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April 28, 2005

HANSARD 03/04/05-75


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


TPW: Pugwash Junction Roads - Neglect, Mr. Gerald Sampson 6645
TPW: Aylesford Rd. (Kings Co.) - Pave, Mr. L. Glavine 6646
Res. 3484, Environ. & Lbr.: Safe Working Environ. - Creation,
Hon. K. Morash 6646
Vote - Affirmative 6647
Res. 3485, Garden View Rest.: Veterans Honour - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 6647
Vote - Affirmative 6648
No. 177, Financial Measures (2005) Act, Hon. P. Christie 6648
No. 178, Emergency "911" Act, Mr. H. Theriault 6648
No. 179, Self-managed Support-care Act,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6648
Res. 3486, Nat'l. Day of Mourning for Cdn. Workers (Apr. 28th) -
Killed/Injured: Tribute Pay, Mr. D. Dexter 6649
Vote - Affirmative 6649
Res. 3487, Nat'l. Day of Mourning for Cdn. Workers (Apr. 28th):
Killed/Injured: Recognize, Mr. S. McNeil 6649
Vote - Affirmative 6650
Res. 3488, Boyd, Bill - Mun. Administrators Assoc. - Award,
Mr. M. Parent 6650
Vote - Affirmative 6651
Res. 3489, Eastern Eagles: Drumming - Success Wish,
Mr. J. MacDonell 6651
Vote - Affirmative 6652
Res. 3490, Budget (2005-06): Potential Defeat - Cause,
Mr. Michel Samson 6652
Res. 3491, Seegmiller, David - Educ. Wk. Award, Mr. C. O'Donnell 6653
Vote - Affirmative 6653
Res. 3492, Health - Hospice Care: Availability - Ensure,
Ms. M. Raymond 6653
Res. 3493, TPW - Hwy. No. 101: Cornwallis Exit - Ramp Install,
Mr. H. Theriault 6654
Res. 3494, Pictou Co. Bus. Commun. - Counterfeit Fraud:
Elimination Attempt, Mr. J. DeWolfe 6655
Vote - Affirmative 6656
Res. 3495, Gov't. (N.S.) - Tech. Usage: Regs. - Update,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6656
Res. 3496, Dion, Stephane - Tar Ponds Cleanup: Decision - Urge,
Mr. G. Gosse 6657
Vote - Affirmative 6657
Res. 3497, Health: Self-Managed Care Prog. - Implement,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6657
Res. 3498, Demone, Roger - Educ. Wk. Award, Hon. M. Baker 6658
Vote - Affirmative 6659
Res. 3499, McDonald, Rollie: Cdn. Motorsport Hall of Fame - Induction,
Mr. C. Parker 6659
Vote - Affirmative 6660
Res. 3500, Health: Safety-Engineered Needles - Usage,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6660
Res. 3501, Chorus Line: CEC - Production, Hon. J. Muir 6661
Vote - Affirmative 6661
Res. 3502, Wright, Clarence & Fam.: Beechville - Leadership,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6661
Vote - Affirmative 6662
Res. 3503, Corkum, Kevin/Schmeisser, Dean: Bravery - Thank,
Hon. M. Baker 6662
Vote - Affirmative 6663
Res. 3504, Morash, Erm: Cancer Fundraisers - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 6663
Vote - Affirmative 6664
Res. 3505, Springfield Hotel Grp. - Econ. (N.S.): Confidence -
Commend, Mr. B. Taylor 6664
Vote - Affirmative 6664
Res 3506 - Nat'l. Day of Mourning for Cdn. Workers (Apr. 28th):
Killed/Injured - Remember, Mr. G. Gosse 6664
Vote - Affirmative 6665
Res. 3507, Fifth Estate: VLT Broadcast - Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 6665
Res. 3508, Garden View Rest. - Anniv. (60th), Ms. J. Massey 6666
Vote - Affirmative 6667
Res. 3509, Special Olympics - 24-Hr. Marathon: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 6667
Vote - Affirmative 6667
Res. 3510, Joggins FD/EHS/TPW: Emergency Response - Congrats.,
(by Mr. B. Taylor), The Speaker 6668
Vote - Affirmative 6669
No. 771, Health - Attendant Services: Independence - Effect,
Mr. D. Dexter 6669
No. 772, Offshore Accord - Funding: Payment - Prem. Ensure,
Mr. Michel Samson 6670
No. 773, Environ. & Lbr.: Workplace Violence Regs. - Status,
Mr. D. Dexter 6672
No. 774, Prem. - Tax Increases: Promises - Breach, Mr. Michel Samson 6673
No. 775, N.S. Trails Fed.: Ins. - Gov't. Role, Mr. D. Dexter 6675
No. 776, Com. Serv. - Support for Disabled: Attendant Serv. - Options,
Ms. J. Massey 6676
No. 777, Environ. & Lbr.: OH&S Regs. - Time Frame, Mr. S. McNeil 6677
No. 778, Environ. & Lbr. - Chronic Pain: Claims - Payments,
Mr. F. Corbett 6678
No. 779, Ins.: Non-Profit Plans - Details, Ms. M. More 6679
No. 780, WCB - Bd. Member (Dean): Expense Claims - Table,
Mr. K. Colwell 6680
No. 781, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Herring Cove: Infrastructure Prog. -
Applicability, Ms. M. Raymond 6681
No. 782, Environ. & Lbr.: Health Care Workers - Protect,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6683
No. 783, TPW: C.B. Cdn. Tire Store - Status, Mr. G. Gosse 6684
No. 784, TPW - Como Rd.: Repair - Min. Promise,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 6685
No. 785, Com. Serv. - Seniors Housing: Rural N.S. -
Create, Mr. J. Pye 6686
Res. 3243, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred, Hon. P. Christie 6688
Mr. G. Steele 6688
Mr. Michel Samson 6700
Referred 6714
No. 168, Securities Act 6715
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6715
Mr. F. Corbett 6715
Mr. H. Epstein 6716
Ms. M. Raymond 6721
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6722
Hon. K. Morash 6724
Vote - Affirmative 6724
No. 173, Bee Industry Act 6724
Mr. J. MacDonell 6724
Mr. L. Glavine 6725
Hon. R. Russell 6725
Vote - Affirmative 6725
No. 174, Auditor General Act 6726
Hon. M. Baker 6726
Mr. G. Steele 6726
Mr. Michel Samson 6729
Hon. M. Baker 6730
Vote - Affirmative 6730
TPW - Rds.: Rural N.S. - Adequacy:
Mr. C. Parker 6732
Mr. J. MacDonell 6734
Mr. H. Theriault 6734
Mr. Gerald Sampson 6736
Hon. R. Russell 6737
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 29th at 9:00 a.m. 6740
Res. 3511, Egan, George - Educ. Wk. Award, Mr. R. Hurlburt 6741
Res. 3512, Henwood, Katie: Achievements - Congrats., The Speaker 6741
Res. 3513, Hebb, Cody - Bluenose Tournament Award, The Speaker 6742
Res. 3514, Hatfield, Lydia - Basketball Award, The Speaker 6742
Res. 3515, Hurley Fam.: Bus. Opening - Congrats., The Speaker 6743
Res. 3516, Cumb. Co. Blues Jr. B Hockey Team -
Vol. Grp. Of the Yr., The Speaker 6743

[Page 6645]


Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON


Hon. Murray Scott


Mr. James DeWolfe, Ms. Joan Massey, Mr. Daniel Graham

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

Before we begin the daily routine, the subject of this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova:

Therefore be it resolved that this government has not adequately addressed the issue of roads in rural Nova Scotia.

This is to be debated this evening at 6:00 p.m.

We will begin the daily routine.


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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of 175 citizens of the area around Pugwash Junction, and the operative clause reads:


[Page 6646]

"Our area has been one of absolute neglect and contempt on the part of government, principally the DOT."

I have affixed my signature, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the area residents of the Aylesford Road, and the operative clause reads:

"We feel that this road is not up to standards and is not a safe road to be traveling on. We are petitioning the Provincial Government and the Department of Transportation to start much needed repaving and repairs on this road."

The petition has 670 names and I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.





MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.


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

Whereas today at 11:00 a.m. we joined together on the grounds of Province House in a ceremony to honour those who have died as a result of a workplace accident or illness in this province; and

Whereas April 28th is designated throughout Canada as a Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job; and

[Page 6647]

Whereas there were 27 workers killed because of workplace accidents and illnesses in Nova Scotia in 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Environment and Labour continue to work with our many partners, and with employees and employers, to create safe working environments and to reduce occupational injury and illness.

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 responsible for the Year of the Veteran.


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

Whereas World War II Veterans will be honoured in a very special way at the Dartmouth Garden View Restaurant next month; and

Whereas between May 15th and May 22nd, the restaurant will celebrate its 60th Anniversary and pay tribute to the Year of the Veteran by offering those who fought for our country prices at the restaurant as they were 60 years ago; and

Whereas in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Legion Centennial Branch in Dartmouth, restaurant owner, Greg Fong, will also include music from the 1940s and area high school students will dress as citizens from that era;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature commend this novel and nostalgic way of celebrating the valiant efforts of our military.

[Page 6648]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.


Bill No. 177 - Entitled an Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. (Hon. Peter Christie)

Bill No. 178 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1992. The Emergency "911" Act. (Mr. Harold Theriault)

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

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, if I may, with your permission, do some introductions before introducing the bill. Throughout our galleries today the following people join us as guests: from the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Nancy Beaton and Gord Publicover; from the Independent Living Centre, Hilary Wellard; Debby Abbott; the co-chairman of the centre, Kevin Penny; also from the centre, Liz McNaughton, Cathy Waite; Don Roper from Work Bridge; and the Executive Director of the Independent Living Centre, Lois Miller. They join us in our gallery today, and I would ask the members to please give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

Bill No. 179 - Entitled an Act Respecting Support Services for Disabled Persons in Self-managed Care. (Mr. David Wilson [Glace Bay])

[12:15 p.m.]

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

[Page 6649]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.


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

Whereas today, Thursday, April 28th, marks the 21st National Day of Mourning, first launched by the Canadian Labour Congress in 1984; and

Whereas the National Day of Mourning commemorates workers killed, injured or disabled in the workplace; and

Whereas on this day, workers, labour movements, government officials and others gather across the country and throughout our province to hold ceremonies to honour these workers and their families;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House pay tribute to the workers in our province who have lost their lives and others who were injured at work in the past year, and renew our commitment to ensure our laws provide the necessary protection to prevent workplace injuries and deaths.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.


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

[Page 6650]

Whereas since 1991, time is set aside each year to remember the many Canadians killed or injured in workplace accidents; and

Whereas Nova Scotians recognize today, April 28th, as the National Day of Mourning to remember our families, friends and neighbours who have been killed or injured at work; and

Whereas the number of people killed or injured each year in Canada continues to be astonishing, and we believe one Nova Scotian lost to a workplace accident is one too many;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the National Day of Mourning and remember the 27 workers who have lost their lives this year and, of course, their families that have been left behind.

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 the Town of Kentville's Chief Administrator, Bill Boyd, has been given the Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia Award of Excellence; and

Whereas Bill Boyd began his career as Kentville's recreation director in 1975 and developed the service level to what Kentville's Mayor Gary Pearl describes as the envy of many communities; and

[Page 6651]

Whereas this is the first time this award has been given to recognize professional achievements in this field;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Bill Boyd on his award and thank him for his dedication and hard work in the community.

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 Hants East.


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

Whereas, even in the 21st Century, maintaining traditional culture is as important as ever it was; and

Whereas drumming is central to the traditions and culture of many Aboriginal nations; and

Whereas on April 29th and 30th the Eastern Eagles, a drumming group that hails from Indian Brook, with four drummers from other First Nations communities in Nova Scotia, will perform in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the largest powwow in North America;

Therefore be it resolved this House of Assembly extend its best wishes to the Eastern Eagles, and wish them success in their drumming as they head off to the powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6652]

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 in the House of the Liberal Party.


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

Whereas the Premier has stated that he fears ineptness could potentially doom the latest budget; and

Whereas the Premier fears that political chest-thumping could get out of hand this Spring; and

Whereas these are valid concerns considering the Premier's ineptitude and chest-thumping have recently caused problems for this government, with the Atlantic Accord being the most recent example;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House be assured that if this budget does not pass, it will be due to the Hamm Government's ineptitude and not that of the Opposition Parties.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne on an introduction and a resolution.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw the attention of the House to the gallery opposite where we have 26 political science students from the new school in Shelburne. Accompanying them are Mr. David Seegmiller and Matthew Ripley. I would ask that they receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 6653]

The honourable member for Shelburne


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

Whereas an Education Week ceremony and reception held last week and focusing on the theme "History: Look in your own backyard" saw 27 educators from across Nova Scotia honoured by their respective school boards; and

Whereas David Seegmiller of Shelburne Regional High School was one of the three educators chosen by the Tri-County Regional School Board; and

Whereas in June of 2000, our government announced that Canadian History would become a mandatory course for high school graduation in Nova Scotia.

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in the Legislature commend Shelburne Regional High School teacher, David Seegmiller for being chosen as one of the 27 award winners province wide.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax 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 last year 7,593 Nova Scotians died of natural causes, many of them a result of chronic disease; and

[Page 6654]

Whereas many of these people had to spend their final days in hospital, for lack of viable care at home or in a hospice program; and

Whereas Nova Scotia is one of the last provinces not to have a freestanding hospice program, which would allow the dying to live as members of the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Department of Health move to ensure there is hospice care available to every Nova Scotian as they reach the final stages of life, so that all of us may die in peace and dignity.

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 Cape Breton Centre on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the west gallery today we have members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union Occupational Health and Safety Committee with the indulgence of the House, I'd like to introduce them. They are: Carol Gaudet, Chairperson; Donna Langille, Local 97; Ruth Meister, Local 31; Lois Ward, Local 8; Jeff Brett, NSGEU Occupational Health and Safety Officer; and James Outhouse from Local 16. I would like to have these people receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.


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

Whereas Convergys has come to the Digby-Annapolis area with a new call centre and have employed 500 people; and

[Page 6655]

Whereas nearly each of them drive a vehicle and the Community of Cornwallis Park has over 1,000 people who also drive a car; and

Whereas there's no west-bound ramp on Highway No. 101 towards Digby and most of these people are going to Digby, making the east-bound ramp a place for a potentially serious accident, with illegal u-turns on Highway No. 101;

Therefore be it resolved that this government take action to put a west-bound ramp in place at the Cornwallis Exit in Digby County before a fatal accident occurs.

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 Shelburne on an introduction.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Again in the gallery opposite we have visiting with us, Captain Branford Nickerson. Mr. Nickerson always claims the county line goes down through his property, so I'm not sure if he's in my area or Kerry's, but he does seem to keep both of us busy, so I would ask that he stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. We certainly welcome all of our special guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

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 counterfeit cash diminishes public confidence in Canada's Bank Note Series as produced by the Royal Canadian Mint; and

[Page 6656]

Whereas the Pictou County Business Community along with merchants have recently taken two seminars dealing with counterfeit cash sponsored by the RCMP, Pictou County RCMP Crime Prevention Association and the Atlantic office of the Bank of Canada; and

Whereas the RCMP report that across Nova Scotia, 6,025 counterfeit bank notes were passed in Nova Scotia in 2004, nearly $13 million in cash passed across Canada including 29 incidents of counterfeit cash being reported in Pictou County alone;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in the Legislature appreciate the diligent efforts being shown by the Pictou County business community through Chairwoman Frances Buchan, along with the RCMP and their crime prevention bureau, and the Bank of Canada for stepping to the forefront and attempting to eliminate this type of fraud forced upon businesses.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton 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 blogging has become the latest phenomenon in Internet usage; and

Whereas media reports that blogging has resulted in employees within industry being severely reprimanded and even dismissed; and

Whereas all employees with the Nova Scotia Public Service must be fully educated on the do's and don'ts when using various Internet technologies;

[Page 6657]

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government update regulations governing usage of modern technologies, and ensure comprehensive educational seminars are provided for those employees using said technology.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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 Sydney tar ponds is one of Canada's most hazardous waste sites; and

Whereas there have been many studies, delays, and millions of dollars wasted on what to do about the tar ponds cleanup, with nothing to show for it; and

Whereas the federal Liberals and the Minister of Environment, Stéphane Dion, are ultimately responsible for when the tar ponds cleanup will finally get underway;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly call on Stéphane Dion to make his decision about whether to have a comprehensive study, or a full panel review, so we can get on with the tar ponds cleanup as soon as possible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.


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

[Page 6658]

Whereas allowing people with disabilities to train and hire their own attendants while receiving money directly from Home Care Nova Scotia makes perfect sense; and

Whereas the Hamm Government promised the province-wide, self-managed care program in 1999; and

Whereas such a program creates a better quality of life, costs less, and reduces pressure on health care sectors;

Therefore be it resolved the provincial government immediately implement a fully-funded, self-managed care program.

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 Justice.


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

Whereas 27 educators from across the province were honoured during an Education Week ceremony and reception on April 18th that focused on the theme History: Look in your own backyard; and

Whereas Roger Demone of New Germany Rural High School was one of the teachers honoured for working hard to interest students in local history; and

Whereas it is our valuable educators across the province who work hard to make learning fun and interesting, and without them we would be lost;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House thank the teachers and educators across the province for their hard work and dedication and for going beyond the call of duty every day.

[Page 6659]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.


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

Whereas Rollie MacDonald of Pictou was recently inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame at the Mississauga Convention Centre; and

Whereas inductees are chosen by a panel of racing and automotive journalists from across Canada and are based on contributions to the sport within their particular discipline; and

Whereas Rollie MacDonald got his start in the sport back in 1965 and has enjoyed many successes, including 21 straight wins and big victories in the Nissan 200 at Scotia Speedworld in 1989 and on the MASCAR and ACT tours, including capturing the Budweiser 200 at Sanair Speedway in Quebec;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Rollie MacDonald for his induction into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame and wish him continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6660]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.


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

Whereas the Minister of Health is not willing to protect health care workers by making safety engineered needles mandatory in health care facilities and, instead, charges the responsibility to the Minister of Labour; and

Whereas the Minister of Labour has stated that it's the role of district health authorities to ensure that health care workers are protected, and not his responsibility; and

Whereas as we approach North American Occupational Health and Safety Week, this immature game of hot potato does nothing to instill confidence in this government;

Therefore be it resolved that this government get their act together and make the changes necessary to ensure that the use of safety-engineered needles is mandatory in all health care facilities.

[12:30 p.m.]

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 Education.

[Page 6661]


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

Whereas the Cobequid Educational Centre is currently presenting A Chorus Line - the 34th musical in the history of the school; and

Whereas the production involves more than 200 students and staff, and is supported by a number of community members and businesses; and

Whereas Cobequid Educational Centre musicals have established a reputation for excellence and A Chorus Line is adding to it; (Interruption) I was there last Saturday night.

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Cobequid Educational Centre on the production of A Chorus Line and recognize the tremendous contribution made to both CEC and the community it serves through the annual musical production.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.


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

Whereas the historic community of Beechville is working hard to maintain the integrity of its proud history; and

[Page 6662]

Whereas Clarence Wright and his family have provided valuable leadership in Beechville with the Beechville United Baptist Church; and

Whereas Beechville residents respect and treasure their past;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate and thank Clarence Wright and his family for their leadership in the community of Beechville with best wishes in their future plans for their community and their church.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.


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

Whereas the members of our local volunteer fire departments provide invaluable emergency services to the communities they serve; and

Whereas in December, 2004 Laurenda Reeves of Middle LaHave, Nova Scotia, was in need of a water rescue when the wharf she was attempting to secure on the LaHave River began drifting down the river, and it was Kevin Corkum and Dean Schmeisser of the Dayspring Fire Department who braved the icy waters of the LaHave River in blizzard conditions to rescue Laurenda from the drifting wharf;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly express our sincere appreciation to Kevin Corkum and Dean Schmeisser for their bravery and quick action to provide assistance to someone in need.

[Page 6663]

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 Hants East.


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

Whereas Mrs. Erm Morash is a cancer survivor of three years and has devoted her time to educating others on this disease; and

Whereas she has gone above and beyond the call of duty to bring awareness to Nova Scotians about the need for fundraising to fight this plague on society; and

Whereas on May 3, 2005, as a result of her efforts, Enfield Hardware Scotian Homes is sponsoring the fundraiser "Heads for a Cure";

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Erm Morash on her continued efforts to support fundraisers so that cancer can be beaten.

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.

[Page 6664]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


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

Whereas the Halifax International Airport continues to prosper with the latest project being the new $12 million hotel to be known as the Hilton Garden Centre now under construction; and

Whereas the Hilton Garden Centre will be a 145-unit hotel with a dining room, luxury suites and lots of meeting space with a planned opening set for Christmas; and

Whereas the hotel itself is expected to employ 80 full-time and part-time workers while another 80 are expected to work on the construction site of the project;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in the House of Assembly commend the Springfield Hotel Group for their confidence in Nova Scotia's economy and for making this their first hotel project in the Maritimes.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.


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

[Page 6665]

Whereas today, April 28th, at the Steelworkers Hall in the City of Sydney, a Day of Mourning will be observed; and

Whereas this annual ceremony is held to remember those who have died on the job, and to reflect on what we can do to prevent more workplace deaths and injuries; and

Whereas in the year 2004, more than 800 workers died from workplace injury or disease in this fine country of ours;

Therefore be it resolved that Members of the Legislative Assembly pause to remember those who have paid the ultimate price, those who continue to fight for the working wounded, and those families and friends who must care for ill or injured workers.

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 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 CBC Television's Fifth Estate program broadcast across Canada on April 27, 2005, included an excellent item on the problems associated with VLTs; and

Whereas one of the people featured on CBC was the member for Halifax Citadel, whose sincere interest in this issue is well known; and

Whereas viewers across Canada saw and heard the member for Halifax Citadel eloquently make the point that if Nova Scotians can have a plebiscite on Sunday shopping, Nova Scotians should also have a plebiscite on VLTs;

[Page 6666]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates CBC Television for the Fifth Estate broadcast on VLTs, and the member for Halifax Citadel for the support of a plebiscite that he expressed on that broadcast.

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.

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 Garden View Restaurant in Dartmouth is celebrating its 60th Anniversary, making it quite possibly the longest-running family restaurant in the province; and

Whereas as part of their week-long celebrations, the week of May 15th, the restaurant will pay tribute to World War II veterans who were celebrating victory in Europe just as the restaurant was opening its doors; and

Whereas a number of activities are planned throughout the week, which will feature nostalgic music, events and food of the times, and special events to raise donations for the local veterans' organizations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Garden View Restaurant on its 60th Anniversary, and wish them continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6667]

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 2nd annual 24-Hour Hockey Marathon was held on January 29th and 30th at the Boutilier's Point outdoor rink as a fundraiser for Special Olympics; and

Whereas among the highlights was a game featuring the legendary McEachern family that began this rink many long years ago; and

Whereas the Special Olympics team this year defeated a team of celebrities including NHL greats Mike MacPhee and J.P. Bordeleau, entertainers Sam Moon and Bruce Guthro, and referee Charlie Banfield;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the organizing committee and all those involved in making the 24-Hour Hockey Marathon annual fundraiser a huge success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 6668]


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

Whereas in the midst of a blizzard, medical responders with the Joggins Fire Department, EHS paramedics, and the Department of Transportation and Public Works plow operators came together to transport a small boy from Joggins to the Cumberland Regional Health Centre; and

Whereas Devin O'Brien, a 7-year-old child took four epileptic seizures on what was one of Cumberland County's worst storm days as Devon's mother called the Joggins Fire Department, who directed her to call 911 and reassured her that they were on their way; within minutes the fire department first responders arrived and began administering oxygen and clearing an airway, until EHS paramedics arrived from Amherst; and

Whereas a Department of Transportation and Public Works plow was dispatched to clear a path to the O'Brien's house and the ambulance was on the scene quickly, driving through a blinding snowstorm, an IV was attached and seizure medication administered, stopping the seizures by the time the child was loaded into the ambulance and the child was transported safely to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre where he spent four days recovering;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Joggins Fire Department from the beautiful Cumberland South constituency, EHS paramedics and the Department of Transportation plow operators on their quick and efficient service that turned this matter of life and death into a happy ending as we commend all the great work and offer thanks for the dedication to the community, its people and this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: I did not write the resolution, it was a bit long. May I have the agreement of the House to accept it or should I table it? It's okay? 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.

[Page 6669]

The wonderful motion is carried.

Any further resolutions?



MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:41 p.m and end at 1:41 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.


MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians with physical disabilities are waiting for self-managed attendant services, people like Paul Jamieson who works in a full-time job and needs the flexibility of managing his own attendant needs. Paul is a quadriplegic and must have assistance getting up and ready in the morning and at night. He is stuck receiving rigid home care services instead of being able to manage his own schedule. My question for the Premier is, why is the independence of people like Paul Jamieson still put in jeopardy because of the lack of necessary attendant services?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the House for not being quite ready for Question Period. First of all, I want to say to the honourable member that the issue he raises with respect to home care is an extremely important one. It is the major thrust of the consultation that is taking place across this province through the Continuing Care Division within my department.

In addition to that, there are additional dollars identified in this budget for home care and for self-directed care. We also will obviously want to take a very close look at the results of the consultations that are taking place in terms of future directions.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I realize I have given the minister a lot to chew on. Paul is very fortunate because he works for the federal government. The earliest home care can come is 8:00 a.m., making it impossible for Paul to be to work by 7:30 a.m. The federal government and unions negotiated policies that offer flex time to employees, but in any other setting, Paul might have found himself out of work. My question is again for the Premier, is it in his government's power today to offer Paul Jamieson and others in his situation a choice between self-managed funding and home care, so why doesn't he just do it?

[Page 6670]

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

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in the answer to the first question, there is money in the budget to expand the delivery of self-directed care. It seems to me the situation described by the honourable member would be one that would fit the parameters of that particular program.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it doesn't take changes to legislation to give disabled Nova Scotians access to self-managed services. Home care could call Paul Jamieson tomorrow and offer him the same amount of funding for his existing home care to put toward managing his own services based on the proven non-profit model. So, again, I would ask the Premier, why doesn't his government give disabled home-care clients the choice of keeping what they have or managing their own care with the same amount of funding?

[12:45 p.m.]

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

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the situation described by the honourable member is what, in fact, we hope to achieve through the program that's identified in the budget.

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


MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it looks like the federal Tories here in Nova Scotia are set to vote against the federal budget. That jeopardizes the $830 million Atlantic Accord. The Premier seems certain that even if the government falls that the offshore deal is safe. What we do know today is that if the money from the Offshore Accord does not arrive before the end of April 2006, this Premier will have to borrow an additional $1.2 billion this year to make his budget work. As it now stands, the Premier's silence is costing our province $1 million a week, while the accord is not passed. This morning, NDP Leader Jack Layton said that the accord is in trouble if the budget does not pass, and that all Nova Scotian MPs should be voting for it. So my question to the Premier, for what it's worth, will the Premier give his personal assurance today to Nova Scotians that the $830 million from the Offshore Accord will arrive before the end of the fiscal year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased that were there to be an election in Canada this Spring, the only three possible future Prime Ministers of a new Parliament have all committed to passing the Nova Scotia Accord. I'm quite confident that the accord will be passed; I'm confident that the money will arrive in Nova Scotia this fiscal year.

[Page 6671]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this is also the Premier who in 1999 was confident that he wouldn't grow the debt, he'd fix health care, and he wouldn't increase taxes, and we all know where that confidence went. The Premier has tabled a letter from Stephen Harper dated April 11th, showing his commitment to the Atlantic Accord. On April 15th, four days later, Stephen Harper appeared before the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and in speaking about fiscal issues facing the provinces said, "As Prime Minister, I will take up this issue . . . I will not try to fix this with another one-off, side-deal with this or any other province." He also went on to say that poorer provinces actually have more money to spend on programs than Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier refuses to demand that Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative MPs support the accord, yet Nova Scotians will certainly hold them responsible. If this deal fails, the Premier must be accountable to Nova Scotians. So my question, again, what is the Premier's contingency plan, other than having to borrow $1.2 billion of additional money this year, if the Offshore Accord fails before the end of this fiscal year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, rarely is there an issue that allows Members of Parliament from Nova Scotia of all political stripes to agree. I know, and have received assurance from all 11 Members of Parliament for the Province of Nova Scotia that they support the accord.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, three Progressive Conservative MPs from Nova Scotia, compared to what might be coming out of Ontario, it would be interesting to see just how much sway they have. This is the same Premier who yesterday told this House that the bill couldn't be passed because it was taken off the order paper, and that he and his staff had reviewed the order paper for next week in Ottawa, and it wasn't on the order paper. Well, that's quite interesting because he told us yesterday that he wasn't a clairvoyant, either, because the order paper for Ottawa's business next week will be printed tomorrow, Friday, April 29th.

So that's the information this Premier is relying upon and yet he wants us to believe the assurances he is giving when he makes those kinds of mistakes. Again, $830 million is what's on the line, and the Premier's silence is costing Nova Scotians $1 million a week that's not going to education, not going to roads and not going into local communities for health care. I ask the Premier again, will he, today, give Nova Scotians, if he's so confident, his personal word that that $830 million will arrive in this province before the end of this fiscal year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite likes to talk about intangibles. I like to talk about tangibles. I have here the order paper that is provided to the Members of Parliament in Canada and it deals with the May 2nd to May 6th period of time: Monday, May 2nd, no Bill C-43; Tuesday, May 3rd, no Bill C-43; Wednesday, May 4th, no Bill C-43; Thursday, May 5th, no Bill C-43; Friday, May 6th, no Bill C-43. I will table that.

[Page 6672]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.


MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, today is International Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job. Today we still have areas where workers in Nova Scotia are without protection. One such area concerns violence in the workplace regulations. Workers in all fields can be affected by violence, and two people in our gallery today, Donna Langille, a psychiatric nurse, and Ruth Meister, a home support worker, are more than willing to share their stories about the importance of these regulations. Regulations were actually developed 10 years ago by labour management working groups in the aftermath of the Westray disaster. So my question for the Minister of Environment and Labour is, why is this government refusing to bring these regulations forward?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite would know, there has certainly been a lot of work and a great deal of review that has taken place since Westray. We've done a complete revamping of the rules for Occupational Health and Safety, along with regulations. There have been a lot of improvements and a lot of upgrades and there are certainly additional regulations that we're still looking at.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, well, it has been a decade. I was able to find guidelines referring to violence in the workplace on the department's Web site red-flagged with a disclaimer pointing out, and I quote: "There are no regulations in Nova Scotia that currently address the issue of violence in the workplace."

Ten years have not changed the need for these regulations - if anything, Mr. Speaker, they are needed even more today. So my question is this, how much longer do workers in Nova Scotia have to put their lives in peril before they will get the attention of this government?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I think it's imperative to point out that under the Occupational Health and Safety Act there are rules that can be enforced in this province to look at workplace safety, along with violence in the workplace, along with many others. I might also point out that we have up to 20 to 30 prosecutions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act going on at any one point in time in this province.

MR. DEXTER: I'm disappointed with the minister's response, Mr. Speaker, because this morning the minister addressed a crowd at the ceremony, but it appears that the actions of his government will not follow his words. This inaction tells me that very little has changed in relation to workers' safety in this province. It tells me that government is in no way interested in protecting its workers. These are good regulations created by joint labour-management working groups a decade ago. My question is, when will this government

[Page 6673]

protect Nova Scotia workers with more than just guidelines - Mr. Minister, will you bring these regulations forward?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite would know, I spent about 18 years of my life as a safety coordinator and my job at that point in time was to look at how we could prevent occupational health and safety accidents in the workplace. I think it's fair to say that I have a fair understanding of what it is we're trying to do, and I do know that we have a regime of occupational health and safety regulations, an Act in this province that is comparable to anywhere else in Canada and that it's enforceable, it's working, and we're taking care of employees.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.


MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, we just gave the Premier an opportunity to give his word to Nova Scotians and he chose not to, and this might show one of the reasons why he has chosen not to do that.

Gasoline prices in Nova Scotia have now once again hit $1 or more per litre. Unlike this government, Nova Scotians cannot run their cars simply on fuels. During the 1990 election the Premier made many promises. He promised he could fix health care for $46 million. That's a broken promise. He said he would not add to the debt. He continues to do so every day, and the Premier also promised not to raise taxes, but that also has been broken.

Mr. Speaker, four years ago, this Premier increased gas taxes by two cents-a-litre and since that time, government by the end of this fiscal year, will have taken $100 million additional money out of the pockets of Nova Scotia drivers. So my question to the Premier is, can the Premier explain why he broke this promise?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the undertakings that we assumed when we became government is to do an ongoing consultation with Nova Scotians about issues that are important to Nova Scotians. While I come from a small urban situation, I am surrounded by a very rural situation. Everywhere I travel, from one end of this province to the other, I am reminded of the importance of roads. We made a commitment that looked difficult at the time, but we have been able to achieve it and that is to put every single cent of gasoline tax in this province back into the Department of Transportation, back into our roads. Every cent of that $100 million that the member opposite is questioning, has gone on our roads, every cent.

[Page 6674]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, a promise, is a promise, is a promise. You broke it on health care, broke it on the debt, and you broke it in not increasing taxes. How convenient it is now. The Premier knew everything in 1999, he was quite the clairvoyant back then and yet today, excuses, excuses, excuses. This province has an economy that is at the strongest it has ever been. You have revenues coming in at the strongest it's ever been.(Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party has the floor.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it has done so on the backs of the money that has come from the federal government in Ottawa, and Nova Scotians know that. This Premier promised not to increase taxes. Today when Nova Scotians are gassing up their vehicles at $1-a-litre, two cents of that is as a result of this Premier, $25 million is what is proposed to be taken from Nova Scotia drivers this year. So I ask the Premier, being you have taken no action to bring gas prices down, will you at least, today, undue your broken promise by removing that two cents-a-litre to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one thing I will assure the member opposite of is that if we are in an election this Spring, high on the list of our accomplishments will be the fact that we have, in fact, created the strongest economy ever in the Province of Nova Scotia. In our literature will be a direct quote confirming that by the House Leader of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, maybe the Premier can go say that to people here in Halifax waiting for cancer treatments. Maybe they'll get up and clap like his members. Maybe they'll find that funny. That's the legacy you've left. Maybe they'll laugh when your grandchildren are paying down the debt that you've added while you've been in power. Maybe they'll laugh at that and they'll find that funny. Maybe they'll also laugh at the commitments you made not to increase taxes while more money goes out of their pockets. My question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier live up to his commitment not to raise taxes and provide immediate relief to Nova Scotia drivers as he promised in 1999?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we are very conscious that one of the reasons why we have such a buoyant economy, to which the member opposite had made reference just a few moments ago, is that we have been able to remain competitive. I want to suggest very strongly to the member opposite that we believe that lower taxes do, in fact, create a great environment. I am reminded that on April 14, 2005, it was reported in the ChronicleHerald that the Nova Scotia Liberal Leader said that higher taxes and cuts are the only way to solve the health care crises. So obviously there is a divergence of opinion about taxes between this caucus and that caucus.

[Page 6675]

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: I will just remind all our members to direct their questions and answers through the Speaker, please.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.


MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that reminder, because my question through you is to the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act. We know that non-profit groups across the province are having a very difficult time accessing affordable insurance, in fact, the Nova Scotia Insurance Review Board has said, "Volunteerism, in general, is being threatened . . ." by the cost of availability of insurance. Now, we've learned that the government has, in fact, made a deal with the Nova Scotia Trails Federation and my question for the minister is, will he describe for the House what role the government will play in delivering the federation's insurance?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have contacted all the trail associations across Nova Scotia and informed them that the premiums that they paid last year, which was a reasonable amount, would be continued in the future at that rate and that a group policy would be issued by an insurance company and that the Government of Nova Scotia would stand behind that insurance.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister can correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding is that the Trails Federation is going to be self-insured for the first $1 million. Now, that means the government is going to be the insurer for the first $1 million of any claim and I'm aware that it is highly unlikely that there will be any such claim. However, the list seems to be growing of what the province is self-insuring; the Trails Federation, housing, a fleet of vehicles and yesterday, Minister MacIsaac hinted that similar opportunities will be provided for other non-profits, and I hope they will extend it to the volunteer fire departments like the one in Reserve Mines.

My question for the minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, is, what made your government change its mind about the benefits of this form of public insurance?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there are several forms of insurance and one of them is public insurance and I think that most governments across Canada now have some form of insurance, for instance, for their own property and their own vehicles. We have done that in Nova Scotia. We are always working in the best interest of the public of Nova Scotia and we'll continue to do so. We are not running a socialist government.

[Page 6676]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's tough to know what kind of government they're running over there. This government seems to recognize that public insurance is the best way to achieve savings for itself and for non-profits but they won't extend those savings of public insurance to the drivers of Nova Scotia. So my question, through you, to the minister is, when are you finally going to recognize that public auto insurance is a good idea?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will realize that public insurance is good business when it hasn't exhibited out West, where they have public insurance, to be such a disaster.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. The disabled community has been waiting for a province-wide, self-managed attendant services program for over a decade. Only 10 people have been able to benefit from the pilot project while hundreds of other people with disabilities muddle through the inadequate, inflexible, home care. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, when will self-managed attendant services be an option for people through community supports for disabled adults?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her question. I'm not sure whether she meant that question for me or the Minister of Health. People who require Level 1 care can get a self-managed program through the Direct Family Support Program. I announced that program at the end of the year, and it became effective in January.

MS. MASSEY: Well, Mr. Speaker, Bob Venus, who is a constituent of mine, has been lobbying for self-managed attendant service for years. If he had the dollar equivalent of what he is presently getting in home care services to invest in his own solutions, he would be quite happy. I ask the Minister of Community Services, why hasn't his department and the Department of Health looked at offering flexible funding options for disabled clients within that present program?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again, I want to clarify that it does exist in that form as long as the clients are level one, that means that the extent of their disability is such that they're cared for the Department of Community Services instead of the Department of Health.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, there are many more people waiting for self-managed attendant services than there will be funding, even with yesterday's announcement. Other provinces do have a dual home care and self-managed attendant service model, offering clients a choice. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, when will disabled people in this province finally get the dignity and independence that they really deserve?

[Page 6677]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to make that announcement at the end of the year, that this service would be available to disabled Nova Scotians who are served by the Department of Community Services. There is an extra $1 million in this year's budget to continue to roll out that program, and we look forward to a complete implementation throughout this fiscal year. So we're very pleased that the member opposite agrees with the decision that was taken by the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.


MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, the NSGEU Occupational Health and Safety Committee met with the Minister of Environment and Labour over a year ago to clarify the status of some outstanding occupational health and safety regulations. They were particularly concerned about the violence in the workplace regulations, indoor air quality regulations, and joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee regulations. This committee has heard nothing back from the minister other than the fact that the department is awaiting direction. So my question for the minister is, will the minister commit to a firm date as to when we can expect action on these regulations?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the regulations, certainly the department has been working very diligently for the last number of months on the diving regulations. That's a set of regulations that is fairly tedious and complicated, and those regulations are nearly completed. I look forward to those going to Cabinet sometime in the near future.

MR. MCNEIL: Again, Mr. Speaker, we understand that there is process in place. This process is taking over 10 years. So my question is, again, will you commit to a firm date when these regulations will be put in place?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, although I can't really take credit for 10 years ago, I can only have responsibility for the time that I have been there. We have working on these regulations and looking into them, and we have put a priority on the diving regulations. We are working forward with those.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, since Westray, workplace safety has been touted as a shared responsibility. That only works when government provides the tools to do the job. In this case, safety workplace needs these regulations. In the gallery today are members from the NSGEU Committee. I'm asking the minister, after Question Period, will he meet with that committee?

[Page 6678]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the comments and the questions, and, as I said, we are looking at regulations. I think it's important to point out, just for everyone to know, that we have an Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations currently that are comparable to anywhere else in Canada. They are good regulations we are looking at improving. Some of the ones that were started 10 years ago, not by this government, have to be looked at and updated, because as time goes by, things change.

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


MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it's been 18 months since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that chronic pain sufferers in Nova Scotia were entitled to workers' compensation. At the time of the decision, this government estimated that there were over 2,000 workers eligible in the backlog. As of today, my office has found out only 20 cheques have been sent out. All throughout last Spring and Summer, the workers' advocates were calling for payments to start, but they were told government had to get regulations first. So, to the Minister of Environment and Labour, will he tell this House why he would force workers to wait for his government to produce regulations before dealing with these claims?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, not too long ago I was fortunate enough to go over and have a tour through the Workers' Compensation Board and see what they're doing with regard to assessing these claims. It was pointed out clearly to me at that point in time that some of these cases, because of differing legislation, take up to 40 hours just to process to find out what route forward. As I mentioned yesterday, there have been commitments made by the Workers' Compensation Board to hire additional people to look at this problem.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, through you to him, that is simply wrong. I'll table documents here today that we got through FOIPOP and I'll quote from the e-mail. It says:

"Obviously, we are of the opinion that the WCB has the authority to deal with the Chronic Pain appeals now. The Regs may be helpful to the WCB but, in our opinion, not necessary under the Act. It is becoming very difficult to support the 'wait for regs' position when we talk to our clients. That position was reasonable in April but not so reasonable in July."

Mr. Minister, why did you refuse to listen to this advice and deal with chronic pain claims immediately after the Supreme Court decision?

[Page 6679]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I remember standing up very clearly the day I said chronic pain would cost $168 million. Just recently, the board of directors of the Workers' Compensation Board committed to hire 70 people and spend over $10 million to ensure this administrative work gets done as soon as possible.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the minister just doesn't get the point. Through Bill No. 90 we know there was a fixed amount of people that were refused benefits under WCB. We know the number, so I want to ask the minister a very concise question, why hasn't WCB been told to handle these files first because we know they have chronic pain and we know the numbers? Why won't they do that first?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, as I've said and I will repeat, the Workers' Compensation Board is in the process of hiring an additional 70 people to adjudicate these claims to get them taken care of.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I ask the member for Cape Breton Centre to table that document that you read from. Thank you, very much.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.


MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act. We've heard the government is establishing a self-insurance program for the Trails Federation and we heard last evening during late debate that it's planning to expand this plan. A strategy to help the broad voluntary sector is necessary immediately. Liability insurance pressures are threatening non-profits and their services. The problem is, yesterday was the first we heard about this plan. My question to the minister is, what plan is in place to help other non-profits and who can they call?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm rather surprised that the first time anybody heard about the plan was yesterday evening because I announced in the House in response to a question in the session last Fall that one of the things we would be looking at was providing coverage for volunteer organizations to obtain liability insurance. As we have done in the past, we follow through with our commitments.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, that would be a surprise, I think, to the voluntary sector, which is just as surprised as the rest of us. Yesterday's comments by the government were confusing. First they said they had a plan, then they listed criteria limiting the non-profit groups which could qualify, then the government said they were going to wait for the insurance industry-led task force to report before they would do anything. My question for the minister is, you saw what a mess your government made of insurance when you followed

[Page 6680]

the industry's lead on auto insurance, why would you now put the fate of our non-profit sector in the same hands?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member referred to the automobile insurance system and our success in that field. We promised to achieve a 20 per cent decrease. We achieved that 20 per cent, plus another four per cent. Rates are now 24 per cent, at least, below where they were in 2003. The honourable member should also be aware that our insurance rates in Nova Scotia, as far as I know from the last statistics that I've seen, are still the lowest in Canada.

[1:15 p.m.]

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, we're talking about the voluntary sector, and one organization's liability insurance rates went up something like 760 per cent. Last Fall the Nova Scotia Insurance Review Board made recommendations to government regarding this issue and your government didn't respond. The insurance industry took the lead. My question to the minister is, with so much at stake, will you take the reins back and work with the voluntary sector directly on a plan to address the non-profits' needs and not those of the insurance industry?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is entirely correct in that the Insurance Bureau of Canada is indeed looking at the problem because it is one that is right across this country. We in Nova Scotia, however - under the government that we have in this province, the government under John Hamm - are looking at that problem, we are developing a plan and that plan will be forthcoming in the very near future. It's a made in Nova Scotia plan to take care of the non-profits in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.


MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House we revealed that a board member for the Workers' Compensation Board is indeed living in Florida and attends meetings by teleconference or in person. It has further come to our attention that indeed that member has received remuneration from the province and the Workers' Compensation Board for travelling from Florida to Nova Scotia to attend meetings. Would the minister table today a list of all Mr. Dean's expenses including any reimbursements for all Mr. Dean's travel back and forth to Florida and any other travel that he might have done on behalf of the Workers' Compensation Board?

[Page 6681]

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I do believe that honourable member opposite was mistaken. The gentleman was paid for the days that he was participating in conference calls, but no travel costs were claimed that I'm aware of. I'm sure that those costs can be made available to this House.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister better double-check his information. It appears that there's some information that may be available that the minister should really investigate. The reality of the situation is this. We have a well-known PC supporter living outside the country, working on a board, Workers' Compensation Board, in this province. Regardless of the expenses, there are plenty of full-time Nova Scotians in this province that are very capable and have the expertise to do the job to represent the very vast needs of the Workers' Compensation Board. My first supplementary will be to the Premier. Will the Premier direct his minister to remove Mr. Dean from the board and find a suitable replacement immediately?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, look, if the member opposite has some information, he alludes to certain facts, but he provides us with no information. The minister has indicated that he has looked into this. There were travel expenses paid as alleged by the member opposite. If that information proves to be incorrect, then we stand corrected, but let's not go down that road unless you have specific information.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I asked the minister to table the expense reports, which he claims there was no travel back and forth to Florida, although he did not commit to submit those claims. He did not say he would do that. The Premier got up and said if there is a problem it would be corrected. The Premier also did indicate that they would table those expense reports. I will ask the Premier, will the Premier commit today to table all expense reports for Mr. Dean today in this House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the minister has committed that he would look at the issue and the minister will look at the issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.


MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, there are thousands of households in the Halifax Regional Municipality which use the sewer that discharges at Herring Cove. Now the residents of the Cove are to host a sewage treatment plant, just as they have hosted the sewer itself for years. This is an infrastructure project and it ought to be funded like other infrastructure projects - one-third from each level of government. The current $195 million project says its first priority is the so-called green projects - safe water and sewer for Nova Scotians. Yet in various ridings across this province, lovely worthwhile and non-essential

[Page 6682]

projects have eaten up millions while the people of Herring Cove are going to have to pay for everyone's basic needs.

My question for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, why is the infrastructure program not being used for the essential infrastructure at Herring Cove?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the information that the member opposite has indicated here in the House. In fact, the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program announced May 20, 2004, saw $3,105,000 towards Herring Cove's sewer and water. In addition to that, our government contributed $32 million towards the harbour cleanup project - the biggest single investment in this full infrastructure in the provincial government's history to my knowledge.

MS. RAYMOND: There's a problem though because the total cost at Herring Cove itself is almost $15 million. The $3 million which is separately accounted for as coming from the tripartite type infrastructure agreement doesn't go very far towards that $15 million and it is separately accounted. The residents of Herring Cove have watched their well water deteriorating for years as development increased in the area and the province has turned a blind eye. Finally, they're going to have safe city water, but the residents have been told it will cost each household more than $10,000 apiece for water and sewer, considerably more, that's without frontage charges.

My question to the minister is, why are you allowing the people of Herring Cove to be forced to pay this kind of fee for the completion of a long-standing commitment to the entire area?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite and to all Nova Scotians, and particularly the people of Herring Cove, that our government made a substantial contribution to the Halifax Harbour cleanup project which this is part of. I would say as well that what we did is we provided to Halifax Regional Municipality every single cent of money they requested for this project and I will also say that the municipal councillor for the area has done a very good job representing the interests of those individuals and those residents by providing for additional revenue towards that project.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I have to point out again that this section of the harbour cleanup project is accounted for separately and it shows only $3 million out of the total of $15 million. When I give my children an allowance, I do expect that they know what they're going to be doing with it. I don't expect them to have a simple hole in their pocket. When I go to Mishov's corner store in Herring Cove, the back wall is ranked with bottles of water; 18,000 litres of bottled water are sold in this small community every week. There's a truck coming in twice a week. The residents have already been paying for city and provincial neglect for years. My question to the minister is, when will the province take its share of responsibility to the people of Herring Cove?

[Page 6683]

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite and to the people of Herring Cove, and to all of Halifax Regional Municipality, we take very seriously our commitment and our contribution towards these type of projects and I'll say to the member opposite that the municipality requested $3,105,000 and we provided $3,105,000. With respect to the harbour cleanup project, which is part of this, they requested we provide $32 million and we provided $32 million.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.


MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, yesterday in media reports the Minister of Environment and Labour stated that he was unwilling to mandate the use of safety needles in health care facilities because, he said, it's up to each district health authority to make its own decision. Mr. Speaker, the minister would know that Section 82(i) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act clearly states that the minister has the power to require the use of certain protective devices at a workplace or a class of workplaces. So my question to the minister is, why is the Minister of Environment and Labour so reluctant to protect health care workers when it states, right there in the legislation, that he can very easily do so?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'm certainly not reluctant to ask employers and employees to work together to look at workplace safety and ensure that they come up with the best possible means to protect workers at that workplace.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that he can do something - he knows that. It's his responsibility to set standards that would protect workers in this province and that would include health care workers. He knows that voluntary compliance does not work, legislation does. So my next question for the minister is, will he make a commitment then to bring forward changes and, more importantly, proclaim those changes which would protect health care workers from needle-stick injuries?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say that protecting employees and protecting workers is not an option, it's the law in the Province of Nova Scotia and employers are responsible for abiding by it.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, let me make my final appeal here to the Premier. The Premier is a family doctor and I'm sure that he fully understands the costs, not to mention the trauma that's associated with a needle-stick injury. Health care workers in this province deserve the same kind of protection as health care workers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Health Minister says it's an occupational health and safety issue, and the Occupational Health and Safety and Labour Minister says it's an issue for the district health authorities. So my question for the Premier is, we have a couple of Cabinet Ministers who can't seem to get it together, so will the Premier commit to making changes

[Page 6684]

that will ensure the use of safety-engineered needles is made mandatory in this province's health care facilities?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings a very serious issue to the attention of the House and the government will give serious attention to the issue.

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


MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, last week in this House I raised an issue with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works about a serious economic development issue for my community of Cape Breton Nova. We know there are hundreds of former steelworkers and others searching for employment to provide for their families and one of the opportunities that has come up is the construction of a new Canadian Tire store at the cost of $5 million and 20 new jobs. This project has been stalled over land value assessments related to property owned by the government, putting the entire project in jeopardy. I've been pressing the minister on the issue outside the House as well.

Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, for the minister is, could the minister tell the House what the status is of this project within his department?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I believe the honourable member is referring to property along the SPAR in Sydney, which is a connection between the Port of Sydney and the ring road. That SPAR was constructed with the co-operation of several entities, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Sysco and the Department of Transportation.

Now, the Department of Transportation's interest in the property is simply to provide the land and we had some difficulty because part of the land was owned by a company called, Burnac Leasehold, and to put the road through we had to provide land to Burnac and in turn we had to arrive at a price for that land. The original agreement was that we would try and get some kind of an outside agency to provide an estimate on the worth of the land and that dragged on for some considerable time. We're continuing negotiations which involve around how much Burnac should pay for the land owned by the Department of Transportation.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, what we need to secure this deal is an agreement of purchase and sale that is signed, sealed and delivered. I am told the shovels could be dropped in the ground tomorrow if a deal was struck. Mr. Minister, when can the residents in my area expect an agreement will be signed, ensuring that this opportunity is realized?

[Page 6685]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, subsequent to the honourable member's question last week, I asked staff to provide me with an update. They provided me with an update to the effect that everything was in place, except for the fact that there was no final agreement on what that price would be. While they were still negotiating the price, they could not permit access to the developer to get on with the job.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, the tenders have been called, contracts have been awarded, Cape Breton tradespeople are ready and willing to start construction. If the shovels don't go in the ground in the next few weeks, the project's future is in doubt. Mr. Minister, what guarantees will you give the members of this House and the residents of my community that this deal will be done by the very short deadline of May 2nd?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, obviously I've been keeping the best part for the end. (Laughter) There was a conversation this morning, a teleconference with Burnac in Toronto, and an agreement has been reached. (Applause) That will afford immediate access to the developer, to the property.

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


MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The House is more than familiar now with the plight of the residents of the Como Road in Fort Ellis, Colchester County. The giant sinkhole caused by a crumbling wooden culvert is dangerous to everyone who uses the road. It's a disaster waiting to happen. On Tuesday, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works told this House that a crew was on the job and that it was fixing that problem that very morning. Now nothing could be further from the truth. No work has been done to the dangerous sinkhole. So my question to the minister is, why did the minister mislead this House when he promised that the dangerous situation would be fixed?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, indeed, a crew did go out that morning. When they assessed the problem, they found that it would require heavy equipment to effect a fix to the problem. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that happens periodically. We have weight restrictions on the road, so we can't get the heavy equipment in to fix the problem. However, I can assure the honourable member that we will be doing something as soon as we possibly can. I would hate to put a date on it, but let me tell the honourable member that it will be done in the very near future.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, this is just the attitude of this minister - a dangerous situation, heavy equipment and whatnot, I'm sure we'll send a wrecker out there if some poor resident accidentally lands in there and creates an emergency situation. The minister is correct when he says that somebody did land out there. A supervisor landed out

[Page 6686]

there the other morning, and when he landed there he did nothing after assessing the situation. What he did do is criticize the person who brought it to our attention, who brought it to the media, and who brought it to the department. My question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, is this acceptable behaviour of one of the officers or members of your department, to criticize somebody for bringing a dangerous situation forward?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly take that matter under advisement and check with my staff as to how that resident was handled. Certainly it would be most irresponsible for a member of the Department of Transportation and Public Works to act in such a fashion. I'm advised that the road is safe at the present time. I'm advised the number of vehicles on that road is very, very low - I think it's down to about six or seven vehicles a day, actually, but anyway that problem will be taken care of in the very near future.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, the situation on the Como Road is just an example of what is taking place across this province. Every rural road needs something done to it. When you bring it to the attention of the minister, it's later. I hear we're spending every cent on the roads that we're getting and what not. I tabled a resolution here today about the residents of Pugwash and quoted a very negative comment from them. The right thing to do is make the immediate repairs to the Como Road. There are workers - well this department - who have the experience and the capability to repair that, but they're on lay-off. My final question to the minister is, maybe he'll hire the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley with his truck and he can volunteer to fix that. If not, I'd like to know what measures the minister is going to take to have this problem fixed in a timely fashion.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we will fix that problem in a timely fashion and we'll use the dollars that we got from the gas tax to fix it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. In 2001, the census recorded over 125,000 seniors in this province. Many of these seniors are living in their own homes, but as the population ages, more housing options will be required as seniors' needs change. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, many rural communities lack affordable, accessible seniors housing - why hasn't your government done more to create housing for seniors in rural Nova Scotia?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to be associated with a government that was the first to sign the first phase of the affordable housing program with the federal government - that is, the first Atlantic Province to sign and also, the first to sign the second phase. The member opposite does point out something that is a concern. There

[Page 6687]

is a shortage of affordable housing and perhaps the 10 year hiatus by the federal government may have had something to do with creating part of that problem.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, it's ironic the Minister of Community Services would say that I bring to him a concern. It's a concern that he should be very much aware of. A concern that is consistent in communities across this province. This government has provided an affordable housing program of half-measures and happenstance. A small number of groups have put in proposals to build seniors' housing, but the government needs to take a lead in creating housing where it's needed. The government needs to take a lead. In provinces across Canada, governments have done just that - creating seniors' housing, accessible housing and assisted living for seniors. I ask the Minister of Community Services, we expect to have 250,000 seniors in Nova Scotia in a decade, where is his department's plan to ensure they have affordable, accessible shelter?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think I caught enough of that to provide an answer. There was a lot of competition with the honourable member in the House. Anyway, it's something that is absolutely crucial that has to happen - not only in Nova Scotia, but right across the country. One of the things the honourable member has made reference to is accessible housing. One of the commitments I made that member in the House - I believe during last year's estimates - was that would be a consideration in all the projects when we look at which one should go forward. We are keeping to that commitment and many of the projects that had been approved under the Affordable Housing Program are accessible. Thank you.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that honourable member is very slow on track. He had 1998 housing report, towards a new direction, in this province, something that should have sped up the process with respect to this minister's housing program.

Mr. Speaker, this government has left assisted living and most new seniors' housing to developers who care so much more about rent which seniors could never afford. My final question to the Minister of Community Services is, why is his government so afraid of taking the lead in creating publicly-owned affordable seniors' housing? Take the lead, Mr. Minister.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the member opposite also shares the same passion for creating more affordable housing as the government.

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

[Page 6688]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 3243.

Res. 3243, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred - notice given Apr. 21/2005 - (Hon. P. Christie)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise to resume the debate in reply to the budget. Members will be relieved to know that I don't intend to repeat what I said on Tuesday, but what I want to do today in the time available to me is go over some matters I didn't have an opportunity to touch on, perhaps in a little more detail than I was able to in the 15 minutes or so that is traditionally available to me on Budget Day.

I would like to go down a series of matters, Mr. Speaker; the debt, taxes, the poverty agenda, or lack of a poverty agenda, post-secondary education and so on, to give an indication of where we like the budget, where we don't like the budget and, in particular, to underline the differences between the government Party and ours.

Let me start off, Mr. Speaker, by talking about the debt which is like a 1,000 pound millstone hanging around the neck of Nova Scotians and it was a debt, every penny of which was run up by past Progressive Conservative and Liberal Governments. I don't know how I can describe my own personal anger at those governments and what they did when they went on their spending sprees in the 1980s. They must have known that somebody somewhere was going to have to pay for it and it's us. It's me, it's my generation, it's my children in schools. Why don't they have the resources that they need in the school? It's not because of decisions that are being made by the government today, it's because of the decisions that were made by government 20 years ago and that makes me very angry.

Mr. Speaker, it makes me very angry indeed to think that we had a generation of politicians who were so preoccupied with what they were going to do the next day, the next week, and, at the very furthest, the next election, that they have hung this 1,000 pound

[Page 6689]

millstone around our necks, because the unfortunate reality is that even with the Offshore Accord and the $830 million payment that Nova Scotia is going to receive, it just makes a tiny dent in that debt.

Mr. Speaker, the figures are astonishing, the figures are discouraging, that the net direct debt now is $12,381,200,000 and at the end of this budget year, if all goes according to forecast, the debt of Nova Scotia will be $12,471,400,000. That's very, very discouraging for those of us on either side of the House, on either side of this aisle here in the Opposition, who want to do the right thing for our children, to build a better Nova Scotia. It's very discouraging indeed to realize the size of that debt.

[1:45 p.m.]

It's also discouraging, Mr. Speaker, when we consider it's not really the debt figure that is weighing us down, it's the amount of interest payments that that debt requires, that weighs us down. Each and every year we have to put aside almost $900 million of revenue

just to pay the interest on the debt. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians understand that not all debt is bad. Most Nova Scotians have the opportunity to invest in their own home. Many Nova Scotians have the opportunity to invest in their own car. So that if Nova Scotians are carrying debt it's the home debt, the car debt. Nova Scotians understand that not all debt is bad. But the problem is, this debt, this enormous millstone that we have around our necks, doesn't have any corresponding assets.

The reason that many of us don't mind putting money down on a mortgage to our home, is that eventually, we build up equity in the home. We have an asset to offset it, but here in Nova Scotia we don't have that asset. We don't have $12 billion worth of asset to offset it. In fact, we only have a couple of billion dollars. What happened to the rest of that money? That's what makes me so angry about our past governments. Government who 20 years ago - and each and every person in those governments should hang their head in shame at what they are doing to us today - at what they will continue to do for years and years into the future.

That's why, Mr. Speaker, I and my Party support the government in its debt reduction strategy. The Minister of Finance tabled earlier today a revised debt reduction strategy and I'm pleased to say that we in this Party support that. We support the fact that the offshore accord payment is going to pay down the debt. That is the only responsible thing to do with it. We support the timetable that the government has set to start reducing the debt, paying down the debt and eventually tackling the amount of money that we spend every year on interest. And it's not an easy job, because even with the government's debt reduction plan, the really discouraging thing is to know that the debt servicing costs are going up and will continue to go up.

[Page 6690]

Looking again at the government's own budget figures the forecast for the year just ended is $900 million on the debt. A very slight, despite the offshore accord, a very slight decrease for the current fiscal year, $897,500,000 and then it goes up again the year after that, $959 million and the year after that, $1.5 billion. The year after that $1.11 billion. So we must never let our eyes stray from the prize, which is that we have to get a handle on the debt and on the debt servicing cost.

I don't blame this government for that. It's not their fault, despite what some of the people in the Liberal Party say. It's not this government's fault, Mr. Speaker, that this has happened. This is a legacy that's been left to us from previous governments. Of all the debt we have, let's not forget that a good half of it, or actually two-thirds of it, was run up by past Conservative Governments, and the other third was run up by the last Liberal Government. So they both have a lot to answer for.

It makes me angry that my children can't get the resources that they deserve in school because of what 20 or 25 years worth of bad government has done. It makes me angry that this government today can't pursue a poverty agenda because there isn't enough money, because it's going to bankers and bond holders around the world. It makes me angry that this government can't find its way to invest in people, especially students in the post-secondary education system. We need to do something to help those people get the education that will drive their lives, that will drive our economy in the future. It just makes me tremendously angry that this debt burden is what prevents us, more than anything else, from doing that.

Let's make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker, the government's margin for manoeuvre is very slender. Whether we were over on that side of the House or the Liberal Party's over on that side of the House, or whether the Conservative Government continues over on that side of the House, the room for manoeuvre is very slender. When you have a $6 billion budget and almost a $1 billion is going to interest, you don't have much room to manoeuvre. It's not exactly what you would call discretionary spending. When you have a health care system taking up another $2.5 billion out of the $6 billion, you don't have a lot of room to manoeuver. When you have a P-12 and post-secondary education system taking another $1.2 billion, you don't have a lot of room to manoeuver. When you have so many people living in poverty in Nova Scotia and the Department of Community Services is taking up another - I'm not sure what the figure is this year, but it must be climbing up - $800 million, in that general range, you don't have a lot of room to manoeuver. What it leaves any government is very few choices to make that you would call in any sense discretionary.

I want to talk about some of those discretionary choices, Mr. Speaker. Let's talk about taxes. Let me start by talking about income tax. There is no increase in the income tax rates but, let's make no mistake about it, this budget includes an increase in income tax, but it does it indirectly not directly. There are two principle ways the government is doing that, and one is that there is no inflation indexing of the tax brackets. So while inflation marches along, the tax brackets do not. Simply by virtue of inflation, more people move into a higher

[Page 6691]

tax bracket. That is as much of a tax grab as if the Minister of Finance reached into your pocket or into your wallet or into your purse and took out the money. Let's make no mistake about it, this is a tax increase measure, the government's continuing refusal or inability to index tax brackets.

A related one, but it's actually a lot harder on people who can afford it the least, is the government's refusal or inability to move the tax deductions up in line with inflation or line with the levels set by the federal government. In the old days, when the provincial income tax was simply a percentage of federal tax, there was perfect harmony between the two levels. If you got the federal deduction, you got the provincial deduction. But when this government decoupled provincial income tax from the federal tax a few years ago, they also decoupled the amounts available for deductions. Each and every year, the provincial deductions fall further and further behind the federal deductions.

Mr. Speaker, these are amounts that are accorded to people for the disability deduction, the medical expense deduction, the age deduction, just the basic personal exemption. Each and every year, just by virtue of the fact that those amounts aren't adjusted, the government is making a tax grab just as surely as if the Minister of Finance reached into your pocket and plucked the money out of your wallet or your purse.

The government says no tax increases in this budget, but that's not true. There are tax increases, but they're stealth tax increases. The day is going to have to come when that stops. In particular, the fact that the levels of the deduction are not keeping pace with the federal government or even with inflation, Mr. Speaker, and particularly for those with a disability, although I've mentioned some of the others as well.

So let's talk about corporate taxes, Mr. Speaker. Corporate taxes, we were surprised to open our budget documents and find that the budget contained corporate tax cuts. Something that this government had not promised but is there nevertheless. Now, it's difficult to understand why the government would make the choice to give tax cuts to the largest corporations, some of them enormously profitable. While according no tax cuts for individuals, in particular no cut in the HST on home heating fuel or other essentials of life. There is no other choice in this budget that more starkly underlines the difference between the governing Party and our Party. That is not a choice that we would have made.

Now the government says, the Premier said in Question Period the other day, but it "creates jobs", this $53 million over four years that are being accorded the largest corporations, but does it? Does it create jobs? Well, of course not. Of course, it doesn't. It just becomes a piece of Conservative ideology - if you cut taxes, it increases jobs. The only problem with that is it's not true.

[Page 6692]

Let me point out, Mr. Speaker, that the tax cut that the government is quoting corporations simply reverses something that they instituted over the last couple of years. So if this year they're claiming that it's a job creator, well then, logically, they must acknowledge that over the last couple of years it has been a job killer, but, of course, they won't do that, they won't do that even though they can't explain the contradiction. But that's not really why we're arguing with the corporate tax cut. It doesn't create jobs and, as the Department of Finance will tell anyone who asks, the amounts involved are far too small for them to track. Fundamentally this government has no idea where that money is going to go. Does it go to create jobs? Does it go to pad the bottom line? Is it invested back in factories and other facilities? Does it go to executive bonuses? Fundamentally the government has no idea because the amounts are far, far too small for them to track.

There are lots of other places that this money can go, Mr. Speaker. Let's not forget that among the companies reaping the reward of this unexpected, unpromised tax cut are the large insurance companies, which last year in Canada reaped record profits. At the same time that they were crying poor to the provincial government, they were reaping record profits, and those large insurance companies that have not served Nova Scotia well over the last number of years, they're getting a tax cut. Does anyone think for one second that ING, that multi-national insurance company based in the Netherlands - where Nova Scotia is a tiny speck in their global operation - does anybody believe for one second that this corporate tax cut is going to do one thing for Nova Scotia, it is going to create one new job, it's going to lower one Nova Scotia premium? No, it will go to corporate profits, more profits for insurance companies and nothing for people.

Let's turn then to the HST by contrast. This is something that the Minister of Finance, the Premier and this government could have done for the people. They could have cut the HST. Can it be done? Of course it can be done. The government knows it can be done. This is a government that shows what - if you're being kind - you can only call tremendous ingenuity in engineering a $155 cheque on the eve of the last election, Mr. Speaker. When they really want to do something they can do it, they know how to do it. Now the minister says and the Premier says, you have to get the agreement of the other HST provinces and the federal government, and it will take too long, it's impossible. But, of course, that's only a smokescreen, just smoke.

Need I remind the government that the Offshore Accord, of which they're so proud, is a parallel agreement to the equalization accord between all the provinces and the federal government and the way it was engineered was not to change the equalization formula - very explicitly there is no change to the equalization formula which would require the negotiation and consent of all the provinces and the federal government. But they didn't do that. What it is, it's a parallel accord which doesn't change the equalization formula, but adds a payment to two provinces over and above equalization. So, of course, it can be done.

[Page 6693]

What we're looking for in the HST is some kind of a parallel accord. It doesn't require anybody else's consent, it simply requires a government committed to doing something for people, to delivering a better deal to Nova Scotia families. If they really wanted to do it, Mr. Speaker, they could.

Now, I have been disappointed over the last few days to hear the Liberal Party oppose our position on the HST, Mr. Speaker. It has come as a surprise and a bit of a disappointment to me to know that the Liberals are opposed to delivering a genuine tax break to Nova Scotia families. Their former Leader stood up yesterday and criticized us for asking for this and said that it's the wrong thing to ask for.

[2:00 p.m.]

The reason he said that was because he said it was bad for the environment. It's anti-Kyoto. I have a lot of time for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I've read their alternative budget and they say a lot of very interesting, useful things, but on this particular item, they're off base. They're way off base. Their analysis of this issue was very superficial and so is the Liberal analysis. The simple fact is, in Nova Scotia, two-thirds of Nova Scotia homes are heated with oil. Whether we like it or not, whether we think something might happen in the future - that is a fact. We have to deal with the facts as they are. Two-thirds of Nova Scotia homes heat with oil.

Despite the empty protestations of the Liberal Party, who are no more committed to the environment than that chair in front of me, despite their empty protestations, the simple fact is that Nova Scotians heat with oil. So if we're going to offer them some relief, we have to take into account the fact that they heat with oil.

We also have to take frank account of the fact that there is not a direct correlation between income and the amount of heat one uses. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives analysis on this is a very ivory tower theoretical kind of supply and demand thing, where if you cut the price of something, demand will go up by a corresponding amount. It's simply not true. When you're poor and you don't have a lot of money, there are some things about which you don't have an awful lot of choice and one of those things is heating your home in a Canadian Winter. Whether you like it or not, whether you can afford it or not, you have to heat your home enough just to get by.

A lot of people, I have to say, even in my own community and I've been in their homes and I know this, they keep the thermostat way down. They keep it as low as they can possibly bear because they can't afford to heat it properly. I'm sure all the members of the House know people in their own communities like this. It is simply not a fact that when one's income doubles, one's use of heating oil doubles. It is simply not a fact that if your income is halved you therefore cut your use of heating oil by half. This is something the Liberal Party

[Page 6694]

and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives can't seem to get through their heads -heating oil in Nova Scotia today in 2005 is an essential.

That's why we want to offer Nova Scotians a break on their heating oil and other family essentials. We can do it if we want to, but the choice this government has made is, instead of offering a better deal for today's families, they offer a corporate tax cut to hugely profitable multi-national insurance companies. That's a pretty stark choice between them and us.

I don't think this government has a poverty agenda. I'm not sure they understand what a poverty agenda would look like. There is far too much poverty in Nova Scotia. We are a wealthy society in Canada, in Nova Scotia, we are a wealthy society and it is scandalous how much poverty we have among us. We don't have to look very far to find it. In my own community of Halifax Fairview, there are two pockets of what can only be described as poverty - real need, genuine need. Poor housing, substandard housing, people without enough food on the shelves or in the refrigerator to eat in a moderately healthy way. Too many children with inadequate clothing, too many children going to school hungry. That is a tragedy and a scandal and I do not see this government even beginning to think about planning to address this. That is one of the differences between their government and our Party.

If we were the government, we would have a poverty agenda and it would be a priority. I cannot stand the fact that in my community there are children who go to school without enough to eat. I cannot stand the fact that over the four years that I've been an MLA there has been no drop in the demand at the West End Ecumenical Food Bank, which is served out of St. John's Anglican Church, the corner of Dutch Village Road and Joseph Howe Drive in my community.

When I was first elected, I said to myself, that will be my barometer, that will be the way that I can tell whether what I'm doing here makes any difference to my community. I've got to see a change in that food bank. I've got to see the numbers going down, the number of families needing that food bank going down, and as long as that doesn't happen, I know that I'm not accomplishing what I was sent here to do. Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to say that four years later, there is no difference in the number of families in my community who need to go to that food bank just to meet their daily food requirements.

On Tuesday, I said to the government across the way that it was a good thing they're instituting a school breakfast program, and it is. In the poorer schools of my constituency, or the ones that draw their students from the poorer areas of my constituency, and also the constituency of the member for Halifax Clayton Park, I hasten to add, because one of the schools, as that member well knows, draws half of its students from my constituency and the other half from her constituency and it happens to be one of the poorer areas of both my constituency and her constituency. So it's a fairly high-needs school and they already do have

[Page 6695]

a breakfast program and other ways of feeding their children, and so does Burton Ettinger School, so does Chebucto Heights School. Three out of the four elementary schools in my constituency already do what they can to feed their children.

So, it's a good thing that the government is spending enough money, we hope, to cover the rest of the schools in Nova Scotia. We hope it's enough, because we know that our children can't learn if they're hungry. And that's a good thing, Mr. Speaker, but it is, I have to say, a shame that the Department of Community Services can't support our people well enough so that they don't need to also support a school breakfast program. The fact that the Department of Community Services supports the school breakfast program and actually makes direct donations to food banks, in a way, is an admission of failure, of utter failure of the social safety net. The fact that the basic personal allowance in the social assistance system is not enough to feed people, that they also need to make use of food banks, that they also need to send their children to breakfast programs in school, is an acknowledgment of failure.

Mr. Speaker, another area where this government has failed and continues to fail is post-secondary education. Of all the people whom I've been able to speak to since the budget was delivered, those who are most in despair - I guess, angry, I think it's more despair than anger, they're way past anger - is the students. They can't seem to get the government to understand the circumstances that they're facing. What some people have to go through in order simply to obtain a higher education, and we know that that's our future. Everybody says it. What we're waiting for is the government to act on it.

Those students, that higher education, is the key to better jobs, better work, better productivity. Selling ourselves to the world as an economy. The key is education. We all know it. We all say it, but we don't have a government that appears to believe in it, and the student leaders to whom we have spoken, of all the groups or individuals to whom we have spoken, are the most in despair over this budget, and not only because there is very little that will be of practical help to them, but because the government in this budget, went out of its way to take a slap at people who are advocating for a tuition control by putting in highly-selective and misleading information in the budget about the effect of tuition freezes, notwithstanding the fact that six other provinces have some form of tuition control.

NDP Governments, two of them, Progressive Conservative Governments, two of them, Liberal Governments, two of them, either they know something that our government doesn't know or our government is just smarter than them, because this government not only won't go in for tuition control, but they went out of their way in the budget document itself to criticize those who are for tuition control.

Perhaps that explains why our students are beyond anger, into despair, over their future. I graduated 16 years ago from a Nova Scotia university, and after a three-year program I had a $10,000 debt. It takes a year, at the most, for a student these days to run up

[Page 6696]

a debt of $10,000. I don't know how they do it, Mr. Speaker. I frankly don't know how they do it. I don't know how they afford tuition at the levels they are at today.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to mention, also, something else that's missing from the budget, and that's any acknowledgement of the case made by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality for a better deal on equalization. We may not necessarily agree with the tactics of the CBRM. I personally don't think that this lawsuit idea has a future. I don't think it's going anywhere. I don't think it would have even been thought of if the mayor of CBRM weren't a lawyer himself, who maybe tends to think of things in a legal way. I'm not necessarily saying that we endorse that lawsuit, but what I am saying is that the fundamental point that CBRM is making is a sound one.

This province launched a so-called Campaign for Fairness to get a better deal, and CBRM has done the same thing. Their point, very simply, is that who we are as a province to say that no matter what municipal unit you're in in Nova Scotia, whether you're in CBRM or whether you're in Yarmouth or whether you're in Antigonish or in Kentville, you should be able to receive roughly equal municipal services at a roughly equal level of taxation. Mr. Speaker, right now, today, that is not possible for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. What they are saying is serious, what they are saying is important, and it's disappointing that in this budget the government simply doesn't address it.

While we're talking about Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, this is probably a good time to speak, as well, about jobs and job statistics, because, as usual, in the Budget Address, the government plucked out one statistic and trumpeted that statistic as if that were the whole story, but of course it isn't. The government seems to have trouble in a number of areas of telling the whole story. The fact is, on the jobs front, that the jobs are spread very unevenly around Nova Scotia, very unevenly indeed. When the government trumpets the latest employment figures, what they skate over is that some parts of this province are doing quite well, thank you very much, and other parts of the province aren't doing that well at all.

Mr. Speaker, let me just give you a flavour of some of the regional differences. Unemployment in Nova Scotia is both up and down, it depends where you live. There was a decline in the unemployment rate in Cape Breton in 2004, but it is still 15.5 per cent. None of us should ever accept 15.5 per cent unemployment as normal or acceptable. In the southern region, unemployment dropped but only to 10.3 per cent. Halifax is doing rather well, unemployment last year in 2004 averaged 6.1 per cent, but in the North Shore Region, unemployment in 2004 was up, up to 10.0 per cent. In the Annapolis Valley (Interruptions)

I wonder if the member for Kings North would like to hazard a guess about which way unemployment went in the Valley last year. Which way did it go? Up or down? (Interruptions)

[Page 6697]

[2:15 p.m.]

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, if he's going to run for federal office, he's going to have to know the answer to these questions, but I don't think he really will. I think he's pretty comfortable in his pew here.

In any case, Mr. Speaker, the correct answer to the question is, what way did unemployment go in the Valley last year? It went up, 0.3 percentage points to 8.7 per cent, but there's more to the employment picture as well, and I started by talking about Cape Breton, and let me tell you something else about Cape Breton's unemployment picture, which I in this House before and will refer to again as Nova Scotia's dirty little employment secret, and that is the participation rate. What's the participation rate? Well, you take your labour force, all the adults, 15 and over who are old enough to work, and then you have the adults who are actually looking for work, who are either working or looking for work, and the participation rate is a measure of how much of your adult population has just written themselves out of the entire labour market, who aren't even bothering to look. The participation rate in Canada is 66.4 per cent. So on average, in Canada, out of every three adults, two are working or looking for work.

In Nova Scotia the figure is 62.5 per cent and in Cape Breton, it is one of the lowest participation rates in the country. And the rate in Cape Breton is 49.7 per cent. It has dropped below 50 per cent. Only half of the adults in Cape Breton are either working or even bothering to look for work. What that is, is a measure of just how bad the employment scene is. That's the hidden unemployment. Because when your economy improves, your participation rate goes up, because more people remove themselves from the sidelines and look for work. For example, in the City of Halifax, where the economy is going reasonably well, the participation rate is 70.3 per cent. That's a very good participation rate. That's about as high as you could expect it to be in an area where the economy is going well, but not only is Cape Breton's unemployment rate at an absolutely unacceptable level, but their participation rate is among the lowest in the country. So the true employment picture in Cape Breton is far, far worse than the statistics reveal at first glance.

What is the government doing about that? Well, Mr. Speaker, the answer is, not very much. There are more jobs in Nova Scotia but the problem is that most of them are heading toward the low wage sign. It appears to be the strategy of this government to seek out low-wage jobs. To try and say our competitive advantage is that we have highly educated people, which we do, who are willing to work for very low wages, that is no way to sustain an economy. That's no vision for our future. Call centres being a perfect example. Call centres are relatively low-wage jobs, although no two call centres are alike. There are some very good call centres in Nova Scotia. In fact, while I'm on the subject let me just mention one that happens to be in my constituency.

[Page 6698]

Now my constituency is in an urban riding, almost entirely residential. There's very little in the way of industry, right in the constituency of Halifax Fairview, but there is a very excellent call centre operation called, CorporaTel and they're located on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax. They operate without a penny of subsidy from the government. They have high-waged jobs, good working conditions and they have contracts all over North America. All they want from this government is for this government to get out of their way. Stop subsidizing their competitors and let them hire Nova Scotians. Give Nova Scotians good jobs, at good wages. Stop subsidizing their competitors. That's what CorporaTel wants.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think there is anybody in this House who believes in their heart that once the government subsidies for these call centres run out that they will stay in Nova Scotia very long. Do you know why? It's because when you run a low-wage strategy, someone is always going to undercut you, whether it's somebody else in Canada, or some other jurisdiction in the United States, or Mexico, China, India. Anything that depends on telephone technology can be operated from anywhere in the world and there's always going to be somebody who undercuts you on wages.

So, Mr. Speaker, the job statistics are not quite what they seem. This government - I don't think it will come as a surprise to anybody - as I say, has been lacking a Cape Breton strategy from the day they walked into office and they simply can't ignore it anymore. They can't ignore the job figures on Cape Breton Island. They can't ignore the desperate financial state of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. It's not right, it's not fair, and it's not reasonable for them to do that.

Let me mention very quickly, Mr. Speaker, the agricultural sector. Let's say the budget reaction is on a scale of one to ten and post-secondary students are down at a one while the agricultural sector might be at a three. They're very disappointed. The reaction of one agricultural sector leader to whom we had occasion to speak was to say someone in the Department of Agriculture seems to think that the agricultural crisis has passed because, if they didn't believe that, there would be something else in the budget for agriculture. The best they could say about the Department of Agriculture is it wasn't gutted this time like it was a few years ago, that it seems like the amount allocated to agriculture is about even. So when you have an entire sector of your economy saying, at least they didn't gut us this time, you know that maybe, just maybe, you could have done a little bit more for them.

Mr. Speaker, in the very few minutes I have left I did want to say a few words about our friends, the Liberals. It's very hard to understand sometimes where the Liberal Party is coming from. I mean this is a Party whose glory days are far in the past. Nobody looks back at the 1990s as glory days for the Liberal Party; nobody looks back on the Regan Government of the 1970s as the glory days. They have to go back over 50 years to go back to their glory days. It doesn't seem likely that that's going to change because you look at their reaction to this budget and they want to have it every which way. Apparently the Liberals believe at the same time that Nova Scotia debt should not go up, despite accounting rules, that in fact it

[Page 6699]

shouldn't go up this year, but what they refuse to say and what they skate around this year, as every year, is, all right, you don't want the debt to go up, what taxes would you raise, what services would you cut?

You can't have it both ways. If you're going to say that the government has to cut their expenditures, you have a responsibility to say what expenditures, but at the same time they want to cut out $130 million plus from VLT revenues - for which I have a certain amount of sympathy, Mr. Speaker, I, personally, believe the VLTs are poison, but I also believe that it's far more likely that we're going to be able to do what needs to be done in VLTs by putting the vote to the people, but the issue on VLTs that the Liberals just completely skate around is what are you going to do about the loss in revenue - are you going to raise taxes to make it up or are you going to cut services? You can't have it any other way. You can't cut out $130 million from your budget and just pretend you're going to go on as before. You simply can't, but they have no answer to that and, whenever anyone puts the question to them, they avoid the question. They still don't have a direct answer to that question.

They also say, as they repeated in Question Period today, the gas tax should be cut. So at the same time that they want the government to not allow the debt to increase, they want the government to cut revenue, but you can't hold those two thoughts in your head at the same time, Mr. Speaker, not without fear of some contradiction.

Also, their Health Critic says apparently health spending is too high. That's fine, that's a respectable position, it's not one that I hold, necessarily, myself, but (Interruption) Sorry, Mr. Speaker, there should be a rule against heckling from your own benches. Apparently, the Liberal Party's position is that health spending is too high, but if that's their position, then they owe it to us to say which part of the health budget they would cut. They can't continue to have it every which way.

The things the Liberal Party says it believes are contradictory and I personally - as are many Liberal voters - disappointed with the position of the Party. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, we look forward to further consideration of this budget. As I said the other day, it's going to be harder than we had hoped for to decide what to do. For the reasons I have outlined, there are a number of deficiencies, a number of choices that government has made that we, as a Party, would not make if it were our budget. We have to take frank account of the federal political scene - let's not pretend that's not a factor. To run simultaneous federal and provincial elections is not something any of us looks forward to. If it's necessary, we'll do it, but we have to take that into account. With those observations and our caucus' reaction to the budget, we look forward to further debate over the days and weeks to come. Thank you.

[Page 6700]

MR. SPEAKER: I recognize the honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Merci, M. le president, ca me fait plaisir d'avoir l'occasion repond que de notre party sur le budget de medcine comme vous r'appller bien ca fait quelque annee que j'etais cotique de finance et la j'etais cotique de different department mes ca me fait plaisir de retouner au departement de finance d'avoir l'occassion de repondre ajourd'hui

Mr. Speaker, one thing I can tell you today is that when I look at the political situation here in Nova Scotia, it doesn't take me long to realize there's only one Party that's in government and that's where we wish to be and that's why the focus of my comments today will be on the Party that is in government. It would be useless for me to sit here and talk about a Party that's not in government, that has no hopes of being in government. What is to be achieved by doing that? I would consider it to be useless and I think Nova Scotians could judge a great deal of the comments from the member who spoke before me as being useless and I don't intend to go down that road.

The fact is, the budget was tabled by the honourable Minister of Finance, no one else. The budget is the endorsement of the Premier of this province. The budget is the endorsement of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia. It is they that have set this budget here and it is they that must be held responsible to answer for that and that is why I intend today to raise concerns on behalf of the Liberal caucus - not about any other Party that's irrelevant to the budget, but the Party that is responsible for the budget.

Let me start. This budget, from the day it was tabled, is a budget of excuses. It is an apology for failure. It's an excuse for the last five years of neglect of children's education or their well-being. It's an excuse for the last five years of losing focus on the issues in the health care system. It's an excuse for the last five years of adding to the overall debt of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Let me talk about the debt of this province for a few moments. I would say to you this may be one of the Premier's greatest failures of his time in office. In 1999 the Premier said, After our fourth year in office, all of the off-book and on-book debt of the province will cease to increase. When we questioned the Premier about that today, he said, when we got into office, we looked and we had to put Sysco, NSRL and we had to put this. Well, that's the off-book debt he was referring to in 1999. He said he'd put all that in and yet it still wouldn't increase. Four years.

But we're now in the sixth year and it's still increasing. You know what, Mr. Speaker? It's going to increase for two more years. That may not be of any concern to certain members of this House, it is certainly a concern of ours. When you have a Premier who said - and what stronger statement than this - he said, I will not mortgage the future of my grandchildren - it's hard to get a much stronger statement than that - and yet he has done it

[Page 6701]

every year since he assumed office. He's unapologetic for it, in fact he has tabled a budget that will add $90 million more to the debt of this province, and he intends to keep doing that for at least two more years.

[2:30 p.m.]

Now that's assuming that their economic projections are correct for the next two years. Any sort of economic downturn of any significance will have a dramatic impact on that plan. I wonder what the excuse will be from the Progressive Conservatives at that point. But then again, more than likely, as the history of this province shows, another Party, hopefully ours, will be called upon to clean up the mess that the Progressive Conservatives have left. It's what happened in 1993. The only person left in Nova Scotia who looks back on the Buchanan years as the glory years is the Deputy Premier of this province. He just cannot understand why anyone in this House would suggest there was any wrongdoing during the Buchanan years. You can see it in Question Period, complete confusion on his part as to why any member or any Nova Scotian would suggest that the Buchanan years were not the glory years of Nova Scotia.

I think I've figured it out, and I think I know why the Deputy Premier has anger towards the Savage Administration. See, that was the administration that educated Nova Scotians about what a deficit was. Under the Buchanan years, they'd never talk about deficits. If they were a little bit off on the numbers - I think one of the Finance Ministers was off by $200 million or $300 million on his budget - they'd say better luck the next time, I wasn't as off as what I feared I would be. This is the same government, the Savage Government that educated Nova Scotians on what the debt was and how big it was. Before that, Nova Scotians weren't overly concerned about the debt, they weren't really thinking about this, they didn't know how much of our taxpayers' money was going to pay financial institutions far beyond Nova Scotia. They were educated on that.

So that's why I think the Deputy Premier is angered at that government, because had they just kept quiet and not said anything, we could have just kept on spending, just happy-go-lucky, kept buying electronic toilet seats, building bridges to nowhere with offshore money, and all would have been well. But that nasty Savage Government educated Nova Scotians and told them what the true fiscal picture of this province was. (Interruptions)

Well, see I told you. I knew by raising this - the Deputy Premier says there was more patronage under the Savage Government than ever in the history of this province. I told you. I was serious when I said that only the Deputy Premier still looks upon the Buchanan years as the glory years, and that it was good, responsible government, as far as he's concerned. (Interruptions)

[Page 6702]

Mr. Speaker, what was going on then, what this government is doing now, and they have the nerve to criticize other administrations, I'll tell you. Once again, on the debt, the Premier knew how important it was, he campaigned on that in 1999. He knew how much of an issue it was. The odd time you will get him to admit that the previous administration did take steps to control the growth of the debt. The odd time, you'll get him to say that, not often, because I know the Tory spin doctors don't like him saying that, but the odd time he will make that admission. I'm sure the Deputy Premier won't. But the debt was being put under control.

This government is quick to criticize what the Liberal Government was doing in 1999. Well, let's put something into perspective, especially for the Minister of Education. He was responsible for the education of children, and we expect would have some form of education himself and be educated on issues facing this province. See, the budget tabled today, the revenues, the yearly revenues in this year, are $1.8 billion more than they were in 1999, and yet they sit back and they criticize the government of 1999 for the deficit they claim and the increase in the debt, $1.8 billion more, and yet, guess where the debt is going? The debt is still going up.

Well, you know, our economy is well. Dumb luck for this government, but it is going well. There's no doubt about that. In fact, Mr. Speaker, most economies throughout our country are going well. There's no surprise about that. What raises an issue is when our economy is going well, why are we still increasing the debt? That's the question this government needs to ask. So once you're done with your chest-thumping, ask yourself that question.

Let's ask a few questions. Number one, why did you table a budget where you're borrowing $340 million? Why are you tabling a budget that would put $90 million onto our debt, when our economy is doing so well? We're going to keep it growing. We're keeping the debt growing as well. How much longer can we keep it growing? We're keeping the Health Department spending growing as well, 11 per cent last year, 9 per cent this year. What's it going to be next year? Are we going to reach over 50 per cent of our overall budget? And then the government is going to say our plan is working. It's not working. The one plan that was presented in this budget and that the government has done, is our solution to health care is throw more money at it. That's it. I remember last year during the estimates and I'll put the question again this year I'm sure. Hopefully his staff will give him a briefing note, but there is no answer.

My question to the Minister of Health, during his estimates last year was, well, if you have a plan for health care, could you please tell us at what point health care will be fully funded? It won't need more money, other than salary increases and that. He couldn't answer the question. I said you have a plan. You're going to fix health care. I said so let me ask you this question. You don't know how much more money it's going to take you. Is health care fixed? Oh, he said, it's a lot better. Well that's not fixed. They said they'd fix health care.

[Page 6703]

That's one of the major planks of the Premier. In fact he had said $46 million, some administrative changes, efficiencies.

He told us we had too much bureaucracy in the Department of Health. Remember those days when he said that. We had one Deputy Minister of Health. These guys went to two deputy ministers. I think they had associate deputy ministers, an assistant to the associate deputy minister and so on and so on. Yet, there was too much bureaucracy before. They have just kept adding every year. In fact, while the Premier said that we didn't need more money in health care, we needed better management. He has now with this budget put $1 billion more in health care, and the problem is there's no end in sight.

This is the government that told us they had a plan. This is the government that told us they'd find efficiencies, and what they do is they keep pouring more money. Now maybe that's not a concern for certain Nova Scotians. I think we heard earlier that it's certainly not a concern for certain members of this House. I would tell you that it's certainly a concern to me and it's a concern to the people I represent, because when someone tells you that the provincial budget for health is now consuming almost 50 per cent of our revenues, with no slowing down in sight. Now if that's not enough to cause alarm to someone, then they should take their head out of the sand, because we need to start talking about how we are going to have a sustainable health care system for the future because we just can't keep going on this route.

As I mentioned, let me go back to the issue of the debt. Again as Opposition we can sometimes criticize and everything, but I find there's nothing more effective when you're trying to prove a point then to use someone's own words to establish what their commitment was and how blatant they have been in breaking that commitment. So let us go back to some of the Premier's words. In April 1999, he said he wouldn't increase the debt. A little bit later, April 17, 2001, the Premier told this Legislature, what I will confirm is that a year from now this government will introduce a balanced budget, and from that day onward the debt of this province will no longer grow. That's what he said here in this House, 2001. That wasn't during the election campaign, it was year two of his mandate. Why would the Premier make that kind of a statement in 2001, when not only has he continued to increase the debt since that time, he plans on going on for longer? How much more proof do Nova Scotians need that this Premier has broken his promise and that the debt continues to grow.

Mr. Speaker, we can hear from members of this House talking about essentials, support for families and everything else. Do you know how much money we are paying per year, that Nova Scotia taxpayers are paying on that debt? If I'm not mistaken, it's either just under $900 million or it's just above $900 million. (Interruption) Just under the Minister of Finance says, $900 million. Can you imagine how many breakfast programs that could pay for students? I say that you could feed them three times a day in our schools with that kind of money. Imagine how much more affordable housing we could build, how many more seniors' complexes we could build. how many more roads we could pave? We could not only

[Page 6704]

freeze tuition, we could probably even lower it from where it's at now. How many nurses, doctors, emergency rooms? That is Nova Scotians' money that goes away every year and we see no benefit from it.

If that is not a concern to certain members of this House, well I can tell you it is a concern to this Party. The fact that this government, when we have an economy that is strong, we have money coming in in an unprecedented fashion from Ottawa, and yet they want to continue increasing that amount of our tax dollars that goes away to foreign institutions outside of Nova Scotia each and every year.

It's $900 million, and someone would have the audacity to stand in this House and criticize our Party for raising concerns about the debt? How much more proof do you need? What kind of responsible Party, that would even ask Nova Scotians to elect them as a government, would say that they have no interest in the fact that $900 million of our tax dollars goes away every year just to service that debt? The question we have to ask, and I'll tell you, as Finance Critic, this is a really good one, and I wonder how Nova Scotians react to this, let's look at this situation, $830 million from the offshore accord, if we receive it, is going to go towards the debt. Now back where I come from, I would think that the debt is supposed to go down.

But let's look at how Tory math works. What Tory math tell us is that $830 million goes on the debt, they're going to have a budget that's going to have a surplus, they claim, of $87 million, I believe, yes, the Minister of Finance says $87 million, yet they're going to increase the debt by $90 million. Now, when the Premier talks about his confidence in his record, I wonder how he's going to sell that one to Nova Scotians. The $830 million went on the debt, I'm going to have a surplus this year, and the debt's going to go up by $90 million, and as a result you're going to pay more money in tax dollars for the debt next year. (Interruptions)

Ah, the good old GAAP, now isn't GAAP just a wonderful thing to have when this Premier and this government needs it. They've changed the rules as they've gone along. Each year they've reviewed their books, and under GAAP, all of a sudden, the deficit became a surplus. There is one gap that is forming, and that's a gap in the Premier's and this government's credibility, because the fact is the debt continues to increase. The amount of money Nova Scotians will have to pay continues to go up. Nova Scotians need to ask if we can't get our debt under control now, when are we going to?

The one thing I find interesting is that when they talk about GAAP, one of the things with GAAP is that the money they're spending on schools and on bridges and on roads doesn't show up on their books at the end of the year. It goes onto the debt. Now that's a neat little thing that GAAP allows you to do. Unfortunately, we didn't have that in 1999, we had to show that on our books. That's why you saw deficits at the end of the year, because all of that was on the books. It didn't go directly on the debt. So that's one of the neat little

[Page 6705]

things that GAAP allows you to do, that this government can do today that we couldn't do in 1999. And yet they're still showing a surplus of only $80 million, and the debt is going to increase.

Mr. Speaker, let me go to another point. The Premier and his communications people said that this budget is going to be a legacy budget for the Premier, it's going to reflect his achievements from 1999 to today. Let's go back to 1999. The Premier said, "We can provide quality health care and balance the budget." At least that's what the Premier said he'd do during an election campaign stop, July 22, 1999, at the Cunard Street Children's Centre. He said that he'd balance the budget - he said that he wouldn't have to balance the budget at the expense of health care. He said that he'd balance the budget first and then he'd fix health care.

Mr. Speaker, the sad truth of what he promised is that he could deliver one without compromising the other. It's no wonder that people had such high expectations six years ago. Imagine, a balanced budget, the debt's not going to increase, no new taxes, health care is going to be fixed. That was the scenario. Rose-coloured glasses were on back then. Today, the Premier has suddenly forgotten all about those commitments. Later, during the same election campaign, the Premier told an audience at Yarmouth Hospital, "We don't need to mortgage the future to meet today's health care challenges."

Mr. Speaker, he's doing exactly what he said he wouldn't have to do. The debt is increasing. The Minister of Finance has brought forward a budget where he talks about all of this spending and yet he's also going to borrow $340 million. Borrowing more money, and the debt will go up by $90 million.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, let's look at our health care system. They said they had a plan - health care would be fixed. I would love to see the Minister of Health and the Premier come down and tell the people of Richmond County health care is fixed. The Strait-Richmond Hospital, which I'm sure members of the government, and all members of the House may have heard me mention a time or two, or a dozen, or a couple dozen times. The emergency room is closed again and has been closed since January, no emergency room doctor Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Has that fixed health care? Maybe the member for Shelburne thinks it's fixed although wait a minute, his emergency room has been closed as well. Maybe even the Speaker of the House but, no, his emergency room has also been closed. The member for Glace Bay, the member for Cape Breton North, if I'm not mistaken, have seen emergency room closures as well. How much more proof does this government need that they have not fixed health care and to continue pouring more money in year in, year out, without a plan is simply not sustainable.

[Page 6706]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier told Nova Scotians in 1999 that giving him a mandate, he being a family doctor, he would fix health care. How can we have a situation where we, here in this House, where the Official Opposition and our Health Critics get up to talk about long waiting lists for people needing cancer surgery? How can you say we've got a health care system that's fixed, when people are going through the trauma of cancer and are being told they should receive treatment traditionally within a certain period of time, but under our circumstances it's double or triple? How do you tell those people that our health care system is fixed?

Imagine, that's what's going on and yet they're pouring in, what, another $218 million this year in the health care budget and that's still the situation we have. We're building MRIs, yet we don't have the people to operate them. The Minister of Health says, well, you need the graduates to have something to play with when they're finished. Well, you know, it's the theory I guess of build it and they will come. One would hope that with a real plan, we would have had those people in place so that when communities received their long-deserved MRI, either for the first time or replacements of some older equipment, that they know that there's someone there who can operate it.

Mr. Speaker, we know, now just here in the capital district, that 200 to 300 operations will be delayed in May and June because of the lack of specialists. That is the legacy this Premier has left, that is the legacy. When the media asks, you know, do you really think Nova Scotians want an election, I wonder if they ask those individuals who are on that waiting list whether they think this government should be allowed to continue to govern or whether they feel it's time that there be a new administration here in this province. Those are the people who should be asked those questions.

Mr. Speaker, we remember back then, as I mentioned before, that the Premier is the one who said health care didn't need massive investment. He pretty much mocked the Health Investment Fund - imagine health care needing a $600 million investment. The Liberals have such crazy thoughts; imagine that, $600 million. This is a government that has poured in $1 billion with no end in sight. That's the kind of legacy this Premier has left and that's the kinds of things Nova Scotians will be remembering, because as much as the spin doctors try to make it look all rosy, that's the reality and we'll certainly remind Nova Scotians of that.

As I mentioned before, with this budget the Health Department is going to consume 47 per cent of out total revenues - 47 per cent. As I mentioned before, the Department of Health increased by 11 per cent last year, 9 per cent this year. You know I remember we were at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce luncheon and the Minister of Finance was giving his briefing before the budget. He was asked is health care still sustainable because you had an 11 per cent increase last year, what is it going to be this year, and I remember him saying, no, no, no, this year we're quite confident the increase won't be in the double digits. It was 9.3 per cent, right, it wasn't double digits, but that's about as close as you can get and that's how

[Page 6707]

this government looks at it. They just laughed, throw more money at health care, make everyone convinced that you've got some sort of plan and everything will be fine.

For a government that can't see beyond the end of its nose, that would be the approach. Fortunately, you have an Opposition Party here that's continuing to look into the future and actually has a genuine interest in our children and our grandchildren, unlike the Premier's hollow words when he spoke about those subjects. We want to make sure our children and our grandchildren have a publicly funded health care system available to them in the years to come that's going to be affordable and sustainable for our province.

We are not on the road to achieving that at the rate we are going, and there needs to be some serious discussion about how we can get there. Let me give you an example. I know that certain members of this House - again, I said I wouldn't mention them - along with the governing Party have mentioned that in health care the only way that you're going to find savings is if you raise taxes or cut. That's interesting. That's about as small-minded as you can get and there are some who suffer from that affliction, without me naming them.

Let me give the example that our Health Critic brought up - Joey MacDonald. Joey MacDonald is in a hospital. The man has said and he has begged this government with his wife, to be allowed to go home, to have more home care services at home so he can be at home with his three children. He has a disease that is going to lead to his death. We don't know how long he has, but he said his wish is to I be able to die at home with his family. The amount of money it costs to keep him in that hospital bed is astronomical compared to what it would cost to give him increased home care at home. That is the kind of savings that we are talking about; that is the common sense that we are talking about.

Long-term care beds - you have people who have been admitted by the Department of Health, people sitting in hospital beds, costing thousands a day, who could be in a long-term care facility. The beds aren't there. That's the kind of savings we're talking about. That doesn't require tax increases, it doesn't require cuts. It requires common sense, a vision and a plan - something that's obviously void in this government and void in other members of certain Parties in this House, when they ask how are you going to achieve savings in health care.

Let me give you another example. We used to have a program called the in-home support program. I know the Minister of Education will be familiar with it - he received dozens of letters from me on it. Let me tell you about the program. Here's what this program was, again, no need for tax cuts, no need for tax increases or cuts. Let's see what this program did. The in-home support program was meant to provide financial assistance to families who kept loved ones at home, the idea being to provide them with some sort of compensation for the fact that they left their employment, or are unable to go to a job because they are caring for mom, dad, uncle, aunt or whoever it might be. They were keeping that

[Page 6708]

person at home where they wished to be, surrounded by family, receiving loving care, instead of being put in a long-term care facility.

A long-term bed costs how much? Almost a thousand dollars a day, or just under that. Let's say a hundred dollars a day, whatever the figure is. The in-home support program provided $400 a month to family caregivers. Let's say a long-term care bed is $80 a day - figure that out over the run of a month and do the math. This government froze that program in 2000 because they wanted to review it. Everyone who was in the program stayed, got their funding, fortunately - no one has been allowed in for five years, and this budget makes no mention of bringing that program back.

What happens? Families have to make a fiscal choice - can we afford to have one or both not working because we're caring for a loved one, or are we forced to make the choice of putting that loved one in a long-term care facility? That is what's happening.

So, that is another example where, if you took money and invested it in programs such as in-home support, you would be able to save money is the health care system. Although the government has announced there are more hours for home care, home care doesn't spend the night. They're not there when a parent or a loved one has to go to bed. They're not there in the middle of the night when they have to get up to use the washroom. They're not there in the morning when they first wake up, but the caregiver is. That's what this program was meant to assist. That was supposed to be a savings to the system. That is just but one other example of how we can make savings in our health care system, if we properly invest our money. That's just a few. I'm sure there's many more, and I'm sure health care providers could suggest many more.

So for anyone to say, well, the Liberals are saying the debt shouldn't increase and they should tell us where they're going to cut in Health. Again, small-minded is what it is. Cheap and small-minded, let me say both. That's what it is. This government does not have a plan for health care. They do not have a plan that reflects the wants of Nova Scotians. By cancelling programs such as the in-home support program, it flies in the face of Nova Scotia values, it flies in the face of Nova Scotian lifestyle, and yet we wonder why health care spending is consuming almost half of our budget and there's no end in sight.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke today. The Premier said, no new taxes if you elect me. No new taxes, you remember that. We spoke today about how in 2002 they needed 2 cents-a-litre to be able to fix our roads. Well, I'll tell you the people who live on Como Road, I'm sure they're wondering where that 2 cents-a-litre went. Now 2 cents-a-litre, how much is that really? When Nova Scotians are pumping at the pumps today and they're looking at 99.9 cents-a-litre, what's 2 cents? That would only knock it down to 97.9 cents-a-litre. That's not much. Well, it's $25 million a year coming out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, $25 million is what that 2 cents has brought.

[Page 6709]

So this being the fourth year of that tax, that tax increase that the Premier said he wouldn't do, by the end of this fiscal year that will be $100 million extra on top of the high taxes Nova Scotians already pay for their fuel that is going into government coffers, and yet this year they would tell us that the economy is strong, we're going to have a surplus. Yet, we're going to continue to have this tax increase in place. The minister says it's all going on roads. I'll tell you, the people of Richmond County would like to know where it's going. The people driving on Highway No. 104, just by the Strait Richmond Hospital, between there and Port Hawkesbury, who see whole sections of the pavement that have just disappeared, the top layer is gone, they're zooming back and forth between lanes on a 100-Series Highway, they'd like to know where that money has gone. I'm sure there are members all around this House who would like to know where that money has gone, and where that money is going.

This is a government that took user fees and arbitrarily increased 500 user fees in this province, and then they say in this budget we're going to spend $500,000 to see how we can cut red tape and make working with government more friendly, 500 increases. The Minister of Justice took the fine system and just arbitrarily increased all the fines that he could think of here in this province. To show you how desperate they were to get more money out of Nova Scotians' pockets, they even increased one of the fines dealing with leaving your horse unattended. You know that's certainly a serious offence here in Nova Scotia these days. You can't walk in downtown Halifax without seeing those unattended horses wandering all around.

That shows the desperation of this government, to try to find new ways of taking money out of Nova Scotians' pockets. To say that one tax itself is the demon here, this government has come up with an amazing number of ways of taking money out of Nova Scotians' pockets, and that's a serious concern if this province is going to continue to grow, if we are going to have families that are going to continue to succeed, to be able to provide properly for their families, when we have that kind of an administration. That's not what was promised in 1999. That's certainly not what Nova Scotians expected.

Let me say again, Mr. Speaker, six years later, we have six years of what I would say are missed opportunities. We have six years of neglecting our education system; six years of increased fees and increased taxes; six years of neglecting our roads; six years of watching our offshore industry deteriorate; six years of no growth in the tourism sector. Ever since they created a stand-alone Department of Tourism, we've been losing money every year on our tourism revenues, and yet this government would try to have us believe that the tourism industry is doing great.

Well, let the minister go out and talk to tourist operators in this province. Come down to Richmond County and ask them if they think tourism is doing great under his administration? They'll certainly have a mouthful to share with him. He knows it's not true. The revenues aren't going up and yet he's created these imaginary projections that no one truly expects them ever to be able to achieve.

[Page 6710]

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what we've also seen is six years of skyrocketing tuition, with no plan at all to try to help Nova Scotia students. Most disappointing is six years of rural depopulation. This government has sat quietly while it has watched some of our small communities die off. This budget has tried to make up for six years of lost opportunity. The question that remains on the minds of all members is whether this budget does truly deserve support. Have they presented a plan here that Nova Scotians feel properly represents where they want our province to go? That is the question that we need to ask ourselves.

Mr. Speaker, I talked about tourism. I look at the Minister of Energy talk about the offshore accord. The offshore accord is based on the Sable project, a Sable project that was in place before this government even came to office. There has been no new development since that time. They've put all sorts of conditions in the accord dealing with future projects, and Nova Scotians have to ask, six years, when are you going to have a future project?

We have a Department of Energy that has pretty much failed at being able to work with industry to attract more investment here in this province. We have a few projects that are taking place, but they are almost happening accidentally, in fact it's happening in spite of this government. I can tell you, the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation LNG facility is coming to Point Tupper, I certainly hope that the Minister of Energy is not going to try to take credit for that project. That's an example of where this government has failed and yet they tell Nova Scotians, have faith in us and the future and in development. How much longer do we need to go? When you see that when they talk about our offshore industry, the sad reality is and it saddens me to say, we don't have an industry. We hope to have an industry. We have a project. We have a project that was put in place by a previous government. Six years they have had to build on that. Six years of disappointment is what we have had.

Mr. Speaker, what's even more disappointing is not only have we not seen growth in our offshore, last year we saw the spectacle where the Minister of Finance announced, I have a surplus, my budget is balanced, I reviewed it and I think we're all set. Upon face value maybe that was true, so then naturally someone started asking questions like, how did you suddenly find money that would allow you to balance your budget and have a surplus? Well lo and behold it was $40 million they found. The question was well where did you find $40 million? It was at that point, I'm sure in the lowest voice the minister could find, he said that's the penalties paid by offshore companies who abandoned offshore leases in Nova Scotia. Well congratulations minister. What a proud achievement. You managed to balance the books on the backs of companies abandoning investment in our province. What a proud day for Nova Scotians. That certainly is growing the economy. How many more can we get to leave our province next year?

[Page 6711]

Well let me tell you, he did even better this year, because this year he got $55 million from companies who abandoned our province. Another legacy piece for this Premier. That's $95 million that he's managed to get out of those nasty offshore companies to make them go away. That's a legacy for you. I wonder if they'll put that in the history books when talking about the Premier's achievements. That's $95 million in failure, is what this government has used, and that's what's included in these budget figures, showing the surplus of $63 million from last year. He got $55 million that came from the abandonment of offshore leases. What's it going to be next year? More? At what point are we going to say, we need to try to develop an industry rather than the one project that we have, $95 million in two years. That's certainly performance by this government and by this Premier.

Mr. Speaker, the offshore accord was an achievement for our province, we agree with that. The Premier went and told all Nova Scotia MPs, especially the Liberal ones, I need your support to get this deal signed and they had the media asking each and every Liberal MP, are you going to lobby and this is it for you if you don't sign and the whole Tory way of doing things. So the deal got signed, on February 14th the Prime Minister was here, Valentine's Day. It was a very simple message - promise made, promise kept. The deal was signed, the deal was there.

Now we have a situation where lo and behold who is upholding Nova Scotia, who is preventing Nova Scotia from getting our $830 million - Stephen Harper, the Conservative, and the Parti Québécois, separatists. How ironic that now that there has been an agreement between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the NDP, to pass the budget they're short three votes, it might be the Independents, but where else could they find three votes that would assure that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador get the money owed to them. How many Conservatives do we have here in Nova Scotia?

AN HON. MEMBER: Too many.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: We have three - imagine, someone said too many, I can't agree more, but the reality is we have three. Now, has the Premier picked up the phone and said, look, put your partisan politics aside, this is $830 million for the people you represent. We're losing $1 million a week that could be going to your constituents because of the political grandstanding. Put it aside, pass the budget, whatever you got to do afterwards, so be it, but make sure Nova Scotians are your number one priority in this. He refuses to, he comes up here with the silliness of telling us it's not on the order paper for next week, after there has already been an agreement to support the budget, and all Canadians know it's going to come to a vote. Yet the Premier relies on saying it's not on the order paper, quite ironic, an order paper that's only going to be printed tomorrow. That is the foolishness we've heard from this Premier. Asked today if he would stake his political career, would he give Nova Scotians his word, for whatever it's worth after all the broken promises, he chose not to. Yet we're supposed to believe that this is going to happen.

[Page 6712]

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of April we've now lost $4 million. I wonder how many roads we could have done with $4 million, how much could have gone to help students with tuition, $4 million, and then the Premier tells us, well, if it doesn't pass this Spring, it will pass in the Fall, or it will pass sometime anyway: If it's in the Fall, that could be another, what, four, five, six months, over $20 million, if not worse, could be lost and then the Premier has the audacity, knowing this is the Premier of Bill No. 68, knowing this is the Premier who put paramedics on strike, knowing this is the Premier who pretty much ruled with an iron fist when he had a majority, now says, well, if the Prime Minister would separate the bill from his budget, it would get passed. Well, how many times did he separate anything out of his budget to suit either the Official Opposition or to suit our Party? Not once, yet he would have Ottawa stand up to a different standard than what he has used here in this province.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day this budget, allow me to say, has certainly numerous items in it that are of a positive nature. I think Nova Scotians agree with that. Our Party and our Health Critic certainly was a strong voice in lobbying for self-managed attendant care. Again, a means of saving the system money and a means of respecting the challenges that people have who are in that situation. There's more money coming forth. Is it enough? We would have liked to have seen more. It's a start and we certainly hope to see more. There is also money to help low-income families who have children with diabetes. Again, a very important initiative, not sure if there's a right amount of money in it, but it certainly is a start. Then there is also money in there to help children with autism. Those are all very laudable goals. I could mention a few more. There is more money in there for Legal Aid. That's certainly something that I have been pursuing with the minister and I know that the Legal Aid Society has been pushing for as well. That is another positive initiative as well.

So there are an amount of initiatives that are in there that are positive. There are a number of them within the Department of Health. The question with the Department of Health becomes, how much longer can we keep going the pace we're at? Maybe during estimates, the Minister of Health can tell us that he knows exactly at what point we will stop having to pay on health because it will be fully funded, it will be properly funded. You might even see the day where he says health care is fixed.

I don't think you'll say it today, though, not after the questions he received about the wait times for people trying to get cancer treatment in Halifax. I don't think he'll say it's fixed there. The emergency room is still closed at the Strait Richmond, no end in sight there. We're still waiting for the Richmond Villa. At least we have a sign up now, that's a big step. It took us almost three years to get a sign, but we got a sign, there's a picture on it, we're one step closer. Hopefully, he'll be able to tell us more importantly when the residents can expect to have that new facility.

I want to be able to wrap up my comments in saying that our role here has been to raise concerns for Nova Scotians. Yes, granted, our economy has been doing well. Yes, we've received unprecedented amounts of money from Ottawa. Yes, we have a budget that's

[Page 6713]

based on receiving $830 million that we're still not sure of. We are concerned about that. We are concerned and we want to do everything possible to make sure we do get that money, that Nova Scotians do have a budget that represents their priorities, and that the debt of this province is brought under control. The fact that we are told to wait two more years before we see a reduction causes us a great deal of concern.

We presented a plan to this government to deal with VLTs. We have seen the Premier get up and give excuses about not banning them, about underground economies, about Hells Angels showing up in downtown Arichat, Pugwash, Musquodoboit Harbour, North Kingston and those communities. Ridiculous, is basically what it has been, yet, we continue to see the devastating impact this is having on individuals, families and on our communities.

I was home last weekend and I had a chance to attend a few functions. I couldn't believe how many came over and just tapped me on the shoulder - I was at a convention so a lot of them I wasn't familiar with - they just came over and said, keep up the good job on those VLTs, they're poison and we have to get rid of them. I couldn't believe how many came up and said that. They didn't say who they were, they just tapped me on the shoulder - keep up the good work. How many other Nova Scotians are saying that? How many more?

For any government member to suggest that they're not aware of the damage that's being caused by VLTs is completely irresponsible. It's almost making a mockery of those who are suffering from that. If you don't know the individual suffering, then you should certainly know about your church group that's suffering, your community hall that's suffering, your economic development group that's suffering, your service group that's suffering. In small, rural-town Nova Scotia, they are hurting significantly because of VLTs. Yet, again, as you did with smoking, the Premier tries to do a little bit, while pretty much doing nothing at all towards a long-term solution; half measure for smoking, half measure for VLTs, half measure for student relief under the Interest Relief Program. He cut the program then brought it back with only half the funding. That is but one more example.

The question today, again, I heard the speaker before me mention the cost of university tuition.

As I've mentioned many times, I attended Dalhousie University from 1991 to 1997 - six years, $35,000 is the wonderful gift that was left after my graduation. I'm not going to complain because, fortunately, I was able to pay it off. I believe it was in February that I got the last letter that started off by saying - I got a letter from the bank, and no one likes to see letters from the bank - congratulations, you have finally paid off your student loan. It was $35,000 back in 1997, it's probably double if not triple that for students today who are going to attend a professional school after their undergraduate degree.

[Page 6714]

It's impossible to maintain that kind of financial debt. We are going down the road where once again - like in the old days that I've heard of so often - families will have to choose which child is going to go to school. Which one do we send? We can't send three and we can't send two, so which one is it going to be? Is that how we're going to grow our province?

The Minister responsible for Immigration finally has a budget to set up an office, buy some furniture. He's not going to have very much left in that budget for much programming, but he says come to Nova Scotia, come study here, and yet universities are increasing the cost for foreign students to come study here. Ontario, if I'm not mistaken has actually been doing everything possible to lure if not eliminate tuition for foreign students to come study there, hoping they will stay afterwards. Our approach is, let's ding them for as much as we can while they're here. That's the approach of this government, and there's no end in sight. Come to Nova Scotia, but make sure you have money because it's going to be an expensive visit when you come to our province.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, allow me to finish by saying this, this budget - I do agree - is a good reflection of the Premier's tenure in office and the government's record since 1999. As we all recall, and as I've mentioned, back then the Premier said he'd fix health care, he'd stop the debt from growing and he would not raise taxes. This budget is proof to all Nova Scotians. The health care system is not fixed, the debt is still growing and will continue to grow for years to come, and taxes are up, meaning more money is leaving the pockets of Nova Scotians and Nova Scotian families, and yet the Premier remains unapologetic.

Mr. Speaker, our Leader, Frances MacKenzie, and our caucus will listen to Nova Scotians, for it is they who will tell us how much longer they are willing to put up with the Premier's broken promises, half-measures and lack of vision. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The estimates are now referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

The honourable Acting Deputy Government House Leader.

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


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 6715]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 168.

Bill No. 168 - Securities Act.

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

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, opening on behalf of my colleague, for Bill No. 168, with respect to the bill, I move second reading. I'm sure he'll have comments following those of the members across the floor.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I hope my comments are more cogent than his. (Laughter) Well, my goodness. (Interruptions) No, don't follow those rabbit tracks, especially laid by such an avid non-hunter as the member for Glace Bay.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 168 is an interesting bill because it purports to bring in line securities and commissions from across the country, and would allow a freer flow of access for brokers in particular. While the bill, substantively, isn't a bad bill, the bill does not really take into consideration the group of people we should look after first, and the people we should be looking after first - it's not, can the brokers do deals from Vancouver and have them honoured here in Halifax or be seen as them standing somewhere here in Nova Scotia. What we should be doing when we're looking at securities is the fact of who's being protected here. The reality is what we should be, first and foremost, doing is building protection for the consumers.

I'm sure some of my other colleagues, Mr. Speaker, when they get up will talk probably more about today's marketplace as it relates to mutual funds and so on. We have become a society, in the last short while, of people who invest a lot of our retirement savings in mutual funds. What protection a lot of people really gather from that, we don't know. Quite honestly, it's one of the real last areas of consumerism where we're buying a pig in a poke. We don't know. People are being advised. People are putting up shingles and saying, I'm a financial advisor, I can help you. People's real understanding (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: People's understanding of what's in there, where their money goes after they invest it - I'm kind of buoyed by the saying or the by the quote from the television show, Coronation Street where Jack Duckworth once said: stock market, the stock market, all that is is bingo for the rich.

[Page 6716]

Mr. Speaker, for a lot of people, that's what it is. They don't understand it, they put out their money and, hopefully, they have faith in their broker and their broker will not abscond with their funds or that the funds that the broker invests in are going to perform the way they have purported to run.

Mr. Speaker, we don't have to go too far down the road when we speak of the Enrons and the Toyco and indeed in our own country the scam purported on us by Bre-X. So these are real problems and I believe a bill to talk about securities should talk about consumer protection around securities.

Let's go about this in another avenue also and talk about what this could do to the people in the securities business in this province. Are we going to see a loss of jobs in that sector? Is this going to allow firms that would employ people in different regions of this province saying, well, look, you know, you're licensed right across the country, you could access that market from anywhere. These people have signed the passport so you can go in there and do your work. So what we'll do is we'll close the Nova Scotia offices and we'll keep the Bay Street office in Toronto and fly you down once a month, or we'll do everything by e-mail or by fax.

So what we could see here is a closure of some of these jobs in this market and they're allowed to retain them in Ontario which I would hope would not be the offshoot option of this, but clearly when reading Bill No. 168, there's nothing to stop that flow-back, Mr. Speaker, there's not that type of catchment that we would have in our syncs that we have or catch that things don't roll back on us. So that's a real problem here and, you know, what else can happen here? What we also see is, are we in danger of accepting the lowest common denominator? Are we going to take it from the jurisdictions that have the worst regulations and are we going to make them - are we going to start from the bottom instead of the top? So that's what we need, we need more clarity from government. You know if they're going to accept the worst regulations and make ours more porous here, then it makes no sense to move forward with this bill.

Mr. Speaker, with those thoughts of what happened in the market with such scoundrels as Enron and Bre-X, the possibility of consumer protection which we should see here, the idea of possible job losses in the commodities field and indeed the idea of having maybe lower regulations than we do now, this is the focus we would like to see brought forward as this bill goes through this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my friend and colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, I think has opened up a topic that should be compelling for all of us because the problem is not so much what this bill does but what it fails to do and in failing to address the problems with securities, particularly mutual funds that so many citizens face, the

[Page 6717]

bill displays very starkly the set of priorities that seems to commend itself entirely inappropriately to this government. Anyone looking at this bill has to ask themselves the following question. Why is it that when the government turns its mind to the problem of security sales to the population, to the middle class who buys these things, their step is to look to regulating and to making life easier for those who sell them rather than looking to protect the customers?

It's not that there are no protections already in place for customers. The problem is that there is an opportunity here to strengthen those protections. I want to illustrate the way in which the middle class needs these protections.

There's probably no one who's more middle class than I am, I have to confess. In fact, in many respects, so far as I can tell from my chats with my colleagues here in the House, we all seem to have managed to arrive in this state. We're all of a certain age, many of us have spouses or ex-spouses, many of us have children, many of us have houses, many of us have mortgages. In the words of the Greek novelist, Nikos Kazantzakis, the whole disaster. We've all found ourselves in the middle of this position of having accumulated these things, including many financial obligations.

I know that in my family, when our children were born, we started to put money aside for their university education. So the money is invested and lo and behold the children are now of an age that they're getting ready to go to university and we happen to have a few dollars put aside. That's a common situation for families to be in, they're investing for the education and future of their children.

The other main thing that families will often put money aside for is their own retirement because every year that goes by, every 12 months that goes by, we get at least a year older. It often feels like more. My Dad often says, it ain't the years, it's the mileage. But, as we move along, we have to plan for our retirements and this is what the middle class does. They try to put money aside for their retirements. Many people, if they're fortunate enough to have a pension plan at work will put money aside through those pension plans. But, lots of people don't have pension plans at work. Lots of people have to put their own money aside for their savings, for their retirement, year in, year out hoping they will accumulate enough money so that when the time comes, they're able to replace their pre-retirement income at a level that will support life according to their needs and obligations at that stage of their life.

What that means, for most people, is that they're going to buy investments that will typically be stocks and bonds. But, for most people, they don't understand how to buy stocks and bonds. They don't invest directly in the stock market themselves. They don't make their own decisions about what stocks and bonds to buy. They don't read the financial pages every day, they don't look at the reports of the trading in the stock market every day. They don't have time to do it and for many people, they don't understand it. Nor should they have to.

[Page 6718]

So, what most people do is they put money into mutual funds. Here's what a mutual fund is - a mutual fund is essentially a pooling of investment money managed by professional managers. The only decision the individual makes is which mutual fund they're going to put their money into and then they trust that the managers of these funds will take care of their money and will invest it in an appropriate way, sufficient over the long term to bring returns to them so they can get on either with their financing of their children's education or with their retirement - those major financial expenses that so many members of the middle class encounter.

[3:30 p.m.]

Frequently, if people are turning their minds to it, what they'll do is they'll take an intermediary step, they'll go to a financial advisor and they'll say I have money to invest, I need to invest money, why don't you make some suggestions to me about what mutual funds I might put my money into. It's those people, those financial advisors that we're talking about in this legislation.

What this legislation does is it says that someone who is qualified under the laws of any province of Canada to be in this business can automatically come here and do it in Nova Scotia. Well, as correctly pointed out by my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, this is likely to mean centralization of this function, it's likely to mean some loss of jobs in Nova Scotia as companies provide this service out of Toronto, out of Montreal, out of Calgary.

But that isn't my main worry, it's a point that we should be concerned about, what I'm worried about is that we're not focusing on protecting consumers. Here's the problem with the mutual fund industry, and for those of you who want to follow along with the details of this, I suggest you want to read a book that was just published this year about the mutual fund industry in Canada, and it's called, The Naked Investor by one John Reynolds. Any of you who have money invested in mutual funds, after reading this book will just want to slit your throats.

Now I am happy to say that I have no money invested in mutual funds. That was true even before I read this book by Mr. Reynolds. But I want to summarize for you a few of the things that Mr. Reynolds has to say and that he points out about the mutual fund industry in Canada. Its first departure point is to recognize that the performance of mutual funds has not been good for the middle class, for the thousands of Canadians, the hundreds of thousands of Canadians and the thousands here in Nova Scotia who are planning for their retirement based on the return from their mutual funds. I hope they think again and think seriously, because the record of returns for mutual funds in Canada has simply not been all that good.

[Page 6719]

We turn our money over to professional advisors and, sometimes through professional advisors, professional managers, who are supposed to be doing such a wonderful job. When I read John Reynolds' book, I was reminded of an earlier book from the 1940s, talking about stock brokers, that book was called, Where are All the Customers' Yachts? A perfectly good question, where are all the customers' yachts? It's the stockbrokers, it's the so-called professional advisors who make money, coming and going. When stocks and bonds are bought, they get paid a commission; when they're sold, they get paid a commission. It doesn't matter to them if it goes up or down, but it sure matters to the people who are their clients, whether it goes up or down.

We're requiring, we're asking them to exercise professional judgment on our behalf, and yet all too often the results are pretty dismal. Now, I'm mentioning this so that we can take thought, not just for ourselves as individual investors here, but on behalf of all the thousands of investors in Nova Scotia who are virtually defenceless. Now, in terms of raw return, the record is pretty bad. In terms of return to the investors, it's even worse, because, of course, you're charged an annual fee for the professional services that are being offered by these professional money managers. In most Canadian mutual funds, that's around 2.75 per cent, each year, of the value of the dollars you have invested, which means that their returns have to be at least 2.75 per cent every year before you get zero. In other words, they pay themselves first. They call it an MER, management expense ratio.

So right off the top, if you were hoping for a 7 per cent return on your money each year, they're going to have to make 9.75 per cent return before you get your 7 per cent, if that's what you're hoping for. But, in many years, they're not doing that, they're just plain not doing that, but they're getting paid. Often their returns, if you look at the stats that are available at so many Web sites or in the newspapers that look at mutual funds and their returns, you'll find that their annualized returns are around 3 per cent, 4 per cent, 5 per cent, but what you have to remember when you see that is their management expense ratio comes right off of that before you get anything.

So if it's 5 per cent, you're getting 2.5 per cent. Not such a good deal. You know what? The management expense ratio, which is this fee, this annual fee - it's not one-time - that you pay them is not the only opportunity they get for making money. There's another opportunity, and here's what it is. If you decide that you don't like the quality of performance of your mutual fund and you decide you want to get your money out and put it somewhere else, you're hit with a penalty, and that is usually a penalty that you have to pay any time in the first five years, sometimes longer, but usually in the first five years in which you have your money invested.

Now, usually it's a sliding scale. If you pull out your money within the first year, the amount of penalty that you have to pay is higher than if you pull it out in year five, but nonetheless it's a penalty that you have to pay to get your money back because your investor, the professional investor to whom you're paying 2.75 per cent every year already, isn't doing

[Page 6720]

as well as you think they ought to do, and they're still charging you a penalty to reassign your money to a better place.

I want to know, why is it the government isn't taking the lead in trying to bring these kind of expenses and fees under control? That would be a service to the consumers of Nova Scotia. You know what? It gets worse. Remember I said earlier that people who don't pick their mutual funds, but go to professional advisors and ask them to pick mutual funds for them, they're a big sector. Lots of people will do this. Lots of people will think they're being prudent, but just think back to that scenario a moment ago in which the mutual fund isn't doing so well. Suppose you go to your professional advisor and you say, you know those mutual funds that you suggested, I think they're not doing so well, so could we maybe make a switch and go somewhere else? If you've ever had this experience, you will probably find what I found when I've talked with some of my friends and relatives, because their professional advisors say to them, stay the course. Stay the course, the market will turn.

But you know what? Have you heard of trailing fees? If you haven't heard of trailing fees, let me tell you what trailing fees are. A trailing fee is an amount of money that the mutual fund pays to your financial advisor so long as you, the client, keep your money invested in their mutual fund; in other words it's in their financial interest - these professional advisors - for you to keep your money in the fund, whether the fund is doing well or it isn't. They're in a conflict-of-interest position and there is nothing in Canadian law that regulates that, and there sure is nothing in this bill that regulates that, or even suggests it.

What I want to know is, why is it that the Finance Ministers of this country, in the provinces, why is it that the ministers who deal with consumer protection in this country are not taking the lead in saying to the mutual fund industry that your fees are too high and there are conflict-of-interest situations that are built into how this industry operates, and it's bad for consumers and something has to change here?

That would be a service to consumers. That would be something that ought to happen here. You know what? There's no reason why we couldn't start doing that right here, even though we don't have a big mutual fund industry of our own in terms of mutual funds that are rooted here, or agents that are rooted here, although we have some, we could start this. This is an ideal service that could be performed for citizens all across Canada. There are millions of Canadians out there who are being plundered, their savings for their children for university and post-secondary education and for their own retirement are being plundered in a way that is unconscionable.

Mr. Speaker, although I've taken a few minutes, I've really made one point and one point only, this bill has the wrong set of priorities. This bill says what can we do to make life easier for the people who sell mutual funds, it doesn't say what can we do to protect and make life easier and better and wealthier for the investors who are involved in the securities

[Page 6721]

that they sell. That's the right set of priorities, and that's what's missing from this bill and generally from that government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I'd like the opportunity to very briefly address this question because as has been pointed by my colleagues, this is something which is of grave importance to many small- and medium-sized investors, by which we mean families, we mean mothers and fathers, parents of children, and in fact the children of our seniors who may in fact need our financial protection as they proceed later in their lives.

We cannot afford to allow the ability to protect oneself financially to disappear lightly. The one thing that I'd like to point out in this, which is of the greatest concern to me, is quite simply the time line. We are engaged, already, in a continuum of harmonization. At the moment we have what's called mutual recognition of the provisions of the various provinces for the regulators, for the registrants and the issuers of stocks traded in Canada. So the mutual recognition means that at this moment we have a certain limited acceptance of one another's rules.

Beyond this is what's called the passport system, which is intended to be integrated here and, further, an enhanced passport system, eventually leading to what's referred to as a fully harmonized uniform securities law. Now in Canada, securities are a provincially regulated function, and I think it is important to realize that this has been done for some particular reason. We do not have it as a federal responsibility. If we have a uniform securities law, it will be tantamount to making this a federal responsibility.

The securities administrators are asking for the legislative authority to make delegation and sub-delegation to other jurisdictions. The time line along which all of this is to happen is of grave concern to me. August 2005, that is weeks away from now. If there's nothing else that I understand, that I'm sure the other members of the House understand from this, is that the world of securities, mutual funds, bonds is a complex one. The rules which govern those issuers of stocks and venture capitals as well as those who trade them and who take commissions on their trade are an extremely complex regulatory system. If we are simply going to say that by August 2005 we'll all be in line, it's like we've all said we're going to agree to agree by August 2005, we don't know what we're agreeing to, but we're going to agree to it. I worry that this is something that may not, in fact, tend to the greater protection of the Nova Scotian consumer.

When we look at the preamble to the current instrument, there is considerable talk about improving access to capital markets. Improving access to capital markets is improving access to capital for issuers, it is not improving access to capital for those who are in fact the suppliers of capital, the small- and medium-sized suppliers of capital, who may have very carefully, over a very long time, gathered . . .

[Page 6722]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the honourable members to take their conversations outside, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

[3:45 p.m.]

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, in fact I'm almost ready to close at this point. But as I say, it's very important that we do not allow this sort of a system to be cobbled together in a matter of weeks for the making of rules, which protects Nova Scotians, sometimes in the face of very, very large and complicated systems, from loss of their hard-earned savings. One of the other things which is in here is the possibility of looking at fee review for the regulators themselves. These are trading fees, brokerage fees, and it worries me when we say that all of the provinces will look at reviewing the fees. This, too, can tend to make those capital markets more accessible to those who need the capital, but perhaps at the cost of those who supply the capital.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say in closing that this may in fact be a worthy initiative, but it is most definitely not an initiative to be subscribed to with only a few weeks notice and with no guarantee that there will be an equal or greater level of protection for those who actually drive our capitalist system, the investors, as the protection which is available now. So, in closing, I would ask the indulgence of the House to think about this very carefully.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I have just a few observations on this particular piece of legislation. I believe this is a good piece of legislation. There could be some room for some amendments at the Law Amendments Committee. I believe what we have to do is consider, certainly, the points that were raised by colleagues in the NDP caucus. More concerning, I suppose, I was a little taken back by the observations from the member for Halifax Chebucto who would suggest in a very subtle way that the minds of stockbrokers and financial advisors are less than honourable. At that rate, he would be better off taking his money and putting it under his mattress. That would seem to be about the only level of security that that honourable member would take.

Mr. Speaker, as we well know, the federal government could very easily pass legislation that would surpass and basically take full responsibility for this particular matter, but the collaborative effort between the different provincial jurisdictions, because of certain actions that have taken place in the marketplace, and reference has been made to Enron and a number of other situations where Nova Scotia investors seem to have been duped - but in British Columbia, if you look at the Vancouver Stock Exchange, that particular securities operation affords a lot of small high-risk companies to be able to invest, whereas if you were in the Toronto Stock Exchange, there would be very little opportunity to access venture

[Page 6723]

capital; equally so, if you look at the Alberta experience where the regulator is also the prosecutor, so the concern has been raised over the last several months about the possible conflicts of interest.

Mr. Speaker, what this bill, as I interpret, sets out to do is ensure that the passport system does become a reality and makes it a lot easier for investors, particularly those in Atlantic Canada, to be able to have greater access to a greater market. For example, in Atlantic Canada, less than 2 per cent of all the venture capital in Canada is invested in the entirety of Atlantic Canada. So there is a limitation there, and that does have an impact on those individuals, whether it be someone who wants to invest for their children or their grandchildren, but the fact of the matter is we have limited ourselves. There is concern as well with the licensing fees, and there has been a fair bit of criticism of the Securities Commission toward the provincial government for collecting too much in these licensing fees. So, in effect, what we will see is not only a more uniform application through the Securities Commission nationally, the fact that we have greater mobility, but we'll also see a reduction in some cases, of the fees.

If this legislation was not put forward, I believe what we would see is a more centralized approach. We know Ontario is supposed to have signed on to this particular memorandum of agreement with the securities commissions from all the other provincial jurisdictions, i.e., the provincial governments, but for some reason, they backed off.

I believe all the considerations are there. I don't believe this is a short-term impulsive move. I believe it's something that was in consultation with the securities commissions and the regulators that, in fact, this is the appropriate move. It's something that has been in the making since many of these scandals that have occurred in the United States. Hopefully, (Interruption) no, we won't mention scandals in Ottawa. Anyway, suffice to say, I believe this bill is certainly worthy of going on to The Law Amendments Committee and certainly some opportunity for additional amendments.

I also believe that Nova Scotian consumers will benefit by this particular piece of legislation because if the licensing fees are reduced for the financial advisors or the brokers, the investors, then it's like everything else - at the end of the day, somebody has to pay the bill. I do appreciate the point that was made by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on trailing fees. I think that's a very important point and worthy of some considerable examination. I would certainly acknowledge that's one particular issue that would deserve some close scrutiny by the provincial Department of Labour and Environment. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

[Page 6724]

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the comments that were made. I would just like to point out that this is uniform legislation that all of Canada is looking at. I do believe British Columbia and Alberta have introduced the same piece of legislation with the exact same wording, as I understand it. We're looking at trying to move along to ensure we have the uniform legislation in place. With that, I'd like to close debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 168. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 173 for second reading. I would hope the members would accept we expect the minister will be here very shortly in case there are any questions.

Bill No. 173 - Bee Industry Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, this bill has been one that has had some consultation from bee producers. I guess one of the most contentious issues for aviaries has been the introduction of disease, particularly through parasites in bee colonies. It happens most often with the introduction of queens. Producers quite often import queens into the province. This would be the key component to splitting up hives and creating more hives, in order to have healthy hives. The problem, as you might well expect, is that some of these producers deliver hives to a wide part of the province, in other words to a variety of locations in order to have a great enough supply of blossoms for their bees to gather enough pollen to get the nectar for the production of honey.

This business of honey production, although a very natural thing for bees that mankind has exploited, is dependent on a couple of factors. One of them is the supply of blossoms, and the other one is temperature because it has to be warm enough for bees to be able to fly. It's been a concern of the industry around where bees come from, the impact of those bees on the present supply of bees in the province, and some control of who actually is a producer and who isn't. These are things this bill addresses, in particular registration of bee producers.

[Page 6725]

Mr. Speaker, our caucus, we really have no problem with this bill. We're particularly pleased that the minister has consulted with the industry on this. There's been a fair bit of discussion to try to actually meet the needs of the industry with this legislation. With those few comments, I take my place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to speak for a few moments on this bill. I think it's a good piece of legislation coming forward, because it's a consolidation of two Acts. This is some housekeeping and updating. I think the two or three main things about this bill are, number one, that through the registration process, it is going to be a means and a mechanism to hopefully control disease. That, in fact, has, in some areas, wiped out large numbers of bee hives, bee colonies. I think this is going to be one of the positive things around this bill.

Certainly here in Nova Scotia, we need to realize that beekeeping and the bee industry is also a foundational industry of the blueberry industry. So, therefore, that's one of the considerations that was given to some consultation with the Beekeepers Association before the final draft of this legislation. So there's really nothing substantially new here that beekeepers are not aware of.

The one concern that was raised with me about the bill is whether or not the regulations will actually allow for possible fees to go on to beekeepers - with registration, will there also be fees, and would permits of the export of bees, colonies, outside the province, would this also lead to permit fees being placed there? That was the one concern. I think this bill deserves to move forward, and we'll have an opportunity later on to perhaps ask the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries about this piece of legislation. With that, I take my place, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Deputy Premier it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 173.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 173. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 6726]

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would please call Bill No. 174.

Bill No. 174 - Auditor General Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, really, today, I'm speaking to this bill in my capacity as Chairman of the Treasury and Policy Board and, I might also say, as a member of an all-Party committee which has been formed, composed of myself, the member for Halifax Fairview and the member for Halifax Citadel, to look at matters relating to the transition in Nova Scotia and appointment of a new Auditor General. As a result of deliberations of that committee, the committee jointly has put forward these amendments to the House for consideration and really, Mr. Speaker, they do two things.

[4:00 p.m.]

Firstly and foremost, of course, it provides for something that perhaps should have been provided for quite awhile ago which is that the Auditor General would not be appointed except with the support of the majority of members of the Legislative Assembly. The Auditor General, obviously, needs to have the support and confidence of the House in order to be able to do his or her job. A second part of that, of course, Mr. Speaker, is a provision that provides for a term of office for the Auditor General. That, again, was a matter that the committee agreed was the appropriate measure, quite consistent across the country that terms of office exist. That they would not be renewable because it was felt that that would put the Auditor General in a position of some conflict. I might add that those recommendations are supported by the present Auditor General who believes that these would be helpful changes for his successor. So really as a member of that joint all-Party committee and on behalf of the government, I am pleased to move second reading of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, like the Minister of Justice, I'm addressing this bill perhaps with more than one capacity, not only as a member of the House, but also as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and as the NDP representative on the all-Party Committee charged with overseeing the process of selecting a new Auditor General.

The current Auditor General, Mr. Roy Salmon, has announced that he is retiring at the end of the current fiscal year which is the end of March, 2006. The process has begun to select a new Auditor General, Mr. Speaker. I would like to take a few minutes today in the

[Page 6727]

context of the bill before the House to talk about the process that has been agreed upon by the all-Party committee. I do want to say right away that the government deserves to be congratulated for the way that they have approached this particular matter. We all know how important the Office of the Auditor General is and has become to accountability and the proper functioning of government.

If anything, Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's Office has grown in stature and importance nationally as a result of certain events, but simply as a result of the fact that over many years Auditors General have shown themselves to be objective, dependable, thoughtful observers of the workings of government. We only have to look at the situation up in the federal government to know what integrity and respect the federal Auditor General has reported on all manner of subjects whether it is favourable to the government or not. I think we have to congratulate our sitting Auditor General, Mr. Roy Salmon, whose office and his senior staff, and may I mention just for the record his senior staff - Claude Carter, Elaine Morash and Alan Horgan -who together with the Auditor General have certainly seen the same growth in respect and stature of the office. We all find their reports very helpful, useful and informative and I know that the media do as well, as do the members of the public who take an interest in government affairs. So when an Auditor General retires, it's very important that the process be thorough and objective to find someone to fill this very important office.

Now, strangely enough, Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia the appointment of an Auditor General is up to the Governor in Council, it's up to the Cabinet, it's a Cabinet appointment, which is odd since the Auditor General is in a sense reporting on the activities of Cabinet, or the follow through on decisions from Cabinet, but to the Premier's credit, this Premier, like the Premier in 1992 when the last Auditor General was selected, has not followed the narrow words of the Auditor General Act, but has made the process an all-Party one.

Mr. Speaker, at the Premier's instigation and with the support of the other Party Leaders, and all-Party committee has been struck the membership being the Minister of Justice, myself and the member for Halifax Citadel. The process that we have arrived on, that we have agreed by consensus to follow is as follows; that a request for proposals would be issued to executive search firms. The request would be asking the executive search firms to follow a two-step process. The first step to conduct a wide consultation on the job qualifications and criteria. What are we looking for in an Auditor General? Once they report back to the oversight committee and the oversight committee has approved that report, then they go out to do the actual job search. To invite applications, but not only to invite applications but go and seek out people who are likely to fulfill the duties of the office with distinction, whether they would have actually thought of applying themselves or not.

Then, a short list would be presented to the oversight committee, Mr. Speaker, and as long as the process has been properly followed that short list would be approved and the candidates would then go before an interview committee. There would be a five-person interview committee consisting of two representatives of the Institute of Chartered

[Page 6728]

Accountants of Nova Scotia. One representative of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, one person representing the academic community, and one person representing the Canadian Council of Legislative Auditors. In other words, sitting Auditors General from other provinces. This five-person interview committee would interview the candidates and then rank the candidates in order. This ranked list would then be made known to the oversight committee and then presented to Cabinet for approval.

As is appropriate, it is appropriate that Cabinet have the final decision on who the Auditor General should be. If this process is followed, if they were to choose someone other than the first ranked candidate that would be publicly known and the government would have to justify that decision. If the process is followed through properly, there's no reason to think that Cabinet would choose someone other than the top-ranked candidate.

Mr. Speaker, we find this process not only acceptable, but highly desirable. We believe that it is a model for now and for the future for the selection of Auditors General. That is not all that this oversight committee has done. The Government to its credit, to the credit of the Minister of Justice in particular, has invited the other Parties to be involved from the very beginning in the crafting of the legislation that is before the House today for second reading. From the very beginning the Opposition Parties were invited to indicate what amendments to the Auditor General's Act that they would want and which ones they could support. So this bill that has become before the House is one that has already been looked at by the Opposition caucuses. Approved by the Opposition caucuses. Going forward in a very consensus driven process.

It's a shame, Mr. Speaker, only this, that this process which I think has been very productive, could not be followed in other areas of government. It is a shame that this process - because the government knows that the Opposition isn't always wrong. The Opposition knows that the government is not always wrong. Each of us have good ideas and by working together constructively, we are bound to come up with better legislation. It's a shame sometimes when the government tables legislation in the House and the first we ever see or hear of it is the day it lands on the Clerk's desk. It seems to me that the most excellent process we followed in creating this piece of legislation, is a model for other processes as well.

So, Mr. Speaker, with those words, let me say again congratulations to the Premier for following this process in the selection of the Auditor General. Let me congratulate the Minster of Justice, for following through on the process as agreed to by the Party Leaders and we look forward to this process unfolding and the selection of a new person to fill the very important job of the Auditor General of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

[Page 6729]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Merci M. le président, sa me fait plaisir de passer quelque commentaire sur le projets de loi 174, qui à faire avec le processus qui sois suivi pour la selection de le nouveau Vérificateur Général pour la Province de la Nouvelle Écosse. Je tiens à joindre collegue de Halifax Fairview qui a parlé du processus le faits que le committé qui a réprésenté tous les parties politiques içi à l'Assembler pour faire la decisions sur qu'es ce qui été la meilleure façons de choisir quelqu'un ou quelqu'une qui sera dépendants/dépendantes et qui pourras servir dans ce role si important. J'ai entendu que le membre d'Halifax Fairview, je pense que peut-être meme le Ministre de la Justice a suggéré peut-être la Vérificatrice Générale à Ottawa serait une bonne choix pour içi à l'assembler à la Nouvelle Ecosse. Je suis d'accord, sa serait très bon d'avoire une Vérificatrice Générale qui pourras se pronocer en francais ici à la Nouvelle Écosse et qu'on aurait un autre position bilingue dans le secteur publique içi à la Nouvelle Écosse. Je ne sait pas si le committé a même discuté le possibiliter que le prochain candidat/candidate sera bilingue, mais je pense que c'est une bonne occasion de peut-être - j'èspere quand ils seront en trains de choisir, si il y a quelqu'un qui est bilingue pour le poste que, sa sera pris en consideration en décider qui sera le prochain personne.

Je tiens aussi a féliciter M. Roy Salmon pour son bon travaille, j'ai eu l'occasion de travailler directement avec lui sur le committé qui a faire avec les "Public Accounts" içi à la Province quand j'été membres, quand on a été le partie de pouvoire, quand on a été en opposition et on était très bien servit par lui, le Vérificateur Général, et par son équipe qui travaille avec lui. Alors j'y suète bonne chance quand il va prendre à sa retraite. Je suis certains qu'il a établit une bonne route pour la personne qui va le suivre à cette position.

Mr. Speaker, just briefly on Bill No. 174, the Auditor General Act, my colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel, would have been a member of this all-Party committee in determining the rules and selecting who the next auditor general would be. I'm sure he would ask me to pass on his congratulations to Roy Salmon and his staff for the excellent work they have done and they continue to do for government, for members and, more importantly, for average Nova Scotians in making sure tax dollars are properly spent and properly accounted for.

Also, I'm sure you would want me to congratulate the government and the Minister of Justice for the process that has been brought forward. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out it's amazing some of the things that can be achieved under minority government with goodwill from everyone. But I think this is certainly an important step, more important that the person chosen will understand they've been given a mandate that is supported by the different political Parties in this province which will be a reflection to them that they do have the support of Nova Scotians. They will have an important role to play and will certainly have big shoes to fill in the legacy that Roy Salmon has left for that post. I wish him well in his retirement and, again, thank his senior staff for the hard work they do.

[Page 6730]

Putting a time limit on the auditor general here in the province, I believe, is a positive change and, hopefully, at the end of the day will give Nova Scotians that added level of confidence that their hard-earned tax dollars are being properly spent and being properly accounted for here in this province. I look forward to this bill moving forward to the Law Amendments Committee, and if there are any suggestions or changes proposed by the public there we will deal with them at that point. I again congratulate the government for bringing it forward and we'll certainly be giving the support of the Liberal caucus for it to move from second reading. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Thank you very much. I would like to thank the two members opposite who spoke earlier on the bill. As was indicated during the debate, this is a matter of co-operation and I look forward, with all members, to passage on to committee and ultimate passage in law. With that, I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 174. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

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

The motion is carried.

[4:15 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. James DeWolfe in the Chair.]

[4:17 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:

[Page 6731]

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following three bills:

Bill No. 145 - Elections Act.

Bill No. 147 - Youth Justice Act/Motor Vehicle Act.

Bill No. 165 - Education Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the Government Business for today. I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The order of business, following the daily routine, will be Committee of the Whole House on Supply. The first estimate in the House is Health, and in the Red Chamber it will be Agriculture and Fisheries. The House will sit for four hours on estimates tomorrow. I move that the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 9:00 a.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned until 9:00 a.m.

We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 6732]


MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it's interesting, today. Our resolution reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government has not adequately addressed the issue of roads in rural Nova Scotia."

I think that is very, very true. In fact, it's extremely true, and nothing could be further from the truth. If you can get proof of that, some of you may have seen the show on TV last night, the Global News at 6:00 o'clock about another example of a deteriorating rural road in this province. This particular one happened to be from my riding, it was the road of White Hill in Pictou County. It was a road that was paved in 1981, it was a gravel road until that point and put just a small skim of pavement over that particular road. Within two or three years it had started to break down, deteriorate.

So there's been a lot of attention brought to this White Hill Road. I've brought it up here in the Legislature before, to the minister and to the Premier, and to the area manager and others. It's at the point today that it's just totally unacceptable; it's potholed, it's cracked, it's heaved, it's broken. I think residents decided to take things into their own hands and called the television station and said come on out and have a look at our road, you'll see for yourself just how bad it is. It was obvious from the clip on the news last night that it is in very, very poor shape. It's just not acceptable in 2005.

I think residents are fed up. They want better. They're looking for safety in their area. When you have to travel across the road and onto the other side, you can see just how poor it is. So it's a safety issue, not only for drivers but for children who are on school buses, when they're bounced around by a very rough road. Naturally, mothers and fathers are concerned about their children who travel on our school buses.

You may have seen on the clip, Mr. Speaker, there was one lady who mentioned that she had to travel in an ambulance, and it was so rough that the ambulance had to stop in order to put an IV in her at that particular time. So that's an extremely poor road. There's also the cost to the residents who live there. They're fed up with the cost of tires, rims, mufflers, front-end repairs, ball joints and sway bars and so on. So there are many things wrong in rural Nova Scotia when the roads are this bad that you have to call a TV station to come out and have a look at just how poor it is.

There's another cost here too, Mr. Speaker, not only the cost for safety, the cost for schoolchildren, to the drivers for their costs of various car parts, but there's an economic development cost when people, farmers and small business people, are travelling down the road and again it's adding up. Some of these people are not going to come into an area that's in need of repair when they know that the road is this poor. So that's one example that proves

[Page 6733]

that this resolution is correct, that this government has not adequately addressed the issue of rural roads.

Another example, as I brought up previously in this House, was Highway 256 through Scotsburn and West Branch and through to the Colchester County line. People there are also fed up. They've formed a highway improvement committee under the chairmanship of Ron Goodall and a number of other community people who have come together and said that this is just no longer acceptable and they want a better road. They are tired of the damage to their cars and the safety issue, similar to what has been going on in White Hill. They have signed petitions, they have written letters. Again, they invited a TV station to come in and have a look at their road, I think it was CBC Television that was there earlier this year. There have been public meetings held. A number of people have gone to municipal council to seek support through their local councillor and just on it goes. So the roads are unacceptable in many areas of my riding and throughout other areas of Nova Scotia.

I know the government has brought down their budget and they've said they are going to spend more money on roads. It's a slight increase over last year I see by the budget estimates. It's $263 million which is a bit more than last year and I understand there's some other money perhaps in another fund that will allow for some additional repairs to our roads, but it's nowhere near what's needed. There was a 10-year study done in our province in 2001 that identified the infrastructure deficit in our province as around $3.5 billion. That's in 2001 dollars, today that would be $4 billion or maybe even $5 billion in total, that we're a long way under what's required here in this province. We absolutely need to put more dollars into our roads and the 10-year study proves it. So while we're putting a little bit more in this year, we're still in need of putting many more dollars into our rural infrastructure.

New Brunswick is spending more money than we are on their secondary roads and many other provinces are spending more per capita and, again looking at the budget estimates, I see under the debt, the pie chart, transportation is only getting 4.1 per cent of the budget this year. We need more dollars for roads.

I guess the final thing I'll mention before I turn it over to my colleague who wants to share my time here on this issue, is that it has to be done fairly, you know, whatever road work is going to be done in Nova Scotia, the worst roads should be done first, and it should

be done first. It should not be based on anything but that, the need, not on where people live or how they vote or if there's an election coming along or not. It should be based on fairness and that's all I guess we can ask of our minister and our department, that all areas of the province be looked at on a fair basis. That should include areas like Route 256 in Pictou County, the White Hill Road, and all ridings throughout this province that are in need of improvement.

[Page 6734]

With that, I will turn it over to my colleague to share my time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East. You have about two minutes.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm really pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this resolution. I actually wish I had more time. I have a rural constituency, and I live on a gravel road. If anybody wants to verify that, they need only to look at my car parked in the parking lot, the dirt on it.

I want to say it has been particularly difficult getting work done on roads. I have a constituency that's large enough and we used to have three sheds that operated in Hants East, one in Upper Rawdon on the Beaver Bank Road; one in Noel; and one in Milford. Now we have Noel and Milford. The one on the Beaver Bank Road has been shut down, it's storage area, used a little bit in the Winter for getting plows out, whatever, but not much.

The number of men we presently have in Hants East is the same as we used to have in one shed. So we're down to a third of the manpower that we used to have. Recently, they started to patch some of the potholes after the Winter, and they had to combine the crew from Milford and Noel together to get a crew to patch potholes. I think it's totally ridiculous that we don't have three crews patching at the same time, not to mention the number of other things that should be done at any one given time while they're patching.

The Minister of Transportation and Public Works did come out in my constituency last year to tour the East Uniacke Road. It's been particularly difficult to get the minister out, I have to say. I started the Fall before to try to get him out to Hants East, and that's after two or three years.

Is that my time, Mr. Speaker? Thank you.

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

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, thank you for some time to speak on the roads of Digby-Annapolis and probably all the other rural Nova Scotians. I won't be long, because I like to get right to the point.

The point is, in my riding there are approximately 500 kilometres of road, and approximately one-third of these are gravel - or mud, I should say. The local department has told me they have been putting pit run gravel on them for the last few years because it's cheaper to buy. This pit run gravel is mostly mud. They claim this is necessary because the money is being cut to the local departments over the past years. The proper gravel would be the basalt rock that is very available to us. It is the rock that American companies are after

[Page 6735]

to rebuild their own roads in the United States because, to them, it's a cheap rock, but here we are using mud on our roads.

If proper gravel is put on these roads, they wouldn't be in the bad shape they're in today. You seem to get what you pay for in anything in life - you buy cheap gravel, you get the mud. You get impassable roads during the wet weather that's so soft the department can't even get their own graters on them. This Spring most of these roads have been impassable even by ambulances and fire trucks. People are telling me they're afraid for their lives because of poor access to their homes. If a house fire ever broke out, or if someone got hurt, these emergency vehicles would not be able to get to them on these dirt roads.

I've been told that the Department of Transportation and Public Works gets so many calls in Digby-Annapolis that some workers of this department take sick leave during the mud season, because they feel hopeless in helping solve this problem.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I know of some individuals hauling gravel on their own, trying to fix the dirt roads enough to get them out of their driveways - and they are using good gravel to do that. They don't mind doing this, but they ask me continuously, where are our tax dollars going? Another question is, why do the road graders grade the surface of our roads into the ditches? Shouldn't they be graded towards the centre, then levelled? Wouldn't this build a better crown on our dirt roads and waste less gravel? - In our case, it's mud.

Some ditches that used to be three feet deep are now level with these roads and filled with growing alders. This is caused by graders pushing it into the ditches and by eroding mud from the roads during the Summer and Spring rains. If ditches were properly done, these roads wouldn't be in half as bad shape as they are today. But we know it's a lack of money and, in some cases, of good common sense when it comes to proper maintenance of, especially, our dirt roads. If we started building these dirt roads with proper gravel, the cost of the maintenance would decrease, saving us money.

Mr. Speaker, all these secondary paved roads are in dire need of work, also - I just want to name a few - South Range Cross, North Range Cross, Plympton, Clementsport River Road, Digby Neck, a section of Highway No. 8 in Annapolis, and on and on I could go. Long Island Road has not been paved for over 50 years, but Long Island has had six kilometres done each for the past two years - and the people thank you very much for this. But the final six kilometres must be finished, and we are in the hope that this will be done this paving season. This road was to be done in three phases of three years and this is the third year.

I would like to add that the Weymouth Mills Road has been announced to be fixed this coming Summer. The folks in this area have been asking for this for many years and are thanking the government for this move, but much more needs to be done to the roads.

[Page 6736]

There's also Highway No. 1, between Weymouth and Digby. It's nice that we're twinning highways in Nova Scotia, but in Digby we haven't gotten even a single controlled access highway yet. This is a 30-year issue in this area, and I hear it every day from the people who live on this stretch of dangerous road.

We know money is hard to come by, and we know that this is what the government will say, but we must find a way to start rebuilding our rural roads. We must have a new plan of action and create the funding to do this; if not, we will be so far behind in road repair that we will never catch up. All our problems in this province - or most of them - come down to the lack of money. With our roads, it's $3.5 billion-plus in deficit and growing, I would say it's time for us to look at ways of finding solutions to this problem. I'm positive that we can do that.

Mr. Speaker, this is another story, but it's something to think about, and that is taking good care of our resources, and that includes the out-migration of our children, one of our greatest resources. With our resources slipping away without any benefit for the people of Nova Scotia, it's nothing more than poor management and lack of common sense. If lack of money is our problem, we had better find ways to correct this. The deal of our offshore resources was a great start - and I congratulate both our provincial and federal governments - but we can't stop there. We have many resources that could truly benefit the people of Nova Scotia if they were properly managed.

Mr. Speaker, for every problem there is a solution - there always was and always will be. Let's get to work towards that solution, and our reward will be a better way of life for all Nova Scotians. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes. You have about three minutes.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm proud to have shared my time with the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, because what he said bears repetition. Continually, over and over and over the same topic, pointing to the same thing and, as my colleague said, $3.5 million, and to quote the honourable minister in the House recently, he said "Probably given that amount in today's terms, it would be more like $5 million rather than $3.5 million."

So we have a tremendous deficit - and where do I begin? We've referenced the road today for about the third or fourth time, the area in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. I hear the minister talking about the weight restrictions and whatnot, and they're coming off now but what I would like to do, Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, is just focus on something a little bit different - what about the cost to education? Compare that to the roads, and what does that have to do with roads? Unnecessary damage to school buses that takes valuable money from education to repair those.

[Page 6737]

We have trained professional workers I know of who are now trying so hard to repair those roads with a stripped-down crew, laid-off crew, that they're heating old asphalt with a propane torch and running out with it in a bucket, and trying to dump it in the hole and roll it down while it's still hot. Now, if that's not a disaster, I don't know what is, and the problem that they're facing is they cannot do that any more simply because the rules and regulations of the Department of Environment and Labour will not allow them unless they shut the lane down completely, and I've referenced that in the House here. They were shutting it down, and it takes an hour to shut down a lane, an hour to open it back up, and five minutes to fix the hole.

Mr. Speaker, I could mention the road to Washabuck down in my area - that's the road to "washout". I can reference the road out in Scotch Lake, the MacDonald Road that has been 20 to 25 years trying to get that paved. There is the rear east loop in Wagmatcook and I know, just by talking to the gentlemen in the area, they went out and they costed that, but there's no chance of ever having that paved in the foreseeable future. So we have a problem, we know we have it. Money is the thing. I hear them say that every bit of the gas tax is going into the roads. I looked at the chart in the budget yesterday, and 4 per cent of motor tax is collected by the province and 3.3 per cent was put in last year. This year 4 per cent is being collected again and 3.4 per cent is going into transportation. So, to me, that shows there's a clear discrepancy. What's needed for the roads is more money. If I'm out of time, I thank you for the time to present my case.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it's a great pleasure to correct some of the misinformation that is being passed on, in particular from the Liberal Party. First of all, I don't want to dwell on this, but I do have to bring to the attention of the House again, before I commence my remarks, that the root of this problem occurred in 1993 when the government changed and the government of the day said we need money to do things, and where are we going to get that money? The easiest way was to take it from the capital expenditures of the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

In those days, Mr. Speaker, the capital account was rolled, along with the operational account, into one. Over the years from 1993 until 2000, the budget of the Department of Transportation and Public Works for capital construction decreased from about $112 million, I think, down to $40 million in the year 2000. Since we have been in government, rather than not adequately addressing the issues of roads in rural Nova Scotia, we have increased the capital budget from $40 million to this year approximately $142 million - $142 million from $40 million. Now that is not ignoring the needs of rural Nova Scotia insofar as the roads are concerned.

[Page 6738]

Contrary to what the Liberal Party is saying about the number of workers in the department, the number of hours - now you can't measure employees in the Department of Transportation and Public Works on their Summer and their Winter programs as being employees full time. It's part-time, so we measure them by the number of hours of work put in. The number has not decreased since the 1990s, in fact this year we're going to add approximately 110, I believe, more full-time equivalents, in this one year alone.

Mr. Speaker, how can people stand up in this House and say that we are taking people away from carrying on their duties of Winter and Summer maintenance. They can't say that. (Interruptions) The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party, today, was talking about the fact that one of the reasons we don't have enough money for the highways this year, beyond what we've already got, is because of the fact that the Premier got $830 million and he still hasn't gotten it. Let me just tell you that the official Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Francis MacKenzie, was quite happy to accept $640 million. Now, if we just accepted the $640 million, what would our budget be in Transportation and Public Works?

But enough of the past, let's get on with the future and what we're doing. We do indeed have an infrastructure deficit in the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Indeed it was, when we took over the government, $3.5 billion, but that number has increased simply because of the fact that inflation has come into play. Now it's costing approximately $175,000 per kilometre to repave a road, $175,000, whereas back in the 1990s it was around $90,000. Now, in the last five or six years, primarily because of the cost of oil and things like that, the cost of repaving roads is about $175,000 per kilometre.

That's why, Mr. Speaker, we can't just run to try to catch up, we have to get on a horse and gallop off to finally catch up with just inflation alone in order to take care of that infrastructure which has ballooned, as the honourable member for Pictou West just said, from $3.5 billion and it's up around probably $4 billion now, maybe even $5 billion that we need to repair the highways and the bridges in this province, and to also take care of some expansion which we need.

As the member for Digby was saying, there is a section there of Highway No. 101 which is still an open highway, in other words it isn't a limited-access highway. We should look after that. But we don't have the money. When people say, well, get some more money, remember, if we're going to get more money, we have to take it from somewhere. Are you saying we should take it from the Department of Health? Are you saying we should take it from the Department of Education? Are you saying we should take it from Community Services?

If you aren't saying that, because they spend all the money, Natural Resources, Environment and Labour, Justice and other departments, their money is down to the bottom of where it can go. Our primary expenditures now are in those three big departments, the next

[Page 6739]

biggest is Transportation and Public Works. Thank goodness we're climbing up, but we have a long way to go.

We have to spend our money more smartly. Now, when I say, and during the estimates somebody will ask me about contracting out, we have to contract out. If we don't contract out our RIM Program, et cetera, the number of kilometres of roads that you'll get has to decrease because it costs more money to do it through our own resources. It costs more money if we use our own resources to do things such as that. We don't even have a paver anymore in the department. We used to have a crew that used to be in competition with the private industry, it costs more, I'm sorry, it would.

Mr. Speaker, the RIM Program is very cost effective. We are getting approximately 30 per cent more production from RIM than we would the way we were operating before. Contracting out is saving us money. We still need our own people, we still need our own people, don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to do away with the employees that we have. We have good employees, and we could probably use more. As I say, we're taking on another 100 and something, I think it's 110, I'm not absolutely sure about that number, this year.

We need those people, they're good people, they're hardworking people, they're enthusiastic, and they do a good job. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we have so much work to do and so much of it is specialized work that can only be done by private contractors. We don't have the skills now to go out and build a concrete bridge - we don't have those kinds of skills. We don't have the skills to lay a concrete highway, which we're doing in some areas now. We don't have the skills or the equipment to even lay large stretches of asphalt. We have to spend our money more smartly.

[4:45 p.m.]

We're going to do that. In fact, just yesterday we went ahead with that bridge program I was mentioning in the House before, Cherubini is a local company, a local steel company, it has the rights for Atlantic Canada and the Caribbean for this new type of bridge. It makes sense. As I've said in the House before, years and years ago you could buy a bridge from a catalogue, it was like Eaton's catalogue, you would open it up, I need a bridge that's 30 feet long or 100 feet long and you'd look it up in the catalogue and you would find one there. It was just like buying from Eaton's. They would ship it up in bits and you would put it together, sit it on a couple of abutments and you would have a bridge.

Now, what we have been doing, we've been bringing a crew to a spot on the river and we've been building up the - where you pour the concrete into - the abutments, and then dragging steel across and laying concrete on top of that - time consuming, costing a lot of money. You get a bridge, but you don't get a bridge any better than the old-fashioned one which you just dumped there. Those bridges we bought out of the catalogue, some of them have been there for 130 years, they need to be replaced, they're worn out now.

[Page 6740]

A modern bridge that you build with ferroconcrete is only going to last you for 25 to 50 years, somewhere in that area before you have to start spending money on it. These bridges from Cherubini are going to be successful. We're not only going to have them in this province, but they're also going to be able to ship bridges down in pieces to the Caribbean. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I wish we had more time. I thank the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening.

The House is adjourned until 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 4:48 p.m.]

[Page 6741]



By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Natural Resources)

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

Whereas a ceremony and reception held recently during Education Week and focusing on the theme History: Look in your own backyard, saw 27 educators from across Nova Scotia honoured by their respective school boards; and

Whereas George Egan from the Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial School was one of three educators chosen by the Tri-County Regional School Board; and

Whereas in June 2000, our government announced that Canadian History would become a mandatory course for high school graduation in Nova Scotia to ensure all students leave school with a sense of their history and heritage, because in June 2000, just 77 of 11,631 Grade 12 students, or fewer than 1 per cent, were enrolled in Canadian History courses in Nova Scotia high schools;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this Legislature congratulate Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School teacher George Egan for being named as one of the 27 award winners province-wide, for his ardent interest in the subject and for properly conveying the wonderful aspects of the course to his students.


By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Katie Henwood, a Grade 12 student at Parrsboro Regional High School, has been selected as the Town of Parrsboro's Volunteer Youth Award recipient for 2005; and

Whereas Katie spends about 20 hours per week volunteering in activities outside of her busy schedule of classes and is always on the go; and

Whereas Katie volunteers time to the Lions Arena, Parrsboro Skating Club, Sunday School at Trinity United Church, she is also editor of the yearbook and secretary of the student council, and she is a member of the school's badminton and soccer teams;

[Page 6742]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Katie Henwood on these outstanding achievements, and thank her for her hours of hard work and dedication to her community and her province.


By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Cody Hebb from Parrsboro holds the trophy he was awarded for top scoring in the Bluenose Tournament; and

Whereas the tournament was held in Amherst from December 3rd to December 5th; and

Whereas Cody is a Parrsboro Predator Midget A player and ended the weekend with a total of seven points (three goals and four assists);

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Cody on receiving this award and wish him continued success in the future.


By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Lydia Hatfield was honoured at the Springhill Student Appreciation Night in Springhill; and

Whereas Lydia was awarded a plaque for the Most Dedicated Player of the Jr. B Girls Basketball team; and

Whereas it was a night for the school and the students and staff of Springhill Regional High School to show their appreciation to all the athletes who work so hard and show so much dedication all year to their team and their school;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Lydia Hatfield on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in the future.

[Page 6743]


By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Arnold and Jackie Hurley hosted an open house reception at their Thompson Station Shell & Hurley's Family Restaurant; and

Whereas the reception took place on February 6, 2005 with special guests including Rev. Gary MacDougall, who blessed the opening, and Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott, who brought a proclamation on behalf of his government; and

Whereas the official opening of this family business was a great boost for the community and this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Arnold and Jackie Hurley and their children, Nora, Thane and Catherine, on the opening of their business, and wish them continued success in the future.


By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Junior B Blues hockey team has been presented with the award for Volunteer Group of the Year for Springhill; and

Whereas with a beautiful new arena in town, a group of energetic community members got together with the vision to bring back the Cumberland County Blues Jr. B hockey club to a new home in Springhill; and

Whereas these individuals began working on this dream long before the ice was laid in the Richard Calder Arena, where the group of executive members and volunteers put together a show of junior hockey beyond words, while none of them made a penny or asked for any recognition for doing it; however, they deserve all the recognition they can get for their success, where not only did they produce a successful hockey club, they also hosted the league's all star game;

[Page 6744]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this house congratulate all of the individuals who spent many, many hours producing a great show of hockey in Springhill, and we look forward to seeing the Blues back in action in 2005-06, led by this great force of volunteers.