MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will commence the daily routine at this time.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.
HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of Nova Scotia Resources Limited, March 1994.
MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.
MR. CHARLES MACARTHUR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas war is a horrible human activity that no person should ever have to endure; and
Whereas tomorrow Canadians will pause to remember all the men and women who died or were maimed on the battlefields of Europe and Asia during both world wars and the Korean conflict so that we might live in peace; and
Whereas the preservation of peace is job for all of us;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House pause for a moment of silence to remember those who have made the supreme sacrifice for our freedom.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
We will now rise for one minute of silence.
[One minute of silence was observed.]
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 123 - Entitled an Act to Provide for the Enforcement of Payments Under Maintenance Orders. (Hon. William Gillis)
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
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 seizure of a cache of weapons in Halifax on Tuesday evening that included rounds of ammunition designed to go through bulletproof vests; and
Whereas news such as Tuesday's seizure alarms people and increases their fears as to the kind of society we are living in today; and
Whereas this government has introduced tough legislation they hope will enhance highway safety in Nova Scotia;
Therefore be it resolved that this government, through the Minister of Justice, clearly enunciate its position on violent crime so that all Nova Scotians will know the position being presented to the federal government as it introduces stiffer legislation dealing with sentencing this fall.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas tomorrow, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Nova Scotians will remember and honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of our country and of freedom; and
Whereas events in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Cambodia, Haiti and other countries torn by war and discord remind us that peace and freedom can never be taken for granted; and
Whereas it is our individual and community responsibility to stand on guard for the freedom and independence that was won at such great cost;
Therefore be it resolved that this House, in observing a minute of silence in anticipation of Remembrance Day, affirm that we will never forget the ultimate sacrifice.
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might 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 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 on May 20, 1994, the casino minister announced a tough new policy to crack down on illegal gaming machines which included the hiring of 10 new enforcement officers and a special fund to help municipal police forces with enforcement; and
Whereas contrary to those statements, the casino minister admitted yesterday during Question Period, that he has ignored his own enforcement policies even though they were to have been in force six months ago; and
Whereas after a brief reduction in the number of illegal video lottery machines operating in bars and corner stores after his policy was announced, there has been an alarming proliferation of illegal gaming devices in the last few months;
Therefore be it resolved that the casino minister explain to Nova Scotians how he expects any credibility in managing a $1 million casino business when he has turned a blind eye to current gaming enforcement regulations designed to protect the revenue base of the province and to combat illegal gaming activity.
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 the Sackville Family Day Care Association has been a dedicated, trend-setting force in making child care available for Nova Scotians despite years of difficult conditions; and
Whereas Sackville Family Day Care is, this month, opening the Memory Lane Family Resource Centre to provide community-based programming for families in the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre catchment area; and
Whereas the playshop, meeting areas, clothing depots, toy/book/video lending library and future services of the resource centre represent a new, improved community asset;
Therefore be it resolved that this House extends its congratulations to the Sackville Family Day Care Association on the occasion of the grand opening of their Memory Lane Family Resource Centre and its best wishes as the association continues to serve the growing needs of the community.
Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
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 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 a 1994 report to the British Columbia Lottery Commission on the social impact of gambling concluded that casinos account for the largest share of gambling expenditures; and
Whereas the study also revealed that large sums of money are spent in casinos by a small segment of the population, most often by individuals under the age of 30; and
Whereas between 12,700 and 42,100 British Columbians have been identified as probable pathological gamblers who cost the government and, therefore, the taxpayer millions to rehabilitate;
Therefore be it resolved that in the absence of data on the probable socio-economic impact of casinos on Nova Scotia that the casino minister take heed from the independent research done in other provinces which clearly reveal the negative social impact of casinos on the population.
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 the present Liberal Government is flirting with a high-tech radio network that many rural Nova Scotia fire departments cannot afford; and
Whereas legislation was introduced and passed in this House in 1992, making room for the establishment of the most enhanced 911 province-wide emergency telephone number in Canada; and
Whereas every fire brigade in Colchester County, with the exception of the Town of Truro, is now being dispatched from a central system but are being refused permission by the government to use Nova Scotia's 911 system;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister responsible for Nova Scotia's Emergency Measures Organization stop taking two day jaunts to Louisiana to see what additional costs can be imposed upon this province's rural fire departments and begin implementing technology that taxpayers have already funded.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
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:
Whereas the Town of Windsor's Tree Commission was the recent recipient of a Greenstreet Canada Award by the National Community Tree Foundation; and
Whereas Windsor was one of only four towns in Atlantic Canada and one of only 19 in Canada to be recognized as having an ongoing program for urban tree care; and
Whereas the Windsor Tree Commission is now exploring a wide range of initiatives into developing a tree trail system that would provide viewing of Windsor's natural heritage;
Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend coordinator Barry Brown and members of the Windsor Tree Commission for their great work designed to enhance Windsor's urban forest through a disease maintenance and replanting program.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.
It is 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 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 the Minister of Community Services insists upon cutting women and children off family benefits, regardless of needs or household income, if his officials believe there is a spouse in the house; and
Whereas his arbitrary attack upon families is a deliberate political act defying this government's acceptance of the court ruling that this regulation is unconstitutional; and
Whereas other provinces long since amended their rules to base family benefits upon the actual household income and needs, and it is a year since the court decision here, yet this minister now claims that rural attitudes justify his defiance of the law;
Therefore be it resolved that the Community Services Minister should apologize to rural Nova Scotians and residents of small communities for trying to paint them as so heartless that he must cut women and children off benefits regardless of need or law.
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 a recent British Columbia study indicates that there are substantial social, economic and health concerns associated with gambling in British Columbia; and
Whereas this research indicates that gambling problems, particularly in casinos, are most likely to occur among a high risk population of young, unemployed minority men with lower than average education and income; and
Whereas the Nova Scotia Government has predetermined that contrary to the views of most Nova Scotians, two casinos will be built in 1995 without even a shred of research into the social, economic and health impact of that decision for this province;
Therefore be it resolved that the minister promoting casino gambling in Nova Scotia follow the direction of the British Columbia Government and study the social, economic and health impacts of casinos before signing multimillion dollar contracts with the two lucky winners.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas last evening members and supporters of the Atlantic Region Holocaust Remembrance Committee gathered at Province House and proceeded to the Cenotaph for a ceremony to remember Kristallnacht, November 10, 1938; and
Whereas we can help fight the forces of discrimination and hate by remembering the horror of Kristallnacht and the evil that drove people to murder, loot and destroy their neighbours on the basis of religion, racial or similar differences; and
Whereas commemorating and honouring those who died and those who resisted the hate that was unleased on Kristallnacht can inspire others to stand up for the human dignity and human rights of every Nova Scotian;
Therefore be it resolved that this House endorses the exhortation to Remember - Do Not Forget Kristallnacht, which was highlighted in the commemoration led by members of the Atlantic Jewish Council, the Atlantic Provinces Jewish Student Federation and the Canadian Legion.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable 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 Minister of Municipal Affairs has ignored government tendering guidelines and risked a conflict of interest situation with a $225,000 contract; and
Whereas the minister only reversed her decision under pressure from the Opposition; and
Whereas so far the minister has demonstrated no remorse, no understanding of right and wrong and has instilled no confidence that her performance will improve in the future;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Municipal Affairs apologize to Nova Scotians or, preferably, prepare her resignation for the Premier upon his return from Shanghai.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
I believe the Premier has been in places further than Shanghai. I think it was in China, generally. (Interruptions)
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 the Human Resources Minister claimed the untendered $40,000 to $50,000 contract to Berkeley Consulting of Toronto was justified because she understood no Nova Scotian firm was qualified; and
Whereas yesterday, when bids closed for a consultant to analyze the June 1994 bids for privatization of Highway No. 104, only two of the seven bids were from Nova Scotian firms; and
Whereas if it is truly beyond the capacity of this government to straighten out the Health Department, an open tender would have enabled the best qualified firms to bid;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Human Resources Minister to table the written justification which was prepared when the Berkeley contract was awarded without tender, as is specifically required by the Premier's directive tabled in this House on November 8th.
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 Rule 37 of our Rules and Forms of Procedure states that, "Whenever Mr. Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the Rules and Privileges of the Legislature, he shall appraise the House thereof and quote the Rule or authority applicable to the case."; and
Whereas on November 4th and November 8th, Mr. Speaker did not quote a rule or authority that no more than three amendments are permitted at second reading and that no more than one of each permissible type of amendment may be introduced; and
Whereas on October 19, 1993, Mr. Speaker considered a second consecutive reasoned amendment at second reading on its merits, and on the basis of relevance, without suggesting that only one such amendment could be introduced per bill;
Therefore be it resolved that Mr. Speaker should rule on second reading amendments in a manner that is consistent with his own ruling on October 19, 1993, with the rulings by Mr. Speaker on April 24th and April 27, 1992 and with the ruling by Mr. Speaker on April 6, 1979 that, "A member who desires to place on record any special reasons for not agreeing to second reading of a bill may move a reasoned amendment.".
MR. SPEAKER: I will take that resolution under advisement and if the Clerks advise me that it is in order, the motion will be tabled. (Interruptions)
The notice will be tabled. I have already ruled on this matter twice and cited authorities from the British House of Commons to substantiate my view. But the member has every right to place on record any special reasons he may have for not agreeing with my ruling.
Therefore, the notice is tabled.
That then concludes the daily routine. We will now advance to orders of the day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MR. SPEAKER: The time being 8:23 a.m., the Oral Question Period today runs for an hour, it will, therefore, run until 9:23 a.m.
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. It was to be for the Minister of Community Services who was just in his seat a moment ago. (Interruption) Thank you for indulging me and the minister that moment, Mr. Speaker. As indicated, my question is for the Minister of Community Services.
On July 21st, the minister met with the Anti-Poverty Network and the discussion with the Anti-Poverty Network was the question of implementation of a one-tiered social assistance system. The minister, I am advised and have documentation which leads to that conclusion, promised at that meeting that he would undertake broad-based province-wide consultations on the one-tiered social assistance system. The minister, Mr. Speaker, was further contacted by this organization in a letter September 14th requesting information about his proposed consultations. He had made the promise on July 21st and they hadn't heard from him by September 14th. The minister responded on October 5th by suggesting that the group meet with him in late October or early November.
What I would like to know and what taxpayers would like to know from the Minister of Community Services is why it is that this minister did not in his October 5th letter tell the Anti-Poverty Network that his government had, in fact, reversed its position on a one-tiered social assistance program and would not be proceeding with such a program?
HON. JAMES SMITH: There are quite a few observations and quotations but I think the question is why I did not tell a particular group in early October . . .
MR. DONAHOE: You promised them consultations, you did not have consultations.
DR. SMITH: Oh, I have met several times with some of the groups that the honourable member is mentioning, Mr. Speaker. However, as far as consultations in place relative to social reform, we are working on how to best do that. Probably the most successful way that we have determined has been the method that we use with the Young Offenders Act, where many groups came in from around the province and brought their expertise and knowledge and did that. I think the forum for that was prebudgeting hearings held throughout the regions prior to the budget brought in last year.
As far as the specifics, to be fair with the honourable member, I do not believe that the decision was made as to the extent of the one-tiered system at that time. Certainly, the initiatives are to move throughout all of Nova Scotia with the one-tiered system and we have started that with not only a one-tiered system in Sydney but we have started with an enhanced program where extra initiatives are put in for job finding, job development and job search.
So the move toward a one-tiered system is certainly on, Mr. Speaker, throughout this province and you are seeing it getting ready in the Sydney area where amalgamation is taking place.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, the minister suggests that there were a lot of twists and turns to the way in which I put my question. They were matched by the twists and turns of the answer. I am trying to have this minister indicate to the anti-poverty network and to all Nova Scotians, why it is, first of all, that he promised the consultation on a one-tiered social assistance system, indicating that there would be such a system, then not having the consultation with the Anti-Poverty Network over a number of months, as he had promised and then, at no point, indicating to them that in fact the government's position had changed.
As evidenced by Bill No. 114 introduced by his colleague, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the government has no intention of moving to a one-tiered system because the legislation introduced does not provide for such a system. I simply repeat my question to the minister. Does he, at any point, have any intention to going back to the Anti-Poverty Network organization to explain the rationale for the change of the policy position which he promised them as far back as July?
DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not quite clear. I have just explained to the honourable member that we are moving to a one-tiered system. We have clearly spelled out guidelines and timeframes. We are moving, not only to a one-tiered system, but are trying to pick up the pieces left by that honourable member's government and make some sense out of it. What the people who are suffering from poverty in this province need is a management of the debt and a system in place as we are putting in in Sydney.
As far as meeting with groups, my door is open. I have met with many groups. We were unable, however, some groups wanted to have a conference where there would be a great deal of expense in bringing people in for a period of time and we are unable to meet those needs, if that is what the honourable member is referring to. But certainly a system of consultation. I have travelled this province and I continue to do so and my door is open in the minister's office.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I know we are not supposed to and we are not here to debate Bill No. 114 but I just simply cannot believe the astounding response from the minister that he is talking about we are moving toward a one-phase system. He acknowledges, and rightly so, that that is in fact the movement in the super municipality in Cape Breton. There is nothing to indicate in any legislation or any policy statement from this government that they are moving in that direction anywhere else in the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: Question please.
MR. DONAHOE: I repeat my question. Will the Minister of Community Services meet within the next few working days with the Anti-Poverty Network and explain why he refused to make good on his commitment to consult with him over the summer, and why it is that the provincial government has changed its public policy attitude and will not be moving to a single-tiered social assistance program, elsewhere than in industrial Cape Breton?
DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I have not refused to meet with groups. I continued to meet with many groups over the summer, those with various initiatives and anti-poverty groups and all groups. As I explained in my other two answers, this government is moving toward a one-tiered system. It is not only a one-tiered system, it is an enhanced program.
We are putting in many more initiatives. We are using parts of the Compass Program and other initiatives and those will be part of the ongoing discussions. That is why the urgency to move in a direction of amalgamation. We will offer those types of arrangements for other areas throughout the province and we are moving toward a one-tiered, plus an enhanced social service system in this province. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question, through you, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. My question to the minister is quite simple. Did the minister make the Premier aware, before he headed off with the Team Canada delegation, that her deputy minister was involved in discussions with Mr. Grant Morash, this of course all before she had announced she was awarding that contract? Did she advise the Premier that her deputy minister had been involved in discussions with Mr. Morash about that contract?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think, as I answered the question yesterday, the Premier was aware. As I mentioned, through his chief of staff, I had made him aware that the deputy's wife did work for the firm that Mr. Morash worked with.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, good answer, wrong question, Mr. Speaker, because she has not answered my question. My second question, I will place in a different way. Did the minister give the Premier assurance, that in no way her deputy minister would be involved in the discussions around the granting of this contract to Mr. Morash and the company in which the deputy minister's wife works? Did the minister give the Premier that assurance?
MS. JOLLY: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think it is very clear. As I said, the chief of staff made the Premier aware of the fact that the spouse of my deputy minister works for that very company. So, as I say, the chief of staff had spoken to the Premier, had made him aware of that.
MR. HOLM: The chief of staff, Mr. Speaker, the minister is now saying is carrying out what should be the minister's responsibilities. I asked the minister quite clearly, and see if she can understand the question and maybe answer it directly, did the minister give the Premier an assurance that her deputy minister would not be directly involved in any decisions around the awarding of this contract?
MS. JOLLY: Well, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows, the same as the Premier knows, the same as I know, that it is not possible nor is it appropriate for an individual to be involved directly in decision-making on selecting a person where there could be a perceived conflict of interest.
The Premier, who has previously been a mayor, has very clearly, on a number of occasions, would know that the deputy would not have been involved in the decision-making of the individual that was selected in this case, because the deputy minister, as I said very clearly - both Mr. Morash and the deputy advised me of the situation - the possible conflict and the fact that the deputy's spouse works for the same firm.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday, in this place, questions were put to the Minister of Health about what was going on with the new Queen Elizabeth II Health Services Centre. The minister unveiled a plaque in August and issued a press release announcing an interim hospital board, and named the various people and so on. The fact of the matter is that following Question Period yesterday, when the minister was attempting to leave the impression here that suggestions that the board had not met and so on, were inaccurate, I made some contacts and was able to make contact with one of the appointees.
I have learned from that appointee that that board has not met. The fact is that that board has, for three months, since the membership thereof was appointed, has been attempting to get together with this Minister of Health to seek a meeting because they need direction or seek direction. They seek direction as to the relationship of this board with the regional health board, the relationship of this board with the minister and the department.
I ask this minister whether or not he will commit today to leave this Chamber and make the appropriate contacts, to ensure that a meeting is immediately arranged between himself and the members of that board which he appointed three months ago, so they can get on with the vitally important work.
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, if I might correct an impression that I may have left with the honourable member opposite, I certainly did not say the board did meet. I said that the board would be, in fact, called together by the chairman. That is his right; he, indeed, is going on to organize things. If the honourable member opposite has evidence that I refused to meet or that I wasn't available, I would like to have it because I am absolutely available to this board or other boards to meet with the chairmen or the boards themselves.
This is a board independent of the Ministry of Health, in terms of me having to lord over it and dictate what it does. Certainly the chairman is an honourable and good person, very diligent, and will, indeed, carry out his duties as well as the board.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, my evidence is contact with one of the persons appointed by this minister in the release announced some three months ago. I am telling this House that that person named as one of the appointees has told me that this minister, Mr. Speaker, has failed or refused to respond to representations from the chairman of the board to meet because this board wants to know its role and its function and its mandate, its relationship to the regional health board and its relationship to the Ministry of Health.
Now I am asking this minister if, on the strength of me, as a colleague of his, standing on the floor of this place, saying what I am saying, will he give the commitment in response to those remarks, that he, the minister, in order to avoid any difficulty, with the responsibility to ensure that this board gets up and runs and functions properly, that he will make contact with the chair of that board today and arrange an immediate meeting with that full board? Will he do that?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, if there is any question at all raised by the honourable member opposite, or raised by anyone, that I was unavailable to meet with the board chairman, I have met with the regional board chairman several times and I have discussed these things. If there has been any question whatsoever, I will gladly give an undertaking, in this place and elsewhere, to clear up this misunderstanding which apparently, according to the honourable member opposite, some anonymous source gives him an indication of. I will do that, frankly and quickly.
MR. DONAHOE: I wonder if the minister will indicate that it is a fact that the minister has not yet provided any financial details as to what the financial implications are of the establishment of the Queen Elizabeth II board and, if that is so, what that merger is going to cost in all senses, in terms of the implications for the merging of the staff with the different collective agreements and the like, with that super institution. Will the minister indicate when he would be in a position and when he will commit to provide publicly financial details of the implications of the QE II merger?
DR. STEWART: Yes, Mr. Speaker, certainly the implications of the merger, the fiscal implications and labour implications, that is all within the purview of the board to discuss and determine. I will report to this place and publicly, as soon as the board gives me such advice.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. In the past couple of Question Periods I have asked the minister if she would make available to the House the names of those people she contacted before she awarded the contract to Deloitte & Touche. The minister said, on one occasion it was four, on another occasion it was three, and of late date it is now two. I wonder if she has made those two, three or four phone calls and received the clearance to go ahead and advise the House of their names and addresses and the dates that they were contacted?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify, as I did yesterday for the honourable member when he asked the question yesterday, that there were four individuals who were tried to be contacted, three of whom were contacted in the initial week and the fourth person returned a call when a message had been left for that individual. I have not gotten confirmation from those individuals at this point in time to release their names.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we will be proceeding with an action under the Freedom of Information Act today.
There seems to be some discrepancy between what the minister says with regard to the involvement of her deputy minister in her particular dealings with Deloitte & Touche. I understand that on one occasion the minister has said that there was no involvement of her deputy minister and then on another occasion, that indeed, her deputy minister was involved. Mr. Speaker, if her deputy minister was not involved, who else was there that gave the minister advice to hire Mr. Grant Morash?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I want to state this again, I have stated it I am not sure how many times, I want to clarify for this member very clearly, the deputy minister's involvement was with a technical briefing to Mr. Morash in an effort to ensure that Mr. Morash knew what the job of the coordinator for the amalgamated region of the metropolitan area would involve; the time commitment, the people that would be involved, the reports that had been done, the direction that had been taken by the previous government, the reports that we had reviewed as the current government, the discussion that had been ongoing, a lot of very important information for a person to consider whether they wanted to take on the job at the amount of money that was available for that individual to do that job.
Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that the deputy minister was not involved in the decision of who would be offered the opportunity to be coordinator. He was involved in the technical briefing of Mr. Morsah, I have made that very clear, but the decision of that individual was made by myself.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I take it from what the minister is saying is that she did have an interview with Mr. Morash and she herself made the decision to hire Mr. Morash. What expertise does the minister have to hire somebody to take on that kind of a task without any input at all from the rest of her staff?
MS. JOLLY: I can tell this honourable member that I have almost lived, breathed and eaten municipal reform, service exchange, on how we are going to change the municipalities in the Province of Nova Scotia. I have visited 66 municipalities across the province which had never been done before. I have had an opportunity to meet with any number of individuals. I was instrumental in having the Cape Breton Regional Municipality come together. I appointed Charlie Campbell as the coordinator of that amalgamation. I think, Mr. Speaker, I have been very involved with this process and have come to understand a great deal the individuals that we are dealing with, the difficulty of putting together the metropolitan area.
I have met on numerous occasions with the four mayors, although there has been a change in the mayor just recently in the City of Halifax, I have had any number of discussions and review of what needs to be done in the Department of Municipal Affairs, so I think that gives me an opportunity to have an understanding of the individual that we should be seeking to be the coordinator for this very massive job, a tough job that needs to be done in the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In response to a question last week on ambulance service, the minister said in the House there has been the development of standards for ambulances which will be put in place in those communities which are affected by closures or downgrading of hospitals. He said that last week. Would the minister table these standards that he talked about last week in the House?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I think in the context of that I was referring to the training standards and the curriculum developed and in place in the training school that has been established at the Victoria General. That is one of the aspects, there are other aspects including access to the service and so on. I would be happy to table that curriculum and table an explanation, yes.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, in other words, I understand that the standards that he was talking about are for the training centre. Is the minister saying that the standards have not changed in any area of the province since last spring? Is he telling me that the standards of the ambulance service in Kings County, for example, where we have had one hospital closed or Annapolis where we have had downgrading, is the minister saying that the standards have not changed in the operation of those ambulances since last spring?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the honourable gentleman opposite could clarify the term standards. Does he mean, for example, standards of vehicular design, standards of vehicular equipment, standards of training, standards of clinical protocols? I am not sure. Let me say, perhaps this will satisfy the honourable gentleman and that is that the standards of clinical care and training are the elements to which I was referring. For example, the ability to use defibrillators has been improved to date in these communities to which he refers and so standards have changed, yes. The actual training standards have not yet changed. Those are ongoing as we speak at the training centre.
MR. MOODY: I would ask the minister, when will these standard training guidelines apply to the ambulance attendants across this province? In other words, the training standards have now been done, they are in place, at what point will the ambulance attendants be required to meet the requirements of the new training guidelines?
DR. STEWART: As we had stated in discussion of Bill No. 96, we anticipate a phase-in of approximately 18 to 24 months.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister of Health as well. Here in the House, yesterday, when I asserted that the Queen Elizabeth II interim board had not held a single meeting and was refusing to do so until they received the detailed terms of reference and sufficient direction from the minister about lines of responsibility and authority, the minister said this was simply not true and very clearly indicated that there was not a problem in this regard.
I would like to ask the minister today, will he advise the House why the QE II board has not yet met and when it will do so as far as he understands?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Mr. Speaker, that question has to be addressed to the chairman of that board. If I might clarify what the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party has stated, yesterday I objected to her statement that they refused to meet on the basis that I did not give them a mandate. That was the objection I had to her statement, not the fact that the board had not met. I was quite aware the board had not had a formal meeting yet. But what I objected to was not her statement that they had not met, but rather that she asserted that these people, these very honourable people, were refusing to meet and conveyed that to me. That is simply not true.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I asserted that the board had not received sufficient direction in regard to the terms of reference and so on. In this House on October 27th, the minister said that he would table here in the House, in response to my questions, a copy of the detailed terms of reference. I will ask him again today, two weeks later, will he now do what he said he would do and that is table the detailed terms of reference for the QE II board operation?
DR. STEWART: Those detailed terms of reference, Mr. Speaker, to which the honourable member refers, can be placed on the table and she can examine them. I will have that done. The staff is preparing that, I will give an undertaking to do so today or tomorrow.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, either they exist or they do not exist. The minister now says the staff are preparing it which is exactly the problem the QE II board is having.
My final question to the minister is, does he not think it is a problem that at least the Camp Hill board, for example, disbanded when he came in without authority and created the QE II board and now there is no board meeting, no board responsible for what is happening under the aegis of the QE II board because it does not exist, it is not meeting and nobody is in a position of responsibility.
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, this is simply untrue. There is a legally constituted board that has been given a mandate through Cabinet and through directions from the Executive Council and that is in accordance with what was required. That board will, indeed, take under control, the four facilities that we have in this city and the honourable member opposite knows full well that the board is constituted and I would again ask her to tell me where the information that they have refused to meet, where she obtained that information. I would very much like to have it.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health and I will tell him where the information comes from to the effect that the board is not meeting and why. It comes from members of the board appointed by this minister three months ago. I would ask the Minister of Health (Interruptions) I am sure that this minister is well aware of the names . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. DONAHOE: I would like (Interruption) It is a fact, Mr. Speaker, I contend, through you to the Minister of Health, that the QE II board has not met.
It is a fact I contend, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Health, that I am told by members of the board appointed by this Minister of Health that the reason they have not met is because they seek detailed terms of reference from this Minister of Health, that they have sought such detailed terms of reference and they have not yet been given them. This minister, this morning, moments ago, said that the terms of reference are being worked on and will (Interruption)
Well, all right, my question then, finally, is, are there completed, final terms of reference for this board and if so, will he table them here this morning?
HON. RONALD STEWART: The recommendations and the mandate given the board was presented to the Executive Council, is in the documents and can be tabled, yes. In terms of the meeting or the non meeting of the board, and I never, again, asserted that the board had met. The board has not yet met, to my knowledge. The chairman of the board is the person who calls the meeting of this board and I have every confidence in not only the chairman of the board but that whole group that they will do a very good job and will come together and will decide what needs to be decided in respect to those four institutions. That, very simply, is the position that I hold. I will not sit down and direct a board as to what they must do. This is not the position of the Minister of Health. It is not the position of any Ministry of Health because that is the way it used to be done, dictatorially, and I am depending on citizens who are volunteers in this regard to carry out the mandate which is in the Order in Council.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, by way of supplementary, I make the point, through you, to this minister, that this board is not asking to be told by this minister what to do. They are asking to have laid out for them, as they were promised, the terms of reference, the parameters, the guidelines within which they will then go do their work and those have not yet been made available to them. I ask this minister again, will he leave his place here, right now - and if he makes this commitment, I will make the commitment to sit down and say nothing more to him about this until I see them - and go to the phone and have one of his functionaries deliver over, for tabling here, the terms of reference? (Interruptions) What do you mean? The minister says it is demeaning. It is demeaning for the people who were appointed to this board to sit there for three months, ask for meetings with this Minister of Health for the terms of reference and be shunned by this minister. I ask the Minister of Health today, will he table the terms of reference here, now, this morning?
MR. SPEAKER: Now let's just all of us simmer down, please.
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I would advise the member opposite that I do not have functionaries working in my staff. (Applause) That is demeaning and it should not be a parliamentary word, functionaries. I have diligent and honourable people working in that department and his honourable colleague to his right should know that and does know that. (Applause)
I will certainly give to this honourable member opposite every undertaking to answer his questions and to answer, indeed, the mandate and to table; the mandate of the board is simply stated that they will take over and operate the four institutions and they will, indeed, look at the amalgamation and the mandate is in the Order in Council that was given some months ago. I will give an undertaking to table that and you can inspect it.
In respect to the meetings with the transitional board chair and the regional board chair, I have done that. The chair of the board has the OIC, has discussed in detail the mandate of that board. We have discussed in detail with the Central Regional Health Board that transitional board, as well, and its function. We have met several times. I assure the honourable member opposite, and I will assure the honourable member in addition that some very honourable staff of mine will present, again, what the honourable member asks.
MR. DONAHOE: I wonder if the Minister of Health would describe for Nova Scotians the relationship between this QE II board and the regional health board? Could he explain so that they, that board and all Nova Scotians, will understand the way in which this QE II board is to function relative to the regional health board? Who reports to whom, who has what authorities over whom and who has ultimate say on the expenditure of money?
DR. STEWART: The regional health board is responsible for facilities within its purview, within its region. This particular transitional board will be responsible to the Central Regional Health Board. Keep in mind that the transitional board will be making decisions in terms of the operation of those four facilities and the regional health board is in a transition phase, getting up to speed and beginning to make decisions after January 1st. Bill No. 95 does not permit the regional health board, before January 1st, to designate or control the hospitals in its region.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is for the Minister of Health. Is it true, I would ask the minister, that the minister is now looking for a consultant to deal with the emergency health service plan for this province? Is that true?
HON. RONALD STEWART: As the honourable gentleman probably knows, we have advertised and we have, in fact, looked for a position within our department to manage the initial startup of emergency health services. We have no one within the department who is at a level that could manage the issues of emergency health and ambulance services and we intend, indeed, to correct that gap. As a result, we are looking actively and, very shortly, I believe we will have a person to second or to bring over in order to help us implement the EHS.
MR. MOODY: I am not sure if I heard him say a secondment and I hope he is using that word in the right context this time. I would ask the minister if he would table the terms of reference for this individual who is going to deal with the emergency health service plan for the province?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I can do that. I probably, looking at the negotiations we are having at the moment, can table the terms of reference and the structure in which that person would fit.
MR. MOODY: I thank the minister for that. I wonder if this person will be a secondment? If it is a secondment, for how many years is it? If it is not a secondment, is it going to be a contract? Would the minister be more specific about the secondment that he has indicated that this person he is getting will be a secondment. Could he be more specific about it?
DR. STEWART: Again, I am very careful, Mr. Speaker, in discussing technical details because the honourable gentleman opposite knows my knowledge of the bureaucratic necessities to be less than adequate in comparison to his own, so I have to be very careful. That arrangement has not yet been finalized but we would anticipate identifying someone within our current system who has expertise in out-patient and emergency services that we would like to bring on. That would be a secondment, as I understand it, and officially done and so on. It could be for a one year period, or longer, if possible.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new question, the honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: For the Minister of Health - have the emergency health service agency members been appointed yet? I know the minister in the new legislation talked about the emergency health service agency - has that group been appointed yet?
HON. RONALD STEWART: No, Mr. Speaker, we needed some very extensive interior work to be done to the department, to form a base for the establishment of the emergency health services agency and the advisory board to which the honourable gentleman refers.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I know how important it was for him to pass that legislation last spring and he has promised to get on with his plan. I would ask the minister, when does he expect to have this agency in place, which will, in effect, be the body to offer licenses to ambulance operators in service in this province? When will that agency be up and running?
DR. STEWART: Well, Mr. Speaker, knowing the accuracy of my predictions in the past, I would be very hesitant to give an exact date but I would certainly given an undertaking to the honourable member opposite to make it as soon as possible. This person whom we are currently anticipating coming on board will be charged with that immediately, the setting up of the emergency health services agency. I hope to have that individual on board within the department in the next several weeks.
MR. MOODY: I thank the minister for that. I would ask him, in a final supplementary, if that person might be Dr. Mike Murphy and would he also table the terms of reference for this Crown agency?
DR. STEWART: I can say categorically it is not Dr. Mike Murphy. I will undertake to table the request that the honourable gentleman gives this morning.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct some questions to the Minister of Labour with respect to work place safety and enforcement. The minister is no doubt familiar with the unfortunate incident on November 1st, the accident that took the life of George Dewitt, as the result of a cave-in of an excavation site. According to the provincial Department of Labour regulations, the excavation walls in this type of an incident must be supported by adequate shoring and bracing at all times, in order to prevent their collapse.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this is one in an unfortunate series of incidents. I guess I would like to ask the minister what he is doing to ensure that this type of unfortunate accident does not occur again in the future?
HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is 100 per cent right; even under the current Act and the current regulations, that is Part XI, Sections 88 through to 100, for any excavation of the sort that we are talking about here, once one is down a certain depth, there has to be a slope to the sides of an excavation for the trench or there has to be a cage inserted. In spite of the fact that the current Act already deals with the problem, the Advisory Council on the Revision of Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and Policy is looking at tightening up things somewhat and, in particular, I would hope the advisory council will be looking at increasing the fines which would apply to any company which violates those regulations.
MR. CHISHOLM: The problem with that kind of answer is that it is after the fact. You are talking about dealing with the situation, the results of an accident. What I am asking this minister to assure all Nova Scotians is that he will put proper steps in place today, or sooner if he can, to ensure that this kind of unfortunate incident doesn't happen again in the future. That is what I want to ask this minister to assure us. What is he going to do with respect to enforcement to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening, not to deal with them after the fact?
MR. ABBASS: Well, the member opposite is assuming that enforcement would have helped Mr. Dewitt. In this case, arguably not. To inspect after the fact would not have helped Mr. Dewitt. What we are saying here though is deterrence does have value. To enforce the regulations and to impose fines does have at least a general deterrent value and in the case of certain companies would have a specific deterrent value. So there is value in deterrence. As I say, I am encouraging, even through Hansard in this case, the advisory council to consider increasing fines which would apply to anyone violating the regulations that are already in place and which might be modified as a result of the work that is ongoing.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I do think that it would be helpful to have proper regulations and to have sufficient levels of fines and so on to act as a deterrent, but what you need is you need to have the enforcement. If you don't have the enforcement, then those regulations mean absolutely nothing.
My final supplementary question again to this minister, what is he going to do other than putting language on the books, what is he going to do tangibly in terms of enforcement to make sure that these kinds of fatalities and these kinds of serious accidents don't happen again in the future in the Province of Nova Scotia?
MR. ABBASS: The topic of trenching and excavation accidents and safety and inspection or enforcement is topical, no question about it. We have 16 violations that are currently before the courts, and hopefully, those will lead to convictions.
The Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association is acting as a bit of an extension to the Department of Labour in helping to improve the performance of companies on excavation sites. Right now, the department and the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association are working together to come up with a module which would become part of the curriculum of the Construction Safety Association.
So as I say, although the Construction Safety Association is not funded by the Department of Labour, not paid for even arguably by taxpayer dollars but rather through Workers' Compensation Board employer levies, they are acting as an extension to the department in helping to, not so much enforce or impose fines, but to train the people who are on these sites so that they know what they are doing. (Interruption)
I am telling you that the department has already done it, the department has already been cooperating for the last nine months to a year with the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association in improving the performance of all companies throughout Nova Scotia on excavation and trenching sites. So, all I can hope, and I am sure all of the House hopes this, is that unfortunate incidents as did occur in Mr. Dewitt's case, do not continue to happen and that our record in this case improves.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The minister has advised the House that she phoned two, three or four persons, take your pick, or companies, who provided (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, if I could have the floor.
MR. SPEAKER: You have the floor. Please place your question.
MR. RUSSELL: My question to the minister is simply this, who provided the minister with the list of names to phone?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: The list of names came from a number of sources. I talked with some of my colleagues, I had some names that I myself had known about because I was looking, I knew that this was going to be coming up so it came from a number of different sources.
MR. RUSSELL: I wonder if the minister would confirm that the name of Deloitte & Touche came from the Premier?
MS. JOLLY: We did not have Deloitte & Touche, we had individuals who we were looking at. I wish that the honourable members opposite would listen when I am answering their questions. We were dealing with individuals. And in actual fact my honourable colleague sitting next to me the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency had Mr. Grant Morash do the review of his department and said he had done an excellent job.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would the minister confirm that the name of Grant Morash came from the Premier?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, the name of Grant Morash came up from any number of sources and as I said one of them came from the honourable Minister of the Economic Renewal Agency.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Health, the basis of representation of people is geography and population. This is a fundamental principle which is exampled in the composition of this Legislature. In other words each of us here represents a piece of geography which contains a number of people. The recent adjustments by the Electoral Boundaries Commission was an attempt to keep this process of representation fair and equitable for all. My question to the Minister of Health, would the minister tell Pictonians how many people from their county applied for positions on the Northern Health Board?
HON. RONALD STEWART: If I might take this opportunity to correct the impression of the honourable gentleman opposite, the regional health board does not function as a Legislature. It does not function as representation by population and the Blueprint Committee made that very clear. I would say in response to his question that I can provide him with the numbers, I don't have them with me but I am sure the honourable member realizes that he has made the point as well as the honourable gentleman opposite both in our own Party and in the Progressive Conservative Party in terms of the lack of representation on the board according to their perception on the regional health board from Pictou. I have given an undertaking, in fact I have met with the regional health board chairman and we intend to meet with the honourable members opposite to make sure that is corrected and we would pursue that. I again want to emphasize that we must think more broadly in terms of our health care system and particular parochial interests and I will not give way to the temptation of pleasing everyone at all times in every way I can. We simply have to get on with health care reform in this province.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I spent some time yesterday looking at the Blueprint Committee and I certainly do not come to the conclusion that the minister has come to that somehow that the Blueprint Committee precludes proper representation on the regional health board. Pictonians are angered and concerned about their lack of representation. They are angered and concerned about the reluctance of the minister to correct an injustice. The Northern Health Board has inadequate representation of Pictonians on this board. We have 37 per cent of the population and as of today 2 of 15 members on that board. Would the minister confirm that Pictonians have today only 2 of 15 members on the Northern Health Board?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, again the numbers on the health board, I believe it is two, there was one resignation. We intend to increase that representation, how many times do I have to stand and say so. It is being worked on at the moment with the help of the honourable gentleman opposite and particularly the very early representation by the honourable member for Pictou East. I can simply repeat what I have said, any inequities perceived by that honourable gentleman and represented earlier on by the other members of that area we will correct. I have been in contact with the board chairman, I have done this but again I say that we must not allow parochial interests to drive representation or any other aspects of the board's work. So I would, again, reassure the honourable gentleman opposite and that is being corrected and it can be done, but it cannot be done overnight. It has to be done in the proper way, appointments being made as they have been in the past.
DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I assure the minister we are not talking about parochial interest, we are talking about proper representation.
My question to the minister, is he prepared to replace the member who has resigned and to appoint four more new members to the regional health board, representing Pictou County, to give them equal representation by population to the other counties which are represented on that board?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, I hesitate to be repetitious, but I simply have to say, again, that we will correct inequities as best we can, in view of the inequities that appear to be perceived by the honourable gentleman opposite. We will do so on the basis that we need to have input from all aspects of the region. We will continue, again, to correct this and I will give an undertaking, as I have in the past, to indeed increase the representation. In agreement with that board, we will increase the representation from Pictou County.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Minister of Municipal Affairs said that the name of Mr. Grant Morash came to her attention from several persons. Would one of those persons be the Premier?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: No.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister said a few moments ago that the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency had used that same firm, same gentleman, for a study in his department.
Was she aware when the Minister of the Economic Renewal Agency spoke to her, that he had tendered his contract?
MS. JOLLY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I was aware that all the contracts for the review of departments, that we had done in a number of departments, that all of those contracts had gone out. Because there were a number of firms within the Province of Nova Scotia who would be more than capable of reviewing departments, looking at what we were requesting of those individuals. So, yes, I was aware that all of those reviews of the departments were done by a contract basis and that there were a large number of firms in the Province of Nova Scotia that would be available to do that work.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, for Heaven's sake, Mr. Speaker, if she was aware that there were several firms who were capable of doing it, why did she not go to tender? The other day she was saying that Mr. Morash was unique. Why did she not go to tender?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member should refer back to his question. His question was if I had known that the audit of the Minister of the Economic Renewal Agency had gone to tender. That was the question he had asked me and that is the question I answered. That in actual fact I knew that all the audits for all of the departments that have been done have gone to a tender. That is what the honourable member asked and that was the question that I answered.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Supply and Services. We have heard some concerns raised from different people across the province about the level of safety on the job with many of the infrastructure related jobs. As you know, there are absolutely tens of millions of dollars coming into this province as a result of those infrastructure projects, thank goodness, by the way.
MR. SPEAKER: You are referring here to the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Works Program.
MR. CHISHOLM: That is the one, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: I think it comes under, Municipal Affairs, but we will see.
MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you for that clarification, but the point of my question is with respect to the safety on the job with respect to those deals. I refer here to a notice put out by the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association - and I will table this, Mr. Speaker - it talks about improving job safety standards at government construction sites and the quotas from Supply and Services Minister Wayne Adams. It talks about how, "Effective January 1, 1996, all construction firms must have, or be in the process of obtaining, a Certificate of Recognition issued jointly . . .," et cetera.
Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister, in light of the fatality that happened recently, in light of the continued accidents on job sites, in light of the concern that many people are expressing about safety on the work site, would it not be more appropriate to commence this safety program on January 1, 1995, instead of January 1, 1996?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, the honourable minister can certainly reply. I don't know if it comes under his jurisdiction or not.
HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I take delight in answering the question because I take some pride in the department having taken the lead with the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, along with the Construction Safety Association, to coordinate and put together a program of safety registration for labour workers in the province.
The time and the date of January 1, 1996, was arrived at by the three parties involved because there is some time needed for training current workers and current work situations. That is an agreed upon date on which we would require members of the . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: It's a consensus.
MR. ADAMS: That's right, it is a consensus across the region of workers, to be ready when they bid on government contracts, to have certification for safety standards.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, to that same minister. Representatives of the association back in 1992 were quoted as saying, it is coming - with respect to agreement on safety consciousness and safety program - by 1994 no one will be allowed onto a construction site without a safety course certificate. That is why I am concerned that we are continuing to put off the requirement that this type of safety training and certification be held.
I want to ask the minister, again, will he, regardless of consensus, push on behalf of the government to ensure that this requirement be moved forward to January 1, 1995, instead of putting it off to 1996?
MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, again, I will repeat, there is no consensus to put it at another date. It is not a matter of delay; it is a time of dating it when it is proper, when most parties will be ready and that is January 1, 1996. As regards to any rhetoric to 1992, perhaps the former Minister of Supply and Services or Labour could better answer that question.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 120.
Bill No. 120 - Gaming Control Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance on second reading.
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to open debate on this legislation. This bill is fairly complex. The regulations that will support this legislation will be exhaustive; however, the principles upon which the bill is built are quite simple: it is based in part on the principle that Nova Scotians have a right to jobs and economic opportunities. It says that we are confident that we, like modern, progressive people all over the world, can enjoy the economic benefits of a properly controlled gaming industry. We can do it in a well-regulated, highly controlled environment which minimizes or eliminates potential social disruption.
The bill establishes a framework to manage, control and regulate casinos, yes, but also lotteries, raffles, video gaming devices, bingos and other so-called games of chance. Mr. Speaker, this legislation is the product of more than five months of intensive work and study by the Casino Project Committee. I would like to publicly thank them and their staff for their fine efforts.
I am assured that the committee sought and received advice from many other jurisdictions in Canada where casino gaming is permitted. Much of this legislation that we will be debating in second reading is based on the Ontario model. We improved on that model, we believe, often at the suggestion of authorities in the Province of Ontario. In Ontario, and in five other provinces, casino gaming has meant new economic opportunities and new jobs. None of these jurisdictions - Mr. Speaker, let me repeat that - none of these jurisdictions report the kind of result in social ills some of our vocal opponents would suggest.
Mr. Speaker, the Gaming Control bill allows Nova Scotia to develop a modern new industry, an industry that offers jobs to Nova Scotians, an industry that will bring new economic activity. It is an industry that will provide revenue to help support social and economic programs which enhance the quality of life of every Nova Scotian.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I cannot hear the minister; I am very anxious to hear the minister's remarks.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens is very anxious to hear the remarks. Would other honourable members please allow him to hear these remarks.
The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, this legislation allows us to develop this new industry with confidence that we can control its effects; ensure that it is conducted honestly and with integrity; demand accountability; and protect the public interest.
Mr. Speaker, I want to touch briefly on some of the more significant effects of this bill. The Nova Scotia Lottery Commission will be dissolved and its responsibilities assumed by two new agencies. This new structure will be a marked improvement over the current system in which the Nova Scotia Lottery Commission is both a gaming manager and a regulator. This is a point that has been raised in debate both currently and in past years by Opposition members and members of the public. We have responded to that.
The new Act provides for a division of power in responsibilities. The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation will conduct and manage casinos and provincial lotteries; it will handle the business end. It takes care of the business end of gaming for the province in these areas. The Nova Scotia Gaming Commission will control, regulate and investigate gaming activity and enforce the bill; it will be the regulator. This division is absolute; no one can serve both agencies. The corporation will report to the Minister of Finance; the commission will report to a different minister.
Both the commission and the corporation have legal responsibilities to ensure the gaming industry and the laws which govern it are constantly evolving to serve the public interest. The bill ensures that the operation of casinos and the social and economic effects of that operation are constantly monitored in an ongoing fashion.
The two agencies will publicly recommend amendments to the law and regulations as necessary. The commission will continuously study public reaction to gaming, its social implications and impacts, and make recommendations for appropriate legislative and regulatory remedies to correct problems if they arise, Mr. Speaker.
Just on that point, let me digress for a moment. We could have asked the commission, the regulatory body, to do that as a matter of policy, to continue to study and monitor the social impact of this new regulatory regime and the new casino gaming. We could have done that just as a matter of policy. We chose instead, Mr. Speaker, to put it in as a provision of the bill. They have the legislated authority, direction and responsibility to do just that on an ongoing basis, as is in the case of some of the other provinces: Ontario, Saskatchewan and some others.
That is how important we feel is the role of the commission in this ongoing monitoring process and I can undertake to the House right now, that this government will put in place adequate budgetary provisions to ensure that the commission will have the resources to carry out its legislated mandated role.
Mr. Speaker, we have been criticized by some for not commissioning a general study on the impacts of gambling, and that is the question here, the impacts of gambling versus as yet undefined economic benefits of casino licensing. When I say undefined benefits, the reason I say undefined is that there were seven proponents, there are now three. All of them submit proposals shaped differently, all of them no doubt claim different measures of economic benefits and the claims of these economic benefits are now undergoing and have undergone for months a very intense analysis by economists, by indeed professional RCMP personnel, expert in gaming, expert in security. All of these things are now undergoing that scrutiny and are being tested and, in fact, will continue to be tested.
We have rejected the academic approach as one of limited value. We have chosen instead to rely to this point on the many studies now in existence - and there are many, most of them in the United States, but many of them in Canada - but, most heavily, we have relied on the actual experience of the other provinces who have casinos operating, some of them for a very long period of time. Surely, that is the best evidence, the actual operation.
Yet, the only way to accurately measure the social effects of a casino, a specific casino operation, is to gauge them accurately once a casino is in operation. We will do that as I have explained and that is a legislated, mandated commitment and we will mitigate and correct any problems as they may occur.
In addition, we have held discussions with other jurisdictions and we have been told by these jurisdictions repeatedly that the increase in social problems as a result of limited, controlled casino gaming is minimal or non-existent, indeed. We have had that advice from police authorities, we have had it from government officials involved in the industry and I would suggest that type of contact is available to both of the Opposition Parties if they wish to follow it up. Particularly, for example, with the NDP, there are three NDP provinces, three provinces governed by an NDP Government which have experience in gaming. I would ask and I would invite the NDP caucus or any of the Opposition members to contact them, talk to them, go and see them. They certainly were freely available to us and I am sure they will be available to them. That is the best evidence, Mr. Speaker.
Let's remember what we are talking about in this debate, let's use a little common sense. We are talking about licensing two specific casino operations 270 miles apart in this province. We are not talking about introducing gaming in Nova Scotia, we are not talking about changing the face of the province, we are talking about licensing two specific operations.
In fact, the legislation that we are introducing in the House today for second reading, will ensure a framework for a fair, honest, manageable, controlled gaming industry. Not just the little piece of it that is going to be the casinos, but the big piece that is involved in VLTs, bingo, all of these legalized gambling opportunities which now exist in Nova Scotia, they will come under this new regime as well.
Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians must have confidence that their gaming industry is fair and honest. Several sections of this bill ensure that the industry is accountable to Nova Scotians. The books of the Gaming Corporation, all companies and individuals that provide goods and services to the gaming industry, casino managers and operators will be regularly audited.
That is not happening now and it has not happened, for example, in areas such as bingo, suppliers to the bingo industry, which is over $100 million annual industry here in Nova Scotia. That is one of the improvements, by way of example, that this bill brings to existing, legalized gambling in Nova Scotia.
All directors and employees of the corporation, as well as members and employees of the commission, will be subject to security checks and background investigation. This will ensure, Mr. Speaker, that they have no potential for conflict and that they possess the character required to administer and regulate the gaming industry. Every operator, supplier and employee of casinos and other gaming operations must be registered. Registration will be denied if the commission believes the applicant will not be financially responsible or, and this is very important, if there is reason to believe the applicant will not act with integrity, honesty and in the public interest, or if the applicant is or may be in contravention of any part of the Act, or if the applicant fails to fully disclose information to the commission. Registration may be revoked for any of these same reasons.
I would point out, Mr. Speaker, again by way of a slight digression, the most serious penalties in this bill are reserved for any individual or corporation which supplies false information because that information is the basis of our ability to police those people who are involved in the industry generally. So the very strictest penalties, we are talking corporately a $500,000 fine maximum, a year in jail for the directors, if, in fact, this type of information is provided.
A complete registry, Mr. Speaker, including the names and addresses of operators, suppliers and employees, as well as what licenses or registration certificates they hold, will be publicly available. Nova Scotians will know who is involved in this industry and what their legal involvement is. All game operators, suppliers and employees will be subject to strict and regular scrutiny. Failure to cooperate with or pass that scrutiny will mean exclusion from the industry.
Mr. Speaker, the commission and its officers have broad powers to exclude companies and individuals from the gaming industry, as I have said. But the commission also has broad powers of investigation to support that authority. It can inquire into the character, financial history and competence of any operator, supplier or employee. The commission can freeze bank accounts, revoke licenses, impose penalties ranging from suspensions from the industry to substantial administrative fines. The commission can also bar individuals from gaming facilities.
I want to stop again for a moment and talk about that provision. There is potentially a problem with gambling generally of the problem gambler. I have to tell you that the problem gambler is now a potential problem in Nova Scotia with respect to bingo, with respect to VLTs and extremely difficult to identify in those circumstances of legalized gambling now in Nova Scotia. There are existing protocols and processes for identifying problem gamblers in the casino environment. They are well in place. They have been operated across the country and it is well established that in that environment, it is the easiest environment in which to identify the problem gambler. In fact, once that problem gambler is identified, they will not be permitted to gamble in the casino.
These are pretty serious powers that we give to a commission, very unusual. I don't think there is another commission, certainly in this province, that has these authorities. They go beyond the normal powers that government would bestow on a regulatory agency. Mr. Speaker, we believe tight restrictions are necessary to ensure that Nova Scotians should have confidence that their gaming industry is honest, conducted with integrity and in the public interest. The penalties for contravention of the Act are substantial. Most offences carry fines of up to $25,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations. In addition, individuals and corporate officers who offend the Act are subject to jail terms of up to one year.
Mr. Speaker, I think you can see and I think any reasonable Nova Scotian will see that we are serious about ensuring that our gaming industry is approve reproach. This is an industry that offers real economic advantages to Nova Scotians but only if conducted with absolute integrity.
Mr. Speaker, some of the critics may try to make an issue of Clause 37 of the bill. It is a section that says, "(1) The operator of a casino shall comply with all building code, safety, construction, fire, environmental, health and other standards . . . ". That is how the clause starts off. It is a commitment, legislatively, that all that will be complied with but it does exclude casino from going through the public hearing process. To suggest otherwise would be misleading but that is all it does, exclude them from that public hearing process - all the other regulations apply.
If, in fact, during the course of our debate here in the House or in the course of the Law Amendments Committee, anyone who wants to come forward on that clause with suggestions as to where we may avoid the possibility of someone using the public hearing process to subvert a decision of government that has already been made, we will certainly consider any such amendment. But over the din coming from the far corner, let me say that there is no mistake, we believe the responsibility to decide on whether or not there are casinos in Nova Scotia is a decision and a responsibility of the provincial government. We will make that decision, we have made it and we will accept responsibility for it, period.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation we are introducing today will be supported by some 300 pages of regulations which are in the late stages of development by the Casino Project Committee. That was part of their mandate as well. Before these regulations come into effect and are passed by government, before casino gaming is a reality in Nova Scotia, these regulations will be made public.
Mr. Speaker, as some of the honourable members may know, with regulations which are normally passed by Cabinet through Order in Council, the public becomes aware of them after the fact, perhaps some two, three weeks or a month. I can recall some instances where it was even longer than that in the past. We will, in fact, make these regulations public prior to that process occurring.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, a detailed contract between the province and the operators will help define the style of casino gaming in Nova Scotia. That is another element of control and regulation that will be available to us. I expect some elements of that proposal may be made public fairly soon. In fact, we expect a recommendation from the Casino Project Committee on or before December 15th of this year.
Mr. Speaker, the casino question has generated much public debate but it has not always been a balanced debate. The restrictions which the government placed on itself, to stay out of the selection process, to keep it at arm's length, to keep the politicians out of this selection and also the limitations that that Casino Project Committee imposed, I think quite properly within their jurisdiction on the casino proponents, resulted in several months of rather one-sided dialogue on this issue. Nova Scotians are concerned. Many more Nova Scotians today say they oppose casino gambling than was the case six months ago. That is a fact.
Some Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, object to gambling - and I say gambling, I do not say casinos - on moral grounds. We respect their views. These are honestly held, personal, moral convictions and we respect them. But personal, moral convictions of some members of our society cannot form the basis for public policy. Some Nova Scotians are concerned about some of the potentially damaging social impact which casino gaming and gambling might cause. I hope that this legislation will ease some of their concern. I would also urge some people to talk to the provinces that are now operating casinos. I think that experience will also help to ease some of their concerns.
Mr. Speaker, some opponents have a different agenda. Opposition members have reacted as people expect politicians to react - some Opposition members, pardon me - they have reacted as people have come to expect politicians to react. They saw which way the parade was headed and tried to get out in front. In order to do so, the honourable Leader of the Opposition, who initially supported the casino decision, had to make a painful 180-degree turn on this issue. I recall the honourable Leader of the Opposition standing right across this floor and saying that he supported the decision of government, until he found out which way the parade was headed.
I do not begrudge the Opposition their position. They have every right to take whatever position they want; they have every right to change their position as many times as they want to change it. In fact, in some cases, change is good. But in any event, Mr. Speaker, let me say that this government takes its decision to lead very seriously. We take the responsibility for the very serious decisions that we will make and, in fact, that is what we have done in this case of casinos.
Casinos will bring new jobs to Nova Scotia. Casinos will bring new revenue to the government. I make no apologies for seeking new revenue, to my friends from the New Democratic Party. Revenue is what this government needs to support all those programs the members on both sides of the House want Nova Scotians to continue to enjoy. Mr. Speaker, we will fulfil our obligations to Nova Scotians to find new sources of revenue so that we can, among other things, preserve existing social programs and reduce their tax burden. We don't apologize for that.
The members of this House opposing casino gaming want the province to turn its back on an industry that will provide jobs for Nova Scotians. We won't do that. Gaming can be managed, controlled and regulated in a manner that significantly reduces the potential for social disruption. It is in the best interests of Nova Scotia because it offers jobs and economic opportunity that Nova Scotians deserve.
Some opponents have led Nova Scotians to believe that two casinos located hundreds of miles apart will somehow destroy our way of life, the way of life Nova Scotians have come to cherish. Mr. Speaker, I think common sense thinking Nova Scotians will realize that that hyperbole is out of all proportion to the measures which we are suggesting.
AN HON. MEMBERS: So everybody who doesn't agree with you is . . .
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, now that the legislation is before Nova Scotians, I trust that we can restore a sense of balance, objectivity and, most of all, proportion to this debate.
Publicly sanctioned gaming has been a fixture in this province for more than 20 years. For example, the VLT program licensed by the former government, legalized by the former government, will yield more revenue to this province than even the most optimistic view of casino gambling. There are other legalized gambling regimes now existing in this province.
Casino gaming is available now, as I have said, in six other Canadian jurisdictions, all of whom report positive economic benefit and minimal social consequences. We have spoken to them and they are of all political stripes, these governments, of every political stripe. Mr. Speaker, surely Nova Scotians are as capable of taking advantage of this economic opportunity as Canadians in Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia or Saskatchewan. Surely we are as competent and capable of taking advantage. Surely Nova Scotians are no more susceptible to social ills, real or perceived, than are other Canadians.
A well-managed gaming industry offers Nova Scotians jobs, economic opportunity and with this legislation in place, the ability to control and eliminate any adverse effects. Mr. Speaker, with that, I move second reading of a bill entitled an Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission and I will welcome the informed and intelligent contribution of members opposite. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: I can't honestly say it is a pleasure to get up and debate Bill No. 120. I commend the Minister of Finance for defending an indefensible issue. I think he is a very capable individual, a man who I have a lot of respect for, a man who I think deep down knows that there are parts of this legislation, outside of the casino issue, that are good. It is almost like taking a case as a lawyer and defending something deep in your heart you know is difficult to defend but you have to do it.
In listening to the minister in the debate on Bill No. 120 and introducing the bill, you know, I was thinking about what it takes to be an honest, respected person. An honest, respected person has to admit sometimes that they are not perfect and that they will make mistakes and that mistakes will be made by any government, by any individual and that every decision they make is not a perfect decision. The problem this government has, it has never made a mistake since it came to office. Every time that Cabinet makes a decision, the rest of the group clap and the rest of the group stand up and say, it doesn't matter what Nova Scotians really say, we have made the decision. We will not turn back.
I know, as a Cabinet Minister and being in the previous government, that when VLTs were introduced in this province, the way it was done was a mistake. Yes, they had to come out of corner stores. Why? Because the public spoke. The public do count. Here we have a case, as I speak I will demonstrate, that again the public is speaking but nobody on that side is actually listening.
You know, it reminds me not of a democratic government that would stand up and say people don't count, their opinions are not mine, so they really don't count. It doesn't matter, as the minister indicated, that there are more people opposed to casinos. That is not important with this government.
This government has decided that casinos are good. For who? Good for revenues? Is greed, is that why we are getting this legislation? Is it because that this government wants more revenue, is that it? Or is it because a few of their friends are going to be attached to the casino project? What is the real reason? I have been trying to think what is the real reason.
If casinos are so good for this province why is it such a secretive process? The minister says, we are going to open it up. Now at what point do you open it up? You know, everything has been very secretive by this government with casinos and I can't imagine any government being afraid of a public hearing, if you have got the facts to tell the people that what you are proposing is good for them. Why would you be afraid to go to a public meeting when you can defend and you know what you are telling them is good for them?
The minister said, there have been studies in the U.S., yes, there have been a lot of studies and when we talk about this the government says it will be an economic boom but yet says trust me, we will not do a study here because we have looked elsewhere. Don't confuse people with a study, don't confuse people on a socio-economic study. You know, they can laugh and they can joke because they think this is a joking issue.
We went around the province on a committee and we heard what people were saying and I was quite amused the other day when the minister said, you know, this casino thing is basically political, TIANS are political. It is the first I knew that they were political but the minister said they were political. The church groups are political, they are very political and the Medical Society, very political group because they have come out against casinos, they are very political. The people in Yarmouth who voted at the plebiscite, they are very political because they opposed it. You know, the City of Sydney is political, the mayor up there is political, big Tory, they are political because they opposed it. (Interruptions) Sure . . .
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could ask the member for Kings West a question with respect to information that the government has or has not provided with respect to casino gambling. I recall last spring and I think it was that member or certainly a member of his caucus that asked the minister to table a report from the member for Hants East as a result of his tour of a number of casino facilities out West. I wonder if the member could tell me whether or not that report has been received yet?
MR. MOODY: The report, obviously, it is like many other reports this government talked about, they never get tabled. You know, this whole issue of casinos, the government is saying on one hand we know that casinos are good for you, but they have not demonstrated an economic impact study or a social impact study to this province.
When the minister stands up and says, what this legislation does, not to worry, we are putting casinos in Sydney and Halifax, 170 miles apart. This legislation allows this government to set up a casino in any municipality in this province without even the municipality having a say, without even having a hearing and without having to deal with the planning or have even a permit. This government in this legislation can set up a casino anywhere they want in this province. The people of Truro, the people of Kentville, the people of Yarmouth will have no say if this legislation is passed in its present form. This legislation does not only allow them to set up the two that they have talked about, it allows them or any government to set up any in the future without anybody having any input at all.
You talk about a democracy. It is no wonder this Premier visits only communist countries. You talk about what a democracy is all about. I cannot imagine this government having so many former municipal councillors as a member of this government and now the municipal councillors say, if you are a municipal councillor in this province, you do not count and the people you represent do not count.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot understand why the process has not allowed Nova Scotians to understand what it is that is being proposed. Our caucus has asked that the proponents come to the Public Accounts Committee for an open meeting because the Minister of Finance has said, we will allow the proponents to tell about their projects, why it is good for Nova Scotia and why we should allow them to come. They would be able to tell because I hear in Halifax, I hear people talking, will they be selling food? Will they compete with us that are already in the food business? Will they be selling liquor? Will they be competing with people here already selling liquor? Will they be open on Sundays? What hours will they be open? What kind of a project is being proposed?
I expect that the government members on Public Accounts Committee say, no, even though the minister wants all of that to be public, we do not think it should be public so we are going to say no. Well, if that is the case, Mr. Speaker, our caucus is prepared to call a public meeting and invite the proponents to come. We will allow the public to come and hear what the proponents are going to say. We will set up a public meeting and maybe some of the MLAs on the government side would like to come to hear what it is the proponents are defending. I do not think they know what they are defending. They do not know what the project is all about. They are not allowed to ask questions because this is a secret deal. So a secret deal is not to be talked about.
Mr. Speaker, the public is to buy this and they are not allowed to hear what it is the proponents are saying that is so good for our province. What is wrong for the general public to know what it is they are going to get that is so good for their province? What is wrong for them to know how many people will be employed in these projects? What is wrong for them to know the kind of place that will be in operation? What is wrong with that? If it is so good and it is so positive, how come it is that Nova Scotians are being denied any of that information?
The minister said it has been one-sided. Why has it been one-sided on the casino issue? Well, when the other side says, everything we have to tell you that is so good is a secret, why in the world wouldn't the debate be one-sided. Surely to goodness if this government is serious about being open, surely to goodness if this government is serious that what they really have to tell the people is so good, why is it that Nova Scotians are not allowed to know? Is it because Nova Scotians will not know how to deal with the information? Is it because only Cabinet knows how to deal with the information?
When I look at the process, I think probably 100 people came and took out the forms, I am told, to apply. I think we ended up with six proposals. How come only six took it out? We came down to three. We don't know why we got to three? We don't even know why the other three proponents were no good. We don't know that but we are to trust Mr. Lichter and his crowd because they know what is good for Nova Scotia. They know what it is that the people want. So we do not know how we got from six to three. The strange thing is, how we get from three to one is even stranger.
When you know that the process, and the minister said this in his press conference, that this commission will recommend to the Cabinet. It is such at arm's length from Cabinet, that the Cabinet does not have to take the proposal that the commission recommends, that the Cabinet has the responsibility and will choose the proponents, so the Cabinet can choose whatever proponent they want. Is that arm's length? Hardly. They will know everybody involved in that project; they will know who is involved; they will recognize the names; they will decide, as a Cabinet, this is the group we are going to choose.
If it was at arm's length, and this commission has all the expertise that the Minister of Finance says it has and that they have studied this to death, they have all the experts on the commission, what makes the Cabinet more intelligent than this commission, to make the decision as to who is going to be the winner? Is it because the Cabinet may decide more on political grounds? Oh no, it couldn't be, it is at arm's length. (Interruptions) Well, if it is so at arm's length, it boggles my mind, Mr. Speaker, that they would not automatically accept the proponent being recommended by this arm's length commission.
Now if it is so arm's length, why wouldn't you take the recommendation? Why would you, as Cabinet, sit down there - unless you have a great expertise within the Cabinet, to make a decision that could even be different than this commission, why would you ever put yourself in that position? Why would you put yourself in a position when you tell Nova Scotians that it is at such arm's length that you can't reach it, when it is going to come right into the Cabinet Room and right into the Cabinet to make a decision on which one they will choose? I can't imagine why any government would think they can fool anybody and say, on one hand, it is at arm's length, and on the next hand bring it right to the Cabinet to make the final decision.
I cannot understand the logic of that; I fail to see the logic of that and I know that the people of Nova Scotia know they are not being fooled. It is not at arm's length when it comes to Cabinet for that final decision. The minister doesn't then have the trust or the Cabinet doesn't have the trust in this commission that it said it had. If it did, it would automatically take that choice and say, we have no choice, as a government, but to take that recommendation and go with it. Why? Because the minister told the press at the press conference, we are the Cabinet, we make the final decision and we may not choose that first one, we will make our own decision, based on the information we have as Cabinet. So there it goes. So you wonder about the political process and you wonder about the arm's length.
The minister indicated that we would see the regulations. Well, Mr. Speaker, I thought we would see the regulations when we saw the legislation. We all know that regulations have a great impact on any legislation, have a greater impact many times than does the legislation itself.
When the minister said that we will make them public, the question that begs in my mind, Mr. Speaker, will the public be allowed a process? Now you know it is okay to hand out a piece of paper to the general public and say, here it is, now you know what it is, even though we are going to give it to you before we pass it. But never mind that you are an intelligent public and you think there should be changes, what is the process that is going to be in place that will allow the general public input on maybe changing those regulations, and if you can't change the regulations and there is not a process in place for it, why hand it out and say, we are going to pass it anyway? I mean where has democracy gone with this government? If there is not a process, and the minister is afraid of public meetings because in Clause 57 he says we don't want public meetings because somebody might hijack this thing, I can't imagine that you are going to say to the public, we are not going to allow you to a public meeting because you are going to hijack it. Why would the public want to hijack it? Maybe the public want to be heard. Just maybe, Mr. Speaker, someone out there has something to say.
Mr. Speaker, if that is wrong and if there was a majority and a lot of people come forward and say that these regulations have to change, what assurance do we have that they will change?
Mr. Speaker, what we are talking about is a process of openness, a process of democracy. Unfortunately, on casinos it is a closed shop; it is a very closed shop. It is a sad day in this province when any government ignores the people it represents; it is a very sad day. Governments may have thought that this is what people want, but when they find out it is not what people want, what are they prepared to do about it? Are they prepared to do nothing or are they prepared to bull ahead?
Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of public reaction; a lot of people have signed petitions. I have talked to people in my area of the province and, you know, when you talk about people changing their minds, is it wrong that I represent the views of my constituents or should it be my views strictly? Well, I have to tell that if I am a good representive, never mind what I believe personally, what my constituents believe is more important than what I believe as a person. I was elected to represent them, not to represent my views. I am to bring their views to this Legislature - not my views, their views - and that is what this government has failed to recognize. I see, day after day, members of this caucus fail to stand up and represent the views of their constituents, never mind their own views, because we are elected to represent our people.
Mr. Speaker, I know there are members on that side, I know the member for Cumberland South - and a few others who have been elected time after time - because he came here and he spoke about the views of the people he represented, not entirely his views. But you know, there are some people in this Legislature who have been elected many times, the member for Digby-Annapolis being one, and I have heard him speak many times about the views of the people he represents; not his personal views, the people he represents.
There are people here who have been elected for one time and I always say that it is not hard to get elected the first time; it is more difficult to get elected after that. The reason is because the people watch you perform. As the member for Digby-Annapolis knows, they watched him perform, and what kind of job did he do? Did he represent the people that he was elected to represent or did he go to Halifax and express only his views? I think he came here many times and represented the views of those who elected him. That is what we tend to forget. So it is not a shame, it isn't something that is terrible, to get up in this House and you know you have had a lot of people call you and show concern over an issue and you get up and represent their views. Here we have an issue and maybe some of us personally see nothing wrong with the casino, maybe that is okay, but we are not here to represent our personal views; we are here to represent the views of the people we are elected to represent.
I know they make great fun of the Leader of the Opposition for changing his views, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for someone who may have gotten up and personally thought that was okay, but when the people of his constituency said, wait minute, we don't agree, is it wrong to then represent their views? I don't think it is wrong and I have to tell you that there are more than four phone calls that would change anybody's view on this.
Mr. Speaker, when I look at these regulations, I know this government believes in polling and I wonder if there has been any polling done? If there was a polling done that said very clearly the people of this province are not at this time ready for a casino, the majority said, no, would the government change its mind? If you say to yourself, no, the government says, no, we can't change our mind, it is just the people speaking, even though the majority of the people are against it and we are for it, and you have to say, well, the minister would say that they don't have all the information. Well, why don't they give the people the information and then if it is so good, wouldn't they change their minds?
I have to stand up here and ask myself, would this government, if a poll came out or did a poll, change its mind on casino gambling if it was clearly demonstrated that the majority of people in this province were opposed to it, would it change its mind? How much flexibility does this government have when it comes to listening to what it is the people of this province truly wants. If it is and it does listen and if a poll was done, I know that it would then change its mind, if it was listening. If it is not listening then obviously it will not change its mind.
You know, I have to say that if this is such a good economic spinoff, even though we don't know from any proponent yet how many jobs or will Nova Scotians be given the jobs, we don't know what kind of an impact it will have on Sydney, even though the fathers of city council say no. The people of Sydney, what do they have to say about it? What do the people of Halifax have to say? They are not allowed to go to a public meeting, they are not allowed to express their views on a casino, where it should be or how it should affect them, they are not allowed to know what impact it will have. They are not allowed to know all of these things but yet, it is as if the government is saying, trust me.
We need more time before we go into casinos. The committee that I was on said very clearly, we need more time. The report was hardly dry from the printer when the Premier said, we are going ahead with casinos. Now, I admit a few weeks have passed. I couldn't imagine what changed in this province in a few weeks that told this government and told the Premier that even though the committee felt and everybody felt that this province wasn't ready for casinos, within a few weeks the Premier woke up one morning and said, we are now ready for casinos.
This government has not been up-front on this issue. They are so secretive about it, they refuse, in any way, to launch a social impact study. What they say is that we will monitor as we go along. You know, as they go along, if the social impact costs are higher than the revenues, would they close it down? I haven't heard them say that they would close the casino down. I haven't heard them say that if the social-economic impact study came up with a negative for the province what they would do.
Wouldn't it be nice to know the kind of problems that you are going to face, prior to facing them? When many of these people that are affected by gambling and it is not only them as a person, it is their whole family. Sometimes many young children are affected by gambling addiction not that they become addicted, but maybe the supporting member of the family becomes addicted. How is this government going to deal with that issue?
We heard and I heard people already tell some real tragic stories in this province about gambling addiction, where it has gone so far that people have gone bankrupt, people have committed suicide. How do you put a cost on a suicide or the loss of a member of a family because they became addicted and couldn't deal with the issues? You are going to say after the fact, if we had put certain mechanisms in place maybe we could have prevented it. I am saying to the minister, why couldn't that impact study done before? If you save only one life, Mr. Speaker, how much is a life worth? You can't put a price on a life. So is it the cost of the study that is bothering them or is it the outcome of the study that is bothering them, that we are not going to have it first? What is the real problem with having a socio-economic study done? Maybe they don't want the answer. But if that study could save one life, prevent one tragedy, to me it would be worth it.
I can't imagine any government saying, no, no, we will monitor as it goes along and as it happens and we will try to deal with it. To me, that is not good planning. Good planning means you are going to have the study, you are going to identify the problems. I admit that you may not be able to prevent them all but just think, because you had the study you prevented two; just think, you prevented three. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, if you prevented just one life, it would be worth all those studies and be worth the time.
Is it so terrible, Mr. Speaker, that we have to rush to get casinos? Why is it that we can't do it right? Why is it that we have to keep people in the dark? Why can't we go through a process, an open process, allow the public to participate and then maybe we will get casinos. But is that all wrong, that we can't allow that process to happen?
You know we look at this legislation and we look where the minister has said we are setting up a part of two commissions; one to run the lotteries and one to audit. The strange part is, that minister said, when in Opposition, that if the government were the regulators, they couldn't be the operators.
Mr. Speaker, he said very clearly in this legislation that in these two groups, one person could not serve on both agencies, but both of these agencies are appointed by Cabinet. Who is the boss of both these agencies? The Cabinet is the boss of both of these agencies; one is to regulate and one is to run the gaming. The one running the gaming is to make as much money for this government as it can. The one doing the regulations is to see that it is done fairly. Now if the regulators are interfering with the revenues, what do you think Cabinet is going to say to the commission that is doing the regulating?
MR. JOHN HOLM: A question, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member having been a member of Cabinet, a privilege that I have not yet had, but he would understand the workings better than I, I am wondering if the former minister could indicate if it is a common practice for Cabinet Ministers to speak with each other and, therefore, if it is likely that one would assume that whoever is going to be in charge of managing will also be talking to the person who supposedly is in charge of monitoring; in other words, do you expect there will be any arm's length separation between the two?
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, the member did bring up a point that I forgot, there are two different ministers in charge, I did forget that. (Interruption) Oh, talk to each other? They party together and, you know, socialize together. (Interruptions)
Well, Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the members of this Cabinet if they don't socialize together. I just assumed they did and I apologize for assuming that.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance accepts that apology?
MR. MOODY: If I indicated that they socialize and talk after hours maybe they do all their socializing with the caucus, I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I had it wrong. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West has the floor.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, they are still making joke of this whole issue. Well, Nova Scotians are not making a joke of this whole issue. (Interruption) The real tragedy is the people who are yelling comments at me will not get on their feet and speak themselves and that is unfortunate. If you have a real concern, either for or against this issue, please do not be afraid to stand up and express the views that you represent and I encourage you to do that.
I have yet to understand, Mr. Speaker, how can the minister say that these casinos will be in the best interest of the public? You ask yourself, where does he get that information? He is not sharing it with anybody and nobody is allowed to know why it is in the best interest. You look at British Columbia, and he says he has looked at every province in Canada, that turned down commercial casinos and it was done after they had done a social economic impact study. They did a study that allowed them to look at the cost socially and the effect it is going to have on the community.
I cannot think of any positive effect a casino has on a community other than revenues and some jobs and at what expense? What are the other benefits of a casino? Are we going to be proud, as Nova Scotians, to say, because other provinces have casinos, we have them. Is that what makes us proud to be a Nova Scotian? Because we can get up and say that we have, in this province, a casino? Is that something we can be proud of? The Provincial Health Council of this province who, again, are non-political had some questions and some real health issues that have been raised. They ask for the same kind of study that British Columbia did.
The honourable House Leader's mouth has been going continually while I have been speaking. Mr. Speaker, if he wants the floor, he can certainly find time to speak. But do I have to continue to listen and be distracted?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member may take his chair for just a moment. I am going to quote from the authorities on this very matter. While I think it is acceptable in practice to have a little jocularity across the floor, our own House Rules say that Mr. Speaker shall preserve order and decorum. Beauchesne says that, "Foremost among many responsibilities, the Speaker has the duty to maintain an orderly conduct of debate by repressing disorder when it arises . . .". Sir Erskine May says, "When any Member transgresses the rules of debate, otherwise than by using disorderly and unparliamentary expressions, or makes any noise or disturbance whilst another Member is speaking, or commits any other breach of order or decorum not amounting to grossly disorderly conduct, it is the duty of the Speaker, if in his judgment the occasion demands it, to intervene and call the Member to order, or direct him to resume his seat.".
Now all members realize that there is a privilege in the House and there is a privilege for each and every person to have the right to speak without interruption. We all recognize that there will be interchanges across the floor and it is historical that that does take place, but not to the extent that you totally repress or inhibit any member from his right to speak in the House. As Speaker, when I am in this Chair, it is my duty to stop that and I intend to do so.
The honourable member for Kings West has the floor.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for that ruling and I do appreciate the fact. I know, too, that if I say things that are unparliamentary or out of line that, too, you will address me and I respect that and I thank you very much for that. You know, some questions that I have been talking about in British Columbia about commercial casinos applies as well. Look at Saskatchewan. I think Saskatoon held a plebiscite on casino gambling and it was turned down. If the government has positive things to say about casinos I think every fair-minded person would say, I think the minister used the word common sense, if people have all the facts don't you think that they would support casinos if it was best for them? If they had all the facts. I believe it would. If they didn't have all the facts then how are they to make judgment on whether casinos are good for them or not?
I don't know whether the government is saying that the people don't have all the facts, that they are not making a sound decision on whether casinos are good whether or not they are saying that we can't allow them that opportunity to have the information to make the sound judgment. I am not clear on this issue where common sense comes into play for the government to say that the public are making choices out there that they don't have all the information and it has been one-sided. There has been a lot of public debate and there has been a groundswell of opposition to casinos and a groundswell of people that have joined that protest.
Maybe, just maybe if the government said look, there is going to be an opportunity, an opportunity for the general public to have input on this issue. Now somebody might argue that when the Premier said, the churches where were they before, well the churches all came to the public hearings on the two committees that held public hearings. If those were the public hearings that count when people said no to the casinos, or is it the fact that we have a public hearing today and allow them to make that choice?
Why was it right two years ago or a year ago to allow the input into a public hearing on their choice and the government said that we took VLTs out of the corner stores, we are now going to allow the general public to have a say whether VLTs go back in the corner stores. A good decision by the government, good decision to allow a committee to go around the province and hold public hearings. That committee came back with a recommendation and the government listened to that recommendation and I commend the government for that. They allowed the general public to help them because they had promised the corner store operators that they would get them back, to make a decision as tough as it was for them to make but I respect that decision.
I have so much respect for the government in making a decision based on what the general public had to say. They honoured that commitment, they went out to the general public and the chair of that commission, a man who I respect, reported to this government, came back and said the public do not want VLTs in corner stores. The government listened. No, they didn't say at this time they didn't want VLTs in corner stores, they said they didn't want VLTs in corner stores period. That was the recommendation of the committee and the government did listen and I say that is good. That is democracy, never mind what the personal views of anybody in government or any of us on the committee were about VLTs. It wasn't our personal views that were reflected in that committee's report, we all probably had different views on where VLTs should be. But the chair reported on what the committee felt was heard around the province on what should happen to VLTs and the government listened.
Now we have an issue on casinos and it was, not at this time. That was the committee's report, not at this time. If it is this time for casinos why couldn't they go through the same process of allowing the general public to deal with casinos because that committee that was charged, around the province, the big issue we had to deal with was where VLTs are located. Now we did touch on bingo, we did touch on casinos but the big mandate of that committee was to try to help government make the right decisions with VLTs. I believe that committee did help the government make the right decision and the government did make the right decision with regard to VLTs. Now, we have casinos. What is different about casinos that the public doesn't have any right about, compared to VLTs? I haven't yet figured that out. I would have thought that the people would have had the same right.
You have very capable people on that back bench, like the chairman of that committee that does listen and was willing to sit there and sometimes take abuse at meetings but allowed everyone the opportunity to have input. What would be so wrong with allowing that process to take place with regard to casinos?
Now, maybe, just maybe, whatever the recommendation would be would reflect what the people are feeling. Now if that is wrong, if we are going to have legislation or decisions by this government that reflects what the people think, is that all wrong? Is that a time when we say, I am sorry, things have changed. So, I am amazed at where we have gone with casinos and the same principle doesn't apply that applied with VLTs, one that I have to say I thought worked very well.
When looking at this legislation, when the minister says that this commission is given more powers than any commission ever by any government, I would agree with him, there is no question in my mind. The point that begs question though in a couple of places, it has more power than the courts. In other words, you cannot even appeal to the courts, in other words, it is above the courts. And I have to wonder about the Charter and I know one of the issues is that if someone is denied access and they are prohibited from going to the casino, that person cannot challenge that through the courts. Any decision that is made, I think, in Clause 57 cannot be challenged by the courts. It reminds me not of a democracy, a country that we have democracy in, it reminds me of communist countries where nobody has access to the courts.
We talk about human rights and we talk about the rights of Canadians and the rights of Nova Scotians. We had a Prime Minister that went to China and spoke about human rights to their Leaders, even though our Premier did not remember, (Interruption) he took notes. Here we have a case where human rights are being violated because they cannot turn to the courts. I wonder why, if this is so good and I admit, it has to have strong powers in dealing with people, but is the minister saying that the court is not a process any more? I wonder and I guess whether this person can appeal through the Charter or not, I am not sure.
He may say that obviously, this would not happen unless it was totally right. Well, I don't think there has been anybody been dealt with by any commission or any government in Canada, that there hasn't been a mistake made and if there has been a mistake made, the person always had the right to appeal to the courts. Here we have a case where they do not have the right to appeal to the courts. I am not sure, is that good, is that the kind of way that we want to deal with this?
In summing up on Bill No. 120, one that obviously I will be opposing and if this bill had come in with the changes, except for the casinos, I could have supported it. There are parts of the bill that tighten up gaming in this province and I commend the minister for that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
As a matter of fact, the Community Services Committee, under my friend to my right, recommended that gaming be tightened up in this province. Many of the things in this legislation came out of that report. It said that whether it be bingo, VLTs or whatever forms of gaming, it had to be tightened up and that we had to, in some way, have additional people to police a business in this province, be it bingo, which amazed me, Mr. Speaker, how many millions of dollars are involved in bingo in this province.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation does tighten up gaming in this province and I commend that. That was long overdue and it was recognized by the committee and by this government. But the reason I can't support the legislation is because public debate was not allowed on casinos. It is very clear to me that there is no public debate; it is very clear to me that there have not been enough studies done and I can't support this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to move an amendment to this Bill No. 120 and I will read the amendment and certainly give you a copy for your ruling on the amendment to Bill No. 120. I think this amendment will allow time for regulations to be drafted, time for social and economic studies to be done, time for public hearings and time for the process to be open, as the minister wants it to be.
I will now move that the words after that be deleted and the following substituted: Bill No. 120, An Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission, be now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence. I so move, Mr. Speaker, that amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member for Kings West didn't just say, ". . . be now read a second a time . . .". Maybe I . . .
MR. MOODY: I apologize, I did say that, Mr. Speaker, and I apologize. Just to clarify it for the record: Bill No. 120, An Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission be not now read a second time and that it be read a second time this day six months hence. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The amendment is in order.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I am, indeed, pleased to speak in support of the amendment that has been put forward by the member for Kings West, although I would be untruthful if I said that I am delighted to find myself dealing with a bill, the primary purpose of which, make no mistake about it, is to plunge Nova Scotia into the age of casino gambling.
Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely to the minister when he made his introductory remarks and I don't pretend to be quoting him verbatim here because, as you know, I am not able to quote the minister verbatim until I have the transcript from today's Hansard, the record of House proceedings.
But I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that when I finished hearing the Minister of Finance's statements on introducing this gaming bill, I was left with the impression that he just wanted to get across one major message to the people of this province and to the members of this Assembly.
That was, what is the big deal here? What is the big concern about casino gambling? There is all sorts of gambling going on in the province now and don't try to pretend that what this bill is about is bringing gambling to Nova Scotians because we have lots of it now. What is the big concern with all the people saying, we haven't had from this government any solid economic impact analysis, any studies that would allow us to genuinely weigh the costs and the benefits? What is the big deal that we have not had any kind of social impact analysis to determine what the adverse consequences will be for workers, for families, for people who are particularly vulnerable to gambling addictions because of their own personal problems, their own frustration with the faltering economy and so on? After all, they have done those studies elsewhere. So, what do we need to do them here for?
Well, Mr. Speaker, when all is said and done, I don't think Nova Scotians care very much what has been done elsewhere with respect to gambling or casino gambling. I think Nova Scotians have every right to say, this is Nova Scotia and if we don't want it, we should not have it. We expect to have some opportunity to influence this pro gambling, pro casino policy of the government.
Mr. Speaker, that is why I support the motion to hoist this bill. That is why I think that it is not only a reasonable proposition, it is the only responsible course that this House of Assembly can take, to recognize that, yes, the government has clearly declared its support for a pro casino, pro gambling policy, but Nova Scotians have not yet had their say.
Perhaps that is not quite accurate. Nova Scotians have been trying to have their say. Let me correct that by saying, Nova Scotians who have been trying to have their say have not been heard by this government. I think more seriously still, and I realize that this is a serious allegation because I think it is a very serious thing, that Nova Scotians' attempts to have their say, with respect to the government's pro casino, pro gambling policy, have been frustrated and thwarted at every turn, both by formal means and informal means, both by government policy and by government actions, both by legislative means now with respect to the bill that we have before us and through public relations means.
We have a situation, Mr. Speaker, where there is absolutely no question about it that Nova Scotians have spoken by the thousands and the tens of thousands against the policy direction that this government articulated many months ago and against the direction that this legislation that is now before us will take us.
Mr. Speaker, there are some who may think that this problem began when the Minister of Finance stood in this House last spring to declare that the government had made the decision to plow ahead with authorizing casinos. There are some who may think that is where the fight began. Well, let me say, just on a brief historical note, all of it in support of the reasons for hoisting this bill and not reading it for a second time for six months, this battle began, as far as I am concerned, the day that the member for Halifax Bedford Basin took it upon himself, on behalf of the government of the day, to abuse his capacity as Chairman of an all-Party Community Services Committee to launch a road show across this province that was a thinly disguised, thinly veiled attempt to increase public support and soften up the public for the pro gambling policy and the pro casino policy that this government, as far as I am concerned, had already made up its mind that it was going to pursue.
Mr. Speaker, I realize that that is a serious thing to say, but I have to tell you that in my 14 years in this Legislature, I have never undergone as inadequate, inappropriate and unacceptable, a so-called all-Party process as was launched on July 17th by the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, when he set out on behalf of the government to try to soften up public opinion and escalate that in the direction of a pro gambling policy.
Now, the reason why we have to try to undo that damage is because the public have still not had their say. With a six month delay in this (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, if the member for Halifax Bedford Basin wishes to give directions, the member - I am sorry, what is the riding of the member who is on her feet? - giving directions to the Speaker, perhaps I could sit down and she could stand up on a point of order to do that. Otherwise, I wish to have your attention.
MR. SPEAKER: You now have the attention of the Chair and you have the floor.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, members on the Liberal benches get quite used to having preferred access when they want to influence the direction of events.
Let me say that on July 17th when the member for Halifax Bedford Basin announced that there would be an organizational meeting of the Community Services Committee, an all-Party committee of this Legislature, and he made it known that he had already taken it upon himself, in consultation with the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Finance, to schedule hearings all across this province on the issues of gaming, I knew that this government had already made up its mind that it was going to push a pro gambling policy and that is exactly what they attempted to set out to do.
Without any such authorization by the Community Services Committee, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin had undertaken to commit the taxpayers of this province to tens of thousands of dollars to conduct public hearings across the province in some seven or eight different locations, had booked the locations and sent out notices in the newspapers, incurring further costs to the taxpayers, to announce those public hearings.
Mr. Speaker, sometimes it is possible to slow the government down a little bit in such unacceptable, anti-democratic violations. In this case, we were able to get the Chairman of the Community Services Committee to cancel those improperly scheduled public hearings because he knew he had no authority to do it; because only the Community Services Committee could have given him that authority. As a matter of fact, when the committee first met, a majority of the Community Services Committee members acknowledged that this had been done improperly and agreed that these meetings should be cancelled and that we should go back to the drawing board.
Well, as I say, sometimes it is possible to slow down the government from abusing its authority, as it did in this opening shot, but it sure is difficult to get the government to begin to listen to the people of Nova Scotia when they are opposed to the chosen course of action of this government.
Mr. Speaker, we need six months to now try to give the people of Nova Scotia some opportunity to recover from the cynical strategies that have been used by this government to plow ahead with its pro casino, pro gambling policy. This is a piece of legislation that simply puts into legal format what it is clear the government had made a decision to do many long months ago, while it pretended that it was consulting further with Nova Scotians.
Why would I make such a serious charge? Why would I say that we need six months to recover from the damage done in this pro gambling propaganda campaign? I say so because I think the record speaks for itself.
When I am finished referring to it, Mr. Speaker, I want to table for the record what was adopted, unbelievably, by a Liberal majority of the Community Services Committee as an appropriate series of questions to put to the public in public hearings across the province, to evoke from them their views on the issue of casino gambling.
Mr. Speaker, I defy any independent thinking person to suggest that those questions are anything but heavily slanted in the direction of trying to soften up public opinion and pave the road to casino gambling in this province. The first question; if, after a casino is in operation for a year on a trial basis, there is solid evidence it has been an effective catalyst to economic development, would your opposition to casinos be as strong?
Mr. Speaker, the reason we need six months to set this legislation aside is to get to the bottom of such a simplistic, pro gambling perspective as that put forward by this government in this debate to date. When the Minister of Finance opened the debate this morning on this legislation said that the debate has been rather one-sided, the debate has been unbalanced and now we need to restore some balance to the debate. Well, I would say that the only possibility of restoring some balance to this debate is to set this legislation aside for six months, which is what this hoist amendment attempts to do, so that we can get to the bottom of an idea as ridiculous as saying that on the basis of a one year trial that you could actually measure what an effective catalyst to economic development, that operation of a casino would be.
Mr. Speaker, the second question deals with something that the Minister of Finance dwelt upon again today in introducing the legislation and did so in debate yesterday in this House. The second question, supposedly objective, unbiased, balanced, that is what the minister called for, was balance in the debate, the second question read as follows; "An old maxim states, one cannot legislate morality. Can it be applied to government? Is it within a government's mandate to sit in moral judgment, to promote the common good?".
We heard the Minister of Finance earlier this afternoon say, well, he respects the views of those who have said we object to casino gambling, on the basis of morality, and then more or less dismisses all other concerns that have been raised, as if they are somehow the inappropriate imposition of one's moral views. When the Minister of Finance knows perfectly well that a very large number of those who have come forward and outlined their strenuous objection to the pro casino policy have done so on the basis of economic analysis and on the basis of analyzing social impact considerations.
What is most amazing, Mr. Speaker, and, frankly, alarming in my view, about the opening shot on this debate, in the questions that were drafted up between the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, the Finance Minister and the Community Services Minister initially and then we went through the charade of meaningful, all-Party participation, is to raise the question as if it is illegitimate, along with these other illegitimate questions, of whether it is up to a government to promote the common good.
Now, Mr. Speaker, maybe that is the problem with the debate to date. Maybe the problem is that as reflected in the absurdity of these questions, the government actually doesn't think it is the responsibility of the government to be involved in promoting the common good.
Well, let me say, Mr. Speaker, that I don't know why we bother to live in a democracy. I don't know why we bother to have a government if it is not the responsibility of this government, and any government in a democratic society, to be involved in promoting the common good. Maybe the reason that Nova Scotians need six more months to allow themselves to be heard by this government is that in contrast to that narrow view, that undemocratic view of this government, the vast majority of Nova Scotians do believe that it is the government's responsibility to take some account of the common good, to do some kind of detailed analysis on how the common good will be served.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of Nova Scotians, I believe, are opposed to casino gambling precisely because they believe that the government's decision should not be based on short-term revenue considerations, that the government's decision should not be based on what the government believes it can get away with by saying everyone else is doing it, so we should do it, too, that the government's decision should not be based on being able to dangle on the front end the carrot that there will be some jobs generated in setting up casinos. Of course there will be on the front end. The majority of Nova Scotians believe that common good, the overall well-being of Nova Scotian society and Nova Scotians' interests will not be served by the short-sighted, pro casino, gambling decision.
Mr. Speaker, we need to have a debate about this in this province. The third supposed, balanced, unbiased question put to Nova Scotians when we began this debate after the new Liberal Government came to office, for an individual or group who is adamantly opposed to the licensing of a casino in close proximity to a residental area, was, would said opposition be less strenuous if the casino were situated in a downtown hotel? If that is not an unbalanced, biased way to launch the debate, I don't know what is.
The Minister of Finance himself today called for a balanced debate, called for some restoration of balance and that is why, Mr. Speaker, it is entirely appropriate for all members of this Assembly to agree that this bill should be set aside for at least six months so that there can be some debate about these issues. Is it the view of the government that the way to build public support for government initiatives, that the way to respect the democratic decisions of the people of a province, using this question as their jumping-off point, is to try to figure out how to strip citizens of their right, and I would add to that their responsibility, to participate in such public planning processes, as are provided under the very laws of this province, in the environmental laws of this province, in the municipal laws of this province, in the liquor control laws of this province.
That is what this legislation does. It basically says that we have to figure out how to prevent, yet again, Nova Scotians from having their say through whatever avenue they might seek and so we will choke off those avenues by shutting down on their freedom to participate and have their say under the existing laws of this province. That is unacceptable. It is undemocratic. It is, also, very ill-advised. Because by the time you have a government that has choked off the avenues through the municipal level of government, through the environmental and planning processes, through the liquor control public hearing processes, any opportunity for Nova Scotians to bring forward their concerns about the impact of this government policy, then you have significantly raised the level of disrespect for duly elected governments.
You can't have it both ways, Mr. Speaker. You can't say that we want you to recognize that we have the right to get us into this casino business, we are going to take the responsibility, we are so brave and bold that we are taking the bull by the horns and we are just going to do it, there it is done, and choke off every possible means that Nova Scotians have sought to have their say and then expect people to respect the laws of this province.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I want to just remind the honourable member that she is walking a very thin line between debating the, or including in the debate the bill itself. According to the authorities, this particular amendment, the hoist amendment, is not an amendment adverse to the bill. It is an amendment of methodology and I would ask that the honourable member keep her comments strictly to that order of process. Thank you.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, I certainly respect your ruling, you are quite right that we are dealing with an amendment that proposes to hoist this bill. But the point of the debate is to be able to address the questions of why that is a reasonable and responsible proposition, why members of this House should support that amendment and why, because we are accountable ultimately to Nova Scotians, why we feel that it is a responsible thing to do on their behalf.
My point is that, as the Minister of Finance himself stated when he introduced this bill today, that we have had a very one-sided, unbalanced debate on this matter to date. We haven't had a debate and we are not going to have a debate and Nova Scotians aren't going to be permitted to have any further say in it unless we hoist this bill and get on with having that debate, because the government has used so many cynical machiavellian means to try to prevent that from happening.
SOME HON. MEMBER: Oh, Oh!
MS. MCDONOUGH: I think of all the cynical things that this government has done, the most cynical of all is to try to quell opposition to casino gambling and mount the arguments in favour of it by exploiting the most needy and the most vulnerable in our society, to try to help soften up public opinion and pave the way. If that is not the case, then why would the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Community Services and the Chairman of the Community Services Committee feel that these two questions were the appropriate unbiased questions to go to Nova Scotians with, to try to get an objective debate and discussion on whether this government should go ahead with casino gambling or not.
I cite those two questions, Mr. Speaker. For an individual or group concerned with low paying jobs for Nova Scotians, about the number of jobs inflated by shorter than usual hours in a work week, about low wages augmented by gratuities, should there be insistence that Nova Scotians receive good pay and good hours augmented by, but not dependent on, gratuities?
Mr. Speaker, if that isn't a pathetic way to try to pave the road to casino gambling I don't know what is. Even worse, there are reliable statistics to show that in Nova Scotia, a very small percentage of physically disabled persons who are capable of working, are actually holding down jobs. Would giving preference to the employment of these Nova Scotians make an impact on your sentiments regarding casinos?
Is it possible that members of this government who sponsored these kinds of questions to try to get a balanced debate and evoke honest opinions from Nova Scotians, could not be embarrassed by having launched the debate in this way. If there was one ounce of sincerity behind this government's concerns about ensuring that casino gambling dealt with the problem of low wages, the problem of short work weeks, the problem of access of employment by the physically disabled, where in this legislation have they expressed it or provided for it?
Even granting the possibility that this government was sincere when it put those kinds of questions forward, in my view, in an insulting manner to Nova Scotians, when they launched the third road show. Even if they meant those things, we need six months to hoist this, to set it aside and to give the government an opportunity to bring in changes to its legislation that would do the kinds of things that they tried to pretend were actually motivating their interest in promoting casino gambling.
Finally, it has been proposed that during the one year period of casino pilot projects, the process of consultation be ongoing and that a detailed report on additional findings be submitted. If this occurs, would you feel more receptive to the idea. Well, those questions and I said I would table those absurd questions which I considered absurd then and still do and considered that they signalled where the government was really going, although there were a lot of people who objected to my suggesting any such thing.
For the government, over a year ago, to have said, well, if there was lots of consultation on it would you be more in favour of casino gambling. Reluctantly, but recognizing where the government was headed with their pro casino stance, I participated in what I thought and what Nova Scotians thought was a good faith consultation exercise. And so, we went out across this province because that is what the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Community Services and the Chairman of the Community Services Committee met to decide that the Community Services Committee ought to do before the committee ever even had any say in it but I decided that Nova Scotians indeed should be consulted further.
Do you know what this is, Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader wanted to know if this was an apology but let me say clearly on the record, I apologize. I apologize to those Nova Scotians who were also taken in by this government's pretence of an interest in further, good-faith consultation, when it put the Community Services road show farce back out there at public expense, to elicit public views. The reason I apologize is because I was extremely naive. (Interruptions) What it has to do with a six months' hoist is that the minister, himself, when he introduced this bill, called for restoring some balance in the debate.
Nova Scotians spoke from one end of the province to the other about their concerns with respect to increasing the level of gambling in this province. Nova Scotians spoke from one end of this province to the other about their concerns with respect to social impact. They spoke about the short-term mentality of a government that would itself become hooked on gambling as a major source of revenues, that would itself become so addicted to gambling revenues that it would turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the communities concerned about how this could have adverse consequences for families, for individuals, for communities, for small businesses. Yet this government having said that this was a good-faith consultation, turned around and completely ignored the views expressed by Nova Scotians in this regard.
So, Mr. Speaker, we need six months for those dozens and dozens of organizations and those thousands of Nova Scotians who are opposed to this course of action, to have an opportunity to set out clearly the basis of their opposition and they deserve a response from this government to the concerns they have raised.
When we called a resolution for debate in this House yesterday on where the government was going with casino gambling, I read from a list that I have just been compiling, I am sure it is not comprehensive, I am sure it is not complete, of the many different organizations from every different part of the province, representing interests in rural and urban Nova Scotia, representing the interests of young and old, representing concerns with respect to the social impact, the economic impact, the whole range of views and interests of Nova Scotians. Yet, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance tends to dismiss all those concerns by saying, we have satisfied ourselves that other provinces are doing it and, therefore, we are going to do it here in Nova Scotia. We have satisfied ourselves that the social and economic adversities, the social and economic negative impacts that have been identified will be minimal - I think he used the word minimal when he said that.
Well, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have every reason to doubt whether the government has sincerely taken their concerns under advisement, and I would suggest, every right to demand that over the next six months the government turn its attention not to what has happened elsewhere, not to what people are saying elsewhere, not to what governments of various political stripes across the country are doing, but that this government turn its attention to what Nova Scotians are saying, to what Nova Scotians are demanding of the government in regard to justifying its pro casino, pro gambling initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, this is Nova Scotia, this is a provincial government that is introducing this legislation, the provincial government representing Nova Scotians, not representing some other province. I think it is quite clear that one of the reasons why this government failed to do any of its own studies is because it didn't want to have studies that they might have commissioned or might have had good, independent advice from public servants in this province carry out. They didn't want to have to deal with the results of those studies. They didn't want to have to be accountable for those studies. They didn't want members of the Opposition or members of the public to be able to demand access to those studies being done with public dollars, with taxpayers' dollars, because then they would be able to hold the government to account for its subsequent actions.
Mr. Speaker, unless this government has decided that democracy means nothing, unless this government has decided that it doesn't care a whit what Nova Scotians think about this policy and it does not care a whit about what negative consequences there will be from launching this pro casino policy, then I would argue the only responsible thing for this government to do is to agree with the amendment that is before us which proposes that over the next six months this government finally turn its attention to what Nova Scotians are saying and preferring in regard to this issue.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance tried to create the impression that most of the voices being expressed in Opposition were coming from a particular religious or philosophical moral viewpoint and he dismissed that out-of-hand as a basis for public policy. Just as if religious leaders or community leaders speaking about the moral consequences of our increasing the level of gambling is somehow not appropriate to take into account in public policy, but the overwhelming majority of religious leaders and community leaders that I have heard address this topic, have been speaking to the economic and the social implications. They have acknowledged that on moral grounds they have questions about gambling. But they have been pleading with the government to look more closely at what the economic consequences and the social adversities are going to be resulting from this pro casino policy. But those are not the only people who have been speaking out and those are not the only issues that they have been speaking out on.
Let me, Mr. Speaker, refer to what I think speaks directly to one of the reasons why we need to support the six months' hoist and that is a letter from the Council of Priests representing the Diocese of Antigonish. It may be that the minds of government members immediately shut down when I mention that I am going to quote from some priests in eastern Nova Scotia on the subject of gambling because we heard the Minister of Finance dismiss moral considerations as a proper basis for public policy.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is extremely important for us to recognize that some of the arguments against casino gambling go to the very heart of what this government said its principal, economic strategy was going to be. Let me read from that letter and I will happily table it because I think it puts the argument in a very succinct way. "The Council of Priests, representing the priests of the Diocese of Antigonish, view with concern the decision of the provincial government to establish casinos within our province.
Our history has been one of great involvement with the governments of the Province of Nova Scotia in community development. From the earliest days through the development of credit unions and cooperatives, the Coady Institute, the St. F.X. Extension Department, up to the present with community development programs, there has been a concern for the betterment of our people.
We realize that these are difficult financial times for the province, but we feel compelled to add our voices to the other church and community groups in opposition to the casinos for our province. We feel that it is inconsistent with the self-help principles of development which we have been pursuing cooperatively until now.
Thus, the decision to initiate gambling casinos draws a negative vote from us.".
Mr. Speaker, remember when this government brought in its first Speech from the Throne and it said that community economic development was going to become, was it the engine of growth, the chief engine of growth. It is well-known to every member of this Assembly that the Antigonish movement has been a very major participant in the evolution of community development, as a philosophy, as a strategy, as a method and I think for a government that said community economic development was going to be the way to go, was going to be the salvation to our economic woes, was going to be one of the important ways for us to get through the fiscal crisis that we found ourselves in. it would behoove members of this government to listen to what those advocates of community economic development have to say with respect to the incompatibility of choosing a pro gambling, pro casino policy as one of the economic instruments of government. Because the Council of Priests from eastern Nova Scotia are not imposing their particular morality on this debate when they raise the issue of community economic development. They are challenging the government directly in regard to the government's own stated commitment to a very different approach to the development of our economy.
We heard from the Minister of Finance earlier today that the issues that have needed to be dealt with, with respect to preparing the ground for casino gambling, have been handled by the Nova Scotia Casino Project Committee headed up by Laszlo Lichter and his very capable team and I don't know anybody who is suggesting that is not a very capable team of Nova Scotians who have been working on that Nova Scotia casino project.
When the chairperson of that Casino Project Team states publicly that it would be nothing more than guesswork to try to weigh the social costs of legitimizing casinos against their economic benefits it doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in Nova Scotians that the issues of social impact have been thoroughly canvassed and addressed by this government. That is why I would argue further that it is absolutely incumbent on every member of this House to recognize that we need at least six months, which is what the hoist amendment would allow us to have, to take an honest hard objective view of the social impacts that will result from the introduction of casino gambling.
There have been a number of senior citizen groups that have spoken out against casino gambling but they feel extremely frustrated that they see no evidence whatsoever that the government has responded to their concerns with any kind of studies, any kind of analysis, any kind of data that it can bring forward and the Minister of Finance today made no apology for that. He basically said it is being done elsewhere we are going to do it here. No more questions asked. Well, I think those who have been pleading with the government to address some of these concerns deserve a period of time during which the government does begin to take their concerns seriously.
The Cape Breton Council of Senior Citizens and Pensioners wrote to the Premier a couple of months ago, we paid tribute yesterday in this House to their long-serving president who passed away earlier this week. The letter to Premier Savage of September 12, 1994 went as follows:
"At a recent meeting of our Council, delegates representing four thousand seniors in the industrial area expressed great concern at the proposed establishment of a gambling casino in Cape Breton.
I am to convey to you the unanimous opposition of the delegates to establishing a gambling casino in Cape Breton. The social problems presently existing in our area, such as unemployment, poverty, broken homes, women and child abuse, will no doubt increase substantially with the introduction of further legal gambling.
Press reports and studies indicate that serious social problems and crime results in the areas where casino gambling is introduced.
We strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to establish a gambling casino in Cape Breton.".
Mr. Speaker, surely, when you get an expression on behalf of 4,000 senior citizens in Cape Breton begging the government to reconsider their decision to put a casino in their midst, it is not too much to ask the government to support the call for a six month delay, to support the call for there to begin to be some serious addressing of the economic concerns that have been brought forward on behalf of that community.
It is not only the seniors in Cape Breton that have spoken out clearly. I am sure it took the Minister of Finance somewhat by surprise when the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade expressed a very strong concern about the direction in which this government is taking us with respect to casino gambling. Now, it may be easy for the Minister of Finance to dismiss the church leaders' concerns as an inappropriate basis for public policy. It may be the view of this government that senior citizens somehow aren't with it; senior citizens somehow maybe just aren't keeping up with the times when they don't rush in with enthusiasm to support casino gambling because it is something new.
Maybe it is the view of this government that senior citizens are somehow kind of stuck with some old-fashioned notions that we ought to build a society based on people's work and people earning money on the basis of giving their best effort and their best contribution. Maybe that is the view of the government. It is not mine; it is not the view of my Party and I don't think it is the view of the majority of Nova Scotians but, maybe, that is how the government dismisses the views of the religious leaders and the senior citizen organizations.
How does this government deal with the increasing numbers of business interests that are speaking out against the decision of this government to proceed with casinos? How does this government respond when the President of the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade reports publicly that 83 per cent of their members who responded to the survey - that I think they should be congratulated for conducting among their membership - said that they were absolutely opposed to a casino operation going into industrial Cape Breton? How does the government respond? Well, I will tell you how they respond. They don't respond. They don't think that they have to respond. They somehow think - I don't know what they think - that that is industrial Cape Breton and this House of Assembly is Halifax and we will just kind of move it through and hope that people have short memories. That is not good enough.
This Assembly, the 52 members of this Assembly, are elected to represent the interests of all Nova Scotians in every constituency in this province. If 10.5 seats representing Cape Breton on the government side is not sufficient reason for this government to feel a responsibility to respond to the overwhelming opposition of Cape Bretoners to casino gambling, then I think it is understandable that people have started to ask themselves the question of whatever happened to democracy.
AN HON. MEMBER: That's bunk.
MS. MCDONOUGH: So, well, the Government House Leader says what bunk. It is such bunk to say . . .
HON. RICHARD MANN: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since aspersions are being cast on all the members from Cape Breton, perhaps the honourable member opposite could tell me how many representations I have received regarding this issue?
MR. SPEAKER: I have indicated to the honourable member and, of course, the honourable member is aware that aspersions shall not be cast in a debate. If the honourable member would take her seat for a moment, I have indicated that Erskine May, in a very lengthy proposition on the objecting of amendments and their effect on debate, have put this particular amendment, the amendment to hoist, in the category of an amendment modifying a question, not adverse to a question but modifying a question.
I don't think it is satisfactory in a debate to periodically simply say that is why we are asking for a hoist and, in between those statements, to refer to some proposition that is in adverse position to the bill. We are not debating a reasoned amendment, we are debating an amendment to hoist, which is a modifying amendment. I would ask the honourable member to stay within that context.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Well thank you, Mr. Speaker. I certainly will continue to try to stay within the confines of that. All of my arguments are based on my sincere belief and my strong conviction that we need six months to address many of these issues that have not been adequately addressed by the government . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I am sure they are.
MS. MCDONOUGH: . . . and to enable the government to do what it so far has refused to do, which is to look in a very conscientious, detailed way at what the basis of Nova Scotians' opposition is and begin to address those concerns.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I know you didn't rule one way or the other, I don't believe, on whether the Government House Leader had a point of order. I think the Government House Leader, being much better on rules in this House than I am, knows perfectly well that his interjection was not a point of order, although . . .
MR. SPEAKER: That is a decision for the Chair to make. Would the honourable member stop debating across the floor, direct her remarks to the Chair, which she knows is the proper decorum in debate.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Well, Mr. Speaker, I didn't hear you rule on the point of order so that is why I was trying to deal with it. But let me just say that without seeing it as some kind of rabbit tracks, I welcome the question because I think it wasn't a point of order, it was a question, I welcome the question that the Government House Leader asked, which is, could I tell him how many people he had heard from in his constituency expressing their opposition to casino gambling? I have to tell you, I have no idea, Mr. Speaker, and I think he knows that I would not have any way of knowing how many people have expressed that directly to him. But what I do know, Mr. Speaker . . .
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is a point of order, I think her remarks immediately preceding my previous interjection, was the fact that I was refusing, as a member for Cape Breton, to listen to 4,000 people. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, I have never heard from 4,000 people. Therefore, I believe she has just admitted that she does not know, therefore, I guess she has admitted that her statements she was using are again completely false.
MR. SPEAKER: I will rule that this is not a point of order. There is a difference of judgment and opinion in the argument. The honourable member may proceed with her argument.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Well, Mr. Speaker, you are quite right that it is not proper to engage in an ongoing exchange with a member on the government benches, but it does surprise me, I must say, that if this member, along with his other nine and a half colleagues representing Cape Breton, feels that 4,000 voices from senior citizens, that 83 per cent of the Cape Breton Board of Trade, that the many other organizations . . .
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have just ruled and you went at some length to explain that the motion on the floor is an amended motion, an amendment to hoist. What has this got to do, the last two minutes of conversation from the speaker, got to do with the motion to hoist the bill for six months? It has nothing to do with it.
MR. SPEAKER: In response to your point of order, I am assuming, as I hear the debate emanate from the honourable member, that it will be her purpose to indicate that there are 4,000 people who would like to be in further participation in this debate, as time goes on, and on that basis that a six months' hoist would be appropriate to allow them to do so.
Now it is very difficult to tie these matters together in debates, as the learned member of the House well knows. So I will rule the point of order as out of order, as not an order, and I will allow the honourable member to continue.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, you are absolutely right that what it has to do with the hoist motion is that I have made reference to a very large number of groups representing an even larger number of Nova Scotians who are extremely dissatisfied with this government's lack of response to their concerns, who are very dissatisfied that this government has not first conducted and then shared with them the results of any economic impact analysis, any social impact analysis or any other kinds of studies that would justify their decision to press ahead with a pro gambling, pro casino agenda.
Because there are so many people and I have been identifying some of them if the member for Hants East wanted me to I guess I could read the whole long list and by the time you finish the list you recognize that there is hardly any Nova Scotians not represented one way or another among all of those groups named. But the point is that the only way at this point, given that the government has refused to address their concerns, that there is any possibility to now turn to those concerns and begin to take those objections seriously is to hoist this bill. To set it aside for six months and for the government to begin conscientiously to take seriously and I would say for the first time what the basis of concern is and the whole vast range of concerns that so many Nova Scotians have about this pro gambling course that the government has launched us on.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that my time is short. I will have an opportunity to speak on the main bill and, who knows, maybe even another amendment. I just want to say that six months delay before dealing with this bill would also create an opportunity for the Drug Dependency Division within the Department of Health, within a department of this government that has a very definite area of responsibility to address this topic. So in concluding, because I have run out of time, I would simply plead with members opposite to begin over the next six months to hear what Nova Scotians have to say before proceeding with this bill and that is why a hoist is very much in order and deserves your support.
MR. SPEAKER: The time for the honourable member has elapsed.
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on this particular amendment. I do not believe in the time that I have been in this House that I have ever spoken on a dilatory amendment before but it is a pleasure indeed on this particular occasion to have the opportunity to speak on a motion that can in effect destroy this bill because in point of fact that is what a six months' hoist does, it doesn't really delay the bill for six months it simply means the bill is gone, the government could re-introduce it.
I want to speak about a six months' hoist or a delay in the second reading of this bill and why I think that it is important that we take this necessary step and adopt the amendment put forward by my colleague for Kings West. I will be absolutely honest and as a matter of public record that about 6 or 8 months ago, maybe 12 months ago, I was in support of casinos in this province. I had listened to a proposal brought forward by Grand Casinos, I listened to their proposal, I read their proposal and to be quite frank I was quite impressed with their proposal. Their proposal would have established a very large piece of infrastructure outside of the city but still within the city limits. It would be a multimillion dollar expenditure, I think it was somewhere in excess of a $100 million worth of infrastructure going into this particular resort when it was finished.
It was being done without one cent of the taxpayers' money, it was going to provide a tremendous amount of work during the construction period because not only were they going to build a casino as part of the package, there were hotels and I think there were even condominium units associated with this project. There was a golf course, there was a nature trail and a whole variety of other attractions at this particular resort. As I say, Mr. Speaker, no government money whatsoever, they weren't looking for anything.
The big thing, Mr. Speaker, was that while they were building this infrastructure, it would provide a tremendous boost to the construction industry in this province, particularly in this metro area. Then upon completion, they were talking about employing about 2,000 people during the peak season.
I listened to that proposal, Mr. Speaker. The people who were making these particular statements were business people, they were engaged in this business. They had the money, there was no doubt about that, and they could have moved in here in very short order. I thought to myself, what a tremendous idea. These people are going to invest this large sum of money to put in place facilities for a resort. They are going to do that and create employment immediately during the construction and then, when it is finished, we are going to have perhaps a couple of thousand Nova Scotians employed.
Then, of course, you do the arithmetic or multiplier effect, et cetera, and you can say two for one kind of thing, okay, you are looking at perhaps 5,000 Nova Scotians, in essence, now off the public payroll, either on UI or on welfare and what have you, being employed. So as I say, Mr. Speaker, I was quite impressed when I received that particular proposal and reviewed it.
Now you might well say okay, member for Hants West, why are you now opposed to that kind of thing. Well, Mr. Speaker, I was involved, as Speaker in this House as you are well aware, back when Mr. Morris went around and did his particular thing with the public of Nova Scotia, examining gambling in general in this province. I was Speaker when Mr. Kimball, the member for Kings South, tried to go around the province. I was a member of the Community Services Committee, chaired by my colleague the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, and travelled with that particular committee, and was pleased, I should say, Mr. Speaker, to sign that report.
When I travelled the province with that committee of Mr. Fogarty's, we had a large number of representations. Lots of them were from individuals but the majority were presented normally from a group. In other words, a person was not speaking as a singular individual but speaking on behalf of a group. We heard from many hundreds of Nova Scotians. Apart from the casino operators or those who hoped to operate casinos, I believe we did not hear one person or one group come forward in favour of casinos.
You wonder why that is, Mr. Speaker. People in this province are not adverse to gambling and we should not stand and say that. People in this province like to go out and wager on race horses. They like to go out and buy lotto tickets. They like to go out and buy raffle tickets and they certainly get involved in bingo games and such, charity auctions and what have you. These are all gambling processes.
So the people of Nova Scotia are not against gambling - why are they opposed to casinos? That, Mr. Speaker, is why this bill should not be introduced at this time. This is why we should have the opportunity in a committee and I think the right committee is the Public Accounts Committee because first of all, this minister, his particular ministry reports to the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Accounts Committee is the watchdog on that minister. It should be the Public Accounts Committee calling before that committee the three remaining principals who have submitted proposals, plus the chairman of the commission, I think it is the Gaming Commission, should be before this committee. We should be able to then finally get our hands on the socio-economic impact of casinos on this province.
The minister, himself, has said that this is not the panacea to solve the deficit problems we have. In fact, this morning he said that casinos will not even generate as much revenues for the province as we are presently getting from VLTs. Now, I ask you, just think about that for a minute. He is going through all these problems, his government is going through all these problems associated with trying to get this legislation through the House and they are doing it to make less money than they are presently deriving from VLTs.
I have said that the people of Nova Scotia are not against gambling, I can say that for myself. And the people may not necessarily be against casinos once they knew from this minister, from his Gaming Commission, exactly what the effect of casinos would be on the economics of this province, let alone talking about the social side, how much money is going to be realized for the Province of Nova Scotia, how many dollars are going to flow out of this province as profits for these casinos, how many of those dollars going through the casinos are Nova Scotian dollars, in other words, dollars earned in Nova Scotia, going through the casino, a portion going out and another portion going to the Minister of Finance. We should know those answers, Mr. Speaker.
There is still another reason that we should delay the passage of this particular legislation. That is because when this bill gets to the Law Amendments Committee, there are going to be more people that will want to speak either against or for or inquiring as to the content of the bill, than the Law Amendments Committee will be capable of seeing. We are going to have the same kind of thing occurring in there that we did, earlier this year when we had the Health Minister's bills and we had to contract the time available to the public in the Law Amendments Committee.
If this bill was put aside for a period of time, then the people would have the opportunity to appear either at the Public Accounts Committee or perhaps the minister in his wisdom would like to say to the Public Accounts Committee, you travel the province, that committee, and go out and talk to people not about gambling generally but about casinos. I am sure that people would love to know the answers to, can my son, can my daughter, can my mother, can my father get a job in a casino. How many people are going to be employed? What kind of jobs are casinos going to create? Most importantly, what is the bottom line for this province insofar as the impact of casinos socially on this province? What does it do to our tourism industry? This is something, I think, that we need time to talk about with the tourism industry.
Let me put it this way, are the casinos going to divert dollars that would otherwise be spent within the tourism sector into casinos? Is that where the tourist dollars are going to go, the existing tourist dollars that we have now? Are they going to flow back into the casinos and then the casino operators take their profits from the top out of the province?
Mr. Speaker, don't let us kid ourselves. The people that will be operating the casinos are not Nova Scotians. These companies, the three finalists, are all not only out of province companies, but they are out of Canada companies and the profits of those companies will go back, and rightfully so, to their head offices. But those dollars that go back to their head offices are going to have an impact upon our tourism industry, that is the hoteliers, the people who run the restaurants and the bars, et cetera, because it is part of their money that is being spent in the casinos and a portion of that, as I say, is going out of the province and the other portion is flowing across to the Minister of Finance.
Mr. Speaker, the tourism industry has got a right to be heard and we must, as legislators and members representing all areas of this province, afford that most important industry the opportunity to speak on this bill or this particular proposal.
Mr. Speaker, there is another impact of casinos that we need time to examine and that is the impact on the criminal elements within our society. Is the establishment of casinos going to create an environment for crime to flourish? Are we going to have an increase in prostitution? Are we going to have an increase in loan-sharking, laundering of money and those various elements that people say come with casinos?
Now we don't even know if that is true. In fact, I heard, I think it was yesterday, an interview with some police representatives from Montreal who said that the impact on the criminal element in the City of Montreal was zilch. So, perhaps, that is an overblown representation that is put up by those who are against casinos. But the only way the public can find out that kind of knowledge is to provide the opportunity for them to ask questions and for them to be told.
There is another social impact, Mr. Speaker, that requires time and that is, what happens with regard to those who, unfortunately, become addicted to gambling. Do we have, at the present time, sufficient facilities for rehabilitation and treatment of people who suffer from a gambling addiction? If we don't, what is the cost to put in place those particular facilities? It is the responsibility of this government to provide those facilities if they are going to, indeed, provide the enticement for people to become addicted.
So, Mr. Speaker, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of questions that should be answered before this bill progresses through second reading and into the Law Amendments Committee. The most effective way to do that is to kill the bill right now, pass this amendment of the six months' hoist and let's get the bill out somewhere where the public can examine it, where they can examine those who are foisting the casinos upon this province and to provide the necessary information from the people that have it.
Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking again on second reading of this bill, if and when we get back to it. I can assure you that I do not like having to suggest to the minister that his bill should be withdrawn, but, in truth, this bill should be withdrawn. It should be withdrawn for a period of time to enable people to have an adequate explanation and examination of the legislation.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: I am pleased to rise this afternoon and speak in support of the amendment put forward by my colleague, the member for Kings North. Mr. Speaker, we need more time before casinos are established in Nova Scotia. After going through the bill, I disliked the intent and I disliked the purpose of the Act which is essentially saying it is to enhance the economic development and generate revenue for the Province of Nova Scotia. (Interruption) The undertaking is for the public good, yes I am against that and I will tell you why I am against that if you will listen for a few minutes. Mr. Speaker, the undertaking is for the public good and in the best interest of the public. Well, so far it has only been in the best interest of lucky Laszlo, who has been lucky enough to acquire a six month contract for $50,000.
We need more time, Mr. Speaker, obviously we need more time to reflect on why people do come to this province. They come to this province for our beautiful scenery, they come to this province for our friendly people and they come to this province because we are Nova Scotia and they may even come here because we are casino-free. I have been against the establishment of casinos from day one and I am proud to say that I have been. I have not flip-flopped and I have not been accused of being shilly-shally such as this government has been. Well, this government has been a little shilly-shally. First, they told us Sunday shopping was the only way to go, the shelter component . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order. The question under debate has nothing to do with Sunday shopping or shilly-shallying or flip-flopping. What in fact I have outlined very clearly from the authorities is that it is a modifying amendment to the main question and debate is restricted to the modification, i.e. to hoist the bill. Please restrain your remarks to that modifying.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my colleague to the left is quite correct, I have less time to shilly-shally. The hoist will enable the casino minister, as he has been called today, and his department, his Liberal colleagues, members of this government hopefully to have some second thought, will enable them to have some sober thought. The hoist will enable all government members to go back, perhaps, and listen to the people. I know for example that many people in this House have heard their constituents telling them that they are opposed to the establishment of casinos and because of some Party line, because of some unwritten law they feel that they have to support this.
Well, it will be very interesting when this thing comes to a final head, I will be interested in seeing just where the member for Cape Breton West stands on this because obviously he isn't afraid. Obviously, he isn't afraid to stand up for his constituents but the amendment that my colleague, the member for Kings West has put forward seems very appropriate, very reasonable.
The following members of the government caucus: the Honourable Jim Smith, the Honourable John MacEachern, Charles MacArthur, Dennis Richards, Raymond White, Richard Hubbard, William MacDonald, Bruce Holland and of course the honourable Gerald Fogarty for Halifax Bedford Basin are signatory to the reports rejecting the establishment of casinos at this time. This time is now the present. I can't for the life of me understand how they shilly-shallied on this one so quick.
I have a report from the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia annual conference that will be very pleased if this hoist goes through. In fact, the member for the Eastern Shore might be quite pleased to know that this resolution actually happened in Salmon River House Country Inn in Musquodoboit Harbour R.R. No. 2, Head of Jeddore. The motion passed concerning introductions of casino into Nova Scotia at their general meeting of TIANS took place at 9:30 a.m. November 6, 1994. The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia asked the Government of Nova Scotia to form an all-Party committee to appoint a recognized authority who would identify the possible benefits to our industry, as well as the possible harm which could result from the introduction of casinos to our province, so that we may properly prepare ourselves for this eventuality. The motion was passed by the general membership, Mr. Speaker and this hoist will enable organizations such as the Tourist Industry Association; their concerns cannot be simply swept under the rug.
Mr. Speaker, I am suggesting that Nova Scotia's citizens are not wrong. Nova Scotia's citizens are not opposed. I wrote a letter to the casino minister, and I can table that letter in the House but the minister, in his correspondence, says, "I read with interest your letter of August 23, 1994, with regard to the government's decision to permit casino gambling in Nova Scotia.". Incidently, in my letter to the honourable minister, I had asked him if he would consider at this time, I said that your government's decision to establish casinos in our beautiful province has caused much consternation, and I asked the minister to cancel any further progression respecting this matter. This hoist will enable the government and their members to go back to their constituents and try to stand up for them. Somebody has got to speak for the citizens of Nova Scotia.
The government caved in, so to speak, because there was considerable opposition regarding the bear hunt. The government listened to the bear hunt, yes, Mr. Speaker, that is germane to what we are talking about here today. There is public opposition to the establishment of these casinos. Why won't the government listen to its people? Why won't the government listen to Nova Scotians? Municipalities are upset; they are upset and they are against the establishment of casinos. Many municipalities have forwarded resolutions; in fact, one came out of Sydney at the recent UNSM meeting that they were opposed. They were not unanimous, but they were opposed to the establishment of casinos.
I would like the minister to reflect on that, also. This hoist will give him time to do that. Is the minister afraid to allow the public to have input regarding the establishment of these things? I cannot believe he is.
The recommendation of the Community Service Committee Report, which was chaired by Mr. Fogarty, suggested that casinos not be established at this time.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know that individual names were used in a long list a little earlier in the speech; the member may have been referring to a signatory. But, just recently, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin was referred to by his personal name. Sometimes it is an oversight, but this time it is not a question of a signatory. It was overlooked the last time, but this time I would ask you to look at the rules and advise me as to whether it is in order to refer to a member by his personal name, as was just done in this House.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has a valid point of order. It is not appropriate in the House to refer to any member by his or her personal name. As a matter of fact, if the member has a particular title within this House, other than honourable member, he or she is to be referred to by that title. So it is a point of order, a valid one. I would ask the honourable member to accept that ruling and to act accordingly.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I do accept that ruling and I apologize for using the names of the honourable members; their constituencies escaped me right at the time. So I will try to relate the honourable members to their constituencies in future dialogue, in discussion.
The people against casinos in Nova Scotia will be pleased, Mr. Speaker, if this amendment is to go through the House. I note that the Minister of Finance has estimated that revenues should be somewhere between $40 million to $60 million to provincial coffers, with the establishment of these casinos. But, you know, obviously, somebody should tell the honourable Finance Minister, casino minister, that political ploys such as the establishment of casinos will not equate to lowering taxes because his overall expenditures most likely will exceed his revenue. So, we can just call this a bunch of gibberish and a bunch of balderdash because nothing that he has passed out to our caucus substantiates his estimates.
Studies have also concluded that all types of crime increased in different locales by an average of 15 per cent after the casinos have been up and running for some time. Alcohol sales in different locales have spiralled, in fact, because casinos were selling a lot of alcohol. So, there are several reasons why these casinos should not be established at this time, especially with no study.
Incremental increases in services. How about the cost for policing? Are we to think that policing costs will not go up? How about court costs, municipal, provincial and federal courts costs, incarceration, UI, problem gamblers, perhaps job displacements, welfare payments, social assistance to affected families. I think there are a lot of things here that the MLAs would like to think on and have a little more time to work with. I cannot believe that everybody in this government is in favour of the establishment of casinos at this time. If nothing else, a six months' hoist will enable the members to have a sober second thought about these things, it is very important.
Mr. Speaker, I see you are in deep conversation there and I should mentione that the member for Hants East does have a beautiful tie on today with a little bit of blue on it, it certainly looks better than that red he has had on for the last few days.
Costs as employers of problem gamblers. What about lost time on the job, embezzlement, rehiring, retraining? There are numerous reasons and concerns we have about the establishment of casinos at this time. The amendment to hoist will allow, will enable, will give us more time, time we so desperately need.
The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia estimates annual tourism revenue at somewhere around $800 million, Mr. Speaker. Let's just assume 1,000 jobs are going to be created with an average income of $25,000 per year. The casino will add $25 million to the Nova Scotian economy, Mr. Speaker, in salaries but, Mr. Speaker, we have to look a little deeper than that, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, what about the job displacements in other places of employment, Mr. Speaker? It has been proven in Atlantic City, it has been proven in Montreal, Mr. Speaker, it has been proven in Minnesota . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Excuse me, I want to make an observation here if I could from the Chair. It is not necessary to say Mr. Speaker five and six times in the course of a sentence or paragraph. It is assumed that one is speaking to the Speaker.
Now I read an article in the Chronicle-Herald some time ago on the alleged tactics of conducting a filibuster and one of them was to say, Mr. Speaker, every third word and I am asking honourable members not to do that. Mr. Speaker once at the beginning of your speech is sufficient. Thank you.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that ruling. (Laughter) The provincial government has not made public any credible research that shows that casinos will create net, positive, social and economic benefits for Nova Scotia. The hoist is extremely important, it will give this government an opportunity to look at some of the estimates that they have because we have quite a few questions and Nova Scotians have quite a few questions. I know some members aren't all that satisfied with this government's plan to go ahead and establish these casinos in Nova Scotia.
Disposable income spent in casinos is money that is not spent on other entertainment activities. The hoist will give the government the time to go look at some of these concerns. How about the concerns the tourism industry has as a whole? Is the tourism industry going to be a net loser due to gambling? Tourism and culture are not the only business that will be hurt by the casino industry. We need time, we need a lot of time, we need six months at least before we establish casinos in Nova Scotia. Increasing the availability of gambling will only increase the level of regressive taxation in Nova Scotia by exploiting those who can least afford it.
Now we heard the Minister of Finance suggest that the casino revenues will enable us to have lower taxes down the road, so I can't believe for the life of me that lower taxes are going to be continent on casinos. That is a pretty broad, general statement for the Finance Minister to make.
There is considerable evidence that the economic costs will outweigh the benefits. The province has decided to ignore widely accepted public health research and directly contribute to an already serious health problem. Each pathological gambler costs society $18,000 per year. I think the Community Services Minister would be quite interested in hearing those figures, Mr. Speaker.
There is still time to prevent the introduction of casinos. This hoist will enable the government to have that time. So I do support the amendment from my colleague for Kings West, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) PAC Nova Scotia has no political affiliation and welcomes all who oppose casinos, for whatever reason. They are very concerned, as are a lot of Nova Scotians. We are concerned that there has not been any socio-economic study.
Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the amendment. Thank you for your indulgence and for some of you rulings.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, if I might, I don't want to appear excessive on this. I am asking the librarian if she could dig up for me from the archives a copy of an article that appeared in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald in June, I believe, on how to conduct a filibuster because I don't remember it all by memory. I remember that one of the points in it was that one says Mr. Speaker over and over again and I remind all honourable members that we do have a rule in this House against repetition. I think that is the point.
Now the next speaker to the amendment.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter) I assure you, sir, (Laughter) that I am not filibustering. My understanding, in making reference to the person who is in charge of this Chamber and debate in this Chamber, is that it must be continually reinforced that, in fact, the person on their feet is directing their debate through the Chair and that it is required that the title of the Chair be given on a regular basis, but . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Certainly not several times within one sentence.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . I must agree with you, sir, that it is somewhat bothersome for many of us and people who are watching because I have had people say to me, why do you constantly refer to the person chairing the session over and over again. I said, well, that is the way I learned and that is the way I try to make sure that everybody understands that I am not talking across the floor but, in fact, I am directing my debate and my discussion through the person in charge. (Laughter)
That having been said, Mr. Speaker, I would now like to move on to the amendment and suggest to you that I am speaking in support of the hoist motion brought forward by the member for Kings West because I think that there are some questions still unanswered with respect to the whole question of licensing casino gambling in this province. I think it is important that we take the time to look at some of these questions and continue to try to find the answers.
Mr. Speaker, you may recall that ever since the decision was made to license casino gambling in this province, I believe it was April 20, 1994, that the actual decision was announced, there has been continual and constant reference made by the government, either the Premier or the Minister of Finance or others in representing their position on casino gambling, that that decision was based on studies, evidence, that clearly showed for them that there were going to be significant economic benefits to the Province of Nova Scotia in terms of the type of revenues that were going to be generated, that were going to be brought in through increased tourism and the jobs that were going to be created and the significant impact for the areas in which these casinos would be established.
The problem that I have had and maybe I am just, as the Minister of Finance said earlier, partaking in, as he suggested, the usual Opposition role of criticizing and opposing and raising questions because that, in fact, is my duty as a member of the Opposition. I don't see it as such. I, in fact, feel that if someone is putting forth a position, then they should try, not through appeal to emotion, not through appeal to some particular higher authority or any other appeal, that if they truly support what it is that they are doing, the decision that they have made, then they will bring forward reasons, Mr. Speaker, much as we talk about reasoned arguments in this House, well, I am talking about reasoned arguments for taking a particular position on an issue. That is particularly, I think, germane, in light of the fact that you have information that is being brought forward, reasoned arguments that are being offered up in opposition to that position.
In order to establish some kind of balance in the debate, then it is important that the other side, that the proponents of that decision, in this case the government, would bring forward from those people who are trying to understand the debate, trying to evaluate the merits of the debate, that they would, too, bring forward their ammunition, in order to support the position they are bringing forward. I think that the people of Nova Scotia deserve nothing less.
The opportunity that the six months' hoist would provide is for either the government to do a tour of the province, not unlike what the Premier did this summer when he travelled with his entourage from one community to the next at both taxpayers' and the Liberal Party's expense, to shore-up support for his leadership bid or the decision around the whole leadership question. I think, as I understand it from certainly him and other government members, that was quite a successful consultation. In fact, you may recall that it led to the decision to put off the leadership review or the opportunity for the leadership review.
MR. SPEAKER: Now with the greatest of deference, the motion before the House is that Bill No. 120, An Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission, be not now read for a second time, but that it is to be read a second time, six months hence. That is the motion before the House.
The Rules of the House require strict relevance to the matter under debate, especially on amendments, as my honourable friend, who is a learned student of Beauchesne, would know from his studies of Beauchesne, that debate on amendments is more narrow and limited in scope than on second reading of bills. I have heard nothing in the last several minutes that relates to the amendment at all. Now the honourable member is into a treatise on the leadership of a political Party. This amendment does not deal with that topic, it deals with the topic of reading this bill six months hence and I would ask the honourable member to direct his remarks strictly to the amendment. The honourable member has the floor.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in my discussion of the six months' hoist you may recall that what I was just providing - it was a long sentence I would agree, but it was a sentence nonetheless, a sentence that had not yet been concluded - was an example of the type of process that I thought the government could engage in if it had six months. In other words, if the government members would agree with me and others to support the amendment before us at this particular time, that this bill would be hoisted for six months. What I am suggesting is not just to do it, but I am proposing that there are certain actions that could be undertaken within that six month period, in order to make sure that that time is not wasted. That is the intent and that is the argument I am supporting.
MR. SPEAKER: That is something that I think Speaker Arthur Donahoe would have called drawing a very long bow. I would invite the honourable member to restrict himself to explaining why this bill should be read six months hence and not now, and no other topic whatever. The honourable member has the floor.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in order for me to provide what I hope will be fairly cogent and reasoned arguments on why I think this bill should be hoisted for six months, I will try to present my rationale or my proposal to this government and to government members and other Opposition members who may be considering how to vote on this particular amendment, what it is that can be done within the next six months because I think that is extremely important.
The whole idea of having a hoist is not just to put a piece of legislation on the shelf but it is being proposed in order to provide the opportunity to do certain things, to correct certain problems. One of the problems I am trying to suggest to you and to all members of this House is that we have not had - members of this House, nor any Nova Scotian I would suggest - an opportunity to understand on what basis the Minister of Finance and the Premier and other members of government have been able to assure us and others that there will be these great economic spinoffs as the result of commercial casino operations in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, just this morning, in introducing this particular bill that this amendment addresses, the Minister of Finance said that it is based on the principle that Nova Scotians have a right to jobs and economic opportunities. Well, where is the evidence that in Nova Scotia the establishment of commercial casino operations in Halifax or Sydney is going to do that? What evidence does the minister have to contradict the arguments of some of the people who are opposing this particular idea, who say that in order for the government to rake in the $40 million of revenue that they are going to get out of the total take of these casinos, that there will need to be - I forget what the figures are, but what it means is that there will be significant revenues that are going to be sucked out of the communities. Sucked out of the small businesses and the professional services and the pockets of people within small communities in Cape Breton or in Halifax or in our area, in order to provide those particular revenues.
They say, and I would suggest that I share that concern, if I don't see any evidence to contradict it, that that is very problematic because at a time when our economy is hopefully beginning to be recharged and beginning to pick up a bit the last thing we need is for our limited financial resources in this province to be sucked into these commercial casino operations, some of it going to the government for doing whatever it is they will do with it and the rest of it going outside the province either to Austria or the United States or whatever. I don't understand that and that is why I have tried to encourage this minister and others as they have talked about this particular initiative to try to provide me and other people that have some concerns with their rationale or why it is going to be such a good deal.
The minister, in fact, just this morning when he was introducing the bill, said and again I have the reference here but I will paraphrase because it allows a little more leeway for him. The point that I wanted to make was that the minister said in terms of why it is that they have not engaged in a number of expansive studies of the potential economic spinoffs or the problems related to casinos in Nova Scotia, he said that we won't take the academic approach, I believe were his words. I would be happy to take a moment to find them but I don't want to trespass on the time of these Chambers but I believe I am pretty close. He said that we won't take the academic approach and he was referring to why they hadn't taken any time to consider any particular study initiated in Nova Scotia.
On the other hand the minister said, but we did refer and review reports prepared by other jurisdictions in Canada, Mr. Speaker. On the one hand the minister says, . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, you said that word.
MR. CHISHOLM: Well, I have to say it from time to time, I think that is all right, Mr. Speaker, please correct me if I am wrong. The minister on the one hand said, we are not going to take an academic approach, in other words we are not going to waste our time studying an issue here in Nova Scotia but on the other hand, we have reviewed studies from other jurisdictions which say it is okay. If my understanding is correct those studies, many of them were conducted by academics. So, where is the logic in that particular argument? Like so much of the argument the Minister of Finance has brought forward it is absolutely contradictory and as opposed to baseless which most of his arguments in favour have been.
Another comment was made this morning which raises some concern for me and that is that the minister said, and I quote from the unedited transcript from his comments this morning, he said, "I am assured that the committee . . .", referring to the casino project team, ". . . sought and received advice from many other jurisdictions in Canada where casino gaming is permitted.". I refer to two particular problems with that statement. One is, he said, "I am assured that the committee sought and received advice . . .", this is the same committee that he hasn't had any contact with, you must remember. It is totally arm's length and they have not met to discuss any issues. Yes, there are two senior civil servants working on that committee, one of whom the Minister of Finance would have fairly regular contact but as he said in this House they don't discuss anything to do with casino gambling in the Province of Nova Scotia or elsewhere. But here he is assuring us that the committee sought and received advice from many other jurisdictions in Canada.
The other concern I have with that statement is the fact that he and the Premier and others have told us that they have received advice from other jurisdictions and they have reviewed other studies but, in fact, all he is suggesting here is that it was the committee that has done that and a very capable group and doing a fine job and I am sure they are. But the whole question of reports, the whole question of studies, the whole question of what impact this is all going to have in Nova Scotia has not been addressed and I am concerned about that as I believe many others are.
In dismissing one of the reports referred to by the industrial commission of industrial Cape Breton, you may recall that one of the studies that they used was the Robert Goodman study of March 1994, because he reviewed, if I may and I will just read, the title was, Legalized Gambling as a Strategy for Economic Development. In debate in this House, the minister and others have tried to dismiss this particular report as an example of why you can't listen to any of these academics, you can't hold any value in these particular reports, you just have to dismiss them.
There is no point in us engaging in studies like this, is the kind of argument I think that the minister is putting forward. He referred to the fact that the Goodman study basically dismissed all other studies that were out there as being the reason why you don't need to do studies. But I think a valuable point that was made by the Goodman study and it was cited by the Board of Trade in industrial Cape Breton and I quote from Page 5 and I would be happy to table this, it says, "Our report does not recommend either for or against legalized gambling in general. Rather it describes the consequences of the ways in which community leaders, the media, and the public are learning and making decisions about legalization.".
Then what it does is it goes ahead and talks about the numbers of studies that have been conducted. The fact that a number of the studies that various jurisdictions have used that they have commissioned and used to base their decision on whether or not to have gambling in their particular jurisdiction, were studies that were conducted by people that had a material interest in the outcome. Therefore they are suggesting that the recommendations, the outcomes of those particular studies were questionable at best.
I think this one study clearly raised the point and was my understanding and that of the industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade, that this is a very complicated issue that is going to have significant impacts on the communities in which casino gambling is introduced. It will have significant impacts and there is no point in going into that situation blindfolded.
Any decision-makers need to make sure that they have the best evidence available and he was suggesting that a number of the studies that now exist are faulty. I would suggest, to me that means what needs to happen is you need to do one of two things. One, you need to conduct your own study that you, yourself, control, you being the government or the people of Nova Scotia, in order that all the questions that you feel important are asked and answered. Secondly, that you analyze all studies that have been done on this issue with a very critical eye and based on the realities of the particular jurisdiction from which you come. The question again remains, why has the government not done that? Why have they continued to push this matter forward without telling us why it is that they are going that way?
What we have heard this minister and this government say in supporting this initiative is that, well other jurisdictions have done studies and we have reviewed those or somebody has. He said sometimes it is him, sometimes it is the Casino Project Team but somebody has. I think. Maybe. We haven't seen the results of that review, we haven't seen the notes that somebody took when they reviewed these reports and did an analysis. I don't know about you or any of the other members here but, when I review a report I highlight some sections, I write notes in the margins, I take notes on a separate sheet of paper and then, at the end, when I am finished, I review it all, and the information that I gleaned from it, in order to reach my conclusion about what that particular report says.
Has the minister tabled any of that information? No, Mr. Speaker. Has that information come to us as a result of requests for background information on the information that they had that helped them reach the decision on casino gambling? No, that information has not been provided.
So one can only come to the conclusion that that has not been done. Regardless of the assurances, because of the fact that they have consistently failed to come forward with the evidence to support their decision or to support the fact that they have done those kinds of reviews or analysis, it has not been done and the government needs time, the government needs the six months that is provided for in this hoist, in this motion to hoist this particular piece of legislation. They need time to consider the comments referred to by the member for Cape Breton South - the wanna-be minister some would suggest - that member, the MLA for Cape Breton South was quoted in an article in a Cape Breton paper as suggesting that the casino in Sydney may not ever go; it may not ever fly.
Well, who knows, Mr. Speaker? You don't know; I don't know, the member for Cape Breton South doesn't know; the Minister of Finance doesn't know; and the people of Nova Scotia don't know. So why don't we take the time here? I think the Minister of Finance should say thank you to the member for Kings West for giving him the opportunity to try to save some face here. You and I both know that for any leader to step back and reflect on a decision they have made is not a sign of weak leadership. It is a sign of maturity, I would suggest. It is a sign of responsibility. It is a sign of confidence and, I would suggest, it is a sign of a clear understanding of what democratic decision-making is all about. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I recommend that that decision be made.
One of the points that has been made by the Minister of Finance is that they have reviewed all these reports in all these jurisdictions across the country that have gone ahead with casino gambling so, therefore, it must be right. Well, you know the problem with that kind of assertion is that in part it is true, but in part it is not true. Those jurisdictions have, in fact, gone forward with casino gambling, but none of them have gone forward with the kind of casino gambling that this minister and his government is trying to bring forward. This will be the first jurisdiction to have solely commercialized casino gambling. This is the first jurisdiction in Canada to do that.
Well, again, without seeming to be or without being repetitive, the question that comes to my mind, once again, is on what basis was the decision made to go with that kind of casino gambling. In other words, there are two big questions here. One of them is why did you decide to go forward with casino gambling in the first place? That is number one. Number two is, why did you decide to go forward with this form of casino gambling? I have not heard the answers. Have you heard you the answers?
Mr. Speaker, you know, we could take the next six months, maybe, and we might hear, finally, and I have been waiting with bated breath, for the report to be provided by the member for Hants East on the experience of some of those western jurisdictions that he visited last spring or last winter. I forget exactly when. Perhaps over the next six months, if the government takes the opportunity to study this issue, we will also hear, all members of this House, as was requested and agreed to, I believe, in the spring sitting this year, that the member for Hants East, had been requested by the Minister of Finance to attend some casinos, in some of the western provinces and to report back and report back to this House.
I believe, if I am not mistaken, that the Minister of Finance pledged to this House in Question Period that he would, in fact, see that that report or a report or some kind of accounting, both substantive and expense wise, would be made to this House. I have not seen it yet. But, perhaps, in the next six months, if we were to move this particular motion that is on the floor right now, that we would have an opportunity to review and to learn further from the member for Hants East. I think we could all benefit from that. Certainly, I could.
There are other studies, there are lots of studies. We have heard that. Although, I will tell you what, the Goodman study that I referred to earlier, in fact, suggested that there was a dearth of quality studies into this particular issue. Given the fact that casino gambling is being plastered all over North America, there has not been the kind of extensive quality studies that there should be. That is all we have to go on and considering the merits of this particular debate, is on what is available. So until we are provided with evidence or we are given direction to refer to particular studies, we will just flounder around as best we can to come up with some evidence as to why or why not this is a good idea.
It is interesting in looking at this, and I believe it is a book called Temples of Chance.
MR. SPEAKER: I pray that the honourable member will not now give us a reading from the book Temples of Chance. I would direct the attention of the honourable member, for the third time, to Section 24, Subsection 2, concerning irrelevance in debate and states that, "Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, after having called the attention of the House or of the committee to the conduct of a Member . . .", which I have now done twice, this being the third time, ". . . who persists in irrelevance or repetition of his own arguments in debate, may direct him to discontinue his speech.".
Now, it would be with great reluctance that I would exercise that right. I must point out to the House that the determination as to what constitutes irrelevance is, under these rules, left with the Chair and is not in the opinion of the member making the submission to the House. It is in the opinion of the Chair. Now, it is the opinion of the Chair that there has been great indulgence exercised in listening to the submission which was supposed to be on an amendment, that the bill be not now read for the second time but be read this day six months hence.
For the final time, I would ask the honourable member to please explain why he advocates that course of action and not to stray off into readings from novels, or whatever it was, that he was proposing to read from.
The honourable member has the floor.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the point that I am about to move into is not dissimilar to other points I have been making, in that what I am trying to suggest is that we need to take the opportunity provided by this emotion, by the six months' hoist, in order to consider the arguments that are out there, the concerns that have been raised by people with respect to this particular decision. If we do not take, my fear, in all seriousness, is that if we do not have the time that is provided for in this particular motion, that this bill will pass through second reading and it will move on to Law Amendments, and in a couple of weeks' time, it will be back. There are thousands of Nova Scotians who are concerned about this issue that will not have an opportunity to express their views directly to this government in a way that they will understand it.
There are, I think, very legitimate concerns that have been raised. Those concerns, many of them have been based on studies that have been done on the whole issue of casino gambling. You know, again, in this study that I am referring to here, it raises, I think, some points that I hope the government will consider over the next six months. It is a work called, Temples of Chance, by David Johnson. It basically deals with the situation in New Jersey on this issue. Its subtitle is, How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business. Some strong language, nonetheless.
One of the things that it talks about is that the whole issue of gambling is here, gambling is part of our society, it seems, of various kinds. We have heard that in here, whether it be bingo or whether it be people out on the golf course wagering on their scores for a particular hole, or whatever, Mr. Speaker. There is gambling, there is that kind of wagering in society. The question that is raised is whether or not the government, whether or not the state, should be directly involved in that process. In other words, whether they should be condoning this particular activity.
One of the references, one of the points that is raised here, and I could not cite it probably as well, as has been here, so I will just read, if I may, this brief sentence on this particular issue. It says here, but to make the noblest expression of our civility, the democratic state, a partner in wagering, is to encourage pathologies to enrich the state's coffers, a Faustian bargain, it says, Mr. Speaker. I would be glad to table this particular reference.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.
MR. GERALD O'MALLEY: I thank the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic for yielding the floor. Mr. Speaker, in your gallery of just a moment ago, it is my honour and privilege to introduce to those, somebody really well-known by all members of the House as an outstanding member of the bar, as an outstanding political figure in Canada, an advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada, of men who ran in an election in the North End of Halifax and it may have been a much greater place had he been the winner. The honourable Brian Flemming, and I would ask him to stand and be received by the House. (Applause)
MR. CHISHOLM: The point that I think is so well made here in this study of how casino gambling is regulated in New Jersey is the morality of the state participating in this activity in order to fill its own pockets. There are parts of this particular bill of what this amendment refers to, which raise those very concerns. Here you have two casinos that will be established for the purposes of making as much money as they possibly can, regardless of the consequences. I mean the point is going to be, I believe, that from the revenues that are generated and the prime motivation for the people that are operating those casinos, is to generate as much revenue as possible. They are a commercial operation and that is going to be their primary motivation. The role that the government has is to take some of those revenues, I guess, and try to deal with some of the consequences.
Now, the concerns that have been raised and that have been expressed to me and brought to my attention and I think to the government's attention, at least to some extent, are those very points. What about that whole question, of your role, as a government, as a representative of the taxpayers of this province, what about your role in participating in this commercial casino gambling enterprise? I think that is a question that has real merit and something that Nova Scotians should have an opportunity to not only put the question to this government but also to hear this government's answer. And as part of that same question I think this government has an obligation not to do as the Minister of Finance has said. In other words, as he said this morning, it is our decision to make, it is the decision of the province to make and we are going to make it and that is that. (Interruptions)
I don't believe that that is good enough. Not only does that trample on the wishes of the people of Nova Scotia but it also has some real implications for those people who are elected at the municipal level to control development, to levy by-laws, to enforce by-laws, to make decisions with respect to people within that particular area. What that minister has said and other members of this government have said is, we don't care. We don't care what the people of Halifax, for example, or the people of Sydney have to say about this issue.
For example, as opposed to the Province of Saskatchewan, who said that we are going to allow two casinos to go forward, one in Regina and one in Saskatoon. The people of Saskatoon were given the opportunity in the last round of municipal election, to vote on whether they wanted one, as did the people of Regina by the way. The people of Regina said yes, the people of Saskatoon said, no, So what did the provincial government do? They didn't thumb their nose at those people or at those decisions, they said fine, we are not going to shove it down your throat. And that is a concern that I have, that this government seems prepared to just roll on through, regardless of any concerns or opposition that might be in the way.
I think that that really goes at the whole foundation of our democratic system here in Nova Scotia and certainly puts that whole question of the credibility of the democratic system in this province, into serious question.
So, why doesn't the Minister of Finance say to the people of Sydney, the people of Halifax, the people of Nova Scotia in general, the 40,000-plus who have articulated their opposition by signing petitions, say to the myriad groups of business organizations, of church organizations, of community organizations, who have indicated their opposition to this issue, why does the Minister of Finance not take the opportunity today that is provided for by the amendment brought forward, to give him six months, why doesn't he show us the courage to say all right, we will all support it and we will take time over those next six months to hear from those people, that we will engage in a real balanced debate, we will talk to you people who are in opposition, many tens of thousands of Nova Scotians, and explain to you why it is that we think this will work, why it is good for Nova Scotia. We will listen to you and your arguments as to why you don't feel that this is a good idea for Nova Scotians. We are going to take the time - I don't know what the format should be but hopefully, it will be a format that by its composition and its organization has some credibility built in, but that the minister will engage in that kind of an honest and open and constructive debate over an issue that has the possibility of forever transforming the image and the culture of Nova Scotia.
I don't say that idly. The more I read about this whole issue, the more concern I have. I understand that we need money in this province, I understand that we need to somehow generate revenues to wipe out the debt and pay for the public services we provide. But in the name of Heaven, Mr. Speaker, at what cost are we going to do that? When you look at some of the cases, some of the examples of the small towns in the southern U.S. that have agreed to wholesale casino gambling, that had a very pristine and wholesome nature and culture beforehand, that got a lot of tourists based on those particular characteristics, but then when the decision was made to legalize gambling, almost overnight the glittering lights and the slot machines and the VLTs and the roulette tables and the sundry accoutrements went from one end of the town to the other. All of a sudden this community that had stability and low crime and some integrity was inundated by people who were trying to make their life better through a lucky strike. The decision transformed those communities potentially forever.
That could just as easily happen in Nova Scotia and that concerns me greatly, as a Nova Scotian; I don't want that to happen here. I don't want to have that kind of development in my city or in my province. What we need is a plan to try to generate some long-lasting economic activity that isn't based on some morally questionable premises that take money out of communities and take money eventually out of the province, instead of putting it to work to create long-term, long-lasting jobs that contribute to the cultural as well as the economic and the social credibility and integrity of our communities.
This proposal is full of holes. There are so many unanswered questions about this initiative, an initiative that is so important that this government should be ashamed to be pushing forward with it.
I was part of the ill-fated and I say the ill-fated because it is like we went around the province on one leg, or one wing, you will remember the Kimball Committee. The Kimball Committee went to communities in this province to consider the whole issue of VLTs and gambling in the Province of Nova Scotia; we did it sometime by bus and we did it because we didn't have a whole lot of money to work with. But nonetheless we heard from a lot of people. And we didn't just talk about VLTs with people, we talked about gambling in general, we talked about casinos.
One of the things that really came through loud and clear to me as a member of that committee and I don't know if other members would agree or not but certainly for me, was that Nova Scotians have an image of what their province is. They deeply care and they love what this province represents. They fight tooth and nail against the idea of Upper Canadians trying to categorize us in Nova Scotia as being less ambitious or slower or not able to meet up with the global challenges. We fight that in Nova Scotia tooth and nail because we know that we are hard-working, many of us are God-fearing, many of us are people who contribute to our communities and to the stability and to the long-lasting nature of our communities, to the safety of our communities.
Some people were concerned about the fact that we already had bingos, that we already had horse racing and certainly that we had lotto tickets and that kind of stuff. The idea of putting VLTs on top of that concerned some people greatly because they felt that it was attacking the moral fibre and integrity of our communities. I am not suggesting that that is true or not but that was a concern that was represented.
Overall, the impression that we got was that nothing is going to be gained and, in fact, there are going to be great losses to our Nova Scotian culture, by providing and participating in the proliferation of gambling in communities in Nova Scotia. If I am not mistaken, that was also heard by the Community Services Committee headed up by the member for Halifax Bedford Basin.
So, in light of all of that, in light of the caution that was provided for by those standing committees, why is the government moving forward with this particular decision? Why do they not take the opportunity provided by this motion to hoist for six months, to go to the people of Nova Scotia? Why don't we put it in the form of a plebiscite, Mr. Speaker? Are you opposed or are you in favour? I don't know how you ask those questions. There are academics, as much as the Minister of Finance tries to discredit them, there are people who have skills and know how those kinds of questions should properly be asked. Why don't we go to the people of Nova Scotia?
MR. SPEAKER: With deference, the amendment does not relate to going to the people, it relates to the bill being read six months hence, here in the House. A referendum would be a separate proposition.
MR. CHISHOLM: But wouldn't the next six months be an opportunity to do that? That is the question that I am asking members of this government. It has been very informative, I think, over the past couple of years, to take those kinds of questions to the people of Nova Scotia, whether it be VLTs (Interruption) Well, the member for Hants East may know of an occasion when a standing committee went to the people of Nova Scotia with respect to chickenburgers but I don't. I would be happy to be informed, and as much as other members may try to distract me from my point . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Well, yield not to the distractions because if you do, you will be called to order and asked to sit down, so please stay on the amendment.
MR. CHISHOLM: But again, all I am trying to raise is that I think there is some significant value in having that six months. I have tried to give some direction to members or some suggestions. Heaven forbid that I give any direction, but suggestions, to members of this House that over the next six months there are some things that could be done that not only would help me but would help other people who are concerned that questions are not being answered. And, I think, would also provide the government with an opportunity to hear the answer to that question because that question has never been posed to the people of Nova Scotia.
We are moving forward, or proposing to move forward, with an initiative to establish two commercial casinos, the first jurisdiction in Canada to do that, in the Province of Nova Scotia, with all of the reported negative effects that will have on our communities. Yet we have not asked, the government has not asked the people of Nova Scotia what they think.
I don't understand. Why, if the government was concerned about getting and having some credibility on this question and getting a mandate, Heaven forbid, from the people of Nova Scotia on this, why didn't we put it to a plebiscite during the municipal elections? Was that because the Province of Nova Scotia was going to ignore it? The government didn't want to enter into a possible situation where they might get an answer they didn't want to hear, as in Yarmouth?
I think I heard a member say earlier that the response there was only 68 per cent against it. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think my percentage of the vote for me winning Halifax Atlantic was, I don't know, 37 per cent. That was valid, right? Here I am. The government got 43 per cent of a popular vote of all Nova Scotians, they are in government. The question is not what the percentage is, the question is whether the percentage in that case is greater than 50 per cent. It wasn't only greater, I would suggest it is quite a bit greater.
I know that in my experience bargaining units have gone on strike with that kind of vote. People decide to form unions for a lot less than that. That is the law and the democracy that, in some cases, Heaven forbid, majority rules. What a unique concept that is.
The people of Sydney considered this question some months ago and I believe they rejected it. In a plebiscite in the last round of municipal elections, the people of Yarmouth considered the question and they rejected it. Is that why this government is afraid to take time, to take the six months that is offered by this amendment or any other time, take two months. I don't care, but just give this some more thought and provide Nova Scotians with some justification for why you are doing what you are doing.
I urge members to listen to the outcry out there from across the province that says that we do not want casinos in our communities. If you do not hear it loud enough, go out and ask it again and let's have a real debate in this province on the merits of casino gambling before we push headlong down a road to a decision or to an eventuality that, Mr. Speaker, I am afraid will have a very serious and negative impact on this province. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou Centre.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate in terms of an amendment to Bill No. 120 that the word that be deleted and the following substituted, an Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission, be not now read for a second time, but that it is to be read a second time, six months hence.
I think that is a very reasonable thing to consider at this time, in view of how the whole issue of casinos in this province has evolved. I was interested, just in opening, to perhaps digress for just a short moment to the dialogue between the Speaker and the previous speaker in terms of the use of term Mr. Speaker so often in debate. I would suggest that that is not a delaying tactic, but I think it is a pit that we have all fallen into in terms of using Mr. Speaker when we are trying to gather our thoughts. Another use of the term, of course, it is a form of phonetic punctuation; I think that we try to emphasize a point in that if, in fact, no one else is listening, then perhaps the Speaker is listening. I agree with the Speaker's ruling; I think it is most tiresome to hear that repeated over and over again, but it is a trap that we all fall into.
What could be achieved at this point by taking a little more time and looking at this problem of casinos? When a government comes to power, I think one of the things that it is obliged to do is to initiate the mandate that it was given at election time. When I look back, I do not recall that the introduction of casinos was a plank in the Liberal platform. I don't recall that the Liberal members of this House were going around and saying on the doorsteps of their constituencies that, yes, if I am elected, we are going to have casinos in Nova Scotia.
Passing of this amendment would, I think, allow sufficient time for Nova Scotians to have their say as to whether or not they are going to have their lives and their province altered in this very fundamental way, in allowing casinos to become part of the landscape in this province.
It is very interesting as to what the significance of all of this is. That is why I think it is very important that we not rush into the adoption and the passage of this bill without giving it due consideration and allowing a participatory kind of democracy to allow itself to happen and to allow people to really have their say.
One of the reasons put forth by the Minister of Finance in terms of introducing casinos and, I think, perhaps, the only one, is the fact that, in his estimation, casinos will provide him revenue to help solve the financial crisis that the province is in.
Well, only yesterday I think the minister reassured us that there really isn't the urgency to have casinos that he would have led us to believe even a short time ago because only yesterday, the minister came to us and he said in this House that, in fact, he was going to be able to meet his fiscal requirements in terms of deficit control. In fact, revenues are going to be up, the transfer of payments is going to be up and he will be able to meet his fiscal requirements that he has set out as his objective over the next year.
I congratulate the minister because I think regardless of who would be in power now, that would be the objective. I think if you look back, that was certainly a big plank in the platform that our Party electioneered on. But only yesterday the minister said that he can meet those fiscal challenges, he can meet the deficit reduction that he set out to do and he could do that without casinos. Would that then not lend itself as an argument that the fundamental change proposed in this province by the introduction of casinos could wait six months? I think so.
What we have before us is an incomplete package. We have a piece of legislation which sets up a corporation and a commission. There are some very difficult pills to swallow in that piece of legislation. The minister, by his own admission, says there is more to come. There will be perhaps 300 pages of legislation that we haven't seen yet, that the government members have not seen yet and yet it seems that they are willing to pass on this legislation.
What could be achieved by waiting six months? What could be achieved is a more complete understanding of the ramifications of casinos being introduced in this province. Let's look at the social implications and there has been a great deal said about this, there has been a great deal said about the fact that 5 per cent of people are potential gambling addicts.
Yesterday in this House, the minister, on introducing this bill, he suggested that gambling was always in Nova Scotia. I think that is a fair statement. He used that argument as to be a reason why, in fact, the province, by introducing casinos into the province was only merely adding to a problem that is already here. Well, I would like to think that Nova Scotians may not agree with that interpretation or with that logic.
This province has accepted the fact that people in this province misuse tobacco products, in fact, use tobacco products. This province derives revenue from tobacco products. By the minister's logic, it would be quite appropriate for him to promote the use of tobacco products since, in fact, we are already doing it anyway.
This province derives a great deal of income from alcohol. By the minister's logic, then the province should be out promoting the use of alcohol and, thus, deriving more revenue.
The social impact of casino gambling in this province is really unknown. There is one piece of information that I know exists that yet has not been brought forward and analyzed, perhaps because there has not been time. But the Halifax Police Department has provided the government with a paper which outlines the increased cost of policing, which will be directly attributable to a casino in this city. While I don't know the figures and I have not seen the study, I have heard the comment that these costs are significant. The increased policing requirements in the City of Halifax, directly attributable to the casino in this city, will be substantial.
Why do the people of Nova Scotia, why do the members of this House, why do the members of the government, why are they not made privy to this information? Because it will be, in fact, a measure of the social impact of the casino in this city and the information is available. Why is it not being made available to everyone?
Looking at the social impact, the legislation would suggest that there will be ongoing evaluation of the social impact as the casinos are established and up and running. Without a proper evaluation of social impact before the casinos are set up, we will be starting down a road from which there will be no return.
This government knows what it is to start down a road and find out that it was the wrong road because it took that road when it introduced Sunday shopping. We all remember Sunday shopping. It was ill-conceived and it was not what the people wanted but once started down that road, it was possible to retrace one's steps. Once the casinos are set up in this province, the financial arrangements between the casino operators and the province will preclude us retracing our steps. So, it behooves us at this time to make sure that we are, in fact, going down the right road.
A six months' hoist to enable a proper evaluation of the many unanswered questions regarding casino gambling would certainly be appropriate and I think is being looked for by many Nova Scotians.
Let's look for a moment at the problem of gambling addiction. I have had very little personal experience with gambling addicts but it is obvious that in those areas where this is a major problem that it certainly negates much of the economic spinoff in terms of having a casino in your area without looking at the social harm itself, but the cost of treating the gambling addict. I am not aware of any process, I am not aware of any facility in this province that is set up to handle gambling addicts. I am not aware of the costs of such a treatment centre.
Would that not be a question that could be addressed over the next six months? There does not seem to be anyone, from the Finance Minister to any member of government who is prepared to debate the fact that this will not occur; we are all assuming we will have gambling addiction if we have casinos and at a rate far greater than we have with the level of gambling in this province at present. So, let's look at the costs of treating gambling addicts, the real costs, the financial costs and let's look at the social cost of creating gambling addictions.
This government did not electioneer on bringing casinos to Nova Scotia. In the same way, it did not campaign on bringing Sunday shopping to Nova Scotia. Well, we had Sunday shopping, it has come and gone but be assured that the minute they start to turn the sod for a new casino in Nova Scotia, whether it be in Halifax or in Sydney, we are going down a road from which there is no return.
Do we really know the damage to our values, to our lifestyles and to our security that will be introduced into our lives with the introduction of casinos into this province? These are the questions that are not addressed in the bill tabled by the minister and they are not addressed by any of the information that the government has brought forth to convince us, to convince Nova Scotians that we should have casinos.
If this government has introduced one argument beyond that of financial reward, as a value to having casinos in this province, then I have not heard it. I have not heard any overwhelming argument that there is, in fact, any financial reward to the introduction of casinos in this province.
Mr. Speaker, we need more time, time to evaluate the effect of casinos on the lifestyles and the value and the security of life here in Nova Scotia. The passing of this amendment will give us that time to properly look at a problem that will profoundly change the landscape in Nova Scotia from this day on, if we allow the casino project to go forward. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I shall be very leery of mentioning your name more often than is absolutely necessary. So I appreciate the opportunities to be here and stand in my place and speak on the very thought of giving this bill a rest, giving the people of Nova Scotia what they were entitled to and what they expected from this government when they voted so overwhelmingly, about a year and a half ago, to put them in office. They expected extensive consultation.
Truly, Mr. Speaker, I think we are entitled to the extensive consultation that a six months' hoist would give this bill, we need the time. I think the people in Nova Scotia, I think you would have to agree, have some good ideas, some good suggestions, some thoughts that would be helpful to all of us if we were to listen. There have been more people who have asked me in the last two or three months, what can we do to stop the casinos? I can honestly and sincerely say to you I have had more conversations, I have had more constituents, I have had more phone calls regarding this foolhardy idea of building casinos in Nova Scotia than any other issue. This is an issue that just gripped people right where their heart is I guess and it gets them emotionally and physically enough to call their MLA. Now, we don't get phone calls from all of our constituents, very few people really end up calling their MLA and for a lot of people it is quite a move. I encourage people to phone their MLA. We are just ordinary people and by golly they have been calling in droves, I know to me and I suspect to other members of the House complaining about the casinos.
The other day the Baptist minister called me from Port Williams and we had a nice chat and he said what can I do? I said well I suggest that you call the MLA, the member for Kings South, and give him the same concerns that you are giving me so I hope that he did that. He was indicating to me that he would get a neighbour to do it but I said I don't think there is much an Opposition member can do except speak against it, I don't think we can stop it. But, if that person does call members of the government side of the House perhaps they will listen.
Last evening a hotel operator from Wolfville asked what could we do to stop the casinos, we don't want them. Mr. Speaker, his opinion should be heard by this government and all members of the House and a six months' hoist would give us the opportunity to hear what he has to say. Last evening I was in Kentville for quite a while and the topic of conversation really was centered on casinos and what can we do for more information. They want to know more about the casino industry.
There are a lot of people that are interested. TIANS, the Tourist Industry Association of Nova Scotia originally, I think the day after the Minister of Finance, the minister of casinos made the announcement we were in the business, said, we support it. But then on sober second thought, as it were, TIANS last week said, no we are not in favour of casinos unless we have additional information. We have questions that need answers and Mr. Speaker, (Interruption) TIANS asked the Government of Nova Scotia to form an all-Party committee -this fits in exactly with the six months' hoist and it would give us the opportunity - to appoint a recognized authority who would identify possible benefits to our industry as well as the possible harm which could come from the introduction of casinos to our province so that we may properly prepare ourselves for this eventuality. That is what TIANS said and I think when they said that it almost is as though they were thinking of this very debate that we are holding in the House today. Six months would be ample time for the committee that the TIANS have suggested. Ample time for us to travel every nook and cranny of this great province and ample time to have the report written and tabled before you in this very Chamber.
I think TIANS really were thinking of today and the six months' hoist when they passed this motion at their meeting. That is what I feel and I know that I am not alone when I feel that way. The doctors of Nova Scotia want an opportunity to speak. I know the Minister of Health listens to the physicians in the province, him being one and I know the Minister of Health listens to the health council, he values their opinion.
The churches, truly, can you find me a couple of groups that say, hurry on with this. Find me a couple of groups.
AN HON. MEMBER: Bernie and Laszlo.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, Lucky Laszlo. He wants it. He wouldn't mind a six month extension at $50,000 per, he would probably even be in favour of a six months' hoist. Another six months, another $50,000, that is a good deal for him.
The all-Party legislative committee that travelled around the province said, not yet, we are not ready. The signatures. The honourable Minister of Community Services, he has changed his mind, maybe we can get him back if we have six months to work on him. The honourable Minister of Education, maybe we can get him back on our side. What about the member for Inverness, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, maybe you will change your mind and come with us if we have six months.
If we rush this bill, they won't have ample opportunity to really think about it, sober second thought is what we need. The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, six months, a year ago he thought that casinos weren't good for Nova Scotia, not at this time, maybe we can win him over. The members for Yarmouth, Sackville, Timerlea-Prospect and of course, the chairman of the committee is that honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin. I know that if we had six months and even send those same signatories to that report on the road and if they revisited with the people that convinced them the first time, perhaps those same people coming back and even more would come with them now I know, if they came with them and spoke, they would then perhaps overpower the weight of argument that the Minister of Finance put on them like that when he said, it is my way or else. Mr. Speaker, we need the six months so that all members can really think and hear what the people are saying. (Interruptions) We need the time.
Represent the views of your constituents. I think we need the six months so that we can better acquaint ourselves with the people who are living in our areas because as I travel around the province and I meet people in Halifax when the House is in session or I am in here on business or something, people are constantly talking about casinos and the lack of knowledge and the lack of information, the unavailability of information to them to make a real sound decision. Six months would do that for us.
You know, we are supposed to represent the views of the people at home. We are not just supposed to represent the views of our Party. This little group of us here, these eight of us, we come from all over the province and we are representing the views of the people that sent us here. Now some us live in neighbouring constituencies. I think we should give the people in our communities the opportunity to speak with all of us so that we can come in here and come forth with legislation that we can all agree with. This six months, really, it is not a bad thing to change your mind.
Remember that fellow, the famous Minister of Finance, no new taxes Bernie? He changed his mind on taxes, public tendering, Horton school, municipal reform, health care. We have seen hundreds of examples of people changing their mind. Six months is all we are asking. We don't say, don't bring in legislation forever. We say give us six months and I know in my heart that really we can come forth with an opinion that is both welcomed by Nova Scotians and accepted by this Legislature.
We have gone for hundreds of years without a casino in Nova Scotia and look at us. We are not doing that bad, Mr. Speaker. There is nobody walking down the street with a placard saying I want to play blackjack. I need the roulette wheels. I need the crap tables. Have you seen them like that? We have got along all right without them.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, the chairman of the committee that said they did not want a casino just informed me you are not allowed to have a crap table in Canada. This is good information. You see, his trip around the province did some good and he did not forget everything he learned. He just forgot what his recommendation was. So there is hope for all of us.
We have been going for hundreds of years without it. This week the federal government made us all happy and I will tell you what they did. They announced that, for the first time in about four years, rather than a reduction in transfer payments, there is an increase in transfer payments and we are going to get $75 million to $100 million more than the Nova Scotia Finance Minister budgeted for in last spring's budget. With this additional $75 million to $100 million, that means he does not need his $60 million or $70 million projected for one more year. Mr. Speaker, that takes the urgency away from this legislation, because he needed it he said, in a hurry, so he can start getting the money.
Ottawa has solved the problem for us because the transfer payments have increased to Nova Scotia. So we have been given a little bit of time, so the extra windfall that we have got will give us the six months. (Interruption)
We have had studies in Nova Scotia. We had three of them, I guess. They all said no. Number four, would it hurt. Let's keep trying until we get it right. Six months is not a long time. It is only long when you are a little kid and you are waiting for Christmas and then six months is a long time. But, you know, for us older people, the members of this House, six months is not a real long time in the scheme of things. We can wait six months.
Look at the Minister of the Environment. That is a fine, upstanding example of how you get things done. He gave us all six months to look at his legislation. Is that not true? Six months, we had the public to study the legislation. Is there anything, Mr. Speaker, in this province that is more important than our environment? He said, I can wait six months, as an example of the six month wait. After waiting six months, he tabled this bill in here again, not much change from the first time. We are looking at it and it is in Law Amendments Committee now and the people from Nova Scotia are making more suggestions and I know he is listening.
Last year, the Minister of Housing, he gave us about six months to look at that bill on credit unions. Was there anything wrong with that? No. People on the streets were saying what a progressive minister, all-encompassing. He helped us and he brought in better legislation by giving it the six months.
So really, folks, you can see how important it is. Time, that is all we are asking for. Tomorrow is a pretty special day and I see we are all wearing our poppies and there is a reason. But, by golly, you ask the veterans what they want to think. You ask them what they think about casinos. Talk to the older people. Find out what they are thinking. Six months is not too long to wait. Just because they have one in Montreal, does that mean we need one in Nova Scotia? Certainly not.
I am hearing heckling and they say British Columbia. Well, I am glad he brought up British Columbia because didn't they have a referendum? Yes, they don't want another one.
Well, Mr. Speaker, there is nothing wrong with listening to the people. As politicians, never forget where you came from. Don't think that all the ideas come from this building and don't think that all the ideas just come from the front bench over there. Sometimes that front bench can make mistakes and, in this case, I know they sent the honourable member for Hants East on a whirlwind trip across Canada and he stopped in Montreal and British Columbia and he came back and said, I have the answers, I know all about casinos and I tell you, we should build them. And they said, good enough for me. Don't write it down, just tell me, your word is good enough for me.
So that fellow from Hants East, the Minister of Finance has explicit faith in what he says. I think that is marvellous. He has more faith in what he says than I do.
Now, Mr. Speaker, looking at the bill just very briefly, and I know there is a real problem . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: We are going to look at some communities that will benefit from the hoist.
MR. ARCHIBALD: We are all going to benefit from this hoist.
Taxes, Mr. Speaker - oh, we have the Deputy Speaker in the Chair now. The Deputy Speaker knows a lot about municipal politics because he was there, he was one once. You know this bill eliminates taxes. These casinos are not going to pay municipal taxes in Halifax or in Sydney.
AN HON. MEMBER: Or Aldershot.
MR. ARCHIBALD: No, they are not paying them in Aldershot either, they are not paying them anywhere. Is this fair? Shouldn't the municipal units have a chance to say what do you think? Shouldn't you pay taxes?
Police protection, fire protection, garbage pick-up, is the municipal unit expected to do that? Sewer and water, with no tax revenue from these casinos? I mean come on, Mr. Speaker.
Then you go on a little further and you see other scary things in this bill.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, with due respect, order, please. It seems to me that we are dealing with the amendment to hoist. I gave a ruling at the opening of this debate that this amendment is not a reasoned amendment but a complementary amendment, in terms of an extension of time, so the degree of specificity of the debate is high, indeed, and it is related to the amendment. Yet I hear the honourable member quoting from the bill. So I would ask the honourable member to refrain from using the bill as part of his debate and debate the amendment in a higher degree of specificity. Thank you very much.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I know exactly what you mean. The reason I started taking about taxes was because I think we need six months for the municipal unit to talk to this government about taxes, I think it is only fair. A business that is supposed to generate a profit should pay taxes, so I think it is only fair that they do talk to Halifax and Sydney about whether they are expected to provide police protection and fire protection and all those other things for nothing.
Now look, Mr. Speaker, when this government was elected, the government you ran with, people expected consultation. Now this six months will give you time for consultation because, and I want to quote something in here, Mr. Speaker, and I know you won't mind because it is from your Leader; your Leader said, we propose to strictly regulate machines, limit their presence and devote a percentage of the earnings to the treatment of those with gambling addictions. We will strictly enforce age restrictions and public education about gambling.
Then we found out the other day that none of this was done; there is no enforcement, there are no new people hired, no regulations. Does this give you any confidence in this piece of legislation that the Minister of Finance introduced? You see what I mean? We need the six months so people have confidence because they read one thing and they see something else so that is why we need the six months.
The Minister of Health has personal views on casinos that differ from those of the Minister of Finance, he said that publicly and we have to get the two on the same track. I think in six months the Minister of Health could talk the Minister of Finance into thinking the same way he is thinking but he needs the six months.
The Provincial Health Council is a very respected body throughout Nova Scotia and they are concerned about gambling addicts and increased crime. Let's hear from them. Maybe they have information that the Minister of Finance doesn't have and if he had the information from them he might change his mind. The Medical Society and the physicians, highly educated, highly skilled, responsible Nova Scotians, I mean they are the kinds of citizens that everybody is trying to attract to their province, they are recruiting them from all over the United States to Nova Scotia, everybody is fighting for doctors and we have them right here now and they are giving us free advice but we won't take it.
If we have six months, six little months and even the honourable member for Cape Breton South, Manning MacDonald, do you know what he said? He said, I have to read you this: The Halifax one will attract gamblers but elsewhere; the Cape Breton one will be lucky to survive. I have to question whether it will succeed at all. I can see right off the bat that there is room for discussion, there is room for hearings. We have the Minister of Health being uncomfortable, the member for Cape Breton South doesn't even think it will work. We have got to sit down and talk about this. Let's not go on a fools errand that we all know is doomed to failure before we start it. Let's have a talk.
Antigonish, they want to come and visit, they want to talk. You know, Antigonish when I was in school I remember learning about the Coady Institute, the Antigonish Movement, they want to have a talk to us, how can we turn them down? Six months isn't too long a time. It will make a better province. The decision to initiate casinos draws a negative vote. That is what the Council of Churches in Antigonish and Cape Breton said.
Well, Mr. Speaker, concerning the money spent on consultants by this government, six months with members of the Legislature travelling around would be cheap, I mean they just paid some fellow or lady, was it $127,000 for six weeks and gave her a computer as well and probably a few plane trips back and forth from here to Toronto. I bet we could do it as MLAs for the price of that computer, so let's do it. In six months we will get a report done, we won't do a fancy report, we could just do it on paper like this and xerox it, oh my goodness.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was just that the member was going quickly through a number of items and I thought I heard him quote a member of this House, the member for Cape Breton South. Was he reading from a newspaper article, where did this quote come from? I am sorry I didn't hear that and if it is from a newspaper would he table it?
MR. SPEAKER: If the honourable member is and has cited any document in his debate, he has an obligation to table it.
While the honourable member is standing, while I am, as a member in the Chair, very proud of my political affiliations, while I am in this Chair I am representative of the Whole of the House and was elected to be the servant of the Whole of the House not of any political Party. I would admonish the member for indicating otherwise.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention from the honourable member for Hants East and to get him involved I am flattered, truly, because he is the expert, the Nova Scotia expert on casinos, I mean, he is the reason we are in it, folks. He whispered in Bernie's ear and Bernie says I got you. (Laughter)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member, I don't want to continue to interrupt, but there is a dignity associated with this House and it is a dignity afforded to all members, including the honourable member for Kings North. I ruled earlier in the day, while you are not making a direct reference to the honourable Minister of Finance, nonetheless you are using him in the debate and you are using a personal exchange between he and the member for Hants East and it is obligatory upon you to use their appropriate titles.
The honourable member for Kings North, please do so.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I will table for the member for Hants East, a copy of the material that I was quoting from with regard to the member for Cape Breton South, where the member for Cape Breton South indicated, quite clearly, he was a guest at the sod turning ceremony when the casino issue came up. He said that the one in Halifax will attract gamblers from the United States, but the Cape Breton one will be lucky to survive. I have to question whether it will succeed at all. Those are his words and I shall table that document.
AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?
MR. ARCHIBALD: The member for Cape Breton South. I dare not mention his name, but you know who he is by location.
Mr. Speaker, considering all the money that has been spent on studies and consulting and so on, is it too much to ask that we take six months? This probably is the biggest issue to face all Nova Scotians. There are things before the House at the present time. There is the Environment Act that affects us all, there is the Workers' Compensation Act that affects a lot of people, but gambling gets you right here. (Interruption) I am not a doctor, I didn't know where the heart was. It is here. Okay. (Interruption) A little free medical advice from the Minister of the Environment.
Mr. Speaker, I don't think it is too much to ask to be given the time to have (Interruption). You guys are destroying my train of thought here, you know.
Well, Mr. Speaker, where is the study? That is the question. Where is the study? Mr. Speaker, you were lecturing me on proper decorum. How about doing something with the rest of these gentlemen?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I will tell you what they think. They think that we don't need casinos. They think casinos are bad. They asked me to bring it up in the House and that is exactly what I am doing and I will bring it up often because casinos are not something that we need in this province.
I am not alone in thinking that. The MLAs that signed the last study that went around, they all agree casinos are bad. But what happened between that study and now is beyond me, but somehow we got into them. The member for Halifax Bedford Basin said they were bad. What happened? We need six months to bring them around. The Minister of Community Services said they were bad.
But where is the study? If we had six months, perhaps, the government could produce the study. They must have it. Everybody has been asking for it. Everybody wants it. The Provincial Health Council wants it. The physicians want it. The school board wants it. The teachers' association want it. Every single municipal unit in the province wants it. I know the member for Digby wants it. But where is it? What has happened? Where is the study? You see they claim we are going to have 4,000 jobs. Where is the study that proves that? The economic development, where is the study? Well if we can't have the study, then in six months let's get busy and hire some consultants, or do it ourselves, and do the study, so we can furnish the answers.
Look, the people in Nova Scotia are paying the bills. Aren't they entitled to have their questions answered before we rush headlong into legislation that will affect each and every one of us? And once you get into the gambling business, how do you get out of it?
This is not a laughing matter, Mr. Speaker, six months to do a proper study. The Minister of Finance said, well, we will make $40 million to $60 million. Cripes, there is a big difference - is it $40 million? Is it $60 million? Maybe in six months time he could say well, it is going to be $49.95. Let's find out what it is. How can we, as legislators, honestly sit here and support this bill when we don't know how much money can be raised. We don't know how many jobs will be created. We don't know how many restaurants now in existence that are going to close. We don't know how many licensed establishments will be closed.
Mr. Speaker, the history of casino openings is not good. When they went to Atlantic City most of the local restaurants that were there previously, closed. They could not compete with the cheap food prices. I read the studies that were done in other places; most people look into things before they do them, they don't jump in with both feet, the way we are expected to. We need the six months to do the study, and it is not too much to ask.
Economic development; we were told this will raise money and it is good for economic development. Well, Mr. Speaker, how do you know that? Who told you that? The member for Hants East told the Minister of Finance that it was good business. Well I want to see something as proof. I want to see something in black and white, in writing, so we can say well, these are the figures, these are the numbers. I don't want hearsay. Didn't even file a report, but every Nova Scotian is going down the road on the basis of a two week excursion to western Canada. Mr. Speaker, if the government can send one member of this Legislature across Canada for a two week look at two gambling casinos (Interruption) I am sorry, it was two days, he said. Well, Mr. Speaker, two days is not a very long time and that is what we are basing this whole decision on; after a visit for two days, to two casinos, he assured the Minister of Finance that it was a great thing to do.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the folks in Kentville, the people in Port Williams and Canning are not buying it. They want to see some proof. This government is doing studies and everything under the sun. Surely a study on the economic benefit or the economic detraction of a casino isn't too much to ask.
The members of this House were good enough to do a study. They came back, and according to the government and the Minister of Finance, they had the wrong recommendation so he changed it; disregard the recommendation, change your mind. We need something that they cannot so easily bamboozle. Let's get somebody with a quality report who won't change it just because they are told to.
I know there are members here, there was one I just quoted in the paper, his personal opinion is that he is against casinos but he won't go against the government. Let's get with it, a six months' hoist will do it for us, Mr. Speaker.
Help tourism? Mr. Speaker, I just read a report from the KLM marketing manager and a tourism director from Germany and do you know what? They didn't say they are coming here to gamble, they like the scenery, they like the environment, they like the outdoorsiness, they like the space. Not one of them is coming here to gamble, if they wanted to gamble they could stay home. But yet, we were told by the Minister of Finance that it will help tourism.
We had the biggest year in tourism we have ever had this year and it wasn't because we have VLTs and it wasn't because we are going to open a gambling casino, it was because the people came here to see Nova Scotia and it didn't hurt that our dollar is only worth 73 cents either. There will not be anybody coming to Nova Scotia to gamble and if they are not coming here as tourists to spend their money on gambling, that tells me that it is the local people, you and me and the other members of the House, our Sergeant-at-Arms, all of our Pages. That is who the Minister of Finance is looking at, his friends and neighbours to pitch in their money.
We have all the taxes we need. It shouldn't be a casino, he should just call it a tax grab, let's be honest, from the poor and the needy. In Montreal, 86 per cent of the people that are there live there. What is the good of that? If I spend my money in a gambling den all that means is I don't have the same money to go to the grocery store or I can't buy the new shoes for the kids or I can't go to the movies or I can't go out for dinner. It is just trading one bit of money for another. How does that help the economy when you look? You can quickly see that the province is going to get some profit but the guy that owns the building is going to get the rest and all of the money is leaving Nova Scotia.
Where are the studies that show that it is good for employment? Where is the study that says economic development? The Coady Institute in Antigonish, the St. F.X. University extension department, they firmly said, this is not economic development but the Minister of Finance said it is. Until he produces his study, I have to agree with the folks at Antigonish in the Antigonish Movement. I have got to agree with them, they said it is not economic development. Six months would give the Minister of Finance time to find his studies, give the member for Hants East time to write his study that he made when he was out looking around. Let's see the study that it will help tourism.
How many people here have gone across from Yarmouth to Portland on that beautiful Prince of Fundy, that beautiful cruise ship, has anybody been on it? Well, I went on it last year and there wasn't enough people sitting at the gambling casino to open it. If we are sitting here burning at the seams to gamble, why in the dickens wasn't there anybody gambling on that ship? That boat was full of tourists, they didn't have enough people to open their gambling casino. Now that tells me tourists are not coming to Nova Scotia to gamble. It is not a very scientific study but it is better than the one the Minister of Finance has produced. Let's give him six months and maybe he will produce a decent study. TIANS doesn't even agree with him, find one group that will come into this House and say, we want to have a casino. In six months he might be able to find somebody. But by golly, it is just not right, it is not fair.
We were not elected to come in here and be rubber stamps for some harebrained idea. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, Arnie Mombourquette said that statistics show 96 per cent of the patrons of the Montreal casino live there. I thought it was 86 per cent. So, you are telling me that 96 per cent of the people that are going to the casino in Sydney live there, 96 per cent of the ones in Halifax live there? What is the make-up of the casino? Is it going to be just a room of VLTs or is it going to be a room full of gambling tables with blackjack and wheels of fortune and all that sort of thing?
You know, we don't even know what we are voting on, we don't know what this thing is going to look like. I bet half the people in the House have never even been in a casino and I can promise you one thing, I am not going to the Nova Scotia casino if they ever get it built, by golly. It is not right and you can stand up, you should stand up for your convictions, this is not the area to have a casino and if you people want to go, I hear them, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, let's have some credibility here. We don't want a casino and I can't find a group that say they do. The churches, look at that, do you want that tabled? The churches are united against the casinos. They have joined with the Minister of Health and his private opinion, he is against them but he won't speak out against the Party. Churches unite to fight against casinos.
Mr. Speaker, eco-tourism beats casinos as a tourist draw. I am saying that. Is there somebody in this House, is there anybody that can stand up and say, casinos is it? Casinos will bring tourists here? No. But an editorial from the Daily News the other day shows that eco-tourism will do it. Is there an editorial anywhere that says casinos will bring in $1.00 worth of benefit to Nova Scotians? Let's have six months and find out.
I am a person that will listen. I am a person, Mr. Speaker, that will take (Interruption) Oh, listen to the member over there laughing, ho, ho, ho. Wasn't he a signatory to that committee. He changed his mind. He is trying to get into Cabinet. Oh, yeah, I don't want to buck the big guys. Let us be firm in our convictions. (Interruption) I certainly do and the way you are going we will get there in a hurry.
Let me add one more thing, Mr. Speaker. Look at that, the taxpayers of the State of Connecticut lost $200 million in 1991, with associated costs that they incurred when they opened the biggest gambling casino in North America. It is in Connecticut. I have never been there, but I guess from 20 miles away, you would think you were in the Rocky Mountains, the thing sticks up so high. But it costs the State of Connecticut $200 million. Now, where is the study that the Minister of Finance can produce that will show me that it is not going to cost Nova Scotians millions and millions of dollars in social costs? The Minister of Justice can tell us how much it costs for RCMP, how many more policemen are we going to need because we are in this foolhardy exhibition?
Let me read you something that I think is the crux of this matter and the reason that the government changed, I think, Mr. Speaker. Let me read, Nova Scotians must decide whether they wish to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia. This is from the honourable Premier. We believe caution is necessary and will accept no proposal without extensive public consultation. That is what the Premier said. I am not making that up. Do you want me to table it? He said this, so I am not using that terrible word, the Liberal Party is very concerned about strictly controlling gambling. Treating gambling addiction and educating gamblers and the public about the risks of gambling.
Well, Mr. Speaker, is that just idle chit-chat? I should have told you the date - that was kind of tricky of me to leave that part out - but he said that in 1993 in the middle of an election campaign, so I guess that is why he said it then. But when you say it during a campaign, you have to live up to it. He promised there would be consultation and there are groups by the hundreds that want to be consulted.
In May, the United Church at their annual meeting, the Maritime Conference, the United Church have a big annual meeting, they call it the Maritime Conference. They wrote a letter requesting a meeting with the Premier and the Minister of Finance. Do you know what they got? Let me tell you what they got. They got an acknowledgement of the letter, but no meeting. Oh no, if we had a meeting with them, they might tell us something. That is like governing in the dark and that is not fair.
Mr. Speaker, it goes on and on and on. But what is wrong with the governing Party when they will not listen? They have been told. They have been begged. It is has been asked. But the feeling of frustration among Nova Scotians is beyond belief. They asked me what can we do?
I tell them the choices. I said, I am going to come to the Legislature and I am going to speak on your behalf. I say make an appointment and go into the Law Amendments Committee, make your point. They say, well, is anybody listening? I said, so far, they are not, but there might be a blinding light, there might be a big upflow of gumption. We saw an example of it the other day when a member spoke out of his own conviction. Let's have some more of it. Let's have these members, where are these members that signed the petition saying that they did not want a gambling casino? Halifax Bedford Basin, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Mr. Speaker, where is the Minister of Community Services, the member for Cape Breton South? It is all written, they are opposed, one way or another. Maybe in their heart of hearts. Look, stop just thinking with your heart, speak up, make a difference. You have got a chance. This bill is not a law yet and each one of us was elected to come in here and represent the people. The people are certainly not asking for a casino.
Mr. Speaker, I resent very much some of the lightheartedness. This is an issue, that once you get into that business you are not going to get out of it. It is not worth the aggravation. We need six months. We will not be in any worse condition by waiting for six months and, at the end of the six months, I know that the rest of these members can be convinced that the right thing to do is to do away with this legislation. Strengthen community values in Nova Scotia. Look for economic development. Don't look for methods of destroying the social fabric of Nova Scotia. There are more problems associated with a casino than you and I could even think of. If you listen to what the people are saying, if you read what they are saying, it will make a difference.
We need the six months, we need the time. I don't know why we have to rush this through. We have other bills that are more important than this that have a greater effect on us right now, things we have needed and they are not happening. No rush in health care reform; it is kind of poking along. Why the hurry on this? Health care is a lot more important than a casino. Well, Mr. Speaker, give us six months; give us the time to do a study, give the people the time to talk to their MLAs to convince them as they should be convinced.
Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the opportunity to take part in this debate of the six months' hoist. I honestly and sincerely hope that members who are so anxious to get this through, when they are home for this long weekend they will speak to their neighbours, speak to their friends and, when they come back on Monday, they will talk the Minister of Finance into withdrawing this, the most harmful piece of legislation that has been introduced in this House in some memory.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer some observations, if I may, in relation to the amendment which is now before the House. I very much support the amendment which calls for a six months' hoist. I support it for the very simple reason that I just simply do not believe for a minute that anything close to the kind of socio-economic and other impact studies that must be done in this province to assess the potential positives and/or negatives of the introduction of casino gaming into the Province of Nova Scotia have been, in any way, shape or form, seriously looked at by this Minister of Finance or by the government as a whole.
I am struck by the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Finance, Mr. Boudreau, said in this very House, on June 1, 1994, ". . . I have said clearly in this House and elsewhere, there will be no casino operating in the Province of Nova Scotia and I repeat, there will be no casino operating in the Province of Nova Scotia until a new regulatory regime has come before this House, has been passed and is in place, and I maintain that commitment.".
Well, that is not what is before this House. What is before this House is a shell, an outline. In the context of the gaming, I might say it is almost a shell game. It is an outline and nothing more, Mr. Speaker. Relative to casino gaming which, by his own comments even today, the Minister of Finance has indicated: requires the development of a massive, complex regulatory regime. I repeat the Minister of Finance's own words, ". . . there will be no casino operating in the Province of Nova Scotia and I repeat, there will be no casino operating in the Province of Nova Scotia until a new regulatory regime has come before this House, has been passed and is in place, and I maintain that commitment.".
Well, I make the suggestion and make the charge, frankly, that that commitment is not met. That commitment is not met by asking this House to pass this piece of legislation which establishes the legal shell, framework for the introduction of casino gaming in the Province of Nova Scotia and then for all Nova Scotians to await the day, who knows, next month, two months, possibly even six months, might I say, that downstairs in the Cabinet Room, the real nuts and bolts of casino gaming in the Province of Nova Scotia is undertaken and that, of course, is the development and the passage by the Executive Council of the regulatory regime. It will be the regulatory regime more so than the legislation that is before us today that will really dictate what goes on in terms of casino gaming.
I don't understand why it is so unreasonable a request or a suggestion and one which I, as Leader of this caucus, have made for months and months, that there be a legitimate, honest, fair, unbiased, independent, transparent, arm's length, socio-economic impact study as to what really will happen in the Province of Nova Scotia if, in fact, we have casino gaming.
I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is irresponsible in the extreme that this government would subject the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to the potential - and I admit potential - I have not the resources, my caucus does not have the resources to conduct the kind of socio-economic impact study to which I refer and which I urge, we do not, but the government does and the taxpayers do and the taxpayers would not bat an eye if, in fact, this Minister of Finance were to rise and to indicate that he was going to commit even very significant amounts of the Nova Scotia taxpayers' money to the conduct of an appropriate socio-economic impact study, but that has not been done.
We simply do not know, as Nova Scotian taxpayers, we do not know as a province which is revered country-wide, world-wide by reason of its history, of its heritage, of its ecology, of its landscape, of its academic institutions, of its health care institutions, the whole fabric, the integrity of the Province of Nova Scotia has no history whatsoever of casino gambling or gaming. This Minister of Finance has not, I submit, the foggiest idea what the potential or possible adverse consequences to the fabric of our beloved Nova Scotia is or might be the minute we inject casino gaming into it.
I suggest and I say again it is irresponsible in the extreme to say to Nova Scotians that we are going to impose casino gaming upon you, we are going to see what happens and then maybe we might have some studies to check what might happen, what is happening in terms of the socio-economic impact. What is happening in terms of crime, what is happening in terms of possible money laundering operations, what is happening in terms of our tourism industry, what is happening in terms of gaming addictions, what is happening in terms of the impact that casino and gambling and gaming is having on other existing business in Nova Scotia? We don't know that and the point of this amendment is very simple and I think frankly very defensible. It is please, please do not move the Province of Nova Scotia into casino gaming without first undertaking the reasonable studies that are able to be taken to determine the potential impact, in every sense, the potential impact here in the Province of Nova Scotia.
I look at the Minister of Finance's release, I don't know that I have it dated, the one I have has a date stamp tacked on it April 2, 1994 and it is headed Finance, Province to License Casinos, two gambling casinos will be licensed to operate in Nova Scotia, one in the metropolitan area the other in industrial Cape Breton, the provincial government announced today, "this decision comes following a great deal of study and debate." That is not true. Nobody on the opposite side jumped up to say, yes it is true. Nobody on the other side jumped up to say, yes it is true. I am prepared to acknowledge that the Minister of Finance, whose words those were, maybe did do some study and have some debate, maybe he did. He told the people of Nova Scotia he did, but each time he and the Premier and other members of this government have been asked to produce evidence of that great deal of study and debate they decline.
I filed with the office of the Minister of Finance and with the Department of Community Services, the Department of Health, the Department of Economic Renewal and if memory serves me better I think perhaps even the Department of Justice, I have filed Freedom of Information Act applications to ask those departments to let me know so that I can let the taxpayers of Nova Scotia know whether or not any of the kinds of studies to which we refer now have been undertaken. I have been met with deathly and deadly silence from each and every one of those ministers and ministries.
I just simply do not believe that it is true when the Minister of Finance says, "this decision comes following a great deal of study and debate." If that study and debate exists I believe, again I say, Mr. Speaker, it is incumbent if he is going to be responsible and fair and honest with the taxpayers of Nova Scotia it is incumbent upon the Minister of Finance to make it available.
There was study and debate done on the issue but I doubt it is the study and debate to which the Minister of Finance refers because if being the intelligent person I believe him to be it is the same study and debate I am now going to refer to he can't help but be compelled to the opposite decision because the study and debate to which I now refer is three studies, a couple of which, all of which involve members of this distinguished Legislature and all three of those studies recommended against the establishment of casino gaming in this province.
Interestingly enough, there are men and women in this place who happen to be members of the Government Party who are signatories to those proposals and as you well know the signatories, members of this government, signed the document which recommended against the establishment of casino gaming and they are now prepared to sit on their hands and watch the Minister of Finance and Premier foist this piece of legislation upon the people of Nova Scotia. Reference has already been made but it is worthy of mention. Other places have done the responsible and sensible thing. They have conducted some study. The Province of British Columbia is but one example and the Province of British Columbia did conduct a study and they decided against (Interruption) Well, they may have set up a bunch of bingo halls but they conducted a study and decided against the establishment of the kind of casino gaming that the Minister of Finance now wants to foist on the people of Nova Scotia. That is the effect and result of that particular study.
At least that government did the study and they paid some attention to it. They made their best judgment in what they considered to be the interests of the taxpayers of British Columbia. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it is, what is going to happen in the Province of Nova Scotia that will adversely affect the consequences, the lives, the hopes, the futures and the aspirations of any Nova Scotian, if we agree today that we will together, in a collegial fashion, take a decision that we will have the kind of study which I advocate, and that it takes something in the order of four or five or six months to have that study undertaken. We produce that study, independent of each and every one of us here in this place and we place it on the table here, in the Nova Scotia Legislature, and it is done properly and competently and it says yea or nay.
I give the commitment, as I have publicly in other places, if that study is done in the kind of arm's length, transparent fashion that we are describing and talking about and it says yes, indeed, on balance the long-term interests of the Province of Nova Scotia and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia is advanced by having casino gaming in this province, you will hear the last from me, in terms of objecting to it.
I do not believe that there is, and I ask and I defy any member of this government to take his or her feet and engage in this debate and explain what it is, Mr. Speaker, that will adversely affect one single Nova Scotian, if we delay six months to have that study. Name the adverse consequence to one Nova Scotian, then I will reconsider my request for a six months' hoist. Find me one Nova Scotian who will be disadvantaged in any meaningful way by waiting six months for the kind of study which I advocate and I will change my tune. I do not believe for a minute that any Nova Scotian would, in any way, shape or form, be adversely affected.
I had occasion to be in Ontario a couple of days ago, Mr. Speaker, and I spoke to many people there. (Interruption) No, I can tell you that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia did not pay for that trip, if you would like to know. Well, the peanut gallery was asking whether the taxpayers of Nova Scotia paid for it. The answer is no, they did not.
When I was in Ontario a few days ago I had occasion to be engaged in discussion with people about what is going on in Windsor and, more to the point, what is the situation with the casino operation which has been undertaken in the City of Windsor, in the Province of Ontario. Pardon me? (Interruption) I know, I should avoid the rabbit tracks, Mr. Speaker, and I will do that.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, there are now responsible people in Ontario who are arguing that it is now past time to have the kind of socio-economic impact study relative to the Windsor casino because some very interesting things are happening. Among those things happening relative to the casino in Windsor is that the indigenous, local, pre-existing Windsor business community is being very badly hurt. People are coming in to Windsor and have all the amenities they want in the casino operation and they are leaving town. The only operation in town that is experiencing any positive benefit, and understandably so, is the casino operation. All of the associated or contiguous business community in the City of Windsor is now starting to hurt very badly; the restaurants, the clubs, the shops and the malls and the clothing stores and so on. There is very real concern now as to what is happening.
Speaking of the casino in Windsor, there is a lot of talk you know, yes, all right but it is making a lot of money, so perhaps the Province of Ontario with all of those new revenues would be able to do something to supplement the difficulties that are being experienced by many in the City of Windsor. Well, one of the reasons that it is making money is that it happens to be right across from the City of Detroit and from the United States of America and it is the good old Yankee dollar that is being spent in very large measure in the casino in Windsor. I, frankly, don't see any evidence, and the Minister of Finance has provided none, absolutely none to satisfy me or to satisfy, in my opinion, any Nova Scotian taxpayer, that there is any realistic hope at all that the establishment of casino gaming in the Province of Nova Scotia is going to result in anything like a significant increase in tourism dollars being spent here.
But I am not sure of that; I would love to think that if we did this and if we could be assured that there would not be a tremendous number of people addicted and all kinds of crime and criminal elements wouldn't be in our community and so on, I would love to think that there might be a possibility that this could be an absolute bonanza for the Province of Nova Scotia, in every positive sense. But I don't know that and the truth of the matter is neither does the Minister of Finance, neither does the Premier of Nova Scotia, neither does any member of the Executive Council. They have all got guesses about what might happen and they are putting their eggs in the this is going to be an okay basket and they are doing it on the basis of having failed and refused and laughed at me and others when I stand - and I stood months ago - asking that there be a socio-economic impact study, they dismissed that out of hand.
The Minister of Finance tries to make it sound as if he has had studies done. I don't believe for a minute that he has had meaningful studies done and if he has, I repeat, it is irresponsible in the extreme that he has refused to respond to legitimate requests by and on behalf of Nova Scotian taxpayers that he make those available to the taxpayers.
I think there are some concerns that need some study and hence some time and hence my support of the six months' hoist. This legislation, very much to my surprise, has a number of provisions in it which bear directly on the provincial-municipal relationship in this province, in this City of Halifax - a portion of which I represent and a part of which you represent, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker - and in the City of Sydney. If the concern which I have in that regard pertains, and will pertain if this legislation passes in the capital City of Halifax and in the City of Sydney, then I have the concern that a precedent has been set whereby with other pieces of legislation that we may have similar difficulties down the line for these and other municipal units.
I refer, of course, to the fact that this legislation, and I don't propose to debate the particulars of the legislation and I know you would caution me against that, but as you do know, it has an impact on the capacity of the City of Halifax and the City of Sydney to exercise their existing rights in terms of zoning by-laws and heritage and historic property by-laws and policies, their rights in relation to sewer and water matters in the cities, and their rights relative to things like view planes.
I don't believe that there has been any consultation and I hope, when he closes, the Minister of Finance will show us and tell us and be able to document it, in terms of the timing and the place, that there have, in fact, been discussions with the cities whereby all of the details of these municipal rights have been worked out with the City of Halifax and with the City of Sydney. I don't believe for a minute they have.
I represent the City of Halifax, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, and you represent the City of Halifax and I think it is, again, irresponsible, and irresponsible in the extreme that this government should come forward with legislation which proposes to put a casino in my downtown, in the downtown of every Nova Scotian, the capital city of the Province of Nova Scotia and in the process say to the city fathers and mothers and leaders of the City of Halifax, we don't care what you think about zoning and sewers and water and view planes and any of that. We are going to do what we want to do when, where and how we want to do it.
Those issues, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, are of sufficient importance that they need time to be legitimately discussed, reviewed and, I am sure, to find consensus between the province and the cities involved. Hence, we need some of the time, at least, that a six months' hoist would allow for some of those issues to be resolved.
There is very real concern expressed by many that there will be potentially, and I underscore the word potentially, an increase of crime in this city and in the City of Sydney and, by definition, in the Province of Nova Scotia and probably in other places in Nova Scotia, if casino gaming comes to Nova Scotia. I have not seen any evidence at all that this minister, nor have I seen any evidence that the Lichter commission or anybody else in a position to impact on these decisions has done a study to address that.
I do know, Mr. Speaker, because I am a member of the Human Resources Committee, I attended a meeting of the Human Resources Committee of this House on November 1, 1994 and we had the RCMP in front of us at the Human Resources Committee. Interestingly enough, the RCMP indicated to me at that meeting that they are, in fact, now in the process of developing a new division or increasing a division within the RCMP which is specifically designed to be ready to deal with the potential, they did not say that there is going to be crime rampant in the streets, of increased criminal activity in this capital city in the event we have casino gaming.
Well, I hear my colleague and I want to be absolutely clear on the record because I heard a colleague here, who is also a member of that committee, say, I did not hear the RCMP say that. Well, let me be absolutely clear and it is in defence of my argument, that we need to talk to people. We need the hoist.
Assistant Commissioner Alan Burchill was at the Human Resources Committee meeting and I asked him the question point blank. Have you increased your manpower in the context of the potential that we will have casino gaming? Are you working on a new unit or a new division? With the colleagues' help, we could find from the Hansard exactly how I put the question. So there is no question, Assistant Commissioner Burchill responded in the negative. In fact, he said no.
Now here is where I fall down because I cannot remember and I am embarrassed that I can't, the name of the RCMP officer . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Falkingham.
MR. DONAHOE: Chief Superintendent Ralph Falkingham of the RCMP was accompanying Assistant Commissioner Burchill and as the meeting broke, Chief Falkingham came and spoke to me as we all went out and there was press around and they were doing scrums with some members of the committee and so on. Chief Falkingham said to me, Mr. Donahoe, so that you are not mistaken, it may just be that the Chief, referring to Burchill, has not been fully briefed but the fact is that we are working on a special unit relative to the potential that we will have casino gaming here in the province. We have not yet, for other reasons, had an opportunity to pursue those discussions and I have not been back to him, but I intend to be.
I make those observations simply to indicate that if the RCMP are, in fact, working on some details of establishing a new unit or expanding existing units and so on, to be sure they have in hand the kind of force that is necessary, we have not heard any of that from the Minister of Finance. We have not heard any of that from the Minister of Justice. The people of Nova Scotia, I think, deserve to know that if, in fact, the RCMP are indeed engaged in discussions now to determine whether or not a new unit or an expanded unit of law enforcement is necessary if, in fact, casino gaming comes to Nova Scotia, I think the people of Nova Scotia have the right to know that. I really do.
That again, with respect, if I may say, Mr. Speaker, is but one more example of the kind of fundamental issue that could be considered and discussed during the course of a six months' hoist.
Mr. Speaker, could you give me a fix on when I started.
MR. SPEAKER: You started at 2:24 p.m. You have gone 25 or 26 minutes.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, some honourable colleagues say that is enough. Well maybe for them it is enough. I am but one of 52 in this place and it appears that we have, in relation to an issue, a public policy initiative in this province which has the potential, I don't know that it will and that is my frustration, I wish I did, but neither does any one of the other 51 members in this place know either what the potential socio-economic impact of what is absolutely new to the Province of Nova Scotia, will or might have upon the fabric of the community which each and every one of us in this place loves. We all come to this place every day, as MLAs, and we say we come here to represent the interests of the constituents who sent us here.
All I am trying to do, and perhaps in an inadequate fashion but doing it to the best of my limited ability, is to represent the interests of the people whom I represent. In the context of today's discussion, I am presumptuous enough to suggest because I hear no other member from the government benches represent or stand and say what they believe the people whom they represent believe about casinos and casino gaming, I presume and I am presumptuous enough to suggest, because we have made some inquiries, that I represent many tens of thousands of people across this province because they have communicated with us and we with them and they have expressed concerns. I know that they, many thousands of them, fervently believe that their lives and the lives of their families are not disadvantaged at all by having a six months' hoist, an opportunity for us to have the kind of study, public debate, public discussion that would be possible during that period of time, so that the pros and the cons and the positives and the negatives of a casino gaming policy in this province could really be honestly and legitimately assessed.
As many members in this place do also, I place a little advertisement in the newspapers weekly and usually the little advertisement that I place simply describes my constituency number and indicates to constituents that if they would like advice or assistance or whatever, please call the number. About three or four weeks ago I decided to change the cut line in the little ad, and I don't know if any of my colleagues have noticed that I did that but I did do it. In the newspaper advertisement I changed the cut line to something to the effect that: The Nova Scotia Government plans to introduce casino gambling, if you have an opinion one way or the other, positive or negative, please call and let me know.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that out of the first 99 - and this was from some many days ago now and I don't have a total as of today (Interruption) Well it is accurate up to a point of a few days ago. Of 99 phone calls in response to the casino question in my little ad, 96 were opposed and 3 were in favour. I called a number of them back and among the people with whom I spoke were people who are supporters of all three political Parties represented in this House. Their concern in the main was, I am opposed because I honestly do not believe I know enough about what it is going to do to the Province of Nova Scotia and I do not believe I know what it is going to do, potentially, to the fabric of the City of Halifax. I must say that, with a few exceptions, virtually all of the calls to which I refer emanated from families in the City of Halifax.
Well, that is not a socio-economic impact study, that is not a sophisticated professional poll or survey, but it is a modest effort on the part of but one member of this Legislature, an effort, I might say, Mr. Speaker, which could be undertaken by each and every one of the 52 members of this House. What a service to the people of Nova Scotia if all 52 members in this place would do the same. We all have a capacity to communicate, by way of advertising, with our constituents. What if all 52 of us advertised and we all asked the same question, the Government of Nova Scotia, not to bias it, straight up fact, the Government of Nova Scotia, now the reality is, has introduced casino gambling legislation in the Nova Scotia Legislature. Do you agree? Yes, or no.
We could design the question so that the pollsters, the experts would say it is not in any way biased. All 52 of us would use the allowances we have as members to ask that question of our constituents. It would be historic, it would be interesting and it would be enlightening. It would be evidence to the people of Nova Scotia that each and every one of the 52 of us, government members included, are truly, honestly, legitimately interested in having some idea what it is that their constituents think about a particular issue. I don't know whether any of the members opposite or any other members are so disposed but I, frankly, think that it is not an irresponsible suggestion at all.
Mr. Speaker, when you listen to the rhetoric of this government, the rhetoric is, openness, accessibility, consultation, transparency, freedom of access to any and all, but when you see the practice, and certainly the practice relative to this particular issue, I don't believe, with respect, that you see any of that or you realize any of that, or the Nova Scotian taxpayers realize any of that.
Reference has already been made to this, Mr. Speaker, but I think in the context of the - not by myself, but by others - discussion we are having this afternoon, I believe that it is worthy of further reference. The Chronicle-Herald and Mail Star, in May 1993, asked the leaders, John Savage, Alexa McDonough and Donald Cameron, and they asked Liberal Leader John Savage, all three, to answer questions from our readers, where do each of the Leaders stand on a proposed gambling casino for the province? Liberal Leader John Savage's answer was, Nova Scotians must decide whether they wish to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia. (Interruption) That was somebody named Liberal Leader John Savage and the date was May 1993. (Interruptions)
Why don't we read what the man who leads the government, the man who has the capacity to either make the lives of Nova Scotians that much better or potentially hurt them greatly, why don't we have him, and we will see when he comes back with his notes, you know, those notes that he was keeping at the meetings when he was in China and other places, oh, sure, he will come back with all those notes and he will read, and we will get Premier John Savage who said on May 19, 1993, Nova Scotians must decide whether they wish to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia, that is why public hearings like those of the Kimball Committee are so important, we believe caution is necessary and will accept no proposal without extensive public consultation.
The Liberal Party is very concerned about strictly controlling gambling, treating gambling addiction and educating gamblers and the public about the risks of gambling. Just absolute poppycock from a Premier who says that back on May 19, 1993 and who today through his Minister of Finance just simply slaps the Nova Scotia taxpayer in the face by refusing to produce a socio-economic study. Refuses, what was that word, consultation. We believe caution is necessary, where is the caution here? We will accept no proposal without extensive public consultation. Where is the consultation? (Interruption)
Yes, I am talking on the amendment because I am saying to you and through you to all members of the House and hopefully to all Nova Scotians that we do still have the opportunity for the consultation, for the public hearings, and to exercise the caution which Premier, then Liberal Leader John Savage now Premier, John Savage advocated on May 19, 1993. We have that opportunity if we all in this place support the motion which is before the House.
MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point or order, Mr. Speaker. I am just wondering if the Leader of the Opposition would agree to table the document that he just read and when he does that, that will not only give members over here an opportunity again to refresh our memory but it might also give Liberal members, government members, an opportunity to get a copy from the Clerk and re-acquaint themselves with the commitments that were made at that time.
MR. SPEAKER: There is no valid point of order. If the honourable member is citing from a document he knows he is obliged, if it has not already been tabled.
MR. DONAHOE: I don't know that it has been tabled, Mr. Speaker, and the Clerks perhaps when they see it might recognize it as one that has. (Interruption) While the Government House Leader is making jest about the fact that I would table that particular document and he can make jest if he likes and that seems to be one of his major contributions to the deliberations of this place and all 41 members of the Liberal Party who are members of this place can make jest if they like and they can all sit on their thumbs when it comes time to vote on this amendment or anything else to do in this place in relation to casino gaming but frankly I really wonder whether or not that is true representation by them of the best interest of their constituents.
I will get back on the subject by saying that we can avoid the embarrassment of any member of this House being accused of sitting on his or her thumbs not representing the interests of his or her constituents by voting in favour of . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Opposition is a well-seasoned, astute politician who should know by this point in his career that he shouldn't follow the rabbit tracks that are all around him and stay strictly on the specificity of the subject before us.
Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor.
MR. DONAHOE: I may have the floor but I don't know that I have my microphone on. Honourable members are telling me that they are able to hear me so I will soldier on, was that an expression I should use, I will soldier on without the help of the sound system.
The Minister of Finance has said a number of things relative to this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker. Again, I say, the reason for the request that we have six months to have a look at it is that I don't believe there is one scintilla of evidence that what the Minister of Finance has said is in any way, shape or form (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, has said relative to this particular piece of legislation, this, referring to casino gaming, ". . . is an industry that offers real economic advantages to Nova Scotians but only if conducted with absolute integrity and always in the public interest." Well, they are wonderful words but where are the economic studies to show real economic advantages? How can you be so sure, how can this minister be so sure, how can any Nova Scotian taxpayer be sure at all that any economic advantage (a) will exist, and indeed, if they do exist, will not be far outweighed by a whole range of potential social problems. We don't know that and the Minister of Finance does not know that. That is the point of asking for the six months' hoist so that we do the legitimate analysis that answers those questions.
What do we know about, what does the taxpayer know about, what does the fellow carrying the lunch pail who has to pay the bills, what does he know about what it is going to cost him to pay for those who will potentially be addicted, if, in fact, casino gaming does come to pass? Some do become addicted. What does he know? We can find that out. How can this Minister of Finance or how can anybody say that this whole casino gaming initiative will be in the public interest?
We have, I believe, Mr. Speaker, many examples that people do not want casinos and examples that people have legitimate concerns. Representatives of the Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Churches have spoken out against casinos. They have some concerns about the people whose lives they are responsible for in a pastoral sense. The Cumberland County Councillors have spoken out against them; the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has gone on record as opposing the two casinos; the Medical Society has spoken out against them; the Provincial Health Council has questioned the move; the people of Yarmouth have questioned the move; the tourism industry of Nova Scotia has raised legitimate concerns and, yet, we hear this minister and other ministers saying, oh, no, it is going to be such a boon to tourism. The very organization which represents the tourism industry of Nova Scotia raises serious questions as to whether or not that is true.
British Columbia, as I mentioned, turned down commercial casinos; Saskatoon held a plebiscite and they resoundingly turned down casino gaming. Yesterday, in the American elections, there was a referendum in Florida and Florida turned down casino gaming. At least some of those other jurisdictions took the issue and afforded the people of their states and provinces an opportunity to have their say.
Mr. Speaker, there are many concerns that I could raise. The bottom line is, in my humble opinion, that we simply do not know, as a province, what the pros and cons are. We don't know how much money these casinos are going to generate. We don't know how much crime is going to be a resultant. We don't know what the socio-economic impacts are going to be. We don't know so much about what will happen to the fabric of the Province of Nova Scotia.
I don't have any reason to believe at all that the presence of the casinos in downtown Halifax and Sydney are going to have significant, positive impacts on the tourism of this province. I do have this concern and there is evidence of it from studies in other places, and the honourable Minister of Finance knows it, that there is considerable evidence in many other places, that the presence of casino gaming in a particular location results in a tremendously high percentage of the people who live in that community spending their money at that facility. Therefore, if we are typical, and I expect we will be, potentially we run the risk of having a tremendous number of Nova Scotians, many of whom do not have the disposable income and the ability to do so, go to these casinos and spend their money. The Minister of Finance takes his cut off the top and the out-of-province, out-of-country ownership of these casinos then skims its bit off the top to send to its corporate headquarters somewhere outside of Nova Scotia. I think we are left with very little positive return and potentially very big problems.
I am but one voice and I have not had the resources to conduct the kind of socio-economic impact study which I urge and for which I plead. The Minister of Finance is but one voice, but he is the Minister of Finance and he is a member of the government. He has the capacity, if he wishes to undertake it, along with his Treasury Board colleagues, his Treasury bench colleagues, to undertake and make known to every Nova Scotian the results of legitimate, honest, arm's length, socio-economic impact studies.
I have to make the assumption that since he has failed or refused to produce any such studies, that none have been done. I repeat, the kinds of studies I am talking about are arm's length studies and they are not studies that might have been done, or analyses that might have been done by officials of any department of the Nova Scotia Government at all. What I am talking about is a study which is at arm's length and independent of any and all of the ministries of the Government of Nova Scotia.
So, they not having been done, being the only conclusion which I can reach, I urge all members of this House to think seriously. I will close by asking the question that I asked a short while ago and I am conscious of the rule against repetition and, therefore, I will be brief and close with this question; I would like any member of this Legislature to provide me and all Nova Scotians with a credible explanation as to what adverse consequence befalls any Nova Scotian or any Nova Scotian family, if we delay the passage of this legislation for six months, during which time we conduct a socio-economic impact study?
I wonder if the people of Colchester County, if there is one family in Colchester County that is going to be disadvantaged if we delay six months and have that study. I wonder if there is one family on the Island of Cape Breton which will be disadvantaged if we delay six months and conduct that study. I wonder if there is any person who lives in Kings County who will be disadvantaged if we delay six months and have that study. I wonder if there is any person in Lunenburg County who will be disadvantaged if we delay six months and have that study.
If there is such a person, if there are such families, then I know that the members, the men and women who are the representatives of those people in Lunenburg County and in Kings County and in Cape Breton and in Halifax County and across this province, will do what they are paid to do in this place; they will stand up and they will say, I have a family or families who will be disadvantaged if we don't get this done right now, because that is what they are here to do; that is what we are all here to do. We are all here to say in this place, the people I represent will be disadvantaged if certain things happen.
I don't want that to happen to my constituents, so I issue the challenge to each and every member of this place, stand up and tell this place and the Province of Nova Scotia who, of those individuals and families you represent, will be disadvantaged one iota if we delay the passage of this legislation for six months and, during that six month period, conduct a legitimate, honest, open, fair, unbiased, arm's length, transparent, completely honest, socio-economic impact study. If such a person or such a family exists, then I will change my tune dramatically.
I do not believe for a minute that there is one such person or one such family in this province who would be so disadvantaged, in any such way disadvantaged. I therefore urge all 51 of my colleagues, all who represent those 900,000 Nova Scotians out there, if we can honestly, as members of this place, sit here and think about our constituents and conclude that we are disadvantaging any of our constituents by not having this legislation go forward, if we can come to that conclusion, then we should get her going and get her going quick and we shouldn't delay. But unless we can, in our hearts, come to the conclusion that there are men and women, young and old, in our constituencies who are disadvantaged if we delay six months and conduct the socio-economic impact study, we should support the amendment which is now on the floor, which I intend to do and which I urge each and every one of the members of this Legislature to do as well.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, it has been a long day and tomorrow is a special day, a holiday. There are a lot of members who want to get on the road to get home so they can be prepared to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies tomorrow, so I think we are going to adjourn at this time.
I would indicate to the House that we will be sitting on Monday from the hours of 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. The order of business following the daily routine will be a resumption of the debate on Bill No. 120. I move that we now adjourn until Monday at 2:00 p.m.
MR. SPEAKER: Order please. The motion for adjournment has been made and carried but, before the House rises, I would like to take the liberty on behalf of this whole Assembly to express my hope that every member here will have the opportunity to take part in some Remembrance Day service tomorrow, as just outlined by the Government House Leader.
We are all very much aware of the fact that we are here because of the freedom that was given to us by so many who sacrificed so much. This House assures all Nova Scotians that we do remember with profound thanks.
We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.
[The House rose at 3:19 p.m.]
By: Mr. George Archibald (Kings North)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Agriculture:
(1) A copy of all correspondence between the minister, Nova Scotia's Minister of Transportation and the federal Ministers of Agriculture and Transportation concerning negotiations in keeping the Atlantic Canada freight rate subsidy in place.