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Oral Questions put forward by Chuck

Wednesday October 29, 2014

ERDT - INTERNET ACCESS: PROVISION - STATUS

MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you will be to the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism. As many members in this House, including the minister, would know, quite a few years have passed now since a previous Tory Government promised high-speed Internet access for all those who wished it in the province. To date, I know that has not yet been completed and it has been probably close to seven years now. I wonder if the minister could update members of the House, myself and others who may be watching, exactly where we are and the current status of where we might be going on completing it?

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to thank the member for the question. This has been a challenging file. The rural broadband initiative was started in 2006 with the goal of having 100 per cent coverage for all residents of Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, there have been some challenges in certain geographic areas of the province - the member's riding being one of them - as well as several other ridings all along the southwest shore and into the Valley. We are looking closely at the recent federal announcement where monies will be given to the provinces to assist with upgrading the system to a higher speed of the five megabytes per second. We are waiting to see the details of that but I can assure you we are in constant communication with the providers to try to address the challenges that remain.

MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer. I would take from that and he can clarify this, it would almost seem that those looking for the service would believe it would be unrealistic, the way we are geographically located and the issues we've had over the years, that 100 per cent would be connected. Is there a move afoot as part of this new upgrade to actually connect to the high-speed and now the fibre op network - the hard line versus the wireless style that many are promoting and that we have based our past years and installation on and availability?

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the member is that the service providers are looking at all the new technology that is coming out because this is not just a challenge in Nova Scotia, it is a challenge all around the country. In certain geographic areas it's extremely difficult to get service. For example, Seaside Communications, which services the northern part of Nova Scotia along with Cape Breton, now has three customers who've asked for service that they simply cannot find the solution to. Obviously, there are many more on the other end of the province. The companies are looking at new technology, they are looking at new ways, and we continue to be in discussions with them to try to have as many Nova Scotians as possible connected. And again, with the new federal money coming in, we're hopeful that that might provide some opportunities as well, and possibly even some new providers that may be looking to provide service here.

Wednesday October 22, 2014

TIR: RAP - STORAGE LOCATION

MR. CHUCK PORTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question through you will be to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. As most members in this House and most Nova Scotians have known the condition of our roads, we would all like to have more and I'm sure that minister would like to be able to give us more, but my question is, with regard to - when major reconstruction work is done, generally we see our highways being pulverized, the recycled asphalt and I'm wondering, as part of the tendering process is that allotment of recycled asphalt or RAP, as we know it, going with the contractor or being stockpiled at local DOT operation centres?

HON. GEOFF MACLELLAN: I thank the honourable member for the question. It is being stockpiled. Part of the tendering process for those road builders is that we get access to the RAP, so we have about 200,000, give or take, tons of RAP stockpiled at this point. Basically we keep them at our depots that are closest to the respective capital jobs that are happening, so it's generally spread throughout the province at this point, but we do use it, as the member would know - he's a big proponent of the RAP program and using it.

We use it for shoulders, we mix it with the gravel content to strengthen up the gravel roads, and of course we use it for hot-patching. It's one of those recycle pieces that provide a lot of distance and a lot of mileage for Nova Scotians, so it's a good question. It's an important piece of our mix as we try to keep the roads in decent shape. (Applause)

MR. PORTER: I thank the minister for his answer - and he's correct, I am a big proponent of the use of the RAP material. It holds up well. People are generally happy with it on what used to be - probably 25 or 30 years ago - paved, or constructed at that time with what was then recycled asphalt as well.

So my final question to the minister is, will we see a policy change, given that this holds up so well, some consideration for a policy change, perhaps, around more of this RAP material being put directly on roads that are well-built, that could sustain it and make quite a bit of difference given that it's probably becoming more difficult, as the years go by, to get some of these roads that probably won't see asphalt for a good many years to come?

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, again I thank the member - certainly a valid point for us. When we use the RAP we put it in our asphalt mix so it basically reduces the cost per mix by about 25 per cent so it adds tremendous value for the particular asphalt mix that we are working on at that time.

Certainly it does help and it is a valuable additive for the gravel roads but again, we basically use it when it is required. There is lots of patching required in the Spring; it is valuable for that. Again, strengthening the shoulders, as the member would know, once you break the back, so to speak, of a gravel road, you are in trouble. Strengthening those shoulders by way of the RAP mix is important.

I think that a policy change with respect to how we use it is particularly interesting, given the fact that we are going to do our best to maintain the capital program. As those capital projects take place, more RAP is produced, and then we can use it for those particular uses. It is certainly something we will take to the department. Thank you very much.

Wednesday October 15, 2014

EECD: THREE MILE PLAINS ELEM. SCH. - RENOVATION PROJ.

MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my question through you today will be to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. As the minister may recall, in 2009, there were announcements made with regard to local schools in the Hants West area, one of them being Hantsport. That project finally, after many years, is well underway.

The other project that was announced at the same time was the Three Mile Plains elementary school. Nothing to date has been done there. Unfortunately, we had a change in government in 2009 - or fortunately, I guess, depending on how you look at that, Mr. Speaker. But today here we are, many years later, still no work going on in Three Mile Plains.

Now I know that the school has expressed on many occasions their desire to have that renovation complete, as have others, but new direction was given in 2009-2010 for the boards to decide how things would go.

I would ask the minister today, is she aware of this project? I think she might know the minister from the day that it was announced in 2009. If not, she could certainly confer with the former minister, but I think she is aware. Has new direction been given to the board on how they will submit what projects will move forward?

HON. KAREN CASEY: Thank you to the member opposite. Late at night, I talk to that former minister because nobody else will talk to me.

On a serious note, I think the member makes a good point that there was an announcement of an enhancement to a school in his area. That announcement was made in 2009. The decision of the new government in 2009 was that they would ask boards to resubmit requests for capital projects, therefore the announcement for Three Mile Plains was off the books and it was the responsibility of the board to resubmit that.

Over the course of time from 2009 until now, as the member would know, that has come in to the department. It came in several times during 2009 to our time in government in 2013, and it was never approved, but it is not because the community and the board did not submit that as a request.

MR. PORTER  I will table a recent letter that has again gone from the parent support group, Ms. DawnLee Swinamer from Three Mile Plains, re-emphasizing once again their desire to have that renovation done at that school stands regardless of whether the board agrees or not, I guess, and we'll stand here today and lobby on behalf, as well as Windsor Forks. I'm sure you will have documentation from them in the near future; they would like that consideration given. Instead of a new school that was proposed by the board a couple of years ago, the community meetings were held and they were very well attended, and it was clear what the communities, the parents, even the staff wanted.

I would ask the minister would she commit to reviewing this, seriously, and taking into consideration what the community, the schools, and the parents are asking for with regards to Three Mile Plains and Windsor Forks.

MS. CASEY  I certainly have received the letter dated October 7th, I've reviewed that and I will be responding to DawnLee Swinamer as a result of her letter expressing her concern, but I do want to mention that as we all know there was a new school review process. One of the reasons we have a new school review process is because the level of trust between communities and school boards had eroded, deteriorated, and nothing very constructive could be done in that toxic environment. We believe that the new process will help to bring communities together so that the needs and the concerns of the community of Three Mile Plains and others will be made clear to the board and the board will understand and respect those concerns.

MR. PORTER: Again, I thank the minister for the answer. It is very important, vital actually, that the communities are involved and have some serious input on that decision, and I will also table a response that was written from the superintendent of schools in the Annapolis Valley District School Board standing by their decisions.

Again, I would strongly ask the minister for her consideration, and she has answered that and I accept that and I appreciate that but I'm not sure if she has received this or not but I will table it since I have referenced it, Mr. Speaker, that their decision will be to move forward with a new school regardless of what the communities think. Again, I would like the minister to confirm to our communities in Hants West and all of those, of course, around the province, that the minister is paying attention to what is going on and supports communities in and around this province when it comes to the education of our children. Thank you very much.

MS. CASEY: I will get a copy of what is just being tabled now and make a commitment to the member that I will discuss with the board chair the priorities that are being submitted by that particular school board, and all school boards, to ensure that they reflect the needs, the concerns, and the requests of the community.

Wednesday October 8, 2014

HEALTH & WELLNESS - HANTS COMMUN. HOSP.:

SATELLITE DIALYSIS - STATUS

MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health and Wellness. It should come as no surprise that I would ask the minister a question regarding dialysis, given that we have 40 or more families and individuals travelling from my constituency to the Valley, to Berwick, or here to Halifax to receive treatment three times a week. I know he's very familiar with that, and many others are. I have asked many questions in this House regarding the satellite dialysis potential for the Hants Community Hospital to ever happen, so I'll follow up today, knowing full well that in recent months there was a survey completed through some of the individuals who are travelling, and/or their families. I would ask the minister for a status report on where that lies today.

HON. LEO GLAVINE : Mr. Speaker, to the member for Hants West, I do commend him for championing this cause. He has asked me a number of questions around dialysis and its possibilities in Windsor. Of course, this is a provincial program that has a very specific design as to how it will be rolled out in the coming years. A good part of that program has been implemented, but there are more sites that are now in the process of being developed. One of them in Kentville will come relatively shortly, which I know will have great benefit to residents of his area. He's absolutely right. The survey is indicating that a place like Windsor has a number of residents who would like to get a service closer to home.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my understanding is the survey perhaps has been completed, but I'm not sure of that. I would ask the minister to maybe clarify when he rises following my question.

I also had been told that people from my area, approximately four, had received the survey, but again I'm not specifically 100 per cent sure if that is correct. I wonder if the minister could enlighten us or tell me so I could pass it on, and all constituents, how many people from the Hants West area, of that approximately 40 or so that are receiving dialysis each week, were surveyed? Thank you.

MR. GLAVINE : Mr. Speaker, what I will provide the member opposite with is some results of that survey. We know that there are always a number of people on dialysis that can be educated, can be supported for home dialysis. Some move into that kind of treatment, but as far as the additional four, as to what category and if they need to be coming into Halifax to the renal program here or can get treatment at home, I'm sure the survey has those kinds of details, and I will provide that to the member.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, thank you to the minister for the answer, and I look forward to seeing some of that data. I'm sure some of the others who are patients receiving dialysis will also look forward to seeing the end result of that. At this point, I guess I would say, given that this is an ongoing issue, that it will continue to be an ongoing issue. We will continue to lobby for the good folks of Hants West and surrounding areas, who would greatly benefit from satellite dialysis at the Hants Community Hospital. Thank you.

Wednesday October 1, 2014

HEALTH & WELLNESS: EIBI PROG. - WAIT LIST

MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health and Wellness. Over the years governments have made investments in Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention programs, more commonly known as EIBI. I also know that the Minister of Health and Wellness is very familiar with this program and some of the ongoing challenges of parents including wait times for assessments. I've written the minister, and I thank him for his responses each time, but I also want to ask a couple of follow up questions this evening.

The minister stated in a recent response that for children who are starting school in September 2014 there are no children who will age out before receiving EIBI. Having said that, there are families who have decided to delay school entry in order to ensure their children receive treatment. My question to the minister is, can the minister tell us how many families are waiting to access this program and how many have made the decision to delay their child starting school this Fall?

HON. LEO GLAVINE : Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to say to the member opposite, the member for Hants West, that he has brought this issue to my attention as he advocated for a family, in particular, who had a child whose parents wanted them to be in school this September and they hadn't received EIBI. One of the realities that is facing us in the province, where we now have 1 in 64 children who are diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum who require EIBI before going to school, we are now in the area of about 150 children who are waiting to receive EIBI. Some are in that final year now before they would go to school. Every attempt is going to be made to have those children receive EIBI.

A number of developments, along with the rise in children being diagnosed, is the fact that we probably need more therapists in the province. We also had an occasion last year where I think about four therapists went out on pregnancy leave all at the same time, which really put us behind. We are now gathering a group of the experts from across the province to outline a stronger plan for the future.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer. Given the number of families and children affected by this wait time issue, does the minister have any data that would indicate what kind of positive or negative effects these delays have on those children who are kept back a year?

MR. GLAVINE : Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, that is a very good question. We know that we are only providing EIBI and we're actually very strong and very much better off than many provinces across the country in terms of delivering this. That's a question that really asks, have any longitudinal studies been done to determine if a child with autism is out of school for a year in order to get the program? That's a great question.

We are going to have a small group to take a look at and to see if, in fact, it is deleterious to the advance of the child in school, and we'll be gathering information around that. We have just put in place about 11 people who will outline, now, how the program should be delivered in the future. One of the real challenges that we are getting is that now a diagnosis of autism is actually taking place between one and two years of age. Again, another great advance, because early work with a therapist, also training parents who can pick up the program, I believe is, again, some of the work now that we need to incorporate in our future planning.

MR. PORTER : I know, and I believe many of the parents understand, the issue of money and resources, and unfortunately that always seems to be the case on many fronts. So I would ask the minister, and I know the minister understands as well, he spent a long time in this House as critic and certainly now as minister with some of the challenges that exist.

Mr. Speaker, my final question through you to the minister is, will there be any additional resources in the coming budget to assist these families in the ongoing challenges in the EIBI program?

MR. GLAVINE : Thank you very much to the member for Hants West. This is exactly what this high-calibre, committed to improving autism support programs in the province will be taking a look at. There are also some new developments in terms of providing assistance prior to going to school, and there are some aspects of the Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention therapy that can be provided at a lower cost, and also have very effective results. We are now into that period where we study this, and hopefully a recommendation before budget could be made in the coming year.


SNSMR: ACCESS N.S. WINDSOR - OPERATING HOURS

MR. CHUCK PORTER : Mr. Speaker, I'll take the opportunity to ask a question. I appreciate the opportunity. My question through you is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia.

The minister would know that in the Town of Windsor, an area that I represent, we have an Access Nova Scotia that has been open for some time now. It's open two half-days a week - four hours Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have a considerable number of people who have come to my office over the years, and I've asked the last number of governments - I think probably including our own at the time when I came here - to assess or reassess that location for potentially expanding the hours there.

I would ask the minister, is there any data that supports . . .

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

MR. PORTER : Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. I would ask the honourable minister, is there data that would be available to support, one way or the other, it staying as is, or the potential for another half day or a day as it currently exists?

HON. MARK FUREY : Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. We are presently in the process of a facility strategy where we're assessing client use of facilities across the province. I don't have the data specific to the Windsor Access facility with me, but I would be more than willing to provide that information to my colleague at an appropriate time that is convenient for him.

MR. PORTER : Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the answer. I've been told that the data is somewhere. It was calculated at some point back a while ago; it was gathered. I'm not sure where it is - I haven't FOIPOPed, but I think I have written in the past. Probably, had I thought about it, I would have brought that information with me this evening with regard to letters that I have written, to indicate that this has been an ongoing issue.

Many, many people - not just one or two, but many people over the years have come into my office to ask about this and the potential for it being extended. We have to drive, unfortunately, into Sackville or Halifax or Coldbrook - they've got a lovely new location in Coldbrook. I was there. I took my daughter there a few months ago to get her licence. We had to go to Coldbrook because of the day, and of course when you pass the test, they want to run right down these days and get their licence. So albeit a lovely location, there were very few people there. I was quite surprised, and thought, here we are again - the two or three of the people who were there were actually from my constituency.

Again, I appreciate the opportunity to have the question asked, and I know we're running out of time. I would thank the minister if he could provide some information to myself that I could share with others, and look at this.



 

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