April 25, 1997              HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLIII  No. 14

The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin the routine proceedings the Chair would like to welcome today, on behalf of all members, twenty-two students from McDonald Drive Junior High. These students are known as the McDonald Voyageurs travelling to Quebec City during May. The students also plan to act as Youth Ambassadors for the Cabot 500 celebrations. These students are from grades VII, VIII and IX and are made up of a core of french and french immersion students.

As well, we would also like to welcome fifty students from St. Michael's High School, Bell Island, their teachers James Cansell and Ron Bennett, and David Stinson and Tina Ford.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Statements by Ministers


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, after four and a half years as a Cabinet minister to be able to stand in this House this morning and announce $70 million in capital works infrastructure, it is a great day for this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. A. REID: Not $3 million, not $4 million, but $70 million, Mr. Speaker. I will take it a step further before I begin and say that it is the largest single year capital works program that this Province has had since Confederation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to announce today the approval of ninety-nine projects under the 1997-1998 municipal capital works program. These water and sewer, paving, road building and recreation projects represent expenditures of $25 million on the part of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. There will be a further expenditure on the part of municipalities, and this is estimated to be in the vicinity - their own money - of $12 million.

Along with my colleague the hon. Fred Mifflin, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, it is also my great pleasure to have announced last evening the approval of ninety-four projects under the extended Canada-Newfoundland municipal infrastructure program.

This government is pleased to participate with the Federal Government in the extended infrastructure agreement. Since it was signed in 1994, it has made and it is continuing to make significant economic and social impacts on the communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Although, Mr. Speaker, altogether some 193 projects have now been approved under the capital works and infrastructure program. They represent, as I said, in the year 1997 approximately $70 million.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: The two programs combined are expected to create 24,000 person weeks of employment, 24,000 and that translates into, at twenty weeks per person, that translates into 1200 twenty week jobs, substantial.

Another meaningful factor is the fact this work will be spread over the whole Province, Mr. Speaker. These projects will serve to stimulate and accelerate economic activity and contribute in a very positive way to governments plan with respect to the revitalization of our Province particularly in rural Newfoundland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: A total of 132 communities are sharing in these two programs. In total some 104 water and sewage projects are approved, as well as fifty-seven paving reconstruction projects as indicated. Other projects also include funding for recreational and other multipurpose type facilities.

For residents of our community this funding means that they will be able to have cleaner drinking water, the roads that are being constructed, upgraded and paved will improve our transportation links. Together with new and improved recreation facilities, they will help us in our efforts to enhance the tourism potential of our Province.

This $70 million of infrastructure funding will address the most pressing needs and it is being distributed fairly and equally throughout the Province. These projects will only serve to accelerate economic recovery through the creation of jobs, but they will also provide us with a more positive outlook for our future. The infrastructure and capital works program are also about people, putting people to work and helping people to help themselves.

Since, the signing of the original infrastructure agreement in 1994 an amount of $147 million has been invested in our Province and it has created some 2400 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs.

Mr. Speaker, the projects that are being approved today represent a significant investment in municipal infrastructure and they also represent an investment in the future of our Province. It is indeed a most significant announcement and I am confident that it will be well received by many of the municipalities which are sharing in either of the two programs.

Last year, I made a commitment, Mr. Speaker, to the Construction Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and to the municipalities that our capital works program and infrastructure program would be announced before the end of April. I did not tell that to the Premier, by the way. I am glad I am able to deliver on this commitment. As far as can be determined, this is the earliest date ever for the approval of municipal infrastructure in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. A. REID: The early announcement of the programs means that tendering can take place immediately and construction can start on the projects as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Mr. Speaker, I will finish by saying it is imperative that these projects be started and completed in the fiscal year of 1997-1998, which means they have to be finished by March 31 of next year.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

We on this side this morning, know this is welcome news for municipalities in this Province. We point out to the minister that 35.7 per cent of the funding he announced is really provincial funding and the rest of it is either federal or municipal, but we will take it any way it comes. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we say to the minister, it appears there is another event we are about to hear about. He is trying to play the role of John the Baptist this morning, but the real John will be on television on Sunday and will tell us about the real purpose of this particular announcement at this particular time.

Mr. Speaker, we on this side have not seen, or I have not seen, at least, the listing of the projects by communities, but I understand they will be tabled or made available later in the day. We recognize that there are many communities that are most anxious; my colleagues on this side and, I am sure, the minister's colleagues on the other side, are making representations on behalf of the individual municipalities.

There is a real challenge out there to keep our infrastructure in place and continue to keep our communities in a stable manner so that we can get ready for the growth that is expected to take place in this Province in the years to come, and we do not further contribute to the demoralization of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I also say to the minister: Yes, this is early; it is April. As the minister knows, he and I have argued for early announcements for many, many years. We welcome this, but we cannot have an election every year; because if we had an election every year we would get an announcement every year. However, I want to say to the minister that the real effort here in his department is going to be getting these approvals done through his division.

One of the greatest obstacles when the money gets approved in principle, like we are doing here today, we have to now get the plans drawn up, get all of the engineering done, and then make sure that we can deliver it on time so we are not out in the autumn, in October, putting down pavement and that kind of thing. Get the work done in the engineering division as quickly as possible so we can have some work this summer, because that is when we have the most productivity and we get the biggest bang for our buck, you might say, if we can get the work done at that time.

I commend the minister. It is good news, and we just hope that we can be assured after we see the list that it is fair and equitably distributed.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi. Does he have leave?

MR. E. BYRNE: Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure that the 132 communities who will participate in this program welcome some relief from the desperate straits that they have been put in as a result of this government's policies, and the expenditure of $70 million is a considerable amount of money. But I think the minister is trying to do his best to exaggerate the significance of it. I thought for a moment he was going to give us the number of person minutes of work involved to make the numbers as large as he possibly could. But if he thinks there are 1,200 people going to get their stamps out of this he had better have another look at the UI regulations that his buddies in Ottawa have changed in the last year or so, because I do not think there are going to be that many people able to get their stamps on the amount of person weeks of work that the minister has announced today.

I think we have to remember, too, as the government changes its approach in its budgeting and finance, when capital works and current expenditures are all rolled into one and we no longer make a distinction, that when we take away money from one sector, such as social services and income support on the one hand, hospitals, education on the other, and put it into capital works, there is a trade-off here - that some people are losing as a result of a government's shift of expenditures to the largest since Confederation, for example, in capital works. But, at the same time, Mr. Speaker, many people are suffering because of the changes in social programs, the burden that is being passed on to each individual person who needs help from government. These are sobering thoughts, Mr. Speaker, on a Friday morning, free for all, prior to an expected federal election call but I think that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. HARRIS: - on the whole it is good news for those communities. Thank you.


Oral Questions


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Premier and the acting Minister of Mines and Energy. I ask the Premier: Which individual or company is conducting the study for government into the feasibility of locating a copper smelter and refinery here in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: I have to check with the former Minister of Mines and Energy. I have to continue to rely upon the great expertise and knowledge of the former Minister of Mines and Energy, who no doubt will bring that tremendous talent to another forum.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: And may I say, Mr. Speaker, just in case the rumours are true, and I have no idea whether they are or not, but in the event they are, I know that every single member of this House on both sides wants to thank the Member for St. John's West for his tremendous service all these years to this Legislature and to the government and people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We are now into Question Period and the Question Period is a definite period of time. I ask hon. members to consider that.

The hon. the Premier. Could he please get to his answer.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, for those who did not rise in applause there will be other occasions when he takes his seat in the other place.

Mr. Speaker, the answer to the Leader of the Opposition is that the analysis is being conducted by a company called Hatch Associates, which is one of the largest consulting organizations in the mining industry, I think, very well recognized as a solid firm, and we are awaiting the result of the analysis. We hope to have it within a few weeks. We will examine it and we will make the conclusions public.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. No, I certainly appreciate knowing. We have been trying to find out for the past week or two, I say to the Premier. He has finally felt the pressure enough to tell us.

Northstar Explorations also commissioned a study done by the highly respected David Gladwin and Associates. They indicated that a copper smelter process established here could be economically viable, and that many smaller smelters are operating around the world and making a profit. I ask the Premier, will he be taking seriously this favourable assessment when he decides whether or not to give away the jobs of processing our copper here to some other province or country?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I think the Leader of the Opposition wants to represent properly what has been said thus far. What has been said thus far by the study he has just referred to is that while there is not sufficient copper in the current plan being put forward by VBN to warrant a copper smelter and refinery, that there is sufficient there to warrant interest and further investigation, and that is exactly what the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is doing.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There isn't a copper smelter in the world, basically hardly one in the world, that gets all its copper from the one source. He is well aware that that study showed that at least 65 per cent, under the current projections by Inco, of the copper would be provided right here in this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Subparagraph 31(5)(c)(6) of the Mineral Act states a company must do part or all of its processing in this Province if the Cabinet orders it to. Has Inco told the Province that it would not be economically feasible to do primary production of Voisey's Bay copper in this Province, and the company therefore believes it is not bound by this subparagraph of the act?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: No, Mr. Speaker. The company has not said it isn't bound by the act, or bound by the direction of the Province. I think what is important here, and this has been said before so there is nothing new in it, is that the company has said that it is quite prepared to make 100 per cent of the copper that flows from Voisey Bay available to anybody who wants to do copper production in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Leader of the Opposition has just said in his opening remarks, his premise he established in asking the question, that it may be necessary if you are going to have a copper smelter in Newfoundland to find additional copper concentrate somewhere else in the world to ship in here to have enough together with Voisey Bay to make this viable.

That is the very question we are investigating. I don't think the Leader of the Opposition is going to suggest that the government should order a copper smelter be built if there isn't sufficient copper in the Voisey's Bay mine or in other sources in the Province for it to be viable, even if it means that we cross-subsidize a copper smelter operation and, as a result, eliminate profits to the point where there are no revenues for the Province. I don't think the Leader of the Opposition is saying that. I hope he is not.

That is why we have asked one of the most reputable consulting firms in this area to conduct an independent assessment of the situation so we can do an analysis. But I can tell the Leader of the Opposition we made very clear to Inco a long time ago and Inco, to be fair to Inco, made very clear to us, that as far as they are concerned all of the copper concentrate, if it can be pooled with concentrate elsewhere from the Province, or elsewhere, from somewhere else in the world, if somebody wants to come in and build a copper smelter refinery complex in this Province, any private sector investor, anybody - in the Province, outside the Province - all of that resource is available and can be used in this Province.

So if the Leader of the Opposition - and I say this to him seriously - knows of somebody who wants to build a copper smelter refinery complex, who can access additional resources sufficient either in the Province or outside the Province, I tell him, `My door is wide open'.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, a supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very much aware; I have also met with senior officials of Voisey's Bay nickel who put forth certain reasons why it would be difficult to process copper here, and the reasons they gave, and I will certainly get to that shortly, Premier.

Subsection 31.(7) of the Mineral Act states that a company must demonstrate that it would not be economically feasible to do part or all of its processing here in our Province.

Has Inco attempted to demonstrate this to government in any way? And, if so, how has it done so?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has just referred, in his opening remarks, and again this is the kind of question... I say to the Leader of the Opposition, you have an obligation to do some basic research prior to coming and putting questions on the floor, and to represent the information that is available to you in an accurate fashion rather than to put questions which are designed to create the impression that some individual or some corporation, even before we assess what has been said, are fundamentally dishonest or misleading people.

You just quoted a study by Mr. Chislett, I believe, and you have indicated that the study in question, in your opening first question -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: That is right, the study that was done. That study makes clear that there is not a sufficient basis yet, based on what is available from Voisey's Bay, to do a copper smelter. The study goes on to say that if other sources could be found it is intriguing enough that it should be investigated. That is exactly what the government is doing. We are investigating it independent of the Leader of the Opposition and independent of Inco. We have hired our own outside consultant to tell us what they think can be accomplished here, and what it would take to build a copper smelter and refinery, and whether or not it is viable.

We are going to have that study in a few weeks, and I just said we are going to make the results of the study public. Now I don't know what more we could say to the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, a supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We are delighted with the study. We pressed for this last fall and the Premier laughed at us. In fact, he told us he was even talking with a Chilean company and the possibility of copper, he indicated, a copper smelter. It is a reality now; what we called for is starting to happen and I am pleased to see that, I say to the Premier.

I ask him: Is the government's consultant, Hatch Associates, that is conducting the review of the copper smelter, being given access to documents provided by Inco, or anything that would indicate Inco's views on whether it is feasible?

I ask the Premier - the study is being commissioned by this government, and you get sometimes what you look for in studies - what value will Inco submission be given relative to the report of this consultant?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, you know the company will have access to all of the information that is necessary to do a proper analysis, and all of the information that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has available. I would have to have the deputy minister and several of the senior officials here to answer in detail the exact parameters of all of the information that is available. So I can only say to the Leader of the Opposition that I will get back to him.

The fact of the matter is that the Voisey's Bay project, as is now constituted, is going to produce somewhere between 55,000 and 65,000 tons of copper annually. Most copper smelters around the world require in excess of about 150,000 tonnes annually. Now, can we take the copper from Voisey's Bay and couple that with other copper deposits if some were on stream and working in the Province or from around the world and have a production facility here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador? That is the question. And the proper way to get an answer is not with political rhetoric on either side of the House, but to ask a respected consulting company, one of the most respected in this industry and recognized as such, to do an independent analysis.

So, it is not political games we are playing, but rather a proper analysis of the issue so that independent of all the politicians, both sides of the debate, independent of the company, we get the best information available. That is what we are going to do. Then, after we receive the report, we are going to make the results of the report public. And I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that if there is anybody who can viably put forward a proposal for a copper smelter in this Province, number one, we will secure access to all of the copper from Voisey's Bay, and number two, my door is open, and if he has one or two or three names to suggest, I would like to hear them now.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all, the number of smelters operating in the world today that get sixty-five per cent from their very immediate source is very, very few - most obtain from another source.

Secondly, I am surprised that Voisey's Bay Nickel and Inco has not told him because they have told me, in a meeting with two senior officials, reasons why it would not be feasible. I am surprised the Premier does not know.

I ask the Premier now, is he aware that the copper at Voisey's Bay is of an unusual type compared to copper found in most parts of this world, because it is a nickel contaminated copper concentrate, unlike most other copper discoveries in the world, and this would fetch - and I say to the Premier it is very important - this would fetch far less per tonne on the world market than the normal copper that is mined in the world.

Is the Premier -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!


MR. SULLIVAN: I am going to tell him now. I ask the Premier -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) stop trying to (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: We are fighting to get it here. I ask the Premier this question: Is he also aware that a tailor-made local copper smelter that is designed to smelt nickel contaminated copper concentrate could actually derive more value from that copper resource that could be achieved by selling this copper elsewhere in the world where other copper smelters can only process up to fifteen per cent of nickel contaminated and you would have to sell it to probably six or seven other smelters? Now, I ask the Premier to respond to that.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to listen carefully to the Leader of the Opposition. Because I am going to tell the Leader of the Opposition something: It is incredible, in fact it is breathtaking, to hear the Leader of the Opposition stand in his place in the House and ask: Why do we not have a copper smelter and refinery complex in Newfoundland and Labrador, and why do we not have it right now and why are we not building it and carrying on with it? And then, a few minutes later to stand and tell us the news, for the first time, according to the Leader of the Opposition, heard on the floor of this House that there is a nickel contaminant - surprise, surprise - in the nickel mine at Voisey's Bay and the copper concentrate that is being pulled out.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Mines and Energy - and I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to go back and check Hansard; even Ryan Cleary of The Evening Telegram remembers it - has repeatedly said in the House that this copper concentrate has a nickel contaminant in it. It makes it more difficult to refine and smelt as a consequence, and that is one of the reasons based on that analysis a copper smelter at 65,000 tonnes is now not viable.

For the Leader of the Opposition, months later, to stand up and reveal all of this as new news to the House is frightening because everybody else but the Leader of the Opposition already knew it. It has been in the newspaper.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, a supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is the same reaction the Premier gave last December when we brought up about a copper smelter, the same reaction. Most copper smelters in the world today are based on a volcanic massive sulphide base and do not process nickel contaminated copper concentrate, I say to the Premier.

Now, the Premier might try to push it off, I have spoken with numerous people in the industry, I have spoken with the president -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary. I ask him to get to his question.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I spoke with the president of the company that is doing business and the reason given to me was that it would cause a problem in the conventional smelting process, but it would not by having a smelter.

I ask the Premier now, will he at least, Mr. Speaker, pursue and ensure compliance with this Act to insure that we get a maximization of jobs here in the Province? And do not try to con us and sell us out with another deal.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, let me see if I have this right. Who is doing the analysis? We have answered. Will it be made public? We have answered. Does the Premier know why Inco has not chosen to go ahead? We told him several months ago; he just repeated it again today, that, there is a problem, a) with the volume and b) with the nickel contamination in the copper concentrate. I am glad he has now gone off and had a briefing, because this is something that the Minister of Mines and Energy said to him months ago in this place, in the public House of the people. I am glad it has finally echoed off one of the walls and landed between your ears, I say to the Leader of the Opposition.

Now, I will go further, because this, Mr. Speaker, at some point, has to arrive at a responsible kind of debate. There is a proper analysis being done by an independent and reputable firm - I think you are aware of who the firm is, I would hope you are. I would ask now, if you have even one name, I hope you would stand in your place in the House right now, right now in the House, based on all of this fire and brimstone and fury and anger and frustration, and give us even one name, either in the House or outside the House, of somebody who is dying to get in the door and build a copper/smelter refinery. Because, if you can give us one name, we will roll out the red carpet.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I think the red carpet was already rolled out this morning when the announcement started on infrastructure, Mr. Speaker, with an election around the corner.

My question this morning is for the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

After some fourteen months now - I think that is the date, February 23 to today - some fourteen months now since the new Department of Development and Rural Renewal was established. And, of course, the minister now has boards in place and so on and has some very good people on those boards, good volunteers who have done some good work in the last few months. Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess the first question to the minister now, after this time has elapsed, and of course, after we have seen before the Economic Recovery Commission, which I assume meant to recover the economy, and we know what happened there. So we are looking for rural renewal now and we ask the minister: Through her programs, is she satisfied to date with the work and when are we going to see the actual jobs that come from her programs in rural renewal?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question and I also want to acknowledge his commendation that he has given to the volunteers involved in this process, because they have indeed been working very hard over the last number of months.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: You are right, the process has been going on for some time but it is important, I think, that they take the time they feel is necessary to put in place a responsible Strategic Economic Plan for each of the twenty economic zones.

I can report to you, Mr. Speaker, that we have, in fact, seen three of the Strategic Economic Plans from zones, I think they are six, seven and eight, very comprehensive plans. These plans have come together because we have very responsible volunteers on the boards who represent businesses, municipalities, rural development associations, educational institutions and other interest groups. They have all come together, these stakeholders, to identify what are their strengths and their weaknesses, and in doing that they have been able to come together with a plan that they think is viable for the zones they represent.

We have seen three of these plans; we hope to have them all in place by the end of June, I think the date is right now, Mr. Speaker. But again, I leave that to the boards because it is the people who are making these decisions, Mr. Speaker, not the government, and that is the whole point behind this process. We are letting the people in the Province determine what they think will work for them, but we are there to support them every step of the way; and that is what my staff is doing and that is why we are reaching out into all twenty economic zones, Mr. Speaker, to make sure we have representations out there to work with the volunteers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte, a supplementary.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I would continue to commend these volunteers. I have seen some of the plans, I say to the minister, and there are some good ideas and some good plans. I have no problem with any of that, Mr. Speaker, but we all know you can have a plan, you can have a team, but the bottom line is that you have to have an execution of the plan or it is a failure. What we are going to need, Mr. Speaker - and I have talked to people on these boards and so on; they are just wondering and they do not feel the commitment - of course, I will not name the people on the boards - that it has to be followed up by government commitment.

Rural Newfoundland today, Mr. Speaker, today, even over the last few weeks we have seen despair, and they need to see a long-term commitment to the plan. So is the commitment there from government to back up the plans that these good people will put in place? Because if we do not see the real jobs, Mr. Speaker, then Rural Renewal means about as much as the Economic Recovery Commission.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate where the hon. member is coming from. Clearly, we are as concerned as anyone about rural Newfoundland. I think, if you look at what we have been doing in putting all the support that we have behind this new process, which involves all of these stakeholders - but clearly, one of the things that I said at the very beginning is that just because we have a plan and process taking place does not mean that there will not be economic development taking place. Under the Strategic Regional Diversification Agreement, in fact, Mr. Speaker, millions of dollars have been spent in rural Newfoundland on projects that have been submitted by rural development associations, tourism associations and other organizations. So, clearly, I have sent the message out that there is money for these types of projects. The money has been spent. We have some very good proposals taking place.

If you look at the Arctic char industry up on the Northern Peninsula, in Daniel's Harbour, that is going very well, and there is going to be another infusion of $2 million, more jobs, Mr. Speaker. Clearly, clearly, there are a lot of opportunities out there that we have recognized. If you look on the Northern Peninsula again, the Viking Tourism Association, another million dollars that has gone up there to develop that association. If you look anywhere in this Province, there are good proposals. Look at Bonavista, Mr. Speaker, again where millions of dollars have gone in for the tourism industry. There are a lot of things happening in this Province, and even though we need to wait until we have really good comprehensive plans, there are things happening. We do not want to go and do something that is irresponsible. Taking the scarce resources we have and using them in a really responsible manner is exactly what we are doing, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see the minister is optimistic and hopeful. We are all optimistic and hopeful, to an extent, but when we go back to our districts, to the rural Newfoundland districts of the people in this House, we see firsthand what the situation is today.

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary to the minister - I think it is very, very important: something that is actually working very well and has been working, is the telecentres in these communities. Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister is also making statements lately. But there are people in those communities around the Province that have those telecentres, who say very simply: Minister - and I say to you here today, if you have something that is working, why change it? Because it is working and has helped a lot people. I can give examples in this House, not from people who work in those telecentres, but from people who have come to me and I have directed them to those telecentres. They should remain, as a matter of fact, there should be more of them in the Province. They work, they are still working and I support those telecentres. Restructuring and reorganizing means changing -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to get to his question.

MR. SHELLEY: You cannot shut those down. Can the minister respond to that, please?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MS FOOTE: Again, Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member's question. It is a question that I responded to in the House a couple of weeks ago, because there were a lot of issues being raised or concerns being raised around the possible demise of the telecentres. There was never any intention to do away with the types of services that the telecentres are providing, and you are right, we can point to any number of examples where they have been responsible for industry spin-offs in the high tech industry in rural Newfoundland. What we have to look at, though, is with the scarce economic resources we have, right now there are only five telecentres in the Province. We have a responsibility to make sure that more people have access to this type of service.

What we are doing - and I think the Leader of the Opposition mentioned in a release that he is looking to the end of June, which we have given as the deadline for when we will have the restructuring done, and that is the date that we have set. That is a target date, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that we provide the best service possible to all areas of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, not just the five centres where they presently exist. Yes, we recognize the valuable service that is there and the people who are providing that service. It is a service that we want to see continue, Mr. Speaker, but again, we have to be realistic and look at the scarce resources we have and make sure that we do it in partnership with the Federal Government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister told the House that the recent approval for TAC in the northern shrimp fishery provided special allocations of 3,000 tons for the fish plant in St. Anthony. I wonder if the minister would inform the House if there has been other special allocations and if there is, where will they be located?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, what I said yesterday in the House, I did not say it was for the fish plant in St. Anthony, I said it was for the people of St. Anthony. There is quite a difference between the community of St. Anthony and the fish plant.

Where are they (inaudible) special allocation for the Island portion of Newfoundland? That was the only special allocation, except for the inshore quotas for the inshore fishermen, for all boats under sixty-five feet in the 3K, or in other words, north of Cape Freels, and in the Gulf.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Minister, it is my understanding that the existing fish processing facility at St. Anthony was transferred from FPI to a new ownership for the price of $1. Part of the condition for this particular sale, I understand, is that this particular plant would not process shrimp. I ask the minister if this agreement has now been changed, or is there another facility in that particular area going to be granted a licence to process shrimp?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, the deal that was negotiated, or the contract that was signed between the FPI company and the owners or the operators of the plant in St. Anthony, the Chianti group, is a deal that was put between those two companies. I do not have any knowledge of that being changed. I do understand from discussions with FPI that they gave them a plant for $1. I mean, that is clear, that is public knowledge, that was the agreement, and two species of fish that were not to be processed were crab and shrimp.

I would think it is possible that discussions are going on between the two companies. I am not aware, or do not have any knowledge of this, but I would suspect with the recent announcement. If there are any changes made to the contract, not to my knowledge, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister, when the Northern shrimp allocation was announced by Minister Mifflin on Wednesday, he directed an allocation to a certain plant. I ask the minister: Could he also, or did he also, have the authority to direct a quota towards the plant in Port Union that has been closed down since 1992 and the whole area devastated because of the cod moratorium?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that the hon. member is not researching his questions. Somebody is writing them for him and he is just reading them off, because I have told him on three occasions. Again, in answer to his first question, there has been no assignment to any plant in Newfoundland and Labrador. The announcement that was made with the shrimp allocations on Tuesday of this week was towards the principle of adjacency. There has been no quota off Bonavista, Trinity, or Conception Bay. The adjacency principle was the main rule in which the allocation, the TAC, was announced.

Now, this is the beginning. We have been at this for years. We have been saying for years that shrimp caught off Newfoundland should be harvested and processed in Newfoundland. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, for the first time in the history of Newfoundland, has fought against all odds of the power of the lobbyists of the companies that have held these licences, now gave an opportunity to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It is only the beginning. Wait until until next year and the following years and give us time to develop. If you gave us 35,000 or 40,000 tons, what are we going to do with it? Where is the processing? Where is the harvesting capability? where are the markets? Let us take time. We have a great opportunity for our future, a new industry that is going to bring a great deal of wealth to the people of this Province -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: - hundreds of millions of dollars, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. the minister to finish.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the hon. the Minister of Education. We have heard repeatedly that the minister will not intervene. He has said publicly on many occasions that he has washed his hands of the many situations which exist in our Province and the many great concerns which exist for parents. Last night, I attended a meeting in the community of Southern Harbour and I met with concerned parents who formed the school council -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I want to remind the member that he has time for one quick question. If he could get to his question, please.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: My question, Mr. Speaker, is to the minister. At that meeting it was clear that the parents have concern about cost and expenditure of a new school, as opposed to the refurbishing and upgrading of an existing school, and they have concerns with respect to air quality as a result of emissions from the Come by Chance refinery with respect to the possible location of a new school construction. Under those very serious circumstances, why will the Minister of Education not intervene, and what will it take? What will it take for him to intervene in these very serious circumstances which exist regarding the very serious concerns of parents in our Province today?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have heard this type of question asked several times by the hon. member who is the education critic for the Opposition, and I must say that I continue to be a bit surprised by the approach being taken in the questioning.

Last fall as we were debating the new Schools Act and the new Education Act I was, and I think all members on this side actually were, very impressed with the very thorough examination of the legislation done by the education critic. As a matter of fact, a number of the changes that we entertained in the Legislature came from the member opposite. In fact, he did a detailed review of it clause-by-clause.

One of the fundamental features - and this is the direct answer to the question - of the new Schools Act that was passed just before Christmas and proclaimed on January 3, 1997 - so it has now been in effect some three-and-a-half, almost four, months - and which was supported at the end of the debate with some amendments proposed by the Opposition, was that in fact these kinds of decisions would be left in the hands of the ten school boards. That was one of the features that was debated in this House at length. The member opposite was up speaking to that particular point. He was, at the end of the day, encouraging members opposite to support the new piece of legislation.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: The new piece of legislation said the local boards should make these decisions and, for the life of me, I don't understand now why the same member who supported the new legislation that is only three-and-a-half months old, to let these decisions be made by the school boards, now that they are making the decisions, is coming back saying: What is the minister going to do about it?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the minister to quickly conclude his answer.

MR. GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the legislation was clearly designed to make sure, at the pleading of the board members and the members opposite, that these kinds of decisions be made by the people closest to the action, with the greatest amount of information, which is the ten school boards, and there is no role in the legislation or otherwise for the Ministry of Education. It is there in the legislation. It was supported by members opposite just three-and-a-half months ago, and I am at a loss as to why now they are asking what I am going to do about it.

We are going to let the legislation run its course. We are going to let the boards make their decisions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to take his seat.

MR. GRIMES: And we are going to support them in their decisions at this very difficult time.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.




MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to present a petition on behalf of a number of Newfoundlanders who are petitioning the House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in parliament assembled. They are concerned about the affects of poverty and hunger on schoolchildren in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This may be of great interest to the students who are in the galleries today. Because what has resulted from a series of studies and understandings and information that has been gathered is that the problem of hunger amongst schoolchildren in Newfoundland and Labrador has been identified as a serious one, and as a cause of educational -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Now I don't know if members opposite think this is very funny, Mr. Speaker. I don't think that hungry children are funny at all. In fact, I think it is a very serious problem that we have in this Province, and if the members opposite in the government didn't think that matters going on in the House of Assembly were as humorous as they think they are, perhaps they would attend to the issue of child poverty and hunger of children in schools. I know it is Friday morning and maybe it is hard for members to be attentive on Friday morning, but this is a serious matter. These petitioners I'm sure would be shocked, if they were in the gallery today, at the fact that people in this House weren't listening to their petition.

We know that there is a school lunch program that has been promoted by volunteers and it is supported in a modest way by this government, but it is a program that is not going to meet the need, because it is absolutely impossible for communities to come up with volunteer and charitable efforts to deal with so serious a problem. When it has been identified that 40,000 children in this Province are dependent upon social assistance; when it has been identified that there are significant numbers of individuals who attend school without having had breakfast or lunch; when it has been identified that the consequences for those children, not only in their health but in their ability to learn, is serious and long-lasting; when these facts have been put before government and put before the people of this Province, the response of the government must be one of dealing with this problem in the manner suggested. One element of combatting child poverty and child hunger is to institute a universal, comprehensive school lunch program.

The petitioners ask that the House of Assembly direct the government to establish a universal comprehensive school lunch program for every school in Newfoundland and Labrador to help end child hunger and to give our children a better chance.

This is one of a series of petitions that are coming before this House on this issue. It is an issue that will not go away until these hungry children are fed. As long as there are hungry children, these petitions will keep coming and I will keep presenting them. I'm asking government, government members opposite, and others in the House to support this petition and to try to find in their hearts, in their compassion, in their understanding of the people's problems in this Province, a way of combatting the problem and using some of the funds that we are saving by educational restructuring to promote, institute and establish this particular program. Because it will provide some measure of prevention of problems in later years for these children. It will offer them an opportunity to learn and to overcome the economic obstacles they face in their family.

That is something we can talk about. We can talk about what we do after the problems are created. We are talking here on almost every day about health care and the cost of the health care institutions that are trying to solve the problems of disease once they have started. They do not very often talk about how we prevent them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. HARRIS: If I may have just thirty seconds, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, by leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave?

MR. TULK: Yes, give him leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: We constantly talk about the problems and the crisis in health care after the problems have been created. We do not often talk about solving those problems before they start by prevention in health care, by prevention of child hunger, by prevention of nutrition, and the school lunch program is one way where we can help people now and save our economy and our children for the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise again today to support the petition put forward by my colleague, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi. Mr. Speaker, the prayer of the petition is well known to the House and I can only just refer members to the Budget Speech a few weeks ago. On page 18, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board was reading and he said: Mr. Speaker, for too long we have contributed to a cycle of dependency. For too long, we have seen people who want to work get caught in the welfare trap. It is time for bold measures.

What we want to say to the House this morning is that one of the boldest measures you can ever take in terms of trying to combat the dependency cycle is to make sure that those people who have needs in this Province and the children of those families are well-fed. Mr. Speaker, when we read words like that, they should mean that the government is going to take action, and certainly, when we know that the government espouses one philosophy - but then when it comes to looking after children, we do not do much about it.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot rely on the volunteer sections exclusively although they have done commendable work in many schools. We cannot rely exclusively on the corporate community, either, although in some cases some of the corporations in this Province are contributing enormous sums of money to help combat the issues of child poverty.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we need `bold measures', that is what the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board said in his Budget Speech, and we want these bold measures to include addressing the issue of child poverty. Certainly, if we are going to progress as a country and as a nation, we must remember that we have to invest in our youngest children and if we are going to break the cycle of dependency, we have to start with the very youngest of our population. We have to make sure that we have aggressive intervention programs in preschool.

You know, the research shows that the optimum time for intervention in a child's life in terms of correcting things that are wrong in that child's lifestyle and sometimes that child's learning habits, is between the ages of eighteen months and thirty-six months. That has been well researched. I mean, Dr. J. L. Sullivan of the university has put forward in her writings the optimum time for intervention; and in this Province we have done very little by way of intervention in young children's lives.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about hungry children, we talk about hungry children before they ever get to school and then, when they get to school, we immediately stigmatize them because poor children know they are poor. You cannot disguise that. You can pretend that a child who is hungry is like everybody else and that is the pretension of people who probably should know better but do not. But young children know from the time they enter school that they are often not like others, and they know when they look around and they do not have a lunch - and I have seen teenagers walk the corridors in the school system and they would never ever say that they did not have a lunch. They would never say that they did not have any money because it was too embarrassing.

So, Mr. Speaker, we are saying to the government: We need `bold measures', we need to break the cycle and we need to do it now, because we know the direct relationship between nutrition and learning potential. It is not new. And we commend the government when it makes initiatives such as were made a few weeks ago by the corporate community, but we need more of it and we need the government to take on its share of the responsibility. Because, Mr. Speaker, the children of those people who are living in poverty make up a higher proportion of the drop-outs, a higher proportion of those who do not reach their learning potential, a higher proportion of those in special needs classes. So Mr. Speaker, being poor is a lifelong sentence. Being poor is something that you are born with in many cases, and in some cases, if we do not do more about breaking that cycle, these people will die, still in the same position.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. members time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, we ask the government to live up to what the Minster of Finance said in his Budget Speech. They talked about bold measures. We say, let us get bold, let us get aggressive, let us handle the issue of child poverty as soon as possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans.

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As a member of the House of Assembly for the district of Grand Falls - Buchans, I rise today to present to this hon. House a petition from my constituents, the people of Badger, opposing profound changes to their school system slated for September, 1997.

I have before me approximately 350 names on this petition which represents almost one-third of the population of Badger. This petition, Mr. Speaker, reflects the people's struggle by way of public meetings, protest marches and even a court injunction to raise public awareness to their plight to keep their children in their community school.

Mr. Speaker, the formal petition prayer leads like this: `We, the concerned citizens of Badger, wish to maintain the status quo, that is, to keep our school Avoca Collegiate for instructing and educating our children from Kindergarten to Grade IX. We oppose busing our children in Grade VII to IX over the highway to Grand Falls-Windsor while we have a perfectly good system in our own community. And as in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray'.

Mr. Speaker, a week ago today, I was asked by the people of Badger to attend a public meeting to listen to their concerns regarding the decision made by School District No. 5, on April 15. That decision was to retain a Kindergarten to Grade VI school in Badger and bus Grade VII to IX to Grand Falls - Windsor.

Mr. Speaker, parent after parent pleaded for a reversal of that decision on the grounds that they believed they were unfairly assessed by the school board. Repeatedly throughout the meeting, I reiterated government's position, and that is, not to second guess the school board, but only to ensure that the guiding principles for designation of school and educational restructuring have been followed by the school board.

Mr. Speaker, I then meet with the board executive last Sunday to review the criteria used in making this determination. There are 123 students from K to IX, which qualifies Avoca Collegiate for a minimum core program with seven teachers. However, the minimum core program would not provide a music program, library services, guidance counselling services or allow any opportunity for advance placement courses. In view of these facts, the school board made a judgement call that the Grade VII to IX students would be better served by a broader range education program in Grand Falls -Windsor.

I want to make it perfectly clear at this time that I am not in any way trying to undermine the board's decision, as I have the greatest respect for the group of eighteen volunteers, many of whom I know personally, who have carried out this very difficult task. However, I believe we are at a crossroads. The parents are satisfied with their existing Grade VII to Grade IX program, which lacks a music program. Library services are carried out by parent volunteers and their junior high students do not have to get on a school bus at 7:30 in the morning in what is known as one of the coldest communities within the Island portion of our Province, to begin an eight-hour day - not an eight-hour day, but a ten-hour day, I must correct.

The parents have asked the school board to review their decision once more in their May 12 board meeting. Mr. Speaker, my only hope is that by raising public attention to this serious and very critical issue the best decision will be made for the most important reason, to provide the best future for the children of Badger.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to rise today in support of the petition just presented by the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans. Mr. Speaker, I know the predicament that a lot of members find themselves in all around this Province, because I have it in my own district, especially, Mr. Speaker, in rural parts of this Province where a school is more than a school, it is more than a building. I know that you could argue that a school is supposed to be for the education of students and that is it, but that is not the reality. Schools in this Province, in rural Newfoundland, have served as the heart of the community. They have been there for concerts, they have been there for Christmas concerts and things like that. It means a lot more than a building.

Mr. Speaker, I attended a public meeting also in Badger and listened to the parents. First of all, I met with a committee of parents who put together a presentation that was superb. They sat down one by one and, Mr. Speaker, for two hours I listened to these people give their individual situations, especially as it referred to disabled children - their children, by the way, specific individual examples of their children and how they would be affected by this particular change. Mr. Speaker, if you were to hear that firsthand, I say to the minister, we always should take into account - I know we have to as people who run this Province and make these decisions - how it affects the person down the line. Yes, we have to make tough decisions on economics and fiscal matters and so on, but there is also a human factor to all of this. As I listened to those parents, one by one, Mr. Speaker, as they went through their presentations, one could understand more and more how much this school, in this community, meant to those people, not just for education, per se, the books and the teacher in the classroom but education overall of the person who lives in that community and what that building means to those people.

Mr. Speaker, the member also referred to Badger as being one of the coldest communities in the Province. They begin their day and it does not end until ten hours later. Ten hours for a child to get up and start his day and end up - before he ends up back home again. Now, Mr. Speaker, a very serious concern has to be raised about this particular example and right around this Province. The last thing we want to see, as educators in this Province, is a drop-out rate increase. It is very tough for parents to encourage their kids to go to school on a normal basis, if the school was around the corner and they could walk over a paved road, but when you add all these elements, my fear is that the increase in dropouts could rise over the next couple of years as we see these things unfold.

Mr. Speaker, these people in Badger - and after I have been listening to their cases - put forward a very good justification for their school being there. For one, Mr. Speaker, they have done some downsizing and they have made some tough decisions, as the member knows, over the last few years. They feel they have tightened their belts and have contributed to restructuring in their town. They have changed their school system there and co-operated in order to do that but, Mr. Speaker, the bottom line here is that these people are finally saying - and they said it at the meeting that I attended - they had one question for the minister; they asked: `Can you tell me that education for my child - which was the root of the whole cause of this reform when we started reform in this Province - will education be better for my Johnny or whoever, my Mary, after education reform?' The sad part about it is that the answer will be no. Was that not the reason for education reform, to improve education? Was that not bottom line, Mr. Speaker? If anybody can honestly stand up, including the minister, and say, `Yes, your Johnny or your Mary will have a better educational system when this is all done.'

Mr. Speaker, the truth is that the education process is in chaos, it is a mess, and these people in Badger are an example of the people in this Province who are speaking out and saying: Judge us on the merits of our school and the situation in which we find ourselves. That is what they are asking, to be treated decently, and that is nothing less than they should expect from this government.

If the intent of education reform was to have a better education system, that is what it should end up to be. If it is not going to be, that is not what they voted on.

The confusion of who voted for what is incredible when you talk to people. The people who voted no do not like it; the people who voted yes do not like it. So they started to ask themselves: What did we vote for? We voted for a better education, and right now it is a mess and it is in chaos.

There are a couple of points I would like to make. First of all, the people of Badger have done their belt-tightening. They have co-operated amongst their communities, and have done a very good job of it, and they put forward a very, very strong case on merit of why they should be able to keep their school of K to IX.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, my time is up, but I would just like to conclude by saying that the bottom line to education reform is a better education. The people of Badger and Avoca Collegiate have put forward a very, very strong case and should be reconsidered.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the presentation of the petition and the comments in support by the member opposite. As with the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans and also the member opposite who met with the parents from Badger, we, as well, met with the parents from Badger at a meeting some ten days or two weeks ago.

Again, I think the best thing that we can do in this Legislature is probably to provide to the school board and to the parents a copy of the Hansard debate of this petition presentation this morning, because there is nobody in this Legislature - the member presenting the petition, the hon. members opposite supporting it, or myself as the minister - can make or change the decision with respect to the school arrangements for September of 1997 in Badger.

For the record, because the member opposite made some comments about the future of the town and the building, the school is not closing in Badger. The proposition of the board is to bus the students from Grade VII and above to Grand Falls - Windsor. In the opinion of the board, and they have told the parents of Badger, they think the students will have a better education twenty-five minutes down the road in Grand Falls - Windsor than they can offer them in Badger.

The parents have some disagreement with that. They are having the meetings where they should be held, between the parents and the school board. The school board has reviewed the issue. They have considered it twice. They have met with the parents. The final decision is in the hands of the school boards.

I appreciate bringing some public attention to the issue here today, but again, I think we would all be best served by understanding that the member opposite cannot make the decision legislatively or legally. The member presenting the petition cannot make the decision. I cannot make the decision. The board has made a decision. I think all of us would be best served by passing along the comments to the board and to the parents to let them know that some attention was brought to the issue. We will pass it back to the board so that they can listen to the comments made by the member presenting the petition on behalf of her constituents in Badger, and the member opposite, who also attended a meeting and knows something more, firsthand, about the circumstance in that community.

I can have some sympathy with the petitioners, but again understand, as we said earlier in answer to a question in Question Period, it is not a matter of debate for the House of Assembly because it is not something over which this Legislature has decision-making authority.

I appreciate the comments and would suggest that maybe we send the commentary back to the school board and to the parents to let them know that some public attention was brought to the matter.


Orders of the Day


MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Motion 1, Mr. Speaker, the Budget Speech.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1.

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will continue from my Budget Speech yesterday and say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs that it is certainly good news today to see a $70 million capital works program, but I guess the proof is always in the pudding when you look at the details that are fleshed out.

When I look at the City of St. John's and the area that is in the most need, which is the district I represent, in terms of raw sewage running in the ditches there, very little infrastructure in the ground, and what the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs has approved this morning is nothing but a farce. It is unbelievable what the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs have approved under the municipal infrastructure program for the City of St. John's, particularly, Mr. Speaker, in the area and the district that I represent, and I would like to go through it for the record.

One hundred and seventy-one thousand seven hundred dollars approval given to equipment purchases related to municipal assessment agencies. So the infrastructure program now is going to purchase equipment in the City of St. John's while there is raw sewage running in the ditches of the City of St. John's. Half a million dollars to set up a compatible computerized accounting system. With $670,000 a significant amount of work could be done in areas of the City that are in most need, but the minister didn't approve it at all.

My understanding was that infrastructure and the infrastructure works program was supposed to go to three areas: water and sewer upgrade, recreational complexes and/or road development. That was my understanding of what infrastructure money was supposed to go for. But that is fine.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture sings out: You're in a Tory district, that's why you got no money. Why doesn't the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, if he had any backbone at all, stand in his seat and say it for the record?

MR. EFFORD: I said it (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Why don't you stand up right now and say it for the record?

MR. EFFORD: I said it (inaudible)!

MR. E. BYRNE: Stand in your seat and say it for the record. Why don't you try that? Because all they could get from that minister on any project - and when you get Hansard it is: Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible). I will give him the opportunity. I will sit down. I will give him leave to get in his seat and say exactly what he just said there now, for the record.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible). They got nobody representing them.

MR. E. BYRNE: Is that right?

MR. EFFORD: Yes, (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: There is no doubt the people in Kilbride know who they have representing them, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, there is no question about that.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: Is that right? Would you like to table some of them?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No it doesn't. But, actually, if the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture wants to get in his seat and stand and say what he just said for the record I will give him leave, but I doubt that will happen anyway, Mr. Speaker. There is more backbone in a jellyfish.

I ended off yesterday talking about the out-migration and what it means to the Province. I would like to turn the attention to what is happening with schools in the Province. There is nobody who would disagree that declining enrolments are causing government to reconsider, causing government to look at education budgets as they now exist, and causing government to have a serious look at what schools in what areas are viable and what ones aren't. Nobody will disagree that where schools are not viable, where enrolments and numbers are such that a school can't maintain viability, or can't maintain being viable, that it should remain open for the sake of being open.

A process that has taken place over the last number of months, and it culminated in the Budget with $70 million being taken out of the education budget, and we have seen serious concerns articulated and raised by parents, community groups, across the Province. My colleague for St. John's East raised a good point in question period a number of days ago. He put a simple question to government that there are a number of instances where people in groups and communities and schools have fallen through the cracks, where viability is not an issue. Where school viability, or schools in a certain area like Bishop O'Neill in Brigus, is a viable school. In Badger and in other places. The Member for Grand Falls - Buchans presented a petition today in support of the people in her area.

What the Member for St. John's East requested of government is that just maybe government should look at appointing an ombudsman for a period of time to look at where people have fallen through the cracks, to reconsider decisions that have been made by school boards, because things are being done in a very fast way. Sometimes people do fall through the cracks, sometimes decisions need to be revisited. It was, I believe, a good suggestion and one government should take seriously.

Because in an effort when communities - and community boards and volunteers are making decisions on timetables that have been imposed upon them. Time is not something that they have a lot of. But there are examples. A number of them have been pointed out in the House from members on both sides of the House where decisions should be looked at and revisited. I commend the Member for St. John's East on making the suggestion and I would implore government to take serious the suggestion and implement it.

Mr. Speaker, another area of concern I think that should be raised deals with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. The amount of the energy crunch that the Province is looking at right now and the number of private proposals that have come before government to be looked at as, I guess, unprecedented. There are, from my knowledge anyway, some eighteen to nineteen proposals before government right now that are working their way through the Environmental Assessment Act. All of which include from wind power to damming rivers, lakes and streams in the Province, Humber River, Southwest River and other rivers. The question that must be asked is, why are we proceeding with private development of rivers?

I agree that privatization is something that, if there are businesses in operation today that government is competing with and putting the market or putting businesses that are operating in the market in an unfair position as the result of government's activity then we should look at it because privatization is about putting services into the market or as many services into the market to bring down the price so that at the end of the day consumers will win. That is my understanding of privatization but when it comes to rivers, lakes and streams in the Province, Mr. Speaker, when we say that we are going to privatize aspects of Newfoundland Hydro or privatize and let private developers do it, we are in fact not ensuring that at the end of the day there will be lower prices for electricity and for consumers. What we are in fact doing, Mr. Speaker, is handing out regulated monopolies to individuals, groups and/or companies. You can only dam a river once and once it is dammed it is dammed for life. Heavy capital investment but huge return over the lifetime, Mr. Speaker, unprecedented, huge return.

If you want to have an example of it look at Bay d'Espoir generation project, $150 million was invested by the government of the day, thirty-three years ago. The Opposition of the day, Mr. Speaker, shouted loud that it was too much money. Five years ago the Bay d'Espoir generation project paid off in full. As a result of that project government last year - and other projects that hydro developed, not just that one but all of them that they developed - last year government took, directly, $52 million from hydro right into the provincial budget. From that single corporation - there was more corporate income tax collected from that single corporation than all other corporations in the Province combined. Why were we, as a government, or why was the government able to do that? Simply because governments over the years empowered hydro to go ahead and do what they had to do. Develop the hydro electricity resources of this Province for the people of the Province so that at the end of the day, with its cheaper rate of return, there would be a substantial profit made available to all of us, not just to some of us, not to one or two of us but to all of us.

In the last five years, Mr. Speaker, we have seen greater and greater sums of money taken out of hydro and put directly into the budget. That does not include at all, Mr. Speaker, the number of jobs that were created. The number of jobs that people at hydro employs and all of the spin-off activity and businesses that depend upon that corporation. That is just direct money and this is the corporation that we tried to sell two years ago. Last year $52 million was taken out of the budget, more than any other corporation combined.

What we seem to be pursuing and government seems to be pursuing is another agenda. I listened to the Minister of Environment and Labour some time ago on a talk show, and a question was asked to him, `What is the Province's energy policy? Do you have one?' He said: No, the Province and government does not have an energy policy as such but what we do have - he articulated - is an Environmental Assessment Act. Anybody who wishes to put a proposal forward to government, he said, we will take that proposal and we will throw it at the environmental assessment act he said, just pitch it over to it and if it gets through in the other end then fair enough, cabinet will have to make a decision.

Now, that is not governance, that is just simple administration, there is no foresight in that. If government were prudent and government were acting in the best interest in terms of development of hydro electricity. Now there are other projects like wind power, thermal, etc., those are projects that I do not have a big problem with in terms of private sector development, but in terms of our own resources, hydro resources, water ways, lakes, streams, rivers, if government were prudent and acting in the best interest of the people they would empower hydro to go ahead and develop our resources for the people of the Province at a much greater rate of return than at the end of the day, maybe ten years from now hydro will be in the position to contribute $100 to $150 million per year as it's debt to equity ratio becomes greater.

Lowering the debt, more equity, our ability to take money from that crown corporation and put directly into the budget and put directly into projects, that is the type of policy that we should be pursuing. I do not believe for a minute that we should be pursuing the development of the Humber River by private interest, the development of any river, lake or stream in this Province by private interest. Now, star lake is an example, Abitibi has put a proposal forward, it is not a bad proposal. I do not have significant trouble with it, what I do have trouble with with star lake is that, we as a Province are not developing it, Hydro is self-sufficient, it is in a position to develop it. It can develop it at at least the same cost and produces a cheaper rate of return.

If a corporate citizen like Abitibi which is an important corporate citizen, which is a good corporate citizen and has demonstrated that over its lifetime in this Province, needs help to ensure availability at peak periods of time, then we should be able to do it for them, but I do not think the reverse should be true. I do not think private corporations should be developing our lakes and our streams and selling it back to us at a much higher cost then we could develop it ourselves and produce it for ourselves. I do not think that that makes any sense Mr. Speaker, whatsoever, and there are like I said eighteen to twenty projects before cabinet now.

The minister released a statement yesterday or a couple of days ago it came across my desk in terms of more information required for I think nine projects, more information or study required dealing with the environmental assessment act. But what we are really lacking, I think, is a comprehensive sound energy policy that is foresightful, that has the people of the Province first and foremost and centre in that policy and that takes the long term view of hydro development for the best interest for the people of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, it must be said also when we talk about the budget and I want to compliment the government in an area here this morning dealing with the Human Resource and Employment Minister who made the announcement two days ago, I believe, with respect to student employment. I stood in the House, I complimented her then and I will compliment government today because I think it is a sign of where government sees part of its priority where it has made available double the amount of money for students this summer and in the past four to five summers. Where government has made available double the money, as I said, for students this summer then they have in the past and I think that is an honourable choice, represents a priority of government and a commitment where I think they said they were going to do something, they have done something and they are going to continue to do it. I complement the Minister of Human Resource and Employment on that and I think the more that we can do that, the more that that program SWASP and other programs like it model on a voucher system, where the rest of Canada have looked the benefits of it. On the one hand make available to students employment, provide cash vouchers on the other hand so that tuition can be paid, which at the end of the day should bring down debt load.

With that Mr. Speaker, I know there are other colleagues in the House who would like to have a few words and the member for Baie Verte is about to stand.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: I won't be too long, Mr. Speaker, I just want to react to a couple of comments that my hon. friend from Kilbride made with regards to St. John's and some multi-district money.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for Kilbride mentioned how upset he was that we were putting $171,000 from the St. John's district into assessment computer upgrading. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is not in the St. John's district. If the hon. member had looked at the top of the sheet, he would have found out that that page includes all multi-districts in the Province.

MR. E. BYRNE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker?

MR. A. REID: I will accept the (inaudible) -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Kilbride, on a point of order.

MR. E. BYRNE: Just to make it clear for the record that, if the minister had been in the House he would have realized and understood that I did not say that that amount of money was going -no, he was out when I spoke - that, that amount of money was going just specifically to St. John's. I referred directly to half-a-million dollars going towards computer upgrade for all municipalities, so I just wanted to make that point clear. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The hon. member used the opportunity for clarification. The hon. -

MR. A. REID: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, on a point of order.

MR. A. REID: On a point of order, would you ask the hon. member to withdraw the comment that I was not in the House. I was sitting here from the time the man stood to the time he sat down. He misunderstood or he thought I was out of the House. I was here. He referred to the fact that I was out of the House; he should not be referring that any member in this hon. House is out of the House. Would you ask him to retract that please?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: I apologize to the minister. I did not see him there and I understand that I should not refer to a member who was not sitting and I apologize for that and withdraw the comment.

MR. SPEAKER: It is unparliamentary and unacceptable for hon. members to refer to any other hon. member as being present or not being present. The point has been duly raised by the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and the hon. Member for Kilbride has withdrawn the comment and apologized.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, the Assessment Division of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is now at arm's length from the department. It is moved out of the department and has become a sort of an independent agency and will continue to be an independent agency for at least the next three years and at which time hopefully, Mr. Speaker, it will become a self-sufficient agency that will be at arm's length to government and maybe, maybe at the end of the day may even be privatized.

I don't know, at this point in time but, in order to accomplish that feat, that remarkable feat of finally getting something done in the assessment division after thirty years of fighting continuously with the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs by people like the hon. Member for Waterford Valley, we finally succeeded in doing that and that $171,000 will provide that section of my department or once my department with the necessary tools, computer tools to upgrade their system to the point where they are promising me now that they may even be able to, after next year, do assessments on a yearly basis, and I think all hon. members of the House of Assembly can understand the problems we have had with the assessment division over the years, would say that it is a good thing that we did put that money in.

The $500,000 under Municipal and Provincial Affairs, municipal computerization is basically a lump sum amount that we are going to use to help rural Newfoundland communities who are in desperate financial shape, set up a decent operable computer system in their towns. So that money could be spread among as many as 150 communities. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you realize because you have a lot of smaller communities as well, and I appreciate where the hon. Member for Kilbride is coming from; he is living in the big metropolitan area of St. John's and does not really have the same feelings for small, rural communities around the Province and the problems that they have.

We know, Mr. Speaker, and you know, representing a rural area, that we have small communities in this Province, who are still keeping their books, doing their books and their accounting on scribblers and I am not exaggerating. Actually, keeping the books and the financial affairs of the town on a piece of paper. There are numerous communities out there that do not have an adequate computer system and in the Budget Speech, Mr. Dicks, the hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board said: that we were going out this year and introduce some new technology to some of these smaller communities so that the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and themselves could own and operate more adequately and more modernly I suppose, the day to day operations.

The $2 million that you see in there for the Department of Works, Services and Transportation is $2 million of a $5 million fund that both my hon. friend from Mount Pearl, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation and I, had announced earlier this year that we were going out to try to convince some of the communities in the Province by upgrading roads and making deals with communities, we may be able to ask some of the communities in the Province to take over some of the responsibilities of road maintenance and snow clearing, and if some of the communities could do that themselves, then that $5 million - $2 million from me in here and $3 million from my hon. colleague - would be an enticement for some of these communities to take over some of these roads. I think in municipalities there is a total of 750 kilometres, and this money would go to encourage some of those communities.

Now, here is an opportunity for some of the MHAs. If they are in a situation where they have a town and there is a kilometre or two in the area that their town council could probably snow-clear in the winter and maintain, it is a way of getting a few dollars for that, or if not a few dollars we may have to go out and resurface the road and upgrade it and then pass it over to the community. It is basically an enticement to communities to take more responsibility for some of the government owned and operated roads in their areas.

I will continue, Mr. Speaker, and say to you quite honestly and categorically - and I do appreciate where the hon. Member for Kilbride is coming from - this is the third year in a row now that there has not been any request from the City of St. John's for the upgrading of the Kilbride - Goulds area. I say emphatically that this amount that is shown today under infrastructure and capital works is exactly - and I repeat, exactly - to the dollar, what the City of St. John's requested.

This is not the fault of this hon. House. If the City of St. John's does not ask the government for funding for Kilbride or the Goulds, or for any area of the city, it is not the responsibility of this minister or this House to say to St. John's: Here is extra money and we want you to put this into a certain area or a certain project in the city.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: I never said it never happened. I can't remember doing it. Maybe you can jar my memory, but I can't remember doing it. I say to the hon. member, yes it is done in certain places in the Province, in certain communities, but St. John's, being the largest city and having the engineering staff and having the capability to borrow and pay its own way, I have never - categorically never - ever said to St. John's: We will give you this money and this money has to go to a certain area. I cannot do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: No, the Province does not.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) city officials (inaudible).

MR. A. REID: No, city officials are misleading you. If the City of St. John's asks -

AN HON. MEMBER: I have the same problem with City Hall that you have.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Would hon. members like me to instruct that the microphone be turned on so this can be recorded?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Go ahead, Art.

MR. A. REID: If the City of St. John's applies for capital works for infrastructure to the Province, there is never a question of where they want to put that money. If the City of St. John's is looking for $2 million for road work, the share that the Province will contribute will be their share and there is no mention that this money has to be spent here or here or here.

MR. E. BYRNE: Could I ask a question?

MR. A. REID: Let me finish.

For example, we announced today that the department's share of a $1 million project for Higgins Line, Allandale Road transmission lane, you see that there is $500,000. This is the first time in the history of Newfoundland that the Province is actually paying a portion of the share of water and sewage for the City of St. John's.

MR. E. BYRNE: Exactly.

MR. A. REID: Because up until now the City of St. John's always had to finance the total 100 per cent cost. When that request was made to us, we told them that we would provide them with $500,000. If the City of St. John's wants to come back to me, as the minister, and say: No, we don't want to do Higgins Line this year, and we want to take that $500,000 and put another $500,000 with it and do the Goulds, that is entirely up to themselves.

MR. E. BYRNE: And you would approve it?

MR. A. REID: And I will approve it.

I have never turned St. John's down in regard to where they want to spend their money. If the City of St. John's - John Murphy being the Mayor - and the council decide that they want to take their capital works money and put it, I don't care -

AN HON. MEMBER: Kenmount Road.

MR. A. REID: Kenmount Road - it is entirely up to the City of St. John's. It has nothing to do with me.

MR. E. BYRNE: Can I ask you a question? So, no matter what the City - I want to be clear on this, because this is an important issue for members in the City who are in areas where there was infrastructure, and who are representing, I might add to the minister, very rural parts of Newfoundland that happen to be within the jurisdiction and boundary of the City of St. John's. When they send in a priority list to you as minister, you don't question that priority list? No matter what other interventions or expressions or lobbies that may be made on you, if the City of St. John's, through the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and all the councillors, send in to you a priority list for infrastructure, you will automatically approve that list, within reason, is what I'm saying, under the terms and conditions surrounding the program? If that is their priority, then you check it off as their priority and it is up to them is what you are telling me.

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, just as an example to confirm what the hon. member is saying. If you look at St. John's paving and/or road construction, there is $167,000 in there for capital works. That is the Province's share. The title to that is the department's share of $667,000 in street rehabilitation. We don't even name the streets. The City of St. John's doesn't have to name the streets. The City of St. John's, the City Engineer, called my department and said: All we can afford this year in paving and road construction is $667,000. We said: Very good. We will give you our share of that, which is $167,000. Where you spend that is entirely up to yourself.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) same for every municipality (inaudible)?

MR. A. REID: No, not the same for every municipality, because the majority of municipalities out there have to finance their total amounts through NMFC.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) identifying (inaudible).

MR. A. REID: In most cases. I will give you an example where it couldn't happen. If in Bonavista, for example, that final clean up of that lagoon, if they came in to me in Bonavista and said: No, we want to take that money and spend it somewhere else, I would say no.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) identified (inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Yes. Okay? If they come back to me and they say: We don't want to do Aunt Martha's Road but we want to do Uncle George's, that is up to them. If it is road paving and reconstruction, chances are one road is just as bad as the other one, so it is entirely up to the council.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's not the way it used to be.

MR. A. REID: No, not the way it used to be. But you have to remember - I announced this morning that there would be $12 million - I'm levering $12 million. It is more like $15 million. That is basically what is happening here this year, that the larger communities - and I will say to the hon. member that most of this money went to the larger communities. It went to the larger communities because the larger communities could put a fairer share in themselves.

The City of St. John's, for example, has no problems in looking after its share of the $667,000 in capital. Bonavista did so well as they did this year because Bonavista, thanks to your mayor and the new council, took that town three years ago that was on the verge of bankruptcy, turned that town around like you wouldn't believe, and on top of that refinanced and had over $600,000 saving in refinancing. They came in to me and said: Mr. Reid, we have this money and we can spend it this year. Will you give us some capital works? So you got a pile of money. The hon. Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture isn't here, I hope. You got a pile of money. You did as well as - well, I will tell this much, you got more than the Premier got in his district.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: You didn't get as much as I got but you got as much as the Premier. You certainly never got as much as he got. So I want to explain to my hon. colleague for Kilbride: Look, it's St. John's. This government can't interfere with the day-to-day operations of the City of St. John's. You can't do it. They have engineering staff down there, they have capable people who know financing and so on. If the City of St. John's does not ask me for money for Kilbride or some other part of the riding, I can't give it to them. If they don't ask me, I can't give it to them.

Mr. Speaker, there is some confusion in regard to the rankings and the percentages that the government pays in comparison to the towns and so on. I would like to just inform hon. members that there are some mistakes in this, mistakes as far as how some of the projects are going to be financed. They are not necessarily mistakes; it is just that it is harder to explain the method that my accounting people and the people in Finance sometimes try to use on me. It is something that if any member of the House has problems with in regard to trying to figure out how much the town pays compared to the government, and that sort of thing, it is better to come to me personally and ask me about that and I can give you the correct details on it.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to make a few comments now on my own, as the Member for Carbonear. I was happy last night to be able to go to Carbonear and stand in front of 150 people and announce a new civic centre for my town. It is not really a civic centre; it is a regional centre.

In 1989, when I was first elected, the Government of Canada had set aside $1 million for an Arts & Culture Centre at the time.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Yes, I am acting House Leader.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: You are back now, are you? I can sit down.

In 1989, when I got elected, the federal government had set aside $1 million for a $3 million Arts & Culture Centre for Carbonear. Now, I cringe when I say `Arts & Culture Centre', because as I am sure most of us in this hon. House understand and realize, the Arts & Culture Centres have been costing this Province sizeable amounts of money over the years.

I listen to my friends across the way sometimes talk about health care and education and so on, and I think eventually we will clean up some of that waste of money, for want of a better word, and maybe we can start directing some money back into the primary areas of social services and health and so on.

The government has taken upon themselves this year to try to dispose of the Arts & Culture Centres in the Province. I was never one who agreed with an Arts & Culture Centre per se in the area of Carbonear. Of course, I fought three elections on the fact that I could not come out, quite honestly, and take $1 million of not only federal money but provincial money, our contribution towards that, and I fought an election against people like Dr. Aidan Drover, who is a good friend of my colleagues across the way, and Dougie Moores, and a number of big Progressive Conservative people who fought me tooth and nail every day, every step of the way, since 1989 -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Yes - and being successful enough, I suppose, to have them against me, knowing that the other 95 per cent of the riding was for me. As long as they stay against me, I guess I might have a chance of getting elected.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Yes.

When you are practising medicine in Carbonear, and you are the most popular doctor out there, and you are putting them through on a daily basis as fast as you can get them in and get them out, and you are making $200,000 a year - I am not referring to anyone in particular - to offer them a job in this House at $52,000 or $53,000 a year, that is not what you would call a good salary.

I am certainly sure my hon. friend - I will not call him honourable because he is not sitting in the House, but - Mr. Moores is not going to give up a lucrative law practice, and I think Mr. Ottenheimer knows exactly what I am talking about here -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Yes - to come in here and possibly sit in Opposition. But I suppose if he came in here and got elected I am assuming, Mr. Ottenheimer, that he would be the leader. At least that is what he says in Conception Bay North. That is what he tells everyone, that if he did run he would have to take over the leadership and ultimately become the Premier. So I guess it is going to be quite some time before our friend from Harbour Grace gets elected to the House of Assembly.

I was privileged last night to be able to announce in my district a smaller building, a regional building, because I believe that the Conception Bay North area of the Province is probably the most cooperative area of all the Province. Maybe Central Newfoundland works pretty closely with each other, but I think that whole Bay Roberts, Carbonear area - Salmon Cove and Harbour Grace - we need a place... We do not have a place in that whole area, which services 50,000 people, we haven't got one auditorium. We can't host a concert, we can't even host Revue '97 or Revue '96. So we announced that little bit of money under infrastructure last night in Carbonear and there were quite the rave reviews.

I mentioned my two hon. friends earlier in the (inaudible). I had them there last night at my press conference. Those two hon. people, I asked them to come to the press conference. One of them showed up and the other one didn't. I could understand why the first one didn't show up, but the second one showed up. In fact, I bought him a beer. When he was sipping on the beer he looked at me and he said: Surprisingly enough, Art, this Liberal beer tastes the same as PC beer. I think that is about as far as he could go in giving me a compliment for bringing $2.4 million to his community. But without that -


MR. A. REID: Dr. Drover. But without -

AN HON. MEMBER: Bill Rowe's buddy?

MR. A. REID: Bill Rowe's buddy, yes. Putting that aside, the fact that he made that comment was enough for a few people to hear it around, and a few of those hard-working, honest, poor, Liberal individuals who vote Liberal most of the time - I always say that, Mr. Speaker, especially when I meet people - and I'm not a teetotaller. I like a bottle of beer. I'm not a teetotaller. I don't over-indulge but I'm not a teetotaller. It is a funny thing about that, Mr. Speaker - I don't know if it is like that out your way or not, but it seems that if you drink scotch there is a 95 per cent chance that you are a Tory.

MR. TULK: Absolutely dead-on! Same thing in Bonavista North.

MR. A. REID: Same thing in Bonavista North?

MR. TULK: They drink one bottle of scotch every year, Art.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: If you drink scotch - well see, you aren't a Tory, Harvey. You were never a Tory. You were always a Liberal, so (inaudible). But if you drink scotch you are a Tory. For years I've been saying it, because I'm a rum man. I started off drinking screech and I went to Captain Morgan.

AN HON. MEMBER: Art, he's a misled Liberal.

MR. A. REID: He is a misled Liberal. So the point of it is, I suppose, the fact that I got a compliment, the fact that the Liberal beer I bought for my Tory friend in Carbonear, he at least admitted it tasted as good as the PC's. That was a backhanded compliment coming from someone like Aidan Drover. Then on the other hand, Aidan Drover is a good man, he is contributing a lot to the community out there. I have no problems with working with people like that. He is a rural doctor and he is doing a good job.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, even though he is an arch-enemy I suppose of mine politically, my wife and my daughter go to him all the time. He is their doctor. Now, I can't lower myself to go to a PC doctor, but who knows, one of these days I might bring myself, might have to.

I'm going to finish up now. I'm going to say that some members around here - not only on that side of the House but on this side of the House - are disappointed today because they didn't get what they thought they should get. Let me say to the members of the House that I try to be fair, and I have been. Your Leader in the Opposition submitted a list to me, he has walked out this morning quite happy with (inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: You wrote the book on fairness and balance.

MR. A. REID: That is right. The Member for Bonavista is quite happy. The members for St. John's, well, they have no other choice but to be happy because the City of St. John's asked and it got exactly what it asked for it got. The member for Mount Pearl asked for $900,000. They got exactly what they asked for.

The only problem I have to deal with is my hon. friend for Baie Verte. My hon. colleague and friend for Baie Verte knows that several times last year he had problems. He came to me, we sat down and talked about it, and at the end of the day he was happy. I wrote your letter to Nippers Harbour the other day, you know you got that. You know that I'm there and my office door is open. I've always been accessible to you, and please, use my office. If I still have a sizeable amount of money that I can help some of your small communities - I'm not only saying that to you, the Member for Baie Verte, I'm saying it to everybody.

MR. TULK: Did the Minister for Municipal and Provincial Affairs write the manual for fairness and balance for the former Premier?

MR. DECKER: He coined the phrase,` you wrote the manual'. That's what I understand.

MR. A. REID: Well fairness and balance, yes but you can use fairness and balance to your own advantage sometimes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Art, fairness and balance is a good principle but you can't go to the fair with it.

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I was disappointed. I have to say this, I don't know if the Opposition House Leader can tell me or not but I think my critic has had some medical problems again has he?

MR. H. HODDER: Yes, he is in hospital.

MR. A. REID: He's in the hospital.

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Is he home or in hospital?

MR. A. REID: And he is going to come back on Monday and stand up and praise the health care system for the wonderful job they did on him. I said he is going to stand in the House on Monday and praise the Minister of Health and praise the health care system for treating him so well as he has been treated in the hospital for the last week.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that we offer our best to my critic, Mr. Byrne. Would the gentleman pass on our best to him? I hope he is back in the House and healthy. I do look forward to him coming back because I have not had a decent scrum since he left. I know he is going to fulfil his duties as the Opposition critic and I guess his number one priority would be to see that the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs gets on TV at least twice or three times next week.

AN HON. MEMBER: Minister, I can hear him say now, when he gets halfway through his question, `that's enough about that.'

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, if my hon. friend the whip now would let me leave, I have to go to my office because I have a call. I am going to sit down and I say to you quite honestly, if you have any problems with any of the work that anyone in the House has been given today, set up an appointment to come and see me and I will see you and go through the list with you. If you are looking for more money, which I don't have a lot of, I will try to accommodate each and everyone of you as well as I possibly can.

I will finish and say that I have been here now - this is the fifth capital works budget and I can honestly say - and I am going to brag here - other than the fact of a comment that was made today about fairness in the municipal infrastructure and capital works program, I think that if the Opposition and the government went back through the last five times that it was done, you would find that they could not find any discrepancies in regard to Progressive Conservatives being treated worse than Liberals. Everyone in this House, as far as I am concerned, are representing districts and whether you're a PC, a Liberal or an NDP, you all have hard jobs. You are not getting paid enough money for what you are doing and I think that all of us, at the end of the day, are equal. You are certainly equal in my eyes and I offer you my best in regards to making your announcements in the next couple of days and I hope that I can continue on serving the public, as well as my own district, for at least another year, couple years or whatever the Premier sees fit for me to do. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly want to rise today, even more so now - since the list came out today - than before. I was going to speak on debate anyway but, Mr. Speaker, the minister answered the question I was going to ask before I even started my debate. It is, is there some flexibility there or is there some manoeuvring possibly and so on because I will be certainly looking for a meeting with the minister to discuss the situation in my district?

So having said that, Mr. Speaker, and making note of it before the minister leaves the House today, I will be requesting a meeting to talk about my district. Mr. Speaker, I will be honest with you and since we are being frank and honest today, I will say this, today when the brown envelope was delivered to my desk and I took out the list of infrastructure money for my district, when I took out the sheet I have in front of me now, I said there must be another one. So I looked through the envelope and I was, not dismayed, I was shocked. I got very little, I say to the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

And the minister is right he knows I have been over many times to speak with him and his deputies and talking about my districts and the water and sewer problem and the unpaved roads in the communities and so on. Of course, the House of Assembly here knows full well too, my conversations with the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation and so on.

In rural Newfoundland I have thirty-three communities in my district, I take some nine hours to just drive around each community. I tell you what a different world to be in here in this House of Assembly with a suit on and then to go back to your district, what I call the real world because Mr. Speaker, when I go back there I am stopped constantly and the minister knows, he mentioned here in the House today what a difference it is to be in rural Newfoundland and at this particular time and usually like the minister said we sit down, we talk, we worked some things and he says he does not bring up the politics, but I still got some doubts about that. Then again although in the opposition side of my district provincially, we are on the governments side federally which is a joint project of the infrastructure. It is federal also and we have a government side member federally who is representing us I assume when it comes to such announcements as the infrastructure program. I was so disappointed to see that list today for thirty-three communities, I do not have the numbers in front of me, but I think it is close to twenty that are not completing water and sewer out of thirty-three. Then you see roads not paves, never mind resurfacing, never paved. One hundred and twelve kilometres, the evidence was in this House in the last few days.

Mr. Speaker, I have some problem when I look at this entire list and see over $300,000 for ice plants in the stadiums and with all due respect to the minister for a civic centre anywhere. Yes Mr. Speaker, it is nice to go out to your district and announce those things, yes it helps the community, but do you wonder where the priorities are and I am really disappointed in this list here today. I did not expect to get all waters and sewers completed or all pavement done, I never expect that, no member does, but the word used by the minister over and over was the fairness word. Well, Mr. Speaker, this was not fair, this list was not fair. I will be asking for a meeting with the minister as soon as possible, immediately if possible to go through that list again and give him a chance to have a second look at it. See if he is flexible somewhere and to help out at least another one or two more communities because it is just not fair.

So, as I look down through the list and see what's on the list, the word fairness disappears, because when you see over $300,000 for ice plants and then you see civic centres announced and computer systems and so on. Yes, they are all great, all needed, but when you look at a family that has sewer running in their back yard and cannot turn on the water and get a decent drink of water, well then you wonder if the priorities are wrong. That has been by argument all this year so far.

It has not been how money is spent and how much money we have and so on, because I know we are strapped, we will be talking about that for the next twenty years, fifty years probably. It is never the point of how much money we have to spend, we all know that we have been told the story over and over and over about how strapped we are. It is always a problem on priority Mr. Speaker, priority, treating every Newfoundlander fairly and equally. It has never been a question of how much money. For the person in Nain or for the person on the Labrador coast or right on down through rural Newfoundland, through anybody's district, Mr. Speaker, it is never how much money we have to spend, it is what your priorities are and you cannot convince me that an ice plant for a stadium is more important than a man being able to turn on his tap and have a drink of water or not see sewer flowing in his back yard. You cannot convince me of that Mr. Speaker, that is the problem.

It has always been the problem for years I guess, but especially over the last several months, as I see money spent. I have a real problem with that, maybe no other members in the House got a problem, I do not know if it is on this side or the other side. I used an example yesterday, I am on record as saying so I will use it again, it is only an example it is not the core of it, the Rick Hansen contribution, I have a problem with that. I really do have a problem with that and Rick Hansen - I stated in this House yesterday, I personally contributed to that when he was going across the world and so on, I support him, he is a hero for Canada. I have all due respect, but there are wheelchair people in this Province who could use the money. There are people in this Province who could use a bit of calcium on their dirt roads in the summer so they can walk up the street. There are people in this Province who watch the sewer run out their back garden, who would like for it to be fixed. It has never been a question to me of how much money, this government, previous governments, the next government will complain that we are strapped for money. We are all going to do the same, but the one thing that this government is sadly lacking is where they put their priorities.

Where they put their priorities is in the middle of a fiasco in the last few weeks, that is the only thing you can call it around the Province with spending; is that in the middle of all these crises, schools closing down and I will give the example that I gave yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I will give it to the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal and she knows, but I just want to give this specific example because it drives home the point.

In one community, and I would not name the community because it would be unfair to the rest of them but in one community, on Monday I had a call that the roads were impassable; they could not get up they were blocking off the roads. On Tuesday I had a call from the same community that people were told that they could not get into the hospital they had to go on a waiting list and there were some pretty bad situations there. So, they did not have a road, they could not get into the hospital and on Wednesday, the same community, Mr. Speaker, gets a call back, they had word that their school is closing. In three days, they could not get into a hospital, could not travel over the road, their school was closing.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you tell me when a community is affected like that, why a priority cannot be made to do something, at least show some confidence in them that where they are living we believe them, rural Newfoundland, that we know you are living there, you pay taxes as well as anybody else pays taxes so you should have the decency, that is what it is called, Mr. Speaker, it is called common decency, to be able to have proper water and sewer and a decent road over which to drive. I even had some communities in my district, Mr. Speaker, and I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation before she leaves, who said I would not even want pavement, I would just settle for an upgraded road. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, our school is lost, we cannot get into the hospital, we don't want pavement either but just upgrade our roads, just so that we are not shaken to pieces when we drive to and from services elsewhere.

It is really, Mr. Speaker, a time to sit back and review and to act on something because I know - the Speaker himself comes from a rural district and many people in this House who have rural districts know exactly what I am talking about. It is okay for us to stand in this House of Assembly when it is open for three hours a day during the week but when we leave here, Mr. Speaker, and go out to my district like I am about to do in an hour or so, when I go back to those communities, Mr. Speaker, I go back to the real world and forget the game that is played in here, a lot of the time, with politics, and when a lady looks at you and says: You know, my child is not going on that bus, and as a matter of fact she is a retired teacher, the lady whom I used as an example the other day.

A retired teacher you know, wants her child to have the best education and so on but she said: I am telling you, I am at a point now where this road, if something is not done with it, and I described it as a road that you would not use for moose hunting, she said: if something is not done about this, I am going to teach my child at home, he is not going on a bus ride like you just experienced and which I told you yesterday, that I took the bus ride myself, Mr. Speaker, and that, was a hard thing for that parent to say and it is a hard thing for a politician to stand up and say I support kids being out of school, because I don't. I do not support children being out of school. I do not support using children in protests to keep them out of school, to a point and, Mr. Speaker, we just came to the point. The school closed, the hospital was full and they did not have a decent road over which to ride.

In one particular community they said they would not even ask for pavement anymore. They said, I will tell you what, just put a bit of calcium on our road in the summer time so we don't smother and upgrade our road a little bit so it is not a washboard, like driving over a washboard or a cow's path. So, I am disappointed today when the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs spoke, really disappointed, when I pulled out this list and not just for me, I am disappointed for a lot of members who have rural districts and I know are disappointed here today and I hope the federal member in our riding will be disappointed because I am certainly going to contact him.

So, I believed the minister when he said it was not a political decision in my particular area because we are `government side' so-called, the things we have with the government side federally, we are Opposition side provincially but, Mr. Speaker, we are both pulling the same way and I would certainly work with the federal member then we would have had more than what we had the measly amount that was allotted now for thirty-three rural communities, that do not have decent water to drink and does not have a water and sewer system.

They are not looking for an ice plant for their arena. They do not have an arena; they would not have the water to run into the ice plant so it is bloody ridiculous when you think about it. I cannot support it and none of the rural members should support it when you see $300,000 for an ice plant and you have water and sewer running out in your backyard. It is not right and should never be. Get your priorities straight minister, that is all I am saying and I think a lot of the members in this House and on all sides of the House agree with that.

It is hard, Mr. Speaker, when I take this list and go back - they are going to get the list - I ask for it every year and when they look down and see (inaudible) I won't name the community because it is not fair to those - and they see a civic centre going ahead, or they see an ice plant, and they say: We aren't getting our sewer again this year? There is something wrong.

No member in this House should justify it. It can't be justified. That an ice plant of $300,000 is on this list while they have sewer running out their backyard. It isn't right, and nobody should support it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I would say Fogo Island would like their water and sewer before they get their stadium. They would like their water and sewer. They would like necessities. They should have necessities, Mr. Speaker. I say to the member for Fogo Island, I would assume that if you are going to have a stadium or an ice plant you have water running to it. We have communities where the water doesn't run, I say to the member for Fogo Island. It is wrong. You can't say it any differently, it is wrong. Imagine building up a stadium and doing an ice plant for $300,000 when you have sewer running out your backyard and you can't turn on your tap for water.

That isn't politics, that is common sense. Talk about a common sense revolution. We have to get our priorities straight because they aren't right. Rural Newfoundland today, even more in the last three or four weeks, and I say this from short experience, and there are some members (inaudible) –

AN HON. MEMBER: Common sense would be a revolution to this crowd.

MR. SHELLEY: But I say to some members here who have a lot of experience, as frank as I can be about this, that in my short experience of four years now in politics I've never seen rural Newfoundland so upset in the last two months as I see today. I saw them upset with the privatization of Hydro and different things in my short experience. But I'm going to tell you, all members here, and the rural members know, if you go out there today - forget this House of Assembly and your ties and suits - and walk out and go to the street and stop and talk to John and Joe on the wharf and throughout the streets, they are very upset. They are upset with me and you and all of us. They are upset with politics in general, and they are upset because of the very point that I just put forward, that priorities are wrong in spending.

My belief in Newfoundland is this. Newfoundland goes the way that rural Newfoundland goes. If rural Newfoundland is down, Newfoundland is down. In Ireland they proved that, and they are still proving it, and the evidence is there for any member to check out. In Ireland they have taken another approach. They are rejuvenating rural parts of Ireland. They are taking them out of the big cities where they live in slums and they are a drain on government and they aren't productive, and they put them back in rural Ireland where you can get a cheaper house, you can have a cheaper form of living, the crime is lower and so on, and the pristine environment - there are all kinds of reasons for living in rural Newfoundland. That is why I live there, I love it there, and I'm going to remain living there.

In Ireland they have done it differently. They went and they put people from the big cities who were a drain on government, in slum housing and so on, and they put them in the small towns, gave them small projects, small ideas, small businesses, and they worked on it. Because the other big problem here in this Province besides the fact our commitment for rural Newfoundland is not there is we always have the mega-projects. We have Voisey's Bay. We have the premiers from before. Premier Peckford, I don't mind saying it, had the idea that Hibernia was going to save us. Won two elections on it. Then of course Mr. Wells came along, and Mr. Tobin now, and now they talk about - I don't care what -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

MR. SHELLEY: Who did?

AN HON. MEMBER: Your party.

MR. SHELLEY: I don't care about my party if they (inaudible) said create jobs. I don't care what party (inaudible) I will say it anywhere. If they said create jobs and didn't, they should be thrown out! I said I don't care what party said it. I don't care what party.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)!

MR. SHELLEY: Who said that, by the way? Who was that going to create jobs, by the way, what mandate are you talking about?

AN HON. MEMBER: Nineteen eighty-five.

MR. SHELLEY: Nineteen eighty-five. (Inaudible) think back that far, Mr. Speaker, I think I was in university.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) create jobs.

MR. SHELLEY: What was Mr. Chrétien's big scream, Mr. Speaker, three years ago, four years ago, still echoed across the country? Read my lips, jobs, jobs, jobs. That is all the rhetoric from every stripe, Mr. Speaker, over the years. The point was still frank and it is sincere. Rural Newfoundland doesn't see a commitment. If rural Newfoundland keeps draining down, this Province will. We can't go depending on Hibernia will save us, now Voisey Bay is going to save us. Small projects around this Province in rural Newfoundland are what is going to save us, small business, and showing people out in rural Newfoundland that you are committed by putting infrastructure in place. They don't want double-lane highways, supercities. They just want a small town with decent drinking water and sewer. How can anybody argue that?

The priorities are wrong. Commit to rural Newfoundland by showing them that you believe where they live. They aren't going to leave, they aren't going to be forced out. People talking about forced resettlement. The only difference now is that Mr. Smallwood told them they were resettling and paid them a few dollars to move. The only difference is now they are being forced to and they are not being paid anything - that is the only difference.

Mr. Speaker, I am telling all members here in this House of Assembly that it is coming to a head in this Province, and if you do not think it is, then you are whistling past the graveyard, because it is. You are whistling past the graveyard. It is coming, and it is coming fast and furious.

It is almost scary to go out into some of the communities sometimes; they are so fed up when they see the priority of spending. Do not go out and tell them, `Boy, we are strapped and there is only so much money'. They have heard that story over and over, and they might believe it if they did not see such ridiculous spending in some other places. I just gave one example, and I could give a long list here today but I do not need to do that; people know what they are. People know where the ridiculous spending went on. We could give a long list. Seventeen million dollars, sure, for god's sake, just to consider privatizing Hydro, that was scrapped. That was thrown out the window, gone. You know what I could do with $17 million if I were sitting here today in my district, or in one of your districts? Seventeen million dollars wasted, it is incredible. Then the mistake with the pay equity might be another $85 million, and then, the three hospital contracts. What a list you could give of waste.

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying, the point on rural renewal - and that is what I started to focus on here today, and would I ask the minister in the House about rural renewal. Rural Newfoundland has to see something solid. They have to see something solid, like a water and sewer project or pavement, or something like that going ahead, because what they are saying is: we are not getting it because they expect us to move out sooner or later. Well, Mr. Speaker, I have news for everybody. People in rural Newfoundland are saying: We are not moving out. We are staying, one way or the other. We pay taxes. We have lived here for years and years. We like the way of life here.

It is so funny, Mr. Speaker. You talk to some people in the bigger centres and they think, `My god, how can they live out there?' Well, guess what? Like one old gentleman in Pacquet said to me: `You know what I think? It is the best kept secret. They think it is terrible out here. We love it. We love it here.' That is what he said to me, `It is the best kept secret in Newfoundland', because in the cities and the bigger centres in Newfoundland they think we are so badly off out here. One guy said, `I own my house. My Kindergarten child can walk to school and back without worries about crime and so on.' There was one break-and-enter, he told me, in twenty-two years. That was the worst crime scene they had. He was making a decent living. He was paying his bills. That is what is good for him. That is what I like.

Since my child started Kindergarten, except for the first day when I walked with her to get over the butterflies, I guess, of the first day of Kindergarten, she walks to school.


MR. SHELLEY: My butterflies.

Mr. Speaker, anybody with children knows that. Imagine being able to let your Kindergarten child walk to and from school every day, when she starts school. In Baie Verte, the community in which I live, she can walk to school and come back, no problem. Crime is almost nil, except for some minor things. Most people own their own homes. They can walk down to the grocery store; they do not have to rush through traffic. There are beautiful things in rural Newfoundland, things that you could never sell or on which you could never put a price tag. It is no good to tell them that it is greater in the cities; there are malls.

One fellow said to me in here one time, `Gee, what do you do out there, though? You don't have any malls or theatres.' I said: Malls - I have been in here for six years of university plus four years in the House of Assembly, and I have gone to a mall twice. I do not go to malls. I would rather take the ski-doo and go out behind my house, and go up and watch the caribou run, or follow moose tracks, or go ice fishing.

AN HON. MEMBER: Put out a few slips.

MR. SHELLEY: Put out a few slips, that is what I like to do.

I guess what I am saying is that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Quidi Vidi (inaudible)?

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, put out a few slips down around Quidi Vidi.

Mr. Speaker, what people are saying in rural Newfoundland - I know all Newfoundlanders handle it; I don't have a monopoly on how people feel in rural Newfoundland, but - what they are simply saying to you is, `I like the simple life'. That is where they have been for years. They do not need a lot to satisfy them. They just need a little bit of common decency, a bit of dignity, so they can go to work every day and pay their bills, not have a big bank account, but have a ski-doo by the door, maybe, if they are lucky, pay their bills, feed their family, and just live comfortably. That is not a lot to ask, and rural Newfoundlanders have paid their price over the years. They have paid their price big time.

Mr. Speaker, when I see this list for infrastructure - like I say again, not just for my district - I think about rural Newfoundland. and when they see this, they say: `My, they are not committed to rural Newfoundland!' They need to see it.

Three hundred thousand dollars for a district of thirty-three communities, what is it? It is not me. I have to try to justify it out in my district, but the federal member has to come and justify it, too. Seventy million, was it, the number given today, $70 million for the Province and for a district of thirty-three rural communities? They are all rural, even the biggest towns are small. Baie Verte and La Scie are the two biggest communities, King's Point, small rural communities, and they are going to get that much, Mr. Speaker, is not a sign of commitment. And if you can get their hope up - that is where you have to get the hopes up. If you want to revive the economy in this Province, you have to get the hopes up in rural Newfoundland, and it feeds into the bigger cities as they come in and use the services and so on. That is the key to reviving the economy in this Province today. Anybody who does not realize that, at this very day - and it grows every day. The discontent is growing and rural Newfoundland is filtering in, that is why, Mr. Speaker - there are examples right in front of us.

We had a five-hour bus ride by a group of people who came all the way in from Badger the other day. They are serious. I have heard people speak in a protest last week, Mr. Speaker, I was there at 5:00, where they had called me at 7:00 in the morning and said be there at 7:30. I said, `I will be there.' And in rural Newfoundland, the MHAs know what I am talking about. They should be there. I was an hour away and I said: `I cannot be there in a half-hour but I will be there in an hour.' I left immediately. They were serious when they called, and they had the highway blocked off. Because the school is gone, the hospital was full and they could not drive over the road. Would you not be upset? You know you would. And now, the time to make a commitment - in this I was really hopeful, because I have been talking to the minister. I did not expect to get $10 million, I did not even expect to get $5 million, Mr. Speaker, maybe not even a million, I never even got half-a-million out of $70 million, and now I have to go back and tell these people: Settle down, now. Settle down (inaudible) roads.

I see the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation back in the House. I know it is continuing on transportation but the point I am making here today, Minister, is that it would be hard for me to go back and settle people down when there is $70 million for the Province, for thirty-three communities, and I got $300,000. It will be hard for the federal member, too, Mr. Speaker, to justify this. It is really too bad. Fairness is not there and I am really, really disappointed today. I have been working with the minister in trying to be fair with him, talking to him; and, Mr. Speaker, my colleague, who is in the hospital today and we wish him well - hopefully, he will be back next week. He fought so hard for money for his district.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I do not think that came through. I have to get the final list. I am going through this list - I have done my own list so far. To be honest with you, I have not had time to look through the full list, all I did was, take out the brown envelope today, take out my list, and then I started to look for another sheet of paper. I said, there has to be something else. I mean, there has to be something else, I pulled this out and started to look through the brown envelope, there was nothing there.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation has left again, but I was just making a point while she was here. She knows. I have been trying to settle down the people with their protests on the roads and tried to come back with some short-term or long-term commitment. I do not want them out there protesting, I am not gaining anything by having people out in the streets. So I was hoping if infrastructure came in I could settle down and say: You got your water and sewer anyway, or you have a water-line that will be done, or something, but there is nothing. So it is really disappointing and it is unfair. It is unfair, too unfair. And there are more districts in the Province - I know they have been down talking to the minister, who think it is unfair. And you are going to have a hard time going back to your rural communities saying money has gone to a civic centre or there is money gone to an ice plant, $300,000 but you did not get your $100,000 for a small water-line; it will be hard to justify that, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: That is what it is. It is priority.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, I certainly am complaining, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. As a matter of fact, I want you to get up and support me on this complaint.

MR. EFFORD: You had better keep on the good side of me because (inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I tell the minster, he had better be on the good side of me for this particular issue because they really got whitewashed on this. I am trying to settle down the people in my district, and I hope the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture will support me on this and agree that it was not fair, and that the people of this district who are represented by a government side and an Opposition side, Mr. Speaker - they are represented by both sides. All of this tells me it was not politics, I agree with the minister. I think it was, Mr. Speaker, an overlooking again of rural Newfoundland and making commitment to it.

Mr. Speaker, I was going to talk on other issues today, the HST and the federal elections coming up but I squashed all that to make this point today, and will finish with this point, because I only have a couple of minutes left. But just make the overlying point of the last twenty-five minutes that I spoke, that rural Newfoundland right now, today, is desperate for some sign of hope that the government believes in rural Newfoundland and they are going to show commitment and it was not in this infrastructure announcement today, it was not there and Mr. Speaker, if we are going to revive Newfoundland you have to start to the grass roots which is rural Newfoundland, the people that built this Province.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, the leader of the House is saying, after I held up this list and explained it for the last half hour without any cynicism, trying to be constructively critical of this which it is and the facts are there, it is on the paper and the House leader says sookie. Mr. Speaker, obvious to me does the House leader, he is representing the government, I was dead on, that the government has missed the boat when it talks about commitment to rural Newfoundland, if the House leader believes that, that is his problem.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I will ignore that because it is not worth really a comment.

Bottom line I will leave with Mr. Speaker, is that if we are going to revive Newfoundland it has to start at grass roots, which is rural Newfoundland the people who built this Province, so commit to it. If we are going to revive the Province and have such a department called rural renewal, show some commitment, show infrastructure.

So, Mr. Speaker, with those words I move an amendment today. I move the following amendment, see of this sound familiar to the Government House Leader, the following amendment, that all the words after the word that be struck and replaced with the following: this House condemn the government for its failure to accurately represent the true state of the economy of the Province and the governments consequence of failure to take appropriate budgetary action to deal with the real problems. Sound familiar to the Government House Leader? I so move that Mr. Speaker and I make sure and again I make the point before I sit down and seconded by the hon. member from St. John's East and I move that motion and make the point that rural Newfoundland needs to see something and they need to see it quickly and they need to see the commitment by government and I hope to see it very, very soon Mr. Speaker.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I agree with the hon. Government House Leader, there would be no reason to adjourn the House or to recess to rule. It is the ruling of the Chair that the amendment is in order.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

My colleagues do wish to make a few comments now. I did stick to just one topic for the thirty minutes that I have spoken already Mr. Speaker, but I will reiterate it again then I will sit down and give my colleague a chance to speak. Rural Newfoundland needs help now, it has to be done, it has to be shown in commitment, concrete, not rhetoric or lip service, it has to be shown with some concrete examples.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader on a point of order.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, you have ruled that the amendment is in order and I would assume that the hon. gentlemen is now speaking to the amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte speaking to the point of order.

MR. SHELLEY: Very good, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Government House Leader, very good. How long have you been here?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes I am speaking to the law. Yes Mr. Speaker, I am.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to reiterate just one main point -

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The hon. member is speaking to the amendment, yes.

The hon. member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Even the speaker did not want to rebut on those comments.

Mr. Speaker, I will just reiterate the point and then I will sit down and let my colleague speak.

Rural Newfoundland needs to see something and it needs to see it quickly and they need it in the forms of physical evidence of necessities. Water and sewer, roads, health care services, education, they need to see it in necessities Mr. Speaker.

They are not asking for double lane highways or asking for tall buildings or hospitals, they are asking for the necessities. This government has to make that commitment, Mr. Speaker, and they need to do it soon because people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are looking for it and they need to see it soon. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to second the amendment as presented so capably and so competently by my colleague, the Member for Baie Verte. The exact wording that the House condemn the government for its failure to accurately represent the true state of the economy of the Province and the government's consequential failure to take appropriate budgetary action to deal with the real problems. Mr. Speaker, that is really what we are talking about here this morning. We are talking about the real problems which exist in this Province and which is why members on this side of the House have moved this amendment for a vote of non-confidence. Now the government has failed, Mr. Speaker, to adequately respond to the many issues which exist in our Province today, none the least of course are such primary issues, such as health, education and the very recognizing of great need of the people of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, earlier today in this House I spoke briefly about a meeting which I attended last night in the community of Southern Harbour which is in the district of Bellevue. The people of that community, Mr. Speaker, showed disgust at the way that their representations and their recommendations as to how education could be improved in their community were being completely overlooked and ignored by the powers that be. Mr. Speaker, at that meeting there was a group of concerned parents, concerned community leaders who make up what is known as a school council. As members are aware, Mr. Speaker, under the new schools act legislation each school must have a school council which is made up of an administrator, parents and other interested community minded people who want to have a say and have a vested interest in their school but certainly want to have some say as to the direction that the school will take in their community. That is to say, Mr. Speaker, if there are any communities left with schools.

Mr. Speaker, this group of interested people last night sat down and discussed with me and shared with me the frustration that they have been experiencing over the last several weeks in trying to deal with their school board to recognize the very real problems which exist. We have a small community. One can argue a viable school within this community which today has a student population of approximately 150 students. They are not insisting that this school now retain all of those grades from kindergarten to Grade XII. That can probably not happen and in fact if that were to continue, Mr. Speaker, it would be outside the guidelines, the recommendations and the definition of what a viable school is all about. What they do feel is appropriate is the retaining and the keeping open of that school at least for kindergarten to Grade VI or as a school from Grade VII or VIII to Level III. Then in cooperation with nearby communities, the neighbouring community, in this case Arnold's Cove, would have the other half of the student body that the southern school community did not have.

Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity to see the school and we see here about one-half of this structure, one-half of this facility was built in 1986-87, some ten years ago. We have essentially what is a brand new facility. The future of which is now up in the air. The concerns being brought to school boards and school board representatives is being completely overlooked, resulting in other frustration and upheaval for those individuals in the community. The question has been asked, how is it that a new school, at the cost of millions of dollars to the public treasury, a new school at the cost of millions of dollars, which in fact is being contemplated by this school district, which is school district number eight centred in Clarenville, a new school at the cost of millions of dollars being proposed for the community of Arnold's Cove, when in fact we have essentially a new structure, just some ten years old, in a nearby community of Southern Harbour. When that school is upgraded, and that school is improved, for example they need some work on a science lab as I understand it, that upgrading work can be done at the cost of some hundreds of thousands of dollars as opposed to millions of dollars for a new facility in Arnold's Cove, how can the government stand by and allow such a decision to be carried out?

As I said earlier today during Question Period, when I raised the issue with the hon. Minister of Education, how can he make cuts, make adjustments and reductions in education in one breath, which he has been doing repeatedly over the last number of months, and stand by and do nothing and say nothing when, in fact, millions of dollars, millions of taxpayers' dollars, are being spent or are being contemplated on being spent, on a school which in reality is not needed? There is a great inconsistency here, Mr. Speaker. There is an inconsistency here which the people of the community of Southern Harbour, for example, simply cannot understand, and they have asked that their concerns and representations be made.

The minister cannot say, `We will reduce the number of teachers in this Province by some 468', but at the same time ignore the fact that we have a viable structure in a community like Southern Harbour, spend millions of taxpayers' dollars in unnecessarily building a brand new school in a neighbouring community, all in the name of education reform. It just does not fly. There is no logic to that decision, and that is why it is imperative, not in all cases but in some instances, for the minister to take a proactive role in the decisions which are being made in education in this Province today.

It is not good enough for the minister to simply say, `Leave it to the boards; leave it to the volunteer boards'. Nobody in this House would argue with the fact that the volunteer boards are not doing their best. Of course they are. They are respected members of our Province and our communities, and they are trying their best. They are well-intentioned. There is no argument with that. The problem is that they are appointed boards, and those individuals in our communities feel that they do not have representation on these boards because these board members are merely appointed, the board members are not directly accountable to the people of the various communities, and it is just an extension of government.

That is how it is viewed, and that is how the people in Brigus view it. That is how the people in Brownsdale view the whole process. That is how individuals in Englee or in Port au Port or in Jacques Fontaine and now Southern Harbour, and I am sure there are many others, see this whole process. They see this whole educational process and alleged reform as being a process whereby there is no representation, there is no accountability, there is nobody who ultimately can represent their interests. And there are many people on these boards who have jurisdiction and responsibility over certain communities, but obviously not all communities, and in the absence of elected officials, and in the absence of elections at all, we have too many disenfranchised Newfoundlanders who feel that their concerns are not being adequately addressed, and it was evident to me last night. It was evident that the Community of Southern Harbour felt that despite its representations and concerns, they were not being listened to.

Mr. Speaker, I made a suggestion some while ago and I am still waiting for the Premier's response, that in certain situations - again, not in all; there are many very positive decisions being made by boards throughout this Province with a view to the closure of certain schools, improving the whole student transportation regime, improved busing routes, the amalgamation of certain programs. There are certain wonderful and proper decisions being made. However, we know that there are also some decisions that are not being met with the consent and the approval of a lot of people in our Province. It is in those instances that people must feel there is somebody who can respond.

I made a suggestion, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier earlier in the week that he give some consideration to the appointment of an education ombudsman who could be seen as impartial and independent, and who could remove himself from both the boards and the parents. Who could listen to all arguments, who could take into account the positions of all those with a vested interest, and who could then make a decision or a recommendation which could be followed. Then, and only in that instance, in the absence of duly elected school board officials, at least then there is seen to be somebody who is accountable, who is responsible, and who is willing to listen.

The minister, sadly enough, has said: I'm not getting involved. I wash my hands. That is his quote. At a time when education is at such a crossroads, at a time when decisions are being made which will in fact be permanent, in many cases, the minister is saying: I will not get involved. I say that is simply not good enough. I would say to the minister and to the Premier to give some consideration to the appointment of an independent or impartial body who could listen to these concerns. Preferably he should get involved. But if he continues to say that he will not, there ought to be somebody at least who can be trusted and who the people of this Province can feel they can turn to, and that is what they are asking for, that is what they are looking for. It was evident last night in Southern Harbour that despite their pleas and despite their requests for special attention and for special consideration, that was just simply not available.

There has to be a better way. We are at a crossroads. We are at a situation where never before have such critical and crucial decisions been made with respect to the future of education in Newfoundland. Apart from the denominational issue, which is an issue in a sense that the court will ultimately respond to, apart from that particular issue, just the issue of the presence of schools in certain communities, the amalgamation of schools, the busing routes, the loss of a school in a particular community, programming decisions, those kinds of decisions are long-lasting, they are permanent, and as I indicated, we are at a crossroads.

It is not good enough for government to simply say: Let appointed volunteers make these long-lasting, important, critical decisions, and how these decisions relate to the children of our Province. We need a better mechanism, we need a better way. Earlier in the week we had the galleries filled with children and parents from Brigus area. In Brigus we have another prime example of where a facility which has a top-notch gymnasium, a top-notch computer room, has the best of programming available as it now exists, a community which is proud of its educational institution, on the verge of losing it. They have tried repeatedly to work out a solution with the Avalon West School Board but that has not happened. They have had meetings, they have had representations on their behalf by elected officials, and there is still no response. It is still unknown as to when there will be a resolution to that problem.

The community of Brownsdale is another example and it shows the frustration that people in that community have, they are torn and they are simply totally dissatisfied with the notion that that community will lose its school and in fact children will be bused, half to one community I believe in Old Pelican and the other half going in the opposite direction to Bay de Verde. We have the community of Brownsdale without its educational institution and it has been argued over and over again that once a school looses that institution, it looses such a focal point. It loses the very essence of what community is all about in some of our larger communities in this Province. So, these are fundamental decisions which are being made.

We have Bishop O'Reilly High School in the community of Port au Port where parents are equally upset with the notion that those students will now be transported from Port au Port to the town of Stephenville. A school, which today has approximately 250 students, a viable school offering adequate programs and the question has to be asked, why is this change being made? But perhaps even equally important and perhaps more important, how is it that the parents in these communities and the pupils of these schools, how is it they can get their message out there? How is it a decision can be reversed? What does it take to have these people listened to and that is essentially the problem. They are not being listened to, they are not being listened to because the minister has said, listen do it your way. Has said to these appointed boards, make the decisions I do not care what they are, you are good volunteers, I do not question that, but make the decisions we will not intervene. Mr. Speaker, is that good enough and I submit that it is not. There has to be a better way.

At the meeting last night there were signs that people were not going to take this issue sitting down Mr. Speaker. In addition to the financial component of their argument, which I have referred to earlier, they feel that the location for the proposed school raises the serious question of air quality and in fact the emissions from the Come By Chance refinery as a result of certain preliminary investigations which have been carried out in that area show, at least to the parents in that area, that there is a source of concern. The concern does not exist in their own community of Southern Harbour, but in the proposed locale of this new school which the board is contemplating there is a concern which is being demonstrated by the parents of the area.

I would just like to refer briefly to one of many letters which were recently sent to the chairperson of District No. 8 in Clarenville, and it states that:

In accordance with the Schools Act, I am writing to advise you that the decision made by District No. 8 to bus Level I, II and III students to Arnold's Cove in September, and to close Our Saviour King Academy in the future will adversely affect my child. My major concern is the health and the safety of my child. I believe that you will be placing my child in a potentially dangerous situation. As you are aware, Arnold's Cove is fast becoming an industrial area and its close proximity to the refinery causes my child to be exposed to the dangers of daily chemical emissions. As well, there will be an increase in industrial traffic through the town with the construction of a transshipment site. I think that the board, when making its decision, should have considered the future health and safety of my child. My child could have been educated in a healthier environment at less cost to the government and to the board, and this particular parent simply asked the question: Why hasn't the board decided to do so?

That letter, as indicated, has been forwarded to the district chairperson, to the Chair of Policy and Planning Committee, and to the Secretary of District No. 8.

Mr. Speaker, there is a concern, and in that particular community it goes beyond just educational issues, programming issues, the loss of school and community issue, curriculum issues, denominational issues, even financial issues. The thrust of this letter is the concern of the health and the safety of a child. So the question again has to be asked and directed to the minister: When does the minister intervene? What does it take for the minister to simply say: Well, maybe I shouldn't wash my hands of the situation. Maybe I should become involved.

MR. E. BYRNE: Maybe I should not be Pontius Pilot.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Maybe I should not be Pontius Pilot. Thank you, I say to the Member for Kilbride, because that exactly is the role that the minister is playing and that is the position that he has taken ever since this whole designation issue has arisen. There are too many people in our Province today, Mr. Speaker, who simply say that is not good enough and that the minister must become involved. He is the Minister of Education. It is as simple as that. How the Minister of Education can take a back seat and say, `Let them work it out' is beyond me, at a time when such crucial decisions, such long-lasting and permanent decisions are being made in our Province. It simply, Mr. Speaker, does not make sense and I am astounded to think that during the tail end of reform, which is really where we are - I am just astounded to think that that position can be maintained by the minister, by his leader and by the government in general.

Mr. Speaker, it is perhaps not too late. It is not too late for reconsideration of this view. It is now possible to ask of the minister to take a serious view and assess the very, perhaps small number, because we are not talking significant numbers in terms of -significant numbers of people but not significant numbers of communities. It is not too late for the minister to at least say yes, I will intervene. I will become involved. I will take a second look at some of the special circumstances which exist in our Province. I will respond to the concerns of the residents of Southern Harbour. I will respond to the concerns of the residents of Brigus and Brownsdale. I will respond to the concerns of the residents of Port au Port, Jacques Fontaine and Englee. I will take a particular interest to ensure that at least the people of these communities feel that there is somebody who is prepared to listen and, Mr. Speaker, then and only then will there be a feeling of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that we have a minister who is responsible and responsive - both responsible and responsive. We have a minister who wants to take a proactive role in rectifying the problems and the chaos which exist in so many aspects of education in our Province today.

So I say to the hon. the minister, it is not too late. There is still time to re-establish credibility amongst the parents in these communities which I have referred to. There is time to take an active role and to help out and to assist in eliminating the problems in those various communities. I challenge the minister to reconsider, and I challenge the hon. the Premier to respond, as he said he would in the House of Assembly a little while ago, to give his response to the notion of an educational ombudsman to intervene and to assist those people in those communities where answers are required.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's South.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader, the Chair has recognized the hon. the Member for St. John's South. He stood in his place.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. H. HODDER: I just wondered if we have agreement to adjourn the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's South.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will adjourn debate until tomorrow, Monday. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until Monday at 2:00 p.m. When we come back, we will debate the amendment so ably written by a former Opposition House Leader and used by a House Leader today.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Monday, at 2:00 p.m.