|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|ARRIVAL OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR||1|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE||2|
|INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:|
|An Act Respecting Oaths of Office, Hon. M. Scott||14|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE:|
|Moved - Mr. M. Parent ~ 14|
|Seconded - Mr. G. Hines||18|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Mr. D. Dexter||20|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., May 5th at 10:00 a.m.||24|
HALIFAX, THURSDAY, MAY 4, 2006
Fifty-ninth General Assembly
Hon. Cecil Clarke
Mr. James DeWolfe, Mr. Charles Parker, Mr. Keith Colwell
[The Second Session of the 59th General Assembly was opened with historic ceremony on an overcast day.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor.
[The Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Myra A. Freeman, preceded by her escort and aides and by Mr. Ken Greenham, Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, entered the House of Assembly Chamber. The Lieutenant Governor then took her seat on the Throne.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then departed and re-entered the Chamber followed by the Speaker, the Honourable Cecil Clarke; the Chief Clerk of the House, Roderick MacArthur, Q.C.; the Assistant Clerk, Arthur Fordham, Q.C.; and the Assistant Clerk, Neil Ferguson.
The Speaker, with the Sergeant-at-Arms on his right and the Clerks on either side, took up his position at the foot of the Speaker's Table.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Legislative Assembly, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the second session of the 59th General Assembly.
We come here to pay tribute to our former Premier, John Hamm, a good friend to every member of this House, and a great champion of Nova Scotia. In the six and a half years the honourable member for Pictou Centre served as Premier, Nova Scotia witnessed many firsts, many milestones. While many will remember his success in getting Nova Scotia's fiscal house in order and in bringing a new level of economic prosperity to our province, many others will remember him for all that he did to support families in need.
The members of this House also express our gratitude to the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, in our military. While the Year of the Veteran has passed, our deep appreciation for what they have sacrificed remains constant. We know it was their courage and sacrifice that have guaranteed our right to take our place in this house today and to freely debate the issues of concern to Nova Scotians. We thank them and the men and women who continue to put their lives in harm's way so all of us can continue to enjoy our peace and freedom.
My government also notes with sadness the passing of many Nova Scotians who enriched their province in the service of others. Among them, Honourable Robert Lorne Stanfield, the Honourable Terence R. B. Donahoe, Senator Calvin Ruck, Shirley Elliott, Charles Keating, Lieutenant Chris Saunders, Dr. David Rippey, Corporal Paul James Davis, Rear Admiral Robert Timbrell, Rear Admiral Desmond Piers (retired), Air Commodore Leonard Birchall, Robert Shaw, Private Braun Woodfield, Captain Derek Nichols, Sherman Zwicker, Sandy Cameron, and Sister Peggy Butts.
It is with deep regret that all members of this House express their condolences to our friend and former colleague Danny Graham, who just this week lost his wife Sheelagh after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Our hearts and prayers are with him, his sons Patrick, Andrew, and Colin, the Nolan family, and Sheelagh and Danny's many friends.
MY GOVERNMENT'S FIRM AND FULL COMMITMENT
My government acknowledges the tremendous contributions that those who came before us have made in service to their fellow Nova Scotians, and we are determined to serve their memories proudly by building on their legacies. My government recognizes that the decisions we make today will have an impact on Nova Scotians well into the future. To that end, we remain firmly and fully committed to the following:
Our decisions will help Nova Scotia families reach their full potential and make our communities stronger, safer, more caring, and better connected. Our decisions will promote the health and well-being of our citizens and preserve and protect our valued quality of life. Our decisions will create a climate of greater optimism and bring increased investment that will lead to greater prosperity that all Nova Scotians can share.
Our decisions will strengthen - never jeopardize - Nova Scotia's fiscal health and well-being. And every decision we take will respect the values and the principles that contribute to our pride as a people and our pride in our province. They will recognize government's rightful role, value diversity, be based on fairness, and always be made with the greater good of Nova Scotians at heart.
SUPPORTING FAMILIES, STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES, BUILDING BRIGHTER FUTURES
The health and well-being of Nova Scotians, their families, and communities is crucial, not just to an individual's quality of life, but to Nova Scotia's overall prosperity, with many factors coming to bear on each. Education levels, income levels, housing standards, and the quality of our air and water are just a few. Government's role is not to intrude on an individual's decisions, but to give them the knowledge and means to make the best possible choices for themselves and their families. And government's role is not to tell communities what they must do to achieve greater prosperity, but to help them acquire the information, tools, and support they need to find their own ways to thrive.
My government knows that, despite the considerable fiscal, economic, and social progress Nova Scotia has witnessed in recent years, too many Nova Scotians are in need, too many families are under stress, and too many communities under pressure. That is why, through whatever avenues are open to us and with whatever resources we have available to us, we will work to make life easier.
It is why we will introduce a new children's Pharmacare program for working families of modest means - a measure that will improve the health of many Nova Scotia children, reduce the financial pressures on their parents, reduce demands on hospital emergency services, and further support our government's efforts to keep working families working. It is why we will provide more Nova Scotians with affordable housing and more parents with the child care options they need and deserve.
My government will increase funding for senior and low-income housing repairs and do more to assist families who provide love and support to our foster children. It is also why we will enhance post-adoption services for children with disabilities, extend the bursary program for children in care, and raise the shelter allowance for Income Assistance recipients.
And it is why we will continue to provide financial help so low-income diabetics can better manage their disease and, once again, raise the shelter allowance for Income Assistance recipients. My government is working to lighten the load for individuals and families in need.
COMMUNITIES - THE BACKBONE OF NOVA SCOTIA
My government knows that caring, dedicated volunteers are the backbone of our communities. Volunteers are tireless friends who believe in human dignity and giving back to their communities. They know that to rise above adversity and to be the very best that we can be, we need each other. Nova Scotians volunteer more hours per year than any other province in Canada. My government is proud of Nova Scotia's strong culture of volunteerism. And we will make it a top priority.
My government has made volunteerism one of the key principles of Nova Scotia's Community Development Policy. We will provide clear leadership for this important work by appointing a minister responsible for volunteerism and will take concrete actions to respond to the recommendations of the Nova Scotia Canada Volunteerism Initiative Network. The needs of communities and the needs of volunteers are intrinsically linked. Responding to the needs of one will positively impact the health and well-being of the other. My government will grow and support our vital volunteer sector.
My government recognizes that sustainable communities are crucial to the future strength and prosperity of Nova Scotia. That is why we will continue to support the development of collaborative approaches with communities that build on our combined skills, resources, and resourcefulness. My government is committed to addressing the challenges facing many of our communities and will act on every opportunity to help them thrive and prosper.
My government knows that our schools are much more than places for our students to learn. They are very often the local meeting spot for community groups and the substitute for the local community theatre or recreation centre. Parents, municipal representatives, and other community members have expressed concern about the process used when considering permanent school closures. My government is reviewing this process, to ensure that decisions are made in the best interests of students, parents, communities, and the education system. Additionally, recognizing that all schools are a vital community asset, but not accessible because of the high cost of liability insurance, my government will make these costs more affordable and make our schools a more welcoming place.
Nova Scotia is known as a safe place to live and raise a family. But my government recognizes that there is growing concern that our quiet streets and peaceful neighbourhoods could be in jeopardy. My government also knows that only a small
percentage of offenders are responsible for the majority of criminal offences. We will take concrete action. We will establish a Youth Attendance Centre that requires young Nova Scotians in conflict with the law to participate in a range of programs designed to keep them from becoming re-offenders.
Additionally, my government will reintroduce the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, introduce the Criminal Notoriety Act, and Crystal Methadone Restriction legislation. We will also enhance resources to more closely track potential serial offenders, and continue to improve on-the-ground intelligence in the fight against organized crime.
LEARNING - THE GATEWAY TO SUCCESS
My government knows that learning doesn't begin in Grade Primary and doesn't end at graduation. That is why my government will soon announce increased funding for early childhood learning through to adult learning. We will also carry through with the commitments outlined in Learning for Life II, which focuses on the fundamentals, further reduces class sizes, expands supports for students with special needs, offers more advanced courses for gifted students, and calls for greater accountability throughout our public school system. These measures, combined with more teachers and resource specialists, more books and teaching aids, will help more of our students find success in school and in life.
But my government knows that far too many Nova Scotians who are eager to learn continue to fall through the cracks. My government has introduced a number of initiatives to reach out to these students to keep them in school, to keep them learning, and to provide them the opportunity for a better future here at home. But more needs to be done and will be done. We will expand existing programs to encourage trades training. We will place greater emphasis on career counselling and introduce more hands-on training and composite programming in our high schools and in our communities. My government will also support the diverse needs of our students and will take further actions to implement the recommendations of the Black Learners Advisory Committee Report.
Nova Scotia is fortunate to be home to 11 degree-granting institutions, a number of which have been recognized as the best in the country. We also have a first-rate community college system that offers a broad range of trades and technical skills training to thousands of Nova Scotians throughout the province. My government recognizes the important contribution both make to our academic success as well as our economic prosperity. That is why my government signed Nova Scotia's first multi-year funding agreement with our universities and made a 10-year, $123 million commitment for the modernization and expansion of our community colleges. While there is no question that a post-secondary education increases an individual's employment and income potential,
the cost of a university education remains daunting for most Nova Scotia families. My government's goal is to make the cost of obtaining a typical undergraduate degree in Nova Scotia comparable to the national average within five years.
In addition, my government will further enhance and more aggressively promote Nova Scotia's student loan forgiveness programs and take measures to help more students of middle-income families access student loans. We will reduce the parental contribution threshold, and the payment schedule will take into consideration the student's ability to pay as they enter the work force.
PROMOTING GOOD HEALTH - PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH
Nothing is more important to Nova Scotians than their health, and the health of their families. Unfortunately, Nova Scotia has among the highest chronic disease and disability rates in the country, and far too many Nova Scotians still make lifestyle choices that compromise their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Three years ago, my government demonstrated its commitment to help Nova Scotians become healthier by creating Canada's first Office of Health Promotion. Recently, we brought the offices of Health Promotion and the Chief Medical Officer together with the Population and Public Health division of the Department of Health. The integration of these vital services not only strengthens our ability to implement healthy public policies, it better prepares Nova Scotia for emerging health threats.
My government wants Nova Scotians to become healthier and to live longer, more productive lives. That is why, for the third year in a row, we will increase funding for health promotion activities. We will move forward with a number of important strategies already underway to prevent Nova Scotians from making lifestyle choices that come with consequences: smoking, excessive drinking, drug use, and problem gambling. And we will continue our work to prevent injury and falls.
My government will also continue to actively promote - in our classrooms and boardrooms, in our doctors' offices and restaurants - what Nova Scotians can do to become more healthy. We will advance strategies that promote healthy eating, healthy sexuality, and increased physical activity, particularly as it relates to children and youth.
As well, my government will undertake a number of other important measures designed to help our children lead healthier, more active, more fulfilling lives, including:
enhancing the provincial income tax credit for parents whose children participate in organized sport and recreation programs
implementing Nova Scotia's first Food and Nutrition Policy for Public Schools
piloting a new program to strengthen physical activity leadership at the municipal level
and we will begin discussions with school officials to make physical education a mandatory high school credit beginning in the 2007-08 school year
Our goal is to make every generation of young Nova Scotians healthier than the one before it. Our goal is to slow the growing pressures on a health-care system under stress.
MEETING NOVA SCOTIA'S HEALTH CARE NEEDS
Like all Canadians, Nova Scotians want to know that when they need health care it will be there for them. My government is determined to see that it is. But more than that, my government is determined to see that it is faster care, better care, care that is closer to home.
To that end, we will once again be making significant new investments to ensure that Nova Scotians get the care they need when they need it. These investments will enable us to train and recruit the right mix of health-care professionals, to pay for the increased cost and utilization of cancer and other life-saving drugs, and to provide more vital services, such as dialysis and palliative care, in more communities throughout our province. The most recent federal budget guaranteed shorter wait times. My government will work hand in hand with Ottawa to reduce wait times in Nova Scotia.
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF CONTINUING CARE
Nova Scotia's aging population, combined with some of the country's highest chronic disease and disability rates, brings with it increased demand for in-home and long-term care services. My government recently concluded extensive consultations involving 1,400 Nova Scotians to better determine Nova Scotia's needs and to develop an insightful approach to respond to this challenge. We are responding.
We will shortly release a long-term strategy that sets the course for putting Nova Scotia on the right path to provide the right level of care, at the right time, and for all of the right reasons. Through our Continuing Care Strategy, Nova Scotians will see that when it comes to making sound policy investment decisions, we are a government that creates long-term, sustainable, community-based solutions that result in better care. Sound policy decisions, based on thoughtful planning, will also guide us as we look toward Nova Scotia's economic potential.
A MODERN, COMPETITIVE, GREENER PROVINCE
My government will act decisively. We will advance fresh ideas for building a modern, competitive, greener province. My government's updated economic growth strategy moves our province in an exciting new direction. Opportunities for Sustainable
Prosperity 2006 demonstrates an understanding of Nova Scotia's place in a rapidly changing world and recognizes that sustainable competitiveness is about more than healing the split between economy and environment. It's about uniting the best interests of Nova Scotia - business, ecology, and social development. It's about capitalizing on global trends, eliminating waste, and encouraging innovation to achieve sustainable growth and international competitiveness.
This year, we will support the conversion of the system that heats the Nova Scotia Hospital, the Dartmouth General Hospital, and the Nova Scotia Community College. Currently it burns high-sulphur oil. Soon it will be fuelled by natural gas - environmentally friendly and cost effective. The most competitive economies today are those that make the best use of their natural resources, of the skills and ingenuity of their people, and of their geographic advantages. Nova Scotia offers the best of all.
Opportunities for Sustainable Prosperity builds on the spirit and intent of the Come to Life initiative. My government will continue to promote our province's distinct quality of life. We will continue to spread the word about Nova Scotia as a great place to live, invest, do business, get an education, and visit. And we will continue to enhance Nova Scotia's pride of place and global presence by emphasizing our best qualities - our people, our products, and our province. The Come to Life initiative will also implement an expatriate recruitment program to attract information technology workers back to the province to ensure we have the workforce needed to further grow our IT sector. And while we are promoting our competitive advantages to the world, we will be strengthening our global connections at home.
My government is embarking on a bold vision to ensure that by the year 2010, every Nova Scotian will have broadband access to the Internet - in many cases, through wireless connectivity. Achieving broadband access to the Internet in every community throughout Nova Scotia is as important today as electricity and telephones were in the past. In the not too distant future, Nova Scotians will be able to access information and make connections wherever they are. This will not happen overnight. But we will move ahead rapidly to implement wireless connectivity pilots. We foresee a day when we will look back at this initiative as the critical step we took to secure Nova Scotia's place in the future.
BUILDING OPTIMISM, BETTER BUSINESS CLIMATE
My government will respond to the concerns of Nova Scotians. We will reduce taxes and regulate gas prices. We will enhance business competitiveness, grow our cultural industries, and seize trade opportunities. We will expand tourism marketing and improve our highways, roads, and bridges.
My government knows that achieving and sustaining prosperity requires the right mix of consumer choice and market stability, the right balance of business freedom and
regulatory protection, the right blend of investment in marketing and infrastructure improvements. We will strive to achieve balance to ensure we strengthen families and build a better business climate.
To that end:
We will lower taxes to help our families and our businesses.
We will remove uncertainty at the pumps by providing more stability in the retail gas industry, in an environment that ensures flexibility and timely response to radical price shifts.
We will implement our Better Regulation Initiative to eliminate over-regulation, duplication, and unnecessary paperwork. We will not compromise public safety, the environment, or our communities, but we will relieve the burden that unnecessary regulations put on Nova Scotia businesses. We will take concrete steps to ensure that regulations make sense and achieve the desired results in a way that supports business growth.
We will continue to support our artists and artisans, musicians, and museums to more fully realize the economic and cultural benefits of our wealth of talent, creativity, and heritage.
We will launch the Gateway Strategy to ensure that Nova Scotia is positioned to capture a significant share of the surging growth in trade traffic between North America and Asia.
My government also recognizes the importance of our tourism industry, which accounts for $1.3 billion annually and employs 32,000 people. With a clear goal to increase tourism revenues, we will implement the key priorities of the 2006 Tourism Plan. Developed by the Nova Scotia Tourism Partnership Council, the plan recommends enhancing signature attractions and strengthening tourism marketing efforts in both existing and new markets, as well as improving transportation access to Nova Scotia.
Whether we are sending products to Dallas or bringing tourists to Digby, this government knows there is a vital link between infrastructure and a strong economy. Since 2000, capital funding for road, highway, and bridge improvements has more than tripled. My government will continue to twin major 100-Series Highways and improve our rural roads. We will continue to make the safety of our motorists, the enjoyment of our visitors, and the efficiency of our trade routes a government priority.
My government will also launch Nova Scotia's Infrastructure Strategy, Route to Prosperity, to identify challenges, priorities, and the broad linkages between capital infrastructure investments. My government knows that infrastructure is the means by which our communities are connected to each other, and our province is connected to the world. Infrastructure is vital to the economic expansion of our communities and the quality of life of our citizens.
During the past seven years, the province lived within its means, creating budget surpluses, lowering debt, and improving our credit rating, so taxpayers pay less for ongoing debt. We will continue to do this, and we will also meet our debt-reduction targets in 2007-08. We are now in a position to begin reinvesting more in our infrastructure, to make life better for all Nova Scotians. While continuing to balance competing priorities, we will build a foundation for business success and international competitiveness, and meet the needs and improve services for people across the province - wherever they live.
That is why my government will invest more than $1 billion in infrastructure renewal over the next four years. This investment will translate into new schools, new hospitals, new and upgraded roads, and new communications technology. Together with our partners, most notably, the Government of Canada, we will ensure that, instead of being an obstacle to growth, our infrastructure will be a catalyst to new, sustainable social progress and economic growth.
NOVA SCOTIA'S RESOURCE INDUSTRIES - ADAPTING TO CHANGE
Agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture remain the economic heart of many Nova Scotia communities. These industries have consistently demonstrated that adapting to change in a modern, competitive economy requires risk, resourcefulness, and a willingness to learn. My government created a separate ministry for agriculture to ensure a continued and renewed focus for this important industry. And we will continue to support the efforts of agri-food and seafood operations by helping businesses develop value-added products and adopt innovative new technologies and processes. My government's new aquaculture development strategy, which includes a new federal/provincial aquaculture framework agreement, will help propel this promising sector forward over the next five years. We will also work with the agriculture sector to review opportunities that move it to greater sustainability.
My government believes a prosperous future also depends on the careful management of our natural resources. Collectively, our forests, parks, minerals, and wildlife are a rich natural bounty that contributes to our identity, quality of life, and employment throughout Nova Scotia. This year, we will ask Nova Scotians to help us define a comprehensive natural resources strategy: to participate in creating a vision for the future. We will consult with them in the months ahead on four key topics: biodiversity, forests, parks, and minerals. We will listen carefully, mindful that there are
many varied interests in the stewardship of our natural resources. The public consultations will ensure that our strategy reflects the Nova Scotia we want today, and the Nova Scotia we want for our children and grandchildren.
NOVA SCOTIA, A PROVINCE THAT VALUES DIVERSITY
My government knows the more diverse Nova Scotia becomes, the stronger it becomes. To this end, my government will
continue to implement the objectives of the Immigration Strategy, including increasing the number of immigrants that are settling in Nova Scotia, helping newcomers adjust to their new lives, and supporting the vital work of our settlement organizations
continue to provide funding to not-for-profit organizations, community groups, and schools to help immigrant children succeed and to help their parents learn to speak English or French so they can find meaningful employment and more fully participate in their communities
continue to advance and support programs in support of the French-language Services Act to ensure that Acadian and francophone Nova Scotians receive government services and business-related information in their language of choice
through the new Minister responsible for Gaelic Affairs, celebrate the rich contribution the Gaelic language and culture have made to Nova Scotia and work to meet the goals of the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia
expand the work of the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs by opening a satellite office in Cape Breton - the first of future regional offices planned for South West Nova, the Valley, and Central regions
continue to work with the Mi'kmaq and other partners to advance the Mi'kmawey Debert, which aims to protect valuable and unique archeological resources, while developing opportunities to share the history and culture of the Mi'kmaq
continue working towards the signing of a framework agreement to establish a negotiation process on matters related to Aboriginal rights, including Aboriginal title and treaty rights
continue to work with the federal government and the Mi'kmaq to close the gap between the quality of life experienced by the Mi'kmaq and other Nova Scotians
increase the diversity of the Public Service to ensure that government better represents the people it serves
implement the Racial Equity Policy in elementary schools
and develop a province-wide Heritage Strategy.
OUR ENVIRONMENT, OUR ENERGY, OUR PEOPLE, OUR PRODUCTS
My government will make the environment a priority. We will demonstrate that a sustainable economy is a globally competitive economy. We will show how smart choices add up to real savings, lead to innovation, and improve quality of life. We will lead by example. Nova Scotians know that the quality of life in our province is directly linked to the quality of our environment. My government will renew the Smart Energy Program to help Nova Scotians make better energy choices, lower their energy bills, and reduce our province's reliance on fossil fuels. We will also support efforts to generate electricity from renewable resources such as wind power and low-impact tidal-power technologies.
My government will continue to implement and build on the Green Plan: Toward a Sustainable Environment, which makes a key link between green values and economic opportunities. My government believes that every Nova Scotian should have access to clean drinking water. We will build on the Drinking Water Strategy with additional supports over the long term for people with well water and on-site septic systems. We will further provide capital infrastructure to improve and upgrade Nova Scotia's septic treatment facilities. My government will lead by example through the Environmental Management Policy, which requires departments to incorporate environmental considerations into all policies, including a focus on procurement practices and energy efficiency. And because my government knows the value and importance of preserving land for future generations, for supporting wildlife habitat, and for promoting ecotourism, we will add five new nature reserves to Nova Scotia's diverse land base, thanks to the generosity of private landowners.
My government will aggressively market our province's unique advantages. We will foster and promote sustainable business and environmental practices. And we will practise what we preach. My government will seize growth opportunities, build on Nova Scotia's strengths, and eliminate obstacles. We will govern with the right balance of traditional values and new ideas. And, together, we will build a more modern, more competitive, and greener province.
BETTER RELATIONS - BETTER RESULTS
My government knows that we can better respond to the needs and aspirations of Nova Scotians when all levels of government work more co-operatively. We look forward to a productive partnership with the new federal government and to building stronger relationships with all of our municipalities. Our goal is to ensure that the federal government treats Nova Scotia fairly, and that it recognizes and supports the priorities of Nova Scotians. My government will provide municipalities with more assistance in addressing the infrastructure needs of their communities. My government understands
that meeting the needs of Nova Scotians is a responsibility of all levels of government, and we will lead by example.
In conclusion, my government looks to the future with optimism:
Confident in the knowledge that, together with Nova Scotians, we can overcome the challenges that lie ahead.
Confident in the knowledge that Nova Scotians are resilient and resourceful, caring and compassionate.
Confident in the knowledge that our sense of community is strong and our pride in what it is to be a Nova Scotian is unquestioned.
My government looks to the future with optimism, knowing that the values we share, the vision we embrace, and the course that we have set will lead to a better, stronger, more prosperous Nova Scotia.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to bring, on behalf of all Nova Scotians, the congratulations of our people to Her Majesty the Queen, on the celebration of her 80th birthday. (Applause)
[The Speaker and the Clerks left the Chamber.
The Lieutenant Governor left the Chamber preceded by her escort and the Sergeant-at-Arms.
Mr. Speaker took the Chair.]
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
The honourable Attorney General.
HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a bill entitled An Act Respecting Oaths of Office.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.
Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the members met in this General Assembly, of which Speech, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy which the Chief Clerk will now read. (Interruptions)
The honourable Premier.
HON. RODNEY MACDONALD (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I know all members will be very dissatisfied that I'm making a statement, but I move that the Throne Speech be taken as read.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the Throne Speech be taken as read. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Kings North.
MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it's an honour to rise today to move the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne as read by Her Honour Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman. I would like to begin by stating how well Her Honour has served our province over these past six years as the Queen's representative for the Province of Nova Scotia. She has redefined the role and welcomed many to Government House. She and His Honour have served in their roles gracefully as ambassadors for the Province of Nova Scotia.
I would also like to second her congratulations to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and our warmest wishes on her 80th birthday. My late wife, Catherine Elizabeth, was named after the Queen as she was born during the same year in which the Queen ascended to the Throne. One of the proud possessions of her father, my father-in-law at the time, was a small red carpet which the Queen walked on when she visited Queen's Park in Toronto during his time of service there as member for provincial Parliament. So you can see that the Queen is an important symbol in our family.
Mr. Speaker, as Her Honour did, I, too, would like to add my thanks and appreciation for the service and the leadership of our former Premier, and deep thanks for what he has done for this province.
It's also a very great honour to be amongst the first to welcome our new Premier to his place in this House. It doesn't seem like many years ago now, Premier, when you were the newly elected MLA for the riding of Inverness and about to be sworn in as Minister of Tourism and Culture. You had just bought a new suit for the occasion and in
your rush had forgotten to take off the price tags that were still on the sleeve. I pointed this out to you and we both had a small chuckle over it.
Since then, you've gone on to serve the province in many additional responsibilities, and now you serve as our Premier. I know you were humbled when given the task of taking on the job, along with the challenges and opportunities this role affords. In a very short time your leadership abilities, through several of these challenges, has already made itself known. I wish you continued success as you provide direction and a new vision for our people and for this province.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I cannot fail to congratulate you on your appointment. Your predecessor served with dignity, with good humour and with a strong sense of fairness. I know you will do the same, adding, of course, your own unique sartorial flair and abilities. I have to add, Mr. Speaker, the hats were a great success and the photographers were treating you like paparazzi around movie celebrities.
Mr. Speaker, as we gathered in this Chamber this morning, Her Honour outlined the highlights of those pieces of legislation that were passed at the First Session of the 59th General Assembly. It reminded us of the positive progress that we have made in our time as a minority government, thanks, in large measure, to the co-operative efforts of both Parties opposite. So I wish to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Third Party, Mr. Francis MacKenzie, for the statesmanship they have shown in this regard.
It's a testament to the commitment of each member of this House and a testament to the commitment that each member of this House has to the people they represent, because, Mr. Speaker, each and every member of this Legislature, as do I, has a great pride in their communities. While we share many different methods for achieving our goals, we all share a common commitment to leaving our communities better off than when we first entered this place.
In that vein, I'm proud to stand here today to move the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, a speech which outlines our government's direction, a speech which indicates the foundation that we're implementing that will leave our province on a better footing, a speech which outlines policies and goals that will leave the communities I serve, and we all serve, stronger and better places in which to live, in which to work, and in which to raise a family.
One of the main features of the Tory movement to which I adhere to, is that one cannot have healthy and happy individuals without healthy and productive communities. That is what I find so special about this province in which we live. Our communities are vibrant places where people volunteer their time to help their neighbours and to weave together the fabric that makes up the civil society on which all government rests and without which no government can function.
Mr. Speaker, the communities in my area will be gathering together soon, and throughout the Annapolis Valley, to participate in the festivities of the 74th Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival. This is a leading festival in our country, and I invite all MLAs to come and participate in the festivities. It promotes our agriculture, our heritage, our families, and our rich traditions. The theme this year is Treasure in the Valley, and, indeed, the Valley is a treasure which I value deeply for its scenic beauty.
It's not only its scenic beauty that I value, but also the rich energies and the innovative efforts of the people of this area. One such person is John Lohr, who with his wife, Heather, and family, runs a farm nestled under The Look Off and operates a business known as Farmer John's Herbs. They not only produce the herbs, but also the value-added products for sale locally and over the Internet on-line.
There are many farmers in my constituency, and I'm sure in others as well, who are seizing on the opportunities presented by the World Wide Web to capitalize on selling their products throughout this province, also throughout the world. Broadband is one of the new thoroughfares in this post-modern world of ours, and I'm excited about the new innovations and the new direction that is mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.
I cannot, of course, forget to talk about our traditional highways. Since my election in 1999, I have been indefatigable to advocate for the twinning of Highway No. 101 in order to provide safety to my constituents and a strong economic link for the Valley area to Halifax. I have been encouraged, Mr. Speaker, by the progress that has been made in the last six and a half years in this regard, not only in my constituency but throughout our province. Our investment in building and repairing roads has tripled since the year 2000. We are utilizing every penny, plus many more of our retail gas tax revenue as the impetus for these improvements.
Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia has a solid economy. Our job numbers are breaking records. Our new Premier is continuing to ensure our province lives within its means guided by sound financial management. Yet we know that to grow our economy and create good jobs we must invest in the key building blocks - in quality schools, modern infrastructure, safe communities, and a green, clean environment. One area that I know our government has renewed its focus on is agriculture. Our Premier promised to create a department devoted to this sector, and he did just that. Our new minister is working hard to address the many needs and opportunities in this vital area. I know that he'll continue to work with this important sector.
Mr. Speaker, the community that I serve is vibrant not simply because of its strong agriculture sector, but also because of the people who live there. We have quite a few celebrities who live in the riding of Kings North. I want to mention just two. The first is a very notable literary success, Ms. Ami McKay, who makes her home in the small community of Scots Bay. After learning that her family's new home was once known as the birth house where the midwife lived, she took pen to paper and wrote her novel, The
Birthhouse, which, I might add, made it to the number one spot on the Globe and Mail Best Sellers List. I take some pride in indirectly assisting Ami in her writing, as her writing teacher, Mr. Richard Cumyn, was hired by me as my secretary at the First Baptist Church in Kingston, Ontario, where I served as a minister and where he was a student at Queen's University.
Secondly, there was Bruce Beaton, who was on the roster of the Edmonton Eskimo's football club, and a personal friend of our Premier. He makes his off-season home in Kentville, along with his wife Michelle, daughter Layla Jane, and son Samuel. I congratulate these individuals on their diverse occupations and their successes.
Our community leadership is also very strong, Mr. Speaker. People like Dave Corkum, Mayor of the Town of Kentville; Fred Whalen, Warden of the Municipality of the County of Kings; Lewis Benedict, Chairman of the Village of Port Williams; Bob Williams, Chairman of the Village of Canning; and George Foote of Woodville, all give countless hours to make the riding in which I serve a better and stronger place.
These communities of Kings North are assisted in this by educational leaders in our area. Mr. Speaker, we have, I believe, the finest Community College in Nova Scotia, the campus of Kingstec.. We have - and my apologies to graduates of St. F.X. - the best small university in Canada, the University of Acadia. We have the largest training facility for Reserve Forces at CFB Aldershot in North Kentville. These three together, along with our public schools, form a great synergy, an educational synergy that makes my riding a much stronger place.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, since every good speech has a poem, I'll throw in a poem. Roses are red, violets are blue, hold on for one minute and I will be through.
I want to talk about our environment. As I grow older I realize a central part of our legacy is how we treat our world. I'm proud of the work being done at the School of Environmental Studies at Acadia University, a world leader in helping us understand and care for our environment. In this regard, I must mention two individuals in my riding, Mr. Henry Hicks, who's passionate about our forest and who would be glad to give any MLA in this House who desires a tour of the Acadian forest, on his land, near the community of Halls Harbour. Ms. Cethlyn MacKay, who works with the Literacy Centre in Kentville, sister of our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Peter McKay. Cethlyn will share with you her deep concern and her knowledge concerning the importance of clean air and fresh, safe water. They will be very pleased to hear the initiatives in our Throne Speech this afternoon.
I was visiting the Gaelic College in Cape Breton recently, Mr. Speaker, and in conversation with Mr. Lewis MacKinnon, who is working on his master's degree on the Gaelic tradition of this province, as well as working with the new Minister responsible for Gaelic Initiatives, we remarked on the importance of the Gaelic tradition. I noted that in
the area of religious liturgy - if I may throw in a religious allusion - that Celtic spirituality was on the cutting edge of liturgical renewal at our churches. I think that this is happening, Mr. Speaker, because Celtic spirituality emphasizes the presence of the Divine in the imminent versus the transcendent, and it teaches us that as God's creatures we are not to exploit, but to work with our environment, with this wonderful world which we call our home.
There are many other significant measures within the Throne Speech, which I am happy to see announced and would be happy to elaborate on, however MLAs from all Parties, waiting impatiently for the fellowship and refreshments to follow, will be happy as I end my comments here.
So, Mr. Speaker, it is now my pleasure to thank Her Honour for the Throne Speech, and with great pride and great confidence I move a motion that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, as read by Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, do pass. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.
MR. GARY HINES: Mr. Speaker, Premier, fellow MLAs, honoured guests, I thank Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor, Myra Freeman, for the Speech from the Throne. On behalf of the citizens of Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, I am honoured to have the privilege of seconding the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, a speech which builds on the achievements of the past and lays out a practical vision of a prosperous future.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin today by expressing my enthusiastic congratulations to our new Premier, the member for Inverness. He is well known in all places as a hard-working, dedicated public servant and I wish him, and his family, every success in the years to come. (Applause)
I would also like to thank the member for Pictou Centre for all he has done for our province. He is a man who says what he'll do and does what he says, and every Nova Scotian is better for it. He built a strong foundation for this province to build on, and I want to take this time to thank him publicly, and wish him well in whatever he chooses to do. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, I would like today to salute other members who have indicated they will not re-offer, namely the member for Hants West, the member for Dartmouth North, the member for Shelburne, the member for Colchester North, the member for Bedford, and the member for Pictou East. I want to join all of their respective constituents in thanking them for their service, and wishing them well in the future. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, today I would also like to take a moment to recognize the many brave Nova Scotians who are members of the Canadian Forces - men and women who have dedicated their lives to us and our way of life, and to our country. In many ways our sailors, soldiers and air crews, represent the best our country has to offer, and I believe we all owe them, and their families, a debt of gratitude for their dedication, loyalty and sacrifice.
Mr. Speaker, this government believes that strong communities are key to the province's future success, and healthy, happy families are the building blocks of these strong communities. To support and fortify families, our government will provide more affordable housing, more subsidized daycare spots for our youngest citizens, and provide more and continued support to help seniors and low-income Nova Scotians complete repairs to their homes.
Mr. Speaker, no one should have to struggle with the impossible choice of paying the rent or buying medication for an ill child - that is why we will introduce a new child Pharmacare program for low-income working families. (Applause) This is a positive initiative that will have a real positive effect on the children and families.
Nova Scotia has a solid economy. More people are working than ever before and, in 2005, our provincial unemployment rate reached its lowest point in 30 years. Still, rising prices make it difficult for some Nova Scotians to make ends meet. That's why, beginning July 1st, our government will regulate gas and diesel fuel prices. This will stabilize gas prices in the province and reassure all of us that the prices we are paying are justified.
Mr. Speaker, to further grow our economy and create more good jobs, we will invest in key building blocks - quality schools, modern infrastructure, safe communities, a green, clean environment. Our plan is to continue to invest tax money wisely, where it counts and where families and communities most need it. The proposed tax reductions for families will help them keep money in their own pockets, money to spend on their priorities. I'm very happy that we are keeping government's hands out of the pockets and the pocketbooks of Nova Scotians.
Our government will encourage healthy, active lifestyles by investing more money in health promotion programs and by enhancing the income tax credits for families who enroll their children in organized sport and recreational activities. We believe these measures will help more of us be healthy. For those Nova Scotians who are not healthy, we will continue to reduce wait times.
Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is a great place to live, work, play and raise a family, and today's Speech from the Throne lays out a plan to build our strengths and tackle our challenges head on in a meaningful way. It's an excellent mix of practicality and vision.
It builds on the foundation laid over the last six years, and invests in the things that matter most to Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to second the motion that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne do pass. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise as the Leader of the Opposition and to respond to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of our caucus. I'd like to begin by thanking the Lieutenant Governor and Mr. Freeman for being here today, participating in the ceremony and for the reading of the Speech from the Throne.
I'd also like to welcome you, Mr. Speaker, in your new role as Speaker and commend you for the enthusiasm you have shown in your new role and your involvement in House matters. I also want to thank you in advance for the balanced job I know you will do in this session. I'd also like to welcome the member for Inverness in his new role as Conservative Party Leader and Premier, as well as the new members of Cabinet and Cabinet Ministers who have taken on new roles. I would like to acknowledge the legislative staff, the Pages and the Library staff, for the assistance they provide to us in each and every session.
Somewhat sadly, I would like to acknowledge some of our House colleagues, the MLAs who have announced that they will not be re-offering in the next election, whenever that may be, the members on the government bench from Bedford, Colchester North, Hants West, Pictou Centre, Pictou East and Shelburne, and the member here on the Opposition bench from Dartmouth North. Your contributions in the House may define your legacy as politicians, but perhaps more importantly they illustrate your character and your commitment to this province. Please join me in recognizing their hard work and dedication to their communities and to the province. (Standing Ovation)
Finally, on behalf of the NDP caucus, I would like to express my best wishes for a quick recovery to the Minister of Finance. We wish you all the best, and we hope to see you sitting across from us again very soon after your surgery. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my comments today by telling you that I will not be introducing an amendment to the Throne Speech, because, as I'm sure you're not surprised, that Throne Speech seems to incorporate many of the ideas that the NDP have sought action on for many years. (Applause)
So I thought I would share a few examples with you, like making our communities safer by implementing NDP legislative ideas that would target problematic properties and legislation that deals with the emerging problem of crystal methamphetamine, by
extending Pharmacare, increasing affordable housing, and by emphasizing renewable energy, recognizing the importance of schools in our communities, recognizing the vital role of volunteers.
Here, Mr. Speaker, I would like to stop and recognize my colleague, the member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley, who throughout her career has been an exemplary leader in the volunteer sector and who was the first MLA with special responsibilities for the volunteer sector by making physical education mandatory in high school, a cause that has been long championed by my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect and a commitment of our Party in the election of 2003. (Applause)
By recognizing the important role that government can play in preventing price gouging through the introduction of gas price regulation. By implementing the recommendations of the Black Learners Advisory Committee Report and, Mr. Speaker, a long-time interest of mine and a cause I have spoken out on for years, is that our ports are central to our province's economic success.
Those are just some of the NDP ideas and commitments in this Throne Speech. They appear in this speech in the form of Progressive Conservative promises and I am happy to take them at face value, but promises made within days or weeks of a widely expected election call are just promises. Nova Scotians remember well what happened with Progressive Conservative promises when the Progressive Conservatives had a majority in this House.
That changed in 2003 when Nova Scotians reserved power for themselves by reducing the Progressive Conservatives to a minority. Since this government was elected in 2003, it has been our belief that this Legislature was given a mandate to be constructive and to listen and that is what we intend to do.
When Nova Scotians elected the minority Legislature they reserved power for themselves and in doing so we have served them by delivering results that all Nova Scotians can be proud of. In my travels across the province, the people have confirmed for me time and again that they really do expect their government to work to make their lives better.
In serving the public as we do as legislators, it is our duty to meet that obligation. As I told the member for Inverness on his first full day as Progressive Conservative Leader, we can and will work together in this Legislature to achieve what Nova Scotians expect from us, even though we will be competing in the next election, whenever that may be.
As Leader of the Opposition, I'm proud of what this minority Legislature has been able to achieve and specifically those changes and initiatives that, without question, improve the lives of Nova Scotians. These achievements illustrate the collaborative
potential of government and have shone a unique spotlight on Nova Scotia as a province that has been able to make minority government work.
Mr. Speaker, we look forward to the government presenting its budget. I want to assure all Nova Scotians that we have always been prepared to review any budget put before us and consider a vote of support for that budget if it will improve the lives of working families. If the Premier intends to bring forward such a budget, he should expect that he can find support for it among the Opposition benches. However, if the Premier would rather call an election, that is his prerogative and Nova Scotians will decide whether or not he has made the correct choice. We welcome this Speech from the Throne and forthcoming budget because this is the first opportunity for many Nova Scotians to see what direction, if any, the new administration intends to take.
In our role as Official Opposition, the NDP caucus has used every opportunity over the past three years to engage Nova Scotians in conversations about what they expect their government to deliver. We've listened and brought those concerns to the floor of the House. We have endeavoured to engage the government and seek answers to people's questions and to seek action on their issues.
In the upcoming legislative session we intend to do that because the government has to address some various concerns of its citizens. Mr. Speaker, I would just mention I was somewhat disappointed there was only a passing mention in the entire Throne Speech to the Island of Cape Breton and to many of the challenges that island continues to face. Only one reference.
There are other challenges that need to be met. How do we meet the challenge of delivering quality health care when and where people need to receive it? How do we address the growing wait list for surgeries and diagnostics? How do we address the changing health needs for our population, from encouraging healthy lifestyles at a young age with our children to managing a wide array of health needs for our senior population.
How to address the concerns of working families by growing our child care sector, to make sure that affordable quality child care is available in every part of the province; how to provide sustained relief to the thousands of Nova Scotian families who struggle to manage skyrocketing energy costs every Winter; how to address education for our children when school boards are forced to close schools to meet budget demands instead of giving children the opportunity to learn in their home communities; how to address post-secondary education tuition fees so that our students don't have to have mortgage-sized debts and are left with no choice but to leave our province - I've heard the students on this many times and they are right, mortgages should be for houses not for futures
(Applause) - how to achieve tax fairness for all Nova Scotians by removing the HST from the essentials of life.
In spite of these challenges, I believe there are many reasons to be optimistic about our province's future and the big picture looks bright, but in order for that picture to fully manifest, as legislators we cannot forget the details. The government may talk in broad policy strokes, but that's not enough. The hard-working families of this province want and expect that this government will produce results that will change their daily lives for the better. That is why every day that we sit in the House the Opposition remains committed to keeping the people's business at the top of our agenda and providing realistic and constructive solutions to the challenges working families encounter every day.
This is where I will conclude my remarks for today and would like to adjourn debate. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of the session this afternoon, on your behalf, sir, I would like to invite all members of the House and all guests in the gallery to the Hollis Street foyer for a reception.
MR. SPEAKER: That's a great suggestion.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 10:00 a.m. The House will sit until approximately 1:00 p.m. The order of business following the daily routine will be a resumption of the debate on the Speech from the Throne.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The House stands adjourned.
[The House rose at 3:33 p.m.]