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November 4, 1994


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Session

10:00 A.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mr. Gerald O'Malley

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We can commence the daily routine at this time.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition on behalf of residents of the Hayling Acres Subdivision, Lawrencetown, which is signed by 42 of the residents. The petition reads as follows: "We the undersigned do respectfully ask that "SPEED" and "CHILDREN PLAYING" signs be posted in the Hayling Acres subdivision.". I have affixed my signature to this petition. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.








MR. SPEAKER: 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 J.L. Ilsley High School Environmental Society is hosting the Student Provincial Environmental Conference today and tomorrow, November 4th and November 5th; and

Whereas the conference theme is student empowerment in the environment, with participants conducting field trips into the environment today; and

Whereas the personal and community responsibility for the environment that this conference is building must be matched by government measures to ensure that environmental policies and regulations do not simply collect dust;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the organizers and participants in the Student Provincial Environmental Conference and affirms that the province must match these students' responsibility with high standards of environmental protection and improvement that are enforceable and enforced.

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

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

Is there consent?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

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 Finance Minister has led this House to believe that he has relied heavily upon Saskatchewan as a model for the introduction of casino gambling; and

Whereas the wide public consultation, discussion and study in Saskatchewan means that the earliest date for a proposed Regina casino is November 1995; and

Whereas respect for the democratic process and local government is such that a suggested Saskatoon casino has been halted by the overwhelming verdict of a municipal referendum and by city opposition;

Therefore be it resolved that the Finance Minister should either refrain from creating false impressions or else follow Saskatchewan's lead, by careful public study, wide consultation and discussion long before any casino opens, including local referenda and municipal council decisions on whether or not a community must accept a casino and regular public reports by an advisory committee on the social aspects of gambling, as Saskatchewan has set up.

MR. SPEAKER: That is a very long proposition for the House to adopt and it is framed on and either/or basis, resolved that the minister should either do this or do that. Now that is not the proper way for a notice of motion to be worded at all.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas Section 4 of the casino RFP states clearly that any casino proponent who attempts to exert influence over a Cabinet Minister or MLA may be disqualified from the bidding; and

Whereas in Question Period yesterday the minister responsible for casinos did not know the process for investigating possible contraventions to the RFP; and

Whereas it is clear that the minister responsible for casinos fraternized with casino backers in Ingonish one week before the final three bids were announced;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister responsible for casinos immediately outline for Nova Scotians the process for investigating possible contraventions of the RFP.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to read that resolution before it is tabled. Please bring it up here.

The honourable member for Bedford-Fall River.


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

Whereas this year marks 25 years of triumphs and success by the Cheema Aquatic Club; and

Whereas Laslo Latorovszki was awarded the Amateur Coach of the Year at the 15th Annual Moosehead Amateur Sports Awards ceremony; and

Whereas the club's paddlers now hold gold, silver and bronze medals from national and international competitions;

Therefore be it resolved that this Assembly extend congratulations to the coaches and members of the Cheema Aquatic Club for 25 years of outstanding accomplishments.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

I will also, at this time, table the resolution presented by the honourable Leader of the Opposition.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas the member for Truro-Bible Hill and the Minister of Human Resources said in the Weekly Record of October 11th that, "she is extremely frustrated and disappointed with the workings of the Department of Transportation;" and

Whereas the member for Truro-Bible Hill's resounding complaint is over the condition of Forest Hill Drive in the Village of Bible Hill; and

Whereas the minister's executive assistant, who also happens to be a village commissioner of Bible Hill, stated in the Truro Daily News on October 19th there was a lack of coordination between the Departments of Transportation and Supply and Services;

Therefore be it resolved that if a Cabinet Minister and her executive assistant, representing one of Nova Scotia's largest towns, feels they must vent so much frustration with their own government and the decision-making process, think about how the rest of Nova Scotia must feel about the disaster in government they have encountered since May 25, 1993.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.


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

Whereas "Listen to Your Heart" will be the theme of the fourth annual CPR Awareness Month, launched on Tuesday, November 1, 1994; and

Whereas more than 1,600 Nova Scotians die from heart attacks every year and some 50 per cent of these deaths occurring before the victims reach hospital, and it is reliably estimated that 30 per cent of those deaths could be prevented with the right combination of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and advanced life support; and

Whereas it is the object of the CPR Awareness Month to raise awareness of the benefits of CPR and to encourage the public to become trained in that skill;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize November as CPR Awareness Month in Nova Scotia and do unanimously endorse the work of the Heart and Stroke Foundation to promote CPR techniques and CPR courses and to call upon all Nova Scotians to avail themselves of such courses, however possible.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver notice.

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

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.


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

Whereas Ultramar Canada is in the process of closing its refinery in Eastern Passage; and

Whereas employees at the refinery are convinced that, only if the process of mothballing is conducted properly, will the refinery not be destroyed by cold weather this winter; and

Whereas there remains hope that the refinery can be sold to others who will continue to operate this facility as a viable business;

Therefore be it resolved this House urge Ultramar Canada to live up to its commitments to operate the refinery or, at the very least, mothball the plant in a way that ensures the assets are protected while a search continues for a new operator of the facility.

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?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


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 Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia today added their voices to the growing number of Nova Scotians calling for the government to freeze its plans to authorize casinos in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas these human services professionals base their advice upon study of the social effects of gambling and, in particular, the effect of increased opportunities and encouragement to gamble; and

Whereas psychologists have been on the front line of efforts to help addicted gamblers, their families and their other victims cope with the destructive effects of addiction;

Therefore be it resolved that this House joins Nova Scotia psychologists in urging the Liberal Government and the Finance Minister to be responsible by conducting open, independent studies into the costs and benefits of another expansion of gambling before casino legislation is ever introduced into this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.

[10:15 a.m.]


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

Whereas the 1994 Tourism Conference and Expo is scheduled for November 4th, 5th and 6th at the World Trade and Convention Centre; and

Whereas the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and Maritime Tel & Tel will host over 400 delegates; and

Whereas delegates will have the opportunity to meet industry partners, access professional development seminars and enjoy fabulous social events, including a notable list of speakers and topics;

Therefore be it resolved that this Assembly congratulate the organizers and participants of the 1994 Tourism Conference and Expo for hosting what promises to be the most important tourism event of the year.

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?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

MR. JOSEPH CASEY: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I was given this piece of paper on the way in this morning and there is a building that is advertised for sale. It says, Distress Sale, "Recently renovated. Large boardroom, some ancillary offices. Hot air heating.". I was just wondering what the going price is and if it is sold, where do I report for duty Monday morning? (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: I have seen this flyer. It is a real estate promotion.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my honourable colleague opposite rises and addresses the matter in rather a jocular fashion. It was my intention to wait until all of the resolutions were presented here. I was going to rise and bring this matter to your attention and I hear you have just now said that you have seen it.

I do not read it in a jocular way at all. In fact, I think all members of this place and the history of this place and all of those who have preceded us here as members and those who will succeed us here as members should, in fact, I think be offended. This is but a piece out of a larger publication, as I understand it, produced by Turner Drake & Partners Limited. It is called I.C.I. Report and it does, on a page entitled at the top, Properties For Sale, list what I presume are legitimate commercial and other properties for sale, Main Street in Westphal and Burnside and so on. Down in the right hand corner, there is a photographic depiction of this historic Province House. Below it, it has the words, Distress Sale, "Recently renovated. Large boardroom, some ancillary offices. Hot air heating. In original ownership. Offers.".

Quite frankly, not to be too prissy about the matter, Mr. Speaker, I take, as one member of this place and a proud member of this place, great offence at the idea that an organization which purports to be a self-respecting real estate promotion agency would, in fact, depict Province House in that way, describe it in the fashion that it did.

I would like to put the proposition to you that you would, on behalf of all of the members of this Legislature, communicate, in the strongest terms possible on behalf of all of us, to Turner Drake & Partners Limited, and express the concern and distress that this inappropriate and childish production actually is, and indicate that all members of this Legislature and all taxpayers of Nova Scotia take great offence at the juvenile and jocular and inappropriate fashion in which our distinguished Province House is depicted in this publication. Other members may disagree, but I for one would urge you to communicate with Turner Drake & Partners Limited in that fashion and in as forceful a fashion as possible.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I would certainly be prepared to do so upon a passage of a motion by the House.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I have to say that maybe it is because it is Friday morning, maybe it has been a long week, I just have a hard time associating with the indignation expressed by the Leader of the Official Opposition. It seems to me that it is quite clear that it was intended to be humorous. It may be in bad taste. It may be that there should be some communication to indicate that we are seeking clarification that it was only meant as a joke. I think it would be unfortunate, frankly, if we took as serious what was clearly intended as a joke and I, personally, would not be prepared to associate with a motion that proposed some stringent measure or some strong censorship of what clearly was intended as humour. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I have already heard three submissions.

The honourable member for Digby, again.

MR. JOSEPH CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I object to what the honourable Leader of the Opposition is saying, that it was a serious matter. I did not say it was not a serious matter and I think I have sat in this House just about as long as anybody, so I have some sentimental attachment here as well as the other members. That is all. I just want to put that on the record. Thank you. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice and Deputy Premier says let's get on with the business and I agree. If there is a motion that any honourable member cares to present on this matter, we are now under Notices of Motion and a motion could certainly be presented and put to the House for adoption or rejection.

MR. SPEAKER: 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 one short year ago, the Premier was absolutely amazed that his own ministers were awarding generous untendered contracts in violation of specific campaign committees; and

Whereas despite the Premier's November 23, 1994 directive requiring open tendering even where sole-sourcing is indicated, the Health and Human Resource Ministers have since handed out untendered contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars; and

Whereas Nova Scotians endure higher taxes, more tax unfairness, wage cuts, public services slashed to pieces and promises broken, supposedly because every cent must be stretched to the limit;

Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this House the Premier might as well stay in China because his promises and policies are not even respected or observed by his closest Cabinet colleagues even when he is at home.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou Centre.


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

Whereas the orientation process for regional health boards will be completed in four to five weeks; and

Whereas Pictou County has two members, Colchester County seven members and Cumberland County six members on the Northern Health Board; and

Whereas the Blueprint Committee endorses geographical representation for community health boards;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health appoint additional Northern Health Board members from Pictou County.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas Scotia Synfuels Limited wants to operate Ultramar Canada's oil refinery in Eastern Passage and therefore protect Nova Scotia jobs; and

Whereas Ultramar has not properly considered the Synfuels proposal even though it has been before Ultramar Canada executives for some time; and

Whereas Ultramar Canada Limited has a responsibility to our region because it has broken a 1990 contract with the Federal Bureau of Competition Policy to operate the facility until 1997;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly urge Ultramar Canada Limited to immediately meet with officials of Scotia Synfuels Limited to negotiate in a meaningful way to maintain the refinery at Eastern Passage.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

The honourable member for Hants West.


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

Whereas last fall the Progressive Conservative caucus recommended several legislative reforms including more opportunities for public participation in the democratic process, free votes on motions except those of non-confidence and the election of the Speaker of the House of Assembly; and

Whereas as a result of public support for legislative reform, the Progressive Conservative caucus this fall urged that members of the Legislature be permitted to vote their conscience on upcoming legislation to establish casinos in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Progressive Conservative MLAs have launched an initiative to bring the concerns of Nova Scotians directly into Question Period each day;

Therefore be it resolved that the Committee on Assembly Matters, which includes MLAs from the three political Parties, be asked to find other ways to ensure our legislative system better reflects the needs of the persons that it serves.

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 Tuesday the member for Cape Breton Centre defended foot-dragging on the Donkin Mine by claiming Sydney Harbour must be dredged to properly handle coal exports "but they have to have money to dredge the harbour" so "60 ton vessels" can load coal; and

Whereas those knowledgeable about the most important industry in Cape Breton Centre know that last year's extension of the Devco loading facility means 57,000 ton vessels can now load coal; and

Whereas the only thing worse for Cape Breton than 11 silent MLAs is 10 and one-half who get their key facts wrong;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton Centre should spend less time polishing Allan J. MacEachen's halo and more time vigorously representing the coal miners and the thousands of Cape Bretoners who depend on this keystone industry, especially when every job is so vitally important.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas the Health Minister couldn't find one Nova Scotian who could communicate his health reform policy in seven weeks for some $2,000 per week, plus perks, because "health care reform and renewal had not been done" in this province; and

Whereas the Human Resources Minister awarded a $50,000 untendered contract to Berkeley Consulting of Ontario to work with the Health Department because no firm within the province has sufficient expertise in the field of health restructuring; and

Whereas the `Savage' reasoning behind running to Ontario for all health personnel appears to lie in the idea that Nova Scotians wouldn't have a clue how health reform should be done in their own province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Health Minister recognize the talent, education and concern within the Province of Nova Scotia for our health system and harness the abilities and understanding Nova Scotians hold for their health system and the need to change in order to preserve its universality.

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 Statistics Canada reported this morning that Nova Scotia employment has not improved during the last six months, while the unemployment rate went up slightly to 12.8 per cent in October; and

Whereas unemployment is stuck at 23 per cent in Cape Breton, the same unacceptable high level as a year ago, when this Liberal Government betrayed its number one election commitment, a jobs strategy; and

Whereas this government constantly and arrogantly antagonizes its own constituents, sowing discord, disruption, despair and steadily declining standard of living;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to send the Liberal wrecking crew home and find the genuine humility to launch the community-based jobs strategy that is even more urgently required now than when it was falsely promised in May 1993.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas one of the first backhanded slaps at Nova Scotia taxpayers that the government took upon being elected on May 25, 1993 was to cancel a school computer initiative undertaken by the previous administration that would have seen computers placed in all Nova Scotia high schools; and

Whereas Nova Scotians in such areas as Wolfville and Sydney have become involved with their own computer recycling co-op; and

Whereas computer technology is the foundation on which children of today and tomorrow must reach their learning potential and advance into the work force.

Therefore be it resolved that this government instead of cutting computer programs look forward, instead of backwards so often, and ensure the students of today are learning the necessary computer technology that will enable them to move into the work force of the 21st Century and become productive members of the information age.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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 on Wednesday, October 26th the Premier surprised metro's four mayors and everyone else in Nova Scotia including the Minister of Municipal Affairs and announced, without prior consultation, the Liberal Government's intention to make a super-city; and

Whereas this 20 minute meeting has thrown the very existence of Halifax County's plan to take over administration of solid municipal waste turmoil; and

Whereas the Halifax County's mayor has suggested he might ask the Savage Government to pick the site for metro's next landfill;

Therefore be it resolved that Halifax County be encouraged to forge ahead and develop a solid waste management plan despite these rash, imprudent and topsy-turvy moves by this Liberal Government whose greatest consistency is its inconsistency.

[10:30 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

HON. ROSS BRAGG: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, he just stood in his place and said that the announcement by the Premier was a surprise to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. That is not true. How can a member stand in this House and say that as fact?

AN HON. MEMBER: She said it in the House.

MR. BRAGG: Well, she said it in the House - quite frankly, I was in a Cabinet discussion when it took place. It is not true, Mr. Speaker, and how can he stand . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have considered this matter. You will notice that earlier this morning I asked to read a notice of motion proposed by the honourable Leader of the Opposition which made certain statements with reference to the Minister of Finance having fraternized, I think the word was, with casino proponents at a social event in Cape Breton. I asked to read the resolution and later ruled that the notice would be tabled.

I recall this type of point of order having been raised on many occasions over my years in the House and other Speakers, such as Mr. Speaker, Arthur Donahoe, having ruled that the notice of motion is simply a proposition for debate, it is in no way an actual assertion of any fact but is advanced for purposes of argument, the "whereas" sections laying out certain claims or allegations that are not necessarily true, it would not be out of order to advance the resolution that began; Whereas two and two make five, because that would then later presumably be debated and the House would rule on it at a future time.

The House does not adopt any of these propositions by them being tabled. They are simply advanced for purposes of argument and debate and so have no status, in terms of establishing that any alleged fact is necessarily so at all.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . argument with, I am going to mislead the House . . .

MR. SPEAKER: It would be the duty of the Chair to rule out of order any proposed notice of motion that appeared to so flagrantly transgress the conventions of the House that it would be provocative to the point of stirring up tumult or otherwise creating disorder in the House.

I have exercised that right. Yesterday, for example, I ruled that the word falsely be deleted from a proposed notice of motion because I thought it unduly provocative. But having said that, I think that explains the context in which these matters are advanced. I would suppose that if honourable members are offended and do not wish to actually debate the resolutions at the time they are advanced, which we could only do by unanimous consent, that the remedy might be to raise a point of order and set the record straight, so as to speak, or to introduce a resolution asserting a contrary proposition. That would conclude my dissertation on that topic.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas according to a news release dated June 9, 1994, the deadline for a decision on the future of the residential centre for the hearing impaired in Amherst was in early August; and

Whereas the additional delay was to allow time for a study on the Burnaby model for program and service delivery, to see if it might be applied to Amherst; and

Whereas five months later the school's students, teachers and the people of Amherst are still waiting for word on this very important decision;

Therefore be it resolved that the Ministers of the ERA and Housing and Consumer Affairs, who are also eagerly awaiting an answer, urge their colleague, the Education Minister, to extend to the people of Amherst the positive response for which they have continued to offer hope.

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 hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou Centre.


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

Whereas the Environment Minister said in the Legislature on Wednesday that his officials had gone door to door in the Floral Heights Subdivision with information on bacteria contamination in their wells; and

Whereas while residents agree that they received a hand-out, it was delivered well over a month after the fact; and

Whereas the minister has even been unable to convince his own caucus member that this issue has been attended to properly;

Therefore be it resolved that the Environment Minister agree to meet with the citizens of the area and address the concerns they have for their homes and for their children attending the Mountainview Elementary School which as yet remain unanswered.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

We will now advance to Orders of the Day.



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.


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 debate was adjourned by the honourable member for Kings West. He has 29 minutes left and the time now being 10:35 a.m., the debate can run until 11:05 a.m.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I don't think you will need to worry about the time. I don't plan to speak for another 30 minutes, or whatever, but I thank you very much for at least telling me what my time was.

I just have a couple of things to say this morning that I want to talk about that I just about wrapped up yesterday. I think some of the questions will come up later on and I started to talk about the termination of some of the programs that are cost-shared. I did talk a little bit about sidewalks and the concerns I had.

Another area that I have a little concern about is planning. I have always had a concern about planning across this province. As you probably know, Mr. Speaker, planning is quite different in one municipality and another, whether you are in Kings or Annapolis, things can happen differently on the planning side. I think I want to make it clear that planning is very important in this province if we are going to allow growth to happen in the municipalities that will be best for the future of this province.

By the province terminating any cost-shared programs, it may very well be, unless the government in some way through legislation ensures that there will be an adequate planning staff for any municipality, we may get into where some municipalities will see it is important and they will have a planning commission and planning staff and others will see it as being unimportant and will have very little. Then we will get into areas that we have gotten into with environmental problems because we can point to where poor planning has created some real problems environmentally and then end up being a problem health-wise.

I think that the government should make sure, as they go through Bill No. 114 and how they proceed with the reform, in the way this is handled that it doesn't allow things to happen at the local level that are quite different from one municipality to another and yet could end up being a cost. I notice environment costs and health costs are going to be borne by the province but if poor planning takes place and you end up with huge environmental problems, you end up with huge health problems and then the province has to pick up the tab.

So, you have an area where you have to make sure that certain standards are met whether you are in Cape Breton, Kings, Yarmouth, or Halifax. If those standards aren't met and the proper planning doesn't take place, then we end up years later with huge costs.

I don't know what will happen with recreation. Recreation, again, will be turned over to be totally paid for by the municipalities. Again, hopefully, these programs won't go by the wayside. I happen to think that recreation is very important, especially for our young people and I think for older people from a fitness point of view. Recreation is a great way to keep our young people off the streets and keep them occupied and it is a good learning process for them. So, I hope by the province pulling out of the funding that municipalities will say, well, because funds are scarce and we obviously want to hold the tax line, that recreation funding doesn't disappear or go to a level where it is not meeting the needs of the communities because recreation is very much an important part of our everyday lives and, as I said, very much so for young people today.

Mr. Speaker, my greatest concern about this bill was that the Minister of Municipal Affairs did not really keep that promise, not going and allowing the municipalities to have input and I guess we will see, as the Law Amendments Committee goes forward, to what each municipality is saying. I will watch with interest and I will support it to go to the Law Amendments Committee, but I am going to have a lot of difficulty, as I said earlier, voting for legislation that increases the taxes for the people I represent. This reform package clearly shows that the residents that I represent will pay a higher tax rate. I hope that this minister could work with all the municipal units across the province and come up with an exchange program that does not cost more but, actually, in fact, costs less.

If you are going to do reform in any area of government, it has to be that people get a better program at a lesser cost. If you are not going to provide a better program at a lesser cost, then stay away from reform because things are not going to be better. Reform, to me, means that somebody is going to get something better than they already have. I am not convinced that this Bill No. 114 is going to give people something better, in actual fact, and they are going to have to pay less.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is what reform is all about. That is not totally what Bill No. 114 is all about, and that is why I am cautiously going to vote for it to go to the Law Amendments Committee and watch with interest as this government moves on municipal reform around the province, exchange of services and those kind of things that have been talked about.

I do think though, Mr. Speaker, I have to say this. I commend the government for at least moving. That is a small consolation to those who are not involved, I know, or small consolation to the people who have been elected across this province as councillors, that they really do not have any input. What they are doing here - it is like almost everything I see this government do and I continually hear this on the street. I heard it this morning in the coffee shop - we do not totally disagree with everything this government is doing, we support many of the things, but the process by this government is totally flawed and it is totally flawed because they have no interest in what Nova Scotians care or think; they have no interest in what Nova Scotians feel; and they have no interest in the future of Nova Scotians. They have an interest in their self-interest and that is to govern sort of in a dictatorship way.

So, that is what the people feel about this legislation and that is what people are feeling about the process of reform with this government. It is not a matter of being partners, it is a matter of the government saying take it or leave it and this is the way it is. That attitude has to change, Mr. Speaker, if we are going to be successful in any kind of reform. It is going to have to change if Bill No. 114 is going to be implemented in a way that all municipal units are going to support it and if the people of this province are going to get a benefit.

So, in saying that, Mr. Speaker, I know I did not take up all my time and thank you for allowing me the time to speak on Bill No. 114.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to rise in the House today and speak on this. Probably this is as important a bill as anyone we have discussed here in some time. It certainly affects every person who lives in this area and it has far-reaching effects on the entire province.

Mr. Speaker, there are ways to get things done and there are ways to get things done. You can do it in a peaceful, cooperative method, or you can use a more dictatorial, dogmatic method. Unfortunately, for all Nova Scotians, this bill is being forced upon this Legislature and the people of Nova Scotia in a very, I guess you would have to say, hard-hearted, hard-handed way because the municipalities, and I was not a party to those meetings when the Premier met with the mayors, of course, not being a mayor and not being a staff person of the Premier, I was not there, but all I know is the result . . .

[10:45 a.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: He needs a Chief of Staff . . .

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, the Chief of Staff was there, yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, I say he needs one.

MR. ARCHIBALD: He needs one? No, he is not going to hire me, I can promise you that. All I saw, Mr. Speaker, was the media coverage of the result of those meetings. It seemed to be relatively unified in their unanimous concern and annoyance that this municipal reform was taking place in the way that it was. We all have these copies of media releases, and I don't think I need to go over them again, indicating the disdain and the distrust and the annoyance that several of the local mayors, I guess all of the local mayors said, you know, three of them card-carrying, active members of the Premier's political Party.

Really, Mr. Speaker, there could have been some dialogue. There should have been some dialogue before this bill was presented to this House. I have very carefully marked this bill with a few points of interest here and there as I read through it and it is not even an easy bill. It is not the sort of a bill that the average taxpayer in Nova Scotia would want to pick up and start reading through it, you know, because he would get confused very quickly. On Page 4 it starts talking about unsightly properties and so on and then you go on a little farther and then another section deals again with unsightly properties. Then there is a bunch of language in here regarding the care and keeping of family pets, such as dogs. That comes up several times through this bill.

So a person reading this bill would wonder what in the name of time are we doing. We keep seeing the same things repeated page after page. The reason that for, of course, is because rather than write a bill for municipal reform, what they have done is amended several others that are already in place. If this government really had a plan, as they have said they have had, they would have been working away and could have presented a nice, clean, concise, orderly bill rather than bring in this mumbo-jumbo that I know, and I think all members of the Legislature know, that, through no fault of anybody, there are going to be errors in this bill through oversight.

Because when you, Mr. Speaker, combine, listen to this, the Building Code Act, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Act, Children and Family Services Act, Corrections Act, Costs and Fees Act, Court Houses and Lockup Houses Act, Family Court Act, - my soul, I am getting out of breath just reading them and I am only getting started - Hospitals Act, Juries Act, Municipal Act, Municipal Affairs Act, Municipal Grants Act, Night Courts Act, Planning Act, Police Act, Probate Act. The list goes on and on. It is an entire page of Acts that had to be amended through this bill.

Mr. Speaker, wouldn't it have been more simple for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, had she known that this was going on, to simply instruct the Legislative Counsel Office and say look, we want to build an Act that will be a model for all other Acts. We want to build a model that all municipal politicians, all people in Nova Scotia, all members of the Legislature, can read in an orderly fashion and understand exactly what we are trying to do.

But no, Mr. Speaker, this appears to me as though it was perhaps done in haste, although it could not be hasty just to look up all these Acts that this bill directly affects. But it would have been much better, to my way of thinking, to bring in a real Act that supersedes all these other Acts and just follow it in a logical order. Because what we are doing, we are not really amending all these Acts, we are plowing new ground. We really could have done that through a consultative process.

Mr. Speaker, I can quote chapter and verse, it has been done so often in this House. Members of this House, perhaps in another life, perhaps in a more real life, were saying that the three Cs: cooperation, consulation and communication. That is what they said. We have all seen their brochure that some members of the House put out when they were campaigning for election in here, but somewhere along the line between campaigning and actually being part of this, that part of cooperation and communication disappeared. As the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities said so clearly the other day, when they were summoned to a 30 minute briefing session prior to a press conference, they said the session was not a consultative meeting. It was the session where the Minister of Municipal Affairs brought her friends and colleagues in to have a little chat, but it wasn't a chat. It was not a consultation meeting.

The president and executive members expressed their extreme displeasure and frustration. Now that isn't the type of adjective, that is not the way the minister needed to be described, Mr. Speaker, because the process could have been different. I say, Mr. Speaker, the process should have been different.

We have heard people suggest in this House that oh, we have been talking about municipal reform for 50 years. Well, so what? If it has been going on that long, Mr. Speaker, would another couple of weeks or months have troubled anyone greatly?

I have a copy here of Senator Graham's Report, look at this, 1974. You have seen it, you have read it; The Nova Scotia Royal Commission on Education and Public Service. Well, since 1974 people have really been thinking about municipal reform and boundary changes and all that sort of thing. It is not a new concept for Nova Scotians but the concept of sitting down with our friends in municipal politics and saying now look, this is where we want to go, this is where the people in Nova Scotia want us to be, now let's go from here to there in a peaceful and helpful manner.

But rather than do that, Mr. Speaker, the minister called for a 30 minute briefing session. It was not a consultation meeting, they left with extreme displeasure and frustration. Is that any way to win a war? You always hear the expression in the country that you get more bees with honey than with vinegar. This government needs a little dose of goodwill, this Premier needs a little dose of goodwill, he spent half the summer with his SOS Campaign Committee trying to solidify support. This could have been the avenue to bring the municipal politicians on-side and then it would have spread out like roots from a tree, all through the province, and saying, by golly, this Premier and this government want to work with us.

Instead, Mr. Speaker, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is quite upset. The executive of the UNSM is disappointed that the government has not provided any timetable for a province-wide takeover of general assistance. No, they have not. This is not exactly what they were expecting but this is what they got.

They are curious, Mr. Speaker. In Cape Breton we have one system, on the mainland we have another. Now look, we are a very small province, I mean we are not very big. The population is not very large but yet, instead of having the two-tiered system of assistance, we are going to have three; a Cape Breton, a municipal and a provincial, all operating at the same time. So we are going from a two to a three and we were really thinking of going from a two to a one.

Education has not been part of the process. Now that is something that the UNSM was anticipating and I know they had good reason because our Premier was President of the UNSM a couple of years ago so he would have told them firsthand exactly what he was thinking about. Really, Mr. Speaker, we have been told that this document is his; that we have been told by people that the minister found out quite late in the day that this was going to happen. So, this document is from the former president of the UNSM. The financial data provided to the units, there is some question of the reliability by the UNSM of some of the suggested monetary figures that have been sent out. So, there are more questions than answers and it did not need to be that way. In fact, it would have been much better had the union been involved right from the start.

So, Mr. Speaker, there are real concerns with this bill, not just from me as one member of this Chamber, but by Nova Scotians, by the mayors, by the municipal politicians. I am very anxious to have this bill go to the Law Amendments Committee and I am very anxious, as I know you are too, to get the briefs that will be presented by interested parties, because those briefs, amendments and suggestions that are made in there perhaps could be the turning point for us to, in fact, bring in a bill that is all encompassing and satisfies the problem.

The province is going to take over the costs of apprehension maintenance and care of children under the Children and Family Services Act. The municipal units will be absolved of financial responsibility up to March 31, 1995. The administration of justice is being transferred to the province. The municipalities will continue to make annual municipal corrections contributions under the Corrections Act and they will be increasing as the Consumer Price Index continues to climb.

The Police Act; Mr. Speaker, there are people, such as myself who live in rural areas, receive the benefit of policing without paying the municipal tax. So, there will be an adjustment to that. I think most municipal politicians have been trying to do that now for some time.

But, we must be fair. Class J roads, are we going to have two Departments of Transportation in Kings County now? The provincial department will have their offices in New Minas, Greenwich, Canning, and Berwick; and the municipality is now going to set up a Department of Transportation as well. Mr. Speaker, this is something that to me is going to be interesting. What standard of road are we going to have within the municipality?

The boards of health are abolished and now, when I get complaints from people who are having trouble with their building lots, I will not have to go very far. I can phone the neighbouring minister, the Minister of the Environment. Now, I think that is going to be very handy. (Interruption) Well, I am anxiously awaiting to see if we can get building permits through quicker now. (Interruptions) Nursing homes and homes for the aged, the province is going to assume 100 per cent cost-sharing.

You know, Mr. Speaker, don't misunderstand, there are some points in this bill that are good and there are points in this bill that the municipalities like, but the biggest complaint, right off the top, is the lack of consultation, the process, talk and consult. We heard nothing all summer. The municipal units were expecting discussions this summer. They were expecting to be summoned to meetings. They were expecting to have input too. June, July, August, they were waiting. They were promised. We have the press releases from the minister saying that there would be further meetings. No timetable has been provided by the province. This is the type of language. There wasn't a timetable and then suddenly, no shotgun wedding for Halifax area.

That was from May 6th. There were press releases, things were indicating that the province wasn't rushing into this and all of a sudden to be blind sided with a bill such as this, with the cost implications to areas throughout the province, well, Mr. Speaker, gracious sakes alive, it isn't pleasant if you live in a community as I do, Kings County, who suddenly finds that they are going to be out $0.75 million. They will have to raise their taxes.

[11:00 a.m.]

If we look at the (Interruption) Well, one of the members opposite just said, what was the total on your plan. Well you see, that is the difference, it is night and day. The difference with the plan was that with one plan, there was going to be some consultation, we were going to sit down and discuss, that we were going to work it out. But this plan just, right out of the blue, no consultation, bottom line. That is the difference and that is what we are trying to say.

Look at the Town of Wolfville. Goodness, now I know that is of interest to some members that are in the House. The Town of Wolfville is going to have to raise $188,997 in additional taxes. The Town of Wolfville is probably as nice a town as you are going to find anywhere to live or to visit or to share in some of the activities that are taking place there. But now, it is going to cost a little extra.

As the UNSM told us in their press briefing and in their media briefings, they questioned the validity and the accuracy of some of these numbers. So really, I am suggesting to you, that $188,000 that the Town of Wolfville is expecting, may not be the actual number, it could be considerably higher than that. I hope it is not but it might be.

Colchester County, my gracious look at Colchester. Colchester is up over $1 million. That is not just a little bit of money, it is a lot of money. Halifax County, $4.5 million increase in taxes, that is a lot of money and I know we have some interested MLAs and we have some MLAs that live in Halifax County and represented Halifax County in municipal politics. I know that they are deeply concerned about this additional $5 million tax burden that is going to be put on the residents that they used to represent as municipal councillors and they continue to represent as provincial MLAs. I know that they are going to be speaking against this bill, or certainly they are going to be explaining the bill to the people that they represent and the people that said they were totally opposed to any kind of municipal reform that would cost their taxpayers any money.

Mr. Speaker, there are four or five of them that put out this fancy brochure that we have seen and I know they are going to be speaking either against this bill or certainly, by way of explanation to the bill. You know, Kings County $0.75 million in additional taxes. (Interruption) No it is $4.4 million to the City of Halifax. Canso is $580,000 in additional taxes.

One of the members just called out that the former government's plan would have been even more. Well, nobody knows because the former government consulted with the people and made decisions after the consultation process. (Interruption) I know the honourable member knows we consulted because many times I consulted with him on different matters. (Interruption) I don't get calls and letters trying to get the Premier to go to Kentville to meet with people, and I never had to get calls for the Minister of Health to go down to see the local people to discuss things. So, I think we are accessible in two out of three seats so some of the people in Kings County appreciated what we were doing. Next time, hopefully we will do even better.

No consultation is the root of this, well, there are two things, the wording of the bill, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Municipal Affairs must be either a dog lover or a dog hater because the first thing we talk about is dogs and there are four pages in here of dogs and then we turn over a little further and we get into them again. This really could be referred to as the dog control bill because there is more space in this bill relative to dogs than there is to anything else that this entire bill talks about.

We have studied municipal reform for 40 years perhaps. We have studied the principles of municipal reform, we have talked about the principles of municipal reform. (Interruption) Well, why don't you stand up and speak, the honourable member that signed this great petition condemning municipal reform now thinks we ought to be doing it in a hurry. Explain to your people why, explain to the people and explain to me why you are in favour of increasing taxes to the residents of Halifax County $4.5 million. You explain that to your people before you start heckling from the sidelines. If he won't stand up and speak, he shouldn't heckle.

We have been talking about municipal reform to the point that most Nova Scotians realize it is coming and realize that its time in fact has come. The point you cannot forget is we talk principles but now, Mr. Speaker, is the opportunity that was brought forth by the Premier when he was president of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, he came to our Cabinet meeting and said, listen we want to get on with this, this is our plan, this is what we want to do. After the union brought those things forward the former government said well, let's have a look at them, we studied them for a few months and then we went back and reported and said this is what we're prepared to do. Let's sit down and talk.

Well, as soon as we said that this sort of thing came out, misleading and everything else but now we are not in an election, we have an opportunity to sit with the municipal leaders and discuss the details. Let's get down to the details. Certainly, the Mayor of Halifax, the Mayor of Dartmouth, the Mayor of Halifax County, the Mayor of Bedford, they said we want to sit down and discuss details of this forced marriage. We want to discuss it, we want to come to a conclusion we can all live with and we can all support and it will make it better for that person. That person, Mr. Speaker, is indeed the taxpayer and there is only one. Discuss the details, come to conclusions. We can make this a better place in which to live and in which to raise our children but this forced marriage is not going to help in the relationship.

We have all kinds of questions in this bill and we will get into it when we start doing it clause by clause. These could have been asked by the municipal politicians, they could have met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs, they could have asked, they could have talked, they could have come to the conclusions and they would have saved much debate. The Minister of Municipal Affairs could have held a press conference with some municipal politicians at her side and said this is a conclusion that we have drawn together. The service exchange, people versus property.

We are going to have in Nova Scotia, a Halifax and a Cape Breton with the majority of the population served by two municipal units. Then we are going to have all the other counties, all of the other municipal governments from one end of the province to the other being served. Mr. Speaker, does it make sense? Well, somebody called out temporarily. When is the rest going to take place? Are the people in Kings County going to wake up some morning and suddenly read in the newspaper that the Premier has decided to amalgamate Kings County? Well, Mr. Speaker, for many months now Kings County has had a very active committee looking at that very thing. The Town of Kentville, the county and others have been discussing municipal reform. Let's see how we can cooperate. Let's see how we can send out one tax bill or get one office to send the tax bill to everybody. We have planning offices in Kentville and the county. Those are the kinds of things people are asking questions about.

Recreation is going to completely be a municipal responsibility from now on. I know that the municipal units appreciated the assistance that they were receiving from the province. Now they are on their own. Some of the counties that have a lot of money will be able to do a little better than others. But, Mr. Speaker, those are the types of things that we can sit down and discuss and make a trade. It is important.

The political representation is an important concern, Mr. Speaker. You know we are not talking about political and boundary changes right now but it goes hand in hand, you can't do one without the other and in the spring we are going to be doing amalgamation apparently. But you know, with amalgamation comes deciding the political representation, the cost implications, the sense of community, property taxation, public participation, so now is the time to express your concern. This is a little dated but there is a lot of common sense in this and I think we should republish this and send it to all members because it is most interesting.

Well, Mr. Speaker, An Act to Provide for Municipal Reform throughout this region of the province is something that we can all watch, take part in the debate. I hope that some of the MLAs that represent Halifax, Dartmouth and Halifax County - this bill affects you - so I hope some of those members that this bill affects will speak on this bill and tell us and tell their constituents what they think. Do they agree with no consultation? Was that the only way to go? I have heard that, yes, it is the only way to go because for 50 years we have been talking and getting nowhere, never get an agreement. Well, you never get an agreement unless you sit down and decide you are going to do it. But, by golly, how would they know without trying? You cannot totally dismiss consultation. (Interruption)

Well, Mr. Speaker, I am getting a great deal of help from some of my colleagues on the far right who believe in this kind of legislation of no consultation. You just force it. I can see from some of their comments why they appreciate this kind of legislation. No consultation legislation, I guess, is their motto.

Mr. Speaker, it does not have to be that way. We have had representations from municipal politicians that could be helpful and they are still willing to be helpful. They met the other day, but time is running out. The time for municipal reform, most people agree, and the municipal politicians know it, the time for municipal reform is here. But let's do it together.

You know the Hansard debates went on and on last year about municipal reform. Look, the minister - when was it, October 6, 1993 - the Minister of Municipal Affairs said: "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." Now the Minister of Municipal Affairs clearly believes in consultation and discussions. What happened, Mr. Speaker? What changed your mind?

[11:15 a.m.]

It is our intention to have something in December, is what the minister said. Well, December came and went. This went on back and forth. The Minister of Municipal Affairs indicated that consultation was the way that municipal reform was going to take place in Nova Scotia. When the minister travelled around the province and visited all 66 municipalities last year, I think everybody was very pleased that she did that. I attended three of the meetings in Kings County that she went to and the municipalities said what they had to say and she said thank you then she went to the town and she said thank you and off she went to Halifax.

AN HON. MEMBER: Didn't they say thank you?

MR. ARCHIBALD: No, they didn't actually, because that is when she came and she was talking about $4.5 million and they said we are broke, thank you very much, don't come back. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, they will not mind her coming back if she will sit down and listen because in Kings County there is a process of municipal reform taking place, waiting for the direction of this government to say, let's get on with it, let's not get on with it. But it is hard just to meet in Kings County. (Interruption) Well, the Minister of Municipal Affairs could certainly sit down with this committee and they could work out exactly how municipal reform could take place in Kings County. You don't need the big hammer. You don't need to force people.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: I wonder if I might ask for my colleague's indulgence to interrupt his eloquent debate with an introduction to the House. I am most honoured, in fact, to introduce to this House of Assembly, George and Nikki Foot, who are in the east gallery. They are visiting from Harare, Zimbabwe. Mr. and Mrs. Foot coordinated and organized the Southern Africa International Conference on Environmental Management, which recently took place just two weeks ago in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I would ask that the members of the House accord them a fine welcome to Nova Scotia and congratulate them on their environmental work. (Applause)

MR. ARCHIBALD: I thought that you were going to get up and talk about municipal reform in Kings County. You fooled me a little bit but, however, I would certainly relinquish this chair at this time if you would like to speak about municipal reform because I am sure your views would . . .

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: I wonder if my honourable colleague would entertain a question at this point, in the middle of his eloquent debate?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, yes, I would be delighted.

MR. HARRISON: It is the same question I posed to the other honourable colleague with the same forename, in Kings County. That was, I wonder if he would recollect the amount that his plan on municipal reform extracted from the taxpayers of Kings County?

MR. ARCHIBALD: That is very interesting because there was no plan that had been finalized. We were in the discussion, negotiating, talking stages. This is one of the things that so many people fail to understand, that there was an opportunity for municipal units to meaningfully discuss. That is why in Kings County they set up under the chairmanship of Jim Keith and, later, one of the professors at Acadia, Agar Adamson. They had a committee of municipal politicians and citizens talking about municipal reform to make a presentation to the government.

Mr. Speaker, I hope the government still wants the input from people. The former government wanted that input, the input is available. If the present government wants it, I am sure that member will be able to prevail upon the minister to listen to the folks from Kings County.

Mr. Speaker, we have been talking with and listening to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for the last several months and municipal reform was brought to the forefront because of the work of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and the government. This government had no choice but to get involved with municipal reform because it was such a decisive decision by the former government to say listen, let's get on with it. We have talked long enough, let's get down to business, let's sit around the table, let's do the talking. So, this government picked up where the former government had left off but rather than sit down and do some talking, they bring in a bill, a bill that is totally and completely foreign to the ways and the actions of good Nova Scotians. Because as the mayors of the three cities and the county have indicated, they are anxious to work with the minister.

We have been trying to get information from the Department of Municipal Affairs and from the minister for the last year and a half on what is the plan for municipal reform in Nova Scotia. We have never really been able to get anything definite from the government until, all of a sudden, there was a press release, or a leak I guess is what it was, somebody called and warned one of the mayors that the Premier was going to make an announcement. Then it was off and running and we were all interested, as was the Minister of Municipal Affairs, to find out what this announcement was going to be. It deeply concerned exactly her department and it concerned her greatly too, being one of the representatives of one of the directly affected regions of the province.

The Liberal campaign said that a Liberal Government will not change municipal boundaries and structures before providing full information to the public on the impact of such changes, including the costs and benefits of available options, nor before members of the public have had full opportunity for input and critique. How much input and critique have the public had in this bill? Not one iota, Mr. Speaker. This was a Liberal campaign promise.

The Liberal Government has a lot of explaining to do to the people with regard to that promise, the full opportunity for input and critique. That is what the people voted for, that is what the people in this area expected. They voted for that, the people said, we want input, we want to have the opportunity to take a meaningful part in municipal reform because that is what they were promised and that is what the people deserve. But they are not going to get it.

You see, it is the same sort of thing with some of the other announcements that have been made, of late. They have been made without any public input. Everybody cannot be an MLA but just because you are not an MLA doesn't mean that you don't have an opinion that is worthy of listening to. But when you won't listen, you can't hear.

In Cape Breton, this government said, well, it is an experiment, we will see how it goes down there and if they like it, we will run it around a little more. That is not really fair to anybody. It is like the casino, they said, no, and now all of a sudden we are going to have one. There were four public hearings that said they didn't want it. Is anybody listening? They didn't have the opportunity to talk to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

We know, we have heard some very disturbing things, of the committee that decided when to do this municipal reform and how to set it up. It is very disturbing, some of the rumours that are going around, some of the people that have been pushing and the reason and the method that this bill and announcement came forward so suddenly and so startlingly to all the municipal politicians.

Mr. Speaker, where are the members of this House who diligently expressed a desire for consultation in a meaningful way? Well, Mr. Speaker, this bill should go on to the Law Amendments Committee as quickly as possible. I am anxious that this bill go to the Law Amendments Committee so we can have the input. Finally municipal politicians and residents of Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County can all have the input they were promised.

When all those groups and individuals come forward to the Law Amendments Committee next week and make their presentation on this bill, I hope that the minister in charge of that committee will allow them the full opportunity to speak and I hope that the committee will be listening. I hope that the Cabinet of this province is listening to the suggestions these people are going to make because together, we can make this is a much stronger and better bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to rise and speak for a few moments on Bill No. 114, An Act to Provide for Municipal Reform. Mr. Speaker, you have been in this House much longer than I have. In your tenure and I know in mine I have not seen a bill, I don't think, that has been as sweeping as this particular piece of legislation.

This is a true omnibus bill. I don't know if members realize that there are 28 pieces of legislation amended by this bill, plus there are another 31 pieces of legislation which are repealed in their entirety. So, we have, in essence, a bill here that physically changes 60 Acts that we presently have in the Acts of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is a very complex bill. It is complex from the point of view that indeed, to really research this bill, you are going to have to look at those 60 pieces of legislation in-depth.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I am very much in support of this bill in principle, for what it does. I think any bill that actually repeals 31 pieces of legislation, for instance, is a bill worthy of support. But I am somewhat dismayed. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: At least he brought tears to somebody's eyes.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am not crying over this legislation but I certainly know that there are a lot of municipalities which perhaps feel that way.

As I say, this is a omnibus bill in the true sense of the word but there is nothing wrong with that kind of an omnibus bill, as I am sure you have already agreed since you have not objected to the bill in that there is a common thread that connects all these bills.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read into the record, if I may, the particular bills being amended. I am not going to speak about the bills that are repealed because they are repealed and there is no effect on them, except for the fact that they will completely disappear. This particular bill amends; the Building Code Act, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Act, the Homes for Special Care Act, the Hospitals Act, the Juries Act, the Municipal Act, the By-laws and Recorded Resolutions, the Municipal Highways Act, the Municipal Affairs Act, the Municipal Grants Act, the Night Courts Act, the Planning Act, the Police Act, the Probate Act, the Prothonotaries and Clerks of the Crown Act, the Public Highways Act, the Public Offices and Officers Act, the Regional Transit Authority Act, the Registry Act, the Sheep Protection and Dog Regulation Act, the Sheriffs Act, the Social Assistance Act, the Stray Animals Act, the Towns Act, By-laws and Recorded Resolutions, the Village Service Act, the Weed Control Act and the Halifax County Charter.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is a wide-ranging piece of legislation and one which indeed will take time, as I said before, to research. This is where I think we run into problems in that the minister has not really accorded to the municipal units who are very, very much affected by this legislation the necessary time perhaps to do that type of research.

[11:30 a.m.]

This bill will be proceeding to Law Amendments and I would think that would probably be possible next week. I would urge the minister, however, to delay proceeding with this bill to Law Amendments for at least a couple of weeks to enable the research staffs within the municipal units to do the necessary research on all of these pieces of legislation that are being amended by Bill No. 114.

The second matter that I would like to bring to the attention of the minister is that we appear to be dealing within this particular bill with many matters that are normally effected by by-laws within municipal councils. I have not had time myself to research where those by-laws begin and where they end in comparison to where they were heretofore, there hasn't been sufficient time to do that. When I read through this bill I find within this particular bill a large amount of what I would consider to be by-law type regulation and legislation rather than that which should be in an Act of this Legislature or in regulations of the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

I am sure that every member in this House that has served on a municipal council, I served myself for about seven years and I know that there are many, many others in this Chamber who have served equally long if not longer. They will know I am sure that when you start talking about things like tree removal, when you start talking about dog by-laws, et cetera, the collection of garbage and what have you, that those particular matters change as councils change. New councillors come on to council and they have different ideas as to how various matters that are handled by by-laws should be handled.

In future, in reading through this bill, it appears that many of those matters which were heretofore handled by municipalities through by-laws will now only be able to be amended by coming forward as an amendment to this particular piece of legislation or any one of those 28 other pieces of legislation that are being amended by this particular bill. I think that the bill itself should, in one clause perhaps, lay out what the by-law authority is of the municipal councils and at least that by-law authority should be as great as it was in the past.

I will be supporting this bill through second reading. I am in favour of the principle of the municipal reform but I will be listening with interest to amendments that will be suggested in Law Amendments, as I am sure they will, by many municipalities, municipal councils and officers of those municipal councils. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to speak to Bill No. 114, An Act to Provide for Municipal Reform. I did speak Tuesday in regard to the amendment as proposed by the members of the Third Party to table this or to hoist the bill for six months. Actually, I guess I will be repeating many of the things that have been said in the House before but I do want to take five minutes just to make a few points.

The minister is not in the House at the moment but I want to make it very clear at the outset that I am certainly in favour of municipal reform. As I have said before, we in the previous government had made an effort to get started on municipal reform by appointing the two commissioners for Halifax County and for Cape Breton County. They both did studies and had gone around and met all the councils and anyone that wanted to meet them. I think Mr. Hayward and Mr. Campbell have done excellent work for both those areas. They showed that Halifax County would have a saving of $20 million, and Cape Breton County approximately $13 million.

I think it is important that there is a savings to the taxpayer. There is only one taxpayer out there. Our taxpayers are hit very hard. The minister did make a tremendous effort and visited the 66 municipalities. I congratulated her before for this and I congratulate her again. I believe that that was an excellent exercise. I attended the meetings that she had with the Town of Pictou and with the Municipality of the County of Pictou. She sat there and listened to their concerns, but she also said that she would come back and discuss again with the people of the area as to what she was going to do. That is where I am disappointed with the minister and the government.

There is no question municipal reform has to take place and it has to be done. She did consult first, but the game changed. I really don't know what the figures are today. At one time it was going to cost the Municipality of the County of Pictou over $1 million. The four upper towns and Pictou were all going to gain. Now, with this service exchange, Pictou, who has one of the highest tax rates in this province, it is going to cost them, according to these figures, $68,000. They don't have $68,000 for exchange, I am sorry.

The Mayor of Pictou and his group will be down here when we get to the Law Amendments Committee and we will get there. There will be all kinds of people, groups, from across this province, municipalities, will be here wanting to discuss and make their proposals to the Law Amendments Committee.

The service exchange is not really what was presented earlier this summer. It has changed entirely. The social assistance was going to be taken over by the province. It is going to be taken over in Cape Breton. Well that is fine. We appreciate that. That is good, but what about all the other areas? When is it going to happen? I don't see or I don't hear anybody tell me it is going to happen in 1996. So is that right? I don't think so at all.

She did go out and consult, but then she did not come back to them and I think that is where the mistake was made. We will hear about it when we get to the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker. We will hear many, many groups and they will have suggestions to be made and there will be amendments that they are suggesting and I hope that the government can listen. We have to listen to the people. I guess that is what happened to us after 15 years. The people thought we were not listening and they put you people in. If you people don't listen to the people, you will not be here.

Anyway, there are many MLAs in this Legislature that have been municipal councillors over the years and I know there is quite a number in the government of the day. Quite frankly, I would be pleased to hear some of them comment on this massive bill. As I told you, I woke up Sunday morning at 3:00 a.m., so I had a 3:00 a.m. reading.

AN HON. MEMBER: It put you to sleep in a hurry.

MR. MCINNES: Well, I got through quite a bit of it that night. It is about dogs, it is about trees and as my colleague, the member for Hants West said, it amends many pieces of legislation and it also cancels a number of pieces of legislation.

The executive of the Nova Scotia Union of Municipalities had a 30 minute briefing session with the minister. That wasn't a consultation meeting, that was just a meeting where the minister had the opportunity to tell them what she was doing. They were very disappointed. I am sure you all have the memo that was sent to all the mayors and wardens of the province and maybe somebody else spoke about it earlier, I don't know if I am repeating what somebody said or not but I think it is quite a memo.

The executive met following the session with the minister and a number of concerns were identified. The executive, number one, is disappointed that the government has not provided any timetable for a province-wide takeover of general assistance. Number two, the executive is disappointed that the province will continue to require a municipal contribution to corrections and I believe that figure is approximately $13.5 million. The executive of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is also not satisfied that education is not part of the process, $119 million. The point I raised already about the executive questions the reliability of the financial data provided to all units. One time it is one thing and the next day it is another thing and next month what will the figures be? Does the minister know? Does the government know? Number five, this is the union, this is not me the member for Pictou West talking, this is written by Kenneth R.B. Simpson, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Union of Municipalities. The executive is disappointed in the lack of consultation and the unilateral actions concerning both the service exchange and metro amalgamation.

This is being sent out to all mayors and wardens and they are going to certainly review this Bill No. 114, how many pages, 78, a big bill. There are some things they are not going to share in. One of the things my colleague, the member for Kings West talked about is that the province will not be sharing in recreation any more. You know, the recreation programs that go on in this province are very important, money given to a ball field or soccer field, that is important. That gives children and young people an opportunity to go and play ball, soccer, football, or whatever. I think that the municipalities are going to be disappointed that they are not having that funding available to them. I hope the municipalities can continue because sport and recreation, most jobs today are 40 hours or less even, 36 hours, three 12 hours shifts so people do have to have sport and recreation facilities available to them.

As I say, the minister went out and consulted with those 66 units. However, she said and I repeat it because she didn't hear what I said before, that I sat in the meetings with her with the Town of Pictou and I sat in with her with the Municipality of the County of Pictou and we had good, excellent meetings. Then she said that she would be coming back and discussing what the final proposals were. That didn't happen, that is the part that didn't happen. She started but she didn't finish.

We have to get on with this bill, we have to have it go to Law Amendments and I will be voting for the bill, I am in favour of municipal reform, not necessarily like this. I want to say again for the minister's benefit that these figures have changed so often that I really don't know what the figures are. At one time the Town of Pictou was going to have a gain of - I wouldn't even guess the figure - now it is going to cost the Town of Pictou $68,000, which they don't have. It is going to cost the Town of Trenton $700,000 plus, the Town of Stellarton $118,000, and it goes on and on.

[11:45 a.m.]

We have to get on with municipal reform. We have to listen to the people at Law Amendments Committee. I hope the minister will take those presentations and study them carefully and maybe we will be able to amend the bill and have a bill that will be useful for the people of Nova Scotia. One taxpayer, if we can save some money for them, if we can still provide the services, I think that is very important.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate. I will be voting to move Bill No. 114 to go on to Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate briefly in the debate on Bill No. 114. I, too, have some of the same concerns which have been expressed by earlier speakers that we have presented to us here in this Legislature, as do all of the municipal leaders of the Province of Nova Scotia, a highly complex piece of business dropped on them on the eleventh hour, a good deal of which bears little or no relationship, as I understand the situation, to discussions and so-called consultations which had been taking place over the last number of months.

Frankly, I think we now have a situation where there is as much confusion in this province as to what provincial-municipal service exchange is really all about and what its long-term and downstream impact is going to be, than we had at any time in the last year or two.

The fundamental principle, as I believe it to be, of provincial-municipal service exchange is that it is predicated on the basis - or must be predicated on the basis, or it makes no sense - that the province would assume responsibilities for programs and their costs which deal with people and that the municipalities would have responsibility for programs and services and the cost of same, which deal with property issues.

I am not so sure that the legislation that is before us effects that result at all, Mr. Speaker. I think I only have to refer to the differences between the plan put forward by the government of which I was a member in March, April and May of 1993, relative to the social services responsibilities and what we see here in this legislation. In 1993, the government of which I was a member, was recommending and proposing to the people of Nova Scotia that social services be the responsibility and be delivered and financed by the provincial government. We now see this new Liberal Government plan where municipal units will continue to be responsible for municipal general assistance, except, of course, in the industrial Cape Breton area.

Frankly, I think that one issue is, if not the most fundamental, among the most fundamental of all the provincial-municipal service exchange considerations that we have been attempting to right in this province for the last number of years. This minister knows, and surely her colleagues know, that what has killed the financial flexibility of municipal units in this province is the ever-burgeoning and, in some cases exploding, cost of social assistance. Yet this new program, this new reform, does not address that issue in a way which, in my opinion, is adequate in any way, shape or form.

The Minister of Municipal Reform, when she made remarks on October 27th, introducing this whole project said that their commitment, the commitment of this government, has always been to work towards a Nova Scotia made up of economically-strong, safe and viable communities. A laudable principle. She went on to say that today, when she made the announcement about the legislation coming forward, that she and the government were, ". . . living up to that commitment, we are putting in place a comprehensive strategy for municipal reform. We are taking a number of major steps forward towards a provincial, municipal relationship that will provide the backbone of a revitalized Nova Scotia well into the 21st Century.".

The fact of the matter is, as has been pointed out by many other speakers before me, that what we have is a new set of words and some realignment and some jiggery-pokery with certain bits and pieces and elements of the relationship between the provincial government and the municipal units of Nova Scotia.

I say to you, Mr. Speaker, without hesitation, that what concerns me about the package with which we now deal is that if and when passed, particularly if it is passed without very, very radical amendment through the Law Amendments process and otherwise, we are then, still, upon passage, going to have in place a provincial-municipal service exchange and service cost and service payment responsibility process which will be as difficult and as confusing as we now have and which is going to require continued relationships and dialogue and consultation and refinement as between the municipal units and the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry to interject while the member is in full flight, but would the member yield the floor for an introduction.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, thank you, Mr. Donahoe, for offering that opportunity. I would like to introduce to the Speaker and through the Speaker, some very special guests here at the Legislature today, Mr. and Mrs. Wafer, whom are very prominent business people from the small community of Nouvelle, Gaspé coast. I would ask the Legislature to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, just staying for a moment with the presentation of the Minister of Municipal Affairs in describing what she was telling the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, which she was purporting to do by way of this legislation. She says that, "Service exchange involves a reallocation of services between the provincial and municipal level of government and a restructuring of a financial relationships between them . . .", that reduces the number of cost-shared programs. "The service exchange plan is both financially feasible and controllable. It enables many of the government's reform initiatives to occur.". She says that, ". . . responsibilities transferred to the province in the areas of home care, licensed nursing homes and homes for the aged are required to advance . . . ", health reform. She says that, it also ". . . helps to level the playing field in terms of service responsibilities.", by breaking down some of the barriers to municipal cooperation.".

For example, under service exchange, "Rural municipalities will assume financial responsibility for police protection. The plan should strengthen local government and simplify municipal decision making.". Then the document goes on at great length about other things that service exchange proposes to do. Then she says, in this same document, "Further consultation with municipalities, generally, and with specific municipal units, and with municipal administrations will be held to deal with implementation. While service exchange will alleviate many municipal problems and produce a fair and more rational municipal system, it will not solve all of the problems. Work on municipal reform will have to continue as both the province and municipal units struggle to deal with the financial problems affecting all levels of government.".

Then she goes on to the suggestion that she will be introducing other legislation relative to amalgamation. Well, she is absolutely right, Mr. Speaker, when she says that further consultation with municipalities, generally, and specific municipal units will be necessary to deal with implementation and when she says that it will not solve all the problems because we are going to have to struggle and deal with the financial problems affecting the levels of government.

I would ask if I may, by way of one specific question, and I hope, perhaps, if I could get, through you, Mr. Speaker, the attention of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, if when she closes debate if she might help me and all Nova Scotians understand what is going to happen when we get through this equalization plan or process that is set out in the legislation. There is an equalization entitlement and I won't talk to the provision as much as the principle, the principle basically is that the more well-to-do municipal units in the province are going to be called upon to commit money to an equalization fund so that there will be payments out of the consolidated fund by the provincial government to those municipal units who require assistance. I may be misreading but I don't think so. I understand that each municipality which gains from the exchange of service responsibilities between the municipality shall pay to the province three-quarters of the gain in year one, one-half in year two, one-quarter in year three, and then each municipality which loses from the service exchange responsibility, they will be paid by the province three-quarters of the loss in year one, one-half in year two, and one-quarter in year three.

Well, unless there is dramatic economic creation of new wealth and economic development in a number of municipal units in the Province of Nova Scotia, what I want to know and what I think many Nova Scotians want to know and indeed some municipal leaders who have made contact with our office want to know, is where do we fit at the end of that third year? Is the Minister of Municipal Affairs living in the dream world that after three fiscal years every municipal unit in the province is going to have such an enhanced and improved economic circumstance and tax base and revenue base that we are no longer going to be required to be in this equalization mode. I don't for a minute believe that is going to be the case unless there is one heck of a lot more economic development action and activity and effort in certain municipal units supported and assisted by the provincial government than I have seen to date.

You have to wonder a little bit, it is predictable I suppose that some will hear that certain Opposition politicians stood on the floor of the Legislature and made some comments, some of it critical about this municipal-provincial service exchange and the reaction from some will be, well yes that is typical, that is predictable, it's Opposition politicians taking shots at the government. Well, I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities' executive committee has been meeting with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and they had a briefing on the proposed provincial-municipal service exchange program and as well they talked apparently about the amalgamation of the four metro units and I will not get into that.

The hastily called session says the press release from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities was not a consultative meeting as had been promised by the minister. So, it is not Terry Donahoe who is saying that the meeting was hastily called and it was not consultative, it is the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. The union goes on to say in September the Minister of Municipal Affairs wrote to all the mayors and wardens and indicated that no final decision had been made on the components of a service exchange and that she would consult with the UNSM before making decisions and the government has not consulted. That sentence is not my sentence, it is the sentence, it is the line, it is the position of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. The government has not consulted so says the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. Instead the government has acted unilaterally, again, so says the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.

Again, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities says and I quote their release, "The Service Exchange package does not remove all municipalities from funding General Assistance. In 1989, the UNSM began the process of pressing for the provincial government to assume people costs and municipalities to assume property costs. General Assistance was a top municipal priority. The provincial government has chosen to assume General Assistance costs only in Industrial Cape Breton, . . .", and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities wants to know why.

Again, according to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities the government is passing property services to municipalities including police cost and Class J roads and is not providing municipal relief from general assistance. No timetable has been provided for the province to assume general assistance costs province-wide and that is why I say, Mr. Speaker, as I said a moment ago, this document, this 77-some pages of legislation which as my colleague for Hants pointed out a few moments ago at the tail end repeals a great many pieces of legislation and if you read this, you read more about dogs and dog catchers and food by-laws and the whole deal. The real fundamental issue under discussion here is the financial integrity of both the municipal units of the province and the province itself.

[12:00 p.m.]

The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is saying no timetable has been provided for the province to assume general assistance costs provided province-wide. As I know you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with your municipal background and I know so many members of this House, many of whom themselves have a municipal government background, they know that general assistance and social assistance costs at the municipal level are absolute killers for the municipalities across all of the Province of Nova Scotia.

I repeat again, it is not Terry Donahoe saying that the government has acted unilaterally, the government has not consulted, it is the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. I don't give the tinker's you-know-what about the fact that the minister stands up and says that she went to all 66 municipal units, and she did, and hurray for her, we are still trying to find out where the expense claims are and so on that indicate the cost of all those meetings. But big deal, the Minister of Municipal Affairs went and had these chats with the municipal leaders of the Province of Nova Scotia, she went all over the province. She then goes to the meeting down in Sydney a couple of weeks ago and, as has already been said in this place, stands in front of the municipal leadership of Nova Scotia and admits, acknowledges, apparently without embarrassment I might add, I don't really have a lot of the answers to this whole deal and, in effect, said if there is anybody out here at this nice Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities dinner who might have some ideas that they would like to share with me, maybe we might have a little chat after the dinner.

I understand the minister wants to introduce a couple of her supporters from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. I am pleased to defer for that purpose.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs.

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I certainly thank the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition for an opportunity to interrupt his speech here this morning. I am very pleased to note in the Speaker's Gallery we have two of our mayors from the metropolitan area, Mayor Gloria McCluskey and Mayor Peter Kelly. I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. DONAHOE: My expectation is that the guests in our gallery whom the minister has just introduced undoubtedly have a great many suggestions, if the Minister of Municipal Affairs is ready to listen to them and talk to them, a great many suggestions as to how this piece of legislation, Bill No. 114, can, in fact, be improved. I have no doubt that they (Interruption) Yes, indeed, I hear from behind that the suggestion is made that yes, I am sure that I will put them forward. I certainly will, but more to the point, the leadership of the municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia will be putting forward a tremendous number of suggestions whereby this piece of legislation, which is very fundamentally and seriously flawed, can be improved and strengthened.

The real frustration that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities faces and the real difficulty that they and Opposition members in this place face is that we have thrown on the table here, at the eleventh hour, a document which purports to redesign the relationship between the Province of Nova Scotia and the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia, which bears little or no relationship, in large measure and in many elements, to the discussions which took place over the preceding months. They were not discussions which resulted in a reaching of a consensus and a meeting of minds, frankly and unfortunately they were discussions which simply were opportunities for the minister and officials from the Department of Municipal Affairs to speak at the municipal units and, obviously, in the result, as we see in the bill, hear nothing or little, if anything, of what was being said back to them by the municipal leadership.

Again, to go back to the concerns expressed by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the government, says the union - not Terry Donahoe and not partisan Opposition politicians but the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, the municipal leadership of the province - is passing property services to municipalities, including police costs and Class J roads and is not providing municipal relief from general assistance. I repeat, again, it is general assistance that is killing the municipal units of Nova Scotia. That was the reason why the government of which I was a member and which was ridiculed when we suggested it, by some members opposite in the election campaign of March, April and May 1993, that the position which we took at that time, and we did not have the full and complete plan worked out entirely, but we had a fundamental principle which we put forward and espoused. That was social services to be the responsibility and be delivered and be financed by the provincial government. That relief is one of the most essential and fundamental elements of relief which is required to assist the maintenance of the integrity of the municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia.

I still, again, and I hope the minister, Mr. Speaker, through you, has made a note and will when she closes, try to make some sense for me, at least, and I hope for every taxpayer in Nova Scotia, just what does happen with this equalization program once the third year runs out. Because it is my sincere hope that there will be tremendous economic growth in many municipal units of the Province of Nova Scotia. But unless this government, this provincial government, supporting a great number of existing municipal units in Nova Scotia, unless they get serious about supporting some municipal units who need help to generate new wealth, to expand their industrial and their commercial, their residential tax base, what we are going to have at the end of the third year is, unfortunately, potentially, the same kind of a situation that we have now. That we have a number of, in relative terms, well-to-do municipal units and we will have a number of less well and, unfortunately perhaps, much less well-to-do municipal units.

This legislation does not tell us where we go with this equalization program after the third year. I think it is vitally important for all Nova Scotian taxpayers, for every municipal leader, including those who are in the less well-to-do municipal units, as well as those who are in those which are better off, to know what is the fate of this equalization program when the sunset clause, which has provided for it in this legislation, actually is upon us.

I cannot say it any more definitively or strongly and I repeat it is not my line, it is the line of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. In fact, it is the line, the words, of the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. The President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities referred to the program in this fashion. President Madaline Libbus indicated to the minister, the UNSM's ". . . extreme displeasure for not being consulted and shock that the government is not willing to follow through and assume all General Assistance costs province-wide.". And I quote the president, who referred to the program as a "one-sided exchange.".

It is pretty disappointing. It is truly disappointing that after all the election and pre-election rhetoric back in 1993, after all of the talk from this Minister of Municipal Affairs about her willingness to listen, about her ability to consult, about her willingness to travel to every community of this province to meet with 66 municipal units and so on, to have the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities in the result, be shocked both as to the timing of the introduction of this piece of legislation, Bill No. 114, following some meetings with the minister and then have the president say, this is a one-sided exchange.

It was not supposed to be a one-sided exchange. It was not supposed to be one-sided at all and, in fact, it was, as I said a moment ago, in the words of the distinguished Minister of Affairs herself, if I can find her document, the Minister of Municipal Affairs describes this whole effort, in her words, today we are putting in place a comprehensive strategy for municipal reform. Today we are taking a number of major steps forward towards a provincial-municipal relationship that will provide the backbone of a revitalized Nova Scotia well into the 21st Century. Municipal reform has been talked about by nearly every provincial government for the past 50 years. After extensive consultation, this government is taking action now. Our commitment has always been to work towards a Nova Scotia made up of economically safe, strong and viable communities. That contrasts pretty starkly, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, with the analysis and the statement of the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities who suggests that this is, in her opinion and in the opinion of the union, a one-sided exchange.

Well, maybe the minister can tell us, first of all, when she closes debate, why it is there is no assumption by the province of the general assistance costs province-wide, one of the basic, fundamental elements of the dialogue and the exchange between the previous government and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and frankly, from what I was hearing from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, what I thought was one of the fundamental elements upon which the Province of Nova Scotia was basing its presentation to the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia?

Again we now have the unseemly and unfortunate situation of that not having been undertaken or committed in this legislation. But additionally, as is the case with the equalization program, we don't have any reference at all, Mr. Speaker, or any indication that I have heard from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, as to what timetable, if any, she and this government are prepared to undertake, in terms of the assumption by the province of the general assistance costs province-wide.

The real concern here appears to be that the provincial government has decided on its course. It is laying it on the municipal units and, frankly, it is apparently content to allow the municipal units to wallow in some confusion, unfortunately, as to what the impact of this provincial-municipal service exchange will actually be. Frankly, I don't think after 18 to 20 months of so-called negotiation and consultation, that is good enough at all.

The real problem here, I think, is that again we have another sad example of a government that talks about consultation and accessibility and openness and transparency and being willing to hear and to listen and pay attention to what they hear from all Nova Scotians, including union leadership. I think really what we have represented in Bill No. 114 is a situation where the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, representing the same taxpayers that each and every one of us in here represent, have been denied a chance to review the new service exchange policy. It is thrown at them late in the day and unexpectedly, it is thrown at them in a way and in a fashion and with a set of numbers which they have not seen before.

They are now going back to the drawing board, trying to understand what the impact is to their respective municipal units. Some of them are going to have to do that against the backdrop of public utterances from the minister to the effect that a certain merger of municipal units is going to take place - no detail, no indication as to the way in which any of that will impact upon the service exchange.

What we really have is a situation where the UNSM has been denied a chance to review this new service exchange policy and the province has dumped the consultation process, in favour of what is clearly heavy-handed legislation.

The important discussion and debate on this legislation, as far as I am concerned, will take place at the Law Amendments Committee. It would be foolish and folly for me to say I am going to vote against this legislation, although I am tempted to, but I vote for it not because I support the legislation but I vote for it to participate in the process that would lead the legislation on to the Law Amendments Committee.

I know, from contact with many municipal leaders already, that they will be here in very large numbers to outline with the precision that they possibly can, the detail that obviously the Minister of Municipal Affairs and her officials did not take into account prior to the drafting and introduction of this legislation.

[12:15 p.m.]

As I know you know, Mr. Speaker, elections are to take place in November 1995, which is not very far away, on the new metro city or super-city, so-called, and we will have much more to say about that. They will be sworn in, in December 1995. I note with interest that, apparently, Grant Morash has been appointed the Nova Scotia Coordinator of Metro Municipalities at $1,225 a day for a 7 hour day. I think we had better start asking some questions, as we will, about just what in the world is going on. We have this municipal service exchange issue now before us, we have the threat, although we do not see the legislation from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, that will have super-city, so-called, elections in November 1995, swearing in of new people in December 1995. We have got a new Coordinator of Metro Municipalities being paid $1,200-some a day and I think, frankly, there are a great many questions that need to be asked of this minister as to just what in the world is going on with this whole matter of municipal reform and the super-city proposal.

I find it interesting, Mr. Speaker. I am not going to get into the discussion about super-city in and of itself, but I think it is relevant when talking service exchange to be talking about it against the backdrop of the statement already made by the Minister of Municipal Affairs that she is going to move in the area of so-called super-city and that merger legislation is forthcoming. I just cannot believe and, frankly, it is only the shortness of time that has not enabled our small research staff to get through all the detail and we will be attempting to do that in the next couple of days, and certainly have things to say before this matter, Bill No. 114, goes to Law Amendments. I cannot believe that if we are moving, as we are being told we are going to, to a super-city here in the metropolitan region, I cannot believe that it will not impact or potentially impact, and impact greatly, on the relationship of provincial-municipal service exchange here in the metropolitan region. It simply has to.

I am struck that, as part of an open letter that was sent to citizens of Halifax County Municipality from Mayor Lichter, who has gone to a new incarnation these days, and members of Halifax County Council back some time ago, that a great many of those who are now our colleagues here in this Legislature were signatories to this document. They talk about such things as property taxation and public participation. They are expressing concerns about the super-city and I ask, seriously, when are we going to hear from the members of this Legislature who were members of the Halifax County Council, who raised such concerns in this document which was circulated some considerable time ago about the potential adverse impacts of a so-called super-city. Not for the moment in relation to the super-city, but in relation to the potential adverse consequences to the municipalities here in metro. In relation to the service exchange that is affected by Bill No. 114, knowing that not too much further down the line we are going to be looking at legislation which will, in fact, force down the throats of everybody in metro a super-city arrangement here. I think, frankly, it is incumbent upon those members, Mr. Speaker, to share those views.

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken a good deal about process. I have tried to indicate that there are fundamental flaws here. There are great uncertainties. The principle element, the fundamental element, the program which has been bankrupting the less well-to-do municipal units of Nova Scotia and compromising the economic and financial circumstances of the better off municipal units in this province has been social assistance programs.

This government has, in the course of Bill No. 114 and their revision of social service, provincial-municipal service exchange, allowed and required that the cost of municipal general assistance, except, again, as I repeat, in Cape Breton, but still to be borne by the municipal units. I say with some pride that that is a flaw and it contrasts completely and totally with the fundamental principle of the municipal service exchange put forward by the Party of which I am a member, prior to the last election, whereby we advocated and still do that the social services costs be the responsibility of, be delivered and be funded by the provincial government.

Mr. Speaker, with those comments, I will simply indicate that I am somewhat holding my nose because I am so much concerned that this bill will cause so much difficulty for so many municipalities and raises as many questions as it answers, if not more. I will vote for it to move it along to Law Amendments Committee. This caucus, as I am sure and I trust, every single member of this Legislature, because the municipal unit in which each member of this Legislature lives and works and represents is directly affected by this legislation, will take great care to pay attention as closely as we possibly can to what we hear in Law Amendments Committee because this bill, in order to be worthwhile at all, has to come back to this place very dramatically amended. I will be one of those, hopefully, in a position to assist and support the development of language which will result in significant and, I hope, helpful amendment.

With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and allow others who I am sure have concerns about the bill to share those with the House. I look forward to the discussion both at Law Amendments Committee and when the bill comes back from committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise now and talk a bit about Bill No. 114 in second reading, a bill entitled An Act to Provide for Municipal Reform.

Mr. Speaker, in the hours and hours of debate that have been held already in second reading, whether it be on the title of the bill itself or whether it has been on amendments to that title, we hear a lot of people refer to a dysfunctional process that has been at play between the province and the municipalities in terms of how it was that the province was going to, in consultation with the municipalities, come to the point of agreeing on what services were going to be swapped, how they were going to be swapped, what the balance was going to be, what the impact was going to be on the municipalities, what the impact was going to be on the services and so on and so forth, information which, at all stages down the road, was going to be made public to the people of Nova Scotia.

We have heard from a number of speakers the fact that there was no consultation. That the municipalities, either directly from the minister or through their representatives at the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, were, in fact, given information that, at various points, was not correct. Whether that be financial information in terms of the impact of the various options on the service swaps or whether it was that decisions were going to be made and that the province was going to be moving ahead.

We have heard, and I will refer to it again in a few moments that the minister, herself, referred in a letter in September of this year to all municipalities that no decisions had been made and were going to be made in the near future on these items. There was still more discussion, more debate and research that had to be done and that would involve the municipalities, either directly or through the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. Then, at the convention later on in that month, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities convention, the minister indicated to them that there were still a lot of unanswered questions and that no decisions had been made, nor were they going to be made. Then, lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, we get this bill dropped on us and dropped on the people of Nova Scotia, dropped on the municipal leadership that, in fact, there is going to be sort of a swap, there is going to be municipal reform and it is going to happen as the government said, on our terms, whether you like it or not.

We have heard - and I will go into some little more detail now - what kind of reaction that we have had from the municipal leaders, from people in this province but one of the things that has been discussed, and we have had some members of the government back benches rise during some of this debate and say that Opposition members debating this bill are talking about municipal amalgamation. What has that got to do with this bill? We are talking about municipal service swaps, we are not talking about municipal amalgamation.

Well, Mr. Speaker, how can you talk about one without the other? For two reasons. One is, as was referred to earlier, the Mayor of Trenton said that the terms under which the services are going to be swapped will have the kind of financial impact on his municipality, and others, that they will be forced to amalgamate. What he is suggesting is that the minister is coming through the back door in providing for municipal amalgamation.

The other thing that has to be remembered is that when you look at the announced merger of the metro municipalities, Mr. Speaker, that is going to have a significant impact on the ability of those municipalities to participate in the implementation of such a fundamentally, contradictory in many ways, and certainly an ominous piece of legislation. How are the municipalities in metro going to be able to respond to this particular piece of legislation over the next period of time when they also realize that, number one, their terms of office have now been shortened from three years - which is what they ran for in election less than one month ago - that in less than a year they will no longer be, at least in their present capacities, representing their particular municipalities and the interests thereto. Also, that there is going to be whole new realignment of boundaries, of wards and of representation.

Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you and to all members that that is going to have a significant impact on this government's ability to implement the provisions of Bill No. 114. When you talk about process, there is an example of why this kind of municipal reform is doomed to be twice as difficult and twice as fractious as it needs to be because, on the one hand, the minister says that municipalities will be fully consulted and the people of Nova Scotia will be fully consulted, and these matters are sprung on people without them knowing what is going on. Little did the people in Halifax-Bedford-Dartmouth and the County of Halifax know that, on October 15th, they were not just voting for their aldermen, councillor, mayor, warden or officials for three years but, in fact, they were voting for people to go in for one year and the whole structural premise on that level of government was going to change. How can anybody in this province trust this government when they would allow that to happen? You know it is like April Fool's in October.

[12:30 p.m.]

Why were the people of Nova Scotia not told in the municipal elections in this province on October 15th that the service exchange between the province and the municipalities as going to go forward within the next year and it was going to go forward on the following basis. They weren't given any indication that in fact that was the case. I don't know that there were many municipal politicians who discussed in their campaign anything about the swapping of services between the province and their municipality. So Nova Scotians didn't have a chance to render any decision on that, let alone here in metro, being given the opportunity and being shown the respect to be told that the people they were voting for were only going to be there for a year and that their municipality, as it now stood, was going to be wholly changed within a period of a year.

That is the kind of problem that people have been talking about for hours and hours in this House, on Bill No. 114, that the government, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and her Cabinet colleagues are engaged in a dysfunctional process that is creating conflict and controversy over matters that need everybody pulling in the same direction, and that need cooperation and coordination in order for them to succeed. I would just like to know how we, here in this Legislature, are supposed to have any faith that this government is going to follow through with any of their commitments.

You have heard from people earlier, they talked about the fact that Bill No. 114 amends 28 different Acts; 31 Acts are repealed in Bill No. 114. Do you remember the last time you saw a significant piece of legislation like that dropped on the table here in this House? This legislation that has supposedly resulted from extensive consultations with 66 municipalities across this province, which we have come to find out, in fact, didn't happen or happened much less than was reported and didn't deal with any of the substantive questions that are actually resolved here, by the province, unilaterally.

This piece of legislation, which has such a significant impact on municipalities across this province, the UNSM were not even consulted before this legislation was brought forward. There was a suggestion made by an earlier speaker that because of the complexity, because of the impact of Bill No. 114 and because of the fact that there was no consultative process followed to deal with the specifics covered by this piece of legislation, that if and when this goes through second reading, that the government should take a couple of weeks before it goes to Law Amendments Committee and give municipalities an opportunity, finally, to review and consider and research the impact that this particular legislation will have on their municipalities and on their constituents. I think that is quite a reasonable request.

Undoubtedly the minister and her government will ignore it because they are showing us what leadership is all about, Mr. Speaker, make a decision regardless of how bad it is, put your head down and ram it through. They definitely have the numbers, they can do that. We have seen their propensity to do that since they have become government. That is their idea of democracy. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to hear from the House Leader as to what his opinion is. I, as would most Nova Scotians, appreciate having that member stand in his place and make his opinion known, by putting it on the record if he feels it is worthwhile to fire out across the floor and try to interrupt and otherwise disrupt the opportunity another member might have to present their opinion. I think Nova Scotians would be quite pleased to hear something that he would consider that important.

Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of democracy that we have seen from this government. You are right, they were elected, they got a majority. The fact that they said they were going to consult and have not, the fact that they said they were going to participate and bring all the facts out on the table on municipal reform before any decisions were made, the fact that they said no new taxes, the fact that they said we are going to focus on a job strategy, and have not on all those items, you can call that democracy if you want, Mr. Speaker, but I call that somewhat of a dictatorship.

The other point is that as much as you want, the government can stand there, the Minister of Municipal Affairs can sit in her place and dismiss what we have to say as just comments from the Opposition, unsubstantiated rhetoric just meant to be opposition for the sake of opposing. Mr. Speaker, it has been suggested by many others that we are not only representing our own positions, our own concerns, our own thoughts in terms of what we think this bill means, as a result of some consideration and analysis, but we are also bringing up points that have been raised by other people, by people outside the House, who by their good or bad fortune, depending on your perspective, don't have the opportunity to actually be here and participate in this debate.

We have the obligation, I would suggest, to bring that perspective in here and try to raise those issues to the government, much in the same way that opposition has done on the casino debate, Mr. Speaker.

The problem we have seen and the tendency of this government is to dismiss out of hand opposition because it is opposition, because it doesn't agree with where they want to go, therefore it is not grounded in reality, therefore there is no basis to our particular arguments on these particular subjects.

For me and I think for a number of people I have spoken with outside this House, that is not only disrespectful, Mr. Speaker, but to many people it is a sign of contempt. I think that is a signal or perhaps has been a signature reaction in attitude by this government in pretty much everything it has done.

Mr. Speaker, why is it that people are so upset? Why is it that people are concerned? Because we have, as the minister has suggested herself and as other people have talked about, we have talked about municipal reform in this province for a number of years. At one point the minister said 50 years, at one time she said 40 years, without doubt it has been a number of years. People in this caucus are in favour of many issues relative to service swap. As I suggested earlier in this debate, we believe and have stated that position on the record during the election and at other times we have policy on the books, Mr. Speaker, in terms of what our position is relative to this issue.

In fact, we presented a challenge to all members back in the election in May 1993 that we should move forward with this consideration. We should do so in a way that takes into consideration the rights of all citizens that are affected by this particular decision to participate in those discussions. We said at that time, as did many of the people I think that were eventually elected to the Liberal Government, some that weren't, but many that are here also suggested that that was the preferable policy to follow through with. We have talked here on municipal reform in the election during last year and I would be happy to table this.

What we suggested in terms of municipal reform and reorganization is that it not go forward unless the people that are affected by it get an opportunity to render their decision on it. That the matter be put to the people in Halifax, in Dartmouth, Bedford or Halifax County or anywhere else across this province in terms of municipal reform. That people be given an opportunity through a plebiscite to say Yea or Nay on whether or not this is an idea that they want to see go forward, that was our position then and that is our position today.

We would suggest also that there were an awful lot of people, Liberal candidates in the last provincial election who supported that strategy. In opposition to the strategy that was being put forward by the then government of the day, led by Don Cameron who appeared to be on the road to having made the decision and basically ran the question of municipal reform through and on the people of Nova Scotia. The people of Nova Scotia when given the opportunity on that and other decisions said, no. The then Leader of the Liberal Party, John Savage said, you can't participate, you can't treat Nova Scotians in that kind of cavalier, disrespectful, autocratic top-down fashion.

The people of Nova Scotia agreed with that Liberal Leader and that is why I would suggest to you the people are so upset today because they feel they were hoodwinked. They clearly feel that they were hoodwinked by this government, by that Liberal Leader and by many of the candidates that won election and are forming the Liberal Government of the day. Mr. Speaker, we have heard about it before the kind of impact, financially, that this swap is going to have, Bill No. 114, on some of the municipalities in this province.

[12:45 p.m.]

I referred earlier to Trenton and the fact that there has been no consultation. Under Pictou Mayor Lawrence LeBlanc whose town could lose as much as $68,000 is also upset by the change in numbers. There hasn't been consultation at all. Stellarton Mayor Clarence Porter is also a bit sceptical about the figures because it didn't seem to matter how often this government, this Minister of Municipal Affairs asserted that the impact was going to be such and such, the next day invariably it changed. It reminds me of one of the assertions made by the Minister of Finance in terms of the economic spinoffs of casino gambling. People have not seen the evidence.

You know, it is like this whole idea of the creation of the super-city. I think the metro mayors made a very reasonable, responsible suggestion to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. If this is in fact going to save money as you say it is, then show us. If you can't show us, put the matter before the people of metro on a plebiscite. If you have the facts to support your assertions, then why not put it before the people? Why not let us know in this House what you have to support your arguments?

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear. Good idea.

MR. CHISHOLM: Our responsibility here as Opposition members is to review matters that come before us with a responsible eye, with a critical eye because it is legislation, it is the law of the province, it is regulations and rules that affect each and every person whether it be in my constituency in Halifax Atlantic or whether it be those in Kings North or those in the constituency of Cape Breton The Lakes. We all have the responsibility to review in detail each and every piece of legislation.

If we have questions and concerns about that particular piece of legislation as we do in this bill and as we have over other issues like the casino gambling question we are obligated to bring it here and in debate raise our concerns, provide whatever evidence and argument we can to explain or articulate our concerns and the concerns of others to the people who are responsible for presenting that legislation and then listen to them present reasons why our arguments have no validity. Or at the very least, have presented to us in this House the facts which support the government moving in a particular direction and in this case, coming forward with particulars on the municipal service swap.

Does the government do that? No, they don't do it here in the House, they don't do it in discussions with the municipalities, they have not done it in the forum provided by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. One has to ask the question then, do they have any basis upon which they are making these assertions? One can only conclude without appearing overly cynical that the government, in fact, has no justification for bringing that information forward. That is upsetting because I think this government has a responsibility, in fact, to bring that kind of information forward. (Interruption) Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to yield the floor to the honourable Minister of Finance for a few moments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for yielding the floor.

I am pleased to introduce in the Speaker's Gallery, the Honourable Ron Irwin, federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Mr. Irwin was sworn in as minister one year ago today, so this is the 1st Anniversary of assuming his onerous responsibilities.

The minister has impressed aboriginal people throughout this country with what he has accomplished in this past year. He is in Nova Scotia today to sign a political accord with the Micmac of Nova Scotia, in the field of education. I want to congratulate him, first, on his anniversary and, secondly, on his accomplishments, specifically the one which brings him to Nova Scotia.

I would ask Mr. Irwin, if he would, to rise and be recognized and welcomed by the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly we welcome Mr. Irwin and his group here this afternoon. Welcome.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about here is a piece of legislation that has impact on each and every Nova Scotian. We have talked about this already, in terms of the way the provincial government has backed off on its commitment to bring in a one-tiered social assistance system in this province. We have talked about that in terms of the concern of many, that they are doing that as a way to duck responsibility for those people who are going to be impacted if the federal government carries forward with some of their proposals on social policy reform, in particular, changes to UI and changes under the Canada Assistance Plan.

As a result of backing off that responsibility and not taking over full responsibility for social services delivery in the Province of Nova Scotia, as they promised in the election a short time ago, they are trying to duck their responsibility and those people most vulnerable, as a result of economic policies and other conditions, will be the people who will pay the price. Not only those people, of course, but the people who are going to be left in the position to try to deal with those people who are being left unprotected; in other words, the municipal government, those people who are being asked to carry more responsibility and yet are being provided with less and less opportunity to fund and finance that particular responsibility, Mr. Speaker. That is a significant concern, I would suggest, to all of us.

In this press release, once the bill was introduced, was announced, a press release from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities - I would be happy to table it although I believe it may have been tabled a few times already, Mr. Speaker - saying that the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities reported on the fact that they attended a hastily called session, not a consultation meeting as had been promised by the minister, to tell them that the province was going forward on provincial-municipal service exchange program.

The president expresses the shock and, in some cases, the outrage by municipal leaders, because, and I quote from this press release, "In September, the minister wrote to all mayors and wardens and indicated that no final decision had been made on the components of the service exchange and that she would consult with the UNSM before making decisions.". It goes on to say, "The government has not consulted, instead the government has acted unilaterally.".

It also says that, "The service exchange package does not remove all municipalities from funding general assistance.". Just a few short weeks ago, one of my colleagues and I were down in Yarmouth and one of the concerns of the municipal leaders in that area related specifically to this. They were under the understanding at that particular time that the government was going to take over all of general assistance. Their question at that point was, well, what about special needs? That is a big portion of our budget, given the people that have been left so vulnerable by decisions this government has made and by the effects of a troubled economy. So they were under the understanding not too long ago, that at least that part was going to be picked up, but the government has even backed off on that, Mr. Speaker.

It also says that the government is passing property services to municipalities, including police costs and Class J roads and is not providing municipal relief from general assistance. No timetable has been provided for the province to assume general assistance costs province wide. We know that when it comes to this government taking on responsibilities, especially responsibilities that cost any money, that there either will not be a timetable or that timetable will be far enough in the future that, hopefully, they think people will forget about it and will not ask them for a follow-up.

What drives people crazy is that this minister and this government talk about leadership. They talk about, we have discussed municipal reform in this province for decades. We are going to move forward. But two things, they do it without talking to anybody or without proper consultation, which involves some exchange of information and ideas and positions. So there was none of that, first and foremost. The second thing is, they only move forward with, here they are, they are negotiating with a partner, supposedly, again this idea of partnerships, this changes definitions every time it is uttered by this government, but here they are moving forward but only with those items that they feel are beneficial.

In other words, there has been no room, there has been no accommodation for the concerns and the interests of the municipalities. This government has an agenda that we hear about in fits and starts as we go along. In fact, we wonder if government ministers don't find out about it in that stage as well. But they are quick enough to move forward on things that they think are important, irrespective of whether it has anything to do with commitments they have made in the past. Yet, for those other issues that they have made commitments on, that they have sold to the people of Nova Scotia, their commitment that they were going to move forward on, they do absolutely nothing, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier of this province, Mr. Speaker, the day before this Legislature opened and the honourable House Leader, had the audacity to present a statement to the people of Nova Scotia, which talked about the need for cooperation. I am going to quote here from an article from the Cape Breton Post the following day, entitled, Premier asking for cooperation. It refers to the fact that the Premier had registered a plea for cooperation the previous day, as we head into the legislative fall session. "`All Nova Scotians - people out there, people here -have all got to be able to pitch in and work with us to preserve this province for the future,' Savage said at a news conference. `It is more important than ever - and this government intends to do this", listen carefully, "- to choose cooperation over conflict. With a sense of optimism and in the spirit of working together, we believe we can move forward.'".

[1:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that statement was made on the same day that municipal leaders in the metropolitan Halifax area, before they were even sworn in to the offices they had just been elected to, had all of a sudden been told that their job is not going to last very much longer. (Interruption) Oh, by the way, we are going to bring in legislation tomorrow that is going to seriously affect your ability to carry out your jobs anyway. Now, who, in all sense of reasonableness, could on the one hand talk about cooperation over conflict and on the other, go and do that? Please explain that to me. I don't understand it and there are a lot of people who do not understand it. Cooperation over conflict is what we are told. I think what it really means is, do what I say, don't ask questions, just applaud. Well, that is not my definition of cooperation. That is not the definition, I don't think, of many Nova Scotians. That is why people are having so much problem with the way that this government is proceeding.

At that same press conference, in an article here from the Mail Star the following day, the honourable House Leader is quoted as saying, in relation to the response that they are getting from people in Nova Scotia, the Opposition and other people who are opposing Bill No. 114 and other things. He says, "`Don't do this or that, or anything else because it is unpopular,' House Leader Richie Mann said, conceding much of the legislation will make people unhappy.". If we don't do anything unpopular . . .

HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I believe those comments were made with respect to the entire legislative agenda, the government, and not as this member is suggesting, to Bill No. 114.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, if I may continue, and hopefully, this will explain or cover the concerns that the honourable House Leader just raised. "'If we don't do anything unpopular we will be right back to where we started after 15 years of a government that didn't want to make anybody unhappy.'". I would not necessarily disagree with that. I would not necessarily . . .

MR. SPEAKER: If I may now, I have heard from both honourable members on the point of order (Interruptions)

MR. CHISHOLM: I did not realize I was speaking on the point or order.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I called on the honourable Government House Leader, he presented his point of order and then I called on the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic to present his side of the story. Now, the point is this, that we are debating Bill No. 114. That is the point. The quotations being read from apparently do not relate to Bill No. 114, they relate to the overall government legislative package. If that is the case, then I would suppose that those comments would not be germane to Bill No. 114.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Can I on that point, Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I would be glad to hear the submission from the member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering, because the minister said they related to overall government policies, the comments that are being referred to, legislative and so on, policies. Well this is part of the overall government agenda. Therefore, if those comments are germane to overall government policy, if this is part of government policy surely it must be germane to this debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I suppose that is an example of the extrapolative powers of deductive reasoning.

I would ask the honourable member to please direct his comments to Bill No. 114. If the quotations relate to Bill No. 114, then fine, they may be entered into the record.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the point that was being made was that Bill No. 114 is a piece of legislation that was developed without proper consultation, as opposed to what this government promised, this Minister of Municipal Affairs said she was going to do. It was dropped on municipal leaders and the people of Nova Scotia. Dropped because people were shocked that less than a month after the minister stood in front of the leadership of municipalities in Nova Scotia and said that no decisions had been made, plunk, a 78 page document that, as I suggested earlier, amends 28 Acts and 31 Acts repealed, hits the table.

People are very upset with this; they didn't agree, municipal leaders didn't agree. My point in raising some of these comments by the honourable House Leader and the Premier is the contradiction between the words and the actions, Mr. Speaker. You know it is like it doesn't matter how many times or how hard you squeeze your eyes and you click your heels, the reality is going to be the reality, it is not going to change. As much as you try to spin it in a different way, as much as you want to put on your virtual reality helmets, the reality is as it is. You can stand in these press conferences and you can try to spin the truth in your own way, if you like, but surely not everybody, not all the leaders of all the municipalities in Nova Scotia, in Halifax, in metro, across the province, the leadership of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, of Trenton, of Pictou, of Stellarton, not all those people are wrong, surely, Mr. Speaker.

Those people talk about the lack of consultation, the distrust, the betrayal and so on, surely they are not all wrong. We get dismissed because we are Opposition members. Our points get trivialized because we are opposing for the sake of opposing, that is politics, Mr. Speaker. Well I am of a different political stripe than the government, I am a member of the New Democratic caucus, the New Democratic Party. The members on the government benches and some of the others beside us here are members of the Liberal Party. But what about . . . (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: It certainly appears to relate to Bill No. 114.

MR. CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was just giving these honourable members an opportunity to sound off what it is that they want to contribute and I am helpful to take suggestions from all sides. My point is, how can you dismiss the concerns and the outrage by members of your own Party? How can you refute the comments by the following as reported in an article in the Chronicle Herald on Monday, October 31, 1994 and I quote, "`It's a bunch of incompetent politicians led by a premier who could not run a small city,' Fitzgerald blustered to reporters after the merger announcement.".

People on the government benches may remember who that person is, if they don't let me clarify. Mr. Fitzgerald, a Cabinet Minister in the previous Liberal Government and an active member within the Liberal Party, that is who Mr. Fitzgerald is. He goes on with more complimentary remarks about the province, "He'is now trying to run a province and because he can't run it he's trying to . . . confuse the situation and hope that he can escape in the confusion. And I'd like to give him a way to exit if I had my opportunity.".

Let me just quote from another fairly well-known Liberal. I know personally this gentleman because I ran against him twice for the provincial constituency of Halifax Atlantic and now very successful Mayor of Halifax County. Mayor Ball says, "`I even wonder if we live in a benevolent dictatorship, but I'll remove the word benevolent', snapped Ball.". Wait, there is one more, "Dartmouth Mayor Gloria McCluskey, another well-liked Liberal, raised Savage's delayed date with his party when talking about the merger. `Maybe they'll slow it down like they did with the leadership review.'".

So, let me reiterate my point that you can dismiss what I say all you want because I am in an Opposition political Party. Surely, some of you on the government benches, surely some of you understand that there are concerns being raised for reasons other than politics because maybe, just maybe there are some flaws in what it is you are doing. I know that is an astounding concept for this government and for these members to consider but maybe, just maybe there is some validity to the concerns that are raised in particular by those people that are most directly affected by these changes. Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: Ten minutes.

MR. CHISHOLM: Ten minutes, I will keep an eye on it. You know I have to laugh really when we talk about communication, we talk about consultation, talk about cooperation over conflict in relation to Bill No. 114. This is an example, Bill No. 114 is another in a series of examples of how this government has been unable to match its rhetoric with its actions. I look back at some stuff from the election back in May 1993 where everything that was talked about was talked about in relation to consultation, and they say and I quote from a campaign central, Liberal press release Wednesday, May 12, 1993, it is entitled Liberals Go For High-Tech Consultation. It says the policies so far of the Liberals cover a number of different areas.

It says they cover areas but one theme is repeated in almost every policy, it is consultation. In the past this is a quote, governments have tended to make decisions in isolation, says Savage, "I believe that there are enormous rewards and possibilities to be gained from increased consultation." He goes on further to define consultation and he says and I think this is quite appropriate and I would agree with the then Leader of the Liberal Party, "It is a partnership of ideas that creates a climate that is not just more democratic, it is also more collaborative and that is what we need.", says the Liberal Leader.

[1:15 p.m.]

Remember what I referred to earlier in relation to what was said when we began, the day before the Legislature opened, talking about cooperation, that is what we need. Calling on all Nova Scotians inside and outside the House. Cooperation over conflict. And he says, "But that is just the beginning. I am talking about a whole new approach to governing which makes a commitment to accessibility, accountability and consultation." not just on an occasional basis.

It can be as simple as keeping the lines of communication open through the 1-800 Toll Free line. You might have heard about that 1-800 line, the one that we are now going to court on to try to get information about. (Interruption) I don't know, we are trying to find it all out. That is openness, accountability, consultation. What a joke. And he says and this is the last piece that I can stomach reading from this, "We could be bridging distances in this province by holding simultaneous town hall meetings, drawing together a number of coastal communities to address the crisis.". I mean Mr. Speaker, really.

It was all laid out for the people of Nova Scotia in the spring of 1993. The technology that was going to be employed, 1-800 numbers, the audio and visual links from one town hall to the other. I think we saw that initially, didn't we? On the 30-60-90 debacle, town hall meetings that were wired up together. I haven't seen it since. Sixty-six municipalities saw the Minister of Municipal affairs, I think once, even though it has been reported and recorded and stated again and again in this House how she has been to see 66 municipalities but never has she said, I have been to see 66 municipalities two times, three times, four times. I would suggest that she has been to see those people once.

Have they employed the kind of consultation that they employed to try to save the Liberal Leader's hide this summer, to consult on issues like municipal reform? I don't think so, Mr. Speaker and that is why Nova Scotians, municipal leaders included, are so upset with this government. (Interruption)

There are a lot of reasons why we have to stand up and analyze this particular piece of legislation. As I said earlier, I think that a suggestion that was made by an earlier speaker that some time be taken between the end of second reading and the Law Amendments Committee to consult. We have to find a new word, to consult, because this group have so badly disrupted the definition of that word that it doesn't mean anything to Nova Scotians any more.

I would suggest (Interruption) Yes, that is right, that is my opinion and that is the opinion of an awful lot of other Nova Scotians. But before this matter is put to a vote at second reading, I would like to move the following amendment and I will send you along a copy, Mr. Speaker.

I move that the words after that be deleted and the following be substituted. "In the opinion of the House, the introduction and enactment of Bill No. 114 will halt meaningful progress towards ending the inequity and hardship of the two-tiered social assistance system.".

Mr. Speaker, I would so move.

MR. SPEAKER: I wish to deliberate on the content of the proposed amendment. I will have to have a copy of the amendment in order to do that first. Now this is the third amendment that has been presented to the House on this particular piece of legislation. There are three types of amendments that may be presented at second reading and they may each be presented once. There is the hoist, the motion that the bill be not now read a second time, but be read either three or six months hence. That has already been dealt with and defeated.

There is the reasoned amendment that was presented by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, the Leader of the New Democratic Party and dealt with yesterday that substitution a substitutionary provision for the text of the bill, resolved that an alternative proposition be put forward and that was dealt with by the House.

The only amendment that would remain that would be in order would be referral to a committee. This is a second reasoned amendment, after one was already dealt with yesterday. It does not refer the bill to committee and, therefore, on the grounds that each of the amendments that are possible have been presented and dealt with, this amendment would have to be out of order. The only amendment that would be in order at this stage would be a referral to a committee.

That then brings to a conclusion the debate on the bill, unless there are other speakers that wish to address the main bill, Bill No. 114.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am just seeking some clarification on your ruling. Are you suggesting then that there is a restriction in terms of the numbers, the quantity of amendments that can be brought forward?

MR. SPEAKER: Oh, very definitely, I am.

MR. CHISHOLM: My understanding is there are three categories.

MR. SPEAKER: And each can be presented once at each stage of the bill, that is at second reading and again at third reading, but not more than once.

MR. CHISHOLM: Would the Speaker be good enough to refer me to the page and the paragraph of where it says . . .

MR. SPEAKER: First of all, I will refer you to the usages and precedents of this House, which I happen to know by virtue of 24 years service within the House. Secondly, I am sure that this matter is covered adequately in both Erskine May and Beauchesne. I do not have the particular provisions here in front of me, but if you wish, I can research the matter very briefly and find the relevant sections.

The Clerk concurs with my judgment in this matter and refers me to Beauchesne. I can read the matter out loud beginning at Paragraph 666. "There are three types of amendments that may be proposed at second reading of bill. These are:

1. the hoist (eg. three months, six months).

2. the reasoned amendment.

3. the referral of the subject-matter to a committee.".

That is what this amendment ought to have done if the honourable member wished to present an amendment that would be in order because the other two have already been presented. Paragraph 667, (1) "A reasoned amendment and a hoist cannot be moved in one motion." They have to be presented as separate motions. (2) "A reasoned amendment cannot oppose the principle of the bill and also refer the subject-matter to a committee; it must do one or the other.". That is, that it has to fit under one of the three categories.

The amendments cannot be presented more than once at second reading. I do not find any particular specific section in Beauchesne here readily in front of me, but I would direct the attention of the House to the exercise of the principle of common sense. Because if there is no limit to the number of amendments that could be presented at second reading, then an infinite number of amendments could be presented, of one of these three categories, without any limitation at all, which would make the transaction of business in the House impossible and would, therefore, in my view, would constitute a breach of order.

Therefore, I consider the matter closed. I rule that it is not possible to present more than one amendment of each of the categories found in Beauchesne at second or third reading of a bill in this House, in conformity with the usages and practices of this House, as established by many years of practice.

The question is called.

AN HON. MEMBER: A recorded vote.

MR. SPEAKER: A recorded vote is requested? Now we normally have the minister who introduces the bill formally move that the bill be now read a second time. Would the honourable . . . (Interruption)

The honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs to close the debate. (Applause)

HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a few closing remarks with regard to this bill and respond to a couple of comments that have been made by various members across the floor. As I stated in my opening address, this is a very important piece of legislation. Bill No. 114 clears up and addresses some issues that have been on the UNSM books, and requests from UNSM, in some respects as much as 15 to 20 years.

As the honourable member for Hants West, I believe it is, mentioned that there are some, I believe it was 31 various bills that are actually being repealed here and 28 amendments to other bills. We are actually dealing with 60 pieces of legislation in this bill. It is a very important bill for the municipalities in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I want to just start out specifically with the member for Pictou Centre when he opened his addressed. He actually went back, I believe, to the 1700's when he talked about how municipalities were formed and how there have been very little change made in municipalities since that time and that, in actual fact, this bill will bring some of the municipalities into the 21st Century, which I think is very important in this bill.

He also said that tons and tons of responsibilities have been given to municipalities but not one ounce of authority. I have to agree with that member when he made that statement. Until this bill comes in and is approved. This bill very specifically gives some additional powers to the municipalities. It removes the requirement for them to send many of their by-laws and some of their planning to the minister for signing off. We are actually leaving that authority with the municipalities, giving them back more authority to deal with themselves in their own areas on those issues. I think that will address a large portion of the comments made by the member for Pictou Centre.

One of the things he also mentioned, though, was that in my speech at the UNSM, he suggested that I had made a comment of a figure of $27 million with regard to social services and the exchange. In actual fact, Mr. Speaker, I went back through my whole speech; I do not make any reference to numbers with regard to general assistance, community services, social services in that that speech. I believe he is referring to the session held in the afternoon prior to my speaking where the President of the UNSM, Warden John Coady, made that comment. So I would just advise those individuals that those numbers cannot be attributed to me, as the minister, but can be attributed to the Warden of Cape Breton County who was the President of the UNSM.

When I move on to the honourable member for Queens, he specifically asked and started out with saying that the very beginning of this bill talks about dogs and the definition of dogs. I would suggest that the member should have kept reading. There are many important pieces in this legislation and I was somewhat surprised that he would reflect on some of the smaller aspects of this bill, but there are many important discussions that have gone in this in explanation notes.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I would remind people that this is the same MLA who, in the paper - I believe it is in just the very recent past - has asked as an MLA, has urged his councils to cooperate in seeking municipal reform solutions in the form of amalgamation. I certainly want to congratulate that member for being proactive in his area, the member for Queens, in his article in which he says for two years or more we have talked ad nauseam about municipal reform but achieved nothing. We have been far too content to be overtaken by events so I would assume the member for Queens is very much in support of this bill because we have addressed a fair number of the areas.

Mr. Speaker, in his article, he goes on to say that the "public interest lies in immediate cooperation, not in inter-municipal warfare and rancour which, all too often, characterizes the relationship between the two Queens County municipal units and, most especially, with respect to municipal reform.". This is certainly an open letter to the editor from the Queens MLA, John Leefe, and I certainly want to applaud him for coming forward on that. (Interruptions)

[1:30 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Can I save this?

MS. JOLLY: Yes, you can save that. One of the other members, the Leader of the Official Opposition, had asked about the transition period on the 25 per cent happening per year. He is quite correct, Mr. Speaker. We are in a process to try and have people have an opportunity to financially adjust, that there will be a 25 per cent dealing with savings or cost implications to each municipality over four years. This was requested of us by the UNSM and the coordinating committee because they felt it was important that there would be some transition period; that we not, in actual fact, require these implications to be dealt with in the very first year. We have brought forward that transition period of four years to deal with many of those aspects.

Mr. Speaker, I think that those were generally a lot of the comments that were made. There were, certainly, a fair number of references under the discussion of this bill with regard to amalgamation. As you know, this bill does not deal with amalgamation in any respect, it deals with legislative changes and it also deals with the service exchange. There were an excessive amount of comments on the amalgamation issue. I guess I just want to read into the record with regard to that, a written transcript of some of the comments that were made by Ralph Surette this morning on the CBC news:

"Its not just a matter of making municipal governments more efficient and saving money as some critics are suggesting - the savings may indeed be small - is that municipal government in the metro area no longer works. There is no effective mechanism to make decisions. Everything wallows in the inter-municipal division and bickering; garbage, industrial parks, police, ferries, economic development, and whatever. It is why metropolitan Halifax is being upstaged by smaller places, like Moncton. The resistance to amalgamation is likely to be fierce, not just from the mayors and municipalities, but from groups affected by it . . .".

So, Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that we look at the number of people who are making comments on the support of the amalgamation issue and the fact that they are suggesting that, considering that other provinces and other metro areas in Canada got this job done two or three decades ago, we should wonder why Halifax area is so resistant. I am going to close the debate on the bill and move it on to second reading because I think there are many important aspects to this bill which people will want to have a chance to address in the Committee on Law Amendments. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for a second reading of Bill No. 114.

A roll call vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[The Division bells were rung.]

[1:34 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[1:37 p.m.]


Mr. Barkhouse Mr. MacKinnon

Mrs. Norrie Ms. McDonough

Mr. Downe Mr. Holm

Dr. Smith Mr. Chisholm

Mr. Gillis

Mr. Bragg

Ms. Jolly

Mr. Mann

Mr. Gaudet

Dr. Stewart

Mr. Harrison

Mr. Abbass

Mr. Adams

Mr. Brown

Mr. Lorraine

Mrs. Cosman

Mr. O'Malley

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Richards

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Moody

Mr. Donahoe

Mr. Russell

Mr. Leefe

Mr. Archibald

Mr. McInnes

Dr. Hamm

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. W. MacDonald

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

Mr. Carruthers

THE CLERK: For, 37. Against, 4.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could revert to the order of business, Statements by Ministers.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency.

HON. ROSS BRAGG: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House of Assembly today to announce a major breakthrough with respect to the department's efforts to create twelve regional development authorities across the province.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this morning after a meeting with metro's three mayors and Mayor-Elect Fitzgerald, I am pleased to announce that the four municipalities have agreed to form one regional development authority. (Applause) This is a great day not only for metro but all of Nova Scotia as metro is recognized as the engine that will lead the economic renewal of this province.

The metro mayors have agreed to appoint someone to work with my department to coordinate the activities and the start-up of the new regional development authority. As a group, we have set a deadline of April 1, 1995 to see this regional development authority up and running. As all members know, economic renewal is a vital part of the recovery of this province. As such, the metro mayors and my department will not wait until the development authority is functioning to start marketing metro as a great place to live and to do business. That cooperative effort will begin immediately.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the metro mayors and Mayor-Elect Fitzgerald for their cooperation, vision and leadership on this issue. I would also like to congratulate the metro chambers of commerce and board of trade for leading by example when they voted to become one metro chamber several weeks ago. The local chambers of commerce have been very supportive and encouraging of this merger and I believe they deserve recognition for their part in making this idea come to fruition.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased with today's success and I am pleased to share this good news with the other members of the House of Assembly. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: In response, the honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, this indeed is a great day for all of Nova Scotia. (Applause) It will indeed be a great day for all of Nova Scotia because Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada all benefit when the metro region of Halifax which is the centre of commerce and business for Atlantic Canada, and by uniting together and cooperating together, as I know that they will from this announcement, and the cooperation of the mayors, it will certainly send a signal to all areas and all regions that Halifax and the metro region is the place to do business. (Applause)

We have many unique opportunities, not the least of which is the Port of Halifax and together I know that the Metropolitan Authority will make the Port of Halifax even a greater success than it has been in the last few months, in the last few years, because when the Port of Halifax is operating well, all of Nova Scotia will benefit.

So, I congratulate the minister for showing what cooperation can yield by sitting down and talking and negotiating. Really that is an example of what we have been saying for the last few days during debate; if you sit down and you talk, you can come to good conclusions.

So, Mr. Speaker, I congratulate that minister for showing the cooperative effort that he has. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to see this announcement. I was part of the meeting where this originated. (Interruptions) Let me explain. We talked at that metro economic summit meeting for political leaders. The mayors all said to the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, that we agreed a year ago, our municipalities, to do this. We have been waiting for you to come forward and we were ready to go. The minister said, let's do it now. They got together and they had a meeting this morning and the deal is done. That is cooperation. That is a commitment to economic development.

My question, though, is this, economic development in metro was the rationale for this shotgun marriage of the metro municipalities, why is it now, we have this agreement to coordinate economic development in metro, why, then, do we need to pay somebody $1,225 per day for six months to do what has already been done by this minister in about two hours in a meeting the other night? You tell me, Mr. Speaker, why are we paying somebody - an untendered contract by the way - six months, imagine $1,225 per day, not for a 14-hour day, not for a 12-hour day, but for a 7-hour day. If that person works 14 hours, that person will be paid $2,000-some odd.

I want to ask, Mr. Speaker, this government to explain to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia why are they moving forward with this kind of abuse of the taxpayers' money, an untendered contract for $1,225 per day to do something that the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, because of the cooperation of the metro municipal leaders, did in two hours.

HON. ROSS BRAGG: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the member opposite has misled the House again. The meeting the other night, the four people there from the municipalities did not say that they all agreed a year ago because, in fact, they had not agreed. If you ask them, they will tell you, there was not agreement by (Interruptions) If you ask them . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: We did ask them.

MR. BRAGG: There was not agreement by all four municipalities a year ago to do this. There was not agreement even a month ago, but for some strange reason . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . sit down and work it out.

MR. BRAGG: We have been trying for a year and all of a sudden . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Your nose is growing, Ross.

MR. BRAGG: All of a sudden there seems to be, for some reason, some interest in amalgamating the economic development efforts. The member has misled the House. There was not agreement a year ago; agreement was not reached until this week.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, I will allow him the right of response and then rule on the point of order.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to respond to this member and I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege, that he withdraw the remarks that I misled this House because I was at that meeting and the mayors said that very thing.

According to your rulings, Mr. Speaker, the word "misleading" is unparliamentary and I ask that member to withdraw that contention because the evidence that I presented in this House is, in fact, the case as it was presented to me by the municipal leaders at that same meeting and I bet you that if you go outside and talk to those people now, you will hear that same thing. This minister failed to follow up on agreement by those municipal leaders and they, at that point, said they would move on it. I ask him to withdraw that information, Mr. Speaker.

MR. BRUCE HOLLAND: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I happened to be at that meeting as well, as were several other colleagues from our caucus, and there were only two mayors at that meeting, there was one incumbent mayor. They did not all agree and they stated it at that meeting. So indeed, what my colleague is saying is absolutely true and what the honourable member is saying is absolutely false. Now I think that should go into the record. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: All right. I wish at this time to rule on the matter of unparliamentary language, as alleged. The critical factor in determining whether or not language is unparliamentary is the sense in which it is used and whether it is used with malignant intent or otherwise.

Now to claim that someone is misleading another person is not necessarily offensive, it would depend on the context in which the phrase was used. Beauchesne makes very clear that to accuse an honourable member of deliberately misleading the House, I repeat, that Beauchesne makes it very clear that to accuse an honourable member of deliberately misleading the House is, indeed, a violation of privilege and unparliamentary language. But to simply accuse an honourable member of misleading, without the qualifying accusation of it being deliberate, is not unparliamentary. In fact, Beauchesne at Page 147 Paragraph (490) states: "Since 1958, it has been ruled parliamentary to use the following expressions:" And then after an alphabetical list, an index that includes all kinds of words that I personally don't like and would not want used in this House. It has "Misinforming" and "Misleading" and these have been ruled parliamentary in the House of Commons, so long as they are not made with the accusation that it is done in a deliberate way.

So I would say that if a member has misled unintentionally, that is not a breach of order.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 115.

Bill No. 115 - Environment Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment. (Applause)

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to move second reading of Bill No. 115, An Act to Reform the Environmental Laws of the Province and to Encourage and Promote the Protection, Enhancement and Prudent Use of the Environment, hereafter referred to as the Environment Act.

Mr. Speaker, this is a wide-ranging Statute, representing the dawn of a new era of environmental management. It is proactive in nature and recognizes that our future relies on how well we manage our resources today.

The Environment Act embodies several basic principles, Mr. Speaker; the principle of sustainable development is a recognition that our future will be shaped by the decisions we make today. In other words, development must meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations, to meet their needs. We must, therefore, bring about a regime in which there will be an integration of environmental and economic decision-making.

The underlying theme of the Environment Act is sustainable development; not only will all of our decisions be made with Nova Scotia's future in mind but the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy will be charged with the specific task of promoting this principle province-wide.

Mr. Speaker, the precautionary principle helps ensure that action will begin at the first sign of trouble. We will not wait until disaster is evident before stepping in to protect the environment. The most important reason we have embraced the precautionary principle is to prevent problems from arising; we think it is better to prevent them rather than wait for them to occur and then have to correct them.

The principle of shared responsibility, Mr. Speaker, and stewardship means that each of us has a responsibility for the environmental management - that means government, business, industry and our citizens.

In keeping with this principle we are committed to the development of a solid waste management strategy and a water management strategy for Nova Scotia. These strategies will be developed in consultation and partnership with the people of this province. Mr. Speaker, access to information and participation and decision-making are fundamental elements in the Environment Act and much needed if we are to expect people to feel as if they are a part of a building process. This Act provides for that involvement in many forms.

[2:00 p.m.]

We will establish a public registry which will contain all information pertaining to approvals, permits, orders, policies, guidelines and standards. The registry can be accessed during any working day through any of the offices located in Nova Scotia. We have also reaffirmed the involvement of the public in the assessment process. The Environmental Control Council will be replaced with an Environmental Assessment Board. This board will serve as the people's court in assessing larger and more complicated projects. The board has also been given authority and will be encouraged to hire technical experts to assist in the review of these projects. Coupled with access is government accountability.

Nova Scotians want government to be held accountable for decisions made and actions taken. Mr. Speaker, this new legislation places a responsibility on government to allow the public to review all draft regulations before they are approved. This will allow those potentially impacted by proposed laws to have their say up-front. As past experience has shown, it also leads to the production of a much better law, one which most can live with. This is timely in that all of our regulations are now being reviewed by the public of Nova Scotia. The Environment Act states that the minister is responsible for state of the environment reporting, periodically, but most important, Mr. Speaker, the Act itself will be reviewed by the public within five years.

The people of this province are tired of red tape. They want efficient administrative systems and harmonization among and between government departments and the various levels of government. It is not unusual in Nova Scotia to be faced with the prospect and requirement for obtaining several approvals at several levels of government. The Environment Act allows us the flexibility to hold joint reviews when these situations arise. It allows the minister to delegate authority to another level of government, if it is felt that this would be the most efficient means of processing an application.

The Act also places a responsibility on the Department of the Environment to respond to a development application within 60 days. This provision will allow business the ability to plan for the future and the freedom to get on with the task of building a better and stronger Nova Scotia. The principle of balanced enforcement is an essential component of the legislation. Simply put this means that we will communicate, cooperate, educate and mediate before we use enforcement as a tool.

Since the Act was tabled I have heard reference to big sticks, little sticks, when people describe the enforcement capabilities in this Act. Make no mistake about it, the stick is large and we will use it if we are forced to. My wish is that we will not be backed into that corner. Many Nova Scotians want to do what is right and we intend to assist.

Before I close, I want to thank all of those who helped shape this legislation by offering their insights and opinions. The clean water task force, the clean air task force, the various advisory boards reporting to the Minister of the Environment, the staff of the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment, the public participation committee of Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy and in particular Mr. Alan Parish who is commendable as chair of that committee. Most of all I wish to thank each and every Nova Scotian who took the time to lend their assistance in this monumental task. These people told us that the protection of the environment is vital to our quality of life, our health and our economic well-being. They told us that they want laws that are tough, fair and easily understood and they told us that they want their Environment Department to work with them through education and communication. Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 115.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I do welcome the introduction of this bill in the House and its introduction for second reading by the minister. I know that the minister and his staff have worked very hard to put this bill together and to bring it to this stage of debate. This has been a very long process but I think an appropriately long process. It goes back as the minister himself has said over a number of years and is a combination of a host of public reviews of environmental legislation and environmental policy which really grew out of the initiative begun by the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy when it began its good work. I think it was February, or perhaps very early March 1989.

There have been a number of drafts which have been circulated - one, in fact, when I was minister; one when my colleague, the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition was minister; and, more recently, under the current minister - drafts which have given people from across this province the opportunity to discuss at length where we should be going with respect to environmental law and what is appropriate for us as we move out of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century. It is entirely appropriate that we move away from the myriad of Acts - which, generally speaking, it confuses the public, and that is not something which is to be desired - and move to a single Act, which we find encompassed today in the bill which is before the House for debate.

It is also vitally important - and I know that the minister is aware of this - that in addition to a single Act to which Nova Scotians and, indeed, all Parties who have an interest in the environment of this province can turn, that we also have a comprehensive set of regulations which provide a regulatory regime, which give life to the legislation which, undoubtedly, in one form or another, will pass through this House in not too many weeks.

The regulations are very important to the minister and his staff, again, who worked hard to draft regulations and circulates them for public comment in advance of this bill going through the House. I believe there is still some of that process yet to be completed, but I commend him for that. It is vitally important that people understand the regulatory regime that will accompany the legislation so that they then can understand more fully just what the legislation is all about.

I also want to take the opportunity to extend my thanks and the thanks of our caucus to three members of the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy who undertook a very extensive and very thorough public consultation with respect to the draft legislation which the minister brought down not too many months ago. Of course, I am referring to Mr. Alan Parish, who has worked assiduously as chairman of that group, to Lisa Mitchell, a person whom I had the privilege to come to know as a member of the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy and a constituent and long-time friend of mine and, also, a member of the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy, Mr. Christopher Clarke. The people of Nova Scotia owe them a deep debt of gratitude for the very fine work that they have undertaken.

Mr. Speaker, there are many kind things I will say about the bill. I do think that it has some shortcomings and I probably will be talking a little bit more about the shortcomings this afternoon - and the longcomings - but I would not want anyone to interpret that as lack of support for the general thrust of the bill and for what it is that we in Nova Scotia must do with respect to husbanding our environment in an entirely appropriate way so, as the phrase goes, we ensure that we pass on to successive generation a province and, indeed, we would hope a planet which will sustain them at least as well as we have been sustained by this province and by this planet.

I would like to turn to the report of the consultation committee and particularly to a section on Page 5. I would like to share this with the House. The government needs to consider whether the Act is intended to have a purely regulatory purpose or whether it should be used to influence change. If it is the latter, then it does not go far enough towards effecting change in the way that governments, business and individuals conduct their activities.

I do not see a significant difference between the draft Act and the legislation which is currently before the House to cause me to believe that the observation raised by the committee has been appropriately dealt with, particularly if it is the intention of the government and this minister, and I believe it is the intention of this minister, that this Act should be more than purely regulatory.

It strikes me that while we have, in the very beginning of the bill, a number of goals laid out for environmental protection in Nova Scotia, that, in fact, the word, goals, is too soft a word and we should be looking at adopting a number of principles which would be encompassed as a preface to the Act, from which all of the provisions of the Act, in its final form, should flow.

There has been reference made from time to time, and it is made here in the committee's comments, to the conference in Rio de Janeiro, on the world environment and the economy. One of my great regrets, and I am sure everyone in the House will understand this, is that I had been chosen to be a delegate for that conference and because I was moved from the Environment portfolio to the Natural Resources portfolio, did not have an opportunity to attend that conference. It was, by all reports, a most fascinating and rewarding experience for all those who did have that opportunity.

At any rate, there were a number of principles which flowed out of that conference. In fact, flowed out is not really an appropriate term, which were adopted by those at the Rio conference. I am of the view, and I think others are of the view, that we should incorporate those principles which were espoused at Rio which were appropriate to a provincial Legislature and to a province in Canada. I would like to review some of those with our colleagues this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, and I do hope that they will bear with me.

I do, also, want to point out that some of the principles espoused, adopted at Rio are, indeed, to be found in the legislation, all of those which are available to Nova Scotia as a province, are not in the legislation and I think we should give serious consideration to adopting them. While I will not be moving any amendments at this stage, I hope that, perhaps, at Law Amendments, perhaps at the committee stage or, perhaps as a result of discussions between the minister and other members of the House that we may be able to effect the change which will cause these principles to become part of the Act, not as goals, but rather as principles.

One of the principles that was adopted at Rio states that, "In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.". There is a section in this Act which says something like that, excepting that it is neither espoused as a principle, nor does it use the word, shall, and shall is a vitally important word with respect to getting the job done.

Another principle that is also to be found in the Rio declaration states that, ". . . States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.".

A third that I would suggest that we should look to with respect to creating a statement of principles of the front of the legislation, says that, "States . . .", in this case, the province, ". . . should cooperate to strengthen endogenous . . .", that is, internal ". . . capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchange of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.".

Now, one of the things that the minister hopes to accomplish through this legislation is to develop a much stronger educational process with respect to environmental understanding and environmental change. There are our institutions and our scientific-oriented businesses which are central to us being able to achieve that and where can we find better, in Atlantic Canada, the opportunity to do that than here in Nova Scotia and especially here in our capital region where we have so many of Canada's finest universities located and, also, where we have scientific institutions like the Bedford Institute carrying on their work. Again, a principle which I think we could well adopt and which would further strengthen the Act in a way in which the minister wants to see it strong.

Also, we have another principle, "Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.". Now, there is some opportunity for this in the Act, however, Mr. Speaker, as I will be pointing out later on, that redress is in fact dramatically absent in one or two places which are of great significance to Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians. If this principle is adopted then it will certainly require an amendment or two to the bill in order to ensure that the bill does reflect the principles. At any rate, I will be speaking more specifically to those changes in a few moments.

[2:15 p.m.]

Another principle which was adopted at Rio de Janiero says that, "Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and developmental context to which they apply.". Another, "States . . .", in this case the province, " . . . shall develop national law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage.".

Now, I am pleased to note that in the bill the minister does go quite a long way in accomplishing this and providing the opportunity for civil remedies to persons who deem themselves not only to have suffered environmental damage but who deem themselves to be in the immediate danger of suffering environmental damage and that is well covered in the bill. It is better to have a principle stated up-front and then have that measure within the Act flowing out of the principle.

Another principle from Rio de Janiero which Nova Scotia should adopt, "States . . . ", in this case Nova Scotia, " . . . should effectively cooperate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other . . .," jurisdictions, " . . . of any activities and substances that cause severe environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health.".

Now I know that the Department of the Environment, a few years ago, established a policy with respect to the importation and exportation of hazardous waste, contaminated waste and that was put into regulation. We have an opportunity here as a principle to state that in the Act and I think that is an important principle that we should consider.

Also, another principle from Rio de Janeiro says, " . . . authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.".

Again, there is reference to this in the bill which the minister has before the House. Better again to have a principle established and have the kinds of sections that the minister has in the Act flowing out of that principle.

Nova Scotia really, we know, lives and dies with respect to the international trade that we have here. For example, I looked at a document not long ago that very clearly demonstrated that our trade with New England is far more significant than our trade with all of western Canada. Our fish is traded internationally, our paper and pulp are traded internationally, our lumber is traded internationally, our Christmas trees are traded internationally, our scientific industrial community is endeavouring to trade internationally and take advantage of global trade.

The Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency has made that abundantly clear and I think it is vitally important that we incorporate in the Act the principle through which ministers who have such significant responsibilities as the Minister of the Environment and the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency have this principle for their guidance and in their activities.

Finally and unless I missed it when I read through the new legislation I did not see this and I think because of the significant steps that the majority community and the Native community are taking in order to come to a greater understanding of each other and be able to draw on each other's strengths.

It is important that we also adopt Principle 22 from the Rio de Janeiro declaration. Principle 22 states, "Indigenous people and their communities, and other local communities, have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. "States . . .", in our case the province, " . . . should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.".

Mr. Speaker, these are principles from the Rio Declaration which are appropriate for a province to adopt. I would ask the minister give consideration to reviewing the bill which he has brought to us today for second reading and to look at making a change in that first section which lays out goals and redefining it such that it lays out principles and essentially lays out those principles which the Government of Canada voted to have adopted at Rio and very importantly principles which it was agreed upon by all of the governments in the provinces and the federal Government of Canada through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, should be the Canadian position at the conference in Rio de Janeiro which was held just a few years ago.

Mr. Speaker, the emphasis in the bill on sustainable development is entirely appropriate. I think there is a general recognition, sort of a penetrating glimpse into the obvious, that sustainable development does not apply nearly so well to non-renewable resources as it does to renewable resources and we should have a look at the definition in the bill to ensure that it reflects that reality.

There also, Mr. Speaker, is an emphasis on prevention in the Rio Declaration. That is referenced in the Parish document. The minister, I know, is very specific and very certain when he says that he wants prevention to play a very important role with respect to this legislation. One of the areas where the legislation would seem to have some weaknesses is with respect to environmental protection for human health. It seems that the legislation could be more complete if it were to encompass monitoring and enforcement regimes that would ensure illness prevention and protection of the public's health. Now there are always, as both the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health will know, as my colleague, the honourable member for Kings West, the former Minister of Health, and I, as the Minister of the Environment, also quickly learned, some pretty fuzzy lines between environmental health and human health. In fact, one might even say we should not talk about lines but we should really be talking about linkages.

Normally ministers do not speak on other minister's legislation, but I would hope that perhaps even for a few minutes, our Minister of Health might talk a little bit about the importance of this legislation with respect to the human condition so that we do not think of it solely in terms of its impact on the natural environment; a very important linkage there. It is absolutely essentially that particularly those two departments work very closely together. That has been my experience and I have no doubt that that is the experience of the present ministers who occupy those two portfolios which are vital to the interests of Nova Scotians.

I very much like the thrust of the bill with respect to non-adversarial dispute resolution. I do think that we have to be cognizant of the fact that non-adversarial dispute mechanisms cost money, they take time and I will be interested to know from the minister how he is going to go about causing that to happen and looking for him to assure us that in the budget, which will drive this bill, as all budgets do, that there will be sufficient monies available to allow this very important undertaking to, in fact, take place.

Special skills are required by those who drive non-adversarial dispute resolution. I am not sure that as of yet those skills are necessarily resident in the minister's department. He may be looking to have somebody in the department who has some modicum of those skills further develop them. He may be looking at external agencies with respect to those and I would be very interested to have the minister enlarge on just how he is going to cause that to happen because it is very important that it does happen.

The bill is still largely punitive. I notice that is pretty well laid out. I think it is in Clause 17 where we get into - oh, I am sorry, it isn't Clause 17 - at any rate, the bill still is largely punitive and, by its nature, it must be, to a significant extent punitive . But again, if we lay out positive principles which provide us with a framework within which to develop policy and legislation and a springboard into the future, then it strikes me that the punitive aspect of the bill becomes less important, although it certainly will always be important with respect to maintaining the law. For those who are not prepared to live within the law, there must be every reasonable opportunity within the rule of law for the minister and his staff to be able to respond to lawbreakers.

There are several matters referenced in the bill which are not new but I think it is important that they are referenced in the bill and they are, in some instances, given a different kind of twist in life. The Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy, by this bill, will exist by Statute and that is important. In fact that reflects a decision that was taken by the Government of Canada when the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy was established back in the latter part of the 1980's, in a round table which I had the opportunity to sit on in my capacity as Chairman of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.

One of the things that struck me - if I may digress for a moment about the quality of the people and, of course, I can't adjudicate on myself in this respect - about the quality of the people who sat on that national round table when I was a member was that here were men and women drawn from all walks of life, all ethnic backgrounds, people involved in management, people involved with labour unions, it was a particularly rewarding experience to see how these people from such disparate backgrounds were able to draw together and draw on each other's strengths and set aside each other's weaknesses, to drive forward the sustainable development agenda of the Government of Canada and, indeed, because of the very important, in fact pivotal role we were able to play at Rio with respect to the influence that the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy had there as well.

The Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps is referenced. I had the privilege to bring the legislation into the House which created that corps. It has gone through some interesting evolutions since its first days and I think I was very clear, the minister and I agree that it has a very important role to play in Nova Scotia and it is important that it be referenced in the bill.

The Environmental Trust is now turned over in this bill to the Round Table on Environment and Economy. I think that is an appropriate change. I notice, too, that the Environmental Control Council has had its role changed in legislation. That is entirely appropriate. The minister is well aware that, in fact, the evolution through which the Environmental Control Council has gone, particularly since the Environmental Assessment Act was passed and the regulations put through Cabinet, that it has now a very different and much more highly technical role to play than was the case with the Environmental Control Council when it was first established back in the early 1970's. The change the minister makes in this bill, redefining the role of that council under its new name, is appropriate, indeed.

With respect to environmental assessment, the minister very clearly has made his position known in the bill. He understands that time is money to investors in our economy and that while we must not rush with indecent haste and not put proposed economic development to the test, it also is, nonetheless, very important, vitally important that we, as a community that looks to others to invest in us, provide an appropriate timeframe within which decisions are to be made.

[2:30 p.m.]

I think one of the shortcomings in the bill and, quite frankly, I have been at sixes and sevens about this for a long time myself with respect to not whether or not it should be done, but how do you do it. That is with respect to the whole matter of intervenor funding. The bill does not provide for intervenor funding. I am sure that the minister must have given a lot of thought as to whether to include intervenor funding in the bill or not.

I am sure that he has wrestled with exactly the same problem that every other government and every other Minister of the Environment has wrestled and that is, how do you provide intervenor funding in a fair and equitable way, in a manner which will ensure that the best interests of the citizens of the province and the taxpayers who are footing the bill on that and which, at the same time, ensures that informed opinion is brought to the discussion of whether or not projects should move forward. I would be quite interested if the minister would share with us a little bit of what I am sure must have been some self-searching that he experienced in his decision not to include intervenor funding in the bill.

That said, I think we should recognize that there are other jurisdictions in Canada which now do provide for intervenor funding. Ontario is one and I think, perhaps, Alberta is another. Mind you, they both have a little more money then Nova Scotia has. I hope that the minister will dedicate himself, as we all must, to continuing to seek a way in which an appropriate intervenor funding mechanism can be put in place. It is a matter which the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy has discussed at length. It has not been able to come to a conclusion. It is an answer which we should continue to search for and we should continue to search for diligently.

I think the minister is dead-on when he says that we should provide non-punitive audits of industries. When a company thinks it has a problem, how much better it is for a company to be able to come forward to the department and say, look, we think we have a serious environmental problem in our operations. We want to undertake a full audit. We want to understand what the difficulties are and then we want to resolve them. Being able to do that in the full knowledge that by baring their corporate soul to the government, irrespective whether it is a small business, a medium size business or a large business, they are not, at the very same time, putting themselves in jeopardy of being prosecuted because they are trying to be good corporate citizens. That is a very important aspect of this bill. I know that it is the full intention of the minister that that not be used as an excuse by any corporate citizen who happens to be a bad citizen, to avoid doing the right things and to avoid being prosecuted where prosecution is in the public interest.

I am concerned with an aspect of this bill and that is the aspect of this bill which causes it to be paramount and override all other Acts. My concern is with respect to the right-to-farm legislation that this House passed a number of years ago. It has always struck me as an interesting phenomenon when urban dwellers decide that they want to move to the country because they think the country life is better for them and for their children and they happen to buy land next door to a farm that probably has been operated by the same family through a number of generations and immediately they begin to complain about the noises and the smells and the activities that one naturally associates with farming. As one of my colleagues has just pointed out, with the legislation that has been put forward by the Minister of Municipal Affairs that will probably all be in the same city with respect to the metropolitan area so that should be interesting to see how that all works out. I am very interested to hear how the minister is going to deal with this. I know that the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has brought it forward for concern and also it is another matter upon which the Round Table on Environment and Economy Committee expressed concern as well.

Waste management is dealt with at some length in here and the minister has set himself not a goal but a target, a very significant difference and the minister is courageous to establish a target not just a goal with respect to waste management. By the year 2000, that is only five years away, a very brief time, he intends that by that time we will have reduced waste in Nova Scotia by 50 per cent. Mr. Speaker, that is a very ambitious goal and a very ambitious target and we must all wish the minister well in achieving it and we must all work with the minister and with all of our municipal units to help to achieve it because as the minister knows and as I know and as all members of this Legislature know, we cannot achieve that without the full and extensive cooperation of the municipal units.

I think it would be appropriate in this context to commend all of those municipal units in Lunenburg County which have just initiated a brand new system of dealing with municipal solid waste. My son and daughter-in-law now live in Bridgewater and they are very excited about that opportunity. I know that the minister's department was very much part of making that happen and they, along with the councils in Lunenburg, are to be commended for putting what certainly is going to be a very fine system in place to deal with this matter and is going to help the minister reach his target. Sadly, not all other municipalities and I include my own in this respect have been as adventurous as has that municipality and we must continue to give encouragement to those who have been less timid with respect to handling solid waste management.

I note that the minister has decided in this legislation that and I say this in his absence that siting of landfills will continue to be a municipal responsibility and as the minister knows that can create some small difficulty from time to time. I want to understand full well how the minister expects to be able to achieve the target of 50 per cent reduction if he does not have a significant authority or at least a significant mode of moral suasion to cause municipal units to focus on siting and to get on with the job. There is a problem in Shelburne County in that respect right now and I know that because we have been, in our Queens County landfill, accepting, on a temporary basis, municipal solid waste from that municipality while it deals with the question where they would site the new landfill.

There is an extensive section in here on water. What could be more vital to life on this planet than water? All of us now understand from seeing photographs taken from satellites and from listening to astronauts who have gone into space and have looked back on this planet why it is called the blue planet and why it is so visually different from space than are any of the other planets in our solar system. It is because of the presence of water in a liquid form. Water is absolutely vital to life on this planet. Mr. Speaker, the way in which we deal with water in Nova Scotia, however small we are, is vital to ensuring that water continues to be available to us, not only to us as human beings, but, indeed, to all the life forms which are dependent upon it.

I think there may be some conflict between this legislation and the legislation under which the Department of Natural Resources labours with respect to control over habitat. I would like the minister to have a little run at that for me. I also am wondering about the interface between this legislation, with respect to water, and another initiative in which the minister is involved and one which I applaud, and that is the whole matter of coastal zone management, because we cannot manage our coastal zone unless we also are managing, in a significant way, the water resources attendant to that coastal zone.

I am disappointed in the fact that there is no specific reference to wetlands in the legislation. Here again, I turn to the report by the consultation committee of the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Economy. It makes reference to what in the draft legislation was a definition of wetland, but which in this bill, insofar as I can understand, is entirely absent. Wetland is not identified and defined here.

Here is what the task force committee had to say, the definition of wetlands should be amended - in this case now, it should be inserted - to reflect the description of a wetland provided by the minister's task force on clean water. Wetlands could be defined as areas of land which are covered by water for part or all of the year. Wetlands may be associated with rivers, lakes, streams or coastal habitats. The types of wetlands usually described are marshes, fresh or salt water, bogs, fens, swamps, sloughs and ponds. Wetlands have the ability to provide an improvement to water quality, preserve water quantity and moderate a flood event and provide wildlife habitat.

Mr. Speaker, if the trees are the lungs of the earth, then surely the wetlands are the kidneys of the earth. They are so vitally important to removing impurities from water and they are absolutely essential to our well-being. We should not lose sight of the fact that we have lost a tremendous amount of our wetlands in this province since the beginning of European settlement here, going back to the Acadian settlements of the early 1600's and the beginning of dyking in this province.

Our wetlands, and most particularly our salt marshes, have been turned into what one might better describe as prairie. Anybody who has walked on what we call Tantramar Marsh will understand that most of that is now not a marsh at all, but rather is a prairie with a very dry and hard bottom. It has been almost completely converted from what it once was. We see examples of conversion of unused farmland back into marshland. We can see that in Cumberland County and we also can see it in, for example, Annapolis County with the conversion of the Lyle Marsh from farmland back into marshland. That was done under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Mr. Speaker, the air quality section, Clause 111, I find disappointingly vague. I also am concerned that the entire clause is prefaced by the directive that "The Minister may". Knowing the tremendous efforts that the members of the minister's task force on air put forward, and understanding what it is that they had hoped to achieve and what all Nova Scotians who participated in that task force's deliberations hoped to achieve, I am sure they will be most disappointed that the word may and not the word shall is in here. I am very much looking forward to the minister's argument as to why he has chosen a permissive section with respect to air quality.

[2:45 p.m.]

The whistleblower clause is entirely appropriate; while it is new with respect to environmental legislation, it really essentially affects labour legislation, which has been in place in this province for many years and which has worked quite well. I think it is good that the minister has also put in his bill a mechanism whereby anyone who blows the whistle vexatiously and with the intent not of protecting the environment but of giving false information and is on their own agenda, is subject to the full penalty that the law has to provide.

Mr. Speaker, the concept of reviewing the Act every five years is entirely appropriate. I am sure that everyone who has an interest in this bill, and I would hope that that would be every Nova Scotian, will agree that that is so and perhaps the minister could tell us how he is going to put a mechanism in place which his successors, because I don't expect he will be in that portfolio in another five years - he may be in another portfolio or no portfolio, who knows what the vicissitudes of his life will bring - but, nonetheless, he can have a very defining hand with respect to making sure that that process will click in in five years' time and will click in in an appropriate way.

There has been very significant concern expressed from a number of quarters with respect to the powers that this bill gives the Minister of the Environment, not the current minister but any minister who functions under this bill. Should we find a minister who is not as attendant to the Act as he or she might be, and that may happen, we do not know that it would or would not, then there is a grave risk that the powers given the minister in the bill we are debating this afternoon could be abused.

There is every reason why the breadth of discretion allowed the minister in this bill should be shrunk and why the amount of discretion available to the minister should be of a minimal rather than a maximum extent. I think this bill provides it in a maximum way.

I would refer, for example, to Clause 164. There is no clause which better expresses this than Clause 164. Oddly enough, this clause is now different and provides the minister with more significant powers than the draft bill did. The concerns I have just expressed were brought to my attention by those who were looking at the rather than narrower discretion allowed the minister. Clause 164 says, "Where the Minister is of the opinion that a corporation has violated this Act . . .", et cetera.

Mr. Speaker, this type of discretion, I am told by persons who, to my knowledge, have no political affiliation, is unprecedented in both federal and provincial legislation. I simply believe that this goes too far, to have anyone, whether a corporate citizen or a private citizen, have to hang their hat on the minister of the day with respect to what his opinion is, it strikes me moves far beyond the reasonableness of the rule of law.

Mr. Speaker, I have been asked by a member if I would vacate the floor for a moment for an introduction. I am pleased to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, thanks to the member from Queens for yielding the floor. I would just like to acknowledge the presence of the alderman from Ward 7 for the City of Halifax, Alderman Steve Adams who was returned to the new council by acclamation. Steve and I work closely together on a lot of issues that are affecting the community of Spryfield, in particular and I wish all members would give Mr. Adams a warm welcome and a round of applause. (Applause)

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, with respect to discretion I also want to bring to the minister's attention a very grave difficulty that I see with Clause 17. Clause 17 allows the minister to delegate, in writing albeit, ". . . any power or duty conferred or imposed on the Minister pursuant to this Act.", to a number of people. I have no trouble with the first two, "Clause 17(1)(a) any employee of the Government or a Government agency; (b) any employee of the Government of Canada or an agency of that government;". I do have some difficulty with respect to blanket delegation to, "Clause 17(1)(c) any employee of a municipality.". I have every concern with respect to delegating that authority to, "Clause 17(1)(d) any person,". I say that because there is no reference in the bill to any qualifications which a person to whom the minister delegates authority.

It may well be that a minister may delegate a responsibility respecting enforcing the law with water conservation to a person who knows absolutely nothing about water conservation. I think that is very wrong, it is very dangerous. There should be written in the Act a provision that any person who is delegated responsibilities by the minister should be fully qualified to undertake those responsibilities. That is one of the most glaring flaws in this legislation, especially when one considers that there is a blanket authority, a blanket exemption under the bill in Clause 143 which causes it to be impossible for anyone who might be wronged by an official acting as a delegated person under this Act for a person to be able to find any remedy.

The way the bill is currently written if an individual delegated by the minister to undertake certain activities were to cause me injury or you or any citizen in Nova Scotia, we would have no remedy in the courts with respect to that unless we were able to prove definitively that that person committed an error because they deliberately wanted to create harm for the individual. If that person makes an error in judgment simply because they didn't know any better then they are protected and the person that has been injured has no remedy. That is a very serious shortcoming in this legislation and one which we will certainly have to see remedied before it passes third reading.

Mr. Speaker, it was my belief when I was Minister of the Environment - and this minister and I share this belief - that it is vitally important to have one or more Crown Prosecutors who understand environmental law, environmental legislation, and environmental regulations and that that person be looked to in at least any instance where a serious breach of the law is before the courts. I can recall one instance, the East River fish kill which was tried in New Glasgow. I was a witness for the Crown in that particular action and I was so impressed by the way in which the Crown Prosecutor who handled that case carried out his work. He really understood the law, he really believed in what he was doing. It wasn't just another case, he really believed in what he was doing and that showed in the way in which he handled himself in the courtroom and that resulted in a conviction and a very significant fine brought down by the judge. I say to the minister that he cannot get this done soon enough to satisfy me.

I also, very clearly, understand, Mr. Speaker, that this bill is not just putting together all the old Acts, therefore, people will be doing the same things that they have always been doing, this bill will cause the staff in the Department of the Environment, and all of those to whom the minister properly delegates their responsibilities outside the department, whether it is to people working for Environment Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, municipal police forces, municipal by-law officers and so on, but it will require all of them to live out their professional lives in a different way than they did before this Act passed the Legislature.

I know that while the staff of the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment is a very good staff, a well-trained staff, a very professional and dedicated staff, it is also a staff which, in undertaking these additional responsibilities, is going to have to be larger. I simply do not see how it is going to be possible to do all of the good things that this bill will cause Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians to do without expanding the staff of the Department of the Environment in providing not only greater breadth in those areas where the Act will have the most profound impact but, also, to provide a much greater depth.

I encourage the minister, as he is dealing with the Minister of Finance, on putting the Department of the Environment budget together to really, strongly put forward that argument that the minister and the government are putting this legislation forward but that they have got to put their money where their mouth is and they have got to make sure that the department has the dollars to drive the good things that are in this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, that is about all I have to say today on the bill. Again, I commend the minister for completing a process that, in a small way, I had the opportunity to be part of; it now seems like a very long time ago. He has made sure - as I had wanted to make sure - that there was adequate public participation in discussing what kind of environmental laws we should have for Nova Scotia and I suppose that in a sense that belies our professions in that we are both school teachers and understand the importance of bringing people together to arrive at a consensus in decision-making.

I think that most of what the minister wants to accomplish is excellent. I think there are some serious shortcomings that I think the minister can help to remedy in the Committee of the Whole House, shortcomings that I suspect will probably be brought forward by others who are far more knowledgeable than I am and who will be coming to the Law Amendments Committee when this bill is dealt with there, when the public has, again, its final opportunity for input before we deal with this legislation in the Committee of the Whole, in third reading.

I do ask the minister to think through my urgings that we move away from goals and look at rewriting the front section of the bill, and laying out a series of principles and then having everything flow from those principles. I think, then, that we can have a piece of environmental legislation in which not only this House but, indeed, all Nova Scotians can take very great encouragement from, and I look forward to a piece of legislation which would drive it forward into the future.

There is one last aspect that the minister must deal with. I spoke some time ago in debate about the interface, the linkage between the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment. There is another linkage which is absolutely essential to causing the minister and the government to be able to do the kinds of things that this bill purports to want to do, and that is the linkage between the Economic Renewal Agency and all economic activity undertaken by government and the role that the Department of the Environment and environmental considerations have to take with respect to all of the economic activity and sustainable development.

[3:00 p.m.]

I don't think that that is expressed strongly enough in the bill and I would ask the minister to take a look at that to listen to what people have to say at Law Amendments and to give consideration himself to redrafting that. Again, I think, looking at the words of the Rio Declaration to moving it up as a principle out of which all activity, not only the Department of the Environment with respect to environmental law flows but which all economic activity flows as well.

Mr. Speaker, this is a peculiar planet which we inhabit in that insofar as we know it is the only planet on which life exists in any form. We, as human beings and we like to think the highest order of life on this planet, have a very particular responsibility to all life forms to husband our resources, to husband our environment, to husband our economy is such a way that we sustain life on this planet and sustain it not just for ourselves but for all those who will come after us so that we do not inhibit their well-being, we do not inhibit their opportunity for economic and educational and human advancement.

This has the makings of an excellent bill and with some significant changes we can make it a very fine piece of legislation. I look forward to the minister's wrapping up to hearing his views on what all members of the House will have to offer with respect to it and I look very much forward to hearing what Nova Scotians have to say when they come before us at Law Amendments. I certainly will be supporting the bill as it moves through second reading and into the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I too welcome the opportunity to rise and make a number of comments on the bill that we have before us for discussion this afternoon, an Act to Reform the Environmental Laws of the Province and to Encourage and Promote the Protection, Enhancement and Prudent Use of the Environment.

Even the title in itself is a mouthful to say and certainly the bill itself which is aimed at consolidating and bringing together many different pieces of legislation, bringing them together into one piece of legislation which will be more easily understood and easier for people to figure out where and what the regulations are and what the requirements are is indeed, although some might call it tinkering, I think that it is very important tinkering that this be done.

I want to also say as I start that I commend the previous speaker for his excellent remarks and certainly for an awful lot of the principles that he espoused and for bringing forward the principles of the Rio de Janeiro conference, I think that that was a crucially important conference as a number of others have been, but to help us to become aware, to help us to refocus, that we are in effect really truly just the custodians of the earth upon which we live and that as custodians in the past we have not been doing a very good job.

The definition that is provided in the bill for sustainable development is indeed, I believe, a very good definition and in fact, I will go farther and I will say that the first section of the bill deals with the purpose of the bill I believe, generally, is very strong, good and is to be commended. It has within it many stated principles that I believe are very supportable and commendable. That having been said and sometimes one wonders when you stand up to speak whether there is going to an opportunity to say something positive or very often, it is all going to be negative.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I hope it is truly the intention of the government to put into full force and effect in the bill itself, in the body, in the meat which counts, that part which is enforceable, those things that are, I believe, and with whom I have spoken, needed to give more substantive substance, to the lofty goals and objectives that are laid out in the purpose clause. Because at the present time, I believe that the minister and this government have an opportunity - and the minister, in his previous career being involved in education, I will put it in the educational context - with some revisions, with some amendments and changes, I believe the minister has an opportunity to be graded A on the project that he has put before this House. If, however, he does not make some very important fundamental changes, this piece of legislation certainly should be considered for a failing grade. So, the opportunity is from an A to a failing grade.

I will just make one statement initially as I start to give the reasons for that before I get into some of the positives and then some of the concerns that I have. One of the provisions in this bill allows the minister and/or the Governor in Council to exempt almost anybody or any undertaking or any situation that they choose. So, you can have all the lofty ideals in the world, you can have them here.

Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation, if this was in force when the residents in Waverley were fighting the quarry against the former government and the whole issue of the environmental assessment, this bill would mean that there would not have been the need for the government to be taken to court because there would not have been the possibility. Because according to this bill, the way it is currently written, the government could just simply be exempt from an environmental assessment operation such as that.

I think that the minister is a very decent person and I think that the minister himself is very committed to the environment and to developing a strong and sustainable economy and environment. I don't question that. I don't know, nor do you, who is going to be the Minister of the Environment in two months' time or two years' time. We don't know whether there are going to be pressures, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) I gather the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage is suggesting he may not be either. I think that was probably the intention of his heckle across the floor because it would not have been derogatory because we don't do that in this House because we don't make aspersions about others. I hear a question from across the floor this one is a very legitimate question and it is on the principle of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Cease debating the bill across the floor.

MR. HOLM: I am talking through you, Mr. Speaker. So, I am going to respond to what I heard, not as a way of debate, but to answer what is a legitimate question and to say that in second reading it is my intention, yes, to be voting for this bill. (Applause)

That, however, Mr. Speaker, does not necessarily mean that when it is coming out of the Committee of the Whole House stage or in the third reading stage I will be voting for it. I sincerely do hope that I will be voting for it and that some of the changes that I believe are necessary and those who are, I have no hesitation saying, more knowledgeable about a lot of these issues than I, have said, Mr. Speaker, need to be amended. As in the Information Morning interview the other day, and I am always terrible at remembering titles, I think it was the Executive Director for the Clean Nova Scotia Foundation referred to this as the may bill. What this bill is, Mr. Speaker, in so many situations it is the may bill - the minister may or the Governor in Council may - but the flip side of may is may not.

In this bill, one of the concerns with the bill is that the government does appear, when it is dealing with those other than itself, it is using the mandatory, or the shall. But when it comes to restricting or stating what the government will do or will not do, then it is very much discretionary, Mr. Speaker, and they have opted to use the word, may. But for those in the third party, somebody else, it generally tends to be shall.

But, Mr. Speaker, I do want to make a couple of what I have said are positive things. I certainly believe that what this bill is attempting to do is move in the right direction and it is trying to do the kinds of things, in terms of consolidation of legislation and putting all of the environmental laws together in one place. That is to be lauded; it has been done in other provinces, other jurisdictions. I might say that is even more important now, as we are moving towards more of a harmonized type of approach with respect often to environmental issues and economic issues, both between the province and the federal government.

Certainly in the preamble and it appears to be, I would say to the minister, in this area he may well have listened because the definition and the emphasis that is placed on sustainability certainly does also appear to have been improved from that which was in the original draft. So the minister gets two stars right there, Mr. Speaker, at the very beginning.

It does appear to strengthen pollution control, through a number of means. It certainly does it through economic instruments, although they are sort of soft ones, Mr. Speaker, they are not firm or tough but there are some there. There are, of course, liabilities now that can be imposed upon both the directors and, I might add, the lenders, to a degree anyway that is, on the businesses.

They do have enforceable orders and fines and penalties. So in that area, Mr. Speaker, I am giving the minister yet another star. It may not be a gold star because some of the things are a little bit soft but I will give him at least a silver star there. He is still doing some of what I would suggest in these areas are positive items.

Certainly the bill is aimed, the thrust it is taking, it is trying to encourage good behaviour, positive behaviour you might say, on behalf of polluters. This can be both good and bad, not that you are trying to reduce the amount of pollution or those of the polluters but certainly one positive aspect is that if somebody is going to be behaving in a responsible way and if they notice and report to the appropriate officials that they have been involved in some pollution, that the penalties will be reduced. Anything that is going to promote responsible behaviour in a voluntary manner is to be supported, so long as a big stick is not removed if they don't do that.

In one of the later provisions of the bill, while there still may be possibilities for some civil proceedings to recover costs, if the minister or the government doesn't act within two years of the time from which the offence occurred, they are off the hook for criminal prosecutions, Mr. Speaker, which I do not personally tend to favour. I think that they should be held, not to a two year time limitation but until a period of time after the offence has been known. So if somebody has willingly and knowingly committed a degradation of the environment, I do not think that they should be able to get off the hook for criminal charges, simply on the basis of, ha, ha, you did not catch me for two years. This is good in what they are trying to do here, so I am still giving them a star and a passing grade on what they are intending to do.

[3:15 p.m.]

Also, certainly, some of the alternate dispute resolution mechanisms that are in the bill, again, that can be positive, so long as, and I do have a fear on this one - I am waiting and I am hoping to get some more input at the Law Amendments Committee - I am a little bit fearful that what could happen here is that the government could decide to direct a concern to an alternate dispute resolving mechanism instead of it doing, for example, a full and proper environmental assessment that would be required.

I will also give the government a star for its commitment in the bill to deal with developing a solid waste management strategy and plan for the province, Mr. Speaker. I think that that is a very important initiative. It is certainly something that we have been arguing should be done and needed to be done at the provincial level for many years, so I am not going to be a hypocrite, certainly, and stand up and criticize the government for doing what I believe they should have been doing for years and I congratulate them for having said that they will do this. I believe that is very positive.

It is unfortunate, however, that the government is missing a prime opportunity. Here we are talking about developing a strategy and plan in solid waste management in the context of a sustainable economy, Mr. Speaker, but the government could have, and I know that the recommendations were made, that they should also be developing strategies in other sections or other segments of the economy. For example, how about in forestry, how about in mining, how about in the fishery? These are very important key segments in the economy of this province, agriculture, as well. The province, in preparing this legislation, is missing an opportunity to make a commitment to be developing the strategies in those key areas, as well.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if I can, there are a few other items that I want to touch on, certainly. I want to talk, and I am not going through clause by clause analysis in the bill, but there are a few little areas that I want to refer to as examples of where I see some difficulties. It is the principles that I am talking about here. For example, under Part II Administration, and parts of this I agree with, and here is the problem, parts of which I have important difficulty with the principle of what the government is doing.

Here, in Clause 8(2), ". . . for the purposes of administering and enforcement of the Act, and after engaging in such public review as the Minister considers appropriate . . .", the minister may do certain things. He may, Mr. Speaker - now, here in the bill, we have these excellent definitions, we have these excellent principles and purpose, but you know, and this is fundamental, the minister may. "(a) promote sustainable development, including pollution prevention;". What is more relevant and fundamental to this Act? How can we, if we are determined, if we are committed to the principles and purposes that are stated here, and this, I know, is a crafting type of issue and I know the way legislation is often written, but surely, I say to the minister, let's consider some amendments, let's split some of these items apart. Sure, I have no problem saying, for example, that the minister may, "(c) consult with and co-ordinate activities with other departments, Government agencies, municipalities, governments and other persons;". It is appropriate there to say that the minister may.

Surely, we should not just say that the minister may, "(f) promote the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded areas of the environment;". Isn't that his mandate? Isn't that the fundamental responsibility of the minister? I ask the minister to consider amendments to Clause 8(2)(a), Mr. Speaker, to break it down, to put it into the obligatory form. The minister shall "promote sustainable development, including pollution prevention. . . .". The minister shall "promote the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded areas of the environment, . . .". I am not going through all of the items. I am not going to read the whole clause. I am talking about an important principle.

Here, we have a piece of legislation with wonderful stated goals and objectives but, Mr. Speaker, those lofty words are not required to be put into effect because it is up to the minister's discretion, he may or he may not. This minister, I believe, based on the discussions and, quite honestly, the openness of this minister and the process in developing this bill and the regulations that go along with it, is an example that should be followed by other ministers. I applaud the minister, I give the minister A-plus, without any hesitation, for having had the courage and the sense of cooperation to send this bill, originally in its draft form and now, obviously in its draft form before, Mr. Speaker, as I am fumbling there with words - as a former member of this House used to say, I sound like or feel like I am breaking in a new tongue here - as I was fumbling around there for a moment . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: I am not surprised you wore the other one out. (Laughter)

MR. HOLM: That was a good one. That was well-earned, Mr. Speaker. The member for Queens suggested that I wore the other one out. (Laughter) Appropriate.

I do honestly congratulate the minister. It is an example to be followed by others, having sent this legislation, to put it out there for public scrutiny, public input and, also, the regulations. That is an example others should follow. I cannot imagine that, for example, people recommended only saying that the minister may do this or that the minister may do something else, like not promote sustainable economic development.

If we take a look at dangerous goods and pesticides, and I am trying to make a point here, Mr. Speaker, that this is not subject only to this one little part of the bill, this is why, earlier, I called it the may Act, the m-a-y Act. Under dangerous goods and waste, the minister may stipulate the quantity and concentration of dangerous goods or waste dangerous goods that may be released into the environment, either alone or in combination, et cetera.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest not only that the minister may, but that the minister should be required to be, it does not have to be stated in the bill but it should be required by regulation that that be done. The minister may direct a person responsible for dangerous goods or waste goods to take specific precautions, to handle dangerous goods or waste dangerous goods in accordance with specified terms and conditions, remove dangerous goods or waste dangerous goods from a specified location.

Mr. Speaker, all of those powers should rest certainly with the department but it shouldn't be up to the minister's discretion. It should be obligatory, it should be a responsibility, that may should be shall. In other areas which deal with those who are not government, the government then has no hesitation of making it obligatory by using the word shall.

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, it should state here that the minister shall direct the person responsible for dangerous goods or waste dangerous goods to take dangerous goods or waste dangerous goods to a specified location, for example. They should be required to handle those in proper prescribed manners and I think the minister agrees. Therefore, I am saying that the Act should be amended to make that obligatory not only on this minister but any other minister who might be less conscientious than our current minister when the day comes that our current minister. Maybe he has aspirations for the front seat some time down the road, so that is always possible and he may not have in his caucus people with the same high ethics and standards so I think that we should look to all future possibilities and make these things, and it is an important principle, make it mandatory upon the minister that those things be done.

Under public participation, there is absolutely no provision in the Act for funding in support of public participation as mandatory. Consulting and environmental assessment hearings, what is put in here really deflates the language and some people would suggest that the commitments to funding is really tokenism. Nova Scotians and those who have concerns with environmental issues in this province have been arguing in support of not just unlimited, not to anybody who just comes in willy-nilly asking for funding but those who obtain standing have been asking that they be recognized and be provided with intervenor funding. It is not unique, some other jurisdictions have it, the federal government even has it. Here it is not being provided and that is something that I know the minister heard a great deal about from those who were responding to his draft Act and regulations.

Without it the public will really have the resources to counter the expert advice, often very high paid expert advice, of the proponents who were coming forward. Major proponents have what often appear to be open-ended bank books. Sometimes those major proponents are government, so their bankbooks are only limited by the amount of money they want to take out of the pockets of all of the people whom they represent. It is not unreasonable to expect that those who have legitimate questions and concerns should have some access to intervenor funding so that they can, not only at a hearing, but even before that be able to collect and gather the kind of information that would be necessary either to support their own position or quite often maybe to allay their fears and so it has a dual effect.

The names, when we talk about if there is intervenor funding being provided and certainly there is a possibility that they can get some assistance under the review process but there is certainly no guarantee or assurance that the names of those who will be put forward will be chosen for any assistance. Certainly, it is unclear how such a system allows a member of the public to consult with an independent expert and direct them to particular inquiries. I am sure the minister has heard that before. I am sure that the minister would also know that very often there isn't much time between the announcements of who the experts are supposedly going to be and the time of the actual hearings and those who are to be named as the experts. So, I guess what I am getting at here is that the minister, I would hope, would revisit the idea.

[3:30 p.m.]

Heavens, we have $1,225 for a seven hour a day job for the metro amalgamation person, that for seven hours, that is almost $175 an hour, close to $30 a minute. Surely this government if it has that much money can find a little bit of money to help those who would like some intervenor funding to make sure that they are able to get the kind of advice and assistance they need to help put into place, ensure that the principles as outlined in Clause 2 of the bill are actually going to be able to be followed.

With respect to pesticides, the Nova Scotia Sustainable Development Strategy, I can't remember the number of the strategy, I think it was number five, sub-something. One of the things that that paper recommended was the setting of targets for reduction of the use of pesticides. Quite honestly, in looking at the bill and the regulations, I haven't found, maybe there are new regulations and I know that there are new ones coming out, I haven't seen anything so far that really addresses that issue and that does provide for that in a meaningful way.

Certainly in the draft, the minister had a number of powers which really have been reduced in regard to pesticides in the province. Because under the draft, the minister could develop, coordinate and enforce policies, planning and programs about the preservation and protection of the environment from pest control products; develop and coordinate guidelines about any matter within the purpose of the Act; make grants and loans to research related to pesticides and the control of pests in such amounts and on such terms and conditions as the regulations prescribe; and prohibit the application of a pesticide when there are reasonable grounds to believe that such application can cause an adverse effect.

Mr. Speaker, that latter one as well as an earlier one were very important. This bill in this area appears to have been weakened because no longer does the minister here have the power. It is an important principle and one that the minister, I think, should have, to prohibit the applications of certain kinds of pesticides. The minister has lost all powers to develop policies, plans and programs to protect the environment from contamination by pest control products by deleting that and to prohibit the application of pesticides when there are reasonable grounds to believe that such applications will cause an adverse effect.

I want to skip through some of the notes I have in that regard over there and go back to a number of other items and principles in the bill itself because there isn't as much time as I would like. Unfortunately, we only have a one hour period in which we can address issues.

Under Part II, Administration, something I touched on very briefly, under the dispute resolving mechanism and I believe very much wherever possible, if we cannot find ways to resolve disputes in a friendly, open, accountable way without having to go to courts or spend huge numbers of dollars in adversarial forums that that is good, that both sides will tend to be pleased with the results.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things under this, it says in Clause 14(1), "For the purpose of resolving a dispute, the Minister may refer a matter to a form of alternate dispute resolution, including but not limited to, conciliation, negotiation, mediation and arbitration.". Also, when one takes a look at that, you can often have a dispute and I would be interested in hearing some legal opinions later on and I will be interested in hearing if any of those who appear before the Law Amendments Committee have any concerns here, but I have some questions that maybe the minister can decide a dispute mechanism is going to be used.

For example, the minister in this bill has the ability, and maybe some would suggest I am drawing a long bow here and maybe I am going to and some will say so what else is new, with this government you don't really need to pull the string back very far though, because somehow they seem to shoot themselves in the foot as they take their arrow out of their quiver and they seem to shoot themselves in the foot even before they get it to the bow. However, we will hear a little bit more about that before too long, I am sure, and have some very good examples of that before too long. Mr. Speaker, as an example, the Halifax Harbour, under this legislation, technically, the Governor in Council, under the section dealing with environmental assessments, has the legal ability to exempt any person or class or undertaking from a full environmental assessment. That is in the bill.

I talked about Tidewater in Waverley and I am sure the member for Bedford-Fall River is aware, for example, that this bill would have prevented the former Conservative Government from having any difficulties because they could have just exempted them by right, by Cabinet order, from an environmental assessment. Well, the same could be done to Halifax Harbour or anything else. Maybe under this, the minister could say, well, let's send it to a dispute resolving mechanism. There might be a bit of public outcry, but this government does not seem to worry about public outcry. They certainly have not worried about the many thousands who have spoken out against casinos, so there is no sense necessarily saying that they would want to respond here either. So, you don't even have, necessarily, the confidence of knowing that the government would be responsive to at least listening to or hearing what public concerns might be.

It says that where a dispute resolution process is being followed, whether or not there has been any resolve to it, that a report shall be filed with the minister. It does not say, Mr. Speaker, that a report has to be made public, nor does it even say that the minister is obliged to provide that report to the parties that are involved in the dispute. Pretty basic to me.

It goes on in Clause 14(5)(c), "Without limiting the generality of subsections (1) to (4), a form of alternate dispute resolution may be used as a substitute for a hearing or any part thereof by the Board;". So, Mr. Speaker, for the round table, here they can, for any reason, substitute either for the whole hearing or for a part of it, whatever mechanism they want to decide.

Under the release of substances, in Clause 73(a), again, I come back to the main theme. "The minister may classify releases for the purpose of this Part and exempt any release or any class of release from the application of this Part and attach terms and conditions to any such exemption,".

It doesn't give any reasons why he may do it or why he may not. Really, Mr. Speaker, when we are talking about hazardous materials and the releasing of these substances, have to question why it is the minister may, under Dangerous Goods and Waste Dangerous Goods, Clause 78(1) The Minister may (a) stipulate the quantity or concentration of dangerous goods . . .". So he has pretty well total control on what is or is not going to be released in those situations.

Under Clause 25(1) "The Governor in Council may make regulations (h) for the effective administration and enforcement of this Act, and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, exempting a person or a class of persons, activities, matters or things from this Act;". The Governor in Council, meeting in the bunker downstairs, when this bill passes, it states, Clause 25(1)(h), the Governor in Council has the ability to exempt any ". . . person or a class of persons, activities, matters or things from this Act;". It sounds like the tendering directive. We have a tendering directive from the Premier. It is supposed to be under the direction actually I believe of the Minister of Supply and Services and yesterday we saw the Minister of Human Resources (Interruption) exemptions . . .

MR. SPEAKER: We are straying.

MR. HOLM: I will stick to the bill, Mr. Speaker.

MR. DENNIS RICHARDS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I think there are a couple of points but I think the honourable member is getting into a clause by clause debate and now has gone off on another tangent, quite different from what the general principle of that bill is all about. I would ask that you remind him, as you already have, but perhaps he needs a second reminder to stick to the principle of the bill because he seems to wander quite frequently.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, the honourable member is quite aware that I have already indicated to him that he is not to stray that far from the principle of the bill and to stay within the normal and acceptable parameters of debate at second reading.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage for his very thoughtful, deep intervention, especially at the time when I am pointing out a fundamentally important principle about this bill and I hope it draws a lot of attention to that, that is that under - and if you are talking about a principle it is always good to have your principles anchored in something, right? Legislation should be anchored firmly.

Mr. Speaker, here I am suggesting the clause that I identified is just but one of the examples we could take a look at, as the minister will know, that under the environmental assessment portion as well, the same power to exempt exists. How can you have firm, solid commitment? Here it is a Cabinet may do that. I am not suggesting, the minister, I am sure this minister would not do that because that power is not the minister's to exempt, it is a power of the bunker crew, those when they are meeting on Cabinet Day.

And who knows what pressure, Mr. Speaker, could be applied to the government members and to the Cabinet. Look, this is an important project, we are going to bring in so many jobs. Yes, a few messy, dirty chemicals and potential for pollution exists. Yes, it is there but we don't want to mess it up by having to have a full environmental assessment and having to run the risk of a messy, public discussion of this item. Oh, Heavens, that would be inconvenient so why don't you just exempt us from the bill? It can be done and that is dangerous. That is very, very dangerous.

[3:45 p.m.]

Under waste management, again, I say to the minister and I tip my hat to him. That is something that we have been trying to get done for many, many areas, for a long time.

I am just going to touch on a couple of other items before I take my seat. I also want to suggest that it is a positive thing, it is indeed a positive thing, that under the legislation protection is provided to employees, that an employer cannot threaten them if they bring information forward. For example, if an employee knows of or sees some pollution occurring and reports that, the employer cannot threaten to fire them, dismiss them or discipline them, put any kind of penalty on them. That is not going to be permitted. Now if it happens, I don't really know what the recourse is going to be. Maybe it is to go to the Labour Standards Board and stand in the six month line-up before the case is heard.

It is kind of nice to see whistle blower legislation in there. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, the minister will be a good example and maybe the Minister of Human Resources will see the need if this government is truly committed to openness, honesty and trying to get the cooperation to clean up the mess it is developing, maybe it put the whistle blower type of legislation and protection in for its own employees who might report against it.

There are some concerns about prosecution and also about appeals. Under Part XIV, and I will not touch on necessarily that section because I don't want to offend sensitivities, and be accused of going clause by clause, but I wonder if the minister would consider putting in a definition of aggrieved. Because under this, there are certain kinds of appeals against the minister by those who are aggrieved. But there is no definition as such and the way it sits at the moment, really the only ones that this would cover would be the proponent and if the proponent feels that they have been aggrieved. But if the minister makes a decision, and I have spoken to some legal people who have taken a look at this and I don't claim to be the legal person, so I am taking my advice in this area from those who are knowledgeable in the law.

Then, Mr. Speaker, although there is the opportunity, it is sort of interesting. One of the sections, though, goes on to say, "For greater certainty, a decision of the Minister to approve or reject an undertaking registered under Part IV . . ." which is the assessment process, ". . . may not be appealed . . .".

So, Mr. Speaker, if in the Tidewater situation, which we are all very familiar with and I am sure the residents of Waverley and Fall River are very familiar with it, if this had been in place when that quarry was being proposed, the minister and government could have said, oops, exempt and no appeal could take place. I don't think, and I honestly say this, I am not just putting it on, I honestly don't believe this minister has any intentions whatsoever in that regard. I don't believe that this minister is thinking or considering how it could be used in that way. But I assure you, others would.

I say, with respect to the minister, that these are things that could take it from a low grade to an A-plus. This bill has the potential of being probably one of the best pieces of environmental legislation or certainly at the upper end, but there are these key flaws that have to be put into place. I know that there is lobbying from both sides and the minister has to do a balance. He has got those who are concerned about the environment and he has industry concerns on the other, both lobbying government. But the minister is the Minister of the Environment and we have to take a look at preserving and protecting our environment so that we can have sustainable development. We should not have in the bill those provisions that could or would permit that to be compromised.

I am also advised that under Clause 143, the last four lines of that really and this has to do with the clause about where civil remedies can occur, I am suggesting where it is saying, Clause 143(f), that ". . . no person referred to in this Section is liable for damage caused by a system of inspection or the manner in which inspections are to be performed or the frequency, infrequency or absence of inspections.". I am advised by some that that can be challenged in law, that that is in fact a wrong principle in law and it should be looked at.

Earlier, I made reference to the fact that under Part XVIII, Penalties and Prosecution, that I don't believe that there should be the limitation placed on time in which a prosecution can occur. So, for example, as it is currently written, if I am a major polluter and I know it, I can be doing the pollution and (Interruption) anyway if, for example, and there can be different kinds of situations, for example, and you could make the case that they aren't exempt because they still can be forced to do the clean-up costs.

I will personalize this, if I was knowingly polluting my environment and the minister doesn't catch me or nobody catches me or reports me for two years, according to this and the way I read that, I cannot be charged for those kinds of penalties. I can, yes, be ordered to pay costs for clean-up and that depends what I have done. So, if I have droppd oil and those substances have soaked into the ground so that they are remaining there, there is something to clean up, then yes, I can be dinged a pretty high price to pay for the cost of that clean-up. If I dump some pesticides in a river and those are washed out to the sea, those are gone.

I don't know if maybe the minister would have, it was suggested he thinks he could get reasonable costs through the courts to clean up over what is going on out in the mid-Atlantic or somewhere well down the waterways and how even to attribute. But a lot of those items could have washed away. They created their immediate damage, their immediate harm and the results may not be there in that sense for the cost of the clean-up.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on, I have got a lot of little tags in here that I haven't talked about yet. There is not time to touch on a lot of the other items that I really would like to see addressed. I do believe that the minister should be congratulated for the openness and honest way in which he has tried to consult in the development of the legislation and I hope the minister will also, and I expect he probably will, be willing to be as open to those who come before the Law Amendments Committee with concrete recommendations to make aimed at improving this legislation so the minister gets an A-plus for his essay, rather than a very low failing grade. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 115. It is a pleasure to speak on this bill as it was with the previous bill that we have before us, Bill No. 114, in that this bill accomplishes something that we haven't seen too much of in this House for a long time, in that we are getting omnibus bills to bring together Acts of a like kind and to put into one bill those particular pieces of legislation, so that people don't have to go searching through about 16 Acts to find out exactly what they must do to conform to the environmental rules and regulations in this province. That is a giant step and one that I think is to be applauded.

Certainly, the principle of the bill is one that I am sure that we on this side are going to vote in favour of because it is good legislation. There are changes that perhaps can be made to this legislation and I would like to speak for a few moments on some of those changes that I think should possibly occur in the Law Amendments Committee.

If I may suggest to the minister though on a housekeeping matter, I would suggest that since we are bringing Acts together now and the one that the Minister of Municipal Affairs introduced would fall into the same category, it is not unknown in our legislation to have an index for the legislation. I can think of a couple of Acts I think that we have at the present time, one is certainly the Elections Act which has an index and I believe that there is another piece of legislation and I can't recall what it is. It is also a fairly hefty piece of legislation and for ease of reference it is indexed and for the casual user I would suggest to the minister and I should also suggest to the Minister of Municipal Affairs that this is an ideal time to start when we have got bulky bills that cover a variety of subjects and ones which are of interest not just to people who are in the professions but to lay people as well who are going to do something that they would like to check on first of all in the existing legislation to see what the requirements are. I would suggest that we take a look at putting an index in these kinds of bills.

This is good legislation and I congratulate the minister for bringing it forward but I think I would be remiss if I didn't mention that primarily the same legislation was underway when the present government came into power and as a matter of fact I was just reading a press release from the honourable Leader of the Opposition from 1993 in which, and I am not going to read the whole press release, but he said in essence in his press release that the legislative review ordered by the minister will consolidate Nova Scotia's 16 environmental Acts into a single new piece of legislation, which this minister has done. He goes on to say that he will be bringing out a piece of draft legislation which will go into circulation and be made available to interested parties for consideration so that they would have the opportunity to make an input into the final piece of legislation and to the minister's credit, the present minister that is, he carried on with that process and there was indeed in the preparation of this legislation, I think, unprecedented in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to finish my remarks here for the moment and come back on a future day. I would just like to say to the minister that indeed in this particular piece of legislation there has been consultation and it is a worthy way of introducing legislation when you have got the parties on-side before you come into the House and before you go into the Law Amendments Committee. I will be delighted to carry on with my remarks on Monday evening and I move adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 115.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for the adjournment of debate on Bill No. 115. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would advise members of the House we will be sitting on Monday from the hours of 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. For those who are trying to make arrangements for next Thursday, the Opposition Parties and myself have come to agreement that we will sit next Thursday from the hours of 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. With that I would also advise that on Monday we will resume debate on Bill No. 115 and depending on the progress we will do the bills in order beyond that. With that, I move adjournment until 4:00 p.m. on Monday.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion for adjournment has been made.

The motion is carried.

The House will now rise to sit again at 4:00 p.m. on Monday hence.

[The House rose at 4:00 p.m.]