The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Nov. 19, 1996

Fourth Session

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Bicycle Helmets: Use - Mandatory, Mr. E. Lorraine 1999
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - South Uniacke: Withrow Lane - Potholes Fix,
Mr. R. Carruthers 2000
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Nat. Res.: Minerals - A Policy for Nova Scotia 1996, Hon. E. Norrie 2000
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Fish.: Legislation - Proclaim, Hon. J. Barkhouse 2000
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 37, River John Voluntary Fire Department Dissolution Act,
Mr. D. McInnes 2004
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 675, Prince Edward Island - Gen. Election:
Premier Elect Pat Binns (PC) - Congrats., Dr. J. Hamm 2005
Res. 676, Prince Edward Island - Gen. Election:
Dr. Herb Dickieson (NDP) - Elected Congrats.,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2006
Res. 677, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Impact - Analysis Table,
Dr. J. Hamm 2006
Res. 678, Fin.: Fair Tax. Comm'n. - Establish, Mr. R. Russell 2007
Res. 679, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Doctor Shortage -
Aggravate, Mr. G. Moody 2007
Res. 680, RCMP - Jonathan Skeete: Legacy - Tribute Pay,
Mr. P. MacEwan 2008
Vote - Affirmative 2009
Res. 681, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Sell Out - Condemn,
Mr. J. Holm 2009
Res. 682, Sydney - Gov't. Wharf: Opening - Applaud,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 2009
Res. 683, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Consultation Process -
Commit, Mr. T. Donahoe 2010
Res. 684, Housing & Mun. Affs./Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization:
Changes Unnecessary - Info. Table, Mr. A. MacLeod 2011
Res. 685, Fish. - Comeau Seafoods: Anniv. (50th) - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Leefe 2011
Vote - Affirmative 2012
Res. 686, Educ.: System - Repair, Ms. E. O'Connell 2012
Res. 687, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Premier Return -
Enlighten, Mr. B. Taylor 2012
Res. 688, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Foist - Condemn,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2013
Res. 689, Educ.: Classroom Quality - Maintain, Mr. T. Donahoe 2013
Res. 690, Health - Hepatitis C: Compensation - Negotiate,
Mr. G. Moody 2014
Res. 691, Avondale (Hants Co.) - Shipbuilding Centre: Revival -
Congrats., Mr. R. Russell 2015
Vote - Affirmative 2015
Res. 692, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Ads - Profile Change,
Mr. J. Holm 2015
Res. 693, Nat. Res. - Forestry: Funds (Gov't. [Can.]) -
Opportunity Lost, Mr. B. Taylor 2016
Res. 694, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Emergency Definition -
Gov't. House Ldr. Explain, Mr. J. Leefe 2016
Res. 695, Educ. - School: Computers - Universality, Mr. D. McInnes 2017
Res. 696, Agric. - 4-H Programs: Volunteers & Participants -
Congrats., Mr. G. Archibald 2018
Vote - Affirmative 2018
Res. 697, ERA - Jim MacConnell (CEO-Scotsburn Dairy Ltd.):
Pictou Business Person of the Year - Congrats., Mr. D. McInnes 2018
Vote - Affirmative 2019
Res. 698, Commun. Serv. - Child Welfare: Caseloads High - Address,
Mr. A. MacLeod 2019
Res. 699, Agric.: N.S. Pork Dev. Program - Maintain, Mr. G. Archibald 2020
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 308, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Underground Economy -
Impact, Dr. J. Hamm 2020
No. 309, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Subsidy - Invested,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2022
No. 310, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Revenue Loss - Lower,
Dr. J. Hamm 2023
No. 311, Educ. - PST & GST Harmonization: School Boards -
Effect Alleviate, Mr. T. Donahoe 2025
No. 312, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Well Drilling - Exempt,
Mr. B. Taylor 2027
No. 313, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Agreement - Negation,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2029
No. 314, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - PST & GST Harmonization: Disabled -
Motor Vehicles Exemption, Mr. R. Russell 2031
No. 315, Mun. Affs. - PST & GST Harmonization: Municipalities -
Effect Counteract, Mr. A. MacLeod 2032
No. 316, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Westville: Subsidence - Update,
Dr. J. Hamm 2034
No. 317, Fin. - Business Subsidies: Job Creation - Analysis, Mr. J. Holm 2035
No. 318, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Impact, Mr. T. Donahoe 2037
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 14, Occupiers' Liability Act 2040
Mr. R. Russell 2040
Mr. B. Taylor 2042
Mr. G. Archibald 2042
Mr. R. Carruthers 2047
Dr. J. Hamm 2050
Hon. J. Abbass 2052
Vote - Affirmative 2053
No. 30, Motor Vehicle Act 2053
Hon. B. Boudreau 2053
Mr. G. Moody 2054
Mr. J. Holm 2056
Mr. B. Taylor 2059
Dr. J. Hamm 2061
Mr. D. McInnes 2062
Mr. R. Chisholm 2063
Mr. T. Donahoe 2063
Mr. R. Russell 2066
Mr. J. Leefe 2067
Mr. A. MacLeod 2068
Hon. B. Boudreau 2069
Vote - Affirmative 2069
No. 31, Real Estate Trading Act 2069
Hon. S. Jolly 2070
Mr. T. Donahoe 2070
Adjourned debate 2070
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Agreement - Cancel:
Mr. R. Russell 2071
Hon. W. Gillis 2073
Mr. R. Chisholm 2076
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 20th at 2:00 p.m. 2079

[Page 1999]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Wayne Gaudet

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin with the daily routine, I just want to point out to all members of the House that the schedule for Opposition Days has been circulated and if not, the schedule will be circulated to all members of the House.

Before we begin with the daily routine, are there any introductions? Hearing none, we will begin with the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester North.

MR. EDWARD LORRAINE: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition I beg leave to present. It is kind of a strange petition. The question is: "Should bicycle helmet use be mandatory in Nova Scotia?". They have it set up so that if you are opposed to it, you can vote no and if you are in favour, you can vote yes. The people who brought it to me were opposed to it. There were 181 who were opposed but there are 286 who are in favour. (Applause) I said that I didn't think they would want me to table it but that was their wish so I am glad to table this. (Applause)

1999

[Page 2000]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by approximately 12 members of Withrow Lane in South Uniacke area. These taxpayers and occupants who travel on this piece of road daily would like to try to get a few loads of gravel and to fix the potholes that are really bad and getting worse.

Mr. Speaker, I have discussed this matter with them. There is a preamble saying how much they have discussed it with their MLA and I wish to table this to the Minister of Transportation.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table Minerals - A Policy for Nova Scotia 1996.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Fisheries.

HON. JAMES BARKHOUSE: Mr. Speaker, honourable members of the House, today marks an historic development for our fishing industry. I am pleased to announce the proclamation of a new piece of legislation aimed at strengthening fisheries organizations and setting them on a course to help protect the future of our industry.

The Fisheries Organizations Support Act provides a mechanism and a framework to enable accredited fishers organizations to collect mandatory annual dues from core fishers who hold licenses for a limited entry fishery such as lobster, groundfish and scallops.

In February 1994, a group of fishery organizations approached me and requested that I consider introducing legislation that would enable organizations to set up a dues check-off system. Although the issue had blown hot and cold for over two decades, this time the message from fishery groups was strong and clear. There has never been a greater need to

[Page 2001]

have effective self-financed organizations than now. The legislation proclaimed today gives our fishing industry the tools to design an effective system of representation and provides a stronger voice for fishers.

To understand the significance of this legislation it is necessary to explain the current situation with fishery organizations. Currently, there are approximately 50 organizations in the province, most of which are under-funded with small memberships. Estimates of paid up members in all organizations range from 30 per cent to 40 per cent of limited entry, bonafide fishers. This lack of support is impeding the ability of organizations to lobby effectively and protect the fishing interests of the people they represent. With the increasing need for fishers to be adequately and properly represented, organizations are suffering. Paying members are, in fact, footing the bill for those who do not pay. Yet, all receive the benefits of the work an association does on behalf of the fishing sector or group.

Furthermore, associations themselves are often in conflict with one another, a situation that frustrates negotiation and undermines progress. In the past, all key decisions were made by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Today, with the industry moving in the direction of co-management, more responsibility is being placed on fishers and their organizations. Unity among fishers and fisher organizations has never been as important as it is today. Even DFO recognizes that there are too many poorly funded harvester groups and individuals to be heard effectively. Certainly, Nova Scotia fishers cannot afford to continue in this vein.

Fishing is a big business in Nova Scotia, a $1 billion per year business, in fact. A growing number of fishers realize that they have a lot at stake and for that reason are looking to protect their investments and their future.

The small independent fisher can be a lonely voice trying to survive in a highly competitive, globalized and market driven industry. There is definitely strength in numbers in the fishing business. Survival may depend on how well a sector is represented at levels where the decision on the future of the industry are being made.

Mr. Speaker, the development of this new legislation has been a three year process. I am pleased to say that it has involved thorough consultation with industry, and the approach from the outset was that industry would be at the drawing board at all phases of the development. I believe we have a piece of legislation that truly reflects the wishes of a vast majority of Nova Scotians in the fishing industry.

This legislation establishes a democratic process where fishers decide through a vote if mandatory dues will be implemented in their region. If a region votes in favour of mandatory dues, organizations can then begin the process of becoming accredited.

[Page 2002]

Fishers will be free to join the accredited organization of their choice. This process provides an opportunity if a majority in a region so wishes for fishers to have better, stronger representation. At the same time associations will be expected to deliver effective services on issues of greater magnitude than home port problems.

The Fisheries Organization Support Act is an example of government listening to Nova Scotians and delivering on a promise. It is an example of government and industry working together for a common goal and for the future of our fishing. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for providing me an advance copy of the remarks that he made this afternoon. We did in fact debate this legislation last year and it did, as I recollect, while exciting some debate, receive the support of all Parties in the House. I must say that I think the minister is going to have to be prepared as the industry learns to live with this legislation to amend the regulations as experience dictates and also where required to be open-minded with respect to any amendments that are required within the Act.

This is the first time an initiative of this nature has been put in place in Nova Scotia and as with all prototypes it will require significant vigilance and will require all Parties to be prepared to change as circumstances dictate. I must say that I am disappointed at some of the turns of phrase employed by the minister, for example, where he references the impediment to the ability of organizations to lobby.

I don't think what the industry wants or what the public wants is the creation of a whole series of lobby groups who will go out and lobby solely in the best interests of their own paid-up membership but rather what we want is groups who are truly representative of various sectors of the fishing industry who will represent those broad interests and who will be prepared in that representation to sit down with each other as well as with government officials in order to plan out the best strategy for the industry in the future. In this instance of course, the harvesting sector is the sector involved.

The minister makes reference to those who will receive all of the benefits of the work of an association but that is something of a leap of faith and we will just have to see how beneficial these associations are to all those who now will be required to pay dues to them who will not have the opportunity to choose whether they belong to an association or not.

The minister also makes reference to the conflict which often exists between one sector and another. I doubt very much if this initiative is going to cause those kinds of situations not to continue to prevail, that is the nature of the industry and indeed I think that will continue to be the case. Sometimes these kinds of conflicts within the industry can be healthy, they are not entirely destructive.

[Page 2003]

I also notice that the minister makes reference to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans providing more responsibility through co-management to the fishermen in the province. The unfortunate thing is that while they are downloading responsibility, DFO nonetheless continues to retain all of the power with which they can make or break the men and women who are involved in the harvesting sector. As a matter of principle it seems to me that if responsibility is going to be downloaded then the power should be downloaded with it. Responsibility without power is meaningless.

We will be watching as this legislation is effected. I know that there is a very significant concern on the part of many fishing groups in smaller communities respecting the minimum number of members required in order for a group to be deemed a representative group.

Finally, an area that I cited during the debate on the bill that I think we are going to have to watch very closely is the lack of what I think would be a healthy arm's length distance between the ministry and the decision-makers to determine what will and what will not be deemed to be an organization to benefit from this legislation.

So we will look forward to seeing this unfold. We will have to hope that it will work and work well. Nonetheless, all fishermen and their families and those of us who represent them will watch this with great vigilance and will be fully prepared to commend when commendation is appropriate and to criticize when criticism is in the public interest. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to stand and say how much I support the proclamation of this particular Act. I, along with many others from this House, and certainly the minister and his department, was part of the discussions leading up to the final development of the particular piece of legislation in question and worked with a number of people within the industry to try to bring about some kind of legislative framework to give fisher organizations the capacity to develop the strength necessary to deal with some of the complexities and increasingly fast-paced change within their industry.

At the time we debated this legislation in the House I had some concerns with it, didn't feel it went far enough and those concerns remain today. In fact, I would say right now, in talking with many of the organizations that are out there, the inshore sector in particular, the harvesting sector, Mr. Speaker, I feel that even now this is almost outdated in that the changes are happening so fast. I find that many of the fishers and their organizations are having an even more difficult time trying to cope and trying to keep up with the changes taking place within their industry, in terms of the distribution of quota, in trying to maintain the defence against the IIQ system, for example, and how best to distribute the advantages

[Page 2004]

and the benefits from their resource throughout their communities, throughout their sector group.

It is truly phenomenal, Mr. Speaker, for anybody who doesn't have the knowledge of some about what is happening within the fishing industry. It is quite phenomenal, the pressures that are coming to bear on individual fishers and their families and their organizations.

This approach to facilitate the development of larger and more appropriately and adequately resourced organizations I think will go some distance. I would agree with my colleague from Queens when he says that the goal of these organizations is not simply to become massive lobby groups. Certainly my idea and that of my colleagues for the inshore fishers is that they can have larger groups to better coordinate the interests of the inshore harvesting sector within Nova Scotia in discussions and deliberations with both the provincial Department of Fisheries, the provincial government and the federal DFO and the federal government.

So let me say that I did vote in favour of this legislation when it was first put through the House, I think about a year ago, but I am concerned and I would ask the minister to keep his eye on what is happening within the industry because I almost feel as if things are moving so fast that circumstances have moved beyond the opportunity for this legislation to provide any relief or any opportunity to give those organizations the kind of strength of representation that is necessary.

Again, I would like to say that I am pleased that this legislation has been proclaimed, the regulations have gone out, have been approved and we can move forward. There is quite a bit of work that has to be done for this Act to actually take place in terms of consultation within the communities and the actual vote on whether to have mandatory dues and then the establishment of the appropriate organizations. So there is a lot of work to do and I look forward to working with people in the industry and the minister and his department to see that this Act be put to its most useful purpose. Thank you.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 37 - Entitled an Act Respecting the River John Fire Department. (Mr. Donald McInnes)

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

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 2005]

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure today to introduce to the members of the Legislature - they are sitting in the west gallery - it is a group of visitors from Kingstec Community College, located in Kentville. They are Library Technicians and that's the course they are taking. They are being accompanied today by Elizabeth Kelly and Paulette Rushton. These students have been instructed to some extent with the benefit of Margaret Murphy, the Legislative Librarian, who went to Kentville and told them about some of the research and the storage capabilities of our library. Today they came down to view our library and to look at Province House. So I wish that members would give the Kingstec Library Technicians a very warm welcome. (Applause)

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 675

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

Whereas yesterday there was a provincial election in Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island; and

Whereas Progressive Conservative Leader Pat Binns led his Party to a convincing victory, winning 18 seats (Applause); and

Whereas this election represents a huge reversal of fortune, not only for the Progressive Conservative Party but also for the people of Prince Edward Island whose Premier-elect has promised to give government back to the people;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend hearty congratulations to the Premier-elect and all of the elected members of Prince Edward Island.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[Page 2006]

RESOLUTION NO. 676

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

Whereas it is well known that old habits in politics die hard; and

Whereas one of the oldest such habits was the custom of Prince Edward Islanders to elect only Tories or Liberals; and

Whereas that unfortunate habit was finally overcome last night with the election of Dr. Herb Dickieson as the New Democratic Party MLA for West Point-Bloomfield;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Dr. Dickieson and the voters of Westpoint Bloomfield for their history making achievement.

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

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

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 677

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

Whereas landlords do not qualify for any kind of input tax credit under the blended sales tax deal; and

Whereas landlords will have no choice but to pass to their tenants the higher costs of building repairs and renovations, the higher cost of heating fuel, the higher cost of electricity, the higher cost of garbage collection, the higher cost of landscaping services and management fees to their tenants; and

Whereas the increase in monthly rents resulting from the BST will be a significant hardship for thousands of Nova Scotians living in apartments, many of them seniors on fixed incomes, many of them students and lower income Nova Scotians and will likely mean many will be forced to seek cheaper accommodations;

[Page 2007]

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government which claims the BST will be better for both consumers and business, table any analysis they have done on the impact this new tax will have on Nova Scotia's landlords and tenants.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 678

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 former Finance Minister passed a resolution on April 16, 1992 that agreed with the Provincial Tax Commissioner's statement that the effect of the BST would be more negative than positive; and

Whereas the former Finance Minister also agreed that with harmonization, Nova Scotia would lose more than it gained; and

Whereas the former Finance Minister called for the establishment of a Fair Tax Commission to allow for public input and comment on our taxation system before the government even considered harmonizing the GST and PST;

Therefore be it resolved that the Finance Minister heed the advice of his predecessor by immediately establishing a Fair Tax Commission to let homeowners, the working poor, seniors, retailers, the middle class and all other Nova Scotians concerned about the BST an opportunity to voice their concerns.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 679

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

[Page 2008]

Whereas doctors are fed up with this government's down-your-throat approach to governing and are leaving the province in unprecedented numbers; and

Whereas many Nova Scotia communities are desperate to find a doctor; and

Whereas the President of the Nova Scotia Medical Society recently said the BST will be the straw that breaks the camel's back for many doctors and that more will leave Nova Scotia or declare bankruptcies as a result of this new tax;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government acknowledge that the BST will aggravate an already critical doctor shortage and that it immediately identify what action it is taking to address this critical problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 680

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

Whereas the late Jonathan Alonzo Skeete was the first Black resident of Sydney to be recruited by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and

Whereas the late Constable Skeete served with distinction in the RCMP from his recruitment in 1980 to his untimely death from cancer in 1987; and

Whereas in recognition of the positive example and achievement of the late Constable Skeete the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia in partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police recently unveiled the Jonathan A. Skeete Memorial Wall of Honour at the Whitney Pier Memorial Junior High School in the community of Whitney Pier;

Therefore be it resolved that this House pay tribute to the legacy of Jonathan Skeete by honouring his outstanding contribution throughout his life and express heartfelt congratulations to all who helped make possible the recent unveiling of the Jonathan Skeete Memorial Wall of Honour.

I seek waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

It is agreed.

[Page 2009]

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. 681

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 unfair and regressive blended sales tax is bad for consumers and bad for the economy; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas the bitter pill of the BST has been swallowed by this government with the help of a $250 million bribe from Paul Martin; and

Whereas this bribe will help the government to roll out the porkbarrel at election time, but will leave most Nova Scotians suffering long-term ill effects;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the government for selling out the long-term interests of Nova Scotians for the short-term interests of the Liberal Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 682

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

Whereas the development of our ports is key to the economic future of Cape Breton and all of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Sydney Government Wharf will be officially opened by the Cape Breton-The Sydneys Member of Parliament, Russell MacLellan, this Thursday, in a demonstration of government's continued commitment to the people of Cape Breton; and

[Page 2010]

Whereas the new $12 million Sydney Government Wharf will greatly enhance the tourism and trade potential of the Sydney area, while adding to the enhanced Sydney waterfront boardwalk;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the opening of the new Sydney Government Wharf that came about due to the diligence of the Member of Parliament for Cape Breton-The Sydneys, Russell MacLellan.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 683

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

Whereas this Liberal Government has casually dismissed the views of Nova Scotians respecting toll roads, casinos and a host of other issues; and

Whereas Nova Scotians are sick and tired of this government pursuing major policy changes without meaningful consultation with key stakeholder groups and the public at large; and

Whereas the most recent example of this government's arrogant and dismissive attitude toward the people of Nova Scotia is its new $84 million plus BST consumer tax that will see Nova Scotians pay more for day to day necessities, such as home heating fuel, electricity, children's clothes and gasoline;

Therefore be it resolved that this government do the right thing, please just for once do the right thing, and commit to a public, open and meaningful consultation process so that the implications of its ill-conceived BST plan can be understood by all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 2011]

RESOLUTION NO. 684

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

Whereas the implementation of the BST will drain millions of dollars of additional money from the coffers of municipal units across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the executive of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and individual property owners are sick and tired of the continual tax grab being imposed upon them by this government; and

Whereas this government, although willing to meet with municipal officials on this issue, has turned a deaf ear to the concerns which have been expressed to them;

Therefore be it resolved that if the Ministers of Housing and Municipal Affairs and Finance are convinced no changes are required to the BST to exempt municipalities from paying this increased tax load, they immediately table appropriate and accurate information that clearly shows property taxpayers across the province will not be subjected to an astronomical increase in their municipal tax bills over the next spring and summer.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 685

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

Whereas Comeau Seafoods of Saulnierville in beautiful southwest Nova Scotia is celebrating 50 successful years in business; and

Whereas they have not only survived, but prospered in the dynamic world of the commercial fishery; and

Whereas Comeau Seafoods Ltd. continues to be a leader in the global fishery;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offers its congratulations to Comeau Seafoods on its 50th Anniversary and wishes Ben and Marcel Comeau and their employees every future success.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

[Page 2012]

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 686

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

Whereas the Minister of Education is continuing to use confrontational tactics in his efforts to move money from the teachers' group insurance fund into classrooms devastated by years of Liberal budget cuts; and

Whereas the Minister of Education's refusal to negotiate with trustees of the fund again shows this government's utter contempt for collective agreements with its employees; and

Whereas this confrontation is yet another smokescreen behind which the government is trying to hide its destructive educational policies;

Therefore be it resolved that this government abandon its bullying stance and instead bring forward constructive proposals for repairing an education system devastated by years of Liberal budget cuts.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 687

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

Whereas 30 days notice was given by the Premier prior to the beginning of the fall legislative session; and

[Page 2013]

Whereas despite this 30 day notice, the Premier of Nova Scotia is gallivanting around Toronto today attempting to sell the BS Tax, something he has not been able to do here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas before attempting to sell the rest of Canada on this latest tax grab, he concentrate more on assisting Nova Scotians who are being forced to pay nearly $100 million in taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that before visiting any other Canadian destinations, the Premier return to Nova Scotia and this Legislative Chamber and enlighten Nova Scotians as to why he is forcing them to pay more for the necessities of life such as electricity, gasoline, home heating oil and toothpaste, effective April 1, 1997.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 688

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

Whereas this government promised to consult widely before imposing the unfair and regressive BST on Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the government's BST consultation list looks more like a corporate who's who than a representative cross-section of Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the Premier is now compounding the injury to Nova Scotians by carrying on consultations with the Toronto business elite;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the government for the contemptuous way in which it is trying to foist the BST upon the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 689

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

[Page 2014]

Whereas Nova Scotians are sick and tired of a government that increasingly uses our most vulnerable in society as a tax sponge; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia School Boards Association estimates the Liberal Government's BST will cost school boards an additional $1.8 million annually; and

Whereas Nova Scotia school boards are still reeling from the $79 million cut imposed by the Liberals since 1993 as well as increased administrative costs as a result of the amalgamation of school boards recently;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education stop meekly following the Finance Department's tax and slash philosophy and start standing up for quality classroom education.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 690

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

Whereas this Liberal Government refuses to compensate hepatitis C sufferers who contracted the disease through tainted blood; and

Whereas after delaying scheduled meetings with the victims of this deadly disease, the first question the Minister of Health had the indecency to ask was whether they planned to sue the province; and

Whereas at the same time this Liberal Government denies compensation to the innocent victims of tainted blood, it pays out millions to fired bureaucrats;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government avoid the costly lawsuits his actions have provoked and that he do the honourable, fair and decent thing by negotiating in good faith a settlement package to compensate hepatitis C suffers.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable members for Hants West.

[Page 2015]

RESOLUTION NO. 691

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

Whereas hundreds of individuals were in Avondale, Hants County on Sunday afternoon to visit the construction site of the new Avon Spirit; and

Whereas the new Avon Spirit will be a magnificent vessel constructed of white oak; and

Whereas plans are underway for an expansion of a museum for the Avondale area that will detail the area's shipbuilding history;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate area residents including George Mounce and retired Vice-Admiral Hugh MacNeil for their dedication to revive Avondale as the bustling shipbuilding centre it once was.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: The member is requesting waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 692

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 Premier has his face plastered in newspaper ads that woo businesses to Nova Scotia to take advantage of the BST freebie; and

Whereas this BST freebie will be paid for through a 114 per cent tax increase on home heating fuel and a 50 per cent tax increase on electricity; and

[Page 2016]

Whereas this will add $80 to a $1,000 annual fuel bill and $45 to a $900 annual power bill;

Therefore be it resolved that the government change its newspaper ads to replace the smiling face of our Premier with the frowning features of the abused and misused taxpayers of Nova Scotia who are footing the bill for the BST, also known as the business subsidy tax.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 693

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

Whereas in July of this year the Province of New Brunswick was able to obtain $6 million in federal funding to support its growing silviculture industry; and

Whereas silviculture in Nova Scotia is equally vital in sustaining an important industry in this province; and

Whereas this government has told the public and the silviculture industry that it has already funded the silviculture industry to the tune of $6 million and it will not be accessing federal funds worth $6 million;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources acknowledge her department passed up an opportunity to secure vital federal funds to protect the Nova Scotia forest industry and the thousands of jobs that it maintains.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 694

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

Whereas an emergency is declared at a time of unforseen circumstances requiring urgent action; and

[Page 2017]

Whereas the voters of Nova Scotia on May 25,1993 could not foresee nearly $200 million in additional taxes disappearing from their pockets as a result of increases in the sales tax in 1993 by this government and in addition, the recently announced BS Tax which will lift another $85 million-plus out of their pockets annually; and

Whereas if the Government House Leader does not think the removal of an additional $84 million from the pockets of Nova Scotians in less than five months is an emergency;

Therefore be it resolved since this Savage Government is determined to ram the BS tax legislation through without providing Nova Scotians opportunity to have all the facts respecting its impact on their daily lives and on Nova Scotia's economy, generally, that the Government House Leader explain to the bricklayer in Lantz, the farmer in Steam Mill and the carpenter in Porters Lake how, in his superior wisdom, he defines a real emergency worth debating in this Legislature.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 695

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

Whereas computer technology is ever changing in today's business world; and

Whereas employment opportunities both today and tomorrow will require computer-literate individuals who are very comfortable with the wide array of computer programs and technologies; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas one of the first initiatives undertaken by the present Liberal Government in 1993 was the cancellation of a program to provide computers for all Nova Scotian schools, designed to enhance learning opportunities into the 21st Century;

Therefore be it resolved that the government stop providing just certain learning institutions with computer technologies, such as the new schools in Antigonish and Auburn High School in Cole Harbour and not for such schools as West Pictou Rural High and Pictou Academy, to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to become computer literate and an opportunity at jobs in the new age of technology.

[Page 2018]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 696

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

Whereas this year 3,000 young Nova Scotians aged 9 years to 21 years are involved in 4-H programs across the province and have completed more than 4,300 projects; and

Whereas 4-H is celebrating 75 years as an organization in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas 4-H continues its tradition of teaching young people across Nova Scotia to learn to do by doing;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all the volunteers and the participants across the province who have made 4-H such a success for 75 years.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 697

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

Whereas Scotsburn Dairy Limited's chief executive officer, James MacConnell, has recently been chosen business person of the year by the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce; and

Whereas 10 other outstanding business people were nominated for business person of the year; and

[Page 2019]

Whereas all the nominees have made a tremendous contribution to the County of Pictou;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to Scotsburn Co-op Services' Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Jim MacConnell, on being honoured as Pictou's business person of the year and that we extend our thanks and congratulations to all of this year's nominees.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 698

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

Whereas in response to the recommendations of the Lunenburg Review, this government committed to addressing the excessively high caseloads of child protection workers which the report concluded were putting Nova Scotia children in jeopardy; and

Whereas in typical insensitive and uncaring Liberal fashion this government first increased the budgets of child welfare agencies to address this critical problem, only to withdraw their support at a later date; and

Whereas this government is now saying that child welfare agencies have been operating on bloated budgets that they have not properly managed;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services stop blaming child welfare authorities for his own government's failures and he honour his government's commitment to address the excessively high caseloads that continue to put Nova Scotia's children at risk.

[Page 2020]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 699

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's pork industry is valued at approximately $25 million and has consistently been a leader in this country, in terms of the quality of hogs marketed; and

Whereas a marketing group recently stated that consumer demand for pork is strong and is growing stronger; and

Whereas the 1995 report commissioned by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing said that financial assistance is needed to ensure the future of Nova Scotia's 150 hog producers who are employing 1,500 Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing maintain the Nova Scotia Pork Development Program.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION:

UNDERGROUND ECONOMY - IMPACT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. The minister must really feel hard done by because on achieving his new portfolio he has continually been called upon to be the bearer of bad news to all Nova Scotia consumers in his attempts to sell the blended sales tax.

The minister by his own admission, after signing the deal, said that there are literally hundreds of unanswered questions, which literally raised the eyebrows of practically every Nova Scotian. Would the minister please be prepared to indicated if any studies have been done which would determine the impact of the blended sales tax on the underground economy and if such studies have been done, is he prepared to table them?

[Page 2021]

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the government and the Department of Finance have carried out many studies and have had many discussions with very many interest groups. Specifically on the underground economy I think there have been some studies done on that. I don't particularly specifically remember but I know that I had personal conversations with both the Minister of Finance for Canada and the Minister of National Revenue for Canada to see that there is a level playing field for those people who are providing goods and services.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I don't think that the minister would be perhaps overly offended if I would suggest to him that for somebody initiating and promoting a blended sales tax, a dramatic shift in tax structure, that the best he can do in terms of evaluating what the effect will be on the underground economy was a comment that he thinks perhaps some study has been done. That, sort of, I think, is roughly on the level of foggy notion.

I wonder if the minister could provide any details on what foggy notion he has relative to the impact on the underground economy here in Nova Scotia by the blended sales tax, simply an idea of a foggy notion.

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, if the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Finance for Nova Scotia didn't personally raise these matters with the responsible ministers in Ottawa, that honourable Leader of the Opposition would be squawking about that. We took it right to the top in terms of the Government of Canada. When we were dealing with harmonization, we discussed it in the presence of the two other ministers responsible. That matter is a matter that is being dealt with and there will be statements on it as we go through towards April 1, 1997.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance seems to indicate that he took it to the top, he took it to the Government of Canada. I would suggest very strongly what the minister did, he has given away the Nova Scotia farm to the Government of Canada.

Now my question by way of final supplementary to the minister. It has been estimated that the current value of the underground economy is approaching $100 million. Would the minister be prepared to agree that it is entirely conceivable with this increase in consumer tax load that the underground economy could, in fact, double once this new tax is in place?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the Opposition suggests that the government and I have given away the farm to the Government of Canada. Well, I just want to quote from an article, just very briefly, written by a member of this Assembly. The heading of this article was a letter to the editor in the Chronicle-Herald and it was published on July 27, 1995. I would be glad to table a copy. The heading is: THE TIME HAS COME TO GET ON WITH TAX HARMONIZATION. Just briefly, it says in part, "Given that virtually every government in the country recognizes the need to reduce business red tape, to streamline government services, to reduce the deficit, and to ensure that each and every business plays

[Page 2022]

by the tax rules, it's strange that we hear so little about harmonizing the two taxes. While not a simple process, the benefits of harmonization would seem to far outweigh the political time and energy required to make it a reality.".

Finally, I will conclude - and I will table this - "It's time for our provincial leaders, all of whom espouse the need to support small business, to reduce taxes and eliminate deficit financing, to move from rhetoric to concrete action by bringing harmonization to the top of the political agenda.". The author was none other than a member from Pictou County who sits across there in the same caucus, Donald McInnes, the member of the Legislature for Pictou West, and I table this. (Prolonged Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: SUBSIDY - INVESTED

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, that will be hard to follow, but I will do my best.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. Nova Scotians know that in exchange for committing to the BS Tax, the federal government is giving $250 million to Nova Scotia. Some have described this as a bribe of sorts. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance if he would confirm reports that this $250 million is in the bank here in Nova Scotia, accruing interest, and that the money is available to be spent in the current fiscal year?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Money was given by the Government of Canada because there is $100 million less being collected annually in Nova Scotia, which is good news for everybody because it creates jobs. That should be good news and even the members from the Third Party should welcome that. Yes, that money is in an account here, being very carefully shepherded and husbanded so it is available, not only for this year - actually it is for the year that begins next year and the following two or three years - to protect us against any decrease in our revenues. But, yes, that money is invested and is earning interest so that it will accrue to the benefit of all taxpayers.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the legislators here in Nova Scotia still must approve this deal; legislation has to be introduced in order for this deal to become law. The question that many Nova Scotians are asking me and my colleagues is, what if we reject it? What if, in fact, some of the backbench Liberal MLAs wake up, listen to their constituents and decide to vote against it? What if some of those people - in fact, enough of them - decide to vote against it and the deal gets torpedoed, what happens then?

[Page 2023]

My question to the Minister of Finance is, can you assure Nova Scotians, and all members of this Legislature, that there is no penalty associated with the signing of this deal, in other words, if the legislators of this House agree with Nova Scotians that this is a bad deal for Nova Scotia, then we can reject it without having to pay some kind of penalty to the federal government?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Third Party did not fall off a turnip truck around here lately that I know of. He knows full well, he has been in this House for a number of years and frequently tax measures are approved after they are introduced in the budget. This is a similar procedure. Naturally the Assembly will rule on it; the agreement does not take effect until April 1, 1997 and, of course, we will be guided by what the vote is in here.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, that certainly does not give much of a sense of confidence to many voters in Nova Scotia who are going to be talking to their government MLAs about exactly what they think they should do with talking to their government MLAs about exactly what they think they should do with respect to this deal.

[3:00 p.m.]

My final supplementary to the minister, Mr. Speaker, deals again with the $250 million that the minister has acknowledged is in the bank, is accruing interest, and is available to be spent this year and maybe next year and maybe the year after.

I want to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, are there any parameters affecting how that money is going to be spent? Is there a drawdown schedule, for example, whereby that money will be used over the next three to four years to ensure that it is, in fact, maintained to compensate for the $100 million less in revenue that we are going to be receiving as a result of the BST deal, or will this money simply be used as political fodder for the Liberal Party to try to pave its way to re-election in 1997?

MR. GILLIS: I think the honourable member is not happy that there is an extra $100 million, or will be starting April 1, 1997, sloshing around in the economy which will create jobs and put people to work, especially young people. That is what the effect of it will be, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member need not worry; that money is compensation for lost revenues because there are less taxes and that will be there, due compensation over the next two to four years. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: REVENUE LOSS - LOWER

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.The minister will recall this document that we all saw for the first time in the dying minutes of the

[Page 2024]

last day of the spring sitting. Not only was it the first time that we saw it as an Opposition, the shock on the faces of the government members when that short debate followed indicated to me, very clearly, that no member on the government side, save the Minister of Finance of the day, had seen that document prior to its being tabled in the House.

In the course of going through that document, which many of us have on many occasions, one of the figures given there is that the net loss of provincial revenues as a result of the Blended Sales Tax will be $120 million. That figure was recently revised downward to a net loss of $100 million, and I find that a little difficult to track. I wonder if the minister could explain why the number was adjusted downward, even though he has since announced a number of new rebate programs to help soften the negative impact of the BST on certain sectors - a move, that in anyone's mind would seem to result in an increase in a net loss to the province - could the Minister of Finance explain that kind of bookkeeping?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: I am sure that the honourable member is fully familiar. He has the document there and he should go through it and see the benefits to various sectors of the economy; he should go through, Mr. Speaker, and see the effects. In construction there is an extra $100 million that will be available, that will not be paid in taxes. So if somebody is building a new plant to hire people and put people to work, that will be less expensive to do and to build roads and to build schools and facilities that are badly needed in Nova Scotia. The member can run through the list. In transportation, communication, utilities there is $27 million; retailers, there is over $16 million.

So this money will be available. These business inputs will be in the economy and the honourable Leader of the Opposition need not worry about it.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for an answer and someday I may ask the question to which that was the answer.

By way of supplementary. It was earlier established that the minister was not aware of any study. He had no personal knowledge of any study which would indicate the size of the increase in the underground economy as a result of this increase in consumer taxes. Is the minister prepared to agree that if the underground economy does take a jump - and there is good information that suggests that this will be so - that it would have an impact on his projections with respect to the net revenue loss to the province? Would the minister comment on that, please?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the honourable Leader of the Opposition that in the next month or two there will be a program announced, in cooperation with Revenue Canada, which department will enforce the harmonized sales tax which will deal with any problems that are created by the underground economy and level the playing field.

[Page 2025]

I also might refer, because I didn't read extensively, to the letter that was written by his colleague from Pictou West. In part, the member for Pictou West said in July 1995, "Harmonization would also, . . .", and this is supported by an organization I know the Leader of the Opposition would agree with, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, ". . . slow the growth of the underground economy.". So we are getting it both ways. The member advocated it and we are going to do it.

DR. HAMM: By way of final supplementary, the Minister of Finance is faced with a serious conundrum because he has a program in front of him that will grow the underground economy, which will cut down revenues, and by his own admission, this program has cut tax revenues. Would the minister indicate how it is that he plans to come in with balanced budgeting and to accommodate the revenue losses that will occur with the blended sales tax. Will he solve that problem with further cuts to education, further cuts to health and further cuts to community services?

MR. GILLIS: If it wasn't for the irresponsibility of the people who sit around them and their predecessors in that Tory Government, we would not be $9 billion in debt. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, we are going to grow the economy, we will have more revenues from the harmonized tax and from corporate tax and personal income tax. That is how we will make up the revenue and we have balanced the budget instead of them talking about it for 15 years. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

EDUC. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION:

SCHOOL BOARDS - EFFECT ALLEVIATE

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education and Culture. The minister will be aware that the Nova Scotia School Boards Association has done some analysis of the adverse impact of the BST on their operations and, in fact, they carried a resolution which said, as part of its supporting comment, "Under the government proposal to blend the PST and GST in Atlantic Canada, boards would have to pay a 15% combined GST/PST and get back a 10.20% rebate which equates to 68%. This new proposal will more than double the current net tax expense for school boards from 2.24% to 4.8%. The Federal/Provincial Governments' plan to blend the Provincial Sales Tax with the Federal Goods and Services Tax and apply the same rebate percentage will result in an estimated expense increase of $2,148,779.79 per year for the school boards of Nova Scotia.".

I ask the Minister of Education if he can give us an indication as to how it is and where it is that the school boards of Nova Scotia, already reeling, as they are, from $79 million in cuts from the province, will make up this approximately $2 million shortfall. Class sizes are getting bigger and bigger, programs are getting smaller and smaller and the quality of education is deteriorating. I ask the minister if he will indicate to us how and where, with his

[Page 2026]

help, and the help of the government of which he is a member, will the school boards of Nova Scotia be cushioned from this $2 million hit as a result of the BST?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, just let me set a small context here in relation to the context set by the honourable member. We are one of the few provinces in the country that can boast spending hundreds of millions of dollars more in interest payment on our debt than we do to educate all of our children, thanks to the lot over there. (Applause) The answer to his question is, we have been working. Thanks to the lot over there, one of the few provinces in the country that can make that claim. Hundreds of millions of dollars more than we used to educate all of our children.

We have met with the School Boards Association, we have worked with the Department of Finance, we are working on the numbers because $2 million was exaggerated, it is more than is actually going to be felt. The honourable member will know also that GST rebates on books was something initiated by this Premier, initiated by this province. It has a tremendous impact on universities and schools.

But to the honourable member's question, yes, we are working with the school boards and yes, we will minimize, if not offset, the negative impact of HST, if in fact there is any negative impact of HST.

MR. DONAHOE: I understand then, Mr. Speaker, from what I have just heard, by way of first supplementary through you to the Minister of Education, that the Minister of Education today has given a guarantee to this House and through this House to the school boards of Nova Scotia that the school boards of Nova Scotia will, in fact, not be forced to redirect any additional money from classroom education to cover the cost of BST, he will shelter them from any and all potential adverse consequence of the BST impact upon school board operation. Is that the guarantee he gives today?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the guarantee and the commitment we have made to the school boards is to work with them on this issue, to examine the numbers in detail, to make sure that if there is any negative impact that we take a look at ways of cushioning, of offsetting those impacts on those boards. The fact is, there may not be any negative impacts, as we work through the numbers with the School Boards Association and with the Department of Finance.

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I can't help but be struck that this distinguished minister sits in rather close proximity to his predecessor Minister of Education, who let the school boards of Nova Scotia and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia believe that there would be $11 million injected into the school board operations. That proved to be an absolute fabrication and a sham. It simply didn't happen. It is, in fact, the case that there are fewer dollars today making their way into the classrooms of Nova Scotia for the use of the hard,

[Page 2027]

beleaguered (Interruptions) I have a question and all they've got is idle chatter and noise and it is becoming apparent to the people (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, would you ask the former Minister of Education to kindly keep his mouth shut, would you do that for us, please? It might add to the ability of the people of Nova Scotia to come to understand what is going on with the schools of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

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

MR. DONAHOE: I ask the Minister of Education if he will tell this House this afternoon how many meeting he has thus had with the school boards of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, officials of his department and other relevant players to address the issue which I raised with him, namely to save the school boards from the adverse impact of the BST and what other meetings and with whom are scheduled now?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I would be quite happy to provide a list of the meetings that have taken place but I will reassure not only the member opposite but the members of this House that we are working collaboratively with the School Boards Association on what, if any, impact there will be from HST, it may in fact be positive. But he has my assurance that we continue to work with those school boards, we meet with them regularly, I would be happy to provide a schedule of those meetings.

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

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: WELL DRILLING - EXEMPT

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and welcome to the Chair. My question is for the honourable Minister of Finance. On average in Nova Scotia, 4,000 new wells are constructed each year to supply potable water. Many of the customers needing potable water are young people starting out. Over 75 per cent of Nova Scotians are solely dependent on groundwater from drilled or dug wells. Approximately, 70 per cent of the cost associated with drilling a well is for labour, which is currently taxed at 7 per cent through the GST. The consumer pays PST on only the material. The arithmetic on this brings us to the fact that on a $3,000 well, the extra BS Tax will mean an additional cost of $240.

Water, Mr. Speaker, I am sure you would agree and I feel most members in this House would agree is a necessity of life, as is food. Bottled water and municipally supplied water is tax exempt, food is tax exempt. Is this government prepared to also ensure that the drilling of wells for life-giving water is also going to be tax exempt, at least from the BST?

[Page 2028]

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: I think the honourable member is looking at this from a very narrow point of view, if you take one specific example. But you have to realize and I quoted the number and I am sure that the member would be familiar because his Leader was quoting from the document that was tabled in the spring session about the savings to construction. Well-drilling companies will save tax (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, well-drilling companies and other companies doing business will save tax on the equipment, their drills, any oil and gas or any inputs, any office costs they have. They can be more competitive in drilling these wells and I think this member is exaggerating and I do not think the cost is going to go up any amount such as the honourable member is mentioning because there are all these input tax credits which can be passed along by the contractor.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, again I repeat, approximately 70 per cent of the cost associated with drilling a well is for labour. Now, speaking of tax exemptions and talking about tax exemptions, what is the status of the tire tax as far as the application of the new BS Tax goes?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is talking about tires; maybe he is talking about protecting the environment such as we have done, keeping hundreds and millions of cans and bottles from our roadsides, enhancing tourism in Nova Scotia and keeping people at work in a billion-dollar industry. I am sure that that is what he is talking about, so I am not sure just which aspect he is coming from. If the tire, for example, goes up in cost by, say, $3 as is proposed under the recycling, I assume that the tax would apply on that just as I assume the GST applies in other provinces, including Tory Ontario where there is a tire levy.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, final supplementary. This is a very confusing and complicated job killer that this government is bringing in, no question. Now, the Nova Scotia trucking industry is still reeling from the recent Savage Government imposition of rate decreases and cost increases will the minister ensure that the Nova Scotia trucking industry receives full exemption from the BS Tax for the purchase of fuel?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the harmonized tax applies to fuels of various types and he is indicating concern about the trucking industry and he mentioned - in the preceding question - tires. The fact is, on a $500 tire there will be considerable saving with the tax dropping from 19 per cent, almost to 15 per cent, so you are looking at a $10 or $20 or $30 saving on an individual tire. So it is a balancing act and there is no loss in that particular case.

[Page 2029]

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

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: AGREEMENT - NEGATION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Finance. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I have made a clear commitment on behalf of my caucus colleagues and the NDP (Interruptions) that, if elected, we would scrap the BST. Very clearly, Mr. Speaker . . .

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

MR. CHISHOLM: I am afraid the government cannot hear me over the Leader of the Opposition wanting to tell us what his position is. Anyway, my question, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Finance. Can he assure Nova Scotians that he and his government have not tied the hands of any government that may come forward, after the next election, committed to scrapping the BST?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, we have signed this agreement that applies for four years, the three provinces that are involved and the Government of Canada, that is the way the arrangement - the deal - is set up. It is all, of course, subject to federal government and the three provinces agreeing to pass it in their various Legislatures, but maybe what I will do is table a copy of the basic agreement and the member can see for himself what the implications are and then he will know and he won't need to bring it up here; he will see the implications of it.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister making that information available to us I would not have had to ask the question if he had made it available to Nova Scotians when they signed the darn thing back a month ago, if he had let Nova Scotians know what is going on and got out of the back rooms and out of the closets on this.

Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary. The government, the Minister of Finance as Deputy Premier, the former Minister of Finance made a commitment to consult with Nova Scotians over the details of the blended sales tax and the impact that it was going to have on the economy. We have got a list of who this government has consulted with and let me tell you, it is a who's who of the corporate sector in the Province of Nova Scotia. There is only one group in here that represents ordinary Nova Scotians and that is the Consumer Association of Canada.

I want to ask the minister what he and his government are doing, or are going to do, to facilitate Nova Scotians having input into exactly what the BST is all about, what impact it is going to have on them and on the economy of this province and an opportunity for those same Nova Scotians to talk to his MLAs in his government benches about exactly what they think and how they feel about the BST?

[Page 2030]

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I just want to mention that the honourable Leader of the Third Party implies that we were trying to keep back the agreement. I was asked by somebody you know well and I returned that agreement quite promptly. When you are asked for something, naturally you do not go out foisting yourself off on other people, but Mr. Peters, the head of the NSGEU, asked for a copy of it and I sent it to him, which I think is reasonable.

The second question you asked here today, I gave it. That does not seem like somebody who is hiding it. In terms of consultation, there is a list of the 80 or 90 meetings that my predecessor was involved in, and myself with approximately 25 per cent of them. Again, we were not trying to shut anybody out, but those people that were in touch and asked to meet, I did not turn down requests for any meetings, with the Consumer Association and any other group. That was just one. They asked for a meeting with the minister and they had it. The same with various other groups.

So I think the honourable member has to be fair in terms of letting people know. We all know that eventually when we get to discuss this bill, if the bill receives approval in principle in second reading, there is the Law Amendment process and we know that the hearings can go on for days. I am the past chairman of the Law Amendments Committee and I know it can take many days. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member should consider withdrawing. We had 200 individual presentations on one particular bill. That does not sound like cutting it off to me. The people are welcome to come in any time. (Applause)

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians should not have to beg this minister to provide them with information about a tax change that is unprecedented in the Province of Nova Scotia. We are talking about an imposition of $84 million on the consumers. We are talking about the government making a decision to forgo $100 million in tax revenue. How many hospitals is that going to mean are going to be closed? How many home care workers are going to be laid off as a result of this deal? Nova Scotians deserve to hear.

My final supplementary I want to ask this minister. This is a significant change to the tax regime in the Province of Nova Scotia. This government has had an opportunity to talk to Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, and they have not done that. I want to ask this minister to explain to Nova Scotians why it is when you had the choice, you spoke to the who's who of the corporate sector and you neglected ordinary hard-working Nova Scotians and you are proceeding to ram the BST through on Nova Scotians, through this Legislature and impose it on us before the law is even imposed?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I hope I am not hearing what I think I am hearing, that these honourable members who say they are standing up for the working people are against jobs. What is wrong with people that create jobs? Is there anything wrong with meeting with

[Page 2031]

the Federation of Independent Business or other people that create jobs? As usual we are only hearing part of the story.

We talked about some of the people that were heard, including the Canadian Bankers and also talked about the Consumer Association. I wonder does the honourable Leader of the Third Party feel that groups such as the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers shouldn't be heard? (Interruption) I wonder does that honourable member think that members of the Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations are not Nova Scotians? Does he think that the Tourism Association of Nova Scotia are not Nova Scotians? I have a couple more and these meetings were held with these groups.

AN HON. MEMBER: Come on over to Spryfield and talk to my constituents for a while. (Interruptions)

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

MR. GILLIS: I just have a couple more that I want to cite because he doesn't seem to think these people are Nova Scotians and I do. For example, the Book Sellers of Nova Scotia, we are for them, I don't know about that honourable member. These people are Nova Scotians and they have lived their lives in Nova Scotia, the Seniors Federation of Nova Scotia, they are Nova Scotians too. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

BUS. & CONS. SERV. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION:

DISABLED - MOTOR VEHICLES EXEMPTION

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Business and Consumer Services in her capacity as the Minister Responsible for the Registry of Motor Vehicles. As the minister is probably aware, back in the 1980's the government of the day, a government that had the feelings of the people at heart, exempted the payment of the health services tax on vehicles for the disabled, vehicles that had to have controls so that these people were mobile. I wonder if the minister is aware of that present exemption and I wonder if the minister is aware as to the effect of the blended sales tax on that exemption?

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, yes we are very much aware of it in my department. In actual fact I know that the Minister of Finance is having meetings with the very people that it affects in order to deal with it and to treat them appropriately.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister has had meetings with several concerns and absolutely nothing has ensued. I understand from the minister that the deal is signed, sealed and delivered. Is the minister saying to this member that we are now in a position to make

[Page 2032]

changes to that agreement that are going to exempt more of the various sectors of the Province of Nova Scotia?

MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the member is obviously not listening. I think the Minister of Finance has said on any number of occasions, he is having consultations, he is having discussions but the Minister of Finance says he would like to answer this question for you directly so I will pass it to him.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: As all honourable members know there has been a program for the disabled in terms of motor vehicles so they could be adapted for their use. The intention is and I understand there are meetings being held this week with the Disabled Persons Commission to work out a replacement program for this and I understand things are proceeding. There are quite a few meetings with various groups and I am not just sure what happened today or the last few days but I understand consultations are taking place currently with the Disabled Persons Commission on this very matter.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is passing strange because I spoke to the minister's staff in the Department of Finance and they say that this was not a matter which was going to be dealt with at the provincial level and as far as they were concerned the federal people had the final say and the decision had been made that there would be no exemption for motor vehicles for the disabled.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, we try to respond to the calls, our staff do everything they can. But there has been a program to assist, there still is a program, nothing has been taken away. We are talking April 1, 1997, before harmonization begins. I guess they forget that. As I told the honourable members if they would pay attention, we are working on a replacement program that will replace the present program to help disabled persons in adapting motor vehicles.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West on a new question.

MUN. AFFS. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION:

MUNICIPALITIES - EFFECT COUNTERACT

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. The minister has acknowledged that the new BS Tax will have a negative impact upon municipalities. He even went so far as to admit that property taxes may have to go up to pay for it. Could the minister indicate if his government has made any offer to the municipalities to counter the negative impact of the BS Tax? If so, would he indicate specifically what provisions this government is willing to make with the municipalities?

[Page 2033]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer this question. The Minister of Finance, myself and our staffs and members of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and their executive and staff have met on this very issue. We have further meetings slated to address this particular issue as they wanted to do a further consultation within their own membership as to the issue relative to offsets for any immediate - and I will underline immediate - negative impact on the municipal units. So yes, there have been ongoing discussions.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I have met with about 45 municipal units at this time. I am not aware that I have made an admission that, in fact, property taxes would have to increase to adjust to any impact at all on the harmonized tax. That was in the preamble. I do not want to dwell on that particular issue. I am not aware that I made that statement because I do not believe that that will be necessary. I think this will be able to be dealt with within the normal budgetary processes of the affected municipal units.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer. I think that is what it was.

Will the minister confirm that the BS Tax applied to inter-municipal contracts will mean municipalities will have to pay more for purchasing services from other municipalities?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I could defer this to the Minister of Finance, but the answer is no. Our understanding at this time is that the core services normally provided by a municipal unit that is sharing inter-municipally will not be affected by any particular harmonization tax.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is also again to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. I wonder if the minister could tell us how all this fits in with their stated commitment to keep a greater cooperation between the municipal units. You are talking to them but you haven't come around and told us what you are going to do to help these municipal units.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, meetings are ongoing. We are meeting, I think, on Monday, as a matter of fact, with the Union of Municipalities. (Interruption) Okay. There will be a further meeting, anyway. The whole area of helping and assisting, the issue is one of economy, of jobs in this province. We are growing the economy through initiatives such as this. This is only part of a package of the whole deal of tax and business incentives. The municipal units are working together. There is increasing evidence of that. I think this is all part of the package.

We will work with the municipal units, we will listen to them and we will respond and assist them in any way that we can. They are a level of government as well, Mr. Speaker. They are responsible and they are taking that responsibility forward. I am sure that they will

[Page 2034]

adjust to this particular issue. As the economy grows and expands, they will benefit like all Nova Scotians in any changes that this government brings in in that direction to improve the economy. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS. - WESTVILLE: SUBSIDENCE - UPDATE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a question for the Minister of Housing. In 1994, as all members of the House are now aware, three homes in Westville were affected by subsidence. Since that time a number of ministers have been responsible for Housing in this province. Each minister has given some indication that a solution was forthcoming for those victims of subsidence. In response to direct questioning in the fall of 1994 - the minister can check and verify this in Hansard - the then minister responsible, the Honourable Guy Brown, said he would have an answer to the people within one month. Well, many months have gone by and the victims of subsidence in Westville still have not had an answer from the Government of Nova Scotia as to their responsibility in this issue.

I cannot help but remind the government, again, that they are the custodian for the underground workings of the Diamond Mine and, therefore, have a responsibility when those workings collapse and affect the properties above. My specific question to the minister is, when will he have an answer for the residents on Diamond Street in Westville relative to the loss of their homes and the destruction of their homes due to subsidence from a collapsing of the Diamond Mine workings?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I hesitate to respond to some of the preamble of the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition because he is predisposing that the province has inherited all of the responsibility. I guess everyone else has walked away, including the previous government, but be that as it may, I have met with the people in Westville who have experienced this problem. Our program is in place, we have made initiatives to them, options have been provided and we are working with other departments of government to look at the whole liability issue, the issue of programs in the future. The immediate programs, the current programs are addressing the needs of those people.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I think in fairness to the minister, I understand that he is trying to work at a solution, but the minister must also understand the frustration of people who get answers that always talk about programs, initiatives and looking at, because those were the same words that were used in the answers that they had received in the past. I would remind the minister that the previous government did not step away from this problem and the victims of subsidence in Westville in 1989 were, in fact, compensated by the Government of Nova Scotia. So, it is only this government that has stepped away from a solution.

[Page 2035]

My question to the minister is, would the minister give an accounting to indicate whether or not more money has been spent by the government on trips to the United States in looking at solutions to this problem and, as well, conducting studies, an amount of money that would at least be equivalent, and no doubt more than that which would be required by the victims of subsidence in Westville to devise a satisfactory compensation package?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not clear on the costs of trips to the United States; I know there were some trips. I just want to say to the House, in answer to that honourable member, that the Party he belongs to, that formed the previous government, did exactly with subsidence in the Westville area as they did to everything else in Nova Scotia. They threw some immediate dollars at it, unsatisfactorily, and then walked away with no long-term plan. That is exactly what that government did and that was the way they did business. We are not going to do that. That is the answer that I give to the honourable member today in this House. (Applause)

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the residents of Diamond Street will be impressed by the minister's righteous indignation. My question to the minister is quite specific, by way of final supplementary. When will this minister have a solution for the residents on Diamond Street in Westville?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are working with the residents on Diamond Street in Westville and we have programs in place, we are trying to address their immediate needs and we are in the process of developing some long-term plans to address this particular issue.

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

FIN. - BUSINESS SUBSIDIES: JOB CREATION - ANALYSIS

MR. JOHN HOLM: I would like to address a question through you to the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance. The government has said that it chooses to increase the amount that Nova Scotians are going to be forced to pay for essentials, like home heat, gasoline, electricity, children's clothing, property taxes and the list goes on so the government can have tens of millions of extra dollars to give away as subsidies to businesses. According to this $38,000 ad, the Premier currently is in Ontario offering those Nova Scotian consumers tax increases to the businesses to locate here in Nova Scotia.

My question to the minister who made the point earlier that obviously we are not concerned about jobs, what evidence, what analysis does this government have that shows that there are actually going to be new jobs created in Nova Scotia as a result of the latest freebies that this government is offering to come-from-away business?

[Page 2036]

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: We know that we will be more competitive, I think we will come through it. Look within the harmonized region, the tax of 15 per cent, no longer will people be able to sell into here, such as L.L. Bean or a computer store or a computer company, a small company in Toronto shipping their goods in and computing with friends of ours down the street who have to pay for our various taxes and they ship into consumers and they do not pay the provincial tax. That will now be required by Revenue Canada, it will make our companies more competitive (Applause)

The harmonized tax is 15 per cent when things are shipped in from the United States internationally or from elsewhere in Canada by the TV shopping network. The tax will have to be paid, we will not have evasion. On the other hand, when we are shipping outside because there is no harmonized tax in Ontario or Alberta, we can ship in and the tax is only 7 per cent and that puts us at a competitive advantage and there is no tax on exports. That is how we are going to create 3,000 jobs (Applause)

MR. HOLM: I just waited for a moment because I knew that the minister would want to hear my question and not want it drowned out by heckles from his colleagues on his benches.

The short answer that the minister gave was that we have no analysis, we have no studies. He said that this is going to make us, supposedly, more competitive. Well, I will remind the minister that Quebec has the fastest growing unemployment rate in the country, Quebec has had a 100 per cent input flow-through. Also, Alberta has had a zero per cent provincial sales tax for years.

My question to the minister is very simply this, what evidence does the minister and this government have that industries and businesses have been flooding to Quebec, flooding to Alberta from their neighbouring provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, et cetera, to take advantage of that so-called competitive edge and if he does not have any, could he explain why the situation is going to be any different here in Nova Scotia for which he is now going to demand that the consumers of this province pay tens of millions of dollars extra each and every year for your latest give-away?

MR. GILLIS: I think the member needs to do a little more research. By his own admission, Alberta does not have a provincial sales tax, but their economy is doing darn well, thank you very much. Just see what the impact is. Further, he talks about the Province of Quebec. Revenue Canada is not involved in seeing that tax is collected from other parts of the country or internationally and that makes a difference and that is why jobs will be created here.

[Page 2037]

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians certainly want to believe that what is being proposed here in the BS Tax is more than simply an attempt to bail out the federal cousins for breaking the GST promise.

Mr. Speaker, in the report that was tabled by the former minister in May 1996 - I will quote one line - it says, on page whatever it is, under the introduction, that cautious estimates in Nova Scotia are that 3,000 full-time permanent jobs will be created by this tax cut. What I want to ask the minister very specifically for is, will the minister table the detailed analysis upon which that projection was based? Will he table that here in the House or admit that this is a pipe dream, it is a hope, it is part of our Christmas wish list, but we have absolutely nothing upon which to substantiate the projections that we are making?

MR. GILLIS: I would be happy to check to see the financial analysis that was done. I am sure that the Department of Finance in cooperation with the Economic Renewal Agency did work on this and these are the projections that we will create 3,000 new jobs and grow our GDP by almost 1 per cent. I think that is positive because it gets people back to work. I would be glad to undertake what studies have been done and if it is appropriate, I will see that they are made available.

MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

FIN.: PST & GST HARMONIZATION - IMPACT

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Finance. On October 23rd the minister said that the BST means money in the hands of Nova Scotians and not in the government coffers and that money will stay in the economy and it will create jobs and all kinds of good things. The minister was looking for what he called a win/win situation, a win for consumers and a win for business. Well, I suggest to the minister through you, Mr. Speaker, that the BST is not a win for the average Nova Scotia family.

I wonder if the minister will agree with me that the average family of four which spends $117 per month for electricity will now pay an additional $67.39 over the year for electricity, that same family paying $134 a month on a 10-month home heating fuel contract will now pay $97.20 more a year on that home heating contract, that that same family paying approximately $110 every two weeks for gasoline will pay $288.80 per year as a result of BST and that same family paying approximately $500 a year for running shoes, winter coats, boots, overshoes and sweaters and the like for their children will pay an additional $40, a total of $493.39? Does the Minister of Finance agree that because the BST rises to 15 per cent on those issues that those numbers are accurate and in fact families of Nova Scotia will experience a very serious tax hit, tax cost, in those areas? Would he agree with that?

[Page 2038]

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member did list quite an extensive list of selected items where items are going up, but of course he did not take the time to go over the list, because a number of items go down. For example, the average trip to a grocery store. We know that food is not taxed. Right now you are paying almost 19 per cent on many items that are sold in the grocery store such as soaps and papers and candy and miscellaneous things, so in fact when you go to the grocery store your bill will go down. So you should give the list of those that are going down as well as going up. I am not going to bore people with a whole long list, but this is a total package in terms of the impact and there are substantial, $53 million worth, tax reductions including the $8 million of the low income. Since we are using (Interruptions)

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

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, since we are using statistics, the impact of the income tax changes, both the low income reduction and the general tax rate - and this is on a very modest income - for a married person, one spouse working, with two children, the annual saving is $344.

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

MR. DONALD MCINNES: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable Minister of Finance tabled a letter in the House here during Question Period that I wrote to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on July 19, 1995, re harmonization. The minister did quote from the letter, selectively; he didn't read all the letter. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, do I have the floor?

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

MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, quote, "However, harmonizing the two taxes must be done for the right reasons, that is, to make things simpler for business and more efficient for government, not to increase government revenues by taking a bigger tax bite.".

My point regarding the letter was that there should be a national harmonization of the GST and PST. Mr. Speaker, I want to assure this House that my thoughts on harmonization are that there should be a national policy on it, but not a regional policy. I agree with our caucus' position that it shouldn't be a regional policy. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Your point is noted.

[Page 2039]

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the honourable member for Hants West asked a question, about people with disabilities, today at noon. As the minister responsible for people with disabilities, the Disabled Persons Commission, I met with them today at noontime and I was informed that the Department of Community Services, the Disabled Persons Commission and the Department of Finance were working to a solution to make sure (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, the honourable member talked about discussions and consultations and the rest of it. We are talking with the people now, while we sit here and I was told - he could call, by the way, the people in charge of the Disabled Persons Commission and talk to them - they told me today at 1:00 p.m. that, in fact, they were very pleased with the discussions, they were very hopeful and they were . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Which group was that?

MR. MACEACHERN: The Disabled Persons Commission. Charlie MacDonald is the guy, you talk to them, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The people you were asking about.

MR. MACEACHERN: Talk to Charlie MacDonald. Charlie MacDonald is a part of the discussions. They reported, with representatives across the province, they are very pleased with the discussions and to quote Mr. MacDonald, "Things are going very well.".

I asked him if there is anything I can do. He said no, we are very pleased with the discussions and we are hopeful. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The minister has made his point, but it is not a point of order.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 2040]

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 14.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I call Bill No. 14, I wish to indicate to the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the late debate. The honourable member for Halifax Citadel will be debating:

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance immediately cancel the current blended sales tax agreement.

That will be debated at 6:00 p.m. this evening.

Bill No. 14 - Occupiers' Liability Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to rise and speak further on Bill No. 14. Just to recap on what I was saying last evening, I will be voting in favour of this bill on second reading; however, I do have severe reservations about the right of rural landowners to protect their property against trespassers.

I was telling the members of the Assembly, Mr. Speaker, last evening, that I had considerable difficulty one time a few years ago when I owned my property in Falmouth, which had a reasonable sized acreage along with it. Whereas my house was up a long laneway, that certain persons from within the neighbourhood, not for malicious purposes, but just to have a good fun time, used to roar up and down my driveway and run around my house and cause consternation at 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

I decided that in order to prevent that, that I would bar the entry to my driveway. It was an old property that I had and there were two big brick posts at the bottom of the driveway and there used to be wrought iron gates across that driveway, but the gates had disappeared, so I ran a piece of chain across the driveway. I did mark it. I hung a couple of red pieces of tape on the chains. On a Saturday evening, whenever I got home, I would put up the chain with the flags on it. Anyway, on this particular night, Mr. Speaker, there was a fairly heavy snowfall and I guess the local characters decided they would be out on their skidoos in force and they went to rear up my driveway and the first chap that did that, of course, hooked into the chain and he somersaulted off the machine. He did not hurt himself. He fell in the snow. But, however, he certainly busted up the skis and the front of his snowmobile.

I was not aware of this, but I got a letter a short time later informing me that I was going to be taken to court and sued for a certain amount of money. I think it was $680, and some odd cents, to pay for the repairs to the machine. I was irate and I went down to see my lawyer and he said, well, you are going to have a tough time because you did not put up any

[Page 2041]

notice at the bottom of your driveway to indicate that there was a chain hanging across the driveway, that you did not want trespassers running up and down your driveway.

That is why I made the point last night, Madam Speaker, that to me there is a double standard, because if, indeed, somebody went up a driveway in an urban area such as Halifax or Dartmouth or downtown Sydney, that the police would be there in nothing flat and the persons who were violating the property and violating the rights of the individual homeowner would probably end up in jail in nothing flat, whereas in the country, I, as an example, ended up with a bill to compensate somebody who was not invited to my property, who had violated my right to peace and quiet on a Sunday morning and, as I say, bent one of their machines and now wanted me to repair it. Well, to make a long story short, I did, indeed, pay the expenses of repairing that particular snowmobile because I figured it was not worth the costs of going to court.

So I would just like to point out to the minister that there is a difficulty in a rural area to protect your property against unwanted trespassers. You can hang up signs, you can do all kinds of things, but it certainly does not stop people from coming on to your property. For instance, I had an apple orchard, a fairly large acreage at that time, with apple trees. They were fairly old apple trees, but nevertheless, they used to attract a lot of deer and people used to like to hunt on my property. Well, I had two young sons who, at that time, used to run around on all-terrain vehicles and I certainly did not want them having taken pot-shots taken at them, so I posted my place as no hunting. But, however, I can assure you that that in no way deterred most of the hunters who came to see deer down in the apple orchard.

[4:00 p.m.]

So I think that this piece of legislation, Madam Speaker, suffers from a lack of focus for the rural landowner. It is my belief that if you own property, no matter where it is, whether it is in an urban or a rural area, that you own that property and you are entitled to your right to enjoy it as you see fit, providing you abide by the laws of the land. Unfortunately, as I say, I think in the country that you sort of lose that because people say, well, you know, the land belongs to the people. It is our right to go out and hike on your property; it is our right to go out and hunt on your property; it is our right to take the kids out there and camp up in the back forty of your place somewhere; it is our right to be able to enjoy your property just as fully as you, the owner, are able to enjoy that property.

So, Madam Speaker, in this particular legislation, I would hope that someone, in Law Amendments possibly, will come up with an amendment that will indeed ensure greater privacy and greater right of ownership for rural landowners than presently exists. Thank you.

[Page 2042]

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon and speak on An Act Respecting the Liability of Owners and Other Occupiers of Land and Other Premises. My colleague for Hants West very eloquently articulated some of the concerns that he had and I think the concerns that the member expressed regarding the rights of the landowner are shared by many Nova Scotians throughout the province.

I know that we cannot go through the various clauses in the bill until we get into Committee of the House on Bills, but I think most members in the House and particularly those from the legal fraternity, perhaps like the member for Hants East, would have some comment on Clause 5 for example. That directly relates to a person who is on the premises without the permission, Madam Speaker, of the occupier and that person is on that property for the purpose of committing an offence against the person or against that person's property.

Now, I am paraphrasing just so we can talk about that principle. If somebody is on your property - and I don't care if you live in Bedford or you live in the Musquodoboit Valley or Cape Breton West - and they are of the conviction and belief that they are going to commit an offence, then I personally believe that, as the occupier of the property and as the owner, you have every right to defend yourself without facing severe repercussion, Madam Speaker. So, I think, in my view at least, the pendulum has swung about as far as it can go as far as the rights for the criminal goes. So I think it is time that we brought the pendulum back a little bit in favour of, in this case, the victim, and I can't call it any other way.

So the question of whether a person is on a premise for the purpose of committing an offence, I suppose would have to be determined by the courts. Now, I know the honourable member for Hants West did state that he hoped that during Law Amendments that presenters would come in, witnesses, and bring forward amendments that would address some of those concerns. I too, Madam Speaker, certainly support amendments to achieve that.

I do support the principle of the bill, but I honestly think there is room for improvement and I will be making every attempt to attend Law Amendments when presentations are made relative to Public Bill No. 14. I thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Thank you, it is nice to see you in the Chair, Madam Speaker.

This is a debate, of course, on Bill No. 14, An Act Respecting the Liability of Owners and Other Occupiers of Land and Other Premises. This bill is of great interest to me because one of my neighbours, working through the auspices of Voluntary Planning of Nova Scotia, has been working diligently for several years, trying to bring this to fruition.

[Page 2043]

This bill is of interest to all residents of Kings County and, really, all residents and landowners and property owners and occupiers of the province, but in particular to the landowners in the Valley. Just outside of Kentville, probably five or six years ago now, there was a farmer who saw some snowmobilers travelling across his strawberry field one evening. He hopped in his truck and drove the truck down the highway in pursuit of the snowmobilers. He finally caught up to them and he cut in front of them and stopped them. They had words on the side of the road and he indicated that they shouldn't be doing that to his strawberries because they would probably ruin the plants for the following season. Well, after a while, the two snowmobile operators arrived at the gentleman's house and they apologized for doing that. Their apology wasn't accepted quite in the spirit of apologies and things went from bad to worse.

The snowmobilers went to the police station and told the police officer he chased them down the road on their ski-doos with his truck. Eventually he was charged and found guilty of dangerous driving; he wouldn't pay his fine, so he went to jail and lost his driver's license. He served 28 days in the county lock-up and became a celebrity. Without a driver's license and wanting to get around, he bought an old horse and wagon and he used to drive to town, New Minas and Kentville, in the horse and wagon and he had a little sign on the back of the wagon that said, "Lots of laws but no justice.". What that was telling many of us was that, look, the fellows on the snowmobiles were really the cause of the problem, driving through his field, but yet there was no penalty or damage done to the snowmobilers; however, there was a penalty to this fellow who was trying to protect his property.

He did become a celebrity; he was on national television and Maritime television and people were visiting him when he was in the lock-up. I don't think it was an enjoyable time, but he wanted to make a point. He could have payed the fine, he had the money to pay it, but he had to make a point that just because you own the land, it doesn't mean you have any right to chase people down the road after they have trespassed and committed damage on your property. So, he felt rather like the victim that was charged, found guilty and put in jail, and he was sitting there saying, you know, there is something wrong with this picture. So, the local farming community and the Federation of Agriculture got quite interested in the responsibility of owners of agricultural land. This bill really does nothing that will make any changes to help if there is another problem of this nature.

Another difficulty from home, the operator of a gravel pit was having visitors constantly with these little four-wheel and three-wheel contraptions that you race along the country back roads in, three wheelers and four wheelers and ATVs, I guess they call them.

Anyway, they were running up and down his gravel piles and he was trying to carry on a gravel business and he put up signs, please keep out. He would tell them, look, go somewhere else. He was just doing his ordinary business, but he moved the gravel pile and sold it to somebody. Of course, the guys in the three wheelers did not realize that happened and they were tearing along the bank expecting to find the gravel pile there to drive off the

[Page 2044]

bank into the bottom. Of course, he sold the gravel because that was what his business was and these guys in the three wheelers and the ATVs, they went plunk, plunk right down, one on top of the other, and they were very severely injured. He is no longer in the gravel business.

He was carrying on his business, trying to earn a living for his wife and his family and people that did not have any ownership or any rights to his property dictated to him that he could no longer operate the gravel pit the way he wanted to. He had to operate a gravel pit in a way that was convenient for the people so they could drive their ATVs without fear of injury.

There was a very large farmer with a potato harvester and there was a young fellow, probably 10 or 12, that kept going out into the potato field. He would throw a rock or a potato at the people. There were about a dozen people working on the harvester and he was kind of bothering them with rocks and potatoes. They asked the youngster to go home and he would be back. He just would not stay away. Eventually, they had to ask the police to come and escort the youngster home and ask his parents to keep him off this. A potato harvester is a dangerous piece of equipment. Well, anyway, the youngster kept coming back and eventually what everybody was afraid of happening happened and the young fellow got tangled up inside the potato harvester to the extent that he needed a great deal of hospitalization, operations. They had to get him out of the potato harvester with oxygen cutting torches. You know, it was not his fault. It was the farmer's fault. The farmer should not have been there working in his potato field because he was endangering the youngster. There is something wrong with this picture.

You see, when the person owns the property and he is earning his living he sort of thinks he can do what it takes to get the job done. But, in actual fact, you cannot. You have to have this extra special thought of what might, could, perhaps, possibly happen to somebody who ventures on your property.

One time we were working on a tractor in our dooryard and down at the lower driveway we saw a large van arrive up the driveway, past the barn, into the middle of the field. The doors all flew open and about six dogs jumped out and about half a dozen people hopped out. I did not know who they were. So I got on the tractor and I drove out to the field and I said, what are you doing here? They said, we are here because we hear there is good pheasant hunting. I said, well, I am sure there is, but you are on my property. You did not ask me if you could come in and go hunting on my property. Shouldn't you ask? They said, well, we did. We asked somebody down at the store and they said you had good pheasants up here. I said, well, that is nice. Next week, I am going to bring my car into your garage and I am going to do a motor job because they tell me you have good equipment in there. Would that be okay? Or maybe I will come and sit in your front room and watch television and what is for supper on the weekend?

[Page 2045]

You see, there is a different standard that we apply to owners of land. If you are driving by and you see a big field, you suddenly say, I guess it is a kind of welcome home sign, whether you belong there or not. What I would like to know is we have a letter from the Minister of Justice - under what guise was he operating - he was under the guise of the Minister of Justice at the time and he had a press release and one of the most laughable crimes that I have every heard spoken by any person is what I hear from him - he is now the Minister of Finance - it is the same old saw, it did not sell then and it does not sell now.

[4:15 p.m.]

This minister has the audacity to say that there has been a great deal of consultation regarding this legislation; they worked closely with Land Resources Coordinating Council of Voluntary Planning which represents both landowners and users and they have expressed their strong support for this legislation. Well, they expressed strong support for legislation and they told the minister what the legislation was that they wanted. But you see what happened? The same constant that happens, nobody was listening. They go through the motions so they can come here and say that we consulted with everybody that wanted to talk to us but what they forget is, we did not listen.

I have been in consultations with this government and these ministers and it is always the same. The minister listens to something clever and, whip, out the door on an airplane to, dear knows, some far-away place and, by the time he gets back, he forgets what they talked about. Truly, I am of the opinion that this legislation is not what is needed. Landowners need to be in control of their property. I am not saying that you should be setting bear traps or you should be setting any kind of a trap to trick or to fool or to hurt anybody supposing they are breaking in to rob, but you certainly have to realize that landowners are in a very difficult position.

This bill needs some improvement, the landowner should have a lower duty of care to the trespasser and the criminal who comes on the land as a trespasser or a criminal. The bill does not say anything about that and it will have to be discussed at the Committee on Law Amendments. You see, that is so important. I outlined to you, Madam Speaker, and to members of the Legislature, about the three-wheelers in the gravel pit. The hunters arrive in my yard, the potato harvester, and the farmer who went to jail because the snowmobilers were tearing up his strawberries.

Those cases and those incidents are what happens in real life in Nova Scotia. They are not some made-up sort of thing. There were not any real criminals involved, in the snowmobilers in the strawberry field; they were not criminals who came to my yard; and it was not a criminal that was wound up in the potato harvester with very severe injuries. They were all trespassing on private property and, through no fault of the owners, they wound up in difficulty and the owner of the land wound up paying a lot of money or time and aggravation.

[Page 2046]

A landowner really should have a lower duty of care to a trespasser who comes on the land as a trespasser. You should not have to protect somebody from their own inability to get along without injury. The operator of the gravel pit when he sold the pile of gravel that there was going to be serious injury, as a result of the selling and removal of the gravel, to three people that were driving these ATVs, according to this bill, he really should have been thinking that I can't move that gravel pit because the three-wheelers are using it for a ramp. Is that fair? Are we putting too great a burden, an unreasonable burden, on a businessman trying to earn a living, to feed his family and himself?

The hunters in my yard were not doing any harm. If they had come to the house, I would have allowed them on the property. I didn't have any more of a need to welcome them with open arms to my back yard and my fields than I would expect if I walked into their front room and sat down and turned on their television and went to their fridge and started eating ice cream.

They didn't see it that way; it was their field as much as it was mine because somebody said there was good pheasant hunting there. The potato harvester was the most tragic of all. But what level of care does a farmer have to take to protect somebody from themselves? So truly, this bill may be an improvement of what is there but it is not what the Minister of Justice was asked by landowners across the province to bring in. We should have a lower duty of care to the trespasser and to the criminal who comes onto the land as a trespasser or a criminal.

We will be asking for an amendment at Law Amendments Committee to indicate that fact so that people will have a better understanding of the rights of ownership, as well as the duty of trespassers. The bill could go further and it should go further because this is what people in Nova Scotia wanted; that is what they were asking the Minister of Justice who so blatantly claimed consultation. It is a new definition of consultation, where you sit in a room just long enough to say I met with them and then you can be gone, to do other things.

Time and time again, Madam Speaker, this is the attitude we hear from people who have been subjected to the consultative process of this government. It is lip service, at best, so they can have bragging rights in the Legislature and in newspaper advertisements and so on.

So, Madam Speaker, I am anxious for this bill to get to Law Amendments Committee, so that some amendments can be made to make it truly a bill that landowners, occupiers can live with and respect and that it will be a bill that the minister so blatantly said you consulted on. Well, if he really consulted, he would have listened and he would have brought in the bill that the landowners asked for.

So, with those few words, I shall take my place and anxiously await the deliberations at the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you very much.

[Page 2047]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: I have had the opportunity of hearing some of the comments, most of the comments were made by members from rural constituencies. I must say that many of the comments that were made, particularly those by my friend from Hants West, I can identify with. Most of these complaints are complaints that I receive also and they are real and they are significant to people from rural areas.

I think the good news is that the complaints outlined by my friend and others are those that represent the status quo. That is why this bill is coming forward, because some of those problems that were outlined, especially with the ATVs and the three-wheelers, sometimes with landowners who had no knowledge that certain individuals would be on their property and, more particularly, the one that perhaps is the item that raises the ire of constituents and to those in the House, people in general, is this trespasser with evil intent. Why should I, as a homeowner or a landowner, if someone is coming to rape my daughters and pillage my property, why should I have to worry about them being injured? That is true. I am not sure that the law ever went that far in the first place, and there have been weird and wonderful examples. But let's talk about the real situation and the situation of the bill before us and how far it goes to correct that.

When I pick out the things that bother people the most, especially in the rural areas, it is the uncertainty as to exactly what obligations the landowner has. What steps must the landowner take in order to conform with what is presumed to be the common law of landowners' occupiers' liability? Because I will tell you, it is one confusing thing out there now. It is terribly confusing. As my friend from Hants West says, identification alone is a real problem.

Traditionally, through hundreds of years, this question of occupiers' liability has caused concern not only to legal experts but the average citizen. It is just a maze out there. These artificial stickers were put on different individuals: licensees, invitees, trespassers. When does a licensee become an invitee and when does a licensee become a trespasser, at what point? I could give you a whole pile of horror stories. The individual that came on the property because he thought there was a flea market there but it rained and the flea market was cancelled: when he walked on the doorstep, was he an invitee? Was he a licensee? What level of obligation does the landowner owe to that person?

What about the postman who did not have any mail but he came to your door, checked to see and he did not have any mail? Is he a licensee? Is there a different level of obligation on the landowner? It was ridiculous. No one could advise a landowner properly. What must I do to make sure I don't get in trouble?

[Page 2048]

There are ATV people operating on my property. I know that. Well, they don't seem to be causing me a whole lot of trouble. They seem to be fairly well behaved, like some of my friends have said. But can I get in trouble if they get hurt? Well, you know they are there. You know the path they travel. You are letting them come. Well, then I better shut them off, should I, be careful? How are you going to shut them off, make sure they do not injure themselves? What level are they at?

There must be at least some common bond, some logical way of saying ahead of time what you are going to be responsible for. That is the key. The status quo is just not going to suffice. It has been a complaint and I think it is true; some of the members opposite have talked about rural concerns versus urban concerns. Because I tell you, it is different. There is a big difference between vast acreages of property. It is not like you can go out and exactly make it particularly level all over, where you might not have some rocks protruding, where tree branches might drop because they are getting old and die. Just exactly what onus does the landowner have?

What this bill does is it kind of levels the field. The certain duty that is imposed is constant. But I did hear some comments, particularly about those trespassers, those that are on your property to do harm. That is the one that gets everybody's blood boiling. If you check this bill, in the operative clauses, Clause 4(3)(b), for instance - and I they know we are not going clause by clause, but this is the meat and potatoes of the bill - "the circumstances of the entry into the premises;". This is the key here. What are you doing there? Why are you on my property? "The circumstances of the entry into the premises". I think that is important. To me, if there is someone there who is surreptitiously entering the property and he happens to get hurt, that is going to be taken into account. That is what that clause says.

The same thing in Clause 5 when it goes farther and says, ". . . risks willingly assumed by the person who enters on the premises . . .", so when you have somebody who is breaking in at night, the circumstances of his entry and the fact that he willingly assumed certain risks. What has to end is this real quandary in the minds of landowners. I am concerned about three groups of people: I am concerned about homeowners; I am concerned about owners of rural properties, especially woods properties and agricultural properties; and I am concerned also about businesses who have a different onus put on them by what I tend to call a legal fiction.

[4:30 p.m.]

My friend the minister, when introducing this bill, quoted certain cases and made reference to quotes. I think it was Lord Denning that he referred to, that indicated that jurists were going over and above and bending over backwards to find a fair answer to each case - trying to change the law to make it fit. That is not a way that a homeowner can feel safe when he says to his solicitor, or to other advisors like insurance companies, what must I do to be safe? Well, if you do this and you hope that the jurist bends over backwards, you have done

[Page 2049]

the right thing. This is a real problem out there, Madam Speaker. It has been a problem for quite some time.

How does anyone know, given that the injury has not yet occurred, how does anyone know what is reasonable and what is protective for the homeowner and the landowner? What steps must that person take in order to feel that they have abided by the common law and now the Statute law of this province? Up until now, I don't know how you could advise anyone. The only advice that you could give was to pull out all the stops, be as safe as you possibly can, keep everybody away that you can, post signs; do everything possible to ensure (a) that nobody gets on your property and (b) that if they are there they could not possibly get hurt. That is not what most landowners say.

I heard the member for Hants West indicate at one point, what about if someone wants to go on a property and have a look at the trees? They just want to come to the country and they come to the landowner and they ask ahead of time. Listen, do you mind if I go down in your apple orchard for a while? I just want to look around; might pick a couple of apples. Is that okay? Most landowners where I come from say go ahead. But are you sure? You have given full permission to that person. He has told you what he is there for. He has told you he is from the city and he does not really know much about the country. All those things were told here. Are you going to be an invitee? Are you going to be a licensee? Are you going to be a trespasser? Is it going to be for gross negligence or ordinary negligence? These things are fictional. They developed many years ago and they have gone all crazy. As the minister has said, you will find in most cases the judges will try to find a fair answer and they will make the law suit the answer, but that is not the way it is supposed to be. You should know ahead of time. There should be a standard duty of care.

I am not going to go so far as to say that I believe that legislation should be brought into this province that says, look, if I own property, buildings - perhaps I have mills; perhaps I have pits - gravel pits, I am not going to go so far as to say, pass a piece of legislation that says, no matter what, I am not responsible for anything that occurs on my property. I am not prepared to go that far because I can see situations where you could be dealing with children, children that you know are there. You may have invited them there. You cannot have a well - a hole in the ground - where the kids are playing and you know where they play, that if you happen to step in it you go kerplunk. You cannot have that. There cannot be carte blanche to everyone who owns a piece of property to have no duty of care to anyone. But it must be foreseeable.

What has to happen is everyone in this province must be able to say to themselves ahead of time, here is what I must do. If I do these things, I should be safe. That is what this bill does. Does it go completely to such an extent that it could possibly anticipate every situation that could ever develop? I don't think so and I don't see how we could legislate that. What it does do, it gets rid of these three, four or five criteria, artificial though they may be.

[Page 2050]

As I say, I can remember a situation; it was a yard sale and it rained and a big crucial issue turned. Now, had it not rained and the yard sale was cancelled, there was this level of negligence that the homeowner might be responsible for. If it did rain, it was a different one. The same people, the same accident, the same place, the same purpose of the visit, but that is the difference in the criteria; it was ridiculous. People would ask, can you give some advice? Even the lawyers are running for the hills. Don't let anybody on, is the only safe way, under any circumstance. It is getting ridiculous; the rural landowner wants to feel at least a little bit of safety. We are getting to a level playing field. You can now give some advice; there is some reason to it. Why should you have to go to court to get these individual cases answered; you should know ahead of time.

How do you plan? How do you advise? How can landowners feel at least confident that they know they are doing the right thing? This bill goes a long way. It will not absolve landowners under all circumstances of all possibilities of negligence, and I don't believe that anybody in this House would think it should. I think it has gone a long way, it is being requested by all segments of society that I know of.

I support this bill. I think most of the members of this House who spoke on the bill, they have pointed out certain circumstances and most of them were talking about the status quo, what it used to be like. So the way I interpret most of the speakers on this bill, I think they are actually supporting this bill. They might have a few changes they would like to see, they would like to see a little further in this area and maybe not so far in the other, but the principle and what this bill accomplishes and what we are speaking on at second reading, the principle of the bill, I believe everyone I have heard rise to speak on this bill, if you listen to them and ultimately understand them, they support this bill.

I want to commend the minister. I think it has been a long time coming, I can tell you. The only people who seem to make any money off what goes on in the court situation over occupiers' liability now is a bunch of lawyers and I think it is about time that ended. It is about time that people in the country and people who own their own home and people in small business can feel a little bit safe when they run their business that is open every day. Madam Speaker, I shall be voting in support of this bill.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, welcome to the Chair. The piece of legislation before us, and I am very pleased that the member for Hants East gave us the legal interpretation, because there is a very strong legal bent to this piece of legislation. I would remind members that the piece of legislation it replaces, entitled An Act Respecting the Liability of the Occupiers of Land, is painfully simple and obviously, perhaps, needed a little bit of comment.

[Page 2051]

Let me preface my discussion on the bill by looking at the situation from a practical point of view, without taking it necessarily into the courtroom. I cannot help but be influenced by the fact that in many of the European countries there is a different philosophy about the ownership of land, in particular, and that while individuals, like the situation we have in this country, are owners of land, there is a widespread feeling that the usage of land is not restricted to the owner, but that it is a common trust to be enjoyed by all residents. While that feeling is not necessarily as strongly felt in this country, nevertheless we would lose a great deal if, in fact, the resources of land were made less accessible to residents in general.

I look at the great number of Nova Scotians who like to use land for recreational purposes, and needless to say most of those residents do not own the land on which they follow those recreational interests. And, yet, many landowners, within reason, allow access to these pieces of land for recreational purposes, and other purposes, to their neighbours and to their fellow Nova Scotians. However, if the situation arises that as well as providing a safe venue for third persons, that as this bill suggests that the occupier or the owner of these lands is assuming liability for the actions of the users of the land, then that in itself would be a strong reason for the restricted use of the land. In other words, the landowner would simply make the decision, I cannot accept that liability and I cannot let people use my land for recreational purposes. For example, the bill makes specific references to those who come on the land without prior knowledge of the owner.

Let us take a simple example. Let us say it is a piece of property that in the winter snowmobilers like to cross and it is a piece of property that, in summer, all-terrain vehicle users like to cross, bearing in mind that a common usage is part of the habit of those who follow these pursuits. If the landowner decides they are not doing any particular damage and he really does not mind their doing it, and it is a legal recreational pursuit, and he allows them to use this land for this particular recreational activity, if I were a landowner under those circumstances and if I was faced by a clause that says that I now become responsible for the conduct of third parties on the premises, I would have a great deal of reluctance to accept that kind of responsibility as a landowner whether or not an accident occurs as the result of this legal use of the land or whether or not one of these third parties, in fact, performs some kind of a libelist act while on my property and therefore by association, I become a partner in that libelist act.

I look at and I understand fully the intent is to put some kind of structure so that the owners or the occupiers of land have some idea of their responsibility and, in fact, their privilege - that particular clause of the bill, Clause 4(2)(c) which now indicates very clearly that the owner or occupier of the land is assuming responsibility for the conduct of third parties on the premises, whether or not they are there illegally and it points out to me very clearly that this will result in less free access to land by owners of property; therefore, I speak against that particular notion that is contained in the bill.

[Page 2052]

The circumstances in which we live here in Nova Scotia, one of the great things that we have is space. Unfortunately, the economies and the realities of living in Nova Scotia today is that only a few Nova Scotians can, in fact, afford their own space. They are therefore at the mercy of those who own the space, whether it be the private landowner, whether it be the Crown or whether it be massive corporations, and if we create within this bill a libelist responsibility for the peaceful use of that land then we are doing a disservice to the people of this province. I think we should take a long, hard look at what it is this bill says and I will be most interested to hear if others share my view in Law Amendments. When this comes back, I would expect that it will have amendments that clarify and relieve me of my fear that this bill, in fact, will provide a very serious restriction of the use of space in Nova Scotia. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: Are there any further speakers to this bill? Seeing none, if I recognize the minister it is to close debate on second reading.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. JAY ABBASS: Thank you, Madam Speaker. It gives me great pleasure to move second reading of this bill. I will be very brief in my follow-up comments.

[4:45 p.m.]

The members opposite have posed certain questions, or at least raised concerns which they seem to have over certain aspects of the bill. I don't want to give them short shrift. They, for the most part, are the same sorts of questions which a lay-person might reasonably ask of any bill which sought to clarify the law in this very confusing area of what is now the common law.

The principle of the bill is that we are codifying the common law, as Clause 3 very clearly says. The key clauses of the bill, or the ones that stand out most, for those who are trying to grasp the principle, would be Clause 3, Clause 4 and Clause 5. I could launch into a very detailed and lengthy clause by clause because I have answers to all the questions that were raised last night, but I would have to be given very wide leeway. I would prefer to answer some of those questions, perhaps, in the clause by clause treatment of the bill.

I want to reassure the members opposite that this is very a much a bill that has been taken very seriously by those who have an interest in rural affairs. Many of the groups I mentioned last night, including groups like the Aquaculture Association or the Blueberry Producers or the Canadian Institute of Forestry (Nova Scotia Section), the Confederacy of Mainland Micmacs and there is a whole host of them. We know that all of these groups are well grounded in the ways of rural Nova Scotia and had nothing but the interests of rural Nova Scotia at heart in their interventions before the Voluntary Planning group of Nova Scotia. So I want to again thank those groups for their very good work.

[Page 2053]

I just want to reassure the members opposite that many of the scenarios which they have raised as being of concern are covered or contemplated by the bill. They are treated very specifically by the bill and I want to specially reassure members opposite that, for instance, trespassers will certainly be owed a far lower duty of care than someone who is on land or is passing through land with the permission of an owner. That was one of the common examples cited.

I will not go on, simply because the very many scenarios that were raised should be more appropriately dealt with in a clause by clause or Committee of the Whole House forum or setting. So I will, without further discussion, simply move second reading of this bill and thank the members opposite for their comments, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 14, Occupiers' Liability Act. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 30.

Bill No. 30 - Motor Vehicle Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to begin debate on the amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act that requires cyclists to wear a safety helmet. The amendment was put forward in May to help ensure that Nova Scotians of all ages are protected from serious head injuries when riding their bicycles, either for transportation or for recreation.

Head injuries caused by bicycle accidents are a serious health problem, Madam Speaker, a health problem that we are in a position to help prevent. For example, did you know that up to 85 per cent of serious head injuries that have occurred as a result of a bicycle accident could be prevented by wearing bicycle helmets. It has also been reported that cyclists wearing helmets are eight times less likely to incur brain injury if they suffer head injuries.

If this is not enough reason to pass the amendment we are about to debate tonight, let us consider that it is roughly estimated that approximately 5 per cent of cyclists wear helmets. Some sources indicate that only 2 per cent of child cyclists wear helmets.

[Page 2054]

Madam Speaker, passing Bill No. 30 will help to significantly reduce the amount of injuries caused by bicycle accidents in Nova Scotia. It will help to save lives, simply as that. Now is the time to legislate bike helmets, when we are seeing more and more Nova Scotians riding bikes.

In 1994 the Ministers of Health, and Transportation and Communications pulled together to address this serious health concern which has touched the lives of so many Nova Scotians. The ministers endorsed the establishment of a working group to determine how to increase the use of helmets by cyclists in Nova Scotia. Along with government officials, the working group consisted of organizations representing physicians, cyclists, retailers, police, insurers, safety specialists and other community groups. It was important to get everybody's input.

From that group it was decided to introduce the amendment we are now debating tonight. The type of helmet required under the amendment shall be prescribed by regulation. A fine will also be introduced to encourage adherence to the amendment. A minimum fine of $25 will be charged to any adult who doesn't wear a helmet or for parents who authorize or who knowingly permit their children to ride a bike without a helmet. The amendment also requires children riding in a small trailer towed by a bicycle to wear helmets.

Madam Speaker, Nova Scotians want Bill No. 30 passed. They are calling the department, anxious to know when we will be dealing with it in this House. I am pleased this evening to move second reading of Bill No. 30, An Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Motor Vehicle Act. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I rise in support of Bill No. 30, to make bicycle helmets mandatory. I think, though, there are some issues that we ought to consider, as legislators, and that is in other areas. The only other province, I believe, that has implemented legislation for all ages is B.C. I know those who wear turbans don't have to wear helmets. I wonder if the minister will be looking at that issue in this province, as well as people who have oversized heads or have difficulty finding helmets that will fit. So there are some exemptions being made. I wonder if we might be looking at that in this province.

In Ontario, I believe the legislation is for 18 years of age and under. They have not made it mandatory for everyone. The other provinces have yet to move in this direction. I have a little concern that once we make this mandatory, consumers are not all of a sudden taken with those in the industry that the price of the helmets don't automatically jump up and become very costly because I think the minister would agree that there are a lot of hard-working individuals who have families who are barely making ends meet now and to make a cost of helmets onto them will be quite substantial for many of these families.

[Page 2055]

I know they want to protect their children but I would hope that maybe some group, and there are groups that provide seats for infants that can be rented or used, that there might be some groups that would help some individuals who have difficulty in some means to get the helmet.

I know that helmets have been made mandatory in minor hockey, even though I don't think it is mandatory in the NHL (Interruption) For new players, that is right, not those who have been around but it has grandfathered, you are right. So helmets are not new as being mandatory for playing some sports. I am not sure if it is mandatory for those who drive skidoos and those things but I know that when I drove a snowmobile back in the days when I had one, I used a helmet. Maybe they are already mandatory. It has been a long time since I drove one and I can't remember.

I know there are skiing accidents in downhill skiing, where people have had injuries. I know there may be other areas that the minister might be looking at, where head injuries can happen, that we would look at some sort of use of a helmet.

The other concern I have is that these people be given time, after the legislation obviously. How quick are police going to be to spend time enforcing this kind of a law? As I understand it, the police in this province are stretched to the limit now, trying to fight crime and to deal with other laws. I find that if this law becomes like the smoking law that the government introduced, where I am not convinced at this point in time that police have spent a great deal of time in this area. I am not indicating that they have the time to do so, I don't believe they do. I am wondering how much time they are going to have to implement this.

There are people and with the seatbelt law who, for medical reasons, don't have to wear a seatbelt, or the police and a few others. Will there be, in the regulations, anywhere that people who, for some medical reason, can't wear a helmet, that they will be allowed, with the proper documentation, to not have to wear the helmet in those particular cases?

There is absolutely no question that like seat belts and like helmets, people who are involved in accidents will cut down on injury, in this case head injuries. So I would think it is pretty difficult for Nova Scotians or anybody to be against something that does give one better protection in case of an injury.

So basically, as I indicated from the beginning, I will be supporting this legislation. I commend the government in taking the lead. It is only the second province in Canada. There will be some who will oppose this. As I read through some newspaper articles about people who felt that their rights are being violated. It almost reminds me of the days when we brought in the legislation for seat belts, there was the same attitude with a number of people that their rights were being violated because we made the seat belts mandatory. I think there is no question that scientifically we can prove that the helmet does, like seat belts, in most cases give added protection to the individual. I guess the question, it is not like seat belts

[Page 2056]

where, if you are driving your vehicle somewhere, there is nobody on your property who will come along and fine you for not wearing a seatbelt; it is when you are out on the public highways.

With the bicycle helmets there is no question that when you are out on the public highways, alongside the road, but when you are driving in your back yard and the policeman pulls in and you don't have a helmet, that is a whole other issue where people will say, well, I am on my own property, you don't legislate seat belts on my own property but you do for helmets.

There will be those arguments but I think that for the majority of those people out there, as I noticed, more and more young people wearing helmets today than, say, three or four years ago. I have noticed that families are insisting that those young people that first ride bikes now ride bikes with helmets. Once you do that, it just becomes a habit of always wearing a helmet. I think it is the same thing in hockey, it is the same thing with seat belts. As we have this law and as time goes on, more and more people will comply with the legislation and in actual fact we will get a higher percentage of those using the bicycle helmets.

I commend the government for bringing it in. I will be voting in support of this legislation. I think it is a progressive step. I know that the present minister is carrying it for the former minister and I commend the former minister for getting it in here and the present minister for continuation of that legislation. We hope to see it law sometime in 1997.

[5:00 p.m.]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I too at the very outset want to indicate that we will be supporting the legislation that is before us. The former Minister of Health will know that in fact I had previously introduced a resolution in this House as well calling for the government to introduce this legislation in support of the considerable efforts of groups like the Nova Scotia Head Injury Association and others who have been advocating that the legislation be introduced.

Madam Speaker, there are a number of points that I would like to make. Certainly the former speaker talked about some of the resistance and so on that will be encountered from numbers of groups and individuals who may be in opposition. We earlier today, for example, I believe saw a petition that was introduced. I guess it was done in the form of a questionnaire where you were asked whether you supported or were in opposition to the introduction of this legislation on the mandatory requirement of using helmets. I say it is to the credit of those who had drawn up that petition, who were, I believe, in opposition to this legislation. They wanted that petition tabled in this House even though the results were contrary to that which

[Page 2057]

they themselves were hoping the results would be. Because according to the results as the member read them out, the majority of those who signed were in fact in favour of the mandatory wearing of helmets.

That is not to say that there are not those, considerable numbers, who will be in opposition to this - hopefully, that number will decrease - just as there were many who were in opposition to the wearing of seat belts when that was introduced, just as there were many who were in opposition to the wearing of helmets while driving motorcycles when that first became mandatory. If you drive south of the border, there are many states in the United States where, for example, there is still no requirement that motorcyclists wear helmets.

It would be interesting to look at the statistics in terms of injuries and particularly head injuries in those jurisdictions where cyclists are involved in injuries compared to those in other jurisdictions where there is mandatory legislation that is in force, to come up with the data to compare not only the number of fatalities, because fatalities and in fact injuries that are visible injuries do not necessarily tell the whole story. When you have a head injury, as those who are in the medical profession, those who work in head injury associations and so on can tell you, many of the injuries that result as a result of a bicycle accident are hidden injuries. Your physical appearance, scrapes, cuts, bruises, broken bones, et cetera, may heal but damage that has been done to the brain may never heal and that can provide lifelong disabilities and/or personality changes that can be with that person for the rest of their lives. So, Madam Speaker, I think that this is an important piece of legislation.

Now, I do not have the exact statistical information. I do not know that anybody does. I have looked at statistics from a number of different sources predicting how many fewer fatalities there will be as a result of this kind of legislation. I think it is the British Medical Association that says that wearing approved bicycle helmets will reduce fatalities by as much as 50 per cent. When the legislation was being proposed for Ontario, they were talking that that could reduce fatalities by as much as 75 per cent, and serious head injuries by as much as 85 per cent. So I look at the wearing of bicycle helmets in the introduction and I know that there is going to be a process required, that there is going to be some resistance and that there is going to be an education process for the general public that will have to precede the introduction of this bill.

I look at this almost as preventive medicine or preventive treatment. We talk about a wholeness model, we talk about preventive medicine, where we are trying to encourage people to use healthier lifestyles, and so on, and this is in keeping, I would suggest, with that kind of model in that we are trying to advocate ways and put in place ways that will reduce life-threatening injuries or life-threatening situations. So I recognize that there are going to be many who oppose this, and I recognize that there are going to be some who are not going to be very appreciative of the fact that I intend to vote for this legislation, in that they think maybe this is an infringement on their rights. But I have to say that I think we, as legislators,

[Page 2058]

have a responsibility to look at the larger issue rather than just simply a single individual's rights.

When you take a look at, for example, the number of injuries, one of the sources I have looked at in terms of head injuries for children under the age of 10, of the serious injuries, at least 50 per cent of them are head injuries, and for adults it is approximately one-third. So, Madam Speaker, if this legislation is going to reduce the number of children and the number of adults who are going to be suffering lifelong disabilities and injuries, then I have to say that I am in support.

I appreciate that there are going to be difficulties with enforcement. It is going to be extremely difficult to enforce this legislation on some occasions, but I think that maybe the education process that goes along with this is going to have as much effect, if not more, than the actual going out and nabbing those who are riding their bicycles without using helmets. But whatever the process, I think it is a healthy move.

If we take a look even, by very unofficial, I assure you completely unscientific research, but driving down the roads and you think about the number of children whom you see today riding with bicycle helmets, compared to the number of people when we were younger, or even 5 or 10 years ago, the numbers have increased dramatically and now you are seeing many parents and many adults ensuring that their children and they themselves are wearing proper safety helmets when they are cycling. Now, that won't guarantee, by any stretch of the imagination, that somebody, if they are involved in an accident, will not suffer harm or head injuries, but it certainly has the potential of reducing it.

When you take a look at a bicycle, one of the most common things, when there is an accident, is that the occupant of the bicycle is propelled forward, like a projectile, and the first part of that person's body to strike the ground - or whatever object they are going to hit - is often that helmet. So by wearing it, and the insulation that is contained within it, it has the real potential of either eliminating fatalities or reducing the degree of harm that the cyclist is going to suffer as a result of it.

The one part I would like to raise with the minister is this, one clause, just for some clarification, at the end, Madam Speaker, Clause 1, Section 170A(2), where it says, "No person shall ride on or operate a bicycle on a highway or on any property where the operation of bicycles is permitted unless the person is wearing a bicycle helmet . . .", et cetera. The way that reads to me, that would include then on private property, so if I was to allow my child to drive a bicycle, or if I was driving my bicycle, even on private property, I would be required then to wear a bicycle helmet. If my interpretation is wrong, then I would appreciate knowing that. The reason why I raise it here, is wondering why, if that is the case, if the government is going to require the bicyclists to wear helmets even if they are operating those bicycles on private property, why was there not also a requirement that those who are riding and using skateboards also have helmets?

[Page 2059]

I know that you are not permitted to operate skateboards on roads or sidewalks on public property. I appreciate that and, therefore, you could not say that you have to have helmets if you are riding them on public property. If here the regulation is stating, unless I am misinterpreting the section that said you have to have a helmet even if you are riding a bicycle on private property, then the same could apply to the skateboards where there is also considerable injury done to those who are using those. Again, it is a sport that is enjoyed and it is a healthy good sport that is enjoyed by many young people. All I want to ensure is that they are able to do that as safely as they possibly can.

The other item that I would raise at this point in time, is that I recognize the cost of helmets can be a problem for many families. Now some would argue that if you can afford a bike, you can afford the helmet. That is not always the case and very often the case may be that a bicycle is even passed on from one to another. What I am requesting is that the government, if this is not going to be implemented immediately, look at the possibility of arranging to purchase bicycle helmets in a bulk type of a manner and then to be able to provide them at a cost, with a very modest increase, possibly through some sports shops or organizations, but to ensure that nobody is going to be denied the ability to ride the bicycle on the basis of the cost of the helmet. There certainly are many organizations or groups that can help out in that regard.

I certainly do support the legislation that is before us. We are not the first; I believe Australia was the first country that did it nationally. We now have legislation in Ontario and I am not sure if British Columbia has proclaimed it yet, but I think some others are certainly looking at it as well. I believe that our young people, especially, deserve this legislation so that they will grow up with healthy habits and not endure serious injuries that could affect them for the rest of their lives.

I am very pleased to say that I will be voting in support of this legislation and I thank the minister for bringing it forward and I thank, especially, the former Minister of Health for his own commitment, but I am sure also at the urging of other groups who have very serious interests and concerns in ensuring that the greatest amount of safety for those who are cycling in this province is, in fact, going to be realized. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have you presiding over the Legislature.

This bill requires every person operating a bicycle to wear an approved bicycle helmet.

[Page 2060]

[5:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you wear a helmet?

MR. TAYLOR: No, actually I don't wear a helmet when I am driving my truck, but when I get outside to chain down a load or something like that, I do put on a hard hat, without a chin strap, for the benefit of the member for Hants East.

Mr. Speaker, we also have a problem here, and I do not believe it is unique to Nova Scotia, but many of the bicycles and, of course, the operators that operate the contraptions do so after the hour of darkness and many of them are poorly illuminated. I see that as a problem, also.

I know the person that brought this legislation forward and introduced it, the honourable member for Cape Breton North, the former Minister of Health, I know the former minister is not taking questions today, but I would like to know if, for religious reasons it is a person's disposition not to wear a helmet, if this government is prepared to make an exemption, if there is a headdress that is required to be worn for religious purposes. I know the British Columbia Government did make an amendment, I guess, to an existing Act to permit individuals who wear turbans, for example, to be exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet. I am just wondering if this government is prepared to do so and I think that is a reasonable question.

Mr. Speaker, the bill states that every person riding or operating a bicycle is to wear an approved bicycle helmet. We hear from time to time from a number of individuals who tell us that Nova Scotians are looking for a less intrusive government. They want government to somewhat be out of their face a little bit. I think it would be, perhaps, more desirable if this government had come in with legislation stating that people 18 years of age and under be required to wear helmets. When you are 18 years old you can, of course, make major decisions and you are permitted to vote and things of that nature. From time to time, we tell our young people that they are responsible citizens, and I certainly believe they are, or at least the majority of young people are. I think the government, perhaps, should have looked at exempting people 18 years of age and over and let them be the decision makers of whether or not they wear a helmet. I feel that adults are responsible enough to make decisions of that nature. I think the government here could have permitted that.

Now, my colleague for Kings West mentioned that helmets now are required in the National Hockey League, for example. Any new players, I think there are a couple of players that have been grandfathered in because they do not wear helmets. Playing hockey is an extremely dangerous sport, or it can be, especially when there is contact involved, Mr. Speaker. I know, before you warn me, we are not talking about the NHL here, but I guess the point I am trying to make is normally the people in the NHL are 18 years of age and over and they are going to all be required to wear helmets. Well, it is a little bit different jumping

[Page 2061]

out into a hockey game than riding down a country road or secondary road on a Sunday afternoon on your bicycle and if you happen to be over 18 years of age, you have to put on one of these helmets. (Interruption)

That could be the unfinished part of the Fleur-de-lis Trail, a secondary highway in the Province of Nova Scotia, "No parent or guardian of a person under sixteen years of age shall authorize or knowingly permit that person to ride on or operate a bicycle on a highway or on any property where the operation of bicycles is permitted unless the person is wearing a bicycle helmet . . .". So the parent and guardian has an added responsibility, Mr. Speaker, relative to this bill. It is a bill to revise the Statutes of the Motor Vehicle Act.

I understand the principle of the bill and I am going to, again, go down to the Law Amendments Committee when this bill finds its way into the Chamber over there, Mr. Speaker, and I wait for further comment on this bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I rise to briefly speak on the helmet bill, and I cannot help but think back to some experiences I had prior to becoming a politician, when I served as a family practitioner for many years in my home area of Pictou County. Bicycling is a very enjoyable pursuit, it is actually one that I pursued for a great many years, and there are not too many roads in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island that I have not bicycled on.

However, one of the most serious injuries, that one can sustain while cycling, of course is a brain injury. Those who have had the opportunity to see the results of serious brain injury and the effect it has on people's lives will understand the very real concern that one has in looking at this bill and whether or not it would be an effective adjunct to safe cycling. I can think back, perhaps 10 or 12 years ago, when a lady in my community - a mother of three children who at the time were in their early teens - went for a recreational bicycle ride in the same area that I frequented myself when cycling. In going down a long incline on a gravel road, the front wheel of her bicycle slipped in the gravel and she was thrown from her bicycle and struck a rock with her head and was killed in that accident.

Perhaps, sometimes, even more tragic are those accidents when a person sustains a very real brain injury and spends the rest of their life in a seriously disabled state, with impaired mental function; the very real benefits of wearing a helmet in these kinds of circumstances is apparent to almost anyone.

So while there will be a substantial number of Nova Scotians who will object to this bill, their reasons for objecting are really the same reasons that were used by those who were not in favour of seat belt legislation, which all of us in this place know has had a very real, positive effect in Nova Scotia and has resulted in saving many Nova Scotians involved in motor vehicle accidents who, in fact, had buckled up, and it looks as if after this legislation

[Page 2062]

is in place that "buckle-up" will have a new connotation, a new meaning, a new application that it simply means that when you get on your bicycle, you buckle-up your helmet.

I will be voting in favour of the legislation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, when this bill was introduced in the spring I really didn't intend to become involved in the debate but, this summer, while on Caribou Island, I had a couple of constituents who cycle every day - both in their 40's - on Caribou Island and they asked me, are you going to vote for that legislation? So I started to think a little bit about it. The fact is that the seat belt law was put in a number of years ago and I guess we all realize how important and how successful that was. I guess I was like everybody else, probably got fined a couple of times and then realized that I had to remember to hook it up, but it is no problem now.

I really feel that if we had an amendment to this bill - and I guess we could look at that later on in Committee of the Whole House, or after it comes back from Law Amendments Committee - that perhaps we should look at having it 18 years or under, that it would be mandatory for them. I have no problem with that all. I have a number of grandchildren and when they come to the house, we have a paved yard and I have never let them go out without a helmet on.

There are probably people that cycled for years that never wore a helmet. Quite frankly, I was in the city the other day and this chap ran a red light on a bicycle and I was sure he was going to be killed. He got caught in the middle. There were three lanes of traffic going down and the first thing, this fellow is there. One fellow stood his car on end. Then he kept going and the next fellow pretty near got him. He did not have a helmet on.

I know we have to protect people. I understand that. My concern is like for these two people on Caribou Island, and there are probably hundreds in other rural areas that do cycle for sport or relaxation or exercise, I guess. If the RCMP go down there, are they going to fine those people $25 for not wearing their helmet? I don't know.

In British Columbia, I understand that they introduced the law there but they are not really fining people yet. An RCMP spokesman, Sgt. Peter Montague, said that it would not surprise him if no tickets had been issued by the province's Mounties.

I really feel that it is important for people under the age of 18 to wear the helmets. I have no problem with that at all. I believe we should pass that. But I do have a little problem with it for enforcing people that are travelling in rural areas. Certainly in the City of Halifax I am sure you should wear a helmet, with all the traffic, but when you are out on a country road that is not even paved, it seems to me that that is a little severe.

[Page 2063]

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I am going to vote for the bill to go to Law Amendments Committee. If there are presenters, we will hear their concerns. When it comes back to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, maybe we can suggest some amendments. Thank you for the opportunity to participate.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will not take long. I do want to stand and indicate my support for this legislation. My colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, has already, I think, very clearly laid out our feelings with respect to this legislation and the need, in fact, to bring forward some type of measure to make it compulsory that people of all ages wear helmets when riding a bicycle. The evidence appears to be quite clear in terms of the effect that that will have in not only reducing the severity of injuries but also injuries themselves. I think for that sake alone it is worthy of our attention. As a colleague mentioned to me earlier, when you talk about the price of a bicycle helmet and concerns about that, he said the price of a head injury, short and long term, certainly makes the price of that helmet inconsequential.

So I just wanted to say, in fact, I would like to see us promote much more the use of bicycles in this province, and certainly in the urban part of metropolitan Halifax. I would like to see us move in the direction of many other major cities in this country and around the world who have designed their traffic patterns in such a way to accommodate greater use of bicycles, to make their streets much more cycler friendly, simply for a lot of reasons: for the cost of transportation, for the impact on the environment and for the whole lifestyle question that that lands in. I certainly had the occasion to push this point with the municipal government in Halifax and I will continue to do so in the future.

For those reasons and others that my colleague from Sackville-Cobequid has indicated, I will be supporting this bill and I will also be noting with interest the discussion and debate that may take place as people present to the Committee on Law Amendments. Thank you.

[5:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I intend to be very brief and I think others have been and I think the brevity is a reflection of the fact that virtually all members who have given some time to think about this particular piece of legislation understand its fundamental importance and common sense.

I have had occasion to have a little look at some editorial comment that was developed or generated around the time of the introduction of this legislation back in May. I am struck by some remarks made in an editorial entitled, Getting our brains in gear, which was published

[Page 2064]

in the Chronicle-Herald on May 15, 1996. Among many other things said in that is a woman named Madeline Herbert, who is a senior analyst with Health Canada's child injury section quoted as saying that the database which she was working on at that time ". . . provides a snapshot of injuries and types of injuries to various age groups. Bicycle riders of all ages who do not wear helmets are more than 2.5 times more likely to suffer a serious head injury than helmet wearers, . . .".

American statistics also show that proper helmet use reduces the probability of head injuries by 85 per cent and the probability of serious brain injury by 88 per cent. If we, as a society, should believe in anything and should do those things which are supportive of this concept, we surely have to engage to the extent that we reasonably can in the area of preventive medicine and this is clearly in that realm.

My colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, may have made reference to this item as well, but on May 16, 1996, in the Chronicle-Herald, there is a brief clip headed, Helmets for cyclists good idea - IWK. The IWK-Grace Health Centre indicated in this item that "Requiring cyclists to wear helmets is a positive step, considering the number of injuries among young bikers . . .". This article goes on to say that almost half of injuries to bicyclists under ten are head injuries. This again, as I say, was May 1996, so I assume the reference is either 1995 or the year leading up to May 1996, "Last year, 200 children were admitted to the IWK because of bike injuries.". Clearly, if we can by ensuring that over time, the operators of bicycles, young and old, will be doing so with proper head gear on. I think it is clear by definition it is going to result in there being fewer and fewer head injuries and serious accidents.

It is clear, too, there is a contrary view and the contrary view seems to be, as I read it, by those who offer it, it is based on the theory that this somehow is an infringement on my rights and my Charter rights or my human rights or some kind of rights. Well, I remember that kind of argument which was offered at the time that legislation was introduced by the government of which I was a member relative to seat belts. I respect those who indicated very forcibly and very articulately, an objection to the introduction of that legislation and suggested that was somehow an infringement on their personal and human and perhaps even Charter rights.

Well, I think we have discovered since the enactment of that legislation that while an allusion was made to this earlier by an earlier speaker, while there are on occasion some enforcement difficulties relative to the seat belt legislation and there may be some enforcement difficulties relative to the head gear legislation, I do not think that we should be coming to a conclusion that because there is a little bit of enforcement difficulty that the fundamental principle and fundamental result is somehow, therefore, not right.

[Page 2065]

Again, - and I know I am following a number of other speakers - I have watched with very considerable interest the phenomenon which has developed over the last 10 or 12 years in professional hockey. I honestly believe that the reason it is the rarest of occasions that we will find an athlete in the NHL and in the senior professional leagues and in our university hockey leagues and the like without a helmet - and it is the rarest of occasions - is because the men and women who, a decade, or whatever number of years ago, were the administrators and coaches in the minor hockey leagues of this region and across our country came to the understanding that the young people in their care were at very serious risk of very serious injury if helmets were not used. So it is now common and acceptable; the youngster who puts on his skates, the automatic reaction is on goes the helmet. The helmet is just as much a part of the equipment as is the pair of skates and the shin guards, and it has had a phenomenal effect and an upward ripple effect all the way through hockey, at all levels.

I honestly believe that while there will be a very small percentage of those who think about this issue, or wish to comment upon this issue privately or publicly, and some will say so publicly that this is somehow an infringement, this, I think, isn't really an infringement on anybody's rights. It is the adoption of a policy which is based and founded in absolute clear common sense. I think the legislation, therefore, has considerable merit and should be supported by all members and it certainly is my intention to do exactly that.

I will make just one last comment. I was struck, too, by a letter to the editor from a writer - let me just see if I can find the reference - this writer says that maybe we don't need laws for the really important things, we all pay for head injuries, especially the parents of the injured child. Don't wait for a law to protect the most precious possession you will ever have; protect heads. She went on to make a somewhat unkind comment about Premier Savage and there is no value in me adding that to the record here today, but the point of this woman's letter is clearly - and this was written back in 1994 - she was saying to all of us in a position to do something about it, for Heaven's sake, get on with the job and get it done. So I think we are doing the right thing today.

We are doing it at the instance and the behest and the urging of the former Minister of Health who believed very fervently in this issue; that is clear and it is demonstrated by virtue of the fact that he caused to have drafted and crafted and introduced, and I expect ultimately passed, this particular piece of legislation. I think it is not unreasonable for me to say that Dr. Ronald Stewart's initiative in this regard, during the time he was Minister of Health and over his career in emergency medicine, is commendable, and his stick-to-it-iveness in ensuring that this legislation comes forward, has come forward and appears to be receiving virtually unanimous support from all of his colleagues in this House, is a testament to his determination and to the common sense of his position. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the legislation is here. I propose to support it and I would encourage all members to do likewise. Thank you very much.

[Page 2066]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to preface my remarks by stating that I will, indeed, be supporting this legislation. However, whereas I do support the legislation for those who ride bicycles, I must disagree with my colleague to the left, the socialist on my far left, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, who wishes to at the same time put helmets on everybody doing anything, it seems, whether it is walking down the road or riding a bicycle.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or sitting in this Legislature.

MR. RUSSELL: Or sitting in this Legislature, indeed. They say you have to protect something in this Legislature so perhaps it should be your head.

Certainly I disagree with the thesis that he put forward, that the province should get into the helmet business. I can't think of anything more ridiculous. I mean they have made a mess of everything so far. Can you imagine the Department of Health being in the business of selling helmets? So, Mr. Speaker, I certainly don't advocate or support in any way the efforts of the member for Sackville-Cobequid to legislate safety in every realm of human endeavour. Certainly you can't legislate against people who wish to do foolish things.

Just as an aside, Mr. Speaker, I remember reading a few years ago about a society that came into place respecting safety in aircraft travel. They had done a great survey to determine the number of accidents that happened in aircraft that resulted in fatalities. They came to the conclusion that flying was quite dangerous but it was also quite safe. However, when the aircraft was on the ground, very few accidents or incidents happened that affected human life. So they came forward with a program that airplanes are a great way to travel but they should taxi from one point to the other and that way they would be perfectly safe.

I think sometimes that what the people in the New Democratic Party are looking for is perfect safety. We can never achieve that but we can do those things certainly to protect the younger people who have not perhaps had the experience or the knowledge to protect themselves from accidents that can afflict them with injuries that are going to cause them to not lose their lives, perhaps, but to have a very limited capability in future life because of head injuries.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think that helmets are a good investment by any parent to protect their children, particularly when they are learning to ride bicycles. I am to a lesser extent enamoured with the idea that all persons who ride bicycles must, indeed, wear helmets. I would think that perhaps we should be looking at when people are riding bicycles on public highways, for instance, they should wear helmets. Sometimes I feel that perhaps we go a little too far in restrictions; for instance, if I wish to take a bicycle and ride on my own property, I have to wear a helmet.

[Page 2067]

Mr. Speaker, as I say, I will be voting for this legislation but I am not enamoured of overregulating the pleasures that people have in certain endeavours and riding a bicycle is certainly a pleasure. If it is done with good common sense, then perhaps there is no necessity for adult riders to wear helmets when they are riding on places other than on public roadways. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I have had some experience with respect to constituents of mine who have had accidents while driving bicycles. Some of them were fairly young children who, had they not been wearing helmets, probably would have experienced grievous injury or at least more grievous than those which they did sustain. Also, I could think of one young adult who in fact was propelled through the back of a vehicle on a trunk highway who, if he had not been wearing a safety helmet, probably would have ended up having permanent brain damage. So there is some good sense in looking at legislation of this type. My inclination is to think that probably there are fewer adults who are likely to be exposed to injury than children, on the assumption that adults through greater experience will likely be more prudent and more watchful in the operation of the vehicle for which they are responsible.

[5:45 p.m.]

This is an idea that seems to have merit and I think with respect to children has significant merit. I am not convinced that it is necessary for every adult to wear a safety helmet. I say that in the absence of any statistical evidence which the Department of Health may have and which I would have hoped the minister might have provided us in advance of debate on this particular bill. So, while I say to the minister that I am prepared to support the bill, at least with respect to the provision of mandatory helmets for those who have not reached the age of majority, I have some reservations with respect to supporting the bill with respect to those who have achieved the age of majority, adults and they should have the experience to be able to decide in their own best interest whether they wish to wear a helmet or not wear a helmet.

What I intend to do is to vote for this legislation in principle, the principle being that it is appropriate that certain classes of people should be required to wear bicycle helmets - safety helmets - and ask the Minister of Health, before we move on to consideration of this bill in Committee of the Whole House on Bills, if he will provide to us, if I can get his attention. I know that the minister sitting next to him probably is a far more invigorating conversationalist than I am, but he needs my vote. He does not need hers. He knows he already has hers.

[Page 2068]

If the minister, during the course of consideration of this bill during Committee of the Whole House on Bills, could provide us with the statistical evidence respecting accidents that adults have had as a consequence of not wearing safety helmets and what the nature of those injuries were, then we will know better if it is prudent to require every adult who drives a bicycle to wear a helmet, or if in fact we can place some restraint on our capacity as legislators and ensure that while the young are protected, that those who have reached the age of majority and maturity are deemed to have the good common sense to decide what is in their own best interests.

So, I will commit myself on second reading. I will not commit myself further than that until I have had an opportunity to see the statistics which I assume the minister has available to him and which must have formed the basis for decision to produce this legislation in the House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to rise and speak for a moment on this bill. I really believe it is important that we look at the age factor that is being talked about here. I think that this bill is good for the safety of people, but at the same token, I think that once you hit the age of majority people should have the good sense to make up their own mind.

Mr. Speaker, it is a bill that I know the former Minister of Health holds close and near and dear to his heart and I commend him for bringing it forward. But I also believe that this bill, once it is introduced and is active for the children of the area, they will continue to wear helmets long after they turn 18 and onwards because they will learn and that is similar to how the seat belts worked in this province, Mr. Speaker, it was the children that really generated and made sure that the seat belts were used in their cars.

I think if the government is serious in trying to help out the safety and looking after young people on bicycles and tricycles, there should be some kind of consideration given to making mandatory lighting systems on bikes, because there are a lot of times people are travelling at night with these bikes and they are poorly illuminated, it is hard for people to see them and it is as great a risk as driving around without a helmet.

So with those few thoughts, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down and take my place and I will be voting for this piece of legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the Minister of Health to close the debate on this bill, are there further speakers?

The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 2069]

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank very much all of the members who rose to contribute in this debate. It would seem from listening to their comments that we have virtual unanimity here, which is a practice I will hope to encourage as Minister of Health as we move forward in the session.

There were a couple of questions that I would like to address in summing up, the member for Kings West I think raised them first but they were repeated by others and it had to do with the possibility of exemptions, Mr. Speaker, certain people for religious reasons, I think people wearing turbans were pointed out as one specific example. The legislation itself calls for exceptions and exemptions to be made by regulation. That authority is in the legislation and I would assure honourable members that in the type of circumstances that they brought to the floor here, that exemptions would be granted. So I think the question of exemptions will be covered by regulation.

The member for Sackville-Cobequid suggested that there may be a concern about price. I think to some extent the member for Kings West and others did too. I think the legislation as it now exists allows us to proclaim the legislation at a time appropriate and convenient and I think we would propose that after the legislation has passed to allow some time to go by so that we didn't bring it in without sufficient notice and opportunity for people to make whatever financial arrangements they can make. I don't think I would be prepared to support the suggestion that the government get into the business of buying and selling bicycles helmets, although I am forced to point out that if one waits until after April 1st, the price on a $50 bicycle helmet will go down by about $2.00 as a result of harmonization, even without the pass-through.

With that comment, Mr. Speaker, I think I should sit down and move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 31.

Bill No. 31 - Real Estate Trading Act.

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

[Page 2070]

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to put forward Bill No. 31, An Act to Provide for the Regulation of Trading in Real Estate for second reading. I would just make a few very brief comments on this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the department and the Nova Scotia Real Estate Association have been working on these regulatory issues for over six years. The industry I think has shown a maturity and a financial security and ability to do self-governing in the industry. The industry currently handles and conducts pre-licensing education, it carries out examinations, it operates the Assurance Fund, regulates professional conduct and co-regulates on licensing advisory boards. So it was felt that the next step was to participate with the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission in setting up an Act that allowed the licensing and disciplinary process to fall under the Real Estate Board itself.

So, in actual fact, Mr. Speaker, that is what this piece of legislation does. It puts more authority into the Real Estate Association, which has been around for some time. I think it offers opportunities for them to be more regulatory themselves within their own industry and what it does do, which I think is the reason it has come forward and has had an awful lot of support, is the fact that it takes the Province of Nova Scotia, the government, out of this regulation and puts the Real Estate Association in there directly.

Mr. Speaker, I would move this bill for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I do have some remarks which I would hope to make relative to this piece of legislation, but in light of the hour, I would move adjournment of debate on the bill at this point.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, it is Opposition Day tomorrow and we will be calling Bill No. 36 and Resolution No. 648 for debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that we adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The Adjournment debate has been chosen as announced earlier and won by the honourable member for Halifax Citadel, who has submitted the motion:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minster of Finance immediately cancel the current Blended Sales Tax agreement.".

[Page 2071]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: AGREEMENT - CANCEL

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: With your indulgence, I wish to defer to the honourable member for Hants West.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, indeed it is a happy event to be able to rise in this Legislature and discuss what the government of the day is not prepared to discuss in this House and that is the greatest tax grab that has ever taken place in this province. I am referring to the BST. The BST stands for the blended sales tax and, in some people's minds, of course, it stands for something else.

Mr. Speaker, this is the government that came into power in 1993, who promised the people of Nova Scotia that there would be no new taxes. Since that time, we have had a massive tax increase imposed upon the people of this province. I don't know if the people of this province are aware exactly what this government has done in the way of raising revenues via taxes, via user fees, via cost for various permits and what have you. But I can tell you, it is a fantastic amount. In fact, it adds up to something in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars since this government has been in power. It is a massive amount of money. Now that same government has the gall to come forward with a scheme, I think at the behest, perhaps, of the federal government, to impose a further massive tax grab from the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

The Minister of Finance today, in the House during Question Period, speaking about the lack of consultation with various groups around the province, came forward and said that he had consulted with about 80 or 90 different groups and individuals around the Province of Nova Scotia with regard to the blended sales tax.

Mr. Speaker, when you read that list of persons and individuals and organizations that the minister has consulted with, it looks quite impressive, until you realize that the minister may have consulted with those people and groups but, however, he has not reacted to what he has heard from those various groups across this province. In fact, I heard the minister, as late as 10 or 12 days ago, stating that the people in Nova Scotia were firmly endorsing the imposition of a blended sales tax.

[Page 2072]

[6:00 p.m.]

Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the minister is wrong. In fact, I had a call this afternoon from a person, not one of my constituents, but a person who observed what is going on in the House was in the gallery actually during Question Period who said to me that when the minister says that the majority of people are in favour of the blended sales tax, he obviously did not look at a television program which was on a station locally and I do not know which one it was, but I suspect it was ATV where they asked for people's opinion of whether or not they agreed with the imposition of the blended sales tax. He told me that they received 2,000 calls and 96 per cent of those that telephoned in to that television station were opposed to the blended sales tax; 96 per cent of 2,000 that took the problem to telephone in were opposed. I suppose if my telephone is any measure of the feeling of the people of this province then, indeed, I think that feeling is widespread right across this province.

So, why is the government doing this? Why in Heaven's name are they doing it? I do not know, but I can tell you something, they are not doing it for the benefit of the people of Nova Scotia and they are not doing it for the consumers of the Province of Nova Scotia. When Mr. Smith or Madam Brown or somebody else wakes up on April 1, 1997 and still in the middle of winter and gets out of bed and turns on the lights, the power that is being utilized to light the light bulb is going to cost them more. They turn up the thermostat to provide some heat in the house and the furnace oil is going to cost them more. They get out and get in their car and drive to work, if they have a job, and the fuel that they burn in their automobile or their truck or whatever it is they are driving to work is going to cost them more. They stop and get a hair cut, it is going to cost them more. If they stop and get their dry-cleaning at the dry-cleaners, it is going to cost them more. All those necessities of life, the things that you must have in order to live in Canada and in this province are going to cost more.

Now the minister might say some things are going to cost more, but not to worry. When you go out and buy an automobile or you buy a new refrigerator or new furniture, etc., you are going to save money, you are going to save big bucks. The problem is, how often do you and I go out and buy a new automobile? How often do you and I go out and buy a new refrigerator? Not very often, but every day in every way we are going to be paying more in taxes on essential commodities. The people in the middle class in this province at the present time and the people who are below the middle class in this province at the present time are going to be hit with an increase in their cost of living.

Mr. Speaker, the minister will tell us that we are going to have the opportunity to speak to the Department of Finance to effect changes in the agreement that is presently being signed. I do not believe that. The province has signed an agreement with the federal government and as part of that federal agreement, there can be no changes without 18 months' notice to the federal government. It is locked in for at least a period of 18 months.

[Page 2073]

Any changes that are made within this province between now and April 1st, to lessen the impact of the BST will be charged directly to the revenues of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Today in the House in Question Period, I started off by questioning the Minister of Business and Consumer Services about the tax exemption that people who were physically disabled were able to get on the purchase of a vehicle. I was told not to worry, they had met with that group of disabled persons and discussed those matters with them and they were going to evidently look after the matter. I find out now that they have not met as yet, they are going to meet next week actually. I was also told that any changes that are made to provide a subsidy or some other latitude for those people who are disabled will be coming from the provincial government, just the same as it is doing with books.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I ask you truthfully, if this BST is such a wonderful, marvellous thing to happen, why is it, for instance, that the people in Prince Edward Island - who had the opportunity, which we didn't have in this province and didn't have in New Brunswick, to have their voice heard at public meetings - rejected the BST? Why is it that the other provinces have all rejected the BST? Why are we standing alone? A national harmonized tax may or may not, and please don't misquote me, may or may not be successful. Certainly under no circumstances will the BST, as negotiated by this minister's predecessor, benefit the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: My thoughts are clear so I will put them on the record. Mr. Speaker, why would we cancel a tax reform program that offers so much? That is what we are debating, that we immediately cancel the current agreement.

The economy faces less taxation, and all honourable members would know that if they do the research; the government takes in $100 million less. More money in the economy means more jobs. It makes sense; if you don't take money out of the consumers' pockets and it is there to be spent and out of the pockets of the businesses, small businesses, whatever businesses, that money is there. After April 1, 1997, as I said in a different forum, there is an extra $100 million out there sloshing around, waiting to be spent to employ people, to create jobs. That is something we should not forget.

Business, Mr. Speaker, faces less paperwork: we have one tax system, we don't have two sets of auditors coming in to visit the small businesses and businesses generally; we don't have two government departments doing the same type of work, the Government of Canada - National Revenue, and the Province of Nova Scotia. This is integrated. As a matter of fact, we are going to have a system whereby, I think it is approximately 70 of our auditors will be phased-in to work under Revenue Canada. The President of the NSGEU publicly commented on the consultation that was achieved through the Department of Business and Consumer Services and Department of Finance, so that there would be no disruption and it would not

[Page 2074]

create problems for those employees. So that is progress, we are making progress; one set of rules, one tax return.

Consumers face less confusion, Mr. Speaker. There is one tax system for them, too; tax-included pricing - what you see on the shelf is what you pay, none of these mental gymnastics of seeing an item on the shelf that is, say, supposed to be $10 and trying to figure out in your head that that is really 20 per cent or higher, it is almost $12 under our present system. After April 1, 1997, when an article states on the shelf that it costs $9.99 and you have a $10 bill, you get one penny change - none of this fancy footwork and doing mental gymnastics to figure out what you get back.

The other things, Mr. Speaker, that people should keep in mind, we have had some talk about surveys. I didn't talk about surveys on the tax itself, whether or not people like it or not on the overall harmonized tax. What I did talk about was the tax in pricing where, on the basis of scientific survey, 73 per cent of consumers said they were in favour of tax-included pricing. They liked the idea that when they went to pick up an article or went into a restaurant to buy a meal, whether it is at my favourite place, let's say Pizza Hut, or there is some other restaurant or into another facility when they saw the price, that is what they pay, not some other higher price.

Mr. Speaker, people like the fact that this, as a package, there are changes, some up and some down in terms of prices. In addition, there is a total package with changes in income tax, plus the low income assistance. We have a tax reduction, which is the first ever. This makes history in Nova Scotia. The 15 years of Tory rule didn't give us any tax decreases. There were no tax decreases in income tax, that is for sure. That is what I am really talking about. We have a 3.4 per cent decrease in the provincial tax.

I used some figures today that will give some of the impact in terms of dollars. A single person earning $35,000 net income saves about $100 under that general tax reduction. A family of four, Mr. Speaker, at $45,000 saves about $130. We are concerned about low income persons. It is important that they be considered as part of this whole package. There is a double-barrelled help to low income persons. They get the general tax reduction, plus there is some low income tax relief. For example, a single person with income of say $12,000, which is really low, gets $100 in the low income tax reduction, plus a general reduction of $16, for a total of $116.

So this is how we have, Mr. Speaker, a combined package. We can take a single person, a single mom or a single dad, whatever the case might be, at $18,000 would pay $200 less income tax under the low income tax reduction, which comes into effect in 1997, plus an extra $17 under the general reduction for $217. This is $217 that that person has to enable them to offset whatever changes there might be that are negative to them, but they also get the other positive changes. For example, when they go to the grocery store, we should all remember that food stuffs, as such, remain untaxed under harmonization, but the incidentals,

[Page 2075]

the paper and the soap and the candy bars or whatever that are bought in the stores actually go down 4 per cent.

People should also not forget, and some people may not be aware of this, but the federal program, the GST tax rebate - it will probably have a different name in Nova Scotia - will continue. That is important, too, because some people were concerned that that might be lost.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say, as well, that hopefully for the $8 million special package that was announced in the budget in the spring of this year, we hope to have details before long on that. That is particular. That is directed to those whose income is low and that would not ordinarily be paying income tax, for example.

Just to summarize on some of the impacts and come back to pricing, we have a lot of rhetoric on this subject, but the fact of the matter is that 76 per cent of the prices in a general overall survey we did either stay the same, Mr. Speaker, or go down. The breakdown is 24 per cent of prices would go up and some of them have been cited, we know about those, 34 per cent go down and 42 per cent stay the same. So that gives you the flavour.

All income groups, Mr. Speaker, benefit. Most businesses, as a whole benefit. People have more money and when the people have more money, they can spend the money the way they want. They can go into stores. They can buy things. They can take trips. They can take vacations and do things that they might not otherwise do. Businesses will have lower costs and it will be more attractive to set up businesses here to compete with the rest of Canada and to send our goods overseas and to create those 3,000 jobs and grow our GDP by 1 per cent because people want jobs. We can talk all we want about various programs, people want to be working and if we have another 3,000 people working in the next year or two under this program, that will be the proof of the pudding. Three thousand more people working is what we want to see. We have concern about that. There will be more money in the economy, an extra $100 million which means more jobs.

I just want to, before I conclude, mention a couple of things. In talking about rebates, there are a number. The federal housing rebate, Mr. Speaker, continues. There is a new Nova Scotia program that replaces the sales tax rebate program we have had effective April 1st, which will amount to up to $2,250 per year and as best we can determine, we believe the impact of the tax is neutral.

[6:15 p.m.]

We have new rebates, Mr. Speaker, because in all parts of Nova Scotia, tourism is important. It is approaching a $1 billion industry. We have foreign goods rebate, a foreign tourism accommodation rebate and a foreign tourism convention rebate, which will also help. In all of those the prices that will be charged will go down by almost 4 per cent for

[Page 2076]

accommodations and meals and with input tax credits it is going to make the operators more competitive.

We also have other rebates, as I get close to winding down; the so-called MUSH sector; hospitals, schools, municipalities and discussions are ongoing with municipalities to see what type of offset we might be able to work out with the municipalities. Several meetings have been held and we are waiting to set up another meeting in the next several weeks.

We also have rebates for universities, Mr. Speaker, and with the changes that the federal government has made to exempt books for universities, along with school boards and hospitals for that matter, books are going to be cheaper for university libraries. So the whole thing is pretty well awash for universities, based on that change. Premier Savage was one of the leaders in the fight, if not the leader, to have no change in the price of books in Nova Scotia. There are also rebates for charities and government funded, not-for-profit organizations.

Finally, as I take my place, I would ask again, why would we ever cancel a tax reform program that has so much to offer and would put people to work?

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand and speak in support of the resolution by my colleague the member for Hants West, which, in effect, says that we should scrap the BST. I do so on a number of different levels. First of all, I want to talk about the fact that we are dealing with one of the most significant changes to the tax regime in this province in recent memory and it is being done behind closed doors.

This Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, and his predecessor and the government in general are basically going ahead and imposing a significant tax change on the people of Nova Scotia without giving them an opportunity to have any review of the impact and any input on the tax and what they think it is going to mean to them.

It is no wonder that Nova Scotians feel a bit cynical about the political process. When this government was running for election back in 1993 and when they were in Opposition, they condemned the then government, led by Donald Cameron, for even suggesting that there should be harmonization of the GST and the PST. They talked then about the shift that that was going to make for businesses on the consumers and that this economy should not be further affected by having another tax imposed on consumers, another burden imposed on middle and low income consumers.

What they proposed to Nova Scotians in 1993 was that they would not do that. What they would do before making any changes in the tax system in this province is they would immediately convene a Fair Tax Commission, that they would set up a commission that would

[Page 2077]

consult with Nova Scotians, that would present expert opinions and studies on different tax regimes around the world and across the country and how best to distribute the tax burden in this province within the relationship that we have with the federal tax system. Through that commission Nova Scotians would have an opportunity to present their view on the impact that the current tax system is having on them.

That is what they told Nova Scotians back in 1993, that is what they were elected on, that and jobs, but they turned their backs on that also.

Now when you talk to Nova Scotians, they are ready to tear their hair out, they can't believe that this government has the audacity, the arrogance to come forward with something that they were clearly against in 1992 and 1993 and now they are going to carry on in the same way the former administration was going to. Not only that but they don't have the courage of their convictions. They don't have the confidence in their position to put it before Nova Scotians.

When we first found out in April 1996, Mr. Speaker, that the then Minister of Finance was negotiating with his federal colleague in a hotel out by the airport, which he continued to deny well past the time when he actually signed the agreement, seven months ago, over that period of time did this government hold town hall meetings with Nova Scotians? Did it go to Antigonish and call Antigonishers forth and say, look, this is what our deal is? This is what we are proposing to do and pull out the graphs and the charts and the overheads and the videos - whatever else they wanted to do - and present those to the people in Antigonish, people in Yarmouth, people in River John, people in Spryfield, people in Sydney - what their plan was.

No, they did not do that. What they did was, and you have a list here and I would be happy to table it. You have a list of a number of organizations who got phone calls and some of them met - although we do not know for sure whether they actually met - or they got a presentation from government officials about some details about what was going on.

For example, we know that the Retail Council of Canada met with officials of the Minister of Finance, but they are very clearly on the record as saying that this government did not listen to them. That is all very well. These are all good groups. They represent their organizations well. No question about that.

But why did the government not talk to Nova Scotians in their communities? Why did we not have the kind of consultation that we used to get when this government first came into power. They went around and talked a bit about their budget and they talked about 30-60-90 with Nova Scotians. They do not do that anymore, it seems. I do not know what happened. I do not know whether they had some bad experiences or what, but they just do not seem to be willing to go out and talk to Nova Scotians.

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If this is such a good deal, and that is my point, if this Minister of Finance is so convinced that consumers are going to be better off, then why won't you take it out and sell it to Nova Scotians? Because, I am telling you, the people I have talked to - and I have talked to a lot of them right across the province - are not happy with this.

We were out this morning kicking off a petition campaign against the BST, Mr. Speaker, because we believe that Nova Scotians need an opportunity to register their concern about the blended sales tax. So, we kicked off a petition campaign out in the riding of Halifax Needham and we talked to some of the residents there, and we will talk to a lot more in the coming days and weeks and months ahead, to give them an opportunity to send a message to their MLA as well as this government. We hope that they will listen because we know that it is important for us to debate this issue in the House, but this government is prepared to ignore us. I think we recognize that, but what we hope is that they will not ignore the Nova Scotians out there who are going to sign this petition and urge them to back off, to scrap the BST in line with the resolution brought forward by the member for Hants West, and to proceed with real fair tax reform as they promised.

My point was that every time I am out in the street, and I am out talking to people about the blended sales tax or for that matter anything else, invariably people come up to me and they give me their examples. I was doing an interview on the street and the owner of a hardware store in that community came running out with an example - with a piece of paper which had the figures all on it. He said do you realize that and he went all through it. That is how much it is going to cost me. That is how much it is going to cost people in this income range and that is going to have an impact on my business. He said it is going to dampen demand.

I have talked to a gentleman in my constituency who owns a couple of bowling alleys. He said we are just hanging on by our fingernails from the effects of the GST. He said we were not able to pass that on to our customers, but what we saw happen is that the amount of disposable income of the people who come into our operation has gone down and this is just going to add to that. He said, even if there was any savings that I was going to realize it would almost be impossible for me to pass that on.

My point in intervening this debate tonight is to say that I think this is a terribly high-handed arrogant approach by this government to bring in this kind of tax reform without consulting Nova Scotians. I am going to do everything in my power to give Nova Scotians an opportunity to say to this minister and his colleagues that this is a bad tax and the only right thing for this government to do is to scrap it and to engage in real tax reform. I urge this minister to move in that direction. Thank you very much.

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MR. SPEAKER: I want to thank all the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's debate.

The motion for Adjournment has been made.

The House will now rise and sit again tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

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