The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., May 14, 1996

Fourth Session

TUESDAY, MAY 14, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 543, Health - Reform: Cumb. Co. - Physicians Shortage,
Dr. J. Hamm 1667
Res. 544, Health - Care (Two-Tier): Curb - Action,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1668
Res. 545, C.B. Firefighters Burn Assoc. Bowl-a-thon: Fund Raising -
Applaud, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1668
Vote - Affirmative 1669
Res. 546, Health - Digby Gen. Hosp.: Dedication - Applaud,
Mr. J. Casey 1669
Vote - Affirmative 1669
Res. 547, Health - Krever Inquiry: Report Release -
Leadership Role Take, Mr. G. Moody 1670
Res. 548, Kinsman-Kinnette Clubs (N.S.) - Flag Day (11/05/96):
Pride - Congrats., Mr. D. McInnes 1670
Vote - Affirmative 1671
Res. 549, URB - Gas Prices: Regulation - Renew, Mr. J. Holm 1671
Res. 550, Fin. - Agric.: Tax Grant Elimination -
Moratorium Place, Mr. R. Russell 1671
Res. 551, Educ. - Auburn Dr. H.S.: SchoolNet - Stentor Alliance/
Industry (Can.)-Appreciation Express, Mr. D. Richards 1672
Vote - Affirmative 1672
Res. 552, Mun. Affs. - Tax Increases (Indirect): Procedural
Safeguards - Implement, Mr. G. Archibald 1672
Res. 553, HRDC - UI Cuts: Methodology - Condemn, Mr. J. Holm 1673
Res. 554, Statistics Canada - Census (1996) Employees (N.S.):
Diligence - Tribute Pay, Dr. J. Hamm 1673
Vote - Affirmative 1674
Res. 555, Mun. Affs. - Mun. Downloading: Social Programs Costs -
Address, Mr. G. Archibald 1674
Res. 556, Educ./Commun. Serv. - Brookside: Day Care Adequacy -
Parents-Mins. Meet, Mr. A. MacLeod 1674
Res. 557, Gilbert and Sullivan Society of N.S. - "The Sorcerer":
Attendance - Exhort, Mr. J. Leefe 1675
Vote - Affirmative 1675
Res. 558, Educ. - Kings-Edgehill School (Windsor):
Town & Gown Benefits - Recognize, Mr. R. Russell 1675
Vote - Affirmative 1676
Res. 559, Health - Funding Crisis: Advertising Campaign -
Unconvincing, Mr. G. Moody 1676
Res. 560, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Consultations - Expand,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1676
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 266, Health: All Saints Hospital - Physician Service,
Dr. J. Hamm 1677
No. 267, URB - Oil/Gas Prices: Regulation - Renew, Mr. J. Holm 1678
No. 268, Health - Air Ambulance Service: Contract - Status,
Mr. G. Moody 1680
No. 269, Health - Air Ambulance Service: Contract - Status,
Mr. G. Moody 1681
No. 270, Health - Air Ambulance Service: Contract - Status,
Mr. G. Moody 1682
No. 271, Health - Air Ambulance Service: Flights (N.S.) -
Number, Dr. J. Hamm 1683
No. 272, Fin. - Budget: Brochure (Advantage N.S.) - Veracity,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1684
No. 273, Health - Hants Commun. Hosp.: Cuts - Effect,
Mr. R. Russell 1686
No. 274, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - LaHave Ferry: Operation -
Continuation, Mr. B. Taylor 1688
No. 275, Sysco: Coke Ovens - Clean-up, Mr. A. MacLeod 1689
No. 276, ERA - Bluenose II: Electrical System - Installation,
Mr. J. Leefe 1690
No. 277, Mun. Affs. - Mun. Serv. Exchange: UNSM - Research,
Mr. J. Holm 1691
No. 278, ERA - Bluenose II: Repairs - Tenders, Mr. J. Leefe 1693
No. 279, Fin.: Sinking Funds - Interest, Mr. R. Russell 1694
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 31, Real Estate Trading Act, Hon. D. Downe 1694
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 1:24 P.M. 1694
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 2:01 P.M. 1695
CWH REPORTS 1695
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:02 P.M. 1695
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:22 P.M. 1695
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 32, Appropriations Act, 1996, Hon. B. Boudreau 1695
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 32, Appropriations Act, 1996, Hon. B. Boudreau 1696
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 32, Appropriations Act, 1996, Hon. B. Boudreau 1697
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 5:36 P.M. 1697
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 1697
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Agric. - Industry: Attack [Gov't. (N.S.)] - Cease:
Mr. B. Taylor 1698
Hon. W. Gaudet 1699
HOUSE RECESSED AT 6:21 P.M. 1702
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:30 P.M. 1702
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 6:30 P.M. 1702
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:58 P.M. 1702
CWH REPORTS 1702
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., May 15th at 2:00 p.m. 1703
[Page 1667]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 14, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Paul MacEwan

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will call the House to order at this time and commence the daily routine of business. Are there any introductions of guests?

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 543

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

Whereas effective June 3rd a shortage of doctors in the Springhill-Oxford areas has forced the cancellation of emergency services at All Saints Hospital in Springhill; and

1667

[Page 1668]

Whereas effective June 1st only two full-time physicians will be available to serve a population base of approximately 9,000 people in the Springhill and Oxford areas; and

Whereas the Chairman of the Board of the Highland View Regional Hospital in Amherst recently expressed considerable concern over the loss of obstetrical services to Cumberland County and the fact that many businesses will not move to an area which lacks such a basic service;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health take a long, hard, serious look at his health reform initiatives and explain to the residents of Cumberland County why it has become so difficult to attract doctors to Nova Scotia who can provide a level of health care that citizens of the area can depend upon and feel comfortable with and where expectant mothers will not be forced to travel to another province to have their newborns.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 544

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

Whereas private companies and individuals are increasingly seeing the possibilities for reaping profits from the health care sector; and

Whereas the latest example of the health-for-profit phenomenon is the appearance of unregulated and unlicensed private blood collection services in this province; and

Whereas this amounts to further evidence of the emergence of a two-tier system of health care where those who can pay will get a better level of service than those who cannot;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to take the appropriate legislative and budgetary action to curb the growth of a two-tiered health care system in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 545

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

Whereas a bowl-a-thon held Saturday, May 4, 1996, at the Heather Bowling Lanes in Sydney raised $30,326; and

Whereas the event, sponsored by the Cape Breton Firefighters Burn Association, attracted 110 teams and 525 bowlers; and

[Page 1669]

Whereas funds raised through the bowl-a-thon go to treat burn victims receiving treatment at emergency hospital units in Cape Breton, or the two main burn units at the Victoria General Hospital, or the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud all participants in the Cape Breton Firefighters Burn Association Bowl and all members of the association for raising $30,326 in aid of burn victims.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 546

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

Whereas the Digby General Hospital was recently visited by an accreditation team composed of a doctor and a nurse from Alberta; and

Whereas hospital administrator, Linda Carter, said the accreditation team's preliminary report was very positive; and

Whereas the accreditation team was especially impressed with the staff's focus on patients and team approach;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the administration and staff of the Digby General Hospital for their dedication to the patients under their care and their willingness to work as a team to provide excellent service.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 1670]

RESOLUTION NO. 547

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Government, last week, made the wise choice to withdraw from the lawsuit against the Krever Inquiry; and

Whereas the Minister of Health refuses to take an active role in lobbying other provinces and other former Health Ministers to withdraw their names from the lawsuit; and

Whereas this inaction will further delay the Krever Inquiry from reporting what went wrong with our blood system and what we can do to ensure that our blood system is safe for all Canadians;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health take a leadership role and join with Janet Conners and the Progressive Conservative caucus in the attempt to convince other provinces to do the right thing.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 548

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

Whereas Saturday, May 11, 1996, was celebrated by the Kinsmen-Kinnette Clubs in many Nova Scotia communities as raise the flag day; and

Whereas a large gathering attended the ceremony in Pictou, including many school children, who signed the flag which was raised; and

Whereas the Kinsmen-Kinnette Clubs carry out many worthwhile projects in Pictou and also across Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Kinsmen-Kinnette Clubs of Nova Scotia for this demonstration of pride in their country and wish them success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

[Page 1671]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 549

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

Whereas the Bureau of Competition Policy, Canada's competition watchdog, has launched an investigation into price gouging by this country's major oil companies; and

Whereas this competition watchdog is notoriously toothless and overly friendly towards those who would intrude upon the wallets of Canadian consumers; and

Whereas the position of the federal Liberal Government is that gasoline price regulation is a provincial, not a federal, responsibility;

Therefore be it resolved that the government re-empower the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to regulate gasoline prices in the interests of consumer protection.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 550

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has expressed considerable concern over the government's decision to remove the grant in lieu of taxes for farm property acreage; and

Whereas the latest downloading initiative onto the backs of municipal taxpayers across Nova Scotia totals $1.2 million; and

Whereas farmers in five areas of Nova Scotia namely Kings, Annapolis, Colchester, Hants and Cumberland Counties will be hardest hit by this latest downloading initiative;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance immediately place a moratorium on the decision to eliminate the grant in lieu of taxes on farm property acreage until an economic analysis is undertaken by staff in the Department of Agriculture as to the impact such a tax will have on Nova Scotia's agricultural industry.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

I hear some Noes.

[Page 1672]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 551

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

Whereas this morning a very unique and significant educational event, demonstrating the power of technology in education, took place at Cole Harbour's Auburn Drive High School; and

Whereas as a result of this event, students at Auburn Drive High School were linked via high speed Internet and video conferencing with students from Park Town Boy's High School in Johannesburg, South Africa; and

Whereas this demonstration of the value of SchoolNet, sponsored by Stentor Alliance and Industry Canada, is part of an international G-7 sponsored conference in Johannesburg on information technologies in the developing world to help students break though traditional barriers and extend the classroom beyond the four walls into the world of the virtual classroom of the future;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House express their appreciation to Stentor Alliance and Industry Canada for giving Auburn Drive High School in Nova Scotia the opportunity to participate in this unique and unprecedented event allowing students from two continents to learn and work cooperatively on subjects of mutual interests.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 552

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

Whereas the Municipality of Annapolis County has expressed through the Valley Executive of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities their disgust with this Liberal Government over the plans to eliminate the provincial grant in lieu of taxes for farm property acreage; and

Whereas this Liberal Government is once again downloading upon the municipalities by eliminating the farm acreage grant; and

[Page 1673]

Whereas this action was undertaken after assessment notices were mailed out and without appropriate consultation with municipal units or the agricultural sector;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government stop forcing tax increases upon Nova Scotians and implement procedural safeguards to prevent additional back-door tax increases.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 553

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

Whereas the Ottawa Liberals are expected later today to give final approval to punitive cuts in the Unemployment Insurance Program that will come into effect on Canada Day; and

Whereas these cuts represent a classic case of blaming the victims of unemployment rather than doing something about an unemployment rate that, according to a Bank of Montreal study, has reached 13 per cent across Canada; and

[12:15 p.m.]

Whereas these UI cuts will be particularly hard on Nova Scotians, 5,000 more of whom were added to the unemployment roles last month alone;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the cowardly and ineffectual way in which this government has acquiesced in Ottawa's unfair and devastating cuts to Unemployment Insurance that further victimize victims of the government's totally ineffective job creation strategy.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 554

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

Whereas Tuesday, May 14, 1996, is Census Day across Canada; and

Whereas over 1,300 Nova Scotians are employed with the census as representatives, commissioners, managers and administrative staff; and

Whereas the successful collection of census information is vital to the decision-making of business, government and institutions;

[Page 1674]

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House, on behalf of all Nova Scotians, pay tribute to the diligence of census employees in Nova Scotia who are ensuring that their province is accurately reflected in the 1996 Census.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 555

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

Whereas delays of up to one year are being reported in the processing of claims for family benefits through the Department of Community Services; and

Whereas if maintenance payments are not applied for, a single parent receiving family benefits now has her benefits terminated upon the birth of a second child; and

Whereas this results in an increase of social assistance costs to municipal units across Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the Ministers of Justice, Community Services, and Housing and Municipal Affairs immediately address this issue with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities so that the cost of social service programs are not being continually downloaded upon the municipal ratepayers of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 556

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

Whereas District 4 Community Day Care, a government-run program, has been housed in an unused section of the Brookside Junior High School for eleven years; and

Whereas enrolment at that junior high school is expected in increase over the next few years, which will require the school to turn the three classrooms, currently occupied by the day care, into a science lab and resource classroom; and

[Page 1675]

Whereas parents in the area, who need this, the only full-service day care facility available in that community, have asked the Halifax County-Bedford School Board to extend the closure deadline until a permanent solution can be found;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education and the Minister of Community Services work together, with the Brookside parents and the Halifax County-Bedford School Board, to ensure that the community is served by adequate day care facilities and adequate school facilities.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 557

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

Whereas the combined genius of Gilbert and Sullivan continues to entertain a world audience; and

Whereas the Gilbert and Sullivan Society continues to make the joys of their namesakes' operettas available to Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Nova Scotia will perform "The Sorcerer" in Halifax May 16th to 18th, in Annapolis Royal May 25th and in Liverpool May 26th;

Therefore be it resolved that the Legislature congratulate the Gilbert and Sullivan Society for its good work and exhorts Nova Scotians to attend "The Sorcerer" at the venue nearest them.

Mr. Speaker, I move waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 558

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

Whereas Kings College School, now Kings-Edgehill, has been part of the Town of Windsor since 1788; and

[Page 1676]

Whereas is 1881, some two dozen students formed a cadet corps, which now numbers over 150 members; and

Whereas the Town of Windsor granted the Kings-Edgehill School Cadet Corps the Freedom of the Town on May 11th, an honour which will allow the cadet corps to march in the town with drums beating, flags flying and bayonets fixed;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join with the Town of Windsor and recognize the benefits which town and gown bring to each other and congratulate Kings-Edgehill School for 208 years of teaching experience.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 559

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

Whereas the President of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Jack Armstrong, warned of the crisis in health care funding; and

Whereas the Savage Government ignored this plea, like it has ignored so many other pleas from Nova Scotia patients and medical personnel, by cutting $30 million from hospitals; and

Whereas the Minister of Health believes that priority health spending should go to misleading advertising, six figure part-time or political jobs to his friends and additional communications officers to feed the minister's daily sound bites;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health accept that no slick advertising campaign will convince Nova Scotians to forget the reality of the lowest number of doctors in nine years, a patchwork home care system and his misplaced priorities in spending health care dollars.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 560

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

[Page 1677]

Whereas the Minister of Finance has accepted responsibility for misleading Nova Scotians when he said during his Budget Speech that "a family of four with an income of $15,000 or less will qualify for $930 in tax relief"; and

Whereas the truth is that these Nova Scotians will not get $930 but will be forced to share $8 million in tax relief with the other 208,000 Nova Scotians with incomes of $15,000 or less; and

Whereas this tax relief amounts to about 74 cents a week for low income Nova Scotians and will do very little to offset the impact of the proposed BST on necessities like clothing and fuel;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Minister of Finance to expand his sectoral consultations on harmonization to include full consultation with the people who are going to be most seriously affected by the BST, the 208,000 low income Nova Scotians, of whom the Minister of Finance has recently been made aware.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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

The Clerk has conducted a draw for the Adjournment debate at 6:00 o'clock. The winner is the honourable Leader of the Opposition. He has submitted a resolution of some interest, I think, to honourable members reading:

Therefore be it resolved that the government cease its continued attack on Nova Scotia's agricultural industry.

We will hear discussion of that topic at 6:00 o'clock this afternoon.

The time now being 12:23 p.m., the Oral Question Period today will last until 1:23 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH: ALL SAINTS HOSPITAL - PHYSICIAN SERVICE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. The minister is a medical practitioner of long service and of considerable experience. My question to the Minister of Health is, does he feel that two physicians working full time, two physicians working part time, can those four physicians provide adequate health care service to 9,000 people?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, it would depend very largely on the system in place to do that and the support services that they enjoy.

[Page 1678]

DR. HAMM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I find that really a surprising answer that the Minister of Health would suggest, regardless of how much support service is in place, that two physicians working full time and two physicians working part time could provide adequate health care service to 9,000 people. I can assure the Minister of Health, having worked in the Province of Nova Scotia for 30 years, that they absolutely cannot. That is the situation that will exist as of May 31st in the Springhill-Oxford area.

Now my question in a follow-up to the Minister of Health. Is this minister committed to the re-institution of an emergency service at All Saints Hospital in Springhill if, in fact, the June 3rd deadline is adhered to and there is a withdrawal of emergency service? Is the minister prepared to support the community in re-establishing that emergency service?

DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have been discussing the impending problems brought about by some ill health and some relocation of physicians and we are working very hard to do just that. We certainly will pledge our support to that end.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, now a very serious situation has developed in the Springhill area. Physicians are leaving. There will be patients without family doctors, a situation that is occurring in other areas of the province. What specific measures is the minister prepared to undertake to make sure that the citizens of Springhill and Oxford are adequately looked after? For example, is he prepared to designate this area to be eligible for the incentive program that has been set up to encourage doctors to relocate in various areas of the province? What specific measures and is he prepared to designate the area as an under-serviced area?

DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are in discussion with that community and with those, particularly at several hospitals in Cumberland County, regarding how best to serve their needs. In respect to the incentive program, the designated program, the program of incentive is designed for those rural areas which do not generate sufficient volume to allow physicians to earn an adequate living. That does not apply to those in which the volume would, in fact, exceed the incentive levels. So we would not need to identify incentives in terms of fiscal incentives. What we do need is to address - as the honourable Leader of the Opposition suggests - lifestyle issues and that is by far more concerning to those physicians who are located in rural areas, in which the volume actually provides for adequate compensation in terms of fiscal remuneration, we have to address the problem of lifestyle issues.

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

URB - OIL/GAS PRICES: REGULATION - RENEW

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go to the Minister of Justice who will, of course, be aware that the federal Bureau of Competition Policy is launching an investigation into the practices of major oil companies, what appears to be some collusion in terms of how they are setting their prices across the country. The minister, of course, will also know that that is pretty well a toothless tiger and that it is very difficult to find out what conversations took place at cocktail parties and through private telephone conversations. Plus, they don't have the ability to roll back the prices.

So my question to the Minister of Justice, others certainly have recognized that there is a very serious problem and that consumers are being ripped off. Will the Minister of Justice re-empower the Utility and Review Board - according to the federal government it is the provincial government's responsibility to regulate prices - will the minister recommend that

[Page 1679]

they be re-empowered to set oil prices and gasoline prices in a manner that will protect the consumers' interest rather than allowing the system right now, which allows the oil companies to charge whatever they may wish?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, any change in the policy from the present policy, in which the Utility and Review Board is not involved in regulating prices, is a matter of government policy and it would be a matter that the government would have to consider.

MR. HOLM: Obviously from the minister's answer, the minister is indicating that the government isn't considering changing its policy and is quite prepared to allow the consumers to stay at the mercy of the oil companies that are ripping off millions of dollars from Nova Scotians, as the price remains at this level.

My first supplementary to the minister then, the minister of course knows that he has the ability and the government has the ability under the Public Inquiries Act to launch an investigation into oil prices or, in fact, any matter that the government considers important. Mr. Speaker, this government should know that these high prices have the potential effect of destroying thousands of jobs in Nova Scotia. So my question to the minister is quite simply this, will the minister launch a public inquiry to find out what these oil companies are doing and hopefully put an end to the rip-offs that are taking place?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I said earlier that it was a matter of government policy with regard to regulation of prices of petroleum products by the Utility and Review Board. I didn't say the government wasn't considering it, I just said that it was a matter of government policy. I think it is regrettable that any time anything comes along, instead of government considering these matters, developing policies, bringing legislation in, certain members want inquiries. If you have government by inquiry all the time, not only is it very expensive, and it makes some segments, like lawyers and administrative costs very high. I am not sure it is a worthwhile process but, as I said, government has not made any decision in terms of government policy. I haven't said we were not looking at it but it is a matter of government policy and naturally everybody is concerned about it because of the recent increase in gasoline prices.

[12:30 p.m.]

MR. HOLM: The minister is correct when he said things are very expensive. I want to assure the minister that it is very expensive for the consumers each and every time they pull up to the pumps and they see that the prices have gone up 20 per cent or 30 per cent and they know that their money is being ripped off. It is also impossible for consumers to boycott all those companies that are taking part in the activity because they are all cranking up their prices. So, all they can boycott, obviously, to show their displeasure is the Liberal Government of Nova Scotia which so far has decided to show absolutely no leadership on this matter.

My final question, then, I am going to direct to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, in the absence of the Minister of Finance. My question to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency - whose job it is to be conserving and protecting jobs here in Nova Scotia, the Liberal Government is claiming that their fictitious $120 million tax break is going to create 3,000 new jobs. So my question to the minister - is simply this, how many jobs does the minister's department speculate will be lost . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Speculate?

[Page 1680]

MR. HOLM: . . . as a result of the approximately $180 million extra dollars that are being ripped out of the pockets of Nova Scotians and taken out of the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency may respond if he wishes but I caution the whole House, the ministers are not expected in Question Period to speculate. (Interruptions) I hear all kinds of discourse except the minister who has the floor. Order.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague, the Minister of Justice, has answered this question well but we tend to hear from the Third Party all sorts of condemnation of the private sector's actions. In fact, there is tremendous investment confidence being shown in Nova Scotia now by an unprecedented level of investment opportunity from Stora to Bayer to companies from one end of the province to the other. So, despite the protestations from those who labour in the Third Party, there is tremendous optimism and confidence being shown in this province by investors throughout the world.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - AIR AMBULANCE SERVICE: CONTRACT - STATUS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. It is my understanding that recently the Nova Scotia Government's Department of Health has signed a contract for an air medical transport program. It is my understanding that tenders went out last year and went out early this year and the tenders for the helicopter and medical aspect were let in January and were all rejected, as I understand it, in March of this year. I would ask the minister, since all of them were rejected, it is my understanding now that a contract has been signed, could the minister bring us up-to-date, if a contract has been signed by one or two parties to provide the air medical transport for the province?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that has been concluded.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, given the fact that obviously it was not tendered, I would ask the minister, were the contracts issued in accordance with the Nova Scotia Government's purchasing policy? Since there was no tender for this contract, was the tendering policy of this government followed in the issuing of this contract?

DR. STEWART: Yes, the tendering policy was followed, Mr. Speaker. The contract was tendered initially and the successful applicants were chosen.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, given the fact that four people bid on the first tender, all were rejected. Were all four given an opportunity to re-tender to be part of the final contract? Were all four given an opportunity to re-tender or did the minister's department choose and go back and ask for changes for somebody else to give the contract to?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, none of the original applicants fulfilled the broad requirements of the original tender and, no, we did not go back and negotiate with any particular individual or firm in terms of a single contract. We did not do that.

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 1681]

HEALTH - AIR AMBULANCE SERVICE: CONTRACT - STATUS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Well, obviously, there has been a change in the contract. If none of the current bidders were successful, I am asking the minister, then, what changes were made? All of the tenders were turned down. All of the people were brought back in and they asked what was inadequate in their bids. Everybody was encouraged to say, this is what you have to do to re-bid. But there was no re-bid. I would ask the minister, what changes were made and how did his department, then, go out and sole-source the contract?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the process was that tenders were not adequate and we backed away from that process, and there were several consortia that indicated an interest to continue with negotiations in terms of providing. Several were involved, except for one. The three that were not successful, three of those firms, went on and formed consortia, one of which was successful in providing both the administrative component and the mechanical component of this program. We did not, in any way, interfere in that process, but we accepted one of the consortia after a very careful review of all of the proposals.

MR. MOODY: I would ask the minister, four groups, originally, bid on the contract, four companies; two from Nova Scotia have now been shut out completely. I would ask the minister, given the fact that nobody met the specs in the initial tender and they all met with the department and were encouraged to resubmit, to meet the government's requirements, but the government never gave them an opportunity; in other words, the government chose a company. Two of the original groups now have the tender, as I understand it, both from outside the province.

MR. SPEAKER: Is there a question?

MR. MOODY: Yes. Would the minister indicate the cost of the tender to the two successful companies in the operating of the air service, the operation of the plane, and the medical aspect of both?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I don't have those figures with me at the moment, but I can certainly obtain those. Also, an explanation of the process, and I would be happy to table those for the honourable member opposite.

MR. MOODY: My final supplementary. I would ask the minister, in a case where we have a tender worth millions of dollars and every other province in Canada, except Nova Scotia, now runs the medical aspect of it, now we have privatized the medical aspect, the two components, two tenders: one to run the helicopter and one is the management of the medical aspect. I would ask the minister, is it true that an Alberta firm was given the contract to run the medical aspect of this tender?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, the difference in this program is that we have identified a major component of it being the medical aspect of an air ambulance system. Other provinces have concentrated on the mechanical elements, the aircraft, et cetera. We wanted to have a focus on the critical care teams that would be trained, the way they would operate and the service delivery to the communities, to involve community development models in the development of this program. So, our major concern was the administrative component. The particular firm that was successful in the consortium had an extremely in-depth background in terms of medical management. That is why this is different from other programs, because we have concentrated on the medical management and not merely on what flies and how it

[Page 1682]

flies. That is the difference, that is the real difference, and a very good difference in that regard.

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - AIR AMBULANCE SERVICE: CONTRACT - STATUS

MR. GEORGE MOODY: It is not a real good difference, because we have very competent people in this province. We have had a team from the IWK and a team from the VG Hospital that are as good as any team in Canada, but now we have privatized, they are going to take their directions from somebody else. They are on standby and they are going to be paid differently. I know how this works. (Interruptions) I want to know - we have a contract that is worth millions of dollars - why this government is not following the government's policy on tendering and are now sole-sourcing millions of dollars in contract for air ambulance in this province, why?

MR. SPEAKER: Is that a question to the Minister of Health? I didn't hear it addressed to anybody or to the Chair. That was addressed, I presume, to the Chair, and is for the Minister of Health.

MR. MOODY: Sorry, Mr. Speaker.

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, this honourable member knows how things operate, he has gotten things all upside down and backwards. First of all, the critical care teams that he says are privatized come from the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and the IWK-Grace Health Centre and those people who have been functioning and in fact, their experience increased in terms of this program, remain in place. They are publicly accountable, publicly administered.

The issue is the administrative component of an air ambulance service as part of the consortium. It was an extremely important part. We have gone with this particular consortium, everyone was given an equal opportunity, they could come forward and provide the service and give us a proposal and that request for proposal was equal and fair. The process was monitored, it was a fair process, an open process. I have, as I indicated, intention of tabling the description of the process and the figures that the honourable member opposite has asked for.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary to the Minister of Health. Given the fact that the two companies that were shut out, the two Nova Scotians, they don't consider it a fair process by this minister. What the minister is saying in this House they do not agree with. In other words, they were not given an equal opportunity after all the tenders were rejected, they were not given an equal opportunity to go back with an additional proposal so that they, because they happen to be from Nova Scotia, might have an opportunity to get a contract worth millions of dollars. I want to ask the minister, why the two Nova Scotia companies were shut out from having an opportunity to provide this service to Nova Scotians?

DR. STEWART: The facts speak otherwise, Mr. Speaker. The process was fair, it was independently audited by people who are of good character and who are not in any way associated with the government or with any one of the companies. The facts speak otherwise. I will be happy to table that process and stand on that fact.

[Page 1683]

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary. Given the fact that there were a number of changes, even the helicopter to be used in the two companies that were successful, that didn't have to bid, that this government hand-picked to provide the air ambulance for the Province of Nova Scotia, I would ask the minister how long a contract these people have to provide air ambulance service in the province? They were given a contract that they didn't have to bid for; how long is this contract good for?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, to say again, to try to set the record straight with the honourable member opposite, this was a tendered contract, it was an open process with a consortium coming forward. I will be happy to table all of this for the perusal of the member opposite and for the comfort of this place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - AIR AMBULANCE SERVICE: FLIGHTS (N.S.) - NUMBER

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, again, with the Minister of Health. I wonder if the Minister of Health would indicate to members of the House how many times in the last two years have Nova Scotians been transported by the air ambulance service?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am trying to figure, in the past two years, I believe since January, it was approximately 200 patients but I would have to check those figures for accuracy, but for the past, approximately, 11 months, it was about 100 patients.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister would confirm that on rechecking, because he may be adding in when other than Nova Scotians are being transported out of province. So I think when the minister checks his figures he will find out that it is somewhat less, in direct response to how many times Nova Scotians use the service. I look forward to the answer, perhaps by tomorrow.

[12:45 p.m.]

Now that he is aware of what the air ambulance system is going to cost, and I would understand that that information is now available since the contract has been let, would the minister indicate that as a result of the way this matter has been handled, will the air ambulance service result in additional cost to Nova Scotia, say, as compared to what was a very good service two years ago? What is the increase in cost?

DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, as the estimates indicated and as the honourable members opposite canvassed those estimates, there is an increase in cost when one improves the service; one has improved the service considerably with this new program. I would draw attention of the honourable members opposite to the estimates. It is well within budget and we have every indication that the service will improve.

DR. HAMM: Well, if you look at the estimates, in fact it doesn't break down the air ambulance service at all. It is buried in some other costs. When you do look at the estimates, I think it is apparent that when the minister discusses things like emergency response, that he has a particular interest in that particular area. However, those services are coming at increased cost; the emergency response system, the ambulance service throughout the province is a much more expensive service than we had before, running the same number of ambulances. I would be interested in knowing how much more we are going to spend on the air ambulance service.

[Page 1684]

By way of final supplementary to the minister, is he prepared to show the same interest as he shows in the emergency response system in this province, the same kind of personal interest to those communities that are suffering from a lack of physicians? That is the crisis situation in Nova Scotia, a much more serious situation than existed with our ambulances, with our air ambulance service. The crisis is the lack of physicians in many communities of Nova Scotia. Is this minister committed to providing the same interest to that problem as he has shown in resolution of his perception of problems in emergency responses in this province?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to see the interest of the honourable Opposition, particularly the honourable Leader of the Opposition, in the improvement of services in rural and small-town Nova Scotia.

Let me just review a bit of history very briefly, Mr. Speaker. How did this system and how did this problem, as the honourable member says, the crisis, evolve in Nova Scotia? It evolved because there was absolutely no attention paid to physician resource deployment in this province for 15 years across the aisle. Now I will tell you that. Where were the billing numbers going in Nova Scotia? They were going to the urban centre of Halifax-Dartmouth, that is where they were going.

We changed that, we said there will be no more billing numbers and it will be based on geographic need and deployment became an issue with this government and we have addressed that issue. Where were they two, three, four years ago, when the changes in training, which required two years of internship rather than one year of internship, where was the planning back in 1992 and 1993, to deal with that in 1994 and 1995 and 1996? It wasn't there, Mr. Speaker. That is the reason for the crisis that he calls, that is the reason why we are here in this place and changing the system, so that we will redeploy physicians in this province.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, with the air ambulance program and tele-medicine, we will offer to physicians in rural and small-town Nova Scotia options for management, so that they will not feel neglected by the centre, by the paternalistic, trickle-down operations that we have seen with this crowd across the aisle. That is the difference. (Applause)

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

FIN. - BUDGET: BROCHURE (ADVANTAGE N.S.) - VERACITY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Finance. Now I don't know if you or other members have received their first leaflet for the election campaign but it is a glossy brochure that basically presents the budget again.

By the way, let me say to the Minister of Finance that I am glad he has taken the opportunity in this presentation of the budget detail to clear up the bit of a mess that was caused by his presentation of the Budget Address . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . in this House which talked about giving a family of four with an income of $15,000 a year . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Is there a question?

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . a tax break of $930. I am glad he has done that. There are still a few . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Unless there is a question, I will have to call on another member.

[Page 1685]

MR. CHISHOLM: There will be a question, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Please ask it.

MR. CHISHOLM: The question again has to do with the veracity of some of the statements contained in some of this information, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Minister of Finance, when he says that Nova Scotians in this document, at every income level, come out ahead, does that take into account the 208,000 Nova Scotian tax filers whose total income is $15,000 or less and who don't pay any provincial income tax at all, and would the minister indicate whether, in fact, that information was taken into account in order for him to authorize the statement being made that all Nova Scotians will benefit from these changes?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I also thank the honourable member for his diligent efforts in clearing up a misunderstanding which occurred perhaps a week and a half ago with respect to the confusion between eligibility and benefit. I commend him for this; he has taken the opportunity daily since then to raise that issue and clarify it once more. I want to extend the appreciation of myself and the department for his diligent and repeated efforts to make that point more clear.

With respect to the benefit, yes, there will be a benefit, we believe, in this tax reform package, both the harmonization and the personal measures, for every level of Nova Scotian. The some 200,000 people he refers to, I might point out, includes, for example, all those income tax filers on Provincial Social Assistance, family benefits, who are required to file income tax returns in order to get a GST rebate. We recognize and we always have, and I think right from the opening day we have said it here in the House and elsewhere, that there are people who exist between the level of family benefits and the level where the income tax program will have impact. There are people in that area and that is specifically why that $8 million provision is in the budget.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, that $8 million is the point that I wanted to move to next. The $8 million is very much to be made available to those Nova Scotians who don't pay any provincial income tax and therefore won't benefit from any of the other tax relief that has been proposed. I would like to ask the minister, does he have any evidence to show to the 208,000 Nova Scotia tax filers that the 74 cents a week that they are going to be getting in tax relief, as a result of this $8 million, will, in fact, compensate them for the increased taxes they will pay when the BST is added to family essentials, including children's clothing, home heating fuel and electricity?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that someone who was so diligent in correcting a misapprehension daily for the last week and one-half would be a little more careful with figures himself. That sum of $8 million is specifically designed to cover -

[Page 1686]

and let me repeat it again, I said it in my first answer - those people who will not be on social assistance, not that group, those existing between social assistance and that point where the low income tax benefit takes effect and that number is nothing like the number that he describes.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will take that information back to my legion of researchers who are working on the financial aspects of the minister's budget, trying to clarify all of the inconsistencies and assumptions that are made; I will certainly take that back to them.

Let me say that the minister still did not answer the question on whether or not that 74 cents, or however you want to cut it, is going to benefit the 208,000 tax filers who earn $15,000 or less. Is it going to compensate them for the increased taxes they are going to pay as a result of the BST? I would like to ask the minister, that until he produces the studies that will show, in fact, that all Nova Scotians will come out ahead, because he has not given us one iota of evidence . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Please, a question. This is a final supplementary question. It has to be short.

MR. CHISHOLM: Will he ensure that this information, this first leaflet will be withdrawn and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: All right, thank you. We heard the question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . at least withheld until he produces the studies to ensure that Nova Scotians know, in fact, what the deal is?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I simply indicate to the honourable member that his figures are wrong. How can I comment on figures that I believe clearly to be wrong, albeit perhaps even a slight bit mischievous on the part of the honourable member?

Let me answer his specific question because he wanted me to address his specific question with respect to that pamphlet. That is an information pamphlet designed to go out to the people of this province to indicate to them the nature of the program and to offer them a very specific opportunity to clear up any issues or any questions they have as a result of this program. I don't know when the NDP became opponents to this type of opportunity for our people.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

HEALTH - HANTS COMMUN. HOSP.: CUTS - EFFECT

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The Hants Community Hospital was built back in the mid-1970's as a 120-bed facility. It served the people of Hants County very well, up until about 1993 when something happened that caused the number of beds and the services provided to be steadily cut so that today we are looking at approximately 30 beds available in the Hants Community Hospital and day surgery only. We have lots of doctors in that area. There is no shortage of physicians.

[Page 1687]

I wonder if the minister would advise the House, the people of Nova Scotia, the people of Hants County and me, what is the end result going to be of these continual cuts and hacks at the Hants Community Hospital? Where is it going to finish?

HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member opposite knows, the plan for acute care delivery - and he is talking about acute care beds here and delivery of service through acute care beds - the plans for the Hants Community Hospital and other facilities in the central region will be made by the regional health boards. We are convinced that they have done a very good job to date, and they continue to monitor the services being given and improve on the services being given. They are improving that hospital, in fact, as we speak in terms of up to $1.5 million going in for renovations, as the honourable member opposite may know. I am sure the regional health board will certainly take the needs of that community in mind as they plan for future services.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister may think he is doing a great job and he may think that the regional health board is doing a great job in maintaining community hospitals, but I can tell him the people of Hants County don't think it is so great. The people in Windsor don't think it is so great and the people in Hantsport don't think it is so great because they see the death of a community hospital. This is not an old facility. This is a well-built, well-designed facility, probably one of the better hospitals in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: A question, please.

MR. RUSSELL: My question to the minister is, how can the people of that area, that community, make it known to the Central Regional Health Board that indeed that hospital is dying unless they get the support of the regional health board?

[1:00 p.m.]

DR. STEWART: Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the regional health board has made a commitment to make that hospital part and parcel of the facilities and the services delivered in that area, to that community. They have, in fact, committed to that. As I mentioned, renovations are going on as we speak regarding that particular building, and there are programs being planned for that region that will be much improved over what we have seen in the past in the community of Windsor and area. So, I have every confidence in the community board, as it has developed and as it provides for services in that community, that it will indeed make the right decision.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about making better use of the facility, what they are doing is turning it into an office building. That is what they are doing, turning a hospital into an office building. Does the minister agree that that is the way the hospital services should go in rural communities across the province, that he should turn them into office buildings?

DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I think it is high time that we look at our communities and what they need in terms of health care, and not look at buildings and bricks and mortar, which was typical of this crowd across the aisle. (Interruptions) I would suggest that the regional health board and the community health boards will be far more intuitive and far more understanding of the needs of their health care, rather than the trickle-down, paternalistic system exemplified by that crew over there. (Interruptions)

[Page 1688]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

On a new question, the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - LAHAVE FERRY: OPERATION - CONTINUATION

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works a question. The minister will know that his department's strategic planning committee recommended the elimination of the LaHave ferry service and, subsequently, the LaHave and surrounding communities, in cooperation with the Department of Transportation and their local MLAs - they have been speaking with their MLAs, and I know they have been in contact with the minister - and the overwhelming message coming out of the communities that are served by the LaHave ferry service is that eliminating their ferry is not an option at all. So, will the Minister of Transportation tell this House, and more especially the communities that are served by the LaHave ferry, that the service will continue?

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I have already given a commitment to the communities, to the MLAs, who have been very diligent in their efforts on this, both MLAs from the area, and I have already given them a commitment that if we can work out a reasonable program that will deal, in some manner, with reducing the significant costs of operating the ferry service in that area, that ferry service will certainly continue. I have stated repeatedly that that is my goal in going to the community in the first place and calling for public meetings and soliciting for a joint committee, between the community and the department, that that is the stated goal, and if we can find a solution to the problems we have, that, yes, there would be a continuation of the ferry service in that area.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works knows full well that a joint committee of community and Department of Transportation representatives worked up an assessment and a plan that will enable the service to continue, and in terms of preparing for the upcoming season and, of course, the tourist season, and the minister's delays in making an announcement relative to the concern is impairing the community's ability to prepare for the upcoming season, to erect signs, to disseminate brochures, et cetera. Will the minister, by some official means, contact the LaHave committee and inform them of his department's position? As recently as yesterday, from my conversations with a member of the committee, they are uncertain as to where the Department of Transportation and Public Works are going with their proposal, their plan, which they worked up probably one month ago.

MR. MANN: An old guard from across the way yelled, give them all a canoe, but that would be an old guard solution, I suspect.

Mr. Speaker, if the members of the committee area are unsure and want to talk about the plan for the LaHave ferry, I would think they would call me, and I don't believe there was any call to my office yesterday. Now, they are calling the member opposite. He has been playing with documents that have supposedly been top secret for the last two or three months. He waves one or the other around at his convenience, ignoring and dismissing the most recent, or the one that doesn't favour his argument at any given time. We have made a commitment to the people in that community that there would be no change in the service until such time as we examined the report and went back to them and sat down to discuss any changes that might be forthcoming. I would think that commitment has been given and if the committee wants to follow it up, I expect I will be hearing from them directly.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, many Nova Scotians have complained that it is terribly hard from time to time to get in touch with members of the front benches and I realize that they are very busy individuals. I had a call from a member of the LaHave committee who talked to his MLAs and his MLAs, he said, are working hard on his behalf, his community's behalf but the Minister of Transportation has not contacted the community.

MR. SPEAKER: This doesn't sound to me like a question.

[Page 1689]

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, this is it. The minister and his department have taken that same proposal to the communities of Country Harbour, Englishtown, Little Narrows and those communities too, are feeling the effects of the minister's procrastination.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: When will the minister make a decision relative to the ferry services in this province?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, the members opposite often say, consultation, let's have consultation. He is right, we went to Little Narrows, we went to Englishtown, we went to Country Harbour and they said, please don't make any decisions with respect to the ferry service in this province until you have all of the reports and you are in a position to make decisions that will ensure that all communities are treated fairly. That is what they have asked me to do and that is what I am doing, exactly what they have asked for. He calls it procrastination. Nova Scotia beware, that honourable member's idea of consultation and decision-making is to make the decision before you get the report from the community. Now isn't that the way to do it? He says in Little Narrows and Englishtown and Country Harbour they are saying I am procrastinating, I am waiting for the report from them and they have asked me to wait until I receive it. Beware the new guard in Nova Scotia as well.

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

SYSCO: COKE OVENS - CLEAN-UP

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works also. As the minister is aware . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The minister is warmed up good now.

MR. MACLEOD: Yes, you got him started and now I have got to deal with him. (Laughter) As the minister is aware, they are moving along with their plans to clean up the Sydney Tar Ponds. I know that the minister is also aware of another problem in the area of Sydney and that is the coke ovens site which is next door. It was reported that a detailed plan to clean up the coke ovens would be ready in late April for presentation to the federal government. I was wondering if the minister could tell us today if he knows whether that plan has been submitted or not?

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I believe the plan he refers to is a plan probably from an independent consortium to the federal government and not from the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I have not seen a plan with reference to the coke ovens. With reference to the tar ponds, the members would probably know from media reports that as of last Tuesday, I believe it was, there is now in excess of 45,000 tons of contaminated sludge and 70 per cent of the lands affected are federal government owned

[Page 1690]

lands and 70 per cent of the contaminated materials are on those federal lands. The complexity of this issue is changing almost on a daily basis. Also, as a result of the broader spectrum of sampling that we have initiated, we have found benzene, toluene, xylene and we are going to continue the sampling and the testing to determine exactly what we are dealing with. With respect to the coke ovens, I have not seen a plan to be presented to Ottawa.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that maybe the minister would contact his federal counterparts and see if we could get a copy of that report. The MP for the area, Russell MacLellan, has said that the federal government would assist with the funding of the tar ponds clean-up, if they approved our plan. Since the federal government is leading the coke ovens clean-up, will the minister tell us if there have been any discussions about twinning the two issues together, in terms of planning, funding and clean-up?

MR. MANN: More twinning. (Laughter) Mr. Speaker, I would say that there has been no idea that hasn't been canvassed, presented, discussed, tossed around various tables. It is difficult to deal with an issue and identify a final plan to deal with something when you don't know exactly what you are dealing with. The plan put forward most recently, one of the significant components of that plan, if you will, would have seen the removal and the export of 5,000 tons of contaminated sludge containing PCBs to be dealt with. Dealing with 5,000 versus dealing with 45,000, I believe the approximate cost was in the range of $972 per ton. I think the honourable member opposite, with a little bit of math, can realize the complexity that this is undertaking. (Interruption) Yes, you did. Not the same school, but probably went to school. It is very difficult to say, have we decided or have we looked at doing this and this together when in fact we don't really know yet what the entire issue is we are dealing with on the tar ponds.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my final question is again to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Given the cost-cutting goals of this government, will the minister assure this House and the people of the Sydney area that the tar ponds clean-up will go ahead even if there isn't any federal funding and regardless of what is found there, because it is a major problem?

MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, unlike the previous administration, we are committed to finding a solution to this problem. That has clearly been enunciated. However, we are not going to rush into it, as the previous administration did, and perhaps spend $60 million with no positive results.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

ERA - BLUENOSE II: ELECTRICAL SYSTEM - INSTALLATION

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. I wonder if the minister could confirm that Mr. Ed Honneyman is currently doing work on the electrical system of the Bluenose?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I cannot confirm that.

MR. LEEFE: Then we will deal just with the system not who is doing the work. Can the minister confirm that a new 240 volt electrical system is being installed on the Bluenose as a result of an earlier error - earlier being earlier this year - when a 208 volt system was installed which was incompatible with the vessel and that necessitated the new system being put in place?

MR. HARRISON: No, Mr. Speaker, I can't confirm that, I don't have that kind of detail but I would be happy to try and provide it for the member opposite.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, then may I take it from the minister's responses that, in fact, it is not the department which has taken decisions respecting work to be done on the Bluenose but rather that those decisions are being undertaken by Mr. Willie Moore and his group?

[Page 1691]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite full well knows, the Preservation Trust does undertake to both do the restoration work of last year and continue with the maintenance work this year. As discussed in estimates, we have procedures and understandings on which they do that. I would be happy to provide through the trust - or perhaps he could get it directly from the trust - the work that he is describing that is probably taking place now.

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

MR. LEEFE: Well, as I mentioned to the minister the other day, Mr. Moore is not very good at returning phone calls. That's not his fault.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. It is the turn of the NDP now. Did you have your final supplementary?

MR. LEEFE: I am sorry. Yes, I did.

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

MUN. AFFS. - MUN. SERV. EXCHANGE: UNSM - RESEARCH

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Certainly the government has a great deal of confidence in KPMG Management Consultants, because the government has, themselves, used this consulting firm on a number of occasions for management audits, and so on, of various departments. This firm was hired by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to research the overall impact of the service exchange on municipalities and measure the actual and proposed provincial downloading. In that report they discovered that, in fact, the province is balancing its books by increasing municipal costs. This is the same firm that the government has a great deal of confidence in.

[1:15 p.m.]

My question to the minister is, does the minister and her government agree with the findings of this consultant that, in fact, the province is balancing its books by increasing municipal costs through downloading and offloading?

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. HOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, the KPMG Management Consultants who are, according to this government, a very capable firm, one that they themselves use on many occasions and have given them numerous contracts, they found these and point out how things like since the implementation of service exchange, how the province has restructured many of the financial arrangements with municipalities, resulting in offloading costs to municipal community services of $1.4 million, pointing out how they have increased education costs to

[Page 1692]

municipalities by over $4 million while decreasing provincial amounts, talking about how $28 million is going to increase, due to environmental costs, et cetera.

If the minister does not agree with the findings of this very reputable management consultant group, obviously considered reputable by the government because you hire them on many occasions . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: My question is, will the minister table in this House her analysis and her government's analysis as to the actual costs that this government has been downloading and offloading to the property taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia, in order to balance the books for the Minister of Finance?

AN HON. MEMBER: A three minute question, a new world's record.

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, number one, I would ask the honourable member if he would table the document he has been reading from in order to put this question forward. I would appreciate having an opportunity to see it. Number two, it was a service exchange, it was not a downloading.

MR. HOLM: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for telling residents of Nova Scotia absolutely nothing in her answer.

MR. SPEAKER: This is an editorial, not a question. Question.

MR. HOLM: Yes, I will provide her with a copy of the letter that she asked for. I was answering her question first, by telling her I provided the letter.

MR. SPEAKER: You are not a minister yet; you don't answer the questions, you ask them.

MR. HOLM: Yes, Mr. Speaker. My final question then to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and the simple question is this, how much more is she and this Liberal Government prepared to allow to be offloaded to the property taxpayers, in order to try to pretend that this government is, in fact, balancing the budget, rather than simply shoving the figures across, onto the property taxpayers? We have seen enough, in terms of the shell game. We want to know what is the bottom line? How many more millions of dollars are you prepared to shovel off?

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I take great exception to his comment that we are shovelling off to the municipalities. I guess what I would put forward to the honourable member is the municipalities across this province have approximately a budget of almost $1 billion. The most recent 1996-97 budget, which we are just going through, the costs that have been incurred by the municipalities, based on projections that have come forward, is $4.3 million. I think it speaks for itself.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

[Page 1693]

ERA - BLUENOSE II: REPAIRS - TENDERS

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, back to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency respecting Bluenose II. Is the process in place whereby any work which is to be done on Bluenose II is first referenced to the Economic Renewal Agency, in advance of tenders being let for that work?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: No, Mr. Speaker. The understanding is that core funding is provided, that expenses are accounted for and that procedures followed are the procurement procedures for the province but the Preservation Trust arranges contracts, in the case of the restoration, with shipyards in the Lunenburg area for that. In the case of the topmast, Stella Jones has now donated two topmasts, in fact, and part of a boom, to make sure that the vessel received repairs at the least possible cost.

MR. LEEFE: I am sure Mr. Honneyman isn't providing the new electrical system free of charge. We will find out how much that mistake is going to cost the people of Nova Scotia because eventually that is who will pick it up.

Secondly then, I heard what the minister said respecting there being no interface between the department and Mr. Willie Moore's group in advance of work being undertaken. The minister referenced the province's procurement policy being followed by Bluenose II. Would the minister describe what audit process is in place to ensure that in every instance that occurs?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, there are annual reports filed by the Bluenose II Preservation Trust. There are audited statements that will be filed shortly after their first year of operation. There are discussions and meetings that occur between the trust and the department. There are obviously compliance tests in the sense that we have a contractual arrangement with the trust and we ensure that they meet those obligations and they, in turn, ensure that the vessel is cared for properly.

MR. LEEFE: The relationship between Mr. Willie Moore and business persons in this province has been discussed both in Question Period and in committee. It is a matter which is under some discussion within the larger South Shore community. I wonder if the minister could advise the House of what initiative he has taken with respect to advising Mr. Moore that he should take some of his sail in, with respect to aggressively pursuing legitimate Nova Scotia businesses with respect to contributions to Bluenose II?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the trust's interests are to make sure that the vessel receives all the dignity she deserves, both here at home and throughout the world for that matter. It is important to realize that there are companies in this province that are willing to enter into marketing agreements with the Preservation Trust, such that funds to enable the vessel to be maintained properly accrue to the trust and therefore go into the kind of work that is being done and has been done so well during the first year.

It is an understanding we have with the trust that they will approach companies, that those companies will in fact be willing participants in the preservation of the vessel and we continue to discuss with them the ways in which we can promote the companies that are willing to work with the trust and the ways in which the trust can promote those companies. We have some great corporate citizens in this province that are attempting to enter into marketing agreements with the trust, such that certain funds are able to preserve that vessel, and we applaud them.

[Page 1694]

MR. SPEAKER: There is 15 seconds or so remaining.

The honourable member for Hants West, with a short snapper.

FIN.: SINKING FUNDS - INTEREST

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: My question is for the Minister of Finance. During the examination of the Department of Finance's estimates, I asked the minister the question, if indeed there was any difference in the way that interest from sinking funds was handled at the present time than it was prior to 1993?

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: I will take that question on notice. I am not sure I understand exactly what the member means, so perhaps he and I will discuss it briefly outside so I can give him a full answer to that question.

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

Now I have had a request from the honourable Government House Leader to revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 31 - Entitled an Act to Provide for the Regulation of Trading in Real Estate. (Hon. Donald Downe)

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

Now we need a committee chairman for the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I have designated the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage as Acting Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. (Applause)

[1:24 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. Dennis Richards in the Chair.]

[Page 1695]

[2:01 p.m. CWH on Bills 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 Bills reports:

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:02 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. Dennis Richards in the Chair.]

[5:22 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Paul MacEwan, resumed the Chair.]

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

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and, by virtue of the affluxion of time and votes taken in the committee, has come to agreement on 39 estimate resolutions before the committee and the subcommittee, and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these to the favourable consideration of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House concurs in the report just presented of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 32 - Entitled an Act to Provide for Defraying Certain Charges and Expenses of the Public Service of the Province. (Hon. B. Boudreau)

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

[Page 1696]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 32, the Appropriations Act, 1996.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance moves second reading of Bill No. 32, the Appropriations Act, 1996. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

We have several members calling for a recorded vote. Are there two or more members who request the recorded vote? I see several.

Ring the bells, call in the members.

[5:24 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[5:31 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk shall now conduct a recorded vote on the motion that the Appropriations Act be given second reading.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[5:34 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Barkhouse Mr. Donahoe

Mrs. Norrie Dr. Hamm

Dr. Smith Mr. Russell

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Moody

Mr. Gillis Mr. Chisholm

Dr. Stewart Mr. Holm

Ms. Jolly Mr. Leefe

Mr. MacEachern Mr. McInnes

Mr. Mann Mr. Taylor

Mr. Casey Mr. MacLeod

Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Harrison

Mr. Abbass

Mr. Brown

Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Rayfuse

Mr. Richards

Mr. Surette

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

[Page 1697]

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. William MacDonald

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

THE CLERK: For, 29. Against, 10.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried. (Applause)

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, as anticlimactic as this may be, I would like to move third reading of Bill No. 32, the Appropriations Act, 1996.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 32. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that the bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[5:36 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mrs. Francene Cosman in the Chair.]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. Robert Carruthers in the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The late debate tonight was submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. The resolution reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government cease its continued attack on Nova Scotia's agricultural industry.".

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

[Page 1698]

AGRIC. - INDUSTRY: ATTACK [GOV'T. (N.S.)] - CEASE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the Leader of the Opposition for bringing forward that resolution and I thank you for reading it because it is important that this government cease its attack on the agricultural community in this province. One only has to look at the Supplementary Expenditure Detail to find out that the Department of Agriculture and Marketing has cut Extension Services, Animal Industry Services, Nova Scotia Agricultural College and so on and so forth.

I appreciate the fact that the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing must abide by the rules and regulations that are laid down by the Minister of Finance. While the minister has an extremely difficult task or at least had a very arduous task in working up his budget, I certainly have some difficulty supporting cuts of that nature.

The agricultural community has seen the federal Liberal Government cut the subsidy relative to feed and the transportation costs by some 30 per cent. The farmer in Nova Scotia who brings in feed to supply nutrients to his livestock has found that the feed costs have increased by 30 per cent. The cost of fertilizer to the farmer in this province has risen by 20 per cent. The limestone transportation subsidy has been reduced by 20 per cent and transportation costs have increased by 8 per cent as a result of the cancellation of the Atlantic Region Freight Assistance. You can see where the agricultural community is reeling.

The agricultural community permits many of us to share our history and our pride, as well as sharing with the agricultural industry, an opportunity to meet and talk to people who are committed to this province. They are committed to providing a level of income not only to themselves but helping to supplement and sustain area merchants and things of that nature.

The Federation of Agriculture has arranged to have a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, or the Minister of Municipal Affairs at least, and wants very much to discuss the Savage Government's decision to gut out some $1.2 million that had been previously provided to help the farmer offset some of his costs and taxes relative to land.

When we look at the Provincial Mission Statement and Strategic Goals for Agriculture we find that the strategic goals state, to improve the viability and stability of the agriculture and food industry and enhance its ability to grow. Then we find this government rip away $1.2 million. Another strategic goal that the Department of Agriculture and Marketing has laid down in Appendix B is to increase the competitiveness of the agriculture and food industry to maintain and create new employment and income opportunities. It is extremely difficult to increase employment and income opportunities and create new ones when your costs are increasing, as the cost to the farmer has increased in this province.

When we look at the provincial grant that the municipalities provided to farm properties last year, we find that Annapolis County received $98,000; Antigonish, $84,000; Cape Breton, $23,000; Colchester County, $162,000; Cumberland County, $183,000; Digby, $22,000; Guysborough, $18,000; Halifax County, $45,000; Hants County, $126,000; Inverness County, $61,000; Kings County, $219,000; Lunenburg County, $40,000; Pictou County, $126,000; Queens County, $10,000; Richmond County, nearly $5,000; Shelburne County, $4,300; Victoria County, $8,800; and Yarmouth County, $21,472; for a total of $1,263,078, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1699]

The impact of the new commodity tax, the new tax, the cut, will mean that our dairy and cattle farms, pig farms, poultry farms, grain and other field crops, fruit, vegetables, livestock combinations, will be seriously affected by this government's decision to slash and burn away $1.2 million from the budget, if you will, and from the support that was previously provided to the agricultural community.

You know, Mr. Speaker, the Federation of Agriculture had worked up some comments relative to the taking away of the grant that was provided to the agricultural community. Mr. Keddy, the President of the Federation of Agriculture, said there is one positive thing associated with the move by provincial authorities to place a tax on the agricultural land base in Nova Scotia, and it is the fact that they have passed the responsibility down to local governments. Local authorities have a history of being much more sensitive to the needs of the community. They understand that food comes from farms and not the supermarket; they understand the importance of agriculture to the community.

Now, Mr. Speaker, inasmuch as Mr. Keddy and the agricultural community is asking, requesting that the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing put those funds back into the agricultural community, they still suggest that the local government at least will have some sensitivity when they are dealing with this issue.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the article that has been worked up by the Federation of Agriculture outlines many concerns that they have. One of the comments they have made that I think is worth repeating and is very important is under the backgrounder on Page 4, and I am sure the Minister of Agriculture has a copy of this document. They point out that it is well understood that the capacity to earn a responsible living from farming is the most important determination in a farmer's decision whether or not to continue to farm. Taxes constitute a significant cost to farmers and impact on the bottom line that determines whether or not a decent living can be made. In some operations a new tax on land could tip the balance between a profit and a loss.

Now that is a pretty candid statement. That is a pretty frank statement to make, that in some operations this new tax could, it has the potential to put some of the farms under, Mr. Speaker, and that is deplorable.

I have the pleasure of representing the beautiful constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. We are very much reliant on agriculture. I ask and I request the Savage Government to reconsider its decision, and put money back into the agricultural community that gives so much to all our constituencies across this province by providing cheap food, cheap milk. They also make work; the spin-offs to area merchants are great.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to say again that I understand the decisions of the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing relative to his budget, but I will ask him to speak to his colleagues to redirect money back into the agricultural community. Thank you.

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

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased, as Agricultural Minister, to have this opportunity to respond to the resolution presented here today. I want to tell you about the industry and to outline some of the many things that this government has been working on with the agricultural industry.

[Page 1700]

Agriculture is a dynamic and exciting industry in this province. The industry is constantly changing and adapting, to make sure that agriculture is one of the most productive industry sectors today. Agriculture is an industry built on pride and tradition, a hard work ethic, a sense of family and community. In this province, we have a very diverse industry and that can be considered, certainly, its strength to us. In addition, Mr. Speaker, our government is very supportive of the industry and government has made a tremendous capital investment in agriculture in this province over the years.

In terms of commodity production, the dairy sector is the largest sector in the province. However other commodities such as vegetable and berry production have shown tremendous growth and potential. In recent years, we are pleased to see an increased interest in development of the value added sector as well.

There are almost 4,000 farms in the province. Most of these are family run operations, which provide direct employment to over 7,800 people. Agriculture stimulates the economy, provides jobs and contributes to the strength of the rural communities across this province. Last year, farm gate receipts were about $390 million, which translates, Mr. Speaker, into over $1 billion in economic activity at the retail level. Considering the value added sector, this would be at least $2 billion. Last year, we exported well over $85 million in agri-food products to over 60 countries.

There is great potential for opportunities and development of this industry here in the province, Mr. Speaker. This potential must be nurtured to help overcome the very difficult issues and uncertainties facing agriculture today. Competitiveness, a new world trading environment, a constantly changing market place and environmental issues are just a few examples of major challenges impacting on the future development of this industry.

There are a number of things that we have done in the department and in partnership with the industry that have helped us and the industry manage the tremendous changes that we are facing. In recent years, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing has worked extensively with the industry in the development of an agri-food strategic plan, identifying seven strategic directions. These strategies provide us, Mr. Speaker, with the key directions which have been the focus of our business planning and budgeting. These directions are consistent with the department's mandate and the economic goals of government in Government By Design.

In 1995, we undertook an extensive review of the services of the Department of Agriculture and Marketing. With limited resources that are available today, we thought it was very critical to find out from our clients what was important to them in terms of service. This review has provided us with good information in the development of priorities and improved performance measures.

I am very pleased with the response by the industry and the comments people took time to make. Farmers told us how satisfied they were with our services. Values ranged from 2.9 to 3.8 on a scale of 1 to 4. Our next step will be a human resource plan for the department. This will help us to match human resource strengths to our priorities. We will identify staff training needs and development opportunities in order for the department to do its job more effectively through well-trained and motivated employees who will be working closely with the industry.

[Page 1701]

As a result of the extensive review of 32 assistance programs undertaken in 1994 and this government's commitment to agriculture while focusing on the department's strategic objectives, we were able to restructure existing programs and introduce the Agri-Focus 2000 program in the 1995-96 budget, Mr. Speaker. This program is designed to help the industry respond to the changes in marketing, technology and the new rules in doing business in a world marketplace today. Most importantly, Agri-Focus 2000 is designed to encourage growth and development. Agri-Focus 2000 encourages our clients to set their own business priorities rather than the program setting priorities for the clients. The flexibility that Agri-Focus offers is important for the changing agricultural industry of today.

[6:15 p.m.]

This is a whole farm development initiative with four components: first, farm development; secondly, market development and expansion; thirdly, human resource development; and finally, technology development.

The purpose of this program is to enhance the sustainable growth and competitive success of farmers and their farm business through whole farm planning strategies.

With this shift to an industry-responsive development initiative we were very pleased with the applications received and how staff were refocusing the work that they do with their clients in relationship to this program. We were quite pleased with the farm plans that have been submitted under the farm development component during the first year of Agri-Focus.

To help beef producers through these difficult times and certainly low beef prices, we announced a program a few weeks ago and we have set aside $400,000, Mr. Speaker. This is combined with the continuation of the improved sire program, better known as the Bull Bonus Program, and Agri-Focus.

This government fully supports the principle behind a net income stabilization program and have made NISA available to all major commodities except the supply managed ones. We will be promoting NISA to the farm community and now have a working group in place to do this, Mr. Speaker. Two people in the department have been named as contact people for NISA. In addition, we have a pilot program to look at NISA being available on mixed farms where there is supply managed and other farming is taking place.

This government has worked closely with the industry as it adjusts to the new world trading rules. All 18 recommendations from the GATT Task Force have been acted upon. We have played an important role as industry adjusts to the changes in the supply management systems in Canada, Mr. Speaker.

Our new meat inspection legislation introduced provides the producer with the opportunity to market the product direct to the consumer while giving the consumer the assurances they want in buying inspected meat at the retail level.

I am also very proud to mention the unique relationship that we have with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College being closely integrated with the Department of Agriculture and Marketing. That uniqueness has been recognized as a strength because of the close linkages and positive relationship with the agri-food industry and the department.

[Page 1702]

The Nova Scotia Agricultural College has experienced 100 per cent growth over five years with enrolment of over 900 students. In March, we announced the construction of a new aquaculture wing at the NSAC. As well, we are very proud of the new research partnership initiatives being developed. Just last month we announced one in blueberries. The benefits of this partnering is that the industry directs the research at very specific areas of importance to them. With interested partners combined with a small amount of seed money and through matching funds, we have expanded our potential for industry-driven research.

Mr. Speaker, we are in the process of announcing a new Animal Genetics Research partnership. With $25,000 in seed money this new research initiative will generate over $90,000 per year in research. The NSAC is recognized for its ability to meet the education and research needs of the industry.

The department has aggressively pursued reform under the Coasting Trade Act to help improve the viability of the water transport system for grain. The National Transportation Agency, as we recommended, has now developed and is proposing a fast track system for granting a waiver to use foreign ships when domestic ships are not available.

Mr. Speaker, as a department, we will continue to work as a team in cooperation with the industry as we strive to fulfil our mandate, the development of a viable and sustainable agricultural industry. We will be working in cooperation with other departments and other levels of government as we help farmers and farm families be better able to help themselves for the future development of this industry.

This department, Mr. Speaker, also has a responsibility to share in the burden of the provincial debt. This department has to share in the fiscal reality facing this province as outlined in the government's blueprint, Government By Design. Today it is important that these changes we are making are in order of priority so that our activities are directed to what is essential and that we carry out those programs and services with dedication and commitment. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further speakers? If not, the House will recess until 6:30 p.m.

[The House recessed at 6:21 p.m.]

[6:30 p.m. CWH on Bills resumed with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. Robert Carruthers in the Chair.]

[7:58 p.m. CWH on Bills 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 Bills reports:

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1703]

The honourable House Leader for the New Democratic Party.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be dealing with two items, Bill No. 16 and Resolution No. 442.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

I move adjournment until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

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

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 7:59 p.m.]