The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Fri., Nov 22, 1996

Fourth Session

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1996

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 40, Yarmouth County Historical Society Financial Assistance Act,
Mr. R. Hubbard 2246
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 763, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Abandon, Dr. J. Hamm 2246
Res. 764, Fin.: PST & GST Harmonization - Abandon, Mr. R. Chisholm 2247
Res. 765, Fish. - Lobster: Season - Best Wishes Extend, Mr. C. Huskilson 2247
Vote - Affirmative 2248
Res. 766, Lebanon - Nat. Independence Day (22/11/96): Best Wishes -
Extend, Hon. J. Abbass 2248
Vote - Affirmative 2249
Res. 767, ERA - Trenton Works: Turnaround - Congrats., Dr. J. Hamm 2249
Vote - Affirmative 2249
Res. 768, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Agreement - Consequences,
Mr. B. Taylor 2249
Res. 769, Educ. - Culture: Vancouver St. House (Yarmouth):
Heritage Pty. Recommendation - Applaud, Mr. R. Hubbard 2250
Vote - Affirmative 2251
Res. 770, Premier: Picket Line - Find, Ms. E. O'Connor 2251
Res. 771, Health - Eastern Shore: Dr. J. Stewart Manchester Contribution -
Acknowledge, Mr. K. Colwell 2251
Vote - Affirmative 2252
Res. 772, Health - Diabetic Assistance Prog.: Cuts - Risk Recognize,
Mr. G. Archibald 2252
Res. 773, ERA - Ultramar: Refinery - Ex-Workers Support,
Mr. J. Holm 2253
Vote - Affirmative 2253
Res. 774, Commun. Serv. - Min.: Social Workers - Dedication Applaud,
Mr. A. MacLeod 2253
Res. 775, ERA - Northumberland Ferries: Service (P.E.I.-N.S.) Reduction -
Investigate, Mr. D. McInnes 2254
Res. 776, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) (Anna. Valley):
Dedication - Applaud, Mr. G. Archibald 2255
Vote - Affirmative 2255
Res. 777, Gov't. (N.S.) - Priorities: Incorrect - Election Call,
Mr. R. Chisholm 2255
Res. 778, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Blunder - Stop,
Mr. R. Russell 2256
Res. 779, Environ. - Resource Recovery Fund: Beverage Container Prog. -
Analysis Table, Mr. B. Taylor 2256
Res. 780, ERA - Tourism: Jimmy Lafresne (Train Station Inn,
Tatamagouche) - TIANS Award Congrats., Mr. D. McInnes 2257
Vote - Affirmative 2258
Res. 781, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Yarmouth-Bar Harbor Ferry:
Winter Service Operation - Ensure, Mr. J. Leefe 2258
Res. 782, Fin. - PST & GST Harmonization: Tax Break - Recognize,
Ms. E. O'Connor 2259
Res. 783, Educ. - Carl Gillis Memorial Award (Carleton Univ.):
Organizers - Acknowledge, Mr. A. MacLeod 2259
Vote - Affirmative 2260
Res. 784, Kings West - East Dalhousie Fire Truck Building Fund Comm.:
Efforts - Acknowledge, Mr. G. Moody 2260
Vote - Affirmative 2260
Res. 785, Gov't. (N.S.) - Global Travel Cease: Small Businesses -
Listen, Mr. R. Russell 2261
Res. 786, Sport Nova Scotia: Anniv. (25th) - Congrats., Hon. J. Abbass 2261
Vote - Affirmative 2262
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 643, Fin. - Expenditure Add.: Health/Supply & Serv./Pub. Serv. -
Approval, Hon. W. Gillis 2262
Mr. G. Moody 2262
Mr. J. Holm 2265
Mr. A. MacLeod 2273
Mr. B. Taylor 2275
Hon. W. Gillis 2279
Vote - Affirmative 2282
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 31, Real Estate Trading Act 2282
Mr. T. Donahoe 2283
Mr. J. Holm 2290
Hon. S. Jolly 2293
Vote - Affirmative 2294
No. 28, Motor Vehicle Act 2294
Hon. D. Downe 2294
Mr. B. Taylor 2295
Adjourned debate 2297
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 787, Res. 773 [ERA - Ultramar: Refinery - Ex-Workers Support] -
Rescind, Mr. A. Mitchell 2297
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., Nov. 25th at 4:00 p.m. 2298

[Page 2245]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1996

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Session

11:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Wayne Gaudet

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mrs. Francene Cosman

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

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. Yesterday I was concerned when media reports prevailed that the Premier had suggested that on two occasions in the House yesterday, I used the raspberry. I can assure the Speaker that I have not used the raspberry since I reached the age of maturity. When the Premier returns to the House, and I understand he may be away today, I will be asking the Premier formally to set the record straight.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The point that the honourable Leader of the Opposition raises this morning is not a point of privilege. Beauchesne, Page 13, Paragraph 31(3) indicates, "Statements made outside the House by a Member may not be used as the basis for a question of privilege.".

2245

[Page 2246]

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, whereas the Minister of the Environment was too busy to go out into the street yesterday and conduct a poll, I would like to table a questionnaire that was conducted by a local paper in central Nova Scotia relative to the tire tax.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is a question.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: The Leader should get some order. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now proceed with our daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 40 - Entitled an Act to Authorize the Town of Yarmouth to Make a Grant to the Yarmouth County Historical Society. (Mr. Richard Hubbard)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 763

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

[Page 2247]

Whereas the Retail Council of Canada said it is receiving literally thousands of calls from businesses in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland who say the new BS Tax is going to force them into bankruptcy; and

Whereas bankruptcies in Nova Scotia are already going through the roof; and

Whereas the Premier has dismissed claims the BS Tax would result in job losses and has instead touted the new tax as, of all things, his latest job creation strategy;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Liberal colleagues immediately recognize the insanity of their actions and immediately scrap the BS Tax.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 764

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

Whereas the Premier has told this House that members should not be concerned about the BST-caused loss of 67 jobs in New Brunswick because the company concerned was marginal; and

Whereas thanks to the failed economic and tax policies of this government and its Ottawa counterpart, there are hundreds of marginal businesses in this province; and

Whereas many of these businesses have been trying to tell this Premier and this government that the BS Tax will drive them out of business just like MMG;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his colleagues abandon their survival of the fattest strategy, scrap the BST and proceed with the introduction of fair and equitable tax reform.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 765

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

[Page 2248]

Whereas Nova Scotia has the leading lobster fishery in the country with export values of over $229 million in 1995; and

Whereas lobster is the number one fishery in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Shelburne County has been declared the Lobster Capital of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend best wishes to the men and women of our lobster fishery for a safe and successful lobster season beginning on Monday, November 25th.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 766

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

Whereas the State of Lebanon declared independence on November 26, 1941; and

Whereas today, November 22, 1996, is celebrated as National Independence Day in Lebanon; and

Whereas many people of Lebanese descent have made Nova Scotia their permanent home and have positively enhanced the multicultural mosaic of our province;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend, through the Honorary Consul of Lebanon, Mr. Wadih M. Fares, P.Eng., sincere best wishes to all Nova Scotian citizens of Lebanese descent.

I would request waiver, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2249]

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 Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 767

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

Whereas just five years ago Trenton Works was teetering on the edge of collapse; and

Whereas just three years ago the company had as few as 150 working employees; and

Whereas today that same company is thriving with more than 1,200 working employees and has just been named Pictou County's Business of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join with me in congratulating Trenton Works on this remarkable turnaround.

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.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 768

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

[Page 2250]

Whereas the Premier is so exasperated by Opposition attacks on the BS Tax that all he can offer is a raspberry; and

Whereas it is clear the Premier isn't all that peachy keen on having to answer for yet another Savage Liberal mess in the works; and

Whereas no matter how hard he tries, the Premier cantaloupe from the issue and Opposition demands for answers;

Therefore be it resolved that if the Liberal pair of John Savage and Bill Gills continues to try to shove this foolish deal down Nova Scotians' throats, the Tories will make sure this life's no bowl of cherries for this Liberal Government, which is rotten to the core.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 769

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

Whereas the former Porter estate on Vancouver Street in Yarmouth has recently been recommended by the Provincial Advisory Council on Heritage Property as a provincial heritage property, having been also registered as a municipal heritage property; and

Whereas the historic Vancouver Street house was built in 1864 by Stayley Brown, a Yarmouth shipowner, provincial treasurer and vocal opponent of Confederation; and

Whereas the stately Italianate residence was built on a hillside with a sweeping view of town and harbour, with carefully planned gardens running down to the water's edge, making it a very attractive building and property;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the recommendation of the Vancouver Street House in Yarmouth as a provincial heritage property, by the members of the Provincial Advisory Council on Heritage Property which includes Yarmouth County resident, Ann Trask-Fulde.

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

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

It is agreed.

[Page 2251]

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. 770

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

Whereas the Premier claims he was walking on picket lines when the Leader of the New Democratic Party was in diapers; and

Whereas the Leader of the New Democratic Party has been out of diapers for nearly 40 years (Interruptions) At least, that is what he tells me; and

Whereas conditions for working Nova Scotians have changed a lot in the last 40 years, often for the worse thanks to anti-labour policies like those pursued by this government;

Therefore be it resolved that this pampered Premier seek out the nearest picket line so that he can find out from ordinary Nova Scotians what is happening in the real world these days.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 771

[11:15 a.m.]

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

Whereas the late Dr. J. Stewart (Stu) Manchester was a physician of excellence who served the people of the Eastern Shore for many years with great caring and dedication; and

Whereas Dr. Manchester is fondly remembered by the people of the Eastern Shore as a valued friend and supporter of the Twin Oaks Hospital and its staff; and

[Page 2252]

Whereas at a ceremony on May 12, 1994, Canada Health Day, the Board of Directors of the Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital Foundation, the Twin Oaks Hospital and medical staff honoured the memory of the late Dr. Stewart Manchester by dedicating a wing of the hospital in his name as a lasting tribute;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge the significant contribution by Dr. J. Stewart Manchester to the health care of residents all along the Eastern Shore and in particular to his community service at the Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital in Musquodoboit Harbour.

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 member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 772

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

Whereas this government claims it supports prevention programs as a key element of health care reform; and

Whereas this government reduced the Diabetic Assistance Program which provided insulin-dependent diabetics with assistance in purchasing supplies for monitoring blood glucose levels; and

Whereas cuts to this program have forced many diabetics to go without these critical supplied;

Therefore be it resolved that the government recognize that cuts to the Diabetic Assistance Program have put the health of many Nova Scotian diabetics at risk and is contrary to the government's commitment to emphasize less costly prevention programs over more costly medical intervention.

[Page 2253]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 773

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

Whereas employees of the former refinery in Eastern Passage have lost their livelihood because of Ultramar's decision to close the facility and peddle its assets in the Middle East; and

Whereas those employees have also had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to protect their pension benefits from another former fly-by-night employer, Imperial Oil; and

Whereas Imperial has responded to the Supreme Court's decision by launching individual suits in an attempt to deprive workers of their pension benefits;

Therefore be it resolved that this government stand up for the ex-refinery workers in their fight against this powerful multinational oil company by refusing to purchase products from Imperial Oil until it stops harassing its ex-employees or their survivors.

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

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 774

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

[Page 2254]

Whereas the Minister of Community Services on October 4, 1996 committed his government to assuring the basic necessities for every Nova Scotian, the protection of children and other vulnerable citizens and supporting people who need help to achieve self-sufficiency; and

Whereas among other broken Liberal promises the Minister of Community Services is now overseeing reductions and perhaps the elimination of funding for a wide variety of community agencies and has increased the per diem charged for subsidized day care; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers is now documenting the realities of social services in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services instead of criticizing social workers for monitoring the effects to cuts in programs, the Minister of Community Services should applaud them for their dedication to their profession and to their clients and that he commit to a serious examination and respond to their many concerns.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 775

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

Whereas Caribou, Pictou County, is the second largest entry point to Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Northumberland Ferries is reported to be going to reduce ferry service from two ferries to one ferry and this could result in reduced capacity for truck traffic and indeed traffic in general; and

Whereas Northumberland employees and the truckers have and are staging protests about this reduction in service;

Therefore be it resolved that the Economic Renewal Agency immediately investigate to see if in fact this move by Northumberland Ferries will be an economic detriment to traffic between Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island, and Caribou, Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 2255]

RESOLUTION NO. 776

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

Whereas the Annapolis Valley Chapter of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) recently received its charter from the national president of MADD during a ceremony in Kentville; and

Whereas immediately following the presentation of the charter, local members of MADD, as well as local police officers, tied red ribbons on police cruisers and individuals attending tied the ribbons on their cars as well; and

Whereas MADD is an international body that assists people who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers, while educating the general public about the problem;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this community congratulate the Annapolis Valley Chapter of MADD and President Pam Dutton and her executive for their perseverance and dedication of this very worthwhile project.

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

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 Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 777

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

Whereas the Minister of Health says that the $3 million cuts to the Children's Dental Care Program must stand because, "taxpayers don't have the capacity to provide everything for everybody"; and

[Page 2256]

Whereas no one expects taxpayers to "provide everything for everybody" but does expect government to operate by a set of priorities that puts our most important needs first; and

Whereas this government has wrongly decided that a $240 million tax break for business is more important than the dental health of children;

Therefore be it resolved that this government call an election so that the people of Nova Scotia can help them to get their priorities straight.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 778

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

Whereas the retail industry in Nova Scotia employs 40,000 Nova Scotians, generates $1 billion in salaries and billions of dollars of economic activity; and

Whereas the BST has already claimed 79 jobs in New Brunswick and according to the Retail Council of Canada, will claim thousands more in the BST zone; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Government ignored warnings from the Retail Council of Canada who said that a regionalized BST with tax-included pricing would hurt the retail sector and result in either increased prices and/or layoffs;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Minister of Finance acknowledge they made a huge blunder and immediately stop plans to legislate the BST which will hurt thousands of Nova Scotian families and bring our already sluggish economy to its knees.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 779

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

[Page 2257]

Whereas the Minister of the Environment and the Resource Recovery Fund Board leading up to the government's new recycling initiatives last spring said, the new beverage container system would help finance more environmentally friendly communities and create jobs, jobs, jobs; and

Whereas municipal units across Nova Scotia were led to believe enough funding would be made available from the beverage container deposits to assist them in keeping provincially banned materials from municipal landfill sites; and

Whereas the acting general manager of the Resource Recovery Fund Board recently said, "there won't be a lot of money left over to disburse among municipalities", despite the fact Nova Scotians shelled out $10 million in beverage container deposits during the first few months of the recycling initiative;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment table a detailed analysis of the revenues and costs of the beverage container program as administered by the Resource Recovery Fund Board.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 780

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

Whereas Jimmy Lefresne purchased an abandoned railway station as his way of ensuring part of Tatamagouche's heritage remain part of the historic landscape; and

Whereas he has transformed the railway station into the unique and successful Train Station Inn, one of the key catalyst in the development of tourism in that region; and

Whereas in recognition of excellence, the Tourist Industry Association of Nova Scotia, TIANS, has bestowed its 1996 Accommodation Award to the Train Station Inn;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to Jimmy Lefresne for the selection of the Train Station Inn as this year's recipient of the 1996 Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia Accommodation Award.

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

[Page 2258]

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 781

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

Whereas the Minister of Transportation and Communications has admitted that southwestern Nova Scotia "has been absolutely devastated with federal cutbacks", and I table the press report in which the minister is quoted; and

Whereas this bleak assessment of his Chretien Liberal partners is clearly evident in the matter of the MV Bluenose Yarmouth to Bar Harbor ferry service; and

Whereas the federal Liberals neither allowed their provincial partners to participate in drafting terms of reference for the call for expressions of interest in the Yarmouth-Bar Harbor ferry service, nor accepted the vain plea of the Savage Liberals to premise a deal on provision of winter service;

Therefore be it resolved that the Savage Liberals, and particularly the MLA for Yarmouth, agree with their colleague, the Minister of Transportation and Communications, that southwest Nova Scotia "has been absolutely devastated with federal cutbacks" and that there "is need to make sure that there is some winter operation" of the MV Bluenose from Yarmouth to Bar Harbor.

Considering the seriousness of this matter, Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 2259]

RESOLUTION NO. 782

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

Whereas the Premier is claiming that his government is providing tax relief to low-income Nova Scotians to offset the impact of the BST; and

Whereas that tax relief works out to the princely sum of $1.09 a week for 140,000 low-income seniors and working people; and

Whereas that relief will be eaten up by the increased tax on $13.62 worth of gasoline and will do nothing to offset higher taxes on things like electricity, clothing, footwear, haircuts, funerals, heating fuel and rents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier descend from his throne, recognize that the BST is a tax break for the rich and the corporations and realize that "let them eat cake" is not an acceptable response to low- and middle-income Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 783

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

Whereas a tragic in-line skating accident took the life of East Bay native Carl Gillis at the age of 26 years; and

Whereas about 200 people gathered in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 19th, to honour Mr. Gillis and launch a scholarship fund in his name; and

Whereas the first Carl Gillis Memorial Award will go to a Carleton University student from Atlantic Canada who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in student, community and national affairs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House also acknowledge and express our thanks to those friends, colleagues and members of his family who have made the scholarship possible as an eternal memory to Carl Gillis.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 2260]

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 784

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 residents of East Dalhousie, in Kings County, recently showed tremendous heart and spirit in improving fire service for their local area; and

[11:30 a.m.]

Whereas the East Dalhousie Fire Truck Building Fund Committee raised approximately $30,000 to begin construction of a one truck fire station; and

Whereas the committee plans to continue their diligent work and raise the remaining funds so the building will be fully operational by early spring;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the efforts of Sharon Strome and Arthur Wilson and the residents of East Dalhousie, Kings County, in their effort to provide reliable and adequate fire protection.

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

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants West.

[Page 2261]

RESOLUTION NO. 785

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

Whereas despite all the feel-good publicity this government attempts to generate about its friendly and cooperative approach to business in this province; and

Whereas in a survey of Nova Scotia businesses released yesterday, only one-third thought the economy would be stronger next year as opposed to this year, a figure lower than the national average by more than 10 per cent; and

Whereas Peter O'Brien, Regional Director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says the reason for this widespread pessimism is, "it is very difficult to communicate with this government . . . and they don't seem to want to listen.";

Therefore be it resolved that the government stop travelling the world looking for the magic bullet that is going to solve the economic problems created by this government and start paying attention and listening to the small businesses located in their own backyard, which account for 90 per cent of all new jobs created in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 786

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

Whereas the foresight and vision of government leaders and sport minded people of the day led to the establishment of Sport Nova Scotia 25 years ago; and

Whereas Sport Nova Scotia is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this weekend; and

Whereas Sport Nova Scotia and its member organizations have been instrumental in the support and development of sport at all levels of competition throughout the province during these past 25 years; and

Whereas Sport Nova Scotia as a federation of sport and recreation governing bodies continues to play its leadership role in the promotion of activities, both competitive and non-competitive, from tennis to trails usage, basketball to orienteering;

[Page 2262]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations and best wishes to the board members, staff members and thousands of volunteers who comprise Sport Nova Scotia and its member sport and recreation organizations as they mark this important milestone.

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

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

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the adjourned debate on 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 member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I have a few words on this particular resolution. What I find most interesting is when the government brought in their budget last spring, they stood up in the House and said they were the first government in many years to bring in a balanced budget and everybody applauded. Now we find out that was not true, because if they had been reflecting the real numbers that have come out since then, we know that they did not have a surplus in the operational side of their budget at all.

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I find it very strange that this government did not recognize many of the overexpenditures that occurred. We are not talking a few thousand dollars, we are talking millions of dollars and almost $50 million in the Department of Health. That is almost $10 million a month that somebody does not know that they have overspent. I believe the reason we didn't get the real numbers is if we had gotten the real numbers, the government would not have had the headline that they actually had a balanced budget, in their operational side. So they had to fudge the numbers knowing full well that they would probably call an election before we would ever have to go back and find out the real numbers. But what happened in the meantime was, some polling was done and the government found out that it wasn't a good time to go to the polls because I am sure if they had, the election would have been over by now. So, hoping and planning there would be an election, they fudged the numbers and now we get the real numbers and we will wait and see when the election is and what the polls are saying.

I have said it before, Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not one who is afraid to go to the polls. As a matter of fact, I look forward to going to the polls because I think there are many issues in health care, even with their overexpenditures, the cuts they made in health care have been devastating to many people in this province. When I look at the large amount of money overspent in the regional programs that this government had overspent and the underfunding that was still there in home care and those other areas, I am beginning to wonder if the numbers that the Minister of Health and this government brought forward for the 1996-97 fiscal year, we know that it is out of sync $65 million and we don't know that it could be $165 million because it is a very good example that this government is not keeping a close eye on that department and its expenditures. I am not convinced it is overexpenditures as much as knowing that they underfund the program from the beginning. In other words, they know the programs are going to cost x millions of dollars but to make their budget look good, they put in numbers that are different than that and then a year from now we will find out the real numbers of what the department actually spent.

So what this resolution does is it buys a year, I guess, because we will no longer know next spring, when they talk about a balanced budget, whether or not in the fall we will get another piece of paper like this that says, well, we really didn't have a balanced budget but these now are the true numbers. The only reason we have this resolution is because of the Act they brought in, the Expenditure Control Act, otherwise we would not be here debating this sort of legislation. (Interruption) I agree. I am not arguing against it. I just said that is the only reason we are debating the issue and I believe the honourable member agrees that that is true. I think it could obviously continue to cause them some embarrassment down the road but I do not have any difficulty with that.

It is like, Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Finance made his announcement and talked about his numbers and if it wasn't for this kind of legislation, as I said, we would not be here debating it but it is a little bit misleading on why we cannot get more real numbers. Of course, I don't have any difficulty when the Public Service is over in the Office of the Ombudsman

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by $9,000. I admit, when you are trying to deal with millions of dollars, that can happen - or $78,000 in the Westray Inquiry.

But what I find difficult is that no one picked up on the over $51 million in the Department of Health. In other words, nobody identified that last spring as being a problem. So we wonder, this year, as I look through the estimates for the Department of Health and the minister has admitted being overspent by $65 million, I believe, and none of that was given to Pharmacare and I am led to believe that the Pharmacare Program, for instance, is going to be overspent. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the premiums they were asking seniors for will not add up to the amount that the Finance Minister indicated they would add up to, or the Minister of Health, because a lot of people opt out. Some people have been cut off because they didn't pay the premium and so there are going to be millions of dollars that have to be made up there, I am told. Plus, my understanding is that it was underfunded from the beginning so there are going to be millions of dollars that we are going to see in overexpenditure in that area. We know of the overexpenditure in home care. We know they have made cuts to home care to try to fit that into the cloth and lead us to believe that some of the additional money that they put in home care was new money, when in actual fact it wasn't new money. I was told that home care was underfunded from the beginning.

If we go back and look at 1995-96 under regional programs, we know from this document that it was underfunded in 1995-96, so naturally, even though the program was expanded in 1996-97, it would automatically be underfunded in 1996-97. So we know there are going to be overexpenditures. The government said, we are putting more money into home care, when in actual fact they weren't putting any new money into the home care. They were just trying to identify the money that they didn't have in the previous year that their budget was short by not changing any programs. So when the minister announced $65 million and we were going to have more money for home care, there was actually no new money for home care. This was money that was shorted when the budget was put together.

We had the government running around making cuts in the personal care side of home care, and many people have been devastated by the cuts they made. I am told that budget will still probably exceed the amount of money that the minister has indicated it would exceed.

We have the insured programs of management. One of the things that has bothered me, as I have watched this government, is cuts have been made to programs in health care right down the line, but more money is being spent on management or bureaucracy. In other words, whether it is in the ambulance area where we are spending $5 million more with less ambulances and the attendants aren't being paid any more, we are looking at that area again, management, we are looking at money for the regional health board bureaucracy, and I am told that this government - and I know this to be true - has hired additional staff at the Department of Health. People thought that when the regional boards were set up, we would have less staff at the Department of Health. I find that is not true. We are paying big money for PR people, we have hired additional doctors, we are hiring all kinds of spin doctors, so

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millions and millions of taxpayers' dollars are not going directly to the patient, they are going to the bureaucracy level.

I have watched this government, and one of the things that they have been able to do, any kind of job creation that I would give them credit for, is hiring people that the taxpayers have to pay for at high prices. In other words, they are spending a lot of their dollars on the management side in hiring additional people. The people who need the service are told, I am sorry. When you go to outpatients, there is no bed for you, we don't have room for you. We know you are very sick, but we can't get a bed for you because of the cuts this government has made. So, when you add it all up, the government is spending more money, but all I see is more money on the management side and the bureaucracy side and no money for the patient.

I think the same thing, Mr. Speaker, is happening in Education. The government says, we are good managers. They are more lucky than good managers. When I see what they are spending on that side of it and it is not getting directly to the people in need, then that greatly concerns me.

Mr. Speaker, I don't have a lot more to say about this resolution other than those comments that I made. I am sure that others may bring up other points that they may want to make about this resolution, but I think it is the kind of debate that we are finally seeing in this House where we can point out where government hasn't been giving the public all of the information. They have been selective on the information that they give. The Minister of Finance made those statements last spring, and we now can prove that those statements weren't true and the real numbers have finally come out.

[11:45 a.m.]

Others, I am sure, will have more to say about this resolution but, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much, those are my comments.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity as well to stand and take part in this debate. I also am delighted that as a result of the expenditure control legislation there is a requirement for the government to bring forward to this House a resolution any time when the expenditures exceed the 1 per cent of the previous budget.

That having been said, Mr. Speaker, when I take a look at what we have before us now and when I take a look at the resolution that we passed last spring, the question comes to mind, and that is: Hello! Is there anybody home over there? One has to wonder how it is that this government can so consistently be off the mark in terms of what it is predicting in the budget estimates.

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Now, we are told that last year and the other day in the question exchange, the Minister of Finance said that by spending somehow another $50-plus million in last year's budget that it is not going to affect last year's operating surplus. I wonder who it is who provides this government with their shells, because this government seems in its budgetary processes to be very intent on trying to hide things, moving figures back and forth, year to year. Last year we had money moved from the 1995-96 fiscal budget year, moved ahead to be spent in 1996-97. Now, we have money from 1996-97 being moved back to cover overexpenditures in 1995-96. What's the true picture, Mr. Speaker? What's the true bottom line? What was the actual, honest-to-goodness deficit for the Province of Nova Scotia last year?

You know, the government made wonderful headlines last year when they introduced the budget; first time in over a dozen years Nova Scotia has had a balanced budget and a surplus in operations. Mr. Speaker, I grant the Liberal Government this, they were very clever in the way they were able to manipulate to get those headlines but now it appears that those headlines were a little bit bogus because the information contained was inaccurate. One has to ask the question, was that because of incompetence or was it by design? I, of course, would never want to put ulterior motives forward for this government, but there are those who speculate that the Liberals had planned to go to the polls last spring. You know, that plan - and there are very strong signs and maybe we will get into a debate sometime and we will talk about where offices were being looked for and so on but that plan anyway - got sidelined but it certainly would have been a big boost had they been able to claim that we have for the first time restored the financial order here in the Province of Nova Scotia by eliminating the deficit and having a surplus. But, you know, instead of a surplus now it appears that it was a deficit. It actually was a deficit.

By this resolution, we are not spending money for this year, this resolution doesn't put a nickel in the health care system for 1996-97, it is not going to do a single thing for this year because this is spending for 1995-96; in other words, paying the old bills.

If you take a look at the record, certainly within the Department of Health, over umpteen years you will see that each and every year, almost, they have underestimated and they have come in overbudget, so this should not have been a great shock or a great surprise. Yet, Mr. Speaker, they pretended that they had a surplus and, therefore, what they would do is take that surplus from 1995-96 and just say that it is being spent in future years, transfer it forward so that it would not appear on the books for next year. That to me sounds like a shell game.

What Nova Scotians want, need, and deserve is a good, businesslike approach to declaring and showing the financial situation of the Province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians deserve to know what is the true, exact picture, what was the surplus or deficit, operating and capital, year to year. Let's not juggle money from one pocket to another. Let's not try to pretend or to hide. What we are really doing is spending 1996-97 dollars that are being raised

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now to cover the bills last year instead of truly adjusting and saying up front what their actual deficit was last year.

The government is saying that this will not affect our financial situation this year. It is not going to affect our balanced budget, and I am sure it will not, Mr. Speaker, because they have, sitting in the bank, collecting interest, $250 million that they were given as a bribe to sign the BST deal.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker, in debate the member accuses the government of accepting a bribe and I think if you check Beauchesne and so on, that is an unparliamentary term.

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the member to withdraw those comments, please.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not wish to trespass upon the Rules of this House, so I will retract the word bribe and I will replace that phrase with another; that is, that the government received in return for agreeing to bail out the federal Liberals who promised to get rid of the GST and who broke that promise, the provincial government, in return for pretending that they were going to have this new system of taxation, which was supposedly getting rid of the GST to help their federal cousin Liberals appear to have met their goals, the Liberal Government here in Nova Scotia is accepting a freebie of $250 million, a reward. I think a reward, maybe, is parliamentary so, therefore, I will replace the word bribe with reward and, hopefully, that will be suitable for the members of this House.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that the Minister of Finance himself admitted here in debates in this House is that there is no schedule as to how that $250 million can be drawn down. Technically, that means that in the first year the full $250 million could be drawn down, if need be, to cover deficits. There is a commitment that Nova Scotia will not lose any revenue during the first year which, coincidently, ties in with an election schedule; I am sure that is by accident rather than design.

So there is going to be this pot of money sitting there. If it appears that there is going to be a deficit this year coming up, then the government can reach into this other pocket, take out whatever monies are needed, drop it into the bucket and hope that people will not realize what has happened, and they can contend and claim that, yes, we are good fiscal managers and yes we have a balanced budget for the first time. What a wonderful message, what a wonderful slogan to go out pounding the hustings on, as this government tries to get re-elected. Then, of course, after that money is out of that pocket, after that money has been spent, then the costs start to hit again and there is no pot to bail into; there is no fund there, no reward left to take out.

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This resolution is dealing with expenditures last year. It does not address the shortfall that existed and has been acknowledged already for this year. The government has said they have found ways to address those shortfalls this year. Certainly, they have benefited tremendously as a result of the new interest rates and I am pleased with that. I am pleased for every single individual Nova Scotian who, in their own personal lives, because of financial arrangements they may be making, are also going to benefit from that, Mr. Speaker. The government is able to get money at a much reduced rate, and maybe the Minister of Public Works and Transportation will think about that with Highway No. 104 and look at how much money could be saved now if the government had financed that project instead of having the private sector doing that, because right now I know I can get a mortgage at a rate under 6 per cent for about four years, and governments can do better than I can, and they sure should be able to.

Many of these long-term debts that the province had, they come up for renewal just like a mortgage. Every so many years they can be renewed or they can be bought out. Many of them can, Mr. Speaker, be paid out. If you can pay out a long-term bond, I never could understand why the former government - I freely admit this one - when the interest rates were up to 15, 18, 20 per cent, why they ever locked Nova Scotia into 20 year terms. It makes no sense. Most people in a family situation would tell you that when the interest rates were sky high, they took short-term loans because they knew that they would come down again but, unfortunately, the Tories, when they were in power, locked us into very long-term, high-interest-rate bonds. We are still paying countless extra millions of dollars for that.

Many of those bonds are coming due and many have. If you are able to drop, let's say a $100 million bond, and remember, we owe around $7 million now - I don't know what the latest figure is, if it is $7 million, or $6.8 million or $7.2 million - but just on $100 million alone, if you are able to drop the interest rate that is being paid on that $100 million from 16 per cent to 6 per cent, you have dropped your rates by 10 per cent and you save yourself $10 million a year. So, obviously, there are tremendous opportunities for the Province of Nova Scotia to save an awful lot of money, by rolling over old debts, and greatly reduce our expenditures on interest payments.

I have to admit, however, Mr. Speaker, that I thought that the Premier was, as the saying goes, drawing a bit of a long, long bow. It is like the fisherman who caught the fish, by the time the stories were over, it was a huge one. When the Premier, in his address to the chamber, was saying, and taking some credit for the reduction of the interest rates in this country, I think the government here in Nova Scotia's impact and what we did here to reduce that, we might qualify for the itsy-bitsy bit of credit but that is about it and the majority of the credit really belongs to the general international market and scheme of things.

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[12:00 p.m.]

However, despite all of this and despite the commitments and the promises and despite the stretching of the imagination that the Minister of Health and his colleagues are running around telling people about how the health care system in this province has been improving, the reality is that there is not really any new money going into health care. The reality is that these new things that the Minister of Finance announced back in August, really all they were doing was finding new monies to pay for expenditures that were already underway, and those were reduced programs.

Over 30 per cent of the hospital beds that have been closed in this province, the fact that we still do not have in Nova Scotia an adequate, coordinated, comprehensive home care system. Yes, we are making some strides in that direction but we are a far cry from having what is needed.

You know just the other day again I was talking to an individual who has been trying to get an assessment for in-home support, has already been on a waiting list for over eight weeks. But, since they are not classified as urgent - it is only a necessity - they are still way down the list for even having an in-home assessment. This is what the government talks about as improved services.

Some of this money is to pay overexpenditures for the children's dental program. The government's answer, slash $3 million out of it. Cut programs, cut services.

Madam Speaker, when one takes a look at the general picture, when one takes a look at the books of Nova Scotia, what we deserve is a fair, complete and accurate picture. Even the resolution here before us is succinct, it is accurate in the sense that it tells what that money is going for - almost all of it, of course, is for operating expenses. Therefore, that is part of the reason why, just for the love of me, I do not understand, since we had such a small operating surplus last year, how you can say that by spending approximately $50 million more being allocated back to last year, how you can still possibly say you had an operating surplus last year when the operating surplus last year was only a fraction of that amount.

What the government obviously is looking to, in terms of gain, ways to get new monies in the future, new revenues, is the BS Tax. I, for one, am very dubious about the government's claims that consumers in this province will only pay $84 million in extra taxes. I believe it will be much higher than that. I do not have the ability, obviously, nor the access to the detailed financial information within the Department of Finance that I can run the projections. But if you just take a look at gasoline alone, I will use that one, every time the price of gasoline increases in the Province of Nova Scotia by one cent per litre, that is one one-hundredth of a dollar, it means Nova Scotians have to pay out an additional $11 million a year. That is what a one cent gasoline increase works out to.

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The average price across the province has gone up quite substantially, even before the BS Tax has gone on. (Interruption) The Minister of Finance is quite correct, the gas hasn't gone up because of the BS Tax, that hasn't gone on yet, but the price of gasoline has gone up. The average price of gasoline, self-service and don't get me started about home heating oil which has gone up by about 20 per cent. It is interesting when the gas companies were out there trying to drive down the price of gasoline to drive the independents out of business, the home heat fuel was going way up, sort of like a cross-subsidization. Home heat fuel was going up when gas was going down.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: It's hard to believe, isn't it.

MR. HOLM: The member for Kings North says, hard to believe, not really. Of course if the government was truly concerned about the users of gasoline and home heat what they would do is empower the Utility and Review Board to investigate price increases and to be able to set a maximum price, not a floor, not a bottom, let them drop it as much as they want but set a maximum price, that they can't increase it beyond a set level without being able to justify the reasons for that increased cost and force them to take it down if the price of crude drops. Every time the price of a barrel of oil goes up by about U.S. $1.00, that has an effect on the price of a litre of gasoline to the tune of about 0.6 cents per litre. Certainly, the price of crude oil has gone up nothing in terms of price equivalent to the price that people are now paying at the pump versus what they were four months ago.

I want to go back to the comparison and the analogy I was making a few moments ago. If we are paying now for every one cent that is costing Nova Scotians $11 million and if you are going to increase the price of gasoline and we will say for the ease of convenience the gasoline is selling at about 60 cents a litre, 8 per cent of 60 cents is actually 4.8 cents as I am doing the math quickly in my head and anybody who wants to challenge it, get out the calculator and check it out. I will drop that down because the price is only 58.9 cents which is posted on most of the stations lately and I will say that it is only going to put the price up that 8 per cent, by 4.5 cents a litre. Well, 4.5 cents times $11 million, that is over $50 million. By putting the price of gasoline up an additional 8 per cent, that will cost Nova Scotians, men, women, families, businesses, anybody who is putting petroleum products in their automobiles or their trucks, certainly the costs for operating trucks will be much higher but on that one item alone, $55 million more per year. (Interruptions) Yes, of course. If you are working on the Highway No. 104, you are right. But that should be almost finished by then, supposedly. They get it back.

However, then, Madam Speaker, let's take a look at the 5 per cent increased cost for electricity. When this Party, the Liberals, sat over here next to us in the Opposition benches they were violently opposed to the privatization of Nova Scotia Power, as we were. They promised that they were going to bring in measures to more strictly regulate and control. Yes, we are still waiting and waiting.

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They have taken off rent control for apartment dwellers, those who rent. The rents have increased and now the BST is going to hit them again because those landlords will not get the benefit so there will be nothing to pass through, only to pass on, 8 per cent of their increased costs to the tenants. All of this money, Madam Speaker, I think that they are calculating on using as supposedly newfound increased revenues. They are going to need it because of the poor budgetary process they have been involved in.

We have seen further cuts in education. The Minister of Education also, like the Minister of Transportation and other ministers, was told to cut his budget so, yet more money was taken away that could have been used toward the classrooms. The amalgamations were supposed to save all this money; that has not come about. As a result, Madam Speaker, the children in the province are again having to do with less and less year after year due to successive cuts. Not initiated by this government: when the Walker Formula was first introduced there was a Blue Team in government and under the Blue Team consistently, year after year, the Tories cut funding to education relative to the amount the municipalities put in. All the Liberals are doing and all they have done is to carry on the Tory ways.

All of those increased costs, of course, are being picked up by the property tax payers. Unless this government agrees to drop that 39 cent mandatory rate, to reduce it reassessment is going to impose yet a further burden on those property tax payers in addition to the BS Tax that they are now going to have to pay, which is going to make it even harder for those families who are in need and have to use private home care services because the programs that should be in place and were promised by this government are not there. It is going to be harder for them to be able to afford to pay for those kinds of services.

Madam Speaker, I do not doubt for a minute and I certainly am not opposed to the spending of the monies that are included in this resolution. Obviously this has to pass. Those bills have to be paid for. I am not opposed, certainly, to spending the money that was needed for the ambulance subsidy for emergency health services, et cetera. Obviously. My problem is that the accounting system that is being used by this government is obviously totally out of whack. Their crystal ball is very cloudy. Since they are so far off in their previous projections and already we know they were off by about, I think it was, $65 million in their projections for Health for this fiscal year that we are in, that meant that they had to take money from the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Minister of Education and use up some of - and it is probably a good way to use them - the savings that came as a result of the reduced interest rates, carry those costs.

[12:15 p.m.]

I said last year, I said the year before, that the projections that the government made about how much money they would have to be spending on interest payments were high because we know what has been happening to the interest rates I just hope this government, if you are going to be locking into any long-term debts, that you are locking them in at the

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low rates, at the very low rates. I hope that any other government that may happen to be in in the future, if the rates should every happen to skyrocket, God forbid, like they did in the early 1980's and the late 1970's, will never again lock us in to those 20 years or 25 year exorbitant rates as had been done by the former Conservatives.

Also, Madam Speaker, I think there are often better ways to save some money. For example, I await with great interest to see the Minister of Public Works putting out the tenders for the assessment on the use of space for offices and so on because again, we have paid out countless millions of dollars in excess for office rents and spaces over the year. If that money had not been wasted on certain friendly landlords of government that are in power, that money would have been available for these kinds of essential services, health care services, education services and so on.

So, Madam Speaker, in closing, I say that certainly I am pleased that there is a process that at least requires a government to bring forward to the floor of the House resolutions when they are going to be spending in excess of 1 per cent of the total budget figures in any fiscal year. It is a bit of an improvement. I can remember being in here, Madam Speaker it was before your time in this Chamber but certainly not before the Minister of Finance's time, and we will remember that right after the budget was passed we always used to find out about extra appropriations that used to be passed because you would bring in a budget that was unrealistically low and the government knew that, or they must have known it because as soon as they finished it, they were out passing Orders in Council without having to get any approval, pre-approval, any public scrutiny whatsoever. They would be authorizing many tens of millions of extra dollars for this, that and the other things, without any scrutiny. We saw that quite regularly. (Interruption)

The member for Cape Breton West wanted to know if I am sure and yes, I am sure. That was the Conservative Government here in Nova Scotia that I am talking about. I thank him for his helpful intervention, though.

Now, Madam Speaker, as I am getting ready to draw my remarks to a close, in seriousness, I don't at this point in time have any intentions of voting against this resolution but I can't say that I am enamoured with the accounting procedures. I think we should have had more details being provided to us, in terms of this amount of money. I also believe that we need to have and deserve to have been provided with - a really relatively simple, I am not talking about complicated, massive amounts of books of paper - a new, revised outlook for what the actual financial situation was for the Province of Nova Scotia when we ended our 1995-96 fiscal year, how this affects it.

You can say that oh no, it is exactly the same because we are spending this money this year for last year; like last year we spent money, or we announced we were spending and putting aside money last year for future years' spending so that it wouldn't appear up in the books. It is not just simply a matter of juggling dollars back and forth and saying one equals

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out the other because that money that was being advanced forward wasn't budgeted in this fiscal year.

So, Madam Speaker, I still think there is a bit of a shell game going on, a little bit of hoodwinkery going on and trying to paint the rosiest of pictures. I think that Nova Scotians deserve to have and expect to have much clearer and accurate projections put forward by the government, as I say, and operating the way in its accounting practices in a very business-like, clear fashion so that anybody who sees it can easily understand it. That way, maybe the government would gain a little bit more respect from the people of Nova Scotia.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure, indeed, for me to be able to rise and speak on Resolution No. 643, especially after the eloquent words of the member for Sackville-Cobequid.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Coalition.

MR. MACLEOD: The Minister of Finance says a coalition. I can guarantee the minister I have no intention of being in the same bed as that gentleman at any time, nor do I have any intention of being in the same bed as this Liberal Government, who are running a sham towards the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, I am going to try to be calm about the words that I want to speak. We are going to be focused about what we are talking about, because I actually feel sorry for the Minister of Finance who, on August 8th, announced how proud he was to be the minister responsible for the day that it was announced that they had $100,000 surplus. Here we are debating a resolution looking for $54-plus million.

AN HON. MEMBERS: Quite a difference.

MR. MACLEOD: There is quite a difference. I wonder how the minister really feels today? I would say that the minister is probably drained at all the pressures that are under him, Madam Speaker. I was hoping to find out if the Minister of Finance would, indeed, be having another news conference to announce the drastic error that was made, $54-plus million. It is hard to believe, even for a country boy like myself, that somebody could make a mistake of that magnitude. It is money, however, that we do have to spend. There is no question about that and I would not anyone to think that we are not in favour of paying the bills that this province has.

Madam Speaker, one would have to wonder if this whole thing was not brought about by the prospects of a possible election. I know that has been mentioned before, but it looks to me like the Liberal Government of Nova Scotia had taken a page from the NDP

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Government of B.C., the way that they acted. They made their announcements about how everything was in order and then shortly after the election they said, whoops, sorry folks, we made a mistake. I believe that that is where this government was heading. Unfortunately, they got some polls back and the polls told this government, well, you guys are in trouble. You guys are on the way out. So the changes were made and all of a sudden we have to make reconciliation for the problems that were created. We have to come true.

The former Minister of Finance, who was around for a long time, said, when the Liberals were in Opposition, made a point of saying that they would not operate that way. If I could, Madam Speaker, I would like to just read what the former Minister of Finance said about such things. It is out of Hansard.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, is it relevant to the debate on the resolution?

MR. MACLEOD: Oh, it is. It is very relevant. I would not do anything that wasn't, especially with you in the Chair. On Tuesday, April 2, 1996, the former Minister of Finance said, ". . .we said that is not a fiscally responsible way to operate and we indicated that we would not operate that way.". When we come into office, we will not overspend.

Madam Speaker, this resolution we are debating today proves that that was a misquote, I hope, or a misrepresentation of the facts. The fact of the matter is, we have more problems than the health care system. There are more problems today. We are looking at the future of the Province of Nova Scotia and the health care cuts that are in place. We find now that the new Minister of Health, the former Minister of Finance, says he needs another $65 million. So he is going around and robbing from the other departments, taking away from the Community Services and our children. (Interruption) The Minister of Community Services is saying it did not come from there. We would like to ask what the meeting was about then, Madam Speaker?

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. It is very important to inform all members of the House that what the honourable member has stated in this House is categorically untrue. In fact, The Department of Community Services had an increase of its budget this year by 5 per cent, that was not affected by the increased $65 million. For the honourable member to suggest that to the House is not true, in fact, the announcement was made very clearly at the statement of the honourable Minister of Finance. This was not true and if the honourable member would like us to direct the statement to him on where it came from because it was stated clearly, I think his research people should get on that to make sure that he doesn't mislead the House and the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, on the point of order introduced by the Minister of Community Services, I would like the minister to perhaps explain when he goes on to say that the budget of the Community Services Department has increased by 5 per cent

[Page 2275]

and no way did any money come out of our budget. Why then did they impose a 3 per cent cut on social agencies, transition homes, agencies that deliver services to women and children in this province? Why did he in his department cut those grants by 3 per cent for the last six months of 1996-97?

MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to rule on the point of order before I recognize the speaker. On the first point of order, it is certainly a point of correction, it is not a point of order. I think that it is well noted in the record. On the intervention on the point of order, I think it is more aptly contained for Question Period. I thank you for the interventions.

MR. MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, I too would have to reference the fact that there was a 3 per cent cut announced by this minister, that there would be a 3 per cent cut on grants from agencies and organizations that he is responsible for. I will tell you that the people of the Province of Nova Scotia don't appreciate that and don't expect that kind of cut is going to help any service that they are going to get. That being said, it is still a travesty, what has taken place.

The accounting procedures put in by this government, the way that they are operating is not acceptable to the people of Nova Scotia. We do have to pay the bills that are here but I would hope in the future that when this government is bringing forward their budgets, they will tell the truth to the people of Nova Scotia and not lead them down the garden path the same way that the NDP Government in British Columbia led those people down the garden path. Thank you.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: I would like to say a few words on this resolution. I think we should go back and read what the minister - and it is only a couple of sentences, Madam Speaker, with your approval and it is very topical and pertinent to the . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Are you re-reading what was just read into the record?

MR. TAYLOR: Absolutely not and I would table this document.

MADAM SPEAKER: That is fine to table it but as long as you are not repeating what was read by the previous member.

MR. TAYLOR: I wouldn't dare even think of that, Madam Speaker, not with you in the Chair.

[Page 2276]

Nova Scotia's Audited Financial Statement shows the province passed a major milestone last year. The report for 1995-96 shows that for the first time in 16 years, Nova Scotia balanced the books on operating expenses and revenues with a surplus of $100,000. I don't believe that was read into the record and if you have any concerns with that statement, I am advised and you, Madam Speaker, are advised and all members of the House are advised to contact a Mr. Bruce Cameron. We all know Mr. Cameron, he works for the Department of Finance and rather than question the Minister of Finance about such statements, we can contact Mr. Cameron because Mr. Cameron has all the answers. A one Bruce Cameron, formerly of CBC Radio.

[12:30 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Cameron goes on to say that the financial results for the last 13 government departments came in underbudget and three came in overbudget. The Department of Justice - and we understand this and support it, Madam Speaker, and you know we do - the extra appropriation of $32 million to compensate the victims of abuse in the province's youth correction centres. By the way, did you know that Minister of Justice is playing referee? He has called for a time-out relative to compensation for the victims of abuse.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I fail to see the relevance of that comment to the debate on the resolution. So please pull your debate into the resolution discussion at this point. Thank you.

MR. TAYLOR: I shall try to do that. Now, that's where $32 million went and I think it is important that we point that out and the time-out is still going on, Madam Speaker. The Department of Health spending was higher than originally expected due to $57 million in extra spending on health care. Now, before I was elected to this Legislature, I ran a very small trucking business and we thought our accounting practices were quite respectable. I know from time to time the ledger may not always say what it should and what we would like it to say, but $57 million! As my colleague for Cape Breton West has mentioned, even for a country boy like him, and myself, $57 million, an overexpenditure of that sort is reprehensible. It is reprehensible that this province would let its accounting practices run astray that bad. I can table that document and the contact, again, is Bruce Cameron; he points that out.

Now, Finance Minister Mr. Gillis said today that extra money for health care has been found without putting the province back into a deficit. Mr. Gillis says a combination of program cuts and savings on debt charges keeps the government's balanced budget on track. The Department of Health has been given an extra $64 million. The money will be used primarily for hospitals, payments to doctors, Pharmacare and home care.

Subsequent to this, and probably as a consequence of this release, Madam Speaker, we find that home care in the Province of Nova Scotia is very much in trouble; in fact, it is inadequate. The Minister of Health, in concert and, I believe, in cooperation with the Minister

[Page 2277]

of Finance - and I don't think I am drawing too long a bow - they ordered a review of the Home Care Program in this province. A lot of our seniors, specifically our seniors, are finding out that the home care that they were receiving in the month of June has been drastically altered and reduced the following months. That's a shame.

In Nova Scotia, as with any of our provinces, and states, I would suggest, Madam Speaker, that when you give people a program to help them with their health and then come in the very next month I will say, because the program had really only been up and functioning for a month, irrespective of protestations from the other side, the home care had only really been functioning for a month, then to come in and haul that very important, that very necessary program away from the people. That program was supposed to support early discharges from our hospitals. That program was supposed to be based on need. It provided personal nursing care, in-home support and nursing care itself.

So, our seniors and our disabled are finding out that the home care in this province is just not what it should be. Furthermore, there is a waiting list, I have been told, and the Minister of Health hasn't denied it, that there is a waiting list now for home care, Madam Speaker, of some eight months. Eight months you have to wait now, for home care.

AN HON. MEMBER: They waited a hundred years before . . .

MR. TAYLOR: Now, Madam Speaker, the very honourable member for Digby-Annapolis suggests that before this government came in with home care, they had to wait 100 years. Now, I wouldn't know that, but I will take the member at his word that Nova Scotians have been waiting for 100 years for home care. Now, I know that he is the senior member in the House and I appreciate his input to this debate, Madam Speaker.

Again, Madam Speaker, I would table this document that has been supplied by the contact, Mr. Bruce Cameron. If one of the Pages would be kind enough, I will table this document. Also, the minister's statement can be found on the Department of Finance's website so we can go look it up. This government is certainly becoming very much information highway inclined. We certainly appreciate that and we commend the government in fact for that initiative. (Interruption)

Now, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, the MLA for that district, suggested that the government received a bribe relative to the GST. Madam Speaker, we understand that it is not parliamentary to use the term bribe in this House and I would not dare use that. But is an MLA more particularly permitted to use the term inducement? As an inducement this government received some $240 million, in round figures, from the federal government. We could call that a payoff. We do not call it a bribe. We could call that a payoff for agreeing to buy into the blended sales tax, the BS Tax. When the government took that hush money, they knew. I see the Speaker looking to her book, but I think hush money is parliamentary, and

[Page 2278]

inducement and payoff, because we do not dare call it a bribe. We cannot call it a bribe, but we know that a rose by any other name still smells.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I think you are quite correct when you say you see the Speaker starting to look through her book because I am reaching a point of intolerance here with the usage that I am hearing in this House about hush money and bribes. I do not find that those words are particularly useful in this Chamber. They are on the side of offensive. I will caution you just this once. If you would attempt to be more parliamentary in your conduct, I would appreciate it very much.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I certainly understand that it is your House. So I will just call it, for lack of a better word, an inducement. I will just say that for lack of a better word because I have some difficulty with some of the adjectives and nouns that the Third Party has been using, too. I appreciate your position. It is quite difficult when different members tread very lightly on words of that nature.

What I do want to say is that the injection of $65 million into Nova Scotia's Health Department is good news for the province's beleaguered health care system. It also indicates that either there were some serious miscalculations in the cost of programs or it is an attempt by the government to perhaps carry out some damage control that may have been leading into a spring election. Now, it was kind of ironic, Madam Speaker, that the former Minister of Finance was the bearer of the glad tidings. It was the former Minister of Finance who brought in the information that a $65 million injection was going into the Health Department. Now, that was the same minister who was shuffled out of the Finance portfolio into the Health Department. That same minister, as ironic as it might be, was the Minister of Finance in his former portfolio, so perhaps the former Minister of Finance and now the Minister of Health, should receive some of the blame for the demise of the former Minister of Health.

The Cabinet was shuffled and the Opposition and Nova Scotians at large had a lot of concerns with the health reform initiatives of this government. So we just found it a little bit ironic that it would be the new Minister of Health who was coming in with the announcement about these cuts.

Now as strange as it was, subsequent to the Minister of Finance announcing that he had this $100,000 surplus and now we find that, in fact, that was just a little bit of political grandstanding on behalf of the Minister of Finance. I think he knew full well that in his position as Finance Minister at least he should have known what the accounts of this province looked like. If he didn't, it really wouldn't be all that responsible. I would never accuse the Minister of Finance of being irresponsible. I think he knew full well that he was going to have to come back with this extra appropriation and, as a consequence, we do have this resolution before us today.

[Page 2279]

The government balancing any books, I know from being a small-businessman, Madam Speaker, is a difficult task and sometimes you do have to rob from Peter to pay Paul. What is happening here is a classic case of a government not really doing its accounting homework.

I have great difficulty with understanding, how could the Minister of Finance not know that a government department and, more specifically, the Department of Health, was overexpending to the extent that it was. It is very difficult for us and very difficult for most Nova Scotians to understand.

So, we have the resolution before us today and the Minister of Finance did bring it in. We understand the position that the Minister of Finance is in; obviously he has to deal with the Expenditure Control Act, no question about it. I know from yourself, Madam Speaker, being a member on the Public Accounts Committee, you understand very clearly how the Expenditure Control Act reads and what that language means. When the government's total budget - not to be compared with departmental budgets - exceeds 1 per cent of the overall budget then a resolution of this sort is supposed to come forward.

So, Madam Speaker, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Madam Speaker, I would like to have an opportunity to say a few words on this matter. I am not going to detain the House but there seem to be some misunderstandings that I think should be cleared up and I have a few documents that I would like to table. (Interruption) Oh, I know all members made their contribution and now it is my turn. (Interruptions) Well, that is up to the members opposite to do what they must do. (Interruptions) We are in favour of agriculture, Madam Speaker, some members opposite may not be. I know the Minister of Agriculture is a great promoter. He wants to sell Nova Scotian agricultural products and products generally.

Madam Speaker, by way of Resolution No. 643, which we are debating, our government is complying with the Expenditure Control Act, which naturally you would expect us to do. We are seeking legislative approval of additional appropriations totalling $53 million and I think that is clear to everybody. I think this is a good thing and I think all sides of the House would agree and I think members on all sides have applauded that, that it is a good way to have a chance to examine the extra appropriations, extra spending by government.

[Page 2280]

Madam Speaker, what I want to do just briefly is table both a copy of Resolution No. 643, which is a general outline of the extra spending, and a table giving a detailed breakdown of the $53 million. I just want to put these on the Table just for greater certainty, I did talk about them earlier.

Madam Speaker, members opposite, especially the Official Opposition, are criticizing the government with regard to the extra $53 million that is provided for in this resolution that is before us.

[12:45 p.m.]

It is true, Madam Speaker, that in the three years our government has been in power, we have had additional appropriations. I guess it is a way of life of governments and I think, through time, that has always been so. This is what we have. We have such a monetary provision in front of us now. But I think, so we do not forget, people in history, when you forget, you are bound to repeat things. So I think a little bit of history is in order. Given the criticism of the extra appropriations by the Official Opposition, briefly I want to review the additional appropriations between 1978 and 1993 under the Governments of John Buchanan and Donald Cameron. I think it is worth going over a little history because we had some members speaking, including some who sat at those very Cabinet tables. I am going to give a table that will break them down, so people will see, by fiscal year, during that time and what they added up to. It is quite interesting when you compare it to the $53 million that is before us today. (Interruption)

I will talk about the balanced budget, too. We have a balanced budget.

AN HON. MEMBER: You didn't even come close at balancing budgets.

MR. GILLIS: We balanced it, Madam Speaker, in operations in 1995-96 and, as of today, we have a totally balanced budget. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, a question for the minister. I am trying to understand something here. I don't claim to be a financial expert and I tend to put things rather simply, as the minister may have noticed from time to time. I don't understand and maybe the minister can explain. First of all, what was the surplus in terms of operating last year and how it is, if that surplus was not over $50 million, that if we are now attributing over $50 million worth of expenditures into last year, how the government can still say that there was a surplus in the accounts or in the books last year?

[Page 2281]

MR. GILLIS: I am going to table the 1995-96 official year end. Under the Expenditure Control Act, we were counting for that, but it was all figured and calculated in in the document which I am going to table in a few minutes, the Financial Report for 1995-96, which I am sure all honourable members have on their desk or close to their bedside so they can see it. It is all there. This is a final and I am going to table it. I will make reference, even to the page number and the table number, Madam Speaker.

I want to come back to the fiscal mismanagement of the Tory Government from 1978 to 1993, of which there are a number of members right here. The total extra appropriations from the 1979-80 fiscal year to the 1992-93 fiscal year, including simply their own, I am not taking any shoulder years, I am just taking their own years, some of them are shared at the beginning and the end, but just the ones under Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Cameron, the total extra appropriations, and I am going to table this with the total and the breakdown, was $1.3 billion. Moreover, to give us some perspective, additional appropriations in the 1981-82 fiscal year were over $191 million, almost $200 million. So you compare that to what we have before us now.

Madam Speaker, in comparison to the former administration, we are in the minor leagues. We are little leaguers. That is where we are. So, as I promised, for the benefit (Interruption) Well, we will put it on the Internet if you want, but I am going to table the breakdown. Anybody is welcome to have it. There it is, so everyone will have it. I am not going to detain the House, but I think it is important so that people understand, because there seems to be a great deal of confusion and the information is readily available. Some honourable members have wondered about a complete fiscal picture for the 1995-96 year, the year we are dealing with and the year this resolution deals with. There seems to be some confusion, and I intend, to the best of my ability, to clear up any misunderstandings. Some members seem to think - and this is in reference to the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid who asked the question earlier - that the $53 million appropriation provided by the resolution that is before us is over and above somehow the detailed 1995-96 fiscal year-end report; that suggestion is wrong, wrong, wrong.

The 1995-96 fiscal report was tabled on August 8, 1996, probably the earliest in history; it certainly was far earlier than the times financial reports came from the members opposite for the 15 year period they were there. That report, in the statement of revenues and expenditures on Page 18, to make this simple so that nobody will have any trouble finding it - shows a current account surplus of $101,000. That is the operating surplus for 1995-96. It is not affected by the $53 million we are dealing with today, that was all figured in. We can count in Finance and I can assure you that, while I am there, we will count properly.

Madam Speaker, I know that this balanced operating budget which was achieved by my predecessor might not be good news to the members opposite, but the facts of the matter are that my predecessor as Minister of Finance delivered a balanced operating budget in the 1995-96 fiscal period. If you go back through the Tory times, they might have had a minor

[Page 2282]

operating surplus in the first year and after that it was all downhill to Hades in a runaway trolley car, or something like that. For greater certainty in this matter I am tabling, as I promised, something that was tabled with the Clerk in the Legislature in August. I am tabling for the House today the 1995-96 financial year-end report. As I said earlier, the document details the current account surplus for 1995-96; I want to lay it on the table.

As I draw my remarks to a close, I just want to mention and remind honourable members - so they don't confuse the two fiscal years, the 1995-96 year which we have been dealing with in this resolution and the current year we are in - as required under legislation, I tabled the 1996-97 first quarter report on September 19, 1996. Although, and this is true, there was a substantial realignment of the dollars as they were outlined in the budget tabled in April, the 1996-97 balanced budget was still maintained. Again, I must admit that there was a slight slippage from a $2.8 million surplus to just over $1 million, but in the year we are in we have maintained an overall balance, and I think it is worth comparing to the 1992-93 fiscal year under former Premier Donald Cameron when the comparable deficit was over $600 million, and we have a total balance with a surplus projected of over $1 million.

Finally, before I take my seat, and again in compliance with the Expenditure Control Act legislation, this government will be financially accountable. Before the end of the year, before the end of next month, there will be an accounting as of September 30, 1996. Thank you, Madam Speaker. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion has been called on Resolution No. 643.

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

The motion is carried unanimously.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, will you please call Bill No. 31.

Bill No. 31 - Real Estate Trading Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The adjourned debate occurred with the member for Halifax Citadel speaking.

[Page 2283]

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer a few brief remarks in relation to Bill No. 31, An Act to Provide for the Regulation of Trading in Real Estate.

There are hundreds and hundreds of important industries in this province and the trade in real estate and related spin-off activities and industries relative to real estate transactions and the real estate trade are exceedingly important elements of our provincial economy.

I want to start by indicating that on balance I think the effort made by the government in Bill No. 31 is an important one and it represents, as we have seen in other pieces of legislation, a codification of much of the law - in this case administrative and procedural more so than substantive law - relative to the operation and functioning of an effective real estate practice and trade in the Province of Nova Scotia. I do not propose, quite candidly, to dwell at any great length upon them, but I have had some in the real estate industry approach me relative to this particular piece of legislation and they have expressed some concern and the concern really is, and the minister in closing might want to offer an observation or two; some of the comment made to me was to the effect that the establishment of a commission and the ascribing to that commission of the very extensive by-law making authority and the like imports into that commission a very strong and broadly based role and realm of authority. Some individual agents and some small real estate companies have, as I say, spoken with me and have raised cautions that the commission will in fact be rather stronger than they might like.

There are, Madam Speaker, something in the order of, I think, 1,300 to 1,400 real estate sales persons and brokers in the province at the present time and for the sake of the safety of the consuming public it is important that those salespersons and brokers engage in a meaningful education and upgrading program on an ongoing and continuing basis. Many of the abler and more responsible members of that profession have done so and there has been, of course, a need for a regulation authority whereby the affairs and the conduct of men and women engaged in real estate and real estate sales is conducted in the context of a well understood set of parameters and rules and regulations. Although the Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs licenses salespersons and brokers, the Nova Scotia Real Estate Association itself has - I have met with them and reviewed this legislation and their general approach to pursuing their responsibilities to their membership - developed and maintained the educational courses and examinations for the industry.

They have maintained to the best of their ability professional standards for the membership and, most importantly, some might say or certainly of extreme importance and I will talk about it in a few moments, they manage and maintain the assurance fund which is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to the public dealing with real estate agents and the real estate industry generally. In essence that fund was established to provide a source of

[Page 2284]

funds to compensate consumers for any fraud and breach of trust which might have been committed by any licensed person, much like the insurance fund in the legal profession and other such funds in other professions, it is extremely important.

[1:00 p.m.]

The level of maturity, I think, of the Nova Scotia Real Estate Association and the industry has, I think it is fair to say, grown here in Nova Scotia over the years. I think some of that maturity is mirrored across all of the country. Our understanding is that more and more of the provincial associations have been entrusted by their respective provincial governments to take on more and more of their self-governance and self-discipline responsibilities and the legislation that we have before us is reflective of that attitude, now having taken hold here in the Province of Nova Scotia. Co-regulation or self-regulation, as I understand it, Madam Speaker, at present exists in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, New Brunswick and it is, to use one of today's current buzzwords, it is being fast-tracked apparently in the Province of Ontario. So this is legislation that is before us today which is not aberrant or off the norm at all. On the contrary, what it really does is bring Nova Scotia and its real estate industry and, more important, the governance of the real estate industry into the mainstream of what really has been happening across the country.

So the bill that we have before us also has the effect, to the relief of many, particularly the leading spokespersons for the real industry in the Province of Nova Scotia, brings closure to quite a number of years of meetings between the association and the Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs.

The fundamental element, and I trust the minister will agree with me and, hopefully, she will because I think I am right when I say that the fundamental shift that we see represented by this particular piece of legislation is that in very large measure the duties and the responsibilities of the department and the provincial government are, in fact, being shifted to the Real Estate Commission and the Real Estate Commission, as I have said, much more so than the department, becomes the arbiter and the manager and the disciplined mechanism for matters relating to the real estate industry.

I think, as I am at that point, it is of value to note, and I think it is important, that the commission which is established by this legislation, first of all it points out a public policy principle established in this legislation is clear and I think it is an important one of which we not lose sight, that is that the legislation indicates clearly that, "The Commission is not, for any of its purposes, an agent of Her Majesty in right of the Province and its powers shall be exercised in its own right and not as an agent of Her Majesty.". That is a pretty important fundamental couple of sentences because of course it makes it possible, in those circumstances where such action is appropriate and let us trust that those occasions will be limited and minimal, there may well be requirements for the minister and for the provincial

[Page 2285]

government to become injected in a review capacity of certain activities undertaken by the Real Estate Commission. I think that is an important public policy principle, that the commission is the commission, the department is the department and the commission is not an agent of the department or of Her Majesty The Queen.

One of the important things, and I was on my way to saying that when I was struck by the fact that the commission is independent and at arm's length from the department and from the government; the commission will consist of some laypersons and I think that that, too, is an important advance. It will consist of three members who are not licensed persons, so they are not real estate agents or brokers, and those three will be appointed by the Governor in Council. There will be licensed individuals and there will be persons appointed by the association and, subject to another provision which says that the registrar of the day does not have a vote on the commission, that the registrar will, in fact, be a member of that commission. In that context of course, Madam Speaker, we are speaking of the Registrar of the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission itself.

I think it is important and it is positive and it is worthy of note that the new commission being established does, in fact, have non-licensed persons on it and that is consistent with the kinds of things which have happened in the past with lay representation on the Nova Scotia Barristers Society, with some lay membership on the governing board of the Nova Scotia Medical Association, and it is reflective of the fact that if we are going to have self-regulating professions, professions which have the capacity to establish a regime whereby disciplinary action can be taken against a member or members, then it is, I think, philosophically at least, helpful to have the board or commission or agency involved; have the benefit of the advice, guidance and counsel of men and women who come to those meetings and come to the issues before them without a vested interest and without preconceived notions and without a history of, well, I am a real estate agent and this is what I would do in those circumstances, and so on and so on.

I don't mean to suggest at all, Madam Speaker, that the real estate agent membership on this commission is not and would not be men of common sense, but we cannot help - all of us - being creatures of our own environment and if our environment, for a great many years, is to live and work in the real estate industry and to conduct ourselves in a certain way on the strength of what we think is the right way to go about our business as a real estate agent, we may come to some very difficult and complex questions, including those which might result in the necessity of bringing disciplinary action against another real estate agent, I say, again, that I think it would be helpful, and it is provided for in this legislation, that we have men and women who bring their basic, everyday common sense to the deliberations and I think that is an important reality.

As I said, the legislation establishes this commission and what it also does, and it is important - and we are supposed to be talking about the principle of the bill and not about specific clauses - but, you will find - as I am sure you have on reading the legislation, Madam

[Page 2286]

Speaker, have found - that the commission established by this legislation is clothed with the authority of establishing and implementing a code of conduct or standards applicable to the industry which will bear on the regulation, the conduct, the education and the disciplinary matters which will affect and impact the members of the real estate industry.

That, I think, is important. The reason I think that is important, is because my understanding from discussions with representatives, both organizational representatives, if I may refer to them that way, and individual representatives of the real estate industry, there has in the past been some confusion with organized real estate and by the consumer - the hundreds of thousands of us who are consumers of the real estate industry - as to just what the roles of the local boards, the association itself, and the department actually are. I know from past personal experience, there have been unfortunate situations develop where the roles and authority and mandate of those three elements, the local boards, the association and the department, have sometimes seemed to conflict and have caused the consumer, the real estate purchases or the vendor or somebody connected with a property transaction, to have very great difficulty wading themselves, indeed, even sometimes with the assistance of competent legal counsel, through some of the difficulties.

So this legislation, to its credit, I think, Madam Speaker, allows for a clearer interpretation in rather plain language of the role of the commission and I think, I hope, it provides for a more effective climate for conducting business. The industry and its regulatory regime will, and I think this is very important, become self-financing. That is the case with the Bar Society. It is the case with the Medical Society. Those societies do not come to government or to a department of government and say, we need x number of dollars to have you help us administer our operation, to kick money into negligence, malfeasants, insurance programs and that sort of thing. We will move in this regard in the real estate industry to the same kind of mindset and the current cost to the taxpayer through the department will be eliminated in time. That, I think, is in the interest of the taxpayer and, again, lends a little bit of credence to the idea that this is a responsible, professional organization and the fact that the taxpayers' financial obligation is eliminated is, I think, an important one.

The real estate industry and the association, as we have known it to this point, Madam Speaker, has established an assurance fund to protect consumers from fraud and from breach of trust and that has been in place since about 1988. That has, in that relatively short time, grown from $200,000 to over $600,000, and it generates interest revenue for educational purposes. The bill which we have before us continues the fund and it enables the commission to take interest on trust accounts to offset its costs. Trust accounts in the real estate office, up to this point, have not been interest bearing. Again, if I may make the comparison to the legal profession, the trust funds maintained by the lawyers of the Province of Nova Scotia do, indeed, bear interest. That interest is not owned by the client or the lawyer but, in fact, makes its way back into the Bar Society for the purposes and the use of the Bar Society and, in particular, for the Law Foundation, which, as I know you know, Madam Speaker, has done tremendously important work. The same sort of thing will, therefore, be able to happen here.

[Page 2287]

It will impose a very new and a very important obligation on the men and women who are real estate agents in the Province of Nova Scotia and, equally so, will impose a very important obligation on the Real Estate Association. I have not done the mathematics and the association people to whom I spoke did not offer a number to me, but I would guess that over the course of any given 12 month period, there will be some hundreds of thousands of dollars of interest generated by trust accounts maintained by real estate agents.

[1:15 p.m.]

Very often the real estate agent will receive a down payment, as an example, from a client, a prospective purchaser and, in relatively short order, that down payment or deposit will make its way into a lawyer's trust account. So it may be that for a relatively modest period of time that some of these monies will be in the real estate agent's trust account. But, nonetheless, I am sure there will be some many hundreds of thousands of dollars of trust money. Therefore, that imposes a very serious obligation upon the industry that, if I may say so to the minister, imposes a very serious obligation on the minister. I would think that one of the most important and fundamental things which the minister is going to have to ensure is that the ground rules which relate to the establishment of trust accounts by real estate agents and brokers and firms is going to be one of the crucial elements of the administration of this legislation upon passage.

It is, therefore, the minister's responsibility, I suggest to the minister, that one of the chief, principal and first order requirements that the minister and her officials will have to do is to ensure that upon passage of this legislation there is a clear, precise, written, iron-clad, any Grade 6 student could understand kind of document which sets out the way in which the trust fund authority which, by this legislation is made available to the agents and to the brokers and to the real estate firms, is clearly worked out with the association, so that we don't ever, unless, of course, there is a fraud. We can't always anticipate that somebody will attempt to engage in fraudulent conduct but that will be the rare occasion.

It is incumbent upon this minister to ensure that one of the very first things done is that the rules that relate to the establishment of and the maintenance of records of and the reportage of the trust accounts established by real estate agents and brokers and real estate firms is clearly established so that there can't be any unanswered questions relating to the way in which that will all work.

There will be, Madam. Speaker, as I know you are aware from your look at this legislation, a commission. That commission will have a registrar and that registrar will be appointed by the commission and that registrar will have a significant number of duties and powers but they are those which will be imposed or conferred upon him or her by the Act, by the regulations and by the by-laws. So I think that anybody who is interested in the reality of the real estate industry in the Province of Nova Scotia would do well to read some of this legislation carefully as to the powers and authority of the registrar because those powers and

[Page 2288]

authority are substantial and they do relate very directly and impact directly on the day-to-day work and activity by real estate agents.

Now, Madam Speaker, this legislation has a considerable number of clauses and lots of language which deals with the question of how one applies for a license. I have heard some comments from some who say that the regime established by the legislation, and, of course, there is a by-law making authority available relative to how one does become licensed as a real estate agent or as a broker. I have had a few come to me and suggest, gee, Mr. Donahoe, that looks pretty stringent.

Well, quite candidly, my own attitude was, the more stringent the better. Real estate agents are functioning in a world where they are in a position of significant trust. Thousands and thousands of Nova Scotians who depend on them and depend on them with, in many cases, their life savings, should have the right to know that the man and woman in the firm with which they are dealing are properly licensed and they are licensed under a regime which makes us all - to the extent that it is humanly possible to get to that point - makes us all really understand that these men and women really know what they are about and are up to the task.

There is an interesting element of this legislation, Madam Speaker, which talks about the discipline that is able to be effected - a discipline committee is able to be established by the commission. It is appointed by the commission and it is to consist of five persons and one of those is not a licensed individual. My own preference frankly - and I may talk about this on a future day - might have been that we might have had two nonlicensed persons on that discipline committee but be that as it may. The principle that we address today - namely the establishment of a discipline committee by the association - is certainly an important one and one of which I approve.

I would like to suggest and I applaud again the suggestion that where a matter pursuant to this legislation does make its way to the discipline committee, it is possible for certain evidence to be taken and the committee is obligated - because the word is shall, not may - to permit the person appearing before the discipline committee to appear in person or by counsel. I believe that to be an important element of the process relating to discipline.

I do not have a great many more comments, but there is one. I mentioned, Madam Speaker, earlier that there is an assurance fund. There is such a fund in place now. It has been in place since 1988. This legislation sets out in rather precise terms the fact that the fund will be under the supervision and control of the commission and Clause 37(3) sets out the purpose of the fund, to pay in whole or in part "(a) any amount that the Discipline Committee recommends, . . . be paid to a person who, in the opinion of the Committee, has suffered loss or damage resulting from a licensed person engaging in fraud or breach of trust;" to respond to "(b) any judgment obtained against a licensed individual where the judgment is based on fraud or breach of trust . . ." and so on, and "(c) to pay to any person any sum of money as that person and the Commission agree upon as the consideration to be paid to that person for

[Page 2289]

the transfer to the Commission of any right of action that person has against a licensed person where the right of action is based on fraud or breach of trust . . .". That is a pretty important element, Madam Speaker, but there is this little wrinkle and I would like the minister when we close debate here on second reading, if it is possible, to perhaps offer a couple of observations.

A concern has been raised with me that there is a principle espoused in this legislation which allows that subject to the regulations which will be promulgated at some point under this legislation, the commission would have an authority from time to time to collect money by the levy of assessments in addition to license fees on every licensed person and the money collected pursuant to any such levy would be credited to the fund.

I am a little bit concerned if there is a fee to license me or anybody else as a real estate agent. I know what I have to do by way of study and examination and so on to become licensed. I know that a part of what I pay in license fees is intended to fund the running of the office of the Real Estate Commission and probably, I will be told, that a portion of the amount of money which I am being required to pay as fees will make its way into the assurance fund. However, when we come to the point where the Commission can from time to time collect money by the levy of assessments in addition to license fees, some people have raised some hesitation and concern with me about that and I would very much appreciate the minister, upon closing debate, that we might get a sense of why that seems to be necessary, where does that levy of additional assessments come from and why and it would be very helpful if the minister might address that particular issue.

Having said that and those are essentially the remarks which I wanted to make relative to this particular piece of legislation, I couldn't end my remarks relative to Bill No. 31 by making reference to the fact that I believe that we are seeing now and as deeper and deeper analysis is undertaken, we are seeing and going to be seeing that the implementation of the BST is undoubtedly going to result in some very real disruption in the residential construction industry across the Province of Nova Scotia and is going to cause real difficulty for the builders, the suppliers, for the tradespersons and the like.

If I am going to buy a house now with John Savage's BST, my legal fees are going to cost me more. The surveyor I use to survey the lot and so on is going to cost me more. (Interruption) Bingo Bob, the honourable member for Hants East is suggesting that he would give me a deal. Well, you know the old line, (Interruption) and if the deal were free I would be tempted to say, you get exactly (Interruption). The honourable member thinks that I may make my way back into that game, I am not so sure that I will, I may but perhaps my learned friend opposite might be sitting on a committee on the Bar Society which would have to pass judgment as to whether or not I should be permitted to do that, so maybe I had better treat him well.

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My serious comment is unfortunately, the imposition of John Savage's BST is going to have an adverse consequence for real estate construction in this province and it is by definition therefore going to have an adverse impact on the life and the income to be realized by the men and women whose life as real estate agents and brokers and companies is affected and enshrined in this particular piece of legislation.

While on the one hand I am of the view that this legislation is helpful in terms of codifying much of the law which we have had up to this point and it is helpful and important in terms of improving some of the reality and circumstances relative to the operation and maintenance of the real estate industry generally, I do have some very real concerns that we are going to see upon its implementation on April 1st, a blip and a downturn in residential construction here in the Province of Nova Scotia on account of the blended sales tax and that, of course, does not auguer well either for the men and women whose lives are affected by this legislation but for a whole range of people, people who are in the construction side of the real estate industry and the surveyors and the lawyers and the dozer operators and the carpenters and the electricians and so on. We are going to find that the BST is going to, unfortunately, have a negative effect.

[1:30 p.m.]

So, those remarks having been made, I am prepared to support this bill for the purposes of moving it to the Law Amendments Committee. I expect we will have some amendments to come forward when the bill comes back to us, because I think there are a few little glitches here and there, but they are of a relatively modest and procedural nature, and for the purposes of moving the bill on to Law Amendments, I will support it and look forward to comments from other members and, more important - perhaps not more important, but as important - look forward to comments from the minister as we close debate on second reading in response to certain of the observations which I have made. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to say a few words this afternoon on this, and I say a few words because I do not expect that I will be lengthy. I want to indicate, at the very beginning, that it is my intention, and that of my caucus, to be supporting this bill and, of course, we are now in the second reading stage where we are voting on the bill in principle before it goes on to the Law Amendment process. Unless there are some major glitches, major difficulties that we are unaware of at this present time, I anticipate we will be supporting it all the way through.

Madam Speaker, the previous speaker, the member for Halifax Citadel, certainly went through the bill with a fine-tooth comb and outlined a lot of the very important features in the bill. So I am not going to try to necessarily go over all of that, but there are a lot of things in

[Page 2291]

it that I will just highlight, or I should say a few things in it that I will highlight, very briefly, that I think are very positive.

Certainly, real estate and those who are involved in the real estate industry have a very significant impact and a very strong responsibility here in the Province of Nova Scotia. When we go out, and when I say we, I mean, collectively, people in this province, whether it is going to be for commercial or for residential properties, you are often very much dependent upon the information and the advice that is being provided to you by the agent and/or agents you are dealing with, along with the company for whom they are employed.

Madam Speaker, in this legislation, one of the things that I like so much is the licensing process and the pre-licensing programs that are going to be available for those who are going to be, in future, enrolling in the occupation or in the business of real estate.

MADAM SPEAKER: I would just would like to call for a little bit of order here. I think it is probably difficult for the minister to hear the debate on her bill, so I would like to call the members to some order in the House. There are a number of conversations going on, and if you would be mindful of that.

MR. HOLM: Madam Speaker, I am not in a ranting mood, so I don't want to have to shout at the moment.

MADAM SPEAKER: That is good.

MR. HOLM: I normally tend to rant when I am more upset with something than when I tend to favour it and, hopefully, the minister can hear my comments.

I want to say that I think that that is a very positive element of the legislation. I appreciate that there are many people who are involved in the real estate business who are not currently licenced real estate agents. The brokers who are not necessarily involved in the businesses, but who are being umbrellaed and brought in under this system, and those who are working, Madam Speaker, they may not hold a licence as such, because their work has not required it.

The information that I have been provided with is that those who are going to be brought in, so to speak, drawn in under the umbrella, that they also are in support of what the legislation is doing, in recognition that the real estate industry is, of course, a professional occupation. That is a profession and, as such, it needs to be governed and have the ability and powers to govern itself in a professional way.

I also like very much that, as in most professions, there is an ongoing training and upgrading of skills that is going to be required as a result of this process. We all, except in this business, politicians don't necessarily go out and take professional development but those

[Page 2292]

who are involved in so many other businesses and professions certainly are involved in that. Here there is the element again for professional ongoing development so that those who are involved in this very vital and important trade will have the opportunities to have their skills updated on a regular basis.

Certainly the composition of the commission, which is going to have a number of laypeople who are appointed to it, it is not just simply going to be those who are from the industry but also appointments are going to be made by government, who must be non-industry persons, Madam Speaker. In other words, the consumers will have an opportunity to be represented on this board, so it will not be just strictly industry driven. I think that is a very important safeguard. I think the Real Estate Association was wise in the way that they tried to craft this to ensure that there was some sense of balance.

One of the other items that I want to touch on just very briefly is the whole discipline procedure because within the legislation there are now procedures laid out for discipline. Part of the difficulty now, as I understand it, is that if there is to be a discipline action brought against an agent, there really are very few choices; you can either suspend a licence or you can terminate a licence but there is not much in the way of intermediate types of steps. As a result of that, maybe in some situations those who should have had a minor slap on the wrist, a minor discipline, since the disciplines that were available through the government department, through the registrar, were not appropriate, maybe there were not those reprimands being provided. Here we have a situation where, for very minor matters, it can go to the registrar and can be dealt with at that level. If it is going to be something that cannot be dealt with by the registrar or if one side or the other doesn't agree with the decisions of the registrar, it can move through to the Discipline Committee, where there can be hearings and the full process gone into.

If that isn't accepted then it can go to the full commission. If one side or the other isn't satisfied with that, there is, of course, still the opportunity to have the matter referred to the Supreme Court. So I think that it will provide the opportunity for a wider variety of actions that can be taken and that may be more appropriate for whatever the kind of degree of infraction may have been committed. It may be, for example, a requirement that a person go and upgrade their skills in a particular area, in a certain aspect of the law or a certain aspect of real estate business if an error they made resulted in some sort of difficulty. It may not be suitable or appropriate or, in fact, advisable to withdraw their license. What may be more appropriate would be a requirement that they take education training in, for example, zoning or by-laws or whatever the case may be. So I think that is also another very positive improvement in the legislation.

The previous speaker spoke for some time on the interest-bearing trust accounts. I echo the comments made by the member for Halifax Citadel about the diligence that the government has a responsibility to be involved in here in terms of ensuring how those funds are being administered and so on.

[Page 2293]

Madam Speaker, as I say, it would be very easy, based on the notes that I have ahead of me, to wax on, maybe not necessarily all that eloquently, but at least wax on for some considerable period of time. I do not think that it is really necessary in this situation. I do intend to support the legislation. I think that it is a positive step forward, based on the information that I have and based on the review of the legislation that I and others have made, and quite honestly based on the several discussions that I have had from those involved in the industry.

I have, I admit freely, had a couple of calls and it is only that - a couple of calls - from persons who are concerned about the legislation. They were concerned about it in the earliest of stages. Those individuals, whom I invited to come back, to contact me once they had seen the legislation with the detailed concerns have not done that and all I can assume, Madam Speaker, based on that, is that when they saw the legislation they felt that their concerns had been addressed because I have not heard again from them on that matter. Therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that I will be voting for this legislation at second reading and unless something very surprising comes forward at the Law Amendments Committee process I anticipate that I certainly will be supporting it through this House and in so saying I recognize that there are a couple of minor things that may want to be changed, but that the overall thrust and principle of the bill I am very much in support of. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Madam Speaker, I certainly thank the members opposite for providing me with the opportunity to deal with the second reading on this bill today as well as the support they have put forward. I do think all of us have at some point in time, as the member for Halifax Citadel had suggested, some people express some concerns. I think that is why it is appropriate that we send this on to the Law Amendments Committee so that those individuals have an opportunity to express those concerns themselves directly with regard to the bill.

The member for Halifax Citadel also had some questions with regard to the commissioner and the by-laws. I think the authority of the by-laws and what the commission is going to be looking at doing will be addressed. The commission will be able to set up, as the member has suggested, where the commission is set up of three lay people there will be an opportunity for those by-laws to be reviewed and looked at quite extensively, so I think that will take care of itself.

As the members had some questions on the trust fund, I agree the trust fund needs to be set out in great - there needs to be a great regulation on that. There needs to be very clear-cut and defined ways that the trust fund will be treated, maintained, reported and dealt with. I would agree with the member on that part and the regulations; we will look at that. The only

[Page 2294]

other aspect that the member brought forth was the levy by assessment. My understanding is that that was put in there because in some instances there have been at some points in time, the case that the fund that has been set aside is not large enough, an assessment may be required, but that would be in very dire circumstances. I think that has happened in some other professions, both the legal profession and the accounting profession.

Madam Speaker, with those few remarks I am pleased to move this bill on and I appreciate the support it has been shown in the House of Assembly.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 31.

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

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 28.

Bill No. 28 - Motor Vehicle Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: I present Bill No. 28, An Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, The Motor Vehicle Act, for second reading.

Madam Speaker, there are a few changes within the bill that I would like to just briefly mention and listen to the discussion from the members opposite. Subclause 2(1) deals with an administrative suspension program for first-time offenders, those caught under the influence of alcohol. We are recommending that a mandatory alcohol rehabilitation program take place for those individuals. I think it was very evident this morning by the member for Kings North and his resolution talks about the concern about those who drink and drive and I would concur with the fact that we have seen a decline in the number of alcohol-related accidents because of some of the initiatives we brought forth under the previous Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Richie Mann.

Subclause 2(2), the second alcohol-related offence, the license will not be reinstated until an individual driver attends an interview with the person designated from the Drug Dependency Division and the Department of Health. So we feel it is imperative that an individual is properly aware of what has happened and that we are monitoring the type of individuals that are on the road.

[Page 2295]

[1:45 p.m.]

Clause 3, Madam Speaker, has is to do with the speed limit from 100 kilometres an hour to 110 kilometres hour on twinned highways that have been designed specifically for higher speeds; they have been built and designed for that purpose in mind and we are increasing the speed on those particular highways that would be affected.

Clause 4, states that the peace officers or motor vehicle inspectors may stop and detain an individual based on safety aspects. For example, one area that we are referring to is the issue of the Hammonds Plains Road where we used to have a lot of truck traffic going through there and we have diverted that so that that road is safer. We are actually looking to make sure that our inspectors have the ability to detain certain traffic on certain roads for the protection and safety of individual Nova Scotians. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, Bill No. 28, which was introduced by the former Minister of Transportation and, at that time, Communications actually has four basic principles. Specifically, the amendments will allow, as the present Minister of Transportation has indicated, for a change in the maximum speed limit from 100 kilometres per hour to 110 kilometres per hour on twinned highways that have been designated for a higher speed and while I am going to mention the other principles, I would like to point out to the Minister of Transportation that in as much of the roads in this province may be designed, the twinned highways, let's not forget that that minister went to Ottawa just this week with cap in hand looking for money to help upgrade and maintain the major infrastructure in this province so, obviously, the minister did not go to Ottawa because the roads were designed, he went to help improve and maintain those highways.

So, Madam Speaker, if the minister is going to err, he should err on the side of caution and I don't think that is being done here today. As well, as the minister indicated, the amendments will provide for certification for motor vehicle inspectors. I am hoping that the Minister of Transportation, perhaps before this goes to the Law Amendments Committee, would enlighten the House and all Nova Scotians as to just how many motor vehicle inspectors there are in the province who are working today and, perhaps, if he is so inclined, he could give us the number of motor vehicle inspectors who were working in 1992.

Madam Speaker, another amendment will reinforce the inspector's authority to enforce by-laws by regulation specifically to local roads. This would include enforcement of local trucking only and we can understand the need for such enforcement because we have a number of our highways in the province that are for local trucking only. I am sure once the Highway No. 104 western alignment becomes established and is fully operational, these motor vehicle inspectors will no doubt be patrolling the old Wentworth Valley highway. I am not sure if it is still going to be considered a 100-Series Highway, but, nonetheless, I believe that

[Page 2296]

some of these amendments are a little bit masked and a little bit obscured in that the full and underlying reason behind them is to placate and support the provisions that are in the omnibus agreement, that contract that we have been unable, at least to this point, to access; it has not been available for public consumption.

So the amendments that the Minister of Transportation is making to the Motor Vehicle Act, the major changes, are as a direct result of the omnibus agreement. I don't think this Minister of Transportation would disagree with that and, by the way, that is a beautiful highway that is being constructed up there. There is definitely a need for the four lane highway, it will certainly enable our commodities in this province to be more easily, more efficiently, more effectively imported and exported and of course, passenger vehicles if they are so inclined, will also be able to travel the new highway if they want to pay the toll. Should they wish, they can still travel existing highways but if somebody wants to go 110 kilometres per hour their appetite can be satisfied by travelling up to the western alignment.

I am not sure if this Minister of Transportation wants to post the 110 kilometres per hour speed limit on all of this province's twinned highways, I am not sure if that is his intention because again, the minister has to be very, very careful here inasmuch as the roads may be designed and I think the roads are perhaps designed only to carry and accommodate that speed but I have very serious concerns as to whether the roads can safely handle a speed limit of 100 km. I would encourage the Minister of Transportation, before he designates more highways and as I understand it and maybe the minister could nod or shake his head but as I understand it, the 110 kilometres per hour speed limit will be going on the Highway No. 104 western alignment before other twinned highways, it will be posted up on the new section, the 45 kilometres of new highway.

I don't know if, for example, the Truro-Halifax highway will see the 110 kilometres per hour speed limit at approximately the same time the western alignment is open and I believe that is next December, the tentative date for opening our western alignment highway. The minister and some of his colleagues viewed the highway by air and they had an opportunity to travel about and talk to some of the construction workers up there, I saw a picture of the minister and the new Speaker in the Truro Daily News talking to some of the construction workers there and I am sure the minister was up there. Well the minister holds up his fingers indicating he was up five times.

The Minister of Transportation is very interested in not only the design of that highway but I am sure the minister wants to make a determination as to whether or not that highway has the capacity to handle this 110 kilometres per hour. That is why we can't mask these amendments and indicate that we are doing this to allow the people of Nova Scotia to go from A to B faster, this isn't why it is being done, Madam Speaker, oh no. The previous Minister of Transportation indicates to me the new highway up through the Wentworth Valley is the underlying reason why. What really is the primary reason for this speed increase is the fact that the Western Alignment Corporation has asked the Minister of Transportation

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and this government, the Department of Transportation and Communications, the lawyers representing the Atlantic Highways Corporation and the lawyers representing the Department of Transportation and Communications, during some very difficult, I don't think I am being presumptuous here, they had some very difficult deliberations. I believe the lawyers representing Atlantic Highways Corporation are responsible for achieving this provision in the omnibus agreement.

Madam Speaker, I see your hand go up and I would be very pleased to adjourn the debate on this issue until another day. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The debate is adjourned for this day.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, could you please revert back to the order of business, Notices of Motion.

NOTICES OF MOTION

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

RESOLUTION NO. 787

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

Whereas on November 22, 1996, by Resolution No. 773 which was moved by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, this House resolved as follows:

". . . that this government stand up for the ex-refinery workers in their fight against the powerful, multinational oil company by refusing to purchase products from Imperial Oil until it stops harassing its ex-employees or their survivors.".

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly rescinds Resolution No. 773.

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

MADAM SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 2298]

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Madam Speaker, I wish to advise the House that we will be sitting from the hours of 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on Monday and that we will be commencing with the debate on Public Bills for Second Reading with Bill No. 28.

I move that the House now adjourn until Monday at 4:00 p.m.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is that we stand adjourned until 4:00 p.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 1:56 p.m.]