MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the day's proceedings, I have been asked to allow some introductions of guests.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure, once again this year, to introduce to you, sir, and to members of this House, a group of students from Sackville High School in the community of Sackville. Each and every year, now that they are on semester systems, it is normally a couple of times a year, students from the political science program at Sackville High School visit this House not only to have a tour but to see firsthand the proceedings that go on within this Chamber.
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we have with us 27 Grade 12 political science students and they are accompanied by their teacher, Mr. John Cochran, and by a student teacher who is, I believe, from Dalhousie University, Mr. Fourdraine. I would like to ask that the students and Mr. Cochran and Mr. Fourdraine, to please rise and receive the very warm welcome of all members of this House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: I would also like to introduce to the House at this time, seated in the Speaker's Gallery, Major Harold Long, C.D., retired Sergeant-at-Arms of this House, who was one of the longest serving Sergeants-at-Arms in the history of the Commonwealth. He is here with us this afternoon. Could you stand up, Harold, for a moment? (Applause)
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: I have the honour, myself, to table the Annual Report of the Chief Electoral Officer. The letter of transmission to myself reads, "I have the honour to submit my report on the administration of my office for the period since May 25, 1993. This report is submitted in accordance with Section 172(1) of the Nova Scotia Elections Act. Respectfully yours, Janet Willwerth, Acting Chief Electoral Officer.".
The report is tabled.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 125 - Entitled an Act to Enable the Council of the Municipality of the District of St. Mary's to Declare a Municipal Holiday. (Mr. Raymond White)
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 representatives of the American casino giant, Harrah's, organized a carefully scripted public relations appeal to the media today in favour of casinos; and
Whereas this media briefing was closed to the general public; and
Whereas I made a personal appeal to Mr. Michael Terry, a representative of Harrah's casinos, to attend the briefing but my request was ignored;
Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Government and its American casino cohort explain what it has to hide from Nova Scotians.
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 the federal government has launched a campaign to convince Canadians that the desperate lack of jobs in Atlantic Canada is due to unemployment insurance, rather than the outcome of economic development failures; and
Whereas federal government suggests that tourism, construction, fishing, forestry and other industries which are seasonal by nature are a second-rate part of the Canadian economy; and
Whereas the wide disparity of UI experience between different regions and industries would suggest to everyone but the most biased that UI is adapting to economic situations rather than causing them;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the federal government to drop any consideration of further reductions in unemployment insurance benefits, to as low as 40 per cent of wages, for Canadians employed in seasonal and underdeveloped industries and to focus its efforts instead on the principle of regional economic equality that is enshrined in the Canadian Constitution.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice which requires unanimous consent.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Leader of the 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 in a letter dated September 29th to the General Manager of the Dartmouth Sportsplex, MP Ron MacDonald assured Glen Bagnell that both the federal and provincial governments will match cost overruns in the construction of a bingo hall and hockey dressing rooms; and
Whereas the provincial and federal governments have invested $1.5 million in improvements to the Dartmouth Sportsplex and are now planning to contribute a further $200,000 towards cost overruns, but have not come up with a single red cent in infrastructure money for Dahlia Street residents; and
Whereas Dahlia Street residents are faced with crumbling, 101 year old water mains that give off silty water on a daily basis, while soiling residents' laundry;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Municipal Affairs come to her senses, learn what the true meaning of the infrastructure really is and stop building bingo halls and dressing rooms for non-existent hockey teams and put this infrastructure funding towards projects that are much more in need of it.
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 Dartmouth residents are questioning why additional public funds would be poured into more Sportsplex additions while nearby homes suffer serious water problems; and
Whereas Halifax-Dartmouth already has one publicly subsidized arena built for the American Hockey League by a Liberal Government, the Metro Centre; and
Whereas the Liberals, who claim they are imposing metro amalgamation to save money and eliminate duplication, have committed tax dollars to turn the Dartmouth Sportsplex into a second AHL arena for the area;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to demonstrate that it really opposes needless duplication, by refusing to spend one cent to burden provincial and municipal taxpayers with capital and operating costs for a second, subsidized arena in the same metropolitan area, built to AHL specifications.
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 during the April 30, 1993, televised debate among political leaders, the present Premier refused to discuss the issue of tax fairness, simply dismissing specific concerns as "the old rhetoric"; and
Whereas the Premier would only say "there is a need for a Fair Tax Commission . . . we need to see, we need to see", but then promised there would be no tax reform for five years; and
Whereas events have unfolded to reveal that the Premier was too modest to reveal his personal knowledge of how the tax system might be used by those who can make multi-million dollar deals;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to recognize that Nova Scotians expect urgent and comprehensive action to achieve fair tax treatment of corporations and wealthy individuals, plugging the loopholes that permit those with millions at their disposal to avoid taxation, while low and middle income earners carry the burden.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.
MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas a notice of motion by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid denounced the purchase of signs announcing infrastructure projects; and
Whereas signs for communities such as Liverpool, Guysborough and Canso were produced using the talents and skills of Nova Scotians; and
Whereas these signs were produced by Waterline Signs & Graphics Concepts of Canso, creating employment for four staff members;
Therefore be it resolved that the member for Sackville-Cobequid applaud the infrastructure program for its direct and indirect job creation for Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I believe that the member, if he were to read the resolution I introduced, was not criticizing the infrastructure project, what it was criticizing was the waste of government dollars, putting up red and white signs all over the province, when those $69,000-plus could have been put to better use, providing badly needed services for the residents, like those in Canso, who have need for many essential services.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I take it from the intervention that there is not unanimous consent that notice be waived.
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 the Coastal Communities Network has organized a series of workshops to discuss community and fisher involvement in the management process, harvesting technology, fleet and quota allocations; and
Whereas these workshops are a first step towards developing recommendations and actions that can be taken by coastal communities, with a provincial conference to be held in the winter; and
Whereas this kind of bottom-up process is fundamental to the survival and sustainable development of our fishery and coastal communities;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the Coastal Communities Network for the workshop series which begins tomorrow, November 16th, at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's and encourages coastal community residents to participate in these important workshops and the further development of specific policies and actions.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice which requires unanimous consent.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas John Naugler, a Saint Mary's student and President of Blind Sport Nova Scotia, is one of three Canadian students to be awarded the 1994 Terry Fox Memorial Scholarship; and
Whereas Andrea Townsend, a Dalhousie student, is one of three Canadian students to win a 1994 Tommy Douglas Scholarship for work on the value of public services; and
Whereas these scholarships, awarded by the National Union of Public and General Employees, encourage and exemplify the high standards required in Canadian public service;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates John Naugler and Andrea Townsend for the recognition of their scholarship by the National Union of Public and General Employees, and for the enormous credit they have brought Nova Scotia by winning two of the six national scholarships awarded this year.
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.
Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable 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, quote, not a local politician on the island would have endorsed regional government had they known six months ago what they know now, according to the uncontradicted statement of a Dominion town councillor; and
Whereas squeezing communities with widely varied service levels into one district, where only one councillor must try to represent their very different needs, is just one of the problems in Cape Breton; and
Whereas the deliberate policy of provincial officials, to obliterate natural and historical community boundaries within the regional municipality, has also caused concerns;
Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the government to honour its original commitment to respect and support the historic and natural communities that are being forced into the amalgamated Cape Breton municipality.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
I wish to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the Adjournment motion at 6:00 p.m. and the successful entry is submitted by the honourable member for Kings West. He proposes a resolution reading:
Resolved that the Health Minister immediately address the lack of representation by population on the four regional health boards, before negative effects are enshrined within Nova Scotia's health reform process.
So, we will hear on that matter at 6:00 p.m.
The time now being 12:18 p.m., the Oral Question Period today runs for one hour, that is to 1:18 p.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Government House Leader might be able to give us an indication as to whether or not the Premier is expected at Question Period? I understood he would be.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Premier is expected for Question Period. I would expect him to be here momentarily.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Premier, perhaps I might then put a question to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health told this House last week that the position of the Executive Director, Operations, in his department was filled by Malcolm Maxwell as a contract position. This is, as the Health Minister indicated, one of the many positions that he was, and I think I use his words by saying, filling in terms of health care reform and the restructuring of the department, and the minister and his former deputy had said to Nova Scotians that reform is an ongoing concern.
My question, therefore, is that if, in fact, a person is taking a job with a title, Executive Director, Operations, and health care reform is ongoing, I wonder if the minister might explain why the position is a contract position and was not designed in such a way as to be a full-time continuing position in his department?
HON. RONALD STEWART: Again, Mr. Speaker, I would defer to the knowledge of the honourable member opposite regarding the specifics. It is, and I have re-checked, a contract position, in charge of operations. That is the restructuring. The contract is indeed being finalized. If the honourable gentleman needs further clarification, I certainly can look for that.
MR. DONAHOE: Some of us are still in the same context in relation to that same position, attempting to find out just what the financial circumstances are, relative to this contract. The position was advertised and filled some considerable time ago. We have had no details of the contract ironed out as yet, as I understand an earlier comment from the minister. I wonder if the minister could tell us today, what this particular person is being paid in that position and if he cannot tell us today, when can we expect to have that information?
DR. STEWART: Certainly, I can table that current salary. I would also say that the contract particularly should be finalized very shortly and I will be happy to table the details requested by the honourable member.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary to the Minister of Health on this issue is to simply perhaps ask the minister if he could explain because I have difficulty understanding the management practice, explain why it is that a competition would be held. Here, unlike some other situations a competition was held, a decision was taken on a particular individual and the choice of the person to be hired was made. Could the minister explain why it is that the terms of the contract and the terms and conditions and terms of reference of the work to be done by the employee in the department, were not reduced to writing, prior to making the final decision on just who would be undertaking the position? I find that a strange management practice and I would be curious if the minister could help me understand why the terms and conditions were not worked out prior to making the decision as to who would have the job?
DR. STEWART: Mr. Speaker, certainly the terms and conditions of the mandate of that particular job was worked out well in advance and discussed with the applicant. We had a full airing of those in the interview process that was held. I might say that part of the restructuring is the ability to, as quickly as possible, get personnel who are qualified and through an interview and an advertising process, try and get the individuals working very quickly on health care reform.
The issues of specifics, in terms of the contract, this particular one is in need of more scrutiny. I will endeavour to table that as requested.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader has asked me for consent that we revert to the order of business, Statements by Ministers. We would, of course, resume Oral Question Period by stopping the clock as it were.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Add the time to the end?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes.
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Statements by Ministers.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.
HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I can't tell you how much I have missed the members opposite in the last 10 days. I rise in my place to address the House on a matter of great concern.
While I have been away in China, serious issues have arisen with regard to the appointment of an amalgamation commissioner for the metro area.
I have been concerned about some of the questions that have been raised about the selection procedure. Last week I decided that I should not wait until my return before discussing with my minister the need for some corrective action. The credibility of the process is very important.
That action has now been taken. The selection process has now gone to public tender and the important matter of municipal amalgamation is now going forward in the proper manner.
I believe that some mistakes have been made. My main concern here is with the questions that have arisen regarding the handling of the potential conflict of interest, but I want to examine the facts very clearly and very carefully before passing judgment. I think it would be wrong and unfair to react merely on the basis of limited knowledge.
I will reserve judgment on this until I have had the opportunity to gather more information. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: I find it difficult to respond to this ministerial statement, Mr. Speaker, because it is very much in the category of a non-statement. The Premier makes the gratuitous self-serving comment to the effect that the credibility of the process is important and has now been restored.
That is amazing, as far as I am concerned, when one considers that what we have in play here is a situation where this same Premier tells the people of Nova Scotia that he has a tendering policy in place and he has a senior Minister of Municipal Affairs who absolutely flagrantly violates that tendering process, that he, the Premier, as I understand it, was privy to the knowledge of what was going on prior to the untendered call being made and he stands today and says, putting on sack cloth and ashes, mistakes have been made but he is not going to make any other comment or judgment until he checks the facts. I find it, frankly, bordering on the irresponsible (Interruption) Well, if the honourable member behind wants to contribute to this discussion, he can get up a little later, Mr. Speaker.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. As I understand the rulings you have made previously in this House, it is traditional that the response not be longer than the statement. In this case, the response by the Official Opposition Leader is longer than the statement.
MR. SPEAKER: It is not yet longer and the honourable member has 30 seconds to conclude his remarks.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, frankly, the disappointment I have in the statement or the non-statement made by the Premier is that we have no indication whatsoever that his government does in fact have a tender policy, that he is saying today to Nova Scotians that there is such a policy and that under penalty of dismissal from Cabinet, that all of the Treasury bench members of his caucus will, in fact, adhere to that policy.
I look forward to the day, be it later this afternoon or on a future day, where the Premier finally explains to the people of Nova Scotia and, as important, explains to his Cabinet Ministers what the tender policy is that every minister is under an obligation to follow the tender policy and that any minister who fails to follow that tender policy will be immediately dismissed from his or her ministerial portfolio.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has just come into this House to say that he is very concerned about questions that arose in his absence about the conflict of interest and tendering violations committed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and that the government's credibility in this regard is very important. Yet he is engaged in the ultimate cop-out in dealing with this because he knows that the only way that the government's credibility could be restored is to dismiss the minister who has so flagrantly and blatantly violated both the tendering requirements and the conflict of interest provisions that supposedly protect the public interest in this province.
Mr. Speaker, we heard how much careful consideration and reserved judgment was accorded in the instance of Lucy Dobbin. It was strike one, you are out, make a phone call in the dark of the night from a phone booth, get her out of there. This Premier has to account for the double standard that has so clearly been shown in the instance of one of his own ministers being kept in her place without apparently there being any remedial action by the government to make it clear that these violations are not to be committed, not by Cabinet Ministers or anyone else.
Mr. Speaker, I think it has to be said on the very day that some 100 public servants in this province who have faithfully performed their jobs over a period of many years have been turfed out the door and I think on this day Nova Scotians have the right to know how the Premier deals with his Cabinet colleagues who have broken the rules and we have just heard how he deals with them. He steps back, says we will buy more time and, in the process, makes it very clear what a double standard prevails in this province today.
MR. SPEAKER: Prior to the ministerial announcement, the Oral Question Period had run for five minutes. So, it will now run from 12:30 p.m. until 1:25 p.m.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: I think that the Premier has clearly set the stage for Question Period even though he has tried to buy silence by buying time and reserving judgment. My question to the Premier quite specifically is how can he expect the public and this province's public servants to view his handling of the Lucy Dobbin matter in relation to the Minister of Municipal Affairs' violations of conflict of interest and tendering as anything but a double standard?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as the Leader of the New Democratic Party is aware, the incidents that took place relating to Mrs. Dobbin had occurred several months previously. The issues that arose here are immediate. The statement that I have said today indicates that, in my view, there were mistakes - I am not prepared to be specific at this point - but mistakes have been made and that is where we stand. I will look into it. I am sure that the House with its tradition of fairness would not expect me to arrive back from a 10 day mission, a very successful mission I might add, Mr. Speaker, (Applause) would not expect me to arrive back on a Monday evening and to have all the facts at my disposal.
It is true that I had intermittent telephone conversations with staff but not enough to satisfy the standards that I have set for assessing what went on here. I will indeed assess, I will look and I will report back to this House. That you can be sure of, Mr. Speaker.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess we are going to have to start to eking out accountability sentence by sentence, question by question. My question to the Premier is around the fact that the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs was involved in the interviewing of a candidate for the untendered contract that has attracted so much attention. My question to the honourable Premier is simply this, when did he learn that the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs was involved in the interviewing process with Grant Morash of Deloitte & Touche, in relation to the deputy minister's announcement that the government intended to award that contract?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell you about that is that I was unaware when I left this country that any conflict of interest, we were warned of the potential conflict of interest. It was my understanding that steps were being taken on both sides so that that would be taken care of.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, here in this House the minister has said again and again that conflict of interest is to be taken seriously and that he would ensure that the highest standard of conduct was met by his ministers. My question is, does the decision to involve the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs in the interviewing of Grant Morash in relation to the Deloitte & Touche proposed contract meet the standards of conduct for conflict of interest that this Premier intends to uphold?
THE PREMIER: There was no contract with Mr. Morash. There is no contract with Mr. Morash. What we have done is to set in place corrective measures and I have said that errors took place and I admit that. We are prepared to correct them and we have started that process already.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier relates to the same issue. I would ask the Premier if he would tell this House and Nova Scotians whether he was aware, prior to announcement on Friday, November 4, 1994, that Grant Morash of Deloitte & Touche had been awarded an untendered contract to oversee metro municipal amalgamation?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, my answer to that is, no.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I will relate that, if I may, by way of supplementary to the Premier, back to what he just said a moment ago and I believe I heard him correctly say that he was unaware, before he left the country, of the possibility of conflict of interest, but he then went on to say other words which I did not get entirely, which led me to the impression that perhaps he was aware of the potential of conflict of interest. I think he said he understood steps would be taken to avoid any conflict of interest.
I ask the Premier, what specific steps did he take, by way of direction to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, to ensure that steps were taken to avoid any possibility or potential of conflict of interest?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the steps that I took related to the practice in municipal politics of people who might be involved in any way with a contract that was being given to any relation were that they were to step aside. That was my understanding of the process. It was my understanding of the process that the same thing would occur with the other side of the so-called agreement and that that took place.
MR. DONAHOE: So, the fact of the matter is, if I understand the Premier correctly, he did in fact know, prior to leaving the country for the China trip, that there were discussions going on relative to this particular issue and a contract with somebody, Mr. Morash or somebody, and that there were elements to that whole matter that might carry with them some conflict of interest problems and that before leaving for China, he took steps to ensure that the conflict of interest matter was handled in a way that would ensure that there would not be a conflict of interest situation develop. Is that what the Premier is saying?
THE PREMIER: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition on a new question.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: It occurs to me then, if I may, by way of a new question to the Premier, to ask the Premier what steps he now proposes to take, having the knowledge that there was a potential of conflict of interest before leaving for China, learning now that indeed a decision was taken that resulted in a serious conflict of interest situation, perpetrated by his Minister of Municipal Affairs, or at least permitted to take place by his Minister of Municipal Affairs.
What step is the Premier now prepared to take relative to the status of this person as Minister of Municipal Affairs by reason of the fact that she failed or refused to follow the directions which the Premier had given to ensure that there would be no conflict of interest?
THE PREMIER: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I think we should get it on the record, there was no contract signed. (Interruption) I am speaking the truth. I have taken the appropriate steps. I have started the process, as I said, by speaking from China and I have indicated to the House, whether it was heard or not, that I will be taking time to interview Ms. Jolly. So far, I have only met Ms. Jolly for a minute or two to tell her that I would be talking to her. I will be talking to the deputy minister. I will be talking to a number of other people, which I believe this province and this House expect, before a decision is arrived at by the Premier.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier can stand in this place and say all he wants that there was no contract. The fact of the matter is that his same Minister of Municipal Affairs, who failed or refused to follow his directive relative to conflict of interest situations, went to the people of Nova Scotia and made a public announcement on behalf of the government and she announced that a contract worth $225,000, untendered, had been granted to Grant Morash of Deloitte & Touche. The Premier simply cannot stand here in this place and say there was no contract. True, there was no legal document, but there was statement by his Minister of Municipal Affairs that the government for which she spoke awarded a contract to Mr. Morash for $225,000.
I ask the Premier, if, in those circumstances, the Minister of Municipal Affairs failing or refusing to meet his edict and directives in regard to the conflict of interest matters and her announcement, contrary to the tendering policy which is supposed to exist, that there was to be a $225,000 untendered contract, whether or not those two infractions on the part of the Minister of Municipal Affairs meet his standard of ethics, such as to compel him to seek the resignation of the Minister of Municipal Affairs?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there was and is no contract signed. The Leader of the Opposition knows that and he should be - toying with the truth is the word that he uses, I guess that is permitted under parliamentary language. What I have said is that mistakes have been made. I am not prepared to comment any further on those mistakes until I have at least had the opportunity to talk to those people concerned. As such, my answer has been given and my answer remains the same.
MR. DONAHOE: I wonder if the Premier might be able to articulate for us and for all Nova Scotians here and now the standards and set of criteria against which he will weigh the information and advice, which I am sure he will get from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and perhaps others. What is the standard? Would he describe the standard against which he will make the decision as to whether or not this Minister of Municipal Affairs, who has flagrantly violated both his edict on conflict of interest and against the tendering policy, what standard will the Premier apply as he makes this assessment?
THE PREMIER: The standards we will apply are contained in a memorandum from the honourable Minister of Supply and Services to deputy ministers, on November 29, 1993, concerning tendering. They are all there, Mr. Speaker. I know that the Opposition have seen it but I am prepared to let them have another look, in case they have overlooked it. This is the policy, they know that and the people of Nova Scotia know the policy. But I am a generous soul and I am prepared to give them the opportunity.
MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to direct a question to the Premier. The issue of untendering contracts by this government is not new. A year ago I raised this very question with the Premier and he said, ". . . it is our intention . . .", this was on November 18, 1993, ". . . to enforce the policy that we stated . . .", and that word should be underlined, ". . . enforce the policy that we stated quite clearly in the election.".
My question to the Premier is quite simply this, given the fact that you have acknowledged, by saying that you recognized there could be a conflict of interest, why did you authorize the Minister of Municipal Affairs . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Please address the Chair.
MR. HOLM: . . . through you, Mr. Speaker, why did the Premier authorize the announcement that there was going to be an untendered contract given to Deloitte & Touche? Why did you authorize that?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have already stated that I did not authorize that, that I did not know anything about the events on Friday.
MR. HOLM: Well, the Premier's answer then is quite interesting and maybe the Premier would like to take a look at what the Minister of Municipal Affairs herself has said because the minister has said she was in communications and discussions with the Premier on this very issue.
My next question, and the Premier is (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, so that we can hear the question.
MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I refer to the memorandum issued on January 12, 1994, by the deputy minister, to which the Premier has already referred. In that, it spells out that summaries must be provided to all interested parties, to explain the reason, if the department has sole-sourced, and decided to recommend that a contract or contract extension not be subject to the competitive process.
My question to the Premier is quite simply this, given the fact that the Minister of Municipal Affairs had announced her plans to award this untendered contract, will the Premier assure us that before Question Period is over, the written reasons, as required by the policy statement, will be tabled in this House so that all members will be able to see those written reasons as to why the minister was going to ignore the tendering process?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am being perfectly honest about this. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and I realize there are incompatibilities in this but I have to answer the truth, as I see it. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and I, obviously, were not communicating on the day before I left. I was not aware of the decision to go ahead with sole-sourcing, neither was I aware of the announcement that was going to be made on the Friday. I have made that quite clear and whereas it is my policy to be as supportive of ministers as possible, I have to say the truth.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I say quite honestly through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier that there is no suggestion that the Premier here is trying to say anything but the truth but we have to get to the bottom of what has gone on. I am not questioning the Premier's word at this time.
I would like to put my final question to the Premier. Mr. Morash, in a television interview, indicated quite clearly that he was interviewed by both the minister and the deputy minister. That, is a matter of the public record. My question to the Premier is quite simply this, if the Premier by looking at the facts realizes and what the minister has said both inside this House and outside, if the Premier sees that the minister has announced plans to award a contract, untendered, and that she involved her deputy minister in an inappropriate way in this interview process, will the Premier ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs to resign her portfolio?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I realize that it is kind of difficult to hear, he obviously did not hear my answer the first time. What I have said is that I am going to assess, I am going to talk to and listen to the people concerned in this. I would add, that the interview which was conducted in the view of the minister was a technical interview and that was not a full interview with one of the candidates for a potential contract.
Regardless of that, I have indicated that under the circumstances, I am going to look into this. I am not being evasive on this. I think it is unreasonable, however, to expect somebody who has been away for a length of time, plus the fact that I got back last night, it is unreasonable for people to expect that I am going to produce answers in a short space of time, just because they are setting this particular agenda. This is an important matter to me, it is a serious matter and it is one that I will deal with. But, Mr. Speaker, I will deal with it in my good time when I am in possession of all the facts. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. We are told the justification for eliminating some 130 employees in the Department of Supply and Services was essentially to allow more opportunities for government services to be contracted to the private sector through tender.
Given this government's dismal and somewhat disappointing record in handling government contracts, will the Premier indicate whether it is his intention for all government departments to follow the Premier's tendering guidelines or if new rules will be set each day?
THE PREMIER: I guess I misheard the last bit, but the policy, for the honourable member opposite, is contained in the memorandum that I have now circulated, November 29, 1993. This is the procurement of goods, the policy, et cetera, but I might add that although this is an issue that I will pass to the minister afterwards, the original recommendation made to the department was that 159 people be laid off.
Because you have a minister who cares about people, a less number are being laid off and the 59 may very well owe their position to somebody who himself has worked in that department. So, let's not be too critical of an audit which recommended cost-savings to the taxpayers of some, if I am right, $6.9 million over the next four years and every attempt is made to be human and, indeed, because the audit was not carried out totally, some 59 jobs have been saved. That may be worthy of some praise some time.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I do not think the 130-some employees who were dismissed will take much solace out of the Premier's comments. The kindly word that falls today may or may not bear fruit tomorrow. What confidence can Nova Scotians have that this government will follow through with its own tendering guidelines?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the ways of getting information across incorrectly is to throw out the numbers in the question. The number of people who will be laid off is 98. I hope that percolates across to the benches opposite, not 130. So, let's get that clear. I am quite sure that this government still has the command of the respect of Nova Scotians. We will continue to obey the tendering policy, except for the exceptions that have been outlined. That is my answer.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is simply this, and again I go to the Premier, is the Premier prepared to make a commitment today that no government contract will be let in Nova Scotia without going through the proper tendering process and if exceptions are made, will the contract or the reasons for divergence from the government policy be made public?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, once again I refer you to the information that I hope has gone across to you by now. Exceptions to the Premier's directive will be considered appropriate only when they comply with exceptions as outlined in Section 11 of the Government Procurement Policy such as in, for example, affirmative action and emergencies. Therein lies the answer.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier, if I may, in relation to the $225,000 untendered contract, if he would . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: The one the minister announced.
MR. DONAHOE: The one the minister announced. (Interruption)
ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: And the one you recommended.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, well, let's talk about the $225,000 announcement, then. I would like to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, if I may, if he would describe to me, for me, and for Nova Scotians, the nature of the discussions which he had with Minister Jolly, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, relative to this $225,000 announcement, any element of it, prior to his departure for China?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I had meetings with her on Tuesday and Wednesday generally confirming that the conflict of interest issue, because of the two married people, was understood and generally expecting that the call for proposals would be made.
MR. DONAHOE: I wonder if the Premier would tell us whether or not he gave any directive or issued any orders to the Minister of Municipal Affairs relative to the potential conflict of interest element of this whole matter, if he gave her any directives or orders as to the course of action she was to follow in order to ensure that when it came out the other end there was no possibility of any conflict of interest? Did he give her any such directions?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, my recollection of that is that I spoke to the minister, that I said from my experience in municipal politics, it was very important that anybody who might be seen to be in any way in conflict should be disqualified from the process and that this should be obeyed on both sides of a potential contract.
MR. DONAHOE: My final supplementary is to ask the Premier, if I may, what is the different standard which he apparently is applying to this situation from the standard that he applied to the Lucy Dobbin situation because he returns home now to find, and learned I guess in a telephone conversation to China with the Minister of Municipal Affairs or with an official, that he has a minister with whom he had been discussing, only days before, a $225,000 contract completely flaunting the Premier's tendering policy, which he has just now tabled again in this place. That that Minister of Municipal Affairs, in complete and total disregard of that policy, goes out and makes a public announcement that the Department of Municipal Affairs has made a commitment to Mr. Morash of Deloitte & Touche to do this work.
I want to ask what is the difference in standard that the Premier applies that, in the one case, made him believe it was appropriate to fire Lucy Dobbin and, in this case, makes him think that it is not appropriate for him to immediately ask the resignation of the Minister of Municipal Affairs?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Mrs. Dobbin affair unfolded, if I remember, over a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. This particular series of events, to which the Leader of the Opposition refers, has taken place perhaps more in detail to them than I know because of my absence. I have not had the opportunity to be fully briefed on this. I am explaining to the House and to the people of Nova Scotia that I think it very proper that I spend some time doing this and not be rushed into hasty decisions, purely and simply at the behest of an irresponsible Opposition.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Last week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I asked the minister if she would provide for the House the names and the addresses and the content of the conversation that she had with the four, three or two - the number varies day by day - people that she contacted in addition to Mr. Grant Morash.
I would like the minister to confirm if on the Monday prior to the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, that she gave the names of the persons that she contacted to the media?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I have had a number of discussions with the media over a number of issues and I have done a wide variety of interviews. I certainly would have to go back and take a look at the interviews that I conducted.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is passing strange that the minister refuses to answer a question in the House, yet she can go outside this Chamber and advise the public, through the media, of names that she will not give in the House.
MR. SPEAKER: I think that might be a reflection on the member.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, you reflect on it. But, anyway, I am going to reflect on it, too, because I think it is a reflection on this House that the minister says she cannot make the names public in this place, but she can outside. I would ask the minister, does she consider that to be a parliamentary act?
MR. SPEAKER: I think it is for the Chair to rule whether things are parliamentary or not. The minister can respond if she wants, but the Speaker is to determine whether or not a thing is parliamentary.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, will the minister today give the House the names of the individuals that she contacted, the dates that she contacted them and what their responses were, what the conversation was about?
MS. JOLLY: As I told the honourable member last week when he asked me for that information, I was in the process of getting approval from those individuals to be able to release that information and I should have that material finalized by the end of today.
MR. RUSSELL: My final supplementary is, why does she have to get approval from those individuals to give the names in this House when she has already given the names outside the House? I will give you the names, John Morash, Grant Morash and Bill Hayward. Would the minister confirm that those are the names?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member said in his initial question, he wanted names, addresses. He wanted discussions. He wanted the dates that I had met with these individuals and I am in the process of putting that material together. I told him, as I told him last week, I also had to get the confirmation of those individuals to release all that information. Part of what he had asked for were CVs and some technical information that they had provided to me. I told him that I would have to get confirmation from those individuals that I, in actual fact, would be allowed to release that information. CVs can be very much private and confidential information.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Minister responsible for Government Services. Today we learned over the wire service of an announcement that the Department of Supply and Services in engaging in a process of contracting out and downsizing which is going to mean the elimination of upwards of 100 Public Service jobs and unfortunately, the minister didn't have the opportunity or didn't take the opportunity to make that announcement in the House in order to provide us with some rationale as to why this was done.
I would like to direct a question to the minister and ask him if he has met with the employees affected in those divisions that provide those services that are being downsized or contracted out, if he has talked to those employees or their representative, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, in order to verify whether, in fact, the financial analysis upon which this decision is based is valid?
HON. WAYNE ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, to get right to the question the answer is, yes. While I may not have talked to all of the employees affected we have talked to a representative of the employees personally and I certainly have empowered members of my senior staff to do consultation where I was not physically able to do such.
MR. CHISHOLM: I wonder if the minister would be prepared to table for my benefit, and all members, the representative of the employees who was consulted about this and exactly what areas affected in this particular decision were discussed and whether, in fact, there was agreement that the cost analysis that is included in this report was valid?
MR. ADAMS: Mr. Speaker, I have no difficulty at all in tabling that information because it is pertinent and it is very timely to the issue and to the question. We have all that information and we will table it.
MR. CHISHOLM: In my final supplementary to the minister, I would like to ask him to confirm why the employees affected have been given a layoff notice as of today - obviously the decision was made before the announcement was even made. Does he believe that this is the proper way to deal with long-serving valuable employees?
MR. ADAMS: I think one has to precede the answer by saying that the exercise we have gone through is not an easy one, it is very difficult in terms of dealing with people's lives and their futures. We could have perhaps let those who are being displaced stay around for a while but we couldn't find the positive side of that. In other words, why would we make the work place a place of lower morale than it would be with people wondering when the day was coming when they would be going. We wanted to maintain efficiency, after all, the overall objective of this audit is to make the department more effective, more efficient which is the goal of the government. This is one phase of that overall goal.
I think we have done the most compassionate measure that we could in terms of we have taken care of the employee beyond today, the notice is effective in February, many of these people will be paid well into the spring because of the severance packages and vacations and what have you. We have been very compassionate, very concerned, we have done every detail with every individual.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. I wonder if the Premier who has acknowledged here today that prior to leaving on his trip to China he had discussions with the Minister of Municipal Affairs about this $225,000 announcement, if the Premier having been alerted, as he says he was, that there were potential conflict of interest elements to the whole piece could the Premier tell us whether or not prior to his departure for China he recommended to the Minister of Municipal Affairs that the conflict of interest matters be referred to the designated person under the conflict of interest legislation?
THE PREMIER: No, Mr. Speaker.
MR. DONAHOE: That being the case I assume that never occurred to him, I wonder if he could be rather more forthcoming and specific than he has been here today, since he says now he did not order or direct that the matter be referred to the conflict commissioner. Could he be at all more precise than he has been here today, as to what direction or directives he gave to the Minister of Municipal Affairs to ensure that there was no conflict or appearance of conflict in this whole $225,000 announcement fiasco?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am trying to recollect this as accurately as I can. My understanding of what we discussed was the fact that there was a potential conflict due to the presence of the deputy minister and his wife with one of the people that was on the list. As such, I indicated to her that were that a municipal affair - and my experience in government and in this House does not go back as long as some of the others - that, in effect, the issue would be taken out of the hands of anybody who might be involved in discussions and that it would, in fact, not be negotiated, that the people would declare their interest on both sides and that that would then be reconsidered.
MR. DONAHOE: Am I right then, Mr. Speaker, in understanding from the Premier that his first knowledge of the issuance of the statement, that there would be a $225,000 commitment made to Deloitte & Touche, came to his knowledge when he was in China by way of communication from either the Minister of Municipal Affairs or some official here, that he learned of it when he was in China?
MR. SPEAKER: Is that the question?
MR. DONAHOE: No, I think it is clear that that is what has been said here today.
I want to ask the Premier when he got that information in China, why was it that he then suggested at that point that the matter should be handled by way of public tender when that question of public tender had not been the subject of discussion prior with the Minister of Municipal Affairs?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I have stated, I was under the impression while I left for China that there was a call for a proposal and that one of these had the potential for conflict. That is the simple answer.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. To carry on from my question of a few minutes ago, I have Page 4242 of Hansard for Thursday, November 10th, and in response to my question with regard to releasing the names and addresses of the persons involved in the telephone calls who were going to be prospective contacts for this position of a commissioner for metro amalgamation, the minister replied, "I have not gotten confirmation from those individuals at this point in time to release their names.".
Did the minister have, however, permission from these individuals to release their names to the media three days previous to this?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, as I have said very clearly and as this gentleman has asked me on a number of occasions, he had asked for information, he had asked for names, addresses, conversations, they had even gone so far as whatever material was available and whatever discussions I had had with these individuals, he wanted that type of information.
I told him I was not able to release that type of information until I had had confirmation from those individuals.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary. I had asked the minister for the names and this was her response, "I have not gotten confirmation from those individuals at this point in time to release their names.". Now, I am asking the minister, it is a simple question, did she have at that time clearance to release their names?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, as I just responded, the honourable member has asked for quite a bit of information on an ongoing basis. He continually extends it and then retracts back and he wants this piece and that piece and another piece. I am in the process of getting confirmation from those individuals on all that material.
MR. RUSSELL: Since the minister announced, three days prior to this, to the media the names, at least I understand these were the names, would the minister who now says that she has the ability to release their names, advise the House of the names of the individuals she contacted.
MS. JOLLY: Well, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member says he already has the names. He says he has that material already, he announced that today. As I said before, what he was requesting of me all along was certainly more information than names.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. I wonder if the Premier would tell this House whether or not he was, in fact, told prior to his departure for China that there would be a call for proposals in connection with the $225,000 job with Deloitte & Touche? Was he told there would be a call for proposals?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it was my understanding, following discussions, that there would be a call for proposals. I cannot give you a categorical answer yes, but certainly that was the impression that I left with, after discussions with the minister.
MR. DONAHOE: I wonder if the Premier would tell us whether or not it was as a result of conversations with the Minister of Municipal Affairs or some other official of his government, which allowed him to come to that assumption?
THE PREMIER: I am sorry, I missed the first part of the question.
MR. DONAHOE: My question, by way of supplementary, to the Premier is, the Premier has acknowledged some reasonably extensive conversation with the Minister of Municipal Affairs about this matter, I am asking the Premier to tell us whether or not it is on the basis of his discussions with the Minister of Municipal Affairs that he came to the conclusion and the assumption that there would be a call for proposals or a public tender call for this $225,000 worth of work?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it was my assumption, after the discussions I had with the minister, that there would be a call for proposals.
MR. DONAHOE: I wonder if the Premier would tell us, then, whether or not the Minister of Municipal Affairs did, in fact, tell the Premier there would be a call for public proposals?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think I have already answered that. I said that I do not recall the exact words, that there was, in fact, a response that indicated she would.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question, through you, sir, to the Minister of Finance, in charge of Priorities and Planning. The consulting contracts, if you take a look at the government's procurement policies and so on, state that consulting contracts exceeding $50,000 have to go through and receive approval of what used to be called Management Board. Then the memo released on January 12th said, and this is from the Deputy Minister, Mr. Pinard, that ". . . effective immediately any Memorandum to Priorities and Planning Committee recommending approval for the sole sourcing of a personal services contract, consulting contract or services contract must be accompanied by a separate, one page summary, signed by the Deputy Minister, which clearly elaborates on the reason the contract or contract extension was not subject to a tender or a request for proposal call.".
My question to the minister responsible for the Priorities and Planning Committee is quite simply this, did you receive a one page written statement, as required by the procedures with respect to the contract that was to be - intended contract - for Deloitte & Touche?
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the honourable member that that requirement is necessary for the approval of a contract by Priorities and Planning. There was no such approval.
MR. HOLM: On the same topic, a contract was awarded to Berkeley Consulting by the Minister of Human Resources. Did the minister receive the one page written statement from the Deputy Minister of Human Resources with regard to that contract, as is required? If so, will he table it in this House?
MR. BOUDREAU: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will have to check on that but I my recollection is that contact was under $50,000.
MR. HOLM: We have now have a new threshold, Mr. Speaker, because that particular contract, for personal services, certainly if the Premier and others would like to remind the Minister of Finance about the commitments that were made by the government dealing with all contracts over, for example, $5,000, he might wish to refresh his memory on the commitments that are contained in the procurement booklets.
My question to the minister is quite simply, will the minister check today, before Question Period is over or as soon as it is over, to find out if such a written statement was provided and if not, why not and provide that information to the House today?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I have a yes and a no to that. Yes, I will check. No, I will not check immediately upon completion of Question Period. I believe my bill will be called for debate and I wouldn't wish to miss any of the Opposition's contribution to this debate.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
UNTENDERED CONTRACT - MIN./PREMIER CONVERSATIONS
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I would ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs to tell us, please, what it is she said to the Premier in her conversations with the Premier prior to his departure for China, which would have allowed the Premier to come to the assumption, as he said he did, that there would be a public call for this $225,000 piece of work with Deloitte & Touche and the amalgamation matter?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I had a discussion with the Premier that I would, in actual fact, be talking to a number of individuals about the coordinating position.
MR. DONAHOE: I ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs then, by way of supplementary, did she or did she not tell the Premier that there would be a public call in connection with this $225,000 contract?
MS. JOLLY: I think, Mr. Speaker, I just answered the question. I said that I would be contacting a number of individuals to see if they were interested in the job of coordinator.
MR. DONAHOE: In the result, by way of final supplementary, it appears that notwithstanding what this minister has just now said in response to those two questions, she didn't do any of that at all and, in fact, made, apparently, a unilateral decision to commit $225,000 of the taxpayers' money to a particular individual, untendered, there was no public call. I ask, again, did the Minister of Municipal Affairs at any point indicate to the Premier -I will put it in the negative - did the minister at any point indicate to the Premier that she would not be having a public call for proposals in connection with this $225,000 piece of work?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think it is very clear, based on what the Premier has said and what I have said, that I had the impression that I had the ability to go forward. I obviously had a mistaken impression that I had the ability to go forward and contact a number of individuals. It was certainly the Premier's understanding that my contacting a number of individuals meant that I was going for a full public tender but, in actual fact, I was under the impression that I had the authority to go forward with a limited number of individuals. That was certainly a mistaken impression that I had and one that has been rectified because as the Premier has said, we had talked on Tuesday of last week, and we are now going for a full open public tender.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition, on a new question.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: I wonder if the Minister of Municipal Affairs would help us understand because we and the taxpayers are having terrible difficulty understanding, even if there is a so-called tendering policy with this government, where did this minister, if the Minister of Municipal Affairs will try to explain this to me and to taxpayers in Nova Scotia, get the assumption or the impression that doing what she did in any way, shape or form was consistent or complied with the tender policy that the Premier has tabled here this afternoon?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think it is very clear when I appointed the coordinator for the Cape Breton area, Mr. Campbell.
MR. DONAHOE: I still don't understand the answer, relative to the question I put. There is a document which the Premier has tabled, it purports to be a tendering policy. It requires that in contacts over $5,000 there has to be a public call. I asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs, on what basis or on whose advice did she come to the conclusion that it was not necessary for her to follow that tender policy and commit $225,000 of the Nova Scotia taxpayers money.
MS. JOLLY: I think very clearly, Mr. Speaker, as I said in an answer to a couple of other questions that I had received, both this week and last week, that I had appointed the coordinator in Cape Breton, Mr. Charles Campbell, and that in actual fact I was under the mistaken impression that I had the authority to go forward with a limited consultation on individuals who would want to be the coordinator. In actual fact, the Premier was of the understanding that I was going to a completely open tender.
Mr. Speaker, I think I have answered those questions both last week and clarified them further this week.
MR. DONAHOE: It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that she has indicated - if I understand the record correctly - the only Cabinet colleague from whom she took advice in this matter or consulted, other than the Premier, was the Minister of Economic Renewal. I wonder if she might indicate to us as to whether or not the Minister of Economic Renewal was offering advice to her, that it was not necessary to have a public tender call in relation to this $225,000 contract?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, number one, I think it is important to continue to understand there has been no tender awarded, that there is an open public tender being called. I think it is also very important that individuals on this side of the House talk to our colleagues on an ongoing basis. We are constantly in discussion and consultation, unlike those individuals over there who have just marched forward and done a number of things. So, Mr. Speaker, I have been in constant discussion with a wide variety of people.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to return to the subject of the individuals who were phoned by the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I wonder if the minister would answer yes or no as to whether or not she gave the names of the people she contacted last week to the media?
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that was one of the first questions that the honourable member asked me today. I told him that I would have to look back at the interviews I have done. I have done a significant number of interviews and I would be prepared to have further discussion.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable minister knows full well that she spoke to the media and she gave the names of the individuals to the media. Now what I want to know is, why could she give the names to the media but not to the members of the House, particularly when she said on Wednesday, on Page 4170 of Assembly Debates, "I will contact the individuals to ensure it is acceptable to them to release that information, and I have not had a chance to do that.". So did she release the names, without the permission of the individuals?
MS. JOLLY: Mr. Speaker, I think as the honourable member has suggested, he was asking for a considerable amount of information. He asked for phone numbers, on occasion he wants to know what the discussions were, when the meetings took place, where they meetings took place, who the meetings were with, he has asked for quite a bit of information.
In actual fact, I have been in contact, trying to contact those individuals. The three names he had provided earlier, as he has come forward with those names, those are the names of the individuals whom I did have initial contact with. But the other thing, Mr. Speaker, is there is another individual, a fourth individual whom he doesn't seem to recall or be remembering, who I tried to contact that week and whom we have not been able to contact.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, a quick question. We assume now that we have the names of these individuals who were contacted. Would the minister now table tomorrow, prior to Question Period, the discussions that took place? What were the discussions with these particular gentlemen?
MS. JOLLY: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that very clearly proves my point - he asked for one thing or suggests we should do one thing, but now he wants the discussions that I have had with those individuals. That is what I have said all along. I have to have an opportunity and I have been in contact with a number of them, to be able to release that material. That is confidential information and I will be able to release whatever material I can based on what the individuals I have spoken to, or there has been contact with, will allow me to do.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.
The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, last week, in Question Period, the member for Kings West asked me a question about the assignment of two RCMP officers responsible for illegal gaming. I just want to tell the honourable member and members of the House that my office checked with Assistant Commissioner Burchill and he confirmed that by this time the two staff members are in place and operations are proceeding.
MR. SPEAKER: Now, we will advance to Government Business.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 120.
Bill No. 120 - Gaming Control Act.
MR. SPEAKER: When the House last dealt with this matter, we were dealing with an amendment proposed by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic which is, "the subject matter of Bill No. 120 be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development . . .". The last speaker to have the floor was the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid who had used approximately 20 minutes of his time and therefore has approximately 40 minutes or 41 minutes remaining. So I will now recognize the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid to resume the debate on the amendment.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise to continue where I had left off last evening on what I think is an excellent proposal, the amendment as proposed by my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic. I am also pleased that the Minister of Finance had indicated his desire to stay in the House and not to go get the information I had asked for because he wanted to hear the debate. So we look forward to the minister certainly being receptive to good arguments being passed his way.
Now, Mr. Speaker, just as a way of refresher, the amendment, as it currently reads, would suggest, "the subject matter of Bill No. 120 be referred to the Standing Committee on Economic Development and that the said Committee hold public hearings across Nova Scotia respecting the subject matter of Bill No. 120 and that the Committee report its finding to the House no later than May 1, 1995.".
Now, Mr. Speaker, I certainly am not going to trespass - not intentionally, anyway - upon the good will of members of this House by going over what I had gone over last evening (Interruption) although some members, I am already getting requests for a repeat performance. I will suggest, however, that maybe those who would like that might wish to refer to Hansard when it comes out.
Mr. Speaker, what we are dealing with here is very definitely an economic issue and to recap briefly, the minister, even when he introduced the legislation, said that what we are dealing with was a bill which was primarily concerned about economic activities.
You tell me, Mr. Speaker, you probably, with your years of experience, and I have changed my wording because I cannot actually put it in that phrase because you are not able, at this point, to take part in debates, so I am using an expression, not meaning to be directing you, Mr. Speaker, to actually give me advice, but I am trying to pose the question to members of this House and, for example, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, I am sure that he would not be interested in having public funds being expended on a business venture where you have not done your homework, where you have not done a business plan, where you cannot show that the cost benefits are going to outweigh the actual costs.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have before us a bill, supposedly that is going to create jobs. Maybe it is the government's plan, maybe this is what the Minister of Supply and Services is counting on, that maybe the hundred or more public sector workers who he and this government gave the pink slip to today, maybe he feels that those people are going to be retrained so that they can shuffle the cards or roll the dice at one of these government casinos. Maybe that is part of the government's strategy, to put its own staff out of work and then get them to work in a casino.
When we are looking at something in a realistic way, you have to go about it in a business-like fashion where you are looking at the true costs. The true costs that are associated with establishing these casinos have yet to be determined. Now, the Minister of Finance says that he doesn't want an academic study. He only wants to be able to assess the casinos and their impact, once they are in place.
Well, the minister also talked about the fact that there are many other studies that have been done for other jurisdictions and most of those being in American jurisdictions. If we take a look at some of those studies, for example, the Goodman Study which was commissioned by the Ford Institute and the Aspen Institute - and I may get into that a little bit more later on - but one of the things they point out and they, by the way, are not taking a moralistic stand on casinos at all but they are trying to just simply point out in that report some realities.
One of those realities that they pointed out is that once casinos have been established, it is pretty hard to un-casino, so to speak. It is very difficult to get rid of the casino once it has been put in place. That means that the costs that are associated with that, the economic costs as well as the social costs, are going to be ongoing problems and costs, something that we in the Province of Nova Scotia are going to have to bear for a long time.
We had projections and we had predictions as to what wonderful advantages Nova Scotia was going to gain from the theme park. That, the Minister of Finance knows, has cost this province many millions of dollars and we continue to pay for those costs because the province is still, of course, having to bear the interest and pay the interest on the debt that we incurred for establishing that theme park which, of course, like this, went ahead without there having been a thorough, full, economic impact study done to determine the viability and the consequences of what the government of the day, in that case, the Conservative Government, had proposed.
The Economic Development Committee is an excellent body, I would suggest, to be able to look at casinos and to review documentation that exists in other jurisdictions and I would suggest as a forum where the public can come forward to express their views and their concerns and to provide their input. This is something, by the way, that the Premier and of course, the Premier makes all kinds of commitments and he has made all kinds in the past about where the Party stands but certainly, the Premier, about a year and a half ago when he was trying to persuade Nova Scotians that they must decide whether or not they, meaning Nova Scotians, wish to have gambling casinos in Nova Scotia, that was his position then. Well, now, when Nova Scotians have decided and when Nova Scotians decided by providing a great deal of input into the various committees that travelled this province and none of which recommended what this government is doing, now the Premier has chosen to ignore those recommendations.
The member for Halifax Bedford Basin, was the Chair of the Standing Committee on Community Services Gaming in Nova Scotia. He has even got some supporters, Mr. Speaker, because I heard a round of applause from his colleagues beside him. I have to say that I agree with most of, if not all of, the recommendations that are contained in the report that he chaired. In that, the recommendation in the report on Page 21 says, in part, "The impacts that have been described to the Committee have not dealt adequately with the negative economic consequences that may arise because of an increase in social problems. Without more information, it is premature to presume that there will be a net positive economic value from casino operations.".
Mr. Speaker, how can this government make a decision and expect that people will support them when a committee of this House, in which the majority of members were members of the Liberal Caucus, itself was saying that it would be premature to proceed because the information is not available? Now, of course, if the Economic Development Committee were, in fact, to meet, there would be an opportunity for some people to come before the committee to give their views.
In committees you have the authority. The committees can extend the privileges of this House to that committee so that those who come and appear are able to speak freely and openly with immunity, that they do not need to worry at all about what they are saying in terms of being sued or being liable for providing information. We do that on a regular basis. We do give those who are witnesses who appear before the committees the opportunity to express openly, freely, without any fear, their views and to provide information. Committees also have the ability, if necessary, to subpoena representatives to appear before the committee.
AN HON. MEMBER: Does that cost any money?
MR. HOLM: I am hearing the member for Hants East asking if that costs any money. Well I would hope one part would not, Mr. Speaker, because one person who could be called before the committee to give testimony would be the member for Hants East himself, who has supposedly travelled across this country at taxpayers' expense, as a representative for the Minister of Finance, to give advice on casinos.
But you know, we have not yet received any report. So I, and I am sure other members of this House and the public, would welcome the opportunity to hear the member for Hants East to come before this committee and to spill it all, to let all that wisdom that he gained flow forth so that we can understand what tremendous advice he has given this Minister of Finance and our fears be laid to rest. He, certainly, obviously has all this information. No report was tabled. All we were told was that it was an oral report and, supposedly, one would assume anyway, that the Minister of Finance put tremendous faith and confidence in the report given by the member for Hants East because the government has decided to go ahead with this casino, against the advice of other representatives of his own caucus as well, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, Timberlea-Prospect, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Yarmouth, Sackville-Beaverbank. All members of this committee, which recommended against it by saying that it was premature.
I would like to know what information the member for Hants East as a result of his travels across the country, was able to provide. The Economic Development Committee would have an opportunity to get to the bottom of this. As part of their report they say, "While a casino may benefit the tourism industry, it may also harm that industry as well.". That is not just the member for Sackville-Cobequid speaking, in fact, I wasn't even a member of this committee but the sentiment that was expressed by the committee in its report filed in February 1994, it acknowledges and points out that this plan, this proposal to rush headlong into a couple of casino operations could, in fact, have very detrimental impacts upon tourism in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Some of the studies that have been done, one of the common points that is raised that certainly the benefits of casinos are often exaggerated; certainly they are exaggerated in comparison to the costs. Part of the reason for that is that very often the proposals, those who are putting forward the argument in support of developing the casinos are the same people who are themselves hoping to operate those casinos. You tell me when it is that a proponent, somebody who is going out and advocating and pushing for the development of something, tell me one who is going to be trying to underestimate the value of the proposal that they want to put forward. You tell me one of them, I shouldn't say one because I am sure there are a few who would do this but would you suggest that the majority of them would intentionally try to underestimate the economic benefits, who would then come along and exaggerate the costs, if they wanted to go ahead? I would suggest that those who are in any way knowledgeable, those who think it through at all would know that those who are proposing it would tending to exaggerate the benefits and underestimating the cost. We have in Nova Scotia absolutely nothing in the way of facts or information that we can look at, nothing.
We are counting on those who are proposing to establish casinos to be even talking about what kind of measures need to be put in place to mitigate against the harmful effects. All this for the potential of $16 million to $20 million in increased government revenue from which you have to subtract the costs that are going to be associated with having to provide the social benefits and services to all those families and individuals who are going to be harmed, the cost of lost production from those who are not going to be continuing or able to work because of the addiction that they have developed in gambling, an addiction that obviously this government has caught, the cost in terms of increased policing costs, the cost you have to also subtract from the so-called benefits, the cost of the lost employment in those other related jobs. We also have to talk about the cost of the money that is leaving the province, going off to shareholders in some other parts of the world, money that is not going to be recirculating within the Province of Nova Scotia.
This government seems to be interested in one thing and one thing only and that is the potential that they are going to make maybe $16 million, maybe $20 million but in such an unbusinesslike fashion they are not looking at the opposite side of the ledger.
One of the things we know, from taking a look at casino operations in many other areas, is that the casinos themselves tend to subsidize the restaurants that are associated with those casinos. They subsidize them to bring the cost of meals and food down in the restaurants. To attract people, get them in there, supposedly, on the basis of cheap food and then get them at the different tables inside the casino so that they can one-arm-bandit their money out of them as quickly as they can. That, of course, will hurt other local restaurants and businesses around the casinos, Mr. Speaker.
Of course, what the government is saying with this legislation is that if a casino operation is to come forward when the government - I should not say if, but when the government decides which one they are going to be proceeding with and if that casino is to be located within, as it is supposed to be, in the City of Halifax or in, now, this new greater municipality of Cape Breton, there cannot even be any public hearings. Other businesses that stand to lose as a result of this government's greed and addiction to gambling are not even going to be able to appear at a public forum dealing with the Planning Act, the Environment Act or the Liquor Control Act, Mr. Speaker. They will not even be able to appear as other businesses would if it was operation other than one that this government is trying to jam in. They cannot do it because this bill exempts them from that.
Well, I would suggest that at the Economic Development Committee, it would be appropriate for that committee to look at how the development of casinos may harm other local Nova Scotia businesses that are providing real jobs here and now. Jobs which can be placed in jeopardy as a result of this government's desire to cash in on the shortsighted gravy train of the casino tax revenue without having had the good sense to even undertake any kind of an economic impact analysis, Mr. Speaker. Unless you consider the trip across the country by the member for Hants East to constitute an economic development impact study when no report is even provided to the members of this House.
We take a look, and you can do it in a number of different areas and, certainly, one of the things that the government talks about or likes to talk about are how many people will be attracted in the way of tourism. Certainly, as had been reported in some media, those claims of the government seem very far-fetched and hard to imagine. For example, in the Montreal area where they have this new casino on the island, La Ronde, I believe, is the name, down where Expo '67 was, Mr. Speaker. That casino attracts 85 per cent of its patrons from the Montreal area. Another 11 per cent come from the rest of Quebec. That leaves a whopping 4 per cent to be drawn in from other jurisdictions, 2 per cent come from the United States, 2 per cent from Ontario.
Take a look at the Montreal situation. If you were to hop in a car in Montreal, you are, depending on which direction you go, three to five hours drive away from very large major U.S. cities, you are also well within a three hour drive of very large Ontario cities. Yet, if we take a look at Halifax, I cannot remember how long it took me the last time I drove down to places like Boston, but my guess would be that that would be in the vicinity of . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Thirteen hours.
MR. HOLM: Well, the member for Kings North says 13 hours, his foot has probably about just the same weight on the pedal as mine, so I would guess my calculations would, in fact, be around 13 to 14 hours to get to Boston. So, maybe the government has some secret up its sleeve and it has some way of saying how it is that it is going to be drawing in all these tourists from the New England States. I can just picture the caravans, they are going to be lining up; there will be coach lines, there will be car caravans going all year long from Boston and other New England cities, to flood in to the great casinos in Halifax and Dartmouth.
If somebody believes that, plus two bits, you can go and get a cup of coffee in some restaurants still, Mr. Speaker, because quite truthfully, that is about as far-fetched an idea as you can possibly imagine.
Obviously the vast majority of those who would use any casinos in Nova Scotia are going to be Nova Scotians; it is not as if we have millions of people sitting on our borders. But a very great proportion of the profits made from those casinos, while there may not be caravans coming in, there may well be Brinks' trucks going out, taking the profits, the money from Nova Scotians out of the province, down to their shareholders in some other country, whether that be in the United States or off in Europe or wherever the buck happens to land, based on whatever decisions this government is going to make.
Clearly, tourism and those who are involved in the tourist industry or in the entertainment, service type of industry, can and will be hurt by the establishment of these. I defy the government to prove me wrong; I challenge the government to prove me wrong because if they can, then maybe they can persuade me to change my mind. What I challenge them to do is put your facts, your figures, your so-called studies on the table; put your money where your mouth is, as the saying goes, instead of just telling Nova Scotians that they want them to put their money on the roulette table, or to depend on a spin of the wheel or a roll of the dice or a flip of the cards, Mr. Speaker.
Imagine, here is a province counting on gambling as a way to create employment, at the same time that they are throwing hundreds of Nova Scotians out of work themselves, which is totally contrary to all the commitments they made to public workers about a year and one-half ago.
I just wonder, and of course I can even refer to press clippings, where those involved in the tourist industry, those from Europe, those who have come and visited Nova Scotia, talk about casinos and whether or not it is likely that the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia will draw tourists to this province. According to the article, and these people should know far better than I, Mr. Speaker, they are involved in the business, "Casinos no draw for tourists, say European tour operators.". October 20, 1994, to quote from them, "Europeans come to Nova Scotia to see four-legged animals, not one-armed bandits, say two travel officials from Germany and England.".
Mr. Speaker, how much more real do we have to get than that? Do we have to do major studies or reports or analysis to even determine that? Who in this House has not talked to tourists from other parts of Canada or North America, from the United States or Europe? Who? I know I cannot remember once, not once, ever being approached or spoken to by tourists saying, gee whiz, we wish you had one-armed bandits in Nova Scotia.
They come here and they are drawn by the beauty of this province, by the hospitality of its people, by the culture, by the quality of life that is here, the pace of life and they quite enjoy it. They do not come to Halifax and, with respect, those who have the big bucks who could head off to the Mediterranean, down to Monte Carlo or go off to Reno or those places, who want to get into that kind of an atmosphere, they are not planning to come to Nova Scotia for the casinos that we are going to build here. In fact, by attempting to do what the government is proposing to do, they can hurt our reputation and our name. I would suggest that that can, therefore, harm our tourist industry and that is a proposition that I put forward and I suggest that maybe the Economic Development Committee could take a look at.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for advising me as to the amount of time that I have left. Time goes by so quickly. I am glad that there are going to be other opportunities to take part in this debate later on.
Casino gambling can bring in an awful lot of business, said Burton. But I do not think it would make any difference for tourists. It is an extra place for them to visit, but I don't think it would make a difference. It may not make a difference in terms of attracting tourists here, but it sure will make a difference for existing businesses in the Province of Nova Scotia. It certainly will. One of the things that it will do is mean that the flow of money will go out of the province. Probably something that the Nova Scotia innkeepers are concerned about because they take a stand against the casinos, also. They are people who are involved directly in the tourist industry and who see the potential for lost business and jobs, as a result of this government's decision.
Economic Development, it is interesting, too, Mr. Speaker, the long list of those who have spoken out against and taken positions against casinos, the Atlantic Conference of Evangelic Lutheran Churches of Canada, the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia. I might add, the people who go to church, also, many of them have businesses and even churches know how to run businesses or they have to run somewhat of a business. It is not just simply a moral view. They are concerned about the social well-being of their congregation and for all Nova Scotians.
The Cumberland County Council, the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade, one of these casinos is supposed to end up in the Sydney area. Does that thrill business in the area? The Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade, they are not thrilled, Mr. Speaker. They have taken a position against it and, I am sure, you also and some other members from the Cape Breton area probably have read the article that appeared in the Cape Breton Post from the head of the Board of Trade. If not, I can even provide it for you later on because I have a copy here of the article that they wrote which expressed their concerns and the opposition to the casinos in that area and I am sure other members from Cape Breton are aware of the position that was taken by the business community there in opposition to this government's plans.
The Innkeepers' Guild of Nova Scotia, the Lunenburg Town Council, the Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada, the Nova Scotia Association of Unique Country Inns, the Nova Scotia Medical Society, the Nova Scotia Residents and Interns Association, People Against Casinos in Nova Scotia - who have done a fantastic job and who have gathered up, I might add, after doing tremendous amounts of work - I can't remember the final number but I think it was well over 30,000 signatures on a petition in opposition of the government's plans.
I haven't seen the minister or this government come forward with one shred of evidence yet as to those who are supporting its head-long, mad rush into establishing casinos, without having done its own homework, without having taken a look at the economic and social impact costs of doing that. That would make too much sense, common sense. Any businessperson, anybody who runs a household, anybody who has to manage a budget of any kind, a kid who gets so many cents or dollars a week for allowance, you know that you have to manage your money and you have to look at the consequences if you go ahead with certain kinds of ventures, what will be left to you. Here, the government has not learned that very own lesson.
I know that I and most people when we bought our first car, you know that the good side of it is that you have got a vehicle, but the bad side of it is that there are costs associated with that. This government hasn't taken a look at any of that.
The Provincial Health Council is still waiting for answers, they have expressed concerns and I cannot imagine how anybody who is concerned with the well-being and the good health of the people in this province, can support going ahead with casino operations, increasing gambling, unless you know firsthand the consequences of your actions, unless you know what the social and the health costs are going to be and have a clear plan in place. Not some airy-fairy decision, not something that is going to depend upon how much money the Cabinet may or may not approve, to come out of that so-called new revenue to provide services for those who are being harmed.
Mark my words and let there be no mistake, the government's major concern, the primary objective, is no more deep, no more insightful, than simply the fact that they want to get more bucks in their coffers, that is all that they are interested in. If that means that the government will have to then take some of those bucks and spend them for other services, I would suggest the Minister of Community Services, the Minister of Health and others are going to have to fight hard to try to get dollars from that Cabinet to put those services in place.
The structure that is set up here is in no way, shape, or form, arm's length. You have a corporation whose purpose is to make as much money as it can for the province, reports to the Minister of Finance, one member of Cabinet. You have a commission whose purpose it is, supposedly, to monitor and regulate. In other words, they could interfere with how much money the corporation is going to make. That commission reports, possibly to the same Minister of Finance but definitely to a minister of the same Cabinet.
The purpose here is not to put in place the best regulatory regime possible, if they had, they would have gone to a truly arm's-length monitoring and regulating body such as the Utilities and Review Board, that is not in here. The Economic Development Committee could take a look at the appropriateness of that.
The Sydney City Council is opposed to it, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, which represent all 66, soon to be down to, I think, 56 municipalities, if my memory serves me correctly, after the amalgamations go forward, the first round, and in the second round probably down to about 18. But anyway, Mr. Speaker, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is opposed to what the government is doing with casinos.
So, I challenge the government, I challenge the Minister of Finance, put your facts on the table, let us even see the report of the member for Hants East, ask him to dictate it and somebody else will type it up for him if he is not able to do it himself. Let's put your facts and figures on the table, I should say, put your decision on hold to proceed with this legislation, do the intelligent thing, do the responsible thing, take the word, listen to the advice you are given by your own members who were appointed, and your government obviously had the confidence in them to appoint them to the committee, listen to the advice of your own members who serve, for example, on the Community Services Committee and those who had served previously, on the Kimball Committee.
Yes, I know my time is almost up, Mr. Speaker. Refer this resolution or the contents of this bill to the Economic Development Committee so that the kind of research and analysis needed can be done before the government runs headlong into their disastrous plans. Step back from your gaming addiction and get some hard research done first. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to rise and speak on the amendment. The amendment today of course is to have the (Interruption) Pardon me? Oh, does the Minister of Education wish to have the floor to say something intelligent?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North has the floor.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, tell the Minister of Education who has the floor, please, Mr. Speaker.
Now to shift this to the Economic Development Committee, Mr. Speaker, would be heralded across Nova Scotia as a good idea. They would say that it is about time the government did exactly as they said they would during the campaign so many months ago. The Minister of Finance recently has been notified that he will be receiving an extra $75 million to $100 million this year in transfer payments from Ottawa. That money is more than the casino will bring in. This money will be able to replace the money he was planning on getting from the casino, so he can give us the little bit of time it will take, from now until May 1st. He will have the time from now until May 1st, so that the Committee on Economic Development could hear from people throughout Nova Scotia.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, when I was home last weekend it was one of the main topics of conversation throughout the constituency. People from all walks of life were saying to me, how can we stop the casino? What can we do? People are concerned in Kentville, New Minas, Wolfville and Canning about this casino, even though the casino will be in Halifax, still, people in the Annapolis Valley are very concerned.
Mr. Speaker, there is far from unanimous support for this casino in among the Liberal members of the Legislature; in fact, the Liberal member for Cape Breton South said that he questions whether the casino will even be successful in Cape Breton. But yet do you hear him once, do you hear anything from that member saying that maybe they should not put it here? In the media he said he didn't think it would work, but does he say anything in this Legislature? Did they even discuss it at caucus before they decided they were going to go ahead with this foolhardy scheme? Mr. Speaker, that is important to know. The Economic Development Committee will be able to have voices from all Nova Scotians.
In Montreal they opened a casino and it is not working exactly the way they had it planned. They were expecting that there would be new money created in the casino. In fact, what they are finding is all the money in the casino is coming from Montreal. So, the big losers in the casino, Mr. Speaker, are the people that live in the City of Montreal. Ninety per cent of the visitors are from that city and most of them are in the lower income levels. Very few of what you would call high-rollers or people with huge disposable incomes are wasting their time at the gambling tables. It is the people who really cannot afford it.
If you look at the studies that have been done throughout New England with regard to the casino that is in Atlantic City, one of the big concerns is the established businesses that are there now and have been there for many years in the past, the bars, the restaurants, the lounges. Over half of those establishments have closed since the casino came in and the others are barely able to hang on.
Is that what we want to do, Mr. Speaker, in Halifax-Dartmouth, close half the bars and restaurants that are operating today? The success rate is not great anyway for somebody in the food and restaurant industry or in the bar industry. We are going to drive them even farther.
Mr. Speaker, as far as tourism goes, Nova Scotia has always had a motto as Canada's ocean playground. I say to you that this Minister of Finance is giving a new meaning to our slogan of Canada's ocean playground. It is not the home of health and nice environment, beaches and birds, wildlife. It will now be known as the suckers who built a casino to take more money from the residents of Halifax and Sydney.
How did we get into this foolhardy exercise? The Minister of Finance sent the member for Hants East on a fact-finding trip that lasted all of two days to fly across Canada and stop in at two casinos and have a look. If that, Mr. Speaker, is not the height of irresponsibility, I would like to know what is. One member, two days, no written report, no nothing. All it was was just a junket. How can anybody say they are basing a casino on the report of a member that spent two days travelling around the countryside? Well, if this is the way this government is making decisions, I can see why we are in such a great deal of difficulty at the present time.
The Economic Development Committee could hear from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. They want to talk. They have got a message. They want to tell Nova Scotians. They want to tell the politicians. They want the opportunity only to explain their position.
The United Church Conference had their meeting this spring. They wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance and the Premier requesting a meeting. All they got was an acknowledgement of their letter. Even the United Church cannot get to meet with these people, Mr. Speaker. You have got to wonder, an acknowledgement of a letter.
The tourism industry is saying no to casinos. Why are they saying no? Because who would think for a minute that tourists are going to leave their permanent residence and come to Nova Scotia so they can gamble. I think we have opportunities to promote tourism in Atlantic Canada, in New England, in Europe but certainly the availability of a gambling casino is not going to do anything for the economic development of Nova Scotia.
Homework hasn't been done on the casino issue. It doesn't inspire confidence as you watch a Liberal Party which this week appointed a committee to repair its flawed constitution to protect Premier Savage at the same time they ignore pleas for Nova Scotia to re-examine the gambling situation. Hon. Bernard Boudreau is saying little about proposed casinos. Mr. Speaker, considering the hundreds of thousands of dollars that this government has spent on hiring consultants, through tenders and without tenders, without competition and all of the people they have hired to work as consultants and casuals and contract people, you would think they would have been able to find a little bit of money to do some kind of a study to say this is why we want casinos in Nova Scotia.
The small business community will be the big loser. The government says that we will be getting $40 million to $60 million annually as a return from the gambling casino. Well, Mr. Speaker, could you show me the report that says that? Are there any facts, are there any figures that will support this number? Or, is it just the Minister of Finance who took a number out of the air, it certainly seems like it, because $40 million or $60 million, there is a big difference. Maybe it is $20 million, maybe it is $80 million. Why did he pick $40 million and $60 million? I don't know but I will tell you, an average of that would be $50 million that means a casino in Halifax would have to make $1 million a week. If you believe that a casino in Halifax will do $1 million a week in profit to the government that is after the expenses have been taken out to pay the wages and to pay the prizes and look after overhead, insurance, food and beverages, if you believe a casino in Halifax will generate $1 million a week profit to the government, I am afraid that you are grossly mistaken.
They have a casino operating in Winnipeg, Manitoba; the population of Winnipeg is 650,000 people. They are doing just over $1 million a month with 650,000 people living in Winnipeg. Here in Halifax with a population of 300,000 they are saying that we are going to do $1 million a week? Where is the financial study that shows that? When we are entering into a new venture such as casinos wouldn't you think there would be a little bit of study go into it? Wouldn't you think there would be some papers that would be tabled in this Legislature so that all members could view them, read them? There is nothing there. The Minister of Finance hasn't given us one iota of hard paper that indicates where there this $40 million to $50 million per year came from.
The Economic Development Committee could do the economic study based upon the facts and figures that they could find from people that would be appearing before the committee. You know the government is psyched to operate on popularity and Omnifacts Research polls said 67 per cent of Nova Scotians were against casinos. Is the government listening? They certainly are not listening to the Opposition, they are not listening to the people doing the polls, well, Mr. Speaker, to whom are they listening?
Eco-tourism beats casinos hands down as the new wave of tourism. It certainly is not going to be gambling casinos. People are willing to come to Nova Scotia because it is a little bit different than home. KLM and the German tourism industry said outdoor environment is why people are coming. They don't want to gamble, if they wanted to gamble they could stay at home.
Nova Scotia hasn't scratched the surface in outdoor tourism. Casinos have no role in the future development of Nova Scotia. They were touted as an economic development ploy to create jobs and stimulate economic activity. Well, the tourism industry says that is not so. Well, let's find out. If it is not fair for them to say over here, it won't work and then the eco-tourism people say, that is a good industry, but over here on this side, we have one person standing alone, the Minister of Finance, with everybody else over here. The scales are weighted heavily against the Minister of Finance but yet his will is prevailing.
Even the Premier said that Nova Scotians must decide whether they wish to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia. We believe caution is necessary and will accept no proposal without extensive, public consultation. Now, can you hear the Premier saying that, Mr. Speaker? I can hear him saying that and then just as quick as he said it, I could see him wink at somebody because he really didn't mean it. I guess that is when we should have known there would be no public hearings when the Premier said there would be because the surest bet you can have is the Premier on doing something he said he would do.
The majority studied cast doubt on economic benefit of casinos. Well, that is exactly what the people have been saying. The majority of Nova Scotians cast their doubt on a casino, based on any economic benefit. I think that we are duty bound, as politicians, to listen to the people.
I know when the Premier was teasing us and making all of those promises, he said that he would be leading a government that would listen, communicate and that sort of thing, but I know he didn't really mean it. But he should have meant it and he should start doing exactly that.
We have an opportunity to let the people tell us exactly what they think about casinos. I know the Minister of Health is uncomfortable with the casino issue. His colleagues don't like casinos, they have written and said that we don't want casinos. Let the Minister of Health appear before the Economic Development Committee and let him speak as a physician. It is just simply guesswork, is what we are operating on from this government at the present time. They guess that it will do $40 million or $60 million, they guess it won't cause economic hardship, they guess that there are enough policemen hired. You know, Mr. Speaker, it is all simply guesswork and that is not good enough.
Nova Scotians expected better and they are getting worse. There is a lack of knowledge and research about the economic and social costs of legalized gambling. What people tell me and what I have been able to read is that there is only so much disposable income in a household and if the disposable income in that household is taken to the gambling casino and placed as bets, it is gone. So, the monthly expenditures for fuel, rent, hydro, telephone, food and clothing, it has to come out of this lump sum of money. But if the lump sum is gone, the grocery stores don't get the business, the clothing stores don't get the business, the car dealers suffer. We are all going to suffer because the people are going to be putting their money through a casino and get absolutely nothing back. A few minutes of enjoyment, an evening out for several thousand dollars is what some people will be losing.
I think all of us know some tragic stories of people who have already run into problems with gambling addiction. I know a person in New Minas who I have a great deal of respect for, who no longer owns his own home. He put his house through the video lottery terminals, Mr. Speaker. He mortgaged his house. He spent that money and now he has absolutely nothing except debts and all of it went through the video lottery terminals. We are going to hear more and more stories like that if we open these casinos in Halifax and Sydney.
We hear very little about the positive side of casinos, the member for Cape Breton South said they would not work there anyway. Well, Mr. Speaker, there is a study that was done by Robert Goodman from the University of Massachusetts and at the present time, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the native Americans are trying to build a casino, they are trying to get a license and there has been a very extensive debate on whether they will or they will not be able to open a casino in New Bedford.
He wrote a study, Legalized Gambling as a Strategy for Economic Development. Has the Minister of Finance read it? Has he read a summary of it or did he even realize this economic study was there? You see, Mr. Speaker, this would have been helpful if all members were given a copy of this so we could study it and look and read. Only through education can we really understand exactly what a casino means to the community.
One of the main findings was that it has increased cannibalization of non-gambling business and increased public cost dealing with social and economic consequences. The Goodman Study is exactly what they found when they opened gambling casinos in Atlantic City. The local businesses suffered because the disposable income was going to the gambling. Well, let's see if that is true. Let's let the folks appear at the Economic Development Committee. Surely to goodness, Mr. Speaker, we have got along without casinos for this many hundreds of years, surely we could wait another six months before we make such a tragic mistake. What are our children going to say? Once you get them you cannot get rid of them? What is the rush? What is the hurry?
There is not one study anywhere that will tell us a good reason to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia? There is not one study. The Minister of Finance has not produced one shred of evidence to indicate that a gambling casino is something we need. The Economic Development Committee, Mr. Speaker, could maybe produce some evidence that would show that we do need a casino. I don't think so, but let's give it a chance. Give the Minister of Finance the benefit of the doubt. Are there any studies that have been done? Does the Premier know of a study that tells us we should be in the gambling casino business?
In British Columbia, they declined to gamble on casinos. Even the NDP Government listened to the people and they turned down a $750 million Vancouver development. It just did not want it. The British Columbia Government decided the odds were against it, pulled out of the high stakes game. Well, Mr. Speaker, if they can do it in British Columbia, why can't this government do it? Let the people have a voice. Let the people in Kentville, Canning and Sheffield Mills tell the Minister of Finance what they think about his gambling casino. The tourism industry of Nova Scotia, probably, the great growth industry of our immediate future, they are very concerned. They want some answers. Is the Minister of Finance going to give them any answers? Will he even meet with them? That is the problem. People want answers to their questions.
We have lots of questions. I used to go to school with a guy and he thought he was pretty clever. He always used to say, I've got the answers, just give me the questions. We have got the questions but the Minister of Finance does not give us any answers. Even Harry Bruce in his writing, and Harry Bruce is a well-known Atlantic Canadian, a really well-known Canadian writer of note. "Taste this gambling thing. It will violate Nova Scotia's clean image. Proposals to build gambling casinos in Nova Scotia are stupid." Harry Bruce.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the chief victims of Nova Scotia casinos will be Nova Scotians. That is from Harry Bruce. He is well respected, he has travelled around, he has seen casinos, he has probably been in casinos in different places and he knows this is not what we need for Atlantic Canada.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the reasons for getting into a casino business I am sure are many and varied but up until now we have not heard of any. We have not heard the Minister of Finance mention anything except this $40 million to $60 million, without a study, without any proof, without any idea in the world whether that is an accurate number, a factual number or is it one that he just pulled out of the air?
What is wrong with going to Yarmouth? What is wrong with going to Sydney? What is wrong with letting the people have their voice? They would like to be able to hear what the people have to say. It is not fair to the people of Nova Scotia, they have spoken three times already and three times they said no to casinos. This government totally disregarded what its own members have said and what the Opposition has said and plowing ahead. Let's give the public one more chance, perhaps they can communicate in the language that this government can understand. Perhaps this government will begin to listen. There is nothing wrong with listening. There is nothing wrong with admitting you are wrong. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind. Goodness gracious, this government has been changing its mind on everything you could think of since it was formed. I think they call him Premier Flip-Flop.
Mr. Speaker, we can, it is not too late, but if we do not let the Economic Development Committee look at this bill, it could be too late because once you get into the gambling casino business, it is very difficult to get out.
So, Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I must tell you I will support the amendment. I would like it to go to the Economic Development Committee and I am totally opposed to casinos in Nova Scotia. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Has the honourable member concluded his remarks? Are there further speakers to the motion? If not, the question is called.
A recorded vote is being called for.
Ring the bells. Call in the members.
I will wait until the Whips are satisfied but I would ask Parties to please try to get them in as soon as possible; 5 or 10 minutes maximum, as quick as possible. (Interruption)
[The Division bells were rung.]
MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?
[The Clerk calls the roll.]
Mr. Moody Mr. Barkhouse
Mr. Donahoe Mrs. Norrie
Mr. Russell Mr. Downe
Mr. Leefe Dr. Smith
Ms. McDonough Mr. Boudreau
Mr. Holm Dr. Savage
Mr. Chisholm Mr. Gillis
Mr. Archibald Mr. Bragg
Mr. Taylor Ms. Jolly
Mr. McInnes Mr. MacEachern
Dr. Hamm Mr. Casey
Mr. M. MacDonald
Mr. W. MacDonald
THE CLERK: For 11. Against, 38.
MR. SPEAKER: The amendment is carried in the negative.
We will now return to the main motion that the bill be now read the second time.
The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise to speak to the main motion and to speak to the principle of Bill No. 120, An Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission.
When I look at Bill No. 120, and, in particular, at the purpose clause of the bill, I find that the purpose of this bill purports to be to, "(a) establish a framework . . .", and I will come back to the word framework again, ". . . for conducting, managing, controlling and regulating casinos and other lottery schemes so as to enhance the economic development of and generate revenue for the Province; and (b) ensure that any measures taken with respect to casinos and other lottery schemes are undertaken for the public good and in the best interests of the public.".
The difficulty I have as I address what purports to be the purpose and general statement of the principle of this bill, Mr. Speaker, is certainly twofold, it perhaps has three or four prongs to it. This bill establishes a framework. The difficulty for me and I believe for all members of this Legislature and, more important, for all taxpayers of Nova Scotia, this bill, if passed, does not provide with any degree of certainty or clarity or precision, what the reality of casino gaming in Nova Scotia will honestly be. What it says, as I just said a moment ago, it purports to establish a framework. (Interruption)
Well a framework is a shell, a general outline, sort of a frame as my distinguished colleague the member for Hants East has helped me, sort of a skeleton outline. Again, my colleague the member for Hants East would be familiar with skeleton outlines. That is what this bill really does. So I am concerned that the government is asking all of us here, as legislators, to pass a very lengthy piece of legislation, containing some 39 pages of very interesting language. But all we get when we pass, if this House passes this legislation, as I say is a framework. Where are you going to get the nuts and the bolts and the reality and the precision and the detail and the day to day workings of casinos in Nova Scotia if this particular piece of legislation passes? Well I think you are probably going to get them, Mr. Speaker, by reference to Clause 126, which is the authority provided in this legislation, whereby the Governor in Council can make regulations.
It is very interesting to note, certainly interesting to me, that Clause 126 of this bill affords and accords unto the Governor in Council the legal authority in 61 different areas to make regulations relative to the operation of a casino gambling regime in the Province of Nova Scotia. So my first problem, my first complaint and my first criticism of the principle of this bill is that it does not, in any way that is fair to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, set out with any degree of clarity or precision, the reality of what casino gaming in Nova Scotia will be if, in fact, this legislation passes. Mr. Speaker, I suggest you can read all the pages from 1 through to 35 and all the clauses from 1 through to 125 and you will not get out of that reading the sense and the detail of what is going to be perpetrated upon the people of Nova Scotia by way of casino gaming, from a reading of those clauses.
It is interesting, I suggest, to note that the purpose of this bill is being undertaken so as to enhance the economic development of and generate revenue for the province. Well the difficulty I have with that as a principle of this bill is that we have absolutely no evidence whatsoever, Mr. Speaker, that the purpose of the bill or the principle of the bill, "so as to enhance the economic development of and generate revenue for the Province;", has any chance of being realized, as a consequence of the passage of this legislation. Of course the reason we don't have that is that this Minister of Finance and the government as a whole has failed or refused either to do the studies necessary to ensure and satisfy themselves that the introduction of casino gaming in this province will enhance the economic development of and generate revenue for the province. We have no evidence that they have done that they have any such study, that they have commissioned any work at all that attests to that principle or that purpose of this bill. If they have as I know you know and you have heard me say this in relation to earlier comments I have made in regard to this bill, if they have, this Minister of Finance and all of his Treasury bench colleagues have failed or refused to make any such studies known to the people of Nova Scotia.
How is it that we can have, any of us, taxpayers in the Province of Nova Scotia, confidence that the principle of the bill can in fact and will in fact be realized by the passage of this legislation? If this Minister of Finance has, as I would have thought he would have, a raft of economic studies which show that the passage of this legislation and the establishment of casino gaming will, in fact, enhance the economic development of and generate revenue to the Province of Nova Scotia, I would have thought that this minister would have had those reports available here, tabled here in the Legislature, widely disseminated to every interested and concerned Nova Scotian taxpayer and there are tens of thousands of them. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, we have not one scintilla of evidence that this piece of legislation will in fact, if passed, meet and effect the principle which is espoused in the legislation.
The legislation too offers as one of the principles that it is to ensure that any measures taken with respect to casinos and other lottery schemes are undertaken for the public good and in the best interest of the public. Well, I am going to suggest to you that there isn't a line in the bill that is before us now that indicates in any way, shape or form that the undertaking, that measures taken with respect to casinos and other lottery schemes are going to be for the public good and in the best interest of the public.
How is it possible that the government can make the statement that that principle of this bill can in fact and will be realized by passage of this legislation. Again, I repeat where are the econometric modellings which I am sure have been done, where are the socio-economic impact studies which I am sure are done? If they aren't done, I suggest, with respect that the Minister of Finance and the Premier and the Cabinet are irresponsible in the extreme if they are not. They are taking an absolute flyer with the lives and the welfare and the well-being and, to use the words of the language, the public good and the best interest of the public, they are taking a flyer on all of that if, in fact, the kinds of studies and analysis to which I have made reference have in fact not taken place.
You read through the bill further and you find some very interesting language which bears on the principle which purports to be supported by this legislation.There is going to be a corporation established according to this legislation, if it were to pass, and it is going to have the effect that it can, "develop, undertake, organize, conduct and manage casinos and other lottery schemes on behalf of the Province . . .", and I am reading from Clause 10(a), " . . . or on behalf of the Province and another province of Canada;".
So, now we have the unseemly spectre that the Nova Scotia Lottery Corporation, as set out in this particular piece of legislation, is now having set unto it an authority whereby it can engage in the perpetration of a more broadly-based, presumably, casino gaming and lottery scheme arrangement with other provinces in Canada. Well, what does that mean for Nova Scotians? What kinds of commitments will this Minister of Finance and will this Premier be making on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia, more to the point again, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, to engage in arrangements with other provinces of Canada in the operation of other lottery schemes and the conduct and management of casinos?
I note too, that if you read in the same Clause 10 later, that the objects of the corporation which this bill would have us form would, "(c) ensure that lottery schemes conducted and managed by the corporation are conducted and managed in accordance with the Criminal Code (Canada) and this Act and the regulations;". Well, again I repeat, it simply isn't fair in my opinion that this government would come forward with a piece of legislation which, if it passes, would have casinos appear in the Province of Nova Scotia, one in Halifax and one in Sydney and say that it is the principle of this bill that they would be ". . . conducted and managed in accordance with the Criminal Code (Canada) and this Act and the regulations;", and produce a piece of legislation which, as I said a moment ago, gives to the Executive Council 61 different headings under which they, the Executive Council, the Cabinet, has the right to make regulations.
I honestly believe that in this instance because the issue is as fundamental, as I believe it is, to the long-term socio-economic fabric of the Province of Nova Scotia, it is again irresponsible for this minister and for the government to ask us, as legislators and to ask the taxpayers of Nova Scotia to say yes to casino gaming on the basis that there will be 61 headings of regulatory-making authority available to the Governor in Council, all of which I suggest, are really where the nuts and bolts of what will happen in the operation of such a casino gaming public policy, if and when such regulations are passed.
The regulatory authority and I don't purport and don't propose to read them all, at all by any means but it is in the regulations and not in the bill that we find that not the lottery commission, not the gaming commission, not Mr. Lichter, but Premier Savage and his Cabinet Ministers, they are going to make regulations which prescribe which games, machines, devices or contrivances are to be games of chance, they are going to do that. So, they are going to have a meeting some Thursday down in the Cabinet Room and they are going to make the decision as to whether or not this kind of one-armed bandit, or this kind of video lottery terminal, or this kind of a roulette wheel, or this kind of a craps table, or this kind of some other, blackjack table, (Interruption) this kind of gaming activity, is going to be acceptable.
Well, I really don't know, in light of the fact that this government has made very heavy weather over the fact that this is a hands-off operation. There is a completely independent organization, separate and apart from the Premier and from the Cabinet Ministers, which is going to make all the decisions relative to what casino gaming and other gaming in the Province of Nova Scotia is going to be all about. But then you read the legislation and you find it is going to be the Minister of Finance and the smiling Minister of Labour and the jocular Minister of the Environment who are going to sit in the Cabinet Room some Thursday, it will be those men and women, those ministers who are going to prescribe the games and the machines, the devices or the contrivances of games of chance.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. DONAHOE: The point I attempt to make is that, quite frankly, I believe that Clause 126(1), this regulatory authority afforded the Governor in Council, frankly, gives the lie to the rhetoric that this is all going to be at arm's length and it is going to be transparent and it is not going to be influenced in any way, shape or form by the Executive Council, by the Premier, by the Minister of Finance, by any Cabinet Minister. If that is truly the case, then there is a fundamental flaw in the legislation. The flaw is that if it is to be free of the possibility of tainted, partisan involvement in deciding what games, machines, devices or contrivances or games of chance are, in fact, to be part of casino gaming in this province, then, frankly, this government has to divest itself of any responsibility for making those decisions, as it said publicly and has repeatedly said publicly would be the case.
The regulation making authority goes on further to prescribe a whole number of very significant pieces of information relative to casino gaming. It affords the Executive Council, which we were told by the Premier and the Minister of Finance was going to be hands-off as far as the Executive Council was concerned, the authority to make regulations, Clause 126(1)(ak), "prescribing the operation, testing and security requirements for machines and equipment to be used for games of chance in casinos;", and Clause 126(1)(al), "regulating the use of alcoholic beverages in casinos;".
Well, I went to a meeting this morning, as did other colleagues in the House, of the Human Resources Committee. We had Dr. Owen Carrigan of Saint Mary's University make a presentation. Dr. Owen Carrigan made a couple of very interesting points. Among them, he said that one of the most fundamental questions that bears on the operation of casino gaming operations is the kinds of decisions which are made relative to the availability and the use and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the gaming casinos themselves.
Here now we have, as a part of one of the principles of this bill, the Minister of Finance and the Premier and the Cabinet Ministers are the ones, apparently, who are going to make the regulations relative to the use of alcoholic beverages in the casinos. Again, I repeat, I thought this was a hands-off operation and the authorities and the rules and the regulations as to how these casinos would be operated was to rest with a hands-off, arm's length commission and that the Cabinet was taking a stand back and stand away position relative to this whole issue.
The real problem, Mr. Speaker, with this whole bill, as I say, is that it is nothing more than a shell or a framework. It talks in some generalities and platitudes. It does not talk with anything close to the degree of precision which any Nova Scotian taxpayer must have available to him or her to be able to come to an informed, reasoned judgment as to whether or not casino gaming is in the best interests of him or her or their families. All those regulation-making authorities available to the Cabinet really represent a situation where we have a shell of a bill and then, when the Cabinet gets around to it on a Thursday, the Cabinet will decide what the day-to-day operation of gaming casinos and gambling casinos in this province really will be.
I repeat again, the Minister of Finance and the Premier and others would have Nova Scotians believe that this is not at all the way it was to work. It wasn't to be the Executive Council, it was to be independent, arm's length, hands-off commissions and corporations which were to establish the rules of casino gaming in Nova Scotia. That, I suggest to you, is not at all what this bill provides for.
I note in another place, speaking of one of the principles of this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, and it is one to which I am sure you will respond with some considerable background and knowledge, considering your municipal experience. This bill says, among other things, Clause 25(1)(d), that the corporation which is going to be established under this legislation may, "with the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into an agreement for the purpose of this Act with the Government of Canada, the government of another province of Canada or a municipality, or a department or agent of any of them.".
I find that really interesting because here is a bill which purports to have a principle that says that this government, if this legislation passes, can engage in a contractual arrangement or an agreement with a municipality. Then later in this same bill, establishes a further principle as it relates to municipal government and the rights and authorities and responsibilities of municipal government. What the bill does is just simply rips out of the municipality's authority, the opportunity for a municipality which, for instance, might have passed, as some have, and might I say both Halifax and Sydney have, both of those cities where this government proposes to put gaming casinos have passed resolutions saying we don't want casino gaming, casinos in our municipal units.
This legislation goes further and says that whatever the corporation and the commission wants to do, in terms of establishing gambling casinos, they can do so without reference to any existing zoning by-laws in the City of Halifax, they don't have to make any agreement whereby the province or the gaming commission or the corporation is required to reimburse the city in any way, shape or form for any additional cost or expense incurred by the cities in which these gaming casinos would take place.
In the City of Halifax, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, one of the most important pieces of business done by the City Council of our capital city in the last 25 years was the establishment of viewplane legislation. It has been hailed across this country and in many other places as one of the most enlightened, municipal decisions and decision-making processes undertaken by any capital city in this country.
If this legislation passes, it is now possible for the commission and the corporation, in total defiance of those viewplane regulations, to put up whatever it wants to put up and have no regard whatsoever for the municipal viewplane regulations which now exist in the City of Halifax.
Well, I hear the Minister of Education say, I don't think they would do that. Well, I didn't think the Premier would do a lot of things and he has proven that he has done a lot of things which he said he was not going to do, and has failed to do a lot of things which he said he was going to do. I would like to (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor. Please direct your remarks to the Chair.
MR. DONAHOE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, the cackling is subsiding and I will continue, if I may.
The bill further establishes as one of the principles that would impact upon the operation of casino gambling in this province, another very threatening public policy principle as far as I am concerned. This bill sets out provisions which are just the framework that there will be a corporation and they are going to call it the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. When you look at the bill and come to understand some of the authorities and responsibilities of that gaming commission, you are going to find this, Clause 24(a), "The Corporation shall subject to this Act and the regulations, . . .", and we don't have any idea what the regulations are at this point, ". . . comply with any direction given to it by the Governor in Council;".
This government has said to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, this is a hands-off operation. The Minister of Finance, the Premier, the Cabinet Ministers, are not going to interfere with the operation of casino gaming in the Province of Nova Scotia. So, in the face of that hollow rhetoric, they produce a piece of legislation which says, there shall be a Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and you go over and read that, the corporation that they establish shall, ". . . subject to this Act and the regulations, . . .", can you believe it, ". . . comply with any direction given to it by the Governor in Council;". What is the Governor in Council doing, getting into giving directions to the gaming corporation?
Any Thursday the Cabinet of this province goes to its regular Cabinet meeting and somebody decides in that Cabinet meeting that some direction of some kind should be given to the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. They pass an Order in Council downstairs on a Thursday saying, we are going to start telling the gaming corporation what it shall do or what it shall not do and, I suggest to you, if that is one of the principles of this bill, that is terribly dangerous. It is wrong that the Governor in Council should have any authority whatsoever, as these words say, give any direction to the gaming corporation in this province. Where is all the openness, where is the transparency, where is the detail, where is the consultation with the people of Nova Scotia?
You will recall and reference has been made to it on other occasions, when he was Liberal Leader and when he was looking for Nova Scotians to vote for him and to make him Premier of Nova Scotia, John Savage said that it was Nova Scotians who must decide whether they wished to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia. He went on to say, that is why public hearings, like those of the Kimball Committee, are so important. Listen to these words from Leader Savage, now Premier Savage, we believe caution is necessary and will accept no proposal without extensive, public consultation.
Well, I defy Premier John Savage and I defy Minister of Finance Boudreau and I defy any member of this government to rise in his or her place and describe with any degree of clarity at all . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: They've heard it.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, the Minister of the Environment says that they have heard this. This is déjà vu all over again. Well, you are going to hear it as long as I have the authority and the right to stand and speak for tens of thousands of Nova Scotians who are scared to death as to what the impact of casino gaming might be in the Province of Nova Scotia.
And why can I not on behalf of concerned Nova Scotians remind the men and women who are the Government of this Province of Nova Scotia, why can I not remind them that the man who leads their government, the man who leads the government of my province, the man who influences and affects the fate of almost 900,000 people in this province and all the taxpayers in this province, when he said not so many months ago in relation to casino gaming, that is why public hearings like those of the Kimball Committee are so important. We, says Premier Savage, believe caution is necessary and will accept no proposal without extensive public consultation.
Well, I repeat, I defy Premier Savage to come back to this place. I defy the Minister of Finance. I defy any minister of this government, any member of this government, all 40 of them, to come back . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: It used to be 41.
MR. DONAHOE: It used to be 41, but we just have had one suspended and that is another subject for debate and questioning on another day. That is more example, by the way, Mr. Speaker, of the John Savage, it is either my way or the doorway, approach to government. It is the same here with casino gambling. It is either my way with casino gambling, says John Savage, or it is the doorway. Like it or lump it is exactly the approach and the attitude that he is taking to Nova Scotians, relative to casino gambling. (Interruption)
I want to ask if the principle of this bill is as it purports to be, to enhance the economic development of and to generate revenue for the province and to be in the public good and in the best interests of the public of Nova Scotia, where is that established in the face of or in the context of or against the backdrop of the commitment for extensive consultation by Leader John Savage, now Premier John Savage?
The truth of the matter is, there has been no such consultation undertaken by his government. There were, however, Mr. Speaker, as you well know, there were other consultations taken in this province and they addressed, those studies and those consultations, the very issue that we debate here today, the principle of casino gaming in the Province of Nova Scotia. Those studies, all three of them, travelled the province and they allowed Nova Scotians to offer their views. Nova Scotians did, in great number, offer their views. Three reports were written as a result of those exercises. All three of those reports recommended that there should not be casino gaming at this time in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Isn't it interesting that quite a considerable number of those in this place, who are your colleagues and mine, as elected members to this Legislature, are signatories to those documents. They put their signature on the document saying, we agree with the premise of this report and the recommendation of this report that there should not be casino gaming in this province at this time. I have not yet heard any one of those who are signatories to those documents stand up and say either, well, I was mistaken when I signed the document or I have changed my mind and I have changed my mind for the following reasons, and offer some reasonable, rational explanation as to what new information has now been made available to them to make them believe that they were wrong when they signed the document saying there should not be casino gaming in Nova Scotia at this time.
So, there was some consultation. There was consultation taken, not by Premier John Savage or Minister Boudreau or Minister Bragg or Minister MacEachern or any of the other ministers. There was consultation undertaken during the time of the previous government. There was consultation undertaken that enabled Nova Scotians to have their say and it offered us an opinion, a recommendation.
My frustration and the frustration of tens of thousands of Nova Scotians is we have heard nothing and they have heard nothing from any member of the Treasury benches of this province, of this government. We have heard nothing that indicates that other consultation has taken place or that other studies have been undertaken or that other information has been made available to the Minister of Finance or the Premier of Nova Scotia which shows and proves that the conclusions reached by those three studies recommending against casino gaming is somehow in error.
I repeat, again, it is virtually irresponsible that this government, in the face of that earlier information, in the face of the reports that recommend casino gaming, could go forward with this legislation as they now attempt to do without offering any evidence whatsoever that there has been the consultation necessary . . .
HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Mr. Speaker, a point of order. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has been going on about what people had said and what evidence has come forth that might change their mind. My memory of the honourable member, in response to the announcement in the spring that we would be moving ahead with casinos, was that he was in support of that. In fact, the directions he gave in a speech, I remember very clearly was to suggest that the legislation be brought to the House with the supporting background for it to be brought here, taken to Law Amendments so it could be vetted. I would ask the honourable member in a few moments what has changed his mind because those three studies did exist at that particular time but he supported it at that time. What has changed his mind?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, it is an observation but it isn't a point of order.
MR. DONAHOE: Yes, it is a very enlightened and enlightening observation from the Minister of Education and Culture. Well, let me respond by asking . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Please, let us not enter in a debate across the floor.
MR. DONAHOE: No, I don't intend to engage in debate with the Minister of Education but I simply would respond by asking through you if there is any legitimacy at all and there is relatively little to the observation just made by the Minister of Education. I wonder in response, what legitimacy is there to a government and indeed I include the Minister of Education who I think supports, I am told he supports and supports pretty vigorously Premier Savage and it is Premier Savage and the Minister of Education and those ministers who have responsibility for the public policy initiatives of this province. They said that they would consult and I am prepared to say that I have done more consultation with the people of Nova Scotia to attempt to determine the interest of the people of Nova Scotia, the attitude of the people of Nova Scotia relative to casino gaming than has the Minister of Education.
I have determined as a result of that consultation that there are tens of thousands of Nova Scotians who are concerned. They simply want some straight answers. Why is it when the Government House Leader said as he did here yesterday when somebody asked him or in fact I think it was his gratuitous interjection into the debate, he said there is no time constraint here. There is no commitment. The Minister of Finance, he hasn't made any commitment or deal with any of the proponents, and I am not suggesting he has, that require a certain timetable be met. The Premier hasn't had a commitment to anybody so that it has to be done on a particular timeframe. No, there is no timeframe involved.
If the Government House Leader is being truthful when he says that I simply want to ask why is it that it was so offensive and reprehensible as far as the, then 41 member, government to vote against the proposals or the motions that would allow us to have the matter referred to the Economic Development Committee and have the consultation that took place. They did that, that was their right. I don't really understand and I think increasing numbers of Nova Scotians don't understand.
If this government has information that will establish, allay some fears even, but will establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the establishment of casino gaming in this province will enhance the economic development of and generate revenue for the province and that it is undertaken for the public good and in the best interests of the public. If they have that information I don't understand why they can't get it through their heads that there are an awful lot of Nova Scotians and I am attempting to speak for those who are asking the question, please show us that information. Communicate with us and show us that information.
This government to this point has failed and refused to make that information available and I don't really understand why that is so. The principle of this bill is again wrong and another element, if I may, because I'm satisfied that one of the effects of this bill is going to be adverse consequences for the tourism industry of the Province of Nova Scotia, I believe that that will happen. The tourism industry of Nova Scotia has expressed that same concern. The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia support for casino gambling is no longer a sure thing, so says a Daily News report as recently as November 7, 1994, just a few days ago. "TIANS Wants Study of Casino Risks" that is the organization, Mr. Speaker, which speaks for the tourism industry of Nova Scotia and from that article it says, at its annual general meeting in Halifax yesterday, as recently as November 6th, just a few days ago, 60 per cent of TIANS voting delegates supported seeking more information before deciding whether to back casinos.
On Friday, a few days earlier than that, the Innkeepers' Guild of Nova Scotia passed a similar motion at Mr. Blanchette's urging. The truth of the matter is that the men and women who are the leaders of an $800 million to $900 million tourism industry are concerned that there are risks to that industry if we have casino gaming in this province.
I do not understand, if the leaders of the tourism industry of the province have those risks and if they ask, what I think makes a very reasonable request, that they seek more information before deciding whether to back casinos, I cannot understand why it is that the minister in this government in this province who is responsible for the safety and the integrity and the support and the growth and the development of the tourism industry would not be there like a dog at dinner time and say to TIANS, we will do what we can to make sure that you have sufficient time and that the studies can and will be done to ensure that we do not do irreparable harm to the tourism industry of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, again, at the meeting of the Human Resources Committee earlier today, the comment was made by a man who is a friend of mine and who I have known for many years and he was our witness at the Human Resources Committee, Dr. Owen Carrigan and he would be known well to many and known favourably. A former President of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, if I am not mistaken, but he is a respected historian and researcher. He was in front of the Human Resources Committee this morning, and he said a number of things. One of the things that he said when talking about, we had a little bit of a discussion about the potential impact that our tourism industry might experience if in fact gaming casinos were to appear in the Province of Nova Scotia. He made a comment, quite frankly, with which I just could not agree. I did not engage him in debate on it, but I did not agree with it and I do not agree with it now.
He made the comment that people are looking for more than just the scenery and the eco-tourism. Well, frankly you know, Mr. Speaker, I am not so sure that is true at all. I am prepared to believe properly promoted, particularly in the European market, that eco-tourism can become phenomenally valuable in the Province of Nova Scotia. If properly promoted could generate as much tourism revenue and revenue to the Minister of Finance in this province as can the introduction of casino gaming in this province.
It has the effect, you know, Mr. Speaker, the eco-tourism, of supporting what this government also says it purports to support and that is sustainable economic development because it would have the impact of maintaining and ensuring for generation after generation of Nova Scotians and generations of visitors to our gorgeous province, it would have the effect of preserving and enhancing the quality of life in Nova Scotia and eco-tourism for many decades to come here in Nova Scotia. It could come to be realized around the globe as the attraction in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Do you really believe, Mr. Speaker, are Nova Scotians really going to believe that the establishment of a couple of casino operations in this province are going to be the catalyst to tourism in this province? That same Dr. Owen Carrigan who spoke to us at the Human Resources Committee today made a couple of interesting observations in that regard as well. When asked by one of the members of the committee, he indicated to us that, well, he felt that the catchment area that would be attracted to casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia would be Nova Scotians, Southern New Brunswickers and Prince Edward Islanders. He then said, in fairness to him, the extent to which the attraction will be more broadly-based than that and be wider than that is a direct function of the promotions and marketing which would be done by the successful casino operator.
Well, we don't have the foggiest idea. Not one Nova Scotian taxpayer has the foggiest idea what additional promotions and communications and advertising initiatives are to be undertaken by any successful casino gaming promoter. I think it is realistic to at least ask the question - I don't know the answer and, frankly, I will bet that there is no member in this Legislature who knows the answer - what does happen if we have a casino establishment set up here in Nova Scotia, one in Halifax and one in Sydney? What does happen if our catchment area, the people whom we attract to those casinos are Nova Scotians, Southern New Brunswickers and Prince Edward Islanders and the operator is not able to mount and launch a successful communications and public relations program which causes that catchment area to widen and widen greatly?
I will tell you what we have. We have, in that situation, nothing more than the recycling through a Nova Scotia casino of money already in the Nova Scotian and the Maritime economy, not new money but the Nova Scotian and Maritime economy, being recycled and whipped around the roulette wheels and through the slot machines in the casino. The Minister of Finance takes his cut off the top and the operators take theirs and note that the operators happen to be corporations, as I understand it, those who are now down to the short list, are three companies, none of whom have their base of operations here in Nova Scotia, all of whom have head offices outside of the Province of Nova Scotia. Frankly, what we are going to see, is the recycled, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Maritime money recycled, part of it, to the Minister of Finance's bank account and part of it to the corporation based outside of the Province of Nova Scotia.
So, I am not so sure that on that account, the principle which is set out in the bill that I have read just a moment ago, that it is going to be, " . . . so as to enhance the economic development of and generate revenue for the Province;", I really believe unless the Minister of Finance comes forward with some serious study documents, I am not so sure that we are going to realize any kind of significant or meaningful return in the long run.
At the Committee on Human Resources again this morning, there were a couple of other interesting comments made by Dr. Carrigan and he said among other things that he was guessing, in my opinion, because he acknowledged that he had no study, that the casino of the kind that he expects will probably develop in Halifax - he made the acknowledgement that he hasn't spoken to the Minister of Finance so he doesn't know any details from that source nor is the Minister of Finance and I don't think he has spoken to Mr. Lichter or his committee - so, on the basis of an assumption of what kind of casino we might end up with in Halifax, Dr. Carrigan offered the opinion that, well, it might employ a couple of hundred direct jobs but that there would be spinoff jobs on a basis, a ratio of about two to one so that there might be another 400 jobs so that the employment in Nova Scotia, on Dr. Carrigan's guesstimates and speculation, without study, is to the affect that there might be maybe 600 direct and indirect jobs. Well, 600 jobs in our economy would be welcomed. But 600 jobs at what cost to the potential that criminal activity in our city would increase and our province would increase? Criminal activity that, God knows, we do not need and there is a rising and a raging concern now that our criminal justice system is not able to handle and deal effectively with the crime which, unfortunately, does exist in our communities. But with what other effect?
Another interesting comment made by Dr. Carrigan was that in some studies which he has looked at, relating to casinos in other places, there is an addiction to gambling that ranges, relative to the number of patrons going through some of these casinos, between 1 per cent and 6 per cent.
Well, I would like to ask, Mr. Speaker, and hopefully the Minister of Finance and the Premier and the Minister of Health and others will reassure, will engage in this debate and will reassure Nova Scotians that if by chance the addiction to gaming could be as high as 6 per cent of the patrons that would go through a gambling casino that might be established in this province, I would like to know and Nova Scotians would like to know, what steps are able to be taken. First of all, why do we subject Nova Scotians to that risk at all? Why do we subject them to that? It means on those statistics, not mine, Dr. Carrigan's, for every 100 people that start to frequent these places on a regular basis, 6 of them are going to become gaming addicts.
The Leader of the New Democratic Party produced a document which was discussed at the Human Resources Committee this morning and she produced a study which was done by the Director of the National Gaming Commission in the United States. If my memory serves me correctly, that study by that independent source indicates that their studies across the United States are now starting to show that addiction to gaming is starting to rise into the 11 per cent to 17 per cent. I think I am in the right numbers.
If that is the case, it becomes even that much more frightening. That, Mr. Speaker, translates, in my simple mathematics, to the potential, when we have casinos up and running, that we are establishing a place to which people can go - and I am going to suggest it will be, in the main, Nova Scotians going there - and anywhere from 11 per cent to 17 per cent out of every 100 that go there on a regular basis become gaming addicted.
I have to ask and ask as seriously and as honestly as I can. Why is it and what are the benefits on the other side that make it reasonable and realistic for us to establish a centre in our province, in two places in our province, that lead us to a situation where we run the risk of committing Nova Scotians to gaming addictions in those proportions? I just simply do not understand why it has to be so.
I do not understand the government, Mr. Speaker, being so hell-bent for leather on going forward with the casino. I said a moment ago that the Government House Leader says there is no timetable and so time is not of the essence. The Minister of Finance said, when he introduced the legislation, (Interruption) that this 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, where are the economic studies, Mr. Speaker, that show real economic advantages? How can you or how can I, how can any Nova Scotia taxpayer be sure that there is any economic advantage and if there is, if it is not greatly outweighed by social disadvantages? And on it goes. The questions are legion, they are questions which are being put by tens of thousands of Nova Scotians and this government fails to be willing to respond to any of those questions.
So, Mr. Speaker, before I close my remarks, speaking to the main motion, it is my intention to move an amendment to the motion. I will circulate that now, with the help of the Pages, the Clerk and the others. It is my intention to move this motion, I consider it to be a reasoned motion and I move that all the words after "that" be deleted and the following substituted: "Any legislation to establish casinos in Nova Scotia not be proceeded with prior to holding a referendum, such referendum to be held not later than February 15, 1995, to determine the will of the people of Nova Scotia.".
I believe that is completely consistent with the promise made by the Premier of Nova Scotia back in May 1993, when he promised Nova Scotians that he would consult, and consult widely. I make that motion, Mr. Speaker, and await your ruling.
MR. SPEAKER: In dealing with the resolution, I have discussed it with the Clerks at the Table. In order to be a reasoned amendment, it must be adverse to the principle of the bill. The motion, as we read it, is a procedural motion dealing with a referendum to the establishment of casinos and does not oppose the establishment of casinos necessarily. Therefore, we rule the amendment out of order.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, Mr. Speaker, with respect, what it does ask - if I may respond briefly to what you have just now ruled - is that we take a form of action which will allow us to do what I thought all of us, as legislators, were supposed to do. That is determine the will of the people of Nova Scotia. I honestly believe that the will of the people of Nova Scotia, it was promised by the Premier that there would be consultation. That consultation has not taken place and frankly, I believe that there is merit and that it is incumbent upon us, as legislators, to determine the will of the people of Nova Scotia on an issue which has the potential to fundamentally change the life and the fabric of the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: I think I realize what the intent of the motion was, I think it is self-explanatory and it does deal with process, as I have indicated. According to Beauchesne, Page 200, Paragraph 670, dealing with a reasoned amendment, (1) "It must be declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles . . . of the bill.". The motion is not, it is dealing with a procedure and not the principle of the bill. So it has been ruled out of order and that is the final ruling.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, realizing that my time is just about up, I would therefore, with your indulgence, make another motion. I will ask the . . .
HON. RICHARD MANN: A point of order, Mr. Speaker, I believe when he introduced the amendment he had relinquished his place on the floor.
AN HON. MEMBER: Absolutely.
MR. SPEAKER: But the time of the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition has concluded, so he cannot introduce an amendment at this point in time.
On an introduction, the honourable Minister of Community Services. (Interruption) The honourable member's time has elapsed, he cannot now introduce a motion. He does not have the floor, the floor has been yielded. I have recognized the honourable Minister of Community Services on an introduction. If the honourable member for Queens wishes the floor, he can stand after the introduction has been made.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: A point of order always takes precedence, even over introductions, always.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed, on a point of order.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I wonder if you could help me, I understood that I had some minutes remaining, prior to introducing the earlier motion, could you perhaps check your record?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, the records I gave you, when I gave you the timing, you had six minutes remaining. It was then 39. It was 45 when you finally made your observations on my ruling. Your time elapsed to the 45 minute period. You did not have time, sufficiently, to introduce your second motion. You had to yield the floor. The floor is now given to the honourable Minister of Community Services on an introduction.
The honourable Minister of Community Services.
HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you and to all members of the House in your gallery, Mrs. Jane Cushing, a resident of Dartmouth East, who has made several presentations to various House of Assembly committees representing her church, the Woodlawn United Church in Dartmouth East and also other churches throughout the metropolitan area.
Generally, these have addressed issues relative to gambling and casinos and which is here today. While I suspect she is not here to support the government's position, I did want to compliment her on all her works that she has done and interest that she has shown on behalf of her community and the fact that she has come and seen the British parliamentary system in action. I would ask you and other members that we could extend a warm welcome to Jane Cushing. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise this afternoon and speak to Bill No. 120, An Act to Establish the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission. I tried to read this bill as extensively as possible. It is a very complex bill. As I understand the bill, the bill will give authority to a commission which will control the gaming in Nova Scotia. Also, a corporation which will be, ". . . for all purposes of this Act an agent of Her Majesty in right of the Province and the powers of the Corporation may only be exercised as such an agent.".
Mr. Speaker, Clause 10, "The objects of the Corporation are to (a) develop, undertake, organize, conduct and manage casinos and other lottery schemes on behalf of the Province or on behalf of the Province and another province of Canada;". Now, who is this corporation? My understanding is that the corporation shall be managed by a board of directors. How many directors are going to be on the board of this corporation? Well, the bill says three to five members. Now, they shall hold office, not exceeding five years. They cannot be reappointed and that is probably a good thing.
Now, a member of the House of Assembly or an Executive Council person shall not be allowed to be on this corporation unless they are out of the House for three years and that is probably a good thing. Who is going to appoint these board members? Mr. Speaker, I want to know, it says in this bill that a group that will sit downstairs in the lower room shall appoint this corporation. I understood that this government was going to be at arm's length from the casino operations in Nova Scotia. They appointed Mr. Lichter, who is a very good man, I am sure, and other members on this committee, to review the applications. They are now down to three and I understand they are going to make a recommendation early in December for one. When they do get their recommendations to Cabinet, Cabinet is going to appoint the people to look after this. Is that at arm's length? I don't think it is. I think they are going to have full control of it, Cabinet is going to appoint their people.
I think we had a couple of amendments that were in order and all they were suggesting is that we would listen to the people. We would give the people an opportunity to have their say in what the people of Nova Scotia want. I ask that government and I say to that government, are you listening? I don't think so. This bill gives the board of directors of the gaming corporation, the gaming control commission all the authority in the world. I believe if they are going to do it that they do have to have authority, I have no problem with that, they have to control it, it has to be policed, it has to be well looked after.
I don't think the people of Nova Scotia are ready for a gaming corporation and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission appointed by this government. Where are the regulations for this gaming casino? We are told that there are going to be strict regulations. Where are they? When will the minister bring them in? We would like to see them. The people of Nova Scotia would like to see them. They talk about socio-economic studies done in other areas. They talk about Windsor, they talk about Montreal. I don't know how you can compare Windsor, where it is located, and Montreal, where it is located, to Halifax and Sydney.
Quite frankly, we do not have the population that those cities have in Ontario and Quebec. We need people to go through the casino to generate the revenue that the honourable minister is talking about, $40 million to $60 million he said. I have yet to see the study that shows that we are going to get $40 million or $60 million and maybe he has tabled it but I did not have the opportunity to see that. I don't see how they are going to make that much money from the people of Nova Scotia who really don't want a casino in Nova Scotia. The Town Fathers of Sydney, the City Council of Sydney voted against casinos. All kinds of groups across this province, church groups of all denominations, Catholic, Protestants, have all spoken out against casinos and here we are trying to put this massive 40 page bill through the House.
What about the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities? Were they in favour of this bill, Mr. Speaker? No they are not. This bill goes against what the people of Nova Scotia want. How many municipalities in this province, 66? It is going to be reduced down to, with the amalgamation in Cape Breton down to a smaller number, which is probably a good thing. I am not against that reform. I think that is proper.
Here we have representatives of all the municipalities saying they are against casinos. I believe the Medical Society are against casinos. They have spoken out against them. The Provincial Health Council has spoken out against casinos, the people of Yarmouth. Saskatoon, a lovely city in the Province of Saskatchewan. I had the opportunity to be there. It is a nice clean city. What did they do? They held a plebiscite and the results, they turned it down. They turned it down completely.
Mr. Speaker, we have 40 members of the government as of this afternoon. We have a reduction. I have not heard from any of those 40 members, with the exception of the good honourable Minister of Finance to speak on this bill, to speak on the amendments. I am not quite sure whether they are in favour or not. I guess if they are not in favour, they may not be in that caucus either.
AN HON. MEMBER: There is no such thing as a free vote any more.
MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of those members that have represented municipalities across this province. There are a number of members that have represented their constituencies for a long time. The honourable Minister of Housing has represented Cumberland County for many years. The Minister of Justice has represented Antigonish for many years. What about that member for Digby-Annapolis? How did they come back? Why do they keep coming back? Why do the people keep sending them back to this Legislature?
AN HON. MEMBER: Put a plug in for his book.
MR. MCINNES: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: That is a good buy. It is not a gamble. It is a good buy.
MR. MCINNES: . . . has represented his people well. You know he is a great story teller and I have heard him speak at various places across the province and he does have a new book out, which I was glad to purchase from him and read his stories with great interest.
But the point I want to make, Mr. Speaker, and I just picked out three from the government side of the House, who have represented their constituencies. Why are they back here? Because they listen to their people. They met with their people. They dealt with their people. The people of Antigonish, of Cumberland and of Digby returned their member because they listened.
I am sure we have had three committees. There was the Morris Committee, the honourable member who chaired the Committee on Community Services and we had the Kimball Committee, which toured the province. What was the findings of those committees? I know you know, Mr. Speaker. It has been reported in this House at least, I would say, 33 times already during this bill, about 24 times it has probably been reported in this House. All the members spoke on the two amendments and then two or three members spoke on the original bill. They all raised that point that this committee had travelled across the province and reported back to the government of the day. They found that the people did not want them. And here we are setting up a Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission, a Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, appointed by this Cabinet.
Mr. Speaker, there were other groups that were not happy with this bill, TIANS, the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia. That group represents $800 million-plus, and I hoped that this year it would be greater than $800 million for the tourist industry of this province. We have a beautiful province and we want to encourage the people to come here. Why do we want them to come here? To spend their money and to see the scenic province that we have, the beautiful Cabot Trail. They want to see the beautiful Annapolis Valley, northern Nova Scotia, the Sunrise Trail, the South Shore, view Peggys Cove, and I do not want to miss any particular area but it is a beautiful province, in this province in September and October is one that we are all very proud of.
TIANS has said they want this reviewed again. They want to know whether it is going to be a benefit to Nova Scotia. They want this government to do a social and economic study, to show us, to show the government, to show the people of Nova Scotia that these casinos are a good thing.
I have not travelled much but I have travelled a little bit and I have had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas and to Freeport and Nassau and had the opportunity to go into those casinos. I had a good lesson when I was a young man and so I learned the hard way about gambling, so I am not going to lose my money gambling. (Interruption) Pardon me? Do you want me to tell you that? Can I tell a little story, Mr. Speaker?
When I was 14 years old I was showing cattle with my uncle at the Truro Exhibition, the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition. Myself and another chap, who is still a farmer actually, in the Tatmagouche area, Gordon Ross, we were responsible for looking after at that time you took about 20 head of Jersey cattle to the exhibition. My uncle was off sick so we were responsible, for the week, for the cattle.
Anyway, I wandered over to the midway this evening, now this is 1947, okay, I was just a young fellow, I wasn't very old. But anyway, I got into the little table and that night I lost every cent I had, which was $28. This is a true story. My uncle was not going to be back until the end of the week so I was a sick little boy, I will tell you, but it was the best lesson Don McInnes ever had, as far as gambling was concerned or playing roulette wheels or whatever the wheel was that I played. I think people have to learn that.
AN HON. MEMBER: You mean you are not going to be a dealer?
MR. MCINNES: I am not going to be a dealer.
Anyway, I would wonder about casinos in Nova Scotia, this beautiful province of ours. I don't think people want to come to Nova Scotia to gamble, they can go to Montreal, they can go to Las Vegas and there are people who do go. When I went to Las Vegas I was kind of green about the whole thing, I thought there was one casino. Wow, there are all kinds of casinos. We happened to stay at the Holiday Inn in Las Vegas, my wife and I. (Interruption) Anyway, Mr. Speaker, we stayed at the Holiday Inn and there was a casino in every hotel actually that is the way it goes. We were there on the weekend and I woke Sunday morning and as an old farmer, I wake up pretty early most mornings and I said to Jenny, let's go down and visit the casino and she said, no use going down there. Anyway, we went down there at 7:00 a.m. and the wheels were turning and the tables were open and there were people there.
Mr. Speaker there are going to be people going, but I do not think we have the population in Nova Scotia to support these casinos to make a lot of money. (Interruption)
Did I mention the committees? Yes, I did mention the committees. We are going to require a lot more policing (Interruption) to look after these casinos. It is funny how these casinos will attract people, maybe not the kind of people that are pleasing to our population.
Mr. Speaker, I do have the motion passed concerning the introduction of casinos to Nova Scotia that was held at the Nova Scotia Industry Association's annual conference and this is dated November 6th. I should perhaps read this into the record. The annual general meeting of TIANS took place this morning at 9:30 a.m. and at this meeting a motion was introduced and passed to the effect that TIANS 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.
This was passed by the general membership with over 60 per cent of the delegates voting in favour. I did not table this before and I would be glad to table it, but I am sure it has been. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I do not want to delay the House and I have said before I do not believe in delaying the Legislature, but this is an important piece of legislation. I think every member in this House should get up and have the opportunity to have their say so that they can go back home and say to their constituency, I got up and spoke in favour or I got up and spoke against it. (Interruption)
AN HON MEMBER: Look where it got Russell MacKinnon.
MR. MCINNES: Well, I am not going to get into that one, but I think those government members should take the time to speak up on this legislation and tell us whether they are in favour of it or not.
AN HON MEMBER: I have been heckling. Does that count?
MR. MCINNES: You have been helpful, very helpful last night to me. (Interruption) I think this legislation does need more time. We have not seen the regulations. We tried to do two amendments to give the people across this province, to give this province an opportunity to have their say. Mr. Speaker, when this bill comes to a vote and passes second reading, which I know it will, it will go to the Law Amendments Committee. We will know that the Law Amendments Committee will have all kinds of groups, church groups, from all across this province who will be coming and trying to make their point to the Law Amendments Committee.
Mr. Speaker, I will not be voting in favour of this motion, Bill No. 120. Before, I sit down and while I have the opportunity I will move an amendment. Mr. Speaker, I am moving that all the words after "that" be deleted and the following substituted: "Casinos in Nova Scotia only be licensed in those cities, towns or municipalities that have passed a resolution supporting the establishment of a casino in their municipal unit.".
MR. SPEAKER: We have read the honourable member's amendment submission and, after consultation with the Clerks at the Table, have reached the conclusion that the amendment is almost identical to the one that preceded it. It, in point of fact, is not adverse to the bill that is being proposed. It is an amendment based on process whereby a municipality, if it supports the establishment of a casino, the casino will indeed be established. That is not adverse to the present bill that is before the House, so the amendment from our point of view is out of order and we so rule.
The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am just curious as to why it is that this particular amendment would not meet the qualification as provided in Beauchesne's, Paragraph 670(1) where it says, "It must be declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy or provisions of the bill.". It seems to me, and this is a question only for clarification, that in fact this is something that is differing from provisions of the bill because, clearly, the bill overrides any decisions made by any municipal government; the bill overrides that. What this amendment does in a manner as provided for under reasoned amendments, under the definition, is that in fact casinos only be licensed in those cities that have passed a resolution supporting the establishment.
MR. SPEAKER: On clarification of the Speaker's ruling, on Paragraph 670(1), we have indicated that the amendment must declare a principle which is adverse to, or differs from, the principles of the bill before us, the policy of the bill before us, or the provisions of the bill, not of the provisions related to the judgment concerning the bill, but of the provisions contained within the bill. The motion before us is one related to process, not to principle or provisions; in other words, content or principle. It is related to process rather than content and principle and we have so ruled. There is no further discussion on the matter.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am quite surprised that I was able to get up ahead of some of the government members. I am sure they are just itching to stand up and speak in regard to Bill No. 120.
I am very pleased to speak this afternoon, and very pleased to speak against Bill No. 120. I also hope that the Minister of Finance, the casino minister, doesn't take offense to a former trucker and small businessman raising legitimate and well-founded rationale as to why the bill should be canned.
Mr. Speaker, my concerns, I submit, are very similar to the ones everyday Nova Scotians have. Some of the concerns I will relate here this afternoon, I am sure that many housewives, secretaries, nurses, truckers, farmers, foresters, everyday people, I have many (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has the floor.
MR. TAYLOR: What I was trying to say, people regardless of their social status have some very real concerns and problems with Bill No. 120. I have some documents here I would like to read just a few brief paragraphs from and I certainly would be prepared to table, if that should be the case.
MR. SPEAKER: If the documents have not been previously studied, I would ask the Clerks at the Table to ensure that they are tabled following the citation from same.
MR. TAYLOR: I would be pleased to do that. I am reading from the Cape Breton Post, major study cast doubt on economic benefits of casinos. A number of people, including public officials have pointed out that the determination of costs and benefits of casino gambling is so difficult that nothing very useful would come from the exercise. Laszlo Lichter, Chairperson of the Nova Scotia Casino Project Committee is quoted by the editorial writer of the Cape Breton Post, October 17th as stating, that it would be nothing more than guesswork. Surely, we have not come to a stage in public policy formulation that, as the Post indicates, what is regarded as important in government today is to have a plan of action to stick to.
Whether it is the right plan or the best one, hardly seems important, in fact, considerable study and analysis have gone into the subject in the United States. Perhaps, the most important work is the study by Robert Goodman of the University of Massachusetts, Legalized Gambling as a Strategy for Economic Development, March, 1994. This very extensive study was funded by the Ford Foundation and the Aspen Institute. The report's purpose is to help people and their government leaders better understand the connection between gambling and economic development in their communities and help them make good reasonable choices.
Goodman interviewed, as I understand it, more than 50 public officials and he also interviewed business people and several people in the media. Several working meetings with government officials were held and extensive review of studies was contacted.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the honourable member reading from the same document? Is that the same document you have?
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, it is.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, the honourable member realizes extensive reading from a document is out of order. Short citations are in order, but beyond that extensive readings are out of order.
MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and I certainly appreciate and respect your ruling. I have some other documents I would certainly like to read a few lines from, too. This major study casts doubt on the economic benefits of casinos.
I also have a document here where British Columbia declines to gamble on casinos and I just want to read of couple of very brief statements from that. This was in the Globe and Mail, Wednesday, October 5, 1994, the British Columbia Government deciding the odds were against it has pulled out of the high stakes game of licensing Las Vegas style casinos as a source of revenue and economic development. There will be no Vegas style casino option for British Columbia. Premier Michael Harcourt announced yesterday effectively killing a controversial $750 million casino hotel-port development sited for Vancouver. That article was in the Globe and Mail from British Columbia.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: A question, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member has just referred to a matter in British Columbia involving a particular casino. I wonder if the honourable member is aware that there are now approximately 18 other casinos working and licensed in the Province of British Columbia?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member may answer that question.
MR. TAYLOR: That is a very good question, Mr. Speaker. I was kind of hoping that the honourable member for Hants East would table his report and perhaps the answer would lie within his report. Not having seen that report, I will have to wait until I see the report and hopefully the answer will be in it.
Also, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a couple of sentences from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald: Ocean Playground payoff; foreign bidders ante up for Nova Scotia casino license; it is a high stakes game that attracted some of the biggest names in the international gambling business and the payoff is a lucrative license to bring casinos to Canada's Ocean Playground.
Now, Mr. Speaker, that says it all in itself, bring casinos to Nova Scotia's Ocean Playground. We are casino-free here, you know. Nova Scotia is truly a beautiful province. Why right here in my constituency, we have two of the most scenic little valleys anywhere in Nova Scotia, and I am talking about the beautiful Upper Stewiacke Valley and the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley. The scenery in most parts of Nova Scotia . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: What about the other valleys?
MR. TAYLOR: Well, the other valleys are phenomenal, they are all beautiful. The scenery in most parts of Nova Scotia is beautiful, Mr. Speaker. Our province has many natural assets, including our friendly people. Our people are very friendly and they are made up of different heritages and certainly different cultures. I honestly believe we have something to be proud of here in Nova Scotia. We can be proud of the fact that we are casino-free.
Now did the government's estimates of revenue, regarding the casino venture, of $40 million to $60 million, are they coming up a bit short? Or are they, in fact, overestimating their overall revenue expected to come into the provincial coffers? There isn't a police department that has spoken in favour of these things, these things being the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia.
Who is going to pay for the higher costs, Mr. Speaker, with regard to policing? Who is going to pay for the higher number of folks on the welfare rolls? Who is going to pay for the care and counselling of those addicted and, just as importantly, their families?
Mr. Speaker, members of this House know the answers to these questions. We, as Nova Scotians, are going to pay. Yet the Finance Minister has the audacity to tell us we can expect tax decreases next year, because of the revenue generated by casinos; tax decreases are going to be contingent upon revenue generated by casinos.
The government possibly has inflated the projection of revenue between $40 million and $60 million. Perhaps that may be called politically ballooning estimates, Mr. Speaker. The Finance Minister must consider the overall expenditures. It is the same as any business, whether it is a big business or a small business, you can't let yourself get too overly excited by gross sales, it is the net that counts. The Finance Minister is working, I would suggest, without a net.
As Nova Scotians, we are proud people, we are proud of our heritage, we are proud of our tradition and we are proud of our way of life. Just to further the point a little bit, in cities in states such as New Jersey, Minnesota and other locations, after the casinos were established in those locations, the number of restaurants declined and the number of jobs relating to restaurants and other service industries declined. Mr. Speaker, the decline was attributed to the establishment of casinos. So it created a negative effect on our traditional dollar, our traditional tourist sector.
A University of South Dakota study found that the arrival of new gambling casinos actually did produce a decline in the sales of clothing stores, recreation services, business services, auto dealers and service stations. Nevertheless, yes, alcohol sales did spiral. Unfortunately folks, those with less to spend bear the greatest burden.
So, Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat disappointed when our amendment didn't go through because I believe casinos in Nova Scotia should only be licensed in those cities, towns or municipalities that have passed a resolution supporting the establishment of casinos in their municipal unit. The municipalities do not have any say now, with regard to licensing of the casinos. That is going to be taken over exclusively by the province.
AN HON. MEMBER: There must be something on paper, Brooke.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if my colleague, the member for Pictou West, has read the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia's resolution that they passed up at the World Trade and Convention Centre back on November 6, 1994. I am not sure if my honourable colleague, the member for Pictou West, did read in the resolution so I think perhaps I should read it into the record.
It was at the annual general meeting of TIANS which was held up at the World Trade and Convention Centre. At this meeting, a motion was introduced by Adrian Blanchette and seconded by Bruce Anderson to the effect that TIANS asked the . . .
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The previous speaker, and I realize he tried to put in an amendment which was disallowed, this speaker is trying to speak to the amendment which was disallowed but on top of that, he has just tried to read into the record a resolution from TIANS that the previous speaker, not more than five minutes ago, 10 minutes ago, read into the record. Surely that is a bit repetitive. I know they are two different speakers but they read the exact same words into the record about 10 minutes apart.
Now as I understand the rules under Beauchesne, is that any tactic that is deliberately done to delay is out of order. To read the same amendment, the same resolution 10 minutes apart, word for word, into the minutes, would surely be a delaying tactic at the very least, even if it is not out of order under any other heading.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, the honourable member is entirely correct. Beauchesne, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1, "The principles of Canadian parliamentary law are:", and I quote here, selectively, I admit, but, "to give abundant opportunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent any legislative action being taken upon sudden impulse.". We are certainly following all of that here, "to secure the transaction of public business in an orderly manner; to enable every Member to express opinions within limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time;". Now I commend those words to the honourable member for his consideration. Carry on.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I will give them very serious consideration.
Mr. Speaker, the honourable member who rose on that point of order, in the weekly press, dated November 9, 1994, suggested that this upcoming fall session of the Legislature will, his government, our government will introduce some very important legislation. Part of the government's reform program, five major pieces of legislation will be introduced this fall . . .
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It was an earlier debate but just in keeping with your earlier ruling, that particular member who was just speaking read that exact article . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: No I did not.
MR. CARRUTHERS: Well, you held it up in this House and I believe he tabled it.
AN HON. MEMBER: No, sir, no.
MR. CARRUTHERS: Well, he did not table it? He tabled it, Mr. Speaker, or if he did not, he read from an article and wouldn't table it. If he says he has never referred to it . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I will simply ask the honourable member to please adhere to the rules. I have no knowledge as to whether he did or did not read this particular document at a previous stage in the debate. If he did, perhaps if it has already been tabled, that might be the end of the matter.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, for clarification, I did not read from the weekly press. I did merely suggest, during amendment, a day or so ago or maybe yesterday, I am not sure, that the honourable member for Hants East suggested legislation to add, this was some of the legislation he was suggesting that was going to be forthcoming during the fall session and I was describing some of the adjectives . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. We are addressing this bill on second reading and remarks have to be directed to the Chair and the debate is on the principle of the bill. It is not on the views held by the honourable member for Hants East on any matter.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I guess I was just digressing a little bit there. The honourable member did suggest that legislation to add strictly regulated and controlled casinos to the Nova Scotia gaming industry would be introduced this fall session. Now, Mr. Speaker, by using the adjectives strictly and controlled (Interruption) I understand somebody wants to correct me on an adjective here and I know we don't want to get into adjectives, adverbs, verbs and so on and so forth. On that note I did take the liberty and I think I should clarify the full meaning of narcism because yesterday it was a subject matter . . .
MR. SPEAKER: With due deference the bill does not deal with Narcissus or narcissism. The bill deals with gaming.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker it is surely narcissistic that this government would bring this forward. It is an abnormal love and admiration of oneself. I have some serious questions about this bill and I would like to get to them if the honourable members will allow me. In terms of the casino bidding process what information has been provided to the final three casino bidders beyond the information contained in the original request for proposals made public June 1st. I surely hope that the casino minister, the Finance Minister, would answer that question for us during his summary.
What kind of information has the Government of Nova Scotia Casino Project Committee provided to the three finalists, in other words have the bidders seen the draft regulations. If the minister says he can't speak for the Nova Scotia Casino Project Committee we can conjure up the image of well, Mr. Speaker, he is being unaccountable. We don't know who is making the decisions. I have to ask why have the draft regulations been kept secret from Nova Scotians but shared with out-of-province bidders and that is a concern and that concern directly relates to Bill No. 120.
The Minister of Finance says his department is not responsible for conducting analysis of the social, economic, financial health and criminal impact of casinos on the province. The Casino Project Committee says it is only responsible for choosing a casino operator but not for making the decision to establish the casino. So, you see there seems to be a little bit of shilly-shally going on here. The Premier says the decision is final, period. What he is saying is that the Casino Project Committee will make the decision to establish casinos in Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, that is a concern that I have.
I am going to read a couple of excerpts from People Against Casinos in Nova Scotia. Some of the concerns they have which I haven't raised before and the People Against Casinos in Nova Scotia have concerns about the provincial deficit. They state that the government has long stated its commitment to reducing the provincial deficit, which they have, which this government has. This is an objective that almost every Nova Scotian has come to agree with. Certainly, those of us in the business community understand that the future of our economy depends on it. The government has indicated that the primary reason it wishes to license two casinos is to increase provincial government revenue. We feel some of the associated costs may have been overlooked or underestimated.
Under revenues they're concerned about the estimated $40 million to $60 million that the Minister of Finance has estimated in terms of revenue. Some of the costs the People Against Casinos and I am concerned, and I think as any member in this House should be concerned about the incremental increases in services, police costs, court costs, incarceration, welfare payments, social assistance to affected families, child placement, health care costs, prevention and treatment, erosion of the tax base, disposable income now taxed at 18.77 per cent will be diverted to casinos, default on income tax payments, I didn't say this, this is what the People Against Casinos in Nova Scotia are saying. These are some of the very legitimate, very rational concerns that they have.
They also told me as recently as today that they expect to have over 40,000 signatures petitioning against the establishment of casinos at this time, 40,000 Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker. Now, some of those Nova Scotians, and I would suggest all constituencies are going to be affected, the signatories of the petitions come from all the 52 different constituencies. I am sure they come from Cape Breton South. There will be some people from Cape Breton South's names on that list. There will be some people from Annapolis Valley, Mr. Speaker. There will be people from Hants East. There will be people from Eastern Shore, signatory to that. They have concerns about Bill No. 120 the same as I do. We just have a lot of concerns.
I went through the bill, Mr. Speaker. Bill No. 120, the Gaming Control Act, and I disliked the intent and the purpose of the bill. Well, the intent essentially is saying it is to enhance the economic development of and generate revenue for the province. Now, having just said that, that does not sound all that bad. It is to enhance the economic development of and generate revenue for the province. I do not think we have any problem with that. I do not have any problem with it saying that, but the undertaking is for the public good. It also states the undertaking is for the public good and in the best interest of the public.
So far it seems to be only in the best interest of Lucky Laszlo, Mr. Speaker. Again, I say Nova Scotia is a beautiful province, a beautiful place to live, a beautiful place to raise a family. We have all kinds of potential here and we have all kinds of government members. What do we have? Forty-one members. Some of them surely must be creative. Some of them have to be innovative.
AN HON. MEMBER: We have 40 now.
MR. TAYLOR: I should read that into the record too. MLA suspended from caucus, but I will not, Mr. Speaker, for he is up talking to you.
Nova Scotia Gaming Control Commission and the Nova Scotia Gaming Control Corporation, Mr. Speaker. Now, I do not believe from going through the bill, and I am sure some of the government members will correct me if I am wrong. I do not think in the bill anywhere it tells us how many people are going to be on the corporation. How many people are going to be on the commission. It does tell me. Well, I apologize, Mr. Speaker. I did not happen to notice that when I went very quickly through the bill.
A lot of people have some very serious concerns with this bill. I know, if I dare to read this resolution back again into the record, I am sure that somebody would correct me on it very quickly, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the process. It is not a hands-off process. There were approximately 100 forms taken out and only six returned with a proposal. What turned them off? It is interesting to note that some who did not make the cut did not have high-profile Liberals and all the remaining ones do have high profile Liberals. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if that is a coincidence or not, but this is the information that I have received.
AN HON. MEMBER: How do you know that?
MR. TAYLOR: The casino project is going to recommend the finalist. This recommendation goes to Cabinet and Cabinet has the final decision. Cabinet does not necessarily have to take the recommendation of the project. So, this is a political process and let there be no doubt about it, it is a political process.
The minister has indicated that the regulatory regime would also be in place. Mr. Speaker, we are still looking for these regulations. Now the minister introduced the bill on November 8th, and I believe that is all that we have at this point. The minister said that the legislation contains the most comprehensive and strict controls you will find anywhere. Now, if it is such a great, wholesome business why does he need such strict control? Well, I think we all know the answer to that question.
I think we do have concerns about prostitution, the proliferation of prostitution, the proliferation of white-collar crime. We do have some concerns about that, Mr. Speaker. The minister said in Page 2 of his statement that the commission will continuously study public reaction to gaming. Now if the commission does study public reaction to gaming, does that mean if they see something there that they do not like that they will come down hard and close the doors of the casino? What type of penalties will be imposed upon the casino operators? This is something we need to know and we certainly need to know the whole scenario facing the social implications. Why haven't you done this up-front? Why haven't you studied public reaction to casinos and their social implications before launching into this industry?
Mr. Speaker, in this caucus we are listening to Nova Scotians, we are trying to listen to Nova Scotians. Last night, I was at a meeting of the Eastern Shore . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Have you read this bill?
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, I have read this bill. I was at a meeting of the Tourism Association of Nova Scotia last night, the Eastern Shore-Musquodoboit Valley Tourism Association's annual meeting last night. The member for Eastern Shore may find this interesting, it was held in the beautiful community of Middle Musquodoboit, at the Musquodoboit Fire Hall and I didn't get inside the door, Mr. Speaker, and the people wanted to know what is going on with the casinos. Where are they going to build these casinos? Is it going to affect the tourism industry? How is it going to affect our industry? That is why I think that resolution should be read again into the record but I know I would not get too far through that before I would be severely reprimanded by the Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, what I am saying is the concerns I am hearing, members opposite are hearing the same questions and they are hearing the same concerns. The member for Eastern Shore, the member for the Porters Lake area is hearing the same questions, the same questions are being asked of him that I am hearing. The member for Shelburne and, of course, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin is hearing some of the same questions I am hearing, as is the member for - he wants me to say his constituency - Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. Of course he is having some of the same questions I am having.
But why weren't the social implications studied before this was undertaken? We are listening to Nova Scotians, we can tell you what the public is telling us about the industry; the overwhelming majority, I would suggest, are telling us that Nova Scotians do not want casino gambling, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) I wish you would ask me another question. What will happen when the social impact study shows that there is a negative impact? What will happen if a study is done and we find out, what will happen down the road? I mean, the minister tells us that the commission, I believe, will continuously study public reaction to gaming but what are going to be the penalties imposed if there are infractions? I know the minister is just waiting to tell me during his summary, before this goes on, but the commission would seem to be in a conflict of interest in carrying out these studies.
MR. KEITH COLWELL: A question, Mr. Speaker. I wonder if the honourable member would entertain a question. I need some clarification. There was an indication made that there was a tourism meeting last evening and I would like the name of the tourism association again and some details on that, please.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would be very pleased to tell the member for Eastern Shore the name of the committee that was holding the meeting last night, the Musquodoboit Valley Tourism Association was having their annual meeting at the Musquodoboit Valley Fire Hall in the community of Middle Musquodoboit, which is situated in the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley, in the County of Halifax, in the constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. SPEAKER: It is beginning to sound rather narcissistic.
MR. TAYLOR: Just for clarification, the Eastern Shore was represented by Mike Bloomfield, or Broomfield or something along those lines. (Interruption) Well, thank you very much for the question nonetheless.
Now the minister said, Mr. Speaker, during his ministerial statement referencing the gaming control bill, on Page 3 of his statement, that this is an industry that offers real economic advantages to Nova Scotians, but only if conducted with absolute integrity and always in the public interest.
Now I guess I can take from the information I have and the information the public has, which is, at best, very little, that the commission will monitor whether or not the industry has integrity and is always in the public's best interest. Where are the economic studies that show real economic advantages? Now we have talked at some length, Mr. Speaker, about the social impact but where are the economic studies that show real economic advantages if casinos are established in Nova Scotia?
How can you be so sure that any economic advantage is not far outweighed by the social problems? That is one of the very serious concerns that this minister has to look at. He has to have some cold, hard facts. He has to have some numbers relating to the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia. There is no commitment for assistance for those who have problems and, in Bill No. 120, there is nothing in this that gives a commitment for assistance to those who have problems. So, how can you say that it will be in the public interest?
We have had many examples that people do not want casinos. For example, representatives of the Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Churches have spoken against the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia. Regardless of what the Premier has said, the churches have spoken out against the establishment of casinos. Cumberland County Councillors have spoken out against these things. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has gone on record as opposing two casinos in Nova Scotia. The Medical Society, a highly respected organization, has spoken against the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) Well, I certainly can, TIANS has spoken against - no, actually TIANS hasn't - they asked for an all-Party committee to be established to look at the benefits and burdens. That meeting was held up at the World Trade and Convention Centre on November 6, 1994.
HON. ROSS BRAGG: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. This member twice now has talked about TIANS' involvement and I think the Leader of the Opposition spoke about TIANS some time ago. I think we should set the record straight. The story in the paper says, "That as a member of TIANS . . ." and this is quoting Adrian Blanchette. Mr. Blanchette is not a member of TIANS. I think the record needs to be set straight. He is not a member of TIANS; he was there on a proxy vote from somebody else. At the tail-end of the annual meeting - only 23 people were there out of the 800 member organization - the motion was seconded by Bruce Anderson, because nobody else would, so the motion could get on the floor, and in the confusion it passed by a very small majority.
The next day my office had a call from the President of TIANS, Donald Wilson, saying that TIANS supports casinos and continues to. Secondly, Judith Cabrita, the Executive Director, phoned my office and told me exactly the same thing. So, let's set the record straight, TIANS continues to support casinos in this province. (Applause)
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, can you, no I guess you can't answer a question.
MR. SPEAKER: It depends what the question is.
MR. TAYLOR: Would you consider that to be a vociferation?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member was rising on a point of order in an attempt to set the record straight, which is a very common usage in the House; it has been over all the years that I have been here. It may not constitute a point of order but, as Speaker Arthur Donahoe so many times said, the honourable member has made his point.
MR. TAYLOR: I know again I should not mention that resolution but I do have a resolution here from TIANS that contradicts very clearly what the honourable member opposite has said. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is quoting from a newspaper and I was told earlier in the Oral Question Period last week that sometimes newspapers aren't all as accurate and we can't compare them to an honourable member's words. So, I think the resolution is what I have and I am sticking by my guns on the resolution. (Interruptions) That is right. It seems as if some people grow with responsibility and others just swell.
Recently it was reported that in a certain part of Florida, they turned down casinos. There are some relatively easy questions that have not even been answered with the legislation. We want to know if liquor will be served in the casinos? We want to know if food will be served? We want to know - this caucus wants to know - if casinos will be open on Sunday? We want to know what the hours are going to be? Will the casinos be open 24 hours a day? Are there any individuals who are part of the current process who are to be given positions? Will all jobs be available through competition? Mr. Speaker, I think that is a legitimate and bona fide question. Will all the jobs be available through competition?
Having said that, I think we should remember that Laszlo Lichter's job was not through competition. Mr. Lichter's job was not competed for. So, Mr. Speaker, Clause 37 in the bill is absolutely amazing, the Nova Scotia Environmental Assessment Board shall not hold a public hearing in respect of a casino or proposed casino Clause 37 clearly states that, the Planning Act does not apply and no building permit is required for the construction of, addition to, renovation of or repair of a casino. Why are casinos given such preferential treatment? We never had an economic, we never had a social study. Now we are finding out, after looking at Clause 37, which is absolutely amazing, the Nova Scotia Environmental Assessment Board shall not hold a public hearing in respect of a casino or proposed casino. I would certainly like to hear what the minister has to say about Clause 37 during his summation.
Well, Mr. Speaker, there are at least two other absolutely draconian provisions in Clause 57 and Clause 99. It is certainly much more comfortable with the honourable member for Hants East opposite, rather than sitting in close proximity prior to his moving. Clause 57 provides that when the disposition of a matter is in question, the commission may hold a hearing and make a decision. Clause 57(2), "A decision of the Commission pursuant to subsection (1) is final and is not open to question in any court.". Mr. Speaker, I would think some of the lawyers in the House will probably be amazed at that. This provision is found not once, but that provision is found twice in the bill.
Clause 99 also holds this provision, Clause 99 (3), "A direction issued pursuant to subsection (1) is final and not open to question in any court.". That seems ridiculous to me, Mr. Speaker. Of course, I am just an everyday person, a small businessman. I have some very legitimate concerns. I feel I do. I have concerns similar to many of the people outside, many of the average, ordinary people. Whether it be housewives, secretaries, nurses, farmers, foresters, pipefitters, welders, what have you. The ordinary person has some legitimate concerns with this legislation.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, to the draconian provision Clause 99 talks about, the right to refuse access to any individual. Who makes this decision? I am sure the Finance Minister will let us know who makes the decision. Who has the right to refuse access to any individual to these casinos? Will people be demanding access to confidential records? What criteria is going to be used?
The minister talks a lot about openness and his government talks a lot about openness. For example, books, records and accounts of the corporation shall, at all reasonable times, be open for inspection. How many people went through the Bill No. 120 and saw that? For example, books, records and accounts of the corporation shall, at all reasonable times, be open for inspection. I cannot help but wonder if the honourable member for Hants East who took the tour to go around to look at casinos, had the little junket, the little jaunt, if that provision was put in there based on a recommendation that he had.
Every person with whom the corporation entered into an agreement with, must make available all reports, all accounts, all records and other documents. Every person with whom the corporation entered into an agreement must do that, Mr. Speaker. I will just bet you that the member for Lunenburg West did not know that provision was in there, or the member for Lunenburg Centre did not know.
AN HON. MEMBER: What about the Acting Premier?
MR. TAYLOR: The Acting Premier, I don't know if he knows or not.
Mr. Speaker, the minister has talked, again, I say, a lot about openness and I believe in openness and flexibility. Why should Nova Scotians believe this? Oh, these are very hollow words. Nova Scotians have to have confidence. There are a lot of good Christian people in here and there are a lot of good Christian people outside. A lot of times when you mention the morality of the subject of establishing casinos in Nova Scotia, everybody gets their back up but there are a few people who will talk and they say, you are right, something that is morally wrong can never be politically correct, can never be politically right.
Nova Scotians don't believe it now and they feel that the government is ignoring the wishes of the people, the majority of the people. We can't help but wonder if the government isn't doing this somewhat in the dark. There seems to be a veil of secrecy around the establishment of casinos, Mr. Speaker.
Our caucus has invited the proponents, as well as the Nova Scotia Casino Project Committee, to come to Public Accounts for an open meeting and we certainly hope they attend. We want to know what is going on. If they do not attend, we will invite them to come to a public meeting where they can explain their proposals. We are encouraging the Nova Scotia Casino Project Committee to come to a public meeting, if they won't come to Public Accounts. Maybe they can explain the benefits of their proposal to Nova Scotians. After all, as I stated before, the Minister of Finance has encouraged openness, as he stated before, Mr. Speaker, he encourages openness.
Perhaps the Nova Scotia Casino Project Committee can explain the minister's words; it is in the best interests of Nova Scotia because it offers an economic opportunity, that Nova Scotians deserve these casinos. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance said that, I didn't say that. It is on Page 4, the last line of his ministerial statement and I certainly do think that bears repetition, it is in the best interests of Nova Scotia because it offers an economic opportunity that Nova Scotians deserve.
Well, I say, Mr. Speaker, let's hear about that opportunity. If this project is so good for Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians, let's give them a chance to tell us all about it. All these groups that have spoken against the establishment of casinos, are they raising unjust fears? Are the churches, TIANS, the Medical Society, the people of Yarmouth, Cumberland, the people everywhere - the people in Yarmouth participated in a plebiscite - are those people all wrong?
The legislation needs more time. It needs time for regulations to be drafted, it needs time for a socio-economic study. A study has to be conducted. We need time for public hearings, time so that the selection process is open and transparent.
The legislation needs more time, people need more time. The Province of Nova Scotia is beautiful, people come here for our scenery, our rugged beauty, it is pristine. We have a lot of friendly people here in Nova Scotia. It is very pristine, yes, it certainly is. But there is a time, so surely this project should merit a socio-economic study. There has to be one conducted, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) Well, the legislation provides for these studies but it provides for them after the things are established. Wouldn't it seem more sensible to study them before . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: How are you going to study something that is not here?
MR. TAYLOR: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister has to have some cold, hard facts and figures. I would like to know where he is getting his money from, this $40 million or $60 million. He has not told anybody, other than that between $40 million and $60 million will be generated. It will be new revenue going into provincial coffers. But where did those figures come from? Where did the $40 million or $60 million come from?
Are we to believe there is no time for public hearings? There is no time for public hearings, this thing has got to be done, has to go through today, we can't wait. There is no time for public hearings. What about the councillors across Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker? The councillors in Cumberland County have spoken against the thing. A councillor, a Mr. Steven Oickle out in Bedford has spoken against the things. He said he would personally take measures, in fact, if they try to establish casinos in the little Town of Bedford. He is opposed to them. People are opposed all across this province. (Interruptions) Oh, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of questions and very, very few answers.
Gaming in Nova Scotia, An Initial Report and Recommendations to the Government of Nova Scotia from the Nova Scotia Lottery Commission. Just a couple of quick comments here and one of the questions that they were asked was, should casinos be introduced into Nova Scotia? It was made clear however, the response to this question is reflected in Figure 4 on Page 16 of the Omnifacts Report with explanations provided. It was made clear however, from the 607 respondents, that 58 per cent opposed the introduction of casinos and 36 per cent approved the casinos.
Another question in their survey was that, if introduced, should casinos be privately owned and operated or should they be government owned and operated. The results of the survey, especially the response to Questions 2, 3, 12 and 17 reveal a decided trend to government involvement to the point of controlling and operating most aspects of gambling. To this end, there is little doubt from the survey that public opinion in Nova Scotia is, that government should be involved to the extent possible in the operation of casinos, not necessarily a direct or hands-on operation, if introduced into the province.
The overall results of the survey are consistent with and support the views expressed by non-stakeholders. So, all kinds of people, it does not matter what your social status is, have a lot of concerns about the establishment of casinos in this province.
Why won't the government come forward with the information? What is wrong with having a social economic study regarding the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia? It is desirable to bring together much more information. It is not me that said this; it is from the Nova Scotia Lottery Commission. They are saying that it is desirable to bring together much more information on the job potential, tourism, the effect it is going to have on tourism, and conventioneering impacts, spinoff and indirect economic, social and community impacts and cost-benefit measurements.
So, the question is should the government decide to proceed with these things or should there be an evaluation? I, honestly believe there should be an evaluation. There are many concerns.
I would also at this time, like to introduce an amendment to the bill. I am moving that the words "after that" be deleted and the following substituted: "casinos not be established in Nova Scotia.".
MR. SPEAKER: The amendment is a reasoned amendment. Please bring it up here. The Clerk and I will now deliberate as to the admissibility of the proposed amendment.
The conclave of the Deputy Speaker, myself and the Clerk are unanimously of the opinion that the proposed amendment is out of order under the provisions of Beauchesne Reasoned Amendments, Paragraph 670(1) stating that a reasoned amendment, ". . . must be declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy or provisions of the bill.". This is not declaratory, it is purely negatory and, therefore, is out of order.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I do not wish to argue with your ruling by any means, but it seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that a declaratory statement is simply one that declares something that is different from the principle of the bill and is that not what Paragraph 670(1) says?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, with due deference, the statement I have before me is not that casinos be established in Nova Scotia, but rather it is that casinos not be established in Nova Scotia. I do not find that declaratory. I find it negatory. I have made my ruling and unless there is a substantive motion presented under Notices of Motion, the ruling stands. The notice would, in any event, have to be carried by the House to overturn the ruling.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak directly to the bill that is before us. It seems to me that a very good starting point in regard to debating this bill is to refer back to what the Liberal Leader, John Savage, said to the people of Nova Scotia on the subject of proposed gambling casinos for the province when asked what the position of his Party was and what the position of his Party in office would be if they were in a position to deal with this issue.
Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians heard then and have been reminded many times since and I will, again, reiterate for myself, the first time in this debate, what John Savage said on the occasion of having been asked, on May 19, 1993, what his position was and it went as follows, Nova Scotians must decide, and this was underlined, whether they wish to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians must decide, not just the Liberal caucus, not just the Liberal Cabinet, but 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.
Said John Savage during the election campaign, we believe that caution is necessary and we 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.
Mr. Speaker, it seems to me, as we deal with this bill that is before us, it is fair game to test what this government has done and what it is proposing to do with the Gaming Control Act that is before us, against that commitment made by John Savage during the election campaign. Nothing could have been clearer when the Liberal Leader said that, the people of Nova Scotia will be fully and duly consulted and they are the ones that will make the decision.
Mr. Speaker, where is there one single grain of evidence that this Premier and this Liberal Government have kept their commitment to Nova Scotians with respect to the introduction of a gambling casino, let alone two gambling casinos in this province?
I think, Mr. Speaker, it is fair to say that that was the opening shot in regard to where this government was going to come down on gambling casinos. But we saw a lot of other words during the election about how consultation, team work, doing things together, building a future in partnership with Nova Scotians and so on was going to govern this government's actions and their decision making.
But, Mr. Speaker, what has actually happened? I am not going to dwell on it tonight in the short time available to me to debate this bill. We know that the next chapter in this very sad and sorry saga was what happened when the Community Services Committee was effectively usurped by the government of the day and the most basic, consultative practices were violated. The long-standing customs and traditions of this House and of Standing Committees of the Legislature were violated because of this government's pro casino agenda.
When I objected to the Chairman of the Community Services Committee that that had been done do you know what he said, Mr. Speaker? He said in a letter in response to me on July 30th, "To imply that the rules and regulations which pertain to standing committee hearings of this nature were not followed to the letter is a moot point.". Why did he suggest that it was a moot point to bring up the long-standing customs and traditions of this Legislature and of parliamentary democracy? It was a moot point according to the member for Halifax Bedford Basin because his political masters, with whom he had met and from whom he took direction, had deemed that there was to be a fast-tracking of the casino gambling issue as well as the VLTs issue.
He explained to me in some considerable detail that there had been meetings held and there were meetings that had to be rescheduled with whom? Not with the all-Party membership of the Standing Committee on Community Services, but with the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Community Services. And they had decided, not a Legislative Committee, not Nova Scotians after consultation, but they had decided that this needed to be the process, this needed to be the timetable, that this is how public hearings were going to be handled when and where and how and so on.
You know, I was almost prepared at the time to grant that this was perhaps a rookie member who didn't understand that you don't run roughshod over legislative committees in this manner. But ironically and I think significantly, on this very day, today, some 16 or 17 months after this new Liberal Government was sworn into office another Liberal caucus member ran roughshod over another legislative committee with the same reckless regard, in fact, total disregard, for the membership of the committee and that was the Human Resources Committee.
Today, absolutely without consultation, not on the basis of any decision made by the members of the Human Resources Committee, the Chair of that committee scheduled and brought in as part of the government's continuing, pro casino, pro gambling, propaganda campaign, another person to continue to wave the flag and speak in support of the decisions that this government has made. So, at least the government is consistent in running roughshod over not only the election commitments made during the election, but the long, established procedures and customs and conventions of the operation of this House of Assembly and its standing committees.
Why are we not surprised, then, that so many of the matters with which there needed to be caution exercised, have been basically pushed aside? Why are we surprised that this government, prior to the election, recognized that there was the need for caution - those were the words of the Premier - that it should be Nova Scotians who should decide and that only such decisions should be made with a great deal of collaboration, research, analysis and so on? Yet, here we are faced today with the gaming bill that is before us and we have had virtually none of those commitments kept.
Nobody can say that there wasn't consultation with Nova Scotians through the Fogarty Committee, through the Community Services' travelling road show, there was consultation all right. People were insulted by being presented with the most ridiculously biased, slanted, non-objective questions that you might ever have asked about their views of casino gambling. Even then, Nova Scotians made it clear they were not in favour of any decision of this government to increase the level of gambling in this province and they certainly were not in favour of any decision of this government to barge ahead with casino operations. Mr. Speaker, that is not just my paraphrasing of the views as I understood and heard them from Nova Scotians during the public hearings that were held at very considerable taxpayers' expense last fall.
I want to read into the record, Mr. Speaker, from the report itself that came from the Standing Committee on Community Services. A report that I would remind people was unanimously endorsed. Which means, not just supported by the three Opposition members of that committee, but supported by the six Liberal members of the committee who signed on in support of the recommendations.
Here is what the report said about casinos, Mr. Speaker. "Representations to establish a commercial casino in Nova Scotia have been made by individuals associated with the tourism industry. While gaming has raised interest, there is little substantiated evidence, as shown by other casino gaming operations in Canada, that casinos will significantly improve the levels of tourist traffic. It seems likely that as each new casino is established in North America, and particularly on the eastern seaboard and coast, the opportunity for generating government revenue from adding one more casino will be reduced.".
Mr. Speaker, it goes on to talk about the impacts and it makes the point that the impacts that were described to the committee have not been dealt with adequately. The negative economic consequences that may arise because of an increase in social problems have not been fully addressed, and without more information that it is premature to presume that there will be a net positive economic value from casino operation. So, the committee made its recommendation.
Its recommendation was not only consistent with the caution that the Premier had expressed during the election campaign, but it was in response to what Nova Scotians who were consulted expressed in that consultation process. It addressed the fact that there were many unanswered questions, that there were many adverse implications and negative consequences about which more information was needed. It therefore recommended, first of all, that the government not permit the establishment of a commercial casino operation at this time. Secondly, that regulations for licensing charitable casinos be reviewed.
Mr. Speaker, we know what happened. The government plowed ahead with its pro casino, pro gambling agenda nevertheless. In defiance, of what Nova Scotians said when they were consulted in the way the Premier promised they would be consulted.
Mr. Speaker, we have not heard, either prior to this legislative session nor during this legislative session in Question Period, prior to the introduction of the legislation, nor through debate on this bill, one single member of this government, not a member of the Cabinet, not a member of the back benches stand up and address the unanswered questions with respect to social impact and economic impact. That, it was acknowledged, needed to be addressed before any decision was made to move ahead with casino gambling operations in this province. We have not heard it here from any of the government members.
The Cabinet members who clearly led the way in this decision, I guess, are doing what their Premier wants them to be doing. With respect to backbenchers, I guess, we know what happens to backbenchers who speak out in defiance of government policy. Unless they are sitting on the front benches, then apparently there is a double standard in what kind of a treatment is meted out, Mr. Speaker.
So, the question is, if none of the government members have addressed any of these questions then who has addressed these questions? Well, let us consider for a moment. When the Casino Project Committee was set up, the request for proposals that was issued on June 1, 1994, indicated that proponents of casino operations would be required to address the issues of social and economic impact. For the record, Mr. Speaker, I want to quote directly because I want to be accurate in this. I do not know whether I need to table that or not. No doubt it has already been tabled in this House on a previous occasion.
Mr. Speaker, what it says in the Request for Proposals that was issued in June by the Nova Scotia Casino Project headed up by Laszlo Lichter was that specific sites are to be proposed by the proponent in sufficient detail for the committee to be able to assess the economic, social and overall impact on the host community.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have two problems with this; the first problem is that this is addressing the questions of social and economic and overall impact after the fact, after the government has made the decision to get us into casino gambling operations, not before a careful deliberate decision is made taking into account the expressed wishes of Nova Scotia and taking into account all of the research, data, analysis, study, careful consideration and deliberation that should have been conducted on what information was available out there about social and economic consequences elsewhere and what could be projected with specific application to Nova Scotia.
It was not done in advance. Some members would try to suggest, well, never mind don't worry about it, Laszlo Lichter's outfit is going to address this question of social impact but we do know that the call for proposal, the request for proposal suggested that the proponents ought to address this question. The problem is we don't have a sweet clue what any of those proponents had to say on the subject and furthermore it is absolutely laughable, laughable to think that those who would propose to come into this province and set up casino operations are going to in an objective, independent, comprehensive and honest way identify, enumerate and address the negative social and economic impacts that can be anticipated from a casino gambling operation in metro and in industrial Cape Breton.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, they wouldn't have the experience that would allow them to do that but more importantly, it would be contrary to their self-interest, their self-interest being to operate as a business maximizing the financial gains that they can make through the victimization of people who become involved in the business of casino gambling. It is laughable to think that the government would have accepted that this was a sufficient response to the need to analyze the social and economic impacts that could be anticipated for Nova Scotia. Just in case there is any question about it, in case anybody actually believes that that is something that the Lichter committee took seriously and undertook conscientiously and is prepared to be accountable for, let's be clear that when the chairman of that project committee was asked about this that his indication on October 17th was that it would be nothing more than guesswork to try to weigh the social cost of legalizing casinos against their economic benefit. So much for a careful, conscientious undertaking to try to weigh the social and economic benefits before we go ahead with casino gambling in this province.
Mr. Speaker, that is why Nova Scotians are upset. That is why this legislation is, from our point of view, completely unacceptable because it is not legislation that was drafted on the basis of consulting Nova Scotians, it was legislation that this government decided to go ahead with before it had made provision to carry out that careful social and economic impact analysis. I know that government members are counting on the fact that the public overwhelmingly will conclude, well, that is just the Opposition giving the government a hard time. Let me remind you that there are a great many Nova Scotians who are not happy with the fact that the Premier had violated the commitment made to fully consult and the government has completely failed to take into account the kind of negative consequences about which so many Nova Scotians are fearful.
We have heard the Minister of Finance and others of his colleagues say, the negative consequences are being exaggerated. We have heard the suggestion that moral convictions and religious beliefs are not a proper basis for drafting and determining public policy and, therefore, a lot of the concerns that have been raised really are not legitimate to take into account.
Mr. Speaker, let me say that there is no question that many of the community organizations, the service groups, the community agencies, the helping professionals, the human service professionals, the religious leaders who have spoken out, have spoken out on the basis of feeling that it is fundamentally immoral for the governments to not only encourage an increase in gambling addiction, which is what inevitably results from an increase in government sponsored gambling activity, but they have also spoken out from experience about the negative social consequences that have already victimized far too many who become involved in compulsive gambling, both here in Nova Scotia and elsewhere.
Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that if this government was at all serious about a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the social and economic impact, that one would have been able to go to the Drug Dependency division and consult research that this government had seen the appropriateness and seen fit to ask to be carried out and shared with Nova Scotians. But when someone from my staff contacted the Nova Scotia Drug Dependency Commission to ask what was publicly available, what was being made available to Nova Scotians in this regard, there were three leaflets, Do You Know Someone With a Gambling Problem, Are You at Risk of Becoming a Problem Gambler?, and What is Gambling?
Mr. Speaker, we have a very experienced staff in the Nova Scotia Drug Dependency Commission and it seems to me that it is regrettable, indeed, that the government has not seen fit to give that staff the kind of mandate and the kind of resources that they need to carry out the kind of process of public awareness, public education, about the dangers of gambling addiction and to be involved in making sure that all Nova Scotians were fully aware of what the potential consequences might be of our plowing ahead with casino gambling operations.
Sorry, I believe I am supposed to table the leaflets from the Nova Scotia Drug Dependency Commission to which I have referred and I will do so.
Mr. Speaker, given the irresponsibility of the government in not addressing these matters, it is not surprising that the Provincial Health Council began to speak out about their concerns. It is surely significant that when the Provincial Health Council wrote to the committee that has been set up, the gambling project committee, that the response from Laszlo Lichter indicated and I quote directly from that letter and I will table it. This is a letter to the Chairperson of the Provincial Health Council, Thomas W. Bauld and it reads in part, "It is not the Casino Project Committee's function to do anything to assure the public that the benefits of casinos outweigh the costs.".
If it is not the responsibility of the Premier and it is not the responsibility of the Cabinet and it is not the responsibility of the government caucus and it is not the responsibility of the Chair, on behalf of the Casino Project Committee, set up by this government to address the question and give assurances that the public benefits of casinos will outweigh the costs, then whose responsibility is it? Is it nobody's responsibility? Is it not a set of questions that deserves to be addressed?
No wonder there is a growing list and I mean growing because hardly a single day passes that yet another organization does not either write to the Opposition members directly or copy Opposition members on correspondence to the government, adding their names to the list of individuals and organizations who are fundamentally opposed to proceeding with the introduction of casino gambling operations in this province. Either fundamentally opposed under any circumstances, which clearly is the position of some, or fundamentally opposed to going ahead, which this legislation permits, unless these questions about whether the benefits can be projected to outweigh the costs have been fully and thoroughly and comprehensively addressed.
It is very clear that they have not been addressed. It is very clear that this government cannot present a single report that even attempts to address this question. In the process, the government basically shirks it off saying, we can go with what people have told us from elsewhere, it is not really a problem, the social costs are exaggerated, the economic costs, well, they are costs, sure, but the gains are going to outweigh the costs, end of discussion. Accept it from us, trust us, take it on blind faith.
I don't know whether any other member in this House has referred to the Goodman Report in their comments addressing the legislation that is now before us. I want to make reference to that report, Mr. Speaker, I guess I am in a position to have copied the pages from that report to which I make reference. I am not really free to table the whole report because that is the only copy that I am aware of that is anywhere within sight and that is the copy borrowed from the Legislative Library, who in their usual conscientious way, have made sure that there is information available that addresses some of these very serious problems.
That is a report by Robert Goodman, entitled, "Legalized Gambling as a Strategy for Economic Development". I guess one of the reasons why I think it is particularly pertinent to refer to the Goodman Report is because it may not be quite as easy for the members of this government to dismiss, as some of the other reports to which we have made reference. When we have cited the objections of religious leaders, we have been told moral conviction is not an appropriate basis for public policy. When we talked about the concerns with respect to social impact, we have been told by Laszlo Lichter that that cannot be anything but guesswork and I think the other implications are, in fact, I think he said if there were any possible negative consequences attached to anything, well, you just shouldn't do it.
The general implications have been that those who have come forward from the helping professions to talk about social impact, are some kind of bleeding heart social workers who really don't understand the real price that has to be paid for economic progress. Well, I would have to tell you as a professional social worker, I very much object to that attitude towards my profession and the attitude that I think is all too often expressed towards others in the helping professions.
In this case, the Medical Society have made known their objection. In this case the psychologists of Nova Scotia have made known their projection and many other individuals, either as professionals or on behalf of their agencies, one of the most recent being the Executive Director of the Children's Aid Society in Cape Breton, for example. But let me say that sometimes you have to try to fight fire with fire since this government is a government that thinks, well, we're really the big folks and we understand the real importance here and that is economic development and the economic potential of casinos.
Presumably, that is why it is the Minister of Finance, quite significant I think that the Minister of Finance - not the Minister of Health, not the Minister of Community Services, not even the Minister of the Economic Renewal Agency has driven this pro gambling agenda from day one - but the Minister of Finance who has dollar signs in his eyes when he looks at the short-term revenues that will be generated by casinos.
Make no mistake about it, there will be short-term revenues and there will be short-term jobs, no question about it. Whether those jobs generated will be lasting jobs remains to be seen. It certainly would appear that the member for Cape Breton South has some question about whether the jobs proposed for Cape Breton are going to be lasting because he, I think in a moment of candour and if I understand the spirit in which he said it, he acknowledged the truth, that it is highly questionable about whether a casino in industrial Cape Breton could even survive.
The reason therefore that I refer to the Goodman Report and I am going to refer to it for a few moments is that it sets aside the issues of morality and of social impact. It acknowledges that they are indeed worthy of serious debate, indeed they need to be considered, but this study is one and I quote from Mr. Goodman directly when he says, ". . . our primary concern was to assess the economic, social and legal consequences that occur when governments try to use gambling as a way to improve their economies.".
I think it is fair game to direct some attention to that report because that is what this government says that it is trying to do. It is going to use gambling as an economic development tool, that was the claim of the Minister of Finance when he introduced this bill. I think we should take heed of the words of Robert Goodman who has conducted this very extensive study when he says, this once officially criminal activity is now being chosen by business and community leaders as a linchpin for economic development.
He goes on at some length to describe what is really going on here. I think that it is the concerns expressed by Robert Goodman that are at the very heart of why so many Nova Scotians are concerned at this government's decision to elevate the level of gambling activity in this province and to sponsor casino gambling in particular. Mr. Goodman's report goes on in the process of going into the gambling business governments have become more gambling dependent and have shifted from being gambling regulators to being the leading promoters of gambling in this country. The net effect has been an increase in the number of people who gamble.
Mr. Goodman acknowledges, as I have done, as others who are opposed to this course of action have done, that this will create jobs. No question about that, there will be jobs created on the front end.
He goes on to say that by diverting consumer dollars into gambling, it has also been responsible for the decline of jobs and decline of revenues in other businesses. In addition, the expansion of legalized gambling is increasing the public and private costs of dealing with the social and economic problems among the rising numbers of people who gamble.
Mr. Speaker, I haven't time and nor am I really permitted to go on at great length quoting directly. I do think that there are some very serious warnings in what the Goodman Report has suggested. Because when they talk about how government has become the promoters of gambling, through organized public relations efforts, they are recognizing that governments themselves are developing an addiction to the revenues that can be generated from gambling.
We all know, Mr. Speaker, that when the government itself develops this kind of an addiction, that it can become exceedingly lax about the kind of controls that are needed to protect others from a gambling addiction. It is not an exaggeration to say that the more people who this government can see become addicted to gambling, the more they can look to their own coffers and see that they are enriched by them.
Mr. Speaker, the suggestion is always made that the government will look after those who will become addicts. The government will develop programs. We see in the legislation, the Minister of Finance has indicated in the legislation that there will be ongoing monitoring of the social impact. The problem with that is that the government's willingness to really acknowledge the magnitude of the problem becomes less and less as it becomes more and more hooked on the gambling and the gambling revenues.
If anybody doubts that fact, then I would suggest that they turn to the testimony that was presented to the U.S. Congressional Hearings on Gambling just a few short months ago when the Executive Director of the Compulsive Gambling Centre appeared before that committee. This is not somebody who was talking about what she thought might happen in the future. This was not somebody who was talking about, projecting on the basis of one or two years experience with casino gambling, what might take place if a particular state or a particular government got into more gambling. This is a woman who has 20 years experience of studying and analysing and dealing with the problems of compulsive gambling.
She presents, Mr. Speaker, some very alarming evidence to that U.S. Congressional Hearing when she talks about the increase in adult gambling addictions. She has documented that in less than a 20 year period, the incidence of adult gambling addiction in those states which have sponsored casino gambling operations has increased from .77 per cent, in other words less than 1 per cent of the adult population being gambling addicted, to as high as 11 per cent becoming addicted in those states that have sponsored casino gambling operations.
Mr. Speaker, this is not something that is hypothetical. This is something that is based on experience over many years. This government says, well, we are just doing what they are doing in the rest of Canada and they tell us that the problems are not that great. They are ignoring the fact that there is research evidence that can be analyzed, that is more long lasting, that is more reliable because it is over a longer period of time.
Mr. Speaker, one of the most alarming things in the testimony of this individual before the U.S. Congressional Hearings, the name is Valerie Lorenz, is what has happened in those states. Because we are talking about a U.S. Congressional Hearing here and the experience of 21 states that have become involved in allowing casino gambling operations in their jurisdictions. Even in those states that started out recognizing that there was a public responsibility to address the victims of gambling, a public responsibility to sponsor educational programs and treatment programs for compulsive gamblers and their family members and others who become victimized, what is very alarming is that over time, the governments involved have backed away from sponsoring any such programs. In fact, there is very considerable evidence that as the governments become more addicted to gambling revenues, they become less and less willing to address the increasing incidence of compulsive gambling and the social disasters that go with that compulsive gambling.
Mr. Speaker, I think that it is significant, and I made reference to this this morning in the pro gambling propaganda session that was arranged by the Chairman of the Human Resources Committee, without consultation with any of the other, at least Opposition members, Mr. Speaker.
I made reference to, what I think is, one of the most alarming things that was said before this Congressional Committee. I quoted directly from that testimony. "In short, the greed of the gambling industry is matched only by its lack of concern for its customers or the community in which it operates.". That has particular relevance in the instance of Nova Scotia. The reason I say it has particular relevance in the instance of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, is because Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that I am aware of that has chosen the entirely private operation model that we now see this government moving ahead to introduce with the gaming legislation that is before us.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to go back to the Goodman Report which I have already mentioned, and I said that I would table the relevant sections in the House when I am finished referring to the Goodman Report. The Goodman Report acknowledges that there is a critical lack of objective knowledge and research about the real economic and social costs and benefits of legalized gambling. He makes the point, and I am sure that this is the case, the main research that has been carried out and that public officials most often cite is research that has been carried out by the gambling industry itself.
Now, Mr. Speaker, would we actually be expected to believe that the gambling industry analysis of the social and economic impact of their gambling operations would be conducted in the public interest, would be conducted in such a way that they would be wanting to make the public fully aware of the implications of casino gambling operations in their midst. I think not.
Mr. Goodman also makes the point that whether the studies have been conducted by the gambling industry themselves or by governments that are promoting pro casino gambling policies, that the claims of economic benefits have almost always been exaggerated, not surprisingly, Mr. Speaker, that the costs associated with those gambling operations have most often been underestimated; in other words, that you could not regard most of that research as being objective and instead it has been described as mostly unbalanced.
The Goodman Report goes on to make the point that governments become less and less vigilant and conscientious about the abuses of gambling as they become more and more hooked on the revenues. In fact, the same point that was made before the U.S. Congressional Committee has been made by Robert Goodman, that in the process of gambling legalization, jurisdictions have shifted from the role of gambling regulator to that of gambling promoter. In doing this, they are liberalizing regulations designed to protect the public and spending more on gambling advertisements and promotions. In that regard, he concludes that if governments do not find better ways to raise public revenues, they will continue to move in the direction of inducing more people to gamble more money and the results are likely to be increased cannibalization of non-gambling businesses and increased public costs of dealing with the social and economic consequences.
Mr. Goodman also identified the problem that there can be certain segments of the community that become more victimized than others. Those with mental health problems are more likely to be easy prey for gambling operators and those of low income, without any doubt, it has been documented, are disproportionately victimized by casino gambling operations, and all forms of gambling for that matter.
It is not hard to understand why, in a time where joblessness continues to be a severe problem, at a time when people are not fairly and adequately remunerated for their labour, when you have people being thrown on the economic scrap heap - we saw this province alone today, some 100 public servants just thrown on the economic scrap heap having been assured, by the way, that no such mass layoffs would be expected in the Department of Supply and Services - it is not surprising that people without hope, that people who do not clearly see how, in the future, they are going to be able to support their families and build a future for their children, that they turn to games of chance in the hope that they are somehow going to luck-in. So, it is very often those who have already the most hardship and are experiencing the feelings of hopelessness in our society that are most adversely affected.
They also, in the Goodman Report, indicate that there are new pro gambling constituencies that are often courted as a way of trying to gain public acceptance for gambling. We saw, in my view, one of the most shameless aspects of that in the insulting, biased questionnaire that was put out across the province by the Community Services Committee, that the questions put to Nova Scotians suggested, now would your support for gambling increase if you thought disabled persons were going to be employed in the jobs, or would your support for gambling casinos increase if you thought that there was going to be more adequate income to those who are currently suffering from part-time or inadequate income?
So, Mr. Speaker, the government has its ways of trying to court people, of trying to bring people onside and reduce the level of public resistance to gambling. It is my view that those tactics that have been used have been cheap and shoddy and shameless, and not becoming of a democratic government that says that it is going to give the people of the province the say in whether we get into this increased level of gambling or not.
I know that we are coming up to the hour of adjournment. I wonder if you might indicate how many minutes I have left?
MR. SPEAKER: You have until 6:06 p.m., but we have the moment of interruption, but we do not have any of the debaters in the House.
MS. MCDONOUGH: So we are going to be recessing at 6:00 p.m. for the late debate and resuming debate on the casino bill at 6:30 p.m.?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, then you will have six additional minutes.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Thank you, I appreciate that. Mr. Speaker, I think just in the few moments that I have left before 6:00 p.m., I again want to stress that the fundamental concern of Nova Scotians who have spoken out in increasing numbers is the arbitrariness of the government's decision, the lack of consultation that has taken place. I cited several of the chapters that we have already seen, the shameful chapters that this government has gone through, in terms of promising consultation but not delivering.
Surely one of the most odious aspects of the bill that is now before us is the measures that are proposed in this bill to shut down further avenues for direct participation of people in the decisions about casino gambling, as they may be affected by them. Surely, Mr. Speaker, for this government to bring in legislation which effectively squashes municipal governments and any role they might play in decisions about casino gambling is just completely unacceptable.
I mean, do we still have local government in this province or do we not? If we still have local government in this province in some form or other, how can this provincial government, this Liberal Government, bring in a piece of legislation and say to Nova Scotians, yes, we said we would consult you; yes, we said Nova Scotians will have the say; yes, we think it should be the decision of Nova Scotians, but we are going to strip away the ability of people to have any say through their local municipal government structures and through the various consultative mechanisms that are supposedly there in place to provide for people to have some say in regard to decisions that affect them so profoundly through the Environmental Act, through building codes, through a whole variety of pieces of legislation that the government has just said, wipe it away.
Yet somehow, we will ask people to respect the democratic process and somehow we will expect people to believe that they have had a major say in these decisions that will affect especially the communities of metropolitan Halifax and industrial Cape Breton, as it relates to the adverse impacts of any casino gambling operations that are situated in those two municipal areas, Mr. Speaker.
Well, I am sure it is not the first time anyone has said it, but you know, when a government knows it is in trouble, when it knows it is making a decision that people are opposed to, then what they usually do, if they can get away with it, is shut down on any avenue that people have to express themselves and to participate in any way in the decisions that are going to adversely affect them.
Mr. Speaker, those are usually tactics used by totalitarian governments. Those are tactics that are not usually associated with democratic governments and they are tactics that are especially foreign to governments that win a mandate on the promise that they will bring in a new way of governing, that they will bring in a new participatory way of governing that will involve consulting people before decisions are made that will affect their lives and their communities.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't think it is too extreme to say that these methods are dictatorial. I don't think it is surprising that people find it offensive that these authoritarian kinds of measures are being introduced right in this gaming control legislation that is before us. Mr. Speaker, I know you have signified . . .
MR. SPEAKER: We have now reached the moment of interruption.
MS. MCDONOUGH: . . . we have reached 6:00 p.m., I am sorry I was watching the other clock which says 5:58 p.m. I yield the floor at this time for the late debate and will resume my comments as 6:30 p.m.
MR. SPEAKER: The winner of the late debate is the honourable member for Kings West. The resolution is as follows:
Therefore be it resolved that the Health Minister immediately address the lack of representation by population on the four regional health boards before the negative effects of the inadequacies are enshrined within Nova Scotia's health reform process.
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that may not be getting the kind of press that the flip-flop on municipal amalgamation is getting or contract tenders that the government is going through. But this issue of health care and health care reform, I have to tell you, is on the minds of many Nova Scotians.
There is no question since June 30, 1994, we have had great expectations. The Minister of Health, through his legislation, obviously set up these boards. We have been asking since that time the names of the boards, I think the list came out, on who is on the boards. Nova Scotians are wondering how their community interests will be represented before community health boards are appointed, because if you looked at the health reform process and if you are going to truly have a community represented, then you would have had community health boards nominate people to put on the regional health boards.
But since the Premier of this province said, you have to be a Liberal to follow Liberal policies, then we will appoint Liberals and they will know best the interest of the communities which they represent on this regional health board.
Now, I know that my colleague for Pictou Centre has sent a letter to the minister on the lack of representation from Pictou County on the northern board because the question is raised that that regional health board has to make a decision on one regional hospital, will it be New Glasgow or will it be Truro, or I suppose it could go to the one in Amherst. But, the feeling is that obviously the majority is from Colchester County and the one regional hospital might end up being in Truro.
I know my colleague for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley brought to the attention of the minister the inadequacies of membership representation from the eastern region of Halifax County and I know my colleague for Kings North has talked about the representation from Kings County on the western board. I know that the minister responded during Question Period on the opening day of the House, that he was not dictated by geographical concerns for membership to what he said at the time, interim boards. But this board, as I understand it, is not an interim board. It will be the regional board until such time as the three year term, probably, is up. Maybe the minister at some point will clarify what he meant in the House that day about interim regional boards versus regional boards.
He also said they would be creating community health boards. The problem with the minister is he has the greatest intentions of doing these sorts of things but the problem is, they don't get done. We don't know when the community health boards will actually be set up and be actually able to function. As I understand it, these regional boards, according to Mr. Cowan, the Liberal Party Campaign Director, his board, he said that he would begin his work as of January 1, 1995. At that time, they will make decisions as well as, I guess, all boards of this province.
Will they make decisions regarding Annapolis General Hospital? As I understand it, the Annapolis General Hospital and the Western Kings Memorial Hospital are all now looking to the Minister of Health, regarding the plans of their hospital. When the regional boards take over on January 1, 1995, is that who they appeal to? Do they start all over again or is it the minister?
I have a letter that came from Harold Fancy who is Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee of Annapolis General Hospital. I will just read one paragraph, "As the Chairman of the Hospital Strategic Planning Committee and the presumed citizen watchdog, I have been closely following the events as they unfold in this process. I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the perception and I believe the fact that there is no consistency in effect in the reform process throughout our region or indeed the province. Dr. Stewart, it is often asked of me by my fellow residents if in fact there is some political agenda which has prompted the changes which appear to be affecting the valley area more so than other areas of the province. While this may not be so, it is certainly a perception that is invariably discussed in this area.".
He goes on to explain in his letter, citing examples of Lunenburg County, Pugwash, the kinds of things that happen that are not happening in Annapolis County. In his closing paragraph, he says, "Dr. Stewart, while we continue to agree unequivocally that our position was and remains supportive of the stated aims of your government's initiatives to improve the health care system to the best advantage of all citizens of Nova Scotia, we sincerely request that you personally address the issues I have outlined above. I also believe it would be most helpful if you would agree to visit with us during an upcoming planning session.". I do not mind, Mr. Speaker, I will table a copy of that letter so that everybody will read through the letter and understand the level of frustration that people have throughout this province of the lack of the minister meeting with various groups to discuss their concerns for their area.
How this has to do with the regional boards, Mr. Speaker, is that you now are going to have a regional board that is going to come into effect on January 1st. A regional board that does not represent the geographic region's distribution equally across a given region. What we do have though, is a number of Liberals who applied, and what amazed me because the minister will run around and he will say, this is what it says in the blueprint. Well, the Blueprint Committee very clearly said that people who respond, a list of all people who responded to the call for nomination, should be made available for public review. Well, why is it, Mr. Speaker, that this minister cannot release the names of those people who applied? Is he hiding something? Obviously, he is hiding something. Because, obviously, unless you were a card-carrying Liberal, obviously, you did not become a member. Obviously not.
Even so, the minister could have said, look, the Blueprint Committee recommended that we make this list public and there is nothing secret about who applies. Everybody that applied, obviously, thought, Mr. Speaker, they were going to become public because they had read the Blueprint Committee. Obviously, they thought the government was going to follow the Blueprint Committee and that their names would be released even though they were not successful. Then, we would be able to tell the names and also a little bit about them to know what kinds of people were chosen over other kinds of people. I acknowledge that it is the minister's and the government's final choice. I do not disagree with that, but surely to heavens this government can have an open process whereby the people that apply, that can be made public.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the blueprint also said, the appointment of community boards once set up, should appoint to the regional boards one to three representatives, to the regional health boards depending on the population of the community. So again, if the minister is following the Blueprint Committee, he recognizes right away that a population base, a number of people in a given area should dictate in some way the number of representatives on a regional board. The Blueprint Committee recognized that.
You know, we recognize that even in the Legislature. We get here based on a population base. We do not have four people representing a small group of people and four others representing the large. That is what we are trying to get away from. So we have a process that is causing a great concern, Mr. Speaker, and I know my time is almost up, and I have to say that there are a lot of people that I talked to, that are really upset because I know that they do not understand. They, for the life of them, cannot understand exactly where this government is going in health care.
I talked to workers today at the Western Kings Memorial Hospital and they say we were not treated the same as the ones in Wolfville on the severance package. They say, why, Mr. Moody? I cannot answer, Mr. Speaker. They say they cannot get a response from the minster's office. Well, I am just hoping this minister will go to Annapolis and will say to Harold Fancy, I am here to help you. I am here to listen to the concerns of the community and we will try to fulfil the concerns of the community and in the meantime we will try to fulfill the needs of that community. I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.
HON. RONALD STEWART: The opportunity to address this resolution and this proposition presented by the honourable gentleman opposite is a welcome one. I might say that the issue here is very fundamental. It is fundamental to the issue of health renewal. It is also, Mr. Speaker, fundamental to the structure of the renewed health care system in Nova Scotia. It has very little to do with some of the issues he has raised, but I will address very specifically this resolution as it is given.
The whole basis of health care renewal in this province depends on two elements; one is to recognize the broader view of health, which is absolutely essential if we are to serve the population of this province. That broad view of health means that we recognize health is more than absence of disease. Health systems do more than treat disease. They must do more than treat disease. Mr. Speaker, they must, for example, look at the prevention of disease and all the elements that surround that.
Secondly, the structure, as presented by the Blueprint Committee to which the honourable gentleman opposite refers, also says we must have a broader view of community. Meaning that we must avoid parochialism in decision making, we must also return decision making to communities, the communities that the honourable gentleman opposite refers to very well and with some fervour, and that, Mr. Speaker, is the essence of this debate this evening. It is the definition of community. It is the commitment that this government has to communities and decision making with respect to their health care.
We can become extremely focused and narrow, Mr. Speaker, in terms of who is and who is not represented. The Blueprint Committee said very specifically we were to avoid that at all costs. We were to avoid even the problem of having health care providers, as an example, usurp the work of the regional health boards and community health boards, such as they made specific reference to the fact that they not be in the majority.
We can focus, Mr. Speaker, and in fact the blueprint group said, don't do this but you may make the mistake of doing this. They pleaded with us not to do it, that is to make geographical population and geography as the determining factor. We will not do that, we have not done that. We can be so specific as to say in a certain region, such as Cape Breton County, only 13 per cent of those applied were on the board. In Pictou County only 20 per cent of those who applied were on the board. That is not equal, but yet we understand that the people who were on the board have to come from the list of applicants and the applicants who applied. If you look at percentages, it is not equal around the province, simply because there were many more who applied from a given area. But we must avoid this at all costs because it is not serving the total population, the population, the broader view that I speak of.
I will remind the honourable gentleman opposite and the honourable members of the House that these are, indeed, interim boards. We are going by the blueprint in this regard. They are interim boards for a period of 18 to 24 months, we have said that consistently and we will stick with that. We are not in any way trying to exclude anyone.
The honourable gentleman opposite, when he suggested that only Liberals are on this board and that you had to have a pedigree that goes back to the primordial blob and it must be Liberal, is unfair in the extreme, Mr. Speaker, to those who have been placed on the boards who are far from Liberal, far from having any political stripe. I think if he speaks to some of the chairs of those boards he will realize that he is in error in suggesting that.
We will not play one region or one community against another in this province and we will not be drawn into that debate. We must understand, fully, that we have to in this province avoid parochialism. We must avoid the narrow view of health and the narrow view of community. We must also understand what the Blueprint Report is saying to us.
The honourable gentleman opposite knows full well that the Blueprint Committee did not suggest that community health boards be established prior to regional health boards. They said this was ideal in the extreme, but could not be done. We cannot do that and we could not do that. We had to establish the four regional health boards as recommended. We did do that and you cannot, in one breath, pledge allegiance to the Blueprint Report of this province and then turn around and say no, that is not exactly what ought to be done. It should be done in an x or y way.
Let us look closely in the time we have left at what really is the essence of this. The essence of health reform as it will unfold over the next two to five years will be that community health boards are the key to the decision making and are the key to the structure, not regional health boards. The regional health boards will be selected by the community health boards and every community will have that, but we must first define community. To dismiss, as the honourable gentleman opposite does, the work, for example, of the Health Reform Commissioner and her work that she is doing at this very moment, probably at this very hour, is dismissive in the extreme.
There has been some reference made to release of names of those who have applied and that is completely reasonable. However, we have representations from many of those people who are on those asking not to have their curriculum vitae or their names released. We have had discussions in the past several weeks with our legal consultants concerning whether or not there is a charter or any kind of rights here that we must abide by. That is the delay to which the honourable gentleman refers.
Lastly, Mr. Speaker, of course the regional health boards can add to their membership. We have said this. It is written in the Blueprint Report. We have accepted this and we have directed. The regional health boards are not going to suddenly, with a light from heaven, take up decision-making duties on January 1st. They are enabled by the legislation to designate hospitals on January 1st, but we are already meeting. There is a meeting tomorrow evening, or Thursday evening, with the Eastern Regional Health Board, the second meeting. The chairs have met four times. The boards have met and are meeting and are learning. This is a learning process and it cannot be done overnight and will not be done overnight.
I ask, with due respect, that we give attention to the broader view of community, the fact that the communities to which the honourable gentleman refers will indeed be represented, represented very clearly and forcibly in the restructured program. There is no effort made to exclude. There would not be. That would not be right. It would not be in keeping with the Blueprint Report, as their very basic requirements would recommend.
Yes, it takes a step. It takes a great step in the direction of returning decision making back to communities and to, in fact, ourselves having a broader view of health, a broader view of community, knowing that this province has similar needs in terms of what is necessary for health care in prevention and promotion and the treatment of disease. That may not be easy for some of us to take those steps, but we must take them. The whole Blueprint Committee has said that very forcibly and we will follow that.
So the regional health boards can indeed, in fact, we have discussed it with the honourable gentleman for Pictou East, the honourable gentleman for Pictou Centre. They have made representations. We are taking steps, of course, to correct the problems with one resignation, another representation that needs to be considered there. Yes, indeed, we will and the regional health board, the Northern Regional Health Board, is going to address that very promptly.
So we must be flexible and understanding in this and do our best, which we will do, of course. But we cannot continue, as has been suggested in the tenor of the honourable gentleman opposite's presentation, to cloak ourselves in the destructive guise of parochialism in this province from which this province has suffered for far too long. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I listened with care to what the Minister of Health was saying, pleading with members to recognize that it can really undermine the kind of health reform that is needed in the province if we become too focused and too narrow in our approach. I know that the minister offered those comments in response to the pleading from the member for Kings West, that it be recognized that some of the regional health boards are not as truly representative as they might be. Certainly there can be no question that the appointment process of the regional health boards was not as accountable as it might have been and certainly not as accountable and open and transparent as was recommended by the Blueprint Committee.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Minister of Health again tonight when he saw fit, and it is fair game for him to cite the Blueprint Committee and the Blueprint Reform Report as the basis for his actions. When it is convenient for him to do so, he does that quite regularly and with a considerable degree of comfort that that provides adequate justification for what he is doing. But what he conveniently ignored when he cited the Blueprint Committee as the basis for his health reform initiatives is that the Blueprint Committee very specifically and for very good reasons, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, suggested that the names of all those who applied to be considered for appointment to the regional health boards should be publicly aired, should be brought forward.
It didn't say that the government should accept every name submitted to them; obviously that was not going to happen. Obviously the government was in a position to bring forward recommendations for appointments. And, let's be honest about it, the Human Resources Committee, because the Opposition members are outnumbered two to one, has very little way of affecting the outcome of those decisions in any case. But one of the aspects of accountability that the Blueprint Committee stressed was that in making such appointments, that the names of all those who applied for consideration to serve on regional health boards ought to be publicly aired and shared. That was not done but the minister conveniently overlooked speaking to that aspect of the Blueprint Committee.
I want to just say a word or two about another aspect of the reform process that the minister has also chosen to not just remain silent on but, in fact, to act in defiance of. The Blueprint Committee recommended very clearly that there needs to be a comprehensive labour adjustment strategy. The Blueprint Committee recognized that if you don't provide for an orderly transition of personnel in the health care system in the process of reform, you are not only going to create chaos, you are going to generate resistance to change, instead of taking the good will, the obvious cooperation and, frankly, the quite unprecedented consensus for change that was achieved through the blueprint process and being able to move forward on the basis of that consensus.
So it was recognized that there needs to be a comprehensive labour adjustment strategy. That means there needs to be a provincial committee in place and there needs to be a labour adjustment subcommittee that would be mandated. I am going to briefly quote from the Blueprint Report itself, to advise on appropriate regulations governing all health care providers, to ensure public accountability through appropriate and meaningful - I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I have referred to the health professions legislation subcommittee, I meant to refer to the labour adjustments subcommittee mandate, as it was contemplated by the Blueprint Committee. It referred to the mandate to develop and implement a comprehensive labour adjustment strategy that addresses the needs of the employees in a reformed health care system during the transition period. It identified a number of areas that needed to be addressed, continuing education, retraining, relocation assistance, early retirement, employment network and counselling. It recognized that this was absolutely key to an orderly transition that would be fair to the employees but, most important of all, that would protect the interests of the public to ensure that experienced health care providers had the opportunity to play a role in the newly reformed health care system.
Mr. Speaker, that brings me back to the mandate for the regional health boards because when pressed on the issue of where was the labour adjustment strategy, when pressed on the issue of why the minister had not set up the labour adjustment subcommittee that was absolutely critical and, by the way, it is my understanding that the deputy minister, before she was unceremoniously fired from a phone booth in a rather double standard kind of action by the Premier, had indicated was about to come into existence, that the labour adjustment subcommittee was about to be set up.
But, Mr. Speaker, when pressed on where the committee was, the minister recently indicated, well, that is going to all be done by the regional health boards. We are going to put that out to the regional health boards. I am not going to pretend that I have talked to a lot of individual members who have been appointed to those regional health boards but I have talked to some and their reaction to the suggestion of the Minister of Health that the entire labour adjustment strategy is going to become the responsibility and the purview of the regional health boards is one of absolute horror. They are absolutely aghast at the idea that this government could think that it could parcel out into four separate regional health boards, the need to develop a comprehensive labour adjustment strategy, the need to develop uniform policies that will accord fair treatment and equal treatment of the health care providers who, by and large, are public servants in this province.
Yet, Mr. Speaker, we have minister tonight saying, well, don't become too focused, don't become too narrow in addressing the health care reform initiatives that are needed of this government. I say that the minister better start to become a little more focused on how in the name of Heaven he thinks that a labour adjustment strategy that can serve the people of this province, the health needs of the whole province, that can accord equal and fair treatment to the health care providers of this province, can be generated by four separate regional health boards.
It really is quite mind-boggling and it may seem quite unkind to say so. The Minister of Health, no doubt, thinks it is unfair to say so but I guess it is an example of where this Minister of Health fails to grasp that what health reform is about is not grandiose ideas. It is not about blue-skying it to try to imagine how things could be better. It is about focusing on the details, the nitty-gritty, the transitional challenges that have to be met to bring about change, to bring about change that is orderly, that is efficient, that is comprehensive and that can serve the needs of all Nova Scotians, Nova Scotians as consumers of our health care services and Nova Scotians as health care providers.
I hope the minister, when he cites so selectively from the Blueprint Committee and its recommendations, will turn his attention to the many specific recommendations that demand his attention and that if the health reform process is going to be carried out as it needs to be, and as was recommended by the Blueprint Committee, then requires that the minister begin to do something about the labour adjustment process that has not even begun and that he now sees, in some chaotic way, can just be addressed by four separate regional health boards.
Mr. Speaker, I believe my time has expired. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: The time for the debate on the Adjournment motion has expired. The House will return to the debate on Bill No. 120, the main bill, and the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party has the floor for six additional minutes.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
Bill No. 120 - Gaming Control Act. [Debate resumed.]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: I am sure there are some members that hoped I was going to surrender the floor altogether, but as members know before the moment of interruption when we entered the debate on regional health boards, I was wrapping up my comments and I am sure that will be a disappointment to members. I was wrapping up my comments on the Gaming Control Act that is now under debate.
I think that I want in conclusion to return to the point I made at the outset that this is a Premier and this is a government that said it was going to govern through consultation and with specific reference to casino gambling the Premier of this province said that Nova Scotians are the ones who will get to decide. They will be fully consulted and they will have a say in the casino gambling decision, but we have seen that is not what has happened, that the opposite is the case. This government has blocked avenues for people to participate in the decision that it is prepared to literally strip away legislative provisions that now exist for people to be consulted in the course of decisions that would affect them in establishing casinos in their own backyard.
When that kind of approach is taken, it is no wonder that long-time, loyal, faithful Liberals and, certainly three that come to mind are the Mayor of Halifax, the Mayor of Dartmouth and the Mayor of Halifax County are absolutely aghast at the dictatorial approach of this government when it conducts its decisions in this way. Who would have thought that the Mayor of Halifax County would strip away from the Premier the label, benevolent dictator, and just strike out benevolent and talk about dictator.
That is a very serious allegation and it is one that could only have come about because this government has broken faith with the people of this province as individual citizens. It has broken faith with the municipal leaders in this province, the elected mayors, wardens and councillors in this province. It has broken faith with the hundreds of community-based organizations, whether they are representing religious organizations, social agencies, charitable organizations, senior citizen groups, professional associations, this government has broken faith and in the process it jeopardizes the democratic process and people's respect for democracy.
In the final analysis, that is a very serious threat to this province. It not only means that this government is engaging in decisions about gambling that can have adverse consequences for people who have no say, it means that they are generating a level of disrespect and cynicism and contempt for the democratic process that can have untold damage in the months and years ahead and can profoundly affect the future of this province.
For that reason I am going to introduce the following amendment with careful regard. I would like to send a copy of the amendment to the Government House Leader, who is in a very big hurry to have it, and up to yourself, sir, as Speaker, and to the Clerks. This is an amendment that has been drafted with careful regard to Beauchesne. Is there a Page that can distribute this. (Interruption)
Mr. Speaker, could I just say for clarification that when the two amendments were copied they were mixed in together and I may have handed one to you - could I read the amendment that I have introduced, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just so that we have the correct amendment before us would the honourable member read the amendment she is submitting.
MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, the amendment reads as follows: "in the opinion of the House, the introduction and enactment of Bill 120 will destroy the essential and fundamental belief that government acts only with the consent of the governed.". (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. After consultation with both of the Clerks at the Table I rule that the motion is in order. It does meet the conditions of Beauchesne, Paragraph 670, it is a declaratory statement and it is adverse to the policy or the principle of Bill No. 120 and the effects of Bill No. 120 on this society and on the economics of this society so the amendment is therefore declared in order and may be debated. The amendment if it hasn't been circulated reads as follows: "That the words after `that' be deleted and the following be substituted: `in the opinion of the House, the introduction and enactment of Bill 120 will destroy the essential and fundamental belief that government acts only with the consent of the governed.'".
MS. MCDONOUGH: I don't know if anyone cares but there doesn't seem to be anybody to distribute copies.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member have them replicated and sent around to all members of the House? (Interruption) Would the Pages see that those are sent to all members of the House please?
The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to speak on this particular amendment. (Interruption) Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, do I have the floor?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West has the floor. The amendment is in order.
MR. RUSSELL: Perhaps the Government House Leader could have his conversation out in the front yard.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, on a question of order for clarification. When an amendment is put forward is it proper that all the honourable members get to see the amendment before it is ruled on?
MR. SPEAKER: All of the honourable members do not necessarily get to see. It was read to all of the honourable members so that there would be no possible mistake or misunderstanding. There was no expression of misunderstanding by any member of the House and therefore the amendment was declared as read and was approved as read. The honourable member for Hants West has the floor.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, the copy the Leader of the New Democratic Party provided to me lists this as a subamendment. I believe a subamendment would not be in order at second reading of a bill. There are only three amendments that are in order and this subamendment would clearly have to be an amendment to an amendment. I think, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to reconsider, that subamendments are not in order at second reading.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader is absolutely correct, that this is not a subamendment, it is an amendment. It is not an amendment to an amendment. I will accept that as a typographical error. The amendment is in order and the honourable member for Hants West has the floor. There is no point of order.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the way some of the government members, including the Government House Leader, are filibustering this bill, I was wondering if that would be sufficient grounds for the Premier perhaps to expel them from the Party. However, . . . (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Hants West has the floor.
MR. RUSSELL: I will try and speak louder I guess. Mr. Speaker, as I commenced to say a few moments ago, I am very pleased to speak on this amendment because it does something that we have been trying to do in two other amendments today, and that is to entitle the governed, the people of this province, to have a word on the progress of this particular bill and the aim of the government to establish casinos in this province.
Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that if there was indeed a referendum carried out today, among the populace of Nova Scotia, that there would be a resounding defeat of the proposed establishment of casinos in this province as envisaged by this particular bill. The reason is that there would be a resounding defeat of the proposition that casinos be established in this province would be simply because the people do not have sufficient knowledge to make a knowledgeable decision.
Mr. Speaker, the government has been very cosy in setting up the casinos in this province. They commenced by putting in place a commission on gaming matters which operated in complete secrecy. They offered no explanation when they selected the three finalists from that competition that they set up. We have had no word to the public as a whole. There has been no word to the Opposition from these various proponents of casinos in this province.
Today, indeed, one of the proponents, an American company I understand, came forward at a press conference and did indeed provide some limited amount of information to the media. Insofar as the public of this province is concerned, Mr. Speaker, there are many basic questions which are as yet to be answered.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has made no secret of the fact that his prime reason for moving into casinos and widespread gambling in this province is simply to achieve a financial return for the province. If I remember correctly when we first started off discussing casinos in this province, when the Premier made the announcement at the World Trade and Convention Centre, which was later elaborated on by the Minister of Finance, we had a figure of about $100 million, I believe, we were going to make from casinos.
I see the Minister of Finance shaking his head. Well, that is quite true, he has changed his mind. Now, we are down to making what, $10 million or $12 million. Mr. Speaker, the interesting thing is that maybe the Minister of Finance knows how much money the province is going to make from casinos, but nobody else does. In speaking to his caucus, they do not know. The public does not know.
So, Mr. Speaker, how indeed can the minister, in good faith, try and sell a bill of goods, a Bill No. 120, without telling us exactly what the consequences of this bill are going to be for the prime reason that this bill is being introduced is to create a financial windfall for this province. Well, I for one don't believe we are going to create a financial windfall with casinos for this province. We may indeed create a number of dollars from the cash flow from the casinos but I would suggest on the down-side we are going to lose more than that when we take into account the loss of business to other businesses within this province. When you take into account the cost of extra policing, the cost of addiction treatment for those who unfortunately would be enticed into gambling and become addicted to gambling.
This particular amendment talks about the government only acting with the consent of the governed and what does that mean? That means that when the government acts on something, anything, whether it be on environmental legislation, workers' compensation legislation, other legislation that we presently have before the House, that they are doing that with the public knowing full well what they are doing and agreeing essentially with the principles that they are expounding in that legislation. In this particular case, clearly they are not.
We have been told by the Nova Scotia Medical Society that the placement of casinos in Nova Scotia is a bad thing. We have been told by municipalities, the two primary municipalities that are concerned with the casinos, that is the Sydney area and the Halifax area that they don't want casinos, they have said that very clearly. We have had addiction experts come forward and advise the province that our present facilities for treating addiction for gambling are not in place. We have been told by tourism operators that they don't want casinos in this province. We have been told by religious organizations that they don't want casinos in this province.
So, these are the people who are governed in this province, they speak for the whole population of this province. They are saying emphatically, loudly and clearly, no, we do not want casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think it is very easy to see when you really think about it, particularly, when you think that tourism is our number one growth industry in this province. Tourism is the only growth industry in this province. Tourism is increasing at the rate of 10 per cent to 15 per cent per year in this province. Another year or two, the value of tourism to the Province of Nova Scotia will be in excess of $1 billion a year and tourism employs an awful lot of people.
The success though of the tourism industry relies on one thing and that is that we are a desirable place for people to visit, people from out of this province and from out of Canada. Why do they come here? Because they get, I would suggest, a different kind of environment. If they want to go to gamble they can go to Atlantic City, they can go to Las Vegas, they can go to Reno, they can even go to Winnipeg. But people will not come to the Province of Nova Scotia to gamble. People who visit this province may indeed visit casinos but they will not be coming here to gamble.
The people that generate the money in casinos are those who go to a destination specifically to gamble. The tourist that goes in and throws a few dollars into a video lottery machine or throws a few bucks onto a blackjack table, isn't going to make the big profits. It has to be those who come in specifically to gamble. No, the clientele for these casinos are going to be Nova Scotians. They are going to be Nova Scotians spending money which they earned in this province and which they would otherwise spend on something else, whether that be in restaurants or in bars or maybe on automobiles or houses for furniture or what have you. That is the money that will be going into the casinos, that is the money that will be generating the profits for the Minister of Finance and most importantly, generating the profits that will be exiting this province and flowing back to the owners of the franchises of the casinos.
Where are those owners located, Mr. Speaker? They are not located in Nova Scotia; they are located outside of Nova Scotia. In fact, it is my understanding, that all three finalists will be taking their money not only out of Nova Scotia but they will be taking it out of Canada. So, I would say to you that it is a falsehood to believe that casinos are going to be a great financial bonanza for this province, because it just will not be so.
Now, we have, over the past several years, in fact, many years now, conversed with the people who are governed in this province. It was done by this government, it was done by a previous government and the question was clearly put to the people on those occasions that if you have any reservations, if you have any feelings at all about gambling, either pro or con, whether you want casinos or whether you don't want casinos, whether you want bingo halls or you don't want bingo halls, come before a select committee of the House and give us your views.
We did that, Mr. Speaker, we have done that on at least three occasions. We have had three committees that have toured this province; they have spoken to hundreds and hundreds of Nova Scotians and they have received a great diversity of opinion. But of all those people who appeared before those committees, there was not one who came before any one of those committees and said yes, I am in favour of casinos, except for the actual people who were involved in putting casinos into this province. They were the only ones who came before that committee (Interruption) That is true . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: No, it isn't.
MR. RUSSELL; That is true and I was on all three - I wasn't on all three committees - but I was on the last committee and the two previous I read.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. RUSSELL: Has the honourable member got a question?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Hants West has the floor. To impugn to any member of the House of telling other than the truth is, of course, out of order, but you are not in the debate so, therefore, there will be no action taken.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, rule him out of order.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I will rule him out of order, but I will also rule you out of order for debating across the floor.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, no, I am not going to debate him, I am going to debate through you, Mr. Speaker, with that member over there. If that honourable member over there thinks I am not telling the truth, let him get to his feet and make the charge because there were only two groups in the last round that came before the committee that were desirous of having casinos in this province; in the committee before that there was one; and in the committee before that there was one. That was it.
Interestingly enough, in the reports from those three committees, there was not one of those reports that recommended the establishment of casinos in this province, not one of them. The Morris Committee was the one that came closest and even the Morris Report had some very serious reservations. In fact, if I may read just a couple of lines from the report from the Morris Commission, it said, ". . . that it is desirable to bring together much more information on jobs potential, tourism and conventioneering impacts, spin-off and indirect economic stimuli, social and community impacts, and cost-benefits measurements.", before we proceed with casinos. Now, Mr. Speaker, that was very clear.
The same thing occurred with the Fogarty Report which, I might add, was signed by six members of the government caucus. So, Mr. Speaker, what we have before us is an amendment to the bill which would, admittedly, destroy Bill No. 120. However, if this amendment should carry, we will say that the government must go out to the people, either through a committee, either through a plebiscite or a referendum, and obtain the views of the people. Surely to goodness it is obvious, if the government wants to continue to have a good rapport with the people of this province, they have to listen to the people. In fact, that has been part of their platform ever since they installed a new Premier, was that we were going to be transparent. We were going to go out there and talk to the people, give them the facts, collect their thoughts on any particular subject, bring it back into this House and translate that into legislation.
What are they doing, Mr. Speaker? They are not doing that. They are going contrary to what the people are saying and, on top of that, they are doing it in absolute secrecy. We do not know what the socio-economic impact of gambling is on the Province of Nova Scotia or the people of Nova Scotia. We do not know what is going to happen to the people that run the restaurants, the people that run bars, the people that operate hotels, et cetera. We have no knowledge whatsoever. That is not fair and it certainly is not transparent.
This particular amendment would can Bill No. 120, but it will offer the government the opportunity to say, okay, we will just put that bill in abeyance and introduce another bill. It could be exactly the same, in the next session of the Legislature and, in the interim period, go out there and talk to the people and find out what is going on. I do not know where the Minister of Finance lives, but he must live on a dead end street. Because no matter where you go in this province and you start talking about casinos people will tell you, we do not know anything about why there should be casinos, but we think it is going to be a bad idea. You would think that he would want to get the information out there and talk to the people to convince them that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he is not doing it.
Mr. Speaker, this particular amendment will do what a couple of other amendments were that we brought in before, which is simply, as I say, to get the government out there talking to people or listening to opinions from people and providing an opportunity for the folks, the governed of this province, to speak on this very important bill.
Mr. Speaker, the principle of this bill, which is to establish casinos, will change the fabric of Nova Scotia forever. Once you get the casinos here, once they have invested $60 million or $80 million, you do not tell those people a year down the road, look fellows, we made a mistake. In reality, now that we look at it, we are not making any money and it is creating all kinds of social problems, therefore, I am sorry, but we are going to cancel your license. If they do that, the Minister of Finance is not going to have enough money to pay for the lawsuits that will follow.
Mr. Speaker, before embarking down this slippery slope that he is riding down right now, it behooves the Minister of Finance to get some people on his side. So, I do not see why, indeed, this amendment should not carry and provide the government time in which to get out and, as I said, either through a committee or through some other methodology to talk to people and determine their wishes. I noticed the Minister of Finance is nodding his head, so evidently he is agreeing with me. That is a good sign.
Mr. Speaker, the point is often made with regard to gaming that this province has to move rapidly because we have a sister province on our left to the west, and a sister province to the right, to the east. There has always been a fear in Nova Scotia that if we don't react fast, that New Brunswick will jump in ahead of us. New Brunswick has certainly done that on a number of occasions since this government has been in power and latched onto industries because this government has acted too slowly. This is a time when we would encourage them to act slowly, not to jump in. I don't think that New Brunswick is going to have casinos. Certainly not the casinos that this bill envisage in this province. I would believe that if there were going to be casinos in New Brunswick - and it appears that there may be - they will be on native reservations. So, we are not really in competition with that type of casino.
The minister has said that he has information with regard to the economics of casinos. I was wondering why it is that the minister cannot come forward and, at least, settle for once and for all for the people of this province exactly what we are doing with regard to the financial impact of the establishment of casinos in this province. Is it going to be a penny ante return to the province or is it, indeed, going to be a medium size bonanza or a large bonanza? We do not know.
The minister must know. I have a certain respect for this minister and I do not think that he would be stupid enough to go ahead with the imposition of casinos in this province unless he had some bottom line numbers. When I say that, I am accepting the fact that he does have those numbers, so my question to him through you and this is not Question Period, I realize, but my question overall to him is, why can he not at least give us the numbers on what he expects to make from this casino business that he is advocating for this province?
Secondly, I am sure that the minister recognizes the fact that there are going to be some social costs with the imposition of casinos in this province. I would think, also, that he probably has those numbers. For some reason or other, he will not give them to us. He will not give them to the people of Nova Scotia and that is what is so important, if he is going to sell this proposition to the people of this province the time to do it is before Bill No. 120 passes this Legislature, before casinos are locked in stone along the waterfront. It is the time before, not after because then it is too late. You can be sure that when the winning bidder in the City of Halifax and Sydney obtains the license to build this casino that they are probably going to start turning earth in the middle of the night.
You might say, well, you cannot do that and normally speaking, you could not. But, Mr. Speaker, this bill that we have before us, there are no restrictions on when they start. They do not have to come under the Planning Act. They could build a 20 storey building, hotel and casino complex right down here on the waterfront interfering with the viewplanes from Citadel Hill. The city could howl all they wanted, but the legislation would permit it. They could put in place something that would affect the environment, I do not know exactly what it would be, but something in the nature of a building that, indeed, could have some effect on the environment. Again, they could not be prevented from building that particular building because the bill permits it.
In my opinion, and when I say it is in my opinion, I think it is an opinion that is shared by all the people of Nova Scotia, casinos at the moment with the knowledge that we have, with what the minister and the government have provided to the people of Nova Scotia and to the Opposition, it is a bad idea. My challenge to the minister is, if he thinks it is such a good idea, why is he afraid to provide the facts and figures to prove his point. Why is he afraid to go out and engage the public in debate? Why is he afraid to have a committee or another group, strike a commission if he wishes, travel the province and elicit the views of his fellow Nova Scotians?
I cannot understand why a government (Interruption)
MR. DENNIS RICHARDS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I was listening very intently to the honourable member's comments when he said that the only people who came before any of the standing committees to favour casinos were those that were directly linked to casino operations.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote from a Hansard report of the Community Services Committee, dated Thursday, September 2, 1993, a public hearing that was held in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Mrs. Linda Deveau was the speaker and she says, "My name is Linda Deveau and I am the Executive Director of the Yarmouth County Tourist Association. I would like to address Part II regarding the casino operation. I don't have a prepared presentation but we did do an oral report to the Edmund Morris group based on a board of directors meeting that we had in which we addressed the casino aspect of gambling. At that time the Yarmouth County Tourist Association decided they would like to make a presentation based on the fact that we were in favour of a professional, upscale establishment that would be monitored.".
Now, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member was at that hearing because the honourable member is quoted in this report that I have taken some time to read through. I was also there so I think the honourable member owes the House a retraction on those comments and perhaps when he was trying to entertain me in dialogue before.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there are probably other quotes I could render but I will rely on this one for the moment.
MR. SPEAKER: The point of order is valid.
The honourable member for Hants West, do you want to respond to that point of order?
MR. JOHN HOLM: I would, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, while I am not from Hants West, I want to inform the member who raised his point of order that not more than three or four weeks ago we met with one Linda Deveau, whom the member just quoted and who pointed out to us that the tourist association does not support the introduction of casinos and also pointed out that a poll had been conducted by the local media and that the vast majority of the residents in the area also are opposed to the establishment of casinos.
MR. SPEAKER: I am going to call the House to order. Order, please. There has been a point of order called for by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. It appears that there is a valid point of order in that the honourable member for Hants West indicated that in his attendance at meetings there was no endorsement of this policy and package. I leave it to the honourable member for Hants West to respond to that point.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was going to respond after all the other points of order had been heard.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, we will give you first opportunity.
MR. RUSSELL: No, Mr. Speaker, I would rather have the last opportunity.
MR. SPEAKER: Then I will declare it a valid point of order. The information was not . . .
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there is still another speaker who wants to speak to the point of order.
MR. GERALD FOGARTY: Yes, I would like to rise on a point of order, if you have made a judgment, Mr. Speaker, on the previous point of order because I have something more to add to this debate. Now if that is not considered to be this same point of order, would it be another?
MR. SPEAKER: I have made a judgment on the point of order, as it was presented to the House. If this is going to simply further enhance the point of order that already has had a decision rendered on it, it is of no value to the House. Does it simply embellish it?
MR. FOGARTY: It adds credence to the position that was made.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, the credence has already been given to it by virtue of the fact that it is entrenched in Hansard, the official document. The point of order has been satisfied.
MR. RUSSELL: The point of order, Mr. Speaker, the point of order has not been resolved.
MR. SPEAKER: I have given you - order in the House, please. I have given you the opportunity to respond to the point of order and I give it to you again.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the intervention by the member opposite. (Interruption) All right, Mr. Speaker, there were three. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The point of order has been satisfied. The honourable member for Hants West has the floor to continue the debate on the amendment of the question before us.
MR. RUSSELL: Absolutely. Mr. Speaker, there were three, okay, maybe there were four. There was a very (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. RUSSELL: (Interruption) There were four? Okay. My colleague to my right, the member for Kings West advises me that there were four. Mr. Speaker, I have no argument. (Interruption)
MR. SPEAKER: Order please. Order.
AN HON. MEMBER: We want their names, addresses and CVs.
MR. RUSSELL: (Laughter) Mr. Speaker, over the hundreds, possibly over 1,000 submissions made to the three various committees that toured this province, I do not mind saying that there were five, but the number was very small and I know that at least two were made by people who had a vested interest in the casino business. So that leaves one from a person who has now changed their mind.
MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member now address himself to the question at hand, please.
MR. RUSSELL: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. If we go again on another walk around this province and we speak to the people of this province to find out whether or not they consent to having casinos in Halifax and Dartmouth and wherever else the Governor in Council can decide under this bill, incidentally. Under this bill we should realize that it does not say that there would be a casino in Halifax. It does not say there will be a casino in Sydney, it just simply says that they can establish casinos wherever they want. They could establish a casino just across the road here from Province House, if they wished.
Mr. Speaker, if that committee went around this province at the present time, they would find again that the overwhelming majority of people do not want casinos right now. What they want, right now, is the information that I believe the Minister of Finance has, that the Minister of Finance will not release and the Minister of Finance is not willing to tell us for some reason of his own. Perhaps some time in the future, the Minister of Finance may address the point as to why he will not make that information available to the people of this province and to the members of this House.
Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any member in this House that could go back to their own constituency and have a town hall meeting and say to them, I am going to vote in favour of casinos in this House. Does that statement suit the populace that I represent? If every member went home and did that, I am sure we would have a number of people in this House that would, indeed, see the light and they would vote against this legislation. They would vote for this amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I have not as yet had an opportunity to speak on the bill as a whole, and that is unfortunate, because there are a number of things within this bill that I strongly disagree with. Certainly, when we get into the Law Amendments Committee and have the opportunity to go through this bill clause by clause, I think it will be surprising when the people out there who are not aware of what is in this bill, realize the powers that are given to the commission and to the board and they are tremendous powers. In fact, I do not think that there is any other board in this province that comes within a mile of having the power that this particular board has.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to conclude my remarks simply by saying to the minister, Mr. Minister, do yourself a favour, do the government a favour, pass this amendment, bring another bill in in the spring and go out and talk to the people of this province and get an informed position on whether or not there should be casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia. Thank you very much.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a pleasure to take part in this debate on casinos, on the amendment: "That the words after `that' be deleted . . . in the opinion of the House, the introduction and enactment of Bill 120 will destroy the essential and fundamental belief that government acts only with the consent of the governed.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education constantly harps over there. If he wants to take part in the debate why don't you ask him to stand or ask him to go outside because he is just a nuisance to have around here. (Interruptions) Well, I guess a week in Asia didn't help his attitude any, he is still just as miserable to get along with as he was before. Mr. Speaker, can you bring them to order?
MR. SPEAKER: I would ask that all members recognize that we are in the Legislative Chamber, there is a decorum expected of all elected representatives. There is a right and a freedom of speech, an absolute right and privilege in this House to speak and to be heard. It is a violation of that right and privilege for anybody to impede it, any member of the House. Such a member can be cited, named and asked to leave the presence of the House. So, I would call the House to order. The honourable member for Kings North has the floor.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Look, I just really appreciate that very much. I know that the members were listening and they will heed your stern warnings.
You know, this casino legislation came before us because it was going to enhance economic development and generate revenue for Nova Scotia. Well, I think all people in Nova Scotia, those that are governed, they are anxious to have an increase in economic development and they are interested in greater revenues for the province. But one thing they are not interested in is casinos.
Now, casinos are going to be in Halifax and Sydney according to the Minister of Finance, they could be in other places as well. The people that I met over the weekend were asking me, in all honesty and all sincerity, how do we stop casinos? I suggested that look, it is good that you have come to see me but I am the converted, I don't believe in having casinos for Nova Scotia. I said, look, you have got to tackle the problem and call your government MLAs. They are the people that can make the difference. I said, they are not listening to me very much so I hope that they have taken heed and that they are calling the government side MLAs and the Cabinet Ministers, in particular, to try to get them to listen to what the people are saying.
AN HON. MEMBER: You can call them direct under 1-800.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, that is right, you can use the 1-800 number to call the Premier but I would suggest that the people call directly to their MLA. Call them at home, all our telephone numbers are in the phone book, mine is in the phone book . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Some of them are unlisted, I understand, some of the Liberals.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, mine isn't unlisted, it is there 24 hours a day.
MR. SPEAKER: I would suggest if the honourable member would address himself to the Chair, rather than carrying on chit-chat with his seat associates, he may not have himself in such difficulty with regard to the din of the House.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I think that is a very good point.
MR. SPEAKER: Then please observe it.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will indeed. You know, casinos for public good in the best interest of the public, those were very laudable and high-minded ideals to be listed in the purpose and the desire of the legislation but that is not what the people feel is happening.
The Minister of Finance has indicated that we are going to get $40 million to $60 million a year but where are the studies? When I asked him several months ago about that figure he said well, it is not my figure, it is a figure that somebody in the media dreamed up, some of the casino people have been saying that, he said it is not my number, I don't know. But why, without the basic knowledge, would anybody enter a dangerous track as we are going down now, the opportunity to destroy the very fabric of Nova Scotia through gambling casinos. The physicians in the province have indicated that they are opposed to casinos because of the difficulty and the social problems that they cause wherever they have been located. The Nova Scotia Union of Municipalities, they want to talk, they are part of the governed in Nova Scotia, and they want to talk to the government, they want to express their views, they want to tell the government this is not the track we want to be on but they are not listening.
The United Church, a group of all the churches have gotten together, six different denominations got together and they all said we don't want a casino. They are the people that are governed, they are saying we don't want it, who wants it? Who are these anonymous people that are saying we want a casino? Where is the pressure coming from? I haven't seen the people coming forward saying we need the casino, they are going to help us. The history of casinos is not long in North America. It has only been the last few years, I guess since the war when they started Las Vegas and then they progressed around a little bit from there. The latest ones, are down in the southern United States and in Mississippi; they had two of these new casinos close and three more are on hold because they are not working to expectations.
The bloom is off the rose as the expression goes. We are not getting into gambling casinos on the ground floor. I mean this is nothing new, it is not as though we were the first people to have one then everybody would beat a path to our door. People can gamble pretty near anywhere they want. Tourists can gamble in a casino on the way from Portland to Yarmouth on the cruise ship that goes back and forth between Portland and Yarmouth. I have been on the ship and there were so few tourists interested in gambling they didn't have the casino opened, I mean can you believe it?
This government told us that tourists just want to come to gamble as soon as you become a tourist you get the shakes and shivers and it won't cease until you can get your hands on a deck of cards and lose some money. The people operating the cruise ship will indicate that is not right, because the casino on the cruise ship very often doesn't even open. Now, if Nova Scotians had the urge to gamble and they can't live without it, why wouldn't we just hop on for a weekend cruise? I mean you hop on the boat in Yarmouth and go across at 11:00 a.m. and you gamble all the way over and you wait in Portland for an hour or so, and then you turn around and you can gamble all the way back. Is there anybody doing that? If we were die-hard gamblers like this government thinks and casino addicts, we would be doing that but it is just not happening. There is no pent up desire for Nova Scotians to take part in casino gambling.
Mr. Speaker, why in the dickens are we going down this road? They say tourism, it is going to help tourism, well who is saying that? Certainly, not TIANS. We don't hear anything from the government any more, they just said we are going to do it and it is good for you so like it. TIANS certainly aren't saying that it is good for tourism. In fact, TIANS are saying the opposite now after they have looked at it. On first blush many people said, oh a casino, they think Las Vegas, lights, dancing girls and Wayne Newton and Elvis Presley and all that sort of thing; then when you have a look at it, that is not going to happen.
The Premier, I guess it was said that the Catholic Church shouldn't talk too much about casinos because they have bingo. Well, Bishop Colin Campbell from Antigonish certainly spelled that out pretty plump and plain, what he thought about the Premier indicating that he shouldn't be allowed to talk. He said, look let me quote what he said, "Is it possible there are two classes of Nova Scotians? Some are permitted free speech, others are not? That seems to be the trend favoured in some circles. If you tolerate bingo you have no right to speak out against casino gambling.". This is what Bishop Colin Campbell said, he has a lot of knowledge, a lot of followers and he makes a lot of good sense. In fact the Minister of Justice in this very government is a friend of his and I trust that the Justice Minister listens to him.
Not only is there evidence that gambling is addictive, but it is nearly always the fast track of shady characters, organized crime, prostitution and an addictive way of life. Is this what this government wants to stand for? Is this the path this government wants to take us down?
In summary, Mr. Speaker, Colin Campbell said, "From my fallible memory, I don't think this was part of the election plan.". In fact, Colin Campbell hit the nail right on the head when he did not think it was part of the election plan. Let me read you what the election plan was, "Nova Scotians must decide whether they wish to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia. That is why public hearings . . . are so important. We believe caution is necessary and will accept no proposal without extensive public consultation.". Now were those just kind of weasel words, words that meant nothing? They were just words. They were just words that were trying to garner a few votes and, once they got the votes, they forgot about them. Is that fair? It is just not right. It is a consultation.
This morning the Minister of Government Services consulted with 98 people and gave them their pink slips. Is that consultation, Mr. Speaker? That is the same sort of thing.
MR. SPEAKER: I would remind the honourable member that the question before us is an amendment to the main motion. Since it is a reasoned amendment, there is latitude in discussing the main motion along with the amendments, but I fail to see the relevance of the recent statements in terms of either the main motion or the amendment to the main motion. I would ask the honourable member to keep his comments to either of those questions.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, that was a good ruling and I appreciate your intervention from time to time to keep me on the straight and narrow path because sometimes distractions from across the way, as you know, can lead you astray.
You know, the economic costs of a casino, we sometimes hear about the economic benefit of a casino and really, Mr. Speaker, we are going to have a few temporary construction jobs, because I do not think it is going to be a long process to build this casino. My understanding is one of the bidders just plans to build a bit of a shell and put in three or four hundred of those video machines and a few tables, so there will not be a whole lot of construction. They are not building a skyscraper with a stage or anything like that. It could be a very modest little construction boom.
The disposable income spent in casinos is money that we do not have to spend anywhere else. We cannot spend it. If you fling it away on the card tables and through those video machines, you have no opportunity to spend it anywhere else. You cannot go to the theatres or concerts.
The people in Nova Scotia want to be heard. When is this government going to listen? When will the government listen? They just seem to close their ears. They get an idea and they want to run with it and then they find out that it is not a good idea, but it is too late; they have gone down the road and they cannot get off.
Just for statistical purposes, in Atlantic City, in 1977, there were 243 restaurants. After they opened a gambling casino, 10 years later, it was down to 146. They lost half of their local industry; their local small businessman, half of them went out of business. We plunk this thing down here on the waterfront and walk along the downtown core and mentally just go every other place and you can say it is going to be gone within 10 years. Those are small business people, the backbone of Nova Scotia, and half of them will be gone in 10 years because they cannot stand the competition from a casino. This is what they found in Atlantic City.
There is nothing to indicate tourist traffic will increase, absolutely no indicator that tourism will increase. Now the government has said that tourism will increase. Where do they get this idea from? We don't know, they don't tell us. One dollar spent in a casino is $1.00 that is gone from the small businessmen of Nova Scotia. (Interruption)
We have seen the personal views expressed in print by some of the government members. The Minister of Health has a real problem with this, with a casino in Nova Scotia. The member for Cape Breton South indicated the one in Sydney would not work and he thought they were pretty silly to be doing it, if he knew it would not work. Now he is part of the problem because he knows it is wrong but he doesn't speak up.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Provincial Health Council has said no, they want to be heard. The doctors and the Medical Society, you know the member for Cape Breton South said he didn't think it would work, he wants to be heard. The government should listen to the governed and they are not listening.
You know when you look at all the money we have spent, as taxpayers, on consultants, when they fired the deputy ministers, when they were doing the work over in Education, when they have been doing the work in Development, we spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on consultants' studies and when we get to casinos, not five cents has been spent, except a few hundred dollars to send the member for Hants East to two casinos in Canada - British Columbia and Montreal. (Interruption) Well, that is what he was telling us, that he went away and the Minister of Finance said well, based on the recommendations from the member for Hants East, we are in the casino business.
Why didn't we conduct a reasonable study, Mr. Speaker? It is just beyond belief that this government won't listen. It will not listen and it won't hear. Can people be so right? Where is the study?
Jobs, Mr. Speaker, how many real jobs are going to be created in the casino? What type of jobs are they? Are they part time? Minimum wage? Are they decent jobs? How many people will become unemployed? TIANS said it won't create any tourism jobs. What it will do, they fear, is people who are tourists may come here, spend a few dollars at the casino and that means they have less money to spend at a bed and breakfast in the Valley, less money to spend somewhere else.
Well, Mr. Speaker, if all the tourists dump their money into the casino, they won't be able to go around the Cabot Trail; they won't be spending money in Victoria County, they will be stuck in there. So you know, it just doesn't work. There is absolutely no reason and I know that the members of the government would like to change their mind and they would like to have the opportunity to listen because I know from the amount of interjections from government members that they are listening and that they really do feel they have to try to stop the Opposition from criticizing because they know that what the Opposition is saying is right, that people want to be heard and the people are not being heard.
KLM, the airline that our government has spent several million dollars with a tourism promotion have indicated that gambling is not where tourism is. Eco-tourism, the tourism where the people come to look at wildlife, the scenery, the sunsets, the coastlines, that is the growth industry. Gambling isn't the growth industry, Mr. Speaker. We haven't scratched the surface in tourism yet and, by golly, casinos are not going to do it.
The major study cast doubt on the economic benefits of casinos. Well, that has to be true. What we have heard from the government is nothing more than guesswork. We do not know what the potential really is for a casino in this province. Personally, I do not think it is going to work at all. However, if the government has a study, why don't they table it so we can see it. I venture to say, the only study they have is the one in the memory of the member for Hants East when he had that taxpayer-funded trip across Canada. Who would not have enjoyed it? I do not blame the guy for going. If the Minister of Finance called me and said, look I would like you to go to a couple of gambling casinos in Montreal and Vancouver and I will give you a few dollars. I think it would be a great thing.
It is a peculiar situation where the member could not even furnish a written report. I do not know whether he gambled or he looked or he listened or what happened. He is the basis of our gambling casino venture for this province and it is very disturbing, to say the least. Would it not be better for us to listen to the people. Let the people speak, let the people tell us what they are thinking rather than listening to the member for Hants East.
Consumer spending and government sponsored gambling is a negative effect on social and local businesses, the addictions, the benefits. There are so many people in this House from different backgrounds, surely to goodness there must be one member that can come forward and tell us why. The British Columbia Government has decided that the odds were against gambling and they have decided not to go ahead in Vancouver. The people spoke and they said no. The tourism industry said in Nova Scotia that they do not want it. Harry Bruce, the well-known author in Nova Scotia said proposals to build gambling casinos in Nova Scotia are stupid. That is pretty plump and plain. There is no question about where Harry Bruce is coming from. He just says that it is stupid.
I know that the member for Cape Breton South agrees with him because in the news media he said he did not think it would work in Cape Breton anyway. You cannot have it both ways. Why would he support something he does not think will work? Listen to the people.
This process that we are going through at the present time is sort of ground-breaking for Nova Scotia. We are doing something in this Legislature that affects every adult person living in this province. I assume, that you will have to be an adult or you will not be allowed to get into the casino. I am not sure, it does not have any age limit. This will affect each and every adult in our province and the majority of those people say no to casinos. Yet we are plowing ahead and doing it anyway. The question is why with all the evidence pointing clearly against casinos. We are merrily going down the road and forcing them on people who do not want them.
Is that the way the government should govern? There are sometimes, I am sure, that governments have to take tough decisions, in emergency situations and say this is the right thing for the province, it is the right thing for Canada, we must do it. You cannot put a gambling casino in that category. It is not a life and death situation. A gambling casino is a far cry from an emergency situation. It is just an idea that some members of government thought would work and off they went to trot and do it, take us with them, but we do not want to go. I know the people because this has caused me more telephone calls than any other issue. They are saying, we do not want casinos. What can we do? I tell them to call their MLA and complain.
Well, we are in the midst of a process that is going to legalize. They are down to three finalists now, I guess, and who the lucky one will be is up to the commission. The unlucky one is the Nova Scotian. The Nova Scotian is going to pay for a casino for many long years. Why hasn't the public reaction been studied on casinos? Why wasn't the social implication studied before we got into the casino legislation? Why didn't we get the answers? Can the people of Nova Scotia be so wrong and this government be so right? Why don't we have the answers to these question? Do they feel it is sort of like taking cod liver oil, it is terrible but it will make you better? This is terrible but it may help the deficit.
Mr. Speaker, this is not going to assist the deficit, this is going add to the deficit. The social implications haven't been looked at. What will happen when the social impact studies show the negative impact? After you have got the casino open and we find out we have made a mistake, what are you going to do then? Well, the casino issue will not go away just because it is in the Legislature.
People have a feeling of, what can I do. They feel somewhat as though this is a government not by a democratic process but more like a dictator who gets an idea and he runs with it and the people be darned. That is not fair to the people of Nova Scotia. They elected a government who campaigned on the fact that they would be consulting with the people. I would venture to say that since this government has been elected, there has been less consultation than at any time during the last 20 years. Nobody is being consulted with, nobody is being heard.
Cumberland County Councillors have spoken against these things. Representatives of the Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical Lutheran, the Presbyterian, the Roman Catholic and the United Churches have all spoken against casinos. But are we not listening? The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has gone on record as opposing these casinos. The Minister of Health and his colleagues in the Medical Society have spoken out against them. The Provincial Health Council has questioned them. The people in Yarmouth had a plebiscite and they said no to casinos.
You know, who in the dickens is telling this government they want them? Where did they get the idea we should have them? TIANS said no. British Columbia turned down commercial casinos. Saskatoon had a plebiscite and resoundingly turned it down. In Florida they have been having plebiscites.
Mr. Speaker, those are examples of areas where the governing Party is listening to the people who are being governed. Why won't this bunch? Is this bunch so arrogant that they don't need to listen anymore, they just know? They just get a feeling in the morning when they get up what is good for everybody. They don't have to listen. It is like, do they govern by osmosis?
You know, we haven't heard much about liquor. Now, some gambling casinos serve liquor. Will there be liquor served in this casino? Will there be liquor served at the gaming tables? What about the food that will be served. Will it be at a regular price or a discount price because it is subsidized by gamblers? What about Sunday opening or will it be like Las Vegas and open 24 hours a day, Mr. Speaker. What about the individuals? (Interruption) Will there be jobs available for people through a competition?
Now in the legislation it says that the board of directors who is appointed and responsive to Cabinet, they will be doing the hiring and firing and job placements. You know, these are questions. Is it going to be a fair and open competition the way it used to be at the Civil Service Commission or are we going to shift it around to the new way of doing it through the political process?
Most things in Nova Scotia are subject to building permits. At home in the Valley there is a guy who wants to build. He cannot get a building permit to increase his poultry operation, but yet this casino which affects a lot more people than this one poultry farmer does not even have to bother with a building permit. Is there justice in that? I do not think so, Mr. Speaker. There is no feeling for fair play.
What about the Planning Act? It is out the window. The City of Halifax said they do not want it, but they are going to get it anyway. The only way they can get it is to do away with all that stuff. Now, this is really heavy-handed, Mr. Speaker. This government is saying you will like it so stop complaining. Just like in court, no really does not mean no, I guess, is what these fellows are saying. It seems to be carrying the weight because the people that were on the all-Party committee that studied gambling and they all signed the report at the end of it. They all said we do not want a casino, but yet, suddenly they are all in favour of the casino. They all think it is a great thing. What happened to them? Are they so afraid they know what happens to somebody in their group who speaks out. They bounce him right out of the Party.
Mr. Speaker, they should have some courage and speak for the people who elected them. The people who elected them do not want a casino. Mr. Speaker, this amendment says, ". . . the essential and fundamental belief that government acts only with the consent of the governed.". Where are the people in this bill? They are not here at all. The Municipal Authority is done away with and at the same time it is being done away with the municipal government is going to be expected to supply police, fire service, sewer and water (Interruption) oh, and he mentioned collect taxes. These hecklers back here are a big help. He says, taxes, this thing does not even have to pay taxes. They do not have to pay taxes. They can pay a grant in lieu of taxes, but they do not have to. This is very peculiar. (Interruption)
There is absolutely no reason, Mr. Speaker, for the heavy-handed attitude that this bill is putting forth in this legislation. These people, these members who were elected are hearing exactly the same thing from the people who put them that I am hearing from. The people in Sydney, Halifax and Yarmouth are saying, I do not want a casino, but yet the members who are representing those people in Halifax have forgotten where they came from. They have forgotten what the people told them and what the people expect of them when they get here. Nobody expected a casino would be forced on us like this. It is not fair, it is not right and it is not the way Nova Scotians are used to being governed.
We have had a long history of consultation and listening and talking to people but that has gone out the window with this piece of legislation. There is no urgency, there is no emergency, we could get along quite nicely with - you know, the federal government has found that they have miscalculated on our transfer funds and this year they are going to give $75 million to $100 million extra that wasn't even in the minister's budget. We are going to be getting that on top of it, that is even more than he planned to get from this casino.
So, that gives him the opportunity to have a second look, the emergency to get this, what he feels may be $40 million to $60 million doesn't exist anymore because the federal government is going to be giving him that much money. Now, we have been bribed a little because he said if I have a casino that brings us money I will lower your other taxes. Well, Mr. Speaker, that just doesn't work. People aren't thrilled with that sort of bribery. It is sort of bribing you with your own money. We have talked to people, as a caucus, from around Nova Scotia. We have invited them to come to Halifax to talk with us, we have gone out to meet with them. They have all said no to casinos. They have all said, do whatever you can to stop this legislation. Talk the members into voting no to the casino.
We have promised to do that, we are working diligently to put forth the word of the people of Nova Scotia, the people must be heard, even when this government refuses to listen and even when this government does things, employs tactics to prevent the Opposition from presenting their word. The people will be heard in Nova Scotia because the people do not want a casino. Is there one shred of evidence anywhere that says that people want a casino anywhere, one shred of evidence? Nowhere. This government could do itself a world of good if it would listen to the people.
Explain the benefit of this casino to the people so maybe they will understand it. Is there a benefit? Is there one member in this entire government of 40 members that will stand in this House and defend this decision? (Interruptions) Is there one member that will stand up and tell us why we need - we have got a lot of hecklers here, Mr. Speaker, that will speak anonymously. Where are they when it comes time to defend the decisions? (Interruptions)
Maybe they would explain why the minister said it is in the best interests of Nova Scotia because it offers an economic opportunity that Nova Scotia deserves. Maybe they can explain why the minister said that? The people who are being governed by this Parliament want answers and they are not getting any answers. It is not me that wants the answers, Mr. Speaker, it is the people of Nova Scotia. After 18 months of this government it is time to start giving some answers. This would be a good beginning, the difficulty is that there has been too much top-down government in the last 18 months. There has been too much saying you are going to get it and you are going to like it. There has been too much of that and this would be a good bill to turn around and make a new beginning for this government. Get this government out of the doldrums and out of last place in the hearts and minds of people. Appeal to the people and listen to what they are saying. Don't pretend to hear them; really, genuinely hear them. That would make a world of difference and then maybe, well, I don't know whether it would help them or not.
Let's have these members tell us about the opportunity that is supposed to exist from a casino. He said the opportunity was there to make millions of dollars, $1 million a week on average, can you image. More money than any of us could spend, $1 million a week. Tell us how. All we are doing is asking on behalf of the people? We are simply asking the questions and the people want the answers and there are no answers coming. We hear lots of chit-chat, Mr. Speaker, in the background and we hear the noises but we never hear any constructive, nor defensive, nor do we hear any reasons given for doing anything. It is mindless catcalls we hear from the government members and that is what they are for, I guess, to try to quiet these people down. We will push things through before the people know what we have done.
Well is that fair? Is there a person here who was elected or ran for office to not try to do the best for his community, the best for his province and make this place a better place to live? Well if these members didn't run for those goals, then they should not have won. We all want to help and assist our province. This casino is not going to do it. Most people know that but, by golly, you would never know it because these members are not saying boo.
You know, Mr. Speaker, we could listen to the people and we could hear what they are saying and it would not hurt a bit. What could be wrong with bringing in legislation that people say they agree with? What is the emergency? What is the urgency of having a casino? Who have the commitments been made to, that we can't stop? Who was so powerful that said we have to go along with a casino? Who have the promises been made to, who demand that this province roll over and this Legislature roll over and rush this thing through? Where is the commitment? Was the commitment made to the people of Nova Scotia or is there some other reason why we are in the casino business? What is the urgency? Where were the promises made? That is what the people are asking; that is what the people want to know. We need to hear from the people and the people deserve the opportunity to tell this government exactly what they think of this legislation.
There is no reason that we have to force this on the people of Nova Scotia. They didn't ask for this, Mr. Speaker. In fact, quite to the contrary, this government ran on a policy of being against casinos in this province and now we have them. That is not fair. It is false pretences, I guess, when you run on one thing and you deliver something else. You know it is very aggravating when you see people - and the opinion of politicians in people's minds is not very high - the promises they have made and then they break them. For the few of us who don't make those foolish promises, it makes it very, very difficult. They lump us all in together and that is not fair to the few who don't make the promises.
Why is this government absolutely insisting that we have casinos? Do you want me to move adjournment, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: Is that a motion I hear, that the debate be now adjourned?
The motion is carried.
With respect to tomorrow's agenda, we normally have some indication from the Party whose turn it is on Opposition Members' Day; is there any indication on that?
The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, after Question Period we will debate two resolutions: Resolution No. 827 and Resolution No. 944, and then House Orders.
MR. SPEAKER: Very well.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the members of the House that we will sit tomorrow between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. I move that we now adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now rise, to meet again tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 2:00 p.m.
The motion is carried.
[The House rose at 8:00 p.m.]
By: Mr. Robert Chisholm (Halifax Atlantic)
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 Labour:
(1) Reports and orders relating to the 1994 re-roofing of Province House.
By: Mr. Robert Chisholm (Halifax Atlantic)
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 Supply and Services:
(1) Inspection and progress reports on the 1994 re-roofing of Province House.
By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Minister responsible for Nova Scotia's Emergency Measures Organization:
(1) A list of names of all EMO zone controllers in the Province of Nova Scotia employed through the Nova Scotia Emergency Measures Organization;
(2) A copy of any recent promotions earned by EMO staff employed with the province; and
(3) A list of the specific duties for each area zone controller.
By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)
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 Natural Resources:
(1) The list of all tenders let by the Department of Natural Resources since June 11, 1993;
(2) The list of bidders for each tender;
(3) The list of those individual(s) or companies to whom the tenders were awarded as well as the value of each contract; and
(4) Details of the nature of the work for which the tender was awarded.
By: Mr. Ronald Russell (Hants West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Labour:
(1) The list of all tenders let by the Department of Labour since June 11, 1993;
(2) The list of bidders for each tender;
(3) The list of those individual(s) or companies to whom the tenders were awarded as well as the value of each contract; and
(4) Details of the nature of the work for which the tender was awarded.
By: Mr. Ronald Russell (Hants West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Finance:
(1) The list of all tenders let by the Department of Finance since June 11, 1993;
(2) The list of bidders for each tender;
(3) The list of those individual(s) or companies to whom the tenders were awarded as well as the value of each contract; and
(4) Details of the nature of the work for which the tender was awarded.
By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs:
(1) The list of all tenders let by the Department of Housing and Consumer Affairs since June 11, 1993;
(2) The list of bidders for each tender;
(4) Details of the nature of the work for which the tender was awarded.