December 3, 1992             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLI  No. 77


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Lush): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to advise the House that tomorrow I will be making a Ministerial Statement. There were no changes in our plans necessary because of the federal statement so we plan to go ahead tomorrow and do a financial statement. The mechanism and so on will be worked out by the House Leaders.

Oral Questions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Finance. For some time now, we have been asking the minister to consider renewing the consumer confidence and the investor confidence by taking steps to stimulate the private sector, and to provide incentives for job creation and investment of private capital. Last evening, the federal Minister of Finance took some courageous steps, I believe, designed to do just that and in so doing, showed great confidence in the economy and in the people of Canada. The Premier obviously disagrees. Will the minister tell us, Mr. Speaker, whether he is prepared to follow the federal minister's lead and take similar measures aimed at stimulating the economy? Will he reduce expenditures rather than increase taxation for the people of the Province?

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We agree that the stimulus to the small business sector is certainly an excellent way to ensure job creation in the country. I agree with that. I would like to point out to the hon. member that our ability to stimulate is limited and that he will see in the statement tomorrow what we intend to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: We recognize full well that the financial position of the Province leaves him in difficulty and that his room to manoeuvre is somewhat limited; therefore, will the minister take the advice that we have been giving? Will he use the private sector as the motor to stimulate the economy of the Province and to improve the economic climate in this Province for businesses to participate in? In particular, Mr. Speaker, will he eliminate, or at least, greatly reduce the payroll tax which is a disincentive to business and industry in this Province? Will he provide some investment tax credits, taking the lead from the federal minister last night? Will he re-institute the three-year tax holiday for new small businesses in this Province to give businesses an opportunity to begin doing business? Will he reduce the excessive corporate and consumer taxes in the Province to further stimulate the economy and consumer confidence?

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would dearly love to eliminate all taxation and wish I could. Mr. Speaker, we have been taking advice from a lot of people. Through the course of the last year we have had many meetings with groups all over this Province. We have received submissions in terms of the financial condition of the Province. We have listened to advice from the officials within finance and within government, we have listened to advice from individuals in the financial communities outside the Province, as well as within. We have listened to all that advice and quite recently, I might point out to the hon. member, I have been getting an awful lot of very sound advice from the people sitting on this side of the House, so, Mr. Speaker, all these things will be taken into consideration.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, will the minister take some sound advice from economists across Canada, who have been saying that the way out of the recession is to do some spending on infrastructure, on capital works; and we realize full well the ability of the Province to borrow, we realize the impact that could have on our credit rating. The impact on the Federal Government of borrowing is far more serious, Mr. Speaker, in view of the percentage of the federal dollar that is spent on debt as compared to the provincial dollar being spent on debt. Will the minister show some similar courage, and will he immediately proceed with some of the capital works that he announced, funding for engineering work recently? Would he move in that direction?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, everything will be revealed in due time. I should like to point out to the hon. member that we have a concern about our low credit rating, about our ability to stimulate to the level that we would like to do; I would like to point out to the hon. member that this morning, economists have been giving a number of different views. The predominant view seems to be that what was done in Ottawa last night, was a kind of balanced approach and there was not a lot of stimulation provided, because the impression has been given by these same economists, that the North American economy is on the way out of the recession, and that the approach followed by the Federal Government was, in fact, the middle-of-the-road approach that was, at this point in time, correct.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Well, Mr. Speaker, if the minister is so confident that we are getting out of the recession, let him show some courage here. Will he do this, Mr. Speaker: in view of the fact that the Government of Canada announced last night, they will proceed with the reduction in personal income tax that had been previously announced - that that will not be stopped - will the minister now tell the House and tell the people of this Province that he will not impose the 1.5 per cent increase on personal income tax that he has scheduled for this January, which will more than neutralize the positive impact of the Federal Government reduction? Will he now cancel that raise in income tax in January?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the Federal Government has taken certain measures to create an effect across this country and we hope that we will be part of that effect and we will see positive measures in this Province over the next few years. I would like to remind the hon. member that, in the interim, our problem - one of the very important aspects of our problem, is a credit rating problem, and although the hon. gentleman indicates ways in which we can spend more and more money and reduce more and more taxes, at the same time, he has the luxury of saying: Don't go out and borrow a lot of money. Mr. Speaker, he has that luxury of being able to take both sides of the question - I don't have that luxury.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Premier. This morning, people in Western Newfoundland were shocked to learn that Lundrigan's receiver has accepted a bid from Ches Penney for the former Lundrigan's Concrete divisions in Corner Brook and St. John's, instead of the bid from a group of former Lundrigan's managers for the concrete business, the gypsum plant and Atlantic Design Homes in Stephenville. Won't this put at risk, not only the continued operation of the concrete business but also the future of the North Star Cement plant in Corner Brook, since Ches Penney is already in the concrete business in competition with Lundrigan's and is already in the cement business in competition with North Star? What comfort can the Premier give to concrete and cement employees in Corner Brook?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, surely, even the hon. member realizes that we cannot tell the receivers to whom to sell assets that they have under their control. We have done everything reasonable and everything possible within government's power to provide for the proposal that was developed. The government acted, and acted expeditiously. As a matter of fact, I was speaking with Mr. Harold Lundrigan earlier this morning. I have a meeting with him later this afternoon to discuss the issue and see how the matter may be salvaged. We cannot direct the receivers not to sell to private enterprise in this Province, they have a perfect right to do. Private enterprise has a perfect right to purchase. We put forward the assistance requested of government and made it available and gave the assurances. Through a variety of problems or difficulties involving the bank, the proponents, and so on, the matter was not able to be realized amongst themselves. I will be pursuing further discussions with Mr. Lundrigan, all with a view to try to find a means whereby the gypsum wallboard plant may well be able to continue to operate.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, last Friday when the Premier told the House of Assembly that the bid of former Lundrigan's managers had failed, he said it was because the group couldn't meet their bank's request for an extra $500,000. Is it ever possible that this Premier, who's supposed to be representing the Bay of Islands, is going to allow Lundrigans' concrete business, the North Star cement plant and the gypsum plant, to go down the tube for the want of half a million dollars?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, that in the end didn't turn out to be the problem. They raised the additional half million dollars. There was another problem, about which the hon. member obviously knows nothing.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, would the Premier come clean with the people of the Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS. VERGE: Would the Premier give a direct answer? Would the Premier own up to the fact that had the government increased its commitment to the three western Newfoundland businesses that I mentioned - by less even than he is spending to redecorate his office suite - those businesses could be saved?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: If she had listened to my answer instead of working up the remainder of her venom she would have known that the question she just posed has no value. It's totally without merit. The $500,000 was not - capital N, capital O, capital T - not the problem. The $500,000 was arranged. There was another problem about which the government could do nothing. The government did what it had to do. There were other difficulties, and I have no doubt in due course they may well be disclosed. People will then know. When they do, perhaps even the hon. member will accept the proposition that it wasn't for want of $500,000 extra that the government could have put in it. The government agreed to put up $3.2 million by way of guarantee from the government to allow the venture to occur. It wasn't for want of $500,000 that it failed. That was arranged and in place.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier told the House of Assembly on Friday morning that the problem was $500,000. He's denying that now. Tell us what is the problem. Why did the bid of the former Lundrigans' managers fail?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, on Friday morning, when I gave the House that information, that was correct. At noon, things changed. The $500,000 was arranged by afternoon and they were putting forward the proposal. I didn't raise it. The government didn't put it up. I just say: it was raised by other sources that put the financing up. That problem was dealt with by noon, I think - around about noon on Friday I was advised of it.

As a matter of fact, because of the statement I had made in the House on Friday morning I issued a news release indicating just that - later in the day - indicating that the matter was back on track again.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a separate question on a different issue for the Minister of Justice.

Mr. Speaker, what is the Minister of Justice's present connection to the law firm, Halley Hunt? Is it true that the firm in which the minister was a senior partner until last Winter, the firm to which the Wells' government awarded the lucrative Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador contract on a raw patronage basis, and which is still doing that work, is now paying the Minister of Justice $10,000 a month?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation at all in revealing the full answer to the question because there is nothing at all to be ashamed of.

I have two connections to Halley Hunt. I am married to a partner in that firm, and I am rather pleased, and I hope the lady to whom I am married is pleased with it.

Secondly, when I resigned my partnership in the firm at the end of January 1992, two weeks before I joined the Cabinet, I was owed a quarter of a million dollars by that firm. Now I do not like going into my private affairs, but the hon. lady did not even do me the courtesy to ask me outside the House, so I will have to do this.

I was owed a quarter of a million dollars, this being my account - my capital partnership account in that firm - representing money which I had earned and which I had or was liable to pay income tax, which I had not drawn because it was tied up in accounts receivable - not work in progress - accounts receivable, or assets to which I had paid my share.

The arrangement that I had with that firm is the one that every partner in that firm has, including those who went to the Bench, or others who have withdrawn from the firm for one reason or another, and that amount is paid out over two years - twenty-four months. It works out to a little more than $10,000 a month, and in addition I get interest at the rate of one-half prime plus one per cent.

Now I think these are pretty personal matters. I disclosed them fully to the Premier, because he is entitled to know, before I came into the Cabinet, and I do not mind saying them here in the House; but I must say to the hon. lady that I do resent (a) the tone of the question; and (b) I resent her complete lack of courtesy.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I have nothing to hide.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I told the Premier. Who should I tell? Some common gossip who told the lady for Humber East? I am telling the people now; and Mr. Speaker, let me say, I will put -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

PREMIER WELLS: We will ask for your business affairs, too, your personal business affairs.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. ROBERTS: - my conduct in public life up against anybody, including the hon. lady opposite. I can't ask her a question, but I shall find out, if I can, how many times previous Premiers - Well, I won't, I will go into that another time.

Let me say, that is the full and complete answer. If she does not believe me, she can have the audited statements. I earned that money, I paid tax on it.

MR. SIMMS: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. Leader of the Opposition makes fun. I suppose he enjoys seeing a Minister of the Crown or a member standing up and revealing personal affairs. Now, would he like to know how much my wife's share of the partnership is? Would he like to know anything else like that, Mr. Speaker? I don't mind, but my wife may. Mr. Speaker, I must say I resent low, slimy, sleazy questions of that nature.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A supplementary to the Premier. I ask the Premier: Why has he and his government left the Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador legal account with the law firm Halley Hunt in which his Minister of Justice has a financial interest? Why is the Premier violating his own stated conflict of interest standard, his own lofty rhetoric of a couple of years ago?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I think the answer is fairly simple, and I would hope that all of the things that I understood were going to be done have, in fact, been done. Mr. Speaker, we have put an end to patronage, the kind of patronage -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: I say again, Mr. Speaker, derisive laughter is no substitute for intelligent comment, but if you are bereft of intelligent comment maybe it is the only thing to which you can resort.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if we will get rid of the derisive laughter and the loud braying and baying, I will attempt to answer the hon. member's question. The answer, Mr. Speaker, is that the government has found a way to put an end to patronage in terms of allocation of legal work. We have issued -

MS. VERGE: Some (inaudible).

PREMIER WELLS: If hon. members will listen, they will see that it was done quite differently than when the hon. member was Minister of Justice. We will dig out and make available to this House all of her patronage appointments too, Mr. Speaker, each and every one.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER WELLS: We will compare the standards of behaviour. Have no fear, Mr. Speaker.

What we have done, Mr. Speaker, is advised the legal profession of all of the legal work that government and its agencies have to do. We've advised every agency that's doing it that all existing contracts are to terminate at the end of December.... is it?

MR. ROBERTS: Yes.

PREMIER WELLS: The end of this month. We have invited proposals from law firms throughout the Province to provide the service to government on the lowest cost basis. Now like consultant services or medical or any kind of professional or accounting services, legal services are not the kind of thing you can put into slots and say: it's four and half cents per pound, or whatever. You have to judge it on a different basis. But we're inviting proposals for the provision of legal services in exactly the same way as we invite proposals for the provision of engineering services - to eliminate the patronage from the system, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member who asked the question was Minister of Justice for many years. Did we see reforms like that?.... not likely. I'll attempt to find out and table before the House the level of patronage and who got what, and how many are still there in fact, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: I'm attempting to recognise hon. members who are standing.

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Premier avoided answering my question. The question is: why has he left the Enterprise Newfoundland and Labrador legal account with Halley Hunt? Why is he allowing his government to do business with a firm in which his Minister of Justice has a direct financial interest? Why is he violating his own conflict of interest standards?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, I guess I didn't go on to fill in. I told the House what we were doing. Now the alternative was to take Halley Hunt out of it between now and the end of December, put in an interim, and then take that interim out and put in the one who got the bid at the end of December. It seems a little illogical. It ends as of December 31, when all the others end, and they're replaced by those who were successful in the proposal.

MR. ROBERTS: Tenders close tomorrow.

PREMIER WELLS: Tenders close tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, for the provision, not only of that, of all of the legal services that (Inaudible). For the first time in the history of this Province it's being done on a proper basis, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Finance. While his government is bringing in legislation to provide tax relief to Fortis Incorporated, will the minister confirm that his own officials are requiring individuals to pay full sales tax on gifts that they might receive, such as, for example, a motor vehicle? The minister knows of the case of which I speak. His officials have interpreted the word "sale" in the retail sales tax act to include a gift. An individual, one of my constituents, is being required to pay $500 in sales tax for a gift given to her by a friend.

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

MR. BAKER: Yes, Mr. Speaker. A tax system can only work if it operates that way. Otherwise every transaction could be a gift, and a gift could be obtained in return. So we could have an automobile agency for instance giving me a gift of a car and I could give them a gift of $20,000. The system has to operate that way. However, Mr. Speaker, there are certain relationships where that does not apply. For instance, within a family. A transfer within a family. That particular condition does not apply.

The hon. member has come up with a situation that may in fact be unique. I have asked my officials to give me a full report on it and to advise me whether or not I as a minister have the right to actually cancel the tax on that transaction.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe the minister knows, or he would know if he checked, that there's nothing in the retail sales tax act that makes a distinction between family relationships and any other relationship, in relation to this matter. That what is really happening is that his officials are making an interpretation of a particular section which really can't hold, and applying it to friendships, to other relationships, but not to families.

This is in fact a discrimination against an individual who is in a very difficult economic circumstance, Mr. Speaker, and one who also will obtain an advantage of independence from having the ability to use a vehicle. Now, Mr. Speaker, is the minister prepared to indicate that he is able to instruct his officials to interpret the legislation properly and provide some compassion in his government's administration of tax?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the hon. gentleman knows, we cannot have a system of collecting taxes that is totally open to individual interpretation. There are a set of regulations that are applied. If there are reasons for exemptions, then these reasons are also obvious. I will repeat to the hon. gentleman, that we cannot allow our tax system to be totally open to people doing this kind of thing wholesale throughout the Province, that would destroy the tax system and number two, I have asked for advice on whether I, as Minister of Finance, have the right to give tax remission in this particular case.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Education.

I asked a question in the House yesterday regarding an indefinite postponement of the full grant system for school boards, and the minister asked if I was quoting from a National Enquirer. I would like to inform the minister that I quoted a letter from his deputy minister and this confirms, Mr. Speaker, what I have been saying all along, that he is out of touch with what is going on in his department. This is gross incompetence, and the question I would ask is: in addition to the millions of dollars that have been taken from school board funding, will the minister confirm that he intends to claw back part of the school tax revenue collected from January to March? Will he confirm that that is in the memorandum also?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I will try to explain this to the public because obviously the hon. member is going to put his own interpretation on what has actually happened.

Newfoundlanders will know that last year this administration abolished that curse called school tax. Now, Mr. Speaker, the cost of abolishing school tax was in the vicinity of, I believe, $35 million, so we put an additional $35 million into the grant system for all the school boards of the Province, and the Province took over the responsibility then for collecting outstanding school taxes. We bought their ledgers I suppose, as they say in the business world, we bought their ledgers; we bought their ledgers and there were taxes owed, and a lot of that taxes, Mr. Speaker, nobody really expected to collect. But remember, this administration said if you paid it by a deadline, some time in June, you could be excused half of whatever it was. As a result of that, school taxes, which a lot of people never expected to ever see collected, came in, and that went through the system. Now, some of the school boards, not all of them, some of the school boards are saying: oh, that is our money, but, Mr. Speaker, the government bought their ledger; we paid them for that money and that money belongs to the taxpayers of this Province. To allow them to keep the school taxes which are now coming in, would be paying double for the school taxes and we do not intend to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Ferryland, on a supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, the minister is practising intellectual dishonesty. Now, will the minister confirm that boards have been operating since March on a tentative budget, which is millions of dollars below what is approved in the March Budget, and will he confirm that his department now, intends to cut back even further by having a 1 per cent salary reduction and a 3 per cent operating budget? Will he confirm that this is also in the memorandum?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, as hon. members know, when we abolished the school taxes, we put in $85 or $90 million to deal with the grants to school boards. Mr. Speaker, there was a system devised in terms of reference for us to deliver that money. The department knew as school boards know, that it was impossible for us to work through the whole system to have ready to give to the boards their notifications in July when they normally get their notifications, so, Mr. Speaker, in July, all boards were given a tentative allocation. I would tell the hon. member, that that tentative allocation, in no case, was less than 8 per cent more than any board had ever received in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador - no board. The tentative allocation - in no case was anybody going to get less than 8 per cent. That still stands. In some cases boards tentative allocation was as high as 15 per cent. Now that was the tentative budget. Some boards interpreted that to mean that maybe we might get a few more dollars down the road. Maybe they will and maybe they will not. That depends on how we work out the details.

As for the 1 per cent and the 3 per cent reduction, we cannot exempt the Department of Education and ask the Department for Health for a rebate of one and three. We want to do this without discrimination. All of the Province has to deal with this problem we are in, and educational boards, like health boards, like all other boards, are asked to come up with the one and three, and I personally have no problem with that. If it were the other way around I would have a problem because we would then be accused of discrimination.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knows; his department has letters; the school board knows; and I know, and I have letters that indicate that their funding this year will be below the level of funding that they even got in the tentative budget, and there are letters and documents to that effect in his department.

Let me ask the minister this question: Given the fact that his government has been planning for three-and-a-half years for elimination of school tax, which has made this new grant system necessary, why did he not do the necessary preparation in March when they decided to do away with the school tax? Is this more gross incompetence now that delays are occurring at the last minute, when he knew three-and-a-half years ago?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, when we abolished the school tax we told the people of this Province that as a result of the abolition of the school tax no board would receive less money than they had received last year. That would include a grant plus school tax. I stand by that. There is no board in this Province which is receiving less than 8 per cent more than they received last year. I stand by that. Now, if the hon. member wants to try to read something into that, I cannot help that, but no board has received less than 8 per cent more than they received last year. As I pointed out about other questions, school boards are asked to deal with their operations at the one and three formula, like everybody else.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

On behalf of hon. members I would like to welcome a couple of student groups today. The first group we would like to welcome is comprised of thirty students from the district of Harbour Grace. They are from St. Peter's Elementary School in Upper Island Cove, and they are accompanied by their teachers, Mrs. Judy Adams, Mr. Winston Lynch and Mr. Norm Mugford. The second group of students come from Woody Point, from Bonne Bay High School in the district of St. Barbe, and they are accompanied by their teachers, Kirk Anderson and Ms. Jennifer Parsons.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I think this is the appropriate place - section 23(1) of the Legal Aid Act says that the Auditor General shall audit the accounts of the Legal Aid Commission and Section 24 says that I am to lay the reports referred to in section 23(1) before the House of Assembly. I have here the Auditor General's report and the statements of the commission for the year ended, 31 March 1991, which I tabled in accordance with that requirement. We haven't made seventy-five copies available because we stopped the paper chase but there are copies available for the press and for any hon. member who wishes one. All that is necessary is to send word to the Clerk in the usual way, Sir.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Social Services.

MR. GULLAGE: Mr. Speaker, I was asked a question in the House about a week ago, ten days ago, by the Member for St. John's East concerning a matter of home repairs in the district of Bellevue. Mr. Speaker, I think the question, if I got the gist of it properly, was concerning the sequence of the timing of the approval and completion of the work that was in progress. Mr. Speaker, the request for repairs from these two individuals was received by NLHC on October 9 in St. John's and that request was faxed into the Clarenville office on October 14. Four estimates for repairs were received and they were considered to be excessive so the other quotes were requested. Those estimates were subsequently received by NLHC on October 26, and on October 27, the request was approved, and subsequently - and I guess this is where the confusion possibly comes in - was cancelled due to NLHC having exceeded its budget, spent its budget for the year as it was allocated from the Department of Social Services. We, indeed, had put in place a contract with NLHC to carry out these home repairs for the Department of Social Services and our clients. So, on October 27, that approved request was subsequently cancelled. However, on November 7, the request was reinstated for approval and the work commenced the following day. Mr. Speaker, I am told, that work is in progress and will be completed, as this reads, the balance of this week. December 4, actually, is the date I am given when the work should be complete on the home. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wish to present petitions of teachers who teach at three schools in Pasadena in the district of Humber East. The three schools are Pasadena Academy, Pasadena Primary and Holy Rosary. The petitions from the first two schools are identical. The petition from the third, Holy Rosary, essentially makes the same prayer but is worded slightly differently, so, with Your Honour's permission I would like to present them together. The petition of teachers of Pasadena Academy and Pasadena Primary is, quote:

'Whereas we believe it is unfair to make a select group of Newfoundland's population, namely, teachers, bear an inordinate portion of the burden for the Provincial deficit; and

Whereas we believe further cuts in funding to the education system can only be detrimental to education, detrimental to the economy as a whole, disastrous to our present population and destructive to generations of students to come;

Therefore, your petitioners pray that the House of Assembly and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador take no action that will further cut the teachers' compensation package or cut the number of teachers employed or reduce the programs in our schools.

Furthermore, we urge the government to increase funding to the Province's education system.'

The Holy Rosary petition is as follows:

'Whereas we feel it is totally unfair of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to single out any particular segment of workers to bear the brunt of hardships in order to eradicate debts caused by government mismanagement; and

Whereas we believe proposed cuts to the Province's education system will be detrimental to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador;

Therefore, your petitioners pray that the House of Assembly and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (1) not cut teachers' compensation packages, (2) not reduce the number of teaching positions in the Province, and (3) not cut education programs in the Province's schools.'

Mr. Speaker, these three petitions are signed by a total of fifty-eight teachers and I have added my signature. Essentially, these teachers are making a plea for justice for themselves, as professionals, being paid from the Public Treasury. They are also seeking adequate public funding for children's education, recognizing the fact that spending on education today is an investment in our future, recognizing the significance of education for economic advancement.

Mr. Speaker, teachers have already made a sacrifice at the hands of this government. This government, with Bills 16 and 17 has stripped contractual benefits from teachers, benefits which were provided for in contracts signed by this government. Teachers are saying, 'No more. Against our will we have been made to sacrifice already because of government mismanagement and it would be totally unfair for us to lose more, to have more stripped from our contract. Furthermore, these teachers realize that current education offerings are not fully meeting the needs of our young people. They are seeing missed opportunities and they are saying, instead of reducing the level of educational programming, the government has to ensure that the quality is enhanced. They are saying firmly, let us improve education.

Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly support the petitions of these teachers and I will be interested in hearing the reaction of the government. What has prompted the petitions, of course, is the fearmongering of the last month: the statements of the government to the NTA executive and to other public service union leaders that the government is contemplating rolling back negotiated wages and benefits, reducing wages and benefits from the current level; statements of the Premier and his ministers that the government will not spare anything in cutting to reduce the deficit. Now, Mr. Speaker, I believe that much of what has been said over the past month has been prompted by the Premier's phalanx of public relations advisors, headed by Edsel Bonnell. I believe it has been a ploy to make people fear much worse consequences than the Minister of Finance is going to announce tomorrow so that the headline in the weekend papers will be: 'Relief - freeze, not cuts'.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has expired.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I speak in support of the petitions presented by my colleague from Humber East. This government is proposing to make cuts right across the board, borne on the backs of public servants, in particular, the teachers. Since 1980, the teachers have received increases of 15 per cent below the consumer price index. I think it very unfair to inflict further cuts and put them a few percentage points below the standard of living across this country. They have lost 15 per cent already. Cutbacks in teachers results in cutbacks in service and cutbacks to students and this petition asks that these cuts not be on the backs of students, basically.

This government, and the minister, in particular, have bragged about the level of consultation that is going on in response to all my questions in the House - `We don't dictate, we consult.' Yet, his deputy minister in his department, unbeknownst to him, sends out a memorandum to every school board in this Province, not once asking for input or comment, but indicating to them a 1 per cent and a 3 per cent cutback, a cutback that is going to affect students in the Province. Schools had to cancel computers that were on order, they had to cut back in curriculum that was promised and built in to a budget based upon a tentative budget that was given to that board. Now, with the year 75 per cent over, in trying to come up with cutbacks to meet their needs, it amounts to enormous cutbacks in proportion to what would be obtained over a regular year.

I think it is a total lack of concern by the minister and the government for education in this Province, a very important department in which we should be promoting and encouraging and trying to increase educational levels in this Province to bring it up to a par with elsewhere in this country. We have seem an assault, really, on education in this Province, and education is the one specific area that least deserved to be assaulted. In fact, what it amounts to now is that boards are being ripped off.

The government didn't anticipate extra school board taxes and the school boards didn't. The government is now saying, `You collected more school taxes than you were supposed to collect, so we are now going to take back money that was rightfully yours.' By going out to bring in a new tax structure and new grants to boards, this government right now is now saying it could be postponed indefinitely. So they acted and misled the boards in this Province by saying, we will eliminate school tax and bring in a new grant structure. Now, they are saying to the boards, when their year is almost over, `We are not going to bring in that grant structure anymore.' As a direct result, it is affecting students in this Province, students in the classrooms, with cutbacks in lab supplies and curriculum, for French and various other disciplines that are needed in order to be able to encourage and bring our students up to certain standards.

A Royal Commission is recommending increasing the number of instructional days, and this department is saying, `Let's cut back. Let's invent some more obstacles to prevent people from getting a proper education.' Not only is it improper to cut in education, it is improper to cut in education when you have given a commitment. The minister is not coming clean when he says the boards are going to get at least 8 per cent more. He has letters, and I have copies and the boards know, that that is not the case. I would suggest that the minister will, in light of this, change his mind and have the department change its mind, to ensure that no boards are cut back.

Equalization is another specific area he preached so much about to ensure that schools that have low tax bases would get extra funding. These have not been brought up to the average of the Province, either, under the equalization formulas. I think it is very gross misconduct on the part of the government, not to be considerate to education, not keeping a promise. The government and the department have advocated fairness and balance and integrity, torn up agreements, and then come back again and destroyed tentative budgets boards were given.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the member's time has expired.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to speak to this petition. I am always encouraged when we receive words from the teachers who are out working so hard in the districts. A lot of them are my close personal friends, and I know the difficult time and struggle they are having trying to deliver education to people in this Province. So it is always comforting, Mr. Speaker, when we receive word from teachers giving us suggestions.

Mr. Speaker, I would tell the teachers who are in the various schools around the Province, in the classrooms doing a hard day's work, I would implore them not to be spooked by fearmongering and rumormongers in the Opposition. You see, this government, above all of the governments that we have had in the history of this Province, believes in consultation, believes in the democratic process. Ironically, Mr. Speaker, our belief in the democratic process is probably what causes us sometimes to get a black eye.

You see, when the Minister of Finance was advised that we were going to have an operational deficit of $153 million, we had the option of sitting around the Cabinet table and deciding what we were going to do about this, and announcing it to the public within a few hours after we made the decision. That is the way the CBC handled their cutbacks a couple of years ago. Not an employee had an inkling that there was anything wrong. All of a sudden there was a news conference called and all the employees were told there were going to be layoffs and there were going to be wage freezes and what have you.

Government could have done that, but being the consultative government that we are, we went out and consulted with the leaders of all the unions. Some of the union leaders - some - not all, have been very co-operative with government because they recognize - when they hear Don Mazankowski on television telling about the problems that we are having in the nation; when they hear the Minister of Finance from Saskatchewan telling some of the measures that Saskatchewan has to take; when they hear the Minister of Finance in NDP Ontario saying that they have to discontinue student grants; our people in Newfoundland and Labrador are not stupid - they know exactly what is happening throughout the country and throughout the world. They know that.

So we went out to consult with them and said: Here is our problem. We are no different from Ontario. We are no different from Saskatchewan. We are no different from Ottawa. We have a severe problem. Help us deal with it. Would you consider rollbacks? Would you consider a freeze? Would you consider giving something up in your contract? We considered every single possible option, but here is where the problem comes in. When you start consulting with people, the rumours start to fly, and what is said by the Minister of Finance, by the time it filters through ten or twelve other people, it comes out diametrically opposed to what the Minister of Finance said.

Even worse than that, when an irresponsible opposition has nothing on its mind only making political points - nothing to do with the delivery of education; nothing to do with the delivery of health care - they could not care less about the Province going bankrupt. They could not care less if we have an A rating or a B or a C. They could not care less whether we had junk bonds. They have one thing and one thing only on their minds, and that is to get over here where we are so they can continue the process of putting this Province totally into bankruptcy. That is the sole aim in their mind. They do not care about the teachers in the system. They do not care about health care workers. They want one thing - to get over here where we are so they can finish the job which we interrupted. They want to put this Province bankrupt.

Well this administration does not want to preside over the bankruptcy of this Province and we are not going to do it, no matter what the opposition wants us to do. We are going to maintain the fiscal integrity of this Province, and that is for all of our people, and I do not care what the Member for Corner Brook says, or the Member for Humber East, or the Member for Ferryland. We are going to maintain the fiscal integrity of this Province so we can keep our schools open; so we can keep our hospitals open.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

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

I have two petitions; however, I am willing to join the two of them together in one petition.

A few days ago I asked the House - because the petitions came in the form of a fax, and I wanted to lay the fax on the Table - I have already spoken to the Government House Leader and he has no problem with it; however, it is up to the Speaker with the concurrence of the House, if I can go ahead.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, let me confirm that my hon. friend did indeed come and speak with me and that I indeed did speak with him. It was a very productive thing.

Fax, spelled f a x in this context, raises a problem. Let me say that we on this side are prepared, for the purposes of this discussion today, or this petition presentation, to suggest that Your Honour might consider receiving it as an original; but I would suggest, Sir, that Your Honour take whatever procedure necessary to develop a rule on this because this is something new technologically that the rules simply do not address. We have to decide whether we are prepared to accept facsimile transmissions as being original documents; but certainly for the purpose of presenting this presentation, it makes sense and we consent.

MR. SPEAKER: To the point of order, the Chair will deal with the matter of faxes. I think we have really done some preliminary research on it, but if the House consents I'll allow the hon. member to present his petition.

The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

MR. WARREN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The prayer of the petition is as follows: we the undersigned, teachers at John Christian Erhardt Memorial School in Makkovik, give our support to the recent decisions made by the provincial executive of the Newfoundland Teachers Association concerning government cutbacks. We are shocked and upset with the Wells' government's intention to roll back wages, given that they have already frozen our most recent negotiated salary increase.

Mr. Speaker, to tie in with that one from Makkovik there's one more from Nain and it is a letter addressed to me. It does have original signatures to it, and a fax did arrive from the Nain school and I'll read a copy of the fax to make sure that I am following the rules and regulations that at least were decided a few minutes ago.

The content of this fax says: as the Newfoundland Teachers Association representative for the Jens Haven Memorial School in Nain I am requesting that you present our letter of November 24 - that's this letter, Mr. Speaker - to the House of Assembly to support our concerns with respect to the proposed cutbacks of teachers' salaries.

Mr. Speaker, accompanying these I have I think something like twenty or twenty-two individual letters, from individual teachers in those two particular schools. I would think it is incumbent upon me as their member to speak on their behalf, to express on their behalf the concerns that they have.

I guess I can go back to 1959 when I first went teaching. I wasn't given a choice where I wanted to teach. I was told where I had to teach. In fact every teacher then in the 'sixties, early 'sixties, was told where they were going to go. They did not have a choice of where they wanted to go. Today it's different. Teachers can apply for different schools. I think I should say too, teachers that devote their life, time, energies of moving out of the urban areas and going into the rural areas of our Province, going into the Labrador coast, down on the south coast of Newfoundland, these are teachers who are not just doing it for a pay cheque. These are teachers who are doing it to give services to the students in these particular communities.

I would say those teachers are not just going to Nain for the sake of collecting a pay cheque. They are not going to Cartwright for the sake of collecting a pay cheque. They're there to use their experience and knowledge to help our children to better their education. I would think that we should make sure that we will treat those teachers in a most orderly manner in making sure that their cost of living is not increased. Because at the present time living on the Labrador coast, in particular, it's costing more to survive, to live.

They're up there now and Christmas time - some of those teachers will be fortunate enough to go back to their own homes or go elsewhere for their vacation. But do you know, Mr. Speaker, that it's going to cost now approximately $1,200 to have a return trip from Nain to St. John's?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WARREN: Mr. Speaker, let me say to my hon. colleague - and I understand he's going to speak afterwards - there are no petitions from Eagle River. I should suggest to him that he does have letters in his office from a number of teachers in his district but he's afraid to bring them into the House. That's what the problem is. He's afraid to let the people of this House know.

In my concluding remarks I want to say I support their petition. I want to say one thing. I say this to the Minister of Health, because he just got up a few minutes ago and he was talking about what they are going to do. Mr. Speaker, this teacher said to me, and I'll use the words as close as I can to what this particular teacher said: we've had Mr. Decker as the Minister of Health, and just look at what has happened to the health system in our Province in the last two and a half years, and now the Premier has the gall to put him in charge of the Education system, so just imagine where we are going to be in the next two or three years. In fact, they are saying, to use a final remark from a teacher in Makkovik, and I think this will sum up what the teachers are saying: this will definitely not be forgotten when the election draws near. This will definitely not be forgotten when the election draws near, and I say to the Minister of Education and to this government: pay attention to the teachers; pay attention to the teachers. Look what they did to the late Joey Smallwood's government, look what they did to the Peckford government and I will tell the Premier now, they will do the same thing to his government.

Thank you.

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

MR. A. SNOW: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak in support of the petition so ably presented by my colleague, the Member for Torngat Mountains, on behalf of the teachers from Makkovik, who are petitioning this House to treat them fairly. These teachers who signed this petition talk about being shocked and upset with the actions of this particular government. The proposal of a 1 per cent freeze in salaries and a proposal of a 3 per cent cutback in operating costs in departments and agencies controlled by the government; that is what they are upset with and the hon. Minister of Education said that what people are upset with is the fearmongering being set out by the members of the Opposition and the unions.

Mr. Speaker, the fearmongering was done by members of the government and I would suspect that it was very deliberate, very deliberate, because it has become quite evident now that there is not going to be any roll back of wages, it is quite evident that they are not going to do it, they are not going to roll back any wages and this is all the softening up, softening up the work force, softening up the public employees of this Province, so that when they announce the wage freeze they expect that this is going to be accepted with open arms.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: The hon. Member for Port de Grave says, yes, he is right, he is right, he is agreeing with me; he nods his head in an affirmative manner, he is agreeing with me that it was all a big scam from the beginning, all a big scam, that the boys got in the Cabinet room and the fancy digs up there with the thick carpet and expensive chairs and cooked up the deal: this is what we can do now, we will just orchestrate all this so that when we do announce, just a freeze, they will accept that.

But, Mr. Speaker, I do not think that the public employees of this Province have been treated fairly by this administration, and I do not think that the public employees who are in my district will ever support this particular administration for the betrayal of trust when they formed the government, because a lot of the public employees in the last election, supported the Liberal party and they feel betrayed by them. They feel absolutely betrayed because of what they have done to them, very similarly, what the public employees had done to them by the Pequiste government in Quebec after the election of 1980, when they too, rolled back public sector wages in 1980.

I believe it is only this regime and that regime that did those things in this country, but, Mr. Speaker, the teachers in my district as the teachers in Makkovik, are very concerned about what is going on. It is not just their wages. They are also very concerned about the quality of education that is going to be delivered to the younger people of our Province. They are more concerned about that than even their cut in wages. I know that the teachers in my district whom I met with last weekend spoke to me very strongly about how the quality of education in Western Labrador is going to be lowered because of the actions of this government. The hon. the Minister of Education speaks very proudly about the abolition of school tax in Western Labrador and throughout the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: I can tell the hon. minister that the people in Western Labrador would prefer to have the previous school tax in place.

MR. REID: They could afford to pay it.

MR. A. SNOW: Yes, they could afford to pay it but the problem is they are paying three times as much now. The hon. the Member for Carbonear doesn't realize this - they are paying three times as much now and getting less in service. They are going to pay for you now out here so you can sit down and do nothing.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has elapsed.

MR. A. SNOW: They are tired paying all those extra taxes.

Could I have extra leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, in conclusion

MR. SPEAKER: I told the hon. member his time has elapsed.

The hon. the Member for Eagle River.

MR. DUMARESQUE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am very pleased to be able to get up today and use this opportunity to talk about education and the educational commitment this government has displayed to the people of Coastal Labrador. Let me say from the outset that this government has no apologies to make when it comes to our contribution to education on the Coast of Labrador. It is very timely, Mr. Speaker, that the petition should come from Makkovik. It was only a year ago when the people from Makkovik came to this government and asked, would you try to do something for our community by putting a new gymnasium onto our school in Makkovik? Now, what did this government say? Did this government say, go, be gone, we don't want to see you? Did this government and the Premier say, we don't want to hear your concerns? No, Mr. Speaker, this minister rose in his place and gave $140,000 to see a new gymnasium put on the school in Makkovik. That is the record of this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains, on a point of order.

MR. WARREN: Mr. Speaker, I hate to say this, but the member is definitely misleading this House, because the $140,000 did not come from this government, it came from the Federal Government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It is not a point of order to get up when a member is speaking and to indicate whether what he is saying is either correct or incorrect. It is not a point of order.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: To another point of order. The hon. gentleman from Torngat Mountains just accused the hon. gentleman from Eagle River of deliberately misleading the House. That is not parliamentary. If the hon. gentleman from Torngat doesn't know it then perhaps Your Honour might wish to tell him and make him withdraw it.

MR. SPEAKER: To the point of order, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. MATTHEWS: I am going to have to check Hansard to review it but the Member for Torngat Mountains did not say that the Member for Eagle River was deliberately misleading the House.

MR. SIMMS: Even the member says, no.

MR. MATTHEWS: He did not say that, Mr Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: To the point of order. Again, it is to the benefit of all hon. members to maintain decorum in the House. The Chair cannot say for certain what the hon. member said. Only the hon. member knows what he said. Members might think they know what he said. I know, I heard the member say, mislead, but whether he said deliberately mislead, I do not know. The hon. member could take care of it rather quickly.

The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

MR. WARREN: Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much, Sir. I am sure Hansard will record tomorrow what I did say. I did say, and I will say, that the member is misleading this House. He had done that this evening. I know he has done it and I will say he has done it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Eagle River.

MR. DUMARESQUE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This government has no apologies to make and as far as the reference to the hon. member is concerned, the previous Minister of Municipal Affairs will note that it was through his efforts, as well, along with the Minister of Education at that time, that this was done. I don't want to dwell on that the whole time because we have so much good news to tell this House about our commitment to education, Mr. Speaker. It was only a year ago when the people of St. Lewis, Labrador said to this government, 'We would like to have a new school in our community,' and he said to the people of St. Lewis 'No, you would be gone. We don't want to talk to you. We have no commitment to this.' No, Mr. Speaker, that Minister of Education went down there a year ago and opened up a brand new school in St. Lewis, Labrador - over $2 million, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DUMARESQUE: And now, Mr. Speaker, only a week ago, on Thursday November 27, this present Minister of Education went to Red Bay, Labrador. And Red Bay, Labrador, Mr. Speaker, had a new school built twenty-five years ago when the previous Liberal Government was in power. They came back to this government a couple of years ago and said, 'Our school is in disrepair and it is time that we had a new school in our community.' They asked, 'Would you, as the member, do what you can to see that we get it done.' I was in the hall, Mr. Speaker, three years ago, when a lady in that community said, 'I am sure that if the Liberals get in, I will never see my children go into a new school.' I said to that lady, 'You can be assured that the Liberal Government will not abandon the people of Red Bay.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Burin-Placentia West, on a point of order.

MR. TOBIN: The Liberal member is continuing to mislead the House -either that, or he is saying something that we are not aware of. Because it is my understanding that the DEC decides on where the money goes for schools. Now, if he is saying that government decides on where the money goes for the schools, then I think the Minister of Education should point it out, but he is clearly misleading this House, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I want to tell the hon. member and all hon. members that it is not a point of order to get up and say that a member is misleading the House. If that were a point of order, then members would be standing, because it is only a judgemental thing that members would be standing all the time and members would not be given an opportunity to speak. So there is no point of order. I do want to remind the hon. member, however, about our Standing Orders with respect to petitions. The hon. member knows, as all hon. members know, that we are not supposed to get into debate and every member speaking to a petition, this is what he or she ought to do. And I am quoting from petitions, from Standing Order 92, which says: Every member offering a petition to the House shall confine himself to the statement of the parties from whom it comes, the number of signatures attached to it and the material allegations it contains

Now, I know the Chair has been a bit flexible on a couple of petitions here today and I have allowed a little bit of tit for tat, but I do want to remind the hon. member that he was drifting somewhat, wandering somewhat from the prayer of the petition and getting into debate. I want to remind the hon. member that his time has elapsed.

MR. DUMARESQUE: It is quite obvious what is going on here.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. DUMARESQUE: Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious what is going on here, they can't take the tat. they can't accept the fact that the truth is, this government has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the contribution it makes to the education of Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask hon. members on both sides of the House to please refrain from abusing points of order. If we do that - hon. members know what a point of order is, or they ought to know, and as I have said again, to suggest what someone is doing, what someone is saying or what someone is not saying or what somebody said or what somebody didn't say is not a point of order, was never a point of order and I do not expect it ever will be a point of order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. NOEL: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition I would like to present on behalf of some 500 people concerning the closing down of a post office on Pearson Street in my district. Unfortunately, it is not in the proper form, so I will have to ask leave of the House to present it in the form it is now.

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry, the Chair did not get the hon. -

MR. NOEL: The petition is not in proper form, so I guess I need to have leave of the House to present it in the form in which I have it.

MR. SIMMS: If I could, Sir. I happen to know the petition the hon. member is referring to and I know - well, he is not here, so it doesn't matter. It doesn't have the proper cover, and it is not for the Newfoundland Legislature in the sense that it is a matter dealing with the federal party, but I have talked to the Member for Pleasantville and we would agree to let him present it. I am going to speak to the petition and whoever else may wish to speak to it, so we have no problem there.

MR. SPEAKER: To that request, the Chair is going to be dealing with petitions in the next little while. We have indicated to members, up to this point in time, to speak with the Clerk of the House so that it is not a surprise when we come here that the member will know whether it is in present form or that it is not in present form - or in the proper form, I should say. Over the next few days, we will deal with it, but for now we will allow the hon. member to present his petition.

MR. NOEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, the people who are presenting this petition, are asking the members of this House to support their efforts to have Postal Station B at 38 Pearson Street, which is in my constituency, remain open.

This has proven to be a very convenient postal station for everybody in our area. The petitioners are asking that Canada Post be encouraged to keep the station open because of the personal aggravation it will be causing the people who will be affected if it is closed; because of the great expense it will cause to people who have had their business cards and other stationery already printed up on the assumption that the postal station would remain open; because of the convenience of the location, particularly in comparison with the substitute that they are going to be expected to patronize; because of its accessibility for senior citizens; because it is a profitable outlet, because it serves so many customers.

Mr. Speaker, I endorse the petitioners, in this case. This is the only postal station in the East End of the City of St. John's. It has some 700 postal boxes, I believe, and serves many thousands of people. It is an excellent location that people can get to without any inconvenience and particularly in comparison with having to go to one of the local shopping malls, which is what they will have to do if this postal station remains closed.

As I understand it now, the boxes are still open for another few days but the counter service is only open for people to pick up parcels. The petitioners believe, Sir, that they were not given adequate notice of the closing of this postal station. Apparently, it was only something like thirty days and they believe it should be something like ninety days, at least.

I think this is another example of the kind of misguided economic management we are seeing on the part of some government agencies and Crown corporations in Canada at this time. We are closing out facilities like this that are of great service and convenience to many citizens of the country and of our Province in order to save some money - that is the rationale for it. But what are we saving if we are putting people out of work, if we are creating more inconvenience, if we are creating more hardship? This is a station run by professionals who know how to do the job properly. Some of the substitutes that are being opened to replace postal stations are being run by people who only do it on a part-time basis and who don't know how to deal with the customers' problems adequately.

This has been experienced by a number of the people who have signed this petition. They have had goods damaged and they have been unable to do things they wanted to do at the post office because the particular people they had to deal with at some of these stations in commercial establishments are not very well-versed in how to deal with their problems.

So the petitioners are petitioning the federal government and our House of Assembly and all the members of our House of Assembly to support their cause. They realise that it is not something over which this House or this Province has jurisdiction, but they would like us to support their cause and exert whatever influence we can on the Crown corporation, Canada Post, and on the federal government, in order to encourage Canada Post to maintain this postal office.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to speak in support of the petition so ably presented by my colleague, the Member for Pleasantville. I have had conversations with the same individuals who have been working very hard to get support to keep open this Postal Station B on Pearson Street.

If you read through the - I am not sure how many names the member referred to.

MR. NOEL: Five hundred.

MR. SIMMS: Five hundred. I was going to say it is close to 600. But you probably counted them, I didn't. Anyway, there are 500 or 600. There are probably more people, not only in the member's district but, as the petitioners point out, it serves a number of people in the West End, Center, East End, Pouch Cove, Torbay, all over the place. So there are probably many other people who feel just as strongly as these particular people do who are pushing the petition.

They make the point in their covering notes, of course, about the personal aggravations that are involved with people having to change their addresses, the expenses involved with people having to change their business cards and notification to customers, how inconvenient and costly that is, to change their business addresses, business cards, letterheads and all those types of things. They are very upset about the short notice that has been given with respect to the closing.

They make the point, of course, that politicians cannot order a Crown corporation what to do. We hear that explanation here in this House from Ministers of the Crown from time to time, about not being able to interfere in the operation of Crown corporations. I am not sure if they are correct with that assessment. I think politicians can order Crown corporations what to do if they want to flex their muscles a bit and use their authority.

Anyway, the point that the petitioners are making is that even though this is a postal station and it is a federal Crown corporation matter, what they want to see is an outcry from among the people, and hopefully that outcry might prompt the powers to be that are making this move to change their minds. Thus, you have the petition being presented in the provincial Legislature.

They also make the point, Mr. Speaker, which I think is important to make, that from their perspective this is a non-partisan political issue. Evidence of that is the fact that the member for Pleasantville, who is a Liberal, and myself, as a Conservative, have agreed co-operatively to allow the petition to be presented even though it is not properly worded, and all the rest of it. I have taken the liberty of speaking to the Member for St. John's East, whose approval and agreement would be required to allow the petition to proceed even though he wasn't in the House when the actual request was made. He is quite prepared to have the petition presented to the Legislature. I don't know if members of the House will give him a chance to speak if he asks, or even if he wants to. We will have to wait and see about that.

In any event, they make the point that it is a non-partisan political issue and it should cross all party lines. Their request, really, is for all people, civic leaders, individuals, provincial/federal interests, or whoever, they want to see all people of all stripes try to help with the outcry, try to increase the outcry, I suppose, so that those who are way up there in Ottawa, who may have to make these decisions, will be in a position to hear what we say. I am not so sure how successful this outburst and outcry will be. I do know, as we all know, it has been tried in other places, I don't think, too successfully. But that doesn't mean people shouldn't continue to voice and express their concerns about the arbitrary decision that has been made here by Canada Post.

The other point that they make in their petition is the fact that from their knowledge, at least, this particular post office is a money-maker. They say it is a money-maker. You would think that a Crown corporation, when looking at the difficult times we face and the monies that government needs in these times and the Crown corporations need, so they wouldn't have to get money from the government, would have a look at this kind of an argument, if indeed it is a fact. They say it is. I have no reason but to believe them. If it is, it is a reasonable point for these petitioners to make.

So, Mr. Speaker, I just want to stand in support of the petition presented by the Member for Pleasantville and hope that those of us who have an opportunity to speak out from time to time might be able to add some credibility to the outcry of these ordinary people who live all over the St. John's area about protesting the closure of Station B Post Office on Pearson Street here in St. John's.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to join with the Member for Pleasantville and the Leader of the Opposition to support the petition presented in connection with the closure of Station B on Pearson Street. It is sad to see, Mr. Speaker, that the division of public services that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I just want to bring to hon. members' attention, if I understand the Standing Order correctly, and I think I do, Standing Order 92.1, page 31, says, "In addition to the member presenting the petition only two other members, one each from both sides of the House may speak to a petition, and in so doing they shall not speak (inaudible). It seems to me that it is only by consent we have had the one from that side and the other speaker ought to come from this side. Other than that we are through unless hon. members by consent would allow the Member for St. John's East to - we are allowed one more member to speak, but it ought to come from this side; but I had recognized the hon. the Member for St. John's East in error.

MR. SIMMS: A point of order.

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

MR. SIMMS: Which is really the point of order Your Honour has raised himself, I guess, in this sense. I alluded to that in my remarks when I spoke to the petition and realized, and I know the member does, that he would have to get leave, but he stood; he was recognized. He spoke for several seconds and nobody interrupted, so obviously nobody on that side really had a problem with it, I guess, but you are right. The point of order is well taken but from our point of view we are prepared to give leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East speaking to the point of order.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The petition was presented. It is not in the form that is normally acceptable to the House and at the request of the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of the Member for Placentia, I consented to the use of this, although I was not in the House at the time. Although consent, of course, and leave is not conditional, certainly it would be the honourable thing to do to give consent in a situation like this. That was what I understood I was speaking on when I rose, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If I may, the Chair had made an error, and I guess what the Chair was doing was taking back its recognition because it had made an error. I guess the question we are dealing with is whether the Member for St. John's East will be allowed to carry on by the consent of the House.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the whole procedure is thoroughly irregular because the matter should not be in this House; but we have agreed to hear it. That being so, we are prepared to be even more irregular and hear the gentleman from St. John's East.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to join with the Member for Pleasantville and the Leader of the Opposition in supporting the petition concerning the important matter of postal services.

Now this happens to be a public service that is provided by the Government of Canada, but it is one that is of importance to residents of this Province, and all members of this House and their constituents make use of these postal services. It is not solely a federal matter. If all we could talk about in this House were federal matters - there are many things which have been raised in this House by hon. members having to do with what they would like the government to request the Government of Canada to do. They come here all the time, and I suppose it is in that sense that the petitioners seek the support of members of this House in their efforts to get the Government of Canada, which is responsible for Canada Post, to try and change this decision.

I do support this petition. Many people across this country have been fighting against similar kinds of decisions taken by Canada Post. A group called Rural Dignity, which members may well be familiar with, have been making a stand for the last five or six years against the efforts by Canada Post to close down rural post offices. They have had success in some areas and some cases, and they have been unsuccessful in many others because it seems that the government in Ottawa is determined to see the dismantling of this important public service.

Mr. Speaker, here in St. John's we now see the same arbitrary tactics being used by Canada Post in a postal stage. It is not the first one. It is one in a series of arbitrary moves by Canada Post and I understand, from talking to the circulator of this petition, that no reason has been given by Canada Post for the taking apart and dismantling of Postal Station B, other than the fact that they refer to it as a business decision - being done for business reasons. That is a coverup for an essentially arbitrary action by Canada Post.

As the Member for Grand Falls has stated, this is a money-making proposition, we are told. This particular place does make money. The business reasons must be some other business reasons having to do with the ideology of Canada Post, the attempt apparently to break down the structure of the postal service that people have come to rely on. In this case, Mr. Speaker, I understand, very many small businesspeople rely on and use the station as their mailing address. They use it on their letterhead, they use it on their business mail, they use it on all their business forms and documents, invoices, and that sort of thing. As anybody who has ever been involved in a small business knows, this can amount to a considerable expense to have replaced in this way, and that's only one part of it.

There are many other parts, of course, the convenience of having a stable postal service and a stable place at which to operate. This is something that businesses rely on for stability and people rely on for service. The experience has been in the rest of St. John's when postal stations like this have been closed that recipients of mail are often directed -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - to go to many places around town. That's what's going to happen here. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Fortune - Hermitage.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a petition that I was to present on Tuesday. I asked for leave of the House at that time because it wasn't on the correct letterhead that the House expects. I would ask leave to present this petition as the others have done today.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would like to know what the petition is about and see it, please. Again, as I've said, I've told hon. members that they should check their petition with the Clerk of the House. Then we don't waste the time here. But if the Chair could see the petition.... The Chair hasn't seen the petition.

Again, I would point out to hon. members, the petition is in letter form. If I'd been the member receiving this petition I would get the idea that it was clearly for me to work with and that the petition was not to be presented. It's for the member to deal with, that's the way I would interpret it as a member. But I will tell hon. members what the petition says.

It's a letter. One, clearly a letter is not a petition. But it does have a separate petition which says: we the undersigned wish to express our concern over the fact that the Royal Commission on Education has recommended that the school in Seal Cove, Fortune Bay, be consolidated with the school in Hermitage. If this recommendation is accepted by the government the affects on our community will be devastating.

If hon. members want to give their consent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members consent to giving the petition?

The hon. the Member for Fortune - Hermitage may present the petition.

MR. LANGDON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I received the petition from the chairman of the Save Our School committee, Mr. Loveless. I'd like to address the petition. I'd say at the beginning that I support it, because I think they have a valid reason.

One of the proposals in the Williams Report was to consolidate this school with the one in Hermitage. Many of the small schools along the south coast in my opinion cannot be closed out because of the terrain and the geography along the coast. Like Seal Cove, like many of the schools in the other communities, like Rencontre, like Gaultois, like Hermitage, do not have different schools within the community. There's just one school there and that particular school crosses all denominational lines.

When we see in some of the larger communities where the schools are only 25 per cent or 30 per cent filled then obviously these particular people would obviously say that these should be addressed before theirs, be that as it may, I believe that this school as every other school, has to be looked on in terms of merit, and I think that many of the smaller schools along the south coast and the northeast coast in Labrador whatever, have turned out to be key educational institutions in this Province.

Many of us here have come from small schools. The former Minister of Education came from a three-room school, I came from a three-room school, from the same school that these people here are talking about, and in fact when I went to school in Seal Cove, there were not as many students there then as there are now. Also, if one were to look at what has happened in education over the last little while with new technology in distance education, I believe that there is an alternative to busing of the kids from one community to the next. I have seen how distance education has worked in Rencontre, in Gaultois and also this year it is being introduced at Terrenceville for the first time and I am hoping that next year it will be introduced in Seal Cove and many other students -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. LANGDON: Okay.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise and support the petition from the Member for Fortune - Hermitage. Again, what we are about to see is the erosion, the continuing erosion of rural Newfoundland which we have seen in the past three years since this government came into power.

The people of Seal Cove, like most of the people in Fortune Bay and Hermitage Bay, the whole southwest coast and indeed the whole Burin Peninsula, Placentia Bay and other places, as I am sure it goes around this Province, when you look at the terrain that is involved, the communities involved, the mode of transportation that is involved, it is not as simple as someone deciding to close down a school when they look at numbers. If you look at the numbers of people enrolled in the school system and all of a sudden they want to close down that school system, Mr. Speaker, it is not as simple as that and the people of Seal Cove have just as much right - and I would say that I have not seen the petition, but I asked the Member for Fortune - Hermitage and the petition as I understand it, is from Seal Cove and I would say that the people in Seal Cove, the students in Seal Cove have just as much right to have an education in their community as do the people of St. John's or Corner Brook or Marystown or anywhere else in this Province.

When you continue to look at the erosion in government services that have taken place in the past three years in this Province, in terms of health care, in terms of education, it is no wonder, Mr. Speaker, that the people in small communities like Seal Cove are standing up and demanding that their representatives address their needs.

I would say to this House that it is regrettable, and it is now up to the Minister of Education, now that the member has brought this to the House, that the ball is now in the court of the Minister of Education, whether or not Seal Cove continues to have a school.

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. TOBIN: Whether or not Seal Cove continues to have a school. We heard today, I say to the Member for Fortune - Hermitage, the Member for Eagle River get up and talked about schools that the provincial government built and constructed in Labrador; well then, the people of Seal Cove and Fortune Bay and Placentia Bay deserve that type of treatment as well. So now it is up to the Minister of Education. The Member for Fortune - Hermitage should tell his constituents that he has presented it in the House and he should tell them that it is up to the Minister of Education whether or not they have a school and he should demand today, on behalf of his constituents, an answer from the Minister of Education.

The Minister of Education, should today, stand and address this very important petition and tell the people of Seal Cove whether or not they are going to have a school. They deserve no less than a definitive answer today from the Minister of Education and that should be conveyed to the people. I will be looking through the petition, getting the name of the chairman and explaining to the people of Seal Cove what has to be done and who alone is the person who can save the school.

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MR. TOBIN: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin _ Peninsula, on a point of order.

MR. TOBIN: The Minister of Education is reading the paper, probably he did not realize that it is over-

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TOBIN: - I am sure he wants to support -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is not going to be asking people to speak to petitions. There is no point of order. The Chair looks around and if nobody is standing and if members or ministers are reading papers that is unfortunate, or whatever, but the Chair is not going to be waiting for people to stand.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair has called Orders of the Day. Is the hon. member on a point of order?

MR. HARRIS: A point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A point of privilege.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I wish to rise on a point of privilege. Having heard the Minister of Social Services speak in the House today and having reviewed the rules with respect to points of privilege I wish to give a notice and actually address the point of privilege right now. I believe, Mr. Speaker, as a result of the statements made by the minister today in the House I have a different set of facts and circumstances than when I raised a similar point of privilege last week concerning the same issue. The matter referred to concerns the provision of government services to two individuals in the district of Bellevue. On November 5, after the minister had notice of the question for a day and went and checked, he said: the two disabled individuals who required heat and electricity added to their house - through the intervention and hard work of the Member for Bellevue and my staff, we were able to carry out that work some two months ago.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I want the hon. member on a point of privilege to state what his point of privilege is. He seems to be going over the details, which he has done before. The hon. member should state what his point of privilege is, what point of privilege has been breached, and then the Chair can deal with it accordingly. The hon. member should get to the point of privilege.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister has deliberately misled the House on November 5.

MR. SPEAKER: As the Chair ruled, to deliberately mislead the House is not a point of privilege. All the authority states is that deliberately misleading the House is not a point of privilege but an allegation, and the member is making an allegation that the member deliberately misled the House. Now, unless the member can make a different point of privilege, then the Chair will obviously listen, but as he makes an allegation that the member deliberately misled the House that is not a point of privilege.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I believe I am entitled to present my argument as to why it is a point of privilege.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is to intervene at any time when it thinks that the hon.member is not making a point of privilege. As I said, to make an allegation that a minister deliberately misled the House is not a point of privilege. If the hon. member is about to say how his privileges were breached then the Chair is willing to listen.

The hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The general statement as to the privileges of the House has to do with the ability of a member in his capacity to serve the people who have chosen him to represent them. That has to do with the ability of members to represent their constituents and represent people they are called on to represent. Now, Mr. Speaker, I was raising questions in this House about the services being provided by the Department of Social Services and the minister has advised the House today that he in fact misled the House on November 5 thereby preventing me from carrying out my responsibilities.

MR. EFFORD: Oh, oh!

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I would like for the Chair to have an opportunity to hear what I have to say. If the Member for Port de Grave wants to speak perhaps he can join in the debate a little later.

Mr. Speaker, what has happened here is that the minister came into this House and advised the House of certain events that he said had taken place two months ago thereby requiring me to accept these statements. The minister had checked the statements apparently. He had gone and -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is making no point of privilege. What we have here is a difference of opinion between two hon. gentlemen as to the facts.

The second point he's made is that there's an allegation of misleading the House. I didn't hear the minister say that he misled the House. If the minister had said he misled the House then that would be something else, and that in itself is not a point of privilege. But I would deal with that if the minister had said it.

What we have here is the Member for St. John's East saying that the minister misled the House. That is not a point of privilege.

MR. HARRIS: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: What is the Member for St. John's East standing on now?

MR. HARRIS: Point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Point of order? The hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have to raise a point of order. I wasn't given an opportunity to state my case on the point of privilege.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: It's a legitimate point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Justice is trying to prevent me by interrupting me. Now on this point of order. I have stated to this House that I wish to make a point of privilege, that my privileges as a member were interfered with by the Minister of Social Services in his actions. I have not been yet allowed to even state my case because the Speaker has, in the middle of my presentation, made the ruling without allowing me to make my case.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MR. ROBERTS: To that point of order, let me first of all say I didn't say a word one way or the other when the hon. gentleman was speaking. The only person who interrupted the hon. gentleman was Your Honour, who had every right and in my view the duty to do so, for the reasons Your Honour explained.

What the hon. gentleman is now trying to do is to do by the back door what he either is unwilling or afraid to do by the front door. If he wishes to challenge a ruling of the Speaker there is a means by which he can do so. Your Honour has made a clear ruling. The hon. gentleman did not state a prima facie breach of privilege within the rubric provided by the rules. Now he has only two choices: one is to accept the ruling, the other is to challenge it. He cannot do what he is attempting to do. There's no more point of order than there is, I don't know, the chance of the hon. gentlemen opposite winning the election. There's no chance of either.

MR. MATTHEWS: To the point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TOBIN: If that's the case he got a good case. It's established.

MR. MATTHEWS: No, Mr. Speaker, to be very honest about this, I personally don't think that the Member for St. John's East had a chance to make his case either, I say to the Government House Leader. He was not heard. He was interrupted partway through his presentation. He was not heard.

AN HON. MEMBER: By who? By who?

MR. MATTHEWS: Whoever was listening to him. He was not heard. The man was not allowed to make his case. I think that he should be afforded that opportunity in this Legislature. Make a ruling once you hear the case.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Let me remind hon. members that with respect to a point of privilege it's not a matter of an hon. member getting up and debating certain facts. A point of privilege is that the member had his privileges breached. The hon. member should get up and say precisely what was breached. The Chair was listening. If the Chair was not listening, didn't get the hon. member's point of privilege, the Chair is willing to entertain him for a few moment's longer. The job of the Chair is to expedite the proceedings of the House, and to inform hon. members what the ruling is and what the rules are.

Let me quote for the hon. member page 188 of Maingot, just to show the Chair's rights: "The Speaker also intervenes to curtail debate when he is satisfied that he has sufficient information and has heard sufficient argument to assist him to arrive at a decision."

The Chair just can't entertain a twenty minute debate. Now if the hon. member thinks that he can submit to the Chair in three or four minutes his point of privilege the Chair will listen to him again.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I didn't realise there was a three minute rule on privileges but I will try to be succinct.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: I refer Your Honour to Cater's Case which is quoted in the eighteenth edition of Erskine May, on Page 137, which states that the conspiracy to deceive either House or a committee of either House will be treated as a breach of privilege.

Now, Mr. Speaker, what has happened in this particular case - and I would submit this for Your Honour's review at your leisure - is that the minister got up in the House today and he did not say he misled the House, but he advised the House of the facts of what actually happened today, which was totally contrary to what he said in the House on November 5 after he had apparently gone and checked with the Member for Bellevue and his staff, because he advised the House that the work was completed two months ago.

Mr. Speaker, he has not said today: I misled the House, but he has provided himself the direct evidence of the fact that he misled the House on November 5. Whatever the source of that misleading of the House is, is a breach of my privilege as a member because I accept the hon. member's word when he comes to this House and says that: I assume that I was wrong. I assume that I was wrong, and I can be wrong.

When I, as a result of the assertions of the hon. member, saying: Okay, I am wrong; I accept his word, and then I go on about my business. But if I'm (inaudible)- I have to accept his word, then my privileges as a member are in fact violated because I cannot do my job if he, in fact, is misleading the House in that representation.

That is the breach of privilege. I think it is an important one. I think it is a serious one. It is not a mere dispute over what the facts are, that people can disagree on, or anything like that. It is a very important point and I simply would accept the minister's apology for misleading me and the House. I would be quite happy to accept that; but in the absence of that I would like a ruling from this House and the Chair that my privileges as a member have been breached.

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

MR. ROBERTS: If I may, Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman, I have no doubt, truly believes that he has the foundation of a point of privilege but I must, with all respect, say to him and to the House that a belief does not make an unreality into a reality. All that he is really doing is saying that he disagrees with my friend, the Minister of Social Services, about a given set of facts. That is not a breach of privilege.

Now the hon. gentleman is shaking his head. I can only say that I listened to him today as I listened to him the last time he tried this. I may not understand him, but I have tried my very best to understand him. He may not have stated it at all well. He is asking for more time. Mr. Speaker, he has had oceans or oodles, or whatever the correct noun is, of time to deal with it. If he has not been able to express himself, I cannot do it for him.

What I can say is that what he said to Your Honour, in my judgement and in my submission Sir, does not constitute even the basis of a prima facie case for privilege and therefore he has not brought himself within the ambit of the rule.

MR. SPEAKER: Well the Chair will take it under advisement.

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MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, before we call for the thirty-five minutes left before we go on into the Late Show, let me put on the record the arrangement that has been reached by myself and the House Leaders of the other two parties - the gentleman from Grand Bank, on behalf of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, and the Member for the troika, the gentleman from St. John's East, speaking for the troika, with respect to tomorrow.

Here is what we have agreed and I would ask either of my friends, please, to correct me should I misstate what I understand to be the case. It is this: We shall tomorrow, by unanimous consent, suspend the routine orders. I should say that the Minister of Environment and Lands may ask to make a brief statement, a Ministerial Statement, on the fact that the 6th. of December is coming up and that is an anniversary of a very tragic event. I forgot that. We may ask for a minute or two on either side to make a statement of respect. We are all wearing white ribbons to commemorate the unfortunate - I am sorry -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I do not mind if my hon. friend wants one minute, half a minute, half a half - but the routine orders we will ask to stand suspended for tomorrow.

We will then follow the following procedure: The Minister of Finance and the opposition spokesman on Finance, my friend from Mount Pearl, will each have half an hour. The Minister of Finance will present a statement up to half an hour. The opposition spokesperson will take up to half an hour. The next speaker we would ask to be recognized would be the gentleman from St. John's East who will have twenty minutes, as will every other speaker. That will carry down throughout the day tomorrow. We will come back on Monday. We will call the same order of business except there will be a regular Orders Of The Day on Monday with a Question Period and the normal routine carry on until the House adjourns on Monday. I am sorry?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. ROBERTS: I do not mind agreeing that there will be no petitions on Monday, if that is agreed. I mean I would have concerns - we have spent an hour on petitions today and there is an issue here the House will have to address sooner or later but we are certainly prepared to. The other thing I will say is that we on this side and I believe my hon. friends opposite concur, are prepared to ask your honour to make arrangements to have the television and radio cameras in here as we have often done before on I think the Throne speech and Budget speeches. Should that be the wish of the House we are prepared to consent. I think I have stated all the elements of it, of the agreement, if not, either my friend from Grand Bank or the gentleman from St. John's East perhaps could help.

MR. SPEAKER: Before recognizing the hon. the Opposition House Leader, if I may tell hon. members what is on the Late Show. I was supposed to do this at 4:00 p.m. The first matter is raised by the Member for Menihek who says he is not satisfied with the response from the Minister of Education to a question respecting an amount of decrease in funding for school boards in Labrador West. The second question is from the hon. the Member for Ferryland, stating his dissatisfaction with the response from the Minister of Education to his question regarding cutbacks to school boards. The third question is from the Member for Humber East who is not satisfied with the responses given by the Premier to her questions relating to Lundrigan's and North Star.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader has covered the points very well. I certainly would like us to have an agreement that we would forego presenting petitions on Monday because that could certainly defeat the purpose of making a special arrangement to debate the Budget, so if the Member for St. John's East concurs we will do that. The only other question I have is on media coverage, does the Government House Leader know exactly what the media plans to cover, is it just the ministers statement, is it the response from the Opposition Finance Critic? I would like to have some guidelines on that. I think it would only be fair that they do both.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I have had no communication direct or indirect with any member of the media, that is why I phrased it by saying should the House so wish we would be prepared to consent. The only thing I would say, if we are going to do it, is we would let the cameras come in and record or broadcast live as they prefer and they can then do what they want the same as the members, the media who sit in the gallery can write down what I say and not what the hon. gentleman says or vice versa as they prefer. We cannot tell the media they must broadcast all or nothing that is just not-

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. ROBERTS: - well, Mr. Speaker, I mean that is foolishness if we want to tell them we can, what I would say is I am prepared and my colleagues on this side are prepared to say that if Your Honour wants to let the electronic media into the House we are prepared for our part to agree to it. If hon. gentlemen opposite have some concern that is for them to say. I mean, we cannot put preconditions on it, we could say that they are here - Mr. Speaker, we cannot put preconditions on it or we can't enforce them. For this side we are prepared to let the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, through the electronic media, see what goes on here tomorrow, no conditions, no terms, no nothing, as long as they come in and behave themselves in the House, they are welcome.

MR. SPEAKER: We are still into Orders of the Day.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, have we got agreement on whatever we are going to do? That is all I need to know for tomorrow, the media point I will leave with the Chair or the Clerk, they can work that out, but I understand we have agreement among the three groups in the House or the two groups. That being the case, Mr. Speaker, in the few minutes remaining to us I wonder if we could proceed with -

MR. SPEAKER: If I might - the hon. the Opposition House Leader was trying to get to his feet and I assume - I thought he was maybe I was wrong.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. MATTHEWS: The only point I wanted to make, Mr. Speaker, is that in order for this thing to occur tomorrow to be televised or media coverage from the House is that it has to be by unanimous consent of members, so if any member does not give consent then it does not happen, that is the only point. Two of us can agree and the Member for St. John's East can agree but if there is some member who will not agree than it is all for naught.

MR. ROBERTS: I speak for the members on this side and unless one of them wants to disown me, speak now or forever hold your peace, as we say in a different context.

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

MR. HARRIS: Yes thank you, Mr. Speaker, I would give my leave to the arrangements that are made - speaking first of all to the issue that the Minister of Environment and Lands will bring up and then the other matters. On the issue of the media, Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the Government House Leader, we do in fact have every right to control our granting of leave. We can't tell the media what to broadcast, obviously, and that's a question that I'm sure will arise no doubt again when the opportunity for televising the House comes up again, as it probably will.

But that's one of the reason why there isn't televising of the House, or televising of courts, for that matter. Because the media does pick and choose. Obviously on the Parliamentary Channel if somebody wants to watch everything that goes on they have the right to do so, and not just get whatever the media thinks is important or relevant.

So what we're doing by giving unanimous consent without any agreement with the press is essentially allowing them to come in and take and pick and choose. I understand, although I don't believe the minister stated it, that the intention was that the permission for the media to participate in the floor of the House also stands for the debate on the balance of Friday and for Monday as well. Is that still...?

MR. ROBERTS: It'd certainly be my (Inaudible) that the media ought to be allowed to cover the entire debate. I have no quarrel with that.

MR. HARRIS: So that appears to be a very extraordinary decision by members of the House, Mr. Speaker. Your Honour may, despite our unanimous consent, have his own things to say about that. I don't know if hon. members have actually thought through this business of consent, but at least for the moment I'm prepared to offer my consent, and I guess take your chances with the media on tomorrow morning. It is quite an unusual departure from this House to just go beyond just having the Budget speeches or the Throne Speech, which is usually all that's covered by the media, or all that's permitted.

I suspect maybe hon. members ought to give some thought to the balance of the meeting as to how it's going to go. For now at least I'm prepared to offer my consent.

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

MR. ROBERTS: We're on to Orders of the Day? My friend the Minister of Health has impatiently been waiting for me to call a bill which he will present on behalf of our colleague, the Minister of Finance. Order 23, Bill 51, Mr. Speaker, if I haven't lost myself in my notes here. That's the one (Inaudible), Mr. Speaker.

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

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, what we're attempting to do in Bill 51 is to give legislative approval for what was contained in last year's Budget with respect to the abolition of certain fees. You remember that in that Budget we abolished a very major fee, namely the school tax. As we've been stating to hon. gentlemen opposite, no matter what they say we will not be bringing back the school tax.

Now that was the major abolition. In addition to that there were 170 more abolitions. One hundred and seventy more little abolitions of licences, fees and permits and so on. This particular Bill 51 details the various acts that have to be amended in order to implement this tremendous reform of 170 licences, fees and permits that are outlined in the March Budget of 1992. I don't think I'll read them again because we went through it all before. If there are any questions and any points that people will make I'd gladly respond to them.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, Bill 51 is a very simple straightforward bill as the minister has stated. What is not simple and straightforward is the minister's statement of his Budget of last year, which was one of the most misleading statements ever contained in any Budget document.

I was just quickly trying to find his exact words here in the Budget Speech, but basically he says that he was very pleased to announce the elimination of 171 fees and licenses. That was his statement in the Budget Speech.

As I recall last year in responding to the Budget Speech, I stood here in my place and complimented the minister on that because that was something, in fact, that the previous administration had started. We had reviewed a number of fees and licences and regulations, and I think we all agree that there are far too many such regulations. We are overregulated, overlicenced, and overtaxed, and overcharged on fees and licences. So I stood here in my place and I congratulated the minister on Budget day, and said how pleased I was that he had, indeed, taken such action.

Of course, once I had time to review the Budget document in some more detail, and particularly simply as I looked in the Budget Speech itself, in Schedule B1 of the Budget Speech, which gives a complete list of the fees and licences to be eliminated, the first thing that I saw, obviously, is that 171 is certainly taking poetic licence in the number of fees and licences to be eliminated.

There may well be 171 fees eliminated, but when we talk about 171 we say, for example, a tourist establishment (inaudible) with nine rooms or less, zero; with ten to nineteen rooms, zero; with twenty to thirty-nine rooms, zero; with forty to seventy-nine, zero; and eighty rooms or more, zero. That is five fees or licences. That, to me, is certainly taking poetic licence.

I found, outside of the fact there are not 171, there are 171 components thereof, or variations thereof, but there are certainly not 171 fees and licences being eliminated. Then I discovered that what was really the most misleading aspect of it was that there may be 171 fees being eliminated, or close to it, but not 171 licences.

The minister stood and said: There is too much red tape. It is too much of a burden to have to go and get a licence and have to pay a fee. The cost of it is not justified. It is a nuisance to have to go and get this licence, so he is going to eliminate it; but when you look at Schedule B1, first of all, you will find a column that says, 'licence removal' - no, no, no, no, and no. Licences are not removed. Only the fee is removed. So we still have the nuisance. We still have to go and apply for a fee. The only thing we have done is lost and given up the little bit of revenue that we would have received from it.

Then I find that not only that - you look at the effective date of when the fees are to be removed. For example, tourist establishment licences - my friend, and the present Minister of Tourism, who was not at the time, thought this was a great idea. Tourist establishment licences are going to be removed. They are not. It is only the fee that is removed; and was it immediate? No. Was it in 1992 at all? No. Not until January 1, 1993 are the fees eliminated.

Now, the minister can say: Well, many people had already paid their fee for the year. Many people had already paid their fee for the year, Mr. Speaker, and that is fair ball; but the minister did not say that in his statement. He said: We are going to eliminate them all.

MR. DUMARESQUE: Do you want the fees back?

MR. WINDSOR: Well, in some cases, I think the fees might well have stayed there. The hon. the Member for Eagle River brings up a good point. It was one that I was about to come to, in fact, that the Salmonier Wildlife Park had a fee, and the fee, as it was, was fifty cents for adults and twenty-five cents for children - not a very onerous fee. In fact, the comment that has been made to me over the years is: Really, you are not charging enough there - fifty cents to get in. If you go to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick you pay at least $2 a head or $5 a head. Five dollars maybe is a little exorbitant. If you have to take a family of husband, wife, and two or three children, it is going to get a bit expensive; but $2 a head for an adult and $1 for a child - I don't think anybody would complain.

All the minister did, was that by eliminating those fees, he eliminated - and I will accept it, if somebody can correct me - but I understand there were eight student jobs eliminated at the Wildlife Park last summer. There were eight summer jobs for students eliminated. Now, if the minister can correct me on that I will accept that.

MR. FUREY: I said I do not think so because I think what we did at the time was re-assign them. Now, I could be wrong myself but I do not think so.

MR. WINDSOR: If the minister can verify that I will accept it and I accept the correction. As I said, I am not entirely sure of that. I am led to believe that there were eight positions eliminated. Certainly, you didn't need people on the gates anymore and if you re-assigned them throughout the park, and if they were able to do other useful employment throughout the park, then that is fine. I can live with that. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, I don't think we accomplished a great deal by eliminating that fifty cents and twenty-five cents at the gate. I would prefer that the minister had increased it to something more reasonable and more in line with other parks. But if it is a policy of government to eliminate entry fees for these things, well, it is a good thing - if we had lots of revenue. But if we have to make up that loss of revenue - and I realize there probably was not a great deal of money there, but we have done the same thing on provincial parks. It is certainly pleasant now. Everybody can drive in whenever that takes place, March 1992. Is the license removed? Yes. The fee, nothing. So now there is no seasonal entry fee. There is no daily entry fee. We don't need a license anymore to enter a provincial park. I would say, Mr. Speaker, that is a welcome thing. But what have we lost in revenue and what have we lost in control over who is going in and out of those parks now? Do we still have people there that have to control them? I suspect we do. I don't think anybody objected to paying a $5.00 fee a year for a vehicle entry fee. The present government had raised it to $11.25 a year or two before and now we have eliminated it, as they did, Mr. Speaker, as I recall for waiter's licenses. A waiter's license fee has been $5.00 for many, many years, and two or three years ago, this government increased it from $5.00 to $15.00. Hon. members will recall that I objected then because a large percentage of waiters and waitresses, those people who take out licenses to work part-time, students most likely, many of them, who work part-time to try to finance their education, had now to pay a $15.00 fee. Well, I am delighted the minister has seen the error of his ways and has eliminated it altogether now. No, he has not eliminated it altogether. He has only cancelled the fee. We still have to trot off down somewhere and get a license.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, no.

MR. WINDSOR: Oh, yes. Well, maybe I am wrong. I am speaking now from memory. The minister is correct and I apologize. The license is removed. It is one of the seven which gets me back to my original point. When the minister announced 171 fees and licenses being removed there are only seven licenses being removed out of his 171, seven in total. Now, the minister stood there and this is why I say it was one of the most misleading statements ever to be contained in a Budget document delivered by a Minister of Finance. If hon. members care to go down through this list they will find the waiter's licenses. No wonder I made a mistake. It is only one of seven that is being removed. There is not a license at all being removed on the next page. There are no fisheries, forestry, or health licenses being removed. Most of them are not even coming into effect, the reduction of fees, until April 1993. There is nothing in the Department of Mines and Energy being removed. In Municipal Affairs there is one fee being removed, the initial fee for mobile home development. Well, whoop-de-do. How often do we pay an initial fee for a mobile home development? - once in a lifetime. What a big deal that is, Mr. Speaker. That one is eliminated altogether. The license for pulpwood trucks operating on woods roads is being removed. There will be dancing in the streets in Grand Falls, Corner Brook and Stephenville tonight, I am sure, because those fees were removed as of March. What else is removed? - not very much. Provincial park fees have also been removed, those licenses. Non-resident trout license - and I spoke to that before, Mr. Speaker. I do disagree with that. I suspect the Member for Eagle River will have an interest in it, the removal of the non-resident trout license.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: Ah, I suspected so. The Member for Eagle River does disagree, because he knows full well the problem that particularly we are having in Labrador. We don't have a problem on the Island of Newfoundland, nobody really cares; but I doubt if there has ever been a non-resident license sold on the Island of Newfoundland to anybody who comes in, because nobody is ever going to check. But in Labrador there is a serious problem, in that outfitters in Quebec near the Labrador border, fly in or even come in by boat, by canoe, come in through Newfoundland waters in Labrador, fishing and overfishing; flying in with coolers and stocking them up with tens and hundreds of pounds of native trout in Labrador waters, and the only bit of authority that we might have, Mr. Speaker, on the rare occasion that we would have a wildlife officer or a fisheries officer available, and with transportation to get there and stop them, the only hold we had over them, was to say, You don't have a license, and they could be charged for not having a license. They would only get a twenty-five dollar fee, but at least he had some authority to stop them and ask them and search. Now, they don't require a license, so what court action can you take, Mr. Speaker?

So, the minister, in doing that, has really opened that up and if the minister had any interest he would have talked to the outfitters from Labrador who are really suffering because of the people who are flying in from Quebec into Labrador and really raping the fish stocks in Labrador.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is a very straightforward and simple document, yet there are some far-reaching implications and there was a great deal of misleading information given by the minister. He was not very clear, as usual, in his Budget Speech last year. While we welcome the reduction of fees, in most cases, and the elimination of the fuel licenses, we have to ask the minister, why didn't he eliminate the licenses all together.

There is no fee, all that we have now is the nuisance of having to go and get a license every year and we don't even now recover the cost of doing that. So, the bottom line is, the average taxpayer now has to cover the administrative cost of issuing these nuisance licenses, whereas at least, if we were recovering the cost before -which had always been the objective, always been the policy of government, to at least recover the administrative costs of issuing these licenses, so that the people who are involved in those particular activities at least paid a user fee and covered the cost; the user-pay concept on a small scale.

So we have eliminated that, Mr. Speaker. We are glad, at least, that there is some relief but, we must question that. Where will the money come from to make up for the amount of funds that have been eliminated as a result of these reductions in fees or elimination of fees? There is not a lot of money there. The minister did give us a number last year - I don't recall what it is now - it was not a great amount of money, but it will be made up somewhere else and it will not be available to fund some other very worthwhile service in this Province that is now being cut by this government. And we will hear more about that, no doubt, tomorrow.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health. If he speaks now he will close the debate.

DR. KITCHEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I don't think I will say any more about this bill, we will just let it go through. Thank you.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Abolish Certain Fees," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 51)

MR. DECKER: Order 20, Bill No. 45, Mr. Speaker.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Gasoline Tax Act, The Horse Racing Regulation And Tax Act, The Liquor Control Act And The Retail Sales Tax Act". (Bill No. 45).

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, I will just say that all we are doing here is making some routine changes in this act.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, first of all, this is not one of the bills that we were given notification of. That is neither here nor there, but I hoped the minister would have given us a little more information on what he is proposing here.

"...amend the Gasoline Tax Act by allowing the minister to cancel or suspend a retailer's licence for a contravention of the Lotteries Act." A contravention of the Lotteries Act.

So we are saying now, somebody who makes a livelihood as a gas bar operator, for example, if they happen to sell lottery tickets on their counter, instant pick tickets or something, and get charged with a violation of that, that they could lose their gasoline licence. Is that what the minister is saying here? That is the only thing that I can see that it would be here. For a violation of the Lotteries Act you can cancel a licence for somebody to sell gasoline, to suspend a retailer's licence.

The second part "...would amend the Horse Racing Regulation and Tax Act by providing for the cancellation or suspension of a licence for a contravention of another Act." Again, what other act are we talking about, Mr. Speaker? Is it the Highway Traffic Act? If somebody gets caught with a speeding ticket, which is a violation of the Highway Traffic Act, do we suspend the licence for racing horses here?

Again, the Liquor Control Act. A liquor licence can be suspended for violations of the Lotteries Act. So, if a lounge owner gets charged with illegally selling a lottery ticket or something, or if he has a spin on New Year's Eve - that is under the Lotteries Act - if he has a door prize and pulls a number out of a hat and gets charged with having a lottery, he can lose his liquor licence. This is interesting.

A very simple little bill, but it has very deep implications, doesn't it? Let me read number 4, the Retails Sales Tax Act: "...by allowing the minister to refuse to issue or cancel or suspend a registration certificate of a person who contravenes the Lotteries Act." It is all Lotteries Act again. So that means, if somebody is making a living in a corner store, and they happen to sell a few - what do you call them? - Nevada tickets over the counter, and get charged with a violation, or one of their employees, some part-time person, maybe a young person, a student again, working nights or weekends, makes a mistake and violates the Lotteries Act, that person could lose their licence to operate a retail store. The corner store could be shut down.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. WINDSOR: The minister says no. Well, I hope the minister is correct. The minister didn't tell us very much because he didn't know what was in the bill when he stood. He knew no more about the bill when he stood than I did, to be honest. Because this is not one of the bills that the House Leader was told was coming forward. Bill 45 was not one of the ones on the list that was given to us by the House Leader.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: No. I am not going to make a big deal out of that, but I would have at least liked the minister to know what he was talking about when he stood in his place, and clearly, he didn't. Because he didn't introduce the bill. He said: This is just a minor bill. And he hoped and prayed that I didn't know enough about it either, and that I would let it pass.

If the minister has some more information that he would like to give me, Mr. Speaker, I will yield for a moment, but I reserve my right to speak again afterwards. Does the minister have some information now? He found his notes - very well.

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, I thought it was pretty obvious what was in the bill here. It is quite clearly stated what it is. Section 1(2) reads: "Where the holder of a retailer licence under this Act operates an electronic or mechanical amusement device in contravention of the Lotteries Act the minister may cancel...." So what this is about is video machines, Mr. Speaker.

We want to make sure that these video terminals that are in lounges and in other places in the Province are there because they are there under the Lotteries Act and operated by Atlantic Lotto and not other machines. Anyone who has any other type of machine there could face penalties under these various other acts. That is basically all we are trying to do there. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: I thank the minister for that, but if the minister is concerned about somebody contravening the Lotteries Act, why does he not use the Lotteries Act to deal with a violation? Why does he not bring in an amendment to the Lotteries Act if provision does not now exist in the Lotteries Act to deal with the situation he has? Why does he not put a penalty in the Lotteries Act - some reasonable penalty? I do not care what it is - something that is fair and reasonable. If somebody is breaking the law, then they deserve to be dealt with and the minister should deal with them; but he should deal with them on the Lotteries Act, not the Gasoline Tax Act or the Retail Sales Tax Act or whatever - the Horse Racing act or the Liquor Control Act. Why does he not deal with them on the Lotteries Act?

Why should somebody run the risk of losing a liquor licence, which may be their whole livelihood, or a retail sales tax licence, which could be their whole livelihood? That is killing a fly with a sledgehammer. Put a good fine in the Lotteries Act, or some penalty in the Lotteries Act. Why are we threatening peoples' livelihoods? That is what this act would do if it were approved. It threatens somebody's livelihood. That is pretty heavy. That is pretty heavy stuff.

I wonder does the minister realize what he is doing here? Can the minister tell us: Why did he not come forward with an amendment to the Lotteries Act to deal with his problem if he had one? Surely if somebody operates a mechanical device without a licence - in fact, I suspect they cannot get a licence. The minister has a monopoly on such devices, through Atlantic Lotto - a government monopoly, the same as liquor stores are government monopolies, and licensing of lounges and the sale of alcohol is a government monopoly. So are these lotteries - the lottery tickets sold by Atlantic Lotto.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: Not the Nevada tickets; those can be purchased elsewhere, I understand. You can get a licence to sell those instant pick tickets. I do not think they are sold just by Atlantic Lotto. There are retailers who sell those to the stores.

Certainly the big lotteries are all government controlled, and the slot machines - not the slot machines, but what do they call them -the video poker games and things of that nature. The video machines that the minister is concerned about are a government monopoly, through Atlantic Lotto only. I think that is the case.

I can appreciate that the minister would be concerned about illegal machinery being brought into the Province, and he has every right to put in place fines and penalties and procedures for dealing with it, but let him put it under the Lottery Act, and not threaten people's livelihoods by removing licences which are the very basis of their whole business.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. WINDSOR: I adjourn the debate, Mr. Speaker.

Debate on the Adjournment

[Late Show]

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Earlier today I asked the Premier questions about former Lundrigans' businesses and the North Star cement plant. As everyone in the Province is aware, last May the Lundrigans Group of Companies was put into receivership and it went into bankruptcy in the Summer.

Among the Lundrigans' businesses are concrete businesses in Corner Brook and St. John's, a gypsum wallboard and polybead manufacturing business in Corner Brook, known as Atlantic Gypsum, and Atlantic Design Homes in Stephenville.

A group of former Lundrigans managers last Summer made a bid to the receivers to purchase three divisions of Lundrigans - the concrete business; the gypsum plant, and Atlantic Design Homes. They needed government assistance, for their purchase to be successful, they needed a provincial government loan guarantee, and they also needed an environmental guarantee.

They worked for months on end on their bid. Evidently there were ups and downs. The Premier's executive assistant in western Newfoundland told gypsum plant workers during the first week of October that the deal had gone through. The workers found out a day or two later that that was not the case. Last Tuesday I asked the Premier for a progress report. Quite honestly I expected him to give a positive account to the House of Assembly. On Thursday the Premier approached me in my seat saying he had just found out- he was holding a fax from ENL - he had just found out that the bid by the former Lundrigan's managers had failed. He asked me not to tell anybody until he announced it the next morning. Friday morning he did not say anything under Ministerial Statements so I asked him questions and he announced to the House and to the public that the Lundrigan's managers bid had failed because their bank had requested an extra $500,000 in equity which they could not come up with.

The Premier also said the bank, because of recent court rulings was concerned about, not violation of current environmental laws, but rather the potential of future liability for environmental breaches. Now, Mr. Speaker, for the want of a mere $500,000 or a loan guarantee for $500,000, for the want of a simple provincial government guarantee for potential future environmental liability, that bid failed and today we hear that the Lundrigan's receivers have accepted a bid for simply the Lundrigan's concrete division from Ches Penney. Now, Ches Penney already has a concrete business in the St. John's area competing with Lundrigans. He already has a cement business involving imported cement competing with North Star Cement. Now there is a real danger that the Lundrigan's concrete business will be reduced or closed and there is a real danger that North Star Cement will be reduced or closed. Presumably Ches Penney is not going to buy his cement from the cement plant in Corner Brook. Mr. Speaker, the Premier did not give satisfactory answers and that is why I am raising this issue again on the Late Show.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, the Premier unfortunately cannot be here. I say unfortunately because he has even more direct knowledge of this, but I have direct knowledge of this matter, so let me attempt not to satisfy the hon. lady, because some things passeth all understanding, but let me just make a couple of points. The Premier's answers in the House to the hon. member's questions have been full, complete and accurate. Monday's answer dealt with a question about $500,000 required of the investors. That was complete, accurate and truthful as of the moment it was given. That issue was resolved in that the investors subsequently, from whatever sources, not only found the $500,000, not only did not get it from the government, but did not ask the government for it. I am not saying we would have given it had we been asked but I do say we had agreed to guarantee - was it $3.2 million? We were not asked for any more. Now, today we were told that the bid has been turned down. Let me say it did not fail to the best of my information, knowledge and belief because of the $500,000 problem. It did not fail because of anything this government did or did not do. It failed for another matter that came up after the $500,000 was done. Another condition was imposed, not by the government, not as a consequence of any act or omission by the government, in fact we had no knowledge of it.

I understand Mr. Harold Lundrigan spoke with the Premier earlier this morning to tell him about it. Now I am not going to say, Mr. Speaker, what that condition was. Let those whose private business it is, deal with that. I will speak for what the government did or did not do and I will say to the hon. lady, I accept she does not know what is going on, that is one of the handicaps of being in Opposition and I know about that, but I will say to her: the Premier's answers have been full, accurate, truthful and complete.

The reason the receiver turned down the bid from the local investors group, call it whatever the correct name may be on it, and instead accepted a bid put forward by Mr. Ches Penney or some company which he owns or controls or whatever, the reason for that had nothing to do with any act or omission by this government. We were asked to help, we did help, we did so gladly, we did it with a heart and a-half, we would do it again. We wanted to see those assets go to the local group with the knowledge and also who were prepared to make a substantial commitment, as they did. I accept that the hon. lady may not be satisfied with that answer. I can do nothing about that. What I can tell her is that the government's conduct in this matter stands up to informed and impartial and knowledgeable scrutiny; we are ready to help those people, we have tried to help them, we did help them, unfortunately the receiver for its own reasons accepted another bid. I cannot answer for that, Sir, and I will not. I can answer for the government, I do so gladly and proudly, thank you, Sir.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. A. SNOW: Mr. Speaker, I am not satisfied with the answer to my question with regard to financing of school boards for the operation of the schools in western Labrador from the Minister of Education. Mr. Speaker, first of all I just want to educate the House, so to speak, so that they can understand what occurs in western Labrador and what has occurred in western Labrador with regard to educational funding. Mr. Speaker, the mining companies contributed funds to local school boards, both the Roman Catholic School Board and the Integrated School Board has a grant in lieu of taxes because they are exempt from the school taxes under the NALCO Javelin Act and the LMNE Act. Now, Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: The what act?

MR. A. SNOW: Labrador Mining and Explorations Act. Now, Mr. Speaker, these companies were exempt from the school taxes by these Act's and they contributed grants in lieu. We now find, Mr. Speaker, because of the abolition of the school tax that this government brought about - Mr. Speaker, because of the abolition of the school tax by this government we find that the school boards in western Labrador will have a shortfall of funds because the mining company will not pay twice. They will decrease the grant now because they are being taxed. Now, this government has to live up to its responsibility to ensure - and the hon. Minister responsible for Employment and Labour Relations is nodding his head in agreement with what I am saying because he understands that teachers up there need to get access to these funds through their school boards, Mr. Speaker, he wants to support the teachers. So, he is going to go against his colleagues.

But, Mr. Speaker, because of the School Tax Authority being abolished and the company having been put into a position of paying tax twice they said we will not do that, so the government takes the money from western Labrador and spends it here on office improvements and they spend it on carpets up in the Cabinet room, and the schools in western Labrador are facing drastic cuts because they are going to have less money this year to pay school teachers, equipment, that type of thing, Mr. Speaker.

This administration must live up to its commitment to fund the same level of taxes that were paid last year in western Labrador; that was the agreement, Mr. Speaker, that is what they promised, that is what they promised, so if they would do that, then we can continue to have the best education that is in this Province available to the people in western Labrador, because that is what we presently have and I am very proud to say that, Mr. Speaker. We have the best education system that is in this Province in western Labrador, and it is mostly due to the quality of the educators, that is why it is the best, Mr. Speaker, and why do we have a better quality educator in western Labrador? Because we offer more incentives to the teachers, to these educators.

We pay differential, we have smaller class sizes, we have better equipment and teachers have a better working environment. They produce more and I want to see that continued in western Labrador and I want to be able to see us being able to keep these excellent teachers, attract new teachers so that we could have new ideas and, Mr. Speaker, we cannot do that in western Labrador, if this government -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. SNOW: Ah, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance hit the nail on the head when he -

AN HON. MEMBER: The former minister.

MR. A. SNOW: The former Minister of Finance, when he uttered the words: they have to pay their fair share. Mr. Speaker, the people in western Labrador pay more than anybody else in this Province per capita, pay more than anybody else in this Province per capita, Mr. Speaker. Now, I want an answer from the Minister of Education, suggesting, hoping, that they will live up to their commitment that the monies paid to school boards, because of the abolition of the School Tax Authority, will not be lesser than it was. He knows, he knows -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: Go easy on him now, Chris.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: - the mining companies in Labrador West have been exempt from many taxes, probably all taxes, back to the days of Commission of Government. Now, Mr. Speaker, before ever there was a school tax in this Province, the mining companies used to give a grant to the school boards in Labrador West. The reasons for this grant might have been many and varied but there is one very good reason. The company wanted an excellent education system in Labrador West so that they could recruit employees to work in Labrador West.

Now the company had several options. They could have built their own school system as is done in Churchill Falls. They could have paid a bursary or scholarship and sent the students out - a whole lot of things they could have done. No, they chose to supplement the school system that was already in Labrador West. Now this grant was coming in before ever there was a school tax, and it continued on after there was not a school tax for a very brief period of time.

While the school boards in Labrador City were receiving this windfall, this grant to assist with education, the Department of Education continued to distribute money, grants, to Labrador West just the same as if they were not receiving a single, red, plugged nickel from anyone else - it was never taken into consideration. Distribution of government funds never ever took into consideration the fact that they were receiving somewhere in excess of $1 million over and above, by way of a grant, from the company to enhance the quality of education so that the company could recruit people to come in and work.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this past year, the iron ore companies in Labrador West, like the iron ore companies throughout the nation, like the iron ore companies throughout the world, came upon hard times, the price for iron ore is practically nonexistent. As a result of that, Mr. Speaker, the company had to make some cuts and among the cuts which they made was to phase out, over a period of three years, the grant in lieu of taxes, or whatever you want to call it, that they were giving to the school boards.

Now, Mr. Speaker, all the years that Labrador West had this, in excess of a million dollars per year, the government did not, in any way, take away from the regular grant. Now, Mr. Speaker, that lieu is being phased down, government still will not be taking away from the grant. We will be distributing money to Labrador West under the same terms of reference that we distribute money in Labrador East, the same way we distribute money in the Northern Peninsula, the same way we distribute money to the Bay d'Espoir area, we do not make chalk of one citizen and cheese of another. We believe in fairness and balance whether you live in Labrador West or St. Anthony or Nain or St. John's it makes no difference, Mr. Speaker, it makes no difference.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: I guess I have asked several questions, none of which I received a correct answer to, none of which I probably received an answer to. I did learn though that the deputy minister now writes an article for the National Enquirer, I found that out yesterday. He does not know what his deputy minister is doing and he said on public television: he will have to take his deputy minister aside basically and ensure that what he writes is worded properly. How does the minister respond to giving each school board in this Province a revised tentative allocation that is not -that just includes figures. Basically, Mr. Speaker, in the Budget in March, $117.7 million was allocated for school boards. School boards were given a tentative budget several millions less than was budgeted in March and on December 1st his deputy minister sent to each board in this Province a revised tentative allocation which is considerably below the original tentative budget, in fact he indicated and in this revised allocation his department, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I showed courtesy to the minister and the government side when they were speaking, I think I would like

to have the same courtesy. I am advocating that the tentative Budget that was several million below the March Budget and each board in this Province received, and this cannot be misinterpreted of what the deputy minister said, they deducted 1 per cent of salary and 3 per cent of operating from that tentative Budget and gave them a new revised allocation. Furthermore his department said there will be more cuts. In other words a clawback on the revenues that the boards obtained which were over and above what the government anticipated they may receive.

In addition to that they also intended to make other cuts to the budget that each board received when the year is almost over. The minister indicated that they have taken over the books and the balance sheets of school boards on the basis that they would eliminate school tax and institute a new grant structure. They have eliminated school tax but they have not followed through on their word to give a new grant structure. In fact his deputy minister indicated that the new grant structure could be suspended indefinitely. They misled the boards and the people of this Province by not following up on their commitment as to what was supposed to replace school tax. Boards in this Province, and the minister has copies and so do I, will receive millions less this year from operating grants than they did last year. That is totally incorrect.

The minister talks about his commitment to education. He talks about his commitment and consultation with different unions. This specific letter does not talk about any consultation at all. It gives boards a revised allocation deducted from their grants without any request for consultation whatsoever. This government has taken the liberty to spread what they advocate is fearmongering on cutbacks on severance pay, savings clause. This savings clause if instituted in the mini-Budget or financial statement could cause a loss of 400 teachers across the Province. This minister has not answered one specific question that appropriately addresses their responsibility and lives up to the commitment they gave when they were going to eliminate school tax. The people of this Province have been gypped, they have been ripped-off the boards by this government not following through with a commitment that they gave. There are boards in this Province who are going to receive less funding this year than they did last year. It is not correct what the minister has been stating.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, hon. members will remember it wasn't very long ago that if a parent had a child going to school in Bay d'Espoir that student received sixty-two dollars per year in school taxes. A child going to school in St. John's received $350 per year in school tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tory equality!

MR. DECKER: Now, Mr. Speaker, a child who lived in the Strait of Belle Isle district where I grew up and where my children went to school, where I was a chairman of a school board, received ninety dollars per school tax. Now, that was the school tax system, and that is what hon. members want brought back to this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame! Shame!

MR. DECKER: They want a system, Mr. Speaker, where to him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. That's what they want, total inequality. Well, I'm not going to stand for it. This administration is not going to stand for it, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: This year, Mr. Speaker, school boards have been told that they have a tentative allocation. Which means that every single school board in this Province will receive more money than that school board received last year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: Eighty-five million dollars. The most in the history of the world that ever was spent in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: The most in the history of the world that was spent in Newfoundland and Labrador is spent on school board operations, $85 million, Mr. Speaker. Now how is that distributed? There is a formula in place, and based on that formula school boards have been told what they have. Now unfortunately the total inequity has not yet been taken out. But we're working on it. We're close, we're getting close, and we'll get closer. Because we are not going to allow a system to stand up where a person in Bay d'Espoir gets sixty dollars, a person in St. John's gets $350.

Now I can't help it if the hon. member doesn't like that kind of an answer. If the hon. member doesn't like that answer that's his problem, that's not mine, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: Now the hon. member talks about the 1 per cent and the 3 per cent. Now, Mr. Speaker, here is the reality.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

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

MR. DECKER: The reality is, Mr. Speaker, the whole Province is having fiscal problems, as the whole country, the whole continent, the whole world, has a fiscal problem. We are adjusting to a global economy and Newfoundland and Labrador cannot escape the realities of the global economy. It is evident in the Budget this year, we have a $153 million shortfall. All agencies of government are being called upon, are being encouraged, are being allowed to help us deal with this system. Why should we say to the education boards: no, we are not going to allow you to help us deal with this problem. Mr. Speaker, that would be discrimination of the worst kind, so we are saying to the school boards and the teachers and everybody else, you too, can have the privilege of helping us deal with this very serious problem, Mr. Speaker, and that is exactly what we are going to do.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Well, Mr. Speaker, that is government, three; opposition nothing.

That being so, I will ask my colleagues to vote in favour of the adjournment motion that you are about to put, Sir. I move that the House at its rising do adjourn until tomorrow at nine of the clock and that the House do now adjourn.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Friday, at 9:00 a.m.