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October 2, 2003



Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

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Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session


Environ. & Lbr. - Impact of Proposed Reforms for Nova Scotia
Private Passenger Automobile, Hon. R. Russell 287
Res. 132, McNair, Peggy & Patrick: Gov.-Gen.'s Caring Cdn. Award -
Congrats., The Premier 288
Vote - Affirmative 288
No. 8, Volunteer Protection Act, Hon. M. Baker 288
No. 9, Assessment Act, Mr. W. Estabrooks 289
Res. 133, Pub. Housing Units: Battery Smoke Detectors - Gov't. Install,
Ms. J. Massey 289
Vote - Affirmative 289
Res. 134, N.S. General Assembly: Anniv. (245th) - Recognize,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 290
Vote - Affirmative 290
Res. 135, Pelly, Cst. Darren: RCMP/Guysborough Co. Ambassador -
Recognize, Mr. R. Chisholm 290
Vote - Affirmative 291
Res. 136, Cormier, Darrell/Ardmore Tea Room: Generosity - Commend,
Mr. H. Epstein 291
Vote - Affirmative 292
Res. 137, Pt. Pleasant Park: Hurricane Juan Damage - Restoration,
Mr. D. Graham 292
Vote - Affirmative 293
Res. 138, Fisherman's Life Museum: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 293
Vote - Affirmative 293
Res. 139, Northumberland Fisheries Museum: Anniv. (25th) - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 294
Vote - Affirmative 294
Res. 140, World Teacher's Day (10/05/03) - Designation, Mr. L. Glavine 294
Vote - Affirmative 295
Res. 141, Smith, Charlotte: Silver Cross Mother - Commend,
Mr. W. Langille 295
Vote - Affirmative 296
Res. 142, Terence Bay Telus Titans: East. Cdn. Fastball Championship -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 296
Vote - Affirmative 296
Res. 143, Health - Surgeries/ER Wait Times: Plan - Lack Recognize,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 297
Res. 144, Swinimer, Kirk/Edwards, Tim: Ernest C. Manning Award -
Congrats., Mr. J. Chataway 297
Vote - Affirmative 298
Res. 145, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Price-Gouging Hotline - Establish,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 298
Res. 146, Digby Rock Quarry - Environ. Assessment: Pre-Const. -
Requirement, Mr. H. Theriault 299
Res. 147, MacLeod, Brian: 2003 Cdn. Blind Golf Championship -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 300
Vote - Affirmative 300
Res. 148, Patterson, Barry & Wanda - Hurricane Juan: Schools -
Resources Protection Thank, Ms. J. Massey 300
Vote - Affirmative 301
Res. 149, ACA Cooperative: Anniv. (60th) - Congrats., Mr. S. McNeil 301
Vote - Affirmative 302
Res. 150, Stiles, Ozzie: Town Crier Championship - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 302
Vote - Affirmative 302
Res. 151, Pictou Academy - Gov't. (N.S.): Support - Continue,
Mr. C. Parker 303
Res. 152, Public Gardens - Hurricane Juan Damage: Restoration -
Await, Mr. D. Graham 304
Vote - Affirmative 304
Res. 153, Lun. RCMP/Blockhouse & Dist. FD - Cops for Cancer:
Fundraiser - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 305
Vote - Affirmative 305
Res. 154, Moore, Jeffrey/Hollet, Andrea - Camp Connect: Attendance -
Selection Congrats., Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 305
Vote - Affirmative 306
Res. 155, Blou: Achievements - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 306
Vote - Affirmative 307
Res. 156, Hadley, Greg - Glengarry Highland Games: Achievement -
Congrats., Hon. A. MacIsaac 307
Vote - Affirmative 308
Res. 157, Terence Bay Thunderbirds: Softball Championship - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 308
Vote - Affirmative 309
Res. 158, Fin. - Tax Credit ($500): Promise - Fulfill, Mr. R. MacKinnon 309
Res. 159, Oxford Frozen Foods (Halfway River): Safety Record -
Commend, (by Mr. B. Taylor), The Speaker 309
Vote - Affirmative 310
Agric. & Fish.: BSE - Crisis, Mr. J. MacDonell 310
No. 35, Hurricane Juan: Disaster Assistance - Details, Mr. D. Dexter 312
No. 36, Hurricane Juan - Cleanup: Coordination Plan - Details,
Mr. D. Graham 313
No. 37, Prem. - Farmers: Assistance - Delay Explain, Mr. J. MacDonell 315
No. 38, Fin. - Pub. Services: Cuts - Min. Justify, Ms. D. Whalen 317
No. 39, Prem. - Nat. Res. Sector: Assist. - Assurances, Mr. C. Parker 318
No. 40, EMO - Hurricane Juan: Damages - Assessment Details,
Mr. H. Theriault 319
No. 41, Hurricane Juan - Coastal Communities: Assistance - Specifics,
Ms. M. Raymond 320
No. 42, Agric. & Fish.: Beef Farms - Save, Mr. S. McNeil 322
No. 43, Nat. Res. - Hurricane Juan: Parks - Damage Assess, Ms. J. Massey 323
No. 44, EMO - Hurricane Kate: Preparedness - Details, Mr. H. Epstein 324
No. 45, EMO - Disaster Relief Assistance: Access - Details,
Mr. K. Colwell 326
No. 46, Health - New Waterford Hosp. Workers: Symptoms -
Cause Determine, Mr. F. Corbett 327
No. 47, Health: Surgeries/ER Wait Times - Min. Action,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 328
No. 1, Automobile Insurance Reform Act 329
Mr. F. Corbett 330
Mr. D. Graham 337
Mr. D. Dexter 342
Mr. R. MacKinnon 352
Mr. H. Epstein 359
Mr. Gerald Sampson 368
Mr. K. Deveaux 371
Mr. Manning MacDonald 385
Mr. J. MacDonell 390
Adjourned debate 397
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Oct. 3rd at 9:00 a.m. 397
Agric. & Fish.: BSE - Crisis:
Mr. J. MacDonell 398
Hon. E. Fage 401
Mr. S. McNeil 405
Mr. C. Parker 408
Mr. B. Taylor 411
Mr. L. Glavine 416
Mr. K. Deveaux 418
Mr. M. Parent 423
Mr. R. MacKinnon 426
Res. 160, Educ. - Community Colleges: Roles - Recognize, Mr. M. Parent 431
Res. 161, Peace & Police Officers - Efforts: Tribute - Pay, The Speaker 431
Res. 162, Lively, Mel: Workplace Ambassador Award - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Taylor 432
Res. 163, Jacquard, Ronnie: Workplace Ambassador Award - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 432
Res. 164, Muise, Jolynn: Alex MacDonald Ambassador Award -
Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 433
Res. 165, Idzanovic, Luca: Workplace Achievement Award - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Hines 433

[Page 287]


Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON


Hon. Murray Scott


Mr. James DeWolfe, Ms. Joan Massey, Mr. Russell MacKinnon

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.




MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a report entitled, Impact of Proposed Reforms for Nova Scotia Private Passenger Automobile, Final Report to the Department of Environment and Labour, Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.



[Page 288]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.


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

Whereas the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award is presented to individuals and groups whose unpaid, voluntary contributions provide extraordinary help or care to people in the community; and

Whereas Margaret and Patrick McNair of Fairview have been volunteering for 40 years on behalf of a number of health-related charities; and

Whereas for 20 years Mrs. McNair has devoted many hours to Fairview Villa, visiting senior citizens and organizing recreational activities and has been a strong supporter of the Alzheimer Society while Mr. McNair, since the late 1970s, has volunteered thousands of hours a year for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and for the past 25 years has visited many heart surgery patients on a weekly basis;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Patrick and Peggy McNair on receiving the Governor General's Award and commend this couple who, together, have generously provided care for members of their community for four decades.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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. 8 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 14 of the Acts of 2002. The Volunteer Protection Act. (Hon. Michael Baker)

[Page 289]

Bill No. 9 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 23 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Assessment Act. (Mr. William Estabrooks)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


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

Whereas at present, building codes require that all smoke detectors be wired into the electrical system, which in times of power outages is useless; and

Whereas many constituents on social assistance cannot afford to purchase a battery-operated smoke detector; and

Whereas the use of candles during this emergency can and perhaps has already taken lives;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, as a landlord to thousands of low-income Nova Scotians, show its leadership and ensure that all public housing units have battery back-up smoke detectors in place.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 290]


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

Whereas the convening of the 1st General Assembly of Nova Scotia met for the dispatch of business at the courthouse at Halifax on October 2, 1758; and

Whereas this was the first assembly of elected representatives in Canada, which consisted of 19 men; and

Whereas the representative government of 1758 was the first big step in the evolution of our democratic institutions;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize today as the 245th Anniversary of the 1st General Assembly of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

Order, please. It's very difficult to hear the members on the floor and also to respond. I would ask the honourable members to at least pay attention while the members are awaiting a response from the floor.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.


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

Whereas Sunnyville native, Constable Darren Pelly, made a very special trip home to Guysborough County this September as part of his duties as a member of the RCMP Musical Ride; and

[Page 291]

Whereas performing in front of a sold out audience in Sherbrooke, this was the first time Constable Pelly has had the opportunity to perform as part of the RCMP Musical Ride on home turf since joining the ride three years ago; and

Whereas Constable Pelly - a member of the RCMP for seven years - was a member of the Antigonish Detachment of the RCMP before leaving for Ottawa to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to become a member of the Musical Ride;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Constable Darren Pelly who is an outstanding ambassador for the RCMP and for all of Guysborough County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Halifax Chebucto.

[12:15 p.m.]


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

Whereas the damage done by Hurricane Juan in the Halifax metro area was extensive, but that damage has brought out the best in many people determined to assist one another; and

Whereas one example of the generosity of recent days has been that of Darrell Cormier of the Ardmore Tea Room on Quinpool Road who cooked his entire freezer of food and gave it away to those in the neighbourhood who, like him, had lost their electric power; and

[Page 292]

Whereas this family business so long established in the west end of Halifax has now reinforced the high regard that everyone in the area has for the Cormier family;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Darrell Cormier and the staff of the Ardmore Tea Room for their generosity and public spirit as shown during the aftermath of Hurricane Juan.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Liberal Party.


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

Whereas the constituency of Halifax Citadel, in which sits Point Pleasant Park, was one of the hardest hit parts of Nova Scotia in the last storm; and

Whereas Point Pleasant Park has long been recognized by all Nova Scotians as one of the jewels in the crown of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this beautiful park now lies in tatters with much of the park having been levelled;

Therefore be it resolved that all Nova Scotians take time to remember the park as it was and work toward the day when we can restore the park to its original natural beauty.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 293]

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

Whereas the Fisherman's Life Museum in Oyster Pond is a tiny house and farm, once home to a turn-of-the-century inshore fisherman, his wife and 13 daughters, and is now Nova Scotia's smallest museum; and

Whereas also one of the province's most fantastic museums, Fisherman's Life Museum invites visitors into the daily life of a coastal fishing community, providing a real taste of the lifestyle which makes up an important part of Nova Scotia's culture and heritage; and

Whereas this year is the 25th Anniversary of this museum, and to help celebrate, there was singing and refreshments, and members of the Antique Engine Club and the Antique Car Club brought their automobiles for show;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all those who have helped build and grow the Fisherman's Life Museum and encourage all to take time to visit this charming and revealing glimpse into our coastal history.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Pictou West.

[Page 294]


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

Whereas the Northumberland Fisheries Museum in the Town of Pictou has just celebrated 25 years of success; and

Whereas the museum contains thousands of interesting artifacts related to the history of the local fishery; and

Whereas the museum has plans to expand and relocate so as to attract even more visitors;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Northumberland Fisheries Museum on their 25 years of achievement and wish them every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Kings West.


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

Whereas the teachers of Nova Scotia's public education system make immeasurable contributions to our society; and

Whereas teachers are often overlooked for the enormous breadth of personal and professional demands that they bring to the school community; and

[Page 295]

Whereas the United Nations has designated October 5th as World Teacher's Day, observed in over 100 countries, with this year's theme being Opening Doors to a Better World;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend sincere wishes of good luck to the teachers of Nova Scotia in ensuring that the needs of future generations are taken into consideration in this increasingly complex, multicultural and technological world.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 North.


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

Whereas for the second year in a row, the role of Canada's Silver Cross Mother has been bestowed to a Nova Scotian; and

Whereas Charlotte Smith of Tatamagouche will represent all Canadian mothers who have lost sons or daughters in military and naval service at the 2003 Remembrance Day service at the National War Memorial in Ottawa; and

Whereas her son, Private Nathan Smith, was one of four soldiers killed while on duty in Afghanistan in April 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Charlotte Smith for accepting this honour on behalf of all mothers who have lost a child while protecting the rights and freedoms of the citizens of our country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 296]

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

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 Timberlea-Prospect.


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

Whereas the Terence Bay Telus Titans, coached by Shane Slaunwhite, captured the Eastern Canadian Fastball Championship in Fredericton, New Brunswick; and

Whereas the tournament MVP was Josh Slaunwhite and the best pitcher of the tournament was Patrick Slaunwhite, all of Terence Bay; and

Whereas this team finished off with a successful season with this impressive championship;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Terence Bay Telus Titans on their Eastern Canadian Fastball Championship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Glace Bay.

[Page 297]


MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas this government has failed to provide any assistance to the capital district in developing an action plan that will deal with the backlog of surgeries; and

Whereas emergency room patients are experiencing waits between 10 and 12 hours because this government is failing to provide the appropriate solutions to relieve the burden on our hospitals; and

Whereas due to the excessive waiting times, emergency room patients are leaving before they even see a doctor because of this government's inability to appropriately plan for emergencies;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize that this government has failed to plan for the backlog of surgeries and the excessively long emergency room waits experienced by many Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.


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

Whereas the Manning Foundation's award program, which began in 1982, was established to encourage and reward Canadian innovation and this year, from over 70 nominees from across Canada, two Nova Scotians have been recognized for their innovations; and

[Page 298]

Whereas Kirk Swinimer of Chester Basin has been awarded the prestigious Ernest C. Manning Award for inventing a cone-shaped footing form for construction tubes called Bigfoot Systems, which has drastically reduced labour costs associated with building structures with post foundations; and

Whereas Tim Edwards of Halifax, a mechanical engineer with InNOVAcorp, is being recognized for developing an air chamber crab processor - a compressed air system which cost-effectively removes crab meat from hard-shell segments of the crab;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate both Kirk Swinimer and Tim Edwards on receiving the Ernest C. Manning Award for their innovative solutions to practical problems and encourage them to continue to put their ideas to the test.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Sackville-Cobequid.


MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas many Nova Scotians have been hard hit by the after-effects of Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas seniors and those on fixed incomes are finding it particularly difficult to pay for the services to remove trees and other hazards from their properties; and

Whereas yesterday the Ministers of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, and Environment and Labour said that price gouging by companies or businesses would not be tolerated;

[Page 299]

Therefore be it resolved that this government establish an appropriate staff hotline where Nova Scotians can report instances of price gouging and that these be followed up immediately by the government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.


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

Whereas this government has approved a 3.9 hectare rock quarry in Digby Neck without performing an environmental assessment to determine the environmental impacts; and

Whereas the lack of assessment of a huge basalt quarry proposed for Digby Neck simply does not make any sense; and

Whereas it is obvious Nova Scotia's mine approval process needs to be improved so that the appropriate methods are taken to ensure our environment is preserved for the future;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge that the Digby Rock Quarry should have required an environmental assessment before construction began, and that our mine approval process needs further study.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 300]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.


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

Whereas Brian MacLeod of Truro won the 2003 Canadian Blind Golf Championship by 27 strokes over the 2002 champion; and

Whereas in 2003, Brian MacLeod has also won the California Blind Classic and the first annual Nova Scotia Blind Golf Championship; and

Whereas Brian MacLeod hopes to compete in the 2004 world championship in Australia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Brian MacLeod and his coaches on his 2003 victories, and wish him every success in the 2004 world blind golf championship in Australia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Dartmouth East.


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

Whereas Hurricane Juan caused extensive damage to many schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality, leaving them vulnerable without security systems; and

[Page 301]

Whereas the constituents in Dartmouth East have a pride in their schools; and

Whereas many constituents in Dartmouth East have heard the call to help protect our schools' resources on behalf of their children and others;

Therefore be it resolved that this provincial Legislature thank all those who have helped out in this situation, including Barry and Wanda Patterson of Churchill Drive.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Annapolis.


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

Whereas ACA Cooperative Ltd. celebrated its 60th Anniversary on September 7, 2003, and over its 60 years has grown into one of the Valley's leading poultry and egg producers; and

Whereas ACA employs nearly 700 staff, located in approximately 20 different areas throughout the Valley; and

Whereas ACA places a strong emphasis on supporting local organizations, including the Atlantic Theatre Festival, the Valley Regional Hospital, Acadia University's Athletic Department, several youth organizations, and locally held events and activities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate ACA Cooperative Ltd. on its 60th Anniversary and recognize its overwhelming contributions to their local communities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 302]

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

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 Human Resources.


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

Whereas Bridgewater Town Crier Ozzie Stiles was recently named Nova Scotia's number one town crier at the provincial championships held in Lunenburg; and

Whereas this year's event marked the 19th annual championship to determine Nova Scotia's best town crier; and

Whereas a total of 10 individuals, all members of the Nova Scotia Guild of Town Criers, participated in the event in Lunenburg;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly applaud the efforts of Bridgewater's Ozzie Stiles while also congratulating him for winning this year's championship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Pictou West.

[Page 303]

[12:30 p.m.]


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

Whereas Pictou Academy has a long history of educational excellence dating back to its founder, Thomas McCulloch; and

Whereas enrolment numbers have remained strong for this 2003-04 school year; and

Whereas there is strong community support for a high school in the Town of Pictou;

Therefore be it resolved that this government continue to maintain the educational excellence in the Town of Pictou by fully supporting Pictou Academy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party. Order, please.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member would read the final clause of that resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West, just the therefore be it resolved portion only, please.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Therefore be it resolved that this government continue to maintain the educational excellence in the Town of Pictou by fully supporting the Pictou Academy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 304]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.


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

Whereas the Halifax Public Gardens have long been a favorite gathering spot for the people of Halifax and Nova Scotia; and

Whereas most Nova Scotians have come to the Gardens to enjoy the scenery and tranquility it provides; and

Whereas the Gardens have been substantially damaged by the high winds and rain that came with Hurricane Juan;

Therefore be it resolved that all Nova Scotians anxiously await the restoration of the Public Gardens to its unmatched, natural beauty unique to the City of Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 305]


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

Whereas the Lunenburg County Detachment of the RCMP held its annual Cops for Cancer event on August 30, 2003; and

Whereas more than 30 participants representing local emergency and community service organizations raised over $5,000 for cancer research; and

Whereas the Blockhouse and District Fire Department won the Cops for Cancer plaque for the second year in a row for raising the most money;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Lunenburg County Detachment of the RCMP for hosting another successful Cops for Cancer fundraiser, and the Blockhouse and District Fire Department for working hard to support a very worthy cause.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Sackville-Cobequid.


MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Jeffrey Moore of Lower Sackville has been chosen to represent Nova Scotia's Camp Connect for burn survivors in Washington, D.C.; and

Whereas Camp Connect based in New Glasgow provides a safe and enjoyable environment for both children and adult burn survivors from the Maritimes, to come together and share their experience; and

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Whereas the International Association of Firefighters hosts an annual firefighters' camp in Washington, D.C., by inviting one firefighter and a child from the camps across North America;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Jeffrey Moore of Lower Sackville and Halifax Regional Firefighter Andrea Hollet on being selected to attend this year's camp.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Clare.


MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I would like to present my resolution in French, followed by a translation, please.

M. le Président, par la présente, j'avise que je proposerai à une date ultérieure, l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que le groupe acadien Blou qui a ses racines à la Baie Sainte-Marie dans la municipalitié de Clare a reçu le Prix Grand-Pré; et

Attendu que ce groupe s'est illustré dans les pays suivants: France, Danemark, Norvége, Italie, Belgique, Allemagne, État-Unis, Corse et la Hollande à plusieurs reprises; et

Attendu que ce groupe, toutes en se distinguant par son talent artistique contribue à faire la promotion de l'Acadie et de la Nouvelle-Ècosse;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette chambre exprime ses félicitations et transmet ses meilleurs voeux de succès aux membres du groupe Blou et leur souhaite plein succeès.

[Page 307]

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

Whereas the Acadian group, Blou, originating from La Baie Saint-Marie in the Municipality of Clare, has received le Prix Grand-Pré; and

Whereas this group has performed in France, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Belgium, Germany, United States, Corsica and Holland several times; and

Whereas this group is promoting abroad the Acadian heritage and rich cultural background of this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the Acadian group, Blou, for their latest achievement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Health.


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

Whereas Antigonish native, 20-year-old Greg Hadley, competed in the World Scottish Heavy Event Championship in Antigonish this summer and turned in an impressive performance against the top professionals in the world; and

Whereas in a summer competition in Prince Edward Island, Mr. Hadley unofficially set a new world mark in the 22-pound amateur hammer; and

Whereas in his first appearance, Mr. Hadley topped a field of 11 throwers to claim the national crown at the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxwell, Ontario;

[Page 308]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the pride felt by all in Antigonish and congratulate Mr. Hadley on winning his first Canadian amateur title.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Timberlea-Prospect.


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

Whereas the Terence Bay Thunderbirds captured the Softball Nova Scotia Over 30 Masters Orthodox Championship; and

Whereas the Thunderbirds have a long and glorious tradition along the Prospect Road and across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this team is made up of local men who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the sport of softball;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the members of the Terence Bay Thunderbirds on their provincial championship with best wishes on and off the field in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.


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

Whereas some 8,000 volunteer firefighters provide a valuable service to the people of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas since Hurricane Juan, many of these volunteer firefighters have provided thousands of hours of community service, saving government valuable tax dollars; and

Whereas in the 1999 John Hamm Tory blue book, there was a promise of a $500 tax credit that has yet to be delivered;

Therefore be it resolved that the John Hamm Government fulfill it's long-promised $500 tax credit commitment as outlined on Page 38 of its blue book.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas creating safe and healthy workplaces through safe work practices, adequate training and suitable equipment is a shared responsibility between employers and employees; and

Whereas Oxford Frozen Foods management at the Halfway River plant thought their 558 days without lost-time accident record was unsurpassable but it wasn't, they surpassed it this summer; and

Whereas the management of Oxford Frozen Foods acknowledged this outstanding achievement, attributing the success to the knowledgeable staff who pay attention to detail, who think safety, and who already look out for each other;

[Page 310]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the employees of Oxford Frozen Foods in Halfway River for their excellent safety record of over 569 days without a lost-time accident, and as a shining example of how safe and healthy workplaces can be maintained.

Mr. Speaker, on your behalf, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the notice I have given you under Rule 43, I wish to move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, the growing crisis threatening the future of the cattle, dairy and sheep producers brought on by the discovery of one cow in Alberta with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE.

This crisis threatens producers. It also threatens the rural economy. According to the Federation of Agriculture, approximately one-third of the registered farms in the province depend on ruminant livestock for a living. One-third of the remaining registered farm businesses depend on ruminant livestock as a part of their income stream - approximately 1,300 farm businesses. These farm businesses purchase $30 million worth of goods and services from other businesses in rural Nova Scotia.

Applying recognized multiplier ratios, the impact of our cattle industry on the rural economy, excluding wages, exceeds $82 million a year. In terms of employment in rural communities throughout the province, the cattle industry accounts for over 900 full-time job equivalents. Using recognized multipliers, this sector of our industry contributes an additional $11 million to Nova Scotia's rural economy.

The BSE crisis clearly has and will continue to have a multi-million dollar impact on the farming industry and on the rural economy of Nova Scotia. The total impact of BSE on economic activity in rural Nova Scotia could reach $40 million. Federal aid packages and the new Agricultural Policy Framework's disaster relief programs, in particular, are inadequate to address the crisis facing farmers in Nova Scotia. BSE relief started and ended too early to

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benefit the majority of beef, sheep and dairy producers. It's unclear at this point what disaster relief farmers can anticipate in response to the damage done to their operations by Hurricane Juan.

The future of farming in Nova Scotia hangs in the balance. This is a matter of utmost importance, deserving the immediate attention of the House in a way that is not possible within the limits of Question Period.

MR. SPEAKER: The information was received in my office according to the Rules, two hours preceding the opening of the House today. I have reviewed the matter and the Rules that are applicable in this case and I've decided to rule that the matter is proper to be discussed. It does come within the ministerial action or the administrative responsibilities of the government. So I will now ask for the concurrence of the House.

I will just read the first portion of the motion, it says:

"Dear Mr. Speaker:

This is to give you notice under Rule 43 that I wish to move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, the growing crisis threatening the future of the cattle, dairy and sheep producers, brought on by the discovery of one cow in Alberta with BSE."

I will now ask for concurrence of the House for an emergency debate to take place at the moment of interruption at 6:00 p.m. tonight.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

So there will obviously be no late debate this evening, but there will be two hours, beginning at 6:00 p.m. tonight, for the emergency debate.



MR. SPEAKER: Question Period begins at 12:42 p.m. and will end at 1:42 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

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MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier confirmed this morning in a media interview that he does not intend to restrict disaster assistance to the limits that his government announced yesterday afternoon. The Federation of Agriculture advises that every single farm in the path of the hurricane was affected, many of them very seriously. Farmers have lost their crops, their winter feed, many or all of their buildings, many woodlots have been hit hard. So farmers, fishermen and others need to know exactly what disaster assistance will be available so that they and their creditors can decide whether or not it is possible to keep operating. So my question is, will the Premier tell this House and all Nova Scotians the extent of the disaster assistance that will be made available to end the confusion and uncertainty that was created by yesterday's new release and subsequent statements of the minister?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question. It gives me an opportunity to discuss publicly some conversations that I was able to have and the Minister responsible for Emergency Measures was able to have with two federal ministers yesterday and conversations that I was able to have with the Honourable Paul Martin today. We were able to discuss in a very positive atmosphere the fact that current programs that are available through federal financial plans for disasters may well not cover some of the significant losses that are being experienced both in the agricultural sector and in the fishing sector. We received an excellent initial response from federal Minister McCallum who indicated that he would look at advanced funding or early funding and, as well, he would look at the issue of funding outside of the current programs.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: I'm pleased that the federal government is going to look at their program to see the way that it can be expanded because that would be an important element of any disaster relief plan, but my question for the Premier - and he knows this because disaster assistance for Spring flooding has been snarled up by insurers who are looking for things like pre-existing conditions to determine what they're going to pay out, so many people have not received compensation even for those floods. Farmers who have suffered Spring flooding or BSE problems may find themselves the subject of insurance investigations. Many business owners, fishermen and farmers are facing immediate decisions about repair costs, replacement costs, and the future of their family farm and/or business. Will the government commit today to the immediate financial assistance that is needed for farmers, fishermen and businesses to deal with the damage and carry on?

THE PREMIER: I'm sure the member opposite didn't suggest that proper accounting should not go on in terms of government money. I must also remind members of the House and the member opposite that the programs we're talking about are cost-shared programs - the province is already involved, but when we're dealing with programs that involve the

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federal government, they obviously have a considerable say in terms of the way in which these programs are administered. We will work with them. We got a good response yesterday and we'll build on that response.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that files that go back and forth between here and Ottawa take a great deal of time to resolve. The Premier is well aware of this. Every day of uncertainty creates more problems for farming and fishing operations that face seasonal deadlines and frankly, the onset of winter. Many businesses are facing hard decisions and the deadline for their survival may come sooner than anyone wishes, certainly sooner than that file is going to make its way back from Ottawa. When does the Premier expect that his government will be able to provide clear, fair and reasonable guidelines as to the disaster assistance that will be available to help people recover from Hurricane Juan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as we speak, our Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Minister d'Entremont, is in Ottawa in a meeting with the federal Minister Vanclief, discussing how current programs can better assist members of the agricultural community. So the government is very much aggressively pursuing solutions with Ottawa.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.



MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. It's day four since Hurricane Juan struck and 60,000 Nova Scotians are still without power. I can report from touring daily in my home constituency - I'm sure you're familiar with this, Mr. Premier - that it has been devastating. There are still several streets that remain blocked. In almost every street there are hanging wires that remain a danger to all people in that community. Everyone knows the hard work that is being done by EMO officials and Nova Scotia Power, for example, but what I hear constantly and what we see is a lack of coordination and information. The question is a simple one, is there a written plan that lays out the priorities and the responsibilities of EMO, the military, Nova Scotia Power, the municipalities and the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do sympathize with the residents that the member opposite represents because that area of the city was one of the hardest hit areas in the province, if not the hardest hit in the province. With regard to how this thing is being coordinated, I can reassure the member opposite, members of the House and the public at large that EMO is running very effectively. I had the opportunity this morning to accompany the Honourable Paul Martin who attended the morning briefing session of the Emergency Measures Organization across the harbour. Following a briefing and a discussion as to the way in which the three levels of government are in fact under the same roof over in the Dartmouth office, Mr. Martin said that this joint effort may well prove a model for the rest

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of Canada. He was extremely impressed about the level of co-operation and coordination that was occurring across the water. (Applause)

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, with the greatest respect to Mr. Martin, a person who I respect a great deal (Interruptions) Several of us have been here for the past four days. We have been living it, day in and day out, not just flying around in helicopters, on the ground, finding out what people's problems are. The question related to whether or not there is a plan. Mr. Premier, is there a written plan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what we have is a coordinated effort that is very quickly addressing what was a monumental storm. What we have, I believe, is a process that is very much on schedule. I don't think there is anyone sitting in this House today who would have anticipated us being any further ahead today than we are today. Having said that, what I can report, in terms of one of the most immediate issues, is the resumption of power for the residents of the member opposite's constituency, as well in my own constituency, constituencies, for example, that are the responsibility of the Minister of Health and the member for Colchester North. As of now, the report we got this morning, 45,000 customers remain to be connected in metro, 15,000 outside of metro, and that is a marked improvement over the report that we received yesterday. What we're reporting today is significant improvement in what has occurred overnight. (Applause)

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, it's clear that there is no plan, that this is a haphazard catch-as-catch-can. Yesterday we identified an example of senior residents (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

MR. GRAHAM: Yesterday, for example, we identified seniors in Sir John Thompson Manor. They were still without power at that time and hadn't received information or a warm meal for some period of time. It's interesting to note that after our questions and additional calls were made, we understand that the power has been restored. Last night additional assistance and hot meals were provided. But that was only one building. There are dozens and dozens of other Sir John Thompson buildings around this province. So the question for the Premier is, what organized effort is being made to go door-to-door to ensure that seniors and others are receiving the assistance they need, door-to-door?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it's a good question, and I refer it to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Organization.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I can certainly assure the member opposite and the House that the dedicated workers at EMO and all the volunteers across this province, especially in the city, have been working very hard. I certainly hope the member opposite is not insinuating or impugning those people in their efforts. When we come to the individual agencies and we break it down to social services, obviously that department is working with

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individuals through their caseworkers to alleviate individual situations. As well, the Metro Food Bank and the Housing Authority are ensuring that supplies and food are put forward. As well, 12 barbecues were also held by public housing at public housing units in partnership with EMO, the Metro Food Bank and local businesses. Some of them, the member opposite may recognize, Sunrise Manor, Dr. Samuel Prince, Sir John Thompson, Timberlea, Margaret Lighter, Crawthorne, Richmond, Acadia Square, Westmount, Cornwallis . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable member for Hants East.


MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, farmers in Nova Scotia have been hit by three disasters this year. Under the Tory Government, the Department of Agriculture has been decimated and farmers need assistance. Other provinces have already put millions in relief into farmers' pockets, while this government sits idly by. Farmers need and deserve better than that. They are coming to this Legislature today to make that point, and they are listening carefully to what the Premier has to say. I ask the Premier, why is this government dragging its feet in providing assistance to farmers while $2 million in relief funding sits untouched?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a very important and serious question. Certainly that's why this government participated in the BSE Program and continued to accept applications up to September 30th on cattle slaughtered during that period and make payments to farmers. As well, interim payments are there. The dollars from the province on transition funding will allow farmers to project what their probable loss will be and that they would be able to receive an interim payment for those cow/calf producers in the very near future.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, it's ironic that the Minister in charge of EMO is the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, a former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and never stopped acting while he was in that position. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, farmers are still waiting for help from floods last Spring and I will table a letter from Sandra Fisher of Brookfield. She describes the bureaucratic nightmare farmers in her community have faced in dealing with EMO and Agriculture representatives and she hasn't received a penny for damages to land she leases which she originally was told would be covered, but in waiting for assistance for that disaster, farmers have been hit with BSE

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and Hurricane Juan. So I ask the Premier again, what does he have to say to Sandra Fisher and why is he making her wait for assistance?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

MR. FAGE: Certainly situations dealing with guidelines and the auditors under the DFAA do take time and ensuring that the federal government will honour its commitment meeting those guidelines under disaster and we've dealt with the individual named in trying to assist her through that with the federal auditors.

In regard to assistance for people in the red meat industry, and specifically the cattle industry, as the honourable member may remember from my previous answer, there is the BSE Program that we fully participated in as a province. We've made payments and have received applications up until September 30th on slaughtered cattle throughout the summer. Those provincial dollars were in those programs and provincial dollars were expended. We have a program upcoming to allow advance payments for cow-calf producers to lessen the financial impact on them as well.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister would know that the applications people could make to September 30th were only for livestock killed as of August 30th. They didn't extend that deadline any and our cattle industry mainly is a cow/calf operation, not slaughter cattle, so the minister would be aware that that BSE relief program doesn't apply to most of the cattle producers in this province and, therefore, it's basically ineffective.

Mr. Speaker, these farmers just can't take any more. Every week they wait for help and it's another week of overdue bills and calls from creditors. So for what it's worth, I ask the Premier, when is your government going to admit our farmers are in a crisis situation and will you commit today to extending the BSE Program and offering timely disaster assistance?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, certainly the government is much more aware than the member opposite of the hardships of the beef industry, and have put significant increases in funding for the entire agriculture industry and programs throughout the last four or five years. Certainly the member opposite, if I answer it a third time, will be able to distinguish the BSE Program, which has been run in each province in this country with the federal government, that had ended on September 30th. The cow-calf operators, as I stated twice before, are not eligible, and those cow-calf operators, we are providing interim payments for them before they get to their year-end so that they have dollars in hand. The situation is very serious, and this government does take it very seriously.

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[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.


MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. It's ironic that three days after the arrival of Hurricane Juan, some Nova Scotians in the HRM have just received $155 cheques. While the money is undoubtedly welcome for those who have received this latest round of cheques, imagine how much help could have been provided to Nova Scotians who are storm-battered by just a fraction of the $72 million spent on this pre-election tax scheme. The Minister of Finance is now warning that there will be more cuts in services because of the damage caused by Hurricane Juan. My question to the minister is, how can the minister justify more cuts to public services after his government has wasted over $72 million for a pre-election tax scheme?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, at our quarterly financial update we indicated that there would be adjustments in the plan as we go forward to March 31st. This is clearly one of those unforeseen events and an adjustment that we will have to make. The government has indicated they are going to help, and we will make the adjustments in our budget to deal with it.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians didn't ask for the $155 cheque, but they are now asking the government for help, not for adjustments. The minister has an obligation to tell the public why his government was not prepared to deal with an emergency after wasting the $72 million. Will the minister tell this House exactly how far he is prepared to cut important services in order to balance the budget?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I don't presume that the honourable member was saying that giving a tax reduction, making this province competitive and making this province a better place and more productive is not a valuable process. This government put forward its budget. That was a major part of our budget as we go forth, and we're going to deal with these unexpected events as they come along.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, this shortsighted tax scheme has left the government short of resources to respond to the hurricane damage. Our major hospital is damaged, schools have been damaged and the minister wants to cut even further. Nova Scotians didn't vote for the minister to slash and burn government services, but they do need help. Instead of musing in the media, will the minister tell the people exactly what he means when he indicates more cuts are coming?

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MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, back three weeks ago when we introduced and brought forward our Spring adjustment - the September adjustments are halfway through the year - we indicated we were going to, as a department, look at ways to save money. That's what we've been doing. That's what we continue to do, and we're going to manage through this crisis. We're going to be able to deal with all these issues.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.


MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. There's no doubt that Hurricane Juan has hit our natural resources sector extremely hard. Fishermen, farmers, woodlot owners are just now beginning to tally the cost of damages to their property and equipment. These sectors and spinoff jobs represent several billion dollars to our economy. It is vital that the provincial government take every step necessary to help these industries to recover. Mr. Premier, my question is, given your government's poor track record in supporting these sectors in the past, what assurances can you offer the workers whose livelihood is on the line after Hurricane Juan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite's question reminds members of the House that in the part of the province from which we come, fishery and agriculture are important parts of our economic infrastructure. We have an interest in our part of the province in these two industries. What I can say, in reassurance to the member opposite and to reassure those people in that part of the province who as well rely on agriculture and fisheries, that the government is working aggressively to provide the kinds of support - and we're doing that in concert with the federal government - that will provide a better relief program for participants in those two industries.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier, farmers in Nova Scotia, as you know, are still awaiting disaster relief from Spring flooding, let alone the BSE crisis and now, Hurricane Juan. Fishermen, speaking of them, don't know where to begin in their cleanup, not to mention replacing infrastructure in time for the upcoming lobster season in many areas of this province. Woodlot owners certainly need help to remove debris and plant new trees but the programs now are inadequate. Again, my question to the Premier is, what is being done right now to include these important sectors in disaster relief from Hurricane Juan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know the question was prepared prior to some of the answers that the member opposite has already heard during Question Period. What I can say to the member opposite, if you would reflect back on the answers we gave to previous questioners, relative to problems in disaster relief, I would ask him to review those in

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Hansard, because really the answer to his question has already been dealt with in Question Period.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, well you're right, Mr. Premier, in that regard on the preparation ahead of time. For my final supplementary, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries said yesterday in this House that all he could offer were soothing words. Soothing words really aren't going to cut it and hopefully, it's not the best effort your government is going to put forth to address this devastation that Nova Scotians are facing. Again, Mr. Premier, when is your government going to show leadership in this very real crisis and ensure the protection of our vital industries such as fishing, forestry, and agriculture?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can remind the member opposite, that during the last campaign, the blueprint actually did contain commitments to our resource-based industries. I think in a very friendly way, I could remind the member opposite that fisheries and agriculture were not mentioned anywhere in the NDP platform in the last election. (Applause)

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


MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the EMO. Yesterday the province announced a disaster financial assistance arrangement for those affected by Hurricane Juan. Could the minister inform the House as to whether an assignment is being carried out and whether or not there is a preliminary dollar figure attached to the damage?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, could the honourable member restate the question? I couldn't hear it clearly.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, would you repeat the question, please.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, could the minister inform the House as to whether an assignment has been carried out and whether or not there is a preliminary dollar figure attached to the damage?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the efforts at this point are to ensure peoples' safety and the restoration of power and getting life back to as close as normal for people affected by this storm. Certainly, we have put out requests to various government agencies and departments to begin assessing the cost of damage. As well, I'm sure the municipality will begin that process in the coming weeks. The assessment coming from private individuals will begin in the near future.

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MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, as the minister is no doubt aware, the federal government requires a written request from the province asking for assistance. It is recommended that the request occur as soon as possible after the damage. As of 10:42 a.m. today there has been no request received by the federal government. My question is, if the minister has not yet sent that request, when does he expect to send it?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Premier and I had the opportunity to meet at considerable length with Minister McCallum, who is responsible for EMO and disaster relief federally, and obviously one of the issues we discussed was what was included under that DFAA as well as extraordinary circumstances that individuals in coastal communities and agriculture and a number of other areas have experienced. Certainly, as soon as we get a reasonably accurate assessment, the federal minister awaits our request.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, the reality is the province seems to be slow in responding to this crisis - and is seen to be giving up his leadership role. My question is, when can we expect the minister and the Premier to become more motivated to help alleviate the pain being caused by Hurricane Juan?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member's question is a good one and it certainly allows me the opportunity to commend all those people who were involved with EMO in the preparation and planning before Hurricane Juan struck. Certainly members throughout every government department here, people in the municipal, as well as the federal government level and the private volunteers, local fire departments, Search and Rescue, who have worked countless hours in preparing as well as the execution and restoration of this disaster. I hope the honourable member is not playing down the efforts of those important Nova Scotians and volunteers, which he sounds like he is.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.



MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is actually for the Premier. Many of the communities in my constituency have been extremely hard hit by Hurricane Juan, and the fishing communities which dot the coastline are real disaster zones. The residents in these areas, where I have spent many hours over the last couple of days, are still without power, or cell service - in many cases, most cases, without phone service. Because they have no power, they have no way of pumping water from their wells. They're bathing in local lakes and even a boil water order would seem funny when there's nothing with which to boil water. With fuel at a premium, generators, transportation and chain saws are all of limited use.

[Page 321]

Over and above the necessities of day-to-day life, many are in danger of losing their livelihoods altogether. Fishermen like those in Sambro have lost their wharves and gear, as we all know, and are now struggling to find generators, freezer trucks and any other method of preserving their bait and catches. Crab season began on Tuesday and lobster season is approaching soon. Mr. Premier, could you detail for this House what specific assistance the province is willing to provide to individuals and communities in these circumstances?

THE PREMIER: That, again, is a good question. Yesterday we had conversations with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who shares all our concerns about the fishery. He did do a surveillance yesterday of Sambro and the communities that are in your particular area. We were able to describe some of what he would see; he very much understands what's happening there relative to the impending opening of the lobster fishery. He did make a commitment that he would work diligently to have the harbours up and running as quickly as possible and as well we will be looking at the reaction of the federal government to the specific request we had to make additional programs available to fishermen who may fall into the cracks of the current program.

[1:15 p.m.]

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address my next question to the Minister responsible for Emergency Measures. There are hundreds and hundreds of families who rely directly and indirectly on the viability of the fishery in this constituency, but when I called the provincial Emergency Measures Organization yesterday, I was told that because the area lies within the Halifax Regional Municipality, it was HRM's responsibility and that my message would be passed on to them.

Mr. Speaker, this is a collective disaster and it does merit a collective response. We know there was the option of declaring a provincial state of emergency but, for reasons yet unexplained, the minister did refuse. Why is it, Mr. Minister, that the province has refused to take responsibility for coordinating efforts and responses in this disaster as the people of Nova Scotia have a right to expect?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: That's a very good question and it allows me the opportunity to explain what the Emergency Measures Act requires, what it's about and, yes, it was there in preparation. It was not needed, in my view, to execute. I could have had it at hand through the entire evening. But in relationship to the devolution of responsibilities under EMO, I would like to remind the members that the provincial EMO coordinates all the agencies involved at the provincial government level as well as all the volunteer agencies, but just as importantly at the municipal level. At the municipal level the HRM is the body on the ground that allows those services, allows those opportunities or projects, or delivering the service to occur.

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MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I guess this raises several questions which will have to wait for another day, but in the meantime I maybe should just reiterate what all my colleagues have been saying on this side of the House. We're certainly inspired by the dedication and the hard work of the Emergency Measures Organization, all the volunteers and staff who have been helping with the cleanup, but there are tough questions which remain in times like these. Above all, we really need government leadership. Again, what are the next immediate and specific steps to ensure that more resource dependent livelihoods, which are essential to all of us in the province, aren't lost because of the lack of coordination?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, EMO, as I should reiterate to the House, is a collective of over 30 agencies, government and volunteer, that deliver services in times of emergency and the issues are coordinated. They do not require a logo of the Province of Nova Scotia when they're addressing the media of the issue. The best group to deliver the service or the resources are the ones closest to the people. They would be supervised in coordination with the provincial EMO. That is the chain of events. That is how EMO works and maybe at some point in the future we can have a tour of EMO and presentations to caucus so people have an understanding of how services are delivered in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.


MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The government has had months to deal with the BSE crisis. The Premier knows about the BSE crisis and he knows what farmers need. My question is, why won't the Premier help save the beef farms in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the industry, in coordination and partnership with the provincial government, has worked very hard all summer lobbying the federal government to get the borders open. Because the real solution to our BSE situation is the availability and the opportunity to export beef into the United States and other countries that have banned it. But in the short term, this province has provided its matching funding with the federal government on the BSE Program for slaughtered cattle and we were quickly one of the first to make sure that money commitment was there and have been processing applications, issuing cheques all summer.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber.

[Page 323]

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. The Premier knows the problem and the agriculture community has offered a solution. It doesn't get any more complicated than that. Why is the Premier allowing the beef farms in Nova Scotia to die?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the acting minister.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the beef industry and the red meat industry as a whole is facing very difficult situations. Certainly the beef farmers and this government and this province realize that for future growth the borders have to be opened. We have worked closely with the industry in our efforts to get the federal government to negotiate those agreements to open borders with the United States and other countries that have banned our beef. The borders have opened to a certain amount at this point, which is a beginning. Short-term band-aid methods such as the BST is not the long-term solution to the beef industry. What needs to continue to happen is the expansion and consumption of agricultural products produced here in Nova Scotia being supplied to our own populace.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, at the very least, the minister and the Premier could present their own made-in-Nova Scotia solution. Why won't the Premier take a leadership role in this crisis and offer Nova Scotians a solution to a Nova Scotian problem and help save the family farm?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government continues to support industries like agriculture, like fisheries, like forestry, and we will continue to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. The people of Nova Scotia woke to a devastating picture in our newspapers this morning, what looks like the almost complete devastation of one of the province's most treasured urban green spaces, Point Pleasant Park. In fact, I would like to table a photocopy of that from today's paper. This park looks more like a clear-cut right now, and this picture will support that, in case no one has seen a clear-cut. HRM's tree specialist saw, when he flew over there, that it was total devastation and he thinks it's a complete write-off. We have also seen the devastation of another of HRM's most prized parks, the Public Gardens, where dozens of trees were ripped from the ground by the force of Hurricane Juan; perhaps as much as 20 per cent of these trees are now gone. My question to the Minister of Natural Resources is, what is your department doing to assess the extent of the damage and determine what can be done to begin restoring these and other public, wooded parks across the province?

[Page 324]

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. Our department is working with HRM and their parks committee to assess the damage at the two parks here in Halifax.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, these parks, including others like Birch Cove in Dartmouth, which has also been ravaged by Hurricane Juan, mean so much to so many residents and visitors alike. They belong to everybody, therefore it is the responsibility of this government and the minister to deal with these and other provincial parks. My question to the Minister of Natural Resources is, what actions have you taken to perhaps coordinate efforts with HRM and other municipalities that have sustained similar damage to their parks to determine the future of these areas?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, again to the member, our department is working. We have approximately 127 parks in the Province of Nova Scotia, provincial parks, along with HRM's parks here in the HRM district. We are working with those people, and our staff has talked to the HRM members as early as this morning, again, over the park situation here in HRM.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate that there is some communication going on. My final question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. The minimum this minister should be doing is to appoint a person from his department to act as a liaison with HRM and other municipalities to determine the future of Point Pleasant Park, the Public Gardens, Birch Cove and other public, wooded parks in Nova Scotia. These trees are not just going to pop up on their own overnight. It could be hundreds of years before we see these parks back to the state in which they were up to a few days ago. Will the minister commit to this House today that he will do that?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, again to the member opposite, we already have highly-qualified staff in DNR who are coordinating with HRM on the park situation here in HRM, and on all of our parks across Nova Scotia. We do have qualified staff in HRM.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.


MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. Hurricanes, when they come, are not usually just one-off events, they in fact appear in sequence, they are in fact named alphabetically in sequence. We have had, so far, here, the J, Hurricane Juan. There is also a K, Hurricane Kate. The Canadian Hurricane Centre is presently tracking Hurricane Kate, which could potentially affect Nova Scotia this Sunday or next week. I want to stress that it is still a few days from landfall, and we don't know the intensity of the storm or exactly where it will go or indeed if it will hit Nova Scotia, though it is coming in this direction. Officials are meeting to discuss the

[Page 325]

hurricane. Mr. Minister, we have learned some lessons about the need for better public information and preparedness this week. What will you do differently if Hurricane Kate becomes an imminent threat to Nova Scotia?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I really don't know how to answer the hypothetical question, or if it's a hypothetical member. In any case, it's all hypothetical. We have EMO and a system in place. We will be prepared, as we always are, at EMO if it becomes a danger.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the hard fact is that hurricane season is far from over. People are still cleaning up here from Hurricane Juan. We need to get the message to all Nova Scotians on how they can be prepared and safe should Hurricane Kate make landfall in our province next week. Indeed, the likely part of the province it may well hit, if it comes here, would be Cape Breton. I ask the minister, with 60,000 Nova Scotians still without power, how is Emergency Measures planning to ensure the message gets out in a timely manner, should Hurricane Kate become a threat?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, obviously we will get the information out, the same as we did last week as Hurricane Juan approached. The honourable member has been shown documentation, essential products, what you should do, shelters were listed on the tabs of the paper on Saturday last and Sunday last. As those hurricanes or any imminent danger approaches, the information is relayed to all media outlets. The media, during this last Hurricane Juan, were exemplary. We had co-operation from all major media outlets in the days before Hurricane Juan landed, stating essentials and precautions that people should make. All forms of the media, on a very regular basis, were providing information and imminent warnings.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we're talking Sunday, possibly Monday. I will table the tracking information from both the Canadian and American Hurricane Centres that shows that this hurricane, Hurricane Kate, is moving towards Atlantic Canada. My question to the minister is, how is this government going to ensure that Nova Scotians are better informed and better prepared than they were for Hurricane Juan?

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, we will deal in correct and accurate information supplied by the various hurricane agencies and meteorological experts supplied across North America. We will relay that to Nova Scotians with the aid of the media here who have been extremely helpful and who did an exemplary job of advising Nova Scotians, in conjunction with EMO, during this last crisis.

[Page 326]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.


MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Organization. The Minister of Finance finally admitted there is a crisis from Hurricane Juan, a crisis that's going to grow for families in Nova Scotia. I was recently speaking to a constituent and with his permission I'm going to relay his situation. Mr. Brooks, who is over 80 years old and has lived in East Preston all his life, is one of the many victims of the devastation of Hurricane Juan. His 60-year-old home, which he built himself and has lived in his entire adult life, has suffered serious roof damage. Mr. Brooks, being on a fixed income, unable to afford home insurance, is unable to afford the cost of repairs and unable himself to do the repairs. My question to the minister is, what action plan do you have to ensure that individuals like Mr. Brooks are going to be able to access the disaster relief monies?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, this province and this government took the prudent action three and a half years ago to ensure that there was a program for disaster relief for uninsurable losses in place for citizens of Nova Scotia. That program, commonly known as the DFAA program, is there to help Nova Scotians if they have uninsurable losses from a situation such as this hurricane.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, there are countless seniors on fixed incomes in a similar situation. As a result of the last disaster we had with the major flood, many people who were not insurable are still waiting to get compensation, including a lot of senior citizens. I feel the government didn't do a very proper job on compensating people in that regard. When you look at senior citizens, they're the most vulnerable citizens we have - people who helped build our country. My question to the minister is, why does your disaster relief program not provide relief for people such as Mr. Brooks and others in similar circumstances?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I was doing an interview on Walnut Street previous to the House and a senior approached me. He had several trees down on his home and that senior was very appreciative and approached me of the warnings EMO had provided previous to Hurricane Juan, the updates ongoing, even though he didn't have power. As well, that senior expressed to me the caring attitude of his neighbours and the young people. They had removed the trees off his property, no power lines involved, and those trees had been removed from the house in anticipation of putting up power. That senior in his circumstances certainly wasn't aware and asked me the question, will I receive any assistance if I have house damage? I had to ask that senior, are you insurable or are you not? (Interruptions)

[Page 327]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Actually beginning next week we're going to see shortened questions and answers because it is getting carried away beyond on both sides of the House.

MR. COLWELL: Well, it was a very nice story the minister was starting to tell us here, but it doesn't address the question. This is a real serious concern for seniors. You can slough it off and say you talked to somebody and thought it was a great idea that someone voluntarily helped them. This is to a point for many seniors that they may not be able to live in their homes anymore and may have to abandon their homes, homes they've been in all their lives. So I would ask for a serious answer this time, is the government going to provide assistance to seniors in this situation who do not have insurance and not repeat what they did with the floods?

MR. FAGE: Again, Mr. Speaker, the disaster relief program - federal and provincial - applies to uninsurable situations.

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



MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. We have learned that health care workers at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital are experiencing serious symptoms and believe they are the result of heavy metals and dust inhaled while working in the hospital during recent renovations. Some are too sick to continue working and the chief executive officer of District 8, the CBRH Authority said that investigating these issues has been a very serious matter. My question to the minister is, what actions has the minister taken to assist the health authority in determining the cause and the symptoms that have been displayed by these health workers and how many workers have been exposed and are ill because of these?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: The officials at the district health authority have been in communication with our department relative to the situation referenced by the honourable member. We will continue to work with them. I can say to the House and to all Nova Scotians that there is a very real concern on the part of the district health authority to try to get to the bottom of the situation referenced by the honourable member. They are continuing to investigate the situation. There has been a certain level of frustration on their part in terms of attempting to pinpoint a cause with respect to the situation and to make a definite determination as to whether or not there is a link between the illnesses and any level of activity that took place within the facility.

[Page 328]

MR. CORBETT: As the minister is quite aware, all these symptoms cropped up after renovations were done in the area where these people were working and were exposed to such harmful heavy metals such as lead, barium and nickel - these are all contained within their bodies after testing. So it's a matter of record where it came from. Until the exact cause of this problem is determined, what is being done to treat and protect the other workers at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital?

MR. MACISAAC: I can tell the honourable member and members of the House that as a result of the situation referenced by the member, they have in fact been monitoring the situation and there doesn't appear at this point to be any additional cases with respect to the illness, other than those that came about on the first wave. So far there isn't any additional evidence - they are monitoring the situation and hopefully there will not be any additional evidence of any illness with respect to this situation.

MR. CORBETT: Fortunately, no patients are ill as a result of these workplace dust hazards. As we're assured that always worker safety is a priority, certainly patients in a hospital should be an even higher priority. So I want to ask the minister, what actions have you taken to ensure that none of these illnesses have affected any of the patients who were being served by the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital at the time of these renovations?

MR. MACISAAC: Again, I appreciate the concern of the honourable member relative to the patients at that facility and it's a concern that is shared by the district health authority and by my department and myself obviously. We have not, as I indicated previously, found any evidence of illness relative to patients as a result of that activity. I think it's important to note that the renovation has, in fact, been completed for some period of time, so if the honourable member's suggestion that the illness does relate to the renovation, we would not anticipate there being any further cases. But it is a situation about which we are very concerned and we are staying in contact with the district health authority and they are actively pursuing the situation, monitoring and carrying out investigative activities that would try to lead them to a definitive cause with respect to the situation. I thank the member for bringing the question forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.


MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Health a very serious question about the issue of wait times dealing both with surgeries and emergency room departments, and I asked him what he is going to do to address the issue. His first response was that he was working with the capital district and his second response said he was monitoring the situation. So my question to the minister, very simply, is he working with the capital district to develop a plan to address that problem, or is the minister just simply monitoring the situation?

[Page 329]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member and members of the House that, as we speak, officials of my department are meeting with officials of the Capital District Health Authority and working with them relative to addressing the situation. We have a facility . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

Just before we go to Government Business, the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on an introduction.

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make an introduction in the west gallery of two guests we have with us from the wonderful District of Argyle. First, the Warden, Mr. Aldric d'Entremont, if he would stand, and also Jean-Bernard d'Entremont, a recognized educator, from the District of Argyle as well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to introduce members of the House to a guest in our west gallery by the name of William O'Connor who is, I believe, a resident in the constituency of Halifax Chebucto. William, would you stand and receive the welcome of the House, please? (Applause)


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 1.

Bill No. 1 - Automobile Insurance Reform Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Just before the honourable member begins, the House Leaders for the three Parties, if you have about two minutes, I would like to meet with you outside, if you could, before you get away.

[Page 330]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, you have 37 minutes.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise and finish my time with regard to Bill No. 1 and bring back a few items that I did not have time for in debate on Tuesday. One of them is that before this government really did anything substantive about looking into the dramatic increases in automobile insurance in this province, it certainly sat back and was compliant with it for quite some time, and I believe that the evidence will show that one of the reasons for their being basically compliant with what was going on was that they were in a position to make a windfall tax from it.

There were really no apologies from the former Minister of Finance when he clearly said, in an August 2002 update to the province, that it was clear that the books would remain balanced by the amount of revenue it was receiving from the dramatic increases in the insurance rates in this province. So it led me to believe that this government was certainly willing to, if not aid and abet the insurance industry, it certainly wasn't willing to fight it. It saw it as a cash cow. It saw it as a means to balance its books on the backs of the auto insurance consumers of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I think somebody might want to intervene here.

[1:45 p.m.]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member, as he was just speaking about insurance premiums, said that at the update I indicated that we were making major gains and major substantial increases. What I said in the forecast was that we were not changing our forecast on revenues from insurance, not that we were expecting increases.

MR. SPEAKER: Not a point of order, it's a disagreement between two members.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again, if the minister had been listening more closely, I said the former Minister of Finance in his August 2002 update. This is one thing they can't blame on you today, Mr. Minister, this is your former compatriot on that side who clearly said that. I mean it's there, it's part of public record, and it's there for anybody who wants to see it.

Government sat back and certainly enjoyed the bounties of that revenue and was not in any way, shape or form, willing to go after the insurance industry in a substantive way as long as it was making those dramatic increases in revenue. I think most people in this House realize that you have to be fiscally responsible, but at what measure? Are you saying you're balancing your books by putting an undue burden on the driving consumers of this province? Are you saying, we're going to balance the books, but here's how we're going to do it? We are going to take a segment of our population and allow them to be discriminated against,

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allow them to be dropped at will by insurance companies, or otherwise be told things such as, we've looked at your driving record and now we're going to make your premiums that much more. So this was allowed to go on.

Another case where government, from the insurance industry, certainly gained considerable revenue, was through the increase in fees. Now the fees for going through the Department of Motor Vehicles to get access to driver's abstracts have more than doubled with this government. In turn, insurance companies using that information, their requests have more than doubled. So when you extrapolate that out, I think in a period of less than a year there was almost $4 million more in revenue through these requests. Clearly there were two things here, the government was using it as a way for revenue resources and trying to fool us by saying, we don't raise taxes, but it was another hidden tax, and it was another issue used by the insurance companies to get access to our driving records.

We have seen the insurance companies do some pretty nefarious things in this province over the last couple of years to get at people. One story I would tell you that they could only access probably by way of police records and driver's abstracts, was one story related to me last year where this person had been involved in an accident that was no fault of theirs, both parties got out and called the police, as they should, the police arrive, both exchange insurance and valid driver information and then proceed to rectify the situation without ever committing to a claim to either one of their insurances. So the insurance company is at no loss here at all. It was just a minor accident but, as you know, these changes can be affected, because they did what they were supposed to do as good citizens, went out and contacted the police forces and they investigated and everyone moved forward, this was on their driver abstract. Indeed, when it came time to renew their insurance, the insurance company used this accident to go against their record.

There's nothing in Bill No. 1 to preclude insurance companies from that same practice. This is something that has to be looked at, Mr. Speaker. As I mentioned going into this, it was the hidden tax and about the doubling of the charges for the driver's abstract. The 4 per cent tax revenue that the government receives on each bill. If this is really a bill to help alleviate the burden on consumers of automobile insurance, maybe the government should say, look, we had our windfall and now I think it's time we will give back some of that windfall to the consumers and take a tax holiday, but certainly that's not part of what this government wanted to do.

This government, you know, will place onuses on the insurance companies, it will place onuses on the consumers, but take no blame themselves. When it comes to their revenue, that's sacrosanct. So they don't want to move off those positions. It's not about trying to find a lasting resolve to the automobile insurance dilemma in this province. It's about more or less looking after their own section; looking, I would assert, after the insurance industry because Bill No. 1 really does not give any real long-lasting impact to consumers. There are some short-term effects, but the long-term effects will be seen six months hence

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where you will see insurance companies going back to their old practices as the minister is well aware and he knows this. (Interruption) Well, the minister says I'm wrong and we will see in six months' time. I think one of us will be wrong, but it will not be me.

Let's just talk about the idea of putting limits on soft-tissue injury and the idea that these are necessary. This is a necessary thing to be done to bring down the costs. Everybody but IBC, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, believes that there's no real increase in what they would like us to refer to as frivolous litigation. It's this idea of the Insurance Bureau of Canada and their idea of the sky is falling and this is what is causing it, is soft-tissue injury. The whole idea of soft-tissue injury is one that could be just such a mind trap to get into, but this government has willingly accepted that that's the fix-all. If you put limits and caps on people's injuries claims, then this will all go away, that life will be perfect.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that is totally wrong. This is a problem not born out of too many large claims. This is an industry problem born out of return for investment. When you really confront the insurance industry on this question, you realize that that's the truth. There is no other rational examination or reason. You look at it, you look at the effects of it, you say, okay, these minor accidents, these fender-benders, these whiplashes, this is what's causing us to see our rates soar. The insurance companies are telling us these are frivolous, these are just nuisance type complaints and if we just got them out of the way, life would be good.

Let's just examine that a little closer and say somebody gets whiplash at a stop sign. There's a minor injury. There's not much injury to the vehicles, but there's a whiplash injury and the insurance company believes that there may be fraud involved. Then wouldn't you believe that it would be incumbent upon the underwriters to take that to the point, if they believe that somebody is falsifying documents and committing a fraud. Rather than taking this to court, experiencing and getting a legal definition, they want the Legislature to do it for them. They want the Legislature, by way of capping these limits, to make it right for them.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think this is the place for private automobile insurance companies to be here, having their profit margins protected. If somebody should be protected in this House, it is the automobile insurance consumers of this province. Yet Bill No. 1 goes much farther in protecting the insurance industry, and not the consumer side of this. So what do we do? We can, as we advocate - and I make no apology for it - a driver-owned public auto system, one that is fair, that has been supported by many factors in this country. It has been proven in provinces where it exists, in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia, as a working model. It works. There are complaints. I am sure there are even complaints about this fine Tory Government, there are complaints but we get by them.

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We are not appealing to a bunch of offshore companies. That's something to look at here. Who are we really appealing to here? Are we appealing to a homegrown group of people who have their bases here in Nova Scotia, indeed in Canada, or indeed in North America? What we find is that the majority of the large underwriters that belong to the Insurance Bureau of Canada are headquartered in places like Bristol, England or The Hague and those places that really have no vested interest in driver safety in the Province of Nova Scotia, except when it comes to their bottom line. When it comes to their bottom line, they come knocking on our government's door, looking for caps so they can realize more profits than they have today.

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting last year when we had occasion to have members from the Insurance Bureau of Canada in front of the Economic Development Committee of this House, as it was constituted at the time. You would ask them questions, and I will give them their due, what facts they wanted and as they wanted to present them, there was no lack of information, as we have seen in the numerous newspaper ads and so on, from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, when they want to ramp up an issue. They're telling us now, if we just pull up our head rests a couple of inches, all these whiplash injuries will go away. That will be another topic I will come back to shortly.

Nonetheless, when they were there, when you asked them questions like, why don't you litigate, they blamed the courts. They blamed the courts and they blamed the consumers, because invariably, if you listen to them, they have to go hand in hand. They tell you that these are fraudulent claims, because they feel that they're being told to pay too much, and they're blaming the courts for believing these fraudulent claims. It makes absolutely no sense where they're coming from.

But yet when you press that industry, and there were questions asked of the industry, like, from time to time consumers would tell us that they've had a crack in the windshield. So you go to get it repaired, and the people within that industry, the first question they ask you is, is this an insurance job, so to speak, or are you paying for this out of your own pocket, and as soon as you say it's an insurance job, the claim - I'm probably wrong in my numbers, but just by way of difference - will jump from a personal responsibility of $300 to $400 to $600 to $700 in an insurance case.

[2:00 p.m.]

Why wouldn't the insurance company go after these fraudulent people? If this fraud

is going on and if it costs $300 for me to have a windshield replaced, it should cost the insurance company the same. I believe that. I believe in honesty and fairness. So if that is going on, why aren't they going out there? What substantive way is the insurance industry policing such things as automobile repairs? You must go out and get quotes and so on but at the end of the day there doesn't appear to be anybody in IBC or any other associated

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companies like The Co-Operators, which happens to be outside of IBC, what they have done to pursue this matter and to bring some clarity to it and to make sure that this is going to stop.

No, Mr. Speaker, instead of policing themselves, they have come to this House and said this is what we need and this government is complying with it. This government is saying we agree with you. We will put caps on the consumers ability, their basic human rights, we will take them away because we are going to cap it and therefore their access to the courts, similar to most others in this province, will be abrogated and we find that completely reasonable. We find that reasonable to do. We find it reasonable that we should make a benchmark for you of a 10 per cent return on investment.

Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, not many people in this province have that type of guarantee. Our seniors don't have the ability of having a guaranteed 10 per cent return on their investment but for some reason this government seems to be in compliance with the insurance industry to say for you to operate in a reasonable way, you need a 10 per cent increase. Could you imagine if we said that every year we will allow a 10 per cent increase and protection for people who are on income assistance from the Department of Community Services. There would be a great howl about that, the poorest of the poor. What if we said that . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: What about minimum wages?

MR. CORBETT: Yes, every year the minimum wage will increase by 10 per cent. There would be howls from every sector. Not from this side, I tell you, Mr. Speaker, but from the insurance industry, like the Insurance Bureau of Canada which would say, oh no, that's not fair. These people who have no economic ties to this province are coming here and telling us it's more than reasonable, in their estimation, it's a duty of this House to allow them to continue to make a profit of 10 per cent, at least, at a minimum, 10 per cent a year while they are offshore enjoying these increases.

So what does Bill No. 1 say about that? Well, it really says nothing, absolutely nothing on that, Mr. Speaker. So now what we have to do is say why are we here? Are we here because there is a philosophical difference between the New Democrats and the Progressive Conservatives when it comes to insurance? Obviously that goes almost without saying but I think it deserves to be said nonetheless although it sounds much like a contradiction, but it does.

We have gone through an election. We have put our case toward the electorate of this province and I have heard it argued previously that it was a referendum on insurance and we lost. Well, no, it was a referendum, if you will, on many facets. Indeed, maybe in another bill that will be coming forward at another time that the government is asking the electorate of Nova Scotia to involve themselves in a plebiscite on maybe Sunday shopping and they are willing to go that route. Well, I guess that then starts the slow decline of well, what do we

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reserve referendums or plebiscites for? Indeed, if we want to go back and argue that point that there was, in August, a referendum on public auto, I would say no. I would say if the government is willing to look at putting Sunday shopping to that test, I would dare say that public auto is much closer to the hearts of the consumers of Nova Scotia, whether they can buy that or whether they can buy a shirt on Sunday. I think that would be a much more diligent question to ask the electorate of Nova Scotia but, you know, in fact, the recent provincial election was not a referendum on public auto but it was indeed a referendum on government.

For people to say your Party did not become government, therefore the citizens of Nova Scotia do not want public auto, is wrong and misleading to say the least, Mr. Speaker. So I think those types of questions aren't answered that easily. Again, as I say to you, it's about our philosophy of how consumers should be treated when it comes to purchasing their automobile insurance.

Another area that Bill No. 1 doesn't come within a country mile of assessing is Facility Association. If you listen to the insurance industry talk to you about Facility Association, you would think it's this marvelous co-operative out there, that they look after consumers, but really it's not. It's a fund where they pool their money and put people in after so many accidents, but there indeed lies one of the problems, Mr. Speaker, you know, what constitutes you getting into Facility Association and getting out? In basic terms, new male drivers under the age of 25 invariably end up in Facility-like numbers.

Bill No. 1 talks about non-discrimination, but really does not go into any great length of describing how young male drivers are going to be protected from that. As a matter of fact, the industry itself wanted to expand Facility Association to bring more people under it and so, therefore, it would cost many more thousands of dollars to be insured. Not only that, it certainly would allow people to stay there longer and I would believe it would make it even harder for people to get out of Facility Association.

If I asked you, as a consumer, Mr. Speaker, with a young family or yourself, if you had been unfortunate enough to be in a few accidents, what's your time frame in Facility Association and how do you get out? Well, most consumers can't tell you. There's nothing in this bill about making that open. There's nothing in this bill about allowing consumers to see where they're going. So we have this Facility Association that's causing quite a few people to be left in there for periods well beyond the time frame they should be in there. Yet the government is not addressing that in any way, shape or form in Bill No. 1. So we're here and we're being told that this is a bill primarily to look after insurance. It's not to look after the consumers.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at another section that really, for its complexity, and again, I think this is probably more so when you talk about this kind of abstract definition they have of minor injury. But before we get too far into that let's talk about Section B of your

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insurance policy because, again, the only part it really tells you about Section B, and that's the part where you get coverage for injuries and so on. Where's the meat here in Section B? There's really none. What it tells already hard-strapped consumers that if you want to buy extra coverage under Section B, then we will let you - but that's all. So what it is, it's another cost to consumers, it's another part of that legislated 20 per cent that's being cut up here.

I'm reminded when I think of trying to get back to the fact that this government will look after people if they're harmed and they feel that they've been hard done by by the insurance company, there's a grievance procedure, if you will, in place. With all due respect to the minister putting this forward, to the government, how long is this going to take? There's no limit on the investigation. If the insurance company comes out and says, we are going to charge you $1,000 this year where we charged you $200 last year - what happens, at what point is, what timely mechanism is put in place here that would evolve and allow this to be handled in a timely manner?

What we see here is the minister setting up a parallel URB process as opposed to any kind of reform process. What you have to do then is go - and it's baffling from a government that tells us on one day that they don't believe in public auto, but boy oh boy, when it comes to appointing maybe some of our friends to a board to review this, we're all for it. What we have now is a board that we don't know - this is all going to be done by OIC, so we don't know. So this is all going to be there and these people are going to have all this jurisdiction over insurance. So we don't know how - there's nothing in any of the regulations that says that from step one when a complaint is filed to the final step, how long this will take.

What do we have on the other side? We have clear mandates set out on the amount of fines if you're caught driving while uninsured. Well, often by itself, fining people that aren't insured, I don't find that all that offensive because we're talking about public safety. But what it seems to be is the bill is considerably two-faced when it clearly outlines what your penalty will be if you operate a motor vehicle and do not have the proper insurance on it, but when you try to get that insurance and you have a disagreement with the carrier, there's no real resolve there. So, what it is, we've set up the mechanism that will punish the consumer, but we have not set up a mechanism that will really clearly tell us which way we're going to make sure the insurance companies stand and toe the mark. What are we going to do here? It absolutely makes no sense.

When I stood up on Tuesday, I followed the member from the Third Party who spent a great deal of his time saying what was wrong with our position. I did not expect their Party to support public auto - this is a Party that clearly said that they're willing to hand over our public education to private interests in P3 schools. This is the same Party that gave away our offshore, so they don't feel anything in the public interest. I am not going to spend too much time on that and I don't feel that there's a need to. It was a Third Party rant that I felt was - well, I just considered the source.

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Mr. Speaker, this is a bill that does not protect the consumers of this province; this is a bill that protects the insurance industry. This is a bill that six months hence will be shown for what it really is - it's a piece of legislation that's a reaction to a government that almost fell in New Brunswick, a government that almost fell here in Nova Scotia, a government that ignored it in Prince Edward Island, a government that's fighting it now in Newfoundland, and the reality is until we realize that the fairest and best way to treat automobile insurance consumers of this province, of this country, is with a driver-owned public system, that is the way to do it.

[2:15 p.m.]

This bill does not do that. This bill, at the end of the day, just addresses the concerns of the automobile insurance industry and not the consumers. Mr. Speaker, we owe it to the people of this province, they're the people we owe something to, not the people in The Hague, not the people in Bristol, England. This bill does nothing for our people, Nova Scotians, who we are sworn to serve.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise and speak on Bill No. 1, the insurance bill. Before I do, I want to first recognize the outstanding effort that was done by the people on our staff to help research this area and provide us with a level of support that we need. I think we all recognize that the insurance question is not a particularly straightforward one. All caucuses are receiving a great deal of assistance and help from their staff. Certainly I want to recognize the effort that has been put in by our team to ensure that there is a proper level of understanding with respect to this. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, this morning I had a conversation with the Premier in advance of my remarks today and in advance of releasing a press release concerning the insurance bill, because I wanted him to know that it is our overall intention to try to make this minority situation work, and it is our overall intention to try to make this bill work. However, as it stands right now, we see this bill as having serious flaws, flaws that I hope will be able to be reconciled with discussions with the government and also through the Law Amendments Committee. We're looking forward to the opportunity for Nova Scotians to come forward and provide their comments about what exists in this legislation and how they're going to be affected.

It was the Liberal Party that provided some leadership about a year and a half ago, Mr. Speaker. It was the Liberal Party that said that rather than slough this matter off to the URB, we should deal with it in the House. That happened at a time when I was not the Leader of this Party, but I think in hindsight we recognize the wisdom of providing some clear leadership on this matter from an early stage.

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A year ago I appeared before the URB, when those hearings were ultimately called. At that time we spoke about the need for us to have a permanent consumer advocate. We spoke about the pressing problems that existed for many seniors in Nova Scotia and also for young people as well. We spoke again about the need for us to provide leadership. We didn't stick our heads in the sand and say, perhaps someday a solution will suddenly appear. We didn't rely on the old dogma that came from the NDP who relied on a national policy that's been well established for a long period of time, that same policy that was presented by Bob Rae, Premier of Ontario, a long time ago. Bob Rae campaigned on public auto insurance, Mr. Speaker, and at that time he, like this New Democratic Party, came forward and suggested that it's the best thing for the people of Ontario. But when the rubber hit the road, when the pragmatism of public auto insurance, the unworkability of it was examined by the Rae Government, it was clear to them that it was not ultimately workable.

We have other suggestions as well. There are many references by the New Democrats to the three western provinces that provide government insurance. That's of some interest. Unfortunately, for many Nova Scotians, this notion that all three provinces in the western part of this country that provide public insurance are in fact the same, but they aren't. We have the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba that are dominated by a no-fault system. Now the New Democrats oppose a no-fault system, they are squarely and utterly opposed to a no-fault system, however, how many Nova Scotians understand it when this Party continues to refer to public insurance and Manitoba's and Saskatchewan's model? They have yet to come clean to the people of Nova Scotia and say unequivocally that it is not possible to model Saskatchewan and Manitoba because the NDP are opposed to the position of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, they are saying squarely that they are against a no-fault system. How frustrating it must be for Nova Scotians to continue to hear that Party speak about public insurance from Saskatchewan and Manitoba when they are opposed to the Saskatchewan and Manitoba models. The only comparable system is clearly the British Columbia system. We know about the problems with respect to British Columbia. We've seen it over and over - the multi-million dollar bailouts that they've received from time to time and perhaps most troubling of all is that in Nova Scotia we have the benefit that they haven't had in New Brunswick. We have had the URB listen to expert testimony, listen to the testimony of Nova Scotians about what the problem is here in Nova Scotia. They said that the problem related to the intensity of the claims that people were receiving.

Undaunted by this, however, the NDP continued on its track, the dogmatic track of trying to ensure that government has all the answers for all the people all the time, let's just provide a public response whenever there's an opportunity to step on the foot of the private sector. This Party is committed to a private sector solution. We believe that it can work, but we recognize that it hasn't been working effectively for some period of time. What has been required is leadership.

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Madam Speaker, leadership is what this Party has provided. There has been only one Party that has provided clear leadership. It happened back at the end of May of last year when we came forward with one plan, a single plan that hasn't changed, and what has been interesting about that is that gradually in New Brunswick and with respect to the government, everyone seems to be coming toward the solutions that the Liberal Party in Nova Scotia presented to people back in late May of last year.

We won't rest on our laurels, Madam Speaker, we will try to make this bill even better but we identified, when we spoke about the insurance plan that we were coming forward with, is that we need to provide a cap on soft-tissue injuries. We weren't going to dilly-dally. First, for example, with respect to the government, I would say that there's the URB dodge that first came. There was the consumer's guide which resulted in no fix. There was a consumer advocate who after being appointed was made redundant. Then there was the freeze on rates that appeared to have no particular effect. Then there was the appointment of an actuary who seemed to simply photocopy the work she and others may have done in New Brunswick on an earlier date. What we have and what we need ultimately is a made-in-Nova Scotia solution.

When the bill was tabled last Friday, it was encouraging for our Party to see that the government has responded to our call for an across-the-board reduction for all consumers in Nova Scotia because we see that as the only way in which we can put money into the pockets of Nova Scotians but we were troubled, Madam Speaker, by other things. First and foremost we were troubled by the definition that has been provided under this legislation. Secondly, we were troubled and frankly surprised at the extent to which this legislation cuts into economic loss. Back during the election campaign the Premier was asked for his comments with respect to what the definition of minor injury might have meant. Minor injury is the term that has been used by the Conservatives since the beginning of their plan. When asked in press to give an example of what a minor injury meant, the Premier responded that it may involve muscle pain that gets better and according to a press report, he emphasized that the cap would only be on pain and suffering for that kind of injury and not on compensation for economic loss.

The industry for its benefit provides a newspaper advertisement that appears almost daily these days. Under thoughtful legislation it says that Nova Scotians need thoughtful legislation that would introduce new regulations to limit compensation for minor soft-tissue injuries while ensuring maximum benefits for the seriously injured. Minor soft-tissue injuries. It's clear from the position they were taking before the URB that it was minor soft-tissue injury concerns that they were speaking about when they spoke about the problem of rapidly-rising insurance rates here in Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, when the bill appeared, we find that the definition was photocopied from other jurisdictions. It says - it's very broad - a minor injury is an injury that does not result in a permanent serious disfigurement or a permanent serious impairment of an

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important bodily function caused by a continuing injury which is physical in nature. It goes on to say that serious impairment means an impairment that causes substantial interference with a person's ability to perform their usual daily activities or their regular employment.

Now you won't find very often that I associate myself with the comments of a member of the New Democratic Party, Mr. Steele with respect to this. But on this occasion, frankly, I did hear his comments about whether or not, were somebody to hypothetically break every bone in their body, would it or would it not constitute a minor injury. I heard the response from the minister responsible for insurance on the government side, that he thought that this was essentially ludicrous. I understand that to the example that I provided earlier today, about somebody having two broken legs and being in a coma for six months, that that, under this legislation, was considered a minor injury, he thought that this was silly.

Madam Speaker, I would invite him to read his own legislation in these circumstances. What does serious mean? And what does permanent mean? If we had somebody with two broken legs and they were in a coma for six months, they recover, more or less, fully, it's not a permanent injury. Therefore it does not qualify as a minor injury under this legislation. Therefore those people in those kinds of circumstances would find themselves with a cheque, when they woke up, for $2,500. That is not what was intended. I hope that it wasn't what was intended when these remarks were made by the government when they were looking to curry favour with Nova Scotia voters. It is unacceptable that this be put forward.

What we always contemplated was a cap on soft-tissue injuries. We did not contemplate such a significant interference with people's opportunity to recover for something that they are legitimately entitled to. This is not in the spirit of what was intended when the voters of Nova Scotia went to the polls on August 5th, and it will be the Liberal Party that makes sure that the government that earned government is held accountable for the comments that they made in the lead-up to the election, and that a minor injury is truly a minor injury. (Applause)

That's what the industry was asking for, and that is what we will insist on. This reminds me, your honour, when one reads this definition and sees that something needs to be both permanent and serious for it to not be captured by the definition of minor injury, one is reminded of the Black Knight scene in the Holy Grail, where, after losing a limb, the Black Knight says, 'tis but a scratch, and then when losing another limb, the famous line was, just a flesh wound. Well, those aren't just flesh wounds, those are things that if they were to happen to Nova Scotians would cut right into the operation of the family. We need to recognize that in these circumstances, Nova Scotians deserve reasonable compensation for reasonable injuries. That's a history that has been built up for a long period of time.

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Now it's not just the definition under this legislation that gives us some trouble, what surprised us most was that when we opened up this legislation we saw that there were significant savings to be incurred by the industry with respect to economic loss. For a long time there has been litigation in the courts of Nova Scotia and in the Supreme Court of Canada about the collateral benefit rule. The industry wanted to wipe it out, it wasn't, but it seems that this legislation does wipe it out. It ensures that consumers receive less, the industry keeps more in their pocket. We also have a provision whereby, under this legislation, income tax reductions will not be provided, the compensation to injured drivers will be minus income tax and other benefits. That, again, results in a benefit to the insurance companies and not to the injured driver.

[2:30 p.m.]

We have in Nova Scotia a tradition under our common law for sick leave benefits to be paid for by the insurance company of the delinquent party who is driving. Under the new legislation we see the sick leave benefits have been wiped out. We have recently established a homemaker/housekeeping benefit that would flow to and recognize the significant benefit that comes to a family and the significant loss that happens to a family when a homemaker loses their ability to provide care to the home. Again under this legislation, it appears that is lost again. One might expect that LTD costs may go up because under these provisions, the disability insurer is now carrying the loss of income burdens instead of the auto insurer.

We have a two-tiered system with respect to Section B benefits. Under Section B we now have a provision that suggests that if somebody can afford it, they can buy enhanced Section B benefits. In at least 50 per cent of those occasions, the benefit for having bought those Section B benefits, the enhanced medical benefits, is going to flow to the insurance company once again.

When we contemplated whether or not this legislation was going to cut into economic losses, clearly, this was not what Nova Scotians had bargained for. This cuts into the benefits that Nova Scotians thought that they weren't going to be sacrificing when they cast their vote on August 5th. We remain hopeful that something ultimately will work.

The definition under this legislation is the most troubling aspect, Madam Speaker. The definition drives the support that injured workers ultimately receive. We have a definition that effectively wipes out the opportunity for people who have been seriously injured to retain and instruct counsel, then where does it leave them? It leaves them without the opportunity to have an advocate - not just with respect to their Section A benefits, the personal injury benefits, the pain and suffering, but also it creates the possibility that they won't have an advocate for their substantial and important Section B benefits.

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If most of the people who have been injured in a car accident in Nova Scotia are going to be compensated just for $2,500 then you can be certain most of the people who have been injured in a car accident, almost all of them, will not be able to retain and instruct counsel so they will not have somebody on their side to say, your loss of income recovery should be greater, your medical benefits should be greater. It cuts out entirely the important role that advocates play on behalf of injured workers.

So where does that leave us at the end of the day? It leaves us with something that ultimately needs amendment. We remain committed to a private sector solution, but in order for that private sector solution to work, there needs to be some compromise. Without compromise, this legislation ultimately will fail. This may be the most significant early test for this minority government.

Our Party wants to make it work in the interest of all Nova Scotians. Many Nova Scotians won't care about all the fine details that we discuss in the back rooms and perhaps in Law Amendments Committee. What they care about is that they get reasonable compensation for reasonable rates. Hopefully many of them will be appearing before the Law Amendments to hear Bill No. 1. I look forward to their comments. Our Party looks forward to a constructive discussion with the government to ensure that the balance that is needed is ultimately there. We feel that we have the foundation for something that is ultimately workable. In order for that to happen, compromise is necessary. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Madam Speaker, while I listened intently to the Leader of the Liberal Party and his comments, I note that he spent a great deal of time on our plan as opposed to on the government's plan or on their own plan. I want to say that if there is one absolute truth in this House it's that there is no dogma greater than the idea that government can do absolutely nothing and that is the position of the government and of the Liberal Party. People are sick and tired of that. They want can-do government. They want solutions. They're tired of the notion of economic Darwinism that says we throw consumers to the wolves. They want solutions and they want government to take a leadership role. That's why we proposed public auto insurance - an auto insurance plan that works in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and in British Columbia - delivering the lowest and fairest auto insurance premiums to the consumers of those provinces.

The Leader of the Liberal Party is wrong when he says you can't use Manitoba and Saskatchewan as models. Of course you can, Madam Speaker, and it just demonstrates his lack of understanding of the system. It's too bad he hadn't taken me up on the tickets to go to Manitoba and actually see their system in action. He would be far better off for it, let me tell you. I can tell you what we have here is a proposal that we put forward that was supported by the Consumers Association of Canada, that was supported by the Coalition Against No-Fault. It was supported by organizations that don't kowtow to the industry, that

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don't support the insurance industry and their shareholders in Europe and the United States, but care about the interests of families, consumers and their families right here in Nova Scotia. That's who we care about. As always, the only thing that stands between the people of Nova Scotia and lower and fairer auto insurance premiums are the two Parties that sit in this Legislature beside us. That is what stands between the people of Nova Scotia.

Madam Speaker, this may as well have been called, rather than An Act to Amend the Laws Respecting Auto Insurance, it should have been called An Act to Serve the Best Interests of the Insurance Industry. It is a response to the industry and the industry only and not a response to the interests of consumers. In a nutshell, it takes yet more money out of the pockets of consumers, specifically those who are unfortunate enough to have had an injury, and it gives that money to the insurance companies.

The minister who drafted the bill and the regulations says that he wants to be fair. Well, Madam Speaker, this is fairness with a vengeance. It is about a piece of legislation that strips the right to sue for very serious injury and I suppose, to be fair, limits it to a very small amount of money, what I would consider to be a token amount of money. Now, I want you to think about this for just a second. Any injury, no matter how serious, that has no downstream effects will not be compensated on the basis of the facts of the case. For example, you could, as the Leader of the Liberal Party said, be in a coma and recover and as long as you recover, you get $2,500. I'm going to say more about this later because there is a point that I wanted to make and that is, this is simply an unwarranted restriction on the civil rights of the people of our province - the right to seek proper redress before an independent court based on the individual's facts.

So let's begin by ignoring the rhetoric of the government and their partners on the Liberal benches and the insurance industry and look at the substance of the bill and alternatives. Over the summer the Premier, the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates, the Leader of the Liberal Party and their candidates all complained bitterly about the prospect of public auto insurance. They said this is the set-up of unnecessary bureaucracy. This is going to be an expense to the government.

So what are they going to do instead? They're going to set up the Insurance Review Board - a bureaucracy that's going to have a chairman, a vice-chairman, seven other members. It's going to have an executive director. It's going to have all the trappings of their office. We have no idea what it's going to cost. So I'm going to ask the minister responsible to release what the salaries of the chairman, of the vice-chairman, of the executive director, what their salaries are going to be. I'm sure that the minister responsible for skyrocketing auto insurance rates wouldn't be adverse to releasing what start-up costs are going to be. I can't imagine that he would be adverse to that. After all, that's what he called for, and no matter how many times we told him exactly what it was going to cost, they refused to believe it.

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Madam Speaker, the other point, incidentally, is that all of those costs, all of those costs are going to be piled right back onto the back of the consumers. Whatever you charge the insurance companies, where are they going to go get it? They're going to go right back to the consumers to get it. That's the first point that ought to be made.

Now, I can't help but think that - I mean, the insurance companies and the government must be patting each other on the back and chuckling, if they're not laughing out loud, about the way that they have managed to manipulate this situation to the best interests of the government and of the industry. Because now they're going to set up this board with the chairman and the vice-chairman and the members, who are all going to be appointments from the government, and we know, given what their record has been over the past number of years, exactly where those people are going to come from. They're not going to go through the Human Resources Committee, like the other agencies, boards and commissions. Even when they did put appointments through the Human Resources Committee, they would only show you who the recommendation was, and they wouldn't even show you who applied for the positions. We can well see where that one is coming from.

The worst that can happen to the insurers is that they lose some premiums for a year, before they could apply for increases. That's the worst that can happen to them. In the meantime, they rake in the benefits from the caps on soft-tissue injuries. The government has now created a whole slew of ways for the industry to reap more money out of the policy itself.

Now I'm sure, with respect to the bureaucracy, the minister will say that the bureaucracy is necessary in order to make the legislation effective. You have to have somebody in place to monitor it. Well, I think you could divide that statement into two parts. First of all, when it comes to the question of injury compensation and the cap that's going to go on injuries, the $2,500, they're going to have absolutely no problem ensuring that that happens. Do you know why? Because the courts of the province are going to make sure it happens. Once the legislation is in place, the courts are going to look at it, they're going to look at the definition of a minor injury and they're going to apply that standard, and they're going to tell people, you get $2,500, no matter how serious you are. That's what they're going to do. They're going to do it. That's the maximum amount that you're going to receive.

They're not going to have any problem making that effective. The problem, of course, is that the other part, the part of keeping insurance rates down, well that's going to be much harder to make effective. My bet, Madam Speaker, is they're going to be just as effective as the freeze was that they brought in last year, which was not effective at all.

I want to give you an example of how this is going to work. The bill, for example, excludes the Facility Association. Under the terms of the bill, the Facility Association is not an insurer as defined in the bill. Any one of the thousands of Nova Scotians who have been placed in Facility will get no benefit whatsoever from this legislation. Some people, and the

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minister says, and he's right, will come out of Facility because some of the discriminatory practices that put them in there will no longer exist. It is true. Some people will come out, but many will not. All of those thousands of people will continue to see no benefit from this legislation and, in fact, they may see even higher rates as a result of this legislation.

[2:45 p.m.]

In this case, of course, the risk classification process says that you can't use certain discriminatory practices, but you can use kind of reasonable risk classifications and we still don't know what those are and, in fact, Madam Speaker, we don't get any disclosure of them. So we may never know what the reasonable risk classifications are and those could well land even more people in the Facility Association. So the industry at first instance is going to get a crack at putting forward to this Insurance Review Board risk classification systems and as long as they manage to avoid the minefields that are set out specifically, they're going to be able to set out those systems and we will have no idea what is in them.

In the first place there will be a reduction of 20 per cent. The minister is going to say you have to re-file your rates at 20 per cent lower than they were before. Now, I want to remind people that these are rates that have already gone up by 60 per cent or 65 per cent. So what they're essentially saying is that a 45 per cent increase in rates is okay, but we will roll them back 20 per cent and then in July of next year you can go marching right back to the review board and ask for an increase and as long as you can justify it on the basis of your financial statements - and, let's face it, the government has a hard enough time keeping track of its own finances, they're not going to be able to go to see ING, a multi-national financial services corporation headquartered in the Netherlands, and examine their books. They're going to have to rely on whatever it is that they file. Do you think for a second that they're going to file statements that say they are going to make billions of dollars? No way. They are going to flow through so many head office administrative expenses, you're never going to see anybody who made a profit on the insurance industry in this province, never, and they're going to keep justifying increases after increases after increases in the rate of insurance just as they have been doing over the last number of years.

The irony is that under Clause 12, Section 113D - and I think it's important to point out to you, Madam Speaker, that this goes directly to the principle of the bill - insurers will be entitled to provide coverage that is now available. It's part of your standard endorsement form. That's the way it works. In fact, in Nova Scotia you can go to any insurance broker anywhere and you buy the standard enforcement form, number one, and it's the same for everybody. The Leader of the Liberal Party's insurance is the same as mine. The Premier's insurance is the same. We all have the same insurance policy because it's mandated. You have to have it. What differs are the endorsements that you purchase. You can buy the SEF 44. In fact, I think in most places it's mandatory now too, but there are a number of standard endorsement forms that you can buy and it will change the amount that you pay and, of course, things like collision, things like comprehensive, depending on your car and auto, all

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of that changes (Interruption) Liability is not elective, the amount is, but the same basic policy is not, that's right.

The standard endorsement form is exactly the same for everybody. Now you're going to have to choose. You're going to have to say, we're going to take one set of options or another set of options. So some people will be able to get exactly the same coverage they have today except they're going to have to pay much more for it. They're not going to benefit from the rollback. In fact, their optional coverage is going to push the cost of their insurance up (Interruption) Yes, I did read the bill. You should read the bill. That's exactly what it says. This is a licence for the insurers to raise rates, but that is far from the end of the ways that people will be gouged and I want to illustrate this principle by looking at what would be a typical accident, Madam Speaker. If you can imagine looking at this bill and saying what would happen if there was an accident and we applied the principles that are in this bill.

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that there's disputed liability and parties haven't decided what it is, but they're not going to concede liability. So who is at fault is an issue that may be before the courts, but the insurers in their way will go ahead and try to negotiate anyway.

The Section B - the first thing that will happen after the accident is, let's just say you've been in a job for three years, you've completed your vacation for that year, you're driving down the street and somebody hits you, there's a dispute about who is at fault. The first thing that's going to happen, after you contact your employer and say that you can't come into work, is that you're going to have to decide whether or not you can afford to stay off work because you're going to look at your Section B coverage. Do you know what Section B is going to give you? No matter what your income is? Actually, if your income was way too low, you could get 80 per cent of your earnings, but basically, you're going to get $140 a week - $140 a week. Imagine if you were single, let alone a sole wage earner with a family, you're going to get $140 a week on which to live because that's what Section B says you're entitled to.

So, does this legislation fix the idea that you get $140 a week in recovery for lost wages? No. it allows you to give more money to the insurance company and buy optional coverage to increase Section B. If the purpose is to pull down the cost of insurance, this isn't going to do it. In fact, this is going to increase the cost of the insurance endorsement. So, you are going to get $140 a week. You're going to get coverages under the medical expenses section to cover things like physiotherapy and those sorts of things that you need in order to recover.

Let's just say you've suffered a moderate sprain of your spine so that you're completely incapacitated - maybe for weeks, maybe for months - and the rehab is going to be long and slow but your doctor says, I predict that you're going to have a complete recovery. You're going to be completely incapacitated - you can't go do your job, you can't

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pursue gainful employment, you can't rake the yard, you can't play with your kids, you can't participate in your family household. For all intents and purposes, the stuff of your life, the quality of your life, has been altered and maybe dramatically. But they predict that over the long term you're going to have a complete recovery. Under this legislation, that's a minor injury. It's a minor injury so you already know what your loss is, you already know what you're going to recover for pain and suffering. You know you will get $2,500.

But let's look at the other provisions of the policy. the other thing that you're not allowed to recover is non-monetary loss. Let's just talk about what would be non-monetary loss in this situation. Maybe I've been at this place for three years, maybe I've been a good employee, maybe the employer's been a good employer, they like what I'm doing - but after two or three weeks when I'm off work, the employer says to me, look, I gotta have somebody else, I can't wait for you to come back to work, you're going to be years maybe or months, but even if it's three months, I can't afford to wait. I have to hire somebody else, so I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to let you go. I'm going to have to let you go.

So, the employer - and they may be very compassionate people but the reality is they have to have an employee that comes to work every day, that does the work that needs to be done. They say, they have to hire somebody else so they go out and hire somebody else and now you've lost your job. You've lost your job so now what is your loss of earnings? Well, after you've lost your job, of course, you have no place to go for your earnings so what are you entitled to recover? Well, a court might say, the scale we would use is the wrongful dismissal scale. So, you've been there for three years, we'll give you a month for each year you were there so you can recover three months of your wages, based on economic loss. The loss of your job, well that's a non-monetary loss, we can't do anything about that because the legislation specifically restricts us from undertaking non-monetary loss. So this is a problem that they have.

Now you're stuck in a position where you're going to receive, under Section B, the $140 a week, you're going to receive some limited amount for economic loss, for loss of wages, you're going to receive $2,500 for your pain and suffering, and you think, well, at least there's nothing more they can do to us. They've taken away my right to recover for my job loss, they've taken away the right for me to recover for my pain and suffering, the disruption to my life. They have not allowed me to even live at a reasonable rate, because the Section B amounts are so low over the course of my injury. So there's nothing else they can do.

Well, that's not the case. There are still more ways that the government can put more money into the pockets of the insurers, because I will tell you what they do now. What they do now in this legislation is they legislate what's known as a discount rate for the cost of future care. So if you're injured and the opinion is that you're going to recover, it's not going to impair your ability to do your job. But, you're going to need care into the future, maybe physiotherapy or some other kind of care going on into the future. This is what the

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government is going to do. The government is going to say, we are going to discount the amount that you are able to receive by 3.5 per cent.

I want to say first of all that discount rates are not unusual, in fact the courts do them already. Those of us who have practised in the courts of this province know that it's 2.5 per cent and that is in the Civil Procedure Act. So, in this regard, Madam Speaker, I want to table a little illustration of what that 1 per cent change will mean to the insurers and to the consumers, because the impact of the discount rate on the recovery of future pecuniary losses, care costs, is not insignificant. For example, a 30-year-old faced with 20 years of future care costs of $10,000. The discount rate - that means $10,000 a year is what it's going to take in order to provide them with their care - at a 2.5 per cent discount rate, the present value of supplying that care over their lifetime is $157,670. At 3.5 per cent, the present value is $144,390, putting an additional $13,280 into the pockets of the insurance company.

I want you to think about that. That means that if you need care going into the future, the government decides that they're going to amend the discount rate so that you are not going to get a sufficient amount of money to actually pay for the care that you're going to need or receive in the years to come. They're going to do it by legislation. Now, the technicalities of how this is decided, Madam Speaker, if you're interested, are simply this, when you get an award for future care, the court looks at a couple of factors. They look at, well, if we gave you the money today, you would be able to invest it and you would receive interest on that over time. You have to account for that because you can invest that money and therefore you don't need to get quite as much today as you would otherwise, if you didn't invest it. So they look at that. They say, well, the average bond rate is somewhere in the vicinity of 5.5 per cent.

Well, KPMG, in their study, assumes that the other discounting factor is inflation. So from the 5.5 per cent, they look at inflation and they say it's going to run at 2 per cent. They come up with a discount amount of 3.5 per cent. Well that's unreasonable. That is an unreasonable calculation, because inflation runs closer to 3 per cent. The courts have had that experience, and that's why, in the Civil Procedure Act, they set out a 2.5 per cent discount rate. The only reason to change it was if the government arbitrarily decided that this was a way to put more money into the pockets of insurance companies.

Over the course of the debate on this and on the idea of caps, we have heard a lot of comparisons about no-fault and I think it is an illustration of the misunderstanding of this legislation as a comparison to no-fault. The members opposite may want to know this is not no-fault. This is worse than no-fault and why is this worse than no-fault? Well, this is worse than no-fault because what it does is it simply caps the benefit that is available and it doesn't give anything back to consumers on the other side of the equation. In a no-fault system what happens is this. People give up their right to sue for pain and suffering. In return for that in the no-fault system, people get compensated on both sides of the accident. So they don't ask

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who's at fault. If you're injured in a motor vehicle accident, you get paid. In our system that's not what happens.

[3:00 p.m.]

Our system is simply this. If you hit me, you're at fault. Even if you're injured, I'm the only one who gets paid. You don't get paid. In a no-fault system what is compensated for is the injury, not the cause. No, because they're accidents, right, this is the theory, they're accidents. Nobody plans to have a car accident. I mean how many times did I have people come into my office when I was practising and say I only looked away for a second. They didn't plan to miss the stop sign and put their car in the middle of somebody else's. They didn't plan to be adjusting the radio and then ran into the back of somebody. They didn't plan that. It happened. That's why they're called accidents and the theory of no-fault went, well, you shouldn't economically impoverish someone simply because there was an accident.

So, in no-fault, they take the benefits from one side of the accident and they distribute them on both. That's why the notion that no-fault in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, or wherever, is somehow cheaper is just simply false. In fact, if you talked to the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, they will tell you that they found no savings as a result of the change to no-fault, and there are many people there who wish they could go back to the tort system, and they may well yet. You might also point out that Manitoba ran for years and years under the tort system and it was the Tories who changed the tort system to the no-fault system, not the NDP.

I'm always amused by it because since those systems have been brought in, there have been Liberal Governments, there have been Tory Governments in those provinces, and they kept public auto insurance. Why? They kept it because they provided the lowest and fairest rates anywhere in the country. You only have to look to the Liberals in B.C., who came in and dogmatically said, as the Socreds did, we're going to get rid of public auto, it's a curse. They came in, they got into office and then do you know what they said? I'm a believer, this is the best system. So if you want to talk about the dogmatism of the Parties, it's not us that's being dogmatic, we're just simply recognizing the reality.

This is not a no-fault system. This is worse than no-fault because it strips a fundamental civil liberty of individuals - the right to have their case heard before an indicated adjudicator in the courts of our province. It strips that right from them and it gives them absolutely nothing in return. What it does is it lays down, it rolls over for the benefit of the insurance companies and that's all it does and it is the plan that was put forward by the government and supported by the Liberals over the course of the election campaign.

Now, what is the legislation going to do? What is it going to do when it's actually implemented? Well, I will tell you what it's going to do. It's going to cut out some litigation, but it's going to move the litigation from the question of what it is - from the question of

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liability - to the question of whether or not you can meet the threshold as a minor injury. You're going to see litigation around the question of what a serious impairment is, you know, or whatever other definitions that the Liberals eventually manage to wring out of the government and that's going to happen. But it is akin, Madam Speaker, to fighting over a dollar while the insurance companies are running off with millions. It's a sideshow because they've already made the decision. They've already decided that their best interests are akin to what's in the best interests of the insurance industry. What's good for the insurance industry is good for the people of Nova Scotia - that might as well be the mantra of the Liberal Party and of the government. That's the way they view the world.

It's not their fault. It's their nature. The old story about the scorpion on the back of the frog - the scorpion says to the frog, get me to the other side of the pond. The frog says, you might sting me and I would drown. Why would I do that if I'm going to be on your back? If I did that I would drown too. So the frog says good point, get on my back. The frog gets out in the middle of the pond and the scorpion stings him and he's paralysed. In disbelief and as he's sinking to his death he says to the scorpion, why did you sting me? Now we're both going to die. The scorpion says, I can't help it - it's in my nature. That's exactly what the Liberals are like, that's exactly what the Tories are about. They don't care. They're dogmatically wed to the idea that government cannot answer anybody's problem and they have to turn everything over to people who want to benefit at the expense of consumers and their families. They can't help it, it's just in their nature.

Now, the reality is that all of this legislation, bureaucracy, the difficulties that I've pointed out that will accrue to people who are injured in this province - all of this could have been avoided. It could have been avoided with a public auto insurance program that would bring lower rates, improved benefits and interestingly enough, build an industry in this province that we could be proud of; one that would be based here, that would have a head office here, that wouldn't pay the salaries of executive directors in the Netherlands and in England and in the United States. We could have brought people home to Nova Scotia - people in the insurance industry who are working in other parts of the country. They could have come here and had jobs here, could have put that money back into our own economy. We could have used the loss reserves to buy municipal bonds here that would have improved the lives of our own communities.

Instead, the government and their supporters in the Liberal Party say no, what we're going to do instead is turn this over to the industry so they can do what's in their best interest regardless of what is in the best interest of the people of Nova Scotia.

The fervent hope of the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance and his friends in the Conservative Party and the fervent hope of the Liberal Leader and his caucus is that the insurance problem goes away. They hope that somehow by a miracle over the next year, the insurance companies decide they're getting a lot of heat in Nova Scotia because the

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NDP is really kicking up a fuss over this so maybe we'll lower rates long enough to get past the next election. That's what they're really, really hoping for.

My bet is this - my bet is that they're sadly mistaken, Madam Speaker, sadly mistaken. I expect that over the next couple of years the Liberals and the Tories will do everything in their power to try to explain away their inaction. They will quibble over minor parts of the bill and say if we did it this way people would be better off. But they won't be. They won't be. This is a seriously flawed - even to the extent that it tries to reorganize the Insurance Act to help people under Section B.

Long before the insurance problem arose, I had been raising in this House the question of Section B benefits because Section B benefits haven't been just unfair for the last year or two years. When I came into this House in 1998, I said one of the things that we should be doing is amending the Insurance Act so that we can change the Section B benefits. While I'm on that topic, I'd like to say this about something that the government did do - they took Section B out of the Act and they made it part of the regulations. This is something I very much agree with. Why? Because you shouldn't have to bring in a bill every time you want to change the benefits in Section B. They should be changed routinely, year after year, to reflect the economic realities of the province. That should have been in the regulations to start with. I never understood why it was in the legislation, so I agree with that.

The problem, of course, is they don't actually increase the benefits. They only increase the benefits if you want to pay more, which is exactly the problem they're trying to address. The reality is there is very little in this bill and, as I have said and will say again, this bill will gouge consumers, it's a sell-out to the insurance industry. There is very little in it of merit. It is not what we would do, and I think that's clear. The Leader of the Liberal Party understands, it's not what we would do; and the government minister responsible for insurance knows it is not what we would do, but as the member for Richmond pointed out the other day in his . . .


MR. DEXTER: Well, I guess we could call it a speech, dissertation - as he pointed out, the Parties that support the insurance industry hold the majority in this House. They ran on it, they got elected on it, so therefore they have a right to pass legislation in this House. I don't disagree with that.

I want to tell the Premier and the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates that our intention is to hold the government responsible on its legislation - that's what we're here for. Our members are going to speak on the merit of the legislation and fulfill their role as the Official Opposition; we are going to take every opportunity to try to improve the bill, even though we disagree with it, because that's our responsibility. If that means supporting Liberal amendments in the amendment process, we will do that. We will put

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forward our own, and we will look for their support. We are going to argue about what is necessary to make this bill better, even if we decide in the end to vote against it because we would be voting against a principle.

Our responsibility is to make sure that what goes into the bill, even if we disagree with it, is the best that it can possibly be, so when that legislation takes effect, the effect it's going to have on the lives of people of Nova Scotia is as positive as is possible in the circumstances. That's what we're going to do. We are not going to stand here and do everything in our power to obfuscate and to deny the legitimacy of the government and of the Third Party, because the reality is, Madam Speaker, this legislation is inevitably going to pass. At some point in time the bells are going to ring, people are going to come in here and take their places, and so long as the two Parties that support the insurance industry support the bill, it will pass.

Our job is to take our responsibility seriously and try to improve the product that comes out of this House, and that's what we intend to do. Madam Speaker, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to have joined in the debate on this bill today. I look forward to the Law Amendments Committee process, I look forward to the further readings on this bill. I am sure that it is being monitored carefully outside of here, and I am sure that the Insurance Bureau of Canada is monitoring all of this very carefully to make sure that the government and the Liberals do exactly what they want and that the amendments that do come through are not too harsh on their interests. Where it's going to fall in the end, we shall see. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on this particular bill, Bill No. 1, an Act to Amend the Laws Respecting Automobile Insurance. As our Leader has indicated, we do have some concerns about this particular piece of legislation. We have concerns that certainly, if addressed, would make it workable for the people of Nova Scotia. Is it a perfect scenario? I don't think so. I hear members of the NDP caucus saying, that's why they're here, to bring in public auto insurance. Unlike those who live in a world that believes that everything is in a Utopian state because they advocate a particular policy position, that's not the way it works in Nova Scotia. We come with a tradition of strong history and commitment to the people of Nova Scotia from all different political Parties. If we look at the history of this province, we have generated perhaps some of the best legislation that has ever been generated out of any jurisdiction in Canada.

[3:15 p.m.]

I would suggest, Madam Speaker, that this public auto versus private auto insurance issue, because that's essentially what it's coming down to, is another test of the will of the people of Nova Scotia, through their respective elected officials, to meet the needs of the

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people of Nova Scotia. To meet the needs of the taxpayers, to meet the needs of the consumers, to meet those who have been injuriously affected by the actions of the insurance companies. Those who have been negligent. Those who have been cheating the system. Those who respectfully deserve their fair share commensurate with the injuries and the damages to their person, to their property and indeed to their lives in general. Not to be repetitive because my colleague, the member for Richmond, and indeed the Leader of our caucus, have outlined some of the key points of concern that we have with this legislation.

I have no problem, Madam Speaker, supporting this legislation to go on to the Law Amendments Committee, to hear what the people of Nova Scotia have to say, because this is the only jurisdiction in Canada where any Nova Scotian can walk in off the street and make representation. Whether they support the legislation, whether they oppose the legislation, whether they propose to make amendments, or what have you. It is probably one of the most cherished rights that we have been provided through some of our forefathers, some of whom we see here pictured on the wall, such as Joseph Howe.

Madam Speaker, I believe that just by the mere presence of this legislation being on the order table, we are now bringing accountability into the process with all stakeholders and, most importantly, the insurance companies who may or may not be taking advantage of some very difficult situations. I put that on the table for the benefit of the Leader of the socialist Party because over the years, not once since that member has stood in his place in this Legislature has he ever made representation before the Utility and Review Board on behalf of the consumers of Nova Scotia. Not once, not once with the key points that he says are key to protecting consumers and keeping the rates down has he ever gone before the Utility and Review Board and made presentation on those vital issues. Why not?

Because, Madam Speaker, at the eleventh hour, when he knew that the Liberal caucus was going to make representation, he sent off one of his caucus colleagues, the member for Cape Breton Centre, to go in and make representation, but all the details weren't there, they were not there. All the vital information that the Leader of the Opposition so eloquently waxes here today was not present there to help the panel of the Utility and Review Board to digest and absorb and consider the facts that were put forth. Why? Maybe he didn't want that. Maybe it wasn't politically popular. It's much easier to be a champion to everybody about everything all the time and then to believe that you never make any mistakes. Because if you were to listen and believe what the Leader of the socialist Party said, then all Liberals and all Tories in this province are bad people. They're just evil people, if you listen and buy in to that type of psychology. Have you ever listened? The resolution that was before the House yesterday - condemn people we don't even know. For what reason? We can take issue on the principle of certain issues, but you don't condemn people personally because you disagree with them.

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Madam Speaker, I would expect that members of the NDP caucus should show the same respect as members of the other caucus would show respect to people. Just because you disagree with them, you don't have to consider them to be bad people, evil and working in some kind of a diabolical plot to cheat the people of Nova Scotia out of their money. I don't believe that for a minute.

Madam Speaker, during the election campaign, the Leader of the socialist Party said that we could reduce insurance rates because we could cut back the administration cost by anywhere from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. All of a sudden that wove into, we're going to reduce rates by 30 per cent to 50 per cent for every Nova Scotian. That's the message. I would dare say I would love to see the details of the presentation that he would sign on the dotted line saying that he would guarantee a 30 per cent to 50 per cent rate to every Nova Scotian. I will table this.

MADAM SPEAKER: Correct. Thank you.

MR. MACKINNON: Absolutely. I would think that most Nova Scotians would have this. (Interruptions) Perhaps if I could hold it until I'm finished my dissertation.


MR. MACKINNON: Well, could I at least have a copy of it and let a copy go, Madam Speaker? That is the Rule of the House. (Interruptions) It's a sensitive issue. She's partial to certain colours. Madam Speaker, a little levity doesn't hurt in here sometimes.

The fact of the matter is, where is the detail that the Leader of the New Democratic Party can go around and tell every Nova Scotian that he is going to guarantee a minimum of a 30 per cent decrease in their insurance, and perhaps a 50 per cent decrease? Well, it doesn't show up in their legislation. I've read the five lines in your legislation, very short on detail; very short. All the NDP caucus is proposing for this wonderful said document for public insurance, five lines, that's the essence of their document for public auto insurance, they're going to appoint a commissioner to come back to the Legislature within six months with a proposal for the establishment. There's no guarantee. Another waste of time.

In other words, just as we've heard from the Leader of the socialist Party, he's trying to be on both sides of the issue at the same time. He doesn't want to ruffle too many feathers in the business community, because he may lose some votes, he may lose, perhaps, some contributions to the NDP. On the other hand, he has to be seen as being the champion of the downtrodden, the oppressed, the suppressed, the repressed, the compressed, you name it and he's going to be on the side of the angels. But the fact of the matter is, there is no detail, there's no substance to what the NDP has proposed. Perhaps there never was any.

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Madam Speaker, it's just like the $2 million cost of setting up public auto insurance. Now he and his caucus have to be the only people in Nova Scotia who believe that you can set up a province-wide insurance scheme for $2 million. I don't know what's in the air in that caucus room over there, but I'm telling you it's not logic. The most conservative estimates - small c - are $100 million, and on the outside somewhere upwards of $300 million. So where does he get the $2 million? Why hasn't he provided that detail to the people of Nova Scotia? Why? I will suggest because it's not there and he knows it's not there. He's avoided that through his entire dissertation, he's avoided it in his legislation. Why? Because they know. It sounds good. Think about it, any reasoned individual would support public auto insurance if they knew clearly what the NDP was saying was what you could count on, what you could depend on, what you could trust and believe to be true.

If somebody were going to say the member for Cape Breton West is going to get 50 per cent of his insurance premiums back, why wouldn't I support it? You'd have to have rocks in your head not to. That's the same for anybody. But, do you know why they don't get into detail? It's because they know deep down it's not there. It's not there.

We talked about the tort system and the no-fault system, but we have a no-fault system here in Nova Scotia, the workers' compensation system. Well, well, well. Remember back in 1998 when I was Minister of Labour, and we proposed to start helping the workers for Nova Scotia? The workers. Let's forget about industry because the NDP, their lights will only come on when you say something about a certain segment of society and the rest, they don't want to hear. Well, at that time there was an exemption in the Workers' Compensation Act for non-Nova Scotia firms. They did not have to pay workers' compensation premiums for Nova Scotia for up to six months after they came to Nova Scotia, either for a contract - let's say to refurbish Province House or build an office tower or whatever. Nova Scotia firms had to do it within, what, three working days? Well, who was the only Party in Nova Scotia that refused to support that initiative? The NDP.

We had construction workers across this province, we had carpenters, electricians, plumbers, pipe fitters, you name it, who were protesting because they couldn't get to work on certain construction sites for firms that were coming from outside of Nova Scotia because the non-Nova Scotia firms were bringing in their own construction workers. Why? Because it was cheaper for them to bid on these contracts and the Nova Scotia firms couldn't compete. The unionized labour couldn't get on the jobs because the firms from outside were bringing in their organized labour. What did the NDP say? Tough luck. We support the non-Nova Scotia firms.

Check the contributions to the NDP in the last number of years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member that the debate before the House at this time is Bill No. 1, or it was when I left, which is a government bill. So I would ask the honourable member to bring his comments

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back to the general principle of Bill No. 1, the Automobile Insurance Reform Act please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, thank you. The fact of the matter is, workers' compensation is a no-fault insurance scheme. It's essentially a parallel to what the NDP are proposing, and that's why I felt it was important to outline the necessity of the cause-and-effect relationships and the decisions that you make that will impact on the people of Nova Scotia and whose loyalties are where and why?

It's very important, because this has a profound impact for the people of Nova Scotia. That's why you have to examine the meat of what's happening behind the scenes here. That public insurance system, the WCB, was a classic example of where the socialist Party let down the people of Nova Scotia. In much the same vein that they will let them down should they be able to run away with this scheme that they have here today.

What the NDP Leader fails to mention is that in British Columbia we have the tort system. (Interruption) That's correct. If the member for Hants East would like to start drawing parallels from one to the other, maybe we'll just keep going on that vein.

Let's look at Saskatchewan. Let's pick the young farmer who was killed not more than a year or so ago, about two years ago, and just recently there was a court settlement. This young man, so the story goes, it's either in Maclean's or Time Magazine, just a recent issue this year. I will make it available for the honourable member for Dartmouth North. They're very, very captivated by the detail of my speech as you can tell.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this young man was about to take over his parents' farming operation. It was a multi-million dollar operation and because his parents were getting near the retirement mode, or they wanted to turn their operation over, he was in the process of being groomed and trained for the management and to take over their farm operation. Everything was going to be essentially his operation. He had an unfortunate accident, very unfortunate. He was killed at an intersection and through this public no-fault insurance system, do you know what the death benefits were for this young man's family - $10,000. That's the cap under the public system in Saskatchewan that this man's family was able to receive. So, yes, they lost a family member. They lost a tremendous source of income. The whole family business started to evaporate after that. Is that what we want? Do we want to close the door on families like this?

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There are many Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, who would be caught in a very vulnerable state under a socialist plan. The Leader of the NDP, in talking in regard to Bill No. 1, talks about dogma and he said sticking to the principles and the philosophies because he has aligned the Tories and the NDP as essentially the same philosophy. Look at what the NDP philosophy stands for. Look at the principles of their Party and their philosophical policy. It's to eliminate any and all forms of capitalism. That's it. It's in document form. Look in Saskatchewan, the very model that they hold up, they want to eradicate all forms of capitalism. They talk about it like a dirty word.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Chebucto noted earlier today in the local news that the cost of Hurricane Juan would be somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million. I don't know where he got the figures. It could be more, it could be less, I don't have the special talents he does to be able to come up with those figures, but if we had a public insurance scheme, and we're just talking auto insurance now, what about home insurance? What about professional liability insurance? What about insurance on recreational vehicles, you know, ATVs, snowmobiles and what have you? What about insurance for volunteer fire departments? It goes on and on and on - for farmers, for truckers, for fishermen. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Under that scheme, if they're talking no-fault, then the government or the taxpayers of this province could very easily be on the hook for $100 million if the system wasn't up and running in sufficient form to be able to generate the contingency fees to be able to cushion the blow. Is that what the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto is proposing, I don't know, but it all comes down to money at the end of the day. The people of Nova Scotia don't mind paying a fair rate for their insurance if they are going to get a reasonable amount of coverage to ensure that they will receive some protection, some benefits in the event of an accident, automobile accident, whether they slide off the road because of bad road conditions or somebody drives into them or what. But they do take offence to the fact that they feel like they have been gouged. I think there are processes to ensure that accountability.

This is part of it, and I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that the Leader of the NDP had ample opportunity to bring all that minute detail before the Utility and Review Board, in fact, before his colleagues in this House in the last session, long before it seemed to spiral out of control. Maybe he just wanted to use this for political posturing. I don't know; I just don't know - only he can answer that question. (Interruption) There is such a thing as due diligence and we all have a shared responsibility here, whether we are on the government side or the Opposition side. So crackling from the corner certainly won't answer any of the problems, it won't address any of the problems that we have here in Nova Scotia.

I know in my constituency some of the major concerns people have are the deplorable road conditions. There have been, I would submit, as many accidents in the last year in my constituency because of poor road conditions than there were in the previous10 years. Almost

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on a weekly basis I would get one, perhaps two calls, from motorists saying, look, I just wrecked the front end of my car because of bad potholes, or they may have ripped off their muffler or some damage to their car, the drivetrain or whatever. This is a regular occurrence these days. Has the government given any consideration to adopting that 10-year plan that they so famously claim that was in the famous Tory blue book, blue book one, because, Mr. Speaker, had they done that, they wouldn't have had to put the same promise in blue book two.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member, again, to bring his comments back to Bill No. 1, which is before the House, and obviously the principles of Bill No. 1, which are the automobile insurance laws.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, if we had better roads, there is apt to be less accidents, less insurance claims. That's as simple as we can make it. And if the government had done what it said it was going to do, then perhaps we may not have even been here today debating this very piece of legislation. In part, it's a major contributing factor and anyone in rural Nova Scotia knows that the deplorable road conditions are having an impact on the insurance rates of this province. So that is a major concern.

Mr. Speaker, there is perhaps considerable opportunity for the people of Nova Scotia to come before the Law Amendments Committee and make their concerns known. Earlier today I had occasion to speak to a fairly prominent business lady in my constituency and I asked her, I said, how are things going with your insurance rates on your fleet of trucks? She said, not so good, we just got hit with a 40 per cent increase. Now that's rather substantial and anyone who has been in the trucking industry, even if you had just one tractor-trailer, the cost is just insurmountable for some because a gallon of diesel fuel at premium rate today would be about $3.09. Now the cost of operating the truck, when you take in the mortgage payments, you take in insurance, you take in depreciation, repairs, the cost of fuel, the licensing fees going from one jurisdiction to the other, it doesn't take long to find that in many cases the small private independent truckers in this province are indeed just barely keeping their head above water, and I'm sure that's the same in just about any industry in Nova Scotia.

So, Mr. Speaker, this particular piece of legislation has the potential to do something good and I believe that. Is it going to be perfect? I don't believe so. Will it correct some of the errors and omissions of what has transpired over the last few years? I believe it will, if it's given the opportunity, particularly with the points that were made by our Leader, the member for Halifax Citadel and, indeed, my colleague, the member for Richmond. I think it would be ill-advised to suggest that we're going to be like an ostrich and bury our head in the sand and say no, that's not what we want and we're not going to deal with anything else. At least the Leader of the NDP acknowledged that there is some good to this particular piece of legislation and that he will try to improve on it, unlike some of their previous tests on public legislation.

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Mr. Speaker, with that, I am looking forward to the deliberations that will transpire at the Law Amendments Committee. I certainly want to underline, in the strongest possible fashion, the conditions of the roads in the province are having a major impact for the people of Nova Scotia. The damages to their vehicles, the insurance costs are a direct result of that. The government has to bear a lot of the responsibility. That's why it was important to outline the fact that it was a commitment of the government in the last two elections, that this is what they were going to do. They didn't do it and they've remained very secretive about what their 10-year plan is. Now they've downgraded it - it's like going from a hurricane down to a light wind - they've downgraded the importance of it from one policy paper to the next, but it is having a major impact for the people, the motorists in my constituency. I would ask that the government make note of that, as well, in the course of this particular piece of legislation. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, over the last year and a half a lot of the public policy debate in this province has focused on the issue of increasing automobile insurance rates and what can be done about it. Indeed, it has been an issue on which all three Parties have worked, but in different ways. Our suggestions, our analyses, our solutions have set us apart, that is our analyses and solutions have set the three Parties apart, distinguished them.

Of course it's not just in Nova Scotia that this has been an issue. We saw it as an election issue in New Brunswick - and of course we saw the results of the election in New Brunswick. It's currently an election issue in Newfoundland and, as we speak, voters in Ontario are going to the polls, and one of the issues that they've been wrestling with in the last month has been the issue of automobile insurance rates. Clearly it wasn't the only issue, clearly it wasn't the only issue in the other two provinces, and clearly it wasn't the only issue in our province, but it was an issue which has preoccupied all three Parties and preoccupied very many members of the public over the last year and a half.

It has preoccupied members of the public for very good reasons. What we have in front of us now, with Bill No. 1, from the newly elected minority government is their attempt at a solution. We also have in front of us, of course, Bill No. 4, which comes from our Party, the Official Opposition, that sets out what is our view. There is no third bill in front of this House from the Third Party. In fact, the bill that we have, Bill No. 1, that comes from a Progressive Conservative Minister responsible for the Insurance Act is in reality, of course, a Liberal bill.

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[3:45 p.m.]

It's not a Tory bill, and the reason it is not a Progressive Conservative bill is that the position of the Progressive Conservative Government was articulated by the minister and his Premier time and again over the last year and a half, and that position was that although they fervently hoped that there would be a reduction in the huge rates of increase that consumers have had to deal with, they intended to achieve that reduction by persuasion. They were not interested in mandatory legislation. They were not interested in bringing forward exactly the kind of bill that Bill No. 1 is, that is to say legislation that, on the face of it, requires the insurance companies to reduce and reduce by 20 per cent the premiums. That, in fact, was the position of the Liberal Party. They used a different percentage, they talked about 15 per cent, but they spoke about mandatory legislation.

It was only late in the election campaign in Nova Scotia that the Premier spoke about the possibility of bringing in mandatory legislation. After the election, with the results that put his Party in the position of having the minority, he was faced with a dilemma. Clearly there was huge public pressure to do something effective about automobile insurance. What was he to do? Well, in a minority government where there are three Parties, the instinct of the government will be to try to partner with one of the two Parties that might have a position fairly close to its own. In this case, it was the Liberal Party. In this case, the government essentially brought forward the kind of bill that the Liberals said that they would bring forward.

Because I regard this as essentially a Liberal bill, I've been thinking, Mr. Speaker, about some of the Liberal legacy that is closely parallel to what it is that we are dealing with. Who can forget the P3 arrangements of the Liberal Government with respect to schools? P3, we should recall, stands for public-private partnerships. But what a public-private partnership we see in Bill No. 1. Isn't it just another example of a public-private partnership. In this case, the public sector, through this House, is being asked to put into law the kind of legislation that the insurance companies themselves would have gone for if they had been the effective government of this province. That's quite a P3 arrangement, that's quite a public-private partnership.

So this issue, over the last year and a half, has certainly set the three Parties apart. Yet one of the Parties, the government, has now moved to the position of the Third Party. It was our Party that has maintained our position. Our position is the distinct position. Our position is the position that says that there is a better alternative. Our Party is the Party that says that there exists a different model. Our Party is the Party that says that Bill No. 1 won't work. We have said this time and again. We said it before the election, we said it during the election, and we're saying it now, after the election. The kind of arrangements that are manifested in Bill No. 1 will not deliver to the consumers of Nova Scotia the kind of rate relief that they want and that they deserve and that they could have if the public system were adopted in this province.

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To take that language of P3, there are three other Ps that I think we could keep in mind when we turn our minds to the issue of automobile insurance. They are profits, premiums and payouts. When we think about the insurance industry, those are the main financial components of that industry - profits, premiums and payouts - easy to remember, easy to focus on, and they lead to a striking difference of approach.

Let's consider why it is that we even have Bill No. 1 in front of us at all. We have this bill because consumers have been complaining about the ever-increasing costs of buying what is a legislated, mandated product. Remember this is not a purely optional product for the consumer. The use of some form of automobile is so pervasive in our society that virtually everyone has one. What the law says is, if you're going to drive a car, or if you're going to drive a truck, if you're going to drive any form of motorized vehicle, you must purchase insurance. It is a mandatory purchase and there are penalties for driving a motor vehicle without insurance. Indeed Bill No. 1 proposes to increase very severely the penalties for driving without insurance, but that's the core problem. The core problem is one that consumers have raised. They have been on the receiving end of the huge increase in premiums. That's the problem.

Why, we then have to ask ourselves, has there been such a huge increase in premiums? The insurance companies, individually and through their representative collective body, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, have let us know that in their view the reason they have been obliged, they say obliged, to increase premiums is because of the payouts. They don't mention, or they do only to complain about them, the third P, the profits. They're focusing on the payouts. The consumers are focusing on the premiums and we have brought the attention of the public several times to that third P - the profits. We have to keep all three of these elements in mind because to cut to the chase, in the view of our Party, if one of those three elements of the finances of automobile insurance as a business has to change, then what should give is not the payouts. What should give is not the premiums. What has to give is the element of profits. That's why if we are forced to do something about this, and I say forced because I think that's the right word, it's consumer-driven. The consumers have spoken, but these three Parties in this House have heard them differently, but we are forced now to deal with it and our solution says that where we have to come to grips with the financial interactions of this industry, we don't choose, as the government and the Third Party have done, to put profits ahead of the interests of the general public. That's the wrong policy choice and that's what this bill is about.

This bill is about making the wrong policy choice. This bill is about saying that given some kind of financial squeeze, we, the government, supported by the Third Party, are choosing to keep in place the existing system along with its profits for the privately owned companies and we're going to do this by squeezing the customer through reducing the payouts. That's what this bill says. It's not hard to read. It's in fancy legal language. It has lots of regulations that have been drafted and put in front of us, but that's what this bill says.

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This bill says profits come before the customers that in the squeeze, we're going to squeeze the drivers, the public in Nova Scotia, and we're going to do it through limiting their payouts.

Average citizens are not fooled by this. They know that's exactly what's going on. I was struck particularly by a turn of phrase that I heard prior to the election but during the last year when there was extensive public debate about auto insurance. It was a phrase that came from a representative of the Coalition Against No-Fault Insurance. It was Susan Hanrahan in a public forum at Mount Saint Vincent University. She said - because she knew at that time, what the New Brunswick model was and how likely it was that the Nova Scotia Government would find the New Brunswick model attractive - the result is going to be that the deductible on your body is going to be bigger than the deductible on your car. You know what? She's exactly right. That's what $2,500 is - it means that the deductible on your body when you're injured, is going to be bigger than the deductible on your car when it's injured. Is that fair? Is that what the public of Nova Scotia wants? I do not think so.

Mr. Speaker, I want to be fair, since it's come up in the remarks of other speakers about what the alternative is that has been put forward by our Party. That can be easily summed up in a phrase that is easily recalled - non-profit, no caps. I heard confusion in the remarks, I think particularly the member for Cape Breton West who suggested that public systems automatically mean no-fault. That's not true. He was either explicit on that or certainly implied it. I want no one at home to make that confusion because that is not the position of this Party. Our position is non-profit, no caps; and no caps does not mean no-fault. Caps is what Bill No. 1 is all about. That means a cap on the benefit that will be paid to the injured individual.

We're not talking here about caps on the benefits to be paid in the case of property damage. We're talking about damage to your body, pain and suffering. That's what this is about, pain and suffering. That's where the cap is going to be. So I just want to reiterate that point - the system that we're proposing, as the only effective alternative, is one that is not a no-fault system. Non-profit, no caps.

Now, let's get back to the basic question of why it is that the government has fought to bring forward this bill. It was forced to it because of consumer outrage, because consumers felt that they were being dealt with in an unfair fashion by insurance companies.

As we all know, various steps have been taken prior to Bill No. 1. There was a lot of debate in this House, there was, after we endlessly chased the government to do it, a reference to the Utility and Review Board for them to scrutinize the rates that the insurance companies were charging. We know that when the Utility and Review Board was asked to think about it, that they did make some comments about this question of soft-tissue injuries. As we recall, this is at the core of what the insurance companies are saying. It's at the core of what leads to Bill No. 1. Insurance companies are saying soft-tissue injury awards are much too high. Therefore, our costs are too high. Therefore we're losing money on our

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investments on our business in Nova Scotia. Therefore we have to put up premiums. That is their story, that is what they keep repeating and essentially at the core of it is some kind of suggestion that courts have been too generous in their awards for soft-tissue injury. We certainly heard suggestions from the insurance industry that having lawyers represent people, particularly on a contingency fee basis, has driven up the costs.

[4:00 p.m.]

Now we have to ask ourselves whether this is the true explanation of why it is that costs have gone up. Because if it's not the true explanation then the government is offering us a bill that is addressing the problem that is the wrong problem. They would be addressing the wrong problem because they are saying let us cap at $2,500 the amount that individuals can be paid for so called soft-tissue injuries. In fact, to use the language of the bill of course, it's minor injury, minor injury is the term in the bill.

What is the evidence for this? Let's start first with the global picture of the finances of the companies because they're saying, we're losing money. They're saying, we pay out more in payments than we take in in premiums. I have drawn the attention of the members of this House on previous occasions, and I will draw their attention again, to what it is that the federal government, through the Department of Finance, has to say about this branch of the insurance industry. That is to say the property and casualty branch, not the life insurance branch but the property and casualty insurance branch. If one goes to the federal Department of Finance's Web site and reads their description of the different branches, what used to be known as pillars of the financial system of Canada, what they say about insurance companies is that they always pay out. They typically pay out more than they take in in premiums, that this is how their business operates.

How do they make money? They make money through their investments. So when we hear the complaint of the insurance companies that they pay out more than they take in in premiums, this is standard operating fact for those companies. What it really comes down to is that they have been losing money on their investments. But do you know what? Everyone has been losing money on their investments in the last few years. The stock market and the bond market are both picking up again and indeed the profitability of those companies is going up enormously. We just saw their latest quarterly statement which showed that their profits are up five times over what they were a year ago and that is attributable to the recovery of their investments in the stock and bond markets. Well, good for them. But it is no reason for us to take pity on their financial state and to bring in a bill which will add financial weight, that will do harm to the taxpayers, the ratepayers, the citizens of Nova Scotia. That is just wrong.

I say that if there are fluctuations in the profitability of the insurance companies, too bad, that is the way it is, profits go up, profits go down. Globally these companies have been profitable. What they're complaining about is not that in the aggregate they haven't been

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profitable, they're complaining that they haven't been profitable enough, they want more. It's not just that they're in the black on their balance sheets, they want to be better off. They want to increase the value of their stocks for their stockholders, they want to increase the dividends that are paid out to their stockholders, they want to increase the benefits and salaries for their executives and their board members. Very nice, but it doesn't have to be at our expense here. There is an alternative.

But that's what this bill is about. This bill says, let us take more seriously the profits of these companies than the burden of premiums that Nova Scotians have to pay and let's take those profits more seriously than premiums by reducing pay-outs. That's what the bill says. It's right there, it's as clear as it could possibly be, we are not interested. Has this really been scrutinized, has it really been looked at in Nova Scotia by any independent agency?

Well I mentioned a minute ago that there was a set of hearings in front of the Utility and Review Board. Of course, just by the by, I note the member for Cape Breton West seemed to think that his Party had been represented at these hearings and that ours took no part. Of course if he actually looks at the decision of the board, it lists on the opening two pages all of the participants. It lists the Insurance Bureau and it lists the individual insurance companies and it lists the Coalition Against No Fault Insurance, and so on and it lists the NDP caucus, it certainly doesn't list the Liberal Party. They took no part. A small point, a minor point, but I thought we should correct the honourable member for Cape Breton West since I know he likes to be accurate in all of the facts that he puts before this House.

But when I went back and I looked again at the report of the Utility and Review Board, when they commented on soft-tissue injuries, it's a very fascinating passage. Mr. Speaker, I have extracted the page and a half from the report of the Utility and Review Board and I want to table it for all members in case anyone wants to follow along with this because I am going to read into the record a few paragraphs from this report.

Here is what they had to say about soft-tissue injuries: While pointing out in its pre-filed evidence that there are a number of factors which account for the current level of insurance costs, among them the level of taxation, general inflation, insurance fraud and health care costs, IBC placed particular emphasis on the cost of settling claims for soft-tissue injuries such as whip-lash. IBC referred specifically to the Nova Scotia private passenger automobile insurance tort, bodily injury, 2001, closed claim survey prepared for it by Exacter and published in January 2002. The report was filed with the board and in IBC's response to the board, IR-21, the study reviewed 540 completed claim files, each of which involved a compensation claim for bodily injuries.

The study concluded among other things that soft-tissue injury claims represented 70 per cent of all bodily injury claims reviewed in the study and 56 per cent of the money paid out. The majority of this money was for pain and suffering rather than for economic loss. Based on this study, IBC concluded that the primary factor behind rising auto insurance

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claims costs was a significant increase in the cost of settling less serious soft-tissue injury claims and specifically the cost of pain and suffering awards.

Now, the Utility and Review Board was very cautious in how it treated this study and how it treated the assertions of the Insurance Bureau of Canada about soft-tissue injuries. They pointed out that this study, this survey, was not extensively examined at the hearings. Indeed, they said, that the board makes no finding with respect to the closed claims study. They said further that the study may warrant more critical scrutiny for the purpose of any future discussion of possible steps to mitigate increasing insurance premiums.

Those are very cautious words, Mr. Speaker. There was some evidence in front of the Utility and Review Board, which was the only real opportunity in this province that we have had to look in detail at some of these claims of the insurance company, but look what their study says, look what it is that's being said by the different participants in this debate, and see if we can just keep clear the facts because, again, I suggest if the government has misunderstood the true basis of the problem, then Bill No. 1 ought not to be in front of us. Again the focus here is on this question of soft-tissue injuries.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada claims that there has been a huge increase in the payouts for soft-tissue injuries, and at the same time there is a different view of the facts. The different view of the facts is put forward by the lawyers who actually practice in this area of the law, who litigate in this area of the law, who go to court about this kind of matter, and what they have said is that, in fact, the Nova Scotia courts are, if anything, relatively stingy about payouts for soft-tissue injury.

Indeed, the courts here don't operate in a jurisprudential vacuum when it comes to soft-tissue injury. The Supreme Court of Canada has told the courts, the lower courts, what they can do, what are the limits, what are the parameters of payouts for soft-tissue injuries. But even within those parameters as set by the Supreme Court of Canada 20 and 30 years ago, the Nova Scotia courts are pretty stingy according to the lawyers who litigate it. That's my view too; I endorse that view. I think the lawyers are right on this. That's been my experience when I practiced in this branch of the law.

But here we have two different statements. On the one hand lawyers are telling us the courts are stingy and the payments are low; on the other hand the insurance companies are telling us that the payouts are too high. Is it possible to reconcile these two statements? I want to suggest a way in which those two statements can be reconciled. On the one hand I think we do have to believe the lawyers who practice in this area of the law, who tell us that there has not been a huge increase in the amount of the payouts for soft-tissue injuries in Nova Scotia - they've gone up with inflation, that's about it. On the other hand we can probably also believe the insurance companies that they have paid out more for soft-tissue injury claims. Note the important fact that in most of these cases those are negotiated

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settlements that the insurance companies have arrived at themselves instead of going to court.

What they're telling us - and this explains the difference in the facts - is that they, the insurance companies, have driven up the costs of payouts, and therefore their own costs of doing business, because they're paying more for soft-tissue injuries. They're not litigating it, they're not finding frauds, they're not going to court and taking a hard line, they're saying we've wimped out. They're saying to us, we have driven up the costs of doing business here and elsewhere by paying out more.

Well, if that's the case, there's something wrong. We shouldn't be dealing with that by a bill that caps the benefits that should otherwise be legitimately payable to the citizens of Nova Scotia for this mandatory purchase. What kind of collusion on the part of the two other Parties is this? How can they expect the public to believe that this is good public policy?

There is an alternative. The alternative is as laid out in Bill No. 4; the alternative is a publicly-owned and administered, non-profit, no-caps system. Again, if I may point something out for the benefit of members of this House, based on the flailing remarks of the honourable member for Cape Breton West about Bill No. 4, it's a short bill because, of course, the Opposition was not the government. The Opposition could not bring forward a bill to set up a public automobile insurance corporation because it would be a money bill. It's simply beyond the Rules of this House and unconstitutional for the Opposition to bring forward a money bill. What we did bring forward was a bill that required a study and it was carefully stated to be subject to appropriations by the government. That's their purview. We couldn't have done more, but we have said what it is that we would like to do and the models do exist out there.

[4:15 p.m.]

Who's going to be happy with Bill No. 1? The two Parties that are supporting it are going to be happy with Bill No. 1. In their reinvention of the public-private partnership, the insurance companies are going to be very happy with Bill No. 1, because it does exactly what they want along the lines that I've outlined. Despite the fact that the Leader of my Party, who is a lawyer and I, who am a lawyer, have criticized it and the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, who is also a lawyer, has criticized it. The true fact, Mr. Speaker, is that every lawyer in the province who practices in this area of the law is going to be thrilled with the complexities that Bill No. 1 offers to them in terms of potential litigation. They probably don't like the idea of the caps, but the whole focus in the courts is going to shift to that definition of minor injury. We're not yet at clause by clause debate, but we know that there is sufficient ambiguity in that clause to keep the lawyers and courts in this province busy for years and I don't think that that is exactly what it is that the public in Nova Scotia had in mind when they began to complain about the skyrocketing costs of their insurance rates.

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If the core problem is that the insurance companies are simply paying too much, or if they think that claims are fraudulent, as was said by the member for Halifax Fairview, let them take a hard line on fraud, let them do something about it. Let them investigate it. Let them litigate. Let them, in concert with all of the companies, say that it won't be tolerated. But Bill No. 1 is not the solution for that. Bill No. 1 prefers the profits of the companies over the livelihoods, over the pocketbook concerns of all Nova Scotians. Those profits are ones which they are probably going to be able to continue to increase. Because of the return on their investments in the stock markets, their rate of return on equity is going up. There is a lot of room, as I read Bill No. 1, for the companies to continue to argue for a rate of return that will continue to cause problems for their customers in Nova Scotia. Their preferred return on equity is 10 per cent.

Well, do you know what? It's nice for them to have a preference for it. Unfortunately, the Utility and Review Board in Nova Scotia seems to agree with them that as soon as a business is regulated by the province, there should be an automatic entitlement to a generous return on equity. They do it with Nova Scotia Power and they do it with the automobile insurance companies but, do you know what, most Nova Scotians have quite a different view of what's fair. Most Nova Scotians don't get that kind of return guaranteed to them on their activities. It's not part of the minimum wage system. It's not part of the community services system. It's not part of other investments in the stock market or the bond market. It's not part of salary increases, whether unionized or non-unionized.

The reality for most Nova Scotians is that they don't get that kind of return on equity in their day-to-day lives or in their business activities. There are many businesses out there that are regulated although not by the Utility and Review Board or by this new Insurance Review Board. Lots of businesses are regulated. Restaurants are regulated. There are environmental rules, there are health rules. Paint stores are regulated. Barbers are regulated. Everyone who has a business is regulated in some way. Are they in a position to argue for a guaranteed 10 per cent return on equity? I don't think so. Why these companies? And what's the government doing about that? Nothing in Bill No. 1.

In the end, what we have here is a proposal that in no way solves the problem. The government has misconstrued the problem as it's experienced by Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other. They have hitched their fortunes to the star of the insurance companies, and they've done it conjointly with the Third Party. That's the triple P that I was put in mind of at the beginning, public-private partnerships. It was a bad idea when the Liberals did it, when they were a majority government, and it's a bad idea when it now creeps forward into public life in this guise. Thank you. (Applause)

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, the insurance bill we see before us is a long time coming. Almost two years ago our Liberal caucus called on all Parties in this Legislature to come together to work on a strategy to address the issue of rising auto insurance rates. Since that time, when we first recognized auto insurance as a problem in Nova Scotia, many things have happened. The government wandered aimlessly through the issue of promising action but delivering only a freeze. During this time the Liberal caucus was at work gathering information, talking to interest groups and consumers alike.

The result was an insurance policy which I am proud to say was the first solution offered to Nova Scotians, and I am also proud to say that it is the only policy which has not changed from the time it was announced to today. The Conservatives were using the same time not to develop an insurance policy which would provide relief for Nova Scotian consumers, instead they were developing a political agenda, including $155 payoffs and an embarrassing pre-election spending spree. The election saw the Conservatives adopt a new, made-in-New Brunswick solution, which has proven not to be workable. They promised Nova Scotians relief in the form of a 20 per cent average rate reduction. When the Tories were asked how these savings would be realized, they described them as a cap on minor associated injuries, such as aches and sprains.

Mr. Speaker, if anybody is going to make this minority government work, if anybody is going to make this legislation work for Nova Scotia, it's going to be the Liberal Party. The NDP ran on a better deal for the working families, and is now all too quick to delay relief by over six months for those they claim to support. Let me say in no uncertain terms that Liberal support for this bill is by no means a foregone conclusion. There are substantial amendments that must be made before this legislation will truly benefit Nova Scotians and win Liberal support. Certainly one of the most important amendments that must be made to this legislation is the seriously-flawed definition of a minor injury.

Let me paint a picture for you which describes what the Tories would have you believe is a minor injury. You could be knocked into a coma, suffer a broken leg and miss substantial work as a result of a car accident and wake up relatively healed. Under this scenario, ridiculous as it seems, you would have no income recovery. You would have no income recovery because the government has sacrificed that coverage and replaced it with a $2,500 cap. Even if your injury is considered severe and you are eligible for income recovery, the insurance company will keep your Canada Pension contributions, your EI contributions and your income tax deductions. What does this mean? It means more money in the pockets of the insurance companies and less money in the pockets of Nova Scotians.

[Page 369]

Now that the Tories have not only changed the types of injuries that are considered minor, they have changed the types of coverage that will be sacrificed. This is just another example of the Tories trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Nova Scotians with a cheap bribe. The government is offering another bribe of $160, on an average . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The comments that the honourable member is making are unparliamentary. I would ask you to retract that, please.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes has the floor.


AN HON. MEMBER: Retract it twice, then.

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Victoria-The Lakes has the floor.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: We will retract it twice then, and we will say $160 promise, and $160 promise, two repetitions for the two words that we withdraw.

In the same vein of the $155 cheques, this government is willing to sell the souls of Nova Scotia's insurance system by dangling an average $150 saving, or a carrot, in front of Nova Scotians.

The definition we see in this bill is not what the government campaigned on in July and August. During the election, the Premier spoke of a cap on minor injuries. When I think of a minor injury I think of a sore arm, a wrenched back, a sprained foot. These are all injuries which are painful but not life altering. Why the Premier is determined to take us down the exact same failed road as New Brunswick is beyond me.

Secondly, the definition put forward in New Brunswick and copied in Nova Scotia is extremely broad and would cap the vast majority of injury claims, including some permanent injuries. As well, this cap will also see people who suffer a serious but non-permanent injury capped at $2,500.

This bill is not what we want, but we have to support it presently to get it in second reading, to get it to Law Amendments where we can put forward our amendments and have input from the public to get the best for Nova Scotians. With a government that is letting the municipality of HRM and Mayor Kelly - and I must compliment Mayor Kelly and HRM for taking the lead, in fact I'd like to refer to Mayor Kelly as the Rudy Giuliani of Nova Scotia in this instance. In particular, he's taking the lead with this hurricane disaster. I shudder at the thought of what the cost of a government-run system would be.

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This bill is gutting the compensation system in Nova Scotia, when it is possible for someone to be in a car accident, knocked into a coma, broken arms and severe injuries and yet it's classed as a minor injury, we have a serious problem.

Nova Scotians pay for insurance so that when they are injured in a car accident they can be reasonably compensated for their injury. The bill does not do that. Instead, all it does is reward the insurance companies for raising their premiums. Unfortunately, the only people enjoying a benefit from our investment in insurance is the insurance companies. Mr. Speaker, this is truly shocking. For this government to think it is fair to claw back from injured Nova Scotians the long-term disability coverage they have paid into and to turn around and give it to an insurance company is unbelievable. Well, maybe it's not. This is the same government that cancelled the pension at age 18 for Down's syndrome residents without notice and moved it to age 19. So maybe I shouldn't be shocked. At the same time this is the same government that gave out $70 million in $155 cheques and they're now $32 million in the hole. There is a theme to this bill from one end to the other. The payouts for so called minor injuries are going to put millions of dollars into the pockets of the insurance companies.

[4:30 p.m.]

Let me refer to why we prefer private insurance over government insurance. There is a myth out there that government insurance operates more effectively, that it is cheaper. The administrative expense ratios for Saskatchewan government insurance, Manitoba public insurance and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia versus the private insurance are significantly misrepresented. The government run programs, they include commissions and taxes but they exclude other general expenses. In contrast, when the private auto insurance industry quotes operating expenses it includes all expenses.

In summary, the private insurance expense numbers compare favourably to government run insurances. When they are higher they can almost be explained by the fact that government run insurance enjoys tax status as Crown Corporations. Secondly, they have the accounting ability to move certain items out of expenses into claims. If we're talking publicly owned insurance, we already have an option. Publicly owned insurance, buy Co-op insurance, that's publicly owned. During my campaign, I contacted two actuarial insurance investigators to give me guidance. One from Nova Scotia and one from Ontario and this is why I'm so committed to the insurance that we have presently.

In true Tory fashion we see some of our most vulnerable citizens targeted in this legislation. For those people who are most affected by this little gem of a bill, seniors, family members who sacrifice their own careers to stay at home and care for a love one. As a member of a very large family I remember my parents saying when I was just a kid, Tory times are hard times. Nothing has changed. The people who stay home to care for their

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family members according to this government, they have no value so therefore they should not be compensated for their work.

Nova Scotians work hard and are hard working people. They take pride in their work and they go the extra mile to get the job done right. Examples of this have been brought forward here in this very House and cited because of the effects of Hurricane Juan. People have stepped up to the plate and taken on the challenge to help their neighbour. Because of this well recognized work ethic, many Nova Scotians have accumulated or banked a fair number of sick days. These are days that the employee pays for, they've invested their time and money so that if they need them these days will be there. What this government sees when it looks at our sick days is not a reflection of a hard working society but they see an opportunity to put money back into the pockets of the insurance industry.

This bill will also see the injured Nova Scotian have to exhaust their sick day reserve before they will see any money from an insurance company. Not unlike our seniors today, an injured Nova Scotian is going to have to exhaust this time they have invested before this government thinks it is fair for an insurance company to have to compensate the injured worker. Again we see this government literally taking money out of the pocket of the injured Nova Scotian and putting it into the pocket of the insurance company.

In the last election the Liberal Party put forward a plan that in a true spirit of liberalism struck a balance between protecting the rights of injury victims and guaranteeing relief for consumers from rapidly increasing insurance rates. We made a promise to Nova Scotians to limit our cap to the pain and suffering component of soft-tissue injuries. It is interesting to note that the Conservatives during their last election also promised a cap on only minor injuries. I wonder how many Nova Scotians believed on August 5th that two broken legs and six months in a coma would be considered a minor injury.

Mr. Speaker, this government has sold Nova Scotians out to the insurance companies. They have proposed in this bill to take deserved compensation out of the pockets of Nova Scotians and to put it into the hands of the insurance companies. This is not fair and it is a fundamental flaw in this legislation. The Liberal Party stands on the side of accident victims which is why, as our Leader indicated in his address on second reading, that unless the government makes significant changes to parts of this bill, our caucus will not be able to support it. We cannot allow injury victims to be victimized again by this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to be able to get up and speak a bit about this bill, Bill No. 1, the first bill to be debated in the new session after an election and, let's be honest, I think all of us to some extent or another in the last election, in that 28 to 30 day period that we were involved in it, actually heard a lot about insurance. I've been listening to the different debates and particularly, obviously, from members from this side

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of the House, Opposition members, members from the Third Party, members from our Party. I haven't heard much from the Tory caucus yet. I would hope that maybe they would take the chance to get up because this is an opportunity for them to put on the record what they heard from their constituents because presumably from this bill we can presume that the government has talked to their constituents, that the constituents have expressed to them the desire that this type of legislation come forward.

I must say that's a very different opinion than I received when I was on the doorstep because the Nova Scotians I spoke to, the people in my riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, had a very different perspective. They wanted lower rates, Mr. Speaker. They wanted lower rates that could be guaranteed and that could be based on a legitimate form of insurance and, quite frankly, this bill doesn't provide that. This bill is, quite frankly, trying to tinker with a free market system that we have in this province. We have a free market system of insurance. If I want insurance for my vehicle, of course it's mandatory according to the Motor Vehicle Act, to drive a car I need insurance, then I go to the marketplace and there are private companies that will provide me with insurance.

That system had in the past worked well for our province, but I would suggest to you the system is broken, that it has failed and that the rates now are not good enough. They are too high and many Nova Scotians are unable to afford insurance. We see that in the rates on which the number of people who are being charged with driving without insurance has increased. Most of them are telling us they can't afford the insurance. So it's important for them to go out and actually drive.

Now, we all know that's not legal, or that's not right and, of course, that isn't appropriate, but there are other means of trying to ensure that people can drive while ensuring that they have automobile insurance so that they and others, if they get in an accident, are protected. That's really what this system is about. Don't drive a vehicle unless you have a pool of money for which, if you get in an accident, that money can be drawn upon to ensure that people are going to be protected, whether you hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk, or whether you bump into someone else's car, or whether they bump into you.

Mr. Speaker, there needs to be a pool of money through insurance to ensure that that money is going to be there to protect people and ensure that they are going to be able to be provided for because in some cases it's very serious, in death obviously, but people can be paralyzed. People could have a closed head injury that could result in them spending the rest of their lives never being able to work again and some of the cases you hear about, obviously, are very compassionate, but the fact is that, you know, some of the most classic examples I recall from days of studying are those in which someone may be 20 or 22 years old, or maybe a little older, in their 20s, and they just finished their university degree, or maybe they just finished medical school, or maybe they just finished law school and they have great potential to become someone who is going to earn a lot of money in their life and they are struck by a car, or they are in a car accident, and there has to be some determination through the

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Insurance Act. That's what we provide - rules and regulations as to how we determine what those policies will provide for so that those people are provided with an income and that income should be based on future loss, future potential loss in many cases.

It's not so hard when they're 50 and you already know what their career is or if they're younger maybe but, Mr. Speaker, the fact is that we have a very complicated system in this province, a complicated system of how we determine through the courts how much someone will be paid if they are injured and they are not able to go back to work - whether that's for a day, a week, a month or for the rest of their life.

That system, as I said, had worked well. The problem is that it hasn't been working, not that people haven't been compensated if they are injured, not that people aren't getting the money they deserve if someone else hits them with a vehicle and they are in a car or are a pedestrian, that part hasn't broken down; what has broken down, Mr. Speaker, is the cost that is prohibitive to so many Nova Scotians that prevents them from being able to afford the insurance. And in a province like ours, a car is not only a privilege, it's invaluable.

In many parts of this province outside of Halifax and maybe parts of CBRM, there is no choice. The concept of having public transit, to be able to transport you around as a means of going for groceries or going to the store to buy clothing, it's just not practical, it's not there. So a car is a necessity. Because of that, a car becomes a necessity in rural Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, to most Nova Scotians, therefore we must ensure that we have affordable insurance.

This government, Mr. Speaker, has taken the position that affordable insurance comes from sticking a monkey wrench in the free market system. This bill basically tells the insurance companies, and I suspect they were aware this was coming, I suspect there were consultations with the insurance industry, that this isn't coming out of the blue to them. Considering the same day this bill came out, the Insurance Bureau of Canada had full page ads in the local newspapers saying how they felt this was a wonderful idea. So I don't think I'm too far off in suggesting there might have been some consultations between the government and the Insurance Bureau of Canada before this bill ever hit the desks of the members in this House.

But because of this, Mr. Speaker, as I say, a money wrench has been driven into the free market system. This has already been tried in New Brunswick, a few months ago, and we are beginning to already see the problems that have been caused by this approach. I find it quite ironic that a Party like the Progressive Conservative Party that for so many is equated with a Party of the free market, a Party of a form of neo-Liberalism in which we ensure that business should be able - we should get off the backs of business.

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I remember a few years ago when this Party got re-elected to government in 1999, Mr. Speaker, they created a red tape committee because they wanted to make sure that we were going to reduce the red tape for business so that business could get on with the job of creating jobs and government would do the job of minimizing the amount of regulation that would be required. We didn't hear much of it after awhile. I think the backbenchers who were involved sort of petered out and decided to do something else.

But the fact is, that this government has a history, or this Party that is the government, Mr. Speaker, has a history of presenting itself as the Party supporting the free market system. Supporting a system that ensures that business should be able to be minimally regulated and, in return, they will ensure that most of the money that they spend will be in creating jobs and putting it back into the economy, sort of the free hand of capitalism. That is what the Progressive Conservative Party has generally stood for over the years. That's what this government, I think, has generally run itself on.

Yet what do we see in this legislation? We see massive regulation, we see complicated rules imposed on businesses as some form or way of manipulating or twisting the free market system as a means of trying to argue we can reduce rates. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, this government, I think, knew when this issue became a clear and present problem for them in January 2002, almost two years ago, when people started getting their renewal rates, and people started realizing the cost. Then the government said well we have a problem because the free market isn't working. The private insurance companies aren't able to provide this at a rate that most Nova Scotians can afford, it's going sky-high, this is a problem, what are we going to do?

Well there are a few options. Our Party decided to take one of those options, Mr. Speaker, and say the free market system isn't working. In most cases we wouldn't say that. Our Party believes that in most cases the free market system works just fine. There are a few problems with regard to auto insurance though. Unlike most products where you have the automatic choice of deciding whether you want to buy this or buy that, or whether you want to buy the product at all. Do you want to buy guns or butter, I guess, as most economists would say, or do you want to buy butter or margarine, different types of the same product. With regard to auto insurance, consumers have no choice. They have to buy it if they have a car and as I said earlier, a car is a necessity in this province and therefore, quite frankly, most people in Nova Scotia have no choice. They have to buy insurance. In the free market system - well really, it isn't a free market system if they are forced to buy it - we have a problem where those people are not able to get affordable insurance.

[4:45 p.m.]

So, given the fact that the government mandates that Nova Scotians must have auto insurance, it creates a very unique situation for this type of product, this type of insurance. It creates a situation where the private companies know you're going to have to buy it, they

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know you're going to have to do that and amongst a smallish sort of group of members, they're able to ensure the rate can go up so that everyone basically will have to pay more.

There are a few exceptions. I've met a few people on the doorstep who are involved in federal government or are retired from the federal government - some in the military who deal with a group in Ontario called Personal Insurance, I think it's a group insurance company. Most of them talk about the fact that the rates are very, very low. I have a lot of members in my riding who are in the military and when I would talk to them they would say insurance isn't a problem for me because I have the Personal Insurance group from Ontario and the rates are very, very good. I don't mind putting that on the record for anyone out there involved in the federal civil service - or retired from it - they may want to check into that. My understanding is the rates are very good for them and they generally find that they don't have a problem with the rates. For whatever reason, that company hasn't been involved in whatever discussions have been held amongst other companies.

The fact is, with those couple of exceptions, we have a situation in which the government mandates that insurance must be purchased so it's no longer just a free market. I have no choice, I must buy the product because I need to have a car, as most Nova Scotians would say, so therefore the free market doesn't really exist with regard to auto insurance. Then on top of that, the government decides that clearly the rates are too high - these companies are charging too much, so what are we going to do? We have to roll back the rates. So they bring in a very complicated piece of legislation with very complicated rules that result in trying to roll back the rates 20 per cent.

Now, I'll tell you what I heard most from people during the election about rolling back rates and I thought this was the most telling. Most Nova Scotians aren't fooled by this. The first thing they would say was they'll roll back rates 20 per cent, but they went up 65 per cent last year, they went up 65 per cent the year before and now you're going to roll them back 20 per cent? Quite frankly, as far as their math is concerned, the insurance companies are the winners. They've raised rates 150 per cent in the last two years and in return they have to roll them back 20 per cent. overall, the insurance companies have done pretty well given that kind of math.

But this government has decided that it's important that they show they're doing something, that the free market system can work with a lot of regulation, with a lot of forcing and twisting arms to ensure the insurance industry rolls its rates back.

The problem is in New Brunswick they said this and in fact a lot of companies have not rolled back their rates. They have not decided to roll them back - I don't know the system that well in New Brunswick but I believe they all have to apply within a certain period of time, there's a deadline. They're supposed to submit it to a board and they're supposed to say how they're going to roll back the rates and the board has to approve them or say no that's

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not good enough. Well, a lot of them haven't done that, there's still a lot of problems with that system.

We're going to see those same problems with this system. I'll talk a bit more in the detail about exactly where some of those hidden problems are and I suspect a lot of this was actually written by the insurance industry. I'm just going to say that on the record. I suspect the insurance industry's hand is all over this bill, all over it, because there's a few little areas where the language is so slippery that it had to be written by lawyers for insurance companies. I can see no other way that some of this language should have gotten in here unless the insurance industry was holding the hand of the government lawyer as it was written. Quite frankly, we're in a situation where this government has decided they have to defend the free market for some reason and because of that they believe in this case that means they're going to roll back rates 20 per cent and through it they're going to create a lot of regulation, a lot of complication and as I said earlier, they are throwing a monkey wrench into the free market system of how we provide insurance in this province.

Our position was quite different. We saw a problem and said there are solutions, solutions that have worked in other provinces. It has worked in British Columbia, it has worked in Saskatchewan, it has worked in Manitoba, and Quebec is a bit of an anomaly with regard to this - it's a hybrid system - but it's worked there as well. As a result, they have lower rates. Yes, some of them are no-fault, yes, some of them are tort system, but the fact is, the rates are generally lower. As a result, we said here's a system that's working. It isn't the free market, we understand that. In most cases, we believe the free market can work and we should allow it to work, but, as I said earlier, let's be honest - this really isn't the free market system anyway because it's mandatory that we purchase this insurance.

So, why don't we treat it differently? All we're saying is let's talk about a mutual. I talked to some people in the insurance industry and they call them mutuals, I guess. They're basically co-operatives - a bunch of people get together, pool their money together and as a result they have a pool of money that is used to pay off any damages that are created by the accidents. All we're saying is let's create one big mutual for Nova Scotia, one big mutual that will ensure we have a pool of money that stays in Nova Scotia to address damages and accidents in Nova Scotia by Nova Scotian drivers. That is all we're talking about. It has worked in other provinces and it could work here. Now we hear the words from members of the different Parties who try to label what we're saying as anti-business or socialist or whatever, but the fact is that it has worked.

The irony is that when it has been brought into other provinces, when it was brought into Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C. by the NDP, when it was brought into Quebec by, I presume, the Parti Québécois but I'm not absolutely sure of that, when the other Parties came into power they haven't removed it, they haven't gotten rid of it, isn't that interesting. They decided that once it was there that it was working and therefore they're not going to go back and revoke the system. It was even a promise, I believe, in the last provincial election in

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British Columbia by the now governing Liberal Party that they would sell the insurance system there, they would break it up. But when they got into power they realized that they're not going to do it because it is working too well. I'm not saying its perfect, we all know insurance systems aren't perfect. People are always going to be unhappy with the decision as to whether they get paid or not, whether they got enough money for their injuries or not, but the fact is that the system generally works.

It generally works because, much like in the health care system in Canada versus the United States. We have one system funded by the government that ensures that we get rid of all that administrative clutter, all that bureaucracy that is created when you have two, 20, 200, 2000 companies providing it. You know, in the United States, I believe, as a percentage of their gross domestic product, they pay 14 per cent of their domestic product on health care and yet 10 per cent, no 15 per cent of Americans don't even have health care insurance. That is because they pay so much in administrative costs because they have so many insurance companies all duplicating their jobs and resulting in a lot of administrative costs on top of the actual cost of the system.

Now, quite frankly in Canada, because we have one system for health care, we're able to provide ours at about 8 per cent of our gross domestic product which is almost half of what it is in the United States. Already we can prove that in a system that quite frankly should not be considered and should not be provided by the free market, we all agree in Canada now, or at least most same-minded people would agree, that we're better off not having our health care insurance provided through a free market system. Because of that we're better off, we're a healthier society, we live longer, everyone has access to health care. But with auto insurance we decided, some have decided, that's not the way to go and instead they believe that we can fix the old system.

The more I think about it as I'm on my feet, the more I compare it to the United States and how they're trying to deal with health care. The concept of going to a universal system funded by the government probably would have solved all these problems years ago and would have dropped the amount of money being wasted in the system on administration. But instead you see them tinkering with it, more regulation, more rules, more details, more twisting, more bending, to try to ensure that whatever it takes we'll prove that the free market can work and another problem crops up. Another difficulty happens and they have to go back and fix that as well. This is the problem with what this government is doing. So many times our Party is accused of being the ideological ones. The irony in this case is that the Progressive Conservative Party is the one that is standing and digging its feet in based on ideology because instead of looking with a clear eye as to what the best system is for Nova Scotians, what has worked in other provinces, best practices so to speak, they're deciding that they're going to twist and manipulate and over-regulate in order to ensure that come hell or high water they're going to make sure that system is working for them.

[Page 378]

Based on that, and I said earlier, I think I see the hand of the insurance industry as they held the hand of the government writing this bill, but I want to talk about a couple of specific points. First of all the definition of minor injury because this is crucial. As I was saying to someone earlier, this isn't capping benefits, this is kneecapping benefits because what we have with this bill is a wide open ability for the insurance companies to say you have a minor injury, $2,500 maximum.

I'll give an example. If someone, as I said, 22, 23 years old, was injured, maybe started up a new business or just started a job and they have an injury that is quite serious, a coma, two broken legs, maybe they're going to be off work for six months, a year, but they will get better. They will recover and they will recover to be healthy and they're not going to be having any lasting effects for the rest of their lives, or at least nothing that is very serious that can't stop them from working. Under this legislation that's a minor injury. You could be off work for one year, you could be off work for two years but if the prognosis is that you will eventually get back to work, that is a minor injury. You would get $2,500 for pain and suffering and for any non-economic losses. Now what does that mean? Obviously, if because of it your car is damaged or other things, you're going to be reimbursed for that separately.

One of those non-economic losses is actually the job that you're going to lose. Now you had a certain guarantee of a job at a certain income, and yet you're not going to be compensated necessarily for that given the nature of what this bill says. Minor injury, as it's defined, allows the insurance company to dictate and to drive a truck through the ability of people in Nova Scotia to get a fair rate of recovery, a fair rate of compensation for their injuries. That's one of the things I believe was directly written by the insurance company. I suspect, and I will say this on the record, that back in the Spring, before we even had the election, before we had the first freeze that came in, there were discussions between the insurance industry and someone in the government to ensure that if you're going to put in this kind of bill, you better make sure that the definition of minor injury is so broad that we're able to basically - we will give you your 20 per cent cut, they probably said, we can give it to you, but you have to have a definition of minor injury that's so broad that we're able to drive a truck through it and we're able to ensure that most of the people in Nova Scotia who deserve more than $2,500 are going to get nothing.

Many Nova Scotians are going to suffer because of this, Mr. Speaker. They are going to suffer badly. Those people live in Lockeport, those people live in Bible Hill, those people live in Mabou. Those are the people who are going to call up in six months' time and they're going to say to the member for Inverness, the member for Truro-Bible Hill, the member for Shelburne, they're going to say to them, wait a minute now, I was in a motor vehicle accident and I broke my leg, I broke both my legs, and I'm being told I'm getting $2,500 in compensation over and above any damages. But, I've lost my job and I have nothing to go back to. What's happening here? I thought you told me that I was going to be able to get all the benefits I wanted. This was about whiplash, this was about those malingerers who were

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trying to rip off the system. Well, I'm not ripping off the system, yet I am not getting what I deserve, what I honestly deserve because I am hurt. They're telling me this is a minor injury, when in fact it's a serious injury, I broke both my legs.

The fact is - well, I'm not going to say what the fact is. The fact is the member for Inverness, the member for Truro-Bible Hill, the member for Shelburne and others are going to have to explain to them why this bill is ruining their lives. It didn't fix the problem. Will rates go down? Maybe for a little while. There will be a board appointed and in a couple of years they will be co-opted by the IBC, and eventually the rates will keep going up. We see that in Ontario, we see it in Alberta. It's only a matter of time. Let's face it. Maybe we will come back and put more regulation on and we will twist it some more, the whole system will look like a horribly mutated pretzel.

The fact is that Nova Scotians are not, in the long run, going to benefit from this. There will be some malingerers who in the end won't go out, probably, and seek compensation for whiplash. My colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, put it very well, and I've said this to people when I was on the doorstep and they would say there are some people who try to get more out of the system than they deserve and I said you're right. Do you know what? It doesn't matter the system, EI, workers' compensation, insurance. They all try to do it. It's a given study; 5 per cent, 6 per cent of the people always try to get more out of the system than they should.

Mr. Speaker, the problem is, with regard to that, this government is taking the wrong approach in trying to deal with it. They're taking the wrong approach. I think what the member for Halifax Chebucto was saying is appropriate, that the insurance companies have to be diligent in challenging those who they think are malingerers, who are trying to get more out of the system. If one Nova Scotian, if one very well-publicized case of a Nova Scotian went to court and the insurance industry challenged them and was able to say, you actually don't have whiplash, we're going to challenge you. There would be a heck of a lot more people in this province who would say, well, I'm not going to do that, I don't get my easy money. Some people call it the auto lottery or other things. They say, look, I get easy money from this.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is they get easy money because the insurance companies look at the bottom line. Well, I can go to court for each case and it would cost us $40,000 in legal fees or we can just cut a cheque for $10,000 now and get it over with. Well, golly, given that system, who wouldn't try to get the money? The fact is that if the insurance companies actually did their job and actually challenged people who they think aren't actually eligible for the benefits they're claiming, we would probably have a lot less. Let's be clear, instead of the insurance industry actually doing its job, it wants the government to regulate it, so that it doesn't have to pay out what it should be paying out, or what it doesn't have to pay out.

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That's a problem, and that's why the system is broken, and that's why this government, instead of seeing with clear vision what needs to be done, has decided to create a very convoluted regulated system that's only going to result in more problems six months from now. I will put it on the record now. In six months, in a year, in two years we will look back and say we told you so because this system will not work, I can tell you right now.

[5:00 p.m.]

Part of it is the definition of minor injury. Until that is changed, most Nova Scotians are going to feel the ill effects of this legislation. The insurance companies are probably laughing all the way to their little bank with their big bags of money, where they're able to say that as long as we have that definition of minor injury we win. We will roll it back 20 per cent now. Don't worry, we will co-opt the board, eventually we will get that money back and lots more, but in the meantime, by having that minor injury definition, this will all go away. They've got some PR flack probably telling them this is how you've got to get rid of the problem. They've probably been telling them that since January 2002. I wouldn't be surprised if the IBC actually showed up at the doorstep of the government and said here's our proposal: instead of public insurance - we don't want that - we will cut 20 per cent, promise you, if you put this definition in.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not the way the system works and the people who haven't been involved, the people who haven't helped write this legislation, are the people of Nova Scotia who, in the end, are going to suffer because of it. And there are definitions out there. If this is about whiplash, if this is about soft-tissue injuries that are hard to define, let's define it that way, but the way they define minor injury allows the insurance companies to drive a truck through it and that's not good for Nova Scotians.

There's another thing here that I think is interesting. It's going to save the insurance industry a lot of money - and it's funny because it's in the numbers and the Minister of Finance, being an accountant, might very well find this interesting, that when you decide how much someone gets, again if they're 22 years old and they just got out of school and it's determined that they should be paid, until they turn 65, x the amount of money for the job they would have had as a lawyer or a doctor because they were in medical school or law school, well they don't give them that each year, so that's not 50 years x $50,000. What they do is they discount it assuming that that money will go into a bank account, accumulate interest, and after 50 years would amount to that amount.

So based on that they're able to reduce things on a certain percentage based on what a bond yield would be. Given a pool of money today, 50 years from now this is how much money would have accumulated and it would be equal to that. So, you know, we don't want you to make more than you need - fair enough - so we will give you a smaller amount of money now, and you invest it at a certain bond rate over and above the inflation rate and we will end up ensuring that you're going to get as much money as you ever did.

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It doesn't always work that way. A lot of people go out and spend some of it obviously because they have certain needs but, Mr. Speaker, at the same time you have a situation where in Nova Scotia in the Civil Procedure Rules there's a set rate - 2.5 per cent. So above inflation, if inflation is 2.5 per cent, then the presumption is a bond rate will be 5 per cent, 2.5 per cent above. If inflation is 3 per cent, the 2.5 per cent rate would make it 5.5 per cent, but that's a given. It's written in the rules, 2.5 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation sets it at 3.25 per cent. Now that sounds like a minor difference, but over 30 years, 40 years, 50 years, we're talking about a massive amount of money. So that means that instead of having to pay out $100,000 now that would accumulate to maybe $1 million in 50 years - I'm just pulling numbers out - they only have to pay them $70,000 or $80,000 now that will accumulate based on this higher rate of 3.25 per cent. So what does that mean? That means the insurance companies have to pay out less. More money coming in in rates over the last two years, even with this 20 per cent discount, less money going out. Geez, that's pretty good for the insurance companies. No wonder they're so happy to come here and help the government write the legislation because it's quite clear that they're making money off of it.

The rates have gone up 150 per cent, we will drop them down 20 per cent, but we'll on the other side be able to cap serious injuries at $2,500. Now, they might be called minor injuries but, let's face it, they're really serious injuries - broken legs, coma, whatever. As long as you're going to get better someday, we will be able to give you a tiny bit of money and on top of that, Mr. Speaker, we will have to pay out less because if you're seriously injured, even if you're able to beat us on that minor injury definition and you have a serious injury and we're going to have to pay out a lot of money, we will really only have to pay out about 70 per cent or 80 per cent of that because we will just put in this number that's actually higher than the rest of the people in the courts get so that we're able to actually save money there. Not a bad deal - another reason why I believe the insurance companies' hands are all over this like a Ouija board.

Another part of this I find interesting, it's called Section B or Schedule B of the Insurance Act and these are provisions for what you get if you're injured. These are the amounts of money you're paid for loss of time at work, and in Nova Scotia it's actually, I think, the worst in Canada. I think it's $140 a week or something - don't quote me on that, well, you are going to quote me on that. The rate is quite low compared to other provinces; $140 a week or something like that. It's low compared to the other provinces. It hasn't gone up.

Of course, given the minor injury definition, it's probably going to be less anyway. This is what the government is doing. Instead of making that mandatory, which I believe it is now, you have to pay into your Schedule B benefit so that if you're injured you end up having to get paid compensation for loss of time at work, they're now making it an option. You can check a box, for an extra few hundred bucks you can get it from your insurance

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company. So the insurance company, for what they're providing for you now, minus 20 per cent, given these presumable rate reductions, they're going to give you less and if you want that extra service it's going to be a few hundred dollars more.

It sounds to me most Nova Scotians will want it. If you're in a decent job or you have a job with a decent income or you have children, you're going to say, you know what, I need that because I need to guarantee that I'm going to get a decent income if I'm injured. It may not happen, but that's what insurance is. I need that guarantee, so I'm going to check that box. Well, I said to someone today, it's like McDonalds, do you want fries with that? This is all up sales. It's all about the insurance industry being able to say, well, I'm giving you the basics here at 20 per cent less than you were paying before, but if you want the extras you're going to have to pay more for it.

What used to be part of the original rate, and now that it's been reduced 20 per cent, doesn't include a major component which I'm going to have to pay extra for. In the end, I'm going to pay as much as I did before to get the same service. The insurance company makes as much money, yet they're paying out less through minor injury definition and through this discount rate. Mr. Speaker, again, another sign to me that the insurance industry's hand is all over this legislation.

It's really important that we have a one-tier - we don't need a two-tier system with regard to these rates. If the insurance industry cannot provide basic income loss at a reasonable rate to Nova Scotians, then the system is broken, and no amount of regulation is going to fix that, no amount of tinkering with it, no amount of slicing pieces off that are important to the system is going to fix it. Yet, the problem is that this government still, because of its myopic ideology, believes the free market must do this, we must have the free market to continue to provide it, and therefore we must ensure that Nova Scotians get a cheaper rate even if we have to cut pieces off of it. It's like amputating a leg to save the body. Well, if you cut too much off, then the body is not left anymore. That seems to be what's happening with regard to this legislation and this government with regard to auto insurance.

One of the other things I think this legislation could do - I thought it was interesting yesterday, the minister in charge of skyrocketing insurance rates, and I'm not going to say auto insurance because it's all insurance now, and after Hurricane Juan, let's be clear, there's going to be a lot higher house insurance rates, tenant insurance, liability insurance. We already heard through the summer of these businesses, these eco-tourism businesses that weren't able to operate because they couldn't get insurance. The insurance industry already didn't want to provide benefits to them.

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that it's only going to get worse with regard to home insurance, it's only going to get worse with regard to tenant insurance. Hurricane Juan, it's just the next step. We already knew it was going to be bad, given everything else that was happening. We already began to hear it in the summer. Personally, my office liability

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insurance, my insurance to cover my office, doubled in the last year, and I have an office the size of that Clerk's table, quite frankly.

The fact is that it's only going to get worse. It's only going to get worse. I heard that on the doorsteps this summer, too. Maybe the member for Inverness, maybe the member for Kings North heard that as well. Wait a minute now, I think house insurance is the next thing and we have to be prepared to deal with it. The minister of insurance said yesterday that this new Insurance Review Board will deal with that as well. Well, I didn't check Hansard, but I'm pretty sure that's what he said.

Mr. Speaker, if that's the case, why don't we have something in the legislation to ensure that they are going to look at that. Let's talk about the review board doing a review, instead of reacting to skyrocketing house insurance rates, why don't they do something proactive and go out and find how we can try to ensure the rates aren't going to keep going up. There may be ways of tinkering with it. I don't know. It's different than auto insurance, which is mandatory. House insurance is slightly different. Maybe the system can be fixed, I really don't know enough about it. But let's have this new Insurance Review Board go out and do that. Do a review, take a look at what's happening and decide how we can try to improve the system. That would be very helpful.

I would hope the government would have looked at that. But instead, no, that isn't part of this. They go into great detail, in fact they've already advertised for the positions. I can imagine they probably weren't hoping for a minority government, so they could get a bunch of their friends on the board. We are now at a stage, Mr. Speaker, where with a minority government, the Human Resources Committee divided by three, it's going to be an opportunity for the best candidates to come forward, so that all Parties have an opportunity to ensure that the best candidates are on the board.

One of the other things that I think is very, very important about this legislation is the Facility Association. It's always been treated differently because up until now, until this law passes, if you had regular auto insurance, your company just had to file the fact that they were raising rates. They didn't have to go out and apply and get approval. Now, under this law they're going to have to do that, which I think we said had to be done anyway - that's a minimum. The Facility Association always had to get approval through the URB, but they're not covered by this 20 per cent rate cut. The Facility Association will not be forced to reduce their rates by 20 per cent. These are the drivers with the most serious records, it's the ones the insurance companies have to provide insurance to, but at very high rates. The fact is those rates have gone up astronomically as well. I would suggest that cutting them by 20 per cent may not be a bad idea as well. I would like to see that done, but this legislation exempts the Facility Association from the rate cut.

[Page 384]

Again, the hand of the insurance companies is all over it. I think it's important that people understand that. These insurance companies, the IBC and others, clearly have had a hand in how this legislation was drafted. The people who lose because of it are the consumers of Nova Scotia. The people who do not have an opportunity to try to have a say. They thought they were having their say during the election.

The member for Richmond the other day said 37 of the 52 members of this House were elected to stand for private insurance. I understand that, I do. But, the fact is, most Nova Scotians, when they see this legislation and see the impact of it, will probably next time elect 37 people who want public auto insurance because this system is not fixed by this legislation. It creates more regulation, more complication and I think one of the other members of the House said earlier - and I think they're right - the amount of complicated regulation in this law will mean more work for lawyers, not less. Having never practised private law, I think I understand a little bit about practising private law as a lawyer, the fact is that lawyers are very good even if you try to minimize the amount of litigation by saying here's a definition for minor injury, lawyers will find a way to litigate over the definition of minor injury. They'll find a way. They're like - someone tried to say the other day the word, mercurial, it's like mercury. If you put mercury on something it will fall into the cracks, it will find a way to slip through the cracks. Well, Mr. Speaker, many a lawyer in this province will find a way to slip through the cracks of this law as a means of trying to ensure that they can continue to get billing for this. I may be the only lawyer in the House - no, the Assistant Clerk is here because he keeps looking at me like - but I think he practised public law as well so I don't think he necessarily should feel offended by this. Those with clean hands, right?

As I said, there are many things in this bill that I don't like. I will not be voting for this legislation. I have concerns with it. There are ways of ensuring that Nova Scotians can get better - if I can say, if this is about saying 37 of 52 members in this House were elected to support private insurance, support the private market system, fine. But there are better ways of fixing it than this. Let's have a much more clear definition of minor injury that protects Nova Scotians who have more than whiplash. Let's make sure that the discount rate is 2.5 per cent, not 3.25 per cent so they get a fair return if they happen to have serious injury. Let's ensure that the Schedule B benefits are there for everyone and are not something you have to buy like french fries on top of your regular insurance. Let's ensure that Facility Association also has to be reduced by 20 per cent.

These are things that we can do to improve this legislation. This government came forward with legislation and the IBC was rubbing its hands to see passed as quickly as possible. But, as members of this House, even if you think you were elected to be here to support the private free market system of providing auto insurance, then you have a right - you have a duty to your constituents - to ensure that those who live in your riding have a good system that works for them. This is not it and it's time it be changed with amendments to ensure Nova Scotians get a system that works for them. Thank you.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to stand in my place here today and say a few words about this bill. I couldn't help but pay particular attention to the eloquence of the House Leader for the NDP. I might say at the outset, trying to make some sense out of an NDP position on something is like trying to grab smoke - you know, you just can't do it because there's no substance to it, and this bill is no exception to other bills that the NDP have brought before this House or have talked about in this particular House, but I'm going to get to that in a moment.

[5:15 p.m.]

The eloquent NDP House Leader, and his Leader before him, waxed eloquently today about the fact that they were going to try to improve this bill and then they were going to vote against it. That's what they said. They're going to try to make the bill better and then they're going to vote against it. The NDP House Leader stood in his place today and before he even sees any amendments, he informs this House that the NDP are going to vote against this bill - at least he is anyway. I can go back to another point in time in this House when the member for Halifax Chebucto voted against our budget without even seeing it. He was asked by the scribes whether or not he was going to support the budget that was coming before the House and he said no, and they said, well, do you know what's in it? No. But you're not supporting it anyway and he said, no, I'm not. In other words, they had a pre-set mind that they were going to bring the government down because they weren't going to support a budget that they didn't even see.

MR. JERRY PYE: And they did.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The member for Dartmouth North says, yes, they did, that's right. What they missed was that they thought they were going to take government when they did that and they got fooled because, Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia will vote for the NDP until they think they're going to form a government and then they jump ship because they don't want to trust the finances of the province to the socialists.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I want to turn my attention to the issue at hand here for a moment, which is Bill No. 1, and to say again that it's hard to tell where the socialist Party is coming from here because now they're following the lead of the Liberal Party and talking about certain amendments that they want to see in this bill. But there are important considerations here that we should be talking about regarding this bill and other financial issues that are facing Nova Scotians today, particularly Nova Scotians on fixed incomes, seniors, people who are hard-pressed to pay their bills yet they're facing heavy costs for car insurance, heavy costs for home insurance, tremendous costs for other types of insurance that they have to have. Gasoline prices have gone through the roof; home heating oil is set to take

[Page 386]

off as the weather gets colder. We have to address all these issues and we have to address them with the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia in mind.

Mr. Speaker, those issues are issues that are all going to come before this House at one point or another. Over the next few weeks and months we're going to be hearing these stories about insurance continuing to rise. House insurance - I agree with the House Leader for the NDP that perhaps house insurance will take a hike now because of the recent disaster and other factors that may come into play. We have to be ready to deal with that and I'm a little bit disappointed that perhaps we're not addressing the whole question of consumer insurance in this province, not just the one issue on car insurance. But we are dealing with car insurance in Bill No. 1, and certainly the others deserve some attention in the near future because I believe we're going to be back here talking about other forms of insurance in the near future.

But you know, Mr. Speaker, a couple years ago the Liberal Party knew there was going to be a problem here and we asked the other two Parties in this House, the government and the NDP, to get together with us and form a tripartite committee, an all-Party committee to take a look at it, and guess what? We were turned down in our request because the government had its own agenda. They wanted to try to smooth this issue over until they got to an election and perhaps past an election. The NDP, on the other hand, wanted to use it as an election issue. They didn't care whether it was solved. They wanted to use it as an election issue and they put out this grand scheme of public insurance.

AN HON. MEMBER: How did we do?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, you're still over here. You know the people of Nova Scotia obviously turned you down, because you're still over here. So they didn't buy the hocus-pocus of the NDP on public insurance during the last election.

Mr. Speaker, I will make reference to the fact that they have introduced a bill. It's a poor cousin to Bill No. 1- as bad as Bill No. 1 is, this one is a poorer cousin to it. This is the

extent of the NDP bill that's before this House on public insurance. It has two cover sheets and 14 lines in between the two cover sheets. The operative clause that I would remind Nova Scotians of is that it's going to take months if not years to set it up, and the monies required for the purpose of this bill shall be paid out of monies appropriated by the Legislature. In other words, the taxpayer is going to pay for it, in spades, if that ever got through.

But this is the total extent of that bill. There it is. That's how much the NDP thinks about the public insurance plan that they put forward. What they've done is try to fool Nova Scotians into thinking they're going to be better off with a public system in this province, and it's not going to work. They know it's not going to work, and they couldn't even put anything on paper to suggest they had an idea to put out there to Nova Scotians that it would work.

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Nova Scotians didn't believe it then and they're not believing it now. When the truth comes out, they will be happy that they didn't go down that road.

Mr. Speaker, this bill we have before us is one that we cannot support in its present context. This bill is one that needs improvement. We realize that. We realize that this bill is a bill that needs substantial improvement, and I believe that fair-minded individuals like the members who are in this House, on all sides of this House, would agree that the people of this province should have a say in the Law Amendments Committee as to what they think the ultimate bill should be, when it leaves this House, the ultimate end for this bill, whether it goes through the required procedures of the House or whether it's killed somewhere along the way.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to see this bill killed, because this bill will improve the situation for Nova Scotian consumers as it affects their ability to pay car insurance and the rates they're going to pay. But I want this bill improved, substantially. There is wording in this bill, there are amounts in this bill, there are perhaps some indications from the government that they're willing to take a look at amendments. Well, the amendments are going to have to be substantial.

Here we are, Mr. Speaker, as a Party, and you heard our Leader say earlier today that we want to work with the government on this particular issue. We want to work to get a better bill out of this House, so that consumers will see that this government and all Parties in this House are trying to do something for them. That's what we want to do. We want to address the issue of other types of insurance in this province.

I still say we should be setting up an all-Party committee of this House to look at some other problems facing consumers when it comes to home heating oil, when it comes to home insurance, when it comes to gasoline tax in this province. All these matters need to be looked at by the legislators who occupy these 52 chairs. It doesn't make any difference what Party they belong to. We have a responsibility to stop this price gouging of consumers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, our Leader said today that we have to co-operate here in the best interests of the people we serve, the people who are out there, the consumers, the taxpayers, the people of Nova Scotia. We have a responsibility to do that. What we do not have, what we should not have is a preset approach to what we're going to do in this House. What we should not have is a closed mind towards making this bill work. Unfortunately that is what we have from the NDP. The NDP has said that no matter what improvements are made in this bill, they're going to vote against it. So by their logic, if we decide to do that, if we decide to vote against this bill because we don't like the improvements that are being made in the bill, that don't satisfy our concerns in the bill, then the bill will fail.

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If the bill fails, who are the losers? The consumers of this province are the losers because the insurance companies will then go back to having their way with the consumers, and they will say that the Legislature couldn't get its act together, so we will continue to put high prices on bills in this province. (Interruptions) They say, look at our bill. Well, here are the two empty pages and the 14 lines. That's their bill, 14 lines. At the end of it, there was much thought given to how they were going to pay for it, they just said the taxpayer will pay for it. The taxpayer will pay for it, that's all. You and I and every other taxpayer in the province will pay for it.

I think the only question would be how long before it would go broke. Well we'll have a chance to discuss in the Law Amendments Committee clause by clause whether or not we can make an analogy between what's happening in Nova Scotia with your position, the position of the NDP, and what's happening in the other two provinces.

We have before us a bill that Nova Scotians are looking to pass through this House. We have before us a bill that Nova Scotians are demanding that we deal with. It was the number one issue in the last election in my area and I'm sure, aside from health care which always seems to be the number one issue, insurance was on everybody's mind because of the tremendous increases in costs over the past couple of years. We all heard the horror stories of insurance costs going up in a family from $800 to $2,800. If one member of a family lost their licence they were charging other members of the family a higher risk premium, all of those things. We all heard those stories. We all felt, I think, somewhat obliged to tell those people that were telling us these stories that we're going to try to make their life a little better with respect to payment of car insurance.

There are problems with oversimplification of how this whole system works in Nova Scotia. Sometimes we try to oversimplify it and sometimes people just want to hear that they're going to pay less money. Along with that comes considerations, what type of insurance are you getting. For example I looked at some public insurance programs that the NDP are so proud of trotting out, but you know there are two types of insurance and that story hasn't come out. You can buy a basic insurance policy, perhaps through a public insurance plan, but if you want enhanced insurance, if you want a lower liability or if you want to buy some collisions with lower deductibility or if you want to buy enhanced comprehensive programs, theft and all those things, guess what, you might have to go back to a private carrier. So instead of dealing with one carrier, you're going to be dealing with a public carrier for liability and basic insurance and a private carrier for the so-called frills in insurance. The consumer could end up going shopping anyway in the private sector for enhanced insurance. That is something that we have to pay some attention to.

Also, we have to tell the people of Nova Scotia that we're on their side when it comes to this. We're not on the side of the insurance company or the lawyers or vested interest groups or big unions or people like that, or any vested interest group, all of which have a role to play in our society. I'm not saying they don't, all I'm saying is that our role should be to

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protect the consumer. Their only advocate are the 52 people sitting in here. We are the people who have to look out for the consumers of this province because nobody else really takes that as their primary concern, it may be their secondary concern, but it should be our primary concern. That is why we should try to make this bill as good as we can make it, as good as we can make it and I believe we can do that over the next few weeks.

When this bill goes to the Law Amendments Committee we're going to have an opportunity to hear from Nova Scotians. We're going to hear from the insurance companies, we're going to hear from the lawyers, we're going to hear from people who are involved in the car business, we're going to hear from people who have vested interests. We're going to hear from all of those but the people I hope we hear from are the people who are being affected badly by this bill, who have paid tremendous costs for insurance in the past couple of years and need relief. Those are the people that I think that the Law Amendments Committee and ultimately the Committee of the Whole House should be dealing with because everybody else is going to have a vested interest. They're going to come at it from their perspective, from their point of view and they're going to do it by suggesting that if you accept their point of view, then you are accepting the consumer's point of view.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is not the case. That should not be the case. What should be the case is that all Parties of this House should be listening to the people who come before the Law Amendments Committee with legitimate concerns, the same people who have called us, the same people who are looking for relief from insurance, not only car insurance. You're going to hear it in the Law Amendments Committee, people will perhaps be cautioned that they're straying off the mark, but they're going to get in there and they're going to be talking about house insurance, they're going to be talking about home heating oil costs, they're going to be talking about all energy costs and insurance costs, at some point in time.

Mr. Speaker, I think what we have to do is act as an advocate for the people of Nova Scotia in determining how this legislation is finally going to roll out. It's not in the best interests of anybody for a particular Party in this House, be it the government or our Party or the NDP to take the easy way out and abandon ship when it comes to dealing with this piece of legislation. If that happens and this legislation doesn't go forward, the ones who are going to be adversely affected are the consumers of this province.

Mr. Speaker, you don't want to see that, I don't want to see that, I don't think anybody in this House wants to see that. The alternative to not having this legislation go forward in a much-improved form will be no legislation, status quo for another period of time. No matter how you want to cut it, no matter what grand schemes this Party has or we have or anybody else has, it will be months, if not years before we get back at this bill again. It's our responsibility to get the best possible deal we can for the consumers of this province in this session of the Legislature, so relief will come now for the consumers of this province,

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not in six months' time, not in a year's time or, heaven forbid, not another study to go out there and look at it.

We are the people who are getting paid to make decisions here, and we have to make a decision on this bill during this session of the Legislature, and it has to be a decision that the consumers are going to be satisfied with and that we, all three Parties in this House, can live with. It disturbs me that one Party has already said they're going to vote against it. That, to me, tells me that there is no compromise here. If they don't get their bill exactly the way they want it, then the consumers are of no consequence. It's the consumers who are going to suffer in this province if we don't get a resolve to this bill. It's the consumers of Nova Scotia, the people who pay automobile tax and insurance in this province, pay automobile insurance who are going to continue to pay high rates unless we deal with this issue. What we have to do is deal with it to get the best and fairest deal for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on for two or three hours, and I know you would love for me to do that. I just want to say, in concluding my remarks for now because I will probably have something more to say on this issue at the Law Amendments Committee, I would hope that this bill gets to the Law Amendments Committee as quickly as possible so we can hear from the people who count, the people of Nova Scotia. I hope that they take the opportunity to come to the Law Amendments Committee in the other Chamber to express their concerns to that committee.

Mr. Speaker, I think this Legislature has an opportunity here to really listen to Nova Scotians and an obligation to make this bill the best possible bill that it can be. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to actually have an opportunity to speak to this bill. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling the squeeze. It seems if I go to the bank - which is not very far away, while the House sits I just go across the street here - and I was to take out $100, I could almost swear that I can't get back to the Legislature and it's gone. I think there are a lot of Nova Scotians who, when they get their paycheques it evaporates in their hands or they feel like it evaporates in their hand before they actually get to do much with it in regard to their families.

Somewhere along the line I got the impression that there's an awful lot of people making a lot of money off of me. I might be strongly misled, but that's sure the feeling that I get. Now, a fine example, I think, is the insurance industry, the automobile insurance industry. I don't hear of any of those companies hurting particularly badly. Profits in the billions. Their only complaint is the profits aren't high enough, not that they're not making any, they're just not high enough.

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I'm all for the private sector, I'm all for businesses making money. As a matter of fact, that's a good thing. When it comes to corporations making money I say, come on in, make a million dollars, make a billion dollars, just don't make my kids sick. Don't pollute my air, don't pollute my water, but if you want to make money, come here. If you have a service to sell and it's competitive, great. But when it comes to auto insurance, the world is not designed exactly that way, because the government tells you, you have to have it; you have to have some coverage. As a matter of fact there are pretty few things, as far as products you have to buy, that the government tells you you have to have it, but this is one, you have to have auto insurance.

Now it would seem a fairly sensible line of thinking that if a government tells you you have to have it that maybe the government would be interested to see that there was a fairly reasonably priced product out there for you to buy, to meet that demand that they tell you you need to have, but there isn't, not for Nova Scotians. As a matter of fact, you're thrown into the pit of insurance companies and they dictate to you what they're going to offer you and at what price. If you cannot afford it, well, too bad.

I have heard a lot so far from the members of the Liberal caucus, and members of my own caucus. Certainly, I will be the first to stand here and admit I have a bias. I think a lot more of what the members of my own caucus have said.

We do have a bill before this House, Bill No. 4. The thrust of our legislation is to bring in public auto, or driver-owned auto, whatever you want to call it. If we . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member allow an introduction?

MR. MACDONELL: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North on an introduction.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for Hants East for allowing me to do this introduction. In the Speaker's Gallery, there are two individuals, constituents of mine from Dartmouth North: Patrick Kane, who is studying international development; and Brigitte L'Heureux, who has just graduated from Cornell University and is studying medical policy. I would like both of them to rise and receive the warm welcome of this House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you and welcome to all our visitors in the House this afternoon. The honourable member for Hants East has the floor.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I have a bias, which most in the House would expect that I would have. Now if our alternative to this Tory legislation, this public auto, if this was the first time on the face of the earth that this type of legislation was

[Page 392]

mentioned, I could understand the skeptics. As a matter of fact, that would be a healthy way to go about the debate on our legislation. What I don't understand is the fact that those provinces that have public auto are models we can look at, and yet, that means it's not the first time that this type of insurance has come before any province. The people there like it, it serves their needs, it's cost-effective, and it means that any dollars made in those systems stay in the province. The jobs created by those corporations stay in the province.

The Premier, during the election campaign, talked about creating 30,000 jobs in Nova Scotia. Yet, he turns his back on the notion of a corporation that would employ more people. He's willing to let our money go to Amsterdam, to whatever other foreign country that our premiums go to, to keep those jobs, but not willing to invest in Nova Scotians for the jobs that could be created here and that their dollars could go back into the Nova Scotia economy.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the member would allow for another introduction?


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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for Hants East for yielding the floor for a moment. As you know, Mr. Speaker, and of course the honourable member for Hants East, that we are having an emergency debate here this evening and attendance sometimes during the late debate and emergency debate isn't perhaps what we would like to see. I would like at this time to collectively, through you Mr. Speaker, introduce rural Nova Scotia. We're well represented here, the various commodities - there's cattle, there's dairy, there's certainly sheep and the hog industry is introduced. I wonder if our guests would rise, because farmers feed us all. I wonder if our guests would rise and receive a round of applause from members in this House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again, welcome to our guests.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. MACDONELL: I want to welcome the people in the gallery as well. I'm glad the honourable member mentioned sheep producers. It's one of the good things you've said lately.

Mr. Speaker, we do have models that we can look at. There are probably negative components as well as positive components to these models. It seems that whenever the members of the Liberal caucus get up to speak, they always seem to pick what could be a negative side and add a twist to it that would tend to make you think that there's something completely wrong with all the positive things of public auto. We've made the case, actually

[Page 393]

we have spent a lot of time studying this issue. Actually, we would beg the other caucuses to do the same if they're interested at all in offering a better deal to Nova Scotians. Those models are there, they don't have to take our word for them, how well they work. There are other people they can go talk to, not us, who would tell them the exact same thing.

We have heard comments from the minister responsible for high auto insurance rates that the reason that the rates in Manitoba are so low is because the roads are flat. Well, one thing I want to tell the minister is that public auto insurance in Manitoba, that corporation, has given money back to the province to spend on roads.

We've heard a lot said about the fact that the taxpayer is going to have to pick up the tab for this, that these businesses, these corporations, will go broke and the taxpayer will have to carry it. We've heard the line, the same as Sydney Steel, for example. That has never happened in those three provinces. In Manitoba, 30 years ago, it cost them over $300,000 to set up their public auto insurance corporation. They borrowed that money from the province. They paid it back in a year, with interest. They have given money to the province for their roads, something that the private industry here gives very little back, if any. This is something that's worth doing because you don't have to make a profit in a public system, you only have to cover your costs and pay your premiums.

The bill before us, a 20 per cent reduction. Well, if there's a good thing I can say about that, then it's 5 per cent more than the Liberals were promoting during the last election. They were offering a 15 per cent reduction. But, considering that rates have gone up 60 and 65 per cent, that means they're going to stay up 40 and 45 per cent to the consumer. That's not much of a reduction when there's been no clear evidence of why that's happened.

It certainly hasn't been the cost of lawyers, it hasn't been payouts or awards awarded by judges, there's been no evidence of any of this as the reason for the high cost of auto insurance. As a matter of fact, the only thing we could find was the insurance industry's losses on the stock market. Great. I mean, wouldn't we all love to invest our money and then go back to people and turn on the tap and make them give it all back. Gee, we lost it but we can just jack up premiums and get that money.

Under the public system, since you don't have to make a profit, there's no need for that, but you can set your premiums to cover your cost. What members may not know is recently, a year ago, or so, there was an election in British Columbia. The Liberal Government was going to privatize B.C.'s publicly-owned auto insurance. It was the insurance brokers who campaigned against the government, persuaded the government not to privatize it. They said to keep it public, it's working. In all of those provinces, successive Liberal and Tory Governments, as the change occurred, have never gotten rid of public auto.

[Page 394]

[5:45 p.m.]

If this is something that the public, as has been stated here, that the majority of the seats in this House are against public auto because the New Democrats don't have enough seats to compare to both the Liberals and the Tories, therefore we lost that argument at the polls. Well, maybe we did, but maybe we lost the articulation of that argument because people believed still that their government will look out for them and why they would believe that after four years of Tory Government is beyond me, I can't come up with a reason, but people still believe when someone looks them in the eye and says I'm going to help you, they will and that's what people believed in that election.

They're stinging from high auto insurance rates, they have been for some time, but they believed when the Tories brought in the freeze, as much as we said it's no freeze, they believed it was and then they started to get their new bills and their rate had gone up. It wasn't frozen. Now the Premier says he's going to bring in legislation similar to what Bernard Lord brought in that didn't work. People believed it would work here. What makes this even worse is the fact that it caps the claims. In other words, this is what the insurance industry wants. They will accept a reduction, I think, the government must know more than I do on this, but maybe they're not going to accept it, but they wanted a cap on what they pay out to their clients. Now, there's a great way to do business - have the government legislate that you can pay out less to the people who are paying your premiums.

I don't see any benefit to Nova Scotians under this system. There might possibly be an improvement in the present situation if they can get a 20 per cent reduction and no cap. Policyholders can actually get all of what their policy says with no cap and still have a reduction in the premium. Now, that would be a step forward for consumers and that's what we heard, how this has got to be a benefit to the consumer.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South alluded to the Law Amendments Committee. Guests here today may not be aware of what that means. In Nova Scotia, it's not the only, we're certainly one of the few Legislatures in the country that has the public come in and speak to pieces of legislation, for changes that they would like to see and actually I feel quite proud to be a member of a Legislature where that happens, but what bothers me is that I've seen lineups of people come in and speak to legislation that no changes occurred in, that they wanted something done. They wanted an amendment. That's what it's called, the Law Amendments Committee. So they wanted that law amended and they saw this as an opportunity to speak directly to politicians about that piece of legislation. They filed in here, sometimes two or three days in a row, and quite often with the same request, but yet it never happened.

Do you know why it never happened, Mr. Speaker, because it wasn't in the government's agenda. The government had an agenda. It was going forward with it and this was a nice thing that they were going to do for the public. Let them come in and speak. Let

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them think that they were going to have an impact and say thank you very much and then push the bill through the way it was. Now people are of the impression that minority government is the best government, that minority government can work. Well I was here in 1998, I've had the fortune, or misfortune (Interruption)

I heard someone say that in the history of Nova Scotia that we've had three minority governments and I've been here for two of them. I wasn't overly impressed with how this government worked in 1998. Some people thought it was fine, I didn't. What I thought was there was a coalition between the Liberals and Tories. When it came to trying to get substantive changes on anything, I felt we were shut out. My impression is that is what will happen because this piece of legislation brought in by the Tories is a Liberal piece of legislation. There are two bills before this House on auto insurance. There's the Tory bill and there's the NDP bill, there's no Liberal bill and there's a reason for that because this is the Liberal bill.

I have a lot of faith in Nova Scotians, especially when they're given all the information they need. I feel for people because I would wonder, if I was out on the street listening to what goes on in here, I'd be shaking my head and I'd be saying who do I believe. Everybody tries to make an argument, tries to promote their case and in doing that to the average person on the street it seems purely spin.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West on a point of order.

MR. MACKINNON: No, Mr. Speaker. I was just wondering if the honourable member would entertain a short question.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Hants East entertain a question?

MR. MACDONELL: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West on a question.

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the honourable member for accepting the question. Simply put, would the honourable member be willing to submit to all members of the Legislature and indeed to the people of Nova Scotia, the cost estimates, the detail surrounding this proposed legislation that they indicate they have. Because we haven't been able to see any detail on cost estimates whatsoever. We really are looking for detail.

[Page 396]

MR. MACDONELL: I thank the member for his question. I think that if he looks at our legislation he'll see that there is a commissioner appointed for six months, that would be where that detail would be worked out. I can tell him that if he wants to work with rough numbers, he can extrapolate with inflation, et cetera, from the Manitoba model and come up with roughly a $2 million cost but that can be more finely worked in that six-month period. (Interruptions)

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

MR. MACDONELL: I encourage the honourable member for Cape Breton West, as much as I can encourage the honourable member for Cape Breton West, that he doesn't have to take our word for it that these models exist. They can do their own research and see where on the mark, how close that number of $2 million might come to set up that bureaucracy. I'm sure that there are people there who would be more than happy to - actually in British Columbia there is a Liberal Government. (Interruptions) Yes, I thought you should have our bill in your bill folder. I thought that (Interruptions) Well, actually I thought during the last campaign our Leader had airplane tickets he offered for a member from the Tory caucus and from the Liberal caucus to go West and examine those models.

Mr. Speaker, maybe it is true that if you throw a rock in amongst a bunch of dogs and one yelps, you know you hit somebody. I will consider that my rock.

Mr. Speaker, the basis for what we do here is the people of Nova Scotia. Government has no other function. It exists for no other reason. We do the things for people through those departments that they cannot do for themselves. They can't be out working on the roads and trying to make a living. They can't be trying to give themselves their own medical care. The province collects their taxes to offer them services and that's the function of government, to see that they get services for their dollar. What's happening to Nova Scotians more and more is they are paying and paying and paying and getting less and less and less. They are actually getting horrible roads but paying gas taxes, cuts in health care (Interruptions)

The relevancy, as a I heard a member say, I don't see the relevancy, the relevancy (Interruptions) The relevancy of this is that we are here for the people of Nova Scotia. This bill has to work for the people of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, and I make the contention that this bill does not work for the people of Nova Scotia. This bill falls short of what we can do for the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate, please?

MR. MACDONELL: I move adjournment of the debate, Mr. Speaker.

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MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the 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 Government House Leader on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The House will sit from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The order of business will be Bill No. 1, second reading, following the daily routine. If we complete the second reading of Bill No. 1, the House will adjourn at that time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 9:00 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.

Just as an explanation for visitors in the House, earlier today a motion was put forward by the honourable member for Hants East under Rule 43 that the business of the House be set aside to allow for an urgent debate, an issue that is believed to be of urgency in this province to be debated this evening. There was an all-Party agreement in the House that that debate would take place this evening. There will be two hours of debate, so it will go from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Three members from each Party will speak - two for 15 minutes each and the third for 10 minutes each. The honourable member who moved the motion will be first to speak to the emergency debate.

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[6:00 p.m.]



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East. (Applause)


MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I think that's what is called a smattering of applause.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that it's my regret that I speak to this debate and actually my regret to feel the need to call this debate. The major thrust of this debate was to centre around the lack of BSE support for Nova Scotia cattlemen, dairy producers and sheep producers. I think the Speaker and other members of this House who are from rural Nova Scotia would be aware that agriculture has been hit and hit hard certainly since this Spring and with the flood at the end of March and certainly the Valley farmers who actually got more rain than most of us this summer, which affected their crops in a very serious way, then Hurricane Juan that actually went through the area of my constituency and brought a lot of devastation and the numbers are not good as far as the impact of that storm.

I can relate to the members the economic impact of BSE as far as jobs and dollars and whatever for the members, but perhaps I won't go there. I want the members, particularly of the government side, I want them to know that I envy them to be on the government side of the House so that when disasters happen, you have some power.

A few years ago our former Leader seemed to be chastised in the media and everywhere else lusting for power and I thought what is there about this business of politics I don't understand. The Tories and Liberals are out there running for power. Why is it the New Democrats aren't supposed to do that? So I envy the members on the government side because you have something I don't. You have the power to do something in times of crisis and I've seen crises happen after crises in this province, in particular with agriculture, and I've seen nothing come out of the government side. I've seen no leadership. I've seen no desire or no vision for agriculture from the government side.

In terms of capital investment, Mr. Speaker, the only sector of Nova Scotia's economy that out-invests agriculture is the oil industry. That's the only sector. Agriculture outpaces every other sector in this province in terms of capital investment. If you look around this province, you look at the value of land and buildings, the infrastructure, you can't replace that overnight and yet this government takes the view if you can't make a living, you should get out of it. Long gone, hopefully, are the days when milk producers took their milk to the side of the road in cans and wondered if they would get paid. That's why they brought

[Page 399]

in supply management - a formula that gives them a price related to the cost of production so they could make a living. Would we demand any less for the rest of us? Your vision doesn't have to be their vision. Their dreams and aspirations for their families and their farms don't have to be the same dream as John Hamm's, but you can have a vision of the value of the industry. They can take care of their own vision if they had a government that believed that what they do was a good thing, it had a value for the province.

In all of this talk of terrorism, in all of this talk of security, there has been absolutely no talk about food security. There has been no domestic food policy in this country, nor in this province. We produce maybe 10 per cent of the beef we consume. The equivalent of 300 carcasses a day come into this province to meet the market needs of Nova Scotians, worth in the value of $80 million. Now, to me, that's something worth pursuing. Put policy in place to grow that industry. Put some mechanism in place where producers can get a decent price for what they produce or they won't be here. Agriculture does not get the attention it deserves.

I see the former minister sitting there and that minister is now the Minister of Economic Development and I will bet he sees no connection between agriculture and economic development. I remember, I think it was last Spring, actually it was probably longer ago because he wasn't the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries at that point, but I remember asking him when he was Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries about the drop in the number of teachers in his constituency, actually in Cumberland and Pictou, and if he saw a connection between the investment in agriculture by this government and the fact that there was a reduction in teachers which meant there was a reduction in students which meant there were fewer young families in rural Nova Scotia. He said, I think that's a question for the Minister of Education. That's a minister who's a farmer. We used to say, you need experienced people in government. Have a farmer for a Minister of Agriculture and we'll have someone who understands the industry. We haven't gotten it.

What we have is a government that recognizes no value in the agricultural sector. The minister had asked me to join his task force, I say now, no. Five months after the BSE crisis, this government puts together a task force. Give me a break - every possible connection to support has been connected to federal funding. Some of that federal funding was announced a couple of times. Some funding that's already been used is bridge funding for the other commodities. It's money that other commodities deserve, and yet the government is using that in this BSE crisis, and precious little.

Could it be the government could come up with the notion, gee, we will put money in of our own - this industry is worth something to us, it's worth something to rural Nova Scotia and we're going to send that message loud and clear and we're going to come up with some dollars that are not connected to any federal program because we deem it to be worth it, all that infrastructure, all that investment, all of those families, all of those homes are worth it?

[Page 400]

I want members opposite to think about something. Farmers don't apply for EI or retraining opportunities, and what they lose will be their homes. Well, that's an awful price to pay for a struggle that has gone on, for some commodities, way too long. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley said farmers feed us all. Well, I remember a number of years ago - I was a teacher, the members here may not know that, and I grew up on a small farm. I keep a small flock of purebred registered Suffolk, and I like what I do there. As a matter of fact it's a good oasis, away from the Legislature, on occasion.

I thought about what somebody told me - a neighbour of mine - that three jobs he thought to be of most value were farmers, teachers, and doctors. So it felt good that I kind of touched on two of them. We have a doctor for a Premier from a rural constituency and what he says goes - it seems to in this province. I certainly would like to see that Premier show some initiative in this regard, but actually if he believes that agriculture in Pictou is worth something, then do it with dollars. He doesn't have to wait for any federal program, they can dicker with the feds if they want later, but otherwise if we look at dollars that go into businesses in this province, the history of dollars going into businesses of fly-by-nighters who contributed nothing to the province, then we have a good history to show that this is worth doing.

That's not to say because farmers are fly-by-nighters, they're here - 100 years, 50 years, 30 years, these are the people who are committed to the province. They're not going away. Yet we've given money to those who did, and lots of it - and more than what this disaster requires. You can't look at everything as a cost. Some things are worth investing in, and agriculture is one of those things, Mr. Speaker.

Now, I have a young family. I have a son who is 16, I have three daughters who are 14, 12 and 11 and because they have grown up around livestock they have some interest. Whether or not that interest would be enough to make them want to be farmers, I don't know, but I'm kind of hoping that maybe one of them will. I remember listening to Laurence Nason when he said he talked to a farmer who said he didn't have a child he hated bad enough to give the farm to.

If that's the approach that we have toward agriculture, if that's the lack of vision that we have to an industry that is only outranked in investment by the oil industry, then what vision do we have for the people who are committed to this province?

When I talked earlier, I started my talk saying how I envied the members on the opposite side, that they had power to do something in this crisis. I reiterate that. The people who put you here are, for the most part, from rural Nova Scotia; most of your seats are from rural Nova Scotia. Yet, since 1999, as far as I can read it, you've turned your back on them.

The first thing that was said by this government was that they were going to cut the bureaucracy. What did they do? They formed a new agricultural board, a Crown Corporation,

[Page 401]

AgraPoint. Two million dollars of taxpayers' money. That would be some small step - $2 million for the jobs created there. What is that? Is it 30 jobs yet? We're looking at 900 jobs maybe in the beef sector alone? If you do the math, what the federation has figured out about $7 million for BSE recovery, and that's only if all the culls et cetera, et cetera, were gone to market between October and December, which isn't going to happen. So you probably are not going to use the $7 million, maybe not near it. But, if you could make a commitment that you're interested in coming up with a program that is a homegrown program, a Nova Scotia-owned program that meets the needs as other provinces have done, the same as we talked about auto insurance, look at the model somewhere else. Other provinces have stepped up to the plate and they've shown their commitment to their producers by coming up with a program that was their own to meet the needs where the federal program fell down.

I tried to get an application form for an interim payment, or at least the forms. I'm assuming it's more complicated than that. So here we are at October 2nd, the minister has said by October 31st interim payments would be going out to producers. Well they think they might have the application forms available on-line as early as Monday. So, what are we looking at, October 6th, something like that? So they're going to be processed, money will be in people's hands by the end of October. I don't think so. As a matter of fact, this is the statement made by the new minister shortly after he went into office and it would seem to me that process would have been figured out long ago as he was telling producers that's what they were going to do for them.

As of August 6th, the total federal-provincial BSE recovery paid out was $117,960. The average payment for slaughter steers and heifers was $490. As much as the minister has made the statement that there's been $2 million booked as the province's share, there's been almost nothing spent on the 60/40 division with the federal government.

So is that money really committed? Is this province really committed? Can people actually get anything that's worth helping them? In a business in this province that's mostly cow-calf operations who sell feeders, that BSE recovery program was of no benefit.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to rise here tonight on the emergency debate. I expect to spend my 15 minutes talking about the facts. The election was several weeks ago and has ended. I would note that the honourable member opposite didn't even include agriculture in his platform, but our government certainly included agriculture in the platform. I'm going to confine my remarks to talking about some realities out there.

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[6:15 p.m.]

I come from a rural community. I've spent much of my life farming. I've been involved in vegetable production. I've been involved in crop production, beef production, dairy production and I'm proud of the time and the lessons I learned during that time. I'm also proud of the people, most of them in the gallery who I call colleagues and friends, who worked on different issues with farm organizations that I had the pleasure to be involved with. Certainly during those years there were problems with funding for agriculture programs, problems with funding stability on operating and certainly there were situations and problems on capital and financing. But as industry and government representatives of both regardless of who was in power during those years, the members of the industry - I being one of the representatives in government - worked closely together to do the best to solve them.

Were those solutions permanent and were those solutions always enough money and satisfactory? Honestly, no. I don't think in a negotiation one ever achieves as much as they want but what you try to achieve is a stable situation, get over short-term problems and try to establish long-term stability. Certainly marketing systems like supply and management have afforded some of that stability to the dairy and poultry industry. The red meat industry, the reality of it is that it has been a North American market. Trade agreements that I participated in with negotiations with my colleagues in the gallery, those trade agreements at the end of the day certainly liberalized trade but they certainly made it more difficult to maintain marketing systems and have the opportunity to sole source or sole supply a lot of your local market. A lot of those marketing problems obviously have limited the price of product in the marketplace for our producers.

As well, that free market system has really limited the ability of the producer to have any great influence on the price of the product they sell. The major retail chains control the vast majority of the retail market. The distribution and slaughter industry is extremely centralized in North America. Canada and Nova Scotia always feel those affects as part of that Canadian group that have limited our opportunities as an industry to allow our producers to achieve adequate returns over the long term. So government over the last number of years in industry have negotiated and worked together to try to come up with income stabilization programs that can meet the needs of producers. We've gone through an evolution from GRIP which was a gross income stabilization scheme to NISA which was a net income stabilization. Through those negotiations some producers have been able to use them effectively. But in our major mixed farming operations here in Nova Scotia, they just simply have not been adequate.

[Page 403]

Certainly when I was the minister responsible, I know the current minister responsible strives to work on behalf of producers with the federal government to ensure that uniqueness and variation in Nova Scotia's makeup that there is flexibility in programs. There has been some success, but the recent round of negotiations leading up to the new APF that was signed, obviously, I think, provides more money, it's an additional $3 million for income support for farmers per year, although linked to the agreement. But what was not readily supplied to the provincial government and to the producers was definition in detail. I don't believe the producers are sure it's a better program. The dollars are better, there's no question about that, but if I'm a producer, the devil's in the details, Mr. Speaker. I want to know the what-ifs and if I'm in this circumstance, how does it affect me?

The new programs that are out there to deal with the current crisis relating to BSE, the provincial government has been very supportive of the industry and we've made commitments so that our dollars are there to match the federal dollars. When you take the BSE recovery program, close to $590,000 has been expended in that program, thus far; not $180,000, $590,000 has been expended to producers in Nova Scotia. Those dollars are important; they are a stop-gap in the crisis.

Mr. Speaker, the attempt of the federal government, I'm sure, and certainly the provincial government, those dollars were meant if cattle were slaughtered from the time the border was closed, at least there was some support payment there on slaughtered cattle to help cushion the blow. But the real initiative that will solve the BSE crisis and what the industry needs and wants, and certainly what this government has lobbied for on their behalf, is for the federal government to negotiate the full opening of those borders; not only with the U.S., but the 20-some-odd countries that have also placed bans on Canadian exports.

The magnitude of our industry now, fully 60 per cent of beef produced in this country, is exported out of the country; 80 per cent of that goes either as slaughtered beef or live cattle to the United States. The full opening of that market provides an opportunity for our producers to get back to normal, long-term planning.

This government is acutely aware, and the industry has certainly been very helpful in providing information that the majority of the producers in this province are mixed farms, but they're also cow-calf producers. This is not traditional grain country, Mr. Speaker, and my colleagues, I'm sure, many in the House don't realize that that's the true backbone of the $30 million beef industry here in this province, the cow-calf industry. The cow-calf industry, depending on your breeding cycle or how you're managing your cattle, normally the majority of them will be offered at feeder sales in late September or October.

There has been one sale, Mr. Speaker, and it was a little more successful - I won't get into quoting prices - because I think collectively government and producers were holding their breath. They wanted to see what cattle we're actually going to start to bring in the fall. Well, the government and producers certainly realized it's not the five-year average, it's not

[Page 404]

the some $1.20 average of last year is what's going to happen this year. The minister and his department have made available $2 million and this bridge funding, or interim funding, will allow advance payments to our cow-calf producers here in Nova Scotia, so they don't have to wait until they get their year-end returns or when their business year ends through the year, to apply for those funds. I'm informed that those applications will be out next week and those applications, once applied for, the minister has informed me personally that it's his intention that he wants those payments out by the end of October in the hands of producers. Again, that's part of the solution of finding those dollars. Is it enough? No, I don't think it's enough at all.

Other sources of income and support are going to have to be used and found. Along with the advance payment, there is $9.3 million in these accounts. Switching to the new APF agreement, those funds can be added from the 2002 year but draws can also be made on those funds, Mr. Speaker, and those funds are going to be important in a year like this to producers who have maintained their accounts.

As well, what else does the province have to offer the red meat industry to help get over this difficult time? Well, the province has always had the Farm Loan Board and the Farm Loan Board is always known as a patient lender. That patient lender really means that they provide some counselling to their clients, but also on an individual basis, Mr. Speaker, they supply some flexibility on repayment terms, on how much money, whether it is interest or principle, can be forgone for a given time, a period, to help those producers get over some of these rough times. That's another piece of the puzzle in trying to ensure that what resources we have as a province are there to help our agricultural industry, and right now our red meat industry.

I would also like to say that the Agricultural Policy Framework that was signed obviously incorporates crop insurance, the old livestock insurance replaces NISA and a disaster program. The Province of Nova Scotia, on the urging and on the representation of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, obviously saw the benefit of at least $3 million more a year of provincial money supporting income support, and our agricultural producers wanted to be able to match that with the federal programs to again increase the total commitment to $75 million over five years for our producers. It's significant dollars, but the fine tuning of the program - and I apologize, Mr. Speaker, I don't have those fine details, the minister would be able to provide them in clarity, but those dollars and those details are important to our producers.

Also, Mr. Speaker, during the last five days, the people in this gallery, many of them live in communities that were devastated by Hurricane Juan. The TVs have been primarily focused on HRM here. The hurt, the devastation, the frustration and the despair out there was just as great, or greater, when individual farmers and their families saw a lifetime of work literally blown away, or at least majorly incapacitated by the storm. I certainly know that the farming community pull strongly together and I certainly heard many accounts of the sharing

[Page 405]

of equipment, livestock, milking cows actually being moved to other farms to be milked. The generosity, the camaraderie and the care for each other is definitely there. Certainly equipment is being moved from areas that were not affected - like generators, for example - to areas that were affected by this devastation.

On that front, Mr. Speaker, I want to quickly say before my time is up that I was certainly pleased our Premier, the Honourable John Hamm, and I had an opportunity two days past to meet with the federal minister for EMO and disaster relief, John McCallum, as well as Robert Thibault. The issues that we discussed with them on behalf of the people gathered in the gallery tonight was trying to find ways that their situation could fit some type of disaster relief, and bringing to the attention of the federal government and receiving a commitment from those ministers that they would indeed look at the situation and continue to work with us, the province, to see if we can find some solutions in the very near term.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister's time has expired.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the resolution brought forth by the member for Hants East, who I know has been an advocate and a supporter of agriculture in Nova Scotia. I, too, was asked to sit on the BSE Task Force and I accepted that invitation, not because I believe it will find a solution to the immediate need facing farmers, but I do believe as an elected official, somebody who asked to be part of finding solutions that work for Nova Scotians, that I have a responsibility to try to find and work towards any resolution whether how dim it may seem.

[6:30 p.m.]

This debate really should be on agriculture as a whole, Mr. Speaker. There's a quote that I want to read to you, "Burn down your cities and leave our farms and your cities will spring up again as if by magic, but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country." I think the hurricane has brought home to all of us the importance of access to food. If one asks a child who lives in a city where food comes from, he might say a grocery store. Ask a child from a rural area and they know it comes from a farm. Nova Scotians need access to a stable food supply that is in close proximity to our towns and cities. Without that, Nova Scotians are at the mercy of distant suppliers. In times of national or local emergency those distant suppliers are less likely to consider the small Nova Scotia market as important.

Farmers in Nova Scotia rely on our market as well as export markets. Thousands of litres of milk were destroyed over the last few days in stores across Halifax. When power is restored, local milk products will be restocked on shelves sooner rather than later. Fresh produce will be available from the fall harvest and local meat should be restocked on our

[Page 406]

shelves. At least that's what we relied on in the past. Now we find our agricultural producers being hurt by the hurricane in addition to the crisis caused by the drought, flood and BSE.

The industry has put forth a plan to the government, to the minister. The response has been let's wait for Ottawa and the Canadian Agriculture Income Stabilization Program to take affect - CAISP as it is better known. If this program works, Mr. Speaker, it will be too little, too late. This is an insurance plan and nothing short and where are many of the farmers going to find any money to put into this program to cover the premiums when they are already going broke. For some sectors to access this program, they will have to suffer losses greater than 70 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, this is simply not good enough. Where is the required leadership of the Province of Nova Scotia? The BSE Recovery Program needs to be extended. Farmers believe in mutual aid and paying their own way, but in times of crisis government has an obligation to recognize farmers for the contribution they make to a safe and reliable food supply. What has this government done to help farmers in need? Very little. Instead of a made-in-Nova Scotia solution, this government always waits for Ottawa. Since 1999 the Nova Scotia Government has shown a total disregard for the agricultural community. They merged the Department of Agriculture with the Department of Fisheries. They have cut $20 million out of the Agriculture budget. They eliminated the Production and Technology Branch and passed those expenses on to the farmer. Instead of a made-in-Nova Scotia solution, this government always waits for Ottawa.

Well, Mr. Speaker, Ottawa has an obligation, but this province cannot and must not continue an unhealthy reliance on the federal government. The government of this day has shown nothing but disdain for agriculture. The province has ignored the agriculture community and the province has ignored beef producers. Beef producers have been asking for this issue to be a priority since May of this year. For some reason the government has ignored them. The Tories thought they could win an election and get a majority and they could continue to ignore this issue. The voters gave them a surprise and farmers in rural Nova Scotia will give them a surprise in the next election, if indeed this issue is not addressed. I will make a prediction, if the government fails to address the needs of farmers, after the next election there will be no Conservative Government. The family farm is in jeopardy and this government ignores it at its peril. I pledge that our Party will ensure the future of the family farm, but we cannot guarantee the future of the government. Each member across the way should listen closely. I believe your political futures are at stake.

Mr. Speaker, the government has had five months to come and make up a solution to this, but they have failed. We need a made-in-Nova Scotia solution. Their answer continues to be, let's wait for Ottawa. Today the Premier was asked to look closely at the needs of farmers, yet he still ignored them. It's not enough to go to Ottawa. The Premier and the minister have to work on a solution that will assist Nova Scotia beef producers now. It's not just beef that is hurting. Pork producers continue to receive low prices. The dairy

[Page 407]

industry, sheep producers, the family farm must survive. Farms supply our urban areas and our urban areas are dependent on farms. Our future is linked to the family farm.

Beef producers have been hoping that a program to assist the cow-calf industry would already be in place by the provincial government. Two days ago I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries if he would consider a feeder market adjustment program for the upcoming sale on October 13th. I have yet to have a response. That day he said he would be speaking with the Federation of Agriculture, I believe someone will be here today and maybe they could let us know what the answer was afterwards.

The time for talk has ended. This program should be put in place with the co-operation of the federation. We asked the Premier today what he was going to do about the crisis, and he was silent. The minister was in Ottawa, but one has to ask, why couldn't he just pick up the phone? Better yet, why doesn't he, as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, realize that he must implement a solution with or without Ottawa? He should do it without delay.

I want to share some facts provided by the federation. One-third of the registered farms in the Province of Nova Scotia depend on ruminant livestock as their only source of income; another third of registered farms depend on the ruminant livestock as part of their income. These farms purchased over $30 million worth of goods and services in rural areas. This issue goes beyond the farm gate and the beef industry. In my riding of Annapolis, equipment dealers, seed suppliers, fertilizing plants and many other businesses will feel the pain of this government's lack of support for the agricultural sector.

When we look at the impact of the BSE on the rural economy, the dollar figure could go between $80 million and $100 million, and that would exclude wages. That will add additional millions of dollars to the rural economy, Mr. Speaker. The $155 cheques totalling $72 million could have gone a long way to supporting the agricultural community in rural Nova Scotia. The BSE crisis has clearly pointed out the need to maintain a local slaughter plant so that animals produced in the region can be processed here as well. That plant needs to be federally inspected.

Let's first act to save those farms at risk, and then look at the long-term solutions, so that our local producers can provide for more and more of the local market. Let us prevent the next crisis by planning for tomorrow. Let's ensure there is a rapid response from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries when the next crisis hits, and not six months later and still waiting. Mr. Speaker, that's why in the last election we put in place an agriculture emergency manager officer, for situations just like this.

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In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to say if we can find $155, totalling $72 million, if we can afford a 10 per cent tax cut that will take $147 million out of the economy of Nova Scotia, surely to God we can find $7 million to save the beef industry in Nova Scotia, to save the rural economy of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it's certainly a privilege for me to be able to rise here this evening to talk on this very important agricultural issue and the importance of farming to our rural Nova Scotia economy. I come from Pictou West, an area of the province in Pictou County where there's a fair amount of farming still, perhaps not as much as there had been at one time, but still a very important component of our economy in this area of the province. Certainly a number of beef farms, dairy, chicken and egg, strawberry, vegetable and fruit, a little bit of fur farming and greenhouse operations; just a good variety of mixed farming. I should mention too, I had the privilege, I guess, of growing up on a farm, and a lot of those components I just mentioned on a mixed family farm, a lot of good memories and a lot of good values learned over the years from having that privilege.

Today, Mr. Speaker, our agricultural industry in this province is in a crisis; there are certainly some challenges being faced by many different farmers. I know the emergency debate here is on the beef industry, but it certainly applies to all the agricultural industry. Just this week I had a farmer in my constituency call me, really almost in tears - he's facing a really serious problem. He's a beef farmer with 200 head of cattle and just can't afford to pay his bills. He has a mounting collection of bills on his doorstep. I said I would like to sit down to meet with you - where can I meet you? Well, just let me know when you're coming, I'm just sort of trying to hide from my banker right now because I don't want to let him know where I am. But it's serious. He has power bills, phone bills, equipment bills, gasoline, fencing and baling costs from the summer hay season and so on. He's typical of many beef farmers out there who are just finding this very, very serious.

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a very serious issue, I guess not just because of this final straw that has broken the camel's back on this BSE issue, but there's been just a whole series of problems that have come along that when added up, are making it very tough. We had the floods in the Spring, a few years ago we had a major drought, there are ever-increasing costs, as I just mentioned with the farmer in my riding; just a whole series of issues. Then just this past weekend, of course, we had the hurricane which threw an extra blow to many farmers.

There was a lot of damage out there caused by this hurricane: equipment damage, a lot of corn crops were levelled, certainly structural damage to barns and outbuildings, and it's just one more kick at the farmer in our province. But I think, in particular, we have a number of beef farmers here with us this evening and I know a number are also downstairs in the lobby. I know we have fire marshal regulations here in our building, but in many ways it seems a shame that we have a number of guests in the lobby downstairs, and I see a lot of

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empty seats up in the west gallery. But I guess they're monitoring us on the television set down there.

Farmers have a history of being self-sufficient and trying to help themselves, and have certainly organized themselves into the Federation of Agriculture and various commodity groups, and in each county come together to try to help and support one another. Just recently, I guess during this past election campaign, I had the opportunity to attend the beef barbecue, which I know, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, you were able to attend, and also the Premier, in Alma, Pictou County. It was an opportunity to meet with several producers and farmers to talk about some of the problems in the industry. More recently, I guess the same thing happened in Colchester County at the rally that was held in Murrays Siding at the cattle market sale earlier this month, with a tremendous turnout. I think there were over 500 family farm members and friends who were there to show their support for the beef industry in this province.

A lot of speakers from various commodity groups again expressed their frustration and their concern with the lack of support that they feel that they're getting at this time from government. Certainly they were looking to talk to the minister at that time, but I guess he was not able to attend and that's true here tonight. It would have been nice in this emergency debate to have our Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries here to hear the concerns of farmers first-hand.

[6:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a minute to talk about this BSE crisis. This started I guess with just one cow in one province, in the Province of Alberta, and it spread quickly around the world as a concern and the Canadian beef exports were blocked and it has dramatically affected the whole country. Somewhere I saw the estimate. It was probably $1 billion of sales that have been lost across this country because of this disease from just the one cow in that province.

The federal government has started an initiative, I guess it was called the Agricultural Policy Framework, to try to bring some relief or help to farmers. Provinces have come onside right across the country as well as the territories. I do have, Mr. Speaker, a pamphlet here that explains the program. It looks like it's very complicated and I think that's part of the difficulty and why it perhaps is not meeting the needs of our producers at this time, but this pamphlet is called Agri-info and put out by the federal Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food. There is rather a complicated system for the farmer to be able to draw down the money that he needs. There are three tiers of cost-sharing. There's a reference margin for clients below 70 per cent and it's considered an income disaster and there are various levels of assistance that kick in at different points, but basically I'm sure it has been difficult for farmers to figure out just how to apply for the assistance and in the end I don't know if it is going to provide a whole lot of extra help to producers.

[Page 410]

Many provinces across the country have actually, though, kicked in extra money to help their farmers or their beef producers in those provinces. I want to just give you a couple of examples of what other governments have done and perhaps with an ear that this government might consider something "made-in-Nova Scotia" that could be wrapped around this federal program in addition to what's being offered. As an example, in the Province of Manitoba they have, well, I guess first of all they had some fundraising efforts put forth by the communities in the farming areas of the province, that people came in and helped their own get over this hurdle but, as a province, the government there put in extra, over and above the agriculture policy framework that was offered through the federal program.

One item that they came up with was a low interest loan, "$100 million in low interest loans to help producers with cash flow challenges. The low interest rate is applicable for two years." They had another program of "$12 million to help producers with the added expense of shipping hay and straw." There was a Slaughter Deficiency Program, " . . . $10 million in funding for producers faced with depressed slaughter prices." and that comes into effect I guess after August 31st, but anyway they did some extra things over and above the CAIS Program offered through the federal government.

The Province of Ontario, in addition to the federal initiative, came up with Canada Ontario BSE Recovery Initiative (Phase 2), they call it. It was a set-aside program, "to provide compensation for cattle owned by Ontario producers on May 20th that were fully fed and market ready." If the producers were willing to set aside their cattle and keep them from going to market for a period of eight weeks, they were able to get an extra funding for each cow or calf kept out of the killing process and they also came up with a Phase 3 Slaughter Component for veal calves and market-ready cattle. But again, programs over and above the federal program made in that province, the Province of Saskatchewan, the Premier there, Lorne Calvert said that he would not stand by and let Saskatchewan producers go under. So they came up with a made-in-Saskatchewan program of $20 million in compensation for the balance of slaughter cattle on feed as of May 20th and a total of $140 million available in loans through financial institutions in that province to help their farmers get over this hurdle. They had a program called a BSE Backgrounder Cash Advance Program, I think that's similar to the hold back or the set-aside program in Manitoba for older cattle, I think over four years old. They had a BSE Breeding Stock Loan Guarantee Program and finally a Calf Cash Advance Guarantee Program. So a variety of initiatives put forward by that government to help their farmers, their beef farmers in Saskatchewan.

Finally, in the Province of Alberta again programs there over and above the federal program, the CAIS Program. They had a $65 million Fed Cattle Competitive Bid Program, $10 million in changes in the Alberta Disaster Assistance Loan Program and the Alberta Farm Development Loan Program. Finally, $4 million Stranded Export Beef Container Initiative. I believe that was for beef already in transit and was held up at the border that would give some compensation to the farmer that had his beef in the system. So as I have mentioned, these are all made in those individual provinces over and above the federal

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program. I'm just wondering if our minister here and the department could look at some of those programs and offer extra assistance for our producers here. They are hurting, they are crying, they are in need of help.

Just a couple of other suggestions too in relation to other things that might help. I was travelling in the former minister's riding, Cumberland North, I saw a big sign out there near the Trans Canada Highway, buy local Nova Scotia beef or support Nova Scotia farmers. A few signs here and there might just help to bring more attention to the beef industry and help people buy locally. Why not? I don't think it's that big a cost. I had one farmer suggest to me that he gets a break on his land on property tax assessment, but could he get a break maybe now, at least temporarily on his farm buildings. Some type of initiative that would allow him to pay less here right now because that's another bill he has, his property tax assessment.

Buy local, some of us here today enjoyed a fine meal in our cafeteria, it was a beef meal. I don't know where that beef came from, hopefully it was locally produced here in Nova Scotia. There are many of our institutions as well throughout the province, there are schools, jails and hospitals and so on, why couldn't we be using our local beef in our local institutions.

I guess basically we just need to, as the honourable member for Hants East had said earlier, give a more serious look at our whole agricultural industry and have a vision for Nova Scotia agriculture. As mentioned earlier, having a separate Department of Agriculture again would show to our farmers in this province that we are serious about giving some real input and attention to the farmer. Because farming affects not just the farmer and the farm family, it affects all the rural communities and the whole economy really of this province. So, let's get serious and help our farmers and that helps our province. Thank you.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia. I would like to thank all members who have participated in this emergency debate thus far. I'd like to mention right off the top that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries along with a representative from the federation, are in Ottawa to discuss the BSE or the mad cow disease issue and Hurricane Juan with the Agriculture Minister, Lyle Vanclief. I think from my experience and observations around this Legislature, probably that's a good place for the Nova Scotia Minister of Agriculture to be at this very important time. He would have liked to have been here to debate the emergency debate, but because of the attempts and the difficulty arranging meetings with the federal minister, he felt he was better suited to go to Ottawa. So that's where he is.

[Page 412]

We do have a number of farmers and guests in our gallery and a number downstairs. I'd like to thank them for coming in this evening. This is a very important concern and our government does take this concern seriously. First of all, the member for Hants East said that I have suggested that farmers feed us all and there's no doubt about that.

Earlier today I had a conversation with the media about farmers coming to Halifax. Why are the farmers coming to Halifax? The fact of the matter is that the farmers are coming to Halifax because they're very concerned. I think it's important that they have come to Halifax because there's an opportunity to educate and inform politicians of all political stripes about this very, very serious concern. Farmers not too long ago had to deal with the drought, they've had to deal with flooding. I see folks here from the Upper Stewiacke area and the Valley that have had to deal with the flooding concern. Farmers have had to deal with the mad cow disease and now the hurricane.

The industry has faced challenge after challenge. In that context, since September 16th, the rally that was held up in Murrays Siding - and I was pleased to attend and I know the member for Cumberland South, the Speaker in this Legislature, also attended the meeting as did several members from caucuses opposite. I want to tell you that the rally raised agriculture awareness.

Some will say, why did we have to raise agriculture awareness? The fact of the matter is, a lot of politicians and Nova Scotians don't realize that the cows aren't tied out behind the supermarkets - that's not where the meat comes from, that's not where the milk comes from, that's not where the poultry comes from, that's not where the agriculture products come from. It comes from the farmers that are in this gallery this evening. That's where the products come from. So it's very important that the farmers come to Halifax. I know there's many things you'd sooner be doing, but the fact of the matter is, you have to inform and you have to educate the politicians.

I know in Colchester County - and there are representatives here this evening, presidents from the county federations and members of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and members of the farming community that have worked very, very hard in their own right and in their own way to elevate and amplify this concern. It is important that you speak out and take the opportunities that you have to inform all Nova Scotians, especially right here in urban Halifax, about how important the agriculture sector is to Nova Scotia.

All commodities have been impacted. Without question. The dairy sector is reeling, the beef sector is reeling, the hog industry is reeling, poultry's impacted. We even heard from a fruit grower that's impacted. It is a big concern, it's a serious concern, one that you easily can't pull the answer and the response out of a tree or something. It's a very, very serious issue.

[Page 413]

Nova Scotia producers have raised concerns with the government's handling of the BSE crisis, the mad cow disease. We recently established a toll-free number to make it somewhat easier for the farmer and their families to find out about the programs that are available to the agriculture industry. I'm happy to report that an agriculture task force on BSE has been established to hear from members of Nova Scotia's agriculture community on issues related to the mad cow disease. I am disappointed to learn that the Agriculture Critic for the NDP has declined an invitation to be on the task force. I believe the honourable member would have certainly added something to the task force.

[7:00 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, if you will, you could say that the place and time for politics is here in the Nova Scotia Legislature. When we're talking about informing and educating, I trust and I don't doubt for a moment that the honourable member for Hants East is concerned about this issue. I want to table a document here in the Legislature regarding the candidate for the NDP and the candidate for the Liberal Party who ran in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley in the last election. Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is a riding that is very dependent on resource-based industries - farming, forestry and mining. I think it's important that I read this into the record. I do this with respect, but it's important that all members inform members in their caucuses about agriculture. I have to read a couple of the sentences.

"Mr. Taylor's opponents, NDP candidate . . . and Liberal . . . say they either aren't hearing the same messages from farmers . . ." about mad cow disease ". . . or are focused on other issues." Ms. Belzer said, " . . . her focus in this election is on provincial, . . . programs." Ms. Barnhill, the Liberal, " . . . seemed surprised Wednesday to hear mad cow is an election issue . . ."

Well, the fact of the matter is it has been a problem, as the member for Hants East has said, since May. I think by forming this task force, we're taking a step in the right direction. After all the Federation of Agriculture requested that a task force be formed, so we're complying with the federation's request.

As well, Madam Speaker, this document disturbs me even more. It was tabled by the honourable member for Hants East. This was tabled last Fall. The print is a little smaller, and if you will indulge me I will dig out these specs. I know the member knows better than this, but it's very important that we recognize that with petitions like this, tabled in this Legislature, it's detrimental to the agriculture industry, it's detrimental.

"We the undersigned . . ." and there are some 400 signatories to this petition " . . . hereby ask the premier, government, and legislature of Nova Scotia to create and guarantee by court order or legislation a buffer zone of not less than 1KM (one kilometer) around our homes . . ." from agriculture, spreading of fertilizers, insecticides and things of that nature.

[Page 414]

How far can you go in Nova Scotia and find a farm that's isolated from residents? Again, I think it's important that I retable that document. I do that with respect, because I know that honourable member knows better than that. The fact of the matter is when you do things like that, it impacts the agriculture industry. It's small wonder that they find it necessary to come here to Halifax.

Madam Speaker, the goal of the task force on BSE is to assess this government's response and the federal government's response to the mad cow situation. We are to determine the impacts of the BSE crisis on Nova Scotia's agriculture industry, determine the capacity of existing provincial, federal and industry programs to address these impacts. That's essentially the terms of reference. The task force will include representatives drawn from the Nova Scotia agriculture and related sectors and others with an interest in the agriculture industry. I think that's a good step to help address this crisis.

The task force will be meeting in four agriculture regions across this province. Meetings will be held in Wentworth on Friday, October 17th, at the Wentworth Community Centre; in Antigonish on Saturday, October 18th, at the St. Andrew's Community Hall; in Brookfield, Colchester County on Monday, October 20th; and in Kentville on Tuesday, October 21st at the Kentville Research Centre. I know the honourable member for Kings North is very interested in this issue. Meetings in all the locations will run from 1:00 in the afternoon until 5:00 p.m. and reconvene at 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Presentations will be delivered orally and be limited to 15 minutes.

Presenters are asked to address two specific questions, how has the mad cow crisis affected your farming operation, and will the current programs assist you in dealing with the impacts of the mad cow crisis, mad cow disease? The task force will also receive written submissions from those who are unable to attend. Stakeholders wishing to make those oral presentations are asked, where possible, to provide us with written comment as well.

We've also been mandated and requested by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to present a report no later than October 31st in this Nova Scotia Legislature. The report will be tabled in the Nova Scotia Legislature and again, Madam Speaker, I think the honourable member for Hants East should go back and reconsider his decision because as far as I know the task force of committee members who have been approached have agreed in the affirmative save for the honourable member for Hants East. (Interruption) Well, the honourable member is saying it's not true and it may not be, but I do know that we have received a lot of support from the agricultural community and they realize that the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has made this request.

You know when governments at any level invest in agriculture and the agricultural community, they are investing in rural Nova Scotia. Somebody mentioned a little earlier and I tend to agree, although I don't support the philosophy, I certainly do agree that the farmer and his family aren't about to pull up stakes and move on to another location if there is some

[Page 415]

investment that comes forward, Madam Speaker. We're investing in rural Nova Scotia. We're investing in this province and what's good for rural Nova Scotia is good for urban Nova Scotia. The farmers' interests are in the best interests of this province and I think that can be said right across this great country. The problems that we have here in Nova Scotia aren't unique to this province as far as the mad cow disease goes. We all know that there's a lot of hype and there's a lot of myth about the mad cow disease, but the fact of the matter is the border remains closed, for the most part, to Nova Scotians and to the rest of Canada. When the rest of Canada can't market their commodities in the United States, guess where a lot of those commodities are headed - into some of the smaller provinces such as Nova Scotia.

By going out into rural Nova Scotia as a committee, we are determined to listen, to learn and to try to put together some information and recommendations that will assist and help the farming community. I can't predict at this time, Madam Speaker, what the outcomes of those hearings will be, but I'm certainly looking forward to listening to the farmers and their families. There are many, many issues out there and a lot of programs, not just related to the agricultural industry, but a lot of government programs, especially when federal and provincial governments partner up, they can be a nightmare. They can be a nightmare for lawyers. They can be a nightmare for accountants and they're certainly a nightmare for many farmers.

The flood crisis, there were some eight or nine different branches of government at the federal and provincial levels dealing with that particular concern and just when it seemed like there was a resolve reached, about the land that's leased, for example, just when we thought there was some progress being made, somebody came in and pulled the rug out from underneath us there, Madam Speaker. There were a number of issues related to the federal criteria and sometimes, yes, you have to point the finger at the federal government because the criteria are outdated. Right across this country farmers lease land. Some of it is done by a handshake. Some of it is done by the nod of the head but, do you know what, the old song is absolutely appropriate, the title of the song, All the Lights in Broadway Don't Amount to an Acre of Green, and why I say that is that when we drive through our rural communities, we're seeing more and more of the old family farms growing up in weeds, growing up in alders.

Madam Speaker, people qualified tonight, I grew up, I was born, literally born and raised on a small farm and like my good friend, Mr. Moxom, said earlier, Brooke, you know what it's like to pull those things on the end of the udder and the fact of the matter is I do and I'm proud to say that. We milked a herd of between 15 and 20 cows. We had an old pipeline system, but we made the mistake of stripping those cows afterwards and, do you know what, the darned things used to hold their milk up because they would serve you milk by hand and milk by that old vacuum milker that we had, but that doesn't qualify me or certify me in any way, shape or form. I've got to listen to the people who are here. Industry has changed; technology has certainly changed. Remember the old milk cans we used to pull out. Well,

[Page 416]

they changed the bulk system, that was a big expensive undertaking, but let's not forget, in closing, that farmers feed us all and let's hang onto this industry.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Madam Speaker, members of the House, it is certainly very pleasing to speak on this issue this evening. It is one that is very near to me. For the constituents of Kings West and indeed, Kings County in the Annapolis Valley, the BSE has had an enormous impact. In fact, perhaps in many ways my presence here this evening is due to the fact that I took considerable time to talk with farmers in the pre-election and during the election period. Certainly they have felt very much without a voice here for the past four years.

In going door to door and in talking with farmers I was able to learn first-hand of the impact of the BSE, but also what is going on generally in agriculture here in the province. In fact, one of my first duties as an MLA was to follow up on a commitment to meet with pork producers. I know that's not the debate here tonight, but you can draw the parallel that it shows the crisis that is here and ever growing. On the evening when we had the meeting, which I was pleased the member for Kings North also attended, it certainly brought home the reality of how much farmers are hurting here in this province. When you had what was to be just a little local meeting of seven or eight pork producers and they came from Concession to Truro to attend this meeting - I think that certainly tells us that their voice is not being well represented here.

In many respects, BSE will be the final blow for a number of farmers here in Nova Scotia. They are certainly at the point now where if they don't receive help they will not be able to continue. From my experience in talking to farmers in the Kings West riding, I would have to say those who remain are the best, the brightest, and the hardest working that you would find. The industry has been whittled down to those who can survive, and in my view we have to move quickly on this particular issue.

We certainly need to move beyond the cause, we need to move beyond the science of how one cow was detected and how that happened, to looking at the real need, and the farmers here in the province.

The rural economy of our province will receive an immense blow if we continue to lose our cattle producers and any of our farmers. I know that when I spoke to farmers, and in debate with the other candidates during the last election, certainly the farmers and everybody seemed to be pleased that our government was offering a pledge to have an agricultural emergency officer in place - and what a time it would be now to have such a person here in the province.

[Page 417]

The rural economy certainly benefits in a very, very big way from agriculture. Rural development needs to be drawn in as the bigger picture here. When I was asked about rural development, the very first response was will that mean another call centre brought to Berwick or Aylesford or Kingston? My response, with an adult lifetime in Kings West ,was that, no, I feel that farming is the heart and soul of rural development in this province, and we are sadly neglecting it.

When you have a sector that provides $82 million - we're talking about the impacts here on the retail industry - $82 million is a considerable industry, 900 full-time equivalent jobs. At this point in time where the response has basically been look to the federal government, the federal aid package, the APF, the disaster relief, the province has provided a small amount of provincial aid and now we face a task force. A task force may in fact be just the way to deflect getting at the real heart of providing farmers some immediate relief. I know that is the worry of several people, one - one of the most prominent producers in the province, who has decided not to go on that committee. Will it be just more air time when they need something substantial.

What will this government have to say to a farmer like Mike Horsnel, farming just north of Aylesford, whose operation is 75 per cent beef, 25 per cent apple industry. This summer he was raising very, very fine cattle that he took to the Lawrencetown Exhibition where he received slightly over $4 a pound for that particular beef. That was the sum and substance of his income for this summer because otherwise it was about 60 cents that he was being paid for more than a year of work that he had put into his livelihood.

[7:15 p.m.]

What will this government have to say in response to Keys Langellan, one of the finest dairy farmers that we have in our area, a Dutch Canadian who has done very, very well in this area, who this summer, when he was getting rid of his culled cows, soon found out that by shipping them to Quebec or Ontario, the cheque at the end of the day was $60. Just two weeks ago he decided why bother. I will give some of my culled cattle to the Oaklawn zoo for feed for their lions. That's the state of the industry here in Nova Scotia. What about Lindsay Kinsman, again a dairy farmer, a dairy-beef farmer who this year will lose on both operations about $50,000. What will be the answer to those people?

I applaud our local slaughterhouses who happen also to be in Kings West, O.H. Armstrong, Bowlby Meats who on three occasions in recent weeks offered the highest prices for beef, not locally, not in Nova Scotia, but in Canada, that's how they responded. Again local people helping out. No sign of government on their doorstep. In fact, in conjunction with a local farmer, I met with Robert Thibault, Mr. Nason who, I believe, is here tonight, and a couple of the local farmers to look at the possibility of a federal inspection plan for O.H. Armstrong. That will provide additional slaughter capacity and again a support and aid to the local beef industry here in Nova Scotia. This is again an initiative taken on by local

[Page 418]

farmers, local people concerned about the state of the industry. In the long term this kind of initiative will mean that more can be processed locally but it also gives the possibility of moving from that plant to other plants for finishing like the Eastern Meat plant here in the Dartmouth area.

The industry is in crisis. These are just two or three examples that I have drawn upon this evening and there are many, many other stories. I hope that these stories over the coming days will be made known to us who are here this evening. I know I was pleased to see the Premier here for part of the debate this evening and hopefully the effort made in this emergency debate will not be lost on the opposition.

To date, this government really has responded quite feebly, in my view; 1-800-federal is just not working. We need to do more as a provincial government. In my view, government is about timely responsiveness. A task force delays and deflects the real need experienced right now on the farms of Nova Scotia. This Premier and this Party need to work on a made-in-Nova Scotia type of program, a stand-alone relief program for the cattle producers. We need to support the initiative made locally by O.H. Armstrong and perhaps also picked up by Bowlby Meats, another local processing plant, to extend their capacity, and perhaps again the provincial government could step in and support that initiative.

I feel that we have a great opportunity here to look within the province for part of the solution. How many of our government-run institutions never look at the possibility nor explore the possibility for using local Nova Scotia beef? That would be, again, another initiative that we should be taking a look at.

Madam Speaker, I think it's incumbent on all of us in this minority government to help in this crisis. We must move beyond resolutions to a resolve that will bring some quick relief, otherwise, many of these farmers will not be here in 2004. Thank you. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Madam Speaker, I am privileged to have an opportunity to stand and speak on this emergency debate. I was looking through the list of speakers and sort of crossing them off as I was going through. I was asking the member for Cape Breton West about his situation in his riding. I note that I'm probably the only one who is getting up to speak who does not have any beef producers in my riding, but I think that is still a relevant point. This is something that affects all Nova Scotians, it's not just rural Nova Scotia, it's urban Nova Scotia that is impacted by this crisis as well.

I was speaking to someone outside today, I said, well, I have to speak on this, I don't have cattle farmers or cattle producers in my riding, and they said, well, you come from Cow Bay, that must give you some credibility on the issue. Then I thought to myself, well, my last name is Deveaux, so that in French means calf. In all honesty, in all seriousness, this is a

[Page 419]

serious issue and it's one in which Nova Scotians, whether they live in a city, in a town or in a rural setting, know that this is a crisis that's going to impact on all of them. I may not have cattle producers in my riding, but I have people who may work at one of the refineries in my area, they may work in Burnside in a machine shop or what have you, and in those locations as well, they are going to be directly or indirectly impacted by this as well, because whether it's less gasoline that's purchased or whether it's less machinery that's being purchased because of the impact of this, it will affect the economy in Nova Scotia.

As my colleague, the member for Hants East, noted earlier, the impact of the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia is only second to the oil and gas industry. That's only recently that would have overtaken them. Madam Speaker, it's important that we all reflect on the importance of the money that is generated in our economy through the agricultural industry generally, and specifically cattle producers. I wanted to take some time to talk a bit about that.

I was noticing some of the information that's been floating around both during this debate and otherwise, and I think it's important to put some figures on the record and maybe some of the other members have done that, but I think it's important to reiterate them. I was reading something that I'm going to table a little later from the Federation of Agriculture noting that $30 million a year in direct money into rural economy comes from the cattle industry - that's a lot of money - and 900 direct full-time equivalent jobs from the cattle industry. That's a lot of jobs. I think about the jobs in my riding or the two refineries, the refinery and the old refinery I had in my riding wouldn't come close to 900 jobs.

The amount that's being generated through the cattle industry is an important component of our economy and one we can't forget - $82 million a year in direct and indirect money into the economy from the cattle industry. That's a lot of money, and another $11 million in salaries. So it's over $100 million that's being put into the economy through the cattle industry and that's probably a conservative number and from that, because of this BSE crisis, Madam Speaker, we're talking a $50 million direct hit to that industry and that's a $50 million direct and indirect hit to the Province of Nova Scotia.

As I said, that isn't just affecting the people in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley although I'm sure it is directly impacting them, or the people in Hants East, or the people in Kings West, but it is affecting all Nova Scotians and it's one that we must take the time to talk about and address so that Nova Scotians know that this government is treating it seriously and is taking the time to try to address it. I must say, a task force which the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley seems to be talking about just seems like more chit-chat. It just seems like more stalling when what people need is action and action must come now, not in a few months, and I want to talk about that in a few minutes as well.

[Page 420]

I think it's important to also note - and I've seen this from this government in other ways. It's funny because governments are elected and people sometimes want them to lead and sometimes want them to do what they want, but I would say in the case of this, in a crisis, people want a government to lead. What I have seen, whether it's agriculture or fisheries, or other areas, this government since it was elected in 1999, Madam Speaker, does not lead. When the federal government comes on with a program, they will say fine, if you're willing to pony up the money, federal government, we will agree to it. We might throw in a few pennies here and there in order to do our part, matching fund or, you know, we do 10 per cent and you do 90 per cent, or whatever, but the fact is this government does not show leadership by recognizing - and I will talk specifically about this industry, this industry is different than it is in other provinces. There's a difference in our industry and, for example, when they opened the border to the U.S., they opened it to a certain type of meat, a cut of meat, and a certain age of the animal and that does not cover a lot of the industry in this province.

Yet the program that's being addressed, Mr. Speaker, does not necessarily from the federal government meet the needs of the farmers or the cattle producers in Nova Scotia and as a result we're trying to put a square peg in a round hole. The federal government, of course, is trying to do a program for the entire country so they have to devise one for that, but I will also give some specific examples of other provinces that have said, thank you for giving us this funding but, do you know what, we're going to take that square peg and we're going to make it round because for our province we've got to make it fit for our farmers, our agriculture industry, our cattle producers. That's what they did. Yet this province, this government decided they weren't going to do that. We will set up some task force and maybe we will talk about a little bit of it but not all the issues that are out there and, as a result, we will just keep talking and no action will occur. That's not what they need. They need that round peg in the round hole that will ensure that in Nova Scotia the farmers get what they need.

Mr. Speaker, I do want to say, I have referred a couple times to it and I do want to note it, it's a letter of September 2, 2003. A copy was sent to our Critic for Agriculture and Fisheries, the member for Hants East. It was a letter to the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. I do want to quote a couple things from it, particularly I want to say that it quotes some of the costs that I noted, but a couple of other things that I think are important to table so that people know. They actually spell out what they think are the four things that need to be done to ensure that any program to help cattle producers in Nova Scotia again addresses their needs.

They identify four things:

  • "the immediate extension of the BSE Recovery Program with enhancements that reflect Nova Scotian conditions;
  • [Page 421]
  • the development of a market adjustment program for the cow-calf sector that can be implemented once fall feeder prices have been established;
  • discussion related to a practical projection of the level of assistance and timeliness with which assistance might be delivered through the proposed Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization Program; and
  • the identification of long-term impacts of the BSE crisis on Nova Scotia's agricultural economy and development of an agenda to examine and deal with the identified issues."

[7:30 p.m.]

Now, I might say the task force that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley talked about might address the fourth one, but in a crisis it's like triage in a hospital. You have to deal with the serious issues first and then you can deal with the rest. We've heard this around Hurricane Juan. We've heard people say get the power back up, let's get people the water, let's get them the services then we can talk about evaluating. The fourth one is about evaluation, about long-term planning. Maybe that task force might have a purpose with that, Mr. Speaker, but before we do that, we have to make sure this crisis is dealt with, that the funding is in the hands of those cattle producers. This government seems to be starting with number four and ignoring the first three. I'll table that letter so that it's there for the other members to see.

I think it's also important to note that other provinces have actually gone ahead and done more. I want to table from Alberta - Alberta created a $112 million relief program over and above whatever the federal government was doing. This is from the news fax, it says, "Alberta to Declare BSE Crisis A Disaster, Draws Up $112 Million In Relief For Ranchers." Obviously there are more ranchers and more cattle producers in Alberta by far than in Nova Scotia, but still, I see no leadership from this government that shows that they're doing anything above and beyond what the federal government is doing. Alberta has done it, British Columbia - they did something like removed fees, some of the grazing fees on Crown land were waived, some of the other licence fees were waived. Maybe that's not what is needed here, but there needs to be something done. There needs to be leadership - that's what these cattle producers are looking for. That's why they're here tonight, that's why we're having this emergency debate so that this government can defend its record and listen to what needs to be done. That's not happening.

I do want to note and I do want to table from Manitoba - they have a long list of things that they were doing on top of what the federal programs were - $12 million for a new Drought Assistance Program which I guess is more particular for them. But of course there were issues around droughts this summer; $10 million to extend the slaughter component of the BSE Recovery Program; an extension of the 1.5 per cent interest rate reduction for the

[Page 422]

BSE Recovery Loan Program; a $43 million commitment under the Agricultural Policy Framework that will leverage over $100 million for cattle producers. All of these things are being done by other provinces because they see that the federal program is not the be-all and end-all, it's the beginning. It comes to the door of their province, to the border of their province and they must do more. Yet, this province, this government seems to only want to talk about task forces.

May I note that some of the things that I've heard in the news - Quebec set up a committee, their government set up a committee that was going to investigate why the cost to consumers of beef was staying so high when the cost being paid to the producers had dropped so much. I thought, well, there's a province that's actually going out and trying to do something for its producers. Yet this task force, if we see the terms of reference, I don't know if they've been tabled, but my understanding is the terms of reference don't even include those kind of reviews. Someone out there is making a lot of money off this crisis and yet this government doesn't even talk about dealing with that in the task force or dealing with it in a more short-term manner so that we can get some answers to these problems.

That is the issue before us, a government that is unwilling to lead, a government that is unwilling to help the cattle producers of Nova Scotia beyond a task force. The federal government gives a program, yeah. Some provinces did something as simple as extending the deadlines for applications, given the fact in the Fall there are issues that arise around the prices for Fall feed and so on. Those things could have been done here. The member for Hants East asked that today - why don't you just extend the deadline? I believe the animals had to be slaughtered by August 31st and the deadline to apply was September 30th. Why not just extend that a month or two? But this province won't even do that.

As a result, we have a system that is in crisis as we've heard from the other members here who have heard directly from their constituents. I know the members over there who represent rural Nova Scotia - whether it be Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley or Kings North or Cumberland North or any of those - they clearly know that there's a crisis. But for whatever reason it's not getting through to the front benches. It's not getting through to the Cabinet Room downstairs when they meet on Thursdays. For whatever reason, other issues seem to be coming up, other things seem to be hitting the headlines for them. But as I think one of my colleagues said, you as a government were elected by rural Nova Scotia predominantly. Don't ever forget that.

It's important that this government know who brought them here, who put them on that side of the House. Many a government in this country and many a government in the world has gone down to defeat because they've forgotten who brought them here and what their needs are. With regard to this, I would say the need of the cattle producers, the need of rural Nova Scotia is assistance now, not just the federal program but more. Again, don't put a square peg in a round hole, let's make a round peg for a round hole so that Nova Scotians and particularly cattle producers and those who depend on the wages and the purchases of

[Page 423]

cattle producers in Nova Scotia have an opportunity to understand that this government does care, does understand, is willing to lead. A task force is not enough, we need to do more. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak on this very important topic, although I have to admit that being one of the last speakers I feel a little bit like Elizabeth Taylor's fifth husband: I know what to do, but I don't know how to make it interesting. (Laughter)

Nonetheless, I welcome this emergency debate. I welcome any and all opportunities to put the focus on agriculture and welcome the farmers who are here in the gallery and the farmers who are downstairs in the lobby. I welcome the agricultural task force, unlike the member for Hants East, because it will put more focus on agriculture. I will be encouraging my cattle farmers and other farmers when this task force is in Kentville next Tuesday. I will be encouraging them to attend, to voice their concerns, to speak out, to offer solutions and to hold not only our government but to hold all politicians to task in the task of supporting agriculture.

Moreover, I am glad and I argued that the task force should have a wider mandate than BSE. BSE is certainly a problem and it's something that we need to focus on right away, immediately, but there is a larger crisis as has been mentioned by other speakers on this side and the other side of the House. Farmers are in trouble. They are in trouble across the country. When you look at Statistics Consensus 2001, several things jump out at you, that farmers are aging, young people aren't going into farming, we have a problem there. Who is going to be the next generation of farmers? The cost, the startup costs of getting into farming are becoming astronomical. It's hard for anybody who doesn't inherit a farm to get into farming. We need to do something. Our government looked at that in its last mandate and had a program for that.

The flat prices, when you look at the prices - I just looked at them over the last year. People are getting less sometimes for potatoes, for example, less now than they were a year ago. Someone mentioned Laurence Nason and he wouldn't want to wish farming on his child. I remember a comment by Eric Rand, one of the farmers in my constituency, and I asked him once, I said, what would you do if you won $1 million? He said, well, I would keep farming until I had spent it all. Unfortunately, that's sort of a reality that a lot of our farmers face with these flat prices.

[Page 424]

The other reality is that small farms are being crowded out with large farms. This is a threat to our farmers in Nova Scotia. When we look at some of the farms down in the United States, for example, some of those huge farms that are like factories, and we have to compete. We can compete with them, but we need to do so on a level playing field.

So I welcome the task force, I welcome its larger mandate, and I welcome all opportunities to talk about agriculture. One of the problems, as has been mentioned by my honourable colleague, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, is that there is not enough awareness in the population at large, not just amongst politicians but in the population at large, about the importance of farming. We are a very heavily urbanized society, far more urbanized than the United States. We are strung together in these urban centres across the Canada-U.S. border, and we take our food for granted. We go into the supermarket and we think it's going to be there. We don't understand the work, the complexity, the challenges facing farmers.

I wouldn't have understood it if I hadn't been living in a farming community for the last 10 years and been educated slowly but surely in the challenges that farmers are facing. So I welcome this emergency debate. I welcome the presence of our visitors. I welcome the task force. I welcome awareness programs. I welcome anything that will help the population at large to take farming more seriously and to understand the challenges. We're doing some of that in my riding. We're trying to invite people in. Farmers have risen to the challenge. Hennigar's Farm Market, for example, is trying to bring people up from Halifax and encourage them to get hands-on with farming, to understand farming, to see farming. Farmers need to take up that challenge, and they've taken it up.

One of the problems is lack of awareness, lack of appreciation. Another problem that's been mentioned is federal programs that are tailored to western uni-crop farmers rather than to our distinctive situation here in Nova Scotia. I welcome federal dollars. It seems like the Opposition, at times, doesn't want those federal dollars. Hey, I'll leverage every federal dollar we can get, and let's send more federal dollars, but we do need to tailor them here, those federal dollars did help.

One of my farmers, Keith Kinsman, who is a cattle farmer, said that the BSE Recovery Program saved him during the summer. Now, unfortunately, that program is over and he's looking for something else. We need to provide that. But those federal dollars were helpful and those federal programs that we're partnered in are helpful. But we do need to tailor them, I'll admit that we need to tailor them to the Nova Scotia situation. That's why I challenged the Minister of Agriculture, what can we do with Ottawa to help get that money, leverage that money, but have the flexibility to tailor it to our unique situation. It has been mentioned that here in Nova Scotia that 80 per cent of the cattle industry is cow-calf and it wasn't helped by this recent program too much.

[Page 425]

What can we do? There are things that we can do. He assures me this new APF funding agreement not only will provide more money but more flexibility, and I welcome that if that's true. If it isn't true, I'll be the first one in caucus to speak out and say let's go after more flexibility so that we can meet our needs here. The Fredericton formula, we talked about that, that was discarded federally. So we need the Fredericton formula back in, the farmers here have been calling for that. We need to put an emphasis in whatever way we can. We are a small province, we don't have a lot of clout, but whatever way we can, I agree, we need to put an emphasis upon extracting those federal dollars, marrying them with provincial dollars but also getting flexibility to meet our needs.

Another challenge that farmers face, and I've talked about this before so I'll very briefly mention it, is the global nature of farming. My farmers, they've risen to the test, they are international business people in my area, trading with Cuba, with Mexico, throughout the world - Gilbert Allen with his strawberries, going across the globe. These are international business people. I think my farmers can compete, our farmers can compete with any body on a level footing. But I get very angry when the United States talks about opening up borders, liberalizing trade, and then gives all this money in loan programs to farmers. It's not a level playing field that is done. Or I get angry at other provinces in Canada for example, like Quebec, I don't want to pick on Quebec, but I mean if we're going to have free trade, let's have free trade. Our farmers can compete, but they have to compete on a level playing field, and if other provinces and other countries aren't going to do that then I think we need to react, and we have that in our platform. We've looked at that, we recognize it's a problem. We're going to do something about that.

Another issue in terms of problems farmers face is access to capital. The Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board brought us some of the lowest interest rates in the country. I want to challenge them to have the lowest interest rates because one of the problems is that our farmers can't access capital. Thank goodness for the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board. Let's encourage it, let's get it down to the lowest interest rates possible. It used to be that banks would lend to farmers, but now the banks are run out of Ontario and they don't understand and they're not open. So, the access to capital is something that we need to do, and we need to encourage our farmers. In our platform, I was very glad to see something about helping farmers export to other countries. I hope that we'll follow through on that, helping them with business plans, et cetera.

A final challenge, very quickly, is the problem that the retailers have shrunk, the farmers to which they can sell their crops. What this means is that oftentimes the retailers keep the prices down, and I think the honourable member opposite mentioned this. So the prices being paid to the farmer are very, very low. The farmer doesn't have the clout to demand more prices. As a government, we need to offer opportunities for farm markets, for other opportunities for retail markets so there's no competition so the farmer can have the clout to get the products.

[Page 426]

Anyway, I have run out of time, Mr. Speaker. I just want to end by saying that I promise, as MLA for Kings North, to speak up for farmers as I've done in the past, when the potato industry, the commodity group was facing it, the hog industry, in many days I will continue to do that. You have my commitment. We can live without fancy cars, we can live without designer clothes, we can live without the latest computer toys, but we can't live without the food that farmers feed us with. Thank you very much.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this particular emergency debate. It is an emergency debate, obviously, because there is a crisis in the agricultural community of this province. Otherwise we wouldn't have such distinguished citizens in our gallery, I'm sure many would much prefer to be back on their farms and in their local communities doing what they do best and that's to keep us well sustained both locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

[7:45 p.m.]

I had an opportunity to review the so-called terms of reference for the task force on BSE and these are essentially the terms of reference. Mr. Speaker, I believe I'm reading exactly what it says:

Goal - Assess the government's response to the BSE; two, determine the impacts of the BSE crisis on the Nova Scotia agricultural industry; three, determine the capacity of existing federal, provincial and other industry programs to address these impacts.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, if those are the terms of reference, they fall short of the need for these farmers in Nova Scotia. Certainly it's an opportunity to go out and assess a lot of the difficulties with the programs and the difficulties in industry, but what's lacking is some specific direction, some goals. There's no action plan. What is going to be done? That's why the farmers are here this evening. They want to know what we, as legislators, and this government in particular are going to do for the farmers of Nova Scotia.

One of the issues, Mr. Speaker, in the Tories latest blue book program is that it would work very closely with the Federation of Agriculture to deal with many of the difficulties and that it would, "Work with the Federation of Agriculture to help Nova Scotia producers maximize their market share by increasing awareness of Nova Scotia-grown fresh and processed agricultural products as part of Brand Nova Scotia."

Well, what have they done? They have marginalized the farming community of this province, and what do we have in response? We have a Tory backbencher under increased pressure, because he represents an agricultural community, trying to alleviate the pressure

[Page 427]

against the government, stand up for his constituents - and I applaud the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley because he has done the right thing, what he was sent here to do, but setting up a short-term release valve for 30 days with such skimpy terms of reference, if that's what they want to call it, is not the answer that these farmers need.

They need real leadership. They need leadership from the Premier, from the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, from the former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, who by the way has been the author of much of the difficulty for the farmers in this province and the figures bear that out. It's documented within the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries that more than 55 per cent of the farmers today in this province, whom we think make so much money and do so well because we drive by these big farms and all the equipment and everything, but more than 55 per cent of them in this province make less than $25,000 a year at the end of the day when all the bills are paid - and that's if they're lucky.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, since this government came to power and with the chopping and the carving within the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the cost for the average farmer has increased by at least 10 per cent - and that's by their own figures, the Department of Agriculture, and I will table this.

Despite the fact that the average income has decreased, it's now lower than when this government came to power, and I have a particular beef with one aspect of this and that's AgraPoint. This private corporation, as it was originally described before our Resources Committee earlier this year, back in January, said it only had one stakeholder, one shareholder - those were their words, and my colleague, the member for Hants East, was at the meeting at the time - and that was the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. They described themselves as a private Crown Corporation, but the minister is the only shareholder. Well, who does the minister represent? The farmers of this province, the people of Nova Scotia. What do they do with their first $2.2 million budget? They put $1 million aside to feather their own nest, for their own financial security. And what do they do in the next fiscal year, this fiscal year? They put another $400,000 aside for themselves. Where do the farmers come into this? There's lots of time for this AgraPoint to service the farming community in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and who knows where else, but what about the farmers of this province who need help? They need it now.

We asked about the issue of bio-terrorism. I'm not so sure that was an extreme issue that perhaps seemed so real at the time, but BSE, nobody ever thought that would be an issue. The questions we have to ask is, what is going to be done in substantive form for farmers today, immediately? Many members have spoken - very valuable points in support of the agricultural community in all three caucuses. I agree with that, but simply just standing here and waxing eloquent while the farmers are in the audience and when they go we just move on to the next set of business as if it never happened, it's not good enough. They came here looking for answers. They're not getting them. They're getting more bafflegab. They need help, their farms are in crisis situation.

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I'll give you an example of how indifferent this government is to the agricultural community. Recall last year that famous water strategy? The agricultural community, the Department of Agriculture decided to sever its ties with the Department of Environment and Labour because they were dragging their feet according to a senior official within that Department of Agriculture that came before the Public Accounts Committee. They had to go it alone and the farming community was essentially shut out of any substantive input into the provincial water strategy. Why, when water is perhaps one of the most vital components for the survival of any family farm?

So we have to ask ourselves, why is this government marginalizing the farming community? Yes, I believe the federal government should be doing more for the Nova Scotia agricultural community. I'll stand, I'll support the government on that, I'll support the socialists, anyone. If it's good for the farmers of Nova Scotia, it's good for all Nova Scotia.

The blue book, promoting Nova Scotia products, the beef products - are we using them in our schools, in our institutions, in our hospitals, in our jails? All the different institutions where the government has an opportunity to support our agricultural industry - whether it be apples, beef, pork, mutton or what have you.

My concern is that when this debate is over in just minutes, what have we really done for the farmers? That's what I'm asking myself. I'm sitting here for almost two hours, saying what can I do? I feel helpless because as an Opposition member, yes, our caucus took an opportunity to participate in this task force because anything we do is a help. We may not do a lot, we may only do 5 per cent of what we had originally set out to achieve, but at least that's 5 per cent more than we had when we started. So that's why we chose to co-operate, to collaborate and find solutions wherever we could.

But there is no action plan. I'm very disappointed. We set up this Crown Corporation and now we have this Crown Corporation competing in a subsidized fashion with the private sector, many components of the private sector in the agricultural community. Is that fair to them? I don't think it is, whether it's veterinary services, feedstocks or what have you. I think it's shameful, I think it's absolutely shameful. If we want to do anything, as has been suggested, let's get back the Department of Agriculture and make it what it once was.

The last time I saw the agricultural community - and I know we've had good agricultural ministers in different political Parties - but the last time I really heard them say anything positive about a provincial government was when my colleague, the honourable Ed Lorraine, was Minister of Agriculture. He was well respected. You may not have agreed with him, but I will tell you, you knew where he stood, and he was on the side of the farmers. I knew that from sitting in caucus with him, in Cabinet, and he wasn't afraid. He wasn't afraid of anybody when it came to standing up for the farmers.

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That's what we need. We need a champion. We need a minister who is going to champion the cause of farmers in this province. We really do. We can't have it marginalized, like it has been. We can't have senior bureaucrats within the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries who are making calls to farmers and saying, oh, I really don't know what the value is of the farmers coming up to Halifax and protesting. What kind of intimidation factor is that? This is not the way we treat the people, the stakeholders of this province, who make our presence a reality.

Is this the way we treat the farmers? By making these veiled comments with a negative connotation. That's happening, Mr. Speaker. I've heard it. I heard it as late as today, that a senior bureaucrat was doing that. Maybe the minister isn't aware of that, maybe the minister is. Maybe it's a way to kind of tone down the importance and the significance and the magnitude of this issue.

At the end of the day, what have we achieved? That's what I would like to know. I'm hoping that we've raised the awareness. Maybe somebody in the government, maybe the Premier, will come to realize how we've really let the farming community down. Blue book one, blue book two, you can bring as many blue books as you want. The fact of the matter is words are not enough. If there is anything we in Opposition can do - I know my colleague, the member for Annapolis, has laid out some very important points, as did my colleague, the member for Kings West. They've made some very excellent points, very good points, as did some of the members from the NDP caucus. I've heard the member for Colchester North, he made some good suggestions. But it's too bad there wasn't a little more meat - excuse the Freudian slip - on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is drawing short. I feel that we as legislators are just not doing enough for the agricultural community. We have to do more. We have to make them partners. We have to take off the shackles and we have to correct this impasse between AgraPoint and the Federation of Agriculture. There is a bad, bad relationship there. Maybe I am way off on this, but I have seen no evidence to the contrary. I believe that the minister and the Premier and the government have to accept responsibility for what's happening. They've downgraded that department. We had 55 employees in that development division of the Department of Agriculture, now we have 21 over in AgraPoint. It seems like their primary focus is competing with the private sector on a subsidy basis and to make sure they build a good financial security system for themselves. That's a terrible way to read it, but that's the way I'm reading it. The farmers need leadership. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable member who brought the issue forward tonight, as well as all the members who took part in this very important debate. I especially want to thank the members of the agricultural industry who took the time tonight to come here to Halifax. There are some from my own area here, from Cumberland County, that I am very pleased to see. I just hope that as a result of the debate taking place here this evening that a partnership will be formed so that some resolve can be found for the crisis that

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is definitely in that industry. It's a credit to you that you are survivors. On behalf of all the members here, I want to thank you for coming tonight and wish you all the very best.

The House is adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:59 p.m.]

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By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas the number of job opportunities for community college graduates has tripled in this province since our economy has begun to shift more from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy; and

Whereas the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College will be able to meet the needs of more students thanks to the support of this government; and

Whereas $13 million will be used to add a community learning centre, an information technology lab, a Human Resources Development Canada Resource Centre, a business centre and a new daycare;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the significant role our community colleges play in preparing Nova Scotians for the new employment opportunities of our growing economy.


By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Sunday, September 28th, was National Peace and Police Officers Memorial Day; and

Whereas all citizens and communities across Canada appreciate the sacrifices and personal commitment offered by law enforcement officers and their families every day; and

Whereas all too often we hear the names of law enforcement officers who have paid the ultimate price while keeping our communities safe for our citizens;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and pay tribute to the efforts and sacrifices of peace and police officers across Canada and pay tribute to the memory of those who have died in the line of duty and remember all who serve not only this day but each day throughout the year.


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

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

Whereas today, the workplace places new demands on the skills and education of the workforce, but with the partnerships formed under The Workplace Education Initiative, the Department of Education, labour groups and private companies, workplaces can also provide the opportunity to offer workers the upgrading they need; and

Whereas the Workplace Ambassador Awards are presented in honour of Nova Scotians' achievements in literacy and upgrading programs for the workforce and to those individuals who, in addition to their own achievements, are recognized for encouraging and supporting the learning efforts of their co-workers; and

Whereas this year Mel Lively of Elmsdale has been named a Nova Scotia Workplace Ambassador;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Mel Lively for the work that has led to this achievement and commend Elmsdale Lumber for participating in this important workplace education initiative.


By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Natural Resources)

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

Whereas today, the workplace places new demands on the skills and education of the workforce, but with the partnerships formed under The Workplace Education Initiative, the Department of Education, labour groups and private companies, workplaces can also provide the opportunity to offer workers the upgrading they need; and

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Whereas the Workplace Ambassador Awards are presented in honour of Nova Scotians' achievements in literacy and upgrading programs for the workforce and to those individuals who, in addition to their own achievements, are recognized for encouraging and supporting the learning efforts of their co-workers; and

Whereas this year Ronnie Jacquard of the Western Regional Health Centre in Yarmouth has been named a Nova Scotia Workplace Ambassador;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Ronnie Jacquard for the work that has led to this achievement and commend the Western Regional Health Centre for participating in this important workplace education initiative.


By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Natural Resources)

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

Whereas today, the workplace places new demands on the skills and education of the workforce, but with the partnerships formed under The Workplace Education Initiative, the Department of Education, labour groups and private companies, workplaces can also provide the opportunity to offer workers the upgrading they need; and

Whereas the Alex MacDonald Ambassador Award was established in memory of the late Alex MacDonald, an active member of the labour movement and strong advocate for workplace education, to be awarded to a Nova Scotian in a unionized workplace whose involvement in workplace education has made a significant contribution to the labour movement; and

Whereas this year Jolynn Muise has been awarded the Alex MacDonald Ambassador Award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jolynn Muise for being chosen for this award and commend her for her contributing workplace education initiative.


By: Mr. Gary Hines (Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank)

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

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Whereas today, the workplace places new demands on the skills and education of the workforce, but with the partnerships formed under The Workplace Education Initiative, the Department of Education, labour groups and private companies, workplaces can also provide the opportunity to offer workers the upgrading they need; and

Whereas the Workplace Ambassador Awards are presented in honour of Nova Scotians' achievements in literacy and upgrading programs for the workforce and to those individuals who, in addition to their own achievements, are recognized for encouraging and supporting the learning efforts of their co-workers; and

Whereas this year Luca Idzanovic of metro's Prince George Hotel has been named a Nova Scotia Workplace Ambassador;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Luca Idzanovic for the work that has led to this achievement and commend the Prince George Hotel for participating in this important workplace education initiative.