The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Dec. 11, 1997

Sixth Session

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 1997

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 20, Forests Act, Hon. K. MacAskill 1180
No. 21, Freedom of Information Act, Dr. J. Hamm 1180
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 392, Gordon Archibald, Death of: Sympathy - Extend, Dr. J. Hamm 1180
Vote - Affirmative 1181
Res. 393, Health - Paramedics: Working Conditions - Improvement Urge,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1183
Res. 394, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Promises (Premier July 1997) -
Unfulfilled, Dr. J. Hamm 1184
Res. 395, DFO - Canso Trawlermen's Co-op: Productive Negotiations -
Encourage, Mr. R. White 1185
Vote - Affirmative 1185
Res. 396, Fin. - Tax Reform: Guide (Premier's Promise) - Unfulfilled,
Mr. R. Russell 1186
Res. 397, Health - Emergency Medical Inc.: Yarmouth Co. - Congrats.,
Mr. R. Hubbard 1186
Vote - Affirmative 1187
Res. 398, DFO - Canso Trawlermen's Co-op: Promises (Premier) -
Fulfil, Mr. J. Leefe 1187
Res. 399, Gov't. (N.S.) - Public-Private Partnerships: Failure - Admit,
Mr. J. Holm 1188
Res. 400, Senator Peggy Butts - NDP (N.S.) Leader: Remarks
(NDP [Can.] Leader) - Disassociate and Apologize, Mr. R. MacNeil 1188
Res. 401, Sysco - Clean-up: Commitment - Applaud, Mr. P. MacEwan 1189
Res. 402, Educ. - Eastern Shore D.H.S.: Art Calibre - Acknowledge,
Mr. K. Colwell 1190
Vote - Affirmative 1191
Res. 403, Econ. Dev. - C.B. (Industrial) Trade Bd.: Concerns -
Listen (Premier), Mr. A. MacLeod 1191
Res. 404, Environ. - TRACC: Agreement Violation - Acknowledge,
Mr. B. Taylor 1192
Res. 405, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Deal Better - Boasting Condemn,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 1192
Res. 406, Howard Epstein (NDP Candidate Hfx.-Chebucto) - Sable Gas:
Expertise - Nil, Hon. G. O'Malley 1193
Res. 407, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Deal Momentous - Explain (Premier),
Mr. E. Fage 1193
Res. 408, Commun. Serv. Comm. - Meetings: Province-Wide - Hold,
Mr. D. McInnes 1194
Res. 409, Environ. - Mineral Claims Extinguish: Wilderness Areas -
Protect, Ms. E. O'Connell 1195
Res. 410, Health - Care: Disasters Existence - Discern, Mr. G. Moody 1195
Res. 411, Environ. - Decisions: Ramifications - Understand, Mr. J. Leefe 1196
Res. 412, Gov't. (N.S.) - Energy (N.S.): Vision Lacking - Condemn,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1196
Res. 413, Nat. Res. - C.B. Coal & Steel Industries:
Concern (NDP [N.S.]) - Variable, Mr. R. Carruthers 1197
Res. 414, Educ. - Schools: Public-Private Partnerships - Future Options,
Mr. E. Fage 1198
Res. 415, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Halifax (Port):
Canada Marine Act Changes - Benefit Ensure, Mr. B. Taylor 1198
Res. 416, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: C.B. (Industrial) -
Concerns Ignored Condemn, Ms. Helen MacDonald 1199
Res. 417, Premier: Promises (July 1997)-Dreams/
Christmas-Present (Coal) - Acknowledge, Mr. A. MacLeod 1199
Res. 418, Educ. - Schools: Construction Plan (Infrastructure Works) -
Table, Mr. J. Holm 1200
Res. 419, Educ. - West Kings D.H.S.: Environ. Seriousness - Visit,
Mr. G. Moody 1201
Res. 420, Exco - Diet: Variety - Add, Ms. E. O'Connell 1201
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 123, Health - Paramedics: Concerns - Action, Mr. B. Taylor 1202
No. 124, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Meeting (Deputy Ministers) -
Scenarios, Mr. R. Chisholm 1205
No. 125, Health: Regionalization - Cost Analysis, Dr. J. Hamm 1207
No. 126, Health - Care: Long Term - Plan, Dr. J. Hamm 1209
No. 127, Fin. - Schools: Public-Private Partnerships -
Research Absence, Mr. J. Holm 1211
No. 128, Alcohol & Gaming: Licences - Minimum Amount,
Mr. A. MacLeod 1214
No. 129, Health: Regional Boards - Resources, Mr. J. Leefe 1215
No. 130, Nat. Res. - Protected Areas: Mineral Rights - Negotiations,
Ms. E. O'Connell 1218
No. 131, Health - Environmental Health Clinic: Physicians - Staffing,
Mr. G. Moody 1219
No. 132, Health - Regional Hospitals: Level 3 Status - Necessary,
Mr. E. Fage 1220
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Housing & Mun. Affs. - Canada-Nova Scotia Social Housing Agreement,
Hon. G. Brown 1222
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 3:16 P.M. 1227
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 3:27 P.M. 1227
CWH REPORTS 1227
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ADDRESS IN REPLY:
Mr. J. Holm 1228
Mr. C. MacArthur [By Mr. R. Mann] 1233
Mr. G. Moody 1236
Hon. G. Brown 1247
Vote - Amendment - Negative 1258
Vote - Main Motion - Affirmative 1258
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Gov't. (N.S.) - Public-Private Partnerships: Failure - Admit:
Ms. E. O'Connell 1259
Hon. R. Harrison 1261
Hon. D. Downe 1264
Mr. E. Fage 1265
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Dec. 12th at 10:00 a.m. 1268

[Page 1179]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 1997

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Sixth Session

1:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Gerald Fogarty

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Keith Colwell

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. At this time we will call to order the sitting of the House of Assembly for Thursday, December 11th.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, during resolution time yesterday, you ruled my motion regarding tire recycling to be out of order. You indicated that the word clandestine was unparliamentary.

Mr. Speaker, knowing that you accede to upholding the rights and privileges of all members, I had an opportunity to look at Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms 6th Edition and nowhere under unparliamentary language, between Pages 142 and 147, does it reference the word clandestine. So I ask you, for greater clarity for all members, what you would be referring to in making that ruling.

1179

[Page 1180]

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, I will respond, since you have made that request. There were two reasons, I stated so at the time, and for the record, those two reasons were that you were "making a speech" and in a notice of motion it is not considered acceptable that a member make a speech. It was my opinion and decision at that time, you were making a speech.

In addition, the manner in which you use the word clandestine which means, surreptitious or under a veil of secrecy, that kind of thing, at the time I considered it unparliamentary and my feeling has not changed. For those two reasons, I gave the ruling that your notice of motion was out of order and that stands.

We will begin the 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. 20 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 179 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Forests Act. (Hon. Kenneth MacAskill)

Bill No. 21 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993. The Freedom of Information Act. (Dr. John Hamm)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 392

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

[Page 1181]

Whereas Gordon Archibald, former President of Maritime Tel & Tel, Order of Canada recipient, Nova Scotia's chief organizer for the 1987 Gathering of the Clans, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of Dalhousie University, past-president of the Chamber of Commerce, Honorary President of the Halifax YMCA, and former Chairman of the Halifax Branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses, died this morning in Halifax; and

Whereas Gordon Archibald was a community and business leader, a fiercely proud Nova Scotian who cherished his heritage, but most especially, a loving husband, father and grandfather; and

Whereas Gordon Archibald will be sadly missed for his wonderful sense of humour, his compassion for others, his tremendous business acumen and his political insight;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to his wife, Marion; his sons, George, David and William; his daughter, Anne; and to all of his grandchildren, our sincere and deep sympathies for their loss and for the loss of a wonderful, proud and truly outstanding Nova Scotian.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of sadness that I learned just two minutes ago of the passing of a friend of mine, Gordon Archibald. On behalf of the Premier of the province, my caucus, many former aldermen of the City of Halifax, many outstanding citizens of the City of Halifax, I would like to say that we indeed have lost, in Nova Scotia, one of our foremost citizens.

I have had the honour and the pleasure of working with Gordon Archibald for a number of years in connection with his outstanding activities in the City of Halifax.

[Page 1182]

[1:15 p.m.]

He has always been a man, as was just pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, of outstanding integrity, a man of great intelligence, a man of great sincerity, a man of great dedication, a man who believed very, very deeply and sincerely in his community and his responsibilities towards his community.

I remember talking with Gordon about his career one time and I believe if my memory serves me correctly, he started his career with Maritime Tel & Tel as the job of a rural area salesman, selling telephone service to farmers and farm communities, and he now adorns the Chamber of Presidents over at the Maritime Centre.

Mr. Speaker, this man, as I have said, was tremendously dedicated, tremendously intelligent, not only to his own profession and to those with whom he worked but to his community, to his church, to his family. It is with his help and dedication that we collectively were able to do some tremendous things for the City of Halifax. We established the Halifax Industrial Parks, carved them out of the woods and stone, we landed there, he and I, in a helicopter in a little 10 x 10 grass spot, where we now have the Price Club and all those vehicles moving back and forth. He had great vision. He could see not tomorrow but 10 years or 20 years into the future.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I concur wholeheartedly with the Leader of the Opposition that Nova Scotia has truly lost one of its greatest sons. A son who was so proud of his Scottish heritage, so proud of his work in the Gathering of the Clans, so proud of his work in the initiation of the Tattoo and its official first night of opening. I can remember that very, very vividly and look at what it has come to be.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want, again, on behalf of my Premier, on behalf of my colleagues in caucus and on behalf of all Nova Scotians and those with whom I have worked in municipal government to extend my very, very sincere sympathies to the family, particularly to his son who is one of our colleagues, a highly admired one of this House of Assembly, and the whole lineage of Archibalds who have served their community, this community, I want to extend our sincere and deep heartfelt sympathies to the family on behalf of all of us, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I too want to rise and say to the Official Opposition Leader how much we too want to send our sympathies to the family of Gordon Archibald. Gordon Archibald was a constituent of Halifax Atlantic. As my colleague for Sackville-Cobequid, John Holm, tells me, he used to be a boxer, an amateur boxer and fought his father at one point, not unlike the way that John and George sometimes get after each other. Clearly, Mr. Archibald has made a significant contribution to this province, to this

[Page 1183]

country and to his community. I want to join with others and send the greatest sympathies from our caucus and from the New Democratic Party of Nova Scotia to that family. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition introduced the resolution. At that time, sir, you requested a moment of silence, did you? Would all members please rise.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

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

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, through you and to the members of the House, I am pleased to introduce some constituents from the Town of Canso and area. They are members of the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op, who are here today to have a series of meetings. I will be introducing a resolution on that later. I will call for the members to stand; Mr. Pat Fougere, Jerry Hart, Jerry Lunsden, Harry Dort, Mike MacKenzie and Cecil Fitzpatrick. I ask if the members of the House would show their usual warm welcome to these members. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: To continue with notices of motion, the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, before I read my notice of motion, I would like to make an introduction, if I may.

In the west gallery are approximately 20 paramedics from around the province, from such communities as Sheet Harbour, Musquodoboit Harbour, Wolfville, Sydney Mines, St. Peters, Port Hawkesbury, Bedford, Halifax, North Sydney, Yarmouth, Windsor and Meteghan. These paramedics are here to seek support for basic labour protection that is already available to most other working people.

I would like to ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of members of this Legislature. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 393

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

[Page 1184]

Whereas paramedics in Nova Scotia continue to work under conditions that endanger both their life and health and the life and health of the people they serve; and

Whereas this Liberal Government has promised to address the serious concerns of paramedics by amending the Labour Standards Code, the Minimum Wage Order and the Workers Compensation Act; and

Whereas this Liberal Government has failed to make the legislative amendments necessary to ensure paramedics receive the same protections available to other workers in the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Liberal Government to immediately bring forward the legislative changes that are urgently needed to improve the quality of service and working conditions for paramedics in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 394

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

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier promised to negotiate a better tolling deal for Sable gas over the life of the project but didn't; and

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier said he wanted to negotiate a better royalty agreement but he didn't; and

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier told the House that he would be negotiating a deal that would ensure gas was available to northern Nova Scotia, to Truro, Pictou and points west of Halifax, but didn't;

[Page 1185]

Therefore be it resolved that the I don't know, I'm not sure and I can't tell you Premier acknowledge that the only thing he did do was fail to deliver on the Sable gas promises he made during and after the Liberal Leadership race.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 395

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

Whereas Canso has been acknowledged as the oldest fishing port in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas trawlermen from Canso have formed a co-op with the objective of returning to the sea; and

Whereas this group has met with all provincial Parties, their Leaders, with industry, with the various development agencies and are now carrying on negotiations with the federal Department of Fisheries;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature support the efforts of the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op and encourage the federal Department of Fisheries to carry on productive negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants West.

[Page 1186]

RESOLUTION NO. 396

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 voting for the HST while in Ottawa, the Premier later admitted it was an unfair tax that needed to be amended; and

Whereas despite stating publicly that he would negotiate with Nova Scotians a tax that was fair to all Nova Scotians, the Premier has so far done nothing of the sort; and

Whereas in a letter to the Leader of the Opposition dated October 10, 1997 the Premier stated Department of Finance officials would be releasing a fiscal analysis as part of a reference guide to tax reform before the House returned in the fall;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier explain what happened to his promised guide to tax reform, what happened to his promise to negotiate tax changes that were fair to all Nova Scotians, what happened to his promised relief on the cost of home energy fuels, what happened to this promised relief on the cost of children's clothing, what happened to his promised relief on the cost of school supplies and what happened to his promise to be accountable?

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 397

MR. RICHARD HUBBARD: Mr. Speaker, I will be seeking waiver of notice and I guess it's applicable on the day we have these people in the gallery.

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

Whereas Emergency Medical Care Incorporated in Yarmouth provides emergency health services to the residents throughout Yarmouth County; and

Whereas the management and staff recently welcomed the public to attend the official opening of their expanded facility on November 22, 1997; and

Whereas Emergency Medical Care Incorporated now employs a team of 19 highly trained paramedics;

[Page 1187]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Emergency Medical Care Incorporated on their expanded facilities and applaud these health professionals who deliver outstanding emergency medical care in an effort to reduce and prevent injury and save lives.

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

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 398

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 Canso Trawlermen's Co-op Limited has been actively pursuing an Enterprise Allocation; and

Whereas the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op had a meeting with the Premier who said, "I don't think they're unreasonable in their request."; and

Whereas over a month has gone by since the meeting with the Premier and the co-op is running out of time and money to continue their quest to create 60 to 70 jobs;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier immediately make good on his promise and take action on the requests of the Canso Trawlermen's Co-operative.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice which requires unanimous consent.

Is it agreed?

[Page 1188]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 399

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

Whereas yesterday in a frank admission, the Justice Minister of New Brunswick, Honourable James Lockyer, said three successive failures in public-private deals there has forced that province to re-think its private partnering because as the minister said, "It is vital to have all financial details ironed out before the project begins."; and

Whereas each of the public-private partnerships entered into by this government has resulted in failure, whether it be Harrison's high school with the open-ended price tag now reaching $30 million, the toll highway that shuts down whenever snow flies, or the inability of the province to reach a lease agreement for its P3 schools; and

Whereas so bad are these private deals that the Auditors General in both provinces are now investigating and the New Brunswick Justice Minister has called for a legislative framework to analyse P3 deals;

Therefore be it resolved this this government also admit that its road and high school deals have been a failure and that this government recognize, as New Brunswick has, that these private deals offer taxpayers more uncertainty than benefits.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 400

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

Whereas in a letter published in the December 9th edition of the Chronicle-Herald, the Clerk of the Senate of Canada stated that Senator Peggy Butts had perfect attendance; and

[Page 1189]

Whereas the Clerk's letter is evidence that Senator Butts takes her duties as a servant of the people of Canada seriously; and

Whereas Alexa McDonough, the Leader of the federal NDP, condemned the appointment of Sister Peggy Butts to the Senate as a purely patronage appointment of a Liberal hack;

Therefore be it resolved that this House request the Leader of the Nova Scotia NDP to publicly disassociate himself and the members of his caucus from the remarks of the Leader of the federal NDP and, on behalf of the federal Leader of the NDP, apologize to Senator Butts.

I would ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice which requires unanimous consent.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 401

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

Whereas very little has been said during the current legislative session about the site clean-up program under way at Sydney Steel which now has some 160-odd unemployed steelworkers working, thanks to the support of the federal government and the Government of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this site improvement work is available to laid off Sysco workers whose employment insurance benefits have run out and is providing long-needed site enhancement and improvement to the physical appearance of the Sydney steel plant; and

Whereas this program of steel plant remediation and environmental training has to date cost $6 million, of which $4 million has been provided by the federal government through Nova Scotia's federal Cabinet representative Senator Al Graham, and $2 million has been

[Page 1190]

provided by this government through Premier Russell MacLellan and Minister of Economic Development, Manning MacDonald; (Interruption)

Therefore be it resolved that this House salutes and applauds those in government who have made these developments possible, demonstrating the Liberal Party's commitment to the steelworker and to the community while hoping that still more can be achieved in the near future to provide work for steelworkers and environmental improvement for the community.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Honourable members, at the risk of again being accused as a humourless Speaker, but I would like to point out that personal remarks such as we heard a moment ago are really not acceptable.

The honourable Deputy Speaker and member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 402

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

Whereas celebrations to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is widely regarded as the cornerstone of national and international efforts by the United Nations to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms; and

Whereas the United Nations 50 committee, in recognizing the great contributions made by our province's youth, organized a province-wide poster contest, inviting high school students to submit art work with a human rights theme; and

Whereas Josh Norwood and Jamie Bracegirdle designed the second place poster while the first place poster was created by David Roy, all of Eastern Shore District High, will be on display for the coming year at human rights related events and activities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly acknowledge that this accomplishment speaks highly of the calibre of art education encouraged at the Eastern Shore District High and applaud the unique creativity of these students selected from among their peers in Nova Scotia.

I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice which requires unanimous consent.

[Page 1191]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 403

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

Whereas the president of the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade is not of the same opinion as the Premier as to what yesterday's announcement on Sable gas would mean for Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade president believes the Memorandum of Understanding that the Premier has agreed to with Mobil Oil will put Cape Breton at a further disadvantage than the previous embarrassing deal signed by the former Minister of Natural Resources because there is still no mention in the memorandum of a lateral line extending to the Sydney area; and

Whereas the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade president believes that without a lateral to the Sydney area, businesses coming into Nova Scotian will have yet another reason to choose Halifax over industrial Cape Breton as a place to do business;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier, when meeting with the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade, listen to the concerns being put forward instead of concentrating on making grandiose political statements resulting in no long-term future benefits for industrial Cape Breton or the rest of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

MR. MACLEOD:. . . waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 1192]

RESOLUTION NO. 404

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

Whereas nearly one year ago, in addition to already staggering taxes, the Savage-MacLellan Government began extracting millions of dollars from Nova Scotia consumers via the tire tax; and

Whereas even though the contract between TRACC and the Resource Recovery Fund was extended, without public consultation or notification, in a desperation move to facilitate the Minister of the Environment's friend, TRACC President Doug Vicars; and

Whereas no value added products of advanced technology are being made, the processing plant has not been built, only a fraction of the 75 jobs created, fire regulations disregarded and tractor trailer loads of Nova Scotian recycled tires are leaving the province for other jurisdictions;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment, the Resource Recovery Fund Board and the Savage-MacLellan Government acknowledge that, even with the long since expired contract, TRACC are still violating the terms and conditions of the agreement and immediately demand the $10,000 per week penalty retroactive until September 30th.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 405

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

Whereas the Alliance of Interests made up of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade, the United Mine Workers District 26, the Cape Breton District Labour Council, the Cape Breton Island Building and Construction Trades Council and New Dawn Enterprises have published an open letter to the Premier listing 10 concerns with the Sable Gas deal; and

Whereas the Alliance of Interests has said that the Sable gas can make or break Cape Breton depending on whether the alliance's concerns are met; and

[Page 1193]

Whereas the much better deal boasted about yesterday by the Premier and his colleagues appears to address none of the very serious issues raised by the Alliance of Interests;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the Premier for having the audacity to boast about his so-called much better deal, while ignoring the serious concerns of the Alliance of Interests in industrial Cape Breton.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 406

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

Whereas at the November 14th to 16th New Democratic Party Convention, it is reported that Howard Epstein mocked the Sable gas project as being short-term and that there was only enough gas for 14 years; and

Whereas many experts have estimated several decades, indeed from 40 to 50 years of supply; and

Whereas most reasonable persons turn to competent people for opinions rather than to pure negative rhetoric.

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the true level of expertise in this area and in others, of this NDP candidate for election to this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 407

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

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier promised to negotiate a better tolling deal for Sable gas; and

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier said that his Sable gas deal is a momentous event in the life of our province; and

[Page 1194]

Whereas the deal the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you and the fact of the matter is, Premier negotiated works out to be a rebate of a mere $2.00, the initial beneficiary of which will be Nova Scotia Power;

Therefore be it resolved that the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier explain to Nova Scotians exactly what is so momentous about a possible, sometime in the future, $2.00 per person a year rebate when they are shelling out many dollars today for HST on children's clothing and home heating energy.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 408

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

Whereas child poverty is a matter of deep concern to all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas despite a three year old commitment by the former, and now current, Minister of Health to address this urgent issue, no specific actions have been directed to reduce the level or degree of child poverty in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the government is presently examining the programs and services that will be delivered through the National Child Benefit;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government immediately request that the Community Services Committee of the Legislature hold public meetings throughout the province to canvass Nova Scotians on the programs and services that should be provided under the National Child Benefit, with a particular focus on addressing the urgent issue of child poverty.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 1195]

RESOLUTION NO. 409

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

Whereas the Environment Minister says the new Wilderness Areas Protection Act means there could be future mineral exploration and possibly mining on the Jim Campbells Barren; and

Whereas the Premier assures Nova Scotians that there will be no mining on Jim Campbells Barren, even though exploration permits continue in force; and

Whereas these contradictory positions leave Nova Scotians wondering how the Premier can unilaterally cancel mining companies' right to mine but can't rescind their right to explore;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Premier and the Liberal Government to end the confusion and begin immediately the process of extinguishing mineral claims so that wilderness areas in Nova Scotia will be truly protected.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 410

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 Minister of Health is obviously delusional when he is comfortable rising in this Legislature to say "We have a physician recruitment and Home Care Programs that are working well in all regions"; and

Whereas the Yarmouth Community Health Board would like to see some improvements because in a recent 90 page report that is soon to be presented to the Western Regional Health Board, care for the elderly and doctor shortages were areas of critical concern; and

Whereas the Yarmouth Community Health Board Chair, Gerald Pottier, was recently quoted as saying, "We have too many seniors looking after seniors";

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health stop trying to convince himself that his Liberal Government has Nova Scotia's health care problems solved and see the light of day by looking at the disasters that do exist and immediately inform the I don't know, I'm not

[Page 1196]

sure, I can't tell you Premier that the major problems do exist and need to be fixed by his Liberal Government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 411

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 I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier and his, why can't we get our story straight Minister of the Environment don't see eye to eye over whether or not the government is using the environmental permit process as leverage for a better gas deal; and

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier and his why can't we get our story straight Minister of the Environment don't see eye to eye on whether or not mining will be permitted on the Jim Campbells Barren and other protected sites; and

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier is so busy wrapping pre-election Christmas goodies that he doesn't have time to pay attention to significant decisions taken by his why can't we get our story straight Minister of the Environment;

Therefore be it resolved that the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier save himself and his why can't we get our story straight Minister of the Environment by resolving to understand the ramifications of the decisions of his understandably confused why can't we get our story straight Minister of the Environment.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 412

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

Whereas in one breath the Premier says that Sable gas won't affect the sale of Cape Breton coal to Nova Scotia Power because the use of gas for electrical generation will be minimal; and

[Page 1197]

[1:45 p.m.]

Whereas in the next breath, the Premier says Sable gas will be available as a cheap source of energy to all industries all across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Premier's attempt to have it both ways on the impact of Sable gas on the coal industry is further evidence of the lack of vision that has marked the whole approach of the Mac-Savage Liberals to the development of the offshore;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the Mac-Savage Liberal Government for its complete lack of vision and its failure to bring forward a coherent energy strategy that maximizes the use of indigenous energy sources in the best interest of all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 413

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

Whereas yesterday the Motion Under Rule 5(5) of the Rules of this House of Assembly had to do with the coal and steel industries of Cape Breton; and

Whereas earlier this week in this same House of Assembly, Jethro Bodine, the Leader of the socialist Party, and his ragtag band of followers went on and on about having an emergency debate on the Cape Breton coal industry; and

Whereas at the hour of Adjournment yesterday, Jethro and his followers left the House and did not participate in the debate concerning Cape Breton's coal and steel industries;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the actions of the NDP who on the one hand, when the media are present, show their concern for the coal and steel industries but once the media are gone, they show their true feelings in fine Jethro Bodine style by opting out.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.

[Page 1198]

RESOLUTION NO. 414

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

Whereas the Minister of Education and Culture supported his claims, through an open radio talk show, that part of the benefits of leasing was its protection for the province and taxpayers from the risk of having to dispose of the school at the conclusion of a 20 year lease; and

Whereas if this government's life expectancy for schools in this province is 20 years, there are more capital construction projects than maybe he first thought; and

Whereas regardless of when this government feels a school has outlived its usefulness, it still signed an agreement for Horton which gives the province, with taxpayers' money, the option to purchase the school back at fair market value at the conclusion of the 20 year lease;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, while reviewing the P3 school deal they rushed into, decide if there is a possibility it could buy back what it has already leased for 20 years, explaining how savings he speaks of would then be realized and admit that most Nova Scotians would prefer to pay less for their schools, pay for them once, and own them at the conclusion of the respective mortgages.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 415

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

Whereas I probably should ask for waiver of notice, but wouldn't dare because the Grits most likely wouldn't approve; and

Whereas the federal Chretien Liberal Government is refusing to listen to the concerns from executives at the Port of Halifax over the Canada Marine Act and future potential funding for capital projects at the Port of Halifax; and

Whereas the Port of Halifax, while providing employment for thousands of individuals and pumping millions and millions of dollars into Nova Scotia's economy, will be behind the eight ball in future capital projects unless amendments are brought forth to the Canada Marine Act that would see the federal government remain a partner in future capital investments;

[Page 1199]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier, with a letter of support from all members of this Legislature, use his particular knowledge of Ottawa and speak with the Prime Minister to ensure changes are brought to the Canada Marine Act to ensure future prosperity for the Port of Halifax.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 416

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

Whereas the so-called much better deal the Premier claims he has made with the Sable consortium boasts about a so-called Cape Breton lateral; and

Whereas the so-called Cape Breton lateral in fact extends no further into Cape Breton than Point Tupper; and

Whereas union, business, and community leaders in industrial Cape Breton say the Premier's much better deal not only threatens the Cape Breton coal industry but also leaves industrial Cape Breton at a disadvantage in competing with metro Halifax for new industry;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the MacLellan Liberal Government, like the Savage Liberal Government before it, for ignoring the very real concerns of industrial Cape Breton in its headlong rush to get the Sable project under way in time for the election.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 417

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

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier has apparently written his own version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but won't sing the full song until the audience goes home for the holidays; and

[Page 1200]

Whereas it is becoming increasingly clear that the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier's performance is being delayed because his new version will fall far short of his advanced billing; and

Whereas the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier, who promised to play Santa Claus to many anxious Nova Scotians, is set to play the Grinch that stole Christmas;

Therefore be it resolved that the I don't know, I'm not sure, I can't tell you Premier acknowledge that he had sugarplums dancing in his head during the Liberal leadership race and, further, that he expect nothing more this Christmas than an imported lump of coal.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 418

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

Whereas during his replies to questions yesterday, the Minister of Education confirmed that his government will attempt to access infrastructure money in order to help it build and repair the schools that have been neglected by his government and the Tory Government before; and

Whereas the last infrastructure program in Nova Scotia involved $42.6 million in total contributions by all three levels of government; and

Whereas the Minister of Education has stated that $250 million in school repair and construction is needed in this province, a total which far exceeds the $42.6 million in infrastructure funding;

Therefore be it resolved that this House inform the Minister of Education that his plan to access infrastructure money for school construction will build us about one school the equivalent of Horton High and that this House ask the minister where he will get the money needed for the 40 or so other planned school construction projects.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 1201]

RESOLUTION NO. 419

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 students and teachers of West Kings High School have been struggling for some time to cope with students having to buy their own water to drink, eat at desks where living organisms have been dissected just minutes earlier because there is no cafeteria, and be forced to keep warm in the facility by wearing coats and gloves in classes during the winter; and

Whereas the president of the West Kings Parent Teachers Student Association asked in a letter to the Premier, are these students, teachers, and staff not entitled to a safe environment to live in?; and

Whereas West Kings has been on a priority list for years only to have them bumped off in favour of other schools regardless of the environment and inadequacies of the deteriorating high school, the latest, of course, being the tremendous investment of almost $30 million to replace the minister's own aging school;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister of Education and Culture recognize the seriousness of the situation, made worse through this government's reckless adoption of a poorly-thought-out public-private partnership scheme and its lack of a priority capital construction list and take up the invitation of the association president and spend a day at the school to talk about solutions.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 420

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

Whereas the Chronicle-Herald reports sugar plum ecstasy among the clapping and cheering Cabinet Ministers at yesterday's Sable gas announcement; and

Whereas it further reports the, goody bag did contain some pieces of fudge; and

Whereas nutritionists caution that sugar supplies empty calories with volume but no substance and causes hyperactivity;

[Page 1202]

Therefore be it resolved that these Cabinet Ministers add some variety to their diet, perhaps some crow, cooked goose or even humble pie.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I wish to draw to the attention of members of the House the presence in the Speaker's Gallery today of Mr. and Mrs. Elwood MacEwan, who are here visiting from Pictou County. Would the members of the House please afford them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Before we move on to Orders of the Day and Oral Questions Put by Members, I wish to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the late show, the Adjournment debate at 6:00 p.m. this afternoon. The winner is the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, who has submitted the following resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that as the New Brunswick Government has done, this government admit that its public to private for profit road on school schemes have been failures.".

That is the topic for debate on the late show. The Oral Question Period will begin at 1:56 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: CONCERNS - ACTION

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Health. The Minister of Health would know from a letter to him on behalf of Nova Scotia paramedics, that they are seeking the support of all MLAs for a single-tiered emergency health system and for basic labour protection. The paramedics are troubled about the continued deterioration of emergency health services, especially in rural Nova Scotia. They are especially concerned by the presence of inferior and insufficient basic life-saving equipment and by the shortage of ambulances in many of our communities. What steps is the minister going to take to address the concerns raised by the province's paramedics?

[Page 1203]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we had some discussion in this House yesterday during Question Period relative to ambulance services. We are very pleased with the progress that is being made in this province to move from a system where about one-third of the ambulances on any one particular day would not have passed a motor vehicle test and up to 10 were being pulled off the roads at any one time, where to operate those ambulances required a valid driver's license.

What is happening across this province is a whole change in the state-of-the-art ambulances, the systems of monitoring the ambulances throughout the whole activity of their 24 hour day. I recounted one particular episode involving air rescue and ambulances moving into a particular area, an accident in rural Yarmouth County. I think that quite demonstrated the system. Today, the member for Yarmouth introduced a resolution in support, I have newspaper clippings from throughout this province, that really has shown the transition period that we are going through at this juncture is moving in a really positive direction, both in the degree of the paramedics' training and their skills, the equipment of the ambulances - over 70 of the ambulances have defibrillators or close to that number - those types of equipment.

We are moving into a system that is world-class, top of the art, both in training and personnel. I really commend those people in the gallery today and the others throughout the province that are on duty today. (Interruptions) I think if I was the past Minister of Health on this issue, I think I would be a little more quiet. (Applause)

We are moving into a first-class ambulance service both on the land and in the air. We are saving lives daily, the response time is better, the coordination of moving ambulances through the system is working. There are some problems occasionally for dispatch services. We are investigating those when they happen and receiving full reports on them. We are moving into a top-class service and we are saving lives daily in Nova Scotia.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the residents of the Musquodoboit Valley are one such community as described in the letter to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Labour. The Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital has a catchment area of approximately 5,200 people. There is an ambulance in Sheet Harbour, I am not sure if the minister knows how far Sheet Harbour is from the Musquodoboit Valley. There is an ambulance in Truro, Bartlett's, and sometimes one stationed in Milford.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: A question, honourable member.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am getting to the question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

[Page 1204]

MR. SPEAKER: You will get to it very rapidly. This is a supplementary question. Let's have a supplementary question. (Interruptions)

MR. TAYLOR: I just had two statements, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: That's right, and I am being lenient in giving you time. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: You just let the minister make a five minute speech.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no time for a statement on a supplementary question. Please let us have it.

MR. TAYLOR: Well, Mr. Speaker, I understood, well, never mind. As far as rights and privileges go, I won't go down that road.

My question is simply this. The Eastern Shore-Musquodoboit Community Health Board made a recommendation to the Central Regional Health Board back in June, Mr. Minister, that an ambulance be stationed in the Musquodoboit Valley to serve the residents' needs, especially in light of the fact that we have one of the heaviest industrial bases in all of the province, with forestry, mining, agriculture, transportation, et cetera. When are you going to see that recommendation through?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the community health boards throughout this province are doing a great job in bringing forth concerns. They are filling the blanks that have fallen out; . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: . . . these communities have fallen through the cracks, perhaps, as that member is saying. This is part of a whole transition period that we are going through. I met two days ago with the firefighters from Judique and they have concerns in their particular area. There is no question that these are rural communities that have had little or no service in the past, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

I don't want to get into all of the details again, Mr. Speaker, but the EMC is working; the emergency services program is developing. Those areas are being addressed. They are meeting with the concerns. If there are some particular concerns there, they will be addressed. We are moving to a system, ambulances, yes, in many communities are not located in the same place they were. That is part of a strategic plan. There is a plan, it is working and we are saving lives daily.

[Page 1205]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, volunteer fire departments are being called to the scene and the first responders are doing the best they can; they are working very hard, but they are only volunteers. They don't know what standards are in place and, as I understand it, most of the volunteers have CPR training and first aid courses and things of that nature. But in the Musquodoboit Valley, most of the volunteers are employees and somebody is giving up very freely of their time.

Volunteer firefighters in the Musquodoboit Valley are stabilizing accident victims until the ambulance or ambulances respond. The time that elapses between the first responder and the ambulance being there is disproportionate and unacceptable. Does the minister not feel that there is too much strain on the volunteer fire departments regarding the First Responder Program and that ambulances should be better coordinated to work into the overall program?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, across this province we are moving to a coordinated, integrated, comprehensive emergency health services program, addressing both the air and the ground. That member has said that the volunteer firemen, the first responders, would not know the standards, I believe he said. I really find that difficult to believe. They are making a great contribution from one end of this province to the other. We have been working with them, we have been meeting with them. I have met personally with those groups, very much like the community. Musquodoboit Harbour and that area is an important area in this province and we know that. I have met with people who have had good service from that area. (Interruption)

We are going through a transition period. We have made more progress within the couple of years of this program than the last several decades. This is new, it is state of the art, it is working and it is saving lives.

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

FIN. - BUDGET (1998-99):

MEETING (DEPUTY MINISTERS) - SCENARIOS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Finance. It is our understanding that tomorrow morning, beginning early I believe, there is a gathering of deputy ministers in the Province of Nova Scotia who are getting together to deal with fiscal issues relative to the 1998-99 budget year. In particular, the deputies have been directed to consider scenarios B and C. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance if he will advise this House what scenario B and scenario C are?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: As a responsible government would do, it is only natural that you would have your deputies discuss your upcoming budget. We are into the budget process, we have been for several months, and we are looking at various ways that we can provide for social justice and live within our means and that is what we will continue to do.

[Page 1206]

MR. CHISHOLM: It is an interesting meeting, I understand. I maybe at some point would like some explanation as to why the Director of Public Prosecutions is there, if it is just a regular meeting. I thought that was an arm's length body that was independent of the Premier's office.

My first supplementary to the minister. Could this Minister of Finance confirm what we have heard, that scenario B is a 5 per cent cut for each department and scenario C is a 10 per cent cut for each department? Will he confirm that that is in fact the case?

MR. GILLIS: How naive is this member to think that I am going to start giving budget secrets before the budget is even written? Come on, get real.

MR. CHISHOLM: What we are trying to do is we are trying to smoke this government out before we go into the next election to find out what their real intentions are. I want to ask this minister (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I want to hear the question.

MR. CHISHOLM: Is it not in fact the case that as a result of the recent spending spree that the Premier of this province has been going on - Horton High, Michelin, Dynatek, the tax breaks that they have been giving to those corporations, the tax write-offs - is it in fact as a result of that the Premier has put the finances of this province in such jeopardy that we are looking at a plan to decimate the Public Service after the next election? That is if this government ever gets back in. Is that in fact what is going on right here? A secret plan to decimate the Public Service.

MR. GILLIS: We have a plan to present a responsible budget which will make three balanced budgets in a row. That is our plan. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I only hope that if some terrible day the Third Party happens to form government in Nova Scotia, I just hope that the Leader of that Party does not make himself - if he is still Leader - Premier and Minister of Finance. I would sooner have the poet from Fairview anytime. (Applause)

Finally, I want to table a book review of the book Storming the Pink Palace, the NDP in Power, a Cautionary Tale. In part, it is a case study of a neophyte government having to learn on its feet in an extremely public forum. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, it may never be a neophyte NDP government, but we certainly have a neophyte Third Party.

[Page 1207]

MR. SPEAKER: That report is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH: REGIONALIZATION - COST ANALYSIS

DR. JOHN HAMM: I have a question for the Minister of Health. All Nova Scotians are concerned as to what has happened to health care delivery since 1993. Despite what the minister says, all is not well here in the Department of Health and the delivery of health care in this province.

My question to the minister is, has the department done a cost analysis in studying the administration and costs of health in this province prior to and after regionalization? If so, is the minister prepared to table such a study?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have engaged in the ordinary budgetary process, obviously, within the department and also with the decentralization following that in a responsible way as the whole health care system is devolved either into the non-designated hospitals, the four regional health boards and the four non-designated hospitals. There is a system of accounting and government business, the monitoring of those particular programs and the finance there. There has been, obviously, some ongoing analysis and following. There is no specific report that is available that I could table at this time.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister indicated there is nothing to table after four years. What has happened since 1993? Thousands of health care workers have been laid off, 30 per cent of acute beds in this province are closed, four hospitals are closed, 200 of the best physicians in the province are gone, health care workers are making 3 per cent less, there are cuts to the Children's Dental Plan, there is now a premium for Seniors' Pharmacare, and thousands of Nova Scotians have no doctor. Can this minister explain, with all of this happening, why we are spending $100 million more today than we were spending in 1993-94? We are spending $100 million more and we are getting so much less.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that this government has been able to find $100 million more, as the honourable Leader of the Opposition has said. The Ministers of Health have gone to their colleagues. We have looked at budgets, reviewed them, trying to see where savings can be managed and that is being put into health. We are very pleased to have said that. I cannot really, in all fairness, in Question Period, address all the concerns that that person brings forward. He has worked in the health care system. He knows what was going on over the last several decades in this province and (Interruption)

While I say here today that I don't have an exact full report of a cost analysis and all that information. What we have is four years of a record of our government that has brought this province back from bankruptcy, on the brink of disaster. We have gone through a

[Page 1208]

transition period. We are looking at programs. Nova Scotians have said to us, through the community health boards and through the various focus groups and forums and they have pointed out their needs. Nova Scotians have done that, Mr. Speaker, and we have responded. We are responding and we will continue to respond.

We are moving into an area of community-focused programs where the hospital, while the focus maybe of many of those programs is not the be-all and end-all. That has been difficult for some people to accept. Maybe the Leader of the Opposition has found that difficult to accept but somebody had to do something to have this health care system - it is one of the best in Canada and the world - to make that sustainable. We have done that and we are doing it with our own money. We are not borrowing money from Tokyo and offshore, we are paying our way as we go. Nova Scotians have identified the needs and we have responded. I am very pleased to be able to inform the House of that today.

DR. HAMM: Well, the minister clearly identified the fact that there is no cost analysis after four years and $1.2 billion annual budget. That is absolutely shocking. When will the minister realize that until we have real community input into the delivery of community health care, it is not going to get any better and you can keep pouring the money in at the top and it is not going to come out at the bottom and that is in health care? Will this minister tell the House today when he will present to this House legislation that will turn care and control of community health care over to the community health boards and return control where it should be, not in the regional health boards, but back to the communities of this province? When will that legislation come forward?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, during this month of December, we said during that time that we would be looking following the month of December - I think the previous Health Minister had announced that - at formalizing, recognizing in some formal way the community health boards.

[2:15 p.m.]

I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, if the honourable Leader of the Opposition is saying that he believes that the community health boards should have budgetary - that the budgets should be devolved into the community health boards. (Interruptions) Well, that is fine.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why didn't you set them up?

DR. SMITH: There was some opportunity to do that, Mr. Speaker. There will be over 600 people, 600 volunteers from one end of this province to the other, involved in the community health boards. That is grass roots and those plans are now coming forward again to the regional health boards.

[Page 1209]

I think the problem that the Leader of the Opposition has is that he doesn't understand that there has been a devolution into the regions. We have trusted them, we are doing our monitoring and our evaluation of our programs on a continuing basis. We are fiscally responsible. That is happening quarterly and yearly, and the fact is that there is no four year plan or something. We have spelled it out very clearly, the honourable Leader of the Opposition knows that. We are sticking to that and we are doing it and we are paying our own way and we are listening to the grass-roots people within the community health boards and all throughout this province, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition on a new question.

HEALTH - CARE: LONG TERM - PLAN

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, again a question to the honourable Minister of Health. The minister is aware of a document that was released in October by the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union: "Current and Evolving Issues for Nurses and Residents in Homes for Special Care" - our nursing homes here in Nova Scotia, some 70 - and one of the statements in this document is that nursing home care is "a tragedy waiting to happen".

My question to the minister is simply, what plan do you have in place to rescue long-term care in this province?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, long-term care in some ways, I suppose what he is inferring was probably akin to the situation that this province was in relative to the status of how we had to at least get the province back on its feet. We haven't addressed the acute care hospital situation, the Home Care Program, Pharmacare, and those types of issues to make them sustainable and to make them viable.

There is no question, Mr. Speaker, within the whole realm of the health care system, that long-term care has perhaps not received the attention that it should have. I think that is true both within the professions and also within the structure of the health care system.

This government has made a real, concerted effort in the last two years. I know the Leader of the Opposition doesn't want us to put more money into health, he said that today here, Mr. Speaker, and he is criticizing us for putting the $100 million. But we have increased the monies going into long-term care, 14.5 per cent in the last two years. We have provided in the last year alone, this year, there will be 190 full-time equivalents into the long-term care sector.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to that sector and we are meeting on a continual basis. We have a joint ministerial committee and I have met with my colleague, the Minister of Community Services, and I have met with the associated homes for special care and the associated health organizations. We are working with them; we are dialoguing.

[Page 1210]

It has been neglected, I think, for a long period of time, going back over decades. I think there has been some concern about that. We have moved from a municipal system into a system that will see the continued quality care that is given by nurses, largely, in many situations and they give superb care. We are responding to their needs, we are listening to them and we are responding.

DR. HAMM: I will continue with the minister, Mr. Speaker. He has a very inventive memory in terms of interpretation of what I have said across the floor

What is happening in the homes for personal care, our nursing homes? More psychiatric patients are being cared for there, more Level II and more Level III, and more acute care because patients can't get into hospitals because there are not enough acute care beds, and hospital care is going on in our nursing homes. They have to call in families to help with personal care for the residents. That is what is going on. There is no significant increase in professional care available in these institutions.

Will this minister start doing what he said he hasn't been doing because the minister said he hasn't been paying any attention to long-term care? Will the minister do what he should do and start to commit to the recommendations and address the concerns of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and follow the recommendations of the joint ministerial committee who have provided very specific recommendations as to how to improve nursing care in this province? When will this minister address this issue seriously?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, since I came to the Office of the Minister of Health in June of this year, I have paid a great deal of attention to long-term care. This has been a concern of mine both as a family physician but also as a citizen of this province. This is an area that I have met on many occasions with the professional groups, the Nurses' Union, we have discussed these matters. There is no question that there is continued need to keep an integrated system working.

We are working on a single entry level that will provide a more integrated, comprehensive system of continuum of care between home care. The more home care works, the higher acuity level will be of persons going to nursing homes, we know that, those are the types of issues. But we are moving more to a single entry system and that we will realize; we will have a continuum of care of a very comprehensive program of which long-term care will be one of the prime areas that we will be supporting. I have already said that we have supported it, he tends to not listen to that. There has been a 14.5 per cent increase in the last two years into long-term care in this province.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister continues to give theoretical answers to practical questions. In this province this minister knows that we have nursing homes that don't provide rubber gloves for staff. We have nursing homes that don't have dressing trays. We have nursing homes that have seven hours of physiotherapy a week for 200 patients, no

[Page 1211]

occupational therapy. Will the minister commit today to cast aside the theoretical answers that he provides on questions of health care in this province and get down to brass tacks and start addressing the serious day-to-day concerns of those who are administering and working in homes for personal care in this province and put that part of health care back on the track?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as a government we have inherited not only a financial fiscal disaster in this province but also under long-term, a sector of health care that is so important to families throughout Nova Scotia. That system was also neglected by the previous government.

We have taken that seriously, we have addressed it and met with persons delivering care and we are building throughout this province from one end to the other. It is a priority of this government. We will act and we are acting. There is no question that this is a priority of this government.

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

FIN. - SCHOOLS:

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS - RESEARCH ABSENCE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Finance. Last October 1996, the minister's government made a directive that all new school capital construction projects were going to be built under public-private partnerships. Now it has taken over a year, in fact, it was only this past month of November that the minister's own department, the Department of Finance, put out a discussion paper called, "Transferring Risk in Public-Private Partnerships", this is the Library's copy and I will be returning it later on today. In that they are talking about developing policy frameworks so that the government would be able to determine if, when and under what circumstances the costs and the benefits, one outweighs the other. The government has made a decision, ordered that all new schools would be constructed as public-private partnerships before even doing its homework, before it has even determined if and when it is in the public interest. My question to the minister is simply this, why is it that this minister has put taxpayer's dollars at risk by permitting such a decision to be made before it has even begun to do its homework?

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Obviously, Mr. Speaker, we did. I have a copy too. I didn't get it out of the library and the member can have a copy any time he wants by contacting my department. I know the Minister of Education wants to try to meet the need for schools all across the province, so I will refer the question to the Minister of Education.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the issue here is whether or not the government has done their homework, whether or not we have done the financial analysis that would allow us to proceed with community partnered schools, using the private sector to benefit both children and taxpayers. I can assure the member opposite that the Minister of

[Page 1212]

Finance and his staff, the Minister of Economic Development and his staff, the Minister of Education and his staff, and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and his staff have all done their homework.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as the saying goes, they still don't know what they are doing. The reality is that the government has blundered, it has fumbled its way into these public-private partnerships without even having done the homework. They have no framework. They have nothing to evaluate it by. Already over $50 million of taxpayers' dollars have been turned on to go to your public-private, for-profit friends.

I want the minister to explain to the people of this province, and that is the Minister of Finance - not the Minister of Education, who doesn't answer a question and can't answer this anyway - because he is the one who is in charge of the financial stewardship of this province. I want to ask him, how is it that he acted in such an irresponsible financial manner by permitting, by allowing those projects to go ahead before you even determined if or when or under what circumstances something is in the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, it is easy for that honourable member to criticize, but there is a great deal of work by the public servants of the province in trying to deal with this. We had to try to innovate, coming back from a $670 million deficit in 1992-93 and an accumulated debt of almost $7 billion. We need schools and we are trying to find a way and I am sure the Minister of Education will show how it is being done.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted once again to hear from the member opposite. We asked the question the other day, who among them would be Finance Minister? I heard today an endorsation of the poet of Fairview. Actually, I am with the Finance Minister and the poet of Fairview could do well to get a recommendation from this Minister of Finance because, while those members prattle on, it was this member in Opposition who held the Tory Government accountable for the misuse of public funds for decades. Unfortunately, he wasn't in government at the time and we ended up almost in rack and ruin. However, I couldn't be any prouder than to be seated next to this Minister of Finance. They have done their homework. We will look after the taxpayers' investment and we will build the finest schools in Canada.

MR. HOLM: The Minister of Education talks about innovative ways and we have seen what innovative ways mean to the Minister of Education, it is to turn the taxpayers' credit card over to their public-for-profit partners before they even know what the final charge is going to be placed on the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia. That's what they have done. That is this government's innovative approach.

MR. SPEAKER: A question honourable member.

MR. HOLM: My question to the minister.

[Page 1213]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Which minister?

MR. HOLM: The Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance is not an Education Minister, thank Heavens, Mr. Speaker, nor the other way around. The Minister of Finance's own document states that there must be a business plan in place that will look at the cost-benefit analysis "before" even any request for proposals is called for. Instead, that didn't happen, they turned over the credit card. My question to the Minister of Finance is simply, why did you turn over the credit card before you had those business case scenarios that showed that those cases were in the best financial interests of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, I can't believe what I am hearing in talking about credit cards. The group that stormed the pink palace in Ontario was Bob Rae and his crowd and he almost bankrupt the great Province of Ontario.

As I said earlier, before I referred the question, we have to find a way to provide schools in the Strait area where I come from, eastern Antigonish County, and all the other schools boards, this is a crisis, Mr. Speaker. So the Minister of Education, working with Public Works and Economic Renewal and Finance, has a way and he will tell you how he is going to do it.

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, when we talk about cost-benefit analysis, the members opposite talk about a credit card. We are still paying almost $700 million a year, more than we spend to educate all of our children. There is no other province in Canada that spends more money on debt service, that is the interest on the credit card that this crowd spent into oblivion. So unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we have a tough economic situation, thanks to the Buchanan-Cameron era.

The members opposite, most of whom sat quietly on finance issues during all that time, have suddenly become, well, they have seen the financial light now. I wonder how many comments in Hansard we would find during that era, like the Minister of Finance of the day, how many comments over 10 years would there be about the financial rack and ruin of the province? Very few, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I want to hear the response of the honourable minister. Order, please.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I have a feeling that we wouldn't find too much about workers' compensation, in terms of the underfundedness, about NSRL, about the Teachers' Pension Fund, not from that crowd, not from the next crowd at all. Here they have the gall, the ability I should say, as elected Third Party members, to ask us whether we can benefit

[Page 1214]

taxpayers. Three balanced budgets in a row, we need $0.25 billion in schools and they are wondering whether we can do something innovative with the private sector.

Mr. Speaker, we can do something innovative with the private sector. (Interruptions) The comments coming across are that the private sector is Public Enemy No. 1 for Nova Scotia. Can you imagine, and purport to govern? Not only will we work with the private sector, taxpayers will benefit but, more importantly than all, the young people of Nova Scotia, the 164,000 now in school and those yet to come, will be educated in the best schools in Canada.

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

ALCOHOL & GAMING: LICENCES - MINIMUM AMOUNT

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: My question through you, Mr. Speaker, goes to the Minister responsible for the administration of Part II of the Gaming Control Act. The question is quite simple, could the minister tell this House, is there a minimum dollar amount for raffles and 50/50 draws for which the Alcohol and Gaming Authority does not require a licence?

HON. ALLISTER SURETTE: The question is whether there is a minimum amount on the 50/50 raffle. I do believe there is. I am not quite sure of the exact dollar value but I will undertake to look for a definite answer.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, again I go back to the minister. Club 55, which is a seniors' club in Sydney, weekly hold a card game, once or twice a week, and at the same card game they sell even split tickets, $1.00 tickets. (Interruption) Yes, only in Cape Breton, the member for Cape Breton Richmond says.

Anyway, what happened; the other day an inspector comes in from the authority and wants his percentage for this government. He wants them to have a licence in place so when they are selling 50/50 tickets at a card game, they want their percentage. They said they had to have a licence in place by December 1st and now some weeks they sell up to $60. That would amount to $1.60.

Can this minister explain why he would send out his inspectors to the community to collect $1.60 from a senior citizens' club.

MR. SURETTE: First of all, I don't think that I sent out the inspectors to look in a certain home for their card game. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I want to hear the response.

[Page 1215]

MR. SURETTE: I am not familiar with that particular situation he is making reference to and perhaps if he could hand me the information as to the exact location, the club and what is involved here, I will undertake to look into the situation.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, isn't this wonderful? The minister does not know what his department is doing. They are out there, they are penalizing seniors, they are doing it to Legions, they are going into bingo halls where people are trying to make some money for their community and this minister does not know what his commission is doing. That is very interesting. It is pathetic, that is what it is. He does not know what they are doing. This government has overlooked $10,000 and $15,000 a day penalties to ITT Sheraton.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, honourable member.

MR. MACLEOD: I would ask, Mr. Speaker - I cannot believe that they can overlook $10,000 to ITT Sheraton and need to get $1.60 out of the seniors - I would ask the minister if he believes this is reasonable. What is he prepared to do today to immediately address this foolishness that is going on within his department?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Resign. (Laughter)

MR. SURETTE: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I already indicated that I will undertake to look into this particular situation. This would be the first crowd to admit that gaming is a problem in the Province of Nova Scotia. On the other hand, they want no rules whatsoever. The Alcohol and Gaming Authority has rules laid out that are fair for everybody in the Province of Nova Scotia. This is a particular case which I will look into; however, it is big business in the Province of Nova Scotia, the entire gaming issue. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SURETTE: I will stand by the Alcohol and Gaming Authority.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

HEALTH: REGIONAL BOARDS - RESOURCES

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Some eight months ago, I think it was last May, perhaps as early as April, my colleague the member for Pictou West posed the question to the former Minister of Health and I am posing the question to the Minister of Health today.

The question he posed then was, what mechanisms were in place by the Department of Health to ensure that there would be sharing for health services between regions, that is, across the regional boundaries between the various regional health boards. At that time the

[Page 1216]

former minister told my colleague that he was working on such mechanisms. We now know that we have a new minister. He has been in harness for some seven months.

My question to this minister is, what mechanisms are in place to ensure that there can be cross-boundary sharing of programs between regional health boards? What mechanisms does he have in place?

HON. JAMES SMITH: I think this is an important issue as we move into a more decentralized health care system and more community focus. There is a provincial advisory committee which I chair that I meet with the four chairs of the regional boards and their chief executives officers, plus the two representatives from each of the four non-designated hospitals, in other words, basically the tertiary care hospitals. I have had regular meetings plus we have had at least one recent telephone conference call.

There is also a committee of deputies with the Deputy Minister of Health that meets with administrative staff on an ongoing basis. That is coordinated within the Department of Health and throughout the regions. I am not sure if that is exactly addressing the question, but it is addressing the question that I understood the honourable member to be asking.

MR. LEEFE: It is clear that while the committees fiddle the regional health boards are preparing to burn. I refer specifically to an undertaking which apparently is being advanced by the Western Regional Health Board with respect to the Beacon Program. The minister received a letter and I would like to remind him of one or two sentences of its content respecting this. It is from the Executive Director and Coordinator of Residential Services, Queens Association for Community Opportunity.

She is a professional and she observes, I feel the move to restructure the beacon program would undermine the supports necessary for individuals with mental illness to live in the community of their choice. Then she goes on on the second page to note, the local mental health units have neither the resources, i.e. staffing, or the specialized psycho-social rehab training to take over the role of the Beacon Program.

So what we have here is a very grave danger that an excellent program, which has been doing good work, as a consequence of being able to share services with two regions, the northern region and the western region, may well have the feet cut out from underneath it because there currently is no mechanism in place for crossing boundaries for the delivery of programs. Again, my question to the minister is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You are expressing much opinion, honourable member, please, a supplementary.

[Page 1217]

MR. LEEFE: My question to the minister is simple and straightforward. When will the minister, in how many months time and in what month, will he have a policy in place which will ensure that regional health boards will have the full authority to provide services across regional boundaries? Please, what month will that policy be in place?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is a system of referral through services both to programs and also institutions that is crossing all boundaries. I don't see what the issue is here. I know he particularly mentions the Beacon unit and I have visited that institution and also visited that unit when I was Minister of Community Services and I know the value, particularly to the honourable member's community for that because I think there were some residents of that community there at that time. This is a responsibility of the regional health board that we have given that authority to, from the Department of Health, and they are actively working with referrals. I know there have been some concerns out of the region into that particular unit. I think that is how the honourable member's question started.

As far as working together, there is no question that there are cross-referrals within the regions but also throughout other regions as well. We know the tertiary care hospital system and programs there. A lot of people are being served in their own region now, Mr. Speaker, and that is a positive aspect of all of this. In Cape Breton, we are seeing dramatic changes of people being treated right in their own region, that they are not having to cross boundaries and that is when the system is really working. It is starting to work. There are some improvements yet to be made in that but there is a system in place, there are policies and it is working.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, the minister is in possession of a letter, a copy of which was provided to me by the author who had received assistance through the Beacon Program. I would just like to share two small sentences with the minister in the House. The author says, I am not sure what my life would have been like without the Beacon Program. Before I went to the Beacon, I was not sure where I would live or how I was going to live. In light of the minister's response to my last question, I ask him this, is he prepared personally to guarantee the author of this letter and all other Nova Scotians presently accessing the Beacon Program, that he will not allow any reduction, any erosion of the programs or services presently being offered through Beacon so that no one will be denied access to these services based on the fact that they live in one region and the service may be provided in another?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I do thank the honourable member for this question. I think it is a very important issue. I think he has presented it well and I can answer that senior staff actively are involved with the regions. This has been brought to my attention. I have read the letter, that is why I am not asking to have it tabled here today because I do have a copy. I have read that. Our commitment is, yes, there will be programs such as mentioned there that are very important to these people. Obviously it is a very personal letter, it is a very touching letter. The commitment of this government is, yes, those services will remain intact and they will be delivered closer to home to those people who need those services.

[Page 1218]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

NAT. RES. - PROTECTED AREAS:

MINERAL RIGHTS - NEGOTIATIONS

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The report of the review committee for the protected areas plan, written some time ago, said that every effort should be made to negotiate the termination of existing licences and leases wherever possible and practical in the protected places. The government's own management plan for protected places said clearly that the government will enter into negotiations with mineral rights holders.

I would like to ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, through you, will the minister tell the House if his department is negotiating to buy back mineral rights and if not, why not?

[2:45 p.m.]

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that our department is not buying back mineral rights.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I guess my question through you to the minister is then, if they are not buying back the mineral leases, how can the minister expect to protect the wild lands that are on this list and, at the same time, allow exploration?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, a bit of information for the honourable member, in October of this year, our department has withdrawn the access on the Crown lands, the Jim Campbells Barren, for instance, the claims that were extended to Regal Goldfields after the Jim Campbells Barren was taken off the protected list. The other established claims, the grandfather claims, as they are known to be, nobody has come to negotiate with the Department of Natural Resources. Furthermore, it would be up to the Minister of the Environment to deal with that issue.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister said that nobody came to the government to negotiate the ends of these leases and I don't recall public servants coming to the government either and saying, cut our wages and cancel our collective bargaining rights. My question to the minister is, if this government has no problem taking those things away from public servants, why is it waiting around for the people who hold the mineral leases to come to them?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I don't think it is the role of our department to go around and seek the people who have pre-existing claims and ask them to sell them back. They have the right to do exploration and if they find a mineral, then they will come to the

[Page 1219]

Department of the Environment to deal with it further, to get a mining permit if that is what they wish to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

HEALTH - ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CLINIC:

PHYSICIANS - STAFFING

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. As the Minister of Health knows, Doctor Elliott and Doctor Beresford were dismissed as part-time physicians at the Environmental Health Clinic and Doctor Ross, who did such tremendous work in the province, was told that his services were no longer needed. Why were they let go and the son of Dr. Roy Fox, the clinic's doctor, was hired instead?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased with the Environmental Clinic that is landmarked throughout all of this country as an initiative of this government to address the issues of those suffering from environmental illnesses. It is being run with Dalhousie University. There are administrative structures in place and we have honoured those responsibilities of funding that particular facility. In our monitoring of the situation, there are some changes that have taken place in that facility but it is being run in a fair and open manner, addressing the unmet needs of those suffering from environmental illnesses. We have not only continued commitment but we have had an increased commitment to that particular facility.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, yes I am pleased with the facility. I am not sure the minister answered my question and that is the problem, I have been talking to a number of patients and former patients and patients on the waiting list, I hope the minister has too. Could the minister tell the House if any inquiries of concern raised to him by the League of Equal Opportunities, and I know by others who are patients there at the very fine facility, with respect to the move away from diagnostic and treatment services that were always provided before initially by the clinic, that now it has moved in the direction of almost exclusively in the area of research?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have a very distinguished specialist offering services in that area in this flagship environmental clinic. That is the responsibility that that person has within that jurisdiction. I think the concerns I have had expressed to me centres in certain areas such as waiting lists. That has been an issue right across this country, probably globally, Mr. Speaker, but there is no question that Dr. Fox and all the others involved are offering a great service, it is a humane service, they are very sensitive to the needs of those persons with special needs and will do what is best for them.

This is an area of health care that is sometimes controversial and there are differences of opinion. I think those will be dealt with in a fair and just manner, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1220]

MR. MOODY: If the minister wants to be fair and just, I hope he will take time to talk to the patients and the committees that have been formed, there are a number of committees that have been formed, because of the CARES committee being much a part of the operation now, that there are other committees being formed by the patients and they deserve to be heard. In other words, I hope the minister is fair in not only listening to the administration but to the others who are actually taking the treatment and, unfortunately, we have lost the services of a great physician in Dr. Ross, who was very instrumental in setting it up.

There was a review done by the Steering Committee. In other words, the Steering Committee did a report, a review, on the Environmental Health Clinic and the report was finished this fall and I know it is completed. I would ask the minister if he has read the report and would he release the report either publicly or table a copy of that report in this Legislature, which does reflect some of the current happening at the clinic and is a concern of many of the patients who have come to me and called me about the concerns, some of them that are, I understand, in this committee's report?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member makes an important point. His speaking in terms of patient advocacy I think was very strong. I think that this government has listened to those concerns of the special needs of those persons suffering environmental illnesses.

There has been a review done, I have not read it. Our department is waiting for a report from one of those persons who was on that committee that wants to make a particular statement or bring some issues forward. We are waiting for that report currently and, in due time, after review by senior staff, that review will be made available, Mr. Speaker, but it is not available at this time so that I could table it for the honourable member.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

HEALTH - REGIONAL HOSPITALS: LEVEL 3 STATUS - NECESSARY

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Health, does the Minister of Health agree that level 3 status is critical to a regional hospital?

HON. JAMES SMITH: I couldn't hear the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Would you repeat that, honourable member?

MR. FAGE: Does the Minister of Health agree that level 3 status is critical to a regional hospital?

MR. SPEAKER: Level 3 status critical to a regional hospital.

[Page 1221]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I do apologize that I am not quite sure of the implications of level 3. It is not a term that I am quite familiar with, maybe. I know the regional hospital and the coordination of services within the region and the referral pattern but I am familiar with the nursing care level 3 level. Maybe the honourable member could clarify and I would answer and I will make a commitment to answer it as clearly as I can.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, it is my understanding, certainly through the paper and through the minister's office when addressed in the Amherst area, level 3 means 24 hour care provided at the hospital by the doctoring staff. That being said, with time being very short, I would like to ask this question.

With level 3 status and the need for the regional hospital in Amherst so critical at this point, will the minister commit today that the people served by the Highland View Regional Hospital require that regional status be maintained by that hospital?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the commitment of this government to the Amherst region in health care is very much of a priority. The Premier himself visited that community a couple of months ago and made an announcement for a new facility. That is certainly the type of commitment we are making, not only for a facility, for programs. The mental health programs, the new diabetic care program that is reaching right out into the community, that is being coordinated through that facility.

While there are instances and this is a particular area that does need a facility, the programs are particularly our commitment. We are moving in that direction very clearly. That is important. I do agree with the member that, as he describes a level 3 being 24 hour care and services in emergency departments particularly, is in need of a regional hospital. We are committed to that regionalization of services in the Amherst community.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we can have the consent of the House to revert to the order of business, Statements by Ministers.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat.

[Page 1222]

HON. BRUCE HOLLAND: On an introduction, Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to introduce to members of the House, Councillor Jack Mitchell from District 23, Halifax Regional Municipality and Mr. Dick MacLean, Special Assistant to Mayor Fitzgerald. I would ask them to rise and please receive the welcome from the members of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Returning now to the ministerial statement.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. GUY BROWN: Yes, but before I do that I wonder if I could beg leave to make an introduction to members of the House, Laurel Russell with Nova Scotia Housing, Mr. David Cluff of Canada Mortgage and Housing, Jim Graham, of course, with Nova Scotia Housing, Joan Dalrymple with Canada Mortgage and Housing, Brian Stonehouse with Nova Scotia Housing and, of course, one of the greatest Deputy Ministers, Dr. Patricia Ripley. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to inform the members and the people of Nova Scotia that negotiations between the federal government and the Province of Nova Scotia with respect to social housing have been completed. I signed the Canada-Nova Scotia Social Housing Agreement at 1:30 p.m.

In 1996, the Government of Canada, the federal government announced its intentions to transfer the administration of all federal housing programs to the provinces. In Nova Scotia, approximately 23,000 units are included in the federal proposal. Of these, 13,000 are administrated by the province on behalf of the federal-provincial partnership at this time. The remaining units are under programs administrated by the federal government. New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories have signed the agreement and negotiations are now going on with regard to the other provinces signing this agreement.

Co-op housing and non-profit housing projects are included in the program that the federal government has transferred to the provinces for administration. Let me make it clear that there is no change with regards to the responsibilities that the co-ops now have. The Co-operative Housing Federation has expressed concern - and not everybody in Nova Scotia, not all co-ops, belong to that federation - that the agreement will result in housing co-operative members losing responsibility for operation and management of their housing. Nothing is further from the truth with regard to that. It is not the case and it is stated clearly in the agreement. There will be agreements sent, one to each one of the caucuses, next week when we have it photostated and ready.

[Page 1223]

[3:00 p.m.]

I also met with the federation in August and the previous minister in the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs also met with the federation and made it very clear for co-ops and non-profit housing it will be business as usual - absolutely no change. The responsibility for the management, operation and ownership of the individual projects will not change under this agreement. However, the exciting thing is we have co-op groups now that are saying, why can't you help us? They want us to help them with RRAP programs, with many different types of programs. This agreement will now let us help those groups that ask. We do not force it onto them, but we can do it.

I should point out that these federal changes will occur with social housing programs with or without the agreement that I have signed. For example, federal funds for social housing have been capped at 1995-1996 levels - long before the last federal election. That is there now. The period and the subsidy agreements remain in place. These changes mean that it is even more important for us to achieve the maximum benefits from the resources that are available from the taxpayers, be they federal or provincial.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Social Housing Agreement is an important agreement for social housing in this province for several reasons. This will mean better services for our social housing clients and the bottom line is, we have to be worried about our clients, not about programs. This means more flexibility and will keep more federal dollars in the Province of Nova Scotia for housing agreements. (Applause)

The agreement will remove the existing federal-provincial duplication and result in a streamlining of administration. We had been managing some of the federal programs for a long time. This will mean less money for administration and more money in the field for the clients and those in need of social housing programs in this province. We know from the consulting that we had through our draft housing strategy in this government over the last two years that housing needs for Nova Scotians are changing and changing very fast.

Today is not too late to start dealing with those issues. With the agreements today we are able to better prepare for the future because we have predictability. We now know what federal funds will be available for the next 30 years in the Province of Nova Scotia. We did not take the decision to accept this transfer lightly. The province has spent two years and two ministers with regard to the negotiation of this agreement.

What does this mean for the people in Nova Scotia social housing. It is business as usual. The co-op housing and the non-profit housing - nothing will change, not one little bit. Anybody who says it will is misleading the province and the people. Responsibility for management, operation, ownership, tenant selection, individual projects will not change under this agreement.

[Page 1224]

Mr. Speaker, we have a history in this province in the co-op movement. The first co-op was built under Angus L. Macdonald in 1938 and it was managed by the province until the feds got involved in 1953-54. I want to tell you that I had been disappointed because when I sat in this House last on this side, under a Liberal Government, the last equity co-op was built in the Province of Nova Scotia and we are going to change that under this agreement and build more co-ops in Nova Scotia.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all the members for their attention. As I have stated before, I would never sign an agreement without guarantees for the future. I am pleased to announce that we have those guarantees in the agreement. A section has been included that states that if any other province, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta or B.C., the bigger provinces, get a better deal while we are back at the table, Nova Scotia will be able to negotiate the same deal on behalf of her taxpayers. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the minister's announcement. I don't for a minute doubt that the minister's heart is in the right place but I would be much more comfortable if, in fact, that accompanying a six page ministerial announcement that really is a repetitious document, trying to convince Nova Scotians who have real concern about what may happen in particular to cooperative housing, that the minister has interpreted the agreement that he is prepared to sign as protecting their way of life, I would be far more comfortable if I would see the agreement that has been signed and then I would perhaps be able to (Interruption) It will be available Monday, thank you, Mr. Minister.

If everything the minister said is absolutely founded on the agreement and it would be subject to the same interpretation by all, then I think I would be very much in favour. I have been bombarded, I guess, with concerns by the cooperative housing movement in Nova Scotia, very concerned by the fact that the federal government is making a transfer of this program to the provincial government and that very concern that the Department of Housing would be put in charge of the cooperative movement here in Nova Scotia. They have real concerns that that will happen.

The have come forward, first of all, with two approaches that they wish the province had taken. The first is that they do as other - the minister mentioned that certain provinces; New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, have signed on. What he hasn't said is that a number of provinces have not signed on. I would want to know their concerns, why it is that they are not buying into this program and what is their concern that this minister doesn't share.

What the cooperative movement has asked for, first of all, is that the program remain in federal hands. Well, obviously the minister has gone down the road that that isn't happening. They did have a back-up position, that is that there would be set up an

[Page 1225]

independent management agency that would continue to administer the program. I didn't hear the minister make any reference to that particular request of the cooperative housing movement.

I hope it is good news that the minister has brought to the House today. We will have a look at the agreement and see if we come to the same conclusions as the minister. I would not have a lot of concern, perhaps, if this minister was there forever and a day but, who knows? You never know.

Regardless, I think the protection must be enshrined in something more than ministerial determination. So I will look with interest to see what it is the minister has done to protect the integrity of the cooperative housing movement here in Nova Scotia.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I find it rather interesting that the statement is made after Question Period where we aren't able to grill the minister on the question. The reality is that a lot of the things that the minister has said in his statement today very much contradict the points that were made in a letter sent to this very minister on December 6th, by the president of the Nova Scotia Housing Cooperative Federation.

This minister is implying in his remarks that the majority of the co-ops in Nova Scotia are in support. The reality is, that is not the case. The minister on the floor of this House said earlier and said again in his statement that he had met with and a previous minister had met, yes, he did meet back in August with the housing people but the minister, if he read his correspondence, will know that the federation wanted to have a further follow up meeting with the minister because they did not get detailed answers to the proposal that they brought to that minister.

This agreement, I am almost positive, will be exactly the same except for a few modest changes like the name of the province that has been signed with other jurisdictions. The minister is making this statement on the floor of the House today that, in fact, the co-ops are going ahead and that they haven't been interfered with in other provinces. That is not the report from the housing co-op people themselves. Do you know what this is going to mean, unless it is totally different from the others? It is going to mean that the money that is coming to Nova Scotia from the federal government for social housing is going to be untied. In other words, that window, that envelope that was intended for co-op housing is not now going to be restricted for that and any time this government wants or any future government wants to use that money for paving projects or you name it in an election year, that money will be able to be diverted.

[Page 1226]

The money the government isn't getting (Interruptions) Oh, the members opposite say shame, shame. We have seen that as a tradition in this province for so many years, there is nothing to indicate that that will change. I think this is, quite honestly, an insult to the co-op people, especially in this province. I say that for this reason, because the government and the minister did not answer repeated requests going back to early in the fall, to meet with them to go over in a detailed manner the proposal that they were bringing forward. I have heard that from co-op members across this province, as I am sure others have. Whether you are in Cape Breton, whether you are in Cumberland County, I heard the same thing that I heard in my own constituency of Sackville.

I think that the government owed it to those who live in the cooperatives to have sat down with them in an open and frank way and to consider their proposal and gone over that with them in a detailed manner. That they didn't do and the response to the requests that have been made and the letters that they have been sending, are shown by the minister in his statement here this afternoon. That is not good enough. That is a shabby way to treat several thousand families who live in the Province of Nova Scotia in cooperative housing units. Thank you.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Let me tell you there were some points made here that I can't let go by. Many co-ops want us to run this program so they can take advantage of the Nova Scotia programs that are now in effect.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would ask this minister if he would table the list of all of those co-ops that support them and then we will be able to table those who don't want them to take it over and then we can measure which list is greater.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, you had approximately eight and one-half minutes to respond to the ministerial statement. You did not use all of that. You took your seat, so I have to presume that you had responded to the ministerial statement.

MR. HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. What I was rising to and my next comment was in response to the minister rising afterwards to do an addendum, I was matching his addendum with my addendum.

AN HON. MEMBER: And a partridge in a pear tree.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[Page 1227]

[3:16 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Keith Colwell in the Chair.]

[3:27 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mr. Keith Colwell in the Chair.]

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

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 2 - Income Tax Act.

Bill No. 5 - Highway Workers Collective Bargaining Act.

Bill No. 7 - Licences, Permits, Registrations and Certifications Act.

Bill No. 8 - Family Maintenance Act.

Bill No. 9 - Judicature Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: What is the wish of the House on these bills? Should they be read on a future day?

HON. GUY BROWN: In conversation with the House Leaders and because some of the members who may want to speak may not be here, I move that these bills be read a third time on a future day.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I would now ask for an agreement from the House. The honourable member for Inverness, as you know, has been in the hospital and has now gone home and he has asked his neighbouring member, the honourable member for Richmond - where is he? (Interruption) Whatever you want. Do it after, then? Okay. Can I get the approval of the House now to do it? (Interruptions) Okay.

MR. SPEAKER: It is agreed.

[Page 1228]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I would move that we resume debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

[3:30 p.m.]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly, as with the Leader of our caucus, had no difficulty giving agreement to the member for Richmond to read the address from his seat mate.

Mr. Speaker, I don't have a great deal of time left this afternoon. There are many areas that I would like to touch on that time isn't going to permit. So, I am going to be forced to restrict my comments to a few areas. Last occasion, on Tuesday, I talked quite a bit about my riding. I started to get into a few of the provincial types of issues.

Mr. Speaker, there has been much said, also, in the last couple of days about the Sable gas deal. The Premier, of course, would like Nova Scotians to believe that he has somehow turned around and negotiated a silk purse. When you look closely, when you scratch it a little bit, what you really see is that we got a sow's ear. Now, of course, when the announcement was being made in the Red Room, just down the hall, every political employee, every political hack out of every office was there so that there were loud rounds of applause. But when you scratch beneath the surface, you discover that really the only beneficiaries were Nova Scotia Power Inc.

Mr. Speaker, I know that my Leader, the member for Halifax Atlantic, tabled a report in this House a couple of weeks ago, a report that was prepared by the Millwood High School Environmental Action Team. The Millwood High School Environmental Action Team did a heck of a lot more work than this government did, it appears, in terms of trying to find out the views of Nova Scotians. For example, these students at Millwood High School deserve to be congratulated. They produced a survey and sent over 1,000 surveys home with the

[Page 1229]

young children in the community to their parents, and approximately 50 per cent of those surveys were returned.

They also interviewed well over 550 high school students to find out how aware Nova Scotians were about the Sable Island gas project and to give those who were receiving the survey an opportunity to express their views and opinions. They came up with a number of conclusions from their survey of the residents of the Sackville area. They would be very similar, I am sure, in terms of what they discovered, from what we hear from other areas; that is, one of the key things they felt was that the government had not done enough in terms of communicating with Nova Scotians, that they had not done an adequate consultation with the public.

We have seen, certainly since this Premier took over, that that tradition of the former Premier has not changed. The Premier even said that he hoped to have a debate on the Sable gas project, but he was not going to be able to ensure that that could take place before the House rose. He was able to sign a deal. He was able to ink a deal to give even more away before the House rose, but he was not able to bring the details of what he was going to be signing to the floor of this House, or to the people of Nova Scotia, so we could have the debate first. There is absolutely no reason why he could not have, except for contempt. He was not interested in hearing the views or giving Nova Scotians an opportunity to have a voice.

The Millwood High School students pointed out a number of things in their report. They said the residents are very concerned about the environmental impact the project will have on the environment; they were concerned about the lack of communication surrounding the project; the economic concern of the impact this project will have on enhancing the greenhouse effect; and as well, the economic impacts. It is too bad this government, with all of its resources, did not have the respect for the people of this province to even try to share with the people of the province or to communicate in an open fashion and then to seek their views on what is a vital resource, a resource upon which so much of this province's future could have depended. We got a sow's ear - and no matter how much this government and how many of your hacks you can get surrounding you to shake your hands or to applaud when it is being announced - you can polish it all you want, but it is not going to turn into a silk purse.

Another area I want to talk about has to do with this so-called bogus balanced budget and these public-private partnerships. Now the public-private partnerships properly could be called or should be called, public service to your private friends for profit. I don't know, Mr. Speaker, I am not overly intelligent, I am sure - the member for Richmond says I am not overly bright - but you know, regardless of my deficiencies, my weaknesses, my lack of intelligence, even I am wise enough to know that the bondholders and the bankers and those who set credit ratings, on Wall Street and Bay Street, are not so stupid as to buy the arguments that this government put forward.

[Page 1230]

Mr. Speaker, let's put a couple of things in context. First of all, when you have a bill you are obliged to pay, if you have a contract, that is a demand upon your purse, upon your paycheque. You can have demands placed upon your paycheque in several ways; you can have a mortgage on your home or on your business or you can have contractual agreements such as an agreement to rent an apartment or lease a space in a building. Whether it is a mortgage or a lease, you are obliged, by contract, to honour the terms of that.

Now the government is pretending, it is playing a shell game. It is trying to run forward and say, oh look, the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia is under control. What we are doing is we are going to have somebody else build all of these projects and they can carry the debts on those private companies' books. Now the companies, especially in the cases of the schools, have such great records and such great assets that they can't get the money from the banks, have to borrow from the government, interest-free, but they say we will hide the debt on their books.

Then the government will enter into contractual agreements with them and we will rent from them, we will lease from them over 18 or 20 years, these buildings that we had them build for us.

You know, Mr. Speaker, if you compare, for example, the interest rates that the Bridge Commission got for the refinancing of the loan on the bridges, 6 per cent; Highway No. 104 that taxpayers are paying for every time they drive over it and put their loonies and their toonies in, they are paying about 12 per cent, which is going to cost Nova Scotians and those who are coming in and out of the province, over the period of time, tens of millions of dollars more.

Now, on these schools they are building, like the Taj Mahal for the minister's riding, the Cadillac, you know, Mr. Speaker, regardless of whether it is a Cadillac or a Taj Mahal or a regular school, it makes no difference, if you are taking a look at the financing of that project because the Province of Nova Scotia can finance it for less.

You know, Mr. Speaker, the way this government is working is sort of amusing, the Minister of Finance this afternoon was getting the Minister of Education to answer for him. I think the Minister of Education must be the Minister of Finance and that is a scary thought, whenever you ask the Minister of Finance anything about the Liberal Team's Blue Book, they must think they are Tories. Anyway, they put out a Blue Book, maybe they are trying to imitate the Tories in another way. Certainly in terms of financial irresponsibility they are doing a darn good job, driving up the debts and the obligations in an irresponsible manner. But over a year after they started down this road and ordered that everything is going to be done, the brain trust of the red team over there said, gee whiz, we had better decide, is there a framework, is there something that we should do? Should we look at it and try to determine if it is a good idea to just pass over our credit card to our buddies who were asking to build the schools or should we sit back, like a sane person would, and decide if, in fact, we should

[Page 1231]

look at what are the costs, what are the benefits. If the benefits outweigh the costs, maybe we should go ahead but if the costs outweigh the benefits, maybe we shouldn't. That is basically what the Minister of Finance's department in November 1997 decides that they will start to do, long after, of course, about $50 million has already been loaned out and spent without any knowledge.

When the bondholders, whether they be Bay Street or Wall Street, are looking at Nova Scotia, they are going to know what financial commitments, obligations the province has made. You can hide the debt on somebody else's books and pay an extra 3 per cent, 4 per cent, 6 per cent interest, plus profit, higher than what the government is saying, or you can go after the best financial advice you can get and the best financial rate. They have a choice.

You know, Mr. Speaker, a lot of people in their own lives sit down and decide, should I rent an apartment or should I but a home. What are the advantages, one to the other? Of course, if your rent is higher than your mortgage, maybe it would make sense to buy. If, however, you are able to rent much more cost-effectively than owning, maybe you will want to continue renting. If you are doing that, you also look at some other things. Like at the end of the day, when you are paying your rent all the way along, you have got nothing at the end. When you purchase, you own the asset.

Do you know what this government has decided to do? They are following the path that New Brunswick had been following and which now New Brunswick admits was a major mistake. This government has an election rolling around and can't admit that they make any mistakes because if they do that, it might reflect a little bit badly on them and might put a little bit of a tarnish on the red team's image. Therefore, they can't admit anything could be wrong. (Interruption)

The reality is that the Minister of Education, who has obviously been designated as the true Minister of Finance for the Liberals' team and they go down in their bunkers downstairs, behind the veil of secrecy that they put around it and they decide that Nova Scotia's future, well, we can compromise a little bit upon our ability to deliver programs and services 5 or 10 years down the road because our political interests are at stake. We have to pretend that we are running a tight, fiscal ship here. We have to pretend that we are managing ourselves very efficiently and have a balanced budget.

So what we will do, instead of honestly showing our debts on the books, we will hide those on somebody else's with the result that we pay all of these interest rates, without even having developed the business case scenarios that the Department of Finance's own project discussion paper say are essential. They hide them over there and at the end of the day we own zero because we cannot own it, we can't even have a preferred purchase price because if we do that, then it is a capital lease and capital leases have to appear in the debt picture for the province.

[Page 1232]

So they have to end up getting it so that the only way they can get it is buying at the full market value. (Interruption) The Minister of Education who doesn't seem to understand how the accounting practices work maybe should go and talk to the Auditor General.

This government has really gone whole hog in terms of trying to do what the Tories had done back in the 1980's and which got their knuckles rapped by Auditors General. That is, they are spending all of their money on rent at the expense of having any asset coming back. It is a shell game. It is nothing more than a shell game and it is costing Nova Scotians dearly. It is going to continue to cost them.

[3:45 p.m.]

There are many other items, whether we are talking about the way that those who work for this government are being treated. Those who are both employees of Correctional Services and Youth Services are being treated, those in so many areas that I do not have time to address, Mr. Speaker, as you have indicated that my time has expired.

I wish that this government had a little bit more backbone and I wish this government had a little bit more intestinal fortitude and a commitment to try to be open and honest and be accountable, and maybe, although we are going to be adjourning, there will be something that will force the government to come back and we will have opportunities to have at them on other occasions.

So, Mr. Speaker, as I wrap up my remarks, I want to indicate - in case there might have been any doubt in anybody's minds - that I will be voting in support of the amendment and I will be voting in the negative when it comes to the main motion. I want to thank you very much for the opportunity to speak this afternoon and I know and appreciate that my comments were a little bit uncharacteristically kind compared to what they usually are toward this government. As it is the Christmas season, I thought I would go a little bit easy on them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview on an introduction.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to introduce some close friends and family of mine who are sitting in the west gallery this afternoon. I would like to welcome them. My sister-in-law and dear friend Mary Jane White and my nephew Sean O'Connell who has been here once before and my niece Katie who is almost five and has not been here to this place before. Also with them is their friend Liz Weston. I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome.

[Page 1233]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond. (Applause)

MR. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, if this were the real me, I might offer a rebuttal to some of those remarks we just heard, but I am obviously on my feet by all-Party agreement to deliver the remarks of our good friend and colleague Charles MacArthur who was feeling a little under the weather this week and went home a little early.

[Mr. Richard Mann delivered the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne of Mr. Charles MacArthur (Inverness).]

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to reply to the Speech from the Throne. May I add my congratulations to the many you have already received on your new post as Speaker. The past few days I have watched your decisions and it is obvious that you have given great research to the Speaker's role and I know the House is in good hands.

I will also take this opportunity to congratulate the Premier on his by-election victory and welcome him to the House. It is good to have the addition of Edwin Kinley to our caucus and I congratulate Ed on his victory. Each of the two Opposition Parties also have the pleasure of an addition to their caucuses and I would like to welcome the members for Cumberland North and Cape Breton The Lakes.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to speak for a few minutes in reply. The Speech from the Throne detailed the continued emphasis on job creation through the right economic climate. I applaud this, as the area I represent has high unemployment.

The recent Nova Scotia Works announcement will be of great assistance to the people of Inverness County. The minister responsible for this program was recently in Inverness and I thank him for his attention to this vital program.

I would like to take a few moments to outline some programs that I will be working on in the coming months. I believe these are strategies for Inverness County which will echo the efforts set out by the Premier in the Speech from the Throne.

In Inverness, the Inverness Historical Society is working to expand the Miners' Museum from a small facility. They are to be commended on their efforts to grow this museum into a major attraction which will provide employment through the construction phase which would require more summer workers to look after the bigger museum and which would provide another tourism attraction in Inverness County with significant spin-off, providing another destination which would help to retain travellers to Cape Breton Island.

The Inverness Development Association should be commended for their ongoing efforts and encouraged to continue those efforts to develop Inverness Links. We have all come to recognize that golf has had a huge growth as a recreational industry in Nova Scotia. Golf

[Page 1234]

courses are providing large numbers of employment throughout our province. Tourism has improved with the addition of golf courses as we are now able to offer golf destination vacations. A golf course is being proposed for Inverness, a links course. Recently the proponents of the course, the committee working on it, have had meetings with the Honourable Manning MacDonald. I will be following up with the minister in the months and years ahead for continued development in this area.

The Mabou and Area Development Association continue their efforts to create a development park and to take advantage of waterfront development. Many areas in Nova Scotia have benefited from waterfront development. Look at areas such as Pictou, Yarmouth, Port Hawkesbury and Sydney. They have provided commercial activity, increased employment and opportunities for local residents. Hopefully Mabou will be the next to benefit from this program.

In St. Joseph du Moine the local developments taking place include harbour development, sewer and water enhancements. Of course, that is home to one of the Collège de l'Acadie. Anyone who has witnessed the work of Collège de l'Acadie recognizes the opportunities and the potential that it provides for educational opportunity, retraining and professional development for young and old alike. There are new businesses interested in locating in this area such as the cranberry harvesting operation.

We have good news from Cheticamp where the old fish plant is expected to reopen in 1998 using underutilized species and will create as many as 90 part-time workers during the fishing season. We know that if the plant is open, new opportunities can be identified and seized, leading to further employment.

At Strathlorne we have recently witnessed the Departments of Natural Resources, and Economic Development providing additional funding which has resulted in the retention of 12 casual jobs in that area, very important jobs in the community. We all know that the Strathlorne Tree Nursery has become a vital part of the economic fabric of Inverness and such funding must be continued. Strathlorne Tree Nursery must be retained in that area.

I would like to say just a few words about roadwork. The minister is very familiar with my concerns regarding the condition of roads in Inverness County. Too many years of Tory neglect have finally added up into a deplorable and deteriorated road system. I will continue to press for increased roadwork to ensure the safety of the motoring public, to provide employment, increase the opportunity for tourism and to attract businesses and industry to Inverness County. You know, having heard me in this House before, that I could go for many hours talking about the roads of Inverness County. I am not going to do that. I will do that directly to the minister. I would be remiss if I did not mention, however, Trunk 19 and a section that requires upgrading; to complete the upgrading on Trunk 19 which has taken place. We continue to see growth in subdivisions along that route. It is vitally important that the completion of the Trunk 19 upgrading take place to accommodate growth in the area.

[Page 1235]

Orangedale, in my constituency, requires a good water supply system. It is my hope that before long something can be done, in partnership with others, to provide the community with that quality water system. I will be working with Municipal Affairs and watching for infrastructure programs to take advantage of, to see that work completed. The community of Orangedale has indicated their willingness to contribute to see that program become a reality.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to invite all members of this House to discover the culture, the history and the scenic beauty of the western side of Cape Breton Island. Inverness County is known for its outstanding musical talent. I probably should not try to name individuals or groups but I think we might be forgiven if we mention just a few. In your constituency when you have the Rankins, Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, Buddy MacMaster, Mark Boudreau, the birthplace and home of John Allan Cameron, it is hard not to mention the musical talent.

I think everyone will agree that Inverness County can boast of having a dynasty of musical talent. Inverness has a rich heritage of both Scottish and Acadian French descendants. The summer months are alive as you see the many events taking place throughout the county, the ceilidhs, the square dances, outdoor concerts, just to name a few. These take place county-wide.

In addition to our musical events, you can enjoy hiking trails, horseback riding, whale watching, deep sea fishing, golfing, skiing and you can swim in the warmest waters north of the Carolinas. Every year many people travel over the Cabot Trail via Route 19. I hope to see some upgrading done on that road, as I indicated a few moments ago, to help accommodate this live and vibrant tourism trail. This will be greatly appreciated by not only the visitors to our area but by the local residents as well.

The scenery in Inverness County has been described as one of the most beautiful scenic drives in North America. Tourists from all over the world come back again and again. I invite all members of this House to visit Inverness County during any time of the year to enjoy not only the warmth of the people but the beauty of the landscape and to take in the many events that take place during all four seasons. I know that you, too, will enjoy this special part of Heaven. Inverness County has something to offer young and old alike. We have a number of museums throughout the county, gift shops, sporting events, concerts, sandy beaches and a variety of first-class accommodations, including bed and breakfasts, campsites, motels and hotels. We have fine restaurants and offer our famous Cape Breton hospitality at no extra charge.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud and honoured to serve the constituency of Inverness and I know that this government will continue to do good things for our community. Inverness County has done well as a result of the infrastructure programs and there are more

[Page 1236]

announcements coming in the near future. We will be watching for more infrastructure programs.

I would like to thank all honourable members of the House for their time today and for allowing me to highlight how Inverness is optimistically approaching the future. I would like at this time to offer a very special wish for a Merry Christmas to all members of the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to indicate, as I close, that I will be voting for passage of the Speech from the Throne and voting against the amendments. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise and respond to the Speech from the Throne. It seems that when one has been doing this for, I guess, 20 times now, because we have had two this session, it is a long time but it seems like a short time.

I want to bring greetings from the residents of Kings West. I have been so fortunate to have had the support for the last number of years of those residents. I want to bring congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Deputy Speaker on your appointments. I want to say to your predecessor, the honourable member for Clare, what a great job he did, an example that all Speakers could follow in this House, about his fairness and the extremely good job he did as Speaker of the House. I think all members and all Speakers could learn from him. So I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you can come up to those standards. If you look back, you can remember the kind of example that member set for everybody.

[4:00 p.m.]

I would like to congratulate the four new members that have joined this Legislature since we sat last spring. Each and every one of you brings something to this Legislature. It is always refreshing to have new people sit in this House and bring not only their ideas, but the ideas of the people that they talk to and the ideas of those people that they represent. I say to each one of them that I know that you have a short time before you have to go back to the polls, but I hope that each and every one of you enjoys the short time that you have been a member and that I wish you well whenever the writ is issued.

I would like to congratulate the Premier, who has now officially won one of those by-elections. There have been a lot of changes in this Legislature. I got the feeling when we came to the Legislature this time and we had a Speech from the Throne, that we had a new government, that there was a new government in place and that the old government had been turfed out. Like I have said for a long, long time - I think for the last four years - that if the old government had gone to the polls, they were going to be turfed out. The only thing I

[Page 1237]

didn't realize was that members of the Liberal Party realized that as well, and they did the turfing out of the previous government and now we have a new government.

One of the things about the previous government that used to upset me was that they were not caring, they didn't have compassion and didn't understand what was really happening in the Province of Nova Scotia. Yes, they had an agenda, but it was their own agenda; it was not the agenda or the wishes of Nova Scotians. The only sad part of it is, I was hoping we would have gone to the polls and that would have been shown there, but I have to say - and I will give the new government the benefit of the doubt - there is a little bit of hope for compassion and caring that wasn't there before.

You often wondered when you sat in here day after day and the people in the front row would say to us over here, you don't know what you are talking about. We can go to the polls and win anytime, we know what we are doing. I said you are destroying this province, destroying the many things that people valued in this province. Thank Heavens, somebody recognized that in the Liberal Party and there was a change of heart and direction.

I want to say in representing Kings West, I want to go back to my area before I get into the broader area of issues that I want to talk about on the provincial scene. I want to talk about how pleased I am to represent an area that has CFB Greenwood in it and the men, women and civilians who work there. It is a great contributor to the economy of the Valley, and it is also a great contributor to national defence and search and rescue. Many times these men and women put their lives in danger to rescue people offshore and in many parts of this province and this country. The men and women go through rigorous training and are dedicated to their job.

We have Michelin Tire who employs a large number of people and contributes to the economy. We have many small businesses in the area, be it Larsens, or O.H. Armstrong, with regard to the farming community. These are all important industries that contribute to a viable economy in the Annapolis Valley.

We have a Rehab Centre in Waterville that has been there for a long time. The role of the Rehab Centre has changed. I want to talk a bit later about the Beacon Unit. I know the Minister of Health has had the opportunity to visit the Rehab Centre and the Beacon Unit. The difficulty - and I will get into this a little bit later - if the minister doesn't take action because of what the previous government did and this government now is not undoing, is that they have set up regional health boards that are funding their own programs within the region, and the Beacon Unit is serving more than one region and because it is serving the northern and western regions, northern is not going to pay so therefore there are not enough people to contribute, so the whole program could be lost.

[Page 1238]

I want to talk a little bit about that program and if the Minister of Health was serious today, he wouldn't just say, my officials are going to try to deal with it, he would say it is not going to happen because I can demonstrate how important that program is to the many hundreds of people of the western region and the northern regions of this province and how important it is to their families.

I want to talk a little bit about the Town of Berwick. The Town of Berwick is the only town in my area. The Town of Berwick will be having a very special event in 1998. They will be celebrating 75 years as an incorporated town. It is a quiet town but it is one of the nicest little towns in Nova Scotia, they are all nice but it is a nice little quiet town to live and raise your family. We have a lot of things happening in the Town of Berwick. We have a new school, an arena, all kinds of recreational facilities and a lot of reasons for people to move into that town.

Unfortunately, we have had a couple of things that have occurred that have upset the Council and the Mayor of the Town of Berwick and have sort of upset me too. They submitted four potential projects for the infrastructure projects of the works projects between the province and the federal government. One of those projects was rebuilding part of Main Street and a sidewalk from Ilsley Subdivision along Orchard Street to Brown Street. Along there is where hundreds of kids walk to get to school because in the towns, as we know, children walk to school; whether you are 5 years old or you are 14 years old, there are no buses. That is fine, people have done that for years.

Here we had an area that was identified as being an area that was a safety issue that was recognized by the police, by the Town Fathers and the school officials. The mayor said he was discouraged because he was turned down. He had spoken to me and I had written a letter, he spoke to the Minister of Education and said he hadn't heard anything about it and they were turned down. Berwick didn't get one project approved and this is a quote from the Mayor of Berwick, "Somebody's playing politics with children walking in the street," he said, referring to the expected spring provincial election. "It's not a very happy situation.".

It is a sad day that I rise in this House and find that because it happened to be in my area and yes, I am an Opposition member, yes, I didn't apply, but where the town was asking for a small amount of infrastructure money because of the safety of children, this was turned down. In the neighbouring communities of mine, represented by a government member, they had many projects approved and some had nothing to do with the safety of children.

I have to say the mayor and council were very disappointed and I have to say that I was very disappointed. I am hoping that the new government and the new Premier will not do business the same way as the previous group when they turn down projects that have to do with the safety of children; it has nothing to do with politics but has a lot to do with common sense and the right thing to do.

[Page 1239]

The town is also upset about a number of things and because it is a small town, a small amount of money means a lot to a small town. Here we have an area where they have been told and their social services costs are going up. They understand that in some municipalities social services costs have been taken over by the province, yet theirs continues to grow and grow. The council has said that they will not roll over and play dead. They know that it is a struggle, but I am asking and pleading with this government to make sure that these towns are not overburdened and that they will be treated fairly from one end of this province to the other and it will not be taken into consideration because I am a member of the Legislature and not somebody on the government side.

I want to spend a few moments talking about another issue in my area and that is the West Kings High School. The West Kings High School and the PTA held a town meeting on November 12, 1997. The Minister of Education, myself, school board members and many other people were invited to attend that presentation. Unfortunately, the Minister of Education was not able to attend, although the President of the PTA offered the Minister of Education to pick the date that he could attend. There was not a date that the Minister of Education could give that he could say that he could be available. What happened at that town hall meeting was that we had a number of presentations, not only by the principal, by the health and safety committee, by students, by the PTA and others as well as medical people about the environment of that school.

We had one Grade 11 student who talked about her difficulties being in that school. She said, the air quality problems here at West Kings have been causing many health problems for me: Severe respiratory problems, bad nosebleeds, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sinus problems with my ears, eyes and throat, fatigue, slurred speech, flushed face, skin rashes and terrible problems concentrating and remembering things. Student after student gave examples of the problems of the air quality in that school.

We have had this government ignore the fact that those people are suffering healthwise. This is not a construction problem of the point that you just need to replace a building because it is worn out. Here we have a high school that is actually causing people to be sick. The water is not drinkable. The water is a colour that you would not believe. They have been told by health officials not to drink the water, not to use the water. The students have to bring water to the school. What is happening? Nothing, Mr. Speaker.

The PTA and parents and students had hundreds of people at that town hall meeting. What they are saying is we do not want or need a $30 million school. We are not asking for a super school. We are not asking that you give us all the bells and whistles that some schools are getting. What we are asking for is fairness and what we are asking for is a school that we can go and learn in that is healthy and that is not going to make us sick. Is that too much to ask of any government, that the working place that those students have to go to does not make them sick?

[Page 1240]

This is not my words, Mr. Speaker, this can be proved, this has been proved, and day after day this government has ignored the plight of those students and those teachers. Do you know what is sad about it? Their health problems will continue long after they leave that school. We do not know the long-term effects. We know the short-term effect.

I am pleading with this government to take seriously the concerns of the students and teachers at West Kings and not to give them the run-around, the rhetoric, to say, look, a few dollars are needed to make this school safe. Let's make this school safe. That is a priority with this government because we care about the health of the young people of this province. That is what I am asking. That is what we are asking. I am looking forward to the government in the very near future addressing that issue.

[4:15 p.m.]

We also have the issue at the Cambridge Elementary School in Central Kings. I think what this government should do - they have only so much money and I understand that - take a block of funding that you use for construction and say that a block of that money will be used for emergency purposes for any school, be it Digby, be it West Kings, be it Cambridge, any school, whether it be in Cape Breton or be in Truro, anywhere, will take a block of money. If it is demonstrated that that school is harmful to the health of the students, that money will become a priority and that money will be spent where needed. Then we will divide up the rest of the construction money, to be fairly put around the province to deal with the other issues facing us.

You know, Mr. Speaker, that seems to me like I am not just here saying to the government that everything is wrong, I am also suggesting a solution that is fair, treats every area the same and that shows that the government does care, shows that they want to be fair and that anybody with a problem, no matter where they live and what school they are attending, will be treated fairly. That is all I am asking, that is all I am suggesting.

That can be done, that should be done. I am pleading with this government that if they care that much about the students attending this school, that will be done in the very near future.

I now want to return to one other local matter that I referred to earlier, that was about the Beacon Unit at the rehab. For those in here who don't know what the Beacon Unit is all about - I know that the Minister of Health knows what it is all about - it is a comprehensive, psychosocial rehabilitation program for adults who are severely disabled with long-term mental illness. You know, Mr. Speaker, the Beacon Unit was started in 1992 and funded by the Department of Health. This program works with many individuals who have persistent mental difficulties.

[Page 1241]

Mr. Speaker, this booklet provides some statistics. I know the Minister of Health likes to quote statistics. He always says that statistics are important. This unit had 12 clients in 1992, the funding was $1.2 million. In 1996, in November, they had 36 clients with a budget of $1.1 million at any given time in the unit. You talk about efficiencies, talk about striving to do better with less, that is what they have done.

Now they have had 150 admissions to that unit over a period of time. You know one of the successful things was that before the Beacon Unit these people who needed to be in an institution were there on an average of 702 days as an individual. That was an average. The average time in the Beacon Unit, in institutional, is 23 days. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, the kind of reduction in cost and the treatment success that this Beacon Unit has had since it started. If this government doesn't take action in the very near future, I am told that this Beacon Unit will close, which is very unfortunate. I could quote many cases in here where individual families and members have said what the Beacon Unit has meant to them and how the Beacon Unit has helped them return to their community and be a productive individual. Isn't that what life is all about? When someone has a mental illness and they need treatment, isn't our objective to get them back into the community and be a productive individual? If we all believe that is what we want to happen to these people who have become mentally ill, then the government won't say that we will wait until some senior staff have a look at this, we won't wait until the people of the northern region can agree with the western region. The government will say that this program will stay in place. It is no more funding. What it means is that there has to be a way for the northern region to fund the residents who go there. What this government has done, it is not portable any more, programs are not portable.

This government said, when they set up the four regions in the province, you needn't worry about getting services in one region or another. The former Minister of Health said there are no boundaries. I understand that the government says there are no boundaries but tell that to the regional boards when it comes to funding programs, when individuals are not allowed to go from one region to another because they say, who is going to pay. To me, that is a boundary. To me, that sets up barriers for families that should never be there.

When is common sense going to come into play? When is common sense going to play a part in how we look after these people? If common sense comes into play, this government and the Minister of Health will immediately address that issue at the Beacon Unit and it won't be a problem in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about education for just a little bit, I know my time seems to be going quickly. I hear from over there, day after day, about the former government which I was proud to be part of, make no excuses. When we came to office in 1978, this province was in debt by $1 billion. That was the debt on the books, a lot of money. Yes, when we left in 1993 we were in debt $6 billion. The figures are there, I agree. We spent a lot of money, $5 billion . . .

[Page 1242]

HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: $6.8 billion.

MR. MOODY: . . . $6.8 billion the minister tells me. Okay, I don't argue that. But the debt today is over $9 billion. Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions) I will tell you one thing, I make no excuses for being part of the government that cared about people and understood the plight of people and were willing to help people in need. That is where this government has failed; they don't care, they don't show compassion and they don't want to understand.

I tell you, Mr. Speaker, if I decided to run it my total way at home because I didn't care about my family and I strictly made my decisions without feeling and without caring and without being compassionate, I would be a very lowly individual. That is what some of the decisions this government has made in the past of not caring and understanding the plight of many of the unfortunate of this province.

You know, when you talk about education and you ask the individuals what is happening in education, this government said we are doing better in education, we are putting more money into education, everything is wonderful. Well, if you talk to the parents and the students you will know that it is not wonderful.

I will tell you what is happening in education. Back prior to probably 1992, many of the students who are in our educational system today were in institutions. We de-institutionalized. Was that right or was that wrong? Everyone in here would probably have an opinion as to whether it was right or wrong to de-institutionalize. It was said, Mr. Speaker, that we should put these people back into the community; they have rights as does any other person, so we will not put them in an institution, we will allow them to be in the community and we will allow them to be part of the school program.

Now, in 1992 there was some funding that went with these students. Some of these students were 18 or 19 years old. They are not in the system now. But other students have come along who normally would have gone off to an institution. They are now at home, cared for by their parents and they are now in the school system. You know, the money and what this government has done, and I am told that this is true and I know it is true, that if you are a student today and you could harm somebody or harm yourself, you get a teacher's aide. But if you are a student who has a learning disability, who needs a resource teacher's help and some other help on an individual basis, it is not available any more. It has not been available now for the last two years.

Many of these students previously, with just a little bit of help, were able to graduate, were able to become productive citizens because they were able to get into some sort of higher training. What is happening today? There is no money so there is no help. You know what, Mr. Speaker? There are more people, more students, being expelled today than ever before. Do you know why? Because the help is not there, teachers can't deal with them and there is not enough staff to deal with them.

[Page 1243]

If this government is serious and this government claims it wants to be caring, here is another group of individuals who can't help themselves. Nobody can help it if they are born learning disabled but government can help them. The government can take the funds and make available a resource for those special needs kids so that they can live a productive life like you and I and everyone else. Is that too much to ask? Is that too much for those students to ask of any government because they want to be productive and the funding is not there to help them anymore? I don't believe it is too much to ask.

If the government really cares, it won't listen to the rhetoric of the Minister of Education who says, everything is fine, not to worry, things are better than ever before. Who in the world is he talking to? He is not talking to the parents, the students and the teachers that I talk to because they will tell you the real story. This government has an opportunity to address that situation and if it is serious about education and it is serious about these young people, they will make sure resources are put in place so that no longer do you have to be a threat to yourself or the rest of the students in the class in order to get help.

Funds must be made available because I can give you examples of a whole lot of students, back in the days when funds were available, that helped those individuals who had a learning disability and they became productive, they finished school and went on even to university or community college and became very productive. I don't think that is too much to ask. I would ask this government to be serious. If they are serious at all, they won't talk in flowery words, they will actually go out and address the issue.

I find it very strange in a time where this government talks about money. I fail to understand this public-private partnership. I was thinking if I had connections and of course I am on the wrong side of politics, but if I could become involved in the building of one of these schools, this is how it works. You get somebody in private industry interested in building a school but you know, you don't have to have any money at all. You don't have to have any risk, all you have to do is construct a school.

The government will provide the interim financing, no problem, no questions asked and after I get that $25 million, $30 million school up and running, the government will make an agreement with me that they will lease it back from me, I then can put my financing in place because I know how much money I am getting on a monthly basis from the government and I know at the bottom I am going to make a profit. What an opportunity, man, what an opportunity. What a way to get in business. It is not very creative but it is certainly an easy way for me, if I have got the right connections, to make a profit. That is the way it has been explained to me, nobody has explained it any differently.

I thought when this was all talked about that because the government had no money that the private sector was building the school with their money and then we were going to, obviously, pay them back over a period of time, make sure their interests were covered, make sure they made a profit and all of those things, I thought that was how it worked. But when

[Page 1244]

I found out that the government was putting in the money and the individual put up no money, no risk, none whatsoever, but guaranteed a profit at the end of the day, I thought what a dream. It is better than winning the lottery. If only I had known a friend and got involved, it would have been simple. Anyway, I can't understand that, people back home can't understand that, Nova Scotians can't understand that. The Minister of Education can get up day after day and explain it but you know what? It still doesn't add up. To me it is still the best business and the easiest business in the world to get into to.

I want to move on because my time is going to run short. I want to move on to a little bit on health care. When the former government came to power in 1993, they said, the health system is sick and in order to fix it, we are going to reform it, we are going to make it better and we are going to put it closer to the people. I thought well, we are going to have reform. Certain reform is good, maybe that is okay. I thought, well, having the communities more involved, that made a lot of sense to me. I thought, well, that is good, that is a laudable thing.

[4:30 p.m.]

Then they came out with the Blueprint Committee. I thought well, even that makes sense. Then I found out, Mr. Speaker, that the then Minister of Health said no, no, we are following the blueprint but we are not following it, we are talking it piece by piece. Those who put the Blueprint Committee together, and I have talked to many of them, said that when we went into that meeting to put this blueprint together we were told by the minister that no matter what you put together, you are going to have four regional health boards. I thought to myself, so these people didn't dream up the four regional health boards, the minister dreamed up the four regional health boards. I have yet to find out how that is closer to the people.

The people I represent, and I represent real people, tell me day after day that they have no input. We have a regional board that is far too large, runs all the way around the South Shore, all the way around to Yarmouth, all the way up to Hants, a large area. You know, Mr. Speaker, there is a little place down in Cornwallis where the regional health board has its office. Everything is a secret. When they have their meetings they are not open to the public. You cannot go and hear what they are discussing. If you ask if you can make a presentation about my community, no, no, the meetings are closed.

I have found it to be very strange that a government that said it wants to be more open and wants more community involvement, that we have set up, and the minister quoted the number here the other day of 67 or some number of people involved in these regional health boards, appointed by the government but don't represent anybody but the government, are running our health care system. Mr. Speaker, there has been a large group of people hired, administrative-wise, so we have four mini-Departments of Health and we still have the Department of Health, yet we have nobody in charge.

[Page 1245]

We used to have a hospital and where I live we have a regional hospital, a nice regional hospital. You know what, people in the communities where I live and I know other members live, they used to contribute money to those hospitals. They raised money for construction, they raised money for equipment, they raised money for all kinds of things because it was important. They felt it was important because it was part of their community.

When the Minister of Health said that he was going to make this change, I said whoa, wait a minute, people are not going to feel any ownership any more and they are not going to raise the funds, and that is exactly what is happening. We don't know who is in charge of the regional hospital in Kentville any more. We don't have a local board, they have no say, it is the regional people who make the decision. If you ask who is in charge, they don't know. I said this in the House the other day, I was talking to somebody in the Department of Health. They said, did you every work in a system where if you have a problem you don't know who to go to to fix it? It is not the minister, he says it is the regional board; the regional board said no, no, the money comes from the minister, it has to be him. So they don't know who is in charge any more.

Surely to Heavens some common sense should play a part, as legislators, that we understand. If we don't understand the system, do you think the person on the street understands the system? No, they don't. If this government doesn't wake up to the fact that the previous government made a mistake and put some control back into the hands of the local communities, you are in big trouble. You are just as bad as the previous government because you don't understand that to make things work better in a community, you have to allow community people to be involved. Many people who were involved before were volunteers, they were not paid. Why did they do it? They did it because they felt they wanted to give something back to the community.

Mr. Speaker, now we have taken away that opportunity. Communities have no control any more. They have no input any more. We have fewer beds and yes, as the member for Halifax Citadel said, beds don't equate with the health of people. I understand that but, in order to service a particular area of acute care beds, if you don't have beds available, lives can be lost. I gave an example of that yesterday.

I know the member for Hants West, his hospital, there has been a study done in Glace Bay where McLaughlin said more beds are needed. Why isn't a study done in Windsor? Why isn't a study done in other areas of the province? Why aren't all areas of this province treated fairly? What this government has to understand is you cannot say we are going to do something for one area and you do not treat the other area fairly. I do not think in health care there is any room for any of that. There has to be fairness throughout the system.

We are entering into a two-tier system in health care. It seems as I talk to seniors and others, as a matter of fact if you are wealthy, you can afford the drugs that you are prescribed; if you are not wealthy, then you lose out. I talk to seniors who say to me, this drug is not

[Page 1246]

covered, but my quality of life is terrible without it. I have a case on the go now where the wife is working, minimum wage, and he gets $500-some a month and Canada Pension. He is on heart pill drugs and all kinds of medication, and it takes his whole Canada Pension and they cannot function with a mortgage on minimum wage.

When you go for help, they say you do not qualify. He said to me that he would be better off if he just went out and committed suicide. I said, don't do that; there has to be a way. We have to give people hope. We have to find a way that when people are down and out the system will work.

I give the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs credit because he has helped. I had a situation where a family had no heat. Can you imagine living in a house with no heat? Working poor, again, the man works every day. He has a family of three or four and he probably makes $14,000 to $15,000. Not a lot of money when you have to pay a mortgage and all the things. That minister understood. That minister said we will find a way. There is always a way. If you have the will, there is always a way. Many people who sit over there have not even attempted to find a way to look after some of those people that are in need.

I want to talk a little bit about complementary medicine, but I am probably not going to get into that area since I only have five minutes left. I think this is an area that could be a growth industry for this province, and it is recognized throughout Canada. We have done a lot in this province with the environmental health clinic and others. If we had the legislation that Alberta and Ontario are presently looking at, I think you could find that it could be an industry in this province, but also the right way to go.

In my last few minutes - and I did not realize my time would go so quick - I want to say a few words about Krever and his report. I want to say a few words about a friend who has done a lot for victims, and that is Janet Conners. Janet herself is a victim of the blood system. She lives daily with emotional and physical pain. She has worked hard to make sure that Krever understood all of the things that happened to her, her late husband Randy, her son Gus and how the blood system affected them as a family. I know, and standing before you, Mr. Speaker, there are many affected by the blood system. As Krever said, and he named names, but whether it be the federal government or provincial governments, we all have to take the blame. The system let people down.

When the system lets people down, we have to take some responsibility. We cannot ignore the fact that because a mistake was made, we can do nothing. Janet stood fast and all she was asking - and she said this throughout the hearings of Krever - I hope I live long enough so that I can tell my son Gus what really happened. All Janet was looking for was the truth. You know, she went through a difficult time because of, not this government, and I commend this government. It backed out of the court challenge that the federal government and the Red Cross and the pharmaceuticals when they challenged Krever. It added time to the Krever Report, it added money to the Krever Report, it added stress to the individuals

[Page 1247]

waiting, it added stress to the hepatitis C victims who were waiting to get the results of Krever. I was so proud that this government decided not to be an intervener. I respect them for that.

I would ask that they make sure that the Krever Inquiry does not gather dust and that all of those people and their families that were affected by the blood system are treated fairly and justly, in a humane way so that we can be proud Nova Scotians, that we can stand in our place as politicians and say, we do care what happens to people that are affected by a system that let them down.

Nova Scotians are caring. Nova Scotians are proud. They care about others. They demonstrate that day after day, be it food banks, giving at Christmas and all of those times. Nova Scotians do care. I would plead with this government that they recognize the fight that Janet gave to get the truth and the accountability and that they recognize those that became victims of a system and that in some way they lead this country in a resolve to an issue.

I know that it is a difficult time with money. I understand that. But I think if a government could make a commitment that, within the resources they have, they want to be fair and they want to be just, then I could be a proud Nova Scotian. I could say I was in the Legislature when this government said we are going to show leadership with regard to this issue.

You do not have to commit a lot of money. I think they could show some leadership in getting the federal government to come on side, and the other provinces, to say, we want to make sure that those who were affected in this province, that we can say we have done what we think is fair and just.

I know that time is getting late and I want to thank honourable members for allowing me this opportunity and this privilege in speaking in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I wish all the members well over the Christmas holidays. May you have a Merry Christmas and I wish you and your families all the best on the holidays. I do not know whether I am going to see you in this Legislature in the spring before the election or not. If I am, then I will wish you well then, too. Thank you.

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

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me any time I rise in this House to take part in the Address in Reply to the Throne Speech. This is my 25th one that I have taken part in, two this year, but there was a year or two that we did not have any. I want to bring greetings to you and to all members of the House of Assembly from the fine people of Cumberland South. I also want to congratulate our four new elected members of whom I will go into detail about in a few moments.

[Page 1248]

I have a great deal of pride in this House. Since I have served in this Assembly on behalf of the province, and we are and should never forget we have to serve our constituents, but each one of us when we state policy, it is for all the people of this great province that I am sure we all love so much. I hope that when the newer members leave here or are here 20 years, 25 years from now, that they will have the same sense of satisfaction, pride and being part of this great establishment as I have been since 1974.

[4:45 p.m.]

This House is the birthplace of democracy in this province and I am pleased that during this session, I think that we have accomplished some things. I want to thank both of the Opposition Parties for their cooperation in working in the best interest of the people of Nova Scotia. It is an honour, really, to serve the people of your constituency, our constituencies and also the people of Nova Scotia in this Assembly. I know that our new colleagues will soon come to love the traditions and the heritage that is here. There is a lot of it in this Assembly under different governments I have served under, a government in the 1970's, the Opposition under two Leaders and now back on the government side.

To the member for Cape Breton North, our Premier, one has to be impressed - and I guess it is through his experience - when he stands up in the House and he deals with questions. The people on the Opposition side may not like the answers, but the Premier stands there and he is so cool and I will tell you, he doesn't have a bunch of books in front of him for reference, that many people have in this House on the front benches. I think we are very fortunate and I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to serve with him.

I think that the Premier is a great asset when it comes to negotiations, not only on the nationally, as Energy Critic in Ottawa for so many years, he knew all of those people in western Canada and I have to admit we did not know them, they were new to us. I think it was a great asset for Nova Scotia and I think he is an asset to this province and to this Assembly.

To the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, I want to welcome her here. I can remember years ago when Ossie Fraser was there running when I was campaigning and going door to door. There is a great tradition in that constituency and I hope that she enjoys this Assembly as other members that have represented that area like her predecessor, Bernie Boudreau, as well.

To the member of Cumberland North who is a colleague of mine, we are both from Cumberland County, I want to congratulate him on his victory which I have previously done but I want to welcome him here. I believe he has an opportunity to serve the people.

[Page 1249]

To the member for Halifax Citadel which I believe for our government was a major victory for the effort that he put in and I believe what he did in that riding has set the stage for the re-election of this government and I want to thank him for that. (Applause)

To Lieutenant Governor Kinley and Mrs. Kinley, I would like to congratulate Their Honours for the fine work that they do on behalf of all of us, our tradition, our history, our heritage across the Province of Nova Scotia. Their work with young Nova Scotians is especially important, as it teaches them about our past, it teaches them about the democratic system we have and the obligations that we all have as Canadians. In these days of questions over our great country's future, the role of Their Honours is important in maintaining and they are assets in national unity. I believe, Mr. Speaker, they do have a role there and they fill it well. I want to thank them on behalf of the people of Cumberland South, as well as the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to represent the constituency of Cumberland South. It is a large constituency and, believe me, it is hard to serve in the traditional manner, from Wentworth to Oxford to River Hebert and Joggins to Minudie, to Advocate, to Fox Harbour, Diligent River, Port Greville, the Town of Parrsboro and all of that area, Springhill, Oxford and all the communities, which are about 50, in between. I have several long distance exchanges to operate within that constituency.

I cannot tell you, Mr. Speaker, or all members of this House and especially the newer ones, how proud I am, as well, to be here, but how proud I am to be Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs because that is where my heart is. I enjoyed Labour, I enjoyed Agriculture but I want to tell you that I enjoy the social aspects of Housing and Municipal Affairs. You can say that I am one of those people to the left and not to the right, within our society, which I enjoy.

Strong and vital communities are in the best interests of our province. The province, as a whole, benefits when our communities are strong. We can and we must support our communities in many ways; through local government by buying Nova Scotian. You have always heard me say how important it is when people go shopping to buy goods that are produced in this province. It doesn't matter if it is Nova Scotia beef, why do people every week, who want benefits from our social system, who want benefits from our highways, who want benefits from what government delivers, why do these people continue to go and buy, be it turkeys from Ontario, apples from B.C. and Washington? It is unbelievable and they should not be doing it. They should be buying goods, be it agriculture or forestry, that are produced here in our province.

I want to tell you, as minister, I spoke in this House many times years ago when I did some research, Mr. Speaker, and it is important for new members to hear this, that in Nova Scotia we pay, in total or in part, for 100,000 meals a day in this province. You take all your universities, you take your community colleges, your schools, your hospitals, your homes for

[Page 1250]

special care, your nursing homes, you take the military bases, take our county or provincial jails or take the federal jails, like we have in Springhill or in Truro, we have a mass of power there. If there is anything we should be working towards, it is ensuring that all government agencies where the taxpayers pay for part of the meals, that those meals are bought in this province from goods produced in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to talk about the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs and our relationship with local government. For the province's 55 municipalities, the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs is a window into the provincial government. I get frustrated when some government departments or government agencies will change the rules or make policy changes without realizing the impact it has on municipalities across Nova Scotia. We represent their interests in our department. I represent their interests in government and in the Cabinet, interests when dealing with government departments and provincial interests in dealing with municipalities.

Much of the liaison between our department and the municipalities falls to our department, from the biggest issues that municipalities are having a problem dealing with to the smallest issues. We try to work hand in hand wherever possible, but we must also remember that is local government and they must make the decisions in most cases, not the provincial government and not the federal government. The provincial government should never make a change until we sit down with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and talk about those changes. We have to deal with it. My staff counsels and advises municipal units, both elected and appointed officials.

In the area of administration and financial planning, accounting reporting, our municipal advisors, whom I believe are the best in Canada, work closely with municipalities, and with their officials, implementing programs and policies that affect them. In addition, the advisor plays a key role in the department with regard to policies which affect municipalities, such as economic and administrative policies.

Over the past year we have placed a real priority on improving these services and communications. We shall continue to do that and to improve our response time. From the enthusiasm that I am receiving and the comments that I receive, I know that we are now being successful, but we have a long way to go; the fight is not over in representing municipal government.

As you know, municipal elections took place on October 18th. It is important to start newly elected officials off on the right foot. A committee made up, not by government, but a committee made up of the Union of Nova Scotian Municipalities - which I think is important and we should listen to them - the Association of Municipal Administrators, the Maritime Municipal Training Development Board, Henson College, and the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs organized a conference. The basis was for municipal government and some 200 people - which was a record - registered for this training. Municipal councillors,

[Page 1251]

wardens and mayors took part in this orientation for the newly elected officials of November 28th and 29th in Halifax.

The enthusiasm was unbelievable with regard to these people. They were very positive with regard to their role and the role of the Nova Scotia Government. The staff in my department played a key role in the conference. We had speakers like the former Mayor of Truro, Doug Carter. It was not government officials. It was people who were agreed to, like the mayor, His Worship Mayor Clark, from Queens County whom I am really impressed with; there were other speakers.

I had the pleasure of addressing the municipal officials recently at the opening of this orientation. Along with my staff - not just the minister - the minister and the staff received a standing ovation, for about three to five minutes at that orientation, for the commitment that my staff made and for the commitment we are making. (Interruption) Yes we have. I will tell you, I am so proud of our staff at the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs, that every day I see so much talent with regard to public servants that we have in government at all levels. I don't care who hired those public servants, I don't care what their politics are but I will tell you right now, their competence and what they do for Nova Scotia is unbelievable and they make a commitment.

[5:00 p.m.]

I want to mention the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Works Program. As the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, there are some things we have to iron out there if we get some more money. It has been a privilege for me to participate in the program and to see the difference that the initiatives have made to help the quality of life of the communities across this province. I cannot say enough about the infrastructure program. It has been so positive for Nova Scotia. Every day I see so much good that has been done by that infrastructure program.

Yes, there has been downloading from the feds to us and yes, there has been downloading from us to the municipalities and I would be crazy if I didn't accept that. But since 1994, a total of $225 million has been committed by the federal, provincial and municipal governments. That is a lot of roads, a lot of sewers, a lot of waterworks, a lot of recreation, a lot of exhibitions and a lot of fire departments across this province and there are some other ones as well.

The province invested $70 million in the original program and we committed a further $14.2 million last February. That is the biggest commitment that the municipalities have ever received in this province by any provincial government in the history of Nova Scotia. Since 1994, there has been $225 million on capital projects, more money than was spent in the previous 10 years in this province of ours. It is great, it has done so much good and every member of this House and I don't care where you are sitting, you should be talking and

[Page 1252]

supporting and writing letters to Ottawa. It is important that we continue to have this project in place in this province. (Applause)

It is the greatest thing that has ever happened to the municipalities in our province. But I am still amazed how some people say, oh, it is just short-term jobs. I want to tell you if you put in a waterline, if you build sidewalks, if you build streets, or you put in a sewer, I want to tell you, it is not a short-term job. It is there to serve our children, the community's children and their grandchildren. We must continue to address the core infrastructure. We have spent more money in the last three years than was spent in the previous 12. I believe that demonstrates a remarkable commitment to jobs, economic growth and to the community and to the municipalities that needed so much help.

We can talk about downloading. You count the figures up and look what has gone in of provincial and federal funds. If we could get three years to five more years of that, we would be the healthiest and the best province in Canada when it came to infrastructure. Every member of this House should congratulate the federal, provincial and municipal governments that have been true partners in this program. It has been a great help to the rural communities. I go into rural communities where they can't afford the improvements they need in fire halls or communications with volunteer fire departments. This infrastructure program has made it possible for those volunteers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, housing is another important factor to a healthy community, like an affordable house. Nova Scotia Housing has to change and I know people don't like change. An aging population and an aging housing stock, we have to rethink the way we provide social housing in the Province of Nova Scotia. We must achieve the greatest benefits with the resources that we have available. We need a strategy to meet the more pressing housing needs, particularly, and let's not forget it, for low income, for middle incomes. We have families where the husband and wife are both working and making maybe $7.00, $8.00 or $9.00 per hour. I will take all the jobs I can get tomorrow in my area at $9.00 per hour but it does not enable those people to have a home that they can call their own with equity. If there is anything we must do through this Assembly, we must develop programs that will help these people from Cape Breton to Yarmouth, from Yarmouth to the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border because we need it there.

We need to move with the times so that we can provide the resources that Nova Scotians need now and into the future. The government knows that, my predecessors, the committee of people from the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs, the Departments of Health, Community Services and Finance, were given a mandate to review the current programs and to develop a provincial housing strategy for the next five years and it should be looked at every five years. The committee looked at population trends, housing activity in Nova Scotia, housing programs, services in the province. In addition, the committee held four regional meetings for local input across Nova Scotia.

[Page 1253]

Mr. Speaker, the review was necessary. It had to be done. For one thing, the province's population is aging. You know, my colleagues, that the number of people over the age of 75 - and you all should remember this when you are developing programs - but the number of people over the age of 75 will increase by 37 per cent over the next 10 years in this province of ours. Now if we don't start dealing with that issue and start bringing in programs that are going to help this situation, then I don't know who the minister will be or who the government will be in 10 years but I want to tell you something, we are heading towards a disaster if we don't deal with those things and start dealing with them now.

Older people have different housing needs. We need a system that can respond to those needs. Another factor is the age of the buildings themselves. Housing in Nova Scotia, and many of you people may not realize it, but housing in Nova Scotia is among the oldest in Canada. Almost 30 per cent of our housing was built more than 50 years ago. Older housing requires regular maintenance and repairs to keep it in the type of condition that families can live in or seniors. As well, our commitment to Nova Scotians remains. We must make a commitment to keep them in their homes as long as possible.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's past, present and future is in many ways tied to our natural resources, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism and small business. We should spend our money in this province in those avenues. We must develop fast service programs. Many times small business gets turned off; they feel it takes too long to drag out the paperwork. We must look at that and we must change it because small business, agriculture, forestry, tourism and fisheries are what we are all about in this province. Those natural resources paid for and built this building and kept it going. Everything we enjoy today, most of it comes from the natural resources. We must rededicate ourselves and we must make the commitment to natural resources in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I have already spoken about local communities. It is not good enough just to hear Guy Brown in here speaking about local communities when you, your family and the 52 members in this House, and those who work here, they hear me through the PA system, I want to tell you they have to make that commitment and they have to talk to their friends, their family and their neighbours to support the Nova Scotia communities.

Tourism. Nova Scotia is a beautiful province and many people from Halifax go to Cumberland, many go to Yarmouth, and many go to Cape Breton, but we must multiply that. We must try to spend our money in our local community; it does not matter where it is in Nova Scotia.

When our government came to office, we had a serious financial situation. We were sworn in, in June, and I considered myself lucky and I thank the former Premier, Mr. Savage, for accepting me and appointing me to the Cabinet. It was a learning experience that was unbelievable. Bernie Boudreau was our Minister of Finance. My colleagues can tell you - and I am not talking about Cabinet secrets so I won't mention where it happened - we were only

[Page 1254]

sworn in and, about two to three weeks later, our creditors sent a message to us: clean up your act in this province. Get your finances under control or we are going to do it for you. That was the message we got, if we would have continued going in the same way.

Isn't it interesting, the Auditor General, about a month or two ago, some people who are here in the committee - I am not on that committee - when the question was put, and I do not know exactly the question, but was Nova Scotia on its way to bankruptcy? What did the Auditor General say in 1993? He said if things had not changed. We had to work with that and we had to face that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Was he the same Auditor General that said we didn't really have a . . .

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: No, actually it was a different guy.

MR. BROWN: I am not aware of the Auditor General changing since we were elected, so it would have to be the same guy. When our government came to office, this situation, and I tell you it was difficult, the government under Premier Savage had to make some very serious decisions. I was criticized. Everybody that was in that government was criticized. We had no choice for many of those decisions. I really have no regrets. I am glad, as a politician, that I was there and I was in Cabinet when we made some of those difficult decisions at that time.

The net direct debt per capita in Nova Scotia was unbelievable when we came in in 1993 and now today. You have all seen the article, what all the provinces are paying to service their debts. Look at Nova Scotia, the one in the black, we are paying more money in this province to service the debt than any other province in Canada.

[5:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Why?

MR. BROWN: Because of the financial situation in this province when we came in. Anyway, I want to tell you that it is unbelievable. Do you know what I could do for social housing if we were paying $100 million less on our debt in this province? Do you know what we could do for agriculture or for highways all across this province or for development? If the Minister of Finance had $100 million less that he had to be responsible for, do you know what a Liberal Government could do? We have a social conscience and we believe in helping those in need.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, even with all those difficult choices, we increased the PSA payments each year when other governments were cutting them back 3 per cent and 4 per cent and 5 per cent and 10 per cent. That is Liberalism, we looked after those people. I am

[Page 1255]

proud of those decisions, the 3 per cent wage roll-back. I want to tell you, what did we do? The former government when they introduced their roll-back they included everybody. They took the money from the municipalities. What did we do? (Interruptions) Yes, we rolled back but I want to tell you something, we exempted all those people under $25,000 a year income. That is what we did. (Applause)

I want to tell you another thing, Mr. Speaker, we did not take the money from the municipalities. The money was left in the municipal Treasury for them to do what they wanted to do, we did not take it.

Mr. Speaker, do you ever realize what headlines like this do when you are talking about economic development? "N.S. deepest in debt - report", in Canada. I think we are about 106. You know I hear people talking about NAFTA and the big responsibility we took on with Mexico. Well, I want to tell you Mexico is about half as bad as we are here in this province when it comes to debt within that country, and that is a headline and that is a fact. So when they are talking about NAFTA they are talking about the debt in Mexico. Let them open their eyes a little bit that not in total dollars, but in percentage terms, Nova Scotia is twice as bad as Mexico with regard to the debt (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, and I don't want to get off track when we have only 10 minutes left. We came in here and there was not a budget. There was $600 million we didn't have to pay the bills. The last few months this crowd was in power, they never paid the bills that they should have and we were faced with those when we got elected and a Treasury that was short on operating, $619 million. They also sold Nova Scotia Power and it was going to be the greatest thing that ever happened; we opposed it. What happened to the $200 million to $300 million they got for Nova Scotia Power? Was it spent on the highways? Was it spent on social housing? There hasn't been a co-op program in equity built under that government in 15 years. Not one.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame!

MR. BROWN: I will tell you, I will debate here all night but there is a deal that I am finished around 5:30 p.m., I think.

AN HON. MEMBER: Take as long as you want.

MR. BROWN: No, I am not. (Interruptions) No. (Interruptions)

Anyway, you know health care is the most serious issue facing Nova Scotians and what we have to deal with but we are dealing with it through the Minister of Health, through this government. And yes, there are two sides to every story. Let me remind each member about the positive things that have happened to health care. Yes, I would like to have another five

[Page 1256]

beds in Springhill and I have been working with the Minister of Health on that. In the northern region we are now doing a space allocation study.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. BROWN: In the northern region, we are doing and carrying out a space allocation study. You know, my friends - I am sorry, Mr. Speaker - but, Mr. Speaker, through you to all members, I want you to listen well. The people in Oxford used to have to pay $10 to $15 to come to Springhill to have a blood test done. What are we doing now? Through the foundation, we are doing the test right in the Oxford area.

I want to tell you, River Hebert, Joggins and Minudie, which I love and I feel very proud about, those people used to pay $15 and $20 to go to Amherst to have their blood tests done, sometimes two or three times a week. What are we doing now? We are doing the blood tests now in that area for those seniors, those low-income people, who couldn't get them done before. We are doing them in the medical centre in the River Hebert area for that community. It's a great program and I feel very proud of that and I thank all those involved in dealing with that.

The Highland View Hospital in Amherst runs the River Hebert and Joggins incentive program for doctors that we introduced. I want to tell you, I want to congratulate the Medical Society for supporting the agreement; some were opposed but a big percentage voted for that agreement. I think all Nova Scotians should thank them for that. Now people who opposed it, I wish they would accept the agreement instead of going on. The incentive program, we have three doctors in the Springhill and Oxford area. We have a doctor in the River Hebert and Joggins area. We have one in Advocate, in that area, five minutes. So that is important and with new beds. You know that was a major step forward, I believe. I am very fortunate to have those incentive positions. Doctors cannot and will not work seven days a week, 365 days a year and I believe the Minister of Health, with his agreement, is starting to resolve that problem.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who caused the problem?

MR. BROWN: We never caused it. The writing was on the wall when we got there. You know, all this didn't happen overnight - on the wall a long time ago. So I thank these doctors and I thank the Minister of Health and we will continue to make improvements.

I want to tell you about the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. I just want to tell you per capita, Nova Scotia $514, Prince Edward Island $178, Ontario $432, Saskatchewan $234, British Columbia $395, Newfoundland $361, Quebec $427, Manitoba $381, Alberta $381 and New Brunswick $371. We all have to be involved in an educational program when it comes to prescription drugs in this province.

[Page 1257]

Now I wanted to talk a little bit about highways and I heard the word toll. I get very frustrated in dealing with this issue. We did not select the route. The Department of the Environment under the Honourable Terence Donahoe who served this House well for a long time and his brother and his father before him, gave his approval in this memo dated March 1993. (Interruption) We came up with the same one because we were too far in it. (Interruptions) Listen, Mr. Speaker, they had people working there cutting bush and they had secured land and do you know why? There was an election on, that is why.

The Minister of Transportation at the time, his statements were so good where they supported that toll highway.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you want to read it?

MR. BROWN: No, I haven't got time. We all got it and the other day a constituent contacted my office and wanted the information. I sent it out and heard from the constituent last night and he said, I didn't know that Guy. Well a lot of people are going to know that it was picked out by them, (Interruption) Pity, he says, that we had the money. Well I am going to tell you the clippings, we are going to use some of those on another day, of Donald Cameron with a federal minister who said, oh no, you are not going to build that like you thought you were in two or three years and they rejected the Cameron proposal. It would have been five years to eight years before that highway would have been built under their direction.

I want to tell you another thing while I am on my feet. I wonder who the MP was that now has everything to say about the route? (Interruptions) Listen, Mr. Speaker, let me tell you the MP was Bill Casey. Where was he in 1991 and 1992 when the agreement was signed? Where was he? Where was his leadership then? Isn't it funny he has a problem today with the route and the whole package but in 1991 and 1992 he went down the road and kept very quiet with regard to that issue.

I realize my time is up but I would love to keep this House entertained for another hour or two to talk about issues. Due to an agreement, we can't do that. Before I sit down I want to now have the motion called with regard to the vote on the Speech From the Throne. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: If there are no further speakers on the Address in Reply to the Speech From the Throne, that ends the debate. We must now deal with the motion and the amendment to the motion placed before the House. It was moved on the 20th of November by the member for Pictou East that the Speech do pass.

[Page 1258]

[5:00 p.m.]

It was amended on November 21st by the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party with the following words:

"That this House lacks confidence in this Government because:

(1) The Speech from the Throne completely fails to show leadership in dealing with the real problems of economic insecurity and deteriorating health care, education and social programs and instead of showing real leadership in dealing with the issues, concerns and priorities of Nova Scotians, the Throne Speech offers nothing but a pre-election smorgasbord of pie-in-the-sky promises.".

That was the amendment moved on November 21st.

We will vote first on the amendment.

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

The amendment is carried in the negative.

We will vote on the main motion which is that the Speech as read by the Lieutenant Governor do pass.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

Order, please.

Ordered that the Address as a whole do pass. Ordered that the Address be engrossed. Ordered that the Address be presented to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor by such members of the House as are of the Executive Council.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GUY BROWN: Before the House rises, I would like to indicate to the members that the Minister of Finance tomorrow will be tabling during Statements By Ministers the second quarterly report for 1997-1998. I want to give you that advance warning.

I also tomorrow will do bills on third reading. In my chats with the Opposition House Leaders, we expect the Lieutenant Governor to be here from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and we will deal with the good-byes and the thank yous tomorrow. Thank you.

[Page 1259]

MR. SPEAKER: Do we have a motion for adjournment at this time then?

It is agreed.

The motion is that the House now adjourn to sit again tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.

We will now move on to the Adjournment debate, the late show. The winner of the draw as conducted by the Clerk earlier in the day was the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party who submitted the following resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that, as the New Brunswick Government has done, this government admit that its public to private-for-profit road and school schemes have been failures.".

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: Substituting for the honourable Leader of the NDP is the honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

GOV'T. (N.S.) - PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS:

FAILURE - ADMIT

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of our motion which once again focuses some of our Party's efforts on the serious problems that surround the whole issue of public-private partnering in the construction of both the Cobequid Pass and the schools.

I just want to talk. I am not particularly going to refer to the toll highway, although it qualifies under this resolution. I want to focus in my few minutes on the schools. We have spent a lot of time on this in this House. Our Party has devoted a lot of energy to raising questions about this particular set of deals that seem to be in the making for the construction of a few very highly technological and super, if you want to call them, schools. We have spent a lot of time on it, Mr. Speaker, not because we want to constantly bait and tease the government so that they can bait and tease us back, we are not cynical about this at all. I refuse to believe that the government is cynical about this either. I have more faith in people than to think that, even with all the bickering and the catcalling, that the government doesn't take this issue very seriously and I am going to give them the benefit of that tonight.

We raise the questions and we raise two kinds of questions, essentially. We have raised questions about the money and we have raised questions about the quality of education, Mr. Speaker. We raise the questions about the money not just for reasons of fiscal responsibility,

[Page 1260]

but because if you follow the money then you eventually get to the consequences of the money and therefore to what is, if you like, by the backdoor or by inference, becoming educational policy in this province. So if we follow the money, we will eventually get to what it is that Nova Scotian school children will have in the future in this province. The problem is that we just don't know.

This resolution mentions New Brunswick for a reason. The Telegraph Journal has several articles in the last two days. I am not going to read them. The members can read them themselves. Yesterday in particular, I do want to mention, though, what they are about. The New Brunswick Justice Minister, James Lockyer, went to a conference in Toronto in November. He went to the Canadian Council on Public-Private Partnerships Conference and he made a speech there, Mr. Speaker, which I guess we didn't hear much about.

The Telegraph Journal went looking for it, apparently, and yesterday recounted some of the minister's statements that he made in Toronto in November about the whole question of public-private partnering. What he said was extremely revealing because the questions that he raised about his own government are the same questions that we have raised over and over again, both in public and to the minister in letters, through freedom of information requests and finally, in this House.

There are so many questions that they have begun to discover very disheartening answers to which we ought to listen. Mr. Speaker, the first thing that he points out is that there is no legislation there, and that is also true here, for how to conduct public-private partnering contracts. Because of their own experience there, he says that legislation will be inevitable.

Mr. Speaker, he suggests some of the problems that have come with it in New Brunswick and they have had several rather spectacular failures with public-private partnering and New Brunswick taxpayers have paid the price for it with compensations and various payouts to avoid lawsuits. New Brunswick says we have learned some lessons here.

One of the things that the Justice Minister of New Brunswick says is that public-private partnering fell apart because nobody clearly understood what they were trying to accomplish. Now, it may be that somebody over there on the other side of the House does understand what the government is trying to accomplish. We are not sure that we do and if we do, we think it is in error. We think it is a mistake because if the goal is to establish a sharply distinct two-tiered education system, if that is what the stated goal and the real goal is, most Nova Scotians would not want that.

This minister warned that governments should pay attention to every single detail and cement every single detail before plunging into any of these partnerships, Mr. Speaker. We know that that has not happened here. We know what the situation is. I am not going to go all through it again. We know that we are still waiting for leases on the schools that are open

[Page 1261]

and functioning. We know there is very little paper trail, insofar as anybody can see, that shows what each person and each group's responsibility is when it comes to beyond the construction and into the living with, the leasing and all that goes with it, of these schools. The New Brunswick Justice Minister says that New Brunswick has learned it the hard way.

The other thing he said that was extremely telling, Mr. Speaker, was he talked about the spiralling and escalating, rapidly escalating to use his word, costs of these projects. In one case a project in New Brunswick went, I believe, from $2.4 million to, I think it was $8.4 million. So the Liberal Government in New Brunswick has been putting the brakes on these. The minister has admitted in public, in a speech about a month ago, to the problems that brought them to this decision, to this dead halt, if you like, when it came to public-private partnering.

These are the questions we have been asking and these are the questions we have had no satisfaction about. Mr. Speaker, these questions, as I said, are about money, but if you follow the money to education, which is what we are supposed to be dealing with when we build schools, we have the cart before the horse, we are saying we have to rearrange the books of this province in order to get something that is satisfactory to the voters. Well, let me tell you, parents are voters, too. All over this province there are parents with concerns about the way education is unfolding here.

Has anybody asked them, what is your choice here? What is it that would meet the needs but that would be fair to everyone, Mr. Speaker? What we have now is not going to be fair to everyone and worse, it is my firm conviction that it is going to have to come to a dead halt the way it did in New Brunswick, before much more time has elapsed. What are we going to do then? We are going to have a system in Nova Scotia where we have a few elite schools and we have all the grief everywhere else that comes from old or rickety or too small or unhealthy - or all of the above - schools for everybody else. So we are going to have us and we are going to have them and that is the way it is going to be and there is going to be a big mess to clean up.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would say, put all the rhetoric aside and let's find out what it is that is truly best for the children of this province. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honorable Minister of Education and Culture.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I would welcome the final statement of that member, to put the rhetoric aside, and I wish that her Party was able to do that. Unfortunately, when we provide information to them, the information is distorted, it is twisted, it is used for malicious political gain. It is not designed to really educate the population on what might be a very successful way of meeting needs. I would challenge the member opposite to put on this table, or anywhere for that matter, any $30 million expense

[Page 1262]

for a school. She full well knows, having given her the information over and over again, that the maximum contract is $25.7 million.

However, let's put aside the distortion that the NDP would like to create over the issue of the private sector involvement and let's look at a booklet that they have just received today, I understand that one of them has just read it or partially. Let me refer to Page 4. First of all, one of the reasons that New Brunswick is admitting failure, if that, in fact, is what Jim Lockyer is admitting, is that they don't have the public servants in their province that have published this kind of work.

I want to commend here and now the people who have worked on innovation and public partnering because they are leading the nation. One could argue, in fact, when you look at Great Britain and the United States, to whom they have sourced, that they may be leading North America, if not the world, in trying to come to terms with a province on the brink of bankruptcy and the needs of our children. So I want to commend the public servants of this province who have worked diligently on an innovation for quite some time now - about two and one-half years - for the quality of their work and I would commend this booklet to New Brunswick because if Jim Lockyer, in fact, made those statements, there is much in this book that New Brunswick could learn about how to ensure success.

The member opposite says that we have to stop this process because it will surely lead to failures, mess, destruction, we will have to pick up the pieces. She talks about equity and those are all real concerns, the equity part. There will be no failures and there is no mess. We will build the schools, we will do so in an innovative way. Others will be coming to learn how we did it and the examples she can find in three communities.

[5:45 p.m.]

Let me quote just one objective that I think is at the heart of much of this, although there are many facets to this. On Page 4, one of the objectives of public-private partnerships is to ensure participatory planning for the facility to accommodate programs and services both now and in the future. Students, staff, school board, the province, the community at large and the private sector are involved in the design and the construction of the facility.

I can't imagine an NDP policy statement anywhere, nationally or provincially, that does not attempt to maximize public input. Yet, here we are dooming this to failure and mess when, in fact, the very people who are part of the design process are the communities themselves.

We have a blessed nation, rich in natural resources, rich in heritage, the benefits of which have built, as the United Nations would suggest, the finest nation on earth. Yet we are profoundly affected by major shifts in our world right at the moment, a new economy that is centered on knowledge, on information and the human skills and competencies that are

[Page 1263]

needed to deal with these profound changes. When you add the layer of globalization to all of that, we have a society in the midst of probably one of the most fundamental transformations in history.

Our future must be found in innovation. The future of this province is that it become a province that sparkles with innovation. The future of our nation is surely the ability of Canada to harness its ingenuity and to become a nation, not just known as the finest nation on earth in which to live by the United Nation but a nation that sparkles with innovation.

We have public servants who have spent their time building an innovative way, at a time when we lack resources, to offer basic infrastructure, public schools and they simply set a target to build the finest in the country, perhaps even the finest in the world. They added to the target that it must involve the community. We know that we can't borrow any money so one of the first benefits - and again, the members opposite can read this document, I am confident that this document will be widely read throughout Canada, the first benefit - has to be that the taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment, that we do so, if possible, with Nova Scotia companies so that the economy also benefits.

Let me go beyond the basic return on investment arguments here because if we are to become a province that sparkles with innovation then everything we do from reforming our health care system and our emergency medicine, to building highways, to providing schools for our children, everything must be an investment in capacity building. Everything we do, although we lead the world as the finest country on earth in which to live, we have dropped from 4th place in productivity and competitiveness, to 19th in the world. In other words, while the UN creates accolades for our value system, our life and our quality of life, it is in peril because we are not maximizing our innovation.

Step one, stop the out-sourcing. Stop having to go to other places for the things that Nova Scotians can do well. Step two, build the capacity within the province. There are 10 consortia, Nova Scotia-based companies, ready to bid when any school expression of interest is tendered. When those companies line up, some from away, some from home, what we are doing is building a capacity for school construction that involves the community.

We develop the confidence here but more importantly, the educational, industrial base, technological base, community input, the value that these people, these teachers, these community members are adding. They have actually designed new classrooms to maximize children's ability to infuse technology into the curriculum, not to just learn how to use computers but how to enhance teaching by their use. That was created in community meetings with architects and technological people; Team Nova Scotia sitting down to design the best schools in the world.

[Page 1264]

The financing of them, as the member opposite should be able to read in here, is as innovative as the school itself, the ability to get the debt off the books of the province, to do off-book leasing, to do it less expensively than if we borrowed our own money.

The ability that Nova Scotians have to be innovative on all aspects of this project, whether it is a highway, whether it is a school, whether it is partnering with Justice on family violence, whether it is creating Innovacorp, or a new ambulance system, from out-sourcing, to capacity-building, to export. My wife has an uncle who is 96. He was a crew member on the original Bluenose. He suffered a stroke and is in Camp Hill and may be watching. He said, Robbie, I don't want you to ever forget that Lunenburg in the 1930's was a 100 per cent export community. I said, Uncle Claude, what do you mean? Well, he said, we made everything. We made the ropes, the wood, the vessels, everything, from the forests, from the community around, absolutely everything and we exported 100 per cent of it. We sold to the world. We were world traders. He said, when you looked out in Lunenburg Harbour there were hundreds of vessels there. The turnbuckles, the metal, the design of the ships, everything was exported. The ingenuity of Nova Scotians was a world export, products, services, processes. We did not need for anything. We did not out-source anything. We simply were a 100 per cent export community.

That is five decades ago. Here we have now the opportunity again as Nova Scotians, whether we are building schools or highways, to be as innovative as we can, to build competencies and then to export them. We can do so economically and benefit the taxpayers, but more important, become known as a province, part of a nation that sparkles with innovation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: There are about two minutes of speaking time here.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, two minutes left and there is not really much more to say. I think the minister said it very well. The issue is, what is public-private partnering? Government for years has partnered together with the private sector building roads, hospitals, schools, you name it, we have been doing it for decades. The issue is that while we were doing it in the past, we were doing it with a process with one thing in mind. We did not have to pay for it right away. We simply borrowed from our children or our grandchildren. The principle here is that that did not smell all that bad maybe 15 years ago, to be able to do that. The reality is, with $9 billion worth of debt roughly speaking, it is starting to have its odour.

We, as a province, had to make a fundamental choice of not only maintaining the fiscal sanity of the province but, at the same time, building and maintaining an infrastructure to save lives, to teach children, to provide health care work, whatever the process is, to be able to maintain the inherent opportunities for our children and for our people's safety. That is why

[Page 1265]

we went ahead with a concept of public-private partnering that is not necessarily unique in the world, but in fact is unique to Canada. We were world leaders and national leaders in the fact that we dared to go forward with a concept that was uniquely different.

There are three things in life that are absolute in Nova Scotia, death, taxes and resistance to change. Obviously the members sitting opposite very much agree with that concept because they do not want to accept change. The reality is we were forced to make that change because of decades of going ahead and living on the credit card of our grandchildren.

What we have been able to do is allow the private sector to come forward with a concept that allows them to build and us to be able to move off-balance sheet to allow those qualities to Nova Scotians. We have been able to do that and supported by the Auditor General, supported by people in our community and the people of this province put pride in that service.

Just as an example, in the last three days at the Cobequid Pass, where everybody is saying it is so bad and people will not use it and not support it, we are now 89 percent above our target volume of traffic for cars and 34 per cent above the target for trucks. People use it because they know it works. Public-private partnering has allowed us to start a new industry in Nova Scotia that will be world-class and exportable world-wide. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting question that has been put before us tonight to debate. I want to thank the NDP for the motion that we are about to debate. I think there is a fundamental issue that has not been addressed by our speakers here tonight.

Members tonight have been talking about examples instead of actually the mechanics of what needs to be discussed about public-private partnering. When I say the mechanics, this Party is not opposed to public-private partnering in principle, but there have to be conditions and it has to be sound.

When we go to the Public Accounts Committee and examine the public-private partnering, if it is with schools, we notice that they are not operational leases or they are not capital leases or they are not released yet. We notice that the people of Nova Scotia have financed those school constructions and they are not on anybody's balance sheets at this point, so it is really very hard to be taking credit for something that has not happened yet.

When it is provable that public-private partnering, that a lease for a school is actually a dollar value put to a private contractor before the facility is built, then we have a process maybe that has strong credibility attached to it, that the competitiveness has been addressed

[Page 1266]

for that facility and that the best deal has been gotten for the taxpayer. We can all stand up here and argue whether the principal payment, plus interest, equals the lease payment or not at the end of the day, and we will; that debate will continue in the future.

The process is flawed if the facility is built before the lease arrangement is completed. I think all members of this House would recognize that; I would hope. That is the principle that is up for debate tonight, in my mind, and members of the PC Party are extremely concerned about and have tried, over the last several weeks, to point that out to this House. It is that particular point, it is not the public-private partnership that is under debate, it is the process of that public-private partnership that is under debate.

I would like to spend a little time, rather than on the semantics of which community will get a bells and whistles school or which won't, it is absolutely critical that every child, young person and adult, so wishing, has proper education. That is what we are all here for and I think that is everybody's goal. The degree of the list, or the capital construction list for new school construction, members of this House, the government, will decide that. Everybody will put their best pitch forward for their community.

There are six schools out there though that need to come under some type of program to ensure that we don't spend additional money throughout the system trying to fix those six situations.

I want to spend some time on a situation which was called public-private partnering - and there are many variations on whether it truly is or not - and that is Highway No. 104. The debate on the actual roadbed, the facility itself, I think is a side issue that gets mixed in. I think most people will agree that it is a good stretch of road and this member has not been complaining that it is not a good stretch of road. The maintenance of the road, certainly the upkeep, those things will be under debate. Snow removal is under debate, as to whether it is cleared soon enough, and the weather conditions, but that has nothing to do with the public-private partnering and the building of the road.

Everyone can argue whether there should be emergency pull-offs, extra lanes, the widths of roads. Those things are safety related issues that are taken into concern when any road is being built and the minister is charged with ensuring that those happen.

What I want to talk about tonight is the supposed public-private partnering which is the toll on that road. That has been the essence of the issue from people who live in the northern end of the province. It is that very issue, it is a fairness issue if you are a citizen such as the honourable member for Cumberland South or a member such as myself, from Cumberland North, the only two members of this House who pay to travel on a 100-Series Highway to come to the Legislature in this province. That is the equity issue that the people of Cumberland County have been trying to address and that is the one they are concerned about, the equity issue. Why would we, as citizens of Nova Scotia, pay a toll - a tax or whatever you

[Page 1267]

want to address it as - to come to the Legislature in Halifax when no other member, whether they are from Cape Breton, the Valley, the Halifax-Truro corridor, has to pay the same charge. The equity issue.

[6:00 p.m.]

The other issue is that by Act of this House creating the Highway No. 104 agreement, does a company that is 100 per cent owned by the Province of Nova Scotia, is that really a private company whether an Act says it is or not, when the sole shareholder of that company is the taxpayers of Nova Scotia or the Province of Nova Scotia? That has been the subject of a huge amount of debate over the last year. Obviously, one federal member from our area has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to prove that fact or push that fact forward. It has made for some strong and lively debate over the last year.

The financing of that road under those terms when there is no private company, in this member's estimation, the construction company, those private companies that built main series roads in Nova Scotia for the past 30 years - they are the same private companies that were involved in the construction of this road - whether government hires them or a company solely owned by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia hires them, in my estimation does not make it a private partnership. When you look at the financing and how the financing was done and specifically if we go to the bondholders agreement where there are 13 articles and if any one of those 13 articles is contravened, the bond company, Newcourt Credit Corporation and specifically those three bonds, there is a page at the end there, that states that if any one of those 13 articles are contravened, either the Province of Nova Scotia will immediately pay them out or the Province of Nova Scotia assumes the liability for that agreement. (Interruption)

That is right. Thank you, Mr. Minister, for correcting me properly.

Those are the terms of those bondholder agreements. We said on the average about 2.5 per cent interest. I try to be very correct at the current time that the road was opened rather than using figures that were older and trying to stretch it over time; 2.25 per cent is probably a fairly close approximation on how much more it cost over current rates to access that money for the construction of that highway.

Those figures, when you compare them to the Province of Nova Scotia owning the highway and with the probability that they may have to own the highway and through the roadbed that we already own make it very questionable whether one would term that, in this member's view, a public-private partnership.

Also, I want to address the time-frame. There was $55 million in 1993 through the SHIP agreement for that highway. In the 1993 election soon-to-be-Premier Savage made the statement that he was not satisfied with the agreement and he would halt it. Well, the

[Page 1268]

agreement was halted, the route was examined, and if my memory serves me correctly, what we received from that reassessment was that the route was fine. We will look at it for 18 months and when that 18-month period was over, we ended up with a toll highway.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the adjournment debate has expired.

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 6:05 p.m.]