June 9, 1994               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                 Vol. XLII  No. 59


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, last night during an interview on home schooling on CBC's Here and Now, people were kind of startled to hear the Minister of Education say that he believes that home schooling, which is really telling parents to teach their own children at home, is the way of the future, especially in rural areas of the Province.

Now I want to say to the minister, he owes an explanation to people in rural Newfoundland, because people are now asking: is this another one of your hidden agendas, something that you haven't told the people about? They don't want to have their lives played with by the Minister of Education or by the government.

So will the minister now tell the people in these rural communities, up front - they can laugh all they want as they usually do with any serious issue, Mr. Speaker - what exactly are the government's plans?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for giving me the opportunity to get up and speak about home schooling.

The context in which it was given - I did this interview about three or four weeks ago, and the interviewer was asking me what I saw as a future for home schooling. It was a long drawn out interview and I wish she had played it all because it was an excellent interview. I said, I could see it as being in the future, yes, because I am a futurist.

The hon. member must realize that in the not too distant future, there will be a lot more people working out of their homes than there are today. You can plug your computer in at Nain, you can plug into St. John's and work from your home in Nain. It is quite common in mainland Canada and North America that people are working from their homes. Now, in that context, Mr. Speaker, I can see home schooling being fairly prevalent; and that is exactly the context in which it was said.

We have no agenda right now, Mr. Speaker, to do away with the schools and replace them with home schooling. The hon. member, I am quite sure, will be pleased to know that we have no agenda to do that at this time. I don't know what some future government might do but you would do what applies at that time.

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, the minister can skate all he wants. Last night, the minister didn't say home schooling was an option available to parents. That's not what he said last night, Mr. Speaker. What he said last night was that it was the way of the future for rural Newfoundland. Now there is a big difference, I say to the minister.

So we want to ask him: Why did he single out rural Newfoundland in his statement? Were you telling the people of rural Newfoundland, in fact, that if they want to stay in rural communities they are going to have to educate their children themselves in their homes? Is that what he meant about the way of the future in rural Newfoundland?

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

MR. DECKER: My, Mr. Speaker, I really feel for the hon. member. He is really scraping to try to get an issue, isn't he?

No, Mr. Speaker, I'm not suggesting that it will be confined to rural Newfoundland. What I am saying is that in rural areas of the country, where people want to live in rural areas, it will not be confined to that. The two examples last night: One was right in St. John's and the other was out in the Portugal Cove area. So it was by no means confined to that.

There are various reasons as to why people would go for home schooling. The two examples last night had religious overtones, but I would suggest to the hon. member that there are other reasons to have home schooling.

Home schooling, as the hon. member knows, is legal in this Province as it has been for the last fifty years. When the hon. member was in government there was home schooling going on in this Province, and twenty-five years from now, when the hon. member is still not in government, home schooling will still be going on in this Province.

He is really trying desperately to put words in my mouth. Maybe he would like to tell us his personal feeling. Would he abolish home schooling or would he not? I would like to know where the hon. member stands because it is an issue that people can't skate around. I believe there is a place for home schooling. Yes, I do, and I think it will grow and it will prosper. It is something that we just can't ignore. We have to make sure.

The hon. member, depending on his next question, which is written I am sure, may give me an opportunity to explain just how a person can take advantage of home schooling in this Province.

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

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister can skate and skate and skate and skate and skate, but the fact of the matter is he said it is the way of the future, especially in rural areas of the Province. Those are not my words, those are the minister's words. I expect the minister to be honest with the people. If this is something in the back of his head, if this is a plan the government has, then tell us. If it is not, if you were quoted incorrectly, if you did not mean to say it, then stand up here in the House today and apologize to the people of rural Newfoundland. That is what he should do.

Now, let me ask him: This thinking which came out in that statement, `this is the way of the future especially in rural Newfoundland,' is what a lot of people in this Province have suspected is the strategy of this government, and has been for a long, long time. That is for communities to either shut-down or the only way to survive on their own in the case of education would be home schooling. This year alone you have forced school boards to lay off 200 teachers, mostly in rural Newfoundland. Over the next two or three years you will be eliminating the 2 per cent clause, and there will be another 250 teachers gone in rural Newfoundland.

Now, I want to ask the minister: As a result of that kind of strategy, the elimination of 450 teachers' jobs over the next two and a half years through the 2 per cent, etc., as I just said, I was to ask him, doesn't he think that that particular strategy will leave parents in rural Newfoundland with no other choice? Is that what he was trying to say when he said, this is the way of the future? Could he explain that to the people of rural Newfoundland?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, this reminds me of those mock trials you see at the first year university, of Frosh Week, where someone tries to put words in your mouth and all this sort of thing. The hon. member would have made a good lawyer -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. DECKER: He would have made a good lawyer appearing for one of these mock trials in Frosh Week.

Mr. Speaker, we do not have to take second place to anyone in our treatment of rural Newfoundland. What we're doing in the education system in this Province, Mr. Speaker, will be for the benefit of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: But what we will not continue to tolerate is what's been happening in rural Newfoundland because of a gutless crowd over there who could not deal with the issues when they were in power, Mr. Speaker.

Let me tell the hon. member something that the 2 per cent rule has done; out in Ming's Bight, Mr. Speaker, two schools, side by side, kept alive by the 2 per cent rule, because the government doesn't have the authority to address the needs. One school had nineteen children, two-and-a-half teachers. The other had nineteen children, two teachers, Mr. Speaker. Now, it might be great to keep two schools alive but will the hon. member suggest to me that we were doing justice to the children in that school system? We most certainly were not, Mr. Speaker.

In the town where I grew up and where my family grew up, Roddickton - two schools side by side, K-12, one with eighty-two children, the other with ninety-two children, Mr. Speaker. Is that doing justice to the children of this Province from an educational perspective? No, Mr. Speaker, it's not. We have the political will over here to do what's right for education and I don't expect hon. members to listen to the nonsense that he would put in my mouth, Mr. Speaker, we're not married to the past. We don't have our feet glued into the 18th Century.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: We are moving with the times, Mr. Speaker!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SIMMS: Mr. Speaker, I'm tempted to make some comment about his opening remark about making a good lawyer. I wasn't sure if that's what he said but I think that was the word he used. I think I'll stay away from that one. I'm tempted to make some comment about it but I think I'll leave it alone. I think the Premier would prefer that I leave it alone, too. It's probably just as well not to bring this kind of outside interference into the political system by referring to `good lawyers'.

PREMIER WELLS: I may have been more offended by the remark of my hon. friend (inaudible).

MR. SIMMS: Yes, exactly and that's precisely my point. I dare say the minister will see that in the next couple of weeks when the shuffle comes along.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister is being very clever in trying to avoid the remarks. He is talking about the policy, which is not what I am talking about. I am talking about his remarks. Now, did he say that home schooling is the way of the future, especially for rural Newfoundland? Did he say it, and did he mean it?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is trying to take everything out of context. Now, I don't know if that tape still exists or not; I would love for the hon. member to see the total tape, because it was an excellent interview.

Mr. Speaker, we were talking about - she asked, `Where do you see this going?' I said, `I am glad you asked that, because I consider myself a futurist', and I referred to what is happening across the country.

MR. SIMMS: A what?

MR. DECKER: A futurist. Did you ever hear of a futurist? You should read some books. There are people whose minds are back in the 17th- and 18th Century; normally, we call them Tories. They are glued to the past.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DECKER: But then, there are other people who think ahead, who plan for the future.

I explained to the interviewer that in many places across the country, people have chosen to work in their homes. It is the computer age, the hon. member should realize that, and people are working in their homes. Now, I said, in addition to all the other ways that people would want to have home schooling, I could see families living in rural areas of the country, in rural areas of Newfoundland, and in their opinion the children could not get all the service in the school, for whatever reason. Why have your child drive twenty miles to a school if you don't drive twenty miles to work, you work from your home.

Now, government has to control that very tightly, as we have been doing. The hon. member will know that those children who were shown last night are registered in some school. Every morning when the register is marked there is reference made to those children, so they are part of the system, and at the end of the day, government is responsible for the curriculum.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to draw his answer to a close.

MR. DECKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I give a final supplementary on this to the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister is practising what most of his colleagues in the front benches practice, and that is avoiding the answer directly. I asked him a direct question; he couldn't answer it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) question.

MR. SIMMS: I will ask the question when I am ready, not when the House Leader is ready. It is not up to you; it is up to the Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the minister being a futurist, I have news for him and for his government. They are soon going to be history, in due course. That is the reality.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SIMMS: In the past, now, the minister has made vague references to a small schools policy, but time and time again, when asked by members of the Opposition for a copy of that policy, repeatedly making that request, the minister has refused to table it. In view of this unsettling statement that he made last night, will the minister give the people of the Province some reassurance that indeed, he does have a policy, by tabling it here in the House before it adjourns today? Would he do that?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is confused with a small schools policy versus an isolated schools policy. The hon. member will know that we already have a small schools policy and that's what is keeping the school I referred to, and a lot of small schools, which are incapable of delivering the education that they should be delivering. What we are talking about is an isolated schools policy. No matter what happens, there will be children in Harbour Deep, and we have to be prepared to put extra services into Harbour Deep.

Now, he wants me to table it today. The hon. member will know that this is part of the implementation of the Royal Commission, where at this moment there is a committee in place now putting together viability guidelines, there is a committee in place dealing with busing issues, there is a committee in place dealing with curricula, and great strides are being made. One of the things we are doing is developing an isolated schools policy which essentially will say that where all other natural means have been used to make a school viable, we will start putting in artificial means: distance education, extra teachers, whatever it takes to make that school viable.

Where are we going to get the money to do that? We are going to get the money to do that from the 400 teachers who are on hold-back. You see, if we were to abolish the 2 per cent rule today we would not be able to do away with 400 teaching jobs. These are the people we need to deal with in the special, isolated schools after we have used up all natural means to make the schools viable, Mr. Speaker.

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

The minister has gone far beyond the question.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I expected the Minister of Education to tell us that a viable school would be one where the students brought their splits and wood to keep it warm, I say to him, the way he is getting on over there, going back.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, that is what you are trying to bring back in this Province, I say to the minister. If you get your way that is where we will be, back in rural Newfoundland, bringing your splits and paying your coal fee.

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Fisheries. I understand the minister's department has issued a number of scallop processing licences recently. I'm wondering if the minister could inform the House if that information is correct, and what criteria was used in the awarding of the licences?

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, we've not done it recently. Last year there were some harvesting initiatives taken on the part of a number of larger boat fishermen. We did issue seven developmental licences on a very temporary basis. In fact, in my letter to the people who got the licences I made it clear that they should not assume the licences would be issued on a permanent basis, and therefore they should be very cautious in spending too much money on setting up a plant.

This year we have re-issued six of those licences, so there are six developmental licences in existence. But I repeat, these are not permanent licences, they are licences that were issued to facilitate the fishermen on the Southern Shore, for example, who were trying to explore new scallop grounds on the Virgin Rocks and they wanted access to a market for their very limited quantity that they brought in. It was for that reason we saw fit to issue these developmental licences.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I'm wondering does the minister know how many applications were received for those licences, and on what basis approvals were given and others rejected. Could he inform the House of that? Really, what were the base decisions on which you awarded the licences?

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

MR. CARTER: Mr. Speaker, I can get that information but I certainly don't have it in my head. I do know that proximity, I suppose, to the fishing grounds - for example, there were three such licences issued to existing plants on the Southern Shore, one in Aquaforte, one in Bay Bulls, I believe, and I think, one in Cape Broyle, because that was the nearest area to the fishing grounds. I think there was one issued to a company in White Bay, and that licence has not been renewed because it wasn't active. I can't give him the criteria but I can only tell him that these were developmental licences, no permanency - just issued to facilitate an emerging fishery, to facilitate the fishermen.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A final supplementary: Would the minister undertake to provide a list to the House of those processing companies which applied for the scallop processing licences, and those who were approved, those rejected, and the criteria that were used to award the licences? Would he undertake to do that for us at his earliest opportunity?

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

MR. CARTER: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can. I don't know what the hon. member is getting at, but I can almost tell him now, I think, the names of the six or seven developmental licences: Aqua Fisheries in Aquaforte, the O'Briens in Tors Cove, another O'Brien in Cape Broyle, a plant in White Bay, a plant in Cottlesville in my district -

AN HON. MEMBER: Where in White Bay?

MR. CARTER: Wild Cove, I believe, or down that way somewhere. I will get him a complete list anyway, Mr. Speaker.

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 Health. Last month the Minister of Health released a consultant's report that outlined five options for the organization and administration of health care for Labrador and Northern Newfoundland. I ask the minister: Does he have any time frame in mind for making a decision?

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, we hope to finish this as soon as possible. Everybody involved wants a quick solution and so do we. Part of the answer to that depends upon when we can clue up the House of Assembly so we can conduct the hearings appropriately. I'm hoping that we can do so either by the end of this month or early next month.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knew this week that the House of Assembly is concluding today, so don't use that as an excuse. Now, this has become a very hot issue, both on the Northern Peninsula and in Labrador. All of Labrador seems united in insisting that the issue be decided solely on the basis of quality and efficiency in health care. St. Anthony, in particular, is also concerned about the economic impact that decision will have on a town that has few other options. I ask the minister: What would be the minister's main criteria in making this decision? Will it be based solely on quality and efficiency, or will he take into consideration the economic impact on St. Anthony?

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Health, my recommendations will be made on health issues, health grounds. In the discussions that have been held so far - I went to St. Anthony a couple of weeks ago and we confined our discussions as much as possible to the health issue, although the economic issue was brought up, and I am sure that when we go to Goose Bay, the political issue will also be involved, but my recommendations will be made to Cabinet on the basis of health issues.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister has said, time and time again, that quality of care and efficiency are the criteria in restructuring other boards in the Province. I ask the minister: What process, if any, has he put in place to involve the communities in Labrador and on the Northern Peninsula in the discussion and resolution of this issue? Will he try to bring them together, or will he leave them to fight each other over this issue?

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

DR. KITCHEN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the member is trying to do over there, or where he has been the past three or four weeks. I have a binder about that thick now full of briefs from various groups and organizations in Labrador and in Northern Newfoundland, and I have read them carefully. We have a committee in place of officials who are looking at it. The hon. the Minister of Education was with me the other day in St. Anthony, and other ministers will be involved. The Minister of Justice will be with me in Goose Bay, and other members are invited to be at the meetings, if they wish, and make their contribution.

We have had good discussions. We will be holding meetings. We will be going to Labrador West, and hopefully going to the Straits. Wherever people want to meet with me, we will meet with them, and we will have a good, solid set of discussions, and when we have all the health facts - the health facts - and we have these analyzed, and compare them with our scenarios, we will then pick out either one of those scenarios, or a modification of one, or an entirely new one, and I will then present that to my colleagues in Cabinet for a decision.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Finance.

Back in December of 1992, in the dying hours of that session, the minister squeezed through the House two pieces of legislation - one, the Gasoline Tax amendment, another, the Tobacco Tax Act amendment. Neither of those acts or those amendments have been proclaimed to this date, and the business community certainly doesn't wish to see them ever proclaimed. Can the minister tell us: Is government not going to proclaim them, and if not, is he prepared now to have them rescinded?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, during the last month or so I have been busy with some other matters, but there is still a meeting or a couple of meetings that need to be held, and they will be held in the near future.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, I take it from that, the minister is still proposing to move ahead with those acts. Will he tell us, therefore, the status of similar legislation proposed for the Retails Sales Tax Act? Is government still moving ahead with plans to introduce an amendment to that act similar to the kinds of provisions in the Gasoline Tax and Tobacco Tax Acts?

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

MR. BAKER: When Cabinet makes the final decision on that, everybody will be notified at that time. I can't prejudge what is going to happen in the Cabinet process.

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, on another slightly different topic, now that we know that the Hydro Bill is not going to be coming before this session of the House, at least perhaps not until the Fall, has the minister had any contact with the credit rating agencies in New York over the past couple of days? Have they called them to express any concern? or have they indicated to them that they may be having another look at the Province's credit rating now that the Hydro Bill is not going through? The Premier had wanted to lead the people of Newfoundland to believe that the credit rating was very much dependent on the privatization going ahead.

Will the minister confirm that he hasn't had any calls and, if not, will he now confirm that what the Premier was trying to put over the people of the Province was to simply have them believe something that was totally false?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The member can't impute motives to another member.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. BAKER: I will ignore the foolish part of his question, Mr. Speaker.

I should inform the hon. House, because it is an important matter, that there have been calls from the credit rating agencies, and just this morning, for instance, the credit rating agencies - well, either this morning, or it is happening this afternoon - are receiving a briefing on the status of that situation, so there have, indeed, been concerns expressed by the credit rating agencies.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Concerns or enquiries? two different things.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Premier.

Yesterday, in answers to questions posed by the Leader of the Opposition, the Premier said that the public opinion poll he commissioned on Hydro privatization cost about $6,000, but he wouldn't say who did the poll; he point-blank refused to tell the House who did the poll.

Will the Premier tell us today, who did the poll?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question was given yesterday and it hasn't changed.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East, a supplementary.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The supplementary is for the Premier.

Why the cover-up? Isn't the poll being paid for by the government with public funds and, isn't it unethical for the Premier to withhold from the taxpayers information about who did the poll?

MR. WINDSOR: What about the Freedom of Information Act?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My experience with the Opposition in the last month or so leads me to believe that they are trying -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

I can't hear the Premier's reply.

PREMIER WELLS: - leads me to believe that they will stop at nothing to try to interfere with anything that the government is seeking to do. They have called people in businesses and industries and so on in this Province, to try to distort and misrepresent what the government is trying to achieve. I am simply not going to expose the people to that, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: What a cover-up!

MR. SIMMS: You can't be forthright, can you?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Humber East.

MS. VERGE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

More supplementaries for the Premier.

I ask him again: Isn't it unethical for the Premier to withhold from the taxpayers of this Province, who are paying for the poll, the information about the people who did the poll? Which firm did the poll or, was the poll done in-house by the Premier, his Liberal members or his political staff, and further, is the government poll ongoing, is it what's called a rolling poll?

Will the Premier continue to poll the citizens of the Province about Hydro privatization, no matter what it costs, in his futile search for a poll that will give him the result he is looking for, and what result is he looking for, what level of public support for Hydro privatization does he think is required for the government to proceed with the dastardly deed of privatizing our electrical generating utility?

AN HON. MEMBER: My hydro utility.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker -

AN HON. MEMBER: Why are you giving it (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: It won't be yours (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I explained to the House why I didn't answer the question from the Opposition. The people of the Province aren't asking for it, the Opposition are asking for it and I have explained to them why I am not prepared to table that information at this time; but what I will do, Mr. Speaker, talking about money spent - what I will do is, I will get a complete accounting of the money spent by the former government on polls, exactly how much they spent, and will table information as to how much of it they made public in the Province and table exactly what this government has spent on polls.

MR. SIMMS: Why don't you table who did your poll - tell us who did your poll?

MS. VERGE: Why the cover-up?

MR. WINDSOR: You will have to get it under the Freedom of Information.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: What a cover-up!

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

The hon. the Member for Placentia.

MR. CAREEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the absence of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, I am going to put my question to the Premier.

People all over this country, Premier, live in parks, but here in St. John's, people within Pippy Park are having a very difficult time with the attitudes of the Commission, and it is time for a review of the legislation and to make sure that a resident or two of the Park are represented on the boards. I am asking your office if it (inaudible) to help with those people?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WELLS: Mr. Speaker, I don't disagree with the hon. member that it is time for review of the functioning of the Commission. As a matter of fact, the matter is under review at the moment.

We don't think, necessarily, that we need a full-time - the practice has been and we followed it for a few years after we took responsibility for government, to appoint somebody at the deputy minister level to be Chairman of the Pippy Park Commission. We don't think that is necessary. We think we can operate the system at a lower cost than that; either by part-time or outside individuals on the chair, as the Chairman of the Pippy Park Commission, and run it with officials or staff or employees. We don't think we need that kind of structure. The whole thing is under review at the moment.

There is another aspect of it. People who live in Pippy Park have problems, and I think that this is what the member is referring to. I have a number of exchanges of correspondence underway at the moment from people who live in Pippy Park who are concerned about policies and the way in which they're being applied. All of that is under review at this moment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. OLDFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I'm pleased today to table the final report of the Select Committee on the practice of public accountancy in the Province.

Mr. Speaker, if I might give a brief summary of the work of the committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

If I could have a little more silence in the House. I'm having trouble hearing the hon. member.

MR. OLDFORD: Mr. Speaker, the committee received evidence from some thirty-seven witnesses over a three day period representing the views of all sectors of the accounting profession. Our deliberations attracted a great deal of interest, not only in this Province but from other jurisdictions across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, in reaching the decision on the questions referred, your committee had to consider a number of competing interests, namely: Public protection from unqualified practitioners; adequate competition in the marketplace; and fairness to all accounting bodies.

Mr. Speaker, after careful consideration of the evidence and a review of legislation governing public accounting in other jurisdictions, it is the opinion of your committee that the licensure as public accountants or qualified CGAs and CMAs would enhance competition without compromising the public interest provided that the appropriate legislative controls are put in place. Your committee is recommending that each body of accountants license their own members. The committee also recommends that a standards directorate be established and that mandatory participation by the three accounting bodies be legislated.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion your committee commends to the House of Assembly the Alberta model of concurrent public practice rights with appropriate safeguards to protect the public interest. This model has been agreed to by all three accounting groups in Alberta and has worked effectively since 1987.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the committee members for their tremendous input, cooperation and dedication in carrying out the work of the committee. I want to thank the Member for Mount Pearl, the vice-chair, the Member for Kilbride, the Member for Port au Port, and the Member for St. John's North. I want to give special thanks to the assistant clerk and clerk of committees, Ms Murphy, for her efforts throughout the process.

Thank you very much and thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, I would like to table the report of the Public Tender Act exceptions for the month of April, 1994.

MR. SPEAKER: I hereby table the report of the Commission of Internal Economy.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to inform the hon. House that the audited financial statements for the Province of Newfoundland Pool and Pension Fund for the year ending December 31, 1993, are ready for tabling.

Some of the points worthy of note include the fact that the pension fund grew by 21.3 per cent during the year and had investments at the market value totalling $967.1 million as of December 31, 1993. This growth is perhaps greater than the growth in previous years. There was a pay out of about $111 million from the fund and the value of investments, the percentage return on investments, about 24 per cent. So it's rather good.

Petitions

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of 122 Newfoundlanders from various parts of the Province of Newfoundland; from Fleur de Lys, Deer Lake, Cormack, Nain, English Harbour West, from St. John's and Clarenville.

Mr. Speaker, these individuals, the undersigned, are concerned about the importation of garbage for final disposal in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which they say is an indignity to our people and should not be seen as a growth industry for the future and for the Province. They're concerned about the final disposal being destructive and hazardous to our physical environment, and with the exception of any established regional obligations, should not be undertaken on behalf of any jurisdiction other than our own. They are concerned that the adoption of the waste trade industry would signal the destruction of what we hold dear about our Province.

It goes on to say, Mr. Speaker - and this should be of interest to the government - that the overwhelming majority of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are opposed in principle to such industrial initiatives.

Your petitioners respectfully request the hon. House to take such action as may be necessary to enact or amend legislation to say no to industrial schemes which have as their objective the importation of waste for final disposal in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Now, this petition, Mr. Speaker, is part of a growing petition that is being organized by the Say No To American Garbage group, a petition which already has about 6000 signatures on it, and will be continuing as a campaign throughout the summer to demonstrate on paper the reality of public opinion polls that have been done, that have established that the public of Newfoundland and Labrador is overwhelmingly - and I am talking about in the order of 80 to 90 per cent - opposed to this particular type of process.

Now, we have before the Minister of Environment and Lands, right now, a proposal that the Premier spoke about yesterday, to import contaminated materials to Baie Verte. They are called asbestos contaminated materials, and what that means is there has to be at least some asbestos in it. Whatever the rest of it is, we do not know. The only criteria is that they be asbestos contaminated materials.

We are at the stage now, Mr. Speaker, where the Environmental Preview Report has been presented. The minister has given a deadline of June 17 for submissions on it. The concern is that over the summer when the government thinks that nobody is looking, they are going to release this project from further environmental assessment.

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the government that this is a very serious matter with far-reaching implications and a precedent setting issue that must have, and deserves to have, full public discussion and involvement all over this Province. It is not just a concern of the people of Baie Verte, although they are opposed to it. The Baie Verte Economic Development Committee is opposed to it and various municipalities in that area have stated their opposition to it.

Who is this project for, Mr. Speaker? Initially, when the environmental protection guidelines were put forth, the government was named as the proponent. On April 17, 1991 the guidelines for the preparation of an environmental preview report states on Page 2: `identification of the proponent for the purposes of the EPR, government is considered the proponent and should also identify how it intends to operate the proposed project.'

This was when James Noseworthy Limited who were receiver and manager of Baie Verte Mines Inc. made the initial application, or continued it on behalf of Baie Verte Mines Inc. while in receivership.

AN HON. MEMBER: The government are the receiver, is that it?

MR. HARRIS: Well, this was issued by the minister. The guidelines issued by the minister, the Environmental Preview Report Guidelines included the statement that for the purposes of the EPR the government is considered the proponent and should also identify how it intends to operate the proposed project.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that government has been intimately involved in this from the very beginning. We had the Premier yesterday saying that it wasn't an industrial waste importation project, but what it was, he said, and I quote him, "There's no proposal to import American garbage" - which is not what I said - "There is a proposal that would consider putting back into the hole from which asbestos came in the past, asbestos waste, from whatever the source."

Mr. Speaker, the Premier would have us believe that this is some kind of come home year for asbestos fibres. This is not the swallows coming back to Capistrano. This is in fact the wholesale importation of industrial waste which, amongst other things, contains asbestos. There is very grave and important concern about what is involved in this whole process. There are, in fact, very serious worldwide concersn about the industrial waste industry. The toxic waste trade is notorious for its ability to get rid of toxic industrial garbage in various ways.

A recent edition, June 2, of The European newspaper, a weekly newspaper, distributed worldwide, under the headline, Squads Track Toxic Smugglers, talks about the fact that police in twelve countries are mounting an international operation to track down criminal gangs who are moving into the lucrative trade of toxic waste smuggling.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time has expired.

MR. HARRIS: We've got to force them, Mr. Speaker -

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

The hon. member's time has expired.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, before we get into the substance of the afternoon's debate, I must ask the House to engage in one of the more arcane procedural manoeuvres that it is possible for this House to do. Yesterday or the day before, I forget just when, we adopted an amendment to the Mineral Act. This morning we discovered that two words had been left out of the amendment which have the effect I am told of negating the amendment and in fact making the situation worse.

MR. TOBIN: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I'm sorry?

MR. A. SNOW: The words are included in the Explanatory Notes.

MR. ROBERTS: Yes. My friend for Burin - Placentia West reminds me that the words are clearly in the Explanatory Notes. I don't quite know what happened that those who were responsible - and I guess in the long run that is me - for writing the Explanatory Notes got it right, and those who were responsible for doing the amendment - which in the long run is me - got it wrong; but that is what happened.

Apparently this problem has come up before because somebody - I'm not sure if it was in my time in the House or not - wrote rule 60A in the Standing Orders which in the first sentence says: "When a Bill has been read a third time and passed, the third reading and passing may be declared rescinded by a majority vote..." So, I will ask leave of the House - because I cannot give notice of this motion a day in advance - to deal with the motion I am about to make under rule 60A which says that Bill 19, An Act To Amend The Mineral Act, be declared rescinded and recommitted to Committee.

If the leave is given I shall then ask to have the motion put.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. ROBERTS: I understand leave is given. The motion is put. If Your Honour would put the question we can then get on with this business.

MR. SPEAKER: I suspect we need first of all leave on the motion itself.

All those in favour of rescinding Bill No. 19 in accordance with Standing Order 60A and then recommitting the House to Committee signify by `aye'. Contrary-minded, `nay'.

Motion carried.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, I thank members.

Would you be good enough please to resolve the House into Committee of the Whole? The first thing we will deal with is Bill 19 and get that straightened out.

On motion, that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

Committee of the Whole

MR. CHAIRMAN (Barrett): Order, please!

Bill No. 19. The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Bill No. 19, Your Honour. This stands in the name of my friend, the Minister of Mines and Energy, and since a minister may not amend her or his own act, may I move the following amendment to section 3: To delete all the words in quotations and replace them with the following: "41.1 The minister may make regulations for the purpose of paragraph 4(1)(b), exempting from the operation of this Act the minerals in, on or under those lands and lands under water that are defined."

I would say to the Committee, by way of explanation, that adds the words `and lands' to the wording of section 3 as it was in the bill as printed.

I move the amendment, Sir.

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 3 as amended, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill, with amendment, carried.

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, that disposes of Bill 19.

We were getting on so very well yesterday with my friend from Mount Pearl and my friend from Gander, discussing the NLCS Bill, which is Order 3, Bill No. 24, that I would ask if Committee could resume its discussion of that. We got, I believe, to clause 10, and we were discussing clause 10 and the proposal to amend clause 10.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It almost became a knuckles bill too.

MR. ROBERTS: My friend from Grand Bank is correct; it almost became a bare knuckles bill, but I understand overnight there may have been kiss and make up time.

AN HON. MEMBER: If you would sit down, we could (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, I would be delighted to.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Bill 24, we are on clause 10. The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, when we adjourned yesterday the Minister of Finance was trying to put some words in my mouth, which I objected to. The Minister of Finance was trying to suggest that I was saying that we should eliminate, we should disband, Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services and start from scratch. I said no such thing. The minister is being less than honest, and he knows the difference in that, because we have supported the privatization of Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services in principle ever since the concept first came up. Both publicly and here in the House, the Leader of the Opposition and other members on this side, myself, have supported the concept.

What we are finding here, what we are seeing here now, though, is that the minister is bringing in some enabling legislation. We don't have a problem with that, we realize he has to do that, but we have a right and a responsibility as Opposition to question where he proposes to go with this enabling legislation. Obviously we have to have a certain level of trust and confidence in the government. It is hard for us to do at times, but nevertheless we do have to have a certain measure of trust and confidence.

What we found out yesterday, with the amendment that came in, was that first of all Memorial University now was added to it. That simply brought to light the value of the contract that is being bargaining away here as well. We don't have a problem with selling the company. That makes a certain amount of sense if we can get the same level of service at a lower cost. Otherwise, what is the objective of privatizing it? Some benefit, I guess, in taking back some investment capital. I assume we will get some investment capital out of it. Maybe the minister could tell us what he expects to get. Maybe he can give us a ballpark figure. Negotiations must have progressed to that stage now. I suspect they are very close to being finalized on computer services. Maybe the minister can give us an idea of how much he proposes to get for the bricks and the mortar, and then tell us how much he proposes to get for the sale of that contract for however many years, and the minister has not told us how many years.

As I indicated yesterday, I would be a lot more comfortable if this act, this amendment, had in it some sort of a sunset clause that gave the minister the right to award the contract for up to, say, five years. I would like to see something definitive, not an open-ended blank cheque, as this is, for the Minister of Finance to sell computer services, and with it give all government computer business including Memorial University, including Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, I assume - although if the other bill goes through it will be pretty hard for government to commit Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. That's an interesting question: What is going to happen to the Hydro contract because Computer Services - unless things have changed - Computer Services does a tremendous amount of work for Hydro as well and all other Crown corporations. Memorial University alone I understand is something like $21 million a year, that is just what Memorial University pays to Computer Services.

Maybe the minister would like to tell us the overall value of the work. How much is Computer Services worth to us now? How much does he expect to have to pay for that same work? Is it less or is it more is the question. How much are we getting for it in return? I mean, are we getting a $10-million bonus for the business for that contract, because what we are doing is selling a contract without tender and that is a real concern that we have on this side of the House, Mr. Chairman. I would ask the minister to tell us just how much he expects to get for it, what is it worth and what is it going to cost us in the future for that same business? Because unless there is a substantial savings to government, including the benefit of eliminating whatever debt may be eliminated by taking out whatever capital - the minister will tell us I hope now how much capital we expect to recover, how much debt we hope to eliminate. There are benefits to that.

The minister surely by now has done a cost benefit analysis on that, can quantify for us the real benefit of eliminating that debt and of having that extra capital to do other things with. Maybe the minister can tell us, in return for that how much we pay over the next number of years in additional costs for the same services that we get today?

So, Mr. Chairman, I will sit and maybe the minister can answer those questions for me.

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I explained yesterday, we had hoped that this particular initiative would have been completed before now, however it has turned out to be a very complex situation, primarily because our main objective is simply not to sell a company. Our main objective is to provide for the further development of the information technology industry in the Province, and that makes it a very complex situation. So the privatization of NLCS is not yet completed. Discussions are still ongoing on some of the major points. We hope it will be finalized before the end of June.

Now this creates some problems. Had, for instance, the deal been finished by the end of May or the middle of May or whatever, if it had now been completed, I could give the hon. House the full details of the contract, the full details including the pay out price, including the conditions attached to the privatization, including the guarantees of contracting out to the other IT firms in the Province, including the amount of extra business, including the cost of doing business in terms of the government and MUN with the new company; and all of these details would be exact and could easily have been provided to the House.

However, the deal is not yet finished and may not finish. There may be wrinkles come up in the next couple of weeks that we can't deal with, in which case there will be no deal. So at this point in time many of the numbers, to which the hon. gentleman is referring, cannot be provided. That being the case we cannot wait till the fall. If in fact the deal does go through in the next few weeks, we can't wait for the fall before we actually finish it because you will be dependent upon things happening almost immediately. I think right now they are in the process of planning and starting to construct an extension on the building and this will be fully covered by the new company rather than the old one; and we have guarantees that it won't cost the government any money.

The cost of doing business with the new company will not be outside the cost of normally doing that kind of business. This is not a sweetheart deal and will not be a sweetheart deal, but I must say that the length of the service guarantee we provide will ultimately determine the price we get for it. If we were to, for instance, not agree to any service extension, then the company at this point in time would be worth very little. If we were to agree to a three-year service extension, it would be worth a bit more, a five-year, seven-year, ten-year, depending on what we do with that, that will determine the value, and the negotiations have not yet finished. I can assure the hon. member there will be a limit, there will be a sunset provision, there will be a specific limit to the guarantee of service or business that will be provided to the new company and will not be for a long time. It will be realistic in terms of that company standing on its own two feet and giving it time to develop the other IT businesses in the Province.

With regard to the building, itself, we don't want to sell the building - I pointed that out; therefore, there can be no particular number put on the bricks and mortar. We are not going to sell the bricks and mortar. We are going to enter into a long-term lease, and that is the hope of the end result of this contract, to lease the building and receive so much payment each year for the use of the building from that company, so the amount of revenue to the Province will depend upon the value of that lease. If the lease is $200,000 a year, then a certain sum will accrue, if it is $300,000 there will be a bigger sum. So that building will be leased to the new company because we prefer not to sell the building.

Now, obviously, the partners in the consortium, NewTel, Anderson Consulting, and Bell Sigma prefer to own the building outright. That is the best deal from their perspective, they would rather own the building outright, but our position is, no, and this is one of the points that has been causing some delay in reaching an agreement.

Unfortunately, a lot of the numbers are not available. I will check in the next few minutes to see specifically what business MUN gives Computer Services, but it is certainly not $21 million. It is a very much lower number, as far as I know, and would again be subject to MUN's budget each year. The amount of business we give has been reducing in the last three years because of our financial problems, and whereas there are changes we would like to make in the way government operates in terms of computers, we have not been able to do perhaps what is ideal, so the amount of business we have been doing with NLCS has been getting less and less over the last couple of years, and depending on the financial situation may indeed decrease in future years.

As to how much business over the five or seven years, or whatever it happens to be, the three years, or whatever it happens to be, that we are guaranteeing the business, there can be no absolute guarantees except to say that whatever business we have we will do during that period in time. There can be no value put on it. So, aside from the past numbers - I can easily find out how much business MUN did over the last one, two, or three years, that type of number, but I can't provide any others because the contracts are simply not completed.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, what concerns me now is that the minister doesn't even know the numbers. I appreciate that negotiations aren't completed so the numbers obviously can't be completed, but he must have some concept. Negotiations have been ongoing now for months, on this particular takeover, and surely the minister can give us better information than that on exactly the ballpark figures. He may not have final numbers but, I think, the minister can give us ballpark figures.

And I guess the question is, as the minister just said, if the amount of government business is decreasing, what guarantees are we giving this new company? If government decides next year, or the year after, to greatly decrease the amount of services it needs from the new corporation, are we locked into any minimal payment, any fixed payment, or is it on a fee-for-service basis, totally depending on the amount of work that is being done? These are questions, Mr. Chairman, of which we need to know the answers, the terms of which we are still very concerned about.

I mean, we could stand here and argue that they shouldn't receive any work without going through the public tender process. They may well be the only firm in the Province for the next number of years that can bid on it. There may well be other firms from outside the Province that would bid on it. So that's why I can accept the fact of giving them some comfort for a few years. We would not want this new company to lose that business for the next few years until they can strengthen and take advantage - the advantage of privatizing NLCS, the only advantage that I can see, is that it allows NLCS to compete for private business.

Until now we've tied their hands pretty much and said: you can do government business, you can do government agencies and you can do some outside business if there's nobody else in the Province capable of doing it or interested in it but you're not to be out there competing with private firms unfairly. And it's not fair that a government-financed corporation, built and paid for with government funding, with taxpayers' dollars, should be out there unfairly competing in the private sector. That's the real advantage of privatizing Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services, to allow them to expand. Hopefully, in five years time they'll be twice as large as they are now, and only half of their business will be government business, the other half will be from private enterprise. That's what we would like to see but, Mr. Chairman, we need some comfort that in five years time they will have to go through a public tendering process. If they haven't put themselves, in five years, in a position where they can compete with anybody for that business - particularly where they've been doing this business and only this business ever since it was formed, it's the purpose for which it was formed - they should be in the position to know exactly what is required and to compete with anybody from anywhere. They should be in that position now but I can understand wanting to give them five years comfort.

I can understand the investors, who are putting their money into this company, wanting to know that they have a company that's worth multimillion dollars and that tomorrow, by a stroke of a pen in a Cabinet meeting, government can't take away their whole business, 100 per cent of their business. If it was 10 per cent or 20 per cent, then perhaps that's an acceptable risk, but 100 per cent of their business at the moment from one client, all the apples in one barrel, we can appreciate that they want some comfort. We're prepared to accept that, but we're not prepared to give government a blank cheque, an open-ended contract to give this business to this new company without public tender.

So, in that regard, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to propose a sub-amendment, seconded by my friend, the Member for Burin - Placentia West, to basically add after the end of the amendment that we're now debating, which reads at the end, `the currency of those agreements', after that add the words: `for a maximum period of five years.' That's all we're saying, is to restrict this right of government to give that work without public tender, because that's what the government is asking: no public tender, no public preference act, no provincial preference. The Public Service Collective Bargaining Act goes by the wayside, of course. The Restraint Act goes out because now it's a private company. The Reciprocal Taxation Agreement Act, all of these things are being written off by these amendments. So all this sub-amendment says, Mr. Chairman, is simply to put a five-year limit on it.

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. WINDSOR: On the government's right to give these - to sign an agreement giving all of the government's work to the new computer company for a maximum of five years. The minister may find he only wants to do it for three years. But we're prepared to go along with giving a five-year lease, without tender, under these circumstances. We certainly wouldn't want to see it open-ended as it is here today. It's asking for a blank cheque, no time limit on it and no opportunity for other companies to come and grow in the Province and compete for this business, Mr. Chairman. I ask the minister: Would he not consider a very simple amendment? Would the Page like to take the amendment?

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, the clause as it now reads specifies, `during the currency of the agreements' and limits the length of time to a time definite within the agreements. So it puts a time limit on it and does not open it up forever unless the agreement says, `this is forever.'

Now, at this point in time, I am not prepared to accept the sub-amendment. I would be prepared to specify that there will be no indefinite extension.

I want to assure the hon. gentleman that whereas - he has picked a number out of thin air without really looking at the situation, the dynamics, the new company structure, the conditions of the IT industry in the Province and so on. All of a sudden he has magically picked five years as a point in time when there would be other people within the Province capable of bidding. Then the business won't be lost to some mainland firm which is going to do the work on the mainland and so on.

He has automatically picked five years, and, Mr. Speaker, I'm not prepared to live with that number that he has simply come up with, without a lot of background information, although he has a feeling, and he just picked it. I'm not so sure that would fit the circumstances that exist in the Province today, so I am not prepared to accept that type of restriction.

MR. WINDSOR: What number would the minister suggest then?

MR. BAKER: Not more than ten.

MR. WINDSOR: Not more than ten.

MR. BAKER: Something like that, yes.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman (inaudible)?

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The minister is saying ten years. I would have a little bit of comfort in ten years - not more than ten years. It might be three years, it might be seven years, but at least we would have some comfort. I think ten years is too long. I don't know how my colleagues feel about this. Maybe somebody else would like to talk about it.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Chairperson. I wanted to say a few words about this because I think the minister is really getting off pretty lightly with all this and I think it is time he answered some questions. I asked, and had a whole series of questions the other day at second reading and the minister chose at the end to treat it as some sort of rhetorical flight about being opposed to profits.

Now, If the minister wants to treat this as a rhetorical issue, he can, but I think the public of the Province are entitled to a little bit more from the minister. I have a copy of the audited statement of NLCS, Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services, as of March 31, 1993, showing an annual revenue for 1993 of $21 million and for 1992 of $20.679 million.

MR. WINDSOR: That's for everything?

MR. HARRIS: That is for operating revenue. The minister has identified some millions - $10 million, perhaps, $11 million, government business. What does that mean? Where does the other $11 million come from? If the minister doesn't know, well, say he doesn't know and tell us that he doesn't know what he is doing negotiating a deal on the sale of it if he doesn't know where the revenues are coming from. I don't think that is the position of the government. I think the government does know. Total operating revenues are $21 million. They've gone up by $400,000 from 1992. The government's business might be going down but it is not going down by very much, and it is being replaced by business from somewhere else.

What makes up the $21 million? Is it government business, government agencies, Hydro corporation perhaps? Is it MCP? Does he consider that government business or does he consider that something else? Is that government business? Is Hydro government business or is that outside business? We are talking about $21 million with an operating profit or net income of $3.4 million. I see nothing wrong with profit. You can get up and say that I'm attacking profit and attacking - I think it is wonderful to have an income stream of $3.4 million of net income. That's what is being sold, not the building. I think the building means nothing. The building is only a place out of which you operate. Any company with revenues of $21 million can manage to find accommodation.

MR. BAKER: You are wrong in what you just said.

MR. HARRIS: I'm wrong. Well, if I'm wrong then the minister, I'm sure, will have lots of opportunity to get up and say - the night is young. It is only 3:00 p.m. He will have lots of opportunity to get up and tell us where I'm wrong. If the operating revenues are $21 million, then the question is: what is the source of those revenues? The university is part of it, perhaps Hydro is part of it, perhaps other government agencies or Crown corporations are other parts of it, but they do have a net income. They had a net income for the year 1993 of $3.4 million, in 1992, it was considerably less, $755,000; nevertheless, they are carrying a retained earnings of $2.8 million. It appears to have paid a dividend of $2 million in 1993 and I guess that is a dividend to the people of Newfoundland.

Now, if the minister wants to sell the corporation, I don't quarrel in principle with the idea if it is going to do any good, but the minister hasn't answered the questions, and you know, maybe I should ask him one at a time and sit down and let him answer them. I mean, we will keep it simple, I will ask one question, I will sit down and let you answer it, and then I can ask another question to see if you could try to answer that. The minister hasn't yet answered any of the questions that I have asked.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. HARRIS: The Minister of Finance - and maybe he doesn't intend to, maybe what he wants is a carte blanche from this Committee, from the House to go ahead and do what he likes over the summer and announce it after the fact, have a press conference and say: Oh, well, we are telling the public what we have just done; but he already would have signed the contract and he will say: Well, we have the legislative power to do it. but I think if the minister expects to get away in the dying days of this session, with a piece of legislation and no answers for the public, then I think we may be here for a little while. Is the minister prepared to answer some of these questions?

MR. BAKER: What questions?

MR. HARRIS: Well, the question is: what is the source of the operating revenue of $21 million dollars? If the minister is saying: I don't know, then I will have to condemn him as a minister who is unable and who shouldn't be negotiating this deal. You know, he suggested that the Member for Mount Pearl was wrong when he said Memorial University was $21 million. What kinds of games are you playing? We all know that the total revenue is $21 million; you have said -

MR. BAKER: You can't both be right. If the total revenue is $21 million, and he is saying all the $21 million is from MUN, then somebody has to be wrong.

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible), twenty-one is a number (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, obviously, that is not correct, but I mean, who has the answers? Does the minister have the answers, if he does, why doesn't he get up and tell us, of the $21 million, what proportion comes directly from government and what proportion comes from Hydro or other sources, and what makes all this up? The public is being asked to agree that the minister can do what he likes with this corporation and make whatever deal he wants and bypass the Public Tender Act for an indefinite, unlimited period if he so wishes and, in essence, guarantee to this new entity some sort of financial stability.

Now, I don't have any objections to that in principle, that if there is a company that is guaranteeing, for example - and we haven't heard anything about that - a certain level of new investment, if it was a company that was guaranteeing a certain level of new jobs, if a company was guaranteeing a certain level of technology transfer from a company like Bell Sigma and Anderson Consulting, if those were the benefits that were being held out and he could say this is the level of benefits or this is the area in which we are looking for benefits, and we are going to have commitments on this and we are going to have commitments on that, we are going to have commitments on something else, but we have to trade something off for it and what we are prepared to trade off is an income stream involving $15 million-, $16 million-, $18 million- or $21 million-worth of business potentially, for a period of four, five, six or seven years, then we would know the ballpark in which the minister was prepared to operate, but what we have now, is a totally open-ended situation where the minister is not telling the public anything and after the fiasco that we have had with the Hydro privatization scheme that has been floated around for the last year or so, the public, frankly, expects a lot more from the government in terms of what it is going to come forth with before the Opposition can be asked to say yes to a proposal such as this.

It is obviously not on the same scale as Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, but, but, and I say this, if last year, as of March 31, 1993, there was $3.4 million of net income, that is significant when compared to what the government got out of Hydro in that same year, they got $10 million. Well, out of this little company, NLCS, the government is getting one-third the amount that it got out of the whole of Hydro in the same fiscal period. So, you know, it is not peanuts we are talking about here, we are talking about a significant revenue source, obviously of significant interest so that NewTel and Bell Sigma and this international worldwide computer firm would be interested in it, so it has to be of some significance and I think it is time for the minister to give us some of the facts. I mean, he doesn't have to show his hand from a negotiating point of view, but I think the public is entitled to know what kinds of expectations the government has in terms of new investment, in terms of jobs, in terms of technology transfer, and in terms of what it is prepared to give up by way of going to the market for the same service it is now paying $21 million for, government and government agencies, and the university or whatever, in what proportion.

I would just like to give the minister an opportunity to answer some of those questions, and not get on the flight of rhetoric that perhaps he got involved in the other day, and I may have gotten involved in a little bit myself, but there are certainly factual questions that are on the table or the floor of the Committee at the moment, and I would like the minister to take advantage of the opportunity to answer some of them.

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Chairman, where should I start? The hon. gentleman spends so much time repeating over and over again that there are all of these questions that he wants answers to; and he keeps repeating it over and over again, and talks about protecting the interests of Anderson Consulting, and all this kind of stuff, and he goes on with a whole bunch of nonsense and it is very difficult to pick out what specific questions he wants answered. It seems as if he just wants to stand up for ten or fifteen minutes every now and then and throw words at the Hansard people. Perhaps he likes to see them in print the next day. He keeps repeating the same thing over and over again.

Mr. Chairman, let me see if I can explain the situation once again. Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services, the biggest chunk of its business comes directly from the government and government departments. In addition, it provides services to MUN and Hydro, and it does some business outside. The Member for Mount Pearl is correct in the sense that if there is some business out there that can only be done - they have access to some private sector activity; let's put it that way, and that is the way that NLCS has continued.

As a matter of fact, their mandate was changed a few years ago. About three years ago their mandate was changed so that they could enter into agreements with private sector companies to allow other smaller private sector companies to bid on business in the private sector; NLCS would support them as a backup. Therefore, NLCS got some business in the private sector through co-operation and joint ventures with some private sector companies. So that $21 million total revenue, I haven't got the breakdown at my disposal now, but most of it is government business. It varied, I guess, from $11 million to $14 million or $15 million when we were spending more money, so that is an amount of government business. I am not sure what MUN was, but it might have been $3 million or $4 million. The amounts from the other sources were much smaller. The big chunk was government business.

Now, Mr. Chairman, we decide to privatize computer services. If we had proceeded along the lines of simply saying: We are going to sell the building, sell the equipment. We, as government, will just simply go on the market to try to find services. We no longer will use Computer Services, no longer have them; we will sell the building and equipment, then nothing would be accomplished. I tell you what would be accomplished, and that is we would lose a couple of hundred jobs in this Province, a couple of hundred very high- level jobs. We would go to the general market and Systemhouse, or Bell Sigma, Bell Canada, or IBM and so on would get our computer business, and it would all be handled on the mainland somewhere, and that would be straight privatization of selling off Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services. That is what would happen; we would lose hundreds of jobs.

In order to entice one of the larger companies in the world to come in here - and we had bids from Systemhouse, we had bids from IBM, and we had bids involving Anderson Consulting, which happens to be the biggest. In order to entice some of the larger companies to come in here and set up a computer business and bring computer business from other parts of the world into this Province, and to develop a company existing in this Province, providing jobs in this Province that could have an impact worldwide in terms of going after worldwide business, that we would have to leave computer services as it is - in other words, still with the government business, with the normal business it normally carries on.

So, this is not avoiding the Public Tender Act, in that sense. It is for a period of time trying to leave Computer Services as it is so that it could grow and be built with the extra business from these other outside companies.

A contract is in the process of being worked on. Now, I know it might be very difficult for the Member for St. John's East to understand, but the contract has not yet been arrived at, and until it is arrived at, I can't go around all over the place giving all kinds of details of what is being discussed because it could affect our final position. Not only that, but if this deal does fall apart, we then have to go back to one of the others and it wouldn't be to our benefit to be releasing all kinds of details, even if I had them at my fingertips. I would have to be very careful about what kinds of details I can give.

What I can say is that rather than destroy a couple of hundred jobs - we could leave it as it is and have no growth, or we could simply sell it off and destroy a couple of hundred jobs in the Province. We could do that quite easily, and then, allow our work to be done on the mainland, or we could try to keep that company as it is, allowing the private sector to build on it, until we have a larger, more capable company getting business elsewhere in Canada and elsewhere in the world - we could try that approach, which is the approach we chose.

If we don't go ahead with this, NLCS would do all our business. It is not subject to public tender then. We are not changing the situation at all, except that we are putting a limit. We are saying in the contract that there will be a definitive limit on the length of time that we can guarantee services to this company. Because once they've grown to the point and have enough outside business and develop some local companies to the extent that they can then bid on some government business, at that point in time then there is no longer a protection. At that point in time we will go through the public tender process to have our business taken care of.

In the process, as well, whatever is in that contract it is not selling, as the Member for St. John's East implies, a cash flow of $3 million or $4 million. That is not what it is at all, not at all. What is happening now is, it is our company and it is really a transfer of funds. If we transfer too much funds over for the work that is done, then we take it back at the end of the year. That's what it is. That's what he is seeing there. This is not a real business situation. This is an internal government thing by-and-large and we are not selling a cash flow of $3 million or $4 million. We are not guaranteeing that on our business, anybody will make $3 million or $4 million or anything like it.

But my problem is, again, I can't divulge, until the contracts have been completed, any details of the contract. It will be a contract that will be competitive. It won't be an automatic, as the Member for St. John's East seems to imply, $3 million or $4 million we are giving someone else. We are certainly giving them our business for a short period of time. The terms and conditions under which we give them that business will be competitive terms and conditions. That is what we are now trying, in the process of working out.

I really can't give any more details than those because it doesn't exist. If hon. members want to hold this thing up, that's fine. We can stay here, I suppose, until - as long as we need to get this through, and we will do that. It is a good deal for the Province. It is an attempt to develop an IT industry in this Province that creates more jobs, more high-paying jobs. For hon. members to say: Yes, but you as government now could go and give the whole thing away, and all this kind of stuff. That is foolishness, absolute foolishness! That is where I sort of turn off my hearing aid, the Member for St. John's East, when he gets on with all this nonsense. Because I know what we are up to and it is not in our interest to do things that would give away that business and give away jobs and give away the company and give away money - we are trying to save money, trying to create more jobs - we have no intent to do that.

He sort of casts all kinds of doubt on it, about protecting the interests of Anderson Consulting, I believe, he mentioned. Anderson Consulting could swallow this Province and wouldn't even know notice it, for heavens sake. Our Budget means nothing to Anderson Consulting. We are not protecting the interests of Anderson Consulting. They would laugh at it, if they heard the hon. member saying something like that.

We are interested in protecting the interests of the Province, in getting a large company involved in a local company here, that can bring a lot of business here and can create more jobs here. That is what we are interested in. We are not interested in giving everything away. That is nonsense! That is why I sort of turn myself off as he goes on with that. If he would simply ask a question and then I would give an answer, but he has to go on with ten minutes of rhetoric with every question he asks. That is something I find difficult to listen to.

Mr. Speaker, I could easily find out and table the exact breakdown over the last five years of the source of all the money and so on. I do not have it off the top of my head, but I could send that to him tomorrow, or whatever, or try to get it this afternoon. That is no problem. There is nothing secretive about that, it is all open information, but it has no bearing on the situation here. It has no bearing on this situation.

Now, the Member for Mount Pearl is concerned about the fact that there is no time limit. My position is that because it is limited to the term of the contract, or contracts in this case, with MUN included, because it is limited to those terms, that is in fact a limit. We know we are not going to have an indefinite period of time. My concern in setting a specific time limit is that this is being done by pulling a number out of the air without knowledge of the computer industry in the Province, without an examination of it, as has been done by these people who are negotiating, without a knowledge of all of the other details of the way Computer Services works, and all these kinds of things; which has been examined in detail by all the people who are working on this, all with good intent. Without looking at all that, we pluck a number out of the air.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I suppose it would be acceptable to say not more than ten years. I do not know what the constraints are in there.

MR. WINDSOR: I would go with seven. We have no problem with seven. I think that is being fair.

MR. BAKER: I do not know why you are picking seven.

MR. WINDSOR: You didn't like five, so I said let's go with seven.

MR. BAKER: Well, this is not a situation where you say one thing, I say another, and we split the difference. To deal with an important matter in that manner is absolutely crazy, and I can't agree to that, no.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Perhaps I am only speaking for the record, if the Minister of Finance turns off his hearing aid and does not want to listen to what hon. members on this side of the House are saying, but if I have to only speak for the record then I will.

I say that $21 million worth of business, whether it is a government owned company or a privately owned company - in this case it shows a net revenue of $3.4 million operating net revenue. If it were a private company we would expect that a private company would make a profit of 10 per cent or thereabouts, perhaps a little more. That would be $2 million. So we are not talking about zero money here, we are not talking about invented figures. These bear a relationship to the cost of these services; otherwise I wouldn't expect Memorial University of Newfoundland, the Board of Regents with the chairperson, Janet Gardner, a businesswoman who knows about these things, the prices of supplies, services, and things like that, that organization would not be happy to pay overly inflated prices just because it happens to be NLCS. I think they would have an objection if government was overpricing and taking it back in revenues at the end of the year, or dividends at the end of the year.

I think it bears some relationship to reality. They are not just shifting money back and forth. I am sure if I accused the minister of shifting money back and forth, between Crown corporations and the government, willy-nilly, he would accuse me of being rhetorical and making things up to try and disturb the public confidence in the financial markets of the world or some high-blown or highfalutin remark like that. We are talking here about a reasonable level of return on $21 million worth of business.

The minister seems to have, in his pocket or on his negotiating table, the ability to offer some guarantees at least of services for the new company, some guaranteed business for the new company. He says that he has the ability to negotiate on behalf of the government and say: We can get rid of the public tender act or exempt it for a period of time for government business, which is about $11 million. In addition to that he seems to be speaking on behalf, or wants through his amendment to speak on behalf, of Memorial University. Presumably he has their consent to negotiate on their behalf as well.

Is it only the government direct business of about $11 million-plus, whatever the University, is that the only business that the government is prepared to enter into long-term contractual relationships with, the new corporation on behalf of it? Is that the only business? What is the extent of it?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall the amendment -

MR. HARRIS: I guess the minister has turned off his hearing aid.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall the amendment to the amendment carry, as proposed by the member for -

MR. ROBERTS: Could you read it, please?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Add after agreements, `for a maximum period of five years.' That is the amendment to the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Mount Pearl.

All those in favour of the amendment, say `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye!

MR. CHAIRMAN: Against.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay!

MR. CHAIRMAN: I declare the amendment defeated.

MR. WINDSOR: How about seven, Wins? Will we go with seven?

MR. CHAIRMAN: Clause 10, the amendment as proposed by the hon. Minister of Education.

All those in favour of the amendment?

AN HON. MEMBER: Can we read it?

MR. WINDSOR: Does the minister agree to seven on that, Mr. Chairman? Does the minister want to speak?

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

MR. BAKER: In terms of the negotiation, I suppose we could say three or five, but that will seriously affect whether we will be able to get a deal, number one, or number two, the amount of guarantees that we can get for extra business. The term affects the whole of the deal. That is why I'm very leery of actually picking a number. I don't know if there is any way around this. I would be willing to indicate that it is not indefinite, I would be willing to indicate that it is not more than enough years to fit whatever circumstance may arise, but I'm not going to do something here that is going to make this deal fall apart, and then we are left with no possibility of developing an IT industry in the Province. I can't restrict that.

You have to trust to the fact that we are trying to get the best deal possible under the best conditions possible, that we would never guarantee business for a period any longer than we would absolutely have to, and that there is no intention of making it indefinite. There is an intention of reaching a contract with a specified number of years. It might end up being five, six, seven, eight, I'm not sure. If I start restricting the ability of the negotiators to finish this deal and the whole thing falls apart then - I simply can't allow that to happen.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. ROBERTS: If my friend would yield for a moment?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

MR. ROBERTS: I'm conflicted in this debate, as I've declared, so I do not speak to the merits. I'm wondering if it might be of any advantage - there seems to be at least a semblance of a consensus. If we were to adjourn the debate on this bill for a little time, perhaps my friend for Gander and my friend for Mount Pearl could speak behind the Chair. They may or may not find a solution.

While that is going on we could deal - we have another bill to come before the Committee, the Workers' Compensation Commission bill. We could deal with that, which may take a few moments. I don't know how long members need. I offer that only as a suggestion. I'm not going to speak on this debate. Maybe my friend the minister would move that the Committee adjourn this debate and then we will call the Workers' Compensation bill.

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

MR. BAKER: I move that we adjourn this particular debate in Committee.

MR. CHAIRMAN: It has been moved that the Committee adjourn debate on Bill No. 24 and proceed to debate on Bill No. 27.

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

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the bill at committee stage; and I hope the minister is prepared to answer a few questions on it. Yesterday, the Member for Kilbride and the minister had sessions back and forth dealing with particular - I guess the Member for Kilbride was doing his clause by clause debate yesterday and that's fair enough.

I did my general comments on the bill yesterday, particularly with respect to what I believe is the removal of a right of appeal. I wonder if I could engage the minister in a couple of interchanges with respect to that, because I truly believe that the consequence of the legislation is that what we're going to have is a review process which does not amount to an appeal. In other words, at the review stage, what the review commissioner is to do is merely decide whether or not the decision made by the commission was in accordance with the act, regulations and policy established by the commission. In other words, has the commission followed its own procedures and own policies?

What I am concerned about is that this is going to be interpreted in such a way as to deny, in fact, a right of appeal on the merits of a case. In other words, the judgement that's being made by the commissioners as to various matters coming under the purview of the commission have to do with compensation benefits, rehabilitation services, the assessment of an employer but, in the main, this business of the compensation benefits and rehabilitation services.

What often happens at the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal is in fact a questioning of the judgement of officials at the commission level, whether they made the right judgement in a particular case. So that judgement is subject to appeal and the current act gives the power to the tribunal to assess the matter on the merits and justice of the case. Now that's been removed. I know the minister made some comments about it yesterday and suggested that I only selectively looked at that. But I say that that's gone and what we're left with is a decision as to whether or not the policies and procedures are being followed.

The minister made a few disparaging remarks, or insinuations perhaps, about the capabilities of this hon. member as a lawyer. I think I'll give him an opportunity to take that back or prove it. I would encourage him not to treat the matter as one of aspersions about particular people's profession or ability. We're talking here about a very serious policy matter and I know the minister was making his comments tongue in cheek. So I'll publicly forgive him for it even before he apologies. I know he's used to apologising. He has to do it on many occasions, so it comes naturally.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: More than one at least, yes. So it does come naturally to him and I understand that.

I would say that there is a serious point here and it's a very important point. I know people who are active in Workers' Compensation Appeals and who've been involved in workers advocacy, including MHAs - not this hon. member because I haven't participated in this type of appeal. People are very concerned that no longer will there be an appeal on the merits. If I'm wrong in that assessment, perhaps having the minister put on record - not just read out the section, we could all read the section, he read out the section yesterday - but will he say in this House that the intention of government in dealing with this legislation and making the changes that they're making is that there will still be an appeal on the merits, that there will still be an opportunity for the review commissioner to decide on the merits of a case, whether the review commissioner agrees with the judgement exercised by the commission in making a decision on a particular (inaudible). Can the minister respond to that?

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Chairman, with respect to the issue as raised by the Member for St. John's East, I think my comment yesterday, just to clear the record with respect to his abilities as a practising member of the legal profession, were to say that I understood that he has established some credibility in the community as a representative of people in the work and practise that he does. If it was misunderstood in any way, I certainly extend an apology, because as the hon. member knows, certainly one of the things I firmly believe in is that if you say things you either back them up and if you find that you have offended somebody, I think you should retract. To me, an apology is a normal part of life. I do it in my private live and personal life and in public life, Mr. Chairman, and I find nothing offensive or demeaning about an apology. As far as I am concerned, I have had many occasions in my life to apologize either publicly or privately and don't hesitate to do so. If it is merited and in order in this case, I certainly offer it, Mr. Chairman.

To deal with the issue though, I think the difference of opinion is in this, Mr. Chairman, that the hon. Member for St. John's East represents - and this comes up in the bill I think really in the new language that is in section 26 which is part of clause 4, where it spells out, upon receiving an application, a review commissioner may review a decision and decide whether or not they act in accordance with the Act, regulations, policy and so on. These are the things they are allowed to be reviewed. The hon. Member for St. John's East is comparing that to the language of the current section 25 which we are repealing.

There is a significant difference, there is no doubt about that, but I think the difference of opinion, the point that I am trying to make, is even with the current wording of section 25, which begins with the phrase: Notwithstanding the power of the commission to reconsider a matter, and ends with clause 4 saying: the decisions or the appeal tribunal shall be upon the real merits and justice of the case and is not bound to follow strict legal precedent - the impact of the current section 25 is what has tied up the system. Because, even though it talks about the words `the real merits' and `justice of the case', any time that the current appeal tribunal would have rendered a decision using the words that they investigated, `the real merits' and `justice of the case', to come to their decision, any time they use that language to come to a decision that went beyond what the current act, the current regulations or the current policies provided for, then the commission, every single time, went back to the first words of 25 and refused to implement.

So there never has been, at the workers' compensation and appeal tribunal any of this so-called `real merits' and `justice of the case' that could lead to a decision by the tribunal that in any way went beyond or varied any stipulation of the act, the regulations or the existing policies.

So while it is an argument that can be made, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, with the people who have been advising me and from my own reading of it, it is clear - and this has been the experience and this has been one of the real frustrations in the appeal tribunal system at the present time - that any tribunal, three, with an employer rep, an employee rep and a Chair, who will look at the real merits and justice of a case using section 25 (4) as the basis on which they were permitted to do that, that if they then rendered a decision that in any way, shape or form strayed or appeared to be beyond the limits of the legislation, it was struck down. It was not implemented by the commission because the commission went back to section 25 (1) which started that whole section and said: We have the power to reconsider and we are not doing it. Despite what the appeal tribunal said, we are not doing it because of the fact that it doesn't comply with the act. Or, if they looked at the real merits and justice of the case and rendered the decision of the tribunal that was beyond or varied the regulations that guide workers' compensation, the commission went back to 25 (1) and said: Nice decision but we are not doing it. So really the claimant was left with no decision.

They got a decision that was not enacted and was of no worth or value to the claimant and only prolonged the time lines: went back for review, went back for reconsideration, was overturned, was changed and the next thing you know, it is twenty months later and the claimant who was dissatisfied, still does not have a decision and is still cut off from workers' compensation. So the very argument, Mr. Chairman, that the hon. Member for St. John's East puts forward, as to a significant difference, is no different, because any time those words were used, even if it went beyond an existing policy - and I might, Mr. Chairman, just conclude these few remarks because I think the preference is to go back and forth quickly rather than at some length. I use this example regularly, publicly.

One of the issues that's in vogue in much of the public sector and elsewhere is the issue of provision of day care or child care. Injured workers who had to go for rehabilitation, physiotherapy, and so on would argue that they needed child care, that they needed someone to provide some babysitting duties even for a couple of hours, and they thought that workers' compensation should pay for it. The people who formulate the policies of workers' compensation, employer reps, employee reps, and the neutral individuals in the middle, they have never ever agreed that child care should be a benefit paid for under workers' compensation.

So, even the couple of times when the appeal tribunal said, yes, we have looked at the real merits and justices of the case and we think it would be a lot easier for - mostly women - this injured woman to go and do her physiotherapy if someone provided child care for her, and rendered a decision as such. The commission said, but that is not your business. We set the policy. That is not a current policy. You can think that is real merit and justice if you like, but it is our role as the commission board to decide whether or not there is child care, whether or not there is day care, and we have decided there is none.

Therefore they go back to 25 (1) and say: Sure, you can look at the real merits and justice of the case, but notwithstanding our power to reconsider the matter. We have reconsidered it, it violates our policy and we are not doing it. The appeal tribunal then could not make them do it. The person had a no decision. Somebody went back and said: Can I have another hearing? Now the clock starts thinking again. They get another date three or four months down the road. They get another decision three or four months after that. Now year has gone by, the issue isn't resolved and it is all because of the language that was in the previous 25.

Now, it states clearly that, sure, they can look at pretty well what they like but the only thing that is really going to have an impact, and the only thing that the commission will be forced by law to implement, will be a decision based upon the act, the statute, the regulations or the policies, because that is, in effect, what they can do now regardless of what the existing words say.

I hope that provides the necessary clarification.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for his sincere apology for his remarks made in the House the other day. I understand that he has occasion to do that, and I appreciate his forthrightness on recognizing that is something we all need to do occasionally in our lifetime, whether publicly or privately. His willingness to do so only raises him in my esteem, and I won't take any opportunity to make fun of him for doing that.

Mr. Speaker, on the issue itself, I have the minister's assurance as to what exactly happened after decisions were made, and I accept that. If the problem is that the opening words of the section are, `not withstanding the right to review,' then why doesn't he remove those offending words? If those words are the problem, then its simply a matter of saying: Well, if they are causing the whole system to have a circle in a loop that can't be broken because you go back and forth from appeal to decision and refuse to implement, and then go back again, then surely the answer is to break the circle and say, no, we will not allow that.

The second thing I have to say on the particular issue - and I would like a response to it, because by narrowing the powers of the commissioner to only review decisions within policy, it seems to me, Mr. Chairman - and the minister can respond to it. If, for example, the legislation passed by this House, the law of the land, provided for an interpretation of compensation or benefits, and the interpretation of that compensation or benefits that was made up by the commission was one thing, and the courts or the law or lawyers or a true interpretation of the law was another, then what recourse would the individual have?

I have no problem with the regulations and the act and that sort of thing, because these are legal matters that have been decided by either Cabinet or by government and they fall within the powers of government, the House of Assembly, to pass. But when a review commissioner or appeal tribunal is required to follow the policies of a body appeal (inaudible) those policies could be totally inconsistent with the act and the regulations.

Why does the minister say: We are going to remove this real merits of the case and we are going to let the commission determine - they can determine their policy, fine, but what if their policy conflicts with the true meaning of the act? What if their policy is not appropriate for the act and the legislation governing the commission? Why is the minister allowing the commission to establish policy, and that the policy shall be the governing rule regardless of the other interpretations of the act and regulations?

I go back to the question that he didn't answer the last time. Is it the minister's opinion that this new regulation would allow a review commissioner to make a decision on the merits of the case? In other words, to second-guess a decision, a judgement made by the commission. Is that within the purview of the review - can he second-guess the judgement and say: I disagree with the judgement made by the commission as to the level of benefits that are appropriate here. I disagree with his interpretation or application of the act and the regulations to this set of facts.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Chairman, a couple of matters. I would like to address them if I could. Maybe starting from the last and going backwards if I can. I might get the order a little mixed but I will start there.

The clear answer to the last issue raised would be no. Under the new act and any regulations then that are made - of course, the regulations are only there to make the act workable. It can't frustrate the act or change the act, the same as policies, as the hon. member know. The policies of the Commission can only be ones that complement the regulations and the statute. They cannot vary that or change it or oppose the general direction given in the legislation, in the regulations. So the policies can't frustrate the regulations and the statute in any way, shape or form.

So, Mr. Chairman, it is clear that it never was the intention of an appeal tribunal member or chairperson now, or a review commissioner under the new regulation and new statute as of July 1, to second-guess the judgement of the Workers' Compensation Commission, or to substitute their judgement for that of the Commission. The intention always was that somebody would look at whether or not the Commission, with all of the expertise that it had available to it, had gotten it right the first time around, or whether they had made a mistake. So, if there is a judgement issue the question was - the normal standard I think that the hon. member as a practising lawyer would see used in the courts and so on would be: Could an ordinary sensible person, using the statute, the regulation and the policies, could they have come to that conclusion? Is that a reasonable conclusion? Never mind whether you would have made that conclusion or not. Did they make a reasonable conclusion or did they completely miss something? That is the standard that was always supposed to be there.

When we get back to what we talked about before, the idea that the real merits and justice of the case would seem to indicate that they could have gone beyond that and substituted their judgement, every time they did that it brought us back to the notwithstanding. The hon. member then mentions: Why didn't we just remove that? I guess we did debate that, and we debated it quite seriously. We came to the conclusion that we don't believe that clause 4, which is the real merits and justice of the case, was ever a role that the current Appeal Tribunal ever should have had in the first place, and that, in fact, the Commission was right to say: Don't substitute the judgement, just tell whether or not somebody exercised good judgement. The role now will be if somebody has not exercised good judgement and has not made a decision in line with the statute, the regulations or the policies, then by all means, order the remedy.

Don't say: Well, we looked at this and I would have given them this little bit when they gave them that little bit. If there's discretion to say that there's an entitlement, decide how much it is, and they've made a decision, that's the entitlement and that's a reasonable, sensible, appropriate decision to make, never mind the fact that we thought: well, we got a little more sympathy from that person or somebody else and we think it should be 5 per cent higher or 5 per cent lower - we are saying don't substitute your judgement for the judgements already made.

The reason we came to that conclusion in our look at it, Mr. Chairman, over the last eighteen months or so, is because the reality is that all of the expertise is housed at the Commission. The Commission has access to all of the employer's records and the employer can go and make a representation to verify that the injury actually did occur at the workplace, here's the circumstances under which it occurred. They confirmed that they think there should be an entitlement to Workers' Compensation, where else the system stops cold anyway; if the employer doesn't verify that it's a compensational injury at the workplace there will be no entitlement. Then the employee gives all kinds of personal evidence. All the medical evidence is presented, Mr. Chairman, all of that is done, there's access to every kind of specialist in the world, all kinds of medical treatment, all at the Commission, and everything designed to make sure that the worker gets his fair entitlement and the best possible, most expedient, efficient and most deserving medical treatment and attention so that hopefully he can be restored to a physical condition where he can return to the workplace. That's the whole intent of it. We're saying if that's all housed there - it was never intended to then go through a process at the appeal level where you'd go through all of that again, that you would now have medical assessments again, that you would now have evidence from the employer again, that you would now have all these other things, no need, because all of that's already been done. I think the comparison that the hon. member made yesterday is one in respect to UI appeals.

I know, very rarely are there medical things in a U.I. appeal except if you're on sick UI and so on but they don't duplicate all of the information, all of that effort and all of the expertise that went into making the first decision in U.I., even though it's done by a tribunal, or by the umpire or keeps on going. They just look at whether or not they made an appropriate decision based on the regulations, the law and the policies in existence at the time. I don't believe either that they go as far as replacing the judgement. If they think there was an error made, they correct the error, but I don't believe they replace the judgement, and that's the issue that we debated at greatest length in Cabinet when we were coming to this decision, that we don't believe there's a role for that. We believe that the right role is now spelled out and this is the way it was intended to be and should have been specifically from the beginning. This reflects the way that it is in other jurisdictions where there are appeals or reviews across the country, that this notion of the real merits and justice of the case, if you check the files across the country you will not find that language in the language that sets up any kind of an appeal process for workers' compensation throughout the rest of the country.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'm glad the minister has clarified what his intention is because it's apparent now that what I was saying was, in fact, correct - the new scheme is that there is no appeal at all. I say that quite sincerely because that's really - what the minister has said conforms to my understanding of the legislation, and it is a real change from the previous situation that there's now no appeal from a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission. I think his analogy was quite correct, but I think, in terms of the difference between an appeal on the merits and what's called a review - he has called it a `review commissioner' and that's very different. It is more consistent that - for example, if you went to court and sued somebody and a judge of the Supreme Court hears the case, that judge hears the evidence and makes his/her judgement, and if the losing side doesn't like the decision, they appeal to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal hears the case, and if the Court of Appeal disagrees with the judge, they'll change it. If the Court of Appeal disagrees with the weighing of the evidence by the judge, they will change it - that's a true appeal. There are certain items on which they will defer to the judge, for example, the credibility of a witness, and say: Well, we can't substitute our opinion for the judge on the credibility of a witness because we didn't see or hear the witness, so we'll defer to the judge on the credibility issue, but on the issue of the weighing of the evidence, what weight to give to the evidence and whether or not a decision was proper, the Court of Appeal will consider that, and if they don't agree with it, they will substitute their own opinion and their own judgement. That is a true appeal - and what the minister is confirming is that he is taking away any appeal from Commission decisions.

There is no appeal to the tribunal; there is no appeal to any tribunal like we had before and, in addition, there is no appeal to the courts, because you have the so-called privative clause there in the new 26.(2) saying that any decision of this review commissioner may not be questioned by any court. So the government is not only doing away with the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal, and replacing the three-person commission with a one-person commissioner; what the minister is doing, is taking away the right of appeal altogether. So now there is no right of appeal. Whatever the commission says goes, and the only thing is a review by someone who is sort of saying: Well, some reasonable person might have come to that conclusion, and I am not prepared to say that it is totally out of whack. They could make a decision, they could be wrong, but I am not going to say that they are wrong, because a sensible person could come to that conclusion. Whether I would have come to a different conclusion is immaterial.

I think that is what the minister has said, and he has confirmed my objection to the bill because it is taking away that right of appeal and leaving it in the hands of the Commission.

Now, it may well be that the Commission has, at its disposal, expertise and experts and doctors and all of that available to them, but that doesn't mean they make the right decision. Every day decisions that are made, whether they are by employers or corporations or decision-making bodies, whether they be provincial courts, provincial court judges, all of these are subject to appeal. They are subject to appeal to somebody, because somebody has to oversee and over-review the decisions made by inferior bodies or tribunals, and here, what we are saying is that on such a vital matter as access to workers' compensation, potentially for the balance of someone's life, there is going to be no appeal whatsoever, and I think that is wrong.

Moving to another issue, I have stated quite clearly my objections to it, and it appears that the minister has every intention of going through with this without any amendment - and unless my colleagues on this side of the House, or backbenchers on the other side, are prepared to continue to object to this bill, it appears that the matter is going to go through.

I stated firmly on the record that I strongly oppose any effort to remove the right of appeal by injured workers on decisions of the Workers' Compensation Commission, because those people can make a mistake, too. They can make an error in judgement, and there ought to be an opportunity to have that error in judgement corrected by an appeal process, and what this minister and this government are doing, is taking that away, and I say that I have very, very strong objections to that. I think it is unjust to do it.

I don't know what the Minister of Justice thinks. He made some comment

MR. ROBERTS: What I think is that the hon. member's argument is nonsense.

MR. HARRIS: Well, the minister thinks that my argument is nonsense, that taking away a right of appeal for injured workers -

MR. ROBERTS: It doesn't take away the right of appeal.

MR. HARRIS: The Minister of Justice says it doesn't take away the right of appeal. Perhaps he should have a chat with the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations who just said that it did, that we are not going to have any appeal on the merits, that we are not going to have anybody substituting their judgement for the judgement of the Workers' Compensation Commission. That is what the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations said.

I say that what the Minister of Justice says is nonsense. Either he is not listening to what the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations is saying, or he is trying to deliberately confuse the issue.

I ask the minister why he has rejected the opinion of both employers and the employee groups as to the involvement of their representatives in the review process - in the former appeal process. Why has he rejected their expertise? There is a very strong feeling on the part of both employer and employee that the expertise and the knowledge and experience of their input into the tribunal decision-making has been effective and helpful in obtaining proper and fair decisions. The minister has rejected that from both sides and is having what no doubt he will call a streamlined process to do this.

If he is prepared to do that he should tell us why. Because even though there may be input from both sides in the process, surely streamlining of that process can take place without removing the input of those two bodies which, up until now, Mr. Chairman, have been supportive of the Workers' Compensation scheme. I will ask the minister why he is doing that and why he is endangering the level of acceptability and the consensus that now exists about the Workers' Compensation process. Why is he endangering that by removing them from the appeal process?

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Maybe again, if I work backwards, take the last issue first.

There is no doubt in my mind, and I think, that of the government, that there clearly has been consensus amongst the parties involved - the employees' representatives, the employers' representatives, the Injured Workers' Association and so on - with respect to the appeal process. I beg to differ again with his assessment as to what the consensus is. From the representations made to myself as minister and to members on this side of the House when they've been asked to intercede, the consensus has been that it has been a disaster, that the current tribunal has frustrated people to no end and that the only commonality is that everybody is frustrated one way or the other, for one of two different reasons - worker representatives and the injured workers' group, largely because it always seemed to take so long to get a hearing date and to get an answer.

Contributing to that, one of the complicating factors - and I understand that could be fixed by going full-time - was trying to get a calendar date whereby a part-time representative of workers, a part-time representative of employers and a part-time chair could all free themselves up to hear a case. That was one of the frustrating aspects of getting enough hearing dates and getting the hearings heard on a timely basis.

We certainly could have fixed that just by naming a full-time tribunal; but then, a single full-time tribunal wouldn't be much good to us. We would probably need two or three of them, just as we are probably going to need two or three review commissioners for the first year or so to deal with this backlog and to meet the six-month time line. If we are going to have full-time tribunals then we have to look at the other consideration, that Workers' Compensation through the employers are paying totally for this system and the costs have basically quadrupled in the last four years, going from about $150,000 for Professional Service fees four years ago to over $600,000 this year. To put three full-time tribunals in place would cost us a considerable amount of money which we don't think is warranted.

The other part in our deliberations again, as I mentioned yesterday in the exchange and interchange with the hon. the Member for Kilbride, we do not believe that there is an essential role or a critical role for employer or employee representatives during the appeal process, that the appeal and the review - and this gets me back to the starting point again of the interjection and the representation made by the Member for St. John's East, and it is here, again, that we continue to have this fundamental disagreement as to how it works and what it means - today, while the Appeal Tribunal is still operating, even though there are words to talk about the real merits and justice of the case, the reality is that if the appeal tribunal renders any kind of decision that does anything other than confirm that the law, the regulations and the policies were upheld, or to suggest that there should be an alteration within the law, regulations and policies, it doesn't get enacted by the Commission. If they go beyond that mandate it doesn't happen.

So, it doesn't matter what the words are today in section 25. If anything is done in the appeal process that tries in any way to render a decision that goes beyond the mandate given in the act, the mandate given in the regulations or the policies that are there to give effect to that, it doesn't get enacted by the Commission. The appeal person, the claimant, the appellant, ends up with no decision, and that has frustrated people no end. So the reality is, the words that are there now reflect what is happening today - that the decision can only be upon an interpretation and a judgement as to whether or not somebody properly applied the act, the regulations and/or the policies; and then, as the words clearly say now, the review commissioner can confirm or deny that the decision of the Commission was in accordance with this act, the regulations and policy established or, shall order the remedy that he or she considers necessary. And the remedy tomorrow, under this new act, can only be what it is today, it can only be a remedy within policy, within regulation and within the law, because if the panel today or the commissioner tomorrow tries to do something different, it won't be binding on the Commission and it won't get done. So we are not doing away with the right to hearing the case and having a real appeal on its merits and justice, because that doesn't happen today.

Any time that has happened in the last seven years, since the appeal tribunal has been in place, Mr. Chairman, all it has done is led to unbounded, unlimited total frustration for everybody involved because the Commission won't do it. The current act says the Commission doesn't have to do it, because nobody has a right to try to make the Commission do something that can't be supported by the policy, the regulation and the law - it can't be done. It can't be done today, can't be done under this Bill 27 and what Bill 27 says is, let us not kid ourselves with that kind of language which you can't do anyway, let's state exactly what the review is about. It is about whether or not a mistake was made.

If there is a mistake, the commissioner orders the remedy. It is not that they can't change any decision made by the Commission, they order the remedy. But they cannot order a remedy that would create new policy, go beyond the bounds of the regulation or go beyond the bounds of the legislation that establishes the whole system in the first place. So we are not disagreeing, as I see it, Mr. Chairman, we just have a different interpretation of what this means.

The hon. the Member for St. John's East wants to represent it by saying we are doing away with the right to appeal - we are not. We are putting in place the words to give effect to what's happening today, because any time anything happens beyond that, it doesn't get put in place by the Commission, the injured workers go through another six or seven months of frustration, everybody gets driven crazy. So we are saying, let's make sure that the words, this time around, say exactly what can be done, exactly what is getting done today from a point of view of anything that actually gets action, because anything else beyond that has never had action, goes back into the loop with which everybody in the system is familiar, and that everybody through the statutory review agreed should be taken out of the system.

We are taking out the loop, we are giving the commissioner the right to render and order the remedy and that's what the people who go to the appeal today are expecting that they are getting today, and that is what they will get under the review commissioner through the review division starting after July 1, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I hear what the minister is saying and I guess we have to agree to disagree as to what the nature of the appeal process is. If what he is saying is that the Workers' Compensation Commission refused to implement decisions of the appeal committee that were made on the justice and merits of the case, then what he is now saying is that he is prepared to give full sanction to that by preventing any further appeals on the justice and merits of the case and that solves the problem. That sounds to me, Mr. Chairman, like it is solving the problem not by removing the injustice of the failure to implement a just decision, but by removing the possibility of having an appeal based on the real merits and justice, and that to me is totally backward and totally wrong.

The minister has said that any policies must be consistent with the act and they have to be compatible with the act and regulations. Well, I have to disagree with him on that - I mean, maybe they should be, but there is no guarantee that there will be, and the minister may think that something is compatible with the act or that the policy is compatible with the act, but someone else, who might be right, could disagree with that. But there is no opportunity under this legislation for anybody to determine that the policy is inconsistent with the act or the regulations. All the commissioner can do is say, well, yes, there is a policy here and it is consistent with that policy. They are not entitled to determine that policy is inconsistent with the regulations of the act and have to abide by that policy, so what it does once again, Mr. Chairman, is remove any questioning of what the Commission does. The Commission can do as it likes as long as it is within policy. They establish these policies, they may or may not be compatible with the act, or they may or may not be compatible with someone else's opinion of what the act means.

By adding the word, `policy', to the section limiting the review commissioner's authority, the minister is closing the door to questioning those policies, and then closing the door to a decision of the review commissioner. I think he is building a Chinese box around the Commission's powers and leaving injured workers on the outside. I think this decision is going to come to haunt him later on when it is discovered that there are injustices that are being allowed to go on because there is no right of appeal and no right to question, either the review commissioner and the court, policies made by the Workers' Compensation Commission as to whether or not they are consistent or compatible with the act.

I would like to raise one more point with the minister. I received a call today from someone complaining quite bitterly about the decision of the minister to, in effect, overrule through legislation a decision of the Supreme Court having to do with the involvement of the Commission, itself, in the reviewer appeal process. This individual said they had, as an advocate of injured workers, taken a case in Supreme Court complaining about the Commission participating in the appeal of their own decisions. I am told by this individual that they won their case and that the court decision - which I haven't read - but the court decision supported the position of the individual, and a ruling was made disallowing the participation of the Commission in the appeal process.

I guess, in the mind of this individual, Mr. Chairman, it was analogist to a provincial court making a decision and going to appeal, and then the judge going to the Court of Appeal arguing his own decision. They felt that was incorrect and apparently the court agreed with the injured worker in that particular case and made a ruling. Now, the minister in this legislation is saying quite specifically, we want the Commission officials to have standing, to appear and to argue, before the review commissioner their side of the story. In other words, stack the hearing so that the Commission, itself, appears, and the injured worker appears, as if the Commission, itself, is a party to the event when, in fact, the Commission's decision is the one that is being appealed or being reviewed.

I ask the minister why he is doing that, and why is he overruling through legislation a court decision which, I don't know whether it was appealed or not, or what the end result of it was? I know this particular individual said he tried to get hold of the minister this morning and wasn't able to reach him because the minister had other business. Perhaps he has gotten hold of him since then. He intended to give the minister a piece of his mind. I am sure I am not capable of giving the same piece of his mind to the minister, but I ask the minister to justify, if he can, why he is overruling a decision which effectively had, in this individual's view, created at least a level playing field at the review process. The Commission, who made the decision, were not there defending the decision the same way a judge wouldn't be there defending his or her decision before an appeal.

Can the minister explain that?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, I will leave it to the minister to comment on a decision which the hon. gentleman describes which says he hasn't read. Now, that is really a pretty pathetic basis for an argument. The minister may or may not be familiar with the decision, I do not know, but my friend, the Member for St. John's East went on at some length about might be in something that he has or hasn't read. Now, that is really a pretty pathetic - I am not being patronizing, what I am saying is that it is a pretty pathetic spectacle for a member of this House.

Let me come back to the point I wanted to make. It is only point. The jurisdiction of the review commissioner is clearly established by the words of section 26(1) of the amendment. It is on page 6. "Upon receiving an application... a review commissioner may review a decision of the commission to determine if the commission," - which means the Workers' Compensation Commission, of course - "in making that decision, acted in accordance with this Act," - we are talking about the Workers' Compensation Act - "the regulations and policy established by the commission under subsection 5(1) as they apply to...," and it lays out the areas they apply to - Compensation benefits, an employer's assessment, the assignment of an employer to a particular class or group, and the employer's merit or demerit rating, which is essentially all, as the minister, I know, will confirm, of the substantive decisions that a commission could take with respect to an individual applicant's claim.

Now, when you go through to 5(1) of the act, which my hon. friend, the Member for St. John's East has apparently either not read or has forgotten about, it clearly says that the board of directors shall establish policies and programs consistent with the act and regulations in relation to - and it spells out what it is to do.

What the review commissioner will do is what, in my judgement, and in the judgement of the government, he or she should do. It would be confined to deciding whether, in dealing with a particular question affecting an individual's rights - be the individual a claimant or an employer or the other people - whether that has been dealt with in accordance with the policies and regulations and the act, itself. Mr. Chairman, that is very straightforward and, I suggest, entirely appropriate.

If it turns out that the policy or the regulations are inappropriate, then the Commission has the right to change policy, subject to the act, the Cabinet has the right to change regulations, again in accordance with the act, and the House, itself, has the right to change the act. What was happening was that this WCAT operation was rewriting policy regulations and, in effect, the statute, without the approval of anybody, and that is not what should be done. There is a mechanism. The Commission has representation on it from employers and employees. If memory serves me correctly we appoint the nominees of the Federation of Labour. We don't appoint labour persons as such, we appoint from nominees given to us by the Federation of Labour and by the comparable employers' bodies. There are some who I believe were at the nomination of the minister, some individual members of the Commission.

So, we are not taking away any review. We are putting in a proper review that will ask the question at issue. The question at issue is: There is a policy, there is a regulation, there is a statute, is the decision in accordance with that? If so it stands, if it isn't, it is changed. If the regulations are wrong or the policy is wrong or the act is wrong then there is another recourse and that is available as it should be. That is all I will say on the point, but really, in my submission, it is as clear as that.

On motion, clause 1, carried.

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Chairman, he wanted an answer to one other question and I felt obligated to give it. I'm certain it won't delay the matter.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Clause 1 is carried.

Clause 2.

The hon. the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just with respect to the standing of the Commission, which is the other issue raised. Basically, under this review process, the whole purpose of the review is for a claimant to go to the review commissioner and make the contention and make the case that they feel the Commission had gotten it wrong, that they had not properly applied a policy or a regulation, or had not properly applied some part of the act as it should have been, giving an entitlement to the individual.

It was clear to us, in looking at it, and we felt it was appropriate, for a person with an entitlement to say: These people got it all wrong; then, the people who made the decision should be able, if they choose, to say why they think they got it right. Then, this person will decide whether they did or not, and order the recourse if they didn't.

The court case clearly stated - which is why we are putting it in to give that right specifically. Because in the absence of a reference to that very issue in the current legislation the court ruled that they felt there was no role for the Commission. We examined that as a policy issue, as a legislative issue, and we feel, as the government of the day, that on balance there is a role. It is not one of those where there is any requirement that the Commission appear, but if the Commission feels in any one particular case, once they know what the appeal is, or the request for the review, that they should go and defend their decision, they have a right to defend.

The commissioner will decide whether they got it right or whether they got it wrong. If they think they got it wrong, they will order the remedy. That is why we decided to put it back in because we think, on balance, that they deserve the right to appear if they feel inclined to do so.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act (No.2)". (Bill No. 27)

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, now that we have carried all thirteen clauses, perhaps we could revert to the NLCS bill. I understand that there have been consultations, although I don't know what they have produced.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall clause 10 carry? Is there an amendment to clause 10?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, we have proposed a sub-amendment: After the words `of those agreements' adding the words `and in any case not to exceed eight years'.

On motion, amendment as amended, carried.

On motion, clause 10 as amended, carried.

A bill, "An Act Respecting Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services Limited". (Bill No. 24).

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the bill, with amendment, carried.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, could we ask that the Committee rise, report a great deal of progress and ask leave to sit again?

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered the matters to it referred, wishes to report tremendous progress in passing of Bill No. 27 without amendment, and Bills 19 and 24 with amendment, and request leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted. Committee ordered to sit again presently by leave.

On motion, amendments read a first and second time.

MR. SPEAKER: When shall the bills be read a third time?

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, we will have three bills to read a third time, I hope before the day ends, so maybe what we can do is call a second reading. Before we do, my friend, the Minister of Mines and Energy, who has left, being more sensible than most of us, tells me that he has just been given the Annual Report for 1993-94 of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board, CNOPB. I understand there are copies in the clerk's office.

So I would ask leave of the House to revert, simply to table it, on behalf of the minister.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. ROBERTS: With that done, Your Honour, could we call please Order No. 9, which is Bill No. 11, "An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act."

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought we were going to do 1, Ed?

MR. ROBERTS: That's later.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I take it, first of all do, that we have leave of the House to revert to tabling of reports?

AN HON. MEMBER: That's all done.

MR. SPEAKER: All done? Thank you.

MR. ROBERTS: The report has now been tabled, Your Honour.

MR. SPEAKER: I try to obey the formalities, with some difficulty.

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, I have tabled the report of '94, the CNOPB. I would ask, Your Honour, to call -

MR. SPEAKER: The record will show that accordingly and the other was bill number?

MR. ROBERTS: Bill No. 11, Your Honour, Order No. 9 on today's Order Paper.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act". (Bill No. 11).

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, these are some amendments to The Retail Sales Tax Act.

First of all, it would clarify the meaning of computer software and insurance premiums for the purpose of taxation. In terms of computer software, Mr. Speaker, the point is made that computer software, other than custom designed computer software, is tangible personal property and therefore is subject to tax whereas custom designed software is not subject to tax. This issue has been dealt with by the Supreme Court Trial Division and this is simply a clarification, to remove any further uncertainty in line with the decision of the Supreme Court.

The insurance premiums: This clarifies the law respecting the taxability of insurance premiums purchased outside the Province in relation to a risk or peril that occurs within the Province. The formula is rather complicated, as you can see under clause 5, and it takes into account the proportion of risk in this Province as compared to the proportion of risk outside the Province.

There's also an amendment in there, Mr. Speaker, to tax private telephone lines on a pro-rata basis when the lines are used in more than one province, to allow this Province to recover its share of the tax on the lines going inter-provincially. It's only on our share and not on the total line.

Also, Mr. Speaker, there are certain redundant or spent provisions that are eliminated under Section 8, I believe.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. BAKER: Clause 6, is it? Oh, yes. I thought that was coming at the end and when I didn't see it at the end I said: Where is it? Clause 6. Those are the two redundancies.

Also, Mr. Speaker, it gives effect to certain measures announced in this years Budget which have to do with the exemptions being changed to a rebate system or partially changed to a rebate system. It's rather complex in that the draft bill repeals the existing regulation, provides for regulations to give effect to a rebate program. There are many items which will be subject to a rebate, and the division is along these lines, that at the point of purpose exemption as retained for specific items, there's no doubt about the use of these particular items. There's only one possible use for the items. They still have the at-source exemption, but items which could have uses other than in fishing and farming, for instance, fishing nets, tractors of a certain size and so on, would still have their at-source deductions, their at-source consideration; whereas things like boats and motors, that have many, many uses, will be subject to a rebate policy. So instead of the tax being forgiven at source, the tax will be paid at source and a rebate may be claimed.

Now this, in some circumstances, would mean considerable problems for some individuals, especially fisherpersons. What we are suggesting is a pre-authorized exemption for any large purchases that could cause a financial problem for the people involved.

So, Mr. Speaker, essentially this is what this bill is all about and I recommend it to members of the House.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A few comments on this particular section of the bill.

First of all, perhaps the minister would like to clarify a little bit about the definition of computer software particularly. I understand there is some confusion at the moment about what is taxable and what is not taxable. As I read through the bill here, it appears that a computer disc is taxable if it has programs on it because computer programs are taxable. So if you buy a Word Perfect program you will pay tax on the $300 or $400 or $500 cost of the Word Perfect program. I guess that is understandable.

One concern I have here, though, is that this would seem to cover such things as an engineering design, which is quite often, today, done by computer, but engineering design is not taxable.

MR. BAKER: It seems to me that if the design is done on a mass-produced (inaudible).

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

The hon. the Minister of Finance, so that we can (inaudible) for the record.

MR. BAKER: I was going to say, the hon. member may have some legitimate concerns. It seems to me that as the computer design is mass-produced somewhere else and sold in a whole form. Then it becomes eligible for tax. Whereas if it is something that is done in-house and all that kind of thing and is used, then it is not subject to tax. I think that is the distinction. If it can be considered to be sort of a mass-produced kind of thing for sale, it becomes taxable, but if it is a custom-designed thing it is not taxable. So if it is something that is done for a specific purpose or an individual does designs on his own disc and so on, then it is not taxable.

There are going to be some problems in the interpretations here. What happened was that our regulations were done before the computers were in so much use as they are today. There were always a lot of questions and complaints and appeals and so on as a tax was applied. Our old regulations didn't really suit modern day circumstances.

There have been some cases before court and the Supreme Court Trial Division has made a judgement in terms of the applicability of these items, and we are simply going along with it. There are always going to be the grey areas, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest, and there are always areas where appeals will be made and the people within the department make decisions, and it may even come to the minister to make a decision. There will always be these grey areas.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the minister for that because I have had some dealings with trying to sort this sort of thing out and I think this bill may not go far enough. We may need to be much clearer in definition. It is my experience that his officials tend to err on the side of taxing rather than giving the benefit of the doubt to the consumer when it comes to this sort of a thing, Mr. Speaker.

I also take this opportunity to comment that the Department of Finance seems to be feeling rather picky with some of their taxes, really getting a bit picky. The minister and the government talk a lot about deregulation; I would suggest to the minister, this is an area where some deregulation may well be warranted and the minister might want to look at some of the detailed application of the legislation. It is another example of where laws passed in this hon. House, in good faith by members of this House, may be interpreted a little too literally by public officials. So I have that concern.

The other concern I have is on insurance premiums. Is the minister saying that this is for out of Province only? Are we changing any insurance policies that were not taxable? For example: Life insurance is not taxable.

MR. BAKER: No, that (inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: I assume nothing like that is being changed. It is simply insuring that policies that are purchased out of Province -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)

MR. WINDSOR: Sorry?

MR. BAKER: In relation to original (inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: Yes, okay.

Section 13, which the minister didn't mention, talks about tax on rentals. Section 13: A consumer who consumes or uses tangible personal property under a written or oral agreement for rent, hire, lease, license or other arrangement..." The minister is now saying that the lease of any equipment is taxable. Is it now taxable, I ask the minister?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. WINDSOR: It is.

Nothing in this section here precludes real estate property. Our real estate rentals are not taxable, as the minister knows, but there is nothing in this section that exempts real estate. As I read this section it could be applied to the rental of a home.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) personal property (inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: This is not ensured. This is real estate, this is a lease. This is a "rent, hire, lease, license or other arrangement..." for the use of. That is not a sale, and which requires periodic payments. So, if I go out and lease a jackhammer to do some work, if I want to lease a car, I assume tax is paid on the lease of a car now. Many of these things, as we know, we now pay the 12 per cent tax on. All I'm saying is that there is nothing here that tells me that this does not apply to a real estate lease, which is not taxable, and which of course, if we were to make it taxable, would certainly throw the real estate market into a tizzy very quickly.

Can the minister assure me that either somewhere in definitions or in here, that real estate is not covered under this? Because there is nothing in here to protect that. That is a serious concern.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: There may not be an intention. I say to the minister, he has done many things unintentionally before. Maybe the minister could address that, Mr. Speaker. That is really all that I was concerned about.

MR. BAKER: I assure the hon. House, and it is on the record, that is not the intent of this. I'm assuming that this is dealt with in the definitions of the main act where it defines specifically what is being talked about.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

For the record, the Minister of Finance was just speaking.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you closing the debate, minister?

MR. BAKER: No.

MR. SPEAKER: It was an intervention.

The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, the minister was assuring the House that it is not meant to cover real estate rentals. Obviously, if in error it is here, the minister will assure the House that it will not be put into effect, and when we come back in the fall we will correct it or something. With that kind of undertaking then I don't have a problem.

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

MR. WINDSOR: If the minister will assure us now on the record.

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

MR. BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

For the record I want to affirm what the hon. gentleman says, and I will broaden it even. If, in fact, this would cause tax to be placed on something that tax is not now placed on, that that is not the intent of this, and if it is, then we will come back and make the changes. But I believe this will be dealt with in the definitions in the original act, which I don't have in front of me right now.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House now, by leave. (Bill No. 11)

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that I do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself -

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave?

MR. ROBERTS: It does require leave, I agree.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. Is leave given?

MR. SIMMS: Just for the record.

MR. SPEAKER: For the record, thank you. Leave is given to the hon. the Government House Leader to call the bill.

On motion, that the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

Committee of the Whole

MR. CHAIRMAN (Barrett): Order, please!

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act." (Bill No. 11)

Motion, that the committee report having passed the bill without amendment, carried.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. ROBERTS: I would be grateful if you would report the bill as amended. I do sense, though, that the Committee probably doesn't want to dispose of Bill 1 today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, yes, yes!

MR. ROBERTS: It is like this always when school is getting out, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. minister said the bill `as amended'. There was no amendment.

MR. ROBERTS: Well, Bill 11 in my understanding has not been amended, so we can report it without amendment.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Dicks): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, and wish to report progress in the passing of Bill No. 11 without amendment, and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, bill ordered read a third time presently by leave.

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, there are four bills which are ready to be read a third time, if the House is ready - Bills, 11, 19, 24 and 27. Could we please deal with those?

On motion, the following bills read a third time, ordered passed and their titles be as on the Order Paper:

A bill, "An Act Respecting Newfoundland and Labrador Computer Services Limited". (Bill No. 24)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act (No.2)". (Bill No. 27)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Retail Sales Tax Act". (Bill No. 11)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Mineral Act". (Bill No. 19)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Your Honour, I understand that His Honour, the Administrator, is on his way and will be here whenever the chariot brings him here. I wonder if the House could simply take a recess until the Administrator arrives.

MR. SPEAKER: We will recess until the Administrator arrives.

MR. ROBERTS: Before we go, let me say one word, and my friend opposite may wish to speak as well.

I understand this is the last occasion that we will be attended by Jeff Pearcey, one of our Pages, who has served his two-year sentence with distinction. I know I speak for all members on this side, and I suspect I speak for members opposite as well, but they may want to say a word or two in their own behalf.

I want to thank Jeff for his kindness and courtesy. I am not sure being a Page in the House is always the most enviable; one sees us at our best and at our worst, but he has been unfailingly cheerful and helpful and responsive, and I want to thank him most sincerely for his time with us. I understand that Krista and Paul will be back with us in the Fall, and we look forward to their continued ministrations to us.

Thank you, Sir.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Anything further? We will recess for a few minutes until the Administrator gets here.

Recess

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Administrator.

Your Honour, it is my agreeable duty on behalf of Her Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects, her faithful Commons in Newfoundland, to present to Your Honour a bill for the appropriation of supply granted in the present session.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1995 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service." (Bill No. 21)

HIS HONOUR, THE ADMINISTRATOR (Noel Goodridge): In Her Majesty's name I thank Her loyal subjects, I accept their benevolence and I assent to this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: May it please Your Honour, the General Assembly of the Province has, at its present session, passed certain bills to which in its name and on behalf of the General Assembly I respectfully request Your Honour's assent.

CLERK: A bill, "An Act To Amend The Automobile Insurance Act." (Bill No. 8)

A bill, "An Act To Regulate The Electrical Power Resources Of Newfoundland and Labrador." (Bill No. 2)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Gasoline Tax Act." (Bill No. 9)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Loan And Guarantee Act, 1957." (Bill No. 13)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Local Authority Guarantee Act, 1957." (Bill No. 14)

A bill, "An Act To Authorize The Raising Of Money By Way Of Loan By The Province." (Bill No. 22)

A bill, "An Act To Incorporate The Grand Concourse Authority." (Bill No. 23)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Internal Economy Commission Act." (Bill No. 25)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act." (Bill No. 10)

A bill, "An Act Respecting The Literacy Development Council Of Newfoundland and Labrador." (Bill No. 28)

A bill, "An Act Respecting Newfoundland And Labrador Computer Services Limited." (Bill No. 24)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act (No. 2)." (Bill No. 27)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Retails Sales Tax Act." (Bill No. 11)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Mineral Act." (Bill No. 19)

ADMINISTRATOR: In Her Majesty's name I assent to these bills.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, before I move the adjournment, let me say that the motion I shall now move is cast in the usual terms, that the House will adjourn to the call of the Chair. That has been our practice for many years now. The government do not anticipate a need to ask the House to meet until the normal time in the Fall. Should a need arise we will have to address that issue on its merits. I think members can proceed on the assumption that absent something unforeseen, the House will not meet until the more normal time in the Fall when we will carry through in the usual way.

With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move that when the House adjourns today it stand adjourned until the call of the Chair. The Speaker, or in his absence from the Province, the Deputy Speaker, may give notice, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time and date stated by the notice of the proposed sitting.

With that said, Sir, I move the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. Before putting the motion I would like to thank the staff, members, Hansard and everybody else who has assisted with the session that ended, that perhaps didn't always go as smoothly as we may have liked, but certainly, all's well that ends well. Before putting the motion, I would like to invite members to my chambers afterwards for a small reception, anybody who might be available, and your staff as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, the House adjourned to the call of the Chair.