November 24, 1995          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLII  No. 62


The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (L. Snow): Order, please!

Oral Questions

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

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have some questions this morning for the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. In reviewing some of the Budgets for the last number of years we find that in 1989 in the Budget statement there was a statement such as: adoption of measures to streamline government's operation and staffing levels; in 1990: adoption of measures to streamline government's operation; in 1991: a 10 per cent reduction in executive and management positions, lay-off of 1,300 permanent, 350 part-time, and 350 seasonal employees; in 1992: no increase in operating budgets; in 1993: $70 million reduction in the total compensation package, and in a Ministerial Statement, a 1 per cent reduction in salary accounts; in 1994: no salary increases, a reduction of $50 million in its total compensation costs; and in 1995: continued restraint measures.

Every year since this government has taken office we have had these kinds of restraint measures announced. Will the minister advise us now, in view of this seven-year program of this government to cut back on the public sector, why this government has failed miserably in fact to do that so that we are now faced with a $60 million deficit and the minister is pushing the panic button?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Far from failing miserably, as I think the hon. member said, the government succeeded admirably. This is the only province, the only government in Canada, in fact, that in the last six fiscal years successfully reduced its fiscal requirements. The other provinces were slow coming to the fact that they had to deal with their deficit problems. This government has exercised prudent fiscal measures in each of the years, which is one of the reasons we have done so well.

As far as the current year is concerned, this is the first time the Budget has been balanced since 1949. It is something that we intend to achieve, and I think so far, we are the only province in Canada, and certainly including the Federal Government, that has done that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, far from achieving their objectives, in 1989 the government had 215 employees more at the end of the year than they had proposed in their Budget. In 1990 they had 227 employees more at the end of the year than they had projected. In 1991 they had eighteen more - that was fairly close. In 1992 they had 112 more. In 1993, when they were going to save $70 million, they actually reduced by thirty-one. In 1994 they were going to reduce by $50 million and they actually went 124 employees above their projections. How does the minister say that is fiscally responsible and that they have met their objectives?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In 1989 when we took office there was a serious problem with the Province's finances due to the previous government's administration, and our government at the time attempted to deal with that and to curtail what we saw as excessive expenditures. The way we did it at the time was to attempt to reduce the workforce in line with government services. That was done at the time and, if my memory serves me correctly, approximately 2000 people were retired and left, and were laid off from the government service.

After that time, because of the downfall and some of the fiscal problems, and some of the general problems in the provincial economy, rather than lay people off, what government strove to do was to have other types of measures that would not result in layoffs because, looking at it realistically there were not many options for people in terms of finding new positions in this Province. So, what government attempted to do over the last three or four years was to deal with its unionized workers and its non-bargaining unit sector.

We have basically said to them, look, we don't have this amount of money available but you can do it one of two ways, either we lay off, we can have wage restraint, or we can take money out of the pensions, or in some fashion, but we have to find this amount of money out of the salary package. At this point in time, we have to review that methodology. I don't think our workers are prepared to stand by and see us continuously reduce or roll back their wages in successive years, and as well, I think, the public would support the notion that we look at our workforce, that we look at our structure, that we look at the manner in which we deliver services to see if there is a more efficient way we can deal with it.

There is just one other point, Mr. Speaker. In some years the government has consciously addressed certain aspects of our economy, one is that the social assistance caseload has almost doubled. I think it has gone from about $28,000 or $38,000 cases from 1992 to 1994 and it was thought necessary and prudent to add people to help deal with public demand. In the last year, I think, some jobs were added on the economic side and that has been a continuing initiative of this government, so at the time there have been conscious decisions made which have in certain areas increased the workforce while in other areas we have been able to streamline.

What the hon. member outlines in general terms I suspect is true. I would have to verify the numbers in each case, but certainly from a general standpoint we cannot bring government to a standstill. We have to have new initiatives from time to time, but at the same time, I think we intend to look at the overall structure of government and our workforce to see what is necessary for the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, the only thing this government has done is reduce services and download their responsibilities to municipalities in this Province. They have done nothing to deal with their own problems, and the problems which I submit are of their own making. I advise the minister that over that seven-year period, the total workforce in the provincial services has only decreased by just over 500 employees in spite of seven years of attacks on the public sector in Budget after Budget, Mr. Speaker, and the overall payroll cost has, in fact, increased during that period of time.

Mr. Speaker, in view of this abject failure of government to deal with that, will the minister now tell us: How does he propose to deal with this situation in the coming couple of weeks? Is there going to be yet another attack on the public service, or is the minister going to deal with what he told us a while ago on tv about the number of temporary positions that this government have added, the political hacks that have been put in the government since this government have taken office?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: I thank the hon. member for attempting to quote me; hopefully, he will do it accurately next time. I never at any point said, Mr. Speaker, that we had added temporary workers and political hacks and that kind of thing. Perhaps he is harking back to a time period before 1989 rather than after it. But, having said that, Mr. Speaker, what I said is that the government will review its programs; we have to determine what the public of the Province want and the public have a right to give us input, as they are now doing, into what types of services they expect when they know we have diminished ability to deliver programs and, as well, how we deliver them.

What I have said in the past, is that to some extent, when we have asked the civil service to cut, it has often been done at the service level where people encounter public servants. What we are going to examine very closely over this period of time is the structure, those people whom the public don't deal with, our administrative structure, and to see how many of those people are necessary and are doing useful work. At this point, I think it is premature to say whether some, all or any of them satisfy those criteria but certainly, we are going to do it and we will advise the House accordingly.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Speaker, when is the minister going to come forward with his economic statement? He must know, and the Premier I am sure, knows, that as a result of the statements made by government in the last couple of weeks, the retail sector in this Province has gone virtually flat. Once again, it seems that every year, just before Christmas, the government comes out with some negative statement that cuts the legs out from under the retail sector and the Premier can protest all he wants, Mr. Speaker, he is more responsible than any other member over there for the negative attitude in this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. WINDSOR: I couldn't hear you, Your Honour, but I think you told me to get to my question.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is this: Is he going to make another attack on the public sector or, as we have suggested since he has told us himself this is a short-term financial problem, is he going to look at possibly some borrowing, or has he been misquoted in The Evening Telegram of last night, when he is quoted as saying that the Province can borrow, but the bond rating agencies have advised against it, and that an attempt to borrow might be unsuccessful which could precipitate a run on Newfoundland bonds as investors dump the bonds in the market? Will the minister confirm that?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I will ask the hon. member to take his seat.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member I think touched on a number of points and I will try to recall them all but no, the government is not going to attack the public sector. What we are going to do is strengthen it and make sure that the manner in which we deliver services is efficient and also streamlines decision making. I expect that will be one of our considerations. As to what the government will do of course is not my decision. There is a process for doing that through Treasury Board and Cabinet and those are decisions that will be made. I expect that most of the preliminary decisions will be made sometime in the near future and we will be advising the House accordingly.

As to the remarks in The Evening Telegram, I did a lengthy interview with The Evening Telegram and essentially what is said there is correct. I was merely pointing out that while it may be possible to borrow it certainly isn't prudent. So that our general thrust, I think, will be toward looking first at our expenditures to see where some efficiencies can be achieved and then the other matters will follow after that. With regard to the timetable, Mr. Speaker, I expect over the next several weeks the House and the public will be informed as to the decisions of government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Health.

Approximately 18 per cent of children develop a mental health problem. Now there are only four paediatric psychiatrists in this Province but we need ten or more. The waiting time at the Janeway is much longer for children then it is for adults in the Province. Some children are on the waiting list for over one year before they can even receive an inpatient assessment. There are currently 500 children now on a waiting list for psychiatric assessment at the Janeway Child Health Centre. I ask the minister, what is he and his department doing to address this severe shortage of psychiatrists and to ensure that children have quick access to proper psychiatric care?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There is some accuracy in the suggestion by the hon. member that we do have some shortages in terms of child psychologists and psychiatrists and that does cause us difficulty from time to time in responding in as quickly and timely a fashion as we would like to in the system in respect to delivering those services. I would also point out to the member that the accessing of psychiatrists and their services at the Janeway is not the only way that we work with dealing with children with problems in that area. We have community based services, we have psychologists and we have other health care professionals who work as a continuum of care and as part of a team to deal with the children in the Province who have psychiatric or mental or destabilization situations, and we are not unmindful of the need to have appropriate resources at the Janeway and at other institutions, but we also have a responsibility to point out that there are other services that work hand in hand with the psychiatrists at the Janeway, and we are delivering, on balance, a fairly good service in that area. We would like to have more child psychiatrists. We will have them as soon as we can attract them. It is a sub-speciality that is not easy to come upon, but we are doing the best we can with what we have, given the availability of those types of resources in the medical community generally.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When a child has to wait over a year to get an assessment, I think we do have a major problem here - before they can start to treat that problem.

Now a particular area of concern rests with sixteen to eighteen year olds for whom social services does not take responsibility, and many such adolescents are severely behaviourally disturbed in the home, in the school, and in the community, and drug and alcohol problems also arise. Now it costs this Province $120,000 to keep such an adolescent in a closed custody, and I say to the minister that the cheapest and most effective way is prevention. Now does the minister realize that this is a major health problem, and will he move quickly to address this rapidly escalating health concern?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, we realize that there are significant difficulties in certain youths and adolescents. These are very formative years in children's lives. They are years where they are developing mentally, physically, socially, and there are times when they need access to professional services. We have services through the Janeway available; we have community-based services; we have behavioural management specialists who work out of the Department of Social Services, and we have a number of other types of services that are available to children who fit in that age range, as well as others in our adult population and younger population, and government has in place a very, very good continuum of care, mechanisms for delivering services and actual services available to that population, and on balance there is not a significant problem in serving, on an appropriate basis, that population. If there are instances that you are aware of that I am not aware of - because I have to tell you that it is not an area where we get a lot of representation for additional services - then I would be happy to deal with them on an individual basis.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Primary prevention in mental health is geared to reducing the incidence and the prevalence of emotional and behavioural problems. Now, primary prevention and mental health problems, it is the most cost-effective way to deal with young children at risk. High quality pre-schools are associated with positive outcomes in cognitive functioning and emotional development. In the long-term, I say to the minister, it will lower juvenile crimes and arrest teen pregnancies, higher rates of employment and earnings and success.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I would ask -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that he is on a supplementary and that he should get to his question.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is kind of difficult for the minister to hear with all the noise and shouting. The chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Janeway Child Health Centre said this could be achieved if we trained educators to expand the education of children to include social, emotional and person development. I ask the minister: what steps are his department taking to pursue this cost-effective approach?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have no difficulty hearing the member, but I do have great difficulty in detecting a question. That is I guess where we are.

I believe the member in essence read his first supplementary as his second supplementary, because really I've already answered the question. If I can add anything to it, with respect to what happens in the school setting I don't have to tell the member, he knows as well as I do, and the Minister of Education and Training could add to it and elaborate on it, that we have guidance counsellors, we have a whole range of services that are delivered directly from the educational setting that help and assist these children in difficult situations and where they have behavioural problems and social issues that they have to deal with. Probably with respect to what we are doing in the schools, the question might be more appropriately addressed to the Minister of Education and Training. I'm sure he can inform the hon. member on almost any issue in terms of the continuum of care that is available in the educational system.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The member wasn't listening. I said the most effective way is the education to prevent it. I asked him: What is his department doing to help prevent it? That is a pretty straightforward question.

Now social services does not provide the same service for children of the working poor as they do for people who are on social services. I ask the minister: What is his department doing to address the concerns of mental health problems of children of the working poor in this Province?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

People who are on social assistance, the working poor, the average person who would be considered the middle class in society, or if there is any such thing as a different level above that, all of these people have equal access, and government has equal responsibility to serve all of those people in terms of delivering health care, and we are not about, as a government, to identify and prioritize one child who lives on one street, or goes to one school, above any other child or any other person in the Province when it comes to health care. We will do the same for a child who the member might consider to be a member of a family of the working poor the same as we will do for a social services recipient, or if there is another strata out there that he wants to identify, I refuse to acknowledge or accept that there are differences in society. I believe we are all one amongst equals, and I believe we are all entitled to the same equitable level of health care and every other type of government service, and what we do for one we do for all, and I might add that we do it very well in the context of the resources we have.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The chief of child and adolescent psychiatry publicly stated that it is a concern and it is a problem. If you are on social services you get the attention, but if you are not you do not get the same attention because it has to be funded and access to the system is more difficult because it is not looked after by the department.

Now if a behaviourally disturbed child is placed in foster care - now the acting Minister of Social Services may wish to respond, or the Minister of Health, it is a health problem - the Department of Social Services puts resources in place to help with the child's behaviour. In such an instance what they do is that they work with the foster parents to correct that problem. In the meantime, no work is done with the natural family.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I can assure my questions are one-tenth the length of the answers.

Mr. Speaker, I say that no work is done with the natural family, and resources are with the foster family. When a child is put back into the natural family the vicious cycle again of behaviour problems arises. I ask the minister: Will the minister initiate action to see that it would also include support for the natural family as well as the foster family so we can have an environment that is conducive to the improved mental health of children?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am somewhat surprised and probably something short of appalled that the hon. member would suggest that the government of this Province would do something for a child in one situation but would not do the same thing for that same child if he were in another living situation. We do not prioritize or categorize or strategize children in this Province. We have a range of health care services that we deliver in the Province that is available to all children on a fair and equitable basis, and we strive to maintain that standard and that level of delivery. We have just as much concern for a child today who may be living in a foster home and then moves back to their natural parental setting tomorrow as we did the day before, and if there are situations or individual cases where the hon. member feels that fairness and balance of delivering services is not happening as it should, I would be very happy to hear from him and I would be happy to deal with an individual case. I have dealt with one or two in the last fourteen or fifteen months, and with success in terms of satisfying the situation, and I can assure the hon. member that what we will do for one, as I have said earlier, we will do for all in terms of children's services, not only in mental health but in all aspects of health and in all other areas of government service.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training.

I guess the minister is aware that learning disabilities are present in approximately 10 per cent of school children in the Province, and the number of school personnel who are able to diagnose the problems are very limited in the Province. I think there is one guidance councillor for every 1,000 students. I wonder, in light of this alarming statistic and in light of the statistics quoted by my colleague from Ferryland that there are 500 children waiting for assessment at the Janeway, I wonder is the minister, his department, considering increasing the number of guidance counsellors in our schools? I know times are tough financially but is there any consideration being given to increasing the number of counsellors in the schools so they can diagnose the problems and get the numbers down, even if there is a redirection of dollars from somewhere in the system?

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

MR. DECKER: Yes, the hon. member might not be calling for the right kind of person to be added to the system. I think maybe the educational psychologist would be in a more appropriate position to deal with the kind of issues that the hon. critic for health was giving the long drawn out speeches about, Mr. Speaker. It is an area that we have been doing a lot of work in over the past three years and hopefully in the future we will be able to do more work. For example, the whole concept of registering educational psychologist has been developed over the past few years. We had a lot of difficulty getting recognition. For awhile there we tried to have a general registration where they would be part of the health system but we have quite successfully been able to develop the designation of educational psychologist.

The hon. member will be pleased, I am just not sure of the number, but we do have substantial numbers available now to the school system. The hon. member will also know that with these speciality positions it does not always mean one on one with the child. These people are coordinators and their role is to also have a relationship with the teacher of the child so a lot of the early symptoms can be picked up and can be dealt with. So I suppose you never have enough teachers, you never have enough educational psychologists and you never have enough social workers. These are the realities of the time we live in and maybe we should have a few more but it certainly is an area that we are looking at, I tell the hon. member.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the minister for his answer. I have a supplementary for the minister.

In our Province children can be put out of school under Section 12(e) of the Schools Act when children are behaviourally disturbed while they are waiting a psychiatric assessment. It has been suggested in some quarters that schools are using this section conveniently because they cannot deal with behaviourally disturbed children. They are putting them out the door under Section 12(e). So I am wondering, can the minister inform the House as to how many children were put out of school under Section 12(e) in the last school year? I am sure that someone in his department must be monitoring the situation with school boards and its ever increasing problems in schools. Can the minister tell us how many children in the last school year were put out of schools under Section 12(e) of the Schools Act?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I would not have that number readily available but I will certainly take that part of the question under advisement. I can tell the hon. member that the number of children who were put out permanently was probably zero because there is no process where you can permanently expel a child.

Now as the hon. member will know, as a Province and as the Department of Education, we have an obligation to all children whether they be disruptive children, whether they have psychological problems or whether they be the so called ordinary child. So you have an obligation to all of them. One of the concerns we do have is with the child who causes a problem for what and sometimes could be psychological reasons, sociological reasons or what have you. With the cooperation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association last year we developed a classrooms issue paper which makes some excellent recommendations as to how we deal with that issue. The member will know that the Royal Commission recommended that we should develop almost a special system apart from the regular system to deal with the extreme psychologically disturbed children. This classrooms issues, and it is an excellent report, I could make it available to the hon. member if you want to read it. It is being dealt with now in the department in an attempt to deal with it but as for the actual number, there could have been some who were put out for a day or two or three and they are not just psychologically disturbed children, that is for whatever reason.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the hon. member to take his seat.

The hon. the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes.

MR. MANNING: Mr. Speaker, my questions today are for the Minister of Health.

I would like to ask the minister, what safeguards are in place, within his department, to protect patient confidentially as medical information is passed from one department to another or from one level of government to another?

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess sort of a generic answer is what I should give the hon. member because he is not very specific. I would say, adequate safeguards are in place to protect confidentially of information that is available to government as a result of dealing with people in the health care sector. I simply say that confidentiality is a matter of utmost importance for all of us. We all want our identity and our individuality, and our confidentiality protected, and government has in place checks and balances and mechanisms to ensure that in the health care sector we guard to the utmost degree the confidentiality aspect of health care records and that sort of thing.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member of St. Mary's - The Capes on a supplementary.

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As an MHA I am called upon, as I am sure other members are called upon, several times to help out constituents of ours with different things, such as UI appeals, TAGS appeals, and so on. Awhile back I was asked to carry out a UI appeal for a constituent of mine. The constituent happened to be an attendant on an ambulance in my district. Mr. Speaker, when I received the appeal docket from Human Resources Development Canada, which I have here today, enclosed in the document, where they had requested information from the Department of Health asking for information on this particular person, they received copies of ambulance reports and I have several here that carry different information, nine as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker. On these ambulance reports are MCP numbers of patients, name, address, telephone number, doctor's names, diagnosis and the reason for the use of the ambulance, their injuries, their medical condition, and the treatment they received on their way to the hospital and at the hospital.

I ask the minister if he thinks this is a breach of confidentiality because this was sent to me from Ottawa, from Human Resources Development, the three commissionaires at the UI commission had it, the secretaries had it, and God knows who else had it, Mr. Speaker. When I made some calls pertaining to this the medical information that is in these dockets that I have, privy to me and several others, family members of the patients did not know about, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I believe the hon. member has asked his question.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In all that the hon. member has said I cannot automatically assume that the individual claimant that he was presenting had not signed some type of waiver to permit this information to be made forward. On the basis and on the assumption that the individual did not sign an appropriate waiver then there must have been, obviously, a basis on which the information was made available appropriately. If the hon. member can demonstrate to me, or if the individual has a question with respect to how the information was made available, and has some concern as to whether or not appropriate protocol was not followed I will undertake to address the specific issue and find out if in fact anything heretofore has happened. I have no indication that has happened and there is no indication of it in the hon. member's question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has expired.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, would you put the House into Committee of the Whole, please?

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!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr, Chairman, would you be good enough, please, to call Order 17 for a very brief discussion.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Bill No. 31, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act And The Electoral Boundaries Act".

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, we propose - as I've advised the House earlier, and I've had a discussion to this effect with my counterparts who sit to Your Honour's right -

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

I am having difficulty hearing the member.

MR. ROBERTS: We propose that the substantive discussion at Committee stage with respect to this bill will take place on Monday. But I have been approached by a number of members from both sides, behind the Chair, with respect to amendments. I thought it might be helpful if I were to lay down the approach that the government will take in considering amendments. We are but fourteen in the House but this is the approach we shall take, and we shall ask those who support us to take the same approach in dealing with amendments.

I understand a number of members wish to ask the Committee to consider amendments, particularly to the schedule, to the descriptions of the boundaries. Mr. Chairman, the principles upon which we have founded this bill, with the exception of the two seats on the Coast of Labrador, are the 10 per cent plus or minus rule. We, the government, are prepared to consider an amendment in Committee stage that affects no more than two districts. In other words, I guess, any amendment would have to affect two districts - we want to avoid the domino effect - that affects two districts and that results in two new districts: number one, that are each within the 10 per cent rule, and number two, that otherwise make some common sense.

For example, my friend, the Member for Grand Falls made a reference, I believe, here in the House yesterday to a situation where -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I thought he made it here in the House. That is what I said, my friend, the Member for Grand Falls made it here in the House.

- where he has a situation of a half-dozen houses in Grenfell Heights. Am I correct? And moving those half-dozen houses from Exploits district, which I believe is where Commissioner Noel recommended, to the new Windsor - Springdale district, or the new Grand Falls - Buchans district, would not put either of the resulting districts out of the 10 per cent bracket. We are prepared to look at those in Committee. Other amendments, if members wish to put them forward, they have the right to do it, Mr. Chairman, but the government will not be able to accept them; that is our position as the Ministry.

The Premier has sort of given me a little graphic chart of it. If one takes the squares - the squares being, say, Judge Noel's recommendations - instead of dividing them by a vertical line, if one were to divide them by a diagonal line, that is a graphic representation. We have no trouble with that at all. So the kind of amendment that my friend, the Member for Grand Falls apparently is contemplating might very well fall within that rubric. The gentleman, the Member for Kilbride spoke to me behind the Chair and I understand he is contemplating one. All I want to do in calling the Committee -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Pardon? All I want to do in speaking with the Committee this morning, Mr. Chairman, is set up the position so that members will know and can take the weekend to reflect. May I also say that Mr. David Jones, the Civil Division solicitor in my department - who knows the numbers intimately because he was Counsel to the Mahoney Commission, on secondment at the request of the commission, and when that finished, came back into the Civil Division - has been working on this bill. So any member should feel perfectly at liberty to speak with Mr. Jones - he works up on the fourth floor - by means of getting advice on, you know, the numbers and the effect of a change.

I would also ask, please, if members do wish to move amendments, it would be very helpful if they let me have copies, because then I can check with the law clerks and with Mr. Jones. As the House Leader, I am not prepared, I am not able, it is not prudent to accept an amendment to a bill unless it has been vetted by the law clerks and by Mr. Jones in this context, because he is the lawyer with the substantive involvement.

So with that said, Mr. Chairman, that is all I am going to say in Committee at this stage. We do plan to have the substantive debate on the bill on Monday, here in the House.

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

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, I am going to ask a technical question of the House Leader on this issue so that we can properly contemplate this over the weekend.

As I understand it, in applying the 10 per cent rule, and this is what I want to be clarified on, government have taken the total number of constituents, electors in the Province, divided by 52, and said that is the average. Is that accurate?

AN HON. MEMBER: No, forty-eight.

MR. WINDSOR: No?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, the 10 per cent rule is - the arithmetic is in Judge Noel's report, which has been tabled, but if copies are not available, I can get one, I have it here. It consists of - this is what the Order in Council directed - one takes the population of the two coastal seats in Labrador, the new L'Anse-au-Claire, Cartwright and The Torngat, taking those, and the quotient I think is 12,000 - I can give the Committee the numbers.

PREMIER WELLS: (Inaudible) population left by fifty.

MR. ROBERTS: Yes. The precise numbers, Mr. Chairman, if the Committee want them, is: The quotient is 12,181; the less 10 per cent lower boundary is 10,963; the plus 10 per cent is 13,399 and there is a situation on the Southwest Coast, members will recall, where Judge Noel was given the leeway, if he wished to use it - he chose not to, but he was given the leeway to go 25 per cent below on those Southwest Coast seats and that number is 9,136.

Now, in each case, we are using as directed by the act and as has been the previous practice, the 1991 census figures. I realize that one can make an argument that there have been population changes since then, but we have, throughout, used the 1991 census figures. I don't know if that answers my friend's question. Those are the numbers as we have them and we will be using them.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, I have had the opportunity to sit in this House of Assembly over the last two or three weeks. I think I have only missed -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: - probably one or two sittings, but I sat down with great interest listening to the hon. members opposite talk about the redistribution bill. In fact, I had a conversation with one of the members opposite yesterday, just a brief conversation here at my desk, and it is interesting to note the context of the speeches and the silliness which is going on, and the repetitious manner in which they speak. It is strange, with such a bill that takes place (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please! Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Chairman, for that reason, I have no choice, I say to the hon. member, I have no choice but to give notice. I notice, Mr. Chairman, that in the Term 17 debate, we spent seventeen hours and one minute in this House of Assembly debating it. We have spent more time on the redistribution bill to date than they did on Term 17, the importance that they place on such an issue. Make no wonder, Mr. Chairman, that the press gallery is empty most of the time during the speeches, that there is nothing ever carried out there to the general public, and little attention is paid to the House of Assembly.

I went out to my district the night before last to officially open a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. The first thing that was asked when I walked through the door was: What are you doing these days? When is the House of Assembly going to open? That shows how much attention is paid to the hon. members opposite and the fantastic speeches they give day after day, tying up this House of Assembly. There is absolutely no substance to their speeches whatsoever, no facts, no reasonable argumentive speeches being made.

Mr. Chairman, I have to move a motion, I have no choice but to give notice, for the sake of the people of this great Province in which we live, and for the sake of members who have been sitting here day after day trying to hold on to their sanity while listening to members opposite trying to give some substance to their speeches.

I give notice, Mr. Chairman, that I will on tomorrow move, pursuant to Standing Order 50, that the debate or further consideration of Bill 31, entitled, "An Act To Amend The House Of Assembly Act And The Electoral Boundaries Act," standing in the name of the hon. the Minister of Justice, shall not be further adjourned and that further consideration of any resolution, or resolutions, clause or clauses, section or sections, preamble or preambles, title or titles, or whatever else might be related to the debate in Committee, or to hold out respecting Bill No. 31, shall be the first business of the Committee when next called by the House, and shall not further be postponed, for the sake of this hon. House of Assembly and the people of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We are speaking in Committee on the bill and I would like to indicate that to move a closure motion in Committee denies people who may wish to speak and move an amendment the opportunity to do so. The Government House Leader has already admitted that many people may wish to move amendments to this bill in Committee stage, and to limit that to speaking once - if you speak once you may be denied the right to move an amendment, again affecting your own district or other districts, as there are some very sensible amendments there - to limit that in Committee stage. I don't think it is the appropriate thing to do.

If I speak on opening that bill and then decide at some point that some changes have occurred that might precipitate another amendment, I am denied the right to be able to stand again and to move an amendment in Committee. I don't think that is the proper procedure. I think that is using the heavy hand of the law here and taking it to the nth degree. In Committee there should be an opportunity to develop it within a reasonable time frame and I don't think the opportunity to stand up in Committee once and speak, when the Government House Leader admitted - he has been told there are going to be amendments here in the House, he said he has been told behind the Chair there are going to be amendments. And whether members on the government side may wish to make an amendment, and if they speak on that amendment and they want to support others, or make other amendments that might be changed as a result of that, they are limited from doing that.

That is not proper, and that is going to the limit. I certainly don't agree with that. While we are on Committee, if they want to use closure, that is a right that government have, but they should do it within a fair and reasonable time and give people in this House of Assembly who were elected the right to have debate. The Government House Leader knows that most amendments will be made in Committee and therefore he is denying that legitimate right for people to do that, and that is not proper. If he had wanted to move closure he should have done it in second reading last week. He did it after four days. Initially, he was not intended to call Committee today, he was intended to deal with another bill, Motion No. 2.

I don't think it is the Government House Leader's intention to go on all day with this, so I will make a few points and then I will sit down and move to the normal legislation that was planned for the House today. I indicate that it is improper, it is high-handed, it is denying people the right to debate on both sides of the House. It is denying the right at Committee level to speak more than once. This House has set a precedent as agreed, that in Committee we have the right to be able to speak more than once. We have the right to address each clause of a bill here, which would be normal procedure, if we do not unduly delay the movement of that in Committee. It is the first time since I have been in this House that we have been limited with a specific motion to limit it within Committee stage only of debate.

We have had closures that included - after lengthy discussion, they have moved Committee and second reading together and invoked closure at that stage. It is the first time it has been done on a major bill in this House, that this government said was going to be their number one piece of legislation to be presented in this House of Assembly, not allowing hon. members to get up and be heard. Now, that is the most extreme form of autocracy and dictatorship in any instance that I've seen since I came into this House, and that is factual. Knowing that there are many amendments coming and you can't speak on them, I don't think that is proper. `If the member,' he said, `for Kilbride, or anyone, wants to get up and move an amendment to change the District of Ferryland, and I've spoken on that bill before that, I cannot even have a say in what is happening to the people I was elected to represent. I think I should have a right to speak once on an amendment, that I was elected to come here into the House and voice my opinion. I don't think it is proper.

If you are speaking fifteen and twenty and thirty times and unduly delaying, that is the purpose of closure. It is not the purpose for closure to allow somebody to speak only once. I say to the Government House Leader: You go back and you change that, the closure motion. I think you should permit a reasonable opportunity for members here in the House. It is something that we shouldn't tolerate in this House at all. It is not acceptable.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SULLIVAN: Fairness and balance? I'm telling you, it is the most extreme form of autocracy and dictatorship that I've seen on any legislation that has come to this House since I was elected. And I say it again, it is not right.

I have said there should be a maximum of forty seats in the Province, and that there shouldn't be any preferential treatment. The Premier went up to Sudbury, Ontario and said: A citizen is a citizen is a citizen. I say if a citizen is a citizen is a citizen, you should take -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: You're the one who is not (inaudible), you're the one who is (inaudible) the abuse in this House. You're the one abusing our rights in this House! Don't you talk to us about abuse!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: The Premier is saying today, a citizen is not a citizen. We should take the population of this Province - when you look at districts in the rest of this country with 50,000, 40,000 and 30,000, and a province with only 567,000, you should divide it by forty and get your quotient, and you may deviate 25 per cent from that quotient. It doesn't matter if it is in Labrador, it doesn't matter if it is on the South Coast, or in Ferryland, or St. John's. We should draw a quotient and we should increase it by 25 per cent from the quotient.

This minister, the Government House Leader, has gerrymandered from day one. He went out to Clarenville on day one, and he told a commission, after spending $250,000: It is not what we like, what you give us, the forty. Let's start with forty-six. The Commission came back with forty-four as a proposal but the minister still didn't like that, and he asked somebody to gerrymander them. In fact, they wanted to meet with us, I say to the Premier. They asked, and I will tell the Premier what I said in our caucus when they wanted us to meet with them and try to be a part of their scheme. I said: I don't even want to meet with them. I want to accept what an independent commission is going to do. I don't care whether it is favourable to me, whether it is unfavourable. We are in to represent the people of this Province fairly. We should keep electoral boundaries at arm's length from the political gerrymandering of people and the input on any side of this House of Assembly. We should leave it to the hon. Judge Mahoney who went out with a commission of people and had forty meetings in this Province to tell somebody what they should put in the report.

He came back with forty-four and the Government House Leader still wasn't happy, he wanted to get a lawyer in the Department of Justice. I said: I don't even want to hear the proposal; I don't even want to be a part of the process. If they are going to take that report and change it, let them come back to the House of Assembly with that. I didn't agree with it. I didn't have any input. I didn't want questions. I was removed from it. Because I believe the principle here of electoral reform in this Province, is, it is important that we reduce - that we have, yes, every ten years, I agree with that. I agree we should treat everybody, citizens, properly, within a reasonable deviation from that quotient of 25 per cent. I spoke in favour of that before.

When they were changing it I said at the time: There are going to be problems in areas of this Province where the Commission is going to be handicapped in dealing with those specific changes in certain ridings of the Province, and it was. It was handicapped with it. It couldn't recommend within line. Because you narrowed its scope too much with the 10 per cent deviation there. It should have been 25 per cent.

Other provinces, B.C. has no deviation. Saskatchewan is the only one - the only one the Premier referred to - 5 per cent in Saskatchewan deviation, and there is a special allowance, I think, in a couple of northern ridings. Two northern ridings, and the fifty-six southern ridings, I say to the minister, deviates within the 5 per cent.

In other provinces there are up to 29 per cent and 30 per cent, there is a 40 per cent deviation, there is 59.9 per cent in one other province. That is the only province, that is the only one the Government House Leader talked about. He didn't tell what happened in B.C. where there is no deviation. He did not tell what happened in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and other provinces in Atlantic Canada, he didn't do that, no, because he took the one that suited there and he tried to use Saskatchewan as an example. Well, I am telling you that urban and rural areas of this Province are different. I don't agree - yes, with three times the people in an urban area, in a rural area and so on having a three to one imbalance, that is not right. There should be a reasonable deviation, and I mentioned in the House when I spoke on this in second reading - yesterday, I indicated that under the 25 per cent variance no one would have less then 10,000-and-something and none would have more than 17,000, in the high tens to low seventeen's. Within the range from an urban area now, there is an imbalance now, almost two-and-a-half, if you look at the current census, between an urban and most rural areas in this Province.

If you look at Waterford - Kenmount now - now, the '91 census - I know there have been shifts - Waterford - Kenmount and Mount Pearl are up in the high teens and a lot of rural areas in the Province are 8,000, 7,800, which is the general average, I say to the Premier, around 8,000, 7,800 in many rural areas in this Province.

PREMIER WELLS: It is not just rural (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I know. The point I am making is that there should not be a two-to-one imbalance, I am saying that. There should be a flexibility within 25 per cent for urban/rural. Then we are adhering to the one person, one vote concept overall. If we can adhere to it in Eagle River and we can adhere to it in Torngat Mountains and everywhere else, why can't we adhere to it down on the South Coast in Bay d'Espoir and Fortune - Hermitage areas that are fairly geographically dispersed and should have the limitations within that percentage? They should have, and any other rural area - I will use an example, the new St. Mary's - The Capes will go from St. Shotts up by Trepassey, that has traditionally always been a part of the Trepassey area, under the same school boards, the same systems, they drive this way. They are going to be in now with Fox Harbour and Long Harbour and out in the other area. The Member for Twillingate will tell you the geographical distribution of that district; he is quite familiar with that.

Now, it was very simple, we had a 25 per cent variance here and there was a strict modem in changing that to ten and it is not based on a `one person, one vote' concept because, if it were, why would you want to take what Judge Mahoney indicated, produced? Why would you wait for thirty-two meetings and a $250,000 budget allocation issue? Why would you wait for thirty-two meetings and then go out to Clarenville?

I am going to clue up and indicate that what the Government House Leader indicated today - he said he would move into Committee so that he could make a couple of points, basically on what he is going to accept in terms of amendments. He moved into Committee so that he could move a closure motion that could not be made without going into Committee, so he could move his closure motion today to limit the democratic process of this House of Assembly. Now, that is what he did today. That is very tricky, very deceptive and denying people in this House, and I am being told by that Government House Leader and by the Member for Port de Grave who moved that, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, that if I get up to speak on that and an amendment is moved to affect my district, that I was elected to represent, I cannot get up and have any say on that. And I say to the Member for Port de Grave, that is wrong.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I didn't have two because the amendments were not moved. The amendments to make changes were not moved, as of this point, within the boundaries there. It is improper. He used the bullying tactics again, the Government House Leader, the bullying tactics that he has been so used to and been accustomed to, if he does not follow bullying tactics he is out of his environment and he is not able to respond appropriately. So now, I say to the Government House Leader, take it back and give the people on your side, on this side of the House, an opportunity to debate something that affects every single citizen in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl, on a point of order.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, we are now in Committee debating this particular bill and the minister gave notice of a motion. The proper time for a notice of motion is on the Order Paper, that is the time for `Notices of Motion'. I would submit, Your Honour, that it is not proper to give a notice of motion while we are in the middle of a debate in Committee; therefore, the notice that was given, Mr. Chairman, is not valid. No leave was given for it, and it is totally out of place.

MR. ROBERTS: To that point of order, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. ROBERTS: First of all, my hon. friend, the Member for Mount Pearl and my hon. friend, the Member for Ferryland should get their act together. The Member for Ferryland just protested vehemently that, in his judgement, I went in to ask the House to go into Committee simply to give the notice. He can't have it both ways. But the answer I make to my friend, the Member for Mount Pearl is that the precedents of this House make it clear that the notice with respect to closure, the Standing Order 50 notice, such as that given by my friend, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, can be given in Committee. Indeed, there is an argument that it should be given in Committee, but whether that is a valid argument or not, the submission I make is that it can be given in Committee, and that is what has been done. Now, if Your Honour wants to take a recess or to rule upon the point, that is, of course, up to Your Honour, but that is my submission.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: We will demonstrate what a bunch of cowards you are over there before this day is over.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. member is on a point of order.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, I refer to Standing Order 50, which says that: Immediately before the order of the day -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

MR. WINDSOR: The Premier won't even stay to be part of it. I don't blame him.

Mr. Chairman, Standing Order 50 says clearly: Immediately before the order of the day for resuming an adjourned debate is called, or if the House be in committee... any minister who shall have given notice on a previous sitting day...

Notice has to be given on a previous sitting day. There is a time on our Order Paper and in our Standing Orders for giving notice. Obviously, at any time, the minister can move that the debate can be no longer adjourned, but notice of that motion has to given at the proper time for Notices of Motion, and cannot be given in the middle of a debate in Committee.

The rules are the rules. This government may not like them, but they are going to stick to them. If they are going to start playing these kinds of games, we will ensure that they stick to every rule in the book. Standing Order 50 is very clear, there is a place on our Order Paper for giving Notices of Motion, and that is when we will accept it and not before.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

The Chair will recess for a few minutes to check our precedents.

Recess

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

To the point of order raised by the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl, I would like to refer hon. members to page 3 of our Standing Orders, Standing Order No. 1: "In all cases not provided for hereinafter or by sessional or other orders, the usages and customs of the House of Commons of Canada as in force at the time shall be followed so far as they may be applicable to this House."

I refer hon. members to the House of Commons Standing Orders and quote: The Standing Order is not specific on when an oral notice has to be given, consequently, it has been given for example, vote when there has been a question before the House and when there has not. In the former case, notice shall normally be relevant to the question, as for example, when notice was given by the minister who was speaking on a Committee of the Whole. While the minister was moving the daily adjournment of the debate on the Address in Reply and during debate on the motion that was the object of closure, it also has happened that notice has been given when the House was considering an unrelated matter. Notice has also been given when there was no question before the House, and checking our own precedence in regards to the notice had been given in Committee occurred on December 17, 1991 and December 5, 1992, so -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I rise on a point of privilege concerning the procedure which has been adopted by the government in this matter, and the point of privilege is that, the privileges of all members of the House are affected by the closure motion, the notice having been given that this procedure will have the effect of preventing members of this House from carrying out their duties to represent their constituents. The explanation, I suppose, given by the Member for Ferryland that the effect of this closure motion could be that, for example, the Member for St. John's Centre could get up and move a motion that would have the effect of changing the District of St. John's East and I would respond to that, both of us having spoken on that amendment, then perhaps the Member for St. John's West could get up and move an amendment that would affect St. John's Centre and St. John's West, and the Member for St. John's West whose constituents would be affected would not be able to speak to it and that prevents - I mean, the notion of a point of privilege is that it prevents hon. members from representing their constituents and speaking in the House on a matter that affects their constituents by virtue of operation of the rules.

Now, Mr. Chairman, the Government House Leader may be asking for precedence on this. I say there is no precedence for this because no government has tried to do this before, to my knowledge, and come into the House of Assembly to have -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HARRIS: - a devious procedure, which will have the effect of preventing members from speaking on a matter affecting their constituents. Not for the use of closure to carry on when there has been an elongated debate, when members are speaking at length and repetitively on general matters, but we are talking here about specific matters involving specific amendments that are anticipated to district boundaries.

AN HON. MEMBER: The point of privilege.

MR. HARRIS: The point of privilege is very clear, Mr. Chairman. The privileges of a member are to represent his constituents. When the privileges of a member are stifled and oppressed by this particular procedure so as to prevent a member, in the scenario that I've outlined and many other scenarios that you can imagine, from speaking on a matter affecting their own constituents. That is the effect of that rule.

I don't have any precedent to show that because I don't know of any circumstances where a government has operated in this kind of oppressive manner before. It is a sneaky use of the rules that will have the effect of breaching the privileges of this member and all hon. members of this House.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Member for Bonavista North.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Chairman, I rise simply to address the remarks made by the hon. the Member for St. John's East on a point of privilege. If one were to follow the member's reasoning to its logical conclusion, that one would never be allowed to use closure - I mean, this is a -

Closure is -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Order, order.

MR. LUSH: I suggest to the hon. member that I certainly paid attention, I paid very close attention, and never said a word while the hon. member was speaking, and I expect the same from him now that I am speaking. I would suggest to the hon. House -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LUSH: I would suggest to the hon. House, if one follows the reasoning and the logic submitted by the hon. member on point number one, that closure would never again be allowed to be brought into this House. A perfectly legitimate rule that all legislatures can use. We use it in this House mainly because we don't have a rule on time. We should have a rule on time of legislation but we don't. Maybe we will take care of that after. But it is a completely legitimate route in which the government is going in this direction.

Now, secondly, so if we follow the hon. member's logic we would never be able to bring in closure if it affects an hon. member's right, or the hon. member's ability to carry out his duty. Now, he uses the fact that we are talking about districts. They could affect an hon. member's district. Well, again, if we followed it through its logical conclusion we wouldn't be able to deal with the bill. Obviously, the bill is dealing with districts, and the bill is brought about as the law of the land that must be done every ten years.

So the whole thing is specious, Mr. Chairman. It doesn't affect hon. - it might very well, I suggest, affect all hon. members' rights to do their duty in the sense that all our districts may be affected. But you can't bring that into the House and say: Because it is going to affect my district, because it is going to affect another hon. member's district, that we can't debate this in the House.

It makes no sense at all, the point of privilege that the hon. member has raised on two counts, one on closure, that if we were to follow his argument you would never be able to bring in closure, and the fact that the districts are going to be affected means that the total bill itself would be out of order. I submit, Mr. Chairman, that it is not a point of privilege.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to speak to the point of privilege. I want to say, out of respect for the Member for Bonavista North, that I'm surprised you are standing up here defending a government action to take away members' rights to speak in this House. My privilege and my right to speak as a member, I say to the Member for Bonavista North, is what this point of privilege is about.

Now, Mr. Chairman, the government appointed an independent commission -

MR. ROBERTS: Privilege, where is the point of privilege?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: You just be quiet, now, I say to the Government House Leader, you just hold on. Never mind the point of privilege. You are the problem in this House, I say. You think that you are the only one here with privilege, I say to the Government House Leader. Well, you are going to learn a lesson this morning the hard way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Mr. Chairman, this government spent close to half-a-million dollars of taxpayers' money, sent an independent commission around this Province, and then would not accept its report. They came in here and tampered and gerrymandered with it

AN HON. MEMBER: Be nice, now; be nice.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The minister of long lists for heart surgery should be quiet when he talks about being nice. He is more concerned about putting Tim Horton's in the Health Sciences than he is about getting heart surgery done in the Province. He should be quiet, I say to him, talking about privileges and rights.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: A point of privilege, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is already a point of privilege, Mr. Chairman; you cannot have another one. Learn the rules of the House, boy. You don't know the rules of the House any better than you know your department.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

I have recognized the Opposition House Leader.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

What has happened here this morning is that the Government House Leader has invoked closure in committee. He had already admitted, before this happened, before the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation moved the motion, that there are going to be a number of amendments. He knows that there are going to be a number of amendments on this bill in committee - four, five, six, ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty, who knows - but a member can only speak to one amendment. A member can only speak once in committee.

MR. EFFORD: That is enough.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I am sorry?

MR. EFFORD: That is enough.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, it might be enough for him, because he is not allowed to speak, but it is not enough for us.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It comes down to be this simple, Mr. Chairman. If I, in committee, move an amendment affecting any district opposite, and the member who is now representing that district rises to speak and supports the amendment - let's say they are supportive of the amendment that I make; it is positive for them and their constituents - and an hour later another member makes another amendment concerning the same member's district, that member cannot stand to either support or oppose the amendment. Now does any member here think that is right? Does any member think that is correct? Does any member here think that is not a breach of privilege of every member of this House, I say to members opposite? Think about it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Every member in this House, if they so desire, should be able to speak to each and every amendment.

MR. EFFORD: How long (inaudible) now?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Not long enough, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. WINDSOR: The committee has not even been called yet, you jackrabbit.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: You just called the committee this morning, I say to the minister. You called the committee this morning, and you immediately invoked closure.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Again, I say to the minister - the Ministers of Health and Works, Services and Transportation might not care about this, but this is one member who does, and I am not going to come in this House, as one representative of fifty-two in this House, representing several thousand people from the South Coast, and be muzzled by the government. I am not going to do it. I am not going to come here and be muzzled on an issue that the government itself says is the most important piece of legislation to be introduced in this Legislature this fall sitting. The government itself has touted it as the most important piece of legislation this fall - spent a half-a-million dollars on an independent commission to go around this Province - and now you are telling me, as one member, and all other members, that I can only speak once on an amendment - one amendment - even though there could be twenty amendments brought in on this bill. And you tell me that you are not breaching my privilege? Indeed you are.

MR. WINDSOR: The government backbenchers cannot speak either.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Those are the people I am most concerned about, I say to my colleague from Mount Pearl. Those are the people I am most concerned about, the government backbenchers.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is a muzzle on them. That is what this is.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: You are not going to muzzle us.

AN HON. MEMBER: Someone has to speak for them.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: And they must, over there; there must be enough of them who know that by this action of their own Government House Leader that their privileges are being breached this morning. How can you justify it?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: That is the privilege, I say to the Government House Leader, as little as he knows about privilege, because he thinks he is the only one of 560,000 with privilege. That is the Government House Leader's problem. He thinks he is the only one in Newfoundland with a privilege. He thinks he is king. He thinks he was born with the right and the privilege to bully everyone else, not only in this House but outside, I say to him, and it is not going to work, and I told the Premier this morning that it is not going to work. You can try all you like -

AN HON. MEMBER: Now, where is the point of privilege (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It is a point of privilege, I say to the Government House Leader, and I am stating it. We are not going to tolerate it, I say to the Government House Leader.

Now, there have been members before who have said they had carved the Christmas turkey on the Clerk's Table. Now I am telling the Government House Leader today - I am giving him fair warning -

AN HON. MEMBER: I have turrs (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, well you have turrs when you are doing away with your leader.

Mr. Chairman, what the Government House Leader has done this morning has infuriated members of this House, in his own benches as well as ours, and he knows it because they have talked to him during the recess, and he should change it. We should be allowed to speak on every amendment, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. It is not good enough that I can't if I so desire, I might not want to speak on every amendment but if I do, I should be entitled to as a member of this House.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CAREEN: Esau, Esau speaks again.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It not worthy of comment, Mr. Chairman. It is not worthy of comment. It is too serious, so, Mr. Chairman, I contend that the Member for St. John's East has indeed raised a valid point of privilege, a very valid point of privilege, Mr. Chairman, and if we are going to run this House in this Province as a dictatorship, then let us go upstairs and clean out our desks and go home out of it, because that's what this is, Mr. Chairman, it is bordering on dictatorship, when the elected members of this House, representatives of the people can't come here and say what we want, when we want, about any piece of legislation, then it is a dictatorship, and if we are only going to be elected here -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: - if our only reason for being here is to come and sit in our seats here and every two weeks collect our cheques then I suggest we should all go home out of it and save the taxpayers one hell of a lot of money, I say to members, if that's what we are here for.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, I am speaking now because you can't muzzle me, I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. If he could he would, but now it is in the hands of the Chairman, not the ministry, not the Government House Leader, not the Premier and if you want to make progress in this House, you had better learn that you are not going to bully the people over here. You are not going to bully them and get away with it because there will be very little progress reported here between now and Christmas Day; very little progress reported.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I don't worry about a Christmas Tree, I say to the minister, that doesn't bother me. That's how flippant the minister takes this. He gets up this morning and invokes a closure order here and he talks about Christmas trees.

MR. WINDSOR: He won't see his Christmas tree this year.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: He might, but it will be after Christmas.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I will conclude by saying that the Member for St. John's East has raised a very valid point of privilege which I support and I am sure that the majority of members in this House supports. The majority of members in this House, if they were honest today, and if they were willing to break ranks with their House Leader and their Premier, the majority of members in this House today would stand in their places and say: I want to speak to every amendment that's introduced on this legislation, if I so want to, my right to speak if I so want to. The majority of people, members in this House do not accept what this government has done this morning, Mr. Chairman, and I just hope that some of the members opposite get up and voice their opinions on it before it is too late, because they are being bullied through the system as well and it is time for it to stop.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman?

MR. CHAIRMAN: I think the Chair has heard enough on -

MR. WINDSOR: But, Mr. Chairman, I would like to speak to the point of -

MR. CHAIRMAN: Did you already speak to the point of privilege?

MR. WINDSOR: No, we did not. There have only been two members who spoke on this point of privilege.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, just a short presentation.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, this is a point of privilege, I would submit -

MR. CHAIRMAN: We are not into debate on the point of privilege. We have to determine if there is a point of privilege then there is a debate on it. We are hearing submissions now why it should be a point of privilege.

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible).

MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. I recognize the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl.

MR. WINDSOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I must submit, without questioning, Your Honour, of course which I have no right to do but members must have the right to make their point of privilege and to support a point of privilege and to point out that indeed there is a point of privilege; and as my colleague has said, this is a very basic lesson in democracy we are dealing with here, very basic.

One of the most important rights that every member has is, freedom of speech in this House and the right to speak on behalf of the constituents who elect them. That's what we are here for and if we gave up that right to speak, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, should sit there in silence, he has never said anything of consequence in this House anyway, so he might as well say absolutely nothing. Every time he opens his mouth he simply makes a fool of himself.

Now, Mr. Chairman, the right of members to speak in this House is paramount, it is paramount and what this motion is doing, is taking away from members the right to speak and probably the most democratic issue ever brought before the House, the Electoral Boundaries of the House, how many members shall we have? What shall the districts be? What could be more important to have full, proper, airing and debate in this House of Assembly, and here a closure motion has been called, on the Committee procedure before Committee has even been called. The Leader of the House has said: we are going to go into Committee on Monday; today he gives Notices of Motion to limit debate on Monday.

Now, Mr. Chairman, members on this side and members on that side are going to want to speak on very important issues here. Many pieces of legislation will go through the House and closure will be called after. Closure is generally called, Mr. Chairman, after there has been considerable debate, when the government, the House Leader, decides that we have had ample debate. The Opposition is simply filibustering. We are delaying debate unnecessarily. That is what the rule is there for, so that the work of the House and the business of the House cannot be held up unreasonably. Now, Mr. Chairman, how can you argue that the work of the House has been held up unreasonably when committee has not even been called yet? We have not had a chance to even debate the principle of the bill in committee, let alone clause by clause. Now in this particular issue every clause could be very critical. Members will want to and the House Leader has already indicated, he is aware, that there are going to be a number of amendments.

Now let's look at some hypothetical cases. Now the Member for Fogo may come forward with an amendment dealing with his district and it necessarily impacts on adjoining districts. So the Member for Fogo can make an amendment and he can speak to it. The Member for Twillingate, whose district might well be affected by it, would want to speak to it. The Member for Lewisporte, whose district might be affected by it, might want to speak to it and if they do the House Leader is saying they have already spoken once so the Member for Twillingate then cannot make an amendment of his own unless he does not speak on the amendment by the Member for Fogo and if he does not speak on the amendment by the Member for Fogo the House might decide and approve that amendment which affects negatively the members district. Then it is too late when the member comes in with his own amendment, it is too late then, the deed is done. The Member for Lewisporte might find the same problem. The Member for Exploits would -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: It is in fact, as the House Leader indicated in his preamble earlier today, it is a domino effect and when you have a domino effect surely God every member must have a right to speak on any amendment or any clause that affects his or her district. If he does not have that right and if he indeed does not speak, chooses not to speak, he is being derelict in his duty. This is the most undemocratic procedure I have even seen in a House of Assembly or any parliament. It is absolutely taking away not only the rights of members but the very reason for which they are here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

MR. WINDSOR: What is the fool from up along talking about now, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

MR. WINDSOR: I withdraw that, Mr. Chairman, I am not going to waste my time with the likes of him. Don't point your fingers at me. You have had enough cracks come out of you that you should swallow and apologize for, so don't you point your fingers at me. Don't point your finger at me or you will get it bitten off.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to make reference to the point of privilege.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, I am trying to do that but I am being provoked by indecent comments from opposite.

Now, Mr. Chairman, the point is very clear, this is the most democratic exercise we have ever participated in this House and this is the most undemocratic action taken by any government in trying to stifle the debate. Clearly their problem is, Mr. Chairman, they don't want to have good debate on this issue. They have so many problems over there in their back benches, they want to make sure - they are not worried about us speaking because they know that we are going to speak and we will have other opportunities to speak but I want to make sure particularly that the backbenchers over there, if they are going to get up to speak, they only get one shot at it. Ten minutes, that is what they will get to speak, no more. That is what they are saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: Twenty minutes.

MR. WINDSOR: Twenty minutes it will be, that is right because leave will not be given to revert to the ten minute normal rule on this one. Twenty minutes is all that we are given and that is all members over there will get. If the hon. Member for Fogo makes an amendment that affects the Member for Twillingate, the Member for Twillingate will make a decision then: Will I speak now and give up my right to make an amendment later on when we get to my district? The Member for Lewisporte will have to make the same decision and every other member and every member over here if we choose to object or to support the amendment made by the Member for Fogo. We give up the right to do the same thing in relation to our own district. Mr. Chairman, I have never heard of anything so undemocratic. Dictatorial is putting it mildly.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sit down.

MR. WINDSOR: I will sit down but I don't need the minister opposite to tell me when, I can assure you that. I will sit down when I have to, according to the rules of the House, not with the minister's whims.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

I would like to welcome sixty-seven Level 1, 2 and 3 Canadian Law and Democracy students from Bishop O'Neil Collegiate in Brigus from the district of Port de Grave, along with their instructors Steve Hearley, Tony Connoly and Tracey Karlik.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please! Order, please!

I would like to remind hon. students visiting the gallery that we have to recess the House to decide on a point of privilege. Normally in this House we recess to rule on points of order and points of privilege. It may take a while for us to sort it out, because we have to check precedents in Ottawa and to come up with a ruling, so we may be out for a while. I would like to inform the students that we may recess for a while.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, may I be heard before you rise the Committee to take a recess? You've heard three speakers from that side, Sir.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, the hon. member has already spoken on this point of order!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. ROBERTS: I have not spoken on the point of privilege.

MR. WINDSOR: You have spoken on this point of privilege!

MR. ROBERTS: I have not spoken on this point of privilege, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. WINDSOR: You have spoken on it.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair already said we will recess so we are finished with submissions.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Recess

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!

The Chair has checked the references and checked with the people at the House of Commons in Ottawa and they -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CHAIRMAN: No, we didn't go to London this morning, but we probably were gone long enough to be gone to London. And I wanted to spend a weekend in London.

Anyway, the interpretation - it was the first impression actually when it all started - is that the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, when the House is in Committee, doesn't have the authority to rule on a point of privilege. It has to be considered by the Speaker in the session of the House. There are procedures for that to happen but it is up to the individuals to do what they have to do.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman?

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

MR. ROBERTS: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, we've only got three or four minutes and I will then adjourn the debate and we will rise the Committee.

I simply want to repeat here what I've already said to a couple of people outside the House. I won't get into a long argument as to why we brought in the closure rule, but I may say if I had any doubts at 9:00 this morning about the performance this morning by hon. gentleman opposite it has shown me exactly why it is the rational thing to do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I'm speaking to Committee stage on this bill. Mr. Chairman, the -

MR. WINDSOR: Point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. the Member for Mount Pearl on a point of order.

MR. WINDSOR: Mr. Chairman, what is the member speaking to. Is he speaking to this debate now?

AN HON. MEMBER: Committee.

MR. WINDSOR: Well, it is my impression, Mr. Chairman, that the minister spoke to the debate earlier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Did he speak more than once?

AN HON. MEMBER: On closure you can't.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. WINDSOR: Closure is not in yet. So you are speaking to the bill. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, that is fine.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please! Order, please!

For discussion right now we are discussing Bill No. 31 in Committee and hon. members have an opportunity to speak for thirty minutes, and then speak again if there is a speaker in between them.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, I don't know if the House will agree to allow me a couple of minutes to say what I wish to say, I feel I must say, but I'm not going to make an argumentative speech. I can do that at another time, another place. The problem is if we don't finish by noon we will have to come back at 2:00 p.m. and I suspect that will inconvenience members on all sides, and there is no -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: I believe the hon. gentleman, but his colleagues, other than the gentleman for Mount Pearl, appear to take a different view.

The problem, Mr. Chairman, is that there is no time allocation rule in this House, except the closure rule. The closure rule gives a certainty when a debate must end but it does not allow, unfortunately, and hon. members opposite are quite correct in what they say, it does not allow members to speak more than once. The problem is it does two things; it puts a certainty in but also restricts the number of interventions in debate. The problem is, hon. members will recall two or three years ago when the hon. Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for St. John's East kept us here all night with a silly, silly debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: We did not do that.

MR. ROBERTS: No, I agree, but I could not get an understanding that we would not do it. Mr. Chairman, what I am prepared to say is if members wish to agree on a fixed time -

MR. WINDSOR: (inaudible sit down now.

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, if the surly, sulky, sullen ignorant, Member for Mount Pearl does not want to say anything -

MR. WINDSOR: I move a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

That hon. gentleman has been here long enough to know that he cannot call another hon. member ignorant. All he is simply doing Mr. Chairman, is showing his own ignorance. I say the minister is showing his ignorance but I cannot call him ignorant. The minister opposite does not own this House, he does not control this House, he is only one other member in this House and he shall follow the rules as well as every other member, and I ask Your Honour to direct him to withdraw immediately.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the hon. Government House Leader withdraw the comments?

MR. ROBERTS: I shall withdraw, Mr. Chairman, and I apologize to the hon. member for allowing the likes of him to provoke me. I should know better at my age.

Now, Mr. Chairman, we are prepared, if hon. members wish, to agree to a time allocation formula and if they do not wish to do it the same result will happen, the debate will end on Monday evening. That will happen, but at the same time they will restrict the ability of any member to speak more than once and they will also have a rule that members may speak for thirty minutes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, do we have an agreement that the clock could stop for a minute or two?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MR. ROBERTS: I understand that we have agreement that the clock will stop for a minute or two. All I will say is simply repeat, if members of the House wish to put in place a procedure instead of the closure procedure which will achieve the end of bringing this debate to an end at a certain time, and I would suggest 10:00 or 11:00 o'clock Monday night. I will call it the first thing on Monday afternoon when we get to Orders of the Day and that will allow seven hours for debate at committee stage. That is a long time for debate. Then we are quite prepared to put in place a new procedure, but it will take unanimous consent. If members are not prepared to do that - I have no quarrel; I am not asking them now. They can have the weekend.

MR. WINDSOR: Sit down. You're (inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, passions may subside somewhat, reason may prevail - that's up to them - but what I will say is that we are quite anxious to have a thorough debate at committee. Seven hours is a thorough... We are not prepared to put ourselves in a position, given the performance we have seen the last couple of days -

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, I am not going to be deterred by the bullying tactics of the hon. gentleman from Mount Pearl. I am not going to get into that kind of personal abuse from the gentleman from Mount Pearl. He should be ashamed of himself. I believe he is not ashamed of himself, and that makes it even more of a shame.

MR. WINDSOR: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, the hon. gentleman is simply making a fool of himself.

Now let me come back. I will leave the offer on the table. If members wish to have a rational debate in committee stage where members can speak more than once, I would suggest for not more than five minutes, or perhaps ten, if we agree to speak for not more than five or ten minutes each, but could speak more than once, if we catch the Speaker's eye. Now we are not debating principle in committee; we are debating the details of the bill and the schedule, and I know members wish to bring forward amendments, and I am anxious to see them brought forward and dealt with. If we are prepared to agree to that unanimously on Monday then we will do it, but what the government will ask in return is a commitment that the votes necessary to conclude committee stage will be put at a time certain.

Now I will leave members with that. We will call the matter for first order of business on Monday for debate. If there is an agreement, the agreement will govern. If there is no agreement, we shall ask the Notice of Motion, put by my friend today, we will ask the question raised by the Notice of Motion to be put, and we will let the House decide its fate.

The tyranny of the minority, I would say, is just as bad as the tyranny of the majority. We are following the rules of this House, and we will debate according to those rules.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ROBERTS: With that said, Mr. Chairman, I move the adjournment of this debate.

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

MR. SPEAKER (L. Snow): 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 some progress, and asks leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow, Monday, at 2:00 p.m. and, as I said, the order of business for the day will be to deal with the committee stage of the redistribution bill. All that remains to be decided is whether we do it rationally and sensibly or whether we do it under a closure procedure.

I move that the House do now adjourn, Sir.

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