March 26, 1996             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS             Vol. XLIII  No. 4


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

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

Before we call for Ministerial Statements, I would like to welcome to the public galleries, Patricia Hempstead, Executive Director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities, and Gerard Lewis, President of Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Municipal Administrators.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to inform the House that five of our outstanding teachers were recently presented with the prestigious Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in Science, Technology and Mathematics.

The Awards, Mr. Speaker, recognize elementary and secondary school teachers who have had a major, proven impact on student performance and interest in science, technology and mathematics.

The winners are: Brenda Stamp, Gonzaga Regional High School; Cyril O'Reilly, St. Edward's Elementary in Placentia; Ruth Mercer, Ascension Collegiate; David Keefe, Menihek Integrated High School, Labrador City, and Allan Neil, Bishops College, St. John's.

Mr. Speaker, these are very challenging times in education and in our Province, and we often overlook the many positive things that are taking place. On behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Department of Education, I congratulate the five winners of the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in Science, Technology and Mathematics. With the continued contributions of these and other dedicated teachers, our students will be equipped to face the challenges that lie ahead in the next century.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On behalf of the members on this side, Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to join with the hon. minister in congratulating the winners. I would also like to extend a thank-you to the hon. minister for the courtesy in providing the statement within the past hour in preparation for the proceedings this afternoon.

As the statement indicates, Mr. Speaker, teaching has become a very trying profession, has never been easy, but certainly in recent years has become a very trying profession. Teachers are not only simply classroom teachers, but they are counsellors and they are psychologists in many ways. They act - there is a legal phrase which is called in loco parentis, which means in the place of parents. They act as parents and perhaps above all, a good teacher is a true friend. So I join the hon. minister in congratulating these five individuals for obviously, a job well done.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi. Does the hon. member have leave of the House?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank the minister for making available the copy of his statement prior to the day's session.

I want to join with him and the Member for St. John's East in congratulating these five winners of the Prime Minister's Award. The areas of Science, Technology, and Mathematics, of course, are very important to our future and to the future of the economy of our Province and our Country and I think it is worthy of mention in this House that these teachers have achieved this award and provided, obviously, excellent teaching to the students of this Province, and it bodes well for the future.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Statements by Ministers.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce today that a Province-wide campaign is underway to heighten awareness, understanding and interest in local government.

The campaign is being organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Municipal Administrators and the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

A major focus will be on Local Government Awareness Week from April 22-28 in communities throughout the whole of the Province.

It is hoped that the campaign will become an annual event focusing on one key theme each year. The theme selected for the 1996 campaign is Local Government - At Your Service.

April 22-28 is also Volunteer Week sponsored by the Volunteer Centre, Community Services Council and the two events being combined this year. This year's theme for Volunteer Week is Volunteers - The Heart of the Community.

A proclamation will be issued by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to officially declare April 22-28 as Local Government Awareness Week in our Province.

As well, communities are being encouraged to establish Municipal Merit Awards as a means of giving recognition to individuals who have made significant contributions to the growth, development and enhancement of our communities.

In addition to raising the level of awareness, understanding and interest in local government, the campaign is being undertaken to acquaint the general public with the cost and value of services provided through their municipal councils.

One of the specific initiatives being planned during this Local Government Awareness Week is to ensure the week has high impact throughout the Province as a Conference on Women in Local Governance and Economic Development. This event will be sponsored by the Federation of Municipalities and held in Gander during Local Government Awareness Week.

As well, the Association of Municipal Administrators of Newfoundland and Labrador will hold its annual convention in April of this year, also in Gander, and that event will serve as a kick-off for our Local Government Awareness Week.

The plan is to make Local Government Awareness Week an annual event. Municipal elections will be held in 1997 and next year's campaign will encourage people to get out and vote, and also to offer themselves for election to municipal office.

Mr. Speaker, I call upon all members of this hon. House to support our municipalities as they celebrate Local Government Awareness Week.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First I would like to thank the minister for a copy of his statement before the House sat this afternoon.

The minister stated that a province-wide campaign is under way to heighten awareness, understanding and interest in local government. We on this side of the House support and believe this to be a good move. It is important for people of the Province to understand the workings of town councils and the time and effort that the town councils and people working on town councils put in on their behalf.

The theme selected for the 1996 campaign is Local Government - At Your Service. Municipal governments are the front line for the provincial and federal governments and they are made up of mostly volunteers. They often times take the flak for the provincial government and their down loading and cuts to the municipal operating grants and the like.

April 22 - 28 is Volunteer Week. This year's theme: Volunteers - the Heart of the Community. It was only yesterday that I said a few words with respect to volunteers and the importance of the role they play in this Province, and naturally in the country. Volunteers were mentioned in the Throne Speech, and we believe on this side of the House that it is only right and proper that people should be recognized for their community support.

The minister states that "The plan is to make Local Government Awareness Week an annual event." I would say to the minister and to this government that if they don't stop the cutbacks to the municipalities, if they don't stop the down loading to municipalities -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, an annual local government awareness month won't be encouragement enough to get people to run for the municipal elections the next time around, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I welcome the initiative of the Federation of Municipalities of Newfoundland and Labrador. Unfortunately, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are all too aware of municipal governments because they have been the ones who have had to turn off the lights and take the flak for cutbacks from the provincial government. I do hope that the awareness we will instill in peoples minds a greater interest in volunteering and participating in local government and seeking to represent people of their area. I commend the federation on having a conference on women in local governments and economic development. That is a very forward step and it ought to bring forth greater interest in the participation of women in local government and government in general.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Premier regarding Marystown Shipyard.

Will the Premier confirm that Marystown Shipyard, in bidding to construct two offshore supply vessels for Maersk Supply Services, significantly underestimated the total labour hours required to construct the vessels? In fact, will the Premier confirm that on construction on one of those two vessels alone the Maersk Nascopie, Hull 53, the project required not just 30,000 person hours over-run, as suggested by the minister, but probably closer in the vicinity of 300,000 more person hours than originally bid?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, in response to a question that was put to me by the media last night, they asked me were there further increases in the person hours for work on one of these hulls for the Norwegian contract, I said, yes. A number was thrown at me that there was a 30,000 person hour increase above and beyond what was already projected. Yes, there are significant labour over-runs in the magnitude of 200,000 or 200,000-plus person hours that takes in management, procurement, quality control, work on the floor. I said to the media, Mr. Speaker, that we had to factor in the currency exchange when the purchases were made with Ulstein in Norway, there was no hedging or insurance placed on the purchases. The Canadian dollar weakened, the Norwegian kroner strengthened, it happened in a sixty day period and that caused a significant over-run in these two vessels as well.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The currency evaluation had nothing to do with an underestimation of the total hours required. It is an unrelated topic altogether. Now I ask the minister, will he now tell us that it is now in excess of 250,000 extra person hours, will he now tell us how much the over-run costs are as the result of his newfound calculations and information since yesterday?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I think I mentioned to the media that with respect to these two vessels we had projected a $6 million margin of profit or a surplus position on this particular project. We lost that on a currency exchange. There was no insurance put in place.

The financial advisors to the yard advised that the currency would be to the favour of the Canadian dollar, not against it. They did not hedge and we lost money in that respect. We also lost money in respect to production hours, supervision hours, engineering and lofting hours, quality control, and it is in the 200,000-plus man hours. The total actual losses on the project which will go to the bottom-line of the overheads of the shipyard are in the magnitude of $4.3 million as of today.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, the question I asked was how much extra cost as a result of underestimating the bid by 250,000 approximately person-hours, and the minister gave a response on a total overall package including all factors. It was not the answer to my question.

I ask the Premier now: When did government first become aware that the labour requirements to construct these vessels were significantly more than the amount bid? I ask the Premier: Was his government not aware several months ago, many months before the election, that the labour overruns were phenomenal and that they knew as early as last fall that they were close to 100,000 per hours overrun?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister has given a very full and a very complete answer if the Leader of the Opposition would care to hear it again. And I would remind him that I was not the Premier last fall.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier is responsible for the government's actions and it is his responsibility to be briefed and up-to-date on when government was notified. So I ask the Premier: Was the government of which he is now Premier notified early last fall, and was the shipyard aware that there were going to be phenomenal over hours?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, the government put in place a board of directors to handle all of these matters arm's length from government. What we are given are the year end financial statements for each year that the shipyard operates, as were previous governments. He will know that the history of the shipyard is some thirty years, and never, in any year, has the shipyard ever, ever made a profit. It has always been falling to successive governments of all political stripes not to worry about what the surplus was for the shipyard each year but to worry what the magnitude of debt would be each year.

We are told from time to time, and I am reported to from time to time, as the minister, that they need an increase in the line of credit to keep functioning at the yard. That has happened over the last thirty-year history of the yard. It will continue to happen unless things change.

Mr. Speaker, he will know that in November of 1994 the Wells Administration put in place a board of directors consisting of men and women who run their own businesses in the real business world. They inherited some terrible things. The drilling modules contracts cost us substantial amounts of dollars. The two ships we bid with the Maersk Group out of Copenhagen, we are seeing losses there as well. That was inherited by this new board of directors.

I met with some of them -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to bring his answer to a conclusion.

MR. FUREY: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I met with some of them this morning. They have prepared a position paper to be brought before the full Cabinet. They have also prepared a master plan and a business plan for the next number of years which shows significant reductions in the overheads. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that these men and women are doing a very good job as volunteers in the Province to try to capture and get control of the runaway debt of this yard.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To the minister: If the overruns on one vessel alone were close to 300 person-hours, at a $25-an-hour cost, that is a $7.5 million overrun on hull number fifty-three, I say to the minister. That is the mathematics of it there that he is avoiding to answer the question.

I recall the minister promised to take a hands-on approach to managing the Marystown Shipyard after they failed to win the $120 million mechanical outfitting contract back in 1993. So will he now tell us who was responsible for submitting the supply vessel bid, specifically, and why there were no effective checks and balances in the system to ensure that a multi-million dollar bid such as this one was a responsible bid before it was finally submitted?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member is engaging in selective recollection. I did not say at any time that I would take, personally, a hands-on role at the Shipyard. Quite the contrary, we put in place businessmen and businesswomen who operate in the real business world, who understand bottom lines, who know how to make profits and who know how to deal with losses. We put capable, responsible, non-political people in place in a yard that has successively over the years been extremely politicized.

Now, that board came back with a number of recommendations. The first thing they did was to remove a very significant level of senior and mid-management. Twelve people were removed straight out of the yard. The second thing they did was ask the unions - and I commend the unions, they were very responsible through this whole piece to open up their collective agreements, to look at overtimes, cross trading, shift premiums and trade flexibility, holiday pay these kinds of things; they did that, Mr. Speaker, in a responsible way.

The third thing they did was close down the St. John's office which had an overhead cost of $150,000; fourthly, they brought in the Nelson Group from New Mexico. They asked them, as professional people who look at distressed industrial yards around the world, to take a clean look at this and offer up some suggestions on how we can turn this management plan around and bring it to a break-even position at the earliest opportunity. So, a whole succession of things were done, Mr. Speaker, in rapid order, in rapid fashion by a board that has only been there for a year and two months, and I think, the business plan that they will present to Cabinet shows a turnaround possibility. But Cabinet then has to deal, Mr. Speaker, in the real world with the real options.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, I caution the minister that his answer is getting long.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, it is a complex question, it deserves a complex answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FUREY: I was giving the hon. member credit. I thought he had a complex mind but if he is saying he doesn't, I will change my conclusion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to -

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, the point that I am trying to make is that, in the thirty-year history of this yard since 1966, when Mr. Smallwood first opened it to the present day, today, March 26, 1996. The yard has never made a cent. In fact, the former government and the former Minister of Development -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to take his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A tremendous speech. The minister sharpened his pencils a couple of years ago and this is the type of pencil sharpening we are seeing.

I ask the Premier, will he confirm that the first of the two supply vessels, the MAERSK and the NASKAUPI was not completed on time. The company under contract was given a grace period until March 1, to complete the work but the work was still not completed by that time.

Now, will the Premier confirm that there was a penalty of $7,000 per day for every day beyond that grace period, and will he tell us, how much in total that delay has cost the company and will he explain why the vessel was not completed on time?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, now there was a range, a raft of questions there. I am sorry I didn't take notes but as I counted them there were four or five questions and I would have to take it under advisement so that I can get all of the correct information. But the hon. member is correct in that there are penalty clauses. In fact, there are penalty clauses for every industrial project, Mr. Speaker, whether it is done at the dockyard, the shipyard, Bull Arm, that's a normal procedure and normal contractual language that puts penalty clauses in on both sides.

I don't think anything was executed on the penalty clause but the figure sounds about right, $7,000 a day, but that didn't impact because of time deliveries that I am aware of.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to keep this as simple as possible and not complicate matters.

Will the Premier confirm that there is a penalty of $7,000 per day beyond the grace period?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how much simpler I can state the case.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes or no.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FUREY: I said, that in the course of industrial projects whether it is shipbuilding, ship repair, offshore construction, fabrication, it is standard language to have a penalty clause in place. In this particular case, it is $7,000 a day, and I am going from recollection because it is quite some time ago that I have looked at it. Has it been called upon or executed upon? I don't think so but I would have to check the record for you.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I would ask the minister if he could provide to the House - the vessel was not delivered on that date and I ask him if the penalties were applied and if he could report back to this House on what the penalties were because of delays and delivery time.

When the second vessel, the MAERSK NORSEMAN, Hull No. 54, I would ask him when that is due to be completed and, will it be completed on time without penalty?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I think it is due to be completed within the next two-and-a-half months. The board tells me, and they are the ones who function on a day-to-day basis that, yes, it will be on time, so far as I know, it will be on time.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: It is normal practise, I say to the minister, from past experience at Marystown Shipyard when a company purchases foreign goods it also purchases futures to guard against devaluations of currency in the Canadian dollar compared in this case to the Norwegian kroner.

Will the Premier confirm that Marystown Shipyard, or the minister, agreed to purchase the Ulstein package, that includes the engine, the engineering design, the hull or the engineering design, propellers, electrical equipment, et cetera from vessels in Norwegian kroners, and will he confirm that the company did not follow normal practice to guard against currency devaluations, something they had been used to doing before, and cost the taxpayers of this Province $3.2 million; will he confirm that?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the hon. Leader of the Opposition was asleep for the first part of my answer. I said that part of the overruns in costs are clearly attributable to foreign currency exchange. It is true that the shipyard, a major project, as a matter of course, hedged their bets when they were in the foreign international currency markets. In this particular case, at that particular time it was a strong Canadian dollar, a weak Norwegian kroner, and their financial advisors said there was no requirement to hedge.

Within weeks of the new board coming in, in late November, in 1994, they purchased the futures and stopped the haemorrhaging of the currency bleed of $3 million; and, yes, that was part of the overrun and the cost, and therefore the debt to the yard.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: Who was responsible for circumventing the normal purchasing process of guarding against currency devaluation? Wasn't it made at the highest levels of the shipyard, without going through the proper management channels, as had happened in the past?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, again I don't know if the hon. member did not hear me, of if he wasn't listening. Eleven senior and mid-management have been removed from the shipyard as a consequence of management decisions, as a consequence of bid preparations which were grossly underestimated. We have removed a significant layer of management.

There are other recommendations coming forward in the near future. I am awaiting those from the board. I will take them to Cabinet, and we will see where it goes from there.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition on a final supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: When and why did Mr. Max Ruelokke resign as President and Chief Executive Officer? Or does the Premier have reason to believe his resignation had to do with the supply vessels contract?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ruelokke was taken out of my department on a temporary assignment as an Assistant Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade. We required somebody in the shipyard on a minute's notice. He was an engineer. He brought certain competence and experience to that job. We sent him in there when the previous president resigned and went on his way. He was there on a temporary assignment. It was always understood to be temporary. We set in motion, when he asked us to come back into government, a plan to take him back into government. He wanted to be close to his family. He lives in the capital city. He spent nearly two years down there, far longer than we ever expected or ever believed that would be the case. We sought a new president; put the new president in place, Mr. Malcolm Weatherston I think his name is. He is currently in place. Mr. Ruelokke has another interesting job with respect to the Bull Arm site, which reverts to the Province in June of next year, and we need to market that aggressively. We think his skills are useful in that area.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

On November 9, 1995, municipal operating grants were cut by $4.1 million for 1995-'96, $7.5 million for 1996-'97. The actual reduction was 28 per cent, not 22 per cent as announced by government and yourself as minister.

After the general election, this new Administration promised a new approach to budgeting, released a pre-Budget consultation document, and committed to let people decide what to cut and what not to cut. The question to the minister: Are municipal operating grants on the table? Is government willing to rescind cuts to municipal operating grants that were announced last November that apply to the coming fiscal year?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I think every at least experienced member of this House knows that we are in the process of beginning our budgetary review in the next week or two. Hopefully when we have the Interim Supply Bill passed in the next few days or weeks, or however long it takes us to do it, I would assume that Treasury Board and the ministers from each department will start getting together then with their financial people and start putting together the Budget for 1996-'97. Until that process starts, I cannot stand in this House and say anything about anything that will be in the process, other than the fact that we are going to go through, I guess, like we did every other year, with a fine tooth comb, every section of every department and every budget.

I will say to my hon. colleague and friend across the way that he realizes the situation that we find ourselves in this year as it relates to the Budget. I don't know as minister what will happen to my budget in the next couple of weeks, and I'm certainly sure I will be glad at the end of the day to stand in the House and announce I guess some time in April or May when the Budget process is finished.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Supplementary to the minister. Municipalities have already told governments pre-Budget road show they cannot tolerate nor survive any deeper cuts to the municipal operating grants. We all know that rural Newfoundland is hurting. Is government considering even deeper cuts to the municipal operating grants this year, and can the minister confirm that this is indeed one of the budget-cutting options being kicked around in face of this year's deficit?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, that is a total misinterpretation and misrepresentation of anything that is going on in my department or me as the Minister responsible for Municipal and Provincial Affairs. There is no talk at the present time; it hasn't been discussed around the Cabinet table. Most members in the House, in the general public, and I'm certainly sure the administrators and the Federation of Municipalities, realize that we - and it was the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs that was the only department of government that took its cuts prior to January 1 of last year, because we had promised municipalities in the Province that we wouldn't do it in mid-year. We have already gone through the 1996-1997 budgetary process. I will say to my hon. friend, I don't know at this particular point in time if we need to go any further. I will know, I would imagine, in the next couple of weeks, and at that particular time we will deal with that particular situation.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would ask the Premier, or the minister, would he confirm that Mr. Ruelokke's resignation was requested in October but there were interventions? Will the Premier further confirm that Mrs. Peggy Witte of Marystown Shipyard board of directors wrote the Premier in December requesting Mr. Ruelokke's dismissal?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Chairman, nobody came to me as minister and said Mr. Ruelokke's resignation was requested. I would have to check with board members to ask if in fact the question articulated by the Leader of the Opposition is an accurate one, but it would be new to me. Mrs. Peggy Witte was one of two people who we asked from outside the Province to bring to bear their skills as a businesswoman to the board and to bring her knowledge of industry and how heavy industry works.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: She wouldn't be a friend of yours, no, I say to the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi. She did resign. As I recall a board member telling me, she didn't believe at the time that the pace of the Nelson recommendations was moving quick enough. Look, these are volunteer men and women. They don't sit because they are being paid exorbitant sums. We ask of their time and energy. There is a very small stipend that is put in place. We ask them to give us the best energy, talent and know-how to bring to bear on decisions about the Yard, and they have done that. Mrs. Witte resigned, and with Mr. Ruelokke's resignation of course he wouldn't be at the board either.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the Premier if he will confirm that his office received a letter from Mrs. Peggy Witte in December requesting the resignation from the board of Mr. Ruelokke. Will he confirm when she resigned from the board and the reasons for her resignation from the board?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I have no knowledge whatsoever of the suggestion that is being made by the Leader of the Opposition. I can only undertake to look into the matter. I have absolutely no knowledge. I've heard no suggestion whatsoever in the short time that I've been in this post.

I would only wonder aloud, what is the point of the line of questioning by the Leader of the Opposition. If there is an allegation that the Leader of the Opposition wants to make, if he believes he has sufficient information to make one, I would say to him in fairness - and I believe him to be a fair man, I truly believe him to be a fair man - that he should make the allegation. But right now the reputation of an individual who served as a senior public servant has been bandied about across the floor, all kinds of suggestions of impropriety, suggestions of incompetence, suggestions of demands for resignation, allegations by the Leader of the Opposition. And I would say this to the Leader of the Opposition -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

PREMIER TOBIN: Excuse me. I would say this to the Leader of the Opposition, that I believe him to be a fair man. I tell him that I have no knowledge of what he is suggesting and I would simply say to him that if he has an allegation and evidence to present, present it, it will be looked into. If he does not have an allegation to present, think of the consequences for this man, his family and his reputation.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Social Services.

I wonder if the minister could explain why her government continues to find new ways to punish those forced to live on social assistance? In December, Mr. Speaker, the government reversed a court decision that found her department was acting illegally when it clawed back overpayments caused by government error in social assistance cheques. Now her department is taking income tax rebates from recipients who have previously worked, causing great hardship and further deterrents to social assistance recipients trying to better themselves. Why does her government continue to make things worse for those who are at the lowest income levels in the Province and are forced to live well below the poverty line and are having a very difficult, difficult time trying to make ends meet?

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question and give a bit of background information on the policy to which he refers. This is not a new policy for recuperating income tax refunds. It is a policy that has been in place for a long period of time, albeit it had not been enforced. Back in the fall, in government's efforts to deal with the financial crisis, it had to recoup a significant amount of money, and each department was asked to review very specifically how it could come up with this money. Many issues were looked at, many programs, and it was the decision of the government and the department that the most effective way of achieving these savings would be to recuperate income tax rebates. This notice has been given to all those who would receive income tax rebates in January. There was another notice sent out early in February and there is another notice gone out at the end of February. As I said in the beginning, this is not a new policy. It is one that has been in place for a long time and, as the member is aware, social assistance provides the basic income to people. It is not meant to provide money when there are other sources of income such as income tax rebates.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, on a supplementary.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The trouble is that the individuals are now trying to recuperate from the minister's policy.

I have a supplementary for the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Can he say that he, in his budgetary actions, is looking to these people at the lowest level of society to balance his books and to make the budget shortfalls pay for themselves? I want to ask him: Why, in this particular case, are things being made worse for these types of individuals? I spoke to a couple over lunchtime today who are having to go to a food bank for the last three months.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: I want to ask the Premier whether he thinks that these individuals ought to go to a food bank to get their full and fair share, or is his government going to increase the social assistance rate for social assistance recipients, which has not been done since 1989? Will he do that?

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, in response to your question, I think we would all like to have more money to give to the recipients of social assistance in the Province. Most people definitely deserve all the money that they can earn; however, when they have a source of income, it takes away from their ability to collect social assistance. As I said, this policy is not a new policy. We would love to be able to give the social assistance recipients of this Province more money; unfortunately, we cannot.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, on a final supplementary.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The minister contradicts herself by saying it is not a new policy. She said it was a policy that was never enforced. So the enforcement obviously is new and is making things worse for these individuals. Will she not admit it is high time that social assistance recipients got an increase, not a decrease, from this government?

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, with respect to my hon. colleague's question, I suspect that with his background he is aware that a policy is a policy. We accept responsibility for not enforcing it more diligently, but we had to look at all issues, and we had to look at all programs. We made that decision and we stand by that decision, and for people who are undergoing undue hardship, there is a policy in place to allow this to be done in a reasonable way.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A question to the Premier. I say there is a cover-up and severe problems that the government have known about for some time. Now, I ask the Premier: Did he know that Marystown Shipyard was in serious financial difficulty when in the heat of the election campaign, and when he participated in the announcement that Marystown Shipyard would have first crack at building chemical reactors? Did the Premier know then?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, let me say for the record, clearly, so that the entire House knows, the Marystown Shipyard was in trouble in 1966, the very first year it opened. The gentleman who occupied this ministry, Neil Windsor, stood in his place here in 1981 and announced the findings of a Royal Commission into the shipyard, it having lost $37 million, in 1971 dollars, factored up by 100 per cent. Seven-and-a-half years after that Royal Commission it lodged another $33 million loss, in April 1990, another $34 million loss, and in the last three years another $40 million loss.

I do not know where the hon. member has been. Our concern is for the workers at the shipyard to get the bottom-line back in order so we can make substantial and competitive bids to create work down there.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has elapsed.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On behalf of the Select Committee appointed to draft a reply to the Speech of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor I am pleased to present the report of the Select Committee as follows:

To His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, the hon. Frederick W. Russell, may it please Your Honour, we, the Commons of Newfoundland and Labrador, in legislative session assembled, beg to thank Your Honour for the Gracious Speech which Your Honour has addressed to this House.

Signed: Mary Hodder, Tom Osborne and myself, Bob Mercer.

On motion, report received now.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The petition reads: To the hon. the House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. That whereas Newfoundland Power has asked the Public Utilities Board to approve an increase in electricity rates; and whereas Newfoundland Power since it has a monopoly in the delivery of an essential commodity in this Province is not at risk of becoming non-competitive; and whereas Newfoundlanders suffering from the fish resource crisis, the general economic down turn and deep government spending cuts, can ill afford increases in essential commodities like electricity at this time; and whereas not having had a rate increase since 1992 is no justification for a rate increase in 1996; wherefore your petitioners humbly pray that your hon. House may be pleased to request the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador do whatever is required to prevent an increase in Newfoundland Power rates. As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, since this House reconvened back last Friday I think we have seen several petitions brought before this House of Assembly echoing people's concern about the intentions of Newfoundland Power going before the Public Utilities Board to look for a 4.9 per cent rate increase to the company which now generates something like $27.8 million in profit. Far too often when we go around and we see the economic conditions, especially in rural Newfoundland, that exist here today, I can assure you that not many people who I know, and I think my district is no different from the districts that exist on the other side, not many people can afford to go and dig in their pockets at this time and come up with another 4.9 per cent increase in their utility bills and still maintain the necessities of putting bread and butter on the table, clothing and educating their families as well.

A prime example I suppose was when the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi asked the Minister of Social Services a question today when she stood in her place and talked about enforcing a policy. It would make your heart ache to go out there today and hear the calls that I'm getting, and I'm sure the Minister of Social Services is probably getting similar calls, or at least her staff, listening to people who are saying: Yes, we got a rebate back in income tax, or we are entitled to one, and we were going to spend it to buy a suit of clothes for my son or a dress for my daughter who graduates next month. Now it is going to be a situation where not only will they be forced with this situation again, where the sons and daughters will not be able to participate in a graduation that they have worked for, but now again they will have to dig into their pockets and pay for a necessity to heat and provide power for cooking in their own homes.

I think this should be unheard of in a society where caring people become elected and come here, and they get up and represent their constituents in the way that they were elected to perform. It isn't good enough to say that the policy existed and we must carry it out. I think we should do things to change the policy, and we should do things to react to the hurt that is out there today.

Many, many people who I have talked to, I can assure you, cannot dip into their pockets, or don't go into the woods to cut their firewood for a source of exercise. They go there because they have no other choice, and they go there so they can free up a few extra dollars in order to do the things that are needed in order to maintain a home and to raise a family.

So I call on the government of the day to intercede on behalf of the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador, and oppose very vigorously this 4.9 per cent increase that this utility is looking for. I think $27.8 million should be an ample profit for anybody to make, especially when you consider that particular utility has a monopoly on the services that they perform here in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that the government of the day will listen to those petitions as they are being brought forward and presented.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to join with the Member for Bonavista South in supporting the petition of those residents who are concerned about the power increases being sought by Newfoundland Power. It is a circumstance that is totally unacceptable to the vast majority of the people of this Province. It is an unfair increase being sought for a company that is doing remarkably well when compared to other corporations. Indeed, as a result of the operations of the Public Utilities Board, this company, Newfoundland Power, is being guaranteed a rate of return to its shareholders of a very substantial amount in the neighbourhood of around 12 per cent return on its investment.

There are very few corporations that have that kind of guarantee, but this is not even a guarantee to a widespread group of shareholders. There is only one shareholder of Newfoundland Power - only one - and that is Fortis, and Fortis has a guaranteed return. It has sometimes been called the `cash cow' for Fortis. Fortis uses Newfoundland Power as a cash cow, and with the money that they get, and the cash flow that they get, they are involved in all sorts of aspects of enterprise.

They picked up a couple of Holiday Inns on a ridiculously low bid that this government, or the previous government, put out last fall. They are involved in the trust business. They are involved in property management. They are involved in all sorts of businesses, and competing out there with other sources of capital, and they have a guaranteed return on their investment in Newfoundland Power.

I didn't notice Fortis Trust advertising recently they are going to give you 10 per cent or 12 per cent on your money if you want to invest it in GICs. It looks more like 5.5 per cent or 6 per cent, and the other 6 per cent goes to pay the profits for Fortis Incorporated, and no doubt some expenses associated with the operation of that business.

It is a very profitable corporation that does very, very well, and they are not satisfied. Like many corporations - like Irvings, for example - they are not satisfied to do very, very well. They want to do very, very, very, very well. They are not satisfied with that. They will lay off people, like they did yesterday, lay off five people, no recourse to the law, no recourse to anything. Hire five more. We are not making enough money, like the banks. We are doing great, but we are not doing great enough. So they want to go back to the Public Utilities Board and have their enormous profits increased and guaranteed at the expense of the poor people of this Province.

Some of the people who are on social assistance are being required to pay more for their electric heat because they are not satisfied they are being paid enough. Meanwhile, the Minister of Social Services is grabbing money back from them, what little bit of money they can earn as an income tax rebate now being grabbed from them, telling them: Don't bother to go to work because you are not going to get ahead. You are not going to get ahead, because Fortis is going to grab something back from you through Newfoundland Power. The Minister of Social Services is going to grab something back from you. Stay down; keep them under the foot, because the laws of this Province and the powers that be in this Province are not acting in your best interest.

I support these petitions, and I hope this government takes some action to prevent this increase from taking place.

MR. FUREY: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology on a point of order.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I think it is urgent enough that I rise on a point of order to deal with a question the hon. the Leader of the Opposition asked concerning Mr. Max Ruelokke. I would not want his reputation to hang out there, or by inference have any aspersions cast on his reputation, and I know the Leader of the Opposition did not mean to do that either, but he asked whether the board had demanded his resignation. Since Question Period, I have had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Ruelokke and he volunteered his resignation, so I would like to clear that up for his reputation sake, and I know the Leader of the Opposition would want to do that, too.

MR. SPEAKER: Actually, there was no point of order. The hon. member took the opportunity, of course, to present information to the House on an issue that rose during Question Period.

Is the hon. member on a petition?

MR. H. HODDER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber Valley - I am sorry, Waterford Valley.

MR. H. HODDER: Almost, Mr. Speaker, but not quite. It is bad enough, but in this case Waterford and Humber have parted ways.

I want to present a petition today on behalf of the parents and the family and friends of the children who have been housed at Presentation House. This petition has 1,556 signatures on it, and it makes a total of 2,088 residents of this area, the greater St. John's area, who signed a petition on this particular matter. I presented a petition a few days ago with the other number, the 532 signatures to it.

The petition is addressed to the House of Assembly and it says: We, the undersigned, hereby wish to state our opposition to the proposed closure of Presentation House, Newfoundland's only emergency shelter for children under twelve years old.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, the signatures here come from St. John's, Mount Pearl, Long Pond, Foxtrap, and all the areas throughout the northern part of the Avalon Peninsula.

The concern that people have is on the availability of an emergency shelter for children. They are concerned that placing these children directly into a foster home in an emergency situation is not going to meet the needs of the child, and they are concerned that in these particular cases, when these children are taken out by their families on holiday weekends, over Christmas, Easter, or any other time, for that matter, that these children may not be treated in the manner in which they deserve as young children.

Mr. Speaker, I have had a chance to review some of the comments made by the Executive Director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association. The Foster Families Association certainly do not paint a happy picture of the relationship between themselves and the Department of Social Services. For example, to quote from the document I have here, it says: `Foster families are often neglected. Conversation with foster families will reveal a sense of despair, inadequacy, powerlessness, frustration and insecurity.'

Mr. Speaker, what this document is saying is that foster families do not receive the kind of support, they do not receive the kind of encouragement, they do not receive the kind of dialogue and consultation that they should have with the Department of Social Services. Now, we are going to take children from very stressful situations and place them in foster homes without the adequate dialogue. For example, and I quote again from this report: `The Department of Social Services advocates for a team approach to fostering, that is the foster child, the birth parents, the foster parents, the social worker, and any other professional involved with the child.'

`This happens very rarely,' this document says. `Foster families should be seen as an integral part of the treatment of the family and the child. Foster parents should be more involved in case planning and be accorded respect as valued members of the team. Foster families should be viewed as professionals rather than volunteers.'

Now, Mr. Speaker, what this report says is that, there isn't a great relationship, and before the minister closes Presentation House, I ask her to consider whether or not placing these children in foster homes, as in cases of emergencies, is really the best step, and if we do not need a temporary emergency shelter for children to allow the dialogue to take place, to allow the consultation to take place, to allow families to be involved in rationalizing what is undoubtedly a very tense situation for the family, all family members.

So I say to the minister, before we close Presentation House, let us make sure that we have thought the system through, that we are making the very best decision and we are making it in the best interest of the children. Nobody will question the need to de-institutionalize childcare, but in doing so, let us make sure that the alternatives have the best interest of children in mind.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wish to support the petition which has been presented to this House by my colleague, the Member for Waterford Valley. It is obviously a very important issue, and an important issue for the many hundreds of individuals, the parents and friends of Presentation House who have seen fit to sign this petition and to ask this government to reconsider its decision with respect to the anticipated closure of this facility.

What we should keep in mind, Mr. Speaker, is that this particular facility is an emergency shelter - an emergency shelter for children who find themselves in crisis situations, and we are dealing with a particular age group, from infancy to age twelve. Since its inception, Mr. Speaker, 1,681 children have come through the doors of Presentation House. I mean, that is a significant number of children and their families, because it is a family-oriented facility and institution. This institution seeks to gain the support of family members which makes it very distinct and unique as opposed to the traditional foster care services which are offered in this Province. It is a family-oriented institution which requires the support, help and assistance at all times of immediate family members; 1,681 children have been helped by the Presentation Sisters and other staff members at Presentation House.

As indicated, Mr. Speaker, parents are encouraged and are invited to participate in the rehabilitation process of the children in Presentation House. Parents deal with issues of family violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse and again, when we assess the situation, I mean, when is it a child needs a family more? It is obviously in situations of such crisis in their lives as indicated, abuse and violence of all types. Victim impact statements are provided to the counsellors, to the parents, to those individuals who wish to help the children, and these victim impact statements are critical in helping these children who require again, need, at this particular time.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, and in support of this petition, the hon. the Premier was quoted as saying: Put the interests of our children first. Well, clearly, if the interests of children are to be placed first, particular needs of children, even if it is something which may appear to be such as a very narrow or local issue, Mr. Speaker, as Presentation House - but it is not. It is a very important issue and if we are going to put the needs of children first, Mr. Speaker, it is attention to perhaps what many members in this House would consider to be a very local or narrow or non-global issue. We are talking one building, one facility but clearly, Mr. Speaker, if we are putting the needs of children first, as the Premier has been quoted as saying in the past, it is this kind of example which is important and requires the attention of government through the offices of Madam Minister to ensure that the needs of our children are placed.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, thank you.

In response to the petition, I would like to concur with some of the comments that have been made by the previous speakers in that Presentation House has certainly played a very valuable role in the emergency treatment of children in the past. As you are aware, the role and function of Presentation House has shifted more from one of an emergency shelter to one that is currently providing more long-standing services to children. As we mentioned in Question Period yesterday, in fact, it is in the process of completing a pilot project on helping re-orient children back into their natural homes.

The decision to close Presentation House was made last fall. We are very much aware of its contribution. We are still meeting with parties and concerned people about that decision. I would like to say that we are not totally fixed on the date of closure. We have made it very clear that our concerns are focused on the best welfare and care of the children involved, and we are committed to allowing those children to re-orient into their natural homes, which is planned.

The main concern we have is on the type of service that is being offered and, as the hon. gentleman knows from his participation in previous committees, the role of Presentation House has changed. The mandate has changed, and we are more in need of homes for teenage children who are encountering difficulties in their natural homes than we are for providing services for children under the age of twelve years.

Again, I would like to finish by saying we are very aware of the benefits of Presentation House. We commend the Sisters and the staff for the work that they have done over the years and we are, as I mentioned, speaking to the people who have the vested interest in the community and in Presentation House.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased today to rise to present a petition. The petition reads as follows, with the correct wording:

To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland, in legislative session convened, petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador:

WHEREAS Newfoundland Power has asked the Public Utilities Board to approve an increase in electricity rates.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will not read all the `whereases' but I will read a couple of those.

WHEREAS differential rate increases, while penalizing the poor for not using electric heat, will do nothing to provide them with the money they need to pay for electric heat, so as to increase the company's competitiveness but will force many to dip into their food budgets to pay for the electricity they need for lights; and

WHEREAS not having had a rate increase since 1992 is no justification for a rate increase in 1996.

Mr. Speaker, I will just read a couple of those because the more I listen on this particular issue the more ridiculous it gets every day. As a matter of fact, there is a convenience store that I stop into on the way home from Confederation Building. I dropped in there last Friday and there was a petition on the counter with a couple of hundred names on it and, as of yesterday, when I dropped into that same convenience store, Mr. Speaker, there were over 1,000 names on that same petition. This is definitely an issue that is rising in this Province and people are finally saying - when you speak to somebody about the issue they say: Enough is enough. And the more ridiculous it sounds, as we speak about it.

What we have here are two corporate giants - mainly the Newfoundland Power industry and the oil companies - who have a battle ongoing here and the monopoly in this Province, Newfoundland Power, is using that to manipulate the consumer, Mr. Speaker. What they are doing is that - and not only this company with the $27.8 million profit last year. We are not talking about a company that is failing or about to go bankrupt. We are talking about a company that has a monopoly in the Province. We are talking about a company that makes millions of dollars and we are talking about a contest they are having with the oil companies for competitiveness, you could say, Mr. Speaker. And this company is going to decide to boost their profits - not to even maintain their profits but to boost their profits on the backs of the people who can least afford it in this Province, Mr. Speaker.

Today, some questions were asked of the Minister of Social Services and, of course, those are the type of people who will pay this, Mr. Speaker, like all of us do, like all of us depend on electricity from this company that holds a monopoly in this Province. Those people who have been calling my office - and I know there are members in this House in the last weeks and months - complaining if someone on social services gets a few weeks work or a months work, that any refund they receive in income tax now will be drawn back from them.

Like my colleague, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi said earlier, these are the people who can least afford it, and we have our foot on them; we are keeping them down. Now, on top of everything else we hear about these rates and so on, now the Provincial Government decide they are going to take back the few dollars they get as a little bonus throughout the year in income taxes. It might be $50. I talked to one man who had $110 income tax returned, but that was going to be dragged back from him, like it was going to make him rich, like it was going to provide too much from his family.

These are the types of people, when you see something like this come forward to the PUB - and, yes, we all know in this House that there is a process we have to go through, that is what the Public Utilities Board is there for. But people in this Province are speaking loud and clear in saying to all members of this House, on both sides - and they should realize that people are saying no to this. While the process, yes, must go ahead, we also, as members in this House, who represent people in our districts, should be able to stand in this House and support people when they put forward petitions such as these.

Mr. Speaker, often we are criticized for petitions that come to the House. Well, these petitions, although I did not read out all of the `Whereases', are all over this Province. As a matter of fact, I had calls and requests this morning for petitions from my own district. And I am sure on both sides of the House the members are now getting calls and requests for petitions in their particular area.

What we have to remember first and foremost is that Newfoundland Power has a monopoly in this Province, and we also have a company that is making a fair profit - a better than fair profit. As was mentioned earlier, we are not talking about it being a great profit; now they want a greater profit. So we are not talking about somebody who is buckling and about to go under and needs a boost to stay surviving in this Province. We are talking about a company which makes a fair profit, a great profit, and now wants to boost those profits on the backs of the people who can least afford it.

I think it is incumbent on every member of this House, including government ministers, and the Premier, and so on... Although the process has to go through the Public Utilities Board, I can tell you this: There was also a process with electoral boundaries in this Province when the government did not mind interceding, and the ex-House Leader here made his own presentation to that particular board. So I cannot see why anybody on the government side, from the minister to the Premier, right on back to anybody in this House, cannot make a presentation to speak on behalf of the people of this Province to say that we will not accept that rate increase.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise to support the petition presented by the Member for Baie Verte, and to say a few words about the projected increase.

First and foremost, I presented petitions, and a petition yesterday on this issue, and some people across the House shouted back that if there are people who are in a position in which their light bills are overdue, or if they cannot pay, if those people are on social assistance they should go to the Newfoundland Power Share the Light program.

Mr. Speaker, what those people who said that yesterday fail to realize is that the Share the Light program does not include, does not provided for people who are on social assistance. It is not extended by Newfoundland Power to people who are on social assistance. It is extended to the working poor.

The other thing that we should realize in this House, as members, is that the amount of money that Newfoundland Power put into the Share the Light program last year amounted to a measly, paltry fee of $15,000. And they have the audacity and the gall, in the times that we live in, to come before the Public Utilities Board and request a 4.9 per cent increase when they made, last year, $27.8 million after expenses, after they paid the shareholders of this Province.

In questions asked of the Minister of Mines and Energy, all he said in response to questions that I asked in this House was: We have appointed a consumer advocate, and our job is done. He also said that we, in this House, should not prejudge in any way, shape or form, what the Public Utilities Board would do.

Clearly, any thinking member in this House who takes the time to look at the last twenty years of the Public Utilities Board, who takes the time to look at the last twenty years in terms of when Newfoundland Power asked for an increase, to see how many times Newfoundland Power was turned down, they will find that it was zero. There have been times, Mr. Speaker - and I admit, that Newfoundland Power did not get the increase that it requested, but nonetheless, the fact remains that Newfoundland Light and Power, each and every time it went to the Public Utilities Board over the last twenty years, received some increase in its basic electricity rates when they requested it.

Mr. Speaker, it is incumbent upon each and every member in this House of Assembly to react and respond to this increase at this time. The Public Utilities Board is governed by a statute of this House. It is governed by legislation enacted by this House. It may be old legislation dating back to 1950. The rules and regulations governing the operation and governance of the Utilities Board dates back to that time as well. But if the political will exists here, then we have an opportunity to ensure that a zero per cent increase takes place - not a 3 per cent increase, not a 2 per cent increase, not a 1 per cent increase, but a zero per cent increase, which is what the people of this Province are demanding, and it is what the people of this Province must have.

If we see it as a process that we have put in place in terms of the Public Utilities Board which is a judicial board of sorts - it is a quasi-judicial board, I believe we would call it - and we want to let that process take its own pace and its own form, sobeit. But there is nothing stopping each and every member of this House from making a presentation and intervening before the Public Utilities Board. There is nothing to stop the Minister of Mines and Energy from making a presentation. There is nothing to stop the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, the Minister of Social Services, or the Member for Twillingate & Fogo from making a presentation at the Public Utilities Board, requesting on the one hand and demanding on the other, that a zero per cent increase take place at this time.

Over the last four years, Newfoundland Light and Power has spent an exorbitant sum of money in advertising. What was their advertising aimed at? They have asked people like you and me to conserve energy. They have advised us, as energy users, to seal our windows, to seal our doors, to stop heat loss, to stop energy escaping from our homes, thus creating a lower demand for energy and energy use in this Province. And, Mr. Speaker, they have succeeded. But now what we see, at the same time, is that while they have advised consumers and they have advised ratepayers to reduce electrical demands, to reduce the amount of heat they use in their homes, they are now saying that because there are lower demands, they want an increase. Mr. Speaker, it has to be stopped, it can be stopped here, and we, as members of the House, must stop it.

Thank you very much.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Mr. Penney): Order, please!

Bill No. 2, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1997 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service".

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I am happy to rise today to speak in the debate on Interim Supply. Before I get into my comments, however, I would want to extend to hon. members, congratulations on their being elected. I know that I am little bit late in doing that. It is only my second time in getting up to speak in this particular debate although it has been several days. Some of the members on both sides are new to the House. I want to offer congratulations to all of them and, Mr. Chairman, I particularly want to extend congratulations to the hon. the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, a person with whom I have worked in the City of Mount Pearl for some time. She and I served as the Mayor and Deputy Mayor for seven-and-a-half years, and I am sure it would be incumbent upon me to single her out and to offer her sincere congratulations and to wish her well in her tenure. I can assure all hon. members that she and I make up what is called the Mount Pearl Team, and I really offer her sincere congratulations, as I do to all hon. members who have been re-elected.

Mr. Chairman, on the Interim Supply debate today, I want to focus on children. As most members would know, I have had a substantive career in education and I certainly know some of the issues involving children. I have lived with them, seen them both as a teacher, an administrator, as a neighbour, in some cases, and also as a community worker.

Mr. Chairman, I am somewhat concerned, in this time of cutbacks, that we not be tempted to cut back on services to children. Mr. Chairman, many of our children have no voice, and we have to be their voices.

One of the things that has come clear to us on the Select Committee on Children's Interest is the fact, sadly we have to say, that many of the government agencies and departments are not children-focused. In fact, many of the systems that we expect to be child-focused are not always child-focused - very often, they are system-focused. And when you look at children who are very young - basically, the Department of Health has a mandate for children in their infancies, and there is some recognition given to the fact that there is a need to monitor the health of children from birth until maybe a year-and-a-half or so.

But then, there are no mandated measures that intervene in the health of children until that child enters Kindergarten. So, Mr. Chairman, I am afraid, in our time of cutbacks and restraints, that we might be tempted to take away the few services that we offer to children now.

Mr. Chairman, I know that we can have tremendous improvements in co-ordination of services to children. It is a fact that some of the services offered by the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services, Department of Justice, Department of Education, could be better delivered if they were better co-ordinated and if they were better integrated; and in our study on the Children's Interest Committee, we have found a willingness in the departments at the official level for this integration and co-ordination to take place.

However, there is great confusion at the moment as to which agency or which department of government is responsible to respond to children's needs and children's issues. In fact, in some cases, we know that there is a great deal of turfism that takes place. Because everybody agrees there should be co-ordination excepting when someone says: Well, that might mean that we are going to have to move you to a new agency or, in fact, we may have to discontinue an agency or co-ordinate it better. Everybody wants to have the co-ordination occur but it should never, ever affect their particular job or their particular backyard, you might say. And in this time of cutback, I am afraid that children are the people who are most at risk. Children have no political power. They do not get elected. They seem to be voiceless, they do not pay taxes, in other words, and they do not vote. So, Mr. Speaker, while we want to commend the government for some of its initiatives, in this time of the Interim Budget and in preparation for the Budget for the year, we want to say to the government: Keep the children in mind.

On Page 367 of the Royal Commission on Education, titled Our Children, Our Future, there is a quote. It says, `Investments in early childhood programs will result in substantial savings in later years because prevention is always less costly than repairing the damage once it is done.' I say to all hon. members, let us focus on early childhood education. Let us focus on what it means to have a healthy child, growing up in a healthy family where there are interventions, and there is support.

The latest research is showing that if we do not intervene on behalf of children before they are thirty-six months old, then interventions after that with the aim to affecting behaviour become progressively less successful. In the submissions that we heard in the Children's Interest Committee from Dr. Julia O'Sullivan at the University, an internationally-known researcher, shows that if we take a child, and that child has behavioural - or difficulties, we have a window of opportunity to intervene, and it is only between eighteen months and thirty-six months.

Well, this Province has no programs that mandate intervention in that age group, so we are missing an opportunity to do early intervention. I want to say to all hon. members that when we are cutting back, when we are shaving off the budgets the amounts, when we are sharpening our pencils, do not do it at the expense of the children of Newfoundland and Labrador, because we do so little now. As a matter of fact, I could mention some of the things that we do not do as a Province. We happen to have a fair number of things that we fail to do.

In this particular Province, for example, today, I say to the hon. the Minister of Social Services, that the Day Care and Homemaker's Services Act dates back to 1975, and it is loose and open to a variety of interpretations. We need in this Province a new child care act. It has been expected, it has been talked about, but it has never been delivered. Maybe she would take it upon herself to look at delivering a new child care act for this Province.

We know that this is the only Province where there is no licensed day care for children under two years of age. It is the only Province where that happens. If any member of this House today went out to seek a permit, a license, to operate a child care facility for children under two years of age, you cannot have one. You cannot get a permit to have a day care for children under two years of age. You cannot do it. There is no legislation that permits it. We are the only Province in Canada that does not have a licensing procedure for day care facilities to accommodate children under two years. Two years and up, yes, but infants to two years have to be put out with neighbours, friends, that kind of program, but not a licensed day care.

Mr. Chairman, we are the only Province where there is no licensing of family home day care. Again, I say, these things are not going to cost a lot. These are not big budget items. They are matters where the minister can simply correct this problem and bring us in sync with the Canadian thought processes. It is not going to be a big item, just the cost of doing the research, printing up the legislation, and having someone monitor it.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, if I could just conclude, I want to say to the Minister of Social Services that we can do a lot for children in this Province. It is not going to cost us a lot to change some of the legislation. We need to have a genuine focus on children. We have not seen it in - well, I guess, since this Legislature has been here. I am not talking about Liberal or PC. I am saying that we need a lot of work done that can be done at minimal cost, but can have tremendous impact on children, particularly when it comes to early childhood intervention.

Mr. Chairman, later in the debate, I will get a chance to talk about family resource centres and these kinds of matters, because I happen to believe that these are crucial things that affect children. I do have a genuine concern that we, as a Province, might be tempted to discontinue or to even reduce the level of commitment we have towards children when we start to do budget cutbacks. I can assure you that children - I am talking particularly now about children between infancy and five years of age. Because, up until they are five years old, the Department of Education does not know that they exist and they have no rights. They are not even people, as far as the Department of Education is concerned, until they get to be five years old. So I am saying to the Minister of Social Services that there is need for us to examine our commitment genuinely, all of us as members of this House, so we can do more for children, not necessarily spend more money, but we can spend what we have a lot more wisely, and we can improve the delivery of programs to all the children, particularly to children who are under five years old.

Thank you very much.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Mr. Chairman and hon. members, I feel privileged to rise in this House today as the member for the new District of Grand Falls - Buchans, which comprises all of the former town of Grand Falls, part of the former town of Windsor, Badger, Buchans Junction, Millertown and Buchans.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to begin by extending congratulations to all members who have been re-elected and new members elected for the first time, rookies, just like myself.

Mr. Chairman, as you may recall, I ran unsuccessfully in the June 27 by-election for the former district of Grand Falls. At that time, I thought all hopes were dashed of my ever standing in this House today. There are benefits to losing, Mr. Chairman, in fact, it can be one of life's most rewarding experiences. Losing can do one of two things: it can make you admit defeat or it can make you more determined to win. I chose the latter.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Mr. Chairman, little did I think I would get a second opportunity to run for the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador in just a matter of seven months. With the optimistic vision of Premier Tobin for this Province, a new page of history was written for our district. On February 22, as the polling results came in, it looked something like this - Buchans: won all polls; Buchans Junction: won all polls; Millertown: won all polls; Badger: won all polls; part of the former town of Windsor: won all polls. Then, the unexpected occurred: Grand Falls, with the exception of two polls, went Liberal for the first time since Confederation!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Mr. Chairman, I am humbled by this experience and grateful to the voters of Grand Falls - Buchans for their resounding vote of confidence in me and the endorsement of Premier Tobin's leadership.

Grand Falls - Windsor is nestled on the beautiful Exploits River, soon to be one of the best salmon rivers in North America, and I will elaborate on this a little bit later on.

Our main industry is the pulp and paper industry, Abitibi-Price. As you know, Mr. Chairman, the pulp and paper industry has taken a severe beating since 1989, but is only now coming back to where it should have been. The year 1995 was a very successful year for Abitibi-Price. In fact, the Grand Falls mill had the best cost per ton in the Abitibi division. Grand Falls mill had set a target efficiency of 88 per cent, and do you know that at the end of January, this year, it reached a target of 87.5 per cent efficiency, just an incredible achievement for the employees of the Grand Falls mill.

Abitibi-Price is committed to the Grand Falls mill. Their capital works program for 1996 is close to $34.6 million, which includes approximately $21 million for the Star Lake hydro project, and the balance to be spent in the mill itself. This activity will create many needed jobs throughout the district.

Mr. Chairman, with the amalgamation of Grand Falls - Windsor in 1990 - and I believe that we have become the model for amalgamation throughout the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Most definitely.

A new community of approximately 16,000 residents has emerged from that amalgamation, making us the largest town in Central Newfoundland. In fact, when you look at our geographic location, we are placed directly in the center of the Province, halfway between Port aux Basques and St. John's, and that location has worked in our favour. Many distribution companies have set up offices and locations in Grand Falls - Windsor, as they find it very convenient and accessible for distribution of goods and services.

Mr. Chairman, the many residents of Central Newfoundland who use Grand Falls - Windsor as a service centre, and there is a radius, actually, of about 75,000 people who come into Grand Falls - Windsor and use our services - we want an assurance that the present level of government services will continue to be maintained in the district, as our overall economy depends heavily on this commitment.

Mr. Chairman, I mentioned earlier that the Exploits River is soon to become one of the best salmon rivers in North America. We have in place right now a tripartite agreement between federal, provincial and municipal governments for infrastructure funding to provide sewerage treatment for Grand Falls - Windsor; however, we have a little bit of a problem. Our latest tender call has been over budget by approximately $500,000, and we are requesting, as a community and a district, that our government review our request so that we may be given favourable consideration for approval.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS THISTLE: Thank you, Mr. Minister.

Mr. Chairman, can you imagine the untapped tourist potential with our Exploits River once it is cleaned up?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MS THISTLE: You can, can't you?

You have all heard in this House about Exploits Environment Resources Management Association, or more commonly known as ERMA. ERMA is a group of volunteers who have been involved in the revitalization of the Exploits River for the past ten years. They have been responsible for the installation and the maintenance of the Fishway at Bishop's Falls, Grand Falls, and Red Indian Lake. Their primary function is to enhance the Exploits River by improving salmon stocks and providing a pristine environment for everyone to enjoy.

Mr. Chairman, a number of other river management groups throughout the Province have followed ERMA's model. In fact, ERMA has been recognized with awards from all levels of government, and fishing organizations all over the world.

Mr. Chairman, just last week, our town council handed over $50,000 - not from our funds, mind you - not from our council funds, but from a former resident of Grand Falls - Windsor who had come back to Grand Falls now and then every two or three years and realized there was no place in Grand Falls - Windsor to spend overnight with a travel trailer. So that person donated $50,000. We saw fit to hand it over to ERMA because they being such good stewards of money and volunteers we knew that they could put that money to work and build on it. It looks like we will have a trailer park within a year or two if they can access some other types of funding.

Mr. Speaker, another self-help group of volunteers who have displayed incredible initiative in our community is the Codroy Brook Enhancement Association, which was originally founded by the Exploits Valley Disability Association. They have undertaken to build a 4.5 kilometre waterway through the town of Grand Falls - Windsor from Codroy Pond to the Exploits River, just another add-on to our tourist potential there. This trail will be fully accessible so residents and visitors can fully enjoy its beauty.

These are examples of how volunteers can promote tourism, build our economy, cultivate civic pride. Just an invaluable demonstration of commitment by volunteers. No wonder Grand Falls - Windsor has been chosen by Chatelaine magazine as one of the ten best towns to live in in Canada. I'm really proud of that town.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS THISTLE: Mr. Speaker, as we move westward to the community of Badger we enter the gateway to a sportsman's paradise for hunting and fishing. In fact, some of the best salmon fishing -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Grand Falls - Buchans by leave.

MS THISTLE: Thank you for your kindness. I'm not too familiar with the rules of this House yet. Thank you.

In fact, some of the best salmon fishing on the Exploits River can actually be done behind Badger stadium in the Exploits River. Badger has become an important stop-off point for truckers heading east and west for servicing their tractor trailers. The restaurants on the highway are well known for their excellent food.

Mr. Chairman, the community of Badger still derives most of its livelihood from the woods operation, whether it be logging or supplying outfitters and sportsmen. The main concerns of the residents is supplying and paying for municipal services, maintaining recreation facilities, and trying to keep their school system in place where employment is scarce and seasonal at best. The same concerns are echoed throughout the communities of Buchans Junction and Millertown where the main employer is still the Abitibi woods operation, on a reduced scale, and local saw mills.

Then we move into the town of Buchans, once a bustling community, and home of the Buchans Miners hockey team which won the first Herder Memorial trophy in 1950. Buchans is the town that refused to die. Although the main employer, ASARCO mines, closed in 1984, the people pulled together and started to bring new life back to the community. We now have two hi-tech industries started up there and doing quite well. There is also another interesting proposal coming to the surface now by Sea Springs Newfoundland. Actually, it is a fish hatchery. They are looking at using the abandoned sand pits from the ASARCO mines. It looks like a very promising venture, and they already have a commitment from a Norwegian investor of $1 million. That is a project I will be following closely and supporting in the future.

In conclusion I would like to tell you that never before has it been so important for us to look at not only our district, our Province, but our country. Quebecers need to know and understand that we want them to choose Canada. Just yesterday Standard and Poor's credit rating agency endorsed the Government of Canada's deficit reduction policy, with the big question of interest rates hinging on the Quebec unity issue.

In conclusion, Newfoundland and Labradorians have always faced tough challenges. That is why we survived these almost 500 years. Our government is also facing tough challenges that we can overcome if we work together as a people with a common goal. You know, the concerns that are out around the Province are different in every community. Sometimes it is a small concern, like the James Hornell Boys and Girls Club in Buchans or maybe it is the stadium in Badger but they are concerns of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Mr. Chairman, I am honoured to represent the people of Grand Falls - Buchans and proud to be a part of this hon. House. I stand committed to work for my district, our Province and our country. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, it gives me pleasure to rise in this House this afternoon to touch on a few issues that relate to my district.

I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Grand Falls - Buchans talk about her success in the recent election. I am also very proud to stand in this House and tell this House for the first time in many, many, many years the community of Foxtrap, which is in my district, which always voted Liberal voted Conservative.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: And I am very proud to stand here and represent these people along with everybody else in the great district of Conception Bay South. Anyway, I don't mind that, you get used to that.

As well today, Mr. Chairman, I would like to invite all members in this House, on both sides present - in 1996 our town is going to host the 1996 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games, thanks to a couple of people opposite who were certainly of a great help, one being the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs and one being the former Minister of Culture and Recreation. I will thank those two gentlemen for their help over the past years. I am not afraid to give credit where credit is due, I might add. Anyway they were very helpful to me at the time. I would like to invite you all to our town. We have had twenty-one people working for the past three years and we hope to have some 1,200 to 1,500 athletes in our community this summer. We will also be using some 1,200 to 1,500 volunteers. That is why I was glad to hear one thing from the Throne Speech as it related to a medal which we can use to help out a lot of our volunteers in this Province, people who give freely of their time and efforts to make events such as ours in Conception Bay South, the success that it will be. The committee is very, very much on target and we will be ready when August rolls around to proceed with those games.

As well I was very interested the other day to hear the new Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation talk about the involvement of tourism and recreation throughout this Province and how it must join together so that we can have the benefit of this for our Province. Again, I am very proud or I was very proud to be associated with a group some years ago who were able to bring twenty-eight countries into this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was a tremendous event and it was done because tourism was interested in the recreational needs of this Province. So I look forward to hearing the minister's views as we go forward in the next few years, as to whether these events will continue.

I am also very interested in - over the next month or two months - obtaining a copy of a report that is now, I understand, being submitted to Cabinet as it relates to Conception Bay South or the town part of my district of Conception Bay South which is now being done by the Auditor General. I believe the report is completed and is now, I am assuming, going forward to Cabinet. I look forward to reading that report. I look forward to seeing where this report is going to lead us. I look forward to seeing what the final outcome can be so that the problems that we have had in that particular community can be put to rest, finally. I will have a lot more to say about that in this hon. House as time progresses over the next few years.

I had hoped the other day to follow the lead of the Opposition House Leader who said that we should ask some questions, especially as it relates to Interim Supply. I have to attend a meeting tonight with my hon. friend from Harbour Main - Whitbourne concerning a school closure in Harbour Main. I had hoped that the Minister of Education would have been here today to tell me if whether the amount that is in the Interim Supply will be there and whether the capital expenditure to make the improvements to the Holy Cross School in Holyrood has now have been budgeted and if we as well can get going and get the necessary repairs made to that building, if the school indeed has to close in Harbour Main. I don't know if he gave the information to my friend earlier today or not, but if he did, I am sure it will be a topic of this very heated discussion tonight at our meeting in Harbour Main. So again, Mr. Chairman, those are some of the issues that I will pursue as we go forward over the next few months in this hon. House, it is indeed a pleasure for me to serve here as well and thank you very much for the time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ANDERSEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I thank you for the applause because, after I am finished there may be nil.

Mr. Chairman, I feel honoured today to stand in the House of Assembly to represent Torngat Mountains. I have been approached by every political party from the age of nineteen to run both federally and provincially, and after looking at the state of affairs in Torngat Mountains and what has happened over the last few years, I felt I had no choice, because I felt the next four years would be the most important in the lives of the people of Torngat Mountains.

Mr. Chairman, I make no bones about it, people have told me that I have the hardest district to represent. The cost of living is the highest in the Province and my district is faced with welfare. Mr. Chairman, when the ordinary person walks in and buys a three-litre bag of milk for his children, please be advised that the people in Torngat Mountains have to pay $3.60 air freight in order to get it to Coastal Labrador. When the ordinary person sits down to a Sunday dinner of a two or three-pound chicken with vegetables, the people in Torngat Mountains pay $8.00 air freight plus the cost of the goods.

Mr. Chairman, the people in my district were fishermen; that is the job that they have done all their lives. Mr. Chairman, the fishery in Torngat Mountains failed; there was no moratorium, there was no TAGS Program. A year-and-a half later when the fishery failed in Newfoundland, out come the moratorium, out come the TAGS Program. The people in Torngat Mountains, who were fishermen the same as anyone on the Island, applied, and the answer came back: We are sorry, you don't qualify.

Land: Mr. Chairman, in speaking with the Mayor in Nain, with all the activities that are going on, there have been sixty-seven people who have come looking for a piece of land to build a house. The community in Nain doesn't have one penny for land development or water and sewer. Companies are lining up wanting to come in there and start business with the mining activities and the answer is: We have no land.

Mr. Chairman, education in my district: the government failed to listen to the community and the people in Nain when they built the new school four or five years ago. They built a school that could accommodate a maximum of 300 people. Today, Mr. Chairman, we have over 400 and finally, they have enough desks in there so that the students do not have to sit on the floor, and with the proposed activity in Nain, I shudder to think what will happen when people will want to go out to the school in two or three years time.

The community in Rigolet, Mr. Chairman, 70 per cent, welfare. The only high school in the Province to my knowledge that does not have a gymnasium. 70 per cent of the people are on welfare and they are out there today plugging away having bake sales, rummage sales trying to raise a few bucks so they can build a gymnasium and enjoy what every other high school, all grade schools enjoy in the rest of the Province.

Mr. Chairman, I may be out of line, but there is one thing I want to read to this House before I address the situation in Hopedale. From the Grade V class: Congratulations on winning the election in the District of Torngat Mountains. We are studying the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. We know that you are busy but there is one issue that is really important to us. We need a new school as quickly as possible. Our present school is old, is much too small, our enrolment is growing. The building is falling apart at times. Education is very important to us. We need a good building to learn in; we need to learn in order to graduate and to get jobs. We would like to talk to you when you come to Hopedale.

Thank you for reading this. Please let Premier Brian Tobin and the government know about our school. Thank you and please reply.

Your friends in Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ANDERSEN: Mr. Chairman, anyone who saw television this past winter, there were no exaggerations when a film was shown that, when the wind is over twenty kilometres an hour, the walls swayed back and forth. The minister of lands and services for the government, the Member for Lake Melville, was on the school board in 1988 when the school board had to put cables across to keep the walls from swinging back and forth.

These children ask for one thing, not for computers or extra courses; they are asking for a decent school that is safe, where they can go and get an education.

The fumes in the school come from an oil spill that was created three or four years ago, that was never, ever cleaned up; and now, with the bedrock...

I had a business, or I ran the store next to the school - it is bedrock - and anyone will know that the fuel is there sitting on top of the rock, with nowhere to go, and every once in awhile it goes through the school. That is the reason why they were taken out of school with headaches and upset stomachs.

Mr. Chairman, in my district land claims have been ongoing for over twenty years, with both the provincial and federal government failing in their bid to make sure land claim settlement was brought about. I cannot help but stand in this House today and compliment Chief Katie Riche and her people in Davis Inlet on the effort of what they are trying to do to bring their lives back together with very little help from both the provincial and federal governments.

Mr. Chairman, Voisey's Bay - everywhere we go we hear people talking about Voisey's Bay; we need to benefit from Voisey's Bay. The people in Torngat Mountains are getting a few token jobs from the mining companies. Yet, they are bringing in brush cutters, thirty-two at a time, from Springdale and Botwood, while the people in my district are left out.

The environment - when four drums of fuel are dropped from a chopper and splattered all over the countryside and the company doesn't report it, when companies are up there blasting without blasting permits, and ponds are polluted, the only benefit that the people in Torngat Mountains are getting today is the pollution that is starting to ruin our countryside. And I have the proof of everything I have said here today, and if anyone begs to differ the difference, come with me to Torngat and I will show you.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I was travelling back on a plane last year and there was a referendum. I had a three-hour flight, and it seemed like an eternity when I didn't know, by the time I got back and heard the results, if we had a united Canada or not, a united Canada with Quebec in it.

Mr. Chairman, some people might think I am a radical for saying the things I did today, but these are facts, and let me best advise this House here that if there is nothing done for my district, and if I fail to get re-elected, there is one thing I will do more than any other member in this House, and I know 65 per cent of all of the people in Labrador on a first-name basis. Right now there hangs a dark cloud over Labrador - you people have seen it in the papers, and you know what I am talking about - and if I fail to get any money for my district, if I fail to be re-elected, there is one thing I will do, every night when I go to bed, and when I get up in the morning, I will make sure I do my job, so that when the time comes for the next government to be formed, and the next MHA for Labrador, that we will still have this beautiful thing that we call home, whether you are from Lewin's Cove, St. Anthony, Makkovik, or Nain, but we will have a united - a united - Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to comment on the words of my colleague, the Member for Torngat Mountains, a very touching and moving and persuasive few minutes, obviously an individual who is deeply concerned about his roots, and the representation of his constituents. I only hope that his colleagues on the opposite side of the House listen well to what he has said. The message was loud and clear. Again, I was touched by the comments that were made.

Earlier this afternoon we heard, Mr. Chairman, my colleague who is just leaving the Chamber from Grand Falls - Buchans mention the fact that most of the polls in her district were in fact Liberal polls. I also heard my colleague to my immediate right, the hon. Member for Conception Bay South, indicate that the town of Foxtrap voted Progressive Conservative for the first time.

It reminds me a little bit of my situation in St. John's East which we will all remember that after Confederation in the 1950s St. John's East provincially, not federally, as a district in this Legislature, was represented by a Progressive Conservative. Throughout the elections of the 1960s St. John's East was represented by a Progressive Conservative. Throughout the 1970s in the history of St. John's East in this provincial Legislature St. John's East was represented by a Progressive Conservative. In the early 1980s St. John's East was represented by the Progressive Conservatives.

In the mid-1980s there was a change. St. John's East was represented by a member of the New Democratic Party. In the general election of 1989 St. John's East was represented once again by a member of the Progressive Conservative party. In 1990 in a by-election in St. John's East a member of the New Democratic Party was returned to represent the constituents. In 1993 the New Democratic Party again represented the constituents of St. John's East.

It is clear that there was a concern. My friends on the opposite side of the House, in reviewing the history of St. John's East, noticed that there was only representation from either, and predominantly I might add, the Progressive Conservative Party, or secondly the New Democratic Party. So what takes place, what happens?

This is what happens. In redistribution let's in fact change St. John's East geographically, let's change it physically, let's now call St. John's East what used to be called St. John's Centre, a district that was represented in the previous two elections by a member of the Liberal Party. So in fact as a result of redistribution it was changed. St. John's East was largely the old St. John's Centre. However, what happened on February 22, 1996, the voters of St. John's East returned to this House a member of the Progressive Conservative Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: So it is interesting, when we review the statistics of the polls and the history of the various districts, Mr. Chairman, to see the traditions, the patterns, the changes that will take place within each district. Obviously we as members for our particular districts take great interest in assessing the outcome as we learn on election night.

It is unfortunate that the hon. Minister of Education is not present. I wanted to respond to a few comments that were made by the hon. minister yesterday in dealing with the issues of busing and school viability issues. The hon. minister indicated to this House that there were no changes with respect to viability, that the viability and the school viability concerns were placed on hold.

That may be the case. However, the anticipated reforms in the pending education act have raised significant concerns among parents' organizations, school board members, school teachers, students in schools, and the electorate at large, to the point that there is indeed a great uncertainty with respect to what the future has in store for schools and school children in this Province.

Mr. Chairman, I have before me a copy of correspondence written by the Home and School Association of St. Joseph's Elementary School. In fact my colleague for Conception Bay South referenced it just moments ago. What we have here is in fact a confused group of people, not confused, obviously, in their own right, but confused, Mr. Chairman, by the uncertainty of the status of school reform in this Province.

I would just like to read briefly from the Speech from the Throne. This is the Speech from the Throne, the address of which was given to this hon. House approximately a week ago. I will read it: Education reform will proceed. The next paragraph, Mr. Chairman: My Government is committed to dialogue and discussion on implementing educational reform. We need a new partnership involving educators, school boards, the churches, parents, et cetera. This is why the electorate and all stakeholders in education in this Province today are in this state of confusion. We have in one breath the fact that reform will go ahead, and in the second breath the need for consultation and discussion of all its stakeholders, and therein lies the problem.

It is a mixed message, Mr. Chairman, and it is not only the parents from St. Joseph's Elementary School in Harbour Main who are concerned and confused by what may well be in store, but also, Mr. Chairman, I have received a copy - in fact a copy was faxed to me as education critic from the Concerned Parents Committee of Jackson Walsh school system. There are two school boards, namely the Western Avalon Roman Catholic School Board and the Avalon North Integrated School Board involving two school complexes, one known as Corpus Christi and the other as Jackson Walsh.

The board granted, not being forced or coerced at this time because the new Education Act is not before us, but in view of the pending legislation the board on its own accord has taken steps to attempt to consolidate, to amalgamate the school system, the result of which, Mr. Chairman, again we have an unsettled and concerned group of parents and individuals in these communities. They want to make sure each stakeholder; each person in each community wants to make sure that whatever these changes may be that they are in the best interest of their children.

There are competing interests, Mr. Chairman, but again the uncertainty in where we are in education in this Province today has led to the fact that students, and teachers, and parents, and PTAs, and school board member themselves, do not know where to turn. They are attempting ways to consolidate, attempting ways to amalgamate, having parent and teacher meetings, unfortunately having communities finding themselves having to compete with one another in trying to retain that institution, of all institutions, its own school. The whole situation that Newfoundlanders today find themselves in is in a state of flux and uncertainty.

It is essential, and that is why I repeat, it is unfortunate that the hon. Minister of Education is not present because it is essential, as I see it, that these issues be addressed immediately, that these issues be addressed in view of what may very well be significant and drastic education reform which may take place. It has not happened yet, and I suppose it is possible that it may not happen, but there will have to be by necessity certain types of reform in order that the educational needs of children are met in this Province.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, just to move slightly from the second, primary, elementary and secondary levels of education, I want to very briefly speak to post-secondary education and the concerns that have been addressed by the report of the Auditor General in the report for the year ending March 31, 1995. Where in this report, Mr. Chairman, the Auditor General has found that the department - this is with respect to our post-secondary college system - the report indicates that the department does not provide adequate direction in the planning and coordination for the college system. It mentions four areas; I'm just going to mention a couple.

In particular, the report states the department does not have comprehensive strategic or operational plans to ensure the colleges' activities reflect the goals of the department. It seems to me to be a very basic and intrinsic weakness in the system when in this report it is stated that the goals, aims and objectives of our post-secondary college system have not been realized.

Secondly, the report continues to state, that there is inadequate planning to determine what affect changes in major revenue sources may have on the ability of the department in achieving its goals and objectives. These are fundamental areas of concern, fundamental areas of weakness which have been raised and addressed in the report of the Auditor General for the year ending March 1995.

Clearly it is incumbent on my colleagues opposite to take a very serious view and approach to the weaknesses which appear to be inherent in the education system in this Province, not only the primary, elementary and secondary level. The weaknesses which I mentioned are a result of the uncertainty and instability of what lies ahead for us in the future. Unfortunately there seems to be weaknesses in our post-secondary as well, weaknesses in view of direction, weaknesses in the area of aims, objectives, strategies. These are fundamental concerns, and it is only hoped, as a critic in education, that these are concerns that will be addressed and will be reacted upon favourably by my friends opposite.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: I apologize to the hon. Member for Burgeo & LaPoile. I will recognize you in a second.

Over the last couple of days I've heard members, not only the new members - I'm not picking on new members because the new members normally follow the rules fairly well - it is the older members sometimes who we have to bring to task. I refer members to Beauchesne, 481(c). It is unparliamentary to "refer to the presence or absence of specific Members" in the House of Assembly. I would ask that hon. members refrain from referring to hon. members as being absent from the House, It is customary in this House that we not refer to members being absent.

As you all know, the proceedings of the House are recorded and there is a verbatim report that is issued at the end of every day. If members in their speeches want to direct questions to a ministry that can be done. Naturally, all ministers read Hansard every night. I'm sure that they read Hansard before they go to bed and they would follow the questions. I would just advise members not to refer to members as being absent.

We are in a debate on Interim Supply, and the speeches are ten minutes each. The problem with new members is that I hate to interrupt them when they get to their ten minutes because it is normally their first speech, so we have been a bit lenient in terms of interrupting members, particularly if they are a new member. If they are giving a good speech we will probably continue on for a few minutes after that.

The hon. the Member for Burgeo - LaPoile.

MR. RAMSAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, I want to rise, and this is the first opportunity I have had to address the Chamber upon my return since the fall and the election. Really, I suppose, quite a series of events has unfolded before all of us. Some of those who left the previous sitting of the House have not returned, some that we will miss.

AN HON. MEMBER: Some we won't.

MR. RAMSAY: Some we won't.

Some of the members of the Opposition who added a lot of colour to the area will be missed, and some of our own. I know that I enjoyed, as members opposite sometimes did enjoy, and feel the pinch of the former Government House Leader when he would make his remarks, the same as we would also hear the often boisterous barbs of the Member for Burin - Placentia West.

AN HON. MEMBER: He has only moved up above, that is all, looking down on you.

MR. RAMSAY: He is probably listening.

I must say, it added a lot of colour. Parliamentarians, those of us who have been here for any period of time, members come and go, but parliamentarians, the distinction, lives on, and a lot of those who have come through this Chamber have certainly taken good account of themselves in the way they have handled themselves as parliamentarians is worthy of note, and their not being with us any longer will certainly be a point that some of us will surely note in the record.

The other thing, of course, we have a smaller Opposition. Even though the House of Assembly has gotten smaller by four, the Opposition is more focused now, and it is a more concentrated effort on the part of those who have returned, but I am sure that they will do their job as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, and try to be positive, as they seem to have taken a turn in that direction. It is a direction the hon. Member for Bonavista South, I guess, is it, South or North?

AN HON. MEMBER: Bonavista South.

MR. RAMSAY: Bonavista South. In your campaign I understand that you distanced yourself from the negativity that was surrounding some of the campaign, and went so far as to use different colours in your campaign literature and posters, stuff like that. That is all well and good.

AN HON. MEMBER: It worked.

MR. RAMSAY: It worked. As you said, it worked. And these are things that those of us who make judgement calls, in each of our own districts -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RAMSAY: Not red; I think it was green or something. It was something a little different.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RAMSAY: It is the New Reform Party, the...

Anyway, the things that we all know we have to do... It certainly would show, I suppose, that those of us who know our districts well will be returned as long as we are doing a good job, and the constituency work that we all do pays off well when we keep getting returned time and time again.

This being my third term of office, three terms in seven years really is quite an experience. If you look at it election wise, I have gone through three nominations and three elections in that seven-year period, so it has been a very interesting period of time, not something that I do not think you would want to put your family through every other year, but your families are the ones that bear the brunt of your time in politics, and the public in the Province share your life with you. Your family agrees to share you, as a member of this House, with the rest of the public.

Now, on to the relevance, you are pointing to the bill, and I guess I will allow myself this one little time to be guided by the Opposition. The bill that they are pointing to is Bill No. 2, of course, and it is something that we have to take into account. We are here to vote on the heads of expenditure, to provide money for the operation of the people of the Province, for the public services they demand. Certainly, even though it is a huge amount of money, $1 billion, it is an amount of money which is necessary and is part of the program which has been brought forward by the government. The details of expenditure that we will bring forward in the future respecting the budgetary decisions that will be made are now part of a public consultation process.

Some would expect that the public consultation process, according to the members of the Opposition, is just a bit of a show, and all this sort of thing, but it is what the public wanted. The public chose the process that we established as a part of the election campaign.

AN HON. MEMBER: Dog and pony show (inaudible).

MR. RAMSAY: Well, you can call it a dog and pony show but I am sure that those people who attend these consultations, as far as being dogs and ponies is concerned, might not like the analogies. They would probably prefer that what they are saying is of course, being heard and it is, it is being listened to, it is being catalogued, it is being made a part of the overall process that the Opposition has espoused from time immemorial. Oppositions always do - governments should consult, and we are and we will, and of course, the decisions that we arrive at will probably be better for it.

At times in the past, the government chose to put forward initiatives such as the EDGE legislation. The government consulted the people throughout the Province. Also, the Opposition had their say in the issue, and better legislation was created as a result of that. These are the things that we want to do more and more and do it as part of an overall process and not just a matter of something that happens to be in favour at one point in time or another.

Now, on what did we get re-elected to this Chamber? Well, we could say a number of things, the number of the initiatives that we put forward in the Red Book that we made a part of the platform and made the platform, I suppose, the written platform for the people of the Province. We want to find some efficiencies in government. Those efficiencies are there for all to see. We all know where money can be saved, I am sure. We should all take those suggestions seriously enough to go to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and the Cabinet and say: Why don't we try this? I am sure in our caucus, as backbenchers, we will play a key role in putting forward the points that we want addressed in finding the efficiencies in government and also in making the tough decisions. Because they say there is some fat in the system but there is not enough fat to fully accomplish the task that is ahead of us for this huge amount that we have to find over the next couple of years, as much as we might like it to be so.

What do we also have to do? Well, we have to create some sense of hope, I suppose, and that is an attitude change for some people. Some of us who are optimistic, anyone who has listened to anything I have had to say in here in the past, must realize that I am probably a little like the family pet, I am the eternal optimist at times and put forward ideas, being one of the younger members of the House. The ideas that you have for business development and things that you want to see happen in your district, the more you speak about them and the more you have the people in your district hear about those ideas and beliefs that you have for the future of the Province, the better we will all be as a result - the better that we will all be in having that sense of hope, in getting rid of that dark cloud that hangs over, the pessimism and -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RAMSAY: I beg your pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RAMSAY: Well, Marystown is an interesting situation. I did comment that it seems that over the years, it has always managed to get away from us as far as expenditures go.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. RAMSAY: My time is up. Well, I will rise again. By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Burgeo and LaPoile, by leave.

MR. RAMSAY: I will just conclude by saying that I think ultimately for those of us who have the ability, I suppose, to garner any kind of publicity through the media, through writing Letters to the Editor, if that is a way of doing it, espousing a bit of optimism for the people of the Province - because we sit around here, go through our daily business putting legislation through the House -without that strength of input of trying to make something happen in your constituency, I do not think we will be any better off at some point in the future. But we, as members, do have a role to play. We can certainly be that kind of strength that the Province needs in helping entrepreneurs to utilize government services and government help for the development of their business and also helping them to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. In a lot of the areas - we only have to look at the recent opening of the data centre for Neweast Technologies, I think it was yesterday, out in the Donovan's Industrial Park.

Now, that was a person with an idea who has grown that now into a very large, well-supported, well-financed business that has contracts in hand, and it all starts with one person's idea. Now you have potential for sixty or seventy people working. A lot of that kind of thing can go on in the future and I am sure a lot of it will.

We have the oil (inaudible) in Western Newfoundland, granted it is a resource. The way we capitalize on that kind of an issue, through our communities and the businesses that are interested, is the way that we are going to provide benefits and jobs for the people of this Province.

The way that we capitalize on Voisey's Bay and the innovative solutions that we provide to the engineers who want to design and build that site up in Labrador, in providing products and services for them, to help make sure that Labrador gets the ultimate benefit of the Voisey's Bay nickel discovery - Newfoundland, as well, has a role to play in supporting that development. These are the things that we all must do to make sure that we, as members, can support the people of the Province. We are looking for work and they are looking for work as well. I am sure that, as positive role models, each and every one of us can play that role for the people of our given districts in bringing the issues to the Government of the Province so that the members of the Cabinet can look at it and say: `Yes this is a good investment, we should put some money into that, this is a good investment, we have to cut some expenses here and there.' So really, it is not rocket science, I don't think, that we are dealing with here. It is something where, if we use the strength of our convictions to support the people of our districts, ultimately, we will all benefit and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador will be that much the better off for it.

Thank you very much.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for St. John's South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am very pleased to have been elected to represent St. John's South as their member in the House of Assembly.

St. John's South is a very diversified and beautiful district. It takes in the area of scenic Cape Spear, which I will point out to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, is a tourist attraction; beautiful Black Head, which is also a tourist attraction, and the very close-knit community of Shea Heights, as we have all seen over the past couple of days, have banned together in support of the Jordan family. You also have the historic areas of Southside Road and Fort Amherst which I shall point out, are also tourist attractions. The downtown and west end portions of my district take in the magnificent Heritage homes which they are very proud to display and some of the residents in those areas have won awards for upkeep of their heritage properties.

Victoria Park sits in the heart of St. John's South and is nestled - and also I should add, in the heart of St. John's South is nestled the Waterford River which is between the Southside Road and Waterford Bridge Road. The residents in the area are looking to refurbish the Waterford River and turn it into a walking trail. So I would ask the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation to take that into consideration.

Many of the residents of St. John's South are seniors and are very seriously concerned about the cutbacks in health care and home care services. I would ask the Minister of Health to give some consideration to those cuts. That was one of the areas of concern, as I travelled throughout the campaign and spoke to seniors - the cutbacks in health care and home care services.

Many of the young people in my district displayed concern, during my election campaign, to the fact that they would have to leave our Province for gainful employment elsewhere. Many of the young people who are leaving our Province are very skilled and have been trained in this Province. It is a shame to lose these young people to destinations elsewhere.

I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to present the petition on the CN freight shed and the Minister of Environment and Labour has promised he will look into that. I hope he follows through.

I hope the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation will give some serious consideration to the road work that is needed in St. John's South. Just to cite a couple of examples, the community of Shea Heights has been without sidewalks for several years. They have been a part of our city for several years, and I hope she will give some consideration to that, as well as the road work needed on the Southside Road, and so on.

As I mentioned, I am very pleased to represent the District of St. John's South and I would like to thank the constituents of St. John's South for electing me as their member.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I will give the hon. House Leader a chance to prove himself. We are not going to take any knocks at him here today because he has been doing a good job, I say to the member. Up until now he has been doing a good job. He will be given every opportunity, but I will say one thing for him, to stay away from our offices or you will be in big trouble. That is about the only thing I say to the hon. House Leader today, but he is being judged again by the Messiah up above.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. FITZGERALD: The former House Leader who is dictating direction and telling them what to do. Eddie Escobar, that's him. Eddie Escobar is playing the part once again. He has moved from Panama now to the higher levels of Confederation Building.

AN HON. MEMBER: Columbia.

MR. FITZGERALD: Columbia - the old Sprung Greenhouse man.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you know who that was? Steve Neary.

MR. FITZGERALD: Would this gentleman be a mentor of the hon. House Leader I wonder?

What I remember about Steve Neary, I say to the hon. House Leader, I remember them doing an interview with him, and he stood there, I forget who was doing the interview, but he did take off his shoe and showed the heels out of his socks, and he said, I came with holes in my socks and I will leave. Well, that is something I can relate to, because I say I am probably the poorest man in this House of Assembly. I said that in the last sitting and I say that probably the same holds true now. I say that not judging from what I have here in my heart but what I have in my back pocket.

That is probably why, when I speak, I can relate to the things that come to me and touch me very dearly, the poor, the downtrodden, the people out there screaming for help, wanting and needing somebody to put forward their concerns. And that is why, when I stand here and say those things, it comes from my heart rather than just my lips.

AN HON. MEMBER: You should have been the leader over there.

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I should not have been the leader. We have a good leader and that is all in the past.

I offer congratulations to the couple of new members who spoke earlier today. When the Member for Torngat Mountains was speaking, what he talked about were some things I could relate to, because I have travelled quite extensively on the Labrador Coast and I shared some of that the other day with the member. I can relate to some of the thing he is talking about, and not only does it exist, I say to the hon. member, in Torngat Mountains, probably not on such a big scale, but it certainly exists in other areas of this Province as well.

In my district of Bonavista South we have a high school there which is the last, and I guess if it is the last it is probably the oldest wood structure school on the Island.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is that?

MR. FITZGERALD: In Musgravetown, I say to the hon. member, and he is quite aware of it. It was built in 1960, I think, before we had power there. The lights and heat was driven by a generator that was installed there, and today, the students going to this school are facing very, very similar circumstances to what the hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains referred to. Then, just across the way, we have an elementary school in Lethbridge, which the hon. the Member for Terra Nova is well aware of, that is another wooden structure school and probably one of the last built, as well, where today you go in there and the ceilings are falling down, the roof is leaking, there are water buckets out every time it rains, and those people again are not only asking for some of the things that other people in other schools take for granted, but they are looking for a school that would provide them with at least some comfort to be able to go and sit and do the learning that we all expect our students to take part in today.

It was only the other day that I was out there. They have this new principal there, and they got him to have a drop-in centre. They put on a little bit of entertainment there for the people who were invited, and the music room consisted of part of the corridor that people have had to shimmy around the instruments in order to get into classrooms. It was obvious - you did not have to look very much to see - the damage that was caused by the last rainstorm.

Those are real, real issues and concerns out there in rural Newfoundland today, and I think the onus is on government to look at those issues and try to direct monies toward such things as schools, health, and what have you, to provide at least the basic necessities. We realize we are into hard times, and the people out there realize that as well, but I think there should be dollars provided. Probably if the school tax which was one time collected and directed right back into the school system, and now that will change because one of the governments in the past, the former Liberal government, decided they were going to do away with school taxes. God bless them; it should have been done away with, or it should have been collected in a different sort of way, but I fear now that the taxes that are collected in place of school taxes - because there is much more of it now collected - instead of going to the schools, are going into the general revenue and the general coffers of the Province, and is probably being spent in other places.

The Minister of Social Services, during Question Period today, tried to address a couple of questions as put forward by the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, and here is a prime example. I fail to understand how wise men and wise women today can go out and put forward policies of government and expect them to work, and expect people to abide by them, when it is the biggest detriment that we have ever seen. It is shameful, and it is time to change them, I say to the hon. Member for Baie Verte. It is time to change them.

The Member for Trinity North knows exactly what I am talking about. Let's take the unemployment insurance, for an example, where you go and apply for unemployment insurance, and what are you expected to do? You are expected to stay by the telephone to wait for a call. You are not allowed to go out and go to work. You are not allowed to go out - you are allowed to go to work, but you are being punished because of it. They will take every dollar that you make. There is no initiative there.

Going back to social services, listen to this one. Back in the last election - some districts, I suppose, work differently than other districts. In the district that I represent, in order to get people to come out and take part in the election, they expect to get a little bit of compensation back from the candidate that offers themselves. It is not much - I think $20 or $25 - but this one individual down in my district was on social services, getting $89 a month. That is the single rate for a person living at home on social services, $89 a month. He went to work for my competition, went to work for the Liberal candidate down in Newmans Cove -

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Social Services, was it?

MR. FITZGERALD: The former Minister of Social Services, went to work for the former Minister of Social Services out in Newmans Cove, got paid $25 for his day, his twelve hours sitting in the polling booth, but the Department of Social Services deducted $12.50 from him. $12.50 was taken off his next $89 cheque, or his $45 cheque, that he had received.

AN HON. MEMBER: He should have volunteered.

MR. FITZGERALD: He probably should have volunteered, but you see, here is the attitude, here is a prime example: He should have volunteered. He was making $89 a week. He probably saw an opportunity to go out and maybe buy a good paid of Reebok socks or something that he wanted, and the minister says that he should have volunteered.

It is alright for you, Mr. Minister, to say that, and that is why you have no compassion when we present those petitions here on Hydro, those petitions, because you, sir, are making a good dollar they might say, a good buck and you cannot put yourself in the place or in the position of those people who are out there today who are hurting, who are unemployed.

I referred to a lady - and this is a true story, I say to the hon. members opposite - I had a phone call from this lady down in my district who was going to get back, I think it was between $700 and $800 from money that they had overpaid while they were working and when their income tax was all figured out they were going to get a refund of $800. The Department of Social Services -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: I will just go through this example, Mr. Chairman.

The hon. lady then had to pay back the full amount, $800. She called me on the phone crying and it kind of touched me as well. She said here is some money that I had planned to take my son to graduation. He was going to go out and buy a new suit of clothes. He was going to be able to do the things that most of us do or would like to have our sons and daughters do - not so, Mr. Chairman, not so because of the uncaring attitude and because of the policy of the Department of Social Services. Now she has to go and pay back the full amount of the $800. She won't have to pay it back but she will get no social services funding, no social services cheque until that $800 is used up to buy groceries, to pay the light bill and to do whatever else we have to do to maintain a household. Mr. Chairman, that is the shame of it.

Also the great shame, Mr. Chairman, is seniors in this Province having to go and have their old age pension cheques garnisheed in order to get payments from hydro bills that were paid for back twenty and twenty-five years ago and this is not uncommon. This is not uncommon. Many examples have been brought to the floor of this House of Assembly that shows exactly that. I know of one case where it was twenty-two years, Mr. Chairman, the Department of Social Services went back twenty-two years and found out there was a hydro bill that was paid for by the Department of Social Services and they had that hydro bill taken off their old age pension cheque. So that shows an example, Mr. Chairman, of the uncaring attitude of people today put in a position to -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: I am not talking about last night.

MR. EFFORD: No, I am.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I will have to address the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Mr. Chairman, let's think back, let's just go back in history, never mind the twenty-two years I talked about. Let's go back one month when the Member for Port de Grave was considering offering himself for the leadership of that great party over there. He was going to offer himself. Well what a tizzy he got in, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: He went and appeared on provincial television, all three news conferences, Mr. Chairman. His thyroid was all acting up, Mr. Chairman, his triglycerides, his diastaltic and his systolic blood pressure went right out of whack. When he got there he could not control his blood pressure, he could not control his sugar count, Mr. Chairman, what a shape the member was in.

MR. J. BYRNE: Why? What did he do?

MR. FITZGERALD: What a bluff, Mr. Chairman, what a bluff.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Well I wish you had ran because people would have showed him how well they respect him out in Newfoundland. They would know, Mr. Chairman, they would know.

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: They would know, Mr. Chairman, what his true worth really was and I can guarantee you that there is no leadership material in that Member from Port de Grave, not a leadership bone in his body, Mr. Chairman, but anyway, the people will judge that and I am sure that the next time when he offers himself he will be rejected and he will be gone. He won the election on his leader's coattails, on the leader himself and that is the only reason why he is sitting here today.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, I am sure there are other people here who would like to get up and have a few kind words or to talk about their districts and to talk about some concerns that they have with the bill that is brought forward here, Bill No. 2, and I will gladly let somebody go ahead.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Always, Mr. Chairman, and later as the evening goes on I have no opportunity to sit down and enjoy the talking back and forth, I am always driven to get to my feet after listening to members on the opposite side. Last Thursday, I was quite relaxed down here, just to sit down, read my work and go on with my papers until he got up and went on with this whole barrage of things that just - you talk about sugar counts going up in the blood. There was sugar and insulin and diabetes and blood pressure and everything going to happen -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: I can excuse the hon. Member for St. John's South because he is new in the House of Assembly and he doesn't yet have a grasp on what takes place in here and some of the badgering back and forth. But the hon. Member for Bonavista South, now there is an excuse of an MHA who won't make a point and throw heckles across the House and what had this hon. member done in making a decision just this past winter? Let us talk about just recently what the hon. member did or attempted to do and did publicly to my good friend, my very, very good friend, the former Leader of the Opposition Party, an individual who went through the democratic leadership process, was duly elected by the party membership, was duly elected even though the majority and the count was very, very minimal, nevertheless the democratic process was followed, and went through the House of Assembly, went through the sitting and was totally committed to the best of her ability, whether it was high or low, nevertheless it was the best of her ability to lead her members into a general election -

AN HON. MEMBER: Was that the time he was on television (inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: I am getting to that. She went out around this Province showing leadership to all her party supporters right from one end of the Province to the other, to the best of her ability, and everybody had admiration, even some of us on the Liberal side had some admiration for what she was trying to accomplish. One thing I liked about it, every time she came on television, I said: There is another vote for Efford. I took full advantage of what was happening in the television ads out there, because I will never understand who was the adviser and who put it all together. Nevertheless, it happened.

But now, give the individual credit for what she did. She very graciously went through a leadership process and an election process and lost. There is no shame in losing, there is really no shame in losing, if you give to the best of your ability to the process that took place, and I believe she did. I believe she went through to the best of her ability.

Now, you would think, from all the human compassion that is expressed from an individual and the people in the support of her party, that there would be some compassion, some understanding, of what an individual should have to go through. Lost her election to my good friend from the great District of Port de Grave who had the (inaudible) go out there, but nevertheless, it was a fair fought race, and he beat her. Now, she had a decision to make.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Yes. From the great District of Port de Grave. But he did. Now, the Leader had to make up her mind where she was going to go in the future, and she said it publicly. She had to come to a decision. After a certain process had taken place, she had to come to a decision on where her future was going to be as far as Leader of the party was concerned, or what she was going to do in the future. I thought that was very gracious in the manner in which she came on television.

But lo and behold, two hon. gentlemen -

AN HON. MEMBER: No, no honour in that.

MR. EFFORD: No honour in that. Two MHAs, just recently elected MHAs, representing the constituency, representing the political party which they chose to be a part of, came out and never even gave her the opportunity to sit down and talk to her caucus. This is the type of individual who will get up here and give me a lesson on what I should or should not have done in making a decision that I chose to do or not to do?

Now, I don't mind taking advice from people who have the ability, who have credibility and credentials to take advice from, but I suggest that the (inaudible) -

MR. TULK: He came on television one day saying something, the next day he was on saying: No, I never said that. That was not what I really said.

MR. EFFORD: That is something - I didn't hear that part of it. Let me say, the one thing that I would do - and all my life, no matter what I said or what I did, I held up my head and took full responsibility for it. I would never try to worm out and say I did not say that; if I made a mistake I would stand high and tall and I made it. So when you look at thirty-seven seats filled on this side and you look at the last job I had to do as Minister of Public Works, take the desks over there and hide them away in storage, make no wonder the people of this Province had the good sense to elect a government of this magnitude and this credibility, and the few that remain on the other side.

After what was done publicly, I suspect that if the people in each of your districts had an opportunity now to go out and vote, I suspect that the outcome of that election would be quite a bit different from that of the recent election. Because it was disgusting and despicable that you would go out there and discredit and show disrespect for your leader. Learn some lessons before you get to your feet and tell us on this side that we have not acted in the right manner.

We acted in a manner that is responsible to the people of this Province. We acted not just for one individual or one select group, or one person concerned, we acted in a manner when decision-making that was for the best interest of all people in the Province. And if we had had a government that were thinking that way for the seventeen years that the Progressive Conservative government was in power, if you had even come close to decision-making in that manner, what is the best interest of all of the people for the long-term and not just for the political interest of a few, or friends of a political party, this Province would not be in the financial mess we are in today. And the people now suffering because of the lack of dollars would not have to suffer in the way they are suffering. So look into the past and you will see the reason why we are in the situation we are in today. But, in due course, the credibility and the ability of these ministers and this caucus on this side will correct that mess.

The Province of Newfoundland does have a bright future, and it is time for people opposite to start talking positively and start looking at the future we have here in this Province. Forget about those silly things you are always talking about and start remembering that you have to have credibility, and you have to portray credibility before the people of the Province are going to look at and respect you for what you are and what your capabilities are.

That is what happened on this side. They knew the credibility that we had - we proved that over the last four or five years. We intend to continue on with it, and as time goes on, respect will grow, and when another election comes around, I suspect there will be only one lonely (inaudible) and one bench up there. Over in that corner there will be one bench, and possibly one there in the front. The good people of this Province will have the good sense to do that at the earliest opportunity.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Before I recognize the hon. the Member for Kilbride, I would like to welcome to the public gallery, on behalf of hon. members, the former Member for Green Bay, Mr. Alvin Hewlett.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

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

I will get an opportunity to respond to some of the comments that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture made earlier today, in a positive fashion, as he suggested; but just to remind him, being seven minutes to the hour, I move that the House adjourn for today, and I guess we will be back debating Interim Supply tomorrow.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: I think tomorrow is Private Members' Day. We are debating the motion by the hon. the Member for Kilbride, I believe, his private member's bill.

Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

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

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

The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee on Supply have considered the matters to them referred, wish to report some progress, and ask leave to sit again.

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

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow, Wednesday, April 27, at 2:00 p.m.

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