The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thu., Nov. 21, 1996

Fourth Session

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 2167
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 739, Agric. - Apple Producers: Economy (N.S.) -
Contribution Recognize, Hon. G. Brown 2168
Vote - Affirmative 2169
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 740, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Job Losses -
Agreement Cancel, Dr. J. Hamm 2169
Res. 741, Leader of the Official Opposition - PST & GST Harmonization:
Agreement Destruction - Mirror Provide, Hon. R. Mann 2169
Res. 742, Health - Care System: Corporate Takeover - Prevent,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2170
Res. 743, Official Opposition - PST & GST Harmonization:
Tactics - Unimpressive, Mr. P. MacEwan 2171
Res. 744, Environ. - Tendering Guidelines: Special Exemption -
Explain, Mr. B. Taylor 2171
Res. 745, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Royalty Agreement - Release,
Dr. J. Hamm 2172
Res. 746, Educ. - PST & GST Harmonization: School Boards -
Effect Alleviate, Mr. T. Donahoe 2173
Res. 747, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Consultations - Hold,
Mr. J. Holm 2173
Res. 748, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Underground Economy -
Growth Acknowledge, Mr. T. Donahoe 2174
Res. 749, Health: Hospital Designation - Stop, Mr. R. Russell 2174
Res. 750, Health - Victorian Order of Nurses: Anniv. (100th) -
Congrats., Mr. G. Moody 2175
Vote - Affirmative 2176
Res. 751, Educ. - Teachers' Health Fund: Surplus - Negotiate,
Ms. E. O'Connell 2176
Res. 752, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
Fair Opportunities, Mr. B. Taylor 2176
Res. 753, Health - Home Care: Commitment - Commend,
Mr. P. MacEwan 2177
Res. 754, Health - Min.: H-Words - Dictionary Purchase,
Mr. R. Russell 2178
Res. 755, Health - Care: Crisis - Premier Address, Mr. G. Moody 2178
Res. 756, House of Assembly - Legislative Television:
Coverage Curtailment - Concern Express, Mr. J. Holm 2179
Res. 757, ERA - Jobs/Funds (Gov't. [Can.]): Premier - Seek,
Mr. A. MacLeod 2180
Res. 758, Educ. - SW N.S. School Board: Cost Benefit Analysis -
Undertake, Mr. J. Leefe 2180
Res. 759, St. John's Ambulance - Lifesaving Awards (1996):
Recipients - Congrats., Mr. D. McInnes 2181
Vote - Affirmative 2181
Res. 760, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: NDP Opposition -
B.C. Formula Unacceptable, Hon. G. O'Malley 2181
Res. 761, Loaves and Fishes (C.B.) - Fire: Assistance - Commend,
Mr. A. MacLeod 2182
Vote - Affirmative 2183
Res. 762, Sports - Skating: Gena Waller (Pictou) - Success Congrats.,
Mr. D. McInnes 2183
Vote - Affirmative 2183
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 39, Bridgewater Curling Club Act, Hon. D. Downe 2183
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 333, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Gas Prices - Increase,
Dr. J. Hamm 2184
No. 334, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Effect - Level,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2186
No. 335, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
TRACC Export Policy, Mr. J. Leefe 2188
No. 336, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
Incineration Ban Lifted, Mr. B. Taylor 2190
No. 337, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling -
TRACC Casing Charges, Mr. B. Taylor 2193
No. 338, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Agreement,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2195
No. 339, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Property Rental Costs -
Effect, Mr. T. Donahoe 2197
No. 340, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Tire Recycling TRACC -
Contract Signatory, Mr. T. Donahoe 2199
No. 341, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Changes - Discussions,
Mr. R. Russell 2201
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 643, Fin. - Expenditure Add.: Health/Supply & Serv./Pub. Serv. -
Approval, Hon. W. Gillis 2203
Hon. W. Gillis 2203
Mr. R. Russell 2205
Mr. R. Chisholm 2212
Dr. J.Hamm 2217
Mr. T. Donahoe 2222
Mr. G. Archibald 2229
Adjourned debate 2235
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Justice - Institutions: Victims - Compensation:
Mr. J. Holm 2236
Hon. J. Abbass 2238
Mr. T. Donahoe 2240
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Nov. 22nd at 11:00 a.m. 2243

[Page 2167]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Wayne Gaudet

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Before we proceed with the daily routine, I would like to begin with introductions.

The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity at this time to introduce through you to all members of the House, the family and principally the widow of the late Delmore (Buddy) Daye, one who served so eloquently and efficiently in this House of Assembly as Sergeant-at-Arms and other duties before that. Today we memorialize Buddy in the lower Chamber by dedicating a photograph which will be placed in permanency here in the House of Assembly.

So at this time it is my pleasure to introduce to you and through you to everybody, the family of Buddy and his widow, Laura Daye. If they would stand please. (Extended applause)

Just a bit of a footnote if I may have your permission, Mr. Speaker. I recognize Buddy's grandson who is back with us this year as a Page. Welcome back, Troy. (Applause)

2167

[Page 2168]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the members of the House, I wish to introduce two constituents from Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, from the community of Guysborough, Mr. Bruce MacKeen and Mr. Bill Innis. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will now begin with the daily proceedings.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 739

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

Whereas in 1996, we anticipate that 2.8 million bushels of apples would be produced in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this apple industry generates significant economic activity in the province including a large value-added sector; and

Whereas the sample of recently harvested 1996 apple crop has been provided to you by Stirling Fruit Farms Limited of the Valley;

Therefore be it resolved that the House show its appreciation to the apple producers in Nova Scotia and recognize their contribution to the economy of the province.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

[Page 2169]

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 740

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

Whereas MMG Management announced it will be closing five stores in New Brunswick due to the cost of doing business under the regionalized BST; and

Whereas the 79 people to join the ranks of the unemployed will be the first of many in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia as a result of the BST; and

Whereas while the Premier was in Toronto trying to impress Bay Street, MMG Management started what will likely be hundreds of job losses on the main streets of the three BST provinces;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier wake up to the undisputed fact that the BST is not a job creator but a job killer, and cancel this BST deal before Nova Scotians lose more jobs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.

RESOLUTION NO. 741

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

Whereas the Leader of the Opposition was surprised and embarrassed earlier this year when he learned that his caucus has neglected to advise him of the lucrative Jim Livingstone contract which they had negotiated; and

[Page 2170]

Whereas the Leader of the Opposition was astounded to learn that his Pictou West colleague had been promoting tax harmonization but had failed to share that with the Leader; and

Whereas last night in this House the Leader of the Opposition stated that he could see the shock and surprise on the faces and minds of government members when they learned of government business for the first time in the House of Assembly;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the Opposition be provided a mirror so that he might see the surprise and shock on his own face when the member for Hants West decided and announced, on his own, that Dr. Hamm will destroy the HST agreement if ever he becomes Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 742

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Now, hopefully, that same member will sign our petitions. (Laughter)

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

Whereas Nova Scotians of all walks of life, political stripe and area of specialty are concerned about the health care system in Nova Scotia and have spoken out about the crisis; and

Whereas the concerns of Nova Scotians are being ignored, denied and attacked by the Premier and the Health Minister; and

Whereas more evidence in the form of testimony from doctors, nurses and patients, and through the concrete examples of user fees, waiting lists, two-tier structures and privatization, is brought forward every day that Medicare and the health care system in Nova Scotia is in crisis;

Therefore be it resolved that instead of plugging their ears and pompously presiding over the destruction of Medicare, the Premier and the Health Minister should listen to Nova Scotians and take immediate action to prevent the corporate takeover and end of the one-tier health care system in this province.

[Page 2171]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 743

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

Whereas it is clear that the Official Opposition advocated and indeed demanded the implementation of a blended or harmonized sales tax so long as it thought that this government would not undertake such a measure; and

Whereas it is clear that the differences between what the Official Opposition called for and what this government is proceeding towards are differences only of shading or degree, and are not basic or fundamental differences at all; and

Whereas the 360-degree flip-flop by the Official Opposition in now pretending to be against what they formerly called for with some persistence appears opportunism carried out purely for political purposes;

Therefore be it resolved that this House is not impressed with the tactics of the Official Opposition in these matters, and is of the opinion that it is dubious whether the electorate will be impressed either.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 744

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

Whereas the Minister of the Environment somehow believes he has been provided with special exemptions, allowing him to ignore standard tendering policies of the Government of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the tire recycling tender fiasco is the second major embarrassment caused by the member for Preston to his government, the first having occurred in November 1993 when then as Minister of Supply and Services he ignored his government's tendering policy in awarding work on the Bluenose; and

[Page 2172]

Whereas the 1993 episode was so embarrassing the Premier was forced to issue a directive the next day reminding all members of his Cabinet about tendering guidelines that were to be followed;

Therefore be it resolved that since the Premier ordered members of his Cabinet, including the Minister of the Environment, to take part in a one day seminar entitled, "Managing with Integrity - Public Service Ethics", in June 1993, the Premier revisit that lecture and explain to Nova Scotians why the Minister of the Environment has been granted a special exemption from having to follow established tendering guidelines of the government of which he is part.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 745

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

Whereas the Premier stated that royalties from the Sable Gas Offshore Development would total in the billions of dollars; and

Whereas the Minister of Natural Resources stated in writing that no Sable royalty agreement between the Province of Nova Scotia and Mobil Oil exists; and

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas this past August, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had no difficulty in releasing the royalty structure of its offshore development, despite it being at an earlier stage than Sable;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government immediately release the royalty agreement to authenticate its claims of billions of dollars in royalties and to let Nova Scotians know if their government negotiated a good deal on their behalf.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

[Page 2173]

RESOLUTION NO. 746

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

Whereas the Minister of Education on the one hand said he would work to cushion to impact of BS Tax on Nova Scotia school boards; and

Whereas on the other hand, he said the Nova Scotia School Boards Association was exaggerating the costs of the BS Tax, and suggested that, in fact, he was not convinced the BS Tax would have any impact on school boards; and

Whereas the minister's position is not consistent with either the findings of the Departments of Finance or Municipal Affairs, both of which have stated that the BS Tax would have a negative impact on the municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals, the so-called MUSH sector;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education recognize that if he wants to learn anything he must first pay attention and that he take immediate steps to ensure the BS Tax does not add further burden to the school boards, parents, teachers and students of the province who are already sick and tired of the irresponsible and reprehensible actions of this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 747

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, in his State of the Province Address to the Metro Chamber of Commerce yesterday, bragged about leading a responsive government; and

Whereas the government is clearly responsive to the Chamber of Commerce, witness the changes it made in the BST at the chamber's behest; and

Whereas many ordinary Nova Scotians, retailers, small business people and municipal and school board representatives also deserve a fair response to their concerns about the BST;

[Page 2174]

Therefore be it resolved that before they brag about being a responsive government, the Premier and his government do more than talk the talk by walking the walk through holding genuine consultations with Nova Scotians who have concerns about the Liberal's soon to imposed be BS Tax.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 748

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

Whereas the Minister of Finance does not seem to know, with any precision, whether his department did or did not do any studies relative to the BST's impact on the underground economy; and

Whereas the underground economy which will, unfortunately, but surely, prosper as a result of the BST and it will have a negative impact both on legitimate business interests and add to the amount of revenue the province will lose as a result of the BST; and

Whereas the government's decision not to calculate the impact the underground economy will have on business and government revenues is proof that the government is playing loose and fast with the facts in an attempt to hoodwink Nova Scotians into believing this tax grab will be good for the economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance acknowledge the underground economy will prosper under the BST, that he immediately demonstrate some honesty by admitting it will damage legitimate business interests and that he outline his plan to ensure the province will maintain the integrity of programs and services so badly needed by Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 749

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

[Page 2175]

Whereas this government is moving full speed ahead with hospital designation at a time when the regional health boards are in chaos and its members are resigning out of frustration; and

Whereas the government has still failed to address critical issues, such as the effects of designation and what that effect will be on employees who work at the community hospitals and how this will impact on local services and community assets; and

Whereas designation is sure to negatively impact on the tradition of community support and fundraising that has been fostered by the feeling of community ownership and local control over hospital services;

Therefore be it resolved that the government immediately put a stop to the costly and detrimental effects that will have resulted from hospital designation and that it will re-examine the need to introduce another layer of bureaucracy by supporting regional health boards.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 750

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses is celebrating 100 years of pioneering contribution to the health of Nova Scotians and Nova Scotian communities; and

Whereas every year some 7,000 registered nurses and 9,000 lay volunteers across Canada make literally hundreds of thousands of visits to homes across this country; and

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses is set to begin its second century of service to Canadians, a service that has become indispensable in face of the changing nature of health care;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Victorian Order of Nurses for 100 years of service to this province and give its promise to continue to work with the VON to meet the health care challenges of the future.

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

[Page 2176]

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 751

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 this government's idea of resolving the issue of the $10 million surplus in the teachers' health fund is to call out the lawyers; and

Whereas now, of all times, Nova Scotia's students, parents and teachers have more than enough challenges to cope with, without being drawn into a game of political bullying and game-playing by this government; and

Whereas the Department of Education and Culture supports peaceful conflict resolution and non-confrontational mediation in this province's schools as members of this House indicated yesterday by lauding the pioneering efforts of an educator in this regard;

Therefore be it resolved that this government call off the lawyers, put away the baseball bats and super soakers, behave like a role model for its own curriculum and sit down at the table with the NSTU to resolve this dispute.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 752

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

Whereas the Minister of the Environment has angered even the members of his own caucus with his bungling of the tender to recycle tires in Nova Scotia; and

[Page 2177]

Whereas the member for Colchester North is on record as saying what the Opposition has been saying for weeks - the government did not give a fair shot to interested Nova Scotia companies; and

Whereas the member for Colchester North said in the past year he had requested on numerous occasions that the local rubber recycler, Steve Benison, be allowed to give a detailed presentation, yet this did not happen;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment come out of the woodwork and unwrap the rubber which has been clogging his ears and allow all Nova Scotia companies a fair opportunity to do business with the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 753

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

Whereas Home Care Nova Scotia is a new program introduced by the current Liberal Government in June 1995, to replace the Co-ordinated Home Care Program that had been introduced by the former government when it was in power; and

Whereas Home Care Nova Scotia was developed to address the shortcomings of the former program which was limited in its ability to meet the home care needs of people under 65 years of age and those with incomes above a certain amount; and

Whereas the new Home Care Nova Scotia program can provide intermittent benefits seven days a week, 24 hours a day, in its first year of growth providing services to over 15,000 people and to demonstrate its further commitment this government has added $11 million to the Home Care budget for 1996-97 (Interruptions) bringing it up to a total of $60 million;

Therefore be it resolved that this government be commended for its commitment to Home Care which stands in the starkest contrast to the feeble commitment shown by the Tories when they were in power as evidence that this government's number one priority is health.

[Page 2178]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 754

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

Whereas in a recent speech to the people of Windsor, the Minister of Health used half a dozen euphemisms in order to avoid using the word, hospital; and

Whereas despite his government's relentless and persistent attack on Nova Scotian hospitals and in particular the Hants Community Hospital the word, hospital, is still commonly used in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the word, hospital, can still be found in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, along with other "h" words which aptly describe this government's approach to health reform, including such words as haphazard, horrible, horrendous, hideous, hazardous, and haughty;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health purchase a Concise Oxford Dictionary and that he pay particular attention to the "h" words - hapless, hopeless and hilarious - which describe his attempt to forevermore ban the word, hospital, from the Nova Scotia vocabulary.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 755

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

Whereas the Premier recently criticized doctors and nurses for frightening Nova Scotians and fear-mongering about the current state of our health care system; and

Whereas doctors and nurses are simply responding to the concerns expressed by thousands of their patients over this government's colossal mismanagement of the health care system; and

[Page 2179]

Whereas one of the primary reasons for the current crisis in our health care system has been this government's steadfast refusal to involve nurses, doctors and other front-line workers in health system reform;

Therefore be it resolved that instead of criticizing doctors and nurses for their efforts to address the crisis, both in care and in confidence, the Premier take off his blinders and begin to actively involve them and others in fixing the mess this government has created.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 756

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

Whereas it has been five years since Legislative Television began its services; and

Whereas on Monday past we learned only six hours of the business of this House, with almost no live coverage of and absolutely no replay of Question Period, would be broadcast by cable operators in the metro area; and

Whereas the cable operators will, however, replay tomorrow a post-election analysis of the recent U.S. presidential election;

Therefore be it resolved that this House expresses its serious concern to the cable operators of metro about their decision to telecast American politics while severely curtaining coverage of this House.

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

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 2180]

RESOLUTION NO. 757

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

Whereas this government lost out on the opportunity to have the storage depot for East Coast oil established in Port Tupper, even though the infrastructure was already in place and would have cost the oil companies $25 million less; and

Whereas the Premier of Nova Scotia is demonstrating those same negotiating skills in the possibility of moving Marine Atlantic's head office; and

Whereas the people of Nova Scotia are sick and tired of paying the price of lost jobs because of the Premier's lack of leadership in dealing with Ottawa;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier stand up for Nova Scotians, stand up to the federal government, for once, and stop the bleeding and stop the flow of federal jobs and funds to other provinces.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 758

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

Whereas Lunenburg County contains the largest school population of the new Southwest Regional School Board; and

Whereas not one member of the regional school board's senior management and not one of the regional school board's committee chairs is from Lunenburg County; and

Whereas Lunenburg County parents, teachers and students are sick and tired of Lunenburg County MLAs making excuses for the many pitfalls of school board amalgamation;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education immediately undertake a cost-benefit analysis, including both short-term and long-term outcomes, of realigning school district boundaries in southwestern Nova Scotia, with the intention of creating smaller, more manageable and closer to home school boards.

[Page 2181]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 759

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

Whereas Edith Mae Porter, Amber Churchill, Jennifer Eldridge, Stephen Woodward, Blake MacPherson, Jamie McMillan, Danny Schiefer, Pascal Routledge and Joseph Flinn all demonstrated great acts of personal bravery; and

Whereas those acts involved tremendous risk to their own safety; and

Whereas that risk resulted in the saving of lives;

Therefore be it resolved that this House send its congratulations and thanks to this year's award recipients of the St. John's Ambulance Lifesaving Awards.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[2:30 p.m.]

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat.

RESOLUTION NO. 760

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

Whereas the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party has reached out to British Columbia for help and has brought in the honourable Svend Robinson from British Columbia to give him advice and assistance; and

[Page 2182]

Whereas in British Columbia, the New Democratic Party Government of Premier Glen Clark recently won re-election on a campaign that claimed that deficit financing in B.C. had been licked thanks to the prudent financial management of the NDP which had brought in a small surplus; and

Whereas after the election an audit revealed that the NDP information to the people of British Columbia was dubious indeed and that there was no surplus at all but rather an enormous deficit of $750 million;

Therefore be it resolved that the effort to import such dubious government tactics into Nova Scotia and Halifax Needham will not succeed and the people of Halifax Needham and Nova Scotia will never accept the Glen Clark formula here, notwithstanding the slick door-to-door salesmanship of the honourable Svend Robinson and his political Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 761

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

Whereas on November 12th, Loaves and Fishes, industrial Cape Breton's only soup kitchen, suffered fire damage from a break-in and arson; and

Whereas people throughout the Maritimes have since contributed $6,000, as well as thousands of dollars worth of food; and

Whereas Loaves and Fishes responds to the unfortunate reality of providing 40,000 meals a year to those less fortunate;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House thank and commend those who responded so generously when Loaves and Fishes needed assistance to continue its important work.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2183]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 762

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

Whereas the Sun Life Nova Scotia Figure Skating Championships were held recently in New Glasgow; and

Whereas winning the Sun Life championship sets a standard of excellence in figure skating in this province; and

Whereas Gena Waller of Pictou and Durham was awarded first prize in the junior ladies age class;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to this talented, young Pictou skater as well as all of the other competitors for a job well done and extend every good wish as they compete in the Atlantic Regional Competition.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 39 - Entitled as Act Respecting the Bridgewater Curling Club. (Hon. Donald Downe as a private member.)

[Page 2184]

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

The time now being 2:35 p.m., the Oral Question Period will run for one hour, until 3:35 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: GAS PRICES - INCREASE

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. The Premier has been having a difficult time defending his blended sales tax recently. I would like to ask a question on behalf of those many Nova Scotians who run automobiles and trucks and so on and daily or weekly have to fill up at the gas station. After April 1st, a $20 fill up will cost $21.40. Now Nova Scotians, every year, buy roughly $700 million worth of gasoline. This adds the cost of gassing up to Nova Scotians, $53 million in new taxation under the blended sales tax when you buy gasoline at the pump. Will the Premier confirm that these additional costs of gassing up are in fact accurate?

HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, as I normally do, this is a matter for the Minister of Finance and I am going to refer it to the Minister of Finance to answer questions on this particular issue.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, there certainly are changes. There will be changes in prices on gasoline but the honourable Leader of the Opposition should also mention in the operation of a car that when the person buys the car, the tax will go down by 2 per cent on April 1, 1997; all the repairs will go down by 4 per cent and on and on. Motor oil that you use in the car will go down 4 per cent as well, I assume. So on and on it goes. You should look at both sides of the equation.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I knew there was an answer and we finally got it. If you buy a new car, you are going to be able to afford to buy gasoline. That is the answer.

AN HON. MEMBER: One would hope so. (Interruptions)

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

DR. HAMM: The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency seems to think that is funny but I don't think many Nova Scotians are going to think it is funny every time they go to the gas station after April 1st.

[Page 2185]

I have another question, Mr. Speaker, and again I will direct this at the Premier. The average Nova Scotia family that burns furnace oil to keep warm in the winter, uses some 2,500 litres of home heating fuel in the run of a winter. This will increase 3.2 cents per litre and will result in an average increase in cost to the average family of $80. Now that really amounts to a charge, a new tax in Nova Scotia to buy heating oil, of $15.5 million. Will the Premier confirm that this will be the additional cost of keeping warm after we have the blended sales tax?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, once again the Minister of Finance is the person responsible for these details. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the home heating oil, the prices change a lot, depending on the climate in North America. In fact, the home heating oil delivered to my house has gone up 4 cents, 5 cents or 6 cents a litre over the summer up to November, whatever it has gone up. I think the honourable Leader of the Opposition should also mention, for that same family that he is talking about, that if they qualify for the general tax reduction on income tax, 3.4 per cent of the provincial tax and if they happen to be in the low income tax area, then they will get a further reduction. So I think the Leader of the Opposition would be wise to give the full picture.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that between now and our next Question Period that the Minister of Finance would brief the Premier as to what is going on so he can answer some of these questions. (Interruptions)

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

DR. HAMM: By way of final supplementary, I want to table three documents. The first document is Table 6 which comes out of the Economic and Fiscal Analysis of Nova Scotia Tax Reform; the second document is a UNSM document and it is the effect on municipal taxes from harmonization; and, as well, a third document, Implications of Harmonized Tax on Landlords and Tenants in Nova Scotia.

My question to the Premier, or the Minister of Finance . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The Premier who knows so little today.

DR. HAMM: Where in this document, where in this Economic and Fiscal Analysis, that the previous Minister of Finance tabled here in this House last spring, does it give any analysis of the increase of costs to homeowners due to the increase in property taxes, or to rents to apartment dwellers due to the increase in rents that will follow the blended sales tax, where

[Page 2186]

is there an accounting in all of this that indicates to homeowners and apartment dwellers the direct increase in costs as a result of the blended sales tax?

MR. GILLIS: I can provide some of the information talking about the changes in property tax; assume there is no input assistance of offsets with municipalities and already there has been $0.5 million dedicated by the government of the Premier to help fire departments, including volunteer fire departments. The discussions, as I am sure the honourable Leader of the Opposition knows, are ongoing. But, in any event, based on, say, a 25 per cent pass-through in cost to municipalities and looking at the residential and commercial assessment, the tax increase on a $100,000 home would be something like, I think it is $34 and, based on a 50 per cent pass-through, the total increase in property taxes would be $24. So he should keep those figures in perspective when he raises the questions.

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

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: EFFECT - LEVEL

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. Again, it has to do with the BS Tax. Earlier this week I talked a bit with the Minister of Finance about the consultation process that went into this deal and the Minister of Finance cited off about 80 groups that were talked about. We had some debate or discussion about whether they were the who's who of the elite in this province or not. But anyway, that having been said, clearly there is one group that feels they have had meaningful consultation, meaningful input into the process. I refer you to the Business Voice, the publication of the Metro Chamber of Commerce that just came into our office yesterday, and in it the chamber is quite clearly crowing about how effective they have been in lobbying and advocating, with this government, in order to bring about changes that benefit them and their interests. It shouldn't be a surprise to anybody, not to a lot of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier is, in view of the mounting evidence - including the announcement yesterday that MMG as a smaller retail chain is pulling out of New Brunswick and potentially out of Nova Scotia - and the fact that this is a bad deal for many ordinary Nova Scotians, I want to ask the Premier, when is he going to start levelling the playing field in this province and give ordinary, hardworking Nova Scotians the same kind of opportunity to lobby and advocate for their interests like the chamber of commerce has?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I like to meet the people of the chamber of commerce, the people who are the business people of this province, the people who employ people in this province, and I will continue to work with the chambers of commerce right throughout this province. The enigma and the difficulty for the NDP is that they have a Party which is not, in any way, inclined to support business. Most of their suggestions about new changes are to tax business.

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We are proud to sit down and to talk with the chamber of commerce, at their request, I might add, on many of the issues that the HST has provoked. We will do it with any organization. Most of the people here, I know the MLAs in Dartmouth have had meetings with various groups. I have had groups of people and I have spoken to them. I have spoken to many and will speak to many more in the upcoming months. I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, that we do not put in any lack of perspective the willingness of the government to talk to people about this harmonization. We are prepared to talk. We have already met with hundreds and hundreds of Nova Scotians and we will continue to do so.

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, clearly Nova Scotians understand whose interests this government represents. They represent the interests of the powerful and the privileged in this province, just like the former government did. They are continuing down that track. Let's talk about other businesses that are not quite as happy about this deal. Let's talk about the owners of MMG, the small retailers in this province and in the Atlantic Provinces that are going out of business as a result of this deal. What about the bowling alley operators? What about the hairdressers? What about the hardware owners? What about those people? What about those small businesses that are being hammered as a result of the BST?

My question to the Premier is, when are you going to give those business people an opportunity to have the same kind of input you privileged the chamber of commerce with?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, before I answer his question, I should perhaps address the prologue, the introduction to his question. This government took 155,000 Nova Scotians on low incomes and reduced their taxes by one-third to one-half in 1994. (Applause) This government was the only government, and that includes NDP Governments, in this country that increased the Provincial Social Assistance to those on welfare. (Applause) This government will be reducing taxes so that after the bill is passed, after the tax measures are passed, a family in Nova Scotia that earns $19,000, of two and two, two parents and two children, will pay no provincial income tax, and we have said that. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, we have consistently looked after those people in this province who we felt needed our assistance and we will continue to do so.

The people to whom he refers many of us have met in the chamber of commerce. Many of them joined the chamber of commerce. They are on boards of trade throughout this province. Many of our MLAs have met these people and have discussed the issue. I would warn you not to be deceived by a Quebec company whose interests were pretty marginal to start with.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of rhetoric, those are the kinds of lies that work well. That is the kind of foolishness that works well with the chamber as the audience, with the powerful and the privileged sitting in the audience, but he does not have

[Page 2188]

the courage to talk to ordinary Nova Scotians about how good his government has been to them. Let's see him give that a chance.

My final supplementary to the Premier. As far as I am concerned it is not good enough for businesses and organizations like the chamber of commerce to cut a deal. But if they do that, they have to understand the consequences. I would like to ask the Premier, if he insists on cutting this kind of deal in the back room, against the interests of an overwhelming majority of Nova Scotians who are opposed to this deal, has he discussed with the chamber of commerce the costs that they and the business community in this province will face when Nova Scotians have an opportunity to vote on this deal and the next government decides to scrap the blended sales tax? Has he discussed those kinds of consequences with the chamber of commerce, Mr. Speaker?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, perhaps before I answer his question I should remind him that talking to people on low incomes, I was on the picket lines in this metropolitan area when he was in diapers. (Laughter)

Further, the next government, Mr. Speaker, will be a Liberal Government and it will really reinforce the HST and we will see the full benefits. Because the word that is important for people to understand is jobs: 19,000 more in this province since we took over and we can be proud of that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

ENVIRON. - RESOURCE RECOVERY FUND:

TIRE RECYCLING - TRACC EXPORT POLICY

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for my colleague the Minister of the Environment. As of 11:49 a.m yesterday, the policy of the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment and the Nova Scotia Government respecting non-hazardous waste said in part, and I quote from the department's policy and I will table it, ". . . the Province is actively promoting energy conservation to reduce the need for thermal power generation. Where additional thermal power capacity is required, it intends to meet this need through domestic sources. It would be inconsistent with these approaches to permit the thermal destruction of waste tires for electric power generation.".

My question, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the policy for which this minister is responsible is this, why then has the minister agreed to allow TRACC to export up to 30 per cent of waste tires collected in Nova Scotia, any or all of them, to be made available for burning for energy recovery in another province?

[Page 2189]

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the question is a very appropriate one in these times of a lot of misinformation that is abounding the issue, but I am glad to have the opportunity to explain that it is not a matter of this minister in his authority allowing but rather recognizing the conditions of a negotiated contract which permitted that there would be 30 per cent of used rubber categorized for the ability to be exported from the province for other jurisdictions. Whether that is burnt or not, the parameters are there to allow it to be used for tire derived fuel.

What is more important, Mr. Speaker, is that reference was made in the question to TRACC, Tire Recycling Atlantic Canada Corporation. I would say that they are facing a disincentive, if you will, if they are to export those tires because they are only paid for the tires they collect in Nova Scotia for reproduction into new products in Nova Scotia. So if they do export 30 per cent, then they are exporting 30 per cent of their profits.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: That is not right.

MR. ADAMS: That is a fact. I have the floor and will continue, Mr. Speaker, with the correct version. Those tires are a better incentive in Nova Scotia for reproduction into new rubber products and to the advantage of the new company that has been awarded the contract by the Resource Recovery Fund Board.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, a number of years ago the Supreme Court of Canada made it very clear that policy has the same force in law as regulation. This is the policy of this government, that waste tires should not be burned to create electrical energy. This contract to which the minister refers, he believes, overrides the law. I ask this minister, in view of the fact that he is prepared to back and sign the contract which will, in fact, override the law of Nova Scotia, is he at the very least contemplating changing the Nova Scotia Government's ban on thermal destruction of tires within Nova Scotia?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, the member for Queens makes reference to a policy which I believe he was author of, "Non-hazardous wastes . . .", of Nova Scotia, ". . . are not being allowed into the Province from foreign sources primarily for the purpose of either landfilling or destruction. 2. Use of tires for the purpose of thermal destruction is not permitted in Nova Scotia.". I am sure that his reasons were environmental, as our reasons are for the banning of burning of tires in Nova Scotia but, more importantly, as I mentioned earlier, we can add to that reason of environmental pollution to prosperity of this province. All of us are being very diligent in trying to find opportunities that can create jobs in this province. Certainly burning rubber is not one way to create jobs; if we don't burn the tire, we create a job. I think that equation is clear in the minds of Nova Scotians. I think they would rather see us create jobs with that product which was once waste.

[Page 2190]

We are now honouring the policy which was written back in 1991. We recognize that perhaps at the time that it was written it was for protection against tires being burned in Queens County, Nova Scotia, but, nonetheless, we are interested in tires not being burned anywhere in the province for pollution reasons and now, more importantly, for economic reasons. We can make money and create jobs by keeping the tires in Nova Scotia without burning them.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that all Nova Scotians would appreciate it if the minister would explain his inconsistency. How does he explain the morality of not allowing used tires to be burned in Nova Scotia because it is not good for the environment while, at the same time, he not only supports but participates in the promotion of having them burned outside Nova Scotia where we have no control over emission standards and, as well, are assuredly downwind of any long distance transported emissions? Would the minister please explain that inconsistency for Nova Scotians?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I want to point out clearly that there is no inconsistency there. Nova Scotia, as are the other 10 provinces of Canada and the Yukon Territories, is a member of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment and we, in partnership, from coast to coast, set emission standards for every province. Those provinces which do burn tires have emission limits which must be emitted from their smokestack and that is universal in that we have all signatures to that agreement. Nova Scotia does not permit the burning of them, therefore we do not have that emission standard but we recognize that any other province that would burn them must fall within those limits set by the Canadian Ministers of the Environment.

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

ENVIRON. - RESOURCE RECOVERY FUND:

TIRE RECYCLING - INCINERATION BAN LIFTED

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, in November 1994, the Savage Government called for expressions of interest . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is the question for?

MR. TAYLOR: The question is for the Minister of the Environment. The Savage Government called for expressions of interest relative to establishing a tire recycling plant in this province in November 1994. One of the terms of reference in the expression of interest clearly states - and I will read and table this document, just one sentence with your permission, Mr. Speaker - "In Nova Scotia there is a ban on the incineration of tires for energy recovery and the export . . .", I think the operative word is export in this case, ". . . and the export of tires for incineration for energy recovery.".

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Will the minister confirm that the ban was lifted subsequent to TRACC, the Manitoba company - and it is a Manitoba company, Mr. Speaker - being selected and that none of the other 53 companies were notified of this change?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get involved with all the misinformation that he just enunciated but I think the gist of his question was, did we change the contract or change the terms of reference? In terms of the Department of the Environment of Nova Scotia, the answer is no, but if you want to go with the Atlantic Ministers of the Environment, the answer is yes. So he should get the thing in perspective and be factual with his question so that we can get the proper information in the right sequence.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do we have translators?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, again I go to the Minister of the Environment. I should tell the Minister of the Environment that I tabled a document that his government issued to any of the companies that submitted proposals.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of the New Brunswick contract which, again, I would like to read and table and it is just a couple of sentences. In New Brunswick, "TRACC shall not, in any fiscal year, sell or otherwise dispose of an amount in excess of 30% of PTE(1)'s for use as tire derived fuel . . .". But they also have a provision in the New Brunswick contract where, "TRACC shall pay to the Minister 50 cents for each PTE(1) which it may sell or dispose of in contravention . . .", of the 30 per cent. Why hasn't this Nova Scotia Government been able to obtain a similar provision from the Manitoba company whereby Nova Scotia taxpayers will have some assurances that if TRACC exceeds the 30 per cent, which they are doing out in Manitoba because they are burning nearly 60 per cent of the tires they collect there, how come the Nova Scotia taxpayers don't have any similar assurances?

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, let me first say again that TRACC does not have any operations in Manitoba. So his reference to Manitoba is simply different, with a different regime and a different application.

I want to make it clear to him that he makes reference to a clause in an agreement that simply says that in Nova Scotia there is a ban on the incineration of tires for energy recovery and the export of tires for incineration for energy recovery. New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island do not ban the incineration of tires.

Mr. Speaker, I make reference to his document that he has tabled, the same document that I have here, and remind him that that is a document that was put together by the Atlantic Ministers of the Environment when they were looking for an Atlantic solution to the tire

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pollution problem. That agreement ended in December 1994, after which time each province went on their own.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotia reviewed all the applications the Atlantic ministers had looked at. We had our terms of reference put forward and we used the policy, as written and prescribed by his colleague who is a former Minister of the Environment, and we adapted that policy to prohibit burning in Nova Scotia.

We also, as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, looked at the advantage of reusing that tire for an economic benefit for Nova Scotia. It is creating jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I think the question becomes very mischievous. He does not come to the point. I would be happy if he would just ask a simple question about the whole process and let him know that the Government of Nova Scotia did not negotiate the contract with TRACC. It was done by the Resource Recovery Fund Board, at arm's length from the government.

So to ask me why didn't I negotiate what New Brunswick negotiated, it is because it was done independent of government, for all the right reasons, in private industry.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the Department of the Environment and, I guess more specifically, the Resource Recovery Fund Board, is disseminating a 17 point document detailing the comparison between Atlantic Rubber Recyclers and the TRACC company in Manitoba. The document is very much erroneous and really is bogus, speaking of a bogus document, because the document was prepared by a consultant with absolutely no previous experience in tire recycling.

Now, Mr. Speaker, a provincial committee made up of Transportation officials, Environment officials, Economic Renewal Agency officials, short listed the Nova Scotia company, Atlantic Rubber Recyclers. Why won't the Minister of the Environment table that report and recommendation?

Mr. Speaker, my question is simply this, why won't the Minister of the Environment table the report and recommendation of the provincial committee that went over the 54 expressions of interest, relative to tire recycling?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, he asked why won't I but I think he wants to ask me to do it. Is that the question? If that is the question, yes, I will table that material because it is in your hands now and in other people's hands, so I will table it.

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

[Page 2193]

ENVIRON. - RESOURCE RECOVERY FUND:

TIRE RECYCLING - TRACC CASING CHARGES

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, again I go to the Minister of the Environment. Thank you, Mr. Minister of the Environment, for stating that you will table that document because during the last legislative session I had requested you to do so and so far it has never come forward.

Mr. Speaker, we are beginning to see how this government creates jobs. The Premier was up just a short while ago, in response to a question, and saying jobs, jobs, jobs. Well, what they are doing is transferring existing jobs from Conservative communities to Liberal communities. That is how this government creates jobs.

Today I can get a new tire at Canadian Tire on Quinpool Road for $29. What we have been told by the company that this government has selected to recycle tires in our province, a company out in Manitoba, is that the largest retailer making retread tires in Nova Scotia, Eastern Tire, down in New Glasgow, will have to pay $15 for every casing that it purchases from the Manitoba company. They have also been told that in order to obtain these casings, they have to walk through piles and piles of tires.

Will the minister promise this House that he will stop this price gouging and allow this company to continue what has been a successful path, Eastern Tire, down in New Glasgow?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, it has been my experience to recognize that the private sector polices itself quite well in the business of competition. I do understand that the successful applicant for the tire recycling business has had discussions with the tire re-capper that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Harbour refers to. He has also talked to other people who are doing different things with rubber in the province, such as the configuration of door mats and that kind of thing, hobby craft shops. It is my understanding that he has talked to a wide variety of people who use tires and it is my understanding, also, that he will do what he can to maintain and support those industries.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, back on November 12th at a press conference relative to the announcement regarding the contract between the Savage Government and the Manitoba company, the Minister of the Environment told us that the $3 and $9 fee was an environmental fee, not a tire tax. Would the minister tell this House and all Nova Scotians what the difference is between an environmental fee and a tire tax?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, if Mr. Taylor attended the press conference then he understands the answer I gave, even though the press did not report it. But let me say first that Nova Scotia, through the Resource Recovery Fund Board, did not - and I repeat for the benefit of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, did not - sign a contract with a Manitoba company. The Resource Recovery Fund Board signed a contract with a Dartmouth-

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based Nova Scotia company. Just to clear his records so that he does not continue to mislead and misinform all the press and all the people of Nova Scotia, I believe the people who are signatories to the contract know their addresses.

Let me go on further to help the member understand the difference, as I put it, between a tax and a fee. I recognize the fact that in terms of the tire environmental fee, that we are charging monies that will not go to government. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I have been requested to the floor to answer a question about my definition and I will repeat my definition. The fee is going to the Resource Recovery Fund Board for the management of tire recycling in this province. It is a move that members opposite did not have the courage to go forward with when they were in government. We have picked up the pieces after so many years of pollution of tires and other waste products and turned them into resources that can be used to generate jobs and the economy for this province. The fact is that governments who continue to borrow money and tax, that is tax, money that goes to government revenues and used for other and all purposes of government in this province. The fee is channelled to one area. It is not going to the hands of government and they can call it what they will. The fact is, I do not have the authority to tax Nova Scotians, only through the collective embodiment of the Minister of Finance, and Cabinet, and this is not one of those exercises.

MR. TAYLOR: That was a very enlightening description of the difference between a tire tax, which this is, and I would challenge, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment, if he is of the conviction and of the belief that this is not a tax and that it is a fee, I would challenge the Minister of the Environment, either immediately or if it is more suitable, after Question Period, to go out into the street with me and we will ask the first 20 people we meet whether or not they consider this to be a tax or a fee. If the minister would agree to that, we could then come back in and table our results.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is simply this (Interruptions) I believe I still have the floor. It has been reported in many newspapers that the MLA for Truro-Bible Hill and the MLA for Colchester North approached the Minister of the Environment to have a local company at least be given an opportunity to go to the negotiating table with the Resource Recovery Fund and lay their cards on the table. I take that to be the truth, that they actually did ask that Minister of the Environment to go to the table. I have to ask the minister, why wasn't the local company given an opportunity to do business with this Savage Government?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of questions in his presentation just now but he was asking me to go to the street with him and meet 20 people and ask them about the tire fee versus the tax. Now he is asking me whether or not, I feel that his interest (Interruption) No, I can answer them all, it's the Opposition has difficulty asking the question that won't be answered.

[Page 2195]

As minister who is ultimately responsible for the exercise that took place with the Resource Recovery Fund Board and the tire applicants, I can stand here today and say that I am satisfied that the last two proponents that came down were given equal consideration in the final analysis. We went through the whole check and balance of the cross-references and found out that there was equality in terms of consideration. This minister went one step further, and the House should know and so should the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley that I did meet with Mr. Benison in my office, along with other people, and we reviewed his presentation and his proposal. At that time there were no opportunities for guarantees without interfering or undoing the process that was in place, but I repeat that we are satisfied that there was equal opportunity in the exercise and demonstration of that agreement.

In answer to the other question, we will go on the street and we will meet 20 people and ask them their observations of the tax or fee on tires. I am going to explain why I deliberately did that. In a very short time, the public will be aware of the results of a poll that we conducted between November 12th and November 18th and the poll clearly indicates that 87 per cent - that's the number - of Nova Scotians approve of the government's recycling of tires proposal, that $3.00 environmental fee. Thirty-nine per cent believe it should be called a tax but of those 39 per cent, 80 per cent believe it is the right application of monies. I will meet his 20 people any day, any hour. (Applause)

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

FIN.: PST & GST HARMONIZATION - AGREEMENT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Finance and it has to do with the agreement that he tabled in this House the other day on the blended sales tax entitled, the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of X. The Government of X, I guess, includes us and Newfoundland and New Brunswick. My question is, within this agreement it says that for Nova Scotians to have a lower tax rate we have to have the unanimous consent of all the other governments party to this agreement and I would like to ask the minister, would he explain, on behalf of the government, why is it he and his government have made such an outrageous decision to tie the hands of the Province of Nova Scotia in tax matters?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons is that the Atlantic Provinces are in this together, except for P.E.I. which is not a part, but there is protection both ways. If there was not an article such as this in the agreement, New Brunswick could try to undercut us and try to undersell northern Nova Scotia, Cumberland County, Colchester County, and do real harm to our people in that part of Nova Scotia.

[Page 2196]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we have seen the Province of New Brunswick do that already, in fact do it the other day at the press conference with this minister. The provinces are still going to be fighting tooth and nail over the question of how much each is going to compensate corporations to come from away. The question has to do with authority, jurisdiction over our own tax system here in this province, and I want to go back to the Minister of Finance with a further question on this agreement. What this agreement also does is it gives up responsibility for changes to this tax system - changes that should be in the hands of the people of Nova Scotia - to the Tax Policy Review Committee, a group of employees of this government to be appointed by this government. No provision is in place to be accountable to this Legislature or even to the people of Nova Scotia.

[3:15 p.m.]

My question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister. This deal has been negotiated and now it is going to be administered behind closed doors. Why would this government - the minister responsible and his government - agree to give up further responsibility for changes in the tax system to a nameless, faceless group of bureaucrats, instead of leaving it up to this Legislature to make decisions on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should go a little deeper into this matter. We intend to have, eventually, what is going to be called the Canadian Border and Revenue Service that will handle the taxation matters for the provinces that are harmonized, including the federal government. The Province of Nova Scotia insisted on accountability. The Minister of Finance for Nova Scotia will have a representative sitting on that particular board - that particular body - and I assure you as a Liberal Government we will be accountable to this House.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, again you know this deal was signed behind closed doors. It was not tabled until questions were asked about it in this House in the last couple of days. When the minister talks about this Tax Policy Review Committee and decisions being made behind closed doors, he says we are eventually planning to do, and that I should know about that. That is the problem here.

My final question to the Minister of Finance is, instead of allowing details to trickle out day after day, month after month, why don't you and your government come clean with Nova Scotians? Back off on this deal until you take this deal and the whole issue of the blended sales tax out across this province and talk to ordinary Nova Scotians about what the impact is going to be?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, there is an old adage, ask and you shall receive. The agreement is no secret. (Interruptions) I repeat, ask and you shall receive. The President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union is much more on the ball than the Leader of the NDP (Interruptions) Is he suggesting that David Peters is not an ordinary Nova Scotian?

[Page 2197]

He represents that union. (Interruptions) He is a Nova Scotian. He asked for the report and it was given to him.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION:

PROPERTY RENTAL COSTS - EFFECT

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is for the Minister of Finance and I am delighted to be able to ask it in the aftermath of his "Ask and ye shall receive" comment because that gives me great hope that I will in fact receive not only an answer to my question but an undertaking to the request I will make of him.

The Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, will be well aware that there are thousands of property owners in this province who rent accommodations to tens and tens and tens of thousands of people across this province. It is clear, and the Minister of Finance knows this only too well, that the landlords of this province face tremendous expenses in the operation of their businesses - advertising, management fees, office expenses, appliance repair, electrical power, electrical repair, fuel oil, general repair, landscaping, painting, pest control, plumbing repairs, refuge removal, cleaning, snow removal, professional fees, water and sewer, insurance, property taxes and so on. And it is also clear that it is in the main the seniors and the students and the low and middle income of our community who live in those tens of thousands of apartments. It is equally clear, as the minister knows, that the implication and the application of the BST to the operation of the landlord's business will add tremendously increased expense to the landlords and ultimately to the renters of the Province of Nova Scotia. I ask the Minister of Finance if he will not agree with me today that the new BST will in fact increase rental costs for the renters - the tenants - across the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would know, non-commercial rents are not taxed under the current GST and they will not be taxed under HST. Then he would know, of course, that there is no input tax credit for those persons to have. I know there are some pressures in some parts of Nova Scotia but with the vacancy rate, sometimes there are landlords advertising a free month's rent to get people in. So I don't think it is a major problem and, I repeat, there is no HST on non-commercial rents.

MR. DONAHOE: Well, it is really quite unfortunate that the minister decided to answer a question that somebody else might have asked him but not the question that I asked him, because I did not, Mr. Speaker, as I put the question, talk about HST, GST, PST, BST on the rentals being charged. I asked about the impact on the expense faced by the owners of the rental properties themselves.

[Page 2198]

Mr. Speaker, this Minister of Finance knows that a typical 200 unit apartment complex, in this case in the City of Dartmouth, as a result of BST is going to face a $19,241 new expense; a 48 unit condominium complex in Halifax is going to face an additional $3,299, $68.73 per condominium; a 48 unit building is going to experience a $67.85 per apartment annual loss to the landlord; and so on.

The question I am trying to ask this minister to respond to is, what undertaking will this minister give that that expense reality to be faced as a result of the BST impact on the landlords will be relieved by rebate or otherwise? Failing that, what undertaking will he give to the tens of thousands of renters across the Province of Nova Scotia that they, the renters - the seniors, the middle and low income earners, the students of Nova Scotia - will not experience the pass-through of those additional BST costs on their rental cost? What undertaking will he give?

MR. GILLIS: I explained already that in cases he cited in this metropolitan area, and he can check the listings, people are offering incentives. So obviously there is still some room there. They are not that crowded and they can offer some incentives. Therefore, hopefully they can pick up the additional costs; they might because maybe the rents they are charging will cover it.

I also think that honourable member should look at the other side of the package. The owners of these apartments - the landlords - possibly pay corporate income tax, but they pay personal income tax and it is coming down 3.4 per cent, the first time in the history of Nova Scotia.

I will add, before I take my seat, that with regard to seniors and senior citizens' housing there is no HST applied to that.

MR. DONAHOE: Boy oh boy, the smoke and mirrors are unbelievable. When this Minister of Finance acknowledges to me today, as he has, that the landlords of Nova Scotia are going to face a withering increase in expenses and costs as a result of the BST (Interruption) Yes, Premier, it is true. Premier, go shake your head somewhere else. It is true. The landlords of Nova Scotia are going to face a withering increase in costs. Those costs are going to be passed on to the thousands and thousands of seniors and middle and lower income earners and the students of Nova Scotia who are their tenants, and all this Minister of Finance can say to me is, aha, they don't get any relief in their business but, boy, that wonderful reduction in personal income tax is going to save them. The increase across the province to the landlords is in the couple of million dollars of new expense. (Interruptions) It is. It is going to be passed on to the tenants of the Province of Nova Scotia.

I ask the Minister of Finance, by way of final supplementary, if he will give a commitment today to meet immediately with IPOANS - the Investment Property Owners' Association of Nova Scotia - to address with that organization, which represents the landlords

[Page 2199]

of the province, ways and means whereby they and, perhaps even more important, their tens of thousands of renters in all our constituencies - go home, everybody who is nattering at me from across the other side, Mr. Speaker, I invite them to go home and talk to the people who are the tenants in their constituencies and talk about the impact that this is going to have on them.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DONAHOE: Will this minister meet immediately with IPOANS to try to find a way to reduce the devastating impact of the BST on the landlords of Nova Scotia and, by consequence, to ensure that the renters of Nova Scotia are not pounded with hundreds of thousands of dollars of new rental cost? Will he give that undertaking?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, staff of the Department of Finance have met with the building owners and managers. They are a group that came forward. They presented their case and they presented their items. There may have been more than one meeting but if that property owners group wants to met with my officials or myself, the door is always open, given reasonable notice and time.

I just want to reassure that honourable member, so that he will not in any way be upset by this, one of the things he could pass along to the public is that with 3,000 more people working in Nova Scotia and our economy growing by 1 per cent on the GDP, there will be fewer defaults, people will be able to pay their rent.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel on a new question.

ENVIRON. - RESOURCE RECOVERY FUND:

TIRE RECYCLING TRACC - CONTRACT SIGNATORY

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: I would give this undertaking to the Minister of Finance, that when he produces the list and describes precisely and clearly the 3,000 new jobs, where they are and who they are, then I will join him. I will share the cost of a public advertisement to tell the people of Nova Scotia where those jobs are.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is for the Minister of the Environment. I wonder if the Minister of the Environment will confirm for me and for the House today that Elwood Dillman, the former Chairman of the Nova Scotia Resource Recovery Fund Inc. refused to sign the tire recycling deal that has, in fact, now been signed with the out-of-province company?

HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of that being a fact so I can't answer in the affirmative today.

[Page 2200]

MR. DONAHOE: Well, Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, I am suggesting that that is, in fact, the situation and that the minister knew it and that it was on that consequence that changes were made at the leadership of the Resource Recovery Fund Inc. and that Mr. Dillman went to the West, he looked at the deal and the operation being run by the western organization. He came back and he reported that it was not the kind of deal for Nova Scotia, it was not good for Nova Scotia, not good for Nova Scotians, not good for Nova Scotia Resource Recovery Fund Inc. and not good for the Nova Scotia environment; it was a bad deal all the way around. In fact, Mr. Dillman refused to sign that deal.

I ask again, will the Minister of the Environment indicate to me whether or not Mr. Dillman informed him that upon his analysis of the deal out West, he, Mr. Dillman, indicated that the deal, in Mr. Dillman's opinion, was not right for Nova Scotia?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I will emphatically answer the member's question by telling him that I absolutely did not know that is why Mr. Dillman did not sign the contract. I had no knowledge at all in that regard.

I will also say that part of your analogy is accurate, as I know it, but not the whole bit. (Interruption) Mr. Dillman did not, Mr. Speaker, and I make it clear, say that it was not a good deal for Nova Scotia, based on what he saw in Winnipeg. What he saw in Winnipeg he thought was "unenvironmental", in terms of its cleanliness and its state of operation. We looked at all the proponents, as opposed to how we would do it in Nova Scotia under our environmental policies and practices. It is quite clear that what Mr. Dillman saw in Winnipeg would not be mirrored in Nova Scotia.

Again, to answer the other question we had and keep getting, quite frankly it is not a Manitoba company that is operating this plant in Nova Scotia. We are dealing with Nova Scotians who have committed themselves in the exercise of negotiations that they would honour the environmental standards of Nova Scotia.

MR. DONAHOE: In light of that answer from the Minister of the Environment, may I ask him, through you, Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary if he will table two things. This minister has just told this House that the deal, the operation, whatever it will be, which will function in Nova Scotia is not going to be the same as Mr. Dillman saw out West. (Interruption) Of course it is not.

[3:30 p.m.]

Well, if that is the case and the minister confirms that is the case, I ask first of all if the Minister of the Environment will table the documentations to verify that there are differences and that what is going to happen here in Nova Scotia is different from what Mr. Dillman saw out West. I ask further if this minister will table any and all correspondence, letters and documents which passed between himself and Mr. Dillman or any other member of the

[Page 2201]

Resource Recovery Fund Inc. relative to the decision taken to go with the tire plant operation here in the Province of Nova Scotia. Will he give this House those undertakings?

MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, there is quite a number of containments in that question the honourable member puts forward. I will look at the written version of his question and I will reply to it verbally because I know he is asking for some things in that mix that are confidential. Some things are very public and those will be looked at in the public way, but I will read the question first.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

FIN. - PST & GST HARMONIZATION: CHANGES - DISCUSSIONS

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: My question had been for the Minister of Finance, but, however I will direct my question to the Premier.

A short time ago the Premier replying to a question from the Leader of the Opposition stated that MMG was a small Quebec company. I would like to point out to the Premier that MMG is not a Quebec company, actually it is a Manitoba company with their headquarters in Winnipeg. They have approximately, I believe, 500 stores across this country employing thousands of employees and, in point of fact, within this province they are even an important component of the retail sector having about 500 employees in 19 stores.

I see the Minister of Finance is back, if I may, can I redirect my question to the Minister of Finance? Would the Minister of Finance confirm that he is still having ongoing discussions with sectors within this province relating to changes to the BST and its impact on those various sectors?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Once the technical paper was released on October 23, 1996, the Government of Canada and the three provinces welcomed any concerns that were raised about the technical details relating to harmonization. We have been hearing from various people, my staff have mainly and I am sure the federal government has. That is essentially it, it is not on the general thrust of the whole program, but we have certainly done everything we can in terms of staff levels.

The retail sector was mentioned to lessen the impact to keep the costs down as low as possible. For example, it would appear that in most small businesses in Nova Scotia, unlike earlier thoughts, it will not be necessary to replace cash registers. The present cash registers certainly can be used and that is the type of thing we have been looking at. We have been hearing those things and I am up to roughly the present time.

[Page 2202]

MR. RUSSELL: I wonder if the minister would confirm that insofar as the federal government is concerned, this is a signed deal. Any changes to the present regime to which the federal government has agreed, will be charged back to the Province of Nova Scotia. In other words, if the Province of Nova Scotia receives a representation from some sector and decides to exempt them from a portion or all of the BST or some other arrangement, that change will not be cost-shared by the federal government, but in fact will impact on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia?

MR. GILLIS: There are basic parameters in the deal and those are the broad principles and up to roughly now, you could comment on the details. I think it is true to say that if anybody varied, if they want to do something else, like Nova Scotia has done on housing to have a housing rebate, volunteer fire departments and tourism rebates, these are on us, they are on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, but other than that, I do not think there is an impact, because we do not intend to change the major tenets of the agreement.

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

Before moving to Government Business, I would like to recognize the Minister of Natural Resources on an introduction.

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to a young woman sitting in the east gallery. She is a political science student from Saint Mary's University and she is part of a pilot project, a mentorship program that has been initiated by Saint Mary's University and the Nova Scotia Women's Liberal Commission to bring young women into the folds, so to speak, to learn about the government and political processes. She is sitting in the east gallery and I would ask Kathy Carroll to stand and receive the warm welcome of the people in the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Before moving to Government Business, the Clerk has conducted the draw for the late debate this evening and the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party will debate at 6:00 p.m. this evening:

Therefore be it resolved that the government honour its commitment to the survivors of institutional abuse.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 2203]

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, please call Resolution No. 643.

Res. No. 643, re Fin. - Expenditure Add.: Health/Supply & Serv./Pub. Serv. - Approval - notice given Nov. 18/96 - (Hon. W. Gillis)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, we have in front of us Resolution No. 643 respecting the estimates for the fiscal year which ended March 31, 1996. What I would like to do is to speak briefly and give a bit of an explanation of the reason I am before the House today on this particular matter and, before I conclude, I will table a breakdown of the expenditures to share information, so that the members will have as much information as possible for which purposes the money that was spent in 1995-96 was used. I would just like to make that clear; so that information will be available.

As members will know, Mr. Speaker, our Expenditure Control Act requires us to seek legislative approval for significant changes or increases in government spending. The first such resolution under this Act was tabled in the Legislature last spring. The Expenditure Control Act required the government to meet certain spending targets, as all honourable members would know. These limits were exceeded once the province made a decision last spring to compensate victims of abuse at provincial institutions, such as the one at Shelburne. Accordingly, a resolution "that a sum not exceeding $32,037,900 be granted to the Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect of the Department of Justice respecting compensation for Victims Institutional Abuse" was passed by this House on April 4th of this year.

Additional expenditures in the Departments of Health and Community Services did not require legislative approval at that time. The reasons for the extra spending in fiscal 1995-96 reflect the real demands made on social services by Nova Scotians. Most of the reasons why Health came in higher than expected was because of demands for services such as hospital care, home care, and nursing care, as well as Pharmacare. Many of these demands were identified early on in the fiscal year; budget adjustments last spring took these requirements into account. Throughout the government, orderly planning can allow increased needs without necessarily affecting overall government financial goals.

Unfortunately, some of the reasons for increased health care spending were unexpected. As an example, officials overestimated revenues from other provinces; there were certain recoveries expected. Situations like these are not new. Over the past decade, unfortunately, only once has the Department of Health come in on budget. To my regret, we did not discover the full extent of the extra spending in health care soon enough. We did not discover

[Page 2204]

the full intent of the issue until well after the end of the financial year; in other words, well after March 31, 1996 and, in fact, after the House rose last spring.

The unexpected, unplanned extra spending was eventually determined to be in the amount of nearly $52 million; it is given exactly on the resolution. The magnitude of this change in budget caused the Minister of Health to take action. He drew up a plan to deal with this challenge and we increased our allocation to the Department of Health in the current fiscal year but it was within the general plan because we knew we had to go up in the year that ended March 31, 1996, and that has had repercussions for the year we are in. When I reported on the first quarter of 1996-97 it showed that the Health expenditures had gone up by $64 million for this year.

Across government, we took steps to ensure that in the future we will not be faced with year-end spending surprises. Departments are being held fully accountable for their forecasts. The extra spending on health care is the primary reason we are holding this debate today. That is why we have the overrun, as you will see when I table the breakdown. Of course, it is summarized in the resolution that is before you now. That extra spending is not the only reason; it is the main reason.

The House is also being asked to approve the allocation of nearly $1.5 million for the Department of Supply and Services. That extra spending is due to the government's decision to assume the debts on certain courthouses across the province. Due to circumstances beyond the control of the government, the Public Inquiry into the Westray Mine Disaster went over budget by a little more than $78,000 last year.

At this point, we have some information in the resolution on the spending but, as I said I would do, I want to table a breakdown. I just want to say as I draw towards the conclusion on this that each of the amounts shown here can be defended. They were, of course, in the public interest and it is money that has been spent. Under the new law that this government has put in place, we have the accountability. Not just doing extra appropriations in the Cabinet Room and never hearing about them again except in an Auditor General's Report, we must come in here and seek a resolution debate on the matter.

I will just say that the money was spent on purposes for which it was needed. The Westray Inquiry, the province's court system and our health care system certainly deserve the money that has been spent.

In drawing my remarks to a conclusion, Madam Speaker, I truly regret the necessity of the debate today and I hope the measures that we have taken will ensure that it will not happen again, as best as you humanly can do that. But, as all honourable members would know, the Expenditure Control Act that was passed by this House anticipated there may well be need for extra spending from time to time. This government has required that when extra spending is as large as it was, this House would have to approve it. I think that is the way it

[Page 2205]

should be and I think all honourable members would agree with that and that is why it is here, which it wasn't 5 or 10 or 20 years ago. With that, I hope that the approval of the resolution can be given. I respectfully ask that that be done and I thank you for having the opportunity to speak on this today.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, what a pleasure it is to rise to speak on the finances of this province. At the beginning of every new sitting of this House we start off with a Budget Address and the estimates. We have this document which was tabled at that time by the then Minister of Finance which detailed his fiscal plan for 1996-97, as well as reported on forecast expenditures for each of the various departments.

The one that we are dealing with here is the Department of Health and I suppose we should stick with that one but it is passing strange that this government which considers itself to be a great money manager didn't do very well in forecasting for the Department of Health; in fact, in even keeping track of what was going on.

[3:45 p.m.]

We know, for instance, that in the original budget for 1995-96, the sum of $1,195,698,000 was allocated to the Department of Health to provide health services to the people of Nova Scotia and we find that at the time of the production of the estimates, Madam Speaker, the forecast expenditures for the Department of Health were something in the order of $1,220,503,000, or approximately $25 million more than what they had actually been budgeted to expend within that fiscal year. Actually, $25 million on a $1.2 billion budget is not bad and if that was the end of the case, that wouldn't be too bad. But, however, we find just after the budget has been dealt with that we are asked by the Minister of Finance to approve a further $28 million, and this was in Order in Council 96-182. Then we do that in this House and that extra appropriation is passed.

The minister goes on his way and comes back and has a press conference on August 8th of this year. I won't read you the whole year-end report by the Minister of Finance - this is the current Minister of Finance, I believe - and he said, when he was giving his year-end report for Finance, "The report for 1995-96 shows that for the first time in 16 years Nova Scotia balanced the books on operating expenditures and revenues with a surplus of $100,000.", which is pretty slim pickings, but in point of fact the minister is not even close to that $100,000.

Then he went on to talk about the fact that the financial results for last year show that 13 government departments came in under budget and three came in over budget, and one of the three that were over budget was the Department of Justice who spent $32 million in compensation for victims of abuse. Madam Speaker, this was money in 1995-96 that the

[Page 2206]

previous minister thought was slush money and transferred to the 1996-97 fiscal year and, of course, on top of that there were the other items within that same Order in Council, which included the sum of $23 million-plus which was also transferred to fiscal 1996-97 to set up a fund for restructuring. That is primarily, as you know, Madam Speaker, for layoff packages for workers who are fired by the government.

Anyway, the minister made this statement on August 8th, so we are getting well into this fiscal year. But then, lo and behold, on September 9th, he has another news conference and these are his first quarter results. Now we find that this year - we have been talking about 1995-96 and now we are talking about 1996-97 - he suddenly discovered that the Department of Health needs another $64 million. Who is the Minister of Health now? The Minister of Health is the ex-Finance Minister. He is the guy who has been chopping and slashing his way through the various government departments and now he finally has himself a department where he has to start managing the money and the first thing he does - in fact, this is within the first month, I believe, of him taking over that particular department - he comes forward and says, I am sorry, I am overexpending at the rate of $5 million-plus per month.

In Heaven's name, what kind of management is that? We can talk about excesses in the past and what have you, but I don't think at any time during our history, or any previous government in the Province of Nova Scotia's history, that one department has gotten away with spending $5 million per month of money they do not have. How do you do that? Who signs the cheques? Who is keeping tabs on what is coming out of the cash register? That is supposed to be up to the Minister of Finance.

But anyway, they discover that indeed the Department of Health is overexpending by this - whatever it is - $5.5 million a month, and the Minister of Finance just blithely says we'll just kick them up to another $65 million. And he said not to worry, we'll find that money. Wow! Find $65 million. So how does he find $65 million, Madam Speaker?

I suggest to you that this book is rubbish. If that man can find $65 million, if that Minister of Finance can find an additional $65 million, then the year-end projection for fiscal 1996-97 should have been - whatever the figure is - I think it is $1 million, plus $65 million. But in point of fact that is not so and we know it. He has the slimmest of margins this year of $1 million. He has a margin (Interruptions) Yes, we shall come to that very shortly. The Minister of Business and Consumer Services is chattering away about having a margin of $1 million. Well, we shall come back to that very shortly.

Madam Speaker, if the Department of Health was providing adequate health care to this province and the people were satisfied with the quality of health care they were getting, you could perhaps say that at least the Minister of Health is achieving something. But in point of fact the health care in this province has deteriorated steadily ever since this bunch over here came into power. People are receiving poorer health care today than they were when this group came into power.

[Page 2207]

AN HON. MEMBER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. RUSSELL: And they can say all they want, I don't care how much propaganda they put out, Madam Speaker. They can put out all the booklets and all the fancy papers they want . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell that to the people of Wolfville, who have no hospital. Tell them in Wolfville. Go back and tell them in Wolfville.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL: . . . but the facts are, if you go out and ask the people, Madam Speaker, are you as satisfied with your health care today as you were in 1993, the majority of the people will say no. When I say the majority of the people, there was a poll done recently and 78 per cent of the population of the Province of Nova Scotia who were surveyed said exactly that; they are not satisfied with the standard of health care they are receiving. The problem is, Madam Speaker, that the Minister of Finance - I beg you pardon, the Minister of Health now - is spending money as if it were coming from somebody else rather than his own pockets. I was going to use an expression there, but I won't, because I have an affection for the Navy.

Now, Madam Speaker, this resolution that we are looking at today is to provide the Department of Health with a sum of $51,735,735 - I lost my piece of paper that the minister sent over to me. That's not the one I want. I found it, thank you - and we look at where this $51 million that they require for 1995-96, in order to get the books up to scratch, is wanted for. We find that of that $53 million, approximately 25 per cent is going into what I would call overhead. Going into the bureaucracy; going to maintain the system. There is only $40 million of that going into maintaining programs; in other words, looking after hospitals, looking after the salaries of the front-line medical workers who are providing health care to the people of this province.

Madam Speaker, I would suggest to you that if the Minister of Finance had really tried to cut down on the cost of the bureaucracy, he would not be requiring this additional sum of $51 million. The rest of the money I have no quarrel with; the $1.5 million for the Department of Supply and Services. I understand that that amount is for taking over courthouses, et cetera. Those things I think are necessary and quite logical. But I do have very severe reservations about the business of health.

Now, I said a moment ago, I wonder where the minister came up with the additional $65 million that he is looking for this year. Well, Madam Speaker, I would like to take a little trip back into history and I would like to start off about the favourite subject of the Minister of Finance and that is the net debt of this province, because he tells us, continually, that the net debt of this province when they came into power is one of the reasons why they are

[Page 2208]

running into this financial crunch at the present time. (Interruption) Well, just wait, there is more to come.

In 1978, when the previous government came to power, Madam Speaker, the net debt of this province was approximately $1 billion. In 1993, when this government opposite took over, the net debt of this province was $6.8 billion. So, we have gone from 1978 to 1993 and we increased the debt of this province - that is, the previous government - by approximately $5.75 billion, which is a large sum, admittedly, a very large sum. However, what this government won't tell you, what this government will never reveal is the fact that our present net debt is $9 billion. They have increased the debt of this province by $2.25 billion in less than three years. In less than three years they have put another $2.25 billion on the backs of Nova Scotians.

AN HON. MEMBER: Revisionist history.

MR. RUSSELL: This is not revisionist history. I have this document for 1993 which is signed by Bernard J. Boudreau or J. Bernard Boudreau. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: We would love to talk about NSRL. What about the tax pools? The $50 million in tax pools. (Interruptions)

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable members, I will call you to order. There is too much shouting going on back and forth on the floor between members of both sides of this House and I would like some order.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, I agree it is on both sides, mainly from the member for Hants East. Madam Speaker, this is not revisionist history, this is factual and the documents are there to prove it.

In other words, Madam Speaker, when these persons opposite on the Treasury benches speak about the debt of this province, I want them to remember and I want them to further identify that in two years-plus, less than three, they have added $2.25 billion to the provincial debt. I don't think that that is the kind of record that any government would be proud of.

Now, they have added this debt, this $2.25 billion, but I think you also have to remember something else, Madam Speaker, is that they have ripped off the taxpayers of this province in new taxes, fees, et cetera, with millions and millions of dollars. To give you some indication, we did a little addition on the adding machine and I wonder how many Nova Scotians recognize that user fees in this province have increased by $40 million; $40 million that are user fees. Do we recognize the fact that they also slapped on $79 million in the first year, in fact the first months of coming into power, an extra $79 million of taxes? This is a government, by the way, that came in and said oh no, no new taxes, no tax increases. They

[Page 2209]

are in power approximately four months and bingo, they whack on almost $80 million in new taxes.

[4:00 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, those taxes have been accumulating every year. However, the Minister of Finance will probably say yes, but the federal government is cutting back so we have to raise our taxes to make up for what the federal government is not giving.

Well, isn't that peculiar. Back in 1993, when this government came to power, equalization payments to this province were something in the order of $850 million. They have been consistently above $1 billion ever since and, in fact, they have been running around about $1.3 billion. In other words, they picked up an additional $0.5 billion a year in equalization payments. (Interruption) Just pay attention, please, and you will probably learn something and then you, too, can get up and debate the extra appropriation.

The minister said, yes, but that is fine, that is equalization. Think of the Established Programs Financing, you know the EPF, which has been cut way back. Well, you look at that and you will find that EPF is virtually unchanged; in fact, it has gone up slightly - not very much but it has gone up slightly - I think it is around $370 million or something in that order. It is virtually unchanged. So, in point of fact, this government has been subsidized since it came into power to the tune of about $0.5 billion annually from the federal government, hundreds of millions of dollars from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and, at the same time, they have increased the net debt of the province by $2.25 billion. Boy, that is some management.

If the Minister of Finance would come clean and tell the people the true story of what the previous minister did to the finances of this province and the way he managed the Department of Finance, then I am sure that he might have a leg to stand on. But no, he is accepting everything that the previous Minister of Finance has told him and he is getting up and just casually saying well, I am here today and I need another $53 million to look after 1995-96, which is a long way back, and this year we are going to come out fine because I found another $65 million.

We know that the economy of Nova Scotia is lagging behind every other province. This government is doing a lousy job of managing the economy of this province. It is so bad, Madam Speaker, that we are on federal welfare. For that reason, I would not be at all surprised to find that numbers, since everything else is wrong in the Estimates Book that I have here - this one right here - that our guesstimate for equalization for 1996-97 was $1.147 million, which is an increase of about $21 million over 1995-96. I wouldn't mind betting that that equalization payment is going to skyrocket because this province at the present time is doing so poorly.

[Page 2210]

If you are not doing well, you start thinking, what can we do to improve the economy? The most hilarious suggestion I have ever heard coming from any Minister of Finance is to say we will increase the taxes. That is exactly what they are doing. They are going to rip, we know for sure, another $89 million out of the pockets of the consumers of this province. Just by the by, I don't agree with that number. I think it is going to come in something like about $250 million. (Interruption) Where did he get he numbers? Show us a scintilla of proof of where he got his numbers. You haven't got a number to hang your hat on. (Interruption) Well, that is just the point. The Minister of Finance will say, it does not matter, really, because we are going to get another handout from the federal government.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is bribe, it is not a handout, it is a bribe.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, maybe it is a bribe, but I would not like to use that word. It is a handout . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: I think a bribe is a bit of a strong word.

MR. RUSSELL: . . . because the Minister of Finance has a tin cup out there going around the federal government and the federal government says, we will drop $250 million in there if you get us off the GST, a promise that they made in their federal election. He accepted that $250 million and it is sitting in the bank and it is drawing interest. He has already spent the interest, by the way, for this year, even though this BST does not come into effect until April 1st of next year. In fact, it just may not come into effect April 1st next year if any events take place along the way that enable somebody else to go out and explain to the people on the hustings what the BST is all about.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or it might be cancelled within the first 18 months.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, well, that is possible, too. Indeed it is. So, anyway, he is rushing down, back from Ottawa and he has $250 million and he rushes it into the bank and he is drawing, I think, something in the order $69 million a year, that is about the figure. Bill cannot nod his head, unfortunately. But anyway, the Minister of Finance is drawing it down, I think, at the rate of about $69 million per year. He will be able to use that money to overcome some of the shortcomings along the way caused by this $65 million that he just located out there that belongs to nobody.

I have read that agreement and I did not see anything in it from the federal government that said, well, we are going to give you $250 million for this four years and at the end of the four years come back with your tin cup and we will give you another $250 million. How on earth can the minister say that this thing is so successful, but yet he requires $250 million from the federal government over the next four years to support it? By his own admission, in accepting that money, he has admitted that this program is going to cost the province money.

[Page 2211]

It is going to cost the province money. It is going to cost the province money, it is going to cost it jobs and it is going to cost it businesses and that is for sure.

Madam Speaker, the other item which I just touched on, very briefly, was with regard to the $65 million being found. I have never seen from the minister exactly where this money has been found. He has spoken about, well, the payments on the debt are going to save us $31 million dollars, $31 million just conveniently there on payments on the debt. But that still leaves another $34 million and I would like a listing from the minister as to where that extra $34 million is coming from.

I have no idea, but I am going to suggest to you that maybe the Minister of Transportation is going to have more potholes for the member for Hants East, the member for Hants West, too, by the way. (Interruption) Absolutely not, you don't spend it and you use what you have and spend it wisely. You don't wreck the health care system, you don't wreck the education system and you don't wreck municipal government in the province. (Interruption)

Madam Speaker, these guys over here came into power at a time when the recession was going away and the economy of the country was returning to normal. That is very fortunate. They came to power at a time when interest rates were going down, very fortunate.

AN HON. MEMBER: Very lucky.

MR. RUSSELL: Very lucky and then, on top of that, as I say, they got the additional funds.

I would invite the Minister of Finance to produce a document and detail all the windfalls he has and then put that aside, to the side of where they brought the deficit down. You will see that there is no magic to this. If I win the lottery tomorrow, it is no magic that I pay off my credit cards, it is no magic at all. These guys won the lottery. The rest of this country was prospering and because the rest of this country was prospering, "Poor Nova Scotia, the welfare case down on the Atlantic Coast, we have to look after them", as they do have to through equalization.

If anybody on that side can prove to me that equalization payments have not gone up because of the fact that we are doing so well, I certainly would like to hear about it. I am sure the federal minister would like to hear about it because he would be looking for a rebate from the province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did they ever go up during your term?

[Page 2212]

MR. RUSSELL: I am not going to answer that question, Madam Speaker. If he wants to rise and ask the question, I will answer it, but I am not going to answer it unless he wants to get to his feet and ask the question.

When the minister wraps up - and I wish he would wrap up - I would like him to explain to me how, for instance, at the end of this fiscal year we are ever going to be able to sort out exactly where we are. As I say, this Estimates Book that we got back in March or April, whenever it was, as far as I am concerned does not mean anything. This government writes their own estimates as they go along. If you are spending too much money, do not worry about it, it is only $40 million. We can find $40 million. We can wrap $2 million out of Lands and Forests and a couple of million dollars out of the Department of Labour and a couple of million dollars out of some other department. They find it. Well, I am amazed. For instance, there is $32 million sitting in a fund somewhere for victims of abuse. I wonder how much of that money the Minister of Finance has paid out to victims of abuse. It is probably sitting in a bank account drawing interest.

Madam Speaker, I am not enamoured of this exercise we are going through. I think it is sloppy bookkeeping at best and I think it is criminal that an Estimates Book would come out with so many obvious flaws in it. I have never seen the like of this in my life. I will leave it for others to point out some of the flaws, as well, and take my place. Thank you.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak on Resolution No. 643, in principle, in that it is an opportunity to discuss what normally would have happened basically behind closed doors. The Governor in Council would have ordered a further appropriation of, in this case, $53 million and that would have been done and nobody would have known about it.

I appreciate the fact that there is a process now in place whereby there is some accountability there, that we have the opportunity to debate that. Honestly, I must tell you that I am finding this process, though, somewhat perplexing in that we had a resolution last spring - remember now, we are dealing with last year's budget, we are dealing with 1995-96 dollars here - we had a process last spring where a resolution came forward after all the budgets had been prepared and supposedly reconciled from the previous year suggesting that there was a considerable overrun. It was in the area of $65 million to $70 million. This Order in Council that came down last spring, on March 20, 1996, I believe it was, before the budget was introduced in this House, there was a whole number of items here; the Department of Justice, $32 million, that was actually the resolution that we dealt with to approve the appropriation of $32 million to be applied to the books of 1995-96 with respect to this compensation fund for the victims of institutional abuse. We debated that and nobody in this House argued that that fund wasn't important and wasn't appropriate but many of us, including members of this caucus were concerned about the process, the way money from this

[Page 2213]

year is being referred back and applied to the previous budget. I think there are probably pros and cons on both sides of that but we had that debate.

[4:15 p.m.]

There were a number of other items, the Westray Mine item, the Insured Programs Management, Department of Health, there was $10.5 million there. We didn't deal with that appropriation in this House. We didn't deal with the $23.4 million in extra costs for restructuring and on and on it goes, there are a number of other items in there. So there we are dealing with the question of the budget of the Department of Health for 1995-96 and these extra appropriations through an Order in Council deal with that and yet, all we dealt with in the spring was the $32 million and lo and behold we find that there is actually an over-expenditure in Health of $53-odd million which they didn't know about and that we need to deal with now.

I guess I am saying two things, one is that I think that the process while it is some increased measure of accountability on the whole budget process and the monies that are spent by departments, based on the percentage of overrun of that particular budget but nonetheless given the timing, given the apparent lack of attention to have it come up at this late date seems not only somewhat confusing but almost irrelevant I think is a bit strong but certainly does not deal with adequately, I don't think, with the whole question of accountability.

What it also does, the fact that all of a sudden they found out that in Health there was an overrun of $53 million in 1995-96, we already know that there is at least a $65 million overrun in Health for 1996-97 tells me and I think other Nova Scotians that the government hasn't yet gotten a handle on the expenditures of one of the largest departments within its responsibility. That, I think, is cause for some concern, especially because of the decisions that are being made about changes within that particular department. If you look simply at the budgets of the hospitals from 1992-93 to 1996-97, you see a reduction there of $179 million from that budget year to the next.

If you see the fact that they have to keep going back and throwing money in - which we recognize is important because of the damage that has been caused and the demands on health care - but nonetheless it causes some considerable concern and I think highlights a point that I have made many, many times over the past three years and that is that the government is making changes in the Department of Health without sufficient consideration of the impacts, both in terms of the system of health service delivery in this province and the consequences in terms of the costs.

We saw here a few days ago an interview by the now Minister of Health on the whole issue of health care and how it should be handled. He was talking very much in terms of how we need to run things more like and he referred to McDonald's restaurants, that maybe we

[Page 2214]

need to deal with fiscal management more like McDonald's restaurants does, lets bring the hamburger chain mentality into our health care system. That says something and I will perhaps deal with that at another time but the other thing he said was that the way to deal with change and good responsible fiscal management in an organization and a department such as this is to realign costs and monies from the administration into patient care. What I would suggest is that that has not been done by this government.

There has been a significant reduction in the monies, to the tune of tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to the care that is being received by or that used to be received by Nova Scotians and patients. That is considerably troubling, it has been troubling, we have raised those concerns before and we will continue again. It is like the former Minister of Education talking about how we are going to cut $100 million out of the education system but yet we are redirecting money from the administrative sector into the schools, into the classrooms and what do we see? We see increasing class sizes, we see less resource people in the schools, we see increased school closures as school boards are dealing with the difficulty of trying to deal with reduced budgets, we see increased chaos in the education sector as a result of this silly amalgamation strategy which has made larger, more less accountable administrative structures that are much more costly, much more top-heavy and much more costly.

I am afraid that we are beginning to see signs of that kind of mismanagement in the health care sector and that is really the point of my intervention in this particular matter. This is an indication and the announcement by the new Minister of Health in the summer about the $65 million is an indication that somebody doesn't have a good handle on exactly what is happening over at the Department of Health.

I found it extraordinary when the former Finance Minister, as the new Health Minister, stood in front of the cameras and said and I quote, a line by line review would indicate the budget - referring to the budget of the Department of Health - is not realistic to sufficiently provide services in the manner we want to deliver them and promise to deliver them, Mr. Boudreau said. As was suggested in this particular column, Mr. Boudreau's belated reality check will mean more program cuts for Nova Scotians and perhaps lost jobs for government employees.

The point for me is that he is talking about how the budget was not realistic but yet he approved it as the Minister of Finance. He and his officials, Madam Speaker, before that budget was tabled in this House, his officials would have gone and should have gone, surely, through that budget for the Department of Health with a fine-tooth comb. They would have looked at the history over the past decade and recognized the fact that historically the budget in the Department of Health has been underestimated and should have allowed for that fact and allowed for that trend as a result, instead of using it as an excuse now when they have clearly had responsibility within their realm to make whatever changes and to check the facts and figures to ensure that this problem did not continue.

[Page 2215]

The question of what is happening at the Department of Health is something that, as I have said, Nova Scotians are extremely concerned about and this underlines it. Madam Speaker, I want to say this. If this government does not have a better handle on these kinds of budgets, then what can we expect in the future? What can we expect, for example, when all of a sudden that bribe money from Ottawa, the $250 million, is gone and all of a sudden we are $100 million short, in terms of tax revenue? Now, I would like to know where this government is going to make up that money. Are they going to increase income taxes? Well, they can't increase revenue from sales taxes because they have to get the approval from Newfoundland and New Brunswick and the federal government before they can do that.

So what are they going to do? Are they going to increase more fees, as the Department of the Environment has been doing, these things that are not taxes? These things that he keeps calling fees but all Nova Scotians understand them for what they are, they are taxes. They are taxes, Madam Speaker, no matter what that minister or his government talks about. Is that how they are going to come up with the $100 million, to continue to increase license fees, to increase costs of companies incorporating, to increase the whole idea of user fees and people paying for services that used to come out of the general fund?

Maybe we are going to have to put tolls on every road in the Province of Nova Scotia. Maybe we are going to have to ensure that we put a toll up on that intersection when you either go to Cape Breton or you go up to the northern part of the province. Maybe you are going to have to now pay a toll to go to Halifax or to get into Halifax, no matter what direction you come. I don't know. The reality is that we are going to be $100 million short as a result of the blended sales tax and I want to know what is going to happen.

My concern is that the government will do what I am afraid they have done in order to come up, for example, with the $65 million or maybe with this $53 million; they are going to cut the shelter allowance for people on family benefits, from $350 a month to $225, that they are going to cut the monies going to transition homes by 3 per cent, as they have just done, and more. The programs for women, Madam Speaker, trying to respond to problems of violence in their families and in their communities. All of a sudden you are going to see the government giving up responsibility for a whole host of areas and farming it out to the private sector where individuals are going to have to suddenly pull out of their pockets and it is going to be the poor in this province and middle income Nova Scotians who are going to pay the burden. Those are my fears because don't understand how we are going to do it any other way.

I know the Minister of Finance believes, or appears to believe anyway, that is what he says, certainly the Premier believes, that somehow this huge tax shift from corporations to individuals saving the corporations $240 million plus a year, is going to somehow filter out in this economy and generate revenues from somewhere; 3,000 jobs. There is no evidence, and I have talked to many economists about this issue, there is no evidence whatsoever that relieving the burden, as we have been doing in the past 25 years in this country, from

[Page 2216]

businesses, the tax burden, is going to end up in any way improving the economy. My goodness gracious, surely we understand that by now because we have been doing it.

The GST itself was intended to shift, again, to relieve the manufacturing sector of a huge burden, an 11 per cent tax. It was supposed to relieve them of that burden and create more jobs in this country and get the economy going. But you and I know exactly what happened. The GST has almost killed us down here. It has shifted the proportion of taxes that are paid to the federal government considerably from Ontario and Quebec, for Heaven's sake, down to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. We are paying a lot more tax now; hundreds and millions of dollars are leaving this region now and going to Ottawa as a result of the GST, as a result of that gift to the manufacturing sector. What do we have in return? Is our economy booming? Are jobs being created at an unprecedented rate? That is enough to make anybody laugh.

[4:30 p.m.]

The economy has been in the doldrums in this province for as long as this Party has been in power; there continues to be 58,000 unemployed Nova Scotians. Overall in Cape Breton the unemployment rate is in excess of 23 per cent and continues to be. You see, the point is, if the government doesn't have control over an important budget like Health, what exactly is going to be happening when the true effects of the blended sales tax come filtering down, Madam Speaker. That is my concern.

I would like the Minister of Finance to answer for me, if he can, exactly where the money came from? What programs and services were cut in order to make up this money, in order to account for this money, so that the much-heralded balanced budget philosophy or ideal was maintained? Can he tell me that it wasn't a reduction in the shelter allowance that caused that; that it wasn't a scaling back of the Home Care Program; that it wasn't part of the millions of dollars that have been cut out of hospitals in this province? Those are, I think, some of the important questions that need to be asked relative to this issue.

I, as does my friend, the member for Hants West, have considerable concern with the gaps and the holes and the mistakes in the budgets that this government is preparing for us. I am pleased though, let me say again, that we at least have some opportunity to respond to some of these extra appropriations. But given the sloppiness that is apparent and given the reckless cutting and slashing that is happening in such an important sector as Health, with obvious disregard for the impacts, without understanding what is happening, that is why we are faced with a $53 million overrun here that we need to deal with.

I believe it was because of the cutting and slashing that took place in the Health budget in 1995-96 that had consequences. Now, whether that was sending people home too soon without adequate coverage, without adequate support, and they had to come back to the hospitals, or whether they required additional care or longer care, further surgery, those are

[Page 2217]

important questions that need answers. But that is what happens when you are not paying attention to the effects of this deficit-driven strategy that this government has followed right from the beginning. We see it most particularly in Health and we also see it in Community Services, Madam Speaker, as this government goes in and cuts out money without recognizing the human impact it is actually going to have and that that is going to require resources down the road.

Madam Speaker, as I wrap up my comments, I just want to say that I appreciate the opportunity to make some comments on this extra appropriation. Again, as I said earlier, I am concerned about the process itself; it boggles the mind that we are dealing, here in the fall of 1996, with an appropriation that deals with overspending in the Department of Health in 1995-96. Somebody had better get a handle on what is going on in that department and I hope it is this Minister of Finance.

I also want to register my concerns about how this government and this Minister of Finance is going to respond to the challenge faced when the BST goes into effect and we are going to be short $100 million annually in tax revenue, Madam Speaker. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to debate the resolution. This government is attempting to create its credibility on its ability to manage the province's books. I remember very clearly, when the previous Minister of Finance tabled in the House the estimates of the Province of Nova Scotia for the fiscal year 1996-97, we had opportunity, over some 70 hours and two committees, to go over those estimates in some detail, being reasonably assured they were a reasonable estimate of the finances of the province. Then we are faced with the reality that after the books of the province were prepared and debated, that serious cost overruns had gone undetected by this government for months.

We had the current Minister of Finance come forward and say that the Department of Health had a very serious overexpenditure, perhaps in the order of some $5.5 million for many months, exceeding a year, that had gone undetected. How comforting that must be to the people of Nova Scotia. How comforting it must be to the people who have a government who is basing its entire credibility on its ability to balance a set of books and to handle the affairs of the province with care, and I am talking about the financial affairs.

What business in this province would survive with that kind of bookkeeping, with that kind of accounting? This government is absolutely devoid of any credibility in terms of managing the affairs of this province. Now, one of the very serious criticisms of this government is what they have done to health care. This is, I think, brought forward by the fact that this new appropriation of $53 million, $51 million of that is, in fact, money that has been spent by the Health Department.

[Page 2218]

When you look at the province's books, the books that were presented in April, then you add the appropriations and the figures that have been given by the now Minister of Finance and you look at what I think is a very amazing number. I look, first of all, at the estimated cost of health care delivery in this province for the 1996-97 fiscal year, and it is $1.162 billion. After that estimate was made, the government said that we need another $65 million because, in reality, for months we have been spending almost $6 million more than we were able to detect. So you add $65 million on to that and you now have an estimate of health care spending in the current fiscal year of $1.227 billion.

Let's go back, because everyone in Nova Scotia, everyone save the Minister of Health, cannot understand why it is we are having so much less health care than we had in the past. We have 30 per cent fewer hospital beds; we have fewer doctors; we stay fewer days in hospital; there are less benefits to the Pharmacare Program; there are less benefits to the children's dental program. Everywhere we see massive cuts, massive reductions in service. So what do we see when we go to the budget? Well, we see that this year, with all the cuts, and perhaps more to come, $1.227 billion will be spent of taxpayers' money, in delivering health.

Let's go back to 1994-95. We spent - and this is actual - $1.238 billion. Now, if you take those two figures, the decrease in expenditure estimated this year will be only $54 million less than we expended in 1994-95. We are spending 4 per cent less on health care. Now, what Nova Scotian today would say we have only lost 4 per cent of service. There is not a single Nova Scotian, perhaps with the exception of the Minister of Health, who would say that we have only lost 4 per cent of service. Well, we are spending the money but we are not getting the care. A 4 per cent cut and a massive loss of service. We have lost hospitals. We have fewer ambulances. We have fewer nurses. We have fewer technicians. We have fewer doctors. We have less Pharmacare and on and on it goes.

We have saved $54 million. So where has the money gone? I will tell you where the money has gone. This government rather than looking at health care delivery has undergone a massive bureaucratic change in health care delivery and this bureaucratic change is soaking up health care dollars that normally should be going to health care delivery. Where is the bureaucracy? We have a small province, 900,000 people. You can drive the length of the province in a single day. You can drive the width of the province in a couple of hours. Between the Health Department and community health care delivery we are creating a massive bureaucracy called regional health boards that are starting to soak up valuable health care dollars. That is why we see massive cuts in health care delivery and minimal savings in health care costs.

Now, lest you think I am an alarmist, let's look at what we were given. In the resolution it says the Department of Health needs another $51.7 million. They say $41 million will go into regional programs. So where does the other $10 million go? Does it go into building a new small hospital in a community? Does it go into providing additional emergency services

[Page 2219]

in some of our under-serviced communities? Does it provide some more OR time, perhaps to reduce the waiting time for back surgery from one year? No. Where does it go: $3.6 million for departmental support; $6.2 million for insured programs management. Again, bureaucratic costs; 20 per cent of the expropriation of health care money is going to the bureaucracy. It is not going to providing service in Springhill. It is not going to provide service in Yarmouth. It is going to the bureaucracy. That is where the new money is going. That is why there is only a 4 per cent reduction in health care costs.

If you want a little more proof of what I am talking about, let's go to emergency health services and let's look at what we are providing. Now, this year it is estimated that ambulance services will make 60,000 calls. Now, is that up or is it down? No, it is down, because two years ago we made 69,000 ambulance calls. With the new ambulance service that was proposed by the previous Minister of Health with the leased ambulances to the operators, at that particular time there were 163 operating ambulances in this province, the new proposal said we are going to have 150 ambulances. So we are going to have 13 fewer ambulances.

Now, my understanding is that that figure will be revised down shortly by the Department of Health to 110 ambulances. So you would think since we are doing 9,000 fewer calls, we have fewer ambulances that we are going to save some money. Well, let us go to the estimates and see what happened. In 1994-95, the total cost of ambulance service was $13.6 million. Now this year fewer calls, fewer ambulances, the cost will be $20.1 million. You look at where the increase occurs. If you look at the grants and contributions which is the money spent for service to ambulance operators, it is $12.8 million and it goes up to $14.6 million. Operating costs $0.5 in the budget of 1994-95 was $584,000, that is going up. Operating costs are going up from $0.5 million to $4.9 million. Salaries and benefits two years were $227,000, they have more than doubled to $562,000. A massive increase in bureaucratic costs, administration costs and less service.

[4:45 p.m.]

That is what is wrong with health care delivery. That is because we had a health care delivery change and reform designed by people whose preoccupation is to grow the bureaucracy and not to deliver health care. No wonder Nova Scotians are upset by what has happened with health care delivery in this province. We are spending enough money in this province to deliver good health care, but the problem is we are not spending it in the right places.

Now this government is going to go to the people of the province this spring and they are going to create another Estimates Book and they are going to go to the people and say, aha, we have balanced the budget. I honestly and certainly hope that they do. The problem is with this kind of bookkeeping, who will know? Is this not the same kind of scenario that we had in British Columbia when the NDP Government went to the people of British Columbia and said, aha, what a great job we have done in managing the finances of the

[Page 2220]

province. Then get themselves re-elected and then the truth comes out. Well, you know, this government will probably learn something from that scenario and I just hope that it is not the intention of this government to bring in a bogus set of estimates with massive expenditures unreported and then say to the people of Nova Scotia we have balanced that budget. We have balanced the budget, are we not great money managers?

I do not know who looks at these things other than the Minister of Finance. It is interesting, when we have an opportunity to discuss finances, when we talk about what the blended sales tax is going to do, how few members on the government side seem to have any idea what this all about. We ask, they do not seem to know that it is going to put rents up. They do not seem to know that it is going to put the cost of a new home up. They do not seem to know that it is going to cost more to go to the gas station or to heat your home or to buy clothes. Those things do not seem to matter anymore. (Interruptions)

You know I was very much afraid that I wasn't going to be able to capture the attention of the government and I suddenly find that they are becoming increasingly interested in what this budget process is all about. I would hope that the members of the House, when they go back to their communities and the people say look, where is the money for health care delivery going? We are not getting it here in our community; they are not getting it in Yarmouth; they are not getting it in Springhill or Amherst, they are not getting it in Truro and they are not getting it up in Cape Breton because we have more complaints about health care delivery from Cape Breton than any other part of the province. (Interruption)

Well, the Minister of Community Services says, they won't tell him anything. Well, (Interruptions) Oh, wait, Dr. Livingstone, yes, yes, that is a very interesting subject. You know that whole subject, you wouldn't think that the government would want to talk about that because I don't think they are going to want to talk about losing $50 million in tax pools, $50 million that this province could have had. What could we have done with $50 million? We could have built a school, we could have built some hospitals. As a matter of fact, just think of the health care that you could deliver with $50 million. (Interruptions)

And look at another issue. Remember when LASMO offered to give its share of the oil play to NSRL for absolutely nothing, and then the province turned it down.

MR. SPEAKER: Perhaps the honourable member will try to speak to the resolution and not get carried too far away.

DR. HAMM: Yes. I welcome you to the House, Mr. Speaker. I think if you could keep the government members' comments strictly on the budget then I will be happy to comply.

Now getting back to the resolution, we have here a resolution that on a piece of paper absolutely determines that every single thing that I have said in debate is absolutely true. We have $53 million of expenditure that somehow escaped the Minister of Finance of the day

[Page 2221]

when he brought in the budget estimates; $51 million of that was health care expenditure that somehow just slipped by the Department of Health for a year. (Interruptions)

Well, the comments are about bookkeeping, I think I could discuss that, Mr. Speaker. You know it was interesting when we talked about bookkeeping in this House when the excuse to introduce new taxes was the fact that this government didn't know the financial state of the province in 1993. I find that was very unusual because I attended in my community a town hall meeting which was put on by my honourable colleague, Mr. Archibald, and the then Minister of Finance, the honourable Chuck MacNeil. They went around the province and laid out for the people of Nova Scotia the financial situation the province was in.

I remember when the government tried to defend its tax increases in the fall of 1993 by saying what they are saying now, we didn't know. Well if that government kept the books like this government, there would be a legitimate argument. But I remember very clearly, you know the rebuttal to that argument didn't come from these benches, the rebuttal of this argument came from the former Leader of the NDP who stood up in this place and, for the first and only time, the former Leader of the NDP said, I knew in 1993 in the spring the finances of the province. There is no excuse for this government to say that they did not know in 1993, when they made their election promises, what the finances of the province were. That is simply not the case. I tabled yesterday in this House the transcript of the television debate when the now Premier of this province said to the people of Nova Scotia, on province-wide television, that there will be no new tax and there will be no tax reform. That was the promise of this government.

Madam Speaker, this resolution undermines the only credibility that this government could seek claim to, and that is financial responsibility. This government cannot even keep a set of books. Whether or not this government ever balances the books of the province we will never really know because of the bookkeeping errors they are prone to make.

Madam Speaker, my parting shot to the government on debating this resolution is that the people of this province know that we need balanced budgeting. I talked about balanced budgeting on the doorsteps of my constituency in 1993 and I am committed to good fiscal management. But good fiscal management is not spending health care dollars on bureaucracy. It is not having an economic renewal policy, a 30-60-90 program that does not work. It is about spending the taxpayers' money wisely and giving them value for the dollar. (Interruptions)

Madam Speaker, I yield the floor to another debater.

MADAM SPEAKER: Before you commence, honourable member, I am going to call the House to order. There are many conversations going on right now. It is very difficult to listen to the debate. It is difficult for the minister who is going to respond to the debate on the

[Page 2222]

resolution and I would like the members to tone down the level of conversations that are going on in the Chamber or perhaps take them outside the room itself.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer a few remarks in relation to Resolution No. 643 tabled the other day, relative to the estimates for the fiscal year 1995-96. You were aware, as all members are now from the remarks which have been offered thus far, that the resolution calls for approval, required by the Expenditure Control Act enacted here in this House in 1993, for an expenditure of some $53,285,000 to support initiatives in the Department of Health, the Department of Supply and Services and in the Public Service. As I think you are aware from remarks made thus far, that some $3.6 million of that amount is required, apparently, for departmental support in the Department of Health, $6.26 million of that for insured programs management and $41.8 million of that for regional programs, for a commitment required now in the Department of Health of $51,735,000.

[5:00 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, the Department of Health estimate, which was presented to us here in this place and which was debated, asked this House to approve an expenditure of $1,195,678,000. The forecast at that time was $1,220,503,000 and interestingly the difference was $25 million. The request we have here today is, lo and behold, that the department really needs $51,735,000. So even if the Department of Health had forecast for $25 million, they would have even on that basis have been off by a mere $25 million and the Minister of Finance would be back today looking for $25 million and not the $51.7 million which he asks by way of this resolution today.

At that same time in the estimates of 1995-96, presumably presented by a Minister of Finance who was saying to us here in this place and to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, this is the amount of money we require for these particular purposes, he indicated in that estimate, as it related to the Department of Supply and Services for 1995-96, that the expenditure level necessary for that ministry was $70,479,000. The forecast there turns out to be $85,919,000, the difference being $15 million. So again, even if they had been right on the money and they were well off the money, even if they had forecast for that additional $15 million, they would now be back asking for $1.461 million.

The Office of the Ombudsman, we were told in debate in these estimates and the numbers were presented to us, presumably on the basis of reasonable careful accurate analysis of what the expenditures would be, presented to us by the men and women who have attempted to have the people of Nova Scotia believe that they are cautious, careful and competent business managers, the Office of the Ombudsman estimate and forecast was presented to us as $303,000. In this case, interestingly enough, even the forecast as to what

[Page 2223]

the government was saying would be spent in the Office of the Ombudsman was the same number. So they said things were perfect there and they are now back by way of this resolution looking for almost $10,000 there in that relatively small office, $9,550.

The Westray Inquiry estimate was a $500,000 estimate, a $1,250,000 forecast and yet they are back today saying, we need another $78,295. The total request on the strength of the absolutely incompetent fiscal management of this province by this Savage Government in these circumstances in these four ministries alone, total requests that we are asked to approve, pursuant to the Expenditure Control Act today, totals $53.285 million.

Now here we are on November 21, 1996, being asked by the Minister of Finance to endorse and support a resolution in which he says, whoops, we missed by $53.285 million in the fiscal year 1995-96, $53 million. This is the same Minister of Finance who announced as recently as August 8th of this year, and I remember the fanfare that attended the announcement, that for the first time in 16 years, Nova Scotia has balanced its books on operating expenses and revenues and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, God bless you, compliments of the Savage Government, you now have a surplus of $100,000.

Well, what happened between August 8th and the $100,000 surplus and November 21, when that same Minister of Finance comes in and says, whoops, skip the fanfare, scratch the press release of August 8th, I think I now need $53.285 million to balance those books back in 1995-96.Well clearly, there was a glitch, to say the least.

As I suppose a Minister of Finance telling the taxpayers of Nova Scotia that he had balanced the books on the operating expenses and revenue, not only that but he had produced a surplus, as might be the wont of a minister in those circumstances, this minister, indeed, went on to say that he was proud to be the minister responsible on the day of that announcement.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: On a point of privilege, Madam Speaker. My point of privilege is that the actual operating surplus for 1995-96 is $101,000. It remains. It has not changed. The $53 million here is included in the calculations that led to an operating surplus of $101,000. So the honourable member should be made aware of that.

MR. DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, I appreciate very much the comments made by the Minister of Finance, but I have to tell you that I am a little bit mystified that we are being told that the surplus of $100,000 on the operating side, which he announced on August 8, 1996, included somehow the $53,285,192 - I take it that is what he saying - which he now seeks to have endorsed and approved under the Expenditure Control Act. I find it passing strange that there was not any mention of that, that I recall, at the time of the press conference, and at the time the minister was so proud to be the minister, that there wasn't any comment, oh, by the way, I will be going to the House and announcing and requesting approval for $53 million worth of additional money, but, notwithstanding, I am still going to have $101,000 surplus.

[Page 2224]

I don't know if other members recall that he indicated that to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. It makes one wonder about the creative financing which has, in fact, been taking place, must obviously have been taking place.

I was going to ask, perhaps somewhat rhetorically, Madam Speaker, until the minister rose on his point of privilege, if perhaps the Finance Minister might be deciding to have a press conference here today and let us know and let the taxpayers of Nova Scotia know that his August 8th numbers were a little off. But he is now saying, aha, on the contrary, I had done all the jiggery-pokery to organize the $53 million in advance and he knew then. The obvious and inexorable conclusion is that the Minister of Finance knew that the Department of Health was overspent by $41.8 million for regional programs and by $6.2 million for insured program management and by $3.670 million for departmental support.

The budgetary summary this year, 1996-97 shows for 1994-95 an actual deficit of $235 million, 1995-96 actual deficit, $183 million. The forecast was a deficit of $181 million. The budgetary surplus was estimated for 1996-97 at $2.8 million. So here we have $100,000 surplus that he knows about, he says, in August 1996, for the year 1995-96, and the actual deficit estimate in 1995-96 was $183 million.

I think, Madam Speaker, with this new information we received tonight, we are going to have to have another little look at some numbers and find out just what kind of accounting and creative bookkeeping this particular Minister of Finance has been engaging in over the last number of months.

I think that what we have now learned begs the question, and perhaps the minister when he closes might enlighten us, as to whether or not, and I presume it is the case, the Minister of Finance has somehow and somewhere found some new revenues. Presumably there are new revenues to effect the result which he describes to us here today.

To say the least, his information takes me and I am sure others by surprise and, with the greatest respect, I think requires and obligates the Minister of Finance to walk all members through here. For the purposes of all taxpayers of Nova Scotia it begs explanation by the Minister of Finance as to where he gets from the estimate and forecast of deficits in the 1995-96 year of $183 million to the $101,000 surplus which he is talking about at this point.

The estimate for 1996-97 was for $2.8 million of surplus in August, at a time when there was a great deal of election talk. I cannot help but wonder if there was not a little bit of political chicanery going on, August 8th, that the Minister of Finance was attempting to set up the mood, the mind and the attitude of the Nova Scotia taxpayers without, as it now turns out by his own comments here this evening, finding and providing full explanation that the books of account of the Province of Nova Scotia were, in fact, in rather better circumstances than they were.

[Page 2225]

I was tempted to think, too, that the Minister of Finance was perhaps taking a page from the NDP book in British Columbia where they said during the election campaign that their books were balanced. I reference Minister Gillis' announcement in August and then a few months later, sorry folks, we got a little ahead of ourselves in our announcement and a little behind ourselves in our book balancing and things did not fare so well. I do not know whether the Liberals were planning an election in August. Madam Speaker, being a senior member in that caucus you would have a lot more knowledge than I, but I do not know that. The sleight of hand seemed to work for the NDP in British Columbia, or they thought. Why not try it here?

In September, following the August 8th announcement, the Minister of Finance was looking for even more money for the Department of Health for 1996-97. It was found for Health, we understand, through a combination of program cuts and savings on debt charges. Those program cuts, I might say, were on the backs of the children of the province. I give you as an example in that regard that they cut back on the dental program for children as one of the ways in which to find some of that money. That cutback, if I recall correctly, has a financial value of something in the order of $3 million.

They have cut back in the Department of Community Services 3 per cent on the grants for agencies and organizations served, funded and assisted by that department. I can tell you, Madam Speaker, for what it is worth - to our caucus it is worth a great deal, to others it might not mean a great deal - our caucus has been inundated with calls and letters from those agencies saying that they were, at the time of the cutback, at bare bones, before that 3 per cent cut. The doors to some of those agencies are in danger of closing and the service provided to thousands of young people in need are very much in jeopardy at this time.

[5:15 p.m.]

This whole process and our debate here today of this resolution is almost enough to make one wonder why we go through the estimates process in the fashion that we do. Millions and millions of dollars more on health care were spent than was budgeted and all of that was spent and Nova Scotians still don't have a decent Home Care Program. They have longer and longer waits for surgery and thousands still don't even have a doctor. So it is pretty disheartening, frankly, Madam Speaker, to stand up and consider the impact of what the Minister of Finance asks us to do here today, to come in and say, whoops, we were off by $53.285 million and now, under the terms of the Expenditure Control Act, we would like to have you right that wrong and help us get our books somewhat back in order.

Well, you know I remember discussions about getting books back in order. I remember well and it will be a long time before I forget that the Minister of Finance in his report and recommendation, Madam Speaker, which was dated March 20, 1996, stated that the sums appropriated by the Legislature to defray expenditures for quite a list of services, listed in the Order in Council, were insufficient to meet the requirements of those services in 1995-96, and

[Page 2226]

we are dealing in this resolution with the fiscal year 1995-96. I remember that Order in Council and that the minister came forward with an Order in Council seeking additional appropriations of the amounts and for the services listed there and said they were required in addition to the sums required according to the reports from various ministers.

I will remember, Madam Speaker, and so will you, I will certainly remember that there was a need, allegedly, that the Department of Justice have some $32 million new dollars flipped over into the 1995-96 budget. I remember the debate about that and I was told and scolded, frankly, by the minister at the time that I would be taking issue with that whole proposition. That amount of money was intended to be set up in a fund to provide for compensation to the victims of institutional abuse, perpetrated against those unfortunate victims, over the last many years.

So, after vigorous debate and after the small Opposition was overridden by the big majority machine that is this government, that result was reached. Now, all of that having taken place, what have we happening now, Madam Speaker? We have the sad, sad saga of this government treating the victims of institutional abuse in an even more vicious fashion than those unfortunate people were victimized at the time that they were in the institutions where they were victimized in the first instance.

This government has backed away from that commitment. They have put it on hold. They give us and they give the victims the doublespeak and the gobbledegook as to whether or not there is going to be a program, there are allusions to a reinstitution of an alternative dispute resolution which will be even and equitable and fair. It is a fact, as astounding as I know you will find it, Madam Speaker, that in every single case where those victims of institutional abuse came forward with their claim and they had it assessed by the investigators and a suggestion was made as to what the settlement might most appropriately be, in every case where the victim said that is not an appropriate amount for settlement, it was referred to what is called file review. In every single, 100 per cent, of the file review situations, those who reviewed those files agreed that the victim was correct and the amount was incorrect and the amounts intended and ordered to be paid to those victims was increased and in some cases very dramatically increased. That money we do not yet know, but our estimate is that something awfully close to millions in the high 20's is still squirrelled away, not being made available to the victims of institutional abuse and that program is in limbo because the Minister of Justice suggests to us that the discovery of new file material sitting up on Young Street has changed the ground rules dramatically there.

It is very difficult for me and for many members of the Legislature to believe, or take seriously, that what we have before us today in this resolution is the result of anything but absolute and total mismanagement of the fiscal and financial affairs, particularly in the Department of Health.

[Page 2227]

I do not think I have missed the boat too much by suggesting that the mismanagement being displayed in this instance by those at the senior levels at the financial end at the Department of Health is matched only by the mismanagement displayed by the Ministers of Finance and the senior administrators in the Department of Finance. How can you possibly be out by $51,735,000 on (Interruption) Well, you know, some of the peanut gallery and I know I am not supposed to follow rabbit tracks, I know that. Do you know that the net debt of this province has been added to by this government at a rate of $750 million a year since they got there and that is the truth. All of that has happened, Madam Speaker, as I know you know - $750 million added to the net debt every year this gang (Interruption) I said it and I am right. I do not know about Pinocchio, what he said, but I am right and since you, Mr. Minister, have been on Treasury benches of this government, along with all of those who share them with you, have added to the net debt of this province by $750 million a year for each of the years you have been there. That is right. Now, Mr. Pinocchio, you look in your rear-view mirror and talk about the past. (Interruption) Modesty makes it impossible for me to respond to that. They even want to talk about some seats, you know.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable members you are debating a resolution, let us get back to it. Let us have some order, please. (Interruptions)

MR. DONAHOE: What happened? Do you know what happened?

MADAM SPEAKER: Could we have some order, please and we will go back to debating the resolution.

MR. DONAHOE: Yes, Madam Speaker, that is the distinguished Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat and I would love to respond to him.

I know exactly what happened. Do you know what happened?

MADAM SPEAKER: In about two minutes, honourable members . . .

MR. DONAHOE: Exactly the same thing that is going to happen to you in the next 18 months. That is what happened. Pardon me, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: Now if we could settle down, we will go back to debating the resolution.

The honourable members on both sides of the House will get themselves in order.

Honourable member for Halifax Citadel, would you like to continue on the resolution?

MR. DONAHOE: Very briefly, I sure would. (Interruption) Can you get there by 6:00 p.m.?

[Page 2228]

Madam Speaker, as you can see, if the incompetence being shown by the members opposite wasn't so serious, it would really be almost as laughable as it was there a moment ago. It really would. That is what is so frustrating and so disappointing to the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia. I remember so well the games playing with the books (Interruption) by this government when they moved money which was intended to compensate victims of institutional abuse. They did not have a program and they were not organized and ready to use that money. The road money that has been shifted back and forth, in and out of SHIP agreements, and God knows where, so that various and sundry things can be done.

It is very disappointing to have to stand here tonight, Madam Speaker, and address the question of $51 million being required in the Department of Health. I didn't say, but I know others did, that if you take a look at the bulk of this money, you are going to find that almost $10 million of this money - what would that be, that would be something like 25 per cent of this - is for administrative purposes. You know, that is coming to be the hallmark of this government. It is a fact that if you go to the public schools of the Province of Nova Scotia, the poor beleaguered classroom teacher is the one who is having the most difficult time and has since this government came to power and the administrators are doing fine, thank you very much.

The $11 million which the former Minister of Education talked about getting back into the public school system simply never got into the public school system because it was spent before he started shooting his mouth off about it. It was not there to go in in the first place. Then we hear all the wonders of his ill-conceived amalgamation process. He tries to tell people that all this amalgamation is going to result, again, in so much benefit for the classroom teacher and the children in the classrooms. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that the amalgamation has done nothing but bring all kinds of communities together, many of whom have no community of interest, each with the other, create school board jurisdictions which are too large to be manageable and cost the Nova Scotia taxpayer - and replace taxpayer with Nova Scotia student - cost the Nova Scotia students an awful lot more money.

As you might imagine, I am not terribly impressed with the arguments and explanations offered by the Minister of Finance as to why this resolution makes sense, that we have had a reasonable explanation at all, relative to what he said on August 8, 1996, when he patted himself on the back for having a balanced budget. I will leave it to others and you, Mr. Speaker, to decide.

If you have a minister go to a press conference and present a bunch of numbers and say, I am here to tell you that we have got a balanced budget, in fact, we have a surplus of $100,000 on the operating side and that same minister doesn't tell you, hold it now, hold it, in a couple of months when we get around to going back to the Legislature, because of the Expenditure Control Act, I am going to have to come in with a piece of paper that says, oh, by the way, I have to shift and shunt $53-some million into some of these budget lines. That is how we get into this balance situation. That, to me, is a little bit questionable to say the

[Page 2229]

least and I say to you that the resolution does not deserve the support of members of the Legislature and it is my intention to express that attitude as I cast my vote when the resolution is called to the vote. Thank you.

[5:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, as a special request from some of the government members, I thought I would enter this. I wasn't going to say very much but they are so interested in what is happening around here and they have such an inability to understand the concept of a town hall meeting to do your budget deliberations with the people of the province.

If this government had listened to the people, or had even listened to their own words, we would not be in here today debating this resolution. It is quite frustrating to hear them going on by the hour talking about the marvellous things that they have done since they arrived in government with regard to budget. I think we all agree that the Minister of Education and Finance and all of the other departments are hopelessly mired with the difficulty in cutbacks to Education and the lack of library people, the lack of special education people, the lack of French, the lack of computers and with all of the bad things in Education, all of the terrible things that are happening in health care. Community service people are ringing my phone off the wall because of the cutbacks and slow-downs of payment. Transportation, the first time in living memory there is more road work going on in the Province of New Brunswick than there is in Nova Scotia.

You can go from department to department, from one branch of government to the other and what you meet constantly is an admission from this government that well, it ain't that great and we admit that we are not doing as well in education, health care, community services development as we should be but we are great at balancing the budget. The Premier said yesterday in an interview how great it was that the budget was now balanced and it would create thousands of jobs. What he neglected to say was that there are more people unemployed today than there were in 1993, there are 9,000 less jobs this year in Nova Scotia than there was a year ago. Really, this government who prides itself on well, we can't get anything right but we can balance the budget, is standing in here (Interruption) Well, you get on your feet.

One of the things that the government admits to is the dismal failure at every management task in government but they will stand up and say, but we balanced the budget. Well, lets look closely at their balancing act. In 1990-91, the government of the day which was Conservative said look, this deficit business has to be curtailed, we have to bring in restraint. All governments in Canada through the 1980's borrowed more money than they should have because that was the time of the 1980's, nobody was interested in deficits, people

[Page 2230]

were interested in more money. As soon as the government decided, we are going to bring in a budget and the expenditures are not going to rise beyond what we budgeted for and that is a fact, the expenditures didn't. From Ottawa, transfer payments and equalization decreased, over $100 million in one swoop because there was an error in the census taking. However, that error was changed back the other way in 1993 and this government got the benefit of an extra $100 million from Ottawa. Interest rates were higher than the dickens.

If you look honestly at the budgets presented in 1991 and 1992, you will see that the expenditures were not the problem. The revenue was. We were in a terrible recession. Equalization payments from Ottawa had gone out the window. This government arrived to the benefit of a change in interest rates. Anyone who does not say that interest rates are lower now than they have been for the last 20 years; equalization payments have increased substantially.

Look, $400 million a year since 1993. They do not send equalizations to a province that is doing well. They send them to a province that is down on its knees. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, you hear it more. When the government I was part of brought in a restraint program - a wage freeze - the honourable Minister of Education was a teacher at the time and when the minister was a school teacher and being interested in children . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: In those days.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . in those days he said that kids come first and he used to call every spring and he always had a good way to get a little more money for Kings County and I appreciated that because together - hand in glove - we worked for the benefit of the children and we (Interruption) Yes, and he used to speak well of the union.

We worked hand in glove, but as soon as the freeze came aboard, where was the minister then? He was marching all around Province House. (Interruptions) Oh, he wants to hear the town hall meeting. We are getting close to home, are we? (Interruptions) But then when this minister brought in a wage freeze with all the people who supported him in the teaching profession in Kings County and many in Kings North said, look, he is dedicated to education because we know and we know that in the spring he worked hard with you and your government and everybody would listen, and with my colleague for Kings West, to help get things for Kings County and help make things better.

When he got into government he said, well, boys, you know, restraint is not a bad idea, in fact it is a good idea. Let's roll them back completely. Let's cut out libraries. Let's cut out teachers' aides. And what happened to education? You see, this government admits readily from one end of the province to the other that every service to people has suffered but we can balance the budget. Well, I say to you, Mr. Speaker, this government's record on balancing the budget is more good luck than good management. (Interruption)

[Page 2231]

AN HON. MEMBER: They have not done it yet.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Did that bring the heckles from the Jekylls? I believe it did. You are getting close to home because now the bubble of balancing Bernie is bursting. Balancing Bernie arrived; $800 million in 1993 from Ottawa, $1.2 billion, $400 million a year additional funding from Ottawa that was not there in 1993. Provincial fees, you know, for your driver's licence, for your fishing licence, for your hunting licence - all those fees. Did you fellows know, I'm sorry, they are taxes aren't they? - all those fees and taxes that you buy your licences with, can any one of you backbenchers guess?

I will bet the Minister of Finance does not have a foggy notion; $40 million. That is how much extra you are collecting in fees. And even with $40 million extra just in fees, you still have to come in here looking for $2 million for Justice. (Interruptions) Yes. Here we are. I had the wrong paper. (Interruptions) And you know, you are coming in here for $79 million, $40 million of it you have made up with increased fees. The BST is going to bring in (Interruption) Get a tape of it. I will give you a tape of anything you want and if you want to come to Kings County and talk about education, I would love to be there with you. Come on down.

One of the things that was so exciting about being part of government was the opportunity to visit with Nova Scotians and talk to them in their own neighbourhoods and listen to what they said. Now, when we had our town hall budgetary meetings, they were structured in such a way that the people were allowed and encouraged and, in fact, the meeting would be over in a very few minutes if the people in attendance did not stand up and have their input. We went to listen and after listening, the decisions were made. You know, Mr. Speaker, it would be a very rewarding experience for members of this government if they would go and listen to what the people are saying. I hear what the people are saying because I visit with them. I am not afraid to travel throughout my constituency and attend all the functions so that I can keep in touch with the people at home.

Wages are rolled back, lay-offs and firings, the property tax rebate for seniors is gone. All these programs have been cut. Even with the extra millions of dollars from Ottawa, the government is still in here making extra appropriations for 1995. What does this tell you? This tells us that the government has admitted to being unable to manage health care, education, transportation and people do not like the service they are receiving. The bubble has burst. Look what has happened to Agriculture, a reduction of $7.9 million in the agricultural budget over three years and still the government is in here looking for more money.

What is this money going for? When I look up at the gallery during Question Period, the row behind the press gallery is full to capacity of people who are spokesmen. So often you read in the newspaper a quote from Premier Harrigan because the other Premier was unavailable, but Premier Harrigan is getting more press than anybody else in this government. You can never get a word from a minister. Read the papers. I am not making this up. Read

[Page 2232]

it in the papers: spokesman, spokesmen. Most of these spokesmen a year ago were journalists who would not have accepted the quotes that are forced upon the journalists who are writing the story. The spokesman now for the Department of Finance would never accept some of the gibberish that he is passing out to journalists now in response to their questions.

Look at the health care, Mr. Speaker. The lion's share of this extra appropriation is going to Health. Why is it going to Health? Not all of it, but a good part of it, is going to Health because of the change in the administration structure. We are now a retirement home for friends of the minister, mostly the friends of the former minister, who hired so many physicians to become administrators. We have a physician in charge of the ambulances. That put the cost of running the ambulances up about $5 million or $6 million this year. Fewer ambulances, slower service, a $5 million or $6 million increase. I have been driving from here to the Valley. Many times I am driving home and what do I see parked on the side of the road but an ambulance, about halfway between Sackville and Windsor. You have seen it too, Mr. Speaker, I bet. One day I thought, well, gracious, this must be broken down, I will go see. But they are not broken down so don't stop to render assistance or give them a gallon of gas. What they are doing is waiting in case they have a call in either Windsor or Sackville. Can you believe it? I am dumbfounded, too, but that is with the physician that is running the ambulance service now. When they are short of ambulances in Windsor or Sackville, they stick one out in the middle of the road, halfway between, and if they get a call to go to Windsor, they can go to Windsor and if they get a call to go to Sackville, they go to Sackville.

[5:45 p.m.]

Well, it was quite surprising, I remember (Interruption) The Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat is asking me a question about making sense. One of the things I recall reading in the paper about two months ago was the discussion from the minister on e-mail in his office and that made a lot of sense to me. I have one of those new computers and it has e-mail on it and, guess what, I use it. I know where it is coming from and where it is going. But the minister's discussion on e-mail depended very heavily on his secretary, whether it was inter-office e-mail or on the - he wasn't sure but he is the minister in charge of science and technology and now he want to know about ambulances and he doesn't understand even why an ambulance would be stationed on the side of the road.

You see the physician who decided that that ambulance should be stationed on the side of the highway between Windsor and Sackville is earning $140,000 per year. Then we hired Danny Reid for $115,000, a former Liberal MLA, because Danny needed something to do and he was a physician, so they hired him to be the liaison between the minister and the other physicians out there who were still physicians. Well then he didn't perform up to snuff so the new minister brought in another new batch of physicians, at a cost of $500,000 per annum, to smooth out the public relations. That wasn't good enough . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That would cover the children's dental program.

[Page 2233]

MR. ARCHIBALD: Pardon? That would have covered the dental shortfall; my colleague over here from the NDP said that would have covered the dental shortfall. But the minister felt it is more important that he have good media experience and good physical advice from physicians than it is to look after children's teeth. Those are just a couple of the ways that this government has decided to spend money on health care.

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we saw yesterday, or last week when the Minister of Health tabled his report which said we were now in drive-through medical services. If you needed an operation or you were sick, you just walk into the hospital, there was no waiting, and we can look right after you, before you can blink your eyes. The truth came out from people, in the newspaper today, from physicians who are operating in the hospitals, that the figures were fudged. You really couldn't have instantaneous service in the hospitals; it isn't that great yet.

You know you can talk about ambulances and health care in this estimate of demand for an extra appropriation. One of the interesting things, I will never forget the debate on ambulances that took place in this Chamber with the Minister of Health. Remember that big, fancy white ambulance he had parked out here? A big cube, van, dual wheels, Triple K from the U.S. It was what we were going to get. You pass this bill then you were going to get those fancy new ambulances. Everybody is going to have electronic defibrillators and oxygen and capability to talk back and forth to anybody in the world through the satellite communications.

Well, guess what? The physician hired to buy ambulances, we didn't get cube vans with dual wheels, we got a very narrow van that is overloaded when it is going down the highway and three of them have already gone into the ditch, and we haven't hit the heavy weather yet. The cube van with dual wheels was the only style of vehicle that was capable of carrying the weight and the equipment that is going to be installed in them. The vans we bought now are suitable for intercity delivery, inside the city limits, not on the highway. You see, that is just another way this government admits that it cannot manage departments and now, through the presentation of this extra appropriation demand, the government admits it cannot manage the budget.

The flagship of this government has not been management of the budget because here we are and we will be back next year for more appropriations and it does not speak well. The Minister of Transportation went to Ottawa demanding that the federal government look after the (Interruption) yes he was bragging, he went looking for a $1 billion or something. The federal government has totally abandoned southwestern Nova Scotia, the area in which you live. The federal minister said that particular area of the province has been absolutely devastated by federal cutbacks and clearly we need to make sure that there are some winter operations, referring to the Bluenose. I do not see an appropriation for the Bluenose.

[Page 2234]

The big tourism push now is the $1.5 million to give to Air Canada next summer so they will stop the plane in Halifax on the way to Germany. We do not know if that is a good idea or not, but I can tell you one thing that is ironic, I can fly to Germany cheaper than I can fly to Sydney. (Interruption) I could probably fly to Vancouver cheaper than I can fly to Sydney, too. It is inter-provincial where we have a problem, but the government does not look into that. Is there a study going? Why are rates are so high? Why can you fly to Europe cheaper than you can fly to Sydney or Charlottetown? If we had some lower priced tickets in this area, it would spur on business. Business leaders would be able to travel from place to place and create more jobs, but this government is adverse to jobs. If they see a civil servant working the first thing they say is, how soon can I fire that guy? That is the extent and if they are doing a competent job, they say, let's fire him faster and then we will give him $500,000 on the way out the door.

On and on it goes and you can see total mismanagement, total lack of control by this government and it is neither fair nor right. Yesterday, we heard of the terrible difficulty Agriculture is in when I was asking some questions of the minister. Probably some of the backbench government members and maybe some of the Cabinet have been getting letters from some of the hog producers. Where is the extra appropriation for agriculture? Do you know why it is not here? I will tell you, because their budget will not be spent according to the numbers that were approved by this House.

There was an internal reduction of some $800,000 to the Department of Agriculture and farmers across the province are feeling it. The beef farmers over the week-end held a big barbecue and session to acquaint the minister better with the beef industry in the hopes of currying a little favour with him trying to get the beef industry some assistance. Do you see anything in here about the beef industry - I do not think so. It is forgotten.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, I am not surprised that this extra appropriation is here. The only thing that surprises me is why a government that fell into the money pit with transfers from Ottawa, tax increases like we have never ever seen before, this government, I cannot image, they must wake up in the morning and they must say to themselves, how can I make business suffer today? Electric rates, well when business suffers, people lose their jobs. Consumer confidence is way down in the basement. If we do not get a change in government soon, people in Nova Scotia will be digging holes in their basement to get lower. This government has driven everybody to the very brink of disaster. The taxes, 3 per cent on electricity wasn't enough for this government, they are going to make it 15 per cent combined on April 1st. A $22 million increase in the price of gasoline in 1993 wasn't enough for this government, they are going to add to it on April 1st. How many millions is it? Is it another $40 million on April 1st.

The BST is going to rip at least $200 million out of the consumer's pocket for spending and yet, even with all these taxes, the tin can tax from the Minister of the Environment and now the tire tax from the Minister of the Environment, ripping more money out of the

[Page 2235]

consumers' pockets. Even with all of those increases, we have the Minister of Finance who likes to call himself Bambi, the Minister of Finance taking the extra appropriation before us today looking for more money because of his inability to manage what he has received, over $1.2 billion from Ottawa since 1993 and he still can't balance his budget and he still didn't know that one of his departments was overspending at a clip of about $5 million a month.

I cannot believe anybody in government would not know. Perhaps they wouldn't tell anyone, maybe they wouldn't do anything about it but to stand up and say, we didn't know. You can't blame it on retired civil servants. It wasn't the retired civil servants who brought in a budget. There is no excuse for a minister to try to blame somebody else and stand up and say, I didn't know, it was the civil servant who retired and they didn't tell me. Mr. Minister, I think you probably learned your lesson on that one and you won't use that excuse the next time.

This extra appropriation is really and truly beyond belief that the government would be doing that. Is the time up, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. ARCHIBALD: I will adjourn this debate today and somebody else can carry it on tomorrow, I am sure. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will sit tomorrow from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and following the daily routine we will resume debate on Resolution No. 643. I move that we do adjourn until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: We have arrived at the moment of interruption. The Adjournment debate has been chosen as announced earlier and won by the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party. He will debate the following:

Therefore be it resolved that the government honours its commitment to the survivors of institutional abuse.

I understand that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid will be taking the Leader's place this evening.

[Page 2236]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

JUSTICE - INSTITUTIONS: VICTIMS - COMPENSATION

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as you correctly indicated, we had agreed that I would substitute in place of my Leader, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic during tonight's debate.

In fact, all three of us had submitted the same topic for debate this evening and that was calling upon the government to honour its commitment, honour its word, honour its bond, to the survivors of abuse in the institutions that have been run by this province. Quite honestly, I chose to introduce this topic tonight for debate to give the minister an opportunity to make much more clear what his government's intentions are in this regard, given the fact that yesterday during Question Period, the minister was as evasive as evasive can be.

I want to set the parameters by very briefly going into a brief history and I am not going to go into all of the details, I am not going to go into naming institutions of the alleged abuse, that is all well known in the public record. Following Judge Stratton's investigation, following his report, the government came and announced that it wanted to have a fair, a just and a humane alternate dispute resolution process that would not require those survivors to have to go through litigation in a public process in the courts, knowing full well, of course, that if an alternate dispute resolution was going to be followed, that the degree, in terms of financial compensation, would probably be lower for those survivors than if they were to take it to court. But it would be a humane way of dealing with it and, Mr. Speaker, it would give a chance for compensation, a chance for counselling and, more importantly, a chance for healing.

[6:00 p.m.]

As a result, Mr. Speaker, the lawyers who were representing survivors met with representatives of the government. Through seven meetings they negotiated, they talked. There was give and take. As a consequence, a Memorandum of Understanding regarding compensation for survivors of institutional abuse was arrived at. This document was signed by the representatives, the legal counsel, on behalf of those survivors. It was taken to Cabinet for Cabinet approval and signed by the government. That was a contract, the agreement that this government entered into with the survivors.

[Page 2237]

Using that process, approximately 250 of the over 550 claims that have been submitted to date were settled, that is, were settled before this government, this minister, unilaterally, without one bit of consultation, without any warning announced on November 1st that this process was to be suspended. All the time, of course, Mr. Speaker, so certainly the government cannot claim that they had to do it because of possible criminal proceedings that may proceed. Because ever since the day that Judge Stratton filed his report, throughout this whole process, we have known and the government has known that there were criminal investigations that would be ongoing. So that is a separate issue.

Mr. Speaker, this Memorandum of Understanding, which was supposed to be based on the government's commitment for justice, for compassion, for fairness, I ask the minister clearly and I ask him again, is the government committed to honour the terms and conditions in the Memorandum of Understanding that it signed? It shook hands with the survivors and said, we will treat you fairly, we have a process. Will you honour your word? If so, when?

Yes, I can appreciate that given the vast number of claims that have come in, the fact that there are now over approximately 1,250 people who have come forward, that there could be some difficulties in meeting, for the short term, the 45 day time-frame for making a response. That is possible. If the government was to say that because of our volumes, we are having difficulty meeting that time-frame and we are requesting that the time-frame be extended to, maybe, 60 days for a response, so that we can get additional resources and staff and so on, that might have been reasonable, but that was not what was said. That is not what the minister said here in the House. The minister clearly stated that he would not necessarily be bound by this. Yes, he would like an ADR process but this is not necessarily it. You know, Mr. Speaker, we have another Memorandum of Understanding, one that was signed by this government, by the Minister of Finance last spring with the federal government on the BST. That Memorandum of Understanding, we are led to believe, is almost sacrosanct. You can do virtually nothing in the way of changing it and certainly not without consultation and negotiations. They enter into memorandums of agreements with businesses all the time. Where is this government's word? What does it mean? Are there some that they have to honour and others that they do not?

The minister, when he gave his announcement on November 1st, dropped his bombshell. He also said that all claims that had been settled prior to his announcement would be honoured. Well, as of today I am told that several claims that had gone through the file review process and had settlements agreed to as a result of that file review process and which met the conditions which the minister said would be honoured have not been honoured. Those survivors who had agreements have still not received that which the minister three weeks ago promised they would receive. Mr. Speaker, I do not want to think that this is tied in with money. I would hope that is not the case, but I cannot help but feel or have suspicions that what we are seeing here is the government putting a cap on how much compensation it is willing to provide, in other words, a cap on justice or what it thinks is going to be fair, based on its bottom line.

[Page 2238]

We had earlier, and I am sure there will be again tomorrow, discussion about a resolution that was passed in this House last spring granting to the government over $30 million for use to compensate victims, the survivors of abuse in these facilities run by the government. Of that, over $20 million is still sitting there somewhere. The program is cut. Rather than standing up to his colleagues on the front benches and suggesting that we have to honour our word, honour our commitment, the minister so far has given no assurances whatsoever, only said that there will be a process. He will not even guarantee, as I asked yesterday, that the file review process that is contained within this report will be honoured. I cannot help but wonder, Mr. Speaker, if what we saw, for example, in changes to workers' compensation that happened by doing away with the independent appeal process may be in the works for this. I hope I am wrong.

I sincerely hope that the minister will stand on his feet tonight, answer all of these questions clearly and concisely for those to whom this government promised that there would be justice, that there would be fairness, so that the healing that needs to be done can be done rather than continuing to victimize and to abuse those who have already suffered so much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Stuart Strattan was appointed by the former minister, the Honourable Bill Gillis, in December 1994. In June 1995 he presented his report. The results were shocking. The report revealed that former residents of three provincially operated institutions were victims of abuse. At that time 89 victims were identified.

In July 1995 the former Minister of Justice announced that counselling would be immediately available to victims and that an innovative compensation process would be put in place. That process is an alternative dispute resolution, or ADR process. It is an alternative to the courts. It was chosen because it is sensitive to the needs of the victims of abuse. It is a confidential and compassionate alternative to litigation through the courts, and it still is.

It was also at that time that the former minister announced that an internal investigation into the conduct of current employees would be conducted to ascertain if disciplinary action is warranted; that is ongoing.

When the government announced its intention to compensate victims through the ADR process, it was anticipated that as many as 200 people would come forward. As Judge Stuart Strattan had identified 89 people, we expected that number could double and we put aside $12 million, Mr. Speaker.

The Department of Justice then began putting the framework for compensation together. Legal counsel representing victims said they wanted to be part of that process and we agreed. In December 1995, Ms. Anne Derrick was hired through the Family Services

[Page 2239]

Association to represent the interests of a group of victims who did not want to retain their own counsel. In February 1996, the negotiations began, with more than 25 lawyers representing victims of abuse. It was during those negotiations that it became evident that more victims were coming forward. Those lawyers taking part in the negotiation process advised us that they represented approximately 300 victims. When we looked at increasing the budget for the compensation process, we estimated that as many as 500 victims would come forward and, therefore, put aside $33.3 million for compensation.

In May 1996, the former Minister of Justice apologized to those who suffered abuse and announced a compensation package. At each stage of this process the government has acknowledged and accepted its responsibilities and has acted appropriately, and that is what we are doing by taking some time now. We need to take stock of the process; we need to take the time now to ensure that an ADR process continues in the future. We now estimate that as many as 1,250 people could be filing claims for compensation. That number is based on a number of statements that have been taken from the victims and those who have indicated they wish to provide statements. No one anticipated these numbers. This is one of the issues we have to deal with at this time.

New information has also been found. The central registry on Young Street in Halifax is in the process of automating its filing system. It was through that process of automation that more than 900 files relating to Shelburne were found; files which contained such things as hospital and medical records; files that could prove to be extremely important to this process and to the victims who are seeking compensation because they were abused as children. We have a responsibility to take the time to go through those files, and the microfiche records that have been located as well, Mr. Speaker.

Last week, on Tuesday, I met with lawyers representing a number of victims. I appreciated the input I received and it was a very helpful discussion for me. It was during that meeting that I suggested that I should meet with the leaders of Operation Hope, the RCMP officers who have been conducting an investigation on the criminal side, Mr. Speaker, and the lawyers agreed with me; in fact, they encouraged me to that end. Last Monday I met with the members of the RCMP, who are conducting that investigation and which is called Operation Hope, and it became very clear at that time in my discussions with them that they are concerned about protecting the integrity of the criminal prosecution process, and so am I.

There is a risk that the investigation for the purposes of compensation and discipline could jeopardize the criminal prosecution process. We must protect the integrity of that investigation and we must bring the perpetrators of this abuse to justice. We must consider greater integration of our operations, including the computer systems, for example. A more comprehensive approach to the investigation will assist those with valid claims, and it will also provide the best evidence to bring the perpetrators to justice. This is an issue that must be addressed, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2240]

Another issue that we are examining is that of confidentiality. Now victims have an opportunity to have their statements used only for the purposes of compensation and not for the purposes of discipline or for criminal investigations. It is difficult for people to come forward and we realize that, but we must bring the perpetrators to justice. This is another issue that must be addressed.

[6:15 p.m.]

Tomorrow, I am meeting once again with lawyers representing victims. I will be talking about many of the issues I have outlined for you here today. What I will be making clear to them tomorrow as best as I can and to their clients, through them, is that the government is committed to compensating those who were abused. We are committed to an ADR process, that is an alternative dispute resolution process.

It was chosen because it is a process that provides an option to the rigours of the courts. It was a good idea then and it is a good idea now. Nothing has changed about that. The fact is there are some serious issues we must address. We have taken the responsible step, by stepping back and taking stock now of the process. This time out, if you will, as I have stated in the last few weeks, should take, and I hope will take, weeks and not months. I want to ensure that those who were abused receive the compensation they deserve. That is fundamental to this process. That remains my strong commitment and that of the government. That is why I am taking these steps now and that is why we called the time out and that is what forms the background to this debate.

We have already settled 276 claims. The average offer, including counselling, is about $37,000. We have spent approximately $12.9 million to date. We will continue to provide counselling to victims. If they have not received a compensation award, counselling is available and that remains the case. We will do the right thing. We will take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of the investigation so that perpetrators can and will be brought to justice. We will provide compensation to those who were abused. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: I am pleased to have a few minutes this evening to address this extremely important issue. Some of my colleagues will be aware that during part of my time in law practice, I acted for Children's Aid Societies around the province and the matters of abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and pretty horrific stories were a day-to-day part of my life and my work.

I have to stand here this evening and accept that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General is a man of honour, but I do not necessarily have to accept that what he says he and his colleagues in government are doing in the present circumstances are valid or appropriate. One of the things which I did not hear the Minister of Justice say and I was anxious to hear

[Page 2241]

it, it is my understanding and I may have missed something along the way in the last few days, but it is my understanding that there is a deadline that has been imposed upon the victims of institutional abuse. If they do not file a claim seeking compensation on or before December 16, 1996, that they may well be lost in the shuffle and their only alternative on a later date is to commence legal action.

The minister stands before us today and he talks about compassion and he says it was compassion for those men and women who had been traumatized by this abuse, physical, sexual, emotional and otherwise and that compassion moved them to conclude that an ADR, alternative dispute resolution process, was the most appropriate. Well, that attitude, if there was flesh on the bones of those words, would be commendable. There is no compassion, there is no flesh on those bones, unless and until this minister, on behalf of this government, stands publicly and says, because of this "time-out" and because of the "compassion" that dictates ADR, I, the Minister of Justice, says he, and also advancing and putting forward down into 1997, I am not looking for more delays, but in this context I certainly am. He says to any and all potential victims, you have a much longer time than December 16th because we, officialdom, are checking the files. We are extending that time for you to let us know whether you are filing your claim or not. Because, by definition, as he has already said, if he forces those men and women to meet a December 16th deadline, and in all of the confusion, and there is great confusion, whether the minister is prepared to acknowledge it or not, and there is great uncertainty and there is great fear. We are talking about men and women who, by definition, have been brutalized and traumatized and many of whom have never worked, many of whom have spent the majority of the years since their victimization in and out of jails, have been subject to substance abuse of one kind or another and have had among the most miserable lives of all in our community since they suffered this abuse at the hands of officials paid, God forgive us, by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

So if this minister is not prepared to say that in light of all of that and in light of this "time out" that he keeps telling us is only going to be weeks and not months, well if it is only going to be weeks, December 16th is only weeks. But what if it is a number of weeks longer than December 16th, Mr. Speaker? I simply do not understand why this minister is not prepared to say, if he is being truthful when he says it is only weeks, that the time for filing claims for compensation will be a period, for the sake of example, 30 days subsequent to his announcement that the ADR process is now back on the rails.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, may I say that I don't really buy for a moment the argument that every single man and woman of that 1,250 or 1,500, whichever the appropriate number is, of those victims has to be put on hold while this review of files takes place, as described by the minister. If this minister and this government have anything close to the care and the compassion that they describe in this circumstance, they can second a bunch of people from a number of departments and they can pour over those file materials and they can come to this conclusion very quickly, that claimant Joe or Fred or Mary or Susan is not affected by any of these boxes of files. So why do we have to have Joe and Mary and Fred and Susie kept

[Page 2242]

on hold? Why do we not deal with those who are not affected by those materials? Many others may be, but many may not be.

I don't really believe, frankly, with respect, and I say it with respect because I know the tremendously complex issues with which this minister is faced, but I don't buy for a minute that there has been any evidence from him or from the Premier or from the Minister of Community Services or from anybody in this government that leads me to conclude that this issue is really priority number one. Let us get on with finding a process to bring some sanity and some decency to the lives of those who were so brutally victimized.

I know I am going to have to close in just a moment, Mr. Speaker, and of course I will. I think it is telling and it is true that in every single case where a complainant, an applicant for compensation, put his or her claim into the system, had it reviewed in the earlier stages and went to the stage of review called file review, in every single case, 100 per cent, the men and women who did the file review concluded that those at the lower level, the officials, the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, were selling those victims short and 100 per cent of them, the order came back that the amount of compensation that should be paid to those people should be far larger.

I could go on at great length, as you might imagine, Mr. Speaker. I, with respect, like the minister very much on a personal basis. I don't like at all what I hear tonight. Because what I hear tonight is nothing close to a serious commitment that he and his officials have determined that this simply cannot go on any longer. I know that it is possible and if the commitment was there, that the men and women necessary to review those file materials could be done in relatively short order and these matters and these victims could be attended to.

The final comment and I apologize for it being repetitive, the proof for me as to whether or not this minister, as a member of this government that talks openness and accountability and equity and fairness and compassion, the proof for me will be the minute I hear this minister say that the time for filing these complaints is extended. If he does and he does it in the context of an appropriate resolution process, then I would be prepared to change my tune somewhat. I say to him and through him I say to all members of government and I say to all of the victims and I say to every Nova Scotian who is concerned, as thousands and tens of thousands are, that we haven't done right by these unfortunate victims.

If we don't hear that some of those accommodations, and that perhaps chief among them, are being made and made quickly, then I simply think it is possible for us all to look at this minister and this government and say, blow compassion out your left ear because it is all rant and rhetoric. This situation is difficult. This situation is heart-rending. This situation, as this minister has acknowledged, has to be handled in a way that we do not drive these men and women into the courtrooms of Nova Scotia. In most cases and I have talked to many, the victims' psychological and emotional and psychiatric make-up simply is not strong enough

[Page 2243]

to enable them to withstand that kind of an attack. There has got to be an ADR process, there is no reason for anything like the kind of weeks of time-out that the minister talks about. He has now been saying, I think, for almost three weeks that this time-out is going to be weeks not months. I would be a little bit happier if he would tell me that it is November 29th, or it is December 6th or whatever.

As I close, I plead with this minister, please, please, second from other resources across government those men and women and those dollars needed to get on with this task and get going with the compensation of these victims and hopefully, in as short a time-frame as possible, bring some semblance of dignity and order to the lives of people who we, those of us responsible for the taxpayer's money, unfortunately allowed to be victimized over too many decades. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I want to thank all of the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's debate. The Adjournment motion has been made. The House will rise to sit again tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 6:28 p.m.]