The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Hodder): Order, please!

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, the Justices of the Supreme Court have arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit the Justices of the Supreme Court.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please be seated.

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: It is the wish of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor that all present please be seated.

Thank you.


Mr. Speaker, Members of the House of Assembly and people of Newfoundland and Labrador:

This year, My Government will undertake a range of new and improved initiatives to seize more effectively the opportunities to grow our economy, invest in our culture, and demonstrate a strong social conscience.

But first, it is worthwhile to reflect upon one of the most important developments in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. On the fifth of June in 2004, the Prime Minister of Canada accepted My First Minister's proposal for the fair sharing of offshore oil and gas revenue. On the fourteenth of February, this year, in 2005, following eight months of challenging discussions of details, My Government and the Government of Canada ratified a groundbreaking new agreement on offshore revenues that enables Newfoundland and Labrador to retain 100 per cent of its provincial offshore revenue, thereby truly making this Province the principal beneficiary of our offshore resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: This was indeed a turning point in our Province's history, a moment that will define our Province for generations to come.

The agreement includes the advance provision by the Government of Canada of two billion dollars in lieu of revenue that will flow in years to come; however, the total revenue over the life of the agreement will likely be even greater than this. Still, the magnitude of the fiscal challenge our Province faces is such that, even with this substantial new revenue, one cannot afford to waste one precious penny. My Government is determined to invest the new revenue wisely in ways that will generate the greatest long-term return for our Province and enable future generations to share in the benefits of these nonrenewable resources long after they are depleted.

My Government thanks Prime Minister Martin for recognizing our Province's unique financial challenges and resolving to help us address them. Our Province also recognizes the tremendous efforts of My Premier. He was tenacious and determined in his fight for greater benefits for this Province. His spirit, attitude and leadership have resulted in a brighter future for Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Newfoundland and Labrador aspires to become one of Canada's brightest success stories and to make even stronger contributions to the Canadian family as a truly equal partner, in practice as well as principle.

Money aside, the true significance of the Atlantic Accord 2005 is pride. During the difficult period of talks on the Atlantic Accord, our Province's residents, expatriates, and supporters alike stood steadfastly together, unshakable in their confidence and unwavering in their commitment to Newfoundland and Labrador. Through media such as the worldwide web, movers and shakers like Kevin McCann of the "" website demonstrated with competence the new attitude that has taken hold in Newfoundland and Labrador. My Government is deeply appreciative of the outpouring of support during this process and commend the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for standing together for the greater good of us all. Even more important than the revenue, this new attitude of pride and self-confidence is the currency that will purchase our Province's success in the years ahead.

This new attitude is strongly reflected in our Province's culture. Our stories, songs, traditions, and pictures have always reflected resilience and tenacity in the face of great obstacles; but more and more, our cultural icons are encouraging our people to aim higher. It is time to put the bountiful resources of our Province to work for our people so that our sons and daughters can remain here to raise sons and daughters of their own. These sentiments are echoed in the powerful lyrics of bands like Great Big Sea, who sing:

In this beautiful life,

there's always some sorrow

It's a double-edged knife,

but there's always tomorrow

It's up to you now if you sink or swim

Keep the faith and your ship will come in.

This strength also sings through the songs of Ron Hynes, RASA, Shaye, Crush, Kevin Collins, Pamela Morgan, Jason Greeley, The Flummies, Spirit of Newfoundland, The Fables, Brothers in Stereo, The Irish Descendants, Jenny Gear, The Carol Players, The Masterless Men, and so many other promising musicians. It reverberates through the writings of ED Riche, Wayne Johnston, Lisa Moore, Michael Winter, Ramona Dearing, Leo Furey, Nellie Strowbridge, Beth Ryan, Joel Hynes and Michael Crummey, to name but a few. It is portrayed in the theatrical work of Jillian Keiley, Lois Brown, and Donna Butt. It is reflected in the photography of Sheilagh O'Leary, Brian Ricks, and Manfred Buchheit and the paintings of Mary Pratt, Lloyd Pretty, Grant Boland, Shelley Cornick, Ian Sparkes, E.J. Wareham, and a host of others. The spirit is framed in the films of Paul Pope and Gerry Rogers. It shines through the works of Seamus O'Regan, Rick Mercer, Rex Murphy, Mary Walsh, Gordon Pinsent, Robert Joy, Tina Maddigan, and Sebastian Spence. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, the iceberg of the talent that Newfoundland and Labrador is producing.

Through so many media in so many ways, our people and indeed the entire world are beginning to see Newfoundland and Labrador as they have never seen it before. Where once there was uncertainty, there is now renewed pride. Where once there was pessimism, there is now renewed hope. Where once there was powerlessness, there is now renewed confidence in our ability to shape our destiny to our own design. If our grandparents could succeed in carving a home here when the opportunities were so limited, how much greater our successes can be with opportunities that are so vast.

Celebrating Our Culture

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

With a new Atlantic Accord now successfully achieved, My Government is prepared to move forward, in a much more visible and powerful way, with far-reaching economic development initiatives and cultural policy strategies.

Now that our people have been reinvigorated by a renewed pride and hope for our future, we as a society must not allow that sense of self-confidence and optimism to fade. Rather, we must nurture and sustain our hope and pride so that it propels our people to a brighter future. We can best build that brighter future if tomorrow's leaders have a better appreciation of the legacy they have inherited from our generations.

Music, drama, writing, film, and visual arts, along with other forms of expression, allow us to capture and communicate our culture. In their Blueprint for the Future, My Government stated that, "in its first mandate, government will increase the presence of cultural content in the school curriculum and foster links between artists and students in the school environment." Through the implementation of a sustained, integrated, and coherent strategy, Newfoundland and Labrador history and culture will be affirmed as a key feature of the K-12 curriculum, and students will develop a critical awareness of the role of the arts in creating and reflecting our heritage. Students, and those who witness their expression of the arts, will also come to respect the contributions of individuals and cultural groups to the arts in both local and provincial contexts and will recognize the value of the arts as a record of our unique experience.

The social, cultural, and economic benefits of My Government's cultural strategy will be significant. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, especially our younger people, will grow in their understanding and appreciation of our unique culture. Their sense of place will help build the confidence to carry the Province proudly through the next generations.

To promote the arts generally, My Government will introduce a comprehensive fine arts and culture strategy within the education system that includes expanding the curriculum for the arts, music, theatre arts, fine arts, and social studies; supporting professional development; promoting our culture through the acquisition of works by local authors, artists, and performers; and investing in the acquisition and repair of musical equipment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: To promote collaboration with our artists, My Government will work with the Province's writers and artists to develop a new Artists in Schools Program to connect musical, dramatic, and visual artists with students in classrooms, enabling them to benefit directly from the inspiration and mentorship that our cultural muses can provide. There will also be arts institutes where students can benefit from hands-on mentoring, and fine arts conferences to facilitate teachers' professional growth.

The intent of My Government's actions is to promote our culture and instill in our young people a stronger sense of pride in who we are as a people.

This renewed focus on identity and culture is nowhere more important than in our Province's Aboriginal communities. My Government is committed to the development of culturally-relevant curriculum, beginning with social studies and art, to reflect the rich legacies of Aboriginal peoples. We will accomplish this through provincial investment and through partnership, where possible, with federal authorities at Canadian Heritage and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

The needs and aspirations of the Innu of Labrador are a priority of My Government. In collaboration with the Government of Canada and Innu Band Councils, My Government is committed to a process that will ensure the education system fulfils the needs of young people in the Innu communities. The ultimate goal is to provide the Innu communities with the means to take control of their own lives and their own collective destiny. Education is fundamental to the success of that endeavour. All of our Provinces's young people deserve an opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to reach their potential, and My Government is committed to enabling this.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Our culture not only inspires; it also employs. No area of opportunity for business growth is more promising or exciting than our Province's cultural sector. By blending the past and the present and combining outside and local influences, contemporary creators have developed a distinctive "voice" that is gaining recognition internationally. We are like no other place, and My Government intends to nurture that uniqueness.

In our Province, culture is a driver of economic wealth and contributes to better education, education, identity and social cohesion, community health and quality of life. It also shapes the face of Newfoundland and Labrador that greets the wider world.

To nurture our cultural strengths, My Government will bring forward this year a Strategic Cultural Plan to promote our heritage, celebrate our identity, and champion creativity.

To ensure the plan is comprehensive and effective, My Government will convene a roundtable discussion with the arts and heritage communities on the proposed details and, together, we will embark with them on a partnership of strengthening our cultural identity, building a creative Province, and seizing the economic opportunities for generations to come.

My Government looks forward to the opening of one of the most unique and exciting cultural facilities in Canada. The Rooms will house the Archives, Art Gallery, and Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Rooms will offer a combination of excellent programs and services, together with effective educational and public outreach programs, and thereby make the institution relevant and meaningful for every school-aged child and every adult in our Province.

My Government will also create a Provincial Historic Sites and Monuments Board to identify, designate, preserve, and celebrate the people, places and events that embody the rich history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

My Government is delighted this year to join with the Roman Catholic community of Newfoundland and Labrador in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the completion and consecration fo the Basilican-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John's. Our Province celebrates with its Roman Catholic community the remarkable contributions that the Church has made throughout Newfoundland and Labrador over the centuries.

Newfoundland and Labrador is being discovered again, this time as a unique, exotic, tourism destination. The Province's unique natural attractions, its communities and its people, and its cultural heritage are powerful assets for our tourism industry. From Mackinsons to Makkovik and from Roddickton to Ramea, our visitors are captivated by the magnificent landscape and seascape, by our unique history and culture, and by a pride that is unmatched anywhere.

Tourism is a real export earner and wealth generator for any destination, particularly one that has the potential of this Province. My Government recognizes that an investment in tourism will generate revenue in all regions of the Province through increased visitors and increased capacity of accommodations and activities, resulting in increased employment and revenue for tourism operators and for the communities in which they reside.

My Government believes that, in order to reach our true tourism potential, we must continue to market our destination professionally. It is through effective and increased marketing efforts that we will continue to grow our share of non-resident visitors and spending.

Fostering Economic Growth

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Cultural tourism is just one opportunity to foster economic growth. There are many others. In all sectors of our economy, My Government will begin replacing barriers to opportunity with bridges to success.

My Government has already outlined a comprehensive blueprint for economic development. Newfoundland and Labrador competes for investment and export market share against many other jurisdictions. Our economic future will be determined by our success in reaching, and ultimately exceeding, not just our nearest competitors in the rest of Canada and other North Atlantic countries, but also the emerging economic powers of the Pacific rim.

The focus must be on building a competitive economy driven by private sector firms selling in competitive markets and operating out of all regions of our Province. The key to success will be our Province's performance in attracting investment, driving innovation, and building and attracting new skills throughout the Province.

Last year, My Government established a new Department of Business to facilitate growth and investment throughout rural and urban regions of our Province. My Government will strive to make Newfoundland and Labrador a more business friendly location and work to ensure continued growth and investment in our Province.

In its inaugural year, the Department of Business has undertaken a comprehensive inventory of provincial business development programs. This inventory will allow My Government to assess its business support functions and help it to identify where enhanced measures will need to be targeted.

Small and medium size businesses are the backbone of our Province's economy. To grow economic opportunities, our Province must nurture its business sector.

The issue of poor access to capital is well documented as a major barrier to business growth in Newfoundland and Labrador. My Government is preparing to address this weakness with significant new initiatives to leverage business success. In particular, My Government will create sources of capital to enable businesses to establish, grow, diversify, and prosper.

The Department of Business has also undertaken a strategic audit of government's branding practices. In order to identify ways to better position Newfoundland and Labrador as an attractive place in which to visit, live and set up business, My Government will be developing a major branding initiative.


My Government will create strong trade and marketing development units to help businesses identify new opportunities for growth. We will also seek the reduction of trade barriers.

To advance diversification, My Government have undertaken a range of initiatives involving broadband, marine industries, provincial education export strategies and the provincial nominee program. This year, My Government will unveil a major Innovation Strategy that will develop an advanced technology base in the Province, with a major emphasis on ocean technology and marine sciences in the Avalon area and the emerging environmental sector in Western Newfoundland.

In the months ahead, My Government will move forward with a Rural Development Strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador. The departments of Business and Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, in partnership with other levels of government, regional economic development boards, small business, industry and community organizations, will continue to implement a number of key initiatives that are significantly benefitting our rural economies.

Last year, My Government established a Rural Secretariat to coordinate initiatives to revitalize our rural communities. Following consultations, My Government has recently announced a structure for the Rural Secretariat which will enhance partnerships and decision-making between government and communities. The structure will involve nine sustainable regional regions each with a Regional Council, and a Provincial Council of the Rural Secretariat. The Provincial Council will meet directly with Cabinet and ensure regional perspectives inform public policy development and implementation.

My Government has recently hired a Chief Information Officer who will be responsible for streamlining and enhancing service delivery, reforming management and operational IT practices throughout government, and bridging the role of government in public service delivery with the private sector. The new Chief Information Officer has completed a review of the government's information technology functions and found considerable opportunity for new approaches. Strategic improvements will be made to My Government's IT functions that will result in a more efficient, better organized, and accessible provincial government.

Productivity, competitiveness and a stable labour climate are hallmarks to economic growth. Last year My Government established the Labour Relations Agency to work toward the improvement of labour relations in the Province and to maintain a stable labour relations climate conducive to economic growth. This year, government will enhance the role of the Agency in improving productivity and competitiveness in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Agency will expand its work with business and labour at the level of the workplace, and build strategic partnerships with other government departments in the pursuit of economic development.

Harnessing Our Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government will take the lead in harnessing our bountiful natural resources for economic growth throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

The people of our Province are determined to set the bar higher when determining acceptable arrangements for the development of our resources. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians must be the principal beneficiaries of these developments. No longer will our people watch quietly as our resources create opportunities for others at our expense.

My Government is delighted with the achievements of the Hibernia, Terra Nova, and White Rose projects and is eager to advance development at Hebron-Ben Nevis and exploration in the Orphan and Laurentian basins and offshore Labrador. My Government will continue to work with developers to advance these and other projects. My Government will stand by its belief that there must be no more giveaways. It will explore opportunities to better harness these resources for the greater benefit of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My Government is also pleased with the successes and emerging opportunities in the mining and mineral exploration sector and will foster continued exploration and development in Labrador and on the Island.

My Government is in the process of developing a comprehensive Energy Plan to define energy needs, opportunities, and costs. In January of this year, My Government, in partnership with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, initiated a new approach to development of the Lower Churchill hydroelectric resource. They launched a Request for Expressions of Interest and Proposals for participation in the development. The deadline for submissions is March 31st. Ministers will assess all options and proceed when they have identified the best development concept. Their objective is to reach a development arrangement that ensures the Province will realize significant, long-term economic benefits from this untapped, clean, renewable energy resource.

In the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr. Speaker, My Government will create a Seafood Diversification and Development Division to address harvesting, processing, and marketing challenges in an integrated and comprehensive manner.

It will also create a new Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans Policy Division and expand its Planning Division to provide a better focus on fish and seafood trade issues. These and other changes will allow the department to implement new initiatives related to foreign overfishing, aquaculture, fish health, price-setting mechanisms, ecosystems management, trade and tariff barriers, and sustainable fisheries policy.

Earlier this month, My Government announced its intention to proceed with a raw material shares system for the crab fishery on a two-year pilot basis. Under the pilot project, the amount of raw material that seafood producers can process will be capped as a condition of their crab processing licence. The system will improve regional distribution of crab processing and provide for a more orderly fishery for harvesters, processors, and fish plant workers. Our crab fishery is threatened by declining prices, unfavourable exchange rates, excess inventory, fish plant overcapacity, and the possibility of the federal government cutting quotas. It would be irresponsible to sit idly by without acting to strengthen the economic engine of our fishery. My Government has committed to restructure our fish processing policies to promote sustainable balance and meaningful work in our rural areas.

My Government's Department of Environment and Conservation will spearhead a process to involve all sectors in identifying common values and implementing a shared vision for sustainable development. The department will also provide knowledge and support for environmental conservation so that our people can benefit from our resources for generations to come.

Last year, My Government indicated its support for a proposal to create a Centre of Environmental Excellence in Western Newfoundland, using as its foundation the education, training, and research capacity of Memorial University's Sir Wilfred Grenfell College and the College of the North Atlantic. The vision for this centre of excellence is that it will serve as a catalyst for the establishment of innovative companies. Advanced research and educational programs would support and strengthen new business opportunities in such areas as forestry, environmental tourism, and geospatial mapping. In the upcoming year, My Government will finalize a concept in consultation with potential partners and stakeholders, and then undertake a detailed feasibility study along with a master plan.

Working With Our Communities

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government believes it is vital to help our Province's regions and communities discover new opportunities for development by pursuing new avenues of cooperation. My Government is committed to working with our communities to capitalize on opportunities that, collectively, will provide a foundation for future growth on a provincial scale.

A major obstacle to community development is deficient infrastructure. Infrastructure is exceptionally expensive to construct and repair, but wise investments reap sizeable dividends for local communities. My Government's infrastructure strategy is to identify needs, to establish priorities, and to locate funds to proceed with important projects in multiple areas of our Province. Providing this funding earlier is enabling municipalities to plan their activities better.

One of My Government's greatest concerns is the level of debt that many municipalities are carrying and the inability of many of these smaller communities to service their debt with an aging and declining population. These demographic factors, compounded by economic challenges, have created unsustainable fiscal realities for many communities. My Government intends to work with the Federation of Municipalities to find creative, effective ways to alleviate debt loads.

Several municipalities are also experiencing significant challenges in obtaining and retaining appropriately-trained personnel to operate the increasingly-complicated infrastructure needed to meet drinking water and waste water standards. Having learned from the errors of others, My Government is determined to protect our people from contaminated drinking water by working closely with our municipalities to ensure they have access to the necessary resources to carry out proper testing and proper reporting.

My Government will also invest in community recreation programs and infrastructure to advance community cohesiveness, to support our athletes, to enhance tourism opportunities, and to improve the quality of life of our people.

Our people have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to community service and have built a formidable not-for-profit sector. Facing challenges from health services to community development, groups of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have come together to provide solutions for many of our challenges. We need these people and organizations more now than ever before. My Government is determined to strengthen the relationship between the government and the volunteer sector, to improve the grants process, and to identify opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.

My Government is proud of the many varied contributions our citizens make to their communities. Last year, My Government honoured the first recipients of the distinguished Order of Newfoundland and Labrador. This year, we will build on that tradition by honouring others whose contributions have made Newfoundland and Labrador stronger and more vibrant.

Parenthetically perhaps I may add, with the leave of My Ministers, I am wearing the Order of Newfoundland today - the first time, I believe, it has been worn in the House of Assembly. It is a handsome Order and a handsome tribute to the people of our Province who are awarded it.

To keep our communities safe and secure, My Government will continue to invest in the strength of our police forces. We are deeply appreciative of the tremendous work our police officers do to protect us and preserve the peace. The recent tragedy in Alberta reminds us how much we should appreciate the commitment and sacrifices of our police officers. To the families of Constable Peter Schiemann, Constable Anthony Gordon, Constable Leo Johnston, and Constable Brock Myrol, we offer our prayers and deepest sympathies.

Securing a Brighter Future for Labrador

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My government recognizes that the people of Labrador face unique challenges. The barriers to development are pronounced in Labrador; yet, nowhere are the opportunities for growth greater.

Last year, My Government announced Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway; a new Upper Churchill recall agreement; the implementation of the Northern Agrifoods Development Strategy; a reconfigured Labrador Coastal Marine Service; air food lift support; and forestry agreements with the Innu Nation and the Labrador Métis Nation.

This year, in addition to the many Aboriginal issues addressed earlier, My Government will move forward with initiatives to secure a brighter future for all Labradorians.

My Government will commission the Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs to develop a Northern Strategic Plan to address the needs for social and economic development in Labrador. The department will work closely with the people of Labrador to ensure the plan reflects the priorities and the aspirations of Labradorians.

My Government will continue to promote Labrador's tremendous tourism potential through Destination Labrador.

On the 22nd of January, history was made in the Northern Labrador community of Nain. With an overwhelming mandate from the Inuit people of our Province, the Labrador Inuit Association entered into a groundbreaking land claims agreement with the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to establish the Government of Nunatsiavut - "Our Beautiful Land." For thirty years, community leaders laboured to reach this agreement. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians congratulate the Inuit people of Labrador for giving all of us a timely lesson on the importance of patient perseverance. In the words of the Inuttitut language, "Sivunitsavut pitsiatunejuk!" - "Our future is in great hands!", for those of you who do not speak Inuttitut.

Having concluded the historic land claims agreement with the Labrador Inuit Association, My Government is committed to working with the Province's other Aboriginal peoples to achieve agreements and strategies to advance the well-being of Aboriginal communities.

My Government, by requiring an adjacency principle, will ensure that Labradorians are given opportunities to find employment on major development projects in Labrador's communities.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are especially proud of Canadian Forces Base 5-Wing Goose Bay. This world-class facility has trained flight crews from many countries over the years and contributed greatly to world peace and security. When its future became uncertain, My Government approached the Government of Canada and the governments of other countries in a collaborative effort to identify new uses that would secure a bright future for our base.

My Government was delighted in February with the appointment of General Rick Hillier as the Government of Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff. One of our Province's most-distinguished sons, General Hillier has already been successful in convincing the Government of Canada to expand its defence spending significantly. My Government will work closely with General Hillier and the federal government to secure new opportunities that will diversify 5-Wing Goose Bay and sustain its operations for years to come.

On the 8th of March in Labrador, My Government announced an investment this year of at least $56 million to improve access to health services, strengthen Aboriginal communities, build and repair infrastructure, and expand economic opportunities. This was the strongest signal yet that My Government intends to help Labrador thrive and prosper and see Labradorians enjoy the same standard of living enjoyed by residents living on the Island.

My Government will also establish a branch of the Premier's Office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to ensure a direct conduit between Labrador and My First Minister on the priorities, views and concerns of Labradorians.

Getting People Healthier

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

While My Government is committed to move Newfoundland and Labrador ahead to better economic times, it recognizes there are significant social barriers to opportunity that we must confront together. My Government is committed to bringing down these barriers, beginning with the barriers to good health.

A healthier society is a stronger, more-productive society. My Government will promote wellness to keep people healthier; and when people do become sick, My Government will provide funding to diagnose and treat them sooner and more effectively.

Last year, My Government announced a new MRI for Corner Brook; expanded dialysis services; an expanded dialysis services; an expanded provincial drug program; new immunizations for children; a new Division of Aging and Seniors; a new Chief Nurse position; a renewed commitment to smoke-free workplaces; an OxyContin task force; and a financial commitment to improve the safety of our personal care homes.

The First Ministers' Health Accord provides substantial additional funding to Newfoundland and Labrador to enable the Province to reduce wait times and to provide better care for patients. My Government will invest strategically to achieve needed advances in health care delivery. Areas of focus will include diagnostic services, vision restoration, joint replacement, cancer and cardiac care, and access to services for residents of northern areas.

To ensure our health and community services system meets the needs of the people it serves as effectively as it can, My Government will focus on planning for the delivery of services in each region of the Province. These plans will focus on the appropriate locations of services, the appropriate skill mix of our service providers, the best means of integrating services, the delivery of new models of primary health care, and strengthening of public health.

My Government is especially committed to secure and advance the quality of care that our seniors receive. We must not and we will not forget the men and women who contributed so much to our Province over the years and asked for so little in return. With the best interests of our seniors guiding its actions, My Government will move ahead this year to design and implement a long-term care strategy in order to both increase the number of long-term care beds around our Province and to identify other necessary supports to allow our seniors to remain in their communities.

My Government believes that we can reduce the demands on our health service by promoting health and wellness. Recent national reports indicate Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are among Canada's most obese and inactive. The rate of childhood-onset diabetes is among the highest in the country. My Government will foster a culture of wellness in our classrooms and develop a planned and sequential health and physical education program in our schools to inspire in our young people a lifelong commitment to regular exercise, healthy eating and positive self esteem. My Government is also developing new nutrition guidelines for schools that will ensure students are provided with healthy food choices and given information about healthy eating. If we can support our young people eating well and exercising regularly, we as a society will be healthier, hardier, and happier.

My Government appreciates the recommendations it received from the Reid/Power inquiry and OxyContin Task Force Report and will refine and implement a mental health and addictions plan to ensure people in need of mental health and addictions services are able to access them.

Addressing Poverty

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government recognizes the devastating effects of poverty and is committed to taking steps to alleviate and reduce poverty.

Last year, My Government announced tax cuts for the poor; a home heating fuel rebate; indexation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Child Benefit rate; indexation of the Seniors' Benefit rate; an enhanced Mother Baby Nutrition Supplement; an expanded Supported Employment Program for individuals with developmental disabilities; improved delivery of income support and employment and career services; a higher minimum wage; and funding for youth support programs, including the unique Youth Promise Challenge and a new shelter and resource centre for young people.

Building on several measures announced last year, My Government will refine and implement a comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy in collaboration with stakeholders both within and outside the government.

The best remedy for poverty is often a secure job. My Government will foster stronger labour force attachment by taking an aggressive approach to assisting income support clients, particularly youth, to access employment.

The Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment will establish a pilot Supported Employment for Single Parents Program in a region outside the Avalon. It will implement a new earnings exemption model to better assist income support clients who are employed.

My Government will integrate women's voices and perspectives, including those of Aboriginal women, when formulating public policies. It will also enhance the use of gender-based analysis across departments, agencies, boards, and commissions to evaluate and advance the status of women in our Province.

My Government will continue its commitment to violence prevention through a new violence prevention program with new management and leadership; new funding to fight violence against Aboriginal women in Labrador; new funding for a much-needed women's shelter in Hopedale; and new family violence legislation that will be introduced.

There will be special measures to ensure that women share equitably in the social and economic benefits of the Province and to address employment barriers for women in non-traditional and resource-based industries. Women's participation in leadership and decision making will also be advanced through measures including supports for Aboriginal women.

Educating for Success

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Recognizing that education is the key to both personal and economic development, My Government will help to bring down the barriers to learning so that our students and graduates are better able to seize the opportunities before them. Indeed, no issue is of greater importance, as Newfoundland and Labrador looks to the future, than the need to prepare our young people for success.

Healthy, safe and comfortable buildings are essential for schools to succeed in their core mission of educating children. To ensure our schools meet this standard, My Government will develop and implement a comprehensive capital financing and maintenance plan. This year, it will move forward with several major renovations of schools in various areas. My Government recently announced funding to correct problems caused by water infiltration into school buildings.

My Government believes a solid education must begin early in a child's life. To build on the work of the recently-established Ministerial Council for Early Childhood Learning, My Government will recognize early childhood learning as an important part of the education process and will explore opportunities and options to ensure all children entering Kindergarten have had appropriate learning experiences in their pre-school years.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Education does not end with grade school. More and more, our students must pursue post-secondary studies to gain the knowledge, skills, and credentials they need to take on challenging careers and reach their potential.

Given the unprecedented demand for greater diversification and improved sustainability, we recognize that the provincial public post-secondary system must undergo change and renewal. Further, the increasing pace of change requires us to constantly explore strategies to improve the way our public post-secondary education system operates.

To accomplish this, My Government last year commissioned a White Paper on Post-secondary Education in order to tailor the system to better prepare students for opportunities here at home. This work is underway, and My Government is prepared to begin implementing, in the year ahead, a range of measures based on recommendations flowing through this process.

My Government is particularly cognizant of the need to modernize post-secondary facilities to ensure our programs can prepare students to tackle modern challenges effectively. My Government will ensure our facilities and programs are modern and relevant to current and emerging needs.

My Government will also forecast skills requirements and plan ways of meeting the labour force demands with local graduates.

My Government will also create a Labour Market Development unit to consolidate related activities and positions. The demands on the provincial labour market are changing rapidly, and it is vitally important that this Province be well positioned to respond. A skilled, well-trained labour force is key to the ongoing economic growth and prosperity of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no more important time for us to emphasize education than now. We must maintain a viable post-secondary system while ensuring that our students have the ability to compete with the best. We must all be partners in renewing and expanding our higher education system for the next generation. The White Paper on Public Post-Secondary Education will establish the foundation for our future success.

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

Even with a solid economic development agenda and a strong social conscience, My Government cannot lose sight of the fiscal challenges that our Province continues to face.

My Government commenced its term in November of 2003 with a mandate and a plan to apply a new approach to governance in Newfoundland and Labrador. While considerable work awaits our collective efforts, Newfoundland and Labrador is closer to realizing its dreams today than when My Government first began.

No challenge in 2004 was greater than the Province's financial instability. Newfoundland and Labrador was facing billion-dollar deficits that, within a decade, would almost have doubled the Province's net debt without decisive action to address the challenge head on. Independent auditors and advisors expressed their concerns about the Province's fiscal sustainability, concerns that My Government shares. Our children deserve a legacy of promise and opportunity, not a stack of bills for the money we are spending today. That is why My Government remains committed to the strategy it announced last year to eliminate the cash deficit over its first term while significantly reducing the accrual deficit. Achieving fiscal sustainability means making choices, and last year, the responsible choices were difficult to make. By carefully balancing expenditures, My Government secured and enhanced a host of social and economic development programs that are vital to families and communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The result is that we have begun to get a better handle on our fiscal challenges.

My Government invested in health care, education, justice and safety, assistance for children and families, and support for Aboriginal communities. To promote new opportunities, My Government invested in infrastructure, municipalities, business growth, and resource development. To promote openness and good governance, My Government brought forward measures to enhance planning, effectiveness, and accountability.

This year and in the years that follow, My Government will continue to identify and implement responsible measures that improve the way the people's government functions.

Through the program renewal process initiated last year, My Government has identified areas of strength and places where service delivery can be improved. As the process evolved, so did our focus.

Program renewal cannot be an isolated initiative: it is also a frame of mind, an attitude. Our public service must always be striving to improve, enhance, and modernize programs and services.

Through program renewal, My Government has identified and started many positive, forward-thinking initiatives, but others will take time and strategy to implement.

In the coming year, My Government has plans for another extensive legislative agenda. In the Spring sitting of the Legislature, amendments will be introduced to the Smoke-free Environment Act to provide for a 100 per cent ban on the use of tobacco in all public places. Amendments to the Wild Life Act will be introduced to provide greater enforcement and increased penalties for violations of the Act, especially related to inland fish species. And further automobile insurance reforms are expected to be brought forward based on the review by the Public Utilities Board and the Department of Government Services.

Building Stronger Federal-Provincial Relations

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

My Government is also deeply committed to a continued partnership and positive relationship with the Government of Canada.

There have been tensions in recent months, but both sides are motivated to build a smooth working relationship in order to advance the fortunes of Newfoundland and Labrador and of Canada generally.

That desire resulted in the Atlantic Accord 2005. My Government is committed to build on this success and other achievements, such as the welcome new addition to health funding, foreign overfishing and 5-Wing Goose Bay. In September of 2004, My Government was proud to be a part of an important agreement among the federal, provincial, and territorial governments on the provision of substantial new funding for health care. It was proud to help strengthen Canada's Equalization Program . Additionally, at My Government's urging, Prime Minister Paul Martin has drawn international attention to the scourge of unsustainable foreign fishing on our continental shelf. There have also been discussions and initiatives with respect to infrastructure, economic development, education, research, the federal presence in this Province, and many other issues.

Other significant issues await our concerted efforts in the months and years ahead. My Government this year will focus on fisheries management, post-secondary educational infrastructure, child care, pharmacare, home care, regional economic development, culture, transportation services and infrastructure, energy development, and a range of other priorities.

A Time for Heroes

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly:

As our people and My Government work together to shape a brighter future, we remind ourselves that we are limited only by the breadth and depth of our dreams. In recent months, our people have dared to dream dreams that push far beyond the limits of our circumstances. Our confidence in our future has never been stronger than it is today. Our pride in ourselves has never been more secure than it is today. Our hopes for tomorrow have never been greater, yet we remain wholly grounded in reality.

Why? Because we have rediscovered something essential about ourselves that we were in danger of forgetting. If tribulation had made defeatists of our ancestors, none of us would be here. Our very existence is a testament to the grit, determination, and humanitarianism of the heroes who built this place. These soils are rich with their blood, these seas are salty with the sweat of their labour. We are humbled by the magnitude of our legacy. We stand on the shoulders of giants. How could we ever fall when we stand with heroes so great!

Let us never forget that these heroes stood, not alone, but side by side. At Beaumont Hamel, they fought and died bravely, side by side. On the merciless seas, they gave their lives, side by side. On the flakes and in the fields, they worked themselves into early graves, side by side. We will not loosen this albatross from our necks and achieve the prosperity we so richly deserve unless we vow that we too will do so together, side by side.

The time has come for new heroes to step forward: men, women, and young people who can build their community, grow our economy, foster cooperation, and inspire the confidence we need to pursue our dreams together.

Mr. Speaker, Members:

We will not forget the legacy that makes us strong; but with renewed pride we will build a new future, one of opportunity and self-reliance, one that is truly deserving of its illustrious heritage. This year, we will seize the opportunities to grow our economy and invest in our culture. And we shall do so together, side by side.

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 this new Session.

May Devine Providence guide you in your deliberation.

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

Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Harvey Hodder): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Municipal Elections Act," Bill 1.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the hon. the Government House Leader shall have leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act to Amend The Municipal Elections Act, Bill 1.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the hon. the Government House Leader shall have leave to introduce said bill?

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

Motion carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER: When shall the said bill be read a first time?



CLERK (Noel): A bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipal Elections Act," Bill 1.

MR. SPEAKER: This bill has now been read a first time. When shall the said bill be read a second time?


MR. SPEAKER: On tomorrow.

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 this General Assembly. I wish to take a few moments to distribute His Honour's Speech to the members.

[Distribution of His Honour's Speech)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Humber Valley.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS GOUDIE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is both an honour and a privilege to stand here amongst my colleagues in this distinguished House of Assembly and speak to the Speech from the Throne. I would like to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for coming today and delivering such an optimistic speech.

Today, I am feeling a sense of pride and optimism. It is the same way I felt when I received the phone call that an Atlantic Accord deal was finalized, and it is the same way I felt on Valentine's Day when the agreement was signed. It is a feeling of renewal, as if we are embarking on a new journey. I am confident I share this sentiment with the people of Humber Valley and every Newfoundlander and Labradorian who stood shoulder to shoulder behind the Premier in our fight for our fair share of offshore oil and gas revenues.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS GOUDIE: Like our Premier, our ancestors were a tenacious people who braved the North Atlantic to provide for their families and build a future for us. I am confident that it is this tenacity passed down through the generations that made us so diligent in our pursuit of what is rightfully ours.

I am proud our government is taking measures to nurture this renewed sense of pride by rejuvenating our unique culture and bringing culture and history back to the classroom. It is so important that our children, the future of this Province, know who they are and where they came from.

I applaud efforts to expand curriculum to include the arts, music, theatre arts and fine arts, and efforts to promote professional development, acquire local works and invest in instruments.

I am also proud of our government's focus on the rich legacies of our Aboriginal peoples. I am pleased that government, in co-operation with the provincial museum achieves and art gallery, will develop a virtual cultural tour of key displays and materials at The Rooms to provide students with online access to cultural materials no matter where they may live.

I am confident a cultural strategy will coordinate all of these efforts and ensure we are properly developing and promoting our culture. The province's unique natural attractions, its communities, its people and its cultural heritage are powerful assets of our tourism industry. This government has already made significant commitments to enhancing tourism, marketing and infrastructure throughout the Province.

Mr. Speaker, Humber Valley is a hub for winter recreation on our Province's West Coast, and we have truly benefitted from government's tourism initiatives. I am pleased to hear today that government has renewed its commitment to a prosperous and lucrative tourism industry.

Our rich history is a gift. It is one we love to share with the world in great abundance. To put it into perspective, I would like to take a quote from the Premier's recent speech to the Empire Club in Toronto. He said, "Right across the country, we start our day with Shamus O'Regan on Canada AM, and end it in the evening with Rex Murphy on The National. We begin the week watching the intelligent humour and commentary of Rick Mercer on Monday Report and we finish the week enjoying the satirical wit of the talented cast of 22 Minutes.

Our authors are award-winning, our bright young minds lead corporations around the world and our musicians enjoy tremendous national and international success. Our boys from Great Big Sea are the hottest ticket in town in Boston on St. Patrick's Day! The endorsements do not come much better than that!"

Mr. Speaker, imagine, a Province of 517,000 people producing such talent, and it can all be attributed to our rich cultural heritage.

Mr. Speaker, future success is contingent on how well we truly understand our past, and today's Throne Speech is dedicated to making sure that happens.

I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight some very positive initiatives aimed at enhancing education, social programs, and health care as outlined in the Throne Speech. As someone who has worked for many years in the health care profession, I am aware of the needs and challenges facing the Province today. These health care initiatives build on government's inaugural focus on ensuring our health care system properly meets the needs of the people it serves.

Given our fiscal realities, I am pleased that government is steadfast in using our precious health care dollars strategically, with a focus on thorough planning as to where service locations will most effectively be utilized.

I support the focus on the needs of our seniors who have given so much to our Province. It is our duty and responsibility to ensure they are properly cared for.

Supporting addiction and mental health services is a must, as well as promoting health and wellness, to reduce future demands on the system. Funding from the First Ministers' Health Summit will most certainly help address patient wait times and further improve services. I am pleased to be part of a government who are taking this direction in the health care field.

Education is vital to prosperity and I am encouraged by plans set out today, in today's Throne Speech, to strengthen our education system. Our young people are the future of this Province and it is our responsibility to ready them for tomorrow's world.

Government is committed to healthy, comfortable school environments, indicated by major funding announcements to repair schools in desperate need of maintenance and repair. I am encouraged with government's focus from early childhood development right through to post-secondary education where we must lay the foundation for a strong, well-educated labour force.

It is further encouraging that our government is committed to ensuring our students and institutions will be able to compete with the best. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, poverty continues to have devastating effects throughout our Province. Last year, government implemented a number of initiatives aimed at protecting the most vulnerable in society. These programs were successful but they were only one step; we need to do more. The Throne Speech outlines plans to build upon successful initiatives and outlines a number of measures aimed at further addressing this problem, such as an aggressive approach to assist income support clients access employment and a pilot project to assist single parents.

As a female member of this great House of Assembly, I applaud government's efforts to integrate women's voices and perspectives in public policy making, including those of Aboriginal women.

Mr. Speaker, today's Throne Speech truly strikes the right balance between fiscal responsibility, economic growth and social development. It is an honour to speak to such an optimistic Throne Speech. I move that a select committee be appointed to draft an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin-Placentia West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to stand today in this very prestigious House of Assembly representing the people of Burin-Placentia West and seconding the motion to accept the Speech from the Throne.

I am confident that this, the Forty-Fifth Session of the House of Assembly, will be a spirited one given its proximity to government's successful fight to secure the offshore oil and gas revenues that truly belong to Newfoundland and Labrador.

In achieving such a triumphant deal on the Atlantic Accord, government has put a stop to years of resource giveaways and has publicly challenged lingering stereotypes that paint us in a negative light. Our success has given Newfoundlanders and Labradorians a renewed faith in the future of this Province, and a renewed sense of pride.

These are not just my words, Mr. Speaker. They are the words of my constituents. It is what I am hearing from South East Bight to Burin, and I am confident it is the same sentiment my colleagues are hearing throughout their districts.

Mr. Speaker, it is evident that today's Throne Speech builds on this new-found pride. It is a continuation of our government's plan to reverse the dire fiscal situation facing this Province, that has weakened our social programs and suffocated economic development. Since assuming office, we have made every effort to put our fiscal house in order. We have operated with transparency and accountability, and we have managed the people's money with only their best interests in mind. Each and every Newfoundlander and Labradorian has pitched in, and today our Province is in far greater shape than it was two years ago.

Today's Throne Speech outlines government's efforts to foster economic growth. The Premier has consistently stated that economic growth is contingent upon realizing what is rightfully ours from the federal government. Realizing a minimum of $2.5 billion in offshore oil revenues is certainly a great place to start.

It is encouraging that government plans to grow the economy by properly developing our natural resources and ensuring that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians reap our fair share of benefits. The achievements of Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose projects, and the opportunities outlined today for Hebron-Ben Nevis and the exploration in the Orphan and Laurentian Basins and offshore Labrador are extremely encouraging. The comprehensive energy plan as outlined is just one example of how government is focusing on strategic long-term planning. As well, our government's approach to the development of the Lower Churchill is fresh, visionary, and will ensure benefits for the people of this Province.

I think our leader has demonstrated that the days of giveaways are long gone, and this is the approach we will take with the development of the Lower Churchill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Yes, Mr. Speaker, resource development is of great importance if we are going to reach our full potential; however, it is only part of the solution. I am pleased that government is focusing attention towards fostering the growth of our small and medium size businesses, especially in our rural areas. Our economy will greatly benefit from more investment, good initiatives such as venture capitals, funds, and a renewed focus on helping businesses not only survive but thrive in this Province. A continued focus on our areas of strength, such as tourism and marine technology, are evidence of the smart investments for future gain.

As a rural MHA, I am optimistic about government's plan for rural development. I am pleased that the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and the new Department of Business are partnering with various levels of government, regional economic development boards, industry, and community organizations, to pinpoint meaningful ways to improve our rural economies. People who were born and raised and continue to live and work in rural Newfoundland and Labrador quite simply know where the opportunities lie in their regions.

I communicate on a daily basis with people from my district who could give you an earful on how to improve rural areas. It is advantageous that government has created a Rural Secretariat to co-ordinate this flow of information and ensure meaningful opportunities receive the necessary support.

Our rural economies will benefit from government's focus on supporting small and medium size business. It is encouraging that government is focused on removing the barriers that inhibit success, and will allocate investment capital to give our businesses a push in the right direction. It is inspiring that government is committed to readying our Province for the global marketplace by fostering innovation, improving rural infrastructure, expanding information technology, improving the labour climate, and building stronger skill sets in our workforce. These initiatives outlined in today's Throne Speech can only have a lasting impact on the growth of our rural communities.

This government has a heart and soul for rural Newfoundland and Labrador. I am so proud of the initiatives undertaken by the Minister Responsible for Rural Development. I look forward to seeing our rural communities thrive and prosper for years to come.

Rural development is also contingent on a vibrant fishery. In the face of dramatic changes over the past decade or so, our fishing industry is still this Province's largest employer. With change comes new challenges, and I am pleased to be part of a government that is willing to meet these challenges. I am pleased that government is making every effort to make our industry reach its potential and is willing to try to provide stability to the industry to make life a little easier for processors, harvesters and plant workers. Previous governments have commissioned report after report and these reports have sat gathering dust on shelves. Our government is listening to the recommendations of industry experts and is seeking input from stakeholders to ensure a stable fishery in the future.

Before I conclude, Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to recognize a great leader, the hon. the Premier. His work on the Atlantic Accord over the past year has been nothing short of outstanding. This is my first opportunity to thank him on behalf of my constituents and all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Harry. S. Truman once said, "I studied the lives of great men and famous women; and I found that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the jobs they had in hand, with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work."

I think this is an appropriate tribute to a great leader who truly has the heart of Newfoundland and Labrador in mind.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. JACKMAN: Mr. Speaker, we have achieved a great deal in the past sixteen months. There is still a great deal more to do. The plan set forth today is the necessary next step. It is a plan that builds on the hard work and successes of the past year or so, our renewed sense of pride. It is a very impressive plan that will bring this Province another step closer to fiscal prosperity.

Once again, it is a privilege to represent the people of Burin-Placentia West. It is a great honour to second the motion that a select committee be appointed to draft an address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is a privilege today to rise again in this debate with respect to drafting an Address in Reply to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor in delivering the Speech from the Throne today.

On a ceremonial day like this with our special guests, the Justices, who have now left, and of course our special guests here on the floor as well as all those joining us in your gallery and in the public galleries, it is a pleasure to be here to have another opportunity to see the government supposedly unveil what its general plans are for the next year or so and the next period of time in its mandate, and also to congratulate the Member for Humber Valley and the Member for Burin-Placentia West in their representations in suggesting to the House that we do say thank you to His Honour for the work he has done here today in presenting and delivering the Speech.

I am sure now, in hindsight, that the Member for Humber Valley wishes she had that last part in her speech, too, about praising the Premier, because there are opportunities around every corner, as you would know. The next time she gets a chance, I am sure she will have something like that in her speech as well.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. GRIMES: I understand.

Maybe she will get to say something nice about the Minister of Finance, when he delivers a great Budget for us next week that everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador will love.

Mr. Speaker, I will not say much about the Throne Speech today, and I say that in this context: I did spend a little bit of time reviewing the speech we heard last year around the same time. If you learn anything from a lesson in history, it is that there was very little, if any, resemblance between what was read here last year and what actually happened in the last year. I hope this year we are wrong, because there were some good initiatives that I applaud that were outlined in the Speech from the Throne today; but again unfortunately, I say, if last year is any kind of a standard that we can use in terms of what to expect from this government, there will not be much similarity in March or April of 2006 to what we just heard today.

To make the point, just let me give two examples, Mr. Speaker. I do not intend to prolong the debate today, or make my own version of what I think a Throne Speech would be or should be if the Liberals were the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador - I will not do that - but last year, Mr. Speaker, on page 19 in the Throne Speech - I will give two examples. We heard a Throne Speech in March, and then very early after that, in April, we saw something happen that was - I will demonstrate, I think - very different. We heard a Throne Speech in March, and I will point out again the second example, and only last week we saw something that I believe the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will see to have been very, very different. If there is any similarity between what was said last year and what actually happened, it was probably coincidental and by accident instead of by design. I hope there is a change this year.

The first example, Mr. Speaker, is this: On page 19, last year - and I will read the quote because sometimes I am accused of making it up. His Honour read this last year, "My Government is working cooperatively and constructively with our public sector unions to negotiate new collective agreements...". Let me read it again, "My Government is working cooperatively and constructively with our public sector unions to negotiate new collective agreements..." because My Government believes that good government is about developing solutions through constructive partnerships.

What did we see a month later? A public sector strike and a group ordered back to work who were already gone back to work voluntarily, legislated back by this group opposite, this government who wrote this and had the Lieutenant Governor, His Honour, read it as if that was the plan, that was the intention, that is what they believed in, that is what they thought the future held for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Less than a month later all of us were bitterly disappointed - the hope and the promise of the kind of language that says this is what we believe in, that we will work co-operatively and constructively with out public sector unions to negotiate new collective agreements, because good government is about developing solutions through constructive partnerships. We saw a very different tale, a very different story, and a very different reality unfold.

I hope that is not the case this year, because I like what I heard about focusing on our culture, focusing on our tradition, focusing on our history, being truly proud of who and what we are. I hope it is not just words. I hope it is going to be reality this time instead of what we saw last year, which was not this reality but a very different reality unfolding in the Province. That happened within a month of the speech. Within one short month of the speech, that very different reality unfolded in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Let me just take the members here - all members, and those who are listening to us - to the concluding part of the speech last year at this time. It says: My Government is delivering on its promise to consult before it acts.... Listen clearly: My Government is delivering on its promise to consult before it acts and to be inclusive when it consults.

What did we have unfold in this Province last week, at the tail end of that same twelve month period? The introduction of a new quota system for the crab fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, in which the minister himself - who noticeably was not accompanied by the Premier - in a press conference that he attended by himself, said: we are introducing this new resource sharing system. We have not talked to the FFAW, who only happen to represent the harvesters and the plant workers who are two of the three people who are included in whether a crab fishery proceeds on time with proper benefits for all the people involved.

In the first few days after the speech we saw something happen exactly the opposite of what the speech of promise, hope, vision and direction laid out. In the last days, just a couple of days before the new speech of promise, hope, vision and direction was just so capably delivered by His Honour, we have another contradiction. It cannot be described, Mr. Speaker, as anything other than a complete, total, and absolute contradiction of what they said they lived by, believed in, dreamed about, hoped for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and were committed to deliver, and promised to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that they would deliver.

Mr. Speaker, I say again, I am not, and have never been by nature, a negative person.


MR. GRIMES: I always live by the credo that the glass is definitely half full. I do not see anything as half empty. I see it as half full. I live by the credo that attitude is everything, but I also live by the credo that if you are going to have someone read a speech for you that says you are going to do it, that is what you believe in and that is what your vision is for Newfoundland and Labrador, then surely goodness you should try to live to it. Maybe some of the members opposite might want to look back at it.

By the way, I have another list here - and I will not take the time today. One, two, three, six, seven, nine, fourteen other examples, just like the two I gave, that show what was said in a Throne Speech. In twelve short months the reality of what unfolded in the Province was very, very different, and in most cases, the exact opposite, Mr. Speaker.

Now, let me say it again, because I am not a negative person.


MR. GRIMES: I hope that the government has learned. I hope that they will look back and say last year we said sixteen of those things, you know, and some different things happened. Maybe it just got away from them a little bit. Maybe they were focused on other issues. Maybe they just forgot what they said.

There were a lot of things said today - and I made notes of several of them and I will read this in detail because I take it seriously, because it looks at the plan. What we were asked to do today by His Honour was to look at the plan laid out by this government as to what they are going to prioritize in this year, what they hope they can really accomplish, what they are going to focus on, how we are going to move forward in a more positive direction in the future. You know everybody, including me, who heard that speech today and listened to it intently hopes that it is true. So let's all hope, collectively, that last year's experience was just a bad experience, that it is not really an indication of what we can expect from this government.

Now, we only have one year of experience to judge them by and the one year of experience - and I might have opportunities in other speeches during this session to go through some of the other twelve, thirteen and fourteen examples like I did today with these two. Hopefully, the government will learn from that experience and they will not want to repeat that. They will not want to hear me stand up here next year and wave around the new document and say: By the way, there is another nineteen statements in there that they talked about last year and they did not do them. I am sure they would like for us to get up and say: Do you know something? The government should be congratulated because most of what they said they would try to accomplish, they accomplished. Because we cannot say that after this first year, Mr. Speaker.

Let me just mention a couple of other things, Mr. Speaker, before I stop for the day, because I will have other opportunities. I have always, like other members in this House, appreciated the opportunity as being an elected member in a democracy to stand up, openly and freely in Newfoundland and Labrador, and say your piece. That is the real beauty of the society and the Province and the country that we live in, is that we can do exactly what we are doing here today. I am sure that some of the members opposite were probably a little bit disappointed to hear me point out those two examples and mention that there are another fifteen or sixteen like it, because they like to forget those things. But in a government, as an Opposition, part of our role is to make sure that people do understand the entirety and the totality of what is happening, not just a one-sided view that the government would like to have us believe is a rosy picture of what is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Just let me say one other thing - and this one is disappointing above all else. Sixteen or seventeen months ago at the time of an election, after a decade of out-migration, the Province was in a position, for the first time in over ten years that out-migration had stopped, had halted - pardon my voice, I am not used to speaking yet. Maybe later on in the session I will be able to speak for a longer period of time without my voice cracking. But, in any event, out-migration had stopped and for the first time in almost fifteen years Statistics Canada was able to report that the population of the Province actually grew. Now, not by a lot; by some 300. Of course members opposite, including the current Premier, made some comments about that during the election, saying: It is going to take us a long time at that rate to get them all back. But we have a plan, and we particularly have a plan for rural Newfoundland and Labrador where the out-migration is really occurring. Sadly - and again maybe the members opposite do not want to hear that either, but the report is in. One full twelve-month period on the job. October, 2003 to October, 2004, with a new group elected who had a plan to stop out-migration to save rural Newfoundland and Labrador had criticized the fact that only 300 people had come back. Guess what happened? Does anybody on the opposite side remember?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. GRIMES: We had the largest workforce in our history building on three years of it prior to that, but we had 2,077 fewer people in the Province. The group who said they had a plan, the group who criticized the fact that out-migration had stopped and pooh-poohed the fact that it was only 300 that came back. Mr. Speaker, what happened? Two thousand and seventy-seven was the decline in the population of the Province. People in this Legislature know that quite a number of people did not leave the Province, they left other parts of the Province and came to the capital city region, which means the rural population declined by even more than 2,077 - probably by 4,077 or 5,077 - with a group one year on the job who had a plan to save rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

So, Mr. Speaker, in our role as the Opposition - I know we are going to have a good session because they are sensitive. They are very sensitive. If you mention issues that they do not want to talk about in their own caucus, they do not want to acknowledge those kinds of things, so when they hear it for the first time from someone else they get a little sensitive over it.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you that, in our role as the Opposition we work with and support the government when it is in the best interests of Newfoundland and Labrador. We, like the rest of Newfoundland and Labrador, were very supportive of what the Premier and the government were trying to accomplish, and did accomplish, with the Atlantic Accord.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: We were very guarded in anything we did say, we did not want to undermine any position. Believe me, I think every one of us here would acknowledge that, that is in the best interests of Newfoundland and Labrador. We will find out if it is going to be any kind of a help or assistance in Harbour Breton over the next several months. We will find out if it is going to be of any real benefit to people in Fortune in the next few months. We will find out if it is going to be of any real benefit to the people on the Northern Peninsula where the out-migration is still occurring, and now they have the disappointment of believing there was going to be a fixed link built only to see that the Premier has a feasability study that says it is possible, but I am not going to do it now, not ever while I am the Premier, not while I am leading this Province. He does a study, builds up the hope, and puts it away.

Those same people were on the news, some fourteen, fifteen, sixteen months ago, saying: Sure, there are likely to be 6,000 or 7,000 of us working here on the Norther Peninsula just building that tunnel. Well what do they have to wait for now? They have to wait for this leader to leave. They have to wait for that government to go. They have to wait for somebody else who is going to say -

MR. RIDEOUT: (Inaudible) a long time.

MR. GRIMES: Let me say this, I say to the Minister of Transportation. We have a Premier who says, I am not even going to ask the federal government to get involved in it, even though it is technically feasible and would require $1.4 billion of public money. I am not going to ask any government to get involved in that. During the election, compare that - it is almost like the Throne Speech - to what he said. It in The Northern Pen in case you want to look it up. I say, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier and the others: It is in The Northern Pen. He said: Regardless of what it costs it is too important for Newfoundland and Labrador not to do it. Now, there is the speech made. That is almost like this document saying, we are going to negotiate the collective agreements, and then you fire them on the street, provoke a strike and order them back to work. Turning around to the people on the Northern Peninsula and saying, we are going to do a feasibility study and no matter what it says, that is so important to the future economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, all of it, that it is too important not to do. Then the study comes in and says, yes, it can be done, here is the price tag, and what does the Premier say? It will never be done while I am here. I am not going to ask anybody for that kind of money. I guess he saw a new reality - just changed his mind. Those are the kinds of things.

We will continue, as I said, to support the government when they are doing things that are in the best interests of Newfoundland and Labrador, but we will also continue to ask the questions and hold them accountable and point out the other side. There is one other thing, and this is a really sad thing to say as well. Again I will give a couple of examples. There is already, with this particular government, our experience of a year, a culture of hypocrisy, and we have to point that out to people, just like I mentioned about the fixed link; say one thing and do another.

Let me give you these examples of say one thing, do another. We have the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker, talking about how every penny has to count: We are desperate here. We can only do things that have to be done. He is going to say the same kinds of things next Monday in the Budget. They will do some things but he is going to say a lot of nos still. He is going to say: We have a couple of billion dollars but that is no good to anybody. We have to be very careful here, have to live within our means still. That speech is not going to change very much. They say that you have to spend wisely, prudently, and only things you can justify and only things that are priorities for the government.

Guess what we found out and discovered last year after the Budget, involving the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation? The Minister of Finance, as an MHA for his district, had convinced the Minister of Transportation to rebuild a cabin road in his district. The tender was actually let, Mr. Speaker. The tender was let, the work was started, and it was only because the Opposition raised the questions that it was cancelled after the fact. This from a Finance Minister who then tried to say, I do not know how it got on the list. I do not know how it got on the list. You talk about say one thing and do another!

Mr. Speaker, then, of course, the big promise, that we will only do anything if it happens by the Public Tender Act and we will not do any more political patronage. I do not need to talk much about that. There are not many more left now to give jobs to. I guess you are running out of buddies, I would say, Mr. Speaker, to the government, have them just about all there.

Now, Mr. Speaker, on the tendering side-


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: On the tendering side, remembering - and it was said again today, Mr. Speaker, that even with the $2 billion, every penny is precious. I believe a phrase similar to that was said today: Every penny is precious and we must go through proper procedures, because we will not do what the former administration was accused of doing. We will do it differently, we will follow the law, we will tender for contracts, and we will not engage in political patronage.

You have the Premier himself in Corner Brook, a few weeks ago, after the Accord, saying: Oh, that contact I gave to my buddies, yes, blame it all on me, do not blame anybody else, blame that all on me. I gave it to a firm that I happen to know that happened to be a co-chair of my campaign and it did not go through a tender. Oh, by the way, he said to the Minister of Finance, it was not very much money, it was only $200,000 or $300,000. We just heard today that every penny counts, but $200,000 or $300,000 for an advertising contract for the co-chair of the Conservative campaign, admittedly done by the Premier himself, with no consultation with anybody - just like most of it is done - that is okay.

We happen to notice those things, Mr. Speaker, and we will continue to point them out every time we notice them. We will point them out. I say this, Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the Member for Windsor-Springdale who has publicly tried to set a new standard for debate in the Province. His new version of public debate is, you can only discuss a public issue in St. John's, in the Legislature, when it is open.

He was asked about an outdoor bill of rights, how it felt about it, and those kinds of issues. In the local media , in Central Newfoundland, where we all grew up, were raised and where we represent, his comment to the paper was: You cannot talk about that publicly, you cannot debate that publicly, the House of Assembly is not open. A brand new standard for public debate. If any of us, as elected politicians, are asked a question about how we feel about any issue, we are supposed to answer: Do not ask me that now, only ask me in St. John's when the Legislature is open. Maybe that is what they have been told in their caucus. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, that is what they have been told in their caucus.

Let me finish by saying this, Mr. Speaker, we are hopeful. Liberals, by nature, are a hopeful, optimistic lot.


MR. GRIMES: This particular government, Mr. Speaker, has a golden opportunity that no other government since Confederation has had. With the combination of funds that have been given to them by the Government of Canada, equalization, health care, offshore accord, all of the other issues, the money that has been given - yes, it is our money, but no other government gave it to us. They all kept it themselves. This government gave it to us, rightfully so, because we supported our government in getting it. There was a commitment made in the election which was kept.

We will ask the Premier, the same standard that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians supported him in, which was generally this, that the Prime Minister of the country made a commitment during an election, he should live to his commitment. You will hear us say over and over again: We remember a Blue Book in which there were a series of commitments made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we will ask you to keep your commitments to the people of this particular Province. You have the resources that no government in fifty-six years has ever been able to even dream of or imagine, and we will ask that there be a balanced approach in terms of investments in people which are investments in the future which are investments in the Province. Those are the kinds of things we will push for every single day, Mr. Speaker, as we continue to live up to our role as the official Opposition in this democracy.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak today and again congratulate His Honour for presenting the speech, the mover and the seconder, and look forward to the full debate in the whole session.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity today to rise in response to the motion to make an address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne is an opportunity for a formal presentation on behalf of the government through the Lieutenant Governor, to tell the public and the members of the House of Assembly of government's plans for the year and plans for the future. I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of those plans and talk about some of the things that we would like to see, as part of the future, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Let me say, first of all, that overshadowing our first session since last fall is a great accomplishment that I think speaks well for the future of this Province, and that is the achievement mentioned in the speech of a new arrangement on the Atlantic Accord. We, in the New Democratic Party, are very happy to see what has happened with the Atlantic Accord negotiations. We feel that we played an important role, as a national party and a provincial party, in helping set the stage for the promise and the commitment that was made by the Prime Minister during the last election. It was out national party and our leader who made a commitment on provincial resources long before the election came about, and supported it strongly during the campaign.

I want to acknowledge and to commend the Premier in acting on behalf of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in ensuring that the promise made by Prime Minister Martin during the election campaign was kept.

This is a very important achievement because it does something that I think speaks well to the future of this Province. The Speech from the Throne talked about pride, and talked about what it means to us to have more control over our future, but it also means that one of the achievements that this government set for itself, as did others when they sought election, was to achieve some fiscal stability and to ensure, in particular - and I want to recognize that the Speech from the Throne talks specifically about this - to eliminate the cash deficit over the first term as part of the plan of this government.

Well, in addition to the $2 billion that was mentioned in the Budget, there is, of course, the full range of offshore oil revenues that will be available, starting to ramp up very quickly starting this year, to the point that we will have, over the next eight years, some $4.9 billion of revenue that was not there before. This is a sustained number over the next seven or eight years that not only helps to eliminate the cash deficit but also ensures that we are able to build a fairer future for our Province.

We have to recognize that, though we have achieved much in the Atlantic Accord, there are still great challenges in our area of offshore resources. During the debate, of course, about the Atlantic Accord, the focus was on that, but there are other issues such as the 8.5 per cent Hibernia share that was contributed by the Government of Canada. As Newfoundland and Labrador contributed its efforts to get the Hibernia platform going by the reduction in royalties, by the reduction in sales tax, by other concessions that were made, Canada, as a country, put that share forward, has gotten its return, has made a profit, and should pass that over to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador as our share of the Hibernia project.

We would like to see progress, as well, in the area of offshore development to ensure that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are actually the full and true and principal beneficiaries of our offshore resources. It is my assessment that the true beneficiaries, the principal beneficiaries, of our offshore resources are, up until now, the oil companies themselves, and we have to address that in dealing with royalties in the future to ensure that we do become truly the beneficiaries, as other oil-producing states are.

We also recognize the great step forward that was taken in January of this year in the final agreement signing of the Inuit Land Claims Agreement and the creation of Nunatsiavut. The Member for Labrador West and I had the privilege of joining with the Premier, other members of the House of Assembly, and the people of Nunatsiavut in celebrating that signing in Nain. It was a terrific step forward and we look forward to seeing the progress that the Inuit people will make under this new form of government that was created as a result of that agreement.

We also look forward to seeing the development with the Innu people and the Mi'kmaq people of the Island of Newfoundland in the future to achieve similar recognition of the Aboriginal rights of people of this Province.

We know there are great challenges faced by some of our Aboriginal people, and we have heard much about the difficulties faced by the Innu in Labrador in the last number of months and years. I am pleased to see that the Speech from the Throne recognizes the extreme importance of developing initiatives in Aboriginal education that will hopefully allow the development of a curriculum which is appropriate to the Innu culture and which will help them control their destiny. It is a very important matter. In fact, I will go so far as to say that it is a matter of life and death for many young people in this Province, of Aboriginal ancestry, and we would like to work with the government and achieve some progress in developing with the Innu people of Labrador a proper and appropriate system of education, a proper and appropriate development that can help to ensure that the Aboriginal people of Labrador can move forward, can control their destiny, can maintain their culture, and can participate fully in our society.

We, in the New Democratic Party, believe that the opportunities that have been provided to us fiscally as a result of the achievement of the Atlantic Accord and the ramping up of benefits over the next number of years can allow us to pursue what we are prepared to call an agenda of fairness for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As we know, the achievement on the Atlantic Accord was based on a promise made by the Prime Minister of Canada. We think that one of the first acts in the new Session of this Legislature - and we hope we will hear from this in the Budget - is that another promise made by the Government of Newfoundland and a former Premier to the women of the public service is one that can be kept. The pay equity agreement initialed and signed by former Premier Peckford, with the public sector unions, was a promise made which acknowledged discrimination against women in our public sector. We believe that promise should be kept. Financial difficulties should not be allowed to trump equality for women. We believe that fairness demands that promises should be kept, and that there are no more excuses for not carrying out the commitment that was made by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We acknowledge and support the efforts of the government announced in the Budget to talk about a new continued violence prevention initiative. We were concerned that might not continue after the end of March, and we are pleased to see that will happen. We think this is extremely important for all people in our society. Although initially it was aimed at violence against women, violence generally is something that we should attempt to eradicate in our society, whether it be in sports, whether it be in families, whether it be in our schools. I am proud to say that we have another school which yesterday was designated as part of the Peaceful Schools International program, Beaconsfield Junior High, here in St. John's. I think that is something we would like to see throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fairness in our health care system, we believe, demands that some of the drugs that are available in almost every province in the country for Alzheimer's patients, for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, for suffers from arthritis, are available to the people of this Province through the drug formulary and to seniors who have drug cards. We also believe that there must be a more comprehensive program that ensures that those who have significant drug costs are not impoverished or required to pay the full cost themselves, without a comprehensive program, and we want to see that increased.

In the area of medical transportation, we are delighted that the government met its commitment to look after the discrimination that existed in Labrador West for medical transportation to Goose Bay. We want to see a program developed to look after medical transportation needs of all Labradorians when they need to travel to the Island portion of the Province for medical care.

We want to see hospital care continue to provide for the needs of people, and concerns raised recently by those in Stephenville and Port aux Basques about losing medical services are of great concern to us in the New Democratic Party.

Home care is an extremely important means of allowing people who are unable to look after themselves to stay in their homes, to receive the kind of care that they need without being institutionalized. We think there are significant issues with respect to wages, working conditions and accessibility, and we need to see a not-for-profit system supported strongly by government.

Some initiatives in education have been mentioned recently in terms of the buildings. Obviously these are of great concern and importance, but we believe our K to 12 system needs to be more secure and healthy for our children. As we have heard in the Throne Speech, the needs of physical education, a proper nutrition program - in fact, let's put an end to the junk food that we have in our schools so that children do not have to be exposed to unhealthy eating choices in a school environment where peer pressure often prevents people from having a proper meal, proper nutrition choices. Also, we would like to see a universal school meal program to ensure that the kind of educational opportunities that we are making available are, in fact, available to those, whether they are supplied with a meal at home every day or not.

Post-secondary education is extremely important to ensure equality of people in terms of opportunity for the future. A strong public system must be maintained. A significant issue that has arisen is in terms of the cost of tuition, and I understand that this government has today made a commitment to continue the freeze on tuition in post-secondary education. We are bucking the trend. We are bucking a national trend in that area, and I think that is very commendable, that we are going to continue to do so.

What I would like to see, Mr. Speaker, is to ensure that accessibility to post-secondary education, whether it be through the College of the North Atlantic or the university system, be supported by a needs-based grant system, to ensure that those who have to endure extra costs because they need to travel and support themselves while attending post-secondary education are able to do so regardless of income. We want to see a strong trades training to meet the skills needs of this Province as well, and we think that should be co-ordinated by our College of the North Atlantic, with lots of consultation, of course, with industry and government in terms of the labour needs, the labour market strategy and the labour market needs.

Child care is something that we have seen a national initiative on, in recent months, without much detail or substance, and I look forward to hearing from this government specific plans to work on a universal system that will provide for a transition to a not-for-profit system that will meet the needs of both rural and urban families in the Province and provide a high degree of consultation, because we do have to develop our own system here. We have seen systems across the country, like in Quebec, that provide a model that is admired across the country. We need to look closely at that but we need to develop our own system to ensure that our needs are being met.

Also in education we have challenges in delivering French Immersion to people in the Province. Recently, for example, a Labrador school board has sought to eliminate Early French Immersion in Labrador West. We think this is a grave mistake and, not only that, it deprives many families of an opportunity to ensure that their children have access to this program. It is ironic that one of our only border cities, Labrador City, had removed from its program Early French Immersion. When you look in Labrador West and see jobs advertised, they want people who are bilingual to take those jobs, and yet our school system is removing the opportunity for Early French Immersion which helps people to learn and also attracts families to this area.

We want to see - in fairness, there was some talk of automobile insurance and new changes that might be made this year. We think that public insurance is a part of fairness for people in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a mandatory system.

If I may quote from an individual who wrote to the Public Utilities Commission as part of the recent hearings, his comments on insurance costs in the Province, auto insurance, it says: Consumers are, in essence, being forced by government to use a privately supplied service. We have no recourse and, as a result, the insurance companies have a captive clientele. They are making massive and obscene profits at our expense, and when we do need to make a claim we are penalized by having our rate increased to cover the cost incurred. What were we paying in for, for years, prior to having to make a claim? A gift? I think it is time for government to step up to the plate and create a public insurance system. Users of the existing system have been held hostage to private companies for far too long.

That is a strong statement, Mr. Speaker, but it represents people's concerns that we have a system where public liability in particular is mandatory, and it is not fair if the best possible system is not available to the people of the Province.

We hear, in the Throne Speech, about a new initiative with respect to mental health and addictions treatment. We think that should be extended to people who are severely compromised by gambling addictions. We have a significant problem in our Province with people who use VLTs to the point that they destroy their financial livelihood, their families, and sometimes themselves through suicide. We collect over $100 million every year in gambling revenues mostly through VLTs. These VLTs are designed specifically to extract money from vulnerable people through psychological manipulation. That is the purpose of them, to take as much money as they can from people through psychological manipulation. It is not fair to them, it is not fair to their families, and it is not fair for the Province to continue to extract this kind of money from vulnerable citizens.

We believe that the government should have an aggressive program to reduce this kind of gambling. We should use the liquor laws to reduce the number of machines immediately, we should increase support for problem gamblers, and we also should implement and support a referendum option with the municipal election next fall, as has been proposed by my colleague, the Member for Labrador West.

Our resources, of course, are most important to our future, whether they be the mineral resources underground, the oil resources, our natural resources such as fishery and forestry, or our hydro electric resources. We welcome the initiative of government with respect to a new sustainable fisheries program, but we have considerable concerns about the fact that the main plank in this government's platform on the fisheries this year is to support production quotas for the crab industry without any consultation with some of the main players who catch the fish and process the fish. Mr. Speaker, to have a plan that is not supported by them, not made in consultation with them, and is believed by them to be greatly disadvantageous, is a wrong plan for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is our belief, based on what we have heard so far, that what this plan will do is turn over that resource to the very people who, for the last hundreds of years, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have complained about holding back progress, the fish merchants, in this case the fish processors. We think this is wrong and we think that this whole idea ought to be totally put on the back burner until adequate consultation can take place to design the kind of system that might make sense in keeping with what was contained in the Dunne Report, based on consultation and agreement by all of the parties.

We support the development of the Lower Churchill power project on terms acceptable to the people of this Province. We support a national power grid. Our national party is the only national party that has yet to take a stand, and has for some years, in believing that we should have a national power grid that would allow this Province to participate fully in an electricity market without, of necessity, being required to sell through only one player in the Province of Quebec. We are delighted to see that Ontario has now made noises about supporting a national power grid, and Manitoba has expressed interest as well. We think it is time for the Government of Canada to take this on as a national project so that fairness can be obtained in the supply of power for our country and support the Kyoto Accord and the need to develop clean power that is not reliant upon fossil fuels.

We think substantial strides can be made, and should be made, in the area of environmental protection. We want to see the banning of pesticides that are done for cosmetic purposes. We would like to see some of the initiatives that are being taken, by cities such as Mount Pearl and by towns around the Province in terms of recycling and solid waste management, be more coordinated and be made provincial programs. We want to see significant progress being made in the area of conservation and assisting families to retrofit their homes so that they no longer have to spend as much money on electricity or fuel to heat their homes, and at the same time meet commitments under the Kyoto and provide jobs for our people.

We have many ideas to present during this session of the House of Assembly. We will support government when it is doing things that we believe in, as we have done in the past, and we will support government in every effort to eliminate poverty in our Province. I am glad to see that we have heard a commitment from government for a comprehensive strategy to eliminate poverty. Strategies - we have a cultural strategy, we have a socioeconomic strategy and we have a strategy to eliminate poverty. That is one that I think is a very significant challenge. It is not a matter of charity but a matter of justice, and we will do everything we can to support efforts by this government to undertake that challenge and to try to eliminate poverty in our Province.

I would suggest that we will not be doing so by pilot projects. There was talk of a pilot project for single parents. Well, we had a pilot project for seven or eight years in St. John's. We do not need another pilot project. We know that these kinds of programs work. We need to ensure that they are available to everyone. The single parents' program works. When you provide support to single parents to go to work, when you give them education and training, when you provide child care, when you ensure that they do not lose dollar for dollar when they go to work, then goods things happen. We know that this will work.

We have open to us, over the next number of weeks and months, the development of a vision that is positive and good for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We do not have an excuse for a budget that provides bad news and more bad news to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have, I believe, achieved in the past year a change from the projected $360 million cash deficit that was in last year's Budget, a situation, over the past year, where that cash deficit has been eliminated. My prediction is that we will have, or be very close to, a balanced budget when you look at last year's numbers. That means that we do have opportunities for optimism, we do have opportunities for new programs, we do have an opportunity to create a fairer Newfoundland and Labrador, and we will be doing everything we can in this House of Assembly to urge this government, to challenge this government, to ensure that it happens.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Fellow Members of the House of Assembly, I rise this afternoon, first of all, to thank His Honour the Lieutenant Governor for his usual passionate, articulate and effective delivery of the government Throne Speech today.

I also want to extend by personal thanks to the mover, the Member for Humber Valley, and the seconder, the Member for Burin-Placentia West, of the motion of the Address in Reply. These two individuals are representative of all members of this hon. House who work tirelessly on behalf of their constituents. We do not just have movers and seconders on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, we have movers and shakers because we are shaking it up here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are doing a lot of good things.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: I also want to thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party for his usual gracious and constructive remarks, and thank the Leader of the Opposition for his usual rant, his double dose of negativity. I am sure by his performance today, he has not disappointed his loyal colleagues and his many supporters throughout the Province.

Mr. Speaker, in 2004 we successfully passed sixty-six pieces of legislation through this Legislature. We anticipate another thirty to forty bills to be tabled in this session, and I look forward to another productive, worthwhile, energetic and combative session of the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like, at this time, to extent a warm welcome to our invited guests, some of whom have taken their leave due to other commitments, the Honourable Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, the Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Court of Appeal and the Provincial Court, the esteemed heads of Church and State, the distinguished heads of our military and our police forces, our labour leaders, our business leaders, our municipal leaders, other distinguished guests, including former Lieutenant-Governors, former members of this hon. Legislature, former Premiers and members of Parliament, members of the media and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are with us in this Chamber today or viewing us through televised proceedings.

I would also like to acknowledge my mother who celebrated her eightieth birthday just two weeks ago, as she sits in the Speaker's Gallery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, what an extraordinary year this has been for Newfoundland and Labrador. It is my fervent hope that when we look back upon 2004-2005, the history books will chronic this time as the turning point in our Province's road to self-sufficiently and prosperity.

This was the year that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians stood united, stood strong, and stood proud, and we demand it, our rightful place in this country.

I want to once again thank the people in Newfoundland and Labrador for having the faith and confidence in our government in negotiating a new agreement on the Atlantic Accord. It was an issue that was near and dear to the heart of every single Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Yet they said to me that they had faith we would only get the best for our Province. We stood our ground, Mr. Speaker, and we got results.

I have always known of our people's tenacity, spirit, and pride. However, this year we demonstrated just exactly how tenacious, how spirited and how proud we really are. I have said it time and time again, I have never been so proud to be a Newfoundlander and a Labradorian. Equally, Mr. Speaker, I have never felt so humbled and privileged to be the leader of the youngest and the coolest province in Canada.

This past year I saw the hope in the eyes of our youth, I saw the grit and determination in the eyes of our seniors, I saw the pride in the eyes of our ex-patriots and I saw the future in the eyes of our children. It was a poignant and momentous year for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, no one can deny that we made dramatic steps forward as a Province in the past year and though much has been achieved, there is still much to accomplish. It is up to us as leaders to see that the job gets done. For the first time ever, the eyes of all Canadians are upon us to see what will become of Newfoundland and Labrador. They are looking to us to succeed and we will not let them down.

In the past year our government has fulfilled many commitments that we made to the people of this Province. Sometimes I think we focused so much attention on the Atlantic Accord that we really did not even take time to blow our own horn.

As Henry Ford once said, "Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success." Well, our government has spent the past year getting ready. We have worked diligently behind the scenes to develop a relevant Department of Business which will respond to the needs of industry and work with them to grow our economy. We completed consultations and have moved forward with a Rural Secretariat, and in a few days we will be rolling out our rural strategy.

We transformed fourteen health boards into four regional, integrated health authorities and successfully incorporated eleven school boards into five. Mr. Speaker, we did this because we know that our precious dollars are better spent in hospital rooms, in emergency rooms and in classrooms; not in board rooms, Mr. Speaker.

We have invested extensively and focused the attention of the federal government on Labrador, from 5 Wing Goose Bay to the many Aboriginal issues which must be addressed. We have announced an innovation strategy, a venture capital fund, more money for school repairs, increased enforcement for inland fisheries, strengthened the aquaculture industry, created new policing positions, implemented meaningful savings on car insurance, invested more money in cancer and other drugs, opened a new MRI, started new recycling initiatives and implemented election reform, and the list goes on and on and on.

Mr. Speaker, today's Speech from the Throne lays out our plan for the future. It builds upon the foundation for success that we laid in our first year.

As I have just outlined, our successes to date have been numerous and significant. We are now perfectly positioned as a Province for economic growth, stronger rural communities and healthy, safe and educated people, but we must not lose sight of who we are because that is our greatest strength and that is what sets us apart. I am so very proud that our government is focusing on fostering and nurturing our Province's rich and unique culture. Our culture is embodied in our people, and our people determine how our Province moves forward in the future. In this way our culture is inextricably linked to our future success. For this reason, our government is proud of our initiatives and investments in our cultural communities. We must support our artists, writers, actors, musicians, and entertainers. They represent our heart and our soul. They manifest what we are all about. Not only are investments into our history and our culture necessary, they are also wise. These are investments into an industry that creates jobs, attracts tourists and spurs economic activity.

Mr. Speaker, the Aboriginal peoples of this Province contribute much to our cultural landscape. Last month I had the honour and privilege of attending the historic Labrador Inuit Land Claims signing ceremony in Nain. I am always deeply moved by the rich and powerful culture, traditions and customs of our Aboriginal peoples. Our government will continue to nurture, encourage and support our Aboriginal people; not only their culture, but their education, their health and their well-being.

Opportunities abound in Labrador, and our government has demonstrated throughout the past seventeen months that we, indeed, have a vision for Labrador. Despite our vocal critics, our government continues to spend and invest in Labrador, including some $56 million in funding that we announced just a couple of weeks ago. I was especially proud to announce funding for important initiatives for women and children, in addition to infrastructure and health care projects, to name just a few. We will continue to work with Labradorians to identify the needs and opportunities and to invest on a priority basis.

Mr. Speaker, in a Province of 517,000 people, approximately, with a burden of debt close to $12 billion, the new money from our offshore resources is needed now more than ever. We now have the fiscal leg up to turn our situation around. However, we all know that, though $2 billion sounds like an awful lot of cash, it will only scratch the surface of our very serious fiscal situation. It is only through the continued sound fiscal management of the past seventeen months that we will, indeed, turn our deficits around. Our government is determined to use this money wisely. We must create, in Newfoundland and Labrador, an economic environment full of investment opportunities. We must cultivate a climate of development potential. We must plant the seeds of investment today to reap the rewards of success tomorrow.

Our government is proud of our plan to nurture and develop economic growth and job opportunities unlike anything this Province has ever experienced before. Not every venture will be successful, and as times change we will have to adapt to new environments and new realities. However, armed with good planning, we will overcome the challenges, face the obstacles head on and ultimately achieve our true potential. Building upon our successes to date, we will continue to put Newfoundland and Labrador on the world map as it has never been before.

We have experienced great success with our tourism marketing and our government is proud to continue to increase investments in tourism marketing to levels that meet other Atlantic provinces. However, we must also focus attention on marketing our Province to investors and the business community internationally. We are very excited about our branding strategy which, once completed, will market all that this Province has to offer. We will continue to vigorously support and foster small and medium-sized business in the Province. I, as all the members of my government, have always been champions of entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized business enterprises.

Mr. Speaker, our government knows that the smart approach is to focus on areas of (inaudible) strength; advanced marine and ocean technology, information technology, and our emerging environmental sectors to name just a few. We are developing an innovation strategy for the Province. That strategy will help us to identify immediate opportunities and stimulate greater utilization of innovation in all sectors of the economy.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, we will continue to manage our natural resources in a way that reaps meaningful long-term benefits for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. This includes our minerals, hydro, petroleum, fishery and agriculture industries among others. We are not afraid to make controversial decisions if it is for the greater good.

The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture recently announced the implementation of recommendations out of the Dunne Report - a report that was based on broad consultation. The fishery in this Province, Mr. Speaker, has been studied to death. The problem is that reports are absolutely useless if we do not act on them. This government is determined to do what it takes to sustain our fishery into the future. If we do not learn from the mistakes of our past, we are doomed to repeat them. So we are being decisive, we are trying new solutions on a pilot basis. We are being responsible because we recognize that the fishery needs management and long-term planning just like every other industry. Only then can we ensure a sustainable industry into the future.

We are also continuing to invest in our Province's infrastructure because we know that it is absolutely vital to the future well-being and economic prospects of rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We are proud to be finally taking a strategic approach to managing the infrastructure in our Province with multi-year planning and assessments to address needs on a priority basis.

Mr. Speaker, our social responsibilities are ones we take very, very seriously, especially in the areas of health care and education. We will continue to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians receive the best, most timely and accessible health care that we can afford. Last September, after many hours and days of tough negotiations with the federal government, we, along with other provinces and territories, were successful in securing more federal funding for health care. We are committed to ensuring that we spend on priority areas, especially wait times and diagnoses. We will continue to promote wellness for our young people and considerate and proper care for our seniors who require long-term care.

We will continue to support women and other advocacy groups with special measures to ensure women share in the social and economic benefits of the Province and to address barriers for women in our society.

I have always been a strong and a passionate advocate for a solid educational experience. From pre-school to post-secondary, we must enable our youth to acquire the best possible education. From safe and secure learning environments to accessibility and affordability, we must give our students the tools that they require to be the leaders of tomorrow. In order to facilitate this, Mr. Speaker, we are proud to confirm our continuation of the tuition freeze as promised.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, there is little doubt that our government and our Province have made substantial progress in the past year. When we formed the government, the opportunities seemed completely overshadowed by the tremendous challenges. Today, just seventeen short months later, the opportunities are so great, so promising, and so numerous, that it is almost hard to believe. It has taken a great deal of work, effort, cooperation and some pain along the way to get where we are today; however we are here. I want to thank all stakeholders, business, labour, the cultural community, the voluntary sector, community groups, and my caucus, and each and every individual citizen of this great Province, for your cooperation, your patience and your sacrifice as we have built the foundation for success.

When I reflect upon this past year, I am reminded of the words of an individual famous for her strength of character and her ability to achieve great things, Helen Keller. She said, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved." I believe, Mr. Speaker, that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can very much relate to these words as we begin down our road to success achieved.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that a select committee be struck to draft an address of thanks to 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 Forty-fifth House of Assembly. The members of the select committee will be the Member for Humber Valley, the Member for Burin-Placentia West, and the Member for Port de Grave.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

I declare the motion carried.

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that on tomorrow I will ask leave to introduce a Private Member's Motion which reads:

WHEREAS the Dunne report recommended the development of a raw material sharing system only when processors can assure the minister that there are and will be no substantive and reasonable objections from plant workers and harvesters; and

WHEREAS it is obvious that substantive and reasonable objections exist among harvesters and plant workers; and

WHEREAS in the Speech from the Throne last year, this government stated that it would consult before it acted and would be inclusive when it consulted; and

WHEREAS the harvesters and plant workers have clearly not been consulted nor included in this process.

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly calls upon government to only impose production quotas if it is agreed upon by the FFAW and the processors as recommended by the Dunne report.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On behalf of the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune who had a medical appointment, I would like to give notice that on tomorrow I will ask leave to introduce a Private Member's Motion which reads:

WHEREAS FPI was created by an act of this Legislature and government has a responsibility to ensure its future in the fishing industry of this Province; and

WHEREAS FPI has jeopardized the future of two communities that rely on the processing industry by announcing the closure of Harbour Breton fish plant and the phasing out of operations in Fortune; and

WHEREAS FPI has approached government with a plan that would see the sale of the 40 per cent of its lucrative marketing and value-added division in the United States; and

WHEREAS this sale will have a very negative impact on FPI's operations in this Province;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly urge the government to reject FPI's request to sell its American assets and establish an income trust.

In my own right, as Member for Burgeo & LaPoile, I would also like to give notice of the following private member's motion:

WHEREAS health care is one of the most important services provided by government to the public; and

WHEREAS government has engaged the HAY Group and received the reports that identified cuts to health care in the Western and Grenfell regions; and

WHEREAS the Hay Group's reports are focused on cost savings, not health care delivery, that considers the unique demographic and geographic challenges that exist in this Province;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly rejects the drastic cuts proposed by these reports and calls on government to commit to maintaining and improving current health care services rather than cutting services currently provided.

Thank you.

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

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to give notice today that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a private member's motion regarding the situation at Abitibi-Consolidated in Grand Falls-Windsor:

WHEREAS Abitibi-Consolidated announced in January it would be conducting a review of its two operations in Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS forestry act amendments passed in 2002 provided for the uniform expiration of Abitibi-Consolidated timber licences for the Grand Falls-Windsor mill; and

WHEREAS the continuance of the licences is subject to the company continuing to operate a two-machine operation and production using the two machines at substantially the same annual levels as those during the preceding three years at the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor; and

WHEREAS these forestry act amendments passed in 2002 to protect production levels at the Grand Falls-Windsor mill were supported by all parties; and

WHEREAS government has an obligation to protect the workers and communities that rely on this important industry;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly requests that the government reaffirm its commitment to Bill 27, forestry act amendments, that protects the production levels at the Grand Falls-Windsor mill and in turn protects the economy of Central Newfoundland.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave on tomorrow to introduce the following resolution:

WHEREAS the education of the youth of this Province is of utmost importance to our future; and

WHEREAS many schools in this Province are in a dilapidated and sometimes dangerous condition; and

WHEREAS the current government has caused increased problems in the education system by introducing school board restructuring without proper consultation or study; and

WHEREAS the current government has drastically reduced the number of teachers; and

WHEREAS there is evidence that buses used to transport children to school are unsafe; and

WHEREAS many people fear that there may be campus closures or program cuts in the post-secondary education system in this Province; and

WHEREAS there were a number of promises in the Blue Book related to schools and improvements in the education system which have not been kept;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the House of Assembly calls on government to recognize the importance of education to the future of this Province and to keep the commitments they have made during the last election by investing sufficient funds to address the needs of the Province's education system.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Grand Bank.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to introduce the following private member's motion on a crisis in rural Newfoundland and Labrador:

WHEREAS many municipalities in this Province are currently experiencing severe financial difficulties; and

WHEREAS many young people have already left rural communities, and out-migration from this Province increased to 2,077 this past year; and

WHEREAS the unemployment rate in many communities is at an unacceptable level; and

WHEREAS the actions of the present government have hurt the economy of rural areas of this Province; and

WHEREAS despite the promises made during the last election, the current government has not taken the action necessary to deal with the immediate crisis which exists in rural parts of this Province; and

WHEREAS the situation in many parts of this Province will get even worse as a result of an expanding crisis in the fishery; and

WHEREAS there is no evidence that this government has any plan to deal with the crisis facing rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly recognize the seriousness of the situation facing rural areas of this Province, and calls on the government to fulfill their election promises, commit the necessary resources, and take immediate action to deal with this crisis situation.

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

MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Pursuant to Standing Order 63, with the consent of the Government House Leader and the Leader of the NDP, we give notice that on tomorrow, Private Members' Day, we will be proceeding with the notice of motion put forward by the Member for Twillingate & Fogo dealing with the crab industry.

MR. SPEAKER: Further notices of motions.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

I am going do my duty and thank the people who have come to listen to the Throne Speech, our invited guests.

Without any further ado, I move that the House do now adjourn and report back tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House do now adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m.

All those in favour, ‘aye'.


MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay'.

This House now stands adjourned.

I invite all hon. members and our guests in the galleries to join us in the traditional reception that the Speaker hosts on this very important day.

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