Oral Questions put forward by Chuck
ENERGY - N.S. RATEPAYERS: PROTECTION - LEGISLATION INTRODUCE
MR. CHUCK PORTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday before the URB, Mr. Antonuk of Liberty Consulting said, a change in the relationship between Nova Scotia Power and the URB is not up to him or even the URB. He said it’s up to the Legislature.
He went on to say that “. . . in a market like this it’s just fundamentally inconsistent to have the province’s, I suppose, biggest gas user be housed in the same corporate family as an enterprise that has taken a big stake in the energy business in this part of the world.” I’ll table that, Mr. Speaker, as I quoted from it.
Mr. Speaker, my question, in light of these most recent concerns about the workings of Emera and Nova Scotia Power, will the Minister of Energy bring in legislation protecting all Nova Scotian ratepayers?
HON. CHARLIE PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. Certainly, the URB has a full responsibility to look at all the costs that are involved here and you mentioned the Liberty Group as being part of that. That’s in the process, they’re looking at expertise from all sources, so really it’s the role of the URB to determine the fairest and just costs for Nova Scotians.
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns raised by the Liberty audit is whether this relationship led to higher power bills than necessary. Muskrat Falls is the next biggest project that requires corporate separation between Nova Scotia Power and Emera. The cost of Muskrat Falls is continually going up, as we hear again today. Emera and this government signed a deal without even telling people how much they will have to pay. My question to the minister is, will the minister bring forward new legislation to protect ratepayers and provide corporate separation between Emera and Nova Scotia Power before any Muskrat Falls application goes before the URB?
MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, certainly again the URB has the full and total responsibility to determine what is fair and what is just. If ratepayers have paid too much, the URB will have that responsibility to indicate that it should be paid back. If they’ve paid too little, then they’ll have to deal with that as well but that’s the full responsibility of the URB to determine, again, what is fair and just for ratepayers in this province.
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, all I can tell you is this caucus’ number one priority is to protect the ratepayers in this province going forward. The cost of Muskrat Falls is continuing to go up, there’s nobody looking out for their best (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order. Things are becoming a little heated in here and I’d ask that members take a deep breath so we can continue the debate in the Chamber in a nice, parliamentary way.
The honourable member for Hants West has the floor.
MR. PORTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I’ll start again. The cost of Muskrat Falls is continuing to go up. As we heard today, the estimate has gone up by $1.2 billion and we know that can continue to rise. Emera gets a guaranteed profit when Nova Scotia Power builds big, expensive projects like Muskrat Falls and charges it back to ratepayers. Nova Scotians are right to worry about their interests and will they be protected. My question to the minister is, why is the minister continuing to stand with Emera, rather than ratepayers, when it comes to separating this corporate conflict?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say is that the Muskrat Falls project will produce the lowest cost energy for Nova Scotians among the options that are there. I would point out - the member was focused on the question of fuel costs like natural gas and doesn’t seem to understand that there is a difference between the infrastructure or the asset base of the company, and the fuel costs.
For example, Nova Scotia Power now already owns hydroelectricity dams; they already own coal-fired generating stations. He misses the fundamental point between fuel and the infrastructure. The great thing about that project, of course, is that the costs are actually known on the front end. You know because you know what the financing is for the entire length of the project.
Thursday November 1, 2012
MINAS BASIN PULP & POWER: JOBS PLAN - EFFICACY
MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, today 135 workers at the Minas Basin Pulp and Power mill got some very devastating news. Those hard-working 135 Nova Scotians were told today that they would be unemployed in December when the mill shuts down for good. The company cited as part of their problems, rising costs of operation as one of the reasons they are closing this plant. Mr. Speaker, I’ll table the document in a few minutes that I’m going to speak from.
My question is, how can the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism say that his jobs plan is working when we’ve got 135 examples today that prove that it is not?
HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, as anyone with any reasonable common sense will know, there are things going on in the global economy that are certainly out of the control of government.
Mr. Speaker, I find it very ironic that somebody from the Third Party would get up and ask that question and make those statements. I will read you something from today’s paper. This was a company that was in Nova Scotia in 2005, decided to move, to leave Nova Scotia. I will quote to you and I will table this. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
The honourable Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism has the floor, please.
MR. PARIS: “I probably wouldn’t go back to Nova Scotia after what took place with us there.” He’s talking about 2005, Mr. Speaker. Who was in power then, Mr. Speaker? That Party.
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, this is 2012 and I’m standing in my place today to talk about the 135 jobs that have been lost. That’s what I’m doing, on behalf of those very people that I represent. That’s my job in this House, Mr. Speaker, and I’m sure you, as well as every member in this place, expect that to happen.
Mr. Speaker, we know that there have been thousands of jobs lost in this province outside of this minister’s watch. To say his plan is working is an insult to these people. In the Valley alone, in my own constituency, we lost 150 jobs over at Fundy Gypsum and not a word said from government - nothing there, not a thing. Where were they then? You can cite everything from 2005 and beyond yesterday that you want. It’s important today. Where are we going? We’re not going anywhere as far as we can tell.
What is the plan, Mr. Speaker, what action is the minister going to take to stop the bleeding in the Annapolis Valley? What does he plan on doing to help all of those in the Valley who have lost jobs under this watch?
MR. PARIS: You know, Mr. Speaker, much like NewPage, much like Bowater - much about those individuals whose jobs were threatened or who had lost jobs - this government and this Premier sitting here, we were the first ones on site.
Mr. Speaker, through Labour and Advanced Education - and I don’t want to speak for the minister - but I’ve got the utmost confidence that a transition team has been in place, will be working with those displaced employees, the same as we did in the mills when Bowater ran into trouble, the same as we did when Port Hawkesbury. Those individuals appreciated it because - who was the first on site? This Premier was the first on site and this government.
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, this is a little different. Scotia Investments put right in their note that they released today, and I’ll quote it and then I’ll table it: “While we have worked closely with governments over many years, we are not seeking support for the mill.” This isn’t about another handout; this is about 135 people and the jobs that exist there today that will be gone at the end of this year.
The question is very simple, and I’ll get right to it, Mr. Speaker, it adds to the numbers. When will this minister finally admit the plan is not working? They don’t care about the statistics from anywhere. They care about the 135 jobs and their families, and how they’re going to put food on their tables, and how they’re going to pay the power bills.
When will this government stand up and say the program is not working? When will they introduce something that will create jobs, in this province, for our people?
MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, this government has proven time and time again that they are there to support displaced workers. We will be there. We are there to provide support to those individuals, those workers at Minas Basin Pulp and Power. We will be there.
Tuesday November 6, 2012
ERDT - MINAS BASIN PULP & POWER EMPLOYEES: MIN. - MEET
MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, last week in response to a question about the announcement that 135 Nova Scotians who work at Minas Basin Pulp and Power would be out of work by the end of the year, the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism chose to score a cheap political point at their expense by reading a quote from seven years ago. Finally the minister said, “We will be there. We are there to provide support to those individuals, those workers at Minas Basin Pulp and Power. We will be there.” I will table that from Hansard.
My question to the minister is, Minas Basin Pulp and Power families are worried. What plan has the minister made to support those individuals? When, where, and with whom will he meet?
HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I remember very well what I said. My first comments were that my thoughts were with the men, the women, and their families who lost jobs at the Hantsport facility. I went on to say that there is a transition team in place that is meeting with employees to chart out best strategies in a go-forward way.
Mr. Speaker, I’m certainly willing - and I think this government has proven itself, under the leadership of our Premier, that when crises hit, we are there. You know, that will continue to be the way of this government, we will be there.
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, last year the minister’s department produced a document called The Statement of Mandate, and I’ll table that document. In the minister’s message in that document the minister writes, “Through our work with businesses, we have reaffirmed that jobsHere is the right plan to lay the foundation for success in every corner of Nova Scotia.”
I’m here to tell you, Mr. Minister and Mr. Speaker, that the foundation is crumbling poorly. What exactly will the minister do to make sure the employees of Minas Basin Pulp and Power are not just more sad statistics in the minister’s dismal job creation record?
MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, as I have gotten on my feet time and time again and I’ve said that since we came into power, we’ve created 7,600 jobs in the Province of Nova Scotia. We work very closely with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education. The Department of Labour and Advanced Education have been, and always will be, part of any transition team that moves forward with respect to displaced workers.
Again, our hearts go out to these individuals and their families and again, reiteration, we’ve proven time and time again that in time of need, this government will be there, under the leadership of the Premier.
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, in his message in that document I tabled, the minister boasts several times of the groundwork he has done to support economic opportunities in the province. He concludes by saying, “Today more than ever, I am confident in what the future holds for Nova Scotia.” I know 135 families who don’t share his confidence and who are afraid of what the future holds for them in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, my question is, will the minister commit today to coming to Hantsport and agreeing to meet with the long list of stakeholders who are coming together in support of these families? I’ll table that list right here. We’ve already been working on that.
MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, as I’ve already said, through this government there is a transition team in place that not only involves Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, but obviously Labour and Advanced Education is playing a very key and vital role. We have people on the ground. We have the RDA that’s there that I’ve already been in touch with. He sent me some information. They are meeting with the families and with the individuals.
If people want to meet with me - and one of the things that I say outside of this House and I’ll say inside this House, I think in the almost four years that I’ve been a Minister of the Crown, I think I’ve proven my accessibility time and time again. I think the member for Hants West, who is asking the questions, can’t deny that any time he has requested a meeting with me, I’ve always been there. Thank you.
Tuesday November 27, 2012
HEALTH AND WELLNESS - DIALYSIS - E.HANTS/W.HANTS - FUNDING EXPLAIN
MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Health and Wellness. Earlier this month the Department of Health and Wellness issued a press release about the funding for new dialysis chairs that will help 40 patients from Tatamagouche, to Truro, to Stewiacke. In the release the member for Truro-Bible Hill explained that some patients endure a life-saving dialysis treatment three days a week, four or five hours a day. Many patients are elderly and do not have their own means of transportation or have needed to find lodgings in Halifax to receive their life-saving treatment, she said, and that's all true. I'll table that as I spoke from it, but that isn't just true of patients in the Truro-Bible Hill-Colchester area. My question to the Minister of Health and Wellness is, why did government provide funding for dialysis in Colchester and East Hants, but nothing for patients living in West Hants?
HON DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. We know that dialysis is an important service that Nova Scotians seek to gain access to. We recognize the burden that many Nova Scotians have when it comes to not only the time that is involved when you're receiving dialysis, but that travel time also is a burden. That is why we continue to invest in dialysis. We recognize the importance of satellite dialysis units across the province and I look forward to continuing to support dialysis services throughout Nova Scotia.
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, Richard LaPierre of Ellershouse needs life-saving dialysis treatment. Richard and his wife, Frances, travel from their home in Berwick three times a week to get their treatment and they've been doing this for many, many years. This couple has maxed out every means of financial support that they have. My question to the minister is, why won't the minister provide the same peace of mind to the LaPierres that he has given 40 patients in Colchester and East Hants?
MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, we knew that this was an area of service within the health care field that we needed to concentrate some efforts and some funding. I'm glad to say that we've invested more than $1 million looking at some of the renovations that are needed to the current dialysis units, but we've recognized the need to get out into more communities and support those Nova Scotians who are seeking services like dialysis. We will be making more announcements as we move forward as it comes to dialysis and the services that they provide Nova Scotians.
MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, it's interesting that the minister talks about investments and money because the Hants Community Hospital Foundation has committed $80,000 to purchase dialysis machines for the use at Hants Community Hospital, so have others in the community come together to raise money for these machines. Despite this commitment the NDP refuses to consider expanding dialysis service to Windsor even if the machines are purchased by the foundation.
In his former profession I know the minister saw first-hand the mental, physical, and financial anguish dialysis patients suffer from, because I sat in that same ambulance with him while we transferred these patients around. I know he understands the situation very clearly, so I would ask again, why is the minister refusing an area that is ready, willing, and able to accommodate dialysis services with financial means and a physical location?
MR. WILSON : Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I know he's very concerned around patients in Nova Scotia who receive dialysis and those services. We know that it has been a burden on many Nova Scotians over a number of years, especially the time taken to travel to seek these treatments. This is not something where you just receive one treatment and that's it. It's multiple days of travelling, and that's why we're continuing to invest in dialysis throughout the province.
We know that communities have offered funding for machines or certain material or equipment for dialysis, but there's more to it than just providing the capital funding for that piece of equipment. These are professionals who need certain training, and you need to ensure they have the number of patients in a certain area, to ensure they can provide those services and continue a continuity of care.
I look forward in the coming months - I hope the member opposite recognizes the movement we've done so far on dialysis. We'll have more information around services throughout Nova Scotia of the investment that this government is making when it comes to dialysis services in Nova Scotia.
Wednesday November 28, 2012
TIR - SERVICE AREA: CHANGES - EXPLAIN
HON. MAURICE SMITH: My understanding is that when these arrangements
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, the department stipulates the changes are happening
MR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that question. I’m sorry if the
MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, the real reason for this change is due to the
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time alloted for Oral Question period has expired.
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