|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|Res. 49, Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply,|
|Hon. W. Gillis||465|
|Hon. W. Gillis||466|
|Mr. R. Russell||481|
|Adjourned debate ~ 484 ~ ^^^|
|STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:|
|Government By Design, 1997-98, The Tide Has Turned, The Premier||484|
|TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:|
|Government By Design, 1997-98, The Tide Has Turned, The Premier||484|
|NOTICES OF MOTION:|
|Res. 95, Health - Care (Rural): Plan - Develop, Mr. B. Taylor||485|
|Res. 96, Hemophilia Soc. (Can.) - Work-Congrats./Internat. Day-|
|Success Wish, Mr. R. Chisholm||485|
|Vote - Affirmative||486|
|Res. 97, Volunteer - Josephine Eisenhauer (Lunenburg):|
|Governor General's Caring Cdn. Award - Congrats.,|
|Mrs. L. O'Connor||486|
|Vote - Affirmative||487|
|Res. 99, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Interests (N.S.) - Unprotected Condemn,|
|Mr. J. Holm||488|
|Res. 100, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Youth: Unemployment - Address,|
|Mr. A. MacLeod||488|
|HOUSE RECESSED AT 3:21 P.M.||489|
|HOUSE RECONVENED AT 3:29 P.M.||489|
|ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:|
|No. 29, Educ. - School Advisory Councils: Evaluation - Release,|
|Mr. T. Donahoe||489|
|No. 30, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Unemployment: Reduction -|
|Commitment, Mr. R. Chisholm||491|
|No. 31, Nat. Res. - Barren (Jim Campbell): Canada Yew - Presence,|
|Mr. J. Leefe||493|
|No. 32, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Sheet Harbour: Terminal - Status,|
|Mr. B. Taylor||495|
|No. 33, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: KLM - Flights (Ex-Hfx.),|
|Mr. G. Archibald||497|
|No. 34, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Costs - Analysis, Mr. J. Holm||498|
|No. 35, Health: Hants Commun. Hosp. - Future, Mr. R. Russell ^No. 36,|
Educ. - Schools: Capital Construction - Prioritized List,
|Mr. T. Donahoe||502|
|No. 37, Educ. - Reform: Class Sizes - Effect, Mr. T. Donahoe||503|
|No. 38, Health - Home Care: Janet MacDonald (Bible Hill) -|
|Case Address, Ms. E. O'Connell||505|
|PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:|
|No. 1, Residential Tenancies Act||507|
|Mr. A. MacLeod||507|
|Mr. B. Taylor||508|
|Hon. S. Jolly||509|
|Vote - Affirmative||512|
|No. 2, Motor Vehicle Act||512|
|Hon. S. Jolly||512|
|Mr. G. Archibald||513|
|Mr. J. Holm||514|
|Mr. R. Russell||517|
|Mr. J. Leefe||520|
|Hon. S. Jolly||522|
|Vote - Affirmative||523|
|No. 6, Gas Distribution Act||524|
|Hon. E. Norrie||524|
|Mr. G. Archibald||525|
|MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):|
|Health - Care: Crisis - Solve:|
|Mr. G. Moody||531|
|Mr. R. Carruthers||534|
|Mr. R. Chisholm||537|
|PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:|
|No. 6, Gas Distribution Act. [Debate resumed.]||540|
|Mr. G. Archibald||540|
|Ms. E. O'Connell||548|
|Amendment moved ". . . bill be read six months hence"||556|
|Mr. B. Taylor||557|
|Mr. G. Moody||559|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 18th at 8:00 a.m.||560|
|NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):|
|Res. 101, Disabled (Cdns.) - Dave Shannon Cross Country Tour: Message -|
|Best Wishes Extend, Hon. J. Smith||561|
|H.O. 3, Educ. - Schools: Advisory Councils - Contracts, Mr. T. Donahoe||562|
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily proceedings at this time.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you recognize the Minister of Finance to deliver his Budget Address.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
[Res. No. 49, re Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply - notice given Apr. 14/97 - (Hon. W. Gillis)]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance. (Applause)
HON. WILLIAM GILLIS: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to a notice of motion given by me on April 14, 1997, and the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, I have the honour, by command, to present a message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, relating to the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1998 which is:
"I hereby transmit Estimates of Sums required for the Public Service of the province, for the year ending March 31, 1998, and in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1967, recommend them together with the Budget Address of my Minister of Finance and any resolutions or bills necessary or advisable to approve the Estimates and implement the budget measures to the House of Assembly.
J. James Kinley
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Mr. Speaker, at this time I wish to table the message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates for the consideration of this House, table the Estimates Book, table the Estimates and Crown Corporation Business Plans Resolutions, deliver my Budget Speech and move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1998, being Supply, to be granted to Her Majesty and the Crown Corporation Business Plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.
Mr. Speaker, I might add I will be tabling the business plans of the Crown Corporations tomorrow. So this is the material.
Mr. Speaker, three and a half years ago, our government stood before Nova Scotians to present our first budget. We were four months into our mandate and one thing was painfully clear - Nova Scotia was in trouble. Our deficit was $617 million. We were borrowing every penny.
A few months later, in the Spring of 1994, we introduced our plan for recovery - Government By Design.
At that time we said, "If we do not take control . . . now, our children will be forced to sit on the sidelines as the new world passes them by.". We said, "Our economic future can only be built on solid ground." We said we will "clearly lay out our . . . road to recovery.".
Well, we took control, we got up off the sidelines, we put Nova Scotia back on the road to recovery, and we found solid ground. Today, we are not just standing on that ground, we are building on it. The good news is that we are building with our own hands, our own dollars. It is a future we will own, not borrow.
Today, Mr. Speaker, we have the proof. Today, I am pleased to confirm to all Nova Scotians that we have achieved our first, real budget surplus in more than 20 years. For the first time in modern memory, we are paying down the debt, not building it up. And, I am proud to say we are going to do it all over again in 1997-98.
Not only have we found fiscal sanity, we have found fiscal strength. We can focus more clearly on improving programs and building a thriving economy with jobs for Nova Scotians.
As we grow, we are improving the programs people care most about - health, education, social services. As we find the dollars, we are lowering taxes for Nova Scotians. And, we are paying down the debt. We have achieved the best possible balance.
Mr. Speaker, this is what Budget '97 is all about: fiscal stability; economic growth; jobs for Nova Scotians; tax reductions; programs people can count on - a future we can truly call our own.
II. ECONOMIC CLIMATE
Mr. Speaker, 17 days ago we entered a new fiscal year. But, we are doing much more than just turning a page on a calendar. We are turning the corner on our economic future.
Throughout 1996, our economy continued to move forward. Nova Scotia's economic output grew by 0.9 per cent - modest growth. Employment grew with 4,000 new jobs in the private sector.
This year, we will move past modest and into confident. Just last month, the Bank of Montreal said that our economy will "rev up in 1997 and shift into high gear in 1998.".
The country's leading financial experts agree. They all predict good growth for Nova Scotia in the next two years. Overall, the government is forecasting growth of 2.1 per cent in 1997 and 2.0 per cent in 1998. And, that forecast does not reflect the anticipated development of Sable gas.
What is contributing to this progress? A number of things.
There is the $113 million addition to Highway No. 104 - scheduled to open before Christmas. There is the $750 million expansion at Stora Port Hawkesbury - heading for completion in 1998. These two undertakings alone will put more than 1,000 construction workers on the job.
In 1998, we should see construction on the Sable Offshore Energy Project. This will be the single largest project in Nova Scotia's history with investments totalling about $3 billion. Once the project gets the final go-ahead, we will start factoring this good news into our economic forecasts.
Nova Scotia is projected to lead the country in new capital investment in 1997. According to Statistics Canada, investment will increase by 18 per cent this year - almost four times higher than the Canadian average.
But, it is not just the mega-project that is helping Nova Scotia grow. Small business is also a major contributor. In the past two years, approximately 5,300 new corporations were registered in Nova Scotia. This is a clear sign of increased business activity, confidence, and growth in our province.
Big or small, Nova Scotia businesses are gaining strength - due in part to our package of tax reforms and credits. This strength will continue into 1997, thanks to the new input tax credit under the Harmonized Sales Tax. In simple terms, this means a business gets back 100 per cent of the tax it pays on items needed to run its business. Overall, it will lower business costs by an estimated $170 million.
This means Nova Scotia's businesses are more competitive in the global marketplace. In fact, the province's exports have climbed almost 28 per cent since 1993. The end result is more jobs for Nova Scotians.
On that front, we are seeing improvement. There are almost 26,000 more Nova Scotians working today than there were in 1993. Just a couple of weeks ago, Statistics Canada reported that Nova Scotia had the lowest unemployment rate in Atlantic Canada at 12.8 per cent. Based on current trends, Nova Scotia should reach record employment levels in 1997.
Although all of this is good news, it is not good enough. We have to work on improving the job situation throughout our province. We have to focus on finding lasting answers, lasting jobs for areas of high unemployment such as Cape Breton.
We want Nova Scotia to be a province of universal opportunity, a province with a fair chance for all.
III. FISCAL HIGHLIGHTS: 1996-97
The solution starts with a solid fiscal foundation.
Last year, my predecessor in Finance stood here and said that Budget '96-97 would be a balanced budget. This year, we are back to say we have delivered. Not only have we delivered, Mr. Speaker, we have hit our first budget surplus in decades - a surplus that has surpassed our original expectations.
Today, I am pleased to announce that Nova Scotia had a budget surplus of $4.7 million for 1996-97. That is a solid down payment on our future.
And, Mr. Speaker, this achievement comes after setting aside one-time, special reserves for health, education, and victims of institutional abuse. These reserves total $69 million - a wise safeguard for the future.
For the first time in over a quarter of a century, Nova Scotia is paying its own way. For the first time since my children were born, I can feel good about the fiscal future I am leaving for them.
How did we do it? Mainly, due to our growing provincial economy. People were earning more money. Business was making more profit. And, as a result, government's own revenues were up.
When we started the year, Mr. Speaker, we estimated that our net revenues would be almost $4.2 billion. When we ended the year, we were well ahead of that estimate.
The increase in revenue was not because of a federal windfall. The additional revenue came from "own-source dollars". For instance, corporate and personal income tax was $56 million more than expected. Lower costs in debt servicing and restructuring also meant more money for the province.
As a result of these and other measures, we realized some breathing room on the spending side of the ledger. In fact, throughout the year, we were able to direct an additional $150 million to critical program areas.
One such area was health care - one of government's most important spending areas. Through careful fiscal planning, we were able to redirect an additional $124 million to the health budget during 1996-97. Part of that budget includes $39 million as a special reserve to guard against potential recovery shortfalls.
After all was said and done, the bottom line is that Nova Scotia ended up $4.7 million in the black - not the red, the black.
Today, I am pleased to announce that every penny of that surplus will go toward paying down Nova Scotia's debt. Mr. Speaker, this is a first step in turning debt dollars into program dollars. It is a first step toward owning our future.
In the early months of 1996, we consulted with Nova Scotians about Shaping the Future - our strategy for tackling Nova Scotia's debt. Today, we are winning that war, one battle at a time.
For the first time ever, proceeds from the sale of surplus Crown assets have gone to reducing our debt. In 1996-97, almost $700,000 went toward that goal.
We are also winning the battle to reduce the amount of money we owe in foreign currency. We are keeping more of our debt dollars home in Canada where costs are more predictable.
Two years ago, 66 per cent of our debt was in foreign currency. Today, that number is 49.8 per cent. I should add, Mr. Speaker, that the most recent transaction, on April 9th, saved us $5.7 million. We are moving in the right direction toward our ultimate goal of 20 per cent.
We have also made substantial improvements in the performance of the province's pension funds. In the Fall of 1993, the Teachers' Pension Plan was only 55 per cent funded. We worked with the Teachers Union to address that issue, and as of March 31, 1997, the plan is 82 per cent funded. Also, I am pleased to report that the Public Service Superannuation Fund has a surplus. In fact, it is 108 per cent funded.
The result of all this, Mr. Speaker, is that for the first time since 1965, the province's net direct debt will go down. When we finally close the books for the year-end, we expect our net direct debt to be reduced by more than $150 million.
A Vote Of Confidence
Last September, Nova Scotia's new-found fiscal management got a vote of confidence. The international rating agency, Standard & Poor's, revised our outlook from negative to stable.
This move gives investors around the world the confidence to invest in our province and our people. And, down the road, it will make it easier to refinance our outstanding debt at a lower cost with lower interest rates. That will mean less money going to the bond traders and more money available to Nova Scotians.
IV. FISCAL PROSPECTS: 1997-98 AND BEYOND
Budget '97 will mark Nova Scotia's second straight balanced budget. We will also have our second budget surplus in a row - estimated to be $4 million.
This year, because of our strong, fiscal performance, we are in the position to improve services, starting with services Nova Scotians care most about - health and education.
But, although we are getting close, we are not out of the woods yet. Over the next few years, we will need to work to keep Nova Scotia on track.
One reason for our cautious approach is the reality of less money from the federal government. The change to a new funding system known as the Canada Health and Social Transfer will mean fewer federal dollars for Nova Scotia. In fact, between 1996-97 and the year 2000, we will take in an estimated $466 million less than we would have under previous funding arrangements.
As well, we will collect almost $22 million less in 1997-98 because of our personal income tax cut for Nova Scotians. Plus, the HST and related tax rebates take $131 million from government's purse.
To offset some of this lost revenue, last year's budget introduced a Corporate Capital Tax of 0.25 percentage points on financial capital. This tax came into effect on April 1, 1997. The tax will be phased in for businesses with between $5 million and $10 million in financial capital. The full tax will only apply to businesses with over $10 million. It is estimated that about 1,000 of Nova Scotia's largest businesses will pay the full tax.
Mr. Speaker, on this topic, I have some important news to report. This year, I can tell business that the Corporate Capital Tax will disappear after five years. As our economy grows stronger, the need for the tax will disappear. Mr. Speaker, I will soon be introducing legislation to reflect this commitment.
Nova Scotia is becoming much more self-reliant and resourceful. We are paying our own way. Part of paying our own way is exploring more cost-efficient ways for delivering services to Nova Scotians and spending taxpayer dollars more wisely.
This year, we are investing our savings in key programs. Over the next few years, that investment will result in lower program costs and improved services.
For example, hospital care is one of the most expensive forms of health care we provide to Nova Scotians. Investments in such programs as home care, health promotion, and tobacco control help keep people healthier and reduce the need for hospital care. These investments can help achieve the savings we have always predicted. We will have a better health care system, at a lower cost.
We will see evidence of that as we look to the year 2000. The coming years show a relatively stable financial picture in health and overall government spending.
The good news is that programs are secure and stable. As our economy gets stronger, so will government's revenue and so will our programs.
The impact of a stronger economy will be felt by all Nova Scotians, including government employees.
For example, October 31, 1997, marks an end to the wage restraint legislation. This year, collective bargaining is back on. Government looks forward to sitting down with its unions and working out a fair deal for our employees.
As the Premier said less than a month ago, it is time to " . . . move confidently toward the 21st Century.". There is no going back. There will be no more promises paid for with borrowed money, increased taxes, or passing debt on to our children.
I approach government's budget much the same way I approach my family's finances: be responsible; be careful; make the most of what you have; focus on priorities; and make smart investments. And, above all, do not make promises you cannot deliver. That is what this budget is all about. That is what this government is all about.
V. INVESTING IN NOVA SCOTIA
Investing in Economic Growth and Jobs
Turning the corner on our fiscal affairs was the first step in securing Nova Scotia's future. That has happened. From day one, we knew that it was the only way to start growing the economy.
A balanced budget was never the end of the road - it was simply the path. It is the key to tax stability and tax relief, which in turn spurs economic growth and new job opportunities. Fiscal stability is the cornerstone on which we build.
Another important cornerstone for economic growth is redesigning government - cutting red tape. We are now working to eliminate, combine, and repackage many of the 300 government licences and permits needed by business. We are also working this year on a simplified fee structure.
Reducing the underground economy is another way government can help level the playing field for business. In recent years, we have been working with the federal government and industry groups to realize this goal. As a result of our negotiations, Revenue Canada has agreed to dedicate at least 30 additional full-time employees to fight Nova Scotia's underground economy. This commitment is for a minimum of two years.
All of these efforts help create a climate that encourages private sector investment and builds confidence. We are doing everything we can to make Nova Scotia a magnet for investment and jobs - well-paying, long-lasting, high-quality jobs.
Another key part of that plan is making smart investment decisions for long-term growth.
Our Return on Investment to Date
In 1997, Nova Scotia will lead the country in capital investment growth. What is bringing this investment to Nova Scotia? It is a long list of things - from our unrivalled quality of life, to our strategic location, to our high-quality workforce.
Government is doing everything it can to build on these natural assets.
We have adjusted our tax structures to stimulate growth. We have targeted tax credits to sectors of our economy that show real promise. This year, in the film industry alone, government will invest approximately $6 million in tax credits. The return on that investment is a growing $45 million film industry.
We are also continuing to support small business - the backbone of Nova Scotia's economy. In 1996-97, 350 new businesses took advantage of our Small Business Tax Holiday - a 40 per cent increase over the average from previous years. This is a sure sign of increased business activity and growth in Nova Scotia.
Through our Equity Tax Credit, this government has helped support more than 100 businesses across the province since 1994. Today, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the Equity Tax Credit will be extended for four more years - to the end of 2001. This program will continue to help companies throughout our province get their start and provide jobs for more Nova Scotians.
New Ways to Boost Investment
Today's budget does even more to stimulate business. Today, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce a new Investment Tax Credit for manufacturing and processing industries. This tax credit will attract new capital investment, both from outside the province and from businesses that are already here. It is a 30 per cent tax credit on eligible capital investment in machinery, plant, or equipment used in Nova Scotia. The program will last five years, starting with expenditures incurred as of January 1, 1997. The credit will be available only when a company makes a profit and pays taxes. In other words, Mr. Speaker, we are making smart investment decisions.
This tax credit will provide the most attractive incentive in Canada for investment in these sectors. We project that investment in manufacturing and processing will double over the next five years as a direct result of this program. This means new jobs for Nova Scotians in manufacturing, construction, and related spin-off activity.
In another move to boost investment, Mr. Speaker, this year government will redirect $1 million to investment marketing. We will make sure that businesses in Europe, in the Pacific Rim, in the United States, and in the rest of the world know that Nova Scotia is a great place to do business - a great place to call home.
Investing in Our Infrastructure
To attract business to Nova Scotia, we need to build our province's infrastructure. We are always working to improve it. One way is through the recent extension of the Infrastructure Works Program in partnership with the federal and municipal governments. Our government has committed $14.2 million to extend the program for 1997-98.
Investing in Communities
Mr. Speaker, I also want to announce today that we have reached agreement with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities regarding an HST offset package. Tomorrow, I will be tabling legislation as part of our Financial Measures Act. This legislation will allow us to put an additional $6 million into the hands of municipalities this year. This will rise to an annual amount of $10 million within eight years.
Municipal governments go a long way in supporting their local communities. They must be commended for the work they have done to address the needs of their communities during challenging fiscal times. Today, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the Government of Nova Scotia is increasing the total operating grant to municipalities by 3 per cent over last year's levels.
Investing in Rural Nova Scotia
Rural communities are the heart of Nova Scotia. They are rich in natural resources and individual talent.
This year, we will build on rural Nova Scotia's vast tourism potential by marketing the Year of Music and investing in an exciting Rails to Trails project.
Through research and development, new technology and marketing, we will add value and expand job potential in the agri-food, fishing, and forest industries. For example, this year, aquaculture production will increase by 50 per cent.
The province will also continue its investment in forestry through the Resource Enhancement Fund. We will provide more than $4 million in direct support, supplemented with private woodlot and industry participation. These new partnerships will provide for long-term jobs in a sustainable forest industry.
Investing in Solutions For Cape Breton
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, there are still areas of this province where long-term jobs are hard to come by; Cape Breton is one such area. There are no easy answers for the unemployment situation on the Island. I wish there were. There is, however, hope and a determination to find a solution.
This government is committed to finding answers for Cape Breton. But, we cannot do it alone. Solutions require a partnership approach. The federal government and the private sector have important roles to play.
In the midst of unacceptably high unemployment, however, there are some positive signs. The province is making headway in setting the stage for future success. The University College of Cape Breton continues to show leadership by developing new programs in information technology, community economic development, and environmental science. Our first new high-tech school - a North American showpiece - has just opened in Sydney.
The anniversary of John Cabot's landing in Cape Breton will be celebrated this summer. The Year of Music will showcase Cape Breton's growing force in the national and the international music scene. New investments in tourism infrastructure in Baddeck and Cheticamp all add up to the promise of tourism growth on the Island.
The new manufacturing and processing investment tax credit and the extension of the equity tax credit are expected to encourage development in Cape Breton.
The Strait industrial area is set for a major resurgence. Stora's new investments, as well as the anticipated construction of a separation plant for Sable gas, will mean new opportunities in this region.
Investing in a New Industry
The entire Sable Offshore Energy Project presents tremendous, lasting opportunities for Nova Scotians. Already, before the project has even received final go-ahead, investment has hit the $45 million mark. This year, that number is expected to reach $78 million.
Overall, our challenge is to make the most out of every opportunity - and to look out for Nova Scotia's best interests. To this end, government has redirected $1.5 million in salaries and other monies to support the Sable project. The investment will return to us many times over, with a total expected private investment of $3 billion.
Mr. Speaker, today, I am also pleased to announce that the Sable project can help in our efforts to pay down Nova Scotia's debt. No less than 50 per cent of net royalty revenue from Sable will be targeted directly to debt reduction. I will soon table legislation to effect this fiscally responsible action. Lowering our debt will create lasting social and economic benefits for Nova Scotia. It will help attract investment and jobs. And, it will result in more money for the programs people care about.
VI. INVESTING IN NOVA SCOTIANS
Investing in Our Health
Health care is one such program. In fact, Nova Scotians have said health care is their number one priority. Government has listened and responded. We are investing an additional $38.8 million in health care program spending for 1997-98.
For the first time in years, the amount of money for hospitals is not going down. Hospital budgets have stabilized. Regional health boards can count on stable funding for 1997-98. That does not mean a bed might not be closed. But, if that happens, it will be because the regional boards believe there is a better way to deliver health care to Nova Scotians.
In 1997-98 we are increasing our investment in home care. An additional $10 million for Home Care Nova Scotia increases the program's budget to almost $70 million. This will help improve home care's fundamental programs - home hospital and chronic home care. In simple terms, it means better service for people receiving care in their homes. In real numbers, it means more than 20,000 Nova Scotians will be served by home care in 1997. We are building a better alternative to hospital beds.
Extra funding also allows us to add new home care services, such as home oxygen. And, it allows us to start work on programs such as palliative care, occupational therapy, social work, mental health services, and orthopaedics for children.
More improvements are coming to Emergency Health Services, which will see its budget increase by $5 million. This funding will mean Nova Scotians will get to the hospital faster and safer, with more high-quality equipment and expert staff.
Another basic concept in health care is doctors for people who need them. Over the past few months, we have been out talking to Nova Scotians about how to secure doctors for communities across the province. Our goal is to provide stability to physicians, doctors where they are needed, and peace of mind for the people who need them. To that end, the budget for physician services will increase from $262 million to $274 million.
The bottom line for 1997-98 is more money for health programs.
Investing in Opportunities for Young Nova Scotians
As time passes and our economic picture improves, we will make new investments in Nova Scotia. Investments we can afford. Investments for our children - investments for our future. Young people are the future of this province. Unfortunately, finding that first job has become a big challenge for well-educated, young Nova Scotians. A recent report from Statistics Canada said that in 1996 one in five Canadians under 25 did not have work experience. Government recognizes this problem. Over the past three years, 17,000 work experience jobs have been created in Nova Scotia. This year, we will do more.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that in 1997-98, the Nova Scotia Links Program will get a $1.2 million boost, bringing its total value up to $3.6 million. By increasing this successful federal-provincial program, we will give students career-related work experience for the future.
Cooperative education is another proven success story. Approximately 87 per cent of post-secondary students who participate in co-op education find jobs within six months of graduation. Mr. Speaker, government will build on this success by investing $700,000 to create more job placements for students. We will also consult with business to match student opportunities with employer needs and develop incentives to create lasting jobs. Nova Scotia has one of the best educated workforces in the country. We want to keep it that way.
For 1997-98, we will protect university funding from the full impact of federal reductions. The province will absorb part of the reduction that would otherwise be directed at universities. The end result is operating and capital assistance of almost $183 million.
Investing in Quality Education for Our Children
But, investing in our future starts long before university. It begins with an excellent school system for our children from day one to graduation.
Last year, at this time, we told school boards to brace for funding cuts in 1997-98. Things have turned around. This year, for the first time in four years, school boards will see a provincial-municipal funding increase of more than $13 million. This money will go to special education, new math, science and language programs, lease-payments for the new high-tech schools, and other education priorities. It is clear that money is not staying in the boardrooms. It is going directly to the classroom - straight to the students.
Also, in 1997-98, an additional $1 million will be available to help maintain and operate schools - making them healthy, safe places to learn.
Every new school in Nova Scotia will be built through public/private partnerships. This means more schools will be built more quickly with leading-edge technology. Seven of these schools are now in various stages of planning and construction. Over the coming year, government will outline details of the next round of new school construction.
Investing in a Move from Welfare to Work
Mr. Speaker, for many a good education is the key to a lasting job. For others, the answer is not so simple.
Over the past three years, government has helped 1,500 Nova Scotians move from welfare to employment. That is great progress, but we think we can do better. This year, Nova Scotia will step up its efforts to help more Nova Scotians make the move to a future of employment.
This year, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce a dynamic, new initiative called "Bridging to Success." It will cover a wide range of options for getting people into meaningful employment. "Bridging to Success" is a partnership of the Departments of Community Services, Education and Culture, and Economic Development and Tourism. Other levels of government and the private sector are also partners. This year alone, "Bridging to Success" will help 1,500 Nova Scotians move from welfare to work. This program is expected to save Nova Scotia taxpayers $1.5 million in 1997-98.
The program has a number of components, including: direct job placement; targeted wage subsidy; entrepreneurship; workplace education; work experience and community programs; infrastructure development projects; worker co-ops; and skills exchange and upgrading. That is an extensive list. Over the course of the year, various components of this progressive program will be introduced and explained to Nova Scotians. The end result is that
these efforts will boost the confidence, self-esteem, and incomes of Nova Scotians on social assistance. It will boost our economy. It will save money. And, it will give more Nova Scotians a fair shot at success.
Investing in Fair Taxation for Nova Scotians
Another way to help Nova Scotians succeed is to lower their tax burden. Today, I am pleased to remind every taxpaying Nova Scotian that they will see a 3.4 per cent reduction in Nova Scotia personal income tax starting July 1st. On that day, Nova Scotia will experience the first across-the-board income tax reduction in our province's history. This means that Nova Scotians will have the second lowest income tax rate east of Alberta. It is one of the first tangible benefits of sound financial management. Truly, July 1st will be a good day.
Investing in Help for Low-Income Nova Scotians
Mr. Speaker, a tax cut for all is good news. But, this government has never lost sight of the need to take special action to help those who really need it - low-income Nova Scotians. While other provinces reduced welfare budgets, we did not. While others cut benefits, we cut taxes.
Mr. Speaker, last year this government provided about $12 million in tax relief to 155,000 low-income Nova Scotians and their families. In 1997, this Low-Income Tax Reduction Program will get richer - reaching a total value of $25 million for the fiscal year. This means we help nearly 220,000 Nova Scotians. The basic reduction will amount will increase from $200 to $300 for individuals and from $105 to $165 for each child.
However, a number of Nova Scotians have incomes so low that they will not benefit from this program. To help remedy this, the government has introduced the Direct Assistance Program. A total of $8 million will be directed to working and retired low-income Nova Scotians. A family with a net annual income of $16,500 or less will qualify for a payment of $125 under the program. An individual with a yearly net income of $9,500 will qualify for a $90 direct benefit. It is estimated that 77,000 Nova Scotians - 20,000 of them seniors - will benefit from the program.
Investing in Children and Families
A large number of Nova Scotians will also see benefits from the new National Child Benefit Program, announced in the recent federal budget. Part of that announcement was an extra $600 million to increase existing spending under the Child Tax Credit. Full implementation is scheduled for July 1998. At present, we are negotiating with the federal government to ensure Nova Scotians get maximum benefits from this measure.
On the provincial front, additional subsidized day care spaces will be added to support children, remove barriers to employment, and enhance employment equity. This government has increased the number of subsidized spaces by 150 since 1993, and 50 more will be added this year. A total of 2,300 children will have access to appropriate early childhood education thanks to these provincial subsidies.
Mr. Speaker, in another move to help families, I am pleased to announce that the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program has been extended for one year. In the last three years, the program has helped put safe roofs over the heads of 2,600 families and individuals. This year, the program will provide almost $4 million to address health and safety hazards in homes across the province.
Investing in Our Culture and Heritage
Home repairs take on added meaning when you are dealing with registered heritage properties. Today, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that we have revived our tax rebate program for work on these unique properties. Nova Scotians will now be able to reclaim the provincial portion of the HST, related to the costs of restoring and maintaining heritage properties. As a result, the history and character of our communities will be richer.
Another addition to our rich cultural heritage is the new Nova Scotia Arts Council - established earlier this month. Starting in 1997-98, $1.3 million will be invested annually to support musicians, painters, actors, and all professional artists throughout our province.
Mr. Speaker, Budget '97 marks a turning-point. It is about responsible spending. It is about securing programs that people care about, such as education and health care that people can count on. Budget '97 is about building a thriving economy with jobs for Nova Scotians. It is about improving our excellent quality of life.
But, more than anything, Mr. Speaker, Budget '97 is about paying our own way. It is about creating our own destiny - owning our own future.
Mr. Speaker, my ancestors came to Nova Scotia in the early 1800's. They came looking for new opportunities and a better way. Today, almost 200 years later, Nova Scotia is even more so a land of hope, a land of new opportunities. It is a place where people are resourceful and self-reliant. It is a province that I am proud to call home.
And, Mr. Speaker, it will be a well-constructed home, a home we can afford. We had a choice, we could owe our future or we could own our future. We made the choice. Today, the future of Nova Scotia is ours - ours to own. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: I didn't get a standing ovation this time, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, that was great rhetoric by the Minister of Finance. I suppose you have to try and find some expression that covers the type of budget that this is and my expression would be, this is a loaves and fishes budget. There is a little bit here and a little bit there to solve a whole multitude of problems that this government has brought upon itself.
Mr. Speaker, there isn't anything in this budget that you can truthfully say is going to affect the delivery of health care in this province, nothing that is going to affect the delivery of education in our classrooms and nothing that is going to provide continued employment for our young people. It does nothing at all in any one of those three particular areas.
Mr. Speaker, this government speaks about accountability, they speak about transparency in their documentation with regard to their financial activities but never before in the history of this province, I don't think, has there been such creative accounting as there is in this particular budget. There is a proliferation of trust funds, contingency funds, transfers from one fiscal year to another and transfer of various responsibilities and expenditures from one department to another. In fact, I would suggest that this budget is incomprehensible at the present time. It may get better when we finally get from the Department of Finance the Supplement and the supplementary, line-by-line, budgetary information which we do not have at the present time. (Interruptions) I wish the honourable members opposite would listen because they obviously have not read the budget, and they obviously did not listen to the Minister of Finance while he was delivering the budget.
Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to Page 13 of the Budget Address just delivered by the Minister of Finance and he is talking about health, "INVESTING IN NOVA SCOTIANS, Investing in Health". He says, "Health care in one such program. In fact, Nova Scotians have said health care is their number one priority.". Well, we all agree with that. In fact, we have been telling this government that for a number of years now. The Minister of Finance says, "Government has listened . . .". Well, if they listened this is the first time they have ever done it, and now he says we are responding. "We are investing an additional $38.8 million in health care program . . . for 1997-98.". I hope you all understand that number $38.8 million.
Now, if you go to the Estimates of the Province of Nova Scotia, Page 13.2, which is the Health, Net Expenditures Summary and Resolutions, and you go there and you find total current account expenditures for the years 1996-97 and for the years 1997-98, and what do you find. Under the forecast for the fiscal year 1996-97, the expenditures of the Department of Health are $1,263,449 billion. That was in 1996-97, but we find that the net current expenditures in 1997-98 are not going to be $38.8 million more, because it is $1,273,449
billion, which is $10 million more. Now, if that is not creative accounting, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what is.
So, we asked the question when we were down in the lock-up as to why that should be. We got an answer which said, well, do not worry about it, we had a contingency fund in the Department of Health of $39 million. What we have done is we have transferred that money into 1997-98 but you cannot see it. We did not expend it in 1996-97, although it is shown as an expenditure in 1996 - the Premier is shaking his head. Obviously, he does not understand the problem. If you have expenditures in one year, you spend the money in that year. If you have projected expenditures in the next year, you show it in the budget document, and they have not done that. That is why I say, Mr. Speaker, this is a very creative document. (Interruptions) Well, I would not say it is cooking the books. It is just being very creative. It is all in the optics as they say in the accounting trade. (Interruptions) Ah, yes, we all know about that too.
We come on back, Mr. Speaker, to some more things in the ministers document. (Interruptions) I am not going to get upset, I can assure you. I will go to another item. The Minister of Finance, on Page 4 of his address, is talking about the increase in revenue which they obtained in 1996-97. That is the last fiscal year. He was saying, yes, indeed, we picked up additional funding in 1996-97. We picked up approximately another $150 million I think it was. He is saying that that is not because of a federal windfall.
Well, I do not know how he can say that because we got $7 million which came to this province as an increase in the Canada Health and Social Transfer to the province. We picked $49.5 million in prior years adjustments and we picked up another $78 million, through no great management by this government, simply because of the fact that income taxes went down so the servicing on the debt came down. So, in point of fact, they gained $150 million in the last fiscal year, not by what they did, not by efficient management, not by being efficient in the delivery of services, but simply because of the fact that certain things fell their way. It is $150 million.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope that this year's budget is going to be closer than it was last year because when you examine this budget, you will find that last year their estimate of revenues was out by $80 million. In other words, they estimated in their 1996-97 budget a figure that was $80 million less than the actual revenues they received. They underestimated debt servicing by $77 million and their expenditures - and this is one figure over which they had control - ballooned by $150 million in fiscal 1996-97. So I hope that they are going to do much better in 1997-98 or pity help the poor Nova Scotian taxpayer.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to vote for this budget?
MR. RUSSELL: Am I going to vote for this budget?
Mr. Speaker, we were told by the Minister of Finance and his predecessor as Minister of Finance, that the cost to the provincial government of instituting the harmonized sales tax in the Province of Nova Scotia would result in a loss of revenue in 1997-98 of approximately $120 million. That is what we were told by the government. But when you look at what they are forecasting this year to receive from the harmonized sales tax, you will find that they are estimating they are going to receive, net of provincial rebates, $668 million - almost $669 million - and they are going to pick up on top of that, because of the harmonized sales tax on used vehicles and the transitional tax on new vehicles - that is a 2 per cent tax - they are going to pick up another $18 million there. In point of fact, from the impact of the harmonized sales tax, taking everything into effect, it is going to net the provincial government this year $708 million.
Now, how much did they get from the provincial sales tax last year? They got $739 million. So what is the difference? In other words they have lost, this year, $21 million, not $120 million. They have actually lost $21 million because of the imposition of the harmonized sales tax. So I think that gives lie to the estimates that they have put out at the present time on the impact of the harmonized sales tax.
Mr. Speaker, they are going to balance the budget, according to the Minister of Finance, in 1997-98. How are they going to balance the budget for 1997-98? Well, it is easy. They have a fund sitting out there of $240 million which was given to this province by the federal government to allay the decrease in sales tax that they would receive. Now, this is $240 million over four years. How are they going to balance the budget in 1997-98? Because they are injecting, by their own figures, federal compensation for harmonization, $118 million - in fact, $118-plus million - so they are taking almost 50 per cent of the money that was given to this government to ease the process, to ease the transition into the harmonized sales tax and they are going to blow it in year one. Now what happens in year two? Well, they still have about another $120 million so maybe they can look after year two, but year three and year four, that fund is going to be gone.
We are told, Mr. Speaker, that within the Department of Health budget - although you won't find it in the estimates - there is another contingency fund of about $39 million which is to take care - I see the Minister of Health is not here, unfortunately - of those debts of hospitals that have come under the regional hospital system in this province. I would hope that a part of that $39 million is going to go to the Windsor hospital to take care of the $600,000 that this government was supposed to provide to that hospital.
Mr. Speaker, on Monday we will return to the estimates and over the weekend I will have the opportunity to take an in-depth look at the estimates and, hopefully, have the Supplements available tomorrow. I would return to this debate, as I say, whenever we come
back into the House on Monday, so I would move that we adjourn the debate on the estimates for 1997-98.
MR. SPEAKER: The debate is adjourned.
We will now move to the daily routine.
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.
HON. JOHN SAVAGE (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, Government By Design is the document that reflects this government's commitment to sound business planning and to a higher standard of public accountability. This is the fourth edition of Government By Design, and each year the book has mirrored ongoing and significant improvement in the government's planning and accountability framework. This year's edition, subtitled The Tide Has Turned, contains the government business plan for 1997-98, as well as business plans for all departments, the four year fiscal plan, the debt management plan and a comprehensive system to measure our progress as a province.
Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, is now recognized as a national leader in terms of both business planning and our accountability framework. Government By Design is the plan and in a companion document to be published in the early fall, a publication we call Hitting the Targets, the government will report the results.
Mr. Speaker, Government By Design has become far more than a book that we publish annually; it is a way that this government does business. This document represents sound, rational and budgetary planning; it defines the common goals of every department and employee of government; it articulates how public servants will, on behalf of Nova Scotians, pursue those goals; and it sets standards to measure our progress along the way.
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.
THE PREMIER: It is my extreme pleasure, Mr. Speaker, to now table Government By Design, 1997-98, The Tide Has Turned.
MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the part-time Minister of Health lets his department's wallet do the talking by throwing $8 million at the concerns raised by rural physicians; and
Whereas this is a typical move of the part-time Minister of Health, no consultation with physicians, no long-term plan for health care in rural Nova Scotia; and
Whereas the President of the Society of Rural Physicians of Nova Scotia succinctly summed up the motives of the part-time Minister of Health as based on "political opportunism";
Therefore be it resolved that rural health care needs a well-conceived, consultative plan which is developed at the bargaining table, not a quick fix by a part-time Minister of Health whose number one concern is not getting better health care but getting a new full-time job.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas April 17th has been proclaimed International Haemophilia Day by the Canadian Haemophilia Society; and
Whereas the Canadian Haemophilia Society has in recent years broadened its concerns to include the plight of those thousands of Canadians who have been infected with HIV or hepatitis C through tainted blood transfusions; and
Whereas the Canadian Haemophilia Society has been in the forefront of the fight to ensure that governments take responsibility for the tainted blood tragedy and ensure that it will not happen again;
Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Canadian Haemophilia Society on its outstanding work and wish the organization a successful International Haemophilia Day.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to 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 Lunenburg.
MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award is one of our country's highest honours; and
Whereas earlier this year, one of the names of the 55 Canadian recipients was Josephine Eisenhauer of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia; and
Whereas Josephine has generously volunteered endless hours to help people of all ages in our community, with a smile and a caring heart;
Therefore be it resolved that during this week the members of this Assembly recognize the many efforts of the volunteers and extend congratulations to Josephine Eisenhauer and all 55 recipients for enriching the lives of so many people in communities across our country.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that the 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 member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the new session of the Halifax West High School Model Parliament begins tonight; and
Whereas the students and teachers have been studying and preparing for this exercise in parliamentary democracy; and
Whereas this is an excellent opportunity for our youth to gain first-hand understanding and appreciation of the value of the democratic process;
Therefore be it resolved this House extend best wishes to the participants in the Halifax West Model Parliament and thanks to those who helped make it possible.
Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that the 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 member for Sackville-Cobequid.
RESOLUTION NO. 99
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas it is critical that Nova Scotians get the maximum benefit at minimum social, environmental and economic cost from the development of the Sable offshore natural gas project; and
Whereas the Premier has consistently referred all questions about the Sable offshore gas project down the street to the joint panel review; and
Whereas the joint panel decided yesterday that it will deal with only the benefits but not the environmental, economic and social costs of the project;
Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the federal and provincial Liberals for shirking their responsibility to protect Nova Scotia interests by ensuring that the social, environmental and economic aspects are fully assessed.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
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 Minister of Economic Development and Tourism yesterday proceeded to give the Liberal Government credit for job creation in Nova Scotia; and
Whereas the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism failed to mention the 20 per cent of Nova Scotian students, ages 15 to 24, who, according to the Nova Scotia Department of Finance, were unemployed last summer; and
Whereas the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism also failed to mention the 22 per cent of non-student youth who were also unemployed last summer;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Economic Development, who yesterday was so fond of quoting the Department of Finance's employment figures, address the needs of thousands of young, unemployed Nova Scotians who have been neglected by four years of the Savage-Boudreau Government.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
Before we move on to the Orders of the Day I wish to advise the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the late debate and the honourable member for Halifax Citadel will debate at 6:00 p.m.:
Therefore be it resolved that the Health Minister and leadership candidate look at real, meaningful and equitable solutions to the mess in health care.
The Oral Question Period today will last for one hour. The time now is 3:20 p.m. and Question Period will end at 4:20 p.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We have less than 50 per cent of the ministers in their seats. Could we wait a few moments because there are less than 50 per cent here. I know that is unusual. I know it is budget day. (Interruptions)
No. You are excused today. No, it is not a matter of saying who. I understand it is budget day, but I think it is kind of unfair for us to proceed with Question Period with not even 50 per cent of the ministers present. That is all I am saying. I am not criticizing. I am just asking for fairness. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: The House will recess for five minutes.
[3:21 p.m. The House recessed.]
[3:29 p.m. The House reconvened.]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now commence the Oral Question Period which today will last for one hour. The time now being 3:29 p.m., the Oral Question Period will go until 4:29 p.m.
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
EVALUATION - RELEASE
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. I want to raise with him the issue of school advisory councils. He will recall, as I certainly do, that his predecessor established eight pilot projects by way of school advisory
councils. The Speech from the Throne read here a few days ago said that apparently there are now something in the order of 225 such councils.
We were told by the minister's predecessor that there would be an evaluation done of the pilot projects, to determine the most effective methodologies for the operation of such councils. I simply want to ask the minister today if he will tell this House whether the evaluations of those, that first round and those which were advertised as the first and the ones to be evaluated, have, in fact, been evaluated and, if those evaluations are done, whether the minister will commit to table those evaluations here in this House?
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I will confirm that there are approximately 450 schools in the province, some 225 advisory councils that are either in the works or signed off and working and helping to govern their schools. There is a report being put together on the eight site-based managed pilots that will be ready in June of this year.
Beyond that report, because much of it is a working document that has already been extended to the councils, is another document being prepared which shares best practices among and between councils in this province and among and between the two other partners - the department and the seven boards in the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. DONAHOE: I wonder if the minister might simply give us a little bit of an explanation as to how it is that we are now as deep as we are into the school council initiative with studies still ongoing, methodologies not determined or, as I understand it from contacts I have made, mixed views as to what methodologies are appropriate, and without a fair evaluation of either the site-based management pilot or without any evaluation of the school advisory council process. How does he say to us or on what basis does he say to us that moving to 225 such advisory councils, without some of the basics and the parameters being resolved or settled or agreed - I am curious as to how the minister would suggest to us that that is a prudent course of action without having the parameters worked out?
MR. HARRISON: The member opposite will know we are talking about a third component of governance here, trying to find the balance between the role of the province, the role of seven boards and the role of potentially 460 school councils. Part of the response to the question is that the evaluations and the information learned in the eight pilots was quickly disseminated even without a formal report.
There is a natural momentum in that these 225 school councils have formed on their own, are in the process of applying or have applied and have signed off agreements. So we have a momentum on the part of parents, of business and community leaders, students, staff and faculty to create a local governance structure.
In the southwest where they are proud to declare that all 68 schools have now either signed on or are working school councils you have but a relatively small step in that area from school trustees that were quite active until recent days and the new school councils which have added some voices from the community and students. We are really not talking about something here that has to be field tested first. There is a natural momentum to create local governance. People are learning as they are going. They are sharing best practices and they will obviously welcome this report, but in many ways the councils are beyond the evaluation or the report of the eight first pilots. They are already sharing best practices and functioning techniques and rules of governance at the local level such that that report may be of interest but there are even more detailed reports being shared now among and between councils throughout the province.
MR. DONAHOE: Well, I cannot help but think that it is just another example of the fact that we had a lot of rhetoric from the previous minister who talked about the eight pilots and they would be evaluated and the evaluations would establish the methodologies and so on, but that discussion is for another day.
By way of final supplementary, it is my understanding that the Minister of Education is now paying a consultant to have a look at these pilot projects and to work with those schools which have established school advisory councils. The minister, I assume, knows that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has been conducting a thorough review of the school council pilots virtually since their inception. I want to ask the minister if he would be prepared to commit today that he will direct his consultant to engage in discussions with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union before she files her report, which I understand is to be forthcoming within the next couple of months?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I would commit to do that. I know that the NSTU has taken some steps to contact various stakeholders throughout the province, boards have committed to assisting those parents in local governance. If the consultant who is helping to put together the report has not contacted the NSTU, I will undertake to make sure that she or he does.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
REDUCTION - COMMITMENT
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. The most distressing news in the Budget Address that was presented to this House today is the fact that this government, I don't know what to say, admits, acknowledges, predicts the fact that there are going to be 58,000 unemployed Nova Scotians this year, there are going to be 58,000 unemployed Nova Scotians next year. I guess I really feel the need to ask the Premier of this province, the representative of this Liberal
Government that ran on a platform in 1993 of putting from 57,000 to 58,000 to 63,000 unemployed Nova Scotians back to work, I want to ask the Premier, what does he say to Nova Scotians about the commitment that he and his government made back in 1993 to do something about the unemployment problem in Nova Scotia?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think the first thing that I do is to speak to the 26,000 Nova Scotians who are now working who were not working when we took over in 1993. (Applause) I would like to read into the record, just in case our friends over there cannot understand them, that in May 1993, there were 365,000 people in the workforce; in March 1997, there are 391,000, which is an increase of 26,000 people who are now working in this province.
Mr. Speaker, the other factor which is important is that more and more people are seeking jobs, which is the reason that the unemployment figure is not as impacted on as it might be. This is not to say that we are in any way comfortable about Cape Breton, about Digby, about certain parts of the South Shore and others where there is high unemployment. But the facts speak for themselves, there are 26,000 more people working and we would like to see another 26,000 in three or four years time.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the cold reality here is that this government seems to have grown comfortable with the idea that there are going to be 58,000 unemployed Nova Scotians this year and there are going to be 58,000 unemployed Nova Scotians next year. That's the issue here. This government is prepared to bring in a budget for Heaven sakes that has a sunset clause for a corporate capital tax, another little bonus for their corporate buddies, yet they won't do anything to deal with that 58,000 unemployed. That's the issue and that's what I say to the Premier.
In light of his commitment to the corporate community in this province, to give them a sunset clause in this corporate tax in five years, why doesn't he give the unemployed in the Province of Nova Scotia a sunset clause for that employment, in other words, put those Nova Scotians back to work?
THE PREMIER: I thought yesterday we had seen some very interesting developments in the New Democratic Party, they were actually defending a company. Now, they are back to their old tactics of hitting out and saying, look at the corporate tax, they are knocking it off after five years. Mr. Speaker, we are as aware as anybody that it is companies that employ people not political Parties, even the rhetoric that pours out from across there produces no jobs. There are 26,000 more people and I am prepared to bet at the end of 1998 that there will be another 25,000 who will be employed in this province and it won't be in any way thanks to a Party that is so anti-job and so anti-business that it hurts everybody else.
MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, well what we know as the result of 20 years, now, of Conservative policy in this country and in this province is that handing out benefits to the wealthy and powerful doesn't create jobs either. That is the point here.
I want to ask the Premier my final supplementary. There has been a little improvement through this speech on the Budget Address over the Throne Speech in that Cape Breton has at least been mentioned, Mr. Speaker. At least it has been mentioned but that is all they have done. I want to ask the Premier why it is, after four yours, that his government is only now talking about going to Cape Breton and talking to Cape Bretoners to try to find solutions to the unemployment problem that has reached epidemic proportions in Cape Breton? Why has he waited so long? Why has he betrayed Cape Bretoners?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure on which planet the member opposite has been. I have been in Cape Breton, I have met with the chamber of commerce, I have met with workers, I have met with a lot of people. It is not a new issue for me and let me remind him that although we are not happy with the employment in Cape Breton, the structural problems that remain, particularly in the coal mines are ones that are not primarily a provincial issue but a federal issue and it is an issue that is beyond federal-provincial. It is, in effect, partly a structure that is need of change and it is changing.
But let's be fair. Probably 1,000 miners have gone now compared to what there were. It is more than that probably, but the point I want to make is that we have 120 companies, IT companies, who are now being sustained, in part, by Economic Development and Tourism, who have received grants. We have UCCB that has received a major push as the cultural heart of Cape Breton. We have a burgeoning film and music industry and we have a number of issues in tourism like the Cabot that are part of the effort of this province to ensure that there will be a better day in Cape Breton. There will be a better day. I would have thought that the Third Party would have learned that there are no quick fixes and even though you can hold seminars to which 18 people go in Cape Breton, nobody has the real answer. We will continue to work for the benefit of the people of Cape Breton. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. It has been reported that last summer staff in the Department of Natural Resources identified on Jim Campbells Barren, the presence of the Canada yew which is related to the Pacific yew. However, the Pacific yew is a tree and the Canada yew is a shrub. The Canada yew, like the Pacific yew, has in its bark a substance known as Taxol which can be used in the treatment
of ovarian and other types of cancers. So it apparently is a very important plant with respect to combatting disease.
My question to the minister is, has she any indication that she can provide the House of the extent to which the Canada yew is present on Jim Campbells Barren.
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, that is being looked at within the department, the Parks and Protected Areas side of the department as well as working with Environment. I think the fact that they identified that this plant is there is probably a further indication that perhaps the areas should have been lifted from the parks and protected areas. I know the minerals division of the Department of Natural Resources is working with the mining companies to help them identify the plant and to work around that plant so that it doesn't disturb it any more than would be absolutely necessary or not disturb it at all.
MR. LEEFE: I thank the minister for her response. I am also advised that DNR staff believes that if the plant is significantly disturbed that, in Nova Scotia, it may well move it up to the top of the list as a threatened species and perhaps put it on the verge of becoming an endangered species in Nova Scotia.
I wonder if the minister could identify specifically within her department what process is available to ensure that we do not run the risk of moving this species, at least into the threatened area, if not into the endangered area?
MRS. NORRIE: The member opposite, as a former minister, would know the processes that are followed. There are a number of plants and species in the province that are endangered or threatened with being endangered. We have pulled together a bill that was tabled in the House last fall that we put out for consultation and there are any number of people responding to that. We are working with that response. We are working with the Nova Scotians who have an interest in this area and those who also feel they may be threatened in this area, to refine the bill, to revise the bill, depending on the response to the consultation process.
We are meeting with a number of people, a number of organizations, to hear them and to hear their concerns. This is part of the process that we would go through to identify any species in the province, I think it would be in the best interests of all the people in the province.
MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Minister of the Environment is away on government business so perhaps I could place my next question to the Premier. Through you, sir, I remind the Premier, and he may not be aware of this, in 1990 there was an application made by a company to mine peat bogs in Shelburne County. There was a plant
with the common name of threaded sundew which was identified as being located there. There was an extensive review made by the Department of the Environment and an investigation of that plant and any impact that peat mining might have on it. Certain recommendations were made as a consequence of that.
Is the Premier prepared to confirm that with respect to the Canada yew that no less rigorous process will be applied to it on Jim Campbells Barren than was applied to the threaded sundew in Shelburne County?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if I remember correctly, it was, in fact, a family doctor who was involved with that - it doesn't matter the name - so I remember it well. I am not sure that it was that rigorous. I am aware of the tremendous diligence that the then minister, whoever he was, applied himself to the issue but I really don't have enough information on it to make any comment. Suffice it to say that the Department of Natural Resources is headed by a very competent minister and I am sure that she will take the appropriate steps.
MR. SPEAKER: On an introduction, the honourable Leader of the Opposition.
DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to the attention of the House the presence in your gallery of Mr. Danny Laffin. Mr. Laffin is visiting us here today as he wished to hear the Budget Address first-hand. He will be our candidate in the upcoming provincial election and will represent us in Cape Breton North. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. Could I say a thank you because yesterday the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing was kind enough to pass out these jugs of pure Nova Scotia maple syrup to all members. On behalf of the Official Opposition in particular, we would like to thank the minister. I guess this is Alfie's, he hasn't taken it home but it is supposed to be kept in a cool place. The minister encourages us to buy locally and I certainly, on behalf of the Colchester and Cumberland producers would also like to do likewise. So thank you, Mr. Minister.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I do apologize for digressing but, nonetheless, my question to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism is simply this; the minister will know that the Development Corporation within his department has directed the ship terminal operations in Sheet Harbour not to engage in any marketing activities as the port's future is somewhat uncertain. Because there have not been any activities so to speak of, any new customers attracted to the Port of Sheet Harbour for, I believe, some 18 months now, opportunities are
being lost and the objectives for which the terminal was built are essentially lost and going unfilled.
I wonder if the minister would confirm that this government is negotiating the lease of the Port of Sheet Harbour with Wilfred Moore and Ceres Corp.?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Yes.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, so Senator Wilfred Moore, on behalf of Ceres Corp. and the government, is negotiating a lease relative to the takeover of the Port of Sheet Harbour. I need not inform the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism that Sheet Harbour is an economically depressed area of the province and the community and surrounding area need every single job that they can get and more so.
Will the minister confirm that employees of Sheet Harbour Terminals and Westside Terminals will not be replaced once Ceres Corp. takes over the Port of Sheet Harbour?
MR. MANN: It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that those employees will be employees that will be used there, yes.
MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that somewhat encouraging answer.
The minister would know, or should know, that the assets relative to the Port of Sheet Harbour are approximately $11 million and there has been rumour circulating that Wilfred Moore, on behalf of the gang at Ceres Corp., will attain the port for a price of $1 million, repayable over 10 years. I am wondering if the minister knows that, by way of the throughput charges, the rate that the federal government sets at our ports, the Great Northern Lumber Company, which is a future company to the Port of Sheet Harbour, will, by way of those throughput charges, be paying nearly $200,000 per year, or approximately twice as much as the terms of the rumoured agreement of Ceres Corp.? Is the minister aware that the throughput charges alone will more than double the cost that Ceres Corp. is alleged to have arranged with this government?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our government, I too would like to thank the Minister of Agriculture for the maple syrup that he put on everyone's desk yesterday. It has become a yearly tradition and one that I am sure we all enjoy.
I would say to that member opposite that I responded to that sticky lead-in that he had to this series of questions - that is series of questions, not Ceres Corp. Mr. Speaker - the member rambled on at great length with his final question. He talked about Senator Wilfred Moore attaining the port for $1 million. I can tell him that is not the case.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. The Government of Nova Scotia last year ended a program that cost the taxpayers $1.5 million, dealing with KLM. KLM used to fly out of Halifax and, for the $1.5 million, they did that. This year, KLM is adding new flights to Canada: daily flights from Montreal; in Toronto, they are getting an additional flight; Vancouver is going to be getting five per week, daily, after June 22nd. The $1.5 million that this government spent on KLM is gone and so is the airline from Nova Scotia.
I want to ask the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, what role did he play in trying to get KLM to add Nova Scotia and Halifax as one of the destinations that they added with new flights to Canada for this summer?
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, the member, I think, has at his disposal a study that was made available on the KLM accord and the study that was done on the success of that. I am happy to report that it was a success and, in fact, it laid the foundation for a new accord between the Province of Nova Scotia and Air Canada that will see a direct flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Halifax. So, it has been successful and it has laid the foundation for an even better deal.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister can be confused between airlines all he likes; there is a difference between KLM and Air Canada. With KLM we are talking Amsterdam; Air Canada is also flying to Frankfurt, to which this province and the minister committed several provincial dollars. The study did not prove conclusively at all that this KLM deal was better, and if it was such a good deal it would have lasted longer than the $1.5 million.
I will ask the minister a direct question. KLM was a good flight for Nova Scotians to Europe, good enough for the government to give them $1.5 million. I am asking the minister again, what did the minister do to try to keep KLM flying into Halifax?
MR. MANN: Mr. Speaker, we want airplanes flying into Halifax; we want them bringing tourists and business people in and that is what we are working on. We are working on it with all airlines. In fact, I am sure the member knows about a $9 million joint accord between airlines and the provincial government through the Economic Diversification Agreement and Economic Cooperation that is dealing with Air Canada, Northwest Airlines, Canada 3000, Icelandair, Air Nova, all directed at bringing people to Nova Scotia. This government continues to work with all the airlines, to bring tourists and business people to Nova Scotia, and we will continue to do that. We will do it with the lines that are profitable, the lines that bring the best benefit to Nova Scotia and, as I indicated, KLM was a success
and laid the foundation for the direct Frankfurt to Halifax route that Air Canada will be providing.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my second supplementary to the minister, the Province of Nova Scotia spent $1.5 million and an airline flew here as long as the money was available. The airline no longer comes here; the minister was not able to encourage them to keep coming to Nova Scotia and if he feels that was a successful program, I was wondering if the minister could tell us what the definition of a $1.5 million disaster is?
MR. MANN: Well, there is one point. Mr. Speaker, anyone who sat with that Party since 1978, one foreign phrase to them would be return on investment. The KLM deal returned about 3:1 on air investment and, as I said, has laid the foundation. One very important point that the member also misses in this, and with the accords we are now doing, is the opportunity to export to Europe as a result of these accords as well. I am sure the number is sticking in his mind because he just heard it in today's budget. With the increased exports of about 28 per cent since 1993, that is jobs; that is success; the accords have worked; and the return on investment was about 3:1 for the Province of Nova Scotia.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a question, through you, sir, to the Premier. Any time somebody asks this government or the Premier for some information about a cost-benefit analysis of the Sable offshore project, of course the Premier tells us to go down the road to sit and listen to what is happening at the joint panel. We know that yesterday the joint panel indicated it will not look at the social, economic and environmental costs associated with that. Since this government has so far refused to do that, since the joint panel has said they will not do that and since it is so crucially important for Nova Scotians to have that information, my question to the Premier is, quite simply, who will do that kind of analysis, that kind of assessment that will look at the economic, social and environmental costs associated with that project?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think this government is quite capable of looking at the socio-economic costs. What we have said quite consistently is that we, in conjunction with the federal government, have created a joint review panel and the joint review panel will look at these things. I think you are acting a little precipitously on maybe some advice you have from one of your potential candidates and I would urge you to be cautious about proceeding along those lines.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, maybe the Premier has some information that I don't have - that is quite possible - and if that is the case, I would like to ask the Premier to please provide us with that information. It is my clear impression - and I can also pick up the newspapers and
I can also find out what is going on from a number of sources - it is my very clear impression, my understanding that the joint panel has said they are not going to look at that and that that is not within their mandate.
My question to the Premier is quite simply this. If the Premier has information that that joint panel will in fact look at the social, economic and environmental costs associated with that project, will he provide that to the House this afternoon? If he does not have that information, will he instruct his battery of lawyers who are working for this government and working on this project and attending the hearings to appeal that board's decision to ensure that that kind of assessment is in fact done?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will take it under advisement.
MR. HOLM: Well, that is what you call very slight encouragement. That is one step forward in the sense that the Premier is indicating that at least he will consider this. It is an admission that he does not obviously have that information that in fact they are going to do it.
What I am looking for, Mr. Speaker, is not I'll take something under advisement. I am looking for a firm commitment. The government has said that this is going to be a tremendous bonus to Nova Scotia and they are taking, it appears, on face value what the proponents have said, without any independent assessment. I want a guarantee and I ask the Premier to guarantee that if the joint panel will not do a kind of cost-benefit analysis, will he guarantee that his government will hire somebody? Certainly, when anybody else does it, he discounts their analysis if it is not what the government wants. Will he ensure that that kind of cost-benefit analysis is in fact done?
THE PREMIER: The only evidence we have of a cost-benefit analysis produced by the New Democratic Party is one page of a multi-page report, which was done for a certain colleague of his who has political ambitions and is running presumably for the New Democratic Party. The information that we have, that they gave us is totally inadequate; it is not backed up by any information. I would tell him that that kind of information is of no use to anybody.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am rising for an introduction. In the east gallery, Mr. Speaker, we have Sarah, Matthew and Nathan Tamsutt from Hants County. Sarah was in school in France and visiting them from Paris, France, and accompanying them, are Jean Baptiste and Nicola Aubertin. I ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, my question was for the Minister of Education. The Government House Leader has been looking for him, but he seems to have gone missing.
AN HON. MEMBER: Surprise, surprise.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: My question is to the Minister of Health, and my question is with respect to a visit that the minister made to Springhill in the past few days. He visited the hospital up there and spoke to the nurses and to the medical fraternity and to the council and to anybody else, I guess, who was present at the meeting. At the conclusion of that meeting with the people in Springhill, the minister assured the people in Springhill that the future of their hospital was secure and that the present services that they were offering would not be interfered with in the future.
I was wondering, will the minister make that same kind of a statement to the people in Hants West with regard to the Hants Community Hospital?
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: The honourable member is being a little foxy there in Opposition. He is a veteran and what he wants to do, of course, is purport to repeat comments that I made - stretch them a little bit, of course, shape them a little bit - and then ask me to confirm them. That is an old Opposition tactic and I appreciate the skill with which the honourable member just did it. I may have used it on occasion myself a few years ago.
I would point out to the honourable member that what I said to the people of Springhill whom I met - and you are quite correct, I did meet those groups - is very similar to what I have told people in Windsor when I met those people in their hospitals, those same groups. In fact, what I said to both of them was that I could not imagine their institutions not continuing to play a central role in the health care delivery system in those areas and I was sure they would, in fact, continue to play an important role. I at no time told either institution that there would be absolutely no changes in the details of their institution, that is obviously a decision for the regional health boards. I did give them that assurance of the type I have just repeated to you.
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would hate to say that the minister was playing politics, but probably he is these days anyway.
I have a couple of press releases here. One is from the Amherst Daily News and the other one is from the Chronicle Herald and both of them suggest, Mr. Minister, that is indeed what you did say.
However, in this morning's budget I learned that there was $69 million that the Minister of Finance spoke about, that he has set up a special reserve for health, education and victims of institutional abuse and these reserves total $69 million. In a question to the Department of Health, I discovered that there was $39 million of that money in the minister's budget to take care of debts of hospitals which were incurred because of regionalization or downsizing. I am wondering if the minister would confirm that is so and whether or not the Windsor hospital, which was - I cannot use the word given because it is not true - loaned $300,000 and had to pay up $300,000 from a trust fund, whether that $600,000 will be reimbursed to the Hants Community Hospital from these contingency funds that he has in his budget?
MR. BOUDREAU: I was not, of course, at the budget lock-up with the honourable member, but I think that perhaps the information he took away from there was not quite accurate if he repeats exactly what he was told there. In fact, there is a reserve set up in 1996-97 in the approximate amount of $39 million in the Department of Health and it is to cover doubtful accounts which go back, perhaps, some of them, decades, or at least a decade. Many of them go back quite a period of time, attributable to all sorts of things and all sorts of situations. By the way, when you are calculating the amount of increase that is going to health this year, what you have to do when you are comparing the 1996-97 actuals to the 1997-98 estimates, you will find that $39 million is a one-time item to set up reserves and yet there is an additional $10 million. On the program spending side, the actual increase in program spending year over year is the $10 million that is shown on the bottom line, plus that $39 million, so we are actually at almost $50 million increased on the program spending side of health in one year. That is terribly good news when you consider we are still able to balance the budget. (Applause)
MR. RUSSELL: I am absolutely delighted, Mr. Speaker, that everybody over there is applauding that and I would like them to go outside and explain what the Minister of Health just said. It is flimflammery, that is what it is. It is now $50 million extra. The $39 million, in the Minister of Finance's own book, the Budget Address, Province of Nova Scotia, William Gillis, Minister of Finance, 1997-98 says that there was $69 million in that total fund of which $39 million to the Department of Health to take care of those things such as debts and deficits incurred in previous years prior to regionalization. In fact, these were all caused by regionalization and in fact, it was pointed out that $12 million is going to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital or something around that figure, I don't know if it is exactly $12 million but somewhere in that vicinity. I ask him again, is it his intention to forgive that $300,000 loan made to the Hants Community Hospital and to repay that $300,000 to the Hants Community Trust Fund that he took without any recourse to the people who put that fund in place?
MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member says at one point in his question that these were debts which occurred prior to regionalization. Then he, of course, remembered that what he was saying in his first question was that these were debts caused because of regionalization so he quickly shifted his ground in the course of one simple question. These things are debts which extended over a number of years and not only debts, they are the normal reserves when a department has to go back and look over an extended period of time and clean up a mess that the honourable member and his government ignored for years.
What I can tell this honourable member is that what we are doing on the program side is adding $50 million to health care spending in Nova Scotia, a $50 million addition on the program side, we are balancing the budget besides, we are spending our own money. What is it about that that has him so upset?
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table and deliver to the Minister of Education, if I may, a prioritized list of approved school capital construction projects which were issued from his department less than 60 days ago. I would like to ask the minister if we will tell me whether or not that is the current prioritized list of approved school capital construction projects?
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is difficult for me without the proper heading to know whether this is the sequence of construction but priorized lists have dated back to 1992 when three years of capital school construction was announced by the previous government. Some delays due to financial restructuring and restraint have occurred in those lists but I can't tell from what he has given me whether or not this particular list is the most recent list from my department or not. I can certainly get a recent list from my department but I am not sure this is it.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I find it a little strange that the Minister of Education can't tell us whether or not this is the list. It therefore prompts me to ask, is the Minister of Education in a position to tell this House whether or not he has participated or to his knowledge members of his staff have participated in meetings which were directed at addressing and potentially changing the prioritized list of approved school capital construction which was the official list of the department as recently as February 19, 1997?
MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the fax date of February 19, 1997 is correct but there is no other information on here to indicate in what context this list exists. The restructured seven boards are coming together now. They have been asked quite some time ago to submit new capital construction priorities. There is a school capital construction committee that
reviews those priorities. The list of priorities was well publicized and well published for years and any changes were publicly announced during the time. Again, without a title on this document I can't tell what the date of it is other than the date of the fax.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, with respect, I find it impossible to understand how the Minister of Education can stand up and say, as he just did, that without a title on this document I can't tell what we are looking at. The title is on the document and it is Prioritized List of Approved School Capital Construction Projects. It was issued from his department less than 60 days ago.
The Minister of Education, I am aware, Mr. Speaker, met just the other day with representatives of the school boards and it is clear, I suggest, that the Minister of Education is, as a provincial election looms, getting himself now into the pork barrel where he will play political games with school capital construction.
I ask the Minister of Education, by way of final supplementary, if he will make the commitment to table in this place tomorrow the prioritized list of school capital constructions, which pertains as of tomorrow, and make the commitment that that is the priority in which the commitments for construction will be made?
MR. HARRISON: It is absolutely unbelievable that that member in this House would accuse us of playing politics with school construction, absolutely unbelievable. I have indicated to the member opposite that the boards were instructed to re-prioritize within their regions the school capital construction and that it would be submitted - and I would be happy to table a letter - to a non-political school capital construction committee that would, at arm's length, determine the needs of this province.
What we have projected on us, Mr. Speaker, is the behaviour that drove this province to bankruptcy. How dare these people accuse us of the games that were part of the cronyism of their 15 year era when, in fact, the boards know exactly what we expect of them and that is to declare their priorities based on the needs of their children and we will address those needs, unlike the members opposite. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel, on a new question.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Hell hath no fury, I guess, Mr. Speaker.
The question, if I may, to the Minister of Education. There is a contradiction, I think, and I say to the minister, through you, in statements in the Speech from the Throne, relative to education, I find them frankly astounding. One sentence in the Speech from the Throne says, if you can believe it, "The wisdom of My Government's actions to modernize our education system is becoming apparent.". Two sentences later, the statement is made, "A four-year plan to reduce class sizes will be unveiled this year.". The minister, I would suggest, must surely agree that class sizes as high as the high 30's and into the 40's, which is what our teachers are struggling with and our children are struggling with now, is simply not reflective of a modernized school system.
I wonder if the minister will advise whether the first phase of his four year plan to reduce class sizes will be operative in time for the opening of school this fall?
HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was Education Minister when the first consolidation took place from umpteen boards of trustees all over the province to 22 boards. He knows full well that the main reason for doing that at that time was to make sure that the dollars that left his office as minister actually arrived in the classrooms where they were needed. So the word wisdom is designed to articulate the difference between 22 boards and 7 boards, so that they can transfer funds from within their cost of operation to the children, not to the administrative layers, not to inefficient transportation or even the use of space, but actually be able to reinvest those dollars in their communities for quality of learning, a task that he and others performed quite admirably back in the early 1970's and through the mid-70's. It was not an easy task, but one that was accomplished. We went from umpteen boards to 22 and down to 7. So the wisdom is, now that there are dollars to reinvest, now that the difficult years of the last four years in particular are over and we are starting to reinvest the money, the assurance is that the dollars will actually reach the children.
One of the superintendents the other day, even before the budget was announced, announced that he had $0.5 million surplus to reinvest in children, in addition to the dollars he will receive in an expanded budget, with our money this time. I can guarantee the member opposite that class sizes will be reduced this year and for the next three years in accordance with the Speech from the Throne. (Applause)
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest here today as the Minister of Finance, in the same context, made remarks as follows, talking about a new $13 million going back into education and the Budget Speech says that, "This money will go to special education, new math, science and language programs, lease-payments for the new high-tech schools, . . ." - and we have no idea how much those lease payments are - ". . . and other education priorities.". I ask the Minister of Education if he will tell us whether or not some portion of the $13 million referenced there is intended to make its way to the school boards so that the class sizes will, in fact, be reduced this coming September?
MR. HARRISON: As I indicated, Mr. Speaker, the meetings that are held regularly with school board chairs and superintendents, as late as yesterday in fact, confirm the fact that the public expects us to make sure the dollars get to the classroom this time. They expect us to run our boards efficiently and to transfer savings to classrooms and to lower class sizes. The money that has been added to this year's budget is designed to do just that. The boards know that. We will be meeting with the boards to explain that to their publics. I can guarantee the member opposite that those new dollars and the internal dollars found from amalgamation will find their way to reduce class size. We have indicated in the Throne Speech that we plan to benchmark that and we will.
MR. DONAHOE: Mr. Speaker, it is in reference to the last phrase that the minister used that I would like to ask him if he will tell us at this stage what that benchmark is, what does he say to us here today that the optimum class size per teacher will be when this four year plan is complete?
MR. HARRISON: There are a number of formulas that are used. Parents are concerned, as are most taxpayers, about formulas that are 18.1 to 1, where you divide all the children by all the people who are teaching in the schools and some not in the schools. The other number, which is an average number of class size at elementary, junior and senior high schools, is well-documented by good research over the years. It is our intention to benchmark those. It is our intention to see that the funds arrive at the classroom where they are needed. When this government makes a commitment to putting additional dollars - our dollars this time - back into the education system and a commitment to benchmark, we will do just that, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
JANET MACDONALD (BIBLE HILL) - CASE ADDRESS
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I would like to ask the honourable Minister of Health this question. When Home Care Nova Scotia came into being, Nova Scotians were led to believe that the most vulnerable among us would be taken care of. One of the goals of home care was to shift care from institutional settings to the home where the sick and disabled could receive care among friends and family. The case of Janet MacDonald of Bible Hill suggests the government desperately needs a policy in support of catastrophic cases. I would like to ask the minister, what plans does the minister have to address cases such as Janet MacDonald's?
HON. BERNARD BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I know this is an area of great concern to her since she has come to the House.
There are always very, very difficult decisions to be dealt with in any program of government and, in fact, situations which do not fit easily into the circumstances of any government program. We are intending to grow home care quite dramatically and I know the honourable member is aware of that because she takes such an interest in home care. She will know, for example, that faced with a situation, when we came into office, where the former government not only didn't grow the program, but actually shrunk it marginally over the last four years they were in office while the rest of the country are busy growing the program, we were faced with quite a challenge to ramp up this program dramatically. We have done that, from something like $18 million or $19 million to $48 million to $60 million and now, this year, moving from there.
I don't want to comment on the specific case that the honourable member raises. I know she doesn't want to discuss the details of that in the House, but there are still cases that we have a difficult time with and I suggest that that one may have been one of them.
MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I recognize what the minister is saying and the minister has said it before and I think what I heard was that there are cases where the person doesn't fit any existing program. I hope I am interpreting the minister's comments correctly.
The problem with that is that when home care was announced in June 1995, the Premier told us that everyone's home care experience would be unique, that the program would be flexible. He said, "We are not fitting people into a program, we are fitting the program to people.".
My question is then, why has the government chosen to set up guidelines that are so rigid that there is no way to address the needs of families such as the MacDonalds and others who are in such a terrible state of crisis?
MR. BOUDREAU: I think the honourable member would not want to see us run a program in Nova Scotia in health care or any other program without guidelines, without direction, especially one, by the way, that was growing as fast as home care has been growing. I can recall on occasion, as matter of fact, we are asked, by if perhaps not the honourable member other members of her Party, to bring to the House issues of guidelines and standards and they quite rightly suggest to us that we cannot be moving in these areas without clear directions.
The question of flexibility - there will always be a degree of flexibility. These are guidelines. They are not legislation. They are not even in most cases regulations. They are guidelines and we attempt to deal with them flexibly. I can tell you, there will never probably in the term of anyone in this House be a circumstance where we can meet all of the needs. I think people recognize that and that is the challenge. It is the challenge of dealing with limited resources.
MS. O'CONNELL: The issue here is flexibility. There does not seem to be enough flexibility in those guidelines to provide what is needed. There does not seem to be time to wait for expanded programs down the road. So I guess my final supplementary to the minister would be, given that the program is not flexible enough, given that it is today and not three or five years down the road when there is an expanded program that will suit the needs of this family, I guess I would like to ask the minister if he does have any suggestions for this family about what they should do now?
MR. BOUDREAU: Again, I do not think the honourable member wants to deal specifically with the aspects of that particular case here on the floor of the House of Assembly. I know she would not do that. Particularly not for any narrow purposes. I am perfectly willing to meet with the honourable member and speak to her about this particular case and be as flexible as we are capable of being.
I think that for me to stand up here or even for an Opposition member to stand up and suggest that we have the resources to deal with all of the problems in the health care system all we have to do is be a little flexible, I would be misleading the people of this province and it would not be responsible.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has now expired.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 1.
Bill No. 1 - Residential Tenancies Act.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: It is my pleasure to be back on my feet today to discuss Bill No. 1 which concerns people that live in mobile home parks.
I believe when I left off the other night when we were discussing this, I was close to the closure, but there are a few other items that I wanted to bring forward that I think are important. They are important for people who do live in mobile home parks. It comes to a question of services.
As many people may or may not know, when you rent a space in a mobile home park you pay for certain services. At the same time, your mobile home - your home - is indeed, taxed the same way as other homes throughout a municipal unit are taxed.
One of the problems many people have raised with me is they feel it is almost a form of double taxation. They feel that when they are paying rent to receive certain services, they shouldn't be paying the same amount of municipal taxes that others are paying and not receiving the types of services being given by other parts of the municipal units.
I know it is not addressed in this bill and it may not be the right place but it is a concern that I think has to be addressed. I would ask the minister to look at it. Certainly I know the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, I have talked to his department about it. What we want to do and what we should be very aware of is that anybody who is living in these mobile home parks should be treated fairly because this is their home and I think we should make that very clear. So if they are getting taxed and not getting the services, the homeowner or the park owner should either be providing the services or the municipal unit should be providing the services.
I know in my own area, in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, we have one mobile home park that is getting its services from the municipal unit and we have a number of other parks that are not. So it is a question that I think has to be looked at. It is an area that has a great deal of concern for a lot of people. I think by raising it here in the House and bringing it to the attention of the appropriate ministers, it will be something that should be and will be looked at on a future day.
With those few words, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that what is before us is a start and, indeed, when it comes to a vote I will be voting in favour of it on second reading. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I should begin by saying that I welcome Bill No. 1 from the minister, An Act to Amend Chapter 401 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Residential Tenancies Act. I do have a couple of areas of concern and I am sure the minister has answers to some of the questions I will raise.
The minister will know that on June 15, 1995, the Mobile Home Advisory Committee submitted a report. That report was submitted nearly two years ago and the committee members - Michael O'Brien, Ralph Doherty, Frank Wilson, Stan Havill - incidentally, I bought a mobile home from Stan Havill about two months before I got married. He is a very fine gentleman to deal with, Havill's Trailer Sales. For three years, as a newly-married young fellow at that point - yes, I was only 20 years old - I somewhat learned first-hand the intricacies, we will call it, of living in a mobile home. Roy Smith was also a committee member and Marilyn Smith, Dave Lake, Debbie Grey and E.A. Robillard, I guess is the last name. Staff members, of course, worked with the committee.
The committee worked up several recommendations. They put forward statistics, information, they did a lot of research. I am just a little bit perplexed - I understand the rationale for the legislation and I think everybody supports controls of one form or another on rent. It is a big issue and I won't question the minister on that.
The Mobile Home Advisory Committee came forward with recommendations that would have improved standards. They related some of the standards that are in place in other jurisdictions and I am not certain as to whether the minister has had an opportunity, I feel quite certain that she has reviewed the Mobile Home Advisory Committee Report. There is some good information, some recommendations in there that perhaps at a later date could be included in the Residential Tenancies Act. I understand this legislative session, in fact the government has said they are not going to come in with too much legislation so perhaps that was the reason why the minister didn't come in with some more amendments, because it would have taken us more time and, of course, some landlords, and I dare say some tenants, at mobile home parks likely would have come to the Law Amendments Committee.
The first part of the report seems to deal primarily with assessments and I have to ask the minister what has been done to address these concerns regarding assessment. Whereas the report was submitted on June 15, 1995, I again would like to ask the minister a fairly simple question as to what consultation has taken place since the report was submitted on the issue of rental control? Again, it is a big issue, I understand the minister has put forward an amendment here, which will provide for an appeal process, but the minister, I am sure, is cognizant of the fact that mobile home owners have a lot of other concerns there.
With those remarks, I will conclude and I will be supporting Bill No. 1.
MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister, it will be to close the debate.
The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and conclude debate on Bill No. 1, amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act.
I will deal with the discussions, I think, in order. Certainly, the member for Sackville-Cobequid is a member who has spoken about mobile homes for a number of years in the House of Assembly. I believe he has recognized, as most members have recognized, that when the previous Minister of Housing and Consumer Affairs removed rent control, it was removed off all residential dwellings, apartment dwellings and mobile homes. We said very clearly at that time, if there was some need to move back into some form of availability for tenants to have more control or more input into rent increases, we would certainly do that. That is very clearly where this has come from.
The three points that the member for Sackville-Cobequid had concerns about, one of them was the proclamation date. The bill actually says that we would have to proclaim this at some period of time. I have gone back to staff and asked them if they could give me a date when we could, in actual fact, put into the bill a date that we could proclaim it so there is an actual date in the bill.
MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to call for order, please, so that we do not have to struggle to hear the minister's closing remarks. Thank you.
MS. JOLLY: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I can speak a little louder if that would be of a little assistance. The bill is certainly set up that there is no specific date of proclamation, but it would come into force when the Governor in Council proclaims the bill. I am prepared to go back and to seek staff's input if we can put an actual date in there because I know staff have a number of things they have to do to get the regulations done and to do some training on the directors and the officers. I think there is an actual date we could put into the bill as an actual specific proclamation date and if I can come up with that, I will bring it forward at the Committee on Law Amendments and have discussions with the member for Sackville-Cobequid on that. (Interruption) I will get to them, I can only do one at a time.
The other two points, specifically he talked about recording the appeals by the director and the board and the officer. I have gone through this and I have actually gone back to Legislative Counsel and I am advised that what we have here is really no different than the current Act that we act under. The member suggested that we should record all proceedings that are held and my difficulty is, we have as many as 20 proceedings at a time going on in discussions with Residential Tenancies. My understanding from Legislative Counsel is that the director is required, under the new procedure to mediate a dispute, if the director is successful, the director shall make a written record of the settlement. If the director is not successful, the director must make an order, so that the director does have to write an order or a written record of the settlement. Those orders cover the discussion and would suggest that the individual could go further.
Certainly the time-frame also makes it very difficult to record because a tenant has 30 days from the date that they get the notice of their increase to apply for rent review. The individual director, when they hold the meeting, has seven days to give a response - a yes or a no - so it is a seven day time period. Then the individual tenant, if they are not satisfied, has 14 days to appeal and after that appeal it is seven days again. So we have made the time- frames very short and I think there is a direct correlation. It is not like there is six or seven months between the person appealing and the information coming forward. I would have to say in that particular instance I am not prepared to make a change on the set-up because it is my understanding that we are not making any significant changes from what was there before and the time-frames, really, with the number of hearings that are ongoing, it would be very cumbersome and in actual fact may have to extend the time in which information is provided back and forth.
The third point that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid had was on the ability for people who didn't specifically apply to have the benefit of somebody who did apply, and that is under Clause 7, Section 14(2). It certainly is my intention and the way we thought we had drawn up the legislation to a large degree was such that one person could appeal or a group of people could come together and appeal as a class action type of thing so that not each and everybody had to do their own appeal. It is my intention, and I will have discussions with staff to make sure it is clarified, that if a rent increase goes out to 15 people and when the rent increase goes out the landlord is required to identify specifically which mobile pads are having the increase, that if there is one or a group that apply, should there be a decision that the rent increase is not valid, then the roll-back or the reduced rent would be provided to all of those people who had specifically been requested a rent increase on that basis.
I think that does give the honourable member the clarification and security he wanted in the fact that people don't specifically have to sign or specifically have to appeal and that was our intent in the legislation. I will review that and if there is anything that is required to confirm that any further I will certainly bring it forward at the Law Amendments Committee.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West was concerned about treating individuals fairly. I think that is the very reason why we brought this bill to the House at this particular point in time. It certainly was addressed to us that there were concerns on mobile homes and the rent increases on pads at mobile homes so we made a commitment in December and have followed through with that commitment with the member for Sackville-Beaverbank.
Finally, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley was concerned why more hadn't been put in from the report that had been done by the Mobile Home Advisory Committee. I have the report here and I have gone through it. Certainly, as members are aware, in the Residential Tenancies Act we have a large number of adjustments we would like to make to that overall Act through consultation that has come forward. We didn't have it
ready at this point in time but we hope to bring it forward in the future. It will more clearly define some of the other areas of concern out of the committee's report.
Madam Speaker, I think that answers the majority of the questions that were raised during second reading of this bill and I am prepared to move second reading of Bill No. 1 on to the Law Amendments Committee.
MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 1, An Act to Amend Chapter 401 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Residential Tenancies Act.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 2.
Bill No. 2 - Motor Vehicle Act.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to move Bill No. 2 for second reading. The bill is extremely short, it is all of one page. It deal with two very particular items which are extremely important though.
The first part of the bill, Clause 1, is an enabling piece of legislation for municipalities. What it does is enable them to designate a sidewalk as part of a multi-purpose trail and that piece of the sidewalk that is designated as a multi-purpose trail by the municipality, it is possible that individuals can ride their bikes along that part of the sidewalk and only that part of the sidewalk. So sidewalks where currently it is illegal to ride your bike on, they are not all open and it would only apply in the event a municipality requested this to happen. So it is an enabling section. It doesn't make any change unless the municipality itself applies for a section of sidewalk to be part of a multi-purpose trail. The municipality has to pass a by-law for themselves that this section of the sidewalk would now be part of a multi-purpose trail and thereby allowing that section of the sidewalk to have a bicycle road on it.
So it is a very small, but a very important piece of what the government is trying to do in tourism, recreation, health and fitness and, certainly, Walking Metro had asked us to put this particular clause forward as well. So that is Clause 1.
Clause 2 and Clause 3 of the bill deal with the penalty for driving while uninsured. We are moving the penalty from $250 up to $750 for a first offence, $1,500 minimum for a second offence and $3,000 for a third offence.
Madam Speaker, we have had a number of people come forward with this, particularly the Insurance Bureau of Canada, who explained to us that this was actually the lowest in Canada when you looked at all the other provinces and that there are currently $3.5 million worth of accidental claims by people who were driving cars or vehicles that are uninsured. So we have made this increase at the request of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. They have actually asked us to go much higher than this, but we felt that this was a prudent way to do it, that a first offence should certainly be less than a second or a third. So we have brought forward the $750.
The difficulty is, and one of the concerns that was mentioned, it would be cheaper to drive a car that is uninsured at a $250 fine, if you got caught, than it is to, in actual fact, pay the insurance which could be $500, $600, $800 or $900. So we felt it was important at this time to raise this particular fine. As we all know, the fine only comes into play if a person is driving a vehicle that is uninsured. So it certainly is one of those things that we thought was a fairness issue to all other individuals who are paying insurance for their car, driving a car that is insured and, in the event of an accident, certainly the insurance company is there to look after the victims and the individuals who been injured in that instance.
So, Madam Speaker, with those few comments, I will be happy to hear the comments from members opposite on moving Bill No. 2 for second reading.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, this is a short bill and it was introduced with a very short speech, thankfully, from the minister. I will be just as brief as the minister. In fact, even more brief. I think all Nova Scotians that are paying insurance now would agree with the intent and the purpose of this bill. Nothing is more aggravating than to find that you have been involved in an accident and the person involved with you, perhaps even caused it, is one of those people that just doesn't have any insurance. Apparently, it is all too prevalent in Nova Scotia and in other areas too where people just choose to drive without bothering to buy adequate insurance. Insurance is not cheap to purchase, but neither is a car and neither is the damage that a person can do with a car.
This is a step in the right direction. I noticed the minister indicated that this is the lowest fine in the country. Every other province in Canada would levy a higher fine than we are in Nova Scotia; however, this is a very large fine compared to what the penalty was before. I think all in all that I would certainly support this bill. If the minister had come in and said the fine was greater than $750, I would support that as well.
One of the problems and one of the considerations, I am sure, is that very often the person owning and driving the car without insurance, a $750 fine or default in payment, 30 days in jail, perhaps would not bother that person; if the person doesn't care about driving without insurance, he probably doesn't care about going to jail either for 30 days. But the family members of that person are the ones that will suffer the greatest with the loss of that person, but the people who suffer the most are the forgotten people in the criminal justice system most of the time and that is the victim. Anybody driving a car who becomes a victim of one of these persons who does not have insurance certainly knows what it is like to be a victim. It is not fair; it requires all of us who purchase insurance to pay a higher premium rate because of the few who think they can drive without insurance.
I think this is a step in the right direction and I certainly support it. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Madam Speaker, there are a few comments I would like to make. First, I indicate that I will be voting in support of it. The first comment, and I was trying to scratch my head a moment ago to think of the exact situation, and if my memory serves me correctly, the situation that precipitated the request for the portion of a sidewalk to be able to be designated a trail, I believe that was in the former City of Dartmouth. I could be wrong on that. I wish I could, but I can't remember all the exact details of that, but I believe it was to connect two portions of a trail that currently exists. Certainly in that kind of a situation, unless I am given reasons why it shouldn't be, I can understand the logic for it and would be supportive of that.
I do have some concerns if it were to go too far, if, in fact, many sidewalks were to end up being designated as trails. I don't know how many situations or scenarios there are within the province - the minister is indicating just the one, okay; the minister is indicating that that is the only one - I certainly would not want to see us moving into a situation where you are having more and more sidewalks being designated as such and, if at all possible, if there was a way to accommodate the two by having a bicycle path beside the sidewalk rather than having to have the bicycles on exactly the same path as the sidewalk, that would be preferred, obviously, for safety reasons, in particular for the pedestrians who would be using that section of sidewalk. Madam Speaker, I will leave my comments at that stage.
The second portion of the bill which, of course, is increasing the fine for those who are driving without insurance. This also is something that is raised at the insurance brokers' dinner every year. Members from all political Parties are invited to a dinner where we are informed or we have an opportunity to hear the concerns of those who are involved in the insurance industry. This, of course, was one of those matters that was again raised with us this year. At that particular meeting the last time, I believe it is fair to say that from all of those in attendance at that gathering, we recognized the importance and the rationale behind increasing the fines and that we were all supportive of that request.
In her opening remarks the minister talked about the fact that it is, for some, less expensive to drive without insurance. I know in my case, and I don't have a bad driving record and I have not had any claims lately, Madam Speaker, it has been quite a few years - knock on wood that it continues that way - certainly in my case, under the current system if I were to be driving without insurance, the fine of $250 would be less, in fact it would be considerably less than 50 per cent of what I am currently paying for insurance. So in a fiscal sense, if you are only trying to think in the short term and being short-sighted and, I suggest, more than a tad irresponsible, it is cheaper to drive without insurance, hoping you do not get caught, and more importantly, hoping that you do not have an accident. However, that is irresponsible.
I was also at that particular meeting and I do not have any independent evidence to support or to contradict, but I remember hearing the numbers or the percentage of people who, it is anticipated or believed, are on the road who do not actually have insurance and the number was quite startling to think of the number of people in this province and in this country who are driving without insurance. I can certainly understand the rationale for making sure that the level of the fine that would be imposed for those who are caught driving without insurance certainly should be more than the amount that it would cost to buy the insurance. Otherwise, we are in a sense providing an incentive for somebody to break the law. Certainly, I do not think that is appropriate.
Because we are dealing with insurance I would be remiss if I did not point out that when we are talking about insurance and here we are talking about certainly a benefit to the insurance industry because it is of benefit to the insurance industry to insure because they make profits when people buy insurance. That is expected and so on. So the more people who buy automobile insurance, that is to the good of those who are selling the insurance.
Consumers should have their rights protected as well. I would be remiss if I did not point out how disappointed I am in this minister and this government because as a result of one of the Atlantic Premiers Conferences a committee was struck to harmonize the insurance legislation, policies and regulations in the four Atlantic Provinces. A committee was struck and it began work last fall. On that committee there is not one representative for consumers.
There are all of the insurance industry segments represented en masse so certainly the insurance industry is well represented to ensure that their interests, their concerns, as new legislation is drafted, as new regulations and new policies are drafted, that their interests are protected. I would suggest that those who purchase the insurance - members of this House, members of our constituencies, people across Nova Scotia - deserve to have representatives selected to represent the interests of the consumers sitting on that committee as well. That concern, of course, I brought forward to the minister.
When we are talking about insurance in the Act in terms of the remarks of the minister that the fine should be greater than that of the premiums, those are the kinds of things that this kind of committee will look at and to ensure that there are fair policies, a fair pricing practices, fair way to have cases and so on dealt with through the legislation policies and regulations. I am sure that as we go on, and I will not transgress too far on the good auspices of you, Madam Speaker, because we are talking about the Motor Vehicle Act here, not really the insurance Act. I know that I am transgressing slightly and you suggested that I should draw it all together, so I will draw it all together and go back. I will say more on that at some time before this House rises this spring or maybe this summer or fall, if that should happen. I will be bringing it to the floor again because I think it is an important issue.
The final thing I will say again in closing in support of increasing the fines, is if somebody is, in fact, involved in a motor vehicle accident and they do not have insurance, there is an opportunity for the individual who is injured by the uninsured party, if that uninsured party is at fault, to make a claim and to receive compensation for the injury and the damage through a fund which has been established by the insurance industry and, for the life of me, at the moment I can't remember the exact name of that fund. It is a fund into which all other insurance users are really contributing, so all end up paying, in a sense, for those who are neglecting their responsibilities by driving without insurance.
Madam Speaker, with those few somewhat convoluted comments, I indicate that I will and our caucus will be voting in support of the legislation. I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss the issue about the legislation harmonization with the minister again at another occasion and I look forward even more than discussing it with her, to having her change her mind and seek the cooperation of other ministers in her parallel portfolios, in the other Atlantic Provinces agree with her that there should be representatives for consumers on that committee which is looking to harmonize legislation policies and regulations in the insurance industry here in Nova Scotia and the other three of the Atlantic Provinces. Thank you.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.
MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to take part in the debate on Bill No. 2 and to speak for a few moments on some not the concerns that I have with the bill but, perhaps, some of the things that come to mind with these kinds of changes that the minister has outlined in this bill.
First of all, I must say, Madam Speaker, I find it strange as yet to be talking about a revision to the Motor Vehicle Act and be responding to the Minister of Business and Consumer Services. But, be that as it may, it doesn't make much difference, I guess.
The first thing that I notice in this bill is that a traffic authority can designate a sidewalk or part of a sidewalk as a trail and regulate the use of bicycles on that sidewalk. I am not sure exactly what this does. For instance, is it just specifically bicycles, or does it regulate, for instance, the use of sidewalks with skateboards, in-line skates and those kinds of things? Are they part of the restriction on that portion of a sidewalk that has been designated as a trail?
The reason that I raise that, Madam Speaker, is because I don't say that people on skateboards and in-line skates are irresponsible, but, however, quite frequently some of them barrel along at a great rate of knots and pedestrians on the sidewalk have, perhaps, some difficulty getting out of the way before they get knocked over. So I was just curious as to whether, when we designate these sidewalks as trails, whether or not we are also encompassing regulations . . .
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Just bicycles.
MR. RUSSELL: Just bicycles. Okay. I appreciate the minister telling me that.
I presume that these sidewalks that we are speaking of, Madam Speaker, are not within what we would customarily call the normal sidewalks in front of office spaces and stores, et cetera. In other words, we are talking about sidewalks that would be designated, I would think, in parks. I would appreciate an answer.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Just for clarification for the honourable member, the legislation clearly only deals with bicycles. It is Clause 1, Section 171A(b), "authorize and regulate the use of bicycles on such trails,". So it only enables the municipality to make a change relative to bicycles only.
The second part of his question is the sidewalk. The sidewalk has to be part of a multi-purpose trail. So the multi-purpose trail could, technically, run downtown, that is a possibility. If the multi-purpose trail ran downtown and stopped there the municipality wouldn't necessarily have to claim that section as part of the multi-purpose trail, it is up to the municipality. I wouldn't want to say that it would never go downtown but at the same time
95 per cent of the time where it has to be a multi-purpose trail, it is for walking, exercise, that type of thing, it tends to be in more wilderness types of areas.
As the other member had asked, the only place that I know specifically that had requested this was the former City of Dartmouth in their multi-purpose trail that is out by the lake and Shubie Park. The couldn't get from part A to part B, there was a piece there you couldn't travel on if you were on a bicycle so it was very inconvenient for anybody who was trying to use almost a five mile trail because there was a small section of a sidewalk that you were illegally travelling on if you were on a bicycle.
MR. RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for that response and it makes imminent sense, what she was saying, because I was sort of envisioning in my mind having bicycles operating on sidewalks, helter-skelter, hither and yon. I presume that these sidewalks that form part of the trail system as they will under this legislation will be suitably marked with a sign saying that this is the whatever trail so that those who ride bicycles are aware of the fact that they can operate on the sidewalk so I agree with that first change.
The second one which speaks about the penalties for driving uninsured vehicles I also agree with for many reasons and I think the one suggested by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid is of great consequence. That is that at the present time it is cheaper for somebody to operate without insurance than it is with insurance. In other words, if they are caught they pay the fine and they are still better off financially so I have no difficulty with that.
What amazes me is the fact that people can indeed operate a vehicle without insurance. My understanding is that when you register a vehicle you have to have insurance, that is my understanding. What happens is . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: No, you don't have to give any proof.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, okay there is no proof but maybe that is a simple problem. Why isn't it part of the registration process for a vehicle (Interruption) I am going to come to that. Yes, they are really being of great assistance to me.
AN HON. MEMBER: I don't like your idea.
MR. RUSSELL: Well I do. I don't think people should drive without insurance or licenses. When they go to register a vehicle, why can it not be part of that process to show that you have adequate insurance? Somebody says yeah but you can cancel the insurance as soon as you get your registration completed. Well, that is fine but however, make it incumbent upon the insurance companies to advise the Registry of Motor Vehicles whenever a cancellation takes place so that the person has to submit to the Registry of Motor Vehicles proof that they have re-insured with some other company or are carrying insurance. Maybe some people don't like that but I like it because I have been in the unfortunate position by
being hit by somebody without insurance and it cost me a fair chunk of change to get my vehicle repaired.
We do, however, have a system and I think it is called the Unsatisfied Judgment Fund or it used to be called that . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: The Judgment Recovery Fund.
MR. RUSSELL: The Judgment Recovery Fund. It is no longer the Unsatisfied Judgment Fund.
We have this fund and, Madam Speaker, whether or not it is funded from the licensing side of what we pay to license our automobiles or paid by the insurance company through the facility . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Did you get any money out of that?
MR. RUSSELL: No, I didn't.
MADAM SPEAKER: You are getting a lot of help there, honourable member.
MR. RUSSELL: I am getting a lot of help. What I am saying is don't kid yourself; when the insurance companies say they are putting money into the Insurance Recovery Fund, somebody is paying for it, and it is those of us who register and insure our automobiles who are paying into that fund. That is why I would like to see put in place a system whereby every vehicle on the road is insured. I see no reason why that cannot be, to me it seems a fairly simple process. You pick up your car registration for 1997 or 1998, whatever the case may be, you produce proof of insurance, that is registered in the Registry of Motor Vehicles. It is incumbent upon the insurance company to advise the Registry of Motor Vehicles that Ron Russell, resident of Windsor, has cancelled his insurance. I have seven days within which to tell the Registry of Motor Vehicles that I have renewed it somewhere else or that I have sold the automobile or whatever the case may be and, if I haven't done so, that car is deregistered and I am asked to return the plate. I would like to see more teeth in this particular bill.
However, having said that, I think this is a step in the right direction. Now certainly people are no longer going to be operating a vehicle without insurance under the umbrella of being able to say, well, if I get caught, so what, it is still going to cost me only $250, which is a heck of a lot less than the $600 that I think most of us have to pay annually for insurance.
So, Madam Speaker, I will be voting in favour of this bill to move forward to Law Amendments Committee and I look forward to the ministers giving some thought to further tightening the restrictions on unlicensed vehicles on the road in the Province of Nova Scotia.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, I would like to deal at some length but not inordinately long on the clause respecting the provision which will allow local traffic authorities and municipal units to allow bicycles to be operated on the sidewalk. (Interruptions)
MADAM SPEAKER: I would like to call for order, please. There is a problem hearing the speaker. If you are going to carry on a number of conversations, would you take them outside. Thank you.
MR. LEEFE: I have always laboured under the assumption, and I look to the minister to tell me if this assumption is correct or incorrect, that in Nova Scotia it is illegal to operate a bicycle on a sidewalk.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: Yes, Madam Speaker, it is illegal to operate a bicycle on a sidewalk. Because it is illegal to do that, that is exactly why we brought in this one section, such that if a municipality designates a multi-purpose trail that may be five kilometres long and one section of it happens to include a sidewalk in a neighbourhood or in that area, without this legislation to enable a municipality to designate that section of sidewalk as part of the multi-use trail and then to be able to be allowed to have bicycles on it, it would be illegal. So you are not allowed to, nor will you after this bill is approved, unless that section of sidewalk is part of an overall multi-purpose trail that has been designated by the municipality.
MR. LEEFE: I thank the minister. It is nice to know that once in a while our assumptions are correct.
In the cities it seems less likely that a sidewalk, which is a normal thoroughfare for pedestrians, would be inclined to be part of a trail. I think of a trail in the west end of the city, for example, which follows part of the powerline which crosses behind a number of subdivisions. It doesn't in any place, which I am aware of and I have walked most of it, incorporate sidewalks into it, so people using bicycles while they cross a sidewalk to cross a street to get to the other side of the trail, they do not incorporate any part of the sidewalk except the small section that they cross to get onto the road and up the sidewalk on the other side, if there is one, and then continue on the trail.
My view has always been that the reason bicycles have also been prohibited on sidewalks is for safety. When I think of my own municipality there are some sidewalks in the more rural parts of the municipality which may or may not, in the view of the municipal unit be deemed fit to be part of a trail, that are used regularly by children and by senior citizens.
Both children and senior citizens, it seems to me, are more prone to not being able to get out of the way of a bicycle quickly than people who are in the mid-range of years between children and seniors.
I am concerned that a municipal unit may authorize the operation of bicycles on a sidewalk, which was built essentially for pedestrian traffic which could, in effect, set the scene for injury to pedestrians and, most particularly, the young and the old. There is a reference in this amendment to insurance. To the best of my knowledge, no bicycle driver carries insurance. If there is an accident, assuming the legislation passes and assuming that a municipality chooses to designate a sidewalk as part of a trail and a bicycle runs down a pedestrian, causes them to fracture their pelvis, break a leg, hit their head and have a concussion, who knows what, and that cyclist is not insured, then what protection does the injured party have with respect to the injuries that have been thus sustained? We know that if a car hits them, the driver is required to carry insurance to meet that very kind of purpose, but that is not so, insofar as I know, with respect to bicycles.
Now I am not advocating that we should enter a whole new insurance industry sector of bicycle insurance, but I am concerned that any pedestrain who may be put at risk as a result of the imprudent use of a bicycle on a bicycle trail and, let's face it, they are not going to be heavily policed, may well be at significant financial risk in the event of an accident. Is there a fall-back for an injured pedestrian to make a claim under the Judgment Recovery Fund which is, I think, a longer process than a process might be in an ordinary insurance claim through a company. I think that is an important question to be answered. Is the Judgment Recovery Fund available to a pedestrian who may be hit by a bicycle in this respect?
I think that this is one aspect of the bill which has not been well thought out. It is one that causes me significant concern as a member representing an area with sidewalks, particularly in rural areas which may, we do not know whether they will or not, which may all or in part be deemed to be part of a trail. These are questions which I really want to have answered to my satisfaction as the person elected to represent my constituents and exercise my best judgment on their part in advance of supporting this legislation of the ministers. I look forward to the minister responding to those concerns and then, in consequence to her response, I will make my decision where, in my judgment, I should vote on behalf of my constituents respecting it.
MADAM SPEAKER: Are there any further speakers? Hearing none, I will recognize the minister to close debate.
The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.
HON. SANDRA JOLLY: I appreciate the comments from the members opposite. I also appreciate the help that the members for Kings West and Queens were giving the member for Hants West, because I think they very clearly identify some of the difficulty with making massive changes such as having to have proof of insurance when you register your car. My understanding is, and I have not researched it to a great degree, but a bit of the discussion I have had with the staff is that people who have more than one vehicle, they have five or six different vehicles and they register them all at different times, they have one insurance policy and that is a difficulty.
As I can tell the member, there are as many people who support proof of registration as there are people who do not support it. I would suggest that that is one of the reasons why we have not gotten into it. That is not to say that it does not come up on occasion and we do have discussion on it, for the honourable member for Hants West because his point is well taken. The other aspect of it is, as his colleague to his left told him, you could prove the insurance and then cancel the insurance. As he says, then maybe the insurance company has to verify that they have gone someplace else for insurance. Then if the person sold the car, you would have to make sure whether he sold the car or he just cancelled his insurance and it becomes quite a logistic problem, as far as I understand. I would offer those comments.
To the member for Queens, I am a little perplexed if the member for Queens is suggesting, I gather from his comments he does not want bicycles on sidewalks regardless of where the sidewalk is because he is concerned about people on bicycles injuring people who are walking. Certainly, that is a concern and I think that is the reason why bicycles generally are not on sidewalks.
My question would be then, if he is concerned - the reason we have multi-purpose trails is for people to walk on them and bikes are allowed on multi-purpose trails - should we ban bikes from multi-purpose trails? If they are not on sidewalks because you could be injured, then the multi-purpose trail where they are allowed to bike, would his suggestion be that we ban bikes from multi-purpose trails? I think if that were the case, then the multi-purpose trail would have a more limited use. I guess I would respond to his question in that way.
I think it is also important to remember the member from Queens I think is of the impression that if the multi-purpose trail is designated and a sidewalk is a piece of it, it is automatically allowed bicycles that is not the case. The municipality specifically has to designate the sidewalk as part of the multi-purpose trail in order to allow bicycles on them. So they could designate a multi-purpose trail and not include the sidewalk, if the municipality so desired, so that the bikes were not allowed on them.
Interestingly enough, in his comments he was not sure if the metro area would want this because they have other alternatives. It is the metro area that has requested this amendment. It is the old City of Dartmouth that has requested this amendment specifically and Walking
Metro, a group of people who are promoting exercise and walking. Walking Metro are (Interruption) Certainly.
MR. JOHN LEEFE: Madam Speaker, a question. I am interested that it is specifically the former City of Dartmouth which has requested this. Since this legislation, then, is province-wide, my question to the minister is has it been vetted by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities? Does it have their approval?
MS. JOLLY: My understanding is, yes, it has been. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities have been advised that we are bringing this forward and I received no concerns expressed by them. It is enabling legislation. Enabling legislation means that a municipality has the choice of bringing it forward or not. It is not mandatory, so on enabling legislation they generally do not have concerns because each municipality can decide whether to bring it forward.
I think those are the comments . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: What about the insurance end of it?
MS. JOLLY: The insurance end of it? At this point in time, no, bicycles are not covered under the recovery fund. Bicycles are not part of that. It is for cars. The fund is provided by your car insurance that we all pay across the province. Bicycles aren't licensed, and I am not sure we want to get into licensing bicycles.
So, at this point in time, Madam Speaker, it is my understanding that fund does not provide for injuries. I am not sure if you would be able to sue under personal injury or Small Claims Court or something on that basis. That may be possible if you have a personal injury from another individual who is occupying a bicycle at the time of the injury. So, not at this point in time.
Madam Speaker, I will move the bill for second reading.
MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 2, An Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Motor Vehicle Act.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. RAYMOND WHITE: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 6.
Bill No. 6 - Gas Distribution Act.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.
HON. ELEANOR NORRIE: Madam Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to stand and open second reading of Bill No. 6. It is an Act Respecting the Delivery and Sale of Natural Gas in the Province. I will make just a few introductory comments to the bill and I would look forward to the debate.
As members of this House know, Nova Scotia is on the threshold of becoming a producer of natural gas. In just a few short months, subject to approval by the joint review panel, proponents of the Sable Offshore Energy Project will decide whether to actually proceed with natural gas development. Gas is expected to be available by November 1999. Nova Scotia must be prepared for distribution of this new energy source within its own boundaries. That is what the gas distribution bill is all about, being ready for the advent of natural gas as a new and additional source of energy within Nova Scotia. Working backwards from that in-service date of 1999, and considering the time needed for approvals and for construction, it is likely that the rights for natural gas distribution will have to be granted during 1997. The gas distribution bill establishes a framework for orderly development and operation of a natural gas delivery system to serve Nova Scotia and its people. This bill also establishes an environment in which the actual sale of gas to Nova Scotians will be conducted in a fair, open and competitive manner.
This bill is essentially enabling legislation. It is the mechanism that will give the province control over the sale and the delivery of natural gas within our own borders. This comprehensive new bill brings Nova Scotia right up to date with current practices and procedures in the gas industry throughout North America. Most important, it protects the interest of Nova Scotians and prepares us for the advent of a whole new industry, distribution of Sable gas within the province.
This legislation replaces the outdated 1980 Gas Utilities Act. Under that legislation, gas distribution franchises would have been awarded solely by a committee of Cabinet. The new bill is the result of significant consultation with Nova Scotia consumers, businesses and industry, as well as an extensive review of existing legislation in other jurisdictions. Under the legislation, a franchise will be required in order for an individual or a company to build and operate a local gas distribution system. Local distribution systems are the laterals that carry gas from the main transmission pipeline to local markets. Franchise applications will be made to the Utility and Review Board and they will seek public input on the application. After extensive review, the board would recommend to Cabinet whether an application should be approved. Following Cabinet approval, a franchise would be issued by the URB.
A key aspect of the bill is that it separates the gas transportation, or the delivery function, from the commodity or the sales function. The main area covered by this legislation are as follows: granting of gas distribution franchises; construction and operation of gas delivery systems; rates and tariffs to be regulated by the URB; sale of gas which will be based on competition, and it would be licensed under the URB but not regulated; and a general section on complaints, penalties and regulations.
With the advent of the natural gas industry in Nova Scotia there is plenty of interest in serving local customers. As a result there will surely be a significant number of applications for franchising and for marketing licenses.
The Nova Scotia Gas Distribution Act is designed to deal with those applications fairly, openly and in a competitive manner. Equally important, it prepares us for what I believe will be an exciting new industry, a new era in Nova Scotia.
Madam Speaker, I would now like to move second reading of Bill No. 6.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Madam Speaker, what a pleasure it is to see you in the House for this very important debate.
I wanted you to understand that personally as a member of this House and as a Nova Scotian I am very much in favour of the natural gas industry and am very excited about the potential that could exist in Nova Scotia under a properly managed natural gas industry that is there for the benefit of Nova Scotians operating under rules and regulations that are designed, specifically, for the benefit of Nova Scotian consumers and taxpayers and not designed by and for the shareholders of a multinational company.
The whole secret of natural gas for Nova Scotia is summed up in one of the briefs that was presented at the National Energy Board hearing where they said natural gas must first be of benefit to Nova Scotians. We have been listening to the hype and the excitement for the last several months but truly, when the president of West Coast Energy, the chairman and chief executive officer of West Coast Energy and West Coast is the principal involved in the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline, when he spoke and I know many of my MLA colleagues were at the board of trade meeting when he was the guest speaker on February 5th. Mr. Phelps is a very serious businessman and is operating a company with assets in excess of $9 billion, the 16th largest company in Canada by their assets. Mr. Phelps came to Nova Scotia to make his presentation and he talked about natural gas and what it could do for Nova Scotia. But the very first thing he said was, "This will certainly be the case if market
conditions continue to favour the production and if Maritime and Northeast Pipeline receives approval to build a pipeline.".
You see the whole premise is based on the biggest word in the dictionary and we all know what that word is, that word is if. A two letter word that means so much and it meant so much to Mr. Phelps when he started his speech by saying, if we build a pipeline.
This natural gas has by no means reached the approval stage yet by the shareholders of Mobil or the shareholders of West Coast Energy. The whole premise must be based on the benefits to Nova Scotia. Are there going to be benefits to Nova Scotia? By benefits to Nova Scotia I mean, are Nova Scotia consumers going to be getting a price that is cheaper than anybody else? Certainly before the Minister of Natural Resources and her colleague started negotiating with Mobil, with Shell, they could have said that Nova Scotia's price is lower than anywhere else; it is our gas, we want to give an advantage to others.
Now I don't know that this has been done. In fact, from listening to what people have been saying, this has not been done. The Government of Nova Scotia, at the outset, looks as though perhaps they were so anxious to be in favour of this gas project that they hopped along to the tune that Mobil was playing at the time. There is no evidence that this project has any concern or regard for Nova Scotia. This project looks as though it is based on a demand in New England to have more natural gas and if it happens to benefit Nova Scotia on the way by, then so be it.
New Brunswick, on the other hand, said you are not putting a pipeline through New Brunswick unless it is of benefit to New Brunswickers. They made it plump and plain, both in private and in public, that the first concern of the New Brunswick Government was the betterment of the population in New Brunswick. Their Minister of Natural Resources said that there wasn't even going to be a pipeline going through New Brunswick if it didn't go to Saint John and there wasn't going to be a pipeline if their price wasn't as low or lower than Nova Scotia's price.
Those are tough words, easy to understand. Perhaps it was just negotiations, to make sure that nobody forgot where New Brunswick was in their demands when they were getting started. Was there anybody speaking in those plain, simple words for Nova Scotia, dealing with this pipeline? Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline's primary objective is to take Nova Scotia gas and ship it to the primary market in Boston. Is this the best use of Nova Scotia's resource?
We have two pipeline companies interested in delivering gas. One of them is Maritimes and Northeast, the other is Trans Canada Pipelines. From a very personal point of view, it makes no difference to me how the gas is transported once it hits the New Brunswick border. If they want to take it to Boston in a paper bag, that is fine with me. The only concern this government should have is the return to Nova Scotians and the competitive advantage Nova
Scotians are going to have from this gas. We need a government that is paying attention to the needs of Nova Scotia, not a government that is paying the closest attention to the needs of the shareholders of Mobile or West Coast Gas. We need a government that shows the companies that they have a backbone and they can stand up to them.
So far, Madam Speaker, with all this discussion and rhetoric that has happened, we have not yet seen an example where this government has thought faster than the multinational companies with their experienced negotiators with many hundreds of years of combined service in the gas business. There is not even assurance that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will get any gas if the demand is very large in New England.
These are the concerns. I heard one of my colleagues opposite say don't be so negative. I am not being negative, but I would like to know and I would like all members in this Chamber to know that Nova Scotians come first. We are tired of taking second fiddle to Upper Canada and any other company that happens to be going by. We had an opportunity with this gas to set a price so Nova Scotians would have a benefit. The Premier was asked after Mr. Phelps' speech whether there was going to be a postage stamp pricing system or whether there would be a pricing system that would be lower for those closest to the beginning of the pipeline. The Premier did not know the details involved in pricing at that time.
This was after the deals were signed, after the royalty agreement had been signed with Mobil and their very skilled negotiators. The Cabinet Ministers in Nova Scotia were not aware of the details. When government officials from Cabinet were asked were any special arrangements made for Nova Scotia, are there going to be laterals in Nova Scotia to make sure that when the pipeline is being built and the heavy equipment is here that the pipeline company trying to get from Country Harbour to the New Brunswick border puts in laterals in locations that will be convenient for Truro, Halifax and Cape Breton, the answer was no, the government did not dictate any special requirements to the pipeline company because we were not investing any money in it. The answer was, it is their money, they can do as they wish.
Is that the answer that we should have gotten from a Cabinet Minister of this province? The government of this province should have said we are setting the terms and conditions because it is our gas; if you don't like it, we will leave the gas in the ground until somebody else wants to deliver it. Instead of that we have a company arriving at Country Harbour dividing the gas to the New Brunswick border with a lateral to Cape Breton to take the oil soaked gas and the liquid gas to the kettle for separation. There is no natural gas line going to Cape Breton. There will be a special barge in Nova Scotia laying the pipe across to Cape Breton for that brief time when they are taking the heavy wet gas across to Port Hawkesbury and then it is gone. Wouldn't that be the time to insist on a pipeline to Cape Breton? I would think so but, no, this government did not insist.
The big separation facility that is going to be in Cape Breton and Port Hawkesbury would employ less than 35 people. The whole pipeline is going to employ 35, I guess, from here to the United States border. I suspect there will be about a dozen or 15 people working at the kettle at the plant separating the components of the wet gas so they can be trans-shipped for manufacture in other country's manufacturing facilities. Why did our government not insist that a petrochemical industry be constructed in Port Hawkesbury? They had the opportunity.
For anybody that says, oh no, we didn't have the opportunity, private business cannot interfere, just remember what happened in Newfoundland when that government stood up to the multinational oil companies and said, you people are building your transshipment centre in Newfoundland. You are not using the facility that is already built and available in Nova Scotia. You are working in Newfoundland, not Nova Scotia. What did they do? They spent millions of dollars building a port facility so they could transship oil from Newfoundland to various refineries around the world. The Premier and the Government of Newfoundland said, we are going to make some jobs, we don't have many opportunities in Atlantic Canada and the ones that are here are not going to slip through our fingers. But where was our government, our Premier, our Minister of Natural Resources? Why did they not make the same insistence?
The Irvings have purchased, apparently, 15 per cent of the production. Originally, we were told that 20 per cent of the production was going to be available to Atlantic Canada and 80 per cent to New England. Well, if the Irvings bought 15 per cent, that doesn't leave much for anybody else. After the province signed the deal with Mobil and the royalty agreement and said, you can have the offshore Nova Scotia, just do what you can to help out, then the government wanted to say, well, you are going to hire some Nova Scotians, aren't you? They said, okay, yes, sure, we will hire some Nova Scotians. They said we are going to hire residents in Nova Scotia. So then the province had to say well, gee, we better find out.
So the government - if you can believe it, and I am not making this up - hired a law firm from Alberta, who had some oil and gas experience, to find out from Mobil how they defined a resident of Nova Scotia. It is awfully late. You have to learn a few things when you are young. I talked to a fellow one time and he was on a guy's farm to buy a prize cow to take to the show. They looked it all over and the guy said, I bought it. I want that cow. So the guy said, good, I want $8,000. The guy said, well, I can't afford to pay you that much. He said, look, you said you were going to buy it and this is the price. Now put it on your truck and give me the money. Well, that is what the government has done. They said, okay, sign it up and then they started to negotiate. I am telling you, after you have signed on the dotted line, it is too late to go back and ask for a discount, or any benefits for Nova Scotians.
Mobil is in control of Nova Scotia's offshore. The Minister of Natural Resources will probably find some humour in this and say, oh no, they are not. Mobil are one of the finest companies in North America. I have more respect for them than I have for anybody else. If the Minister of Natural Resources thinks that she can match Mobil at the negotiating table, I wish her well. So far we have not been doing too hot. We had to try and find out what in the dickens a Nova Scotian was so they could try to apply for a job with Mobil.
Was this the same Mobil that dealt in Newfoundland and agreed to build the transshipment place in Newfoundland? We are being out-negotiated because Mobil knows Newfoundland hired some people to do some negotiations. Newfoundland learned at Churchill Falls. Nova Scotians are going to learn on this natural gas. The royalties should be bringing millions and billions of dollars to Nova Scotia. Based on the profitability, it is going to be just like the casinos and we will be lucky if we see anything.
It has been indicated that off Sable there are 11.3 million cubic metres per day and it will last 16 years; 28 wells, six fields in almost 300 feet of water. It is going to last 16 years. Now, the Minister of Natural Resources told us this was going to be a 25 year program and we were going to be getting royalties for 25 years. Now the difference between 16 and 25 is 9, so for 9 years the Minister of Natural Resources has been telling Nova Scotians we are going to be getting royalties when the project is over.
I am frightened about the negotiations that have been going on on behalf of Nova Scotians regarding offshore gas. This bill that we have before us today does not say anything about the universality of availability of natural gas.
MADAM SPEAKER: Would the honourable member permit an introduction, please?
MR. ARCHIBALD: Of course.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.
HON. JAMES SMITH: Thanks to the honourable member for yielding the floor for an introduction.
In the east gallery this afternoon we have Mr. Steven Stoddart, the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. In my role as Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, I want to really acknowledge here today the professionalism and the way that Steven is showing leadership and bringing to the table in our dealings that we do and he does on behalf of the municipal units. I would like to ask Steven to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House and acknowledge the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. (Applause)
MR. ARCHIBALD: Where I was when I stopped for the introduction - I too want to welcome all the folks that came to visit the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.
I was talking about the universality (Interruption) He has a lot of friends and he deserves a lot of friends. For a Liberal he is a pretty good guy.
Universality is not something that we should even have to think about. We should not have to be concerned about it. One of the guiding lights of this gas proposal and this bill should be to recognize the right of Nova Scotia to be the principal beneficiary of the petroleum resource in the offshore area consistent with the requirements for a strong united Canada. That is taken from a brief that was presented to the National Petroleum Hearings that are taking place.
It would sort of indicate to me that we are talking about Nova Scotia and up until this government arrived, I thought Nova Scotia included Cape Breton. But this government has cut Cape Breton off at the causeway. Their policies, their plans, all seem to eliminate Cape Breton with a devastating effect. The natural gas that is absolutely not going to be delivered to Cape Breton is just the latest in a series of blows to that part of Nova Scotia that could use economic benefit the most.
I spoke to many business people at a meeting. We had a round table or a little economic meeting in Cape Breton, in Port Hawkesbury, with some local business people - the community economic development people. One of the things they were talking about was natural gas. I am not sure whether the government has told them yet or not, that they are not going to have any. The government is not concerned. I do not know that the government has told them they are not going to have a petrochemical industry.
Cape Breton feels again left out. There is a part of Cape Breton industry that really feels left out and those are the miners. What is (Interruption)
AN HON. MEMBER: They are going to sell Donkin now.
MR. ARCHIBALD: I know they are going to sell Donkin. Anything is up for grabs.
We are bringing natural gas onshore under the auspices of the multinational oil companies. One of our largest employers in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Power Corporation, wants to buy gas. Now the breakdown for electricity manufacturing in Nova Scotia today is 61 per cent from coal, 23 per cent from oil and 16 per cent from hydroelectric.
Now in Canada as a whole, on average hydroelectric is 65 per cent, coal is 15 per cent, nuclear energy is 15 per cent and 5 per cent is oil and gas. One of the interesting developments that is taking place across North America at the present time is the development of an electricity generating industry based on natural gas. They are doing co-
generation and they have steam and electricity produced from these turbines and apparently it is very efficient.
Nova Scotia Power has a plan to use about 90,000 million metric BTUs, British Thermal Units, per day. They have a volume in mind to use the two generating plants they are going to convert from imported to natural gas. Is there any thought among this government that the power corporation could shift more? What effect will this have on the coal miners of this province? Has the Government of Nova Scotia been in negotiations? Have they talked with and have they said anything to the coal miners in this province?
Nova Scotia has not kept its citizens at the forefront since this offshore announcement was made a few months ago. They have had two things in mind; one is positive announcements, to get ready for an election and sign any single document that Mobil puts in front of us. They have given away the rights to Nova Scotia. This Government of Nova Scotia is in so much fear of big business that they have different rules for big oil companies and big business than they do for people such as coal miners. The ordinary Nova Scotian who was hoping and thought that our natural gas industry would some day be worth millions and billions of dollars, were the last people that this government was thinking about. They have said many times that the government should not be in the oil business, it should not be doing this.
MADAM SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption. We have an Adjournment debate that was submitted earlier by the honourable member for Halifax Citadel:
Therefore be it resolved that the Health Minister and leadership candidate look at real, meaningful and equitable solutions to the mess in health care.
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. TERENCE DONAHOE: Madam Speaker, with your indulgence I would defer to the honourable member for Kings West.
MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: Madam Speaker, I want to raise an issue that I raised the other day that is still in the minds of a lot of people in this province, that is the issue of the environmental clinic and the cuts to their operating budget. Today, I received a copy of the
letter that was sent to the Minister of Health by the patient advisory committee. The patient advisory committee, as most members will know, are made up of those people that are actually sick and are being treated or are waiting to be treated at the Environmental Health Centre.
This government continued on a project that was started by the previous government, and that is recognizing the importance of funding a clinic for those that are environmentally ill. Patients have been waiting for years for this centre to get built. It has taken about three years since this announcement was made to get this centre up and going and to get it to be environmentally friendly. All of a sudden, this government, which came in with the budget today, and made a boast that now they had stabilized and now they had funds to actually expand programs and to recognize those that were in need. They said in the Budget Debate that they were now putting money where money was needed and they recognized the importance of many areas that they have been neglecting for the last three or four years.
I can't understand that if we had an area like the Environmental Health Centre that was so important, with a waiting list of about 1,200 and, I think, 600 are being treated, and this government, with the extra money they claim to have, have now cut two part-time positions at the clinic. What the patient advisory committee is saying is that this is a matter of great urgency to people on the waiting list, to the family and the friends. They apologized in the delay in getting this, actually a day or so late, because they were actually too ill to meet and struggle to get this put together.
So we are dealing with a group of people that I would hope this government would recognize and, now that they say they have additional funds, the Minister of Health would immediately recognize that these people on this waiting list and the patients on the advisory committee and that this government would actually find time to meet with them, like the minister did with the 500 doctors when he went around the province and he was quick to put in $8 million. Well, he is not quick to put in a few hundred thousand dollars to these 2,000 people that are seriously ill in this province. Now where is one's priorities?
Then I hear, after the minister made the announcement yesterday, that he had an agreement. He said they were up all night meeting with the physicians. Then I hear today from the Medical Society that they had not reached an agreement. I have actually heard from the chairman of the rural area physicians who said, this was not part of an agreement. We don't think that this will fix the problem.
In other words, the Minister of Health went around the province and he himself came up with a solution, not working with the Medical Society or the rural physicians, to come up, in actual fact, with a solution to their problem. Madam Speaker, I am not sure who this minister is listening to. He is certainly not listening to the patient advisory committee, those
that are ill. He is actually putting money into an area to deal with a problem with rural physicians, and not actually getting an agreement from that group on how best to fix the problem.
As you daily go through the newspaper, and I know we all, as members of the Legislature, read what is being said. I am sure all members, like myself, read the Letters to the Editor. I think this person wrote just three little paragraphs. I thought to myself as I read it, how it describes what is happening in health care in this province. It goes: "Dear editor: Why do they say we have health care, when you can't get a bed in a hospital and some people are very sick?". I hear that day after day from people who have to deal with that situation. I looked at the budget today at the money for hospitals in this province and for in-patient and outpatient care at hospitals and it was actually cut $4 million. So you know how stretched hospitals are now in finding a bed for somebody. We know their costs aren't going to go down in this fiscal year and this government is telling Nova Scotians well, those people, doctors and nurses they are stressed now but you know what, they actually can do with less money in the coming budget.
I almost fell off my chair when I heard the Minister of Finance say that they recognize where there were deficiencies and they were going to put more money and then I read under the line the money to hospitals for in and outpatient services was actually being cut by $4 million. If this person thinks this past year that you can't get a bed, what is going to happen this coming year when there is less money for hospitals to actually get a bed?
She goes on to say, "We pay for our health care, but we don't get the care we need. We have hospital beds so why not use them.". In other words, I think the point she is making is there are beds in the facilities that aren't being used and people are either being turned away and I have heard many people talk about being in outpatients on a stretcher in a corridor for 48 hours or longer because there is not a bed available for them and these people are really sick.
I have heard of families who have been with loved ones who are actually dying and they have to spend their quiet time in a corridor of a busy outpatient department with that loved one because there is no bed. We have got to have some compassion and we have got to understand that there are some needs that this government has to address.
This person goes on to say something else and it is something that I have been saying all along, "The doctors and nurses are working very hard, but they need help. They can't do it alone.". This government fails to recognize that the doctors and nurses are working hard and they can't do it alone. Yet this government comes along and takes another $4 million, really from the nurses in the hospitals and says to them, you are going to have to do with less when people who use the facilities already tell me and so do the nurses and other people in the hospitals that they are overworked now.
In the last paragraph and as I said it is a very small article but it tells a lot, "Why not help those people who are very sick? Don't send them home to die. Open more beds in the hospitals for those people, until they are better.". I think what they are saying is what I have been saying and many people have been saying in this province, we have a problem, we have identified the problem, those who are sick can't get treatment. Surely to Heavens, this government has some responsibility in making sure those people who do get sick in this province can get treated and have a place to go to be treated.
As a matter of fact, I had a call this week from a person whose mother was being released from hospital but they were only getting a very small number of hours of home care. This government says the program will fit the patient. Well, that is a lot of BS, the minister got up today and said we have got to have parameters. I understand you have to have parameters but . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I have a lot more to say about the condition of health care and I am sorry if I have overtaken the time. Hopefully, on another day I will be able to finish the point I was making. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I viewed with interest the notice of motion that was put forward in this regard. It basically speaks about a meaningful and equitable solution to the mess in health care. I want to first point out that it is my view and the view, I believe, of most Nova Scotians that health care is not in a mess and second, if there are problems with health care these problems arose from the rapidly escalating costs with the previous government that had no plan in action to control those costs. Effectively, what would have happened and I think you do not have to a degree in economics to read a chart that shows that the costs that start to incline exponentially that it is was going to be a very few months before the taxpayers of Nova Scotia would have to face one of two things: either a massive reduction in the health care services that were in Nova Scotia or such an increase in revenues from the tax base of the average Nova Scotian. It would be crippling on our economy.
I want to refer specifically to a couple of the issues that my friend, the member for Kings West, has raised. He does point out a couple of interesting things that have caught the interest of the media lately. One was the clinic to which you referred and I think the phrase that he used, the provincial government had cut two positions of part-time doctors. I think, with all due fairness the member will agree, the provincial government did not cut out the position of anybody. They did not go in and say, now you're cut and you're cut and you're not cut. What happened here was there was a budget last year of $1 million, $1.1 million I think was the exact number, and an allocation of $1 million this year. There may have been
a request for $1.8 million, but the budget last year that was spent was $1.1 million. I want to point out to that member that previous to this new facility opening, these clinics were operating out of two locations. That is two places that they had to service, two places that they had to run, the costs were higher in those facilities, obviously.
It was this government and I want to say something else. It was true that the hard work of the member from that district, Francene Cosman, the member for Bedford-Fall River, with the then minister that got that clinic open. That was hard work, she is a very dedicated member and the minister was very responsible in it. Two outlets combined into one. The costs, you would think, if you used to have two places and now you have one, there would be some, at least administrative or overhead costs, that would be cut.
I do not dispute that the member got a letter and the letter indicated that there were some people that would like to see more money in that. I know that Dr. Fox, for instance, was on CBC this morning and Dr. Fox indicated that there are some backlogs, mainly in the technician side of things, but that he is pleased that there is now one location and he is looking forward to working in it. It would be nice to have more money in that budget; who knows, maybe as the economics of Nova Scotia increase as they did, and it was announced by the Minister of Finance today, those are the things that may become a real possibility and perhaps a probability in the near future because we now have our finances in order.
I am looking at the general resolution here and I do not want to restrict myself to just one or two items. I want to look at the health care system in total. I am really proud of what has happened. I am from a rural area, I have no hospital in my district and, actually, the centre of my riding is quite a distance from any hospital. The only clinic that is in my district is a little clinic in Noel that we made ourselves. It was not government controlled or run, it was a community clinic. The corridor region of my region has a number of excellent doctors. However, I am telling you, it is hard to get doctors to work in the central rural areas of my riding.You are a fair distance from other doctors and I can tell you when I heard the announcement from the Minister of Health that he was setting up this locum project, I was really impressed with that because that is just going to be a godsend to the rural areas.
I know my friend from Kings West has many rural constituents and I tell you it is going to be a real godsend to them. These doctors are not specialists, they are GPs out in the country and people call them all the time. Heavens, I have one doctor that turned in his number, he reached the age of retirement and he is still doing work out there because the patients call him, he had them for many years - 40 years or so - and to see this locum thing come in and we have to understand what that is. That means that there are going to be doctors supplied to these areas to cover these people so they can have a vacation. They could possibly go to their daughter's wedding somewhere outside the area. A lady doctor could have a child and go on a maternity leave and actually have themselves covered. That is $20 million going in extra funding, not on the local - that is $1 million covered by itself - but $20 million going in for emergency care in that regard. This is just terrific good news.
The member is right when he says - and I think the doctors would probably confirm that with him - it is just the spin you put on it. We do not have an agreement. That is right. The minister made it very plain. This is not take this or else. He said take it anyway. That is what he said. Take it anyway. This is not the deal. (Interruptions)
That is exactly what it is. The member for Kings West says consultation; 500 doctors this Minister of Health consulted with. What he did was he said (Interruptions) I am going to save that for a moment, if the Kings West member will just wait.
I will tell you. On the doctor issue, he goes and talks to these doctors. He says, look, I am going to give you this now. That does not mean that is the deal. We still negotiate, but I know you need it now so I am giving it to you now. I do not think there is any doctor who says no, please do not give it to me. Please take it back.
The real point here is when the member says there has not been a contract made, you are right. The minister did it because he knew those things were necessary. The doctors, I am sure, will be pleased to accept it. These are hard-working people. I think that negotiations will continue. The door is always open.
I want just to point out to the member for Kings West when he says, well, how many of the other health care groups - or perhaps he means all government employees - how many of those have you consulted with?
The interesting thing is that just before this announcement that this Minister of Health made, he was being lambasted from the Opposition. Why have you not dealt with the doctors? Why haven't you dealt with the doctors? These are wonderful people. One after another of them got up. I remember the first day in Question Period here, we might as well have called it Bernie Day because that was all it was, just Bernie and the Opposition and doctors.
Now he comes out. He does something reasonable to help alleviate a problem that we have and they say, you're doing that for the doctors. What about the nurses and the attendants and you have done this for the doctors. Off with his head. It seems to me there is an inconsistency here. My heavens. I cannot leave it. I know I am getting down to one minute or so. I just want you to understand another thing that is really important.
There are two big issues that are really important to the rural people, the people from Hants East. One is this ambulance system that is, bar none, the best you can get. When an ambulance arrives at the door way out in Hants East and they are looking at around 45 to 50 minutes to get to a hospital, no matter which one - Truro, Windsor or Halifax - you have to treat that person now. It is not like a taxi. Open the door and step in, Madam, and we will take you to the hospital. You have to treat them then or there is something serious going to
happen to that person. You could have the best hospital in the world somewhere but if it takes you 50 minutes to get there, you had better be able to treat them in the ambulance. This system does it. It is very important to my people.
The last little thing I want to mention is that when you see 18,000 people in the rural areas getting home care and you say home care is not accomplishing what it is supposed to do. There was not any before in Hants East. I stood here in the Public Accounts and asked those people. There was no home care for Hants East before. Now we have it. We have done it. You should thank us for it. I can see there is a certain amount of praise coming from the other side. We accept it. We accept that you are acknowledging it now and I hope we can all work together in the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I am pleased to participate in the debate this evening on the whole question of health care and where we are going and so on. I had mapped out some thoughts on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to say tonight. Then the member for Hants East got up and he hooked me, Mr. Speaker, just like catching a trout. He hooked me and he was reeling me in. He has now got me going off in a different direction.
He does for a couple of reasons. One, because he talked about EHS - the Emergency Health Services system - and how that is what we are getting from this government. We now have the best emergency health system in the world here in Nova Scotia. In fact, the Minister of Health stood in his place and suggested as an illustration for how wonderful our EHS system was that we are now exporting used ambulances and some training modules to Third World countries. Mr. Speaker, I think what we have to do is take a little look here.
I appreciate the member's enthusiasm. He has a clinic, for example, in his constituency that is a model to be followed around this province. It is a wonderful facility that has been supported by the community. It is community run, it was community developed and it provides a wonderful service. It is a good example of alternative strategies for delivering health care in this province. It is that example that I focused on when I wrote to the minister in response to his White Paper on physician remuneration. I said, how in the name of Heaven can you, in all good conscience, talk about changing the way we deliver health services in this province, in particular pay physicians, and not talk about health care clinics where you can have people on salary? It is a model that works so darn well in Hants East and in the North End here and elsewhere that it is just crazy not to consider it in part of the equation about how, in fact, you end up dealing with the whole question of physician supply and remuneration.
Getting back to the HS, the government has pumped over $1 million into new ambulances, which is part of it, no question. You know, set a standard and put them in. There is still some question about whether they are all that great for our roads and so on and so
forth in the winter, because they are top-heavy and so on. The technicians I have talked to mainly overall think they are far superior to what they had been using in the past.
The equipment - the trucks, the transport - is only one part of it. The other part of it is the technicians, Mr. Speaker. We still have in this province, undoubtedly in Hants East, as we have in Halifax, as we have across this province, you have emergency medical technicians who are being paid minimum wage, if that, who are expected to work 60, 70, 80, 100 hours a week.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have talked to some of these EMTs, people who are trained, who are skilled, who are dedicated, who have experience. They have said to me, can you imagine if you had a car accident or if your loved one is involved in a car accident and I end up there and have to apply some of my training to save that person's life and I have been working for 95 hours that week and I haven't slept in two days? Well, they tell me that happens all the time.
I really get sick and tired of listening to members in this House, who know that goes on, standing up and trying to suggest to me or to anybody else in this province that everything is tickety-boo and we have the world's best. We don't. We are heading that way; we have made some major improvements in the emergency health system in this province. We are heading in the right direction but we still have a long way to go, Mr. Speaker, so let's be clear about that.
The second thing I wanted to raise that I touched on a little bit, physicians' services, I will talk maybe for a moment about that. The concern I had yesterday when all of a sudden the Minister of Health pulls $8 million out of his back pocket and says to doctors, here, I am going to give you another $8 million and that will solve the problem. Doctors themselves, number one, they had not been consulted about it. The Medical Society said they had not been consulted about it. (Interruption) Five hundred, that is like the Minister of Municipal Affairs who used to come in here and stand up and say, I have seen all 66 municipal units and, therefore, I know everything that needs to be done. Then she imposed amalgamation on industrial Cape Breton and on Halifax and that has been an absolute unmitigated disaster.
The point is that the Minister of Health basically tried to solve a very complicated problem, and that is the supply of physicians and of medical services in rural Nova Scotia and the whole question of remuneration of doctors in rural Nova Scotia, by throwing money at it.
That is not the answer. That might be part of the equation, but it is simply not the answer. In fact, we have heard the response from Windsor, which is one of the examples in the province, and they are saying, look, money is not the issue here. It is a question of being able to get people in place to be able to provide the service and plan and so on; that is our concern. The minister can trot out $8 million to throw at physicians and it doesn't even solve
the problem and yet when we want to get some money to provide 24 hour care to somebody who is at home dying, the minister has to follow certain guidelines.
The member for Hants East talked about how - and I am going to finish off with this - we have had to get our financial house in order and now that we have it in order, we are going to be able to make everything better again. That is simply false; it is misleading. It is really walking the line of being completely false, like almost the "L" word, Mr. Speaker, and I will tell you why. As an example, the budget that was presented today calls for a balanced budget in 1997-98. In order to do that, they are going to need a drawdown on the $250 million BST bribe money of $118 million. It is in the books and the Department of Finance people confirmed that. That is almost half of the money that we got from the federal government in order to compensate for what? To compensate for the fact that because of this tax change, the revenue of the Government of Nova Scotia is going to be over $100 million short annually. It was designed to cover for a four year period.
The point is here that we are using up almost half the first year, and maybe more, and we may finish it off in the second year. What are we going to do, Mr. Speaker, when that money is all gone? What are we going to do when the Treasury of this province is $100 million short? How are we going to provide medical services in the Province of Nova Scotia when we are short $100 million, when we are continuing with the levels of unemployment and the lack of job growth and economic growth in this province that we have seen in the last couple of years?
I would like the member for Hants East to answer that question, and tell Nova Scotians what they can expect this year, next year and the year after that because, you see, that is the cruel underside of this whole story of the balanced budget, Mr. Speaker, the fact that the economy in this province continues to be shaky. The health care system and the education system have been rocked by the cuts, $150 million to hospitals and over $50 million to education. If we don't start getting some jobs created in this province, if we don't start reforming our tax system so that it is more fair, then we are not going to be able to afford to provide health services to Nova Scotians. That is the kind of truth that needs to be told in this province.
MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's debate. We will now return to the debate on second reading of Bill No. 6.
MRS. LILA O'CONNOR: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member of the Third Party made some comments about ambulance operators across the province, so I went out and I called our ambulance operator in Lunenburg County and I would like to set the record straight. Our ambulance operators in Lunenburg County make between $8.00 and $9.00 an hour, they work four days on with four days off. They are in the ambulance for 8 hours a day and they are on call for 16 hours a day. If they are needed and they are tired, they
go to their owner and say they can't work any more and we bring in part-time workers. I don't want to have our county in with the comments he just made. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. On the member's point I am glad to hear that that situation exists in some parts of Lunenburg County. What used to be Metro and District Ambulance Services here in Dartmouth is a unionized operation and they have been able to negotiate reasonable wages and working conditions, but let me tell you and let me tell her that there are hundreds and hundreds of EMTs across this province who work under the conditions that I cited. Things might be great in Lunenburg County . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. CHISHOLM: . . . but there are real problems in other parts of this province that . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will now return to the debate on the second reading of Bill No. 6.
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING
Bill No. 6 - Gas Distribution Act. [Debate resumed.]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, boy it is great to see you back in the Chair. You were not in the Chair when I started, so I think I will go back to the beginning so you can hear my whole delivery. I am sure you would be delighted.
The point of order from the member for Lunenburg was interesting a moment ago and if ambulance service is so great, why in the name of all that is good and holy is the government forcing all the ambulance owners in the province to sell out to Maritime Medical? That is the question. You should be standing up for your . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . individual ambulance operators and tell this government not to force them to sell out to Maritime Medical.
MR. SPEAKER: Maybe the honourable member could return to Bill No. 6.
MR. ARCHIBALD: Well, I just wanted to get that out on the point of order. We were talking about the importance of Nova Scotia first and the feeling that I and many others have that this government does not have the Nova Scotians first attitude. The attitude with this government seems to be that whatever big business says has got to be all right because if it is good for business it must be good for the taxpayers and, in some cases, it is not.
For instance, when you are talking about the petroleum industry, I want to remind you of a couple of little transgressions that happened. Now the government said they were going to sell Nova Scotia Resources Limited. Remember that? I remember they said they were going to sell it and, in fact, they said it will be gone by December, but they didn't say which December and it was December two times ago and we still have it. What they did do with NSRL was they stripped off some of the very valuable assets and they fired some people for a rightful cause. When you fire somebody for a cause and you are justified in doing it, well then it is just so long we will see you later. What happened in this case was the employees that were fired . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Could I ask the honourable member to return to Bill No. 6, please?
MR. ARCHIBALD: I am exactly on this bill . . .
MR. SPEAKER: You are?
MR. ARCHIBALD: . . . and this bill is dealing with natural gas distribution on the part of this government. I want to very clearly show to you and all members of this House the track record of this government when dealing with the petrochemical industry. I have not talked about one single thing if it didn't have anything to do with natural gas.
I want to point out the dismal record that we have seen in the past. When you look at the failures of this government dealing with petrochemicals, when they fired the executives and they had to pay them in excess of $900,000 because they should not have been fired, they were doing a good job, the job they were paid to do and the government had sent in one of those chartered accountant firms to do an assessment of the company and the executives - how are they doing. They sent back a glowing report saying, you have a good, well-run company, they are good, hard-working executives, don't fire them. The government did and they had to pay $900,000.
There were gas fields that belonged to the province assessed for $10 million in Alberta, so what do you suppose the government did? They sold them for $4.5 million to the guy that did the assessment. That does not instill confidence in me. They had tax pools that were available and the tax pools were available to another petroleum company and they let them expire. No, they do not want to talk about tax pools anymore.
AN HON. MEMBER: Who was the minister then?
MR. ARCHIBALD: He is now the Minister of Transportation in charge of tolls.
Then LASMO, the partner in our offshore wanted to divest itself of oil production because they are not an oil production company in the main. They offered the offshore of Nova Scotia to Nova Scotia Resources free - have it, take it off our hands, we want out of here. What happened? The government said, no, I don't think so. If it is free, there must be something wrong, we do not want it. LASMO walked around the corner and they sold it to PanCanadian for in excess of $50 million. (Interruption) Well, it was $60 million and $60 million is in excess of $50 million, thank you.
This shows the record of this government dealing with petroleum products, gas and oil since 1993 and it is an unmitigated disaster and the disaster continues. I am very concerned about where this government is getting advice. If they are getting any or if they are getting it, are they listening? We have not seen any examples of it, but the only thing that is patently clear to Nova Scotians is the worship by this government of big business. I think big business is great, they employ hundreds and thousands of people, they pay billions of dollars in taxes - we need big business. But big business should not be able to tell little government what to do. I don't even think they are bothering to tell them what to do. The government just says, how much do you want?
If you look at the oil rig that Nova Scotia Resources and PanCanadian are operating in the offshore, right now, today it is out there, you know it is past due by 19 months for a safety inspection. Did you know that? I asked the minister about that a year ago and then six months ago and the minister indicated she did not know anything about that. I wrote her two letters about it, too, so I bet she knows about the letters, so I made an inquiry on my own. That company has been given extension after extension.
Now it has had a partial inspection out there by Lloyd's, not Lloyds of London the insurance company, but Lloyd's the appraiser of ships and they said it is okay, you can leave that rig out there until September. In September you absolutely must bring that ship to shore and have it inspected because the feet that hold it up, these legs go all the way down to the bottom of the water and they anchor them there, they cannot be inspected in deep water. It has to come into harbour, they have to lift them out of the water somehow and have a look because there are cracks in that rig. Lloyds said the cracks are there, but they are not substantial.
You know something, if the safety inspector came into my farm and said, you have a problem, would he give me an extension of 19 months to fix it? If I said, look, I do not have time to fix it now, it isn't really going to break, it is not that bad. The Government of Nova Scotia lives in awe of big business and if the big business wants - and in this case it is PanCanadian - to keep the rig going, the government says give them an extension and Lloyds said okay, it is all right.
There have been thousands upon thousands of ships sunk after they have received an inspection. We have the Rowan Gorilla III working the platform today. Do you all know where the Rowan Gorilla II is? It is under water. That is the big one that sank in the windstorm. That had been inspected by the same company. I am sure the rig is safe but, look, if it is supposed to be inspected every five years, why not do it? If it has to be inspected every eight years, well then fine, give it a sticker for eight years. Don't give it one for five and then extension after extension.
They did say that you absolutely have to inspect it by the end of September. I believe it will be in here in June for inspection and I hope nothing bad happens between now and June because this government knows it should be inspected. You see this shows that the government is more interested in the welfare of business than they are in the welfare of Nova Scotians. This is exactly on this bill.
This bill before us that is going to regulate the distribution, installation and sale of gas to homes and industries in Nova Scotia I don't think is Nova Scotia First policy. Remember we used to see all over the place, Nova Scotia First? Right now the Department of Agriculture, under the Honourable Guy Brown, has a policy going on, and I will bet you heard it on the radio when you were driving home. It is Nova Scotia beef, buy Nova Scotia, think local. Well this government can think local in the beef industry but when it comes to the natural gas industry, they think international and what is good for Mobil.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is very serious. This is very serious. I want to know just exactly what the government has in mind when it comes to Nova Scotians. We have seen time and again that Nova Scotians come second in this government's opinion. We have seen press report after press report in the media indicating that Nova Scotians didn't even come close when the former and present Ministers of Natural Resources were negotiating for natural gas. The Minister of Natural Resources indicated at a press conference that she was very pleased she had the benefit of the insight and experience of the former minister at her side when she was negotiating. Well, you know, it is not hard to negotiate when you give it away. The royalty agreement we signed is bizarre, it is based on profits. How can you base it on profits?
Mr. Speaker, at some point we should do a count to make sure that we do have 15 in here. Are you keeping track? Good.
Mr. Speaker, we really and truly have to wonder why this government is more interested in business than in Nova Scotians. When the government gave the resources in our offshore to Mobil, the members in this Legislature were not consulted, the people in Nova Scotia were not informed. It was months and months before we had any details on a royalty agreements.
Mr. Speaker, members of the Liberal Party don't even seem to be concerned about it. The royalty scheme that will be in operation under this government in our offshore pales in comparison to the royalty scheme operating in Alberta. Couldn't the Minister of Natural Resources pick up the phone and bring in some people with expertise in the oil industry? They are out there. Oil isn't something new, gas isn't brand new. Since the 1940's and 1950's, they have been developing the natural resources of Alberta. No company in Alberta tells the Government of Alberta what they are going to do or how high they should jump. This government rolls over every time a multinational oil company arrives in the city. They are more interested in being kind and thoughtful to the shareholders of Mobil Oil than they are to Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, we have to start thinking of Nova Scotians first and it better start with the members of this Legislature. We don't have to accept the whims of a minister who does not confide in the House, does not confide in her colleagues and has given away a resource with the hope that some day there will be some royalties. When the royalty scheme is figured out, there is absolutely no benefit to Nova Scotians. It may be $20 million a year, and we are talking a $1 billion windfall for the oil companies.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious situation. We have seen by example of the safety inspection on the oil rigs, the give-away of the offshore, the pay-off of employees, the Alberta gas fields, the tax pools and the LASMO deal. Is there anything this government has done with regard to oil and gas in the last three years that instils confidence in you? Not to me. It is serious. We have the New Brunswick Government to thank when they started raising a ruckus about the lack of interest shown by the multinationals in their province. They said, you are not getting away with it. You are not trespassing on the taxpayers of New Brunswick the way you did in Nova Scotia. New Brunswick has said the natural gas price is going to be the same or lower as Nova Scotia or it is not coming through here.
What I am concerned about on natural gas is that after we meet the little limit that has been allotted to Nova Scotia, if we want more are we going to have to pay the Boston price plus transportation back here? This is what the oil people are telling us this government has locked itself into. The Nova Scotia consumer should have an unlimited access to the gas. The Minister of Natural Resources in Nova Scotia did not say that before they signed the agreements. Nova Scotians will have the gas that is available after the needs of New England and Maine and New Brunswick have been satisfied.
Mr. Speaker, I am hearing very interesting comments from some of my colleagues on the backbench and I expect, no doubt, they are going to be wanting to stand up and speak. We have many members in this Legislature from Cape Breton. Many of them know and represent coal miners. Has there been any concerted effort to rationalize the future of the coal industry with regard to natural gas?
The other day, there was the press conference to announce that we were going to have the Utility and Review Board granting retail franchises and so on. At the announcement they had this little map on the wall. Mr. Speaker, I thought it was priceless because it looks like a spiders web. There are so many lines and arrows. Then in the newspaper yesterday, the editorial cartoon had headlines, "The Sable gas pipeline route (after all the politics . . .)". You know, it looks exactly like the map that the Minister of Natural Resources was explaining as to where the gas was going to go. It is going to the city gate, the laterals. But did this government tell Maritimes and Northeast we want laterals to Halifax, Truro, Sydney, the South Shore? Who is going to pay for the laterals? The consumers in Nova Scotia? The pipeline company is running a lateral at their expense to Saint John, New Brunswick.
Why are politicians in New Brunswick standing up while ours are rolling over? Our government did not even ask the pipeline company, before they gave them the go-ahead and all the support their government could possibly give, where they were going to put their junction boxes so that you could hook on laterals. Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline Ltd. can put the junction boxes wherever they please or they do not have to put in any because this government did not insist on any restrictions before they gave them their full and unqualified support.
I would like to know why the government was so much in favour of Maritimes and Northeast. Then the Prime Minister and the Premier got together and it was Gaz Metropolitan and Trans Canada, we were more interested in that. Then he said no, we want Maritimes and Northeast. In all honesty I want the Minister of Natural Resources to tell me what difference it makes how the gas gets out of this province. The concern should be royalties, price to Nova Scotians, and the universality of availability. That is what should be the concern of this government, not which company is going to haul it. We could have had a say in the location of the pipeline. There was a back-in provision that the former minister gave away. The Premier said it was too expensive. There were companies which would have bought it.
If you look back at the early years of the gas and oil development in Alberta, the major player was the government. As it became more successful and local entrepreneurs got involved, the government got out of it. Alberta gas and oil would not be in the location it is today if it had not had the government with a window on the industry. That is not fiction; those are the facts. The Alberta gas and oil industry confirms that again and again. The government had a role to play in the infancy of the business. Our government has decided that there is no room for government to tell business what to do. There was no room for the 50
per cent interest that Nova Scotians were entitled to in the pipeline. New Brunswick is not going to put up with it, but Nova Scotia is.
In the new legislation of the Utility and Review Board, there is a change. There was a piece of legislation very similar regarding gas distribution throughout Nova Scotia. The main change is that the Utility and Review Board will now be granting retail franchises subject to the final approval of the Governor in Council, the Cabinet. The new bill is 17 years newer than the old one. In 1980 it might have been more acceptable for Cabinet to make those kinds of decisions. It is a step in the right direction to have a quasi-judicial body like the Utility and Review Board making the decision. If the minister had chosen to allow the Utility and Review Board to make the final recommendation and decision, I would have supported that more than having it turned back to Cabinet.
There are many people in Nova Scotia interested in natural gas and the future distribution around the province. The difficulty is none of us have any experience with natural gas or oil production. We have to depend on people from outside. But you know something? You would be surprised at the number of Nova Scotians and Atlantic Canadians who are located in the oil patch, as presidents of companies, as general managers, as controllers, as the legal department, as pipefitters, as roughnecks. There are a couple of young fellows from home who went to Alberta recently. They graduated from university and wanted to see the world. They are working in the Alberta oil patch, working 12 or 14 hours a day, 7 days a week and they think they never saw so much money before in their lives.
There are hundreds of Nova Scotians in the oil business who would sit down and talk to the Minister of Natural Resources and give her advice for free, they would not charge. Our Ministers of Natural Resources got rid of the people who worked for Natural Resources with any oil experience in Nova Scotia and did it on their own. The results, as I have outlined, are a bit scary.
The distribution of natural gas by this legislation, there is nothing in there that indicates to me there is any concern for the rural consumer. There is no concern for the consumer in Cape Breton. There is no concern for Yarmouth, Bridgewater, Wolfville, Kentville. How do I know, where do I get the feeling that some day natural gas will be an option to the people in the Annapolis Valley? We know one thing, Mr. Speaker, it is not an option to anybody on Cape Breton Island, they have been excluded from this pipeline. It might be an option to the people in Halifax because the biggest consumer is going to be the power corporation with their Tuft's Cove plant, 60,000 BTUs a day they are going to need. That is a big order, it is worth sending the pipeline down for. So that side of metro, the Dartmouth side, maybe they will get some natural gas.
You see, is there anything that indicates there is going to be one large supplier, so that the consumers in one area can help underwrite the costs of consumers in another? It is very similar to the way your electric bill is operating now. The Power Corporation does much
better selling electricity in Halifax than it does, for instance, in Clare, and a whole lot better than they do in Meat Cove in Cape Breton. You have to run the line a long way. The consumer in Halifax is underwriting the cost to the consumer in Meat Cove.
Years ago there used to be a rural electrification policy in Nova Scotia and the government - yes, the honourable member for Digby is nodding, he remembers that - that used to underwrite and demand that electricity serviced all of Nova Scotia, not just the populated area where the electric company wanted to do it. What is the good of electricity if the people in the rural areas did not have it because it cost so much to run the lines to their houses? It is great for the people in the populated area but does the government have a concern for the rest us who live in rural Nova Scotia, in small towns and villages?
Now maybe I will never want natural gas in my home, Mr. Speaker, maybe the cost will be prohibitive. Under this government, under these regulations, under this bill I am never going to find out. Do you see what I mean, Mr. Speaker? This is a problem.
The honourable member over there says, they are having hearings, aren't they? Sure, they are having hearings. Maybe, according to the bill, they may conduct a public hearing. We are talking about the bill, we are not talking about the National Energy Board hearings that are across the street. Wake up. According to the legislation, a public hearing may be held. Can you believe it? At least he knows I have a newspaper clipping here. That is an improvement.
Mr. Speaker, public hearings may be held. It doesn't say they will be held. They may be. Based on whose whim will these hearings be held to decide whether a community is or isn't going to have natural gas? The Minister of Natural Resources should stand up and say, Nova Scotians can have the right to all the natural gas they want at a price better than Boston, without any reservations. The Minister of Natural Resources for Nova Scotia cannot say that. The Government of Nova Scotia cannot say that Nova Scotia's needs will be met before anybody else's needs and that is a crime. The ministers that negotiated that deal gave away all of our birthrights and our grandchildren's. Why did they do that? No other government in the history of Canada has given away so much for so little in return.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources could clarify it, but she can't, because she knows that there are restrictions on the quantity of natural gas available to Nova Scotians. This bill is going to be interesting when we see it at the Law Amendments Committee and then it comes back for Committee of the Whole House on Bills and then, eventually, it goes to third reading. This bill does not concern 90 per cent of the people living in Nova Scotia; 90 per cent of us will never, under this government's rules, see natural gas. You will never get it Clare. You won't get it in Wolfville. It is not going to Bridgewater or Lunenburg. It is not going anywhere in Cape Breton. Is this news to you? Well, it should be and you better
talk to the minister and to the government and find out what this government has committed Nova Scotians to before it is too late. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill No. 6, the enabling legislation for the natural gas. I do that because, once again, I have so many questions that are unanswered for me that I don't know how I could possibly support such a bill.
I consider myself pretty average on these issues and I would take that to mean, Mr. Speaker, that there are a great many Nova Scotians who are as concerned and who have as many questions as I do about this bill. They perhaps have even less opportunity to explore all the issues, the massive, major issues around the offshore natural gas development for Nova Scotia. I guess my big question, sort of over-arching question for all my other questions, is who is minding the store?
During the course of the past winter, and I want to talk for a minute about forestry because it does relate here, Mr. Speaker, I learned a bit, at least, about the history of our resource sector and, in particular, I learned about the history of what has happened in the forests of Nova Scotia. I think I learned something because recently I took a drive to Cape Breton and I was surprised at how much I could see just from the highway that I had never seen before. I began to see it with new eyes.
What I learned historically is that this province has given away the store, time and time again. There is a name for it, the historians, the academics or whoever it is who does these things, it talks about how Nova Scotia for 100 years has been a client state, and that is a nice sounding name for a situation that has not served us well in this province. A client state is a state which invites the rest of the world to come to its shores and its doors and says here it is, take it all away; it is a kind of colonial attitude. It invites business, it invites large companies to come and take it away and to leave us in this province - or to leave any area that is a client state - with the mess that is left behind by the resource pillager, if you like, who comes through, takes our resources and then goes away.
Here we are in this state again, only this time it is not the fish, it is not the trees; this time it is the natural gas. We know that it is out there, how much is a matter of discussion, but it is there. The companies that are coming here to take it must be wildly excited at the ease with which they can come once again and take away yet another of our natural resources and take it to another place for other people.
The other thing over the last few months is the sort of progressive evolution, or maybe devolution you might call it, of this whole issue. I don't remember any public discussion, and by public discussion I mean discussion that genuinely and truly involved the public. I don't
remember any public consultation and I don't remember the government sitting down in any way, shape or form with the people of this province, many of whom know a great deal about the economics of our province and could well assist the government with this process. I don't remember anybody doing that and saying to the people of Nova Scotia, what is it that you want done with this resource which we hold, if you like, in trust for the rest of the country? Instead we got announcements from the government, we got press conference releases, packages, this, that and the other thing. I had the feeling throughout it all that there was kind of a hierarchy of announcements around this offshore gas development.
For example, I would get the feeling that if the government thought it could spin it really well and Nova Scotians were going to swallow it instead of being consulted about it, why then the Premier would make the announcement. If, on the other hand, it was a little bit tricky, a little bit dicey, a little bit more transparent, then the minister got to make the announcement. Right away that made me incredibly uneasy because that tells me, that verifies for me, that amplifies for me the kind of techniques that are involved in the run-up to a major resource exploration that is going to affect every last one of us in Nova Scotia in one way or another. So, we zoomed along with the gas, with the companies who rushed around doing what they do very well, promoting their wares and with their slick brochures, for which I give them credit and from which I learned a great deal. They buzzed around and provided the promotional material that substituted for consultation. This government, while another crucial discussion is going on down the street in Halifax, it has brought in this bill. As I said, it is a bill that we have not had a great opportunity to say much about over the last number of months and instead have been subjected to presentations, promotions and new conferences.
It is a funny thing that when the same minister was asked why she could not bring in the protected places legislation in this sitting of the House, she said we are going to be too busy, we are going to be way too busy. We have to do the budget and there is not going to be time for anything else. Then when she was asked at the same news conference whether she was going to bring it in at all, she made the most ineffectual wishy-washy commitment that I have heard in a long time. She said, if I am the minister in the fall, I will bring in this legislation. She did not even make the commitment on behalf of the government, just said if I am here and if I am still the minister and if we are still here, well maybe we will do that. Here we are, we have a gas bill that we do not need yet and we don't have a bill that ought to be here in this House at this sitting. I do not understand that. I do not understand what is going on there. That is one serious question that I have about this whole process. You know, people can say it is about gas, but it is not just about gas, it is about how we do it, where we go with it and what benefits accrue to Nova Scotians because of this resource we hold off our shores.
There has been a lot of talk and I am sure there will be a great deal more talk around the next question that I have about the offshore gas. That is the whole question of jobs. We have heard numbers, we have heard short-term numbers and we have heard long-term numbers and we have heard that there will be a big pile of short-term jobs and that once
construction is complete, there will be a certain number - I have heard everything from 40 to 200 and perhaps more. There will be a small number of permanent jobs from this. I do not sneeze at that at all and I particularly do not sneeze at the jobs when they would be provided in areas of this province where work is desperately needed.
Yes, there are jobs, a few in the end. Most of them are the kinds of jobs that we have had to suffer with for so long in this province, the short-term work and the pain of perhaps long-term unemployment and getting your UI weeks and so on and that is not adequate. So, you know to promote the large number of jobs and to say this is going to be our salvation is bunk. It is just something we can do to hold off, stave off more economic misery. It will keep the wolf from the door for a little while. We are expected, there is a mentality here which is that we should be so grateful for that. We should be so happy to have a bunch of short-term jobs that we will put up with anything, Madam Speaker. I don't believe for a minute that that is true for Nova Scotians.
MR. ARCHIBALD: We're not even going to get the short-term jobs.
MS. O'CONNELL: The member for Kings North points out that we may not even get the jobs and that is, indeed, true. In the short term those jobs may go to large numbers of people from other places because we may not have the skilled people. In fact, we probably don't have the skilled people to do all those jobs. Unless the companies train them to do that, then the place is wide open for people who come from other places to make the money and to run back to where they came from.
Now there is one area where there are some jobs. I believe, Madam Speaker, if my memory serves me correctly, that I heard today in the budget that there was $1.5 million for the offshore office. I presume that they do something down there, I am not sure what, I hope they do down there in Founders Square. If their job was to intervene at the hearings, then I would assume that that work is largely done and there is $1.5 million sitting there, for what I don't know.
I think Nova Scotians have a right to be terribly concerned. We are not rubes in this province, we know what we need is long-term, steady, the kind of work that makes it possible for Nova Scotians to live their lives in some sense of security. That means to be able to plan more than one or two or six weeks or even six months down the road.
We live in insecure times as it is, Madam Speaker, but it would seem to me that this government ought to make protections of whatever sort is possible, whatever it can do to protect whatever jobs there are in the offshore and to make it possible for Nova Scotians, insofar as is humanly possible, to have every single one of those jobs.
Now, Madam Speaker, there is another whole area that we know hasn't been addressed and we know it is not going to be addressed because it was an issue this week at the hearings down the street. I would describe those issues as, first, safety and secondly, environmental, which are also ultimately safety issues.
I don't know how many people heard the CBC Radio news this morning. I was puttering around in the kitchen and I heard something that made me listen. What I heard was about a presumed natural gas explosion in Quesnel, British Columbia. Before I say anything about that particular one, I acknowledge, Madam Speaker, that I am no expert on the safety of gas as a consumer fuel but that is another question. It would seem to me that without knowing the answers that we have a right to be concerned.
Now I also say, Madam Speaker, that in the last six months or so we have heard on the radio, probably I can recall three specific news reports, including the one this morning, where reports were given about explosions that involved natural gas. I remember one in particular which was in Washington State, I believe in Seattle, which was such a powerful fire in a pipeline on the West Coast that the residents of Vancouver could view it from their homes. So that is something that we have heard.
The other thing that I acknowledge, Madam Speaker, about the safety issues around this gas pipeline construction, is that we don't decide what is reported on the news to us and it may indeed be that because this issue has come up in Nova Scotia over the last year, that news outlets are more inclined to tell us about these things and they are more inclined to tell Nova Scotians about them through the news and I don't know that. But, nonetheless, here we are, on the very day this bill comes into the House, we turn on the radio and we hear that Quesnel, British Columbia, a town of 8,000 people, has had an explosion which has blown up a building, killed four people and sent 18 more to hospital. The blast levelled an entire block and flipped a car on its roof. It was so powerful that it could be felt several kilometres away. The very short news report from CBC goes on to say, that many of the dead and injured were hit by flying debris. Some of the survivors were so badly hurt, we were told, they had to be airlifted to hospitals in Vancouver.
Even if, Madam Speaker, there are three such events in a year, and we hear about all of them, as a Nova Scotian, I still want to know what it is it that is built into these projects that will make them as safe as is humanly possible and as environmentally safe as is humanly possible for all the people who live near the pipeline and who work in any way in this industry. That, of course, raises the long-term safety issues and the environmental concerns.
Madam Speaker, there are going to be hundreds of kilometres of pipeline if the proposal that has been put forward goes through. That pipeline is going to wind its way from Guysborough through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and it is going to go down into the United States. These hundreds of kilometres of pipeline require for its construction a great deal of land. There are also underwater, on sea, concerns as well about the environment, and
I don't mean to exclude them. But the fact is that the largest part of this operation will wind its way through our province on its way to New Brunswick.
We have heard so much, Madam Speaker, from those who know what they are talking about, from people who have expertise and who have not been able to make their voices heard. Will this operation be too close to homes? Will there be people at risk, not just for explosions, but for fires? Will leaks in that pipeline damage their farmland and their cropland and damage their quality of life? Will there be pesticides sprayed hither and yon to kill the vegetation so that this pipeline can wind its way across the province? What will they be and who will do it and how will it be done with safety and precaution, if it is done? How do we know that this bill is here at the right time with all the questions that Nova Scotians have a right to have answered?
I think we have to talk about that, this is part of the consultation that should have taken place with the people of Nova Scotia. I know the government did some little White Paper thing. I don't think they waited for anybody to tell them or listen, anybody who told them what they needed to hear. They just plowed ahead, as I have said and have continued to do that and here we are here today with a bill that is premature, that is skimpy in the extreme, has not addressed the concerns that Nova Scotians have and yet still manages to be, even if you ignore all of its omissions, it is a bad bill.
Another concern that I have about the offshore oil agreement is the royalty framework. I am not the only person to say this and it is not just my Party who says this. This goes back to what I said in the beginning about the client state mentality. You make a bad agreement, you give it all away and there is nothing left for the people who live here and want to stay and continue to live here. I don't understand why this government didn't make a better deal. I don't understand why this government didn't do what has been done in some other places and instead of saying to Mobil and whoever, well you know, we will work it out on royalties and it will be a pittance for some time. I don't know why this government didn't say okay, for every BTU with an MM in front of it, as the member for Kings North says, that comes out of the ground, let's take some money from this company. Let's not wait until the company announces to us that lo and behold, it has just become profitable.
Mobil wouldn't be around today if it wasn't a profitable company but big companies with subsidiaries everywhere, they have ways of suppressing profits, they can expand infinitely into this field or that field or they can do good things with their books so that we don't see the kind of money that they have made. That really bothers me immensely. Why is it that a government that is here for the good and on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia, why is it that this government will say here, sure take it? Just give us a penny here and a penny there and we will go away happy and we will be good about this. If we were in school we would be talking about how this government lacks self-esteem on behalf of Nova Scotians because that is what it sounds like.
We are not worth enough in this province to stick our necks out and this has gone on for a long time in this province. The government has said to us, and I have to say both Liberal and Conservative Governments over the years have said, if we don't give them what they want they are going to be gone and we will have nothing. Well, it seems to me that is our history here and that is what has to stop. We make the kind of terms that are good for Nova Scotia, we make them on a good business footing and the companies will come. If it is a good place for the companies to work and they make a reasonable profit with an honest days work then there should be no problem with companies coming to this province.
So I am sorry about this royalty agreement, this 1 per cent or 2 per cent for years and years until it gets to the stage where maybe if we are good and if everything goes all right they just might allow us to see a little profit there and give us a pittance for the resource that is in trust off this shore.
That raises the whole question of equalization payments. I heard somebody from the government say months ago that you cannot put that into the equation, you know, it does not count. It is like this is over here and that is over there and we are just going to ignore one of these things, so that we can tell you the good news, boys and girls. Well, it does not work that way. When all is said and done we need an agreement that makes us a have-not province, but does not take it all back again. Not all of it; not most of it; but enough that we can control to a much greater extent our own economic destiny in this province.
With reference to the main point of the bill, which has to do with the role of the Utility and Review Board, I am absolutely kerfuffled by the procedure in this bill for how we get these franchises. Okay, what happens here? It is the same old story. I think the member for Kings North alluded to it, too. I think the way he put it was that if this were 1980 you might have lower expectations for how the government would operate. Well, he might. I do not, but nonetheless the thing is, a lot of work has been done in this province in cleaning up processes, not just making things fairer but making them seem fairer, making them more open.
And what are we going to do in this bill? We are going to say to the Utility and Review Board okay, you sit down and do all the work. You do all the research. You talk to all the people and then you come to us and you tell us who you think is a good person or a good company to do this and we will say, eh, don't think so. This is old politics. This is . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: It sounds like the ABCs committee in reverse.
MS. OCONNELL: Well, I was reluctant to bring up the ABCs committee, but that does bring me to the issue of, at the very time that in this province the government-appointed Law Reform Commission has brought in a comprehensive report on this very subject, this
government brings in a bill that defies the recommendation of its own appointed Law Reform Commission.
If you read that report - and it is a very good one - both explicitly and by inference there are a number of things that the Law Reform Commission would like to see this government do. It has to do mainly with standard processes for tribunals, for setting up consistent behaviour patterns that include processes for fairness at each stage of any government board that has a tribunal.
In addition, it also addresses - partly by inference and partly explicitly - the whole question of transparency, fairness, and all the other issues that surround the decisions that government makes in this particular context.
At the very same time that this government, in its wisdom, has set up a very good arms-length commission and has allowed it to do its work, and has in its hands a report of integrity and substance, at the very time that this government has put this process into action, seen it to completion and has its report for a decision, what does it do? It says let's set up a system whereby, as I said, the URB will do the work of the government at arms length and then when it is all over, why the Cabinet or council or some body that is not open to public scrutiny will make the final decision.
I thought those days were gone in this province, I really hoped they were and I still hope they are, but I do not think they are and it bothers me a whole lot that after all these years and all the work that has been done in so many areas of government to improve the fairness and the justice of the processes that this should come here. What would be wrong with having the URB make the decisions and then, if there was a problem, if there was an appeal, what would be wrong with appealing to the government over the URB in cases where it was not a satisfactory arms length decision?
I think that the heart, the kernel of that bill is at odds with what we want for the Province of Nova Scotia and I reject it and my Party rejects it. I reject that and I reject it on behalf of all the people of Nova Scotia who would feel the way that I and my Party do on this matter.
There is one more thing that I want to talk about here tonight and it is, of course, the infamous ATi Report done for the Ecology Action Centre - made infamous by the government, not infamous in our eyes at all. A good report, commissioned by the Ecology Action Centre, commissioned to a company which did its work and brought back bad news for the people of this province. This is where I am back to who is minding the store because what we have here is this rushed-through bill before this House at the very same time that a whole lot of issues ought to be discussed nearby and elsewhere and where that body has said, excuse me, we are not interested in that either.
By whom and where will these things to be discussed? How will Nova Scotians know whether offshore gas under the proponents' plans here are good for this province? That is the question. On balance, is it good for us? That is the question. It gets a fancy name. You call it cost/benefit analysis, but what it really means is on balance, taking the bad with the good, is this a good thing for Nova Scotia? How are we ever going to know if this government does not take some responsibility for looking at the whole picture?
I just wanted to share with you, Mr. Speaker, and through you with the House, a few of the points that this report covers in order to demonstrate in relation to this bill that we do not have all the information we need and we should not be voting for this bill at this time, or anytime soon in my own view, until we had some kind of proper consultation. According to this report, the major economic and socio-economic issues are either not identified or fully assessed in the Sable Offshore Energy Project proponents submissions. Why would they if they do not have to? Why don't they just come in with their numbers and say, here it is, we want to do it. Why would they do it if they were not asked to do that?
There are two ways that the public interest of Nova Scotia is not protected here, Mr. Speaker. The first way is that there is no time limit within which the proponents have to begin the project, which I find fascinating given the fact that we are all rushing around here today debating a bill when we are not even going to see a BTU of gas for several years to come. So they don't have any time limit. Why do we have one? What is it that is going on here, Mr. Speaker?
There are four significant risks, according to this report, that are a direct result of this lack of time limit to begin this offshore project. The first thing is it reduces the province's control over the development and extraction of this non-renewable resource. It threatens the revenue that can be collected through the royalty system and, according to the report, it increases the potential for delays in the receipt of royalty payments. Perhaps most important, it does not allow the province to halt the project if the revenue objectives are not being met. To me those are pretty serious shortcomings that ought to be considered by the members of this House.
The second thing that needs to be considered is the nature of the royalty agreement itself. This royalty agreement puts Nova Scotians at risk of losing what they call the appropriate economic rent associated with a non-renewable resource. Nova Scotians have not been provided with the data they need to understand what changes in gas prices and costs would reduce the royalty payments below an acceptable minimum level. The public is not in a position to judge the level of risk that we are being asked to undertake, Mr. Speaker. So we do not have the information and we do not see any protections with what little information we do have.
The other thing which I think might well have been raised and will be raised again is the whole issue of the displacement of the coal industry. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not from Cape Breton but that does not mean I am not a Nova Scotian and it doesn't mean I don't care about what happens there. This group has given me some numbers that I can care about. ATi Consultants has some numbers and I think you may have heard them in the House before but they are well worth repeating; the direct and indirect economic impacts on the coal industry of this project - 1,603 jobs; 504 direct and 1,099 indirect and induced; $52.8 million in direct and multiplier household income and $57.5 million in Gross Domestic Product.
So, Mr. Speaker, the displacement impacts on the coal industry exceed the gas production economic impacts, as calculated by the proponent. So when you line it all up and you do this cost-benefit analysis, which is to answer the question on balance, with the good and the bad, is it good for this province, this particular proposal does not appear to be all that hot after all. So we have to ask ourselves here, do we want to gallop ahead without what we need to know? Do we want to continue to give away the store? Give away the trees? Give away the fish? Give away the gas? Give away everything so we can all sit around and say that we haven't got anything and woe is me in the Province of Nova Scotia.
This really has to change, Mr Speaker. We have the brains here. Nova Scotians are incredibly educated and we are very proud of that and we have talked about that in this House. Even in the short time I have been here I have heard it. We have an amazing number of educated people in this province, whether they are economists or scientists who can tell us about the effects on nature and ecology, whether they are petroleum scientists, whether they do research or teach or work for companies. We have people in this province who can say, I can help you here. Here is some information that you can put in here and help to make a good decision for the public of this province.
Mr. Speaker, I feel rather strongly about this. I don't want to vote for this bill. I don't want to see us go into this with the kind of slipshod approach that seems to be going on here. I understand a little bit about politics and I understand that there will be an election in Nova Scotia sometime soon. I understand that this government would like to put its kiss on this thing, but I would say that it would be a kiss of death. The problem with these things is that down the road, it may take awhile before we see what we have done. Governments that are running for office have, notoriously, short-term objectives when it comes to elections.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to move an amendment to Bill No. 6, the Gas Distribution Act. My amendment reads, thus: "That the words after that be deleted and the following be substituted: Bill No. 6 be not now read for a second time, but that it is to be read a second time six months hence.". Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The amendment proposed by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview is in order.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak about the hoist. My colleague for Halifax Fairview has introduced a hoist motion that the bill be essentially laid to rest. Of course, by doing that, it would abolish the bill. People on the other side of that coin might argue that the legislation should, in fact, go through the House and find its way to the Law Amendments Committee.
Mr. Speaker, the legislation to regulate gas within Nova Scotia has just been introduced in this provincial Legislature by the honourable Minister of Natural Resources. My personal preference would be, of course, in favour of the bill proceeding, but this bill must have proper debate. There are some members who have stated that the bill seems to be an unmitigated disaster. It is poorly crafted and the language in it really doesn't represent and allow for proper dialogue. It talks about going to the Utility and Review Board and we know that in the final analysis, Cabinet will actually have the say regarding who will be the gas distributor.
The bill does describe a framework. I don't think anybody here can argue that the legislation does not provide for and establish a framework and that framework, some people will suggest, provides for the orderly development and operation of natural gas delivery. I think it is important that all members take time, I don't know how many members on the front bench, how many backbenchers, I know there are some other activities going on, Mr. Speaker, that may be preoccupying some of the honourable members. There may be some other distraction, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank, I hope that he does get to the Moosehead's game and we are all cheering for the Moosehead's, but, really, that is kind of irrelevant here this evening. The legislation, besides establishing a framework for the orderly development and operation of natural gas delivery to serve Nova Scotia and its people. We want a system in place that is properly developed that will serve the people of Nova Scotia.
The legislation also establishes an environment in which the actual sale of gas to Nova Scotians will be conducted in a fair, open and competitive manner. A lot of people in Nova Scotia have a great deal of difficulty with one or the other of the pipeline routes. I don't think anybody questions that. We know that the National Energy Board has been somewhat pre-empted in its decision-making powers. One or two of the presenters at the hearings have pointed out that the Prime Minister in fact has jeopardized the process but here we are with a Gas Distribution Bill before us in Nova Scotia when the National Energy Board has not made the decision relative to the routing of the pipeline.
The minister I am sure has a sound reason and probably a rationale that she can put forward to justify this bill. We know that a company in Ontario in conjunction and in cooperation and in a partnership, I guess, with Nova Scotia Power has already made application, as I understand it, to be a distributor of our natural gas. I would submit there will be more who will put together plans and I hope that we receive all kinds of plans so this province will have several options and several companies vying to be the distributors of our natural gas.
I think part of the reason the honourable member for Halifax Fairview put the amendment forward is to provide the province and more importantly the people of Nova Scotia with more opportunity to better assess and evaluate not so much the distribution but the pipeline and the pipeline routing.
It is a comprehensive bill, it is a new bill, it brings Nova Scotia pretty much up to date with current practices and procedures in the gas industry which have taken place throughout North America. I commend the minister for coming in with a bill that certainly is needed. I have some concerns and I think other members of this Legislature, perhaps on all sides now that their will to think on their own has been freed up a little bit - I don't think there is any question that members on all sides of the House - like to have from time to time the opportunity to convey the concerns they have and I would think with some of the developments taking place that these individuals will have the chance to freely speak their own minds.
What is very important about this bill, why I have some difficulty with the amendment is the fact that it protects the interest of Nova Scotians and it does prepare us as a province for the advent of a whole new industry. The distribution of Sable natural gas within our own boundaries. (Interruption) My colleague the honourable member for Kings North said that he didn't care once the pipeline got to the Maine border if they transported it down to Boston in paper bags. Well, I am not sure if that is a viable way to transport natural gas, I really don't think so. But you know what? We have a great paper manufacturing company right over in Dartmouth, right in the Burnside Industrial Park - Maritime Paper - and, by gosh, if it created more job opportunities and economic benefits for Nova Scotians, then I would have to support my honourable colleague.
The honourable minister said that the Gas Distribution Act is a result of extensive review of existing legislation in other jurisdictions, as well as public comment on the discussion paper issued by the Department of Natural Resources. Now, we all know that this government did, to a certain degree, call for public comment. I do not think you will hear Opposition members state - regarding this issue and perhaps this issue only - that the Minister of Natural Resources and her government did not call for public comment. We are pleased that the government did, in fact, make an effort and put forward a discussion paper, but there are so many situations and different circumstances surrounding the bill that it is extremely
difficult, Mr. Speaker, at first glance, and I am sure you have had an opportunity to digest the legislation and probably have it down to a science, understand it thoroughly.
The Act acknowledges basically two distinct purposes. It is going to provide for a regulatory framework necessary to allow the physical distribution facilities. Now, I suppose those facilities would mean pipes and tanks and equipment, et cetera, things of that nature. I know the honourable member who represents Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is looking forward to this project; Nova Scotians are looking forward to this process, too.
The process in this Legislature is for a bill to be introduced, to be called for second reading, to have proper discussion. That is the way most legislation should go, but there has been a lot of legislation that has come into this House that really is ill-conceived, in my opinion. I think that view is shared by a lot of Nova Scotians, but this legislation, because of its importance, I honestly believe that it should go to the Law Amendments Committee but . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: They want to hoist the bill.
MR. TAYLOR: Yes, the Third Party wants to hoist the bill, but I favour a fair, open process, and so far the provincial government's involvement just regarding the discussion paper - I will not talk about royalties; I do not want to get into some of the other elements of the development of the Sable natural gas - I do think the discussion paper was a small step in the right direction.
With that in mind, I find it extremely difficult to support this amendment in its present form. I just will not be supporting the amendment. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. GEORGE MOODY: I want to rise and support the motion to hoist (Interruptions) Oh, it is time to, can I move adjournment? Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The debate on Bill No. 6 has been adjourned.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RICHARD MANN: We will resume debate tomorrow morning on Bill No. 6. I would move that we rise now, to meet again from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. tomorrow.
MR. SPEAKER: Before we move to the adjournment, I would like to remind all honourable members that the Internal Affairs Committee will be meeting tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. in the Uniacke Room.
The motion for adjournment has been made. The House will rise to sit again tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.
[The House rose at 7:59 p.m.]
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)
RESOLUTION NO. 101
I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas on April 1, 1997, former Prince Andrew High School student Dave Shannon began his 170 day, 10,000 kilometre Cross Canada Tour in his power wheelchair; and
Whereas throughout this tour, Dave will speak to employer groups, schools and community organizations about the achievements of disabled persons and how they can participate with equality in society; and
Whereas the Dave Shannon Cross Canada Tour will raise money for research, entrepreneurial and scholarship programs for disabled persons;
Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly extend best wishes to Dave Shannon as he brings forward his powerful message, that given personal opportunities and the right support, disabled Canadians can rise above their barriers and participate at all levels of society.
HOUSE ORDER NO. 3
By: Mr. Terence Donahoe (Halifax Citadel)
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 Education:
(1) Copies of the contracts signed by the Minister of the Department of Education and Culture and the 236 school advisory councils throughout the Province of Nova Scotia;
(2) A copy of the contract with the consultant hired to evaluate the pilot school advisory project;
(3) A copy of the tender advertisement for the consultant position with the department; and
(4) A statement of salary and benefits and expenses being paid to the consultant awarded the position.