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October 7, 2003



Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

Available on INTERNET at

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session


Civil Procedure Rules - Amendments, Hon. M. Baker 636
Agric. & Fish.: Farmers - Transition Funding, Hon. C. D'Entremont 636
Res. 255, MacDonald, Russell - Can. Summer Games (2005):
Chef de Mission - Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 638
Vote - Affirmative 638
No. 15, Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act, Hon. M. Baker 639
No. 16, Emergency Measures Act, Mr. H. Epstein 639
Res. 256, Environ. & Lbr. - Offshore Seismic Testing: Review -
Undertake, Ms. J. Massey 639
Res. 257, Acadia Univ. - Climate Change Study: Funding - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 640
Vote - Affirmative 640
Res. 258, O'Brien, Brianna: Evening News Contest - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 640
Vote - Affirmative 641
Res. 259, Walker Family: Commun. Contributions - Congrats.,
Ms. M. Raymond 641
Vote - Affirmative 642
Res. 260, Lill, Wendy: Public Service - Recognize, Mr. D. Graham 642
Vote - Affirmative 643
Res. 261, Sherbrooke: Scarecrow Fest. - Visit, Mr. R. Chisholm 643
Vote - Affirmative 643
Res. 262, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: White Hill Rd. (Pictou Co.) -
Rebuild/Repave, Mr. C. Parker 644
Res. 263, Millville Octoberfest: Organizers - Congrats.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 645
Vote - Affirmative 645
Res. 264, Porter, Lucas - Music Competitions: Success - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 645
Vote - Affirmative 646
Res. 265, Vaughn, Pastor Lisa: Induction - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 646
Vote - Affirmative 647
Res. 266, Commun. Serv. - Spoiled Food: Voucher Plan - Details,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 647
Res. 267, Clarke, Phillip: Woodlot Owner of Yr. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 647
Vote - Affirmative 648
Res. 268, Sackville Acadians: Girls Softball Team - Congrats.,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 648
Vote - Affirmative 649
Res. 269, Fest. of Visual Arts - Comm.: Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Gosse 649
Vote - Affirmative 649
Res. 270, Commun. Serv. - Wheelchairs: MSI - Cover, Mr. J. Pye 650
Res. 271, West. Valley Midget Lacrosse Team: Success - Congrats.,
Hon. D. Morse 650
Vote - Affirmative 651
Res. 272, Agric. & Fish. - Stone Fence Area: Fishery - Close,
Ms. J. Massey 651
Res. 273, Power, Colin: Soccer Accomplishments - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 652
Vote - Affirmative 652
No. 48, Insurance: Actuarial Report - Accuracy, Mr. G. Steele 653
No. 49, Prem. - Budget Shortfall: Possibility - Awareness Time Frame,
Mr. D. Graham 654
No. 50, Insurance - Rollbacks: Plan - Details, Mr. G. Steele 654
No. 51, Prem. - Budget Shortfall: Possibility - Awareness Time Frame,
Mr. D. Graham 656
No. 52, WCB: Chronic Pain Sufferers - Compensate, Mr. F. Corbett 657
No. 53, Prem. - Fiscal Problems: Awareness - Time Frame,
Mr. D. Graham 658
No. 54, Energy - Offshore: Benefits - Access Explain, Mr. F. Corbett 659
No. 55, Fin. - Cutbacks: Opposition Parties - Inform, Ms. D. Whalen 661
No. 56, Hurricane Juan - Casino N.S.: Operations -
Continuance Explain, Mr. H. Epstein 662
No. 57, Environ. & Lbr. - Hurricane Juan: Environmental Impact -
Report, Ms. J. Massey 663
No. 58, WCB - Supreme Court Decision: Costs - Info., Mr. K. Colwell 664
No. 59, EMO - Hurricane Juan: Disaster Relief - Info.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 665
No. 60, WCB - Dorsey Rept.: Recommendations - Status,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 666
No. 61, Commun. Serv. - Battery Smoke Detectors: Public Housing -
Installation, Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 667
No. 62, Insurance - Minor Injuries: Definition - Confirm,
Mr. Michel Samson 668
No. 63, Nat. Res. - McNabs & Lawlor Islands Pk.: Rebuilding - Plan,
Mr. K. Deveaux 670
No. 64, Health - Surgeries/ER Wait Times: Situation - Address,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 671
No. 2, Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act/
Labour Standards Code 673
Mr. G. Gosse 673
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 678
Mr. H. Epstein 682
Mr. L. Glavine 691
Ms. M. Raymond 693
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 696
Mr. Michel Samson 700
Mr. W. Estabrooks 708
Ms. J. Massey 713
Mr. J. MacDonell 721
Mr. C. Parker 728
Mr. Manning MacDonald 736
Adjourned debate 738
Energy - Offshore Resources: Benefit Schemes - Review:
Mr. F. Corbett 739
Hon. C. Clarke 742
Mr. Michel Samson 745
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Oct. 8th at 2:00 p.m. 748

[Page 635]


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. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview:

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government move immediately towards a full review of all benefit schemes from offshore resources so that all Nova Scotians can start to see much-needed benefits coming into this province.

This will be the debate this evening at 6:00 p.m.

We will begin the daily routine.




[Page 636]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as Attorney General and pursuant to Section 51 of the Judicature Act, I hereby table amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules that were made, pursuant to the Judicature Act, by the Judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on May 30, 2003.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, there have been tremendous challenges in our agriculture industry in the past year. While there was only one case of BSE, or mad cow disease, discovered in Alberta this Spring, there has been a huge impact to our entire country's beef industry. With the borders slowly reopening, there is hope that eventually the market and our industry will regain its international market share. There are also many farmers in this province who have experienced income loss and challenges for reasons other than BSE.

As part of our commitment to the National Agricultural Policy Framework Program, the department will provide its second instalment of transition funding. Mr. Speaker, today I want to announce that my department will make available $2.5 million for Nova Scotia farmers. (Applause) This funding, along with other income support programs offered will help ease some of the financial pressures felt by producers. Producers who participate in the Net Income Stabilization Account, or NISA program, are expected to receive direct payments by cheque. As within last year, we will provide an enhanced contribution for the red meat sector, thereby providing more assistance to beef producers of this province.

For producers who are not in the NISA program, they too are eligible for receiving funding. They will apply for these funds by calling the department's Programs and Business Risk Management Division's toll-free line at 1-866-844-4276. I will repeat, 1-866-844-4276. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for a copy of his statement in advance. Well, all seems to be particularly rosy in terms of this Tory Government. I want to say that certainly the people involved in the agricultural sector are not feeling that, they're not feeling the warmth from this government. The copy that I got,

[Page 637]

actually, came by fax. It says, ministerial statement, re: $2.5 million bridge funding for farmers. I want to tell the minister that it takes a lot of work to keep determining how much of this money has been announced and re-announced and re-announced.

If this money is bridge funding, which is money that is to take us from the NISA to the APF, then the minister is going down the wrong road. The people at the federation and other commodity groups have made this comment to the department before, that this bridge funding is funding that belongs to farmers in all commodities. So to take this money and use it or imply that it's going to be used to help those in the BSE crisis is the wrong approach for this government, and the minister would know that.

[12:15 p.m.]

I would ask the minister, on behalf of all those in need, if the minister would take the approach of looking for other funding that's not attached to federal funding, if the province would go it alone with their own program. You can do the dickering with the feds over the next few months, to try to hammer out something that lessens the liability for the province, but farmers need help now and they need help not just in terms of BSE but they need help in terms of Hurricane Juan. This is serious.

We have had some beautiful weather since that hurricane hit, and it's not going to last until Spring. We're going to get into winter and we are going to get into winter soon. For those farmers who lost their buildings in particular and lost their income, they need a decision and they need it yesterday, not today. For the minister to make this statement on funding that's already been announced, on funding that belongs to other commodities is unfair to those commodities, and to set up a task force five months after the BSE crisis hit this province is unfair to producers. One thing he has been able to do with that task force is he has been able to make the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley quiet.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to respond to the minister's statement. Like the member for Hants East, I hope that this $2.5 million which is being announced today from NISA - it looks to me like they're robbing one commodity group to try to solve an issue in another. It is though, I'm sure, welcome funding by the beef industry. I believe, though, this highlights one of the concerns that I had with the task force and that was the fact that before we are actually going to sit and meet, there has been an announcement that there will be no new funding. That is a major concern. This will not solve the problem. It may get us to October 31st, it may, but I believe it's going to create other problems when you start taking money out of NISA accounts which were put there by other commodity groups and other farmers to deal with the crisis that will come up in their commodity industry.

[Page 638]

So I do look forward to the task force, but I think in the meantime, before we actually meet, the government should be giving us the opportunity to recognize that there will need to be new money put on the table. There will need to be more money on the table when we meet with the task force. I look forward to those discussions and, again, thank you.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.


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

Whereas Russell MacDonald of Groves Point, Cape Breton, will lead Team Nova Scotia to the 2005 Canada Summer Games in Regina, Saskatchewan; and

Whereas Nova Scotia has the only fully volunteer Canada Games mission staff in the country and, as Chef de Mission, Mr. MacDonald will gather a team of volunteer mission staff to coordinate Nova Scotia athletes' participation in the country's largest amateur multi-sport event; and

Whereas Mr. MacDonald, a retired teacher and school board administrator and an active member of his community, was on Nova Scotia's mission staff at the 2001 Summer Games and was the assistant chef for the 2003 Winter Games where staff claimed the Claude Hardy Award for the best mission staff at both games;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Russell MacDonald on his appointment and wish him success in leading our athletes at the 2005 Canada Summer Games in what promises to be a solid performance of Nova Scotia athletes.

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.

[Page 639]


Bill No. 15 - Entitled an Act Respecting Court Jurisdiction and the Transfer of Court Proceedings. (Hon. Michael Baker)

Bill No. 16 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 8 of the Acts of 1990. The Emergency Measures Act. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

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 it has been confirmed that hundreds of litres of kerosene and mineral oil have been spilled in waters off Nova Scotia during seismic testing during nine separate occasions between June and August, none of which will likely involve charges being laid; and

Whereas this occurred mainly due to rough weather, sharp rises in water temperature and impacts by debris; and

Whereas oil can be fatal to seabirds, and seismic testing offshore has raised concerns by fishers that this will harm fish, their habitat, bottlenose whales and other species;

Therefore be it resolved that a full environmental review of offshore seismic testing be undertaken by the Nova Scotia Government immediately.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 640]

The honourable member for Preston.


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

Whereas Acadia University will receive $1.5 million in federal government funding to study local effects of climate change; and

Whereas the funding will enable Acadia to be at the forefront of climate change research; and

Whereas climate change is becoming a reality, and research is critical to understanding its impact on the global community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Acadia University on receiving federal funding to study local effects of climate change.

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 East.


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

Whereas four Pictou County Grade 9 students got to travel like millionaires, thanks to The Evening News Back to School Contest; and

[Page 641]

Whereas Westville resident and newspaper carrier, Brianna O'Brien was selected as the contest winner from among several carriers who collected new Evening News subscriptions along their paper routes; and

Whereas Ms. O'Brien's friends, Lindsey Allen, Anna Gray and Lovetta Nicholson, joined her as they travelled to and from school at Northumberland Regional High School, and along Ms. O'Brien's delivery route, by a limousine, courtesy of The Evening News;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Brianna O'Brien on winning The Evening News Back to School Contest, and wish her and her friends much success in this academic year.

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 Human Resources, on an introduction.

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize a group that is seated in the east gallery. It is the first Manager Orientation Program for Government. This is a pilot group. The program is organized by the Public Service Commission. I would ask this group to rise, so you can be recognized by the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.


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

Whereas this will be the 10th year for the J. Albert Walker Memorial Slowpitch Ball Tournament; and

Whereas this tournament has brought between 300 and 400 people together each year; and

[Page 642]

Whereas this year's tournament will include the unveiling of a street, Albert Walker Drive, being named in honour of the former city councillor and long-time Spryfield businessman;

Therefore be it resolved that those assembled here congratulate the Walker family who has contributed in so many ways to bringing together communities on the Bay Road with those of Mainland South.

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 Wendy Lill the New Democratic Member of Parliament for Dartmouth will not be seeking a third term in the next federal election; and

Whereas Ms. Lill has been an outstanding advocate at the local and national levels for many causes, particularly those seeking support for people with disabilities and support for the arts; and

Whereas she is leaving politics to return to writing and taking care of her health;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Wendy Lill's tremendous public service as Dartmouth's representative in the House of Commons and wish her and her family the best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 643]

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. (Applause)

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 Thanksgiving weekend in Sherbrooke will be special this year with a benefit concert in aid of the Historic Sherbrooke Development Society; and

Whereas the fourth annual Scarecrow Festival, which last year saw 23 scarecrows on exhibit in and around the village of Sherbrooke, begins on Saturday; and

Whereas visitors will be given the option of voting for their favourite scarecrow until 3:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Monday, with the People's Choice Award being presented as the festival winds to a close;

Therefore be it resolved whether it is famed Nova Scotian musician Clary Croft, a scarecrow festival, or if you would simply like to drive to Sherbrooke and tour the historic village, I encourage all MLAs and their families to visit Sherbrooke, Guysborough County this weekend.

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.

[Page 644]

Order, please. If I could ask for the indulgence of the honourable members. In the west gallery there is a couple who I would like to introduce. This fine couple, Angela and Daniel Montz, are from Portland, Oregon. They're in the city on a cruise ship, they are joined by 2,400 people who, obviously, are not in the gallery today. They're visiting our province for the first time and they're in Province House today viewing the artifacts downstairs and they thought they would come in and see how things go along here in the Legislature. I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House please. (Applause)

Welcome. We hope you enjoy your stay here with us in Nova Scotia.

The honourable member for Pictou West.


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

Whereas many secondary paved roads in this province are in deplorable shape; and

Whereas the White Hill Road in Pictou County is extremely poor, with potholes, cracks and missing asphalt; and

Whereas residents living on the White Hill Road spend thousands of dollars keeping their vehicles in proper repair;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately take steps to rebuild and repave the White Hill Road.

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 Victoria-The Lakes.

[Page 645]


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

Whereas Millville residents held their annual Oktoberfest celebrations last week; and

Whereas this event began as a local contest but has now spread across the Island of Cape Breton and is a major fundraiser for the local ladies auxiliary; and

Whereas John MacKinnon of Strathlorne entered a pumpkin weighing in at 1,252 pounds, which is unofficially one of the largest pumpkins in recent history in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate the Millville Oktoberfest organizers on their successful event, and John MacKinnon, on his prizewinning pumpkin.

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 North.


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

Whereas 12-year-old Lucas Porter is getting his professional music career off to an excellent start; and

Whereas the Port Williams resident recently placed second - for his age level - in piano at the national finals of the Canadian Music Competition held in Calgary; and

[Page 646]

Whereas earlier this year, Lucas was chosen as Most Outstanding Pianist and Best Overall Performer at the Kings County Music Festival and won the Junior Piano Award at the Nova Scotia Music Festival;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in congratulating Lucas Porter on his success at this year's music competitions and wish him much success in his future musical endeavours.

[12:30 p.m.]

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 Pastor Lisa Vaughan was inducted as the minister for the Anglican parish of St. Timothy's in Hatchet Lake and St. Paul's in Terence Bay; and

Whereas this Celebration of New Ministry took place in Hatchet Lake on Sunday, September 14th; and

Whereas Pastor Lisa Vaughan will provide valuable leadership in our community;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate Pastor Lisa Vaughan on her induction with best wishes in her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 647]

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 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 many low and fixed income families saw their food spoil as a result of Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas those individuals receiving social assistance have been granted cash vouchers ranging from $50 to $150 to replace food spoiled because of Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas officials within the Department of Community Services have also advised these recipients that the amount of cash voucher or cheque they receive this month would be deducted off their cheque next month;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services explain the logic and compassion of feeding families this month only to let the same families go hungry next month.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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 the Woodlot Owner of the Year Award recognizes and rewards landowners for outstanding stewardship of their woodlots; and

[Page 648]

Whereas Antigonish's Phillip Clarke was named one of these three regional winners, an award he previously received in 1994; and

Whereas the management plan of Mr. Clarke ensures the availability of wood on his land for future generations and his involvement with Ph.D. research students from St. Francis Xavier University made him deserving of this award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Clarke on his commitment to this very important natural resource.

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 the Sackville Acadians Bantam B softball team celebrated its first win after just four years of participating in the provincial softball championships last year; and

Whereas for the second year in a row, the Sackville Acadians girls softball team celebrated a provincial win; and

Whereas the dedication and hard work of both the coaching staff and the players are shown with their victory in this year's championship;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all the players and coaches of the Sackville Acadians girls softball team for their win this year and wish them many more successful years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 649]

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 Nova.


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

Whereas the Festival of Visual Arts for the past half dozen years has highlighted the artistic accomplishments of those living in and with ties to the Whitney Pier neighbourhood of Sydney; and

Whereas this year the festival has been pushed back from September to mid-October to coincide with the annual Fall Celtic Cultural Festival; and

Whereas the featured artist is Bernard Siller, an avant-garde artist who hails from Whitney Pier, who will have his work on display;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Festival of Visual Arts committee for their hard work and dedication towards the continued growth of the Festival of Visual Arts.

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.

[Page 650]

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


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

Whereas the Tory Government announced in the Speech from the Throne the establishment of a Wheelchair Recycling Demonstration project; and

Whereas the government is very much aware that wheelchairs do not come in one size fits all; and

Whereas disabled persons in need of wheelchairs for mobility often require specialized wheelchairs to fit their physical structure;

Therefore be it resolved that the government go one step further and have wheelchairs covered under Medical Services Insurance (MSI) as a health product to enhance the mobility of disabled persons.

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 Minister of Community Services.


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

Whereas originating with the First Nations people and adopted by European settlers, the sport of lacrosse was one of the first symbols of the new Canada; and

Whereas perhaps the fastest sport on two feet, lacrosse is also quickly regaining interest across the province and this year the Western Valley Lacrosse Association successfully ended its second full season; and

[Page 651]

Whereas in its inaugural season, the Midget team played competitively, capturing the silver medal at a provincial tournament held earlier this summer;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Western Valley Midget Lacrosse squad on their success this season and encourage other sport enthusiasts to revisit the game of lacrosse - a truly Canadian sport.

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 the spider hazard coral which is found living in the area of waters off Nova Scotia known as Stone Fence may be a source of food, shelter or a nursery area for redfish, haddock and cod; and

Whereas spider hazard coral is the only coral found in deep cold waters that actually forms reefs in which the coral itself can take more than 50 years to grow just a few inches in length; and

Whereas 99 per cent of the spider hazard coral is dead due to damage caused by fishing gear being dragged over it;

Therefore be it resolved that this government make an investment in the future of the fishing industry by closing Stone Fence to fishing.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 652]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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 Colin Power of Timberlea was chosen as the only Nova Scotian on the Canada Under-16 Soccer Team; and

Whereas Colin, a 15-year-old goalkeeper and Grade 10 student at Sir John A. Macdonald High School, competed against top youth soccer clubs in Germany; and

Whereas Colin is an outstanding young man on and off the athletic field;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Colin Power on his accomplishments with best wishes of good luck in his future endeavours.

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.



MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:38 p.m. and end at 1:38 p.m.

[Page 653]

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance premiums. It's troubling that so much of the information the government has obtained about auto insurance is faulty or based on questionable assumptions. Let's take the government actuary's report for which we all pay $100,000. According to the report itself, there is no independent verification of data supplied by the industry. The sample of claims is "very limited". Data about the Facility Association is "extremely limited". Other assumptions are described as "highly judgmental". The loss elimination ratio is "aggressive in comparison with Ontario". Yet this actuary's report is the foundation of the government's response on auto insurance.

So my question for the minister is this, how can the government be confident it's making the best decisions on auto insurance when its actuarial report is nothing more than a $100,000 house of cards?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the actuary's report is only pertinent to one segment of the plan that's being brought forward by this government in Bill No. 1.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the misinformation used by the government doesn't stop there. Last week the Atlantic Premiers heard from their Task Force on Auto Insurance, a report for which we all paid approximately $90,000. This report estimates the financial impact of public auto insurance based on an assumption that is patently false, namely that public auto insurers don't pay taxes. In fact, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia not only pays taxes, but it provides a direct subsidy to the government to the tune of $84 million. My question to the minister is this, why is government policy on auto insurance based on such shoddy misinformation?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's task force on insurance report did not become available until after the government had introduced their legislation into this House, and therefore it had no impact on that legislation.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, it certainly makes one wonder why we paid $90,000 for a report that the minister said is too late and that it belongs on the back shelf. This task force does not even mention the fact that the lowest, fairest, most stable insurance rates in the country are in the provinces with public auto insurance. My question to the minister is, when is the minister going to start basing his government's auto insurance policy on good information and the real facts?

[Page 654]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the real facts are that people do not care whether the government provides a publicly based system or whether it's a privately based system. What they are interested in is having affordable rates, they want transparency, they want fairness, and they want it now, and we're delivering it now.

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



MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Mr. Premier, it's a simple question, when were you first told by your staff or government officials or in a written memo, that there was a possibility of a budget shortfall this year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the requests made by the Leader of the Liberal Party is that he would have an advance viewing of the fiscal forecast, and we provided that. The Minister of Finance, as a result of that forecast, as of that day, was providing an estimation that we are still in a surplus position.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure if the Premier understood my question, because it simply wasn't answered. It's very straightforward and simple. When, Mr. Premier, were you told by your staff or a government official, or in some memo, that the budget deficit was in trouble?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, how naive can you get? For the last two years, prior to this fiscal year, we had a budget surplus that big. It was in jeopardy every single day, because Opposition Parties like that were providing suggestions to the government of expenditures that we simply couldn't meet.

MR. GRAHAM: The question, Mr. Premier, is simply, when? Could you answer the question, please? When did you know we were in trouble in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite is being mischievous. The member opposite knows that the books of the province are the most transparent in the country. We have financial pressures, but we are not yielding to those financial pressures. This government has been, is, and will continue to be, committed to strong fiscal management.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question again is for the minister responsible for skyrocketing auto insurance premiums. In the summer election this

[Page 655]

government promised a 20 per cent auto insurance rollback to drivers. Brady Hennigar and Dave Roberts are members of the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia. They're in the gallery, looking at the minister, and they are here today because they are concerned that they may not see that 20 per cent rollback. They're hearing that commercial rates and fleet rates are not included in this government's plans. My question to the minister is, does the minister plan to roll back auto insurance rates for all Nova Scotian drivers, including Brady Hennigar, Dave Roberts and other truckers, as the minister led us to believe?

[12:45 p.m.]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the rates for commercial truckers will be rolled back 20 per cent. So I think the honourable member should be made aware of that. I'm sure Mr. Roberts and his friend in the gallery are also aware of that now because I believe he wrote to me last week, and I responded.

With regard to people who operate fleets, they do so under contract, and they go out to tender and those rates will not be rolled back.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member that I had ruled on a previous occasion that I had asked honourable members to call ministers by the portfolio they represent, as opposed to whatever.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the minister's answer is very peculiar because that actuarial report is very clear: We prepare the analysis for private passenger automobile only, we do not analyze the experience of any other class of vehicles. Skyrocketing insurance rates are a huge burden on small business operators. Truckers like Brady Hennigar are finding it incredibly difficult because last year his insurance went up by almost 50 per cent. Yesterday, my plumber said that for his fleet of three trucks, it went up from $2,000 to $5,700. My question to the minister is, when will the minister guarantee that the 20 per cent rollback will include truckers and other small business operators, despite the fact that the actuarial report says the opposite?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have already answered that question and I ask the honourable member to read the legislation and perhaps, if he is having difficulty understanding it, I can find a lawyer who will interpret it for him.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, nothing could be more clear than that the government's policy response on auto insurance is not based on the actuarial report or any other sound, factual foundation. If it's that easy, let me ask the minister a very simple question. For all the truckers, all the other commercial operators, all the taxi drivers who find themselves in Facility Association, when will the minister give a guarantee, in writing, that they will be included in the insurance rollback?

[Page 656]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we are being very clear and we've stated the obvious for the last 12 months, that we are going to resolve the problem of high insurance rates. We said about 12 months ago that we would be coming forward this fall with a rollback in insurance rates. We said we will have greater transparency. We said that we would have a fairer system, and we have done that. It's quite obvious that that gentleman opposite does not want the consumers of Nova Scotia to have their rates rolled back by 20 per cent.

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



MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my question, again, is for the Premier. During the last election, the Premier repeated that Nova Scotians should vote for the Conservative Party because his government produced two balanced budgets. Well, the New Brunswick Government told New Brunswickers about their fiscal mess two months before Nova Scotians did, conspicuously, like Nova Scotia, shortly after an election. On July 9th and July 18th, I called a news conference to ask the Premier if the books were indeed balanced during the election. We were mocked at our request, but the time to run and hide is over. They remained evasive while 400,000 Nova Scotians voted on August 5th, believing that their books were balanced. The time is up, Mr. Premier. It's a very simple question. When did you first know that the books were in trouble in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things is while we have not been able to convince the Leader of the Liberal Party of the fiscal success of this government, outside agencies are very, very complimentary as to what this government has been able to achieve. I will read a short paragraph from Standard & Poor's assessment of our province when they were upgrading our credit rating after the election - and I will emphasize after the election. It's a short paragraph and I'm prepared to table this: An improvement in the fiscal performance of the past three years as reflected in the achievement of two consecutive balanced budgets due primarily to measures undertaken by the Conservative Government to control spending. The government also has achieved a number of other important goals in the past four years, including the undertaking of a broad financial review of its operations, the restructuring of its Crown sector and the reduction of the province's foreign exchange exposure of its debt . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party, on your first supplementary.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, it's my second week of Question Period and I am reminded now of why they call it Question Period and not "answer" period.

[Page 657]

Mr. Premier, the question is simple, when did you first learn that the books were in trouble in Nova Scotia by one of your staff, one of your officials, or in a written memo? It's a simple question, sir, when did you first know?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just to remind all honourable members to direct their questions and answers through the Speaker's Chair please, as opposed to directly to members.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this Premier and this government became aware of the fiscal difficulties this province was in the day after we were elected in 1999.

MR. GRAHAM: It is obvious that this government has selective hindsight when they look at the problems of this province because it was the Conservatives who buried generations of Nova Scotians by their fiscal mismanagement of this province. We will pay for it, and our children are going to pay for the mismanagement of that Party.

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. My question is whether or not officials in the government have begun - knowing that there is still time to cancel the tax cut that will cut services for Nova Scotians - plans to cancel the tax cut that takes money out of services to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier indicated, I did have an opportunity to brief the honourable member and the Leader of the Opposition in early September as we started to get the numbers in. We indicated to him we had some concerns, we indicated what our plan was because we, like all Nova Scotians, have to manage the fiscal responsibilities and the unforseen events, and we're doing that.

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


MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board. Last Friday the Supreme Court of Canada came down with a 9 - 0 decision regarding the archaic law as it relates to chronic pain in this province. It was a hard-won victory for many workers and their families who have lived with these bad laws for too many years. Ruth Laseur was one of the claimants first injured in 1987. She has waited over 16 years for compensation. So I want to ask the minister, the board says it knows the cost and the number of people who will be affected, so why don't they get on with this job and start paying people with chronic pain today? No more studies.

[Page 658]

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member opposite for the question. The court decision has just come down as of Friday. We certainly are reviewing and studying the review now. We will be working as quickly as possible to interpret the decision and make sure that we make good decisions for injured employees.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, there's probably no other agency, board, or commission in this province that has been studied more than WCB. Yet we're being told that with a direct piece of judicial information that comes from Ottawa at 9 - 0, what's to do? Mr. Minister, we've gone through Bill No. 90, we've gone through select committees, we now have the Dorsey report. Why won't you tell WCB to stop their foot-dragging and implement Dorsey and implement it today?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we certainly have had some advice from the Workers' Compensation Board, which we're reviewing. We're looking at how to implement that information.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, WCB, the board itself and, if you will, the building on South Street, is a part of the problem. Until the minister recognizes this and starts taking information from an unbiased third party, such as the Dorsey report, these institutional biases will continue to exist. I want to ask the minister, what plan do you have to ensure the board acts to improve the situation of injured workers across this province, and to endorse Dorsey?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we certainly have reviewed the report, and we've reviewed the information. We will be doing everything that we possibly can to ensure that Dorsey is implemented.

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


MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, on July 15th, the New Brunswick Government said to the people of New Brunswick that the fiscal house isn't in order and we need to straighten things out by cutting services. Three days later, the Liberal Party held a news conference and asked the Premier whether or not the books of Nova Scotia were in order. The response was that the Liberals perhaps would want to blame the Conservatives for the bad weather. The truth is that it is the Conservatives who need to be blamed for the problems of our fiscal mess. The simple question, Mr. Premier, once again, that after six tries hasn't been answered, I will try again, when did you first learn of the fiscal problems in Nova Scotia from one of your officials in a memo or with respect to a government official?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite will remember - when did I first learn, officially, from officials, as to the financial jeopardy our province was in? Right after we were elected in 1999.

[Page 659]

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, it's important for us, it's important for Nova Scotians to know what information they had on August 5th. Over 400,000 Nova Scotians voted on August 5th. This government was telling them at the time that the books were balanced. They have a right to know whether or not the government knew that they weren't balanced. It's a simple question that all Nova Scotians need an answer to, and I'm asking for the Premier to answer it.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems to want people to forget that he asked to meet with officials, so he himself could ask questions of officials, relative to the current fiscal state of the province. That meeting occurred, that member attended, but he forgets. Now he wants to suggest that there was information that was being withheld by senior officials. The member asked for a briefing, he was given a briefing, and I believe that that briefing was accurate because it was the same briefing that I received as well.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, there is a letter that was tabled before this House in the last session. It was a letter from the Minister of Finance that indicated that this government would have until October 15th of this year to potentially rescind the tax cut that certainly puts money in the hands of the people who least need it. It certainly doesn't put money in the hands of working families in Nova Scotia. Our question to the Premier is whether or not there is consideration being given in light of what the Department of Finance has said and in light of what has been said by the Minister of Finance just yesterday with respect to the finances perhaps affecting Nova Scotia, will you be looking at the possibility of cancelling the tax cut set for January 1st?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that's a question for the Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, we presented a budget to this House last Spring. The budget gave money to Health, to Education, and it attempted to stimulate the economy and to make this province more competitive. That is the plan that we're going forward with.

[1:00 p.m.]

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


MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Energy. Nova Scotians are now aware ExxonMobil has made a limited award of its compression deck contract to Saipem-Daewoo. Once again, Nova Scotians are watching as our work goes offshore. I hate to start off a question with I told you so, so I will just think it, but because of this government's inaction, another $500 million worth of estimated work will go to companies offshore and not to Nova Scotians. So I want to ask the minister, Mr. Minister,

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we've heard before from your government and previous governments that Nova Scotians have to benefit from their resource. What are you going to do to make sure that we do gain from our resource?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, one of the objectives of the Sable Offshore Energy Project was to achieve 34 per cent of Nova Scotia content. Based on our commitments from ExxonMobil to see up to $0.25 billion of Nova Scotia content and the compression deck project for Tier II, that will be maintained and achieved and we're going to hold ExxonMobil to that.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this isn't just the Opposition wanting to know the answer to this question. The Offshore Technology Association of Nova Scotia took the unprecedented step of coming out at the end of August and decrying the ExxonMobil approach of bungling the contract effectively shuts out local companies. Mr. Minister, you dismissed OTANS' comments as saying it was premature to speculate on a contract, but here today we know they were right. So I want to ask you, Mr. Minister, why is it that barely a month ago you said it was premature to speculate that Nova Scotia companies would be shut out, a conclusion that every industry watcher had already come to and are now slamming Exxon over this?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, as was the case a month ago, as this case is today and tomorrow, we continue to work with ExxonMobil, with the Government of Canada and indeed with OTANS, to achieve the outcomes that were seen and the target of 34 per cent. We will continue to work with them, as we have, but what we've said is that where there is a deficiency in the process, we are going to change that and we have embarked upon that process with the Government of Canada and it's ongoing as we speak.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we don't know where the offshore, the play is at now. We keep hearing that the rules are going to be changed and they're going to be strengthened, we've lost out considerably on Sable. We've lost out considerably on distribution. We've seen the Laurentian sub-basin fall against us. Now we've seen work going away from here and we keep saying, as the proverbial horse gets out of the barn, we're going to tighten the rules. So I want to ask the minister today, who is responsible for the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, will the minister tell us how the Nova Scotia appointees on this board, who they are and how they voted and did they support Nova Scotia or the offshore multinationals?

MR. SPEAKER: There are several questions there, if the honourable minister would like to answer one.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, what I do know is that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board followed the regulations that they have to adhere to and they followed the letter of law that was available to them in the application made by ExxonMobil.

[Page 661]

What we've said is we do not appreciate the process with regard to a sole source contract and indeed we will embark upon negotiations to change that with regulatory reform.

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


MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. The minister knows there is at least a $32 million shortfall in the budget. That number could go higher before the end of the fiscal year, but the minister has been silent. Even still, we know there is $32 million worth of cutbacks that must take place before he can present a balanced budget. Will the minister be advising the Opposition Parties on an ongoing basis where and how the $32 million worth of cutbacks will be made?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. What I indicated to the honourable member and to all the people who attended the financial update is that we would be asking departments to look at those areas where they could achieve some savings and those savings we were looking at in the vicinity of $32 million. The departments will be submitting their suggestions to us and we will be giving those consideration and indeed the people will know when the final decisions are made.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, voters have a right to know how much the 10 per cent tax cut will cost them in terms of lost services. Today we learned that the census numbers from Ottawa are off and that will cost us even more in equalization revenue. Mr. Manley is quoted as saying that this is on top of a possible downward adjustment because of a slower national economy. Several weeks have passed since we had the briefing with the Department of Finance and I think that my question is, if the federal government gets its way, how much will this cost the Nova Scotia Government now?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member will know that when the Finance Ministers met in Halifax in June, and indeed when the Premiers met, there were discussions of the equalization stabilization program and indeed the census relief issue which were brought up at both of those. The federal government has not made the decision. The census numbers that we now have are continually under review and we expect to have revised numbers of that in the next week.

Mr. Speaker, I would also keep reminding the House the census status is but 1 of 33 numbers in the equalization program. I would hope that all Parties in this House would be encouraging the federal government to come up with a fair and equal stabilization and equalization plan for all of this country.

[Page 662]

MS. WHALEN: The equalization payments being 1 of the 33 factors in the formula are still the one that we know about today. The minister must know that he has to adjust the equalization numbers downward and he needs a plan now. What is the minister's contingency plan beyond the $32 million in cuts already announced?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, it has been the Department of Finance's way of operating to deal with those things that we know. What we do know is that we have revised our revenue adjustments down in some areas and we shared those with everybody at the press conference. What we don't know is what equalization plan will be going forward. We will have a better idea of that in the next few weeks but we have indicated that as prudent financial managers, we will deal with those unforeseen results.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.



MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question goes to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. At midnight on Sunday, September 28th, just as Hurricane Juan slammed into Halifax, beer continued to be served at Casino Nova Scotia. People were warned to stay away from the windows and intense winds made opening the doors nearly impossible. Now while there may have been patrons who were willing to ignore the warnings and continue to gamble their money and their safety, workers at the casino were left with no choice. When Emergency Measures was urging people who live on the waterfront to leave their homes, why is it that the casino was allowed to continue operations and force its employees to stay?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, and the House knows, it was a voluntary evacuation order. The advice to pull back from the waterfront, not to go to Peggys Cove, not to go to Lawrencetown Beach and to make sure that you acquired staples because of the impending hurricane were the orders issued, or the messages given.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, under occupational health and safety legislation, individual workers may refuse work that they think is unsafe but this legislation is not really designed for a state of emergency. For one thing, an employee has to make a judgment call and even runs the risk of discharge. In a declared state of emergency, there shouldn't be a question of individual workers guessing whether they have a right to go home. Will the minister recognize that there is a gap in the emergency measures legislation and make it clear that in a formal state of emergency, employees can leave absolutely without penalty? Will he do that?

[Page 663]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly EMO will be doing a mandatory debriefing of all situations. As well, EMO, because of the severity and what can be learned in the aftermath of this crisis, will be making those public and seeking public input. I would suggest to the honourable member that those concerned should be included in that so it could be looked at.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, economic losses were suffered by many Nova Scotians. We already know that for some larger employers, such as hospitals, employees were required to take vacation time or else have their pay docked, in some cases, for obeying the directive to stay home. For many small business owners and their employees, the situation is even more dire. The days they could not open their doors for business, of course, means days without any operating income or wages and, in some cases, employees don't have vacation time to take.

Mr. Speaker, will the minister, today, commit to allowing claims from small business owners who have lost income and their employees who have lost wages to go forward under the disaster assistance program?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member does know and all members of the House, the material on DFAA has been put forward, what the federal government will and will not allow. I would suggest that he review that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.



MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. The experience of other provinces in dealing with natural disasters has taught us a great number of lessons. A number of provinces learned from the Quebec ice storm in 1998 that threw thousands into darkness, damaged homes, transformers, poles and other electrical equipment. Over time, it was discovered that a great deal of environmental damage had been done as a result of that storm. For example, breaks in transformers caused oil spills. Mr. Minister, is your department working with EMO and can we expect a report on the environmental impact of this storm?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. The answer would be yes we are, and Nova Scotia Power is working to ensure that any oil spills are documented and will be reported.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, we have been told that climate change could lead to an increasing severity in these storms. In expectation, we should be working with Nova Scotia Power to safeguard our infrastructure. In response to 1998's massive ice storm, both Quebec and Manitoba developed environmental targets. Manitoba took steps to upgrade its

[Page 664]

transmission systems. Mr. Minister, has your department assessed how we can be better environmentally protected in case of another storm?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for question. We certainly will be working with Nova Scotia Power and all agencies to ensure that we do an assessment in the aftermath of the hurricane to make sure that we are prepared in the best possible way for anything in the future.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, to date, little has been said about the environmental damage that has been done and how we can make things better. What's needed is an assessment and a strategic plan for the future. Mr. Minister, will you provide Nova Scotians with a plan?

MR. MORASH: We certainly will be reviewing everything that has taken place, getting together with our partners when the power is finally restored to everyone's household and making recommendations at that point in time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.



MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Act. The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, which recognizes the rights of workers suffering from chronic pain, will undoubtedly have far-reaching effects on Nova Scotia, especially at this time of serious financial distress. My question to the minister is, has his department planned for this decision and specifically determined the cost associated with it and if so, when will the information be made available to the members of this House?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. Certainly, there were discussions and people were looking at what the options were with regard to this Supreme Court decision. There were some estimates that were put forward in the court case, but we certainly have no details of cost at this point in time. We will be working at those and we are working at those as we speak. When that information becomes available, it certainly would be shared with the members.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I am sure I don't have to tell the minister that this, indeed, is crucial for members of this House to have ready access to the information as soon as possible. Every single MLA has constituents who fall into this category and they want to ensure that they are treated fairly and equitably by the government that has been mandated to represent the interests of all Nova Scotians. My question to the minister is, will he undertake to advise the House before the close of business on Friday of the precise amount

[Page 665]

by which the Workers' Compensation Board budget will increase to cover the compensation of sufferers of chronic pain?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, if we were at all able to do that and get the numbers available, we would make them available to the members opposite. I don't believe there is any possible way that those numbers will be tabulated and that information will be brought together in that short a time frame.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the cost to implement this policy change has to be balanced against existing budgets and, most importantly, it has to contend with the Minister of Finance's call for all government departments to once again cut back on their operating budgets. Above all, other components of the Workers' Compensation Program cannot be allowed to suffer because this government hasn't been able to live up to the promise of a balanced budget. My final supplementary is to the Minister of Finance, where will the funding to implement this policy change come from? Will he give his personal guarantee that other components of the Workers' Compensation Program will not be cannibalized to cover the unfunded or unplanned budget shortfall? Will this put the province in an even deeper deficit position?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Obviously more than one question.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, the minister indicated they would be looking at the decision, looking at the requirements of that decision and how they would be going forward. Until we have that data, anything else would be pure speculation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.


MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's been over a week now since Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia, and people are still having difficulty getting answers and assistance. Richard Bonner's business now has no roof. Rising insurance costs forced him to drop hurricane and flood coverage, and he needs help now to fix his roof before more damage takes place. He's worried he won't get disaster relief, but EMO hasn't been able to offer him any assistance or advice. I want to ask the Minister responsible for EMO, since Mr. Bonner can't get answers by calling EMO, what can you say to him now to shed light on his situation and to others like him in this situation?

[Page 666]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, indeed, many people suffered unfortunate property damage, as we're well aware, from the effects of Hurricane Juan. Through the efforts of the Premier and also myself and other ministries, those discussions on the parameters of what can be covered under DFAA are going on presently with our federal counterparts. Once we have those answers, we will be able to report them to Mr. Bonner and other citizens affected by the hurricane.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, let's hope it doesn't start raining while those discussions are going on, or a lot of people are going to be in trouble. Shirley Butler is a senior who is on oxygen, and she is a diabetic. She has managed so far to keep her insurance, but Mrs. Butler says her insurance company told her to expect increases of 15 per cent for every $100 she claims in spoiled food. Mrs. Butler wonders why she has insurance if she can't afford to make a claim. I would like to ask the minister responsible for insurance, what will your department do to investigate complaints from consumers that insurance companies are gouging them and discouraging them from making claims?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would welcome the information the honourable member has on that particular case, because I would like to present it to the Superintendent of Insurance.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we want more than investigations on an individual case. We need to look at how widespread this problem is. Shirley Butler wound up in a motel, something she could ill afford, to keep her oxygen going, because she didn't know where to call for help. Ms. Butler asked us to tell the minister responsible for EMO that Nova Scotians with health problems need to know how to get help when an emergency like this hits. So I want to ask the minister responsible for EMO, how will you work within EMO to ensure that this information gap is addressed?

MR. FAGE: Thank you very much. One of the things that certainly I think all Nova Scotians, EMC and EMH services were proud of and pleased to deliver and how they coped was home oxygen. Once advised by individual recipients or reported by private companies that could not deliver, EHC put two units on here in the Metro area for the first initials days did the home oxygen deliveries. That was lessened to one unit per day and they continued to provide that service as we got through the crisis.

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


MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board. I think it's time we had another go at the Dorsey report and we'll try once again to get some information from this government as to where they're going with this report. Injured workers of this province were led to believe

[Page 667]

back in 1999 that the Tory Government would be a friend. Since then, all Parties have endorsed the Dorsey report by word and now it's time for the government to take action. Could the minister update the House as to how far along it is in implementing all 54 recommendations of the Dorsey report so that injured workers are treated fairly? How many have you implemented to date, Mr. Minister?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member opposite for the question. We certainly have had a review of the Dorsey report and we've had recommendations brought down to us by the Workers' Compensation Board and we're looking at implementing those in legislation at some point in time in the future.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, since the minister didn't answer the question, I'll answer it for him. The answer is 1 of the 54 recommendations that this government has implemented. That's a pretty shoddy record after all this time with regard to the Dorsey report. Every day in the last session of this Legislature the [former] member for Cape Breton Nova was asking the former minister this exact same question. When is this government going to act on the Dorsey report in the best interests of the workers of this province?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member for the question. We certainly are working on it as we speak, trying to ensure that things are in place and we can implement portions of the Dorsey report as soon as possible.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the pace that this government has been taking in implementing the report would suggest that it would take another 50 or 60 years for the recommendations to be implemented, if they even went at one a year. So all we're asking for is a little bit speedier process. Can we finally expect from this government that they're going to do something about the Dorsey report so that injured workers in this province are going to receive the justice they justly deserve in Nova Scotia?

MR. MORASH: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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



MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Community Services. Thousands of Nova Scotians remain without power today despite the best efforts of Nova Scotia Power crews to restore this service. The use of candles, kerosene heaters and other devises during power outages increase the risk of fire. Most tenants in apartment buildings and rented houses don't realize that their smoke

[Page 668]

detectors rely on electricity to function. I ask the Minister of Community Services, why is your department refusing to put battery backup smoke detectors in public housing?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, first of all we clarify that they did meet the Building Code, but there was a resolution that was brought forward last week actually in this House and we agreed to the resolution that included looking at putting battery-powered smoke detectors in public housing.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority is quoted in the media as stating it would cost $124,000 to buy battery operated units for public housing. I can table the media quote. This government is sitting on over $30 million in unspent housing money under the 2002 federal-provincial agreement. There is no excuse for this government to allow tenants in public housing to remain at risk

in power outages, when they have funds to address this problem. I ask the minister, your department has the money for improving existing public housing stock. Why not add battery-operated smoke detectors to the priority list?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, two matters there. First of all, I think I have already indicated that we are looking at doing that very thing. The second thing is the $38 million in the Affordable Housing Program is something that's part of a federal-provincial program and we just do not have unfettered discretion to spend those monies as we please.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, $124,000 would mean the difference between safety and potential tragedy for residents of public housing. These low income families do not have the means to purchase these battery-operated smoke detectors. I ask the minister, will you commit today to using the housing money in place now to address this safety issue?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I think I have indicated now twice, plus with the passage of that resolution, that we are, in fact, looking at this. Even though we met the Building Code, we are looking at going up above and beyond the Building Code. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.


MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, earlier this year the Premier of this province provided Nova Scotians with an example of what minor injury was, in his view, by saying, that it was "muscle pain that gets better". After reading the KPMG report which was tabled last week in this House, it is clear that what the Premier was saying is completely different than what KPMG was told to examine by this government in its report. A careful read of the KPMG report makes it clear that the government told KPMG from the start that the

[Page 669]

definition to be used was the one currently in use in the Province of Ontario, which includes chronic pain, fractures and amputations as minor injuries, which I am sure the Premier, himself, would not consider to actually be minor injuries. My question therefore to the Premier is, can he please tell Nova Scotians why there is a clear difference between what he was telling Nova Scotians about minor injuries just a few months ago, and what he is telling Nova Scotians now about minor injuries?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible for the insurance bill.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have come forward with a definition of minor injury that satisfies, we believe, the courts and also satisfies the requirements for limiting claims, to achieve a 20 per cent saving in premiums for all Nova Scotian motorists.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, once again the minister has made it clear in his speech and when he tabled the bill dealing with this, he had indicated this was a made-in-Nova Scotia solution. Well, quite ironically, minor injury defined is actually from the Ontario legislation, so once again, there goes your made-in-Nova Scotia solution. One of the other aspects that the Premier clearly indicated when speaking on the issue of insurance was that, when KPMG would be asked to review this, that economic losses and economic benefits to Nova Scotians who were injured would not be impacted in any way, shape or form, by the changes they have made. A review of the KPMG report clearly shows this government asked KPMG to consider economic losses and taking away economic losses from Nova Scotians. Therefore, I ask again to the Premier, can he explain why he was telling Nova Scotians that his government had no intent to go after economic losses, when it is clear from the KPMG report that it specifically asked to look at removing those benefits to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible for the insurance bill.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what particular piece of legislation this honourable member has been reading, but I think our legislation is perfectly clear. The intent is there and it will be fulfilled.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I guess if the Premier continues this many passes in the House during Question Period, he may be up for an NHL award at the end of the year. It is the Premier, himself, who made these comments. As for the earlier questions about what he knew about the state of the finances, he is the CEO of this province. Sir, you made these statements. You told Nova Scotians it would be aches and sprains that would be a minor injury. You told Nova Scotians that your government would not look at taking away any economic benefits from them. I ask the Premier again why, sir, have you told Nova Scotians one thing where at the end of the day you are looking at putting a definition which

[Page 670]

does mean what you said and you're looking at taking money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians who are injured in this province?

[1:30 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite will review the bill, he will see that Nova Scotians, as a result of the bill, will not receive any loss of economic benefit as a result of a reduction of their insurance as it is relative to economic benefit.

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



MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, Hurricane Juan obviously caused major damage across Nova Scotia. The highest winds that were sustained and recorded were on McNabs Island in Eastern Passage of 152 kilometres an hour, I think, for two minutes at a time. That caused major damage to that park, McNabs and Lawlors Island Park, a park that was designated by the Premier last year. That park has been devastated by this hurricane and I want to ask the Minister of Natural Resources, what is the Department of Natural Resources going to be doing and what is their plan for resuscitating and rebuilding the McNabs and Lawlor Islands Park?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. Last Thursday I had the opportunity to visit McNabs Island to see the damage first-hand myself. My staff is assessing the damage that's there and I will report back to this Legislature as soon as I have all the information at my fingertips.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I have several parks operated by Natural Resources in my riding. Another one is MacCormacks Beach which is a boardwalk which is used by a lot of people, particular seniors in the Dartmouth area and the Eastern Passage area, as a walking trail, as an area where they can get exercise. It has been decimated. Half of the boardwalk has been washed away. It no longer is there. The park has been officially closed. The sign has been put up. So I want to ask the Minister of Natural Resources, what is their plan and how long do they think it's going to take to rebuild MacCormacks Beach boardwalk so that the residents of the Dartmouth and Eastern Passage area will be able to utilize it again?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member opposite, we are assessing all of our parks. There are a number of parks in the HRM and surrounding areas that have been affected by Hurricane Juan. Staff is determining all the damage and it's for public safety that we have closed the parks until we have all the assessments and make it safe for the public.

[Page 671]

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, just to name two other parks in my area, the Salt Marsh trail and Rainbow Haven Beach also suffered serious damage I want to go back to MacCormacks Beach for a moment because it is one which is utilized by a lot of people in the Dartmouth area. I guess I'm just hoping that the Minister of Natural Resources can tell us, today, I'm not asking for a specific date, but even a timeline, are we looking at two months? Are we looking at before the winter sets in? This park is used in the winter as well, or are we talking about a year, or are we talking about sometime in the Spring of 2004 before this park is operational again?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. Public safety is number one. When we do our assessments on all of our parks and the damage, we will be assessing it, we will be repairing the damage, and we will open the parks when they are safe for the public.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.


MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Last week I asked the Minister of Health a very serious question about the issue of wait times both with surgeries and ER departments as a result of last week's events. The minister indicated that his staff was - meeting with the capital district as we spoke - to work with them to address the situation. My question to the minister, could the minister please elaborate to the House what his department is able to do to address the serious wait time situation that became even more serious as a result of Hurricane Juan?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can inform the honourable member and the House through you, sir, that the staff at the Capital District Health Authority is working extremely hard at restoring services. They have met with officials of my department and we are satisfied that every assistance that we can provide to them is being provided. They have made considerable progress. The good news is that some of the damage that has been sustained appears not to be as devastating as we first thought. We will have further progress on that. But with respect to wait times, progress is being made but obviously when you interrupt the operation of a very efficient and high capacity health care delivery system, you are going to incur wait times as a result of that interruption.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I dare say the minister's words may be hollow to some 600 people who had their surgeries cancelled last week. On March 20, 2003, the government released a report entitled Your Health Matters and on Page 28 it states that a working group will report to the minister in the Fall of this year with recommendations on wait lists. Given that it is clear the minister doesn't have any solutions, so my question to the minister is, when will the minister be releasing the recommendations

[Page 672]

of that working group so that people can see at least something is being done to address this very serious situation?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is delivering a great disservice to the health care workers of this province when he links the activities of that report and the recommendations of that report to the wait times that are being sustained as a result of a devastating tragedy that hit this province. That's politics of the crassest kind and it should not be tolerated in this House.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that I have upset the minister but there are 600 additional people in this province that need to be added back on to a certain surgical list, Mr. Minister, I am sorry if that upsets you.

Your Health Matters also indicated on Page 28 of that report that there is a wait list currently available in the department that will be released as well in the Fall. This is a serious matter, Mr. Speaker, given the impact that it had on wait lists. So my question to the minister again, will he reveal to the public once and for all the wait list information that was currently available in the department in March of this year?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health, you have about 10 seconds.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, that information will be made available when we receive the complete report and the recommendations that go with that report and we will share it with the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for Question Period has expired.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's on an introduction.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the opportunity to introduce two people in the east gallery, and I would ask them to stand, Brady Hennigar and David Roberts. One happens to live in Chester-St. Margaret's, however, these are two people here and they are going to, I understand, the Law Amendments Committee, they are going to give their views on Friday. But they're really here, just like the old western song was, to keep Nova Scotians trucking, not all of them, but many of them. Thank you very much for coming and we enjoy your company. (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.

[Page 673]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 2.

Bill No. 2 - Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act/Labour Standards Code.

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

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to speak on this bill. Nova Scotia is the only jurisdiction in Canada without some kind of Sunday shopping rules, so we all know it is coming, it is going to be here very shortly.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is inevitable.

MR. GOSSE: It is inevitable, but by Sunday shopping do we think that people are going to arrive with a stash of money that they had put away somewhere to go Sunday shopping, Mr. Speaker? In my riding of Cape Breton Nova, the unemployment rate is at 16 per cent, with an average income salary of $20,396. It is well below the average income here in Halifax and the unemployment rate here being at 4 per cent with an average income of $56,000. I would like to know where the stash of money is coming from for people to go Sunday shopping.

Also, do we think that on Sunday we're going to have these big super sales, there's going to be all kind of sales on different items in the stores on Sunday because it's Sunday? We're going to have the same prices - prices are going to be the same on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as they are on Sunday. There are many families in Nova Scotia who don't have a stash of money put aside to go family shopping.

People are always asking each other questions about Sunday shopping. In a riding in Cape Breton Nova, where there are 12 churches alone in Whitney Pier, it's been a well-known fact in my community that people would go to church on Sunday, and have Sunday dinner. As a young man growing up in Whitney Pier, I could pretty well time every church - in the Ukranian church, the Polish church, the Italian church, the African Orthodox church and many churches, people would come home for their family dinners - they would attend Mass and still come home for their family dinners, and this is going to be quite a change in the riding in Cape Breton.

I also represent in Cape Breton Nova many of the retail business sectors in the Ashby area. It's very important that we look at this legislation, this bill, and look at the protection of workers' rights. The Province of Nova Scotia presently has a 48-hour work week, which is one of the longest work weeks in Canada-48 hours. So when these people are expected to

[Page 674]

work overtime, they get time and a half at minimum wage. We would like to see time and a half at their regular wage, not at minimum wage. Those are things that could be implemented in this House here today.

Let's not fool ourselves here and think that working people of Nova Scotia are going to make extra money by working on Sunday. It's the CEOs of these retail outlets who are looking at their bottom line, and when their bottom line goes up they can report to their shareholders that profits are up in the retail business sector. It's not going to help the workers any, it's going to help those people. We have to protect the rights of these workers in the retail business sector. We have to make sure that they're paid a proper wage. Right now most of those people on part-time do not receive any benefits. There are no benefits unless you're full-time. These are some of the issues that we must look at as politicians and legislators.

The bottom line for these retail businesses is what they're looking at. We know that they're looking for profit - they're not looking to protect the workers, they're looking for profit in this sector. We look at that and then we look at the other issue of flea markets in Cape Breton. In my riding we have large flea markets in the Sydney Shopping Centre and the Mayflower Mall. This is an industry on its own. We have people who are on pension, people who are low-income families who are making crafts and making benches and making other things that they sell at these flea markets to supplement their income.

Their incomes are not great. As I said earlier, the average income in Cape Breton Nova is $20, 000. These are supplemental incomes to these people. They've been doing these flea markets upwards of 15 years, if not longer. So what is going to happen to these people in this industry? The mall will be open, there's nowhere for them to set up their flea markets, they're going to be competing against the retail business sector. It can't be done at this present time.

I would like to know - the tourism operators and other things like that on Sundays, we have cruise ships come into the harbour in Sydney on Sundays and other days looking for downtown businesses to be open - with this retail business, the small family business, are they going to be able to compete with these big retail chains, these box stores? Don't be fooled when you walk in and think that there's going to be a large box of detergent or something else on sale on Sunday.

The family businesses are very important. I'll give you an example, Joan's Fresh Mart in Whitney Pier. It's been the only grocery store open in the riding for the last 20 years on Sunday. It's a very small grocery store and on Sunday there are a lot of people who go there to get their fresh rolls and stuff for desserts.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many people work there?

[Page 675]

MR. GOSSE: Well, there are probably about 8 or 10 people who work in that grocery store that are going to be affected by this. This is a small, little grocery store in the Pier. It contributes to the community, it contributes to many aspects of the community. I wonder about the protection of those small businesses, the moms-and-pops, as we call them, in the community, who look at this as a very important day for them to make some money.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as I alluded to before, the religious aspect of my community of Whitney Pier with all these different numbers of churches. Being brought up as a Roman Catholic and knowing what the fourth commandment is - remember thy Sabbath to keep it holy. That is a factor. I know my mother would probably be listening to this speech today, being brought up in a family where we had our family dinner, after dinner we cleared the card table and had a little game of cards, maybe the odd time . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: On Sunday.

MR. GOSSE: . . . on Sunday. Mr. Speaker, there is no secret to Sunday shopping. It's coming, but we have to protect the workers' rights. That's the main issue here, to protect the workers' rights and to make sure that if they're not going to go to work on Sunday - people are saying, well, maybe the students will fill in for these people. I don't imagine that's going to happen, students filling in for these people who are working in these businesses for such a long time. People have to realize that students can't fill all the gaps in the retail sector. There are going to be a lot of people who are going to be working in the retail sector right now who are not working. Again we go back to protecting the workers' rights, and looking at what is the best way of protecting the workers' rights. I think maybe by looking at instead of a 48-hour work week, taking it down to a 40-hour work week. That would be a start. That would be a very good start. That would be in line with the rest of Canada at this time.

AN HON. MEMBER: With the exception of P.E.I.

MR. GOSSE: Well, P.E.I. is probably the same as we are at this time, with a 48-hour work week. Every family has different needs and different wants in society today. The technology is very fast today, I hear from my eight year old many times. I guess instead of going to a family dinner, going to visit his grandmother and having dinner with his grandmother on Sunday and everything else, I guess he will be wanting to go to these retail stores with his father, to go shopping and purchase these items that I can purchase on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. It doesn't really make any difference. I don't think there are going to be these exorbitant sales.

According to Statistics Canada, a regular report on the retail trade annual sales, comparing 2002 to 2001 - and that's a seasonally-adjusted rate - increased by 5.4 per cent in Nova Scotia and by 3.2 per cent in New Brunswick. In June 2003 compared to June 2002,

[Page 676]

retail trade, seasonally adjusted again, Mr. Speaker, increased by 2.3 per cent in Nova Scotia and by 1.1 per cent in New Brunswick. I hear out there that the people in Amherst and the people in Truro and others are all going to Moncton to shop on Sundays. Well, according to Statistics Canada, it doesn't seem that that's the case.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I think it was alluded to here by my colleague yesterday, the member for Dartmouth North, that when he drives over to MicMac Mall or wherever else, there are lots of licence plates in that parking lot from New Brunswick and other provinces that come to that mall to shop. It's not only Sunday, it's every day of the week that these people are there to shop at these places. Again, Mr. Speaker, on Sundays before, there were retail stores open, pharmacies open, theatres, restaurants, gardening centres, they were all open on every Sunday. I just think, again, it's going back to the bottom line for these big retail companies that are going to try to make extra - I guess for their CEOs and shareholders - money by opening on Sundays.

Again, this all reverts back to protecting the workers' rights. I think the workers are important in this province, these workers who are in the retail business sector. Another thing too, single-parent families and having those mothers going to work, are we going to have daycares open in the province? Is there going to be child care available for these single-parent families who go to work? Is there going to be transportation, public transportation. In the CBRM, there is no public transportation on Sunday. How are these people going to get to work at these different malls? Are they going to get taxis? That's another added burden, an expense. Again, back to the child care and the daycares, does this mean that the daycares and the family place resource centres, are they going to be open on Sundays to provide the proper daycare and nurturing for these children? I don't think so. We have to look at all aspects of this bill to realize that, you know, make this a living wage. Make this a wage that people can come home and afford proper daycare and afford the proper nutrition and everything else for them. We have to look at the minimum wage to do something to make it an affordable wage for the single parent families. Our Party has always and consistently asked for an increase in the minimum wage. This would enable these people to feel good about themselves, feel good about going to work, whether it's Saturday, Sunday, or whatever, but I mean these people would actually be able to benefit from an increase in the minimum wage and some protection.

Another thing, Mr. Speaker, we should look at, too, is if they're working 50 per cent of the time, maybe they should have 50 per cent of the benefits that are available to full-time workers who get full-time benefits like medical, dental and all of those aspects. Those are things that we should look at. I like the aspect of going from 48 hours to 40 hours. Myself, being a steelworker and working many shifts around the clock, we had one weekend off a month for many, many years. It was called a long weekend and that was our long weekend at Sydney Steel. That weekend wasn't spent in the shopping malls. In Cape Breton we've always had quality family time with our children, our grandparents and our parents. That was a big important factor to spend quality time with our children and our extended families.

[Page 677]

With this Sunday opening we will not have this quality time now with our families. (Interruption)

Sundays in Nova Scotia have always been a day of rest, Mr. Speaker. I have quoted the family aspect of it, the religious aspect of it with the fourth commandment, and that's Christian and non-Christian. Everybody has different beliefs in different things, but these are things that we have to weigh as politicians. When I go back home to my riding of Cape Breton Nova and I represent the people there, you know, I remember on the campaign trail, everybody was saying that this was not an issue at that time. I had one constituent ask me on the campaign trail what is going to happen with the Sunday shopping, how does your Party stand on that?

Well, Mr. Speaker, I said our Party's stand is that it's inevitable that Sunday shopping is coming to this province. There's nothing that I can do as a candidate to stop that. I told a lady on West Street that what happens, in the big retail chains and stores in, for example, Sobey's, when Scotsburn puts their products in those stores, the workers who are in the Sobey's stores are not allowed to restock their shelves with these products. Somebody has to come in to restock these shelves. So that will mean that somebody will be coming in on a Sunday for two hours to put the products or the milk back up on the shelf and take them out of their freezer and bring them up to the shelf. This is the kind of people that we have to look after.

The cost of the plebiscite, Mr. Speaker, it's another cost that at this time I don't think we can afford with a deficit, as was said earlier here in the Legislature today. The Lord's Day legislation, that was all taken away from us many years ago now. The people in the flea markets, the antique stores and all of those, and the yard sales on Sundays, I guess they will no longer exist after this comes into effect. I'm just worried about the small business aspects in Cape Breton. There are many, many mom and pop stores in Cape Breton that are going to suffer from this retail business.

As you know yourself, Mr. Speaker, a Sunday drive through the Bras d'Or Lakes, or a Sunday drive out to Mira, was always a tradition to take your parents and your grandparents to Mira, or Mira Gut, or out to the "bungalow" I guess you will be taking them to these big retail stores instead of going out to the "bungalow", I guess, and they can shop in air-conditioned and wheelchair-accessible places on a Sunday and I think that's important (Interruption) on the way to the "bungalow" I guess to pick up supplies.

Mr. Speaker, I just think that the year 2003 is here and upon us and almost closing that times are changing. Times are changing in Cape Breton and times are changing here. I think it's important that we must change with those times and maybe offer these people the opportunity to do that, but again, I come back to protecting the workers' rights.

[Page 678]

Right now we have the longest work week in Canada, along with Prince Edward Island, 48 hours per week. Once somebody works overtime they get time and one-half on minimum wage - not time and one-half on their regular wage, time and one-half on minimum wage. I think we should look at that and change that to maybe time and one-half on their regular wage, not their minimum wage.

I guess I've had my say on this and I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak on this bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to take up a lot of time in discussing this bill, Bill No. 2. It's an idea or a position or whatever you want to call it whose time has come in Nova Scotia. The interesting thing as we've sat through hours and hours of debate so far, I'm glad that it's only a few weeks away from Hallowe'en because I've been listening to the NDP positions and I still haven't determined whether or not they're in favour or against Sunday shopping. My reference to Hallowe'en is because during Hallowe'en we always used to, as kids, take those pinwheels and nail them onto a fence and then light them and they would spin very rapidly and then die out and just fizzle. Which is, I think, probably where the NDP position is right now. They're spinning as the pinwheel does but eventually they fizzle and they say, it's inevitable. Sunday shopping is inevitable. I guess we're in favour of it, or maybe we're not in favour of it or some of us are in favour of it or maybe it's because there's no daycare on Sundays.

There's no daycare on Monday night, there's no daycare on Tuesday nights, Wednesday nights or Thursday nights, but workers still have to work. They still have to work in the retail sector. They still have to. It's just an example of some of the weak arguments that have been put forward, arguments nonetheless. There have been some strong arguments as well, I agree. What the NDP premise is right now is that they are saying we have to protect workers' rights in this province. Workers' rights are going to be protected. They're going to be protected. We'll make sure of that. We will make sure of that, that workers' rights are protected in this legislation. We'll make sure that no one is forced to work on a Sunday. When I say we, I guess I'm hopefully saying it as a collective Opposition.

I know that the government will certainly try to make sure of that. Sunday shopping, as I said, it's an idea whose time has come in Nova Scotia. Let me take you back a couple of years to when the Conservative Government decided to study this issue in depth and appointed a red tape task force, if you recall. As we referred to them rather kindly at that time, the boys of summer. They were all Tories appointed to a task force who made a few trips around Nova Scotia and lo and behold they decided to tackle the Sunday shopping issue. They came up with the great idea that it should be left in the hands of Nova Scotia's municipalities to decide whether or not they would have Sunday shopping. To which the government said, no, no, hold on and the Justice Minister of the day decided to say Sunday

[Page 679]

shopping will never be heard from - the phrase, the idea, the topic, the notion of Sunday shopping - will not be dealt with in Nova Scotia until the year 2005. End of story. I don't want to hear anything more about Sunday shopping.

Lo and behold this, as you well know, is not 2005, this is 2003 and the government is proposing that Sunday shopping go ahead. Mr. Speaker, we've had a test run and let me quote to you from an article in the Halifax-Herald today and when I'm finished with it I will table that article. The article in the Halifax-Herald today by Roger Taylor. Roger Taylor indicates that an unscientific Herald online poll, 91 per cent of those who participated in the survey were in favour of the government's decision to go ahead with last Sunday's shopping. (Interruptions)

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I will quote from the article. This is Mr. Taylor, in his words, "After Sunday's experience, I think most people are convinced the provincial government should stop trying to fight public opinion by continuing to regulate store hours." He goes on to say that, "Perhaps if the Hamm government conducts a post-mortem on its Sunday experiment, it will realize the futility of regulating shopping hours. Government should save taxpayers millions by cancelling a wasteful plebiscite it plans for next fall. It already knows the outcome." The outcome, according to all of the polls, according to anyone that you talk to, is going to be that Nova Scotians, the majority of Nova Scotians, are now in favour of Sunday shopping.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member will be tabling that document.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I will table it, if I may, at the conclusion of my speech. I would like to quote from it just a little bit more later on. The Liberal caucus has been very clear on this issue. We have a very clear position on providing Nova Scotians with shopping every day of the week, as well as providing retailers with the choice to open their shops every day. We have had that position consistently, not just during the election campaign, consistently for a very long time. That has been the position of the Liberal caucus. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: It was a big vote-getter.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): It was a big vote-getter, Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact, we got more of the popular vote than the NDP. (Interruptions) That's a fact. I know the seats didn't work out the way I wanted them to, but the percentage was certainly there. The next time around, whenever it may be, we will see what happens. Let me get back to the topic (Interruptions)

[Page 680]

Hopefully not four years, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) Let me get back to the topic of Sunday shopping. Sunday shopping in some cases is an advantage, as my NDP colleagues have pointed out, for busy families, it's an advantage in some cases to shop on Sundays, as well as for shift workers. I don't know the percentage, but I dare say that there's a large percentage of people in this province who are shift workers. I worked on Sundays myself. Police officers work on Sundays. Nurses work on Sundays. Paramedics work on Sundays. There are all sorts of people in this province who work on Sundays, and have worked on Sundays as part of their life, it's become a custom of their life.

Mr. Speaker, what I'm not saying is that there will not be, perhaps, some people who will be put at a disadvantage because of Sunday shopping. That's where we come into play, in my opinion, as legislators. We have an obligation to make sure that workers' rights are protected. We have that obligation, and I think we will live up to that obligation. I think we will have no problem doing that. Workers will be protected from working seven days straight, and no one, again, I reiterate, no one in this province is going to be forced to work on a Sunday. If you don't want to work on a Sunday, you won't work on a Sunday.

Mr. Speaker, the hours of business (Interruptions) Of course, I support Sunday shopping. Of course I do. It goes without saying. Any piece of legislation that comes forward in this Chamber can be improved, that's why we do what we do. That's why we have these debates, that's why we propose such things as amendments to legislation. We make the legislation better, hopefully. In our case, we will take a close look at this legislation, we will make sure that the rights are protected.

The plebiscite, Mr. Speaker, in itself - I tend to agree with the writer of the Herald, Roger Taylor, not just because he happens to be from Cape Breton, let me make that point, although it is a good point nonetheless. Mr. Taylor states that that plebiscite would be a waste of money when you already know the outcome. I tend to agree with that. Even the New Democratic Party tends to agree with that, that if Sunday shopping is inevitable, as they say, then to have a plebiscite would be a waste of money. That's agreed.

AN HON. MEMBER: You agree with us.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): I agree that the plebiscite is not necessary. I agree with the idea that perhaps we don't need that. I think, as the writer says, again, in his column, that most people are convinced that it's time for us to stop meddling or trying to meddle in public opinion by continuing to regulate store hours in this province. It's time, once and for all, to move on.

Mr. Speaker, municipal leaders, they're opposed to holding a plebiscite on this question as well, I should point out. The President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, on this question, is against that. Also, he says - his name is Don Zwicker, by the way - "Municipal leaders are opposed to holding a plebiscite on the question as part of

[Page 681]

the Municipal Elections. Regulating Sunday shopping is a Provincial responsibility and the issue does not belong on the Municipal agenda", it's a provincial responsibility. So we're dealing with it as a provincial responsibility. I mentioned before about the red tape task force of years ago. I already told the House about that and I hope that all members were listening, apparently not all were.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, Bill No. 2 will affect some people, perhaps, in a negative way. We have to tread carefully here. We have to be very careful. We know that the test experiment that went on last Sunday, I think, from what I've heard, has been a success. I heard people saying that this was a great thing. Again, the writer of this column says that perhaps Sunday previous to the hurricane should have been open on Sunday as well, which would have allowed people in this province to buy goods prior to the hurricane coming and to stock up, which they couldn't do.

Mr. Speaker, we have to allow a certain amount of latitude here in our thinking. Not everything is always black and white. You have to take a look at things and step back and say, where are we going with this, who's going to be adversely affected, and how can we help in that situation. That's exactly what we're doing as a Liberal caucus. We have taken a couple of steps back, even though this has been our baby all along. We're quite proud of that, of the fact that Sunday shopping, whose time has come, and even now the New Democratic Party can't argue anymore, they're just down and out, and all they can say is it's inevitable. Sunday shopping is coming; it's inevitable.

Mr. Speaker, I agree, it's inevitable. The fact of the matter is we've come, we will protect the rights of workers, we will make sure that no one in this province has to work on Sunday, if they don't want to work on Sunday, and we will make sure that those concerns are met. I think I've made it perfectly clear what my position on Sunday shopping is, I'm in favour of it. I think it's time, in 2003, for Nova Scotia to move forward. I think this will be good for the province. That's not to say that, perhaps, we can expect some opposition to it. Of course we can. But all in all, let's take a look at it. Sunday shopping is indeed an idea whose time has come in this province.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I will certainly be in favour of this legislation when it comes forward. I'm hoping there will be some improvements to some aspects of the legislation. We will deal with that at a later date. Again, Sunday shopping - I think probably I will table that article now, by the way, Mr. Speaker. As the article headline states, what the decision on Sunday shopping reveals actually is the inconsistency of this Tory Government. We should have been here a long time ago. We should be moving ahead, not just to a six-week period, followed by a plebiscite in the Fall, we should be moving ahead, full-time Sunday shopping, as soon as (Interruptions) - I'm saying that - possible.

[Page 682]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I've heard it said by people whose opinion I respect that for virtually any extremely complex problem, there is a simple solution, and it's usually wrong. I was put in mind of this statement when I listened first to the Leader of the Liberal Party on the subject of Bill No. 2, and then again as I've listened to other members of the Third Party caucus - I beg your pardon, is the honourable member attempting to interrupt? He's just passing through, is he?

Mr. Speaker, I was put in mind of this statement because it seemed to me that the essence of the position that's being put forward by the Third Party is in this category of a simple solution to a complicated problem. To listen to those speeches, one would think that the issue of extended hours for workers, or as it's sometimes summarized, the issue of Sunday shopping, was a simple one to be embraced by the statement, I'm in favour of it. That's the statement we hear from the Liberal Party.

I'm not one who thinks that this is a simple problem. I'm the one who thinks that this is a complicated problem with many dimensions. I'm a person who thinks that this is a problem for which there may be many solutions, for which indeed there are many aspects with which we have to come to grips. I'm sorry to say that Bill No. 2 doesn't really come to grips with all aspects of this problem.

Mr. Speaker, we've been encouraged to state what it is that we think, in as clear terms as possible, about this issue of seven-day-a-week shopping. I want to say, as clearly as I can, what it is that I personally think about it and then move to what it is that I think is the political situation and, therefore, what is our responsibility as legislators.

I have a friend who is a little older than I am, who is now retired from his service in the military. At one point, he did service with peacekeeping troops in the Middle East and he observed, upon coming back to Canada, that there is, in his view, the opportunity to achieve some interesting harmonization in that part of the world. He put it this way. He said for Muslims, the day of rest, the Sabbath, is Friday. For Jews, the Sabbath and day of rest is Saturday. For Christians, the Sabbath and day of rest is Sunday. He observed that if only people who live in the Middle East could coordinate and reconcile their differences, they would have the makings of the four-day week, immediately.

Although he told his observation as an amusing anecdote, he has a point. The point is not only that a day of rest has religious origins, and the point is not only that for many people a day of rest continues to have religious overtones. For me, if I actually had my druthers, not only would I like to see stores closed on Sunday, I would like them to be closed on Saturday and Friday as well. Not because of an attempt to embrace throughout society those three days of rest in those three named religions, for all I know, there may be other religions that have other days of rest. That's not the issue for me.

[Page 683]

The issue for me is that I believe that we live in a society that has become entirely too consumer oriented. I believe that we live in a society in which the question of the values is skewed. I believe that we live in a society in which, unfortunately, the drive towards consumerism has become so pervasive that it doesn't leave much room for other values to assert themselves. I would be happy if indeed there was less shopping and more family activity. I would be happy if there was less shopping and more community activity. I would be happy if there was less shopping and more music, more arts, more culture, more creativity.

I would be happy if there was less shopping and more sports, more recreation and more fitness. I would be happy if there was less shopping and more attention to education. But, do you know what? My option, my preferred option is not on the political agenda these days in this forum unfortunately. I want to emphasize the word unfortunately because that is the position I hold on this. I know that it's not a unique position. I know that there are very many Nova Scotians who have similar views to the one I have enunciated.

[2:15 p.m.]

At the same time, the political reality is that there is an enormous demand out there for consumers to be able to shop in extremely extended hours. Now, I've said that I don't particularly like that and I have said that I think this is a complicated problem. I have said that we have to take account of other values in society. What I don't think, unfortunately, is that at this point in history, given what it is that public opinion happens to be in Nova Scotia, that it's open to us as legislators to do anything other than to move in the direction of opening up hours for shopping. I'm sorry that's the case, but I think it is the case. If that is the case, then we have to take account at the same time of these other values that I've mentioned, because this is, as I said, a complicated problem. It's not one that can simply be solved by saying that all the private market actors decide what hours they wish to be opened, let us embrace Sunday shopping, let us say that it's okay, let us bring in a couple of amendments to our existing legislation and the problem goes away.

The problem does not go away. This is not one of those complicated problems for which there is an easy, simple solution. A simple solution, as I indicated at the beginning, is in fact wrong in the sense of being inadequate. So given that we all know, and I think we probably all do know, having been so recently in touch with people in our constituencies during the election process, that there is an enormous demand for longer hours. What do we do? Well, this bill tells us that what we do is hold a plebiscite a year from now. Now, I have to immediately say that that's another example of the solution that has been put in front of us that is wrong. It's wrong not only because the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities tells us that it's not interested in having the plebiscite associated with next year's municipal elections, they regard it as a distraction, they regard this as a provincial-level problem that ought to be solved by clear policy leadership from the provincial level and it ought not to be mixed up with local municipal elections. I think they're right. Just as there ought to be uniform rules across the province, that is to say this is not a problem that is to be given off

[Page 684]

to the local municipal level since the result could be different rules in different parts of the province.

I'm not saying that's part of the bill, clearly it isn't part of the bill, but what if in the plebiscite we were to find clear differences from constituency to constituency? What if in the plebiscite we were to find there are clear differences in regions? Suppose Cape Breton, for example, votes overwhelmingly one way and metro votes overwhelmingly another way and suppose parts of rural mainland vote one way and other parts vote a different way? What is the government telling us it's going to do with the results of this plebiscite? They're not telling us. It's not in the bill. They're not saying that they will divide the province up by region or by constituency or that they will weigh everything in terms of the province overall and come up with one solution and implement it. I know some attempt has been made to lay out three alternatives that people can address.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto has the floor.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I know some attempt has been made to lay out three reasonably clear questions for people to deal with, but how reliable is it going to be? What is the normal turnout at municipal elections? It's not high, unfortunately. It just isn't. That's a hard fact of life. Maybe the plebiscite will attract more voters, maybe it won't. Maybe it will be a real issue in some parts of the province, maybe in others it won't be. Who knows how reliable it will be. Again I ask, what is the government saying it's going to do with the results of this plebiscite? They haven't really told us. It's certainly not in the legislation.

What I think is that the device of the plebiscite is not a reliable device to use on this question. I think, furthermore, it's not a good public policy device to use on this question. I think it's our obligation as legislators to devise a solution here. Given that we have a minority government, this is, indeed, an ideal topic on which we ought to be able to hammer out some kind of solution among the three Parties, where there might be some harmonious result. I think looking to a plebiscite is an evasive tactic. I think it attempts to evade our responsibilities in this Chamber.

Mr. Speaker, before me, the member for Glace Bay quoted from an article in today's Chronicle-Herald by the editor of the business page, Mr. Roger Taylor. In that article, as he correctly says, Mr. Taylor points out that there's not a lot of point in holding the referendum next year, since - he offers the opinion - we know the result right now. Well, maybe we do, maybe we don't. That isn't the main reason. I think, at this point, probably in our own constituencies, many of us do know the result. I suppose, even if we do know the likely result, assuming there was a large turnout, that, in the end, doesn't determine why it is that we ought not to have this plebiscite. We ought not to have it, because we can work out, amongst ourselves, what it is that we ought to do.

[Page 685]

So, what ought we to do? Given that there is overwhelming demand, we have to decide what the problems are, we have to decide what the down sides are. We have to decide whether there are ways to offset those down sides. I mentioned what, for me, is the number one downside, that is to say that this essentially sends a signal about the kind of society we are here. The signal it sends is that we have adopted what is the predominant ethos of the rest of North America, that is an ethos in favour of consumption over virtually any other value.

Well, how are we going to offset that? If we have to accept this, if it turns out that public opinion, as most of us believe, is so overwhelmingly in favour of this particular change in our laws, how can we offset that? Now, one way, although I don't expect it to be in legislation, I don't necessarily expect it to be the kind of thing that might be enacted as a mandatory law, but I do expect it to be the sort of approach that we might hear from the government, one way might be to try to strengthen other values.

What are we going to do, for example, about libraries, art galleries, museums? Are they going to be open seven days a week or are they going to be open extended hours, perhaps to balance the consumer interest? I'm not saying it should be mandatory. What I am saying is that since most of these institutions in our province are ultimately funded and ultimately in control of the Provincial Government, what are they going to do in order to enable these institutions to strengthen their presence in the community? If people have time available to them, they can visit the museums, libraries and art galleries and educate themselves and their families. They can spend time with their families together doing these things.

That's one example of something that I would have liked to have heard the minister say when he introduced this legislation. That having decided that he was going to extend hours for shopping, he was going to likewise strengthen community life elsewhere. He might have stood up and said he's going to be putting more money into sport and recreation - didn't say that. The minister did not say that he was going to create more daycare spaces or encourage daycares to be open longer hours to correspond with the kind of extended hours that might be required for some employees. Didn't hear that.

It may be that this is the kind of measure one wouldn't necessarily expect to be in the legislation, but it is the kind of policy direction that the government could take. They could have said, in recognition of this other change in our society we are going to strengthen family life by putting in place these other kinds of supports. What about our universities and our schools? Something else could have happened again to make them more available to the community to strengthen community life, to offset the signal that consumerism is the predominant value that ought to prevail. We didn't see that and I would encourage - because I don't believe it's too late - the minister and his government to consider these points and to consider the opportunity to show some leadership in strengthening other parts of life in our community in order to offset that.

[Page 686]

A number of my colleagues have mentioned - and I think, mentioned correctly - that another aspect of life that ought to be strengthened to go hand-in-hand with the extension of shopping hours is the protection of workers. I think as well that we are going to be causing serious problems for the small business community in Nova Scotia and I will make remarks about the small business community, but I want to start with protection for workers.

I want to be clear that I don't place this exclusively on a religious ground. Undoubtedly there are workers out there who believe that their religion requires them to take an appropriate day of rest. Our laws should be crystal clear that there is complete protection for workers in that position. This should not be left in doubt for any individual. It shouldn't be left as a matter of the amorphous rights, specified in the Charter or in the Human Rights' Code. It's exactly the kind of thing that ought to be specified in detail in the legislation.

Of course, religious objections are not the only objections. Workers have to be protected in other ways. It's clearly not appropriate for workers to be required to be at their place of work 7 days a week, week in week out. There have to be breaks, there has to be protections and those protections have to be detailed and abundant. If we're going to open up the Labour Standards Code to look at some of the protections that are there for workers, then this is the time to look at the Labour Standards Code in order to change, to bring ahead, two centuries into the 21st Century from the 19th Century where our Labour Standards Code is mired.

[2:30 p.m.]

Some of those rules, some of my colleagues have mentioned a number of them. They have mentioned what's the normal permissible number of hours as specified in the legislation now. It's 48 - that's not appropriate, that number should be much smaller. What about overtime? Overtime, as any low-wage Nova Scotian will know, is calculated on the minimum wage, it is not calculated on the basis of the actual wage that they receive. So an employee who is making a bit more than the minimum wage, even when they have worked for the number of hours that qualify them for time and a half, get time and a half based on the minimum wage, not on their actual wage. That is an anachronism of our Labour Standards Code.

If we're going to be saying to the public, yes, we respond to your demand for extended hours of shopping, at the same time we have to say to employees, in no uncertain terms, we are going to protect each and every one of you and we're going to protect you in appropriate ways. So far Bill No. 2 just doesn't do it. If this bill is going to go forward, this government should do a thorough job and the opportunity is here for the three Parties to coordinate amongst ourselves ways in which this legislation can advance the various agendas that we all have, because this is not a simple issue. This is a complicated issue that requires a detailed response. It's not enough just to say, as the Leader of the Liberal Party has said, I'm in favour of Sunday shopping, end of story.

[Page 687]

We know that the existing system is much too complex. We know that the existing system, with its distinctions made among different kinds of activities based on the floor area of the different enterprises, is full of loopholes, it's inconsistent, it's puzzling to people, and it needs changing. It's exactly the kind of question that should be worked on and worked on now - and could be worked on now. We don't need to wait for the results of a plebiscite on this.

I have to say that I don't think this is a simple question in terms of tourism, although we've heard representatives of the tourism industry try to suggest to us that it's open and shut. Their view, apparently, is that every tourist who comes here wants extended hours, Sunday shopping. On the other hand - although I'm prepared to agree there may be some tourists who want that - I don't think that's what most people come to Nova Scotia for. I think most people come to Nova Scotia as tourists because we're a different kind of place. I don't mean that we have to be quaint and mired in life two centuries ago, this isn't Sherbrooke Village writ large for a million people, but it is a different kind of life than what many of our tourists, many of them from the United States, experience at home.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you have had the opportunity recently to visit the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, the place from which many of our tourists come to visit us. Virtually the whole of that Eastern Seaboard of the United States is wall-to-wall, dense urban area characterized by strip malls. Although different communities have different names, you can't tell when you're in one and you've left the next one. That isn't what we want in Nova Scotia. We have plenty of malls, more than enough I would say, and I say that as someone who has, located in his constituency, two shopping centres.

It's not that they're not places of activity and business and in some sense, wealth generators - they are. But at the same time this leads me to another aspect, which is the different position of large and small enterprises. Before I turn to that, I just want to finish my earlier thought which is, we don't need to change Nova Scotia into a community which is characterized by nothing but strip malls and shopping centres. I don't want to see that happen, and yet it's a risk. When we pass legislation that sends the signal that says that consumption at the convenience of the consumer is a value that we embrace, then we have to think about ways in which we can offset a trend towards strip malls and shopping centres. Will there be planning legislation? Will there be planning directives from the Minister of Municipal Affairs?

There is a power under Schedule B of the Municipal Government Act, for the Minister of Municipal Affairs to issue planning guidelines to municipalities on a variety of topics. Will the minister use that power to restrict the extent to which we can be overrun by strip malls and shopping centres? I ask the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Affairs to think about that. We certainly heard nothing from the minister who introduced this legislation, that that was on his mind. But the planning implications of moving to longer shopping hours, surely we have to engage with. That's an example of something that might

[Page 688]

make this a more meaningful exercise. Again, it's not a simple problem for which there is an easy solution. It's a complex problem for which the simple solution does not work.

Let's look then at the question of large and small enterprises. I said a moment ago that some shopping centres can be sources of wealth generation, indeed they can, they can be places of employment for local people. But do you know what? Many of those businesses aren't locally owned. Many of those businesses are owned - headquartered that is to say - elsewhere in Canada, or elsewhere in the world. Many of these are multinational corporations. That means that the profits from those companies go somewhere else. We know that when you buy from small local enterprises, small local businesses, that their profits tend to stay in the community. Those people educate their children here, they buy housing here, they buy their food here, they buy their clothing here, they enrich the community.

Now this isn't something over which we necessarily have a lot of control. The major financial and economic levers are in the hands of the federal government. They are ones who can control foreign ownership, they're the ones who have signed international trade agreements like NAFTA, they're the ones who control banking. Those are the kinds of things that are primarily in the hands of the federal government but we have to do something, if we want to strengthen the economy or our local area, if we are going to open up longer shopping hours. I heard nothing from the minister about this part of the problem.

If we open up shopping hours in response to consumer demand, what should we do in order to protect local businesses? If we can't protect them, let's be square and say to them, there's nothing we can do. But the minister has to engage with this. There should be studies from the Department of Economic Development talking about the impact on locally owned businesses of what it will do when we open up these hours for consumers. Where are those studies? What are we being told? What, if anything, can that department do in order to help those local businesses? Why don't we hear from the ministers concerned, details about that? We need to hear that, the public needs to hear that. There should be accompanying this Bill No. 2, a plan that will strengthen the local economy in areas that might be hard hit by this. But such a plan has not been offered us. Again I say, this is not a problem with an easy answer. I'm not suggesting that it's easy to deal with this particular point or with any of the other points that I brought up, but at the same time we can't ignore these consequences.

Here's another aspect that we haven't heard any comment on from the government, what about regional differences inside our province? It is predictable that some parts of this province will benefit economically at the expense of others. It is predictable that it's right here in metro that people are more likely to gain, if there is, indeed, any advance in the economic activity as a result of these longer hours, and that's a question, I have to say, and I will get to that in a moment. But if we assume for the moment that there is an increase in economic activity based on longer hours, the benefit will mostly be here in metro. Well, I'm an MLA who gets elected here in metro - thank you very much to the government and its

[Page 689]

support from the Third Party for this bill, if it's going to increase economic activity here at the expense of the home constituencies of my honourable friends who sit beside our Party in the Opposition, or indeed at the expense of the honourable members who are backbenchers in the government. They come from rural areas that are not going to be as well equipped, in terms of existing shopping centres and malls and big box stores, to attract that consumer demand, if it really is out there. That's a phenomenon that already exists.

I think I have heard members from Cape Breton say that already it's not unusual for residents of Cape Breton to travel to metro for a day or for a day and an overnight trip in order to do some of their major shopping. Undoubtedly this is having negative economic consequences on the home territory of those people. What I'm saying is that there will be increased negative economic impacts on those areas as a result of Bill No. 2. What is the government proposing to do about this?

It's an unanswered point, but it's a point we have to take seriously. I think it's a point that the public expects us to look at. It's not sufficient for us to respond to the consumer part of the public that says, I want greater convenience in my shopping. We have to look at those individuals in another aspect of their life, namely as employees or as store owners or business owners themselves and say to them, we are looking out for your interests, we're thinking a step or two ahead, and we're worried about the negative economic impact on you of your demands as a consumer. We're worried about the negative economic impact of your demands as a consumer on metro, on the province, on Cape Breton.

If we're not doing that, if the government isn't leading the way on this, if we're not finding ways, and they don't have to be statutory ways, they don't have to be in the bill, if we're not finding policy ways in order to offset that, then we are failing these very same people who are saying to us, in clear terms, that they want longer hours for shopping. It's not enough, it's not good enough to simply say, we accept your requirements, we accept your demand for longer shopping hours, if we're going to overlook, fail to respond to the needs of those people in other economic areas of their lives because we know that economic life does not end with being a consumer.

[2:45 p.m.]

This is going, predictably, to be much harder for smaller businesses than for larger businesses and it's going to be much harder for the rural areas, the remote areas of this province, than it's going to be for metro and it's going to be much easier for the owners of businesses than it's going to be for employees and for some people it's going to be a matter of conscience. For some people it's going to be a matter of practicalities as to how they can arrange their lives and we have to ask ourselves, again, why is it that this bill is coming forward?

[Page 690]

This bill comes forward in response to public demand and although I know that that's the predominant feeling, I'm not convinced that there is going to be an economic stimulus from longer hours. Several other members I think have made this point by saying that there's only so much money to go around. It doesn't automatically increase our Gross Domestic Product to extend shopping hours. I want to point out something that occurred to me not so long ago, it was this summer, just because it illustrates so well what it is that is part of the problem. This was on a Friday night right here in metro, Friday night, in Halifax, the economic centre of the province, the economic centre of Atlantic Canada, and it happened only a few blocks away from here.

On a Friday evening I went out to do a couple errands and I thought I will go pick up my laundry, my shirts, at the Laundromat. It was 7:00 p.m. by the time I got to the laundry that I use and, do you know what, they had just closed. It was a summer evening and it was pleasant and I was by the Public Library on Doyle Street which has shops on it and I thought, well, I will pick up something for dinner, I will go to the Italian Market and see what they have. By that time it was 8:00 p.m. and, do you know what, they had just closed - Friday night, in the summer, in Halifax. They didn't have to be closed at 8:00 p.m. My laundry didn't have to be closed at 7:00 p.m., but they were and they were closed because it made sense for them. They were family businesses and they had had enough for the day. They weren't going to spend 24 hours a day in their store or even 20 hours a day in their store and, do you know what, they're not wrong. There weren't such a huge number of customers as to justify them staying open until 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. or to midnight.

For some businesses, maybe occasionally some grocery stores, fine; pharmacies, fine; those are things that have an emergency aspect in the case of pharmacies or a high demand in the case of grocery stores, but I am far from convinced that there is going to be a big economic stimulus as a result of extending the hours. If that's the case, if it is the case that, as we know, there is only so much money to go around, and indeed Nova Scotians, I'm happy to say, have other places to be in their evenings, then maybe this won't make a lot of sense. But, do you know what, it will have been an experiment that will have caused a lot of difficulty for individual employees and for the owners of small businesses. If we don't engage with these different and difficult aspects of the consequences of longer shopping hours, then we're failing Nova Scotians.

I've heard members, I think I just most recently heard the honourable member for Glace Bay making fun of the members of our Party because we've taken the view that extended shopping hours are probably an inevitability. Why are they an inevitability? It's not just consumer demand, it's probably the result of the legal situation. I'm not going to go into details about the legal situation, but the result is probably that if our existing legislation were challenged, it would not survive the challenge.

[Page 691]

There could be much longer debate about this. I've talked with members of this House before in detail about the legal aspects of other bills that have come before this House. I'm not going to do that for this bill because I think there are much more interesting and much more important aspects to this bill, which I outlined earlier. Yet we are stuck with this problem that public opinion has dramatically shifted over the last decade in Nova Scotia. Pretending that we can put off the day by plebiscite is not leadership. Pretending that this is a simple issue or even that it's a complicated issue but has a simple solution, as we hear from the Third Party, is not leadership and it's wrong.

What I say is that this is a complicated problem with many dimensions and that if we fail to come to grips with all the different aspects, then we will have failed Nova Scotians. Our Party does not intend to avoid the consequences or the multi-dimensional aspects of this bill. We've started by noting and will bring forward amendments that have to do with workers' protections because this seems the most accessible part of the consequences of this bill to being dealt with by legislation. But there are policy aspects. Policy aspects that have to be dealt with by the discretionary administrative and budget powers of the government and we don't see that. So, at this point, what we can say is that our position should not be in doubt. Our position is that this is a complicated question that requires protections for Nova Scotians on a whole host of fronts and we'll be standing up and pushing for those kinds of protections now, during the continuing debate on this bill and at every opportunity after this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity this afternoon to make a few statements, most of them pretty clear in relation to Sunday shopping, since I am a strong proponent of Sunday shopping.

I come from a riding that actually is polarized in some respects in that there is a very strong conservative - small c and for many years, a big c as well - constituency in a rural farm community. Also one that has a community that reflects where modern Nova Scotia needs to go, and that is a military base with 2,000 personnel who, during the election, gave me a very, very clear indication of the kind of community, even though a small town community of about 5,000, that they wanted the possibility of Sunday shopping.

On one end of the riding I have the military base of Greenwood, and the other end of the riding is the large plant, the Michelin plant, with over 1,000 workers. I use both of those examples because they reflect almost now one-half of the constituents of Kings West. With over 1,000 workers in a Michelin plant, most of them, as well, living in Kings West, some in Kings South, Kings North, with over 2,000 military personnel in Greenwood.

[Page 692]

So that's a very, very large constituency in which to draw some good examples in support of Sunday shopping. For the workers at Michelin, who now work on a three-day, 36-hour week, three 12-hour shifts, they would like that opportunity when their shift ends on a Saturday, for them Sunday is an opportunity that they would like to have available to shop.

However, perhaps the most striking comments were made by people in Greenwood, at the air force base, many of them have lived in six provinces of Canada. The comment they gave me was that it's nice to see one Party very clear on wanting to modernize Nova Scotia. In the six provinces in which most lived, including Newfoundland, they had the opportunity to shop on Sundays. So shops should be permitted to be open, afternoons on Sundays, but retailers should not be forced to open. I think in many of the province across the country, people have found their way in this regard. Not all shops do open. The nature of some stores will mean that they will not all open on a Sunday.

Workers' rights need to be protected. I know the Official Opposition has certainly made this point throughout most of their time to debate this issue. Certainly, we stand for very strong legislation to protect the rights of the worker, so that they will not have to work on Sunday under any circumstances, if they so wish. Certainly 36 hours from the time that they would finish on a Saturday would obviously include the Sunday, and they would not have to engage in any work.

There are certainly many examples now throughout Nova Scotia of organizations that are supporting Sunday shopping, the Tourism Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS), the Hotel Association of Nova Scotia, and the Metro Halifax Chamber of Commerce. These are certainly distinguished bodies that have taken a look at the need for Sunday shopping in the province and the impacts, positively, that it will have on the province. Certainly Sunday shopping, when it comes down to the individual, it should indeed be a matter of choice for individuals and not for government.

I know, at the personal level, having the choice is what I would like to engage in. I probably wouldn't be a Sunday shopper, but I think when the choice is there that I am making that real distinction about not going out, especially into the mall atmosphere, to shop. We have seen many examples over the past couple of years, from Truro to Amherst, that strip, that ribbon of business, that certainly in the Fall of the year, at about this time, the pre-Christmas period, are negatively impacted by shoppers who do go to New Brunswick and some also, of course, go as far as Maine.

We have taken a very clear leadership position on this issue over the last two years. We have distinguished ourselves, certainly from the other two Parties. People have pointed out that they like this clear position that we have. Not everybody will agree, but they like the very clear position that we do have. Positive results for the economy are one of the benefits that we will receive. Tourists that go throughout Nova Scotia, in fact it is the small shop, it is the unique shop that many of our tourists do like to avail themselves of. Sunday shopping

[Page 693]

will open up that possibility, Mr. Speaker, for our tourists. Tourism, as we know, is an economic activity that we need to strengthen and certainly, again, I think Sunday shopping is one of the avenues that we can gain from this legislation.

[3:00 p.m.]

At the current time the legislation is looking at a plebiscite and, again, I think the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has made it very clear that it does not want to engage in a plebiscite at the time when municipal elections are being held. I did a quick little survey of five councillors on the Kings County Council and four of them unequivocally stated that they didn't want to see the plebiscite as any part of their election process. They know that people will easily get confused and they would become the recipients of the question - are you in favour of Sunday shopping? It would simply become part of the municipal package of issues, and they did not want to engage in that.

Certainly, in the free enterprise system, I think the business owner-operator should have the ability to set their own hours of operation. TIANS has outlined, I think very straightforward, that that is the position that they take. The government simply should not have the right to set the hours of businesses that allow others to use loopholes or necessary services to conduct businesses on Sunday. We can now buy a home on a Sunday. We can buy a used vehicle on a Sunday, and certainly the time has come to let all shopkeepers and stores in Nova Scotia the opportunity to open.

The mall, while it is I guess part of culture, many activities go on in a mall that in fact are family oriented. The only time in the past two years in which I've had the occasion to engage in Sunday shopping was last year in St. John's, Newfoundland. Certainly I was perhaps most struck by the fact that on a Sunday afternoon it was mostly families who were actually in the mall. In other words, in Newfoundland, where there's certainly a strong religious and cultural tradition around Sunday, it was, in other words, a family time. There were more activities going on in the mall than just simply shopping. So to say that families will be negatively impacted, I don't think there is evidence to suggest that that would be the reality.

So I would just like to conclude, Mr. Speaker, that I am pleased to stand in the Chamber in support of Sunday shopping. However, I am in support of shopping year-round, not just for the six Sundays prior to Christmas. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, as we know, this is probably a decision which has been made in effect for us by the federal courts, but Sunday shopping has its origin in very ancient tradition, and I always believe that traditions come out of some sort of necessity. In this case it's a biblical recommendation that says that it's going to be a day of

[Page 694]

rest, and communal rest is fundamental. In fact, in many cultures communal rest is a lot more enshrined than it is in our culture, witness those countries where people go to sleep for three hours in the afternoon, everybody at the same time close up - and just be very grateful that I haven't asked for that one yet. (Interruption) I know. Sleep is one of my favourite subjects and rest is a second best.

In all seriousness, I do think that communal rest is an extremely important part of social integrity. It has happened to be a Sunday because of biblical tradition which has drawn this, but I think we all recognize quite well, separation of church and state and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, of course, seconds that opinion, knowing that any laws enacted at any level of Canadian Government and enacted on the basis of religious tradition is not going to be able to stand. So what is it that distinguishes Sunday from the other days of the week? If we enact Sunday afternoon shopping, which, in effect, is what we are doing, not Sunday shopping but Sunday afternoon shopping from 12:00 noon until 5:00 p.m, from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., whichever it will be, we are still protecting something on the grounds of a Sunday, and I'm afraid we're not going to be able to do that either. So what we're really doing is saying that we're going to have shopping 24/7. I can just about see the signs on Lower Water Street, the neon signs that will say, shopping 24/7, all the time, or sort of like the Hudson's Bay Store, shopping is good.

But we have other values which must be protected. I am not the person to say that it needs to stay on a Sunday, but we need to protect our workers and we also need to protect our consumers. Children, in extraordinary ways, are being pressured to become consumer units. We are in a position at this point to take a stand. Some of us, I think many of us in this House have somehow survived the transition from Imperial measurement to metric. Perhaps the shift from a Sunday to a Tuesday, a Thursday, a Friday, some other day without religious connotations is something that a next generation could survive. Keep the benefit of common rest.

As I say, it's going to be a very difficult thing to protect any portion of the week. If anybody in this House has ever tried to put a child to bed on a summer evening, when everybody else is outside playing, you know what it's like. It's really difficult to make somebody rest. Or if you've worked shift work, and your time to sleep is during the daytime, it's really difficult to sleep when everybody else is hard at it. They're ringing the phone, they're doing whatever. If somebody is doing business on any given day of the week, it becomes seven days a week of steady activity. This is about protection of more than just individual sectors of workers.

We know that there are kinds of activity which do take place seven days a week at this point, but that's not to say that we need to spread this across the board. I've never tabled a document here, but I'm tempted to at this point. This was a textbook which was used in the Nova Scotia schools into the 1950s, after the Second World War. It was written just before.

[Page 695]

In the chapter on the tourist trade, there is a paragraph which says, "Why Tourists Come", 1931.

"Nova Scotia has many attractions for visitors. Our summers are relatively cool and refreshing, especially near the seashore. The topography of the Province is such that, in the course of a short drive, a tourist can observe a great variety of natural scenery-mountains, valleys, rocky seashore pounded by ocean surf, sandy beaches, rivers, fresh-water lakes, salt-water lakes, tidal rivers, dykelands, forests, etc. The bright colours of hardwood leaves make the country particularly beautiful during late September and early October. Many opportunities for sports are available, such as fishing, hunting, salt and fresh-water bathing, hiking, yachting, canoeing, camping, archery, golf, etc." - It's all one paragraph. - "Many features of our industrial life, and many of our rural and village communities, provide scenes of interest to visitors from large cities. The many historical sites scattered throughout the Province are a source of interest to many visitors. Public celebrations, such as the Apple Blossom Festival, The Lobster-Fisheries Carnival, the Guides/Meet at Lake William and the Fisheries Exhibition at Lunenburg, attract many visitors And, of course many people come to visit relatives and friends."

I didn't hear a word about coming from the States to go shopping - not a word. Probably a lot of us have visited places. There are places where they say it's a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I haven't often heard that said about Nova Scotia. Some of those places that are "a great place to visit and I don't want to live there" are places that have had Sunday shopping now for the last 20 years. One of those places, actually a collection of jurisdictions that's going to remain nameless, is a place where over the last 15 years the average work week of the salaried employee has changed from 40 to, I believe, it's the high-50 hours. I'm sorry I can't give you the exact figure, but salaries haven't gone up.

People shop on Sundays because they have no other time. That's the non-tourist, that's those of us who live here. If you can't shop on a Sunday, you have to stop to do your shopping sooner or later. I'm sorry, I keep saying Sunday, let's make this a generic day. I just want to put in my plea for continuing the tradition of communal rest that we have here and for not discriminating against any sector of our society, particularly that most vulnerable, non-unionized retail worker sector, forcing them to be the first ones out of the gate for the 24/7 work week. Thank you.

[Page 696]

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity here to speak on Bill No. 2. I think it's the responsibility of the Opposition here in this House to debate the concerns we have on this bill and to recommend any productive amendments that should take place on this bill.

I think this is in the best interests of all Nova Scotians that we do make these concerns known to this House at this time. We welcome the co-operation from the government when they've asked for our input on this bill. I'm hoping that there will be further improvements that can be put in place in order to protect workers. I think that one of the most important things in this bill is that we need to ensure that we protect the workers of this province.

This is one of the reasons why I'm here in this House today. I once was on the other end of legislation that was going to impede my working conditions and the ability for myself and my colleagues to obtain a decent contract. Many of the members in this House today were here several years ago when the paramedic strike took place. The current government was bringing legislation in to impede that process. We were trying to get a fair deal and a fair living out of a collective bargaining process. Many of the members that were in my Party stood here debating and, as you may say, maybe delaying the bill's passing, but it was important to the workers in this province. It was important to paramedics that our concerns were heard, that our ability to have what we thought was important heard in this province. I want to thank many of the members back then that they did this. We did come to a resolution and it was brought forward without a bill being passed in this House. I think that's why we're here today to debate certain aspects of bills.

Also, more recently would have been Bill No. 68 that had to deal with the nurses' strike.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I realize the honourable member is a new member, but bills at second reading are obviously an opportunity for members to discuss the issue that's before the House at this time, which is the Sunday shopping bill. I would ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to that bill, please. Thank you.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What I was trying to say is that I think this government needs to bring bills forward that do keep in mind the workers of this province. With Bill No. 2, I think we need to make some amendments to this and I hope they will take our suggestions, amendments seriously and make some changes to it.

[Page 697]

During the election, many of the concerns of my constituents on Sunday shopping were brought to my attention. A lot of them had to deal with the small businesses and the retailers that live in my constituency out in Sackville-Cobequid. They're concerned that they may be forced to work on weekends and may be forced to work on Sundays where they presently don't do that. Many of the managers who are in the retail business today work Monday to Friday, and on Saturday, because their business is open, they are put on call. They're not scheduled to work, but they are put on call in case something arises in their businesses that they need a contact for their employees who are there working. They have some concerns now that if Sunday shopping is brought forward, they may be forced to be on call also on Sunday which would literally say that they're working seven days a week. So I think we really need to emphasize that the clauses in this bill really do protect the workers and that there will be clauses there that have an avenue for them to go through if they are put in the position where they are forced to work on Sundays.

[3:15 p.m.]

I think this bill also needs some work with the minimum wage that is currently provided to a lot of these retail workers who may have to work on Sundays. With the implementation of maybe an increase to move the minimum wage to a living wage, it would make it easier for them to make ends meet. A lot of these workers who work in retail don't bring home a lot of money and if Sunday shopping comes in place, they may not be able to actually say no to work on Sundays because it does mean a larger paycheque for them and I think if we can address the minimum wage in this bill and maybe make changes to that, they will be able to have the opportunity to say no to working on Sundays. I think that's a very important thing to address in this bill because, as a lot of the members have stated about family time, Sunday right now for a lot of these employees is the only day that they have to spend with their family.

I've come from a profession where I've worked seven days a week, 365 days a year - or on a rotation schedule, I didn't work 365 days a year - but I've worked many holidays and, as yourself, Mr. Speaker, in your past profession, I understand the time for family and quality time for family. So that's why I think if you do make some amendments, especially to the minimum wage, it gives them the opportunity to be able to state that they don't need to work on a Sunday if they choose not to. I think if we leave things the way they are, they may be forced to work on Sundays, not because their employers are forcing them to work on Sundays, but because they need that income to keep their family running.

I would like to talk a little bit on the plebiscite that's being proposed in this bill. The bill states that a plebiscite will piggy-back on the next municipal election, I think next October 2004, I believe, is when they're going to the voters to re-elect the councillors for certain municipalities throughout this province, and I'm also wondering about maybe the costs incurred during this plebiscite, to also place this on the ballot. I don't know what the figures are. It would be nice to maybe know what this would end up costing the province. I

[Page 698]

don't recollect the last time we had a plebiscite on an issue here in the province. I'm a little younger than some of the members, but I don't remember ever answering a question at an election time.

MR. JERRY PYE: Nor have I.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): So I think by bringing Sunday shopping to a plebiscite, I think there may have been some more important issues that could have been used other than this Sunday shopping. From what I've heard in my constituency through the past campaign in the summer was that it wasn't a big issue on their plate. Yes, there were some people who were opposed to it because mostly they were the ones who would be greatly affected by the retailers and the workers.

I think that we could have chosen a different issue to bring to a plebiscite. Maybe the auto insurance question would have been a good one to bring to a plebiscite for the province, to find out what they really wanted on that. I think it was a bit premature to just tack on the Sunday shopping to this one. I think the majority of the province here - and I presume, I would hope - most of the members in this House who have been canvassing through their campaign have heard what their constituents want. I truly believe that the majority of the people in this province are ready for Sunday shopping so to waste the money on a plebiscite in October 2004, I think we could have done a better job at maybe not bringing that forward.

I also would like to bring up concerns that this plebiscite is being attached to a municipal election. The voter turn-out for municipal elections is drastically less than what it is for a provincial election, but if we continue to have summer elections, our numbers may be close to that in the near future. I know our numbers were down this last election and I hope we don't get down to the percentage of a municipal election turn-out, that's for sure.

I think the councillors and the potential candidates who are running in the upcoming municipal election throughout this province don't want this attached to it. This is going to put a provincial issue in a municipal election. These men and women who are going to run in this municipal election coming up now have to decide if they're really going to tackle the issue on Sunday shopping. It's going to be an issue and I think that since it's a provincial issue, it should be dealt in a way that it's on our territory, or our election system.

We're imposing provincial issues on municipal affairs. There are so many important municipal issues that are happening in our municipalities throughout this province today that I think this will take away from those important issues being brought forward and debated and talked about during the municipal elections in October of 2004. I think, in order to get the turn-out for these elections up, I think they need to tackle their own issues and not have to have provincial issues imposed on them.

[Page 699]

I also wanted to talk a little bit about the impact this is going to have on some of the constituents in my area. As many of the members in the Third Party have stated that we seem to be flip-flopping on this, but I strongly think that we have to bring the concerns of our constituents who are for it and who are against it. Some of the people who are against it would be some of these flea market retailers. A lot of these people who sell goods on Sunday in my community, where I have a large flea market every Sunday, subsidize their income by selling goods on Sunday. I just wondered if the province may have gotten in contact with some of these flea market owners to find out what their input or what their concerns were with this legislation. I'm not sure if they did or not.

I would presume they have some concerns on where they're going to be able to set up. I understand that this legislation gives a few hours on Sunday - 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. - so maybe there's a possibility that the flea markets will still be able to open in the morning. I'm not sure, but it's a concern for many - for the vendors who are out there trying to supplement their income and that also ties back into addressing the minimum wage in this Act. The reason why these people are at these flea markets trying to make extra money is because it's harder and harder every day to make ends meet in this province. I think we really need to take their concerns into question with this legislation. We have to address their needs also.

I've heard many members talk before me about the stretch of the dollar. Is the ability to shop on Sunday going to create more revenue for the retailers in this province . As introduced in New Brunswick, Sunday shopping in Moncton and other major centres, were in February 2002, and according to Statistics Canada, the annual sales from 2002 and 2001 just increased by 5.4 per cent in Nova Scotia and 3.2 per cent in New Brunswick.

It also lends to the issue, I think, that a lot of people state that this has come about because of a lot of people leaving the province, especially on Sundays, during holidays, to go to New Brunswick, but the findings from Statistics Canada state that this isn't so. I don't think we have a large majority of our population leaving this province to do some shopping. I think we really need to make sure that the bill brought forward, Bill No. 2, does have the protection that we need to make sure that our workers in this province aren't forced to work on Sundays. I hope that the government is prepared to back these workers when they do come, after this bill or legislation is put through the House and we try this Sunday shopping, that these people are going to come forward who say they have been wrongly done by, because they have refused to work on Sundays. I hope the government is there to support these workers and that they do have a means of retaining their jobs and not having any loss of income.

I would like to finish by saying I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this. I think it is an important issue and there are a lot of concerns with members of my constituency and through the province about this bill. I hope, when it does go to the Law Amendments

[Page 700]

Committee, that people who are for it or against it, will take the opportunity to bring their changes or wishes to Law Amendments. I would like to thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to rise today to say a few comments on Bill No. 2. Bill No. 2 is about choice. It is about giving choice to Nova Scotians, about giving a choice to retailers, to consumers, to the residents of our province, a choice that has been granted to the residents of almost every other Canadian province.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a number of different discussions that have taken place on this bill. It is important that we hear the various opinions from our own ridings. I have heard the member for Sackville-Cobequid indicate just that, that he thought it was important to bring the different opinions that exist in his own constituency. That's a great thing, I guess.

He's misinterpreted some of the criticism that may have come from our caucus about his Party flip-flopping, as being a criticism for bringing various views from his constituents. That in no way, shape or form was what the comment was meant for. I think it was meant more for some of his own colleagues and their personal positions, I guess, that they've spoken of here in this House and that would be what would fall under the term of flip-flopping, to provide more clarification there.

Mr. Speaker, I also noted the comments made by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto when he spoke on this bill. He said that the Liberal Party was trivializing the issue of Sunday shopping and how Sunday shopping was this complex issue, that needed much further thought and further analysis, and how the Liberal caucus hadn't taken it seriously enough in their comments. Let's be quite clear here. The Government of Nova Scotia in this Legislature, in bringing forward Bill No. 2, is not reinventing the wheel. This is not rocket science and this is not this extreme leap of faith that the government is proposing to take for this province. We are merely here, catching up to almost every other Canadian province in bringing forward this legislation. At the same time, that is why you have heard some of the comments from my caucus colleagues, basically in saying the time has come to do this. This should have been done before, let's no longer wait, let's move forward, but let's not be held up by this plebiscite or by restrictions on how many weeks. Let's allow year-round discussion.

The member for Halifax Chebucto said that the comments coming from our caucus were too simple on this very complex bill. Mr. Speaker, you know very well yourself, as to the Rules of this House. Debate on second reading of a bill is more meant to speak about the intent of the legislation, the principle of the legislation, and not to dissect the actual bill, clause by clause on second reading, so I think it was quite unfair for the member for Halifax Chebucto to suggest that members of this caucus have not taken this bill seriously by

[Page 701]

speaking more on the general intent of the bill rather than focusing on a clause-by-clause analysis. I'm sure if he reads up on the Rules of the House, he will certainly become familiar with the whole Committee of the Whole process and third reading, so I guess maybe a few more days in this House will give him a better appreciation of how the whole House works, but I digress.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, our Leader made it very clear upon becoming Leader that one of his main concerns was to see Sunday shopping becoming a choice for Nova Scotia; not only becoming a choice six weeks before Christmas, as has been proposed by the government, but becoming a choice year-round. At the end of the day it is consumers themselves, and retailers, who will decide how Sunday shopping will work. It is not ourselves as the elected members here in this House who are going to determine whether it works or it doesn't, Nova Scotians will do that. But we must afford them the choice to be able to make that happen.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, we have seen the other provinces throughout Canada that have undertaken allowing shopping on Sundays - I witnessed myself, personally, the experience in Moncton a few years ago. I was rather amazed, having been up there on the weekend visiting, I went to the Champlain Mall - I'm sure many members would be familiar with it - in Dieppe, which is one of the largest malls in Atlantic Canada, and I went there on Saturday and then I returned on Sunday afternoon and was amazed to note that there were more cars there on Sunday than there were on Saturday. Now, traditionally in our area, you would see that Saturday would be your busiest day of the week for shopping at whatever mall you're going to visit in this province, but to see there how it has come to the point where more people go on Sunday than on Saturday, I think once again lends credence to the fact that we must allow Nova Scotians to make the choice as to when they want to do their shopping.

Mr. Speaker, the traditional adage that people work from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and have Saturdays and Sundays off, the reality is that our workforce has changed here in this province. Many people are working shift work; they're working back shifts; they're working irregular hours; and they are working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in some instances. So the idea that Saturday was the one day available to everyone for shopping is no longer the case in 2003, and we need to accept that reality.

At the same time, I think the bill does strike a balance in addressing some of the concerns which have been raised by constituents and have been raised by a number of religious groups as to what the hours should be. I think all Parties agree that those hours should not begin before at least noontime and that they should be restricted to some time around suppertime. The government has proposed the period from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Now, Mr. Speaker, I think you've heard a number of other members here in this House get

[Page 702]

up and say that they have received representation saying that those hours should be changed from 12:00 noon until 5:00 p.m., which is my understanding is the case in Ontario.

I guess I'm not really bound one way or the other as to which one is the better time frame, but I think it's something that we should at least look at, especially through the Law Amendments Committee process, as to whether 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. is the best time or whether 12:00 noon until 5:00 p.m. would address some of the concerns which have been raised, obviously, to all members of this House, based on the speeches we have heard today.

Mr. Speaker, as our Leader has said, this issue is about leadership. Asking Nova Scotians to have a plebiscite on Sunday shopping, to me, is irresponsible. Yes, it is important that we allow Nova Scotians to have a direct say in the affairs of this province, it is important that we as legislators come here and reflect some of the concerns that have been given to us by our electors. Those who come to this House and do not bring the concerns of their electors do not stay here very long, and every member has learned that lesson quite quickly by watching what has happened in the last few elections and some of the faces that are no longer here in this House.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at some of the bills that we have dealt with in the last five years - I think of the paramedics' strike, I think of Bill No. 68, one of the most regressive pieces of legislation that have ever come before this House - I don't remember the Leader of the NDP during that debate saying that we should have a plebiscite on Bill No. 68, that we should ask Nova Scotians whether they want their government to be able to pass Bill No. 68, one of the most regressive pieces of legislation. Now . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. As I indicated to the previous member who spoke, we would like to talk about other bills, but there was lots of opportunity at that time for debate and that date's gone by. The bill before the House this time is Bill No. 2 and I would ask the honourable member for bring his comments back to that bill, please.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The idea of a plebiscite is one of the main aspects of Bill No. 2 which is ahead of us, and it is one of the most contentious issues in the bill itself, which is why I thought it was important to certainly reflect upon what we have done here in this House in the past few years, some of the legislation we have brought, and that there was never talk of asking for a plebiscite on those particular pieces of legislation, which, to me, I believe had a bigger direct impact on the lives of Nova Scotians than Sunday shopping will.

It's a contradiction based on what we've done in the past to now say that Sunday shopping is that type of issue, which is going to make such a difference in the lives of Nova Scotia that we should put it to a plebiscite. It does not meet that test, Mr. Speaker. If we were the first province to say we're going to allow Sunday shopping, I would probably have a different view on a plebiscite. Then maybe we would be able to argue here that we're taking

[Page 703]

a leap of faith; no one else has done it in our entire country, no other province has taken this step, maybe we should go to Nova Scotians and we should ask their opinion on such an important issue.

Five years ago, 10 years ago, that may have been an appropriate argument. In 2003, the last province to not allow any form of Sunday shopping, a plebiscite is not responsible for this type of issue. Mr. Speaker, I believe Nova Scotians have clearly said that. For anyone who questions the polling - and I think we have all questioned some of the polling and wondered how can we go about thinking that this polling is an accurate reflection of what Nova Scotians want? Anyone who has questioned polling only has to look at election night in New Brunswick and at election night here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, those polls were about as exact as you could get in predicting the outcome of the election in that province and in this province. Polling has now come to the point where it can accurately reflect what Nova Scotians are thinking and what Nova Scotians will do. Those are two prime examples of where it has worked. The polling numbers are clear in saying that Nova Scotians want Sunday shopping. More importantly, they want it year-round, not just six weeks before Christmas.

Mr. Speaker, it also raises the question, are we now taking the step to say that any bill that comes in this House which is of a social impact that may impact on the lives of Nova Scotians, we will have to go to a plebiscite? If that's the case, then maybe the next time when the budget comes up in the Spring, when the Minister of Finance has to cut $32 million from service spending, plus the transfer costs, plus his 10 per cent tax cut, will we then have to go to a plebiscite before his budget is passed? Will the government propose a plebiscite so that Nova Scotians can judge whether they want to see the cuts that he is going to propose? Where are we going down this road?

Anywhere you look on a national basis, I think we all remember very well the Reform Party. Preston Manning wanted a plebiscite on everything. Any issue there was, he wanted a plebiscite. Where is he today, Mr. Speaker? Where has his Party gone, under that form of thinking? We now laugh at that. But we're proposing to do the same thing here in this province, something we laughed at at the federal stage, we're now proposing to do it here in this province.

Mr. Speaker, we've spoken quite clearly that we don't believe there should be a plebiscite. I've heard members from the NDP in the last few minutes say they don't support a plebiscite either. I would have to say that it hasn't been so clear, coming from their speeches, with all due respect, that they don't support a plebiscite or that they support Sunday shopping or that they support it year-round. I'm not trying to be critical here, but I think one of our members came back and said, I listened to the member for Halifax Needham and I've never seen so much confusion in my life. She said she didn't like Sunday shopping, then she liked Sunday shopping, then she didn't like it, then she heard what our Leader said, and then

[Page 704]

she didn't like it anymore. You will have to forgive us if there was a bit of confusion and if somehow we're not very clear as to what the position on that was.

Mr. Speaker, as we go through this bill it is going to be important that all Parties work on the fact (Interruptions) No, I will resist the temptation to make a comment there. You don't know how hard that is. It is important that we all work in this House. It is a minority government. No Party has been given a clear majority here in this House and Nova Scotians have spoken clearly on this bill. We have a Party that has more seats than any other Party, that has proposed six weeks before Christmas and a plebiscite. I think what you are hearing from the speeches from both our caucus and even from the NDP caucus is that there is an opportunity to sit down and to look at amendments to this legislation to make it better reflect what Nova Scotians want to see. I look forward to the opportunity to continue those discussions as we move along on this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I, too, must also point out that allowing this plebiscite to take place during a municipal election is clearly inappropriate. We've heard from the UNSM. I've heard from some of the councillors in my own area in Richmond who have said it is not appropriate to do a plebiscite of a provincial issue during a municipal election. I can just imagine the municipal councillors who will be going out, knocking door to door, as we've just done recently, and when they will be asked at the door, well, are you for or against Sunday shopping? I imagine many of them will say, well, it's not my issue, it's a provincial issue and what are people going to say? Well, why are we voting for it during a municipal election if it's a provincial issue?

Mr. Speaker, this is something, if we were to look at it ourselves, imagine, during the last election on August 5th, if the federal government had done a plebiscite on gun control, same sex marriage, other issues which are clearly federal issues, and yet we would have been responsible as candidates to address those and tackle those knowing that, in reality, we had no ability to impact the decision-making process on those issues. That's what we would be doing to municipal councillors if we allow a plebiscite on Sunday shopping to happen during a municipal election. They will be held responsible by the electors based on what their position is on the issue, knowing that in reality they will not have a direct say in the final outcome of that issue.

That is irresponsible and it is unfair to do that, Mr. Speaker, and I think we have collectively heard from both our caucus and the NDP caucus that have said that that is inappropriate and that cannot take place. But, at the same time, we have learned from the government that to hold a separate, independent plebiscite would cost $2 million. I can only imagine how many other areas that $2 million would better be spent. I'm sure the member for Hants East would be very happy to see that added to the BSE package being offered to the farmers of this province or being put to actually put a doctor to man the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital which is once again closed during the day due to the government's inability to put a doctor in there. That $2 million would be better spent in other

[Page 705]

areas. So a stand-alone plebiscite also raises very serious issues on the cost on putting it on and whether it's even necessary.

Now, there's another aspect, Mr. Speaker, and I won't say it's the sinister aspect, but it's the underlying aspect about the plebiscite and its timing, which is important that we at least be able to debate here and that Nova Scotians be aware of. We all know, and history has shown, that municipal elections have some of the lowest voter turnouts of any elections that take place in this province. That is an unfortunate reality and we all wish here in this House, I am sure, that that would change and that they would get better turnouts, but they get very low turnouts. As a result of that, we need to ask, will the majority of Nova Scotians even take the time to speak in a plebiscite that would be held during a municipal election?

One of the areas of this province that would probably be most impacted, or significantly impacted, if Sunday shopping is permitted would be here in the Halifax Regional Municipality. I think we've heard quite clearly from the members of the NDP, our own members and others, that there is certainly a great flavour for Sunday shopping amongst the residents of the municipality. Certainly some with concerns, there's no doubt about that, but I think it's fair to say, I think we would all agree that when one looks at the polling, the big numbers that are coming in support of Sunday shopping do come from the HRM area which is clearly the commercial centre that we have here in this province.

But, Mr. Speaker, we also know that HRM municipal elections have some of the lowest voter turnouts of anywhere in this province. That's the reality. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I think all members would agree that HRM municipal elections have extremely low voter turnouts. Again, that is an unfortunate fact, but it is a fact. That's the reality. The area of the province that would probably be most impacted by this decision will probably have the least say in this plebiscite.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, one has to ask, one could presume that maybe that's done intentionally, maybe it's the government wanting to make sure that they get the desired outcome. One doesn't know because one cannot get into the head of the government when they made this decision, whether those were factors that were brought into the equation or not. But I think it's clear, no one wants to see a plebiscite. It's a time, as our Leader has said so often, for leadership. Again I reflect on when one looks at how many bills and the types of bills we've had to deal with here in the House over the last five years that this is the one we pick to go ask Nova Scotians their opinion. I can think of many more that would probably better qualify for such a question being put to the public.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, many people will say that rural Nova Scotia is the area that is most opposed to Sunday shopping. I was quite surprised, during the last provincial election, I did fully expect to have a number of constituents going door to door

[Page 706]

who would ask about Sunday shopping and would express their opinions. I was quite pleased - I shouldn't say pleased, I guess surprised at how many people, when asking what my position was, what our Party's position was on Sunday shopping, for most of them the answer was, well, it's about time. Finally, what took so long? Those were the types of responses that were coming.

Mr. Speaker, Richmond County is about as rural as you can get, and I think members would agree. On the other hand, there certainly were a number of people who did voice some concerns about the impact on the ability to go to Sunday service, the impact on the family and everything else. Once it was explained to them that there would be a set amount of hours, that this wasn't going to be from 8:00 o'clock in the morning until 5:00 o'clock or 9:00 o'clock at night, many of them were quite pleased to hear that it would only be for a set time, whether it be 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Many people were under the belief that if we were going to allow Sunday shopping, it would be like a typical Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. or even 10:00 p.m. in some instances.

It is quite clear, this will be for a defined set of hours on Sunday. I think when people do hear about that, especially people concerned about the religious aspect, the impact on family, the impact on the working hours, knowing that there is a limit that's being placed there is an extremely important aspect of this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I think everyone agrees that allowing Nova Scotians to shop on Sunday will be good for the economy of this province. I heard from a number of people in Richmond County, for example, who said this would be a great opportunity to provide some work to students. Maybe some more part-time work for students who are either in university, in high school, community college, that this might provide some more opportunity. A number of them who are single parents said this might be an opportunity for them to get a few more hours in the work week, to be able to provide for my family. So they also thought that this would be an opportunity rather than something that was going to be negative.

Mr. Speaker, like so many bills, unfortunately, what we usually hear is from the Opposition and not from the government. Ironically, under the current political map we are faced with, this decision probably has a bigger political impact for certain government members than it has for any Opposition members. More specifically, the members for Cumberland South, Cumberland North, Colchester North, Truro-Bible Hill, four who I can think of who are probably most impacted politically by the decision that will be made on this bill.

It is certainly in the area near the New Brunswick border where elected officials have said, we want Sunday shopping and we want it year-round. Which begs the question, Mr. Speaker, and I'm sure they're asking the question, where do the members for Cumberland South, Cumberland North, Colchester North, and Truro-Bible Hill stand on this legislation? Those are the areas of this province which have been calling for Sunday shopping for the

[Page 707]

longest time. Why? Because of fact that Sunday shopping was allowed in Moncton was drawing away consumers from their area who are spending their time shopping in New Brunswick rather than spending their time investing their money here in Nova Scotia, most importantly, in their communities in those four ridings which I just mentioned.

I do hope that those members individually will take the opportunity during this debate to clearly let this House know, more importantly, let their constituents know what their position is on the issue of Sunday shopping. One of the good parts in this House is that sometimes, when there is a vote and everyone just says yea or nay, it's kind of hard to know where each individual member stood. The good part is that we have rules in this House which do allow, especially in votes, to be able to specifically identify how each member is going to vote. I really believe that especially for the residents in those four areas that they clearly want to know how their member is going to vote on this legislation.

Does their member agree it should only be six weeks before Christmas and a plebiscite which, once again, is only going to allow them to compete on equal footing with New Brunswick for six weeks before Christmas rather than for the entire year. Or, are they going to say to their Premier that they want a free vote and they want to be able to vote as their constituents want? As I said before, those who come into this House and who are fortunate enough to come to this House who do not represent the concerns of the residents do not stay here very long. This is an issue which I would say is a predominant issue in those four ridings here in this province. I would certainly urge their members to be responsible in at least letting this House and their constituents know where they stand on this legislation. Amendments will be brought forward and hopefully, once again, they will be given an opportunity to individually stand in their place and say whether they are for an amendment or against an amendment and clearly voice to their constituents and to Nova Scotians where they stand on this.

As I said from the start, I did not intend to be very long on this particular bill, but, again, it is something we are catching up with the rest of the country. We are not leading the charge. As a sidebar, I heard the Minister of Justice today talk about a bill he was going to table, I believe he has tabled it, dealing with the ability to transfer judgments from one province to the next. It was a result of the Uniform Law Conference and when the minister was asked by the press, why did it take you so long? He said it didn't take us long, we're the first province to do it. It would be a different debate if on Bill No. 2 if the minister could stand in his place and say we're the first province to do it. In this case, he has to say we're the last province to do it.

Enough is enough. It is time to provide Nova Scotians with choice. It's time to provide retailers with choice. It's time to put ourselves on the same economic footing as other provinces. It's time to make sure that the Nova Scotian economy remains as competitive as the economies of any other province in this country.

[Page 708]

This bill is a beginning. It does not go far enough, but by working together with the concerns that have been raised, with the speeches we have heard, it is my belief that at the end of the day we can stand on third reading with a bill that provides stronger protection for employees, that provides for definite hours on Sunday, but most importantly, provides a bill that would allow Nova Scotians the choice of shopping on Sunday, 52 weeks a year. I look forward to continued debate on Bill No. 2. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, you know you never stop learning in this House. I know the new member for Halifax Clayton Park was quite upset with the fact when I had the opportunity to speak at length - which on occasion I do in this place - when I bring up the names of constituents and I ask them for permission to use those names, when it's an issue of relevance, of great concern to my constituency. I review what has been sent to me, what e-mails have been sent to me, what faxes have been sent to me, with the permission, of course, to use them in the House. So the member for Halifax Clayton Park should be pleased with the fact that really, I don't have a lot to say on this mainly because during the last election during the past summer, I can tell you the issues that were brought up on the doorsteps of Timberlea-Prospect revolved around our high school and the problem with it, revolved around medical issues and waiting lines and the fact, of course, that we're always going to the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre in Sackville because of the fact of the good service that comes from that particular area. Let me tell you, I would say to them after awhile, well, you know, I've heard your views, do you know where I stand on insurance, and you're aware of the fact that we're fighting like you know what to have a quality education system in our growing constituency and if you live on one of those notorious roads that's not paved in growing subdivisions I will continue to speak up about that.

So I would try to engage some of the people on their doorsteps during that summer election. So what do you think about Sunday shopping? Ah, it's a foregone conclusion, let's not worry about it, Bill. That's the response and, in many cases, the inevitability of that and the fact that Sunday shopping is here and is already in existence.

I want to give you an example, Mr. Speaker. As you are well aware, I have a daughter who works in the Yukon for CBC and when she was home after the election, she took the opportunity on that Sunday to say, before I go back to the Yukon, I'm going to pick up a few things. I said, where are we going - and I could mention some of the names of the businesses, they're in Bayers Lake Park. My wife and two daughters decided, Dad, you're not a shopper, we understand that. Why don't you go to another location in Bayers Lake Park and decide what particular hardcover books you want to read, have a coffee, and sit there and enjoy it because we are going shopping in Bayers Lake Park on a Sunday and then after we finish shopping, we will stop by - and perhaps I should mention that it was Chapters in Bayers Lake Park, where I spent two hours that afternoon. Then, of course, I'm picked up by the women

[Page 709]

in my life and we go out to that infamous location, or maybe famous location in Bedford, that is wide open. So Sunday shopping is here. It is a foregone conclusion.

Now, there are parts of this bill that, of course, are of real concern to us in the NDP. There are parts of this bill that concern us, particularly as we move ahead and go on to the Law Amendments Committee and look at some of the issues that are going to be discussed there. There will be the opportunity at the Law Amendments Committee, I am sure, for members of the labour movement, for individual shop owners, to have their opportunity to come and have their opinion on this particular topic.

Now, in a perfect world there will be a lot less shopping, in my opinion, if I was the ultimate main naysayer, there would be a lot less shopping on Sunday. Because in a perfect world, Mr. Speaker, in the community that I grew up and a community very much like you grew up in, Sunday was a different time for quality time. It was the opportunity to go to the local ballpark and see a doubleheader on a Sunday afternoon, or it's the opportunity to take your family skating, not necessarily in an arena, but if it's at an appropriate time of the year and the lakes are safe, it's a time to go down to the Lewis Lake Park and to go family skating in the middle of the winter. In a perfect world those would be the options that I would prefer if I was the ultimate decision maker when it comes to Sundays.

Mr. Speaker, as you well know from where you're from and very close to the community that I grew up next to, this issue is of real relevance in some of the constituencies in northern Nova Scotia. I hear the member for Richmond challenge the member for Colchester North to get up and speak. I hear the member for Richmond say that the members for Cumberland South and Cumberland North should stand in their spots and speak on behalf of this. I believe from the press that I follow in those local papers in that area - one of those papers I still receive - those members are listening to their constituents and they are bringing up those issues. So it's not necessarily a time to grandstand on what issue got us elected to this House, or to bring forward why we would look at an issue such as Sunday shopping.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at it pretty carefully. I want you to know that a typical Sunday in my home does not involve Sunday shopping. It does not. Yet there is an opportunity in a growing constituency that I represent - and the member for Halifax Clayton Park and I perhaps could debate about this, but is the Bayers Lake Park in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect or is it in Halifax Clayton Park? There are no voters there. So, let me tell you, it's not a place where I've ever gone canvassing. But the challenge will come that on a particular Sunday forthcoming, let me tell you what will happen when, not if, Sunday shopping happens in this province.

[Page 710]

[4:00 p.m.]

There will be traffic jams in that Bayers Lake Park as there will be at MicMac, as there will be in some of the major centres. What will be the results? Will you be able to shoot a gun down the streets of Bridgewater, not that I encourage you to do that at any time. I take back that expression, it's not a good one. Will the streets of Bridgewater be empty? Will the streets of Bridgewater be empty because the people from Bridgewater have all come up the South Shore? Let's go shopping, we'll go to Bayers Lake Park. Will the people in Whitney Pier say, we are going to go to Halifax. We are going to make a long weekend of it, we'll visit the grandkids out in Timberlea - because there are a lot of great Cape Bretoners who live in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect - and then we will go to Bayers Lake Park to go shopping. What will be the result of Sunday shopping, the effect it is going to have in some of those other areas? Now, will it encourage more money to be spent?

I heard the member for Cape Breton Nova stand in his place and speak about the stash he had under his bed - Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify that - it's a monetary stash that he has under his bed apparently. Will he have more money for his wife and his son to go shopping necessarily on a Sunday or will that be the same amount of dollars that is spent the other six days in the week when stores are available?

Mr. Speaker, the concern that I have revolves around the value of plebiscites. Now I'm looking forward, as the bill proceeds through the various changes in this House, the effect it will have in the Law Amendments Committee when we hear from municipal officials on why there is a plebiscite on a provincial issue attached to a municipal election. Now that after all is an imposition on municipal politicians. Municipal elections have many other issues to deal with, many other issues of a local nature, of real concern, to grassroots politics.

Now I've heard the member for Dartmouth North, based upon his municipal experience; I've heard the member for Victoria-The Lakes, I've heard him speak on their past connection to municipal politics. It seems to me unfair to have a plebiscite attached to a provincial issue that is going to be taking place during a municipal election. That will be, in my opinion, a distraction during these elections. That will be a distraction that is unfortunate for these candidates who are standing for municipal election.

A plebiscite on one issue as opposed to a plebiscite on another issue is not the way we were elected to this place. We were elected to make decisions. We were elected to have our votes, to stand in our place, and then to explain to our constituents why we voted one way or another on whatever the issue is. To consult Nova Scotians on this issue is a foregone conclusion in my opinion. Now I have heard and I have solicited opinions from the people who live in my constituency, Mr. Speaker. I want you to know that in many cases, the high school students, some of them living in my community that I've had in schools over the years, are looking at this as an opportunity for more employment. So in the growing

[Page 711]

constituency that I represent, many of the people are saying it's a convenience, we should have the choice, and it's here anyway so when is it going to happen, Bill?

The concern that I have of course, revolves around whether these workers will have the protection that is necessary for them. Everyone in Nova Scotia, we all know of the increased challenge of juggling our busy schedules. We all know that we are working longer hours, that we have many commitments with mothers and fathers both working at different jobs. There is, after all, the need for family time, but there is also the need for shopping. Now this government made a wise decision this past Sunday, a wise decision that was well received, considering the circumstances in the aftermath of Hurricane Juan. Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, the opportunity was that other stores could also be open; stores like hardware stores, building supplies stores, major grocery stores were open. But other stores took advantage of that and they also remained open. Perhaps it wasn't a real necessity to have the local sports store open, but it was an opportunity for shopping to be made available to people in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect.

I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that particular Sunday, out of interest, at half-time in the football game, if you really want to know, I took the opportunity to see the response to people going out on Sunday shopping. Now the people who attend the church that we attend in the community I represent, did they deliberately say, absolutely not going to touch Sunday shopping? Absolutely not the case. A couple of the people who attend the church that I attend were out Sunday shopping, because in this case they had to be there. Although they weren't just in the grocery store, they were in another part of the mall picking up some convenience items that I don't think we can necessarily determine as a real necessity. But those people made that choice.

I've heard the members of the Liberal Party take various potshots, as they are always prone to do on any piece of legislation, at the NDP. I have always heard the members of the Third Party say we flip-flop on this and we flip-flop on that. We have been very clear through this issue, this is a complex issue, Mr. Speaker, and we have concerns about worker protection that we do not feel comfortable with at this stage. So when the time comes, as we go through to the Law Amendments Committee and as we go through the clause-by-clause debate that takes place in the Committee of the Whole House here, there will be the opportunity for the members of this Party to bring forward the types of debates, to bring forward the types of amendments, to look at the types of changes that we feel must be included in this sort of legislation, before we are going to support it.

Now, if that's what it takes to get us into the 21st Century - and, you know, that particular comment, Mr. Speaker, I find offensive. I find that offensive because of the fact that across the border in Moncton, neighbours in the communities that we grew up in, they are suddenly in the 21st Century and because you come across the Tantramar Marsh, we're a backwater in Nova Scotia? Is that the implication of the members of the Liberal Party? Is that what they're saying to Nova Scotians: wake up, you're backward and unless you have

[Page 712]

Sunday shopping, you're not in the 21st Century? That's the wrong message to send to Nova Scotians, that's the wrong message to say to them.

The concern I have is when the results of the plebiscite are forthcoming and there is a major division - and let's use this example. Let's say that the people in Cape Breton vote heavily against, on this plebiscite, any form of Sunday shopping and they have given the thumbs-down to Sunday shopping for some of the reasons that the member for Cape Breton Nova so eloquently brought forward earlier - and I hope you know that in Whitney Pier the Ukranian church and the Polish church and those various other churches in that community, the religious life of that community is integral to what they feel towards this and other issues.

If the people in Cape Breton vote heavily against this in a plebiscite and the people of the HRM vote heavily in favour of this result, what happens? What happens in that situation? Now, the people in Amherst have real concerns and the members for Cumberland North, Cumberland South and Colchester North have been listening to the concerns of the business community in their communities - and let me tell you, that's why we were elected. That's why you were initially elected and that's why you have been re-elected. But when the plebiscite results come in and a provincial decision is made, a binding plebiscite - is that a word that's missing in this? - it concerns me that we could have one community pitted against another community, we could have one region pitted against another region.

I'm well aware, Mr. Speaker, of how the many young couples who live in my community, and many of them are from the Cape Breton area, they would look forward to having their parents, the grandparents of their children, come to Timberlea to visit them at that time and then use the excuse, well you're here you might as well go Sunday shopping besides. Now what is that doing for the corner store in Whitney Pier? What is that doing for the local business that is outside the economic hub of this province, which is the HRM?

Now in the travels that I have around this province - and some of it revolves around various concerns, and let me tell you I know the honourable member for Queens will be interested in this. What's the reception that I receive in Queens? You know I'm the one who made the comments about the particular back roads in Queens and the reaction is that Halifax gets everything. Halifax has Neptune, Halifax has the Mooseheads - that's the hockey team not the other thing. Halifax gets everything, why are they always complaining when they have a few gravel roads? Well let me tell you, here it will be again that with Sunday shopping in ridings that I am fortunate enough to share in this caucus, because you know when we look at the politics of this, the NDP caucus and where we represent generally is highly in favour, from what I understand from the polls, of Sunday shopping. It is not going to be, in the growing constituency that I represent, a hot-button issue.

People know that I am not a Sunday shopper. People know that if the convenience is there, that doesn't mean if I am in a situation that what I might need on a Sunday shopping event, a hockey stick which I've broken on Saturday night - I was going to say over

[Page 713]

someone's, well let's just say I broke the hockey stick - do I have to go Sunday shopping to get another one? The opportunity would be there in my constituency but is someone after all in return looking at the value of the workers who are working in that particular sports shop? Are they going to be protected? Are they going to have the opportunity to decide they don't want to work on Sunday, as they say to the manager of that sports shop they would rather not put those hours in for one reason or another reason?

That is the key issue that we have brought up a number of times with the NDP. Part-time workers receive few or no benefits as it is now. Over 20,000 Nova Scotians who get paid a minimum wage, on which they struggle to get by, really are not going to benefit unless there are major revisions to this piece of legislation or other types of legislation that could be brought forth within this House to protect workers who could be involved in Sunday shopping.

Now I have a few other comments before I wrap up. As I said to the honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park before, I love to bring the concerns of my constituents to the attention of this House. I love to have the opportunity to bring to your attention the concerns on whatever issues that the people on the doorsteps or the people have sent to me by way of e-mails or faxes. But on the issue of Sunday shopping, I have not heard those numbers of complaints. I have not heard of those numbers of people who are concerned. The reaction has been that in a perfect world perhaps Sunday shopping should not exist, but as you well know this is not a perfect world. This is not an opportunity to in any other way say that this part of the province that I represent is open-minded to Sunday shopping, and with protections to workers I look forward to this piece of legislation moving through to the Law Amendments Committee and looking at the corrections that can be made as this piece of legislation continues through our House. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to speak on Bill 2. First of all in regard to the issues this bill puts forward, I guess I'm not sure if I can talk an hour on this issue. I'll try my best to go as long as I can - people are shaking their heads, no, please don't talk for an hour. The reason I probably can't talk for an hour is because during my four-week election campaign in the hot, hot days of summer, I didn't talk a lot about Sunday shopping. It just wasn't a topic that seemed to come up in the conversations on the doorsteps.

AN HON. MEMBER: What are you talking about, Joan?

MS. MASSEY: Well, I guess in a lot of times they had other things on their mind that were more pressing, issues like seniors health care, the high cost of that to seniors in my area. Seniors were very concerned that they were being stripped of their assets, they felt

[Page 714]

intimidated by the lack of respect they were being given by the enforcement units that were being sent out by the government to their homes.

[4:15 p.m.]

I heard many people speak to me in regard to the HST, wondering if we formed the government, if we would do something about that. Certainly, we did want to remove that from the necessities of life, such as children's medicine, heating fuel. Mr. Speaker, a lot of folks in Dartmouth East - and I actually heard this on doorstep - were cutting back on their prescription drugs. They were cutting pills in half. I heard all kinds of horror stories like that. People are really concerned about winter coming and being able to meet the requirements to heat their homes. So certainly removing the HST from family necessities was something that a lot of people agreed with during the campaign.

Mr. Speaker, tuition fees continue to be something that's impacting a lot of the young people in Dartmouth East. Post-secondary education is almost unreachable in certain circumstances. It is a burden for students to pay this back, especially when they're working for a lowly minimum wage, then also being burdened with trying to find some form of transportation to and from work. A lot of young people in Dartmouth East can no longer drive their cars, they can't afford to insure them. I have actually had instances where families have said, well, we had put together some money, we were going to buy our son or daughter a vehicle, but when we looked into insurance it was just too outlandish and they couldn't afford to do that.

The bus scheduling is not always appropriate for getting people to and from work, especially in the retail sector. For instance, I am not sure if I will get this exactly right, but say WalMart, that store closes at a certain hour and the staff are expected to stay to restock the shelves, clean up, do these sorts of things, and a lot of times when they get off work, the buses have stopped running. There is no bus service there. In Port Wallace, I think there's maybe two or three buses running now on Sunday. That's going to be an issue if Sunday shopping does occur. We're going to have to put on some more buses to get people to and from, so I'm just hoping that the government has taken all these things into consideration.

I did touch on the fact that auto insurance definitely is an issue with a lot of people, people of all ages, in Dartmouth East. Rates rose over 65 per cent in one year. A lot of people have laid their cars up, have gone from having two cars, which I know is a luxury in a way, but a lot of professionals go in two different directions when they go to work and therefore like to have two vehicles. They're picking kids up after school, they're taking them to ballet lessons, guitar lessons, all these sorts of things, Mr. Speaker.

Taking money from drivers and giving it to the insurance companies was definitely something that a lot of folks wanted to speak to me about. I actually had a man come up to me just out of the blue - when I had told him who I was, and I wasn't actually canvassing at

[Page 715]

the time - to ask for my help because he was quite upset that the CEO of the insurance company in which he had stocks in, I believe he told me was just being paid a $3.1 million bonus, and his profit margins were going down. So he wanted to know what the NDP could do to help him in that case. Of course I didn't quite know what to tell him.

People want a driver-owned non-profit plan. They want something that's going to work for them, not against them. It would take six months to set up. These are some of the issues that popped up when I was going door-to-door canvassing, and I tried to provide the proper information. A lot of times we had to mail this information out or drop it off on doorsteps. Sometimes I tried to provide it as best I could at the moment.

People in Dartmouth East told me that they wanted rates that would reflect themselves, their driving record, their vehicle. They didn't want to be discriminated against because of their age, their gender or their marital status. Another issue that came up in Dartmouth East was the issue of providing a community centre for some of the children and youth in that area.

These were just some of the issues and I know maybe some of them don't involve the topic and I'll try to get to the point of where I'm going with that, but they are issues that people wanted to talk to me about. Certainly, there were the odd people that wanted to talk about Sunday shopping. I recall one conversation where the parents were quite concerned. Their daughter was attending a post-secondary institution and she was working part-time also and she wanted to be able to spend Sunday with her parents and they were quite concerned. In fact, they had asked what the NDP stand was on Sunday shopping. I tried to provide that. They were concerned that even though there may be laws set up to protect workers, workers would still feel intimidated and perhaps feel that they could not speak out and they would therefore work on days on which they really didn't want to work.

This is definitely an issue with a lot of people in Dartmouth East. Another woman was actually in favour of Sunday shopping because she was used to it in other provinces. She was used to starting a project on Saturday and perhaps running out of part of the equipment that was needed to fix that project so she said she missed Sunday shopping. The dilemma, I guess, is what's the problem? The problem is that yes, Sunday shopping is inevitable in this province, but we must have legislation that protects our workers.

Support for Sunday retail hours has been rising in urban areas and it rises even higher when it is paired up with legislation to protect workers. However, what about the other percentage of people who oppose Sunday shopping? Many retail businesses don't want Sunday shopping. Many small retail shops say they will not make enough additional money to cover the costs of opening seven days a week.

[Page 716]

Who is really behind the push for Sunday shopping? Perhaps the push is really coming from the big retailers themselves which have greater resources to work with and could perhaps even push a small retailer out of business. Do we want to become a city of mega-stores? Or, do we want to retain some of the character we already have right across HRM and the province?

For example, many people enjoy going to Spring Garden Road, especially in the summer, the small shops there, the cafes, street vendors, restaurants, tourist shops - there's plenty of things to do on Spring Garden Road. How about trying to bring back some of the areas in our cities that have been neglected in favour of the mega-malls? For example, downtown Dartmouth. How about refacing some of our older buildings, providing low cost loans to entrepreneurs, revitalization would be great down in that area. We have to think about stopping the sprawl. I know when I drive home, you just feel like, when are they going to stop sticking these malls up?

Small meeting areas within new subdivisions - perhaps even the way in which subdivisions are designed. HRM is in the planning process and I think we're going to see some good ideas come out of there. Maybe subdivisions that were self-contained and had small shops in which our local youth could work close to home. We don't always need a mall to provide services.

Traffic is horrible now. What's going to happen if everybody's open on Sunday? It's just going to be like - well it is - it will be another work day and we're all going to be fighting our way through traffic, whereas at least one day of the week you can get from point A to point B or go visit somebody and not have to drag yourself through all these traffic jams. I mean that's going to impact on a negative feeling within people's minds. Which sort of brings me back to the question of what kind of a city do we want to be? Do we want to grow at any expense? Do we want to leave behind a lifestyle that we are now beginning to see eroded?

Mr. Speaker, our older neighbourhoods are already in disrepair. There are businesses closing down. You see windows boarded up. Apartment buildings are being boarded up in certain areas of Dartmouth. I think we seeing some of the donut effect where the centre is dying out and we're spreading out around it. We're driving further out to get to our homes and the malls that surround us and when I say surround us, sometimes you feel like you're surrounded. You can drive by, for example, Penhorn Mall, there used to be trees across from there. There's nothing worse, you know, they start to slowly rip the trees down. They put in more houses. The next thing you know, you drive by two days later, every tree is gone - more houses. Do we all want to look the same? Do all of our communities want to look the same?

Mr. Speaker, small business management is something I think we need to look at. Many small businesses are run by the owner-manager who will more than likely bear the brunt of this Sunday shopping. He can't afford to hire another manager, an assistant manager.

[Page 717]

There's a small profit margin in a lot of these small businesses already. They're already working long hours and they're competing with larger franchises. To say that there will be a law to protect stores in malls from being forced to open is not all that it seems. Stores that compete for the same shoppers in the same mall, for example, will undoubtedly stay open. Just because the law says you don't have to open, you can be guaranteed every store in that mall will be open. Because if you've built up a clientele and they're used to going to a certain store and then that store is not open, you're going to go somewhere else and you might not come back and I have heard from different small businesses on that actual issue.

Mr. Speaker, larger retail giants will be able to sustain losses that occur on Sundays. However, the small businesses do not have the same resources. Also they are concerned that they will only be selling goods that would otherwise have been purchased on another day of the week anyway. They're not going to be any further ahead. People will shop ahead of time maybe, instead of going out Thursday night after work, you might go out on Sunday. It doesn't mean you're going to be spending extra money. It's the same amount of money. Larger retail stores have a greater pool of staff to take on the extra work, but the smaller retail stores do not. They don't have these assistant managers and I'm not sure where this pool of willing workers to fill in the gap for one day a week is going to come from.

Mr. Speaker, new money, do we think that suddenly there will be a new pot of money that will magically appear that people will be able to spend on Sundays. The same amount of money that is available now from Monday to Saturday is not going to change. I mean there's only so much money to go around. Charities are vying for money. The schools are vying for money. Our children are always looking for something new. People set budgets, you know, in this world. They have budgets for Christmas shopping, budgets for the birthday purchases, back-to-school, we've got budgets for everything. There's not going to be another pot of money. If there is, somebody, tell me about it, where is it anyway?

Mr. Speaker, current businesses that operate on Sundays, what will happen to all the businesses that have carved out a spot on Sunday already, business like the flea markets. It has been said before, but I'm going to say it again. Flea markets use the malls. Where are they going to go? I'm not sure if they can afford to rent another large, empty facility or where that facility would actually be. Many people get extra income from the flea markets. There are people selling their crafts there. They might work all year making these things and then sell them at certain times of the year. Ethnic foods are sold there. It's a place for people to come and meet other people in their communities, say hello, grab a coffee. Home-grown produce is sold there.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, another small business that operates on Sunday is the Farmer's Market. You can go over there and get your fresh oysters, fresh vegetables, organic growers are there, meat vendors. Fruit and vegetable stands are another one. Let's say all the grocery stores are

[Page 718]

going to open all of a sudden, is, for example, Dave's on Mount Edward Road, is that going to impact on his business? That place, you can't even get in and out of that parking lot, it's so packed on a Sunday. So it's a very small, little business, but again, he has carved out a niche there that he would probably like to keep.

Also the corner stores. Out where I am, I know it's a Triple A, they're everywhere, they are places where you can meet up with your neighbours, go get a few things on Friday night when you're watching your video at home. What's going to happen to these businesses, do we throw them out with the bathwater, do we say, oh well, on to something new, bigger and better? I think we have to think about these. Value Village, for example, they're open on Sundays. A lot of the charities collect used clothing and items from households and they're paid by the pound, or whatever, by Value Village, and then Value Village resells these things. So it's recycling in a form and it raises money for a lot of charities.

Mr. Speaker, I have actually had people, since the election, now that Sunday shopping is in the news more, ask me, well, if you're going to make us work - because a lot of people think they're going to have to work, that's really what's out there, that's the feeling, people feel they're going to be forced into working. They don't feel their rights are going to be respected. They're saying, if you're going to force us to work, then those government offices better stay open too. So, are the government offices going to stay open, are we going to be able to get our driver's licences renewed, are we going to be able to get a building permit, a burning permit, are we going to get our fishing and hunting licences? Is the government going to stay open too? Perhaps we should stay here on Sunday, maybe we can work through Sunday, what do you think about that? (Interruptions) No?

Mr. Speaker, protection of workers. We must do everything we can to protect our young workers, who already work for minimum wage in many cases. They're feeling the burden of their student loans, their high auto insurance. We must not allow them to be victimized into working on Sundays against their will. Many times young people do not feel they want to oppose their employers for fear of retaliation. How will we make sure that this doesn't happen for sure? The example that was put forward today was the casino staying open, not everybody can assert their right and that's why a lot of people have advocates trying to help them. Not everybody has the fortitude, or whatever, to do some of the things and press for their rights, and I have seen that when I was on the school board and before that when I was on the home and school. You would have parents come to you and say, can you help me with this issue?

Mr. Speaker, I think I mentioned public transit before. We don't have enough service now in many areas and there are many more routes and services that would have to be put on, especially for people who don't own their own vehicles. This isn't the right way to help the working poor get a better deal.

[Page 719]

Last evening I heard some comments which suggested to me that many families that are having tough times would benefit from a few more hours of work. Well, I don't think a lot of people are sitting home wishing for another day to work, especially on Sunday. No, more than likely they are wishing for a government that would respect them and bring forward a minimum wage that would give families a break today, right now, a government that would remove the HST, bring in a fair, public-owned auto insurance plan, help seniors, help our students. Many of the working poor include single mothers and fathers who have had to work long, hard hours at more than one job. Many women work 1.7 jobs - I think it is - and they're still living in poverty, they're just trying to get by. They have a problem finding daycare, they have a problem getting transportation, they're having a problem putting food on the table, buying sneakers for their kids to go to school, and school supplies. How is Sunday shopping going to help the working poor?

The daycare problem. Many moms are already having a hard time finding suitable daycare. Are the daycare workers going to have to work on Sundays? Are we going to, all of a sudden, find all these new daycare workers somewhere? Daycare workers are already poorly paid for the service they provide, in providing care to our greatest resource. That's a whole other issue. We lack daycare spaces. If you added 2,000 daycare spaces on today, there still wouldn't be enough. The subsidized daycare wait list is, I believe, two years long, to get on a subsidized daycare list. That's based on your income. In fact, I used to receive calls from people asking me if I could provide childcare services to children because my name is still on the list at Bel Ayr School in my neighbourhood. I did ask them if they could take that off. How will the government deal with that issue?

Our workers are overburdened. Many workers work many hours of overtime as it is, without the proper pay. There is a fear of saying no. I can't stress that. I believe it's there, that's what I'm hearing. Many workplaces have seen cutbacks in the numbers of employees, therefore putting a burden on those left to hold down the fort. There is the added stress that this brings to the workplace. Workers are increasingly being asked to spend more time at work. Many feel that they cannot complain, plus they're doing all this for time and a half, based on minimum wage. How will we help out these workers?

Mr. Speaker, our way of life, our way of living, we have to be careful in protecting that. What effect will Sunday shopping have on our way of living? We're already burning the candle at both ends. People are multi-tasking, they're juggling, trying to be a mom, a dad, a grandparent, a caregiver, all these things that we're all supposed to do to the best of our ability, volunteer on sports teams, home and school, school advisory councils, charitable organizations. These are things that are stressing us out now.

The folks who will end up working on Sunday must be protected. They must be able to retain a healthy way of life, somehow. Mr. Speaker, let's stop and smell the roses. We already spend much too much time indoors. Children are stuck in front of the TV, we're busy keeping our houses in order, we're busy working, out of the home lots of times, trying to

[Page 720]

catch up on work at home, and Sundays often become the day that you maybe can get out into your neighbourhood and take part in nature in your neighbourhood and farther afield. Take a walk in your neighbourhood, maybe have a game of basketball in your local park, just taking your kids to the local playground and sitting there and talking to your neighbours, these are all part of a way of life that we enjoy here in Nova Scotia.

Getting back to nature is something we maybe just take for granted. We have an opportunity to hike, to canoe, to ski, to bike, to go to our beaches and to visit other parts of the province, that's an important one. Other parts of the province rely on us to come and visit them, to boost their economy. They maybe don't have a big industry in their town. In fact, I would like to read - and I will table this - this out of today's paper, a retailer on Sunday shopping. He says that's going to hurt his town. '"The head of Lunenburg's merchants says Sunday shopping has the potential to kill the retail trade in his town. Jamie Myra, chairman of the retail committee of the Lunenburg Board of Trade, said Monday the benefits that gift shop owners, restauranteurs and bed and breakfast operators now enjoy in the UNESCO world heritage site will be lost if the province sanctions shopping seven days a week. In other provinces, all it's done is created more business in the higher-populated areas like Halifax that have big-box stores (such as) Wal-Mart and the Price Club."'

Mr. Speaker, we have to remember that we need to connect with our community, we need to meet up with our neighbours, we need to talk to our neighbours about issues that the communities share in common. What's going on at our local schools; what's going on even just with your neighbours and their families? So often now we don't even know our neighbours.

Many people use Sunday as a day to prepare for the week ahead. It's a time to plan meals, to finish up school projects. Sometimes this is the only day available to catch up on projects around your house, painting or fixing odd jobs, gardening, or connecting with family. A lot of people use Sunday to visit their parents, their grandparents, their children, their friends. It is a day that a lot of people volunteer to visit seniors.

Mr. Speaker, the fast lane is getting faster. Do we want to jump into an even faster lane? We are always rushing to get to work, rushing to pick our children up, rushing to prepare a meal, rushing to get ready for the next busy day. This is going to burden people who are going to have to work seven days a week because they may not feel they can say no to anything else.

Mr. Speaker, I have to ponder why we would have a plebiscite on Sunday shopping when they are so many other issues that the people of Nova Scotia would rather have a say in. I will just list a couple, and I won't go into them because I did that at the very beginning, but long-term health care, auto insurance, and education. Let's just give everybody their say; let's have this little mini-vote on every issue. We could go as far as letting the school board do that, or their principals. We could go right down the line and do everything on-site.

[Page 721]

Are we providing two kinds of services in this province, Mr. Speaker? I am going to wrap up. Are we providing a service, one for the haves in the province and one for the have-nots. To end this little speech, I would like to say, let us remember that while we drag Nova Scotia into the 21st Century, we must ensure that we do not drag those most vulnerable down at the same time. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to speak to this bill. I've got to say, I mean, everything we do is politics for sure and certainly some of the delivery of the politics, I guess, is done in a way to try to hide the politics of it. Certainly that's what the members of the Opposition, for changes they would like to see in legislation probably give their view of the politics of any particular piece of legislation. But this bill, I think, is before this House because the Liberal caucus had made it an issue, which really didn't become an issue in the last election, but it was out there, it was on the periphery of what was going on. It never took off as a major item - it certainly wasn't anything that I ran into on the doorsteps in the last campaign, but it was just kind of hovering a layer or two above, and you kind of wondered if you scratched deep enough just where this might show up.

So it's there, it hasn't really been put to rest; in other words this hasn't been taken off the agenda - an agenda it never really got on - and I think the government, and in particular the Premier, would like to see this out of the way. I've got to say I have to applaud the Liberal caucus for getting it there. For all the politics around its getting there, this is what they do and what we do and, I don't know, I think they've done an okay job in trying to do that. Whether I actually agree with the issue at all, I applaud them for how they have stickhandled this issue.

Actually I think this is more about crass politics than about an issue of the public and I'll go on to explain why I think that. The last, I guess probably, Corporate Research poll that I saw that this question had been asked, some put Sunday shopping somewhere in what some would say, the 60 per cent range, that 60 per cent of Nova Scotians want Sunday shopping but if you actually looked at those numbers, about 40 per cent of Nova Scotians were strongly in favour of Sunday shopping and another 20 per cent were somewhat in favour of Sunday shopping.

[4:45 p.m.]

Those who, for whatever reason, were for this, they just lumped those all together and said 60 per cent in favour. But that wasn't actually a fair analysis of the information because, to me, if someone says I'm somewhat in favour, that means I'm in favour of this under certain conditions. If those conditions are met, fine, I'm okay with it. If they're not met, then I'm against it. So, really, as far as the people of Nova Scotia, I think we can really only say for sure that about 40 per cent in that poll were interested.

[Page 722]

I heard the member for Richmond saying that any of the polling done in Nova Scotia indicated that Nova Scotians overwhelmingly were in favour of Sunday shopping. I'm not sure that I necessarily agree. What I am sure of is that I'd like to know. I would like to know in a very clear way that Nova Scotians are in favour of Sunday shopping or not in favour of Sunday shopping. The plebiscite may do that.

I have real concerns about whether or not it can. I echo the concerns that members of my caucus and members of the Liberal caucus have raised around the issue of putting this plebiscite with a municipal election, only because the turnout could be so poor that it could skew the results one way or another. Then the other argument I suppose would be, if it's that important an issue to Nova Scotians, they'll come out and vote. Certainly this is the cheapest way, I would say, to do the plebiscite.

My views around plebiscites or referenda is they really should be used in questions of tradition. If you're going to proceed to change or think you want to change a tradition or something of tradition in a province, that's when you should have input from the public as to whether or not they would agree with that. In terms of Sunday shopping, it's definitely in the periphery of that. How people shop in this province or having wide open Sunday shopping is not something that we've had or lack thereof has been our tradition.

One term that I've come to loathe in terms of politicians and what they do is to be told that you have to do this because it's inevitable. Well, I think that what's inevitable or not is based on where you want your people to go or what your goals are for the future. If something isn't in their best interests, to say that it's inevitable, that has to be based on pretty sound information. I'm not sure it's there, but what I think would push me to that edge, something that would push me to the point of saying, yes, this is something that we've got to look at, I think are the comments by my colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, when he said that the present legislation probably wouldn't survive a court challenge under the Constitution.

That throws this question purely into the legal realm, whether or not some people's rights are being trampled on by our present legislation around Sunday shopping and therefore that is for the most part likely inevitable. At some point, someone is going to challenge our present law and it'll be struck down and then we'd be to this position we are today. If people want to define that inevitability based on the premise that we're the last province in the country to do this, all the other provinces have done it and because we don't do it, we're some kind of a backwater that's not up with the times and, therefore, in order to do that, we've got to bring in Sunday shopping, I don't buy it. I don't buy it for a minute, I don't buy it for a second. I say that if everybody else walked off a cliff, we don't need to walk off a cliff with them.

[Page 723]

We should determine whether or not any particular direction is good for us based on accurate information about what it is we hope it will achieve and if it will do that, then say yes to Sunday shopping or no to Sunday shopping because of how it impacts the lives of the people in our province, how it affects the lives of Nova Scotians. If people want to take a look at the impacts of Sunday shopping on any particular sector in other jurisdictions, then that would be a sensible thing to do as well because just as there are those who feel that they are negatively impacted by the present legislation, then there may be just as many who feel that they will be negatively impacted by changing the legislation to allow for more Sunday shopping.

I want to tell members that I personally am not stuck on the notion of Sunday shopping. My reasons around that have nothing to do really with keeping the Sabbath. I grew up in a home where both my parents worked. They worked shift work so, you know, working on Sunday was a fairly common thing that my parents did. So I do accept the argument to have some protections for workers, but I don't think there's any way to avoid workers working on Sunday if we go down this road. They worked at the airport, which the honourable Government House Leader would be well aware of how people at the airport work because it's definitely a place of shift work.

With that said, I don't want to be embraced too much by the honourable Government House Leader, but to say that just because other people do, that makes it fine, that's not the road I want to go down. Other people do lots of other things because that's the job they're in. That is a requirement in order for them to carry out that particular function. Now that doesn't mean necessarily that that's a good reason for the retail sector to go down this road. (Interruption) I appreciate the intervention by the honourable Government House Leader. He has not given me any information I don't already know, but I appreciate the fact he thinks I need to know it.

I do agree with anyone who says that this should not be left up to the municipalities. I do think this is a question that the government should take the lead on. I'm actually opposed, in a big way, to the government leaving the answers to big questions up to the municipalities. I think the province should show leadership and make decisions on those and not have this hodgepodge of different approaches in different jurisdictions.

My constituency has a fairly large rural component. It is a rapid growing urban sector. I have to say, even if I look at the impacts of what we refer to as the corridor from Enfield to Shubenacadie and look at the area around Elmsdale, in particular, Mr. Speaker, in the area around Elmsdale we have two strip malls now and a lot of business has moved. It has shifted out of Enfield to Elmsdale and I think, to a point, if you go to Shubenacadie, which was quite a nice little village, I noticed recently one of the stores has closed up and I tend to think are we going down this same road. When it comes to Sunday shopping, the businesses in my area, in every way, have to compete with businesses in the HRM. Our proximity to the HRM is such that it's constant and the municipality fights this battle in trying to attract businesses

[Page 724]

to Hants East when they're so close, the attraction to the HRM is so great. So they have a fairly large residential tax base but certainly don't have the business to have the commercial tax base that they'd like to have and to a large degree we see that as partly due to the competition in the HRM, directly into the city: Bayers Lake Industrial Park, Burnside Industrial Park and the Aerotech Business Park at the airport which is only minutes away from Enfield.

So you do have to look at this in terms of what this means actually to businesses in my constituency. I have only ever had two people come to me to say anything on this issue, I think, in one way or another. They were business owners and they were definitely opposed to Sunday shopping. These were not people whose businesses were so small that they would have to work. They have a staff, it would be unlikely that they would be working on Sunday themselves so as far as giving up their Sunday to work that wasn't going to be an issue. What was the issue for them was with Sunday shopping, they would assume that it would probably be their competitor would be open and that would force them to be open.

As other members have said, there are just so many dollars to go around, they didn't see that they were really going to make anything by being open on a seventh day. As a matter of fact, what their thought was that they would have seven days of expense and six days of income. That was their fear, that they would be open another day and yet not have seven days worth of income and some people would make the argument, well it's their choice, it's a question of choice. For them it's not a choice, they'll be forced into being open because their competitors will be open. They will have to try to maintain a little bit of that market share.

As much as people use the word choice, sure as far as people going out to purchase goods on Sunday, they have the choice to go or not. I mean they can go today and they can go on a Sunday in six months from then but the businesses will have to really make a decision, I think, as to whether or not this is something they want to do at all ever or just never do it and try to ride it out and see how the numbers work out. The six weeks prior to Christmas may, may, give some indication of that. Although Christmas time is kind of a unique time, it's probably not a good barometer to use as the measure of what shopping patterns or purchasing patterns might be throughout other parts of the year, but it might give us a window into exactly where this goes.

I do agree with a number of people who have spoken so far on the fact of protection for workers inasmuch as is possible to protect workers. If we look at the trend that corporations and even government and school boards and so on have gone with their workers, there's more permanent part-time, no benefits, et cetera, et cetera, and we see this. I think that unless workers are protected in legislation, certainly the employer sector is not going to guarantee that and they're going to be up against it. I think competition is going to get tougher and it's going to be harder on them. The reduction from 48 to 40 hours, there have been two arguments for this, I think I buy the second argument more. The first one is

[Page 725]

that workers will be opposed to this because they don't want to see a reduction in their hours, they want more hours.

[5:00 p.m.]

The other argument is that this would create jobs because employers wouldn't want to pay the overtime so therefore they will hire more people and not pay the overtime. So which way this will go, I'm not sure, but definitely I would like to see us change the way overtime wages are evaluated and instead of purely being based on minimum wage, base it on the actual wage that people get.

With the competition, and I'm not sure that we all realize this or all notice it, it's one of those things that you have to have your antennae up to pay attention to, but I think with the World Trade Organization and globalization, we've had a corporate sector that has forced conditions of workers to the bottom. In other words, trying to be able to compete with labour in Mexico has really forced workers in Canada to accept less and less and less rather than to bring Mexican workers with more and more and more so that we create a level playing field by improving their quality of life rather than creating a level playing field by destroying the quality of life of Canadian workers. I would like to see some move in that direction.

Certainly we were told a number of years ago that new technologies, Mr. Speaker, would give us more free time, would give us more leisure time, more recreational time, and this hasn't happened. People are taking their laptops homes with them, they work longer days and certainly, as far as I can see, you take something as simple as a cell phone, which once upon a time people couldn't get hold of you unless you were near a land line somewhere, and otherwise they had to put up with it until they got you. Well now they've got you, whichever way you turn. You're at work, you have your cell phone, you're working while it's on, they can get you with it, with a land line, with your e-mail, the hours that people work are increasing rather than decreasing and I think that everywhere we can see this.

I think about some of my teaching colleagues who have been hired in a 0.5 position as a teacher. Now a 0.5 position as a teacher, that means you are half a teacher. Some of the ones I've known, depending on the schedule they had to work, they might have three periods in a day out of a six-period schedule, or whatever, but if they had a class in the morning and a class the last period of the day, they were there all day. They weren't 0.5 of a teacher, they were 100 per cent of a teacher or one teacher and they were being waged as a 0.5 with whatever benefits would come with that.

So we see if we can get more and more out of the worker for less and less, I think we are going to try to do that, and for that reason, Mr. Speaker, I think it's important that we look out for teachers. Some will say that we already have Sunday shopping, and certainly, to a degree, we definitely do, so the question of how we look at that in terms of what sectors of our economy that we feel comfortable with, leaving them the way they are, or writing

[Page 726]

legislation that kind of puts them more in the realm of other sectors. Some would say that we could order things over the Internet so Sunday shopping is already here, so let's just finish the job. To me, that's no different than the mail order catalogue of a few years ago, and we didn't necessarily call that Sunday shopping. We just called that being able to order in as quick a way as you could.

If it's true that the 21st Century means that Sunday shopping should be a component of that, I don't buy it. I would say that in the 21st Century, Sunday shopping might be a component of that based on our present legislation which, if antiquated, will not stand up in court, or it will not withstand the constitutional challenge. For that reason, Sunday shopping is perhaps inevitable, but not on the more social side of issues around lifestyle or the way Nova Scotians perceive.

Now, I've heard conflicting views as to whether or not people actually believe, or where the support for Sunday shopping is. It definitely seems to be the trend that those in the more urban and suburban areas, metropolitan areas would say the majority of the people are in favour of Sunday shopping, and that may be true, and those in the more rural areas are against Sunday shopping. That was my thought. Information that I've received seems to indicate that perhaps this is shifting, that maybe in the more rural areas, they are supportive of Sunday shopping.

I think the Mayor of Amherst - I can't think of his name - has been quite vocal that he would like to have Sunday shopping. He's someone who is in that geographical position where he would be affected or feels that his town is affected by Sunday shopping in New Brunswick, and that would have an impact on him. He's a politician, he's trying to be responsible, and he's trying to act in a way that he thinks reflects the views of the people in his jurisdiction. You can only applaud him for that.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Jerry Hallee.

MR. MACDONELL: I thank the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour for giving me the name of the Mayor of Amherst, Jerry Hallee.

This has been an issue that Mr. Hallee has raised. Actually, I think he was in this House in the gallery one day in the Spring. He definitely feels the impact on Amherst has been significant enough because of Sunday shopping in Moncton and he would like to see a change that would allow for Sunday shopping. So it would be quite interesting.

One of my constituents had indicated to me that he had done a fair bit of research, contacting businesses in Amherst to find out what their thoughts were. This individual was opposed to Sunday shopping, and his contention was that businesses in Amherst definitely were not in favour, that they were opposed to Sunday shopping. So I have conflicting views from that area.

[Page 727]

It's obvious that the evidence wouldn't necessarily indicate that having Sunday shopping would have a significant impact on sales, in other words, having shopping for a seventh day. According to Statistics Canada's regular report on retail trade annual sales, comparing 2002 to 2001, seasonally adjusted, increased by 5.4 per cent in Nova Scotia and by 3.2 per cent in New Brunswick which had Sunday shopping when we didn't. The retail sales there did not rise as much as they did in Nova Scotia, where we still didn't have Sunday shopping. In June 2003 compared to June 2002, retail trade, again, seasonally adjusted, increased by 2.3 per cent in Nova Scotia and by 1.1 per cent in New Brunswick.

So the question of what the impact would be to retail trade in Nova Scotia is still yet to be known. The question of whether the increase in retail trade, the percentage increase in retail trade in Nova Scotia is a product of the people who shop here, and there will be no impact on that percentage. In other words, comparing Nova Scotia with Sunday shopping to New Brunswick with Sunday shopping may very well mean that Nova Scotia would have an increase in its percentage of retail trade, even above that of New Brunswick.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, there should be some evidence to indicate what has happened over the years in those jurisdictions that have allowed Sunday shopping and whether the percentage of increase on retail trade has actually had any bump upward due to Sunday shopping. I would suspect that at some point it would not be a factor, as my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, had indicated, that people only have so much money so certainly at some point you're only going to spend so much money. A question of whether Sunday shopping would be a factor in any of that, I would say that probably over time people would go back to shopping patterns, some of those patterns affected by Sunday shopping and some not.

I think the message I would like the government to have for me is that I'm not sure what Nova Scotians want. If this legislation would give an indication of that, then I would definitely welcome it. I would like to see some protection for Nova Scotia workers in this legislation and actually I would like to see that more than anything, simply because I'm not sure of all the other impacts of Sunday shopping, I'm not sure what it will offer for Nova Scotians. Maybe when Nova Scotians have it, they will say, gee, it wasn't what I expected, in terms of both the shopper and the business people. But for workers, I'm really concerned that workers are protected, no matter what happens in the retail side, that the impacts on their lives are mitigated.

With those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I would be interested to hear what other members say and to watch the bill proceed through the stages and actually look forward to the Law Amendments Committee to see what people have to say in that regard. So with that, I will take my place. Thank you.

[Page 728]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it's certainly a pleasure for me here this afternoon to be able to stand up to speak on this bill, Bill No. 2, the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act/Labour Standards Code. Really, this bill is all about Sunday shopping, I guess that's really what it comes down to, and it's not an issue that I've heard a lot from my constituents in Pictou West. In fact, during the last election campaign, very rarely did it come to my attention - probably right down there on the bottom of issues that were important to people - perhaps once or twice I heard about it during the whole 30-day campaign. Occasionally issues like Sunday shopping were brought up, or occasionally issues like abortion or same-sex marriage or whatever, but very rarely were they actually brought to my attention.

More important there were issues, though, that people had over and over that were coming at us every day, issues around rural roads, the deplorable state that they're in and the need for repair, the need to fix them up, roads and bridges, ditches, bush-cutting, culverts, on and on it goes. Patching, pothole repair was probably the number one issue. Probably right there with it was the concern over car insurance, the ever-skyrocketing rates, the costs to keep insurance on your vehicle. So as far as an issue in this past campaign, it was really not an issue.

[5:15 p.m.]

I'm not saying it wasn't there, I'm not saying it wasn't occasionally on people's minds, but issues around rural roads, car insurance, health care, the Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital in Pictou. Fishermen had concerns that often I heard a lot more about than Sunday shopping, seasons and quotas and the costs of inter-generational transfer and so on. Seniors' issues and schools, the importance of keeping schools open and available in our communities in rural Nova Scotia, but occasionally somebody would ask me a question about Sunday shopping that I would respond to, but overall it was probably one of the lower issues of importance in the past campaign. Since the campaign, lots of concerns, lots of questions, people asking me about social service issues, perhaps not having enough money to make ends meet, the cheque being gone before the end of the month, housing concerns, educational issues, school bus routes, employment concerns, or how to apply for a disability pension, on and on, but not once a question around Sunday shopping.

Mr. Speaker, I've been doing a little research on the history of Sunday shopping and I thought maybe we would have a little history lesson on how it has evolved here in Nova Scotia over the years and over the decades, really over the centuries of time. Going on the Internet, I found some information that the first restriction to Sunday shopping was back as long ago as 321 A.D. Emperor Constantine restricted the Sunday observance laws that placed prohibitions on business, legal proceedings and various forms of public entertainment on the Lord's Day while exempting things like agricultural and certain public and humanitarian acts.

[Page 729]

That goes back to 321 A.D., so there's a long history of restricting Sunday closing, but it doesn't end there.

We will go on to some other issues over the years, and certainly back to Roman times, but a lot of our history here in Canada dates back to English law and English common law. There was an Act passed in the Mother of Parliaments, in Great Britain, dating back to, I believe it was the year 1488, and it was a law called the - excuse me, 1448 - Sunday Fairs Act, that first tried to put restrictions on Sunday shopping. It closed down Sunday solid, so that people couldn't shop, and then in the year 1677 there was an Act for the better observation of the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, and that was extended here to Canada, to our country. By that time this country was settled, and in present-day Quebec and Ontario, known then as Lower Canada and Upper Canada, these laws came into effect. It put some restrictions on Sunday and kept it as a Christian holy day.

Moving along to the 1800s, there was a law passed in 1805 called an Act to prohibit the sale of goods, wares and merchandise, wines, spirits and other strong liquors on Sundays. So there continues to be restrictions on Sunday as the Sabbath, as the Lord's Day, and even in 1897 there was an Act passed called an Act to prevent the profanity of the Lord's Act, but that was struck down as being unconstitutional. So that led us up to the 20th Century and there was a law passed by our Parliament in Ottawa called the Lord's Day Act, and it was passed in the year 1906. That prohibited a number of activities on Sundays - selling or purchasing goods, or real estate, carrying out any work, business or labour for gain and employing a person to do any contest or gain, prevented people from attending any performance or public meeting, other than in a church, which any fee is charged directly or indirectly.

So as time went by, in the 20th Century it was found out that there were a number of exemptions that were needed and various laws were passed in various provinces. A number of exemptions for works of necessity and mercy were passed, Mr. Speaker, and that allowed such things as the selling of patent medicines and drugs, conveying travellers, carrying mail, and delivering milk. So those were sort of opt-out provisions from the Lord's Day Act that were allowed at that time.

Moving along to more modern times in the memory of many of us in the House here, in the 1960s and the 1970s Quebec passed a law called the commercial establishment business hours Act in 1969, and Ontario had the retail business hours Act in 1975. Manitoba passed the Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act in 1977 and Newfoundland passed the Shop's Closing Act also in that same year. Those were Acts in the various provinces that set store closing hours and prohibited the conduct of certain retail businesses in each of those provinces in Sundays and on certain holidays.

[Page 730]

Really what it came down to was there was a common pause day, I think it was called, originally coming out of the Lord's Day Act and it allowed each province to have some jurisdiction over what was allowed to be open and what had to be closed. There was general support for that, partly because of religious reasons and partly just to protect workers in the retail sector from having to work seven days a week.

But all that changed in 1982 with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It struck down many of these laws as being unconstitutional. It didn't require everybody just because of a Sabbath Christian day that they had to be closed. There are other religions in this country and others perhaps who don't have a religion at all so it was seen to be unconstitutional because of the Christian Sabbath spreading to all people in society.

Provinces scrambled and they found a way around that and here in Nova Scotia we came up with the Act that was passed here in 1989, the Act that we're amending here today, the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act. Over the last 10 or 15 years, some provinces have tried to pass the jurisdiction down to municipalities and let them have jurisdiction in certain areas. That has worked with some success but overall it really hasn't worked because the neighbouring municipality would be directly affected by what was going on in other areas. I think that's true probably today in northern Nova Scotia in the Cumberland County area where another jurisdiction - in this case, the Province of New Brunswick - is directly affecting residents within driving distance of retail shops that are open in Moncton or Dieppe or Riverview. So, especially in the Town of Amherst, Cumberland County, Colchester County and probably in the County of Pictou are people who travel to Moncton on occasion on a Sunday to shop there at one of the malls.

At any rate, that's more or less a little bit of history of how we got here today. I think it shows that over time the rules have relaxed and people are constantly changing in how they observe things. Anyway, dating back to 317 with Constantine up to the present day, that's a bit of history how we got here.

As I mentioned earlier, this is an issue that is not on the front burner for sure for many people, but it's still out there as an issue to some people. There are pros and cons - there are some who support it absolutely and there are others firmly opposed to it. People are probably opposed to it more so in the rural areas of this province than here in HRM. I think it's partly because it's affecting a way of life that people have come to know and become accustomed to for generations.

We grew up, many of us in rural Nova Scotia, perhaps grew up on a family farm, Sunday was considered sort of the day of rest. Many families would get up and do the necessary chores on a Sunday, then off to church they would go in their local community - whether it be Presbyterian or United or Roman Catholic or whatever faith that they shared. For many families that was their Sunday routine. Then, after coming home, perhaps enjoying a meal together as a family, then Sunday afternoon was quite often set aside for visiting

[Page 731]

amongst family or friends or whomever. It was a time of rest, it was a time of relaxation and quite often then after getting home from visiting on perhaps a Sunday evening, then the chores again had to be done but no extra work than what was absolutely necessary was really accomplished on a Sunday.

In our modern society today there are very few farms left in our province and most people are living in a more urban society and they're more mobile, with better means of transportation, better means of communication. Certainly the roots of farming communities or farming families are still there but there are actually very few rural farms so that routine has been broken. Today it's a lot more fast paced life and people are living six days a week and now seven days a week, a much faster pace of life. You do on Sunday what you do on Saturday, what you do on Friday, you do on any day of the week. Whether that's good or bad, I'm not sure but it's changed our society for sure.

Coming back to the Sunday shopping issue, in particular, I do know that there are Chambers of Commerce in this province that have come out against the idea of Sunday shopping, in our county, and I noticed today in The Chronicle-Herald, in Lunenburg County, I believe, it is also true here in metro. Chamber of Commerce members are made up of business people and groups that organize and come together for a common purpose, mostly small and large business people. Many of those are retailers and retailers in particular are for the most part small, some of them are one, two, three, half a dozen people organizations and they're opposed to opening on Sundays because that is their day of rest, that's their pause day in which they can take some time to do the old-fashioned things again, I guess, visit and a chance just to get away from the work world that they've been accustomed to.

I have a brother who runs a small retail store right now in New Glasgow and it happens to be a Christian bookstore. I know when he was trying to negotiate his lease he didn't want to be forced to be open on Sunday and he tried to get something with the leaseholder that he wouldn't have to open on a Sunday if he didn't have to. I'm not sure if he was successful or not, especially in that type of business, running a Christian bookstore, I guess he wouldn't want to be open on a Sunday. Hopefully he's not going to be forced to do just that. On this past Sunday, as you know, the Highland Square Mall in New Glasgow was open and I understand the grocery store attached was not open but many of the smaller stores were open. Some of the larger retailers, clothing stores and so on, were open for business but some people, I know, were actually looking for groceries on that day and they were disappointed perhaps that the large retail grocery store was not open. It was not open in the Town of Pictou either, but I do understand that some of them were open in HRM and in the Town of Truro. Again, there are some that look for it and some that don't.

My experience around Sunday shopping is well very limited. I'm not much of a shopper and whether it's Sunday or Saturday or any other day of the week. Thankfully I have a loyal spouse who does a lot of the shopping in my family including groceries and other necessities of life, perhaps even men's clothing. So I'm thankful to her for doing a lot of the

[Page 732]

shopping. Whether it's Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday or Sunday, it's not going to make much difference to me personally because I'm not a shopper per se. But I have had experience in retail, and for many years I did operate a retail business in Pictou County. I guess, going back to my earliest years, I did operate a retail garden centre, a fruit and vegetable market. It was located on the Trans-Canada Highway in Pictou County and it was known as the Green Thumb Farmer's Market, and that's where I got my start in business. That was about 30 years back. That business is still operating, still going today under the capable ownership of Jim and Jeanette Hermanson. I should mention that they did have a fire there a couple of months back, near the 1st of August, and I know they have been rebuilding and getting ready to open very, very soon. So I wish them all the success and the best with opening the Green Thumb Farmer's Market again.

[5:30 p.m.]

My experience in retail was, of course, that we were open seven days a week and we operated seasonally seven days a week and, then, during the wintertime, January, February and March, some winters we were closed and some winters we were opened maybe just six days a week, not open on Sunday. It didn't make much difference in the wintertime, business was slow. But in the summer months, certainly from May right through until October, November, business was pretty brisk and Sunday was one of our better days. We scooped a lot of ice cream and served a lot of loaves of bread from our bakery, apples and strawberries, and certainly a variety of flowering plants and landscape supplies. So it was a busy spot on a Sunday. We would have extra staff on for that day. In fact, quite often two people scooping ice cream continuously was common. It was a popular item for Sunday drivers.

Anyway, I have experience with working on Sunday, and it was a good experience. I'm sure, maybe some members in the House here have stopped by farm markets or garden centres on a Sunday and scooped up ice cream or some other produce or farm products. I guess that was one of the exemptions that is allowed under present legislation, that farm businesses that sell fish products or farm products are certainly allowed to be open, as well as retail operations, I believe, of less than 4,000 sq. ft. Naturally, the businesses that were open were quite busy. Many a Sunday we were at our garden centre or farm market, and business was literally booming. I suppose when the malls and other retail stores were closed that that was a factor, and it gave something for people to do on a Sunday.

I guess my most recent retail business was, my wife and I ran a business in New Glasgow called Birds & Blooms. We were in a shopping mall opened to the outside wall, the inside and outside to the mall, and we had the option to be open or not on Sunday. But all the other stores in that shopping mall were closed, the big retailers and the small stores, so we chose not to be open. The drug store beside us, I think, was open four or five hours on a Sunday afternoon, but more than anything, we needed a day of rest. We needed a day of pause and that was our opportunity to perhaps catch our breath and a chance to go for a Sunday drive or go visiting or whatever we wanted to do.

[Page 733]

So for small retailers, the mom-and-pop operations out there, people do need a break. They just can't go seven days a week or 31 days a month or 365 days a year when you only have two people running it, or maybe three. It's too much of a burden on those people who have to operate that business seven days a week. In reality, is there any more business to be had anyway? Are you going to get more dollars or more revenue coming in by being open seven days a week as compared to six? People only have so much money to spend, there are only so many dollars in our whole economy. Really, they are going to spend it in six days anyway, and the seventh day is just spreading it out over an extra period of time, which, naturally, there are extra costs, for wages and heat and other overhead that a business would have. I don't favour Sunday shopping from the point of view of the small retailer. People need a chance to catch their breath and to rest and to not be open on that day.

Does Sunday shopping work? Well, there are mixed reactions to that. There is mixed evidence, some people say yes, you do more business, and some people say no, you don't, you do the same in seven days as you do in six. The most recent example in New Brunswick were the stats from 2002 as compared to 2001. As you know, they've had Sunday shopping in New Brunswick for a couple of years now. Seasonally adjusted, the retail trade in Nova Scotia, the sales increased by 5.4 per cent in 2002 as compared to 2001, but in New Brunswick it went up 3.2 per cent. So does Sunday shopping work? Well, it looks like in comparison of Nova Scotia to New Brunswick that more business was done in six days in Nova Scotia than in New Brunswick in seven days.

Looking at this year, Mr. Speaker, 2003 compared to 2002, again seasonally adjusted, Nova Scotia's retail sector increased by 2.3 per cent, and in New Brunswick the increase was 1.1 per cent. So in both of those past two years, Nova Scotia's retail economy has outperformed New Brunswick considerably, where we have, here in Nova Scotia, six days a week shopping and in New Brunswick it is seven days a week. So there is some evidence that perhaps Sunday shopping doesn't work, from the point of view of dollars done by retailers or in the economy.

Now, one of the reasons that some people want Sunday shopping, of course, is not necessarily because of the extra revenue, the extra money generated by retailers, but it's simply for convenience. The consumers like the idea of being able to go shopping whenever they want. If they would like to go shopping on a Sunday as compared to a Saturday or a Tuesday or whatever day of the week, they just like that convenience. That's one of the main arguments from a consumer's point of view, they just like the idea of shopping at any time of the day or night. Although, as we all know, we have gone to retail shops in areas where on a Tuesday night it can be pretty slow, or a Monday morning, or Friday noon. There are other times of the week when business is down and there's not much happening. Some of that is really going to be made up on a Sunday, but it's just spreading it over 168 hours what could be done in 144 hours in the six days of the week.

[Page 734]

Another reason, though, some people said, if we are going to go to Sunday shopping, we have to protect the workers who are out there. I know from having employees myself, you had to work with them to try to accommodate their individual concerns and needs. Sometimes somebody would have a dental appointment on a Tuesday afternoon or a need to go to a baby shower on a Saturday night or whatever, so you had to work with your staff to try to find hours that were convenient for them. That was true with Sunday as well. Usually we had to ramp up a bit, our staff, on a Sunday. Everybody knew when they came to work at our place of business that that was expected of them, they had to work on Saturday and Sunday, but we made sure they had a couple of other days off somewhere through the week.

It must have been difficult this past weekend, when the government did proclaim that Sunday shopping would be held. On that short notice, I would think it would be difficult for employers and employees both to have to work this past Sunday to accommodate the Sunday openings here in HRM and in Colchester and Pictou Counties.

One of the main concerns that we've had in this legislation is that workers are protected. As you know, many retail workers in particular work for $6, $7 and $8 an hour. That's the standard rate that's out there at the moment. Some are earning $10 or $12, but many earn less than that. As I mentioned, I think it's important that there be legislation or protection in place for the retail worker so that they're not forced to work seven days a week. Not all employers may be as accommodating perhaps as some and the protection has to be there in law that they don't have to work long, continuous hours just because the employer is going to be open to the public.

Many stores of course will, if Sunday shopping does come, feel obligated to have their shop open even though they may not wish to. The mom-and-pop store that's in the mall, there certainly should be protection that they shouldn't have to open if they don't wish to. Or the retail store that's downtown or in a separate location, absolutely, they should have the option not to open. The same with the employee, they should have the option not to have to work on a Sunday if they don't wish to.

As I mentioned, many employees are getting the $6 or $7 an hour, some are getting more than that. One of the provisions here I've seen in the bill is for overtime. Right now it's 48 hours in Nova Scotia. If you work over and above 48 hours, you get time and a half. We're saying that 48 is a long, long work week and I know people who have worked 60 hours a week, but they work very hard and they're dog-tired at the end of that week. There's more to life than work. They should be able to have, if they so choose, the option of working for less hours than that.

But, anyway, over 48 hours they get time and a half. Most provinces have gone to 40-hour work weeks, some even less than that - a 35-hour work week - and we're saying the time and a half provision should be brought back to 40 hours. The other troubling aspect of

[Page 735]

the bill is the idea that retail workers, when they do get time and a half, it's at the minimum wage. As you know, the minimum wage in Nova Scotia now is slightly over $6 an hour, I believe, so time and a half on that, if they're earning $10 an hour or $12 an hour, they're losing out on their regular pay. Time and a half at minimum wage just doesn't seem fair.

The other thing mentioned in this bill is the idea of a plebiscite to be conducted in conjunction with the municipal elections that are scheduled for the third Saturday of October next year. At that time, municipal politicians will be on the ballot - I guess I know from past experience, having been a municipal councillor for about 10 years that when you go through municipal elections, it's hard to generate some interest sometimes. Especially if there's acclamations in a number of districts and it's hard to get the message out there that there's an election going on at all.

Whether it's fair or not to put a plebiscite on top of that that's a provincial issue that people are concerned about, we find that it's hard enough to keep the public's interest in a municipal election and now they're going to have a provincial issue here on Sunday shopping legislation that may take away from municipal concerns.

On the other hand, I suppose, there's always an up side to almost any argument, is that with the low, low voter turnouts that we have in municipal elections, maybe that will allow more people to get interested and the Sunday shopping issue might drag them into having more interest in the municipal affairs and it may actually increase voter turnout on polling day. So there's a plus and a minus here of whether having the plebiscite during the time of the municipal election is the right time or not.

[5:45 p.m.]

The other aspect of that is the idea of having a plebiscite at all. If this one should go, this is only the third time in the history of this province, I believe, that there will be a plebiscite. There was one back somewhere in the 19th Century and then there was another one, I believe, here in the province around alcohol and prohibition somewhere in the 1920s, but there has not been a plebiscite for 80 years or so in Nova Scotia and it's certainly a different way to try to bring in legislation in this province. I'm not saying it won't work. It's certainly grassroots democracy and it allows people to have a first-hand say on an issue of importance to Nova Scotians.

So where do we go from here though? Like I said, some people are in favour of Sunday shopping and some are not, but what's going to be next? If we open up the full Sunday shopping to all types of retail are liquor stores going to be open on Sundays? Will that be the next thing that's going to be allowed? Is this Legislature going to meet on Sundays? Are we going to be sitting here seven days a week? Is Sunday going to be any different than any other day of the week? Will the government offices be open on Saturdays and Sundays? Will you be able to go buy your driver's licence on a Sunday?

[Page 736]

Of course, as members of this House, Mr. Speaker, many of us do work seven days a week right now. We're here in this House five days a week and then we go back to our ridings on the weekends. There are people who want to meet with us on issues of concern. Sundays, quite often, we're trying to catch up on our correspondence and, again, phone calls. People know how to get hold of you as an elected member and the phone is ringing. So there are issues there any of the seven days of the week that you're being contacted, but overall though it can be a time sort of to rest and relax and maybe catch your breath a little bit. I know for myself on a Sunday, it's about the only day of the week you get to sleep in a little bit and get up on a Sunday morning and perhaps take the dog out for a walk and go to church. In my community it's about five miles from where I live, but it's a good opportunity to just take life a little bit easier and take time to smell the roses, but also a chance to maybe get caught up on a little bit of paperwork. For me, I know quite often I will sit down and write my weekly column I have in the weekly paper, just to report to constituents back home.

Still there's work to do, but it's also a chance to relax and rest and just to get the opportunity to find out what life is all about. Work is one thing, but if you work all the time, life is going to pass you by. So that's one reason we have Sunday to spend with family and friends and to enjoy some time with the ones we love.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I think I'm going to wrap things up here at this point, but it's an issue that really hasn't been addressed by a lot of my constituents. It's not a pressing matter. People aren't coming to me and saying that we want Sunday shopping or we don't want Sunday shopping. It's sort of a mixed bag. There's a yin and a yang and people are all over the map but, again, it's not the number one issue that I'm hearing about. There are so many other important issues out there. I'm looking forward to the Law Amendments Committee stage, and going on to further debate on this bill. I will look forward to participating at that time.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't anticipating getting up today on this bill, but I am compelled to now because after listening to the members of the NDP talking about this bill, I am still confused as to whether or not they're for the bill or against the bill. I don't like the government's position on the bill, but at least I know where the government stands on the bill. Certainly all Nova Scotians know where the Liberal Party stands on the bill, but nobody in Nova Scotia can figure out where the NDP stands on the bill. We've heard people get up and knock the bill, and yet at the end of their speech they would say, well, it's inevitable anyway, so we're going to support it. That's some support now. The only reason they can use for supporting the bill at the end of the day is the fact that it's inevitable anyway.

[Page 737]

When this bill comes to a vote, and it will Thursday, on second reading, we are going to find out where the NDP stand on this bill, member by member, because there will be a recorded vote on this bill Thursday, and we're going to find out - the jig is up with the NDP - whether they favour Sunday shopping or whether they don't. We're going to know that Thursday. So Nova Scotians who are watching out there, take note, tune in Thursday so you will really find out where the NDP stands on this bill. That's what's going to happen Thursday. (Applause)

This bill is before us here today, Mr. Speaker. It wasn't supposed to be back, according to the Justice Minister, until the year 2005. But lo and behold, it's here. The reason it's here is because Nova Scotians want it, 81 per cent of Nova Scotians said they wanted Sunday shopping last December in a poll. What is it about that that the NDP doesn't understand? The Tories understand it, because they brought the bill here because of it. They had no intentions of coming back with this bill until they looked at public opinion. When they looked at public opinion, they said, we're offside to public opinion here, and this bill has to come before the House. That's why it's here.

The member for Cumberland North, the member for Cumberland South, they want this bill to be dealt with in this House. The member for Truro-Bible Hill wants this bill to be dealt with in this House. I am sure that before this bill is over, I would like to hear, and I am sure all members of the House would like to hear, some government intervention on this bill, Thursday, as to whether or not they, individually, would want this bill to go through. Not only is the NDP going to be flushed out on this bill on Thursday, but the Tories are going to be flushed out on it as well. It may be a good opportunity for the Premier to get out from under on this bill by telling his people, you can have a free vote. That may be his way out, or could skip the session altogether, so he won't have to fess up as to what his intentions are in this particular bill.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is before the House because of public opinion and public opinion only. We're on record as favouring it. Here we are in the year 2003, discussing whether somebody can buy groceries on a Sunday afternoon, when in my home town they can go to the casino at 11:00 o'clock in the morning on Sunday and gamble instead of going to church, but they can't buy a loaf of bread in the afternoon in the grocery store.

MR. JERRY PYE: Two wrongs don't make a right.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I hear the NDP saying, two wrongs don't make a right. Two wrongs don't make a right. If you follow that logic, that member will be voting against the bill, the member for Dartmouth North will be voting against the bill Thursday because he just told me that two wrongs don't make a right. So pay attention - to those people who are watching this from Dartmouth North - to how their member votes Thursday. He just told this House that two wrongs don't make a right. I would extrapolate that to say

[Page 738]

that he's not going to vote for this bill on Thursday. Now pay attention to what he does Thursday.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage Nova Scotians to pay attention to where the NDP sits as a caucus on this bill. We have yet to hear anybody in that caucus, including the Leader, come out in favour or against this bill. It's just like the other bill that's over in the Law Amendments Committee right now, it's like that bill, it's like this bill, it's like other bills that come before this House, the NDP wants to be all things to all people in this province. They can't make up their mind which road to go down.

I've got to tell you, Mr. Speaker, it didn't work for them in the last two elections and it's not going to work in the next election, I can tell you that. The NDP came close a few years ago, but when Nova Scotians decided that they might have a chance to form a government, they walked away from them and they will do the same thing the next time around in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is limited this afternoon, but I will be back Thursday to have a few more words to say about this particular bill. You know it's interesting, we wanted to get this bill over to the Law Amendments Committee so we could find out what Nova Scotians want to do about this bill, find out what interest groups are going to come to the Law Amendments Committee and maybe make an impression upon the committee, and eventually in the Committee of the Whole House, on members of this Legislature but, no, the NDP want to filibuster the bill over here in second reading. Every single member has gotten up and spoken on this particular bill and not one of them has said where they stand on it. One member changed her mind three times when she was on her feet, three times. Now, if her constituents can figure that out, Halifax Needham, the member for Halifax Needham changed her mind three times on that bill in the same hour that she was up, the same hour. Is that consistency?

All I want to know, and Nova Scotians want to know, is where does the NDP stand on this bill? Are they going to vote for it? Well, we're going to find out on second reading on Thursday what they're going to do. We're going to find out. The jig is up on Thursday, you know, all the suspense will be gone. They will either have to vacate their seats or say Yea or Nay on second reading of this bill. Then we will worry at the Law Amendments Committee about how we're going to improve this bill which I hope will come, but I will adjourn the debate now, Mr. Speaker, and come back on a future day.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 739]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m. and sit until 6:00 p.m. I call upon the member for Cape Breton South, the House Leader, to give the business for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be calling Resolution No. 173 and Resolution No. 246. I move that we do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We have now reached the moment of interruption. The subject of this evening's debate is:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government move immediately towards a full review of all benefit schemes from offshore resources so that all Nova Scotians can start to see much-needed benefits coming into this province."



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



MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to use the time allotted to me tonight to speak about, as the motion says, the benefits that should go to Nova Scotians. As

[Page 740]

most of us in this province are well aware, obviously this resolution has been prompted by yesterday's announcement by ExxonMobil that they have let their contract for a compression deck and they've done it offshore and that by itself is, I think, an extremely hard blow to the industry here in the province. If it was by itself, like I said, as bad as it appears, that it would be a hurdle that we could get over fairly quickly I would assume, but I think it's fast becoming within Nova Scotia that deals like this are the ones that may very well be the straw that broke the camel's back.

[6:00 p.m.]

We've been on the losing end of more deals, if you will, around our offshore than we've been on the winning end and for anybody to tell us today that we have substantively gained, or in a majority way gained the work and the revenue that was owed to us through our offshore deals, we would be only kidding ourselves let alone kidding the public at large. What we have, if you look at our deal, what's basically referred to by most people as the Sable offshore agreement, that deal, when I asked workers in that field, are you happy with that - by and large when I am talking about works in that field, I am talking about the construction industry. I asked those workers do you think we have got the best benefits? To a person, they say, no. They say their industry would have acquired somewhere between 10 to 14 months work during the erection of the Goldboro plant but, by and large, they have not seen it. There has not been that intensive type of work hours that you would have assumed that would have come with those types of projects, with that type of money floating around. What is happening is you see the residual effects of that being offshore or, at best, outside the boundaries of Nova Scotia.

So what we have to say when we look at the resolution today, why aren't we getting the best benefits? Why is government apparently not being the one that is pursuing this on behalf of the citizens of this province? Why is Nova Scotia not accruing those benefits? Why is that we see there is residential use in New Brunswick and none in Nova Scotia? Why do we see our natural gas being used for industrial uses in New England and not being done for industrial reasons here in Nova Scotia? So what we have is an industry that's seeing our resource shipped out of Nova Scotia with very little real return for us.

If you look at the Sable deal and you look at how it is structured, is it structured at the commodity, at the well head? No, it is structured on a province or on a profit-wide basis. So you wonder, like a large company like ExxonMobil, if ExxonMobil wants to play fast and loose a bit with the books and say, okay, and put extra people on their books, they'll never realize a profit from the Sable offshore, theoretically, and therefore we'll always be the loser on that.

If you look at another aspect of the Sable agreement, it is a 20 year agreement, which industry experts are telling us now that the resource may be depleted in 17 years. Again, what we will have is the large end of that, if we were to see any kind of accrual, it will accrue to

[Page 741]

us in the last five years. So basically what we'll see is maybe two years of some kind of real return for us and that will be it over a 17 year life span. So, that's why this resolution is here today.

This resolution comes from the Opposition and is not meant to be a resolution of really like trying to hit the government between the eyes with a bat. I would hope that the government would see this in the way it is intended. Sure, it is critical of government, and I make no apologies for it. As debaters in this House, I think that we can disagree over how things get done. But I think what we have to do is make sure that such a vital piece of our resource industry as the offshore is debated in the open and that we know that if we're selling that resource that we're getting the best we can from it.

I look at this province historically, and I see a province that really hasn't done very well around its resource-based industries for its rate of return. I don't have to look any further than my back door at the Lingan Mine and the Phalen Mine. Did we really ever get the return of our investment, whether it was actually dollars or in the sense of the labour, that commodity that we put into our coal fields. You know, that was never really a resource that we got our full share in. I think when we look at our forestry industry, are we getting the max out of that industry? I would say no we're not, whether it's through silviculture , whether it's the pulp industry, whether it's the softwood industry. I don't think we've ever really come up with agreements that benefit all Nova Scotians by way of how we deliver that resource.

I think that the largest one we can point to of a resource that was just pilfered from us is our fishing industry. Basically this province is a peninsula so we're almost completely surrounded by water. There's not a community, I don't think, in this province that doesn't rely in some little way on the fishing resource industry but yet we've allowed that to be decimated. The only really kind of active ongoing profitable side of fishery for the foreseeable future in this province is the lobster industry and some other inshore fishery. What we've done - well I've said inshore fishery and I believe that crab would fall within the inshore fishery. We would say these things and say look we didn't protect our resource when it was there and now it's gone and it's too late to do that.

Now we have to make a clear line of how we're going to protect the resource of our offshore oil. We don't know how much more play is left out there. We don't know, you know, the exploration side, whether people will say okay that's it, we're not going to do it anymore, we're going to go somewhere else. I don't know if we have another chance, another kick at this cat as they say. What I do know, if we don't start putting it into place and to be the owner of our own resource, and to tell the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board that this is our resource and if they don't want to participate in the rules as we structure them, then maybe that resource should stay there for awhile longer. If we're not going to get the real benefits, the hard benefits of employment and indeed the funding, the royalties. I know royalties as they say is just a polite word for tax.

[Page 742]

If they don't want to participate in those types of regimes in a way that will best benefit Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia taxpayer, then I think we have to start looking hard at that. I think we should look seriously at our past mistakes around our other resources. I think there's a wealth of information to be found in that. Whether I say it's our coal industry, our gypsum industry is another fine example of where we just gave the resource away. All these resources, farming, fishery, mining are all ones that we've always negotiated on a very weak position from, but what's more shameful about that is we should have been in positions of strength.

That's the reason to bring this resolution to this House today. Sure it comes out of frustration of the ExxonMobil deal, sure we could stand here and say derogatory things about one another, but I wanted to get these words into Hansard, into this debate to realize that look, it's about time a light went on in this province that we have not been getting our just deserts around our resource industry. It's about time that we as Nova Scotians stand up and say that we have a rightful place. We have ownership of those resources and we should be respected for them and if the business sector doesn't want to rely on that then I think there's a whole other ball game to be played. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my honourable colleague for bringing forward the resolution and speaking on it here this evening. When you look at the language of the resolution, and indeed in parliamentary fairness and appreciation for the varying opinions of the various caucuses here in this Legislative Assembly, I would like to say that I too differ in some of the perspective, and that's what the political process and the legislative process is about. That's what offers us, as elected members, the opportunity to stand before this Chamber and to address you and address all Nova Scotians on how we feel with regard to development and how we see fit to best do that on behalf of the well-being and the economic stability and sustainability of our province not only now, but well into the future.

Indeed, when you look at the very premise of the accord that was put in place, I don't think any politician, provincially or federally, ever intended not to achieve maximum benefit for the people of Nova Scotia and to see industry grow as a result of that. That is the case with the Sable Offshore Energy Project - a $3 billion initiative with one-third of that undertaken by Nova Scotian firms. Up to 1,500 companies that have been engaged in that process to date. Now we have what is Tier II for the compression deck - a 7,000 ton deck to ensure that levels can be maintained to approximately 500,000,000 cubic feet per day.

What we don't disagree with, I think as legislators, is the fact that we believe that the outcomes, that the benefit of what the accord is about, that Nova Scotians be given the benefit of full and fair consideration of our offshore resources and that is something we don't vary from. In fact, we have not varied from that when you consider when the previous

[Page 743]

Liberal Government approved the DPA - the Development Plan Approval - for the Sable Offshore Energy Project. What we're dealing with is a plan that is being implemented according to what the anticipated development would mean.

We can talk royalties, as you know they are based on production and pricing that will have a long-term benefit to the Province of Nova Scotia. Indeed, instead of outcome, what we're talking about, and the government's response is indeed about process. A process whereby EPCI, which stands for Engineering Procurement Construction and Install of the project, where that process could come forward, where an all-inclusive contract or a sole-source contract could be put forward. But ExxonMobil pursued that particular approach, something that the Governments of Nova Scotia, indeed the Government of Canada indicated they wanted a more open process similar to the initial phases of the Sable project, so that each of those components could be tendered and Nova Scotia companies could be incorporated into the tendering and the bidding process all through that.

We have assurances from ExxonMobil that in this current project that could be up to $0.75 billion, the first component $0.5 billion, possibly more, that they've indicated that up to $0.75 billion - $250 million - will be achieved in Nova Scotia benefit. The uncertainty from a government point of view and a planning point of view and from a resident industry point of view, is where do they fit in in that process when there's one contractor in charge.

We've listened and we've responded and we've done that by working directly with ExxonMobil, working directly with the Government of Canada, and working directly with the OTANS - the Offshore-Onshore Technology Association of Nova Scotia - and working with their stakeholders in meeting with CAPP - the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers - and ensuring that we have the full benefit, because I think what's important to the debate that we have is to understand that it's shared responsibility, it's shared understanding, because there has been a lack of clarity around the terminology of what full and fair benefit means to the people of Nova Scotia, something we've undertaken with the Government of Canada.

When you look at this resolution that says, "Therefore be it resolved the Hamm government move immediately towards a full review of all benefit schemes from offshore resources so that all Nova Scotians can start to see much needed benefits coming into this Province." - well I can't really disagree with it because that's exactly what the Department of Energy, what this Government of Nova Scotia has been undertaking to do, that has been a result of meetings I've had with Minister Dhaliwal, the federal minister responsible, with Ministers Rock, Thibault and other colleagues from the Province of Nova Scotia. That's indeed part of the process, part of the National Council of Energy Ministers who just met here recently in Halifax dealing with planning processes, ensuring that the clarity of process would be in place.

[Page 744]

So those things are undergoing, but specific to Nova Scotia and specific to the government's concern that an all-inclusive process for contract as it relates to Tier II is not satisfactory, we intend to change that and we've signalled that and I've written to the three federal ministers associated with this to indicate to them that we're engaging in a dialogue to change the process. We will further articulate this when we are at the Atlantic Round Table with the four ministers who will be there from the Government of Canada and the ministers representing the four Atlantic Provinces.

[6:15 p.m.]

So just as much as we've indicated to the Government of Canada that we're willing to look at other wider processes as affects the regulatory process for all of eastern Nova Scotia, we must first and foremost deal with those things that require being shored up, that as development proceeds we correct any deficiencies and work in a best effort. So governments being accountable to each other, industry being accountable to both the public, indeed, in the area that should derive the benefit, is very key and very important to us all.

When I hear my honourable colleague looking with a critical eye at government, while I don't have to agree with him, I understand that he shares the same common goal of all three Parties of this Legislature and that is to ensure that Nova Scotians, indeed, are the principal beneficiaries of our offshore resources. To do that, we have to look at the contract that is currently forward. What we've said is that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has approved the contract as presented, because they have no legal reason or rationale to oppose it, because the regulatory process is not in place to limit that as a consideration.

While dealing with the board, dealing with the proponents and industry, we have indicated our concerns, as I said, to both the provincial and federal governments, that has been able to proceed. But we're working in good faith as well, Mr. Speaker, with ExxonMobil. Indeed, $0.25 billion in benefits will be derived to Nova Scotian companies and Nova Scotian interests, and that Nova Scotians will be directly employed in this process. So when you consider that up to $250 million will be committed as part of this, we have a good-news story. This project proceeding also builds other momentum in the industry and ensures the production levels will be maintained to where they're needed so that the resource gets to where its needed, so that the benefits can be derived by the sale of that resource back here to the benefit of Nova Scotians. We have to ensure that proceeds.

That will proceed. We will monitor it, because, to the honourable colleague's concerns, it is an obligation of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to monitor benefits to the Province of Nova Scotia. We will all be very keenly and acutely aware of making sure that that indeed is done in a very timely manner over the course and the life of this project. Other projects are planned and proposed. So as those projects come forward, it's very important we're all clear. Industry said it wants clarity of what the expectation is. If the

[Page 745]

regulatory process is one of those, if industry has said that we have to ensure the process is streamlined to enable it to more quickly and efficiently develop projects, then we have to make sure that industry understands the expectations of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. That's what this government is doing and will continue to do.

We've initiated further dialogue, and I will be speaking with Minister Dhaliwal on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources Canada as we move to the next steps to initiate what indeed this motion talks about and that is making sure that the regulatory process is further improved, because the regulatory process has derived benefits, a $3 billion dollar project for the Province of Nova Scotia. This project alone represents 15 per cent of that. This project, as committed by ExxonMobil for Nova Scotia content will seek to meet the established - very well-known by all the Parties in this government, very well-known, that our goal was 34 per cent Nova Scotian content.

We take ExxonMobil at their word, and indeed we will still achieve 34 per cent, as set out in the development plan approval that was passed by a Liberal Government, that is being worked upon by this government, and we continue to make improvements. It is not in the interest to - and I think all members share - politicize something so vitally important, not only to opportunities for today but indeed what our future is. We commit to that. So we will deal with the process, and in the meantime ensure that the outcomes are of the ultimate and foremost benefit to Nova Scotians in the interim.

We will work with ExxonMobil, and we will improve the regulatory process, because we have willing partners to do that, both within governments, within industry and with the proponents. I thank this House for this opportunity this evening, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to rise and to speak on this resolution that's presented here tonight. I did listen intently to what the minister had to say and before I go any further in my remarks I guess I would start by premising it that if the minister had made those remarks in 1999 or even in 2000, it would have been a lot easier for us here in this House to accept what he is saying than to hear that speech four years into a Conservative Party mandate and only have to hear that today, October 7, 2003.

The minister has indicated his concern about the importance of working together and not just being critical of what's happening in the offshore. But we need to look at how we got here, Mr. Speaker. The years up to and including 1999, the Tory Party, under the leadership of Dr. Hamm, clearly said the Liberal record on the offshore was unacceptable. They said we need a better deal for the offshore. We need better benefits for Nova Scotians, we need more investments in Nova Scotia from the offshore. So it is actually the Tory caucus that established the bar as to what was acceptable and what wasn't acceptable.

[Page 746]

Now, Mr. Speaker, since 1999, Nova Scotians have been waiting to see exactly what this government was going to do to deal with the criticisms that they had levelled at the previous Liberal Administration. Unfortunately, today, we're still waiting to see what they are going to do to address that.

Mr. Speaker, Dr. Hamm at the time said he would create a better deal for the offshore. Well, the better deal was they mocked at the time, they said the Liberal Government's proposal to have Sempra deliver natural gas from one end of this province to the next was laughable. Yet, under the Conservative Government, we will now have natural gas coming to 4,000 homes in Nova Scotia. That is abysmal. I have yet to hear the minister speak about that or speak about how he would try to address that deficiency; 4,000 homes receiving gas is unacceptable in this province, no gas coming to Cape Breton unless the proposal being put forward by the Town of Mulgrave and the consortium goes through, we won't even see gas on either the eastern or western end of this province. That is not the future prosperity that we heard talk of from the Tory Party when they were in Opposition.

Where we are at today, what the resolution talks about is the decision by ExxonMobil in their contract. Mr. Speaker, this is not new news. This is déjà vu. We saw where a contract went down to Louisiana just a year ago. The Irvings had bid on it. They were unable to secure the contract, it went down to the U.S. Where were the regulations then on the Offshore Petroleum Board? Why was this government not at that point and since 1999 working with the federal government doing exactly what the minister said he is doing now? I applaud him for those efforts, but it's too late. We just lost a $0.75 billion contract. Now, maybe we wouldn't have kept all that work here in this province, maybe not all of our companies here would have been able to do what the entire contract asked for. I know the minister is trying to put on the best face he can by saying that there is a possibility $0.25 billion will be spent here in the province, but we still missed out on $0.50 billion dollars that possibly could have come here.

Mr. Speaker, on that same topic, this minister has only been in this portfolio for a matter of months and I don't intend to level criticism at him personally. I certainly believe, and the meetings I have had with him, that he is certainly committed to this portfolio and wants to see the best done and the best benefits which he has talked about in his speech. But, unfortunately, his government has been sending mixed messages on the Energy portfolio. Created a little over a year ago, the current minister is number three. I don't know if that gives him any sense of security, because it doesn't tend to be a department that keeps its ministers for a very long time. So, he may have some concerns with that.

Mr. Speaker, you will have to forgive me when I say that Nova Scotians are very skeptical about our offshore. I can tell you that I represent one of the ridings which is directly impacted by natural gas here in this province. Richmond, Inverness, Guysborough, Sheet Harbour and Antigonish, the Strait area is where natural gas is happening. We have been years trying to tell our young people, don't move away, take the training in the offshore, take

[Page 747]

the courses they're offering. There are going to be opportunities, there will be more gas coming. We may get a fractionation plant and then when they hear an announcement like what they heard yesterday, again, if nothing else, it is a severe blow to the morale of Nova Scotians because not only the government but all of us, as members, have been talking about the potential in the offshore, the benefits to come here. Telling our young people don't move to Alberta, don't go to Toronto, there's going to be opportunities here. Then with that announcement they say, ha, there we go again.

So if nothing else, this has dealt another serious blow to the morale of Nova Scotians around the offshore. It would be very interesting - I know there's a lot of polling that takes place in this province and it certainly shouldn't be up to me to be encouraging more polling, but I would love to have a question asked to Nova Scotia, do you have confidence that the offshore industry is going to be a significant benefit to the future of this province? I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, if that question were asked today, I believe the answers would be overwhelming. They wouldn't be overwhelming in the fact that they would be something we would be proud of, they would be overwhelming in the fact to see the disappointment that Nova Scotians are now having in their offshore.

Was our government involved in the beginning stages of the offshore? It was. I would argue it was the learning stages. Now, maybe the current minister will say we're still in the learning stages, and maybe that is the case. But it seems to me that with this type of contract being awarded, this could have been prevented. These regulations should have been changed a long time ago, and I applaud the minister for his efforts today, and I certainly have indicated to him in the past that we will work with him to support those efforts, especially now under this minority situation, but we just lost out on $0.75 billion because of regulations.

With all due respect to the minister, I know he said in the statement this is not a criticism of the offshore companies, but it should be, because they have a role to play also. They should not be sitting there and saying, well, look, the regulations specifically tell us this, so this is what we can do. There needs to be a responsibility on them also that we are welcoming you to our province. We are asking you to make an investment, but at the same time we're allowing you to explore one of our natural resources. So, yes, there should be a moral, if not a legal responsibility, to make as much of that investment here in this province. So it shouldn't be seen as a criticism, as a call to attention to the offshore to say stop reading the regulations in the fine print and stop reading them to the letter of the law. We're trying to change that and, in the meantime, you should be looking to make the necessary investments in this province. So there should be that information going out.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are watching. I will tell you in the Strait area - I've already mentioned it to the minister - right now we are being told we cannot have a gas fractionation plant which would spur off other industries because there is not enough volume coming into the Strait area right now, especially into the Goldboro facility. Yet this

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government has been entertaining a proposal from El Paso to develop gas and to bring it to Shelburne, land it there, just have it converted and then ship it off directly to the States. What will happen in Shelburne when they will say how about us getting a gas fractionation plant, they will be told, oh well, you don't have enough volume. Then the next one that comes along and says they want to land gas somewhere else in Nova Scotia, it will be the same.

The government must be able to say, no, you will land the gas at Goldboro until such time as the volume is there and they have the necessary capacity to be able to develop a gas fractionation plant and the industry spin-offs from there. But that's going to require the leadership of this government. They've had four years. They are the ones that set the bar by saying the previous government didn't do enough. We didn't say that, they said that. So now it is up to this minister and this Party, the Progressive Conservative Party, to be able to show Nova Scotians that they're prepared to raise that bar and to do better than the previous administration.

They've had four years now. They've had the opportunity to learn of the mistakes of the past, the growing pains and everything else, and four years later we're on minister number three. No wonder the offshore industry is saying that there's confusion here, because this government has sent three ministers now. There's the CORE Conference this week and the poor delegates going there are going to be wondering who's going to be the guest speaker next year, who's going to be the minister, because in the last two years we've had two different people.

Mr. Speaker, in wrapping up, I believe the current minister we have now has all the right intentions. He needs to be able to sit at that Cabinet Table and tell his Premier and his government that we need to take control of our offshore. We need to do it now. We can't be sending postcards off to Ottawa hoping that that's going to solve all our problems. We need to take charge. I believe he has heard from the other Parties that we're willing to work together . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for debate has expired.

The House is adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]