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November 10, 1995


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Session

8:00 A.M.


Hon. Paul MacEwan


Mrs. Francene Cosman

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to call the House to order at this time to commence the daily business. Are there any introductions of guests in the gallery before we commence? If not, we will go through the daily routine.




MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Pay Equity Commission for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1994.

MR. SPEAKER: The annual report is tabled.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.


HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:


Whereas Remembrance Day, November 11th, is set aside to honour the memories of young men and women who sacrificed their lives on the battlefields in the cause of peace; and

Whereas among these courageous individuals were the unsung heroes, including many from Nova Scotia, who served as members of the Merchant Navy; and

Whereas a significant memorial to these brave young men was painstakenly created by master calligrapher, the late Mr. John Whitehead, in the form of a Merchant Navy Book in which is inscribed the names of the merchant mariners who lost their lives in the most horrendous conflicts of this century;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the contribution made to the security of Canada by the Merchant Navy and in their memory proclaim our commitment to maintaining peace and justice for future generations.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that the Merchant Navy Book to which I refer will be on display in the Legislative Library where it will remain for one week so that members and visitors to this House may admire a fitting memorial to these heroes.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for waiver of notice and I would also request a moment of silence.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that notice be waived for the Premier's motion?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We will observe one minute of silence.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.


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

Whereas this Saturday, November 11, 1995, we mark the solemn remembrance of those who paid the supreme sacrifice for our freedom in overseas conflict; and

Whereas times goes by, the conflicts of the past are forgotten, yet we must still remember the lessons of war so that we dare not repeat the tragedy again; and

Whereas "they shall not grow old as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them nor the years condemn, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them";

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remember those who have fought and died for our freedom and that through our deeds and actions we must truly honour those whose gift to us has been freedom.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and one minute of silence.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreed to the House?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We will then observe a second minute's silence.

[One minute of silence was observed.]


Bill No. 44 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Hon. Richard Mann)

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


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 tomorrow's Remembrance Day commemorations have special significance as Canadians remember the end of World War II 50 years ago; and

Whereas as memories fade, our country must work harder than ever to foster the belief in freedom, peace and harmony among all races and creeds that so motivated our national efforts in World War II; and

Whereas contributing to the world of common security and shared economic-social progress is one of the best ways we can honour all those who played a part in winning World War II;

Therefore be it resolved that on the eve of Remembrance Day 1995, this House pledges its best efforts to pursue the principles and peace for which Canadians fought, sacrificed and died during World War II, and during the other wars and peacekeeping efforts our nation has entered.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is that agreeable?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.


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

Whereas the Northumberland Veterans Unit of the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital in Pictou was officially opened yesterday as part of a federal-provincial agreement between Veterans Affairs Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this government collaboration has resulted in 20 beds for the veterans in Pictou County, representing a further step in the direction to provide veterans of Nova Scotia with a wider range of facilities in which they can receive the care they require, while remaining close to their family, friends and in their community; and

Whereas the official opening of the Veterans Unit was scheduled to coincide with Veterans Week, a time when Canadians commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War and our country's wartime sacrifice;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly extend congratulations to those who participated in a cooperative effort towards the establishment of this Veterans Unit, as another example of this government's recognition and remembrance to the men and women who served their country in the cause of freedom.

I would ask for waiver, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreeable that notice be waived?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs.


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

Whereas the Dartmouth High School, located in Dartmouth North, participated in the Moses Coady Provincial High School Debating Championship in Antigonish this week; and

Whereas Coach Ray Smith, along with team players Michelle Williams, Gordon Chu, Leon Thomas and Rani Ghaly, did an excellent job of representing their school and willing the provincial championship;

Therefore be it resolved that this House send congratulations to Coach Smith and his team.

Mr. Speaker, I will get you the address.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.


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

Whereas the honourable member for Cape Breton South should get his facts straight before jumping into an issue that he is obviously very unsure of; and

Whereas long before the member for Cape Breton South was a Liberal, I was vigorously supporting the construction of the Fleur-de-lis Trail; and

Whereas the Minister of Transportation was kind enough to recently display a letter in this Legislature confirming my support for the Fleur-de-lis Trail;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton South should concentrate more on the shortcomings of his government instead of relaying incorrect information to the Legislature on the activities of an Opposition member.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

I am allowing the motion; I am not questioning it in any way. I realize it is in response to a similar motion that came from this side a day or two ago. But I would admonish all honourable members that according to our texts, according to our authorities, an attack on another member of the House is out of order. What an attack on a member of the House is is not left to any clear explanation, it is at the discretion of the Speaker. I personally find it distasteful when members are attacking one another in this form across the floor.

[8:15 pm.]

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.


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

Whereas the 25th Annual Remembrance Church Service, which is an ecumenical service for people of all faiths, will be held at the main chapel of Mount Saint Vincent Motherhouse at 7:30 this evening; and

Whereas this service is held as a result of the commitment and dedication of, The Remembrance Church Service Association which has as President Tony Burns of Halifax and as Secretary, Harold Shea of Halifax; and

Whereas this association was formed in 1971 to provide a Remembrance Service for those who cannot attend the cenotaph ceremony in Halifax and has grown to the status it has today with the expectation that over 900 people will attend tonight's service;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its deep appreciation to Mr. Burns and Mr. Shea as well as all members of the association for their efforts in establishing, in a tangible way, an ecumenical service to honour those who gave their lives so that we may enjoy the freedom that we have today.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.


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

Whereas the business community in metro Halifax has risen to the challenge of competing in a global economy by exploring opportunities with leadership, innovation and excellence; and

Whereas unemployment in the metro area at 7.8 per cent for this past October is the lowest of any city in eastern Canada, lower even than that of Ottawa or Toronto; and

Whereas the Greater Halifax Economic Development Partnership has demonstrated its continued commitment to economic growth by developing a plan that will see an estimated 20,000 new jobs in metro by the year 2000;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the business community of Nova Scotia and in particular, the Greater Halifax Economic Development Partnership for taking up the challenge to create vital, lasting employment for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

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 merchant navy sailors during wartime performed a vital war duty, voluntarily, with a death rate as high or higher than the armed services and equal prospects of being imprisoned as prisoners of war; and

Whereas the 1992 Merchant Navy Veterans Act failed to grant full equal status to merchant navy veterans, by defining service more restrictively and thereby denying benefits to some of these veterans; and

Whereas the courage and dedication of the merchant navy was most apparent here in Nova Scotia, from whose ports so many convoys sailed;

Therefore be it resolved that this House calls upon the federal government to treat veterans of the merchant navy in exactly the same way as other veterans by including them in the War Veterans Allowances Act.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried unanimously.

Are there any further notices of motion? If not, that would conclude the daily routine.



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. 39.

Bill No. 39 - Education Act.

MR. SPEAKER: We were debating an amendment to refer this bill to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic was the last member to have the floor but he is not here. I therefore recognize the honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to start today's debate on Bill No. 39 and to speak in favour of a referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

I had an opportunity yesterday to meet with a member of a local school board who spent some time in the gallery listening to the debate on Bill No. 39, at the close of proceedings yesterday, came to me with a comment, which is, I think, certainly relevant to the amendment on the floor. He had received his copy of Bill No. 39 actually two days ago, on Wednesday, and was scurrying to participate in a process of responding to the bill. That response will be in the Law Amendments Committee process. The question is, how much more time do we have to provide our response before we have to be at the Law Amendments Committee? This is a complicated bill he related, and we have not been granted enough time to formulate our position on the 159 clauses of this bill.

There was encouragement, Mr. Speaker, to try to slow the government down in the passage of this bill through the House. Many groups want to comment on this bill. They are having difficulty because they have only recently, like ourselves, been made privy to the contents of the bill. It is simply a matter that more time is required.

I notice the bill was tabled in the House on November 3rd, it is now November 10th and we are well along on second reading. While I don't know the exact date that the bill will go to the Law Amendments Committee, the groups who are planning to respond need more time and I urge the minister to take that into consideration as he plots the course of the bill through the House.

The amendment makes perfectly good sense in that it makes specific reference to students, parents and teachers. There has been a criticism directed at the bill that, in fact, the stakeholders, including students, parents and teachers, have not had an opportunity to make comment on the bill. We all recall, of course, the commitment of the minister to discuss with school boards before tabling the bill, in draft form, to allow their comment before it reaches the final form and would be on the floor of the House for debate. For reasons that are poorly understood at this point, that particular process did not occur. Now, we have a major stakeholder in this process; the School Boards Association is scrambling to understand the bill to evaluate the changes that will occur in their relationship with schools, with the minister and with the whole education process that this bill dictates.

The Teachers Union has considerable interest in this particular legislation. As a matter of fact, they have made available to us some of their initial reactions. They feel that with their long-standing relationship with the minister, the Department of Education and the school boards, that they, in fact, as well, required or should have had an opportunity to discuss with the minister this particular bill. They want more time than is presented just in the Law Amendments Committee. They want meaningful negotiations with the Minister of Education before he goes pell-mell down the road and brings this bill through the House and, in fact, that will be the new face of education in this province, maybe for another 40 years; as the minister is wont to say, it has been some 40 years before there has been a significant overhaul of the Education Act in this process.

The issues that the Teachers Union bring forward in their presentation will no doubt be collective bargaining issues. It would have been more than appropriate that the minister would discuss alterations in that particular relationship, which are brought about by this legislation.

There has been much said about the previous initiatives of the government to bypass traditional bargaining procedures with established union groups, and to bring forward changes in the way all that occurs and without proper consultation.

The collective bargaining process is founded on a process of negotiation and there has been no negotiation with the Teachers Union about the changes that will occur in their relationship with school boards, their relationship with the minister. The whole process will be the subject of much of their attention over the next couple of weeks. They are looking for an opportunity for more evaluation of the changes that are brought about in this bill. This amendment does exactly that. It allows another body to look at the bill. It allows the Human Resources Committee to do exactly that. It would allow the Teachers Union to make presentation to that committee. If they are unable to have meaningful negotiations with the minister, then they would have another avenue of influencing what is happening with this piece of legislation.

Another point of discussion that the Teachers Union and teachers themselves wish to raise with the minister is, in this particular bill, it actually makes significant changes in the responsibilities of teachers within the schoolroom and in their relationship with teachers. These are not negotiated changes. There has been no input from the teaching profession. I might remind the minister, Mr. Speaker, that teaching is a profession, like other professions, like other vocations, deserving of respect. The kind of approach that the initiation of this bill indicates and exemplifies really does not allow that profession to respond in a professional way to changes which alter, in a very significant way, the relationship of teachers to students, and the relationship of teachers to the minister, to the board, to school councils and so on. Very fundamental changes are being made in that relationship and they are being done without consultation with the profession. I think that is wrong. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. HAMM: Now, the comment is coming that perhaps there isn't agreement on the government benches, that, in fact, the consultation has not occurred. Well, certainly in the minds of the teaching profession, appropriate consultation has not occurred. The kinds of descriptions they were giving is that the consultation was merely, in some instances, an establishment of the government's position, and, in other instances, when the consultation occurred, there was no reflection of the consultative process in the bill. In other words, there was nothing in the bill to suggest that the consultation had meaning for the minister. I am sure we will hear more about that as we move into the Law Amendments Committee process, which (Interruption) Unless I miss my guess, it is going to occur.

The school councils, it's a very intriguing concept. I am not an educator, Mr. Speaker, but I have been educated and have had that experience with the system, and I am intrigued with the concept of school councils. This initiative does rely heavily on the success of school councils in each and every of the 480-odd school administrations in this province. That is a horrendous kind of arrangement, to set up an individual contract between the minister and his department and each of these 480 individual school administrations.

[8:30 a.m.]

Another intriguing part of that scenario is that each and every one of those contracts may well turn out to be individual and different, which will lead to a very complex relationship around the province between what will be the department, the school board and the school councils. We are not guaranteed that there will be school councils because they are available upon request. It well may be in certain communities that there will be not enough interest by certain groups - perhaps the parents' groups, perhaps the student groups and perhaps the teaching staff that, in their wisdom, a school council would not be appropriate.

Within the bill there are some very specific ways in which the school council process and initiation can be instituted, but we must be prepared for the scenario of either the school council does not work or the school council has never actually been applied for and, in fact, we are back to that traditional relationship of the school board with the school. That particular relationship will be much different than it is today because the school may be dealing with a school board that could be as much as 150 or 200 miles away. That opens up the question that has not been examined in any degree of depth, does that mean that school boards will have a main head office somewhere in the school region but in large regions will there be satellite offices and will the cost of these satellite offices erode the savings that the minister keeps assuring us, without documentation, will occur with the simplification and the reduction of the number of school boards?

Now, one of the groups that is very anxious to discuss in a meaningful way with the minister, has been the School Boards Association. Their reaction to the introduction of this bill certainly was that they did not have the kind of discussions with the minister that allowed them to bring forward their particular perspective. If a school does not have a school council, then it makes perfectly good sense that that school would continue to have a home and school association. So, I don't see this process necessarily resulting in the home and school association across the province ceasing to function. Many of the relationships between students, parents and the school have been maintained by the home and school association. If, in fact, in that particular school, the school council is not functioning, then there is an ongoing role for the home and school association in that particular school.

So, I don't think we should be, and the minister should not, dismissing the efforts of the home and school association to continue to be a partner in the development of education reform in the province and a partner in the drafting and composition of our new Education Bill. Their response to this leads me to conclude that they have not been a significant partner in the process.

A group who are affected in a very major way by this legislation, a very small group in the overall scheme of things, are those who are interested in home education. There are some 258 students in the province registered for home education and I am led to believe that there are a considerable number of unregistered students in the province receiving home education. I had opportunity with my colleague, the member for Queens, yesterday in meeting with a group of home educators, who came to the Legislature, who were anxious to have comment and input into the clauses of the bill that deal with home education. They were particularly dismayed that they will now fall under the jurisdiction of the local school board and they see some significant difficulties with that.

The kind of scenario that they wanted to discuss with the minister is, for example, let's say the local school board in that area has a Grade 7 and there are perhaps 16 students in the class. Within that particular area, within the catchment area of that school, there are two students receiving home education at the Grade 7 level. It would be advantageous for that school board, bearing in mind they have jurisdiction over those delivering home education, to take and encourage those Grade 7 students to become part of the local Grade 7 for funding purposes. In other words, there would be a financial incentive for the school board to encourage very strongly those students to be involved in the traditional or regular system. It well may be that that puts them in a conflict of interest in terms of at arm's length, exercising their control over those receiving home education.

There are other concerns. For example, this bill restricts very specifically that home education must be delivered by the parent. It can't be delivered by an aunt, a grandparent, a next door neighbour who may have some particular expertise in a particular school subject and who wants to assist in the delivery of home education for that particular student.

There are a number of problems being created for those who believe strongly in home education in the province, bearing in mind there is evidence to suggest, on average, that those receiving home education actually do better than those who go through the traditional system. So, all this group is saying is that they want input into the bill.

Now, I have been critical of the minister's lack of consultation. Yesterday, when I made him aware that these people were in Province House, he did find time to go and meet with them and I certainly applaud that meeting by the minister. So he has now had some opportunity to have consultation directly with those who are representing the Nova Scotia Home Educators Association. I am sure, I am absolutely certain, that the minister in hearing the same kind of information that I heard, might well have a little different perspective as to how that home education portion of the bill should be written. It well may be that as the result of that consultation that we will see an amendment or amendments on home education by the minister.

The problem that the group was having was that the minister had agreed to meet with them on November 28th. The problem being, however, that there is some suggestion that the bill may be, on November 28th, too far along for the minister to make any meaningful change. So that is the kind of consultation that groups are looking for. They want to speak to the minister early. They want to get their particular perspective in front of the minister early before the bill is cast in stone. So that little anecdotal story about home educators and the minister's early consultation with them while there is still time to do something of significance is really what the rest of the groups are looking for. They really want to sit down face to face with the minister, like the minister did yesterday with the home educators group. The Teachers Union wants to meet with the minister face to face, not at the Law Amendments Committee.

The home and school association does, the School Boards Association does and that is really where this is all coming from. Passage of this amendment will allow ample opportunity for those consultations to occur and it will allow in this particular situation another group, the Human Resources Committee, to have a look at this legislation and see where it should be changed and to get more perspectives.

One of the concerns that was expressed, if the bill goes through in its present form, is that what happens when, perhaps, too much power is vested in one person? One of the criticisms of this bill, and much has been made of the fact that there are some 37 separate instances where responsibility is moved into the minister's office; responsibility and control that he didn't have prior, he will now have after this bill is made law, and it well may be, and the suggestion out there is very strong, that we are concentrating too much power in the office of the minister without any system of checks and balances which the system normally has; the checks and balances that traditionally occur between the elected school boards now and the minister.

We look forward to the day, perhaps, when we may have a minister who has a particular bias. We may look forward to the day when we would have a minister, perhaps, who has a much different view of how this could work and through ministerial power, which this bill grants, could affect, in a very major way, the way this whole system is set up to operate, and affect it in a very negative way, and there wouldn't be the checks and balances there to protect other stakeholders in the delivery of education.

We must never get to the point that a government ministry is perceived as being the only positive influence in what that ministry is doing. The education system in this province has benefitted by the teaching profession; it has benefitted from the home and school associations; and it has benefitted from those who have sought elections and have served on our school boards.

The School Boards Association looks at this Education Bill and they, too, are very anxious to meet with the minister face to face, now that they see what is on paper. The opportunity they felt they were going to have to see the draft legislation, and didn't receive, they see, for example, the erosion of the elected school board function and it makes you wonder what, in fact, will be left in many areas as more and more power of the school board is now vested in the minister and as the school council contracts are set up, more and more of the school board function is vested in the school council.

Another group that would wish to meet with the Human Resources Committee is the group representing non-unionized employees. They are very concerned that there is no protection in this bill. I met with representatives of our local group. There are over 100 non-unionized employees working for the Pictou District School Board; across the province there are some 700, I believe, non-unionized employees.

As the school boards come together, there will be far-reaching implications in terms of their seniority and their ability to apply in competition for the new jobs that will be available under the new school boards. Are they going to be on equal footing with those who, in a neighbouring existing school board, are unionized? Bearing in mind they are providing exactly the same services, whether it be an assistant, a lunchtime assistance or a librarian; in some areas they are unionized in other areas they are not. All they are looking for a is guarantee that there will be an orderly and fair transition into the new system and they will not be disadvantaged because they, in their wisdom, chose not to unionize in their relationship with their current employer.

[8:45 p.m.]

Now there is ample evidence, other than the argument provided by the minister, that there has been not enough time for those who can have positive input into the delivery of education in this province to have their say with the minister before this bill was drafted. We must, somehow, find a way to allow that consultative process to happen. A referral to the committee would not necessarily slow up the process, and it is my understanding, that school board elections will not occur until 1997. We could go through this whole process, we could make some significant changes in this bill and yet still meet a deadline of education reform in 1997. We are making the assumption at that point that the new school boards will be up and running and will be ready to have elections in 1997.

I had an interesting conversation with a person who has had many years experience in the delivery of education in this province at a senior level. That person is intensely interested in what is going on here in the House and what is going on as our education system is being remolded. I asked a specific question, I said, if we are going to have fewer school boards, if that is a given, then how many school boards could we have and still, perhaps, maintain some of the strengths that the 22 school boards have, particularly in their ability to be totally conversant with what is going on at the local area in the local schools? Bearing in mind, Mr. Speaker, as all members of this House know, we now have 22 and we are going to go, with the current legislation that we have in the province, down to 7.

This person said, well, I think we could maintain some semblance of contact if we went from 22 to 11, but it is absolutely impossible, with the current alignment, of 22 going down to 7 to not in a very significant way reduce the ability of school boards to effectively function at the local level and at the school level. Bearing in mind, if there is no school council, much of the relationship of the school board with that school will be as it is today. It will require a continuing kind of hands-on approach with that particular school administration. That will be very difficult if the school board, as I had mentioned earlier, is 150 or 200 miles away. So, what this experienced educator, with qualifications, certainly I think, in the educational field that are comparable to those of the minister, said, we could go from 22 to 11 and it would be a much better system than going from 22 to 7.

Now, when is the minister going to take an opportunity to sit down with people and, perhaps, to get a perspective other than his own? He, obviously, has come to the conclusion that seven is the right number. In fact, he paid for two studies, Mr. Speaker, that, I believe if memory serves me correctly, cost $30,000 apiece. One of those studies determined that an existing school board in southwestern Nova Scotia should be split in two. So if you follow the conclusions of that independent study that was paid for by the taxpayers, we should have eight school boards and not seven.

Another study up in my own particular area was when they were mentioning a consortium which would eliminate the necessity for an amalgamated school board in Pictou, Cumberland and Colchester-East Hants. They met all of the minister's criteria which he was requesting that they meet. The study concluded that the minister's criteria could be met by a consortium. Again, that particular suggestion was turned down by the minister.

I fail to see the wisdom of the minister on one hand, saying look, I will pay for an independent study, I will pay $30,000 each for the studies and then when the studies report, come back with a conclusion, saying, I didn't like what the study said anyway so I am going to go ahead and do what I initially intended. What I would like the minister to discuss and perhaps he will do this in his closing remarks is, he does tell us that he went through an extended consultative process and yet the stakeholders tell me that he didn't. The consultation was either an establishment of position or it was consultation but there was nothing reflected in the bill that occurred in the consultative process. The minister will probably hear much of this echoed in submissions to the Law Amendments Committee.

The whole point of the issue is, the minister has decided on seven. I hope the minister will discuss with us how many of the stakeholders and how many of those that participated in the consultative process around the province told the minister we need seven school boards. The minister is taking note of my question I see and I hope he will take opportunity to address it at the close of second reading.

So in concluding, the amendment on the floor makes good sense. It allows that consultative process to occur, it allows the Standing Committee on Human Resources, an independent body in one sense, to look at this whole situation and make some comment available to the minister that well may result in him having a change of heart on some of his thoughts on education reform. I will now take my seat and I will be voting in favour of the amendment. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity this morning to talk on the referral motion of the Education Bill to the Human Resources Committee. It is a new bill, a bill after 40 years to change the education system. Why are we in such a hurry?

I think the suggestion that it be referred to the Standing Committee of Human Resources would give all the stakeholders the opportunity to come in and express their concerns. There are many concerns, all kinds of concerns. "Angry teachers threaten to strike over education bill" is only one headline. There are many concerns regarding this bill.

This bill contains 65 pages, 159 clauses. We got the bill on Friday and on Tuesday it was introduced. I took the opportunity Saturday night since there wasn't much on television to read the bill. I was blown away by the fact that there are 37 clauses that say the minister shall or will or whatever. This minister might be fine to have all of that power, he is a good man and he would do the right thing, but maybe someday there would be a minister there that might not be respectful of the school boards and the concerns of the children.

I really don't think that I have heard too many people say who this bill affects. It affects the young people of this province. What we are trying to do, I would hope, is to help their education, to do something that will help them get a better education so that they can go out in the work force and do a better job. To refer it to the Committee on Human Resources is only giving people the opportunity to come in and talk and make suggestions to the minister. I know he is a good minister and that he would listen. It would give people an opportunity to have their say.

The suggestion is that the boards be reduced from 22 to 7. Well, my colleague who was the Leader of the Opposition, who sits ahead of me, reduced the school boards from 88 to 22. Quite frankly, at that time I was concerned with that. In fact, when the boards were put together in Pictou County, we had a big bureaucratic system set up. I am concerned that when we put these boards down to seven, that we are going to get another bureau of bureaucrats, if you want to call them, who are not helping the education system.

They have their role to play, I know, but I think they would be better off, sometimes, if these inspectors or people involved - supervisors, superintendents, chief executive officers - would get out into the classrooms and see what is going on and see whether the teachers are doing a good job. I think that is important. But that doesn't happen. They should get around to the schools.

As I say, why are we doing this bill? The minister says to save money and he is saying it is going to save $11 million, I believe is the figure he has suggested. I was away yesterday; I had to go to Pictou to participate in the opening of our new 20-bed veterans' wing at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital. I must say that it was nice to be there and there was tremendous support by the legionnaires of Pictou County who attended that function. But the point I wanted to make, the fact is that I think it is important that the minister understand that we are trying to help the young people of this province.

It is 22 to 7; it has been suggested maybe 11 or 12 might be practical. Just take my own region for example. We have Cumberland, Colchester and Pictou Counties going together. I really think it would be better if it was Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough, to be truthful with you, because Parrsboro and Oxford, it is over 100 miles. How many people is he going to have on the board? I don't think he has actually said; I don't think I have heard that number that is going to sit on these regional boards. If the minister knows, perhaps he would stand up and tell me. But if he has nine people, that is three from Pictou County, three from Colchester County and three from Cumberland County. My Heaven, how can those people adequately represent their schools on a board of that magnitude? I don't understand it.

I had the pleasure of sitting on the Pictou County Municipal School Board for nine years. It was a good experience. I learned a lot and I am still learning. But the fact is, we were a busy board. Lots of parents would be coming to the school board meetings, meeting probably every two weeks. We were there until 12:00 at night, because we listened and we were concerned about what was going on in the school system.

I don't understand how, really and truly, a school board - and I take my own area again, Pictou, Colchester and Cumberland - can adequately represent the students and teachers. For that reason alone, I think it should be sent back to a committee and the amendment is to send it to the Human Resources Committee, which is a good committee. The minister could be there and people could come in and have discussions. It could be fairly informal and I think that is fine.

[9:00 a.m.]

What will happen, of course, is that the bill will pass second reading eventually, probably tonight, or Tuesday or Thursday and then it will go to the Law Amendments Committee. I understand already that there are many people lining up to go to the Law Amendments Committee and they do have an opportunity to have input. But unless that minister listens very carefully, because a lot of times the bills go, like the amalgamation bill of last year for metro and for Cape Breton, there were a lot of people who came in but there were not a lot of changes not made, there were a few made, I admit, but it just won't happen at the Law Amendments Committee. So I think that is why it should be sent back to the Human Resources Committee.

I did mention the $11 million that the minister has said would be saved but, as I say, I haven't seen the items, I don't believe he tabled them. I had to go away yesterday and I don't believe he tabled them in the House, but, if he did, would somebody please tell me and I will stop talking about that.

When the minister announced the reduction of the boards, Pictou County, Cumberland County and Colchester County school boards, felt that they wanted to try to do something to change this and they had a Mr. Murley appointed to meet with them and to try to work out some kind of an arrangement where they would not have to amalgamate but that they would have a consortium and work together but still have their own boards. That report was done -I think it cost $8,000, not a lot of money - and the three school boards all agreed to it and so it was sent to the minister. But what did the minister do? I am sure he read the report and then he said that Cabinet wouldn't accept it.

Here we have three good school boards, Cumberland County, Colchester County and Pictou County having a report done, saying how they could save money, and saying that they could work together, but the fact is, it was turned down. I am sure that those boards will be appearing at the Law Amendments Committee, and if we could send it to the Human Resources Committee, they would be able to have their opportunity to put their facts before the board.

The bill, which is 65 pages, 159 clauses. The minister was going to take this bill, give it to the boards before he introduced it. Well, they didn't have the bill before it was introduced and the fact is that I actually called my chief executive officer, the Superintendent for Pictou County on Friday night and he had not got the bill on Friday. I was asking him if he could make some suggestions as to what he thought of the bill. I said, I don't know what the rush is. It has been 40 years since the Act has been changed significantly. I believe the Act should be changed, I have no problem with that. Things have to change, you can't go on the same, but why the rush? Why couldn't we wait? Let it go to the committee for a couple of months or three months or even, as suggested in other bills, wait until the spring session and by that time there would be ample opportunity for people to review this bill and to make suggestions that would be helpful to all.

I believe there are 37 clauses that says, the minister shall. I honestly don't remember seeing a bill in my time in this Legislature that gave the minister so much power. I really and truly don't remember. As I say, this minister would do a good job but some day there might be somebody else there that might abuse his power and I think we should be careful in giving that much authority to any one person.

Now, home educators. I don't know what I think about home educators. People have the right, I guess, if they want to keep their children home and educate them; they have that opportunity. I must say I had a neighbour who, I didn't realize, was teaching her children at home. She called me at home on Wednesday of this week, wanted a copy of the bill and I believe that she is going to come down from Pictou to express her concerns about this bill. Again, the authority in the bill is just too much.

Again I ask, why the hurry? Why can't we put it to committee? There are many stakeholders involved in the Education Bill. We have the students, themselves, the young people and the parents. A lot of parents are very interested in what the education system does and what input they can have for their children. Yesterday, I was coming back from Pictou again, I guess it was after 4:30 p.m. when I was coming through Lyons Brook and there were hundreds of cars at the high school. My granddaughter was with me and I asked her what was going on at the school today? She said it was parent-teacher day. Those parents are taking the time to go to the school to meet with the teachers to find out what is going on and they are interested. So those groups are going to be coming to you, Mr. Minister, and if we had the Human Resources Committee review this, they would have that opportunity.

There are a lot of home and school associations across this province. I think that we should have the opportunity to let those people come in to the committee and have some input. They are interested, they spend their own time, they are not getting paid. They go to those meetings and try to help and raise money for the schools and whatever. Here we are changing the bill after 40 years. I agree it should be changed. I have no problem with that, but why the hurry? Let's put it to committee, let's have the stakeholders have input.

What about the Nova Scotia Teachers Union? Are they concerned? "Angry teachers threaten to strike over education bill". Well I have some concerns about that too but they are very upset, they want to have some input. Will they not be at the Law Amendments Committee and they would come to the Human Resources Committee meeting and have input, if given the opportunity. I tell you that they will be at the Law Amendments Committee in strength with their President, Mr. MacDonald, having their say and probably some of the locals too.

Another stakeholders group, the bus drivers, the clerical workers, the janitors, they are all very concerned. I had the opportunity to meet with the non-unionized workers of the Pictou County School Board. Actually, I think there are over 100 members of that non-unionized group and the reason they are non-unionized is that the board was good and met with them and gave them practically the same benefits as the other groups that are involved. They are very concerned because, number one, the Colchester clerical and support staff, and supervisors during the break hours, are unionized. They said to me, and I know they met with our caucus in different areas, but they are asking, what protection is in this bill for them?

They worked for years, they were non-unionized and they took the opportunity to do that, but why are we rushing this? Are they going to be protected? I don't see anything in the bill that says they are protected. The minister says they are protected. Well, that may be, but I tell you they are pretty concerned about it. They really are and these are good people. My daughter is a vice-principal at a high school and she tells me that those supervisors are very helpful to the teachers, not only for the work that they do but they see the bad ones and they see the smokers and they see the drugs. Those supervisors are very helpful to the teachers. Now, that is a fact, that is not hearsay, I know that. So, we have to look after those people.

What will this bill do to improve the quality of education in Nova Scotia? Did I hear anybody tell that? What will it do to improve the quality of education and isn't that what we are trying to do? Isn't that what we should be trying to do? Why can't we take our time? Let her go to committee. Hold her over to the spring. The spring session will be in March or April or whenever the Premier and the government decides, whenever spring comes and they want to call the Legislature back in session that is fine, we will all be here and things won't change. My understanding is they are not going to appoint the new school boards until 1997. So why the hurry? I don't know why the hurry.

He talks about school councils and they may have a role, Clause 20(1), "A school board shall establish a school council for a public school where (a) eight or more parents . . .", well, that's fine, I can't get too excited about that, quite frankly, but I am concerned about it. I know I am not supposed to go clause by clause when I am on a motion to go to committee and I don't want you, Mr. Speaker, to rule me out of order, but, Clause 17, "The Minister may appoint (a) a co-ordinator . . .", no problem and he is also going to appoint the local amalgamation committee. The minister is going to appoint them. Why wouldn't each school board appoint someone, wouldn't that be more reasonable than the minister? I don't think this minister would be political, I wouldn't say that, but it could happen. What about the health boards that are appointed? Well, we know who are on those committees.

I think, Mr. Speaker, the amendment, as you say, was quite in order, we are going to refer the bill to a committee for study, with all the stakeholders, the parents, school boards, home and school associations, the workers at the schools, the bus drivers, janitors, clerical workers, non-unionized groups. Those people are all concerned. I know already that they are lining up to come into the Law Amendments Committee. So if this bill would just be put to the committee, we would have the opportunity to have input and to be helpful to the minister and to the government so that we don't push it through. Once this bill is passed, that Education Act will be in place for years and years and years to come. Years. So, why don't we go slow, do it right, so we can be proud of our system.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to delay the committee. I think it is important that we get on with this bill. As I say, I know eventually it will pass and go to the Law Amendments Committee and I will be at the Law Amendments Committee and will be very interested to hear what they say at the Law Amendments Committee.

We did ask certain school boards across this province for some suggestions as to what we could do, what points we could raise in regard to this bill. I am not going to quote it but I will just read a little bit from one of the boards that sent in their suggestions. It says, "It is impossible to do a comprehensive analysis of Bill 39 in the time available - I suspect that is intentional - it is unprecedented and unacceptable that stakeholders have had so little input in this Bill that affects so many lives.". That was not me who said that but it came from a school board in this province.

[9:15 a.m.]

One more quote and then I will sit down. "Most of the razzle-dazzle of changes will not improve the quality of education our children receive in their classrooms." Mr. Speaker, is that not what we are trying to do? We are trying to save some money. I know the government has to save money, I understand that. But let's do it in a way that will be beneficial to our children, to my grandchildren, your children. We all have children or grandchildren or nephews or nieces or something, or friends. They are the people of tomorrow. It is so important that they have the opportunity to have a good education in a good system, not only education but the sports and the recreation. That is all part of it, that is why our children who do go and participate get out in the world and do well. That is why they do it, because they have had the opportunity.

Let's not forget them. Let's put it to a committee. I think it would be a good idea to put it to a committee. Let the stakeholders come in, have their say, bring it back in the spring or whenever the government so wishes and we would pass the bill like that. We agree lots of times when bills are good, we don't hold you up at all. But this bill, of 65 pages, 159 clauses, 37 clauses giving the minister authority - and I don't say that minister - but down the road we might have somebody there who would abuse his authority.

So, Mr. Speaker, not to ramble on, I think I will vote for the amendment to send it to committee and let the committee review this bill. Then they could bring it back and we could pass it. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to be able to speak on behalf of the amendment to send Bill No. 39 to the Human Resources Committee. I think it is a very important amendment and I would like to relay why I think it is so important.

As I have told you before, Mr. Speaker, I am a parent and I have three children in the school system. My oldest daughter is 16 and when she came out of Grade Primary, my daughter could read. My youngest son is now six and when he came out of Grade Primary he couldn't read and he is not slow or backward. There is something wrong with the system and I congratulate the minister for trying to change that system because the system has to be fixed, there is no question about that in my mind. But the system has to be fixed right, not just changed for the sake of change. We have to make a difference when we are doing this. We are not talking about blocks and mortar and we are not talking about books and we are not talking about school buses, we are talking about the future of our children.

That is why it is so important that everybody has as much input and as much say as they can, to make this a good bill. If we put this to the Human Resources Committee, there will be many people from across this province come forward and offer their suggestions. There will be many people who will say that they had a real chance to make a difference in the education system. I believe that is what this minister wants, to make a change that is positive and is right for the people of Nova Scotia.

You know, the minister tells us that he has gone around and gotten input from many locations and I don't doubt that for a second. But you know, I had a chance to do a little survey myself not so long ago. I went door to door in Cape Breton West and there were a number of people in that area who had education on their mind, who wanted to talk about what was happening to their school system, what was happening to their children or to their grandchildren. I really think that is what our job here is supposed to be, to listen to those people.

Now I may be a little naive because I am brand new but what in the world are we doing here if we are not trying to make a difference? (Interruption) Somebody had this body before me. The fact of the matter is, regardless of what I look like, we have to make a difference that is positive for our children. I think we have to take this seriously, this is serious business we are talking about. We shouldn't take ourselves too seriously but the business we are dealing with here has to be taken seriously.

The minister has put before us a blueprint, a place to start, but now it is our opportunity to make sure that that blueprint puts down a solid foundation so that the children of this province will be able to go on and make a contribution to the lives of this province and our country, in general.

When I went door to door and when I talked to the people on the doorsteps, they were really concerned with what was happening. They understand and they agree that we have to tighten our belts; nobody is going to argue that. But they don't want the belts tightened for the sake of tightening, they want something positive in return.

The minister's White Paper has suggested to us that the most important valuable natural resource we have in this province is our children, and I agree with that. If that is the case, then we have to be sure that what we are doing with this bill is proper, is done with a lot of consideration and makes a positive impact.

I am sure, by looking at some of the faces of the members from Cape Breton that they, too, would agree with me when I say that education is an important foundation for what we have to accomplish in Cape Breton. If we don't get a solid educational background for our children in Cape Breton, and in other parts of Nova Scotia, then we are failing them and we are failing them severely.

I spoke on the weekend with a lady who is very involved with the PTA of a school in the Sydney River area and she had grave concerns about what was happening in their school and the number of children that were there and how the non-unionized workers were being treated and how their resources were being reallocated. All of those things are things we are going to try to address in this new bill. I, again, would congratulate the minister on that.

Then we have to wonder if the minister really wants to make a difference, because when you read today's newspaper clippings, what do you hear? You hear about teachers wanting to go on strike; you hear about parents who are concerned; you hear about all kinds of different people who are upset that they haven't had time to have input into what is going on. So, if we truly want to make a difference, Mr. Speaker, we have to allow those people to have their input.

The people down in the Argyle area are worried that we are going to create our own small Quebec in Nova Scotia with the type of school board they are talking about having. That article in the paper today says that very clearly; they are worried about what is going on. You should look at the clippings in the paper, they truly are concerned. There are all kinds of people who are concerned.

Last night during the evening, I called teachers who live in my riding. I talked to them and asked them what they thought. A lot of them haven't even had a chance to look at the bill yet. They haven't had a chance to see it, but they are concerned. They are concerned about the quality of education that they are going to be allowed to deliver to the children of this province. Mr. Speaker, we have to give those people a chance to come to the Human Resources Committee to speak on what is important, what is going to make a difference and how we can have positive change that is going to be good for all Nova Scotians.

We talk in the bill about school councils. Well, Mr. Speaker, I served on the board of trustees of a school and it was very hard to get people to become involved. What school councils will allow to happen, if we are not careful, is special interest groups will be able to take over the operations of schools. Eight people can come forward and say they want to start a school council and they will set the direction for that school. We have to be careful when we are talking about these things. We are not talking, as I said earlier, about stones and mortar, we are not talking about buses or school bus garages, we are talking about the lives of our children. That should be paramount in our minds when we are doing this.

What effect is this going to have in the long range on our children, Mr. Speaker? I would really like the opportunity for my children to be able to stay in this province and earn a good living. That is part of the reason why I got involved in this whole process. In my own case, I am the only one in my family who was either brave enough or stupid enough to stay in Nova Scotia because of the lack of opportunities here. I do not want that to happen to my family or to the families of my friends and to the families of people that we know in this province. We have a good type of life here in Nova Scotia and it is the type of life that we should be striving to continue. That is partially based on the type of education that we provide our children.

Mr. Speaker, we talk in this document about the role of parents in the education of our children. This is one section where I would take some disagreement with the minister. I do not know if it is incumbent on the minister to tell me what my duties as a parent are. I think that any parent knows what their duties are and they are trying to follow them as best they can. The minister talks about the roles and responsibilities of parents. Anyone who is a parent knows what their role and their responsibility is and they try to their best ability to do that.

Mr. Speaker, how would we enforce such a law? Who in this Chamber or in any other part of the province is qualified to say whether the parents are following their roles and their responsibilities? According to this document maybe the minister is, but I do not agree with him on that part of the document. Again I say that I think we do need change and I think change is positive when it is good change, but change for the sake of change will not help our children, it will only hurt them.

The teachers. We talk about that the teachers should respect the rights of our students. My God, that is what teachers do. That is why they became involved in the profession.

MR. SPEAKER: We have not previously used the words my God in debate here. I am not prepared to accept them. I rule those words out of order.

MR. MACLEOD: My apologies, Mr. Speaker. But my goodness, it is very important and the minister himself knows and the Speaker knows what the role of a teacher is. I am not sure if we are doing the right thing. Who will regulate all this stuff once it is on the road, when we are starting off? It gives the minister all kinds of powers. Again, is that the right thing to do? This minister could well handle those powers, but maybe somebody else down the road cannot. We have to be making plans for the long term, not for the short term.

For these, Mr. Speaker, and many other reasons I will be voting in support of the amendment to send this bill to the Human Resources Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further speakers to the amendment? If not, we will now hold the vote on whether or not the amendment be adopted.

We have a request for a recorded vote from two honourable members. Ring the bells, call in the members.

[9:28 a.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MADAM SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

I would ask the Clerk to call the roll. We are voting on the amendment on Bill No. 39, to refer it to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[10:28 a.m.]


Mr. Donahoe Mr. Barkhouse

Mr. Russell Mr. Downe

Mr. Moody Dr. Smith

Mr. Holm Mr. Gillis

Mr. Chisholm Dr. Stewart

Mr. Archibald Ms. Jolly

Mr. Leefe Mr. MacEachern

Mr. McInnes Mr. Mann

Mr. Taylor Mr. Gaudet

Mr. MacLeod Mr. O'Malley

Mr. Harrison

Mr. Abbass

Mr. Adams

Mr. Brown

Mr. Lorraine

Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Bragg

Mr. MacArthur

Mr. MacNeil

Mr. Richards

Mr. Surette

Mrs. O'Connor

Mr. Mitchell

Mr. Fogarty

Mr. B. MacDonald

Mr. Fraser

Mr. Colwell

THE CLERK: For, 10. Against, 27.

MADAM SPEAKER: I declare the amendment carried in the negative.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I would like to introduce to all members a group of Grade 5 French immersion students in the west gallery from John W. MacLeod School. They are accompanied by their teacher, Mona Currans, and by two parents, Heather Wood and Elizabeth Dooley.

Madam Speaker, and all members, this class has recently gone through their own class election where they elected a Class President, Shani Greenlow, who was running for election under the NDP banner. I would like to not only congratulate Shani but also say that I hope that she and I have not set a trend in Halifax Atlantic, because I won by 12 votes and Shani won by one vote. (Laughter) I guess in the final analysis, the important thing is that we came out on top. That having been said, my congratulations to the other students who ran for election and certainly to those people who worked hard on their campaigns.

I would like to ask all members if they would join me in offering a warm welcome to the Grade 5 students from John W. MacLeod. (Applause)

By the way they are looking for autographs so if you will speak to me I will arrange it for you to go outside and meet with the Grade 5 students in order to sign autographs. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, I know how that member arranges to get outside and I don't intend to follow him like that anymore, I can get there on my own that way. Little did I realize what a trendsetter I was last fall.

We are back to debating second reading of the Education Bill in principle and I do indeed welcome this opportunity. I particularly welcome the opportunity to address this matter is front of these Grade 5 students who, for a very long time, we would anticipate no more than seven more years at least, will be greatly affected by this bill once passed by this House and coming into effect. Those are the people for whom this bill is designed, not for the government, not for any particular interests outside this House but indeed for the young people in this province.

I don't think there is anybody who would argue with the purpose of the bill laid out at the very beginning. It is laudable, it is appropriate and it is desirable. However, I must say that once I move away from the purpose of the bill, as stated in the legislation, I find that the purpose is not reflected in what I believe will be the effect of this bill once law and once put in place. I am provided with no surety let alone a guarantee that the laudable principles espoused in the opening section of this bill will, in fact, be effective.

That is not to say that there are not some positive aspects to this bill and I will touch upon a few of those in the limited time available to me. However, I do believe that there are some tremendously negative aspects to this bill which I believe the minister has the responsibility to address, not by way of defence, but by way of amendment.

I was pleased this morning to hear on CBC that the minister has stated that he and staff are already working on amendments and I must say through you to the minister, Madam Speaker, that if he is prepared to provide our caucus with those draft amendments in advance of having them presented here on the floor of the House, it may well be helpful to the pursuit of debate with respect to this bill. I think that is certainly in the public interest and of all those who will be impacted most directly by this bill.

I am greatly concerned that although I have no doubt about the minister's intentions, that those intentions may not be sufficiently well thought out through the legislation that we will not end up with unintended results. I have no doubt that the minister wants to do what is best for Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians and best for the children in this province who are attending school and who will attend school. However, I do believe that the bill currently before us may well result in all kinds of changes within the educational system in Nova Scotia, which are not intended and, indeed, which are not desirable.

I am also greatly concerned at what I think is a gross over-extension of power into the office of the minister of the day. I want to make it clear that I say, into the office of the minister of the day. I am not suggesting that this minister is attempting to grab excessive power for his own purpose. I am saying, however, that this minister will not always be there, there will be others who will follow him, others who will be bound by this Act, but this Act provides an opportunity for a minister who may be abusive with respect to the exercise of power and provides an opportunity for an abuse of power which I believe is not in the public interest and certainly not in the interest of the young people in this province. That is one of the greatest concerns I have arising out of this bill. The bill must not only allow that certain things be done but it also must make sure that certain things are not done. That is why it is so important that the language of the bill be clear and that the intent of the bill be understood and that that language effect the intent and not effect something else.

I notice, for example, that in a time when we speak of democracy and our grass roots participation that the minister has the right, by fiat, to determine school boundaries. There is no provision in the bill for any form of consultation whatsoever with any of the citizens who live in the areas that may be affected by a revision of boundaries and I think that is wrong. What is to be lost by the minister and by the government having the responsibility to consult. At the end of the day, government, of course, must have the full authority to make a decision, but in advance of making that decision, I believe it would be much more in the public interest to have consultation included as part of the process of decision-making and legislated as such. I also believe that decision on school boundaries should be made by Governor in Council and not by the minister himself.

It is interesting to note that there is kind of a caveat built into the bill early on with respect to the future of school boundaries, with respect to future amalgamations with effect to all those kinds of things. It suggests to me that the government is not quite sure that what is proposed in this bill is just the right thing to do at this juncture. That frightens me a little bit, it rings an alarm bell for me. It causes me to say to the minister; minister, if you are not quite sure this is what should be done, then why are you doing it this way in this bill at this time?

I think it behooves the minister to respond to that question, not to satisfy me but, indeed, to satisfy the men and women of Nova Scotia, in particular the young men and the young women of Nova Scotia who are most immediately affected by what happens to our schools. Those, of course, are the students. Why do I keep saying that? Because the minister keeps saying that. The minister keeps saying that he wants students to have a role to play in governance and I agree with that. I know that all members of our caucus agree with that. It is vitally important that their interests as well as the wider interest be met.

I noticed, too, that in the transition period from the present boards to the new regional boards all members of the existing school boards are deemed during the interim period to be members of the new board. I believe that means that there will be something like 50 school board members on the Western Nova Scotia Regional Board. I do not understand how 50 or more people can possibly provide an effective decision-making mechanism.

The school boards are going to be very large, much larger than anything we have experienced in Nova Scotia ever before. From the time that schools were first opened in Nova Scotia - in my community the first school began as a private school in 1777, according to Perkins' diary. I know that the member from Amherst and the member for Kings South would be greatly interested in this. There are certainly quite taken up in each other's conversations, but perhaps they would like to listen to the debate.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I really do not think those remarks are necessary.

MR. LEEFE: I will tell you, Madam Speaker, I think they are necessary. I find their conversation in this Chamber quite annoying.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, if you are speaking to the bill, I would like you to continue to speak to the bill.

MR. LEEFE: I will speaker to the bill, Madam Speaker. You speak to them and ask them to be quiet, please, or take their conversation outside.

MADAM SPEAKER: I would remind you that you are almost bordering on the point of being impertinent and I know you would not want to put yourself in that position. Honourable member, you do have the floor for the debate.

MR. LEEFE: Absolutely, Madam Speaker. As I was saying, we have schools across this province whose trustees and board members have worked very hard, particularly with respect to relationships with parent/teacher organizations to provide equipment for playgrounds, equipment for schools, to provide all of those kinds of good things to make their community school better. I have great concern that with the provisions made available in this new bill, the kind of assets that the local community - let's say, for example, the Caledonia community - has worked hard to create for their school could be lifted out of the Caledonia area by a regional board that is quite far removed from that community and plunked down somewhere in Digby County or Shelburne County or Yarmouth County or Lunenburg County.

I think what the minister should do is to ensure that certain types of assets and the allocation of those assets be left in the hands of school councils, not in the hands of school boards. People in our small communities in particular take great pride in what they have done for their schools and I think that those people who represent their communities in this new bill, the school councils, should have the full authority to determine what to do with those kinds of assets. I am not talking about assets like school buses and all that sort of thing. Clearly that is something which should fall under the purview of the board, but things like playground equipment and so on, surely that is something that should fall under the purview of the school council.

Also, Madam Speaker, I notice that there are several provisions in the bill with respect to the relationships between the minister, the government and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, which represents all teachers in the public schools in this province. I notice that the minister is empowered - and I quote the bill here - "to do anything". The minister is not just empowered but is obliged to quote, " . . . do anything considered necessary or advisable to obtain a professional agreement on behalf of a regional school board . . .". That is a tremendously extensive power which the minister, by this bill, is not given the opportunity, if he or she so chooses to effect, but the minister is obliged to do that. I think that that very extensive power should require the approbation of the Governor in Council and should not be left in the hands of the minister alone. I do wonder what the word, "anything" constitutes in a legal definition.

[10:45 a.m.]

One of the great flaws in this bill is that which causes the CEO and the assistant CEO to be perhaps creatures of both the minister and the board. We find that in one clause of the bill, the CEO and the assistant CEO are to be employed by the board, but then we find in another clause of the bill that the minister has very extensive responsibilities with respect to the CEOs and indeed may participate in the hiring and the evaluation of CEOs and assistant CEOs. We can't expect the CEOs of these boards to respond to two masters; they respond to one or the other. Very clearly, the one to whom they should respond is the one who pays their salaries. In this province, even under the new administrative arrangement, the school boards, not the minister, are the employers.

It strikes me, because the minister is given the option of hiring persons who, in effect, would take over the jobs that we used to call inspectors jobs, that here we have a little kind of a slider where the minister is thinking maybe I can get out of paying for inspectors by causing the CEOs and the assistant CEOs to have to do some of my bidding out of my office. I think it behooves the minister to make a very clear cut and to make it absolutely clear that the CEOs and assistant CEOs will be hired by the boards, that the minister and his office will have nothing to do with that because there is then always the possibility - perhaps not the probability but always the possibility - of political interference in that hiring. Additionally, the CEOs and assistant CEOs are, in fact, responsible to the boards and to the boards only, not to the minister.

That means that Clause 139, which would establish the new inspection system, that is those who would be regional education officers, that means that the section referencing regional education officers should be mandatory and that the minister should have to appoint those people and that those people should be as the inspectors were, the eyes and ears of the minister in the regions. There is nobody in here who has been involved in any kind of administrative structure who doesn't understand that you can't have somebody reporting to two bosses and responsible to two bosses. I can't understand why this is allowed in this bill and it is one of the amendments that the minister, in my view, must make or there is going to be tremendous confusion throughout this province as a result of that.

I am also greatly concerned about the way this bill will affect the men and women who are employed by school boards, other than those who are protected because they are members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. Many of our school board employees have chosen to be certified under bargaining units and they have that very strong protection that was allowed them by those bargaining units which they have chosen to join. But, also, very many of our school board employees have chosen not to certify into bargaining units and therefore do not have that level of representation available to them.

I am looking for an absolute hard and fast guarantee from this minister, through this bill, that a person will not advertently or inadvertently be discriminated against with respect to their future employment with the new regional boards because they are not a member of a bargaining unit. There absolutely must be fairness and equity built into this legislation. I do not see it built into this legislation and I will look forward to the minister either convincing me that it is there and I somehow have misread the bill, or, by the minister providing certain amendments which will ensure that that fairness and that equity are built into the bill. I must say, Madam Speaker, I think that the flip side is just as solid an argument, that nobody should be disadvantaged because they happen to belong to a bargaining unit. Every employee must be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.

Madam Speaker, I have been informed by some parents who live in the areas that are likely to be caught up in the Conseil that there is a real concern that they don't want to get locked into one of two solitudes, English education or French education, but that they want to be able to advantage, as they themselves see appropriate, from a mix of the two, if that is what those parents desire for their children. I really would hope that the minister would meet this concern head-on and will provide clarification for those parents and, indeed, for those students who want to make sure that yes, why should they not have available to them, if they so choose, the best of two worlds.

Again, this bill is created not to serve the politicians but to serve the children, and in serving the children, to serve the children's parents as well because the parents, of course, play a very important, indeed vital role in their education. So I want the minister to address that question of whether this bill, intentionally or unintentionally, may result in the creation of two solitudes with respect to francophone and anglophone education.

Madam Speaker, one of the things that I really like in this bill, and I think the minister is absolutely dead-on here, and I wish the Minister of Municipal Affairs would take a page out of the Minister of Education's book, and that is the provision in the short term and in the long term for an independent review of remuneration for school boards. This is an excellent step, I applaud the minister for it and I ask the government why this rule is being applied inconsistently; being applied appropriately, I believe, in this bill, but its omission in the Act regarding municipal amalgamation is apparent and troubling. So perhaps the Minister of Municipal Affairs might want to give some consideration to that.

Also, Madam Speaker, I notice that CEOs salary and benefits have to be approved by the minister. I do find that troubling. It strikes me that what we have been used to in this province is a schedule, carefully laid out, whereby CEOs and assistant CEOs have been paid administrative allowances on the basis of the number of students for which they are responsible. So it didn't matter whether you were a CEO in Digby, in Richmond County, in Cumberland County or in Halifax County, you are paid according to your qualifications and then you are paid an administrative allowance, based on the number of students you have. So if you were a CEO for a school district in the western part of the province and that was similar in size to one in the eastern part of the province, then the CEO would be paid the same.

Here this is an opportunity for the minister to become directly involved in tailoring a salary and the benefits to be paid to a CEO. Again we have the opportunity provided, not necessarily this minister but perhaps a future minister, to interfere directly and to provide perhaps a salary arrangement or a beneficial arrangement which will be a more friendly arrangement to a person to whom the minister is well disposed to one to whom the minister may not be well disposed. We have to have consistency applied across the province and this is a bad aspect of this bill.

School councils may work, they may not work. They have rather extensive powers where they are established. I think we are going to have some considerable friction, in the early years at least, between school councils and school boards, as they determine what their roles are with respect to each other. I am greatly concerned as, indeed, everyone should be, that the bill before us provides the opportunity for a minister to snuff out a board which is duly elected by all the eligible electors in the school region and replace it with a school council which may, in fact, not even have a representative from the community on it.

That brings me to another point. Madam Speaker, there are three criteria laid down which, as I read the bill, must all come into play before a school council is created; a minimum of eight parents must request it, the principal must request it and the request must also come from a parent-teacher organization or a parent organization. I wonder why you have to have all three of those into play before a council can be created. Why not two of the three? Certainly it should be at least two of those three but why not two of the three, rather than all three?

With respect to the constitution of a school council, we all talk in here about the importance and people across Nova Scotia talk about the importance of everyone in the community taking an interest in education. Yet the constitution of each of these councils is such that the majority of people in each and every one of our communities is locked out of any prospect of participation in the school council, locked out to the extent that the school council is the body which determines; (a) if anybody from the community at large will even be invited to participate, and (b), and I find this quite horrific in this democratic age, that the council will decide whether they will appoint that person or if that person may be elected in some manner which the council approves.

That is wrong and that is something which must be changed in this bill. If we expect the communities in which we live and which we represent to be encouraged to take an active participation in education and educational matters and to do so through the councils which are closest to them, then we must make provision in the way in which those councils are structured for those people to be able to participate, not lock them out as this legislation does, but create a way in which they can participate in a direct and meaningful fashion. This is a very bad clause in this bill.

Madam Speaker, I notice, too, with respect to reporting, the councils are required to report those things which the minister demands of them. I hope that it is not deemed to be implicit here that those councils can only report on those matters which the minister requires of them. That lends itself to the possibility of the minister interfering in the freedom of those councils to report on any matters which they deem to be of interest to the schools which fall under their suzerainty.

[11:00 a.m.]

I notice, too, that one of the functions of the school council is to advise on school discipline. Advise whom? Does that mean that if the principal in a school, as is provided in the law, makes the decision to conduct a student off the premises, that the school council then has the authority to come in and advise the principal that they don't want that student removed from the school, they want them back? Or is it the function of the board, upon the recommendation of the principal, to make that kind of decision?

It strikes me that the school council's function should be to advise a board with respect to discipline policy, that the board should then create the discipline policy for that regional board after having had advice from the schools councils, and that the CEO and the principals who report to the CEO, and the teachers, should then have the responsibility of administering that policy. What we must not do, advertently or inadvertently, is create a situation where the school councils believe it is their responsibility and, indeed, their legislative right to interfere in the day-to-day application of discipline policy, the policy created by the school board for the better ordering of the schools.

There are legal responsibilities laid out in Clause 24 of the bill. They require that the students shall do certain things; they require that the parents shall do certain things; and they require that the teachers shall do certain things. I immediately, after reading that clause, searched through the bill looking for a clause relating to offences and penalties. I want each member of this House who will vote on this bill, and who will vote on amendments to this bill, to remind themselves that Clause 142, the offence section, would seem to apply to any parent, teacher or student who does not comply with all of those requirements as laid down in the law in Clause 24, things that they are obliged under the law to do.

If a student or a parent or a teacher breaches Clause 24, then it seems to me that under Clause 142, they can be charged with breach of the Act and they can be fined up to $2,000, thank you very much, or they can be sent to jail for six months, or both. Now, I ask members of this House, is that what we want to do with respect to educational law and penalties in this province? I think a reasonable question we must ask ourselves - even if there are some members in this House who think that is appropriate - in fact, can it be done? Will it really happen?

The penalty section, with respect to the obligations that are required under Clause 24, it seems to me just don't weigh out in the balance. It is not well thought out, not at all. Possibly, I have misread the bill, and if I have, I look forward to hearing form the minister with respect to that. What I want from the minister with respect to that is what the legal interpretation is, not what his interpretation is, but I want to know what he has discovered through advice from his departmental solicitor who is appointed to look after the affairs of that department by the Minister of Justice.

Does that mean, for example, that a family who is on welfare and which finds that it has trouble putting food in the larder and a child may be coming to school not as well fed on a consistent basis as other children, that that parent is somehow or other going to be subject to a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Well, clearly they won't have the $2,000 for the fine, so you know where they are going to end up, up to six months in jail. Is that what you want? It is not what I want. Is that in the best interests of delivering educational opportunity in this province? I don't think so. The minister may say to me, well, that is ridiculous, that is not going to happen. Well, I say to that minister, if the law says it can happen, then it may happen and we have to make sure that that is not the case.

There is a clause in the bill which is going to be germane to activities in each of these new school districts. Most of us have gone through the painful - and it is painful - experience of school closures in our communities. It is painful for the community as a whole, for the school board members, for the Members of the Legislative Assembly. This is perhaps more so in a rural area, an area which is comprised of small towns, than in the urban sprawl of Halifax or Sydney, but it can be a very traumatic experience there, as well. We have seen that from time to time. But it strikes me as being much more acute in the rural areas of this province and in the small towns of this province.

With reduced school budgets, boards are going to have to cut their sails to suit their cloth. We know that it is the government's intention that the Department of Education, like other government departments, will to a greater or lesser extent, reduce their budgets by 2, 3, 3 and 2. That cannot help but impact upon the capacity of school boards to maintain buildings and to maintain teaching staff to meet the needs of their students.

If the new regional board determines that it doesn't have enough money to run all the schools or to run the schools they way they currently are configured, then it is going to be much easier for these rather more remote regional boards to close schools or to reduce the number of grades in a given school than has been the case to date with the district boards that have functioned in Nova Scotia since the early 1980's. When there was a school closure in Queens County, anybody in that community knew who their school board member was and they could go right to that school board member and say, look we elected you to do a job for us. You are not doing that job for us because you are participating in the closure of our school. At least, please represent our views to the school board.

That is going to be much more difficult, if not impossible, under the new arrangement. That, by virtue of the fact of geography, by virtue of the fact that some areas within that school board region have much larger populations than others and are therefore going to have stronger and more immediately available representation than is the case with others.

I want to give a case in point, Madam Speaker. It will just take me a second to flip through to the clause of the bill that deals with school board representation. The bill is really explicit. It requires that the regional school district have the number of electors determined as nearly as practicable and in equal numbers (a) on the basis of population density. It is not quite rep by pop but it is very close to rep by pop.

Now what does that mean for southwestern Nova Scotia? What I have done here is taken each case for Clare and Yarmouth County, I have taken out the population that will be involved in the Conseil acadien on the assumption that those who choose to have their children educated within the Conseil will be voting within that structure and will not also be voting within the structure that administers the non-Conseil schools in the province. Clearly, you shouldn't have it both ways, you have got to choose one or the other. So, I have taken those populations numbers out but even if they were put back in, there would not be a substantial difference to what I am going to propose to the House right now that will be the case.

Let's assume that the minister determines that there will be 18 school board members for the school board which will govern southwestern Nova Scotia. Digby County would have 11.4 per cent of the population, Lunenburg County 41 per cent, Queens County 11.7 per cent, Shelburne County 15.5 per cent and Yarmouth County 20.4 per cent. Of the 18 board members then, Digby would have two, Lunenburg seven, Queens two, Shelburne three, and Yarmouth four. Quite apart from anything else that means that consistently, those persons who represent districts in Yarmouth and Lunenburg County will be able to out-vote the other three. That tells me that those who live in Digby County, Shelburne County and Queens County will be at a very distinct disadvantage.

For example, let's assume that the board decides that is doesn't have enough money to operate all of the schools in the new school district in the same way as the old school boards did. Let's assume that that school board says okay, what options are available to us? Well, we can't touch the schools that fall within the Conseil but is there an anglophone school in the Municipality of Argyle that could be shut down and we could bus those students to a school in Yarmouth and could we save money that way? Senior high education is offered at Caledonia Consolidated High School, maybe we could move those students into, well we couldn't move them into the regional high school in Liverpool because there is not enough room and there probably isn't enough room in Parkview but maybe we could bus those kids to New Germany to go to school, so senior high school education disappears from North Queens Rural High School.

Let me tell you that that would have a traumatic and dramatic impact on that community. There are people who have told me, some of them teachers at that school in fact, that if that were to happen they would have to give serious consideration to moving out of the community because they want to live in a community where their children go to school. Now those are just two examples but the same would be true of any small rural school which is currently functioning in these school districts.

On this board the majority is going to rule and if the majority of board members from Yarmouth and Lunenburg decide that the smaller areas are going to have to suffer for the good of the greater area then you know who is going to suffer, Madam Speaker, it is going to be Shelburne County, Digby County and Queens County.

[11:15 a.m.]

I would advise every other member to go to the library and haul out the little book on facts of Nova Scotia that is made available, I think through the Department of Finance, have a look at your part of the province that is going to be affected by this new administrative arrangement and ask yourself, what is going to happen to my community? Am I going to be disadvantaged because of the way in which these new boards are structured? It is a very great concern and I anticipate that in my own community we may well see in the very near future only four schools operating in Queens County. I can foresee the possibility, I hope not the probability, but I can foresee the possibility of all elementary education being delivered out of the new elementary school in Liverpool, all senior high education being offered out of the regional high school in Liverpool, all junior high education being offered through the consolidated junior high school in Liverpool, the schools in Port Mouton and in Mill Village being closed out and also the senior high school in Caledonia and the elementary school in Greenfield being closed out. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. Don't ever kid yourselves into thinking that well, if that begins to happen, we can rectify it. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. Bear that in mind as you think how you are going to vote on this bill.

I think one of the most demoralized professions in this province today has to be the teaching profession. Teachers are required to be more than just school teachers, they are now required to be counsellors, psychologists, comforters, front line public health workers. You can go on and on. The demands on teachers beyond teaching are so extensive that they have created a burden which has caused stress to become an increasing factor in the capacity of teachers in Nova Scotia to deliver what they are trained to deliver.

One of the great difficulties that teachers in this province labour under, and it is not exclusive to Nova Scotia and I want to be fair on that, is that unlike the barristers who are professionals, unlike the dentists who are professionals, unlike the medical doctors who are professionals, among others, they are not a self-regulating profession. There are some reasons for that which one can understand and which are justifiable. Teachers are, after all, paid directly from the public purse, not that some lawyers and doctors are not paid directly from the public purse because they are, but most of them are not.

For many years there has been provision made available through the collective agreements between the Province of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union representing teachers across this province will have a direct and abiding influence with respect to all those matters regarding teacher certification, for example. If teachers do not have that opportunity available to them, then you and I know what that means, it means they are really no longer a profession because in order to be a profession they have to play a direct role in regulating that profession.

What the minister is doing in this bill destroys that. It doesn't just change it a little, it doesn't alter it a little bit, it destroys that relationship. That relationship destroyed is going to result in more stress on teachers in this province, a greater degree of demoralization, if that is possible, within the teaching profession of this province. That has to be relayed to the students as those teachers endeavour on a day to day basis to deliver what they professionally are required to deliver. That is a very negative aspect of this legislation. I know it is of great concern to the Teachers Union, I know it is of great concern to the individual teachers, my former teaching colleagues in my constituency among others, and it is something that I hope will be among those aspects of this bill which the minister is intending to amend before we get it into third reading.

I know that there are a few members of this House who as parents have chosen to educate their children in private schools and that is their right. I do not know that there is any member of this House who has chosen to give their child an education in their own home, but as a parent I think I have the right to make that determination to decide whether I want my child educated within the institutional framework offered by free public education or if I want my child to have an alternate education. If I can provide my child with the same core at home that my child could get at school, then I should not be further restricted with respect to how I educate my child at home.

The bill which is before us is rather peculiar. It is written in such a manner that - well, let me give an example. Examples are always best. I decide to have my child taught at home. One of the things that I want to inculcate into my child is an understanding and an appreciation and a love of history. One of my parents happens to have a Ph.D. in history. The way this bill is currently structured, I would be breaking the law and therefore subject to up to a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail if I asked the child's grandparent to teach that child history in the child's own home. Now surely that is not what we want to do with this bill, but that is what this bill does and that is why we have to be so careful and think through what this bill says before we make it law.

Let me give you another example. It is clear from the wording of the bill that education can only take place in the home. I as a parent decide I would like my child to learn something about natural science and one of the great places for my child to learn natural science is at the Nova Scotia Museum. If I make that part of that child's education, I am in breach of the law because I am not delivering that education in the home as required by the bill. That surely is wrong. Madam Speaker, that is a section of this bill which must be changed.

Madam Speaker, I do not want to detain the House longer. I have had the opportunity to speak at length on both of the amendments that have been made during second reading. I have had more than ample opportunity this morning to address this matter, which is of absolutely vital importance. Let me say that I support the minister insofar as his desire to create a new Education Act. I understand his absolute deep and abiding interest and commitment to creating an Education Act which will do all of the right things as far as we can determine into the foreseeable future. By the foreseeable future I am thinking as the authors of the Act which we are leaving did, into the next half century. I think the minister has stopped short of achieving his goal. I think his goal still is achievable, but I think he has stopped short of achieving it, because the bill which is before us is incomplete.

Let us make no mistake. This bill is not about what is delivered in the classroom, this bill is about governance. This bill will have an impact on what is delivered in the classroom but it does not, by virtue of its passage, give us any assurance that what happens in the classroom will be substantially different. That is where this bill falls short of the very laudable purpose at the beginning of the bill, the very section to which I referred in my introductory remarks.

I think of any parent or child in Nova Scotia who is old enough to think about what am I going to do after I leave school and you don't have to be very old to think about that, were asked, what do you want your educational system to do for you? The child or the parent after some thought would say, I want my child or I as a student want to be able to graduate in the knowledge that what I have learned will help me immediately to participate in the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia and the economy of Canada, in other words, to be able to get a job which is commensurate with my qualifications.

I have read this bill forward and backward, I have read the minister's releases, I have read what others have had to say in the newspapers and have watched television and listened to the radio about what others have to say. I have discussed this bill with people in my constituency and they have taken the initiative to discuss it with me. Even after all of that consideration I have to say that irrespective of what the minister hopes to do as a result of this legislation passing this House, there is not one single aspect of this legislation which gives me, any Nova Scotian parent, or any child in school in Nova Scotia, any guarantee whatsoever that this bill will so change the face of Nova Scotia that we will have a greater opportunity and that they will have a greater opportunity for participation in the global economy which is sweeping us up in its arms today. That is the greatest shortcoming of this bill.

It is solely a bill concerning governments. It does not go that next step and provide us within the law of Nova Scotia the assurances we need that education will be dramatically uplifted in a comprehensive and meaningful way for the young men and women of this province.

We can make some of the changes which will make it better. Other changes may have to wait for another day and another government but I do ask the minister at least this, please consider all of the changes that are recommended by the Opposition and by the organizations and by the individuals in Nova Scotia who understand the importance of education. Let's make sure that we don't get lost in the political minutiae of this exercise but rather that we all gain from the wisdom of those recommendations that are forthcoming and that we make the amendments which are necessary to cause this bill to do some good and not effect significant harm with respect to school governance and the delivery of education in this province.

Madam Speaker, I will be voting in favour of the principle of the bill upon the closure of second reading. I hope that as a result of the amendments that the minister apparently is prepared to make and I hope as a result of amendments that he may find acceptable among those that we in the Opposition will put forward as well as other organizations, that when we vote for the bill in third reading, that I will still be able to support it. That support is dependent on the way in which the minister responds to the thousands, tens of thousands, indeed, hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians whose futures are directly dependent on what we do here will this bill which resides before this House today. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I rise to participate in second reading of Bill No. 39. I know when this bill was introduced a week ago with great fanfare by the Minister of Education, indicating that this bill represented his travels around the province. I think that in some ways it does reflect much of that, Madam Speaker.

[11:30 a.m.]

I guess until today I didn't really think there was a lot of hope of maybe getting the kind of changes in this legislation that I thought should happen. I said in earlier remarks on amendments that I think the bill is one that was overdue. There is no question in my mind that it is time. It has been a number of years since this Act has been changed, I think it is time that there be some changes.

I have said on it too, Madam Speaker, that there are many areas of the bill that I do agree with, but there are some areas that not only I am having difficulty with, the School Boards Association, the Teachers Union and others are having some difficulty with parts of the bill. As I understand it, the minister has agreed and has met, I know, with the NSTU and the School Boards Association, and according to reports that I have received from the groups and from the press, the minister has said, some of these clauses don't say what I want them to mean. I guess any time we get into legislation there is always great interpretation when you get legal people involved, of what the clauses actually mean.

As I understand it, Madam Speaker, this bill will probably get through second reading today and we will see it in Law Amendments Committee a week from Monday, at which time everybody will have an ample opportunity to make their presentations. I am hoping that before that time the minister, in his consultations with the groups, will come forward with the kinds of amendments that everyone can live with. I think that is what we are asking for. If that happens, I am going to be supporting this bill to go on to Law Amendments Committee because I think it has potential. But after that, I guess where I go with my support depends on what kind of amendments we actually get.

Saying that, Madam Speaker, I want to deal with some parts of the bill itself. I think the areas that are of concern are with respect to the power of the minister. They are areas where the duties and powers of the board may be transferred to the school council. I think presently it is the authority of the minister, through Order in Council, to direct those powers. I think what the school board is saying, and rightly so, is that they somehow be partners. If they are not partners with the minister in this whole thing, somehow in that area they are left out. The minister might say, I can consult. Well, Madam Speaker, we know there are so many definitions of what consult means. I think what the school board wants is some approval to be part of the actual process. I am not trying to take away that the minister can't be part of the process, I think that is probably important, too. But I think it is very important that there be both partners who end up approving, in actual fact, what powers could be taken from the school board and given to particular school councils.

That is an area that I really believe has to be worked on and the principle we have in the bill has to be changed because these school board members are elected and are to be accountable to the people they represent. Obviously, if all of a sudden the educational decisions are taken away from them and really taken by one person, the minister, then that, to me, is not the way democracy works. In all fairness to these people who got elected, to find out a year or so later that many of their powers that they initially had when they got elected have been stripped from them, hopefully, that can be worked out. I know there has been discussion and, hopefully, that will be worked out.

The other area that I think the School Boards Association have is with the superintendents. They believe that superintendents should be employees of the board and must be accountable to the area where he or she serves. I think the School Boards Association, and I tend to agree with them actually that the hiring of the superintendents and the evaluation of the superintendents, I am not convinced the Minister of Education should be involved.

Madam Speaker, whether we like it or not, and it doesn't matter if it is this minister or this government or any government, the minute that ministers become involved in the hiring, you think of the political process, and in some cases, it may harm somebody who was politically active and some minister might say, well, if I appoint that person I am going to take a lot of flak and if I don't appoint them, there will be people mad. So you can't win either way. I think if you take the political hiring out of the process, you do everybody a favour, the people who are applying and the government of the day, because nobody then in the press can accuse you of being politically involved in the hiring of someone who is a high profile, political person from whatever Party.

I think if you do that, if you take away that political part of it, I think people recognize that people then get their job on merit and that is the way it should be done. So I think that is something that has to be changed. I would hate to think that if I was a school board member that I would be told and have some interference on the people that we actually hire. So I think that that part, in some way, has to be changed.

Now I know, the single-tiered bargaining for teachers, I am sure the school boards would agree in some ways with this. I am sure in some way, though, that they would want some say on this bargaining. It comes to my mind, Madam Speaker, whether or not the boards across the province could be represented in some way when negotiations are happening. I think in the past there have been negotiations at the local level and negotiations at the provincial level for various parts of the contract. I would hope that school boards, if the minister goes with the one-tiered bargaining, would be represented at the table when the province was doing the bargaining for the school boards across the province.

I think that is a workable solution, one that allows them some input, but then it reaches the objective that the minister is trying to achieve, to have one contract, as I understand it, for across the province; so you could work both in. Maybe the minister might say, well, I was going to put that in regulations. I don't know but it would make sense to me that that process would be helpful.

I guess the question that arises, if they are part of the negotiations, would they be signatory to the collective agreement? In other words, would someone sign on behalf of the province, on behalf of the boards and then, obviously, on behalf of the NSTU? I really believe that the minister has been saying all along that he wants everybody to be partners. I think the more that we can have the partner process, not only in name but in the actual process, then we have achieved something that will help us down the road. In other words, we will work as partners for the betterment of education.

I think those are the areas, and I know that the NSTU or some members of the NSTU are, to say the least, upset and angry and I am sure the minister would probably say, well, in some cases they don't fully understand what the bill actually says or what I am trying to say. I think what these people are getting is a legal interpretation from what the bill says and how it affects them and their bargaining rights, and affects them with their local contracts. Hopefully, in the next week, the minister will have a chance with his people to work with the NSTU to resolve those issues, so that it can be put in legal terms so that everybody agrees that that is what it says. If not, I think we are going to have upset educators, and any time we have upset educators, it ends up hurting the students. The students are the ones who end up suffering. So I think that is an area that I am sure, if the minister is aware and I know he has been meeting with the NSTU, can be worked on.

The clause regarding the fines, I think it is Clause 142, and I will not get into the clause itself, but whether or not somebody can be sent to jail or somebody can be fined for not sending someone to school or things that in the past have not meant somebody would be charged in the courts. I guess the teachers are wondering where they fit because the word around is if you don't do this and don't do that, the minister has in part of the bill where he can take you to court.

AN HON. MEMBER: Go directly to jail.

MR. MOODY: Or directly to jail. So everybody, when they read that in the bill, is asking, how would that affect me? Will it affect me as a parent, as a teacher? There is a lot of concern. I spoke the other day about the part of the bill that talks about the standards for professional development for teachers and administrators. I hope that there is an opportunity for teachers and boards to be involved in all this process because all of the things that people are angry about, it is not that there be standards for professional development in teachers and administrators, it is the part that is controlled by the minister.

Again I go back to the point that I was making earlier and that is that if the minister follows through on what he has been saying, then the other people, the teachers and the boards, would be partners in developing professional development and setting the standards and not be dictated to by the minister himself. I think there are about 39 items in the bill, if you go through it, that give the minister a great deal of power. I think what school boards and teachers are saying, and parents to some degree, is that they want to be partners in this.

This minister may be the type of minister who says well, not to worry, I am not the least bit heavy-handed as a Minister of Education, but I expect that the present Minister of Education will not be there for life. In other words, ministers come and go and all of us know that. So whether it is in the same government or whether it is in different governments, they change. That is part of the democratic process, Mr. Speaker. That this minister feels that he would not abuse those powers, does not mean that another minister might not abuse those powers. I think what all the groups are saying is that we want to have some checks and balances in these areas of the bill to ensure that somebody heavy-handed, in actual fact, doesn't do things that upset a lot of people, in the end, that is not good for education.

[11:45 p.m.]

I guess the part of the bill that sort of doesn't really deal with education in the school, and I talked about the boards going from 21 to 6 boards, and I know in my particular area, Mr. Speaker, we have a unique problem and I don't see it being resolved by making the board larger, because of where the problem is. I know the minister is aware of the problem, it is in the western end of Kings County where, due to the fact that the Greenwood Air Base, CFB Greenwood, and one could say well, you didn't plan very well. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't believe I or many of the people even at CFB Greenwood knew five or six years ago that the federal government was going to have two or three major bases across Canada and that Greenwood was going to be one of them. I wouldn't have believed that Shearwater would close. I wouldn't believe that initially Summerside would close, but it did and that started it, and then Shearwater, and, all of a sudden, we had an influx of families in the western end of Kings County. We don't have the facilities to house the students, we are crowded.

I know there is a process for capital construction but this bill with amalgamation of Annapolis County, I think the amalgamation worked out by the minister is one that does make sense, if you are going to amalgamate, it is Hants West, Kings, Annapolis and Digby. But the problem is there are no schools close to the western end of Kings County in Annapolis County that can take these students. So we have a situation whereby we don't have the facilities to accommodate these young people.

What I am hearing from parents and from many of the people is that children have had to move from school to school because of boundary changes, to try to accommodate, and children are in very large classes. In other words, over 30, whether you are in Primary, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 or Grade 4 and in higher grades.

We all know that the biggest way to improve the quality of education is with the classroom teacher. The classroom teacher, and, Mr. Speaker, you being a former teacher know this, can have a great influence on the education of those students you teach. If you have a large classroom and this bill, whether that addresses that in the amalgamation, hopefully, will have some impact. I hope that because of special situations that we have in the western end of Kings County, the minister, and I know he has been aware of the problem, will try to find a way to help resolve the issue because it is not a normal issue. It is not waiting where a building needs to be repaired, it is one of those very few instances where we have enrolment growth, whereas around this province part of the problems that school boards are in, and that is part of the reason for amalgamation, is that enrolment is dropping. That becomes a real problem with small school boards. That is one of the reasons, besides the $11 million that the minister says we will save, is that he wants to go from 21 boards to 6 boards and wanted to make 7, with the French.

Hopefully, we will be able to address a particular situation still, like in the western part of Kings County. The cost of going from 21 boards to 6 or 7, there has been no real impact study done. I haven't seen a cost analysis of what the transition costs are going to be because I am sure there are going to be transition costs involved in going from 21 boards to 7. There are going to be labour adjustment costs and I expect that will be the biggest cost.

How much will labour adjustment costs be? Will they be in excess of the $11 million that we hope to save for the first year? I hope that if that is the case, that the minister is prepared to fund the boards to make sure there is no loss. In other words, if there is a loss, a startup cost to the board, that this government will provide the money. If they don't provide the money, it is the young students who suffer. It is the young student with special needs who won't have an EA to assist them. The EA hours have been reduced in schools to assist these young people. Many of these students with special needs, when I first started teaching, were segregated. They had what we called Special Education Teachers. We did the right thing. It started, I remember, when I was in New Minas, we had two Special Education classes, when I was principal. One of the things that we started there and it was started I guess probably about the same time in other areas of the province but we were moving very quickly to integrate these people, so that they could be with their own age peer. But one of the things they needed was extra support; in other words, you couldn't put them in with a class of 25 without additional support because they were too disruptive to the other 24 or 25 and they weren't able to get that one on one.

So the stigma could be taken away from these students who needed some individual assistance. A lot of these people were mentally and physically challenged. We did the right thing by not segregating them, by putting them in the mainstream. But what has happened when education cuts have come is that many of these students now, we don't have the resources to give them any help. We have the resources still to test them and see what it is they require, but you turn now and say, and the parents, I know parents have called me and I am sure they have called other MLAs when their students now can't get assistance as they had in the past.

Mr. Speaker, you have to wonder, these young people who cannot fend for themselves and, unfortunately, many of these parents don't have the resources to hire individual instructors and now, what they are finding is that nobody cares. In other words, if you care, they think there should be some assistance for these young people. I occasionally go into fast food places like Wendy's and Tim Horton's in Coldbrook, and I met a young man working there. That young man started out in a special education class. That young man was integrated and got a part of or enough of a formal education so that person could be productive and earn his own way. In other words, he is not dependent on government to assist him. That is quite an achievement.

What we have to do through this bill is to ensure that there is not only opportunity for those that are born and have the natural ability to get through school but those that are in some way mentally or physically challenged are given the opportunity so that they can be productive in society. So when you think about how important education is and you think about our economy and you think about the expenses of government, this bill is so important. Because if we don't do a good job with our young people, they end up being a cost and not because it is their fault, it is our fault. The government has the opportunity to make sure that the resources are available and that all of these people are given an opportunity so they can receive an education to be productive.

Now, we take that for granted. Probably every one of us in here take that for granted. But when you happen to know some of these people, you don't take it for granted, you know what this special help has done for some of these people in the past. If that young person was in the system today, because of what has been cut in the last two years, I know that person would end up totally on social services for the rest of his life, because he would not have the opportunity to have that one on one and some additional help.

Yes, it costs us something to help that young man. But just think, that young man who is probably maybe close to 30 years old now, is going to be able to work the rest of his life and he has been doing that since his early 20's. If he hadn't, he would have been on a social assistance pension from day one - because he would have qualified - and he would have been on a pension from then until he received the Old Age Pension. I ask you, which is more sensible when it comes to investing your dollars?

I am saying to this government, this bill does not address what is happening out there in education today with many of our young people. I know many of us are removed from it, and I am a bit removed from it because I am not in the system any more. But I have friends in the system and I have friends who have students in the system and when you talk to them, it scares the heck out of you to think what is happening.

So, if this Minister of Education is serious that by amalgamating these boards that we are going to save money and we are going to put it in the classroom, well, I can tell you, you had better hurry or it is going to be too late for many of the young lives that you and I, as elected people, are responsible for. You can say, well, it isn't my worry. It is our worry. We are elected to set the policies and provide the funding so that these young people have the opportunity. So, this bill far from addresses some of the real problems that we have.

I will give the government the benefit of the doubt. If I see next year that, in actual fact, the funding in the classroom goes up because of this legislation and that those young people who need that assistance get that assistance, then I will say, hey, the government was right. But if I don't see it, then I know that you don't really understand or you don't care about those people. I hope it is the first, that you don't understand, because if you don't and you don't realize the problem, just talk to some people in the system, those people dealing with those kids with special needs, and you will understand where I am coming from.

There are other areas in the bill that I know we will come back and discuss when we get into clause by clause. So, Mr. Speaker, I am going to say that I am going to be supporting this bill to go on to the Law Amendments Committee. I have faith that the minister will keep his word to the Teachers Union, to the School Boards Association, to the parents, that we will see in the Law Amendments Committee the type of amendment that we can support, and that everybody will agree to, that will make this bill a better bill. We were saying that back when we wanted this bill sent to committee, that there were some fundamental changes that had to be made.

The minister is now agreeing that fundamental changes have to be made. He is agreeing because he has pressure, not pressure totally from the Opposition - which we all indicated - but he has pressure from the union, the School Boards Association and parents. Now he is saying, well, maybe it isn't as perfect as I said last Friday. Well, we know it isn't perfect, and we will find out from the government whether they are really listening, if those changes will be made before they come back from the Law Amendments Committee. If not, I guess I will have another opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to talk about it in clause by clause. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak on the bill this time, specifically the Education Act, Bill No. 39. Mr. Speaker, as you know, I have been on my feet on a couple of occasions to talk indirectly about the bill, when I was talking about amendments that had been amendments to refer, on the one hand, the bill to the Human Resources Committee in order to deal with some of the specific problems that had been raised; and the other one was a hoist amendment in order to give people, groups, those interested, as well as the Opposition, an opportunity to work with the minister and his government caucus to try to bring about some changes to Bill No. 39.

Mr. Speaker, this was a very significant challenge for the Minister of Education, to do an overhaul on a piece of legislation that had not been changed for upwards of 40 years. We have all acknowledged that, I think, and continue to acknowledge that that is not an easy task, perhaps has not been an easy task.

[12:00 p.m.]

The minister has attempted, I believe, perhaps with some sincerity and commitment, to consult with groups and organizations and members of communities across the Province of Nova Scotia on his vision for education and how education should be reformed in the Province of Nova Scotia. There is some considerable question on the part of many people involved in the education system whether the minister took the opportunity to listen to very many of the concerns that people had, Mr. Speaker, but nonetheless there was a process that the minister has been engaged in over the past couple of years that has led us to this point.

I think the response that we have had from the Teachers Union, the School Boards Association, from the Nova Scotia Federation of Home and School Associations, from the parents representing students with special needs and others, is an indication that the work done by the Minister of Education was not sufficient, I say sufficient, Mr. Speaker, because no one expects that it will be perfect, all the way down the line, in trying to come to this point of bringing in legislation and bringing in specific changes, but nonetheless there has to be enough of a process, with some integrity followed, to ensure that there is at least consensus on a number of the important points that are being addressed by this piece of legislation. That has not been done and I think that is evidenced by the reaction that we have had from a number of the partners in education.

Mr. Speaker, let us not forget - perhaps we should constantly remind ourselves - that the Government of Nova Scotia spends over $800 million a year on education, that education in the Province of Nova Scotia contributes a very great deal to not only the education of our children, the education of our future generations, future workers and so on, but it also has an awful lot to do with the kind of people that we help grow in the Province of Nova Scotia. It has a lot to do with the kind of ethics, the kind of principles, the kind of morality that we try to foster within our young people, within our children, in order to contribute to, hopefully, a sharing and caring society in the Province of Nova Scotia, with a work force and with a class of entrepreneurs that can compete with anyone in this province, in this country and in the world on anything that we do, whether that be at a business level, at a professional level, whether that be in terms of worker skills, whether that be in relation to dealing with the events of the world, to dealing with the challenges that face us and our population.

Education is extraordinarily important and I do not need to say that, I am sure, to members of this Legislature. But given how important it is - and this has been said, I think, time and again, in this House as we have discussed Bill No. 39 - I think it is not good enough for the minister to simply drop this bill on the table and say, here it is and by the end of November we are going to have it through; this is the way I see education reform taking place, this is my vision of the education system in the Province of Nova Scotia and let's get on with getting the bill passed in the Legislature. I do not think that is good enough and I think we have heard from a lot of Nova Scotians that that is not good enough. Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged by the fact that the minister himself has been participating in discussions with some of the stakeholders, with some of the partners in education already, as a result of the overwhelming negative response to various portions of Bill No. 39.

I am encouraged by that, Mr. Speaker, because if the minister has his ears open, if the minister is prepared to stop and listen to what it is that people are saying and is willing to consider the implications raised and try to address those concerns by making changes to the legislation, then I think at the very least we are on our way to trying to construct a piece of legislation that will have a positive impact on this province.

Mr. Speaker, I still have a number of concerns about this legislation. Some of it is going to be dealt with, hopefully, but I would like to just cover them for a few moments, if I may. I indicated earlier that the Province of Nova Scotia spends in excess of $800 million on education. I would also like to say that this government, since they were elected in 1993, have, some would suggest, identified as their sole purpose as government, its attention towards reducing the deficit of the Province of Nova Scotia. In terms of paring back the budgets of various departments, including the Department of Education, in order to do that very thing.

Some of us are concerned and we raised those concerns that while in the short run the Ministers of the Crown on the Treasury benches may meet their financial objectives, those objectives as set out by the Minister of Finance and the Executive Council, in the long run I am concerned that they will have the decisions that are made and the reduction in terms of the amount of resources within the system, will have an effect that will end up costing us a lot greater, in terms of financial resources down the road. It is an argument sometimes discussed in terms of the fiscal deficit versus the human deficit. In the final analysis, that human deficit is going to translate itself into a fiscal deficit because when we are talking about the ability of people to find work, we are talking about the ability of people to manage their lives, we are talking about the ability of people to be able to ensure they are healthy and that their children are healthy and their families are healthy.

I think a lot of that has to do with the attention they received, the education they receive during their formative years. If we cut resources back to the point where there is no assistance or very little assistance in the classroom for students with special needs, if we are cutting back the resources in our classrooms to provide the specialists that are necessary to assist children who are facing extreme pressures in their community and in their homes and who bring those pressures into the classroom and make it difficult for them and for their peers to learn, if we no longer have the resources in the system to deal with those situations then I think the quality of education that all children in those classrooms receive is going to be negatively impacted, Mr. Speaker.

Just the simple fact that over the past two years we have lost upwards of 800 teachers from the system I think is a cause for concern. There is every indication with the plan that is proposed in Bill No. 39 that, in fact, the number of teachers taken out of the system will continue to increase. I think that is a matter of some concern because the studies that I have looked at have shown me, I think have provided sufficient evidence for me, to believe that the larger the classrooms the more difficult it is to deliver quality education to the students attending that classroom. That is for those people who are at an average level, not the people who are requiring special attention or special care, so I think that is a real problem.

There are many provisions in this bill that allow the government to further arrest monies and resources from the system. Whether that be the extreme powers that are granted to the minister that the minister has, in fact, granted to himself, to insert himself into the collective bargaining process with teachers, with school board workers, with cleaners, with teaching assistants, with bus drivers, with anyone else involved in the education system, it is a problem, it is an abuse of ministerial authority. The minister should not be involved at that level in dealing with the wages and working conditions of employees in the education system.

As someone mentioned earlier, surely we can recognize the fact that the minister, be he as pure of heart as he is, is a political person, someone who ran for political office politically that represents a political Party. The notion of him involving himself directly in the purposes of collective bargaining, in the purposes of hiring such senior people as the CEOs of regional boards, is a matter for some considerable concern. It also speaks volumes about the lack of commitment this government has to the inviolability of the collective bargaining system and of collective bargaining itself.

The principle of it and the practical aspects of collective bargaining, I think, are further jeopardized in this bill as they have been in so many other things. The fact that, for instance, in this bill the new regional school boards are going to be allowed to change around the definition and the determination of things like seniority, I think that is a matter of some considerable concern. It is sure to have and should be a matter of concern to people in this Legislature.

The question in here about what is going to happen in the relationship between school boards and school councils is something that needs to be addressed. It is not clear in here, whether or not in fact the Minister of Education is expecting school councils, expecting parents, to actually manage schools. That causes me some considerable concern, not only for the roles and responsibilities that are blurred between the school board and the school councils but also because of the fact that the realities in many communities are that the parents who are involved and dedicated and so on, are still people whose full-time job is either working in the home and raising a family or in another job. To suggest that those people would then have another full-time job or responsibility of managing a school, I think is a matter that should be revisited, it is something that causes me some considerable concern.

Again, the fact that we have elected school boards who have powers to make decisions with respect to the funding and with respect to program delivery and yet there is a provision in this bill that basically says on the recommendation of the minister, they may transfer duties and powers of a school board to a school council. I think that that is something we should flag, that is something that is of concern, in fact, that it is something that has upset the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and it is a matter that they are asking clarification on.

There are a number of other different issues that are raised in here under the section that deals with principals, for an example, Mr. Speaker. There is a clause in there that says any principal of a school can, Clause 38(2)(p), ". . . enter into agreements with other schools, agencies or any person to acquire services required by the school;". What does that mean? (Interruption)

[12:15 p.m.]

Well, the Minister of Natural Resources said that is giving power to the teachers and somebody else, he seemed to say, well this has to be with principals. Well, the point that I raise and maybe the Minister of Natural Resources knows more about this than I do, and undoubtedly he does and he can help clarify this for me, but in light of the drive, of the burning commitment it appears at times from some of these ministers, to engage in contracting out and privatization of public services, one wonders if this does not, in fact, allow individual principals of schools to enter into those kinds of private agreements to provide goods and services to that individual school from the private sector instead of under other arrangements through the school board, or, for that matter, through the Department of Education. That is something that causes me concern, as a member, a person who has some understanding of contracting out and privatization, and I am concerned about that and would like to see some clarification of that, Mr. Speaker.

I talked before about the whole question of special needs in our schools and the fact that we are seeing vast amounts of money being pulled out of the system in terms of direct resources that school boards have that are available to them and in terms of the specialists that are in the schools, in order to provide the services and the assistance to students with special needs. The whole idea of removing the concept of segregated classes for students with special needs, the whole concept of mainstreaming, was to provide those students and all students, for that matter, with an equal and holistic exposure to education, that all students should be in a classroom together, learning and sharing, Mr. Speaker, and that would help in the overall education of all of those students.

The problem that has been created of late with the cutting and slashing in the Education budget is that we no longer have the expertise, the assistance, the specialists in the classroom and in the schools to deal with the special dynamics that are created in those mainstream classes, Mr. Speaker. As a result, when you have someone who because of their circumstances requires special attention, they are not receiving it. They are not receiving it because the classroom and the school no longer have the capacity to deal with those specific problems, those specific issues, those specific needs. That is something that parents and others have been calling out for some attention to by this minister.

There is a group of parents and others interested in this issue, Mr. Speaker, who call themselves the Integration Action Group who have been in touch with the minister on a number of occasions over this very issue. They are concerned with a provision in this bill where it talks about general responsibilities and powers of the board which, in fact, what it does is it sets up once again segregated classrooms. It sets up a situation where, because of the fact that schools don't have the resources to provide technical assistance, special assistance, professional assistance in the classrooms, that what they will do is do what has been done in the past which is something that we have tried to correct.

They will gather all those students with special needs, regardless of the fact that they are different needs and they may not be complementary needs, and they will segregate them in their own classroom, much like what was done when I went to school. They will all be separated for various reasons, because they have special needs, and they will be put in their own separate classrooms and, at that point, I don't know what is going to happen, whether there is going to be somebody who has the expertise to deal with some of the needs, but not necessarily to deal with all the needs. Or, because of the fact that schools and school boards don't have the resources to have teachers with professional skills, maybe it will be a math teacher or a phys ed teacher or somebody else who will be in there without the special skills to deal with that situation and will be there to monitor and to maintain, but not to deal with the crucial issue of ensuring that all students have access to quality education, and equal access to quality education. I think that is a concern that many of us have.

The people I refer to were concerned by the fact that the minister had pledged to them that he would provide them with a draft, although other groups also had commitment by the minister that he would provide them with drafts of the bill in order to get their input, but, as we know well by now, we all know that that has not happened.

So, Mr. Speaker, the issue here that I think is of critical importance is the whole question of the power of the minister, the need to clarify the roles and responsibilities of school boards versus the minister, versus the teachers, versus the parents in terms of school councils. We need to deal with the confusion and the problems created in this bill by the minister interfering in the collective bargaining process, the overriding of the Trade Union Act, of the Labour Standards Code, the Teachers Collective Bargaining Act, that will allow, for example, the school boards to interfere in the rights of workers when their collective agreements are amalgamated or are merged. Those are issues of great concern.

The question with respect to students with special needs is a matter that deserves attention by this minister, and the whole question, in fact, the belief that by amalgamating all the boards in this province into seven boards is going to be a cost-saving measure. Is bigger better? In terms of municipalities, for example, we are seeing in industrial Cape Breton that the costs are a heck of a lot greater than anybody ever expected, I think it is fair to say, including the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Mr. Speaker, the evidence that I have seen out there, whether it is amalgamating and merging hospitals, whether it is amalgamating or merging municipal units, does not suggest anywhere near conclusively that it is a process that will end up saving money. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that there are more problems created and more costs down the road than is ever anticipated and that will, in many ways, if not net out any cost-savings, will certainly create a whole host of problems that are not worth the minute savings that may be realized.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education, as I indicated earlier, has been in discussions with the home and school association, with the Teachers Union and with the School Boards Association. With at least the School Boards Association and the Teachers Union those discussions had been extremely specific in terms of him trying to address their particular concerns as they relate to various provisions of the bill and that is something that we are all in favour of.

Mr. Speaker, we have agreed here in this House that upon the minister's commitment to continue with those discussions, we will see the bill move through second reading today. The minister and the Government House Leader have agreed that it will not appear in the Law Amendments Committee before a week from this coming Monday, which will provide an opportunity for the Minister of Education to try to sort out the problems that exist with this bill as it presently stands, to try, as he has suggested, to clarify various provisions in order that people understand better what it is that he has intended or, for that matter, to understand himself and make changes if he was mistaken and various provisions will have more harmful effects than they will positive effects. He has committed to do that.

He also, I understand, has agreed that he will speak to the other participants in the education system, including the other representatives of workers, whether that be the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, CUPE, the operating engineers, the home and school associations, the group that I discussed earlier, the Integration Action Group that is concerned about issues of special needs, and any other groups that I may inadvertently have forgotten. The minister has committed to us that he will agree and that he will do that over the period when this bill will be held in abeyance, until it goes to the Law Amendments Committee. We appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption)

The honourable Government House Leader, the Minister of Transportation, has indicated that the minister meets with more groups than - I did not catch the last part of it. I am sure it was some witticism that had some relevance to the issue. In other words, the point is that he meets with a lot of groups. Well, that is fine, we have heard the minister talk about that at some length. But I think the fact that this bill came in, has created many problems with it being tabled, is an indication that maybe at the same time he meets with these groups, he has to not only talk to them, he has to listen to them and he has to study and examine the concerns that are raised with some sense of commitment to dealing with those concerns. And I am sure he will, Mr. Speaker.

I urge the minister to engage in fruitful discussions with all the partners that are going to be affected by the Education Act, in order that in the final analysis - and I have said that before - we all can be proud of the bill that is going to come out of this House, that will manage and organize and effect education and the delivery of education in this province not only in the immediate future but perhaps for the next several decades.

While I have a number of concerns about this bill and I have tried the best I can to highlight what they are, I am mostly concerned with the response from the major partners in education. The minister has made a commitment to work with those folks and to try to resolve some of those problems. I tell him, Mr. Speaker, and all members of this House, that I hope he is successful in doing that and that we will continue to argue and to fight and to battle for those changes if, in fact, those groups have not been satisfied, and to raise the concerns that many people have brought to my attention, and may continue to bring to my attention in this House, when it comes before the Law Amendments Committee and when the bill comes back in here for Committee of the Whole House.

[12:30 p.m.]

I hope, in conclusion, that the minister takes the opportunity provided here, that he has committed to, to take the next week to engage in fruitful or constructive organizations in order to bring about positive changes to Bill No. 39, on behalf of the students, parents, teachers, administrators and all Nova Scotians who are concerned about education. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to stand in my place to speak on Bill No. 39, the Education Act, because truly this has an effect that was a more long-lasting effect than any other piece of legislation around. It affects the future of our province, because the future of our province is our children. What is this bill if it is not about our children?

The Minister of Education, I really feel, needs to know about the changes that have taken place in our schools in the last few years. The schools have changed, the students have changed, society has changed. This morning many of us were horrified to see the little piece in the Chronicle-Herald about some teenaged youngsters and a cheerleader that was beaten up over some schoolyard rivalry. This is really quite shocking. On Wednesday we heard of a fight that took place in two schools in Dartmouth. Last year there was the reported youngster who took a sawed-off shotgun to a local high school. When the minister was in school these things were unheard of; society has changed. But is this minister and this bill going to keep up with the changes?

We have fewer teachers today than we did two years ago. We have fewer teacher assistants than we had two years ago. When you have fewer teachers and fewer teacher assistants and more students, you have problems. The problems of today are greater than ever before. The social problems that our youngsters are facing today are different than when we were in school, or when the minister was a teacher even. There are pressures and peer pressures and opportunities available today of a negative nature to our young people that we didn't even think possible a few short years ago. But on the other hand, there are opportunities available to the students that we never dreamed of.

When we were students, we never thought that you could sit at a computer and talk to somebody in Israel or somebody in British Columbia or somebody in South America. But we have school students who are not only capable of doing that, they are, in fact, doing that. So, we have to have an Education Act to keep up with the trends, both positive and negative, that are taking place in society today. But really and truly, is this bill and is this minister capable of doing that?

The minister promised to consult, prior to the introduction of this bill with a draft bill. However, we have reports from concerned people right across the province, the school boards, the Teachers Union. They said, well, no, he said he would but then changed his mind. We are reading in the newspaper today and we heard on the radio this morning that the minister has agreed to some amendments that he is going to put in this bill when it is at the Law Amendments Committee. Well, is that a true promise and a real commitment from a man who will keep his word, or is it rhetoric? We will have to wait and see when this bill returns to this Chamber from the Law Amendments Committee to see whether the minister really and truly is going to make this bill a better bill.

The Minister of Education brought this bill into the House on Friday and the debate began on Monday. In order to be well-versed and in order to present the thoughts and ideas from school boards around the province, we contacted the school boards from our caucus office. You would not be surprised, Mr. Speaker, to learn that only the metro boards already had their copy when we started contacting them, because between Friday and Monday morning there was not enough time for the boards to really look, to study and to make a recommendation. So our caucus and our researchers and own MLAs sat down and got busy with the bill and pointed out many pitfalls and errors, as has been reiterated time and again in this House in debate. We passed along our concerns to the union, to the students, to the parents, and to the school boards. They agreed with us that there were some shortcomings in this bill that absolutely must be addressed.

Now yesterday, the Teachers Union executive met with the minister for three and one-half hours or four hours. At the end of that meeting they reached some decisions and the minister was willing to make some compromises. He could see ways that his bill could be improved and enhanced. Now, if he lives up to that commitment, the bill will be better. But, you know, the minister talks about decentralization, putting the power to the pupils, putting the power to the parents, putting the power out of his hands, but if you read this Education Bill, Bill No. 39, it doesn't do that. The minister says one thing and he does something totally different. He has centralized the power not within the school boards in Nova Scotia, not within the regional school boards but within his grasp, in his office. The Minister of Education under this bill is all-powerful, and all decisions of any consequence, all recommendations of any consequence will be made by this minister.

Now I wouldn't think that is a good, healthy, strong way for education to progress. Now perhaps this minister is one of the finest educators in the world and, for all I know, he may be. But, you know, I have always thought that the old expression was, many candles burn brighter. If you have one little match burning, you don't see very well, but if we all hold out a lantern, we can see much better.

If the minister was willing to listen and take advice from the school boards and from his staff, I think we would have a better bill. But this bill indicates to you and to me that there is only one person of any consequence in educating our Nova Scotians, and that is this minister. He is giving the appearance of decentralization, but without giving the power. By taking so much power away from the communities' elected boards, there is absolutely no decentralization.

The minister talks about the roles and responsibilities of parents. They shall support their children in achieving learning success, and they shall communicate regularly with their children's school. Now in this morning's Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the editorial writer, Jim Meek, said he never heard of anything so difficult as trying to communicate with a school. How would you communicate with a school? Perhaps you could call the principal in the school, but Jim Meek wasn't sure if you walked up to the side of the bricks and mortar or just how you would talk to a school.

So the parents and the guardians of our youth have a responsibility according to the Act. Most are really trying to do that today, but there are some areas, there are some parents who do not have the same concern for the future of their children. What is the minister's response to that? Are the police going to go and arrest these parents who either cannot, will not, or are totally and completely unable, to see that their children are in the proper frame of mind to go to school. Some children are a little more rebellious than others. When the bill makes an allowance for the ideal child, parent and student, then maybe the bill should take off its rose-coloured glasses and look at the real world because that is the world where this minister and this department have to operate, not some ideal world that he can dream of when he closes his eyes in the evening and has a pleasant smile on his face. In the real world, there are children whose parents are most concerned about the building being open at 8:00 o'clock in the morning and the kids not being back until 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon. Now that may be a very unhappy thought and that may be a very unpleasant thought for this minister, but if he would listen and go to the school boards, they would tell him the number of parents that do have problems trying to get their children to school and the number of children who do have problems with their parents for one reason or another.

But the bill glosses over all that. We are now in an ideal world that the minister decided that we were all going to be able to live up to. The teachers have special responsibilities as well. They will respect the rights of students, teach diligently, encourage the students in the pursuit of learning. Is there a teacher now who isn't following that and is there a teacher who wouldn't? The very fact that they are teachers indicates to me that they have the thoughts and best wishes of the children at heart.

But what is the minister going to do if he finds a teacher who is not doing all the things the way the minister has suggested. We can only assume that the minister, since the power is in his office, will be visiting the schools. The minister does the same thing with the students. Who is going to regulate the clause of the bill beyond what is already done voluntarily? The President of the Federation of Home and School Associations was rather concerned about this bill. She says that perhaps it shades of 104. Perhaps it is another problem. (Interruption) Originally the minister was talking about the new school boards, the new system and the pilot projects that he was going to be setting up. He was going to have carte blanche . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction of guests in our Speaker's Gallery from the Russian Federation.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: First of all, I would like to thank the honourable member for giving the floor for an introduction. We have in your gallery, Mr. Speaker, some visitors from Russia. Those visitors are here looking at employment services that exist in Nova Scotia to see how they apply to their country. They are led by Mr. Yuri Fedorovitch Krynchenkov, Chief of the Regional Employment Service, Department of the Federal Employment Service of Russia, and with him are six of his directors: Ms. Uliane Nemitora, Mr. Vladimir Alexandrovitch Baldov, Mr. Anatoly Marzenuk, Ms. Lena Kashina, Ms. Dora Fedorovana Budueva, Mr. Alexei Valentinovitch Khoroshov and also their interpreter, Ms. Elena Chitova. I would ask them to stand up. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Spasibo Zdrastvuyete.

MR. ARCHIBALD: You are pretty talented, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter) I did not realize you could converse in so many official languages.

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would speak on this bill again. The site-based management proposal was suggested by the minister as being a saviour and an example for all of us to follow. We are still waiting to find out where the evaluation was on that. What is going to happen? There are so many things. There are more questions than answers from this minister. There are a lot of items that are going to cost money before the boards and the classrooms see a penny of the savings that are supposed to come from this regionalization that is being forced by this bill.

[12:45 p.m.]

I think everybody has covered the $11 million figure that the minister will try to stand up and defend, without indicating to you or to me where the $11 million is coming from. We have no idea whether it is a real figure or one he just made up.

The minister is going to appoint coordinators for each region. The first choice, of course, was that well-known Liberal, Mr. Unsworth, who is more noted in Liberal circles as a politician than he is anything to do with education. However, he was the first person appointed. So, you can see the hand of the politician stretching right into this bill, the very thing this minister said he was going to avoid. He was going to have a concern for, the children were going to be first, but in reality it is the political friend who was first and got the first job.

The minister himself will be appointing the coordinators. But, you know, he is appointing the coordinators based on what, their understanding of education in Nova Scotia, the interest in our youth, any training in education? Or is their training in the political back rooms going to come into consideration? The minister has set in place that the coordinator shall determine the administrative structure for the new board, even before a CEO or a superintendent is in place. We are putting a lot of faith in people who are appointed temporarily, who we know very little about their ability as administrators.

We are not sure of the qualifications of the CEOs, but yet we are entrusting the school system and our children's future to them. The local amalgamation committee, chaired by this appointed coordinator, will decide, with the minister's approval, the initial salary and benefits for the CEO. If the board is eventually going to be the employer, why does this minister and his appointed CEO have their hand right in?

It is disturbing to some people, too, that when you have these school councils, you can have an entire school council appointed and operating because eight parents have decided that is what they want. Now, in my area, perhaps I will have eight parents who want French immersion at the Kentville school, but in Canning they may say, no, we want music and in Port Williams they may say they want an art program. If those eight parents say, look, any extra cash, we are going to cut out this program to enhance music; we are going to cut out this program to enhance art. Can you see, Mr. Speaker, the pitfall that we may have with the school council? It could lead to a special interest group taking over the goals and aspirations of the entire school. Is that what the minister intends to happen? It certainly looks as though that is what is going to happen.

He is going to have his hands on the school councils. The Education Act states that it will enter into an agreement to set out the council's responsibility and composition. If he has one in every school and we have 480 schools, he is going to have a lot of contracts on his desk; he is going to have a stack like this. I am sure that by the time he signs number 480, he will have forgotten what he had in contract number one and he may have two conflicting contracts, if you know what I mean.

There doesn't seem to be any real organization. This bill just seems to be full of ideas that were pulled out of the air and says, hmm, this sounds good. Let's fire this in, this sounds okay. It is just a kind of a mish-mash without the coordination to pull it together and to make it work. This minister needs our help. I hope he has the help of his caucus and I hope that the caucus has had an opportunity to read this bill since it has been tabled in the House, because I know the caucus did not have an opportunity to read the bill before it was tabled in the House. So I hope in the last few days they have been speaking quietly to the minister to help him make his decisions to bring in a bill that will be something that will help aid and assist Nova Scotia.

The centralization continues throughout this bill when it indicates that the Governor in Council will impart on the council any power the school board feels. You see, the Governor in Council, the minister, it is the centralization of the bureaucracy in the minister's office in Halifax and in the title of the minister. It is not one person, it is the minister.

It goes on, Mr. Speaker, and there are many other speakers that have suggested, time and again, that we have a very serious problem with this bill. The minister has indicated the $11 million but never stood behind it. There is nothing in the bill that indicates how the children are going to benefit.

AN HON. MEMBER: No cost-benefit analysis at all.

MR. ARCHIBALD: There is no cost-benefit analysis anywhere to be found, with back-up information, with any notes tabled in the House, even though the minister has said on many occasions, I have the figures, he has never tabled them. We all know what happened at the Chinese auction that they held in Cape Breton, when the numbers started low and it kept going up higher and higher. We don't know whether we have hit the top of the amalgamated municipality or not, it has gone from $3 million to $4 million to $6 million to $8 million to $12 million, all within the space of a week.

AN HON. MEMBER: It could be $14 million today.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Check your watch, see what the new figure is. It may be higher than it was yesterday and I guarantee that Monday, they will be in here looking for $15 million and there is nobody in the Executive bench that is saying or doing anything to alleviate the fears of people in Cape Breton. There is nobody doing anything to alleviate the fears of the students, the parents, the teachers and the taxpayers.

Our caucus has looked very diligently at this bill as a team. We have all had the opportunity to discuss the bill among ourselves. We wanted to send the bill to committee for study and for help. The government, to a person, rejected that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Didn't anybody vote in favour of it, not one of them?

MR. ARCHIBALD: Not one person in the government wanted the committee's assistance.

We had an opportunity to help this bill, the government is more interested in forcing it through to look after their timetable than they are in the children. The very people this bill is to help and assist and provide a future for are the last people that the minister has any concern for. The first people that should be on his mind are the last. Because his main concern is to rush this bill through, get it to the Law Amendments Committee and get it back in here with as few changes as possible.

The minister has indicated to the union, to the School Boards Association that he will make some amendments. Now, I look forward to seeing the amendments and I hope that the minister will honestly and truly live up to the commitment he made.

Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and ask another member to stand and speak and try to explain to the minister the importance of bringing in a good Education Bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it seems that we have all spoken on this bill so often that we are perhaps in danger of repeating ourselves but however, I will try not to incur your wrath by doing so.

At the risk of repetition, however, because I think I did mention this once before, I was very pleased when I got this bill and found that there was an index. I think that is something all Government Ministers should take a look at and decide that that is the way they should go with legislation, particularly, the kind that is going to be read by persons other than lawyers, in other words, laypersons, who want to rapidly find some particular clause or section of a bill that is applicable to what they are questioning. That is about the only thing, I think, that I can applaud about this piece of legislation but certainly, it is something that may, by some, be considered to be a fairly minor detail but I think as legislators we would find it to be a major step. I think that the public who utilize this legislation regularly to do their jobs, such as school board members and parents, et cetera, who want to know where they stand with regard to legislation, if they can just look at an index, they can find where they are going.

We have said much in this House over the past few days about the speed with which this legislation has been put before the House and it has indeed been a very short period. I believe the bill was introduced last Friday and then on Tuesday of this week it came forward for second reading. If it was just a simple, straightforward piece of legislation that you could consider housekeeping legislation or perhaps a major amendment but small in nature to another bill, that would be fine.

This is a brand new piece of legislation, it is a brand new Education Bill. It is one, I believe, that replaces an Act that is about 40 years of age. There is no doubt that once legislation reaches that period of 30 or 40 years, it is indeed time that the Act is completely rewritten rather than just jinked around with to try to patch up the cracks on. I think that legislation has to be torn apart and rewritten to reflect a current thinking on almost every subject and most of the Acts in this House are that way. For instance, we did a major piece of new legislation last fall when the Minister of Labour introduced a brand new Workers' Compensation Act to look after an Act that was approximately 50 years of age. I think that that is certainly the way to go.

This piece of legislation is a major piece of legislation. It tears apart an education system that has evolved over the past 174 years since the first public education legislation was enacted in this House, so it was a long time ago. When you are changing something that has evolved over time and you are going to do it all in one big bunch, I think it is worthy of some consideration before it is adopted as the law of the land.

In this House we have a wonderful opportunity, when we look at a piece of legislation on this side of the House because we have the minister sitting opposite us who has written the bill or at least been involved in the writing of the bill, who should and probably does understand the complexity and the intricacies of every clause within the bill. If we have a question about something within that legislation, we have the ability to climb to our feet and ask the minister what it is all about. So that the consultation process with the Opposition, while it is important, it isn't as important as it is with those who do not have the ability to address the minister just across the floor of the Legislature.

Within the education system, I think there are probably four major players, there may be other players but I think there are four major players. First of all, we have the most important ones of all, I guess, the students. Second to that, we have the teachers who are engaged in day by day instruction to the students. The third major group would be the parents who are naturally interested in their children's education because there is no doubt in today's age that unless they do receive an adequate education, then their job prospects are practically zilch and their chances of success in life become quite small. The fourth major player is the Department of Education which, through the government, if you will, provides the wherewithal for this system to operate and provides the overall direction for the system. So, we have those four major players, Mr. Speaker, and to me, it would seem that three of those major players have been let down considerably by this legislation. Now, that is my interpretation, I know it is not the minister's interpretation.

[1:00 p.m.]

One of the reasons, and I think, perhaps, the main reason why they have been let down by this new legislation is simply that although the minister, and I do not doubt that he has spoken to 3,500, I think I read somewhere, different people around the province and he has travelled 10,000 kilometres around the province, et cetera. He has done all these wonderful things, going around, (Interruption) Well, he should go to the moon, perhaps. (Laughter)

There is no doubt, and I am not arguing the point that the minister has not been around the province, that he has not gone around and talked to people, that he has not received letters and all those kinds of things from people, but he received all that consultative advice. Then he came back to his department and he said, this is what I think I heard. Of what I heard, this is what I think we should take and this is what I think we should reject. Now, he says, get busy with pen and paper and write me an Act. They did and they produced an Act for him. The unfortunate thing is that this piece of legislation may or may not reflect what the people out there were telling the minister because this is the minister's interpretation of what they were telling him. We are fine up until now.

So now comes the distillation, now comes time when people look at what the minister has produced from this consultation and to look at it and say, well, I met with him on such and such a date and I suggested to him so and so, and it is not in the Act. I am unhappy, I am very unhappy. Or else somebody else reads something in here that is in the Act and said, well, he did not mention that when he was consulting with me. What is it doing in the Act?

This is where the second consultative process is absolutely essential. It is essential in this kind of legislation, Mr. Speaker, legislation that is a complete reform of a basic system in this province. Of the services that government provides, it is not too hard to pick out what the main services are insofar as the public are concerned. First of all, there is probably health care in the minds of everybody; certainly, the second one would be education and then we go on down the line. Education is a process that affects every child in this province, every parent, every grandparent and, in fact, you could say, 90 per cent of the population in one way or another, greater or smaller, is affected by the way we educate our children.

Getting back to these people that have been out there, that have been consulted and are now, this week, for the first time, seeing what has resulted from their consultative process with the minister, as I say, a lot of them, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, are very disappointed.

I met, very early this morning, down in my constituency, I went down to meet with the people from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. They are level-headed, good people, they are good teachers. They said to me, why is it that the minister had time to speak to us before he wrote the bill but has not had time since to speak to us? Why is it that we have not had time? Now, they had thought as late as this morning that we would be into Law Amendments Committee probably next Tuesday or Wednesday. I am pleased now that at least they have another week to do the things they have to do.

Why is it that the minister can't slow down? Why could he not accept, for instance, putting it over to a committee? Why could he not accept just letting it lay on the table for a week or two before completing second reading, to enable us to come forward with position papers and make our views known. We have some very serious reservations with some of the things in this legislation. In fact, they tell me that insofar as the teachers are concerned, there are some things in here that are going to impact very adversely on their contracts. Now, that may or may not be the case, Mr. Speaker. That was the teachers, that I met with this morning.

This morning I received a telephone call. I know one telephone call does not create a thousand words, but I received one telephone call this morning that I would just like to relate in this House. It was from a lady. Both she and her husband are involved in education. They are both involved in education but they are not teachers. They are very much involved in education. Mr. Speaker, they have read this bill. What they wanted me to do over the telephone was to explain to them various aspects of this bill. I said, well, quite truthfully, I do not think I can explain some of the aspects of this bill to you because I do not understand them myself and some of those things have not as yet been answered by the minister. I said, I can tell you something about the legislation and that is your local control is going to become much less than what you had in the past. They said that they understood, from what the minister had told them, that in fact there would be an expansion of hands-on approach at the local level. I said, no, that is not true. For instance, your school board right now, you probably know them or if you do not know them, you know somebody who does. I said that with the passage of this bill there will be an expansion to a regional school board and you will know maybe two members, or maybe even only one member on that new, revised school board.

Then she said, how about school councils? I said that yes, there is a provision in this bill for school councils and, in fact, I have some reservations about school councils. She said, what are your reservations about? I said, I am worried about school councils because it would appear to me that in any school, if I can get seven other people who think like I think, and I may have some real rinky-dink ideas, I can apply to the minister and set up a school council. I can do that. The minister, if he is convinced that my rinky-dink ideas are pretty good, may transfer powers from the board to this council. And who the heck is this council responsible to? Nobody. This council is responsible, I suppose, to me, because I am the guy that went out there and sold my thought processes to seven other people and said, look, we can take over this school and we can run it the way we want to run it. This lady said to me, that would worry me. I said, it should worry you, it should truly worry you.

I do not know, Mr. Speaker, how far I want to get into the bill. I know I am not allowed to go clause by clause, I do not intend to do that. But I do not know how far I want to get into this bill at this time, because when we get into clause by clause on this particular piece of legislation, I think we are going to have a picnic, because I do not think the minister and I don't think that quite a few of his caucus understand what this bill is all about.

In fact, in speaking to the principle of this bill on second reading, I am not too sure I even know what the principle is. Is the principle to bring education closer to the parent? If that is what it is supposed to do, I don't think it does. Is it supposed to effect economies of scale by regionalization? I am sorry but I don't think it does. But, most importantly, is this piece of legislation designed so that the child in the school is going to receive a better education and, thus, we will be receiving better outcomes from our school system than we are presently achieving? The minister says it does; I am sorry, I don't think that it does.

Madam Speaker, I don't think that this legislation lives up to the coverage the minister has afforded it. I think that when he went around this province soliciting comments from people and groups, that people had high hopes for this minister because, after all, this minister was a classroom teacher. This minister is probably the first minister for quite some time, I think, who has been an educator. (Interruption) No? Oh, I am sorry, yes, Mr. LeBlanc was an educator, that is true. Before that, if I remember correctly, Mr. Mitchell was a school teacher. That goes back a long way.

But anyway, this minister, of all people, when he went around the province as an ex-educator, people had a great deal of faith that from this process they would get a new Act, a new piece of legislation and, as I say, one that would meet those particular parameters that I mentioned a moment ago. But, unfortunately, it doesn't. But fortunately, Madam Speaker, we have available in this House what everybody likes to talk about, the Law Amendments Committee, where people do have an opportunity to come and make observations and to try and effect change to this bill, to any legislation. That process will be starting in two weeks time.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources, on an introduction.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce through you and to the members of the Legislative Assembly, representative Mr. Ken Edwards who is President of the Denturists Society of Nova Scotia, a member we are very pleased to have from Lunenburg County, from Bridgewater, to be in this illustrious position. I would like the members to give a warm welcome to Mr. Edwards for being president and being here today. (Applause)

MR. RUSSELL: I don't know, the member for Hants East just passed me some unfortunate information about blowing the engine in his truck. I don't know what that has to do with the Education Act, but anyway. (Interruption) In Hants West, right.

One of the things that I hoped would get changed in the Law Amendments Committee is the transfer of powers from the boards and from the parents and from the principals and from the teachers to the minister. I don't know if people in this House recognize the fact that heretofore, that is at the present time, under the present legislation, there were about 17 powers designated in the existing Education Act that were the property of the minister. Under this new bill there are 54.

Let's face it, the czar of education. There are pages and pages of powers that the minister has, new powers, not just a transfer from the old system but brand new powers. These will all be assumed by the minister. I don't think that is good. I don't think that the minister should have that much power with regard to the education system in this province.

[1:15 p.m.]

I think, perhaps, his department should have a certain amount of power; I think the board should have a certain amount of power; I think the parent should have a certain amount of power; I think the teacher should have a certain amount of power and, perhaps, yes, even the student should have a certain amount of power. I think there should be a gradation of powers but, certainly, not to assume by the minister that much power unto himself.

Madam Speaker, I truly look forward to this bill when it returns to this House for Committee of the Whole on Bills. I think we will have the opportunity then to have effected some amendments to the bill. I think at that stage we will also have the opportunity to request from the minister specific answers to matters that certainly most of the players in the education system have not been able to obtain answers to as yet. Thank you very much.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon on second reading of Bill No. 39, an Act Respecting Education. This piece of legislation is about our young people.

I have to ask the question, what can be any more important than the education of our young people? We are talking about the future here, Madam Speaker. One of the key factors that I must mention at the outset of this debate on the new Education Bill is the fact that the Minister of Education did not keep his promise to the boards to pass along to them a draft copy of the bill for input. The minister did send the various boards across this province a copy of his overview.

Although the overview of the proposed Education Bill is, in itself, quite informative, it is certainly not anything, Madam Speaker, when you compare it to the Education Act, itself, which is some 65 pages in length. The bill basically repeals the current Education Act as well as the present School Boards Act.

Many of the education partners have requested an opportunity, Madam Speaker, to provide the minister with their views, their expressions and their concerns relative to the legislation and I, too, am very pleased to learn that the Minister of Education has agreed not to have the presenters come before the Law Amendments Committee until approximately 10 days time. I certainly congratulate the minister for that because the minister recognizes that students, teachers, parents do have some concerns relative to the legislation.

I pointed out last night, Madam Speaker, when there was an amendment before this House to send this bill off to the Committee on Human Resources that there are many reasons why we should be concerned about this legislation. One of the reasons is because the bill suggests that, Clause 142, "Every person who contravenes this Act . . . is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than two thousand dollars or to imprisonment for six months, or to both.". That is a pretty significant penalty if somebody was to be in violation of the Act.

The partnerships that will be developed subsequent to this Act being proclaimed talk about sharing responsibilities. They talk about sharing the roles. The sharing of responsibilities and partnerships are a major theme in the bill. Madam Speaker, one area that I find should be amended is the responsibilities that the bill is referring to when talking about teachers.

Teachers in this province, as has been mentioned by the honourable member for Queens, are somewhat dejected and disheartened by this legislation. In fact, they are downcast for the most part and perhaps even demoralized to find that the minister, through this bill, is bestowing incredible powers upon himself. We do understand that there must be an effort between the teaching fraternity and the students and parents of this province to work together.

I was just reading through a booklet from the Fraser Institute that indicated that background research would show us that 50 per cent of Canadian adults have post-secondary education and the figure is steadily rising. Nobody knows what the jobs of the future will be or entail but we do know that education will be required. It is well documented that one's income rises with the number of years of education one has. So I think it is important that the minister does consolidate the two previous Acts. A lot of the provisions in the old Acts are outdated, nobody questions that. The minister has had a fair amount of consultation from the various partners that are referenced in this bill but I guess our caucus, as would be expected of any Opposition, looked to the Home and School Association, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and, of course, we talked to the 22 school boards across this province when this legislation was introduced. As I indicated before, most of the people we contacted said that they didn't receive a copy of the legislation.

Now, most of the stakeholders, whom we did meet with and whom we did speak with, were very concerned about the powers of the minister in the bill. Many of the stakeholders would like to see the powers of the minister listed. Some suggested that the minister could perhaps do anything he liked if this bill was proclaimed. Now we know that the Minister of Education is for the most part a pretty fine individual but we don't know if the present Minister of Education will stay in that position, Madam Speaker. That remains to be seen so we have to have safeguards and amendments put in place because the next Minister of Education may not be as congenial as the present minister is.

Now the minister has given the appearance of decentralization, Madam Speaker, with the advent of school councils. But without giving them real power and by taking so much power from our elected school boards, there really is no decentralization. Philosophically, there are many ideas that people could agree with. However, many of the minister's apple pie statements, if you will, included in the legislation, have no place in the legislation. The minister talks about roles and responsibilities of parents. They shall support their children in achieving learning success and they shall communicate with their children's school. Most parents, I would submit to the minister, are presently doing that. There is no need to put that into legislation.

Now if the minister finds out that the parents are not doing that, if the parents are not complying with the shall clauses, is he going to send the police after those parents who don't obey this law? No, I don't believe the minister is going to do that, but the next minister who comes along may be so disposed. He may be of the mind and he may be inclined to phone the police for any violation of this bill. So that clause, Madam Speaker, and I know we can't talk about clauses, but there is a clause in the bill that does talk about that penalty. It is a very serious penalty, a fine of not more than $2,000 or six months imprisonment, or both. That is a pretty substantial fine by anybody's imagination.

The Education Bill says teachers shall respect the rights of students; they shall teach diligently, they shall encourage students in the pursuit of learning. Again, Madam Speaker, I suggest that the teachers are presently doing that. Many teachers in this province have a number of years experience, they vary, but a lot of teachers have 20 or 25 years experience in teaching. For the teachers to come in and find this bill introduced without the proper consultation that they have requested, it must be very demoralizing.

When a teacher reads through this bill they certainly will find it very contradictory. It is ambiguous in different areas. So the minister is doing the right thing by amending, I hope, a good number of clauses in the bill.

Now the minister must be aware of some of the comments that the President of the Federation of Home and School Associations has made. Initially she commented that she was pleased that the bill allows for school councils. I understand the concept of school councils, Madam Speaker. I know in the community I come from we have a high school, Musquodoboit Rural High School. We have a site-based management plan presently, we don't have to develop a plan. We have a strategy and we are hoping to implement it over three years. But we are going into the implementation stages of that present strategic plan that we have in place.

Some of the problems associated with the school advisory council is the fact that some of the trustees are not sure how the transition period will take place and what all the details are relative to the transition from trustee to school council. As you know and perhaps members of the House know, the school advisory council is made up of parents, teachers, students and representatives of the community. So I support the concept of school advisory councils and have been attending meetings relative to their formation.

In different areas, Madam Speaker, the minister is going to find out that a lot of the schools are quite disturbed that the ability to establish area rates has been taken away. Now in Halifax County we have some 11 high schools; only three of those schools do not have area rates in place. Now whether the area rate applies to curriculum or to recreation is of little matter. The fact is that you may have a community where a consensus is reached relative to area rates, if they want to provide a supplementary type of education over and above. It is not really affecting the quality of the education, as long as there is a standard, as long as there is a core in place, what is the problem with a community, a school enhancing the education their children receive?

Madam Speaker, I know some areas of the province, I know Bedford, C.P. Allen for example, I know that the area rates are in place and I think they work very well. Now, on the other side of the coin, and I think we have to balance any debate with the other side of the coin - some grandparents, for example - well, they may not even be grandparents - some seniors may ask, why should we support an area rate? We don't have children going to school. Well, we are talking about the future of our province. I don't think you will find too many people speaking against area rates, provided the area rate that is established has been done through a very democratic process. That is what we are talking about, democracy. So, while the President of the Federation of Home and School Associations said she was pleased that the bill allows for school councils, she also had some very serious reservations about the bill.

[1:30 p.m.]

The minister, when he introduced the bill, received, I am sure, a lot of feedback. From the time he introduced the bill until now, I am sure he has received a lot of feedback from the various education partners. Some people are disturbed that the minister has not given word of any evaluation of the eight pilot projects that are presently taking place across this province. When the minister announced the $200,000, six pilot projects, which grew to eight as we know - it was originally six and I think it grew to eight - in the minister's release he said the Department of Education is beginning with a limited number of pilot projects to ensure that they can be properly monitored and evaluated. However, any board may now proceed with the setting up of school councils. So, I wonder if the school councils have received the evaluations relative to the pilot projects.

The School Boards Association, at the time, gave examples of where site-based management, in fact, is a mess. I believe they mentioned New Zealand as one example.

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I am just going to gently ask you to come back to the principle of the bill now, if you would, please.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Madam Speaker. The bow has been retracted. I know my colleagues have raised a lot of points relative to Bill No. 39, the Education Act, and there certainly are a lot of points yet that must be raised. I understand that the minister promised the school boards that he would provide them with a copy of the legislation; initially, he did not keep that commitment. So, we do know that no new board will be elected until 1997 and that is certainly a provision and very much principled in the bill.

We are also concerned that in Nova Scotia we contribute and commit a lot of money to education, somewhere around $800 million, so the minister is telling us that Nova Scotians will save $11 million as a result of amalgamating the present school boards. While a statement of good intentions is certainly an honourable thing to do, I would like to know what merits that statement and if there has been a cost-benefit analysis done or not respecting the $11 million that is supposed to be saved. There is absolutely nothing in this bill that indicates that the child's position in the classroom will be improved. The minister has said that the money saved will go directly into the classroom.

Within the short time available to our caucus, we did discuss this very broad-based, far-reaching bill. Madam Speaker, you know that we supported hoisting the bill and you know that we supported the amendment to send it to the Human Resources Committee, and our rationale for doing so was because we feel that this bill has many flaws in it.

In conclusion, Madam Speaker, let me say that I believe all Nova Scotians deserve better legislation and, while I will support the bill going on to the Law Amendments Committee, I have serious concerns relative to this legislation. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. DONALD MCINNES: Madam Speaker, I just want to add some remarks to my colleague's concerns regarding An Act Respecting Education. I guess I should say I am pleased the minister brought a bill forward, a bill after 40 years, 65 pages, 159 clauses. Some things in it, of course, are very good and he did have a White Paper out which was fine.

One of my major concerns in this bill is the fact that we are reducing 22 school boards to 7. That is a drastic cut and as I explained before when we were talking about, referring the bill to the Committee on Human Resources, I did mention the three counties of Pictou, Cumberland and Colchester being put together is really ridiculous. The three groups got together and actually had a coordinator hired to meet with them and make suggestions as to how they could work together without, in fact, being put together.

The gentleman who did the job, Mr. John Murley, did an excellent report. He reported to the boards and they were very pleased with his report, they were going to have a consortium and yet they would be able to maintain their own boards to try to run their own show to save some money. That report was submitted to the Minister of Education and in his wisdom he took it to Cabinet and Cabinet frankly, rejected it very quickly. In fact, the Pictou County School Board was going to sue the Department of Education, they had it on their plate for almost two months and just very recently they decided they would not do that.

They were trying to work together, they were prepared to work together but yet the minister did not listen. The minister said he went around and met with all the boards around the province and I believe that he did. In fact, I think he said he met with them twice but did he listen to what they said and did he take home what they said? I don't think he did. The minister also said that this was going to save $11 million and I understand that the government has to try to cut back and make cuts, we appreciate that. He has yet to put on the table where the $11 million is and he says he is going to do that and we look forward to seeing where the saving of $11 million is going to come in.

Another major concern of mine in the bill is the power of the minister. I am not talking about this minister but once this bill is passed and I know it will pass, the government is going to have it on their agenda but we may have a minister who may be not as thoughtful as our present minister. I think there is absolutely too much power, I think there are 37 clauses, if I remember correctly, that give the power to the minister.

It will be interesting to see where they have the head office, and I will talk about my own region, in fact, putting those together, where is that head office going to be?

AN HON. MEMBER: Middle Musquodoboit.

MR. MCINNES: Middle Musquodoboit. Well, that is where it might as well be, if it is in Parrsborro or whatever. I don't know how you can have proper representation on that board unless you have a great big board and a great big board I wouldn't agree with. The minister also has the power to appoint the coordinators and then he has the power to appoint the people that are going to work on the boards. Why doesn't he let the board members, some representatives of the boards be on this committee to set up who they are going to hire and whatnot?

The home education clause on Page 54 of the bill is another concern of many and others have spoken about it. My own neighbour - to be honest with you - I didn't realize that she was teaching her children at home. But she called me the other day and she is going to come to the Law Amendments Committee because she is concerned with the power given to the minister in regard to home education.

The stakeholders in this bill are: the parents who are very interested; school boards, the home and school associations; all these . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, some members are having a difficult time hearing you with your microphone.

MR. MCINNES: The really one major concern that I have, I think we all want to help our children, help the young people of this province. It is important that they have a good education. I don't know what is in this bill that is going to help them get a better education, I really and truly don't. There have been programs cut out because of the cutbacks, music and other programs that are very important to the young people in this province and I would hope that when we get to the Law Amendments Committee, we are going to have a lot of people coming there - I understand right now there are over 50 groups that are going to come to Law Amendments - so there will be many suggestions made and I hope that the minister, in his wisdom, will listen to those and take some guidance from some of the comments that were made by members in this Legislature.

Another group of people who are very concerned are the non-unionized workers at the various school boards: the classroom supervisors and also the supervisors at dinner time and recess, who are very concerned. (Interruption) Can you hear it now? Well, I am glad the member for Colchester North has his earphone in because I know that he wants to hear what I am saying, whether the rest in the Legislature do or not, I don't know.

The hour is getting late and we want to get on with this bill. We all are concerned about Bill No. 39. It is a very important bill, very important to the children of this province, very important to the school boards, teachers, home and school associations. We want the minister - and I know this is a good minister - to listen to what we have said. I am sure that he can come up with some amendments. We would have liked very much to have had it go to the Human Resources Committee, that wasn't to be, but now it is going to go to the Law Amendments Committee, probably, in a week or so and let's listen to what they say. I will be voting for the bill to go because I think it is important for it to go before Law Amendments and give them an opportunity and the people concerned an opportunity to have their say. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on the second reading of Bill No. 39, the Education Act. I think that the question that we have to ask everybody is, what does this bill do to improve the child's position in the classroom. What does this bill do to make a difference for our children? There have been a number of people who got up, have spoken on this bill, have mentioned many different concerns, and I am pleased that the minister has agreed to put off the Law Amendments Committee for a week so that people can get together, put their ideas on paper and bring them forward so that there can be some discussion and hopefully we will reach the type of bill that will make a difference for our children.

I remember during the process, Madam Speaker, when the minister went around to different areas in the province and had conversations with different stakeholders involved in the project. I was lucky enough to be involved in one of those but the thing that bothered me was that the minister wasn't there. Staff was there, the Minister of Health was there because the meeting was held in his riding, but the Minister of Education wasn't there. I wonder how he can honestly tell us that he spoke with a number of people when he wasn't at the meetings himself. That being taken into consideration, he has a chance now to hear from a lot more people, to hear what the concerns are.

[1:45 p.m.]

Many people have been saying that there are many stakeholders in what we are talking about here, but from my point of view, Madam Speaker, there is only one stakeholder and that is the children of this province. They are the ones we have to be putting forward and making sure that their best interests are being looked after. This is not willy-nilly stuff, this is important to the future of our children and our province, because if we don't do this right, the only ones who are going to suffer are the children in this province. That is why it is so important that we take what we are doing here very seriously, and make sure that every chance and opportunity is given to the people of Nova Scotia to have the type of input, to put forward the type of bill that I am sure the minister wants to bring forward, a bill that will satisfy the needs of the people of this province.

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier today, I have had an opportunity to go around and conduct a poll in my area, and that poll was during the by-election. (Interruptions) The fellow with the most votes. The concerns that were brought forward at that time were the people were concerned about the education system, they were concerned about the health care system and they were concerned about the types of things that were happening for their families. The education system . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable member, I am interested in the concerns of your constituents, about all of those things, but not in the course of the debate on the principle of the bill.

MR. MACLEOD: The principle, Madam Speaker, is that the people are interested in what is going on in the Province of Nova Scotia; the people care about what is going on; and the people want to know how come they haven't had more input on the bills that are coming before this House on matters such as education. That is why I relate back to those incidents, because it is important to the people of Nova Scotia.

The other thing we have to realize is that the teachers are very interested in what is taking place; the school boards are interested in what is taking place. The teachers, according to many different headlines today, are concerned that the input hasn't been put there. Now, with the minister's permission, we are putting this off to the Law Amendments Committee for a week so that it will give them a chance to have time to put in the concerns they are talking about. Again, I am sure our minister is going to listen to those people and adjust this legislation so that it will help the people we are here to serve.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased and proud to be able to speak on this bill today. I think it is important that we realize what we are doing here will have a major impact on the future of our province and on our children, and we have to proceed slowly and surely to make sure this happens in the best interests of our children.

MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JOHN MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, first of all, I am honoured to stand and close debate on second reading of the Education Act. Just for a moment, some people seem to have lost track of what the process is in this House, so I would like to speak to that. I have been in this House now for seven years and the bills that have been introduced, the first time they see the light of day is in this House and that is the pattern that this House has always followed. I think there is one exception in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia. The attempt that I had made to get a draft bill around, I wasn't able because of that situation to be able to circulate it.

If I might, what happens is - and that is the process - every bill that has come into this House so far, the Opposition has tried to hoist it. But the process is simply that it comes to the House, we debate the principle of the bill, then it goes to the Law Amendments Committee where the public comes in and addresses both the principle and the contents of the bill, and then it returns to this Chamber in committee and we do clause after clause after clause. That is how this has always worked and this particular bill has been following that.

Since the day I introduced this bill - I introduced it on Friday - by Monday morning I had started talking to the stakeholders that are involved to have them look at the whole bill itself. Every section of the bill has travelled the province at different times, whether we are talking about the black advisory group, the Acadian-francophone governance discussion, Madam Speaker, or the strategic plan, students with special needs. We have travelled the province and we have talked to stakeholders on each and every one of those. The bill itself is putting together all of those ideas into a single document, drafted by lawyers, and therefore we have to examine it again and that is what this House is for. That is what we do.

Since Monday, Madam Speaker, I have been talking to many of the stakeholders, not all of them yet, because many of them are scheduled to come to the House of Assembly and speak at the Law Amendments Committee and they have expressed concerns, many of them referring to both the way it is written and the combination of them. The one that causes me almost the most amusement has to do with the penalty clause. There is a difference between an offence and to contravene an Act. To contravene an Act is one thing but an offence against an Act is very specific.

In the Education Act there is only really one offence as described by the Act and that is clearly if somebody from outside the school - that is, not the student, a teacher or an administrator or somebody who is involved with the school community. Jim Meek made fun today about talking to a school. A school is not a building. A school is something larger than that. It involves the people there who are housed in the building. So who you talk to are the people in that educational community. But the offence is if somebody - comes and puts the students or teachers or somebody at risk. That is the only offence that the bill speaks to. So the clause that the lawyers spoke to the offence, the lack of clarity there and the lack of understanding between a contravention and an offence caused the difficulty.

So, Madam Speaker, that is the real problem. I have some light moments by it. I was called by a good friend of mine, who said to me, why are you arresting me. I asked him to explain to me. He said, well the bill says I am going to be arrested. But that is basically a lack of understanding between the offence and the contravention. We are clearing that up to make it clear because we want this Act to be available to parents, teachers, so that they can read it. It is written in plain language and it has caused us some difficulties in understanding. So we are clearing up some of the language so I present that.

Madam Speaker, there are some other things I would like to speak to. My favourite is the power of the minister and to get a sense of it, first of all, and I quote from one of the honourable members opposite, it is not about the amount of power, it is the type of power. We are focusing our attention on who has the responsibility and the authority for doing a particular thing. It is not the authority over somebody, it is the authority over a particular process. The minister has one type of authority, the boards another type, the schools another type. It is not authority over the people. It is a different thing altogether. It is authority over different aspects of the educational process.

I have a quote from a relatively significant legislator who speaks at a time, by the way, when this person was trying to adjust the Education Act. Now it wasn't a member of the Liberal Party and it was some time ago and I think the quote might be helpful. It is dated May 17, 1982 and the Minister of Education of the day, the Honourable Terence Donahoe, is presenting adjustments to the Education Act. I will just quote a bit of it. This is Page 2769 of the Assembly Debates of that year. Some honourable members shout, "Arrogant. Arrogant.". Mr. Terence Donahoe responds, "Well, I have the right to be arrogant, Mr. Speaker, in the context of what I am going to say, because I stand in this House, interestingly enough, in this context, as . . .". And he was interrupted with one of the members shouting, "The emperor. Napoleon.", Madam Speaker.

He goes on, Madam Speaker, to explain the situation. This is 1982 and it is important for all members to see that because he actually puts it in historical context. He says, "`I read earlier and I want to repeat again for emphasis, `The Governor in Council has the general supervision of public schools', - and this is the old Act . . .", Now this is 1982. "` . . . the ground rules under which this government has functioned to this point, and under which the government of which he was a part, . . .'", pointing across the floor to the Napoleon shouter, "`. . . The Governor in Council has the general supervision of public schools and education in the Province and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, may: (a) make regulations: (i) respecting the expenditure, by way of grants, of money from time to time appropriated by the Legislature for grants for educational purposes and prescribing the terms and conditions under which such grants shall be paid.'". In other words, the Minister of Education was responsible for everything. (Interruption) No, no, I just make it clear because I think there is some fun in there, and Napoleon speaking, because I heard some similar types of comments as we moved through.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I am wondering if the minister would just entertain brief questions, even without editorial comments on my part, Madam Speaker. I am going to save my editorial comments altogether in terms of the bill. I have a couple of questions. The minister has made some commitments, I know, privately, but I have not heard them being made publicly. If I could, really just a couple of very quick questions to the minister.

I know that there have been some meetings, and they are ongoing, with the School Boards Association and also with the representatives of the Teachers Union. My questions to the minister really are two. One, has the minister agreed that in the Law Amendments Committee process, when it starts, the minister will begin and be the first presenter to present the amendments that have come about as a result of the discussions that he is prepared to put forward, so that they can also be considered as part of the assessment and the review that is taking place in the Law Amendments Committee process? That is number one.

Number two, will the minister make the commitment on the floor of the House today that this week he and his staff will be prepared to meet with representatives from the home and school associations, with representatives of the workers who represent others, whether they be the NSGEU, CUPE, the operating engineers and so on who have representatives in it, and thirdly, meet with parents groups like those who have children with special needs? I know that the minister has made those kinds of commitments privately. All I am looking for is for those kinds of commitments to be made in the public record here on the floor of the House.

MR. MACEACHERN: Madam Speaker, first of all, I can tell the honourable member that we are way ahead on many of those things because, in fact, as we travelled the province, we met and made commitments to each of the groups that he describes that if after they get the bill they want to talk about it and draw things to our attention, we would be pleased and, in fact, honoured to do that.

As the time has gone on, Madam Speaker - and again I repeat, we started this on Monday past, that is both my staff and myself, talking to participants who are involved in education, looking at the way the bill is written and things that might be read into the bill, to find out what we could fix. By the way, this is not extraordinary; this is what the process is. That is how it works. By the time we get to the House, we come to conclusions, I will introduce them for consideration of all the people that are there so that we will have more time to do that.

Madam Speaker, it is very important to understand that the House of Assembly is built to do this. This is not an extraordinary process. As we are meeting with those people - I will give you probably the clearest example. The home schoolers came to us and started talking to us, first of all, about what they saw we were doing and congratulated us for that. Secondly, they said, but the problems that your bill as written implies to us are these. So now we are looking at those implications, to see how we can address those.

I spoke to the power of the minister. It is very important, Madam Speaker, as we look at what the type of power is. That is very important. I have here Clause 64 of the bill, about power. It describes in Subclause (1), "A school board is accountable to the Minister and responsible for the control and management of the public schools within its jurisdiction in accordance with this Act and the regulations.". What it basically says is that the school board does everything. My job is to look after two things principally. One, the delivery of educational programming: I develop the programming, they report back how it is working, we find testing mechanisms of particular types and we try to help on that side. We have to be accountable for programming. Not how to deliver the programming but the results of the programming.

Secondly, finances: this House provides me with money each year and we have to find ways to report how that money is spent and make sure it is spent most efficiently. The best example of that, Madam Speaker, is let's suppose a particular school board chose for whatever reason not to maintain their school buildings. This has two problems. First of all, it causes great expense because deferred maintenance gets more and more expensive, as debt does. The second thing is that students can be sick because schools aren't maintained. If that is not being done there has to be a way for the government to step in to make sure that it is done. Under the old Act that couldn't be done. In fact, I tried to do it and had some difficulties. I used a little persuasion and got it addressed but we had no authority to do it. So we have worked through that.

[2:00 p.m.]

The difference is the type of authority that we are dealing with, not the amount. It is not that I am in charge of the boards. The boards are in charge of what they are doing and I am in charge of the things I am responsible for. The closure of schools is a good example. I developed a process to be followed so we would have due process in the closure of schools. If a board decides to close a school, they follow the process and if they decide to close it, it is closed, if they decide not to close it, it is not closed. There is no appeal to the minister to see if that is closed or not. The only appeal would be if they didn't follow due process and they would appeal to me because of the process and that is all.

Historically, we have had cases, and I can document them exactly. This is probably about five years ago. A board chose to close a school, it caused some discomfort in some areas on the political side and there was an intervention made so that the school stayed open. That is not the way it should be done. It should be done that if the board is in charge of closing schools then, in fact, it should be closed, there is no question about that. So as you read through the bill, the thing to focus attention on is not who is in charge of whom but who is in charge of doing what and how is that accountable. If you read through, for example, what a school board is responsible for, you will see they are responsible for almost anything. If, in fact, they choose to spend money in a new way, they have to get approval because I have to come back to this House to get the money for that. Those are the kinds of things that it is about.

I report that as late as last evening I was talking to people from the School Boards Association, they have no objection to this accountability procedure. In fact, it was recommended in the form it is by meetings with school boards over a period of time. My proposal, which occurred, I think, in the White Paper, although it may have been in the previous discussion paper, was to have an accountability mechanism of a different kind. That was rejected by the school boards, so we have adopted this model and it seems to be accepted by the school boards. I present that.

The other thing I might mention, the particular section which talks about school councils and transfer of power, what that particular clause attempted to do was to allow for the eight pilots that we have and the possibility for the Acadian-francophone situation where you have a school like Pomquet. That language, as written, is presenting some people with difficulties in saying it could be interpreted another way so we are working to clear up the language to make that perfectly clear. In fact, we have had a request that that section have in it a part which says, at the request of the school board or with the approval of the school board, and we are considering that as a possibility, as a safeguard because that was what the intention was anyway.

Our eight pilots, for example, are all chosen and approved by the school boards, each of them. There is actually an agreement between the department and the school board and the pilots on how these will operate. Likewise, it would be the Acadian-francophone board who made a presentation to us requesting a particular type of responsibility for a particular school in the Acadian-francophone board. Probably the most obvious example would be discipline, or suspensions would be a good way of describing it. The bill provides for an appeal of a suspension to the board but if you have a provincial-wide board and you have the small school of Pomquet with six teachers, then you must find another type of mechanism and you have to assign the responsibility for that in a particular way. I just give that as an example.

Likewise there was some concern at the security of the contracts of the employees of school boards and of the province because of a way a particular section was written. Well, we reviewed that and it is possible it could be interpreted that way. There are two times when you have to look at how contracts are protected. The first one is in the transition between district boards and regional boards and we haven't got many complaints about that side. Afterwards, we have to clarify how we are going to protect that and how negotiations will proceed. We are working on that as well, Madam Speaker, because that is a very important issue.

Likewise, I want to mention just a few things that there obviously seems to be agreement on, the African-Canadian Education Council, the Acadian-francophone board, parental involvement, and there is consensus that parents should be involved in some ways in schools. The idea of accountability by connecting responsibility with authority, I think is accepted by all the partners in education. I believe there is enough for us to build on that. That is what is going to happen over the next three weeks as we go through this week of discussion and then to Law Amendments Committee, and then after that we move to the Committee of the Whole House where we debate the clauses.

So, I give that to all members of the House because, again, I have great comfort in the House of Assembly and how it works because it is able to address the concerns of people, as we have seen here. As I said in answer to the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, we have started talking to the stakeholders and we have invitations out there for people who have concerns, as they study this bill, to bring this in to see if we missed something because it is a substantial bill, covering a lot of things, and it is going to require the involvement of everybody.

I have watched over a number of years, Madam Speaker, how bills proceed through the House. I don't ever remember a minister voluntarily sending out all kinds of copies of the bill on the day it was tabled. We started doing that right away because we want the discussion to be wide, so that when this finally gets written into law, it is as good as we can make it, as a House of Assembly, so we try to do this.

The concerns that have been brought to us are two kinds: there are language concerns, which are easy to address; and some substantive changes and differences that we have to have some consideration and discussion about. Madam Speaker, I commit to you and, through you, to all members of the House, that the Department of Education and myself will be available to discuss both these things. The language ones, as I said, Madam Speaker, can be done easily, but the substantive ones will require some kind of discussion.

So, I thank all members of the House for their contributions to the debate. Oh, by the way, I have a question I have to answer. I noticed the honourable member for Kings here. He asked some questions. First, about the $11 million. I sent up to the office to have that document sent down because I have been busy the last two days. So it is on the way down and the consideration on that will be available to them. Secondly, there was a question about why we have seven boards. As we started examining the whole province - and it is in the White Paper the description of how we arrived at seven - we looked at five because that is what the health boards were and the social services boards, they chose five, and if you look at the province there is a geographical logic to it. Of course, size became a difficulty, so we broke several of them into two and sent them out for consideration and after that asked people to look at other options which were there. So again, the responses came according to that and we moved forward.

Also, I will offer to any member of the House, I heard several members say they would like to discuss personally some parts of the bill, and I will make the offer that if they want to sit down and go through the bill line by line with me, I will be pleased to do that. Or, if they have particular questions about particular sections, I will provide that and provide the time to them, so we can look very particularly at some concerns they have.

So, Madam Speaker, I thank you for your time and I move this bill to be passed along to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: Are the members ready for the question on Bill No. 39? The question is called for.

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

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill proceed to the Law Amendments Committee.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 32.

Bill No. 32 - Insurance Act/Motor Vehicle Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley had adjourned the debate.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Madam Speaker, I have only a few further comments relative to this bill. I do want to say that anything that will service a client better is certainly a move in the right direction. At the present time, motor vehicle liability policies do not provide coverage if one is involved in an accident with an uninsured automobile, or unidentified automobile for that matter, Madam Speaker.

I think the minister clearly should point out, and I am quite confident that she will when she gives her closing remarks, I wonder if the minister would tell us who is going to administer the Facility Association and why we should believe that the Facility Association would provide better service than the present judgment recovery system? So that is one concern I do have.

We also understand that after July 1, 1996, application relative to these types of incidents will be made to the Facility Association. The minister has indicated in her press release that the Facility Association is a group of insurers who provide coverage for hard to insure risks. I believe there are seven or eight companies who will service this new association, the Facility Association. So I hope that before we finish second reading and before the minister moves it along to the Law Amendments Committee, she would table a document outlining all members of the association; then we could get a better understanding of the configuration and jurisdiction of the association.

Madam Speaker, I don't have anything too much further to say relative to this bill. I outlined some of the concerns that I had and I basically support the principle of this bill. I think it is a good piece of legislation and deserves to be supported by all members of the House. Thank you very much.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I wanted to rise and speak for a few moments on Bill No. 32. I think Bill No. 32 is clearly a step in the right direction in terms of dealing with the difficulties faced by Nova Scotians who are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. There are a couple of questions I have in here, but let me just say that I think the judgment recovery system has been an extremely cumbersome one, where people who were involved with someone who was uninsured or underinsured would have to basically file a claim and take action and proceed under the Judgment Recovery Act (N.S.) Ltd. It involved legal proceedings and, undoubtedly there was some considerable amount of money paid out in legal fees because of that process. All it really did was prolong and frustrate those people who were trying to recover their loss under this system. So, I would simply suggest that for that fact alone this sounds, at least in the initial review of this legislation, like a good idea.

There is some question - and I think it will undoubtedly get dealt with at the Law Amendments Committee - in Clause 2, Section 106(1A), where it talks about people who have no other insurance, or have other insurance that is inadequate. It talks about the amount they are, in fact, entitled to. The question that arises is that under the previous system the judgment Recovery would not pay for other benevolences that the plaintiff received under a private or a public plan, and there has been some debate in the courts over the Canada Pension Plan disability, CPP disability. In fact the Supreme Court made a decision that CPP was not to be deducted from the claim under judgment recovery. There has been some concern brought to my attention that because of the wording of Clause 2, Section 106(1A), it may be an attempt to get around that.

From my reading of the particular case, Kirk v. Singh, Madam Speaker, it appeared to me that, in fact, this had been dealt with, had been determined that CPP was not to be deducted from the claim. I would hope that we could seek some clarification, perhaps, but that this particular provision would not try to intrude in that decision or otherwise get around it.

[2:15 p.m.]

There have been a few other concerns raised about this Facility Association. Madam Speaker, my understanding of facility insurers, as has already been stated, it is sort of the last resort insurer, where premiums that are charged for insurance are double and triple, sometimes, what the normal rates are generally based on your risk experience. I would want and hope that at the Law Amendments Committee, there are some greater clarifications as to the role of the Facility Association and what kinds of fees and charges will be made back to the province for this and also to the people are making claim as a result of having been involved in an accident with someone who is not insured or is under-insured.

Other than that, again, it is the question of benefits that are going to be paid. I addressed that somewhat, but it comes up again in Section 139, Madam Speaker, but undoubtedly we will have an opportunity to deal with that and it relates to the insured's or the insured's spouse. We will deal with that, I think, we will have an opportunity during the Law Amendments Committee.

Just let me say, in wrapping up my comments on, I am extremely pleased to see that this change has finally come through. In the late 1970's, Madam Speaker, in another life that I lead, I was an insurance adjuster, and I had the opportunity to try to claim on behalf of Judgment Recovery, they would farm out some of these files where they were trying to track down people that they had made out payments on behalf of, and I will tell you, it is a difficult system. I have also had the opportunity as an adjuster to try to work with people that are making claims against the judgment recovery system. It certainly was not a system that benefitted those people that it was designed to assist. I am glad to see that finally, after all these years, that this government is moving forward to correct some of those problems, some of that unfairness, some of those inequities, in order that we can have the system properly handled.

I would like to have some of those questions answered in terms of the cost and the charges by the Facility Association. I would like to understand what that is all about and the whole question of benefits and some specific technical wording of that.

Suffice it to say, Madam Speaker, that - are you okay with this? - I am just checking with my caucus colleagues and our caucus will be supporting this bill. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Split personalities.

MR. CHISHOLM: Madam Speaker, I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss some of the specifics of this bill in more detail at the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: Any further speakers on the bill? Hearing none, I recognize the honourable Minister for Housing and Consumer Affairs.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs.

HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Madam Speaker, I am honoured to stand and close the debate for second reading on Bill No. 32. There are just a few comments that I would like to make in closing.

As I noted in my opening remarks, the key thing about these amendments is that the settlements for claims for those people who are involved with uninsured motorists will now have a simpler less complicated way to make claims. It is simpler for the consumer and for Nova Scotians to deal with their insurers. The consumer will be able to deal with their own insurance company rather than the complicated system of judgment recovery if he or she is involved in an accident.

There were a lot of questions from honourable members opposite regarding the Facility Association, the definition of such. I do have a document here that I would be willing to table and I will just speak to it briefly. The Facility Association is an unincorporated, non-profit association of insurers and they operate in all Canadian jurisdictions that do not have government-operated auto insurance programs. The purpose of the association is to provide automobile insurance to owners and drivers of automobiles and motor vehicles who are not able to obtain insurance from an insurance company due to their driving record or their claims history. There was some question of where the office was located. It is made up of insurers from across the country. The head office is in Toronto and each province has advisory councils that operate to deal with local issues.

Most of the speakers have indicated that a separate definition of Facility Association might improve the bill, might be appropriate, and I certainly will review that and may recommend that a definition be included at Law Amendments Committee time. I have to say that most of the claims that will be made under the Facility Association would only be for those people who do not have their own insurance policy, and that is very much a minority of most of the people who do have automobile accidents.

There was also a question regarding deductions from UI benefits. The bill provides the claimants who have automobile insurance will receive full payment of all damages that are incurred, that are covered by their own policy. Clause 139, that the member opposite has mentioned, provides that certain benefits cannot be deducted, and if you look at that, they are pretty well spelled out there, social assistance and health services and other benefits under the Insurance Act. There is also an opportunity to have regulations set that would exclude certain things being deducted from the claims that would be made.

Also, there was a question about consultation. One thing I would like to table here is a letter that I have received from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, that states that they are gratified to witness the introduction of the bill in the House, and on behalf of the industry, they wanted to thank me for my assistance in advancing these particular legislative items. They have been trying for a number of years to bring this forward, so now we can be concurrent with the developments in other Atlantic Provinces. Now we have four vertically identical systems in place in this region.

I also want to make mention here that the Insurance Bureau has stated in this letter that they have met with members of both the Progressive Conservative caucus and the New Democrat caucus over the past year to provide them with an overview of the uninsured automobile coverage legislation. So, I am sure that that consultation has taken place as well.

I think that pretty well covers most of the issues that were raised. I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this bill's substance is, in fact, to make it easier for consumers to make claims and also to access insurance. I want to thank the members opposite who have spoken in support of that bill and also to note that this is important to all Nova Scotians and I am pleased it has received the response it has received.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 132. 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. 35.

Bill No. 35 - Business Electronic Filing Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, I would introduce this bill for second reading. The purpose of the bill as set out on the first page is to enable, "Clause 2(a) information and forms to be filed electronically by business; (b) establish a system of business identifiers; establish a unified database to provide access to information required to be maintained under designated enactments; (d) permit a person, other than an officer or employee of the Crown, to perform any function or service under a designated enactment; (e) simplify Government regulatory requirements, eliminate duplication in procedures and improve Government organizational arrangements; and (f) enhance the ability of Government to co-operate with other governments or levels of government for greater efficiency and to eliminate unnecessary duplication.".

The Minister of Justice will certainly be here on Tuesday and if there are questions raised by the members opposite in debate, I will certainly take note of those questions and will have the Minister of Justice prepared to respond to them.

I move the bill for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 35. 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: Oh, were it so easy with all of them, Mr. Speaker. Given the considerable progress that has been made today and the fact that it is a long weekend, I would advise members that we will be sitting on Tuesday from the hours of 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. and I would move that the House adjourn until 12:00 noon on Tuesday.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 2:27 p.m.]



By: Dr. John Hamm (Leader of the Opposition)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency:

(1) A copy of the agreement reached between the Economic Renewal Agency and CIBC concerning the level of training required for telephone banking in Nova Scotia.


By: Dr. John Hamm (Leader of the Opposition)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency:

(1) Number of written responses received by the Minister for the Economic Renewal Agency on public/private partnerships up to the deadline of September 29th;

(2) A list of individuals and/or companies who submitted responses to the minister; and

(3) A copy of responses submitted to the minister by September 29th.


By: Dr. John Hamm (Leader of the Opposition)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency:

(1) A copy of all those who participated in a Nova Scotia trade mission to the United Kingdom in September 1994;

(2) A detailed itinerary of all involved in the trade mission; and

(3) A status report on the U.K. trade mission 14 months later.


By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Transportation and Communications:

(1) Cost of the Nova Scotia Government funded study to gauge the economic impact of the ferry service between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor;

(2) Specific information being sought by the province as a result of the study;

(3) Completion date of the study; and

(4) Details as to whether the study will be reviewed individually or collectively by Marine Atlantic and the federal and provincial governments.


By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Transportation and Communications:

(1) Exact location of the safety inspection on trucks conducted during a 72 hour period in mid-June of this year;

(2) Number of trucks removed or taken from service during this 72 hour inspection;

(3) Number of drivers too fatigued or tired to keep driving and told to stop driving at that time; and

(4) Number of actual motor vehicle charges laid as the result of this 72 hour inspection.


By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Transportation and Communications:

(1) Number of alcohol related fatalities which have transpired on Nova Scotia highways between January 1, 1995 and November 9, 1995;

(2) Number of automatic roadside license suspensions against impaired drivers as the result of police stopping motorists between June 1, 1995 and November 9, 1995.

(3) A copy of a detailed description of the mandatory driver education program and the number of participants who have enrolled in the program between February 1, 1995 and November 9, 1995.


By: Mr. George Archibald (Kings North)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Municipal Affairs:

(1) A detailed list of all companies consulted prior to the introduction of the Personal Property Security Act in the Nova Scotia Legislature on October 30th; and

(2) A copy of all comments received from companies prior to the introduction of the legislation.


By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency:

(1) A copy of the agreement between the ARA Consulting group hired by the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency to undertake a pre-feasibility assessment towards the design of an historical recreation project at Fort Lawrence, Cumberland County.


By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency:

(1) A copy of the cooperative marketing agreement executed between Icelandair and the Nova Scotia Economic Renewal Agency.


By: Mr. Donald McInnes (Pictou West)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move that an order of this House do issue for a return showing, with respect to the Department of Transportation and Communications:

(1) A copy of all correspondence between the Minister of Transportation and the Economic Renewal Agency and the Premier of New Brunswick and New Brunswick's Minister of Transportation relating to the construction of a ramp leading directly to the Nova Scotia Tourist Bureau at Amherst between August 1, 1994 and November 9, 1995.