December 8, 1995            HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLII  No. 72


The House met at 9:00 a.m.

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

Oral Questions

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I was in the middle of oral questions. The minister was asking me did I bring back his questions, and I was telling him, yes.

Having said that, I suppose we have a quorum to proceed. I had a question for the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, so I will ask the acting Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, if he is there, or the Government House Leader.

MR. DECKER: (Inaudible) you're supposed to ask me questions.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: But you're the acting minister of everything else, certainly not Finance as well.

I want to ask - it is a concern over severance packages and the amount of money being paid out. I just wanted to ask whoever is going to answer over there, can they confirm that severance packages of up to sixty-two weeks pay are being provided to many displaced workers, including those with years of service, to be fully pensionable? I'm just wondering if somebody over there can confirm that. Because certainly, that is going to have a big impact on the projected $60 million savings.

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of my colleague, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, I will answer as much as I can at this time. There may be some matters that one would have to take as notice.

We are under an obligation to pay severance, which comes, in my understanding, from two sources. Many, if not all, of the collective agreements have provisions in them that oblige the government to pay severance in certain situations. There are stated policies that have been in effect for many years with respect to non-collective bargaining groups, the so-called management employees, that also call for the payment of severance. I do not know the detail as to how many weeks one can get. My understanding was, it was one week for every year, a week a year -no -

MR. SULLIVAN: For every week worked up to a maximum of twenty except that in (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ROBERTS: I thank my friend, the Member for Ferryland. He may even have got it right. I have to tell him, he was late again getting in this morning. When I got here he wasn't here. Now that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board is here, he can take over and answer, but I would make two other points with respect to the severance packages.

The first is that my colleague - when he takes up the ball that I am about to throw laterally to him, my colleague will confirm, as he said the other day, that in doing our sums we have taken into account the effect of severance, because it is a real factor. And secondly, the obligation to pay severance is there and must be honoured until such time as the obligation is changed, and that is a matter for collective bargaining and so on. Now, with that said, my colleague, having arrived here, may wish to make the answer.

MR. SPEAKER: The Opposition House Leader, on a supplementary.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to welcome the Minister of Finance. Can he confirm that the $4.7 million in savings from salaries will be unattainable due to severance packages that are being paid, some in the range of $75,000 and higher, to displaced workers? Can he confirm for the House that indeed the $4.7 million will not be saved because of severance packages, or payments, some as high as $75,000, which are being paid out?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A couple of points: one is, I haven't seen any individual severance packages that are determined in accordance with a formula that has existed for some time. Secondly, the $4.7 million does not include severance, but we expect that it will not exceed $1.5 million. As I said earlier, I think so, but do not hold me to that figure because there a complicated process of bumping in the bargaining unit which makes it difficult to ascertain at this time. We also expect that most of that money will be found in departmental budgets, so we expect that we will save by far the greater part of that $4.7 million.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, on a supplementary.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

It seems that the minister, to some degree, is confirming that perhaps the $60 million saving might be off by about $1.5 or $2 million because of severance. I am just wondering, has the minister, since his announcement, firmed up any areas where he is going to achieve his $11 million saving, the $11 million figure that he said he had not firmed up and was not sure where it was going to come from? Has he now identified areas where he is going to save that $11 million or will he indeed save the $11 million?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Those figures are already confirmed by the departments. When they made their submissions, they indicated they would save amounts from their various operating accounts, whether it is their telephone accounts, travel accounts, purchasing accounts, purchased services, consulting fees, a whole range of items. In this particular case, we know exactly where that $11 million is coming from in each department.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, on a supplementary.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

A final supplementary for the minister.

Each year, in February or March, we see adjustment in federal payments to the Province. Can the minister confirm that the Province will be receiving an upward adjustment in transfers from the federal government in the new year and has the minister any indication from the federal government as to how much it will be increased and if such is the case, if the minister achieves the $60 million in savings now, and balances his Budget, will we then have a surplus in this fiscal year, in the Province's Budget?

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

MR. DICKS: I hope so, Mr. Speaker.

We receive an adjustment or we get an indication every three months. The figures are done every six months; we don't necessarily receive an upward adjustment in February, it very much depends on the strength of the equalization formula and how it is working in the other provinces. It could very well be a downward adjustment. What we are doing is we are monitoring our -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: No. We get them roughly every three months. We found in August a preliminary estimate where the national economy was standing. I expect that about late January early February, we will have some indication but we won't find out until year end, say at the end of the next six-months period what our equalization is likely to be for the year, but as regards the surplus, I would be delighted to see one, Mr. Speaker. Certainly it is our objective to balance the Budget should we be fortunate enough to achieve a surplus I would be more than happy.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions are for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

The cutbacks announced Tuesday have effectively decimated the urban and rural planning division of the department. This division has a number of municipal plans in various stages of completion, and I want to ask the minister what arrangements he has made for the completion of those municipal plans that were initiated by the division of urban and rural planning over the past year or so?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member is correct; there are some plans that have not been completed. We are assessing those now and we are going to continue to work on those plans if possible. I still have a section of the urban and rural planning division left in my department, albeit, there is a small section left. We are hoping to finish up those plans that are close to being finished and we will have to address the others that we have, basically just started in the last little while, so it may mean at the end of the day, we will have to notify some communities that their plans can't be done by my department.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount, on a supplementary.

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Effectively, the planning processes for the municipalities have been I guess, abandoned at the worst and I guess privatized at best, since most municipalities have no planning expertise at all.

To avoid uncontrolled and haphazard growth and to avoid urban as well as rural sprawl, and to assure that residential and commercial interests live in harmony together, I'm wondering if the minister plans to introduce legislative amendments that will make municipal planning a mandated function for each community as is the case in many other provinces.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I had some difficulty hearing the last part of the hon. member's question. At least I will answer the first part for him.

Because the urban and rural planning division of my department has basically been eliminated, with the exception of some workers that will be looking after provincial issues and provincial issues alone, I'm assuming that a number of private companies in Newfoundland, particularly in St. John's, that are in the process of doing urban and rural planning anyway and have been doing it for some years hopefully will pick up a number of these people who we have laid off. Then it becomes the responsibility, yes, of the municipality to pay for these plans through an independent company or business.

At the end of the day it is a question of the government getting out of urban and rural planning as it relates to municipal town plans. Ultimately, if town councils want planning done in their communities they will have to seek and pay for that service through the private sector.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, if I could return to the latter part of my previous question. It centred on, I guess, the proposed amendments to the municipalities act. I'm asking the minister if he intends to do what is the practice in many other Canadian provinces, whereby planning is a requirement, a mandated function, for the municipality. At the moment it is an optional thing that municipalities may do and only about 120 have plans in place. In other provinces it is a mandated function. If he is not going to do it in his division, is he going to require by law that municipalities have plans in place?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I think if I answer the question I would be guessing. From a personal point of view I can't see where the government would mandate or compel a community to formulate a town plan, one that has no town plan at the present time. Those towns that have town plans in place now, I would imagine that we will insist that those town plans be abided by.

If the hon. member is asking me to legislate that all communities in the Province be compelled to have town plans, then I, as an individual, would certainly not recommend that to my government to introduce. It would put an extra burden on -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. REID: It would put an extra burden of financial responsibility on a lot of communities in the Province that do not have town plans now, and if as late as late 1995 there are towns in the Province that don't have town plans, I would suggest to the hon. member and this House that they probably have no intention of looking for a town plan per se, so the answer to the final part is: No, I don't have any intention at this particular time of introducing, or trying to introduce, such a piece of legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount on a supplementary.

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As the minister knows, all municipal plans must be updated every five years, and only about 120 municipalities actually have municipal plans, as I said before. One of the reasons for having planning is to avoid uncontrolled residential and commercial development, and saving dollars today is going to cost us probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future.

Is the minister not concerned that his budgetary measures, and the measures he has taken in dropping the planning division, are going to result, in the long run, having a devastating effect on orderly municipal development in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, I am not the one who tries to stand and defend or justify actions, but I have to say quite honestly the hon. member is correct and we had to deal with that particular problem.

I do admit that because of the lack of funding in urban and rural planning in this Province, at the end of the day the work is not going to get done. That will mean that sooner or later, be it five years or ten years, there will be some government, be it this one or another government, that will definitely have the trouble and the problems, and I suppose the schemozzle, that will be created in the next number of years, because I can honestly say that I believe that most municipalities will not - the larger ones will, the St. John's and the Corner Brooks and the Carbonears, but the vast majority of communities in this Province will not - be able to afford to employ a town planner, be it on a contractual basis or permanently. At the end of the day, yes, these town plans will probably disappear and we probably will end up with the situation that the hon. member is talking about.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is too much conversation, general conversation going on, it is very difficult to hear members when they speak.

The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Minister of Health. Will the Minister of Health confirm if the position of Director of Human Resources in the Department of Health has been eliminated? If so, who or what position will now take responsibility for human resources?

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

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

One of the twenty-six positions we eliminated last week, it seems to me, was the Director of Human Resources or in traditional terms I would call it Director of Personnel. That position was held by a person with thirty-seven years service and I believe he retired. As a result of that, the duties that he performed will obviously be assimilated by others in the department such that - as a result of his position being eliminated, I say to the hon. member, the duties that he performed will be reassigned to other people within the department such that there will be no lack of service on that account.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to direct my next question to the Minister of Finance.

Will the Minister of Finance confirm that in addition to the normal maximum of twenty weeks of severance pay, there are enhanced packages of an extra forty-two weeks for a total of sixty-two weeks being provided to some displaced employees?

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

MR. DICKS: Not that I know of, Mr. Speaker. If the hon. gentleman could be more specific I will certainly brief the House at the end of this as to what the exact severance payments are in terms of for each employee of government.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. All I asked the minister is would he confirm that there are employees being displayed getting sixty-two weeks severance pay? That is a simple question that I am aware of, that there are people there.

So I will go on to my next question, Mr. Speaker. Will the minister confirm that while hefty severance packages are being provided others working for only one-third the amount of that severance package are being let go and this is causing considerable stress within departments, thus resulting in the provision of stress counselling? Will the minister confirm that?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. GRIMES: What are you asking about it for? What's your point? What point are you trying to make? What are you asking the question for -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has not recognized the hon. minister yet.

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, the government provides severance in the same way that an individual who has a contract of employment with his or her employer is entitled to what is known at law as a reasonable period of notice. It is calculated primarily on two things: one is the length of time that you've worked for the employer, the second thing is your age at the time you are dismissed. The reason age is a factor is that it is considered at law that once you pass a certain age it is more difficult to find placement in the workforce, and secondly you often forego substantial amounts of money that would normally come to you by way of pension.

What government has done is it has a table that it uses, and it matches up a person's years of service and age to yield a certain severance package. That is calculated on a person's base salary. So that for example, someone who has worked for government for twenty-five years who is fifty years of age would receive - and I don't have the table before me - but we certainly pay in excess of a year at times. If that person's salary is $60,000 then they would receive in excess of $60,000. So that may very well be the case.

How it is applied in each circumstance - hon. members can appreciate that until we know exactly who is being terminated, what their length of service and age are, and the amount of salaries, it is very difficult to give a comprehensive figure. It may very well be that individuals who've worked for us for twenty-five years, thirty years, are receiving a severance package that is equal to or more than a year's salary. That, Mr. Speaker, is more than fair, and in some cases frankly somewhat less than the individual might receive at law if they were to sue government and weren't bound by the severance package.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Green Bay.

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A question for the Minister of Natural Resources. I've had concerns expressed to me from the mining industry - certainly the mining exploration industry - that its current upsurge in business over the last year or so, I think reaching the $50 million mark in this particular year, may be negatively impacted by proposed tax changes that the government is considering bringing in. The industry is concerned that it hasn't been consulted and there is a great deal of uncertainty. Will the minister indicate whether or not the companies concerned can have some input before this matter is finally brought before the House?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about tax legislation that will be handled by the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. He will speak to the details of that in due course, but the question was put to me. I would say that I've had lots of discussion with representatives of industry since last May 24 when we announced that we were going to be reviewing our tax legislation and making some appropriate adjustments. We are going to be prepared to sit down and talk further with industry once the details are laid before the House. We are not going to sit down and review the detailed figures with anybody before it is made public generally. But at any time anyone is welcome to come and give us their opinions on changes to tax legislation.

As for the hon. member opposite and his question, I would ask him and his party to get their own position straight. Since last May 24, weekly, he has been on his feet, or his Leader has been on her feet, or some of their friends on the open line show have been on their feet, saying: Come on with your tax changes, why are you so slow with your tax changes? Get their position straight, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Green Bay.

MR. HEWLETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. One of the reasons we've been asking about this over and over for a long period of time is that there is no certainty as to what the government is about. Is the minister not concerned that bringing in changes this late in the year at a time when companies are scouring the capital markets for funding for next year's exploration program, is he not concerned that the timing and the time for consultation are inappropriate?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, we've been telling the industry and we've been telling the public since last May that we were evaluating, assessing, the options for any potential changes that we may make. We still have not tabled that before the House because we are still working on it but, we understand what is being said. We will consult further when the details are made available. We are, in the meantime, hearing from people regularly, I know I have heard from a number of people in recent days who are concerned now because they know, like everybody knows, that we have been saying by the end of this session we would like to deal with the issue and we will talk to them as time is appropriate.

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

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for someone regarding the marvellous changes as the Premier described, the marvellous changes to the UI Program. I don't know if the Minister of Education and Training is going to respond to it or if Peter O'Brien's cousin is going to respond to it, but in any case, Mr. Speaker, from these marvellous changes, under the program, the fee- payer program, which is people who are in training under the UI Program and which is literally thousands to my understanding, at the end of the school year, that fee-payer will be over, will be cut. If someone is there right now on a three-year program, if they have two years finished, that program is going to be immediately cut.

Mr. Speaker, what is the Government of this Province going to do to insure that these people are not left out in the cold and they will be allowed to continue and complete the programs that they are presently enrolled in?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman is talking about the government to government transfer and what is referred to as the manpower seat. That program started to phase down last year. At one time it was a $7-million transfer; it was cut to $5 million last year and it is going to be phased out over the next two years, therefore, that explains that the students who are already in will be looked after for the next two years.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West, on a supplementary.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, our caucus was briefed by people including the Regional Director, Mr. Sellars, and we were told that it is going to be ended this year, the fee-payer assistant, which has literally thousands of people in training.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, it is not over two years (inaudible) -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

I remind the hon. Member for -

MR. TOBIN: It is going to be eliminated this year and it is over thousands -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the hon. Member for Eagle River that he is not permitted to interject when we are in Question Period or when another member has been recognized.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Eagle River might not be concerned about his constituents who are under this fee-payer system but we on this side of the House are very concerned.

Mr. Speaker, that has been confirmed by the Regional Director that this program will end, I say to the minister. Now let me ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, about what we always call the old manpower seat, which he presently referred to, that public schools and private schools in this Province have been depending upon, that will be eliminated, will be phased out over a period of time under this marvellous program. Under the present system, the HRDC accepts a program and selects people to go into it to be sponsored. Mr. Speaker, that is no more.

Now I understand that what is going to happen, is that, people will be allowed to apply for these programs, may, Mr. Speaker, may get some funding and indeed it may be a loan. It may certainly be a loan from HRDC, it most likely will be a loan. What is the minister going to do, to insure that the people of this Province who cannot afford to have training because of family commitments and otherwise, who presently occupy such seats will be allowed to continue to have these types of programs?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member was advised that the government to government transfer is going to stop this year, he was ill-advised, that is not the case; it is going to be phased out. What will government do? Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member must know is that of the $200 million which government spends in postsecondary education, only about a third of that used to come in by way of established programs financing. We will continue to deal with the needs of our people as we always have with our postsecondary education and we will spend the money that we have to do that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Burin - Placentia West, on a supplementary.

MR. TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the minister doesn't know very much about what he is saying, I would suggest to him, because we were briefed very clearly by the officials and we know all about what is going to happen to the fee-payer system.

Let me ask the minister: will he insure that the present number of people in this Province who are on the manpower seats and fee-payer programs, that that same number will continue after this program is eliminated?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, he is asking an impossible question because I don't have the ability to see into the future. There might well indeed be more students or there might be fewer, but there will be many factors which will determine that. One of the factors is certainly some changes to the Unemployment Insurance Program as we know it, and other changes will have to do with the ability of the Province to pay and the need of the Province for various kinds of training, so it is extremely difficult to answer that kind of question because I am by no means clairvoyant, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question today is for the Minister of Social Services. Last week I asked the minister questions concerning an internal investigation going on at the Whitbourne youth centre by the facility's operations manager into allegations of sexual harassment and other allegations. I would like to ask the minister: Is this investigation complete, does she have a report and, if so, will she be reporting to the House?

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

MS YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think the hon. member has his facts mixed up again.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS YOUNG: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to answer a question, but I do not have the opportunity to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member has asked a question. I ask all hon. members to do the courteous thing and let the hon. minister answer.

MS YOUNG: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When the hon. member asked the question last week I checked into all of the information he provided - or misinformation I should say, and there was a situation where a staff member was concerned that there were, I guess, acts of intimidation against that staff member by another staff member. It was investigated and it was unfounded.

MR. SPEAKER: We have time for a quick supplementary. The hon. the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes.

MR. MANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the minister: Is she satisfied with the investigation? Also, the investigation concerned some other allegations at the Whitbourne youth centre. Is she satisfied that all these allegations have been put to rest?

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

MS YOUNG: Any investigations that have been ongoing at the Whitbourne centre, as far as I am concerned, they have been clued up and I have no reason to believe there is need for any further investigation.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has elapsed.

Before continuing with routine proceedings, I would like to welcome to the gallery, on behalf of all hon. members, sixty-five Grade VI students from Bishop Abraham Elementary, accompanied by their teachers, Glenn Cake, Gary Morgan, and Lorna Walters.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I hereby table the public accounts of the Province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1995.

MR. SPEAKER: In accordance with section 13 of the Auditor General's Act, I hereby table the Annual Report of the Auditor General for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1995.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. RAMSAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following resolution:

WHEREAS the Economic Diversification and Growth Enterprises Act is an essential and integral part of government's efforts to diversify our economy and to generate new employment opportunities for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS EDGE status has already been granted to twenty-four companies with the potential to create close to 600 new jobs and $100 million in new investment in the Province; and

WHEREAS closure of the groundfish fishery by the Government of Canada has had a negative effect on the economy of this Province, which could be partially redressed through the Federal Government's participation and an expanded EDGE program;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly endorses government's efforts in aggressively marketing and promoting the EDGE program as a mechanism of encouraging new business growth in the Province, and thereby providing new employment opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this House of Assembly supports the Province's request that the Federal Government participate in the EDGE program by mirroring the corporate income tax provisions of it in an appropriate manner until such time as the full-time equivalent jobs that were lost due to the federal closure of the groundfish fishery have been recouped.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that so many members are here, and that they heard the announcement on the radio that Mr. Snow's class would be called to order today, notwithstanding the weather.

We have three bills we are going to ask the House to address this morning, if we should be so fortunate as to get through all three. The three are the ones I spoke of yesterday when we adjourned and when members opposite, and on this side, too, asked if we would be meeting today given the prospect of a degree of inclement weather.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: He wants to do Bill 4 first; is that okay?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: Alright.

I earlier told the House we would deal in order with Orders 28, 29 and 30, but there has been a request from my colleague, the Minister of Finance, to see if we would do Order 29 first. If that is agreeable to the House, I would ask that that bill be called first. It is a fairly minor amendment to the Workers' Compensation Act, but important in its own right. If that is agreeable, perhaps, Your Honour, we could deal with Order 29 and then Order 28, and then Order 30, and if we get through that then we will see where we go. We will not sit beyond noon today, as we earlier agreed.

With that said, we will ask Your Honour to please call Order 29, Bill No. 4, Sir.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act". (Bill No. 4)

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Before debate begins on Bill No. 4, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act", I would like to make a brief statement. The subject matter of this bill relates to an issue which affects me personally, and I have taken no part in consideration of this bill at either the official or Cabinet level.

I now make a declaration under section 33 of the House of Assembly Act, and will ask the Clerk to make an appropriate notification in the House records. My colleague, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, will carry the bill to its various parliamentary stages in the House. Thank you.

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As members are aware, several years ago this government introduced changes to the Workers' Compensation Act that helped stabilize the liabilities that had accumulated in the plan. Essentially, this related to a rearrangement and the diminishment of amounts of entitlements of individuals who were working. In some cases it was seen that workers were being paid their full pay which resulted in a net benefit to them since taxation does not apply to compensation payments.

In reviewing the decisions that were earlier made, it was policy decision of government to continue some workers at a higher rate then this new amendment would have allowed. This Section 81.2, that has five subsections, deals with that particular situation. The key one is subsection 1 which continues any worker who is injured prior to January 1, 1993, and in receipt of that compensation for thirty-two continuous weeks prior to December 31, 1992, and where the worker has continuously received the compensation from that point forward. However, subsection 2 goes on to deny those benefits to someone who is receiving extended earning clause benefits. The reason being of course, that extending earning clause benefits are comprehensive and in fact substitute for the benefits under subsection 1. I believe that most members are familiar with the Workers' Compensation Act from the many concerns and requests we get from constituents from time to time. I am sure members have as well, had to deal with the particular situation which differentiates between that class of people injured prior to January 1, 1993, and the thirty-nine weeks of continuance payments. It is an amendment that I believe is fair and warranted and I commend it to the House for consideration in second reading. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a brief comment, maybe the minister might be able to clarify it. My interpretation is that it is going to allow now an employer to give an amount or a top-up, not higher then the adjusted amount in the legislation I guess two years. Normally you could top-up, so you could get equivalent to full earnings but with the limitations that were brought in, I think, in 1993, if I remember correctly, under the act, it reduced the amount proportionally down. So now they are only allowed to continue -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, but now they are going to allow top-ups up to the limitations set now and for an amount they are now receiving. Is that basically the purpose for this? For example, if you are getting 80 per cent, I will use that figure, 80 per cent before your top-up could give you up to 100 per cent, now if you are limited, let's say to 75 per cent but the amount you were receiving, let's say, is less then that they will allow you a top-up now up to the highest limit now that is set under this new legislation. That is my interpretation. The top-up cannot be above, I say to the minister, cannot be above the limits set by the government. I think in their '93 legislation, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation was the minister at the time. Would that be it? No, I think it can kick up to - can it kick into eighty on the long term or something I believe is the maximum now? So I think the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation knows the question I am asking, maybe if I could get an answer to that because I am not sure. That is my interpretation of this. I want to know if it is right.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and with the permission of the hon. member, not meaning to speak in the debate. Again, the gist of what the hon. member proposed, Mr. Speaker, is exactly the effect of the legislation, that it will not permit again the opportunity for a person to be topped up to a full 100 per cent. The reductions in the basic benefit level do apply even to these long term injured workers who are being reduced by 1.5 per cent or so a year down to 80 per cent over a period of five years. Basically what this bill does, it says that the top-up that they were receiving, in terms of a cash value, can stay in place so that their total package benefit will decline by 10 per cent over a five year period, but the dollar value of the top-up is allowed to stay in place for this select group of long-term injured workers. But it cannot go back to a full 100 per cent like before. It is limited by the other restraints in the legislation. So the hon. member, Mr. Speaker, is basically correct in his portrayal of it.

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

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe the hon. member's question has been explained by my hon. colleague. There being no further debate on the matter I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Workers' Compensation Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House presently. (Bill No. 4)

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 28.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act". (Bill No. 26)

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I'm introducing a bill to amend the Highway Traffic Act. Really these changes are basically house-keeping, but nevertheless some of them are substantial changes to change the vehicles according to the changes to be made to accommodate school buses and some other amendments under the definitions of vehicles which provide clearly the meaning of various terms. Administrative procedures dealing with suspended drivers which will be enhanced, and the law respecting stopping for school buses in St. John's will be clarified. I'm going to go through them so there will be a clear understanding of all the different clauses, what we are doing to the Highway Traffic Act to compensate for the changes being made.

In clause 1, this clause will repeal and replace the definition for bus, commercial motor vehicle, school bus, and a trailer. There are two problems with the existing definition of a bus. Buses are currently defined as vehicles with a seating capacity of seven or more in addition to the driver. This means that any van that you would buy or rent for personal use could be considered as a school bus, requiring you to have a class 04 driver's licence.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: That is right. That is only seven in total, that is right.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Okay, let me start again. The buses that are currently defined as vehicles with a seating capacity of seven or more in addition to the driver. You would be talking seven plus one. Seven or more in addition to the driver. This means that any van, as I just said, is potentially a school bus. That presents a number of problems. Private individuals wishing to rent a passenger van are required to have a class 04 driver's licence, a bus up to twenty-four passengers. It doesn't make any sense that an individual wanting to rent a van or to purchase a van would have to have a class 04 driver's licence, the same as if you were driving a bus up to twenty-four passengers.

We are changing the existing act to delete that requirement and to extend that. A bus would be a van or a vehicle with a minimum seating capacity of ten. So to try to get rid of - not to try, we are getting rid of the problem that an individual experiences in having a driver's licence, a class 04 driver's licence now, would be a class driver's licence driving a light vehicle or a personal vehicle. This is in addition to the national standard. Most provinces across Canada have those changes.

Number two, buses are currently defined as vehicles being used for compensation. Again in this clause this presents a problem, because we have the example of where you would use a bus for commercial reasons, transportation of children, but at the same time a bus being used by an organization, such as a church organization, bringing kids to Sunday school, are not required to have a commercial inspection the same as a commercial bus. That doesn't make any sense. Because if you are transporting children, passengers, on a school bus, whether you are doing it for profit or whether you are doing it free of charge, doesn't make it any less necessary to have that bus in a safe condition.

The act is now being changed so that the transportation of all passengers, whether it be on a commercial basis or a charitable basis, or in the case of Sunday school children being transported for whatever reason, the bus will be required to have a commercial inspection. And it is the same way across Canada. So we are trying to bring it into line, keeping in mind that safety is the number one issue here. The issue we are dealing with is the safety of carrying passengers, whether it be for money or whether it be free of charge.

The next part we are dealing with is the commercial motor vehicle. The current definition of a commercial motor vehicle is contradictory. It includes vehicles carrying more than six passengers but excludes buses and school buses. The definition also differs significantly from the national standard, and it is proposed to change the definition to eliminate the contradiction and to conform to the national standard format. Again, we are trying to eliminate where one part of the act contradicts another, and we are also trying to bring in the same standards in Newfoundland as are nationally accepted, right across this country.

For example, the current definition of a school bus contains a minor wording inconsistency which causes confusion to some readers. It is proposed to change the wording which sets the minimum seating capacity to be in the same format as other definitions. No change to the minimum seating capacity for school buses is being proposed, although a change is recommended for buses to ten passengers, a similar change to school buses, which would result in over 100 school buses not being required to have a semi-annual inspection, flashing lights or stop-arms. The wording changes from `more than six passengers in addition to the driver', to `seven passengers in addition to the driver'.

There is a problem there with the licensing of trailers. At the U-Haul rental company, for example, there are a number of tow dollies which are used to tow cars with one axle resting on the dolly. The tow dollies are normally towed by motor homes from point to point, moved within North America, and are not returned to the rental office from the originating Province or state. It is almost impossible for the rental companies to keep track of which dolly is given in any jurisdiction.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you reading that?

MR. EFFORD: Yes, I am. I want to make sure that the hon. member clearly understands it, and if I get up and speak without reading it and talk in the usual political norm, he will not understand the issue and it is important that he should, because I think in a few minutes he is going to have to stand up and understand what I have just said.

It is almost impossible, as I just said, for the rental companies to keep track of which dolly is given in any jurisdiction, making the annual licensing of these dollies equally difficult. For example, you rent a trailer from out on Kenmount Road, from that agency. It has a Newfoundland plate on it and you can drop it off in any province in Canada - Quebec, Alberta, whatever; therefore, it is in Alberta with the license plate and is registered in Newfoundland. Newfoundland is the only jurisdiction in North America requiring these dollies to be registered. It is proposed that the definition of a trailer be amended to exclude these dollies. In other words, we are saying, that small trailer which is used to transport a vehicle, with two vehicles on top of the dolly, will not now have to be registered, and when that trailer is dropped off in any given point then there is no problem with the registration in any particular province.

Clause 2: This clause will amend Section 42 to more clearly outline the offenses under that paragraph by equating the level of the offence of driving an unregistered semi-trailer to the registration fee for the trailer. When I give you the explanation as to why we are doing this, it will be clearly understood why it has to be changed. The registration fee for a combination truck-trailer and semi-trailer is based on the minimum gross mass for the combination of the two vehicles. The fee paid for the tractor includes the right to haul a trailer. The registration fee for the semi-trailer is $38 annually and it is only a fee for the plate on the trailer.

Section 42 creates an offence for the operation of an unregistered vehicle, and this is where it gets to the point of why we have to make changes. An unregistered semi-trailer could be issued a $900 fine. Now, here we are talking about a $38 fee to register the trailer and yet, if it is not registered you have to pay a $900 fine. That is a bit unfair so what we are doing it changing the actual registration fee to permit the towing of a trailer which has already been paid in the tractor fee, and the fine for operating an unregistered semi-trailer will be $45, so we are bringing the fine down from $900 to $45.

Now, I say to hon. members, I am doing this for a reason, because I understand that my critic on the opposite side does not understand the highway traffic very well, and unless I make those few notes, I will get into a lot of political things, and the reason why this government never did this, and the reason why I have to do it. Then he is going to get all confused, and when he stands in his place, he is not going to understand what I have said, and therefore, he is going to make a `you know what' of himself.

Now, clause 3 would amend section 43 - and I am saying it slowly so that the hon. member will understand it - to allow the evaluation of a driver.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: It is quite obvious that this piece of legislation is not important to members behind me and on the other side, but I can assure you, if I get criticized for not making sure that our highways are safe - I am going to do everything in my power to make it safe and more safe and more safe, and this is what we are doing.

AN HON. MEMBER: A lot safer, not more safe.

MR. EFFORD: More safer.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, safer.

MR. EFFORD: Safer - unbelievable!

Mr. Speaker, clause 3 would amend section 43 to allow for the evaluation of a driver whose licence has been suspended under the demerit point system. And here again, the problem with the act is that a person who has lost his licence through the demerit point system cannot go through an evaluation process under the education program because his or her driver's licence has been suspended, and the proposal has been received from the driving school authorized to present the driver reinstatement clause to include an on-road driving evaluation as part of the course.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Yes, so the hon. member can understand it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: No, the driver reinstatement clause is mandatory for drivers whose licence has been suspended, as I just said, because of the accumulated demerit point system. An on-road evaluation would be a definite enhancement to this clause; unfortunately, section 43 of the act does not allow a person to take an on-road driver's course while his or her licence has been suspended under the demerit point system.

What we are doing now is changing the act so that a person who has lost his licence, accumulated twelve points under the demerit point system, will be able to take an on-road evaluation course through a driver education program or whatever while his or her licence is under suspension. So they can go through that, and when their suspension date is up, they can get their licence and go right back on the road.

We know some members on this side, and some members around the House of Assembly, have gone through that process. So what you would be able to do, if it happens again to certain individuals who are smiling, it would help you get your licence, go through an evaluation course while your licence has been suspended because of the demerit point system - in other words, through a driver training program.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Well, what you would have to do now is go and -

AN HON. MEMBER: After the suspension date.

MR. EFFORD: After the suspension date expires you go through the program.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Yes, you will get it back more quickly.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Exactly. So we are doing the right thing for those people who have been so callously driving the excessive speed limits as to lose their licence, and now we just want to make sure they get the opportunity -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: What can I say? The more you do, the more they criticize, so we will just keep on doing what is right.

Clause 4 -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) back to haunt you, now.

MR. EFFORD: Well, I have two now; I got caught the other day.

This clause would amend section 48 to allow an unlicensed, suspended driver to be treated as if they held a valid driver's licence. It is proposed to amend section 48 to require that where an unlicensed person has had his or her driving privileges suspended, he or she will be treated the same as a licensed driver under the act and regulations with respect to reinstatement requirements, and this is the reason we are doing it. This could consist of completing an education course, being road tested, and having to pay a reinstatement fee.

As well, it is proposed to amend the act to require under-age drivers to serve the period of the suspension commencing when they reach sixteen. In other words, a young man or a young woman, fifteen years of age, takes a vehicle, drives the vehicle, gets caught, gets a fine and goes under suspension for a period of time, you can't do much to them when they are fifteen years of age, but what we are saying is that when they become sixteen and they would be eligible to get a motor bike licence -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: A dirt bike licence, or whatever, then their suspension would start when they come of age to get a driver's licence. And the act prohibits the issuance of a driver's license to a driver while under suspension. The act does not deal with the issue of unlicensed drivers who have had their driving privileges suspended in the case of someone who loses his license under the .08, so they go out and take the vehicle, they don't have a driver's license, they have been suspended, they are now driving, and now the act will allow them to go under the same fines and suspensions as if they had a driver's license. So, anybody caught driving while his license is suspended, would, under the Criminal Code of Canada, be subjected to the same fines and suspension as they would if they had a driver's license.

MR. SULLIVAN: Even if he is caught under .05 (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: No, under all suspensions.

MR. SULLIVAN: And on a 24-hour suspension, does it apply, too?

MR. EFFORD: Under all suspensions.

MR. SULLIVAN: All suspensions. If you are caught under .05 (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Yes, if you have a .05 and you have already lost your licence under the Criminal Code of Canada, you get stopped, you have you licence suspended for whatever reason -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Yes, but wait now. You have your licence suspended for any reason, for whatever period of time and you are caught under the .05 during that period of suspension, then you will do without your driving privilege for a period of time.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: No. Now, clause 5, would amend section 71, subsection 7 to allow for the road testing of drivers whose licences have lapsed or expired while under suspension. So there is another change, the same as we talked about previously on the (inaudible) of the clause would allow people to get a driving test while their licences are under suspension. Section 71 of the act, currently allows the Registrar to conduct a road test of a driver whose driver's licence is under suspension. Drivers whose licences have lapsed or expired while under suspension or otherwise are not able to take a road test without first obtaining a driver's permit, paying the fees etcetera. This is especially onerous for drivers under suspension for medical reasons, so we are going to change the act to allow people to take a road test while under the driver's licence suspension.

Clause 6, would amend section 137 subsection 1, to require drivers within the City of St. John's to stop for school buses when the red lights are flashing. The act currently requires all drivers to stop for school buses when the red lights are flashing, except in the City of St. John's. It is strange, I don't understand why this wasn't changed before. What we are saying here is, anywhere outside the City of St. John's, when the school bus is stopped, all vehicles must stop. The exception is in the City of St. John's - the act did not require people to stop when a school bus stopped. We are changing the act for all of the Province now, and in the City of St. John's, when a school bus stops with a flashing red light and the stop sign is out, all traffic must stop to allow the safe movement of schoolchildren off that school bus.

Clause 7 would amend section 178(3), to remove an exemption allowing drivers to not wear shoulder belts. When the legislation was brought in, as well as the belt across the waist, you had to wear the shoulder belt, but now, it is separate. Some of the newer vehicles have the belt in two sections, and what we are changing in the act now is that you can drive your vehicle with the waist belt only and not have to wear the shoulder belt.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: No. Only if they are separate. That is what I was going to read and I want to make it clear. The act currently provides an exemption from wearing the shoulder belt if the lap and shoulder belts are separate units which have to be fastened separately. This exemption was put in place to deal with poorly designed seat belts dating back to the early 1970s. The system was very inconvenient, using seat belts which did not retract. Now, some of the newer cars - this is getting to the point - some of the newer cars with automatic seat belts have re-introduced a separately buckled shoulder belt. It is proposed to remove the exemption allowing drivers to not wear - that's what I said, and I want to emphasize this to make sure that it is clearly understood -to not wear the shoulder belt, as the Province experienced twenty-five years ago, no longer applies. So that's clearly understood, Mr. Speaker.

MR. J. BYRNE: Repeat that again.

MR. EFFORD: Let me repeat it again.

MR. J. BYRNE: Not all of it, just the end of it. What is permitted (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Okay. Some of the newer cars, with automatic seat belts have re-introduced a separately bucked shoulder belt - separately buckled. You have your waist belt and you have your separately buckled shoulder belt. It is proposed to remove the exemption allowing drivers to not wear the shoulder belt, as the problems experienced twenty-four years ago no longer applies. They changed the design of the belt and now you don't have to wear - to not wear the shoulder belt.

MR. J. BYRNE: You're wrong on that one.

MR. EFFORD: The hon. member can argue.

Clause 8 would amend subsection 210 to clarify the state that the owners of vehicles are responsible for non-moving violations and drivers are responsible for moving violations. Section 210 of the Highway Traffic Act makes the owner of a motor vehicle responsible for violations except where the vehicle was in motion or had just stopped. The wording is flawed and that section does not apply to trailers. Therefore, the word `motor' is eliminated, because in some instances there is no motor in a travel-trailer which you are towing. The word `motor' is eliminated. The word `vehicle' includes a trailer.

The previous wording made the driver responsible for a violation if the vehicle had just stopped being in motion. In other words, had a motor and is in motion. In the case of a trailer which you were towing and there was no motor in it, it was still in motion, but under the act, because the word `motor' was there, nobody could be charged for the violation. The cause of problems for the police was knowing who to charge. The new wording clarifies this point.

Mr. Speaker, those clauses will bring the Highway Traffic Act up to standard, making accommodations to the satisfaction of drivers, in some cases, with a suspended driver's licence, safety of school buses, inspections of school buses where there is a charge of a commercial rate or it is a free service provided by an organization, just to keep up to date with the national standards to try to make the operations of our vehicles, all types of vehicles on our highways, safe for the motoring public and the travelling public in general, and especially to the schoolchildren of our Province.

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

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

I would like to say a few words on this bill, Bill No. 26, An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act.

Actually, we met in committee on this bill and there was a fair bit of discussion with respect to the bill. But the first thing I want to address is clause 7. I think the minister may be confused, or I was certainly not interpreting correctly what he was saying. Clause 7 of the bill, the Explanatory Notes say: "...would amend section 178 of the Act to remove an exemption allowing drivers to not wear shoulder belts if lap and shoulder belts are separate units." To me, that clearly says now, that you are required to wear both the lap belt and the shoulder belt. There was permission allowed before, that if they were separate, it was not required to wear both, but now, you are required to wear both.

MR. EFFORD: No!

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, sir, definitely, there is no doubt about it. That is what was clearly explained at the committee meeting, was it not? The Member for LaPoile will confirm it. You have that one wrong. Read it, you can see it there quite clearly.

MR. EFFORD: Read (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Listen to this now, just listen. Under the Explanatory Notes it says: "Clause 7 of the bill would amend section 178 of the Act to remove an exemption allowing drivers to not wear shoulder belts if lap and shoulder belts are separate units."

MR. EFFORD: That's what I said, to not wear shoulder belts.

MR. J. BYRNE: You removed the exemption to not permit them to wear it. You are reading it wrong.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Don't need to. You can explain it, go on, get up. `John', you are wrong. Get up.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: No, I will answer his question. Now, listen: I just read from the Explanatory Notes. I said that you do not now in the future have to wear your shoulder belt. That is what I said.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: You don't have to wear the shoulder belt, in the cases of where the vehicles are automatic retraction. Clause 7(1) reads: "Subsection 178(3) of the Act is amended by striking out the words and commas `but, where a seat belt assembly comprises a pelvic restraint and a torso restraint which are not joined, the driver shall be required to wear the pelvic restraint only,'" and that is what I said. Now, can't you understand? Only.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is because one might (inaudible) the other might not (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: That is right.

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

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

Well, I say to the minister, you had better get it straightened up with the people who put this together. Because it was clearly explained at that meeting that both the lap belt, and shoulder belt were being required. If this is here - I agree with what you saying -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I will read it. I just read it, and from what you are saying here, I agree with what you are saying, but at the meeting it was clearly explained to us that it is not permitted, it is removing that exemption. I think it is something that you should check out, I really do.

MR. EFFORD: The reason I read it more slowly was so that you could understand what I'm talking about.

MR. J. BYRNE: Clause 7. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I will continue on, with that. As I said, we met in committee on this bill. There was a fair bit of discussion, Mr. Speaker, and I am going to go through the clauses. There was a fair bit of discussion on clause 2, and it does deal with the trailer size with respect to the penalties -

MR. RAMSAY: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Do you want to speak to that? Okay.

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

MR. RAMSAY: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to give the House, and the minister, my understanding of it. When we discussed it with the committee, I think it had to do with cars of a certain design back a number of years ago. Those cars, if you recall, used to have a separate seat-belt and shoulder belt that was sometimes put up on the roof part of the car.

MR. EFFORD: What?

MR. RAMSAY: Back a number of years ago some of the older vehicles used to have separate shoulder belts and some people would often cut them out and throw them away, sort of thing. Now, it has changed somewhat, as well, because cars now sometimes, as you know, you get in them and the shoulder harness comes up automatically and the seat-belt part - you can disconnect both of them, correct? So I don't know if the hon. member opposite there has the same view of it. This is actually just trying to fix the older part, I think, as the minister said, which was the part for getting rid of that aspect of it, where people used to cut out the shoulder belt anyway, and also to make sure that they just don't wear the shoulder belt without the pelvic restraint, as is now possible. People can get in the car and don't put the lap belt on, with just the shoulder belt on which can cause further injury. So it is just addressing that, as the minister said.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I thank the member for trying to clear that up. You did a better job than the minister did. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, clause 2 of the bill deals with the -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Clause 2 deals with the trailers and the minister is correct, I say, with respect to fines being issued. The way it is at the present time, if a person is caught towing a trailer and the trailer is not licensed he gets a certain fine; if it is a very small trailer or a tractor-trailer - and now he is making it more in line with the type of trailer that they would be towing.

Clause 4 of the bill, I have a problem with the explanatory note on clause 4 of the bill and the wording. I will just read it now and just listen now, if you want, to the wording of this, it says, `Clause 4 of the bill would amend Section 48 of the act to allow the suspension of the license of an unlicensed driver at a time when he or she first or once again applies for a license where his or her license was suspended while he or she was not licensed.' Now, Mr. Speaker, if you want to talk about something being confusing, that certainly is confusing. Section 4 is basically talking about people being disqualified to drive before their legal age. Again, I agree with the minister, that if a person is disqualified or is picked up for driving without a license before the legal age, once he or she becomes of legal age then that time can be added to their age. It might be a year or six months or whatever the case may be, before they would be permitted to get a license. Now, I have no problem with that and I agree with what they are trying to do there, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SULLIVAN: Ask the Member for LaPoile, he will straighten it up for you.

MR. J. BYRNE: Can you repeat that, please? I cannot hear what you are saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I agree with it, it is no problem. I agree with the minister in what he said. You should pay attention to what I am saying.

Section 4, subsection 5, again, deals with the .08 and people getting their licence returned. Again, I agree with that section.

Subsection 5 talks about a person being under suspension, and they would be permitted to take a road test while under suspension. Again, that is probably a good idea because if a person has his licence suspended for six months or a year they want to get their licence back as soon as possible.

Now, I have never had the experience, and since the point system came in I think I have lost maybe one or two points - the minimum, the very minimum - once. I know the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation was talking about a few members on both sides of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: Going through stop signs. I heard about you.

MR. J. BYRNE: Stop signs? No, I always stop for stop signs, always. It wasn't for that.

Anyway, I agree with that section, that people should be required to do a road test, depending upon the offence of course, and what the registrar would believe to be the problem.

Clause 6 of the bill, Mr. Speaker - I am trying to read my writing here, my notes. Again, this is concerning the red lights flashing on the buses in St. John's. I always wondered why that was the case, why, if you are driving up Torbay Road, you have to stop for a school bus, but once you are inside St. John's boundaries you do not have to stop for a school. I thought, especially in St. John's where we have two, three and four lane highways, that this is a safety precaution. I would certainly support that. It is probably long overdue.

I remember, even when I was going out twenty or twenty-five years ago to get my driver's licence, I remember being with the RCMP officer at the time driving through St. John's, and I stopped for a school bus to let children off, and the RCMP officer said to me: There is no need to stop in St. John's; you can drive by a school bus or a bus. That did not make sense to me at that point in time, and it still doesn't, so I certainly support that clause.

I have a lot to go through yet. One thing I would like to say to the minister, and he should pay attention to this because in the committee meetings - clause 1, I suppose, paragraph 2, it says (inaudible) commercial motor vehicle means a vehicle designed to carry goods, and includes a school bus, a truck, a tractor... It means a vehicle designed - there seemed to be a consensus at the table with everybody there that the words `designed and designated' should go in there because you could have a vehicle that could, as you say, meet the requirements with respect to the size and the capacity and what have you, but is not designated as a school bus, or whatever the case my be. Or when we are talking about vans, panel vans and that type of thing, they thought that the words `and designated' should go in there, and I think the Member for LaPoile will confirm that.

With respect to paragraph 3 under that same section, section 1, I want to bring up something now that the Minister of Education should be pleased to hear, and that is that a school bus means a motor vehicle designed or used to carry seven or more passengers.

The other day when the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay was up speaking about the bus going off the road -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Now I would say to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, that what you got into yesterday was a bit across the line. You know you crossed the line, so why don't you just forget that now. It is low; it is beneath contempt, so forget that and let's get on with the seriousness of this.

Now, the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay brought up the fact that there were eight people on the bus that went off the road.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: No, he didn't bring it up; he said that a bus went off the road, with students on the bus. The Minister of Education made the statement: Well, how many kids were on the bus?

AN HON. MEMBER: He said (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: He said no such thing. He said: There is a school bus that went off the road, with children on it. The Minister of Education said: Well, how many children were on the bus? - as if there was one or fifty. Now, Mr. Speaker, how callous and cold can you get? Anyway, now we have seven or more, so if there are more than seven on the bus it will mean something to the Minister of Education. I thought that was a bit callous the other day.

Mr. Speaker, with respect, I heard the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation getting up talking about safety on the highway. I believe there is a lot in this bill that will actually encourage safety and protection of the people travelling on our highways, and I have no problem with that.

I have to get back to the motor vehicle inspections. We have the minister here who I find to be very inconsistent. He is talking about bringing in regulations to promote safety on the highway. Then he drops motor vehicle inspections last year, he cuts back on the services, and lays off people in the department with respect to snow clearing and road maintenance in this Province.

Yesterday apparently there were two roadblocks, or whatever you would call them, set up in the Province, one up around Bay Bulls and one elsewhere, and they apparently hauled in approximately 500 vehicles. I'm not sure what the figures are but the minister could correct me. I think they had twenty-eight vehicles that were pulled off the road or had some major problems with them, and I think there were seven or eight that they actually would not permit to go back on the highway.

That in my estimation is a direct result of the dropping of motor vehicle inspections in this Province. The minister basically now talks about the honour system and people will be required to go get their own vehicles inspected - not required to, basically asked to go get their own vehicles inspected each year before they get them licensed. If that was the case, if we were always going on the honour system in this Province, in this country, or in this world, there would be no need for lawyers, jails, police officers, no need for anything of that nature. Actually, from my view, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is a living contradiction.

Section 8 refers to the owners of vehicles and drivers of vehicles receiving violations. Again the minister was correct in what he was saying there. If we have a person who owns a vehicle and if the vehicle is moving the driver is responsible for any infractions, say speeding tickets or anything of that nature. Once the vehicle is stopped then the owner is responsible for anything that may be wrong with that vehicle. I've no problems with that, I support it. No problem at all.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: When we have to go, I will say to the Minister of Education and Training - is that what he is? The minister of something over there, anyway. He wants me to clue up and get this over with. The thing is, we have to go to twelve o'clock anyway, and maybe we may go a bit later, I don't know. It depends on what is being discussed, I would say to you, Mr. Speaker.

I'm just skimming this now and having a look at some of the notes I made. Section 3 deals with drivers' road tests again while the driver's licence is suspended. There are a couple of sections here which kind of deal with similar issues. Again I would support that, that the people would be required or permitted to do a driver's test or road test while their licence is suspended so they can get their licence back.

Mr. Speaker, I don't have much more to add to this bill now, to be honest with you. I'm going to please the Minister of Education and Training now in due course and sit down and let the minister respond. Maybe there are some other people on this side of the House who would be interested in speaking to this bill. I would encourage the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation if he is serious about safety on the highways to reinstate motor vehicle inspections. He can get up and rant and roar all he wants and try and back up his argument that people are genuinely responsible when it comes to their own vehicles. But again, as I said earlier, if that was the case we wouldn't need any police checks as we had yesterday, or highway inspections, or RNC and RCMP officers or jails or courts or anything like that. I do not know what world the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is living in but it is certainly not the same world that most people are living in.

MR. EFFORD: I explained about that.

MR. J. BYRNE: Explained what?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes. Well, getting back to Clause 7, I think the minister should check that out. Actually, if the minister is so concerned about safety he should look at Section 7 and probably require that the shoulder belt and the seat belt be strapped in at the same time, especially if they are in the car. He seems to support that and I would disagree that that should be the situation.

I think I will clue up and encourage the minister to clear up a few of the points that I have brought up, and let me know where he stands with respect to Clause 7.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would not dare give the Member for LaPoile an opportunity to close debate at this stage.

AN HON. MEMBER: What is there to say that he has not already said?

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, there are a few things I have to say. It's hard to confuse us on this side of the House, but it is kind of confusing when we ask questions - my friend here for Burin - Placentia West - and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations and the Minister of Education and Training jump up and answer. When we ask questions of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation the Member for LaPoile gets up and answers, and so on. He did not even need briefing notes I say to the Speaker, did not even need briefing notes. The minister read from his script in the House, and I do not know if he knows anything about it. He could not answer questions. We had to get the Member for LaPoile up to answer questions on a bill of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. No wonder he was called the Minister of Social Services on radio this morning. That is what he was referred to. He is still two or three years behind. That is what they called him.

I say to the minister, he was probably ashamed to introduce the current Minister of Health, I suppose. I say to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, he said was recently caught twice.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, once, two points.

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, once. Well, with the cutbacks now and the shortage of patrol the few left out there are going to be coming after you again. They will be watching for that person as he drives down the highway toward Port de Grave with a snow plough in front, automated mechanical equipment on all sides, big mirrors, switches and controls, that escorts the minister back to his district on the weekend.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is why they put the mirrors on the trucks, so they could see him.

MR. SULLIVAN: That is why they put them on. They put mirrors on the trucks so they can see the minister sneaking up behind them. They used to have a guy on the lookout but the minister does not want an extra person on the plough looking to see when the minister is coming. He wants to try and sneak up on them and blame it on mechanical failure. That is what the minister wants to do.

Now, we do have a few questions here. The minister said when he stood in his place to introduce this bill - and maybe the Member for LaPoile can come back and answer it - that a van today is a school bus. I say it is not, because I have one of those vans that has a driver's seat and six passenger seats, one in the front, two in the next row, and then three in the back. According to this a van was only a bus if it had seven or more in addition to the driver, but the normal standard van you see out there now only has six in addition to the driver. So a van is not now a school bus if it is seven or over and changes to ten. That is not correct I say to the minister. I drive one of them, I have driven one of them since 1988.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Well, technically you are driving a school bus.

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I do not drive a school bus, I say to the minister, and if I do not drive one soon there won't be any left to drive. The minister will have them all taken off the highway. He is trying to put triple-decker buses down in Labrador. That is what he is going to have. We are going to call them `triple-Decker' buses.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible)

MR. SULLIVAN: No, not at all. One for the people who go to school at seven or eight o'clock in the morning when it is still dark, one for those that go when the sun is coming up and one for those that go when it is bright, on the different hours. With the kindergartens and people who have to go home half through a day, no transportation to provide on our highways.

The minister said that - and he did state it, it is in Hansard, we will find out when we see it tomorrow - he said a van right now is a school bus. Does that mean, I say to the minister now, my van that is used at school - my wife teaches school and the van is there. They normally take kids up to a pond canoeing and various other things. They use the van and some students get in that van. Now when you are transporting students right now that van is technically a school bus and so we cannot use that anymore. Is that the implication that I am seeing here now?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No? Well according to what the minister stated, it is putting limits on people to be able to use vehicles to transport students and therefore it is going to eliminate, it is going to drive up the cost -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Well when I finish, as soon as I finish this sentence, as soon as I get to the end of the sentence now, not the end of the paragraph, I will let you answer. Does that mean that people who now are using their vehicles - I have a van and several students get in the van and go up canoeing. Does that mean that they are not going to be able to go now because transportation of students now is going to come under a busing area and therefore that cannot be done? Okay, I will let the minister answer that.

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

MR. EFFORD: Yes, I understand the point that the hon. member is making but here is what we are doing. In the case of a bus, what was considered a school bus was a passenger van that had seven plus one. Therefore the driver of that van was required to have a class 04 license. We have changed the designation to a passenger van, ten. Not saying that all vans have seven passengers. In the case of the hon. member, he is quite right; I understand the point you are making. But in the case where there is a seven passenger van and the driver, they were required to have a class 04 license, if it was considered a school bus. We are changing it now to be ten.

What I was talking about was the commercialization, the transport of children on the school buses. The old Traffic Act says that in the transportation of school-bus children on a commercial basis the vehicle had to go under inspection. In the case of where - let's use the Seven Day Adventist Church. If they had a school bus which they only used to transport kids to their camp on a particular weekend, they were not required to have an inspection. What we are saying now is, all buses that transport people, whether it is for commercial or free, are required to go under the commercial inspection. That is what we are saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: Commercial inspection?

MR. EFFORD: Commercial inspection, yes, school bus inspection.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If I buy a vehicle and use it for my own personal use - and I do have a number of seats which are going to be ten or more now. It was seven but it is going to be ten or more now. If I want to carry ten students in that I must meet the commercial inspection requirements. If I am just taking them from the school up to a practice, whether it is a choir practice or a concert practice just up the highway a mile or two, it now must meet the commercial standards there. That is what the minister is saying

MR. EFFORD: If you are transporting (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Ten or more, if it is ten or more. If I have a van and I have installed in that van so many seats, technically I cannot carry them up that highway now, a half mile up to church or whatever, without meeting the commercial inspection requirements, even though it is my own personally registered vehicle. I probably can drive that myself without having a class 04 but if I am going to carry ten students in that, I must have a class 04. Is that point clear? If I am carrying ten students in it, it must meet commercial, I need class 04, but if I use it for my personal use, if I have a family of ten or eleven who want to use it, not commercial just a family thing, do I need a class 04 license?

MR. EFFORD: No.

MR. SULLIVAN: I don't need a class 04?

MR. EFFORD: That is your own personal use.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. So if I use it for my own personal use, go down the highway with ten in it, I don't need a class 04 but if I go down with ten students in I need a class 04. Is that what the minister is saying?

AN HON. MEMBER: Go ahead, say it.

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, that is fine. So I can drive it on Sunday, I don't need a class 04. I can drive it on Monday and I needs a class 04. I just want to get -

MR. EFFORD: If you own that vehicle for the purpose of transporting people (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I'm clear. Yes, that's right. We are on the one wave length there. The minister is saying, on Sunday when I take a group of my family to a function with ten in that van I can do that on a class 05. On Monday if I take ten students up the highway to a church I need class 04, I cannot drive that vehicle, I have to get someone else to drive it. That is the implication of what the minister is saying there. I just wanted it clear so I know, because there are situations that arise. I say to the minister, I know you are confusing. Maybe the Member for LaPoile might be able to clear up the confusion. That is what you indicated now, and I've repeated it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, I will just say it once more, and if the minister could tell me yes or no. On Sunday if I drive ten passengers plus me as the driver and go to a particular family outing, whatever it is, a movie or a hockey game or whatever, I can do that on a class 05 licence. On Monday if I decide to take a class of ten people in a school to get ready for a concert or up to a church choir, ten people, I cannot take them up in my vehicle even though it is free - that is what this says - because it then becomes a commercial vehicle and I need a class 04 licence to drive that. Is that right or wrong? I will give the minister leave if he could answer that.

AN HON. MEMBER: And a bus must pass commercial inspection standards.

MR. SULLIVAN: And a bus must pass commercial inspection standards. I would like to know yes or no. I mean, that is not a trick question, it is legitimate -

MR. EFFORD: Sit down (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MR. EFFORD: Sit down! Sit down!

MR. TOBIN: Sit down before I knock you down.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, protect me, I'm scared, shivering out of my shoes. I have protection.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. TOBIN: You were shivering yesterday (inaudible). If I had been that teacher I would have (inaudible) hit you so hard that (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Disgusting! It is really taking the House of Assembly down to a really low, serious....

AN HON. MEMBER: (inaudible) the rats (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: The rats. Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made a couple of points. I take him at his word, that he is not playing with words. I will explain it to the best of my ability, and if I can't do it I will call in the Member for LaPoile. The gospel according to Ramsay.

Anyhow, there are two different things we are talking about here. Number one, we are changing the number of seats in a van defined as a school bus. We are changing that from seven plus one to ten. There is the number one issue. In other words, a school bus will be now considered at ten or more -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: I will read it slowly so the hon. member understands it. Buses are currently defined as vehicles with a seating capacity of seven or more in addition to the driver. This means any van is potentially a bus, with seven or more passengers. Private individuals wishing to rent a passenger van are required to have a class 04 licence, bus up to twenty-four passengers. This problem will be alleviated by changing the minimum seating capacity from seven to ten.

AN HON. MEMBER: For what, a bus or a school bus?

MR. EFFORD: Well, a bus.

AN HON. MEMBER: Okay. You said school bus. There is a difference.

MR. EFFORD: To a bus. And will permit the rental of a new multi-purpose van which is now very popular, which the hon. member is saying - this will also bring our definition in line with the national standard in (inaudible).

So what we are saying is that an individual, who has a van with ten passengers or more for the purpose of a bus, will be required to have a class 04 licence; for the purpose of a bus. If that individual wishes to have a ten-passenger van, and requires it for the transportation of his children and his grandchildren or her children and grandchildren, it is a different thing. If you have it for the purpose of a bus it is classed as a bus.

In the case of commercial inspections, it is a separate thing altogether. If you are transporting students, in the case of a school bus, whether it be to day school or whether it be on weekend to a Sunday school or to a camp, it is required to have a commercial inspection. It has nothing to do at that stage with a class 04 licence. It is then used as a bus, and the operator of that bus, because it is transporting students for either charitable or commercial reasons, is required to have a class 04 licence, but you are also required to go through a commercial inspection, because under the old act, you can transport students to Sunday School in a bus that is not used during the week for transportation of school kids to and from school, or people to a bingo game, for commercial reasons or whatever, you are not required by that bus on the weekend, for charitable organizations, to have a commercial inspection. We are now changing the act so that you must have a commercial inspection.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The reason I asked this, is because I have had a van since 1988. At school, in the phys ed program, they do a canoeing program two miles from the school, and they use my van, or my wife's van or both of us, however you want to look at it, to carry students up to canoeing. Normally, they go almost every day and they use that van, they put students in that van. Now, as a result, anybody who uses a van, comes to school, my wife drives to school in that van and one of the other teachers would take the van, or she would, whomever, I don't know who drives it, I would assume the phys ed teacher or my wife would drive that van. Under regulations now, a van is potentially a bus.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, ten or more. It is potentially a bus if it has ten or more in addition to the driver, so any vehicle now that has ten or more in addition to the driver requires -

MR. J. BYRNE: `Loyola', if you are talking about school children, it is seven or more, not ten or more.

MR. SULLIVAN: But isn't this going to change to ten or more for school children now? It is going to become ten under this act, isn't it, my interpretation?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: It is seven or more now, but I understand it is going to change to ten, isn't it?

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. SULLIVAN: Isn't that the understanding?

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, what paragraph is that, what clause?

MR. J. BYRNE: Subsection 1, paragraph 3: school bus means a motor vehicle designed or used to carry seven passengers in addition to the driver. School bus and a bus (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, so for a school bus now, it is going to remain as seven. In clause 1, subclause 3 which refers to paragraph 23, of the act, they are stating that school bus means -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I won't.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, there is. They are two different things, but I am saying though, if you are going to carry ten or more, you must have a commercial vehicle inspection, if it is ten or more passengers, so the minister stated, and now, if you want to qualify as a school bus, you must need a class 04 licence, and whether it is free charitable or whatever, if I want to take a vehicle of mine now and transport students, ten or more, or seven or more - paragraph 23 of that, to transport them now, I would technically need, if it is not for my own, personal, private or family use, a class 04 licence, and if I have ten or more, I need a commercial inspection for that. Now, that is basically what I am saying and that has implications, I say to the minister, in transportation of school kids who have been getting free, back and forth now, to school activities that are part of the curriculum in the program in the school whether it be in music or in sports and those areas. Because I have done it, I have driven buses with fifteen students right across this Island on dozens and dozens of occasions. I would say probably over 100 occasions, I have driven different parts of this Island in such instances, and I think this will have implications on that aspect, I say to the minister.

Now, the minister mentioned that the school bus - in the St. John's region now, you will have to stop when there are flashing lights. Because, I guess, the safety of a person in St. John's is as important as the safety of a person whether it is in the Goulds area or Port de Grave or wherever it is. Normally, in the city anyway, we only see these buses usually in instances when they are coming in from outside, because transportation from inside the city is, I think, on the regular busing transportation provided here by the City and there are no flashing lights, of course, on these because that is the regular transportation system.

If somebody comes in here from Pouch Cove or wherever, normally they don't stop en route anyway, I don't think, so there is not much of this, I don't think, in the city anyway, and it shouldn't pose a transportation problem or a traffic problem, I wouldn't assume but still, even if it does, there have to be avenues, we have to look at the safety of a person who may be crossing a street as being very important whether it is on a street here in the city or outside, so that's something that I am certainly not opposed to. I am not sure if the implications of traffic were looked at to make sure that students are only discharged on a certain side of the highway so they don't have to cross the highway and things. I would assume those are things that can be worked out if problems arise within the particular regulations.

The separate belt issue was there, because on times every unit in itself is separate, I say to the minister, and it is possible that the shoulder harness might work and the other one might not, or the other one might work and the shoulder harness might not, because when they are triggered they may react differently if someone brakes a vehicle quickly or they are in a collision. So that is really for a safety purpose there why you don't have to put in the shoulder harness. I guess it is strictly for safety purposes, in case one activates and one doesn't. I assume that has to be the rationale. I cannot see - well, to make allowances where I guess any new ones now must meet a requirement. In most instances, especially in the driver's instance, all new ones, to my knowledge, must be all under the one harness system, I think. The seat belt and the shoulder one are all in one in all the new ones, to my knowledge. I don't think there are any new models coming out that have those separate units. This will allow, I guess, until the expiration of those older vehicles that have separate units there, that they will allow that during that phase-out period, however long that is going to take, or however long that vehicle meets standards to be able to operate on our highways.

Now, we do not have any big concerns, overall, with our highway safety, I say to the minister. There are concerns with happenings on our highways, with reference to cutbacks announced now. There are going to be cutbacks in patrols on our highways, and the Minister of Justice stated that having people out inspecting and people out giving tickets is not the most effective way to control and enhance safety on our highways. He said that is not the most effective method at all. In other words, he downplayed the importance of having these people there.

The minister stated - I read it in the Telegram this past week. Now, I know the most effective way is to obey the rules - I think he made reference to that - and prevent this from happening, but, I say to the minister, it is going to have an impact. People know if an area is patrolled, and is heavily patrolled, and people are out, motorists respond by reducing their speed limit when they know there is surveillance in areas. I mean, that is a fact. That helps save lives, it helps in traffic safety, cutting down on accidents, cutting down on insurance costs and the overall cost to the consumer by having this policing there. I am not so sure, I say to the minister, that cutting down on the policing and the highway patrols in this Province is going to do one thing for safety enhancement in this Province. In fact, I think it is definitely going... For anybody to say that reduced patrols is going to maintain or enhance highway safety, it is not accurate. I don't think it is possible. The higher the patrols, the more enforcement there is. I think it is a deterrent. It is not the best way to have a deterrent, but it is a deterrent, no doubt about it. I think that is going to impact on highway safety.

Those are areas that we should be very concerned with, too, and from the perspective of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation there to ensure that. I don't think we can keep sustaining further cuts, because we are going to have a free-for-all on the highways. A spot check like they did yesterday with 500 cars, I think the minister said there were twenty-eight people given summonses, tickets for faulty...there were seven, I thought I heard on the news, taken off the highway altogether, twenty-eight that were given tickets; that's thirty-five. There were about another thirty or forty given warnings; that is about seventy-five out of 500. That is, over one-fifth, or about 15 per cent, I should say - not one-fifth - roughly 15 per cent there, of the vehicles operating on the highways, in the two checks they did yesterday, did not meet the standards for driving on the highways in this Province. That, in itself, does say something. It tells us that the regulation change we have by not having inspections - and I asked the minister this question in the House back last year:

Right now, a commercial vehicle that is 4,500 kilograms category or less can now go into motor registration and get their licence. Then, they can go out and get an inspection and go on the highway. Before you dropped that, you had to go get your inspection, bring your slip in, and then go out on the highway. Now, you can go in and get your registration. Then you go get your inspection, if you want to, and go out on the highway - and you must have a sticker to show if you are pulled in - but there is nobody to tell you that you have to go into the garage anymore. You go in and get your registration. You say: Well, I can't afford to go in now and get an inspection, not because of the cost of the inspection, but the muffler system needs to be done, and probably $400 or $500 worth of work. It's coming up to Christmas and I can't really afford it now. I will wait until the Spring and I will do it then. I might get by until then. And if you aren't one of those pulled in on the highway in that ensuing period, you are driving a vehicle out around this Province now that doesn't meet the standards set down, that we had in place.

They are concerns out there, and that is happening overall. I know it is. It is human nature, you know. The family who need the money, who probably lost their jobs recently, why would they spend $400 on a car when they could put $400 into giving their kids something for Christmas or to put food on the table? I mean, those are decisions that we are going to make. If I were in that position I would probably make the same decision. I would probably go out and look after the family needs first, and to heck with what happens to me in the final analysis. They are the decisions we are having to make as the economy gets tougher and they are impacting on safety, and impacting on all aspects of society out there today. And there are concerns, I say to the minister, there certainly are concerns.

Those are some of the points I think the minister - while granted, some of this here makes sense. Maybe most of it makes sense. I will admit to the minister, most of it makes sense, no doubt. I don't want to see the highways any less safe. One death or an injury on a highway is one too many. But we haven't really taken measures. We have eased up on restrictions. You can drive a commercial vehicle of 4,500 kilograms or less without getting - you aren't supposed to, but you can drive it without an inspection because you can get your registration without an inspection. That didn't happen before, you know. That definitely could be a concern. If the brakes give out on one of these vehicles on a highway, there could be a kid crossing a highway or whatever, and it could result in deaths. It happened with faulty vehicles, too.

The minister made reference to the reduction in fatalities in this Province since the 1980s. Of course; a lot of fatalities in this Province - we have divided highways, which is, I think, one of the big factors in reducing accidents in this Province. You are avoiding head-on traffic. Head-on traffic accidents are fatal accidents in a lot of cases, especially on the Trans-Canada Highway, but by having divided highways and improved highways and so on, it certainly enhances safety. That is one of the main reasons, I think, that we have fewer highway fatalities on the Trans-Canada Highway than we had a number of years ago. The highways are wider in areas where they are not divided, and they are divided highways in large part now, in areas of higher traffic, and those are areas of concern.

We are finding that safety now, with the recent Budget announcement of cutting back on officers here, RCMP, a $1.9 million cut there, it is going to reflect in the amount of patrols that are out on our highways. Do we want our RCMP officers on our highways? Do we want them investigating vandalism, whether it is murders and break-ins and all these? They have to make decisions. They have to make the most efficient use of a resource. I guess, the efficient use of resource, we have to prevent bodily injury and harm and things. Criminal offenses are important. Sometimes they take precedence over spending that extra two hours on a highway patrol, you know, if they are going to cut back. There may be fewer on patrols. There are going to be shorter periods. Instead of having them over a longer period they will focus where the busiest time might be and they will send people out during that period. They have to readjust their schedules, with the dollars that are not coming, on safety.

I think these areas impact every bit as much on safety. More people are killed in traffic accidents and there are more injuries as a result of some of those measures than by some of the measures (inaudible), even though they are important and they all help in the process. I certainly don't underestimate the impact of certain things that are mentioned here.

Mr. Speaker, there are some of the comments I wanted to make pertaining to the bill. I think safety is important. I think we have compromised safety on our highways to a degree over the past while and I don't think we can afford to compromise it any further.

Thank you.

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

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I just want to make a few comments, Mr. Speaker, not to belabour the point or delay making progress on the bill. I was hoping that the real Minister of Works, Services and Transportation would be here to listen to the debate. I don't think it is appropriate, really, when a minister is in the precincts of the House and is not here to listen to what is said and to participate in debate.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, you are the junior Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, I say to the Member for Port de Grave. Your duties have been usurped by the Member for LaPoile. It is obvious what has happened here, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: There we go. The minister now is starting to sound like the Premier, in due course.

Mr. Speaker, can you imagine though, seriously? It makes you wonder what is going on on the highways. You are wondering what is going on on the highways now, the problems on the highways; and then you see what is going on in the House with the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. Someone -

AN HON. MEMBER: A living contradiction.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Sorry?

AN HON. MEMBER: It is a living contradiction.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is copper top?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Which one?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It used to be Hodder out there. The Member for Baie Verte is gone to a funeral out in Baie Verte for Mr. Pike. That is why he is not here. It is not that he is afraid of the Member for Eagle River or the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. He is gone out to a funeral today. He is what?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: They should have a new department, the yap, yap department, a new minister.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, I must say there is one thing I noticed in the House. Any time the Member for Eagle River goes and sits next to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation there is a steady racket and noise. Then it almost turns into a brawl.

AN HON. MEMBER: Two peas in a pod.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It is almost like they provoke and do things there to get under members' skin.

MR. SULLIVAN: They are planning out Cashin's campaign. That is what they are doing.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Oh, that is what it is. They are talking about the Labrador Highway again, the Trans Labrador Highway and how they are going to get Mr. Cashin over the top in Labrador. That is what it is, they are planning a strategy for Mr. Cashin.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is his wingman.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: His wingman. Yes, he probably is a wingman, he (inaudible) the wingman. Knowing the person that the Member for Eagle River is, I would say he is down boosting the minister's morale. He is boosting the minister's morale because we can see the minister has been dejected since last Friday.

AN HON. MEMBER: Subdued.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Very subdued. And now again today to have happen to him - Friday is just a bad day for the minister, I say to him. He should stay home on Fridays, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. He came in here last Friday and the Premier pulled the rug out from under him on the Bell Island ferry rates and now the Member for LaPoile pulls the rug out from under him on this bill here, Bill 26, an Act to Amend The Highway Traffic Act. I mean, showed the minister up for not knowing what he was talking about, clarified the situation for the Member for St. John's East Extern. The poor minister had to sit there, having read from his notes that were compiled for him. He didn't understand the notes, he just read them. You can tell when someone is reading from notes that they understand, but you can also tell when someone just gets up and reads something, not having an understanding of what they are reading. That was the minister's case.

I want to say to the minister -

AN HON. MEMBER: Point .05 was (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, .05 was certainly ill conceived, it did not mean anything.

I want to say to the minister, I do agree with the provision, the changes that he is making with regard to allowing a driver with license suspension to do the driver education course, to enable him to get the license as soon as their suspension expires. I certainly agree with that. I think that is a positive provision in this bill. There is no doubt that it was wrong for someone to have their license suspended and then on the day they were due to get their license back they would then have to go and do a course, and sometimes, I am told, it would take two to three weeks before they could do the course which meant, in essence, they were without their license for a longer period of time then they were suspended for. So I think that is a good provision and I am sure that there are members of this House that wished that provision had been in place before, Mr. Speaker. I am sure there are members of the House who wish that that provision had been there before where they could go and do the course while their license was suspended so that they could get their license back the day after.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not mentioning any names.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Not mentioning any names, as the minister did not mention this morning. He said I see some members smiling on both sides of the House.

That is a positive provision, I say to the minister but it is a concern.

The Member for Ferryland talked about the inspections that were done yesterday, the highway inspections, the road blocks. I guess it is Safe Driving Week this week is it? That is why, I guess, they did that. Safe Driving Week this week?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: It ends today?

MR. SULLIVAN: So you're going to do this once every year are you?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, I think the police indicated - I watched the news last night - that they are going to do this periodically. I would say that it will make a big difference because once people know they are going to be checked and so on they won't be as lenient or free or whatever, willing to drive their vehicles without their being in proper condition. There is no doubt there is one thing that check did yesterday, was verify what we said to the minister when he eliminated the vehicle inspections. We did tell the minister that there would be an increase of unfit vehicles on the road, as the minister -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: There's not? How can the minister say that in light of what the statistics were from those stops yesterday?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well I hope you do. I mean, out of that sample that they stopped yesterday, to have - what was it? I guess there were thirty odd problems? Seventy odd problems?

MR. SULLIVAN: You had 15 per cent of the - about seventy-some problems.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Seventy-some problems from either tickets with handbrake cables gone. Some vehicles were issued multiple tickets, the news said. Then, of course, there were seven taken off the road altogether.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: That is why they were taken off the road? What is the minister saying now?

If you extracted that statistic and applied it across the Province, with the number of vehicles that are here, I guess it would break out to about the same, I suppose. I suppose it is almost like a poll.

MR. EFFORD: You said the other day polls don't mean anything. Either they do or they don't.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, but I only say this to the minister. The only way you can change an unfit car is to take it to a garage and get the work done. People can change their opinion within a two second spread of time, but cars cannot get repaired that quickly. If you apply it across the Province, to me it seems like an alarming - how many cars are in the Province? The minister said the other day the number of vehicles. Did he say a couple of hundred thousand?

MR. SULLIVAN: A couple of hundred thousand, I would say.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: A couple of hundred thousand vehicles the minister said were in the Province, was there, 200,000? Did the minister say that a few days ago, that there were approximately 200,000 vehicles in the Province?

MR. EFFORD: Four hundred and twenty thousand.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Four hundred and twenty thousand.

MR. SULLIVAN: That is motorcycles and everything, right? Is that motor boats?

AN HON. MEMBER: Licensed vehicles.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Licensed vehicles, okay.

MR. SULLIVAN: ATVs and everything.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: So if you take - what was the percentage yesterday of cars with problems?

MR. SULLIVAN: Fifteen per cent.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Fifteen per cent of that is what?

MR. SULLIVAN: Over 60,000.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Over 60,000. Well, talking about cars and trucks. Let's say 200,000. Let's say quarter of a million, $250,000.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thirty thousand of them.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Thirty thousand vehicles that would have some kind of a problem. To me that is pretty high. The minister doesn't seems to think that is too high a statistic.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I said, if you take 15 per cent of the trucks and cars in the Province - let's say there are 250,000 of them -

AN HON. MEMBER: There are 420,000 vehicles.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Well, that is everything. That is not just cars and trucks.

MR. SULLIVAN: That is ATVs, licensed trailers, everything.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes.

MR. EFFORD: All licensed vehicles.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Yes, but just apply it to, say, cars and trucks, okay?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Three hundred thousand.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Three hundred thousand, 15 per cent of that.

MR. SULLIVAN: Forty-five thousand.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Forty-five thousand vehicles, if the statistics broke out across the Province, if there is a correlation, would have some kind of a problem. Does the minister think that is -

MR. EFFORD: We can play with number in any manner we want to (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Oh, I know that. I am not trying to do that, by the way. I am just trying to get back -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) on television one night playing with numbers (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Who?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Oh, but I am not on television.

AN HON. MEMBER: He wouldn't fool up the figures (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I tell the minister, I know my sums.

AN HON. MEMBER: Boy, you have some confidence in me, don't you?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible), the only one over there; the only leader over there (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The Member for Ferryland.

AN HON. MEMBER: The only leader.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: There is only one leader over here, and he sits right here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The minister is confused. The minister again is confused. He is talking about his own caucus again now. We saw it this morning. We saw Premier Grimes getting up to answer a question for Premier Dicks. They almost tore the coats off one another, wondering who was going to get up to answer the question over there. Roger pulled on Paul's jacket and said, `Sit down, Paul, I will answer it.' And Paul was saying, `No, Roger, you sit down; I am going to answer it.' I watched it here this morning, tugging on one another's coats, fighting to get up to answer the Workers' Compensation... It was really hilarious to sit here and watch it. They were arm-wrestling to see who was going to get up to answer the question.

AN HON. MEMBER: I got (inaudible) briefcase.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Whose briefcase?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Chris, pass it over. See if it jives with the figures I have.

AN HON. MEMBER: How about the Member for LaPoile (inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The Member for LaPoile, I will tell you, is an ambitious man too; there is no doubt about that. The Member for LaPoile is ambitious, to see him come up out of that seat this morning clarifying Bill 26. That is what is going on over there. The Member for Port de Grave thought he had the support of the Member for LaPoile for the leadership race.

The Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island is back there banging his chest and pointing at himself. I do not know what that is about. What is that about? Then one day before we were talking about it, and shish kebab himself was over there pointing at himself and banging his chest.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who's shish kebab?

MR. W. MATTHEWS: The Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture, old shish kebab Bud. It is priceless to watch it over there. Then the Minister of Education talks about us over here.

Can you imagine the Member for LaPoile and shish kebab, and the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island, banging their chests. When you talk about leadership it is amazing. They are afraid they are not going to be mentioned so they start pointing at themselves.

I hear the Member for LaPoile was downtown last night passing out business cards. He asked some people who they were, and then he said, `Do you know who I am?' I think they knew, but, of course, they would not let him know they knew who he was. They were a little bit too smart for him really. He said, `Well, would you like to have my business card?' He went and got it and came back and said, `Here is my business card.' They looked at it, and like, you know, `So!'. He said, `Well, maybe you saw me on TV.' That is a true story, by the way.

AN HON. MEMBER: He was passing out Chuck's -

MR. W. MATTHEWS: No, he was passing out his own. `Maybe you have seen me on television,' he said. He went and got the business card, and when he gave it to them they looked at him strangely, `Well, so what!'. He said, `Well, maybe you have seen me on television.' So, I think he is ambitious.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island is supporting him.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I hope that the Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island is supporting the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation after doing what he did for him last week.

MR. SULLIVAN: He is supporting whoever he thinks is going to win now, tell him the truth.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I would hope he does. The Member for Mount Scio - Bell Island hopes to be the king maker. He hopes to throw his couple of hundred delegates behind the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to put him over the top.

MR. TOBIN: The effortless minister does not have a chance.

MR. SULLIVAN: No, 200 would never put him over the top.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: If I could pursue the issue of inspections with the minister now while I have a chance, because he seemed to think that the statistic from yesterday was not too alarming. That is what it seemed to indicate, that it was not too bad. Does the minister think that is acceptable, that figure?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, but do you think it is acceptable? Do you have anything, say, to compare it to, say when you had to go to the garage to get your inspection slip to get your license or your registration? Has he got anything to compare that statistic, too, because most people, correctly or not, think that the situation has deteriorated and that there are wrecks on the road. You hear people say there is junk on the road. You hear it, whether it is true or not. You hear a lot of stuff that is not true. I am just wondering if the minister could -

MR. DUMARESQUE: Inaudible)

MR. W. MATTHEWS: What is wrong with the Member for Eagle River over there? What is wrong with him over there? Motor mouth! I would not read that I say to the Member for Eagle River, if I were him. I would not read what he is reading there.

MR. SULLIVAN: He is like one of those gulls, he lands in every spot over there.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Why don't you read the small one? Here, take this one.

MR. SULLIVAN: Recap. Just read the one on Marble Mountain. I will give you a few things to read now. I will highlight a few things now.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Why don't you read it, I say to the Member for Eagle River. He must be very impressed when he reads it.

MR. DUMARESQUE: There is a lot of stuff I do not like there.

MR. W. MATTHEWS: I would not think there is some stuff you would not like there either. I am sure he would not like where it says a review of the Marble Mountain Development Corporation. They indicated a (inaudible). `Policies and procedures to ensure adequate monitoring and control of the purchasing function were not documented.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. W. MATTHEWS: Oh, Mr. Speaker, `politician procedures do not exist for the hiring of external consultants.' Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker! What about the John Cabot 500th Anniversary Corporation? That's good stuff in this report, I say to the minister. Make no wonder if the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation was ashamed yesterday, if he wasn't embarrassed, to tell the people of the Province what plans are in place now for the Cabot 500 in expenditures in the program. Can you imagine now, the minister saying that. How bad is it at all, how bad is it?

Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear the minister respond to that inspections issue for me if he could, because I think it is one that we are all concerned about. We don't just raise it to be negative, we raise it because we are legitimately concerned about safety on our highways, and yesterday's statistics concern me, so I would like to hear the minister respond to that.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, I assume, is closing the debate, or is he just responding to a question?

MR. EFFORD: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Closing the debate?

MR. EFFORD: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. minister speaks now, he closes the debate.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not going to take up a lot of time of this House to go over and rehash all the things that have been said this morning. There are a couple of points I want to make and I will start with the hon. member's inspection question first, go from last and try to go back, and cover quickly the two or three things that we said.

The accusations or the comments being made that our highways are more unsafe now than they were in the past because we have dropped the mandatory requirement for people to have their light vehicles inspected is a falsehood, it is not correct; because when the vehicle inspection program was in place, the mandatory requirement that you would have to pay a fee, whether it is $10.00, $15.00 or $20.00 was in place, there was quite a large percentage, quite a number of people who actually went up to a garage, got this slip passed in and got it ticked off without the vehicle ever going to the garage.

I suspect there are some people in my immediate surroundings could witness that and have seen that happen before, and that was one of the things that happened.

The law is very clear. All people on the highways who own and operate a vehicle are required by law, to keep that vehicle in a safe driving condition according to the manual set forth by the Department of Motor Registration. The only change is, that you are not required to pay a fee for that. But you are required by law, to have your vehicle inspection. Now, the 500 vehicles that were stopped over the last couple of days and were inspected, for a percentage of seven vehicles to be taken off the road to go and have an inspection and come back and report to the nearest Royal Newfoundland Constabulary or RCMP, by whomever the inspection was stopped, that's not out of the ordinary. That would happen when the motor vehicle inspection program, the mandatory requirements were in place. I know the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, is not going to accept it but the facts speak for themselves.

The other thing I wanted to point out and I wanted to get to this, too - the hon. the Member for St. John's East Extern made a comment that what I said in the House of Assembly yesterday, to the hon. the Member for Baie Verte - White Bay brought the House down to an all-time low. I am going to make a quick comment about that. I referred to the hon. member yesterday getting his information from a relative. That's what I said, okay; whether it is true or not, I made the statement, because I was informed it was true. But, talk about low: about three weeks ago, the Leader of the Opposition - there was a four-year-old child killed in a highway accident in Central Newfoundland, a child from Springdale, killed on the highway; the Leader of the Opposition, not only in the House of Assembly, but publicly, on the air waves, accused me as minister, and my department for causing that death and the other individual. Now, there is low. Now, that is a fact, Mr. Speaker, so if we want to talk about low, let's put the lowness where the lowness really is.

Now, the case of the other couple of points. To clarify about the commercial vehicle versus the bus. There are three distinctions. Number one, is a ten-passenger commercial vehicle versus the commercial inspections of a school bus. Where the school bus carries passengers for charge or free, they are required for commercial inspection. The ten passengers is in the case of commercial vehicles. It is not extended to the school bus for the simple reason there are school buses on the highway, in the business, who carry fewer than the number of passengers, so you could not put that same exemption to the school buses. That is the reason. So there is a definition of a ten passenger van in the case of the definition of a bus. It is left out of the school bus because, in some cases, school buses carry fewer than that number of children. In the case of the commercial inspection, that inspection is required on all commercial vehicles for safety reasons. It has nothing to do with what the hon. member was saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: That is what I said. That is right.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Yes, but the school bus is exempt; that is right.

Mr. Speaker, what we have done here is, we have tried to bring the Highway Traffic Act into accord with a national policy - right across this country - to try to eliminate some of the inappropriateness or the confusion in the act, which is being done, and again, to add an additional safety standard requirement, taking into consideration what a commercial vehicle is, and a school bus in the case of the city of St. John's... It did not make any sense to have a school bus in St. John's exempt from safety any more than you would in any other part of Newfoundland.

In conclusion, I commend the people of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation on doing such an excellent job.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Highway Traffic Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 26)

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

MR. DECKER: Order 35, Mr. Speaker, which is Bill 45, under the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, who wants to make a 30-second opening remark.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act to Amend The St. John's Assessment Act". (Bill No. 45)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Very quickly, Mr. Speaker - the City of St. John's, in their act, have asked for an amendment, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Assessment Act". It is their own act. The City of St. John's has written and asked the government would they make a change in the assessment section of the act that basically sets a particular date as a base date for assessments of property. The base date basically means that the market value set at a particular time during the assessment will remain in place until a reassessment is done.

They are finding themselves in all kinds of legal wrangling with regard to being challenged on this particular act, and this will give the City of St. John's the necessary authority to set the base date and then allow the courts to determine, or the appeals division, to determine that the price of a property, or the cost of a property, or the value of a property, is based on a particular time rather than an ongoing type of arrangement.

I have spoken to my hon. colleague from across the way, and he understands it, and he led me to believe that he has spoken to the City of St. John's himself, so I don't really need to say anything other than that. It is just a small change in their assessment act for the City of St. John's.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Waterford - Kenmount.

MR. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister, in his comments, indicated that this amendment has been discussed with the City of St. John's council. Today, earlier in the morning, I spoke with the Deputy Mayor of the City of St. John's, and the chief of the assessment division, and basically what has happened is that there is a conflict between the City of St. John's Act and the City of St. John's Assessment Act.

In the last year or so, they have had a number of cases which have gone to court after they have gone through the assessment appeal division. Then they have gone to the local court and, of course, in the court, the judge has had difficulty determining which of these acts actually would apply. Therefore, there are a number of cases pending in the court now, and for that reason, I am happy to see that the amendment to the assessment act is made retroactive to January 1, 1995. That will permit St. John's to dispense with several pieces of litigation that are pending in court at the moment.

I should point out to the House as well, that the City of St. John's, by this amendment, will bring their legislation in keeping with all other assessment legislation in the Province. It so happens that all other legislation does have a base year. What that means is that in the City of St. John's, henceforth, they will take January of 1990 as their base year for residential and they will take January of 1995 as their base year and month for commercial, and that would be in keeping with their latest assessment. The City of St. John's did a commercial assessment in 1995 and they did a residential assessment in 1990. What causes the difficulty is that at the moment every time that someone appeals, the base year is a current year. So if you are doing an appeal in 1995 they would take the property values as of 1995. If you were going to do it in 1996, then the thing would change. This will facilitate the uniformity that is necessary when you are handling appeals of the assessment that is carried out on properties. It is a major issue for the appeal commissioner and, of course, it makes it a major issue for the City of St. John's.

I note as well, here, that the amendment in clause 1(2), would delete the word, `machinery'. Of course, that is in keeping with the minister's policy whereby he has eliminated machinery from the assessment of property and this particular piece is put in there as well. I also talked to the City of St. John's on that and they do not have any objection to elimination of `machinery' from the criteria used in the assessment of property. Mr. Speaker, this will, as I said before, facilitate the dispersement of a number of situations involving assessments in St. John's. It will, as well, bring the City of St. John's, I suppose, in sync with the rest of the Province's municipalities and it will facilitate uniformity both in residential property assessments and in commercial assessments.

Mr. Speaker, with these comments, I support the bill. Probably, if anybody else wishes to speak on it, they might want to add something to it but these are all the comments I would make.

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

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. REID: Let me say, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. critic from the other side. This went fairly quickly this morning. I asked the hon. gentleman no more than about ten minutes ago if he would be willing to look at this bill and make the necessary changes, and I thank him for accommodating me. The City of St. John's is looking for this, they want it yesterday, and I appreciate the fact that both sides of the House could concur on this particular bill. Now, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Assessment Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 45)

MR. ROBERTS: Order 30, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order 30, "An Act To Amend The Hospitals Act", Bill No. 39.

MR. ROBERTS: Order 30, which is an Act To Amend The Hospitals Act. The minister -

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair has just acknowledged.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

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

The bill in Committee - basically, there is nothing more to be said to the amendment that is before us than was already said when second reading occurred. It is basically a name change for the old Newfoundland Hospital and Nursing Home Association. As the House knows, the reorganization for governance purposes in the health care sector has been pretty well completed and we are now left with twelve boards, eight institutional boards, and four community health boards as opposed to the twenty-five or thirty boards that previously existed. In order to more appropriately reflect the composition of the new NHNHA they have requested, and government has acceded to a name change for them along the lines that the bill puts forward. So the new name will be the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Care Association.

MR. ROBERTS: You are on the wrong bill.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: I'm on the wrong bill?

MR. ROBERTS: Order 30, "An Act To Amend The Hospitals Act."

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Oh, I am sorry. I thought we were in committee on Bill 9.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair has called Order 30, Bill 39, "An Act To Amend The Hospitals Act."

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, there appears to be a degree of confusion here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

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

MR. ROBERTS: That's helpful. Now I have to say something, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: The only bills that I have on the Order Paper are the tobacco bill and the -

MR. ROBERTS: Bill 39, "An Act To Amend The Hospitals Act." I did the original act twenty-five years ago and I am quite prepared to do this one if we want.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: If I had a copy of the bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: We are trying to find you one now, my son.

AN HON. MEMBER: (inaudible) Mental Health Act.

MR. ROBERTS: The Mental Health Act is under observation.

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

MR. L. MATTHEWS: We will have a go at this one, Mr. Speaker, but there are some consistencies in the reason why Bill 10 was brought forward, or amendments to Bill 10, and the bill we have before us now. There are amendments in this bill to Clause 1 (1), Clause 1 (2), Clause 2, Clause 3 (1) and (2), Clause 4, and Clause 5. I will go as closely as I can to the explanatory notes because I must confess I thought it was the other bill we were dealing with this morning.

Subsection 1 (1) of the bill would repeal the definitions of the "children's hospital", "designated hospital authority", "general hospital" and "regional board" which are presently contained in the act, and the bill will amend the definition of the "scheduled hospital".

Clause 2 of the bill respecting the application of the Act to hospitals in the Province would amend Section 3 of the Act to reflect the change in the hospital board structure in the Province, and that is the similarity with the bill that we were previously dealing with. The Act is being changed on Clause 2 to be consistent with the changes that have been made in the restructuring of the hospital boards.

There are several other minor changes to the Hospitals Act that I do not think need comment at this moment for a couple of reasons.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That was a tremendous introduction of a bill. If only he was organized and had his lengthy briefing notes as the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, I say to him. Actually, I was going to leave him and hopefully he would take about five or ten minutes, then when he sat down I was going to ask if he would rise and introduce the appropriate bill, Bill 39, and not the bill he was talking about.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SULLIVAN: It is quite an act, yes. I would like to compliment him on his length introduction of the bill and his detail.

MR. ROBERTS: He certainly went to the point.

MR. SULLIVAN: He went to the point. It was an act, yes, it was an act he put on. I am very concerned -

AN HON. MEMBER: It wasn't a very good one.

MR. SULLIVAN: It wasn't a very good one, not at all. He can't come close to the Member for Burin - Placentia West, he is not even holding a candle to the minister.

MR. ROBERTS: I must (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Pardon?

MR. ROBERTS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I am not sure. I will leave that to everybody's own discretion to draw their own conclusions.

MR. TOBIN: I would say that Ed has had his hands full this morning, two of them and your mouth the one time.

MR. SULLIVAN: I am sure the minister can confirm that what we are doing here now is, I guess, changing designated hospital authorities, children's hospitals, general hospitals, regional boards and we are now going to call them facilities or institutions basically. We are going to get into line with the buzz word in the new language now and as a result, a consolidation.

I am not as much concerned with the minister's act really, as the state of health care and what's happening with consolidations that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. Or his obvious revelations here today. I am waiting anxiously, I say to the Speaker - and the minister said in this House before - I am waiting every day now. I have the quote in Hansard and I am just waiting for the minister to stand up now and tell us what day, before year end he indicated, we are going to find out before the end of this year - he has stated all the way back since July, on this reorganized new health care board - what's going to happen with the Janeway?

MR. L. MATTHEWS: On or about the end of the year.

MR. E. BYRNE: No on or abouts. I have the specific quote there. At the appropriate time in Question Period, I will provide that to the minister. At the appropriate time, I will do that. Not on or about, specifically before the end of this year they will have a plan that is going to tell us how they are going to integrate the Janeway and how they are going to integrate the Grace General Hospital and the Rehab Centre. They are going to look at the plan and they are going to tell us how much money we are going to need basically. He uses the term - what? - $80, $100 million we are going to need to do it. Actually what their plan is is fast developing here.

I am not sure if we are going to need those terms any more. We mightn't need the words institution or facility or hospital. At the rate they are going there might be none left to name I say to the Speaker, there might be none left. The Grace Hospital will probably close its doors two years before the minister indicated the phase out; the Rehab Centre is in the process now of wondering how many hundred thousands they are going to spend now to move to the Janeway and rest it there for a year and then spend another several hundred thousand and tens of millions to move it into the Health Sciences. So what they are going to do now, to move it directly in wouldn't spend enough money so we have to spend a little bit of money for a temporary resting place strategy.

Mr. Speaker, I think we need to have a long-term plan, where we are going in health care. If the dollars are limited in the system, I think it is only fair that they have to be used as efficiently as possible not only in the short-term, the band-aid approaches we are seeing here, and two financial statements we have seen in three years - the last three years here we have seen the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board stand up in his place here in the House and tell us: all that applauding we had in the spring and all the applauding and the standing ovation in the House on a balanced Budget, wasn't true. It was only smoke and mirrors to get the heat off us now and we have to come back with a new financial statement and a new plan.

Well, we have just seen cutbacks down in the Happy Valley - Goose Bay area, where they were given the impression they were going to have a new hospital in place of one that's really outdated, an outdated hospital down in that area. I say to the minister they were led to believe they were going to have a new one, so out they go with architectural plans. You don't spend hundreds of thousands on plans if you have no intention of putting a hospital there, so the intent had to be there. Otherwise it would be a waste of taxpayers money.

Now, I think the Minister of Justice told them when he was down, I understand, `Don't expect a hospital in Happy Valley - Goose Bay, don't expect a hospital there now in the near or even in the far distant future. The Minister of Health did state here in the House that, they gave no intention or expressed no intent to put a hospital down in that area. I am really sorry I interrupted his lunch in the process of trying to get this bill here in the House. I am sure now, when he has an opportunity to digest what I am saying here, along with other things, he will be able to respond appropriately in due course. We are having, really, a collapse in our health care system.

I had an opportunity last week to have a conversation with the minister on a local cable network here for an hour on some of the things that were happening. The minister really thinks our health care system is getting better. That is what he said; he thinks it is getting better. He doesn't think those long waiting lists to get in to surgery, the long waiting lists for admissions, is a problem. He thinks we are better off than we were last year in our health care system. They are things he is stating. I don't believe it. I don't believe we are better off. I don't think you can get access to medical attention as fast as you could years ago. We have longer waiting lists for surgery, for hospital admissions. We have people on stretchers in emergency departments longer, up to forty-eight hours in some cases, I say to the minister, and I know people who have had to wait there for forty-eight hours. I worked in an emergency department for months, in different parts of the hospital actually, and I know how long a person normally waits in emergency.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, and I worked at the General Hospital in emergency, a very busy time, I would say to the minister, when we saw a fair number of patients come in at the old General Hospital there. At the time

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: How old are you, Loyola?

MR. SULLIVAN: Old. I worked at the old General, in the emergency department. I worked up on one of the floors. I worked in the cobalt department down there.

AN HON. MEMBER: Loyola, how do you get a job (inaudible)?

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I was a student studying in the medical area at the university, and they happened to give me a job from May to September each year between my years of university.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) become a doctor.

MR. SULLIVAN: I could have, I suppose, but I did not apply. I decided to pursue teaching for a year and then get into business. You can only do so many things in life all at the one time. There weren't enough hours. If they brought in legislation to put forty hours in a day and nine days in a week, maybe I just might have time, I say to the minister, and that is more in government hands than in my hands.

AN HON. MEMBER: We go home when we finish this bill.

MR. SULLIVAN: Are we?

AN HON. MEMBER: It's stormy out.

MR. SULLIVAN: I have already interrupted the minister's snack and then his lunch here, and I would not want to put him under any undue stress, because I am sure he would not be able to get the proper immediate attention for all that stress that is building up in the minister, I must say. He ran out of the House after Question Period to go back and see what is happening -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) meeting with the Minister of Finance.

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, okay, a meeting with the Minister of Finance on my questions in Question Period, and I did not go back to him. I went to the Minister of Finance; I figured I would get an answer, but I couldn't get an answer from either one, even though I knew the answer anyway.

Mr. Speaker, I won't unduly prolong this. I will sit down.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just have a few comments on this bill. It seems to be a reorganization of the wording, for the most part, of the definitions of children's hospital, scheduled hospital, etcetera.

I have reviewed the act quickly here to see whether there is anything nefarious about these changes. I don't see anything in particular here that strikes me as part of a plan. The removal of sections 22-27 of the act, the regional hospital boards, perhaps the minister could comment on that when he closes debate.

I am concerned about what powers the minister, in fact, uses under the new clause 3 here where provision to provide for terms and conditions under which the management and operation of a scheduled hospital are carried out. To what extent does a department go into detail there with respect to procedures, with respect to costs, with respect to the type of facility operation. Does the government seek to control expenditures through these agreements? Could the minister give us an idea of the kind of agreements that his department negotiates with respect to the manner of carrying out the management and operation of these hospitals?

It seems to me that although the hospitals are given a fair amount of autonomy in terms of operating their facility, and the management of the hospital is placed in charge of a board and a medical officer and administrator, that indeed the government has a fair amount of control over this. It is not the same as the University, where the Minister of Education and Training gets up and washes his hands from time to time when problems arise at the University saying: We have no authority or control, that it is an independent institution operating under a regime known as academic freedom.

With respect to the hospitals and facilities that are covered under this act, the minister has a fair degree of control in terms of essentially holding over the hospitals - or withholding financial support without having an agreement that is acceptable to the government. Perhaps the minister, in concluding his remarks, can give us some information about that.

We know that hospitals and hospital management, the delivery of health care services, is under tremendous scrutiny these days, and with good reason. Because the facilities that we have seem to be the focus of many problems. Anyone who knows, anyone who has had a relative or been in hospital oneself recently, knows that the quality and the ability of the staff to deliver good care is, in fact, diminished by the way in which hospitals are able to operate given the financial resources. I wonder whether the minister has reviewed these agreements with a view to making improvements in the delivery of health care in the system, and does the minister have any comments on that, now that he has become aware of the provisions of this bill?

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

The hon. the Minister of Health.

MR. L. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There haven't been any occasions that I know of up until now, and I hope there won't be many in the future, when I will have to thank my critic from the other side, the hon. the Member for Ferryland, for coming to my assistance, but today, I do appreciate his able assistance in making commentary, of which, in all fairness, I was caught off guard at the moment with respect to the bill that was called.

Just a quick comment with respect to answering the question from the hon. the Member for St. John's East. As with respect to the minister's responsibility vis--vis the boards' management of hospitals. He is right. The hospital boards are not in the same circumstance as Memorial University where they are pretty much stand-alone and almost completely autonomous in terms of administration and policy and what they do.

The hospital boards and the management of the hospitals come directly under the control of the minister. For the most part, they are managed consistent with government policy that would apply throughout the whole system. As an example of that, the hospital boards have to adhere to the Public Tendering Act just as if something was being done within a government department. They are liable for the application of the Public Tendering Act. They are liable for the application of a Hay plan payroll pay system for their management people. They are responsible directly to the minister for any extraordinary activities that they carry on. Having said that, they are given a fair degree of latitude to manage in a reasonable and a proper way the health care system.

What government really expects from the boards, and what we look to the boards for, is for advice and direction in terms of the organization of health care across the Province on a regional basis. There is a difference in the boards that run hospitals as opposed to the Board of Regents at Memorial University.

In terms of the sections being repealed, 22 to 27, they are simply being repealed because they are no longer applicable to the management and organization of the health care system in light of what has happened by virtue of the restructuring that has taken place over the last couple of years.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of the bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Hospitals Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 39)

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

MR. ROBERTS: Mr. Speaker, my colleague has returned the copy of the bill I lent him but he has marked it up so I will give it back to him.

Your Honour, we have done, I think, a good morning's work, and the weather outside is deteriorating. I am told the city schools have been closed, so we will shortly ask that we will dismiss Mr. Snow's and Mr. Penny's elocution decorum and whatever class. The Treasury Board are obviously meeting on Monday. They have sent around their messages to us.

Mr. Speaker, on Monday - perhaps I could have a word on Monday morning with my friend, the gentleman from Grand Bank. If the three or four bills we have done this morning are not going to require much discussion at Committee stage, perhaps we could begin by simply putting them through the Committee stage and also the amendment to the Animal Protection Act we dealt with yesterday. If that is agreed, we will then call the Hydro Corporation Act, which is Order 27, it is Bill No. 35. We will begin a debate on that.

We will not sit beyond 5:00 p.m. on Monday, because I understand a non-profit educational institution with which thirty-four of the members of this House are associated are having a function. We will ask the other members to join us in it, in the spirit of Christmas. Bring your own glass and bring your own bottle.

Mr. Speaker, I know members are interested and the public are interested in the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act amendments and in the Mineral Act amendment. They, I understand, will be ready for distribution on Monday. The Clerk and his assistants will distribute them as soon as they are available and we will go on from there. I remind members, we only have eight government days left between now and December 22. I am not worried about it, I am just reminding members that we have -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. ROBERTS: The hon. gentleman, the Member for Ferryland may be here between Christmas and New Year but he will finally have achieved the desire, his wish to be at the head of a group, but it will be a very small group, I tell him. I suspect if I were to roll a cannonball down the fifth floor east corridor in this building between Christmas and New Year I would hit nobody except the hon. gentleman; and given how quick he is on his feet, I doubt if I would hit him. My friend, the Member for St. John's East Extern sticks up his hand, I am not sure if that means he expects to be hit or if he has already been hit.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, on Monday we will get into the Hydro Corporation amendments and see how we get along with those and then we will go on from there. There is only one other potential act that I am aware of -

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, don't die, don't choke.

MR. ROBERTS: I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, when your own side start heckling you the message is clear.

With that said, there is only one other potential act and that is a relatively minor amendment to the assessment act. That may come forward.

MR. SULLIVAN: Do we stop the clock?

MR. ROBERTS: I say to my friend, the Member for Ferryland - this is a line I've often used, but let me say it to him. I first, of course, became involved in public speaking when Mr. Smallwood was Premier. He said he never minded in the least people in the audience looking at their watches to see what time it was. When they started shaking them, then he knew it was time to stop.

Your Honour, I move that the House adjourn until Monday at 2:00 p.m.

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