March 29, 1996                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLIII  No. 7

 


The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform hon. members that the selection process for the Art Procurement Program has been completed. Approximately 1,300 pieces of art were submitted to the Selection Committee for consideration. A total of eighty-eight pieces totalling $93,000 were purchased through the 1995-1996 Art Procurement Program.

This program demonstrates government's commitment to Newfoundland and Labrador artists and art works. Established in 1982 by Cabinet, this program is designed to recognize and promote the works of our artists by placing original Newfoundland and Labrador art works in public buildings. Those items purchased under the Art Procurement Program are selected by a jury which comprises representatives from the arts community, Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, and the School of Fine Arts at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. The jury develops a list of recommended purchases with the final decisions based on the program's budget.

The program's art works and crafts are intended to be representative of the Province's various geographical locations as well as the various themes, styles and compositions of visual art media.

Mr. Speaker, I have attached the list of selected pieces to the statement which is being distributed in the House this morning.

I thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OSBORNE: Mr. Speaker, this is indeed very positive news. I would like to commend the minister. It just goes to show that the artists of Newfoundland and Labrador are making great strides forward. I see that there were 1,300 pieces presented. We have purchased a total of eighty-eight pieces. I have to commend the minister and the process in which these pieces were selected. I think that, like I mentioned, it is very positive news. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I guess, in the absence of the Premier today, I will direct my questions to the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

We are all aware that the Marystown Shipyard has had its share of problems. Does the minister believe that Marystown can be a major participant in the fabrication of the production platform for Terra Nova?

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I think if certain changes happened at the Marystown Shipyard, if the recommendations continue along, if the new board is given the opportunity to complete its mandate, then I think that there is an opportunity for Marystown Shipyard, yes, and the Cow Head facility, to participate in the Terra Nova project.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: My next question, a member of the Board of Directors of Marystown Shipyard Limited is also party to a company involved in one of the four alliances that is bidding for work on the production platform of Terra Nova. The other three alliances may see this as a potential conflict, because they might wish to use Marystown facilities as part of their proposal, but in doing so they are exposing their bid to the competition. Now, has the Premier, or the minister, had any representation from these companies or from individuals regarding a potential conflict? Does the Premier, or the minister responsible, have any concern that there is a potential conflict that could result in those companies excluding Marystown from their proposals?

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

MR. FUREY: A very good question. Mr. Speaker, the situation with respect to Terra Nova, which was talked about on television last night, did not quite paint the correct picture. There are four alliances or four consortia of companies that have come together to bid on the Terra Nova project. Marystown's position was simply this, we have a facility, we would like the maximum amount of benefit and work for the workers at that facility, we would like all of the alliances to come to the table and speak to Marystown and see if in fact we can use that facility. The person who is responsible for marketing the Bull Arm site, Mr. Speaker, under the Bull Arm Site Corporation, also was asked to market and to advance the cause of Marystown with respect to Terra Nova. That particular senior official, Mr. Ruelokke, I think faxed immediately the four alliances that were put together and offered to sit down and speak to them on a non-exclusive basis so that the maximum amount of work would go into Newfoundland and into Marystown. I think the Leader of the Opposition would agree, that that was a prudent thing to do.

One of the groups, the Maersk Group or the Fluor-Daniel Group, as it is known, responded to that and said, `Yes, we would like to do a deal with Marystown and Cow Head.' In fact, they went so far as to ask to do it on an exclusive basis. Marystown said: `No, we are not going to do it on an exclusive basis because if, in fact, you are discounted, and you may well be - this coming Monday the list will go from four to three - we wanted to leave those options open for other alliances to participate.'

With respect to the second part of the member's question, I have had representation from one company about the perception that perhaps there is a conflict there, but I don't recall - and I would have to check the letter because it was some time ago - I don't recall somebody saying a specific board member is in a specific conflict of interest. I can tell the hon. member this much, though, that if we keep brutalizing the Marystown Shipyard, and battering it publicly, there won't be much left at the end of the day.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I seem to have gotten the minister upset. All I am trying to do is ensure that Marystown get their full and their fair share.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Marystown put all its eggs in one basket on the mechanical outfitting contract, and they lost, and my fear is that the three of the other alliances might not consider Marystown in their bid because of this potential revelation of their bid to the competition.

I ask the minister - and I say to him that Marystown is a first-class facility - should we not make every effort to ensure that it is open to a promotion by Marystown for all four bidders in the process?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I am a little confused. Earlier in the week the Leader of the Opposition was criticizing us because we had work in there and there were overruns. Now, he is criticizing us because we are not chasing enough work. You are damned if you do and damned if you don't from that perspective, but I can say this to you -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FUREY: Check the record for seventeen years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't, but I can say this to you: We have made every effort with the short-listed consortia of companies that have folded themselves in the four alliances. One of them -

MR. HARRIS: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Now the Leader of the New Democratic Party should be quiet because we have seen the decimation of the Ontario economy after four short years from his party. Thank God they are not here.

Mr. Speaker, I just simply say to you, that the person responsible for the marketing of that particular yard contacted those companies. We can't force the consortiums to play ball with Marystown, Mr. Speaker, we can only say: Here are the facilities, we would like you to put your work here. Bull Arm site is available as well, Mr. Speaker, as are other sites in the Province. I can tell you one has come to the table and they want to participate with us. If any others want to, Mr. Speaker, the invitation is wide open to all other three.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour.

Much has been said but little has been done over the past years about the pollution problem at St. John's Harbour with raw sewerage. Does the minister have up-to-date information on the extent of pollution at St. John's Harbour, and do you have up-to-date information on the various methods of rectifying the problem, the effectiveness of these methods and their costs?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. K. AYLWARD: I thank the Member for St. John's South for the question.

It is an issue that we have decided, especially within the Department of Environment and Labour and within government to attempt to start facing, and over the past twelve months a number of meetings have been held with the St. John's City Council, the Mount Pearl Council, area councils along with the ACAP organization of St. John's which is doing research into the extent of the problem in St. John's Harbour.

A number of technologies and a number of up-to-date engineering work reports are being prepared, so that we know exactly what the status of the cost of doing and bringing a solution to the problem would be. We are looking at the spring to have another meeting with all of the concerned councils in the area, the City and Mount Pearl and CBS also, so that we can bring forward together a plan to start looking at the problem for the long term. A plan of action must be put in place to deal with the harbour situation and words are not going to be the solution, action must be. We intend to bring forth a plan of action together with the councils and also seeking the federal government's assistance within the next year to two years with that plan. So, there is a lot of activity that has been underway and it is a situation which must be dealt with and faced.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Member for St. John's South, on a supplementary.

MR. OSBORNE: The cleaning up of the St. John's harbour is a matter of concern for the City, the Province, and the Federal Government. Are you prepared to take a lead role in determining the current state of pollution and the cost of rectifying the problem and putting action into place?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. K. AYLWARD: I say to the member that we have been taking a lead role in organizing and bringing together the people and the resources to first of, identify the extent of the problem, and secondly look at a plan of action to deal with the problem. We need to start facing the situation and putting a plan in place for the long term. The extent and the cost of dealing with a solution to the problem has to be identified, and do our cost estimates that have been floating for years. Well we are going to nail down the numbers, and then we are going to see what the total cost is going to be, and then we will present a proposal, and a potential solution to everybody concerned, from the federal government, provincial, and municipal governments on down.

But it is going to be, I hope, a long term plan of action to deal with it. It won't be done overnight, but if we have a plan of action put in place to deal with this problem then we can look forward to, down the road, seeing a solution in place. A number of other jurisdictions in Canada, Halifax harbour has been having same situations same problem, they have done a lot of work, but their plan of action seems to be right now at least in some trouble. We want one done here that meets all of our requirements, our criteria, and see the St. John's harbour cleaned up appropriately, in the near term and long term and also we want to see it done within the financial capability that we have with all jurisdictions of government.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask you a question in the absence of the Minister of Finance, and President of Treasury Board, to the acting Minister.

Today sixty people from Revenue Canada who process Income Tax Returns, Child Tax Credits, and the Goods and Services Rebate, for all of Atlantic Canada known as determinative workers are being laid off at Revenue Canada. Many of these people are women, single parents, can the acting Minister confirm that this is actually taking place, and what action has this government taken in responding to the federal government on the recent lay-offs.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I will have to take that question as notice and pass it along to the Minister of Finance when he gets back.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Member for Kilbride on a supplementary.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr Speaker, am I to assume by the minister's answer that the government is not aware of the situation? I would like to ask the minister that.

Secondly I would ask him, while he is taking that issue under advisement, can he also ask the federal government or his colleague in Cabinet: Is it true that the Province of Prince Edward Island is launching a strong lobby to take the GST portion, the people who process the GST rebate in this Province for all of Atlantic Canada, is the Government of Prince Edward island launching a strong lobby to take that from this Province so that it can process it in P.E.I. and thus create more jobs in that Province?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I will take that question under advisement. After Question Period I will phone Prince Edward Island and ask the premier or the minister of finance what they are up to.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I understand that the minister is considering proceeding with a plan of reducing the capacity of the Province's fish processing sector. I ask the minister if he would inform the House as to the structure of such a plan, and when we can expect to see this task force, as it was referred to in the Throne Speech, start to begin its work.

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I have absolutely no intention of going forward into the future looking at the number of plants that can be closed. I am going to proceed forward looking at the number of plants that can remain open.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: That is the type of procedure that I want in place. I am not going around this Province preaching doom and gloom and trying to put people in further despair than they already are. Opening fish plants is my responsibility, not closing them.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what kind of a dream world the hon. minister is existing in but he is certainly not in touch with reality. I would like to ask the minister if he would inform the House as to the time frame he considers adequate for this task force to report its recommendations, and will its recommendations be final and binding?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I would not like to place myself in the same dream world that they did during the election when they promised seventy-five fish plants were going to be open with all the fish that they were going to bring in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: If that is the type of dream world, then I'm some happy I'm on this side of the House and not over there with my eyes closed.

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I have not said, and I am not going to say today, that another task force will be put in place.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: So I guess, Mr. Speaker, we can expect to see another government put in place with still nothing done after being in power for the past seven years, and a moratorium that has been on the go since 1992.

I thought I heard the Throne Speech mention specifically, and I don't know if the hon. member is aware of that or not, but it went on to say: "My government will establish a joint government-industry-union task force -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: "- to develop proposals for dealing with -"

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader on a point of order.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, this kind of thing has gone on long enough on the other side. I would remind the hon. gentleman that a supplementary should be short.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

I remind the hon. Member for Bonavista South that he is on a supplementary, that our Standing Orders specifically state that there are no preambles, and letters or documents should not be referred to in the -

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, it is kind of hard to stick to a question when you find nobody giving any answers. Will the minister instruct that the public consultation process will take place when this task force is put into effect, and would he assure the House that all stakeholders, all communities now, that have fish plants and that need to have input into the decision that this task force will bring back, will be provided ample opportunity in places that are convenient to those people?

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, let me assure the hon. member opposite that I am fully aware of what was in the red book and also what was in the blue book. I am fully aware, and I will take the red book over the blue book any day in the week.

The next thing I will assure the hon. member opposite is that my responsibility as Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is simply this: To do what is right by the people involved in the industry for fisheries in all aspects in this Province, to learn and to appreciate the expertise that those people out there in the communities have had for so many years. There will be a full opportunity for everybody to have a time to consult and to voice their opinions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. EFFORD: But I can tell you one thing; we are not going to drag it out over the five or ten years. It is going to be done very, very quickly.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are to the Minister of Social Services, and the questions centre around the approval procedures for foster homes.

Could the minister tell the House this morning the general principles and procedures applied specifically with reference to criteria used in the selection, the number of references ascertained, the number of visits made to the prospective foster home, and if the prospective parents go through a police or Department of Justice reference check.

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

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

Well, in response to my hon. opponent or colleague's question -

AN HON. MEMBER: Colleague.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Colleague - okay, colleague - I would like to reassure you that there is a process in place for identifying foster homes, for identifying the number of references and following through on those references, and there are a number of specific visits, and a policy in place that each of those have to be followed in order to register those as a foster home that we feel comfortable putting children into.

In terms of the actual number of visits, the process, the length of time, I can get back to you on the specifics but there is a policy in place and, as I mentioned last week, one of the problems we are having is trying to identify foster homes for children over the age of twelve years. And it is because of the degree of difficulty, I guess, that we are finding in trying to identify those homes that we are moving in a new direction to try to put a push on identifying those homes as soon as possible to meet the needs of the community.

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

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

Madam Minister, in mid-December - I believe it was December 14th - a senior professional in social work in this Province said in a CBC interview that due to oppressive workloads foster homes were being approved through telephone conversations with prospective foster parents. There was no subsequent denial from the Department of Social Services.

Can the minister confirm now that accepted approval procedures for foster homes were not always followed precisely, and that in December, at least, children could have been placed in homes that did not meet departmental standards?

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak for the decision that was made by a predecessor.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: However, I can assure you that we are well aware of the difficulties in identifying the needs for foster homes and, as I mentioned, we have allocated resources to try to meet those needs as soon as possible. I am not going to say that a foster home was approved over the phone. I put a lot more faith in the staff of the Department of Social Services and the policies in place, and our commitment to the protection of children.

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

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

Foster children and foster parents and social workers complained about the lack of co-ordination in the assignment of social workers to foster relationships. It is not unusual to have different social workers assigned to the foster child, to the foster parents, and to the natural parents. The Association for Foster Parents say that they want a team approach, one social worker assigned to the entire procedure. Is the minister moving in that direction?

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

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

We are aware of the need to provide continuity of care in the care of children, and we are aware of the need of a team approach, but I am sure, as my hon. colleague knows, there are many issues in identifying who works at the front line, including collective bargaining issues and the ability to work within that framework. So we are well aware of the issue. We are confident that the staff that are providing the care are doing the best they can and we will continue to work in a collaborative way with the various departments who address this issue.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and concerns the bidding for the Terra Nova project.

I wonder why the minister has no concern about the three non-Maersk bidders who are concerned that the other bidder is perceived as the preferred bidder by Petro-Canada? The concern is that these other bidders will not put together a bid involving the use of the Marystown or the Bull Arm facility because of their fears that the marketer of the Bull Arm facility and the Marystown facility is in a preference position with respect to one bidder. Why is the minister not concerned about that?

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I am concerned, I did not say that I was not concerned. I am always concerned about perceptions. They are very difficult to deal with and perceptions sometimes become realities but the reality, not the perception, the reality in this case is that there were four consortia short listed for this bid and Marystown, through their marketing people, invited all four to participate. It happened on February 21, when the consortium of oil companies announced the short list. It was on that very day that a letter was facsimiled to all of the principals of the consortiums. Three weeks later one of them responded, that one happens to have been the Fluor-Daniel Consortia which includes Maersk. They spoke to Marystown about putting work in Marystown. I think the hon. member would want work to go in Marystown. None of the other principals responded to that facsimile. The chairman of the board wrote, I think, again last week. We will talk to them again on Monday if there is a short listing and the particular one we are currently involved with in a non-exclusive arrangement, the Fluor-Daniel Group, if they are discarded and there are three left we will aggressively pursue the other three that are left on the table but I mean we cannot strangle people or take companies in a headlock and force them in our door and say you must deal with Marystown. That is not the way business is conducted.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, the concern that the others express is that they don't seem to be able to participate fully in engaging Marystown and Bull Arm because of the perceived prejudice. Even if it is only a perception, is the minister not prepared to do something to ease the concerns and to make certain that if the alliance Newfoundland group, the Maersk Group, does not get this bid - the danger is of course that there will be no work in Marystown or Bull Arm for this Terra Nova project - is the minister not prepared to do something to prevent that from happening?

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, it is a difficult walking balance here because the hon. member is in the papers and in the media this week criticizing the minister, the government, the board, the yard and by reflecting on that you are really criticizing the workforce and everything that has to be done with Marystown. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say you are damned if you get the work and there are overruns, everybody is responsible and then turn around from the other side of your face and say you are damned because you are not going out and trying to get work. Look, it is a delicate balance. We have put out a blanket offer to all four principals of the various alliances that have been short listed for Terra Nova. I cannot force them in the door. One has come to the door, one has sat at the table, one has said we will give 100 per cent of the construction work and everything we can to Marystown. I cannot force the other three principals or the other three players in through the door, Mr. Speaker, I just cannot do that.

With respect earlier to the Leader of the Opposition's question on whether anybody on the board was in a direct conflict, I sent out and asked and the answer came back, no. There is nobody on the board in a direct conflict.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the other three bidding groups don't trust the independence and the objectivity of the process. Now if the minister is not prepared to do something about that, what he is risking is that the workforce in Marystown and the people of this Province who might get work in Bull Arm won't get it and will he do something about that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to see a socialist speak for big business, that is quite a twist and -

MR. HARRIS: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Sure you are.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, what I said earlier I stand by. We are quite prepared; we have sent out an offer, we did it immediately when there were four players left at the table, four who were accepted by the oil companies. We sent out the message to those four companies that Marystown and Cow Head are available. What we are talking about here, Mr. Speaker, is a workforce and facilities, not a joint arrangement, not a joint venture, not a partnership but we will ally our facilities with any of those bidders and make it available to all of them. That offer was there February 21st, that offer was there last week, that offer will be there next week and it is there through all of the media, a public offer to all three of them to come and do their work at Marystown.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question this morning for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

There has been much talk lately, as a matter of fact, for the past several years, for the need of improved ferry services for Bell Island.

Will the minister confirm that a plan is now to have a new ferry constructed for Fogo Island and have the Beaumont Hamel transferred to the Bell Island run to replace the Katherine?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, this is one of the key issues that is facing the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. It is one of the issues that up to this point, I have been briefed on, I am meeting with members from the area and representatives over the next week, and of course any final decision on this matter is subject to the Budget process, so I will be continuing the consultation and through the Budget process, that final decision will be made. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South, on a supplementary.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Will the minister also confirm that the financing has been arranged for the construction of such a vessel, for the new vessel that would be used at Fogo Island, it is basically the same as the Flanders and the estimated cost is in the vicinity of $14 million?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I have to make roughly the same response to that question as I made to the previous one, in that, any financing arrangements for a project of this size would have to be subject to the Budget process for the coming year. My understanding is that that is part of, again, the overall pre- Budget consultation process. It is another major work that has to be looked at in my department. We will be continuing to examine the whole Budget and we will be moving that through the normal Budget process.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

Petitions

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

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

I rise today to present a petition to read into the record:

To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador: We, residents of Newfoundland, oppose the reduction in service and effectiveness of the Department of National Revenue caused by a reduction of staff at the Revenue Canada Taxation Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, and thereby negatively affecting the residents of our Province. We, the petitioners, pray that the hon. House of Assembly take action to address this matter with the Government of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, it is a huge issue that sixty people have been laid off, sixty what we call determinant workers at Revenue Canada. What is unbelievable is that these sixty people, who have been hired contractually for the past seven to twelve years, have been laid off at a time when their services are most required. What we are seeing is a further reduction, and it is yet another example of a reduction in service by the Federal Government to this Province. We may, in fact, see services and jobs taken from this Centre and moved across the Gulf to another province in Atlantic Canada. I hope that does not happen and I think we have time to stop it.

It is my understanding that one of the MPs in the Government of Canada, Mr. Baker, is actually rising today in the Parliament of Canada to present a similar petition, to petition the Department of National Revenue to look at this situation, to overturn its decision to lay off sixty people. What will the effect be?

What we can expect as taxpayers as a result of these people being laid off are delays in processing of income tax, refunds, delays that really go on already, that are in excess of five to seven weeks. We can see more delays. The number of people who process the child tax credit is right now sixteen people. That will be down-scaled to six people to service all of Atlantic Canada. Right now, within the taxation department here, in terms of the Goods and Services Tax, this Centre here processes all the GST rebates for all of Atlantic Canada. What we are seeing is a down-scaling in service there that will cause further delays to people, to consumers like ourselves.

I think that we, as the House of Assembly, should petition immediately and bring to bear whatever pressure we can as a House, and I ask the government to bring whatever pressure they can, as government, on the Federal Government to reverse their decision at this time, to reverse the decision that not only negatively affects the people who are being laid off but will negatively affect the service that all of us expect.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the petition as presented by my hon. colleague. It is amazing - I listened earlier this year, when the federal Budget came down, to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board for this Province saying that it would not have any drastic effects on this Province. The loss of sixty jobs at the Taxation Centre in St. John's is, to me, a very drastic effect. I have people in my district who are employed there, or who were employed there, and as of, I think, 3:00 p.m. today will be unemployed - single parents who will find it very difficult. We are going to lay off sixty people, yet at this Taxation Centre that processes the GST rebates and the child tax credits; they are already six months behind in their work. They have one phone for all of Atlantic Canada which answers the complaints on GST, child tax credits, and so on.

If you have submitted your taxes last year and they have asked you for receipts, if these receipts are not received and you are due a refund for the year 1995, this refund will be withheld. If there are any monies owed because they as of yet do not have your deductions, those refunds will actually change and the money will be deducted to pay for last year's taxes, when indeed, you may not even owe the money.

I think it is very shameful that this is happening in our Province. It is very shameful that there is no comment whatsoever. The question was asked today and, as usual, of course, there was no answer. I just find it amazing again that we are going to lose sixty more positions, and yet the minister of this Province can say it would have no impact on us. I think it is a disgrace, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: I wonder if members would consent to allow me to speak to this petition that was just presented by the Member for Kilbride?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Member for Port au Port.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of some 5,200 residents of Bay St. George. This petition was presented to me at a forum which was held in Stephenville back in early January. First of all, I would like to read the prayer of the petition:

To the Honourable House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of Bay St. George humbly sweareth:

WHEREAS any reduction in funding to the Western Regional Health Board will result in the curtailment of surgical and obstetrical services being offered at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital; and

WHEREAS such reduction can mean the difference between life and death in cases of emergency when the patient has to be transported an additional three hours; and

WHEREAS such measures will result in financial hardship and inconvenience for patients and their families who will then have to travel an additional one to three hours for health care services; and

WHEREAS the staff and facilities of Western Memorial Hospital are stretched to the maximum; and

WHEREAS we have grave concerns about the ability of Western Memorial Hospital to provide surgical and obstetrical services to an additional 25,000 people of the Bay St. George area; and

WHEREAS reduction in health care services will result in downgrading of health care infrastructure, and have a negative impact upon the area's ability to attract new industry and new business;

WHEREFORE we, the undersigned residents of Bay St. George, respectfully request that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador cease in any further reductions in funding for the Western Regional Health Board. As in duty bound, your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, this petition was presented to me at a forum which was held in Stephenville back in January, a forum, I should point out, which was attended by, it was estimated, in excess of some 800 people. The Arts and Culture Centre in which the forum was held has a seating capacity of 450. It was filled to capacity. The aisles were blocked; the foyer was filled. As a matter of fact, there were people who left that evening because they could not find a place to sit.

I think what it did point out is that, first and foremost, concern for health care in this Province is certainly uppermost in the minds of all of our citizens, including those who reside in the area of Bay St. George; however, there is one other matter with regard to this that was somewhat unfortunate because this whole crisis was prompted by the fact that a document was leaked to the public, a document that was intended for internal use only, and certainly it was never the intention of the Western Regional Health Care Board, that what was contained in the document would, in fact, become law.

I am absolutely certain - I know, speaking for myself and my colleague, the Member for Bay St. George, the hon. Kevin Aylward - there is no way that we, as the elected representatives for the area, would be prepared to stand by and see the downgrading of the facility in Stephenville to the point where it would virtually become a clinic.

Why the particular document was leaked, what the motives were, we can only speculate, but I am sure that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to have some idea as to the intent behind the actions that were taken. However, in the final analysis, I think that with assurances from the Minister of Health, who visited Stephenville and spoke at a public meeting there, gave assurances to the people of the area as to what the long-term plans were for the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital, and subsequently by statements made by the Premier, the matter has now been effectively put to rest. The commitment has been made to the people of Bay St. George to maintain the level of service that they have been accustomed to at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital. In addition, the commitment has been reaffirmed as well, that plans to construct a new facility to replace the existing facility in Stephenville is on track and will be taking place as soon as the funds become available.

So with that, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present the petition and express the concerns on behalf of the residents of Bay St. George as I have been asked to do, but I can say to the hon. House today that, I think in the time that this was presented to me, assurances of sufficient level of comfort have been provided to the people and the signatories to this particular petition.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to support the petition of the hon. gentleman opposite. It is very interesting to note that he has been given assurances that there will be no closures and that these people can expect the same level of services they always had. I only hope that the rest of the hospital boards across this Island will be treated equally and will be given the same level of services.

We have sixty-two doctors whom we are trying to replace in this Province right now and it just seems to go on and on and on and I think the time has come, Mr. Speaker, in this Province, when we have to stop cutting health care; we have to stop it and we have to stop it today and we have to move forward. We have to find the sixty-two doctors to come into this Province and we have to stop the people of this Province from suffering through health care as they have; senior citizens and on and on it goes. I have a list probably the length of my arm that I can talk about of real cases and people who have approached me during the recent campaign and since the recent campaign. I support your petition and I hope, Mr. Speaker, that the same level of concern will be given by the minister and by the Premier for every hospital board in this Province.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted to be able to take a minute to speak to the petition that was presented by my hon. colleague, the Member for Port au Port and, as the Government House Leader points out to me, was so ably presented.

The question of health care, of course, is not an issue that this government takes as a casual matter in terms of the seriousness with which we reflect on health care. We have said repeatedly that health care in this Province is the number one priority in terms of public services that we feel responsible for delivering.

As a matter of fact, I think if you speak to anybody in the public and in the forums that you people have had as a caucus in the last House, and from what I hear the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board is hearing now in his consultation process, health care seems to be, in fact, the item of most concern to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. And, in that context, the people on the West Coast in the Port au Port Peninsula area are no different.

I had the good pleasure of going out to Stephenville some time during mid-February and speaking to the issue of health care in that area, and I want to assure my colleagues from that area, the colleague who presented the petition and the others, that in terms of our government's commitment to health care on the West Coast, it is basically the same as our government's commitment to health care in any other part of the Province, and it is this: that we are committed to providing the highest quality of health care at the most appropriate level for the catchment area in which the service is being delivered. We are committed to providing it at the most appropriate point of delivery, and we are committed to providing it in the most cost-efficient but also health-effective manner, and we will continue to move forward in the area of health care on that basis.

This government spends this year, which is closing this week, approximately $900 million out of our Budget on health care; that is about 35 per cent of our disposable income after we allow for pensions and debt obligations, and that is consistent with and better, in fact, than some provinces in this federation does, notwithstanding our meagre resources. Last year, the hon. member would probably remember - he wasn't in the House - but in the deficit problem we had for this year's Budget of $60-odd million, health's share would have been $27 million if we had to find the proportionate share of savings that all departments were asked to.

I have to, again remind the House and I am pleased to be able to do so, that at the end of the day, I couldn't find $27 million in health, and I couldn't find $17 million and I couldn't find $7 million; so I said to my colleagues in Cabinet: I can find, without causing difficulty to the health care system, $4.5 million and I believe that is all we should take out of the Budget, notwithstanding the magnitude of the problem. The government of the day accepted that proposition, and they accepted it in this context that Health care had to be protected almost above all other types of public services. Your health is your wealth, a good job, a good education, other types of community infrastructure is important, but at the end of the day if you don't have good health you can't work, you can't get around, then all of the other things become academic, and secondary in terms of importance.

So I would just say again that health care for the West Coast, health care for the East Coast, the North Coast, and the South Coast and the Labrador Coast, is of critical importance to us, and we will do diligence as we move forward into this year's budget, in ensuring that we do the maximum in terms of protection, promotion, and the provision of health care services. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FUREY: Yes, on the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could ask leave of the House to revert -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. member have leave?

By leave.

MR. FUREY: Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition asked some questions the other day with respect to the Nelson Group, and how many recommendations they had made, and what was the status of these recommendations, that kind of thing. And I had undertaken to bring back to the House some answers on that.

There were ten broad recommendations, Mr. Speaker, made by the Nelson Group, in a report that they presented to the Marystown Shipyard Board of Directors April 20, 1995, to the new board. They consisted of: (1) the elimination of the long term debt; (2) to reduce the overhead costs at the earliest opportunity; (3) to replace senior management; (4) to appoint a new vice-president of operations; (5) to re-negotiate current union contracts; (6) to develop a marketing plan; (7) to develop a facilities plan; (8) to develop a business plan: (9) to implement an employee training program; (10) to adopt systems and procedure changes.

I will just come to that in a second, because there is a sub-set of - well it will be in Hansard for anybody to see what I am saying.

The first recommendation: Well government is attempting to deal with that, that is the elimination of the long-term debt. I suppose if you looked at it in today's dollars, you are probably approaching $300,000,000 dollars. But the current debt is roughly around $60,000,000 dollars, which sits there now as long term debt. To reduce the overhead costs, well those recommendations are aimed directly at reducing the overhead cost, and the new board is dealing with that now. And I think in the current business plan, if you look at the overhead costs for last year, which were roughly around $14,000,000 dollars, which was $3,000,000 dollars higher than its annualized overhead cost because, of severance packages, and payments for the Nelson Group, and the Argyle Group, and all of these other things that happen. So they are trying to deal with the overhead costs.

Numbers 3 - 9 which will replace senior management, appoint a new vice-president, re-negotiate current union contracts, develop a marketing plan, facilities plan, business plan, and employee training, they have all been fully implemented. All of those have been fully implemented.

The tenth recommendation adopts system and procedure changes, consists of a sub-set of many other functional tasks oriented recommendations that are being implemented, or will be implemented on an on-going basis, you see because, after the Nelson Group came in and laid out a strategy, they also, as part of their recommendation said we should stay on to help you implement this, which they did for a ten month period. Now there final report I should tell the House was submitted to the new board in March of this year, this month, and there, there are forty seven sub-sets of operational recommendations which the board are currently looking at, and are currently implementing as we speak. So that is essentially where the Nelson report is. There were ten broad recommendations, most of them have been implemented, or are being implemented. The elimination of the long-term debt is a struggle for government and it is one that we will have to deal with over the next little while. The forty-seven operational and functional recommendations, which fall out of a broad recommendation in one form or another, are being implemented now.

Now, the member's other question was -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FUREY: Yes. He asked whether in fact there was a penalty clause in the contract language dealing with the contracts that were put in place for Hull 53 and 54. I think I explained the other day in the House that as a matter of course in large industrial projects, there is put in place what are called performance bonds, a performance insurance and penalty clauses written in legal language to protect either side, so that if there is a delivery problem and there is a problem because of the client or in fact because of the yard, that one or the other can execute on it. You are quite right when you say in that language there is a $7,000-a-day penalty clause. Was it executed or acted on by anybody, either side, particularly the client? The answer is, no.

Orders of the Day

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 2, Committee of Supply.

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

CHAIR (Mr. M. Penney): Order, please!

Bill No. 2, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to address the House on the Interim Supply Bill and in doing so, of course, there is fairly wide-ranging debate. I just note that hon. members opposite refused consent to allow me to speak to the petition presented by the Member for Kilbride. It is a bit ironic that that issue, involving the loss of some eighty jobs in the St. John's area, did not spark any interest on the other side of the House. Nobody from the government side spoke to the petition. The Minister of Justice, in responding to the question from the Member for Kilbride, seemed to pass it off as a bit of a lark, that he would talk to the Premier of Prince Edward Island to see what they are up to. The implication, Mr. Chairman, is that the members opposite do not seem to take this issue seriously. I don't know if it is just because it is St. John's and they don't care what happens in St. John's, what jobs are lost in St. John's or whether it is just an unwillingness to take seriously what appears to be a growing trend in the loss of jobs, Federal Government jobs, and transfer of those jobs to other places.

I know, Mr. Speaker - and I agree with the Premier; the Premier in the House the other day said that it was not his practice to jump up and down every time one, two or three jobs might move around and he is not going to make a practice or a habit of it. I agree with that. There has to be some movement of jobs in society, whether it is federal jobs, private industry jobs or government jobs, some movement back and forth. Some come to Newfoundland and some move away. Some move into St. John's, some move out. That kind of thing happens as a normal course of a vibrant economy where change takes place on an ongoing basis. But what we see here, Mr. Chairman, is a trend, and it appears to be a growing trend, that the kind of consolidation of employment at the federal level is moving away from an attempt at diversification - of diversity of government jobs out of Central Canada, out of Ottawa, to the regions of this country, to share the wealth, to share the taxpayers' wealth, frankly, around the country.

The Taxation Centre in St. John's was one example - one of the very few, I am unhappy to say - very few examples of the Federal Government actually trying to shift some of the Federal Government jobs out of the Ottawa - Hull region, the national capital region, which has made that area, up until recently, one of the most prosperous areas in the country in which to live. It is all being paid for by the Canadian taxpayer. Whether that taxpayer comes from Labrador City or Wabush, which contribute a great deal of income tax to the Canadian Government and to the Newfoundland Government, or whether that taxpayer comes from British Columbia or the Yukon, it is that taxpayer's money that is being spent to fund the federal public service, and to make a very fine economy in the national capital region at the expense of all the taxpayers.

Now, there are some, I think, 250,000 public servants in Canada - something like that. These are Canadian federal public servants. And if the government had made any real effort - the various governments, the Conservative and Liberal governments in Ottawa - to distribute that work around this country, particularly in those regions of the country such as here in Newfoundland where you do not have the same level of economic activity as you have had in Central Canada, then that could go a very long way to making our provincial economy, our Provincial Government fiscal opportunities, much more viable and much more vibrant.

Anybody who has really looked at this knows that even on the side of military and defence expenditure, Newfoundland's share of that expenditure is rather significantly less than even the population averages would determine. Granted, there is probably an oversupply of Newfoundlanders in military jobs, but they are, in many cases, the first level or the low-entry or the sailor jobs as opposed to the officer jobs, kind of using, in other words, Newfoundlanders as part of the source of the manpower and womanpower in the forces, but not having the jobs here in this Province to help our economy here in Newfoundland.

So we do have a significant problem with a re-centralization, if you will, of Federal Government jobs, moving them to Nova Scotia, in this case, potentially moving them to P.E.I. And these are the kinds of jobs that are responsive to the new technological wonders, Mr. Chairman. It doesn't take, with the internet, with the communications facilities that we have, with the ability of computers to transmit information across the country in less than an instant, we don't have to have the concentration of jobs, and particularly Federal Government jobs, in the Ottawa - Hull region, or in Halifax, as once was required.

We see a province like Nova Scotia - when someone wants to compare the wealth of various provinces, Nova Scotia always seems to be a fair bit ahead of Newfoundland. It is a little bit larger in population as well, mind you. But in terms of the economy, the per capita economy, the unemployment rates, the ability of the government to manage fiscally, Nova Scotia seems very far ahead. But one thing must be remembered, that Nova Scotia does very, very well in terms of its share of Federal Government jobs, Federal Government expenditures, whether it be in buildings, whether it be in regional offices for government departments, whether it be in the vast military expenditure in the Halifax - Dartmouth region by the navy, by the army and air force as well, with several bases in the Province of Nova Scotia.

We don't really get our fair share. I know the Premier - I don't want to make this the theme of this government as the last government. Premier Wells, the former Premier, always talked about fairness and balance. We heard it from one end of the legislative session to the other. Now, we have the new mantra, the Tobin mantra. I suppose I'm allowed to say that, Mr. Chairman. We call it the Tobin mantra after the Wells mantra. We are obviously referring to the Premier. The new mantra is: Full and fair share.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The new answer is full and fair share, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. We want to make sure that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture gets his full and fair share of opportunities to speak in the House, and I'm sure he will be able to get up and speak afterwards.

If we are going to be talking about full and fair share as the watchword of this government, why is the government failing to respond to a petition to ask this government to intervene on what appears to be a significant trend going on of a removal of jobs, a re-centralization of federal government jobs out of Newfoundland and into another province?

There is no need for it. The Taxation Data Centre, as it is known, in St. John's has performed very well over the last fifteen or twenty years as a source of employment for the St. John's region. I say region because there are people working there from Holyrood and farther outside the city than that even who work in the Taxation Centre. The thinking and the word is that there are approximately eighty jobs involved in this potential transfer, and almost all of these jobs are jobs held by women that are being lost. They are not permanent jobs, in the sense that they are not year-round permanent federal public service long-term jobs, but they are jobs that are consistent, that offer work. They work every year.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The Minister of Health says they are up and down in terms of their staffing at the Taxation Centre, yes, they are. I will tell the minister, my sister has worked at the Taxation Centre for the last thirteen, fourteen years. He says they are up and down. They may be up and down but she was laid off a couple of years ago because they wanted to prevent her from becoming a permanent employee. Because if you work for five full years without a break of more than a certain period of time you get to be considered a full-time employee, a permanent employee, and they wanted to keep people, or as many as they can, on the less than permanent employee status.

So yes, it does fluctuate, but the people who work there, many of whom are single parents, get work almost every year. Some of it is of a seasonal nature, at tax preparing time, some of it is much more long term. There is a fluctuation, yes, but we aren't talking about a fluctuation here in the normal workloads of the Taxation Centre. We are talking about the transfer of work, substantial bodies of work in the preparation of GST rebates and the child tax credit, that is now done -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: By leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: I thank hon. members for a few more moments to pursue my remarks. We are talking here about substantial work that is being transferred out of the Province that will not allow any of these people to be recalled for any period of time, and will result in a permanent reallocation of this work to another province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: My understanding is that this work will be sent to Prince Edward Island, that the GST centre in Prince Edward Island may, in addition to the handling the collection of GST, be now assigned the work of handling the GST rebates. I'm sure any bureaucrat could come up with a bureaucratic reason for doing that. Both services begin with the letter "G." That might be good enough reason for some people. They are both related to the GST, so let's put them all in the one place.

Why do that at the expense of jobs in this Province if it is not necessary? It isn't a provincial government issue, I will grant you that, but if the Province is concerned about the provincial economy then it becomes a provincial government issue very quickly. It very quickly becomes a provincial government issue if the ministers involved, if the government is prepared to take seriously its obligations to look after the provincial economy. The loss of eighty jobs plus in St. John's is significant, Mr. Chairman, and we have the cumulative effect of this loss, the client services losses, coast guard losses and the other losses that are taking place which are going to have a serious impact on the economy of this City and this Province.

I do have a very serious concern there and I wanted to first point them out before I got into some other issues involving the debate on Interim Supply. I know the Member for Labrador West is anxious to make an intervention and I understand yes, that he has to catch a flight. So I will take my seat and let him make his remarks and then I will get up again and make my second maiden speech in this session on the bill and -

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't use the word maiden its sexist.

MR. HARRIS: Its sexist isn't it? Okay I will not - my second introductory speech in this debate I will make after the Member for Labrador West makes his remarks.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CANNING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank you for your kind expression of good faith.

I want to express my deep gratitude to the electors of Labrador West in giving me this opportunity to stand amongst you here today and speak on their behalf. My presence in this hon. House, Mr. Chairman, is by their grace, confidence and enthusiastic support for this government.

In this hon. House on this day I want to also express my gratitude and that of all the citizens of Labrador West for the public service of the previous member, Alex Snow.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CANNING: His work and commitment to Labrador West deserves our collective admiration and indeed our respect and appreciation. Public service does not go without personal sacrifice. I believe it is important also to thank his spouse, Anita, and their children for having shared a husband and a father with us in the public.

Labrador West is a significant, if not the biggest per capita contributor to the provincial tax base. It is my hope that another Labrador riding, Torngat Mountains, will assume that leadership role in the not too distant future.

Mr. Chairman, I am proud of our contribution to the tax base of this Province, after all, our country was founded on the principle of equalization, one that I appreciate and fully endorse. However, Mr. Chairman, the collective views of the people in my riding, in fact the whole of Labrador, has begun to gel. There is a great deal of anger and angst amongst all the people in Labrador. We feel that our resources have not been used to benefit the region. That is not to say that we ought not share our wealth. Our history has shown that we are more than willing to assume a responsible share of contributions to provincial coffers. However, we are not prepared to accept a perpetual level of services that are simply substandard and unacceptable.

We hear of circumstances where others consider repaving roads or paving roads that are yet to be paved. We, Mr. Chairman, are talking of building a road.

Labrador is an important part of this Province. We have contributed much and yet we find it necessary to convince others that there are important needs in Labrador that must be met. Whether those needs are a road from Churchill Falls to Goose Bay, municipal infrastructure along the north or south coast, or dare I say it, a functional motor registration office in Wabush, the needs are real. I recognize, as must all members, that we live in a time of fiscal restraint. However, fiscal responsibility does not preclude focusing on opportunities that will stimulate growth, create jobs and opportunity. We simply need the efforts of all governments and I would hope all members opposite to allow us the ability to create the new jobs and opportunity that our people are craving for in this Province.

Mr. Chairman, if the Trans-Labrador Highway is not upgraded to a sufficient state that would allow the conveyance of equipment and material in a cost effective way, I believe much of the staging to the future Voisey's Bay construction site, in years to come, will be from ports in other provinces. We have personal experiences in Labrador West to that effect. Sept-Iles has grown from a small fishing community to a modern community approximately the size of Corner Brook, in large measure because of its position as a staging ground for the mining development in Labrador West.

Labrador West will benefit only if the Trans-Labrador allows Happy Valley - Goose Bay to be the transhipment point to the north coast. If this does not happen, one only has to bear in mind that our economic connection is with Montreal rather than the Island to quickly come to a conclusion where the staging point for the goods and equipment to Voisey's will be.

During the election I met, as did the Member for Lake Melville and the Member for Torngat, with representatives of the trucking industry. Complaints of breaking 5/8 cap bolts, motor mounts, voided warranties on new trucks, were common. These independent business people, most of whom had mortgaged their homes, purchased a truck, and entered into a business to simply provide for their families, were being overtaken by cost and constant toil.

In relating this, I also want to recognize that in judging the distance we have yet to go in support of this important highway, I am keenly aware of the distance that we have come. I want to publicly recognize the efforts of Senator Bill Rompkey, Edward Roberts, and the past Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, and the past Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, now Premier, for their unwavering support for this file.

Bill Rompkey's proposal of converting Marine Atlantic subsidies into the road is our best chance, I believe, to provide funding for the Trans-Labrador Highway. If you take time to consider the current routing of freight, one will readily come to the same conclusion as we in Labrador have. Currently, a product is shipped to Nain from Montreal. It travels from Montreal to North Sydney. Then it goes to Port aux Basques, on to Lewisporte, and up to Goose Bay, and on to Nain. The citizen of Nain pays that extra transhipment fee, pays for those extra shipping costs, and you and I, all of us together, contribute through the Crown to subsidize that extra transportation cost. The additional shipping distance currently, of course, as the Member for Torngat can speak to, allows it to be competitive still to the Trans-Labrador, but that is, I believe, a function of the condition of the road, not the sensibility of the method.

Mr. Chair, I have cause to be optimistic. This new government was clear in the election. We were clear in the Speech from the Throne. Labrador will finally get the recognition it so richly deserves. The name change is not a matter of semantics. It is not an effort to polish over our past shortcomings. It is a reflection of the reality of this Province.

There is a refreshing new air of understanding flowing from that document and in this hon. House, one that I feel will mean a better tomorrow for those we represent. I am very pleased, indeed encouraged, by the degree of importance that Cabinet has placed on this weekend's combined councils meeting in Happy Valley - Goose Bay. The four Labrador MHAs will be joined by the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, and already the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has been there. The government will be well represented indeed. I want to publicly thank these members in advance for their trip into Labrador, and for their interest and concern for Labrador issues.

Mr. Chairman, while some of our challenges may be daunting, they are not insurmountable. With determination, respect for local views, sensitivity to local needs, our opportunities are exciting and achievable. I want to assure the people of Labrador West, and indeed the people of all of Labrador, that this government is committed to high achievement. I am confident, though expectations are high, together we will make a significant contribution to improving their lot in life and give rise to a better tomorrow.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to, first of all, acknowledge with great thanks, the support that I received in this election from the people of Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi. The newly named district, formerly St. John's East that I represent and have represented for five years now, since the by-election in 1990.

I know the government changed the name of the district to suit other interests in other parts of St. John's and the Electoral Boundaries Commission's work resulted in an additional one-third of a seat being added, so the new portions of my district were from the old Pleasantville district and the District of St. John's East Extern but a third new portions of the district, I am happy to say that those residents in the new portions of the district supported me in each and every poll except one which I lost by two votes, so if there were any efforts to undermine my position in this Legislature, they failed miserably and I want to thank the people of Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi for supporting me now.

Now you may have noticed that I pronounced that word perhaps a little differently than some other members of this Legislature and in fact, I even pronounced it differently than The Evening Telegram. Now, you wouldn't think a newspaper could actually pronounce words but they went overboard a couple of weeks ago to try and chide me and wondered why I even was elected because I don't know the name of my district according to them, and they underlined it three or four times and suggested that it should be Kitty Vitty and that I should learn to pronounce the name of my district. Well, I say to The Evening Telegram that we don't ask the Toronto Globe and Mail to tell us how to pronounce the word Newfoundland and I am not going to ask The Evening Telegram to tell the people of Quidi Vidi how to pronounce the name of their community as well.

The people in that location call it Quidi Vidi and I, as the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi will call it that. I won't go around chiding anyone else even, Mr. Chairman, if you choose to pronounce it differently that is certainly up to you and in fact, in and around St. John's various versions are used to pronounce the name of the lake or the name of the street; Quidi Vidi Village Road is a place, there is a Quidi Vidi Road as well and the lake of course, is sometimes pronounced Kitty Vitty, sometimes pronounced Quidi Vidi, but I am not going to get involved in the controversy except to say that I will pronounce the name Quidi Vidi because that is the way the people who live in the, I guess you could call it village or the community of Quidi Vidi pronounce it.

Did I win those polls? Yes, I have to say to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology that I won them overwhelmingly and I thank the people of Quidi Vidi for giving me their support - so it is a magnificent district, Mr. Chairman, that I represent. It has the elements of the downtown, the Harbour, The Battery, Quidi Vidi and now, almost all, in fact all of what is known as Pleasantville, not the District of Pleasantville but what is known as Pleasantville on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake, and it gives the district a distinct name that is related to the geographical features of the district Quidi Vidi, including the lake and the village and Signal Hill of course, overlooking all of St. John's and I am very proud to represent that district and very pleased to have the support of the people to continue my work in this House.

I want to congratulate all hon. members who have been successful in being re-elected to represent their districts. As I said once, it is terrific to be elected, it is even better to be re-elected, because it gives you a sense of confidence that you are doing something right in representing the people of your district. I do congratulate those hon. members who have been successful in being re-elected to the House of Assembly.

Also to particularly congratulate the new members who are taking their seats for the first time in this House of Assembly. Many of whom, of course, not the first time in political life of one form or another. I see the new Member for Grand Bank, obviously, had a strong role in the political life of the previous government, as did the new Member for Topsail, and others who have taken their position in the House of Assembly and are being called upon to make a contribution to the House of Assembly on either side.

The new Member for St. John's East of whom I get confused sometimes, because when the Speaker recognizes the Member for St. John's East my heart leaps and I jump up. Then only to look behind me and see that my good and learned friend from the Bar, the new Member for St. John's East, is on his feet, anxious to ask a question or to say something. I have to sit down with regret and wait for the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi to be recognized by the Speaker.

It is a new House. We have a lot of new faces, and new issues to deal with. Having finished sort of the preliminary niceties I want to deal with some of them. Because there are very serious concerns in this Province today. I'm not here to preach doom and gloom about the future. I think we do have a brighter tomorrow somewhere down the road. We do have lots of options and lots of opportunities, and lots of interest in pursuing them on all sides of the House, I say to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, not just on the government side. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology will find support from this hon. member for activities of interest and concern to this Province that will provide jobs and give people hope and give people an income and an opportunity to support their families.

What we do have right now - and I know the Member for Bonavista North has - the new Member for Terra Nova, and former Member for Terra Nova, experienced this in travelling throughout his district, the hardship that people face. The hardship that people face today is real. It is not something that is concocted by people trying to make an issue or to raise doom and gloom. It is very real hardship that people are going through and things are getting worse for people.

I know we like to think that we are making progress in this Province and in this country, but things are getting progressively worse for individuals who don't have work, for individuals who are slipping off the TAGS program and now into perhaps social assistance, if there is no job for them. We see it happening. People who are on unemployment insurance who then run out of unemployment insurance and face a future of either social assistance or perhaps leaving the Province in hopes that they might make a future somewhere else.

There is a kind of grinding nature to poverty, Mr. Chairman. People are getting ground down, gradually. People who have been forced to live on social assistance are seeing their meagre income reduced every year by inflation, by the price increases and the cost increases for food and basic necessities in the supermarkets. By creeping increases in prices for electricity. The light and power company claims its last increase was 1992. There hasn't been an increase in social assistance rates since 1989, except for the fuel supplement that applies for several months of the year which has provided some help, but no increase in the general rate.

We have seen increases in all other commodities, from transportation, to fuel, to such basic's as food, of a very significant nature over the last seven or eight years. And it is making it tougher all the time for people to live on social assistance. I have seen them Mr. Chairman, they show me, and I am sure they show you, their tax stubs from social assistance.

I know when you come in someone's house, they haul you out the cheque, look, look here is how much I am getting. They take this out they take that out, they take something else out, and I get a $103.00 dollars in this cheque that I have got to buy food for my family for the next two weeks. You hardly see a stub from a social assistance recipient that does not have an over payment recovery on it. For some reason or other, some error made by the department, some miscalculation, perhaps some other reason. There is no ability of the system that worked properly enough, so that there is an over-payment that is being recovered.

Now in some cases it is a legitimate over-payment that someone made a misrepresentation, failed to disclose an income that they had, but in many cases it is just an action resulting from an error that someone made in government, and the individual has to pay the price for it. So what do we see happen? Do we see a compassionate response by government for this, do we see them following the regulations that were placed after they were forced to do that, by the Supreme Court, no, we don't see that Mr. Chairman, we see them changing the regulations, making the changes retroactive to 1997, and continuing to take money out of people's cheques because of mistakes that were made by government, or mistakes that were made by bureaucrats, and making individuals pay for it.

Then we have the new spectacle of taking people's income tax rebates. One of the few opportunities that people have, particularly the people who participated in Social Services Programs over the last number of years.

They get a job, they get a job, your government, your constituents, I say to the Minister of Health, they are lucky enough to get a job on a social services program, and they work for twenty or thirty weeks, not at a very high rate I might add, not at a very high rate, and one of the advantages of doing this, is that there is a little bit of income tax taken out of their wages, that they get back six months later. And that is something they look forward to, they look forward to - not so they can have some luxury Mr. Chairman, so perhaps they can buy a pair of false teeth, we have seen examples, or buy a washing machine, or buy something else that is a necessity. That is the kind of thing they want this money for, this income tax rebate for, but now, Mr. Chairman, we are going to take it back, we are going to take it back. One individual wrote me a letter and -

CHAIR: Order, please! Order, please! The honourable member's time is up. Does the honourable member have leave?

By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you Mr. Chairman. And thank the Minister of Education for offering me this time.

I received a letter Mr. Chairman yesterday from an individual who says he has a wife and three children. He is an unemployed security guard, Mr. Chairman, who is receiving unemployment insurance and gets topped up, by $100 dollars a week, from the Department of Social Services, and what he says is, what is wrong with our society and the rules that apply to people like him and his family, as compared to the family of the Premier? And what he says is that the Premier gets to keep his $53,000 dollar annual pension, to support himself, his wife and his three children, whereas he and his family, can't get to keep his meagre $500.00 dollar 1995 income tax refund, to briefly support himself, his wife, and his three children.

Now is that fair this individual asks? We have gotten rid of the previous watchword of fairness and balance; we are now in a full and fair share. But let's apply the fairness and balance principle to that Mr. Chairman. This individual is comparing on the one hand a sense of injustice that he feels, because he is having his $500.00 dollar income tax refund taken from him, and yet he sees the Premier and his family of taking advantage of a $53,000 federal pension while collecting a provincial Premier's salary. So there is a sense of injustice that is felt by people who are on social assistance, who are being ground further down by the policies of this government.

Now, the Minister of Social Services, in the House a couple of days ago, said that this was not a new policy. Well, I don't think that is correct. In fact, it is not correct, it is a new policy. Last year the income tax refunds were kept by the people on social assistance and this year the government is taking it away. It is now the government's policy to take it away. Now, they can make whatever weasel words they want about it, Mr. Chairman, they can make whatever weasel words they want out of it, but it is a new policy being implemented by this government. I see the Minister of Education wants to intervene on that point and I will give leave and let him do it.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just wanted to take a couple of minutes, if I could, to make a couple of points in this very important committee discussion on Interim Supply.

The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi is making some very good points. It is a very serious issue because I know that he, like all members of the House, are very concerned about the people who do not have the wherewithal to make ends meet themselves and then come relying upon the government for social assistance, which is, of course, the last straw for many people and a position that - I have not met anybody yet and I don't think anybody in this Legislature has met anybody who has indicated that they wanted to be in receipt of social assistance. I think that is quite clear.

On behalf of my colleague, I know that the Minister of Social Services at this point in time is out of the Legislature for a few minutes, as are some of our other colleagues: the Budget consultation is going on here in the St. John's area today. I think a number of the groups that are presenting are people who represent people in need, the working poor, social assistance recipients and so on. That is why they are interested in the presentations.

With respect to the policy, Mr. Chairman, my understanding of it is -and I think we will probably both check with the minister for final verification later - it has been part of the Canada Assistance Program, apparently, for some time, as a matter of fact, on an ongoing basis. Income, by definition, in the Canada Assistance Program, does include things such as income tax rebates. What has been happening for a number of years, though, Mr. Chairman, is that the government has not been as vigilant as it could have been and they have not requested, in some years, that people return those particular benefits. The argument is well known and understood by all of us that the people obviously are getting the rebate because they did not earn enough money - in the period of the year when they were lucky enough to get work - to have to pay tax, but the system was such that it was deducted from their cheques at the time. The only way they could it back was by making a claim and it would be rebated through a system. If there could be a way to know that the person was not going to earn enough money to actually have to pay the tax at the time that they went to work, then they could be exempted at the beginning and they would have kept the money. They would never have paid in the tax and it would have been theirs to keep.

The only reason, at this point in time, Mr. Chairman, that it is there - and it is not a new policy at all - but there is one aspect which is new, that in the $60 million exercise that the government went through just before Christmas - which will hopefully lead to a balanced budget being produced for the whole of the fiscal year for 1995-96 which ends in a couple of days - every department had to look at ways that they could either shave some money from their expenditures or increase some revenues to make sure that they met their targets. One of the issues that was addressed - rather than have to do something which was much, much worse, like reduce basic social assistance for the last three or four months of the year - they looked through their departments and one of the things they realized was that if they enforced the existing rules which required any income, including income tax rebates, to be deducted from a social assistance cheque during that month, if they were receiving social assistance, it was decided to enforce that rule for the remainder of the 1995-'96 year. That would be less Draconian and less tough as a measure on the people who unfortunately have to rely upon social assistance, than any of the other measures that were being looked at.

So in respect to the commentary currently before the House in Committee, Mr. Chairman, it is not a new policy. The policy, as I understand it - and we can have it confirmed by the Minister of Social Services at a later point - has always been part of the Canada Assistance Plan Program and the rules of that program. It is true that, in some years, the money has not been taken back because the staff, I guess, in the department, decided deliberately not to be diligent in that area, because everybody understands, as is the point that the hon. member is making, that they need the money, and this group needs the money more than anybody else. But it was all part of a budgetary exercise in which we tried to, I guess, spread the pain as evenly as possible, and to make it as minimal as possible. But it could not be done having zero impact in the Department of Social Services, and this was felt to be one measure that, while it would impact on some clients in Social Services, it would not impact generally on clients of Social Services. As a result, we are into the discussion that we have here today.

But I believe that any normal year, and maybe with the new changeover to the Canada Health and - the CHST, the transfer that is going to replace the established program financing cap, and other programs in the next few years, that many people, because this issue has been brought to light, would like to see us leave incentives like that in the system. Because I think all of us did bump into some constituents during the recent election that we went through who would bring this to our attention and ask: Well, what encouragement was there for me to work? Because I went out and worked; I got five or six weeks' work. I was glad I got the work. I was delighted to do it. I had a bit of extra money. I was off social assistance for awhile, and then, because I get the rebate, because I didn't get enough I didn't need to pay the tax, I wasn't supposed to pay the taxes, that when I get it back, because I am now receiving social assistance in the month when I get it back, I cannot get to keep it.

If we could have found some way in the system to exempt them from tax in the first instance, but that is an even more difficult bureaucratic problem, apparently, then they would have kept the money.

So we all understand it is a very unfortunate circumstance, but it was introduced not as a new measure, not as a new policy. It is in the Canada Assistance Program Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as I understand it, and it is a measure that unfortunately is in place to the end of this fiscal year, will be reviewed again by the minister and by all the government, and I believe all members here would hope that we would find a way where we could take that out of the system and allow the people to keep the money.

It is a very important point, and I appreciate the member bringing it forward. I hope that my brief intervention has given him an opportunity to gather his thoughts again and deal further with that issue, and others that are very important. I appreciate the opportunity.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to put forward a further suggestion, or a further comment to the minister, that could be considered as a solution to this problem. Over all, I will use an example that he might be able to utilize, I guess, with his colleagues.

A person whose UI ran out last May, as an example, and they went and received social assistance starting in June of last year, a person, prior to going on social assistance, had accrued certain Revenue Canada tax credits, for example; they were due to get back some income tax. Now, when that person went on social assistance the department should consider if that person has debts incurred prior to going on social assistance - they have debts, bills to pay - whether it is a light bill or whether it is on furniture, or on a stove, or whatever the case may be, and they are due to receive assets in that period that were accrued prior to going on social assistance, they should be able to use the revenues they receive back to help them reduce their debt, because social services doesn't pick up responsibility for those debts, so why should they pick up and take revenues that are going to be used to pay for those debts?

If a person goes on social assistance without this debt, and goes in even, not owing money, and any revenues come in then - obviously the role of the system is not to pay for social services for somebody who is going to have another source of income. Then I can see some problems, but how many people -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, certainly.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Education and Training.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you. I am very interested in this suggestion, and I am making some notes so I can pass it along to my colleague, the minister, for consideration.

The only thing that I would ask the hon. the Leader of the Opposition to clarify, because I believe what he is suggesting is that the debts were accrued prior to entitlement to social assistance in a previous term. The credits that they have won't be paid to them until they are in receipt of social assistance because of the system. So if they have prior debts, even though they don't accrue the money until a later date, we could then let them use that to address some debt that was accrued earlier.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) you have it.

MR. GRIMES: Just so if I have it accurately.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Chairman, further to illustrate the point, I say to the minister, too, if a person earns income - and that is how we can parlay it - if a person earns income and receives it a little later - now for UI purposes and in the UI act, income is always relegated to the period in which it is earned rather than in which it is received. That would certainly be in line with this and would enable a person who is on social assistance, who owes Newfoundland Power probably $300 in arrears and they are not picking up the cost for those arrears, and are in jeopardy of losing their electricity, it enables that person to be able to apply that rebate of $100, $200, or $300 to their light bill to enable them at least to do a bit of a catch up.

Because Social Services is not going to pay if they owe for furniture, or even if it is an essential thing such as a stove, I think, that is considered essential by Social Services. They are not even going to allow them to pay down on that debt except getting clawed back on their social assistance because of that. Certainly, even an item like a fridge, for example, is not an essential item according to somebody on social assistance, which doesn't fit into this equation. Still, I make the point that I think a fridge is an essential item out there today. I know people on social assistance, they are diabetics and they have other medical problems; and they have certain food they are required to eat and they can't sustain that, and they don't have access to get, in rural areas, to supermarkets, and rely just small stores to provide the food for normal living. I think that is an important aspect, too.

Apart from that issue, and I'm sure the minister will make note of it, there are certain areas - I know the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is not here at the moment. But with reference to $10 million I saw in the estimates there to deal with road construction of a provincial nature this year, I was just wondering is that just a preliminary figure of $10 million that is going to be used across the Province in road construction? Has that been identified for early tendering? Is that the purpose here now, to identify? Is the minister prepared to lay out what specific projects have been identified in that $10 million now, and could we hope to find out where these projects are going to be going ahead this year? Secondly, do we expect some more provincial expenditure under roads programs in this Province, and bridge repair and upkeep?

Because our road system in this Province is getting into a very dilapidated state. Bridges are - I know, in my district people have written the minister. In my district, one bridge is very narrow; it is on a turn, it is dangerous there, of concern. The road structure in that area is probably a 350o turn almost, and a narrow bridge that is blinded leads into that. The councils have expressed concern, people are out there today wondering. We have $10 million approved here today in that area. There was a breakdown I received, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board identifying that. I will just give the specific figure for the minister there in case he wants to comment on that. It is $10 million, actually, the provincial road-bridge program, exactly $10 million that is being proposed. I am certainly interested in hearing what that is all about, if we are going to approve $10 million there for interim supply in that area. We would like to know that.

One other particular one, too, with the new Minister of Development and Rural Renewal. There is $20 million there. Is there a transfer with the proposed economic zones now, the transfer I assume from the Department of Industry, Trade and Technology, ENL, and the continuation of funding? What is in the particular overall pot here of funding. This $20 million, how much is going into those economic zones, and what is the breakdown of funding that is going to those economic zones to get them up and running? I would just like to know where the expenditure is going. It is a pretty fair request.

We haven't got a big amount of time to delve into a lot of those questions there. A lot of new members, and everybody is interested I know on both sides of the House in getting some information on their district. We haven't got much time at all, I don't think, to go through those things, but I'm sure when we see the budget that incorporates total expenditure we will have many questions to ask on budgetary expenditures in this coming year. I'm sure the minister will be quite interested in letting us know what all the goodies will be and all the elimination of hardship that is going to occur in this Province over the next year.

Mr. Chairman, with that I will conclude my remarks and hopefully I will get a few answers on those two specific areas anyway.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall the resolution carry?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MR. GRIMES: I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman, I really thought that the Leader of the Opposition wanted a couple of answers. I was going to try to offer a couple. Some version of an answer, anyway. I don't know if it will be the real answer or not.

I'm very pleased to hear the suggestions with respect to the income tax rebates and the Social Services clients' things. I think that we will pass those along and treat them very seriously. Because all of us I think need to find a mechanism around some of Revenue Canada's rules and others with taxation and the rebate, and the fact that because of when you get the money, not when you earned it, that you lose it, when otherwise you would be able to keep it. I think the suggestions are very useful and we will look at that.

Just by way of comparison. I think many of us recognize as well that for many students who are trying to get some funds to help work their way through post-secondary, they too, many of them, don't earn in their period off enough to reach the basic personal exemption level. So they get their tax back but they have to wait to another point in the year to get it. Many would hope that you would be able to exempt them in the first instance if you knew when they started to work that they weren't going to make the $6,000 or $7,000 which is the basic personal exemption. It is more difficult I think for them in the tax system and Revenue Canada system to do that up front. But I think that if we find a mechanism as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, and others, that we can credit it in the period when it was earned rather than the period when it was actually received. Then it would actually be of more benefit in the hands of the individuals. We will certainly take a serious look at it.

The quick answer as I understand it with respect to the roads is that this is not to indicate the extent of the provincial roads program or anything else, but because of the work that has already been announced under the Roads for Rails deal, I guess, which is 100 per cent federally funded, and also there was an announcement by the former Minister of Works, Services and Transportation back just before Christmas or just after Christmas with respect to some trunk roadwork which was also in that, federally funded. But in that I think everybody should know that to achieve some efficiencies in areas where there is major trunk roadwork going to be done that is funded by the federal government, there are some small provincial projects in there that are being tacked on to those contracts to achieve contract efficiencies and expand the amount of work that is being done. Some of that is there.

There is also a financial administration act requirement that you can't go through the bidding process at all unless you actually have some money approved in the department for some part of the work. This will indicate that there will be some measure of a program. The Budget will come in with a further amount, we certainly hope, that will show the extent of the full capital work on the provincial side that will happen with roads that are in the jurisdiction of the Province.

The minister again, that particular minister, is attending some of the Budget things today and is expected back in the House shortly. But I believe that is largely part of the answer with respect to the roads. The minister wouldn't be in a position to announce what the provincial road construction program is going to be because it hasn't been determined yet through the Budget process and it hasn't been determined by Cabinet in terms of specific projects. But there needs to be some block funding allocated so that we can begin some tendering, even on the trunk work projects that do include little bits of provincial road work to achieve some cost efficiencies.

The Minister of Development and Rural Renewal I think is in the precincts of the House and probably heard the question. I don't know the specific detail about the $20 million and how much of it is related to the economic zones but there is no question that some of it would be. Because responsibility for the further transfer and the further switch-over to the nineteen economic zones versus the current development association structure and so on has been transferred through the Department of Development and Rural Renewal and there are some funding arrangements through SRDA, other federal-provincial agreements and so on, that are working their way through the system to make sure that they can get some start-up funding because we are in a transition period now that is causing a little bit of confusion and actually, I guess it would be legitimate to say, causing the stalling of some economic development initiatives that the local zone boards want to get on with but the structure is not such that they can proceed in a definitive fashion right now because of this period of transition, but there certainly is money voted in that department budget head so that they can proceed with the transition into the nineteen economic zones because responsibility for that has been moved to that new department and to that ministry.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just very briefly, I think the Government House Leader has checked with the minister who will probably give specifics there.

I just want to mention to the Minister of Education that, there is also provision too in the estimates for $49 million under the federal-provincial program under The Roads for Rails Agreement, that is already asked for too, there is an additional $10 million account of which I am sure a very minimal of that $10 million would be used to sort of beef up certain inefficiencies in that the bulk of that will be going for projects strictly of a provincial nature whether it is a bridge or a road in some other non-trunk road or non-Trans-Canada Highway area I am quite sure, and maybe the minister, might, a little later, if she is here, have a few specifics.

While the minister is coming in I will just probably redirect the question to the new minister regarding the nineteen economic zones wondering what will be, I guess, the transitional aspect of the funding now, where economic zones were under ITT, and what exactly is going to happen in terms of the monies availability under the nineteen economic zones for the transition and the up-and-running and where are we at that stage? Maybe, the minister might want to comment on that specific aspect that would be coming out of that $20 million, so if the minister wouldn't mind, to just update us on a few specifics on that aspect of that $20 million that is geared to the economic zones particularly.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, the $22 million that has been identified for Interim Supply is essentially to enable us to maintain the existing programs that were under ERC and ENL. We have not specifically identified how much of that will go into the zones because obviously the money that goes for the zones is under the SRDA Agreement, so the portion of that, at that point is, I still don't have a handle on that. All I know is that the total amount is to cover existing programs and what we have to do now in terms of integration is find out how much will go for what, so that is what I am in the process of doing; but in terms of the specifics, I don't have a handle on that other than to tell you that the money for the economic zones will come out of the SRDA Agreement.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are doing a good job, Mr. Chairman, trying to ram it through.

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

Mr. Chairman, just a few comments. First of all, I wanted to welcome the Member for Topsail but I told him today that I was going to welcome him when I got up to speak next and now that I have the opportunity, he is not in the House, so we will leave it on the record that I had welcomed him to the House. I worked with the gentleman some years ago when we were members of the St. John's Metropolitan Area Board, and I wanted to say that it was a pleasure working with him then and I am sure that he will be a good and faithful servant of the people in the District of Topsail.

Mr. Chairman, we have been in this House now, this is our sixth day and with the exception of the Private Members Day on Wednesday, we have been five days now debating Interim Supply. We have had 180 minutes spent on Question Period; the opposition has asked ninety-four questions in Question Period and we have not had too many answers given. In fact, you know, one of the things I keep is stats, and I can tell you exactly how many minutes every person on this side has spent on Question Period, and how many questions have been asked, how many supplementaries, and to date we have asked ninety-four questions. Now, one would think that you would have ninety answers. Do we have ninety answers? No, we don't have ninety answers. In fact, one would think maybe we would give the government a passing grade and say that we have forty-seven answers. Maybe they would want to say they are going to get a passing mark, and they give forty-seven answers to the questions. No, we didn't get forty-seven answers either. In fact, we were going through the records and saying: How many answers did we get in ninety-four questions?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)?

MR. H. HODDER: That is Question Period. What we are talking about here is Question Period. We have had 180 minutes; we have asked ninety-four questions, not counting the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, the ones that he has asked. The Opposition has asked ninety-four questions, and I think we could say one day we got maybe two, or three at best. We are giving the government credit for about eight to ten answers.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, no, generous, generous.

AN HON. MEMBER: At best; you are being kind now.

MR. H. HODDER: I am generous. I am very generous.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are.

MR. H. HODDER: I want to give the government every credit that we can.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is being kind to you, now.

MR. H. HODDER: We are being very kind, I say to the Minister of Education and Training. We are giving you eight to ten answers, and ninety-four questions.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. GRIMES: I am following the presentation made in Committee by the Opposition House Leader very closely, and I think it is time for us to have a chat here with my colleagues in the Cabinet, because if he has any answers we have made a mistake. We will have to check this out. I will have to check with my colleagues, Mr. Chairman; there is something gone wrong here.

MR. H. HODDER: To that point of order -

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, we certainly respect your ruling because there is no point of order. As a matter of fact, there is no order at all on that side of the House. If they had any order, some of them would be saying: Answer the questions. But we find ourselves, after six days in the House, 180 minutes, we are saying we have maybe eight to ten answers that one would qualify, if one were marking, one would say: Yes, that is partially satisfactory. But the truth of the matter is that after six days in this House, five days on Interim Supply, we have had very little discussion on Interim Supply. In fact, all we have is this piece of paper here, which is the bill itself, and we have a letter from the Minister of Finance to the Opposition House Leader in which there are four more lines. What a lot of information in which we are going to spend $1.23 billion, half a page of information here and four lines on another letter.

So, Mr. Chairman, what we want to say in the debate this morning is that if we were to keep this up all throughout today, tonight, and we are tempted on this side to keep this going for awhile because we understand ministers are now coming in, now that I am saying they have not given any answers, they are now coming in, and I assume they are coming in to give answers to the questions, and that I can see a demonstrated response from the members on that side who want to go and say: I want a chance, before the session closes for the Easter break, for us to give answers to the questions.

Mr. Chairman, I am today going to say to my colleagues here: Are we going to keep the session going today, come back on Monday, and Tuesday. I will say to the members, we intend to break for Good Friday. Out of deference to our Christian heritage we will definitely break for Good Friday. Now it might be on Holy Thursday at one minute to midnight but, Mr. Chairman, we will definitely give a commitment right now that we are going to definitely break this House for Good Friday. However if there are ministers who want to stand after six days of debate and say to the public: We are sorry, we should have given answers to some of those questions, then we are going to say: Yes, we are going to let you do that. We will keep the session going on. We want answers. If the members are going to stand, the ministers -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: If the Minister of Health is going to stand and he is going to say that he has made provisions so that the children who are waiting for psychiatric and psychological services at the Janeway, where there are 600 on a waiting list, if he is going to go and say that he wants to tell us how he is going to solve that problem, then, Mr. Chairman, we will give leave.

It being just before Easter I want to give the government a little report card. As a former teacher I want to say to them: Here is your Easter report card.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, I say to the hon. minister of aquaculture and agriculture, whatever culture he is the minister of right now, I say to the minister that here is the minister who prides himself on giving no answers.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader on a point of order.

MR. TULK: I just want to make my hon. colleague a promise. If he keeps being as cooperative as he has been for the past week I will guarantee him that every question that he asks the ministers over on this side right after Easter will be answered. Guaranteed! When we get an estimate you will get every answer you want. If you keep on as cooperative as you are (inaudible).

CHAIR: Order, please!

There is no point of order,

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Government House Leader, again, he doesn't want to hear the report card of the first six days. When I was a student and you had ten answers out of ninety-four questions, giving you ten out of ninety-four, then we assign a percentage to that. We said: This is the percentage that the government achieved in the days it had. So we are giving them basically about I suppose 12 per cent. Twelve per cent of the questions asked have been answered. We are saying to the government: Consider what you are doing. Because our role here as an Opposition is to ask the questions.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. H. HODDER: Leave granted?

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

MR. H. HODDER: The galleries are filling. I notice that members are coming in; I notice that we do have more ministers coming in. Which would tell me that they feel rather disgusted that they haven't had a chance to stand yet and to tell us where they are going to spend the $1.023 billion. We are glad that the Minister of Education has gotten up. He has had the nerve to get up. Of course, we know him to be a man of great courage. We know that he has never been afraid to get into the corners, whether it is in a hockey game or wherever it is, and he has never been afraid to partake in the debate and to be aggressive and that kind of thing. He has gotten up twice now and participated in the debate. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, she stood in her place and she said: I want to participate in this debate.

We haven't had the Minister of Health get up. He is essentially saying: No, there is no need for me to talk about the fact that we are going to ask them to spend $317 million, and he didn't get up and have anything to say. So Mr. Chairman, here we are on Friday, it has now been, I think, around six or seven hours in debate, we have been here for five or six days, and we want to say that the government have not been forthcoming with answers in Question Period, nor have they been forthcoming in answers in debate, or explanations as to how they are going to spend, and what they are going to do with the $1.23 billion.

We have half-a-page here on the Order Paper, and we have four lines in a letter from the Minister of Finance to the Leader of the Opposition, and on that basis, we are probably going to be asked today to consider calling the question. Now, Mr. Speaker, I have to say to my colleagues over here, you know, is this a reasonable request from the Government House Leader.

With these things in mind, I will take my seat, and I am sure, now, with that kind of report card presentation, that the government feels contrite, feels compelled now, to call on the Ministers and to take advantage of the opportunity, to get up and say, Yes, I am going to tell the people what I am going to do with the money I am asking the public to spend in my department.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I could not resist the opportunity of getting to my feet, after hearing such an elegant speech by the hon. member.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Am I supposed to be kind here now? I will ignore the hon. member. I am not going to talk about any of the things that were in the past, I am going to talk about the things we are going to do in the future. The hon. member said he did not get any answers. Simply, you didn't get any answers because you didn't ask any questions. If you had asked some questions - well, in Question Period this morning, the Member for Bonavista South got his answers.

I guess, halfway through the supplementary, he wished that he hadn't asked a question this morning. It didn't start off his week-end very well. I think he will do a lot more research next week, than he did yesterday. He learned the other day that he shouldn't make any more phone calls - no more phone calls. He learned this morning that he should make sure when they ask a question that he does a little bit of research and puts a little bit of thought into it, that he doesn't get caught up like he did this morning. So I suspect over the next week or two, he is going to be a lot more clearer on the questions that he puts forward. But he did ask a couple of questions this morning and he got his answers, very, very well, I think. Certainly, when he put his head down and started to smile, I knew he appreciated the answers.

Mr. Chairman, what we have a responsibility to do is to pass the Interim Supply Bill, which each and every department has a responsibility -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: I can say that, too, very well. But I am not, I am not, going to open seventy-five fish plants, I can assure you of that, Mr. Chairman, with that money.

The money that I have the responsibility to spend in my department - what I look at is opening fish plants, not closing them. That is the key. We have to provide an avenue where people in this Province involved in the most important industry, the backbone of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador - has always been, is today, and will always be, the backbone of the Province. But the one thing, I think, that we can accomplish today, is that we can learn from the errors of the past, and go forward into the future, with a positive attitude, doing what is necessary in order to sustain a viable source of income for the people who are involved in the industry -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: No, in all areas.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are going to build upon the good, solid work of the former minister, is what you are telling us?

MR. EFFORD: I am going to build upon the past, Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt about that. I am not going to point out any individual of the past but I am going to look at the past as a whole. I am going to look at where the mistakes were made in DFO in Ottawa. I often made reference in the past to the people in Ottawa having had very little knowledge about the fishery in Newfoundland, that we never ever listened to the people who had the most expertise in the fishery of Newfoundland - and that is the individuals who are involved in the industry themselves, not only the harvesters, the processors and the plant workers, but all people. Who knows better than those people who are actually working in the industry? Those are the people we should gain our knowledge from, and what I want to do in the future is consult, listen and take advice from the people.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Chairman, I intend to listen to all people, take advice, not necessarily - I have to rephrase that, Mr. Chairman, and say, most all people. I can never see the day that I would take advice from Tories. So I will take my advice from those people who, I have the confidence, will give me the best advice; those are the people that I will take advice from and consult with. But I cannot imagine that I am going to sit down with the people opposite in a consultative manner and spend time and take advice as to where I should be going as Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in the future of this Province. I am not going to raise any false expectations here in this Province, giving hon. members opposite the idea that I am going to cross over and sit down for an hour or two and have a chat, because that is not going to happen. Mr. Chairman, that is absolutely not going to happen, I can assure you of that - nor are they going to come over here and talk to me, that is not going to happen either. So let us not get mixed up here now. There is a change in the Department of Fisheries but it is not that kind of change, I can assure you.

Mr. Chairman, I have a lot of hope, a lot of confidence in where we are going into the future. Another thing that I also have to do is look at the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture itself, provincially. I think one of the most frustrating things that I have to deal with as minister - coming out of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation you had the ability, your staff and yourself, to make decisions in the department, what you believe to be the right decisions.

I think one of the most frustrating things that I have to do now is to understand and appreciate the fact that most of the decisions are made by the federal system. So what I have to do is to work at making sure that we have the ability to influence, to have a role to play in the system before the decisions are made. There lies the responsibility of the minister in this Province in a lot of the areas where he does not now have, in the harvesting and the licensing of fisherpeople, to play a major role, build a good consultation process, build a relationship that we can have an impact on the decisions that are made in the future. One of the things that I see wrong, that is negative towards fisherpeople was just talked about this week.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South asked a question about the by-catch of cod in relationship to the new management plan that is coming down this year. One of the things that I see wrong in Fisheries and Oceans in decision-making is, when the fishery season is started they come down with a management plan. What we should be doing is giving people lots of time in advance of the fishery season so if there are any changes to take place in the management plan of a particular season, in this case, in 1996, fishing people involved in the industry, from the harvesting, the processing and all sectors, should have the opportunity to prepare in an efficient and financial manner for the fishery season. But it is after the fishing season has started that we get the decisions made by DFO. Now, we have to change gear. We probably have gear aboard that we don't need, equipment aboard that we don't need. Those are the types of things that a Department of Fisheries is responsible for: to build a working relationship, and to play a major role in - they can understand the industry in Newfoundland, where the decisions are made in Ottawa, the importance of getting the right decision made for the people in lieu and in advance of changes being made in the industry.

There are those, and many, many other things - I could stand on my feet for hours and hours, but I am sure hon. members on the other side will want to ask some more questions pertinent to each minister's department. I had to stand on my feet for ten minutes to make some comments on fisheries because I wasn't getting any questions from the other side over there. If I get some questions over the next hour, or two or three days, I will be glad to answer them.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I rise today to respond to Interim Supply. I would just like to address a few things that the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture just addressed.

I asked him in this House the other day if he would confirm that there would be zero by-catch this year, this fishing season, in all pelagic fishing gear that was used. This minister stood in his place and deliberately deceived the House. He deliberately deceived the House. He got up and read a note saying, `Mr. Speaker, here I am going to show you - I just had this confirmed by the Department of Fisheries - there will be 5 per cent and 10 per cent by-catch on all groundfish that is caught in any area of this Province.'

Mr. Chairman, that was deceitful of the minister, I say, because he knows full well that all groundfish, all cod fish, caught this year in herring nets and mackerel nets, and lobster traps, have to be thrown back whether they are dead or alive. The minister stood in his place and intentionally deceived the House.

He is trying to gain attention again and get the focus shifted because he knows what he said was wrong, and he knows what he said was a lie.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. FITZGERALD: He deceived the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, if you need me to withdraw the term `lie', I will withdraw that. That is not a problem. I will withdraw the term, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Health, on a point of order.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, I apologize. I withdraw.

MR. MATTHEWS: The hon. member seems to be running scared awful quickly. I haven't even suggested that there was a point of order vis--vis the inappropriate language used by him.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: But I would ask the Chair to rule on whether or not, in fact, the language of the hon. member over there in referring to this member is, in fact, parliamentary.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, there is no point of order.

CHAIR: Is the hon. the Member for Bonavista South speaking to the point of order?

MR. FITZGERALD: There is no point of order, Mr. Chairman. If I am allowed, I will continue.

CHAIR: The language that was used was certainly unparliamentary and I will ask the hon. member to withdraw.

MR. FITZGERALD: I already did, Mr. Chairman, and I will withdraw it again. What I wanted to point out is that it was deceitful of the minister to mislead this House and mislead the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. TULK: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. TULK: The hon. gentleman, while he may think he is now in order, is doing through the back door what he could not do through the front door. He may think he is going to get away with that. I would suggest to you, that language, calling another member of this House deceitful, is also unparliamentary, and I would ask you to ask him to withdraw it.

CHAIR: It is my understanding that the hon. member has already withdrawn the comment. It is certainly unacceptable to refer to any member of the House of Assembly as being deceitful or lying, and if the member used that expression, I will ask him to withdraw.

MR. FITZGERALD: I will withdraw that, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: Withdraw it if he is.

MR. FITZGERALD: I will withdraw it even if he is. Yes, I will still withdraw it.

Mr. Chairman, the point I am making is that he deceived the people of Newfoundland and Labrador by standing up here in this House -

CHAIR: Order, please!

I have already asked the hon. member to withdraw that comment. I will not permit him to use it again after he has withdrawn it. I will ask the hon. member to withdraw.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman; I will withdraw it.

Mr. Chairman, the hon. member misled the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Is that a parliamentary term, I ask the hon. member?

MR. TULK: A point of order.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. TULK: The hon. gentleman can keep at this all he likes and the Chair knows this as well, better than I do, that the hon. gentleman can't withdraw on the one hand and then keep repeating right after what he just said before in any way, shape or form.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Would the budworm be quiet?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman?

CHAIR: Order, please!

I would like to hear what the hon. the Government House Leader is saying.

MR. TULK: I would ask that the hon. gentleman either obey the rules of this House or I would ask the Chair to name him.

MR. HARRIS: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

My understanding of the rule, Mr. Chairman, is that while it is not unparliamentary to say that someone misled the people or misled the people of the Province, it is unparliamentary to say that one deliberately misled and that gives it the same implication of deceit or lies or something of that nature.

People could be misleading by mistake, they could be misleading in various ways so to say that someone is misleading is not unparliamentary in this context, Mr. Chairman, that is my understanding of the rules.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: In this context, I would suggest to you that it is. The hon. gentleman had already used the fact that a member of this House lied, that he was deceiving the House. He had been asked to withdraw it on several occasions and it is obvious in the context of this House, he meant to give us the same substance and, Mr. Chairman, I would ask that he be brought to order, that he not carry on in this manner and that if he is, the Chair would name him.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Chairman, that was already withdrawn what the member is talking about.

CHAIR: Order, please!

It has been ruled on, in this House in many occasions that it is not unparliamentary to suggest that a member misled the House. It is certainly unparliamentary to suggest that the member intentionally misled the House, but in this particular case, I believe the hon. member is attempting to do through the back door what he can't do through the front door. The Chair has asked him several times to withdraw the comment; I will ask him one more time, if he would refrain from using that type language.

MR. FITZGERALD: I apologize, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, getting back to the incident again, getting back to the question that was asked, the member was asked a question here the other day and that is what the Opposition House Leader was referring to when he talked about Answers for Questions and the question that was asked is: No. 1: I think the first question was: Are the fisher people in this Province today, when they go out and set their traps, or set their pelagic gear, and pelagic, for the hon. member's own vocabulary, means herring, mackerel, and any other fish that is not included in the groundfish, or don't use the ground area for feeding - herring, mackerel, squid, caplin, those type of fish. I asked the minister if there was a by-catch this year on this particular type of fish. Up until now you were allowed to have a 5 per cent or 10 per cent by-catch.

In conversation with some people - some informed people from DFO, I might add - I was informed that there would be zero per cent by-catch this year in that particular fishery, no matter if the fish, the cod that was caught, was dead or alive; it had to be returned to the water.

I asked the minister what the conservation measures were in that, and he got up and flashed a paper and said: The member is wrong. The member is wrong. But the member wasn't wrong. The member was 100 per cent right.

Today he skated around the questions of having a task force to go out to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and to inform the people, and to allow the people to have access to their futures - a very simple question, a question that should have been addressed for months here in this House, for years, and still has not been addressed. I say to the minister, even though he didn't answer the question, did not provide them with the answers that people out there are waiting for, I say to him, and I wonder how many trips the hon. minister has made to Victor Young's office since he has been elected. And how many trips has be made out to rural Newfoundland to talk to fishermen? Because their opinion, their fish plant workers' opinions, are very important as well, not only the businessman, the chief executive officer of the giant fish company, but those fish plant workers, those people whose livelihoods have been placed on hold for the last six years - the last four years - those people's lives are very important. I suppose the knowledge of just knowing where they are going to be, or if they are going to have a job or not, is certainly something that we may not be able to appreciate here as elected individuals because we are probably okay for the next two or three years, but other people are not.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, he is a loose cannon - you are right - and I think the people will come to know that very, very quickly as he goes out and tries to go through the charade of making people believe that he is listening to people, and I can assure you this is not the case.

Very simple questions have been asked here, and no answers; and I suppose it came from the Premier, because that is the way the Premier started, by skating around the issues and not answering them. So he, being the mentor of the other front benches here, I suppose, they thought they would follow suit and try to display themselves in the same kind of forum.

Mr. Chairman, there are all kinds of questions to be asked on Interim Supply. There are all kinds of questions to be asked here in Question Period, and here we are with the House of Assembly being opened for six days, and all of a sudden we are going to find it shut down for another three weeks. Close it down, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just have a few minutes, because time is running out here and there may be another colleague in the House who might want to have a few words.

Mr. Chairman, I couldn't help, in listening to the Minister of Fisheries, for a brief moment - not for very long, but for a brief millisecond... I saw the former Minister of Fisheries outside the House here today, and for a split second I almost regretted that I displaced the minister, and now we are displaced with the present Minister of Fisheries.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) second.

MR. FITZGERALD: For just a split second, for just a millisecond, when I saw the former Minister of Fisheries outside the House today, and then I heard the minister speak, and the way he tried to answer the questions which he didn't answer in the House today, I almost regretted that I displaced the former Minister of Fisheries, but it was only for a second and I got over that, and now I realize that we do have this minister in place here today and he will have to answer some questions sooner or later. Like himself and his leader, and the House Leader and so on, the skating around questions sooner or later will have to stop. The skating season will be over and you will have to answer questions straight up on the UI changes, on the Marystown Shipyard, on the educational reform. All of the questions that were not answered during the election.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: At least I have my hands in my own pocket I say to the minister.

The questions about the UI, the Marystown and so on, all of those questions will be answered in due time and as my colleague said, ninety-four questions so far asked in this House. He was being nice and generous I think when he said eight to ten questions were partially answered. They certainly were not fully answered, Mr. Chairman. So there will be more questions come forward to the House and the Minister of Fisheries will have lots of time to answer the questions and not to skate around and say that we are not going to close any plants, the plants are closed. We are asking what plants are going to remain open? What procedure is going to take place? When are people in this Province going to be able to get on with their lives so they can get the answer? It has been seven years that this Administration has been in office now and, Mr. Chairman, for the minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to stand up with his pickle book, day after day - the joke is on you, I say to the minister, the joke is on you.

Mr. Chairman, what I would suggest to the minister is that he just turn over his right shoulder and ask the minister who was responsible at the time, that previous administration, ask him all about the pickle factory because nobody here knows anything about it and nor do we want to know anything about it or were we attached in any way to that previous administration. I remind the minister also that 39 per cent of the population of this Province put this Opposition in place, 39 per cent, a substantial number. The questions will be forthcoming about the pickle factory right on up to the Voisey's Bay and so on which are very pertinent questions that have to be answered sooner or later. Although there is a brief honeymoon in place now, for the last week or so and the minister knows full well - and as the new ministers get their feet wet and get into their portfolios, there will be some hard hitting questions, I can assure the minister, on very many serious, serious issues that were covered during the provincial election and were not answered during the provincial election, from the UI to the Voisey's Bay and so on, Mr. Chairman. I can assure the minister and all ministers that the questions will be forthcoming. Now I am told that we have to be ready for - the Governor will arrive soon I am being told. So we will finish that, Mr. Chairman, and I will adjourn debate.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I understand that the Lieutenant-Governor is coming when we finish the debate and I understand that that may happen some time later on this morning. I am not sure when, this afternoon or perhaps later on in the evening.

In any event, I would like to continue on some of my remarks I was making earlier this morning concerning the very sorry circumstances that many people and far too many people find themselves in, in the economy that we have today. These individuals find themselves on social assistance. Some people are collecting a small amount of UI and topped up by social assistance. We have a government policy - and I heard the Minister of Education trying to explain and try and justify the very draconian measure being taken by his government on the poorest of the people of this Province by taking away an income tax rebate that was given to them on a very small income that they had earned - taken from them by the federal government on a very small income that they had in 1995 and was now being passed back to them because they were not even required to pay it their income was so small. To try and explain this while this was not really a change, is very difficult to accept for the people who are in the circumstances, Mr. Chairman, that every year they have looked forward to this, have made plans for it and now are being told that they cannot have it.

I would not like to imagine the Minister of Education and the other ministers sitting around the Cabinet table and saying to each other that we are now going to take $100, $200, $300 or $500 from people who are just barely existing, far below the poverty line on the social assistance rates that we have not increased since 1989 and we are now going to take a couple of hundred dollars from them. I cannot imagine being in a Cabinet and sitting around a Cabinet table and saying but that is what we are going to do so that we can still or that the Premier can still - the former Premier that is - can say that we balanced our books. We balanced our books and we kept them balanced. I find that a very, very difficult thing to accept, that he and his fellow Cabinet ministers and perhaps they are not the ones that are here now, perhaps they - I don't think that the current Government House Leader was in on this. I don't think he was in on this decision, to take a hundred dollars, or two hundred dollars, or three hundred dollars, away from people on social assistance.

It was the previous cabinet, and the Minister of Education would have been there along with the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. And they are sitting around making a decision to take money out of the pockets and off the tables, of people on social assistance.

People who are forced by circumstances to go to a food bank, and I said it mockingly the other day Mr. Chairman, to go to the food bank to try to get their full and fair share. And that seems to me to be the answer this government has for people, if they can't live on social assistance, we are not going to increase it, because we don't have any money, and you can go to a food bank, and what we will do instead, we will give a medal to the people who run the food banks who volunteer their time and energy.

Well I just don't think that is fair Mr. Speaker, the people of this Province are angry. Are angry about this policy, they are angry about what has happened to them, they are angry about the situation that they find themselves in, and they are increasingly looking at the unfairness in society, and the diversity between the rich and the poor. Even in the throne speech itself, Mr. Speaker, we were reminded, as we get reminded by politicians, and by the economic guru's, that we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, second wealthiest I think is the latest information that we have been given in accordance to the throne speech.

And here we are the second wealthiest nation in all of the world, and we have the minister of social services telling this house the other day, that we would like to give more to people who have to go to food banks, but we just can't afford it. Well I don't think that is satisfactory Mr. Speaker. I don't think it is satisfactory. We have people in this Province in the last twelve months that have become millionaires, without taking a nickel worth of nickel out of Voisey's Bay, Mr. Speaker, on that development, and what has this Province gotten out of it so far.

This country that we live in is one of the only countries of the industrialized nations of the world that does not even have a wealth tax. Our neighbour to the south has a wealth tax. So that those who have benefited greatly by being participants, in a society that has democracy as its basis, and that has a protection of private property, as a significant feature of its laws, enable people to become wealthy by virtue of these two features.

They are required to contribute some of that wealth, to make sure that the government has the ability to share the wealth amongst all people in the Province.

But that is only a stop-gap measure, Mr. Speaker, we are not looking to share the wealth, just for the sake of passing money around. That is only a stop-gap measure to prevent people from drifting into so abysmal circumstances that they can't properly educate themselves, look after their families, provide for their future, provide for opportunities for them to work and earn a living and support their families.

And I agree with the Minister of Education, I have yet to meet a single person who says I want to be on welfare. I have yet to meet a single person who says I like being on welfare, this is where I want to be, this is how I want to live, I have yet to meet one. And I am sure the Minister in his own district has yet to meet a single person who says that they like being on welfare.

The people who are on welfare are of two categories, they are people who can't work, because of physical or other disabilities, social disabilities, or they are people who don't have employment, and can't get employment because our economy is not operated fairly either. It is operated on a free enterprise system that does not make proper allowances and does not permit jobs to be shared. And we are getting increasingly into a society which is a jobless society for so many people.

We talked about the economic recovery, being a jobless recovery, the banks are doing very well, and they are laying people off. The car companies are doing very well and they are laying people off. Newfoundland Light and Power was bragging to all its customers in a light bill I got the other day saying how wonderful they had been, they laid off 200 people in the last couple of years and are proud of it. They laid off 200 people and now they want a rate increase so that they can make more money because they are not making enough and when you hear companies on the national scene saying that: yes we are making lots of money but we are not making enough, therefore we have to lay off four or five or 6,000 people across the country so that they can improve their bottom line because that is the only thing that the markets seem to pay attention to. So there has to be a countervailing force, Mr. Chairman, to the markets, a countervailing force to the economic system that we have and that countervailing force has to come from governments. It has to come from governments that are prepared to intervene and to insist that the corporations, the wealthy people pay their fair share of the taxes so that there is money to spend now.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, go ahead.

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Sure.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

If I had a few more minutes I think I could conclude my remarks and be happy to see someone else speak or perhaps the Government House Leader may have a motion.

I think we have to look at some fundamental changes in our approach to government to insist that the economic system operates more fairly for people. We do have opportunities for making things fairer in our tax system; we see all kinds of deductions and expenditures by people in business that ordinary folks have to pay for themselves. The expense of luncheons, hockey tickets, box seats at stadiums across this country and in this Province, paid for, with before tax dollars by corporations while ordinary folks have to go out and pay for their own, a built-in subsidy for these kinds of events and for these businesses.

We see lots of unfairness in our system and we see that the government is the only one people can look to, to try and re-address these wrongs and these changes, and we have to start examining corporate performance on the basis of how much attention they are paying to the creation of jobs, how can we make changes in the system that provides incentives for those who create jobs, who actually create jobs and have job creation as one of the outcomes of the activity, as opposed to improving the bottom line for their shareholders. It is a big job, Mr. Chairman, there are a lot of things that have to be done. What we have to stop doing is punishing those people who are on social assistance and people who are at the lowest end of society.

I will give you another example. The Minister of Education may be interested in this. A heartbreaking story that I heard during the election campaign. I intend to pursue it further and hope that we can do something to change it. An individual, one of my constituents, who was on social assistance, had a terrible problem with his teeth. He had pyorrhoea of the gums and had to get some special - had to get his medical treatment. He went to Social Services and asked for assistance and couldn't get any assistance to look after his dental problem. He needed some expensive dental work. He couldn't get it. They turned him down.

Then lo and behold, he won the lottery. He didn't win the same amount as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. He didn't win $2.5 million. He won $2,000 and he said: Great, I won the lottery, I can get my teeth fixed. What did he do next? He said: I'm a little concerned because I'm on social assistance. What if they find out that I got this money? Maybe they look up the lottery news; maybe these inspectors or investigators look up the lottery news looking for people who got money. The welfare cops. Maybe I had better phone up Social Services and tell them. So he did. He did the honest thing. He said: I don't want to be in a situation where I spend this money fixing my teeth and then I'm told afterwards that that is an overpayment and they take it back from me.

He phoned up Social Services. He was receiving $650 a month from Social Services. I wonder what happened. He got cut off three months. Do you know what happened to his teeth? He was taking them out with pliers. That is the story he told me. That after winning the lottery and rejoicing that he could now get the dental work done that Social Services had refused him, they cut him off for three months. He was taking his teeth out with pliers by himself. That is what people are reduced to in this Province by the policies of this government.

I know there is a new Minister of Social Services and she is trying to do her best to answer all the questions as they come up. But that's a story that I want this minister to know about, that this is what happens in her department, not while she was minister, this happened before she was minister, but if she is going to do a job in this House and represent the people of this Province, then she is going to have to start changing some of those policies and stop listening to some of the bureaucrats, stop being guided by the bureaucrats and be guided by compassion. Stop being guided by the bureaucrats and be guided by compassion because it is no trouble to find an accountant or two or three who could tell you how to save money; no trouble, no trouble to find an accountant, they are very good at mathematics and quite obviously this minister is being asked to defend somebody making a decision in December as to how are we going to get some money back, how are we going to claw back $100, $200, $300 from people who are poor and they gave the answer and she is now trying to defend it. She shouldn't be defending it, Mr. Chairman, she should be saying that it was wrong, it was not compassionate and we are going to find a way to change it, and I say the same thing about somebody who is lucky enough to win a couple of thousand dollars on the lottery to be able to do some dental work that is badly needed that that person should be able to do that and not be cut off social assistance for three months as a punishment for winning the lottery. They don't get to deduct the dollar that they pay for the lotto ticket from their social assistance cheque, Mr. Chairman.

MR. J. BYRNE: I know of people who won at bingo and they tried to take it.

MR. HARRIS: Well, the Member for Cape St. Francis says that they sometimes try to take bingo winnings. Well that is pathetic, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: They do.

MR. HARRIS: They do take them. That's what I am told; I don't know examples of that so I am not going to put them forth. But I ask this minister, she is a new minister, she is new to government, I ask her to let compassion be the guiding light of policies in social services and not the bottom line, not the how can we save and how can we grind the people further into poverty, and not allow that to happen.

These are some of the issues that have come up during this election campaign; these are some of the issues that are going to guide my thrust in this session of the House of Assembly and I think it is time, as I said, we are in the pre-Budget consultation process. I think it is time we found a way to increase the basic level of social assistance in this Province to make up for the losses that have occurred through inflation in the last seven or eight years; over eight years since there has been an increase.

AN HON. MEMBER: And in conclusion...

MR. HARRIS: Increase it.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, in conclusion now...

MR. HARRIS: In Conclusion?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. HARRIS: In conclusion, I would like the minister, if the minister is prepared to join me in this conclusion, I would like to conclude this Budget consultation with a Budget that comes down some time in April, with an increase in social assistance rates that people are not shoved further and further into desperation by the policies of this government and by the unwillingness of this government to insist that our wealth, that our taxes, that our energies, that our abilities be shared better and more fairly so that people are not being ground away by inflation, month after month after month and not have any answer from this government.

Those are my remarks and I want to ask other members to join with me on both sides of the House and try and change that policy and try and change those rates. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Resolution

That it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the granting to Her Majesty for defraying certain expenses to the public service for the financial year ending March 31, 1997, the sum $1,023,126,600.

On motion, resolution carried.

A bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1997 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service."

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

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

MR. PENNEY: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report that they have adopted a certain resolution and recommend that a bill, Bill No. 2, be introduced to give effect to the same.

On motion, report received and adopted.

On motion, a bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Services For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1997 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service," read a first, second and third time, and shall stand as on the Order Paper.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I believe we have a message from the Chief Justice.

MR. SPEAKER: It is my agreeable duty on behalf of Her Majesty's dutiful subjects, Her Faithful Commons in Newfoundland and Labrador, to present to Your Honour a bill for the appropriation of Interim Supply granted in this present session.

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

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please be seated.

HIS HONOUR, CHIEF JUSTICE T. A. HICKMAN: In Her Majesty's Name, I thank Her Loyal Subjects, I accept their benevolence, and I assent to this Bill.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: All rise.

His Honour Chief Justice Hickman leaves the Chamber.

Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move, when this House adjourns today that it stand adjourned to the call of the Chair. The Speaker, in His or Her absence from the Province, the Deputy Speaker may give notice and thereupon the House shall meet at the time and date stated by the notice of the proposed sitting. It is moved that this House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: This House now stands adjourned to the call of the Chair.