Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.
Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/legislative-business/hansard-debates/
|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|ARRIVAL OF LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR||7|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE||8|
|Moved - Ms. Pam Birdsall||15|
|Seconded - Mr. Jim Boudreau||19|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Hon. S. McNeil||22|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Sept. 18th at 10:00 a.m.||24|
HALIFAX, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2009
Sixty-first General Assembly
Hon. Charlie Parker
Mr. Gordon Gosse, Hon. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Alfie MacLeod
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor.
[The Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Mayann E. Francis, preceded by members of the Official Escort, her Private Secretary, her ADC 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 Charlie Parker; the Chief Clerk of the House, Roderick MacArthur, Q.C.; and the Assistant Clerk, Neil Ferguson, Q.C.
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 Table of the House.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of Her Honour that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
A Better Deal for Today's Families
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Legislative Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, the people of Nova Scotia, welcome to the First Session of the 61st General Assembly.
On June 9th of this year, Nova Scotians made a decisive and historic choice. They elected the first New Democratic Party Government in Atlantic Canada. My government is honoured by the trust Nova Scotians have placed in them. It is fitting, then, that we begin by recognizing the achievements of some of the people of this great province.
From the Stanley Cup to our talented young athletes, Nova Scotians have been getting noticed. This summer, Nova Scotia's athletes had their best performance ever in the 2009 Canada Games. This will serve as a successful backdrop when the Canada Winter Games come to Halifax in 2011. Sidney Crosby brought home the Stanley Cup. This remarkable young man made Nova Scotians proud, not only for his athletic ability but for his grace and humanity.
In the past several months, we lost a number of respected Nova Scotians who truly defined humanity. In the century that Muriel Duckworth walked on this earth, she worked as a tireless crusader and advocate for peace and social justice, giving a voice to those who were silenced by others. Donald Marshall, Jr. also spoke for those who could not. He was a reluctant hero who changed the face of our justice system and left a legacy of Native rights for Atlantic Canadians.
Two noted legislators were also lost. Our sympathies are with the families of former MLAs Bill Gillis and Guy Brown. Their commitment to public service is a testament to their characters and is gratefully acknowledged. They believed in making life better for ordinary Nova Scotians, which is fundamental to our government's belief and is at the heart of our mandate.
My government's first priority is simple. It is to keep the promises we made to Nova Scotians. Next week, we will outline our spending estimates and the specific measures of how we intend to keep our commitments. Nova Scotians can be assured we will live within our means. We began by reducing the size of Cabinet from 18 to 12 members.
One of my government's first orders of business was to hire an independent firm to review the state of the province's finances. In early August, we received the interim report.
The results were not what we were hoping for. If we do not make changes, Nova Scotia's deficit will balloon to $1.3 billion by 2012. That is not the legacy this government wants to leave future Nova Scotians. Soon, a knowledgeable panel of economic and policy analysts will report to government on what it believes will hasten Nova Scotia's fiscal and economic recovery. We will listen. We will make careful, disciplined choices as we face the challenges ahead.
One of the first challenges we and other governments around the world face is the threat of a global H1N1 pandemic. All Nova Scotians have a role to play in protecting themselves and their families. Nova Scotians must take the necessary precautions and advice from health-care professionals. In light of the Auditor General's Report, my government will take every necessary step to be ready to address this public health priority.
Making Life Affordable
One of my government's key commitments was to remove the provincial portion of the HST off basic home electricity. That promise, too, has been kept. We did this because we want to make life more affordable for Nova Scotians and their families. We are also making it easier for low-income homeowners to receive energy upgrades. Soon, my government will bring forward legislation to establish an independent administrator to increase energy efficiency - helping Nova Scotians save money on their energy bills.
The strength of any society can be judged on how its most vulnerable are treated. My government believes its citizens must be treated with respect, recognized for their intrinsic value and the richness they provide to caring, compassionate communities. We know that some Nova Scotians are struggling, even more so in these challenging economic times. We will reach out to these Nova Scotians.
We will take the first steps in the Poverty Reduction Strategy. This year, we will increase the income threshold for the Nova Scotia Child Benefit. This will extend full benefits to thousands of children and their families. My government will begin to redesign the Employment Support and Income Assistance Program to make it more responsive to the individuals it is designed to serve. We will seek the input of the community as we undergo the redesign of this program. My government believes we can and must make significant progress in the fight against poverty.
We will also take steps to ensure that seniors are able to stay in their homes longer. Next year, we will implement self-managed care allowances and personal alert assistance programs. My government will adopt policies to ensure that seniors and other residents no longer have to provide a security deposit when they enter long-term care facilities. My government will introduce legislation that will recognize the right of couples to be placed together in the same nursing home.
Jobs and Learning
As is the case around the globe, Nova Scotia continues to face economic challenges. Every available tool must be used to foster economic growth. We have put in place a new home construction rebate to help stimulate the economy. Up to 1,500 new home buyers are eligible for the rebate, which is designed to kick-start the construction industry and put a maximum of $7,000 into the hands of new home owners. In addition, this program keeps skilled tradespeople working, so that they can stay and build a life here at home.
As we promised, we are making good use of every single dollar of federal infrastructure funding available. Among other things, that means we will proceed with almost all of the infrastructure funding commitments made by the previous government for this fiscal year. We understand that a measured dose of stimulus is required to help this province get through hard economic times, like the nearly $100 million in needed infrastructure projects recently announced by the federal government and the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, which will stretch from one end of the province to the other. My government welcomes the federal government's leadership in stimulating the economy during this worldwide recession. We will also do our part.
Already, we have kept our commitment to boost the equity tax credit by $1 million, freeing up about $7.9 million for Nova Scotian businesses. My government is open to working with businesses that are interested in investing in Nova Scotia, like Irving Shipbuilding. With the contract to build nine patrol vessels, more than 150 Nova Scotians will be directly employed and local companies will have an opportunity to bid on $32 million in goods and services. Our efforts will be robust and well-focused as we develop the economy with business and labour leaders here and anywhere in the world.
My government will engage with the most dynamic economies in the world to showcase Nova Scotia's strategic transportation infrastructure. We will provide better ways for Nova Scotian exporters to get their products to global markets and encourage our province as a gateway to and from North America. We will create an environment where success is celebrated, where Nova Scotians are recognized for their ability to excel here at home and on the international stage.
One of the strengths of a modern economy and society is diversity. Nova Scotia is no different. That's why my government welcomes the fact that Nova Scotia now has the highest number of women serving in the Legislative Assembly at 12, four of whom are in Cabinet.
Increased immigration is one way to help ensure that our communities thrive and our economy grows. We intend to attract twice as many newcomers to Nova Scotia and will work to help them settle successfully. A new immigration strategy will be ready next year, which will set the direction for achieving this ambitious target. The strategy will also outline
integration measures such as enhanced language and employment training to further assist in the settlement process.
Executive Council will meet again with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs. These meetings provide a firm foundation to build better government-to-government relationships and provide a forum to discuss issues of mutual concern.
Plans are underway to hold a series of health education workshops for African Nova Scotians at various locations across the province beginning this Fall. In partnership with the Black Business Initiative, our government will develop a niche market initiative that will focus opportunities in the African American tourism market.
Also, we know that in order to have a prosperous economy, we must have a healthy environment. Within 60 days of taking office, my government put in place the first hard caps on greenhouse gas emission and air pollutants for power generation facilities in Canada. By 2020, hard emission caps on the electricity sector will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent from current levels.
My government intends to ensure that Nova Scotia is no longer one of the most fossil-fuel dependent provinces in Canada. We will waste no time in making it happen. We will also work with other governments and international partners to develop strong and collaborative global actions on climate change.
My government has set aggressive new targets for renewable energy. By 2015, 25 per cent of Nova Scotia's electricity will be supplied by renewable energy. My government will release a comprehensive renewable energy strategy by 2010, providing clear direction on tidal, biomass, wind, solar, and geothermal opportunities. My government will introduce legislation in 2010 that will promote the development, transmission, and use of clean energy sources that will ensure Nova Scotia meets or exceeds provincial and national targets for 2020 and beyond. We will investigate the full potential of the renewable energy that can be harnessed by the highest tides in the world, in the Bay of Fundy.
Nova Scotia is blessed with a magnificent coastline and an abundance of natural beauty. My government will protect at least 12 per cent of the total land mass of Nova Scotia by 2015. Additionally, we will establish a Community Land Trust to enable Nova Scotians to participate in the purchase of lands that can be used for conservation, wildlife and fish habitats, forestry, and outdoor recreation.
My government will complete a Natural Resources Strategy in 2010. Experts in the areas of forests, minerals, parks, and biodiversity will be consulted to help us manage our
natural assets and shape the future of our natural resources. Our goal is to create one of the cleanest and greenest environments and most sustainable and thriving economies in the world by 2020.
A Learning Province
We will establish a graduate tax incentive, providing up to $15,000 to keep university and community college graduates here at home. Education must be accessible. Our future prosperity depends on it. The second Memorandum of Understanding on University Funding and Tuition Fees freezes tuition fees for all students at Nova Scotia universities through the 2010-11 academic year. The government is working with post-secondary education institutions to consider innovative approaches to maximize the benefit from the Nova Scotia Crown Share University Infrastructure Trust Fund.
We are proud that Nova Scotia has the highest university enrolment per capita than anywhere else in Canada. Enrolment capacity at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) will continue to expand to meet labour market demands.
In year two of our mandate, we will create 250 new subsidized daycare spaces, in addition to the 300 licensed spaces recently announced. This brings us beyond the previous government's commitment of 1,000 spaces. Giving children the best possible start positions them for success. So does a public education system focused on excellence. Both are good reasons to live and raise a family in Nova Scotia.
The Nova Scotia School Accreditation Program will continue to engage schools in an extensive review of their performance and student achievement. We will continue to support boards in providing mathematics and literacy mentor services to their schools. In collaboration with boards and their schools, co-operative education opportunities will be expanded, as will the highly successful Options and Opportunities program which focuses on community-based learning.
My government wants to ensure that every child counts in Nova Scotia. An enhanced Mi'kmaq Liaison Office has been established, and its scope broadened to improve supports for Mi'kmaq and other Aboriginal students. A review of the programs and services implemented in response to the BLAC Report on Education, Redressing Inequity - Empowering Black Learners will be undertaken. We will launch the Lighthouse Nova Scotia Program to help support great youth programs in community schools and recreation centres. Every Nova Scotia student should have the opportunity to realize their full potential. One of Nova Scotia's greatest assets is our well-trained, skilled, and educated population.
Accessible Health Care
Nova Scotians want a health care system that serves them now and into the future. As part of our commitment to keep ERs open, this year an emergency room advisor, working with the district health authorities, will provide leadership for the province and communities to improve care.
Nova Scotians can now access the Healthlink service where advice from a registered nurse allows callers to make informed decisions on their health care needs. We want the best possible health care system for Nova Scotians. We also know that changes are needed in order to achieve and sustain it. We will continue to foster innovative initiatives like the Patient Access Registry Nova Scotia. The registry will serve patients faster and help us make better decisions about where health care resources should be placed. For those requiring special treatment that is only available out of province, my government will implement a new travel and accommodation policy to provide assistance to families in their time of need.
My government will improve support for individuals with mental illness, and for their families. We will collaborate with mental health service providers to identify, monitor, and refer youth requiring mental health supports. Community-focused living bungalows will be developed to provide appropriate, respectful care for individuals coping with mental illness. Next month, the first mental health court will open and will help people who need counselling and treatment instead of being held in custody or put in situations where conflict may arise.
Strong and Safe Communities
Modern infrastructure energizes our economy and provides the framework for a prosperous future. My government is undertaking the development of a five-year capital plan for new highway construction, paving, and bridges. The plan will be updated annually to ensure it is relevant and responsive to the needs of Nova Scotians. To improve public safety, bridge and truck inspections will be enhanced. The number of staff at scale locations will be increased to expand hours of coverage. My government is committed to improving secondary roads. We will increase resources for secondary road re-surfacing by 50 per cent.
Our primary industries have been the backbone of the Nova Scotia economy. We will work with the forest industry to sustain the modern economic infrastructure and skilled workforce which will be this province's advantage as markets improve. We will further encourage Nova Scotians to buy local. My government will focus on the fishery of the future. We will work with our federal and provincial counterparts to ensure the industry has a long and sustainable future. We will work to ensure that federal fishery policies reflect the needs of independent fishers. We will promote agriculture as a positive economic, social, and environmental force and will help farm families maximize market opportunities.
Strong Communities are Safe Communities
My government will continue to work with communities to find effective crime prevention strategies. My government will build on a partnership with municipalities from Cape Breton to Yarmouth to build stronger, healthier, and safer communities in Nova Scotia.
In the coming months, first responders will be able to locate callers dialing 911 from a cell phone giving Nova Scotians the peace of mind that comes with knowing that help is on the way. Implementation begins this Fall and will be complete for wireless carriers by the end of the year.
My government will respond to the recommendations of the Domestic Violence Prevention Committee, because everyone should feel and be safe at home. In the next fiscal year, we will increase funding for transition houses to support the vital work they do in our communities.
In closing, our government would like to once again thank Nova Scotians for the faith they have placed in us. It is an honour and a privilege to serve the people of this province. My government is aware of the challenges that lie before us. We are also very much aware of the opportunities that lie ahead.
My government will provide the careful stewardship that is needed to meet every challenge. We will lead in the areas of innovation, in lifelong learning, in social prosperity, and in sustainable health. We will make life more affordable and inclusive and will work hard to create a compassionate and just society. We will also work very hard to ensure that Nova Scotia realizes every opportunity, taking its rightful place as a leader on the global stage. Thank you.
God bless Nova Scotia.
God bless Canada.
God save the Queen.
[The Speaker and Clerks left the Chamber.
The Lieutenant Governor left the Chamber preceded by her escorts and the Sergeant-at-Arms.
Mr. Speaker took the Chair.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour, the Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
Good afternoon. Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the members met in the General Assembly of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy which the Chief Clerk will now read.
HON. DARRELL DEXTER (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I move the Speech be taken as read.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the Speech be taken as read. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Lunenburg. (Applause)
MS. PAM BIRDSALL: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to rise in the 61st Session of the House of Assembly to move the address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne as read by Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis.
I would like to begin my response by thanking Her Honour for her words and for representing Her Majesty the Queen with such poise and strength. The Lieutenant Governor works with great dedication throughout our province and touches the lives of many with her presence at events of importance. I had the pleasure of meeting Her Honour for the first time this summer at the Garden Party after the election at Royal Artillery Park. I must say that in our fast-moving days, the few hours spent drinking tea and talking with fellow citizens was a unique treat for me.
I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your new role presiding over the deliberations in the House of Assembly. (Applause) I look forward to your direction in maintaining an orderly and productive session in the House.
I am proud to be a member of this historic first New Democratic Government in Nova Scotia. The people of our province voted for this government with a majority mandate under the strong leadership of our Premier. I would like to congratulate the honourable Premier, all the members of the caucus, and elected members of all Parties.
I would like to acknowledge the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition and the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party for their success.
This government is unique in the history of Nova Scotia because approximately one third of our new government is women. This is the largest number of women ever in a Nova Scotia Government. (Applause)
As a member of the first New Democratic Government of Nova Scotia, I would like to read a prologue from our constitution:
The New Democratic Party believes that the social, economic and political progress of Nova Scotia can be assured only by the application of
social democratic and egalitarian principles to the governance and administration of public affairs.
The principles of social democracy can be briefly described as:
That the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a framework that sustains the environment while maximizing the economy now and in the future;
That the dignity and freedom of the individual is a basic right that must be maintained and extended to all persons regardless of race, ethnic background, religion, gender or sexual orientation;
That the abolition of poverty and the elimination of exploitation are achievable goals and must be the priority of any thinking and compassionate government;
That the people have a right to a meaningful voice in public policy through consultation and participation in all levels of public decision-making.
That is our NDP Constitution. I am delighted to be representing the constituency of Lunenburg for many reasons, and especially for one that I think may be unique in our province. In 1985, Lunenburg was represented by its first Progressive Conservative woman MLA, Maxine Cochran. Later, in 1993, Lunenburg was represented by its first woman Liberal MLA, Lila O'Connor. Now, in 2009, Lunenburg is being represented by its first woman New Democrat - and we all lived in Mahone Bay.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Lunenburg for putting their faith in me in the election of June 9th. Our Party has worked tirelessly for years, through many elections, building support. Many have spoken to me since the election saying that it was the first time their vote really counted, it was very meaningful.
My campaign was well run under the strong guidance of Marilyn Keddy and official agent Angus Fields, who both ran for the Party at different times. Our team was prepared and disciplined and absolutely overjoyed with the results on June 9th.
I want to thank my family and my friends for all of their support over the last year when I was the candidate. My business partner, Tim Worthington, and I had to rearrange our working lives to allow me to pursue this new direction. I thank him for his ongoing efforts to keep things running smoothly when I am limited to working in my pottery studio in the early morning and late at night.
My son and daughter have always been behind me with their support and are inspired to follow their own dreams in the world. Being a parent has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I will be forever grateful that my children had the opportunity to grow up in the Town of Mahone Bay, enjoying the close-knit community that town offered. I grew up in a family where service to the community was expected. I'm sure that if my mom and dad were here today they would be proud. To my dear friends, my brother Merlin, and my family in Dartmouth, I thank you all for your continued success in helping me and your faith in me.
Most of all, I want to thank my husband, Harry Covert, who has been my biggest supporter and ally in everything in life. Harry has been an active member in the Party for many years and was known as "the sign man" during the recent provincial and federal elections, knowing the best spot to put campaign signs all over Lunenburg County. (Laughter) Harry's grandfather, Walter Harold Covert, served in this House as Lieutenant Governor in the 1930s, representing the Crown in a very different time in our province's history.
I would also like to say here, Mr. Speaker, that I'm aware of all of the things that the former MLA for Lunenburg, the Honourable Michael Baker, did for our constituency. Some people have said that it would be hard for me to fill Michael's shoes, and I say I couldn't if I tried. Michael wore men's size 13 and I wear women's size 7, and definitely he didn't need the extra three inches my high heels give me. Michael and Cindy were friends of mine and I will always hold him in the highest regard.
As times change, so do the challenges of government. Mr. Speaker, our new government is focused on making life better for all Nova Scotian families and has already begun by standing by our commitment to remove the 8 per cent tax on home electricity. This will be so helpful for Nova Scotians in these difficult economic times. The people of our province clearly see that we will follow through on our commitments.
Mr. Speaker, the constituency of Lunenburg stretches from the LaHave River to Martins River, from Kingsburg to North River, over to Franey Corner. It includes the two towns of Mahone Bay and Lunenburg, and communities of Riverport, Blockhouse, the Cornwalls, the Northfields, the Maitlands, Union Square, Barss Corner, Lake William, Newburne, Scarsdale, Parkdale-Maplewood, Farmington, Stanburne, Meiseners Section and Cherryfield. I haven't forgotten any of them.
These communities are well served by the many volunteer fire departments, which are the backbone of rural Lunenburg. Oakhill and District Fire Hall will soon will be celebrating their 35th Anniversary, an event we're all very proud of.
Our area has been traditionally one of diversity, based on natural resources. Known in the past for its fisheries, boat building, forestry, agriculture, beef production and Christmas tree growing, our area has changed as many rural communities have.
Mr. Speaker, Lunenburg has long been a popular tourist destination offering the natural beauty of the area with many added interests of quality craft shops and galleries, world-class restaurants, bicycle tours, hiking trails, day cruises and sailing in some of the most beautiful waters anywhere. Lunenburg constituency now boasts of its successful farmers' markets in Mahone Bay, Lunenburg and New Germany, providing a wide variety to eager shoppers who want to buy locally.
We are proud of Mahone Bay's three famous, most photographed, churches and Lunenburg's picturesque waterfront, its UNESCO heritage designation and home of our national treasure, the Bluenose. Our government has just announced its commitment to the refitting of the Bluenose, which will bring more employment to Lunenburg's working waterfront. Our historic and proudly kept bed and breakfasts charm many visitors to our coastal areas and our inland areas - "up country" as we Lunenburgers say.
Our constituency has attracted new and vital industries to the area in recent years. HB Studios, an internationally known video-game producer, and Composites Atlantic, a company creating cutting-edge aerospace products, join the well-respected High Liner Foods plant, ABCO, Lunenburg Foundry, Covey Island Boatworks, Schneider's Shipyards, Mahone Bay's Reinforced Plastic Systems Inc. and the new Terra Beata Cranberries.
Mr. Speaker, our government's plan to introduce a 10 per cent manufacturing and processing investment tax credit will help many of these vital businesses to reinvest in the future for themselves and create jobs.
Over the years I have had the honour to serve on the board of Second Story Women's Centre, which has worked tirelessly for women in our community for over 26 years, promoting health awareness, education, personal development and community support. I am glad that our government has committed to stable core funding of women's centres and transition houses so they can carry on their vital work, knowing that their funding is secure.
We are well aware that our natural resources must be managed with care and new types of practice. Our government plans to work with Ottawa to ensure its fishing policies reflect the needs of independent fishermen. Many in my community will benefit from this.
Lunenburg has an aging population, as is the population of Nova Scotia, so the self-managed allowances for seniors care will help many in my area to stay in their homes longer. Harbourview Haven in Lunenburg will be expanding its facilities in the Spring. As well, ending security deposits for seniors in long-term care will be welcomed by families in Lunenburg.
Mr. Speaker, I am confident that health care, better roads, more affordable housing,
and incentives to keep our young people here in the province will be addressed by our new government in a reasonable and thoughtful way.
Policies to promote local agriculture, our struggling beef industry, work to create sustainable forest practices and invest in new green energy will be the focus of our government. The Mahone Island Conservancy Association, known as MICA, is working to buy islands back so that they will be in the public domain.
I am working with a government that is dedicated to keeping our communities strong. I have heard the concerns about our young people leaving Lunenburg and I am proud to be in this House. We will create new jobs in the near future by providing new community college seats today.
Our government is committed to making life better for today's families. Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour and a privilege to be part of this New Democratic Government. With confidence in the future, I move that the Speech from the Throne, as presented by Her Honour, the Honourable Mayann Francis, be accepted as read. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour. (Applause)
MR. JIM BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is also an honour for me to rise today and express my thanks to Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor, Mayann Francis, for her inspiring words. I am privileged to second the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. The script Her Honour read was not only words but lays out the path that our government will travel as we move forward as a province.
Mr. Speaker, as we all move forward as elected members, we must always be vigilant of how we got to this very spot - the reason we are here in this historic Chamber. I am proud to be a member of this government representing the people of Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.
I'm proud to represent the people of Guysborough-Sheet Harbour. These people are independent, hardworking individuals who embody the qualities that have and will continue to make our province a great place to live and work. These people, like all Nova Scotians, expect this House and this government to take a leadership role because they have elected each of us to do so.
I'm also extremely proud to represent the people of Little Dover and Canso, two communities that contributed much to my personal and professional development. I am also proud of my Acadian heritage and the lessons taught to me by my grandparents, parents and extended family.
I am also humbled by the great support and welcome that I received in the many
communities that lie scattered throughout this often overlooked natural jewel called Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.
I would not be here today without the support of my wife, Patti, my daughter Liza, sons Lee and Josh, as well as my mom, Betty. It is through their support and the collective efforts of the many friends and volunteers from communities like Mulgrave, Guysborough, Canso, Fisherman's Harbour, Sherbrooke, Liscomb, Ecum Secum, Moser River, Sheet Harbour, Mushaboom, Tangier and East Ship Harbour that I stand in this place at this time in our province's history. I make reference to those communities so that the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will hear them. (Laughter)
As a teacher I am aware of the legacy that people like Joseph Howe have entrusted to us and I am aware of the history of democracy but I am also acutely aware of the need to reconnect with our citizens. Democracy 250 was an event but there is much work to do and our government is committed to making government more accountable, transparent and open to all our citizens.
Mr. Speaker, I made a commitment to the people of Guysborough-Sheet Harbour to represent their concerns and work to the best of my ability on their behalf. I value their input and their time and I am proud to be part of a government that is dedicated to making life better for today's families.
I would be remiss if I did not share with you some of the uniqueness of this geographically challenging constituency. Guysborough-Sheet Harbour can lay claim to three of the best port opportunities in this province. Sheet Harbour, Country Harbour and Mulgrave are underutilized species in the economy of this province and we can do better. I am hopeful that the Melford Terminal Project will bring much needed employment and economic activity to this province.
We are home to the oldest fishing ports in Nova Scotia - Canso and the bays and islands frequented by Captain Savalette in and around Tor Bay and Charlos Cove. Our fishery is not a sunset industry and with good management we can transform it into a sustainable economic anchor for future generations.
I am proud to say that we are home to three of the most welcoming African-Canadian communities in Nova Scotia: Upper Big Tracadie, Lincolnville and Sunnyville. These communities are to be commended for their positive contribution to our culture, heritage and history.
We are home to the largest folk festival in Nova Scotia, the internationally acclaimed Stanfest, which has won a number of East Coast Music Awards and continues to attract over 10,000 fans each year to Canso. This success is a testament to the organizers and the hundreds of dedicated volunteers.
We are also home to the largest museum in this province, Sherbrooke Village, a village which could be so much more with a renewed vision.
We are home to the Sable Energy and the Deep Panuke projects and hopefully we will share in the sustainable energy projects of the future. We are home to some of the largest untapped gold reserves in the world and mines like those in Mooseland, Tangier, Goldboro, Wine Harbour, Ecum Secum, Seal Harbour and Goldenville to name just a few, put this area on the world map and will do so again.
We are home to the Liscomb Game Sanctuary, an area which must again be protected from clear-cutting and commercial logging. This was a gift to the people of this province that must not be squandered and laid waste to.
We are home to the cornerstones of the co-operative movement in this province, and the spirit of Father Jimmy Tompkins still resonates in the hearts and minds of many of the people of Little Dover, Canso, and Larry's River. There are lessons to be relearned.
We are home to many firsts, but Sheet Harbour became a first in North America when a Norwegian lime doser, that has a proven success record of revitalizing rivers damaged by acid rain, was installed on the West River. As the honourable members are well aware, populations of wild salmon in rivers throughout eastern North America are in severe decline, and one of the key elements in this decline is the impact of acid rain on spawning rivers. Nova Scotia alone has seen a 75 per cent decrease in its salmon runs over the past few decades. This technology is a step in the right direction and conservationists like Jack MacDonald are to be commended for their efforts.
Mr. Speaker, this area has many strengths and I am hopeful. We do, however, have many challenges. We must tackle the out-migration and the lack of value added to our raw resources. We must work to improve our economy and the lives of our citizens. We must address the need for necessary and, perhaps, strategic infrastructure, improve cell service, high-speed Internet, and better roads. I believe we can achieve this if we all work together.
I am confident we can do this, Mr. Speaker.
Our government will put the Legislature back to work for Nova Scotians. The business of governing is never to be taken lightly, and I give my word to all of the people I represent and, indeed, to these historic walls and the traditions they contain, that I will work to the very best of my ability to do the people of Guysborough-Sheet Harbour and the people of this province proud. (Applause)
It is my honour today to second the motion that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne pass as read. Thank you very much. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, member.
We have many guests in our gallery today and we welcome them all. We generally have not being doing introductions, but we're going to make an exception.
The honourable member for Clare.
HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Merci, M. le président. We have special guests joining us this afternoon in the west gallery on this special historic event. Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, the French parliamentary branch here in Nova Scotia is hosting l'Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie à la section d' Amérique. Joining us this afternoon - I would ask our special guests to rise - we have the MLA Raj Sherman from Alberta, we have MLA Cynthia Dunsford from Prince Edward Island, and we have MLA Warren McCall from Saskatchewan. I would ask my colleagues to please extend the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome all our guests here today.
The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased to rise as Leader of the Official Opposition to deliver a few initial remarks in reply to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the Liberal caucus, indeed, on behalf of all Nova Scotians. I want to acknowledge our Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Mayann Francis, and congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your new position, and I want to congratulate Premier Dexter on his campaign and on being elected as Premier of our province. I want to acknowledge some former colleagues and some new colleagues who have been appointed to his Cabinet. I want to indeed acknowledge all members who have been newly elected into this House, and I guess I have to welcome back some of the old ones. I also want to congratulate the member for Lunenburg and the member representing Guysborough-Sheet Harbour on their initial remarks in the House and wish them well as they endeavour on doing their business over the next number of years. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, today we have a full gallery. I want to acknowledge the members of our families, the people who work with us, and the people who have helped us get elected into this House, and thank them for not only being here today but thank them for the contributions they have made in our lives and in the democracy in our Province of Nova Scotia. I believe we have an obligation to work together in a positive and constructive manner to ensure that government operates in the best interests of Nova Scotians. As the Official Opposition, the Liberal caucus is committing to holding this government accountable for the promises it made to Nova Scotians. Accountability in government means taking responsibility for the
promises, actions, policies, and decisions, and for providing transparency in the decision-making process.
Mr. Speaker, we may have a new government sitting in the government benches, but there was nothing new from this government today in the Speech from the Throne. This is a government that has two sets of standards - one for the previous government and one for themselves. This Throne Speech was full of platitudes and no plan for this province. This government called our primary industries the backbone of our economy, yet there were only six sentences referring to the backbone of the Nova Scotia economy in this Throne Speech. We have been waiting to hear from this Party for months, and now this government, on a plan to stimulate the economy of our province. Nova Scotians waited during a lengthy campaign and they waited all summer and today they are left still waiting.
If Nova Scotians were looking for a solution to the closure of ERs in the Province of Nova Scotia, they are still waiting. If they were looking for a clear plan on energy security for our province, they are still waiting. Phrases such as "next year" or "first steps" or "open to working with" tell us a lot. It means that this Party was so eager to get to government and so hungry for power they forgot to make a plan. In fact, the only plan hinted at in this document is one designed to allow this government to back away from the promises it made just a few short months ago during the election campaign. However, it is not only the role of the Opposition to criticize. It is our role to also offer constructive solutions, as we did around the ER situation for our province.
At this time I would like to welcome those elements of the Speech from the Throne that address poverty reduction strategy and a promise to extend benefits to children and their families. We agree with government, and I am sure with all Opposition members of this House, that we must make progress in the fight against poverty.
On Monday, the Finance Minister admitted that Nova Scotia has a deficit and that deficit is more than twice what they were expecting. The government intends to amend the Financial Measures Act to allow a deficit budget - a move they opposed while on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker. We also learned from the Finance Minister that the Finance Minister has shifted next year's university funding to this year's budget. They have chosen to make an advance payment to universities, hoping to shift the blame back onto the Progressive Conservative Government for the deficit and put themselves in a better position to meet their promise of a balanced budget next year.
The NDP Government has taken a page directly from the former government's play book. The difference is the former government was up front with Nova Scotians - they were open and they were transparent, unlike our new government. It's not all right, Mr. Speaker, for government to say trust us, we're new, we're different, and we're different than the other guys. Government must earn that trust. We'll be watching to make sure this government keeps their promises, conducts business in a transparent manner and tells us exactly how they
intend to meet their commitments. We are here to ensure that government is fair, that decisions are transparent and that people always come first.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to reviewing the Speech from the Throne and addressing the House of Assembly in greater detail tomorrow. I would move that we adjourn debate.
MR. SPEAKER: There's a motion to adjourn debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
The honourable Premier.
THE PREMIER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At the conclusion of the session this afternoon, on your behalf, sir, I would like to invite all the members of the House, all the guests in the gallery and in the Red Chamber to the Hollis Street foyer for a reception.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. FRANK CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to move that the House do now rise to meet tomorrow, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. After the regular House orders, we will go into the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to rise until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
We stand adjourned.
[The House rose at 3:22 p.m.]