrats have picked this particular issue on which to stake their political futures . . .".

Well, you know in truth, Madam Speaker, we didn't pick this issue; this issue came forward not from the Tories anyway, it came forward from the Liberal Government, this business of trying to bring the two taxes together. The reason that we are arguing against this tax and we will do so until we can finally get this government to back down on the imposition of this tax, is simply because it is a bad tax and it is bad, bad, for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. The taxpayers of Nova Scotia are telling this Party anyway, loudly and clearly, they do not want the tax and they expect us to do our job to convince the government that they should withdraw Bill No. 48. They do not want the blended sales tax.

Of course the question is, why don't the people of this province want the blended sales tax? Well, Madam Speaker, the reason is very simple, it is going to cost them money. By the government's own admission, it is going to cost them $84 million. That is what the government says. The Department of Finance tells us it is going to be $100 million. In fact, if we look at the numbers, Madam Speaker, and we look at the amount of flow-through that is going to occur from tax benefits, et cetera, to manufacturers and those in business, we can recognize that there is going to be way in excess of $100 million as a direct cost on the pocketbooks of Nova Scotians.

[4:00 p.m.]

The unfortunate thing, Madam Speaker, is that the impact of this tax is not going to fall on the wealthy, although they are going to contribute, but it is not going to impact on the wealthy the way that it will impact upon the middle-class, those who are earning a medium-sized income, those who are earning a low income, and those unfortunates among us who are on welfare and on some kind of social assistance. They are the people that are going to be adversely affected by this tax, simply because of the fact that this is a consumer tax on those products that people use every day.

It is a tax, Madam Speaker, on electricity. Everybody, I think, in this day and age, unless they live way out in the country somewhere and have their own generator, use electricity. If they don't use it to heat their houses or to heat their hot water, they still use it for lighting. Everybody uses electricity and everybody will pay the increased tax. Most people heat their homes with either fuel oil or with electricity or with propane. There are a few people that heat their homes in rural Nova Scotia with wood, and it is my understanding that wood now is also going to carry the blended sales tax, so no matter what you use to heat your home in this province, you are going to pay more for it after the imposition of this tax brought on by the minister who just walked in, the Minister of Finance. You are going to pay more to heat your home and there is no way in Nova Scotia that you can get by without heating

[Page 3488]

your home in the winter; that is a fact of life. Everybody has got to pay more to heat their home.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs is flapping his arms. I think he is trying to fly south for the winter. After April 2nd, Madam Speaker, you are going to have to go to work - at least most people are going to have to go to work - and most people go in some form of locomotion that is powered by either diesel fuel or gasoline, and both of those products are going to cost more on April 2nd. Most people get their hair cut, maybe once a month - some of them more, some of them less, depending on how much hair they have - haircuts are going to cost more. You can go on and on; laundry, dry-cleaning, what have you. All of those basic things that people do, that people want and need are going to cost more.

The Department of Finance just recently put out an advertisement which has been waved around in this House so much over the past couple of days that I will not do that, but, however, they put out an advertisement which cost something in the order of $75,000 to tell the people of Nova Scotia how great things were going to be because taxes are going to go down on this great big long list of items, where it is going to go up on this little tiny list of items, and it is not going to go up at all and not going to go down at all on another medium-sized list of items.

It is strange, Madam Speaker, when you look at that list and you read some of the things where supposedly there is not going to be any change, according to the Minister of Finance. You think to yourself, am I missing something here? For instance, rents. The Minister of Finance will say, we are not going to apply the tax to residential rents; they will not be applied. But the owner of the residence or that residential apartment or that house or whatever it is that a person is renting, maybe it is a condominium, whatever it is, it is going to cost more for the owner to provide services to the renter. What is the bottom line? The renter is going to pay more. The renter will not be paying more tax, but they will be paying more rent to pay the increased tax that the property owner is going to have to assume.

You can go on and on because this tax is going to trickle right through this economy, Madam Speaker, and rather than doing the things that the Minister of Finance tells us that this tax is going to do - in other words to make it simple for business because there is only one tax, because it is going to enable businesses to increase the size of their plants and it is going to encourage other businesses to move into the province, that it will create jobs - it is absolutely a pipedream. It is not going to happen. I do not think that the Minister of Finance or the Premier of this province or the ex-Minister of Finance, or anybody else in the front benches opposite, are a repository of all the knowledge and expertise in Canada. I think it is very obvious that in fact they are a pretty mediocre bunch.

[Page 3489]

The other provinces were all approached by the federal government with the same kind of plan. Nobody leaped to it except the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Just three small provinces. The last three provinces that should even be considering putting in place a tax system that is entirely different from the rest of Canada. The last three provinces that should be considering that. The three provinces that have ever since Confederation, unfortunately, gone down and down and down until today, in effect, we are getting something in the order of 40 per cent of our revenues in federal transfers.

We get over $1 billion a year in equalization payments. Equalization, by anybody's definition, is in effect welfare. We are being subsidized by the rest of Canada. When the rest of Canada does well and we are doing poorly, it does not really affect us too much because our equalization payments go up. Do we want to continue on in this way? I do not think we do. I do not think this government wants us to do that, but that is what they are doing. They are getting from the federal government $274 million, I believe, over a four year period to accept the blended sales tax and the $274 million is there to assure them that their revenues will remain approximately the same when the blended sales tax comes into place.

What happens at the end of the four years? Does the federal government come along with another cheque? You can bet your boots they will not. But the Minister of Finance says, do not worry. Do not let that worry your pretty little head. You have no problems at all because the blended sales tax is going to create a bonanza. We are going to have plants opening right, left and centre. We are going to have massive new employment. That is what they are telling the people of Nova Scotia, Madam Speaker, and it is not true.

As I said a moment ago, last night the Premier comes on stage and announces to the CBC that he is going to speak on this bill. As I said, we all expected big things of the Premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: Once again Nova Scotians were let down.

MR. RUSSELL: Nova Scotians were let down? Good heavens, that is only half of it. I am sure that when Nova Scotians read the BST remarks from Premier John Savage, they recognized full well the calibre of the Premier that they had. They were not highly impressed. I could read you some excerpts from this speech from Premier Savage (Interruptions) Well, quite frankly, he said nothing. All that he did was parrot the flim-flam that the ex-Minister of Finance fed us back in April when he was telling us what a wonderful plan he had for Nova Scotia, what wonderful things he was going to achieve with this blended sales tax. Of course, he didn't stick around in the Department of Finance long enough to take the flack; he asked the Premier if he could move over to the Department of Health, so the Premier moved him over. Minister Gillis has been left to clean this thing up.

Last night the Premier spoke and because the people of Nova Scotia were so disappointed with that speech, they were so perturbed that the Premier hadn't given them anything to relieve their fears of the blended sales tax, the Minister of Finance hoisted himself

[Page 3490]

down to CJCH where he was interviewed by John Biggs and Kelli Rickard, that was this morning at the radio station, I think. Anyway, no matter where it was, he was interviewed this morning and he came along and thought that perhaps he could embellish what the Premier had been saying to paint a better picture of the BST.

AN HON. MEMBER: How did he do?

MR. RUSSELL: He did terrible, just awful. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Now I didn't read any excerpts from the Premier's speech because the Premier is the Premier but this gentleman across the way is the Minister of Finance and he should know better. In fact, he used to be the Finance Critic in the Opposition. (Interruptions) You better believe it, he was critical all right. But unfortunately, he wasn't much better in Opposition then he is in government. One of these days (Interruptions) Would you get the Minister of Community Services back in the - he is a better heckler than he is . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Order please. Just try not to be too sidetracked, honourable member. I will call the members to order.

MR. RUSSELL: I don't want to get sidetracked either but I was going to say that one of these days what I would like to do is to take the House down memory lane and it is called Gillis Lane and how, when he was Critic of the Department of Finance and it is quite hilarious.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that when they used to call him skeleton? (Interruptions)

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, that is the time. I would just like to read a couple of excerpts from this and I would be very happy to table this. Mr. Biggs said to the Minister of Finance, "So the 84 million dollar question for you Mr. Gillis. Yesterday, in the Legislature Premier Savage said this tax is not going to cost taxpayers $84 million dollars more. It is going to save $100 million dollars. What do we base these figures on?

Mr. Gillis took a deep breath and said, "Well, I think what you have to do, is . . .", there is a pause, ". . . the 84 million, that would appear to be the extra taxes that will be paid on the one hand. There is going to be paid by consumers on certain items but, I think of 53 million in tax relief going against that.". I hope that all makes sense so far. "And then if there is any pass through at all . . .", I am glad that the Minister of Finance has finally decided that maybe there won't be any pass-through and we know what happens if there isn't any pass-through, these numbers that he gave us in his consumer impact (Interruptions) I am going to come back to that, don't worry, I am not going to leave it. The figures that they gave us showing all of these bonuses for every category for people who earn $0-$10,000, $10,000-$20,000 and so on, all showing a fabulous net saving from the implementation of the BST, those numbers all go down the tubes. So he thinks there might be a pass-through. Then he says, "And then if there is any pass through at all, you cut down the $84 million even if there is a

[Page 3491]

25% pass through for businesses, retailers, or otherwise, and there is a lot of others, construction companies and others, if they pass through their savings, will easily come up with a break even proposition.".

[4:15 p.m.]

What the minister is telling us is that this whole thing is based on his mind. He is thinking something might happen. Well, I am sorry, I said the other day there is only one brain over there and he was absent that day. The Minister of Finance, before he implements some change that is going to affect every taxpayer in Nova Scotia shouldn't be thinking that certain things might occur, he should be sure that they are going to occur because if he is not sure he should not be doing it. I would suggest to you, Madam Speaker, that some of these things that he is thinking are not going to happen.

There was another question here from Mr. Biggs, "There are lots of companies, though, that their not going to be able to pass through their savings because of the amount of money, in particular in retail businesses I should point out, because of the change over they are going to have to make in this tax structure and how they display the tax, etc.".

Mr. Gillis thought about that for a while and he said, "But on the pass through, there are other sectors in the economy like construction - it is estimated that the construction industry will save $100 million dollars a year because of their inputs, . . .", that is the input tax credits. ". . . all of their costs of doing business like their construction equipment they buy, their diesel, oil, gas, parts . . . all of these things, they will get all their taxes back and they will be much more competitive.".

Well, I would hope that they would get all of their taxes back because they are going to pay it where they haven't paid it in the past and they are going to get that extra 8 per cent that they are going to be paying back, well find and dandy. That paper that I had yesterday that I tabled for the minister explained. The construction industry says it is going to cost 5.8 per cent more to build a home after April 1, 1997. What a bunch of hooey.

Now we have Rickard who has a question for the minister. "Well, I heard this morning, I think it's well drillers who are upset because they're saying it's going to cost way too much for somebody to drill a well. What do you say to them?". We have had a number of questions about well drillers this morning and a number of comments during debate. This is what the minister had to say about that, Madam Speaker. This is about it is going to cost more to drill a well. Mr. Gillis: "Well, it's hard to say individually. Maybe they can charge the lower prices because . . . it may well be that the tax would go up for a job that they do but for all their equipment, they'll no longer pay provincial sales tax . . . no longer pay the cost of their trucks that they buy or lease, their gas and oil and all those things. So you know it's just one of those things.". That was the name of a song years ago, it is just one of those crazy things, and that is what this is.

[Page 3492]

The end result, Madam Speaker, when a consumer gets a well drilled after April 1, 1997 the consumer is going to pay more. Can you understand more? More money, more cost.

AN HON. MEMBER: You guys are still partners, are you?

MR. RUSSELL: I don't know what the member for Hants East is yapping about but whatever it is can't be very important. (Interruptions) Next time we have Question Period and we have questions on bingo we will know who to ask.

There is also another question where we get into this think business again. The question that was asked of the minister actually starts off very complimentary. Mr. Biggs says to Mr. Gillis, "You are a very respected member of the Legislature, you have been in government for many years. Everybody likes you, it seems.". I don't know if Mr. Biggs is watching this (Interruption) Sometimes. The people in Nova Scotia, I will tell you, Mr. Minister of Finance, at the present time are not very happy with you. Mr. Biggs goes on. "If you were . . . and I know it's tough there's a lot to be said for towing the party line here but if it were up to you to have introduced this tax in a different way, would you have gone to the public first the way they did in PEI?". A very sensible question. Would you have given the public a chance to take a look at this before you said we're just going to introduce it because that really has angered people . . . They're calling the government a dictatorship . . . Would you have done it any differently?". Well, what did Mr. Gillis have to say in response to that I wonder? Mr. Gillis said, "I don't think so . . . In PEI, they were right on the eve of the election . . .".

This government is pretty well on the eve of an election, too. Any right-minded government would serve four years and go to the polls next spring (Interruption) Well, I do not think so either. I think they are going to hang in there as long they possibly can. They like being in government, but their problem is they do not know how to operate as a government so that the people like them and that is their difficulty. (Interruption) I do not know if the Premier ever reads the polls, but my goodness. I have not seen a Premier down that low in the polls ever, I do not think, it is just terrible.

Mr. Gillis goes on and he talks in relation to public hearings and what have you, "But there will be Law Amendments hearing on the Bill, and I hope that everybody will be given a chance to be heard.". Well, I do too, and I hope all Nova Scotians do too. The unfortunate thing is that if you are living down in Yarmouth and you are working for the xyz company, you cannot go up to your boss on a Friday morning and say look, I just got a call from Halifax and I have to go up and appear for 15 minutes in the Committee on Law Amendments at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. Can I take the day off to go up to the Committee on Law Amendments? You know what the boss is going to say, sure, go out the door, here is a bonus - no way. If you want to take a day off work, fine, you do not get paid. You drive your car up, you drive at your own expense.

[Page 3493]

People in Yarmouth, Sydney, North Sydney and Amherst, all those people have the same commonality of interest in this tax because it is going to affect them. Everybody in this province is going to be affected and they just all cannot come down to the Committee on Law Amendments because most people just cannot take time off from work to come down. Secondly, it is a pretty expensive proposition to come down and the chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments says, well, you have 15 minutes, and away they go.

I do not think that the Committee on Law Amendments, as fine s committee as it is - it is a great committee, no argument - but I do not think that it replaces the requirement that this bill should have been vetted in public forums around this province and people given the opportunity to express their particular concerns with this basic change in taxation.

We had an amendment which we were debating a little while ago on this bill and the amendment was to refer this bill to a committee and the idea was that the committee would not set up somewhere down here in Halifax but that it would tour the province and afford all Nova Scotians an equal opportunity to come forward and give their opinions on this bill (Interruption). Well, I do not want to run through all the towns that you would go to, but they could go anywhere. (Interruption). You haven't got a copy of it? That is unfortunate. The Minister of Finance asked me for a copy of what he said at the radio station. Now that goes to show you the difference between the Minister of Finance and the Premier.

You see, the Premier has a gentleman that sits up in the top of the block opposite the road here at Government Place and he writes these things for the Premier. He gives them to him and says, Premier, stick to the script and don't vary it and I will make sure the media get all the copies. So the Premier just sits down and, bingo, everybody has got a copy of what the Premier has said, word for word. Not only that, it has already gone live to the CBC and he is on radio the moment he sits down. He has got a great PR organization.

We used to think that a former Premier, Mr. Regan, used to have a pretty good PR staff, but this guy has got Mr. Regan beat flat. He has got more flacks up there writing for him and handling him than Bill Clinton has, probably.

AN HON. MEMBER: You can see it has paid off, right?

MR. RUSSELL: Getting back to the Law Amendments Committee and Mr. Gillis's statement that there will be Law Amendments hearings on the bill and I hope that everybody will be given a chance to be heard. He then said, "We are going long hours but nobody has been cut off in terms of debate. So people will still have their say. And then the final decision will be made.". For the life of me, I do not know what he is talking about. Is he talking about that nobody is going to be cut off in Law Amendments Committee?

AN HON. MEMBER: Here.

[Page 3494]

MR. RUSSELL: Oh, here. Yes, well, of course. It is funny, he has not read the rules lately, or perhaps he has not checked with the Speaker, but, for instance, in Committee of the Whole House on Bills, as I remember it, we are limited now to 20 hours of debate. Once upon a time in Law Amendments Committee, Madam Speaker, when we had more democratic governments in this province, you could speak as long as you wanted - one hour at a time.

MADAM SPEAKER: Do you mean Committee of the Whole?

MR. RUSSELL: Committee of the Whole House, right on. (Interruption) Now we have the gentleman from Yarmouth, as well. You go back and look after your boat. (Interruption)

That is right. Madam Speaker, if that is not some form of closure, I don't know what is. Then, again, of course, we also have the present regime that we are operating under from 8:00 o'clock in the morning until midnight. I know that most people don't care if MLAs work 16 hours a day, but I can assure you my wife does and I am sure that your families do. The thing is that we are working under a form of closure. We are working 16 hours a day and we already have our hours for Monday and Tuesday. Lord knows what will happen on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday until this bill gets through and then we don't know what the rules are from then on anyway.

What really scares me is what happens in the Law Amendments Committee, because I think it is absolutely essential that any Nova Scotian that goes to the trouble of coming to the Law Amendments Committee, making an appointment to appear before the Law Amendments Committee, is accorded the opportunity to speak their mind. So, Madam Speaker, I don't know what the minister means when he speaks about long hours in the Law Amendments Committee. Is it the intention to start the Law Amendments Committee at 8:00 o'clock in the morning and sit until 12:00 o'clock at night? Is that their intention, to sit 16 hours a day in the Law Amendments Committee? I don't know and nobody else does and that is the problem because this government changes the rules every week. (Interruption)

We never changed the rules without the Committee on Assembly Matters coming up with a report to this Assembly. (Interruption)

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL: I don't want to stay with Mr. Gillis all that long because he is not that important in the scheme of things. I think it is the ex-Minister of Finance and the Premier who are stick-handling this, to be quite honest. I think that the present minister is just being shoved there and he is going to take the flack.

[Page 3495]

[4:30 p.m.]

There is one other thing that I do have to comment on, Madam Speaker, before I leave, that is he was talking about, Mr. Biggs was just closing off the conversation and he said, we appreciate your coming in, et cetera and he said, I have to wish you luck on this thing. So, Mr. Gillis, instead of keeping his mouth shut and saying well, thanks very much and getting the heck out of there, he keeps on babbling away and he starts talking about, ". . . if you happen to be in the low end of the income scale, you may have been paying income tax last year and in the future you may not be because the levels at which you pay are rising. You pay less, and you don't pay at all if you are on the lower end. And then there was a special program. So it's the total picture.".

He went on to say, then if we can get more people working, and this is the crew who came in in 1993, Madam Speaker, when we had in this province about 56,000 people, I think it was, unemployed at that time, or something like that. Anyway, whatever it was, they came in with a promise of jobs, jobs, jobs. I just got this a few minutes ago, as a matter of fact; this is the Statistics Division of the Department of Finance. It must be accurate because it comes from the minister's own department. What do we find for Nova Scotia? Well, first of all we look at November 1995 versus November 1996 and you compare all the areas across the province. It is divided into Halifax Metro, Cape Breton, North Shore, Annapolis Valley, Southern and Halifax and you look at the percentage change. Unemployment has gone up in every area in Nova Scotia in 1996, compared to 1995. If you went back to 1993, you would find something like the same thing.

Just a moment, I have some more here. Looking at the seasonally adjusted figures, Madam Speaker, and you can look at the actuals, there isn't much difference for Nova Scotia. You find that there are 6,000 more Nova Scotians unemployed this year in November, compared to November of 1995 - 6,000 more Nova Scotians unemployed - we find that the unemployment rate is up by 1.7 per cent. You just cannot have any faith in what this government says about job creation, so when the minister says that this tax is going to create jobs, well nobody believes that anyway. He is saying, ". . . then if we can get more people working, and if you have 3,000 more people working, especially young people and putting a pay cheque in their pocket and give them self esteem and let them be proud to be Nova Scotians - now I think that will be good.". Well, that would be very, very good, if it came to pass.

The minister himself now starts to express some doubts. He says, now I am not going to say that that will happen but I certainly am hoping that it will. He's hoping it will. As I said, Madam Speaker, why are we doing Bill No. 48? What is the benefit? Is it all based on thinking and hoping and maybe and perhaps? Where is the solid evidence that jobs will be created? Where is the solid evidence that Nova Scotian consumers will be better off? He hasn't got one scintilla of evidence that these things are going to happen. In fact, Madam Speaker, they are not going to happen because all we have to do is take this document, and

[Page 3496]

it is Table 6 from a document entitled Nova Scotia Tax Reform, Economic and Fiscal Analysis. On this document . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Could we get a copy of that, please?

MR. RUSSELL: Oh yes, would you make a copy, please?

Madam Speaker, we talk about the number of families in Nova Scotia. There are 466,000 families. We go across on this scale which is based on their family income, what the average sales tax increase would be according to the Department of Finance for each income group. Then they show a figure for average price decline - What a dreamer! - and then average PIT - that is personal income tax, for those who do not know what that is - a personal income tax decline.

The final column is the one we are supposed to look at that shows a net positive change for every group of Nova Scotians. It doesn't matter, as I said before, if you are earning zero to $10,000; $30,000 to $50,000; $50,000 to $80,000; $80,000 and above. Every group of Nova Scotians according to Table 6 will show a net increase in their financial circumstances. There is something in this that does not quite click. That is the average price decline. It is a big number compared to the average sales tax increase.

How did they find this tax decline? They said that the businesses in this province will take their BST or HST or whatever you want to call it. Actually they call it something else. They call it the CITCA tax. Some name for a tax. Anyway, they are taking that as a 50 per cent pass-through to the consumers. Even the most optimistic of businesses who are going, they think, to be better off, say that the maximum they would pass through is 25 per cent.

The majority are saying at the present time our margins are so slim that we cannot pass through 25 per cent. We cannot pass through 10 per cent. We cannot pass through 0 per cent. They will not be giving any breaks to the consumer. In point of fact, and this is important, the retail industry in Nova Scotia will tell you that they are going to have to include - when you take whatever income tax credits they have, even taking that into consideration - they will still have to increase prices over what they are today to compensate for the cost of accommodating this ridiculous tax. In other words, prices are going to go up. They are going to go up because of the costs of implementing Bill No. 48.

Do not forget, Madam Speaker, that we are not a large manufacturing province. Most of our people in this province are employed in service industries. We have a few small, very good businesses, but most people in this province are engaged in service type industries. It is going to impact on us very heavily because it is going to impact on the retailers.

How much time do I have left, Madam Speaker?

[Page 3497]

MADAM SPEAKER: You have until 4:52 p.m.

MR. RUSSELL: You must look at these numbers that the Department of Finance has been feeding this Legislature and the public of Nova Scotia as being suspect. Quite honestly, it is way out of whack, because even the Minister of Finance's Department says that the assumptions they used to get these numbers are incorrect. You would think that by now they would have a new table out. I would guess that probably the Premier and the Minister of Finance would not want that table to get out because if people are mad at the present time, they are going to be an awful lot angrier when they find out the true impact of the blended sales tax on their standard of living.

Now, Madam Speaker, we have an Act in Nova Scotia at the present time and it is called the Revenue Act, the short title I believe. Madam Speaker, you may well remember this Act because I think you sat in the Chair for a lot of debate on this particular bill, it was Bill No. 37 and it was assented to on January 11, 1996, the end of last year's session and this was a bill that revamped the entire sales tax regime in this province. When I say it revamped, it didn't change it like the blended sales tax, actually what it did was it streamlined the sales tax regime in this province and it looked after what used to be the Gasoline and Diesel Oil Fuel Tax Act and the Health Services Tax Act and the Tobacco Tax Act and other financial measures of the province.

The Minister of Finance at that time did something that was reasonably sensible. He brought these Acts together into one piece of legislation and he streamlined the system so that inspectors in the Department of Finance were inspectors, period, and they could inspect all of the different tax collections of the Department of Finance and this bill was some 50 pages long with about 100 clauses to it. Why, on January 11th, did the minister go to all this trouble to come out with a brand new piece of legislation for the Health Services Tax Act? Also, I might mention that on May 17, 1996, that is in the same present session that the Minister of Finance actually amended that Act and there we are. We did that, we have a perfectly good Health Services Tax Act, we have a perfectly good Department of Finance and what are we doing with this bill? We are advocating responsibility for our own tax collection under the Health Services Tax regime. In other words, the value-added tax or whatever you want to call it that we have in this province and every other province with the exception of Alberta has, we are saying we are going to give it away and we are going to give it to the feds, we are going to give it to the federal government and what does that mean?

First of all, that means that for instance for the next four years that this province is locked in to a 15 per cent blended sales tax (Interruption) I will call it the HST if you want, I don't care what I call it, it is a bad tax and that is why I prefer to call it the BST, it is a bad tax. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, the minister of roadways and other things doesn't obviously understand, he is another one of those over there that has listened to the former Minister of Finance, the minister of potholes, road and what have you, bridges falling down, doesn't recognize the fact that we are giving away to the federal government the right of this province

[Page 3498]

to do what we want with our own consumer sales tax. We can't reduce it, we can't increase it, we can't police it, we can't administer it, it is all gone to Ottawa. Why in Heaven's name would we do that? Why would we do it? It just addles your mind to even start to think about it. The consumers are very unhappy, the taxpayers of this province are unhappy, the businesses that originally said to the government, it is not bad if we get a few changes. Now they are unhappy because they haven't got the changes, the Opposition is unhappy, the only people that seem to be enamoured of this thing are the people that sit in the front two rows in this House. I will tell you, quite honestly, I have not spoken to one single person over the past two or three months that has said to me, my gosh, that BST is the greatest thing that ever came down the pipe, I have not heard that. But, boy, have I heard you have to stop that tax Ron, you have to get down there and tell the government that you do not want it and that we do not want it and to fire it along - get rid of it.

[4:45 p.m.]

Talking to my caucus. Our caucus gets out and talks to the people of Nova Scotia, the people that really count, the people that pay the taxes that support your government, that pays your salary, that is the people we talk to. We do not just go across and talk to Bob MacKay or talk to David Harrigan, we talk to the people in the Province of Nova Scotia and if you do not understand, if you do not want to listen to me, that is fine. You do not have to listen to me, you do not have to believe me, talk to the people and the people will tell you (Interruption). If the majority of the people tell you, yes, indeed it is the greatest thing since sliced bread, I say God bless you, go for it. I know they are not. They are going to tell you guys to go to the showers. You are on your way out, you are gone, you are dust - 5 minutes you are gone. (Interruption)

Well, you guys are in the shower, you are out of the ball game and the surprising thing is that you do not recognize it. I do not know if I want to bring in overheads and diagrams to prove it to you, but it is very easy, just go out and talk to the people. My Leader, the Leader of the Opposition has said that he is willing to take on the Premier in an open forum to discuss the BST. I hope the Premier takes him on.

In closing, I would like to move an amendment to this bill, I move that all the words after "that" be deleted and the following substituted:

"the existing provincial sales tax with respect to collection and administration remain the exclusive responsibility of the Government of Nova Scotia and that the rate be determined by a fair tax commission."

MR. SPEAKER: The House will recess for 5 minutes.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would like to argue that the particular amendment is out of order.

[Page 3499]

[4:49 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: The debate has recessed, who are you speaking to?

MR. MITCHELL: I am raising a point of order and I am asking for . . .

MR. SPEAKER: We will recess for 5 minutes. (Laughter)

[4:50 p.m. The House recessed.]

[5:03 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion that is before the House this afternoon is calling or proposing for a different system to be used in collecting this tax and also determining how much the tax is going to be. Therefore, this is an alternate scheme to the motion that is on the floor. This motion moved by the honourable member is not in order based upon the proposed format in the motion and is contrary to the bill that is before us in this House. Beauchesne, Page 200, Paragraph 670(2). "A reasoned amendment . . .", indicates, "(2) it may not propose an alternative scheme.". So the motion is out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, Rule 670, Section (2), the one which you are quoting may not propose an alternative scheme, I would suggest that perhaps Rule 670(1), "It must be declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy or provisions of the bill.", and it would seem to me that the amendment put forward would be appropriate in this particular amendment.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill No. 48 during Second Reading. I am however, disappointed but nonetheless I certainly do respect your ruling, but the fact is that the existing provincial sales tax with respect to collection and administration will be going to Ottawa for all intents and purposes and that is a shame. You know, over in Prince Edward Island when public consultations were held relative to the blended sales tax, many presenters expressed concern that the tax measures that Ottawa was proposing would certainly require the province to undertake measures to increase taxes because of the lost revenue. There was concern about tax measures that eventually would have to be undertaken by the province to replace lost revenue. A number of presenters also expressed concern about provincial autonomy. The existing provincial sales tax, not only in Prince Edward Island, but in Nova Scotia is a form of direct taxation over which the provincial Legislature has control.

[Page 3500]

Mr. Speaker and honourable members of this Legislature, we are losing control, we are giving up, not only our responsibility, we are giving up our ability to control the form of direct taxation. Under the harmonization proposal the federal government would determine the base of goods and services covered - and we understand that the GST will be used as the database - as well the rate of the provincial portion of the harmonized tax would only be adjusted in conjunction with the other Atlantic Provinces. So, we are certainly giving up some jurisdiction and I do not think that is a good idea. I think as responsible legislators we have to speak out against losing our provincial autonomy.

Some presenters expressed the view that under harmonization the province would be surrendering significant control over the most important revenue source and a potential tool for economic development. Doesn't this government have any concerns like the government in Prince Edward Island, the government of the day, the concerns they had over there? Some presenters suggested that certain sectors may even benefit if the province chose not to harmonize its sales tax. Prince Edward Island was very concerned that they were giving up provincial autonomy and we should, as well, be concerned here in Nova Scotia.

Over the past couple of days, the Opposition has put forward a number of concerns and a number of questions that Nova Scotians have. We talked about the Premier being in Toronto trying to sell the blended sales tax, he tried to tell Torontonians and Ontarians about the Atlantic Advantage. We pointed out that, during Question Period, when we asked the Premier direct questions about the BS Tax he said, do not ask me, ask the Minister of Finance, I haven't got the answers. Again, it bears repeating, what was the Premier, the First Minister of this province, doing up in Toronto trying to sell something that he knew nothing about?

Nobody questions that fundamentally we are altering the tax regime in this province. We are not only altering the tax regime today, we are altering the tax regime forever and a day.

We talked about economic studies that other provinces have done. Mr. Speaker, I know that from time to time you hear comments repeated but I do have some new information here that I am sure you will be very enlightened to hear. The information comes from the Saint John Board of Trade, the port city across the Bay of Fundy, over in the beautiful Province of New Brunswick.

Now, "The Saint John Board of Trade says that tax-included pricing will lead to higher consumer prices, poorer merchandise selection, fewer job opportunities, and will deter retail business from setting up in the region, and may drive consumers back across the U.S. border.". That is the Saint John Board of Trade. They believe that the blended sales tax arrangement is largely politically motivated.

[Page 3501]

They go on further, Mr. Speaker, to state that, "'At a time when governments are claiming to be simplifying life for small businesses, tax-included pricing directly contradicts their stated objectives. There is no substantive business reason to go this route, and our objections to both provincial and federal finance officials have been ignored,' says Robert McVicar, Chairman of the Board's Retail Task Force, and Gary Smith, a member of the Board's Executive Committee.". So, Mr. Speaker, we are finding out that not everything is hunky-dory over in the beautiful Province of New Brunswick, relative to this tax either.

I know we have a lot of similarities and likenesses, relative to New Brunswick and regarding Prince Edward Island also, Mr. Speaker. "Retail members of the Board report that the cost of reticketing goods, (including those they received from national distributors already pre-priced), together with the cost of retooling their cash register and computer inventory systems will cost them more than the savings they will get from . . .", the much talked about input tax credits. So the input tax credits are not the be all and end all to businesses. In fact, businesses have some very real concerns about input tax credits.

Mr. Speaker, as I have stated, over the last several hours, you have heard many arguments put forward by the Opposition relative to this deal. What we are trying to do is bring the concerns of everyday Nova Scotians to the floor of this Legislature. We have stated that a national harmonization may be, just may be, more desirable, more palatable. We have talked about school supplies going up; we have talked about rent. We all know that thousands of Nova Scotians rent and know that the BST cannot be applied directly to rent but landlords will indirectly have no other alternative but to add their additional costs on to the costs of rents. So renters and tenants are going to be adversely affected.

The taxi business in Nova Scotia is tough, at best. The taxi owners and operators are expressing concern about having to charge the additional BS Tax, Mr. Speaker. We spoke in support of jacking this bill up for six months, setting it on a shelf, hoisting the bill. We spoke and we put forward reasons, we feel well-founded and well-based reasons, as to why the bill should have been hoisted.

Mr. Speaker, I have expressed and members in other jurisdictions have expressed their concern that the BS Tax has the potential to be a real job-killer. The government told us that there will be no more taxing of tax. I pointed out and even the Minister of Community Services could not refute the fact that the BST will be applied to the price of fuel, gasoline and diesel oil. Well the provincial tax on gasoline and fuel oil is 15.4 cents; the excise tax, the federal tax on diesel fuel is 4 cents per litre and the excise tax on gasoline is 10 cents per litre. We do know, from the language in the bill and from the legislation, that this government is going to be taxing a tax, because you are going to be taxing gasoline, diesel fuel and aviation fuel for local flights. So don't mislead Nova Scotians into believing that you are not going to be taxing a tax and don't mislead Nova Scotians into believing that you are somehow abolishing, in cooperation with Jean Chretien, the GST because that is just a bunch of nonsense.

[Page 3502]

[5:15 p.m.]

We talked about the bill itself, Bill No. 48. It is a seven page document. It is paltry, it is deficient at best. Of course, we know what the principle is, but we find that there is a penalty in there whereby if you contravene the tax-inclusive price requirement you could be subject to a fine of between $100 and $5,000 or sent to jail for 30 days.

We have asked this government time and time again, why should Nova Scotia support this legislation? I have to be honest, I haven't heard one good reason why Nova Scotia should support this legislation, not one based on some sound, factual rationale. We have asked what the urgency was. This government came in with a resolution to extend the hours. We don't quite understand what the rationale for that measure is but the very busy Government House Leader brought in the resolution and brought in the hammer and we know since he did that, he has been very, very busy.

The Premier gave us a little discourse last night. He was trying to extol the virtues of the bill. He was telling us we should all work together and then he took to criticizing the Opposition Parties. He called us all kinds of arrogant names. I believe what the Premier is really trying to do is work his way down into the single digits. He hasn't reached the single digits yet in popularity. If he keeps on getting up in the House and making speeches, he will find his way down to single digits.

The government does have the right. What we are asking relative to the bill is, what agenda is this government on? We can appreciate the fact that the hours have been extended to rush this bill through and jam it, drive it, shove it, do whatever they can, ramrod it down the throats of Nova Scotians. We know that the House adjourns in the dark around midnight or whatever and I can understand government members wanting to move around in the dark. I can appreciate that, some of them are in the dark anyway.

AN HON. MEMBER: Reptiles usually do that, don't they?

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, they do so. I am not saying I won't call them that someday but not tonight.

People have called it law by fatigue and legislation by exhaustion and things of that nature, but we know what the government is all about. They say, we are not lessening or we are not limiting the hours of debate. No, they are not doing that. The government reminds me a little bit of a company I used to work for. They just couldn't get the freight from Point A to Point B fast enough. This government, by extending their hours, are trying to get from Point A to Point B quite quickly also. When you had a load of freight on going from Halifax to Toronto, if you could do it in 20 hours that was fine, but it didn't shorten the distance any. No, but it certainly made it more difficult for you physically and mentally to complete your task. This is what this government is all about; that is what they are trying to do.

[Page 3503]

AN HON. MEMBER: What kind of risks do you run when you do that?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, you run a lot of risk when you are doing that. It is very, very risky. The truckers, by the way, are now legislated by the National Transportation Safety Code.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, back to the legislation. If this legislation is so great, if it is so good, so hunky-dory, so sweet . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Put it on the truck and send it to Toronto.

MR. TAYLOR: The Premier tried to take it to Toronto, (Interruption) why didn't this government consult with Nova Scotians? If it is that great, that wonderful, why didn't this government go to the people of Nova Scotia like the Prince Edward Island Government did?

AN HON. MEMBER: Like they did with the GST.

MR. TAYLOR: I am going to get to the GST and I will pick up a document and I will tell the honourable member for Yarmouth how many times the document, relative to the BS Tax, represents a fact that the GST is still in the price. It is in the booklets, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: We didn't bring it in, you guys did.

MR. TAYLOR: No, and you did not extend the ferry service, and you didn't shut down Air Nova and you didn't do this and you didn't do that, Mr. Speaker, and now, Jean Chretien's promise. This is really an excise tax, a value-added tax. There will be a time, the day of reckoning has to come along; sometime down the line, it will come along. Right now the government does not have the courage and it does not have the conviction to go to the people and it does not have that wherewithal, but this bill has very serious consequences for many Nova Scotians.

Most governments, based on past, based on tradition, based on history, would go to the people of the province and say, look. We are changing. We are altering the tax regime in this province and it is a major change. It is changing the tax landscape in this province. Most governments would have the courage to go to the people and issue the writ. Most people will, but the Premier of this province, who is trying to work his way down into the single digits, has not got the courage to go to the people of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. What we have done is we have given Ottawa our capacity, if you will, to be an independent Legislature. That should hurt all honourable members in this House. When you look at it, we are giving Ottawa our capacity to be independent legislators. Does this government care? Apparently not.

[Page 3504]

Every member of the Savage Government, who is not a member of the Treasury benches, by not standing up to your government, by not standing up to the front benches, you are giving up your responsibility to your constituencies. I will make that charge. I will make that claim, that allegation right now. (Interruption) Wasn't that when the Liberal Opposition filibustered for three and one-half weeks? (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, just a little piece of history that is very relevant. Opposition Leader, Gerald Regan, on April 2, 1969, filibustered for 15 hours. It is a little bit like tonight. You are not getting up to speak are you? You are sitting down and having lots to say. (Interruption)

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

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, what cost-benefit analyses are available for public consumption. The government talks about having little studies here, little studies there. They have consulted. They did this and they have done that, but where are the consultation studies? I indicated to the honourable member for Yarmouth, relative to this bill, Towards Replacing the GST, that there are many references to the fact that the GST is only being glazed over a little bit. The GST will still apply. There is no question about that. We are not completely sure, and I do not believe any honourable member is. Perhaps the Minister of Finance has a little more information than the rest of us, but when we are talking about clarifying I am extremely concerned about these input tax credits, because, businesses, I think, have been a little bit led down the garden path. Under existing federal sales tax rules, registrants are able to claim input tax credits for federal tax sales tax paid on property or services acquired for use or supply in the course of commercial activity, whether or not that activity involves the making of supplies. Now, it is proposed to clarify that persons whose activities do not involve the making of supplies are not entitled to claim input tax credits. That has to be clarified. Page 90, for the honourable members or for any honourable member who does not have the document, Towards Replacing the Goods and Services Tax.

Then, in the same document we can go to Page 49 because many members, in fact the Minister of Transportation and Public Works tells me that the input tax credit initiative is going to be great. It is going to be good for these long-haul truckers; that is what the Minister of Transportation is telling me. I would suggest that he is telling everyday Nova Scotians the same thing.

Did you now, Mr. Speaker, that long-haul truckers and the trucking industry have an arrangement called the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement? The purpose of the existing Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement is to minimize the multiple application of provincial resale taxes on commercial motor vehicles operated in more than one province. Under this arrangement, certain carriers determine their provincial retail sales tax liabilities in respect of certain equipment and certain repairs. Since provincial retail sales tax must be paid to each province where the carrier operates, the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement requires

[Page 3505]

carriers to pay provincial retail sales tax on a prorated basis to the provinces that apply retail sales tax; it is based on the percentage of distance travelled in those provinces.

The point I am making, Mr. Speaker, is that sure, you can go out and buy a unit, but if you are prorated and travelling in other jurisdictions, a percentage of that BS Tax must go to those other provinces. You do not get to pocket the blended sales tax through these input tax credits. So initiatives and concerns and issues like that have really got to be clarified.

I suspect - and I hope I am not being overly presumptuous - but I suspect that different members are telling constituents of theirs that these input tax credits are the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. It is just not so. Businesses, licensed under the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement, that purchase motor vehicles, trailers and repair parts in a participating province will be required to pay tax at the BST rate; if they are registrants for the tax, they will be entitled to claim an input tax credit to the extent of the conveyance's use in their commercial activities. Further, they will be required, pursuant to the Interprovincial Sales Tax Arrangement, to remit provincial retail sales tax to non-participating provinces. So, tell me, how is this going to benefit the trucking industry when you have to give your input tax credits up to other jurisdictions? It is based on the percentage of distance travelled in the non-participating provinces; a point, Mr. Speaker, that must be further clarified.

I think it is time for every person in here to look in the mirror. I am certain that every legislator, including myself, told their constituents that they would try to be as accountable as is physically possible. You have to ask yourselves, are you really being accountable to your constituents by supporting legislation that is not supported by the taxpayers of this province? This legislation is not supported by the taxpayers of this province, Mr. Speaker.

We know that somewhere along the line, somebody from the Department of Transportation and Public Works sent out a survey to the trucking industry. Well, what about this trucking industry study? When is the information going to be received and is the minister, for example, going to table some of his findings with this House so we will have at least some data. At least the minister or somebody from his office, I think it was Mr. Colwell, somebody had the wherewithal, had the courage and had the intelligence to go the trucking industry and ask them how much their costs are going to increase under the BS Tax.

[5:30 p.m.]

Seniors have given so much to this province. Many of our seniors are on fixed incomes. This government, as you would probably know, cancelled the property tax rebate for any new senior. I know that sounds like a oxymoron, any new senior, it sounds a little bit like a contradiction, but the fact is, if a senior turned 65 after May, 1995, they are not eligible for the property tax rebate. That creates an inequity among the senior community. You could be living beside a senior who is receiving it and your incomes could be identical and if for some

[Page 3506]

reason you are receiving the property tax rebate, pre-1995, and your income changed, you cashed an RRSP, you cannot be reinstated. You can never, for a day, unless this government changes regulation, you cannot and that is very unfair to our seniors.

Our seniors have been hit with the Pharmacare premium. Our seniors have been hit with an increase, not an increase, but an outright fee for fishing licenses, they are taxing the seniors. Is home care going to be taxed the BS rate? I would expect and suspect that it will be. Bus trips - I know the honourable for Sackville-Beaverbank really cares about his seniors and what we are hearing, bus trips. A lot of our seniors do not have vehicles, they cannot afford automobiles, but from time to time they will take trips, they will go on excursions. Some of the seniors in my constituency will travel down to Halifax, they will travel to Peggys Cove, they will travel to senior gatherings and now we are going to tax the fare for the bus trip. Seniors are very easy targets. We are extremely concerned that the seniors are being treated very unfairly.

I mentioned a littler earlier that the well drillers are very concerned in this province because the government is deciding to tax water. I will not discuss that at any great length because I raised concerns on behalf of the Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association. The chambers of commerce across this province are very concerned about this tax. In fact, the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce said that they could accept this tax-included pricing concept if it were national or even if it were close to being national. However, with only $2 million-plus people out of 30 million Canadians, it sure will affect the desire of major manufacturers, distributors and chains to do business with us. The Truro and District Chamber of Commerce is voicing its concern on the BS Tax.

Now I do not know how many members have heard from constituents who are concerned about this tax. We have heard from hundreds and hundreds of Nova Scotians. We have tabled petitions with over 13,000 names. Our Leader John Hamm went to Nova Scotians and asked them to help him stop this regressive tax and hundreds of Nova Scotians from every constituency in Nova Scotia sent in the little questionnaires and filled them out and said, we will be pleased to help you stop this regressive tax. Every family in Nova Scotia is going to be negatively impacted and affected by this tax.

Now the Premier got up last night when he was working on getting himself into single digits, as far as his popularity goes. He got up and told us what a great tax this was and he encouraged businesses to come out of the woodwork and support the BS Tax. He said he felt he was hearing from Nova Scotians who were dissatisfied with the tax but he encouraged businesses to come out in support, advocate on behalf of the tax. Do you know what? We haven't heard from one business. Not one business phoned us today and said listen, you guys down at the Legislature had better be quiet, the Premier is telling us to come out of the woodwork and support this tax, but nobody is calling and saying, listen you guys, you got it all wrong.

[Page 3507]

I wonder, is anybody calling the Premier's 1-800 line and saying, Mr. Premier, you have it backwards; you go to the people first when you make a major change that affects public policy and alters the taxing regime in this province. When you come in with major public policy like this, you should go to the people, if you have the courage. The Premier should go to the people and look for his support in a vote, Mr. Speaker. That is what the Premier should do. He won't consult with them. Does the Premier know that based on a very conservative estimate of 40 litres a week per family, with one car, it will cost an additional $85 a year. That is quite a modest number of litres for a week, 40 litres, so we are being kind to the government but the government is not being very kind to the people in Nova Scotia. The government will generate an additional $14.9 million in taxes on residential home heating oil and $15 million in additional electricity taxes - $30 million just like that, without even blinking an eye. Nova Scotians are now paying $63 million in gasoline taxes annually; this will skyrocket to $104 million with the BS Tax. Those are very disturbing figures.

Now why doesn't this government try to do something? You know I could support this government if they came in with an initiative that would reduce the government's take of the people's wages. Why doesn't this government try to come in with some initiative like that, instead of coming out with tire taxes and thirst taxes and tolls and casinos and all those kinds of initiatives? Why doesn't this government really reduce the government's take of the people's wages? (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the studies conclude, and we only have studies that were worked up by other jurisdictions, studies where the Government of Prince Edward Island went to the people and conclude that low to middle income people will suffer disproportionately. So how can you tell me that you are increasing the government's take, the government's wage? What you are doing is putting your hands in the very pocket of the people. That is what you are doing.

Why don't you do something to reduce the government's take of the people's wages? Businesses in Prince Edward Island, very respected businesses, asserted (Interruptions) My plan would be to tear this thing right in two, throw it away. That would be my plan, no BST, period. That is the plan, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

Well, Mr. Speaker, let's look at why we are. Now the federal government, the Jean Chretien Government, went to . . .

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

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, public opinion is civilization's most powerful currency. The vote, Mr. Premier, will give the people an opportunity to represent that expression, their public opinion. You won't give it to them. Public opinion is civilization's most powerful currency and when this government gets the courage, gets the conviction, goes to the people, the vote will give them an opportunity to express the concerns that we have.

[Page 3508]

Mr. Speaker, we know full well that the federal government before the October 1993 election promised to abolish the GST. Now we have to talk a little bit about process here. The federal government, the Jean Chretien Government, went to the people and they told the people that they would abolish, cancel, eliminate the GST. Subsequent to the election, the government worked up this BST proposal and they went to every province and the territories and submitted the proposal to the appropriate people. Only three provinces came back and accepted this deal, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. What this government in Nova Scotia did was kowtow and grovel to the Chretien Government, that is what you did. You grovelled all the way to the federal government.

The Jean Chretien Government had no intention - they found out, oh gosh, look at the revenues from GST, we can't eliminate this. Let's sugarcoat it up, let's try to call it something it isn't. You know what they did? They dangled out some hush money, they dangled out a bribe, they dangled out an inducement, a pay-off to the Nova Scotia Government, to the Premier, to the former Finance Minister. They dangled out some hush money so, oh gosh, we can balance the budget, they are helping us. This government fell for the bribe.

AN HON. MEMBER: What's a bribe? What's your definition?

MR. TAYLOR: The minister of the potholes on the information highway wants to know what the definition of a bribe is. That honourable gentleman is a minister of one of the Treasury Benches. I would suggest that he . . .

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member would entertain a question. When the honourable member says that there are only three provinces that have merged their provincial and federal sales tax, is he aware that the second largest province in population and perhaps the largest - the second largest maybe - in geography, Quebec, has already merged their two taxes? I wonder if the member is already aware of that.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the honourable member for Hants East. He was trying to heckle that in from over on the side but he did it in an appropriate form. Yes, I am aware, but is the honourable member for Hants East aware that Quebec also maintains control and can raise, lower, do whatever they want, they still maintain provincial autonomy? Quebec did not buy into this deal. Obviously, if they had an arrangement whereby the taxes were merged, they probably wouldn't be too interested.

Mr. Speaker, this government is not going to go to the people. I am convinced after a few hours in this House raising some concerns on behalf of everyday Nova Scotians that they are just not going to go to the people.

[Page 3509]

[5:45 p.m.]

I believe that rental accommodations will see a substantial cost increase because the landlord can't absorb these costs. That has been mentioned, I am sure, a few times, Madam Speaker, but renters and tenants and landlords are all taxpayers. If one happens to be flying locally within Canada and if your flight originates in a participating province, you must pay the 15 per cent. Now I am sure that the blended sales tax will be a disincentive to the airline industry. We have Air Canada, Canadian Air and Air Nova that flies out of here already. Do you suppose that Air Nova's announcement that they are withdrawing service from Yarmouth to Boston has anything to do with the BS Tax? It just may have a little bit to do with it.

Madam Speaker, because I know you like new material and sometimes different speakers make the same comments, I have several documents here that I am sure you have never heard before. One of them is from the Saint John Board of Trade, that highly respected organization from a sister province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Table the document.

MR. TAYLOR: Table the document? That is a document, Madam Speaker. It should be tabled, I agree.

AN HON. MEMBER: Only if he reads from it.

MR. TAYLOR: There is no difficulty. They should read this because, "The Saint John Board of Trade says that tax-included pricing will lead to higher consumer prices, poorer merchandise selection, fewer job opportunities, will deter retail businesses from setting up in the region, and may drive consumers back across the U.S. border.". (Interruption) I don't want to read a lot from that document, but I will share that document with the honourable member, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker, they want me to read a couple more sentences. "This appears to be largely politically motivated.", that is what the New Brunswick Government is saying. In fact, they are saying at a time when governments are claiming to be simplifying life for small businesses, tax included prices directly contradicts their stated objective.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?

MR. TAYLOR: This is the Saint John Board of Trade, a port city from a sister province, just across the Bay of Fundy, with a lot of similarities, likenesses, things of that nature. I think, Madam Speaker, we are going to find out that a lot of the chambers of commerce and boards of trade, highly respected organizations are going to come out, I believe, against this. The Premier asked people to come out in support, but nobody is coming out in support of this tax and why would they?

[Page 3510]

Madam Speaker, would the Minister of Finance - and I know he is a very busy man - acknowledge that when the GST was introduced and all those promised savings in relation to pass-through, you know this talk about pass-throughs. The minister and the Premier tell us 25 per cent will pass through. Well, do you know what? It never occurred relative to the GS Tax. (Interruption) Has the minister's department analyzed the impact - the Leader of the Third Party is trying to be helpful - the GST has had on consumer spending? (Interruption) Interprovincial tax arrangement, the underground economy. Can the minister indicate if his department, or any department of government, did any studies to determine the impact of the new BS Tax and what that impact will be? If so, will the minister table some studies? Will the Premier table some studies that this government has done relative to the BS Tax? Surely there is some cost-benefit analysis, there has to be. My goodness, you are fundamentally altering the tax regime in this province.

Now I have a letter here from a constituent of The Hammer, Madam Speaker, a letter from a constituent from Richmond County.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, the Hammer's riding.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Must be the only Tory there.

MR. TAYLOR: Now the Premier thinks that only Tories are against the blended sales tax. Does he think the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce is only Tories? The Saint John Board of Trade is only Tories? The Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association is only Tories? He hasn't even heard tell of, does the Premier not drink water?

It could be a good friend of yours, too, Madam Speaker, a constituent. We have hundreds and hundreds of letters. Now the Premier tells us that they are all from Tories, but I will tell you that many of the letters we received relative to Dr. John Hamm's request to help kill the BS Tax, many make the notation, many write "former Liberal".

Now, "Members of the PC caucus, your objections to the blended sales tax is being watched by all Nova Scotians who believe that this government has failed to consult with the people. Nova Scotians want a fair and understanding government that will provide them with honesty and compassion. The tax grab that this legislation will provide indicates the depth to which this government will go to get their own way.".

Does the Premier want me to read more? Yes? Okay. "Since the beginning of this government it has showed a lack of commitment to the people of this province. Vital services have been destroyed under the guise of protection from the deficit. This government will not stop at anything to achieve their agenda and does not mind hammering the ordinary people of Nova Scotia by destroying their way of life.". This government is out to destroy our Nova Scotian way of life, so the letter says. "As a Nova Scotian, I urge you and your colleagues to

[Page 3511]

continue the fight. Sooner or later the vast majority of the people of Nova Scotia will use their hammer . . .".

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The honourable member just tabled a document in this House from the Saint John Board of Trade which, he has argued very aggressively, opposes this bill on harmonization. He said that, and he quoted extensively, but he failed to quote the last paragraph because it said, "Mr. McVicar says that, in principle, the Board has supported the concept of harmonization, as it will reduce administrative costs for business and the overall tax rate for consumers.". But, ". . . it is totally unnecessary . . .", to do the tax-in pricing.

Now the honourable member is proposing that they are against this act of harmonization. The very document that he tabled indicates that he might be misleading this House, so I will give him a few moments to correct that, because they support harmonization but are concerned about the tax-included pricing.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to rule on the point of order. I think a dispute between two members is not a point of order, it is a point of clarification and that is the problem we get when we read part of a letter into the record.

MR. TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, some honourable members asked me to table the document. I read from the document and I tabled the document. Here is a statement from a letter that I will table, and I don't think it is ambiguous at all. Listen to this. "As a Nova Scotian, I urge you and your colleagues to continue the fight. Sooner or later the vast majority of the people of Nova Scotia will use their hammer to nail shut the coffin of this Liberal Government.". Now she didn't say the political coffin, but I understand that is what she means, so they are telling us to keep up the fight, Madam Speaker.

Now, Madam Speaker, a number of items are going to remain exempt. Let's not fool anybody. We realize that groceries and prescription drugs, tuition fees, medical devices, things of that nature, are going to remain tax exempt. (Interruptions)

Let's talk a little bit about the taxes that are increasing. Electricity, clothing and footwear under $100, textbooks, books and newspapers, fuel oil and other fuel, gasoline, water. Water is a necessity of life. How low can you go? Many young people (Interruptions) Yes, I know the President of the Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association and the Minister of the Environment, I do not know if he attended a meeting today with the President of the Well Drillers of Nova Scotia, but the President of the Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association took time to come down to Halifax today. He went down on Terminal Road to meet with the Department of the Environment over business related matters and things of that nature. He respects the Department of the Environment and we would never dispute that. He told me - now, every time I bring this up with the member for Preston and the Minister of the Environment, he tells me that I am really not telling the truth. He tells me that we are not

[Page 3512]

being honest, but I am telling you, Madam Speaker, that the President of the Nova Scotia Well Drillers Association told me that the Minister of the Environment said that he would request that the federal government exempt water from the blended sales tax. That is what the president told me. Now the minister is telling me that that is not true.

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I think that the honourable member should really get his information accurate. I think that the Well Drillers even put in writing what I said and it had nothing to do with the federal government. I think he should be accurate with his accusations if he cannot be accurate with the facts.

MADAM SPEAKER: Again, this is a dispute between two members and a point of clarification but not a point of order.

MR. TAYLOR: There is an old saying that essentially goes something like this. Many might have obtained wisdom had they not thought that they already had it. (Interruptions) Well, many Nova Scotians are concerned about this tax. (Interruptions) Well, today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday and many Nova Scotians are coming to believe that. (Interruptions) Help John Hamm stop the BST. Hundreds and hundreds of Nova Scotians, Madam Speaker, (Interruptions) Would you like me to table this, Madam Speaker? Higher rents, higher electricity, home heating oil, higher gas prices, higher property taxes, higher costs for everything, so . . .

HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Point of order, Madam Speaker. The honourable member has on numerous occasions throughout his speech indicated that he has hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of responses to his Leader's document, which in my view constitute a cited document and therefore should be tabled. So I would ask him to bring in his hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of documents and table them, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: Again, that is not a point of order. That is an interesting point, but it is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley in the remaining 15 seconds.

MR. TAYLOR: Perhaps I could ask that honourable minister a question. If we were to sort the responses relative to the respective constituencies, would the members table them as petitions? Madam Speaker, I would adjourn debate now that we have. . .

[Page 3513]

MADAM SPEAKER: It is not necessary to adjourn debate. We have reached the moment of interruption. The Adjournment motion this evening was submitted by the member for Queens. I understand the member for Kings West is debating on his behalf. The motion to be debated is:

[Therefore be it resolved that this government stop and listen to the very serious fears and concerns of Nova Scotians with regard to our health care system which, although the accusation is denied by the Premier, has been wounded by Savage Government cuts.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - CARE: CONCERNS - LISTEN

MR. GEORGE MOODY: It is a pleasure for me to rise in the late show debate. In the late show debate I want to raise some concerns regarding health care.

[6:00 p.m.]

The government has said that we lash out, I know the Premier has said that the Opposition and health care workers in this province are fear-mongering when it comes to health care. He says it is about all the workers, whether it be the doctors, the nurses, or patients and the Premier sort of accuses them and the Opposition, saying all of that is absolute nonsense. In other words, everything in health care is wonderful.

I rise tonight in the late show debate because I feel it is important that many people - and I will never be able to talk about all of those who call our office, or write our office, or call me as Health Critic, or write me as Health Critic but I feel obligated to talk about some of the cases that obviously come before me.

The government at one point announced an extended Home Care Program. Then they heard Mr. Boudreau talk about additional money for home care. What nobody could figure out in this province, including myself and many others, that once they announced the additional money for home care, they actually cut back home care and that was what upset many people in this province.

When the government announced the Home Care Program and you probably remember this very well, Madam Speaker, because you may have heard the Premier at that particular time sort of indicate that it is going to have the capacity to bring in 1,000 new clients a month and it would ease the problem that we have had in health care because of the bed closures that

[Page 3514]

have taken place all across the province. For a moment, even I thought that maybe the Premier for once was making an announcement that would come true. Actually, what happened wasn't what the Premier said would actually happen and I am going to demonstrate that in a particular case.

The Premier said at the time that everyone was going to win, the patient, the government and the taxpayer, it was sort of like the BST, win/win/win. Well ever since that announcement it has been lose/lose/lose. The letters that I have been getting and that our office have been getting are running a close second to the BST.

I want to talk about a lady who wanted me to raise her issue and has given me permission to raise her name in the Legislature and to raise her name publicly and it is difficult for people to say, I don't mind going public about an experience I have had with the system in this province, it takes a lot for one to do that. She cares enough because she really feels strongly that if somebody knew the problems in this system that maybe some corrections could be made.

Her name is Anna Waters and she went for a mammogram - now she never heard a thing and I guess we are all the same, when we go and have tests we assume that no news is good news. I am sure you have experienced that in going to your physician or going for tests, that if you don't get test results back you assume that you need not worry or you would hear almost immediately - and it wasn't until six months later that she did hear and she was admitted to hospital for a mastectomy. There is no question that she was pretty shocked to find out that six months later she was going to get a call and then immediately end up in hospital. So much for early detection which we know is so important. It was detected early, no question but it was six months later before she got the call to go for a mastectomy.

She was admitted on a Thursday and released on Saturday morning. She went home sick, with drainage tubes. You know, Madam Speaker, Anna Waters is probably like a lot of other seniors in the province. They may or may not have heard about the Premier's wonderful Home Care Program. Nobody told Anna Waters when she was released on Saturday that she could have home care even though it was the weekend. That seems to be, in my experience, the most difficult time for people to get home care in the province. If you happen to get released from the hospital on the weekend, that is the difficult time because no one comes out to assess you until you get home care. She became so desperate alone with no help that she had to get her daughter to canvass the neighbourhood for a doctor or a nurse to assist her with her tubes and bandages. Can you imagine? She was not able to take care of herself. She was home alone. She had to call and get her daughter, who lives some distance away, to find out whether a doctor or a nurse could come and assist her. She was sent home 48 hours after a major surgery with not a word about home care.

[Page 3515]

Madam Speaker, Nova Scotians were led to believe that the reason we have home care is to alleviate the problems we have with early discharge. We were told that part of the rationale for this Home Care Program was that if people were sent home early, like Anna Waters, that there would be home care available to her because we only have a few beds and so we need that bed for somebody else. Anna Waters could have accepted that if the home care had been available.

I know I am going to run out of time. I was going through, Madam Speaker - and I know that the Premier remembers this - notes from Premier John Savage, Home Care Nova Scotia, June 13, 1995. I can table it, but it is available to everybody. The Premier said, "Today, we're coming through on our promise of home care for Nova Scotians throughout our province. Today, we have opened the door for more people to receive high-quality care in their own homes and in their own communities. Now, Nova Scotians will be able to receive care in their own surroundings, with the benefit of friends and family to help them live and heal more comfortably and more independently . . . .". That is if you have family, and poor Anna Waters was home alone. "Home Care Nova Scotia will mean different things to different people. For the person with a serious disability living in rural Nova Scotia . . ."- like Anna Waters went home and she lived in rural Nova Scotia - ". . . it will mean greater independence and control of their own environment. For the senior living in metro, it means a regular care visit they can come to depend on at a set time day or night.". I assume the Premier meant whether it was the weekend or Monday or Tuesday or whatever.

The Premier went on to say, "For the young mother suffering from a bout of pleurisy, it will mean recovering at home, where she can still tuck her kids in at night. And for the person going in for minor surgery . . ." - minor surgery, not major surgery like Anna Waters - ". . . it means fewer days and fewer dollars spent in the hospital.". The Premier goes on to say, "Overall, Home Care Nova Scotia will mean better health care for the people of this province. The strength of this new program will be its absolute attention to people's needs.". I suppose like Anna Waters' needs "This starts with a one-stop approach to accessing the program.". A one-stop approach - Anna Waters is still waiting to find out where that one-stop approach is that you access home care. I go on to read, "And it continues with a home care plan that is tailored to a person's individual situation.". Like Anna Waters' situation. She had a personal situation, she needed home care and, according to the Premier, it would have been tailored to Anna Waters' problem, but it was not.

I could go on. There is another page or two that I could read. I guess the point I am making as I read what the Premier said and I relate Anna Waters' experience, Anna Waters says, Mr. Moody, what the Premier said did not fit me at all. The problem and the point I am trying to raise, Madam Speaker, is that many patients that call and talk about their experience are still wondering what it is the Premier meant when he made this announcement on June 13, 1995, because the experience they have had did not fit with what the Premier said would happen to them.

[Page 3516]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to say a few words on the state of health care in Nova Scotia and the very significant improvement in the system in the past three years.

I would like to begin by looking at the state of the health care system as we found it in 1993 after 15 years of intolerable neglect at the hands of the previous government, and a relatively indifferent minister. Three years ago, we found a health care system fragmented with no one responsible for looking at the big picture, without any form of evaluation, no sense of where the money was going. Planning was limited to how a particular program or idea might help win the next election.

There was an emphasis on expensive hospital and institutional care, often at the expense of other programs. There was no comprehensive home care, there were no standards at all for ambulances, and a bankrupt Pharmacare Program that was going nowhere. Budgets were going up but the health of the average Nova Scotian was going down. Anecdotal evidence such as we heard today causes me pain because I don't like hearing about people, but we have not heard from the other 15,975 people who have benefitted from home care. All we hear is the anecdotal evidence about one case that we regret, because, after all, systems are run by human beings.

So how have things changed? They have changed dramatically, Madam Speaker. We now manage health care so that taxpayers' dollars are spent wisely. We have created health boards which hopefully we will keep, whether or not the Leader of the Opposition makes up his mind which way he wants to go with regional health boards, and we have decentralized decision making - not completely; in fact, not even halfway yet because there is a lot of time and a lot of room to go - so that health care decisions are made within the communities. We de-emphasized expensive institutional care and have tried to turn as much as we could in the short space of time to broad-based community health programs.

Now let's get on to the issue of home care, flaunted by the former Conservative Minister of Health. In 1992, home care was available only if you were over the age of 65. Now it is a universal program.

In other words, home care is available to anyone in this province, despite those occasions, when lamentably, the system doesn't work. All systems fail at times and I regret to hear that, but they do. We now have more than 16,000 Nova Scotians who are enjoying home care services ranging from homemaking, right through to home hospital services. The budget has grown from about $8 million to $60 million in the last year; an increase of $11.5 million in 1996-97 alone. Now, Madam Speaker, that by any account is more people and more service, not less. Surveys show that 95 per cent of those who use home care are satisfied and happy with the services that they receive.

[Page 3517]

The Pharmacare Program, bankrupt virtually, without any ideas except the old standard Tory plot of borrowing some money to throw at it, has been rescued. Now it is a sustainable and thriving insurance program for seniors and, I might add, run with the help of a volunteer seniors board, and we have managed to keep premiums to a minimum. The most a Nova Scotia senior pays is just over $400 a year. Contrast that to Saskatchewan, where they pay $1,500 a year for Pharmacare - and that in the home of Medicare; that is where it started - and they have the gall to talk about our Pharmacare Program.

In the area of emergency care, we have now replaced 90 of the ambulances, Madam Speaker, in the province. These new ambulances are state-of-the-art and are built right here in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. (Applause) We are in the process of training the men and women who work in these ambulances so that life can be maintained. In this, we are flexible. We are not indifferent to the difficulties when ambulance services are being assessed. In Springhill, for instance, there has been concern expressed, through the very distinguished member who represents them, about the emergency service. The province has provided a fully equipped ALS ambulance. The province is prepared to consider All Saints Hospital for physician funding for 24 hour on-call service if the GPs are prepared to work in this system, because we are flexible and we will work with the people of Springhill to give the kind of emergency service that is required to get them, in an emergency, to Amherst.

We are now making what we would call informed and sensible decisions about the future direction and the growth of health care. Planning was something that the former Conservative minister knew not one whit about; anecdotal evidence was the basis for much of what he did and we have seen where that brought us. We are now stressing the need to understand outcomes. Outcomes before, to the previous government, were just a way out of the door; an outcome is a measurement of whether something works and we are now applying it in a way that should make the former minister ashamed.

[6:15 p.m.]

By measuring outcomes, for instance, we were able to show that wait lists have either been holding steady or are going down. There has been criticism of this but the evidence is there. The number of procedures has increased from 67,000 before to 72,000 in the past 12 months done by the hard-working men and women who staff the hospitals as doctors, nurses and many of the others. Sure, there are bound to be problems and there will be.

The important thing we have to convince people is that the doom and gloom being spread by people who, for purely political reasons, talk about a tragic collapse is just nonsense. Of course, there are problems. It is also a health care system that is in transition and we know that systems and people in transition have problems. We are moving from a hospital, institutional-centered health care system to one that is fundamentally in the community run by people who ultimately, as the regional health boards take it and the community health boards work as well, decided by the people within their communities; moving it from the

[Page 3518]

Joseph Howe Building down the road, down to the regional areas where decisions have to be made. It is absolutely important that we understand that this change is working. It is not a system in crisis, and you only have to look at it to look at the amount of work that is being done, the difficulty under which some people work, I grant you, because of the changes but it is a system that is beginning to work better and better and the people of this province know better than to believe that unfounded. (Applause)

Let me conclude on this note. We saw a province from 1978 to 1993 in which the only solution was to borrow from our next generation and throw money at programs; Pharmacare is a good example, hospitals here and there. They opened regional hospitals but they never did anything about the smaller hospitals that they were supposed to work for. They provided institutional health care and they provided it so at the end of the period from 1978 to 1993 this province, the people in it, their children and their childrens' children have now got one of the highest per capita deficits in this country as a result of poor management, absolute indifference except borrowing money and a poor understanding of health care, despite the fact that this former Conservative minister was the one who commissioned the Gallant Report. The Gallant Report which recommended regional health boards and which his Leader is now saying, oh, wait a minute now, maybe we won't do them. What we have in large part due to the direction of a very dedicated previous minister and a good minister now is a direction that is going to turn health care around in this province. (Applause)

With a carefully managed health care system what we have in this province is a health care system that is beginning to understand that there needs to be management, that there needs to be the proper running of a system and it needs also to have the support and dedication of all people, enough that people who for political reasons just focus entirely on running it down so that it becomes a source of worry for seniors. Shame on you, absolute fear-mongering particularly for seniors. It will work well for all the seniors and I tell you that from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, Madam Speaker. (Applause)

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Let me just say as I begin to participate in the debate on health care in Nova Scotia that the audacity of the Premier of this province to stand in this House and point fingers at members of the Opposition and say, shame, is absolutely incredible in the extreme. Madam Speaker, this government, this Premier promised Nova Scotians in 1993 that they were, in fact, going to reform the health care system, that they were going to respond to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Health Care and other reports that have been conducted over the years and that they were going to provide community-based preventive health care, that they were going to shift the emphasis from acute care to primary care and that they were going to ensure that the universal health care, universal Medicare system in this province, in fact, was not only maintained but was strengthened. Nova Scotians, by and large, bought that.

[Page 3519]

What have we had since this government took over, since this Premier has been in the position to put in place his promises and the promises of his Party and his colleagues? Well, what we have seen is really a case of confusion and a case of chaos as this government has shifted $179 million, for example, out of hospitals, from the 1993 budget to the 1996-97 budget, Madam Speaker. They have cut hospital beds in the province by over 30 per cent and they have not put nearly sufficient commensurate money in the community in order to provide the services. As the former Minister of Health's own committee, the Blueprint Committee on Health Reform, clearly recommended again and again in their report, they said that this reform is essential, it is extremely important.

Madam Speaker, the commitment made by this government in 1993 could have been pulled right out of the NDP policy book, in terms of the health care reforms that we have been pushing for for 15 years in this province. What is crucial are two things; number one is that the services be put in the community first, before the cuts and the dismantling begins in the hospitals. That was not done. The second thing is that the health care providers be part of the transition, that health care providers be involved very much in making the decisions and participating in the refocus of health care from the institutions into the communities. In fact, and unfortunately, those very providers have been on the sidelines, looking in, as this government has very considerably destroyed and disrupted services in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Let's not forget, Madam Speaker, that Medicare was brought into this country to ensure that people would no longer have to fear that they could not afford medical care if they got sick, that it was a way for all of us to share the burdens of our brothers and sisters, that it was a new way of examining, a new way of funding and providing for each other. It was a new relationship that Canadians were going to have to their neighbours.

I believe that relationship is very much under threat, as a result of the steps taken by this government. Let's remember what the Canada Health Act says, the five principles contained in the Canada Health Act, Madam Speaker; number one, that health care is universal. In other words, it is available to all, regardless of your economic means; that it is accessible, that there are no user fees or extra billing. Yet what we have seen increasingly in this province and in other provinces across this country is an increasing use of user fees and extra billing for very essential services, for things like pap smears and for prostate examinations, for example, in this province, things that are well-known to help the early detection of cancer, put people in a very good position to recover and to fight that terrible disease. In health care, that Medicare is comprehensive. In other words, that all medical treatment is fully covered in the province, and we just saw another example a couple of weeks ago of where decisions are being made to de-list some services from that which is covered under medical services. Biopsies, if they are not malignant, then you are going to have to pay for them; if they are, then they are going to be covered. In other words, if you are lucky and you do not have cancer, then you will at least be handed a bill. That does not fall within the meaning of comprehensive health care, that is portable; in other words, it is valid in all provinces.

[Page 3520]

Increasingly, what we are seeing in this country is that health care is different depending on which province that you live in, and in the eastern part of this country, in Atlantic Canada, while we pay more per capita on health care, we pay less as a part of the GDP on health care, and that is public, it is a not-for-profit system. The idea has always been that people should not be allowed to profit on the illness and the infirmity of others and that, increasingly, is creeping into the Province of Nova Scotia.

Increasingly, we are seeing services being provided by for-profit companies. We are seeing now that the Queen Elizabeth II, this big new tertiary care facility in the Province of Nova Scotia, the amalgamation of four major health care institutions, is looking at providing many of their services, whether that be lab services, whether that be dietary, whether that be laundry services, the management of casual nurses is going to be provided by for-profit companies and that is clearly contrary to the principles of the Canada Health Act.

When members of the Opposition, when senior citizens, when health care providers and consumers, from one end of this province to the other, stand and raise concerns about what is happening with health care in this province, when people cannot access home care, when they are being sent home early without adequate supports either from medical care or for support in their homes, the Premier has the nerve to stand in his place, and the Minister of Health, and to say to those people they are fear-mongering. To say to all of us, when we are raising concerns about this system that we all cherish so highly, that we are simply creating an untruth, that in fact the health care system in this province is fine and that we do not need to worry about.

Even though this Premier continues to stand on his feet and in his condescending best, stand and point his finger at me, I just want to make it clear to him and to all members of this government that I hear what people are telling me across the province. I am listening to the concerns that are being expressed and I appreciate, understand, and relate to the stories that are being told, the life and death stories, the anguish, and the burden that many people are feeling as a result of the changes in the health care system. I am going to continue, as are my caucus colleagues, to fight for the kind of changes that need to be brought into this system in order to make it better, in order to protect it against the insidious erosion that is as a result of the cavalier and irresponsible management strategy of this government, with respect to health care.

My colleagues and I will continue to push for the kind of health care reform that has been advocated in this province, that ensures that all Nova Scotians, regardless of where they live, regardless of their economic means, are able to access an appropriate level of health care services to ensure themselves the comfort and the care that is required to make our communities and to make our families . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: The time for the Adjournment debate has now expired.

[Page 3521]

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . healthy and well in this province, Madam Speaker. I will continue to fight that fight.

[6:30 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: Excuse me, the time for the Adjournment debate has now expired. At this point we will continue where we were on the order paper. I gave you the warning, member.

MR. CHISHOLM: No, you didn't.

MADAM SPEAKER: Yes, I did. You looked right at me. I will now resume the debate.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

Bill No. 48 - Sales Tax Act. [Debate resumed.]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, I take it I have an hour from now and not from the interruptions. Thank you very much.

This Act, this wretched piece of business that is before this House today and has been for these past few days and will continue to be for many days yet, is the spawn of the most base and malevolent political motive. A motivation which the St. John Telegraph-Journal has underlined as both political and dubious. Conceived in the most clandestine of circumstances, born in infamy, twisted, bent, warped, it enters a world which already reviles it. It is, in every respect, as lacking in principle as any legislation ever brought into this Chamber. As lacking in principle as those who conceived it.

It is, as Bill No. 48 reminds us, an excise tax, a form of revenue defined by Dr. Johnson in his great dictionary as "a hateful tax levied upon commodities." It is a tax designed not to provide relief for the needy, but rather to provide relief for the greedy. It feeds the need and the greed of those who sit on the Treasury Benches here and in Ottawa and who seek to shake and wring and extort every dollar, every dime, every penny from the people of this province. It provides foreboding presage to the Liberal minions in Halifax and in Ottawa who sit mute that their political fortunes are cast into a fast ebb. Their failure to revolt within the cocoon of caucus has spawned revolt across this province which will, when the march to the ballot box commences, lead to their decimation, to their demise. It is the people on this occasion who will admonish "Be gone ye rogues, ye have sat long enough.".

[Page 3522]

The minister who has inherited this Pandora's box, his predecessor who initiated the secret negotiations which created it and this Premier who endorsed opening Pandora's box have convinced Nova Scotians of two things: that when taxes are once laid on, they are never taken off; and that this tax measure will bite, and bite hard, into every household budget in this province. No one - the rich, the modestly well-to-do, the poor - will be spared.

To be sure, the government will strive to convince that though the Act itself is silent on relief for those on fixed and low incomes, all may be made well by regulatory instrument, by the power of the Cabinet Room. Put your faith in the Cabinet Room, they say. Trust us, they say. But Nova Scotians will not be so beguiled twice. Once bitten, twice shy. Nova Scotians are generous. Nova Scotians are prepared to take a person at their word. Once that word is broken, Nova Scotians will not be so beguiled again.

By sad experience they now know that a man who would lie to a nun would lie to anyone. When the Premier made pilgrimage to the bush for advice in his confusion, he approached the wrong one. Instead of the bush that mentored Moses, he turned to another Bush, one which falsely stated in the one political campaign in which he was successful, "Read my lips. No new taxes.".

That was almost four years ago and the government, viewing the electorate it would seem as a dumb beast of short memory, prays Nova Scotians will soon forget that promise made to Jim Nunn on CBC Television. Remember, not so many decades ago it was a mentor of former Prime Minister Trudeau who observed that the medium is the message. The medium in this case was television. The message that medium conveyed was one of the Leader of the Opposition, now the Premier of this province, promising that there would be no new taxes.

They are promising and he, the Premier, is promising that the people of Nova Scotia will forget that promise to the nun that there would be no new taxes. They will forget that this government in its very first budget raised the provincial sales tax by 10 per cent and added a further tax burden of something in the order of $100 million a year. They will forget that the increased taxes, whether as in the case of automobile and truck tires, are proclaimed a fee or a tax - ah, Madam Speaker, a rose by any other name would be so full of pricks. It is the poor beleaguered taxpayer who will be pricked and pocket-picked by those who scavenge on them from these government benches.

Only the most skeletal legislation lies before us in this House. To comprehend the fullness of this measure, we must view it in concert with the agreement so long kept secret and now revealed to the public only after cast in final and permanent form. What are its basic tenets? What does it say to Nova Scotians in these meagre few pages which have been placed before the public for its purview? It provides that three of the four smallest economies in the country will embark on a taxation adventure in the absence of the essential partnership of the larger provincial economies. It gives government the legal authority to change the BS Tax by

[Page 3523]

way of simple resolution, with limited debate, as we saw on the motion which has extinguished reasonable hours for conducting the people's business in this place. No more will government have to change sales taxes in legislation. No more second readings, no more Law Amendments Committee, no more Committee of the Whole House, no more third reading, no more Royal Assent; a short cut for government which short circuits the public interest.

It speaks to the creation of a national blended sales tax when every Canadian knows full well that the wealthy provinces which have lower provincial sales taxes, and especially Alberta which has none, will never agree to surrendering their fiscal fortunes to Ottawa and Chretien's grasp, let alone all of the other provincial capitals.

It promises reductions in taxes on high cost consumer goods, yet it assures a greater burden on those in society who least can afford it. It makes provision for the creation of regulations with respect to different classes of persons - different classes of persons, a clause with chilling prospects. It imposes charges on property and services to be used for personal consumption, use or enjoyment, which in the fullness of time and the unveiling of unregulatory regimes hammered out in the closeted security of the Cabinet Room may mean everything but certainly not nothing. It is a bill that renders to this government pervasive access to virtually every economic activity in the province which attracts commodity tax.

In speaking to it, I move to ask each and every member of this place, a question that I am prompted to ask each and every Member of Parliament who has been sent to our national Parliament in Ottawa from these three provinces which are signatories to this agreement, all of whom, excepting the member for Saint John, sit in the governing Liberal caucus, to all of them I am moved to ask, who sent you and me to this place and charged you and me with the responsibility of ordering and attending their affairs? Was it our Party or was it our people? To whom do we owe the privilege of sitting in this place, in this democratic Chamber? To whom do the Members of Parliament owe the privilege of sitting in that place and to whom are all of us who have been elected to sit in this Parliament here in Nova Scotia or in the Parliament of Canada in Ottawa, to whom are we ultimately responsible, to our Party or to our people? For me the answer is clear and it is unequivocal. We are elected to represent our people to our Party not to represent our Party to our people.

The government's cart will ultimately run off the road when put before the people's horse. So I am duty bound to ask myself, in Queens, how will this legislation, the regulatory regime which none of us have seen which has not yet been created but which will give effect to this measure, how will it affect the fishing family in Port Mouton, or in Port Medway, or in Hunts Point, or in Port L'Hebert? How will it affect the paper maker, the electrician, the storekeeper and the office worker at Bowater Mersey? How will it affect the woodsman's family in Two Mile and in West Caledonia? How will it affect the sawmill worker's family in Caledonia, in Harmony, or in Greenfield, or the farmer's family in Pleasant River? How will it affect any of them?

[Page 3524]

The other day when I was speaking to an amendment, my colleague, the Minister of Community Services placed a question to me across the floor and I did not have opportunity to answer it then but I will answer it this evening because it is germane to the main motion which is before the House tonight. The Minister of Community Services at that time said to me, Bowater Mersey is in favour of this, they like this legislation. I say to my honourable friend, the Minister of Community Services, it may well be that the Board of Directors of Bowater Mersey which is composed largely of people who do not live in this province or even in this region of Canada may like the potential impact of this BS Tax. I do not know for none of them have contacted me, possibly they have contacted him.

The point that I would want to make to this member, who, interestingly enough comes from a working person's community and represents it and who on this occasion seems to be more interested in representing the interests of the corporate elite in Nova Scotia, to him and to any other who would pose that self-same question to me, I say that I was sent here, not by the Board of Directors of Bowater Mersey or Michelin or any other large corporation in Nova Scotia, I was sent here by the men and women who toil for companies like Bowater Mersey and Michelin, the people on whose backs their profits are made.

I can assure all members of this House that the men and women who work for Bowater Mersey and who work for Michelin and all the other great corporations in this province, do not support this legislation. I am sent here by them to represent their interests. I am not sent here, as the Minister of Community Services would seem to suggest of himself, to represent the corporate invested interests who form the boards of directors of large corporations in this province. I came here on the promise that I would do my best to be the people's man. When I leave this place, I hope that my constituents will bear witness that I have kept my word, I have kept my honour with them.

[6:45 p.m.]

So I am duty-bound to ask these kinds of questions: What do we know for certain about this BS Tax, and what do we know about its impact? We know that if people buy $400 suits and $200 pairs of shoes, they will save money but, we also know, that those who shop for clothing at the Red Apple in Liverpool, or Zellers in Bridgewater or Kmart in Bridgewater, or at Frenchy's, they assuredly will be paying more for their clothing, 8 per cent more. We know that if they heat their homes with an oil furnace and a hot water heater fired by oil that their fuel bills will be going up 8 per cent.

I wondered earlier today, when I was thinking about the remarks I have been making tonight, if this would be applied to wood used to fuel people's homes. My friend and colleague, the member for Hants West, answered the question for me when he was making his remarks respecting this bill earlier today that, in fact, that selfsame tax will be applied to fuel wood as well.

[Page 3525]

We know that if people depend on electrical heat, their bills will increase by 4.8 per cent, and that may seem to be something of a bargain at first blush, but the fact is that the only reason that the increase is limited to 4.8 per cent instead of the full 8 per cent is because the former Minister of Finance, now the Minister of Health, already slapped a very significant and sizeable tax on the cost of electrical energy to consumers in this province in the very first budget that he brought down, that budget in which the now Premier, the former Leader of the Opposition, the man who was the Leader of the Opposition in 1993, promised no new taxes. In any event, we all know now, Mr. Speaker, that the cost of lighting our homes, the cost of powering our toasters and our refrigerators and our stoves and our microwaves and whatever, will be going up by over 4 per cent.

We know that the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel will increase at a rate of 8 per cent, yet there is no guarantee, not one tiny piece of evidence put forward in this House or in this debate by the government, that that money thus raised, or any portion of it, will be spent to reconstruct what, by the Minister of Transportation's own admission, is a highway system falling apart. It is unlikely that the federal government will spend its money on highways. This very minister, the minister who is one of the sponsors of this bill himself noted that the federal excise tax, which is collected on gasoline, something well over $100 million a year, is not spent for the purpose that each and every Nova Scotian who fills up the gas tanks would think it would be spent, and that is on the repair of our roads. It is all lifted and taken away to Ottawa and used for something else.

We have absolutely no proof, no commitments from this government, no promise from this Premier - who already broke the first great promise that he made, no new taxes - no promise that this money, once raised by this additional tax on our gasoline and our diesel fuel, will be used to improve the conditions of our roads, and that at a time when we can read in our newspapers, as we did last week, that by by-passing the Wentworth Valley we don't resolve the problems of dangerous highways in our province but, rather, that Highway No. 103, next to the Wentworth Valley, is the most dangerous piece of highway in the province. I would think that the minister would be reminded of that every weekend when he goes home because, of course, he has to travel that very highway as well.

The former minister would recollect that however unusual it may have seemed when we were dealing with this budget in committee this past spring, I made a special pitch for upgrading sections of Highway No. 103, neither of which sections happen to fall in my constituency. Both of them are in Liberal constituencies. Nonetheless, I felt it essential that someone speak for those sections - the section in Barrington, which is not yet complete, and the section between here and, I think, Exit 4 or Exit 5, Hammonds Plains Road - which desperately need to be twinned.

We know that the cost of going to the grocery store is going to increase. We are not sure to what extent just yet, but it certainly will increase and what might otherwise be irony becomes travesty when one considers that this government, while cutting children's dental

[Page 3526]

care, introduces this tax and makes it very clear out of that, in so introducing the tax and applying it, they are increasing the cost of the most basic preventive weapon in the dental arsenal, toothpaste. They are cutting back on children's dental care, but people can look after themselves and, oh, by the way, we are going to slap a new tax on toothpaste.

We know the cost of new housing will increase, the cost of legal fees, the cost of surveying fees, the cost of property taxes, the cost of living and, in fact, the very cost of dying, because this will be applied to the cost of funerals. All of this will come to pass as a consequence of the passage of this legislation and the implementation of this BS Tax in Nova Scotia.

The government claims the implementation of the BS Tax will create thousands of jobs. Nova Scotians are still waiting for the thousands promised in the 1993 election campaign and, as a consequence of - does anybody remember 30-60-90? Does anybody remember that blip on the path to nowhere?

To date, the only jobs assured as a consequence of the BS Tax are the ones that will be created at the regional administrative centre. Where, we might ask, is that centre going to be located? Is the centre in Summerside, where the administration of the goods and services tax is, going to be used as the administrative centre for the blended sales tax? No. Is the centre going to be located in St. John's or some other place in Newfoundland? The answer again, my good friend, is no. Is the centre going to be located here in Nova Scotia? The answer is no. Well, by the process of elimination, each and every member here and each Nova Scotian now has come to understand that, once again, this Premier got snookered by the Premier of New Brunswick. Ah, Mr. Speaker, if Frankie and Johnnie were lovers, you would know who would always be the giving partner in that relationship. There is no need to ask who is on top and who is on bottom. (Interruptions)

The government bench, supported by its howling minions, who I hear right now, cry foul. No, no, they say. No, no, they chorus. The BS Tax is the new miracle drug, they tell us. It is a drug all right, Mr. Speaker, and it is a powerfully dependent one, too. These people who brought in this tax and these people who support it, but who will not debate it adequately in here and, as we saw today with respect to the Premier, absolutely refused to debate it outside this place, they crave it, they itch for it, they scratch for it, they are preparing to purloin it from the taxpayer's purse.

If they are not prepared to accept the admonitions of the Opposition benches, perhaps they will weigh as evidence the views of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, independent, apolitical, credible. Oh, my good friend the former minister who foisted this one off on the current minister, says to me, read their conclusions. Well, I can tell that minister through you, Mr. Speaker, that the people of Nova Scotia have drawn their conclusion. Their conclusion is that these people are not to be trusted, that they do not have credibility and that

[Page 3527]

they will pay a price, the highest price that the taxpayers in this province can make them pay and that will happen whenever they have the courage and moral fortitude to go to the polls.

What does APEC say? Expenditures on clothing are predicted to decrease in Nova Scotia by $8.3 million. I remind all members that clothing is one of the three basic needs. There will be a decrease in spending in transportation and recreational services by $27.2 million. Spending in personal, legal and financial services will decrease by $8.2 million. The negative impact on energy and fuels is estimated to be $17.3 million. Overall, there will be a 4 per cent reduction in spending by consumers. A regional inflation rate of 5.7 per cent will be created when the rest of Canada has an inflation rate which consistently is less than 2 per cent.

The only direct offset to all these negatives is an increase in spending on household items of $10.9 million and that undoubtedly will occur as a consequence of everybody in Nova Scotia going out as soon as this tax goes on to buy a new refrigerator, to buy a new stove, to buy a new washing machine, to buy a new dryer but not for those who seek to attend to the children's dental care by buying toothpaste which will now have that tax applied to it. Or to those who seek to heat their homes at greater expense and to light their homes at greater expense and to drive their cars to and from work, to the doctor, the dentist or whatever services they need, particularly in rural communities where mass transit is not available. These are the people who will pay, these are the people who will be hurt, these are the people who will make sure that those who support this tax measure will pay with their political lives on the political firing line on election day.

I recall some of what I learned many years ago in philosophy class and one of Plato's dictums that comes to mind in the context of the BS Tax. He said that when there is a tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less. We should contemplate that. Where there is a tax the just man will pay more, the unjust man less. Plato may well have had in mind what we today call the underground economy. Stop and think of it; where does the just man pay more and the unjust man pay less? The just man pays more when he pays his taxes, the just business person pays more when he collects taxes incurred as a part of doing business. But the unjust man, whether the consumer or the business person pays less when the business is done under the counter, underground in what we have come to call the underground economy. We know that the GST has exacerbated this phenomenon across Canada and that literally billions are lost to government and to the just man who pays his taxes annually as a consequence of more and more citizens trying to avoid this tax by carrying on economic activity underground. Is there a person in this Chamber who does not know of someone who has not advantaged themselves of buying a service through the underground economy rather than ponying up and paying the GST as the majority of citizens do.

[Page 3528]

[7:00 p.m.]

In Quebec, which has the only experience in Canada of dealing with the blended sales tax, the situation has become acute. I share an experience that I, myself had, not as a consequence of reading a newspaper but in fact of being in Quebec and visiting with my daughter who now is living and working there and catching a series of advertisements over a number of evenings about the time the news was on, advertisements that were put on by the Government of Quebec. So acute is that situation of dealing with the underground economy and losing tax revenues as a consequence of people accessing it, so desperate is the Government of Quebec that, in fact, it is endeavouring to dissuade citizens from accessing the underground economy by way of extensive advertising in all media by advertising to all citizens that such activity is tantamount to stealing from the people. Yet, in spite of the fact that this advertising campaign has been highly focused and has been widespread in both languages throughout the Province of Quebec. It has had no effect. The advertisements have done nothing, but deepen the cynicism of Quebecers and indeed, if anything, make them even more aware of the savings available to those who slip through the tax man's net.

Is there anyone who really believes it will be any different in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Newfoundland than it is in Quebec. Quebecers may be distinct, but they are not that distinct. This is a government which in the campaign of 1993 promised no new taxes. I saw the Premier myself and I thought surely this man's word is good. This is a government, which since coming to power, has raised taxes more quickly than any of its predecessors. All we need to do is look at the first budget of the then Minister of Finance, now Minister of Health to understand that this is so. This is a government which, in Opposition, condemned the goods and services tax and which now offers Nova Scotians their own twisted and mutated version of it. I think that it is useful for us to review what others, persons who are not political have had to say respecting this GST and the approach that Liberals have taken to it, whether they are Liberals representing Nova Scotians here or Liberals representing Nova Scotians in Ottawa.

The Edmonton Journal has this to say, "Dressing up the GST in a new suit of clothes is an insult to the intelligence of Canadians. Yes, the Liberal Red Book said the tax would be 'harmonized' with provincial ones. But the meaning left on the campaign trail was clear -- the GST would no longer exist.". Well, the Toronto Star's observation, "It's that last bit about fairness to consumers, that sticks in the craw." or, as the Globe and Mail noted, a costly promise badly kept. This is with respect to the one Liberal, a federal Liberal, who did have the intestinal fortitude to really act on what he promised, Mr. Nunziata. The Globe and Mail notes, "The shame is not that Mr. Nunziata is gone but that Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps will stay, despite her vow to resign if the GST were not 'abolished'. . . The integrity of the Liberal promise to replace the GST has long since lain in shreds.", says the Globe and Mail, "the GST lives at higher federal costs, dishonestly obscured.".

[Page 3529]

Well finally, the Czar of the federal Treasury himself, Paul Martin, who said; "During the election campaign, . . ." now this is a direct quotation, ". . . we were right to criticize the GST. Among its problems, recalled Mr. Martin, were overlap and duplication. That's what the Liberals were campaigning against in 1993 - 'overlap and duplication'. Is that what you heard from your friendly Liberal candidate in the election? Did 'scrap the tax' mean 'end overlap and duplication'?". The Globe and Mail says that we all obviously misunderstood.

This is a government which consistently displays a propensity for confusing vision with hallucination. We have seen it in health care, where the word "reform" is applied to what, by any measure, must be deemed chaotic change and not in every or even most instances changed for the better. We have seen it in education, chaos change, change in some administrative arrangement, no real reform with respect to the classroom. We have seen it in municipal amalgamation, another promise made by this government in Opposition, broken by this government in power, with the exception of my own constituency, amalgamation was foisted off on the people of industrial Cape Breton and of our capital region, at a cost to them of millions and millions of dollars and we are still counting. We have seen it in justice, we have seen it in home care and the list goes on and on.

This is a government which has demonstrated beyond question that it can't move from the drawing board to implementation, without creating the greatest chaos and confusion on the way. They have had in three and a half years, more pratfalls than Charlie Chaplin had in his entire career of providing farce, to the enjoyment of audiences around this world. The difference is that Charlie Chaplin was supposed to be funny and Charlie Chaplin, as my honourable friend points out, unlike this government, had talent.

Witness that on December 3rd, just a few days ago, the Department of Transportation and Public Works distributed a facsimile. The facsimile, I thought, was rather interesting. It said something like this, the Department of Transportation and Public Works is attempting to determine - now this was in early December 1996, not a year ago, not even last April when we first began to understand that this confusion was being created in the minds of the Treasury benches, but just a few days ago - "The Department is attempting to determine the impact of the new BST on the trucking industry.".

"Can you give me any idea . . .", the author of the memo goes on to ask, ". . . of the types of costs an independent trucker would incur . . .", under the blended sales tax? Imagine, this is a senior official in the department of government which is responsible for delivering transportation services throughout Nova Scotia and which interfaces on a daily basis with the private sector and particularly the trucking industry and which has fiscal arrangements, financial arrangements for payouts from the department, from the Government of Nova Scotia, to these truckers on a routine basis and which doesn't have a single clue figured out how this is going to impact on that independent trucking industry. So much for planning.

[Page 3530]

A simple and interesting question is asked by the author of this memo. ". . . how much gas would be used, annually?". Now the reason the question is being asked is clear, because the cost of going to the pumps for these truckers is going to go up 8 per cent when this tax is put into effect. How much would they spend on repairs, asks the memo writer. One of the interesting questions that is raised is, how much will they spend on tires? Well, significantly more when one adds not only to this blended sales tax the tax that the Minister of the Environment is also putting on tires. (Interruption) Are there any other major costs the author asks?

If we can only find this out says this senior official of the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Public Works, if we can only find the answer to this question, because we do after all have only three months before this tax is implemented, then maybe we can understand what the real impact of this blended sales tax will be on the trucking industry of Nova Scotia.

The first week of December, months and months after this government got caught negotiating in secret to create this blended sales tax, months later, they are asking a question which should, at the very least, have been asked those many months ago, how will this impact on the trucking sector and every other sector of this Nova Scotian economy? The crude, real truth is that they do not know; so much for forward planning.

How can the poor battered and abused consuming taxpayer and taxpaying business person be expected to fathom all of this if the government's own departments have not yet figured it out? Think of all of the resources that are available to this government in the big departments like Education, Community Services, Transportation and Public Works and on through the list. Think of the tremendous bureaucracies that they have available to them and the business acumen that they have hired to help them run their department. If those people who have time and skills and budgets available to them, which they can use to answer these questions, have not yet been able to answer them, how can we possibly expect the poor, beleaguered corner store owner or the hardware store owner in small towns like mine, to understand what the impact of this legislation will be on them? How are they going to be able to understand how they can prepare for its onslaught?

[7:15 p.m.]

So what do we have here? We have a bill which is short on content but very long on taxing implications. We have a bill which will cost the consumers of Nova Scotia, by this government's own admission, at least $84 million annually, and that is by this government's own admission. Oh, Mr. Speaker, we all remember that last day of the last sitting of the House back in May, when the then Minister of Finance, now Minister of Health, surreptitiously tried to slip that document on the table and hoped that we would go away and the Opposition would go away and the media would go away and nobody would notice that

[Page 3531]

his own officials were saying that the people of Nova Scotia are going to pay $84 million more each year and every year and it will escalate as a result of this tax going on.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I know the honourable member doesn't mean to mislead the House. He is saying that the people of Nova Scotia will pay $84 million when, in fact, that same document he refers to says that the total reduction that the people of Nova Scotia will experience is $110 million. I am sure the honourable member wouldn't want to continue his speech and have the people of Nova Scotia believe that that wasn't true.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On this point of order, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for recognizing me. My point is very brief. We hear the member opposite constantly intervening in the debate to put forward one very narrow point and often, I might add, a very distorted point of view, compared to what the bill is actually doing and what has been said.

Mr. Speaker, my point is quite simply this, if the member is going to be interjecting in the debates, then he has a responsibility to stand up and take part in the full debate during the second reading, to get his remarks clearly recorded in Hansard, so people can judge his comments against the actual facts about what this bill is doing.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I realize that that was a dispute between two members with respect to the facts and my honourable friend has the right to use whatever set of facts he wishes to use and I will endeavour to use the right facts. This is also, as I pointed out a few moments ago, the member who approaches the taking of advice in a different way than I do. As I pointed out, I am the member who listens to the men and women who work for companies like Bowater Mersey. This minister, it would seem from the interjection he made the other day, it is the minister who takes his directions perhaps from the board of directors of Bowater Mersey. He is saying that Bowater is in favour of this tax and I am saying, be dammed with Bowater's board of directors, I am for the people. I support the people who say they are against this tax. (Interruptions)

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have a bill which will hurt all consumers in this province. The great tragedy of this bill, the greatest sting of this bill, the most heinous impact of this bill is this, that it will hurt those in our society who are the most vulnerable. It will hurt the senior citizens of this province. It will hurt the working poor, God bless them, who go out every day working at jobs which provide them with very little income to provide food for their families, shelter to put over their families' heads and clothing to put on their backs, it will hurt them. It will hurt those who are on fixed incomes. It will hurt the unemployed and God knows there are too many of them in this province. The Minister of Community Services, who likes to interject in these debates, in the area which he represents 26 per cent unemployment, an absolute national disgrace that Cape Breton and Guysborough County now have the record of the highest unemployment rate in all of Canada. I am sure that they sit by their fires

[Page 3532]

huddling to keep warm whispering to each other, thank Heavens, thank Heavens, when the blended sales tax arrives The New Jerusalem will be here.

This tax will also hurt those who are family benefits recipients unless, of course, the Minister of Community Services is prepared to increase the budgets available to those who are on family benefits. To date he seems to have been more interested in decreasing them, if the people who beat a path to my door are any indication and I think they are. It will hurt single parents, particularly those single parents who are young mothers, who are striving not only to feed their children and to try to improve themselves through better educational opportunity and for whom every penny counts and counts dearly. These are the people that the BS Tax will hurt. For those of us who make modest or for those who may make good incomes, it will be an annoyance but for these people whom I have just referenced, for them this tax will be a cutting, damaging blow.

We have a bill which resigns our provincial sovereignty to the hands of others which assigns to Fredericton and St. John's and Ottawa our capacity as Nova Scotians to manage our own fiscal policy. All of this in favour of a questionable partnership indeed, a partnership contrived out of the most base motive, trying, trying to pull Prime Minister Chretien's bacon out of the fire with a promise which he made that he would scrap the GST. This promise which people far wiser than I, people whom are far more knowledgable than I am, have passed judgment on far more harshly than I have in this moment just passed.

We have here a bill which by the judgment of others, including the Atlantic Provinces Canada Economic Council, will damage not enhance our economy. If I ever needed proof in point, just within the past few days I was speaking to business friends who live on Prince Edward Island. They laughed when they spoke to me and they said you know, please, don't convince the Government of Nova Scotia to stop moving forward with this BS Tax legislation because when it goes through, we, in Prince Edward Island who were smart enough not to climb into bed with the other three provinces and with the federal government, we will be taking economic advantage when the barriers which your Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of New Brunswick and the Government of Newfoundland, in concert with the Government of Canada, are going to throw up. Stop and think of it, just stop and think. There will be one province in Canada east of the Ottawa River which will not have the kind of inhibitions placed on consumer industries that this BS Tax will impose here. That province is Prince Edward Island. Prince Edward Island under a Liberal Government and now under a Progressive Conservative Government has and will continue to position itself well to benefit from the folly which we create for ourselves and for those for whom we legislate.

We have here a bill which was conceived by agreement in secrecy; a bill borne in controversary and in acrimony and doomed to be hated and to be loathed by those who gave their trust to the Liberals in 1993 and to have time and time again had that trust rudely, callously and cynically betrayed. We have here a bill as deadly for its creators as Mary Shelly's monster was for its creator. We have here a bill which will turn on, torment and

[Page 3533]

finally consume those who gave it life. We have here a bill which is full of promises, but is absolutely empty with respect to real promise to improve the lot of the men, women and the children of this province. We have a bill which will annoy the wealthy as consumers, but which will have an absolutely devastating impact on the poor as consumers.

We have a bill which may benefact certain vested interests in this province, but a bill which will have negative impact on those who provide thousands of jobs in Nova Scotia through the retail sector. We have a bill which puts three of the smallest economies in Nova Scotia on a different negative footing from the other and the larger economy. We have a bill which will negatively impact each and every person here. While the men, women and the children of this province, the children also being consumers and very young ages spending their money, we would hope wisely, while it will affect them and they will pay a price.

That price will not be so nearly dear as the price paid by those who in 1993 promised no new taxes; by those who in 1993, promised fairness and openness in government; by those who in 1993, said that they wanted to come to this place to represent their constituents and now who by supporting the introduction of this bill and moving the introduction of bill and voting for this bill at each of its stages have told those self-same constituents, I no longer represent you and the House of Assembly, I now representing the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, the Liberal Savage Government of Nova Scotia to you and this is what you are going to get, because we, the Savage Liberal Government of Nova Scotia, know what is best for the men, women and children of this province.

The people of this province will have the final say and their final say will be fatal for those who had the temerity to bring this bill out from the shadows into the open to be pressed through this House in the most dragooning of fashion and foisted off on the people of this province. The people will not forget that those who were sent to represent them have abandoned their people in favour of their Party. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[7:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister for Community Services.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: With the permission of the House, I would like to just take a moment, the honourable member quoted from the APEC Study extensively so I went out and got it from the Legislative Library and at the back of it, first of all there are two pages that are of interest. The honourable member talks about the impact on consumers and this report, at the back end, says, "Impact of HST, Nova Scotia", and indicates without any flow through because it says it is assuming no flow through, it says the net positive impact for consumers in Nova Scotia is $13.9 million. (Interruptions) APEC says that.

[Page 3534]

At the back end of the study it has conclusions and the honourable member quoted extensively. (Interruptions) Yes, it is a speech. If I could, it says at the back end, and the honourable member has spoken and he has quoted extensively and I know for the record of the House and the honourable member from the NDP would be particularly excited about this because accuracy spurs them along all the time.

It says at the back side "Conclusions & Observations" and it is entitled that so the honourable member wouldn't have much trouble finding it. "The HST is good for the business climate", I will table that. It has a positive impact on business investment, it simplifies the tax collection process . . .

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services is reading directly from a document it appears, I wonder if he would agree, in fact, to table that document.

MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Pages if they would to make copies of this and circulate around to all members of the House, because it continues and let me go back to the beginning. "Conclusions & Observations" well labelled so that everybody can find it.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, is the member speaking on second reading or is he speaking on a point of order?

MR. SPEAKER: He is speaking on second reading.

MR. MACEACHERN: "Conclusions & Observations" as indicated, very clearly labelled. "The HST is good for the business climate", it says that. (Interruption) Let me continue, I am going to be doing that by the way in the Committee of the Whole House. " - positive impact on business investment". It says that first of all. Secondly "- simplify the tax collection process", thirdly "- remove inter-provincial barriers to trade" and "- cost savings for business will be in industrial sectors therefore the pass-through will be a business to business pass through", which is pretty exciting.

Because the honourable member went on at length to say about the consumer. APEC not this government, and by the way he quoted it, "APEC estimates a net positive stimulus to consumers". "- these estimates are conservative", speaking about the honourable members opposite I am sure, they "- assume small pass through to final consumers", small. By the way the honourable Leader of the Opposition agreed last day in answer to one of the questions from the members of the Liberal caucus that in fact there will be a small pass-through he assumed. So I am sure APEC and he agreed, "- if business pass on more savings, the stimulus grows quickly, - risk to the estimates are mostly upside . . .", let me repeat this. This honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party seems enthusiastic about this, now he is not happy with APEC because it talks of a business but this is about consumers.

[Page 3535]

The risk to the estimates, in other words they are model and I was with the member for Halifax Citadel, I was there, by the way the Leader of the New Democratic Party was there as well so he would know that this was the case, they did announce that these are very conservative estimates.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the minister did in fact acknowledge I was at this presentation and I would just ask him if he would in fact agree that at the end of the session when I asked the economist what the government was going to do with the fact that they were $100 million short in revenues, how they were going to make that up, the answer was, well they may have to raise taxes or something but I don't really know. I was wondering if the minister would, in fact, confirm that?

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

MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I asked the honourable member for Queens . . .

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have a document from APEC. It is called Outlook '97. I was wondering if the Minister of Community Services would tell the Legislature if he is talking about Outlook '97? That is the one in your left hand, I believe. Are you quoting from that one?

MR. MACEACHERN: No.

MR. RUSSELL: No, you are quoting from this one. Well I just wish that the Minister of Community Services would compare this document, which is a later document than this document. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not of point of order.

MR. MACEACHERN: If the honourable member for Hants West had been at the meeting, he would have known that the three documents were handed out at the same time and this was the presentation made at that time and what he showed by the overheads that were given at that time.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the honourable minister can quote from his document, well I am sure that he would listen to a quote from the other document which says, "The Atlantic Provinces are by far the most vulnerable to any changes in the consumption tax system.". That is what this says and that is in the APEC document and this is the latest one, compared to the one that you have.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order.

[Page 3536]

MR. MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, I was there at the time that this presentation was made and I am going to say that the people giving the presentation said, and they said very carefully, to all of the people there, including the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party and the member for Halifax Citadel, and he did say, and I repeat for all members of this House and I will ask that this be circulated because it is very important, both pages, it says (Interruption) It is the conclusions and observations selective. It says, "The risk to the estimates are mostly upside risk.", which means that the worse that can happen is that this is going to be better for consumers and better for business because these are very conservative estimates and we know that the Conservative Party is mostly wrong. I will provide this to all members to circulate and I ask the honourable members, if they are going to quote from documents, that is three times in two days that they partially quoted from documents and skipped the balancing side of it, so I would like to give the balancing side. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I have been sitting here for the last several weeks listening to the Opposition tell us about the gloom and doom of the HST and how Nova Scotians are going to be run into the ground, they are all going to lose their jobs, everything is going to go up in price and the list goes on. Well, it is the furthest thing from the truth that I have ever heard. I would just like to ask Nova Scotians one simple question. How would you like to eliminate tax all together in the province, the hospital tax in Nova Scotia? I can tell you, if the last government would not have misspent as badly as they did and run up $1 billion a year in interest charges that the people of Nova Scotia have to pay in this province to foreign investments, out to foreigners that reap the benefit from this money, we would not have to pay any tax at all, either hospital tax or the blended hospital tax. Realize that $1 billion and realize that we only collect today, approximately $748 million in hospital tax. We would have a $250 million surplus that we could turn into very serious programs that Nova Scotians deserve in this province and were taken away from us in the last government's uncontrollable spending.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: The Tories, the Tories.

MR. COLWELL: We take (Interruptions) I can speak as a businessman on the harmonized sales tax and I can tell you it is going to be a major benefit to business. If you give business a more competitive edge, which the HST will do to all Nova Scotia companies, it will mean more employment for Nova Scotians. We are going to be more competitive in the international market in which we are now having a very difficult competing and in which I did compete in my business which I can say probably no one else in this room has done. I can tell you, if you have high R and D costs in developing new products to compete in the international market, it is extremely difficult in Nova Scotia to do that under the present tax structure.

[Page 3537]

With the new harmonized sales tax it is going to be a lot easier. You are going to get full input tax credits for the computers you use in design, the computers you use in the management of the financial affairs of your business and the list goes on and on.

I think it is time that Nova Scotians realized just what has happened to them in the last 15 years. Their future was taken away from them and people should listen very carefully. Their futures were taken away from them. They talk about cuts in the dental program for children. If we had this $1 billion to spend, it would be no problem to maintain and improve on that program. They talk about other things that had to be done just to maintain the simple things and services the citizens of Nova Scotia deserve.

This tax will give an opportunity to Nova Scotians to maintain those services. We heard just shortly ago from the honourable member for Queens how the trucking industry is going to be devastated by this. Let me tell you a little story. It is unfortunate that he is not here to listen to this.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. COLWELL: The honourable member for Queens. Anyway, (Interruptions) The devastation it is going to be for the trucking industry. I will just give you one example of one thing that the trucking industry is going to save on. A gentleman who was going to go and buy one of these new 18-wheelers at probably $100,000 now has to pay probably the equivalent of 12 per cent by the time you take the 11 per cent on top of the 7 per cent. That means that man is going to save $12,000 of money he does not have to finance.

AN HON. MEMBER: Right off the bat.

MR. COLWELL: That is going to reduce his payments approximately $300 a month. You add to the fact that every dollar he puts in fuel taxes under the harmonized sales tax he is going to get back, every dollar. Every time he goes in and gets a repair, an engine job on one of those big trucks, I have heard - I have never driven a truck, but I have heard - is somewhere between $8,000 and $30,000. Just calculate the tax on that that he has to pay now and finance and carry the costs on. It is tremendous, tremendous savings and that is just one example. The examples can go on and on.

There has been some discussion in the paper about new cars. Do the calculations on a new car. I am going to table, in the next few days, a paper in the House here which will show exactly how much money a person saves today buying a new car under the harmonized sales tax. It is a tremendous amount. It is going to be interesting to discuss that in the House here.

I just had to get up today and say these few words because it is so annoying to sit here and listen to this.

[Page 3538]

AN HON. MEMBER: Lies.

MR COLWELL: I would not say lies, but it really is serious misrepresentation and I would say (Interruptions) a lack of total understanding by both Opposition Parties of what is going on here. If they do not understand what is going on, I would suggest they sit down and keep quiet about it. (Interruptions)

If we could just look at our manufacturing industry, another area which I am very familiar with, how it is going to benefit from this tax. I can tell you, after shipping into New Brunswick and P.E.I. and being hit with all kinds of different taxes and problems there, it is going to be really nice to ship a product into P.E.I. now and charge them 7 per cent when my competitors in P.E.I. are going to ship in here and have to charge 15 per cent tax. That is going to put me in a really solid position competitively. (Applause)

[7:45 p.m.]

When you go through all these sayings, with the gloom and doom that we are being told every day that is going to happen, and everything that is going to happen, all these stores are going to close down, well, actually, I saw on TV a gentleman from Canadian Tire. He got up there and he said, it is going to cost me $10,000 to change the pricing in my store and he is probably right. Maybe he is even a bit low in his price, but if you look at all the cost he has in shelving that he previously paid hospital tax on, at 11 per cent, which really when it is on top of the GST, will look at the computers he has in his office, the cash registers he has, all the tax he has to pay on everything he does with his business, I bet you, if he really sat down and figured it all out, he will save that in about a month, maybe two months, what it costs in one-time pricing change. (Applause)

For my Opposition colleagues who don't understand business, we can give them a course in economics that maybe they badly need before they discuss this thing here and mislead Nova Scotians into thinking that everything is going to cost a fortune. If you look at other industries, they say, when you go to get your car fixed now, the labour cost is going to be lower because there is going to be a lower rate of tax. If you are a business, guess what, you are going to get all that as a pass-through tax credit. It is going to help your cash flow and again, with anyone else in here who doesn't understand business, and I understand the Leader from the Third Party has no idea about business, never ran a business and never had anything to do with a business, he doesn't understand what a flow-through is and how that impacts on cash flow.

There are two things that make business flow: it is cash flow, which is the most important thing and profits. Now companies have to have profits and if they can generate those profits in a competitive market and generate money that can be spent back in the community, we are really improving the economy in our area. A business owner who builds a new home adds to the economy. A business owner who expands his business adds to the

[Page 3539]

economy. Those same business owners will hire people and at no burden to the Province of Nova Scotia.

We have seen in the past job creation by the last government. Do you know what job creation was in my riding, they fired 600 people in the Department of Transportation and they hired 600 friends. Real job creation. (Laughter) So, you get so annoyed. (Applause) You get so annoyed to this effect and - I don't want to get off the topic of the bill here - but you tie that in and look at the Transportation's garages now with those 600 people who were hired and placed, we have fewer people working. Guess what, the complaints from the people in my riding have gone down from 25 a week to two a month, so it shows you the efficiency is there, too. So when you spend your money properly, things happen.

Just in closing, I would like to again ask Nova Scotians to very carefully look at this bill, very carefully look at the impact and the positive impact it is going to have on business; the businesses that they work for every day; the businesses that write their cheques and sign their pay cheques, if they don't make money, there is no business. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I want to start off by congratulating. We are starting to make progress. We are starting to have some dialogue. We are starting finally to get government members up off their hindquarters, on to their feet and starting to debate and get involved in the dialogue.

AN HON. MEMBER: One member with the courage of his convictions.

MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I salute the member who just got up and had the courage to finally start to talk. Now, what I invite that member to do and all other members to do, let's start now putting facts on the table to back up what is being said.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Madam Speaker, actually I am wondering would the member entertain a question? I wonder if the member has had an opportunity to learn something tonight. This previous speaker, this member said more in eight minutes than that member said in three hours. My question is, have you learned anything from the speech from this member tonight? (Applause)

MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I have learned a number of things tonight and yes indeed, the member did provide some new information that is very helpful to the debate and I applaud him for that. The second thing that I learned tonight is that that member said more and made more sense in the last eight minutes than that member has provided to this House since he has been a member. I have learned several things tonight and I also know that that member, what is something extremely important and rare, is that he had the courage to put his comments on the record where they appear in Hansard and whereas the government

[Page 3540]

members who are planning only to be talking during the committee stage know that there is not to be any written record of that. I say, for example, to the Minister of Community Services who said during the debate, the man who is responsible for taking care of those who are disadvantaged and with problems, those who are hungry, those who are homeless, he said he will be telling us all about that during the committee stage where there isn't a written record that can be passed around. I invite him to get up later on and by unanimous consent and I want to assure you that our Party will give that unanimous consent from our side, to allow him to speak again during second reading debate, so he can put those comments on the public record.

MADAM SPEAKER: Now would the honourable members just settle down and we will begin to hear the debate on the bill. Thank you.

MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I want to start to take a look at a few things as we are beginning to look at the debate. What we have to do is put some things in perspective. While I agree with some of the things that have been said by the previous speaker and while I agree and I commend him for some of his comments, I also have to challenge him on some of his comments that he made, especially those with respect to the business and I have to ask if this gentleman has done so much research that he knows more, for example, than the Retail Council of Canada and the retail council representing Nova Scotia, even the Chamber of Commerce and other groups that have recognized that the price-in policy is going to be harmful to the businesses in this province.

I also think that we have to put things in perspective. For example, this government said, the Premier said and all 39 sitting Liberal MLAs have said that the BS Tax is good for Nova Scotia. They have all said that Nova Scotians need the BS Tax. I suggest most Nova Scotians, based on the history of this government, putting things in perspective say that they need a little bit more than what the Premier says or what the Liberals say. They feel that they have had enough BS from the government already.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Madam Chairman, on a point of order. I take exception to the charge that has just been made that I or any member of this caucus have advocated anything known as a BS Tax. I have never advocated any such thing nor is any such measure under consideration by this House. The bill under consideration relates to a harmonized sales tax, the initials for which would be HST and not BST at all.

MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. I would like to rule on the point of order before I recognize the honourable member. I think it is an interesting point because we are playing fairly loose with terminology in the House. It is a point of clarification, I don't rule it as a point of order. I thank you for it.

[Page 3541]

MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I am not disagreeing with you. Certainly when the government first starting talking about it, it was called the blended sales tax and that is shortened to BS Tax after they started to realize that the name was too close to what it actually referred to, they changed it to HST. If you actually take a look at the bill, the bill is not called the BS Tax, it is not called the HS Tax, it is a whole other string of letters because the actual bill that is introduced, this little skimpy piece of paper the government has introduced here, as compared to what the federal government has introduced, the bill is properly entitled, An Act to Implement the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. That is the proper name. However, I can understand why government members do not like it being referred to as the BS Tax. I can understand that.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is offensive.

MR. HOLM: Oh, it is offensive to the member for Cape Breton Nova. Madam Speaker, that is, of course, what it is affectionately known by, by the people in this province, and it is even in the headlines that appear in the press and it is what people relate to this government's actions, too.

Madam Speaker, I want to put in perspective what the Premier and others are making in the way of promises with this bill. Because we are told trust, believe us, have faith, our word is our bond. I remember certain commitments that were made by this government and these are all very germane, all very relevant, to what is being proposed here. This government promised that there would be no new taxes and what is one of the first things they did? They increased, not only the fees, but they also cranked up the sales tax by 10 per cent.

As well as increasing the taxes, even though they knew exactly what the deficit was before they took office and the record will show that the Premier and the Liberals were quoting the deficit and being almost bang-on from what the former government actually left. They knew what it was and they were saying, no new taxes. That might be called trying to buy, in a sense, votes by making commitments. Other people might call it something, but if I use the word in here, it might be considered unparliamentary.

They promised jobs and you know, Madam Speaker, we have less working and more unemployment now than we did even a year ago. They said no casinos, period, and then when they came to power, they railroaded the casinos through. Even when they were railroading those casinos through, they predicted - and this is all relevant because it is putting things in perspective - they said that there was going to be at least $50 million a year in revenue. They said that tourists would be flooding to the shores of Nova Scotia to fill those casinos. That has not come true, either.

[Page 3542]

They said that they would reform the workers' compensation system so that we would have the best system in the country, and what do they do? They cut and they hack and they slash and deny benefits and even removed the independent appeal process. They promised to work shoulder to shoulder with the workers in this province and with business in this province, and what do they do? They roll back wages. They lay off public servants and they shun, Madam Speaker, as we have seen. So we have to look at what has actually been done, when you look at this. They talked about reforming the health care system and yes, they have made changes. Changes don't necessarily amount to reform, especially when you look at the lineups and you look at the harm being done to those who are unable to get the service.

[8:00 p.m.]

Now, Madam Speaker, we are being told to trust this government, that all of these wonderful things that we are being told about all these thousands of jobs, all of this boom to business, the greatest economic boom in over 40 years. You know, you have to look at the promises, at the predictions that have been made by this government and you can see that almost every one of them has not come true. Then you take a look at this bill, which is a skeleton that contains nothing. This bill is a bill that says, trust me. That is what that bill is saying.

This bill is going to have major impact on Nova Scotia, there is no question about that, no question that there are going to be impacts. Maybe the minister responsible for the web will be able to go out and get more computers for himself. But you know, Madam Speaker, many Nova Scotians, thousands of Nova Scotians who are the working poor, those who are struggling, those who are having difficulty meeting their basic needs, those people won't be able to join the minister's spider web because they are going to have to pay higher costs for the basic essentials.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Maybe he would like to e-mail it across to me later on, Madam Speaker. (Interruption) Well, the member says bring myself up-to-date with what is going on. Maybe the minister should go out and talk to many seniors who are living in their homes, seniors who, through the courtesy of this government, are living on low incomes, but despite that are losing $215 a year in increased Pharmacare payments, seniors who, if they are turning 65 years of age - and I will tie it into the bill, I assure you, Madam Speaker - seniors who have lost because this government eliminated the property tax rebate system for seniors and low incomes, for those who are turning 65 years after the date (Interruption)

Yes, I did, Mr. Minister, I said that at my very start of that comment. Madam Speaker, seniors who are going to have to pay, thanks to this government and its wonderful piece of legislation, with my tongue in cheek, are going to be paying approximately 5 per cent more

[Page 3543]

for the electricity in their homes. The only reason they won't be paying the full 8 per cent more is because this government had already imposed a 3 per cent tax increase on electricity.

Those same seniors, some who live in the minister's riding, some who live in my riding, some who live in all of our ridings, if their homes are heated by oil, are going to face an 8 per cent increase in the cost of that oil; seniors, who if their income level is slightly higher than that which is enough to qualify them for home care or in-home support services, like cleaning and those other things but, because of possible disabilities or their age they are not able to do that and so they are not covered under Home Care Nova Scotia, if they had to provide those services for themselves, hiring those people to provide services, they are already paying GST on those services and now they will pay the BST, full 15 per cent, if those are not provided through the home care system. There are many where that is not the case.

Madam Speaker, those seniors who live here but who may have children in another province, whether it be Prince Edward Island or somewhere in Ontario or out West, if they want to go home to visit their children and are saving their change, saving their money to build up enough to go visit their children over Christmas next year or next summer, it will cost them more to buy their tickets here to fly to visit them than it would for their children in another province to buy their tickets to come to Nova Scotia.

They are talking over there that, oh, this is so wonderful. The government likes to play fast and loose with some numbers; they talk about how this is supposedly saving $110 million in taxes, that it is going to relate to a $110 million tax reduction. Madam Speaker, those are the government's projections and I am not challenging those at all. What it is saying is that the government will be collecting less money, and they will be collecting less money.

Consumers are not getting any breaks, it is the business community that is going to get the break. Approximately $240 million less in taxes being collected from businesses, those businesses won't have to pay them. But many of the businesses have already said that there will not be any flow-throughs or the flow-throughs will be so minimal to the consumers that the consumers will not be seeing any reduction. Plus by the government's own admission - these aren't my figures; these are their figures - they say that consumers in the Province of Nova Scotia - that is you, that is I; that is every one of the individuals in this province who goes and buys anything or uses any product or service - are going to face at least $84.3 million more taken directly from their pockets.

They are going to take $84-plus million more out of the pockets of the consumers. A wonderful way to instill confidence, a wonderful way to spur economic activity in the Province of Nova Scotia which is already lagging behind other parts of the country; $84.3 million more in a province where the actual average wages have gone down, from the pockets of those where we have an ever-increasing number of people who are working part-time and at low wage jobs, in a province where we have the very dubious record of having gone from 8th place all the way up to 4th in terms of having the largest number of our children living in

[Page 3544]

poverty. They make light of all of this, they discount all of this, because they say, oh, supposedly business is going to wonderfully benefit from all of this. One of the other provinces in Canada that has an extremely high unemployment rate - not as bad as Nova Scotia, but a high unemployment rate - is the Province of Quebec. They have their own version of the BS Tax.

If you take a look at Alberta, they don't have any provincial sales tax and if they had those blended taxes and the flow-throughs were going to be attracting all these countless industries pouring in, they would have zero unemployment. If the predictions, the crystal balls of this government were anywhere accurate, they would have none at all.

This bill is full of secrecy. (Interruption) Madam Speaker, you know that you are hitting something when you get howls from across the way. When you take a look at this legislation, it is set up in such a way as to provide not this Chamber, not the elected representatives in this House, to have any real say about future tax policies affecting sales taxes and so on, because this bill is a skeleton. All of the details are to be contained in regulations, regulations that you - unless you become appointed to a Cabinet position - that I, that members on this side of the House on the Liberal benches and the back part of that side of the House on the Liberal benches, will not be involved in because those members, if you are not in Cabinet, are not involved in the regulatory-making process. That is where they are to be made. (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Madam Speaker. It is not appropriate in second reading debate for me to read through and identify all of the items. But anybody who questions what I am saying can get a copy of the bill. They will not have much time, mind you, because it is the government's plan to have this out of the Law Amendments Committee process as fast as they possibly can. Clause 13 lists all the way down for over half of Page 5, all of Page 6 and the top part of Page 7, all areas where the Governor in Council - that means the Cabinet - alone makes the rules, the regulations; they can add, they can exempt, they can increase the number of products to which the tax is going to be applied and so on.

If that was not enough, on Page 7 where the first sentence deals with them having power, then what we get is another part, Part IIA, and all of that page, as well as in other areas, gives the Cabinet the power to make the regulations. The federal government, at least, tabled a bill with a lot of details and information. Today in the Question Period, my colleague, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, asked the Minister of Finance some questions relative to that, dealing with health care. The minister was unable to answer them; he did not know all the details yet of the bill. Yet, the Minister of Finance - and I am not picking on the Minister of Finance as being unique, because this is something each and every one of us in this House should know - was unable to answer and to know all the details and the ramifications of a 356 page bill. This is double-sided, very fine print and very technical language.

[Page 3545]

We are being told that this bill we are passing here even before there has been any public hearing on the federal bill, even before that has been digested, even before we have any idea what its real ramifications are, we are being told - and we in the Opposition are being told we are being obstructionists, we are being bad boys and girls over here, I guess, because we have the audacity to question the tyranny and the so-called bully tactics of this government - this bill that they do not know anything about and that Nova Scotians do not know anything about will be put into effect. That is authorizing that.

[8:15 p.m.]

I do not know but when I am going out looking to buy something, if I am thinking about purchasing a product, I like to know something about what I am buying. I would like to have some idea if I was going to be purchasing a computer, I would hope even that the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat would be suggesting that people shop around and find out what are the best servers, what is needed in a computer and all of the information before you invest in that yourself. (Interruptions)

To satisfy the minister, I have done that in my own purchases. This, however, is more far-reaching, far more complicated, far more difficult to understand and it affects close to 1 million people in this province. It affects the entire population here in Nova Scotia, not only for today but for tomorrow and for many years to come. This government is even giving up its control over taxing measures by this. It is even giving up its ability to reduce the tax. The province on its own will not in future be able to reduce the provincial sales tax. However, what it can do is jack up its rate; if the other provinces say that they want it jacked up, we will have no choice but ours will go along. (Interruptions)

Normally with my head back. Madam Speaker, the government says that the GST was a bad deal. The government said that the GST ripped millions, in fact $1 billion, I believe it was, out of the economy of Atlantic Canada. That, the government says, is bad. On that one, the government is bang on. You are right. It was bad for Nova Scotia. It was a disgrace that it was ever imposed and that is why we fought it as hard as we could. The GST was a major rip-off for the Province of Nova Scotia. The Tories deserved everything that they got for imposing the GST on the people in this province and across Canada. The GST was a major rip-off of consumers and it was a major drain on the economy of this province. That is a travesty that we are living with.

Unfortunately, that travesty that was imposed by Brian Mulroney and company we are still living with and we are still suffering under the weight of here in Nova Scotia. Putting the BST or HST or whatever you want to call it . . .

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I have been consistently again listening to - and I am going to use this term only once - the BS Tax. I understand that this is transmitted live over a lot of Nova Scotia. A lot of children are

[Page 3546]

watching the show this evening and other evenings. That term is unparliamentary. I will quote Beauchesne, Page 149:

Paragraph 491. "The Speaker has consistently ruled that language used in the House should be temperate and worthy of the place in which it is spoken. No language is, by virtue of any list, acceptable or unacceptable. A word which is parliamentary in one context may cause disorder in another context, and therefore be unparliamentary."

Paragraph 492 . "The following expressions are a partial list of the expressions which have caused intervention on the part of the Chair as listed in the Index of the Debates between 1976 and 1987 . . . B.S." - I am sorry I had to use it again - in "1978-79, pp. 4065, 4097."

I would ask that the Chair rule on that and ensure that the children of Nova Scotia do not have to listen to this kind of abuse of our language.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.

MADAM SPEAKER: Before I recognize the honourable member who has the floor, I would like to rule on this point of order. It is clear that the acronym that is being used in this House could be misinterpreted by the viewer on Legislative TV. That is obvious. It is also obvious that the acronym that is being used in this House was one of the words that was used in earlier debates as a blended sales tax. So I can't stop the member from using what was formerly there but we are talking about a harmonized sales tax.

Language can be ruled unparliamentary one day and ruled parliamentary the next day. So I just want to caution all of us. There are many words that are floating around in this Chamber over the last week that broach on being unparliamentary and I want to call it to everybody's attention. It isn't just this acronym that I am talking about.

So having said that, I appreciate the intervention on the part of the member. I caution the viewing public that the use of the acronym in this instance, supposedly means blended sales tax. If it is the intention of the member otherwise, he might wish to change his acronym.

MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I always thought that the blended sales tax was, in fact, an actual reflection of what was being done, because what the government is doing is blending its GS tax, the Mulroney GS Tax with the Savage provincial sales tax, PS Tax and it was called the blended sales tax. The government, even themselves, initially were calling it the BS Tax. But whatever, I am not trying to offend the sensitivities and I want to compliment the member for being concerned about the sensitivities he is raising. At least I think that is what he is doing. I don't think it is a sign that maybe things are starting to get to them and that things are starting to hit home.

[Page 3547]

However, Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the points that I was making before the helpful intervention. Now, the GST or the goods and services tax, as we all know, has ripped over $1 billion out of the pockets of Nova Scotians and others in Atlantic Canada. That has been a major drain on our economy. As you did that, that meant that that money was not here to be spent by the consumers, by you, by I, by those seniors, by those others, middle income earners, those who are working, struggling to provide the goods and services that the family needs. That money was taken out of their pockets so that they could not spend that in retail establishments buying those goods and services they need, because their income went down effectively.

Businesses will tell you that they are still reeling, they still hurt, from that GS Tax. As I said, Mulroney and the Tories got exactly what they deserved. But, Madam Speaker, by - whether you call it blended, harmonized, whatever acronym you use - putting the two together isn't changing anything on the GS Tax. The GS Tax, that 7 per cent consumer price tax, is still there. By calling it an HST, a BST or throw any other initials you want in, it makes no difference. It doesn't hide the fact that it is there and it is unfair. It affects those most who have the lowest incomes, those who have to spend the largest proportion of their income buying essentials, goods and services.

What this government is proposing to do is to put their PST portion on everything that the GST portion had been on before, which is a wide expanded base. Madam Speaker, as a result of that, they are running around and saying, oh we have dropped it from 11 per cent, down to 8 per cent. The reality is, if you pay 8 per cent on a much broader base of items, it costs you more money than if you pay 11 per cent on a smaller group of products and services.

I want to talk about one thing, Madam Speaker, and there are a lot of things that I have not even started to touch on, like rents. Like how home construction is going to go up, and that will lead to unemployment as less people are able to afford to buy new homes. I want to talk, maybe, a little bit about how property taxes will increase, how hospitals now are going to have to start to pay a portion of the provincial sales tax that they did not before. So hospital boards are going to have even more cuts. I want to talk about school boards and how money is going to be taken yet again out of the children's education in this province, our most valuable resource, that we need to attract business and industry here.

The Canadian Bar Association has also raised some very serious concerns. To the members opposite who ask the question, well, do they acknowledge that it can help business? The answer is yes, they do acknowledge that it can help some businesses. But they point out - and I know I have a lot of these people calling me - that, "Unfortunately, there are individuals in our communities who are financially disadvantaged . . .". They point out that, ". . . an 8 % increase in the cost of legal services will impede their access to justice at a time when . . .", the province says it is trying to increase access to justice. They point out that many Nova

[Page 3548]

Scotians will be unable to seek representation when, for example, they are going after a number of things:

"1. applying for child maintenance application against a former spouse or partner, or seeking a justified change in maintenance, or enforcing payment of maintenance;

2. their landlord evicts them or withholds their security deposit;

3. obtaining a divorce, or an appropriate and binding custody/access/property/debt/

support resolution in a divorce;

4. defending themselves against unjust allegations;

5. obtaining a fair settlement with a former employer when "downsized" or otherwise unjustly dismissed; and,

6. applying for benefits under social welfare legislation such as EI or social assistance.". (Interruptions)

The Minister of Community Services, in his usual harping way, chirps in and says, oh, but poor people go to Legal Aid, Madam Speaker. For example, a single mother of two, if she earns $1,700 per month, she does not qualify for Legal Aid. So maybe somebody who is making $1,750, trying to support three people a month, pay their income tax out of that, pay their mortgage or their rent - which is going up - all of these items, supposedly that minister thinks that, for example, on an item where they are going to have to go after maintenance from a spouse or these other items and they face a legal bill of $3,000, that they can afford to pay an extra $240? Obviously, the Minister of Community Services knows how to stretch $1,700 a long way. I hope he goes out and gives courses and tells people how you can possibly live and survive and do all of these wonderful things and maybe they will not be harmed at all. Maybe he can tell them how they can do it. The reality is that people are having a hard time.

Madam Speaker, the government seems to totally discount large segments of our society. They tell us that there are going to be programs announced that will give them a pittance in the way of money. Those who are on the low incomes, those who are in middle incomes, aren't the ones who are going to be benefiting from this as individual consumers. Yes, if I go out and I buy a $30,000 automobile, I am going to save some money. If I was to do that I would save a lot of money.

[8:30 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Make sure it is not a Volvo. If you pay for it yourself.

[Page 3549]

MR. HOLM: If I pay for it myself that will be fine. If I was fortunate enough to be able to do it, I don't have one. The car that I am driving now is a used car that I bought. Do you know used cars are going to go up in tax? This government has said in a briefing announcement that the used cars, maybe they will have to crank up the price on the used cars, provincial sales tax and goods and services tax average, to bring it up to the 17 per cent so that it is going to be the same as that charge on new vehicles. The list goes on and on.

This government has said, they have, in fact, already told the people of this province that they don't have the confidence in what they are saying, that they have no confidence or conviction in what they are saying because if you had confidence in it, then you would be very prepared to go out in public halls and public forums, you would be prepared to sit down and provide the details of the bill but they haven't been willing to do that. Instead, this House, which has sat for the grand total of 51 days.

AN HON. MEMBER: For the whole year?

MR. HOLM: For the whole session only 51 days in the 1996 session. Do you know, it was on the last day of the spring sitting that they dumped on the table, actually they hoped that the House would have risen by that time but obviously, some helpful activities in here delayed the rising of the House until the analysis was made because they were initially sent not here, our reports, they were sent to the offices and I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, we found out about a lot of the items that were contained in it because the press came asking us for comments because they had obtained a copy and we had not. It was released to them when the government thought the House would have risen. Unfortunately for them, it hadn't and it certainly made for an interesting parting.

One of the interesting parts of that in this whole arrangement has to do with the financing. We are getting $250 million (Interruptions) I am corrected, I want to be accurate here, I am told it is $247 million. Now I am told it is $249 million. Well, it is between $247 million and $250 million. Maybe with interest I am sure it is over $250 million and it is going up. That is money that the government has sitting in a bank account right now and that is good. It is money they can use in the spring or in the fall or maybe next year to try, some would say, to pave their way to re-election. (Interruption) I didn't pick the winter, they might plow some roads though and put down a little bit more salt, some of the highways could use it.

They can use this money out of that fund. This, of course, is money that is aimed at compensating against $100 million that we are going to lose each year over the next four years. We are getting $250 million from the feds to cover a $400 million loss, somehow it doesn't sound like a good deal right there for the province. However, we are losing $400 million but they are going to give us $250 million up front plus interest. You know, the government is very intent - of course they play games, how they hide costs for things like Highway No. 104 under a private contractors cap, under their shell to pretend that Nova

[Page 3550]

Scotians aren't going to have to pay for it, they are hiding the costs for schools under a private contractor's shell, hiving it off somewhere else but you know, Madam Speaker, they will now have $250 million plus interest that they can channel across into the Budget Books of the province to make it look like they have done very well and maybe even met their targets, to make them look responsible.

A year later the Auditor General may have an opportunity to point that out in a report, a year after the election is all over, crafty design over there. I never said they were total fools over there I just suggest they sometimes make some very poor decisions, not always in the best interests of the people of this province. These are all little things that they are doing, but you know, when they have blown that money, once that is gone and we are down $100 million a year then consumers are faced with this huge increase in consumer tax then this bill will leave us with little opportunities in a lot of areas.

We can do things like maybe jack up taxes as has been suggested, like APEC said. As they pointed out, taxes may have to go up to make up the shortfall. They can also cut even more services, maybe they will say that class sizes of 45 are now appropriate, maybe they will decide that we can close down every second school and or schools don't need any speech language therapists at all or any counsellors, maybe they will decide that they can cut yet even again the very modest level of home care and in-home support that is being provided which they have already been cutting; those are all the kinds of things that they can do. (Interruption) Indeed it is terrible, it is absolutely disgraceful that the province is putting us in that kind of a situation. Hospitals, municipalities all now can face those increased costs, municipalities have to pass on. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, you can indicate to me how much time I have left.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has 10 minutes left.

MR. HOLM: I was starting to get a little bit nervous because I have now only touched about one-third of the points on the page that I wanted to deal with. I want to spend a little bit more time talking about some of those items that affect families, affect those at the very real front lines because what we are talking about here are consumption taxes. The taxes which this government when they were in Opposition, government members said were regressive, unfair, do not take into consideration a person's ability to pay. That is what this bill is about. It is about consumption taxes.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is what this is about. So if you take a look at your household purchases or what most people do, most people in this province have to buy basic essentials. They buy clothing for themselves. They buy clothing to go to work; they may be construction clothes for those who are workers and have to buy steel-toed boots. They could be for coats for their children to go out in the winter. It is winter now; it is getting cold. People are thinking of and buying coats for their children for the winter, and boots and rubbers to keep

[Page 3551]

them dry and keep them well during that season. The typical things like underwear, t-shirts, shirts and pants. All of these items are common items. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you hear that? Einstein said that people on fixed incomes don't buy shirts. Did you hear that? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: These are items that families have to buy. Do you know, they also put gas in their car far more often than they repair them and the amounts that they will save in buying the oil that they put in their vehicle, and if they hire somebody to put that oil into the vehicle, the amount that they save on that will, Mr. Speaker, come close probably to equal what they spend on increased tax on gasoline in one week. A $30 purchase of gas - and those who live in rural areas know that a $30 purchase is very common - and many buy a lot more than that, and I am not even in to those who are involved in the commercial trade. Remember, we are talking about a tax upon taxes because the gasoline price that is already there, already contains their built-in taxes. Now they are going to be pyramiding more taxes on top of those taxes and the amounts that they are going to be spending in one week in increased taxes on that gasoline product is going to equal that which they would save on grease and oil over probably a three month or four month period.

Mr. Speaker, that is a shame. That is a disgrace. There is no question whatsoever. Even this government has admitted, their own documents admit, that there is to be an increased cost in consumer taxes. Consumer consumption taxes.

We hear an awful lot from the Minister of Education and Culture and Marketing about the seamless web. The seamless web that he is trying to weave within the schools to ensure that our children get the maximum educational opportunities. (Interruptions) Do you know, if that school board does not provide speech language therapists in that board, as many do not, and the parents' children need that service, they are now going to have to pay full tax? The children who are going to those schools, if they need school supplies, whether they be pencils, scribblers, school bags, whatever, Mr. Speaker, the cost is going up.

Now I see that the former Minister of Finance is over there indicating that he would like to rip up this deal. (Laughter) I see him doing it over there. I see him taking the paper and tearing it. (Interruption)

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member must have misinterpreted some action on my part. I was just referring to his effort at garbaging the APEC report as he went through his speech. He through it in the garbage with a look of disdain on his face.

[Page 3552]

[8:45 p.m.]

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

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the minister. It is obviously an indication that people across the floor should not be sending signals if they are not prepared to get on their feet and say exactly what they want to say because, otherwise they will be misinterpreted and it was an honest mistake.

Mr. Speaker, I want to move before I sit down. Since this is a consumption tax that we all know that is bad, I want to move, That the motion be amended by deleting all the words following the word 'that' and substituting therefor the following: "that in the opinion of this House, consumption taxes are regressive as they do not take into consideration a person's ability to pay'". When you are looking at the admissibility of that, I would reference Page 200 of Beauchesne, Number 670. I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair will recognize one representation from each Party before the Chair rules on this amendment.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask that we might have a few moments to have a look at this. I have not even read this yet. I think it is reasonable that you give Parties an opportunity to have a look at it and then make representations. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Are we recessed? No, I am not finished, good. The thing is, I had the opportunity to look at a copy of this amendment before the actual member moved it and it would be my opinion that this amendment is certainly in order and I would think very similar to the one that I brought forward a little while ago.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, this one is much better.

MR. RUSSELL: However, I am glad that you are taking a 5 minute recess to take the matter under advisement.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: MR. Speaker, I would again, as did the member who moved the motion, refer you to in your deliberations to Paragraph 670(1) on Page 200 of Beauchesne, "It must be declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy or provisions of the bill.". I believe you will agree this clearly does. "(2) It

[Page 3553]

does not propose an alternative scheme, does not approve the principles of the bill, but at the same time enunciate a declaration of policies. It does oppose the principle rather than the subject matter and it does express opinions as to any circumstances connected with the introduction of the prosecution of the bill or otherwise opposed to its progress.

I would humbly submit that within the rules of Beauchesne, in fact, the amendment moved by the member for Sackville-Cobequid was in order.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair will recess for a few minutes.

[8:49 p.m. The House recessed.]

[9:03 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before the Chair brings its decision I will acknowledge the Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: I have had an opportunity to look at the reasoned amendment and I would like to rise on a point of order and argue that the amendment is out of order. The amendment, Mr. Speaker, is declaratory of a principle and the principle is that in the opinion of this House consumption taxes are regressive as they do not take into account a person's ability to pay. The principle that has to be enunciated must be declaratory and it must be adverse to the principle in the bill. So, Mr. Speaker, from that it must follow that the principle of the bill is that it proposes a consumption tax.

This only confirms in my mind that the Third Party has not read the bill and does not understand what the bill is about. This bill does not in any way create a tax. What is presently in existence here in Nova Scotia - the provincial sales tax which is a consumption tax and the GST which is the federal consumption tax. What this bill does, it is an administrative bill that combines these two taxes into another tax which is called the harmonized sales tax. It is administrative. When you look at it, it deals with ratifying agreements that have been entered into, it deals with what is the situation when the rate has to be changed. It deals with administration, as to how a merchant might show the tax, tax-included pricing and so on and that basic transitional taxes going from the present tax to the new tax and some general clauses. Nowhere is there anything in that bill that enunciates the principle about consumption taxes. It is purely an administrative bill to combine two taxes into one tax. That is what the principle of the bill is.

As far as creating consumption tax, what we have is we have less tax than the province was collecting before. We are going to be collecting $100 million a year less taxes, so how could the principle be a consumption tax? For that reason, Mr. Speaker, the principle, that has been enunciated in this amendment is not adverse to the principle of the bill because the principle of the bill is not to create a consumption tax. I suggest that is out of order.

[Page 3554]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on the point of order introduced by the Deputy Government House Leader. I am still trying to get my head around the member's intervention and what he meant. This is a bill (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I am on my feet on a point of order.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. You ruled one intervention per Party. That is the second time he has been up. Does that mean that we get a second intervention? (Interruptions)

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the point of order that the member brought forward - well, I don't understand it so let me just deal with the amendment. The amendment deals with the fact that this Act, Bill No. 48, is An Act to Implement the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia. In other words, what it does, the principle behind this bill is to take two consumption taxes, one at the provincial level and one at the federal level (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, if you will allow me, I am speaking to the point of order. I am trying to explain the fact . . .

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is not a point of order, this is a point on the amendment.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the point of order that was raised by the Deputy Government House Leader, was that this wasn't a bill to combine two consumption-based taxes into one consumption-based tax. What I am saying is that is exactly what it is and that is why you have a consumption-based tax in the final analysis. What I am suggesting is that this amendment is very much in order. There has to be a principle in the bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . a contradiction.

MR. CHISHOLM: Exactly. Old Einstein here is right on, this does, it is contrary to it, Mr. Speaker. It does state a principle contrary, as provided for in Paragraph 670 of Beauchesne. I would suggest, therefore, that this is very much in order, in agreement with Paragraph 670(1), where it says (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: May I just finish, Mr. Speaker? Where it says "It must be declaratory of some principle . . .". and this is for the Minister of Community Services, ". . . adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy or provisions of the bill.". I contend that is, in fact, what it does and that, therefore, is why it is in order.

[Page 3555]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Before the Chair rules on this motion, the Chair will recognize one other spokesman from the Government caucus.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to be long on the point but I think it is a very simple distinction. The simple distinction is this, if this bill that we are debating imposed a regime of consumption tax, if it created consumption tax in this province, then this amendment would be perfectly in order. It would be a reasoned amendment. It would be declaratory - which it is; it is declaratory - and it would be in opposition to the principle of the bill. We are debating principle here on second reading. That is what this is all about. The principle would have been the imposition of a consumption tax, which their reasoned amendment would be in opposition to. This does not impose a consumption tax. This bill, in principle, and in detail I might add, deals with the administration of tax systems which are in place.

So, Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the intervention made by the Deputy Government House Leader and suggest that this reasoned amendment is out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: The House will recess again for a few minutes.

[9:11 p.m. The House recessed.]

[9:14 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion moved by the honourable member appears to fit in the context of the allowable amendments allowed under Beauchesne amendments on second reading, Page 200; therefore, this amendment is in order.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for allowing that amendment. It changes a little bit the speaking notes that I had but I think I can rise to the occasion. One of the interesting things that came out of that amendment was the proliferation in the Chamber of constitutional and parliamentary experts that we seem to have. But the whole thrust and the whole process is that each person that was elected to this Chamber is here to represent the people from their constituency whether they voted Liberal or Conservative or NDP. The people that got the most votes are in here and they are here charged with the responsibility of representing all the constituents regardless of how the constituents voted and regardless of whether the constituents even voted at all, because there are many people in my constituency that didn't vote because they have just moved to the area or they have yet to become of voting age and some are still young children.

[Page 3556]

[9:15 p.m.]

The arguments that were put forward by the Minister of Finance, who is now masquerading in the Health portfolio, certainly says a great deal about the thought that went into this bill prior to its introduction and it says a great deal about the understanding that the government members have; the Deputy Government House Leader and the Minister of Health indicated that they have no knowledge of this bill because they say that this amendment is not right. They indicate that this is not a consumption tax because it doesn't create new areas of taxation. Well, I say to you, Mr. Speaker, indeed it does. You can't have it both ways, you can't suck and blow at the same time; you have heard those expressions.

The pamphlet that was put out last May that we found on our desks late in the morning of May 19th, indicated clearly that this is an increase in taxation and it is a consumption tax because the authors of the report that the minister tabled indicated that it is a consumption tax geared to raise an additional $84 million worth of taxes from Nova Scotians. Now that is quite a chunk of change in anybody's book. Not many people in this province would recognize $84 million if they saw it in the back seat of their car; it is that kind of money, more money than any of us could even ever imagine accumulating in a lifetime. I don't even know how much room it would take to stack up $84 million, but it is a considerable stack of money and it is new money that this government is collecting so indeed this is a new tax.

It is a new consumption tax because this pamphlet that has been put out for $75,000 that no minister in this government, not even the Minister of Finance, would try to declare ownership of it and I don't blame him for trying to stay away. This is the first government announcement that doesn't have every minister's picture and name and phone number and please vote for me and hugs and kisses all over it. This is just Nova Scotia trying to blame it on me and everybody else. I didn't do it. The government, I assume, is paying for it, but it says a whole new raft of things.

Personal services is going to get a tax increase. Personal services are things like haircuts, things like shoe repairs and dry-cleaning. Those are all new taxes that this bill creates. So, indeed, it is a consumption tax. There is a consumption tax on clothing and footwear at the present time. Clothing valued less than $94 is not taxable, so the clothing that we purchase generally is not taxable, unless you buy very expensive clothing and most people try to avoid that. The majority of Nova Scotias could probably get themselves outfitted for less than $94 and look quite presentable.

Professional services, accounting and legal fees. The Minister of Consumer Services a few moments ago said, don't worry about legal fees, particularly if you are poor. He said that poor people don't pay lawyers, they go to Legal Aid. This certainly indicates to me two problems. Number one, the Minister of Community Services does not realize the backlog and the difficulty of getting Legal Aid and, number two, that the Minister of Community Services must be living in a void.

[Page 3557]

Now home heating and fuel oil, propane and firewood. Can the Minister of Health and the Deputy Government House Leader believe you or me that this is not a consumption tax? If we are not consuming fuel oil, propane and firewood, what in the name of time are we doing with it? This is a new tax.

Electricity. Well this isn't new because in 1993 the Minister of Finance put a tax on that that was most unfair to Nova Scotians and not very well thought of. Presently, the tax is 10.2 per cent, rising to 15 per cent April 1st. If anybody can tell me that is not a consumption tax, I would like to know, what in the name of all that's good and holy would you call it?

Gasoline and diesel fuel. They are going up; we burn those in our cars. It is a funny thing, but when I go to the service station and fill the car up with gasoline, the attendant doesn't care what song and dance I have for him. If it says $23, that is what he wants. He doesn't care if I have got $23 in my pocket; he doesn't care if I have got $23,000 in my pocket, all he wants is $23. There is no regard to the ability to pay.

Photographic services and supplies, a new tax, and toothpaste. The government did not want to overlook anything and they put the tax on toothpaste because, as you know, they have reduced the Children's Dental Plan substantially, therefore children are going to have more cavities and they are going to need to buy more toothpaste. If they are going to have to buy more toothpaste, the Minister of Finance wants to make more money.

So the Minister of Finance didn't let anything slide by him and, when you read this amendment, it certainly says clearly that in the opinion of this House consumption taxes are regressive as they do not take into consideration the person's ability to pay. What that means to me, my ability to pay, is I would be able to decide whether I want to spend the money or I don't want to spend the money. When my electricity bill comes in, I have no choice but to pay it, but if I want to economize and say, listen, I cannot afford to pay this tax, I am going to slow down my electric usage, I am going to turn my thermostat down a few degrees so, instead of 65 degrees, I am going to the run the house at 55 degrees and wear an overcoat and mittens. But, even at that lower reduced rate of heat coming through the electric heaters, I am still going to have to pay the tax on the electricity bill, regardless of my ability to pay and regardless of the number of preventive measures and usage I want to put forward.

The very same can be said with my consumption of gasoline. I can do several things with regard to gasoline. I can sell my car and, therefore, I don't have to buy it anymore and I can take a taxi, but the problem with taking a taxi is these characters have put a tax on the taxi ride, you see. If I decide I will pay that little bit of tax and I am going to use public transportation, I am going to get on the bus, well, you see the problem with getting on the bus is this government has put a new tax on bus fares. They've got you coming and going, so selling your car doesn't solve the problem. So there is . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It follows you around.

[Page 3558]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, it follows you around, it is just like glue this tax, there is no escape. Indeed, it is a consumption tax and it does not take into any consideration the amount of money you have jingling in your pockets.

Let us look at what this consumption tax does now that we have agreed that it is a consumption tax. With all due regard to the Deputy Government House Leader, when he indicated that this was not a consumption tax because all it did was combine a couple of taxes that were already there, the GST plus the PST equals the HST, therefore not a consumption tax. That is what the Deputy Government House Leader said, that was the new math. This is the school where you could go two plus two could equal three or one or five, you pick the number, because the additions just do not have to add up any more according to this gentleman.

The Minister of Health indicated, too that he follows the same school of math that the Deputy Government House Leader does, and he said this not a consumption tax because there are no new taxes, it is just a combination. We used to have a member and he said, life is a three-way street. It looks to me as though this is a three-way tax and there is no escape.

School supplies. This is regressive because even if the youngsters want to escape the tax, they cannot because school supplies are presently exempt but, under this regressive tax - and by this regressive government, with no regard for the well-being of the citizens of this province - the tax on school supplies will now be 15 per cent. Can you believe it? Fifteen per cent on children's notebooks, scribblers, pencils, erasers, and book bags, the necessities of going to school.

That is not the only scary area. Everybody has talked about driving schools. If you want to get your driver's license in Nova Scotia you now have to have driving instruction. The government was thinking ahead, last year they brought in this requirement to take driving lessons and now they decided, let's tax it. You see? They make you do it and then they tax you.

Safety supplies. The government decided that we were going to have to wear bicycle helmets to ride our bicycles now. What do you suppose they did? They put a tax on them. This is the kind of regressive government they have. They make a law and then they figure out how to put a tax on it. It is like that old fellow, Will Rogers, said, that when the government makes a law, it is a joke and when they make a joke, it is a law. But when this government makes a law, it is a tax. He was living before this government was around so he could have finished his line.

Life jackets. They are taxed now, too. I was talking to someone the other day and they were telling me that the government is exploring ways to give people, using water, driving boats, they are going to have to get a license, too. I am sure that they will figure a way to put a tax on the driving licenses of people who want to drive a boat.

[Page 3559]

Fitness clubs, amateur sports, ice time. All taxed. They said this was not a new consumer tax. Has this government and the members in it even looked at this bill to fully understand the meaning of all of the changes that have been put in place? Private dance and music lessons. Well I do not dance and I cannot play music, so I guess you can tax it if you want to but people who do want to learn how to dance and people who like music, they are not going to like it and I guess if they do not like it and they tell me it is no good, it is good enough for me. I agree with them because this is not fair, and for the government to stand up and tell us, in this House tonight, two senior members of this Liberal Government stood up and said, this is not a consumption tax, that tells you and it tells me and it tells Nova Scotians that this government is not paying attention.

Property owners. The municipalities feel the only way to make up the shortfall in their taxes is to increase municipal taxes. Is there anything that we can escape? Even the guy trying to sell his car to his neighbour, instead of paying the 11 per cent provincial tax, he is now going to pay the 15 per cent just to sell a second-hand car to his neighbour. Airlines, you want to buy an airline ticket for $500, the ticket is going to cost you a whole lot more now. Renters and landowners, you see, the government said, in this crazy thing, no HST on the following (Interruption) They get in here and one of the things they indicated was rental properties. Well rental properties, the rent is going up. One of our colleagues read a letter that was received today by condominium owners on one of the condominiums down on Water Street, indicating that the condominium fees would substantially rise; substantially, we are not talking they are going to rise a little bit, they are going to rise a substantial amount due to the government and this new tax they have brought in.

[9:30 p.m.]

Businesses are going to be stuck with picking up huge new taxes on electricity and if you are renting from a landlord, what is he going to do? Say, oh, well my tax went up about $1,800 or $2,000 last year. Don't worry about it. I will just absorb it because I like you as a tenant. He cannot say that. He has to pass it on. So if the government thinks rentals are not going to go up, indeed they are. Based on other estimates, 40 litres of fuel per week per family, that is not an enormous amount but it would be the average, I guess, it will cost you $85 a year more just in gasoline to operate your automobile. An additional tax is being put on home heating oil and the home heating oil is going to cost you, as Nova Scotians, $14.9 million extra this year. That is right, Mr. Premier, isn't it? No? When you are agreeing, it is up and down, not back and forth.

Mr. Speaker, I am not making these numbers up. It is going to cost you $14.9 million is what the additional taxes will be on home heating oil; $15 million is going to be created on electricity and the new total for gasoline taxes will be $104 million under this BST. So I have to tell you, this indeed is a consumption tax and it is going to be difficult for people of a modest income to escape because we went over a car and they have to drive. Electricity or home heating oil, what are you going to do? Turn your furnace down to 50 degrees and wear

[Page 3560]

your hat, coat and mittens in the house? People do that now. That is the real world that we are living in.

There are so many Nova Scotians who are barely getting by, this regressive tax that is being passed by this Liberal Government is going to put a lot of people over that thin edge. In record numbers, we have been told that people are withdrawing their RRSP savings. They would not be doing that in record numbers if things were going in the right direction, they would be adding to it. But the employment figures in Nova Scotia are so terrible, the job opportunities are so terrible that, Mr. Speaker, we absolutely must (Interruption)

Yes, and there were 53,000 people looking for work in 1993 and the number is now 63,000 looking for work. In the last 12 months, Mr. Speaker, there are 3,000 more unemployed people in the Annapolis Valley than there was last year. Now, my goodness gracious sakes alive. We have a Premier who got elected on jobs and the only thing he has done is moved jobs to New Brunswick and Newfoundland and outside of our province. The Premier indicated in the election that his main focus was on jobs. We have a Premier that said this tax was going to create 3,000 jobs. If it created 3,000 jobs with this regressive tax, I would like very much to know where they are because today this regressive tax was outlined by the Minister of Finance and some of you have heard the quotable quotes from the Minister of Finance. Do you know what his quotes are full of, in this regressive tax?

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I would like you to restrict your remarks to the amendment that is at hand.

MR. ARCHIBALD: It is.

MADAM SPEAKER: It does not seem to be in my opinion as Speaker so I would ask you now to restrict your remarks to the amendment.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I will try harder. You are always helping me out and I . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: I am trying hard.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . appreciate your assistance because sometimes I may stray off the rails and I am so relieved to have you in the Chair because, Madam Speaker, I do not think there is anybody who knows the rules of this House as well as you do. (Interruptions)

How did you like that? Not much, eh? Well, you know, it was worth a try.

Anyway, Madam Speaker, we have a real problem because we have had two senior ministers indicate this is not a regressive consumption tax, so I suspect they also say that it does not matter whether you have ability to pay. This government does not seem to care. We had the Minister of Community Services tonight say, let the poor people use Legal Aid. That

[Page 3561]

is frightening. That truly is. It indicates such a lack of knowledge of what is available from the government to assist people who are in need.

Today we were listening on the radio when the minister was trying to talk about the 3,000 jobs that this regressive tax was going to create. Now, how anybody could say a tax increase is going to create jobs is beyond me. In fact, it is beyond the Minister of Finance because his conversation this morning was full of confidence-building words, like I hope, I think, maybe, if all goes well and I think so. All those things that would make the listeners say, by golly, he is probably reading that from a table that was put out in the book that has been published by the research company that was hired to look into this HST-BST new tax. The Premier must have gotten these 3,000 jobs that we are going to have coming in here from somewhere. I mean, did he just say, hmm, three zero zero zero, that is a nice number. Why didn't the Premier say 8,000 or 10,000 or 2,000 or 500 or I do not have any idea in the world? It is the Premier that has to wear 3,000 jobs and . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: If they all go to the Valley, he will be even.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, if they all come to the Valley, he will be even. But he is 9,000 jobs behind across Nova Scotia so what is the rest of it (Interruptions) I am sorry, 19,000 jobs behind in Nova Scotia since 1993, so he is going to have to bring in, in order to clean up the unemployment that he has in this province, to find the 60,000 jobs, if $84 million in new taxes would create 3,000 jobs, he has to raise it 20 times in order to create the 60,000 jobs. So, Mr. Premier, if you bring in $1 billion worth of new taxes this year, I believe you would create your 60,000 jobs. I do not know what is holding you back, except the problem that the regressive taxation that this government has brought in constantly since 1993 has removed the ability of Nova Scotians to pay taxes. This tax (Interruptions) that is coming in now - Madam Speaker, I am doing the best I can to stay right on track.

MADAM SPEAKER: I can hear you.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I am avoiding the riff-raff and the catcalls and everything else. This government since 1993, after running on a no taxation platform, brought in $22 million worth of new taxes on gasoline. They brought in a 3 per cent increase in electric bills. They brought in 1 per cent, which is a 10 per cent increase, in your sales tax, raised it from 10 per cent to 11 per cent. They also increased every fee, licence and fine in existence. With all those things combined they have already whipped out $100 million minimum of taxation every year since then. That is $300 million out of the provincial economy. They have brought in more gambling than ever existed anywhere in Atlantic Canada with this blessed casino. They are exporting over $100 million a year.

AN HON. MEMBER: We have created 1,600 jobs.

[Page 3562]

MR. ARCHIBALD: They have created 1,600 jobs, the Premier just indicated. The price of that 1,600 jobs was $100 million a year heading south to Boston. That is $100 million that Nova Scotians cannot spend any more because it has left Nova Scotia and it has left Canada. (Interruptions) They wish? I do not. I am sure they do and you probably get good service when you go down there.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Some people come from Boston.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Yeah, there are a lot of people in Boston that are driving to Halifax to go gambling. I mean, it is a lot closer to go to Connecticut when you are in Boston and see a real one. This government has been so regressive with taxation since 1993, nobody should be surprised that this regressive tax is being imposed. It is a consumption tax and it does not take into consideration your ability or my ability to pay. When your electric bill comes, it does not make any difference whether you can afford to pay it or not. They want their money or they cut off the power. That is not taken into account. What can you do about it? You have a basic service. Are you going to shut it off when you do not use it? You really cannot do that. It is unrealistic to think that this is anything but a consumption tax and a regressive tax that does not consider the ability of one to pay.

We can say, well, we are not going to buy so many clothes. We are not going to buy so many shirts. We are not going to go to the grocery store. The neat thing about it is that so often you hear the government members and so on say there is no tax on groceries. The neat thing about grocery stores, and you should go into one some day and after you go through the checkout, look at what is in your wagon; 8 of the top 10 selling items in a grocery store you do not eat. It is not food.

AN HON. MEMBER: The price of light bulbs is down.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Pardon? The Premier just said the price of light bulbs is down. Well, that is great. The price of light bulbs is gone down, but the tax for turning it on has gone up. I mean, my golly, Mr. Premier, you have got it. You are agreeing with what we are trying to tell you. This is a regressive tax. A little $3.00 light bulb has no comparison to a $200 a month electricity bill.

You see, they say there is no tax on groceries, but when you go to the store, 8 of the top 10 things in your basket are not groceries anyway. There are all these things and some of them are brand new for taxes. (Interruptions) Do not buy toothpaste. Toothpaste is going down? (Interruptions) No, toothpaste is going up.

AN HON. MEMBER: They put the squeeze on toothpaste.

[Page 3563]

MR. ARCHIBALD: We had a great long list. We had a list of grocery-type items over here. I have so many lists over here, Mr. Premier, that I cannot help. I can share it with you tomorrow and show you where this regressive tax is really going to be getting the money.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why don't you go out shopping with him? That would show him.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I like his tie, but I do not know that I want to go shopping with him. The people of Nova Scotia will be so thrilled, Mr. Premier, because the list of things that are down is very long, but the list of things that are up is misleadingly short. Personal service, hair cuts, shoe repairs, dry-cleaning, clothing and footwear. Now, why when you get into clothing and footwear don't we list pants and shirts and jackets and caps. We could have made this list a little longer if we had listed them the same way you listed all the other things.

Home heating. Look, you can talk all you want about reducing the tax on dog food, Mr. Premier, but I want you to know that electricity and gasoline and home heating fuels are going to drive the taxes out of sight compared to any savings that are going to be made. The tax increase of $84 million is not going to be reduced just because a few people are keeping another dog. When it comes to keeping a dog, look, I have a dog and I have a cat, too. I think the world of the pair of them, but if it comes to a choice of feeding my family or feeding my dog (Interruptions)

This is a regressive consumption tax. I think this is a great amendment and I want to give anybody else who wishes to take part in this debate an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, because it is important that people understand that the government leaders had no idea that this tax was so regressive and had no concern for the ability to pay. What you have to remember is electricity, gasoline and heating oil are the necessities of life in Nova Scotia's cold, long winter, and this government is so uncaring that they have put the taxes up on each of those products every year since 1993, finally culminating in this miserable BS Tax that the Premier erroneously claims will create jobs.

[9:45 p.m.]

I am afraid that this government is completely and totally out of touch with the real world of Nova Scotia. So, I will take my place and I hope that this amendment will pass because it is clearly an improvement on this bill.

[Page 3564]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: I welcome the opportunity to address the amendment. It really, I think, changes the direction of the debate because it now is focusing on another side of the issue. We have had an opportunity in debate, up to this point, we have been focusing on the effect on the retail trade, the effect on jobs and what this all means to the business community. We have, perhaps, spent far too little time talking about what this blended sales tax has to do with consumers. We focused on the business community, because there is a very serious problem in this province with jobs; as well, there is a direct effect on the health of the business community, and the retail trade in particular, and what Nova Scotians have to pay to survive on a day-to-day basis here in the province.

There is a fundamental address here that is part of this motion. It has to do with consumption tax. This government loves consumption taxes. That love affair became very apparent in 1993, when they introduced their mini-budget in the fall of 1993 and they went against all that they indicated to the people of Nova Scotia that they would not do, and that was that they were not going to raise taxes. But they increased our provincial sales tax from 10 per cent to 11 per cent, which is a 10 per cent increase; they introduced the business services tax, which again is a consumption tax; and then they introduced a 3 per cent surtax on electricity. So, right away, this government indicated that, obviously, it was in favour of consumption taxes.

The tax system in this province does require revision. We all understand that, but there has not been a proper public debate as to where all this should end up. What should be the position of the government on consumption taxes? I find it strange because there was a commitment, when in Opposition, by the former Minister of Finance, because he is on record as saying that he was in favour of a fair tax commission. Essentially, what the former Minister of Finance was saying was that he wanted to examine, with the people of Nova Scotia, a balance of taxes, a fair tax structure that would be an appropriate balance of consumption tax and corporate tax and income tax and other taxes that the provincial government has the opportunity and the power to introduce.

The ability to tax and spend the public purse, of course, is one of the cornerstones of responsible government, and that cornerstone is simply the ability to raise money by taxes and, as well, the ability to spend the public purse.

Well, the public has had no input as to the taxing policy of this government because that was not made an issue back in 1993. It has only become an issue since this government came to power and didn't have any plan in place. Their plan was simply to achieve power and now that they have done that, they are searching madly for a recipe that will allow this province to grow and to prosper. (Interruption)

[Page 3565]

Well, Madam Speaker, the Premier seems to want to be drawn into the debate, finally. I would welcome, perhaps if he wishes to debate, that he would take up the challenge that was issued earlier today and meet me at some fire hall or some Legion hall, and we will have the debate as to whether or not we should be increasing consumption taxes at such an obscene rate that we are simply removing, from many Nova Scotians, the ability to survive.

There is absolutely no argument that this government is, by this measure, adding to a consumption tax load that is staggering a further blow to the consumers of this province, and it is doing it both directly with direct consumption tax and, as well, indirectly by affecting negatively many sectors of the business community.

If you look at the government's own information - and the evidence is here - the evidence is in their book, Nova Scotia Tax Reform, Economic and Fiscal Analysis. When you turn to Page 23, here it all is, "Consumer Impact by Family Income Level", and I go to sales tax increase, consumption tax, and at all levels of income, from $0 to $80,000 per year and above - and these are family incomes - the tables here indicate an increase in sales tax, an increase in consumption tax for all Nova Scotians. Now, is that justified? Is it justified that we increase the consumer tax load to this great extent, and without providing a proper balance, into a tax reformed system, perhaps a system that could be designed by what the former Minister of Finance called his fair tax commission.

The now government, when in Opposition, had a lot of good suggestions which seemed to be generated perhaps by their zeal to attack the former government and on many occasions, you look back in Hansard, you see what seem to be reasonable suggestions from an Opposition, but on crossing the floor the now government has distanced itself, created a distance between itself and those sensible suggestions.

The one thing I have in terms of this consumption tax - that this is - is that the average sales tax increases as listed here, when analyzed and when we try to substantiate that these levels are, in fact, accurate, we keep coming up - at the income levels that are part of these tables - with higher values. We do some samples of spending habits and budgets of people within these income levels and we come up with a higher increase in consumption tax, or sales tax, than we see on these tables, and my feeling is that the $84 million that was calculated using these tables will, in fact, in practice end up being a higher number than the number we have been given by the Department of Finance and the $84 million will, in fact, increase.

We are talking about, in this particular resolution, consideration of a person's ability to pay. Does this government think that consumers in Nova Scotia have more ability to pay, more ability than their ability to deal with the increased consumption taxes that were introduced in 1993, more ability to pay the increase in fees in contracts and permits and licenses, all of which have gone up in the last three years? Does this government think that Nova Scotians have more money, more disposable income?

[Page 3566]

THE PREMIER: Yes. The stats show they do.

DR. HAMM: The Premier says yes. He feels they have that. I see the figures that the public sector average weekly earnings here in Nova Scotia are the lowest in Canada, the lowest in any province, yet our Premier suggests that Nova Scotians can deal with higher consumption taxes. It is interesting, because I come away, having talked to Nova Scotians, and as I examine what is going on, I come to a different conclusion than the Premier obviously has come to.

You know, the ability of Nova Scotians to pay is simply stretched to the limit, because not only is there the direct consumption tax, but the ability to pay has to be looked at in terms of what this does. Not only does the consumption tax go up but retailers tell us that those goods which will attract a lower tax rate in fact themselves will be elevated in price due to the increased cost of merchandising. That again will affect the ability of the consumer to pay.

The evidence is there. Six major retailers have indicated that in Atlantic Canada their start-up costs will be $28 million and we in Nova Scotia will absorb about $12 million of that. So that will be $12 million more on top of the $84 million that will be passed on to Nova Scotians. Their yearly costs of dealing with tax-included pricing will be $34 million. They will have $6 million of input tax credits, which will reduce the effective increase in price for tax-included pricing down to $28 million. That is another $12 million on an annual basis that will hit the Nova Scotia consumer.

It is interesting because the government goes to great difficulty and some expense, I believe $75,000 worth of expense, and since the ads are continuing, I suppose the cost of the ads, $75,000, will be revised upwards. It is interesting that the list of items going up as a result of the HST is considerably shorter than the list of items that are going down. The things that are going down, among others: photography equipment, watches and jewellery, hotel and motel accommodations, clothing and footwear over $94, carpeting and flooring and wallpaper, furniture and appliances. For many Nova Scotians, those are not items that are bought with any frequency.

Then I look at the items that will, in fact, go up. I am talking about haircuts and shoe repairs and dry-cleaning and low priced clothing under $94. Did this government consider the consumer when they brought in a tax reform that actually lowers the tax on an expensive item of clothing like a leather coat or a fur coat and with the same stroke of a pen increases the tax on children's clothing, on children's shoes? That bears a little looking at.

Part of the difficulty is, how much of this truly has been well researched? A previous speaker has indicated very clearly that the Minister of Finance this morning while being interviewed, I believe it was on CJCH Radio, certainly did not leave the listening audience with confidence that in fact all of this was nicely under control. In fact, the way that he chose to respond to some questions would indicate very clearly that much of this still has to be

[Page 3567]

researched. Those hundreds of questions to which he referred on a previous occasion, those questions that are as yet unanswered in the minds of the Minister of Finance are still unanswered.

[10:00 p.m.]

Part of the difficulty with this is that instead of having a fair tax commission to go around the province and determine what kind of tax reform Nova Scotians would feel comfortable with, what kind of tax reform would sit well with Nova Scotians, we have a blended sales tax arrangement. The terms were dictated by Ottawa. The time table was dictated by Ottawa and the rate was dictated by Ottawa. A federal political GST excuse placed firmly on the back of the Nova Scotia consumer. That is what is wrong with all of this.

Now, there is a lot of difficulty in all of this because when you look at the government list and you realize that automobiles will be less expensive, expensive clothing will be less expensive, many retail items will be less expensive, but major ticket items - the items that you cannot escape - will be more expensive; $54 million in increased tax at the gas pump annually. Most Nova Scotians require an automobile for one reason or another, those that can afford it.

I think perhaps the argument that the Minister of Finance put forward on a previous day was that you will pay more at the gas pump but you will save money when you buy a new car. For most Nova Scotians the purchase of a new car, particularly after the increase in taxes that Nova Scotians are being forced to absorb, will perhaps never become a reality. In other words, they will not be able to buy the new car so they can afford to put the gas in their cars.

We talk about electricity and the cost of electricity with this new increased tax will cost the Nova Scotia consumer $15 million, and another $14 million in increased costs due to the increased taxes for furnace oil. With this increased tax in electricity many Nova Scotians will be in the dark, perhaps in the same dark that this government finds itself in as it wanders aimlessly through this tax reform that it is imposing on Nova Scotia.

I fail to see what it is that the government finds so encouraging about this tax. It is regressive because of its heavy hit on consumers. The government by its own admission - the numbers that come monthly out of the Department of Finance - indicates quite clearly that the government that came to power promising jobs in reality had no job creation strategy in mind. They were simply out there to achieve power. After three and a half years of ineffective efforts to generate momentum in the Nova Scotia economy, are now grasping at the straw that has been handed them by Paul Martin in Ottawa, regardless of the effect on the Nova Scotia consumer. They are prepared to sacrifice the Nova Scotia consumer in a vague hope that the advantage that this legislation provides to business will prove to be an economic generator - a gamble that is far too big to be taken on such flimsy evidence.

[Page 3568]

We talk about the consumer and we talk about a consumption tax, but the ability of Nova Scotians to pay through all of this will be impacted by a higher residential tax across this province because of the download of another $11 million onto the municipal governments. The municipal governments have been dealing with a service exchange which they agreed to in 1994 thinking that government was stabilizing the responsibility between the provincial and municipal governments. The stabilization has never really occurred because downloading continued monthly after that service exchange legislation was agreed to and passed through this House, passed only because of the big majority that the government enjoys down here in Province House.

We look at the effect of the implications of the harmonized tax on tenants. The same tenants who are having difficulty paying the consumption tax will have difficulty as well paying the increased costs of rentals. The documentation for that is very clear because it has been brought to us and presented as well to government. That is what makes it so frustrating, when evidence is produced, whether it be from the MMG group who tell us that 300 jobs will be lost through this new tax because they are going to have to close 11 stores; the retailers tell us that the cost of goods will go up; the Investment Property Owners' Association of Nova Scotia tells us that rents will go up.

We provide evidence; we ask the government to bring forward their evidence, the evidence that the 3,000 jobs will really be generated by this tax change and that our economy will grow by 0.8 per cent and that all of this will justify the heavy hit on the consumers of this province.

Many Nova Scotians, Madam Speaker, will be negatively impacted in a very serious way by this piece of legislation. The consumer tax load was heavy enough in 1993 without the imposition of increased consumer taxes in the fall of 1993. There is no justification for this government to increase the consumer tax load, the consumption taxes that this represents. Despite the government's best efforts, they have convinced no one that the Nova Scotia consumer will benefit by these tax changes.

If there is evidence, let this government, let this Premier, let this Minister of Finance produce that evidence. Let them produce the evidence that is clearly indicated in the tables of the tax reform document. This is a regressive tax. It is a tax hit on consumers. It is unconscionable. It is harmful. It is hurtful. Nova Scotians will pay a heavy price if this government does not awaken to the reality that this is a poorly constructed tax reform, taken without consultation, given to us by the federal Minister of Finance to get the federal Liberal Government off the hook so that they can go to the people of Canada after April 1st with a semblance of an excuse that they have eliminated the GST. This is nothing more than political manoeuvring. It is not tax reform.

[Page 3569]

Madam Speaker, we cannot ever escape taxes any more than death itself can be escaped. But taxes must be fair. There is not a single Nova Scotian who said to me in 1993 that the solution of the government's problem is increased taxes. There is not a single Nova Scotian who suggested to me that that was the solution.

If this government feels that it has a mandate from the people of Nova Scotia to increase taxes, then it need not worry on the outcome of this debate. It need not worry that it is going to increase the consumer tax load if it feels, in reality, it has a mandate, if it feels that it has listened to Nova Scotians. The people on the street are telling them something different than what they are telling me, that they like the tax, that they want to pay more tax, that they want children's clothing to be taxed, that they want school supplies to be taxed, that they want taxi fares to go up. Is that what Nova Scotians are telling members of the government? Then they are talking to a different population of Nova Scotians than speak to me.

Nova Scotians are saying to me, fight this tax. It is not right. We have had no input. It is simply a political excuse. Well, Madam Speaker, I am going to vote against this political excuse.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, let me say how pleased I am to rise and speak on this amendment which raises the whole question and the concern with consumption-based taxes as being regressive and, therefore, unfair because of the fact that they are not based at all on a person's ability to pay. Whether you make $10,000 or $100,000, what you pay in terms of your consumption pattern doesn't change; if you have the same consumption pattern, then it does not change.

Let me say, as I begin debate on this amendment, that I am very pleased to have the Official Opposition joining us in this debate because, Madam Speaker, I am very clear and I believe my caucus and our Party have always been very clear on our opposition to consumption-based taxes, philosophically. We believe that there has been a problem, increasingly, in this country over the past 20 years with reliance on consumption-based taxes and a move away from a taxation system based on a sense of equity, fairness, and people paying relative to their ability to pay. I commend the Leader of the Official Opposition for the statements that he has just concluded and, in fact, the member for Kings North who initiated the debate in standing up for ordinary, hard-working Nova Scotians.

Let me tell you, when I hear this coming from the Official Opposition, my hope that we will be able to, after the next election, move this province towards a fairer tax system becomes even more possible, because that is two of the three Parties. Clearly, I believe that we certainly will be in a majority situation after the next election and, as I have said, when our Party takes power, we will immediately initiate the opting out clause in the BST agreement

[Page 3570]

and immediately commence a fair tax commission. I look forward to having the support of the Progressive Conservative Party in that challenge.

I think, though, as I begin debate on the regressiveness and the inherent unfairness of consumption-based taxes I should refer this Minister of Finance back a few years to statements that he made in 1989. I believe it was the month of April during Question Period in this House. That was when the then Finance Critic, who is now the Minister of Finance, said, and this is a question, "As the Premier well knows, sales taxes are regressive . . . These taxes do not recognize a person's ability to pay . . . I specifically want to put it right to the Premier, do you have the intestinal fortitude to tell your Tory brother, Mr. Mulroney, that Nova Scotians are vehemently opposed to a national . . . tax?".

[10:15 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, we had heard that quote before in this House but I thought as I kicked off my debate on the inherent unfairness of consumption-based taxes it might be appropriate for me to remind members opposite and certainly the Finance Minister himself that it wasn't all that long ago when he supported very much our position and the position of so many Nova Scotians and Canadians that consumption-based taxed are inherently unfair and therefore should not be imposed on them.

Let me now take a look at when Nova Scotians have had an opportunity to pass judgment on the idea of a harmonized sales tax. Particularly it was a survey that was done in the metro area and was conducted by Corporate Research, I believe, back in May 1996. Some would suggest that in trying to facilitate the information gathering process that the government was going through that they had just released details, scanty though they were, they were just releasing details of the new harmonized sales tax or what was called then the BS Tax. We were also, as you may recall, just moving into an election campaign in Halifax Fairview.

At that time when asked how they feel about this harmonized sales tax, the idea of combining the provincial sales tax with the GST, Nova Scotians, those living in the greater metropolitan area - the headline here of the Corporate Research Associated Metro Quarterly says, metro residents disapprove of GST-PST harmonization. The question was with respect to the initial public reaction in the metro area to the federal-provincial agreement to harmonize the GST and PST. It says that in response to a survey question that described the new tax that will combine the 11 per cent PST and the 7 per cent GST into a single 15 per cent sales tax that would cover a broader range of goods and services, 70 per cent either strongly or generally disapproved of that plan.

You may also recall what happened when Nova Scotians in metro that reside in Halifax Fairview had an opportunity to cast their ballot or pass judgment again on the BS Tax. They voted for the one candidate representing the one Party that was clearly on the record as being

[Page 3571]

opposed to not only the BS Tax but also the GST and any and all consumption-based taxes because of their inherent unfairness. This poll went on to say something interesting, I thought. When asked why they disapprove of the tax, metro residents are most likely to say that it will mean they will end up paying more taxes in general, that they will end up paying more for commonly purchased goods and services and that items not previously taxed will now cost more. That is very much the crux of the debate here in this House over the past few days.

Let me first of all address the whole issue of consumption-based taxes and their regressive nature, Madam Speaker. I would suggest to you and to other members of this House that traditionally the most fundamental test of whether a tax system was equitable was whether it taxed individuals based on their ability to pay. That was, in fact, the test and that test was taken on their income. Back in the late 1980's, and early 1990's in particular, the Tory Prime Minister of this country, Mr. Mulroney, decided to rewrite that test, that whole question of what made an equitable and a fair tax system. He did that by suggesting that maybe what was more fair was by testing a system on what people consumed instead of their income. He thought that in fact basing it on what they consume was a fairer test. You know what came out of that, the GST.

The government loves to talk in terms of this being the largest tax break or the most significant tax change in the history of this province. They say that in such glowing terms. Well, I think everybody will recognize that the GST was the most significant shift ever from businesses on to consumers, the most unfair tax applied in one fell swoop ever in the history of this country. The impact on the Atlantic Region was to the tune, in terms of additional tax burden, of $3 billion. Consumers in the Atlantic Region ended up paying $3 billion additionally as a result of the GST. I think you, Mr. Speaker, and other members of this House will recognize that the idea that savings were passed on to consumers was merely part of the rhetoric, part of the bumf in order to sell the GST and it has not turned out to be real in any way whatsoever.

The second way to test whether the changed tax system is fair is test it on the basis of what people consumed instead of on the basis of income - that it was not necessary to tax really high income earners at an increasing percentage of their income. What you saw was a capping back in those days, in 1990, at $58,000. So someone earning in that income range paid the same rate as someone earning in the $200,000-plus range, the idea being, again, that for some reason once you passed that threshold it was no longer fair to ask high income earners to pay based on an increasing percentage; in other words, based on their ability to pay, on the whole question of progressiveness.

The third change in how, in fact, the tax system was being evaluated was that it was suddenly all right to impose a large regressive tax - i.e., the GST - on low income people so long as some of them receive additional transfers.

[Page 3572]

Mr. Speaker, that, of course, happened in terms of a GST rebate to low income Nova Scotians, to low income Canadians earning below a certain level, then you received a rebate on the amount of GST paid on items throughout your purchasing experience and that GST was paid, I believe, quarterly.

Mr. Speaker, part of the idea and the fondness with that former Tory Government had with consumption-based taxes and for those people who pushed consumption-based taxes and suggested that they are fair is because they say that consumption-based taxes are voluntary. In other words, a person can make a decision not to buy something and if a person does not buy a given consumer good or a service, then they do not pay that tax on it. What we found over the years is that this assumption is wrong and it is wrong for two important reasons. It is wrong in the first analysis because so many of those consumption-based goods, and I will refer to it a little later in my presentation, as it relates to what the BST is now being applied to in this province, that so many of those items are family necessities. They are essential items that many low and middle income earners need to buy, regardless. There is not a question of choice. Families need to buy clothing for their children. They need to buy school supplies. They need to buy fuel to heat their homes, whether that be wood or fuel oil. They need to have access to motor vehicles in order to get to their jobs or in order to get around, in order to carry out their function as active members of their community. Those are not choices.

Mind you, whether you go out and joyride around the province certainly is a choice, but in terms of your ability to decide not to go to work, for example, in order to save money on gasoline, is not a choice, especially if you live in the rural parts of this province where you cannot access public transit. Certainly, if you live in some parts of metro and cannot access public transit because of the shift schedules or because the buses do not run to your particular area, then it is just that. So, in other words, that is not a choice. It is something that people have to buy. Electricity, Mr. Speaker, people, regardless of how much they earn, have to pay their power bills, power bills which are going up.

So this idea that consumption-based taxes are fair because they are voluntary is spurious in the extreme, Mr. Speaker, because low income and even most middle income families must necessarily consume much of their income simply to maintain a half decent standard of living and, in fact, that is why this additional consumption-based tax on many of those family essentials is so much of a hardship for middle income Nova Scotians, because those are the people who spend, who pay the bulk of the consumption-based taxes to this government and to the federal government. Those are the people who do consume and those are the people who are going to end up paying much more, certainly as a percentage, as a proportion of their income. Low income and poor Nova Scotians are the people who will have even less choice in terms of their ability to avoid paying these additional taxes.

[Page 3573]

[10:30 p.m.]

What is interesting is this whole idea of voluntary is never applied to the income tax system, but certainly it is still voluntary, is it not that, if someone does not want to pay income tax, they do not have to work or they do not have to work so hard that they pay an additional tax. You do not want to pay a wealth tax, do not accumulate wealth; it is just that simple. The point is that if we are going to have a fair tax system in this country and in this province, then people must be willing to pay their fair share, and the best way to estimate what that fair share represents is by taxing people on the basis of their income, on the basis of their ability to pay. That is the nature of the debate in which we are engaged at the present time.

There have been various studies that we have referred to in this House. I have not had a chance yet to get to a study that is done by Dun & Bradstreet, and let me say, Mr. Speaker, because we here in the Opposition, in trying to make our arguments relative to debate in this House, have made reference to various studies, various analyses that have been done on the effect of the BST, and one of the studies we have referred to, some of us, is the study done by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.

Now, some members opposite have suggested that we have been less than candid on that and that we have not simply gone to the conclusions, conclusions which, as has been stated, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council think that, overall, the blended sales tax will be marginally positive for the economy of Nova Scotia and of this region. But, there is a lot of other important information in that document, that analysis, that I think it is incumbent on all members to consider. These are people who come at the study with a particular perspective and they do their analysis; they pull together the facts and figures and they run it through their models and they do come up with conclusions, and those conclusions are not irrespective of their philosophies and of their "small p" political ideologies, and I am not suggesting that their conclusions are wrong. I am just suggesting that people can come to different conclusions on the basis of the same data, the same information.

There is nothing wrong with that. It is called looking at information with a critical eye, with a critical perspective, and not just accepting holus-bolus what it is that you are being fed. I must tell you that that is a concern that I have had with much of what this government has done with its decisions to make various changes, whether that be amalgamating the metropolitan areas here in Halifax and in Cape Breton, or whether it be school boards, or whether it be to follow privatization as a model to deliver health services in this province. I sometimes feel that this government and some ministers are being sold a bill of goods, are being given conclusions and accepting those conclusions as fact and as the truth, without actually examining the information which led whomever to reach those conclusions, and I think that is a weakness in the way this government has presented itself.

[Page 3574]

Nonetheless, I have looked at that study and I have looked at other studies. For example, the Dun & Bradstreet rating service did an analysis of the whole harmonization equation and what they did was they broke up their analysis into different sections; impacts on business, impacts on consumers, impacts on the federal government and provincial government, and so on.

One area that I thought was of interest, and I wanted to share this with you and other members, was the section under impact on consumers and in particular the whole question of the negative effects of harmonization on consumers. There are a couple of issues that I think are worth noting within this particular section. It says in here that since businesses will get input tax credits under harmonization, if there is a sales tax increase following the initial four year transition period, the consumer will pay. I raise that because I asked a question, for example, at the forum held by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, APEC, wherein I recognized the fact that the government was going to be short on revenue. After the $250 million, now with interest up to $275 million, I understand, once that is spent over the next three years, then the government is going to be short $100 million annually. How are they going to make that up? One of the things that is mentioned here, with respect to the negative effects of harmonization, is that if there is a sales tax increase then it will be consumers.

Also what they have said is that the sales tax base is being expanded to include the labour intensive service sectors. The labour component of services from repairs, to haircuts, areas that were previously exempt from the tax will now be taxed. As I have already mentioned, things like heating oil, electricity, natural gas, legal and accounting fees will attract consumption taxes here in Nova Scotia. Again, that is a further burden, in particular, on low income Nova Scotians. They are going to be asked now to pay on many services that maybe they were receiving and had been receiving which they only paid the GST on.

Remember the impact that the GST had on the economy of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Region? It was considerable. Now what we are doing is adding to many services and goods, which were previously exempt from the PST, 8 per cent. For many low and middle income consumers, that is going to represent a considerable increase in the amount that they are going to have to pay in order to provide for themselves and for their families.

A couple of other things that I think are interesting, the consumer is vulnerable to new taxes which may be levied by the harmonizing provinces in order to overcome the revenue shortfall. It talks about the increased taxes on the private sale of used vehicles. But here is an interesting thought, and we are going to explore this a little more if we get the opportunity in Question Period, and it is something that I don't think we have talked about.

According to the Dun & Bradstreet analysis, they say that the provinces that are part of the harmonization agreement will be allowed to apply flat taxes on personal income taxes. These flat taxes have four times the impact of 1 per cent basic federal tax change. The fact that the federal government will collect the flat tax is a new development since over the past

[Page 3575]

six to eight years it has refused to do so. None of the harmonizing provinces has indicated an intention to levy a flat tax at this time. The point is though that provision has been made within this agreement for the federal government, unbeknownst to many of those who will be paying that tax to suddenly collect that tax.

One further point from Dun & Bradstreet is, and we have raised it here before, the fact that we are giving up, as a result of this bill, a lot of decisions, a lot of important control over our own tax system. For example, and I will refer to the agreement a little later, we would not be allowed, under this agreement, on our own, to lower provincial sales tax. We would not be allowed to do that without a majority of the participants to this agreement, Mr. Speaker. We would not be allowed to lower consumption-based taxes if, in fact, we decided, and say this agreement was still in effect and we had a fair tax commission, let's say this government decided to fulfill their promise from 1993, actually 1992, to hold a fair tax commission. Let's follow this fantasy through and suggest that this government might actually get elected again after the next election and that they decided to go forward with a fair tax commission.

The overwhelming conclusion, as a result of consultation with Nova Scotians and consultation with tax experts and others, was that we needed to reduce consumption-based taxes in the Province of Nova Scotia, that we need to reform the tax system to make it fairer, something that we had been pushing for and will continue to push for, but let's say, stay with me here, in case this government were to be re-elected after the next election. I know it is hard to believe that that might happen, but stay with me for the purpose of argument, for the purpose of explanation, let's just say that that were to happen and that we were to have a fair tax commission and this government, or the government of the day, were to recognize that it would be much more fair and much more progressive to reform the tax system to lower the consumption-based taxes and to increase, in terms of taxes, on the basis of people's ability to pay.

In other words, an analysis showed, for example, that where 23 out of 24 of the OECD countries have a wealth tax that maybe it would be appropriate if we could, within the provincial jurisdiction, impose a wealth tax on income over, I don't know, $500,000 let's say and that that would, in fact, allow us to reduce consumption-based taxes by two or three points, Mr. Speaker. What we have done, though, is in this agreement, if this agreement were still in force, is given up the ability to do that. This government has given up that decision to the feds, that only the federal government can make that decision, together with a majority of the participating provinces. In fact, as it says here, in terms of the federal government benefiting from harmonization, it says for a relatively small $961 million, some people have, in a very derogatory fashion, suggested that that money was a pay-off or a bribe or whatever, but we are getting $249 million of it. So what this study says is, for a relatively small cost, the federal government gains a strong position in consumption taxes in the harmonizing Atlantic Provinces.

[Page 3576]

Let me say, just to wrap up the Dun & Bradstreet Rating Service Report but it also says, in terms of the benefits for the federal government, that the government makes some progress towards complete harmonization and varying of the GST - it doesn't say removing the GST, it says varying the GST. It comes closer to standardizing sales taxes in Canada, eventually eliminating a potential political issue between the federal government, the public and the province.

[10:45 p.m.]

Let me just say for all who are listening, that the public will never be satisfied with a consumption-based tax like the GST or the BST, as long as it remains in existence in this province and this country. So that political issue will remain until we elect a federal government that is committed to bringing forward a fair tax system that ensures that people will pay, based on their ability and takes the load off low and middle income Nova Scotians and Canadians, who are paying an overabundance of their share on the share of their money, of their income, on consumption-based taxes.

Mr. Speaker, this consumption-based tax will mean that low and middle income Nova Scotians will pay more. A report here that was in the Daily News in Truro, Nova Scotia, with the headline People Will Pay More, Dr. Steven Clark, associate professor in economics and business at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, said that in total people will pay more taxes. He says that it is the poor who will take the brunt. Even the experts that the former Minister of Finance and his department trotted out to support the harmonization of these taxes had to admit, under some pressure, that it is the poor, it is low income Nova Scotians who will bear the burden, who will pay more as a result of these tax changes.

There are a number of items that people are now going to have to pay consumption taxes on, an additional consumption tax. I raised the question this morning in Question Period to the Minister of Finance that it had come to my attention that speech pathologists in the Province of Nova Scotia, that are providing a service to many children, an increasing number of children in this province because of the scarcity of speech pathologists in our schools and in our clinics and our hospitals, so parents are being forced to go out and purchase these services from private professionals to enable their children to have some assistance, some help, some intervention to assist them in overcoming a difficulty that they may have that is preventing them, that is hindering their ability to learn in the school system. As a result of cutbacks in education, the parents are having to do that.

I learned that the cost of those services to some are in the area of $30 for half an hour for their child to attend a professional in speech therapy. Those people, until now, were exempt from the GST but it is understood that the exemption of health care providers has been changed and that now those professionals will have to pay not just 7 per cent but now they will have to pay 15 per cent. So for a low income or middle income family who are

[Page 3577]

forced because the school system does not provide the service, they will now have to pay an additional $4.50 or thereabouts in taxes on that half-hour of service.

Again, we are not quite sure about whether that is in fact the final decision. That is information that we got out of that 354 page Ways and Means Motion and the bill that was introduced in the House of Commons. Under questioning, the Minister of Finance here in Nova Scotia was unable to answer that question for me and for other members of this House who are interested. It is another example of a service that many people are going to be forced to pay.

That also refers to the question of home care services. It has become increasingly apparent that people who purchase home care services in the Province of Nova Scotia - and increasingly people are forced to do that as they are being made to wait at home for longer periods of time to access the services at a hospital. In order to get in to have diagnostic tests or to get surgery or other interventions that will enable their condition to change, to improve, those people are requiring the services either of nursing care or home support, someone to go into the home to help dispense medication or provide medically necessary therapy or provide the support that is necessary in the form of washing of clothes or the cleaning of the home or the cooking of meals. That may seem like an extra. The Minister of Finance, when I asked him that question today, stood in his place and said that if someone is going to pay for someone to come in to wash their clothes because they do not want to do it, then why should they not pay a tax on it. That is not the reality when it comes to home care.

Increasingly people are being forced, if they are going to stay in their home. They are being forced. The hospitals cannot take them. The surgeries are unavailable. The waiting lists are longer. If they are alone, if there is no support, if there are no volunteer services; if there are no family members and that person is incapacitated with, say, a broken limb or a heart condition which prevents them from vigorous activity, then they would be required to have someone else come into the home to help them.

According to information that we have received, contrary to the initial indications of the Minister of Finance's department, in fact when people purchase those services they will be required to pay the additional 15 per cent. I for one believe that is unfair. Once again, it is going to mean that people earning a low income, people earning a middle income, are going to pay a greater proportion of that income in taxes as opposed to someone who is earning a lot more, who is earning $100,000. Compared to someone earning $20,000 the proportion that is being paid for those same services is different. That is the whole issue. That is why this is unfair. The thing to do, and increasingly in the world and in the industrialized countries, people are moving to lessen consumption-based taxes, it has been determined in some economies, you have got to have a better blend of taxes in order to insert that process of equity, the process of fairness back in to the tax system.

[Page 3578]

What happens to low and middle income earners, when you have a regressive tax like this imposed upon them, is that they pay in two ways. They pay because a greater proportion of their income goes to taxes on goods and services that they require in order to meet the basic needs for their family. Also, they are affected in this way, that as we have a tax change like this that shifts, that gives a significant tax savings to some corporation in the Province of Nova Scotia to the tune of $240 million, and at the same time it asks consumers to pay more. At the end of the day the Government of Nova Scotia is going to have less revenue and, when that happens, we see what this government does: they cut back in education, in health care, they cut back in the delivery of services to the poor, to people who, for no reason or through not fault of their own, are unable to help themselves at any particular time. That is where the cuts come, or we impose other taxes in the forms of licenses, fees, tolls and this kind of thing. That is exactly what this government does.

THE PREMIER: Would the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party entertain a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member?

MR. CHISHOLM: Sure, absolutely.

THE PREMIER: Would you not agree that where you have a government that reduces significantly the taxes for low income people, many of whom pay no tax, so that, in effect, the tax that they pay is so little, if at all, and then combine that with a moderate consumption tax, that you may have the best of both worlds?

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me address it this way - I am pleased to have the Premier rise and state his position on the floor with more reason and rationality than I have seen in the last few days - let me just say that, first of all (Interruptions) No, no, I am addressing the Premier's concerns and I appreciate his question. Number one, I want to reject first of all the fact that the Premier suggests that low income Nova Scotians who don't pay any tax, do so because of some largesse of the Province of Nova Scotia; Nova Scotians who don't pay any tax do so because they are desperately poor.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, for the sake of argument may I rephrase. This government took 155,000 people in 1994-95 and reduced their taxes, so that about one-third to one-half of them paid at least 50 per cent less taxes. In addition, as we announced in the April budget in 1996, there will be another 55,000. Therefore, there will be a whole group of people in the lower income levels who will pay little tax, not a concession, just a generous attitude towards people who, we believe, need to be helped. If you add to that the fact that the rich person who buys a Mercedes pays far more in taxes than the person who buys a motorbike, is it not an effective combination to at least be worth considering?

[Page 3579]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, no, and for this reason. This is not a new phenomenon; this is not a new concept. The idea that, as the Premier would suggest, an individual living below the poverty line - let's say earning less than $10,000 - they don't earn enough to pay any income taxes, but now what is going to happen (Interruptions) I want the Deputy House Leader to try to stay right here, right here in Nova Scotia, that is where we are, that is where we are debating the issues. I think it is important that everybody stay focused here. We are talking about poor Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker.

[11:00 p.m.]

Now that Nova Scotian who is not earning enough income to pay taxes, who is living below the poverty line, Mr. Speaker, has to pay another 8 per cent on clothes under $100 and, believe me, these people are not buying $400 suits. These people are buying used clothes and they are buying clothes at Kmart and at the Red Apple and the Met stores that are threatening to close under this bill. These are people that if they are able to afford to live in an apartment in the city, for example, are going to have to pay more money to provide electricity in that home, an additional 5 per cent. (Interruption)

Let me finish, maybe, and then the Premier can ask me another question. I am quite happy to engage in this dialogue. Mr. Speaker, let's say a family of four living under the poverty line with two children, they don't earn enough income to be able to pay taxes, but all of a sudden these people are going to have to pay more taxes, 8 per cent more, on clothing, on the clothes that their children need in order to go to school, on the scribblers and pencils that those children need in order to go to school. Again, the whole question of electricity and other fuel in order to heat their abode, whatever that may be, and the additional costs of even rental, and we have cited that, those are additional costs that these people are going to have to pay in order to live. Let's not forget, they are earning so little money that they do not even pay income tax in the Province of Nova Scotia.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, they only pay no tax now because the government has seen their predicament and has lifted them out of this particular predicament and, in effect, made their lives a lot easier by, in some cases, reducing their taxes from maybe $200 to $300 or $400 a year down to nothing. Now surely that is a reasonable concession that, as we have always stated, the issues that we have done with this HST, which has not been noted by your colleagues in your partnership over there, we have tied this with a tax reduction for nearly all Nova Scotians. What we are talking about in this case, particularly low income people, is that if you have no taxes to pay, there will be, certainly, an increased amount on certain goods. We have never denied that. But, in fact, the overall benefit, which I think we will prove in subsequent times, is that they will, in fact, be all over, if not a wash, there will be a benefit from all this that will put them on the positive side of the ledger. I would suggest, in all sincerity, that it might be wiser to wait until the Minister of Finance talks about how he is going to give the $8 million, which we have allocated to those

[Page 3580]

people who are, particularly in the lower income where there are not taxes, the people to whom you refer.

I think it is important in a debate as important as this that you at least admit that there have been major opportunities created for people in lower income to pay less tax and, in some cases where the people pay no tax, that they will, in effect, receive monies in a manner that will be announced by the Minister of Finance, the $8 million, that will, in fact, compensate for any increase that the tax creates. Don't forget that the main reason we are introducing this is because we believe it is a wash for consumers but, more importantly, there is ample evidence that it is a job creator. So I think we should keep it all together and look at it fairly reasonably, without indulging in the polemic that echoed from your partnership to your right and look at it fairly reasonably. We are aware that there are issues of more that will be paid by some people, but having made these tax changes - and you have to take the tax changes because this is a tax measure as well as an HST - then I think, in all fairness, as the reasonable person that you are, you will, perhaps, be persuaded that some people in the lower incomes will, in fact, be better off when they get the payment that we will be announcing shortly, plus the fact that they may be off taxes as a result of concessions made in the last two years.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention of the Premier, but I am categorically opposed to the strategy that this government has decided to follow in order to deal with the economic problems of this province. You see, what I see happening is the government shifting their burden onto consumers, with an increasing reliance on this consumption-based tax, and what that does is inherently penalize low and middle income earners. The proportion that those people have to pay in taxes is increased. It is unequivocal.

Let me just talk about this. You know, the government has made it worse. They have exacerbated the inequity of this tax change with the decrease in income tax. Mr. Speaker, what they have done with this percentage decrease in income tax is that that clearly benefits higher income earners as opposed to low income earners, those people that are paying taxes. Let's just look at their own figures. The personal income tax decline for people earning $80,000 and above is $425.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why are you against that?

MR. CHISHOLM: Just listen to me for a second here. For people earning between $10,000 and $20,000, it is $63 dollars. I don't know how they ever came up with this. For those earning between zero and $10,000, it is an income tax decline of $3.00. We had some discussion with the former Minister of Finance. Those are people, of course, that do not pay any taxes, so how are they going to enjoy any benefit?

The point, Mr. Speaker, and for the Premier, is that in this tax change you have made the tax system more unequal, more unfair than it could possibly have been and that is hard to believe when you examine the impact that the GST has had on people in Atlantic Canada.

[Page 3581]

(Interruption) Let me finish. I am almost finished here. I appreciate the Premier's interventions and I would really welcome him to stand on his feet because this is the fundamental issue here. It is the question of whether or not, by making this tax change, he is going to be helping or hurting people in this province and I think he is hurting. He is suggesting he is going to help because somehow it is going to benefit the economy overall, that by allowing corporations this huge tax break and by allowing wealthy individuals to keep more of their money, somehow it is going to do something out there, something magical. The reality is that history shows that is not, in fact, what happens. That is the problem. While we are waiting for those 3,000 jobs to materialize out there somewhere, all the low and middle income earners are going to have to pay more taxes for clothes under $100, for professional services, for heating fuel, for gasoline, for electricity.

You talk in the abstract about what is going to shake out over the long period and it isn't going to happen. History has shown that it doesn't happen. The gap between the rich and the poor, with these kinds of changes, continues to grow. All we have to look at is what the U.S. has done, Mr. Speaker, in capping the tax rate for high income earners. For the love of God, this government has to recognize that they are going down the wrong road here. They can't create jobs on their own and they are not going to create jobs by just giving money to the corporations because all they are going to do is continue to benefit. Dun & Bradstreet said that what those companies are going to do is add that money to their profit margin. That is what always happens and that is what will continue to happen. That is why this is unfair. I urge all members to support this amendment. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, Thomas Paine in the Rights of Man said, "It would not only be wrong, but bad policy to attempt by force what ought to be accomplished by reason.". I am afraid that what we have here before this House is a piece of legislation which, by reason of the process adopted by this government, that very clearly flows against the very words that Paine wrote so long ago.

There is no doubt that this government is endeavouring, even with its huge majority, to employ force to ram this legislation through this place, rather than employing reason over a long period of time because Nova Scotians, to support what it is that the government purports will be accomplished as a consequence of the passage of this legislation.

Now the amendment which is before the committee makes reference to the regressive nature of consumption taxes, particularly with respect to the ability - the greater ability of some - to pay consumption taxes and the lesser ability of others to pay them. The fact is that those who are better off may make a rational choice not to make purchases or to make purchases on the basis of the consumption tax which is associated with them. In choosing not to do certain things, the consumption tax not paid is not paid on the basis of simply a personal choice.

[Page 3582]

Unfortunately, as we move towards persons of lesser income, particularly those who are on low incomes, they do not have the advantage of being able to make a choice of whether to pay or not to pay. The additional costs associated with such regressive taxing measures will make that choice for them. So their options are, depending on income, anything from significantly more limited to entirely limited.

Consumption taxes on luxuries are quite acceptable, I don't think any of us would argue against that, excepting in a totally tax-free society and that is something that we, as Canadians, have not enjoyed for a very long time, at least with respect to consumption taxes. When we come to slapping consumption taxes, excise taxes, whatever term one wishes to use, on commodities that are absolutely essential to daily life and when we apply that same broad brush to all persons, then I think that government does a great disservice to those on whose behalf they are elected to govern.

[11:15 p.m.]

I am sure that my constituency office reached clientele not dissimilar to the constituency offices of any member in the place and probably not significantly different from the constituency offices that our federal MPs and colleagues have around the province. Over the past year, and I say this after 18 - and now in my 19th year in this place, so - almost 19 years of experience, I am seeing more and more people that I never saw before coming to me and expressing great concern that as a consequence of economic downturn, loss of jobs, loss of income, that their ability to meet the basic needs is significantly reduced.

I do not stretch the point too far when I say that upon occasion, and I find this terribly disturbing, I have seen men who have, all their lives, worked to provide for their families who find themselves in these dire circumstances, literally reduced to tears because they can't provide and because they know that, they have the sense that they will have lost a significant measure of their integrity if they have to go and throw themselves on the public dole, in order to maintain their families. These are sad times, they really are. People who have never been out of work before who now have fallen through the social safety net through employment insurance and who now have to fall on the ignominy of municipal social assistance, welfare as it is pejoratively called. These people are the people who are going to be hurt most by this very regressive tax with which we are dealing in this legislation.

There may be all kinds of bureaucratic plans hatched as a consequence of the regulatory regimes that will never come to this public forum but all of which will be put together, hammered together, to use a term that the Government House Leader seems to like, in the secrecy, of the quietude, the safety of the Cabinet Room and then simply by fiat will be announced, it will become law and it will be applied to the men, women and the children of this province. We have no way of knowing because it is not in the legislation with precision what protections this government will really undertake to assist those who are on low

[Page 3583]

incomes or who indeed have fallen on evil times and are subject to having to apply for municipal welfare for assistance. (Interruptions) We don't know what that is.

We have heard persons from time to time supporting the government saying, we have a plan and we are going to make sure that there is an income adjustment plan of some sort to assist these people. It may surprise my friends from the government benches and, if so, it is certainly an indication of how far removed they have become from their constituents, that these people who are caught up in such dire circumstances, almost always through no fault of their own, do not have sufficient financial resources in order to be able to provide for themselves the bridge financing which will get them to the point where they may be able to recoup a few dollars through income tax if, in fact, they have earned sufficient dollars to file an income tax return and pay taxes, or possibly through some more assistance made available through municipal social assistance, or for those on family benefits to meet the needs of those who are looked after directly by the province.

We have had no indication from the Minister of Community Services if he is prepared to increase budgets to accommodate additional costs for those who are on family benefits, to allow additional costs for those who are on municipal social assistance. For example, in my own constituency, where that level of assistance is now administered by the province on behalf of the municipality, the minster has not indicated, to my knowledge at least, whether or not he is prepared to increase ceilings, whether he is prepared to increase budget amounts, when we understand that things like electricity are normally covered under both municipal or provincial social assistance payments. Fuel oil is covered; wood is covered; clothing is covered; shelter is covered. These are all the very basics of life, and all of them will be touched, most of them directly, the shelter component indirectly, as a consequence of the implementation of this tax.

Those people who cannot afford to bridge-finance themselves to the point where they may get some kind of a rebate, surely should have made available to them, by this government in its mad rush forward to implement this regressive tax, an up-front level of assistance which does not cause them and their spouses and their children the kind of hardship that I am very much afraid will result from the action of this government.

These people are not going to realize great savings as a consequence in a few years time, possibly, of having a reduced sales tax on new automobiles, because these people do not drive new automobiles. These people purchase the least expensive transportation that they possibly can, which is usually a car which has had three, four, five previous owners and which is roadworthy and that is about the best we can say. Almost invariably, such vehicles are also the biggest gas burners. These are the old cars with the big V-8 engines that guzzle gas like nobody's business. Therefore, these people will be paying more than those people who can afford to buy the newer cars with more fuel-efficient engines that use less fuel.

[Page 3584]

It is true that there are certain parts of this province where people may be able to avail themselves of public transportation, they have a bus system that can get them from place to place. That is not true of most Nova Scotians. Most Nova Scotians live in rural communities and small towns and do not have mass transit and therefore are entirely dependent upon themselves or members of their family to be able to move around their communities to get to doctors' appointments, to buy their groceries, to shop for other necessaries. So the cost to them, because of the nature of this regressive tax, of providing transportation which is absolutely essential in rural communities is going to cost them more.

We know that as a consequence of the implementation of this tax, property taxes will be affected. I know in my own constituency, the Regional Municipality of Queens anticipates that the additional cost will be significant and well into the six figure mark. Everybody who owns property, whether a home owner or a landlord, pays property taxes and those property taxes are a genuine and legitimate part of the rent component or the annual expense of owning a home. So, proportionately, these people will have their taxes go up.

You take a look at the tax rolls at the end of the year of those who have not paid their taxes, and almost invariably the people who have not been able to pay their taxes are the people who are worst off, economically, in our communities. So their position is going to be further compounded because of the implementation of this regressive tax, the blended sales tax. The BS Tax, the BST, the HST, it doesn't matter what we call it, the impact of it is going to be the same.

We can take a look also at the impact of this regressive tax on heating our homes. There are homes in rural areas where people can only manage to get the oil companies to come and put fuel in their barrels when they can pay cash, and that is a significant challenge for many families in this province. The cost of the increased taxation on that fuel oil will have a negative effect on these families.

While it is true that there are many families in rural areas such as mine in Queens who rely on firewood, we now are given to understand that the BS Tax will also be applied to firewood used as fuel. Now, it is true that some persons can go out and cut their own firewood, but a person who is on a disability pension, who is disabled and on family benefits, surely cannot do that because if they can go out and cut their own firewood, then presumably physically they are well enough to go to work and, therefore, should not be on family benefits in the first place. So that means they are going to have to buy their firewood and that means that there is going to be a tax on that firewood, I think, for the very first time. (Interruption) The first time there ever will have been provincial tax applied to it. So this is going to provide another hardship for people who live in the country.

We talk a great deal about the importance of education in Nova Scotia. I don't think that there is anyone here who does not understand the importance of children being able to live in a warm, well lighted home, so that they live in an atmosphere which is conducive to

[Page 3585]

them being able to study, to them being able to nurture their minds as well as their bodies, and to go off to school the following day well prepared for their lessons. Yet, the cost of that for families who are less well-to-do, and for whom it is innately more difficult to provide the wherewithal to assist their children in acquiring the kind of education that mom and dad did not have the opportunity to have, becomes increasingly more difficult because of the additional cost simply of lighting the home as well as heating it, the cost of providing clothing for them.

Again, I give an example of a man who came to my office not long ago. He has applied for Canada Pension Plan benefits and has been turned down and is going to appeal that. He had not been able to bring himself to go Family and Children's Services in Liverpool to ask for assistance. The man almost broke down and wept in my office when he said to me, John, the weather is getting colder. We are lucky we have not had any snow yet, but you know what winter is like around here. It snows, it rains, it is slushy. He said, I am not lying to you when I tell you that when the weather turns bad, my children are not going to be able to go school because they have nothing decent to wear on their feet.

I ask everyone to stop and think about that in the knowledge that this man, who never bought a pair of shoes valued at over $100 in his life, who, in fact, probably could go out and outfit his wife and himself and his three children with shoes for under that $100, once this bill goes into effect, he is going to have to pay tax on those shoes. Now that may seem like a small amount of money to those of us who have had the good fortune to be able to avail ourselves of good educations and decent employment, but just imagine the hardship of increasing what is already an insurmountable burden for that man with respect to putting shoes on his family's feet, by adding another 8 per cent to the cost. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, and to my honourable colleagues through you, that that is the real impact that this regressive tax is going to have on the people in this province who are least well-positioned to defend themselves in the face of very difficult economic times.

[11:30 p.m.]

There are many of us here who live in constituencies that have experienced the downturn in the fishery. I know and those members who represent constituents in those kinds of constituencies know and the people who live in those constituencies who have previously been participants in this industry know that even when the industry begins to come back, it is never going to be the same. Sure, Bud MacLeod's plant will still be there in Port Mouton but that plant which, in better times, under his able management and ownership, was able to employ up to 200 people, will never employ that number of people again, for a variety of reasons. Those people have not been able to go elsewhere, they have not been able to find alternate employment. Families that used to be modest, two income families are now single income families with insufficient means to meet the family's needs. There is real poverty - not of spirit, not of soul, not of mind, but the kind of grinding, financial poverty that grinds these people further and further down and makes even more probable the prospect that one

[Page 3586]

generation of welfare will produce another generation of welfare, will produce another generation of welfare and the family will never be able to break out of the cycle.

This bill, which this government touts as being a cure-all for the economy, will be another sharp, large nail driven into the feet and the hands of the poor who will be sacrificed, on the basis of a wild and foolish initiative undertaken by this government.

The former Minister of Finance, now the Minister of Health, finds that amusing. I say to him that it is not amusing at all and you should spend more time at home, listening to the 26 per cent unemployed in Cape Breton and Guysborough County who are the kind of people who are suffering and who will suffer even more as a consequence of this terrible deal that you created and you have foisted off on them. (Interruption) Bad taste, sir? The bad taste is in your mouth and may you choke on it. This is a good amendment and I commend it to the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to see the Premier in here earlier this evening engaged in the debate because that is the first time that the Premier has done that. Obviously from his remarks, he still has a lot to learn about the BST. In particular, he has a lot to learn about the impact of this tax on the low income consumer.

Now, for the benefit of the Minister of Finance, who was getting so irate a few moments ago or the ex-Minister of Finance I should say, present and past in reality but however, for the benefit of the ex-Minister of Finance, he is probably aware that the average civil servant - and I am going to use civil servants because I think most people in this place understand what civil servants are and because we can take them as being a certain group - in the Province of Nova Scotia earns something in the order of about $27,000 to $28,000 a year, somewhere in that area. It may be a little closer to $30,000 but not much.

Now the Premier tonight when he was speaking was referring to the fact that this bill that we have before us is a bill that is going to work wonders for those people who are earning in the low income bracket. Now, $20,000 to $30,000 isn't necessarily low but it certainly is low-middle income, very much so. I want you to take a single civil servant employed by this government over here who is earning somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000 a year, that is the average civil servant and they fall into a bracket in Table 6 which is a document generated by the ex-Minister of Finance back when he was Minister of Finance in deed as well as in name. Table 6 tells us what the net change would be for different salaried groups. It starts off with group one which would be $0-$10,000; group two, $10,000-$20,000; and group three, $20,00-$30,000 and so on.

[Page 3587]

The surprising thing about Table 6 is that is shows that for every group and they range from people who earn zero and I don't know anybody who works for zero dollars but however, maybe there are some, up to $80,000 and above. We are told at the very end of this table that the Net Tax and Price Change for each of these groups will be so much per annum. For the person who is earning between $0 and $10,000 a year they will end up the year $13 better off in that fiscal year; $10,000-$20,000 will end up $66 better off; and the average civil servant earning between $20,000 and $30,000 will end up $104 better off.

I am just taking a civil servant because of the fact that I can relate to that (Interruption) No you may not make an observation, you can ask a question. (Interruption) Point of order.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member opposite made the comment that the average civil servant in the Province of Nova Scotia is making $26,000 to $30,000 and I would like to know where he has gotten that information. My knowledge is that the average civil servant in Nova Scotia makes $36,831 and that is not including benefits.

MR. RUSSELL: It depends entirely on what you call a civil servant. (Interruption) Are you including school teachers?

MR. DOWNE: Yes.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, a school teacher is not a civil servant. A civil servant is a person who is directly employed by this government, not by a school board, the same as people who are employed in hospitals are employed by hospital boards. The people that are employed directly by the government, the people that work in your office and in the Minister of Health's Office and the offices of the Minister of Business and Consumer Services and the Minister of Community Services, I don't know if he has anybody working for him, sometimes I doubt it, anyway, I am speaking of those civil servants and their average salary is between $26,000 and $30,000 and I am not sure of the exact figure but I remember back many years ago, 1992, 1993 or sometime, we actually came up with an average figure and I think it was somewhere in excess of $26,000 then. I know this government, all it has done is reduce salaries so they are no better off, they are probably worse off. (Interruptions) Well, you whacked 5 per cent off them and you did that in year one.

We are told that these people earning between $20,000 and $30,000 are going to be $104 better off. Why are they going to be $104 better off? Well, the table tells us, Mr. Speaker. It says that although they will pay $158 per annum additional because of sales tax increases generated by Bill No. 48, that, however, there will be an average price decline in what they buy of $162 and, on top of that, they will get a personal income tax decline of $100. So I have taken care of every argument that the Premier put forward about the great things that are going to happen to the average Nova Scotian and, particularly, the low earner.

[Page 3588]

This is not necessarily a low earner, this is a person, I presume, in the Province of Nova Scotia that is probably considered to be lower-middle income.

The premise that this is based on, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that we are going to have a, ". . . 50 % net pass-through of HST Savings to Consumers.". Now, let's take this person who is earning $26,000 a year. They pay into CPP, they pay EI, they pay union dues, they pay their health benefit premium and they also pay income tax. You add those up and your person who is earning $26,000 a year, in actual fact, in take home pay, is probably getting somewhere about $18,000 to $19,000 a year. If you are a single person and you are earning $18,000 or $19,000, you have to live somewhere and will probably be renting an apartment or a room or something.

Mr. Savage, the Premier of this province, tells us that rents are not going to increase because there is no BST on rents. That, technically, is correct, but, unfortunately, there is BST on the landlord who provides the rental accommodation and the result is going to be that this person who is earning about $26,000 a year is going to have a rent increase because the person that owns the property is not going to swallow the tax grab that this government is making on the cost of things to keep that accommodation available for rent. So they are going to have to pay more for their rent.

They are going to have to have lights in their apartment. They are going to have, I would imagine, a refrigerator and a stove and, perhaps, electric heat. Electricity is going to go up. It is not going to go down, it is going to go up.

AN HON. MEMBER: Up 4 per cent.

MR. RUSSELL: Up 4 per cent, he says. Well, 4 per cent, yes. Would you like everything that you had to buy to go up by 4 per cent. Don't talk to me. You don't know anything about it and you are supposed to be the Minister of Community Services and you should be looking after those people. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, that minister should know about these things because that is part of his responsibility. He is administering the welfare system, the social assistance system in this province and he is supposed to be looking after those people who are unfortunate enough not to be making about $50,000 to $60,000 a year, but he is not. He is ignoring them. He does not know anything about it. All he does is sit in this House all day and chat and he does not chat by getting to his feet and debating whatever before the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to return to the amendment, please.

[Page 3589]

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, I will, absolutely. Mr. Speaker, this person who is earning $26,000 a year, they have to live somewhere. They have to heat the place. They have to have lights and they have to get to work. They have to, perhaps, buy a newspaper. They have to get their hair cut. They have to get their cleaning and their laundry done. All of those things are going to carry more taxes and some of these things will carry 4 per cent more as the chatterbox says and some of them will carry 8 per cent more. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: When the civil servants buys the fur coat, it is less. That is right. You forget that.

MR. RUSSELL: Exactly. These people who are earning . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: They will save money on their yacht.

MR. RUSSELL: They will save money on their yacht. Mr. Speaker, these people who are earning $18,000 or $19,000 clear bucks in their pockets are not going out and buying fur coats. They are not going out and buying refrigerators. They are not going out and buying stoves. They are not going out and buying new cars or yachts. They are just buying the bare, basic necessities of life and with the exception of food, everything that they buy is going to increase in price, including their clothing.

[11:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we have to remember that many of these single people who are employed within that (Interruptions) My Lord. Many (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I realize that it is getting late and it is way past his bedtime, I wish he would go home. (Interruptions)

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

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am laughing, but the subject matter is not funny.

These people are going to suffer because, as I say, everything they are going to buy is going to carry a higher tag than before the imposition of this tax, and we will call it the HST, if that will make somebody back there happy, I don't care what you call it, it is an imposition, it is daylight robbery of the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia.

These people and this group that I am talking about, Mr. Speaker, who are supposed to save, on sales tax increase, $162, that is absolutely nonsense. They are not going to save that money because they are not buying those things that are going to come down in price.

The second part, Mr. Speaker, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It gets worse, John.

[Page 3590]

MR. RUSSELL: . . . is that we have been told by the retail associations, by the people who own stores - whether they are individuals or corporations - that there is no way that the price of goods in stores is going to come down. In fact, they are all saying the same thing, that the prices are going to increase and the selection is going to be less because they are not going to be prepared to carry inventory and, because of the cost of the new systems they have to put in place, because they have to operate in isolation because we are going to have a price-included taxing system that is unique in Canada - it is the only one - we are going to be the only part of Canada, the only part of North America, for Heavens sakes, that will have this kind of a taxing system.

AN HON. MEMBER: We are number one.

MR. RUSSELL: We are number one. Yes, you are number one; yes, that is for sure.

So, Mr. Speaker, I can understand where the Premier is coming from. He realizes that he has fallen into a great tub of lard, brought on by the previous Minister of Finance, and he is trying now to put the best face on it but he can't do it, by coming forward with an argument that doesn't even make sense.

You know he stood up today and made a statement about what they have already done to the low income taxpayers in this province. He produced a figure that I find, the more I think about it, the less belief I can have; he said there are 150,000 families paying less income tax . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, you got it. It's a fact.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, if you believe that, you believe in the tooth fairy. Honest to goodness, 150,000 families paying less income tax today than heretofore because of actions by this government.

Now, Mr. Speaker, when I think about this and I think about the number of unemployed, the number of people who are being turfed out of jobs across this province and the number of people who have gone from a reasonable-paying job to a very low-paying job, I can understand that there are going to be a lot of people who are going to be paying less taxes, but not because of policies by this government to reduce provincial income tax, but simply because they haven't got a job.

We only have to go to that release that came out today, from the Department of Finance, which shows that in November 1996 - that was just last month - there are 8,000 more people unemployed in Nova Scotia than there were in November 1995. We know that the rate of unemployment has gone up 1.9 per cent since November 1995. We know that the number in the workforce has gone down even though the population of the province has increased by 5,000.

[Page 3591]

AN HON. MEMBER: Show me.

MR. RUSSELL: Show him what?

AN HON. MEMBER: He does not believe those unemployment numbers.

MR. RUSSELL: Ask your buddy. Ask the minister. That is who I got it from. You know, I am really amazed, Mr. Speaker. You see, that is the problem with the front benches over there. That is the absolute problem. They have come forward at the behest of the former Minister of Finance with a half-baked plan to accommodate the Prime Minister of this country so he can say I am getting rid of the GST. We have blundered into something now which is going to cost this province for as long as these birds are in office. (Interruptions)

We cannot find it at the moment, but I have a copy here and I will give it to the minister first thing in the morning. That is better than this minister ever did when he promised to table a document in the House for somebody on this side. He would say I will get it for you next week sometime and hope you would forget about it.

Anyway, I will not forget about it. I will have it for the minister of highways and roads and those kinds of things. Anyway, so people are worse off.

There is another problem. The Premier and the Minister of Finance say that they have proof that this tax grab is going to create 3,000 jobs. You know, 3,000 is not just a number you pluck out of the air. You talk about maybe it is going to create 5,000 jobs or 10,000 jobs or 20,000 jobs or something, but 3,000 is a very definitive type of a number. (Interruptions) The Premier says I have proof. He has proof that it is going to create 3,000 jobs. I do not know exactly where he is coming from unless he is going to hire 3,000 more civil servants, maybe, to police this tax grab or something.

There is no way that this plan, this taxing plan of this government is going to create 3,000 jobs. This is not going to create 3,000 jobs. One of the reasons is that business at the present time is not doing very well in this province. They are not doing very well because, first of all, we do not have a Department of Development that would be out there trying to get businesses to come to this area. We do not have that in this province. (Interruptions)

Next year, also, the businesses in this province are not only going to suffer from the tax regime that these people are setting up, but in today's paper, in the business section, Mr. Speaker, we see pension premiums are to rise. What they are talking about, of course, is for the CPP. How much are they going to rise? Well, not a heck of a lot, maybe, but it is about $52 per employee in 1997.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why?

[Page 3592]

MR. RUSSELL: Why? (Interruption) I was not in the federal politics. It was back in Trudeau's days when they put the CPP in and it was again the group in Ottawa that imposed this tax. (Interruptions) I am just a small p politician in the Province of Nova Scotia looking after my constituents and, I hope, the people of Nova Scotia. I am trying to do my best for the people here. (Interruption) Well, Mr. Speaker, at least everybody is awake.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could I ask the honourable member to adjourn the debate on this amendment and return to this debate on a future day?

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will be glad to adjourn the debate at this time and return to it next Thursday or Friday, as the case may be.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is a standard Opposition Day but before I call on the Opposition House Leader, I would ask that you please call Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: I move, pursuant to Rule 5C, that on Thursday, December 12th, the House meet at the hour of 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 midnight Thursday night. Mr. Speaker, I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: The question shall be put forward by the Speaker without amendment or debate. This motion is non-debatable. Is the House ready for the question?

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Opposition House Leader could indicate the order of business for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

[Page 3593]

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: We will be meeting at the hour of 2:00 p.m. tomorrow and we will be sitting until 6:00 p.m. The order of business, Mr. Speaker, will be debating Bill No. 49 and Resolution No. 1057 and any House Orders if we have sufficient time at the end of that period.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: That concludes business for today and I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion for adjournment has been made. The House will rise to sit again tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 11:56 p.m.]

[Page 3594]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1089

By: Hon. Sandra Jolly (Minister of Business and Consumer Services)

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

Whereas Wilf Carter, a country music legend from Nova Scotia, passed away last week at his home in Arizona; and

Whereas his songs, which always had an important message for everyday people with everyday problems, will live on in history; and

Whereas he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1985;

Therefore be it resolved that this House celebrate the life of Wilf Carter and his influence on countless musicians from here and around the world.