MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We can commence the daily routine at this time.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Environmental Control Council for the period ended December 31, 1993.
MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTIONS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.
HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Richard (Dick) Huggard has served the Province of Nova Scotia in the agri-food industry with pride and distinction for 37 years; and
Whereas on October 31, 1994, Dick Huggard retired as Deputy Minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing following long and dedicated service to all Nova Scotians;
Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the substantial contributions made by Mr. Huggard to agriculture and wish him well in his future endeavours.
Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried. (Applause)
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 119 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Hon. Richard Mann)
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas yesterday the provincial government, with great fanfare and self-congratulation, announced the creation of 260 jobs in Nova Scotia; and
Whereas yesterday the Liberal-dominated joint Senate-Commons Committee on defence review made recommendations which, if implemented, will result in the loss to Nova Scotia and particularly metro, of at least 2,500 direct jobs, 10 times those announced yesterday; and
Whereas the Premier has, to date, been equivocal with respect to where his government stands on defence restructuring, downsizing and re-equipping;
Therefore be it resolved that the Premier make a definitive statement to Nova Scotians, explaining what his government's policy is with respect to the defence presence in Nova Scotia and to changes recommended by the Joint Senate-Commons Committee, what the net impact of implementation of the joint committee recommendations would be on the Nova Scotian economy and what actions the provincial government is taking to avert implementation of the joint committee's recommendations.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Ultramar Canada gained permission under the Competition Act to operate a large retail and wholesale gasoline and heating fuel business by agreeing to also operate its Dartmouth refinery; and
Whereas Ultramar invested heavily to expand its Quebec refinery and refused to sell its Nova Scotia refinery as a unit, while claiming it can neither sell nor afford to keep running the Dartmouth operation; and
Whereas competition laws serve the public interest by preventing monopoly and near-monopoly situations in which large companies like Ultramar can carve up and exploit a market;
Therefore be it resolved that this House agrees to participate in and support a consumer boycott of Ultramar products, if that company insists on keeping its retail-wholesale operations in Nova Scotia, without paying the price by sustaining the secure, well-trained jobs of its Dartmouth refinery and associated facilities.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice which requires unanimous consent. Is there consent?
Is it agreed?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas Cy Steele has been playing old time music for dancing and pleasure for many people in the Pictou and Truro areas for over 50 years; and
Whereas on Friday night past at the DeCoste Entertainment Centre in Pictou, Cy Steele and two of his original band members from 50 years ago, Olaf and Carson Grosvold, were honoured for their accomplishments over the past number of years;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature pay tribute to Cy Steele and his band for their contribution to music over the past half century and wish them well.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice which requires unanimous consent. Is there consent?
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Joint Committee of the Commons and Senate yesterday recommended that the federal government "pay greater attention, and invest greater effort resources, in the Pacific"; and
Whereas the committee suggests this be achieved by moving Maritime Command to Ottawa and substantially reducing the Navy's already thin capacity to defend sovereignty along the Atlantic Coast and eastern Arctic; and
Whereas this is no time for quiet diplomacy or political niceties of the sort that saw CFB Cornwallis shut down, despite the Prime Minister's assurances;
Therefore be it resolved that this House asserts its intention to mobilize against any scheme to weaken the defence of Canada's sovereignty along the Atlantic or to wipe out a Nova Scotia-based command structure that has world-wide significance today, as it has had for more than 200 years.
Mr. Speaker, 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 here several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas on September 2nd, the Minister of Municipal Affairs wrote every council to assure them once provincial level issues were dealt with, a meeting of the provincial-municipal Coordinating Committee would be held; and
Whereas the minister wrote further "I want to stress that no final decisions have been made and we will continue to consult with the UNSM as the program proceeds"; and
Whereas the minister proceeded to trash those commitments and shock the UNSM by unveiling a service exchange without consultation, which does not resemble the jointly-planned reform;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Municipal Affairs should try to regain some credibility by withdrawing Bill No. 114 and proceeding to meet with the Coordinating Committee on municipal reform, as she promised several weeks ago.
MR. SPEAKER: I ruled yesterday that resolutions dealing with bills now before the House, as this bill is, Bill No. 114, are out of order. Therefore, that resolution will not be tabled.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas free collective bargaining is a building block of a cohesive, modern economy, capable of meeting challenges with the skill and resources of the entire population - labour and capital; and
Whereas this government scornfully defeated every amendment that would have maintained public sector collective bargaining within the spending or wage limits imposed unilaterally by the Liberals; and
Whereas this same government has held exclusive weekend meetings with hand-picked groups of corporate representatives, while dodging and weaving to avoid a real discussion with labour;
Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this House it is not too late for a humble person to recognize the error of their ways and to honour their commitments by restoring full collective bargaining instead of undermining the trust necessary for good labour-management relations in years to come.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas five days ago the Minister of Municipal Affairs proudly told this House in the first Ministerial Statement of the sitting that "the public is ready and wants amalgamation; an independent study done last July indicates that 67 per cent of metro area residents support combining the four existing local governments"; and
Whereas even the government's all-powerful appointed commissioner of Cape Breton amalgamation has stated that "if people don't buy into it, no form of government will work";
Therefore be it resolved that before the Premier tries to tell Nova Scotians which polls count and which polls don't count, he should look in a mirror to realize that both sides of his mouth can be seen at the same time.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas effective today, municipal, hospital, school, provincial and other public servants in Nova Scotia become the only ones in Canada to have their wages permanently reduced, without negotiation, in many years; and
Whereas net provincial debt was $4.8 billion when the first so-called temporary wage rollback was imposed in 1991, but net debt is climbing past the $8 billion mark this year; and
Whereas relentless pounding of public servants has clearly resulted in demoralization, further insecurity and economic disruption without causing a fundamental fiscal improvement;
Therefore be it resolved that the day tens of thousands of public servants, denied collective bargaining, have their wages rolled back still further, permanently, is an occasion to admit the error of Donald Cameron's ways and restore collective bargaining.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The Premier on a point of order.
HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, this is a small matter. You may have noticed that I am wearing one of these badges and I would appreciate it, after we have started this, if everybody would wear one, simply because it makes it easier for commissionaires who are new, to recognize people.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: We don't have one.
THE PREMIER: You have to go over, Mr. Speaker, and get your photograph taken at the usual place.
MR. SPEAKER: I will take the matter under advisement. Are there any other points that honourable members wish to raise at this time?
The Clerk has conducted a draw for the debate on the Adjournment motion at 6:00 p.m. and the successful winner this afternoon is the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party. Her resolution reads: "Resolved that present and past management practices by Devco, raise serious concerns about the future of the coal industry in Cape Breton", and we will hear from her on that matter at 6:00 p.m.
We are ready now to advance to Orders of the Day. Now the time being 2:17 p.m., the Oral Question Period on Tuesday runs for an hour and will run therefore until 3:17 p.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. As I am sure the Premier well knows our province and particularly a large part of that in this metro area, is home to about 65 per cent of Canada's naval force. With the release yesterday of the Liberal-dominated parliamentary defence committee's review, Nova Scotia would, as I understand the potential impact of that document, run the risk of losing approximately 3,000 direct jobs, 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, probably as much as hundreds of millions of dollars of payroll and as I say, a great deal of that in the metropolitan area.
My question therefore to the Premier is simply this, does the Premier first of all, recognize the devastating implications such suggestions would hold for the Nova Scotian economy and for our air, sea search and rescue capabilities and has the Premier requested an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister and/or his Minister of Defence to address this review before any defence policy is drawn up on the basis of the document?
THE PREMIER: Is that one question, Mr. Speaker, or two?
In answer to the issue, I would have to say that I share the concerns of the Leader of the Opposition and in answer to the second part, I have indeed put a call into the Minister of Defence, the Honourable David Collenette.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, we had one of these I put a call in situation when this Premier gave his half-hearted attempt to engage himself in the EH-101 situation and you will recall that his answer as to why he wasn't more vigilant and vigorous was he didn't want to embarrass his Liberal friends in Ottawa.
I would like to ask the Premier directly, does he intend to ensure that he will meet with either the Prime Minister or Mr. Collenette before he leaves on his extended trip to China which, I understand, takes place in a few days' time?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is obviously much more difficult to embarrass the Liberals in Ottawa than it is the Tories, since there are so few of them.
The answer to the question is, yes, I intend to speak with Mr. Collenette and I will bring it up with the Prime Minister, which is what I should do.
MR. DONAHOE: I ask if the Premier has prepared a position paper which he will be prepared to table in this House to set out the concerns and the position of the Nova Scotia Government, relative to the tremendously devastating impact of this report if, in fact, the Department of National Defence should act upon it? Has such a document been prepared or is it now in preparation?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly obvious that no document has yet been prepared but I can tell you that we do have a position and that position will be fully explained to the House, as it always is.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Just picking up then to the Premier on his very last statement then, the Premier said he has a position and that it will be explained to this House as it always is. My first question then to the Premier is, will he please explain to this House and to Nova Scotians, who are going to be adversely affected if this goes through, what his position is?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is not the place to give this particular point of view or this particular issue. This issue which was fairly new to us is to be addressed by Cabinet and then the position paper will be known, that is quite clear.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about here is a very crucial issue. We have seen closures in Nova Scotia that have had devastating effects on the economy.
MR. SPEAKER: This type of speech is out of order in Question Period. A supplementary question according to Beauchesne is to be one sentence only.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will try to be as precise and abiding to that rule as all other questioners are and expect no more latitude than any others who ask a question. My question then to the Premier, given the fact that we saw this government and this Premier put Party politics and defending Party interests ahead of the interests of this province, for example, with the closure of CFB Cornwallis when they didn't challenge the Prime Minister on his breaking his commitment made to keep that base open. I want to ask the Premier what is going to be different this time by this government and this Premier in fighting to maintain and to ensure the Maritime Command and Maritime Command Atlantic stays here in Nova Scotia?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly obvious to everybody that I am as concerned as the explosive side of the House that is coming out with all these comments. Of course, we are concerned, we would be very foolish not to say so. The issue is not settled. The issue has not gone before any other than this particular committee and to write it off as government policy is just sheer hypocrisy.
MR. HOLM: This is not just about concerns it is about actions. I would like to ask the Premier a very specific question. Is the Premier prepared to try to set politics aside and to work with all political Parties to try to build a community mobilization and alliance to work together to ensure that these devastating closures or transfers which are being proposed by this joint Senate-House of Commons Committee does not happen? Is the Premier prepared to work to put together such an all-Party and broadly-based community alliance to fight this proposal?
THE PREMIER: I am not prepared to have the policy that this Liberal Government will operate under dictated by an off-the-cuff remark from a member of the Opposition. The policy that we will adopt is one that will be in the best interest of this province and it is one that I am sure will be very effective.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: On the same question, the same issue to the Premier, I wonder if the Premier will tell us what his understanding is of how many jobs are potentially at risk if in fact the recommendations of the report of which we talked were to become policy of the Department of National Defence? How many jobs does that mean to Nova Scotians?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can't give you any more accurate figure than the ones that have been in the newspaper and obviously the devastation that would occur from those is quite significant.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, this is really, really great. The Premier is now calling Mr. Collenette so concerned about this issue that he calls him on the basis of having some information about potentially devastating job loss in Nova Scotia that he reads about in the newspaper.
The supplementary is I wonder if the Premier could tell us this, how much money potentially does the report to which we refer mean could possibly be lost to the Province of Nova Scotia if in fact the substance of the report were to become official policy of the Department of National Defence? What is the adverse economic impact to the Province of Nova Scotia?
THE PREMIER: There may have been in the last government a Department of National Defence at the provincial level. We don't have one. There were 24 Cabinet Ministers at one time I understand in the Party. (Interruptions) I will answer the question in the same time as you put the question. The issue is one of great importance, it is not one that I am prepared to get into an argy-bargy or get hot under the collar about. We will deal with this as we have done with other issues and we will be right.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I can't help but be struck and I am sure all Nova Scotians will be, Mr. Speaker, that this Premier considers this question is so important . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. DONAHOE: . . . that he is going to read the newspapers about it. That is how important he thinks it is. I ask the Premier whether he will give Nova Scotians this commitment, that he will ensure that he meets with either or both the Prime Minister or Mr. Collenette before he leaves the country on his extended trip to China which I believe takes place in a few days' time. Will he give Nova Scotians that commitment?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I will give you is the same commitment as I gave before. I have attempted to get through to the Department of Defence and put a call in to Mr. Collenette. I will speak to him and I will speak to the Prime Minister as well, but I think this is another example of the kind of fear-mongering at which they are so adept at raising people's hackles. This is a report. It is not policy.
MR. DONAHOE: It has scared the daylights out of all Nova Scotians.
THE PREMIER: Please, there is no need to get violent, Mr. Speaker. Do we not . . .
MR. DONAHOE: I am not getting violent, I am trying to be serious.
MR. SPEAKER: Please, the member who is standing has the floor, not the member who is seated.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter, as I have said, from the very first question that you launched. I agree it is a serious question and it is one that we will deal with but we are not going to make policy sitting here in Question Period and if anybody should know that, it should be you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, sir, is to the Premier and the question is with respect to the report which was released yesterday by the joint committee with respect to defence and also with respect to the planned policy statement which will be made by Mr. Collenette, we are told from Ottawa, some time in December. In view of the fact that the clock is ticking and that the defence policy which will be announced by Ottawa in December must be in the drafting stage now, and in view of the fact that the Premier is going to be absent from the province - on the province's business in China - for 10 days to two weeks, will the Premier advise the House which senior minister he will be naming in his absence to respond to this very specific and vitally important issue with respect to Nova Scotia and the defence presence here?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have not decided which senior minister will do it because I am hoping that there will be the opportunity for me to do it before I leave.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, in the event that the minister does not respond to the Premier in advance of the Premier having to leave the province, will the Premier undertake in advance of his departure to advise the House who that senior minister will be?
THE PREMIER: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my final question, again to the Premier, is this, will the Premier commit to the House that in making presentation to the Minister of National Defence with respect to both the joint committee report and also to the report which will be forthcoming from the Department of National Defence with respect to the government's policy on defence restructuring that reports which are provided to the federal government in support of our position will be tabled in the House so that all members, and indeed all Nova Scotians, may share with the Premier the understanding that he has and the direction which he wants to take the province in with respect to this vitally important matter?
THE PREMIER: I am sorry. With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, I got lost in that question. If there is a report that you want of our policy that we will adopt, yes, we will put it in the House.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is to the Premier and it concerns the public appearances and government announcements made by him during the month of August in such places as Canso, Antigonish, Pictou, Amherst, Shelburne, Digby and Yarmouth. Could the Premier advise the House whether these trips were made at public expense?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, many of these events were mixed and therefore the Liberal Party paid in part and the government paid in part.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Well, Mr. Speaker, neither the Premier's August expense claim nor the expense claims for August by any of his staff, report one red cent of those expenditures even though the extensive province-wide travel was involved, including flying into Canso by helicopter. I wonder if the Premier could explain this discrepancy and why he is hiding the true cost of the Save Savage Summer Circuit from the taxpayers who are . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think we have had one question, perhaps another question might come later. The honourable Premier, in answer to the question that has been raised.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, where I went to do government business, as, for instance, to announce the thing in Canso, the waterfront, then we used a helicopter. That is customary. The expense is there somewhere; if it is not in my account then it will be in the office account.
The places that I stayed included, for instance, I stayed in Mr. Bragg's house on one of these occasions, and I stayed with other people in an effort to create the intention and impression that we were running a lean, mean government and, in this case, a lean, mean Party. We were not wasting money. I would have thought that was good, Mr. Speaker.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Well, Mr. Speaker, as I have already indicated, no such claims are made by the Premier or any member of his staff, but I guess we will have to pursue that on another occasion.
My final question to the Premier at this point is to indicate whether the August Save Savage Summer Circuit is the only occasion on which the Liberal Party has paid his expenses and, if not, can he advise when and in what other circumstances the Liberals have paid his expenses?
MR. SPEAKER: I don't know that that question is in order.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is no reason why she should not have an answer to a question.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well.
THE PREMIER: On the other occasions, in July, in September, where I travelled on behalf of my Party, the Liberal Party paid. I do not propose to table those in this House. I will table the expenses I incurred as a member of this government going around the province. I think those speak for themselves.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Premier. In the last few days Scott Paper of Philadelphia has announced that it is exploring the possibility of the sale of all its pulp operations and will concentrate on consumer sales. In the 25 years since Scott Paper came to Pictou County this company has contributed in large fashion to the economy of Pictou County and the prosperity of the 1970's and the 1980's.
The President of the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce recently stated that Pictou County will be losing a very valuable community member if Scott Paper leaves. The sale of the Abercrombie operation by Scott Paper should receive the same kind of government attention as did the Stora issue.
My question to the Premier, has the Premier or any member of government been in touch with Scott Paper regarding the company's intention?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I share the concerns being expressed by the member opposite. This is a matter for the Department of Economic Renewal, which has been in touch, and also Natural Resources. I am going to ask if this question may be answered by the Minister of Economic Renewal.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well. The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.
HON. ROSS BRAGG: We, too, on this side of the House, consider it a very serious issue, that perhaps the mill and pulp facility in Pictou County is going to be sold. It is not clear to us yet whether or not it officially will go on the market. They have announced they will consider selling it.
My colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, has been in touch with them. I have had some parties talk to me already and express an interest in the facility should they ultimately decide to dispose of the property. It is very important because we have been a partner with Scott Paper for many years, going back through three different governments, I believe. They have been a major employer and an important part of the economy of that part of Nova Scotia.
We will not sit by and idly watch that facility close without making every effort, the same as we did with Stora or any other industry in Nova Scotia.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, from the minister's remarks I understand it was the Minister of Natural Resources who was in touch with Scott Paper. I ask the Minister of Natural Resources, is he convinced and satisfied, from his exploration of the problem to this point, that the interests of northern Nova Scotians will be looked after in company strategy as Scott Paper looks perhaps to divest itself of the Abercrombie mill?
HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the conversations I had with the chairman or president of Scott Paper, I want to make one thing very clear, this company is one that has been very profitable; this is a company that is not in financial difficulty nor is it a business that is going to be hard to sell.
This has made a profit during every year that they have been in business. It is a company that has made a profit during a time when we have had very deep recessions in the pulp and paper industry. It is a business that has looked after its fibre requirements, as well as the technology in the plant. The company itself has not put, as such, a team together to sell the company but suffice to say, in conjunction with the Minister of the Economic Renewal Agency, that obviously other people are showing some interest in the potential of what that business could do to Nova Scotia and for them to purchase it.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the answer. By way of final supplementary, will the minister commit to continue his interest in the intentions of Scott Paper and to continue to ensure that the interests of northern Nova Scotia is foremost in his mind and will be certainly looked to by whatever strategy Scott Paper decides as it looks to divest itself of that mill?
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to inform the House and members of Nova Scotia in fact, that the government of Nova Scotia has always been concerned about the future viability of any business, especially that of the forestry sector in Nova Scotia and we will do all we can to ensure that the process will take its proper course. This is a private sector initiative and this is an initiative that the private sector will assess and determine themselves on economic viability about this particular business opportunity.
I want to reassure the member opposite that our government is committed to work with the company. We are not going to dictate to the company or drive the company, but we have indicated to the company, I have indicated to the company, if in any way we can work with you in cooperation to help, assist in whatever happens over the next six months to a year, that we are there to help, assist, to make sure that the people of the community of Pictou and the people that not only work in the plant, but those that work outside the plant in the forestry operations, will be looked at as best we can and looked after for their best interests.
This company, as I indicated before, is a profitable company. It is a good company. It is a company that has a good reputation as a plant. It is technologically very well advanced and it also has a lot of products that it produces that are good quality products for the market place. So we will work with them to make that happen. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs. The minister stated on CBC Radio at 7:30 a.m., yesterday morning, that rural areas of Halifax County might not have to be included in her government's super city. With that revelation and the new revelation that came forward from the Premier that the government is trying to create a lean, clean image, I am curious to know what consultation that minister has had with municipal officials in Lunenburg County, Colchester County and in the Municipality of East Hants concerning the possible additions to their counties? I don't want the minister to confuse her consultations and discussions with the actual service exchange plan.
MR. SPEAKER: These additional remarks are confusing the question. The minister has already had three questions put through. I will recognize the honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the honourable member's question. He is quite correct. One of the things that has been asked since we made the announcement about the amalgamation is what the boundaries are going to be of that new municipality. I responded, as I will to the honourable member, that there are a number of issues that need to be talked about, that need to be discussed with the people that will be involved. Issues such as Hubbards, an area that has made a representation of how they would like to have some of the outer regions of the current Halifax County and possibly either stay with the new amalgamated city or have discussions with the surrounding municipality that they may, in actual fact, decide to go with that municipality.
But these, very much, Mr. Speaker, as I have said on and on, are things that need to be discussed. There are things that need to be consulted with and we need input from the public.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, obviously she has not talked with the municipal units in Lunenburg County, Colchester County and East Hants with these possible additions. I wonder why the minister would attempt to create additional uncertainty with all the uncertainty now going on with amalgamation because, Mr. Speaker, that is what I am hearing. So I will ask the minister why she has created this additional uncertainty?
MR. SPEAKER: I don't believe that this question corresponds at all with the proper standards of parliamentary questioning laid down by Beauchesne. It asks the minister to explain why she had created misunderstanding. Questions according to Beauchesne are supposed to be requests for information, matters within the minister's jurisdictional responsibility that would be immediately available for them to give to the House.
Now if the honourable minister wishes to respond, she certainly may, but I don't consider that to be a proper question at all.
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think one of the things we have tried to be clear on, everything starts with an announcement. You have to start somewhere and that is what we have done, start with an announcement. We have said very clearly there are a number of issues that we need to have consultation and discussion based on the announcement that has been made in the last few days.
We have not tried to create any confusion. In actual fact, we have tried to give a sense that there are many issues that need to be discussed and have further consultation on and those things will happen. But it is an extension of an announcement that has been made and there are many areas that we will have ongoing review, with the citizens, with the municipalities, with those people who are involved.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. You have already said that some parts of rural Halifax County might not be included in your new super city, it might not but you have stated that and you have created a certain amount of anxiety by saying that.
When does the minister propose to begin talking with rural Halifax County councillors, as well as councils in Lunenburg, Colchester and Hants, concerning a possible realignment of their boundaries and the impact that will have on their tax base?
MS. JOLLY: As the member well knows, there are meetings that are being held with the four metro mayors at the end of this week. It is the beginning of a process where we will sit down and have discussion, consultation and look at the issues that need to be addressed in order to deal with the amalgamation of the city and the total area, Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County. Those are things that will be ongoing and I am very surprised that this member would try to create conflict with the citizens in the area, that he feels it is very important. I am very surprised he would try to create mischief at the expense of the citizens of the area.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health will know that on September 28, 1994, I filed a Freedom of Information application requesting the employment contract for the current Commissioner for Health Reform who was appointed by this minister, I think, on June 24, 1994, over four months ago.
I was shocked on Monday to receive a response from the acting deputy minister, who refused me the information because he said the contract has been drafted, it is not in the final stages. I will table the application and the reply.
Would the minister then tell me how it is that a Commissioner for Health Reform has been employed by the minister for over four months and yet does not have a contract?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, this was a secondment from another area of government, from the Provincial Health Council. We have had some development in that regard in terms of the duties of the commissioner of health which have expanded somewhat in terms of community development and we are adjusting the contract to reflect that and indeed that contract should be finalized within the next several weeks.
MR. MOODY: I find it difficult on the secondment that here is a job that is a job and the person is not going back, obviously, to the other position and that is a strange secondment.
I would ask the minister how it is, would he be prepared today to table the mandate of the health reform commissioner? In other words, give us the job description or the role of the health reform commissioner as it would be in the contract or as he would see the job?
DR. STEWART: Yes, I would be happy to do that on a future date.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister. I hope the future day is not next spring. I hope it is soon.
I would ask the minister if he could tell us today, now that the secondment is over and somebody is in the person's position on the Provincial Health Council, how much is the Commissioner of Health Reform being paid by his department in the job she is presently in as commissioner? What is the salary for that person?
DR. STEWART: Again, Mr. Speaker, that is part and parcel of the contract under development and that will be included in the tabling of the document.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Premier. In response to my earlier questions, the Premier indicated that he has no intentions of disclosing here in this House, Liberal Party expenditures incurred for the Save Savage Summer Circuit. My question to the Premier is, where and when will he be disclosing those expenditures?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party, will I am sure, be assessing all my expenditures and it is up to the Liberal Party, I suppose, whether those are revealed in public or whether they are just revealed to Liberals.
MR. SPEAKER: I am not sure that this line of questioning is in order and I think the member is aware of my reservations on this because matters that relate, if I may just for moment, to the administration of the Office of the Premier certainly are in order and fair game for questioning here in Question Period, but matters that relate to the internal business of a political Party, in my view, are not a proper topic for questions in Question Period. I will say that.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party has the floor.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly would respect your ruling but you, sir, will be very aware, as is the Premier and as all other members are, that it is very much the requirement of the law in this province to reveal, to disclose such expenditures as part of one's conflict of interest disclosure statement. So I am sure that my questions will not be out of order in any sense.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to further . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I am not sure that I would necessarily agree with that interpretation of the law but in any event, we are not . . .
MS. MCDONOUGH: I would like, Mr. Speaker, to ask the Premier a further question that arises out of his earlier claims and that is whether the Liberal Party, in fact, paid any of the Premier's expenses in his first year in office?
THE PREMIER: Yes, sir, regularly.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has confirmed that the Liberal Party regularly paid expenses for him during his first year in office. My question, quite frankly, would be why, then, did the Premier not publicly disclose this as required by law in the conflict of interest disclosure statement?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think we are getting a little confused here. First of all, I spent a lot of time in Pictou, that great seat that was very well won by our member there after the resignation of the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. (Applause) Any expenses that I incurred there in support of his candidacy were obviously paid by the Liberal Party. That I stated at the time and that I continue to state. As far as I know, the conflict of interest regulation is not expenses that go in there, it is money that you receive that is for the use of the purpose of, for instance, if I had a fund of some kind. Obviously we do not and under those circumstances, I am quite prepared to accept your ruling on this but I think you are probably going to have to refer and get some advice on it.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I might say that I have researched this matter to this extent that I have requested the conflict of interest commissioner at an earlier time and in a separate case, for a ruling on the specific question of whether expenses that are reported under the Elections Act had to be also reported in one's disclosure statement and the answer was no, they did not. If they were reported under the Elections Act, then that was sufficient to meet the requirements of the law and they did not need to be doubly reported under the disclosure legislation.
The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask, through you, a question to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health indicated that the Health Reform Commissioner, in actual fact, was seconded from the Provincial Health Council. Obviously, when there is a secondment within government, there is an official piece of paper that does the tracking, I would ask him if he would provide me with that piece of paper and what the commissioner is actually being paid today in money? I am sure the commissioner is being paid today, even though the contract hasn't been signed yet, what in fact is she being paid today and is there a piece of paper that I could see that outlines the secondment.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Yes, I must defer to the honourable gentleman opposite his knowledge of the process, if indeed a secondment paper is available I certainly will table that with salary being currently awarded to that person.
MR. MOODY: I thank the honourable minister for that answer and I ask the minister how long is this job of the Health Reform Commissioner? Is it a year, two years, three years? Has there been any timeframe put on this job or is it a job that will carry on year after year or does he know at this point in time or has there been discussion on how long the commissioner would be employed?
DR. STEWART: Yes, I would like to make the point as often as I may that health renewal and reform is indefinite. It will always go on it is a dynamic process. That is not the answer to the honourable member's question I am sure. However, that is part and parcel of the contract as I will table, as I have given an undertaking to do.
MR. MOODY: Again, I thank the minister for that answer and look forward to the information. I would ask the minister if he could tell me whether this job was advertised and how many people were interviewed for this job other than the person that was hired because I know that the Premier's hiring practice is such that there is equal opportunity for all Nova Scotians. I would ask him when the job was advertised and how many people were interviewed before this person was selected?
DR. STEWART: Again, Mr. Speaker, this particular position was created out of the work of the Blueprint Committee and we seconded Ms. Hampton from the council without advertisement, it being a seconded position created for health reform.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Now to the Minister of Health, knowing that the job is no longer a secondment, that it is going to become a permanent job, when will the job be advertised for other people to maybe apply for such a position?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Again, Mr. Speaker, that is part and parcel to the discussions that we are having, I will be happy to table that with the information he requested.
MR. MOODY: I would ask the Minister of Health in looking at this job was there any salary range, was there consultation with the Human Resources Department in looking at a salary range for this individual or have there been ongoing discussions with that individual re the contract and salary or have there been guidelines set down by the Department of Human Resources?
DR. STEWART: Yes, those discussions occur between the Deputy Minister of Human Resources and the particular candidate to whom the honourable gentleman refers.
MR. MOODY: I do look forward to all of this information and I would ask the minister if one role of the health commissioner or one aspect of the job is to provide training for the regional health boards? Is that part of the health commissioner's job or will that be done by somebody else?
DR. STEWART: Yes, the orientation program in education for the regional health boards will be provided by various individuals in terms of community development and community health boards that would be undertaken by the Health Reform Commissioner.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: My question is for the Premier. Last Thursday in the House the Premier admitted that he had changed his mind and his position on the issue of amalgamation of Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County. What intrigues me is that the information which the Premier had available to him at the time he was changing his mind was essentially the same information that he had available to him when his position was very different during April and May of 1993, during the election campaign at that time.
My question to the Premier is simply this, if he would tell Nova Scotians what specifically, what new information or what new occurrence specifically prompted the Premier to reverse his position without consultation with the municipal leaders, which he had promised on this issue of the merger?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have had many meetings with the mayors concerned in the last year. I have also had ample opportunity to review, for instance, the question of the identity of the areas so that, in effect, people who live in Dartmouth don't have to lose their sense of identity any more than people who live in Spryfield or any other place.
I also discussed this issue with many other people, including municipal leaders throughout the province. The decision I came to was perhaps not unlike the position that the Leader of the Opposition took after his first heady support for casinos when he, too, saw some wisdom apparently and changed his mind. These kinds of things happen to all of us, Mr. Speaker.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, the honourable House Leader mumbled something about not having demonstrated the wisdom. Well, I presume he was referring to the Premier because he didn't demonstrate any wisdom in the response.
I asked the Premier specifically if he will tell Nova Scotians what new information or what set of circumstances came to his attention, and knowledge, which prompted him to change his mind and attitude about this issue, because in April/May 1993, he was pooh-poohing the then encumbent government, suggesting that we move in this direction and without any advance warning to the current municipal leaders, he simply issues an edict that there will be this merger.
I again ask the Premier, would he please tell Nova Scotians what change of circumstances, specific information, new information as a result of this consultation he says he had, prompted him to change his mind?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is a good 18 months since the time we took office and the time that this decision was announced recently. In that time I have met with the mayors concerned. If you will ask them, which you obviously have not done, I discussed amalgamation with them, too, at the time. I think it would be interesting if you did ask them and find out what, indeed, we did talk about.
On one occasion, in July, the Minister of Development, as it was then, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and myself took the four mayors and asked them to support us in the Greater Halifax Economic Development Association, commonly called GHEDA. We spent many hours attempting that. We didn't get very far.
It is perfectly obvious that one of the reasons I have pursued the question through the Department of Municipal Affairs - and you must remember it is the Department of Municipal Affairs - is because opportunities must be created for the leadership the Halifax-Dartmouth area has. We are in danger, Mr. Speaker, of losing that leadership if we don't establish what, in the eyes of people who are looking at us, is some credibility instead of the persistent difficulties that were created, whether it is in landfill, policing or other economic development.
The reason why this government changed - and the Minister of Municipal Affairs has clearly stated this - is because the economic development of this area is vital to Nova Scotia. It is our view that the economic development of this area and Nova Scotia will be greatly enhanced by the presence of one government in this county.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, it is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, as I place my final supplementary to the Premier, that what he says now doesn't square with the facts at all. In fact, this Premier said to the Mayor of Dartmouth as recently as a month ago that there would be no amalgamation.
My final supplementary, therefore, is simply this, the mayors of the municipal units affected are up in arms; they are protesting and are ticked-off with this Premier and this Department of Municipal Affairs and are saying they were not consulted. My question to the Premier is, is he now saying that the four mayors, when they say that, are not telling the truth? Is that, in fact, what the Premier is now saying?
THE PREMIER: I guess I should start by saying, is he saying that I am not telling the truth? What I said, Mr. Speaker, is that we discussed amalgamation many times in the past year, not in a formal sense. When we took them out, as the two ministers know, we discussed the amalgamation of the metro area for some several hours, we discussed the policing and when we looked at the way in which the government intervened and created the opportunity for landfill, through the Mayor of Halifax County, all these kind of discussions have taken place.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, just one year ago, when I addressed the board of trade, I said to the board of trade that we needed the support of the metropolitan area in one united effort because we are, in effect, in danger of losing the place of Halifax as the prior place in the Maritimes, simply because we cannot get our act together. I said, at that time, we needed to do it because of the economic good. I said we needed to do it with policing and, as far as I know, the Leader of the Opposition may even have been present.
But the point is, this is a consistent doctrine that we have followed in 18 months. The reason, Mr. Speaker, that I changed my mind is purely and simply because we are in danger of falling behind in economic development in this area. To some extent, where Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County goes, so does the province. We have to maintain the progress that we have shown. We have to show the private sector that the policies that we have adopted in reducing unemployment and in getting people back to work will indeed continue. In the view of this government, they will only continue when there is a united front that presents the best of Halifax, Dartmouth, Halifax County and Bedford. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency. It is with respect to Ultramar Canada Inc. and their decision to pick up and move out of the area and to throw hundreds of people out of work and to also fail to get rid of the assets, sell them to another buyer, and so on.
My question to the minister is that it has been advocated by some that there be a consumer boycott of all Ultramar products in the Province of Nova Scotia in order to register very clearly our contempt for Ultramar Canada Inc. I would like to ask the minister if he and his government plan to participate in this boycott and, Heaven forbid, even take the lead?
HON. ROSS BRAGG: Mr. Speaker, the idea of a consumer boycott of Ultramar has been suggested, but that would be unfair. We have a bone to pick with Ultramar Canada Inc., but we do not have a problem with the retailers and local re-sellers of fuel oil in the community. (Applause)
It would be irresponsible to hurt somebody that is employing people in a small community as a re-seller and as an oil dealer. That is not what we want to do. We want to keep Ultramar Canada on the job, not put people in the communities out of work. So we have abstained from that and we have said, no, that is not the appropriate way to go.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just say to the minister that I think it is extremely irresponsible for Ultramar Canada to be participating in this manner with the jobs and with the hundreds of thousands of dollars of Nova Scotia taxpayers' money that they have had the advantage of using.
I would like to ask the minister then, if he is not going to try to send a message that Ultramar Canada will be able to understand, an economic answer, what is he proposing to do or is he going to run around the mulberry bush on this legal quest . . .
MR. SPEAKER: What is he proposing to do? We have heard the question.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . to try to resolve this issue?
MR. BRAGG: Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing that the member opposite has not been following the Ultramar story to see just what, in fact, this government has been doing. We were the only ones that have taken steps to try to protect the union workers, their jobs and keep that refinery here.
It is a very difficult situation. We have no recourse directly with Ultramar. We have had to go through court challenges to force the competition bureau and the director to do something to maintain the jobs that Ultramar promised to keep in this province. We are continuing to do that. We are working with the union, we are working with the union's lawyer and trying to hold Ultramar to their commitment that they made to invest money and run that refinery for seven years, short of that, find a buyer that will operate the refinery.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let's be clear. The minister has first taken legal action to prevent the tribunal from producing their decision and now is commencing with legal action to encourage them to make their decision. That is how focused this government and this minister is in trying to resolve this problem.
My final supplementary is, again, I repeat the question, what is he going to do in terms of real action to try to protect the jobs that Ultramar Canada is rushing away with to Quebec?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister may certainly respond but we know that there is a rule in our own rules against the repetition of a question and so to repeat the same question again is out of order.
MR. BRAGG: Mr. Speaker, he did bring up an interesting point though, he said that we took actions to prevent the bureau director from acting, we didn't take any preventive action. We took a court challenge that said we believed his opinion was biased because of what he said in July in a preliminary ruling. We took an action that said, we want someone else to hear this case. The director chose the position which our lawyers dispute that he could not act. We amended our action immediately. We have also started an action that says he has to do the job he was hired to do under a Writ of Mandamus, we are waiting for that court action to happen.
In consultation with the union and their lawyers, they have told us that they want us to continue that process because it was the only avenue left. We believe if we back away then there is no recourse to take against the director if he makes a ruling we don't think fair. We are as frustrated as the union workers but we believe we are doing the only thing possible that could have been done to try to hold Ultramar in place. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier just told this House and all Nova Scotians a few moments ago that he changed his mind about municipal reform and service exchange in the metro area and so on. He described a great series of consultations with the municipal leaders.
I wonder if the Premier would tell us exactly as he can, as precisely as he can, just when was it that the Premier communicated personally the decision to the leaders here in metro that the decision which his government announced the other day by the Minister of Municipal Affairs that that decision had been taken by his government and that that is the way that his government would be moving? When did he personally tell the municipal leaders that that decision had been taken?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am glad of the opportunity because that seems to have been misrepresented. What I said was that once we had decided, it was my responsibility as the Leader of the government to talk to the Leaders of the four governments concerned. I, therefore, about 11:30 on that Wednesday morning, called them and asked them to attend a press conference that evening at 7:30 p.m., in which I was prepared to tell them what the minister was going to tell them.
Unfortunately, subsequent to that it apparently leaked out, so in effect there wasn't a great need for it. But what I did was out of courtesy as one leader of a government to the four leaders of the four governments concerned and I would do it again. (Applause)
MR. DONAHOE: One man's definition of courtesy is rather different than another's, I suppose.
To the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I wonder if the minister might tell this House and all Nova Scotians just when was it that she, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, was informed that the merger process was in fact the decision of the government of which she is Minister of Municipal Affairs?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I understand that discussions that I have between my colleagues are discussions that we deal with on an ongoing basis, we have an opportunity to talk back and forth. We had an opportunity to look at the number of issues that were on the floor, I think, over the last four to five months.
I think as the Premier has mentioned, the blood fractionation clinic, an opportunity for when there is a unified approach, what can happen when we look at the way that the boards of trade have been able to move forward and were amalgamated, all of these things are taken into consideration and many decisions are made over time.
MR. DONAHOE: I don't know where blood fractionation gets into the picture other than the, perhaps (Interruption) Yes, there will be lots of cooperation. There will be blood on the floor of some of these ministers if they don't start coming up with answers that Nova Scotians can understand and accept.
My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Will she simply ignore the rabbit tracks and fractionation plants and so on, will this minister tell Nova Scotians when she first knew that the public policy position of the government of which she is a member and Minister of Municipal Affairs was that there was going to be this merger of municipal units in metro. When did she first know that was the position of her government?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, unlike the government opposite, we take some time, we have discussion, we have debate in Cabinet on an ongoing basis to look at the issues that are on the floor. We take into consideration all the things that have happened over the last number of months, over the last number of weeks. It is not something that you just one day say no to and the next day say yes to. It is an ongoing process. It takes information all across the board and we have those discussions in Cabinet and I know the honourable member respects Cabinet confidentiality. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you for the Premier. I want to know, as does Mr. Terry Goule of Amherst, how the Liberal Government can justify the closing and downgrading of hospital services in rural settings without first ensuring that enhanced ambulance services are properly in place?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a matter of great importance to the Minister of Health and I will defer to him to answer the question.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Thank you very much for that question. It gives me a chance to point out that the plans in each community in which hospital changes have occurred are progressing. There has been the development of emergency health services training. There has been the development of standards for ambulances which will be put in place in those communities which are in fact affected by these changes.
MR. MOODY: To the Minister of Health, why would the government purposely put the cart before the horse and put people at risk? People are at risk because the enhanced ambulance service is not in place.
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, this, of course, is totally untrue. There are ambulances in place in this province. There is upgrading continuing to be in place during this time. There is, in fact, plans in each community to provide for acute care services and beds have not been suddenly shut down as has been suggested by the honourable member opposite in the question. We have indeed placed more emphasis on home care. The waiting lists have been attacked in a very real way and if the honourable member needs specific information, I would be happy to provide that.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I am going to try one more time, if I may. I am advised by a considerable number of people that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has said to quite a number of people, particularly in Dartmouth, that she did not know about the decision that the government was taking relative to the merger of the municipal units in Halifax, Dartmouth, metro. I ask her again, it is very simple. I am not asking for this minister to infringe upon Cabinet confidentiality. I do not want to know what they talked about in there. I would simply like to know, after all those learned discussions took place, I am simply trying to have the minister stand in this House and tell Nova Scotians directly when, at what point did she learn or know that the decision of the government of which she is Minister of Municipal Affairs was going to merge the municipal units in Halifax, Dartmouth, metro. When did she know that?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think it is very obvious that this individual is looking for something out of the ordinary or something out of the way. As I have already told the honourable member, the discussion has been one that we have had on an ongoing basis. It is one that I discussed with many people in Dartmouth, he is quite correct. He is incorrect, Mr. Speaker, in suggesting that I did not know about the decision on the amalgamation issue. (Interruption)
I have told the honourable member that it has been an ongoing discussion. There have been discussions way back when we looked at the report that was presented last summer. It has been something that every time I meet with various groups of people that there is discussion such as the boards of trade and the chambers of commerce. So, Mr. Speaker, my answer is the same as before. It is an ongoing discussion and it is a discussion that we have had in Cabinet.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, we hear that it is an ongoing discussion. When the minister made her announcement, one of the principal reasons that she gave for proceeding at this time was that a public opinion poll back in July said the majority of people were in support of it. That, of course, is included in the minister's own statement.
Now, in light of the new public opinion polls in which, obviously, the government has now realized that they are not operating in the vein that the vast majority of people would approve of, I ask the minister very directly, given that she said it is an ongoing process, will she agree to a process that is open, consultative and an unbiased review of the costs and benefits associated with an amalgamation, and different options, before she is prepared to impose the Liberal plan? Will she agree to an open, consultative, unbiased review, as has been requested by the mayors and citizens of this community, before she proceeds with her Liberal plan?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, this is the same member across the way who would suggest every time we studied something, why are you continuing to study it? There are reports on the shelf, why don't you pull one of them off and deal with it, because the people have spoken.
Mr. Speaker, very clearly, in a report that was presented to the government last year - just one year ago, it was commissioned by the previous administration but was presented to the new government that came in - there are detailed explanations of what departments would look like, how it would be funded. There are all kinds of numbers in here, which we will be able to use when we move forward.
This issue has been studied to death; there is no question about that. Mr. Speaker, this government is taking action. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.
Now the honourable Leader of the Opposition was first on his feet. I recognize the honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. I guess I really seek direction as much as anything else. When we entered the Chamber this afternoon to embark on Question Period there were a number of ministers not here and, to be perfectly candid, this Opposition caucus was most anxious to have the opportunity to put a couple of questions to the Minister of Finance.
Rising on this point of privilege, not in any confrontational or argumentative way, is to simply suggest through you if, through consultation with House Leaders, if the Opposition caucuses could be informed before, particularly on Question Period days, of the absence of certain ministers. The Minister of Supply and Services was kind enough to make contact directly with our office; we knew he would be absent. But we didn't know of the absence of the Minister of Finance, or the Minister of Fisheries and we had a question for him. I don't know whether I am in order or out of order raising this issue but I would like your help, if you can, Mr. Speaker, and perhaps the House Leader could help us by designing a system that would make sure that notice of that kind was made available to Opposition caucuses, particularly on Question Period days.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I think we certainly can help out with some of these. I think it has to be recognized that there are instances where members of the Executive Council are called away sometimes on short notice. The Minister of Finance had not planned, I don't think, to be away today for a long time. He was here this morning; he will be back later on this afternoon but, unfortunately, he had to miss Question Period.
The Minister of Supply and Services has gone to the funeral of a close friend and community worker. I think we would all understand that that is a very good excuse for being away. The Minister of Fisheries is out of the province and there is an acting Minister of Fisheries. So I believe questions can be put to acting ministers and if the question is not forthcoming immediately, it will certainly be taken under advisement and an answer will be forthcoming through the acting minister.
I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that for at least the two ministers who are out of the province there are acting ministers who would be only too pleased to get information for them. We will certainly make every effort to attempt, when we know ministers are going to be away, to share that information. The honourable Leader of the Opposition himself has missed the last three days in the House. He was kind enough to share that with us, that he would be away. So, we will certainly do what we can to assist in informing them as to when members will be absent.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well, I trust that that dispenses with that matter? Fine.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise on a different point of privilege, one that arises out of an earlier exchange with the Premier this afternoon, concerning the August claims or failure to claim for the costs associated with his touring across the Province. The Premier indicated that the cost of this touring was paid for at least in part by the taxpayers and yet he failed to explain why not one red cent was claimed in his end of August expense claim for these expenditures incurred.
Secondly, the Premier indicated that the Liberal Party had paid some of these expenses and then went on to say that he has no intentions of publicly disclosing that fact. Yet, I would like to table four documents, each one of which make it absolutely clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that such information is required to be disclosed in the conflict of interest disclosure statement.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure, going to my point of privilege, that the Premier did not intend to misinform the House but it appears that he, in fact, is misinformed on this point. It is very clear in the Contents of disclosure statement as set out in the Act, Section 6(1), "The appropriate disclosure statement shall disclose (a) the name of every individual or organization that in any manner whatsoever remunerates or contributes to the member or the member's spouse or dependent children and includes any reimbursement for expenses made to any of them;".
That is from the Act, the second document in fact, is the disclosure guidelines where the same thing is very carefully spelled out, the third is the regulations themselves which again in Section 8 set out very clearly the requirement to disclose such expenditures of this nature and fourthly, in the actual Schedule A of the members' disclosure statement where a section very clearly is set out that requires the filing of such information. My point of privilege frankly is that the House has been misinformed on this point and I would hope that the Premier would take the earliest opportunity namely now, to acknowledge that this is misinformation, that all four of these documents set out very clearly the requirement which he apparently has not complied with, not in the 1993-94 year end disclosure statement nor to date has he indicated his intention to disclose that in the upcoming disclosure statement.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, if the Premier wishes to respond, he may.
THE PREMIER: I would just like to say that if you would like to make a decision on this I will be happy to abide by your decision. It is perfectly true that I have not got the 15 years or whatever it is experience that the member has opposite and if indeed I have not put on the form the appropriate ones then it was certainly an error of omission rather than commission. One might also ask, since the other two Leaders of the Parties in this House file monthly expenditures in the Executive Council, why the Leader of the New Democratic Party does not file hers?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I have some thoughts on these matters that I would like to present to the House at this time. I do not want this exchange to get out of hand. I think that the essence of the matter before the House is the proper interpretation and purpose and function of the Oral Question Period. All parliamentary authorities Beauchesne, Bourinot, Erskine May and others refer to the purpose of the Oral Question Period as being a time set aside for ministers to be asked questions on matters of urgency and importance that are within their departmental responsibilities that relate either to government policy or to information that would be reasonably available to the minister with reference to the administration of his department or in the case of the Premier with reference to the overall policy of the government as a whole. Matters that relate to compliance with the statutory authority in my view do not constitute a proper subject for a question in Question Period.
In other words, a question such as, have you had any parking tickets this month would be out of order, it does not relate to the business of the House. We have a conflict of interest office, we have a conflict of interest commissioner, a very learned judge, whose terms of reference are to interpret and to enforce the requirements of the conflict of interest and disclosure legislation. If there is any breach of that legislation, real or alleged, the remedy is clear and the remedy would be to the conflict of interest commissioner. It would not be by way of an abuse of the Question Period here in the House by subjecting any member to a detailed grilling as to the alleged contents or shortcomings or other features of their individual expense report.
I feel that, after a careful reflection of the requirements of Beauchesne, as to the purpose of Question Period, that this whole line of questioning is an abuse of the House. It is out of order. (Interruption) I wish, please, to have the floor. Beauchesne clearly states in Paragraph 409, Page 120 that ". . . a question . . . cannot seek an opinion, either legal or otherwise,". It further states in Paragraph 408 that an oral question may, ". . . not require an answer involving a legal opinion." and, therefore, any questions that require an interpretation of any Statute or requests a legal opinion as to whether or not a member or any individual has complied or has not complied with the law, are not in order and I so rule.
MS. MCDONOUGH: On a further point of privilege, to give notice of motion to challenge your ruling. I understand I have to do that in writing at the earliest possible date and I will do so.
On a further point of privilege, the Premier has stated across the floor that he wondered why the Leader of the New Democratic Party does not properly file her expense claims. I would like to ask the Premier to give a clarification on that point because I have always filed exactly what is required under the disclosure statement and I have filed my expense claims up to and including the month of September. I would ask him to provide an explanation to the House for the misinformation contained in the taunt that he placed across the floor.
MR. SPEAKER: I have no comment to make on that. We will move on to Government Business.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 114.
Bill No. 114 - Municipal Reform (1994) Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The adjourned debate was on an amendment that the bill be not now read a second time, but be read six months hence. The debate was adjourned by the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, whom I now recognize.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, just as a reminder to all members and to myself too as we shift gears here, we are now debating not Bill No. 114, the Act to provide for municipal reform in terms of its substance, but rather we are debating the amendment that has been brought forward by my colleague for Sackville-Cobequid that would effectively provide for this bill to be set aside, for it not to now be read for a second time, which is legislative jargon to mean that we would not proceed to put this bill through the House at this time and on to Law Amendments Committee, but rather, as the amendment introduced by my colleague indicates, that this bill not be dealt with until six months' time.
Mr. Speaker, there might be some who would say why would you ask for a further delay in attacking the whole issue of municipal reform when we all are in agreement. I cannot imagine a single member of this House not concurring with the view that there is, in fact, very much the need to engage in municipal reform in this province.
Mr. Speaker, the issue at hand in terms of the resolution, the amendment is before us, is why ought we to contemplate a delay in moving this bill through the legislative process at this time. I began, in my few comments last evening, to suggest that there are, in fact, a long list of reasons why this government ought to consider delaying in moving forward at this time with the legislative reform measures that have been introduced.
I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that we saw earlier this afternoon that the Minister of Municipal Affairs in this province brought forward as one of the reasons why it was, in her view, completely defensible, completely appropriate and in fact a display of leadership by this government to barge ahead with forced amalgamation in the metro area, that the general public was in favour of it and that this government had polls that would indicate that that was the case.
When one looks at how this government's clumsy handling of this issue has virtually eroded the public support for municipal reform, that, in itself, constitutes a powerful argument for why delay is in order. It was suggested that, in fact, when Omnifacts Research did a poll on the need for municipal reform that 76 per cent of Nova Scotians, less than a year ago, were in favour of the kind of widespread municipal reform that is under discussion.
Yet, Omnifacts Research reported, I believe yesterday, that they had done some further polling, some very current polling on this question which showed that some 78 per cent of those polled, indicated that they were very much opposed to how the Savage Government was proceeding with municipal reform.
If that doesn't constitute an argument for the government pausing, for it stepping back from what it has now proposed to do, which is to proceed without appropriate consultation, which is to ask for public support for plans that have not been adequately spelled out, which calls for support of municipal reform measures that fall far short of what, in fact, was central to the Liberal Party's promise in the 1993 election campaign, it seems to me that those are all reasons that would explain the severe erosion of public support for municipal reform and certainly ought to be sufficient to convince the government that it has taken what is, in general, a broad consensus, a constructive environment for municipal reform and succeeded in poisoning it through its arbitrary, dictatorial, unilateral actions.
Our reason for suggesting a delay is to allow the kind of consultation to take place that this government pledged to be in support of when it sought a mandate in this province less than a year and one-half ago. With whom is it that the government ought to consult?
Well, we have heard over the last several days an understandable expression of outrage from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. They, in fact, were supposed to have been part of the consultative process, that they, in fact, had been promised by the minister as recently as September 2, 1994 in a letter that further consultation would take place and no final decisions on the terms of municipal reform, on the terms of the service exchange would be taken until there was further consultation. More recently, similar assurances were given at the annual convention of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities in Sydney less than a month ago. Yet, having given those assurances, the government has ploughed ahead to introduce legislation without having carried out the kind of consultation that was promised.
I know that the minister, yesterday, tried to say all we are doing is responding to the urgings of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. I went back over several years of the resolutions for the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and not only did they call for broad consultation, they also made it very clear that the elimination of the two-tiered social assistance system was absolutely critical, central, to the reform package that they were prepared to support and in which they were prepared to cooperate.
When my colleague for Sackville-Cobequid was speaking on this bill in the last couple of days we had several backbenchers in the Liberal Party taunting, saying where is your policy on this?
Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party set out a very clear policy in the 1993 election campaign and, again, over the last year. I have to say that maybe that is one more reason for delay. Maybe those members who don't think the New Democratic Party had a policy in respect to how this government should proceed with municipal reform would want to take the opportunity to acquaint themselves with that policy that was very clearly articulated by the member for Sackville-Cobequid during the election campaign.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, on May 5th, and I will table this document and if government members can be persuaded of the wisdom for delay, then perhaps they will take the opportunity to familiarize themselves with that policy.
Mr. Speaker, I won't take the time of the House to read it in full, but let me say clearly that he not only articulated a clear policy, he challenged all those seeking election in the 1993 election to set out clearly where they stood and further challenged, particularly in the instance of municipal councillors and provincial candidates running in the 1993 election, that they pledge their support for a consultative process.
He went further, Mr. Speaker, to suggest that no municipal amalgamation, for example, should be imposed on any part of this province unless residents had an opportunity to vote to endorse an amalgamation plan when municipal elections took place in October 1994. That is one of the reasons why people are very distressed with this government's decision to run headlong into this municipal reform, with its many complicated aspects, without there being the kind of consultation and in the immediate aftermath of a municipal election campaign, where the government didn't even indicate that it would be wiping out the democratic decisions made across the Halifax-Dartmouth metropolitan area within 18 months of the residents having expressed their democratic will.
That kind of top-down, closed-door approach was proposed by the previous Premier. Nova Scotians thought they had gotten rid of that top-down approach. Instead, what they have seen is that the current Premier and his colleagues have simply picked up where Donald Cameron left off and decided to pursue the same route.
So, Mr. Speaker, there are many other reasons for arguing for a delay. Not only is it necessary to backtrack and do the kind of consultation with the UNSM, but there are other groups that have done a great deal of groundwork, a great deal of research and, frankly, very responsible, informed advocacy over a period of time in this province, who have much to say on why one of the central features of municipal reform that must proceed is the elimination of the two-tier social assistance system.
It is not as though this government had not had lots of opportunity to fully consider the implications of having made the commitment that they would bring in, as an urgent priority, a program to eliminate the two-tier system in social assistance. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party upper-cased that commitment during the election campaign. Their policy platform outlined in considerable detail not only the rationale for doing that but made a virtue out of saying they were making a commitment to this reform measure, not for financial reasons, not for fiscal reasons, not for administrative reasons, but because they recognized the severe hardship that was being borne by many people in this province who lived in municipalities where there was absolutely no adequate general assistance program and, in the absence of any kind of provincial standards, where this results in severe inequities and unacceptable hardship to families, especially women and children living in poverty.
Mr. Speaker, not one single word of acknowledgement has been given by the Premier, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Minister of Community Services, that this is a problem that is as serious today as it has ever been; in fact, more serious than it has ever been and yet the government has backed away from its commitment and does not seem to understand why Nova Scotians are saying, take some further time and delay in plowing ahead with Bill No. 114 in its current form because it is inadequate, because its effects will be inequitable.
So, Mr. Speaker, I could make many further arguments as to why delay is the sensible, responsible option, but let me just remind honourable members on the Liberal Party benches that they are the ones that said vote for us and you will put an end to the unilateral, dictatorial style of the Tory Government of the day. Vote for us and you will get a solid commitment to a philosophy of consultation as well as to the practice of consulting on such fundamentally important things. Nothing has been offered by this Liberal Government for why they backed away from that commitment. Until that consultation does take place, this government will have shown that it can take a very good idea, one on which there is a very broad consensus of support and sour it, poison it to the point when we will see nothing but confrontation, confusion, chaos and a great deal of suspicion and mistrust as we go down the path of needing to restructure and reorganize municipal-provincial relationships in this province for the benefit, not only of the citizens of Nova Scotia today, but of many generations to come. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak for a few moments, at least, on the motion brought forward by the member for Sackville-Cobequid and that is to give us an opportunity to, all of us here in the Legislature and members of government and bureaucrats at both the provincial and municipal level, to reflect on this issue, the issue that is represented in Bill No. 114, that of service exchange, primarily to reflect on that for a period of six months.
I think, given the climate that has been created around the introduction of Bill No. 114, the announcement, together with the announcement of the amalgamation of all the cities in metro, Bedford, Dartmouth, Halifax and Halifax County, that given the fact that there is so much anxiety that has been expressed, there is so much concern, there is so much hostility, actually, in many ways, that has come up as a result of this, that perhaps we should take the opportunity that has been presented to us by the member for Sackville-Cobequid to reflect on what, in fact, we are trying to do. Because as the Premier himself suggested the other day in this House, Mr. Speaker, it is a humble man that is able to reflect on what it is he said in the past and to be able to make changes. I think, to some extent, he is right. I would suggest to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Government House Leader, whoever it is that is calling the shots on the legislative program of this government during this session, that perhaps they want to have a cooling-off period, that they want to show some of the humility that the Premier has talked to us about in the last few days and go back to the drawing board with, if not the legislation, then certainly with the strategy on how to proceed with something as significantly important as municipal restructuring, reform as is proposed under Bill No. 114.
You know, it was not all that long ago that we were standing in this House and talking about another piece of legislation and suggesting that it, too, be given the hoist in order that we be given an opportunity to consider the impacts of it. That, of course, was the legislation to amalgamate the Cape Breton regional municipalities, to amalgamate all the municipalities in Cape Breton.
Mr. Speaker, I think you would know as well as other members in this Legislature, that there has been some damage created in terms of relationships, in terms of concerns of leaders in those communities that still have to be resolved and may take some time to resolve. They perhaps resulted because of the way that that particular piece of legislation was introduced and the fact that there was very little consultation actually involved in the process. Had the government taken the advice of - I think it was probably our caucus that introduced that hoist amendment with that particular piece of legislation - had the minister taken our advice, then perhaps we would not have some of the roadblocks and some of the problems we now see appearing as a result of that particular piece of legislation.
But again, that is history. We have gone by that one, Mr. Speaker. Members in that area and members across the province, certainly the citizens who are affected by that piece of legislation, are feeling the effects now and will continue to in the future. That doesn't mean we have to do that here, that doesn't mean we can't learn from the mistakes made in the past and certainly listen to the consternation, to the anguish and the concern that has been raised by municipal leaders in the metro area and across this province, as a result of the introduction of Bill No. 114.
One of the most consistent issues raised with respect to Bill No. 114 and this minister's and this government's reform strategy for municipal governments and the relationships between municipal governments and their services and the provincial government and its services, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that it has come about not in the way that was pledged to the people of Nova Scotia by this government when they were running for election but it has come in a completely contrary fashion. That has caused people some concern and at a time when the approval rating for politicians is perhaps at an all-time low. I thought prior to the 1993 election that the approval rating for politicians was at an all-time low but this administration has again proven me wrong and they have taken it right down to the depths. Let's hope we are able to resurrect that approval rating at some point. Perhaps it will take the next election to do that.
The point is that if the government, as the Premier indicated earlier, has, in its humility, seen the light and decided that the previous administration that it fought the election campaign against, was right and that the basis upon which they fought the last election was shaky, at best, then the people of Nova Scotia deserve to hear why that is. What is the basis upon which that conversion was made?
I look back, as I think many Nova Scotians have, I think back to that period of March, April and May 1993 and think about the way we fought, about this issue and others. We presented our platform and the Liberals presented theirs and the then government presented theirs. On municipal reform the Liberal and NDP candidates were indistinguishable in many ways, in terms of what they were presenting. The member for Halifax-Fairview referred to a letter put out, a written challenge presented by the member for Sackville-Cobequid at that time, to all candidates but particularly to municipal candidates and provincial members at that particular time, that they would make a pledge that there would be no municipal reform without extensive consultation. I remember sitting at an all candidates meeting with my Liberal and Tory opponents and Mr. Ball, now the Mayor of Halifax County, when I introduced that pledge, read off the letter by the member for Sackville-Cobequid. He agreed with me and said that is an absolutely wonderful idea. That is something that we pledged, that I stand up for as a candidate for the Liberal Party, that we will not proceed with municipal reform without discussing it with the municipalities, without bringing some numbers forward on the whole issue of service exchange, until we have had an opportunity to consult with the people of Halifax County, the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.
That has not happened, I think that is the important point at this stage to realize, that we have a very significant piece of legislation before us, Bill No. 114, and consultation has not taken place, it has not taken place and we are hearing that from every single corner of this province. The motion brought forward by my colleague for Sackville-Cobequid, provides members of this House, members who pledged themselves to consultation back in the election of 1993, to vote in favour and take an opportunity presented to give all Nova Scotians an opportunity to sit down and deal with these issues in a fair and open fashion. That does not mean we are not going to do it, that doesn't mean it is not important because it is very important.
In fact, let's take a little bit of a closer look at what does Bill No. 114 provide for. It talks about the need to move toward and sets up a procedure to move to a one-tier social service system. But does it, in fact, meet up with the commitments that were made by this government when they were in Opposition or when they were running for election back in the spring of 1993. Well I am afraid that it doesn't, in fact. We will continue to have a two-tier social assistance program, even after Bill No. 114 goes through, with Elizabethan rules on who takes responsibility for those people trapped in poverty, a very serious problem and something that was identified, articulated and fought for, by many of the members of the Treasury benches when they were on this side of the House, when they were in Opposition.
Homes for special care, home care, in-home support and other non-institutional care for challenged individuals will remain a municipal responsibility with the province only promising to increase its share of the cost. That is not moving to a one-tier system as promised by these Liberals when they were running for election and when they were talking about municipal reform shortly after being elected.
What concerns some of us is that this hesitancy which has suddenly cropped up in this government. This government, that on the one hand talks about taking action and then on the other hand takes two steps backwards, that it is happening as a direct result of the discussions that are now underway about social policy reform by the federal government. As the federal government, or as we anticipate the federal government is shifting, is further downloading the costs that have resulted from an economy that has absolutely no direction, by policies that in fact create unemployment instead of moving us towards full employment. Through policies that pit one region of this country against another while the federal government is pushing the costs for those consequences down the line to the province, the province is stepping in line and opening the gates so that they can quickly push those costs on further to the municipal taxpayer and that I think is a very chilling thought.
It is a very chilling thought that this government in a very premeditated fashion is preparing to ensure that those people most affected by the inadequate policies of this government and the federal government are not going to have any programs in place, are going to provide the municipal levels of government without any levers, without any processes or programs or money and most importantly money to be able to help those people that are affected now and that will be affected in the future and that is a concern.
If that in fact is the case and I am afraid it may be then we need time. We need the six months that is provided for by this motion to hoist Bill No. 114. We need this opportunity as a community of Nova Scotia as people that are concerned about our future that are really concerned about social reform, about economic development, about fiscal responsibility that we can come together and try to figure out a way out of this mess. A positive strategy I am talking about, not a negative policy or strategy to avoid responsibility. That is not a way a humane civilized society is promoted, is encouraged, by each level of government trying to find out ways that it can duck his responsibility because let's not forget that this government is nothing more nothing less than a temporary representative of the voters and the taxpayers and the citizens of this province.
If we had a government, if we had members of the Treasury benches that took a more positive approach towards developing these kinds of strategies instead of getting involved perhaps in a couple of difficult discussions and then backing off and sliding something through the back door like we have seen with Bill No. 114 and with the announced amalgamation into a super city which has done nothing more than put people's backs up. It has not created a feeling of trust amongst the actors, amongst the leaders, amongst the people that are responsible for participating in these kinds of strategies. Just absolutely the alternative.
I have to ask you because I can't answer this question myself, what could be the possible purpose of proceeding in this manner, in a manner which creates dysfunctional consultation, which creates dysfunctional decision-making processes? I simply cannot understand that, Mr. Speaker, and I know that there are many members on all sides of this House who cannot understand it either, but are feeling the effects, and, unfortunately, are in a situation where they too are feeling somewhat powerless as are many Nova Scotians.
You have heard it all before and you will hear it all again. I think that certainly members in here get somewhat cynical about our and other people's tendency to bring forward in this House in debate during questions and so on, evidence of the commitments that this administration made or the people in this administration made at an earlier time on a given position.
The whole issue and the reason for doing that is because the same concern that we are expressing, represents concern that is being expressed by a number of our constituents. I certainly can speak for myself when I say that. People say to me, on May 25, 1993, I voted for, some will publicly admit they voted for this government on the basis of this kind of strategy on service exchange/municipal reform and how they were going to handle it because they were clearly distinguished, they clearly defined or distinguished their policy against that of the reigning Tories of those particular days.
In fact, Mr. Atkinson, then president of the UNSM back in 1993 was quoted in one of the papers saying that all three mainstream political Parties promised municipal reform but there are dramatic differences he said. He went on to say in that particular article that the NDP and the Liberals are very similar in that they want to take a slow, steady, studied consultative strategy whereas the Tories want to ram it down the municipal levels of government's throat. Municipal leaders and others decided that was not the strategy that should be followed with such an important change.
Now, here we are, a year and one-half later and this government is steaming down that same path that was cleared by Donald Cameron and his Tories. People are aghast. They are asking those questions and it is understandable I would suggest. How could this have happened, Mr. Speaker, is what people say? What happened on the road to power? What hit these guys? What hit these people that changed their strategy so dramatically.
If we took the six months, getting back to the issue at hand, that is provided for in this hoist motion maybe the Premier, in his humble way, maybe other members, former municipal councillors, distinguished mayors, I will not identify them, Mr. Speaker, because I do not know which ones those are. Maybe those individuals can take that time and come to Spryfield, Herring Cove and to Sambro, go out to Sackville, Cobequid and Beaverbank, to Musquodoboit Valley and explain to those people why it is that they are voting yea to support a Premier who flip-flops. He said it himself, here in this Legislature, a few short days ago, changed his mind, flip-flopped. (Interruption) I am speaking, so I have the opportunity to put whatever definition on it I want, whatever label I want.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Let's have a little order now, please.
MR. CHISHOLM: I do appreciate it, Mr. Speaker, when people listen. I don't expect it but I appreciate it.
Anyway, my point was that I am afraid I have not been particularly successful in my attempts to explain to my constituents, or anybody else who stops me on the street, why it is that this government is consistently changing its policies, changing its commitments on things like municipal reform. All I am proposing, I am not going to stand up here and just idly chatter on about a hoist motion, but I am going to recommend that we do something with that six months and what I am suggesting is that these former municipal councillors, who some say have betrayed a trust, can go back to their former councils, their different municipalities, the citizens, the area councils, the local councils, and talk to them, and all the other citizens of this province, those who voted for them and those who didn't, because I am having an awful time finding a handful of Liberals in my constituency who voted Liberal.
I know a lot of them did because, as you may recall, I came awful close, Mr. Speaker. I tell you, I wonder right now if the now Mayor of Halifax County would rather be where he is or be in here. Either way, it is a battle. I believe it is important work and I wish that fine gentleman well.
As the acting President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union said the other day about the mayor, he said, welcome to the ranks of the disenchanted. I thought that was a pretty good line because they are certainly learning the hard way what many public servants and other citizens in this province have already learned, that you can listen all you want but you can't necessarily take the word of some of the individuals who are presenting policies. You can't take that stuff to the bank.
So it is fine for us to talk about the issues of credibility and consistency and consultation, Mr. Speaker, when we discuss this issue, but let's not forget that there are some other matters being addressed in this bill, because it is a very significant piece of legislation. How many pages? It is 80-odd pages that affect long-standing relationships, fiscal and others, between the municipal level of government - the government that they say is known as being close to the people - and the provincial government.
I don't feel competent in examining that 80-odd page document in a period of days or maybe even weeks. I think we need to take the opportunity to study what it is that is provided in this piece of legislation. To study it, to consider the ramifications and perhaps propose amendments, to consider the impact of many of the clauses that are in this particular bill in order that we may ensure that something as critical as the level of direct services that are provided to the citizens of this province, whether they be social services, whether they be health services as they are directed under municipal responsibilities, or property services that are directed to property taxpayers in this province, that we ensure that the people of Nova Scotia get only what they deserve.
What they deserve from us, from this government and from every member of this Legislature is the most effective, the most efficient and the most reasonable and fair policies and procedures that we can put into place. They deserve nothing less and, I would suggest, they expect nothing less. In all fairness we cannot determine that in a period of mere days or weeks. We deal, perhaps on a more regular basis with this kind of, in all due respect to the legislative drafters, mumbo-jumbo. We deal with that on a more regular basis than do many people. If we cannot do it in days and weeks then there are hundreds and thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in this province who are going to be impacted by the conditions that are provided for in this piece of legislation will not know until they try to get their road ploughed, until they try to figure out who is responsible for their aged parent in a home for special care for setting the standards.
They try to decide how it is that their family is going to be provided for at this period when they, through no fault of their own, have been thrown out of work. Then it has been more than twice in the past two years because unfortunately they are still trying to scratch out a living in the fishing industry. Therefore they are repeat offenders under the new UI proposals and they may find themselves on welfare.
What are those people going to do? We do not know, you do not know, I do not know, the minister does not know; the minster responsible for this piece of legislation does not know. I would suggest to you, the Minister of Health does not know, the Minister of Community Services does not know. I think it goes without saying that the Premier does not know.
This is a complicated piece of legislation that appears to have been developed without adequate consultation. We do not have any numbers, we do not know what is going on. The government has backed away from its commitment to a one-tier social service system. They have fallen back on their commitment in terms of homes for special care, home care, in-home support and other non-institutional care for challenged individuals. They have backed off on a commitment to make that as a people service, to make that a provincial government responsibility.
Now what does that mean? We need time to consider those impacts, we need time to ask those questions and to hear those answers. I could give a hoot if by having this piece of legislation here and it going forward some members on the government side say that, well, if we delay this, then that will be a sign that we are not carrying forward with our commitments, that we are not showing leadership.
Mr. Speaker, anybody who says that has not read a manual, has not read a definition, has not read a handbook or anything on leadership. Leadership does not mean making a decision and running holus bolus forward, that is not leadership. Leadership is about taking positions after having considered fully the options, having included people affected in the decision-making process, having the capacity to consider differing opinions and making decisions as to whether to incorporate those concerns or not, and to set out a strategy in a planned, careful, clear fashion and then move forward with a timetable.
An important part of that strategy has to include a constant process of evaluation because you and I both know and all members of this House know, especially since this administration came into being, that things change, daily in many cases. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister and the Premier and the Minister of Economic Development have told us that for various reasons, including the boom that has taken place in Ontario as a result of constructive, positive management of that economy (Interruption) - there was somebody listening - that as a result of what Ontario has been able to do in terms of growing their economy, this government is receiving more transfers, so it is getting more money.
Is the Minister of Finance going to take that money that has been realized from that good government in Ontario, (Interruption) Is he going to take that money and put it into the cost of transferring social services to the province, to ensuring that we have a one-tier social service system in this province? I would suggest that as a result of Bill No. 114 and what I have seen so far that he is not doing that, but I have not heard why. It is not because he doesn't have the money because now he has the money. Maybe it is as he has indicated and that money is going to go to a certain segment of the population, in terms of lower tax rates, Mr. Speaker.
It is not a bad thing, in itself, but clearly a question of priorities. When you consider the pain that many Nova Scotians have had to bear as a result of this government's reawakening on May 26, 1993, as the Conservative Party, they might be asking the question; well, if the government is realizing more money, if there is more money in the coffers as a result of that good government in Ontario, instead of giving it to just one sector maybe it should be spread across all the people who are sharing in the pain and who should also share in the gain. I know that is a novel concept, but it is a concept nonetheless.
These are some of the questions I feel have to be asked, that people in my constituency are asking me, and I am sure those are questions that are being asked of other members in this Legislature on all sides of the House.
So I think it is extraordinarily important at this particular time that all members, regardless of where they sit in the House, regardless of who their House Leader is or who the Whip is, to screw up their courage, Mr. Speaker, and listen to the concerns that have been raised by people in this province about these kinds of policies and recognize that as good as the intention may be with Bill No. 114, that it has been dropped on people without significant consultation.
The government has backed away significantly from many commitments it has made in the past and it is changing relationships which have existed for decades in this province and which need to be carefully scrutinized. We need to take the opportunity that is provided in this hoist to do that and that is why I would urge all members of this House to not see this, a vote in favour of an Opposition Member's amendment or motion, as a sign of weakness or by understanding a vote to hold off on a piece of legislation for a period of six months as a sign of being backed-off, a sign of not knowing where you go, but, in fact, I would suggest to those people that by taking an opportunity to reflect and consider, consult and discuss, that it is a sign of a mature government, a government that can be criticized and is prepared to consider opposing points of view and, Heaven forbid, even take some of them into consideration; to do what we all want to do and that is to develop the best possible legislation, the best possible policies and programs that we can as legislators of this particular province.
So, Mr. Speaker, with those few short comments, I would like to now take my seat and listen to other members speak. I will be supporting the motion by the member for Sackville-Cobequid to hoist Bill No. 114 for six months and I would encourage other members to do likewise. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I have a few brief comments and I must tell you that I am pleased to rise this afternoon in support of the NDP hoist, the amendment that is put forward here. But I must tell you that as I listen to the members to my left, sometimes they get up and they condemn the previous government, they ostracize the government of the day. But it is very easy to rise and condemn governments for bringing forward municipal reform. The Progressive Conservative Government of the day back in 1993 supported municipal reform. The Progressive Conservative caucus of today supports municipal reform. We do not support the consultation process. We don't support the process but we do support municipal reform.
Mr. Speaker, I was very surprised that I was able to get up this afternoon before some of my former Halifax County Council colleagues jumped to their feet. I thought surely that the Liberal Caucus Chairman would beat me to the punch, or perhaps the member for Timberlea-Prospect would have beaten me to the punch or the member for Sackville-Beaverbank. I see the Minister of Supply and Services here. Perhaps they would like to get up and speak in support of this hoist.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to make a few comments why I have some concerns about this bill and why I support the hoist. When the Minister of Municipal Affairs made her statement, she created, almost instantaneously, a lot of nervous Nellies. She created a lot of nervous Nellies in her own government. She begins with something like, since assuming government 16 months ago we have pursued an unprecedented reform agenda.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley the debate is on the motion, the amendment to defer the process of the bill through the House and I would ask him to restrict his comments to that particular motion. Please, let us have order in the House.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the amendment, to the hoist. Halifax County, for example, stands to lose - according to Table I, the Financial Impact Statement - $4.5 million is the cost to Halifax County. So I obviously support the hoist. Colchester County stands to loose $1.79 million; Annapolis County stands to loose $100,011. It is quite easy to support this hoist. It will be a time for the members opposite to go back to this respective caucuses and certainly reflect and stand up for what their constituents and what their members are telling them.
The member who just spoke, spoke about mumbo-jumbo and why he supports the hoist. Mr. Speaker, if I just may . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. TAYLOR: In supporting the hoist here is some of the mumbo-jumbo. "Notwithstanding subsection (2), in the fiscal year commencing April 1, 1995, and subsequent fiscal years, the total annual municipal corrections contribution is the contribution for the immediately preceding fiscal year varied by the same percentage as the variation in the cost of living over the immediately preceding calendar year as measured by the change in the Consumer Price Index for Canada prepared by Statistics Canada.". That is the type of mumbo-jumbo that will be allowed to be more clearly clarified in the six months' hoist that has certainly come forward in this municipal reform bill NDP amendment. That is one of the reasons why I support the amendment.
I have a document here and I certainly know without asking that my former Halifax County colleagues would support this amendment because they are somewhat, I suppose their signature is affixed to this document so therefore we will say that they are signatory to some of the questions that were raised back when the former previous provincial government tried to bring in municipal reform. Is this same high level of personal representation possible in the new super city? Probably not. In the super city each municipal politician would be responsible for representing as many as 17,000 residents, and this document is tabled in the House.
Some of the honourable members had questions along these lines. Do you believe that bigger is better and cheaper? I know for a fact, and they know full well, that constituents in their ridings, in their respective ridings, have some of those same concerns today. This six months' hoist will enable them to go back to their constituents and come back knowing full well that they have had meaningful consultation with their constituents as to where we are going with this particular bill. In Halifax County we now have a say in the services we receive and how much they will cost us. Mr. Speaker, we will have no way of knowing what services we are going to receive or what the cost is going to be.
We asked the minister in Question Period today, for example, when did she know, when did it become Party policy? She tap-danced around the issue. So, I have to support this hoist. Some of my colleagues again were signatory to questions like why haven't you been asked about the province's decision to create a super city? Many of these backbenchers, in fact, why haven't they been asked? I am sure during the six months they will go to the minister, they will go to the Premier, they may even go to the House Leader and they can ask them why they haven't been consulted? I know for a fact that many of them hadn't been consulted until they heard it on the news.
Mr. Speaker, with those few brief comments I do want to tell you there has been quite a bit of talk about a shotgun wedding and things of that nature, but normally during a shotgun wedding one of the partners is pregnant and while we have not had an opportunity to ensure that all the partners involved have taken a pregnancy test, it is (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: I would admonish the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley that there is a parliamentary form of language that is appropriate and while he has not said anything that is totally inappropriate, I would ask him to direct his remarks specifically to the delay, the hoist, the deferment.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, many communities will be pleased . . .
HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The words by the honourable member relating to shotgun weddings that normally one of the partners is pregnant, I think those words are an absolute disgrace to this Chamber and they should not be used in this House. I do not know about the parliamentary system, but I would ask the honourable member to get up and withdraw his remarks that he has made on this issue, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. As the honourable member is aware, I did admonish the honourable member for the language that was used, not as being totally unparliamentary, but not in common usage in the Parliament and I have asked him to refrain from using that kind of analogy again.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the Mayor of Halifax County, Randy Ball; the Mayor of Halifax, Walter Fitzgerald; the Mayor of Dartmouth, Gloria McCluskey; and, of course, the Mayor of Bedford, Peter Kelly, will be quite pleased to hear that this House supports the hoist. I am sure when they reflect on the hoist and look at it a little closer, I do not think there will be any question that they will be supporting the hoist. They usually do support amendments.
Mr. Speaker, there are some very serious concerns and this will enable some of the communities such as Sheet Harbour, Ecum Secum, Ship Harbour, Musquodoboit Harbour, Porters Lake, Lake Echo, up in the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley, to be able to get out and have some dialogue with their members, with their councillors. Because I have received quite a few calls from councillors and they are very concerned just where the government is going with this amalgamation. With those very few brief comments, I will now take my place in support of the hoist.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to speak very long on this hoist of Bill No. 114, the Municipal Reform (1994) Act. I will speak to the amendment to hoist the bill for six months.
I want to be on record, certainly, as saying that I am basically for municipal reform. I think it has been said in the House that our caucus initiated some commissioners to do studies back a couple of years ago. We had Mr. Hayward do the Halifax County study and Mr. Campbell doing the Cape Breton County study to see what could be done and what could be saved by having municipal reform put in place.
If I remember the figures correctly, I think Halifax County, at that time, was approximately $20 million that Mr. Hayward was saying that could probably be saved by doing municipal reform. Mr. Campbell in Cape Breton was saying $13 million could be saved in that area. I did congratulate the government last year for doing the Cape Breton bill and I understand that Mr. Campbell is working very hard with the people down there to get that put in place.
I know you all remember very well the number of municipalities, workers from various districts in Cape Breton were in talking at the Law Amendments Committee on the bill and made some suggestions that were done and were made and I think that is fine as well.
I think it is important that the government have discussions with the people involved in making the decisions. I think it is unfortunate that we have people like Walter Fitzgerald, the Mayor of Halifax, whom I had the pleasure of sitting beside. Walter was there in the House and he certainly has his ideas about it. Perhaps by negotiation and working with the mayors of Halifax, the cities and the county, Mr. Ball, something can be put in place that will be beneficial to all residents of this province.
I couldn't sleep the other night. Sunday night I got up at 3:00 a.m. There was not much on television, I have to admit, but I read this bill and I couldn't believe some of the stuff in it, Mr. Speaker. I know it is a lot about dogs and trees, . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Not much about consultation.
MR. MCINNES: But anyway, the point I wanted to make is there is a lot of stuff that probably has to be amended in the Towns Act and the Municipal Act and probably should have been done years ago. That is fine.
I was a little bit surprised about the health boards being taken out but that is something we should discuss, that the municipal health boards are being taken out. As I understand it, if a person has a problem getting their septic system approved, that now instead of going to the health board, they are going to have to go to the minister over there. If the minister doesn't do it, it is going to go to a judge. Now is that simpler? I don't know. I think those are things we have to be discussing and that is why we should have a six months' hoist, Mr. Speaker, and that is why I am bring those particular points up.
I was disappointed that the bill doesn't cover the total costs of social services. I know they are going to try to phase it in over a period of time, but I think a lot of the municipalities will be upset about that. I can stand here and say to you, sir, that if this bill gets to the Law Amendments Committee, that room in there will be a busy spot with all the units coming in because they want to delay the bill and give them an opportunity to talk about it.
Anyway, it is quite a bill and as I say, I am in favour of municipal reform but I think I am going to vote in support of this hoist to give the people an opportunity to get it out and let people discuss it and come back and make suggestions and then the government can go ahead and do it. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to spend a few moments discussing the amendment to hoist Bill No. 114. I look back to my remarks of last night when I was encouraging the minister to take very seriously the presentations I feel will be coming to Law Amendments Committee, presentations which I think and I encourage the minister to treat as the consultation that she had committed herself to, with all the various municipal units in the province, when she made her tour this past spring. I would suggest that Law Amendments Committee may be sitting well beyond Christmas if the number of presentations come that well may come forward, in terms of the concerns that are created in all the original 66 municipalities.
I am thinking here, you know those of us who are old enough and think of hockey, and we all refer to the original six and (Interruption) Yes, that is right, it is getting hard to remember what it is, but we all remember the original six. Well, of course, we are going to be looking at municipal reform and we are all going to remember the original 66. Obviously it is not going to be very long until we won't have the original 66. Of course on August 1st of next year the number is going down, with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
I think the amendment to allow six months of consultation is most appropriate. The minister promised consultation from April to October and that consultation has not occurred. The amendment to hoist, if passed by this government and this House, will allow that consultation to occur.
I remember being in Sydney, and I made reference to this last night, when the minister standing before the members of the UNSM brought forward the new cost that would be part of a single-tier social service delivery and that cost was very substantial, $27 million. In looking at the cost of introducing that program I realized it would be substantial but I for one was very surprised that the cost would be that high. While I am not debating the figures, I would certainly respectfully submit to the minister that with all the time the government had in terms of its election policies, in terms of the number of months in government, that that figure should have been forthcoming much earlier than September of this year. It certainly surprised a lot of people there and I know many, I think, almost fell off their seats when the minister made that announcement.
The other thing that the minister did and I think that this emphasizes the importance of continuing consultation in this process, the minister, before the UNSM, asked if there was anybody out there with some solutions to the problems, I would be prepared to listen. I think that the minister will agree that she did say that that night and the mere fact that in September that she was suggesting to people that she would be very receptive to their suggestions and at the same time, when consultation effectively stopped in April, would suggest that perhaps the minister herself might appreciate the opportunity for all of the municipal officials in this province to bring forward their new ideas, ideas which she could not have expected to have been brought forward in terms of her new policy until her new policy was brought forward itself.
So, obviously, the amendment to hoist is one that would be an opportunity for the consultation that we are all talking about to occur. How could we improve the present program by consultation? The minister, by denying the opportunity for consultation is suggesting to us here in this House that this is the very best plan possible. I would like to suggest that that is not the case. What problems are we solving with this program of service exchange that are any better than the programs that it is replacing? Look at social services. It has not introduced a single-tier administration and delivery of social services across the province, it has merely done so in the Cape Breton region.
The big carrot that the government has put before municipal units in this province to engage them in meaningful discussion in terms of municipal reform has been the elimination of municipal responsibility in the payment of social services in this province. That carrot, with the exception of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has been withdrawn from this plan.
Mr. Speaker, do you not think that the municipal officials in all of the other municipal units in this province will wish to discuss with the minister the application or the payment of general assistance in the Cape Breton region and not in their municipal unit? Do you not think that the municipal officials in this province will have a very strong position on this particular point, a position that they have not had the opportunity to discuss with the minister to this point?
The passage of the amendment to hoist would certainly solve that problem and they would have six months to make these representations to the minister and perhaps to hammer out a better deal.
Let's look at the municipal grant situation. We were told here in the House last spring when we passed the budget in terms of the municipal grants in that piece of legislation that this was the very last time that we would be doing that. The equalization payments of $15 million is merely a smaller version of the municipal grant legislation that we have all suggested was going by the boards. I am not suggesting it is not needed, it certainly is needed in terms of the package that is in front of us, but it will be needed each and every year from now until eternity unless this program is made better.
Mr. Speaker, homes for special care, the minister has improved the cost-sharing on this particular program from 66.67 per cent to 80 per cent and that is laudable. But that program is a people service. If you look at all of the studies that have been conducted in terms of municipal reform, the recommendation is let the provincial government pay for people service and let the local government pay for property service. Again, we have fallen short of the objective by 20 per cent.
Mr. Speaker, one could go on and on in terms of suggesting ways in which the program of service exchange in Bill No. 114 could be improved. It could be improved, not with my input, but with the input of all of those recently elected municipal officials in this province who have not had the opportunity to discuss the minister's latest proposal with her.
Mr. Speaker, consultation was a word that appeared in the platform of the Liberal Government. It is a word that this government is very wont to put forward in terms of their style of government. I would suggest to you that this government knows how to spell consultation, it just doesn't know what it means.
In closing, I would like to congratulate the member for Sackville-Cobequid for bringing forward this amendment to hoist. I think it would provide ample opportunity for the discussion that the municipal reform package requires and I will be voting positively on the amendment to hoist.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to make some remarks in relation to the municipal exchange legislation. As has been said by many and, indeed, I said it myself a couple of years ago, the road to municipal reform has been rather long and, in some cases, rather eventful. Perhaps I might even say this road, particularly in latter times, has been somewhat uneventful. To illustrate why I say this, I would like, if you will indulge me, to take us down the road to municipal reform just from the last little while.
AN HON. MEMBER: . . . tell a story.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, well I will tell a little story and this is the story of what happened to Sandy on the way to the explosion the other day with every municipal leader in Nova Scotia.
I would like to take you back, Mr. Speaker, to about this time last year. This is a quote from Hansard debates of October 6, 1993. The question was from myself to Minister Jolly I was asking for information at that time about which individuals and organizations she was meeting with that would lead to the production of a document outlining the plans for municipal reform in November. Note that the municipal reform plan was at that point scheduled for November. My question was in October and Ms. Jolly, in her usual congenial way, replied referring to the annual meeting of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities which was scheduled to take place in September, she said the following.
Remember now, we are talking September, a year ago September and I quote Minister Jolly, "At that meeting, I guaranteed and promised to the union and the members that attended that in early November I would come forward with a blueprint, an outline of what the municipal reform would involve, with a timeframe attached to that as well, with certain items with regard to consultation and discussion times that would be involved.".
I then take you to a month later. In Hansard, November 10, 1993, this is another quote from our Hansard here in the Legislature when my colleague, Dr. Hamm, the member for Pictou Centre, asked about the paper that was promised in early November and Ms. Jolly at that time talked about meetings and her response, but still at that time, she unfortunately could not give a definitive timeframe.
Then I went to Hansard again and I found a reference on November 18, 1993 and at that reference, I again asked, when and I quote, ". . . she and her government would be putting forth a position paper on municipal reform, it was supposed to be in October sometime, then it was supposed to be the first of November and it is now November 18th . . . when can we precisely expect . . ." a policy document.
Ms. Jolly, as again, is her usual jovial congenial way . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I would remind the honourable Leader of the Opposition, is he referring to the honourable minister?
MR. DONAHOE: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: I would ask him that he would use the title while addressing the honourable minister. (Interruption)
MR. DONAHOE: I am sorry. Well, the honourable congenial Minister Jolly, Minister of Municipal Affairs and she responded on this occasion in November 1993 in her inimitable way, "It is our intention to have something ready in the month of December.". So, at that point on November 18th, we thought we only had to wait a very few days until we got into December. I assumed, perhaps erroneously, but I assumed that she was at that time referring to December 1993.
Then just a few days later on November 24, 1993, as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, again my colleague, Dr. Hamm, the member for Pictou Centre asked this question, "I will ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs, has she written down her blueprint on municipal reform and when can we see it?". Minister Jolly responded, predictably enough as you might expect, ". . . it will be ready in December.". December was going to be a very big month.
So then finally on December 17th, Minister Jolly made a statement. A key element of the plan at that time made by the minister was that the province was to assume complete responsibility for social services, that is, municipal general assistance, homes for special care, home care, child welfare costs and all other municipal costs in relation to social services including administration.
Well, the truth of the matter is and we will come to this in a moment, the document which she has now had the Premier lay on her desk and ask her to come forward with because I still remain totally unconvinced that this is her document. I simply do not believe at all that we are dealing with this municipal service exchange situation with anything except the edict of Premier Savage.
So, in any event, in December of last year Minister Jolly was saying that the key element of the plan that she was going to come forward with was that the province, the government of which she is the Minister of Municipal Affairs, was to assume complete responsibility for social services, municipal general assistance program, homes for special care, home care, child welfare costs and all other municipal costs in relation to social services, including administration.
I wonder if I may just break into my own remarks for a moment to introduce to you and to all members a distinguished Nova Scotian politician and now newly former member of the Liberal Government of this province, a former Minister of Labour in this place and now the newly elected and distinguished and I am sure will prove to be eloquent and aggressive in his capacity as Mayor of the City of Halifax, Mr. Walter Fitzgerald. (Applause)
HON. GUY BROWN: On a point of order, through you, sir, I would like to remind the Leader of the Opposition that he was also a former Housing Minister and a great one in the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. DONAHOE: He was that and I am sure Mr. Speaker is providing guidance and counsel to the current Minister of Housing. Maybe there is the definitive line in this whole piece, the distinguished Government House Leader says of our guest, Mr. Fitzgerald Mayor of Halifax that he may be a great mayor, "if he ever gets a chance to do it". (Interruption) Well, that is exactly what he said.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor and I would remind him that he is debating the amendment to the motion to hoist the bill and I would ask him to restrict his comments to that subject.
MR. DONAHOE: I am doing my best to restrict myself to the hoist motion. The point I am attempting to make and the reason for my chronological history of previous events is to make the point, and I will continue with it for the moment, is to make the point that while we had great rhetoric out of the Minister of Municipal Affairs about a consultation process, about the fact that on a particular day certain in the future there would be discussion documents issued and on certain future specific days there would be schedules made available to all the municipal units of Nova Scotia so that they would all know to the nickel the impact of municipal service exchange upon them.
I have just now been through about four pages of notes indicating that we had five or six such promises from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the meetings never took place and the consultations never took place and the schedules of financial impact on the municipal units were never produced. But, as I said in December last year the Minister of Municipal Affairs said and I repeat, and it is vitally important because as I know you realize it was but a few short months ago and she said a key element of their plan, their government's plan was that the province was to assume complete responsibility for social services, municipal general assistance programs, homes for special care, home care, child welfare costs and all other municipal costs in relation to social services including administration. The importance of us understanding those lines is that when a few days ago the document that Hon. John Savage stuffed down the throat of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and she regurgitated in her press conference didn't do what was said December 17th.
Now, the saga continues. You will know that other new provincial responsibilities under the plan being proposed or at least the rhetoric outlining what purported to be a plan was that other new provincial responsibilities were to include full cost of the administration of justice, the courts and the registries and all health care costs as well as full grants in lieu of taxes.
Municipalities were to maintain the costs of corrections, then as Minister Jolly, the Minister of Municipal Affairs indicated to us here in the Legislature last Friday, she says she did some consultation. I understand the municipalities had quite a bit to say about the proposal that came forward. Once again, began to ask when the results of this consultation would be available for scrutiny. So, we went back to Hansard and we found June 2nd, 1994. My colleague, Mr. Archibald, the member for Kings North, asked if the Minister of Municipal Affairs knew about a meeting of about 700 or 800 people in Cambridge, who were gathered to condemn the tax reform policy that had been initiated by the provincial government. The minister responded that she was prepared to make adjustments.
My colleague, Mr. Archibald, the member for Kings North asked, "When will the minister please announce these changes so that the people can get back to what they are doing normally?". The Minister of Municipal Affairs, as I am sure my colleague for Kings North will recall, responded by saying, "I will have a final draft within the next two weeks . . .". This is June 1994. "I will have a final draft within the next two weeks of which I will then do some public education. I will cross the province, as we promised as well, and we will have the final paper by the end of June, very early in July at the latest.".
AN HON. MEMBER: What year was that?
MR. DONAHOE: This was purported to be 1994. Well, Mr. Speaker, you will recall and I certainly do and I am sure all municipal leaders of the province certainly recall well, the end of June came and went and early July came and went. But lo and behold, late in July, July 27, 1994, again some many months ago, my colleague, Dr. Hamm, the member for Pictou Centre wrote to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, reminding her of her commitment for the draft in early July. There has been no response to that letter.
On September 2, 1994, the Minister of Municipal Affairs wrote to all the municipal units across the province and the villages in the province and she advised then, this is September 1994, that provincial-municipal service exchange is proceeding but that - and get these words now, we are now September 2, 1994 - that provincial-municipal service exchange is proceeding but that, "no final decisions have been made and we will continue to consult with the UNSM as the program proceeds.". That was a couple of months ago.
Then, on September 9, 1994, again my colleague, Dr. Hamm, the member for Pictou Centre, wrote to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and he again asked and I think, if I remember his letter correctly, he virtually pleaded with the minister for information to be made available for scrutiny and debate. Mr. Speaker, as I am sure will shock you, once again there has been no response to that letter.
In the Minister of Municipal Affairs' letter in September to municipal units it was indicated that changes from the program, as advanced the previous December, would be forthcoming and that these changes would be based on suggestions from the working committees and the results of the tour of the municipalities. This is September and she is talking about acknowledging that what we sent you last December is not going to hold any more and there are going to be some changes but she gives no indication in that documentation as to what those changes were to be.
Well, where is the consultation on this new service exchange plan? What happened to the promised discussion paper, the paper that was promised for early July at the very latest. I ask you and suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and the reason for my supporting the hoist is essentially the following. If you compare the two programs, they appear to be different in several key areas. That is the program announced on October 27, 1994, is very different from the program announced on December 17, 1993.
Full and complete consultation is a must as this program appears to be so completely different from the one which was initially announced. For example, and these are significant. Rather than complete responsibility for the following, the province, in this new service exchange program, now tells the municipalities of the province and all Nova Scotian taxpayers that they will assume only partial responsibility. In the area of social services, the municipal units are now, apparently, to continue to be responsible for most components of municipal general assistance, rather than having this responsibility transferred to the province, as had earlier been promised. However, the province will assume total responsibility for child welfare costs.
In regard to homes for special care, the province is not assuming full responsibility in this area either. But, in fairness to it and as my colleague from Pictou Centre said, to their credit, the province is now suggesting an increase in the cost-sharing from 66.67 per cent to 80 per cent, on those homes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Community Services.
In regard to the administration of justice, the municipal units will continue to contribute towards the costs of correction. The costs of administration are to be transferred to the province. That, too, reflects a change.
Mr. Speaker, the following is an excerpt from the Liberal campaign book on municipal reform policy and I quote; A Liberal Government will not change municipal boundaries and structures before allowing and providing full information to the public upon the impact of such change, including the costs and benefits of available options, nor before members of the public have had full opportunity for input and critique. Boy, those are powerful words.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Government has, as I know you see readily, once again flip-flopped on their promises. The Liberal Government has once again made an announcement of their intention to reform, with no plan in place, no firm facts and figures and no consultation on the final plan as presented. Instead, what we have here is again so typical of the approach taken by this Premier to virtually any public policy issue, what we have is the presentation of a plan as an absolute fait accompli.
The Liberal Government, just as an example, has announced health care reform. But when we ask, and when Nova Scotians ask for the plan, the government can't produce that plan. What they say to us is, trust us. The Liberal Government has announced there will be casinos in Halifax and Cape Breton. According to the Minister of Finance, the province is expecting to be able to lower taxes because of future revenues that these casinos are allegedly going to generate. But they have no facts on which to base this. They laugh at us and dismiss us out of hand. I don't mind that but, more to the point, they give the back of the hand to tens of thousands of Nova Scotians who ask repeatedly for a socio-economic impact study before any decision is taken to open casinos in this province. They have no firm facts that casinos will actually make money and they don't have any firm facts of what casinos will cost this province.
HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order. I was just going to inquire, Mr. Speaker, what a socio-economic impact study on casinos has to do with the amendment before us in the House.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have to apologize. Order, please. I am speaking on a point of order, would the honourable member please take his seat.
I have to apologize to the House and to the honourable Government House Leader, I was discussing with the Speaker a matter of parliamentary procedure at the time. I didn't hear the debate but if the debate was not specific and did not have the degree of specificity that I have been asking for, relative to the motion at hand, the amendment to the main motion, then of course it is out of order. But I cannot rule on it as I was not paying attention to the debate at the point.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate as well the endorsement from my good friend, the member for Cape Breton South.
My straying into references to casinos and the like, Mr. Speaker, was not to deliver a speech about casinos.
AN HON. MEMBER: That will come later.
MR. DONAHOE: That certainly will come later. My references to casinos were simply in terms of process, simply to indicate, now that you are again engaged with the Speaker and I could perhaps get away with it, to indicate that this government's dealings in regard to casinos is exactly the same as their dealing in regard to the municipal reform issues, that there is absolutely, and there has been absolutely no meaningful, legitimate, substantive, open, transparent discussion with the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia leading to the municipal exchange document, as was the case with the ill-conceived decision to go with casinos.
I was simply likening process, not issue but process, one to the other. And, if I may say, like the casino issue, not all I will suggest to you, the members of this House, and I speak not only of Opposition members, support the municipal reform legislation which is now before us.
It is reported that the member for Cape Breton West has said he doesn't know if he will vote for this bill and he is one of the few on the government benches thus far to stand up and be counted. (Interruption) It appears that there may be a flip-flop in the workings, as far as the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage is concerned and we will await that member's contribution in this debate.
You know (Interruption) well, it is two out of 41 but it is . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order please. Rabbit tracks.
MR. DONAHOE: I shouldn't follow those rabbit tracks, . . .
MR. SPEAKER: That is absolutely correct.
MR. DONAHOE: . . . no indeed, particularly when I consider the rabbit in question I certainly shouldn't follow the rabbit tracks. I guess it says something to us, as provincial politicians, when whoever happens to be in government comes forth with a public policy initiative and, in this instance, comes forth with a public policy initiative that relates to the very fabric of the relationship between the provincial level and the municipal level and the service exchange and the service delivery and the economics and the accounting for all of those service deliveries, as between one level of government and the other.
I think it is significant that we have virtually every municipal leader and most members of every municipal council in this province now coming to understand the implications of this John Savage policy announced by Minister Jolly the other day. Virtually every municipal reaction to this document and to this proposal has been negative. But more to the point and the reason I say with as much conviction as I can muster, the reason that I say it should be given the hoist, I am not saying this should not be done because frankly, I support the concept and the principle of municipal reform and municipal service exchange. I support that. I support, in principle, the service exchange in the municipal reform initiative. But however, I don't want to postpone it, the Minister of Municipal Affairs says, but what you want to do is you want to postpone it.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable Leader of the Opposition direct his remarks to the Chair, please? He knows better than to talk or debate across the floor.
MR. DONAHOE: My apologies, Mr. Speaker. I don't want to postpone any longer than is necessary to have the legitimate analysis and discussion with the municipal politicians who are so directly and intimately affected; more to the point with the taxpayers, both provincial and municipal, who are so directly affected by the impacts and implications of this municipal service exchange. The fact of the matter is that on the day that this Legislature opened, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, having been ordered to do so by her Premier who decided that this was going to be done, I have information that this is the first time - and prove me a liar if you can - that most of the members of the Liberal caucus even knew that this was going to happen was hours before the document was tabled here in this Legislature. That may be wrong but that is my information.
What kind of a way is that (Interruption) no, it is not the first time that I have been wrong.
MR. SPEAKER: Again I admonish the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition not to debate across the floor.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I apologize for debating across the floor. This particular public policy initiative has the potential to dramatically change and alter and realign and redesign the fabric of the relationship between provincial and municipal governments for generations to come.
I do not believe and I doubt, Mr. Speaker, in your more lucid moments that you would believe either . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Do you suggest that I have some that are not quite so lucid?
MR. DONAHOE: I would not be surprised that you, at all times, would share the view, Mr. Speaker, that it simply is not good enough. You have a background in municipal politics, as do many of our colleagues here. It is not that easy for the realignments and the redesign of the role and function of the delivery of the essential municipal services and the assumption of the costs of many of those services by the provincial government to be done and undertaken in a way that allows all of us, as taxpayers, and the hundreds and thousands of taxpayers out there, to know what is going on.
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, this is a situation where we are having rammed down the throats of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, a municipal service exchange public policy initiative, about which they know nothing, about which they were not consulted, about which not even the leaders of the municipal units were consulted, because the numbers and the schedules which were so ceremoniously thrown on the table here in this House last Thursday were not even the subject of discussion with the mayors and the wardens and the councillors and the aldermen across this province, let alone the poor, beleaguered taxpayers.
How is it possible that the municipal taxpayers, the municipal leaders, could have any clear understanding of the implications of these changes? What do they mean to tax rates? What do they mean to what is going to happen to municipal roads? What do they mean? Now many municipal leaders, for sure, having been of the clear understanding that the social assistance program was going to be completely assumed by the Province of Nova Scotia, they could understand that, they could plan for that, they could develop that into their budgetary programs at the municipal level, but now that has all gone by the board and they are not able to do that.
Mr. Speaker, I will not go on longer, and I am sure that will please members opposite. I said the things I have said with as much force and sincerity as I possibly could say them. I really, truly, honestly believe that proceeding in this fashion with as fundamental a change in the fabric and relationship of provincial and municipal governments in terms of provincial-municipal service delivery and payment, therefore, that it is confusing, that it is not understood, not even by the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Today, here in this House, she stands up and says, well, I don't know but yes, Halifax County, my goodness, yes we are going to have further discussions with the people in Halifax County so they can determine whether or not they might be part of some other metropolitan union unit other than the merged Halifax-Dartmouth metro unit.
Hubbards was one of the examples. Do they have a greater affinity of purpose and community of interest with Lunenburg County? This minister doesn't know that. She is going to now go and try to figure all that out. Well, while she is in the process of trying to figure that out, don't you think, Mr. Speaker, as I do, that that has tremendous impact on what happens to the men and women who will try to run Halifax County, or what is left of Halifax County? If they lose part of their residential and commercial, person and tax base, surely that has to throw the whole accounting into considerable chaos?
The only point I am trying to make is that this is not at all well-conceived; it is not thought out. The answers are not clear; the answers are not final; the schedule of numbers which we are shown cannot be trusted; and it simply is a ham-handed way to go about a piece of business which can and should be done so much better.
You know the members opposite just love to say every time I or any of the Opposition members make comments such as those I have made today, oh, well it has been debated for decades, it has been on the books for years and years. Well, I acknowledge that and I acknowledge that when I was a member of government, and as a member of government as has been said from the other side a couple of times, it was for that very reason that the government of which I was a member was determined that the time had come that serious and effective municipal reform and municipal service exchange improvement had to be made. I was not living in the dark, I knew it was discussed too long. We knew it had to be addressed, but we addressed it or were attempting to address it in a way that enabled every single municipal unit to be engaged in the consultative process to help us come to a consensus as to how best to do it and that is, in fact, the exercise which was underway.
I just simply, frankly, put little or no stock at all in the extent of, or more to the point, the effectiveness of the consultation which this Minister of Municipal Affairs alleges that she has had with the municipal units of Nova Scotia.
I went to Sydney to the annual meeting of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and I was there two days after my colleague, the member for Pictou Centre, was there. As the member for Pictou Centre said just a moment ago, can you believe this, can you believe this, Mr. Speaker. That was a matter of a couple of weeks ago and the Minister of Municipal Affairs of this government stands in front of the union leadership of the Province of Nova Scotia. She says virtually verbatim, I do not really have a lot of answers to a lot of questions that we have been talking about.
If anybody out there speaking to the municipal leadership, if anybody out there has any answers, I would just love to have a chat with you. What kind of credibility, what kind of confidence, what kind of attitude must have been left in the minds of the municipal leaders who were sitting there at this dinner listening to the Minister of Municipal Affairs acknowledge on the one hand that she did not really have much of an idea as to what she was doing and saying, if anybody has any good ideas, I will talk to you out behind the curtain here after the speech is over. What kind of a way is that to undertake a municipal service exchange or a municipal reform initiative.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, when I got to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities meeting two nights after that momentous speech from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I can tell you that municipal councillor after councillor after warden after mayor spoke to me and made comment about the fact, (a) how embarrassed they were and; (b) how much let down they were that the Minister of Municipal Affairs stood on that podium that night and acknowledged, she did not know what was going on and; (b) if anybody out there could help me, please come and talk to me after.
The point I make is that this fundamentally important public policy issue, as it is now designed and crafted and laid in front of all of us, the municipal politicians, all of us in this place and all of the hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotian taxpayers, the point I make is that it is a document which just simply cries out for analysis, some explanation, some further detail, some work at every single municipal unit, some work between the Municipal Affairs Department and probably the Department of Finance and the municipal units of Nova Scotia. I believe it is folly for any of us to simply sit here on our hands if, as, and when this bill is called and like trained seals just clap when the gong goes and vote for this. I, frankly, think we would do a very real disservice to the municipalities and the municipal taxpayers, all taxpayers in the Province of Nova Scotia.
This piece of legislation - probably more than most I have seen in my 16 or 17 years in this place - simply cries out for a six months' hoist. Not to kill it, not to say it will never happen, but to afford each and every one of us to sit with the municipal leaders, the men and women who are our municipal leaders in the parts of Nova Scotia which we all are proud to represent and sit down, take those schedules, take the legislation, tear it apart, see what is inside, see what it means to our respective municipal units and put it back together again, in concert with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and others, in a package which makes sense.
I honestly believe that that is not so much, if the Minister of Municipal Affairs might happen to be concerned, if that might concern her that that would be an admission of some wrongdoing or an admission of perhaps what she has produced isn't perfect, well, I am the first to admit and, God knows, I have proven it on a personal basis many times, but nothing of human creation is perfect. Nothing. Zero. This piece of legislation can indeed be improved. (Interruption) Yes, I did discover that late in life; I have just celebrated the big 5-0 as the honourable member might remember and I can't tell you how the wisdom has just been feeding into my head as a result of attaining that exalted age, and when I reach the even more exalted age of such people as the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister responsible for Economic Development, and the Minister of Justice and so on, just image the wisdom that will be forthcoming.
Mr. Speaker, my plea to all members is to consider the good, positive, effective work which can be done in the next six months. If each and every one of us were prepared to work together in concert with the Minister of Municipal Affairs, all of the municipal leadership of this province, all of those groups of municipal interest groups across the province review the package which the minister has tabled here and come together six months hence, I imagine, frankly I am convinced - and I am sure that you with your municipal government background would perhaps share some of that conviction that I have - that we would come back here to this place with a piece of municipal reform legislation, municipal service exchange legislation which was in fact a document which we could all leave, proudly saying that this is the best we can do collectively in light of all the circumstances and it is in the best interest of the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia.
For those reasons I take no hesitation at all in indicating to you that I will support, and support vigorously, the motion which is now before us, which if passed - and I urge other members to support the motion - would result in giving this particular piece of legislation the six months' hoist.
MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
A recorded vote is being called for.
Ring the bells.
[The Division bells were rung.]
MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?
Is the House ready for the question? The question is proposed by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. It is a motion to amend Bill No. 114 as follows that the words after "that" be deleted and the following be substituted, "That Bill No. 114 be now not read for a second time, but that it is to be read a second time, six months' hence.".
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Moody Mrs. Norrie
Mr. Donahoe Mr. Downe
Mr. Leefe Dr. Smith
Ms. McDonough Mr. Boudreau
Mr. Holm Mr. Gillis
Mr. Chisholm Mr. Bragg
Mr. Archibald Ms. Jolly
Mr. Taylor Mr. Mann
Mr. McInnes Mr. Casey
Dr. Hamm Mr. Gaudet
Mr. M. MacDonald
Mr. W. MacDonald
THE CLERK: For, 10. Against, 31.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried in the negative.
We will return to the debate of Bill No. 114.
The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I think like most of the members who have had the opportunity to speak in the debate thus far, this is one bill which I would rather not have been debating at this time and for reasons that others have laid out and that I hope to be able to reinforce in my own small way over the next several minutes that are available to me.
It strikes me that this government has gone into forward and then violently into reverse on so many occasions that it must suffer from some kind of collective whiplash. We hear a great deal these days about white collar crime. I am inclined to think that my colleagues on the government benches opposite could well be candidates for what one might call surgical collar crime, the surgical collars being required to outfit all of them as a result of the self-inflicted whiplash from which they all suffer.
One need only look at the very sorry record of toing and froing that characterizes this government. For example, the promise not to raise taxes, the decision to raise taxes; the promise not to build casinos, the decision to build casinos.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, you have directed this House of Assembly and previous speakers on a number of occasions to speak to the matter before them. As I understand it, casinos are not a matter before us on this motion and neither are the other matters that were referred to by the previous speaker.
I think he is straying far from even the general intention of the bill and I would ask you to make a ruling in that regard.
MR. SPEAKER: The second reading of the bill gives a reasonably wide latitude for discussion and any matter that can be discussed on the floor that can be related to the principle of the bill, but with a wide-ranging latitude, is permissable under the rules of the House. The point of order is not in effect.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, it would seem that my colleague gambled and lost. In the event that my colleague needs reinforcement with respect to how germane casinos are to this debate, one need only give consideration to the tremendous social costs that we believe are going to accrue through the implementation of casino gambling in Nova Scotia; costs that, because of the decision taken by this government with respect to municipal reform, are going to continue to apply to the municipal units. So in fact, the reference to casino gambling is right on the mark.
We could also take a look, for example, at the government's promise to put an end to patronage and then we take a look, for example, at the rather interesting appointments of very high profile Liberals, for example, to the various regional hospital boards. Mr. Cowan comes to mind. Now, of course, we have one of the most amazing reversals of all, that is the reversal with respect to municipal reform. Mr. Speaker, this is a trail of broken, broken promises.
Mr. Speaker, I think it was Joyce Cary who wrote a book which he entitled "Herself Surprised.". I think that that title could very well have applied to the Minister of Municipal Affairs with respect to the announcement that amalgamation of the four municipal units was going to occur, that announcement having been made on Wednesday. There are some who have suggested, and I must admit that I am among them, that perhaps the minister's information with respect to this decision was so late that she might well have had to rely on Mr. Nunn for the information as it became public on CBC and, of course, on CTV and MITV, as well.
So, certainly, she was very surprised and I had this reinforced for me when I took a look at an editorial in the Daily News which quoted Mayor Randy Ball, for the moment the Mayor of the Municipality of the County of Halifax. Mr. Ball asked the minister, where are we going, and the editorial notes that Ms. Jolly did not know any more than anyone else. So she is, indeed, Mr. Speaker, as Joyce Cary would put it, herself surprised.
That is small comfort to the literally hundreds of thousands of men, women and children throughout this huge and indeed greatly diverse metropolitan area who are going to be impacted by this unilateral decision by this Liberal Government, as it completely reverses itself with respect to municipal amalgamation and as it forces municipal amalgamation today on these four municipal units, tomorrow on Heaven knows what other municipal units. Pictou County? Probably. Kings County? Perhaps. My own South Shore of Nova Scotia, in time as well.
In fact, just on Monday, Mr. Speaker, I delivered a letter to my municipal colleagues at the Municipality of the County of Queens in the Town of Liverpool and I suggested to them, as strongly as I possibly could and in as diplomatic language as I could possibly muster, that they may have, just may have, a very narrow window of opportunity open to them with respect to getting their act together insofar as municipal reform is concerned for the two municipal units in my own constituency and that if they hope to take any advantage whatsoever of that narrow opening, if in fact it does exist, they must do so in advance of the end of December. I, like many others, am convinced that the government plans, if they have any to gel, will gel early in the new year and those who have not come forward with a rational plan on their own will be told precisely what plan they will be following. Again, when we come to understand that there is a plan, if there is a plan at all.
Mr. Speaker, October 26, 1994, will go down as rather a peculiar day in the history of municipal politics in Nova Scotia and in the relationship between the Province of Nova Scotia and the municipal units, from one end of the province to the other; peculiar in that it was a day in which a promise made proved to be a promise unkept, a day in which a promise was undone, it would appear almost, indeed if not without the consent and the full knowledge of the minister and some of her Cabinet colleagues, a day in which we embarked on a path which seems to have no dimensions, no width and a length which is, as yet, undetermined.
Isn't it interesting, Mr. Speaker, that we are reminded that it took about 18 months for the Premier to look at the metro merger as something other than the crazy idea which he characterized the previous government's plans as being when, of course, he was Leader of the Opposition. Isn't it interesting that 18 months also happens to be about the gestation period of the elephant. Well, in this case and with this government, 18 months after their coming to government that gestation period has resulted in the province finding that they bought a very large and very clumsy white elephant.
Mr. Speaker, a crazy idea indeed. The plan put forward the other night, if one could indeed call it that, is, at the very best, fuzzy and ill-conceived. Again we can look at any of the press reports which have been forthcoming over the past several days to understand that the other estate which has a direct interest in the public affairs of this province, namely the media, find a singular lack of clarity in just what it is that the minister is all about.
In debating the hoist, my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Halifax Citadel, went through the litany of indecision which characterizes this minister's and this government's approach to municipal planning. I don't think I have to go through all that, although it certainly is instructive, but it begins on October 6, 1993, more than a year ago, with promises for plans, promises for blueprints, promises for consultation, promises for all kinds of things, right up until early this September when the minister was again underlining the fact that no changes would occur without full consultation with the citizens and the municipal units involved.
One cannot help but wonder if those statements, made only a very short time ago, were made solely to get her by the annual meeting of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, which took place in Sydney this fall. One cannot help but wonder why, if the government had any plan, if it knew where it was going, if it knew what it was doing, it would, only two weeks after municipal elections across Nova Scotia, come forward with a plan which has the effect of wrecking the four municipal units which comprise this metropolitan region of Halifax.
Why were the taxpayers required to go to all of the expense of holding those elections? Why were the candidates required to go to the expense, both physical and financial, of fighting election campaigns? Why were the elections not put off for another year so that the plan, if there was one, could be put into effect and new municipal councils could be elected on the basis of those plans?
That is a very salient point; it is a question which is germane; it is a question which the minister should answer in this House, to respond to the questions by Nova Scotians and particularly those living in the metropolitan region. Why, if they had the plan, didn't they say they had the plan before the municipal elections and move forward accordingly, instead of allowing the elections to take place and then, less than two weeks later, to wipe those elections away as though, in fact, they had never happened?
Mr. Speaker, if there is a plan it is very vague indeed. But, then this is the hallmark of this government, vagueness in any plan which is said will get us from here to there. I think for example, of the plan the Minister of Health has before the province with respect to health reform, vagueness is a word which leaps to mind. I think of the discussions that the Minister of Education has had with respect to educational reform. Again, the word vagueness leaps to mind. I suppose if one can pass out accolades in a negative kind of way one might well say that if nothing else the Minister of Municipal Affairs is consistent in that her plan is as vague as other plans of her colleagues.
Nobody was more surprised, other than perhaps the minister, than the First Magistrates of these municipal units when they were called unceremoniously here to Province House to have the message delivered to them that their days were numbered. They talked about the process. Mayor Fitzgerald said, all of a sudden boom we are hit with a two by four; Mayor Ball said, we are not prepared to be shotgun Mary; Mayor McCluskey said, maybe they will slow it down like they did with the leadership review, who knows; and Mayor Kelly of Bedford said, it is nothing but lies and that is intolerable.
For a minister who time and time again in this House and across this province has prided herself on an open and honest and frank relationship with municipal leaders we now find a minister who has so poisoned the waters that she will never be able to go back to them again with any degree of trust to work with them on resolving any of the problems which face the municipal units and the provincial government as they must act together from time to time, in fact frequently, in concert to resolve difficulties and to find solutions to problems facing this Province of Nova Scotia.
How can any of those First Magistrates, how can any of those wardens, how can any of those mayors, how can any of those municipal councillors, or any of their municipal constituents ever again put their faith in this government or this minister who made a promise to them and then who had to stand by a promise broken by the Premier, broken by the government, a promise which because she votes for it and is prepared to announce it, she is now part, no matter how much she may wish that matters were otherwise.
Mr. Speaker, the First Magistrates were concerned not only about process they also are very concerned about substance as well. Again, let me refer to two of the First Magistrates in this metropolitan region, Mayor Ball and Mayor Fitzgerald. Mayor Ball says, ask the Premier, that is about the plan, because he is the only one with the answers and he is being aloof enough not to tell anybody. Again, I suspect anybody including the Minister of Municipal Affairs at least not until the very last moment. Mayor Fitzgerald said, it is a government that doesn't know what it is doing and today is a perfect example.
It is a disgrace, said Mr. Fitzgerald. As we all know, Mr. Fitzgerald was a distinguished Cabinet Minister who sat in this House as a Minister of the Crown for four years and as a member of the Opposition for four years. Mayor Ball is well-known across the metropolitan area and I think in many parts of the province. He is a two-time candidate for the Liberal Party in a Spryfield seat for which he challenged my colleague who usually is sitting just here at my left and behind me, here he is here and although unsuccessful campaigned very, very hard against municipal reform and amalgamation of municipal units. Today he has found himself absolutely and totally devastated by this turn of events occasioned by, again, the forward-reverse characteristic, so characteristic of this government.
Mr. Speaker, I would hasten to point out to the government, and again there is reference to this in the media, and that is with respect to landfill, just a very short while ago, the Minister of the Environment breathed a heavy sigh of relief when Mayor Ball offered to have the Municipality of the County of Halifax look after the problem of resolving where the metropolitan landfill should be. That took a tremendous burden off the back of that minister and off the back of this government. But the announcement of Wednesday put that burden even more heavily on this minister and on this government, for assuredly the municipal unit which had offered to take up that responsibility is now in limbo and will certainly back away from such an undertaking and will leave that to the government to wrestle with.
For example, I think we could look at an article in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald. The mayors were bitter that Ms. Jolly helped broker a deal to metro's ongoing fight over a new landfill site earlier this month while planning for legislation that may make the exercise academic. What I find particularly interesting about that observation, Mr. Speaker, is that either the minister knew that amalgamation was going to be announced and she helped to broker that deal in the full knowledge that within a month the municipal units would be on the way to being history, or she did not know and she was bargaining in what she thought was good faith while her Cabinet colleagues were busy digging the ground out from underneath her. It would be most fascinating for Nova Scotians and particularly for people in the metropolitan area, to know which of those two things that is.
I noticed, too, that, again in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, Halifax County officially started its own request to rescue the Halifax-Dartmouth region from its garbage woes Wednesday with an inaugural public participation session at Cole Harbour. Well, isn't that interesting that, coincidental with this flash announcement by the Premier, that should be the night that the first public hearings would be held with respect to determining how to deal with metropolitan solid waste.
Mayor Ball, I think, had the final word when he said that quite frankly at this point, maybe the province can take over the garbage issue. He said that in an interview to The Daily News. So a monkey that the government and the Minister of the Environment thought was off their backs is back on their backs, and that monkey has gained a lot of weight since it left them earlier in the month to when it was put back on them this month.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have a few more words that I would like to say on this. I think perhaps we will leave them for next day. By adjourning debate now it would give me an opportunity to advise the House on what the business of the day will be tomorrow, on Opposition Day.
Mr. Speaker, I move that debate on Bill No. 114 be now adjourned.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens has moved the adjournment of debate on Bill No. 114. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, it is Opposition Day tomorrow so perhaps the Opposition House Leader would do it.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable acting Opposition House Leader.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, after Question Period, we will be dealing with two resolutions: Resolution No. 854, that is with respect to the merger of Halifax hospitals; and Resolution No. 857, the resolution with respect to the Canada-Nova Scotia Forest Development Agreement. We will also be dealing with House Orders tomorrow. There are a number of them on the order paper and we will be looking to ministers with respect to them. Perhaps if there are any ministers whom the Government House Leader is aware are not going to be able to be with us tomorrow, if he in advance could clear House Orders with them, that would be helpful in expediting the business tomorrow afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, I move that we now rise to sit tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 2:00 p.m.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion has been made for adjournment.
We have now reached the moment of interruption. The late show debate has been won by the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party who has deferred to her colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic. The resolution is as follows: Resolved that present and past management practices by Devco raise serious concerns about the future of the coal industry in Cape Breton.
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak for a few moments tonight about an issue which is extremely important not only to people in Cape Breton, but to people right across this province, that is the future of the coal mine industry in this province and, in particular, the current and the future plans of Devco and how it is that they are going to continue to develop the mines that exist at that particular time.
I rise on this issue tonight in response to, not a flurry of concern, this has been concern that has existed for some time, I think, on behalf of miners and some municipal politicians about exactly what Devco's intentions are with respect to the future development of the coal industry in Cape Breton.
There have been a few things that have happened in the last number of months, Lingan Colliery's premature closing, the pressure on Phalen Mine and the concerns there in terms of the rock bursts and the flooding that has been going on has raised concerns about safety, but more importantly, it has raised concerns about the ability of Devco to meet their commitments and to honour commitments to the future development of the coal industry.
In particular, some of the concerns that I have heard directly and that anybody that is following the media in Cape Breton over the past few months would see that the United Mine Workers, in particular, have been asking the senior officials at Devco, what are your intentions in terms of meeting commitments, not just of the commitments for producing coal for Nova Scotia Power, but also for meeting export commitments that are there now? There have been markets and those markets can continue to exist if the coal is produced. My understanding, from talking to the mine workers, is that there has been some less than firm commitment on behalf of the corporation in terms of trying to expand their export potential.
This relates, I think, primarily to the operation, the further development of Donkin Mine, in particular, a mine that the decision was made, I believe it was back in 1982 to flood that mine before it had gone under very significant development and production. That was a decision that was made by Devco management, it was not endorsed or otherwise approved by the miners' union at that particular time.
The question that is now being raised is that there is some very significant potential in Donkin to develop that particular mine for some fairly significant production of coal in the future.
The concern that has been raised by the miners is that they have not gotten a very firm response from the federal ministers responsible, and I say ministers because actually the responsibility for Devco falls under the Honourable John Manley's portfolio, but he has, I understand, informally if not formally moved that responsibility over to the Honourable David Dingwall. Anyway, the miners are concerned that they are getting less than a firm commitment and not all the answers in terms of why the Donkin Mine is not being further explored.
The initial response has been, I understand, for some time now, that it would cost within the area of $1.5 to $2 million to begin that kind of development yet some people who are certainly much more knowledgeable than I am in terms of the industry and in particular, the miners and others in the area, have suggested that mine can be opened and development can begin for a much reduced cost than the $1.5 to $2 million that is often cited by those who don't want to go any further with it.
The concern, I think, is shared by some municipal politicians. Mr. Coady, the Warden of the Municipality of Cape Breton, has expressed his concern, his displeasure about the fact that Devco has not made a more positive and aggressive commitment on Donkin. Likewise, the Mayor of Sydney, Vincent MacLean, has wanted to know why it is that the corporation is not moving quicker to bring this particular mine into production.
I do not think that that is asking for too much. Right now we are faced with the last decision there as a result of unsafe conditions at Phalen Mine, there was a layoff of between 260 and 450 workers and we don't know at this particular time how long that is going to continue. While the mine workers and others are concerned, not only about those jobs, they are concerned about jobs in the future. It doesn't matter how many infrastructure projects, how many grants, how many waterfronts you decide to develop, what we need in this province is to ensure the future of an industry that has been good to Nova Scotia, that has created important employment for an awful lot of people in this province, in particular in Cape Breton Island. It is an opportunity for us to develop an export industry that will benefit greatly our economy here in Nova Scotia and the economy in Cape Breton.
I would ask members of this House, I would ask provincial politicians from the Cape Breton area, if they would please explain to me or perhaps try to explain to me why it is that there is such silence around this issue in various communities in Cape Breton. There has been quite a bit of pressure applied by the mine workers' union in the press and public forums and others, in order to see this issue brought forward. They are not getting very much response from the federal politicians it appears, and I certainly haven't heard a whole lot from the provincial politicians representing that area.
It seems like an important issue to me, it seems like there is some credibility to the position being taken with respect to trying to develop and further expand that particular industry and I think it is one that even though Devco doesn't come under our jurisdiction or the jurisdiction of this Legislature, that it is a matter that is important to Cape Breton. It is a matter that is important to Nova Scotia.
We, in our responsibilities as provincial representatives in this Legislature, should try to find some of the answers so that we can ensure that proper questions and the proper decisions are being made so that the viability and the future of this industry is protected. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, boy, may I say what a pleasure it is to see you in the Chair. I believe this is the first time I have seen you sitting in the Chair whilst I have been speaking in this, the third or fourth day of this session.
I want to thank the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic for bringing this important matter to the floor of the Legislature. The real issue is that workers are tortured about the future of coal mining in Cape Breton. They are scared for their jobs. They are scared, Mr. Speaker, for their families. There were 450 layoffs on Monday. The fear is also that the 925 jobs are at risk if there is not a contingency plan and if the Donkin Mine is not opened.
Work is being done to extend the life of Phalen Mine, but many people fear that their future is only secure if there is an alternative to the Phalen Mine. As you know, and as the silent 11, those members from Cape Breton, those silent 11, Mr. Speaker, were not so silent a year ago when we had an election campaign. The Honourable David Dingwall, they all promised to open the Donkin Mine. So far this has not happened. Would Russell MacLellan have had more success if he were in Cabinet?
How long will the people in Cape Breton have to wait until they know what their future holds? Who from the area is asking about the timetable for the Donkin Mine? So far the silence is deafening. Who is asking whether the mine will open this year or in two years or are they just going to wait until Phalen closes? The fear is, Mr. Speaker, and the fear may be real, that Phalen will close either as a result of the latest assessment or its lifespan will be exhausted.
Markets which have taken years to develop will be lost if coal supplies are not secured. Liberal candidates promised the moon and now all we have, Mr. Speaker, are clouds. I want to hear what the MLAs from Cape Breton are saying. What are they doing to protect jobs in Cape Breton? What are the heavyweights in this Liberal Government doing? We have got a full slate of members in the Liberal Party, in the Liberal Government. Surely, one of them is willing to stand up for the working people in Cape Breton.
Have any MLAs bothered to go to New Waterford to meet with the workers, to work with management, to look at the situation. Have they bothered to find out about these latest and unforeseen difficulties? Government has said the mine must become self-sufficient. Many agree this makes sense, but what are the contingency plans in the event of further unforeseen problems? We have seen them, roof collapses and flooding. What have the local MLAs done to help Mr. Dingwall keep his promise?
Mr. Speaker, what of the great member for Cape Breton The Lakes, the most important Cabinet Minister. Perhaps he should spend more time concerned with the work force in Cape Breton than his hated casinos. Four hundred fifty jobs, Mr. Speaker, are they lost for good?
Great announcements, Mr. Speaker, have been made this week by the federal Cabinet Minister from Cape Breton. They went to Amherst and they gave money. The government said there were no more grants; well, by golly, Mr. Speaker, what is the difference between a grant and a forgiveable loan. Amherst was good enough to get the full force of two Cabinet Ministers - one federal and one provincial - to help and assist creating new jobs. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, it is more important to keep the jobs we have than to create new ones. Where are they when the jobs are leaving? Oh, there is a lot of interest when Ultramar loses 100 jobs in Dartmouth - lawsuits, flights to Ottawa. The list goes on what they won't do about Dartmouth and Ultramar.
Did you hear one minister in this government say boo about the fate of the coal miners in Cape Breton? Where were they when the jobs were leaving Cape Breton? Cape Breton miners are losing their jobs, all we have is silence. The silent 11 have said nothing. Devco is assessing the future of the Phalen Mine. We must be concerned about the future of the jobs of those miners, Mr. Speaker.
The mining experts from Poland and Germany are here, looking it over. But by golly, Mr. Speaker, when the chips are down, we find out that the miners in Nova Scotia are just as expert and probably more expert than anybody from anywhere else you could find. The Cape Breton miner is known throughout the world for his courage and skill. They need the support of the members of this Legislature. When 450 people are laid off, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, if 450 people lost their jobs in my constituency or in a neighbouring constituency, by golly, I would not be silent; you would know and Nova Scotians would know. But the 11 Cape Breton members, not a peep out of one of them yet, not even the Cabinet.
Well, Mr. Speaker, get involved, let's see what kind of influence these people really have when the chips are down and when they are needed. Forget the hated casinos, put your time, Mr. Minister of Finance, into the local community where you come from; look after Cape Breton and look after the coal mines. The Donkin Mine, we were promised it would open, by members of this Legislature and members of the federal House of Commons. Well by golly, Mr. Speaker, when you make a promise you should deliver it.
Now I know the record of this government is terrible, they have broken every single promise they made in the election campaign, but, Mr. Speaker, have faith, maybe this one promise that they made to Nova Scotians will be true; maybe they will get the gumption and the fortitude to open the Donkin Mine and get a contingency plan.
I urge the Minister of Finance to go to Cape Breton and I urge the Minister of Economic Development to be the spark plug that unites the workers, the federal government ownership in the mine, get everybody working together, Mr. Speaker, so we can have a successful mining company in Cape Breton. There are opportunities for coal sales, not just in Nova Scotia, we can sell our coal in markets around the world. But you have to have the mine open and the men working. Laid off miners are not bringing coal to the surface. If the coal is not on the surface, we can't sell it.
We have an opportunity; we don't have as many opportunities as some provinces so we must take advantage of the opportunities presented to us. Coal is a natural resource that we must work diligently together to bring it to the surface so we can sell it, bring in foreign dollars. There is absolutely nothing being done by this group in the government at the present time. We must light a spark, we must kindle the desire in them to work hard for Cape Breton, to work hard for the miners that so badly need them.
Cape Breton coal has a future, but it is going to take the diligent work of all Nova Scotians and particularly the silent 11 from Cape Breton to bring it to fruition. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.
MR. RUSSELL MACNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I was impressed with the oratorical prowess of the two speakers that talked about coal mining, they seemed very knowledgeable, their research staff did a good job for them. I don't think they know all the particulars about it and the thing that really bothers me is that they have this scare tactic going and that seems to be a thing that they like to do all the time, that there are people suffering and they just want to add the suffering to it. They raise serious concerns. I am not sure what they are. They say the silent 11. I have to remember that one of the things that a lot of people say is try to get the solution solved rather than blather about it all over the province. Now, that is what they would like to do, that the people who are being affected are in serious problems now because of the layoff.
They don't want to be told that the threat of more is coming, they are going to suffer all the ills in this world, that is terrible for a politician to do that. So what we on Cape Breton Island try to do is to see where is the problem, let's see if we can solve it so the people have a way of life, that they are not threatened all the time. That is what happened to the coal industry. For years and years all we had are these negative people coming in and saying, mining is gone. After a while if you keep telling them that they will feel the same way. But guess what. For all those years, for all the naysayers that were going around this province, coal came back at the objection of a lot of people who were in governments and they said that.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I want to make it perfectly clear to the member for Cape Breton why coal came back. Coal came back because a decision of the former Conservative Government to burn coal and raise exclusively electricity by the burning of coal in Nova Scotia, that brought the coal mines back more than any other policy that any other government ever brought in.
MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.
MR. MACNEIL: It may not be a point of order but it is not a bad point but he is completely wrong again because it was done by the federal government . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, accord the same courtesies.
MR. MACNEIL: . . . underneath the distinguished Allan MacEachen, that is who brought coal back because it was a federal responsibility. So, again they keep trying to take people down.
The member who spoke first, Lingan closed prematurely, well, he is right it had to because of the possibility of terrible accidents that were going to happen there. That is what they had to do. It sounded like, well, stay down there until something really falls on you and you're dead. I mean that is the interpretation that you get from this thing. Safety is the thing. I have to tell you that the presidents of the UMW from way back and I go back to Bull Marsh and all the succeeding ones; their top priority was safety for the men and that will always be their priority but I have to tell you historically that wasn't the case. Way back when, when Dominion Coal Company had it, because my father worked there for 45 years so I know it, that safety wasn't the top priority.
The coal coming out was the priority, they didn't care how you got it out but as the men became more knowledgeable, and that is what they are trying to do, they are making sure that where their work place is, that they want it safe. So the scare tactic should not be part of the government, or anybody in politics, against the people who are suffering now.
Granted, management sometimes make a couple of mistakes, but they try to do it for the best of the people. The Cape Breton Economic Strategic Committee are looking at the whole coal industry in the area. What they are hoping for is that if they can dredge Sydney Harbour they can put bigger ships in there to 60 ton capacities. All they are doing now is 30 tons, 20 tons. So they can put more coal in the boats. It is cheaper and they can make some money, but they have to have money to dredge the harbour. They are building the facility.
In relationship to Donkin Mine, the member for Cape Breton-East Richmond, the Honourable David Dingwall, has mentioned that he is going to explore the possibilities that Donkin can come into fruition. That is what he said and he will do that; knowing my friend, the Honourable David Dingwall, he will do it.
But just to get a little perspective into this, Mr. Speaker, that when they are looking at it, there is going to have be some kind of a study done. It is probably $200 million to $400 million to get it going. There are three seams there. They have to make sure that they work in the top seam, that they don't get the water in. The bottom seam, they have to watch for the outbursts that are happening now. So the people who are looking at these things are talking about the viability of getting coal out plus the safety factor. So it is not a thing that can just pick $200 million or $300 million out, because Devco now is underneath an agreement whereby they should be self-sufficient.
So if they try to do the study with the present money that they have, with the envelope of money that they have, they will not be able to keep the other mines going. Their top priority is to keep the men working in a safe environment. Now there is nothing wrong with that. I think every member would applaud that. But to go around and say the threat of something more and that no one is screaming or hollering or the silent 11, as the member for Kings North alludes to. Well, they like to go scream and holler and that is what happened to the miners for years and years. We had people who don't know anything about it, no ideas. They don't know how the people live there and they go and rant and rave. Not one solution do they come up with. Not one. Open Donkin Mine.
Where does the $200 to $400 million come from? Do you take it from the present mines? What happens, Mr. Speaker, sometimes they don't know how to read or they don't know how to interpret the written words. So I just want to tell you that between management and the UMW, they will create an atmosphere whereby the people who are working in the mines will have a safe, reliable place because that is a fact, Donkin's viability.
What is also happening is that they are trying to make sure that the coal that they take out of the ground, that their best customer is Nova Scotia Power. They are now in negotiations with them on a price. It is a five year price deal that they are trying to get. So that would look after the viability for five years hence.
Again, because of the previous government, they privatized that company. They don't have to listen to the miners any more. So they may go buy offshore coal, offshore oil, so that the viability that they talk about and the assistance that they give it, they have done away with it, done away with it altogether so now they have to almost beg Nova Scotia Power to look after the resource that is already in here.
AN HON. MEMBER: What does the previous government say to that?
MR. MACNEIL: So that is the thing that sort of gets you going when these people talk about erroneous management and they talk about all those things. What it reminds me of, Mr. Speaker, and I am closing now under your direction, it reminds of the people in a song who said, I would like to go to heaven, but I don't want to die. That is what I find they are. They have all the answers, but they don't know how to do anything about it. Thank you, very much.
MR. SPEAKER: The time allocated for the Adjournment motion has now expired. The House will rise to sit again tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.
[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]
By: Mr. George Moody (Kings West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Health:
(1) The number of out-of-province trips taken by the Minister of Health between June 11, 1993 and November 1, 1994;
(2) The location;
(3) The purpose for each trip;
(4) The full cost of each trip; and
(5) A list of all Department of Health personnel accompanying the minister on out-of-province travel.
By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Economic Renewal Agency:
(1) A copy of the cost projection to refit the Bluenose II for the G-7 Summit;
(2) A timetable for the tender call; and
(3) Details on cost-sharing between the provincial and federal governments and any private sector financial support.
By: Mr. Terence Donahoe (Halifax Citadel)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to opinion research done for the Priorities and Planning Secretariat between August 31, 1994 and September 23, 1994:
(1) A copy of the request for proposals;
(2) A copy of the executive summary and full written analysis provided to P&P by the consultant;
(3) The names of those on the steering committee which evaluated the proposals; and
(4) A list of individuals, within government, who received the project results, whether in a written or verbal presentation.
By: Mr. Terence Donahoe (Halifax Citadel)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Education:
(1) Any reports, papers, comments or other feedback received by the minister and the department from groups, organizations and individuals on the Discussion Paper on Site-Based Management issued by the Department of Education in October 1993.