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November 21, 1994


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mr. Gerald O'Malley

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will commence this afternoon's sitting at this time.

The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN SAVAGE (Premier): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge a very significant event that took place over the weekend. I am referring to the decision of the honourable member for Halifax Fairview to resign her position as Leader of the New Democratic Party.

Mr. Speaker, this is not a time to be partisan. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview may have caused some moments of great consternation and discomfort for whatever government was in power in the 14 years as Leader. However, I think today it is important to acknowledge in public the considerable skill, dedication and intelligence that made it possible for her to perform this task so well.

I would like to say both personally and on behalf of all the Liberals in this House, that the honourable member for Halifax Fairview will be missed as Party Leader. She has earned the respect and admiration of not only her own colleagues but also her foes through her exemplary parliamentary skills, her passionate commitment to the people she represents and her ability to focus clearly on issues that may, at times, be uncomfortable but are also very important.

On behalf of the government, Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my admiration for what she has accomplished so far and to wish her well in her future endeavours.

[Standing ovation.]


THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I did ask yourself if I might do this and I also informed the Leader of the Opposition so that he, too, might make a comment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to receive the Premier's call earlier today to indicate to me that it was his intention to make the remarks which he has just now delivered.

I am pleased today, too, to be able to rise and join with the Premier and all colleagues, present and former, to say a few words, if I may, about the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, the former Leader of the New Democratic Party. It says something, indeed, I think it says a very great deal, Mr. Speaker, that Ms. McDonough is the longest-serving Leader of a political Party in Canada. That says something about her tenacity and determination. That in 1980 she was the first woman to lead a political Party in all of Canada is also well worth noting because certainly as we have seen, that has led the way for other women to follow.

I have known Ms. McDonough for something close to 30 years and while acknowledging vast - well perhaps not all that vast, but on occasion - differences between us politically, this is not a day, as the Premier has already said, to engage in anything close to partisan comments but to rise, as I do, to acknowledge some of the very real contributions Ms. McDonough has made on the political scene here in the Province of Nova Scotia. She has, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the overwhelming majority of all Nova Scotians, been an effective and articulate and dedicated legislator in this place. She has consistently pressed for improved freedom of information legislation, human rights amendments and legislation, as well as stronger laws on such things as maintenance enforcement, spousal and child abuse and services to the disadvantaged. That record is one of which she can be, and I am sure is, proud and rightfully so.

On behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus, I am very pleased to offer our sincere congratulations to Alexa, to the Leader of the New Democratic Party, for her years as Leader, as well as our very best wishes in all of her future endeavours. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I am going to be briefer than I sometimes am, in responding to announcements, because I would like the permission for Alexa, who I will always consider to be my Leader, to say a few words when I am finished.

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege that very few people have had, to work side by side with Alexa McDonough over the past 10 years. We have heard the history, certainly, from previous speakers who have spoken about some of Alexa's accomplishments. I want to say, very much from a personal perspective, that Alexa is loved, honoured and respected, not only by myself but by everybody, I would suggest, who has come in contact with her and the battles that she has fought so unselfishly on behalf of all Nova Scotians.

Alexa has earned the respect of all. I must say that even the way in which she announced her decision to step down as Leader of the New Democratic Party was done with class, the same kind of class that she exhibited all the time that she has been the Leader. I can assure you that Alexa loved her job and continues to love working and serving in the political forum on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, Alexa may have very small feet but let me tell you, the size of the shoes that are going to have to be filled are enormous. I want to thank both the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition for their very fine comments to the person who, as I say, is always going to be my Leader and to be the person who will set the kinds of standards and examples that it is up to all of us to try to follow and to live up to. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Well, Mr. Speaker, I want, first of all, to thank you for not ruling this whole thing out of order, (Laughter) (Applause) because it may, in fact, be the one and only occasion on which I will hear such kind words from all corners of the House and I thank you for that opportunity, and I thank all of my colleagues for it. I want, also, to thank my Leader for giving me permission to say a word or two. I asked if he would be willing to let me do that.

You know, when I made the announcement to my Party colleagues on the weekend, I expected that I would be quite emotional and I was right. It was a very emotional moment for me. I guess I had not really thought about the very strong emotional feelings that I would have when I entered the Chamber this afternoon, and realized what I had just done. But, I want to say sincerely that I appreciate, not just the kind words of the government and the Official Opposition Leader and my own Leader, but the good wishes that so many of you have already expressed to me today, starting with my early visit to the Assembly to clean out my desk. I see that my colleagues have not gotten around to cleaning up theirs yet, (Laughter) and starting with many kind words from the House of Assembly staff who have been wonderful to me over my 14 years.

I want to say a word to the legislative Press Gallery. That is, as my colleague, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid already pointed out on the weekend, their investigative skills do not seem to be quite what they used to be. (Interruptions) Somewhere between 70 and 100 people have known for some time what I was going to do on Saturday, and I want to thank them genuinely, I really do mean this, for respecting my wishes to allow me to be the one to announce it to my Party and, then immediately following, to my constituency association, to drop the news on them that I was about to become a full-time MLA for the first time in my 14 years, a role that I genuinely look forward to.

Obviously, I am very pleased with this decision. One of the great privileges in life is to have a job that one believes in and one that allows you to do what you really would want to do, with whatever energy, time, talent you have. It is an even greater privilege to be able to make a free choice to move on from that job. I just can't say how delighted I am that I will have the opportunity, for as long as I occupy this seat, on behalf of the people of Halifax Fairview, to serve in a support role to the two caucus colleagues, who have been so terrific to me; in the case of the member for Sackville-Cobequid, over a 10 year period and the member for Halifax Atlantic over a three year period.

They are going to do a lot better on the front benches than I did the day I took my seat as the member for Halifax Chebucto and the Leader of the New Democratic Party. They had darned well better do better than I did (Laughter) because I was a total rookie, I was the only woman in the House, I was the only New Democrat, I had nobody on the back bench to back me up and practically no resources to work with as a non-recognized Party representative in this House. So, I look forward with genuine enthusiasm to serving in that support role.

[2:15 p.m.]

There is no truth to the rumour that I moved my seat from there to here because it was getting a little rough on the front bench on Friday. It isn't true when I said to John Leefe, I am not sitting next to you any more. (Laughter) I just want to say at this time, I know that the Premier is worried that I am not going to be on the front bench, causing consternation. I want to allay any concerns he has about that because it is my intention to show that from the back bench one can also cause the government considerable consternation. I am going to do my best to see that that is so.

The Speaker is no doubt about to cut me off. I think the final thing I want to say is that I am pleased there have been changes in this House in terms of House procedure, in terms of the way a number of things are done. I am pleased that I am no longer the only woman, but we all know that sexism is still very much present in society and in this House, as well. I am pleased that we have the first ever black staff member right here in the House with us as well as the first ever black member of the House of Assembly. But we all know that racism is still alive and well in this province and we still have a lot of work to do.

I am grateful that I still have a job, but the real concern is about the 60,000 or more Nova Scotians who still don't have jobs. I look forward to continuing to play whatever role I can from this little corner of the House on behalf of the New Democratic Party but also on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia to work together with you to combat those problems, because we all share the problems and together we all have to work to find solutions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment on an introduction.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I hate to break the spell here but it is most appropriate, I think, that a ray of sunshine has come through the window here on the honourable colleague across the way. (Laughter) We will have someone fix the blinds in a moment.

AN. HON. MEMBER: Halo, halo.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to members of this House on this historic day, I would ask these gentlemen and their coaches to take back to Mike Harcourt the fact that they were part of an historic moment in the House of Assembly in Nova Scotia. It is a pleasure to welcome the Kermodes basketball team from Caledonia Secondary School of Terrace, British Columbia to our fair province.

They are part of an Open House Canada program, which is a flow of young high school students from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. This is not the first group from Terrace, British Columbia, to come to Nova Scotia. I know that the students in Cambridge and Central Kings will appreciate their exchange back.

But we welcome you. Terrace is a northern British Columbia town with a forestry industry, primarily, but also many other aspects to their economic culture. We wish you well in your stay here in Nova Scotia and, once again, ask you to take back the highlights of a most historic moment in our House of Assembly to your Premier and to your Government of British Columbia. Would you all join in the welcoming of this fine team. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Now, before we commence the daily routine, are there any further introductions of visitors?

We will now commence the daily routine.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 655 persons, virtually all of whom are from my constituency of Queens. They list their opposition to using income means tests to determine eligibility for the shelter allowances for disabled persons living with family benefits. I have attached my name thereto and I fully support their petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by approximately 159 persons who signed in opposition to the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia and they oppose any change in the legislation that would permit casinos in Nova Scotia. These names on this petition were collected in the Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage area of the province. I have signed to acknowledge my endorsement and support of the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I, too wish to table a petition signed by approximately 120-odd people from the Antigonish area primarily who are opposed to the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia and oppose any change to legislation that would permit the construction and operation of casinos in Nova Scotia. I have signed the petition, Mr. Speaker, and I support the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 943 persons who are opposed to the introduction of casino gambling in Nova Scotia. The vast majority of those signatories are from Lunenburg County and the majority of those from the constituency of Lunenburg West. I have endorsed the petition and support the content.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

I don't know that we have a constituency of Lunenburg West.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries.

HON. JAMES BARKHOUSE: Mr. Speaker, I have received a petition from a member of my constituency but unfortunately, the member of the constituency forgot to affix his name to this petition but 128 people from Chester-St. Margaret's are opposed to the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia and oppose any change to the legislation. I table it on their behalf but unfortunately, the constituent didn't sign his name to this particular (Interruption) I affixed my name to the top of the petition as we must always do.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries.

HON. JAMES BARKHOUSE: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate the member for Sackville-Cobequid for taking over the leadership of the Party. He is a member of the Class of '84, four of which are members of this Legislature and I just want to congratulate him on being the first Leader of the Class of '84.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege to table on behalf of approximately 68 Nova Scotians, petitions that indicate that the undersigned are opposed to the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia and hereby oppose any change to the legislation that would permit casinos in Nova Scotia. I have affixed my signature to the top petition and I would so table.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I too take pleasure in tabling a number of petitions signed by over 100 Nova Scotians, mostly Cape Bretoners. I have signed that petition as well to indicate my opposition - that won't come as a surprise to anybody - to the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia and any changes that would enable the establishment of casinos in the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The petitions are tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed mostly by people from the constituency of Cumberland North area. They were collected by such group as the Trinity-St. Stephen United Church, the Malagash-Wallace pastoral charge, the United Church, individuals and groups from that area of the province. I signed the petition as well and I agree with the sentiments.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleasured to table a petition on behalf of 846 persons primarily from the Lunenburg County area. These names are part of the over 40,000 names that we do have that are being petitioned here within the last two or three days. I have affixed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, basically the people are from the Cumberland County area. There are 320 names on the petition and they are opposed the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia and also oppose to any legislative change that would permit casinos in Nova Scotia and it is part of almost 40,000 people who are signing petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.




MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table government aircraft journal logs for the fiscal years 1992-93 and 1993-94. As many members of the House are aware, a former minister made a commitment during the late 1980's to table these logs on an annual basis. With the change of government in May 1993, tabling the logs for 1992-93 was overlooked; therefore, I am pleased to table those logs today, along with those for 1993-94.

MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled. I consider this as a tabling, rather than a ministerial statement.



Bill No. 126 - Entitled An Act to Amend Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1991. The Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act. (Ms. Alexa McDonough)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.


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 our parliamentary system requires that the Speaker be impartial, to maintain his or her authority over the proceedings of the House; and

Whereas the Rules and Forms of Procedures of this House are amended and new rules adopted by this House on the recommendation of the all-Party Committee on Internal Affairs and confirmed by the House; and

Whereas the present Speaker has arbitrarily made rules to fit an occasion, in particular his decision to limit amendments during second reading of bills to three in number;

Therefore be it resolved that this House respectfully advise the Speaker that he must conform to the rules, procedures and precedents heretofore followed by this House and that this House refer the Speaker's ruling regarding the number of amendments allowable during second reading of a bill to the all-Party Committee on Internal Affairs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Government House Leader.


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

Whereas he'd pout and sook and throw a book and spill water on the Clerk; and

Whereas he would scream and shout and get thrown out and really go berserk; and

Whereas he would yell and cuss and make a fuss and say, the Speaker he is mean;

Therefore be it resolved that we are shocked and appalled and so is the member for Queens.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled. (Applause)

AN HON. MEMBER: Whose doggerel is that.

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


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

Whereas Alexa McDonough made history by becoming the first woman Leader of a major political Party in Canada and the first woman Leader to take her seat in any Canadian Legislature; and

Whereas Alexa McDonough has earned respect and affection from Nova Scotians of every political viewpoint for her intelligence, dedication, conscientious participation and leadership in our democratic system; and

Whereas this House and every resident of our province has benefitted from Alexa McDonough's commitment to social and economic justice, honest government and equality for both individuals and communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates and thanks our colleague, Alexa McDonough, MLA for Halifax Fairview, for her contribution during 14 years as Leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party and wishes her equal success in every future endeavour she undertakes.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable member for Hants West.


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

Whereas last week's she said/he said fiasco was characterized by the national media as an example of an inept government in operation; and

Whereas the Premier has refused to take responsibility for Cabinet Ministers who overrule his tendering policy; and

Whereas businesses looking to invest in Nova Scotia do not know what, if any, tendering policies are being followed by this government;

Therefore be it resolved that rather than create a new tendering policy, the Premier of Nova Scotia enforce the rules which have been in place since November 1993.

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.


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

Whereas the YMCA of greater Halifax-Dartmouth hosted a breakfast this morning with this year's theme being, "Peace Begins at Home"; and

Whereas peace has many dimensions, not only a state of relationship among nations; and

Whereas we cannot expect to live in this world if we are unable to live in peace with those close to us, even those who differ from us;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly seek effective ways of strengthening peace in the midst of increased conflict and confrontation and to seek possibilities to become peacemakers.

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

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for wavier 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 motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas the Medical Society is but one voice in Nova Scotia trying to tell the government that it is has a credibility problem these days, in this case on health reform; and

Whereas the mayors of the three metro communities preparing for a mega-merger have stridently voiced their concerns of the very real credibility problem that the current minister has with municipal reform; and

Whereas the Premier is also suffering from a credibility problem on his tendering policy;

Therefore be it resolved that in light of the time and expense the members of the Liberal Government expended on a rigorous ethics course in the summer of 1993, the Premier ask for an annual refresher to attempt to reverse its problem of having any credibility with the people of this province.

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 since Donald Cameron first broke contracts to impose a wage freeze, Liberal MLAs have loudly protested that lower income workers should be exempt from such Draconian measures; and

Whereas once in power, when these Liberals broke their own solemn vows and began new rounds of contract breaking plus wage roll-backs, they proudly declared that lower income earners would be exempt; and

Whereas many public employees who earn a pittance, such as hospital orderlies or aides who work only as needed, are being rolled back by this hypocritical government while consultant contracts go unscathed;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Human Resources Minister to honour her and her Party's many proclamations of concern for the lowest income earners in Nova Scotia by exempting from the wage roll-back all those whose income is lower than $25,000, regardless of whether their hours of employment are regularly scheduled.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas the Premier said on Monday, July 11th that the federal and Nova Scotia Governments were quietly talking about restoring a seal cull off the province's coast; and

Whereas the Premier has admitted to considerable pressure from the fishing industry to bring back the annual seal hunt; and

Whereas the federal Liberal Party passed a resolution at their annual convention last May to restore the hunt and to have hooded and harp seals removed from international protection lists;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Minister of Fisheries immediately bring the Nova Scotia fishing industry up-to-date on their quiet talks with the federal government about restoring a seal cull off the province's coast.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas following a weekend meeting, members of the Cape Breton West Liberal executive are demanding the immediate reinstatement of their member to the government benches; and

Whereas the honourable member for Cape Breton West has made it abundantly clear he will represent his constituents in this Legislature; and

Whereas the Premier has instructed every Liberal MLA to either vote for the government bills or do not consider yourself a Liberal;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Savage allow government members the freedom to represent the people they were sent here to serve.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


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

Whereas this government, after eight years of Tory stonewalling and Liberal sniping, introduced legislation to provide matching tax credits for investment in labour-sponsored investment funds; and

Whereas Working Ventures, the first such labour-sponsored fund to use the new Nova Scotia opportunity, is investing in this province 80 per cent of the funds Nova Scotians place with them; and

Whereas by contrast, 80 per cent of casino profit would go to out-of-province shareholders, with only a 20 per cent tax for Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the Canadian Federation of Labour and the members of Nova Scotia building trades unions for demonstrating their commitment to the Nova Scotia economy by seizing the opportunity for Working Ventures to operate and invest here in the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.


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

Whereas the Minister of Municipal Affairs admits she sought advice from the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency with respect to the province's tendering rules; and

Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency last spring awarded a $14,000 untendered contract for repairs to the Bluenose II; and

Whereas the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency was party to the $10,000 contract awarded to Proactive Consultants to develop the 30-60-90 job creation plan;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Municipal Affairs admit to this House that she got some pretty bad advice from a Cabinet Minister who obviously has no problem disregarding the Premier's tendering rules.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.


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

Whereas on November 19, 1993, the Premier told this House and all Nova Scotians that, "it will be clear - crystal clear - by Monday", that every minister and department must apply strict open tendering rules; and

Whereas on that same day each Cabinet Minister solemnly assured Nova Scotians that the tendering rules would be applied, without exception; and

Whereas it was wrong for the Municipal Affairs Minister and every other minister to, subsequently, blatantly break those crystal clear rules;

Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this House, a government that changes its standards and tendering rules as often as the Premier changes his shirt does not enjoy the confidence of Nova Scotians.

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 the Municipal Affairs Minister, in an opinion piece published this morning by the Chronicle-Herald, put Maritime Command at the head of her list of major establishments in the metro area; and

Whereas this government has been sitting on its hands while federal Liberals advocate the transfer of Maritime Command to Ottawa and a major shift of navy resources to the West Coast; and

Whereas the minister's opinion piece will read more like an obituary if her government doesn't spend more time on economic fundamentals;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Municipal Affairs Minister and her colleagues to stop wasting time and diverting energy by imposing amalgamation when they should be rallying the metro region and entire province to defend such economic keystones as Maritime Command and Devco.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


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

Whereas some 250 municipal officials gathered on the weekend to be welcomed by provincial officials and to discuss their roles and responsibilities, conflict of interest rules and provincial plans; and

Whereas the Municipal Affairs Minister provided a dangerous example for the new councillors, by breaking her commitments to the UNSM, breaking the Premier's unambiguous tendering directive and sanctioning a conflict of interest in her rush to give a $225,000 contract to a major Liberal contributor;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Premier to respect the positions he took as UNSM President, namely an immediate service exchange to achieve a one-tiered social assistance system, full consultation and joint implementation of programs with major local consequences and no amalgamation without open study by the municipalities involved.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 120.

Bill No. 120 - Gaming Control Act.

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

I believe you have about 45 minutes left.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I was hoping that since I was assuming a new spot, I might get that extra 15 minutes back as well. I guess that is stretching a little bit too much. I think maybe the Premier was indicating he would like to add that time on.

Mr. Speaker, I will in all seriousness like to get back to the points that I had started with on Friday to address a number of what I consider to be the very serious flaws that exist with the legislation that is before us today.

Mr. Speaker, we in this House have some precedent, I would suggest, where the Liberals when they were in Opposition have expressed their extreme displeasure with some of the kind of actions, some of the kind of tactics that are being imposed in the present casino legislation. Now on Friday, I spent a little bit of time talking about how according to this legislation to permit the establishment of casinos in the province that the province is violating the rights of certain other levels of government and, in fact, has also insulting and flying in the face of commitments made with the new environmental legislation, because, of course, this Act is going to be exempt from the environmental provisions.

I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Finance would like to revisit some of his observations and some of his comments and those of his colleagues back a few years ago when the former government embarked on a privatization goal for the Nova Scotia Power Corporation. If members of the government benches would like to reflect back, they will recall that they spoke eloquently in Opposition to a number of the provisions in that legislation in opposition to exempting the privatized Nova Scotia Power Inc. from provisions of the Planning Act, to provisions exempting it from environmental requirements. I have to ask the minister and I have to ask the Premier and I have to ask the other members of the Liberal benches who were here a few years ago when Donald Cameron privatized Nova Scotia Power Inc. how your principles have changed, what caused you to change your principles? Why were you opposed at that time to overriding and overruling the municipal Planning Act and taking that authority to have some control away from the local municipalities, why was it wrong then for the Power Corporation and why is it so right now when you want to impose casinos against the will of the people?

Where, Mr. Speaker, in this legislation is there going to be any provision for compensation for those who run businesses or who own property in the vicinity of where this casino is going to be established? Where is there any provision for them to have their concerns heard? Where is there any provision that those who are going to be harmed can receive some compensation? The former president of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, surely, it hasn't been so long ago that our Premier has by now forgotten all of the principles and all of these things that he stood for when he occupied that very responsible position nor when he occupied the seat of the mayor for the City of Dartmouth.

What has changed? I would love to see the Minister of Finance, I would love to see any one of the 40 Liberal members, get to your places, stand on your feet, why are principles, principles a couple of years ago, why aren't they principles now? (Interruptions)

I am not only getting advice from the back but I am also getting it from the side. I am being told to push over, Mr. Speaker, as I am crouching and trying to move back to my old seat that I find comfortable. But I am glad to see, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite have woken up.

[2:45 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't count on it.

MR. HOLM: Maybe now, Mr. Speaker, somebody will say there is somebody home over there and then maybe somebody over there will stand in their place and tell us . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That is drawing a long bow.

MR. HOLM: . . . why a principle that they supported so strongly a couple of years ago, is no longer a principle worthy of support today. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the reason is no deeper than this, and that is that with this government, principles have a price tag. And the principle is - according to this government, or the only one that they are concerned about, or appear to be - that they have the opportunity, they think, of collecting a couple of extra bucks in the way of taxation on the casinos. And so they can collect a few dollars into their coffers and download to the municipalities the social costs and the social consequences, and the responsibilities for addressing those social consequences, because this government has done zip, absolutely nothing, to try to assess the social or the economic consequences or benefits of what they are doing. Absolutely nothing. The square root of nothing.

It is an interesting comparison, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to be at the unveiling or the announcement this morning of the Workers' Venture Capital Program, something, Mr. Speaker, that this government, of course, had argued against when they were in Opposition. In fact, the two other Parties did not think it was a particularly good idea a couple of years ago but it is something that we have been very strongly in support of, for quite some considerable number of years and, in fact, campaigned on behalf of during the last election.

But it is an interesting comparison and I congratulate and commend the member for Halifax Fairview for having brought forward the resolution drawing the contrast to the Workers' Venture Capital Program and to the casino program this afternoon on the floor. Because the Workers' Venture Capital Program, its aim is to provide venture capital, working capital, to assist small business and medium sized businesses in the Province of Nova Scotia, to help those businesses to expand, to develop, to create employment. And there is a commitment that at least 80 per cent of the dollars that are taken in, in the way of venture capital funds for investment purposes, will be reinvested back into the economy. In other words, Mr. Speaker, back to the people of Nova Scotia to create jobs here so that that money will help us grow. It is an important program. It is an important concept. It is keeping our financial resources here at home to help Nova Scotia businesses, small and medium sized, create employment in the Province of Nova Scotia. And, of course, it is those types of businesses that create 90 per cent of the employment.

But what is this casino bill going to do? Is that going to be helping small business? Is that going to be helping create meaningful employment and long-lasting employment in Nova Scotia? Is that going to facilitate the recycling of our financial resources, of our dollars rounding the economy of Nova Scotia? I would suggest it will not, Mr. Speaker, and I would challenge again the Minister of Finance or the Premier or the Government House Leader or any member on the government benches, to get on their feet and put the information on the Table if you have it. If you can show the economic benefits as assessed and as determined in Nova Scotia, and you can show how the costs outweigh the consequences, I, my caucus colleagues, 41,000-odd Nova Scotians who signed petitions, and thousands of Nova Scotians who hold the view that they are opposed to the establishment of casinos, but have not had a chance to have their views heard, would all like to know. Because what is going to happen with this casino bill is that the monies come into the casino, the one-armed bandits are going to have their hands out and taking in, raking in, as many dollars as they possibly can from those who are going to be putting the money into the gaming.

The government is figuring that they are going to be collecting about 20 per cent in the way of a tax to itself. But where is the main body of those funds going to go? Some would suggest that some may make its way into the pockets of some friends of government, who are promoting casinos. Certainly a great deal of it will make its way outside of the Province of Nova Scotia to those who are the principal shareholders in the casinos. That money, when it leaves the Province of Nova Scotia by the truckload, that will not be staying in this province to recirculate, to regenerate employment.

It has been shown that the vast majority, in the case of the big Montreal casino, only 4 per cent of those who use the casino come from outside the province. So, the government cannot use the arguments that, oh yes, some money will be going out of the province, but tourists will be bringing in large volumes of new money to the Province of Nova Scotia. If the government can show that, Mr. Speaker, put the evidence on the Table. Let's see it. Let's verify it. Let's stop being academic, as the Minister of Finance is when he is predicting what the so-called benefits are going to be. The minister, of course, accused others who are speaking in opposition to the casino bill of talking in the academic.

In an academic world, the reality is they are speaking from strength and the minister is speaking from extreme weakness, from an academic position based on absolutely nothing to back it up. That, I would suggest, are the kind of arguments and information that this government has, to support what it is doing. If that was being put forward to any credible learning institution and was to get a grade based on the soundness of the proposal being put forward, it would very quickly receive a failing grade.

Now another serious, dangerous principle contained in the bill has to do with the so-called arm's length separation. I would suggest that the arm's length separation between the corporation - which is aimed at trying to promote the business of the casino and the commission - which is supposed to be monitoring and regulating it, that arm is so short as to be almost, if not totally, non-existent.

Why do I say that, Mr. Speaker? The corporation, of course, has a board and who appoints that corporation? I wonder if the member for whatever riding, on the government benches, does anyone want to get up and see if they can answer that quiz? Because it may come as a surprise to them, of course, that they are going to be appointed by the Governor in Council. In case they forget where those decisions are made, it is down in the bunker behind closed doors, behind the red curtain, Cabinet will decide who is going to sit on this board for the corporation.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we also have to know, well, what does this board supposedly do? One of the first and guiding principles for that board is that they must comply with any directive or any direction given to it by the Governor in Council. So, here you have a board of this corporation, appointed downstairs by the bunker crew in Cabinet, independent? Well, Mr. Speaker, if they must follow whatever direction is given to them by Cabinet, it takes a pretty major imagination to dream that they are in any way, shape or form, at arm's length from this Cabinet.

But then, of course, we have a commission, so we don't need to worry about the corporation. We know what their role or responsibility is, to promote gambling in the Province of Nova Scotia. The corporation's job is to control gambling, to make sure that the Finance Minister and his colleagues get as many dollars falling into his till as they possibly can and they must follow the minister's directives. But we don't need to worry because we have a balance to this corporation, and it is called the Gaming Commission. The Gaming Commission is going to help monitor and regulate this corporation, so that the corporation does not get carried away and do things harmful to the people of Nova Scotia. It sounds good. Let's see how far at arm's length this commission is from the corporation or from this Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker, when you read this bill - and I am not permitted to go into it clause by clause so I am talking about the principles - but I would be happy to point out to any government members that if you have not read it, speak to me afterwards and I will tell you the clauses you can take a look at to back up what I am saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: I am sure you will be busy.

MR. HOLM: Yes, I am sure I will be busy. This is taking them all by surprise. It would not be the first time that this government hasn't caucused bills. It is quite possible that government members don't know what is in this legislation.

However, Mr. Speaker, the Gaming Commission, well you know the minister, according to this legislation, has control over that commission. Now it doesn't say which minister; of course, the corporation is going to be responsible to the Minister of Finance, the minister in charge of the till, but another minister is all it says. The Gaming Commission is going to be responsible to a minister appointed by Cabinet, so I assume that the Premier will lay down some policy or directive that will tell the minister responsible for the corporation that you are not allowed to talk to the minister responsible for the commission.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, given the record on how closely this government obeyed and followed its tendering guidelines, I am sure that directive will be followed, so that the two ministers will never have conversations with each other. So, one Minister of the Crown is supposedly going to be the one responsible for monitoring the other Minister of the Crown. The fox in the hen house seems to have a very strong ring here.

Of course the commission, like the corporation, is appointed downstairs in the bunker, behind the red curtain, by the Governor in Council. Of course the commission - and it sounds somewhat similiar to the corporation - must perform such duties as are imposed upon it by the bill, the Governor in Council or the minister. In other words, here we have a commission which is supposed to be monitoring the corporation, both controlled by the same Governor in Council, both having their directives given to it by the same bunch meeting downstairs in the Cabinet Room. But don't worry, we are told in Nova Scotia, don't worry because we have honesty, we have integrity, we are going to make sure that when this is a going concern that we will not be guided by our wishes to have as many dollars as possible flowing into our tills. We will do what is best and what is right for all Nova Scotians.

[3:00 p.m.]

If the government was truly committed to having an arm's length provision, if the government was truly committed to ensure some integrity over how the casinos are to be monitored and how gaming generally is to be monitored in the province and regulated and the regulations enforced. It would have given the authority to do that to somebody other than themselves. Somebody who has or some body that has independence like the Utilities and Review Board, which is appointed for a period of 10 years and where the members cannot be replaced except where they have been shown to have violated the terms of their employment with the Utilities and Review Board.

In other words, Mr. Speaker, they could not be intimidated by the bunker crowd who wants to impose their will. I would suggest with due respect, or at least as much respect as this government deserves, that there is absolutely no way the way that this is set up that the commission is in any way, shape or form independent of this government and there is absolutely no way that this government can expect anybody to believe that the commission as it is currently structured will have the independence to be monitoring and properly enforcing controls on the casinos, absolutely no chance.

Mr. Speaker, just for clarification, what time does my time expire? I wouldn't want to run over.

MR. SPEAKER: 3:26 p.m.

MR. HOLM: I want to have the chance to cover all of the materials that I want to so I won't harp too long on certain points. Well, we hear of course that this is a government of consultation, that the government wants to hear what people have to say or at least that is what we heard. In fact, if we consider what the Premier said when he was seeking political office, the Liberal Leader John Savage in a published report in the newspaper on May 19, 1993, said Nova Scotians must decide whether they wish to have a gambling casino in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians must decide. I guess then the way this government defines Nova Scotians is if you are an elected member of the provincial Legislature serving the Liberal Party. That must be the narrowed definition of Nova Scotians because to the best of my knowledge the government benches other than a few friends who are supporting them in what they are doing, very few Nova Scotians have not given any decision in respect to gambling, they certainly have not been asked or afforded the opportunity to try to make their views known with respect to the gaming as the Premier had promised back in 1993.

The Premier also said the Liberal Party is very concerned about strictly controlling gaming. Treating gambling addiction and educating gamblers and the public about the risks of gambling. What happened to that commitment? What happened to the commitment made by the Premier in his promises made back during that campaign as put out in the advertisement, the glossy fliers, where the government said, let's move on together? I wonder if the Minister of Finance remembers the phrase about together and that we will start the climb back to prosperity, that of course being working together, moving forward, words like teamwork.

I don't once in these advertisements see any reference made to autocratic decisions, dictatorial decisions being made, that the Liberal Party was going to show contempt and total disrespect to the best wishes and best interests of the people of Nova Scotia. I challenge the government, I invite the Premier, if the Premier believes for one second that what he and his government are proposing has the support of the people within Nova Scotia, I challenge the Premier, invite a referendum. Allow a referendum to take place in those areas where he is planning to impose his will because unless, I suggest, he is prepared to do that by putting his facts on the table, he has absolutely zero confidence that he will be successful.

Valerie Lorenz appeared before the House Small Business Committee of the United States House of Representatives and she is the Executive Director of the Compulsive Gambling Centre, somebody who knows something about gambling and the impact that gambling has. Of course, the Minister of Finance likes to talk, as do his colleagues, about all these studies, all these reports that have been done that show that gambling is the best thing since sliced bread. It is the answer to all of our prayers, they would have us believe.

So, I guess Nova Scotia's deficit is going to be eliminated, possibly on the blackjack table, maybe by a roll of the roulette wheel, poof, there goes the Nova Scotia deficit as, of course, all the money goes out of the province. All of the money as it is leaving, that is money that isn't going to be spent in other Nova Scotia businesses, small businesses, the kind that supposedly this government supports on the basis of its agreeing to support the Working Ventures capital program that was announced earlier today that Nova Scotia would take part in.

Well, if those tens of millions of dollars leave the Province of Nova Scotia going to owners of these casinos who live elsewhere, then that means that money will not be spent in the clothing stores, in the other entertainment facilities and the restaurants and the other tourist attractions in the Province of Nova Scotia.

If the Tourist Association was convinced, if the Restaurant Association was convinced that the casinos were going to generate a lot of new business for them, I would think that they would have been rather foolish to have said that they opposed it. But both have opposed the establishment of casinos in Nova Scotia until or unless the government can provide some evidence to show that it is going to have a net economic benefit to the province, rather than to be a net economic dream.

The article I referred to from Valerie Lorenz, the Executive Director of the Compulsive Gambling Center, pointed out that, ". . . the number of compulsive gamblers has been increasing at an alarming rate in the past twenty years - ever since the spread of casinos and state lotteries, which has turned this country into a nation of gamblers.". Is that what the Premier meant? Is that what the Liberal Party meant when you said we are moving forward together? Are we looking towards trying to emulate the problems that exist in the United States, turning us into a nation or into a province of gamblers? Is that what this government considers to be their economic strategy? Is that what they learned by spending thousands of dollars, consulting Nova Scotians through 30-60-90? Did the 30-60-90 paper and the meetings around the province, was that what you have heard, the only way to bring Nova Scotia forward is to establish casinos? Is that what you have heard? I would suggest it is not.

Also, it is not my ideas. Here Ms. Lorenz points out that gamblers spent $394 billion -not million, get your mind around that figure. I can't even begin to imagine how many zeros are on that, Mr. Speaker, and I certainly don't know how many Brinks trucks are going to be needed to truck that amount of money around, but $394 billion - last year on gambling. That would have been in 1993, by the way. As she pointed out, it is, ". . . money that was not spent in local shopping centers, pizza parlors or corner groceries, monies that in seven years could pay off our national debt.".

It is rather startling, Mr. Speaker. Here we are talking about in Nova Scotia we are hoping, or the Minister of Finance, or the Premier, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Community Services, the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency, are hoping Nova Scotians will spend proportionately that same amount of money in gambling here in Nova Scotia that they are in the United States, probably hoping that they spend even a little bit more, without having given any consideration to how many jobs are going to be lost in movie theatres, in pizza parlors, in bowling alleys. How many children are going to go to bed hungry? How many more children, I should say, are going to go to bed hungry or not have shoes for school or the different things they need because the province has decided that it is a higher priority to turn around and turn some Nova Scotians into compulsive gamblers, so they will spend their money in the casinos in gambling, so that the Minister of Finance and the Premier and the Minister of Community Services, the Minister of Labour and others can get their 20 per cent's worth?

Where are the evaluations of the social consequences? How many families are likely to break up? What is going to be the cost related to increased crime? I won't read the whole report again, Mr. Speaker, if the minister and others would read this report and other reports, they will tell you that compulsive gamblers almost inevitably will turn to crime.

So, what is the cost of this, in terms of not only increased policing costs - of course the province doesn't care because those are going to be borne by the municipality. Remember service exchange? Policing is a municipal responsibility so the provincial taxpayers, as a whole, won't pay it, it will be the communities where those casinos are located, they will pay the costs. As they will have to pay the social costs, the social assistance that may be necessary because of the family breakdowns, because a family has no money to pay the rent and they are going to be thrown out in the street and they are destitute.

[3:15 p.m.]

Of course, they cannot be left in a destitute situation and you cannot have families living on the street, women and small children living on the street, they have to be put up somewhere, even if there is an income coming in. Those costs are going to be borne by the municipalities. Those are only the dollar costs. That is not talking about the true human costs, the pain and the suffering that is going to be caused and the government does not even know for what. They haven't got a clue as to what the social and economic costs or benefits are going to be. They call that leadership, Mr. Speaker. I kind of call that sort of being downright silly. Some might even go so far as to suggest it is a tad stupid to be going that way.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that some members opposite are suggesting that they want to run for the leadership of their Party. They are already starting to talk leadership over there among themselves. So, if I was the Premier, I would be even more worried than I had been before, maybe, because it sounds like some of your front benchers are now starting to talk about leadership and they may be coveting the Premier's seat.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the Liberal leadership hopefuls over there, whoever will stand up and will say that they will fight against this insane idea of establishing casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia, I want to tell them that they will have the support of our caucus, certainly we will not be able to vote for you, but you will have our moral support for assuming that chair, if any of you over there have the courage to stand up and to go after the leadership . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would invite the honourable member who has the floor to address his comments to the principle of the bill.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I was trying to in a very broad way to get at a principle, but I respect your ruling, certainly, on that one.

That is a crucial issue. You know, it is not just the New Democratic Party caucus that has concerns about casinos. It is not just the Conservative and the NDP caucus, I would guess, although I will not try to suggest individuals, but I would guess that there are probably some members on the government benches who are also having some tinges and some cringing about this bill. I know that certain members have been quoted in the press as saying that they do not support it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Some said it would not work anyway.

MR. HOLM: Some said that it would not work. But you know, Mr. Speaker, it sounds like the muzzle has been imposed and that they may be a little bit frightened to speak up. I would say to those members who are concerned about casinos and the consequences that they will have that you will certainly gain a lot more respect and credibility from your constituents if you do stand up for the points of principle that you believe.

We know that those who are concerned about healthy lifestyles have expressed their concerns. It is not just a moral issue. Even those churches that have spoken out against the establishment of casinos are not only doing it on a moral ground, and they have every right to speak, I would say, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the members of the government, for the moral well-being of the Province of Nova Scotia to raise concerns, but they are also concerned about the healthy lifestyle for Nova Scotians, as is the Provincial Health Council, which still has not received the information that it was seeking.

It is hard to imagine that when representatives of the workers were trying to persuade this government and the former government for years to agree to the establishment of the Workers' Venture Capital Program - which would be aimed at enabling Nova Scotia workers, not just the wealthy, but the working men and women of the province - to invest in Nova Scotia to give them that opportunity, it took years to get this government to agree to cooperate. But, casinos, Mr. Speaker, roll of the dice, flip of the cards, government jumps on the idea.

The Provincial Health Council challenges the minister and this government to release all studies, reports and analysis conducted to date to show how the benefits of casino outweigh the cost. Let's see something here for Nova Scotia. Let's not talk about Windsor, Ontario with a population of countless millions of people across the border in the United States. We are talking economics, let's face the reality and that is that Nova Scotia has just over 900,000 people and we don't have countless millions of people sitting on our borders. Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the health and social impacts of casinos if more information is required. Why hasn't the Minister of Community Services demanded that social impact studies be done? Is it because he doesn't need to worry about it because the provincial government won't pay those costs as I suggest, but that those costs be mainly paid at the municipal property tax level? Of course, the province broke its commitment to establish the one-tiered social assistance system.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, this government has no basis upon which it can expect Nova Scotians to have any confidence in the decisions that it is making. It can certainly have no confidence that the decisions that it is going to make will prove an economic benefit to the people of Nova Scotia. Therefore, I move that all the words after "that" be deleted and the following substituted, in the opinion of this House the introduction and enactment of Bill No. 120 will undermine the essential principles of community economic development and community economic self-reliance and I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member is aware that on November 4th, of Pages 4002 and 4003 of Hansard, I ruled second dilatory motion of the reasoned amendment category in second reading to be an abuse of the Rules of the House and therefore out of order. I sustained that in a further formal ruling on November 8th, as reported in Hansard, Pages 4113, 4114 and 4115, three pages of Hansard. The specific regulatory authority on which this ruling is based is Standing Order 28 of the British House of Commons stating if Mr. Speaker is of the opinion that dilatory motion is an abuse of the Rules of the House, he may either forthwith put the question from the Chair without debate or may decline to propose the question. I declined to propose the question because I believe that multiple reasoned amendments of second reading constitute an abuse of the Rules of the House. I therefore recognize points of order on this have already been ruled on and may only be appealed by way of substantive motion.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I would just like to perhaps inform the House that I did some research on the matter of dilatory motions in the British House of Commons and it is my belief that the process used in the British House of Commons is so far removed from what we do in Nova Scotia that it has no bearing on any ruling made in this House. Because the dilatory motions may be brought forward, they are not submitted on the floor of the House, they are submitted directly to the Speaker of the House. The Speaker may have 10 or 20 dilatory motions before him and the Speaker has the right to choose any 1, 2, 3, 10 of them if the Speaker so decides. So, I think that is an entirely different process, sir, and I would consider myself that, as I say, it is so far removed from any process that we have in this House that it does not provide the necessary precedent for the adoption of any type of ruling, such as the one you have made.

MR. SPEAKER: With deference, that may be the opinion of the honourable member but I have ruled in this matter and it can only be appealed by way of substantive motion.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. If you will recall, back on October 1993 on the occasion of a second reasoned amendment that was moved in this House, the then Speaker, yourself, gave consideration to the merits of that particular amendment without regard and without reference to this limit in terms of numbers.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all members of this House that that was not a unique ruling. It has been dating back for the past 15 years on occasions where, in fact, five and six amendments have been introduced at second reading and that if and when those particular amendments are determined to be in order or not in order, it has been based on whether they have been relevant, clearly in accordance with Beauchesne.

Mr. Speaker, that to me, is my understanding of the Rules of this House, and the Rules of the House do, in fact, take precedence over the rules of Beauchesne and the Rules of the House of Commons in Britain. The precedent has been established in this House that reasoned amendments are considered in that every member, if they disagree with the principle of a bill at second reading, may lay on the Table their reason why that particular principle should be amended.

I believe also, and I would say, Mr. Speaker, authorities that we have heard in this House, in terms of whether it be the speech of a Liberal member at some particular point in time or whether it has been a telephone conversation to some other authority, does not constitute an authority, therefore. It is the precedence of this House and if the rulings that have been made up to and including October 1993 on the question of reasoned amendments at second reading are, in fact, consistent with what has been handled over the past 15 years, and that I believe if we are to divert from that on the basis of what the House of Commons says in Britain, that we would be absolutely altering the way we set our rules and the way rules are, in fact, set and practice is maintained here in our legislative Chambers.

MR. SPEAKER: I wish to respond. Rule 24 - I will hear you after I have dealt with his point - states that the decision of Mr. Speaker on a point of order shall be final. Now, many points of order, multiple points of order have been raised on this particular ruling and the Speaker, or whoever was in the Chair - the Deputy Speaker as Speaker - has ruled all those points of order out of order. The decision of Mr. Speaker on points of order appealing this particular ruling, which is already the subject of a substantive motion, in any event, to be dealt with by the House, the decision of the Speaker on those points of order is final and can only be appealed by a substantive motion, according to the Rules of the House; Rule 24(1). I therefore rule the point of order to be out of order.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Precedence very clearly plays a very significant role in the way in which we manage this House and without trespassing too greatly on the time of the House, I wish to bring to your attention, sir, and to other honourable members who may wish to hear a notation from the journal of the House from June 1991. On June 13, 1991, a six months' hoist was moved by Mr. MacLean, then Leader of the Official Opposition. That was with respect to an Act Respecting Compensation Restraint in the Public Sector.

[3:30 p.m.]

The next day, on June 14th, a three months' hoist was moved by Mr. Bragg, and was deemed to be in order and was debated by the House. On June 20th, Mr. MacEwan moved a reasoned amendment that was found to be in order and was debated by the House. On June 21st Mr. Holm moved a reasoned amendment which was found to be in order and was debated by the House. There is ample evidence, sir, that multiple motions with respect to second reading are very much in order.

MR. SPEAKER: I will hear it after I have ruled on the point that was just raised. The Clerk has very diligently researched this matter. I might note that I am supported in this matter by the opinion of the Clerks at the Table. The Clerks at the Table very diligently researched this matter and find that the instances cited, while they did, in fact, take place, took place only on singular occasions and do not represent the accumulated usage and precedent of the House over time, but rather represent singular exceptions to that usage and precedent which were, in the view of this Speaker, a mistake at the time that they were made, although they were, nonetheless, made.

I might note that Speakers of this House have, by way of Speaker's Rulings over the years, altered and amended the practices of the House where they considered that the practices then in effect were contrary to sound parliamentary principle. I refer the House to three such instances in which rulings by former Speaker, Honourable Arthur Donahoe, amended the practices of the House.

The first is the practice in Question Period where only two supplementary questions are now allowed. Prior to 1981, there had been three supplementary questions allowed in Question Period. Mr. Speaker Donahoe, at that time, ruled that he felt that the third supplementary question was not appropriate and, as a result of a Speaker's Ruling, the number of questions permitted in Question Period was reduced.

Mr. Speaker Arthur Donahoe, further, by way of a Speaker's Ruling, restricted notices of motion to consist of two whereas clauses and a therefore be it resolved clause, rather than multiple whereases and multiple therefore be it resolveds, as had formerly been the case in the House under the precedents of the House.

Mr. Speaker Arthur Donahoe, further by a Speaker's Ruling, ruled that there were to be no points of order or privilege raised in Question Period, which by virtue of a Speaker's Ruling only, stands as the practice in this House ever since that ruling was made. It is very clear from these precedents that it is within the competence of a Speaker to make rulings from the Chair, to give greater force and effect to the Rules of the House.

Our rules very clearly state that where the usages and precedents of the House are unclear, that the usages of precedents of the House of Commons of Canada then in force may be applied to and, thirdly, in cases not provided for hereafter by the usages and precedents of this House or the standing and sessional orders on usages of the House of Commons of Canada, then the usages and customs of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom and Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in force at the time, may be applied to.

That I have done in this case in the instances of maintaining order in the House. I am of the view that this matter has been adequately canvassed. Many points of order have been raised. They have all been ruled out of order. They may be appealed by substantive motion only.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. You have said, sir, that it is when rules and procedures of the House are unclear that one goes to the British House of Commons to look for further direction. The fact of the matter is that there is a well-established precedent in this House. In my 14 years in this House, I am not able to find a single occasion on which a Speaker ruled, until your November 4th and November 8th arbitrary rulings, that there is no fourth amendment on second reading permitted.

I do not want to pretend that I have read every word of every page of every Hansard for the last 14 years but I cannot find an occasion on which there was a ruling that no such thing as a fourth amendment shall be permitted. It is true, Mr. Speaker, that in the instance of six and seven amendments introduced, in some instances, that some of them were found to be out of order but there was not a ruling that they were not permitted to be introduced because three is it.

It is true, Mr. Speaker, that on the basis of invoking the rule of relevance that some amendments have been ruled out of order. But nowhere have I been able to find, nor have you cited what the precedent is in this House for the arbitrary rulings on November 4th and November 8th that no fourth amendment shall be permitted. In fact, there are precedents to clearly indicate that it has happened. It has happened on occasions when this government was on the other side and vice-versa. With respect to the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, there were seven amendments introduced, and it is true that three of them were ruled out of order on the basis of relevance, but not because there was some rule in existence somewhere or some precedent that disallows more than three amendments.

With respect to the Nova Scotia Power Privatization Act . . .

MR. SPEAKER: With respect, this point of order is very long and I would ask the honourable member to please bring her point to a point.

MS. MCDONOUGH: My point is that we have yet to hear any basis for the ruling that you introduced in this House to say that there is a precedent here that disallows more than three amendments to be introduced on second reading. On that basis, we are going to continue to exercise our rights in this House to introduce amendments on second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: And the Chair will continue to exercise its rights as stated in the 28th Standing Order of the British House of Commons, and as stated in our Rule Book, Rule 9(2). "Mr. Speaker's ruling shall not be subject to appeal or question except by substantive motion upon proper notice having been given.". In other words, a point of order is out of order to appeal this particular ruling.

MR. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the Rules of this House, Page 1, Rules 1 and 2 states very clearly that the authorities for judgments made in this House are, firstly, the usages and precedents of this House and if silent there, secondly, the standing and sessional orders and forms of the House of Commons of Canada and if not fully cleared at that point then, thirdly, of course in the British House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker, I have researched this matter very thoroughly over the weekend in all of the authorities and I would like to point out to you that if the members opposite are not willing to take the ruling of the House, which they have no alternative regardless on the positive aspects of Beauchesne, rather than the exclusions of Beauchesne, then I refer you to Page 337 of Sir Erskine May where it says clearly, "Selection of amendments. Since 1919, the Speaker has had the power under Standing Order No 31, to select amendments for debate. Thus, although an amendment may be in order, it may not necessarily be moved if the Chair has declined to select it.".

I go on further to read on Page 404, Section 2, "The power to select amendments was conferred upon the Chair in 1919. By Standing Order No 31 the Speaker is given power to select the amendments, new clauses or new schedules to be proposed in respect of any motion or any bill under consideration on report . . .".

I further go on to quote from Page 476, "When both a . . . (three) months' amendment and a reasoned amendment are put down on the second or third reading of a bill, it is for the Speaker to decide, in accordance with his powers under Standing Order No 31, which, either, he will select.".

Mr. Speaker, I think there are ample precedents to establish that the power lies with the Chair to make such a decision.

MR. SPEAKER: I agree with the honourable Deputy Speaker and would urge that the House cease raising further points of order on this matter on which the Chair has ruled, and on which the rules state that the appeal is by way of substantive motion only.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege. I will do that and then I will move a substantive motion. I feel that my rights, my legitimate freedom of speech in this House has been interfered with. I believe that I have been denied the right to place before this House a reasoned amendment, a right that has been affirmed by Speakers' Rulings from 1979 until November 4, 1994. My right for free speech has been denied by a Speaker who, contrary to a convention that Mr. Speaker himself outlined to me in a letter dated August 23, 1993, that a Speaker does not attend government caucus meetings while the House is in session. It is crucially important that Mr. Speaker's impartiality be seen not to be broken and that a member's right to freedom of speech is paramount.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move that the breach of members' rights of free speech, as a result of Mr. Speaker's November 4th ruling on amendments at second reading, contrary to the precedents of this House, contrary to all previous rulings and contrary to Beauchesne, and the circumstances that this ruling was made while Mr. Speaker was in breach of the convention that he not attend Party caucus meetings while the House is in session, be condemned. Mr. Speaker, I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: Rule 9(2) states, under the heading Appeal of Speaker's Ruling, "Mr. Speaker's ruling shall not be subject to appeal or question except by substantive motion upon proper notice having been given.". I rule that proper notice was not given in this case. The motion is therefore, out of order.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege, when I tried to give proper notice of such a substantive motion, I was ruled out of order last time, on the basis that I didn't do it immediately following the Speaker's ruling. Mr. Speaker, you can't have it both ways.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, on . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic on a point of order.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I stand to make a motion that this House now adjourn, in order to consider this matter with more reflection, and I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: A motion to adjourn is always in order.

It is moved that the House now adjourn to consider this matter further. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells and call in the members. I will allow five minutes for the members to come in.

[The Division bells were rung.]

[3:43 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: While the bells are ringing, I wish to appraise the House of the provisions of the rules, "when a roll call vote . . . is demanded by at least two Members, . . ." which it was, ". . . Mr. Speaker or the Chairman shall order the bells to be rung and shall then direct the Clerk to call the roll when he is satisfied . . . " - that is the Speaker - ". . . that all members wishing to vote are in their seats, . . .". It is up to the Speaker then to decide when the members who wish to vote are in their seats, providing that ". . . the bells shall be rung for a reasonable length of time and in no event for longer than one hour.".

I propose that a reasonable period of time, under the circumstances here, would be for not more than five minutes.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, we have members of our caucus who are in different parts of the city and may well find it difficult, depending on traffic, to make their way here in five minutes. If you cause the bells to stop ringing in five minutes and the vote to be taken in their absence, then you, sir, are not doing a good service to this House. You are causing them to miss their right to partake in this vote.

MR. SPEAKER: The rules still state that when the Chair is satisfied that all members wishing to vote are in their seats, providing that the bells shall be rung for a reasonable length of time and, in no event, for longer than one hour, the vote shall be taken.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that we now adjourn.

Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[4:34 p.m.]


Mr. Donahoe Mr. Barkhouse

Mr. Russell Mrs. Norrie

Mr. Leefe Mr. Downe

Mr. Holm Dr. Smith

Mr. Chisholm Mr. Boudreau

Ms. McDonough Dr. Savage

Mr. Archibald Mr. Gillis

Mr. Taylor Ms. Jolly

Mr. McInnes Mr. MacEachern

Mr. Mann

Mr. Casey

Mr. Gaudet

Dr. Stewart

Mr. Harrison

Mr. Abbass

Mr. Adams

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. O'Malley

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Rayfuse

Mr. Richards

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. M. MacDonald

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

Mr. Carruthers

THE CLERK: For, 9. Against, 34.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried in the negative.

If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Finance. (Applause)

HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, over quite a considerable number of days, we have heard arguments in debate of second reading of this bill entitled, by the short title, the Gaming Control Act. It is a stage of the debate whereby we debate in principle the elements of that bill as they are brought before the House.

As I have listened through the debate, and I do not mean to suggest at any point that it was repetitious, there were, on many occasions, individual points raised and impressions left by the honourable members of the Opposition with which I took serious issue. Many of them were minor items. Some of them can be categorized and grouped and I intend to do that in my final remarks, but some of them were very specific.

I started, at the beginning of this debate, to jot down notes on all, but that quickly became a very difficult task. Suffice it to say, though, Mr. Speaker, I want to deal with just a couple that are very fresh in my memory to give an illustration of what I feel were some of the unfortunate misimpressions that may have been created throughout this debate at second reading.

I refer to them simply because they are fresh in my mind, having heard the comments from the new honourable Leader of the Third Party, as he rose in his debate on second reading. They are not essential, I suppose, to the bill and, in most cases, I would ignore them. But I just want to use them as illustration of the tenor of some of the debate which occurred and, I think, unfortunately, left a lot of misimpressions with the public of this province.

The honourable Leader of the Third Party, in his remarks at one stage, was off in great eloquence describing the horrible deal we are making here by the government taking only 20 per cent of the gambling proceeds, presuming 80 per cent is going offshore somewhere. Now I do not know what the final arrangements will be on any contract with the successful proponent. Perhaps he does and if he does, I would be interested to hear, after December 15th.

Mr. Speaker, there was a clear impression left there that look, here were Nova Scotians only getting 20 per cent of the revenue and all the balance of it going elsewhere. That is not the case. That will not be the case. I do not know what the shape of the final arrangement will be, but I will undertake to that honourable member and to anyone in the House, that when the final proposal comes to this government, if our share is only 20 per cent, we will not accept it, we will turn it down flat. (Applause)

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: A question, Mr. Speaker. I wonder if the honourable Minister of Finance would entertain a question. He has made a very helpful and important statement just now, that if the proposition that comes to his government is that the government cut is 20 per cent, that that would not be acceptable. I wonder, for the sake of all Nova Scotians, if the minister could indicate to us, as he closes debate here on second reading, what is the minimum percentage cut that the government would be prepared to accept and consider to be in the best interests of the Nova Scotia taxpayer?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to negotiate the details of the agreement with a proponent here in the House of Assembly, in advance of that negotiation taking place by the Casino Project Committee. I think the honourable member is fully aware that that would not be the case.

But, Mr. Speaker, it is clear, and this is the point I was trying to make in referencing the comments of the honourable Leader of the Third Party, there will be nothing approaching that impression that was created in debate. You see there is never any justification of where the honourable member gets this figure when he throws it out as fact in these debates.

Now, Mr. Speaker, just another little point, surely the Opposition believes they had their fair share of this debate. Surely after weeks they would not mind if I made a few comments. Another small point in the honourable Leader of the Third Party's comments; he indicated almost with disdain dripping from his lips that the Gaming Control Commission would be appointed by the Cabinet. Heavens, appointed by the Cabinet. May I beg, Mr. Speaker, who else should do the appointments? Should the honourable Leader of the Third Party do the appointments? That is why we were elected, to make those appointments.

Now, Mr. Speaker, he goes beyond that. (Interruption)

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Would the honourable member entertain a question?

MR. BOUDREAU: I would like to finish my comments first and we will see at the end.

Mr. Speaker, I can't understand, just a few comments on the honourable Leader of the Third Party's presentation and the backbenchers leap to his defence. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, let me refer to another little item, about the commission being appointed by the Cabinet. Isn't that terrible, the suggestion? Somewhere it is also suggested that this is contrary to some commitment we made in the past. I mean in any good sense, this commission has to be appointed by no one other than the Cabinet. But the honourable Leader of the Third Party goes beyond that and says, and this was a suggestion made by some other Opposition members, including some people in the Official Opposition who should know better, that somehow this appointment by Cabinet would interfere with those commissioners in the exercise of their responsibilities.

Now let me suggest to you that the Utilities and Review Board functions very much as an independent body. I don't know who appoints them, perhaps it is the Executive Council.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Could I ask that the Minister of Finance accurately inform this House and Nova Scotians on this point. It is exactly the URB model that he and his government should take a very careful look at because they are appointed on time specified basis and cannot be influenced by the Cabinet and ripped out of there because the government is not happy with their rulings.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member knows full well that a dispute between two honourable members as to facts does not constitute a point of order.

The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: I am encouraged again, Mr. Speaker, to see the backbencher leap to the defence. But let's analyze what she said because she wanted to intervene in my comments, I take her intervention very seriously. She says - I guess she admits that the URB is appointed by Cabinet, I think that was clear in her comment and that is the situation here. She says they are appointed for a term. Well, I think anyone who reads the legislation will understand that the commission is appointed for a term. The term is five years, read the legislation. But you see, you can understand just with the type of intervention we have heard over the last two minutes while I have attempted to make these comments, you see why I haven't gone down the list of corrections because we would be forever dealing with that. (Interruptions)

[4:45 p.m.]

So, let me deal with some of the main thrusts of the arguments made by the Official Opposition and the Third Party with respect to this legislation. The first grouping of arguments were that there wasn't a sufficient study done, we wanted a specific type of study done and that study hasn't been done. And in fact, we have said right from the start that no specific study had been commissioned by the Nova Scotia Lottery Commission or the government prior to the decision that we made.

We indicated quite clearly that we based our decision on the actual experience of six provinces, the actual experience, the best evidence. We also relied - and when I say we I am talking about staff, I am talking about government - we relied on some studies which had previously been done. We relied on the analysis of various individuals whose judgment was brought to bear on these operations. And we made a specific commitment in the bill that studies of the social impact would be ongoing under the auspices of this particular commission, the gaming Control Commission.

Now, I don't believe there is any study that I became aware of over the last months and year or so that was secret. I don't think there were any secret studies done by any other provinces. I think they were all a matter of public record. As a matter of fact, I had difficulty trying to figure out exactly what type of study it was that they wanted. Now, at one point I think it came down to the point where they wanted something that had two columns in it. It had a column where you add up the economic benefit and it had a column where you add up the social cost; you come to two totals and you weigh one total against the other. Apparently, at one stage, that is what I thought they were looking for.

I kept waiting for one of the Opposition members to get up and say, look, here is a study, this was done in Saskatchewan, it does what we say should be done; here is the column on economic benefits, here is the column on social cost. I didn't see one forthcoming, not from Ontario which instituted casinos under an NDP Government, not from Saskatchewan which instituted casinos under an NDP Government, not from British Columbia who has an NDP Government in place, not from Manitoba. I didn't see those studies. I was beginning to despair that we would ever really understand exactly what kind of study it was that they wanted done, in advance of any shaping of our casino proposal.

As the information in the debate drew to its conclusion, I was very fearful that we wouldn't really have a member rise in their place and say, let me tell you what kind of a study we want, here is an example of a study, exactly the kind of study we are talking about because what you have done is not sufficient. That came in this House in this debate and it came from only one member and that member was the honourable Leader of the Opposition.

I have to give him credit, he was the only one who stood up and said, I can give you a specific example of the type of study we wanted done because we did it. That was last Thursday in the debate and he was referring to the decision of the former government to remove VLTs from the corner stores. He said, the difference between your government and our government was that we did a study, we did the study of the social impacts. The type of study that we want you to do, we did.

He said, with some degree of sarcasm, you people can get a hold of that study. Why don't you go look? So you know what, Mr. Speaker, I did, I went to look. I have that study available for anybody who is interested so that everybody can understand exactly what kind of study it is that the honourable Leader of the Opposition wanted us to do before we made our decision on casinos.

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to suggest that there is any hypocrisy involved here. I think it is rhetoric rather than hypocrisy that we are talking about. The kind of study that was done, let me see now, it was not tendered, I can tell you that much. (Interruptions) Let me go on. It was done in about three or four days, primarily by the public relations firm retained by Atlantic Lottery Corporation and the government. There is absolutely no evidence of the kind of study that the honourable member required of us in his debate.

I do not ask people to judge that on my comment, I ask people to review the study and see what kind of study it was that the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition wanted us to do because that will be made available. I will undertake to table it here in the House for anybody who wants to read it.

Mr. Speaker, what we want to do in Nova Scotia is not introduce gaming. We are not introducing gambling to the province. I will deal with that in a little more detail when I sum up. What we are doing is trying to very strictly regulate two facilities 270 miles apart, one in Halifax and one in Cape Breton. That is what this bill is to do, in part. But that is only a small part of this bill does.

Do you know what this bill also does? It controls a $100 million bingo industry in Nova Scotia which has never been adequately controlled before and it is controlled under this bill. (Applause) It controls a $85 million VLT industry, legalized by the former government, as it has never been controlled before. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, we are confident, while we recognize that there are legitimate concerns out there on the part of many of the citizens of this province, as we move forward, both with the legislation and otherwise, that those concerns will be met and relieved.

That was one area of this request for the mythical, the illusive study that is never quite right, never quite enough. But, Mr. Speaker, there was a second area which drew a lot of comment and that was the provision for exemptions in the bill. First of all, there is a clause in there, Clause 37, which deals with some exemptions. The honourable Official Opposition, in their comments, raised outrage at the possibility of such exemptions. Just inconceivable that such exemptions could even be contemplated. (Interruption)

I just have to point out, yes, that in the privatization of the Power Corporation, in their dying days, that same government, in that Act, Section 10, that former government exempted the transaction from the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act. That was to get around conflict of interest provisions. They exempted it.

Mr. Speaker, Section 17, they exempted that transaction and the resulting corporation from the Income Tax Act. Section 11(3), they exempted it from the Pension Benefits Act, that same group. (Interruptions) It gets better, if I can keep the floor. Section 22(2), what do you think that exempts it from? It exempts it from the Planning Act. (Interruptions) But there is more, yet. The following subsection exempted it from the Building Code Act. Again, I want to say that this is not hypocrisy on the part of the Loyal Opposition. This is rhetoric in my view, Mr. Speaker. It is not hypocrisy.

[5:00 p.m.]

Now, but let me tell you the difference between the exceptions. You heard the Opposition get up and just rail at the possibility of the viewplane being destroyed and all sorts of horrible consequences resulting from this exception that we have give. Do you know what this bill has that those other exceptions did not have? It has, Mr. Speaker, this clause and I read it Clause 37(1). "The operator of a casino shall comply with all building codes, safety, construction, fire, environmental, health and other standards under any enactment.". (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, that sort of legislative commitment, to abide by these regulations, to abide by these standards, was not in the legislation I just referred to of the Power Corporation. That was just a general exemption. What does this mean? We were quite frank in what this clause meant and that the public hearing aspects would not be permitted to be used to subvert the purpose of the bill and we were straight upfront with that. Let me read that again, "The operator of the casino shall comply" now what does that mean? It means shall comply. I think it is pretty clear, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nobody could have a hearing to determine if they do comply.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia will have to judge whether or not all of the arguments advanced by the Loyal Opposition were advanced in good faith and with any degree of reason. Those two areas are ones that I make reference to.

There was a reference to the regulations, and my goodness there was a great deal of moral outrage on the Opposition benches on the fact that the regulations were not here with the bill. Mr. Speaker, this former group, and I do not want to harken back to their dark days which they have clearly forgotten, used to govern by regulation. We had bills come in here that were almost consisting of two lines, the short title and the permission to make regulations, by the former government. What we have done, and I do not remember it ever happening when I stood in Opposition in this House - maybe the honourable Leader of the Opposition will correct me - but I do not ever remember regulations being circulated and made public in advance of being passed by Order in Council. I stand to be corrected, that perhaps happened, but I do not recall it.

We are being open with this process and we will continue to be open with the process and we will meet the commitment we made, in fact, that these regulations will be made public in advance of their passage. Very unusual, as I say, I do not recall it ever happening.

There were other comments, and I do not want to go into them in too much detail, with respect to questions. For example, there is no appeal. You cannot go to the courts with this bill. Mr. Speaker, if there is any violation of natural justice in any of the processes outlined in this bill, there is always an appeal to the courts. The honourable Leader of the Opposition is a lawyer, and I am sure that he is fully aware that that is the case. Again, perhaps in the full bloom of his rhetoric, he may have forgotten, but that is always the case there.

Mr. Speaker, for years in Nova Scotia we have permitted various forms of gaming: bingo, lotteries, VLTs. As a matter of fact, if you look at the volume, the casinos will not rank with those first three options. Many people in this House said these gambling processes were not sufficiently controlled, and they were right. There are a lot of abuses which have occurred from time to time across this province and we have not, in the past, the former government and indeed ourselves when we took up, we have not done a good enough job enforcing these regulations. Well, that is one of the things that this bill will do. We will put, first of all, the regulatory framework in place and, secondly, we will put the resources with that regulatory framework to see that these areas of gaming are properly regulated. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, let's bring a degree of intellectual honesty to this debate. The honourable members get up and they talk about gambling and the effects of gambling. I see no evidence on Opposition Day of a resolution coming forward to eliminate gambling in Nova Scotia. Now maybe that is coming. Maybe next Wednesday that will be their position. It certainly has not been their position to date. As a matter of fact, opposition to casinos was not the position of the honourable Leader of the Opposition until he held his finger in the wind.

Mr. Speaker, it is estimated that, by a recent study, Canadians spend $1.3 billion annually gambling in Las Vegas and Reno. I have not seen the justification for that. It is like a lot of other things I have seen in these studies. People tend to make a flat statement, but that is a statement that I have read, $1.3 billion gambling, Canadians do. I suspect there are a few Nova Scotians among that group that spend that money.

Mr. Speaker, part of our process will introduce, narrowly, two highly regulated facilities which will give those people, first of all, an opportunity to gamble at home if they choose. That $1.3 billion that goes out of the province or out of the country, some portion of that will remain. In a casino such as the one in Sydney, for years and years, ever since I have been a member of this House, I have heard consistently from people in the Sydney area asking, what can we do to have visitors to Cape Breton spend an extra night in Sydney because they have not been in any great numbers. If we do not increase the number of tourists to Cape Breton by one person, and yet, a percentage of those that do go there spend that extra night in Sydney, then the city will benefit.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal of debate, and I do not intend to add to it at any greater length. We can only indicate that the government will take very seriously its responsibility to meet the concerns expressed by the citizens of this province. We will proceed to establish two highly regulated casino operations and to better regulate the rest of gambling in this province.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading of this bill. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 120.

A recorded vote has been called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[5:04 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: . . . this is a very important vote and we have members coming . . .


MR. SPEAKER: We have been through the Rules of the House and the rules give the jurisdiction of a reasoned length of time to the Chair. You indicate that there are members from the Loyal Opposition that are on their way to the House to vote. Then we will make it a 15 minute ringing of the bells.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the rules were clearly made with the intention that up to one hour would be permitted for members to get to their seats to vote, no more than one hour.

MR. SPEAKER: I have read the rules. I am quite familiar with the content of the rules. I am quite familiar with the term, a reasoned length of time. We will begin ringing the bells. If the members are here when the Whips are satisfied, we will hold the vote.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[5:05 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[5:51 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]


Mr. Barkhouse Mr. Donahoe

Mrs. Norrie Mr. Russell

Mr. Downe Mr. Leefe

Dr. Smith Mr. Holm

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Chisholm

Dr. Savage Ms. McDonough

Mr. Gillis Mr. Archibald

Ms. Jolly Mr. Taylor

Mr. MacEachern Mr. McInnes

Mr. Mann Dr. Hamm

Mr. Casey

Mr. Gaudet

Dr. Stewart

Mr. Harrison

Mr. Abbass

Mr. Adams

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Rayfuse

Mr. Richards

Mr. Surette

Mr. White

Mr. Holland

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. M. MacDonald

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. Hubbard

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

Mr. Huskilson

Mr. Carruthers

THE CLERK: For, 34. Against. 10.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

Ordered that is bill be referred to the Law Amendments Committee.

Before proceeding with any further business, I think we have two introductions.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition on an introduction.

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased in concert with my colleague for Halifax Bedford Basin, to have the opportunity to introduce to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all members of the House one of the two co-chairs of an organization which is working on the celebrations to mark United Nations at 50. The United Nations will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. In Canada the events surrounding that will run from October 1994 until October 1995. There is an Atlantic Regional Youth Outreach Committee established. Both chairs of that committee are here with us this evening. I have great pleasure in introducing one of those two co-chairs, Mr. David Redwood, who is in the east gallery. David is from Halifax, he is a 1994 university graduate here in the city and is now working, he tells me, when I asked him whether he is still at school or working, he said no, I work for the Minister of the Environment. He is working for the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps.

I would invite you, Mr. Speaker, and all members to extend a very warm welcome to David Redwood who is working on a very significant project in connection with the United Nations 50th birthday. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

MR. GERALD FOGARTY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and my thanks also to the honourable Leader of the Opposition for an opportunity to announce the other chair of this vitally important UN Committee.

Jennifer Gray is a resident of my riding of Halifax Bedford Basin. She, too, is an Atlantic regional representative on the UN at 50 Youth Satellite Committee. Jennifer is a graduate of Dalhousie and a key person in the organization by youth of programs through which university and high school students can mark this 50th Anniversary of the UN - 1945 to 1995.

So would the members of the House please welcome Jennifer Gray to our House of Assembly. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 121 for second reading.

Bill No. 121 - Special Places Protection Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: First of all, I, too, would like to acknowledge the presence of Jennifer and David in the gallery. I had the distinct pleasure before I got up to speak to have some time speaking to them about their project and their enthusiasm for the project guarantees its success, Mr. Speaker, so I, too, would like to congratulate the two co-chairs for the Atlantic region.

The bill we have before us, Bill No. 121, is an Act to Amend Chapter 438 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Special Places Protection Act. It is a very modest amendment, in fact it comprises a single sentence. The Act itself was to come up for review in full in the spring and it still will. This particular amendment was forced upon us by a very strange set of circumstances, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to inform the House about. The Special Places Protection Act requires anybody who is searching for fossils to get a permit. If, with that permit, they find a fossil which is significant to the province for study, we have first bid on it and they can't sell it outside of the province until we evaluate it and find out if, in fact, it is valuable for the geological history of Nova Scotia.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, we recently discovered that somebody had "accidentally" found the most significant fossil that has been found in Nova Scotia in the last 40 years, but it was found without permit and therefore, the Act does not speak to it. So, as a result, the staff of the museum had to very aggressively negotiate, in order to purchase this. We almost lost it from the province so, as a result, we want to include all fossils that are found by anybody looking for them, if they are significant then in fact we have first bid on it. The reason for it is obvious as all members know. If, for example, offshore there was a sunken ship examined by a diver and something significant to the province was found we would have first bid on it.

[6:00 p.m.]

We have brought this to the House of Assembly to get this loophole closed so that if there are additional accidental findings of fossils the museum people will have a bargaining position from which to start.

The particular fossil that I refer to, and this is important for all members to know, tax dollars did not go to pay for it. Private donations provided the resources so that we were able to buy this significant fossil. After we purchased it, a university from Quebec asked us if they could examine it as well. The good entrepreneurial spirit of the museum, we invited their experts down to examine it for a price. So, as a result, much of the cost for this particular fossil was paid for by another university in another province. Again this speaks very well to the museum staff, the research when it is finished will belong to the Province of Nova Scotia. As a result, we were able to get the best of both worlds in dealing with this particular find.

It did point out a significant problem to us that anybody who, for example, sees that they can circumvent the requirements for a permit, can basically go and explore, for example, the fossil cliffs up in Parrsborro. If they find something significant, as they do not have a permit, they can simply declare that it was accidentally found and it would be outside the purview of the Act.

With the passage of this bill, the Act will speak to that circumstance and as a result, we will have first dibs at this. I would mention to all members of the House that the museum branch of the Department of Education, neither they nor myself as minister want to own all the fossils in the Province of Nova Scotia. This speaks to the extraordinary circumstance, where we have a fossil of scientific meaning, something that is absolutely important and is required for our study of our natural history.

So, it speaks to that. It will not require new permits because the Act already requires the permit. It only says that anybody who accidentally finds a significant fossil, must bring it to us for a first look, an examination and we get first bids. As a result, we can keep significant things from leaving the province. So with that, I move Bill No. 121 for second reading.

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

MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my comments will be brief. I think the bill is a helpful one. Some members will be aware that I had (Interruptions) even some members of my own caucus might suggest that even I am in the fossil category. That aside, I was about to say that in an earlier incarnation I had the opportunity, as you may be aware, to spend almost eight years as the Minister of Education. During those eight years I came to understand that the museum system, which is a part of the responsibility of that department, and this is absolutely factual, is considered to be one of the crown jewels of the public enterprise and Public Service in this province.

I say that because for over eight years I used to go to federal-provincial meetings at which museums and heritage and historic matters were on the table and on the agenda. Without question at each of those meetings somebody from some other provincial jurisdiction would make positive and complimentary comment on this province's system of museums and historic houses. They are, believe me, the envy of not only this province, the envy of the country.

So, when the Minister of Education rises, as he does tonight, in this House to address a matter which further enhances and expands the capacity of what is already a truly professional museum system and which further enhances and strengthens legislation which the government of which I was a part had the honour to introduce here, the Special Places Protection Act. I am not hesitant at all in these circumstances to compliment him and to support the comments which he has made.

I agree with him that it should not be the role and function of his department, and indeed the museum system, to be the repository of every single piece of fossil or palaeontological artifact that might be found. It certainly is, in my opinion, appropriate that the Nova Scotia Museum system be the repository of those which have significant historic or scientific value.

The find which prompted the difficulty which, in turn, generated this piece of legislation was and is of very real historic significance. I listened with great interest and great pleasure to a number of learned scientists talking about the historic value of the finds made and the minister is absolutely right. They are of such a nature as to warrant the kind of amendment which he makes here.

I support the bill. I think it is an important added protection and as, all members are aware, I am not so sure, I think the minister when he spoke talking about finding things out on ships and so on, I think we might get into treasure trove legislation when we are out finding things under the water on ships. When we are talking about finding fossils as we do in the Pugwash and Parrsboro and many places, particularly in the Cumberland County area, this legislation is important and will in the long term prove to be of real value.

As I support the bill, I want too to pay a compliment to, if I may, Candace Stephenson and her staff at the Nova Scotia Museum who I think continue to operate a museum and historic houses system in our very small province under very tight budgetary conditions which the government of which I was a part imposed upon them and, to an extent, I think, under similar tight restrictions which the present government imposes upon them. But they do a tremendous job and a tremendously important job. I support the legislation and recommend it heartily to the support and the favourable consideration of all members of the House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, in my tradition fashion of brevity, I will not go on at much length during the debate this evening on the bill. I want to say to the minister, quite honestly, that I very much support the piece of legislation that has been brought forward. I echo the sentiments that were expressed earlier by the minister and by the Leader of the Conservative caucus.

These are important finds. They are important historic finds, and, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to, as I said earlier, go on at any great length. I want to ensure the minister that certainly we, in our caucus, will be supporting this legislation for the historic and for the scientific, and I might also say there are some possible potential economic benefits too as those who are involved both in the search, the scientific, and just in fact come to see the fossil remains that are attracted.

I cannot help but getting in the one shot and that is that they will probably attract more tourists to Nova Scotia to see the fossil remains, Mr. Speaker, than the casinos that the government hopes to attract. I want to, again, say that I congratulate the minister for bringing forward this very important piece of legislation to protect these finds for Nova Scotia. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise in my place and support Bill No. 121. I remember very well when this Act was first introduced into this House. I occupied the seat that you are now occupying and the Minister of Education, now the Leader of the Opposition rose in his place and he introduced the bill not by the short title but by the long title and I had not been aware of the Act before and I can assure you I had some difficulty because the long title is An Act to Provide for the Preservation, Regulation and Study of Archaeological and Historical Remains and Palaeontological and Ecological Sites and that is a (Interruption) Yes, indeed, he managed to get his tongue around it very well but I must confess I had some difficulty.

The reason though I got to my feet, Mr. Speaker, is my riding abuts the Bay of Fundy and while we don't have the same quantity of fossils as you find further up the Bay of Fundy and actually down on the Bay of Fundy as well where the cliffs are much steeper, we do indeed have some fossil sites and I think they are pretty well-known to most of the people who live in that area. I don't have any difficulty with the bill but I do have perhaps some difficulty where people will not generally be aware of this Act. The public knowledge of the fact that if they find something that they think is a fossil and they decide to take it home may be of importance or may not be of importance. I think it is a shame that perhaps many (Interruption) Well, there is one of them right next to you, sir. It would be a shame if these fossils are lost in the future simply because people are not aware of the nature of their find and the value of their find to the history and to the museums of this province and other provinces.

I was wondering if the minister when he sums up can give any thought to perhaps how this knowledge can, that there is such an Act and that these particular objects are of value, as I say, to the museums of this country how the public themselves can be made aware of the importance if they find something that is a fossil to find out. I am sure it is not the intention of the museum's authority to take everything that is found, it is only those objects which are of significance and possibly of some value. I would like to see in some way this information made available to the public. When this bill is passed, I have a column in my local newspaper, the Hants Journal, and I do intend at a future date to write a short article on this and to bring it to people's attention because as I say I do know that while the finds in my area are not great some of them may indeed be significant.

I would also like the minister when he sums up and this does not bear directly on the bill but, however, in part it does; The Advisory Committee on the Protection of Special Places. When the Act was first passed the Composition of the Committee section read, "The Committee shall be composed of the Director, for the time being, of the Museum and ten other members appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister and who shall be representative of

(a) the Department of Education;

(b) the Department of the Environment;

(c) the Department of Lands and Forests;

(d) the Department of Mines and Energy;

(e) the Union of Nova Scotia Indians; and

(f) such other agencies, whether public or private, which the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister, deems advisable.".

I was wondering if on that committee there are people who, for instance, from Dalhousie University which I know has a Department of Palaeontology, whether or not there are those kinds of people on the committee who can make a quick but very necessary assessment of the value of finds by Nova Scotians.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the minister is proceeding with this bill and, certainly, I have no problem at all about it going through second reading. I think it is a bill that would find favour with everyone in Nova Scotia who is aware of the value of these objects to the museums of Nova Scotia and Canada.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, like my colleagues, I rise in support of this amendment. We, in Nova Scotia - and I suppose one could say, on a larger scale, we, in Canada - have not been as attendant to our natural heritage as we necessarily should. This is particularly true, I think, with respect to those aspects of our heritage which relate to fossil finds. In fact, it has only been in recent years that Nova Scotians have come to understand the significance of the fossil remains which are located here in Nova Scotia, for they are, indeed, not significant only for those of us that live in this province, but indeed they are significant on a global basis; not only to fulfil that interest that all of us have in knowing more about the past of our planet and, indeed, through some fossils, more about the past of our own species, but also in order to allow us to understand better the kinds of upheavals and climatological changes that this globe has experienced and what the resultant effect of those changes has been.

So, that with a greater degree of certainty, we can, by reading the fossil record of the past, better understand our recent past and our present with respect to geologic and climatological time and prepare us better to be able, insofar as one can, with scientific fact and scientific conjecture, to understand what may befall us in the future.

Those kinds of records lay out patterns; patterns, once established, can be interpreted and can provide us with that kind of sense of what we or, indeed, what our successors on this planet may face. It may help us as a species to be better prepared.

This bill, very clearly, will have the effect of giving governments the opportunity to exercise a much wider degree of enforcement with respect to the protection of palaeontological materials in this province.

Something I would like to understand better from this minister is this, we do not want an Act which is found to be not exercised so much in practice, as exercised in the breach. I wonder just how the minister would intend to ensure that the Act, once in place, the law being strengthened, he is going to lay out a more effective enforcement regime in order to ensure that the intention of the bill is met? Certainly, he should be able to help us in that respect by telling us just what it is the staff of the Nova Scotia Museum will be required to do after we pass this law, which they have not been required to do up to the point where this amendment was brought to the Legislature.

The long and the short of it is, what is the minister going to do with it once it is passed? I have no doubt that he can explain that to us and explain it to us effectively. Again, this is a good amendment. It is a necessary amendment. It is a wise amendment. It is one that will be welcomed by the greater Nova Scotian community and as a result of palaeontological finds, fossil finds, that we have had over the past few years, Nova Scotians are much more in tune with the necessity for this kind of legislation. I welcome it and I look forward to supporting it in second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate you acknowledging that I am still the member for Halifax Fairview because, as the result of at least one media reporting that I was stepping down as the member for Halifax Fairview, I have had a flood of phone calls asking for clarification because there seems to be some questions generated by that erroneous report.

AN HON. MEMBER: They wonder who the Tory is who is going to be running there.

MS. MCDONOUGH: Actually there were a lot of Tories and Liberals phoning because they were hoping it meant they were going to have a chance to have a run at my seat.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak briefly on this bill. It is a very tiny bill, a few short, well actually one line, an amendment to the Special Places Protection Act. I would have to admit quite freely that when I first read the bill, I didn't have the slightest idea what it really meant. I am pleased to have since been able to understand that this is, in fact, a bill that is entirely supportable, that I think really amends the bill to plug a loophole that could, in fact, if not attended to, result in the outflow of some very important fossil findings in this province, or other heritage objects, that properly ought to belong to the people of Nova Scotia. I have no hesitation, as my Leader has already indicated, to also say that as a member of the NDP caucus, I will be supporting this amendment.

The reason I rise to add a few words to what my Leader has already said is that it does give me the opportunity to speak briefly about what I think is a real treasure that we have in this province in the form of our whole museum system. I am not sure that a lot of people fully appreciate what a wonderful part of our tourist infrastructure, as well as our educational infrastructure, that the Nova Scotia museum system is that concerns itself particularly with this issue.

I know that I have, on many occasions, tripped across museum facilities in small communities that I did not know existed, that have really provided an opportunity to learn more about this province by exposure to the early history of a particular area, by exposure to some of the artifacts and historical documents and so on of different areas and, most recently, I had that experience, I believe I was in Maitland or South Maitland, where there is such a facility. We are privileged in this province to have a very fine museum system and a superbly competent museum staff who have been extremely creative and resourceful in making sure that we do preserve as much of our heritage as possible.

I have to add to that, Mr. Speaker, I thought some of the words surrounding the introduction of this bill were potentially hopeful in terms of the possibility of the government rethinking some of its other policy directions. I accept and support absolutely this bill on its merits and without reservation, but when I hear that what is really behind this bill is an interest and concern to make sure that we don't end up with unregulated, commercial collecting of fossils so that they end up finding their way into international markets and their future possession, ownership and so on be dictated by international global economic forces, then I really decided perhaps we should examine this and cling to this tiny little bit of evidence that this government may be willing to rethink some of its other policies in the same terms.

It has been cause for great concern in this province that this government and the previous government seem to have embraced in a rather uncritical, wholesale way, the notion that the public interests of this province would be better served if we just commercialized most everything. If we just take a lot of those things that now are in the public sector and we privatize them, we deregulate them and we say, boy the public interest is best served if we just leave these things to the market place. If we just let the economic forces and the almighty dollar dictate the distribution and the handling and the organization and the delivery of a great many things that are very important to the lives of Nova Scotians.

I choose, because I am an optimist by nature, and I suppose also because it is my fervent hope that the government is going to apply the same kind of thinking to its approach to a lot of other things. I could not help but think, as appropriate as it is, and I have no hesitation about supporting this bill, for us to be concerned about what happens to fossils that get removed from the province and put out there on international markets and to be concerned that if a ship sinks that Nova Scotians ought to be able to lay claim to it because that is really important to Nova Scotia, no question, that is in the public interest.

How can a government that is wholesale privatizing and deregulating so many other things that are important to Nova Scotians have such difficulty recognizing the same principle as it applies to, for example, the whole range of public services? It seems to me that if it is in the public interest for Nova Scotia to retain some control over these things then it surely can also be recognized that it may, indeed, be in the public interest not to start privatizing health services left, right and centre, educational services. Not to be charging down the road of the free trade mentality that says market forces will be the better way to decide whether jobs leave this province in a wholesale fashion.

I am sure you remember that when this government was in Opposition and the Official Opposition was the government of the day there was a debate that went on around free trade and there was a special committee set up to examine what the impact would be on Nova Scotia if we entered into the free trade deal that was going to result in a lot of jobs leaving this province. That committee travelled around the province.

HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I just wanted to point out to the House that the member opposite seems to be straying quite dramatically from the topic at hand.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I have been following that very closely and I really cannot agree. I think one of the principles of the bill before us is the principle of government ownership of certain things that are dear to our society and I think it is along that vein that the honourable member is pursuing her thought process. I do not think there is a point of order.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I, indeed, appreciate your ruling. As a rookie backbencher, my first day on the back bench, I do not always know what the limitations and boundaries are on the debate in this House.

I am glad that you do recognize that there is a principle involved here. It is a tiny little bill, but there is a principle involved here and the principle is that this government in this tiny bill is embracing a very important principle. That is that such heritage objects as fossils and, I guess, sunken ships ought properly to be in the hands of the people of Nova Scotia. What I am saying is, will the government not use the opportunity that this gives them to apply the same principle to a lot of other important decisions that it is going to be faced with in the future and, hopefully, to rethink some of the decisions that have been made, over the last couple of years especially, that have embraced wholesale the notion, that the public interest is best served by just throwing these things into the international arena and letting decisions be made on the basis of those global economic forces.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely the reason that the NDP caucus took a minority position and, in that case, an opposition of one, on an all-Party committee, when eight Conservatives and Liberals of the day embraced and endorsed the Free Trade Agreement. That was the result of an all-Party committee of this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I agreed with the principle that the honourable member for Halifax Fairview was espousing. I think it is legitimate that she espouse it and speak on it as a principle. When she strays to very specific debates that have been resolved in this House in the past, I think she is straying from the principle involved in the bill and I would like her to contain her remarks.

MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly accept your ruling that I was straying from the specifics of this bill. I do not know that it could be said I am straying from the principle and it is indeed true, that this addresses some matters that were dealt with by previous legislative committees and by this government's legislation in the past. But I could not agree, sir, that these matters have been resolved. They have not been resolved for the benefit of Nova Scotians. Because as far as I am concerned, the number of companies that have been forced out of business and have been forced to leave Nova Scotia - the same way those fossils potentially would leave Nova Scotia - has not exactly solved the unemployment problem for Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member certainly, by virtue of the fact that she has moved back one seat, has not lost 14 years of wisdom and experience. I am certain she is well aware of the fact that she has drawn a very long bow. I would ask her to shorten her bow just slightly and return to the principle, which I think was an extremely important principle, and I would ask her to restrain herself.

MS. MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, let me try to shorten the bow. I think that was the suggestion and let me say that the principle is the same about trying to maximize our resources in this province for the benefit of Nova Scotians. And recognizing that, in many instances, whether we are talking human resources, whether we are talking natural resources - in this case we are talking heritage resources - that in a great many cases, the public interest is best served by retaining some degree of ownership and control over those resources for the benefit of all Nova Scotians. Because if we fail to do that, as this bill recognizes in its basic principle, then there can be the loss to Nova Scotians of some very important resources.

We do not want to lose our fossils from this province. We do not want to lose, I guess, the opportunity to lay claim to sunken ships. But I have to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that on the hierarchy of human needs and in terms of the priorities of Nova Scotians, they would be exceedingly pleased if they thought that this bill, and it's preoccupation with this important principle, was a signal that this government is equally concerned about the outflow of jobs from this province. That this government is prepared to be equally concerned with the outflow of natural resources, for example, that go unprocessed in this province, the pulp that goes across the border and down to the southern states to be processed by someone else, because we fail to continue to maximize it. Not in all cases.

I see the horror on the face of the Government House Leader who himself has been associated with the processing of forestry products in the province. But he knows better than most what a serious problem it is, that we allow for our important resources to flee this province because of the dictates of the economic forces.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to make this simple point, because I do believe that in terms of the import for Nova Scotians, yes, people can recognize this important principle as it applies to the possible out-migration of fossils and sunken ships, but far more important than that would be if this was a signal that the government has come to its senses and that the haemorrhage of deregulation, privatization and the resulting loss of jobs to Nova Scotians and resources is something that this government is prepared to rethink.

MR. SPEAKER: I appreciate the honourable member's dissertation on Dr. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Look, I really appreciate the opportunity to join in this debate and discussion on this very important piece of legislation. It is actually more important than one might suspect at first glance, when you see that what this is is a signal that the government is going to insist that jobs stay in Nova Scotia. I had not realized there was quite that much in the one line, but when you look at some of the jobs that are leaving here - and at home they are constantly mining gypsum and sending it out on boats, hauling that down to Florida and other places in the southern United States - this bill indicates that we are going to stop that practice and start making wallboard in Nova Scotia. I realize that in Point Tupper, Richmond County, the Louisiana Pacific is using local gypsum . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought that was Georgia Pacific.

MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . and newsprint and magazines and such, mixing the two together and making a wallboard far superior to any regular gypsum board.

This is really a significant development. I know that at the new Infirmary Hospital one of the requirements was that for wallboard purposes and uses that they do go to Point Tupper and purchase the wallboard they are making there. This wallboard is much stronger than gypsum; in fact, if you were to use it in your home, and you certainly could, if you were hanging a picture you could drive a nail and they don't pull out as they do in normal gypsum. So we really do have some expertise in keeping the jobs in Nova Scotia and we should be using our native gypsum more to make wallboard. I have always thought that. As I drive into Halifax daily, I can see the train cars leaving full of gypsum. It would be nice if we could have more manufacturing of wallboard in Nova Scotia. I have always been in favour of that; we have never been able to really succeed.

A little closer to home, this bill is really our heritage and the importance that, as Nova Scotians, we all attach to things that have gone on before. This is dealing particularly under the museum, one of the real heritage museums is certainly Ross Farm because it just doesn't show people how they lived 150 years ago in Nova Scotia, with the oxen and the barrel-making and the old home they have and heating with a stove and cooking on a wood stove, but it gives the people the opportunity to really live in the culture they had 150 years ago. That is a treasure we can all be proud of, that the Department of Education, through the museum, is maintaining so that future generations will be able to see how their ancestors and forefathers lived. Really you can't over-emphasize the importance of remembering where we came from.

Mr. Speaker, eco-tourism is one of the things. It is kind of a buzz word but this bill fits right in with eco-tourism. We heard from the KLM people who fly the Dutch airline; we heard the other day from the German tourism people that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is discussing a possible application of the bill, the content of the bill. I suppose if one were to leave that kind of leeway in a debate, that would be infinite, it would be limitless.

The honourable member knows that we are discussing the principle of a bill. I don't wish to continue to interrupt, I wish to honour the member's privilege. But, similarly, I want the member to honour the privilege of all other members of the House and speak to the principle of second reading of this particular bill. While you have a broadness of scope, you also have limitations.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, I will try to narrow it down a little bit but there are thousands of people that are interested in what has gone on before. I remember when I was first elected to this House a long time ago, we used to have a member who he sat over there. He came from Cumberland County, Parrsborro, I guess, and Joggins and all those good places, Bud Hurley was his name.

One of the first things Bud did when he arrived here was he brought in these little clay representations of an animal that roamed that area of Nova Scotia millions of years ago. It was an ugly little devil, it would sit in the palm of your hand and it was all mouth. It had sharp teeth.

MR. SPEAKER: I was just wondering, are there any still around?

MR. ARCHIBALD: No, they have been dead for several millions of years. (Interruptions) Do you remember the name of it? This little thing that Bud Hurley brought us, remember? Anyway it was the first animal they discovered in Nova Scotia that had a backbone in it and it was crawling on the ground. So that tells you how many millions of years ago that it was. (Interruptions) Well, I am trying to remember the name of it and I can't and I am asking my colleagues here. (Interruptions) My colleague from Pictou has one in his office and he uses it for a pencil holder. It certainly shows the interest that people have in these little animals and things that were roaming around millions of years ago.

In my own constituency, there are teaching aids that Mother Nature provided. The university students go and they wander the shores along Cape Split and Blomidon and what they see in the ground are footprints in the sand, I bet the Minister of Health when he was at Acadia probably went over, footprints in the sand that somehow through evolution and so on were frozen in time. They look like they are cement but actually they are footprints in the sandstone of this huge dinosaur-type animal that walked along the shores of the Bay of Fundy. As the tides come in and goes out over the years, new footprints are constantly found. There are thousands of people that will come to Nova Scotia to view these things because you can't see them just anywhere, you have to come here to see them.

I think this bill is excellent because it does make Nova Scotia available to expanding the horizon of the people who live here. The people who come here to visit to look for history, the ancient history of the world and see how we evolved over time. I think it is pretty darned important because Acadia uses it for teaching the students. You can't find this anywhere else. We have to tell people about it so that they will come from other areas of Canada, other areas of North America. Indeed they will come from Europe just to look at these things so they can have a better idea of where perhaps we all arrived from.

So, eco-tourism is tied in so tightly, it just goes with this bill. I think the Minister of Education was wise to bring in this bill because it is going to mean that our treasures stay in Nova Scotia where they belong. That is so important today because when you look around and you see what has happened in Africa, what you see has happened in the Far East, when you read about the problems they had in Greece, the very foundation of civilization, and how for generations and generations and centuries people have been just going over and taking what really did not belong to them and they have been taking the treasures that should have stayed in Greece. The temples that were built, those massive columns, people smashed them. They did not realize the true value of them.

[6:45 p.m.]

This government, through this bill, realizes the value of our history and we cannot be the way some of the less civilized generations were that went before us. We must treasure our past whether it be natural or man-made. So we have to look after our heritage and this bill does that, and I think that is a good thing. We can learn by the mistakes of others and all you need do is look at the earlier generations where people that came in really did not recognize the true value. It is good to see that Nova Scotians are recognizing the values of our natural history.

Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I will tell you I do support this and I am looking forward to further members of the House adding their debate and adding to the thoughts on why they really do support this sort of legislation. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

MR. JOSEPH CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I am inclined to agree with the honourable member for Kings North. He made pretty good sense in what he was talking about. I think this is very important to save these fossils and so on. I kind of got led astray when the honourable member for Halifax Fairview was talking about the fossils interfering with the manufacturing of pulpwood and the building of hospitals. I did not get the connection, but anyway, these fossils are very important. You see it every day on the Learning Channel on TV. I follow this quite closely.

In fact, I heard a story the other night about this fellow standing on a street corner in Greece. He was selling skull, and he said it was the skull of Socrates, the great philosopher. You know what I mean? One fellow came along who was an historian, he took a look at it and he said, no way. He said, Socrates did not pass on, when he got poisoned, until he was a grown man. But the young fellow said, well, this is his skull when he was a boy. (Laughter)

I take great exception to the honourable Leader of the Opposition, what he said, you know, that he is claiming fossil status in this House. To me, he is just a juvenile delinquent. (Laughter)

There are many fossils in the outer reaches of the Bay of Fundy, in fact, right off Digby Gut and Georges Bank, in particular. They are dragging up, and that was supposed to have been inhabited many millions of years ago and they are finding all kinds of things. I think, Mr. Minister of Education, that we should get word to the fishermen because they are bringing this stuff up and, you know, they haul up tons of rock and debris from the bottom every day. There are fossils mixed in with this and they throw it overboard. They do not realize or do not stop to think how valuable it is, and Georges Bank especially.

My father was a scallop fisherman and he was fishing off Digby Gut and he hauled up an elephant tusk six feet long. He brought it home. We had it in our home. The next day, he was out fishing and he brought up a cup that was off the HMS Ariadne, a ship that was in and out. He piloted a British battleship into Annapolis and they had thrown it overboard. This is not a fossil, but it is of some significance, I would think. So he said to his mate, tomorrow I will get you the saucer, and by gosh, he did. He piloted the ship up there. The handle was on the cup and neither one of them was even cracked.

Anyway, I am telling a group of people in Digby all about this. Now they said, well, where are these artifacts that your father had? Well, he brought them home, I said, and the next day our house burned and all this was destroyed, which was true. I also said to those people, if you cannot believe your MLA who in the heck can you believe. Thank you. (Laughter)

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is the dictionary, Brooke?

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, following the honourable member is like trying to follow Elvis Presley in his heyday and we heard about Elvis here the other day.

Mr. Speaker, I rise briefly in support of the bill, An Act to Amend Chapter 438 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Special Places Protection Act. Under the explanatory notes, it states that, "This Bill provides that heritage objects that are seized from a person who does not hold a permit issued pursuant to the Act or from a permit holder who has contravened the conditions of the permit become the property of the Province.".

I think it is very important. I support this bill and as I said, Mr. Speaker, my comments will be very brief. You know here in Nova Scotia, we do have some very real treasures. For example, in the beautiful Stewiacke Valley, in Upper Stewiacke, we have a museum and there are many artifacts there. I bet you a lot of the members in the House tonight have never been up to the beautiful Stewiacke Valley and toured that museum. I would encourage all members to go up to the Stewiacke Valley and just take a little tour through that particular museum in that community.

Mr. Speaker, in the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley, of course, we have the Musquodoboit Valley Bicentennial Theatre and Culture Centre. While there are not very many artifacts and things of that nature, the building itself is certainly something for the eyes to behold. It is a very beautiful building. Upstairs there is an old style theatre and, of course, downstairs is a hall. Below that again - it is three stories, of course, as you understand - there is an old bowling alley. The young fellows, I remember when I was a youngster, used to go in that bowling alley. The kids used to set up the candle pins by themselves. So I just thought I would throw that in.

Mr. Speaker, in the communities of Carrolls Corner and Dutch Settlement, as the honourable member for Hants East knows full well, not so very long ago, the workers at National Gypsum found the skeletal remains of a mastodon and there was a great discussion between the communities. Just think if somebody had found that and did not turn some of the skeletal remains over to the province, we would have never known about that treasure.

The communities, by gosh, they jumped right on the bandwagon. Milford, over in Hants East, too, the three communities, Carrolls Corner, Dutch Settlement and Milford, they all got into a bit of a competition. It was a little bit sardonic, but the people really supported each other and they came out with T-shirts showing the mastodon and every community laid claim to it. But you know, by golly, where it is in my constituency, I really think that the mastodon was actually found in the community of Carrolls Corner. Just going by the road signs, it is on the Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley side of the river, so Hants East cannot lay claim to that, Mr. Speaker. So that is just a little bit of recent trivia I thought I would bring up. So whether it is sardonic or not, we are not sure of that, but it was truly an historic event.

You know, Mr. Speaker, not so terribly long ago, I had a load of lumber on my tri-axle trailer and was on my way to Lawrence, Massachusetts. After I unloaded in Lawrence, Massachusetts, I phoned the dispatcher and he said go up to Plymouth, New Hampshire and put on a load of gypsum. I had passed through Plymouth, New Hampshire before, but I had never really been into the community. So I get in about 5:30 a.m., it was just coming daylight, and lo and behold, in Plymouth, New Hampshire there is a wallboard plant and the gypsum comes from National Gypsum in Milford, Carrolls Corner, Dutch Settlement, where have you. You never know, but I may have been bringing back some of those mastodon parts in another form. We don't know that, but that is just a very remote possibility.

Well, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about fossils and heritage objects. I took the time to look up the word fossil. You know a fossil is obtained by digging, and it is found buried in the earth. The term is applied to the remains of animals and plants belonging to past ages. I think it is extremely important that we preserve bones, anything that came from our past. Because it is important that we, in this province, lay claim. We are justified in supporting this bill. The term fossil is applied to remains of animals and plants belonging to the past ages and found embedded in the strata of the earth. That is where some of the fossils are found, so I think it is extremely important that we protect our heritage and culture. Our culture here in Nova Scotia, our heritage here in Nova Scotia is second to none. We have so much here.

I understand the rationale and certainly the reason and justification for this bill. When I was just a youngster, I found an 1861 British half-pence and I am not sure and perhaps maybe when the minister does his brief summation of the bill he can tell me whether I should have turned that over. I would not want to be contravening this bill. This was embedded in the earth, an old 1861 British half-pence.

It is extremely easy for me to support this bill and so in closing, Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important that we preserve and treasure our natural assets. Thank you, very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I rise today because I wish to compliment the minister in bringing in Bill No. 121 because, I think, while it is a short bill it addresses a very important subject that all Nova Scotians are interested in.

I know that in my constituency of Hants East matters of fossiling are very important along our shore, the coast across from the Parsboro Shore which is perhaps the most noted of all the fossil areas in Nova Scotia. Right across the bay, of course, in Hants East we have similar findings and, I think, it is important that we legislate and gain control so that important artifacts do not leave our province and go elsewhere. It is something that is relatively new in the sense of a few recent findings, it is exciting, I know the people of my constituency find it is exciting. You have to understand that the recent findings of the mastodon bones that were referred to earlier by my friend, along the communities of Milford, Carrolls Corner and Dutch Settlement, which is known as the Milford Mastodon, as it has been referred to earlier.

The t-shirts that are out, I have a couple of them at home, I myself live in the community of Milford, and Milford, of course, shares the Shubenacadie River, on the other side as my friend for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has pointed out. (Interruption)

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member entertain a question. I am wondering if the honourable member for Hants East is aware that Mr. Bill Hay, a certainly well-known entrepreneur up in the Truro area is going to erect a mastodon at the Stewiacke exit? A big mastodon is going to be erected at the Stewiacke exit and since we are on this subject matter I am just wondering if the honourable member was aware of that.

MR. CARRUTHERS: Actually, I was aware of that. I had heard rumours to that effect and I look forward to that because the erection of such a mastodon and any kind of an erection such as that is something, I think, that all of the communities would benefit by. I think it was pointed out by one of the earlier speakers that there has been a friendly competition in the area between Stewiacke, Milford, Carrolls Corner and Dutch Settlement as to who exactly who lays claim to the findings.

This is a very important finding, it is unique and I must say, as the earlier speaker pointed out, my friend, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has pointed out it is a type of friendly competition, it is good for the community, it is good for all because it brings interested people, not only from Nova Scotia, but tourists from all over Canada and other places come to see the findings that we have had. I cannot go without saying that the t-shirts states the Milford Mastodon, I can only tell you that.

The interesting thing is that while I don't consider myself to be quite the fossil that some members in this House are, I have to point out that Milford is in Hants East and also in my learned friend's district of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[7:00 p.m.]

I think it is important to also point out that recently there has been some talk when that district wanted to join mine and I can understand that, but it is not just because of the mastodon that has come up. Mr. Speaker, we make light of the matter but I wish to just emphasize my support for the minister in bringing this bill. I think that all members of the House recognize that Nova Scotia is very unique in some of the findings here. It is important to keep it home, it is important to develop it, not only for our good will across the continent but also to keep some good, honest, long-term, full time jobs in our communities.

It is a step in the right direction. I compliment the minister and I thank you for the opportunity to raise it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: If there are no further speakers, the honourable Minister of Education to close the debate.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: First of all, let me thank all honourable members for their contribution to the debate.

The Leader of the Opposition made comments about the staff of the museum. I can tell him very clearly that it is one of the things that this previous government - maybe by accident - left in very good shape, Mr. Speaker, and continues to do very good work.

The member for Hants West has asked two questions. First of all, we are doing more advertising in the museum branch and this will be one of the things we will tell people about. Our hesitancy before any advertisement of the way the situation was, we were fearful that people would get involved in the business without permits but now we can speak louder and more clearly about this.

Likewise, he asked about palaeontologists, Mr. Speaker. The museum branch is talking to the universities to form a joint appointment between the museum and one or more universities, so we can have access to a palaeontologist to address exactly what is best. That is being done now.

The member for Queens talked about regimes, enforcement regimes. It will be no different now because this does not affect enforcement. What we need to do now and what we did previously is the same thing, except it would be applied in a wider area. That is basically what has happened.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview spoke about this as a good example for the government. Well, I can assure her that the government is guided by the principle of regulations when necessary but not necessarily regulations. What we are doing is mixing, and I refer to this very particular case to the honourable member, not only is our approach to fossils positive, but it is also entrepreneurial. We are protecting the culture but, at the same time, what we are doing is making money and we are not embarrassed by that, so we are doing both things at the same time. When appropriate, we will do whatever is required. Protecting the public interest doesn't necessarily exclude the idea of being entrepreneurial; the two things should be placed side by side.

The thing that the honourable member forgets is it is not just one thing, you have to take both sides of it and balance it, Mr. Speaker. I thank all honourable members for their contributions and I move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 121, the Special Places Protection Act. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 122.

Bill No. 122 - Workers' Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour. (Applause)

HON. JAY ABBASS: I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak on Bill No. 122, which furthers this government's plan for reforming Nova Scotia's workers' compensation system and ensuring a future for this vital program.

The new Workers' Compensation Act introduced on November 9th will form the foundation of a new system that is fair to injured workers, affordable for employers and secure into the next century. The reasons for reform are clear, painfully clear. Nova Scotia's workers' compensation system is in serious trouble, both its finances and its administration. As I am sure you all know the problems are immense. The board has a $460 million debt, the system has only 28 cents of every dollar needed to pay the long-term cost of benefits already promised to injured workers now in the system. We have the most poorly funded system in the entire country.

This massive, and growing, unfunded liability poses a very real threat to the continuation of payments to injured workers. The burden of this debt and the escalating employer assessment rates that have resulted also threaten Nova Scotia's economic prosperity and Nova Scotian jobs. But, Mr. Speaker, while the unfunded liability is a serious problem it is not the sole rationale for reform, there are many other reasons. First, the legislation does not meet the needs of injured workers or employers. The current legislation based upon an Act written 79 years ago is old and outdated. It even makes reference to teams of oxen, there was no such thing as a chain-saw back then.

In various court decisions judges have commented on its very sorry state. As well, the current system perpetuates inequities that leave some workers nearly destitute while others, through no fault of their own, are overcompensated. Another serious problem is the backlog of well over 1,800 workers now waiting appeal of their cases. These problems did not happen overnight and they will not be solved overnight but they will be solved by this government. This government is acting today to ensure that injured workers now and in the future receive the compensation they need.

For years, Mr. Speaker, workers fought for a system to compensate them for work place injuries and now we are fighting to save that system. Our options for dealing with the problem are limited. As I have said before it would not be fair to ask workers, employers, or taxpayers to carry the weight of the problem alone. The equitable answer is for everyone to share in a long-term solution to the problem. I believe we have come up with the most balanced solution possible. We are putting an end to the rough justice of the old system and compensating workers more fairly, in a way that reflects their own individual circumstances. We are rebuilding the system so that it works for those injured workers in the greatest need. (Applause)

Since I released the discussion paper entitled, Proposals for Reform, early last month I have met with many concerned Nova Scotians. I have met with representatives of injured worker groups from metro, Halifax County, from the Pictou area, from Cape Breton and the South Shore and Valley regions. I met with labour representatives from the Federation of Labour, the Cape Breton Building and Construction Trades Council, the United Mine Workers and others. I met with business organizations, the two Opposition Parties, at least briefly, and many other concerned groups. These people carried the concerns of many injured workers and employers to the table and numerous people responded to our discussion paper. Right now in this House I would like to thank everyone who took the time to meet with me and offer suggestions.

It is important to note that consultation had been ongoing long before our most recent round of talks began. Many discussions and debates were needed to enable the government to make the decisions we have made. For example, the Workers' Compensation Board and its Board of Directors, consisting equally of labour and management representatives, made a number of recommendations for reform, many of which did form the basis of a new legislation. In 1993, the board engaged in public consultation on the calculation of benefits and from the very first day I walked into the Department of Labour I have been discussing workers' compensation issues.

We have struggled long and hard to come up with a balanced solution to the crisis facing the system. The issues require immediate action. Injured workers and employers have been waiting long enough and they can't afford to wait any longer. Our plan to reform workers' compensation does a number of things. It ensures the security of payments promised to injured workers and it ensures fair benefits with a focus on those injured workers in the greatest need, those having long-term physical impairments.

One of the key principles adhered to in the new bill is that of earnings replacement by which workers are compensated for earnings lost as the result of a work place injury. This system is in place in virtually every other part of Canada and it is widely recognized as being fairer than the old clinical rating system, also unkindly known as the meat chart system. Under the clinical ratings scale system, there were situations in which workers could be left destitute by an injury that prevented their return to work but could nevertheless receive only low compensation. On the other side of the coin, there were situations in which workers could return to work and, at the same time, receive a fairly generous benefit.

The principle of earnings replacement ensures that injured workers who are in the greatest need receive fair compensation for the income they have lost. The new bill takes this a step further and fulfils the Premier's election time promise to establish a dual system of benefits. This dual system not only compensates for loss of earnings but also provides injured workers who suffer a permanent injury with a lifetime award. This recognizes economic loss in addition to loss of enjoyment of life. The dual system is something that labour lobbied for as the system they wanted to see in Nova Scotia and the government is pleased to now bring forward this version of a dual system. The new system will ensure that those injured workers with the greatest loss of earnings and greatest physical loss receive the greatest compensation.

During consultation, many people voiced concerns regarding the restructuring of the appeals process. After listening to and reviewing these concerns, I have decided that additional input is needed and I will consider options put forward at the Law Amendments Committee and bring those to my colleagues. This is an area of great importance to injured workers and I want to be absolutely sure that the procedure works properly and that injured workers never face a backlog like the one we have today.

Our plan also ensures that the system is affordable to employers and contributes to an economic climate supportive of business and job creation. We have established a financial plan that is intended to lead to a financially responsible and stable system. Injured workers and employers should not have to face this type of crisis situation again. We are creating a system that works for injured workers and for employers and we are ensuring a future for workers' compensation in this province. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that reforming the Workers' Compensation Act is just one step in reforming the entire system. Sound legislation will complement other valuable initiatives currently underway. For example, government is also working to revise occupational health and safety legislation and regulations to create safer, healthier work places for Nova Scotians.

Recognizing that in the past, injured workers and employers have encountered problems in their dealings with the board, the Workers' Compensation Board has been restructuring philosophies, policy and services. Today's focus is on speeding up the processing of claims, safe and early return to work and overall better client service for injured workers and employers.

Working together today with injured workers, employers and other concerned Nova Scotians, we will build a system that is fair to injured workers, affordable for employers and secure into the next century. I would look forward to hearing comments from the opposite side of the House and I would look forward to having summation statements afterwards. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour on an introduction.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to introduce to you and to all members of the House, through you, the 5th Cole Harbour Cub Pack from my constituency of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. There are approximately 18 girls and boys ranging in ages from 9 to 11, together with their Akela, Patrick Burke and other leaders, Theresa MacIsaac, Kim Walters and Sandy Lauzon. So I would ask all members to afford them the usual welcome and I would ask them, please, to stand. (Applause)

[7:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, indeed, very sincerely, it is a pleasure to rise and have the opportunity to speak to second reading of Bill No. 122.

Mr. Speaker, I should say at the outset that the caucus to which I belong and myself will be supporting this legislation moving through second reading. (Applause) I think we all recognize the difficulty in framing workers' compensation legislation. There is nothing that government does legislatively or by regulation or by policy which arouses more hackles than changes to workers' compensation.

There is no doubt that part of that has come about, Mr. Speaker, because, as the minister has already said, the present Workers' Compensation Act goes back to 1917 or somewhere in that area. So it is a very old Act and it has never been rewritten. It has been tinkered with and amended and, in consequence, we have a chaotic jumble of legislation that is incredibly difficult to read, for the worker and for the employer. On top of that, and most dangerously, it is a piece of legislation that is very much open to interpretation and to challenge in the courts.

In consequence, particularly of just recent date, we have had some very severe problems with regard to rulings by the court on the interpretation side of the Act. That has brought about, as I am sure the minister is well aware, to the last three or four Ministers of Labour, some very large problems.

Mr. Speaker, having said that we support this bill going through second reading, I want it clearly understood that there are parts of the bill that I do not agree with and I don't think my caucus members agree with. There are some parts of the legislation that is before us tonight that do have to be changed. I think the minister is aware of that because he spoke a few moments ago about the fact that he has not finalized what the appeal process will look like in the final legislation that passes through this House.

I know that the minister is aware that when this legislation gets to the Law Amendments Committee, there will be numerous groups, I would imagine probably more than he anticipates, who will be showing up to bring forth to the Law Amendments Committee their reservations with certain aspects of the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I know that I cannot go through the legislation clause by clause, but I would like to point out to the minister, in the time available to me tonight, some areas that I think he might like to take a look at and some things that, perhaps, might guide him in moving amendments to this legislation as we move along.

Mr. Speaker, I think the first thing is in the definitions. There are some definitions in here that, to me, arouse a lot of questions. I am speaking about on Page 2, at the moment, where we are talking about collateral benefits. I am wondering if the minister really means that income tax refunds are part of the collateral benefit? It would seem to me that taxes paid in a given year probably reflect taxes paid in the year previous to that again. So that in reality, income tax refunds, in one year, might make a difference, but for a long-term benefit, I would think that the income tax refund should not be connected with the actual amount paid, or else it should be amortized over a longer period of time.

I refer also, Mr. Speaker, to - and I will be referring to this throughout the bill - actually where he speaks of dependants. I am not sure exactly whether we are getting into same-sex benefits in this bill. I do not know whether it is the minister's intention that is the way it should be, but I think it is a very important concern and it is one that I would like to know exactly what the benefit is, whether or not it does just apply to normal spousal relationships or whether it applies within the same-sex benefits that they have moved to in Ontario.

I am also eager to learn how the minister intends to treat the benefits paid to the Westray miners. This also falls into the definition portion of it. They, I believe, would fall within the Hayden timeframe which I believe is 1990, if I am not mistaken. I think it was March 1990. So are the Westray miners, do they fall into the post-Hayden timeframe and, if so, are they only entitled to the type of benefits that are forthcoming from the bill for somebody injured or killed after that particular time period?

For instance - and we will be getting into this later on, too - the death benefits payable under the new bill do vary considerably from the benefits that were paid in the past. They are not positive, they are negative in nature generally speaking. In other words, less money accrues to survivors of those killed on the job now than did heretofore.

I am interested, also, Mr. Speaker, when we speak, in the definition section, about suitable employment. There is no definition within the definition part of this bill that defines what is suitable employment. I would suggest that is something that may be a judgment call, but at least there should be something in the definition section which would point out what is suitable employment.

Another thing, before I go any further - and I spoke to the Minister of the Environment about that when he brought his bill forward - this bill is very similar to the Environment Act that the minister brought forward and it is very similar, in point of fact, to the Elections Act. These are Acts that are used by a lot of people, more than the average Act. One of the things in that kind of legislation, I think, that would be most helpful would be an index. I do not think there would be any difficulty coming up with an index and it would certainly aid both employers and employees who use this bill. Mr. Speaker, as you well know, sir, even MLAs use it on at least a daily or weekly basis. So it is very nice to have a bill where you can look up a word or a section and you know automatically what page to go to.

On Page 4, we talk about what a spouse is and we are still not sure whether or not that is a same-sex relationship or not. Also, we would like to get more information on pneumoconiosis and how a worker will be affected with pneumoconiosis. At the present time, Mr. Speaker - as you would be well aware, and I am sure all members from Cape Breton are quite aware - a miner who is drawing a pension with pneumoconiosis is quite entitled to go back to work without any loss of salary but, because of loss of lung function, is able to draw a benefit.

It would appear to me that under this bill that we have before us, that is going to change. I am also interested as to what happens if the miner goes back to work and his employer demands that that person not work because their lung function might deteriorate further. I think that is quite possible under this bill.

The minister is shaking his head, perhaps I should explain that again. A miner goes back to work and the employer of that miner feels that silicosis or pneumoconiosis or whatever, that that miner's condition is deteriorating. It is my understanding that the employer can now tell that individual to cease that particular occupation. That would be a financial loss for the person concerned. I would like to know if that is the intention of the bill or perhaps it is not.

In Part I, which deals with workers' compensation, it talks about the scope of the bill. Now, Mr. Speaker, I must confess that I am a little surprised that the minister hasn't really told us who is covered under this bill. We know that farmers are not covered but are there other groups not covered or do we now have universal coverage for everybody who employs more than one or two persons? We don't really learn that from the bill and I think it is probably an omission simply because of the way in which the bill was drafted, perhaps. I certainly could not locate anything that told me whether or not, for instance, those who are employed in banks or insurance companies or working for architects, professional engineers or any of the professions, for instance, that are presently not covered are compulsorily covered under this bill, whether or not they will be covered under this particular piece of legislation.

At the bottom of Page 5, Clause 3(3), Mr. Speaker, it speaks of, "A class of employer prescribed pursuant to subsection (2) may include a class of employer employing fewer than the prescribed number of workers.". What are the prescribed number of workers? It is not actually delineated in the bill. That would be something that I would think should be in the bill.

On Page 7 of the bill, Clause 5(4), "The Board may, by regulation, determine the minimum and maximum earnings of the members of the volunteer fire department for the purpose of calculating the average earnings of the volunteer fire department pursuant to subsection (5).". That is not important and I don't want to get into the details. However, what really interests me, Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, is we have never had a minimum in the Act before with regard to volunteer fire departments and I was wondering why we now have a minimum?

A person working in a volunteer fire department, as you know, we ascribe a wage to their time that they actually spend within the service. It would be quite possible for a volunteer in a volunteer fire department to have only been on the job only for two or three days and be injured, et cetera. I don't exactly see why we have a minimum. It would seem to me absolutely proper to have a maximum but not a minimum. I thought that perhaps the minister might take a look at that.

Mr. Speaker, I am going through the bill here and I must say that I think the subheadings are excellent in this bill. They cover the subject very well. The only problem is, if you pick up the bill as a whole, it is a little difficult to find the particular clause.

On Page 10, Mr. Speaker, we talk about the power of the board, by regulation, to be able to exclude any class of personal injury or occupational disease from this particular part of the bill.

[7:30 p.m.]

I was wondering whether or not there is a going to be a Part A to this bill. The old Act had a Part A and I believe that described the various ailments that were covered. This bill does not and, again, I would ask the minister sometime to tell us whether or not there is going to be a Section A and, if so, whether it will be part of the Act or will it be part of, perhaps, a policy of the board that would lay out the list of particular occupational diseases that will be covered. In fact, there is a whole clause on Page 10, Clause 12 and other attending subclauses that give the board a tremendous amount of power with regard to occupational diseases. It is very much open to the discretion of the board whether or not an occupational health problem is going to be covered under this particular bill.

It is my understanding, also under the present Act and this is Clause 17 of the bill, where it talks about the board or an employer with the approval of the board may from time to time in writing require any worker employed by the employer to undergo a medical examination for the purpose of determining whether or not or to what extent the worker is affected by a disease or an injury.

It was my understanding that was automatic that the employer had the right to ask for that medical examination. It appears under the new bill that is now at the discretion of the board. In other words, the employer applies to the board to have their doctor or their specialist examine the person to determine the nature and extent of the injury.

Then we get into the section on the permanent-impairment benefit. I think the minister is drawing a pretty good line, actually, between the permanent-impairment benefit and the earnings-replacement program. This was always one of the sticky points to try and get, or continue, that process. For instance, a person who lost a finger and was unable to play tennis. That is important to the worker. The worker has lost a finger or two fingers or something and cannot play tennis any more. He or she has lost a certain amount of enjoyment of life.

That is one side of the equation and the other side is what effect this has on the person's ability to earn a living. Taking the fingers in consideration again, they might be a computer operator or something so that they are no longer as fast as they used to be and perhaps, not as valuable an employee as they used to be. There are two different things. You lose your enjoyment of life for your lifetime, you lose a certain amount of your income for a period of time until you would normally retire. I think that this bill covers that rather nicely in that the permanent-impairment benefit continues right through the person's life whereas earnings-replacement stops at the normal time of retirement.

Just jumping ahead a little bit. Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could have a little quiet please. I am having difficulty, I know the minister over there is industriously typing this up on his laptop and I am glad of that because I think it is very important. Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is this, from the earnings-replacement program you take 5 per cent to set up an annuity at age 65. But, why do you take 5 per cent also from a permanent- impairment benefit which continues for life? It would seem to me that what you are doing is compensating for a loss of income which is right and that is the earnings-replacement program but on the permanent-impairment benefit it would seem to me that perhaps there is an over-compensation there in that you are paying a premium after age 65. I was wondering what the rationale was with that, perhaps there is some explanation left that I am not aware of?

I know that there will be a lot of people appearing in Law Amendments with regard to going to net average earnings and I don't want to get into that because obviously we have to come up with a formula that is going to produce an income for the injured worker comparable to what they were earning prior to injury. In some circumstances taking a percentage of the gross income did not do that, it meant that a person who was drawing a benefit was actually doing better financially than that person was doing when they were working so I am not going to argue too much about that but I am sure there were those who will and I will leave it for them to make their arguments.

I would also like the minister to advise the House on whether or not when you come up under your clinical rating system with a permanent-impairment benefit and your award will say 15 per cent as the award, does that 15 per cent take into account that there may be a progressive deterioration of the condition or what? Because we are told somewhere else in this particular legislation about appealing and I forget exactly where it is but we will come to it in a moment anyway so I will come back to that.

Mr. Speaker, a loss of earnings means what a worker is actually going to lose by reason of an injury that person has suffered. I notice that now we are moving into a system whereby we count, I can't find the section but I know it is around here somewhere, 50 per cent of their Canada Pension payments or Quebec Pension Plan payments and I think the legislation if I can remember correctly if I could find the area, talks about other benefits that the worker may receive at the discretion of the board or something to that effect. There are many workers who contribute to their own insurance plan. They make a contribution, they pay for it themselves and on receipt of that benefit as far as the income tax department is concerned if it is a disability benefit it is tax free. Nobody I would suggest really knows who has that type of insurance but it seems to me that in this bill we are going to try and determine what those benefits are and that becomes part of what is considered to be the income of the injured worker and, in consequence, their workers' compensation benefit would decrease.

I am sure the minister realizes of what I speak. Those plans that are paid for by a person on their own, are tax free and I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that they are beyond the realm of the jurisdiction of the Workers' Compensation Board. But the bill does, actually, I believe, if you read it carefully, state that those kinds of benefits will be considered as part of their earnings following the injury.

I am also interested, Mr. Speaker, in what is so magic about the age of 30? On Page 23 of the bill, Clause 46(1) talks about, "Where the Board is satisfied that a worker's average earnings before the loss of earnings commences do not fairly represent the worker's actual loss of earnings because of the worker's age, the Board may deem the worker's average earnings, to be an amount that it determines better reflects the probable earnings of the worker.".

Then we are told, in Clause 46(2), "Subclause (1) does not apply to a worker who had attained the age of thirty years on or before the date of the injury.". In other words, Mr. Speaker, what this is telling me is that a worker who is 30 years of age or more, is incapable of becoming more proficient and earning a greater income than he was before age 30. It would seem to me that is a very arbitrary cut-off figure and I would suggest that it is much too young. In fact, in today's world, we would hope that people would continue learning forever. However, I realize there must be a cut-off and I am just commenting that I think age 30 is much too low.

Mr. Speaker, I am at Collateral Benefits now, on Page 25 and Clause 49(3) is the one that talks about, "The Board shall reduce any earnings-replacement benefits awarded to a worker by any non-taxable collateral benefit the worker receives or is entitled to receive as a result of that injury.". That is the one that would seem to me that the worker is going to have taken into account, those private insurance companies.

Survivor Benefits, on Page 28, Clause 60(1), we talk about dependents of those who are killed are on the job. I notice that the dependent child benefit now only goes to age 18. The previous legislation was considerably better than that. It extended to the time that the child had finished his education, whether it be high school or university. I think it was up to a maximum age of 25 while attending school.

Mr. Speaker, before I forget about it and on another subject to do with workers' compensation, but one that I would like the minister to think about, is that if a person is not covered under workers' compensation and they are injured on the job and that person goes down to the local hospital and is treated at the hospital in the emergency department, et cetera, those expenses are paid by MSI. They become a cost to the public system that we have. If, however, another person was doing exactly the same job for a company that was covered by workers' compensation and they are injured, the cost of the injury is paid by workers' compensation.

Mr. Speaker, I, in truth, have some difficulty with workers' compensation paying for health benefits, in some cases because I think it is an unfair charge on the employer in that it costs more to treat a person through workers' compensation than it does through the MSI system. In other words, a doctor who is attending a person who is on workers' compensation is paid a certain rate. If he is attending to a person who is not covered under workers' compensation, he is entitled to a certain rate. This rate is less, that is the rate under MSI, less than workers' compensation.

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I do not quite understand why that should be so. It would seem to me that where the same service is being offered the Workers' Compensation Board should be charged the exact same amount. It applies very particularly to reports that are required by the Workers' Compensation Board. Those reports cost a lot more money to go to the Workers' Compensation Board than they do, for instance, for Ron Russell, private individual, who has to get a report for Canada Pension or somebody else. I do not see why that should be. I think that is probably an unfair cost on the employers of the province.

When workers' compensation first came into being, Mr. Speaker, it had nothing to do with income replacement or anything at all. It was simply a health benefit because we did not have universal health care at that time. It was put in place to ensure health benefits for the workers without the necessity of having to sue their employer. That was the original purpose of workers' compensation and it expanded like topsy. Anyway, I still do not see why in this day and age of universal health care why, in effect, the Workers' Compensation Board should be paying more for health care than John Q. Public. That is not in my notes here, but it is a point.

I was talking about survivor benefits, Mr. Speaker, and I was talking about the dependent child benefit, as I said, for children while attending school. I should not say children, for young people up to age 25.

Under the old Act there was a burial expense of $4,000 and that has not changed, although, I presume that $4,000 does provide a fairly reasonable funeral for a person. We paid, I believe, $29,000 under the old Act as a cash benefit to a spouse. When that was introduced into the House (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I find the background noise in here very noisy.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West has the floor. Other honourable members please allow him to continue his speech without interruption.

MR. RUSSELL: Thank you. Mr. Speaker. When we first introduced into this House, survivor benefits, we arbitrarily picked the figure of whatever it was, $29,000, I believe, plus the allowance for the children of the deceased to attend universities, et cetera, plus funeral expenses, transportation of the body, et cetera. There was a lot of criticism from the employer groups about the cost, but I think we have to remember, Mr. Speaker, if we put this in perspective, the number of deaths that we have in this province, due to on-the-job accidents, is quite low. I am going to take a guess at this, but I think it is something in the order of maybe 16 a year or something of that nature.

Westray, of course, was an anomaly, but I think in the average year there are only about, I should not say only, but because even one is too many, but the number normally runs around about 15 or 16 or somewhere in that area. In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, this program is not at all expensive insofar as survivor benefits are concerned. I think that when you think of the trauma and the stress, particularly when a worker who is a young person dies and leaves a spouse with a number of children, that it is not unduly generous to treat them with whatever the system can afford amply. I think the past financial benefits to spouses was somewhere in the vicinity of the right amount. At what time did I start, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: At 7:15 p.m. You are good for 25 minutes yet.

MR. RUSSELL: Thank you, I have another half-hour. I was wondering if I have to speed up a little bit, Mr. Speaker.

On Page 32, Review of Compensation is the section head. Clause 71, which I think is an important part of this bill. It talks about reviewing the compensation paid to an injured worker and they talk about a permanent impairment benefit in this particular clause. They say that if, in the opinion of the board, ". . . a change in the worker's condition that (a) was unanticipated . . .".

Now, Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago I was talking about when they come up with a permanent impairment benefit, do they anticipate a deterioration? This clearly would suggest that they do include a factor for deterioration in the condition of that person. So if the person has a change of at least 10 percentage points in the worker's impairment rating, according to the schedule established, et cetera, then they would take a look at it again. My question, I suppose, is, if you are anticipating a further deterioration, what kind of a fudge factor - if I may use that expression - do you put into the equation to come up with the final number? Perhaps that should also be spelled out.

I like the review period set up in this bill, Mr. Speaker. Just for the benefit of those who have not read the bill, Clause 72, "The Board may review . . .", the amount paid under an, ". . . earnings-replacement benefit at any time.". And then, Clause 73(1)(a), "once, commencing in the thirty-sixth month after the date of the initial award . . .", and, "(b) once, commencing in the twenty-fourth month after a review pursuant to . . . ", that 36 month review. I think that is a good way to put it because the person is on a schedule of review.

I note that speaking of the permanent-impairment rating on Page 33 of the bill, we speak about, in Clause 74(3) "Where a worker's permanent-impairment rating according to the rating schedule prescribed pursuant to Section 34 does not exceed thirty per cent, the Board may pay to the worker a lump sum in lieu . . .". Mr. Speaker, I think that is a very suitable way of treating that. In the past it was more or less at the discretion of the board whether or not a lump sum would be paid. The bill is now specific; it is saying if you have 30 per cent or less, you can pay it off in a lump sum. In many cases, that is much more advantageous to the injured person than receiving just a few dollars a month for a lifetime, which may be of no benefit whatsoever, whereas in a lump sum the person can perhaps pay down his mortgage, pay off the car payments or whatever, and at least get something concrete before he proceeds on with his lifestyle.

Now, Mr. Speaker, on Page 35, Clause 81 is the one where we come into silicosis and pneumoconiosis and all those other kinds of diseases or ailments that afflict people. For instance the people that were working up in the Camp Hill Medical Centre who complained and obviously suffered some ailments generated by the fact of the design and ventilation of that building.

Clause 81 says that, "The Board may deny a claim for compensation or reduce the amount of compensation payable to a worker where . . .", and it goes on. One of the subclauses reads, they may deny the claim or reduce the amount where "the worker has a medical condition that, in the opinion of the Board, requires the worker to be removed temporarily or permanently from working at a particular type of employment because the medical condition could result in an injury of the same nature as the injury in respect of which the claim is made;".

Now, to put that from Greek into English, what it is saying is if you have a claim against workers' compensation and you go back to work again and you are exposing yourself to that same environment and you have a recurrence of that particular ailment, the board has the right to deny that claim because you went back there to work. Mr. Speaker, that may be right or wrong but I think certainly insofar as the worker is concerned, it is probably wrong. It would seem to me that if the employer cannot improve the work place or if the disease is such that it is inherent, such as in the mining industry, then some different formula should be there. In other words, I don't think that they have the right to deny a person.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I see people in the gallery trying to follow the debate with their hands cupped to their ears so that they can hear what is being said. Would honourable members please maintain a reasonable level of decorum and silence so that the member can be heard.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am trying to be very calm, cool and collected because I think this is a good piece of legislation as I said before. But I do think that the dialogue that is going to ensue in this Chamber is going to be important to the minister because the minister, as I say, is going to have a certain amount of representations coming forward. I would just like to bring his attention to what I have found myself within the bill.

On Page 37, Clause 85, it talks about a worker who claims compensation pursuant to this part, et cetera, " . . . shall submit to a medical examination if requested to do so by . . .", and it lists a number of particular entities that can request that medical examination. It lists the Workers' Compensation Board, the Medical Review Commission and it also lists the worker's employer. Now, I have nothing against that whatsoever but, however, it contradicts what is stated in the occupational health section of this bill.

Re-employment, I don't know the number, this is where a person who comes back from an injury is capable of working but perhaps not capable of taking up their previous employment is now guaranteed employment under certain cases. Rather than take the very small firm that employs 5 or 10 persons which makes it incredibly difficult for them to take back a worker who cannot perform their original occupation because they haven't got the wide spread of various occupations available, the limit is 20 workers or more.

Then, it goes on in the last part of Clause 89 to say that this section does not apply to "(c) the construction industry, unless included by the Board by regulation.". I am wondering why the construction industry should be exempt. I know that they have cyclical employment opportunities dictated by our weather conditions in this country but it would seem to me that there are other industries that are also cyclical in nature and since the construction industry itself is one in which occasionally there are some rather major accidents and incidents, it would seem to me that one of the ways, perhaps, that some pressure could be put onto that industry and others like it, that they should be front and centre with their occupational health and safety procedures to guarantee safety on the job. I am just wondering, generally speaking, why the construction industry is not included in this particular clause. On that same page, Page 39, Clause 92(1)(a)(ii), we talk again about suitable work and we still don't know what the definition of suitable work is. I think I'm running out of time.

Mr. Speaker, under Medical Aid, I have already spoken about some of this, but I notice that Clause 105(1), "The Board may set a schedule of fees or charges payable for medical aid.", so that the board, I guess, goes into negotiations with the medical fraternity. It would seem to me the province already does this every year. Why not just tag along and pay the same as the province pays?

[8:00 p.m.]

We are getting, in this same section under Medical Aid, we get into the provision of personal care for workers and I would applaud that. I think that is something that is very necessary where a worker suffers an injury that prevents that person from carrying out the normal functions of cleaning the house and perhaps doing some chores around the house, et cetera, that the Workers' Compensation Board would provide some measure of home care.

On Page 43, Clause 109(4), it talks about, "The Board may establish a schedule of fees or charges payable for forms and reports.", this is from the medical profession again. The Workers' Compensation Board is again dealing with the medical profession separate and apart from the province and it would seem to me again that the charges for reports and forms, et cetera for the completion of documents should be the same for the Workers' Compensation Board as it is for everybody else.

Clause 116, I had intended to read this because this is the only part of the bill that I found just completely incomprehensible, Clause 116. There are four little subclauses to it and it talks about all kinds of things and there is one sentence here I think it has 64 words in it and I invite anybody to make any sense of it, I think that Clauses 116(1), 116(2), 116(3) and 116(4) should be completely rewritten to make some sense. It is just gobbledegook at the moment.

On Page 46, Clause 120(4), there is just one little subclause there that gave me some difficulty because I don't know why this eventuality would happen, and it says under Clause 120(4), "The Board may levy different assessment rates on employers in the same class or subclass.". I am just not too sure what we are getting into unless we are getting into performance rating, which the minister had said that he might be looking at at some time in the future. Maybe this means that we are getting into it sooner than we had anticipated.

Clause 132 on Page 50, "Every assessor appointed pursuant to the Assessment Act shall provide to the Board, . . .", that is the Workers' Compensation Board, at their request, "(a) the name and address; (b) the nature of any business; (c) the number of employees; and (d) any other information required by the Board, for all employers in every industry, except the farming industry, within the assessor's district.". I was wondering why, again, a farmer is exempt from that particular section?

Particularly, when it is considered that there are a number of farmers at the present time covered under worker's compensation, it is at their option to be covered. I am sure the minister is aware of this, but in 1990, whenever it was, that the last Act came forward, Bill No. 99, we were contemplating at that time that it would be compulsory for farmers to insure their workers under the Workers' Compensation Board and the farm organizations, all the major farm organizations at one of their conventions actually passed a resolution that they would not be adverse. They did not say they would be in favour, but they said they would not be adverse, to the expansion of workers' compensation compulsorily - that they would have to cover their workers under workers' compensation.

I was wondering, has there been a change in opinion by the farming organizations or has it been a decision made that we do not want the farmers insured under Workers' Compensation? I am going to run out of time, I am afraid. However, I would like to pass an amendment and get back on again.

Mr. Speaker, under Governance on Page 57 of the bill, this is Clause 151, which is a very important part of the bill, I would suggest. We are talking about what is the Workers' Compensation Board? The direction is that there should not be more than 11 persons appointed by the Governor in Council. The Governor in Council appoints the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman and then it goes on as to who else is going to serve on this particular board.

Clause 151(3)(d) says that the Governor in Council, " shall endeavour . . .", is the reading in the clause, ". . . to appoint equal numbers of members representing employers and workers.". I think one of the landmark things that have occurred with the Workers' Compensation Board is to have labour and management, if you will, or employers on that board in equal numbers. I know it makes for a difficult ship to run, perhaps for the chairman, because you have two sides that would have some difficulty reaching consensus on quite a number of major points that come before the board.

I have heard the argument that the reason that this may be in here is because the minister has difficulty finding labour union members to take a place on the board. I do not know whether that is true or not, but I have heard that. I would point out to the minister that while the unionized (Interruption) While I realize that there is a very large part of organized labour in this province, all workers are not members of unions. In fact, I would think there is probably slightly more who are not, than those who are.

Those people who we have representing workers, I do not think, necessarily have to come from the union. Certainly, the union should be represented on the board, but I would suggest to the minister that he not just endeavour, he actually go right ahead and make sure that he has them there because I think that is a very important part of the board and it lessens, I think, outside of the board itself, the conflicts that you have between labour-management and the Workers' Compensation Board.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to skip over a few things here because I have a couple of points I would really like to cover. On Pages 68 and 69, Clause 183 (5), "Any policy adopted by the Board of Directors may be retrospective or prospective in application and may be made retroactive to any date designated by the Board of Directors.". Then we go over to Clause 184 (5), which deals with regulations and we have the same thing, "Notwithstanding the Regulations Act, a regulation made pursuant to this Section may be made retroactive to any date.".

I think retroactive legislation is bad enough, but retroactive regulations, I think, are completely unacceptable. I don't know how you would get around that, but I would suggest to the minister that those are a couple of very dangerous clauses in the bill.

I have only a few minutes left, Mr. Speaker, and I do want to talk for a minute or two about appeals.

MR. SPEAKER: You have three minutes left, unless the member has unanimous consent to continue.

MR. RUSSELL: Give me another five minutes or so.

MR. SPEAKER: All right, five minutes.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate that. (Interruption) Well, I know you are hanging on my every word, Mr. Minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member permit an introduction while he is gathering his thoughts, and then he can have his five minutes?

MR. RUSSELL: Surely.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. JAY ABBASS: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to draw the attention of the House that Mr. Rick Clarke, President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, is now in the west gallery. So, perhaps we could give him a round of applause. (Applause)

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have just a few minutes and I thank you very much for the time. I would like to talk a little bit about the medical commission, with a coordinator as the chief honcho of that commission. I am not too sure exactly what the minister was talking about. When he had his discussion paper, he was talking about having a roster of medical practitioners from which he would draw to fill this panel. This is not in the bill in that fashion. It simply talks about having a panel of not more than three and that the coordinator could serve as a one-person commission if they were so inclined. I think that is very fuzzy. I think it should be rewritten much more specific. I think that to have fairness in the panel, that the panel should have some rotation and the doctors that are actually chosen for that panel be chosen by their peers, rather than chosen by the board.

Okay, Mr. Speaker, the last thing I would like to talk about at any length is the workers' advisors and talk about the Appeal Board. This bill does absolutely nothing for those 1,800 people who are sitting out there right now waiting for their appeals to be either heard or finalized. I think it is totally unfair to those people that are sitting out there right now to have everybody else being looked after under a different system, supposedly very speedily, where theirs carry on for goodness knows how long. At the rate things are going, we are looking at at least another couple of years before those are looked after.

I would suggest to the minister that there are ways that this can be done and it is not rocket science to cure it, I don't think. You only need a maximum of three people for a hearing, three panel members; maybe you can even go down to two. But, however, the chairman and the deputy chairman have to head up the panels, as far as I know, but there is nothing to stop you from having five deputy chairmen. Appoint some people. I don't care if you appoint them from your own list of people, that is fine, but get more boards out there and send them out around the countryside. Go down to Yarmouth, to the Valley, up to Cape Breton, get around the country and keep holding hearings until you get through the backlog and then hire them all. I don't think that is difficult.

[8:15 p.m.]

Insofar as writing up the opinions, good Lord, there are lawyers at Dalhousie University who would be delighted to do that. Hire a whole bunch of them but do something to get rid of the backlog in nothing flat because these people can't continue to wait. They are all going to die before they get any benefits under this system we have in place at the present time.

The business of setting up workers' advisors, I applaud that, Mr. Speaker, I think you are on the right track. I particularly like the fact that, for instance, the injured workers could set up an office, as I understand it. They could have their own legal or paralegal or any other type of specialist to help them. Great stuff. The unions on the job can do the same thing, as I understand it. I think that is a major step forward.

So, Mr. Speaker, all in all, as I say, the principle of this bill is good but there are a large number of changes that I would like to see made and I am sure other people will be bringing more to his attention. I look forward to this bill when it comes back into the Committee of the Whole House and we can tear into it clause by clause on the bill. I think basically it is good stuff, much better than what we have.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Before I begin I would like to also make an introduction. The Minister of Labour, when he recognized Mr. Clarke, forgot an important part of the Clarke family - Rick's wife, Judy, who should be congratulated because she probably puts up with a lot more than the Minister of Labour does, in terms of dealing with Mr. Clarke on a day-to-day basis. So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask all members to recognize Judy Clarke and welcome her to the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I really don't know where to start with this particular piece of legislation. I will tell you what, I am pleased that finally a piece of legislation trying to deal with some of the problems with the workers' compensation system has reached the Legislature. But you know what, that is about the only good thing I can find to say about it. This is the first administration in the last few years that has brought a piece of legislation in here since 1990 when Bill No. 99 came in.

Mr. Speaker, you undoubtedly are as aware as any of us that the workers' compensation system has been in a real state of limbo over the past number of years, as a result of a couple of court decisions. The problem is that even though this time has passed and even though the minister wants to congratulate himself, and his government colleagues are quite willing to congratulate him for having brought this in, that is not good enough. Let's look at the merits of this particular bill, this particular piece of legislation. Let's consider if what the minister says about balance is, in fact, real.

I have done that a bit, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to discuss what I think I have found, in terms of whether or not the provisions of this bill meet the test of what the minister has said time and time again since October 6th, that is that - and I quote from an article out of the Atlantic Construction Journal, and the minister said it and he used the same words here and he has used the same words in dealing with the media time and time again when he has talked about this bill. He says, "It wouldn't be fair to ask workers, employers or taxpayers to carry the weight of the problem alone. The equitable answer is for everyone to share in a long-term solution.".

Well, Mr. Speaker, I see workers paying for this system. I don't see employers contributing any more to the system. I see the government contributing between $4 million and $5 million a year to the system, but for what benefit? To keep the employer's assessment rate down from $2.64 to $2.54 for the next five years.

The people that are paying for the unfunded liability are clearly, and I will go through this in more detail, the people paying for this are injured workers. Anybody that has the unfortunate circumstance of getting injured on-the-job once this piece of legislation is enacted, Mr. Speaker, those are the people that are going to pay. They are going to pay in a number of ways. Right off the top, the change from 75 per cent of gross to 75 per cent of net. The reduction of up to 25 per cent out of workers' pockets.

You know, the three day waiting period that is being imposed is expected to save $6 million. Where is that money coming from? That is coming from workers whose injuries keep them off the job for less than 30 days and they will contribute to the unfunded liability three days of pay. Now, I do not know about you, Mr. Speaker, but I know if I lost three days of pay it makes a difference to my ability to pay my bills, and I think that goes with working people. With anybody else that has the unfortunate circumstances of being injured.

Where does this balance come from that the minister is talking about? What is the evidence that the minister has brought forward to suggest that there is balance here? Well, he said to us time and again that, well look, employers do not like it and workers do not like it. So, therefore, it is balanced. Well, you know, I beg to differ, Mr. Speaker.

We look at a little letter from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that was sent out under the signature of the Director of Provincial Affairs for Atlantic Canada, and I would be happy to table this. It says, "CFIB Recommendations," and it goes down through the whole list, "Benefits to replace wage loss only payable at 75 per cent of net to age 65 with an annuity to replace pension income loss.". Those were the CFIB recommendations. Government's reform proposals was effectively to do that, CFIB position, support, Mr. Speaker. Go right down the list, all the way down and there are two areas that the CFIB oppose out of 21 specific categories that they felt required revision and that the government responded to and has made revisions within this piece of legislation to the Workers' Compensation Board system. They opposed three of those. Let us look at what those are.

One of them is, "No payments should be made for loss-of-income or non-economic loss.". So they would suggest that the permanent injury benefit that the government has brought in is providing too much of a benefit to injured workers so they oppose that. Let us look at the other one. MAC, their position was that a maximum to be determined based on actual rate of increase of the average industrial wage. Inter-provincial recognition of employer contributions toward the maximum assessable earnings. The government's position was maximum assessable earnings to increase to $38,000 in 1996, $40,000 in 1997 and $42,000 in 1999 and they opposed that.

Basically, they supported everything right from the move from 75 per cent of gross to the elimination of survivor benefits for dependents, dependent children, of course the three day waiting period and it goes on. It seems to me that the community represented by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business here in the Atlantic Provinces, here in Nova Scotia, are pretty happy with the changes that the government has brought in.

We also have a similar document from the Construction Association of Nova Scotia. In fact, the matrix that the CFIB has put together in terms of recommendations and government proposals and positions is identical to the one that I just referred to in terms of positions word for word. So, the Construction Association is extremely pleased, I would suggest, the employers in the construction industry are extremely pleased with the amendments, the changes that the government is proposing.

So, what members of the business community are not happy and what aren't they happy with? Well, anybody that is unhappy is unhappy maybe that the government didn't go far enough. So what about on the other side of it? You have injured workers groups or organized labour or anybody else, how do they feel about it? Well, I have met with a few of those folks, I have talked to a few of those groups.

I will be referring a little bit later to a brief that was put together by the Halifax and District Injured Workers Association, they are not particularly happy with the amendments, the changes that the government is bringing in. Why would they be? This minister and his government has clearly decided that it is going to be injured workers and working people in Nova Scotia that are going to pay for the unfunded liability problem that developed over 25 years of mismanagement, not only by the administration at the Workers' Compensation Board but also by successive administrations, in other words by political decisions.

The minister, and it behooves me to understand where this comes from, but perhaps it comes from a couple of press releases I sent out some time ago sort of mocking the position that the Premier had taken during the election about ensuring that there be a dual system in terms of compensation and that the burden not be placed squarely on the shoulder of injured workers who weren't responsible for it, that is what the Premier said during the election. I made the comment at one point in a press release or press conference about where is the Premier in terms of following up with his commitments. Well, it seems like ever since, certainly in discussing this reform package, the minister has made the point that this is also matching the commitment that the Premier made during the election to have a dual award system.

Well, I am going to argue that in fact this isn't a dual award system in a few moments but secondly, we forgot the other part of that. The other part of that was that the Premier suggested and promised, as did many Liberal candidates during the election in 1993, that injured workers should not bear the cost of the mismanagement of the workers' compensation system, that would not be fair. I would suggest that working people in the Province of Nova Scotia, injured and otherwise, believed the Premier, believed this Liberal Government. People from Cape Breton, throughout this province believed that the government was in fact going to carry forward with some of those commitments.

The argument that has been used on the financial side in terms of responding to this problem has been that we have to keep our assessment rate down, comparable with other provinces. Otherwise businesses will leave Nova Scotia or they won't come to Nova Scotia, that it will be a disincentive. We heard a similar argument around the Steen bill, that if we didn't throw the doors wide open, that employers would leave the province and we would stifle economic activity. But again, that assertion is being made without any evidence.

[8:30 p.m.]

Certainly, there is not an employer in this province who is not going to try to keep their costs down, I would suggest. I don't think there is any question about that. I would say at the same time that I think it is unreasonable and, I would suggest, anybody that has been involved in this whole debate over the past number of years does also not expect the rates to go unreasonably high. But at the same time, there must be some recognition of the fact that since 1975 through until the mid-1980's, the assessment rates in this province did not go up or they did not go up very much. In some cases they went down and if you look at the charts, it usually was just before an election that those assessment rates went down.

Over a period of 10 to almost 15 years, employers in the Province of Nova Scotia enjoyed, relative to the rest of the country, enjoyed a relative advantage on the whole question of WCB premiums. The question that I feel compelled to ask is, did that keep more employers in this province? Do we have evidence to show that employers came to Nova Scotia because of the fact that our assessment rates were lower than they were in New Brunswick? I haven't seen that evidence. Maybe it does exist but what drives me nuts is that it is that kind of a stick that is used to try to scare working people and others in this province to agree to this kind of position, this kind of scare tactic.

I know that there were some compromises and there were some areas of agreement in terms of how this whole problem would be resolved when this matter was dealt with at the board. Not all of it, the questions were not resolved to everybody's liking and there was some hard positions taken on both sides. But, it was never resolved at that level and I would suggest to you that it has to be and it should be. But what the government has done is not unlike what happened in the Steen issue, you know, as if the government stepped in and took the responsibility not off both parties but off the employer. The employer is off the hook again on this issue. (Interruption) Again, the employer is off the hook and it is the working people of this province that are going to have to pay. I think it is important that we look at some of the areas where this government is asking for the workers to pay the price. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, before I get into the specifics of this particular piece of legislation, not clause by clause, but the specific amendments that have been made to the Workers' Compensation Board that make it as onerous as it is on working people, on injured workers.

It is important to remember that there is a history to this whole issue and the minister has presented the debate over reforming the Workers' Compensation Act by saying that this is an arcane piece of legislation that dates back to the early 1900's. It talks about oxen and about this and that and what does that have to do? We have to bring it into the 1990's. Well, this legislation not unlike many others needs to be updated, it needs to be modernized. It needs to be brought into the 20th Century, there is no question about that.

Trying to do suggest that this legislation is unworkable, that this legislation does not provide the Workers' Compensation Board with the direction and with the capacity to carry out its function, I would suggest is wrong. It is misleading because that is not the way it is. There have been problems with the way that this legislation has been interpreted by the board. The whole question of the meat chart has caused considerable distress and economic harm to an awful lot of workers over the years. Those workers who received a permanent injury or a significantly disabling injury, such as a low back injury, they were not able to return to work but they received a very low assessment on the meat chart for that disability and received a very minimal pension. Those people were left living in poverty.

Since probably the early to mid-1970's, there has been significant representation and pressure applied, in particular to the Appeal Board and then under the late Hugh MacLeod where there was some recognition of that kind of injustice and they began to review some of those pensions and tried to upgrade them, tried to increase them to some extent to recognize some of the economic loss. There have been attempts, certainly by organized labour and others interested in how the Workers' Compensation Board carries out its duties, over the past 20 years to try to get the board to recognize that there is the capacity within provisions of the legislation to not only compensate for your injury and for the loss of enjoyment, but also to compensate on the basis of economic loss and your capacity to learn. That is there. I would suggest, and many others have suggested, but the board in its wisdom or lack thereof has decided to ignore that.

Since the late 1970's there have been a series of committees that have heard representations from labour and others about the need to introduce a more fair equitable system of compensating injured workers. It takes into consideration, not only the injury, but also the loss of earning capacity.

There have been, as you know, a couple of court decisions that have come down, that have resulted, it seems, in almost total paralysis of the board, and the governments for that matter, the Conservative Administration before this and now this government.

I would suggest to you that perhaps there needed to be some fine tuning of some of the provisions that it referred to and that they referred to, that again perhaps there needed to be more clarification for the benefit of the board, in order to respond to some of the issues raised in these court decisions. I would say, Mr. Speaker, that it was not intended that this government or any other government would take that piece of legislation and almost completely rewrite it, to effectively cut, and I mean seriously cut, the level of benefits that the majority of workers are going to be entitled to in the future, if this goes through.

You know we had some consultation on this issue. We had a discussion paper that came out, if I remember correctly, in the fall of 1992, I think, or early 1993, a discussion paper from the board on the whole issue of wage loss and how the Workers' Compensation Board was going to respond to some of those decisions by the court, especially as it related to wage loss, particularly the case known widely as the Hayden case.

The board took that discussion paper and went around the province and met with injured workers' groups, with unions, with businesses and with the community and heard representations.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The level of noise in the Chamber is excessively high.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if this is getting in the way of some honourable members trying to conduct some business. Maybe it might be an appropriate time to consider ending debate and adjourning the House or something.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member will please leave with the Chair the decorum of the House.

MR. CHISHOLM: This may not be an important issue to some members but I would suggest that it is to me and I am on my feet and it is to an awful lot of working people in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair has recognized the seriousness of the debate and the Chair also recognizes that it is responsible and it has a duty to maintain decorum in this House and to protect the right of the member to speak and to be heard. I order the House to bring itself to an appropriate level of decorum. Those who have conversations to carry on, do it exterior to this Chamber - leave the Chamber.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: The discussion paper that I refer to on the calculation of benefits received a fairly wide audience, or received a fair bit of discussion and debate, received the attention of probably, fair to say, hundreds if not thousands of people in this province.

That was in early 1993, I would suggest. There were some fairly strong representations on some of the concepts that underlaid some of the understandings that formed a basis of this particular report, this particular discussion paper, that a number of people took issue with, a number or organizations took issue with. The representations were made.

But I tell you what, it has been a long time between, let's say the summer or even take it as far as the fall of 1993, and I think it was well before that when the majority of representations were heard and discussed; it was probably more like the spring of 1993. An awful lot of time passed, Mr. Speaker, before we got the discussion paper from this minister on October 6, 1994 that led to and basically replicates the bill that is before us.

[8:45 p.m.]

Now the point is that the discussion paper on wage loss is a lot different than the discussion paper that came out on October 6, 1994. There are a lot of things in there that were not dealt with by that wage loss paper. There were no consultations in the Province of Nova Scotia on the substantive issues that are dealt with in this particular piece of legislation, until October 6, 1994.

Now the minister has acknowledged that there have been significant and serious damaging problems with the Workers' Compensation Board and that it needed action. Well I tell you what, if it was that important, why didn't we get some evidence of what it was the government was going to do on this a year ago or, for that matter, eight months ago, in the spring last year when the minister stood in this House and said, well we have got the bill? We are working on it. We have got it going in the back room here. There are drafters preparing this particular piece of legislation. He led us all to believe, as we were starting through the legislative session, that we were going to see it in the spring. Then, in fact, we were told that they are just not going to get it done in time.

You may recall, Mr. Speaker, that the last spring session was a fairly full session. The government got itself into a bit of a time-squeeze over a number of pieces of fairly controversial legislation. But, anyway, the minister, in his wisdom, decided that the spring - or maybe it was the House Leader, I don't know - but it was decided that maybe the spring session was not the appropriate time to bring forward the Workers' Compensation Act, even to table it and put it out for discussion, as was done in the process that has been used by the Minister of the Environment.

So, as a result, even though the minister assured us that there will be consultation through the summer and we understand that he was busy, you and I both know the minister had his hands full this summer. He had the responsibility for assuring that the honourable Premier survived for the next few months. That is important and I don't mean to downplay that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. You are straying from the principle of the bill. (Interruption) Please, the honourable member has the floor. The honourable member expects his privileges to be acknowledged. Similarly, the House has the same privileges. The debate is on the principle of the bill, not on the activities of the minister.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that the activities of the minister, in terms of dealing with this issue, are extremely relevant to the principle of this particular bill.

MR. SPEAKER: If the honourable member can correlate those two concepts in a convergent manner and convince me that it should be done, then I might allow it. Up until that time, you will stay with the principle of the bill.

MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, the point that I am trying to make is that this bill makes some fairly significant changes to the level of benefits that working people who get injured in the Province of Nova Scotia will receive. Even though the minister assured us that there would be consultation and has said in this House and outside the House that he has done some fairly major consulting on this issue, I am trying to say to you and to other members of the House that that in fact is not the case.

There has been consultation on the issue of reforming the workers' compensation system. The point I was trying to make is that there was a discussion paper on the wage loss system that came out in early 1993 but then, the first thing we saw from this government on the question of how they were going to calculate benefits specifically, how they were going to revise and revamp the system, didn't come out until October 6th. Six weeks ago we saw this stuff. Six weeks ago injured workers saw what it was that this government was going to do to them. That was the first time that we were going to get some sense of what this minister and his government meant when they talked about balance.

That is my concern, that this piece of legislation has a huge impact on the level of benefits that some people are going to get. For example, the mine workers have calculated that at the maximum level, it doesn't have to be the mine workers it can be anybody but I talked to those folks and they gave me an example. They say that most mine workers that work for Devco earn in excess of $36,000 a year which was the maximum and now it is $38,000 but on the basis of $36,000. You do the calculations on the basis of the 75 per cent of net compared to 75 per cent of gross and the difference is $9,000; 25 per cent of their income is gone because they had the unfortunate circumstance come upon them where they were injured at work. I don't see that as being fair. I don't understand how anybody can call that fair.

Imagine one of your sons or daughters graduates from university and lands a good job that will pay a decent income, that has got stability and some security for them and they happen to get injured within the first few weeks. They won't get a penny. Before, there was a minimum that they would receive that would be determined by the board. Those people now under this system won't get a penny and that is an example.

If Westray happened, God forbid, but if Westray happened after this bill goes through, the widows would receive between $4,000 and $11,000 a year less because of the provisions under survivor benefits, depending on how many children they had because of the fact that dependent children no longer get any benefits under this bill. Now that is a reality that we are talking about. You are going into people's pockets that are working for a living. How can you call that balanced? I don't understand it.

Mr. Speaker, just flipping through, a presentation, a brief that was put together by the Halifax and District Injured Workers group to the October 6th proposal. I think it is instructive to look at people who are working with the system as it is now and know it better than most of us here do because they live it.

The question of the three day waiting period. They say and I quote, "The implementation of a three day waiting period is a direct penalty on the injured worker for having had an accident. A worker earning at the current maximum assessed rate would lose $430.29 of gross income (three days) under this provision.". Are there any members here that can afford to lose $430 from their weekly income? I sure cannot, Mr. Speaker. I would feel that. I think most people would. Again workers are being penalized for getting injured.

What about this idea of a dual award system, Mr. Speaker? What is known as the Permanent Impairment Benefit, the PIB. The problem that I have with it being called a dual award system because of this inclusion of the PIB, is if you happen to be at the maximum in terms of the wage loss provisions, if you are at the 75 per cent or 85 per cent, Mr. Speaker, then you do not get the PIB. Because, what you receive cannot exceed that level, in other words the combination of the two can't.

They say in the report here, "By attaching this award the maximum earning replacement benefit, workers who suffer the most are deprived of this award entirely.". They go on to raise an administrative concern, which I think was good of them, but it is instructive in terms of what this means to injured workers. They say, "A worker with a 5% permanent injury would be entitled to $1.28 per $100 of pre-injury net income . . .". They suggest, Mr. Speaker, that ". . . this would cause thousands of cheques to be issued for very small amounts.". That is just an illustration of why I do not feel it is right. I think it is misleading to call this a dual award system.

The question of moving from gross to net, as I have indicated, it is going to represent a significant reduction. Now, it is true that some of that will be returned in your taxes the following year, Mr. Speaker, but as somebody said to me, you cannot eat a tax return. It is going to come to you next year. You cannot buy groceries with the fact that you are going to get a tax return next year. I want to quote again from this report. They ask the question, "Is there some unknown provision in this act that will freeze mortgage payments or credit debt, prevent the accumulation of interest liability or prevent foreclosure proceedings?". Is there a recipe for serving next year's tax rebate to hungry children this year? It may appear to be a small point, but I would suggest to people that are living on the edge as it is, this would be a pretty significant reduction, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe the Minister of Education has a question that he wants to direct to me. I certainly hear him asking questions about what it is that I am saying and I would be happy if he would like to rise.

[9:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has the floor. If the honourable Minister of Education has or had a question, then he surely knows that the rules would require him to stand before he could be acknowledged on a question. The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor and he has in my judgment, sufficient decorum in the House to present his points.

MR. CHISHOLM: The question of the retirement annuity and survivor benefits, I raise the concern in terms of dependent children, the fact that they wouldn't be receiving benefits under this particular provision. The other question that is raised and I refer to it in this report is that people who have injuries later in life would not have time to build sufficient funds to make the annuity worthwhile. The other question that is raised, is that it assumes that the injured worker would be financially able or for that matter, want to retire at the age of 65. The question of indexing, the fact that indexing will be frozen until the year 2000, I believe it is.

The question that is raised is, apparently, assumes that there will be no cost of living increases until the year 2000. A small point perhaps, but I think an important point for people whose income is being limited and who are being faced with increased costs, but all the while the value of their money goes down. Perhaps it is only 1 per cent or 2 per cent or 4 per cent or 5 per cent but if it starts now, I mean it is five years, six years that that continues to accumulate. That is pretty significant.

The question of a review of benefits, who is going to do it? Will it be the specialist who is treating the worker, or a WCB doctor? The question is that the 10 per cent change of impairment that is required, is a very significant change in terms of the impairment. That is 10 per cent on the top of 10 per cent and that means a lot and that will perhaps have quite an impact on a number of people. The other question is that the pre-conception here that underlies this particular provision, is that it is a piece of cake to get a review, to get your particular situation reviewed and I would suggest that is absolutely not the case. In fact, it is often the other way around I would suggest more than it is anything else. Trying to get these matters reviewed, trying to get the board to understand that there has been a change in terms of the medical condition of an individual or an injured worker, has been extremely difficult in the past. This makes it, I would suggest in many cases, almost impossible to get a reasonable review of a medical condition that is facing injured workers, 24 months must go by or perhaps it will be 36 months.

The question of re-employment is an issue I think that hasn't been fully spelled out in terms of what that means. What will the expectations be for employers? What will be their responsibility in terms of insuring that workers are not brought in, tried out for a couple of weeks and then thrown out on the dust heap? A couple of other areas I think that are important is the question of the Appeal Board. The minister has indicated here that he would be happy to entertain some options, some possibilities to deal with the external appeal. As the member for Hants West mentioned in his presentation, there is nothing in this bill that deals with the backlog at the Appeal Board of 1,800-odd cases, 2,000, whatever it is at this particular period of time. There is absolutely nothing in here that deals with that. The problems that have led to and that have ensured that the board does not go beyond or continues to replicate the circumstances, whereby there continues to be a backlog - cases are not dealt with in a speedy manner - is not resolved in this particular piece of legislation.

I do not know what is going to happen. I do not know why the minister is holding off in resolving that. I do not know that by saying that the external Appeal Board will be gone in two years is going to resolve that backlog for those workers. Perhaps, he has an answer for that, but I certainly do not see any evidence of it in the bill.

What is dealt with in there is the fact that the minister would be getting rid of the Appeal Board. The external Appeal Board, as we know it today, in two years time will be gone, will be no longer. In fact, the new appeal process will be in the hands of the minister and, I would suggest, the board. I would suggest to you that, in fact, these changes go at the very integrity of the workers' compensation system. You put those and some other changes that I will mention in a second together with the plan for the workers' advocates, the workers' advisors and, I suggest, you have a real problem in the making. What that is, is that what has been introduced in this bill which changes the workers' compensation system in terms of its foundation is that employers have been allowed into this system.

This system will now become a forum for conflict, an adversarial system where employers are not only allowed in at every level in terms of appeal, they can also initiate their own appeal to every individual case. Why that is so contrary to the principle of the workers's compensation system is because workers' compensation was a historic compromise between the right of workers to sue their employer and employers having individual responsibility for insurance plans.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the honourable member would yield the floor to his colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview for an introduction.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Halifax Atlantic for allowing me to interrupt to make a brief introduction. I would like to introduce in the west gallery, the President of Local 8 of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, Joan Jessome and the Chief Shop Steward, Brian Stewart. They are here at Province House tonight to try to press their concerns about changes promised and still awaited with respect to Bill No. 95 addressing the interests of non-hospital workers - Drug Dependency staff, public health nurses and so on - who may very well be affected in a major way by the implementation of Bill No. 95.

I would ask all members to give a warm welcome to the representatives from Local 8 who are here to make their concerns known to the Minister of Health and all members of the House. (Applause)

MR. CHISHOLM: I was talking about how this bill changes a very important principle of the workers' compensation system, that is by allowing employers, at any and all stages, to intervene in an adversarial fashion, to challenge any reviews.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members should not be standing in the House unless they have the floor.

MR. CHISHOLM: To challenge any appeals, any reviews that may be happening at any stage, Mr. Speaker, and, in fact, initiate their own appeal. What I was beginning to say was that that does change a very important principle of the workers' compensation system because of the fact that it was purposely not an adversarial system at part of the historic compromise between workers and employers, where the workers gave up the right to sue and employers no longer had the responsibility for carrying their own individual insurance system.

Part of that arrangement, as it was established, was that the system itself was not adversarial, that the government itself would administer, through its regulations and policies and its legislation, the establishment of benefit levels, policies in terms of the operation, how claims were handled and so on and so forth, and that the employers would be, and generally had been over the years, until recently it was only within the last few years that we were able to achieve equal representation on the Workers' Compensation Board of workers and employers. But the board consisted of representatives of those groups, however imbalanced.

But now this government, through this Bill No. 122, is going to throw all that out the window. Now you just think for a second, Mr. Speaker, of combining that with the change to the workers' advisors from the workers' counsellors, who were lawyers supplied by the Department of Labour. You know the idea is now that injured workers, as the member for Hants West said, now injured workers will set up an office and develop their skills and be able to go in and represent other injured workers. That is great, that is part of why we, in the past, have advocated for a worker advocate kind of program.

But if you introduce the fact that the employer can go in and challenge at each and every stage, including the appeal stage, I will tell you what, they are not going to get an injured worker to represent them, they are going to get high priced lawyers to come in and fight those claims.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member would entertain a question.

MR. CHISHOLM: No, I really don't have enough time, I have three minutes left but I would be happy if the member would like to stand and talk and raise his points and put them on the record and then maybe we can talk about it later. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Anyway, the point is that I would suggest that by bringing in this adversarial process, you are, in fact, going to increase the cost. Maybe not for the board but for the parties before the board. That is a problem and it should be a concern of this minister.

Now he has indicated that at least on this issue he would be prepared to consider options; he would be prepared to listen to other ways that we can deal with the external appeal process, Mr. Speaker. I have made some suggestions over the past while about ways to get rid of the backlog. I don't think moving everything to the internal process is going to speed things up because we know now that, because of the backlog at the external board, people are coming in, keeping their place in line and coming into the internal process and now there is a backlog in the internal appeal of upwards of 1,200-plus cases. So that is not going to answer it all.

[9:15 p.m.]

I have made some recommendations to the minister on how I think he could deal with the external appeal backlog and I think that should be the focus before he starts talking about getting rid of the system altogether. It is too important.

I have attempted, Mr. Speaker, on this occasion, as best I could, to raise some of the concerns that I have in reviewing this piece of legislation. I certainly do not profess to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I know there are a lot of people out there that know an awful lot more about this particular system than I do. I have listened to those people and I have consulted with them and I think they could add a lot to this debate.

Mr. Speaker, there is a commitment by a lot of people to get this work done; therefore, I want to introduce an amendment. I move "That the words after `that' be deleted and the following be substituted: `the subject matter of Bill No. 122 be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.'" and I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to discuss this with the Clerks at the Table, please.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have been puzzled on this for some time. As I understand the rules, members of the House can intervene on a question as to whether the amendment is in order or not - as I understand that to be correct -can make submissions as to whether an amendment is in order or not?

MR. SPEAKER: Not until the ruling has been made by the Chair.

MR. CARRUTHERS: Then if I understand you, Mr. Speaker, we can make interventions on whether a matter is in order after you have ruled?

MR. SPEAKER: It is pretty difficult to make interventions on something that has not been ruled on. It is highly irregular and I know of no source that gives the member the scope to intervene on a motion that has not been ruled on or put before the House for debate or discussion. The matter is not before the House for debate or discussion.

MR. CARRUTHERS: Well, then, I guess I am asking for directions from the Chair. When is it that we intervene, before the ruling or after?

MR. SPEAKER: You can raise a point of order after the ruling has been made, but you cannot make an intervention on something that does not exist before the House.

MR. CARRUTHERS: So if Your Honour rules that the motion is in order, then we would intervene and ask Your Honour to reconsider?

MR. SPEAKER: You could very well do, or even appeal, stand on a point of privilege; there are a multitude of avenues to take, but you cannot debate something on the floor of the House that has not been ruled on, that hasn't been put before the House.

MR. CARRUTHERS: I think I understand what you are saying. As I understood it, I thought I could make representations on the question of this motion before you ruled on whether it is in order or not.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I fully support the position taken by the member for Hants East. It strikes me that parliamentary practice dictates that a member has opportunity in advance of a ruling being rendered to speak to an amendment as to whether it is or is not in order and, consequent to members being heard or sufficient members being heard, that the Chair has had opportunity to make up his mind, then the ruling is made. It strikes me that it is a little bit like putting the cart before the horse to make the ruling and then admit submissions from members as to whether or not the ruling was in order. I think the member for Hants East is absolutely in order, sir.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I will take the point of view from the honourable member for Queens.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, my understanding of the point of order is an amendment has been moved and that the honourable member can raise the point of order that he says that particular amendment is out of order. In this particular situation, you are considering that, but if you did not consider that, any member could rise on a point or order that they dispute the particular amendment, saying it is out of order. I understand that is what the honourable member has done and you, at this time, have not ruled on it, so his point of order should be in order.

MR. SPEAKER: It is a position with which I do not have total familiarity, so I will recess for a matter of three minutes and discuss this, consult on this matter and then I will render a decision.

[9:21 p.m. the House recessed.]

[9:24 p.m. the House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the House to come to order. I have consulted, discussed the two points of view and I accept that the point of view that I advanced is in error and I will entertain the intervention from the member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, as I said in my point of order, I was looking for direction and clarification and I think you have handled that. My concern was that the ruling would be made on whether the motion was in order before I had an opportunity to read it. I know it was read out in motion but it is not quite the same as having the matter before you where one can read it and venture an opinion.

So, my only concern, I hadn't any problem with your ruling on this matter, just simply that before there is a ruling, I think that all members should be able to read the amendment so that they can form an opinion on their own. That was my only concern so I had no problem with your ruling and I think it is wise. It was just a matter of clarification to direct us as to how we should handle these matters.

MR. SPEAKER: I would respect the intervention on behalf of the member. It brings me to the point that I think the House has strayed from precedents as I know precedents in my short term in the House, that whenever an amendment is presented to the House, it should be replicated and delivered to all benches of the House before a ruling is made on the House so that all members have the opportunity to read the amendment. That has been the precedent of this House and for some reason, we have allowed the precedent to lapse. So I am going to issue a directive that any amendment forthcoming to the House, henceforth, shall be replicated and circulated before it is read or before it is judged in the House.

Now, having made that point and having read the proposed amendment, I rule the amendment to be in order.

MR. CHISHOLM: Just was to clarify that point, I think it is important because I did have 52 copies of my amendment and having read it into the record, I then sent a copy to you and for distribution. I do not know how much more efficient we could possibly be, maybe we could alert the Pages that there maybe an amendment and they can bring in three or four people in order to distribute it faster. I do not know if that would be more helpful, but you, Mr. Speaker, I believe have done what is usually done. In other words, you have said, okay, I will take this under advisement and consult with others and while that is happening then the amendment gets distributed. I want to make sure (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. I think the procedure followed by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic was perfectly in order and the Chair will accept the responsibility for not waiting until the amendment has been passed to all members prior to making the Chair's ruling. So the Chair accepts that. The Chair has now ruled that the amendment is in order.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this amendment is fairly obvious. It is to refer the bill to the Human Resources Committee. I assume that the purpose of that would be that committee could hold public hearings and possibly travel around the province eliciting comment and advice from various groups that would want to appear before that committee.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the Human Resources Committee, though, is a committee that should be handling this matter. I am sure that everybody has read the minister's proposals for reform that he put out on October 6th. In that document, the minister lists about 26 different committees, commissions, individual persons, select committees and what have you that have toured the province and that have spoken to members of the public over the years. To be quite frank, I think that the time of consultation through a committee such as a standing committee of the House, I think that time is well past because I do not think that anything productive would come from that kind of exercise.

Whereas, Mr. Speaker, if this bill moves on to the Law Amendments Committee, it provides the opportunity for people, not only to make their views known to that committee and to the minister, but it also enables something to be done constructive to this bill. Because, as I said in my remarks a little while ago, this bill I think in principle that there is not too much wrong with it. In the actual construction of the bill some of the matters dealt with in the bill, some of the procedures that they intend to carry out, some of the various formulae which are going to be used to derive payments, et cetera, they all need revision, but you cannot do that in a committee such as the Human Resources Committee.

Whereas in the Law Amendments Committee, as I say, those kinds of comments can be made and they can be made where they can be reacted to. If the Human Resources Committee were studying this bill, the Minister of Labour would not be present. I would doubt very much whether any of his staff would be present and the people who would be looking at it would be members of the Legislature who would be listening to representations. In fact, they would go into a report and you know what happens to reports on such matters as workers' compensation.

Mr. Speaker, it is time we got on with it. We have been dealing with workers' compensation for years and years now. (Applause) We have been going around and around the mulberry bush, if I may use that expression, but not getting anywhere. There have been some good ideas and there have been some bad ideas. (Interruption) Well, thank you very much. Yes, I did. I introduced legislation myself which did not progress very far, but the thing is, the time is to do something and the something that we have to do is to get this bill which originates a brand new Act with several different positive aspects to it and some negative aspects into the Law Amendments Committee and let the representatives from the employees and the employers, the injured workers, and all those others who are interested in making workers' compensation viable in this province. My God, the worst thing that could possibly happen, is to do nothing.

[9:30 p.m.]

We have to do something to attempt to solve first of all the unfunded liability. We have to do something to take care of those injured workers out there, those 1,800-odd that are sitting around home at the present time wondering what is happening to their appeals. Some of them, their appeals have actually gone through the adjudication process but they still don't know whether or not they actually won their appeal or not because somebody sitting around somewhere writing these appeals up and just the writing of the appeals is around about six months in arrears.

We have got to start doing something, we've got to do something to put in place a fair system of earnings replacement, we have to do that. We have to put in place a system that gets rid of the meat chart but still provides that kind of a monetary return to the person who has lost some of the enjoyment of life through an injury occurred on the job. We have to deal with such things as the Workers' Counsellor Program. The Workers' Counsellor Program is one that I think every member, whether they are members of the legal profession or not, would agree is entirely out of line. We have members of the legal profession who are doing work that truly a secretary could do, writing letters and making telephone calls and charging it up at $40 an hour, that problem has to be addressed. The problem of the board itself, the Workers' Compensation Board and the composition of that board has to be addressed. That board has to be representative of both the workers and the employers.

Something has to be done about the medical side of the Workers' Compensation Board. As I said a few minutes ago and I don't want to repeat what I said a few minutes ago but nevertheless I feel I have to, there is something radically wrong with the system that pays more for medical advice, for doctors to write reports, et cetera, than what MSI pays. What is the difference? I walk in and I go in as a customer of the Workers' Compensation Board and the Workers' Compensation Board is charged a rate that is higher than if I walk in as a person just off the street. Why is that? That should not be and I am telling you, I think the Workers' Compensation Board is getting ripped off.

I don't agree in this bill with some of the bureaucracy we are setting up within the Workers' Compensation Board, I don't agree with the internal appeal process that is not at arm's length from the board. I don't agree with those things but you will never solve it by sending it to the Human Resources Committee with all due respect to the chairman. That is the wrong committee. The committee that has the power to listen to constructive arguments about this bill, to make positive changes to this bill is the Law Amendments Committee. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, (Interruption) the New Democratic Party is I think probably as concerned about some elements of this bill as the caucus that I am associated with, and I am sure that there are government members that have some reservations about some of the matters contained in this bill. This is a big bill, we are talking about something like 93 pages and 185 clauses to the bill, it is a big, big bill. It is a complex bill and it is one that putting it to a committee of the House is just completely a waste of time and it is wasting the time of this House but worst of all it is wasting the time of those who are awaiting a new bill, new legislation that is positively going to impact upon them as payees to the Workers' Compensation Board and recipients of the benefits from the Workers' Compensation Board.

I am not going to vote in favour of this amendment and I am not going to take up the time of the House by going on at length. I am just saying that I think it is essential that we in this House recognize that this is a very important piece of legislation and it is one that affects the majority of people in the Province of Nova Scotia because the majority of the people in Nova Scotia are covered under this Act. I think this behooves all of us to get this bill into the Law Amendments Committee and then start tearing it apart and making it into a better bill than it is at the present time. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: I do want to speak on the amendment for the very simple reason that I have to agree with the sentiments of the former speaker, who indicated that perhaps the Standing Committee on Human Resources is not the best area for this bill to be going to have the bill improved. For many years, workers' compensation has been a problem in this province and sending it to the Human Resources Committee will not help, it will not fix, and it will not be able to bring back a bill that we could adopt any sooner or any better than the bill is at the present time.

I think the area that the bill could be improved upon is at the Law Amendments Committee. There has been some suggestion the Minister of Labour will entertain amendments. Somebody indicated, perhaps, amendments in excess of 20, perhaps 30 amendments that he is planning to bring in. Well, I think that is an admirable situation that he is willing to admit that the bill is not perfect the way it is and he is willing to talk about bringing in amendments that will improve the bill. If he knows upon tabling the bill that there are 30 areas that must be improved upon and must be changed then, why, in goodness name, was it not done prior to introduction to the floor of the Legislature?

Certainly the commitment was made last spring to do that very thing. It was indicated that we would have the summer to improve upon a bill. Well, we had the summer and the summer went by and now here it is November and we are getting a bill that we have a commitment to have some alterations made. I would like to know what the changes are; I want to know how far the Minister of Labour is willing to go? What areas will he amend? What areas will he accept amendments? How is he going to improve this bill or is he simply wanting to get the bill into the Law Amendments Committee because it is one stage closer to getting the bill through the House for its final reading?

There are many areas of concern with this bill, not the least of which is the unfunded liability that we face with our Workers' Compensation Board. Sending it to the Human Resources Committee will not do one thing to help the unfunded liability. Really, I think most of us will agree that the unfunded liability of our workers' compensation fund and, in general, the workers' compensation funds across Canada is the biggest and most serious problem facing workers' compensation in this country.

The Law Amendments Committee can help us make a better bill, but will it? This is the problem. Where is the commitment from this government; where is the promise and why did the minister not make the repairs to this piece of legislation before he tabled it? He obviously knew there were problems because already he has indicated he will make some pretty substantive changes.

There is a lot of interest in this bill. We are going to have many submissions from people, but are we going to listen? I have been in the Law Amendments Committee before and people have come in with real concerns and amendments that most members of the Legislature could support, but the minister says no and the bill comes back the same way it was.

AN HON. MEMBER: Will the minister sit in the Law Amendments Committee?

MR. ARCHIBALD: That is a good question. Will the minister sit in the Law Amendments Committee and hear each and every presentation. That would be a good start because we are going to have public hearings and we didn't have public hearings so this may be a good way for the minister to get the firsthand knowledge from the people who are concerned, right?

It would be helpful for this bill if the minister sat and listened and talked and discussed with the people who are making the suggestions. There is no issue of greater concern or greater need to the workers of this province than workers' compensation.

As a farmer, my employees were covered by workers' compensation but many farmers are not covered by workers' compensation. How do we get the farmers covered by workers' compensation? It is a difficult question to answer but it doesn't mean that we should not be trying. One of the exemptions is for farm workers and truly for the benefit of the farmer, they should be included. There are many reasons why the farm population should be covered by workers' compensation, not the least of which is protection for the farmer, as well as the employee. We need to have a selling job; we need to be able to convince the farmers that they should be covered by compensation but, at the same time, we have to have a broad-based, flexible system so that the workers' compensation will adapt itself to the seasonal, piece-work type of employment that is often engaged in agricultural practices.

There are many people who work for only a short period of time on a farm and their coverage is a necessity. If a farmer does not have compensation and somebody gets injured on the farm and he sues the employer, the farmer could lose his entire farm, for want of having workers' compensation. But farmers, as a general rule, have no faith in the Workers' Compensation Board that we have. They tell me time and time again, I can buy better protection, cheaper, from a private insurance company. This is one of the myths that we must dispel because there is no better policy, no better program than the Workers' Compensation Board.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the Law Amendments Committee is the place to go. I hope the Minister of Labour will sit in all deliberations that are taking place, so he can understand the workers in Nova Scotia, understand their beliefs, understand the desires and understand what they are telling him.

Now the minister indicated that he would sit in and I certainly think that is going to be a real advantage to the minister when we bring this bill back. I do hope that the minister was honest and sincere when he said he would make the needed changes to make this bill the type of bill that workers and the employers in this province will all support. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. ALEXA MCDONOUGH: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to speak to the amendment introduced by my colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic, essentially the purpose of which is to refer the subject matter of this workers' compensation reform bill to an all-Party Committee of this House.

[9:45 p.m.]

First of all I want to say that I very much regret I was not able to be in the House to hear the Minister of Labour's introductory comments when he began second reading debate. As you know, Mr. Speaker, Law Amendments was meeting simultaneously and so I did not have the benefit of hearing the comments that the minister made. I will tomorrow take the time to read those comments in the recorded record of the House proceedings.

It is not my impression, just very quickly trying to get a sense of what the minister had to say on introducing this bill, he has acknowledged to any extent that there really has not been the kind of consultation on the bill itself that was promised, in fact, that the minister indicated, very definitely, would take place during the summer months. Further, Mr. Speaker, I did not hear what the Minister of Labour said on introducing the bill, but I get the impression that he rather created the impression that consultation did take place during the summer as promised.

I certainly do not want to be unfair in that, and I will stand to be corrected when I read the Hansard record tomorrow, unless the minister wants to intervene and correct me now and that is fair game if he does. I think I make that point, Mr. Speaker, in speaking to the amendment introduced by the member for Halifax Atlantic because it is really around the issue of consultation and the inadequacy of consultation around the bill itself that has prompted the amendment that the member has introduced.

I have listened, carefully, to the comments made by the Official Opposition critics and hear them, quite clearly, saying, look this is such a mess and it has been such a mess for so long, the only sensible thing for us to do is to get on with the Law Amendments process as quickly as possible and get on with the implementation of this legislation. Mr. Speaker, I would think that would be a reasonable position to take if you supported the legislation in its current form.

I know that the Official Opposition critic who spoke to the legislation on second reading, on the bill itself, indicated that he did not see much wrong with this bill. Indicated that he certainly supported the principle of the bill and that he would think that at Law Amendments it would be possible to fine tune the bill and then we should get on with it.

I further, Mr. Speaker, listened to the member for Kings North who, essentially, expressed the view, not so much that he was satisfied with the degree of consultation and the nature of consultation that took place over the summer as promised, in fact, I think it is fair to say that the member for Kings North indicated that he shared with us a concern about whether that consultation that had been promised had in fact taken place. Am I not correct in that? I listened carefully and thought that was the point that he made. He did express some considerable lack of confidence in the ability and the appropriateness of the Human Resources Committee to do the job that needs to be done in regard to direct consultation around where we go from here with this colossal mess. Admittedly very much a crisis, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. Order.

MS. MCDONOUGH: With the current workers' compensation legislation and more particularly the application thereof in the province today. I share a certain amount of apprehension, lack of total confidence in the ability of the Human Resources Committee to do much of anything very effectively, frankly, Mr. Speaker, and I say that being a member of that committee myself. I guess I say it because I am a member of the committee myself that it is a cause for concern that the Human Resources Committee has shown itself to be less than a really open all-Party kind of process when it comes right down to it, particularly, as it relates to a good number of the issues that have become very controversial before that committee in recent months.

The task that has been assigned to the all-Party Human Resources Committee to deal with the appointments to agencies, boards and commissions is something that occupies a good deal of time of that Human Resources Committee. There is no question about that, but as to whether it is a really good faith, open, all-Party process or whether we are evolved merely in a rubber-stamping of government fiat, with respect to agencies, boards and commissions, is another question.

Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, I think that the past sins, errors and omissions of the Human Resources Committee, because it has not always functioned as it should, is not an argument against referral of this matter to the Human Resources Committee. Because surely the appropriate response to one's lack of confidence in how the committee is functioning, is to try to get the committee functioning properly. Because if we were to say that the Human Resources Committee is just simply incapable of dealing with an issue as critically important to the workers of this province, as workers' compensation reform, that is a very sad commentary on the Human Resources Committee itself.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think that we have to be prepared, not to give the benefit of the doubt in some sort of vague, naive way, that the Human Resources Committee will suddenly start to function as it should but rather in referring this matter to the Human Resources Committee, to apply ourselves in a diligent, conscientious way to say that we have got to continue fighting and struggling and hammering to make that Human Resources Committee function the way that it should. Because the fact of the matter is that the Human Resources Committee has a number of areas of responsibility spelled out in its mandate, in the responsibilities that are assigned to various standing committees of this House.

Clearly, unless I am recollecting this incorrectly, one of the areas of jurisdictional responsibility of the Human Resources Committee, is that of labour. Am I not correct? Now what on earth does it say about the Human Resources Committee, if members who think there are problems with this bill, are so completely lacking in confidence that the Human Resources Committee is capable of dealing with anything, that we take the position, well, we certainly cannot trust the Human Resources Committee to deal with this matter?

What is this matter, Mr. Speaker? What is the subject matter that we are proposing be referred to the Human Resources Committee? It is a matter of absolutely, fundamental importance to the workers of this province, to the workers of this province who are already in very difficult circumstances as a result of work place injuries and diseases. But even more importantly, we are talking here about passing a piece of legislation that will significantly, drastically alter the rights and benefits of workers in this province who suffer the hardship of becoming disabled or injured or diseased in the work place, and the benefits that will be available to them and their families, in many cases, over a very long period of time.

Mr. Speaker, what on earth does it mean if there is such a lack of confidence on the part of members of this House in the ability of the Human Resources Committee to address the subject matter, that we take the position that it is not even worth doing? If it is really genuinely our conclusion that the Human Resources Committee is so incompetent that it cannot deal with such a fundamental labour issue, then surely we have a responsibility to look at bringing forward amendments to the rules of this House that would assign labour issues to a committee that can deal with something so fundamental, that is going to have a profound effect on the lives and the incomes and the rights of the workers of this province.

Let me go back to this question of whether the legislation is appropriate to refer to the Law Amendments Committee because it is pretty well as it needs to be, it is pretty acceptable and therefore it just needs some fine-tuning, in which case I suppose it is a sensible view that it belongs at the Law Amendments Committee.

There are some members of this House and I guess we are about to find out how many - I know for sure of only three in my own caucus because I don't presume to try to pretend to know what other members will say or what other position they will take but I can tell you that the New Democratic Party caucus, having fully caucused this matter, as we do on all matters, I am in a position to say that all three of us are not in support of this legislation or remotely in support of legislation that might emerge from the Law Amendments Committee without very major changes.

I realize that that offends some members, I realize that there is a view that seems to be shared by members on both sides of the House, other than in the New Democratic Party caucus, that we are in such a mess that workers' compensation reform is so long overdue that we should hold our noses and say, we will vote for almost anything. But if that is not the view, then it makes sense to look at what a long-lasting effect this major overhaul of workers' compensation legislation will have on the lives of workers and recognize that it behooves us to address now some of the very major problems in this legislation. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I think that note came from the Government House Leader. I don't know whether he meant to send it to the back bench or not but under his tutelage or in response to his request, I will adjourn debate at this time on Bill No. 122, in order to allow the Government House Leader to indicate where we go from here. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion for adjournment of the debate on the amendment has been made. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Justice as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 29 - Power Engineers Act.

Bill No. 114 - Municipal Reform (1994) Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, we will sitting tomorrow from the hours of 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. and the order of business following the daily routine and Oral Question Period will be Public Bills for Second Reading.

I move that we adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion for adjournment has been made and carried. The House will now rise to sit again tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon.

[The House rose at 10:00 p.m.]