“While another balanced budget is certainly a positive foundation for the province’s future, the agreement announced during the session between the province and EnCana Corporation of the Deep Panuke natural gas field fuelled optimism with the prospects of additional jobs and opportunities associated with our offshore and onshore industries,” said Premier MacDonald. The session ended on a sad note when members stood for a moment of silence to recognize the three Canadian military service personnel who died after their Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter went down in waters off Canso Thursday. Out of respect and sympathy, flags were lowered at the legislature to honour their memory and heroic service. Members also took time during the final week to thank Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman for her six years of loyal service to this province. The unanimous passage of the fifth, balanced budget highlighted the rare summer legislative session, with legislation enhancing anti-crime efforts, and protecting the personal information of Nova Scotians rounding out the session. The House of Assembly concluded today, July 14, after passing 11 bills, thanks to co-operative efforts from all parties. “As our government promised the people of Nova Scotia, the province’s $6.9-billion budget features the same program investments and tax breaks as previously introduced, including the eight per cent rebate on a wide range of fuels used for residential heating and basic electricity, starting in January 2007,” said Premier Rodney MacDonald. “Budget 2006 will make a real difference to Nova Scotia’s families, communities, and businesses.” Several pieces of legislation passed will help tackle crime by providing more tools to help make Nova Scotia’s communities safer. The new Act to Combat the Production and Use of Illegal Drugs will allow government to regulate the storage, transportation, distribution and sale of ingredients, materials and equipment used in the production and use of illegal drugs. “Our government is committed to take action to ensure the people of this province feel safer and to send a strong message to criminals that dangerous activity won’t be tolerated,” the premier said. The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act gives Nova Scotians the tools to tackle criminal behaviour in communities across the province. Under the new act, complaints from community members can result in court orders to close locations that are home to prostitution, illegal drugs, illegal liquor or gaming, activities detrimental to healthy communities in Nova Scotia. In addition to allowing people to register their concerns about buildings that are unusually fortified, buildings that are often home to illegal activities, a new investigative unit will be set up to follow up on complaints and work with community members on their concerns. Government also introduced the Police and Peace Officers Memorial Day Act, designating the third Sunday of each October as a special day for Nova Scotians to commemorate peace officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. There have been 15 deaths in the line of duty in Nova Scotia. Peace officers in Nova Scotia include municipal police, RCMP, sheriffs, and correctional officers. As well, new provincial legislation will enhance the protection of Nova Scotians’ personal information. The new Personal Information International Disclosure Protection Act outlines a series of requirements and penalties that protect personal information from inappropriate disclosure under the U.S. Patriot Act. Additional legislation includes: A key amendment to the Labour Standards Code that will protect retail employees from being forced to work if employers traditionally prohibited from operating on Sundays decide to open. Amendments to the House of Assembly Act will require the Speaker of the House of Assembly to appoint a three-member committee to review salaries paid to MLAs, the Speaker, the deputy Speaker, opposition party leaders, and cabinet ministers. Amendments to the Agriculture and Marketing Act will help Nova Scotia’s wine, ciders, and fruit liqueur industries by enabling the government, with industry support, to develop regulations for the industry.