DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS
Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott
Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.
Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/legislative-business/hansard-debates/
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THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2003
|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|ARRIVAL OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR||1|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE||2|
|INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:|
|An Act Respecting Oaths of Office, Hon. J. Muir||17|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE:|
|Moved - Mr. R. Hurlburt||17|
|Seconded - Ms. M. McGrath||21|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Mr. D. Dexter||26|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Mar. 28th at 10:00 a.m.||30|
HALIFAX, THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2003
Fifty-eighth General Assembly
Hon. Murray Scott
Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Kevin Deveaux, Mr. David Wilson
[The Third Session of the 58th General Assembly was opened with historic ceremony on an overcast day.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor.
[The Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Myra A. Freeman, preceded by her escort and aides and by Mr. Noel Knockwood, Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, entered the House of Assembly Chamber. The Lieutenant Governor then took her seat on the Throne.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then departed and re-entered the Chamber followed by the Speaker, the Honourable Murray Scott; the Chief Clerk of the House, Roderick MacArthur, Q.C.; the Assistant Clerk, Arthur Fordham, Q.C.; and the Assistant Clerk, Neil Ferguson.
The Speaker, with the Sergeant-at-Arms on his right and the Clerks on either side, took up his position at the foot of the Speaker's Table.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Legislative Assembly, ladies, and gentlemen: At this time of great unease in the world, my government asks that we stand for a moment of prayer and reflection. That we pray peace soon prevails. That we reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a peaceful province, in a peaceful country, where people of every nation, every colour, and every belief are welcomed into our homes and into our communities.
[One minute of silence was observed.]
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Thank you. Nova Scotians have reason to be proud. Proud of our history, our culture, our spectacular scenery. Most of all we have reason to be proud of ourselves. For a small province we are making big inroads on many fronts. In the life and ocean sciences, in the world of information technology, in the arts, in business and industry, in preserving and protecting our environment. We are a talented, capable, and caring people living in the best province, in the best country in the world. A fact recounted by so many people who come here. Those who have come here time and time again by choice; those who have arrived unexpectedly through terrible circumstance.
On September 11, 2001 - a day of great sadness and madness in the world - there was also simple goodness, and it could be found right here in the people of Nova Scotia. From the firefighters from Cumberland County who packed up their gear and headed to Ground Zero the moment they heard the terrible news, to the hundreds of professionals who freely worked round the clock, to the thousands of Nova Scotians who offered their homes and opened their hearts to anxious, weary strangers. Nova Scotians did their province and their country proud. My government, once again, extends a sincere thank you to everyone who lent a helping hand.
My government also extends its deep gratitude to those who are working to ensure we never again experience the horrors of 9-11. To the men and women who served in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, and who are now serving in the Middle East, we are grateful for your sacrifice, your commitment, and your courage. To the families of Private Nathan Smith and Private Richard Green, Nova Scotia will remember its lost sons for their service to their country and for their brave efforts to protect the world from terror.
We also remember the late Edmund Morris, Big Donnie MacLeod, Gerald Ritcey, George Riley and Gerald Wambolt: Nova Scotians who dedicated countless hours and untold efforts to the betterment of their communities, and their province, through public office and private life.
Our province also lost many other talented Nova Scotians who served their province with great passion and quiet pride. Among them, Larry Uteck, Kate Carmichael, Justice Ted Flinn, Dr. Ruth Johnson, Jean Shaw, Dr. Carrie Best, Grace Gosse, Harvey Webber, Melodie Elliott Clark, and George Christie.
Nova Scotians were also saddened by the death of Harold Long, a great friend to this Legislature as its sergeant-at-arms for 31 years. The longest-serving sergeant-at-arms in the history of the Commonwealth.
As well, we remember the Right Honourable Ray Hnatyshyn as a man who so humbly but proudly served his country as Canada's 24th Governor General and the late John Shaffner, Nova Scotia's Lieutenant Governor.
My government also gratefully acknowledges the outstanding contributions made by Nova Scotia's first inductees to the Order of Nova Scotia. As well, we salute the men and women who have been honoured as Nova Scotia's recipients of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, a special tribute for deserving Nova Scotians given in honour of the 50th Anniversary of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
On behalf of the people of Nova Scotia, my government once again extends its deepest sympathies to the Royal Family on the passing of Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Our beloved Queen Mum.
A PROUD PAST . . . A CONFIDENT FUTURE
Nova Scotians have the right to be proud and good reason to be confident. Look at what we are doing. Consider what we are about to do. The World Junior Hockey Championship exceeded all expectations. The East Coast Music Awards were the best ever, and the Nokia Brier was a great success. Soon, Nova Scotia will, once again, be centre stage as host of the 2003 World Theatre Festival, and at centre ice when the puck drops for the 2004 Women's World Hockey Championships.
We will also welcome tens of thousands of visitors to Nova Scotia as we begin a three-year celebration of the proud history, rich culture, and tremendous contributions of Nova Scotia's Acadians. Dozens of events are already planned from Argyle to Arichat. And next summer, as the centrepiece of our Acadian celebrations and in recognition of the 400th anniversary of European settlement in our province, Nova Scotia will host the Congrès mondial acadien. We will also, once again, welcome the barques and brigs, the square-riggers and schooners, as the Tall Ships sail back to Nova Scotia for the second time in four years.
This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Nova Scotia International Tattoo. Through pipes and drums, stories and song, the Tattoo has introduced thousands of people the world over to Nova Scotia's proud military history, our musical talent, our culture, and our character. Whether it's the International Tattoo, Celtic Colours, the Antigonish Highland Games, or so many other world-class attractions and first-class events, Nova Scotia shines, not just with talent, but with well-deserved pride.
SO MUCH WITHIN REACH
My government believes that confidence breeds success. We further believe that Nova Scotia's future success will not be limited by our abilities, but only by our imaginations.
We imagine a day when more Nova Scotians are packing their bags - not to leave - but to come home; home to a good, steady job, to homes burning Nova Scotia gas, to healthy, safe schools that inspire a never-ending love of learning.
We imagine a day when the parent of every newborn has the support they need to help their son or daughter get off to a healthy start, when every child can read by Grade 1, and every young Nova Scotian learns a trade or earns a degree that leads to a good job right here at home.
We imagine a day when adult illiteracy is a thing of the past, when every Nova Scotian has access to a family doctor, when there is no such thing as a child with type II diabetes.
We imagine a day when our harbours are clean, and the last remnants of old industry are replaced by green space or office space; when you can drive from one end of Nova Scotia to the other on a single twinned highway.
We imagine a day when we are recognized as one of the world's foremost medical and research centres, when we are the country's number one tourist destination, when we are known as the music, film, and festival capital of Canada, and when the rest of the world turns to Nova Scotia as a leader in promoting healthy, safe, and sustainable communities.
We don't have to stretch our imaginations to see that these, and so many other things, are within reach. What we must do is constantly remind ourselves of our own potential and tell the world about our many advantages. Nova Scotia has the best-educated people in the country. We have 10 universities, two among the best three in the country. We have the Nova Scotia Community College with 13 campuses across the province providing state-of-the art training in over 100 programs.
We have medical and applied research facilities doing ground-breaking research in the areas of brain recovery, the life sciences, ocean sciences, and biogenetics. We have two of the country's leading tertiary-care facilities, providing advanced care to families, women, and children.
We have the second-deepest, ice-free port in the world - with rail connections that can get products to major markets in the mid-U.S. a full day faster than anywhere else on the eastern seaboard.
We're home to some of the world's most successful and progressive companies - Stanfields, Clearwater, High Liner Foods, Michelin, Tesma, Greenbrier, IMP Aerospace, Acadian Seaplants, Composites Atlantic, Register.com, Xerox, Convergys, Bowater, Kimberly-Clark, Stora - to name but a few.
We have a steady, reliable workforce.
We are the most connected province in the country, with high-speed Internet service within minutes of wherever you are.
We have first-class hotels, world-class resorts, great theatre, fabulous music, incredible scenery, and a vibrant flourishing culture. We have all of this, and so much more.
Most of all, we have people who know and care about their neighbours. Nova Scotians volunteer more of their time to help the elderly, the sick, the poor, and those in need of care and comfort than any other Canadians. Something that speaks volumes about our character, our way of life - about our values. Values my government shares with Nova Scotians. Values like helping those in need, living within our means, doing what we say we will do, and expecting more of ourselves and each other. Everything we have, and all that we are, position Nova Scotia to be so much more than it already is.
My government's commitment is to continue to work with you to promote our advantages, build on our progress, and protect what we value. My government's commitment is to continue to grow a modern, diverse economy so we can continue to invest in a better future for you and your children. Nova Scotians have every right to be proud and very good reason to be confident. Because we've turned the corner.
WE'VE TURNED THE CORNER
Last year my government introduced the first truly balanced budget in 40 years. A major milestone that lifted a heavy millstone that was weighing us down and holding us back. And despite a stubborn debt that has grown after 40 years of overspending, Nova Scotia's strong economy is slowly but surely leading to the day when it too will be gone.
My government will continue to put in place the fiscal, economic, and social conditions that are needed to ensure the debt becomes less and less onerous. My government will continue to take the necessary steps so your children's future is more secure. We will do so by continuing to do what we have in each and every year of our mandate. We will invest more in health, education, and roads.
We will do so by continuing to reduce the regulatory burden on business, and by supporting Nova Scotians who have good ideas - see them become a reality. We will do so by launching a major new marketing effort that promotes Nova Scotia, not just as a place to visit, but as a home to invest and succeed. We will do so by tabling the second balanced budget in a row. And we will do so by lowering your taxes. These are the conditions for prosperity we spoke of in 1999. These are the conditions we have worked hard to achieve.
Most of all, these are the conditions that attract investment, create new jobs, and generate the revenues needed to pay for better services in future.
Lower taxes not only mean Nova Scotians get to keep more of what they earn. Lower taxes will make the difference between whether your child decides on a passport to somewhere else, or a place to live here in Nova Scotia. Because lower taxes help working families, they grow our economy, they are part of our plan, and they work. And lower taxes will not come at the expense of a balanced budget. They will not come at the expense of better health care, better education, or better roads. On the contrary, lower taxes will lead to better health care for all, a better education for your child, and better roads for everyone. Lower taxes will lead to an economy that is competitive and a future that is more secure. The status quo will just mean others pull ahead, while we slip behind.
My government knows the status quo is not a real option. My government also knows that what Nova Scotians want more than anything else is the assurance that when they need health care - or when someone they care about needs health care - it will be there for them.
And it will.
BETTER CARE . . . FASTER CARE
Better health care will be there in the form of more nurses at the bedside, more doctors in rural communities, more and better medical equipment, faster access to information, and shorter wait lists. It will be there in the form of more health-care dollars, and stable, predictable funding, leading to better planning, better management, and better care. Better health care will be there in the form of more guidance and support for new parents, more opportunities for young Nova Scotians to be physically active, and better services to support children and youth deal with emotional or behavioural problems. These are the requirements for a healthier Nova Scotia we spoke of in 1999. These are the measures we have been working hard to put in place. These are the priorities for a healthier Nova Scotia we will continue to build on.
Presently, Nova Scotia has the second-highest doctor to patient ratio in the country. Over the last four years, Nova Scotians have benefited from a net gain of 199 new doctors.
We also have more nurses per capita than most provinces. In the last year alone, we recruited more than 100 nurses from outside of Nova Scotia. Yet more needs to be done to ensure we have the right number and mix of health-care professionals to meet Nova Scotia's future needs.
Recently, my government released Your Health Matters, a comprehensive plan that builds on the significant progress already made in training, recruiting, and retaining more nurses through Nova Scotia's Nursing Strategy - more doctors through our physician recruitment efforts. Our plan means more nurses, doctors, and medical laboratory technologists will be trained. Our plan also includes incentives so more graduates stay in Nova Scotia to care for you. It also identifies how our health-care providers can work better together, including expanding the number of community clinics where nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners, paramedics, and others work side by side to deliver smarter, better care.
Our plan also means Nova Scotia's health-care professionals will have the medical equipment, the advanced technology, and the information needed to diagnose and treat you faster, so you can get back on your feet, back to work, and back to your families faster. But our plan isn't just about treating you in hospital when you're sick. It's about doing more to help you stay healthy.
Our new Office of Health Promotion is spearheading a number of new efforts to improve the health and fitness of Nova Scotians, particularly young Nova Scotians. Healthy Beginnings, Active Kids Healthy Kids, the Sport Futures Leadership Program, our Tobacco Control Strategy, and new efforts to encourage healthy eating habits in school and at home, will lead to healthier kids and a healthier, more productive province.
From the parents of newborns to the children of aging parents, my government is making the kind of investments that will lead to greater security and greater peace of mind for Nova Scotians in need of care.
My government recently announced an additional $10 million to help seniors better manage the high cost of prescription drugs. We also protected more of the assets of seniors in long-term care, lightening the financial burden faced by the 20 per cent of residents who contribute to their own care. And soon, we will announce another important step in our plan to fully assume the health-care costs for all seniors living in nursing homes. As well, new investments in home care and additional support for family caregivers will soon mean more Nova Scotians get the support they need to continue to live at home. In addition to increasing financial incentives to support family caregivers, my government will take steps to protect the employment status of Nova Scotians who are providing care and comfort to Nova
Scotians in the last stages of life. Legislation that mirrors proposed federal legislation will be introduced so that Nova Scotian families can spend more time with a loved one receiving palliative care at home.
Beyond the physical needs of Nova Scotians, is the need to do more to address the mental health and well-being of Nova Scotians. Again, my government is leading in this important area.
Recently, Nova Scotia became the first province in the country to introduce comprehensive mental health standards for diagnosis and treatment. My government also announced two intensive care treatment teams for children and youth, along with a new mental health residential treatment facility. My government knows there are no borders or boundaries when it comes to Nova Scotians needing mental health services. We will therefore expand the range and quality of services from one end of Nova Scotia to the other with additional money this year for more professionals in each of our district health authorities.
Despite the huge pressures brought on by our aging population, by a global shortage of health-care professionals, and by the increasing costs of prescription drugs, my government is responding in a way that will ensure when you need health care - when someone you care about needs health care - it will be there for you. Health care will be there for you. And so will a better education for your child.
A BETTER START . . . A MORE PROMISING FUTURE
My government knows that more than anything else, the key to Nova Scotia's future success is the investments we make in our children today. That is why we released Learning for Life, a plan that provides more one-on-one teaching time in the critical early years through smaller class sizes. A plan that will see more teachers and specialists, more books, math tools, and computers in our schools. A plan that puts the basics first, so that over time, Nova Scotia's students come second to no one. Our plan also means parents will have more and better information to determine the progress of their child, including a new common report card that clearly measures every child's progress against expected results.
We are also taking action to involve parents in a more meaningful way through efforts to strengthen their role on school advisory councils. As well, we are taking steps to improve individual school performance, with the longer-term goal of establishing a province-wide system for school accreditation. More teaching time in math and language arts, new grammar handbooks to support effective communication, more professional development for our teachers, and more professional staff to support students with special needs - these are just a few of the new initiatives my government is taking to support your child's success, not just in school but in life. And just as we have over the last three years,
my government will continue to invest in healthy, safe places to learn, with significant new dollars for new school construction, renovations, and repairs.
My government is working to ensure our youngest students get off to a good start. We're also working hard to ensure our older students get off to a promising future.
Over the past three years, my government opened up hundreds of new opportunities for young Nova Scotians to go to community college. As well, we expanded and improved access to more apprenticeship programs through the Virtual campus of the Nova Scotia Community College. But still too many are waiting for their chance to learn a trade, develop the skills, or gain the knowledge they need to find a good job. Our growing and changing economy means Nova Scotia is facing skill shortages, not just in emerging technologies but in the traditional trades.
My government will continue to work with industry, business, labour and all of our partners in education, so that existing business can continue to grow - so that new investment dollars come to Nova Scotia - so that Nova Scotians are first in line to fill the jobs of the future.
Tomorrow, my government will release details on one of the single biggest investments ever made in post-secondary education in Nova Scotia. More than an investment in education, it will be a down payment on a better future for all Nova Scotians.
My government is also adding to the investments we have made in our universities. Again this year, my government will build on our efforts to restore the deep funding cuts made in the mid-1990s. This, along with our recently announced student debt-assistance plan, will help contain rising tuition and make the cost of post-secondary education more manageable for Nova Scotia students.
In addition to new investments in P to12, our community colleges, and universities, my government will continue to expand and improve Nova Scotia's apprenticeship programs. We will introduce a new apprenticeship Act and provide Nova Scotians greater access to technical training from either home or work.
Our efforts to eliminate Nova Scotia's skills gap are not limited to young Nova Scotians. Nova Scotia's first School for Adult Learning is growing by leaps and bounds. As a result of this important initiative, over 4,000 Nova Scotians are improving their chance for a better future for themselves and their families.
My government is responding to the need to get our youngest students off to a better start, to close the skills gap, and to eliminate adult illiteracy. These are the requirements for a better future we spoke of in 1999. These are the areas in which we are making significant
investments. These are the areas we will continue to build, so our economy continues to grow.
A NEW AGE OF PROSPERITY
A growing economy is crucial to ensuring we have the means to continue to invest in a healthier Nova Scotia and a better future for our children.
Since 1999, 26,000 new jobs were created in Nova Scotia - 80 per cent of them full-time jobs.
My government is committed to working with Nova Scotians to see this number grow. We are determined to set the stage for a new age of prosperity.
Back-to-back balanced budgets, better roads, a skilled workforce, reliable health care, and lower taxes are all key to growing a modern, progressive economy. My government is delivering on all of these and much more.
New research dollars are helping our universities and research facilities turn innovative ideas into medical breakthroughs or commercial success stories.
Less red tape is making it faster for a new business to get started or easier for an existing business to expand.
Our economic growth and energy strategies are identifying new markets and new opportunities for Nova Scotia's traditional industries to expand or laying the foundation for emerging industries to flourish.
A good beginning my government will build on.
My government knows that Nova Scotia would not have such a promising oil and gas industry, such a growing information and technology sector, or such a strong tourism, film, or cultural presence, if it were not for the men and women who see a need, who take the risk, and who deliver the goods and services that are helping these industries expand and our economy grow.
Small business is the backbone of the Nova Scotia economy.
To support existing small business, and to encourage new small business start-ups, my government will bring Nova Scotia's Small Business Tax threshold in line with the most recent federal budget.
We will also extend, amend, and improve existing vehicles for accessing venture capital, and seek new opportunities for business to acquire more working capital. For example, as announced earlier this week, my government is doubling the size of InNOVAcorp's Nova Scotia First Fund. This fund is helping to transform innovative ideas into successful companies - opening up new markets and creating new jobs in the process.
My government will also cut more red tape.
As well, we will continue to help struggling businesses succeed and successful companies grow. We will do more to help local business identify untapped opportunities for raising new capital, more to help Nova Scotian companies expand their markets both at home and abroad by expanding our Business Retention and Expansion Program.
My government will also support small, medium, and large business by launching a major new marketing effort to promote the quality and range of Nova Scotia products, to bring more Nova Scotians back home, and more tourists from away. Brand Nova Scotia will let the world know that Nova Scotia is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. It will also remind Nova Scotians why they have every right to feel proud and very good reason to feel confident.
And lower taxes will help every Nova Scotia business, whether it's a business of three or 300. Lower taxes will mean more Nova Scotians have more money to spend at the local hardware store or corner store. Lower taxes will mean Nova Scotia businesses have more money to invest in their own success.
My government knows well that safe highways and good roads are vital, not just so you can get to work or get your child off to school safely, but because they are a must for getting our products to market and more tourists to visit.
Since 1999, my government has reversed the earlier cuts to our transportation budget that allowed our roads to fall into disrepair. To date, we have spent an additional $100 million to address what is clearly Nova Scotia's most pressing infrastructure need.
This year, Nova Scotians will see more of their taxes at work with another significant investment in safer roads, better bridges, and twinned highways.
As well, the people of Cape Breton will see rail service continue, and the people who fly in and out of Halifax, more improvements to Atlantic Canada's busiest airport.
My government knows that transportation is vital to a growing economy.
We also know that a major population boom in and around our capital city is creating unique transportation problems for the citizens of HRM, as well as the thousands of Nova Scotians who travel into Halifax for work every day from neighbouring counties.
My government will therefore work to create a Capital District Transportation Authority to identify new opportunities for resolving transportation issues within the capital region.
We will also work at creating a Provincial Capital Commission to examine ways to better protect Nova Scotia's valuable heritage sites, as well as to maximize the public benefit of provincially owned properties.
My government recognizes that rural Nova Scotia faces unique challenges of its own.
We also know that the best way to ensure every region of Nova Scotia benefits from the new opportunities of the future is to reach out to the people who know their communities best.
We will therefore hold a series of discussions with community leaders from across the province on issues vital to strengthening rural Nova Scotia. An initiative that will complement the efforts of Nova Scotia Business Incorporated, which is presently meeting with businessmen and women across the province to identify opportunities that lead to the future growth of our communities - the prosperity of all our people.
Supporting innovative ideas and rewarding initiative, building better roads and highways, and establishing the fiscal climate needed to promote Nova Scotia's economic well-being and social progress; these are the conditions for building a better future we spoke of in 1999.
These are the measures we have worked hard to put in place.
These are the things we will continue to deliver on - in a way that protects what we value.
PROTECTING WHAT WE VALUE
Nova Scotia is a beautiful package wrapped tight by the Atlantic Ocean. From the spectacular view from atop MacKenzie Mountain, to the picturesque fishing villages along Nova Scotia's Acadian Shore, Nova Scotia is a wonderful mix of land and seascapes. We have mountains and valleys, rivers that run for miles, and lakes around practically every corner. We have great beaches and hiking trails, species in abundance, species at risk.
But along with our natural blessings come new challenges. The challenge of redeeming industrial waste sites, of cleaning our harbours, renewing our forests, and protecting our farmlands. Again, my government is responding.
The stacks at Sysco are down, and a short list of real options for cleaning up the Sydney tar ponds is in the hands of local residents. My government is determined to work with the federal government and the local community to turn one of Canada's worst toxic waste sites into one of the world's most successful environmental achievements, and in the process, advance the economic and social interests of the people of Cape Breton.
We will also continue to invest in clean harbours for the people of Halifax, Lunenburg, and Sydney, and better water and sewer services for Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other.
Clean drinking water, environmentally safe farming, clean air, and smart forestry practices are all essential to our quality of life as well as our economic growth. Again, my government is responding.
Our Water Strategy will mean our water is cleaner. Our Energy Strategy will mean our air is more pure. We're looking at wind to fuel our turbines and clean gas to help fuel our economy. As a result of a new, more reasonable, market-driven approach to gas distribution, Nova Scotia's offshore gas will soon come ashore, heating our homes and offices, and bringing new business, new industry, and new jobs to our province in the process.
Other initiatives, too, are helping protect our environment and support a growing and sustainable economy.
Our New Farm Entrants Program, a new focus on environmentally safe farming; and unprecedented levels of assistance for drought relief and crop insurance, are keeping our family farms in business and supporting a vital sector of our economy.
This year, my government will continue our efforts to support Nova Scotia's farming families by putting in place a new Agriculture Policy Framework that will give them greater security, greater peace of mind.
We're also taking measures to ensure our forests continue to be a source of livelihood and pleasure for Nova Scotians. New partnerships have increased funding to replenish our forests and new measures have been taken to ensure smarter forest practices. And again, this year, and as part of our Forest Strategy, my government will introduce a new Code of Forest Practice.
My government has also entered into new partnership agreements with agencies such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited, committing more dollars to acquire more valuable coastal property, more dollars to protect species at risk.
As well, my government recently designated McNabs and Lawlor Islands as a provincial park and acquired the spectacular lands of Cape Split for Nova Scotians to continue to enjoy for generations to come.
REACHING OUT TO FAMILIES, REWARDING SACRIFICE, RENEWING OUR COMMITMENTS
Our growing economy not only means we can invest in better health care, better education, and better roads. Our growing economy gives us the means to reward sacrifice, to reach out to families in need, and to reinforce and renew our commitment to our children and their future.
Nova Scotia has shown vision and leadership by providing families, be they among the working poor, or the poor looking for work, more support in providing for their children. We eliminated the clawback on the National Child Benefit and extended Pharmacare coverage so families moving off welfare had time to get back on their feet.
We also opened up 400 full- and part-time daycare spaces. As well, 200 subsidized and portable spaces mean that parents can move on to something better for themselves and their children, without wondering or worrying about whether or not quality daycare will be there for their child.
Since 1999, these and other measures, along with our growing economy, have helped more than 9,000 Nova Scotians move away from income assistance and on to a new life of self-sufficiency.
My government looks forward to building on the measures we have already taken to support families in need and to the new federal dollars promised for early childhood development, every cent of which we will use to support the healthy development of our children.
My government also welcomes Ottawa's contribution in support of our efforts to provide better housing for Nova Scotia's low- and modest-income earners. Over the next five years, Nova Scotia, along with its housing partners and the federal government, will spend a minimum of $38 million to build or renovate at least 1,500 affordable housing units.
While we welcome new federal dollars to support early childhood development and better, more-affordable housing, we remain disappointed with Ottawa's lack of commitment on many other fronts, including its failure to ensure Nova Scotians receive speedy justice.
My government will therefore make a significant investment to ensure justice is not denied because it is delayed. We will increase our contribution to the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission so that low-income Nova Scotians are not put at risk, or their access to justice put in jeopardy.
My government will also ensure Nova Scotia's firefighters are treated justly and fairly. Legislation will be introduced to ensure both professional and volunteer firefighters are compensated for cancer and other diseases resulting from on-the-job exposure to smoke and hazardous chemicals.
We will also ensure Nova Scotia consumers are treated fairly. We know that the rising cost of automobile insurance is creating hardship for many Nova Scotians, particularly seniors, students, working families, and small business men and women. My government recently released a discussion paper, asking Nova Scotians for their input on ways to curtail or reduce insurance premiums. The results of these consultations will determine the future actions of my government.
My government is committed to advancing the economic and social interests of all Nova Scotians.
Since coming to government, we have increased support for Nova Scotians with physical disabilities, including making our public buildings and transportation services more accessible. But still more needs to be done, and will be done.
We have also expanded community-based supports for Nova Scotians with addictions and for families of children who are emotionally, behaviourally, or mentally challenged. But still more needs to be done, and will be done.
My government further understands that the future prosperity of Nova Scotia depends on the full and active participation of all of its citizens in the social and economic life of our province.
We recognize, as well, that this means doing more to support the ingenuity and progress of those who contribute so much to Nova Scotia's cultural diversity.
Last June, my government signed an historic agreement with Nova Scotia's 13 Mi'kmaq chiefs and the federal government that started formal negotiations on treaty and treaty-related issues. This important step has helped rebuild our relationships with Nova Scotia's Aboriginal people and set the stage for resolving outstanding issues in a way that advances the interests of all Nova Scotians.
My government is also pleased to continue to work with Nova Scotia's African-Canadian community in providing support for new business start-ups through the Black Business Initiative
We've made good progress in many areas, but we are by no means satisfied the job is near complete.
My government will continue to work at building a better future for you and a brighter future for your children.
These are the commitments we made in 1999.
These are the commitments we have been working hard to fulfill.
These are the commitments we will continue to build on.
MUCH HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED . . . MORE IS TO COME
In 1999 there was no plan to provide better health care. There was no plan to improve education. No plan to grow our economy. Today, we have plans for all of this and more. And today, as promised, those plans are well underway, and the results are beginning to show. The deficit is gone; lower taxes are on the way. More Nova Scotians are working; fewer are on welfare. More roads are being fixed; more bridges are being repaired; more schools are being built. There are more resources in our classrooms to support student success; more doctors and nurses to provide better care. There is all of this and a lot more.
My government didn't just imagine what was possible, we got to work to make it happen. And while much has been accomplished, more needs to be done.
My government is determined to continue to work with you to see that it does.
My government is determined to see that Nova Scotia, the best province, in the best country in the world, gets even better. Thank you. (Applause)
[The Speaker and the Clerks left the Chamber.
The Lieutenant Governor left the Chamber preceded by her escorts and the Sergeant-at-Arms.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour, the Speaker.
[Mr. Speaker took the Chair.]
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a bill entitled An Act Respecting Oaths of Office.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.
Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the members met in General Assembly, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy which the Chief Clerk will now read.
The honourable Premier.
HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I move that the speech be taken as read.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the speech be taken as read.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Yarmouth. (Applause)
MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, Premier, fellow MLAs and honoured guests in our galleries, it is truly a privilege to be asked to move the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, one for which I had no hesitation in accepting. On behalf of the people of the constituency of Yarmouth, I thank you for the opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, I thank Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman, for the Speech from the Throne which begins the Third Session of the 58th General Assembly. As well, I congratulate Their Honours for their service to Nova Scotia as representatives of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
As we gather here today for the opening of the Third Session of the 58th General Assembly, we take the opportunity to note the changes which have taken place since the Second Session and the direction our government will be taking in the days, months and years ahead. Mr. Speaker, we faced many challenges when our government came to power just three and a half years ago. Under the leadership of our Premier, we rose to the challenge
alongside the people of this incredible province. Just three and a half years later I believe there is a renewed sense of pride and hope in our communities and province, and confidence in the direction our province is heading in - a huge step from where it was just a short time ago.
Mr. Speaker, the community of Yarmouth and its people are a perfect example of a community which has grown from where it was just three and a half years ago. With the resolve of the people, the local governments, the RDA, volunteers, community groups and leaders, and ordinary citizens in partnership with our government, the constituency of Yarmouth, the Gateway to Nova Scotia, is making incredible progress. Some of the progress is on a large scale and other progress is being made in smaller, but just as important steps. Some major improvements include, for example, a new correctional centre that the Minister of Justice announced. The $7.8 million contract to build the new correctional facility was awarded in December and has begun construction today. Construction is expected to be completed next year.
The 38-bed facility replaces the existing correctional facility which was built in 1862. I think it outlived its day. This project offers a modern, expanded facility for the region. This project is also good for the economy, through spinoff benefits from the construction activity, with the workforce expected to double to 30, with an annual payroll of $1.6 million. It is just one example of the return to our area of government jobs that started to disappear from our area in the mid-1990s.
Mr. Speaker, another success story for Yarmouth and this great province and this government happens to be Register.com, a huge success story for this province in our area. Since the announcement of Register.com coming to Yarmouth, over 200 new jobs have been created in Yarmouth County. I was proud to partner with the community to secure this employer for our region. I must thank the former minister and my neighbour, the MLA for Digby-Annapolis, for his work on this project. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, even though our airport has had major setbacks - five decades of airline service to Yarmouth came to an end - by partnering with the community and lots of hard work by many individuals, we were able to bring back passenger service to our area through Sou'West Air. My thanks to the Minister of Economic Development for his keen interest in realizing a replacement for Air Canada Jazz.
Before 1999, I was the Warden for the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth and I heard numerous complaints from my citizens on the access to Halifax through our roads. I was so pleased, working with my colleague, the member for Shelburne and the former Minister of Transportation, that the Barrington Bypass is now in progress and will be completed in a four-year plan. That's a $12.1-million project and, in addition, a $15.9-million project to twin Highway No. 103 from Otter Lake to Upper Tantallon, between Exit 3 and Exit 5, near Halifax. I think it also should be noted here today that neither of these
projects were cost-shared by the federal government; the province is doing this 100 per cent on its own.
It is not only our 100-Series Highways that need tremendous work in this great province of ours, but all of our secondary roads and our trunk roads. I am pleased to stand here today and say that Yarmouth has had their share since 1999, since this government took power.
The Lake George Road was one of the most focal roads in my community. That road is 100 per cent completed, 6.9 kilometers of road to C standard, for all the heavy traffic during winter road conditions. Mr. Speaker, the Brooklyn Road, the Pitman Road, and in November of last year the Minister of Transportation put a tender out for the Hardscratch Road - which is another commercial road in our area - for the landfill, the composting facility, and the new quarries. That has a tremendous impact on our community, the much-needed work on those roads.
I must stay on roads for one moment because I believe one of the best programs this government put in place, under the former Minister of Transportation and Public Works, was the RIM funding. All the secondary roads in my community and the outlying areas have all been touched by the RIM funding. There is a lot more to do, but that is a step in the right direction. The roads were neglected for too long, so our government has made the investment each year to work on improving this vital infrastructure. I'm proud to stand here today and say a local, non-partisan road committee - which I helped to set up during my time as warden - continues to serve my community to prioritize the needs of our community and I am proud of that committee.
Three and a half years ago our government made several promises, and we have kept our promises to all citizens of this great province from Yarmouth to Cape North. The Premier has asked various audiences recently, are things better today than they were three and a half years ago? The answer he has gotten back each and every time is a resounding yes.
The Yarmouth Regional Hospital is closing the gap on Phase II of its retrofit; a state- of-the-art facility to serve the whole South West Nova area. I thank this government and the former Minister of Health for making that a reality. We now have a state-of-the-art facility and our doctors and nurses will come back. I feel that in my heart and I know that will happen with decision making brought back to our community, where the people in 1999 told me it should be, our District Health Authorities. Decisions are being made in our home community, not by these regional boards.
Mr. Speaker, as was indicated in the Speech from the Throne, more needs to be done to ensure we have the right number and mix of health care professionals to meet Nova Scotia's future needs.
Mr. Speaker, as a former businessman I know the importance of a healthy, educated population and I know the importance of the financial achievements to date in the very short period of time. We got our fiscal house in order by producing the first truly balanced budget in 40 years, and stay tuned because the minister has already announced there is more on the way. I think it will be surely the second balanced budget for this great province of ours.
I thank our Finance Minister, the MLA from my neighbouring constituency of Argyle, for his steady hand at the wheel. His leadership in the Finance Department for three and a half years has been tremendous, and his faith that we could turn our finances around has been unwavering.
Mr. Speaker, I also know the importance of our government's efforts to simplify government procedures by putting the breaks on red tape, creating a Nova Scotia Business Registry and by working with other governments to make the regulatory burden easier for entrepreneurs.
Mr. Speaker, as I said at the start of my remarks, there is confidence in this province's future. Part of the confidence comes from the pride the people of this province have in Nova Scotia; individuals such as teacher Joe Bishara and his students of the Maple Grove Memorial Club who work to promote the significance of remembering the sacrifice of our veterans; individuals like our local chamber of commerce, which may be small in numbers but is mighty in ideas and action; individuals like volunteers from our local community clubs such as Lions, Knights of Columbus, Rotary Clubs and the list goes on, Mr. Speaker; individuals like our volunteer fire department who serve our community seven days a week, 24 hours a day whenever they are needed. I am proud that this government will ensure, through legislation, that all of Nova Scotia firefighters, both professional and volunteer, are properly compensated for cancer and other diseases resulting from on-the-job exposure to smoke and hazardous chemicals.
Companies like Cook's Dairy, a family-owned-and-run business in my home community, the last independent dairy in Nova Scotia, through their own initiatives have designed a new product for this province - not to compete with the dairy in Halifax or Scotsburn or whatever - to put a new product, value-added, Mr. Speaker, on the shelves for the residents of Nova Scotia and maybe outlying areas of New Brunswick and P.E.I.
Of course, thanks to our fishermen who risk their lives every day they go out on the water. An industry which has had some major ups and downs over the last decade, this key resource continues to thrive and they continue to bring ashore the best fish and lobster you will every hope to eat, Mr. Speaker. I can attest to that.
Mr. Speaker, these are just a few examples of the ordinary citizens of my constituency who are doing extraordinary things. As a lifelong citizen and as the MLA for Yarmouth I could not be more proud of my area or its people. Their pride, their
determination, their confidence in our future and the future of Nova Scotia is only growing. The doom and gloom I saw in their faces when I first went door-to-door has been replaced by optimism that is second to no other.
Mr. Speaker, the business community, through the local governments, our RDA and the Yarmouth Industrial Commission, saw the former Domtex facility not as a potential parking lot but as an opportunity for economic growth. I'm pleased to say here today, since 1999 there have been 150 new jobs created in that complex. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, the continued presence of the Scotia Prince and The Cat, our service providers to our greatest trading partner, offers tremendous tourism opportunities for our region and the entire province. Groups such as our Yarmouth Tourism Association and the Friends of the Light continue to work hard to promote our area to all travellers so that our numbers will grow. The new tourism agent announced recently, thanks to the support from the Department of Tourism and Culture and its minister, who is a great ambassador for this province, will only enhance tourism efforts in our region and the province as a whole.
These are just a few of the highlights of the changes which are fuelling the confidence and optimism in our region and our province. I am proud to be part of a government which is partnering with the people of our communities across this great province to make a difference.
Mr. Speaker, before I conclude, I want to thank my family, especially my fiancé, my mother, my father and my children, for their support for my move to and continued interest in public service. As you all know, it is not an easy job nor a privilege that any of us takes for granted or would give up easily. But without the support of our families, it would make this job much more challenging.
Mr. Speaker, it is now my pleasure to thank Her Honour for the Throne Speech and with great pride and confidence move a motion that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, as read by Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, do pass. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.
MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, Premier, fellow MLAs and honoured guests, I thank Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman for the Speech from the Throne. On behalf of the citizens of Halifax Bedford Basin, I am honoured to be given the privilege of seconding the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, a speech which illustrates just how far our government has brought Nova Scotia less than four years, the
emerging programs and initiatives that will build on those achievements, and the exciting and challenging future ahead.
It has been nearly four years since I first had the honour of standing in my place and addressing this House for the very first time as the member for Halifax Bedford Basin. At that time, I spoke of my pride in the citizens of the communities that make up the constituency of Halifax Bedford Basin, my gratitude for the faith they had placed in me, and my hopes for the future of my community and my province. None of this has changed, Mr. Speaker, and yet everything has changed.
Many serious issues faced our province four years ago, issues that affected our financial stability, our health and education systems, our support systems for our most vulnerable citizens, and these same issues, in very direct ways, were also of immediate concern to the citizens of Halifax Bedford Basin. Over the last four years, we have worked together as a community and as a province to find solutions to these issues, to build certainty and stability into these solutions and to lay the groundwork for a sustainable future for my community and for all the communities across our great province. I have seen the citizens of my community and our province rise to the challenges we faced and meet those challenges beyond anyone's expectations.
Mr. Speaker, let me be more specific, particularly concerning some people I personally have been privileged to work with over the last four years. I have always believed that success lies with teamwork. One particularly dynamic team stands out in my mind. They are known locally as the Halifax West Feeder School Group and they are led by Jane Davies and Gary O'Hara, two very determined and capable people.
Four years ago a major concern of our community was the condition of our high school, Halifax West. Despite years of local effort and continued requests, our high school had fallen into such disrepair that the health of our students and teachers was being jeopardized. The situation had reached a crisis stage in 1999, and by 2000 the school had to be closed. Much work lay ahead for our community as we worked through the stages of investigation, the hurdles facing our school community, and the challenges that lay ahead for our students.
But, Mr. Speaker, I witnessed an incredible display of community spirit. The pride I felt for my community four years ago cannot be compared to how I feel today. Every roadblock was met with calm determination, every problem was resolved with co-operation and, through it all, our students remained focused on their education, our teachers remained focused on their students, and the Halifax West Feeder School Group helped to lead us all through a very stressful and challenging four years. Now we have seen the opening of our beautiful new school, owned by the province, not a private interest, and open to all members of our community for many years to come. (Applause)
But, Mr. Speaker, Halifax West is not just a success story for Halifax Bedford Basin. It leaves a legacy for all students across our province. You see there were many lessons learned during this process. We now know how to assess a school or any other building that faces environmental concerns and, although it was not feasible to save Halifax West, other schools have already benefited from this knowledge. Graham Creighton Junior High School is a perfect example, and now Sir John A. Macdonald High School is undergoing an extensive renovation using the lessons learned from Halifax West.
More importantly, Mr. Speaker, is the method of constructing new schools. During the process to replace Halifax West, a new protocol was written to guide the building of healthy schools - the Healthy School Construction Guidelines. Two of the authors of those guidelines - Debbie Hum and Karen Robinson - are Halifax West parents, and I'm very proud of them both. These individuals donated thousands of hours of their time to assist our government in developing design and construction guidelines that will ensure the schools we build in the future will be healthy places of learning, well-constructed and free from indoor air problems that have become such a concern to us all.
There have been other examples of community co-operation, Mr. Speaker. Another area of concern for Halifax Bedford Basin and surrounding communities four years ago was the entrance to the Bayers Lake Business Park at Lacewood Drive and Highway No. 102. This area had become such a traffic nightmare that there was fear it would threaten the viability of local business, perhaps even a safety concern if emergency vehicles were slowed by the traffic delays. Again this community stepped up to the plate. This time it was the business people of Bayers Lake. They formed the Bayers Lake Business Association and, led by Jonathan Ross, they became a dynamic and effective force in finding a solution. They demanded and got results and their determination has paid off in spades.
I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, that we have been able to bring about a phased improvement process by widening traffic lanes, installing lights and turning lanes, and having Transportation and Public Works and the Halifax Regional Municipality co-operate with synchronized traffic lights for improved traffic flow, as well as establishing a sidewalk.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that the final phase of this project, the additional turning lanes, will soon go to tender for construction this year and, again, due to the community involvement and teamwork of individuals such as Gerard Walsh there will be bicycle lanes built into the last phase of the development. I believe that the Capital District Transportation Authority proposed by our government will be of great benefit to further the co-operation and progress between our government and Halifax Regional Municipality in its traffic concerns for the future.
Community co-operation is also responsible for the management plan which will safeguard the environmental sensitivity of Hemlock Ravine Park. You may recall, Mr. Speaker, that in 1999 when we first took office, Hemlock Ravine Park was in jeopardy
because of adjacent developments. The community was galvanized by the threat to this wonderful natural treasure and formed a society, Friends of Hemlock Ravine.
Led by Colin Stewart and Clarence Stevens, and assisted by many local residents and our Department of Natural Resources, we convinced HRM that a management plan was vital to the park's protection. Colin and Clarence, in particular, devoted many hours of volunteer time and their considerable expertise to create a framework for park management and preservation, even securing the co-operation of local developer, Kimberley-Lloyd to adjust their subdivision plans so that the park would have a protected water supply. I have been assured by officials at HRM that the last kinks in this plan will soon be resolved to the satisfaction of the Department of Natural Resources, and we will have a clear direction to secure our park's future.
This past week, Mr. Speaker, I joined students at Halifax West High School, led by teacher David Williamson as Speaker, for their model parliament. I have always enjoyed this event, and this year, as always, their ingenuity and enthusiasm provided a delightful and entertaining event. The students elected over 70 MPs, led by Tobin Ansong as the Liberal Prime Minister, and Jacqueline Prevost as Leader of the Opposition for the Bloc Québécois. They were joined by Michael Winch as Progressive Conservative Leader, John Hadjigegoriou as Canadian Alliance Leader, and Meaghan Matheson as Leader of the New Democrats. Unfortunately for the Liberal Prime Minister, however, one of his members crossed the floor to the Bloc and, due to close numbers, caused a sudden change in their government. It would seem that even in model parliaments, politics has its surprises.
Mr. Speaker, Halifax West has been referred to as a mini United Nations due to the large multicultural makeup of the school. Its model parliament was certainly representative of a United Nations council meeting. I am always encouraged by the fact that at least in our country co-operation and friendship can cross the lines of race and religion. Perhaps our high school students have some lessons they could pass on to the rest of the world.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MS. MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, like many Nova Scotians I sat glued to my television last Sunday night to see if we would have an Oscar awarded to a member of our vibrant and talented film community. We were not disappointed. For me, it was a personal pleasure as I have known Michael Donovan since elementary school. I am sure that all members of this Legislature join me in offering our congratulations to Michael and the extraordinary team at Salter Street for bringing this tremendous prize home to Nova Scotia. (Applause) We have always known about the vast pool of talent in our province, and now the whole world knows as well.
Like many others this year, Mr. Speaker, I too was pleased to see the Queen's Jubilee Medal awarded to many Nova Scotians as recognition for their contributions to our province. In my community, Alma Russell, Debbie Hum, Lynn Murphy and Maureen Connelly were the well-deserving recipients, and I congratulate them and all the other recipients across our province. There could never be an effective way to recognize those many thousands of Nova Scotians who give so much for the benefit of our province, but they all have our deepest gratitude.
There are many hardworking members of our community deserving of recognition but time would not permit that. However, I must thank Marilyn Berry for her tireless support in assisting me to secure funding for Naham Centre - and the generosity of our government in supporting that project - a long-term residence for women and children who are rebuilding their lives. I also must congratulate Selina Cajoulais, the director of the Rockingham Community Centre, and John Bywater, the board chairman, for their work in revitalizing the community centre programs and also for starting a new Canada Day celebration that will become a neighbourhood tradition.
Mr. Speaker, in my first speech to this House nearly four years ago I spoke of the strength and ability of our communities and the commitment of our government to recognize that strength and ability. As you can see from my comments here today, that commitment we made in 1999 has been rewarded in many ways in Halifax Bedford Basin, and I know this is true across our province. You see, people just like those I've spoken about can be found in every community. They are the reason we have worked so hard these last three and a half years to turn our province around. They are the focus of the initiatives we have launched and they are the inspiration that I and my colleagues draw from in our pursuit of the exciting future that has been outlined for us in today's Speech from the Throne - a future full of promise for our children.
Mr. Speaker, in my travels since my election I have met wonderful people in communities all across our province. Being an MLA affords each of us the opportunity to see our province from a different perspective, one that clearly illustrates the connectivity between people, organizations, communities and lives, a connectivity driven by the energy and determination of the people of our province every day of every year, so complex and yet so vital to our success and our future.
This Speech from the Throne speaks of the commitments we made to Nova Scotians in 1999, commitments made and kept - like textbooks for every student, increased access to training for health care professionals, upgraded infrastructure and highways and, most importantly, the financial stability afforded by a balanced budget.
The groundwork is laid, the foundation put in place. We have established a firm footing on which to build our future. The people of our province are strong and capable and they are up to the challenges ahead as we reach for that future, and so is this government. Our direction is clear.
The Throne Speech describes our journey to date and the map to our future, and I am honoured to second the motion that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne do pass. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's a great pleasure to have this opportunity as Leader of the Opposition to reply to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the entire NDP caucus.
I would like to begin, if I may, by thanking the Lieutenant Governor and Mr. Freeman for being here today, participating in the ceremonies and for reading the Speech from the Throne.
I would also like to welcome you back, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to thank you in advance for what I know will be a balanced job that you will do in this session. As well, I would like to thank the mover and seconder of the Speech from the Throne for their remarks. I was certainly pleased to hear them speak since it is in fact so seldom that you get to hear them. I'm pleased because I want them to know that they should take the opportunity to speak because you never know when that opportunity is going to disappear or how soon.
I would also like to acknowledge the Pages and the Library staff for their vital assistance provided to us in each and every session. I also would like to extend my best wishes and good luck in the retirement of Dale Robbins and Patsy Gallant.
I would also like to acknowledge the MLAs, who, since the last time we met here, announced they will not be re-offering in the upcoming election, whenever that may be called. The members on the Government bench from Argyle and Shelburne, the members on the Third Party bench from Cape Breton Nova, Victoria and Lunenburg, and the member on the Opposition bench from Sackville-Cobequid. (Interruption) I'm sorry, and from Pictou West, that's right. I think that was announced before we left last time, Mr. Speaker, but I'm not sure. I would ask all members to join me in recognizing the hard work of these members over the years, the dedication to their communities, and to the province. (Applause) I would say without exception, for all of those members, this place will be a less colourful place without them.
Earlier today a report into the causes of the crash of Swissair 111 was released. I would like to thank the investigators for their hard work and again recognize the generosity shown and the comfort supplied to the families of Swissair victims in that terrible time, by so many Nova Scotians.
On a happy note and also in accordance with what was mentioned by the seconder of the Speech from the Throne, I must say we would all like to recognize the incredible accomplishments of Michael Donovan and all those from Salter Street Productions, for winning the Academy Award, including a good friend of ours, Floyd Kane, who used to work in our office, who was part of the list that Mr. Donovan congratulated when I heard him on the radio. It is certainly a great accomplishment for what was really a stunning work produced by Mr. Moore, the documentary called Bowling for Columbine.
I also want to take a minute to acknowledge that we are beginning this session in the shadow of some truly disturbing world events that are sure to touch all of us in some way. Regardless, Mr. Speaker, of your individual views on the current and possible conflicts to come, I think we are all praying that the women and men of the military forces who find themselves in harm's way will find their way home safely. I know that all of our prayers go out to the victims of war who have not chosen their fate, civilians and soldiers on all sides of the conflict.
Mr. Speaker, as the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, I want to thank the people of my riding for their continued support and assistance in doing my job. I want to say that now includes new constituents from Colby Village, who have joined my riding as a result of the recent changes in electoral boundaries. Dartmouth-Cole Harbour is a riding that is simply a great place to live, to work, to start a business, to raise a family. It is a riding that has a growing number of young families and as a result is a riding with many schools; schools that deal with many challenges like those facing the families of special needs children in our schools; schools that lack the proper resources to assess children at an early age, assessments that would provide those children with the necessary treatment they need.
Mr. Speaker, the Report of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee has set forward 34 recommendations aimed at improving access to services for children with special needs and thereby improving the school system for all students. This government said that they would respond by last November, and they have failed to do that, and they have failed those children again today.
AN HON. MEMBER: Shame. Shame on them.
MR. DEXTER: Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, they are joined in that failure by the members of the Third Party. The best I guess you could say is that a commitment not made is at least one that is not broken. (Interruptions)
Mr. Speaker, it's true that we are the only ones who have committed to working with parents, educators and health professionals to implement the SEIRC recommendations. That's an investment in ensuring Nova Scotian children across the province receive the assistance they need when they need it most. It's one that will pay off in happier, healthier, more productive children and adults.
I think the best example of this government's priorities when it comes to education is that on the same day last week when they were talking about axing the music programs in metro schools, the Minister of Finance was talking about tax breaks and taking money away that could be invested in our schools. On the same day, Mr. Speaker.
I want to get into the substance of the Throne Speech tomorrow morning, but let me take a minute now to say that this is not so much a Throne Speech as it is a collection of promises that this government made four years ago and did not keep. Notable by their absence is any commentary on their relationship with health care workers, the ones they put on the street with Bill No. 68. They did not talk in their Throne Speech about their attack on women's shelters and women's centres in this province.
Mr. Speaker, this is a document that tries to make a virtue out of promising to do in the future what they have failed to do in the past. After four years of failure to act on issues that would have created a better deal for Nova Scotia families, the government is trotting out the same promises, hoping that Nova Scotians will believe that, if given another chance, this government will keep their promises next time.
I guess that we should all take comfort in the fact that all the hard work done by this Party and thousands of Nova Scotians on issues like access to higher education, skyrocketing insurance and fair treatment for seniors and others in nursing homes has finally gotten the attention of government. But, Mr. Speaker, just barely. Even in the government's recognition that these are important issues to Nova Scotians, the wording remains vague and the commitment weak.
For example, rather than simply saying that they would cover the health care costs of nursing home residents, this government commits to taking another step towards that goal. It's just simple for the Premier, Mr. Speaker. He could commit today to do the right thing, to cover the health care costs of those seniors in long-term care facilities, just as the costs are covered for everyone else in this province. They could end the discrimination against seniors and treat them fairly. So I make that challenge to the Premier: Mr. Premier, do it today. No more half measures, that's not what Nova Scotians want for their seniors, for their parents.
I know that the government will be pleased to hear that I have much more to say about this Throne Speech, and I will do that tomorrow morning, Mr. Speaker. But let me conclude by pointing out the section of the speech that struck me as most peculiar for this government, most peculiar for a government that has been in power for four years. That is
the section entitled "Just Imagine!", and it is essentially a handy catalogue of the government's failures, leaving Nova Scotians to imagine how much better off the province would be if this government had never been elected. It is a list of government's failures to keep its promises.
Mr. Speaker, for them they say all things are possible and that you only have to believe in them one more time. It has to be some of the most interesting repackaging since the introduction of new Coke, and we know how successful that was. I'm willing to bet that this will be just as successful as that venture was and, true to form, this government seems to largely believe that the province stops at the Canso Causeway. Like the Liberals before them, there is simply no recognition or a plan to deal with the massive loss of jobs for the people in Cape Breton.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, I will have more to say tomorrow morning as well, but for now I would like to adjourn the debate and move on so that we can meet all our friends, families, and colleagues, and thank you. I would so adjourn.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of this session, on behalf of yourself and the Premier, I would like to invite all the guests in the gallery and the members to a reception in the foyer of the Hollis Street entrance to the House.
I move the House do now adjourn to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 10:00 a.m. We will sit from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. or until we finish our business. The business of the day will be a continuation of the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. I move we do now adjourn.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for adjournment of the House until 10:00 a.m.
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 House is adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
[The House rose at 3:43 p.m.]