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December 10, 1997
Hansard -- Wed., Dec. 10, 1997

Sixth Session


Nat. Res. - C.B. Coal Industry:
Mr. A. MacLeod 1062
Mr. R. Chisholm 1066
Mr. R. MacNeil 1070
Dr. J. Hamm 1074
Ms. Helen MacDonald 1079
Mr. J. MacEachern 1081
Mr. R. Russell 1084
Mr. P. MacEwan 1085
Mr. J. Holm 1089
Hon. Manning MacDonald 1091
Mr. G. Archibald 1093
Nat. Res.: Sable Gas - Agreement, The Premier 1094
Res. 366, Fish. - Stocks Protection: Work - Acknowledge,
Hon. J. Barkhouse 1099
Vote - Affirmative 1099
Res. 367, Human Rights - U.N. Universal Declaration (50th Anniv.):
Implementation - Commitment Recognize, Hon. A. Mitchell 1100
Vote - Affirmative 1100
No. 19, Gaelic College Foundation Act, Hon. K. MacAskill 1100
Res. 368, Nat. Res. - Donkin Mine: Opening - Non-Partisan
Approach Use, Mr. A. MacLeod 1101
Res. 369, Human Res. - Roll-Back: Negotiation - Fairness Apply,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1101
Res. 370, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Negotiations - Premier Congrats.,
Mr. R. White 1102
Res. 371, Guysborough MLA: Parliamentarian Article - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Huskilson 1103
Vote - Affirmative 1103
Res. 372, Coalition Support Serv. (St. Mark's Church, Hfx. N.):
Continuation - Endorse, Hon. G. O'Malley 1104
Vote - Affirmative 1104
Res. 373, Fin. - HST: Impact - Report Table, Dr. J. Hamm 1104
Res. 374, Econ. Dev. - Job Creation: Assistance - Use (N.S.) Ensure,
Mr. J. Holm 1105
Res. 375, Western Shore & District Fire Dept.: Anniv. (40th) - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Barkhouse 1106
Vote - Affirmative 1106
Res. 376, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Halifax Port: Post-Panamax Era -
Bill C-9 Amdt. Encourage, Mr. B. Taylor 1106
Res. 377, Educ. - Horton H.S. (Kings Co.): Cost Justification - Table,
Ms. E. O'Connell 1107
Res. 378, Media - Reporters: Topics - Research, Mr. P. MacEwan 1108
Res. 379, HRM Police Dept. (Const. C. Upshaw): Black Youth
Liaison Post - Congrats., Mr. R. Russell 1108
Vote - Affirmative 1109
Res. 380, Human Res. - Municipal Admin.: Training Progs. -
Initiative Commend, Mr. William MacDonald [By Mr. K. Colwell] 1109
Res. 381, Human Rights - Responsive Approaches: Diligent Work -
Commemorate, Ms. Helen MacDonald 1110
Vote - Affirmative 1110
Res. 382, Zion Utd. Baptist Church (Yarmouth): Anniv. (20th) -
Congrats., Mr. R. Hubbard 1111
Vote - Affirmative 1111
Res. 383, Sports - Rowing: Lloyd Heisler Dec'd. - Contributions
Recognize, Mrs. L. O'Connor 1111
Vote - Affirmative 1112
Res. 384, Hants East MLA: Birthday - Congrats., Mr. K. Colwell 1112
Vote - Affirmative 1113
Res. 385, Sports - Soccer: Stellarton H.S. Senior Boys' & Girls' -
Success Congrats., Dr. J. Hamm 1113
Vote - Affirmative 1113
Res. 386, Gov't. (N.S.) - Policies: Scrutiny Postponement -
Playing Politics Admit, Ms. E. O'Connell 1114
Res. 387, Sport - Volleyball: Margaree Forks, Mabou,
Whycocomagh Schools - Success Congrats., Mr. A. MacLeod 1114
Vote - Affirmative 1115
Res. 388, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Yarmouth Wyeco Supply:
Anniv. (15th) - Congrats., Mr. R. Hubbard 1115
Vote - Affirmative 1115
Res. 389, Liberal MLAs - Acrobats: Seat Belts - Fasten, Mr. R. Russell 1116
Res. 390, Human Rights - Society Injustices: Agencies Addressing -
Commend, Mr. D. McInnes 1117
Vote - Affirmative 1118
Res. 391, Environ. - Wilderness Act: Tory Party (Endangered Species) -
Include, Dr. E. Kinley 1118
No. 107, Nat. Gas.: Sable Gas - Royalty Agreement (Dec. 1997),
Dr. J. Hamm 1119
No. 108, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Sable Gas: Job Creation -
NSP Involvement, Mr. R. Chisholm 1121
No. 109, Nat. Res.: Sable Gas Delivery - Agreement, Dr. J. Hamm 1122
No. 110, Human Res. - Public Sector: Roll-Back Cessation -
Fin. Provisions, Mr. G. Moody 1124
No. 111, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: By-Products - Processing,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1126
No. 112, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: NSRL - Investment Return, Dr. J. Hamm 1128
No. 113, Health - Pharmacare: Changes - Savings, Mr. G. Moody 1130
No. 114, Human Res. - Pub. Sector: Roll-Back Cessation -
Commitment Honour, Mr. J. Holm 1132
No. 115, Health: Hants Commun. Hosp. - Bed Shortage, Mr. R. Russell 1134
No. 116, Health: Home Care - Waiting List, Mr. B. Taylor 1136
No. 117, Educ. - School Construction: Municipalities - Cost-Share,
Ms. E. O'Connell 1138
No. 118, Health - Breast Cancer: Detection - Early, Mr. E. Fage 1139
No. 119, Health - Home Care Prog.: Attendant Care (Self-Managed) -
Limited, Mr. A. MacLeod 1140
No. 120, Health - Paramedics: Workers' Rights - Inclusion,
Mr. D. McInnes 1142
No. 121, Environ. - Strip Mines: Permit Stipulations - Compliance,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 1143
No. 122, Health: Regional Hospitals - Doctors' Duties, Mr. E. Fage 1145
Res. 77, Health - Reforms: Failures - Address, Dr. J. Hamm 1146
Mr. R. Russell 1147
Hon. J. Smith 1149
Mr. R. Chisholm 1153
Dr. J. Hamm 1156
Dr. E. Kinley 1159
Ms. E. O'Connell 1163
Mr. G. Moody 1165
H.O. 2, Carried 1168
H.O. 3, Carried 1169
H.O. 4, Withdrawn 1169
Premier - C.B. Coal & Steel Industries: Dedication - Commend:
Mr. P. MacEwan 1170
Mr. A. MacLeod 1173
Mr. R. MacNeil 1174
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Dec. 11th at 1:00 p.m. 1176
No. 1, Educ. - Waverley Fall-River H.S.: Priority - Advise,
Mr. E. Fage 1177

[Page 1061]


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Sixth Session

12:00 P.M.


Hon. Gerald Fogarty


Mr. Keith Colwell

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to call into session now this sitting of the House of Assembly for Wednesday, December 10th. It is a departure from the norm today in that we will not be moving to the daily routine until we complete a Special Debate which was agreed to by all members of the House of Assembly yesterday.

Just a word or two before we begin with the speakers. Unanimous agreement was given yesterday. This is categorized as a Special Debate, two hours in duration. It is a debate on the Cape Breton coal industry with wide latitude that should be granted. There will be 40 minutes for each Party caucus. We are a little late getting started because of the special announcement in the Red Chamber a little earlier this morning. The agreement was, the first speaker will be from the Progressive Conservative Party caucus, followed by the NDP representative, then the government caucus member and we will follow that rotation. A list of speakers has been provided. If all members are ready for this Special Debate, we shall begin.


[Page 1062]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West. (Applause)


MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I stand before this House today to speak to you about an industry that has been the lifeblood of Cape Breton Island for many years. As a matter of fact, Port Morien, which is just a short distance from the Donkin Mine, was the site of the first coal mine in North America, developed to supply the Fortress of Louisbourg with coal. I am pleased that the members of this House have recognized the importance of this issue, not just for Cape Breton Island but, indeed, the importance of this issue to all Nova Scotians.

The reason for this Special Debate today is to discuss coal. More specifically, Mr. Speaker, what coal has meant to the economy of Cape Breton. This issue is one that I hold very close and dear to my heart because previous to coming to this House, I spent 19 years as an employee of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. In those 19 years, there have been many ups and downs, good times and bad times, but never, in my memory, in the history of the corporation, has there been such a feeling of desperation by the workers. Never before have the workers felt so abandoned. I have worked underground and it is not an easy job but it has given me the greatest respect for those who make their living by going underground day after day.

The problems facing the Nova Scotia coal industry today are not easy problems, Mr. Speaker. The coal mining industry has pumped a lot into the economy over the years. A call to Devco this morning gave me the following information that I would like to share with the members of our House. Payroll for the United Mine Workers of America this year will be $55 million; pre-retirement payroll is $5 million; administrative salary is $1.8 million; confidential or non-union employees will receive $4 million; and the pensioners' payroll from the Cape Breton Development Corporation amounts to $21 million; a total of almost $87 million. So, you can add to that the millions spent for grants in lieu of taxes, money given to the province for royalties, and millions spent on buying materials and services, as well as some money spent on capital costs. It is quite easy to come up with a figure well over $160 million, pumped into the economy of Cape Breton Island and, therefore, pumped into the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, in 1994, the coal mining industry was responsible for somewhere in the area of 2,400 spin-off jobs. I have been told that about $5.00 worth of spin-off results from every dollar spent in the coal mining industry in the Province of Nova Scotia. I hope with this little bit of a background everybody in this House will just realize how important coal is to the economy of Cape Breton and, indeed, the economy of our province.

[Page 1063]

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week, we had an announcement that Nova Scotia Power is ready to ship into this province 180,000 tonnes of coal from outside the country. This is the second time in this year that we have had to import coal into Nova Scotia, coal into Cape Breton Island.

The Cape Breton coal industry employs 1,722 people in a two mine operation in a part of our province which has the highest number of people unemployed in the country. Now the industry that has been the lifeblood of our community is once again threatened. Successive roof-falls on the new production wall shut down the mining operation in mid-October, then in November, a serious roof-weighting problem caused rock outbursts on a section of the mine key to the future of the coal reserves there. The problem area, Mr. Speaker, is about 650 metres below sea level and has been aggravated by the fact that water contained in the limestone is there and many dollars are spent in pumping water.

Mr. Speaker, on January 9, 1996, there was an emergency debate held in this very Chamber. The subject was Work Force Reduction at Devco. What caused that reduction? Well, it was a result of the financial impact of the November 14, 1995 roof-fall on 7 east wall at Phalen. Is this what the employees have to look forward to in January 1998? I have spoken to many of the people at Devco; people whom I once worked with and they all fear that when Christmas is over the layoffs will begin. They say that Devco management does not want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas. Well, in 1996, 1,200 people were laid off. What will happen this time with a set of circumstances very similar to that of 1995?

Mr. Speaker, since then, there has been a Senate Committee set up to deal with Devco and with the Cape Breton coal issue. We owe a great deal of thanks to Senator Lowell Murray, the son of a Cape Breton family that grew up in a coal mining area, for pushing to find a solution for the coal industry in Nova Scotia.

At the Senate Committee, I had the privilege of making a presentation to the Senate on behalf of our caucus, and it outlined the position that we, the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative caucus, have and how we support a three mine strategy for Devco. I am proud to say that most of the recommendations made by our caucus were also the same type of recommendations made by the Senate Committee.

[12:15 p.m.]

You may say what does all this have to do with today? Well, quite simply, any member of this government who did not realize that there was a problem in our coal industry was either asleep at the switch or a member in Ottawa for 18 years. It is the same member who on Monday of this week said, "We don't have any long-term plan for the coal industry on Cape Breton Island.". The Premier may have slept for 18 years in Ottawa but this is his wake up call. It is time the Savage-MacLellan Government realize that the coal industry is serious business, that the coal industry needs help and that this House and that government have a

[Page 1064]

responsibility to make sure that the coal industry does not get the shabby deal that Nova Scotians received with offshore gas.

Let us not forget our members of the Third Party who pushed for an emergency debate, got their headlines and moved on to a new issue. It is important to note that only one paragraph in the Speech From the Throne was dedicated to the coal and steel industry, Government Will Form An Industrial Commission. Actually is says, "We will build on our industrial heritage. My government believes there is a future for steel and coal. We will form an industrial commission and ask the federal government to participate with us in developing a common approach to industrial development, a common strategy reflecting our responsibilities for steel and the federal role in coal.".

What happened to the province? Are we representing Nova Scotians in this House? Is it not Nova Scotians who work in the coal industry? Is it not our job to make sure that the best representation for those people is put forward? When does this government plan to put this industrial commission in place? What has the Premier or any member of his government done in light of all the information that has come out this week and the serious conditions that are facing us in the coal industry of Nova Scotia? When are we going to see this famous commission put together?

I will congratulate the Premier on meeting with the representatives of the United Mine Workers last night, it was the proper thing to do and I am glad that it happened but there are many other things that have to happen. The UMW, like many people on Cape Breton Island, know that we need more help than this province is willing or able to provide. It is very easy to stand here and say criticisms about our government but then again, they make the job easy.

This problem has been around for over two years. The people of this province have known and the government of this province have known that there is a problem. They have been approached time and time again by members of the UMW and from people in the Opposition to make moves to ensure that Devco becomes a three mine operation. The fact of the matter is, we need Donkin.

Donkin Mine is the lifeblood of the Cape Breton coal industry. Donkin Mine is the issue that is in front of us here today. What we need and what we want is a full commitment, a real commitment from the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia, to help make sure that Devco becomes a three mine operation.

On October 25, 1997, our Premier said, "We are 20 per cent owners of Cape Breton Development Corporation, . . . We've never really voted our shares in a distinct manner and I just feel that we have to look at it as we are a minority shareholder and such we should be taking our own counsel on how Devco should go and I'm prepared to do that.". Here is a real opportunity to do that. Here is an opportunity to put our best foot forward and as Nova Scotians go to Ottawa, demand from the federal government that they listen to us, that they

[Page 1065]

set forward the ideas that have been put forward many times by the UMW as to how we can make this a viable operation.

They say one of the reasons that Donkin can't be opened is that they have no sale for the coal, yet you turn around and we are importing coal from the offshore. Well, Mr. Speaker, if we want to have a coal industry we had better get serious.

Some of the solutions I would like to put forward to the Premier and to the members of this House are simple things, easy things we can do. Why not press the federal government to make sure that part of the mandate of the Board of Directors of the Cape Breton Development Corporation is, indeed, Donkin Mine? It is a cop-out, we always hear from the board of directors that it is not in our mandate. Well, Mr. Premier, let's make it part of their mandate. We have representation on that board of directors and we should make it our priority to make Donkin part of the Cape Breton Development Corporation and a future for the Cape Breton coal industry. That is one of the solutions we could put forward.

Mr. Speaker, we could also look at a special committee made up of members of this House, members of the community and, more importantly, members who work in the coal industries: people from the UMW, and people from the different unions that are represented in the coal industry. Those are the people who have the solutions. The UMW or any member of the workforce, they are not the problem, they are part of the solution and it is high time that governments, regardless of their stripe, look at them as part of the solution and ask them to put forward their ideas.

We all realize that we are not going to get everything we want but we have to start working together as a team or the coal industry in Cape Breton Island is going to go down. The amount of money that it generates is going to be taken out of the economy and all Nova Scotians are going to have to put up with what takes place there.

Mr. Speaker, these are just a few of the ideas that I put forward. I tell you, there is no more important industry right now on Cape Breton Island than the coal industry. There is nobody, no member from Cape Breton Island that I believe would disagree with that. One thing we have to do is put our best foot forward, as a group, and make sure we get a three mine operation for the Cape Breton Development Corporation, a mine operation that includes Donkin.

Before closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the House Leader and the members of the other Parties for agreeing to this Special Debate because I do believe, as I have said before, that this is a very important topic. I do want to express my thanks to the House for allowing me to have this opportunity to speak. Thank you.

[Page 1066]

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on such an important issue. Last night I was going through the files on this issue. I have been elected to this House for six years and we have talked about the future of Devco and the future of the coal industry in this province in this House every year that I have been here. We have talked about the unstable future of the coal industry as a result of the mismanagement of Devco, prior to when the Tories were in power, federally and provincially, and now, of course, since 1993 with the Liberals in power, both federally and provincially. Do you know what? Nothing changes, except that the problem gets worse. Every year that goes by the anxiety increases, the instability increases and the opportunities for us to actually do something about it seem to go by the board even faster.

What drives me nuts about this whole debate - and you heard it the other night from the Premier - is that there is a certain sense of inevitability about what is going on, about the fact that Devco is in the kind of trouble that it is. It goes back to what Mulroney started back in 1992 when he said that Devco would no longer get any subsidies, that Devco was going to have to become commercially viable; in other words, Mr. Speaker, it was going to have to become a private enterprise.

While the Liberals opposed that, while the now Premier supposedly opposed it - although we can't find any evidence on the record in the House of Commons - nothing has changed since they came into power; in fact, it has been a year and one-half now since the federal government has cut Devco off subsidies. You know what I can't understand? Why is it that this energy source and all these jobs in Cape Breton, in Nova Scotia, have to go without any subsidization when western energy companies, western Canadian energy companies last year alone, Mr. Speaker, received almost $600 million in subsidies through tax breaks? Why is it that Nova Scotia and Cape Breton and Cape Breton coal miners are being dealt with so differently and so unfairly than our other energy companies? Let us not forget Hibernia. Let's not forget the kind of public money that has gone into Hibernia. I asked the Premier to explain to Nova Scotians, to members of this House, why is it that he allowed his Party to continue with the dismantling of Devco?

This whole question is important because, even though Devco continues to limp along, coal is still king in Cape Breton. The coal industry still makes a significant contribution to the economy of Cape Breton through jobs and through spin-off activities. It is important that everybody understand. People in Cape Breton recognize it and are trying to engage in economic development. Understand that tourism and other activities like that are fine but you need to have the keystone industries operating effectively, operating efficiently, creating those high paying, good jobs in order to provide the money in the communities, the spin-off activities throughout the province. Otherwise the economy of Cape Breton will continue to suffer as it has.

[Page 1067]

We cannot allow the continued out-migration in Cape Breton of our young. It happens because of the fact that we are losing good jobs. We are losing well-paying jobs and this government has failed to do what it takes in order to stop that. But again, with Devco's constant downsizing, this decision to commercialize has had an impact not only on Devco but also on the broader community. If we keep our eyes fixed on Devco's bottom line we may forget that it is the entire Cape Breton community that is being subjected to the bottom-line test. If you cannot meet the bottom-line test, you are gone. This week it might be Devco. Next week it might be Cape Breton altogether. We have to recognize, and the provincial and the federal governments have to recognize how important this industry is to the economy of Cape Breton and to the economy of Nova Scotia in general.

I see what is happening in the announcement which was just made in the room down the hall about Sable gas which is also going to have a phenomenal impact on the coal industry in this province, regardless of what the Premier suggests. He is again selling not only our gas down the road, but the coal miners' jobs down the road as a result of that deal.

Nova Scotia Power, the people that benefited from this deal are not Nova Scotians, but it is Nova Scotia Power. It is just like when the Tories privatized Nova Scotia Power. When the Tories privatized Nova Scotia Power this Liberal Party, when they were in Opposition, said that was wrong and when we get into power, at the very least, we are going to regulate them so that their decisions that are made there will not have a detrimental impact on the coal industry in Cape Breton for example.

Well, what happened? One of the first things which that privatized power company did was they blackmailed Devco. All of those jobs, they held them at ransom by suggesting that they were going to withdraw completely from that contract. As a result they reduced the costs under the contract, a contract that was freely negotiated and signed by the participants. They reduced the price they were going to pay to Devco by $13 a tonne which represented $30 million annually that Devco was going to be short. They have had to deal with that problem. When gas comes to this province, when gas comes to land here, when Nova Scotia Power gets its hands on natural gas, you mark my words that they are going to replace coal as fast as they can. That is another strategy that Nova Scotia Power has to make sure that we do not see anything more in terms of the coal industry in this province. We have to stand up and fight against this.

What do we get from this government? This government has been in power for nearly 5 years and what have they done? Have they done anything to ensure, to protect those coal miners' jobs? No, they have not. When we have said to the Premier, you recognize how important the Donkin Mine is to the future of Devco. The three mine plan is the only possibility for a viable future for Devco. When we have said to him, why don't you just simply say to the federal government that we are not going to allow you to transfer the coal leases to a privatized entity, he says oh, no, it is the federal government's fault. The federal

[Page 1068]

government is responsible. He ducks it, just like every other member on the other side ducks responsibility for the coal industry in this province.

[12:30 p.m.]

When those fighters for workers' freedom and workers' rights, people like the member for Cape Breton South and for Cape Breton Nova, when they are asked what they would do, what do they do? They begin tilting at windmills. They begin to look at the NDP, a Party with four members, and they begin to look at a candidate who is going to run for us in six months or so and they say oh, yeah, but what is the NDP. The member for Cape Breton Nova has suggested that one such member will be the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of Economic Development.

AN HON. MEMBER: What is the point, Mr. Speaker?

MR. CHISHOLM: The point is that that member should be absolutely ashamed of himself. He should be ashamed of himself as the Minister of Economic Development, the member for Cape Breton South should be ashamed of himself. They have had the power. They have had the authority to be able to make decisions to ensure the stability of the coal industry in this province. What have they done? They have done nothing and that is the point. The member for Cape Breton Nova has done nothing, just like he did with workers' compensation, but that is another day.

We have a problem here and I think there is a simple solution to it. The problem is the federal government that this Premier was part of, said last spring we are going to give this private operator, Donkin Resources Limited, $200,000 to do a feasibility study on the development of the Donkin Mine, and by the way, taxpayers have already put in $100 million. As somebody said to me the other day, it is as if Nova Scotians put up an apartment building or an office tower, 10 storeys high, and then could not rent it out because they would not turn the lights on. People would say why would we do that kind of thing? But that is what happened with the Donkin Mine. The government put $100 million into the development, drove the deeps down, but they have left it alone. What have they done? This Premier and his colleagues in the federal Cabinet gave a private operator $200,000 to do a feasibility study. They would not come up with the money themselves. What they are proposing is that this operation will be privatized because they know it is going to be profitable. That private operator knows that it will be profitable, that is why they have given it to him.

The problem is, and the miners have raised this on so many occasions but it has fallen on deaf ears, that if the Donkin Mine is taken out of Devco, is taken away from that operation, they will not be able to survive more than a few more years because of the quality problems and the unstable geology at the Phalen Mine. Why are they doing that? Under the Mineral Resources Act, the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources have the authority to simply say no, we are not going to allow that to happen because we have to approve,

[Page 1069]

Cabinet has to approve the transfer of that coal lease which the province grants authority to. They have to give approval to transfer that coal lease from Devco over to this private operator. The Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia could simply say no, that is not going to happen. That would end it. The mine would be back in and many of us would then be able to have some access to this government's better sense by convincing them that an investment along with their federal cousins in a feasibility study of Donkin is in the best interests of Nova Scotia. It is in the best interests of Cape Breton and in the best interests of the coal miners.

So that is what I think we need to do. It is not good enough for the Premier of the province to simply say it is a federal responsibility. John Savage did that when he was Premier. He said it is a federal responsibility. We are talking, number one, about a provincial resource; we are talking, number two, about authority that the Province of Nova Scotia has; and number three, we are talking about Nova Scotia workers, we are talking about Nova Scotia companies and we are talking about Nova Scotia taxpayers, Mr. Speaker. If that is not important to this government, if that is not important to these members then maybe they had better go back home and go to whatever jobs they had before or go on retirement or whatever it is and let somebody in there who wants to actually tackle the problem.

I think Nova Scotians are just about fed up, certainly Cape Bretoners are, with the kind of platitudes that we are hearing from this government. When they were Opposition they had all the answers about what to do with the coal industry but once they got into power, not only did they back off but they have made it even worse. They have made it even worse, Mr. Speaker, because of some of the decisions that have been made with respect to the privatization of Nova Scotia Power, with respect to allowing Nova Scotia Power to be such a big player in this gas deal. That, in itself, is going to mean a serious problem for the coal industry in Cape Breton.

I am going to be looking and listening hard for the Premier when he stands to explain to all members of this House, and the mineworkers who are here today and other Nova Scotians who are paying attention to this debate, why it is that he has allowed his colleagues and why did he participate when he was part of the federal government, why did he allow the decision to cut Devco off subsidies, to continue when, in fact, we know that those western Canadian operations are getting hundreds of millions of dollars? Why is it that this government is not giving fair treatment to Cape Breton and to Cape Breton jobs, an area of the province that is having very serious difficulties as a result of unemployment and the lack of economy activity?

Why is it, as Premier of this province, why is it, as the Premier who has taken over responsibility for Sable gas, he has not, number one, ensured that the coal leases will not transfer to a private operator; and number two, ensure that before this Sable gas went any further, that a socio-economic study was done on the impact that it would have on the Cape Breton coal industry? He did none of those, Mr. Speaker, and all we can do is hope that with

[Page 1070]

pressure by members of this House, by the coal miners and by the people from Cape Breton, that we can get him to act at least on one part of that and that is the coal leases.

The Sable gas deal is done, this government has sold Nova Scotia down the road on this deal and we have no hope now if, in fact, as many have suggested that the gas deal is going to be as detrimental to the coal industry in Nova Scotia. We don't have the royalties, we don't have the arrangements, the resources in order to deal with that kind of displacement. So what are we going to do, Mr. Speaker, to deal with that serious problem? I am certainly concerned that this government has not been able to answer that question.

Maybe to sum up, Mr. Speaker, that is why I think it is so important that we have the debate in this House, and I am glad that we have had the opportunity. But it is also why I am so frustrated, that as a member of this House and as a Nova Scotian that we continue to debate the future of the coal industry, of Devco and the Province of Nova Scotia as we have for so many years and yet under two different administrations, both Progressive Conservative and Liberal, we have had no positive, constructive action in order to turn that around. That's what Nova Scotians are so upset about.

I hope that when government members get to their feet they will be able to explain why they have been so ineffective, why they have been so inactive, why it is when they finally had the opportunity to make those decisions, Mr. Speaker, they were unable to do it. Thank you, very much.

AN HON. MEMBER: I didn't hear any solutions.

MR. CHISHOLM: I gave you some solutions. You're not listening. Stop the coal leases. (Interruptions) The member for Yarmouth, the member for Cape Breton Nova, stop the coal leases, there is number one, Mr. Speaker. They want answers but they are not prepared to listen. Take the relationship that the Premier supposedly has with the federal government to make sure that the unfair treatment we get in terms of subsidies here in Nova Scotia does not continue. Those are two answers but what do you get from this government? Nothing, no action because they don't have the courage to be able to do it. I am looking forward to listening to what these members have to say as I take my seat. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACNEIL: Mr. Speaker, before I start I would like to introduce to you and through you in the gallery, the Executive of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and I would ask them to stand to receive the warm applause of the House. (Applause)

[Page 1071]

I would like to thank the Premier and the House Leader for giving me the opportunity to spend a few moments on the coal industry. I am very pleased to talk about the coal industry and I have to state at the beginning that I am proud to be a miner's son. If I start to get a little passionate during my dissertation, please excuse me. In all deference to our members up here, I was almost a miner and I say that because when I was in Grade 11 at Mount Carmel High School, I thought that everybody who worked in the mine made a lot of money and some of them who were in Grade 11 were working in the mines and I thought they had everything.

I said to my father, I want to go work in the mines. He said, is that right and I said, that is right. One Wednesday at 4:30 in the morning he woke me up and said, son, we are going. I said, where am I going? He said, you are going to the pit. I said, well that is a start. I went down, took some old clothes and actually went down in No. 12 Colliery. I have to tell you and to all of my colleagues, it was the scariest moment of my life. I could not wait to get back up. But I also have to tell you because of that scary moment, that I did my homework at 7:00 a.m., so that I didn't have to go back into the mine. So I am very proud to be a miner's son and I am almost a miner.

Although I am proud to talk about the coal industry I am almost sort of disappointed that when there comes a crisis that we have to talk about the coal industry. Sometimes, that becomes disappointing that a crisis has to get us to talk about coal. I have heard my colleagues on the opposite side wax eloquently about the coal industry, some with fact and some with fiction. I have lived through a lot of setbacks.

I would like to mention that I came across a statement that I think is apropos to what we are talking about today, especially to Cape Bretoners. It says, coal dust is like the blood in our veins, running through the fabric of Cape Breton and that is what we are all about. I have to state at the beginning and up front and everywhere else that I have been in my life that I believe in the coal industry. I was brought up in the coal industry and will probably die in the coal industry.

I remember quite distinctly because my father and our whole family was involved, of the closing of the mines of No. 12, No. 14, No. 16, No. 18 Collieries and now Lingan. There have been closures, there has been disappointment. I remember the explosions in No. 12 Colliery because my father was there. That is a scary thing, Mr. Speaker, to have to live through that, where you hear the whistle blow and everybody runs down to the mine to see what is happening. So when people wax eloquently about the coal industry I am not sure that they have the real impression of what a coal miner does.

[12:45 p.m.]

Every time I hear about an explosion or a rock burst or something that is happening in a coal mine I shudder because as we were growing up I lived through all of these. As young people living in the coal mining industry, we were taught two things very strenuously; one is

[Page 1072]

to pray for our parents who worked in the mine and, secondly, to pray for the industry. That was inbred in us, and I still do that today. I can see the structures in Phalen and the one that is now gone in Lingan, and I still think about that, Mr. Speaker. As I pass it I still say my prayer and I still pray for the industry.

So what is a coal miner? The general statement would be one who extracts a resource from the bowels of the earth. Then what they do with that, they take it to anther place, and Nova Scotia Power seems to be the one now, and they turn that into another resource called electricity. They also take the coal from the bowels of the earth and ship it to all parts of the world for industrial use and for fuel.

I would like to now turn my attention, as passionately as I can, to the members of this House to say, what is a coal miner and who is a coal miner. He is the person you see in every community in our area who is a firefighter, he is a church server, he is a husband, he is a father and he is everything that happens in the community - the little league coach, the minor league coach - he is everywhere. We have to remember that these are dedicated people.

So what did they want? They probably wanted two things: one is to get a job and the second one was to live with their families. Nothing extraneous. So why are we in crisis again? As my colleague for Cape Breton West mentioned, crises always seem to come and go for us. We have had it with all the closures of the mines we saw so far but, again, it is something that is happening that maybe should not happen.

We have to talk about the mismanagement or the misconstruction, or whatever you want to call it, about the coal. Can we fault everybody? Yes, we can fault everybody in the world. The thing that bothers me more than anything else is that the people who work in the mine, headed by the UMW, are never listened to. Now I have heard the present president give his opinion of what should happen. I want to tell you, not only because he is from the Town of New Waterford, because he is fairly smart, that he has put together a plan that could pass any test of anyone in this House. I have seen him do it. In fact, he is using all the IT stuff, all the information technology to present the case. I applaud him for that and all the members of his executive. He did an outstanding job.

What he has also done and what we all know is that when a crisis comes that it affects not only the miners but all the families of the miners. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, it affects the businesses and anything else that happens in the community. We know that if there is no money, there are no taxes, there is no selling and businesses go down, taxes cannot be collected and it becomes a mess. The UMW have presented a case that I think should be applauded by everyone.

Living in crisis is not a way to live, it never has been and I wouldn't wish it on anybody else. But it would seem to me that in the coal industry we seem to be in crisis almost every two years or sometimes less. It is not a way to live and I don't think anybody wants it that

[Page 1073]

way. I don't think we should stand for it any longer. So, what should be done? I think the member for Cape Breton West had a couple of suggestions and I agree with him. The federal government has to do something and they have to have a plan. The plan must be known to everybody including those who work in the mines. Kind of simple, as he mentioned.

The government has to listen to the miner's plan. I think that is the only group that have never heard it or do not want to hear it. They may have listened but I am not sure they heard. As I mentioned, the UMW's plan is the most effective I have seen in many years.

The provincial government has responsibilities, no doubt about it and wherever possible to assist, I think they should. I know that the Premier feels the same way that I do. Now I hear all kinds of things in this House saying that he doesn't care about the coal industry. I am not sure I am allowed to say the word so I better not because it is a lot of - can't say it, Mr. Speaker. I know that the Premier has talked to the UMW about royalties and leasing. I know he has talked to them about possible pensions for laid-off workers and those who may retire. I know he has talked to them about the gas industry not affecting them unless they are talked to, until there is an impact study done.

Where the Leader of the New Democratic Party is coming from, I have no idea. He couldn't have been at the conference because I heard it. Selective hearing? Probably is for him but from the Premier's point of view, the Sable gas will not affect the coal industry. (Applause)

Last night the Premier had a meeting with the executive of the UMW and I thought it was very important. I also thought it was very fruitful. They have been given reassurance from our Premier that things will be worked out, there will be no leasing given unless they are talked to. That is consultation where the Leader of the NDP thinks there is no consultation. I don't know what he means by consultation. I didn't hear a plan but I have to tell you that the Premier of this province has talked to, will talk to and will continue to talk to the miners who may be affected in the coal industry. (Applause)

I would think that with the miners, with the province and with the federal government, uncertainty can turn to certainty. The coal industry is not going to go away. It is going to be with us, it is a resource that is there. It is going to be with us and there is lots of it, it is just a matter of how to get it. With all of the plants coming and the expertise of the executive of the UMW, it will come to fruition.

As I stated at the beginning, I get a little passionate about the coal industry because I live it, the same as some of the members opposite. I never had the opportunity, as the member for Cape Breton West did, for actually being a miner. I know that the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, her father worked in No.12 Colliery also, where my dad worked. So I have to say that some of us have a better appreciation than others. We have to be able to say that we believe in the coal industry; that is the basic premiss that we have to start with. If we

[Page 1074]

do that, then we can go step by step in saying how to make it better, how to make it more sustainable, how to make it profitable. I think we can do that, if we have the basic premiss and the basic belief that coal is here.

We have to believe in the executive of the UMW, that they can bring to fruition all their dreams of the way coal should be produced. Those of you who have not had the opportunity to meet with these people, I think you should because they will give you answers that probably you have never heard about; they are very passionate and very efficient about how they wish to do things.

I know that other people have thoughts on this, so I would like to close as I started, by saying again that coal dust is like the blood in our veins, running through the fabric of Cape Breton, and I hope all members and anyone listening or viewing will catch the flavour. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate this afternoon on the resolution regarding Devco and the future of coal mining in Cape Breton. Unlike the member for Cape Breton Centre, I was not almost a coal miner, but I do come from an area that had a coal mining community. I understand the pain and the hardship when that industry starts to wither and die on the vine and a basic source of income suddenly is in jeopardy.

There is an interesting history. There have been 110 known coal mines in Cape Breton, beginning with the initial activities in 1685 - a 300 year history of coal mining on Cape Breton Island - the first systemic mining beginning in the Port Morien area around 1720, the largest, I believe, deposits of coal in North America. The importance of the coal mining industry and those 1,700 jobs that exist today in Cape Breton, I think can be put in perspective when you look at what is happening to the workforce in Cape Breton; at times, an unemployment rate three times the national average.

Something else that really affected me, I had a meeting, strangely enough with people who are interested in the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board, and their concern was that in the past year there were 800 fewer students in that school board area than there were the year before. You have to ask yourself why that is. The reason is that young families are moving away and taking their children with them because there is no work on Cape Breton Island.

Coal has been the mainstay of the Cape Breton economy for centuries. We have to really look and see what it is that we as legislators can do and what others involved in the coal mining industry in Cape Breton can do. I am very pleased that the member for Cape Breton West pursued this issue and prevailed upon the Government House Leader to allow this debate to happen, even though we seemed, perhaps, to be not following any defined rule

[Page 1075]

structure of the House. I think it was very important that this debate occur. I think it is important that we get our thinking clear as to what should happen down in Cape Breton to preserve the 1,700 jobs.

Without going too far into history, let's look at the five year plan of Devco, the five year sustainable plan. Our member for Cape Breton West went to the Senate hearing and spoke very passionately about a three mine solution for Devco because the five year plan of Devco was no more stable than the roof structure of the Phalen Mine. In reality, Devco has become a one-customer company, a one-customer corporation. That, in itself, provides great difficulty to the operation itself. There was nothing in the five year plan that provided a guaranteed supply of coal to Nova Scotia Power or, for that matter, anyone else.

[1:00 p.m.]

I had an opportunity to visit the Donkin site. I wanted really to simply have a look at something that we all seem to talk about so much and really, there is not much there. It kind of looks like any other abandoned site around a coal mining facility. It is pretty well grown up and there isn't good access but there are two slopes, now flooded, leading down to the coal face. Now I understand the investment to put those slopes there was something in the order of $85 million and yet there hasn't been coal being brought to the surface. But there is a feasibility study going on so someone thinks that the Donkin Mine can be commercially viable but we have to be careful. Is it commercially viable at the jeopardy of the Phalen Mine and the Prince Mine and the 1,700 jobs that Devco now provides?

It is not an easy solution but the coal is there. My understanding is that those two slopes - and there are different estimates - access no less than probably 180,000 million tonnes of coal. That mine has a potential of 3.8 million tonnes per year. So that would provide employment and a supply of coal for 50 years. So the coal is there, the slopes are there, and the feasibility study is going on. But what does it mean for the 1,700 coal miners? What does it mean now that we find out that, again, the Phalen roof structure has proven so unstable that the mine is closed, again injuring and damaging the bottom line of Devco. For each day out of production, of course, as everyone in this place would understand, makes it more and more difficult for Devco to do what it is and that is a self-sustaining coal mining supplier.

Devco is a unique kind of operation. I did take some time to tour the facility. It is a fully integrated coal facility. There is a coal prep plant, there is a railroad, there is a stockpile and blending facility, there is a shipping pier. The shipping pier doesn't get used very much, Mr. Speaker, because we are not shipping too much offshore but there is a warehouse and there is a shop facility and there are two collieries.

This caucus realized that the Devco five year plan without a third mine was not a viable plan. There were many that supported this, including the Senate committee, in that position but I cannot miss the opportunity to point out that those people sitting on the government

[Page 1076]

side, who when that five year plan was being approved, sat in this House stone-faced and silent and did not lift a voice to support the three mine concept down at Devco. I would be remiss if I did not point out that our Premier, who was in power in Ottawa from 1980 to 1984, from 1993 to 1997, was silent on the same issue, did not appreciate that the two mine concept had no future.

Now the Premier, and I have a quote here from the Commons Debates of 1979, Page 102, in case the Premier would wish to refresh his memory and he does speak in favour of the Donkin Mine and developing a concept in which there is a guaranteed supply of coal. So he did know in 1979 that the Donkin Mine should be part of the Devco operation. He had an opportunity in 1980 to 1984, while in government, and again in 1993 to 1997, to put forward before his federal counterparts that concept and he failed to do so.

Now we have to look at solutions. How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: You have approximately nine minutes.

DR. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Do I get the minute that it took you to do the calculations?

MR. SPEAKER: Forty minutes for each Party caucus is the bottom line.

DR. HAMM: I want to put before the House a four part solution to the problem we face here today. The first part of that solution is connected to the press conference that the Premier just participated in a few minutes ago and it has to do with Sable gas. The Premier must, not in a year's time, not in the future but immediately order a socio-economic study of the effects of natural gas on the Cape Breton coal industry. He can't wait another week, another day, the Premier must order it today. We must know the effect of the announcement today on the Cape Breton coal miner and the effect on the Cape Breton coal industry.

The direct jobs in the offshore, on the platforms, there will be 250 jobs and we have no guarantee that a single one will be occupied by a Nova Scotian but we do know that the 1,700 jobs in Devco are in Cape Breton and they are Nova Scotians who are participating and taking those pay cheques home to Nova Scotia. So let's not forget that. So the first part of the Devco solution is the socio-economic study and only the Premier has the power to order that.

The second part is a joint management-employer partnership, worker empowerment. Now the coal mining industry, and I don't think I will be offending our guests in the gallery, has never been an industry - because it certainly wasn't in my area - in which there was a solid, day to day working relationship between those who dug the coal and those who pushed the pencils in the head office. We have to come together in a partnership, a joint management-union partnership, to provide the most efficient operation, underground and above ground,

[Page 1077]

that can possibly be devised with this kind of cooperation. I am tired of going to Cape Breton and having to talk to Devco officials and then go and talk to the union. Wouldn't it be nice to go there and talk to them all at once, around the same table, in the same room. That is the kind of cooperation we are going to need to develop a viable coal industry in the decades to come.

Talk about productivity and we will talk about the suggestions of union people to make the corporation a more efficient one and more competitive because it must be competitive. Why is it that 10 years ago you could sign a contract with Nova Scotia Power and get $70 a ton for coal and today you are hard-pressed to get $55 or $60? Because things happen out there that affect the coal industry.

The solutions of the political ills of South Africa have now made South African coal available on the world market. The bringing down of the Iron Curtain means that Polish and Russian coal is available on the world market. This has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the price of coal that is available and puts added pressure on our coal mining industry here to be competitive.

You can't fail to realize that it wasn't too long ago that Devco annually brought $200 million into the Cape Breton economy but it has been shrinking. Two years ago there were 2,300 employees, now it is just something over 1,700, not even able to supply under the current conditions, the Nova Scotia Power contract. We have to develop overseas markets. With a guaranteed supply of coal coming from Donkin, those overseas markets can be accessed because private interests were saying that that is where they were going to sell the coal. So if Donkin can keep the Phalen alive and it can keep Prince alive, then let's use the Donkin situation to preserve the coal industry in its entirety. Overseas markets have got to become part of the solution for Devco.

Let's talk about the Donkin Mine because that is the fourth part of the solution. The Donkin Mine, who knows what it would cost to develop? I have seen, in my mind, legitimate estimates of $65 million. I have seen other estimates of $100 million and I have seen estimates much greater than that. But let's say with the two shafts going down to the coal and with the advantage that Devco has in terms of unused equipment that could be used in that operation, I don't think it is beyond the imagination that the Donkin Mine could be up and running for $100 million. So where are we going to get the $100 million, where is Devco going to get the $100 million?

The federal government has done what it traditionally does to Nova Scotia, and certainly has been doing since 1993. It has withdrawn the $30 million subsidy but in what kind of shape did it leave Devco? It left it with two collieries, one in jeopardy on almost a daily basis with roof-falls, with rock outbursts and with flooding. Then the Prince Mine with high sulphur coal that is absolutely or next to useless without low sulphur coal from the Phalen Mine.

[Page 1078]

It reminds me of the same thing, the federal government wants to abandon airports and the only airport in all of Canada of the same stature as our own airport is the one that didn't get upgrades. Yet, they want to back away from that airport and leave us with the bill. That's what they did here in Cape Breton. They said, we are going to stop the subsidy but we are going to leave you in such bad shape that the chances of your survival are at best minimal. They don't do that for the western energy interests when they pump hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure that the energy business in western Canada is alive and well, thank you very much. Why can we not prevail?

Now, I plea to our Premier who is going to the First Ministers' Conference perhaps later today and meeting tomorrow, this must be on the agenda. The federal government abandoned Devco and they abandoned it in bad shape. Let's get the federal government to take on the environmental and the pension liability of Devco. If they were prepared to do because, Mr. Speaker, you know and I know and everyone here knows, we all know (Interruption) It sounds like the member for Cape Breton South doesn't want a plan to keep the mines open. Mr. Speaker, you know and I know that that liability will be passed along to the federal government if Devco stops operations later today. So let them take that burden, that financial burden off the backs of Devco to allow the funding to open up the third stable mine, the Donkin Mine.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, if you wish to leave speaking time for two other members of your caucus, I would advise you to start to wrap up your remarks then. You can keep on going if you are on a roll, fine, just as long as there is 40 minutes speaking time for each caucus.

DR. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With your indulgence, I will wrap but it will take me a minute or two.

So, the Premier has a responsibility in this and he has a responsibility to go and prevail upon his former colleagues in Ottawa to do what is right and to take off the liability for the environmental issues and the pension issues off the backs of Devco and the miners at Devco. Devco would then be a profitable operation. I have no problem supporting profitable operations and Devco can be one.

Now, the Premier also has influence on the Devco board. My understanding is that he would have the opportunity as a minority shareholder, if you will, in Devco to provide influence at the board level. Like his predecessor who said, at every turn of the road, this was a federal responsibility; this is not a federal responsibility, the damage of the loss of those 1,700 jobs is almost inestimable. It is that great. It is hard to believe that the coal mining industry that once employed thousands in Cape Breton. It is now down to 1,700. But there it is.

[Page 1079]

[1:15 p.m.]

So there is a solution; a socio-economic study, a joint management-worker partnership, the development of overseas markets and the development of the Donkin Mine. There is a solution to the woes of the coal mining industry in Cape Breton, if there is a will to do it, if all of the partners: Devco management, union members, members of this House and the federal government get our act together and work towards the solution.

I look forward to hearing the success that the Premier will have at the First Ministers' Conference in getting this before the Prime Minister and starting down the road to a solution. Thank you.

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

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, to begin I would just like to clarify for the member for Cape Breton West that indeed the NDP did introduce the emergency resolution on Monday night. I am not sure if he was here when we did it. We were prepared to do that on Tuesday as well but our objective was to get the topic on the floor to be debated. That is why in turn we certainly supported the resolution brought forth by his Party.

The Cape Breton coal industry, as many of the previous speakers have indicated, plays an integral role in the lives of all Cape Bretoners; I say the lives of all Cape Bretoners because there is no one in Cape Breton who is not affected by the coal industry. I guess we would call it the lifeline of Cape Breton. As a daughter of a coal miner and a sister to brothers who worked in the mines and presently an aunt to miners, I feel that I have lived much of the history of the Cape Breton coal industry, the history of a coal industry that tells a story that clearly points out the determination and the stamina of Cape Bretoners. They are people who have fought and fought for decades to protect their livelihoods and to protect their communities, people who have stood time and time again to support one another and to try to create a future.

They are truly ordinary people, people who work hard and people who accept the challenges of being miners. But they are people who cannot continue to be asked to live with this uncertainty, the uncertainty that continues to unfold, the uncertainty about their livelihoods that prevents them from planning their futures, the uncertainty that holds them captive to a day-by-day life. I think if we look at it from a very basic, simple perspective what the people in Cape Breton are asking for is some stability. They want to have a future.

Just a little over a year ago we watched, feeling quite helpless, as the downsizing chill sent waves of concern throughout our mining communities and, indeed, throughout the whole Island of Cape Breton. We watched young miners need to make tough choices. We watched as they tried to make the decision, do I leave my friends, my families and in, some cases, parts

[Page 1080]

of their immediate family and move on to places like Grand Cache, or do I try to stick it out in Cape Breton?

The downsizing came at a time when children were in school and parents didn't have the luxury of waiting around until June to make the decisions about their future and about their lives. I think for those of us who lived and watched Cape Bretoners go through that, it made a mark on us once more that we feel must be brought before this House.

Unemployment or migration. Not much of a choice for people who have given their whole lives to ensuring that there would be something better at the end. But in Cape Breton, it continuously is becoming the choice. People and especially young people are being asked time and time again to make this choice. As many people tell us when we go door to door, we are educating our young people and we are educating them to send them somewhere else, to work for someone else, to take their skills and use them somewhere else. People in Cape Breton want jobs in Cape Breton, they want stability in Cape Breton, they want their people to be there.

This way of life in Cape Breton is slowly tearing the heart and soul out of that Island. The economy of our Island is continuously being eroded. Soon, as previous speakers have indicated, it will be comprised of tourism and people coming home to retire. All too many people depend on food banks and clothing depots, on breakfast programs. All too many people continue to depend on volunteer, community and church organizations in order to survive. Things could be different but this government needs to take the leadership to make those things different.

It is fine for the Premier to make his comments when asked about Devco or Donkin's role in the three mine Devco operation, when he is asked about the commitment not to transfer leases of Donkin to any private operator, to be coy and to be evasive. But we know that with the two mines operating in Cape Breton, employing in excess of 1,600 people, with all the spinoff jobs, decent paying jobs and with the employment rate that we currently have in Cape Breton, I guess it is in the vicinity of 30 per cent, that anything that threatens the already weakened economy of Cape Breton has to be addressed and it has to be addressed by the people here because that is what we were elected to do.

Whether or not it is a federal issue or whether it is a provincial issue, this government has to take the leadership and do something about it. In addition, anything that can strengthen or stabilize the economy and the industries in Cape Breton is our responsibility to address as well.

Presently, as we know, we have two mines operating in Cape Breton, the Prince Mine, mining coal high in sulphur, we are told, that needs to be mixed with other coal before it is suitable for market. Miners there will tell us that there is more potential in that mine, potential that doesn't seem to be addressed, potential that seems to be ignored. We have the Lingan-

[Page 1081]

Phalen Mine where we know successive roof-falls on the new wall, the new production wall, has caused the mine to be shut down since mid-October. In addition to that, the rock outburst caused by the weighting problems, the roof-weighting problems, causing other concerns and other difficulties in an area where the section of coal is key to the future coal reserves, a mine that seems to be plagued with geological difficulties. So that is where we are with the mines in Cape Breton.

Then there is Donkin, the mine where $88 million, I believe, was invested, where we have two tunnels burrowing underground, filled with water, money that people invested. What we are told about the coal in that mine, Mr. Speaker, is that it is excellent coal, it is called the gold mine of coal mines. So I guess what we need to ask is why we are considering anything other than developing Donkin as part of the three mine Devco operation. If other operations or independent operators believe they can make money out of Donkin, then why can't we?

What I am imploring that this government and this House do is that we do get together on this issue and that we do try to work and solve it and that we do ask that our Premier offer the leadership we need on this issue in Cape Breton and take our concerns to Ottawa and address the needs of Cape Bretoners. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN MACEACHERN: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome our guests into the gallery. It is good to see the guys up from Glace Bay and New Waterford and area, to see this debate in the House.

I will take the first part of my 10 minutes to kind of join in the little political debate that has gone on here. I have been taking some notes. First of all, Robert Chisholm, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, was right about one thing, he said that something has driven him nuts. I am not sure what it was but it seems to have had a good effect. He says very simply, and it is a problem, it is part of the political diatribe, I know, but he says that it is simple. It is not simple, this is a very complicated thing and we will talk about that as it goes on.

He says to stop the leases. So stop the leases and then what? A good idea, throw more money at it. Well, let me tell you, if throwing money at it would have solved the problem with Devco, that problem would have been solved a long time ago because that has been tried. It has been tried by successive governments, it has been supported in all kinds of different ways. That doesn't seem to be the solution, there has to be something else there.

Pointing in that direction, Mr. Speaker, probably takes us away from a possible solution, if there is one, because maybe the difficulty here at this particular time may provide us with an opportunity.

[Page 1082]

I want to suggest, too, and the honourable member for Cape Breton West who was a coal miner, speaks of the frustration of the coal mining communities. I want to suggest to you that it is a significant frustration and it has gone on for some time. In fact, I remember when it started, in 1957. The frustration started in 1957 when the coal company started to experience trouble in 1957. That is when they withdrew from Pictou, they withdrew from Springhill and they withdrew towards Cape Breton, because of the way the coal could be mined and the quality of the coal. That is what happened. It was trouble at that time and they left in 1967.

We have been struggling with this problem and it has been a case of uncertainty ever since that. All of us from the community have experienced that.

The second thing, and again on a political level, the honourable member for Cape Breton West wants to thank Mr. Lowell Murray. I would like to suggest that Mr. Lowell Murray was in charge of ACOA at the time when, in fact, the money was withdrawn. That was the time when the phase-out took place.

Now it is easy for him to sit in the Senate and shout and scream. It is like the Leader of the New Democratic Party. I want to suggest to you, if loudness worked, the Leader of the New Democratic Party would have everything solved because he is the loudest person I know, but it doesn't seem to work. Lowell Murray has joined in that shout. In fact, I met him on an airplane one time and he was explaining to me all the solutions available to Devco. So I leaned over, and he is kind of a friend, and I said, Lowell, why didn't you do that? There is no answer to that question because it was not done for a very particular reason because the simple solutions have not worked, for many reasons.

The Leader of the Official Opposition has asked why coal has dropped from $70 to $61. I suggest he read Hansard for the years 1990 and 1991 when the privatization of the Power Corporation was here. We said that would happen. We predicted it would drop from $70 to $60 and probably get to world price within 10 years. We said that. Why? Because once you privatize that industry - and we said it in this House, we said over and over again - it is no longer an instrument of public policy. Now the stakeholders speak to that. That was the case. If that is what government decided to do, they should have said that. They denied in this House and it is a matter of record - that is, the guys opposite - and we spoke of this yesterday as well. They in fact went over and over and said no, it is not going to impact on the coal industry. It was a blatantly dishonest statement because it will impact. We all know that. It did not take a socio-economic study to know that.

[1:30 p.m.]

It is obvious. I remember talking to a fisherman about the fishing crisis. He said we go out fishing every day and the fish got smaller. We reported that to the people at Fisheries and they said no, the studies say the stocks are secure, but the fish kept getting smaller until all

[Page 1083]

of a sudden they were not there. Then the scientists said yes, the fish are gone. The fishermen knew that and they said it over and over again publicly. The coal miners and the people representing the coal miners are not stupid people. They recognize the difficulties and they know that this is not a simple problem, but they know how we got here.

I am going to step aside in my last few minutes, Mr. Speaker, to talk about what it is that we can do. To do that, I am going to suggest a couple of things we cannot do, first of all. Maybe we can focus the debate.

First of all, we, the members of this House, cannot open Donkin. It is a federal Crown Corporation and they are in charge of that, but we can talk to them.

Secondly, we cannot fix the roof. Even if we were expert geological engineers - and we have those, by the way, and they have been in and out of the coal mines over and over again and we have not fixed the problem. We cannot stop the water. There is a reason for that, but we cannot stop the water seeping into the mine. I think it is one million gallons of water a day being pumped out and I want to tell you that really impacts on the price of coal.

We cannot force Nova Scotia Power to not use gas. Anybody who pretends that they can is not paying attention. It is said in this House as a matter of record.

We cannot fix the world price for coal. Anybody who pretends you can is deluded or is trying to delude you. It is not there.

We cannot desulphur our coal. If we could, we would have a big step toward a solution. In fact, there is a discussion going on in Japan at the present time, and the coal miners know this. There is a problem.

We cannot re-regulate trade. We cannot do that. We can pretend we can but it is not the truth. We cannot do that.

We can do something, Mr. Speaker, and maybe this opportunity for this House is the right thing to do. Let's set aside the partisan bickering for maybe four minutes, anyway. We will set it aside for four minutes and this House can come to a resolve that will empower the member for Cape Breton North, who has access to the Prime Minister, to put together a strategic team that will basically put together a plan that he can take to the federal minister who is, I understand, very sensitive about this, that involves the following things. First of all, a focus on the coal miners themselves, the people in the industry. That includes, by the way, not only the people who dig the coal but the support staff involved in the industry, number one. You have to include the future of industrial Cape Breton and the economy of Nova Scotia. You have to have the coal industry in there because it does have a future. What that future is we are not really sure yet, but it has a future.

[Page 1084]

Number two, we have to find the transition to go from where we are now to where we are going. That is the second thing we have to include.

What we need to do also is to look now, finally, and this may be the opportunity, of how we can diversify the economy of industrial Cape Breton. There is an infrastructure there for 130,000 people but it is declining very rapidly, and if we do not do something very quickly, it is going to collapse.

So if a group of us, if that is possible in this House, that is the government, the Leader of the Opposition and his Party and the Leader of the Third Party and his Party, would come to a resolve that we empower the member for Cape Breton North to take this resolve to the federal minister and it is a unified resolve with a plan that in fact, number one, includes the miners and the people that work in the industry with a transition to where we are going, so you need a plan and, secondly, how to diversify the economy so we can strengthen it. We can do that. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I join in this debate for a short period of time because I believe that our Leader this morning has demonstrated that far from what the member for Cape Breton East has been saying, that indeed, there are solutions available to government to maintain Devco in the strong position in Cape Breton, employing 1,700 miners and providing an essential coal source for Nova Scotia Power Incorporated.

It seems to me to be passing strange that the Opposition, with only two members from Cape Breton, on Monday recognized that there was a problem with the announcement from Nova Scotia Power that they were going offshore to buy coal. Even then when the Opposition tried to bring that matter forward in this House, it required kicking and screaming on the part of the government to come around onside and to agree to this debate that we are holding today.

The solution to the Cape Breton situation obviously boils down really to one element and that is, there must be coal available to be mined by the miners in Cape Breton to supply the needs of Nova Scotia Power Inc. That coal can only come with the opening of the Donkin Mine.

In 1982, when those two drifts were put in place at Donkin, there was $85 million expended at that time to have a mine available, not necessarily to open but to have a mine available, to come in in the event that the other three mines that we had at that time failed to meet the needs of the Nova Scotia Power Corporation. That time has come now. We have, and I say we, I mean Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia, have an investment of about $85 million in that Donkin Mine at the present time. It is my understanding that Devco has much of the infrastructure that would be required to bring that mine up to speed and to start

[Page 1085]

producing. For the member for Cape Breton East to say that we have no influence over Devco is nonsense.

MR. JOHN MACEACHERN: I didn't say that.

MR. RUSSELL: The honourable member did say that. I made a note of it as he said it. He said that we have no influence in (Interruption) I am sorry but he did. We do have an input into Devco, we own part of Devco, we have a 20 per cent stake in Devco. Surely to goodness we can exercise that stake that we have in Devco to provide leverage to Devco, to provide leverage on the federal government to open Donkin. If we open Donkin we have solved the problem that we have, the problem that we are facing today, which is purchasing offshore by Nova Scotia Power Inc.

Every ton of coal that Nova Scotia Power Inc. buys offshore is not just a matter of transferring money out of the province, it is transferring money out of the province that would normally be spent within the area of Cape Breton Island. In truth, that is the money that actually generates most of the business in Cape Breton. Not only is there about $60 million in salaries, the majority of which is expended in Cape Breton, but there is another $60 million approximately which is expended to buy goods and services.

For that reason if no other, I would suggest to you that it is imperative for us in this Legislature to send a strong message to Ottawa, and certainly we have a Premier who is going to Ottawa either today or tomorrow, to bring the message clearly to the federal government that we not only ask, we demand that Donkin be immediately opened. Thank you.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to support the action plan put forward by the honourable member for Cape Breton East. I think that it represents a reasonable and well-thought-through solution or attempt at a solution to this difficult problem. I would commend him for his constructive suggestions and would urge that all honourable members join with me in supporting those.

It is a tragedy, Mr. Speaker, that this federal Crown Corporation, the Cape Breton Development Corporation, has fallen on difficult times. I think it is a tragedy, too, to see this unfortunate situation become the subject of partisan cheap shots such as put forward by the Opposition Parties. Perhaps one reason why the public looks to this Legislature for help on the operations of the Cape Breton Development Corporation now more than formerly is because of the unspoken, but widely recognized, fact of the absence of effective elected representation from Cape Breton Island in Ottawa where, as we all know, the key decisions in these matters are made.

[Page 1086]

I would like to pay tribute, Mr. Speaker, to Senator Al Graham, Government Leader in the Senate of Canada. I would like to pay tribute to Premier Russell MacLellan in his capacity as Leader of the Government of Nova Scotia and a long-time member of the federal Parliament of Canada who, unquestionably, has the ear of the Prime Minister and does his best on our behalf. I would like to pay tribute, too, to Prime Minister Jean Chretien for his sympathy and tremendous compassion for the people of Cape Breton and of Nova Scotia, but when one considers that Cape Bretoners are represented in Parliament today exclusively by members of a fourth-place Party, which ranks even lower than the Bloc Québécois, no wonder there are problems.

Consider, Mr. Speaker, if you will, we are not represented in the House of Commons in the government caucus. We have no voice at all there, where it counts.We have no voice in the Atlantic Liberal caucus of Members of Parliament, where key decisions are made involving the discretionary spending of public funds, policy, and the destiny of our communities and our provinces. We have no voice there at all, where it counts. No one to carry the message such as is being delivered here on this floor this afternoon.

AN HON. MEMBER: How come we don't have a voice?

MR. MACEWAN: Why do we have no voice in those key federal agencies where decisions are made and where destinies are decided, Mr. Speaker? I will tell you why. It is because of the NDP, that's why. So let us not forget, as we evaluate these difficulties, that this group, by their Pied Piper act, have disempowered the people at a very key, sensitive level of government where they need help and representation now as never before, especially in that part of Canada which is most dependent upon the public goodwill and support of government.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame on them.

MR. MACEWAN: A tragedy, Mr. Speaker, indeed. An avoidable tragedy, a mistake that must not be repeated again at all costs. They certainly, sir, bear their share of responsibility for the difficulties that we are attempting to deal with here today and for which the honourable member for Cape Breton East has presented some constructive proposals.

Mr. Speaker, the community of Whitney Pier is the heart of my constituency, as is well known. Some may not know the significance of that name. Whitney was H.M. Whitney who was the founding President of the Dominion Coal Company which was the predecessor, of course, of the Cape Breton Development Corporation. The Pier was the pier from which the coal was to be shipped to the four corners of the globe; so you have Whitney Pier. The International Pier is the name of the pier in modern times, international symbolizing the fact, the expectation, that it was hoped that from that pier, coal would be shipped to all parts of the globe, and we have a very modern, multimillion dollar pier there today sitting idle and unused.

[Page 1087]

I have here an item I would like to table dated February 1994, headed, Sydney gets new $4.8 million coal loader. There is a picture there which shows the new, almost $5 million coal loading system. I have watched, out my window, about three or four ships tie up and use that system and that has been that because there is no coal being shipped from those piers at all, they are just sitting there completely unused.

[1:45 p.m.]

Had I more time, Mr. Speaker, I could go through the operations of the corporation, department by department, and outline the difficulties and the problems but most of those highlights have been touched on by other speakers and I don't need to repeat what has already been said.

I do want to say this, that in this difficult situation I am thankful that we have today a Premier who stands 100 per cent with the workers in the Cape Breton coal industry and has shown that commitment in his Speech from the Throne. (Applause) The favourable reference, the fact that this government believes in Cape Breton steel and in Cape Breton coal and is prepared to work to support those industries was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. Some have belittled the fact that it wasn't mentioned at great length, that there were not 75 pages of copy (Interruption) Please be quiet, you are tiresome. Mr. Speaker, he had his turn, I am having mine right now and I wish he would be quiet and let me speak.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne mentioned these industries in proportionate amount of copy as compared to the general length of the Speech from the Throne, which was a short, succinct, statement of government policy. It was stated in that document that, "My government believes there is a future for steel and coal.". Unlike those who seem to want to find some reason to bring these industries to a close, to shut them down, this government believes in those industries and believes there is a future for them and will work day and night to find solutions and to solve these problems that some are so loud about, in terms of complaint, but have no remedy to advance other than further criticism and partisan politicking.

Just in today's Daily News, Mr. Speaker, appeared a news item that I wish to table, entitled, "Devco's the one, premier agrees. MacLellan tells miners he'll probe NSP's obligations". It goes on at considerable length, "The Cape Breton Development Corporation should be the only supplier of coal for Nova Scotia Power Inc.'s generating plants, says Premier Russell MacLellan. 'Devco should be the sole supplier,' MacLellan said . . . 'I would be diametrically opposed to that ever changing.'". He would object to them, that is Nova Scotia Power, deciding that they wanted on a regular basis to buy coal from any other supplier offshore. It goes on at some considerable length, "Donkin must be brought into production to ensure the viability of Cape Breton's coal industry, MacLellan said.". It is right there in the paper.

[Page 1088]

Let me go still further than that because the newspaper reports don't generally give the full picture. Let me refer to the debates and proceedings of this House of Assembly; Hansard, Page 919, quoting the honourable Member for Cape Breton North, the Premier of Nova Scotia. The Premier said at that time, "I think the message should state the urgency of the coal mining industry, the threat to the coal mining industry, the threat to the people of Cape Breton and the fact that we don't have any long-term plan for the coal industry on Cape Breton Island. We, here, in the Legislature of the Province of Nova Scotia are as concerned as the people of Nova Scotia, particularly the people of Cape Breton, with respect to this uncertainty.".

Hear this now, Mr. Speaker, if you can over the braying, "We favour movement immediately, either whole or in part by the federal government, toward the development of the Donkin Mine. Thank you. (Applause)". (Applause)

Well, there you have it, the commitment of this Premier. Now some across the way have said, oh, the Premier should go to Ottawa. I think that was the cry from Cape Breton West. Is tomorrow soon enough, Mr. Speaker? The Premier is going to Ottawa tomorrow and I am sure will be dealing there at the First Ministers' Conference with the interests and the concerns of the people of our province and the people of Cape Breton Island.

Mr. Speaker, I don't wish to speak at great length here today because I am also going on at 6:00 o'clock on the Adjournment motion and will further speak at that time on the positive support of this government for the Cape Breton steel and coal industries. Before I take my place, I do want to make brief reference further to that which I have already made, to the mischievous role of the New Democratic Party in this difficult situation. There is a Party that sponsors as a candidate for public office an individual who has expressed the most virulent anti-coal views of any public figure that I am aware of in this province today, a man by the name of Mr. Howard Epstein who I understand is their star candidate running in Halifax Chebucto. Mr. Epstein states that an NDP Government would use alternatives such as natural gas over coal to create a better, safer fuel industry and that would generate more jobs than coal mining does, says Mr. Epstein.

I want to put this Third Party to the test. If they are serious about their professed concern for the Cape Breton coal miner and for the Cape Breton coal mining industry, let that Leader over there publicly state that he will not support this candidate for a nomination in the Halifax Chebucto riding.

We simply want to know whether he will sign those nomination papers or not because by their works, ye shall know them, not by their talk, not by their words. Talk is cheap, action is what counts and I would very much like to know if Mr. Howard Epstein will be the official NDP candidate in Halifax Chebucto because if he will then I think we do the right thing to make his views on coal mining known to the people where I come from. Those views

[Page 1089]

certainly are not in support of coal. His policy is shut them all down and replace them with windmills.

The voters of Cape Breton Nova sent me here to work and to fight on their behalf and I shall do so. I shall work to the best of my ability to protect and to enhance the coal mining industry. I will support the concept of a three mine operation including Donkin and do all that I can to make that possible. I know our Premier will. I know our government will. I thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, in talking about windmills, I think we have just heard one. However I am going to refrain from the cheap political shots. I listened to the previous speaker and I have to ask the question, on which side of the House does he sit? One has to wonder what he has done as he has been a member of the Liberal Government for the last nearly five years and what kind of leadership he has provided to address this issue.

I want to ask a question. I think it is a fundamental question because we believe it is the case. Does the government believe that there is a crisis? I believe there is a crisis. My caucus believes that there is a crisis. That is a fundamental question that has to be asked. If we believe that there is a crisis, and there is one, then it is our responsibility regardless of where we sit in this House to provide some leadership, to look for solutions, not just to pass the buck, not to just fire cheap shots back and forth across this floor. The people of Cape Breton, the coal miners, their families, they deserve one heck of a lot better than that.

Two years ago this matter was debated on the floor. It was brought to the floor by the member for Halifax Atlantic. It was a crisis then. We could see what was happening and it is a worse crisis now. I am going to pose a totally non-partisan suggestion here and government members will laugh, but if we are truly concerned and operating as a unified Legislature looking for solutions to the problems of Cape Breton and to the coal industry, then I pose it anyway. I am suggesting that the Leaders, that means the Premier, the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the New Democratic Party meet with, together they meet with, the leaders of the mineworkers, to meet with the communities and to sit down and say okay, what are solutions, what are solutions that we should collectively be doing as a unified voice? What can we propose? What powers do we have to ensure that the stability the mining industry deserves can be put into place? Let's cut through all this rhetoric, let's cut through all this hurling of accusations, let's work together. The mineworkers, their families, their communities deserve nothing less.

I am not from Cape Breton, I am not a coal miner. My family was. I am very proud to say my family originated from New Waterford and they worked in the mines. They were people who went down the road. But you know, Cape Bretoners have a fighting history, they don't give up. The miners won't give up nor should they give up. We should not give up on

[Page 1090]

them or their community. If we are not prepared to work together, to put aside this partisan rhetoric, then we are betraying them. (Interruptions) Oh, listen to the comments. Can't you cut through things for a moment over there? I hope the Premier will wrap up and will speak even but for a few minutes during this debate. I put forward a serious proposal, it was made previously, a couple of years ago. I believe we have a duty to do that.

There are things we can do. We can say, oh, it is a federal responsibility; yes, we can say that and that is easy to duck. But you know, the Nova Scotia Legislature people in this House were elected to represent Nova Scotia interests. Do you know, we are an holistic society. If one part of our community - whether that be Sydney, New Waterford, any part of Cape Breton, whether it be Yarmouth, whether it be metro - if any part of that community is not well, the whole body hurts.

We must address the serious crisis that exist in the community and it is a crisis. If that industry fails, as it goes down, not only do the coal miners lose their jobs but so too does all that money that is currently being paid to those workers, that is being redistributed, recirculated within that economy, that is gone. That destroys all of the other industries and even more people have to go down the road or live on social assistance. That is not a kind of record that I want to see this House pass on, regardless of whose political advantage it may be to.

The government has authority, it has power under the Utility and Review Board. It has power to ensure, for example, that there is a stable market for that coal. It can be making requirements and the government acknowledged that when they were in Opposition. They acknowledged that the Utility and Review Board has the power to require that Nova Scotia Power does, in fact, purchase Nova Scotia resources, purchase Cape Breton coal, to ensure that there is a market for that product.

We heard others speak about and the Leader of my Party spoke about the powers that the government has under the Resources Act. We do have powers. That is not to say that we have all the solutions, that doesn't mean that we can do it altogether, it doesn't mean that our caucus or the Conservative caucus or the Liberal caucus has all the answers. But you know, working together with those who know the industry best, the workers, their representatives, those who have brought forward concrete plans, substantial plans as to ways that you can make the industry viable, a three mine operation. Let's cut through all of this.

An emergency debate is an emergency debate because we know that there is a crisis, that is why we are having this. So let's move forward. We can't have any votes but surely to Heaven at least we can have a commitment that we will try, that we will get the Leaders together with the stakeholders and that we will devise a plan as to what plan of action we can do because we can do something. The only thing we can't afford to do is to throw up our hands in the air and say, we can't do anything. That is not an option, that is what we cannot afford. (Interruptions)

[Page 1091]

I am hearing comments from government members saying that my time is up or should be up, I should have taken another job and maybe that is the case. I have no idea what is going to happen to me in the next election other than that my name will be on the ballot. Whether I am returned or not, in the scheme of things, is really insignificant. Whether I am or anybody else in this House as individuals are returned is totally insignificant because ours is but one job and it affects but one family.

[2:00 p.m.]

We are talking about the jobs here of 1,700 people. Let me tell you, each of those 1,700 jobs is every bit as important to their families as each one of our jobs is to ours. Their jobs pay a heck of a lot more into the economies of the communities than ours do. Members opposite may try to dismiss me and my comments as being irrelevant.

Mr. Speaker, the last thing in the world that any of us in this House should think is that we are important because as individuals we are not. As soon as we are gone from this Chamber, we are forgotten very quickly. But while we are here, it is our responsibility to stand up for our communities, to stand up and to fight to protect a way of life which has been filled with anxiety. It is hard work. It is proud work and we are doing ourselves and all of those who are involved with this work a tremendous disservice if we in any way, shape or form try to diminish the importance of their work and of the coal industry to this province, all parts of this province.

I put out a proposal. I hope the Premier will accept it. Let's cut through it all. It is a crisis. We acknowledge that. I think everybody acknowledges that. Let's collectively put our heads together and find out what we can do. What can we do and what are we prepared to do to support the mineworkers, to support their families and to support their communities? If we accomplish that this afternoon, then we have accomplished a very important first step. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South. You have three and one-half minutes of speaking time.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: I realize that my time is severely limited and I will try to get the points in that I want in the three minutes that I have at my disposal. First of all, I would like to welcome to the House today the members of the UMW who are here. They are very concerned about the future of the coal mining industry. I can recall being with them in Ottawa last year testifying before the Senate Committee on the very future of the Cape Breton coal industry and where the industry was going. So I am quite familiar and here they are and indeed the struggle continues on behalf of Cape Breton coal miners.

[Page 1092]

I do not represent a coal mining constituency but I am right next door to a steel plant constituency and know very well the insecurity that the miners and indeed the steelworkers are facing on Cape Breton Island at the present time. The mining community and the steel community are very concerned about their futures. They are very concerned about the uncertainty surrounding both of these cornerstone industries on the island.

They are major industries that are important to our area. I think it is fair to say that the industrial area of Cape Breton has suffered greatly over the past number of years because of the decline in these two industries. Initiatives have been undertaken to try to fill that void with high-tech industries, with other initiatives on the Island, but I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that we must at the same time protect the future of the coal industry on the Island and indeed of the steel industry as well and both of these industries can co-habitate and co-exist with new initiatives on the Island for the well being of our people.

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my friends in the NDP over there, the Party of no policies, the Party of no programs, the Party of no ideas, preaching idealogy and socialist dogma that is stuck in the 1920's. They have no idea what they are talking about regarding the coal industry on Cape Breton Island. They haven't come up with any solution about anything. I am going to take up the challenge because I am incensed that that Party would allow a gentleman to run for them who clearly states that all coal mines in Nova Scotia should close. Now that statement is made, it is an irrefutable statement made by Mr. Howard Epstein who is a nominated candidate for that Party, who are professing, when they are in Cape Breton, that they are support of the coal industry but they don't go around the capital city preaching that here. They tend to take a back seat but when they get down to Cape Breton, they try to curry favour with the people of the Island by saying what great supporters of the coal industry they are. I challenge the Leader of the Third Party to denounce that candidate for his views on Cape Breton coal and not allow him to run for his Party. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I have been told I have to wind up but I just want to leave you with this. Donkin has to be developed. The Donkin Mine has to be developed in order to save the Cape Breton coal industry. Coal mining is important to our area. It must continue to be important. We must develop the Donkin Mine. Our Party is going to work, through the efforts of our Leader, the Premier of this province, in discussions that he will have in Ottawa to ensure that the Donkin Mine opens in Cape Breton Island. That is what we want and that is what we are going to push for.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, we should also ensure that levels of employment are the highest that they can be but we also have a responsibility to look after those miners who are leaving the industry with half decent pensions. I thank you for your time. (Applause)

[Page 1093]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, there are 1,700 jobs in Cape Breton that are depending upon the coal industry. There could be more. What we need is a commitment from this government and a commitment from this Premier that the socio-economic study as the result of the announcement this morning, that the gas project is going to go ahead, we have to know exactly what effect natural gas will have on the coal industry of Nova Scotia.

Coal miners have to be treated as people, not just pawns. Once or twice a session, when we are in here speaking, members of Parties will stand up and try to defend their actions and the future of the coal industry for Nova Scotia. The time for action has arrived, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the Premier and his government, actions speak louder than words. We have had the words we need on the coal industry in Nova Scotia. I think every member who has had an opportunity has said more than once in this House that they support the Donkin Mine, they support Devco and they support the 1,700 coal miners. Well, if they were saying it five years ago, they were saying we support 2,200 coal miners. If they don't get into an action mode, next year we will probably be saying we support 1,200. Well, the government of today has the opportunity to put its shoulder to the wheel and say the talk is over, it is time for action. Mr. Premier, it is a tall order, but you must preserve the coal industry for Nova Scotia and you must do it now. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for this Special Debate on the Cape Breton coal industry has expired and the Chair thanks all honourable members who made contributions to this debate.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I would move now that we carry on with the order paper for today. I want to thank all members for taking part in this debate and I believe it was important. Many people tell me it is the first time in recent memory that this House has had a Special Debate and I think it is fitting, where I come from, that that Special Debate was on the coal industry. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will move right along, then, to the daily routine.





[Page 1094]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier. (Applause)

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, in the Question Periods that have taken place in this House in the last few weeks I mentioned that when we had an arrangement and a deal on the offshore I would come and present this deal to the House. It was announced earlier today but I did make that commitment to put it to the House and I fully intend to do so.

However, I want to, before I begin, say how pleased I am that representatives of the UMW, the United Mine Workers, are here with us today. As we bring in a new source of energy to Nova Scotia, I agree with all members of this House that we cannot forget the energy sources we already have, the economies that depend on those energy sources and the people who work in those energy sources. (Applause)

Coal mining has been an integral part of the economy of Nova Scotia. It is an industry in which the economy of Cape Breton has depended, certainly in the memory of everyone in this Legislature. I will give my undertaking here today and the undertaking of my government that any natural gas that comes ashore will not, in any way, interfere with the coal industry in Cape Breton nor will we allow it to be a reason for the reduction of jobs in the coal mining industry of Cape Breton.

At the same time, I would like to, as well, introduce in the gallery a person who is a new friend of Nova Scotia who will be working with us in this province to realize the benefits of the offshore natural gas. I would like to introduce Mr. Gerry Anderson, the President of Mobil Canada and ask that the House of Assembly give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, this is a momentous day in the life of our province. The government has achieved an agreement with our Sable gas partners, an agreement that will bring new industry, new investment, new jobs, new wealth to the Province of Nova Scotia. Today, we can say with confidence that Nova Scotia is about to embark on a new industry based on the imminent development of the vast warehouse of natural gas that lies off our coast.

We have achieved an agreement that ensures the benefits from that development and that those benefits are felt, first and most of all, by Nova Scotians. We came into this process seeking certain benefits and certain advantages for Nova Scotia. We have, in fact, achieved that goal.

We sought and achieved a preferential price, indeed, a significant price advantage for Nova Scotian gas consumers. We already had a 10 per cent reduction as a result of the joint position. Now, through the establishment of the Nova Scotia Gas Market Development Fund by the Sable Offshore Energy Project producers there is an additional rebate to consumers. Nova Scotian consumers will now enjoy, in effect, the equivalent of a 20 per cent reduction in the delivery cost of natural gas (Applause) and this will be for a period of at least 10 years.

[Page 1095]

This price advantage gives business and industry in Nova Scotia a competitive advantage that will translate into economic growth and jobs for Nova Scotians.

[2:15 p.m.]

We sought and have achieved guaranteed access to natural gas for Nova Scotia industry and consumers. Laterals will be built to Halifax and Point Tupper, ensuring major consumers of access when the gas begins to flow. Next year we will begin the process of awarding franchises for wider distribution.

Mr. Speaker, this agreement positions Nova Scotia to take full advantage of the opportunities both today and tomorrow, as the natural gas development proceeds and expands.

Further in this agreement, and specifically, natural gas liquids will be available for use in the province. (Applause) Petrochemical development in Nova Scotia may, at some point, be economic and, as that opportunity presents itself, the liquids will be available. This agreement ensures that. We have also achieved commitments to fractionate natural gas liquids at Point Tupper. We have achieved a Nova Scotian ownership position, through Nova Scotia Power Inc., in the main gas transmission line.

We have achieved agreement with the Sable Offshore Energy Project producers to bring appropriate training programs to Nova Scotia, so that Nova Scotians can take advantage of the job opportunities these new industries will bring. (Applause) This effort will be managed and coordinated in Nova Scotia.

As well, research and development initiatives will be created at centres of excellence across Nova Scotia, providing Nova Scotians with additional opportunities to develop additional benefits in this new sector.

We have achieved agreement to ensure Nova Scotians continue to determine our own future relative to development of our resources. Nova Scotia Resources Limited will be an active participant in the project. It is vital that the province remain open, unfettered communications and cooperation with our partners in the development, and the presence of Nova Scotia Resources Limited will ensure that we get that done.

Mr. Speaker, the negotiations leading up to this agreement have been long; they have not always been cordial but they have always been very pleasant. I want to say that the negotiations with all of the parties have been very constructive in the interests of Nova Scotia and in the interests of developing this tremendously important resource.

[Page 1096]

The partners in the Sable project, I believe without any question, will be working along with the Province of Nova Scotia, and every bit as hard as the Province of Nova Scotia, to see that this resource is here for as long as possible, and to the extent possible, for the benefit of this province and for the Nova Scotians who live here. (Applause)

I ask all Nova Scotians to work for this future, to work and cooperate with the partners in Sable who, I believe, will be working as hard with us. Mr. Speaker, this is a tremendous opportunity, I don't think that we have seen the like in the history of this province, as far as the opportunity it presents for the future of the province and what we can do for Nova Scotians. I am very pleased to have been part of this and I want to congratulate all those who have been involved in the negotiation of this agreement. Thank you very much. (Prolonged applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to respond to the Premier's announcement to the House. First of all, I do wish to pay tribute to the Premier for doing what he said and coming to the House with the information. I think it is only proper, when possible and certainly it was possible, for the Premier to come here and provide us with the information. However, perhaps I will be a little bit less congratulatory from here on in.

I agree that this is a tremendous opportunity for Nova Scotia. (Applause) Who could say when perhaps we have discovered as much as, well, who knows, 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off our shore, that it shouldn't be a great opportunity, of course it should. It is a tremendous opportunity.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is ours.

DR. HAMM: The gas is ours and the opportunity must be ours. The Premier made reference on many occasions to how bad the deal was that was signed by his predecessors. He made no secret of that during this leadership run and he was able to capitalize on that position and finds himself where he is today. However, less we become overjoyed with the prospect of gas, let us look at what it is that we were able to achieve by renegotiating the deal.

The Premier would indicate that tremendous things have happened. Well, I don't see a different royalty agreement. I don't see a tolling arrangement, as the Premier had committed to on an earlier occasion, that gives us that advantage for the life of the project. I don't see that, other than committing to train people, that there is a requirement by Mobil to hire those people.

[Page 1097]

I had an interesting experience the other day. I was flying back from Sydney and while travelling, my seatmate on Air Nova was a man from Gabarus, Cape Breton, travelling to the North Sea to work on the oil rigs and he makes that trip every two weeks. He lives in Cape Breton and works on a platform in the North Sea. What guarantee has this Premier arranged that the 250 jobs on those platforms on Sable gas will be occupied by Nova Scotians?

I didn't hear the Premier mention that there was going to be any rearranging of contracts to make sure that during the construction phase that every Nova Scotia company would have a parcel which would be of a suitable size for that company to bid on and that the parcelling of contracts was going to be any different than it was before the Premier got involved. I don't hear the Premier saying that he got a tremendous concession over what we gave away and that was the commercial right to participate in an equal fashion with other partners in the pipeline.

Something good happened. I do not want to be entirely negative. A Nova Scotia company will now be a participant and I endorse that. I want to see Nova Scotia companies participate in our gas play here and on Sable Island. But if it is good for NSRL to participate and if it good for Nova Scotia Power to participate, why didn't we get something for the right to participate in the pipeline? We had the franchise for 50 per cent of that pipeline and we got nothing for it. We gave it away. That pipeline provision was worth more than the $20 million we are getting from Mobil to top up or make the joint position somewhat more acceptable.

I do not see, and I will have an opportunity to get a little more detail, because one of the things I liked about the joint review panel recommendations was the bypass provision, that Nova Scotia companies could tap in at Goldboro without paying any toll. When I read the Memorandum of Understanding, they are talking about a toll for the bypass. (Interruption) Well, we will have an opportunity to go into that because it certainly is not clear in the memorandum. I will have an opportunity to question the Premier.

I thank the Premier for the opportunity to respond to his announcement and I do congratulate him for coming to the House but, in essence, what we have before us today is not significantly altered from what we had prior to today.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me just say before I start that given the overwhelming response by government members to this announcement, it makes me think that maybe they are all shareholders in Nova Scotia Power. (Interruptions) Clearly this is a deal, I think it is interesting. The government is all so happy and so content and so full of itself about this deal. Yet they will not even listen to anybody who might have a little bit of criticism of that. But that is always the way isn't it when you are trying to hide a bad deal.

[Page 1098]

My point here is that the Premier of the province promised a better deal for Nova Scotians. What we got was a better deal for NSP. That is very clear. This deal is no different than the one that was negotiated by Premier Savage and Minister Norrie, the same deal that this Premier, when he was on the stump for the Liberal leadership, condemned and criticized and minimized to the point of ridiculing. That is what people are asking me now when they look at what this deal has to offer, that is, how is this deal in any way different from what was already proposed?

Clearly there is no difference other than the fact that this Premier has been able to whip his caucus into shape so that they are front and centre when it comes to the applause lines in his particular speech. Whether it is liquids, whether it is a preferential tolling structure, whether it is laterals or whether it is royalties, this deal and this Premier have not come through for Nova Scotians.

I do not blame Mobil Oil or the partners in SOEP for this deal by any stretch of the imagination. They showed themselves, once again, to be very shrewd negotiators. They again showed Nova Scotians why it is Mobil Oil is one of the biggest companies in the world. It is because they are shrewd. It is because they know a rube when they see one. They know a patsy when they see one. I am afraid that the Province of Nova Scotia has played that role to a T once again. (Interruption)

I will certainly take the opportunity though in Question Period to try to get some answers about guarantees on such things. The Premier, when he began his statement, said that he makes a commitment that this project will not interfere with the coal industry. How can he possibly make that commitment? There are no guarantees in there whatsoever. Nova Scotia Power is going to use natural gas to replace coal and that is clear. Nor will it be used to reduce coal industry jobs said the Premier. This is before, mind you, he is going to set up sometime next spring a socio-economic impact study to determine that very thing, so obviously the Premier already has the answers. What guarantees does he have that those coal industry jobs are not going to be displaced? None, clearly none. That is what we are going to be working on in the next couple of hours because we know that the minister or the Premier is not going to be around much longer to answer these important questions but then what is new about that?

Anyway, I think this is a very disappointing announcement, Mr. Speaker. The Premier had raised the hopes of Nova Scotians that for the first time in history Nova Scotia would not sell its natural resources down the road to Boston without getting proper return but, once again, we have been taken. Thank you.

[Page 1099]

[2:30 p.m.]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Fisheries.


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

Whereas legislation has been tabled in the House of Commons that will allow Canada to ratify the United Nations Fisheries Agreement on the conservation and management of straddling stocks and highly migratory stocks; and

Whereas the United Nations Fisheries Agreement establishes a set of rules for enforcement on the high seas to protect fisheries in Canada and in the rest of the world; and

Whereas Art Longard, Director of Policy, Planning and Coastal Resources for the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, worked many long hours with other Nova Scotia delegates to help negotiate and draft this landmark international agreement at the UN Headquarters in New York between 1994 and 1995;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly acknowledge the work of fellow Nova Scotians to protect highly migratory and straddling stocks and encourage the federal government to move swiftly to enact legislation which authorizes Canada to ratify the United Nations Fisheries Agreement.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 1100]


HON. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my capacity as Minister responsible for the administration of the Human Rights Act.

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

Whereas December 10th is traditionally reserved for the observance of Human Rights Day; and

Whereas 1997 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and

Whereas this Golden Anniversary provides an occasion to promote and encourage respect and understanding for human rights and responsibilities; and

Whereas the ideas espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize the provincial and federal commitments to implementing human rights standards and urge that all governments continue to develop innovative and responsible approaches to human rights issues in the years ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.


Bill No. 19 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 89 of the Acts of 1980. The Gaelic College Foundation Act. (Hon. Kenneth MacAskill, as a private member.)

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

[Page 1101]


MR. SPEAKER: 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 this House held a Special Debate today on the Cape Breton coal industry; and

Whereas all Parties expressed support for strengthening Cape Breton's coal industry; and

Whereas a strong Cape Breton coal industry is vital to the Nova Scotia economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the three Party Leaders immediately convene to establish a joint, non-partisan approach to the federal government toward the opening of Donkin Mine.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I would like to make a brief introduction. In the west gallery is the daughter of my colleague, Eileen O'Connell, the member for Halifax Fairview. I would like to ask Carolyn Carpan, a constituent of Halifax Chebucto, to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: 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:

[Page 1102]

Whereas the arbitrator says the wage roll-back ended November 1, 1997, and the government should reinstate the 3 per cent cut from QE II employees; and

Whereas the Minister of Human Resources says the 3 per cent roll-back must be negotiated at the bargaining table; and

Whereas this statement by the Minister of Human Resources ignores not only the arbitrator's ruling but the argument of the government's own lawyers before the International Labour Organization, ILO;

Therefore be it resolved that in the interests of preventing the government from getting a second, well-deserved rebuke for unfair labour practices from the ILO, the Minister of Human Resources should stop playing games and do the right thing.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.


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

Whereas at a press conference held today, the province announced that an agreement had been reached with respect to the Sable Offshore Energy Project; and

Whereas this agreement was the result of many long hours of difficult negotiations between the Premier and the various partners in the Sable project; and

Whereas this agreement will result in many benefits to Nova Scotians for many years to come, including making the province more attractive to new age industries which, in turn, will provide job opportunities throughout the province;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend to Premier MacLellan their heartfelt thanks and appreciation for his hard work and long hours of negotiations on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

[Page 1103]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.


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

Whereas Raymond White, the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, authored a paper on the role of caucus in Canadian Parliaments; and

Whereas the honourable member presented this paper at the 36th Canadian Regional Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, in Regina, Saskatchewan, July 1997; and

Whereas Mr. White's paper has been published under the title, "The Role of Caucus - Comparing Canadian Practice" in the October 1997 edition of the Parliamentarian, the journal of Parliaments of the Commonwealth;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury on the publication of this paper in this most prestigious journal which is distributed to parliamentarians around the world, from Australia to Zimbabwe.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

[Page 1104]


HON. GERALD O'MALLEY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Coalition Support Services, a community-based corrections support program, located at St. Mark's Church, Halifax North, celebrated 25 years of outstanding service to hundreds of needy persons in rehabilitation on December 4th; and

Whereas Mrs. Ann Parsons, Director, has coordinated and guided these persons in need back into productive work life in society for those 25 years; and

Whereas the future of this outstanding program will come to an end on December 30th because of Corrections Canada withdrawing all financial support while the government of this province maintains its commitment;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House endorse the continuation of this exceptional human support program and strongly encourage Corrections Canada to reinstate its full funding program.

I would request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas six months ago the Minister of Finance advised in writing that his department was preparing an update of the report entitled, Nova Scotia Tax Reform, Economic and Fiscal Analysis which, among other things, would examine the impact of the HST on consumers; and

[Page 1105]

Whereas four months ago the Minister of Finance advised in writing that officials in his department were so busy with other projects that the report on the impact of the HST was delayed but that "we expect to be able to free up resources to complete the report before the House resumes in the fall"; and

Whereas the House is ready to conclude and the Minister of Finance has still not produced this long-promised report on the impact of the HST on consumers;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance acknowledge that the failure to produce his long-promised and much anticipated report on the HST's impact on consumers is simply an attempt to avoid accountability to this Legislature and to the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.


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

Whereas the Liberals gave over $9 million to Orenda despite its inability to obtain Transport Canada's certification for its new engine and without taking security for the loan or obtaining guarantees about the number of jobs to be created; and

Whereas the Liberals' approach to job creation in Nova Scotia was so successful Orenda's parent company purchased Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg a few short weeks after receiving Nova Scotia largesse; and

Whereas the Minister of Economic Development says New Democrats are whiners and criers because they dare to ask questions about the $9 million government loan that has resulted in only four new jobs in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved this Liberal Government begin to act responsibly by ensuring Nova Scotia tax dollars are used to create jobs here, not elsewhere.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries.

[Page 1106]


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

Whereas the Western Shore and District Fire Department recently celebrated its 40th Anniversary of service to the community; and

Whereas firefighter Charles Rafuse has been an active member and was duly recognized with a special medal for 40 years of service; and

Whereas members of the department, ladies' auxiliary and many friends have worked hard over the years to raise funds for a new fire hall, better vehicles and much needed firefighting and other emergency response equipment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate the Western Shore and District Fire Department for their years of dedicated work and service to protect the lives and properties of friends, neighbours and local businesses.

I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice and passage without debate which requires unanimous consent.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed?

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for 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 in a letter to federal Transport Minister David Collenette the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission says the Canada Marine Act, federal Bill C-9, is flawed because "it removes the federal government from opportunities to participate in future capital investments in Halifax"; and

[Page 1107]

Whereas the legislation will unfairly disadvantage the competitive position and growth potential of the Port of Halifax; and

Whereas Halifax is in an unusual competition with heavily subsidized American ports to the south and the Port of Montreal to the north which receives massive support from the Jean Chretien Liberal Government through the free provision of icebreaking services and dredging;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature encourage the Jean Chretien government to amend Bill C-9 to enable it to assist the future capital investment requirements at the Port of Halifax such as preparing for post-Panamax designation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

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 Minister of Education has tabled a few documents in this House in an attempt to justify the construction of Horton High School; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas none of the material so far tabled provides any information whatsoever on the who and the why of the increase of the construction costs for Horton High from $8 million to $27 million and counting; and

Whereas this failure by the minister could, in more enlightened places, earn the minister a quick trip to the back benches;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call on the Minister of Education to table documents justifying the cost of Horton High or resign.

[Page 1108]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.


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

Whereas Brian Underhill, in his column of November 29th in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald stated that Liberal Senator, Sister Peggy Butts, had the worst attendance record of any senator in the Senate; and

Whereas the December 9th edition of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald published a letter by Paul C. Belisle, Clerk of the Senate; and

Whereas Mr. Belisle stated in his letter that his records confirmed that Sister Butts has a perfect attendance record;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recommend that not only Brian Underhill but all media reporters adequately research their topics before presenting them to the public.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.


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

Whereas Cedric Upshaw, a 21 year veteran of the Halifax Police Force, has been chosen to head up the division's new Black Youth Liaison post; and

Whereas the constable will mainly be responsible to act as a link between the police and black teens; and

Whereas while Constable Upshaw has the years of experience necessary for his new position through his work in the community, including five years in the North End Community Policing Office and touring with the well-known police band, Blue Thunder, he also has the approachability and understanding needed to successfully fill the role;

[Page 1109]

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House congratulate Constable Upshaw on his appointment to the new post and commend the Halifax Regional Municipality Police Department for establishing the Black Youth Liaison post in an effort to foster relations between police and black youth.

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

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.


MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I am giving this resolution on behalf of the member for Sackville-Beaverbank.

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

Whereas the Minister of Human Resources has signed an agreement with the Association of Municipal Administrators, giving municipal employees throughout Nova Scotia access to human resource training programs; and

Whereas this agreement will give municipal employees access to skill-building programs right in their own region; and

Whereas this access to provincial government programs will save municipalities' travel and accommodations costs associated with training programs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the Government of Nova Scotia and its Minister of Human Resources, the Honourable Allister Surette, for taking the initiative to make these programs available to the municipalities.

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

[Page 1110]

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice and passage without debate. It requires unanimous consent.

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.


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

Whereas December 10th has historically been reserved for the observation of International Human Rights Day; and

Whereas this year the date is even more special, given that it marks the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and

Whereas human rights help to define Canadian identity and to promote and encourage the development, understanding, respect for and awareness of human rights and responsibilities;

Therefore be it resolved that all of us commemorate those who have worked diligently in our province, and in particular in our communities, to develop innovative and responsive approaches to human rights issues and to protect and promote the rights of all individuals.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

[Page 1111]


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

Whereas churches are often the centre of community in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Zion United Baptist Church has been part of Yarmouth's community for 200 years; and

Whereas the church recently marked their bicentennial with celebrations on the weekend of November 7, 1997;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Reverend Gregory Denton and the congregation of the Zion United Baptist Church on this momentous anniversary.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable 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 Lloyd Heisler was born in Rous Island, Lunenburg County, was a crew member of the schooner Bluenose, having raced and fished with her between 1928 to 1938; and

Whereas during the 1920's he started rowing, never losing a race with his partner, the late Russell Langille, who rowed I the First International Dory Race held between teams from Lunenburg and Gloucester, Massachusetts; and

[Page 1112]

Whereas in October 1982, they were inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly extend deepest sympathy to family and friends on the recent death of Lloyd Heisler and recognize his many outstanding contributions to the sport of rowing in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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 Truro-Bible Hill on an introduction.

MRS. ELEANOR NORRIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to members in the east gallery, the Executive Director of the Colchester YMCA, Mr. Vince Roberts and, more particularly, his daughter Andrea, who is the Premier of our social studies class in Truro. They are in the House today to witness the wonderful proceedings happening here today. It is a great day to be here and I want to extend the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.


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

Whereas the honourable member for Hants East celebrates a significant birthday today; and

Whereas the honourable member is best known for his abilities as an advocate and outstanding spokesman on behalf of the constituents of Hants East; and

Whereas the honourable member also possesses a unique way of facing issues head-on, with eloquence and a generous amount of humour;

[Page 1113]

Therefore be it resolved that all members join me in congratulating and extending best wishes to Mr. Robert Carruthers on his 45th birthday.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice. I take it that we have agreement that it should be passed without debate.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


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

Whereas Stellarton High School is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year; and

Whereas Stellarton High School was host school to the 1997 Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Boys Soccer Championships; and

Whereas the Stellarton High Warriors won both the senior boys and girls Division 3 in this year's Provincial Soccer Championships;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to all of the athletes, coaches and managers of Stellarton High senior boys and girls soccer teams for their outstanding success in this year's soccer championships.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1114]

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 this government has continually postponed public scrutiny of its policies and programs affecting Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the words shortly, very shortly, before long, before Christmas and in the near future indicate government inaction on and shelving of vital issues; and

Whereas the government must call an election shortly, very shortly, before long, in the near future and maybe not before Christmas but certainly before summer;

Therefore be it resolved that this government put Nova Scotians out of their misery and admit now that they are playing politics with vital issues affecting the people of Nova Scotia.

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 schools of Margaree Forks District School, Mabou Consolidated School and Whycocomagh Consolidated School participated in independent provincial girls volleyball championships this past weekend; and

Whereas Margaree Forks District School, Mabou Consolidated School and Whycocomagh Consolidated School won the Division 1, Division 2 and Division 4 titles respectively; and

Whereas the team members of each school displayed the competitive and fair play so representative of all Cape Breton athletes;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the senior girls volleyball teams in each of the three Cape Breton schools for their competitive spirit, good sportsmanship and dedication to the sport of volleyball, for reaching the playoffs and for ultimately winning the provincial title.

[Page 1115]

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

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.


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

Whereas Yarmouth Wyeco Supply has been serving the community since 1982; and

Whereas Yarmouth Wyeco Supply has been the example for a good corporate citizen with support for such things as sports teams; and

Whereas Yarmouth Wyeco Supply is celebrating their 15th year with the grand opening of a new branch in Yarmouth with a reception tomorrow, December 11, 1997;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Yarmouth Wyeco Supply on the occasion of their 15th Anniversary, the opening of their new branch and especially for their commitment to the community.

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

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1116]

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 nearly one year ago, in addition to already staggering taxes, the Savage-MacLellan Government began extracting millions of dollars from Nova Scotia consumers via the tire tax; and

Whereas even though the contract between the Tire Recycling Atlantic Canada Corporation and the Resource Recovery Fund board was extended from June 30, 1997 to September 30, 1997, without public consultation or notification in a clandestine move to cover up for the Minister of the Environment's buddy, TRACC President Doug Vickers; and

Whereas the contract extension has long since expired and no value added products of advanced technology are either being made or marketed, the processing plant has not been built, only a fraction of the 75 jobs created, fire regulations disregarded, Deborah Diggs and her employees from Preston unjustly and undeservedly fired, tractor-trailer loads of Nova Scotia tires leaving the province for other jurisdictions and deadline after deadline not being met;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment, the Resource Recovery Fund board and the Savage-MacLellan Government acknowledge that even with the long since expired contract extension, TRACC are still violating the terms and conditions of the agreement and immediately demand the $10,000 per week penalty, retroactive to September 30th, or execute the default and termination clauses because consumers are . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member this is a speech.

MR. TAYLOR: . . . because consumers are being ripped off.

MR. SPEAKER: And for another reason I have trouble with the word, clandestine, honourable member. That is a word that is listed among those that are unparliamentary. It is a fancy word to use for under the table or something disreputable.

That notice of motion is out of order.

The honourable member for Hants West.


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

[Page 1117]

Whereas two Liberal backbenchers recently did back flips out of their seats; and

Whereas their aerobatics pale in comparison to the acrobatics of their Premier who no doubt has a back sprain from back-pedalling on the numerous promises he made during the Liberal Leadership race; and

Whereas more Liberals will be losing their seats as a result of the disappointing acrobatics put on by Premier No. 2;

Therefore be it resolved that the I don't know, I can't tell, I am not sure Premier and his team of Liberal acrobats, who hope to hold onto their seats, fasten their seatbelts for the bumpy road ahead.

MR. SPEAKER: In the interest of showing a sense of humour, the notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[3:00 p.m.]


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

Whereas while a Golden Anniversary is always a significant occasion, the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30 articles contained within that agreement is worthy of celebration; and

Whereas while the significant contents of that declaration are reason to celebrate, the real work comes in ensuring that the intent of those articles is upheld here and around the world; and

Whereas the declaration states at its outset that recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend those agencies in our country and in our province that work around the clock to address the injustices in society and to ensure that the doctrines contained in the Human Rights Declaration for the last 50 years are just not nice to talk about on the anniversary date but are promises that are kept 365 days of the year.

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

[Page 1118]

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver of notice.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable 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:

MR. SPEAKER: Before you continue honourable member, I have you listed here for two previous notices of motion. This is the third time on your feet and of course that is one over the limit.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I did delete the words you suggested I take out of the resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: I would suggest you bring it back another day honourable member.

MR. TAYLOR: Okay, Mr. Speaker, thank you because it is important that Nova Scotians know that tires are leaving the province . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You are out of order honourable member. Please take your seat.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.


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

Whereas the federal Tory Party is still recovering from their decimation in the 1993 election; and

Whereas the recent by-election results in Nova Scotia showed the Tories placed third in three of the races of the races; and

Whereas a recent Decima poll showed that the Tory support is rapidly shrinking;

[Page 1119]

Therefore be it resolved that this House petition the Minister of the Environment to amend the Wilderness Act to protect the Tory Party as an endangered species.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

Are there further notices of motion? If not, I would like to inform all members of the House that the Clerk has conducted a draw for the late show, the Adjournment debate at 6:00 p.m. The winner is the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova who has submitted a resolution:

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the Premier for his exemplary dedication to the welfare and best interests of the Cape Breton coal and steel industries.

That is the subject matter for debate on the late show at 6:00 p.m.

We will now move to Orders of the Day and Oral Questions Period. We begin at 3:04 p.m.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. In July the Premier was very dissatisfied with the royalty agreement that those who sit around him today negotiated with SOEP. He said that simply was not good enough and he wanted a better royalty agreement. My question to the Premier is, was the Premier able to announce today that he has negotiated a better royalty agreement than the one that he was so dissatisfied with in the month of July?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have a very good royalty agreement. I cannot think of having a better one, frankly. I want to commend my two colleagues, the former Minister of Natural Resources, the member for Truro-Bible Hill and the member for Lunenburg West for the excellent job that they have done in developing this royalty agreement.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, it is quite amazing how one's perception changes when one sits in the Premier's chair.

[Page 1120]

I am going to continue with the Premier. The Premier has clearly indicated that despite a previous commitment he was not able to improve the royalty agreement. He now says he is satisfied with it, although he and many others were not in the month of July, and many continue to be unconvinced that it is the proper deal for Nova Scotia.

Now, the Premier made light of the joint position signed by the Savage Administration and he said he wanted an agreement and a preference that was greater, but lasted the life of the agreement. So, my question to the Premier again is very simple. Was this Premier able to negotiate and announce to the people of Nova Scotia today a tolling advantage for the people of Nova Scotia that lasts the life of the agreement?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we did not mention tolls at all. In fact, we could not renegotiate tolls because of the panel's decision. What I talked about prior was a preferential price for Nova Scotians and we have a preferential price. You can check the records. Any member can. That is there.

I have listened to the honourable Leader of the Opposition on frequent occasions talking about the fact that I was saying that there was no agreement in June, that the agreement that was signed among Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maritimes & Northeast and others was not an agreement; I said it was not an agreement. Well, the agreement presented today obviously meant that it was an agreement because we incorporated it in the agreement that we presented today. What we did was supplement it with a further benefit for the consumers of natural gas in the Province of Nova Scotia.

DR. HAMM: I will continue with the Premier. It is obvious that the Premier looks at things differently today. He is losing his eyesight, and I am losing my hearing because I really could not follow the Premier's logic. He was saying that we did not have an agreement, but we incorporated the agreement in what he announced today.

What is the Premier's success in all of this? He said we got a preferential tolling rate and over 10 years Nova Scotians will get $20 million. Remembering that this is a $3 billion project that will garner profits of hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 25 years, is the Premier prepared to admit that he is overstating his hand when he says he gets $2 million a year in additional benefit on the tolling? That is $2.00 a year for every Nova Scotian. That is the total sum of what this Premier has been able to negotiate as a better deal. He now has $2.00 for every Nova Scotian, a year, for the next 10 years and that is the sum and substance of what he has been able to improve in the agreement that his predecessor signed. That's $2.00 per Nova Scotian, per year; that is all he has been able to achieve.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, never, at any time inside the House or outside the House, did I ever talk about $2 million a year.

[Page 1121]

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



MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I would like to go to the Premier on my question. The Premier promised a better deal for Nova Scotians, and I contend that this is a better deal for Nova Scotia Power. I want to ask the Premier - back on July 8th, in the Cape Breton Post, the Premier said the major benefit of natural gas will be in the industry we attract with cheap fuel costs - can the Premier tell this House how the better deal he has negotiated on behalf of Nova Scotia Power will attract new industries and thereby create jobs here in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have given up trying to explain this to the Leader of the socialist Party. The fact of the matter is, if we have a preferential rate in natural gas, if we have a cheaper rate of natural gas for Nova Scotia and we have a cheap energy source that is going to be required by new industry, then that is going to be attractive to anyone who is looking for a place to invest and this is a place that they are going to want to invest.

MR. CHISHOLM: Okay, Mr. Speaker, let's go back to the Premier on this one. I wonder if he could tell us whether there are any guarantees in the memorandum of understanding, or anywhere else actually, that NSP will lower its rates and thus attract industry to Nova Scotia and create jobs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that any company that wants to invest in Nova Scotia has two ways of getting good, cheap energy. One is to have the natural gas go right to their facility where they can use it to generate their own electricity or they can get what we call natural gas by wire; that is to negotiate with Nova Scotia Power or anybody else who is supplying electricity, and to work in a rate that would make it effective and efficient for them to get their source of energy by electricity that would be supplied by Nova Scotia Power or anyone else. If Nova Scotia Power doesn't supply the energy at the rate that a perspective industry would find attractive, they can use natural gas themselves because it will be going to their community to, in fact, get the energy they need to supply the energy needs that they, themselves, will require.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, now the Premier is trying to tell Nova Scotians that natural gas is going to be available from one end of this province to the other. Well, we will certainly see.

My final supplementary to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, what guarantees has the Premier obtained in return for his hard work on behalf of Nova Scotia Power that, in fact, Nova Scotia Power won't cost Nova Scotians jobs, specifically the jobs of Nova Scotia coal miners? What guarantee has he been able to get?

[Page 1122]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Jethro Bodine of the socialist Party hasn't done his ciphering. (Laughter) Nova Scotia Power has agreed to purchase 60,000 million cubic BTUs of natural gas from Shell. They are into negotiation to purchase 35,000 million BTUs from Mobil. Of that amount 45,000 million BTUs are going to be used by Nova Scotia Power to generate the Tufts Cove power station which will be converted from oil to natural gas. How are they going to use the rest of what they have to replace the coal industry and all the thermal generating plants that they have in Nova Scotia? It is just not going to be possible.

Also, add to that the effectiveness of converting one of those plants from coal to natural gas - very expensive. The fact of the matter is that Nova Scotia Power is going to be able to offer, presumably to their customers, a source of energy that is going to be reasonably priced for the needs of those customers, be they industry or individual homeowners.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Premier. Now the Premier, in answering his question, mentioned the advantage of having gas right at the door. I don't think anybody would dispute that. It will be a tremendous advantage to anyone in Nova Scotia who can have gas delivered right to the door. My question for the Premier is this, in the new arrangement that he was able to negotiate with SOEP and partners, is there an arrangement in place that in the first phase of the operation, when the gas is turned on in the fall of 1999, that gas will be delivered to Truro, to Windsor, to Liverpool, to Bridgewater, to Amherst and other points in Nova Scotia? Is that arrangement in place that those and other communities will have gas delivered right to the door?

[3:15 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a fair question. The agreement commits a natural gas lateral to Halifax. It commits the second natural gas lateral to Point Tupper. Those two laterals are in addition to the main line through to New Brunswick. There will be, when the market requires, further laterals off the lateral to Halifax, off the main line to Amherst, should there be a requirement for natural gas for industrial purposes. To New Glasgow, to Truro, to the Annapolis Valley, when the need arises, further on to the South Shore or to the southern end of the province; if the need arises, if the market is there. It may very well be that potential industries may want to take the benefits of cheaper natural gas through a deal that they can work out with Nova Scotia Power or someone else who provides electricity.

It may also be that pending the natural gas actually being delivered by pipeline to that community that we could feed the natural gas requirements by using propane, which has been done. That is how the natural gas was delivered to the communities on Vancouver Island, well before the pipeline. It can be done now because we have a good, abundant, low price

[Page 1123]

source of propane coming ashore with the natural gas. We stated in the declaration that next year we will be bringing forward distribution agreements that will apply to those communities that will be buying sufficient amounts of natural gas for consumer distribution. There is no question that potentially every community can benefit from natural gas in this province.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the Premier. The Premier seems to fail to realize that if a utility had an option only to provide service to those areas in which it could make a profit, there would never be a telephone service in Meat Cove, there wouldn't be electricity in Meat Cove; there wouldn't be a telephone service down in Arichat, there wouldn't be electricity down in Arichat, but this is exactly what the Premier has allowed. He has allowed Maritimes & Northeast to have the gravy, the lateral to Halifax. Of course, it is going to make money; of course, it is going to be a profitable lateral. But he hasn't had the requirement, he hasn't made it a requirement that to get the plum they also have to provide . . .

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary question, honourable Leader.

DR. HAMM: . . . service to Truro, to Windsor, to Liverpool, to Bridgewater, to Amherst and to New Glasgow and other points. Will the Premier undertake to explain to this House why he has given the plum, the Halifax lateral, and he has failed to make it a requirement to provide gas to all of these other communities in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't even know if that question deserves an answer. I mean it is totally preposterous that there should be an obligation to give natural gas to every community regardless of the size of that community at this particular time. Not to mention the fact that we don't have any indication what communities would even want natural gas. There has to be a requirement for natural gas, there has to be a market shown. It is the same as any other commodity that is delivered.

The fact is, of course, as I mentioned, if the pipeline does not go to a particular community, there is no reason that natural gas could not be delivered to a community through the use of propane. We have never been able to do it before in Nova Scotia, because we had to import propane and it was too expensive. Propane will now becoming ashore with the natural gas and a community could actually have a pre-installation for natural gas consumption by using propane without the pipeline having to be there, that can be done. Alternatively, through the use of natural gas in communities, there can be an arrangement made through a deliverer of cheaper electricity, that that community could get the benefits of natural gas by wire. Regardless of how it is done, Nova Scotians, wherever they are in the province, are going to benefit.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed in the Premier. I wasn't talking about small communities, I was talking about large communities in rural Nova Scotia. I was talking about Truro and Windsor and Liverpool and Bridgewater and Amherst. You don't

[Page 1124]

think Mersey Paper wants natural gas? You don't think that Trenton Works wants natural gas? You don't think that Bridgewater, if there was a pipeline down there, that Michelin in Bridgewater wants natural gas? You don't think that Michelin in Granton and down in the Valley wants natural gas? They want natural gas but they can't have it unless you arrange for a pipe to go to that community and you have failed to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, a question please, a final supplementary.

DR. HAMM: Will the Premier please explain to the House why the lateral that goes to Halifax and why the lateral that goes across the Strait of Canso to Point Tupper, that he did not insist that it be under the jurisdiction of the URB and not the federal National Energy Board? By divesting control of that lateral, he has given up one of the real hammers that he has to make natural gas available throughout Nova Scotia.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I said earlier in this Question Period and I said this morning in my statement that the lateral to Halifax can have further laterals to Truro, to New Glasgow, into the Annapolis Valley, to the South Shore and to the southern part of the province. All we need to do is have someone come and say we want natural gas and that it would be viable to put the lateral to those areas. There is no problem there. Any laterals off the lateral to Halifax, any laterals off the main line to Amherst and into New Brunswick, any laterals off the lateral to Point Tupper will be controlled in Nova Scotia by Nova Scotians and by the Utility and Review Board.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.



MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Human Resources. The minister knew that when the budget for this year began that Bill No. 52 expired on October 31st. I would ask the minister, did the government make financial provisions for restoration of 3 per cent, knowing that the bill expired on October 31st? If yes, how much and where is it in the budget?

HON. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I think it would be somewhat irresponsible of me to say exactly how much money we have in our budget. What is important, and I have stated this time and time again in the House, is that the collective bargaining process proceeds. Do we have any allowances for this in the budget? Of course we do have allowances in the budget. How much? That is left to the bargaining table.

MR. MOODY: Well, in other words workers are not even going to get 3 per cent because he knew how much that was and obviously he knows that's being fair. On Pages 50 and 51 of the arbitrator's decision regarding the QE II workers, restoring the 3 per cent

[Page 1125]

rollback, and I am sure the minister has read it, obviously, and I quote. Other parts of the legislation, in particular Part II, clearly showed the government's intention to freeze the situation and reduce pay for a three year period, following which matters would return to something resembling normality. For elected and public officials it was necessary to provide that 3 per cent would be restored because there is no automatic process to negotiate for these individuals.

Given the fact that this legislation automatically gives back 3 per cent for those who cannot bargain, I would ask the minister if he is prepared to treat all employees the same and restore the 3 per cent?

MR. SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, we will treat everybody fairly. In this case here we are committed to collective bargaining. Bill No. 52, The Public Sector Compensation Act, froze collective bargaining from November 1, 1994, to November 1, 1997. That was in respect to the bill. Following November 1, 1997, we committed to go back to collective bargaining. We honoured that commitment and in some cases we began five months prior to the expiration of Bill No. 52, in other cases three months prior to go back to collective bargaining.

He is being very selective in the arbitrator's decision here. In part, in the last part of the decision, what is quite clear again, that a lot of this has to be left up to the bargaining table. In the arbitrator's decision in itself, ". . . and this decision may prove to be entirely moot, because it is to be expected that collective bargaining will determine the ultimate pay scales to be paid to employees, retroactive to November 1, 1997.". (Applause)

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, the minister is now being selective because he knows the arbitrator came down on the side of the workers to restore the 3 per cent, bottom line, and then you start negotiating. The minister also knows that there are many, such as judges in this province, who don't negotiate their salary, it is automatic.

I would ask the minister, according to Bill No. 52 as it expired on October 31st, that automatically, since the judges don't negotiate, I am understanding that the legislation allows and now gives special groups such as judges a 3 per cent increase automatic of November 1st because of the legislation, because they don't negotiate a contract. Obviously the minister knows there are special groups like that which don't negotiate a contract. I would ask the minister to confirm now, do judges automatically get the 3 per cent raise because they don't bargain any contract in the process?

MR. SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is absolutely right, there are different parts to Bill No. 52. One of the sections he is making reference to is Part 2, which makes reference to judges and elected officials such as us. The question was posed to me some time ago whether we will automatically get back the 3 per cent following November 1st? This government's decision has been no because we do not have any bargaining power. That is why that section of the Act was there.

[Page 1126]

On the other side, for the entire Public Service, the Premier has clearly indicated to the public of Nova Scotia that yes, public servants do deserve a raise. I think it is clearly up to the bargaining table as to what that raise will be. It is not up to me to sit or to stand in the House of Assembly to say what I think they do deserve. Yes, I think they deserve a raise, the government does. I think it has to be left up to the bargaining table to see what will be the result of all of this.

Like I said, this is one of the issues at the bargaining table and there are many other issues at the bargaining table. Being a reasonable and fair government, we want to see what the entire package is going to cost us. (Applause)

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


MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Premier on his announcement today about the Sable gas plan. The Premier has said that he has a secret plan to keep natural gas by-products in Nova Scotia. I would like to ask the Premier, in light of today's announcement, does he still have a secret plan or is this all there is?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it states quite clearly in the statement how we will dispose of natural gas liquids. They will be here for the benefit of Nova Scotians. There will be a fractionation plant set up immediately at Point Tupper from which we will extract the butanes, propanes and condensates for use immediately in Nova Scotia. The ethanes will stay with the natural gas until we have an offer from somebody who wants to set up a petrochemical industry.

At that time when that offer comes forward, the ethanes will be available to be used in Nova Scotia in a petrochemical facility. Under no circumstances are the sale of any of the by-products of natural gas to be for any period longer than two years so that we can continue to have the use of those by-products when we want them and when we feel the need is going to be there and when the request has been made for those by-products to process here in Nova Scotia.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I guess that is partly my point, that clearly the Premier understands the fact or has acknowledged the fact or has acknowledged the fact that these by-products will continue to leave the province. In fact, let's be clear that, although it was announced today, this business about export permits for two years was nothing new. That is something that the authority of the province always had.

[Page 1127]

My first supplementary. The Premier said in the Daily News on November 4th that as long as I am Premier, they (the natural gas liquids) will not be leaving the province. The memorandum of understanding and the presentation this morning by Mr. Ryan makes it clear that butane, propane and the condensates, not to mention ethane, may well be leaving the province.

Can the Premier indicate whether he will now resign or whether he will show us the secret plan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the socialist Party mentioned four by-products. The butane, propane and condensates will be separated at Point Tupper. They will be separated here in Nova Scotia and they will be sold from Nova Scotia. We can use them in Nova Scotia. We can use them any way we want. They will be reasonably priced. They will be here. They will be ours. If we want to then sell them outside of the Province of Nova Scotia, they can be sold outside the Province of Nova Scotia, but the first utilization is to be here in Nova Scotia.

The ethane is a part of the natural gas. To get a stripping plant would cost millions of dollars. It can be done. It will be done when we use the ethane for petrochemical purposes here in Nova Scotia. Ethane increases the BTU content of natural gas. That is why the end-users want ethane to stay with the natural gas. That may happen initially, but it may not. The fact of the matter is, we can take the ethane out of the natural gas at Goldboro and process it here in Nova Scotia in a petrochemical industry, which we will do when the amount of ethane is attractive enough for someone to want to do that. What we have to do at that time is to be able to give the Maritimes & Northeast some idea of how they are going to keep the BTU content up to where they promised the consumers it would be. Now, either we inject propane to increase the BTU content when the ethane is extracted or there is a penalty because the BTU content has been reduced. I do not see any problem with that. I think that is fair. That is the way it is done in Alberta. That is the way it is done all over the world.

The fact of the matter is we control the byproducts. We say where they are going to go, when they are going to go and how they are going to go. The fact of the matter is we cannot use the ethane until someone tells us what they want to use it for. We cannot put it in our pockets. We cannot put it in our refrigerators. We cannot use it until we have someone here who wants to use it. We want to get someone as quickly as possible and when that person comes forward to use it for petrochemical purposes it will be here.

MR. CHISHOLM: I was not the one who said that natural gas liquids are going to stay in the province or else the natural gas is going to stay in the ground. It was this Premier who said that, as he has been making all kinds of claims about what a great deal this is for Nova Scotia, when in fact it is just another sellout. This Premier has done nothing to add value to what was already a bad deal.

[Page 1128]

I want to go back on my final supplementary to the Premier about another false claim that is being made with respect to this deal and that is about jobs. I want to ask the Premier whether he will confirm that the deal he has agreed to, the latest sellout, will create not a single job in the petrochemical industry beyond the handful of jobs that were already planned for the Strait area. I will certainly table the natural gas liquids handling and shipping facilities document from 1996. Will the Premier confirm that the announcement today provides not one additional job for the plant that was already mentioned in 1996?

THE PREMIER: The declaration that I made today and read in the House stipulates that we are going to be training people in Nova Scotia for jobs in the offshore. The fact of the matter is we are going to be doing it through centres of excellence throughout the province. We are training them for the offshore and we are training them for the distribution of the natural gas through the pipeline system. We are not training them for Wal-Mart. The fact of the matter is, we are training them, we obviously have the intention that they are going to be working on the offshore and transmission of natural gas industries here in Nova Scotia and through the course of the process.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, again I have a question for the Premier. Part of today's announcement contained the information that NSRL will be a full and active participant in the offshore and that the extent of their commitment is 8.4 per cent. My calculation - and I would ask the Premier to confirm it - is that that would require an investment by the province of perhaps $170 million.

My question to the Premier. Has the Premier been able, or staff been able, to calculate the return on investment, the planned return on investment and how that money will be raised by the province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there are various ways that it could be raised by the province to utilize the retention of Nova Scotia Resources Limited. I have given the honourable member my undertaking that that funding is going to be raised. There is no question that it has to be, we are not getting a free ride. If we are going to be a partner, we have to pay our share and that will be done unequivocally. The fact is that we have undertaken to do this and we will do it.

DR. HAMM: Thank you. I think the participation by NSRL should prove to be a worthwhile investment. I would be interested in how the province plans to raise the money.

[Page 1129]

Now a Nova Scotia company, Nova Scotia Power, will become a 12.5 per cent participant in the pipeline and I look with favour on Nova Scotia companies being involved in this particular megaproject. Now Nova Scotia Power obviously looked at this long and hard and said that this is the right place for us to be, being a partner in the pipeline, because the pipeline is going to make money; it is guaranteed to make money. The interesting thing is we had a right to be a 50 per cent participant in that pipeline, both the offshore and the onshore. My understanding is - and I believe it is the Premier's understanding, Mr. Speaker - that we gave it away, we gave the franchise right away.

My question to the Premier. During the course of his negotiations with SOEP and others, did you make an attempt to get value for what we gave away? Did you make an attempt to get it back? It has real value. Do you have any idea, in tens of millions, what that back-in provision was worth that we gave away?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, first of all, in dealing with NSRL and how we are going to finance it, I want to remind the honourable Leader of the Opposition that NSRL isn't a private company, it is a Crown Corporation that reports, but they will make the decision on how they best finance this, but there is no question that they will be able to do that.

With respect to the pipeline, to be a partner in the pipeline is expensive. We in Nova Scotia, the Government of Nova Scotia, did not have the money to be able to even make an offer to be a partner in the pipeline. We said, and the honourable Leader of the Opposition has indicated, that it is going to be expensive to just keep NSRL and be a partner in that way.

We felt there was more benefit to Nova Scotia by retaining NSRL than there was in buying a back-in to the pipeline. For one thing, we will have 40,000 million BTUs of natural gas which we know we can control, hopefully, when necessary for the benefit of Nova Scotians.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to continue with the Premier. One of the recommendations I looked upon with great favour, a recommendation of the Joint Review Panel, was the bypass provision. What that simply states is that a Nova Scotia interest could tap into the separation plant at Goldboro without cost, without paying any tolling rate.

In the Memorandum of Understanding there is a phrase that disturbs me, and that phrase is that Maritimes & Northeast agrees to discuss all tolling methodologies for these quantities with the parties and any other interested third parties, including bypass rates.

Now will the minister confirm that Nova Scotia interests will be able to tap in and receive gas at Goldboro without paying any tolling rate or has there been a compromise made that Maritimes & Northeast somehow has gotten into the equation and will be charging short haul tolling rates?

[Page 1130]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the Leader of the Opposition has asked this question because I think it is important. Nothing in the Memorandum of Understanding or the statements that were made today in any way changes the decision of the panel. We cannot do that, the panel's decision is in place. In the way we could not change tolling, we cannot take away any rights Nova Scotians have with respect to bypass pipelines and rights to bypass that exist in the panel's report. So nothing in any agreement that we have made, and announced here today, interferes or takes away from those rights of Nova Scotians who wish to take advantage of the bypass provisions as stated in the panel's report.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.


MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. I would ask the minister if he could tell us how much money the Province of Nova Scotia and the seniors of this province are saving the federal pension plan and private insurance companies as a result of changes to the Pharmacare Program that saw the province become the first payer. Could the minister give me the amount of dollars from the savings?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Seniors' Pharmacare Program is a sustainable program at this juncture that we are looking at always to ensure that seniors will not have an additional cost to their medications. This started out to be a 50/50 sharing and now is approximately in the area of 60/40. This year it has been announced that we will be maintaining that program at its level. There are many other ramifications and issues and the member has earlier mentioned his plan to de-insure part of that program and to change that. We have not looked at that as a real option, Mr. Speaker, and I can have that figure for the member. I am sure that he has the figure probably already because he has mentioned this before, but it is not an option that we are looking at within the Seniors' Pharmacare Program.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's comments, but he did not answer the question. The question was, very simply put, how much money does the province and the seniors save the federal pension plan and private insurance companies? I am sure there has been that analysis done by the province, and I would appreciate an answer. What I am hearing the minister say that they will continue on with the premiums.

I would ask the minister if he could tell the House how much money the total amount of the Pharmacare Program is being paid by taxpayers. He says, it is 60/40 at the present time and it was set out to be a 50/50 by way of premiums and co-pay. I understand with the extra money this year that it has gone beyond 60/40 that it is getting closer to 80 per cent. I wonder if the minister could actually give me the amount of millions of dollars that the province is paying including the $4 million rebate to those for the $85 credit and how many millions of dollars the premiums and the co-pay are being paid by the seniors?

[Page 1131]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I do not have the exact figures right with me here today, those will be made available in due course. The honourable member mentions the 80/20 which it would have to be, that is not the case, it is no where near that. It is within the area of the budget at the Department of Health, and we will assume that difference, but it is, as I mentioned earlier, more in the range of a 60/40 arrangement at this time. We will be addressing that and sustaining the plan under that sharing with the seniors on that 60/40 range.

MR. MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am a little disappointed that the minister did not have the numbers, because his staff were quoting the numbers and when the additional money was put in to the Pharmacare Program and the money I am talking about as well, I am hoping the minister included the $4 million that is taken out of general revenues for the $85 million credit. I think we have got to count all of the millions of dollars. First, I would appreciate it if the minister could get those figures and secondly, would he table those tomorrow? I know his staff has them available and I would appreciate those.

I would ask the minister - given the fact this his predecessors and the government policy by both former Ministers of Health was that this Pharmacare Program would be funded 50/50 by the seniors and by the government of the province - I would ask the minister given that the gap is widening and he indicated that today, can he guarantee seniors, who are being hit by HST and all kinds of other things, that there will be absolutely no increase in premiums for the year 1998-99?

[3:45 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, with this program that has been put in place which is one of the best Pharmacare Programs, certainly in Eastern Canada, and is way ahead of any other province within the Atlantic region, I don't want to get here today and start debating numbers with the honourable member. That is part of the problem and that is what happened in health care. Seniors are watching this today, seniors will hear this and this is more of the fear-mongering that is really upsetting the seniors and all Nova Scotians.

I will simply say to the honourable member that there are no plans to change anything that would in any way be detrimental to the seniors in the Pharmacare Program. That is our commitment, that is the commitment today. Our fiscal house is now getting in order and if there are some improvements that we can make to the plan that will alleviate the seniors, then we will do that. As of now, it is a sustainable program and that is our commitment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 1132]



MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question through you to the Minister of Human Resources. Back in 1994, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union filed a grievance with the International Labour Organization in Geneva about this government's version of the Tories roll-back provision of the public sector workers. The government filed a brief in defence and in that brief they said that the stabilization measures of the government, effective until 1997, including the 1993 Act and the 1994 Act, are effective only for the period considered necessary to stabilize the economic crisis, no more or no less.

They went on to say that the 1994 Act effective November 1, 1994 is, like the 1993 Act, temporary until November 1, 1997. The Act reduces public sector wages by 3 per cent, effective November 1, 1994 until November 1, 1997, until 1997. My question to the Minister of Human Resources, why has the government decided to yet again betray the public sector workers of this province by not even honouring the commitment that they made in the brief when they filed the defence to the ILO?

MR. SPEAKER: This sounds like a question we had earlier in Question Period today. Now, the minister can answer it but . . .

HON. ALLISTER SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, of course, I was expecting the question. Maybe what you heard before was in a resolution earlier in the day. What was presented to the ILO was based on the government's argument that the legislation was temporary in that as well. The legislation was temporary from November 1, 1994 to November 1, 1997 based on restrictions to collective bargaining. That is what was argued as being temporary and that any changes in wages or benefits would occur at the collective bargaining table beginning November 1, 1997. That is what we did, we are at the bargaining table now.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister's response would be amusing if it wasn't so serious because the minister obviously doesn't even understand what his government wrote. It specifically stated the public sector wages were reduced by 3 per cent and that that came to an end on November 1, 1997. My first supplementary, under the budget of the government, under the Labour Adjustment Strategy, the government had approximately $25 million tucked away for early retirements. Of that amount approximately $3 million has been used, which means that there is going to be, since it expires at the end of March, at least $20 million left. So the government has plenty of money tucked away.

My question to the Minister of Human Resources is, why is it, if you have the money tucked away in your budget, you are not prepared to honour the commitment made to the public workers who were being forced to bear the brunt of the cutbacks, Mr. Speaker, and

[Page 1133]

provide them with that to which they are entitled, according to collective agreements, and which you promised your government to restore on the first of last month?

MR. SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, I have always said that we will be fair to the collective bargaining process, we will be fair to the employees of this province, we will be fair to the employers, the users of the system, as well as the taxpayers of this province. I think that by being fair it is important that we stay at the bargaining table.

Going back to his first statement, I would also like to say that yes, I have a slight difference of opinion from the arbitrator's decision, based on what we had agreed to in this House. I think if you go back to some of the arbitrator's decisions here that you will see some of the statements that did result or that did come about in this House from the previous Minister of Finance. When we introduced this bill it was quite clear, effective November 1, 1994, after the 2 per cent adjustment associated with the unpaid leave expires, a permanent 3 per cent reduction in the public sector salaries begins.

I wanted to clarify that point because I think we had agreed in here that it would be a permanent reduction and that is why I am saying that I have a difference of opinion with the arbitrator's decision. Having said that, however, we have also stated that we want to be fair, we have also stated that we will look at increases, that the public sector workers do deserve increases. What is important now, and he has made a reference to money in the budget, is that we go to the collective bargaining table and see what is reasonable for all of us.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to caution the minister on using the broad word we when he says that we agreed in here. I want the minister to not be under illusions that it was the Red Team, it was the government agreed but certainly we did not on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has said, first of all, that the brief presented then, in defence of the government, to the ILO, was inaccurate and that it wasn't stating the true position of the government. Secondly, the minister said, and most importantly I say this to the minister through you and to the Premier and to all members of the government benches, that they want to be fair to the public sector workers of this province.

My question to the minister is quite simply this, when is the government going to start to be fair to the public sector workers of this province? When is this government going to start to honour its word to the public sector workers of this province and to restore the wages that you ripped away from them and bring it back, given them their back pay effective November 1, 1997? When is that fairness to begin?

MR. SURETTE: Mr. Speaker, the fairness has begun. I have already stated a number of times that we committed to go back to the bargaining table, starting November 1, 1997. We have actually done that in some cases five months prior to the expiration of the contract.

[Page 1134]

As I have stated many times, we want to have true collective bargaining, there are many issues on the table. This is one issue that is easy to discuss, wage increases, but even as it is mentioned in the arbitrator's decision, the ultimate decision on pay scales will have to be determined at the bargaining table and will be retroactive to November 1, 1997.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to that process. In many cases, in all cases as far as I know, most of the employers, the 350 or so employers across the province, are meeting with their respective unions to look at collective agreements or new collective agreements. That has to be the case. In some cases they have already reached agreements.

There is no question that the 3 per cent, I am sure, is taken into consideration at the bargaining table.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.


MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The Hants Community Hospital was originally a 120 bed hospital and it has now been reduced to approximately 30 acute beds. It is readily apparent, I think, to anyone who visits the hospital on a regular basis that this number of beds is totally inadequate to accommodate the needs of the catchment area for that hospital. There is a need for 38 beds in the Hants Community Hospital. I was wondering if the minister would advise the residents of the catchment area of the Hants Community Hospital when he will provide an adequate number of beds to the Hants Community Hospital, namely 38 beds.

HON. JAMES SMITH: The Windsor hospital the honourable member refers to is a designated hospital within the Central Regional Health Board. What we are seeing with regionalization is a whole coordination of services, where there is specialization in some particular regions and other areas are specializing in other services. This is part of an integrated comprehensive service.

There is no question that there has been that change in the beds in that particular area. I have met with people from that community and we are discussing that. We have identified areas that we could work, the Home Care Program is one particular area, particularly the acute care in the Home Care Program, that component of that.

There are various initiatives that we can use and particularly and more actively in the transfer of patients that are really better looked after in long-term care. That is an initiative that we are supporting. There is no one particular area where we have seen the number of beds being enlarged in that area. They have adapted. I think there are some times that there are stresses within the emergency department but we have been actively reviewing that and I have met as recently as last week with members from that community.

[Page 1135]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable minister is long on rhetoric but very short on action. He has met with the SOS committee but nothing has happened. We need 38 beds. Today is a typical day at the Hants Community Hospital and today I checked to see how many people were lying on stretchers. Do you know how many there are? There are three today. Go there tomorrow and there may be four. The next day there may be five. Every day there are patients lying on stretchers in the Hants Community Hospital and it is completely unacceptable.

I ask the minister to immediately contact the hospital for himself to confirm that what I am saying is true. We need those beds and we need them. Will the minister give some indication as to when that hospital will be given sufficient beds to meet the needs of the residents in that catchment area?

DR. SMITH: I am quite familiar with the issues that the honourable member brings before the House today. I have worked in hospitals for 30 years and this is not a new phenomenon. There is a changing system that is taking place as we speak. The quality of care, the caregivers in that institution are committed and qualified, good professional people. We are addressing those particular issues with home care, acute home care and all the others.

MR. RUSSELL: Home care isn't working.

DR. SMITH: Home care is so working. Home care has been increased by 285 per cent, just on figures going back a few years. Building beds is not the answer to all the problems within health care. We have learned that lesson. We are moving forward with comprehensive programs. We are sensitive to the needs of those hospitals such as the Windsor hospital that has access to a metropolitan complex of tertiary care hospitals. Those are the types of programs that are working.

MR. RUSSELL: What the minister is saying is that that hospital may as well close and everybody drive down to Halifax to get their medical treatment. That is just not on. That community built that hospital in Windsor. They have a right, I would suggest, to have the number of beds to adequately meet their needs and they have not got that. They have not got that.

Would the minister at least agree to go down to the Hants Community Hospital and meet with the SOS committee down there and look at the situation for himself and to provide the number of beds that are required in that area?

DR. SMITH: Maybe it is the opinion of that honourable gentlemen that the hospital might as well close, but it is certainly not mine. I will tell you, hospitals are more than beds and operating rooms. Hospitals are about programs and they are about giving care to people not only in that facility, but in that community. I have visited hospitals and facilities from one

[Page 1136]

end of this province to the other, and with no exception I will be visiting them all, if time permits, as soon as we can get there.

[4:00 p.m.]

As I said, I have met with clergy who have made representations on behalf of that hospital. I have met with elected officials and I have met with citizens. I don't agree with that member, that that hospital might as well be closed. It is a vibrant, professionally-run hospital and a facility that will not only address the services within the walls of that hospital, but it is now reaching into the communities.

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


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question would also be directed to the Minister of Health. Last week before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the acting provincial director of Home Care Nova Scotia said that there are no waiting lists for the Home Care Program, no waiting lists for services. In a related story, Mr. Minister, you commented that, well, there might be three or four individuals waiting in any given area and then one of your spin doctors suggested to the media that, in fact, there were no waiting lists.

We received information for the Official Opposition today from a home care coordinator that there are waiting lists and that they are more pronounced in rural Nova Scotia. Mr. Minister, my question is simply, will you confirm today that there are waiting lists in Nova Scotia for home care services?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, a Home Care Program is not a static function that you can take a slice at any one time. The whole issue of whether there are three or four people in a region that may be waiting, maybe they are in hospital for complete care, there is a difference on how the assessment is done and what the needs are. So, essentially, there is a zero waiting list for home care throughout this Province of Nova Scotia. That is a great accomplishment that this government has addressed, as opposed to the previous government that had a program where you had to be eligible for social assistance, really, to qualify.

Whether there are three or four people, we are talking about a program; we are not talking about a line-up for a bus, or something like that, where you can look and see how many people are there. There are assessments that have to be done, services that have to be put in place and, of course, there always will be a few people whose full needs will not be able to be met. That is as fair and honest as I can deal with this. Why that should rate headlines, or something like that, is beyond me. I cannot understand that. You could take a slice on any one day; some days there will be a few and other days there will be none.

[Page 1137]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the Minister of Health didn't contradict his own home care coordinators who say there are waiting lists. Last week the acting provincial director of Home Care Nova Scotia said the reason a particular individual had to wait up to 14 days for home care, after being discharged from the hospital, was because a doctor didn't refer him for home care. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Ignore the rabbit tracks, honourable member. We would like a supplementary question.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, absolutely. The fact is, the acting provincial director of Home Care said to the media and told that family that the reason that individual had to wait 14 days for home care was because a doctor did not refer the patient. The fact is - and I am sure the minister is aware of this - that in Nova Scotia we have an open referral system.

Keeping that in mind, Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health, could he state for Nova Scotians, and the many patients waiting for home care services, what the qualifications of the acting provincial director of Home Care Nova Scotia are?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to address one particular situation, such as was mentioned - and the honourable member had mentioned the 14 days' wait before - but what I brought with me, when I heard that, was the Home Care Nova Scotia form or pamphlet and their brochure with description.

On there (Interruption) I am very serious about this, Mr. Speaker. I think if that honourable member hears this instead of running around creating chaos, just make a simple call and report that or call the department. That would be the access route that he should use rather than have it sound as if this is really some system that is not working. The system is up and it is working. It is really achieving excellent results throughout all of this province. As far as the qualifications of the staff, all of our staff are professionally and well trained and very committed to helping Nova Scotians.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the director of Home Care Nova Scotia does not have a degree at all. The acting provincial director of Home Care Nova Scotia, I am told, came from some province's council on policy. I asked the minister a sincere question because we are being told by the health care providers, the people that are providing the home care support, that the acting director of Home Care Nova Scotia is not competent enough to implement the Home Care Nova Scotia Program.

Bearing in mind that the Minister of Health never advertised or his department did not nationally or even provincially advertise for a director to implement Home Care Nova Scotia, I think it is incumbent, my question is simply this. If the individual does not have the skills and does not have the talent and I state it here and stand beside that statement, when will the Minister of Health advertise for a provincial director of Home Care Nova Scotia to implement

[Page 1138]

a program that is truly provincial in nature? When will the minister advertise for a director of home care?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of our home care system in Nova Scotia. It is not totally perfect at this juncture but we are working on it and we are committed. I really hesitate to really address the so-called question from that member. I do not want to discuss personalities here or things that have happened to people in their health. The director that he refers to did suffer an illness that was probably somewhat directly related to her fine efforts that she was doing in working for Home Care Nova Scotia. She has been replaced. I do not want to say anything more than that.

I think that member should find out a little bit more about the commitment of those types of people. As far as degrees and all of the other issues (Interruption) but this is a very disturbing comment made, very disregard for the great work that is being done by people that work in our departments.

Today I attended a luncheon for a member of our group. I had a chance to sit there and look around the room and see all the committed people that we have. Some of them pay the price. Some of them pay the price with their health and they have a lot of situations because they are committed. I really do not want to comment any further on this issue. I do not think that it is appropriate for the floor of the House of Assembly. I think that that member should really reconsider some of the statements that he has made about some fine people who work in the Department of Health and for all government employees in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.



MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday in the House the minister replied to a member who asked a question about the school construction list by saying, " We also have an application before the federal government for infrastructure to try to help the boards out.". It has not been the practice in this province in the past to use infrastructure money for schools. Since infrastructure money is shared one-third by the federal government and one-third by the provincial and one-third by the municipal - that is to say the contributions come evenly one-third, one-third, one-third from each - my question for the minister is, will the government be requiring municipalities to cost share in the construction and renovation of schools?


MS. O'CONNELL: So my question then would be, who will pay for this one-third of the infrastructure funding for school construction and repairs?

[Page 1139]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is the partners who are involved in trying to keep up with the needed infrastructure improvements to buildings throughout this province.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I wish I were clear from the minister whether these are private sector partners or whether they are some other partners. If they are private sector partners, I guess I have to ask the minister whether he is planning to do this and use private sector money - if that is what he means - does he understand that that means, in the case of school repair, that we will wind up leasing back schools that we already own?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the private sector has no involvement in the infrastructure program for public schools in Nova Scotia. Once again, we have an example of the New Democratic Party asking us to slow down to find needed funds for repair and, in the next breath, saying speed up to fix the schools.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.


MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. When it comes to breast cancer, would the minister agree with the statement that early detection is an early cure?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, directly answering the question, that is generally accepted. That would be considered to be generally accepted.

MR. FAGE: That is reassuring to hear, especially from the gentleman who is a doctor himself. Certainly I think most people in the community, as well as a doctor, would concur with that.

My second question then is directed to the Premier. Could the Premier please tell the House, then, why in northern Nova Scotia it is the only region in this province without a mobile breast screening van?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the honourable Minister of Health.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, in screening for breast cancer, which is a very important disease, there are multifaceted programs, self examination and awareness and those other issues. Mammography is part of that program. We are increasing it, we started in the eastern region with a mobile unit where the instance of breast cancer is very high. We have expanded into the western region and we are working to implement screening, as we can find our way

[Page 1140]

through our budgets and other issues, to enforce the programs and to expand into the northern region.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the minister, those are fine sentiments and I know that at times dollars can be short. I would say to the minister that the people in northern Nova Scotia, specifically women who are in danger of contracting breast cancer, that early detection that he agreed with is an early cure, has to be a paramount situation that has to be addressed.

Will the minister agree here today that equal access to all Nova Scotia women is extremely important and, therefore, will he ensure and instruct his department to make sure that immediately in the northern region that a mobile breast screening van is supplied?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, this is a program that is being introduced, along with many other programs. We were talking earlier about home care. Those are all initiatives and they are being implemented in a step-wise fashion. That is the commitment we will make.

There is many areas to access, Mr. Speaker, and just because there is a mobile unit in a particular area, that doesn't mean that everything is well either, so we have a lot of work to do in this particular area. It is an important illness and it is one that we, in the Department of Health and I personally take very seriously and we will do everything we can to make equal access to all Nova Scotians in all matters of their health.

[4:15 p.m.]

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



MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is also to the Minister of Health. The minister's department has agreed that the self-managed attendant care pilot project that began about three years ago is a success both in terms of client satisfaction as well as cost. Could the minister tell the House why it is this program is only serving 10 clients?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this again is a program much like the Home Care Program, although as the honourable member says, it is self-administered. We are very pleased that we are continuing this program that started as a pilot project, that we now have 10 people up and running within this program. I have met with the groups representing independent community living and I have made a commitment that we will be expanding that program. But there are programs within the Home Care Program that while not of that nature, are still meeting the needs of persons with disabilities. This is a program that has

[Page 1141]

worked, we are very pleased with it and are finding our way through that and learning as we go. We will be taking that further and moving into other areas and one of the reasons that we want to move is that there are areas beyond metro particularly but we have learned here and we will move to other parts of the province. I am hoping that we can see some more activity on that in the spring.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Health. I find it curious to say the least, the program has been in effect for about three years, it has had 10 clients. Your own department has said that it is cost-effective, cost-neutral. The people that are using the program have told us time and time again that they are satisfied with the program. It is obviously clear that cost isn't a problem, client satisfaction isn't a problem and I can't understand why the minister is saying that he has got to wait until next year to expand this program that is needed by a lot of people who have, I have no doubt, contacted your department as well as other departments. My question is when is the minister going to proceed with a province-wide program?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a special type of program. It is much like a Home Care Program but it is a special program. Not all persons with disabilities really are able to fit into this program. We are expanding it and it is like our acute care part of our Home Care Program that we have also moved into this. You can't do everything all at once and we are doing it right. We are finding as we go ways that it can be done better. The commitment that I have made is that we will be expanding that in the spring.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, it is very convenient for the minister to say, we are expanding it in the spring but he won't be Minister of Health then so how could he do that? The fact of the matter is this is a program that people need now. His own department has said it is cost-effective. The people who are in the program have said that they are satisfied with how it works. The people that are administering the program have told us time and time again that it is a good program. Again, there is a waiting list for this very program. Could the minister please tell me why this program can't proceed right now while the people need it? It is cost-effective, people need it and it works. Why are you neglecting to do your duty here?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thought I had explained it. We are very pleased with this program. This is a new program that this government has introduced. If this was so obvious to that honourable member, why hadn't something been done 10 years ago under the government of which he is a member? This is not something that is available across Canada in all provinces. We are very pleased that we are able to do this and able to have 10 people. We want to do it well and we want to do it right and it will be worked in conjunction with the Home Care Program and that is the commitment that I would make. We can't do everything all at once and I think this is a good example of doing it right. You have to choose people well, you have to have the administrative structure in place and we will be doing that.

[Page 1142]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.


MR. DONALD MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. I wonder if the minister could tell the House if he supports the appeal of paramedics to receive workers' rights protection, the same basic rights that most Nova Scotians have and, if so, would he indicate what he plans to do or has he done anything about it?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, of course the answer is obvious, we do recognize the rights of all workers. These workers will be known as paramedics, class 1, 2 and 3. There is a training program in place and with a certificate at the end and no longer will they just be required to have a driver's license to operate an ambulance, as was the case a few years ago. So, as far as, if he is referring to the minimum wage issue, that is really not an issue with that particular group and there may be someone within the Department of Labour who might be able to answer that better. We certainly will comply to the laws of the province, but we are really concerned about having quality, highly professional, well-trained, pre-hospital people and that is what we are doing.

MR. MCINNES: I thank the minister for that answer. It was not really the question that I asked, but anyway. There is also concern being expressed about the ambulance services across this province. There are rumours that maybe there is better ambulance service in metro than there is in rural Nova Scotia. Could the minister explain why, if that is true, it is happening and why should metro have better service than rural Nova Scotia?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to answer a question when it is based on a wrong assumption. I really do not think that is true. I think what we are seeing is 110 top-of-the-art ambulances that will be throughout all of this province.

I could use the example of the accident in Plymouth, Yarmouth County, that some may be familiar with. Just to give an example of what happened, a two car collision, two people were killed and the first ambulance arrived, saw what the scene was, called immediately, and it ended up that there were about 6 or 7 ambulances at that scene, but not only that, there was a team dispatched from Halifax and one from Moncton to the Yarmouth Hospital. So when that first ambulance arrived in Yarmouth, there was a surgeon from Halifax there waiting to help and assist, as well as an anaesthetist, I believe. That whole team moved in. There is no question, Mr. Speaker, that at least two lives were saved that day, the life of an adult and a child. (Applause) That is the type of service that we are putting in place for Nova Scotia.

MR. MCINNES: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the ambulances do the very best possible job they can. I was not saying that they were not doing the best they can, because I really think those people are working and wanting to help individuals who are in accidents. That

[Page 1143]

was not my question. I just said that I was led to believe that there were areas in the province that were not receiving as good service as in metro.

I want to go to another area, if I can, to the minister. I make the point that I am not disputing that there are not good ambulance people. I think we all know that (Interruption) Well, we hope they are, because we want to protect Nova Scotians. We have had some problems, though, with dispatching, and the Minister in charge of EMO has appointed a consultant to look into that matter and we are pleased that he is going to do that. I also understand that the dispatch services that are used in Cape Breton are going to be transferred to the Bedford dispatch early in December. Could the minister commit today that he will not transfer that Cape Breton dispatch service to Bedford until we are sure the bugs are all worked out of the system?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the thousands and thousands of calls that are being handled are saving lives daily. I have seen the operation, I visited there and I have seen the trained technicians who are there operating that system. There are a few glitches from time to time. Those are immediately acted on, they are investigated, so the system is up and it is working well.

As far as moving in to the Cape Breton area, I think that will happen with time. If it is not ready to move at a particular time, then it will not happen. Mr. Speaker, it not only provides a service of ambulances but also it is the first time when Nova Scotians can call a number and receive care over the phone. In my own riding that particular feature is credited with saving the life of a three week old baby. So by the time the ambulance arrived, the mother had resuscitated the child and the child has done well.

So really it is a system that is working well but when you put any new program together, Mr. Speaker, there are bound to be some problems. They are investigated immediately and reports are made. There is a monitoring of all the ambulances throughout the province. That is the sort of system that will go to Cape Breton and it will serve them well and it will save lives in Cape Breton.

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



MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, in the absence of the Minister of the Environment, is for the acting Minister of the Environment. During my campaigning in Cape Breton The Lakes and as recently as last weekend, residents of the Sullivan Creek area and Little Pond area continued to express to me their concerns about what is happening in their community, or perhaps better stated, what is not happening in respect to the strip or surface mining operation. Some of their concerns include the whole issue of the settling ponds

[Page 1144]

not being fenced in, the actual elimination of what they refer to as the Smelt Brook, where the coal was cleaned out and then the brook literally filled in. The issue of a watchman who was supposed to be on the site, they understood, for 24 hours a day. The whole issue of pit rats on their property, of water draining and causing property damage. These are all issues that the residents believe to be part of the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, in consideration of fact that you are posing your question to an acting minister, please . . .

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Well I think, Mr. Speaker, if I may comment on that, the acting minister is the person who has put out the call for exploration proposals in that very area, for further clean-up and mining, so I expect that he would be able to address the question. These are all issues that the residents believe are in the stipulation agreement that is issued with a permit.

My question is, how are these complaints being addressed? I do know that they have been placed with the regional office.

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for her question. I appreciate her concern but I don't know in what capacity I want to answer today, from the Minister of Natural Resources or the Minister of the Environment. Our department has called for proposals for exploration only and that is where it stands at the present time. So unless some qualified proponent comes forward with a proposal that is favourable to Natural Resources, then we can't even talk of strip mining until that is completed.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well I guess what I would think would make sense would be if we are calling for further proposals, that we would make sure that the stipulations in the permits that were issued prior were carried out. That is my question, what the people want to know is whether or not the requirements of the previous permits, the stipulations in those permits, are going to be carried out?

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. MACASKILL: I want to again thank the honourable member and I appreciate her concerns because I did meet with a spokesperson for that group from Little Pond on the weekend. I assured her that I will bring the matter up with the Minister of the Environment if it is necessary, if the qualified proposals come to do any mining. But until that happens, it is only that, proposals for exploration.

[Page 1145]

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: I guess what difficulty I am having here is I am concerned about what has not happened. That should be addressed whether or not there is further mining. Their concerns are legitimate concerns and they should have been addressed long ago.

My final question is that if in the event that there is further mining in that area, will the minister assure us that the environmental assessment they say will take place will be an open, public process where these people will have the opportunity to present their concerns?

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, your final supplementary is fundamentally hypothetical in nature and it is very clear in Beauchesne that hypothetical questions cannot be put to ministers. So I cannot allow that question.

We will move on to the next question.

The honourable member for Cumberland North.


MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. I was wondering, would you agree that the demands on a doctor in a regional hospital where they are on call for seven days a week, 24 hours a day, are greater than those at a community hospital?

HON. JAMES SMITH: I think the demands on a physician's life if it is an active practice is generally quite demanding. How one balances that, I think a lot depends on the support team, even the support from the communities many times, Mr. Speaker. I cannot agree to a hypothetical question which is really a matter of opinion. I think it would be very determined by the whole setting and a multiplicity of factors.

The regionalized hospital is generally more specialized so therefore there is more support staff. So a family physician, for instance, working in an emergency department would have access to much more support than someone in a smaller community hospital. I think it is generally accepted that the rural physicians really do share more of the burden due to their sometimes isolation and maybe only supported by a health care team.

MR. FAGE: Certainly, that is an answer but I do not think you would find the doctors in Amherst concurring with that, who are working in a regional hospital seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It is affecting their practices, they tell me.

My question to the minister is just that. Given that doctor/patient ratio in Amherst, would the minister agree that the Amherst area or Amherst Regional Hospital immediately become his department's number one doctor recruitment priority on the underutilized area?

[Page 1146]

DR. SMITH: We are very pleased with our recruitment policy, the agreement that we have had with physicians. The whole environment the physicians are working in, I think, has improved in this province. We have seen a doubling of the numbers recently that have come into the province rather than left. Some of the communities are still stressful. There are four main areas that we are working with now. I think the whole community has to get together and try to recruit physicians and their families, not only that they will come there, but they will stay there.

Amherst is an area that we are working with and I thank the honourable member for his question because I think it highlights a need, one that we recognize. We will work with that honourable member. We will work with the community and try to ensure there is adequate staff there. I think it is adding some stress on the medical personnel and we will address that.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allocated for Oral Question Period has expired.

Before we move on to Opposition Members' Business, I would like to give the floor for a moment to the member for Hants East for an introduction.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. ROBERT CARRUTHERS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to, through you to the attention of the whole House, direct your attention to your gallery. We have an attendant speaking now with the Minister of Natural Resources, a young man from my constituency who is interviewing the minister for his school paper, Stephen Thurrot. I would like to bring it to your attention that he advised me that his great-uncle was Premier G.I. Smith. Of course, he has seen the light now and is serving on the Liberal Executive at Hants East. I want to introduce through you to the House of Assembly my good friend, Stephen Thurrot. (Applause)



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, under Opposition Members' Business, I would ask you to please call Resolution No. 77.

Res. No. 77, re Health - Reforms: Failures - Address - notice given Nov. 25/97 - (Dr. J. Hamm)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

[Page 1147]

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on Resolution No. 77. I don't intend to read it but I would just like to draw to the Minister of Health's attention clause 2 of the resolution which states, "Whereas Liberal health reforms have denied communities a voice in health care decision making, chased away doctors, created huge cracks in the system and resulted in an erosion of service from one end of the province to the other;".

Rural communities have been hardest hit by the health care policies of this government, far harder than any of the urban areas of this province. I don't think that the Ministers of Health that we have had under this regime, we have only had three, I don't think any of those ministers really realized what the effect of their health care policies have been on rural communities. They have been disastrous, absolutely disastrous.

During Question Period, I asked the minister a few questions relative to the hospital within my area, the Hants Community Hospital and this is one of the hospitals that this administration have virtually destroyed. As I said, the minister was stating that they can come to Halifax. I say to the minister in response to that, you are saying that we should close the Hants Community Hospital and move the patients to Halifax. He turned it around then and accused me of stating that I wanted the Hants Community Hospital to close. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I not only want the Hants Community Hospital to expand, I want it to become a part of the community again. Because, the community that I live in, the community of Windsor and surrounding area, used to have a hospital that they could be very proud of, a hospital that met the needs of the community, a hospital that has those services that a small community needs.

AN HON. MEMBER: Wolfville used to be like that.

MR. RUSSELL: Wolfville used to be like that. Dozens of hospitals across this province that I have had the opportunity to visit over the past year and one-half or so, that our caucus has been touring around and visiting hospitals, are in the same boat. In rural Nova Scotia health care has deteriorated to the state where people are beginning to lose faith in their local hospitals. When people start losing faith in their local hospitals to accommodate their needs, they start losing the community. People will not move to a community where there are not adequate hospitals and they certainly won't move to an area where there is an inadequate number of doctors. There is a direct correlation between the number of doctors and the health care beds that you have in your local hospital. Doctors want to have a hospital to which they can refer their patients. If you close the beds in the hospitals to such an extent that there are insufficient beds, you start losing your doctors.

[Page 1148]

We have already started down that path in my area. We have approximately 4,000 people in our area and I hope the minister is taking note of this, we have about 4,000 people in our area that do not have a doctor. Their only recourse to the care of a doctor is to go to the emergency department of the hospital. That is not right; that is not on.

The other thing is the fact that the minister's department and the regional health board keeps assuring the community of Windsor that they have things in hand and that the number of beds will reflect the need in that area. If that was so, Mr. Speaker, everybody would be as happy as clams. But it isn't that way. We have missing from our hospital, at the present time, approximately eight acute beds. As a result of that, as I said earlier during Question Period, we continuously have people occupying stretchers in the hospital, either in the emergency department or else in the hallways.

I think the question that should be put to the minister is this. Does he condone that kind of treatment for people? Does he condone having hospitals with beds closed - they have the beds there, but the beds and the wards are closed - and the people sleeping on stretchers? What kind of a health care system do we have? That is what our health care system has deteriorated down to. It is almost a Third World situation in some of our hospitals across this province.

The minister says, well, don't worry; we have a Home Care Program and our Home Care Program has expanded tremendously. Well, of course the Home Care Program has expanded because when you start closing down hospital beds and throwing people out of hospitals before they should be thrown out of hospitals, you are going to need some form of treatment for those people in their homes. But, unfortunately, they have closed hospital beds without getting the home care system up and running, without the home care system being able to accommodate the rapid increase in the number of people who require home care.

Maybe somewhere down the line, when the home care system is up and running, there will be a requirement for a lesser number of beds than there is at the present time; but it is not so now, it won't be that way tomorrow and it won't be that way this time next year. It is a long, slow process. Unless the minister is prepared to put extra beds in hospitals, people are going to lose faith in their own community hospitals.

Mr. Speaker, the community hospitals belong to the community. Now, the minister may say, well, we built them . . .

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Not any more, they gave them away.

MR. RUSSELL: That's quite true, they do not, as my friend the honourable member for Queens just said. The Department of Health have taken over those community hospitals and then downgraded them until they are becoming nothing more than clinics.

[Page 1149]

Mr. Speaker, I know in my community how the hospital was built and I know how hospitals were built during the time that I was in the Department of Health, and that was that the community came up with a certain number of dollars, to match a certain number of dollars from the province, to build that hospital. When people went out and donated money to that hospital, they believed they had some ownership in that community hospital and that that ownership could translate into the services that that hospital provided.

What this government has done, Mr. Speaker, is taken over the hospitals so that they are now government hospitals, and they are saying, we are going to have a board somewhere (Interruption) I have one minute left?

We have one board located in Halifax which is looking after the goings-on in my constituency, in my community, in the community that is serviced by the Hants Community Hospital. I am telling you, the regional hospital boards, whether they be in Halifax or on the South Shore or in Cape Breton or wherever, do not understand the community needs. Nobody understands the community needs better than the communities. We should go back to community hospital boards. We should go back to giving the people a stake in their own facilities within their area, to give people a stake in being able to say what kind of services they want. Certainly they don't want the present situation where people have to lie in corridors on stretchers. That is not acceptable in Nova Scotia, it is not acceptable in Canada.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am pleased to respond today to Resolution No. 77 as brought forward by the honourable Leader of the Opposition. It is a resolution which demonstrates perfectly what I referred to in my Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne earlier this month, when you were in the Chair. Pure and simple, the resolution we are responding to today is a slap in the face to thousands of health care workers in Nova Scotia and to the advances being made in the health care system. These men and women are working hard and are committed to ensuring a sustainable single-tier health care system for Nova Scotia. Resolution No. 77 completely overlooks that fact and, indeed, questions their incredible accomplishments. Resolution No. 77 has one purpose, to turn facts into fiction. It is meant to scare Nova Scotians into believing that their health care system is in chaos, and I am here again to tell you that this is absolutely not true.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, pure and simple, the resolution is false and it is fear-mongering. In my opinion, it is not becoming of a Leader of the Official Opposition. It is the same incorrect information we hear time and time again. The politicization of health care is frightening. The Opposition knows this is true, because they have access to the same public opinion polls that we do, and the polls confirm that Nova Scotians are confused and worried by all the fear-mongering. However, when people use Nova Scotia's health care system and are asked what

[Page 1150]

care they have received, three-quarters of them say they are satisfied and happy with the service.

Resolution No. 77 says that communities do not have a voice in the system. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians do have a voice in the system. They are getting directly involved, and I have said in this House before, the Eastern Region Community Health Board participated in the planning for the new health care facilities in Cheticamp and Neils Harbour. The Western Region Community Health Board members sit on committee review programs awarding health promotion grants. Never before have Nova Scotians been so involved in their health care decision making. Regionalization is making it happen, and it is getting Nova Scotians involved in health care. They do have a say, and we are listening to them.

Here are some numbers that may help. There are a total of 67 Nova Scotians sitting on the four regional health boards and 420 members on the 30 community health boards currently established. We expect the remaining 10 community health boards will be established soon, creating opportunities for more than 100 additional residents to volunteer their time to become a part of the regionalized and decentralized health care system. This is in addition to the four volunteer boards responsible for the non-designated hospitals. Regional health boards are demonstrating true partnerships with the community health boards by integrating the community health plans into the regional planning process. I believe this demonstrates a truly bottom-up approach to health care planning. This is not just hospital planning like the old system and that is what is bothering the members of the Opposition. It is not the old system. Communities now have a real voice in health care decision making.

According to the Leader of the Opposition, and according to the resolution, we are chasing away doctors and creating huge cracks in the system. We still have work to do in the area of physician recruitment, but we are certainly not chasing away doctors. Where does he get all his facts, Mr. Speaker? There are only 4 of the original 29 incentive positions still vacant for physicians in Nova Scotia. Now in Cape Breton alone, over the past two years, 23 doctors have left. This is what the Opposition wants everybody to worry about; they do not tell the whole story. Yes, 23 doctors did leave, but 45 new doctors moved to Cape Breton in the time to take their place. The new family doctors include 12 in Glace Bay, 5 in North Sydney and 3 each in New Waterford and Sydney. Also in Sydney there are 15 new specialists including 2 radiation oncologists for the new Cancer Treatment Centre; they have arrived or they are on their way.

Did he, and they, forget the new four year agreement reached with physicians? It specifically includes initiatives to address physician issues, including keeping emergency rooms open in community hospitals, as mentioned earlier, a rural locum service, a re-entry program at Dalhousie University Medical School and other measures to help keep doctors in Nova Scotia.

[Page 1151]

The Leader of the Opposition in his resolution speaks of erosion of service from one end of the province to the other. Mr. Speaker, my apologies for using your time in the Legislature to once again highlight the incredible work being done in our health care system but apparently the Leader of the Opposition and others enjoy hearing our many success stories or he would stop making such unfounded accusations. For instance, the Nova Scotia Tele-Health Network is an example of what is being done to sustain and enhance health care services across the province. It means that every hospital in the province will have a computer link to permit real-time transmission of X-rays and other crucial medical information to specialists in regional centres. The result, reduced patient travel and anxiety and improved care by family doctors.

A new regional hospital will be built in Amherst. Plans are underway to build not one but two health care facilities in the eastern region; one for the residents of Neils Harbour and the other for the residents of Cheticamp.

A redevelopment project for Yarmouth Regional Hospital is already in the works. How can the Leader of the Opposition say this translates into erosion of services? Services are getting better with this government, much better and with input from the community. Here are some examples. A cancer clinic is being built in the Cape Breton Regional Hospital to provide the people of Cape Breton with cancer care closer to their homes. Between the years 1992-93 and 1995-96 the number of the top 100 surgical procedures in Nova Scotia increased to approximately 72,000 from 68,000 in just one year. The Cape Breton Health Care Complex alone is actually providing up to 300 more procedures this year, compared to last year.

There is a great deal of progress being made in the area of emergency health services, as we spoke of earlier today in Question Period. A fleet of more than 110 new state-of-the-art ambulances, staffed by paramedics, are on the road and saving lives, with more to come. Almost 70 of those are equipped with defibrillators. Our new air medical transport helicopters have flown more than 460 missions since it was first introduced last year. Ask those people if they think services have been eroded. A new fixed-wing aircraft is now providing back-up services.

Training and equipment for emergency medical technicians have been upgraded. A new dispatch centre provides life-saving instructions over the phone, while sending an ambulance faster than ever before.

Mr. Speaker, on that note, today in Question Period our guest, who has now left, sent me a note, young Steven. He said there was a six car pile up on Highway No. 102 between Milford and Lantz today. Ambulances were there within seven minutes from when they got the call. It took six ambulances, my cousin was driving one. That is the sort of service that we are talking about.

[Page 1152]

The QE II School of Emergency Health Services is developing a training program for first responders, along with a certification exam and a practitioner registry. Is the Leader of the Opposition trying to say in his resolution that emergency health services were better when ambulances were being hauled off the road for failing to pass the motor vehicle inspections and the only requirement for ambulance drivers was a valid driver's licence? I certainly hope not.

Now let's speak of some money. The Leader of the Opposition says we have created, as he quotes, "four expensive and dysfunctional regional health boards that are bleeding dollars away from patient care and wellness promotion.". Where has this member been? This government increased the health care budget this year by adding $100 million of a total of $1.3 billion. More money is going towards responding to Nova Scotia's health care needs, including enhanced Home Care Nova Scotia and emergency health services, improving clinical services and the new physician agreement.

Since April 1995, Home Care Nova Scotia has served 27,000 Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, that is 285.8 per cent more than the 7,000 figure from April 1995. The budget for the provincial Home Care Program went from $19 million in 1992-93, when those people were in government, to $60 million in 1996-97 to $69.8 million in 1997-98. Home care now provides a province-wide Home Oxygen Program and has introduced on a targeted basis, palliative care, pediatric orthopaedic services and self-managed care for people with disabilities.

The budget for long-term care is almost $110 million. That is an increase of 14.5 per cent over the past two years alone. These numbers alone demonstrate our commitment to long-term care for Nova Scotians. In the past three years we have added the equivalent of 400 full-time workers to the 69 nursing homes and homes for the aged under the Department of Health's responsibility. This year alone a budget increase is adding the equivalent 190 full-time employees directly improving care for those residents. Our annual influenza campaign was expanded this year. Those types of programs and regionalization are redirecting valuable resources back to patient care.

I know my time is running out, Mr. Speaker. I believe I have a few seconds left. The wellness program that the resolution mentioned I am pleased that was noted. The Department of Health shares his appreciation for wellness promotion initiatives. We are doing something about that.

MR. SPEAKER: The minister's time has expired.

DR. SMITH: Okay, we are working with the communities. We are using our resources wisely. We are working to ensure that Nova Scotians benefit from a sustainable health care system well into the 21st Century. I thank you for your patience Mr. Speaker. There are many

[Page 1153]

things that we could discuss and go on. Those are just some of the achievements of the Department of Health.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hope you will grant me an extra minute so that I can try to squeeze in all the wisdom that I want to add to this debate.

The Minister of Health, in his intervention a moment ago, talked about how health has become a politicized issue and suggested that it was the Opposition's fault that it became a politicized issue. Let me tell you, and let us be very clear, that health care is a political issue. It is an issue that is top of mind for Nova Scotians because they are extremely concerned. What they hear about and what they actually encounter in their communities are two different things. When they come to their members, when they come to the government, when they come to the Minister of Health to try to raise their problems, they are accused of being scaremongerers, or unsympathetic, or whiners or complainers. People do not feel that is sufficiently responsive of a government. That is why so many of them have been concerned. That is why you are right, health care is a political issue in not only the Province of Nova Scotia but in Canada.

As this government, the federal government has gone about cutting billions of dollars out of the health care system in this country, they have done it with a smile and said we are making your health care system better. But Canadians and Nova Scotians know that is not true. You cannot tell us that in Nova Scotia, for example, you cut $160-odd million out of the health care system, you reduce beds by over 30 per cent in two years and somehow things are better? It just does not equate. It does not work. Nova Scotians understand that. Nova Scotians are not stupid people even though this government would like to believe that they are.

Clearly the decisions with respect to health care, I believe and many people involved in the health care system believe, are related to where the decisions are being made. The whole focus of the Royal Commission on Health Care in 1989, the focus of the Blueprint Committee on Health Reform in 1993, was that we need to focus our attention more on primary care than on acute care. That we need to ensure the decisions are made closer to the people where they receive their health care. That means devolving decision making to the communities. That is what this government has failed to do. They have not had the courage to actually make reform work and that is by ensuring that the decision- making power goes out to the communities.

What have they done? Well they have set up four regional health boards in the Province of Nova Scotia that are operating in many ways behind a veil of secrecy, that have become over-bureaucratized to the point where the hospitals or the health services that are under their

[Page 1154]

control have become chaotic in many instances and confused because of the lack of authority and accountability, Mr. Speaker.

[5:00 p.m.]

We have CEO's out there now of these boards that are operating without accountability. They are responsible only to the Minister of Health. So why is that any different than having control completely in the Department of Health? It is not, but what it is, it is a further bureaucratization of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia and that is a good part of why there is a problem. That is why we need to screw up some courage in this province and to actually devolve decision-making to the communities. How do you do that?

There are a couple of different models in this country, in provinces where the courage has existed in order to actually make the health care system work in that particular province. There are community health boards that are duly elected in the community where they have a clear mandate for responsibility to determine what the needs are of the community and how best to meet those needs, very responsive to the community, Mr. Speaker, and accountable to the community in terms of how monies are spent.

In other jurisdictions you have health councils that are partly appointed, but appointed from a list of recommendations or a list of suggestions made by consumer groups in a particular community. Those community health councils are given resources, they are mandated and allocated resources by legislation to ensure that they can respond to the needs that are identified in the community and they can see that those needs are met. That is what we have to do, Mr. Speaker.

In the Province of Nova Scotia, we have, in some cases, volunteer community health boards that have been established with absolutely no framework, there is no legislative mandate, they have no resources, there is no accountability; they are just out there and they are asked to participate in decision-making. I commend all of those Nova Scotians that are willing to participate at that level, within that kind of uncertainty and without any mandate, Mr. Speaker. We have very serious problems with respect to how health care decisions are being made in the Province of Nova Scotia.

This idea, after having ripped $180 million out of the health care system in three years, after having reduced hospital beds by over 30 per cent, Mr. Speaker, after taking control of some hospitals without any consideration of the community, presiding over a health care policy that has seen the doctors fleeing rural Nova Scotia, this government suddenly comes up with $100 million which it throws into health care.

Where does it go? Well, we know that at least $20 million went to top up doctors' incomes to the tune of 10 per cent. We know that over $30 million went into the QE II to try to help them cope with a very serious deficit problem in their budget and, Mr. Speaker, the

[Page 1155]

rest of it, we are not sure. I do not think the government is sure of where that money went, but the idea that you can just throw money back at the problem is reminiscent of the way it was dealt with in previous years under previous administrations.

It simply does not work. We have got to bring some planning back into the system. We have to restore the accountability and the proper decision-making process in order to make it happen. I want to talk for a moment, how much time do I have, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Approximately four minutes.

MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to speak for a moment about one of the other serious problems that was created by this government. That is the forced amalgamation of the four major tertiary care centres in the Province of Nova Scotia into what we now know as the QE II.

Mr. Speaker, this institution right now, the main complex, the New Infirmary is a hospital that is providing or attempting to provide tertiary care, all the while it had been set up, it had been designed as a community care hospital. I mean the problems that administration is having trying to cope with the delivery of health care to Nova Scotians, to Maritimers, are very significant, Mr. Speaker.

The burden that is upon staff in those facilities, including doctors, is absolutely irresponsible of this government. What they have done and I have talked to many people in this province and outside this province about what we can possibly do to correct the problem at the QE II and no one is able to come up with an answer. No one who has any knowledge whatsoever of health care and how health care institutions are administered believes that the QE II can be improved, that the solution can be found in any way other than dis-amalgamating it. By pulling it apart and reconstituting the individual parts; in other words, trying to unscramble the omelet.

That is a reality that we have to acknowledge. At some point this government is either going to recognize that they are wrong and actually deal with the problem or Nova Scotians are going to kick them the heck out and are going to get a government that is going to deal with the real problem.

A consequence of that kind of chaos and those kinds of problems in terms of budget, in terms of delivery of service, Mr. Speaker, is that the administration doesn't know if they are punched or bored half the time. As a result you are going to get an HMO, a health management organization, that is going to come around from the United States, that are going to walk in and say listen - and they are doing it right now, they have already walked in beyond the anteroom, let me tell you - we can answer your problem, we can solve this, allow us to take it all over and we will probably save you money. That is what they are saying right now.

[Page 1156]

So, what we are looking at is the Americanization and the privatization of that important health care facility in the Province of Nova Scotia and it is something that Nova Scotians should be extraordinarily concerned about because we are going down a slippery slope and we cannot allow that to happen. Mr. Speaker, we cannot allow that to happen.

As I wrap up my comments, we are now in a process of collective bargaining with those health care institutions and the QE II is an example of the kind of madness that this government has imposed upon the health care sector. That is, they have brought all of those collective agreements together, they have brought different bargaining units together, they have nurses working side by side making $6,000 and $8,000 difference. They have other workers making different salaries and now they are going to have to not only deal with that equalization but they also have to deal with the fact that they have had a wage freeze and a roll-back for the past nine years. It is absolute chaos.

It is time this government, if they are serious about resolving the problems in the health care sector, to number one, properly constitute community health boards and number two, make sure that the health care workers from one end of this province to the other, including those in the QE II, receive proper compensation to deal with the burden that they have been carrying for so many years here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is up. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to jump into the debate. I couldn't believe the minister's speech. I absolutely couldn't believe that that minister could come here and stand in this place and make a speech, the same kind of speech that I would defy him to make if he goes up tonight to the Halifax Infirmary and speaks to those people who wait 10 hours to get service. I defy him to go to an outpatient department in my community, where people are staying overnight, and sometimes two nights, on stretchers. I defy him to give that speech and talk to the families who are being refused admission to hospitals in this province because there are no beds. I absolutely challenge this minister to give that speech to the family who waited 10 days to get home care after discharge from hospital in Colchester County just a week ago.

That is the kind of speech that may sell among government members but it won't sell to those people in the province who are trying to access health care.

I would like to also say to the minister, the minister made reference to community health boards and what they were trying to do. Here is a quote and it is datelined Yarmouth; this is a 90 page report that was released by the Yarmouth Community Health Board and this

[Page 1157]

report states that mental health, care for the elderly and doctor shortages are areas of critical concern and we are not trying to run down the system but trying to improve it.

The report goes on to say, there is not much difference here in Yarmouth than elsewhere. That is the kind of situation that has been created. I defy this minister to go out on the streets of Nova Scotia and get a consensus that health care is as good today as it was in 1993.

What we have here is a government that decided to reform health care. Do you remember that in Government By Design they said, we are going to cut $150 million in the next four years out of health care? So what we have before us four years later, a reform designed by accountants and sold not by good health care but sold by expensive public relations gurus.

What has happened in the last four years to health care? We have 30 per cent fewer acute beds, we have four hospitals closed, we have thousands - I didn't say hundreds, I said thousands - of health care workers fired. There were 200 physicians that left this province, some of the best medical brains in the country have left Nova Scotia in the last four years. Care is harder to get. Seniors are now paying a premium to get medications and thousands, not hundreds, thousands of Nova Scotians no longer have a primary care physician.

What have we got? We have the health care reform. What has happened? Did we save the $150 million? Absolutely not. The budget this year with the add-ons that the minister has announced, this year we will pay $100 million more for health care than we paid in 1993-94. We are getting less for more. That is what has happened to health care in this province. Despite all of the things that I said, the difficulty that many Nova Scotians are having getting into hospitals and yet they would be surprised to learn we are spending $100 million more.

We talk about home care and I believe in home care. Goodness knows, with no hospital beds we have to have home care but it isn't accessible. Despite what this minister says time and time again, the failure of home care to provide the kind of treatment that was available in a hospital is being brought to our attention and that minister says, you are fear-mongering. Tell that to the families of patients, that they are fear-mongering when their loved ones and relatives can't access good health care.

I would defy that minister to go to any nursing home in this province and suggest that the kind of care that is available in our nursing homes is as good as it was in 1993. Sicker patients are in our homes for the aged, in our nursing homes, more and more level 2 and level 3 and fewer level 1. They can't get their residents into hospitals and they are being forced to treat those illnesses in those nursing homes that used to get into hospital and there are fewer resources to do that. Tell it to the nursing homes who, because of delisting of drugs, are paying more and more of their budget for providing drugs because the Pharmacare Program doesn't provide it through that program any more and it is now coming out of the budgets

[Page 1158]

of the nursing homes, the delisting of drugs, drugs no longer available on the Seniors' Pharmacare Program.

It is absolutely ludicrous, the speech that the minister just gave. Again, it was something written by his public relations gurus and having no basis in truth whatsoever. Lest I be accused of being an alarmist and the minister is wont to do that, let's look at perhaps what has happened. Can this minister tell me why we are spending $100 million more for health care delivery and we are obviously getting so much less? He defends the regionalization. If we are getting less care and we are spending $100 million more, am I wrong to suggest that the administration is eating up the excess health care dollars. The government keeps pouring in more at the top but more isn't coming out of the bottom. It is being eaten up by a system that involves five Departments of Health, one here in Halifax and the four regional health boards.

Let's look at something perhaps that is a little more sensible. Health care is extremely important and there are many who would say it is the most important service that we provide as a provincial government. It is something which we must nourish and treasure and cherish and protect. I agree with all of that. I do not think anybody in this House would disagree with that, but what has happened? Why can we spend $100 million more and see so much less? When we started down this road to reform, obviously the first Minister of Health under this administration had something up his sleeve. He said, what will I do? The first thing I will do is get rid of the criticism. The arm's length body that monitors health care for the people of Nova Scotia - I will get rid of the Provincial Health Council. He did that. Right away we had to be on the alert.

[5:15 p.m.]

Then he said, well, if I am going to have my way, I had better not ask health care providers what to do because they are going to have some good suggestions and it might not really fit into my plan. Health care providers have not had a word to say about health care change since 1993.

Communities have a great interest in health care. They are going to want the best for their communities and that is right. We all should be advocates for our communities. That is why they send us here to this place. I will get rid of the local boards and I will get rid of all those people in the communities who can have a real input into health care and will really put the pressure on us to provide good health care at the community level. I will appoint some political friends as members of the regional health board and they will do the job for me. They will tell the communities what they can have and what they cannot have.

That is what has been happening since 1994 when the regional health boards were put in place. That is the kind of process that we have been going through.

[Page 1159]

What else will we do? I had better forget the core funding or core programs because if I provide that I will have no control and the community will have something really to go aboard me about, if in fact we lose a service. We have lost a lot of services in many communities.

There has been one examination of the adequacy of acute health care beds in this province, one independent analysis. Do you know what that was? That was the McLaughlin Report in Glace Bay. It said, as the community had been saying for weeks and months and years, that there are not enough acute care beds back in Glace Bay. The McLaughlin Report said that is right. There are not enough acute care beds in Glace Bay. No other independent analysis was carried out in any other community in this province, not in my community, not in Windsor, not in any of the small communities because this government knows that the reduction in acute beds of 30 per cent is too big.

We do not need to go back to where we were. I am not suggesting that, but what I am suggesting is there are not enough beds in the province today. You just go to an outpatient department and see the people on stretchers one or two nights. See the people who are being refused admission who have legitimate health care concerns that should result in them being admitted to a hospital. They are not being admitted to a hospital.

If you think that is fear-mongering, Mr. Speaker, and I know you do not, but the Minister of Health seems to think it is, so if bringing these concerns to the minister is fear-mongering, then I am guilty. But, I am going to continue bringing these concerns to the minister until the minister realizes he can keep on pouring money into this system and it is not going to work. The system is not set up right, because communities have no control, because health care providers do not have input. Core programs are not being guaranteed and there is no arm's length agency monitoring what government is doing. There is no provincial health council.

If I could make that message any clearer to the Premier, if I could make it any clearer, I would but I have made it pretty clear. The minister can keep on pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into health care in this province and it is not going to work until he gets the structure right and it is not right today. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

DR. EDWIN KINLEY: I do not know quite where to begin. I wanted to debate a resolution on health care but the members of the Opposition and the Third Party have made comments and I do not think I am on the same planet.

I have been working in the health care system for 30 years and never in those 30 years have I ever seen a patient sent home from hospital who needed admission. Ever.

[Page 1160]

I want to make some comments on the emergency health care. Emergency health care really didn't exist to any extent in this province until the reforms came in. Patients weren't getting to hospital on time, the ambulances weren't satisfactory, they weren't getting treatment at the roadside or outside of hospital before they got there.

Just recently, I had occasion to operate on a patient who was waiting in the line at the Macdonald Bridge to come over in rush hour traffic. He was a man in his early 40's and he had a cardiac arrest. His wife knew CPR and she got him out of the car. The people with him had a cellular phone and they were able to call for an ambulance, which was on the scene within five minutes. They defibrillated him, electrical defibrillation. They brought him to the hospital, we carried out a coronary bypass and he went home in one week. That is an example of what the emergency health care system is today.

Another example, not so fortunate, was of a young man from P.E.I. who had a severe injury and had to be brought by ambulance. He took so long to get here that, despite efforts over two or three days, he died. It was a preventable death, he just didn't get here on time. The air ambulance service would prevent that.

In terms of home care, this is a program that has been long overdue in this province; we are the last province to bring in home care. Most provinces did this 20 years ago and we started almost from zero. It has gone over the last two or three years, exponentially, and it has reached now where it may be that 25,000 to 30,000 people have been accessed and it will probably go up to 40,000 or 50,000 before it plateaus and before the need is met.

The purpose of home care is to keep people out of hospital or to get them out of hospital earlier or to prevent them from going into nursing homes. It has been very successful and it is a very useful program and this is one that has been long overdue in this province. I can tell you, it really works. Getting people out of hospital now, after they have had their acute care, is quite easy. No matter where they go in the province, the home care system is getting in gear. It isn't perfect yet, but it is really working and it has shortened hospital stays dramatically.

In terms of bed closures, it is well known that over 30 per cent of the beds were patients in acute hospital beds that shouldn't have been there - that is a national figure - and it was at least that high in Nova Scotia. These beds weren't required and they had to be closed to save money to run the system and improve the system. That is why they were closed. Hospital beds don't equate with health at all. That has been well shown.

In terms of regional hospital boards, we are all familiar with the concept of the regional boards. They have been started, and we now have four regional boards with four administrative structures where we had 36. The four regional boards are going to be much more effective and the community boards are part of this. The community health boards, which aren't all in place yet, that is where the primary care of the system will be arranged.

[Page 1161]

The concerns of rural physicians and small hospitals and so on, people will be able to make their own decisions as to what they want. The regional boards will be coordinating the region's needs. They won't be making decisions in a void; there will be guidelines that will apply across the province to each regional board and the regional boards will have guidelines for the community boards. The system will feed up into the tertiary care system in Halifax.

I want to just talk about the QE II Health Sciences Centre. It has gone through some difficult times because of amalgamation. Amalgamation, again, has reduced four administrative structures to one which will improve the administration tremendously in the hospital. The QE II developed over a number of years and it is quite a unique facility. The original Victoria General Hospital was actually founded and set up by a Liberal Government in the late 1800's, and that provided the basis for the medical school. The medical school grew up alongside the hospital.

Then the children's hospital came along and the maternity hospitals and the medical school structures and the pathology lab; this whole consortium of buildings and structures and functions, it is quite unique in North America. It has been looked at very enviably by other people. It has made possible the development of the medical school, the dentistry school, the nursing school, the pharmacy school and all the allied health professionals and they all depend on each other and it works very well.

The standards of care are set by the QE II Health Sciences Centre and the teaching institutions it is associated with. It has a broad research base which again you have to have a critical mass of facilities and people to establish this research base and we have that. This allows quality care and education to be delivered.

Our excellent regional centres are located strategically around the province and their plans will coordinate very well with the academic medical centre. The health care system, at times, is highly technical and it is very expensive, and our aging population will require more health care. It is estimated that about 80 per cent of personal health care is required in the last two years of life, and with an aging population that is going to go up. People are living longer, and it is estimated that even with no increase in the population base, the cost of health care, the health care need will go up about 20 per cent in the next 20 years. It is going to continue to grow.

Now the most effective way of reducing health care costs in recent years has been the campaign against smoking. That has saved more money to the system than anything else except for innoculation of communicable diseases. That is the guide to what we have to do in the future, is education and lifestyle modification in terms of diet and exercise and diabetes and so on. Lifestyle modification is where we are going to save money in the future and that has to start with our educational institutions. Our government has recognized this and has set out to study health care outcomes and treatment outcomes and set up extensive and quite

[Page 1162]

technical studies to have baseline studies of where the health care of Nova Scotians is now, so we know where to spend the money.

We have to realize, as well, Mr. Speaker, that there is a very close connection between health, education and poverty. Conditions of poverty are associated with poor health, unemployment and poor educational achievement. You cannot change one without affecting the other two. We must address education and poverty to realize the best health of our population. There are some interesting figures and statistics on that, Mr. Speaker, which we could go into, but I do not have time. I will point out something that maybe is unknown to the members, that is about 30 per cent of the live births in this province are to single parents. Those single parents often live in poverty and their children are affected by it forever.

The government is committed to a publicly funded health care system. This principle is well known and some of the principles of the publicly funded health care system are accessibility, uniform quality and portability and so on. We have to add the principle of sustainability, otherwise we will be in danger of getting a two-tiered system, as has been referred to. A high quality public health system is the only way to prevent a two-tiered health system. What is meant by a two-tiered health system? Well it is well-illustrated by the American or the British systems.

We had a Nova Scotian, recently, who was travelling to Florida and while driving through New England she had some chest problems. She was admitted to hospital in New England and they did extensive tests right away, it just took them one-half a day to do it and they booked her to have a coronary by-pass the next morning. The next morning when she was getting ready to go up for her operation they realized she did not have any insurance and they sent her home. Now that is a two-tiered system. It happens every day in the United States. There is about 20 per cent of the population, at least, who have no health insurance at any one time. Those people do not get good health care. They are not admitted to hospitals and when they are in the hospitals, the hospitals they get into are not well equipped and the staff may not be well trained. That is two-tiered medicine. Our population is not treated that way. People have equal access and they get equal care and it is good care.

Another example would be in the British system where they have a two-tiered system. There are many other institutions that are dedicated to very high cost care. They have gourmet cooking and wine in the rooms and so on, that is not what we want.

[5:30 p.m.]

I have personal experience in health care delivery from the highest level to that of long-term care. This province is blessed with a health care system second to none and I have no doubt that the system will continue in the future. Thank you.

[Page 1163]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I must say there is at least one thing that the previous speaker said that I do agree with and that is that a high quality health care system is the only way to prevent a two-tier system from growing up in our country and in our province. I must say though that with regard to home care, which I would like to talk about for a few minutes today, I have to ask the question, why if we have high quality home care, why if we have enough resources invested in home care, why if we have done it right in this province, why is there so much ongoing grief around home care issues and needs for home care and services for people who desperately need them?

I say that because as recently as yesterday, we had yet another person call our office and tell us a story about inadequate home care for a very sick person. This person was released from the hospital under the understanding that home care would be accessible and that it would be arranged. What happened was the recommendation was made for home care but when the assessment was done and it went in, there was no staff available to implement the recommendation that had been made by the community care worker. Here is another person in Nova Scotia who desperately needs care, who is at home and in extremely poor health, attempting to recover from a serious medical problem. This person is yet another person in the history of Home Care Nova Scotia, who is scrambling to make do and is dependant on friends because he has no family here. That is the kind of situation that raises the questions that we have raised before and will continue to raise.

I went back to the 1994 Blueprint for Health System Reform to see what the Blueprint said about informal caregivers, as they are known, which is the care that is given to people by family and friends. Even in the Blueprint there was an acknowledgement that our health care system does depend on informal caregivers. These people would be the family and friends who pitch in who maybe do it all the time or who fill in during the hours when there is no professional caregiver. The Blueprint recognized that this has gone on forever in our culture and province but it went on to recommend that the contribution of informal caregivers be recognized and what that recognition means is giving it formal support, whether it is programs of respite care or training or anything else that is needed.

The former Minister of Health also confirmed this in a letter in 1996 to the Leader of our Party, where he said basically that home care was meant to supplement and not replace the services that are provided by family and friends in the community.

Mr. Speaker, if we had a home care system that was adequate and if we had it structured in the way that the Blueprint Committee recommended, which was not operating centrally but operating from a community health base with coordination at the community level, there might be some comfort for people on the question of home care. But, it seems as if the government has not recognized the current realities in Nova Scotia. It is as if we brought in a program, even though the work of the Blueprint Committee and the Health

[Page 1164]

Council was there, it's as if the program was set up at the absolute minimum level at the very time when the maximum level of care provided by the informal system would be lowering itself through natural social conditions.

Mr. Speaker, I want to recommend to the minister an article which came through the library to all of us, if we chose to read it. It was in the October Canadian Medical Association Journal, and it reported a study that was done by two reputable researchers and while it concentrated on home care for two particular groups of elderly patients who needed home care, some of its general comments and some of its revelations are enlightening. I think that the minister and all members of government would do well to note some of the points that they make.

The first thing they point out is that the conventional wisdom on home care is that it is always better but that this can be troublesome because if there aren't the supports, if things are not adequate, if the money is not there and the infrastructure is not there and the skill is not there and the organization of it is far away from the community, then there is some risk that in fact the home care that will come to our friends and family and possibly to us will be jeopardized.

One of the things it points out is that home care has evolved at the very time when we have seen major restructuring in families. We all know this, it is - I won't say common sense - but Mr. Speaker, it is certainly something that we all have been made aware of. So we know families are more diverse. We know that people have fewer grown children than they had a generation ago. We know that in many families, both parents are required to work and we know that a consequence of that has been a huge increase in the participation of women in the labour force.

Mr. Speaker, the Blueprint for Health System Reform recognized that women are by and large, though not exclusively, the informal caregivers in our system. So the fact that women's participation in the labour force has increased drastically and that women now make up 45 per cent of the paid labour force should indicate to the government that the need for the supports and the dwindling pool of informal caregivers would create a policy issue for the government.

Along with that, of all the women in the labour force, 74 per cent of them are employed full time. Anyone who has been in a family situation as I have been where you may have a number of children but all of them have jobs and families and contracts in their work and limitations on the time and the money and everything else that they can spend helping a family member get well. Anybody who has been through that will know just how truly difficult it is.

How much time do I have left? About one minute. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1165]

This article, which I would recommend to the members and particularly to the government, draws the conclusion from its research that if we are going to have home care and if we are going to do it right, one of the things that has to happen is that there must be community-based surveillance strategies which allow for the constant improvement and adjustment in the needs that the community has. As long as we do not have working, functioning community health boards, I for one do not see how this will happen. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: I am pleased to rise and say a few words about Resolution No. 77. I listened carefully to the Minister of Health and the member for Halifax Citadel as they answered re the government's position. I must say to the member for Halifax Citadel who works, I think, in the cardiac area, that I believe in this province that in cardiac units and people who go with chest pains, I do not know of anybody who has not ever been dealt with right away or had any difficulty accessing a hospital.

When the member for Halifax Citadel said that we do not equate beds with the health of Nova Scotians, I agree. But I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, you have to have an adequate number of acute care health beds because if you do not, lives can actually be lost. When we used to give examples, and I did this a number of times and the Minister of Health from across the way and say you cannot judge a system by anecdotes.

The member for Halifax Citadel did just that. He gave examples of success stories and I agree. There are many success stories. I want to say before I give my example, and I could give many, that I firmly believe that we have the best health care providers anywhere in the country and probably in the world. If you access the system, those people are dedicated to ensure you get every ounce of care that you need.

Now I have to tell you that in talking to many of the nurses and other health care providers that they are run off their feet. There are really not enough of them many times, they will tell you, to do the kind of level of job they would like to do because there are just not enough of them and not enough hours in the day to provide that care. Every one of them cares about the patient who enters the system. Every one of them does everything humanly possible to see that that patient gets the proper care. So often we forget that those providers are doing a great job but our system, they tell me, is what the problem is.

I had a lady call me not long ago whose mother was very sick. I could not believe. She had called me late in the morning and I was at a meeting but within half an hour I did call her back. She said, my mother is very sick. The doctor was here yesterday and again today. He has been pleading and begging for a bed in the hospital but there are no beds available. She said my mother is getting sicker and sicker and the doctor says he is trying but no bed is available. What will I do?

[Page 1166]

I said I would call 911 and have the ambulance come and pick up your mother. If she is that sick and the doctor thinks she should be in hospital, I think you should call 911. She did that, she told me later. I did not know until the next day that she did call 911. The ambulance came very quickly, picked up her mother and she did get into hospital that afternoon, by calling 911. That is the good side of the story. The unfortunate side of the story, the mother had a perforated bowel, had to have an operation and, as we all know, as the poison goes through the system, the mother died. The family was very upset because they felt if the mother had gotten in the day before - and no one will ever argue yes or no - that had a bed been available, would have gotten into hospital, would have been diagnosed, would have had the operation and the poison wouldn't have gone through her system.

[5:45 p.m.]

Beds are important and we have to understand that what we have done with the new regional health boards is we have now taken away from the communities any control over the system. When the minister says there are 67 people on the regional health boards, there used to be thousands of Nova Scotians who volunteered their time on smaller boards in this province, gave up their time. They felt they had ownership of the facilities. The minister talks about regional health boards now that have no authority, no legislation that this government has now set up, allowing regional health boards to go without. They don't even care enough to follow the blueprint to give them the legislation and the manpower and the authority to have control over their local health care system.

These regional boards are so far removed from the community - and I raised this issue with the Minister of Health last spring - that their meetings are closed to the public and you can't even get minutes of the meetings. So, if I am concerned about a facility or a health issue in my area, or a group is, we can't even get to go before the regional board or hear the regional board discuss it. Can you imagine? In this day and age we have to have secrecy around the decisions of regional health boards. Not only that, the government appoints their own people because the former Premier - and I hope this Premier doesn't think this way - said, we have to appoint Liberals because we have to have people on the regional health boards who think our way. Never mind independent thinking, never mind the importance of one community, they have to think our way.

If you truly believe that communities should have a say and providers should have a say, then you would stop the present set-up. You would put up community health boards with the proper legislation that would control what happens in their community. We have taken all of that away. We have taken the ownership away. There is no accountability anymore.

I was speaking to a member of the Department of Health one day and asked, how are things going, busy? Oh, busy. You know, we had a conversation about the health care system and we both came to the same conclusion: when there is a problem today, there is nobody in charge. If you talk to the minister, he says it is the regional boards. The regional boards say,

[Page 1167]

no, that is the minister's responsibility; we don't have any funds. You don't have any responsibility.

What we are also finding, which is what I said would happen, is that there are no core programs throughout the province, they have never been established. We don't have the same programs in all of the regions of the province and, therefore, people from the four different regions don't have equal access or equal availability of beds as in other regions. If you talk about fairness and you truly believe in fairness, you will stop the present procedure and you will allow communities and community health boards to again have control and input on what kind of care is to be provided in their own community.

I know that people who donated millions of dollars to health care facilities in this province are not doing that anymore. Why aren't they doing it anymore? Because, they say, we don't own it anymore. They don't even know who owns it. Some board that meets far away, that doesn't have open meetings owns it. Some group that they can't identify with anymore. They are not elected, they are not accountable and the community has no way to have input. So, you can talk all you want about what is wrong with the system. It is not the providers, it is not the facilities, it is not those people who are trying their best. It is the system that this government has allowed to be put in place that is from the top-down, that does not allow the community any say anymore in what happens to health care in their area.

If the government doesn't soon wake up to that reality and I know that this group are born again because they now have a new Premier who has totally gone in a different direction from the previous government and many of the people that sit in this Legislature applauded the decisions of the previous government. The new Premier came along and said, those decisions were wrong and we are now going in a new direction, they applauded again. Talk about hypocrisy, talk about really understanding the issues.

Here is an issue that I know every member understands and that is the delivery of health care in their local community. We have to make sure, it is our responsibility as legislators, not to dictate to communities, not to put from the top-down the programs in place but to allow the communities the opportunity to have a say, an opportunity to have control over the kind of system that fits their community best. So let's put some accountability back into the system. Let's find out who is really in charge. Let's make sure that every Nova Scotian has equal access to the same kind and level of health care from one end of this province to the other, so that no matter where you live or what means you have, you will be able to have that kind of care.

This government is creating a two-tier health care system, especially in the seniors Pharmacare Program where they have delisted drugs where people now cannot in many cases - I had a case today and many members get this - of the working poor and those seniors that can't afford those drugs that have been delisted. But that drug means a great deal to their quality of care. We have got to start being more caring. We have got to understand that there

[Page 1168]

are difficulties and never mind telling everybody it is wonderful because it is not wonderful to those people who are having difficulty. We have got to address those means, we have got to make sure that we understand that we put the control back into the hands of the community. Mr. Speaker, I know that you know and you want that as well as I, so let's work to that goal.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the debate of Resolution No. 77 has expired.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call House Order No. 2.

H.O. No. 2, re Premier - Office: Staff Relocation - Update - notice given Nov. 27/97 - (Mr. R. Russell)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: I so move, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken with the Premier with regard to this House Order and we agree and pass the House Order.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I thank the cooperation of the Government House Leader. Would you please call House Order No. 3.

H.O. No. 3, re Justice - Custody Configuration Project Report - notice given Nov. 27/97 - (Mr. R. Russell)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: I so move, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 1169]

HON. ALAN MITCHELL: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that this calls for the tabling of the Custody Configuration Project Report. I would like to comply with that if I might by agreeing to supply one copy of the Configuration Report to each caucus. The report costs about $150 per report, so I would ensure that each caucus gets a copy of that. I would expect that we should be able to deliver that at least by the end of next week.

MR. SPEAKER: Is that acceptable to members of the House?

Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, would you please call House Order No. 4.

H.O. No. 4, re Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwys/Roads - Snowplow Logs (14/11/97-02/12/97) - notice given Dec. 2/97 - (Dr. J. Hamm)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: I so move, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I have met with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works with regard to the log books. He said they don't have such a book but he is prepared to give them, if they can come back with another House Order, if they are interested in a certain thing, like mileage or times. He told me that they don't have log books.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I accept the House Leader's report and if that is the case, I will ask the member to put in a Written Question and see if we can comply with what is available.

MR. SPEAKER: It has been withdrawn then in its original form? It has. Yes. Thank you.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

[Page 1170]

MR. GEORGE MOODY: That concludes the Opposition Members' Business for the day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. GUY BROWN: Mr. Speaker, the House will sit tomorrow at the hour of 1:00 p.m. We will do the daily routine, Question Period and then we will request that the House move into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills to deal with the Public Bills that are on the order paper. After we have completed that, we will then go into finishing the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. Tomorrow afternoon, we hope to call the vote on the Speech from the Throne after we finish the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is then that the House do now adjourn and sit again tomorrow afternoon at the hour of 1:00 p.m.

We have reached the time which is allocated for the Adjournment debate. The resolution has been submitted and the Clerk conducted a draw. The winner for today, the resolution submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova:

"Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the Premier for his exemplary dedication to the welfare and best interests of the Cape Breton coal and steel industries.".



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



MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, earlier today we had some discussion of the Cape Breton coal industry. Then we had the announcement from the Premier about gas. While steel has not been discussed so far today, it certainly is a concern that is always with us.

Certainly, it is clear that we are moving into new and different times. The future will not be as was the past. Nova Scotia will probably never be the same again. Many are concerned in these changing times about where various established industries may stand. There is, I will have to confess, wide concern in the area that I come from about the impact of natural gas on the coal industry.

[Page 1171]

I must say that in my view, after having discussed these matters with the Premier at some length, I am convinced that there can be a harmonization of the two interests and that one need not necessarily be to the jeopardy of the other. There will certainly be an ongoing need for vigilance and for consultation and for availability of information for many years to come. This is not something that we are going to have the full picture on overnight or in the next number of months.

I have certainly been assured by the Premier that there will not be any lateral gas line constructed into Cape Breton Island above and beyond the plan to put one to Point Tupper until there has been a full socio-economic study of the impact of such a line, of such a pipe on the Island, until there has been full consultation and dialogue with the people, especially with those interests and concerns such as the mining community and their designated leaders, until there is a genuine wish and consensus on the part of the people of Cape Breton Island that that is what they want.

If that is what they want, then I am sure that this government, so long as it remains in office, will attempt to deliver. Certainly there is no plan at this stage to compel or to force this on any part of the province that does not feel that it would be in their interest to have it. I think that is an important principle to recognize as we move forward.

As we move forward into these new and challenging times, leadership is certainly a very important consideration. There are tremendous powers that go with holding the Office of Premier of Nova Scotia. Were those powers to be turned over to irresponsible hands, it certainly would be very disastrous for all of us. It is not perhaps like turning over a minor office, one of little consequence.

[6:00 p.m.]

It is not one where there could easily be a remedy provided of the office to get into the wrong hands. I want to stand here in my place and say that I think we should all be very thankful, especially those of us who are from Cape Breton Island, that we have the Honourable Russell MacLellan as Premier of Nova Scotia and as designated spokesperson and frontperson for the government in the all important energy questions that all these considerations hinge around as we move forward into the future.

I just shudder to think what would happen if the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party were by some fluke, by some permutation of vote, some combination of strategic voting, to become the head of a minority NDP government, which apparently is his dream so that he could install someone like Howard Epstein to be Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. (Laughter) I just shudder to think of such a nightmare, Mr. Speaker, and the terrible effect such a development would have on the community that I represent. Although, I know that there are people out in the field right now working diligently to try to

[Page 1172]

bring about such a result and with some considerable conviction. They believe that what they are doing is good for Nova Scotia. I cannot see how, Mr. Speaker. I cannot understand it.

When you have a political Party that would encourage someone to run for them as one of their leading candidates and spokespeople who are fundamentally opposed to all coal mining on grounds of principle because they feel that it is a danger to the environment, that it is dirty and that it is unsafe. They feel that the primary purpose of their involvement in public life is to gain office so that they can somehow bring about the shutdown, the immediate closure, of the coal industry so that it can be replaced by cleaner energy forms such as gas, wind or solar energy, all this has been outlined at great length in the publications as Mr. Epstein has not hesitated to publish and to circulate because he does not hide his views. He does not pretend for a moment to be a friend of the coal mining industry. He says, shut her down, that is my platform. I do not care if it costs votes, I am going to stand for that anyway. Now that is the man's platform. Certainly a Party that would advance a person of that frame of mind and of those beliefs as their star candidate and say, vote for us, we are for you, you know, we are going to look after you, trust us. If such a Party were to come to power, I say, God help us all.

Let us be thankful to God that we do have Russell MacLellan as our Premier, and I am confident that he will be Premier for some years to come, Mr. Speaker. I am confident, I am reassured, I think it makes me feel much safer when I think that this individual has been the person that filled the breach that was created by the retirement of the former Premier and stepped forward and was selected and is now installed as Premier of Nova Scotia, because I have worked with this man for approximately 17 or 18 years. He was a Member of Parliament for the same area that I represent provincially, and we always worked together as a team. I found him to be a very sensitive, intelligent, knowledgeable and shrewd politician and as federal Energy Critic for the federal Liberal Caucus in Ottawa, he gained an immense knowledge of energy matters which is serving him in good stead today. I know that he is very dedicated to the welfare of the people that I represent.

I know, Mr. Speaker, that when all this is said and done and our political careers are over and his political career is over, he intends to go back home to Sydney and to live there in that community for the rest of his life. Certainly, when he retires from public office, and I hope it may be not soon, but for a long time yet to come, when that event takes place and when he goes home to live out his last years in his home community of Sydney, he wants to feel that he did the best he could for the people who chose him as their representative over so many years. That makes me feel very safe, because I know that these are going to be challenging times that we move into. I know that there are going to be challenges and threats. I know that the future for the coal mining industry is by no means assured and yet it is the largest industry in the area that I come from. It is the economic foundation on which so much more is based. It is an industry that is going to need protection and it is going to need protection from the quarter of government. It is not something that is going to be rescued from some other quarter, the future of the coal mining industry on Cape Breton Island will,

[Page 1173]

most certainly, be decided by government. It will be decided by the federal government, and to a great extent too, I believe ultimately, by the provincial government.

We are fortunate in having a Premier who has the Prime Minister's ear at a time when we have been marooned federally by the New Democratic Party which put its vain and empty appeals to the people in such a way that the people were taken in on June 2nd and voted to elect to Ottawa two representatives that we might as well have no representatives at all in Ottawa for all the good they do us. Yet we have to carry on as best we can in spite of that burden, like going into a boxing match with both hands tied behind one's back, you might as well say. Our Premier is the lifeline that keeps Nova Scotia and the needs of Nova Scotia effectively expressed to the Prime Minister and the federal Cabinet in Ottawa, together of course with the work of Senator Al Graham who never sought to be a federal Cabinet Minister at all and at the age of 67 had these responsibilities placed on his shoulders by the results of the June 2nd election. Yet he is doing his level best, notwithstanding the fact that he too had looked forward to spending some easy years rather than the burdens that have been placed on him. He is now rising to the challenge and is doing his best to try to help us in Cape Breton Island. We have much to be thankful for. I want to salute those who are working so hard to help us. Having said that, I will take my place. (Applause)

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

MR. ALFRED MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the opportunity to speak to the resolution that was put forward by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova. There is no question that when the member for Cape Breton Nova talks about the steel industry, that it is important to Cape Breton Island and has been for a long time. It is a valuable industry. It is an industry that is in dire straits and right now we are looking to save it in any way or shape we can. There is no doubt that we are going to do everything in our power to make sure that the steel industry survives on Cape Breton Island.

I cannot help but be a little bit amused when I hear the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova speak. We talked earlier today in this very Chamber. There was a Special Debate to talk about the coal industry. All Parties and all members that spoke in this House got up and they said that we had to work together. We had to move forward in a combined effort to make sure that the coal industry was saved in the Province of Nova Scotia and on the Island of Cape Breton. Then when a resolution was brought forward asking the three Leaders to convene right away, immediately, so there would be something done about this matter, the members on the government bench denied that motion. Was all the rhetoric before that during the Special Debate for the TV cameras or were people really concerned about what was going on with the coal industry in Cape Breton Island?

It is amazing, the member for Cape Breton Nova speaks about his relationship with the Leader and the Premier of the province. I am glad that they have such a good relationship, but this is the same man, the same person who for 18 years sat in the House of Commons

[Page 1174]

representing parts of Cape Breton Island. Indeed, if the House, for example, sits 200 days a year for 18 years, that is 3,600 days that that minister, the Premier of this province, sat in the House of Commons. 3,600 days that he had an opportunity to bring forward the concerns of the coal industry in Cape Breton and how many times did he speak? How many times? Once. That is how many times. He mentioned it on October in the year of 1979, almost 20 years ago. That is how many times that this Premier whom the member for Cape Breton Nova is so proud of spoke about the coal industry on the floor of the House of Commons.

On December 8th that same Premier whom he is so proud of stood in this very building and said, "We do not have any long-term plan for the coal industry on Cape Breton Island.". This is the man that he has so much faith in. We had the debate. We had a debate here today. We had the opportunity for people from Cape Breton Island to get up and say their piece. The Premier of this province, who represents North Sydney and Sydney Mines and Florence, areas that have always had a reliance on the coal industry, did not get to his feet and speak during that debate. Even the member for Cape Breton South who does not have any coal mining in his riding got up and spoke about the industry, but not once did the Premier get up during the debate and speak about the coal industry. This is the man that the member for Cape Breton Nova is so proud to have fighting for our interest in coal.

Mr. Speaker, he might have a good friendship with the Premier of this province, and I hope he does, but I would like to have a Premier that would have the dedication and the sincerity to get up during a Special Debate and to speak on the issue that is very important to all Cape Breton people. There are 1,700 families affected, Mr. Speaker, and the Premier sat for two hours and did not bother to speak. That is not the kind of leadership that this province needs, that is not the kind of leadership that the people of Cape Breton want and that is not what the people for Cape Breton North voted for in November.

Mr. Speaker, I think that the Party on the government side of the benches should be ashamed of the fact that they would not allow the three Parties to get together, the three Leaders to get together earlier today and do the utmost that they could to make sure that our concerns, the concerns of this House and, indeed, the concerns of the people of Cape Breton Island and all Nova Scotia were brought forward to the House of Commons and, indeed, to the Prime Minister.

Yes, earlier today, the member for Cape Breton Nova wanted to know if tomorrow was early enough, and if he knew the seriousness of the situation he would realize that today would not be too early. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I thought I was going to enjoy the rhetoric that was taking place in the House, but I got a little concerned. The member for Cape Breton West, in my interpretation of what he said was, the rhetoric that we went through in the

[Page 1175]

Special Debate was lost. Now (Interruption) in my interpretation, I thought that we would have a good debate and that we talked about the coal industry. I think what happens where the confusion comes about is that the resolution talked about the 180,000 tonnes of coal that was shipped. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: No it did not. The resolution they voted down today asked for the three Parties to get together. Get with the program.

MR. MACNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I listened quite attentively and he is trying to say what I said. The rhetoric that comes out is that the debate we did today was lost, and I am saying no it was not.

AN. HON. MEMBER: Oh yes it was.

MR. MACNEIL: To some people, and especially the Opposition, it usually is lost when you are putting something sincere towards the people. The Premier, I am just amazed that the Opposition say the Premier has done nothing. We all know that the Premier works in his ways, as he did with the Sable gas. He wanted to make sure everything was in order and then he would tell the people about it. Let me tell you that the same thing is going to happen with the coal industry, with the Premier. We had a very fruitful, important meeting last night with the UMW. I was fortunate, to be there, and I would have to tell the honourable member for Cape Breton West that the coal industry will benefit from the experience of the Premier. He does not have to go out and sound out and speak loud and scream and holler all the things he was going to do, he is going to do them.

We are going to look at the possibility of pension funds, and we are going to look at the royalties of the leasing, but they will want him to go out and scream and holler that he is going to do it. He is going to do it. I was in the room, and I think these things will happen. He will do his job, I am just amazed that the member for Cape Breton West is suggesting what the Premier should do. If he knows all the answers, then he should run for the Leader of his Party, which I am assuming right now that it would not be a hard job to take. All the answers that he has are that the Premier is not doing his job. I cannot believe that he would come and say something like that.

The resolution again, Mr. Speaker, that the one that we said was not the proper one to do in for the Special Debate today was the 180,000. Then the other one that came about today was three Parties get together.

[6:15 p.m.]

Well, the Premier already met with one of the most important parties which was the miners. He is offering some possible solutions. That is the most important party to meet with. Those are the ones who are going to be affected. So I take great exception to the member for

[Page 1176]

Cape Breton West downgrading the Premier because he will do well for Nova Scotia and he will do well for Cape Breton and he will do well for the coal industry and the steel industry.

I just wanted to bring those to your attention and to say that the member for Cape Breton West was a little offbeat, a little out of the way; usually a nice guy, but I think he went strange this evening. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If there are no further speakers in the Adjournment debate, the motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:16 p.m.]

[Page 1177]


Given on December 9, 1997

(Pursuant to Rule 30)


By: Mr. Ernest Fage (Cumberland North)

To: Hon. Robert Harrison (Minister of Education and Culture)

(1) The students, teachers, parents of the community feeding Charles P. Allen High School have been trying to convince the province for some time now of the serious need for a new high school for Waverley-Fall River. Will the Minister of Education and Culture advise the people of the Waverley-Fall River area when the school priority list will be completed and released?

(2) If the list is not yet approved, will the minister arrange for the committee to meet with him to immediately review their concerns?