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Oral Questions put forward by Chuck

Thursday May 7, 2015



MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Agriculture. The minister and all members of this House, I believe, would have received a letter from the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia expressing a great deal of concern on behalf of all dairy farmers in the province over what happened under CETA.

The dairy sector as we know in the province is the largest commodity contributing to over 500 on-farm jobs and $350 million in GDP. My question on behalf of those dairy farmers today is, will this government, and the minister specifically, commit to stand up for the dairy farmers in our rural communities and tell the Harper Government that they must not negotiate away supply management?

HON. KEITH COLWELL : Mr. Speaker, this is a very important topic for the dairy farmers of Nova Scotia. They do indeed employ 850 people in the province and are the biggest factor we have in agriculture. We are committed to supply management. If supply management was to be done away with in this country, it would spell the end of dairy farms in Nova Scotia.

MR. PORTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the answer. I have no supplementary based on that.

Tuesday April 28, 2015


MR. CHUCK PORTER«» : Mr. Speaker, my question today will be to the Minister of Energy. Just very quickly, the COMFIT program has been in place for some years now. Are there any changes coming for alternative opportunities for groups who may wish to become part of that?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON» : Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question. As we announced earlier this Spring, we have put a pause on the COMFIT program, in fact mostly because of the success that it has had. The question is, what should the program look like going into the future?

As well we are undergoing our electricity review which we'll be tabling in the House very shortly, as well as looking at legislation this Fall. Nova Scotians have clearly told us they would like to see a mix in their choices for electricity in this province. We have listened to that and we will be bringing forward legislation this Fall to put that into action.

MR. PORTER«» : Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the answer. Could the minister confirm that solar will be considered as part of that as an option?

MR. SAMSON«» : What I can confirm for my honourable colleague is that solar is not currently part of the COMFIT program, but it's certainly part of the mix that is being considered as part of our electricity review in that Nova Scotians have clearly told us they would like to have a choice in the producer's electricity, as well as the different types of electricity. We've made great strides certainly in wind energy; we have some very exciting opportunities coming up with tidal energy as well; and certainly solar will be part of the discussions that we have going forward.

We will be tabling the results of our electricity review very shortly and, as I've indicated before, we will be bringing forward legislation this Fall to put into action the results of that review. Merci.

Friday April 24, 2015


MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Community Services. The minister would know that for a number of years now - and I don't recall the last time that there was a threshold figure that was changed for housing grants. We have a number of those in my constituency, and I'm sure all members do in this House who deal with housing grants. I'm wondering if there will be any change in the near future with regard to the income level and threshold number figure.

HON. JOANNE BERNARD : I thank the honourable member for his question. Thresholds in Nova Scotia for community grants for housing depend on the region and depend on the bedroom count within the home. Last year, we were able to provide $17.6 million for different programs that will help particularly seniors stay in their homes. That was 200 more than the year before. This year, the government has also invested another $1.5 million into that program, which will help another 200 homes. So approximately by the end of this fiscal year coming up, we will have close to almost 2,600 homes within that threshold.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that answer. Could she just clarify the increase - does that mean there will be a change in the income level or just that there are more people working at a lower income level?

MS. BERNARD: The increase doesn't have anything to do with the income level. In the income level, we look at each case individually and we try to do a solution that absolutely will fit with the client. If they're $50 or $100 above one threshold, we look at other programs, including small loans or SPD if they are available. I just also have to say that we are audited by CMHC and if we go over the threshold for applications, Housing Nova Scotia is penalized for that.

Wednesday April 22, 2015


MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. A few years ago - and a former government ago - some changes were made to the geographical areas that local Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal offices covered. I wonder, could the minister tell me today whether or not any assessment of that change has been done or whether data has been collected and whether there actually have been some savings or efficiencies?

HON. GEOFF MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. That was done a number of years back; the member is correct. What the department and the government of the day looked at was to try to streamline services in areas that had overlapping and dual coverage on some services like winter and summer maintenance and some of the brush-cutting, those types of things that were happening, as well as, of course, capital projects and maintenance paving. What happened was there were a number of jurisdictions that were pulled into this restructuring realignment. Some were successful and some weren't. Overall, it seemed to be a positive endeavour by the department, but certainly there were some challenges and they are part of the ongoing discussions.

MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that response. He is right; one of our areas has certainly been a challenge. It has not worked very well. I would just ask if the minister would once again give it some consideration, because anyone in his department would know that this is not the first time that I've asked this question. It probably does work well in some areas, but it is not working well in West Hants, so I would ask if some consideration could be given to some changes for us.

MR. MACLELLAN: When I had this discussion with the Department Director of Operations, Barb Baillie, I specifically mentioned some of the successful areas and some that have worked well, and she also pointed to Hants West in terms of some of the problems they had and some of the inefficiencies that resulted there from this change. So, in identifying areas where the change wasn't so positive, the region of that member opposite was part of those who really had some concern, so I can tell the member today that Barb and her staff are looking at changes and that's one particular area where we're going to look hard and make real improvements. Thank you very much.

Thursday April 16, 2015


MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you today would be to the Minister of Health and Wellness. It has been a great discussion over the years in this House - all the years that I've been here - on long-term care, the wait-list and so on. I wonder if the minister could tell us today - I know unfortunately our time is when family members and folks have to transfer to long-term care facilities outside their home area or the requested area - is there a formalized process to move back, to be requested back to a transfer to one of those facilities which was currently or prior to that being moved that were on the wait-list?

HON. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Hants West for the question. When a person enters our long-term care facilities, they will have their first choice of a facility. On many occasions that's not possible. What happens then is they work to get them to their preferred facility. Some people will like the residence where they are and will want to remain there but the goal is always to work to help them return or get to their first choice in terms of long-term care.

MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his response. I know that the minister and the department has been challenged with trying to really determine what the true number on the wait-list is. I know different people have refused because they are not quite ready when the call comes.

In the situation that I've just described, with people waiting to get back to their preferred - after being moved within the policy of the 100-kilometre circle, does the minister know how many are actually in that situation and await the transfer back to what I'll call their home, or their preferred facility?

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, especially as we work to provide a nursing home for those of high need and high risk, we will have people who will not get to their first preference. Currently that is running at about 50 per cent, or about 1,200 who do not get in their first choice when it is time to go to a nursing home.

Friday April 10, 2015


MR. CHUCK PORTER: My question will be for the Minister of Health and Wellness. Mr. Speaker, as all in this House would know, over the course of many years, there has been great debate on long-term care, wait-lists, new beds, not new beds, new plans - maybe not new plans. I wonder, could the minister answer today - does he know how many Nova Scotians actually reside currently in long-term care facilities in the province?

HON. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, the number of Nova Scotians in long-term care beds is about 7,500 to 7,600. That's in those that receive a per diem from the province. Of course, we all know that there are additional private homes in the province. I think the member opposite will be very pleased with the new direction that we will put in place around making sure that those at high risk and need get in first.

MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that answer. Something we haven't heard before in this House, I don't think - or I haven't - is actually how many beds and how many people are actually residing in those homes. I understand, I don't know what the number would be on the private side, but probably quite a few more. Given that one of the biggest issues, of course - we know how those beds turn over. Unfortunately, somebody passes away - the bed becomes vacant. One of the issues around entrance is the time it takes to gain access, and obviously, there is a process that must be gone through in clearing out and so on. Can the minister also maybe today just clarify, there is a release that he did some time back talking about the number of days. Is there an accurate number of days that it takes to enter? What's the wait time, the true wait time, for someone on the list waiting to get in to a long-term care facility?

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, a couple of parts to that question. First of all, the timeline for somebody to get in a bed that has become vacant can be anywhere from six to, unfortunately, about 20 or 21 days. That's why our new policy will work on six, seven days - about a week - to make sure that somebody now has moved in. In fact, one of the nursing homes in the member opposite's area had a cumulative of one full year of vacant days in the home, so we know that's another one of those areas where we are committed to making a big improvement.

Thursday April 9, 2015


MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my question through you will be to the Minister of Agriculture. The minister would be aware, as would many others, that last summer there was a significant tropical storm, Arthur, which caused considerable damage in the apple industry. I know the minister has been contacted, as have other levels of government, to initiate a process of AgriRecovery. I wonder if the minister could update us this afternoon on where that stands.

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important topic for the apple producers in the province, and fire blight has been introduced to the province as a result of the hurricane last year. On February 2015 we approached the AgriRecovery program and did start to work with the federal government and take another step so far to address this issue in the industry.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that answer. I would just follow that up with a comment around knowing the timing being very important, that the apple industry is an important piece of our economic development and so on in this province.

MR. SPEAKER : Order, please. The honourable member for Hants West has the floor.

MR. PORTER : Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, to the minister, I would ask the time frame for the process to be initiated - if he could speak to that based on the importance of this industry and the fact that the apple industry is already well underway and working toward this year's production.

MR. COLWELL : To give the honourable member a more accurate update - indeed we did have a survey that's going to go out, but it had to be previewed by Ottawa and that has already been completed. As of yesterday, Perennia has held some programs around how you treat and deal with fire blight, and later this month we're going to have a mitigation sheet provided to the industry by Perennia. And we've had close to - between two workshops we've had on this we've had over 105 participants, so we're well on the way to addressing this issue. It is a serious issue, but indeed we have to help the industry in every way we can.

Wednesday April 8, 2015

Com. Serv.: Affordable Housing (Hants West) - Funding

MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Community Services. An announcement was made in late October of last year regarding a $52 million investment to affordable housing, a much-needed announcement. Hants West currently has approximately 50 families on the wait-list for housing and approximately 50 seniors also waiting. Can the minister tell us when we might see some of that funding put towards getting these people into homes and off the wait-list?

HON. JOANNE BERNARD : Thank you for the question from the honourable member. It was my pleasure to be able to announce that last year and of course that money came from the deferred federal contributions which had been amassing up to about $64 million over the last decade, so $42 million of it actually was dispensed in that announcement last October. We provided 10-year supplements for 300 folks. We were able to leverage that with the private sector, hopefully getting close to 500 supplements. The ongoing process is still happening, people who were first on the wait-list were encouraged at that time to apply through their Housing Nova Scotia office and then whatever area had landlords who had housing stock available, they would be able to be moved off the list at that time.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her answer. There seems to be a bit of confusion around this announcement and the amount of uptake. I don't think that landlords appear to be aware that they need to actually apply. We are just learning this in recent weeks and want to confirm that that is, in fact, the case. Is it up to them to contact government or the Department of Community Services to make application to become part of that program?

MS. BERNARD : Communications from Housing Nova Scotia actually went out across the province to many different landlords in the sector, inviting them to make application so they would be part of that partnership that we were establishing within Housing Nova Scotia.

I was committed at that time. Just because there was a rent supplement doesn't mean that I was going to put people into housing options that weren't safe, secure, clean, or substandard, so the onus was on landlords to be able to apply and then come to the table with perhaps meeting us with some of those supplements so that we could increase the number of people to come off the wait-lists. So yes, they do need to contact our Housing Nova Scotia offices.

Tuesday April 7, 2015


MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health and Wellness. After much lobbying in this House for dialysis to be set up at Hants Community Hospital in Windsor, our understanding is that it will in fact go to the Valley Regional in Kentville. I wonder if the minister could confirm that, number one, but number two, most importantly, the time frame for that to be set up and in place.

HON. LEO GLAVINE : Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Hants West for bringing this question to the floor of the Legislature. First of all, I want to say that he has been a very long-time proponent and ardent advocate of getting some dialysis for his area. We know that we have a provincial renal program and Kentville is the next site that will be developed. Within a matter of days, I think, we'll have some information about that fact.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that answer. I would then ask, given that the move will be in Kentville, where the majority will travel and there are some 35 to 40 consistently travelling for dialysis treatment, unfortunately, out of the Hants West area. Their biggest concern is always travel - how am I going to get there? Will the government or the minister and his department consider an option for travel and maybe work through some logistics to make that happen to ease the burdens in the minds of these folks and their families in receiving their dialysis treatment?

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I want to convey to the member opposite that I am prepared to provide him with a copy of the detailed analysis that was done for his area and also to speak to some of the recommendations that were brought forward. I will do that for the member within the next two weeks.

Wednesday April 1, 2015

Agric. - Lake Pisiquid: Water Level/Gates - Update

MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my question through you this afternoon will be to the Minister of Agriculture. Last Fall, the minister came to Windsor to meet with a group of stakeholders in relation to Lake Pisiquid and the water levels associated with that and the gates of which his department is responsible for the operation of. There were some action items discussed at that meeting, and I wonder if the minister could update me today on what those action items in progress would be.

HON. KEITH COLWELL : Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member from across the floor for inviting me to the area to discuss this with the Canoe Club and with other stakeholders in the area. There were definitely some serious concerns that were raised at that meeting. Among those concerns, we've been working diligently to get those in place and we will have a full report on that very shortly. Our staff has been very concerned and I believe they have a very open dialogue now with all of the stakeholders in that area and we look forward to enhancing that as we move forward.

MR. PORTER: I thank the minister for that answer. I think I heard him say shortly we would have something. I wonder with the lake, hopefully soon to be open and users upon it, could he be a bit more specific on time frame if he's able, please?

MR. COLWELL : The dialogue is continuing with the organizations as we speak. We can't implement some of these new settings, such as the alarm systems and the signs and stuff, until we hear back from the Canoe Club in particular, to make sure that there are no safety hazards in the future with their members if they're out paddling this summer. That should be completed before the summer season starts this year for the club.

Friday March 27, 2015


MR. CHUCK PORTER : Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question through you this morning is to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. As the minister would know we've had many conversations since he has become minister, as well as during the last few months, with regard to Highway No. 101 which is still un-twinned running through the Windsor area. I know that they have been working on a plan and I wonder if the minister could update me and all constituents this morning on that plan.

HON. GEOFF MACLELLAN : Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. We've certainly had many discussions about Highway No.101, the entire corridor along the stretch that the member represents, and obviously it's an important stretch for the region. There are many significant challenges there. We have been working on some short-term signage and alignment elements of the particular area around the causeway and we're actually now conducting an internal review on the entire Highway No.101. We are going to look at some short-term changes, without question, and the member has been very good to bring those issues to our attention, but there are also long-term solutions there and we're working toward that and we'll certainly keep the member apprised of those plans as they move forward. Thank you.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, through you, I would just ask the minister, realizing it takes time to put a long-term plan in place and it's expensive and everyone understands and appreciates that, we have had discussions around short-term actions that could help with some prevention out there and I wonder if there is a time frame on maybe seeing some of those short-term actions put into place.

MR. MACLELLAN : Mr. Speaker, certainly there is with some of the particular elements that the member had suggested, we are moving forward on some of those where we can. The real challenge that we are trying to address is putting a barrier through that very heavy traffic area, through the Windsor causeway, based on the fact that the alignment is very tricky and it's not wide enough for the partitions, the jersey barriers. We're working on some of those things but I'd invite the member to get in touch with our office and maybe we can have a meeting about some of those things and how close we are to putting them together. Thank you.


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