The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Admit their Lordships, the Justices of the Supreme Court.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.


Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor takes the Chair.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Ladies and gentlemen, it is the wish of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor that all present please be seated.

Thank you.


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

I take great pleasure in welcoming you to the Second Session of this, the Forty-Fourth General Assembly.

This is a period of new opportunity and challenge for Newfoundland and Labrador. A new sense of confidence in our future is taking shape, inspired by our growth and bright prospects.

The Plan is Working

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Four short years ago the challenges before us appeared overwhelming. Our Province had the poorest GDP and job growth in the country.

At the time, My Government called for two transformations to take place; one to change the way others see us, the other to change the way we see ourselves. My Government said that, if we stood together and followed a plan, we would turn things around. Our plan is working. As a result:

Our fiscal house has been put in order, and our credit rating has returned to its strongest level since the fisheries crises.

We have been leading the country in GDP growth for two years running.

Taxes have been reduced.

Our employment growth is more than double the national average.

Social assistance caseloads are at their lowest level in a decade.

Net out-migration is at its lowest level since the Northern cod moratorium began.

Now is not the time to rest.

A key challenge is the protection of our health care system. While it is ailing, it is still the best in the world. National action is needed to reform and modernize medicare. Increased federal funding is also essential to stabilize the system. My Government is committed to working in partnership with the federal government and other provinces to ensure that our health care system meets the needs and expectations of our people.

A second key challenge is to strengthen and secure economic growth for every region of our Province. In doing this, we must recognize the private sector as the engine of our economy.

My Government is committed to meeting these challenges in a fiscally prudent manner. There can be no turning back to debt and deficits to finance "quick fix" solutions to our problems.

Realizing Our Economic Potential and Future

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The Jobs and Growth Consultations

Last fall, My Government undertook a major process of public consultations on building jobs and sustaining our economic development. The public's response in these consultations was strong and inspiring. Our people are taking charge of their own futures. They see My Government as a partner in this challenge. They support the leading role volunteers play in our communities. They want our social programs to be coordinated and integrated with efforts to facilitate economic growth.

Our people also want My Government to remain committed to the principle of economic diversification, and to ensuring that our natural resources are developed in a way which provides full and fair benefits to our people.

Our people recognize that new partnerships between government, business, labour and community are needed, and that the Regional Economic Development Boards are already taking up this challenge at a community and regional level. They realize that our future must never again be determined by the prosperity of a single industry. They see small business as a sector of our economy that has yet to be fully tapped, and want My Government to maintain a climate which assists small businesses in reaching their full potential.

My Government is already moving on some of the ideas brought forward in these consultations. In the near future, it will present an interim report on what it heard.

Maintaining a Competitive Edge

Building from what it heard, My Government will announce further changes in the payroll tax, to ensure that this tax does not undermine the growth of small businesses. Details will be included in the upcoming budget.

My Government's programs of direct assistance to business will be reviewed and refocused to address the needs of small businesses more effectively. New ways of providing access to capital through community-based development agencies will be explored, as will the establishment of a Venture Capital Tax Credit.

My Government will also continue its efforts to cut red tape and ensure its regulations do not undermine the development of small businesses.

To ensure that our education system effectively responds to the needs of our people and economy, a new Labour Market Development Council will be established, involving government, industry, labour and post-secondary institutions.

Fundamentally, the jobs and growth consultations showed that we must put old ways and approaches aside for the greater good. This was recognized by the Irish in turning their economy around. In coming months, My Government will sponsor a visit to Ireland by government, business and labour to examine the Irish experience and see how and where it may have application to our future.

Major Projects

My Government remains fully committed to the principle that major projects like Voisey's Bay and the Labrador Hydro Project should only proceed if they provide full and fair benefits. It is similarly committed to ensuring that appropriate benefits are obtained from our developing oil and gas sector.

While discussions on the Voisey's Bay project have stalled, My Government remains confident that this project will be developed responsibly, and in a way which maximizes benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador.

My Government will make every effort to conclude negotiations with Quebec regarding hydro resources in Labrador. Further to the Memorandum of Understanding reached with Quebec on March 9, 1998, My Government has already concluded several agreements which substantially add to the revenues we get from the original Upper Churchill contract. A new Guaranteed Winter Availability arrangement has been concluded which will provide approximately $1 billion in additional revenue to our Province over the next forty years. A power recall and resale arrangement has also been concluded through which we have already received $70 million. While the original Upper Churchill contract has provided just $20 million in revenues over the past two years, these two new arrangements have provided our Province with $75 million during the same period.

My Government has set out principles it is following in negotiating an agreement for the development of the Lower Churchill. These principles are: the project must be led and managed in our Province; a majority of benefits must flow to the majority shareholder, Newfoundland and Labrador; engineering management must be based here; procurement offices must be located in our Province; first consideration should be given to provincially-based companies where they are competitive in terms of fair market price, quality and delivery.

In the coming months, My Government will attempt to conclude an agreement which satisfies these principles and reflects a new relationship with Quebec. Any agreement must demonstrate that, while we cannot rewrite the past, we can create a prosperous future together.

Important things are happening in the offshore. Offshore exploration has more than tripled in value in the past year, and is now at the highest level in a decade. This is not simply an industry based on Hibernia. It concludes the Terra Nova project, the Hebron/Ben Nevis complex, and a fourth field, White Rose, which represents an important opportunity for major gas development.

Our natural gas resources, in particular, hold tremendous potential for this Province. My Government is committed to developing a comprehensive natural gas development strategy.

A Major Projects Secretariat has already been set up within My Government to ensure that a systematic and structured approach is taken on major project benefits, and that we gain the maximum potential from them for our future.

My Government will balance its interest in the benefits from major projects with its responsibility to protect the environment. New legislation will be introduced to modernize and improve the environmental assessment process. Action will also be taken to address environmental problems, such as the clean up of the former Hope Brook Gold Mine site.

Our Developing Economy

Our fishery has been given a prosperous second chance. In return, we much act cautiously to protect and conserve the ocean's resources.

In seven short years we have turned the fishery around. Despite major obstacles, the export value of our fishing industry has doubled, and now stands at the highest value in our history.

We did this by seizing new opportunities. We recognized that we could not let this industry depend on one stock or one species. We also took important steps to improve our understanding of the resource, and deal with the problem of over-harvesting. Conservation, professionalization, and quality have become the hallmarks of our new industry. In particular, we must ensure that conservation guides every step we take.

Last year, through collaboration between the union, industry and government, a new trial bargaining process for fish prices was instituted. This process was based on the need for greater cooperation by all players. In coming months, My Government will work with the industry and the union to permanently and effectively institute this new approach. Amendments to the Fishing Industry Collective Bargaining Act will be tabled.

The Province's forest sector is also important. The pulp and paper industry is rebounding from a difficult period of labour relations, and market conditions for newsprint are improving. Lumber production is reaching record levels, and the value added wood products industry is only beginning to reach its potential. My Government is committed to working with the industry to address the need to sustain and stabilize the wood supply. It is also working in cooperation with aboriginal groups and the community at large to develop the wood resources of Labrador. A request for expressions of interest related to the development of sawmills on the Labrador Coast was recently issued.

Our agriculture, agrifoods and nutriceutical industries are also notable contributors to our economy. This was recognized in the jobs and growth consultations.

Our tourism industry is experiencing breathtaking growth. Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador estimates that 25,000 people are directly or indirectly employed by this industry. In 1999, 400,000 visitors enjoyed our hospitality and natural beauty. This is a new record. This summer we shall press to build upon this growth with the Vikings! 1000 celebrations.

As a specific priority, My Government will work to make Newfoundland and Labrador a major destination for the cruise industry. This year, cruise ships will bring almost 28,000 visitors to our shores and bays.

Our natural beauty and pristine environment are essential to our tourism product. To this end, My Government will issue a natural areas system plan that protects sensitive and representative ecological sites.

Our culture is also important. My Government is providing new funding to the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Foundation. Progress is being made on The Rooms, a new home for the Provincial Archives, Museum and Art Gallery. We are reviewing funding for the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

Our information technology sector is growing at a rapid pace. Industry representatives estimate that the information technology sector has grown by 50 per cent in the past two years and has the potential to double in size within four years. This industry is not limited by geography, only by imagination.

Government and local companies have already shown significant leadership in this sector by pioneering new approaches in distance education and tele-medicine. We have also supported the development of a new generation of entrepreneurs - people like Mark Dobbin and Emad Rizkalla - who are leading the development of the high tech sector across our country. Newfoundland and Labrador companies like Aliant have become major players throughout Atlantic Canada, and indeed the world. Mr. Dobbin and Mr. Rizkalla are here with us today, I think, in the gallery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR: My Government will continue to lead and support this sector by example. In coming months, My Government will establish an IT Task Force to develop and apply a government-wide approach to dealing with online delivery and access to government services. The government internet site will be revamped. A pilot project will also be instituted whereby motor vehicle registration renewals can be submitted online.

Our ability to access and apply IT is restricted in rural areas by crowded telephone lines and inadequate equipment. This is a problem requiring action by the federal government which has exclusive regulatory responsibility in this area, and by the major telecommunications companies which have an obligation to provide quality service. My Government will work with the industry, the federal government, and key user groups to see this problem resolved.

A Fair and Competitive Tax and Fiscal Environment

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

The gains achieved through economic growth and fiscal management must be shared with the people who have worked hard to turn our economy around.

My Government has brought forward the first sales and provincial income tax reductions since Confederation.

Through the HST and other tax credits and benefits, My Government has put more than $120 million back in the hands of the people. Over the past two years, federal income tax changes have also dramatically reduced the taxes collected by My Government. Tax reductions and credits already total more than $150 million annually.

The amount of income tax that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pay has been reduced by 5 per cent this year, and as our financial position permits, total reductions will amount to about 15 per cent by the end of three years. When combined with reductions in federal income tax, $60 million will be put back into the hands of the people in 2000; $42 million of which will be from provincial tax cuts.

While tax cuts are important, My Government has made a commitment to the people of this Province that sustainable health and social programs will not be compromised.

Supporting our Families and Communities

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government is committed to maintaining effective programs which protect the well-being of our families and communities.

The development of our children is a particular priority. My Government has supported the creation of the National Child Benefit to help parents build a more secure future for themselves and their children. Under the related $10 million Provincial Re-Investment Program, My Government is providing improved infant child care and family care services, expanded family resource centre programs, and support to community-based youth networks.

My Government will examine reforms to the current social assistance system, particularly benefits provided in support of the health of under-privileged children. It will also work with the federal government and the other provinces to provide further support to parents and families through the National Children's Agenda.

A difficult decision for any family is to place an elderly loved one under long-term care. My Government has already acted to stop the unfair practice of clawing back federal support payments for the spouses of people under long-term care, where this creates economic hardship. Legislation shall be presented to this Honourable House to further deal with this matter.

My Government has also strongly applauded the Government of Canada's recent decision to provide compensation to Merchant Navy veterans, and has indicated that it will not claw back these funds to cover institutional costs now borne by the Province.

My Government has invested $1.2 million in demonstration projects under our Strategic Social Plan. It is working with organizations across Newfoundland and Labrador in addressing community needs and strengthening community supports.

Our communities must also be given the opportunity to grow and plan to meet their changing needs. My Government will bring forward a new Urban and Rural Planning Act to delegate planning power to municipal governments.

Educating Our Children

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government believes that a first class level of education is fundamental to the provision of a high quality of life for all citizens.

The Next Stage in Education Reform

When the people of this Province voted in favour of education reform, My Government promised to provide our children with a higher quality of education. This promise inspires every action we take.

Our first task was to reform the education system that kept our children apart. This was a difficult process, but we found a better way. My Government is hopeful that recent court cases have put to rest legal challenges to education reform. The time has come for all parties to pull together and make education reform a success.

All children, no matter where they live, deserve access to an education that will prepare them to face the future with confidence and optimism. That is why My Government appointed a Ministerial Panel on Educational Delivery in the Classroom. The Panel was asked to take a hard look at the K-12 system and to make specific recommendations to ensure our commitment to students is realized. The Panel's final report is expected later this month. My Government is committed to responding to its recommendations quickly.

Some of our children have special needs. My Government spends $70 million annually to support students with such special needs, a significantly higher amount per student than any other Atlantic province spends. We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure all children are inspired to reach their full potential. To this end, My Government has formed an Advisory Committee on Serving Children with Special Needs.

The story of our people and this special place in which we live must be shared with those who will write the next chapter. My Government will introduce a new Newfoundland and Labrador history course in our schools.

Access to An Affordable Future

Our commitment to students does not end when they leave high school. Our post-secondary education system must equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to compete and be successful in a rapidly changing world.

My Government is taking significant steps to make post-secondary education more affordable, despite declining federal support in this area:

It is working with Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic to ensure that tuition fees are affordable.

My Government has more than matched the $25 million private sector contribution to Memorial University's Opportunity Fund, $15 million of which will go to scholarships and fellowship endowments.

A $4 million Student Awards Program was established as a bridge to the introduction of the Millennium Scholarship Fund.

Loan remission and interest relief programs are being used to target the serious problem of student debt. The impact of this is significant. For example, graduates from a four year program who borrow $35,000 would have their debt reduced by about one-third by My Government's programs.

Together, we can do more. My Government is also conducting a review of the Student Aid Program.


Literacy skills are key to finding work and enjoying life. They are important to all people, no matter how old they are, or where they live. My Government will soon release a Strategic Literacy Plan which was drafted in consultation with key stakeholders. Implementation of our plan will begin immediately.

Health Care: A Top Priority

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

One of Canada's greatest accomplishments is our national medicare system. It is, however, under intense strain caused by a significant decline in federal financial support. The $2.5 billion announced for health in the recent federal budget will provide this Province with little more than $10 million per year over four years. This funding is not enough. Full restoration of federal transfers is essential. My Government is committed to ensuring that every penny it gets from the federal government for health is invested in our health care system.

My Government's $1.2 billion health care budget represents the largest single financial commitment it has made in any policy or program area. Health care accounts for 42 per cent of the money My Government spends on all of its programs and services. Per capita spending on health has increased by over 20 per cent since 1995-1996, despite major cutbacks in most other areas.

Investing in Health Human Resources

The nature of many health-related professions is changing. To deal with this, My Government is already undertaking a priority classification review of the positions held by nurses, licensed practical nurses, social workers and allied health professionals - including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, dietitians and speech language pathologists.

My Government has also taken steps to deal specifically with nursing issues in the health care sector: $7.5 million has been committed to create 125 new permanent nursing positions; $2.3 million has been provided for the conversion of up to 540 casual nursing positions to permanent status; another $4 million has been provided for additional support staff to improve workload issues for nurses.

My Government's recruitment efforts are also proving successful. In February, a $3,000 signing bonus was announced for graduating nurses who commit to work in our Province for at least one year. It is anticipated that up to one hundred new nurses will avail of the program this year.

During the fall of 1999, My Government also announced a three-year $225,000 Rural Incentive Program for student nurses. Up to fifty students each year are benefitting from this program.

My Government has also taken action to address the workload concerns of other health care professionals. A $32 million physician services MOU was signed with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association. Over fifty physicians have been recruited to the Province since the MOU was signed. One million dollars has been spent on physician bursary programs, including an incentive program for general practitioners and programs for specialists. Over $300,000 is being spent on seat purchase and bursary programs for allied health professionals. Twenty allied health professionals took up work under this program last year. An Integrated Health Human Resource Plan is also being developed for each region of our Province.

New Approaches

Early intervention and prevention is the key to improving population health over the long term. We must make investments in this area today, even though outcomes may not be seen for a generation or more. Every person's lifestyle and personal health has an important impact on the system.

My Government is already acting in this area by supporting healthy baby clubs, family resource centres, and youth networks, and through such measures as its tobacco reduction and nutrition strategies. Beyond this, My Government will establish a Comprehensive Breast Health Program, and renovate St. Clare's hospital to serve as a screening and main breast health diagnostic facility for the Province.

Investing in Capital Equipment and Renovations

My Government has made significant and important financial commitments to secure the stability of our health care system: $40 million has been spent to virtually eliminate the deficits of our regional health boards up to March, 1998; annual funding for the Boards' base budgets has been increased by $45 million since 1997-1998; $21 million has been invested in additional hospital equipment; $90 million was committed this year to build and improve health care facilities as part of a $250 million program.

My Government has made substantial commitments to the protection and support of health care. In the forthcoming budget, it will do more.

My Government is committed to a path that will ensure a sustainable health care system for our future. The Minister of Health and Community Services will provide regular updates on our progress and milestones as they are achieved.

A Commitment to Labrador - The "Big Land"

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Labrador is an important part of who we are. Labradorians are full partners in this Province.

On April 29, 1999, My Government brought forward amendments to the Terms of Union to ensure that the name of our Province reflects this partnership. A resolution to change the Province's name to Newfoundland and Labrador is now before the Government of Canada. We are asking the federal government to move quickly.

Labradorians deserve more than a name change. My Government has taken steps to deal with the major priorities of Labradorians. Phase I of the highway (connecting Labrador West to Happy Valley-Goose Bay) is now being completed, and construction of Phase II (connecting Red Bay to Cartwright) has commenced. My Government is committed to providing a high quality marine link to remote areas of Coastal Labrador. My Government has also entered into a four-year, $17.8 million contract for the MV Apollo to serve the St. Barbe-Blanc Sablon ferry run. This agreement will see important service improvements in time for this year's tourism season.

My Government is committed to ensuring that every dollar under the Labrador Transportation Initiative is used to maintain and improve highway and ferry services in this area.

There are other important economic and social challenges facing Labrador communities. My Government will work in partnership with the Combined Councils of Labrador and other groups to address the needs of Labradorians. To this end, a new hospital, built in partnership with the community and the corporate sector, will soon open in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. State of the art schools have been built in Rigolet and Hopedale. Improvements are also being made to schools in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and North West River. My Government has called for the elimination of excessive postal rate increases which are hurting northern communities.

My Government will work on addressing the serious housing shortage facing Labrador's North Coast. Other major problems, such as the need for better roads and related transportation and municipal infrastructure, will be tackled. Specific initiatives will be announced in the upcoming budget and over the upcoming year.

In May of last year, negotiators for My Government, the Labrador Inuit Association and the federal government reached an agreement in principle on land claims and self government. This agreement has been ratified by the LIA's membership, and will serve as the basis for a final agreement. My Government is committed to concluding a final land claims agreement quickly on the basis of the work we have undertaken together.

My Government is also committed to continuing to work with the Innu Nation. As we work together, we are building trust, understanding, and a strong foundation for the partnerships of tomorrow.

While our overall objective is the resolution of land and related claims, aboriginal communities face serious social challenges that must be addressed immediately. Together we must fight the battle against substance abuse and suicide facing them. My Government is committed to working with aboriginal groups to ensure they have the tools to help themselves deal with these challenges.

Last November, My Government reached an important agreement with the federal government and Innu Nation on first nations equivalency and related matters. My Government is committed to using any savings it realizes from this arrangement for other community priorities identified jointly with the Innu.

The Road Ahead

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Our opportunities are significant. Our potential is enormous. Challenges, however, remain. As I stated last year, by making the difficult choices when we had to, and by believing in ourselves, the people of this Province are making this new century our time.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Estimates of Expenditure will be laid before you in due course and you will be asked to grant supply to Her Majesty. I invoke God's blessing upon you as you commence your labours. My Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor and the Vice-Regal party leave the Chamber.

Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I shall ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Public Utilities Act," Bill 1.

Motion, the hon. the Government House Leader to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Public Utilities Act," carried. (Bill 1)

On motion, Bill 1 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor has been pleased to make a speech to the Members of the House of Assembly, and we will take a few minutes now to have his speech distributed to all members.

The hon. the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SWEENEY: Mr. Speaker and hon. Members of this House, it is with great pleasure that I rise to respond to the Speech from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.

The Speech from the Throne is an important feature of our parliamentary democracy. While it is a speech to all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, we, as members, listen very carefully to its messages.

His Honour has spoken of the many opportunities and challenges before us. The people have placed their trust in us to use this House to improve our Province and the well-being of each and every Newfoundlander and Labradorian. It is a heavy responsibility but I am always thankful that the people of the Carbonear-Harbour Grace district have given it to me.

In rural Newfoundland and Labrador, it is imperative that we continue with our efforts to improve local economies and address the needs of our regions. We have to be responsive to the health care issues throughout the Province. From a local perspective, I have to bring forward overtures for enhanced emergency room facilities at Carbonear General Hospital, and a CAT scan to meet the needs of Conception Bay North.

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to quality health care and innovative initiatives. Furthermore, we must continue to pursue tourism development that will assist in the revitalization of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. In Conception Bay North, the completion of the new access road will open that region for new tourism opportunities, and hence new job opportunities; however, we should not lose sight of the fact that the Employment Insurance system is still a vital element in rural areas of our Province. We must continue to seek a fair and equitable system for our constituents.

Mr. Speaker, as His Honour mentioned, this Province has made substantial progress in the past few years, but this government is not content to simply celebrate accomplishments. Country-leading GDP and job growth, falling taxes, renewed confidence in our future, these gains say one thing to this government: Now is not the time to rest.

Mr. Speaker, we have made good progress in turning our economy around, but if we work together we can go so much further. That is why this government undertook the jobs and growth public consultations. From my perspective, there was one predominant theme during these consultations: People want to take charge of their own futures. Our economic growth has fueled a new sense of optimism and confidence. They want government to be a partner by creating an environment which encourages and supports their ideas and hard work.

Mr. Speaker, this government will answer that call. His Honour has set out some of the initiatives we will be pursuing, such as changes to the payroll tax and providing new forms of assistance to small businesses. We will also release a report on the jobs and growth public consultations to help this Province realize its tremendous economic potential.

Mr. Speaker, our health care system requires urgent attention. Our people are concerned about the health care system; they know it is under strain. They want this government and the federal government to work together to reform the system, to give it a fighting chance. Our Province has made tremendous sacrifices to give the system that chance. Since 1995-1996, per capita spending on health has increased by over 23 per cent. Today, health care accounts for 42 per cent of the money this government spends on all programs and services.

We have demonstrated our commitment to medicare through our actions. Today, we stand at a crossroads. If we work together - all the provinces and the federal government - we can create a strong and sustainable health care system for today and tomorrow.

As a final point, I wish to recognize the hard work and commitment of those who work in our health care system. We value your energy, your dedication and commitment.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I would like to thank His Honour for his attendance here today. I move that a Select Committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today on behalf of my hon. colleague, the Member for Torngat Mountains, who has been called to his district today on very important matters affecting the people of Northern Labrador.

Mr. Speaker and hon. Members of this House, it is my privilege to second the motion put forward by my friend and colleague, the hon. Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace. Before I do that, however, I would like to make a few remarks.

Mr. Speaker, the Labrador Winter Games, known as the Olympics of the North, opened in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on March 12. The games are an important event for Labradorians. They bring us together from all geographic regions and all cultures to share in very friendly and spirited competition.

Mr. Speaker, His Honour spoke of the government's commitment to Labrador and Labradorians. It is important that we recognize and respect the significant role that Labrador and its people have played in our past, in our present, and will play in the future of this Province.

I remember last spring when we stood together in support in this House on a resolution to change the name of our Province to Newfoundland and Labrador. This was a small step; but the fact that we spoke in one voice was important, I believe, not only to Labradorians but to all people in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Today, Mr. Speaker, I call on the federal government to take the last step and make our name change official. The people of Labrador have waited long enough to take our rightful place in the name of Canada's youngest province, that being Newfoundland and Labrador.

This government is working to address the concerns and priorities of Labradorians. Construction of Phase II of the Trans-Labrador Highway has commenced, and when completed will link communities from Red Bay to Cartwright, including Lodge Bay, Mary's Harbour, St. Lewis, Port Hope Simpson, Charlottetown and Paradise River. The improved and expanded ferry service for the Labrador Straits region will allow us to enhance and promote our tourism industry.

We have constructed state-of-the-art schools in Nain, in Rigolet, in Hopedale and Norman Bay. Very soon a new hospital will open in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to serve that region and other areas of Labrador. We are making progress in land claim negotiations, laying the foundation for a future of cooperation and shared prosperity with our Aboriginal people. We have come a long way, there is no doubt, but many challenges remain. Many of our communities are facing serious social problems for which there are no easy answers.

As I sat for the opening of the Labrador Winter Games 2000 and watched the Inuit drum dancers from Nain perform, I thought: How could a culture with such beauty be struggling with such challenges?

In the past few weeks, a number of Labradorians have tragically died in the Inuit community of Nain. Their deaths are a challenge to us as leaders and as a government, to work harder to address the issues of small northern communities.

Mr. Speaker, today I trust that I can speak for all members of this House in offering our condolences and our sympathy to the community of Nain and the many families that have been affected by these terrible losses. I would also, on behalf of all members, if I may, offer my support and our support and strength to the Member for Torngat Mountains who, under very difficult circumstances, continues to serve the people of Northern Labrador in a very committed and dedicated way, working to find solutions for his people with all of us.

I am proud of the fact that this government is committed to working with Labradorians, to working through the social problems and the many challenges that we face, to creating sustainable communities and a positive environment for our people, for it is the Liberal way and it is this type of partnership that gives our people hope and our government strength.

Mr. Speaker, it is with enthusiasm for the prosperous future ahead for our Province, Newfoundland and Labrador, that I second the motion brought forward today by my colleague, the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

Thank you

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I would like to speak to those people who have attended the ceremony today, just for a moment. This normally is not a time for partisanship - we will have lots of opportunity beginning tomorrow and the days following for that - but normally the Speech from the Throne is supposed to be a document that sets out a government's vision, a government's hope, a government's aspirations for what it wants to achieve for the people of this Province, in its communities. It is supposed to be a document that sets forward a framework for debate, an opportunity for public policy involvement and discussion in what really are the challenges that face the people in this Province.

I cannot help but comment and say to the Minister of Finance - the new Minister of Finance - that this document this year represents, what I see, last year's Budget Speech and a collection of press releases that have come out thereafter.

This opportunity is my opportunity today to say to the people of the Province that over the coming weeks and months the grid by which the Opposition and the party that I represent, and the criteria by which we will judge this government's actions, are based on sound principles.

First of all, when we look at each and every government program or initiative we will look at it from this perspective: How well does this government, through its programs, through its budget, through its initiatives in meeting challenges, how well does that promote the notion of self-reliance amongst the people of our Province? How well does it assist each and every person to become more self-reliant in this Province? How well does it position young people emerging into the workforce to take charge of their own destinies to become more self-reliant? That is one of the criteria by which we will judge this government in the coming weeks, months and years.

The second thing that we will use in terms of our litmus test, the second principle that we will judge this government by, is: What is the characteristic of their social conscience through their programs and HRD, through the crisis that we see now in Labrador - that the member just alluded to - through how we respond through this Legislature? Will we take the initiative and the view that a hand up is better than a hand out? Will we take the view, in meeting the challenges in the communities that need help, individuals who need help, people who have been marginalized through no fault of their own, people who need the assistance of the social safety net - how well does this government work with them? How much of a hand up will this government give them? That is the second criteria in our litmus test by which we will be judging this government.

The third test, the most important when it comes to resource management, whether it be in fisheries, whether it be in sustainability in our forest industry, whether it be in the mining industry, not only on mega-projects such as Voisey's Bay - how we encourage and provide incentives for junior mining companies. What about Labrador and the Lower Churchill? This is the third Throne Speech in which I have heard it talked about.

Two years ago in this Legislature the Premier of the Province bullied and tried to say to the Opposition: Will you support the deal or not? We said at that time, and we stand by what we said then: When we see a deal, we will respond to it. To date we have not seen one.

I guess the criteria by which we will judge any and all resource development will be simply this: Does it provide first for the people of the Province? Does it have long-lasting value in terms of benefits, revenues, royalties, taxation, jobs, transfer of technology, et cetera? That is the third test which we will put this government through.

The fourth test, in terms of public accountability: openness, transparency; whether that be in the public tenders that business men and women in this Province apply to; whether it be in openness and honesty in government; whether it be with somebody who is being hired in government; whether it be that each and every person in this Province, in their dealings with government, will be dealt with honorably, will be dealt with professionally; and the criteria by which we do business: first of all, that we get value for the people of the Province; and secondly, when we provide contracts, that it is based upon what we know and not who we know.

The fifth criteria that is in our litmus test, as we look forward to the coming weeks and months - and I will not prolong it much after this - the fifth test that we will judge this government by is, how well they promote our sense of who we are; how well they promote our independent spirit; how well they promote the uniqueness of what makes Newfoundland and Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador.

The last test, the last criteria by which we will judge this government's action, whether it be through legislation, whether it be through our own initiatives using the parliamentary tools at our disposal to bring forward, is simply this: How well does this government, and how well should any government, hold the federal government to account for its actions or lack of actions with respect to this Province?

From my point of view, on behalf of the Opposition and on behalf of the party I represent and lead, those are the fundamental principles that we will apply to any and all of the actions in the coming weeks, in the coming months, in the coming Budget, in Question Period, through private members' resolutions, any means at our disposal, that those are the criteria that we intend to judge this government by.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government and the Leader of the Opposition, I want first of all to say to our guests with us today that this is not a day, as he said, for partisan debate. I think he bordered a little on the edge of it - he was getting there - but he restrained himself slightly. I do want to say, as he said, that will come later.

I want, on behalf of the government, to congratulate His Honour for his gracious and eloquent remarks to us today, and to say to the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair and the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace that their comments were well-founded. They were the kind the comments that members of this House should make. I believe that contained in them were words of wisdom to all of us, and that you should serve your constituency first and bring forward their points of view to this House. That is what this Legislature and Parliament is about, an opportunity to represent the people who elect us.

I want also to say that I know that all members of this Legislature, at the beginning of this new millennium, will dedicate every day, regardless of whether it is partisan debate or not, to helping advance Newfoundland and Labrador towards its tremendous potential.

Today the job that I am doing usually falls to the Premier of this Province, and doing this job for him is not one that I necessarily cherish or want, particularly in view of the circumstances that some people in Labrador today find themselves in, and in particular our colleague the Member for Torngat Mountains, who, as the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair said, takes his duties and the well-being of his people very seriously.

The Premier today is with the Member for Torngat Mountains. Together they will be meeting with those in authority and those who provide support services to families, and a community dealing with yet another tragedy in Labrador. I am sure all Members of this House would want to join with me and with them over the next couple of days in extending support, concern and a commitment to helping Labradorians deal with the challenges before them.

The Speech from the Throne spoke of a prosperous future and the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador has turned a corner, particularly as it relates to economic development. There is no doubt that this government has put our fiscal house in order, that we are leading the country in GDP growth, that employment growth is more than the national average, and that social assistance caseloads are at their lowest level in a decade. We have turned the corner on the problem of out-migration by creating new hope and prosperity.

As the ads that are run on various media in this Province say: We are doing it and we are doing it right here. It is the people of this Province who are to be congratulated in the way that they have responded to the crisis and the downturn in the groundfish industry, the moratorium that just about took the life completely out of this Province.

I am not going to take much longer than the Leader of the Opposition, except to say that we accept the role of an Opposition in this Legislature, that it is part of this democratic process that keeps this country and this Western world that we live in what it is. I am glad to see that the Leader of the Opposition will hold the government to a vision, because we do have a vision of a vibrant prosperous people, proud of their heritage, ready to take on the challenges and ready to accomplish great goals in the twenty-first century.

Let me just say that in terms of a social conscience - that was, I believe, his second criterion that he would hold us accountable for - that the Throne Speech outlines that this government, while being fiscally responsible, has increased expenditure in every area of the social well-being of our people, of our health care system and so on. We have increased expenditure in this Province by some $300 million. More needs to be done and more has to be done in conjunction and in partnership with the federal government.

Resource development was the third criterion that the hon. gentlemen said he would hold us accountable for, whether indeed our resource development was for the long and the lasting benefit of our people.

This Premier and this government have recently undergone attacks on all fronts, including from my friend across the way, about our stand on Voisey's Bay. Let me say to you that this government has proved over the past couple of months that resource development and full and fair benefits for our people are one of our top priorities.

In terms of people involvement in this government and openness and transparency, there has never been a government in this Province that has involved our people more in the decision making process in government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, for the last couple of sessions we have been accused of consulting our people to death.

I think the fifth criterion that he used was promoting our sense of who we are. Again, I don't believe there has ever been any government, to be frank with the hon. gentleman, that comes in here, I don't believe there is ever any forty-eight members that come in here, that do not, as Members of this House and as the people of this Province, undertake to promote a sense of who we are and where we are going.

I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that while we are not going to get into a partisan debate today, I recognize and I ask him to hold us accountable under those sets of regulations or guidelines he has laid down for his own party.

I said we have turned the corner. We should take pride in our accomplishments but we should also recognize the challenges that lay ahead. Many people may not understand this, but this Legislature has always, and will continue to be, a partisan place. It is that partisanship which protects our democracy and the way of life that we know. However, I want to say to everybody today that it works, and I know it will work for the people of this Province in the upcoming session.

Mr. Speaker, this government looks forward to the upcoming session and to the challenges that will obviously be laid before us.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that an address of thanks be presented to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne with which he has been pleased to open the present session of the House of Assembly.

The members of the Select Committee will be the Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace, the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, and the Member for Harbour Main-Whitbourne.

All those in favour of the motion, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: Against?

I declare the motion carried.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to consider certain resolutions for the granting of Interim Supply to Her Majesty.

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

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

For those who noticed, the Speaker looked at me with a sort of quizzical look, as much to say: What is the Notice of Motion? We are obligated today, for everyone's information - tomorrow being Private Members' Day, being the Opposition's day - to give notice today to all members, which is why we are doing it now.

It is certainly moved by myself as Leader of the Opposition, the Member for Kilbride, seconded by the Opposition House Leader, the Member for Ferryland. The resolution reads:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT this hon. House condemn the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada for: one, refusing to provide adequate funding for health care; two, placing in jeopardy the ability of the Province to uphold the five principles of medicare, namely: comprehensiveness, universality, accessibility, portability, and public administration, and: three, compelling the Province to privatize certain health care treatments and services that the publicly funded medicare system can no longer provide to all who require medical care.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before we condemn too many other people, I would move that this House adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m., at which time we will hear all the condemnation that is necessary.

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