The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Mon., May 6, 1996

Fourth Session

MONDAY, MAY 6, 1996

Educ. - Ash-Lee Jefferson Elementary School (Fall River): Construction -
Commence, Mrs. F. Cosman 1363
Commun. Serv. - Small Options Homes: Internal Incident Review -
Terms of Reference, Hon. J. Smith 1364
Housing & Mun. Affs. - Summer Job Program, Hon. S. Jolly 1364
Charles MacArthur (MLA) - Health Update, The Premier 1365
Res. 451, Fish. - School (N.S.-Pictou)/Bluenose II: Marine Safety Training -
Cooperation Congrats., Hon. J. Barkhouse 1366
Vote - Affirmative 1367
Res. 452, Battle of the Atlantic: Sailors Sacrifice - Recall,
Hon. G. O'Malley 1367
Vote - Affirmative 1367
Res. 453, Health: Nursing Week (National) [06/05-12/05/96] -
Recognize, Hon. R. Stewart 1367
Vote - Affirmative 1368
Res. 454, Sports: Amateur Excellence - Recognize, Hon. J. Abbass 1368
Vote - Affirmative 1369
Res. 455, Catholic Church - Mgr. John R. Campbell:
Induction (50th Anniv.) - Service Recognize, Hon. J. Abbass 1369
Vote - Affirmative 1369
Res. 456, RCMP (North Vancouver) Constables Kim Ashford &
Dick Walton (N.S. Natives): Medals of Bravery - Congrats.,
Dr. J. Hamm 1369
Vote - Affirmative 1370
Res. 457, Health - Mental Health Week (6/05-12/05/96):
Commitment - Demonstrate, Mr. R. Chisholm 1370
Res. 458, Health - Mrs. Peggy Davidson: Cdn. Health Care Assoc.
Award of Excellence - Commend, Mr. T. Donahoe 1370
Vote - Affirmative 1371
Res. 459, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: True Agenda - Confess,
Mr. B. Taylor 1371
Res. 460, Health & Educ. - Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea School:
Health Centre - Continuation Examine, Mr. G. Moody 1371
Vote - Affirmative 1372
Res. 461, Educ. - Jack Madden (Stellarton): St. F.X. Univ. BA @ 84 -
Congrats., Mr. T. Donahoe 1372
Vote - Affirmative 1373
Res. 462, Fin. - PST & GST: Harmonization - Abandon,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1373
Res. 463, Health - Shelley Miller (Shubenacadie):
Heart Transplant Recipient - Speedy Recovery Wish,
Mr. R. Carruthers 1373
Vote - Affirmative 1374
Res. 464, ERA - Alton Harris (Auto Dealer): Lifetime Achievement
Award (Springhill) - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 1374
Vote - Affirmative 1374
No. 18, Financial Measures (1996) Act 1375
Hon. B. Boudreau 1375
Mr. R. Russell 1379
Mr. R. Chisholm 1391
Mr. J. Leefe 1398
Mr. T. Donahoe 1402
Mr. J. Holm 1408
Adjourned debate 1416
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Mann 1416
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Mann 1417
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., May 7th at 12:00 p.m. 1417
Res. 465, Health - Dr. J.A. Roach, MD (New Waterford):
UCCB Hon. Degree - Congrats., Mr. R. MacNeil 1418
[Page 1363]


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mrs. Francene Cosman

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order. We will follow along with the daily routine.


MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to table, on behalf of the constituents of Bedford-Fall River, a petition signed by 281 constituents. The undersigned are outraged by the provincial government's decision to postpone expansion of the Ash-Lee Jefferson Elementary School in Fall River. They urge the government to honour its previous commitments and commence immediately with the construction process and I have affixed my signature.

The petition is tabled.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I am not sure of the propriety of the Speaker entering the business of the House but it is something, perhaps, we could take under advisement and check.

MADAM SPEAKER: I thank you for the point. I did check with the Clerk prior to doing this and I noted that Mr. Speaker, last week, tabled a petition from this position as well. So I did check about the propriety first but I thank you for raising the point.




[Page 1364]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Madam Speaker, I beg leave to table, as was requested of me, the terms of reference, the internal incident review of the small options. I table this as of this date.

MADAM SPEAKER: The report is tabled.


MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Madam Speaker, as Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to announce the creation of a summer job program for students and the unemployed. (Applause)

Approximately 400 people will be hired this summer to spruce up the 12,000 public housing units throughout the province. The work will involve light maintenance and landscaping services. This program demonstrates this government's commitment to our youth as we know it is often difficult for youth today to find employment.

Madam Speaker, this is a $1.5 million program and it is good news for two reasons. It creates much needed jobs for our young people and at the same time it is improving housing communities right across the province. The summer employment program begins on May 21st and runs for 16 weeks. People can pick up applications at the 18 regional housing authorities, the Canada and Student Employment Centres and the Access Nova Scotia centres throughout Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, in all, this government will create over 4,000 jobs for students and the unemployed through summer employment programs. (Applause) This represents approximately $13 million in funding from both the federal and provincial governments.

Let me give you examples of the programs we have announced for this summer. The Economic Renewal Agency will create 900 career-oriented jobs within non-profit and public sector organizations by offering a wage subsidy to employers. The Economic Renewal Agency and the Department of Education are combining their financial resources to provide one summer program aimed at the private sector. Nova Scotia Links will create 780 jobs for students preparing for careers in firms using new technologies and techniques. The Municipal Works Program will allow municipal units in areas of high unemployment to hire some 300 workers this summer. The province will cost-share up to 50 per cent of these wages.

Madam Speaker, these are some of the examples of the 4,000 summer jobs this government is creating. This represents a strong commitment on the part of this government to provide good work experience for students and the unemployed. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I rise and say that I welcome this announcement. It is a good announcement. There are still a large number of students looking for work. As a matter of fact, there are still a great number of university students who don't know as of today about a job for the summer. I have always felt that these jobs with the Department of Housing were worthwhile jobs. They do hire students who are in much need

[Page 1365]

of work and they also work on the housing units which is very worthwhile. One of the areas that still could do with some work, seniors, was done before through the Department of Housing. Many seniors are unable to do certain chores. I visited a senior on the weekend who still can't wash her windows. She is blind. These kinds of people have needs. We could even hire more young people to do that kind of work.

I do commend the minister. It is a small step forward; it is positive. There is more that could be done, not only to help the seniors that are staying in their own homes but to give employment for more young people who are really desperate, Madam Speaker, and need the work to further their education.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I, too, want to thank the minister for this announcement, at the same time, repeating what I said the other day when the Minister of Natural Resources indicated her department's summer job program, when I indicated that the problems facing youth, both high school students and university students, in terms of trying to find summer employment, is growing more desperate every day. This certainly makes some contribution to relieving the burden for some. Clearly though, as I have said before, there has been a reduction in the amount of attention, the amount of money that both provincial and federal governments have put to summer employment programs for youth, and that not only creates problems for those people in terms of getting access to university, but creates problems for all young people looking for work throughout the summer.

Let me say that this is, I think, going to be valued by public housing authorities who have received significant cutbacks through CMHA, and through the provincial government of these public housing projects. Madam Speaker, I think they could probably desperately use this added work, added workers in the summer to try to help do light maintenance and landscaping around the facilities.

So, clearly, any job, Madam Speaker, is a good job, but let us make sure we keep it in context with the fact that the pressure is increasing, and we would like to see the government taking and making some real concerted effort with strategies at dealing with the need for summer employment by young people that will assist them in having better access to university in the fall, and also in providing opportunities for adults who are desperately in need of jobs at this present time.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Madam Speaker, I rise for a statement which concerns the health of one of our members, and I thought it would be of interest to all members here.

Charles MacArthur, the MLA for Inverness, was admitted to the Inverness Hospital over the weekend with chest pain. He is doing pretty well. I cannot, obviously, give any medical information since, frankly, we do not have any. But I thought it would be appropriate if I rose to let the members of the House know. He is a well respected veteran of this House. I conveyed to him the best wishes of all the MLAs and I am sure that others may wish to join me in wishing Mr. MacArthur well.

[Page 1366]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, the Premier was kind enough to alert us that he would be making remarks about our colleague, the member for Inverness. On behalf of our caucus, I simply want to underscore the Premier's best wishes that Charlie will get to full recovery immediately. I thought that perhaps the Premier was going to say that he could not offer any medical opinion because he had momentarily misplaced his MSI number or something, but in all seriousness, the Premier said it and said it well; Charlie is a very respected member of this House and very much enjoyed colleague and we, on these benches, wish him a full and complete recovery.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I do not think any more needs to be said other than the fact that the NDP caucus clearly supports the sentiments that were expressed by the Premier and by the member for Halifax Citadel, when they wished Charlie MacArthur the best of their caucuses and, certainly, from this House, and we would join that and also ask the Premier to send our best wishes to him.

MADAM SPEAKER: Those best wishes will be conveyed to the honourable member.


MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Fisheries.


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

Whereas Bluenose II is Nova Scotia's most famous and beloved goodwill ambassador; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia School of Fisheries in Pictou is known at home and abroad as a provider of first-class marine safety training; and

Whereas this week in Lunenburg, 13 members of the Bluenose II will be trained in Marine Emergency Duties, Seafarers First Aid and CPR by staff of the School of Fisheries;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the staff and crew of the School of Fisheries and Bluenose II for working together and, by example, demonstrating the importance of safety training for commercial and recreational marine boaters.

[2:15 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed for waiver?

It is agreed.

[Page 1367]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister for the Technology and Science Secretariat.


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

Whereas on Sunday past, a ceremony was held to mark the 51st Anniversary of the end of the infamous Battle of the Atlantic begun in 1939, a battle in which the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Merchant Marine Fleet endured the relentless assault of German U-boats and warships; and

Whereas throughout the Battle of the Atlantic, the Canadian Merchant Marine Fleet and the Royal Canadian Navy ferried 180 million tons of vital supplies for the war effort in Europe, along with thousands of Canadian soldiers and airmen; and

Whereas the Navy lost 24 ships and almost 1,800 sailors, while the Merchant Fleet lost 72 ships and almost 1,200 seamen, with Canadian warships sinking more than 30 hostile submarines along with dozens of other enemy vessels;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recall with gratitude the heroic efforts of thousands of Nova Scotians and Canadians throughout the Battle of the Atlantic, and renew our commitment to a strong, democratic Canada which continues to shine as a beacon of hope, freedom and peace throughout the world.

Madam Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed for waiver?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.


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

Whereas May 6, 1996 to May 12, 1996, is dedicated as National Nursing Week in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are providing quality health care services to Nova Scotians in health care facilities, homes and communities; and

[Page 1368]

Whereas nurses are playing a key role in successfully implementing health renewal initiatives province-wide;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize May 6 to May 12, 1996 as National Nursing Week in Nova Scotia and congratulate and thank the men and women who provide this invaluable service to us all.

Madam Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.


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

Whereas approximately 700,000 Nova Scotians participate in amateur sports, such as soccer, hockey, boxing, swimming, canoeing, sailing, basketball and baseball every year; and

Whereas the depth of talent in Nova Scotian athletes, coaches and officials is evident given that 12 athletes have presently qualified for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, another 4 athletes are still competing in qualifying competitions, and 3 Nova Scotians have already been confirmed as coaches for the Olympic Games; and

Whereas Sport Nova Scotia hosted the 17th Annual Moosehead Provincial Amateur Sport Awards Dinner on Saturday, May 4, 1996, and at this dinner presented awards to the top athletes and volunteers in each of their respective sport governing bodies; and

Whereas the 1995-96 Nova Scotia Female Athlete of the Year is Kelly O'Leary, the Male Athlete of the Year is Steve Giles, Coach of the Year is Wayne Bordon, Official of the Year is Wayne Shipley, the Team of the Year is Lunenburg Queens Soccer Team and the Executive of the Year in Amateur Sport is Shirley Morash;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize Nova Scotian amateur sport excellence and that we congratulate all award winners and Sport Nova Scotia and its members for their continued dedication to amateur sport in our province.

Madam Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MADAM SPEAKER: Waiver is requested, is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1369]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.


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

Whereas Monsignor John R. Campbell has served the Catholic Church in the Chebucto neighbourhood for 10 years; and

Whereas he has been very active in the community, both inside and outside the church; and

Whereas Monsignor Campbell has served as an assistant and pastor in several dioceses in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas today, at St. Agnes Church in Halifax, there will be a community gathering to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Monsignor Campbell's induction into the priesthood;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize a great Nova Scotian in Monsignor John R. Campbell and extend to him our heartfelt gratitude for 50 years of dedicated service to the Catholic Church, its people, and the Archdiocese of Halifax.

Madam Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed for waiver?

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

The motion is carried.



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas North Vancouver RCMP Constables Kim Ashford and Dick Walton, two native Nova Scotians, will receive Medals of Bravery from the Governor General on May 17th at Rideau Hall in Ottawa; and

Whereas these two individuals helped rescue a man from a burning car just seconds before it exploded; and

[Page 1370]

Whereas Ms. Ashford and Mr. Walton are 2 of only 23 Canadians to be honoured at this annual ceremony;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House, on behalf of all Nova Scotians, congratulate and thank Kim Ashford and Dick Walton for their act of courage and heroism.

Madam Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MADAM SPEAKER: Waiver of notice has been requested.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


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

Whereas the week of May 6th to 12th has been declared Mental Health Week, with the theme "Open Mind: A New Attitude on Mental Health"; and

Whereas despite repeated studies and reports documenting the need for mental health reform, including the Blueprint for Health Reform, the government has not moved to take any action to improve mental health services; and

Whereas mental illness continues to claim more victims than all other diseases combined in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that in recognition of Mental Health Week, the Liberal Government demonstrate its commitment to real mental health reform and work towards the community support model outlined in the Blueprint for Health Reform.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.


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

Whereas Mrs. Peggy Davidson has been a volunteer health care worker for many years and has served as Chairman of the Board of both the Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations and the Canadian Hospital Association, Vice President of the VG Hospital Board of Commissioners and is currently Chair of the VG Hospital Foundation; and

[Page 1371]

Whereas Peggy Davidson will be presented with the Canadian Health Care Association Award of Excellence for Service in Ottawa on June 3rd; and

Whereas Mrs. Davidson has also been recognized by the Victoria General Hospital, through the establishment of the Davidson Award, which recognizes groups and individuals within the hospital whose work exemplifies outstanding commitment;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Mrs. Peggy Davidson for this deserving recognition and congratulate her and all volunteer health care workers for their dedication and community service.

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

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas in all of Canada, only three Atlantic Provinces, including Nova Scotia, which is ruled by the Savage order, have signed up for the hated BST; and

Whereas in all of Canada, only three Liberal Governments express gladness relative to this new taxing madness; and

Whereas in all of Canada, only three Atlantic Provinces, including the Savage collection, praise this deal;

Therefore be it resolved that the Savage swarm acknowledge and confess their true agenda of trying to fulfil Prime Minister Chretien's red book promise at the expense of the Nova Scotia taxpayer. (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.


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

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Kings West has the floor.

[Page 1372]

[Page 1373]

MR. MOODY: Madam Speaker, I will be asking for waiver of notice, so people may want to listen. (Interruption)

Whereas since February, the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea School has offered a health centre as a pilot project to help inform students on such issues as nutrition, eating disorders, sexuality, birth control and relationships; and

Whereas parents, teachers and students in the area feel the centre attempts to address teen health issues, a major concern in the area; and

Whereas as a result of this centre, 26 students have signed up for a program to help them quit smoking;

Therefore be it resolved that the Ministers of Health and Education, in consultation with parents, teachers and students of the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea area, examine every means possible to continue this worthwhile and much needed project.

Madam Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

MADAM SPEAKER: Waiver of notice is requested, is there agreement?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.


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

Whereas Jack "Champ" Madden, at the age of 84, donned mortarboard and gown and with the class of '96 yesterday collected his diploma for a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Francis Xavier University; and

Whereas Champ Madden first entered St. FX in 1928, but was asked to leave after his first year due to an adventuresome spirit well known throughout the campus; and

Whereas at the approximate age of 70, an irrepressible Champ Madden returned to university to complete the education he began in 1928;

Therefore be it resolved that Champ Madden, another distinguished Stellarton native, deserves the admiration, respect and congratulations of this House for proving that one is never too old to learn and never too old to succeed.

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

[Page 1374]

MADAM SPEAKER: Waiver is requested. Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


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

Whereas the Minister of Finance has admitted that sales tax reform doesn't offer the same benefits to lower income Nova Scotians as it does to those with more disposable income; and

Whereas to offset the hardships that will be added to the burden of lower and middle income Nova Scotians, the Finance Minister is peddling an expansion of the low income tax reduction introduced in the 1994 budget; and

Whereas data from Revenue Canada shows that more than two-thirds of individuals, approximately 208,000 people, with total income of less than $15,000 were not eligible for one cent of relief and will continue to be ineligible under the Finance Minister's enhanced program despite having to pay the full cost of the BST on the necessities of life;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Finance Minister to abandon his blended sales tax reform plans and instead focus his attention on real, progressive tax reform.

MADAM SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.


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

Whereas on May 2nd, Shelley Miller, a 23 year old resident of Shubenacadie in Hants East, successfully underwent a heart transplant at the Victoria General-Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre after waiting 138 days in hospital for a compatible donor heart; and

Whereas Shelley is recuperating in hospital and is most appreciative of the support she has received from family, friends and the community of Hants East; and

Whereas the VG has been involved in performing organ transplants since 1969, transplants made possible in part through the generosity of those who sign organ donor cards;

[Page 1375]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly extend our best wishes and prayers to Shelley Miller for a speedy recovery and congratulate the surgeons and health care workers at the Victoria General-Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre for their world-class care.

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

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas this past Friday, Springhill native Alton Hollis was awarded the Springhill Chamber of Commerce's 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding business success; and

Whereas since 1949, Mr. Hollis has been a successful automotive entrepreneur, acquiring and operating dealerships in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; and

Whereas Mr. Hollis truly represents, as stated by Springhill Chamber of Commerce President, Robert Gilroy, "incentive, pluck and perseverance" and "the Spirit of Springhill";

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House congratulate Alton Hollis for his business success, keen entrepreneurship and remembering his roots, qualities all aspiring Nova Scotian entrepreneurs should possess.

Madam Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

[2:30 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We will proceed to Orders of the Day.

[Page 1376]



MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:31 p.m The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]

[6:31 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 18, the Financial Measures Act.

Bill No. 18 - Financial Measures (1996) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin second reading today on the Financial Measures Act, the most important piece of legislation I have sponsored in my time as Minister of Finance. (Applause) This legislation lowers taxes for individuals, families and business. This legislation will [Page 1377]

help build a stronger economy and create thousands of jobs for Nova Scotians. This legislation puts in place a long-term plan to keep the finances of Nova Scotia on solid ground.

Mr. Speaker, while I have the privilege of bringing this bill before the Legislature, its accomplishment must be shared with thousands of Nova Scotians. The Premier led the way; he understood that the programs and services Nova Scotians care about are only secure when we can afford to pay for them. My Cabinet and caucus colleagues did not waiver in their support of tough choices that were sometimes unpopular, but always necessary. Most significantly, individual Nova Scotians must share in this accomplishment. To be sure, Nova Scotians have made sacrifices, but Nova Scotians can now begin to reap the rewards of their efforts and have real reason for optimism and better days ahead.

Mr. Speaker, let me begin this debate with the reason for this optimism. For the first time in a generation, Nova Scotia has a balanced budget. (Applause) We can finally pay our own way. Vital programs and services are safe because we can afford to pay for them. We are no longer borrowing from our children's future to pay for the past and the present. Nova Scotians are too independent and too fair-minded to be comfortable with that approach. We are now in a position to lower taxes and attract new investment, stimulating economic growth and creating new jobs for Nova Scotians.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear! Hear!

MR. BOUDREAU: Some might argue, Mr. Speaker, that we have accomplished our goal too quickly. Well, let me repeat, Nova Scotians have waited a generation for a balanced budget and, the longer they waited, the more money we took from the pockets of our children. Under this legislation, balanced budgets will become the rule in Nova Scotia, not the exception. (Applause)

This bill enacts a long-term plan to keep the province's finances on solid ground. We want to ensure that no government, present or future, takes Nova Scotia back to the brink of financial ruin. This plan for financial stability and growth replaces the Expenditure Control Plan two years ahead of schedule. Legislated expenditure reductions will come to an end. As revenues grow, spending on Health, Education and other vital program areas can increase.

As all members of this House are aware, second reading is a debate on principle. I want to challenge the Opposition members to respond to a very simple question: in principle, do you agree that governments should be required to balance their books? That is a very simple question addressing the fundamental principle of this legislation but it is a very important answer from both of the Opposition Parties.

If one or more of the Opposition Parties should not agree that a balanced budget is fundamental, is important, then if it is okay in their view to have budget deficits, I suppose a supplementary question might be, how large a budget deficit is appropriate, or suitable, or permissable; $10 million, is that too large; $100 million, is that too large? At what level?

This legislation provides for a balanced budget. No deficit financing, no more growing government on borrowed money. It is as simple as that. That is the principle, it is a fundamental principle of this bill. Some critics may say and perhaps will say, if I can be so bold, legislation is unnecessary; a balanced budget may be a good idea but legislation is unnecessary. How can anyone possibly believe such a statement in a province that hasn't

[Page 1378]

balanced its books in 25 years? How can that statement have credibility in those circumstances?

Our government believes we must live within our means. It is the only way to secure essential programs and services and to create real, lasting, economic growth in Nova Scotia. Because we have achieved a balanced budget ahead of schedule, Nova Scotians will reap these well-deserved rewards sooner. I make no apologies for that.

A balanced budget has also paved the way for a balanced package of tax relief. This legislation, this bill, represents the single largest tax break in Nova Scotia's history, for individuals, for low income families and seniors and for business. Personal income taxes are coming down for the first time ever in Nova Scotia. As of July 1, 1997, every taxpayer will pay 3.4 per cent less. This represents a $32 million break for individual taxpayers, giving Nova Scotians the lowest income taxes east of Alberta and the third lowest income taxes in the country. People will see a difference in their paycheques next summer, as soon as the tax cut comes into effect. Payroll deductions should drop on July 1, 1997.

We are also doubling the value of tax relief for low income Nova Scotians. Because this is an expansion of a program we enacted two years ago, these changes will be made through regulations but we will double the value of that program. As a result, more than 200,000 Nova Scotians and their families will benefit from additional tax relief totalling $25 million annually. The net effect is that many families will pay no provincial income tax anymore. For example, any family, with children, earning less than approximately $19,000 a year should pay virtually no income tax under this measure.

Mr. Speaker, this government also recognizes that tax relief does not reach all Nova Scotians. Therefore, as part of our package, we have set aside an additional $8 million to respond to the needs of low income Nova Scotians who are not impacted by this low income tax rebate measure. In the months ahead, we will be seeking advice to ensure that those most in need get the maximum benefit from this $8 million.

Again, Mr. Speaker, as part of our balanced package, the province will raise more money from the largest and wealthiest businesses in Nova Scotia to offset some of these individual tax breaks. Next year, about 1,200 of the biggest companies in Nova Scotia will pay $45 million in additional corporate taxes. Many of these same companies benefit in a significant way from sales tax harmonization.

Some Opposition members have questioned, why promise tax measures for 1997 in a 1996 budget? That question may reoccur in the debate here today. Well, the first answer, Mr. Speaker, is that we are not promising tax cuts, we are legislating tax cuts and there is a difference. These tax cuts will become law, regardless of who is in government, regardless of whether there is an election, so feared by some; regardless, these taxes will soon become law. Secondly, these tax measures were made in harmony with other plans, based on a solid foundation in this budget for lasting economic growth.

Balancing the budget has positioned Nova Scotia to seize the biggest opportunity to date, to stimulate economic growth and grow jobs. On April 23rd, I announced that Nova Scotia, along with our neighbours in New Brunswick and Newfoundland, would work toward harmonizing the provincial sales tax with the federal GST. This adds up to the largest single tax break in our history, Mr. Speaker. The province will collect $120 million less, on an annual basis, in sales tax alone.

[Page 1379]

That said, Mr. Speaker, we recognize that families at different income levels and with different spending habits will realize different savings. That is precisely why, in conjunction with that initiative, harmonization, that we bring before the House today, as part of that comprehensive plan, a package of tax reform to ensure that Nova Scotians, at every income level, come out ahead.

Mr. Speaker, again, I would remind the House that second reading is a debate on principle. So I would ask Opposition members, perhaps, in their remarks, to address a few simple questions. Do you agree or disagree with the principle of cutting taxes for individuals and families in this province? (Applause) Do you agree or disagree with the principle of tax reductions for seniors and other low income earners? (Applause) Do you agree or disagree with the principle of tax breaks to business, leading to lower more competitive prices, and stimulating economic growth? (Applause)

These are the questions of principle in this bill. If either Opposition Party disagrees with the principle of tax reductions, I am sure Nova Scotians will be interested to hear that and to know why they disagree with tax reductions. I know I certainly would, Mr. Speaker, because tax reductions go well beyond the price we pay for goods and services or the deductions on our paycheque. In fact, tax reform and tax reductions are an integral part of this government's job creation strategy.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have heard some members opposite criticize the budget because they say it lacks a job creation strategy. Nothing could be further from the truth. In Nova Scotia, we tend to be cautious in our estimates. We have said we expected that harmonization would bring 3,000 full-time, permanent jobs. In New Brunswick, they estimate 10,000. I hope they are right in New Brunswick, because if they get that many there, we are likely to get that many here as well. But whatever the final number created through harmonization, this Financial Measures Act contains incentives that will attract thousands more, by bringing significant investment to communities across Nova Scotia.

[6:45 p.m.]

The idea is simple, Mr. Speaker, we want to attract a pool of capital from within Nova Scotia and from outside of Nova Scotia, to support community-based enterprises. Investors in community economic development corporations or cooperatives will receive an expanded 30 per cent provincial tax credit. These investments are also expected to be eligible for federal RRSP tax credits. In most cases these tax advantages will offset more than 70 per cent of the original investment. In addition, this bill enacts a 20 per cent provincial guarantee. Combined, these measures will enable people to invest in Nova Scotia's future while limiting their risk substantially.

I cannot stress enough, Mr. Speaker, that these funds will be community focused and community directed. As has always been our strength in Nova Scotia, neighbours will help neighbours; friends will invest with friends; communities will do their own economic development.

I remind the House of an expression attributed to Moses Coady and probably many others as well; local people know where the ice is thin, Mr. Speaker. That is clearly a very important principle when it comes to community economic development. This will put investment together with the best opportunities for success in growth in Nova Scotia. When we put good ideas together with the money to get them off the ground, then jobs will result.

Our government believes that sustainable jobs are created when you attract new investment. We believe jobs are created when you give business a competitive advantage. We believe that leaving more money in the hands of consumers adds more fuel to economic growth.

Again, Mr. Speaker, we are addressing this bill in principle so I ask all members who may address and intervene on this legislation, do you believe that new investment brings economic growth and new jobs? A simple question of principle, do you believe that? There will be a temptation for those who enter this debate on second reading to immerse themselves in detail, to say yes, we agree, but if only we had this [Page 1380]

section changed. This is a chance for the Opposition to stand up and tell Nova Scotia what they believe on the fundamentals, these are the questions that we have addressed to them here.

Mr. Speaker, there are those in the Opposition, particularly, I might say, in the Third Party, who have been asked (Interruption) Well, if, in fact, you don't believe that investment creates jobs, if you don't believe that improving the competitive atmosphere of our business creates jobs, what does create jobs then? Surely you have an obligation to offer an alternative, particularly when you are dealing in principle. The only alternative from the Third Party has been a call across the floor, let's put more people on the government payroll. That hasn't worked in 25 years and it won't work now.

Mr. Speaker, throughout my remarks I have asked other members to indicate their support of this bill or, if not, to outline their alternatives. Before I give them this opportunity, however, I would like to review the main points in our government's plan for economic growth, as reflected in this legislation:

One, we have achieved a major goal in our mandate; we have balanced the provincial budget and now propose legislation that will keep the books balanced. Let us begin the process of rebuilding in Nova Scotia from solid ground. (Applause)

Two, a balanced budget has paved the way for a balanced package of tax relief. Tax relief will be extended to every taxpayer, from low income earners to business.

Three, lower taxes give existing Nova Scotia businesses a competitive edge at home and abroad. By adding new and attractive investment vehicles, in a community-based context, we are inviting investors to put their money to work in our province, thereby putting our people to work as well. And finally, these new jobs, combined with individual tax breaks, will increase consumer confidence and spending, adding even more fuel to the cycle of economic growth.

Mr. Speaker, I call on the Opposition, in a spirit of positive, non-partisan approach, to join with us in supporting the principles of balanced budgets, tax reductions and job creation through investment.

With that, I move second reading of this legislation. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: We have to talk about Liberal principles. On Friday, I questioned the Minister of Transportation as to what the order of business would be today

[Page 1381]

because I thought we would be going through the bills as listed in the order paper and that the Occupational Health and Safety Bill would be coming up. But somebody had said to me, no, that is not going to happen, we are going to move right on to Bill No. 18, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures.

I said to him, why are we doing this? Why are we skipping ahead? The Minister of Finance said he wants to get that bill through which means, I suppose, that they do not want to get the Occupational Health and Safety Bill through even though the Occupational Health and Safety Bill is probably a great deal more important than this piece of fluff that the Minister of Finance has brought forward.

HON. RICHARD MANN: A question, Mr. Speaker. Could we interpret his remarks to be a no to the honourable Minister of Finance's question?

AN HON. MEMBER: Which one? He asked a lot of them, he said do not ask any questions about the detail.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, I will come to answering the questions later on in my remarks. But, anyway, I said to the Minister of Finance, I am going to be very busy this weekend and I do not think I will have much time to review this bill. So, he flipped through the bill and he said you will not have any problem with this because this is all favourable and this is all favourable and so on. Obviously, the Minister of Finance must have picked up the notes that the Minister of Transportation had prepared. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, what this bill is, really, is the outline, I would suggest, for the Liberal platform in the next election, whenever that comes along. There is only one word this crowd over here knows and that is that we have balanced the budget and that is going to be the bottom line of every piece of paper that these people carry around door to door in the next election. (Applause) They are not going to tell anybody in Nova Scotia how they balanced the budget, they are simply going to say, we balanced the budget and guess what? We did it ahead of schedule. Lucky Bernie, you are right, that is the reason. (Laughter) Exactly, like Lucky Luciano, Lucky Bernie. Lucky Luciano was involved in gambling, too.

Well, I do not know how Lucky Luciano did it, but I can tell you how Lucky Bernie did it, the Minister of Finance, I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. How did he do it? He did it by having his Cabinet do everything so badly insofar as economic development was concerned that we would get bags of money coming in from Ottawa. We are the poor cousins across this country and we are receiving the beneficence from our uncle up in Ottawa, the honourable Uncle Jean Chretien. He has been sending the money down here by the truckload, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter) If we take the last budget, the one that we just received, showing the forecast results for fiscal year 1995-96, we find that the minister has come up with a surplus more than what he had projected in his original budget in 1995-96. In 1995-96, he came in with a surplus that year for $17.6 million.

Now when he first prepared his budget in 1995-96, he was estimating a deficit for the year of $28.1 million. In other words, he would not have balanced the operating budget of this province in 1995-96. So how did he get from a current account deficit of $28 million to a surplus of $17 million? Did he do it because he is an incredibly bright individual? Did he do it because industry started coming into this province, expanding and putting people to work so they paid loads of income tax and loads of corporate tax? Did he do those things?

Well, let me tell you. I'll tell you how he got there. He got there courtesy of the federal government who pumped in $46 million extra in equalization that he had not budgeted for. They also sent him along another bucket load of money, $51 million, in prior years adjustments which he had not budgeted for, and then on top of that, Mr. Speaker, he picked up something in the order, I think, of $23 million in the cost of carrying the debt that this province carries, simply because interest rates had gone down because the rest of Canada is doing extremely well. Our dollar has gone up and strengthened (Interruptions) Well, you can laugh at this, but however, I think eventually it will sink in that your Minister of Finance has picked up something in the order of about $120 million additional last year.

[Page 1382]

Now can you tell me how this minister managed to go from a $28 million deficit to a $17 million surplus?

AN HON. MEMBER: Because he allowed the economy to go in the toilet, that's why.

MR. RUSSELL: That's right. So he gets the additional funds from Ottawa, $120 million. Now if he had put all that money, Mr. Speaker, into lowering the debt for 1995-96, maybe you would say, well, that is good. However, he squandered a part of that money, spending it on other matters which arose during 1995-96 where he over-expended. This minister, who prides himself on meeting his budget targets, over-expended in 1995-96. He over-expended to the tune of $90 million. I don't think that says very much for this minister's math or for his genius in balancing budgets. It is not difficult, as I have said many times, to balance a budget when you have a rich uncle or else you win the lottery. So, as I say, the business of this piece of legislation, whether you agree with it or not, I think, has to be examined.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we are told that this is a job creation budget. I would like everybody to remember that in 1993, when these people across the way came into power, there were 58,000 Nova Scotians out there looking for a job.

[7:00 p.m.]

When this government came to power, they said, don't worry, we are going to solve the unemployment problem in Nova Scotia. We are going to fix things so that we will have an expansion of the economy, so that things will really start to move and we are going to put those 58,000 Nova Scotians to work because we are coming in on the principle of jobs, jobs, jobs; 30-60-90, wonderful. The public listened to Premier John Savage. They listened to the Minister of Finance, Bernie Boudreau. They listened to both of them as they went around the province, we are going to create jobs.

Well, now we are coming to the end of the reign. We are coming to the final days of when they are going to be sitting over there in the front benches, in the Treasury benches. They are almost over three years at the present time. So there is an election in the offing. They look at the figures for unemployment in this Province of Nova Scotia and they find that there is no longer 58,000 unemployed, but, unfortunately, the number has not gone down, it has gone up. There are now 62,000 Nova Scotians out there looking for a job. Now, that is some job creation program.

So the minister comes along with a piece of paper, Bill No. 18, and says, yes, we are going to solve that problem. Mind you, we are not going to do it this year. No, not this year folks. Wait for it. Wait until we have the next election and then we are going to give you tax

[Page 1383]

breaks and we are going to give you jobs. I don't think the people of Nova Scotia are going to be fooled again, Mr. Speaker. They have been through this routine once before.

They now know who Mr. Savage is, the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia. They now know who the Minister of Finance is, Mr. Boudreau, and they even know who the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, Richie Mann; they know the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health and the Minister of the Environment. They know them all. (Applause) They know, just like they know Sheila Copps, they do not keep their promises. A piece of paper is just a slip of the typewriter. It is not worth very much.

Well, you know, I read this bill through this morning and it is not a very big bill to read through. It is only a few pages, so it does not take too much time to read it. The first part of the bill deals with changes to the Assessment Act, Mr. Speaker, I don't want read anything out from the bill, of course, because I would not be sticking to the principles as the Minister of Finance wants me to. He does not want me to talk about any of the nitty-gritty detail about this bill. Just talk about the good things and talk about the principles.

Well, I would just like to talk about some of the adverse principles of this bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: You and I went over it the other night.

MR. RUSSELL: I know you and I went over it the other night and I know you passed your notes on to the Minister of Finance. That is fine. In fact, you might make a better Minister of Finance than the present one. I doubt it, but that is possible.

The first part of this bill deals with an item called the machinery and equipment tax. This is a tax that the government has been winding down at a certain rate every year. The minister has said, well look, municipalities. Wind it down by April 1998. That is well after the next election, Mr. Speaker, even if they go for five years, they are going to have an election before then. Wind it down by 1998 and the province will pick up the loss of revenue by the municipalities. Well, if they keep that promise, maybe that is not bad. But then right underneath it, you find something he did not talk about and that was this business about taxing farmland.

Now, Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have in this province and, in fact, they have it in most provinces across the country, is some kind of tax relief for those who utilize land for farming purposes. In this province, the provincial government has picked up and paid to the municipalities, $2.08 for every acre of farming land within that municipality. In turn, the municipalities have not taxed farming land. They taxed the house, they taxed the surrounding property; around the house, I think up to one acre, is taxed at the residential rate. The remainder of the farmland is not taxed.

Now what the province has said is this, municipalities, we are no longer going to send you $2.08 for every acre of property that you exempt from taxation, we are not going to do that. But however, as a very special favour to the municipalities, we will let you tax the farmers at $2.10 for every acre of land that they have. Well, first of all, this is downloading because if indeed the municipal councils decide that they are not going to tax farming land, well they are going to have to swallow that $2.08 that heretofore they received from the province. Or else, they are going to have to send out bills on farm property of $2.10 per acre.

[Page 1384]

Now you may or may not agree with the premise that farmland should be taxed at a lower rate than other land or you may not agree that farmland should be taxed at all or perhaps taxed at full value, those can all be done. But the problem is, most farm operations in Nova Scotia are small scale. We haven't got the vast tracks of open land that they have out in the Prairies, or Quebec, or even Ontario for that matter, for farming, so the farmers do need some kind of a break.

I don't think it would take any brains - certainly, the Minister of Agriculture, I am amazed that he didn't say a few words to the Minister of Finance or perhaps the Minister of Municipal Affairs, to try to set the Minister of Finance straight on what the farming community is all about.

One of the reasons we have cheap food in this country is because of the fact that farmers are not taxed heavily on their farmlands. If the Minister of Finance had said to the municipalities, we are not going to send you $2.08 for every acre of farmland but we will send you $2.08 for every acre of land that is used for farming, productively by registered farmers, well, then I think the municipalities would have agreed with us, the agricultural people would have agreed with us and certainly, the Minister of Finance, I think, would have been held in much better favour by the municipalities and by the farmers.

We have across this province a large number of people and I suppose I fall into that category too because I had a farm like that and I am going to have another farm like that, which is just simply a hobby farm. I want to have 5 or 10 acres just to play around with, maybe run a horse or two and a head or two of cattle, maybe a couple of sheep and a few rabbits and goodness knows what, but just a hobby farm. I should not and neither should others who engage in that kind of farming receive the same kinds of concessions as do those who are productively earning their living and supplying the markets with farm produce. There is a big difference.

In the County of Kings, this tax is going to cost somebody very close to $1 million. In other words, there is a sum of money not going to the County of Kings in the amount of about $1 million. Now either the County of Kings can say, okay, farmers out there, that is anybody who owns land that is classified as agriculture, you are going to pay us $2.10 per acre or else they can say, no, we are going to keep you tax exempt and we will swallow that and put up the rate right across the county to accommodate us for that loss of revenue. Is that right? Of course it is not right. It is not fair, it is downloading and it is, also, I think, to the detriment of the agricultural industry in this province.

I think the minister should accept an amendment when we get around to amending this bill, on that particular matter within the piece of legislation, the equity tax credit, Mr. Speaker. In fact I think I can agree with some of the amendments to this because it brings us in line with what the federal government is doing. I think our legislation should be the mirror image of whatever the federal government has, particularly with regard to RSP investments. I have no quarrel with that.

The minister is not satisfied with that. He was talking about how this was going to be the greatest incentive for new business in the smaller areas of this province, outside the City of Halifax and the City of Sydney, which do not qualify for this kind of treatment. (Interruption) Pardon? The economic . . .


[Page 1385]

MR. RUSSELL: Metro, yes, okay. He says this is going to bring business into small-town Nova Scotia.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I was at a country fair over the weekend. It was a good country fair and it was attended by - I don't know how many people - maybe 10,000 people over the weekend and they had about 200 to 300 booths there. They were talking about economic development and how they wanted people within the community to know what was manufactured, sold and distributed within the community. There was a great amount of networking between the various manufacturers of various types of equipment. It was a great show, because I think that the people who went through that show realized they didn't have to go from Windsor, down the Valley to Kentville or into the City of Halifax, to make some of their basic purchases.

The minister tells us that is great because this is exactly what this is designed to do. The problem is that he is not talking to his Minister of Health, he is not talking to his Minister of Education, he is not talking to the Minister of Justice because those three gentlemen, Mr. Speaker, are ripping the guts out of small-town Nova Scotia and those small towns are going to collapse because nobody is going to move into a small town if there are not adequate doctors. (Interruptions)

One thing in this place, Mr. Speaker, we certainly have lots of idle conversations.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is not that idle.

MR. RUSSELL: And it is not idle, either.

The problem is that in these small towns, Mr. Speaker, unless you have medical facilities, doctors and clinics and hospitals, if you don't have centres of justice where you can go and fix up your deed to your property or go into a Small Claims Court, if you don't have the schooling for your young people, and so they have to leave the area, these small towns are going to die. Who is going to move there? Who is going to move to small-town Nova Scotia? Nobody is going to move if there are not government services there. You people are destroying small-town Nova Scotia and you don't care. That is the problem, you don't care. If you go out . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Who left the debt for them? Who wrote the cheques?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Remarks should be addressed to the Chair. I plead not guilty to these accusations, by the way.

MR. RUSSELL: I will address them to you, Mr. Speaker.

If the people within this House go out into small-town Nova Scotia and walk down the main street - I guess they don't dare walk down the main street any more - and talk to the people and see what they are saying. They are saying, this town, whether it be a, b, c, d - right through the alphabet - town across this province, from one end to the other, is slowly sinking, it is going away, and that is going to continue.

This is not going to help. It will only help if, indeed, you retain the vital services you need in these areas, so that a town is a community with those features that you have to have. (Interruption) Indeed, I do. In fact, if you don't fix the roads up, you won't . . .

[Page 1386]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. (Interruptions)

Order, please. Order.

MR. RUSSELL: You know the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Speaker, I know this isn't his bill, but he is vitally interested in it, that is quite obvious.

[7:15 p.m.]

You know, I have never seen the roads in this province as bad as they are today and I think that when the minister says, we have balanced the budget two years ahead of time, I think that is great but he hasn't filled one pothole in two years. Ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works' claim division, Mr. Speaker, how much has been spent in the patching crew in the last couple of years or so.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are good in Yarmouth, they are good on the South Shore.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister was talking about how his reduction in income taxes - which takes place, again, not this fiscal year, it has nothing to do with this year's budget whatsoever, takes place next year, budget 1997-98 - he says, well, you are all going to know about this in July 1997 because that is when the withholding tax will take place and you will start getting a few more dollars in your pay cheque.

Well, Mr. Speaker, you certainly will, some people will who have their taxes withheld and others who don't pay quite enough, perhaps, will not reap that benefit. (Interruption) And I haven't got it with me, darn it. The savings to an average family is not very great. I had the figures here but I just cannot locate them. Anyway, I will locate them before this is finished.

The thing is, this 3.2 per cent or 3.4 per cent, whatever it is, 3.4 per cent less in personal income taxes, is going to save those taxpayers who have jobs, who have an income, they are going to save 3.4 per cent on their provincial income taxes. But the minister says not to worry. Those who are not paying income taxes are going to be rewarded with a share of $8 million which he is going to give to the Minister of Community Services to distribute to those Nova Scotians who are low income working Nova Scotians. There are people out there who are working 40 hours per week who are making something like $10,000, $12,000 per year.

Those are the people, Mr. Speaker, for whom every dollar is extremely important. These are what you call the working poor. These are the people who live from payday to payday and every cent of what they get in their pay packet is accounted for. But whether you earn $12,000 per year or whether you earn $60,000 per year, you still have to buy fuel oil to heat your house, or you have to buy electricity to heat your house. You still have to buy clothes, you still have to buy shoes, you still have to get your hair cut occasionally. You have to do all these things and it is going to affect the person on $60,000, but more effectively, it is going to affect the person on $12,000 per year. They are people who are going to be affected.

The minister says, not to worry. We are going to find those people and we are going to give them some kind of a handout, I guess, that is going to amount to $8 million a year. He does not know how many of them there are, he doesn't know how he is going to contact them because these people are not knocking on the door of the county welfare office every week. These people are out there, they are just doing their job and getting on with it but they are suffering. They are going to be suffering under the blended sales tax.

The minister cannot reward them with tax credits because they don't pay taxes. All that he can do is say to the Minister of Community Services, I am giving you $8 million, spread it around and try to help these people. It will not do, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest to you that the blended sales tax is going to impact [Page 1387]

very heavily on those unfortunate people who are on minimum wage and just working the one job at 40 hours per week.

Mr. Speaker, in this bill, the government has enacted a piece of legislation which the minister proudly says will prevent the government from running a deficit. It will prevent the government from running a deficit because they are going to have a piece of legislation. The minister says to us on this side of the House, they are going to say that this is just a piece of legislation and it does not mean anything. Well, that is exactly what I am going to tell him. It is just a piece of legislation that does not mean anything.

The minister says, we cannot budget for a deficit, we cannot run a deficit in any year. However, we can exceed the budget by 1 per cent if we come to the Legislature and tell the Legislature what we are doing and then we have to pay it back two years hence.

Mr. Speaker, we know the history of this government. This was a government that when they came to power in 1993, said, there will be no new taxes. Read my lips, no new taxes. The Premier said it. The Minister of Finance said it. He was standing right beside John Savage when he said it and that is what he said, no tax increases.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: On a point of order, the honourable member recalls me making that statement or issuing some statement to that effect. I wonder if he could help refresh my memory, because I don't recall making it.

MR. RUSSELL: That is quite correct. It was the Premier who made the statement and the Minister of Finance was just standing across the stage when he was making it. You know, this beats Sheila Copps all the way. Within 90 days, taxes were increased. Now, with a new election coming along, yahoo, we are going to cut taxes. I wonder why he does not say in this piece of legislation that there will be no new taxes and no increases in existing taxes? Why doesn't he say that in legislation? That would make a lot more sense than talking about decreasing personal and corporate income taxes. Well, Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but I just do not believe the Minister of Finance. I just don't believe what that government says. I just do not believe it.

If they come back into power, within 90 days we are going to see them come in with an amendment to Clause 4 of Bill No. 18. They will be coming forward with an amendment. They are going to say, you know, we said that back then, but things were different then. Now that we look at the books - that is what they always say - we find we cannot afford it, so we are going to have to amend it. But don't worry, four years hence, folks, we will look after it. That is the way these characters operate. Everything is in the future. Everything is after the next election. The election comes along and they get themselves elected and then they go off and have their wild frolic for three or four years and then they all come back.

We were talking about job creation, Mr. Speaker. Isn't it funny that today, of all days, we have the Minister of Human Resources stand up with a Statement by Ministers announcing the enhanced Summer Student Employment Program? Well, great, that's fine. But I wonder

[Page 1388]

why? Well, I don't think too many Nova Scotians will wonder why. They know. (Interruptions)

It is not all good news. Well, yes, there is, there is one piece of good news in this and I will tell you what it is. It is called the ISO14000 certification. I will agree, Mr. Speaker, that is something that I applaud. That is something that should be done because although it is not a great job creator, it will in fact help our export industries and if it helps our export industries, it may well lead to jobs. But that is about the only thing of substance in this bill.

Yes, the other goody that was in this bill, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if anybody bothered to listen to the Minister of Finance when he was delivering his budget. The only reason I listened was because I had to respond to it and I thought I had better make some notes because there wasn't a heck of a lot in it. So I had to make some notes so I had to listen to him. But I remember him getting up and saying, we are going to reduce the tax on propane. Everybody went out that night, I am told, and lit up their barbecues. They were looking forward to this big tax relief on propane. Oh, it was great. People went out with the RVs and filled up the tanks on their RVs. Those who had fireplaces in their homes that run on propane, they called in Speedy Propane or the Superior Propane person, fill up my tanks.

But there is little tiny fine print there. With my glasses, I couldn't even read it. Do you know what it says? It says, this applies to automotive vehicles only. (Interruptions) Then, you say, well maybe that is not a bad break. How many vehicles do you think there are in the Province of Nova Scotia which run on propane? He has up two fingers, no, it is more than two. It is 200. Guess who owns these 200 vehicles, Mr. Speaker? Guess who owns them? Either the federal government or the provincial government. I am sorry, I think the member for Digby-Annapolis has one, as well. That is the sum total of this massive tax reduction by the Minister of Finance. That is really going to make things fly. Everybody is going to rush out and get a propane conversion kit so they can operate their car. Mind you, it will cost them $3,000 and at this rate, it would take them 3,000 years to pay off that debt. (Interruptions) But, don't worry about it, it is a tax break.

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't look at the details.

MR. RUSSELL: Don't look at the details, don't read the fine print, just read that, yahoo, yes, we are going to reduce the tax on propane. I'll tell you.

I found this thing on income tax. (Interruptions) A single parent earning $25,000 per year, with two children, now that person isn't doing very well. The effect of the low-income tax deduction is $130 annual savings. So they are going to get an extra $10 per month. They have to heat the home, buy some gas for the car so she can get to work, or if she goes by bus, the bus is going to cost her more. She is going to have to buy shoes and clothing for the kids, $10 a month, come on. Get with it, Mr. Minister of Finance. Get with it.

Now, the minister probably wonders - and I guess some people in here wonder too - why I am so reluctant to believe that you are going to get this personal income tax reduction in 1997-98. Well, I can tell you why, you are not going to get it folks because there just ain't enough money in the kitty. The minister has told us (Interruption) If they would stop their chatter and listen, they would learn (Interruption). Look, it is not a laughing matter. In point of fact, that minister is going to have to raise an additional $130 million in fiscal 1997-98, he is going to have to raise $130 million to make up for the tax reduction that he has given under the personal and corporate taxes, et cetera; $130 million more.

[7:30 p.m.]

Now, where is he going to get it from? The only way the minister can get it, he obviously is not going to run a deficit, at least he tells us he is not, so he going to have to raise it somewhere. We are going to have new taxes within 90 days, right on. Now he might say, well, I will tell you, I have given you a break [Page 1389]

on your income taxes. You guys are doing pretty well right now, so therefore why don't we just sneak up that tax, you know that 15 per cent tax, just a notch or two.

Why don't we put on a payroll tax? Now that is a favourite that the minister has powers to do in this agreement with the federal government; a payroll tax, yes. Why don't we tax the financial institutions? That is very popular, let us tax the financial institutions. Why don't we tax all the major corporations? Why don't we tax every ship that comes into the Port of Halifax and comes into the waters of Nova Scotia? The minister is very inventive, I am sure he can dream up a new tax. The problem is, who is going to pay for that tax and it is the people of Nova Scotia - you and me - and I object. Maybe you agree, I do not know.

The minister says, do we or do we not agree on many occasions, when he was going through his remarks on the bill, he said, do you agree with this or don't you agree with this. Well, that is fair, I will ask you a question. Do you agree with raising taxes in order to have an income tax reduction? That is a simple question. I am sure the Minister of Finance can answer that question very easily. He is a smart guy. (Interruption)

The Minister of Finance says that with the blended sales tax we are entering into a new era. We are entering into an era where there will be four or five chickens in every pot. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: All right now, please. Carry on.

MR. RUSSELL: But, Mr. Speaker, the gentleman is going against every other part of Canada that has examined the blended sales tax and said, no, we do not want it because it is going to cost us money - that is the governments - and because it is going to cost the consumers more who are the taxpayers and the citizens of the province. You start out on the West Coast and you go from British Columbia to Alberta to Saskatchewan to Manitoba to Ontario. What do they say? They are saying, sorry, we do not need this. We do not need this, we do not want it because, the reason being, it is going to cost the people of the province more money and it is going to cost the governments of those provinces revenues. That is why they do not want it.

I spoke to the minister in estimates this afternoon about car dealers today. At the show I was telling you about a few minutes ago, there were four different car dealers there, two Chrysler, a Ford and a GM dealer. I was talking to them about the blended sales tax and I said to them, from the point of view of buying a new car, it is a pretty good deal because now I am only going to pay the GST on the difference between the trade-in and the sale price of the new car. It sounds good, doesn't it?

You talk to the dealers and they say, you are going to pay more for the car. Do you know why you are going to pay more for the car? I will tell you why, because the input tax credit that a car dealer gets is lost when we move into the regime of only taxing between the trade-in amount of the used vehicle and the new product. As a result of that, car dealers are going to lose 5 per cent, their margins at the present time are only 3 per cent. They are either going to go belly-up or they are going to charge more for cars. How much more are they

[Page 1390]

going to charge for cars? Almost exactly the same as what the saving would be on not paying the tax on the vehicle that you are trading in, that is simple.

Now I asked the minister that question in the estimates and he gave me an answer which I didn't understand, quite frankly. Now you are trying to explain it to your colleagues, I am glad you are explaining it to your colleagues because they are going to be really upset about this. You know we are talking about small-town Nova Scotia, you have two or three businesses around there that are called car dealerships, they are all going to disappear. You are going to have massive big box dealers out in Ragged Lake maybe and a few in Sydney and they are going to do all the car dealing in the province because the small businessman is not going to survive this business.

I have the questions here, actually I hadn't got started on them because the questions were a lot more interesting than the answers that he is going to give. For instance, this is a question from the Minister of Finance and it is not a multiple choice question, it is a yes or no, like have you quit beating somebody lately, that is the kind of question he is asking. Do you agree or disagree with the principle of cutting taxes? Well, that is not a difficult question to answer. Walk down the main drag of any street and say, would you like to have your taxes cut? Of course, everybody would say yes. However, if you say as the minister should say, would you like to have your income taxes cut but at the same time pay a 5 per cent tax on your pay? Would you agree with that? Isn't that income tax? No, it is called payroll tax. And what is payroll tax? Payroll tax is income tax my friend, different name, different minister. So you can't just ask a question like that and expect to get a yes or no answer because of the fact that we don't know the parameters of what is going on.

Do we believe in tax reductions for seniors and low income? Well, naturally we believe in that. However, how is that going to be achieved? This is the minister who is talking about tax reduction for seniors, can you believe it? This is the minister who slashed and hacked at every program that seniors had in this province, programs incidentally that were put in place originally, some of them, by the Liberal Government back in the 1970s. During the tenure of the previous government not only were these sustained but broadened and also kept up to speed with inflation. This minister has hacked and slashed those to pieces, they are gone. If you don't believe it, talk to a senior citizen, come and talk to me sometime, I will tell you.

So he says, do you agree with tax reductions for seniors and those on low income? Yes, the answer is yes, providing the Minister of Finance does not slash any more programs to provide that tax relief to those seniors and those on low income. It is so simple you can't believe that a Minister of Finance and a Premier when they sit down together and have a doughnut, or whatever the Premier and the Minister of Finance do when they get together, that they can't sit down and figure out exactly what they are doing to this province. As I say, I just can't believe it.

Anyway, the minister comes along and says, do you believe in tax breaks for business? Well, yes, we believe in tax breaks for business. Yet, in this very document, he is going to hose it to them for $45 million. Oh, some break, I will tell you. This is a minister who started taxing lawyers and accountants and surveyors and landscape gardeners and then found out that it all went through, so he knocked the tax off them and, then, do you know what he did? He said, I am going to take those taxes off because they don't work, in fact, they are decreasing business opportunities in the Province of Nova Scotia. However, he said, do you remember when I brought in my first budget, I said we were going to have a stimulus for industry, it was called the something growth fund . . .

[Page 1391]

AN HON. MEMBER: Dividend.

MR. RUSSELL: The Dividend Growth Fund, thank you very much. My friend over there and executive assistant just advised me that it is the Dividend Growth Fund.

So he says, what I am going to do, I am going to take that tax off, I made a mistake; however, I will charge it up against the Dividend Growth Fund. Now, can you ever imagine anything like that before in your life? It is like saying that I am going to give you a $400 million break and the way I am going to do it is, today I am going to put a tax on every Nova Scotian of 50 cents, which is about - whatever it is - I am putting that tax on every Nova Scotian today and then, tomorrow, taking it off and saying I have met my promise, I am giving you a $400 million tax break. That is the kind of Mickey Mouse thing that this Minister of Finance is doing.

AN HON. MEMBER: Lucky Mickey Mouse.

MR. RUSSELL: Lucky Mickey Mouse, right. This gentleman is flimflamming the public of Nova Scotia and the public of Nova Scotia is flimflammed at the moment, because events are moving so rapidly that they just can't keep up with the promises made by the Minister of Finance.

Now, what else did the minister say? Mr. Speaker, almost the first words that we heard from the Minister of Finance - and I won't forget them - he said that we have achieved a balanced budget (Applause) and - wait for it - the Premier led the way. I haven't seen this Premier out in front anywhere.

AN HON. MEMBER: He was in Switzerland.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, he was in Switzerland.

AN HON. MEMBER: He led the way from the back of the bus.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, led from the rear. Well anyway, the Premier led the way towards this balanced budget.

I will tell you something, the balanced budget came about because of the fact that the Minister of Finance did several things with regard to some of the budgets, and because of the fact, as I said, he got lots of windfalls. But one of the things the Minister of Finance has done, Mr. Speaker, is the Minister of Finance has, without a doubt, established his position in Cabinet because every minister depends on the Minister of Finance to allocate them whatever spending money they are going to have for the year.

You see, you have a committee called Priorities and Planning. Priorities and Planning should decide on the priorities and how important you are and how important he is and how important he is - not how important, I shouldn't say how important you are - how important what you do in the way of programs is for the people of Nova Scotia and then that committee should priorize it and direct the minister.

In your government, it works a different way. The Minister of Finance is (Interruption) You can't decide on anything. The Minister of Finance is the only one who can decide. This government has given, to the Minister of Finance, the executive power to decide exactly how long you are going to have a Department of Transportation, how long this gentleman is going to have the Minister of Health position. He has decided he gets that position. He sets the priorities. (Interruption)

[7:45 p.m.]

I think you will find, Mr. Speaker, that never before has a Minister of Finance been accorded such powers. Normally, there has been something of a buffer between the departments and the Minister of Finance. The ministers of departments make their representations to whatever this is, Priorities and Planning [Page 1392]

or Management Board, or whatever the case may be, and they in turn then direct the Minister of Finance as to how the dollars shall be divvied up. The Minister of Finance is actually just a collector. He collects revenues and then he passes that on to the various departments, as directed by the budget document which, as I say, should come from some exterior force.

That is one of the things that is wrong with this government, Mr. Speaker, and it certainly is not solved by this piece of legislation. Well, I suppose the question before I sit down is, am I going to vote for second reading on this piece of legislation. The answer is no.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, (Interruption) I was just waiting for the signal from the minister responsible for the Halifax Fairview by-election. (Interruption) You know, when the Minister of Finance introduced this bill for second reading, he did it with the usual fanfare. My friend for Hants West would say, the hoo-rah-rah. All throughout the presentation by the Opposition Party's Finance Critic, the government members, in particular the Cabinet colleagues to the Minister of Finance, had great fun at the expense of the member for Hants West and had quite a bit of fun with the whole idea of a balanced budget and how easy it was and it is not hard to balance the budget and all this kind of stuff.

Madam Speaker, I raise that because I was going to begin my intervention tonight and talk a bit about the role of government and the kind of times we are in right now. But I think, maybe, it is important to talk a little bit about how the government balanced the budget this year and what is going on in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, let's not forget that in 1993, this government came into power as a result of having made promises throughout the election campaign that they were going to create anywhere between 57,000 and 63,000 jobs in the Province of Nova Scotia. They criticized the then government, led by Don Cameron, for its cut and slash mentality, for its willingness to focus entirely on reducing the deficit at the expense of health, education, social services, infrastructure and jobs.

They said that that is not what a Liberal Government would do in the Province of Nova Scotia, that we believe the way out of this mess is to stimulate the economy. They said that they believed that the role of government was to soften the effects, the impact, of a recessionary period, to respond to the reduction in aggregate demand in the economy and to ensure that those suffering the most from this economic recession were assisted.

You know what? Nova Scotians agreed with them. Nova Scotians, in incredible numbers, voted this government into power. They voted them into power because of the fact that they did not believe in the cut and slash deficit focus approach of the Tory Government. They recognized that within their communities and within their neighbourhoods, the biggest problem facing them was the lack of jobs, the lack of opportunity for their family members,

[Page 1393]

their children and for their children's children. That is what people recognized. So they responded to the commitment then by the Liberal Government when they were running for election and they voted them into power.

Let's look for a second at what we've got as a result. Have we seen 63,000 jobs created in this province, Madam Speaker? Nova Scotians would answer that clearly and distinctly by saying no. What has the economy done and what is it supposed to be doing over the next year according to this same government? Last year the government made a prediction of, I believe, an economic growth of over 2 per cent and the economy grew at a pathetic rate of 1.6 per cent. The government this year is predicting economic growth in the Province of Nova Scotia, less than that, at 1.3 per cent, I believe it was. That is the kind of economic growth that this government has been responsible for.

Last month alone, we saw 8,000 jobs leave the labour force, Madam Speaker. There are now 55,000 people unemployed in the Province of Nova Scotia, thanks to this government. What are they predicting for 1996? They are predicting 2,000 jobs, one-quarter of the ones that were lost in the month of March. Are we supposed to have hope in this government? Are we supposed to believe in anything they say? Nova Scotians are hesitant to do that, on the basis of their promises and on the basis of what they have been able to deliver.

In this last budget, that the government and the Minister of Finance have hailed about, has caused some considerable commotion among their own compatriots - because nobody else believes it - is that they were able to balance the budget for the first time and for that, they deserve considerable accolades and patting on the back. Madam Speaker, let's take a close look at how they did balance the budget.

The previous speaker referred to the Minister of Finance - and has in the past - Lucky Bernie. In fact, I have suggested perhaps at times that as a result of increased transfers from the federal government that this government was not expecting, it was in some ways a bit of luck. But, the biggest part of it is not good luck, it is bad luck. It is bad luck for Nova Scotia, Madam Speaker, because for the last three years, the economy in Nova Scotia has performed at or very near the bottom of the pile in terms of economies across this country, thanks to this government. For that privilege of having performed so poorly, we did receive more in equalization payments, in transfer payments, because we desperately needed it from the federal government.

So that helped the minister add to his deficit reduction target, but we have also seen, Madam Speaker, them taking tens of millions of dollars, over $100 million out of the health care budget. We have seen them taking millions and millions of dollars out of education. We have seen the ability of this province to respond to those people most in need greatly reduced. Just in this last budget, the one that we are supposed to stand up and congratulate the Minister of Finance and his government on, they have ripped a further $73 million out of Health, Education and Community Services; $33 million alone is being gouged from hospitals at a time when many communities are saying that we cannot receive the kind of health care that we need, let alone deserve. This government is proposing to cut tens of millions more out of that section.

The Minister of Education stands here and talks about how we are reforming the education system and all the savings are going into the classroom. That is simply just not true and Nova Scotians know it. Nova Scotians know that the classrooms are getting larger, the resources in the schools are getting smaller. The resources for children with special needs continue to shrink; in other words, those children who as a result of mental or physical disabilities are less able to achieve an equal opportunity to education in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is what Nova Scotians are paying for. That is what Nova Scotians are sacrificing in order to get a balanced budget.

On top of that there has been close to $120 million reduction in the monies budgeted for capital expenditures. Now what does that mean? Another $120 million, that is good, they have cut that out. What that means is money that would go to roads, that would go to sewers, that would go to schools, that would go to hospitals, that would go to all of those public institutions and all that infrastructure in this province that we own, you and I and all Nova Scotians, that helps us move goods from point A to point B, that helps us [Page 1394]

to be able to repair the blackboard of that school in Yarmouth County that has a big hole in it. Those are the kinds of investments in our future that this government is completely giving up on. The thing is that those costs are going to have to be borne at some point. We are going to have to fix those holes in the road. We are going to have to repair our sewers. We are going to have to repair those water lines. Those are investments in our future. Those are investments in our capacity as a society to provide the services that we all require.

This government, in a slight of hand, as a way of trying to come in with this hailed balanced budget, is not only slashing $73 million out of Health, Education and Community Services, but they are also cutting another $120 million out of those important infrastructure projects that are clearly an investment in the wealth of this province. We are going to have to pay for that down the road and Nova Scotians understand that. Nova Scotians understand that if you need to repair the roof on your house and if you decide that you can't do it this year you are still going to have to do it next year or the year after but you are going to have to do it. What we have got is a government that has basically come up with what they call a balanced budget as a consequence of a number of factors, perhaps the most important being the millions, tens and hundreds of millions of dollars that are being cut out of our health, education and social service system in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[8:00 p.m.]

What do we get also in this bill? So this bill is an attempt to ensure that we continue to do that. To ensure that regardless of what happens in the future, whether we enjoy somehow some resurgence in the economy in this province, that ensures that we will not be able to do anything further to repair the damage that has already been done to our health and education systems, for example. If we get an increase in revenue in this province this government ensures that our hands are tied, that we will not be able to invest money to deal with those important areas and those important issues.

The Minister of Finance when he got to his feet talked about how important this budget is to Nova Scotians and I agree and this piece of legislation, balanced budget legislation, how important it is to Nova Scotians. I talked with some disappointment at the lack of consideration that I felt that many of his colleagues were giving to it.

I think of what is happening in many communities around this province in the education system and I hear the Minister of Education sitting here in his place cracking jokes and making fun about what I consider very serious problems relative to the decisions that this government is making. On the one hand it makes me angry and on the other hand it represents to me exactly what I am hearing from Nova Scotians. They are saying that this government has completely lost focus, has lost touch with what they think is important out there. They have lost any confidence in the need to invest in the future of this province by ensuring that we have a healthy health care system, to ensure that our education system is sound, to ensure

[Page 1395]

that we are able to educate our young people in a manner that will best prepare them for the future. All that they are concerned about is following along the ideological track of the conservative ideologues throughout this world, throughout North America, to say that we need to fight the deficit at all costs.

The role of government in society is more than simply doing the bidding of the bond traders, the bond clippers, the coupon clippers, the financial analysts, it is more than that. The role of government in society, I think, is to mitigate the distress, hardship and especially the unemployment that results from the inevitable downturn in the business cycle in our economy. The government has a responsibility to respond to that instability in economic life. They respond to it (Interruption) The Minister of Finance says, did it work in Ontario? Let me tell you what happened in Ontario, not to get overly distracted, but what happened in Ontario is that the people of Ontario elected a government that are hell-bent on sending that economy and the rest of the economy across this country into the toilet. They are the largest economy in this country and, as a result of the policies of the Harris Government, not only will there be unbelievable hardship imposed upon the citizenry, especially the most vulnerable in that community, Madam Speaker, but the economy in Ontario will continue to go down the toilet.

You hear the Minister of Education, that's where he wants to go. The Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance want to follow Mike Harris' role, they want to follow his example, they want to follow the example of Ralph Klein, Madam Speaker. That is what Nova Scotians have in store for them if they continue to follow along with the lines this government is talking about. That is exactly like, health is gone, education is gone and there will be tax breaks for the rich and for wealthy corporations, as a result of what this government is doing.

Madam Speaker, the whole question of the role of the government is about responding to the issue of a lack of aggregate demand in society. They have some different ways to do that; they can deal with aggregate demand through trying to do something about consumers' expenditures, expenditures from private investment or expenditures from fiscal operations of the state. What this government has decided on is much the same as what the Harris Government has decided on in Ontario.

What they are going to do is grasp, with the fever of an evangelical zealot, this whole idea that the invisible hand - if you free it up, if you make sure it is unencumbered - the invisible hand will come in and it will lay on the economy of Nova Scotia and it will see that everything is okay. You make sure that the wealthy enjoy significant tax breaks. You ensure that, as they have done, the business community in the Province of Nova Scotia realizes a reduction in taxes of over $300 million and that that is going to somehow do something about the economy.

But you know, for the past 20 years in this country the federal government and many provincial governments have been following that same line. They have been trying to outdo each other with tax breaks for corporations. The shift in the tax burden from the corporations to individuals has been unprecedented over the past 20 years. What do we have? We have chronic unemployment and we have a prolonged recession unlike anything we have seen since the 1930's. But this is what this government has in store for Nova Scotia, this is what it has in store for Nova Scotians.

[Page 1396]

We have seen that the major economic initiative of this minister and his government was to establish casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia. That was going to contribute considerably to job creation. Now what we have is a casino in Sydney that is just barely holding its own; we have another casino here in Halifax that was supposed to be expanding and we have seen none of that. The important thing is, it was like we said at the time, it is an indication of the cynicism, Mr. Speaker, that this government had for small business and for medium-sized business in this province to try to create jobs and to try to maintain jobs and keep the economy going.

So all we have seen from this government is bad economic policy. We have seen them cutting and slashing at the public sector and we have seen them do absolutely nothing to try and create any jobs in the province.

You know, the minister talked when he was on his feet earlier, he said, let's just talk about principle here. Let's not talk about details. Let's not get into details. You know why that is, Mr. Speaker? Because the minister, if anybody starts talking about details, the member for Hants West talked about the propane gas proposal. I don't know where it was in the hit parade, but it was quite highly rated as being a big measure for individual Nova Scotians. We saw, once we took a look at it, it had very little impact, if any.

We have also seen what the two point tax reduction represents for individuals earning between $26,000 and $29,000: something in the area of $46 a year, Madam Speaker. In other words, if anybody benefits from it, it is a tax break for the wealthy in this province, if it is anything. Even though the minister talked repeatedly about how he was going to make sure that the burden was lightened for those people at the lower end of the scale, but that has not been done. What those people do recognize is that they will be paying an extra 8 per cent for all of those household items that they have to pay for day in and day out, week in and week out. Not for those items that the minister talked about with great fanfare, that now, even as we begin to look into the details - we talk about new cars and so on - we realize that if there are going to be any savings, they are slight, indeed.

The Minister of Education talks about $120 million. But you know what the Minister of Finance fails to tell us is that there is going to be a shift of between $300 million and $500 million from the business community. Where is that going to go, Mr. Speaker? Who is going to pay those taxes? Where is that going to go? You see, Nova Scotians understand this. This government takes Nova Scotians for fools, clearly, when they present this kind of information to them.

Nova Scotians understand. They understand that what is going to happen here is that they, in the final analysis, are going to end up paying more money every step along the road and that is why people are so critical of this budget and of this budget measure. The longer the Minister of Finance takes to bring out those details, the more skeptical those people will become.

You know, I guess the biggest and the most discouraging thing about this whole initiative is the fact that the government, the Minister of Finance and his colleagues, have completely given up on the role of government, the role government needs to play in the economy of this province, Mr. Speaker. They are trying to ensure, through this legislation, that the government's hands are tied. They don't talk in this legislation about things like poverty. They don't talk about things like health care. They don't talk about things like job creation. They don't talk about those kinds of priorities. Those are the kind of priorities that Nova Scotians think are important.

[Page 1397]

He stands up and he goes on with great rhetorical fervour about, do you agree with reduced taxes for seniors and low income Nova Scotians, Madam Speaker. But do you know what those Nova Scotians say to me and what they are saying to all of us? That we are paying more every day as a result of this government and our services are being drastically reduced. What we want to ensure, whether they are seniors or whoever they are, is that our children have a health care system that is equal, if not better, than the one we have and we have worked so hard to maintain. They want to ensure that there is an education system in this province that ensures that everyone is treated equally and has equal access and receives an equal level of education and quality of education from one end of this province to the other.

[8:15 p.m.]

Nova Scotians don't mind paying their fair share of taxes in order to ensure that services are provided to all Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians don't believe in the theory that this government does that, basically, breeds a lack of tolerance and competitiveness with their neighbours, and a mean-spiritedness. Nova Scotians don't agree with that. Nova Scotians are prepared to reach out to their neighbours, they are prepared to help their neighbours and are willing to pay their fair share. But what makes them crazy, Mr. Speaker, is when this government continues to bring in measures that ensure that people do not pay their fair share; that ensure that the people who have more, pay less; that ensure that the burden of paying for our services continues to be shifted from the business community to individuals.

They are continually discouraged by the fact that this government has given up on its responsibility and its role to provide services to all Nova Scotians, and to provide jobs for Nova Scotians and to assist in those areas of our economy here in Nova Scotia which requires some assistance, and to fill in those gaps when our economy is at a downturn, as it is right now. They recognize the fact that this government is continuing to ensure that our level of income and equality grows, to ensure that the level of poverty and unemployment in this province continues to grow, and they have now thrown up their hands and said that they have absolutely no role to play in that.

Some people have suggested that balanced budget legislation - because we are seeing more and more of it; we are seeing more and more of it across this country - people have begun to recognize the fact that balanced budget legislation, Mr. Speaker, simply builds the legal framework for fiscal attacks on the poor because, what it does, it ensures through legislative provisions that the government cannot respond by adding in money when there is a problem.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . borrowing.

MR. CHISHOLM: You call it borrowing? Let's call it borrowing, then. We are talking about investing in the future, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about levelling out an economic cycle to ensure that we have a health care system in the future for our grandchildren, that we have an education system in our future for our grandchildren. The Minister of Education, as he devastates the education system in this Province of Nova Scotia, has the nerve, the audacity, to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. This bill does not relate to the record of the Minister of Education in any way.

[Page 1398]

MR. CHISHOLM: It relates, Mr. Speaker, very directly to exactly what that minister is spouting off as he sits in his seat, as he is allowed to engage in debate here from his seat, and that is a question of priorities. He talks on the one hand about the fact that the best thing for the future of this province is to ensure that we completely gut our education system, our health care system and that we ensure that there is chronic unemployment from community to community right across this province. That is what this bill did, does, and will do.

What I am saying is that is too high a price to pay. What I am saying is that is not right; that is not the role this government has. The government has a role and a responsibility to ensure that the pain created by this kind of economic recession is not borne only by those people at the bottom of the scale, is not borne by our children now and in the future, and is not borne by future generations through a lesser quality health care system than we have now, Mr. Speaker.

That is exactly what is going to happen if we continue, as we have this year, to take $33 million out of our health care system. If we do the same thing next year, then what is going to happen is that the Minister of Education is going to stand there and he is going to say we cannot afford our health care system anymore because we have to pay our bills. That is what he is saying. He is saying we cannot afford our health care system so we are going to have to turn it over to that American hospital management company that said that they will come in and they will look after it and it will not cost you a thing. What we will do is we will charge people when they come in the door. That is how the Minister of Education proposes that we pay for it down the road.

MR. SPEAKER: I cannot relate these comments to the principle of the bill. Debate on second reading has to relate to the principles of the bill. There are many principles. The beliefs of the Minister of Education (Interruption) Order, I am speaking. The beliefs of the Minister of Education are not included among the principles of this bill and I so rule.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about here is the principle of what the government is going to do with this money. That is what this bill is all about. This bill ensures that the government completely ties its hands, that the government is now completely without responsibility at responding to unemployment, at responding to poverty, at responding to a deteriorating health care system, responding to the needs to rebuild our education system. That is exactly what this bill is all about because if we continue down this road, if we continue down the road that is being laid out by this minister, by this government and by this bill, that is exactly what is going to happen in the Province of Nova Scotia.

It is so critical because the implications of it are absolutely devastating to the province and to this economy and to everybody inside it. It is devastating when I listen to the members opposite when they joke in their jocular response to those concerns because those are the concerns that I have, those are the concerns that have been expressed across this country and those are the concerns that many Nova Scotians share.

I want to say to the Minister of Finance that I do not believe in balanced budget legislation. I do not believe in this because I feel that is absolutely trying to absolve ourselves of responsibility for the role that we should be playing in the economy. I think that what this government is doing is trying to play public relations tricks with Nova Scotians. If they were committed to balancing the budget then they could continue to balance the budget, they do not need legislation. There are many provisions in here and I will have an opportunity to talk about them. They can change them with an amendment, they can change them at will. This

[Page 1399]

bill means nothing. If this government is committed to balancing the budget, then they can commit it.

When Nova Scotians elected this government in 1993, they talked about job creation, they talked about maintaining, preserving and enhancing our health and education systems. There has not been a bill in this House in the last three years that has set targets for job creation. There has not been anything to ensure that there was an infusion of funds into the health care system - just the opposite - and the education system has received the same level of attention from this government. That is the promise upon which they were elected and that is the promise to the people of Nova Scotia that they have broken. That is exactly what they are going to have to respond to when they go to the polls, whether it be this year or next, the fact that they have given up on Nova Scotians. This bill is a complete representation of that.

As I take my seat, I await the opportunity to listen to other members and have this debate more fully on the floor and perhaps continue to have the debate out there in the streets, in the stores and the work places of this province. I just want to say that I am absolutely and fundamentally opposed to this kind of legislation and I can't believe that this minister would have introduced it. I was here for a short period of time when he was in Opposition and I was also on the hustings when he was running to form the government of this province and I heard the promises that were made at that time and I can't believe that this minister has completely given up on the people of Nova Scotia by introducing such a lame piece of legislation like this, that is lending to the sense of despair that Nova Scotians have about the fact that their government can do absolutely nothing about the economic destruction and despair that they have created. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, this is a thin bill with respect to paper but it is a thick bill with respect to what it will do once it becomes enacted. It is a bill which is brought forward by a government which, as I recollect in 1993, made many campaign promises respecting fiscal measures. And if my recollection serves me well, this is the government, then the Party in Opposition, which if it did not promise no new taxes in the campaign of 1993, certainly worked very hard at creating the impression with Nova Scotians that if elected, it would provide no new taxes to be imposed upon the people of this province.

Yet we found in September 1993, the very first budget that this very same minister who sponsors this bill brought in providing for an increase of something like $72 million in taxes to the men, women and even to the children of this province. Several of those taxes were aimed at taxing professions, taxes which would flow through to the consumer or would have to be eaten by the professions and thereby make them less competitive with their neighbours.

In the budget of 1994, the minister removed some of those taxes on the premise that he had been wrong to implement them because they caused there to be an uneven playing field between Nova Scotian businesses and businesses outside this province. If we were going to be competitive, we would have to be competitive on the same taxing basis.

I find it strange indeed that now in 1996, this very same minister who introduced those kinds of taxes and then took them off because they were a bad idea would have a bill before us, the bill we are debating tonight, which provides for those very self same kinds of taxes once again to be put on businesses in Nova Scotia. This minister will say and he is correct in this, that he is not this time acting unilaterally, that he is acting in concert with the Governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick.

[Page 1400]

I am hard-pressed to believe that the accommodation that this bill provides respecting the implementation of those taxes again on Nova Scotian businesses will cause us in the most economically disadvantaged part of Canada to be able to compete favourably with other Canadian businesses both within the country and beyond. This minister has changed his mind not once but twice in this respect. This legislation provides us with the second change of mind.

I wonder what new evidence is presented to this minister which has convinced him that his initial decision in September 1993 was the right decision and that the decision of 1994 to remove these taxes which cause our businesses to be less competitive was in fact, the wrong decision. The minister will pardon me and will pardon the electorate if we seem a bit confused in this respect.

[8:30 p.m.]

This legislation has a number of trigger dates in it with respect to programs and initiatives. It is more than passing strange that the good programs which are to be phased out, for example, the program which provides for tax rebates to first-time home buyers, will not be phased-out until the beginning of the next fiscal year. We are one year away from that. So the good times will flow over the next 11 months, until April 1, 1997, when that program will be terminated.

At the same time, we find another trigger date, that is with respect to an income tax cut that this minister, while beating his chest, says that he is providing for the relief of Nova Scotians. Again, passing strange, Mr. Speaker, that the date for the implementation of this cut is not this fiscal year, it is not even the beginning of the next fiscal year but, indeed, is well into the first quarter, in fact beyond the first quarter of the next fiscal year, July 1, 1997.

Now it is not lost on me and I am sure not lost on Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, that in likelihood there will be an election in Nova Scotia in advance of July 1, 1997, and that if this government should find good fortune when it goes to the polls and is re-elected, it will then be in a position, if circumstances in its view have changed, to bring in legislation which, in effect, can either put off or cancel the promise that income taxes will be reduced by 2 per cent on July 1, 1997.

I think one of the things that I dislike most is being a cynic. I would have to say that with respect to this, at the very least, I must be counted a skeptic. I compare that with Ontario, where I understand the Progressive Conservative Government there is prepared to make a very substantial cut in income taxes, effective not sometime during the next fiscal year but, in fact, during this fiscal year. I think Nova Scotians will at least be quizzical respecting the different approaches of these two provincial governments. I suspect that upon close scrutiny, they will be less than pleased with what they find.

This bill also speaks to an issue which again finds Nova Scotians, and, indeed, all Canadians, somewhat perplexed. Although those who now sit on the Treasury benches and those who support them sitting on the government side of the House did not campaign in the provincial election against the GST, there is no doubt that each and every one of them at every opportunity seized upon the GST as a means of whipping the Tories, whipping anyone who had been in a government that may have supported it, anyone who had been a Tory in a provincial government, even though those provincial governments did not implement the GST. The blame, nonetheless, was spread wide.

Now again we find this minister, like his Prime Minister, like his former Deputy Prime Minister, like his federal counterpart, the Minister of Finance, adjusting his visual parameters such that what was very bad under the Tories may be camouflaged such that it becomes acceptable under the Liberals.

Mr. Speaker, like the Emperor's clothes, the minister, in fact, stands before us naked and we see the truth and Nova Scotians see the truth. Nova Scotians understand that however one may wish to wrap it up, we have in the blended sales tax a GST which is supported by the federal Liberals, which is supported [Page 1401]

by the provincial Liberals and, additionally, we find an increased tax base which is going to impact on tens, nay, hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians.

Many Nova Scotians will have seen the list that the minister has provided so that we can understand how the blended sales tax, the harmonized sales tax will be applied. I suppose those who have significant disposable income and who buy such things as jewellery will be pleased that they will be paying 3.8 per cent less for diamond rings and watches. But there aren't many people like that in my constituency, Mr. Speaker, most of the people in my constituency are ordinary working chaps and ladies and they don't have a lot of disposable income to spend on those things. In fact, most of them work very hard to provide their families those three basic necessities that humankind has always worked hard to provide for their families; namely, shelter, clothing and food.

What do we find this Liberal Minister and this Liberal Government doing with respect to this legislation and with respect to the harmonized sales tax? We find them giving relief to the jewellery shoppers but at the same time imposing a tax on the fuel which heats our homes, imposing a further tax on the electricity which powers our homes and often heats our homes. We find this government applying the harmonized tax to clothing under $100. I can tell you, sir, without fear of contradiction that the vast majority of my constituents buy clothing under $100. It strikes me that now those who shop in Salvation Army Thrift Stores and the various Frenchy's stores around the province who to date have been able to escape paying provincial sales tax on their clothing will now be caught up in the very wide and rapacious net that this minister and the federal Minister of Finance have fashioned out of the ball of twine that they have dug out of their back pocket.

Mr. Speaker, shelter then is going to be taxed. We know that. Look at the impact on housing. Look at the impact not only on new housing but on renovations to existing housing and how that will be affected in Nova Scotia. I suppose, too, that although it is not technically part of this bill, we can say that we are beginning to move into the area of taxing foods if we look at the tax that the Minister of the Environment has imposed through the thirst tax, but that is a discussion for another day.

Mr. Speaker, is it coincidence that the future date upon which the great promises that this legislation offers is more than a year away? Is it coincidence that that year will probably be interrupted by a provincial election? I think the answer is self-evident, there is no coincidence whatsoever. This is a carefully stage-managed effort by this minister and by this government to lull Nova Scotians into a false sense of security so that they can seek their support at the polls when they take the decision to go to the people.

We have, as part of this legislation, provisions for deficit and debt control. I don't suppose there is a person in Nova Scotia who doesn't have a sense that it was essential that we get our house in order with respect to the deficit, and then with the debt. I have not met anyone who doesn't think that it is important. Then, my constituents also talk to me of the

[Page 1402]

importance of balanced judgment, not only balanced books. Balanced books are only a by-product of the decisions taken by government. It strikes me and it strikes my constituents, Mr. Speaker, that what this government, in fact, has done, is turn deficit and debt reduction into a golden calf which it worships exclusive of any other matter which may come before it.

Yes, our people expect their governments in this new era to provide balanced budgets but they also expect balanced judgment. I think I can say, speaking on behalf of my constituents, many of whom I had the opportunity to converse with over the weekend, that they do not know where in that balance this government's priorities lie other than in taking dramatic, some would say drastic action, to eliminate the deficit and then to cut into the debt. They do not see the health reform and the educational reform and the other reforms advanced by this government as being real reforms at all, for they have not seen how any of those reforms to date have bettered their health care system, have bettered their education system or, indeed, have come even close to providing the job opportunities that this government promised while in Opposition in May 1993.

Not only has this government failed with respect to its fiscal measures to provide the number of jobs it promised, but we know from the government's own statistics that the quality of the jobs that are available in Nova Scotia is in fact not as sound as the quality of the jobs which we have enjoyed here in the past. Simply look at the number of new jobs which were created and determine how many of them are part-time jobs. In the service sector, low paying jobs, many at minimum wage or slightly higher. It is not good enough, Mr. Speaker, for the people of Nova Scotia, the majority of whom put their faith in this minister and this government in 1993.

All we need to do is look to see who it is that loudly supports this legislation. We find that without exception it is those who are the winners in society. Ask ourselves, who is most likely to be hurt by this legislation and the answer becomes clear. It is those who have not been the winners and indeed, too frequently, it is those who have almost all, through no fault of their own, been the losers in our society. This legislation, while it may be lauded by Bay Street, in fact, will have a significantly negative impact on the working poor, on the unemployed, on the unemployable and the senior citizens. This bill will have a negative impact on Nova Scotians and it will further widen the gap between those who are able to sustain themselves and those who need the protection of society in order to be able to participate in society and in order to be able to have hope that they have a future in our society.

[8:45 p.m.]

The minister will speak of solvency and what he deems to be the fact that this bill will cause Nova Scotia to be solvent once again. The question that this minister has yet to answer with respect to the pace at which he is moving and with respect to the choices he has made, at what price, Mr. Speaker?

This bill, Mr. Speaker, is referred to or named as An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. Well, this bill will be measured. It will be measured by the men and the women of this province as they see its impact. As it is measured, so too will its framers, so too will its supporters be measured and I warrant that the working men and the working women and those with social conscience and those who really care for those in our society who find it difficult to fend for themselves - and those who care come from all walks of life - will take the measure of this government and find this government wanting.

[Page 1403]

Mr. Speaker, I will not be supporting this bill on second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer a few remarks in relation to Bill No. 18, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. Much has been said the last little while and I hope I am not overly repetitious, but there are a few principles espoused in the legislation which I would like to address.

I will start at the beginning, Mr. Speaker, where we find the principle established in this new piece of legislation that the machinery and equipment tax, which has been in place, will not be taxed on or after April 1, 1998, and it provides that the Minister of Finance will compensate municipalities for any loss of tax revenue.

I guess, on the one hand, I am troubled by Finance Minister Boudreau's shell game being played here again, not unlike the shell game that he and the Honourable Paul Martin are playing relative to the blending of the GST and the PST. What do I mean by that? Well, you look at this and the Minister of Finance stands up and he says, this is a very important piece of tax relief for business in Nova Scotia because we are removing, at a faster pace than exists in our legislation at present, the machinery and equipment tax because, if memory serves me correctly, the present schedule - the Minister of Finance might nod if I am right -runs until about 2003 or thereabouts, about seven more years. (Interruption) Well, that would be pretty close, 1996 and 7 would be 2003, so thereabouts.

So the Minister of Finance is saying to the business community, now I am really delivering you some real relief here because I am taking off your back the obligation that you pay this machinery and equipment tax. If you stop there, that is fine, but, of course, it does not. That tax, of course, is being collected by the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia. So what does the Minister of Finance do? He goes on to say that after he ends this, by this legislation, on April 1, 1998, that he will then, or the Minister of Finance of the day, will then pay to the municipality the difference between the taxes levied and the taxes that would have been levied pursuant to this legislation if it had not been enacted.

There is the shell game. What we have going is that we do not have any real guarantee that the removal of the business and equipment tax is necessarily going to do an awful lot immediately for the corporations which are paying it. Yet, at the same time, the Minister of Finance is going to be sending money to the municipalities to make up for the money that they would otherwise have had. Well, whose money is Finance Minister Boudreau going to be sending off to the municipalities? Of course, it is the Nova Scotia taxpayers' money. (Interruption) Oh, am I hearing that he is perhaps going to write his own personal cheque?

The difficulty I have is that while there may be some positive element on one side, there is a matching negative on the other side and the dang thing is awash. The bottom line is that the Nova Scotia taxpayer is still going to be asked to come up with the money to cover the machinery and equipment tax. There is only one Nova Scotian taxpayer and the Minister of Finance knows that better than anybody else in this place. I find it really very difficult to get terribly excited about that particular commitment by this government, I really do. I think it is in the category of sleight of hand . . .

[Page 1404]

AN HON. MEMBER: We accept your lack of excitement.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, the Minister of Transportation accepts my lack of excitement. I will tell the Minister of Transportation and Public Works that I am encountering increasing numbers of Nova Scotians who share my lack of excitement. He can sit there and he can be glib and he is glib and he can be great with the taunts and all the rest, but I will say to the Minister of Finance through you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Minister of Transportation, through you, that as the poor-beleaguered Nova Scotia taxpayers who have been watching Finance Minister Boudreau play fast and loose with a, now you see him, now you don't, kind of tax process here in the Province of Nova Scotia, they are starting really to wonder and - as it has been said here earlier today - they are starting really to wonder, more to the point, come to the understanding that there really is not any long-term plan, that there is not any long-term vision.

It has already been said, and it is so true, that the one overriding, underlying fundamental premise upon which this government has based its performance to this point is balance the budget. The problem is, and it has been said, that at no point - and Nova Scotians in increasingly large numbers are coming to understand it - does this government exhibit any indication that it has any understanding of or, frankly, cares very much about the impact that that government philosophy is having in a whole range of fields: education, health, transportation, and right across the board.

The Minister of Finance can make all the speeches he wants about what a good boy am I, that he is changing the machinery and equipment tax, but all he is doing, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the minister and to all his colleagues on the government benches, is he is really only into sleight of hand because the money is going to come out of the taxpayers' pockets to reimburse the municipalities. It may have some impact on some businesses of a positive nature, it may, but it certainly will have some negative impact on thousands and thousands of Nova Scotia taxpayers. How that is important, significant, fundamental and an effective tax reform to bring relief to the beleaguered Nova Scotia taxpayer, frankly, escapes me.

We see an interesting public policy change, Mr. Speaker, when we see that this legislation provides that as of April Fool's Day of 1996, a municipality may, each year, by resolution, levy a farm acreage tax not exceeding $2.10 per acre. Well, here is a downloading on the municipalities. It is another example of this government attempting to divest itself of an obligation, and that is their preoccupation. They are divesting themselves of that financial obligation at the cost of the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Well, if as the legislation provides, there is permissive language here, as there is compliments of the Minister of Finance, saying to the municipality, you, municipalities, may now, if you wish, levy $2.10 an acre on land used as farmland, there are two points to be made, I think. Interestingly, it is a higher amount than is now levied at the provincial level by a couple of cents. It is higher, and what does it do or say about this government's attitude relative to agricultural policy and the use of productive agricultural production land or agricultural produce being produced in the Province of Nova Scotia?

I look forward and I am sure the Minister of Agriculture will join the debate before we close debate on this bill and offer his views on the fact that we will, if we pass this bill, transfer to the municipalities the obligation, frankly, almost to be pushed into the corner and forced to levy at the municipal level, a tax on agricultural land and, for some reason or other, the Minister of Finance has decided to suggest in this legislation that the tax which the

[Page 1405]

municipality can levy is at a higher rate than is the case at the present time (Interruption) Well, it might well be the Minister of Municipal Affairs and that would not come as any surprise.

I was quite taken when I read through the bill and I came to Part III of the bill which deals with Expenditure Control Act matters. We understand that among other things, this legislation will, "(a) legislate a requirement for a balanced budget for the 1996-97 and subsequent fiscal years;" - I take no issue with that - "(b) require that any surplus shall be used to reduce the public debt of the Province or reduce taxes, or both;" - I take no issue with that - "(c) provide that an additional appropriation can only be made after a resolution is passed by the House of Assembly authorizing the expenditure;".

I say this in all seriousness to the Minister of Finance. He won't like me saying it. More to the point, I think I know his predictable response because he has responded to me on this issue. It is my opinion, and I have told him so in this place, that in relation to this additional appropriation stuff, the Minister of Finance has already demonstrated a willingness to break the law of the Province of Nova Scotia by doing what he did, contrary to Section 28 of the Provincial Finance Act when he wrongly rolled $32 million or thereabouts back into fiscal 1995-96.

MR. SPEAKER: Is this Bill No. 18 now that we are on?

MR. DONAHOE: Yes, it is, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: It is? That is in Bill No. 18? All right.

MR. DONAHOE: No, no. The matter, Mr. Speaker, of providing that additional appropriations, ". . . can only be made after a resolution is passed by the House of Assembly authorizing the expenditure;", is in this bill. I think it is completely appropriate and consistent and relevant for me, in the context of this bill providing that, to make reference to what I consider to be the absolutely illegal process followed by this government relative to the Provincial Finance Act earlier in this very session. That is the point that I tried . . .

[9:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Well, with deference, I have great difficulty establishing that connection and I would direct the honourable member to direct his remarks to Bill No. 18, please.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, I make the connection very easily, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair is the determiner of the relevance.

MR. DONAHOE: Yes, I understand the Chair is the determiner of the relevance. Perhaps the Speaker could help me with how I am irrelevant. This bill talks about a new law for the Province of Nova Scotia as to what the legislators of the Province of Nova Scotia will have to do in the future, relative to the passage of an additional appropriation. I say to you, Mr. Speaker and through you to every member in this place and through any other media that will carry the words, I say to you that it is completely relevant to be suspicious and concerned about that provision because we already have a law that addresses the processes which must be followed, relative to the passage of additional appropriations in this House under certain circumstances, relative to the Expenditure Control Act. I am saying that this government has already contravened the Provincial Finance Act in doing what they did a couple of weeks ago, to roll money back into the previous fiscal year. That I say to you with the greatest respect (Interruption) Pardon me? Voted against it.

MR. SPEAKER: In any event, the House determined that matter by vote and there is a provision in the Rules of this House against reflections upon votes of the House. The vote on that matter has already been taken and that is a matter of history, it is a matter of record. Now we have to move on to Bill No. 18.

[Page 1406]

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, in relation to this issue, relative to additional appropriations, I am not sure and perhaps the Minister of Finance, who will be in the Chamber momentarily and will either hear my words or one of his colleagues will help me put the question to him, I am sure they will (Interruption) Pardon me? We get a lot of help from all of those men and women, our colleagues across the way, who love to natter and rant and rave and not one of them has the conviction to stand up and say what they think about this particular piece of legislation. Tell the voters and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia (Interruptions) We know exactly what the vote is, all the trained seals will vote, we know how the trained seals will vote but the taxpayers would love dearly, I am sure, to have all of our colleagues offer an opinion as to whether or not they feel that the public policy issues addressed in this bill are in the best interests of the Nova Scotia taxpayers.

Relative to the issue that you want me to stay attuned to, namely, Bill No. 18, this bill provides, as I have indicated, that an additional appropriation can only be made after a resolution is passed by the House of Assembly authorizing the expenditure. There is a problem here in this bill in relation to the public policy issue addressed by this bill. It is not clear at all in this bill as to whether or not the language contemplates a situation where the extra appropriation which any future government bound by this legislation would want to pass is an additional appropriation over and above the total gross budget of the Government of Nova Scotia, or, is it a situation where, as might well happen, there is a need for an additional appropriation, for the sake of argument in the Department of Health, there is, however, the potential of a situation where Health needs additional money for some undertaking but there is additional resource which will be unspent in some other ministry.

I simply want and would ask that the Minister of Finance would help me, anyway, and I am sure other members, understand by way of his explanation, as to whether or not here we are talking about an additional appropriation which takes the total expenditure of the provincial government over the global budget amount, or whether or not it is referencing additional appropriation which deals ministry by ministry, department by department.

Mr. Speaker, I have a little bit of concern. I sincerely hope, I would like to believe that the impact of the reduction of the Nova Scotia income tax rate from 59.5 per cent to 57.5 per cent of the federal tax payable will, in fact, leave significant amounts of money in the hands of Nova Scotia taxpayers which, in turn, and this is the minister's theory as he has announced it, that the Nova Scotia taxpayers will, in fact, then turn around and spend that money, thus generating and creating new economic activity and creating new wealth, creating a situation where taxes of various kinds, sales tax, blended GSTs and PSTs and so on, are collected. Well, I hope that may be the case.

The difficulty I have with that is that some analysis we have undertaken relative to what that may mean shows, and if I could just share one or two quick examples; for instance, if we have two parents working, earning $20,000 each and they have two children, the effect of this reduction in the provincial taxes works out to about $92 in annual savings. That is not

[Page 1407]

a lot of money. I am not suggesting that it isn't important. It is a reduction and it is a movement in the right direction, but that is not a lot of money.

If we had two parents working, earning $15,000 each and two children, the effect of the reduction in the provincial taxes would work out to $58 annual savings. The effect on low-income tax deduction, about $180 annual savings. And on it goes. So I have some concerns, Mr. Speaker, as to whether or not the amount of money generated to be re-invested back into the Nova Scotian economy will prove to be terribly substantial as a result of that particular change.

There is a clause in here, a provision that I think is most interesting and potentially I think requires more explanation from the Minister of Finance. I didn't hear an explanation of what it really is intended to do when the minister made his remarks, moving second reading of this bill. I think it is important, I think it is vitally important because there is a public policy principle enshrined in this legislation, Mr. Speaker, as I know you know, which says, Clause 22, Section 60A, "Where assets of the Crown are sold, the net proceeds of the sale . . ." of those Crown assets, and they don't belong to the Crown, they belong to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, but the term of art, I understand, if the title happens to be in the Crown, that is in trust for the people of Nova Scotia, ". . . notwithstanding any enactment, be used to reduce the public debt of the Province.".

I wonder, Mr. Speaker, is that a harbinger for the adoption by this government of a policy to start a significant selling-off of significant assets now owned by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. In other words, is it the intention of this government, in an effort to reduce the public debt of the Province of Nova Scotia, to embark on a substantial sale of real estate, of land owned by the Crown? I don't know that it is. I am not suggesting that it is because I have not heard it said. But I would like, with respect, if I could, if the Minister of Finance would be kind enough to do so, if he might spend a couple of minutes as he closes, addressing the public policy issue that talks about the sale of assets and the disposition of the proceeds of the sale of those assets relative to the reduction of the public debt, because the possibility of this or any other government in an attempt to make a dent in debt could be, with this encouragement, in this language, in this legislation, to sell off significant assets of the Province of Nova Scotia in an effort to reduce debt.

Mr. Speaker, I earlier made a brief mention of the farm acreage tax matter. As I mentioned, it will be possible for the municipalities to recoup their losses by taxing farm land at $2.10 an acre. There are those who have expressed concerns in the agriculture industry in that regard. There was concern, for instance, reported recently by Mr. Lloyd Evans. He is the Director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and he said that the plan would mean an extra tax bill of more than $1,000 for him. He owns a 200 hectare hog farm in Annapolis County. Evans said the bill would be in addition to $7,000 he already pays in municipal taxes on his house and farm buildings.

So, what are we accomplishing for Mr. Evans who is attempting, in very difficult recessionary times, to run a successful hog farm? We are burdening him, he says, with considerable additional cost. I, therefore, have to wonder and do wonder aloud, how my friend and my colleague, the Minister of Finance, can get up as he does and wax so eloquent that this is the most wonderful tax relief ever made available in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 1408]

Then we have, Mr. Speaker, the provision here where the Minister of Finance has decided that the tax on propane fuel is going to be reduced, effective April 26, 1996, from 13.5 cents per litre to 7 cents per litre. As has already been said, many thousands of people across the province thought that was a pretty good deal. They said that some equipment run by propane, everybody's barbecue, the whole deal, every family would receive modest relief as a result of that and, lo and behold, apparently it doesn't mean that at all.

[9:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Why not?

MR. DONAHOE: Well, if it does, perhaps the Minister of Finance, pardon me (Interruptions)

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, maybe I can just help the honourable member. The reduction is on anything that is taxed but in some of the areas that he refers to, there is no tax. So it is hard to reduce something that isn't taxed.

MR. DONAHOE: So the Minister of Finance is saying that when I go to buy my propane gas for my barbecue, I don't pay any tax. So therefore, this piece of legislation is a nullity relative to that transaction because I am tax free in the first place. (Interruption) Something like that, well good. We'll come back to something like that. (Interruptions)

I thank the minister, Mr. Speaker, for his helpful comments. I presume that relative to this propane issue which I will have to - prompted by the minister's remarks - go back and study a little further, I presume what he intends to do is reduce it for those vehicles which are operated by propane. He is telling me and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that they don't pay any taxes when they buy propane anyway so everybody is happy. Well, maybe you learn something every day.

Mr. Speaker, the difficulty here - and it has been said by others - is that we have had in three years of this Liberal Government the ups and downs of the imposition of taxes and the relief of taxes. The first budget was a little bit astounding. It almost puts me in mind of the old saw about where you throw garbage on your neighbour's lawn and he gets all upset; and then you come back the next day and you clean up his lawn and try to ingratiate yourself by suggesting to him how good a guy you are for cleaning up the mess that you put there in the first place.

Well the first budget we had here was $74 million of taxes, none of which were promised. Some of those have been removed and so on, but each budget has been, as far as I can tell and as far as taxpayers of Nova Scotia can tell, more or less disjointed, save and except one bottom line and that is, the balancing of the budget. That is important. There is no question about that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear! Hear!

MR. DONAHOE: But the fundamental flaw is that employment in this province has shrunk as a consequence of that attitude. Education is in a mess as a result of that attitude. Health care reform is all over the lot as a result of that attitude and on it goes. That is the reality. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, through you to those who occupy the Treasury benches and any of their colleagues who do not, who wish to make the inquiry, you just walk the streets of any town or city or community of this province and ask the people of Nova Scotia and I

[Page 1409]

guarantee that the attitude you are going to get is, yes, this balancing the budget stuff is pretty good stuff but my kids aren't getting the education that they were getting and I am not getting my family into the hospital for the needed surgery and care to the extent that was the case previously and on and on it goes. That is the problem.

Fundamentally, there is not and has not been at any point since this government took office, anything close to a job creation strategy which was, really, one of the cornerstones of this government's rhetoric in the election run-up in May 1993.

Mr. Speaker, I find some of the bill is issues and matters which one could support. So much of it is matters which just simply are not supportable as far as I am concerned and it is my intention to vote against Bill No. 18 at second reading. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise and to say a few words this evening on the bill. I use my "few words" in the context that I often begin my remarks, because there is so much that needs to be said about this legislation that a few words compared to what needs to be said could take quite some substantive period of time.

As I begin, I want to say to the Minister of Finance that the Minister of Finance should be congratulated. (Applause) The Minister of Finance certainly should be congratulated for bringing forward a piece of legislation that was aimed at getting the government good headlines as they are trying to move towards an election. Whether what is contained in this legislation has any substance to it or not, whether or not this legislation is, in fact, going to be carried out, some of the more positive aspects to it are going to be carried out or not, this minister should be congratulated - he has not been successful necessarily, I would suggest however - for putting forward his best effort at trying to hoodwink Nova Scotians with this particular piece of legislation as they are heading up to the election.

Quite honestly, what we have before us is a bill that is aimed more at the election call, whenever this writ is going to be dropped, whether it is going to be this spring or this fall. You can be darn sure that this government has built into this legislation enough loopholes and enough escape clauses that they will, undoubtedly, be reneging on some of this. As well, what they, of course, want to be able to do is run and tout this as, supposedly, see what good boys are we. They are going to be trying to use this as their major item in their campaign.

Nobody is opposed to a balanced budget, not if it is an honest balanced budget that is being brought forward. (Interruption) Oh, Mr. Speaker, they are alive and they are awake over there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor and I would be delighted to hear him.

MR. HOLM: I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, that you would be delighted to hear me and I am glad that members on the government benches, even though they may not like what I have to say, are at least listening. They are responding, as they normally do when they have nothing constructive to contribute to the debate, by way of heckles across the floor.

[Page 1410]

I said that we are not opposed to a balanced budget if it is an honest balanced budget, one that is actually going to be working at building the economy in the Province of Nova Scotia, one that is, in fact, going to be putting people back to work and contributing towards that, as well as maintaining and building upon the essential programs and services that Nova Scotians want, need and deserve if we are, for example, to have that world-class education, yet undefined, that the Minister of Education seems to keep telling us. It is wonderful that the government stands up and says that we are going to have a world-class education system and just because we say so, everybody is supposed to believe it.

Whether we cut and we slash, whether we take millions of dollars out of the education system that is going to provide the schooling for our children, they say it supposedly is going to be world-class, but they don't say which world. My thoughts are, quite honestly, when I take a look at what this government is doing, that they have a Third World-class education in mind for Nova Scotians. I say Nova Scotians want and Nova Scotians, more importantly, deserve much better than that from this government.

When I take a look at the bill, and you know, Mr. Speaker, you are certainly far more knowledgeable than I to the ways of this House and much more experienced than I but you know this particular piece of legislation before us - and we are talking about the principle of the bill - although Clause 1 gives it a title, what this bill really does is amend a whole host of other Acts, other pieces of legislation. So there are many principles in this bill, and each clause almost has its own separate principle. It is not as if there is one overriding principle so, therefore, you will appreciate that in my remarks I am going to have to turn my attention to many principles that are contained in this . . .

MR. SPEAKER: As long as they are contained in the bill, that is the determining factor.

MR. HOLM: Oh yes, Mr. Speaker, I certainly would never want to try to transgress upon your good graces and so on.

One of the first things is an underlying principle that I want to touch on. In this bill there are a number of statements about what the tax rate is going to be next year, statements in here about how the surpluses are going to be spent, about what will happen in cases of municipalities and farmlands, about machinery, there are a whole bunch of different items. One of the fundamental things is an impression that the government is trying to leave.

This is a piece of legislation that was introduced to accompany the Minister of Finance's budget, and in the Minister of Finance's budget, the minister made all kinds of pre-budget announcements for 1997-98, for next fiscal year. (Interruption) You know, I'm sorry I am disturbing the Government House Leader, the Minister responsible for government etiquette in this House but, in any event, it was in the last provincial election that this same Minister of Finance - only in his former role as a Finance Critic - the Premier, and the other members running for the red team, ran around and prior to the election they predicted what the financial state of the province was, and they hit the deficit in 1993 almost bang on. With the assistance of other Liberal Governments that were able to provide them with information in terms of federal transfers and so on, their crystal ball was almost bang on. I will give them credit, they were quite accurate in 1993.

A funny thing happened in May 1993, and that funny thing that happened was that the Liberals were elected and as they crossed the floor, lo and behold, they forgot all of their predictions, all of their assessments, so when they got on that side of the floor they could stand up and they could go, oops, oh my, things are a lot worse than we thought; therefore, we can no longer live up to our commitments that we made during the election campaign. We now have to tear up our commitment to create jobs, to maintain programs and education because now, all of a sudden, we have achieved our goal.

Their goal was not to create employment for other Nova Scotians, their goal was not to maintain the quality and, in fact, to enhance the quality of education in Nova Scotia or to reform health care in a positive way. Their primary objective, their number one goal was to get from this side of the House to that [Page 1411]

side of the House, to be in power. That was the primary objective. They would say and do anything, whether they knew the facts or not, Mr. Speaker, to get over there.

[9:30 p.m.]

Now the point to make this relevant, Mr. Speaker, as I see you leaning forward in your chair . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I have leaned back now.

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, because I wanted to make sure that I make it relevant. (Interruptions) I think the member for Hants East is going to get up in a minute and ask me a question. I will give him an answer in a moment, when he gets up on his feet and asks me the question. Else, he will have to wait until I finish.

Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation we have before us is setting up the same scenario. While they were in Opposition, they made commitments. Now they are gearing up and planning to go for a run at a re-election. So what they are doing is playing the same game but from the other side of the House. Now they are playing the game and pretending, look at the wonderful things we are going to do, re-elect us and, you know, if an election falls in between, it is going to be another big oops, things happened beyond our control and we can no longer go ahead with the good things.

This means nothing right now. Most of these provisions mean nothing. We see regularly, the Minister of Justice did it already, the Minister of Finance is doing it with this bill, introducing a piece of legislation which is, in effect, saying that we are changing other pieces of legislation. Mr. Speaker, next year or any year from now until whenever, any other government can introduce another piece of legislation in this House which simply says, notwithstanding clause such and such in such and such an Act, for example, the government may increase their expenditures before they come back to this House to 2 per cent, 3 per cent, 5 per cent, without any difficulty whatsoever.

The government can introduce an amendment next year notwithstanding clause such and such, the year shall be, or just simply deduct the year 1997-98, April 1, 1997, and substitute the year 1998 or the year 2002 or whatever. This is a wonderful piece of propaganda that the government is trying to hoist on the people of this province.

I would suggest, quite honestly and, for the member for Hants East because he wanted me to put it very simply, what the government can do with or without legislation. In some years I acknowledge that it is much harder than other years, some years it is virtually impossible without devastating programs and services, but a government can balance budgets. The question is, at what cost? Mr. Speaker, not only can a government balance budgets, especially if it is prepared to decimate programs, to decimate the health care system, to mean

[Page 1412]

that people in this province will have to wait for longer periods of time, months and months on end to receive essential health care or, if the government is prepared to slash education programs, to increase class sizes and to make it virtually impossible for many of our children to receive a quality education that they are going to need, they can do that. This bunch is, Mr. Speaker.

So, Mr. Speaker, that can be done, whether you have legislation or you don't. And whether we have this legislation that says that future governments will balance their budgets, that means nothing either because all the government has to do at any time it doesn't want to have a balanced budget, the next time it introduces an accompanying piece of legislation, which comes in all the time with bills, especially tax bills and with budgets, all they have to do is insert a clause, notwithstanding such and such. It is done all the time.

So, Mr. Speaker, as I started off, and I am very sincere in this part, I want to congratulate, (Interruption) In this part as well as the other parts, (Interruption) Mr. Speaker. From the minister responsible for government etiquette, yes, certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RICHARD MANN: He is chastising this government for changing parts of other legislation in this legislation. Would he tell us how he would change other legislation?

AN HON. MEMBER: Boy, that is a zinger.

MR. HOLM: That is a hard question. Well, I would have to say to the minister, that would depend on what the piece of legislation is. What I am saying, however, Mr. Speaker, in this particular one, what I am saying is that this means nothing. I am going to compliment and point out later on in my remarks, because I cannot talk about clauses, but I will talk about principles of some clauses and there are some principles in a few clauses that I support.

Mr. Speaker, however, what I am trying to get across, and the Liberal benches know this, nobody better than the minister who asked, who is very clever about the ways of the parliamentary system. The minister may be not only an excellent heckler and somebody who tries to throw people off, but as well as that, the minister knows how this place works and that minister, as well as all other members, especially the Minister of Finance, knows that they can come in next year, very simply, and amend the legislation to undo or to change or to delay or whatever it wants, any of these provisions. The only thing that will provide any kind of proof at any period of time is when a budget is tabled on the floor of the House, to see what it is going to be at that particular time. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: I am wondering if it is past the bedtime for certain members in here, Mr. Speaker, with the kind of help I am getting.

MR. SPEAKER: We still have 20 minutes to go.

MR. HOLM: But I don't want to keep them up, at least a few of them I don't, Mr. Speaker. But at least I am keeping you awake. Now, I want to talk about a couple of other principles in the bill here. One of them has to do with Clause 2, which, on the surface, sounds, on the first blush, as if it could possibly be some incentive and provide some assistance for some businesses that may or may not result in increased employment.

What I am referring to is the decision from the government that would remove from machinery and equipment or speed up the period in which the taxes and so on on those can be written off and that the Minister of Finance will make sure that the municipalities are compensated for that.

[Page 1413]

Then, Mr. Speaker, we go down and we take a look at the next principle. It happens to be a clause, but it is also a principle. In the next principle, contained in Clause 3, what the government is saying is those same municipalities that are going to be compensated for the machinery and equipment tax loss, those same municipalities are going to have to turn around and either eat themselves, or pass on to the farmers, the tax that had a previous subsidy that had been provided by the Province of Nova Scotia, to an amount of $2.10 an acre.

Now it is interesting. This is a government that is telling us how concerned it is about rural Nova Scotia and the development of the rural industries, including the agricultural industry. Yet, Mr. Speaker, here, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Liberal Government more correctly, is saying to those municipalities and to the farm producers of this province that you are now going to have to pay a $2.10 per acre tax on agricultural land.

Mr. Speaker, if the municipalities are not going to pass that on because they know of the harmful effects that will have on many farming communities, particularly marginal farmers, because it may in fact put some of them over the edge in terms of their economic viability - especially on top of some of the other measures this government has been doing -if they don't pass that on, then they are either going to have to cut over $1 million worth of services that they provide to the rural residents or pass that tax increase that the province is now pulling its hand away from, withdrawing from providing this assistance, pass that on to the other residents of that area.

Yet, they are going to subsidize machinery and equipment, Mr. Speaker, which I would guess and maybe the Minister of Finance will provide some statistical information to show that I am wrong, but my guess is that that would tend to benefit the larger urban areas far more than those rural areas. So in other words, here is a tax measure on the one hand where the province is going to provide compensation to assist the urban areas, but at the same time penalize the rural areas and the agricultural communities from a government that says it is concerned about rural Nova Scotia.

It just strikes me that these two principles seem to be slightly at odds with each other, Mr. Speaker. This minister and his colleagues who are supporting him - especially those from rural Nova Scotia - and there are many members of the red team from rural Nova Scotia, I wonder what they say to the farming communities back home which are going to be hit and affected by that change.

The next area of the bill, Mr. Speaker, under the second part of the bill, deals with eligible investments to which the Equity Tax Credit applies. Now that legislation was first introduced, if my memory serves me correctly, in 1993. It was amended by this government, I believe, last year in 1995. In 1995, the amount of that equity investment went from $2,500 to $9,000, if my memory serves me correctly. The Minister of Finance can correct me if I am wrong.

Now, however, Mr. Speaker, what the government is doing here by this, we don't know. Is it going up, is it going down? Now the amount of investment that will be eligible, the maximum amounts, are now not going to be determined in this House or in a public forum where you can have scrutiny, where you can ask questions and try to get some accountability,

[Page 1414]

but instead, you know the place where they make those decisions and those regulations - downstairs behind those closed doors - where documents and discussions are confidential, down in the bunker of the Cabinet Room. It is confidential. No opportunity to question the minister on that or to get a rationale for it.

Certainly from our information, and I don't know what it was last year in 1995, but back in 1994 I believe that the total amount of investment through this kind of program - and I am not saying it is peanuts or it was insignificant - but I believe the amount was in the range only of $0.5 million. So certainly this is not going to be the major solution for community economic development, Mr. Speaker.

When one takes a look at a number of parts of this, it is hard to say whether it is going to be positive because we don't really know what kind of an effect some of these projects will have. Certainly I am not holding my breath to ensure that the investments in these economic development corporations will qualify for RRSP eligibility because these are only going to be guaranteed by the province by 20 per cent. I believe that the only case where such investments have actually qualified for the RRSP eligibility was in the situation in Manitoba where they were 100 per cent guaranteed.

[9:45 p.m.]

I am not so sure that that, in fact, is going to have the desired effect. I say in fairness that the jury is still out on this one and if it going to be providing some assistance to help particularly the smaller rural communities develop economically and produce the jobs, I am not going to be throwing cold water on that element. I just would like to see some kind of data, some kind of information that would be a realistic expectation as to the number of jobs that will or will not be created by this program. I certainly do not think that, in itself, is going to be anything close to what is needed to help to create employment in those areas.

It is also interesting that under that, again, it is the Governor in Council that will make the regulations prescribing the methods of guarantee, the eligibility, what is an eligible investment, determine the areas of the province even in which a guarantee may be given, as well the duration of that. That causes me some concern, too. I am going to be parochial here and I am going to talk about Halifax County for a moment. The province could very easily determine that it has decided that certain areas are not going to qualify because of the larger area the unemployment rate is possibly not as high as it is in some other areas. When you are talking about a large geographic area like Halifax County or now I should say the Regional Municipality of Halifax because it is all now part of one, there are parts of that large county area that, in fact, do have very high unemployment. Even in the old City of Halifax, as we know, from the discussions and the arguments and the efforts of the community in the north end to try to keep the Gottingen Street Employment Centre open, that area also has very high unemployment.

When this is being done by Cabinet, one of the concerns that I have, if they are going to cherry-pick where it does and does not apply is that many parts of a community which do have higher unemployment and which could benefit from this kind of community economic development investment may not qualify because of the regulations that are being made downstairs in the Cabinet Room. I have some concerns around that and I put those out on the table to ensure that kind of an issue will be addressed.

[Page 1415]

Certainly, when one takes a look at this program, however, and you compare it to, for example, what has been done in some other areas, even like New Brunswick where this government likes to compare itself. In fact, this government always runs around and tries to see what Frank McKenna is doing up north and then tries to run around and to copy it and try to do one better. Well, here certainly what this government has in its provision is far less generous than the New Brunswick community bond program. I guess even compared to their Liberal cousins next store they certainly have not come through with a program here in this piece of legislation, in the principles contained in Part II that even lives up to the levels of their Liberal cousins in New Brunswick from whom they are always trying to compete and to steal ideas.

The member for Hants West says at least the Premier in New Brunswick has a few ideas and some of them, I will even say, are good ideas. Some of them are and we are waiting for this government to have some of its own new ideas that are good ideas, that is. (Interruption)

You know, Mr. Speaker, sometimes we hear people saying that even New Brunswick hopes some day that they will be able to cut taxes. Everybody would love to cut taxes, but you know the biggest thing the people are looking for is; one, the member hits it right on when he says integrity. Secondly, they are looking for a government with a vision and a vision that will create employment so that they can get tax reduction by new economic activity being generated.

When one takes a look at the record of this government, maybe when you do that you will see how many jobs are now part-time jobs with low wages and few or no benefits. You will see how many unemployed there are in Nova Scotia today, compared to how many there were when the Liberal Team took office three years ago. When you take a look at those kinds of things, then you will understand why we were able to have a balanced budget here. It has nothing to do with that growth in economic activity, it has to do with the fact that the Province of Nova Scotia compared to other provinces has done so dismally that we have benefitted from the truckloads of millions of dollars in transfer payments from the federal government.

The minister, yes indeed, was the beneficiary of truckloads and buckets of money from Ottawa. Yes indeed, we are grateful for that. Yes indeed, it is helping the minister look like his halo is shiny with a balanced budget but the truth is . . .

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, will the honourable member permit a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member permit a question?

MR. HOLM: Sure.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering if the honourable member is aware that this fiscal year, in which the first balanced budget in 25 years will appear, includes transfer payment reductions from the federal government of approximately $132 million? That is after allowing for a $20 million increase in equalization.

[Page 1416]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, yes. I want to paint a little scenario here for the minister. I say to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, who is concerned that there is a hockey game and so the people should be watching the hockey game rather than watching this . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Now that is certainly irrelevant and extraneous to Bill No. 18, it has nothing to do with Bill No. 18.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, you are right so I would ask you to instruct those who are heckling to please make their comments relevant to the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: All right, I will ask all hecklers please to cease heckling and let the honourable member make his speech.

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now, what we have seen from the minister and this government over a number of years is, first of all, they came in in 1993, they followed up in 1994 and in 1995 with budgets that were extremely pessimistic on purpose. What the government did, they introduced (Interruptions) No, it makes a great deal of sense.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. I must interrupt here. Certainly a conspiracy theory relating to past budgets does not relate to Bill No. 18.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is relevant to the minister's question. I am trying to be helpful to the minister, to try to answer his question in the best way I possibly can. The government set it up over the last number of years. Coming in, they did the Buchanan flip. If you remember the days, and you would very well, Mr. Speaker, being here throughout the whole time, longer than I, that the former . . .

MR. SPEAKER: But this bill does not relate to the Buchanan flip.

MR. HOLM: No and my comments don't relate to the bill, they are to the minister's question that he asked if I could answer. My question to you, Mr. Speaker, is, may I answer the Minister of Finance's question? That is what I am trying to do. To make it as short as possible, the point is that the former government, in the Buchanan years, used to bring in budgets that were seen through rose-coloured glasses, with very little reality to them. That always gave good news headlines when the budget was introduced because it looked so much rosier than it was going to be. Then, at the end of the year, when they were getting ready for the projections about how they actually did, those came forward and they were not anywhere close to what had been predicted, but then another rosy budget was introduced that was aimed at covering over the fallacies.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this government is doing it a different way. The come in, and they have, over the last number of years, presented a very pessimistic or, as they would call it, a conservative budget - but not a PC Conservative budget - then, when they come in at the end, they have no choice but to look good because their estimates were so far off. Like last year, they estimated that the interest rates, the money that was going to be spent in interest in the province was actually going to go up last year, interest on our debt, at the same time that they knew, as we did and anybody who was paying any attention should, that many of the bonds that were coming due and that would be rolled over last year were bonds that had a much higher interest rate and, therefore, would have a . . .

[Page 1417]

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The estimates, with respect to interest rates that the honourable member says everybody knew were so wildly out of whack, were reviewed and, indeed, approved by the Auditor General under our new process. He didn't make the same judgment that the honourable member makes today.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, with reference to the point of order, I might observe that it would appear that much of this discussion is very, very hypothetical perhaps. It is far from the bill, far from the parameters of the bill. It is a broad, historical analysis that might be better perhaps for a book of history than for a discussion of Bill No. 18.

It might be a good time for the member to move the adjournment of the debate, if he has not yet concluded his remarks on the bill.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, certainly when the Auditor General analyses and does an audit, it is looked at it in terms of the method of calculations and so on. I would suggest that unless the minister can provide me with something that shows that the Auditor General is predicting that the interest rate projections were accurate, I would have to say that others, and I certainly know most people who were borrowing money knew, in fact, that the rates had been going down, and I would also say to the minister that he also knew that many bonds were going to come due and that the interest rates of the older ones, because of the date they were taken out, had a much higher interest rate than that at which they would have to be renewed.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I am being urged to say goodnight and to move adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried. The debate stands adjourned.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 10 - Regional Community Development Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 1418]

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 9 - Meat Inspection Act.

Bill No. 11 - Children and Family Services Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will sit tomorrow from noon until 8:00 p.m. Following Oral Question Period, we will move into Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty and pick up where we left off today in both the Chamber and the Subcommittee.

Following that, we will continue debate on Public Bills for Second Reading and pick up with the honourable member opposite for the conclusion of his story.

Mr. Speaker, I move that we adjourn until noon tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The House stands adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 10:00 p.m.]

[Page 1419]



By: Mr. Russell MacNeil (Cape Breton Centre)

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

Whereas the distinguished Dr. J.A. Roach, MD., of New Waterford will receive an honorary degree from the University College of Cape Breton for his extraordinary service to society, in particular to the people of industrial Cape Breton; and

Whereas Dr. Roach was instrumental in the construction and maintenance of the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital where he served as Chief of Staff from 1960 to 1984 while his community involvement led him to establish the New Waterford and District Community Centre; and

Whereas Dr. Roach has served on numerous local, provincial, national and international organizations making him a shining example of activism and achievement;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly of the Province of Nova Scotia applaud Dr. J.A. Roach, MD., for his receipt of an honorary degree from the University College of Cape Breton and for his numerous achievements.