June 4, 1996               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS                Vol. XLIII No. 21


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin the routine proceedings of the day, I would like to welcome to the public galleries eight Grade VI students from C.L. Sheppard Elementary School, in the District of Humber Valley, accompanied by their teacher, Mr. Chris Dennis, chaperons, Penny Hewitt and Wendy Brake, and bus driver, Rod Abbott.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: As well, we have in the gallery sixty Grade V, VI, and VII students from Whitbourne Elementary, in the District of Harbour Main - Whitbourne, accompanied by teachers, Noel Bartlett, Margaret Delahunty, Wendy Kennedy, teacher assistant, Shirley Rio, and bus driver, Eugene Nicholl.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today on behalf of, I think, all members of the House of Assembly. Members opposite can and do speak for themselves, but on this occasion I claim the right to speak on behalf of all members of the House of Assembly to thank Members of Parliament who last night fulfilled the unanimous request of members of this House and dealt with the question of the amendment to Term 17 in a manner and within a time frame that certainly complied with the request respectfully submitted by members of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador when we passed a unanimous resolution here a few weeks ago on Thursday.

Mr. Speaker, I think the passage of the amendment last night is historic and represents the first step in allowing us to complete the education reform process to which we are all committed. Members have noted the overwhelming size of the vote last night in the House of Commons but, having noted that vote, we recognize as well that the process in Parliament is not completed. Indeed, there is a role for Members of Parliament, and that is the appropriate title, Mr. Speaker, who reside in the Senate because they, too, are part of the parliamentary process. It is a bicameral system and just as we, in this House, recognize the appropriate role of members of the House of Commons in exercising their right, and indeed, exercising their duty to examine this question, so, too, we recognize the right of members of the other place, the Senate, to exercise their right and duty to examine this question.

Mr. Speaker, I would convey through this House and through you, to members of the Senate the exact same sentiments that we conveyed, I think, unanimously, to members of the House. We ask that the question be examined in a timely fashion. We understand the need and right of members of the Senate to fulfil their obligations and duties. As members of the Canadian Parliament, we ask that some recognition be given to the time frames under which we operate; indeed, we are now into the month of June and we have an education system to have in place, to be effective and to be running in September. We ask for understanding that this Chamber will need to deal with and consider legislation implementing reform before we rise for the summer and legislation that will give effect to the amendment, to the purposes expressed in the amendment that was passed by Parliament last night.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say again that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador made clear in a debate here in this House that gave expression to the unanimous resolution that we intend to see, within this Chamber, a non-partisan spirit at work on this question. We sought, we received and we acknowledge the co-operation of the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party and all the members of his party who sit with him in the House, and the Leader of the New Democratic Party. Indeed, the Leader of the NDP in this Chamber, Mr. Speaker, frequently talked about the great support within his party for the cause of reform, when we were in Ottawa. I want to acknowledge the support of the Independent member who sits in this Chamber, as well. We said then that we sought a unanimous effort by the House, the Leader of the Opposition and others laid out a number of criteria that captured the spirit of education reform. We acknowledge that those criteria, the five points of the Leader of the Opposition and others were all part of that spirit. Mr. Speaker, I want to say today, now that Parliament has dealt with the question, that we remain committed to those principles, that we will bring forward at the earliest opportunity, the most appropriate opportunity, perhaps after the Senate has dealt with the matter in the next week or two, legislation that we will keep our commitment to consult with the Leader of the Opposition and to consult with the Leader of the New Democratic Party in the preparation of that legislation, and that we will do our best - we will do more than our best, we will ensure that the reform that is forthcoming is absolutely and totally in every way, shape and form, faithful to the proposition that was put before the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in a referendum and approved by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in a referendum. We can do no less.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, we repeat again a plea, because it really is a plea, for some recognition and some understanding in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador that in this debate, which has gone on for many years, there are always going to be voices that can never be reconciled, the voice of those who seek the status quo, no change whatsoever. That voice can never be accommodated because reform will proceed. The voice of those who seek a change far beyond that which was approved by the people themselves in a referendum, that voice can also not be accommodated because it is inconsistent with what the people have said in a referendum.

What we need, Mr. Speaker, at this time, is some leadership, some desire to build consensus, a desire to heal, and more importantly, at the end of the day, what we need is a focus where the focus ought to be, and that is on the quest, on the desire, and on the need for reform of our education system for the sake of our children, and, Mr. Speaker, to that we remain totally committed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is indeed a historic moment. The House of Commons has spoken, and for all intents and purposes, Term 17 has passed any constitutional hurdles in Ottawa. The Senate can only have a suspensive veto of six months at most, and I am quite confident that will not be the choice that the Senate will take. So, for all intents and purposes, it has passed the hurdle in Ottawa and now it is back here on Newfoundland soil again, and the responsibility comes back again now to the Premier and his government.

Our caucus here were all present and voted unanimously to get the House of Commons and Senate to move forward. We have done our part in ensuring that. I say to the Premier again, to remind him as he referenced, we did lay down certain conditions that we want to see delivered and we will be doing our utmost to ensure that there is interdenominational schools in this Province where people of any religion can attend, and that there is provision for uni-denomination schools and neighbourhood schools. And we will be watching closely now, for the Premier and his government to move expeditiously in getting it out and to giving it the careful consideration that is needed in the legislation that it is not going to be moved through haphazardly on a day's notice.

It did have a very rapid movement in the House of Commons; we had a very rapid process of moving this amendment through the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, outside the confines of this House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker. After May 31, they closed the House and announced there could be a referendum and then they closed schools and announced there will be one; the wording came much later and they had it before schools opened. We want to see legislation on specifics and we want an opportunity to ensure that the appropriate decisions are made that are going to be permanent decisions and best decisions to serve us and generations to come and we, as an Opposition, will be doing that and ensuring that the Premier is accountable to what he indicated would be delivered in this and we will certainly do our duty to ensure that that does actually happen, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would also like to acknowledge the passage of Term 17 in the House of Commons, and without counting the chickens before they are hatched, assume that passage in the Senate will be as speedy and as expeditiously dealt with as in the House of Commons.

In doing so, I would like to acknowledge and praise the leadership role of the Premier in bringing this matter forth to Ottawa on a non-partisan basis and involving all members of the House in urging the passage of Term 17. I think the delegations trip to Ottawa and the symbolic notion of the three parties represented in this House together, asking the party leaders and caucuses in Ottawa to deal with this matter and being there to explain their positions to the leaders and to the caucus, people who were available to talk to us, was important in explaining the circumstances here and seeing that its passage took place. So, acknowledging that, I would also like to pass to the next phase, which we anticipate quite soon.

Notwithstanding the statements of the Premier, both in the House today and previously, there seems to be widespread public confusion about the intentions of government. If one reads the papers and listens to the media, one wonders where they were on September 5, whether they actually read the referendum wording and knew what was going on. There is no doubt that every person

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: I support the notion of reform in this Province, and it is important that the intentions of government be expressed in legislation as quickly as possible so that those who are concerned that the government will not do what the referendum required by way of reform are assured, and also that those who oppose the referendum but also have rights to schools of their denomination have some reassurance as well that that will be possible under the wording of Term 17. I think it is a time for reconciliation within this Province, particularly among those who so strongly opposed the referendum process and the change to Term 17.

I look forward to a speedy passage in the Senate so that this legislation can be presented to the House and to the public for the kind of scrutiny that the Leader of the Opposition has suggested it deserves, so that we can all have a look at it and be satisfied that the new Term 17 has been followed properly, and that we can get on with the business of reform at the level of the schools, and at the level of program, and at the level of needs of students in this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

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

Term 17 just passed, and the Premier made reference to it in his statement. I ask you, Premier: What are your specific plans now to actually implement the education reforms that our people want and our children need?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the intent of government is to do as we said we would do during the course of a debate here on a motion urging the House of Commons to proceed with this question, and that is to prepare legislation, to consult the Leader of the Opposition, to consult the Leader of the New Democratic Party, and then put the appropriate legislation at this time before the Legislature and to allow the normal legislative process, including the review and the opportunity for comment by all of the interested groups, to occur; and hopefully to see speedy passage of that legislation which is required at this time.

I believe there have already been some consultations with the House Leader for the Progressive Conservative Party indicating that that is the intent and the plan of the government. Indeed I have indicated as much to both the Leader of the Conservative Party and the Leader of the New Democratic Party.

I think the appropriate course now - and I would certainly be happy to hear the advice of the Leader of the Conservative Party - is to allow the Senate process, which I think will get under way in a matter of days, to occur, to respect the right of the Senate to deal with this matter, and then to prepare ourselves, upon passage of the matter, I would hope, in the Senate - the Senate has dealt with the matter - to prepare ourselves to proceed with legislation here in this Chamber.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The previous government was going to reconvene the House in January before it passed it to deal with legislation, so I don't think that would be an impediment to dealing with legislation here in this Province. I think that would be responsible, and some advanced planning.

Actually, the Premier tells us he will introduce legislation here in this sitting to reduce the number of school boards and to establish a school construction board. In the Red Book and elsewhere he has promised widespread consultation on all aspects of education reform. Now, will the Premier send this legislation to a Legislation Review Committee now so people can see what is in it well before decisions are made?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is referring to the Red Book. I don't have my copy handy, although I generally try to keep it close at hand. I am sure the House Leader opposite has his right there. If he will turn to the section on education reform, the Leader of the Opposition will see that what we have committed to do is to consult with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, both on the question of school viability rules and on the question of busing. That's what is in the Red Book. It was very much a part of the public record of the last election campaign. That, indeed, is a process that will be initiated by the Minister of Education and there will be public consultations, I want to assure the Leader of the Opposition.

In the meantime, what we do need to do, as the Leader of the Opposition has just noted, is to introduce legislation to give us the means to put in place ten boards from the current twenty-seven, to move to an interdenominational school board system and also to move to a single construction board rather than the current process based on a denominational consideration. That has to be done right away because we need, of course, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, to be up and running and in business for September.

On the questions of viability and busing, we committed ourselves to a public process, there will be a public process, and we will be quite willing to share with the parties in the House, in advance of the tabling of any legislation, that legislation. My anticipation would be that discussion can occur either later this week or early next week, and my hope would be that the Senate will deal with the matter in a reasonably quick time frame, so that we can get on with our own legislative business here in this Chamber.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier has said he intends to introduce legislation on reduction of school boards and on a joint school construction committee in this session; in fact, he said before the month ends. Now, I ask the Premier: Has the legislation been prepared and, if so, would the Premier provide me with a copy?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The legislation is in the drafting stage where the basic principles that we are asking the government, through the Cabinet process, to agree to have been pretty well established, but we are now getting the legal fine print that everybody in the Legislature knows belongs in a piece of legislation. We certainly are going to honour the commitment that the Premier provided to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, and to the Leader of the New Democratic Party last week, that as soon as we have a draft piece of legislation in legislative language we will provide it to the hon. members for their consideration before we table it in this Legislature.

The bill that will give rise to it is already on the Order Paper, Mr. Speaker, as Bill No. 8, which in fact gives rise to the ten school boards instead of twenty-seven and the single construction board. We did not feel it was necessary, Mr. Speaker, to have extensive public consultation about those two interim arrangement matters because the understanding of everybody in this Legislature, and certainly of the government, is that there is unanimous consent for those two issues. The way the boards will actually function in determining the types of schools that will exist in September of 1997, since the next school year is already fully planned and organized, that it is that whole issue and that larger piece of legislation that will go through extensive public consultation and extensive debate here in the House. The question would then appropriately be, whether or not a committee of the House of some sort should also take that piece of broader-based legislation out for public hearings of any sort.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We certainly want to have an opportunity not to receive a draft legislation one day and then run into an all night sitting and try to get legislation through in a day or two. There is not a big amount of time, I say, left in this schedule here, from the time it is drafted until it has to go through. During the month of June, we only have three weeks left and it is important, I think, that we see it early.

The Premier has indicated that he will introduce it to reduce school boards from twenty-seven down to ten for this fall. Now, there is some confusion about how the transition will work. We do know that teaching personnel are being hired now for those schools, but we don't know how badly needed school repairs, renovations or any construction money is going to be allocated as we approach this transitional July 1 deadline.

Now, I ask the Premier: What decision making strategies are in place to facilitate a desirable and responsible transfer?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Officials of the Department of Education have actually been working with a transition team, I guess is the right language they have been using, which has representatives on it from the School Board Association for Newfoundland and Labrador, from the Superintendents' Association for Newfoundland and Labrador, the Business Managers' Association, Mr. Speaker, from the different school boards, and they are dealing with those very practical issues. Our officials have indicated to them that the ten school boards could expect to receive the budgets or the pro-rated portions thereof, of the parts of the twenty-seven boards that will be merged into their boundaries. They are quite comfortable, as I understand it, in the discussions, that there is quite an orderly and sensible process underway whereby the school boards who already have the system arranged for next September will fully know within a matter of days, what monies they can expect to expend and which monies will go to the ten boards on the basis of the parts of the five or six, in some instances, that are being put together to reduce from twenty-seven to ten.

So there is a structure in place, Mr. Speaker. They are meeting regularly and they are continuing to have dialogue on those very practical transition issues, and all of it will be announced as soon as we are in a position to put the legislation here.

I am expecting, as well, that it will be announced again by consent and approval of the School Board Association, the Business Managers', the Superintendents', and those people who actually have run the system in Newfoundland and Labrador for the last number of years.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister made reference to other prepared legislation that we know is not as urgent as those two specific items. I ask the Premier - or the minister may wish to answer: When does he expect this draft legislation to be ready, so we can have adequate public scrutiny and debate here in this House?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, we are working as quickly as we possibly can. The issues seem to be two very important interim issues. The only thing that is coming forward in the draft legislation now is the issue of going from twenty-seven school boards, that are separate denominational boards, to ten that operate interdenominationally on a shared basis, and also a single construction board instead of giving the money out on a pro-rated per capita basis to the denominations, as is currently the structure.

Those are the issues that are involved in this draft bill; we have yet to present the draft to Cabinet. We certainly have to go through the Cabinet process to get approval for that; it will be then provided to the Opposition Leader and the Leader of the NDP as soon as it is through the Cabinet system, so that they can have it for their scrutiny before we introduce it into the Legislature.

We do recognize, Mr. Speaker, that we are under some pressure of time, but again, with all due respect to everybody in the Chamber, we fully expect that this particular legislation and these two items will likely pass this Legislature very quickly with unanimous consent, because there is nothing in it that is contentious. It is an interim bill.

The major issues with respect to the five items that the Leader of the Opposition raised when he agreed graciously to go to Ottawa with the Premier and the Leader of the NDP to secure passage of Term 17, those items, Mr. Speaker, are contained in the amendments to the Schools Act and the Education Act that will not come before the people of the Province or the Legislature until next Fall.

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

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

My questions today are for the Minister of Education. Is the minister considering, or has he made a decision, to reinstate or approve first-year university courses for those areas in the Province, those colleges which he has recently cancelled?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There has been no change with respect to the government's position regarding first-year university in the colleges under the auspices of the Central Newfoundland regional college system or the Eastern college system since the announcement was made almost a month ago. The government will not be providing any grant in aid for the provision of first-year university for any of the campuses outside of St. John's, Corner Brook and Labrador West.

Both colleges, Mr. Speaker, have gone through a process of trying to ascertain student interest and student willingness to pay an enhanced registration fee to the college above and beyond their tuition fee to the university. They are now finalizing some numbers. They have been told by the government, through myself as the minister responsible, for over three weeks now, that if they have the appropriate numbers, and if they can raise the money themselves and not ask the government for any money, they are more than welcome to go ahead and offer first-year university. They have to come to a determination themselves as to whether they have enticed the appropriate number of students to register and that they have actually attracted the sufficient amount of funds to make it pay for itself.

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

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

So, what the minister is saying is, if the community colleges, such as Grand Falls, which floated out the possibility this weekend through news reports of introducing a $350 fee on top of tuition fee, that if they can raise money, the community colleges, the government will support it. In other words, what the minister is saying, and I ask him: Is the minister saying that they support a discriminatory tuition fee, where you may see a situation in one part of the Province where you will be paying $350 and in another part of the Province you may only need to pay $100? Is that what the minister is supporting?

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

MR. GRIMES: No, Mr. Speaker, but we certainly anticipated that someone in the Opposition might try to take that kind of a slant with it. What we did was suggest to the people of the Province that unless the government could provide first-year university in all the locations for the same price, the same registration fee, and the same tuition, that we had come to the conclusion that we could not do that so we cancelled it as a budgetary measure even though the people in the area wanted to access the program.

The people, Mr. Speaker, from those areas came forward and said: we want the right to pay voluntarily, a registration fee on top of the tuition fee rather than encounter even much greater costs by going to St. John's, Corner Brook, or a university on the mainland. They came forward and said: if we volunteer to do this, because we still think it is in our best interest, it still saves us a lot of money and still gives us an opportunity that we otherwise would not have in our regions of the Province, would the government allow it to happen? We said: it is not our preferred route. We have stated our case, that we would like to have consistent fees across the Province. We could not reach that in the Budget so we cancelled the programs. So we are not encouraging or condoning anything.

We now have a group of people who are coming forward saying: we want the right to pay this additional registration fee rather than pay a lot more money than that, Mr. Speaker, to go to other locations. We have taken the view that rather than deny them, rather than turn around and say: no, even if you want to volunteer to pay some extra money and still save a lot of money by not going to St. John's, Corner Brook or a mainland university, then we said: if you want to do that and if you are agreeing to do that, the government is not suggesting that, the government has cancelled the program. They are coming back and saying:

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the hon. minister to give his answer.

MR. GRIMES: - please let us reinstate the program and pay the extra money.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, no matter what slant anybody puts on it, this is a situation that has been created by the minister. Everybody in the Province knows what the preferred route of this government is, and that is to close community colleges.

Wouldn't the minister agree that what we are seeing here, because of the actions of government, is that we have put people in institutions in the position where they have to institute user fees for post-secondary education in the Province. Isn't that actually what is happening, minister?

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

MR. GRIMES: No, Mr. Speaker, not at all. What has happened is that the government has stated clearly for the people of the Province what kind and what level of educational opportunities can be afforded, in our view, within the education budget consistently across the Province, and that did not include first-year university at campuses outside of St. John's, Corner Brook or Labrador West.

The people themselves, the students and the parents in the other locations have come forward and said, rather than take that as a decision, they would like to have the opportunity, through their own means, to provide for a first-year university opportunity in those other locations. If they came up with the money, Mr. Speaker, and if they come up with the necessary number of students who are willing to participate in that type of program, we have indicated to them that we would give them permission to go ahead and do so.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Social Services.

In the department's memorandum to regional managers dated May 16, it states that additional assistance granted under Regulation 8, for reasons other than to top up rent and mortgage payments, would be discontinued immediately. Has the minister and officials now completed the notification process? Can the minister inform the House how many recipients of social services have been told that their emergency funding of sixty-one dollars has been cut immediately by the government?

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

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

As I previously mentioned, the memo that was sent out by our district manager was sent to the Opposition to inform you of the changes that have been allocated from the Budget. Part of my direction was to inform all those people who are receiving the sixty-one dollar supplement to be notified and they have been notified; a memo has been sent out as of May 31.

With respect to the number, it is approximately 11 per cent of our total caseload or 4,000 cases.

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

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

The department now provides assistance to individuals who live with non-relatives as boarders to a maximum of $372 a month, and the $61 has been provided to most eligible persons for personnel care items. Does the removal of the sixty-one dollars apply to boarders who live with non-relatives, I ask the minister?

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

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

That is but one category that it, in fact, applies to; and I think for interest, as I previously mentioned, it applies to only 11 per cent of our total caseload. So while some actually receive it, the majority of recipients do not receive it; it is a discretionary allocation and meant as a supplemental amount.

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

MR. H. HODDER: I say to the minister, that 4,000 cases across this Province at sixty-one dollars, this is a significant source of funding for these very needy families.

I would say to the minister on the issue of the boarders: Is the minister saying that boarders who are now accommodated with non-relatives must negotiate their new boarding rates if they wish to have funds for personal care items? In other words, does the minister expect those who operate boarding homes to absorb the sixty-one dollars or does the minister expect the individual boarders to do without personal care items?

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

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

As I previously pointed out, this Budget was about making choices and the choices we made, were made in effect to minimize the impact it would have on the least number, and that is why we chose this particular area.

We are not denying that it will have an impact. We are very aware that any type of choice that we make will have an impact on some people; it is the nature of the service we provide. We had to make tough choices, we decided to make the choices that would affect the fewer number of recipients and not affect the total social assistant recipients' basic amount.

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

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

In essence, of course, the government is balancing its Budget, in part at least, on the backs of the poorest people in the Province, and if you receive sixty-one dollars in emergency funding, then you are at the very bottom of those people who have fallen through the economic net.

I say to the minister, I am going to switch to talk about for the moment, the changes in school busing policies in St. John's. It means that many parents who live in St. John's and depend on social assistance will need to buy bus passes for their children next year. In most cases this would mean an extra fifty dollars per family if there are two children.

I ask the minister: Would she consider using Regulation 8, to offer assistance to those parents so that their children can have equal access to educational opportunities coming this September?

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

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

As my hon. colleague knows, we do not provide those sorts of transportation costs. If you look at the number of children who are receiving busing costs in the city, there is a significant portion of children who walk back and forth to school every day. Not every child has to access the bus.

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

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

In other words, the minister and her colleagues have denied the very poorest families in our society, particularly in St. John's, the opportunity to educate their children because many of these children live at distances where walking is not an alternative.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

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

I ask the minister: Is the minister aware that school absenteeism is higher in poor families, and her failure to offer assistance will only further compromise the access that these children need to equal education opportunities. Will she assure that there is equal opportunity and equity in the policies that are being followed by her department?

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

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

There are many determinants in health and poverty is certainly one of those, and the issues that you have raised could be considered but there are also a number of other issues.

There are also many other clauses within our policies that allow our frontline workers to offer assistance on an as-needed basis and they will be dealt with on an individual basis.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. In his absence, maybe I can ask the acting minister or the Premier.

I wonder if the minister or the Premier, would provide the House with an update on negotiations between crab processors and harvesters, and would he also indicate if he himself expects to see an active crab fishery this summer, here in the Province?

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

MR. TULK: The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is out of town today on government business; he will be back tomorrow, I can assure the minister. I don't have the answer right on the tip of my tongue but I will certainly call over and get the information for the hon. member and give it to him within a matter of minutes.

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

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

My question today is for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

Municipal operating grants have been cut from $50 million in 1989 to $31 million in 1996-97. The planning section of Municipal Affairs has been almost wiped out which is going to cost municipalities more money. Assessments to the towns have increased and the minister is considering major changes to the assessment process. Has the minister or his department had representations from towns regarding problems caused by this year's Budget? What will he do to help, and what does he expect the towns to do?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, the first question was: Have I had representation from municipalities concerned about this year's cut? Yes, I did. I had a serious amount of representations made to me last year, because this year's cut was handled last year, I remind the member. In fact I had 291 councillors at Holiday Inn before Christmas giving me what I would consider the biggest blast I ever got in my life. So that is the answer to the first one.

The second one was: What does the minister plan to do about this? I have written all municipalities on behalf of the government and told municipalities if they find themselves in a crunch, in a serious situation where they cannot operate because of cuts from the MOG or other measures we have taken, to notify me immediately and I will try my best to assist them where I possibly can.

Quite honestly, Mr. Speaker, I cannot remember what the third question was.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis, on a supplementary.

MR. J. BYRNE: The last question was: What do you expect the towns to do?

Mr. Minister, Section 3.2.03 of the Municipal Affairs Estimates budgeted $100,000 for regional corporation agreements. The minister is committed to regional governments or regional counties, I know that, but will the minister inform the House of any recent discussions with the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities on regional governments, and where is the White Paper on regional government promised last Fall?

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

MR. A. REID: Yes, Mr. Speaker. In fact, within that $100,000 estimate we are hoping to be able to ask the Federation of Municipalities, with members of my staff, to do some work on the regionalization concept, so the Federation of Municipalities can be involved in the whole process from day one.

The White Paper is completed and I have told the Federation of Municipalities that I would provide them with the first copy, and after I provide the Federation of Municipalities and give them a week or so to browse through the White Paper, then I will make the White Paper available to the hon. member and anyone else in the House who wishes a copy.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis, on a supplementary.

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

Mr. Minister, is it government's intention to force regional governments by making it financially impossible for the smaller towns to operate on their own? Will the towns see further downloading, municipal operating grants being cut altogether, and provincial assistance being wiped out? Is government basically trying to do through the back door what they could not do through the front door?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, the regionalization concept from day one was a concept that we talked about through the Federation of Municipalities and with municipalities around the Province. The regionalization idea is to provide efficiencies for municipalities, where they could come together and actually share services to save money. The hon. member apparently has taken the exact opposite approach to the regionalization concept. He is insinuating that regionalization is a plan by government to downsize on small communities and I suppose ultimately to force them out of existence; that is absolutely incorrect.

We are not doing that as a government. With the new ministry that we have created for rural development around the Province, and myself, in the next two to three years we are going to be doing everything we possibly can for rural Newfoundland and Labrador. By the way, Mr. Speaker, in some cases there will be questions coming from the other side on what we are doing to the urban areas of Newfoundland to try to offset some of the impacts of what is happening in the rural areas.

So the answer to your question is, absolutely no, and I would not stand in this House, and sit as a member of this government, as Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, if I even though there was any shred of credibility in what the hon. member is proposing here today.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis, on a supplementary.

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

Mr. Minister, my questions are based on past experiences with your government, or the Liberal government. What I am asking is: Is it government's plan to financially strap the smaller municipalities to force regional government? I never asked if the government was going to download basically further for the towns to save money. I know if you get a regional government in place you may end up saving money in the long run, but the question was: Are you going to force regional governments by cutting municipalities to the bone? That is the question.

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

MR. A. REID: No, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

 

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair would like to welcome to the galleries a delegation from fourteen Commonwealth countries, accompanied by a Member of Parliament from Australia. They are in the City to attend a Fellowship Programme - '96 Commonwealth Foundation, hosted by the Protected Areas Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to report that the Social Services Committee of this House has considered and has approved, without amendment, the Estimates of Expenditure for the Departments of Health, Justice, Social Services, Education and Training, and Environment and Labour.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Labrador West.

MR. CANNING: Mr. Speaker, I rise to present the report of the Resource Committee. The Committee has reviewed and approved, without amendment, the Estimates of Expenditures of the Departments of Mines and Energy, Forest Resources and Agrifoods, Development and Rural Renewal, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Industry, Trade and Technology, and Tourism, Recreation and Culture.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I have to table, pursuant to section 55, paragraph 3 of the Financial Administration Act, a list of commercial loan guarantees. This is an update of a list that I filed on May 23, and it has a further loan noted there to Mr. Vincent Hughes in the amount of $50,475.99.

Secondly, I have as well the list of the temporary loans and the Treasury Bills that have been issued under section 48 of the act as well. This is the update since I last reported and it includes, in each case, three overdraft amounts and three Treasury Bills issued on May 16, 23, and 30, and May 13, 16, and 22 respectively.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that on tomorrow I shall move that a further Estimate of Expenditure related to a contingency reserve in the amount of $30 million be referred to a Committee of Supply.

Petitions

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition to the House of Assembly, and it reads:

To the Honourable House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador;

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

WHEREAS Newfoundland Power, since it has a monopoly in the delivery of an essential commodity in this Province, is not at risk of becoming non-competitive; and

WHEREAS Newfoundland Power, having made some $27.8 million profit last year, is not in need of extra revenue from consumers;

WHEREFORE your petitioners humbly pray that your hon. House may be pleased to request the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to do whatever is required to prevent an increase in Newfoundland Power electricity rates.

Mr. Speaker, this is one of many petitions that has been brought before this House in the last - well, since this session has convened. It is a prime example of the concern out there in rural areas today with the possibility of the users of Newfoundland Hydro, Newfoundland Power - users of electricity, being hit once again with another increase in utility rates, in electricity rates.

One of the reasons that Newfoundland Power is using, as to why it is coming forward to the Public Utilities Board at this time is because it has not had a rate increase since 1992. Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that there are many, many people out there today who have not seen a raise in their pay cheques and have not taken home any extra money since long before 1992.

Mr. Speaker, this particular utility made a profit last year of some $28 million, and considering the work environment and the state of the provincial economy now, I think that is a pretty tidy profit for any utility or any business to make today.

Mr. Speaker, when we hear the Minister of Social Services talk about taking back the $61, it was put forward to some - I forget what percentage she talked about, if it was 70,000 recipients; but when we look at this $61 being taken out of emergency funds and when we look at the help that was at one time provided by the Department of Social Services for people to pay their utility bills, and now, that that has been taken away, then this is going to put a further hardship on many of our residents out there today.

Mr. Speaker, not only does Newfoundland Power not deserve an increase but I suggest also that we should probably even look at some of the services that we are being charged for as consumers over and above the consumption of electricity. I think if the demand charges on meters, which industry today and probably some of our recreational areas as well, especially if you use electric heat, the cost that may be incurred for a couple of months over the Winter is being paid for by consumers all during the twelve months of the year. If you hit a particular demand some time during that twelve months, then Newfoundland Power's justification is that because they have to supply that amount of power for one or two occasions, when it peaks for one or two occasions during the year, then there is a possibility that that same thing will happen again, and the consumer will have to pay the greater amount. Many, many times that that may be the only peak that you will reach for the twelve month period.

Mr. Speaker, we look at the cost of erecting poles to provide the service, a cost, once again, passed on to the consumers of this Province and a cost that we don't have any choice for. If you go today and get Newfoundland Power to erect a light on a pole, Mr. Speaker, the first thing they want you to do is sign a fifteen-year contract. You have to sign a fifteen-year contract in order to get them to put a light on a pole in your garden. Now, if you decide that you are going to move away from your property or if you decide that you are not going to be occupying it for certain months of the year and you want that light taken away, they will take the light away but you are still indebted to Newfoundland Power to pay for whatever rental is used to come up to that period of time that they feel was needed in order for them to justify putting a light on that particular pole.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: So, Mr. Speaker, I call on the House to speak out for the rate users in this Province today, to come forward and help the sick, the suffering and the low-income people of this Province and speak out against the rate increase that this utility is looking for.

Thank you.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am rising in support of the petition presented by the Member for Bonavista South. This is one of many petitions that are coming forth on this issue and I know hon. members opposite will groan and moan because the public is actually petitioning this House to do something about the problems that this government is leaving on the doorsteps and on the empty tables around this Province.

What is happening in this Province today, Mr. Speaker, is that organizations such as Newfoundland Power are increasing, increasing, increasing their costs, their profits and their ability to take money out of the families in this Province and on the other hand, the government, aware so many people are on social assistance, is in fact cutting back on how much money individuals have who are on social assistance.

Members have mentioned earlier, this sixty-one dollar so-called emergency funding that is being removed from social assistance but, Mr. Speaker, most of the families I know who are receiving this sixty-one dollars, are receiving it each and every month because each and every month is an emergency and those individuals need that money; and by taking that back, they are taking back money that would otherwise be used by these families for necessities. One of these necessities, of course, is heat and light in their houses.

Newfoundland Power complains that it has not had a rate increase since 1992. Well, its cost of borrowing is gone down considerably since 1992 so they didn't need a rate increase, at the same time, Mr. Speaker, individuals on social assistance haven't had a rate increase since this government came into office in 1989, and the value to them of the money they receive on social assistance has been decreasing by inflation every year ever since to the point where, now they are receiving 17 per cent less than they received in 1989 if you take the real purchasing power of the dollar into account.

So what we have, Mr. Speaker, is the royal squeeze being put on people of this Province who are forced to live in dire circumstances, which are being made worse by this government's actions on the one hand to take money away, inaction on the other, to prevent the kinds of increases that Newfoundland Power is seeking.

Now, we know that there is a Consumer Advocate in place and we know that he has been given certain powers and certain abilities to carry out his duties, but there needs to be, Mr. Speaker, a wholesale review of the approach that the government is taking to utility rates in the Province, and a re-examination, a revisiting of this notion of whether or not a utility generation and distribution ought to be in public or private hands. Perhaps we should have a new debate about hydro generation and distribution in this Province, and consider whether or not it is time to seek the public turning Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro once again into a public corporation, owned by the people of this Province so that rates can be controlled directly by the government and proper use of this type of a facility can be engendered by government policy.

What is happening here, Mr. Speaker, is that a private utility, because it is a private utility, needs to have more money, needs to have more income in order to justify its return on its investors, more than Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is required to have in order to justify its return to its investors which is the government and to pay off its debts, so we have a situation, Mr. Speaker, where people across this Province are objecting, and rightly so, to the increase in cost while, at the same time, they don't have funds available to meet their needs for themselves and for their families.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition yet again on school busing and the school-busing issue.

The petition that I am presenting is on behalf of the residents of the community of Shea Heights. We find out today from the Minister of Social Services, that they will not be giving money to students in families who are in receipt of social assistance, for school busing, that these children are intended to be made to walk.

Well, I think this is a disgrace. This government, the Tobin Government has yet again attacked the people who are least able to make up for their budgetary shortfalls.

This petition that I present, the prayer of the petition, reads as follows: The cost of Metrobus services can be burdensome on a family already trying to live within a limited financial means. There would be very little cost to the Province of continuing the school bus system in the community of Shea Heights on its way to or from the community of Blackhead. The Metrobus schedule, in some cases, does not coincide with school bus hours, and students who have to take the bus from Shea Heights to St. Mary's would have to make a stop on Water Street and get a transfer to head in the other direction to get the bus to school.

The lower income families and middle income families of our Province have suffered enough with the cutbacks in education, the discontinuation of public exams, the closure of colleges, and discontinuation of first-year university courses. I think that we have to start to re-evaluate what we are doing here in the House of Assembly, and I think a fine place to start is to reinstate the school busing services or to subsidize Metrobus services in lieu of school busing that is received in other areas of the Province.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I stand to support the petition presented by my colleague, the Member for St. John's South re the school busing issue. While he has a peculiar situation in his district, it raises the petition, and the spirit of the petition raises a larger issue, and that is the one, really, of equality for school busing no matter where you live in the Province, that if the Province is going to participate in providing funding for school busing, then it should be provided across the board equally.

Mr. Speaker, as the member has referred to in his district, there are places in my district as well which will be affected by government's recent decision. They have based their decision on the fact that a Metrobus goes down the main road in my district and that people can automatically hop on that bus. But what it will add to kids who are in Kindergarten, five, six or seven years old, is they can hop on the bus - they will have to get on it by 7:00 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. if they want to get to school on time. They travel some twenty-five to thirty kilometres from, say, parts of the Goulds, where they are going to have to be bused out to places like I.J. Samson, Bishops College, etcetera.

The decision that government has made obviously is a budgetary decision, but the reality is that it could cost more in the long run. There are many students who travel the bus system in this city, and they travel it for one reason, because they have no other way or option but to travel it. Many students whose parents, through no fault of their own, find themselves in receipt of social assistance, cannot afford and will not be able to afford, not today or tomorrow, to get on a Metrobus - the costs associated with that. Now, while that may seem trivial to members in this House, let me assure members in this House that it is not trivial to parents or students who are in a position where they cannot afford $2.50 or $3 a week, or $20 a month, to send their kids on a school bus. I think that is the general issue, the more specific issue that the member has raised, and the situation that constituents in his district find themselves in.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I stand to support the petition and urge government to take a second look, and where there are exceptional circumstances that the Minister of Education move quickly to correct those circumstances, as I am sure he will.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a second petition to present. This petition is on Crown lands, and the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador wish to petition the House of Assembly to voice opposition to the change in Crown land fees.

Many of the people who are occupying Crown land in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador put sweat equity into the construction of their properties and clearing of their lots. Many of these people have done without in order to maintain their Crown land properties, and many of the people who are in question here that are occupying Crown lands probably do not have the means, and even the people who do have the means, to be given a five month period to come up with the balance to purchase their Crown land is an undue burden, even on middle income families.

These families have probably had other plans for this money, repairs to their homes, repairs to their cottages, perhaps even to take a vacation or to send one of their children to university. The fact that they have to come up with this money by October 31 has certainly placed a burden on them. In the event they decide they want to pay it out over a five-year period, instead of paying a $75 fee, they are now forced to pay probably a $500 or $600 fee every year. The families that cannot afford to do this are placed in a peculiar situation in the fact that they may end up losing their Crown land. The government will probably take back their cottages, sell them or what have you.

This change in fees to Crown land, and the regulations to Crown lands, I think, is unjust and unfair to the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador. While we agree that there has to be fiscal restraint, and we have to look for new ways of generating revenue, I think this goes much too far and places too great a burden on these people.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand here in support of this petition as brought forward by my colleague, the Member for St. John's South. This is a very important issue and an issue which has certainly sparked some public debate, certainly in the last number of days. These proposed increases, both for leases for recreational cottages and leases for residences, have been met with outrage by Newfoundlanders, who, as my hon. colleague mentioned, have put many hours of hard work, hard labour, into the development of their cabin properties.

I would like to mention, Mr. Speaker, that indicated on the lease for recreational cottage, on Schedule C in Paragraph 4, it states that the rent reserve as set out in the lease shall be subject to review every five years. The last time the rent was reviewed with respect to leases for recreational cottages, was approximately fifteen or sixteen years ago, and that increase was from fifty to seventy-five dollars. Therefore the question has to be asked, when ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, of which there are many who enjoy their Summer homes on such leases, these leases for recreational cottages, when ordinary Newfoundlanders enter into these lease contracts on the understanding that the rent will not be reviewed for a period of five years, and if it is, the precedent has only been a twenty-five dollar increase in the last fifteen or sixteen years, one has to wonder whether or not this is bargaining and contracting in good faith.

I submit, Mr. Speaker, that it is not and that there has been a violation of bargaining in good faith by this government in the proposed increases to rentals with respect to leases for recreational cottages and residential leases. What this government is doing is forcing people to buy out and purchase their freehold interests, something which these individuals, when entering into these leases, had no wish to do, no desire to do whatsoever. They were quite comfortable with paying the fifty or seventy-five dollar annual rental. In good faith they entered that arrangement only to find out that their plans and their good wishes were being foiled by what this present government now intends to propose.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I support the petition as being brought forward by the Member for St. John's South and I would hope that this government will take into account the points that have been made by literally hundreds and hundreds of Newfoundlanders who now find themselves in this particular dilemma.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I didn't know if there was another speaker on the petition, but before we move to Orders of the Day, I wanted to rise on a point of order. I gave today a notice of motion to move $30 million contingency reserve to be called on Thursday. I have conferred with my learned critic, the Leader of the Opposition and we seem to be moving rather quickly through the Estimates. So before we call the Orders of the Day and move into Committee of Supply, I wonder if we might have the leave of the House to have the motion called today rather than on Thursday in order to have it referred to the Committee of Supply in the event that we move that far along during the course of debate in Committee? So I think we have the consent of my friend opposite.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave to do that?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Leave granted.

Orders of the Day

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 2. It is moved and seconded that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply and that I do now leave the Chair.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Barrett): Order, please!

Adjourned debate on the Executive Council.

Estimates, the hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Yesterday when I adjourned debate I was responding to some questions raised by my colleague the hon. the Leader of the Opposition. He had posed some fifteen questions, if my notes are accurate. I will have very detailed responses to them shortly. I had expected to have them by 3:00. They should be here within the next ten to fifteen minutes. I see a grey envelope, that may be for me.

In response to the first question, it had to do - and I did not note the sub-heading - with consolidated fund. I believe the question was, why the amount for pensions was higher this year than it was last year? The reason for that is last year government had an efficiency measure of rolling back pensions so that the contributions to the pension fund were more last year than they are this year. That is the reason for the increase, not for an additional number of people.

Back to where we started, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps what I could do is when I get the more detailed reply I will rise and respond to each of the questions that my friend raised. I think essentially we dealt with them yesterday in generalities. After I get an opportunity to reply, I think, if he has any further (inaudible) I will respond then.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Before I resume where I left off, there are a couple of things, minister, I asked yesterday. One was on the Classifications Appeal Board. The Classifications Appeal Board is eliminated this year?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. SULLIVAN: It is not a sub-heading.

MR. DICKS: No. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is one of the questions raised by the hon. member. The allocation for the Classification Appeal Board is now in the Public Service Commission. That allocation has been moved there. That is why it does not appear in the Estimates for Executive Council. I should have the amount and the sub-heading for the hon. member shortly.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

So the cuts to the Public Service Commission are even greater than we realized, I might add. So I guess we don't need a Public Service Commission when we only hire an occasional person. They are hired within the department under Human Resources.

Also, I asked a question yesterday on the area on social policy analysis and strategic social plan. In those two areas there were very significant increases, 2.2.04 and 2.2.06; there were significant amounts of money in those two specific areas. I am wondering if the minister could explain why that would be so high.

MR. DICKS: I can reply, I will have the details. Two people were moved in there; one was Kim Ploughman. Her salary wasn't in it last year. Another person is there under temporary secondment from another area of government. If the hon. member can refer me to the subheading again, I will tell you who the second person -

MR. SULLIVAN: It is 2.2.04, under Social Policy Analysis.

MR. DICKS: Yes, 04. One was Kim Ploughman and the other - I am sorry, I don't have that detail; I should have it shortly, but there were two people. One was moved in there from another part of government and another one is seconded there temporarily. I have made note of that and I will be able to give you the exact information shortly.

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay, and while the minister is doing that, under Strategic Social Plan, 2.2.06.05, Professional Services, $100,000 -there was $100,000 in that area?

MR. DICKS: Well, I replied yesterday that the Minister of Social Services would be giving the exact detail of that; that is to allow for a public consultation process to take place. She will be announcing the detailed allocation of how that money is to be spent when she releases her plan for the public review of the paper on the Strategic Social Plan.

MR. SULLIVAN: Okay. I will get back to the minister shortly.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I ask the minister for his co-operation for a few moments while the Leader is out of the Chamber doing a public relations exercise; all part of the process.

I want to ask the minister a couple of questions relative to the collective bargaining process. I was following my notes, and it is on 2.3.06. If I could just ask him about the process, about the numbers of collective bargaining units that are up for bargaining processes this year, what the status is, and what the minister and his officials expect to be - in terms of the process and completion date and the potential impact it might have on the Budget.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In reply to my colleague's open-ended question, as we discussed briefly yesterday, all of the government's collective agreements expired as of March 31 of this year, so we are in the process of beginning collective bargaining. Part of that process involves taking the various collective agreements to Cabinet for review.

Some time ago, over the late Winter, we met with the various managers from government departments and agencies to determine which issues they felt should be reviewed at the table. There are a number of items that cause concern from various points of view.

One, of course, is fiscal, that our managers feel we could have greater efficiency in the workplace at less cost to government if we had some changes to the provisions of the collective agreements.

Secondly, we have approached it from the point of view of general benefit provisions where we might make some efficiencies, based on what we now pay to our workforce.

Thirdly, Mr. Chairman, we have to look at general issues in order to facilitate our plan for government. We do hope, and do intend, over the near term, probably within the next four to six months, to carry out a program review. No doubt, one of the issues which will arise is the extent to which work that is now performed by our officials and our employees could and should be better performed by other means. This might include contracting out in some form or fashion.

These are the sorts of things that have been brought to us. We have not as yet formulated a detailed plan to bring to our table for discussion. The other issue we have to deal with, as well, in collective bargaining or in a secondary process, is the whole question of pensions in government and how we might better deal with the liabilities that have accumulated there over the years.

So, essentially, Mr. Chairman, in answer to my colleague's question, we expect that this year will be fairly intense for a number of reasons. We have all of our collective agreements that have expired, which is unusual, since most collective agreements have various expiry dates. For historic reasons, mostly financial ones over the past couple of years, in meeting its budget targets, government has had negotiations with its collective bargaining units that have coincided with the fiscal year. I am pleased to say that in the last couple of years those fiscal measures have been reached through agreement rather than legislation, so it is our intention to pursue collective bargaining.

There was a time, I think, when people came to the table, if you were representing a union, expecting that you would receive more each year, greater benefits and greater salaries even though one might work lesser hours. Certainly the temper of the time has changed. The people to whom we answer, our public, the voters of the Province, look for and expect us to get greater value for money because they simply don't want to pay more taxes. We have to find a way to continue to deliver essential services that the public want in a more efficient manner, and one of those ways is to see what inefficiencies exist in our workplace, including under our collective agreements.

We hope to do that, and we expect that it will be a long process. I believe one of my colleague's questions was when this process will end. I cannot say that. I can tell him that at this stage we have already had some degree of exchange of views at the bargaining table, but because of the Budget process, the election and so forth, it was not in the detail that normally takes place, where the two parties sit at the table and exchange positions. For the most part we have not arrived at that point, but we hope to do so shortly. I expect that we will probably be dealing with this over the Summer and into the Fall. We are looking for an early resolution, but that may be unduly optimistic. What we hope to achieve is a fair resolution for all parties, including the people who work for us and who have the fortune to be in collective bargaining units.

His third point, if I recollect, was whether or not and how this will influence the Budget. We have not made any provision in the Budget to either increase or lessen the salary vote from last year, except to the extent that we have lessened the number of people who work for us. In our Budget is the figure that we would pay to our workforce given the normal step increases without salary increases and without roll-backs. Having said that, that may not be the position we take at the bargaining table. We have chosen rather not to legislate but to negotiate any changes, including any reductions that we believe are supportable at the bargaining table rather than to cancel it here in this House.

I think that fairly summarizes our position at this point in time, and I would be pleased to answer any further questions my colleague has.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

If I could ask the minister, on page 24 under the French Language section, 2.3.15, I note that in last year's Budget the allocation for Salaries was $247,000. Then, in the revised it went to $114,000 - it dropped down substantially - and then it is up to $159,000. I am wondering what the reason for that would be.

Also, in the area of Professional Services we had $3,000 allocated last year in the Budget. In the revised, that went up to $56,000, and is now up to $103,200. Does this mean that there has been extra personnel hired? What would be the reason for the increase in the Budget? Are we doing more for the francophone population - not that we should not do more for them, but - what would be the logic of that? Are there special programs that are being offered to the francophone population of the Province?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

No, it is quite the opposite, in fact. It is a service being offered to the anglophone population, which makes them a little more compatible with our francophone population. The Professional Services provision there is a Budget item to provide part-time language instruction for officials within our government. As the hon. member, I am sure, is aware, the Public Services Commission has run a french language program which has been available to members at a certain level in government who have to deal with people from other parts of the country and, to some extent, people within our own Province whose mother tongue is french. Early on in the term of the previous government it was decided that this was a worthwhile program to pursue. It was recently extended, I believe, last Fall, to provide part-time french language training around the Island, in places like Stephenville. I believe it also exists in St. John's, Corner Brook, and other municipalities throughout the Island. The intent of that is to provide a degree of facility among our civil servants in the french language. And these are people who, as far as I am aware and suspect, would be anglophone and not francophone, the presumption being that francophone people are reasonably conversant with their mother tongue or father tongue as the case may be. So the amount has increased for that reason; it wasn't budgeted in last year's Budget, it was $3,000 -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I beg your pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) former Premier, too.

MR. DICKS: Well, the former Premier didn't have a tutor. We have a french language group. I know the ladies concerned, I believe there are two full-time employees whom - I don't know if I should name them in the Legislature, certainly fine people to deal with and very good instructresses if that is the correct term, and they have done yeoman service, although it is an English term, isn't it? But anyway, they have done a good job shall I say. I notice the Clerk is smiling, because he has had the benefit of some instruction, as have I, on points.

In any event, there is a french language service available and my recollection is that the Premier was not in a position to take much advantage of it because of his busy schedule and was more to the benefit of the other people who have contacts with those in other parts of the country. But I wouldn't want to create another myth such as the Premier's chauffeur and all this sort of thing that was recently traded, there was no, and I wish to state clearly, no Premier's tutor. So, at least as far as I am aware - unless the mythical beast was paid in some other category that does not exist in our Estimates.

Having said that, I would point out to members as well, that under the subcategory, there is also a cost savings because we recover a portion of that from the Federal Government. This program is cost-shared 75-25 which is why, at the bottom of the subhead, you will notice a recovery in excess of $100,000. So given, we believe, the important nature of trying to provide a bilingual service where necessary, although we have a very small francophone population, we do have visitors and we believe at the intergovernmental level it is necessary and certainly more than a courtesy we believe, and given the fact that it is subsidized substantially by the Federal Government, it is a program that we expanded on a part-time basis, one that we believe is worthwhile, as I said, and during this year we hope the House will have the wisdom to vote for it to continue.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

On the issue of french language assistance for members of the House of Assembly, has there been any consideration given to expanding access to that beyond those who are in Cabinet, to all members of the House of Assembly, so that there can be equal opportunity for all hon. members to avail of french language instruction?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I certainly admire my hon. colleague's ambition in this area. I am sure it is one that members of the House share. I should say that it is, to some extent, a matter of the time available for the two instructors we have. I certainly wouldn't be opposed to the notion and if any member of the House wish to pursue it, I am sure we could take it up with our staff to see if they have any time. As it now stands, I believe the Speaker is eligible, Cabinet Ministers and senior executive of government, because those are the people who currently, at least, are in a position to have a degree of linguistic interchange with our fellows and ladies elsewhere in the country.

Whether or not we can justify it for the taxpayers extending it very much farther, given the fact that other members of the House might not have the same requirement, might be one that we should consider, but certainly, to the extent that we have staff and have time available, it is one that I am prepared to consider.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

If I could ask the minister, if he could turn to page 28, under section 2.7.01 and if we could look at Purchased Services for the Women's Policy Office, we note that there has been an increase in last year's Budget $34,100 to $33,600 in the revised Budget and that jumps up to $221,000 for Purchased Services in this fiscal year. I am wondering what rationale the minister could offer for an increase here which is in the vicinity of about 600 per cent?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Yes, I have had several comments, Mr. Chairman, and if the hon. member will forgive me, I have a lot of notes here so it is a little difficult for me to move quickly through them, but I believe his question was with respect to 2.7.01.06 enquiring about Purchased Services in the amount of $221,000.

My note says, and I believe it is substantially correct with one omission, that this is for the design and printing of posters, pamphlets and newsletters. It says, also included is a provision to cover the cost of official entertainment. I doubt that - I agree and the hon. member shakes his head, and I agree with that.

My recollection is that included in this amount is the amount for the campaign dealing with domestic violence. This understates the importance of what is being done here. While it says: design and printing of posters, pamphlets and newsletters, the amount that is allocated is for a program to create and increase public awareness of domestic violence and essentially try to lessen that problem within our Province. One of my colleagues who could probably give a little more detail and information on it, may be here shortly and I will ask her to speak to the issue. My recollection is that that also includes an amount for staff. I believe there is a co-ordinator and there may be a secretarial position. It is just that I don't have the exact detail, but certainly, to the best of my recollection, I am fairly firm in my recall on the matter. Certainly, that is where we have allocated the amount for the campaign on domestic violence, and other than advertising, I believe it also includes some staff which may be in there as well but that's what that is for.

CHAIR: Order, please!

Before I recognize the hon. the Opposition House Leader, we agreed yesterday we would go back and forth with a series of questions and answers, because we are waiving the rules. I noticed the Member for Signal Hill -

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, I am quite prepared to yield for a moment to my colleague, the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I was trying to give the Opposition House Leader a break from asking questions for a couple of times. I appreciate that there has been an agreement to allow questions and answers to take place because in that setting it is easier to have a dialogue with the responsible minister. I am going to say a few words at the outset but then I would appreciate the same type of response situation with the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

One of the common criticisms of government, particularly when budget cutting is in place is that they don't start - is that they should start at the top and complaints that they don't start at the top. Perhaps, in looking at the overview of Executive Council, which I guess is the top by any definition, it seems that when there is an overall program and budgetary expenditures up in the nature of something like 10 per cent - I note that the Office of the Executive Council has a budget which is greater than the actual expenditure in the previous year. So instead of having a decrease of 10 per cent or more, in fact there is a slight increase in program expenditures or expenditures for Executive Council.

I note as well that the government was over-budgeted by $4 million in this particular category last year, budgeted for $23,400,000 and actually spent - the revised estimate is $19.4 million. I wonder whether the Minister of Finance can tell us by how many million dollars he has over-budgeted this year? Is this a place where government asked the Minister of Finance to have a large cushion for decisions that might be made during the year so that the Premier and the Cabinet can have some flexibility without having to come back to the House for further expenditures such as the new plan of having the $30 million contingency hanging around to allow government to make decisions in the interim without the necessity at least of consultation with the House?

There are a number of areas, and I will ask the - I will leave it to the Minister of Finance to address that overview first. As I said, the people who criticize governments, the people who are perhaps the farthest distance from government, who don't have a window into details of the Estimates will look at this and say here they are, the people at the top paying the big fat salaries to the Executive Council, to the senior bureaucrats, and the people who are helping to run the government are being looked after very handsomely while at the same time, there are reductions in social assistance payments - in particular, ones that we are quite familiar with, the $61 allowance being removed and the fact that there has been no general increase in those kinds of rates since this government came into office, the general rate, despite inflation. I ask the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board to comment on that, and while I am at it, I perhaps could also ask him to comment on the circumstance in the office of the President of Treasury Board whereas, although the expenditures in general for the office of the Executive Council in the last year were $4 million under Budget, in the office of the President of Treasury Board itself, there was, in fact, an increase over Budget of $100,000 for salaries.

I note that the expenditure proposed in the President of Treasury Board's office is quite modest by comparison and it may reflect the different attitudes of the minister in this instance versus the minister before, but it seems that this minister can get by on $123,000 for salary whereas the previous President of Treasury Board needed double that amount in order to be able to conduct his affairs. I am not implying that this President of Treasury Board is far more efficient than the previous one, but perhaps there could be an explanation as to why there is a $100,000 increase over the Budget in that particular area?

There are a number of other points that jump right out at you, Mr. Chairman. When one looks at such items under the Treasury Board Secretariat as Information Technology Management and we see an increase in expenditure from slightly under $600,000 in the revised estimates for 1995-96 to $1.2 million - oops, I am sorry, I underestimate the revised estimates on Page 23 of the Estimates, $125,000 spent last year on information technology and now there is $1.2 million, so there is ten times the increase in the office of the Executive Council on Information Technology Management.

I don't imagine, Mr. Chairman, that all comes from certain efficiencies such as perhaps the Minister of Social Services is discussing with the President of Treasury Board now, where they decided they would cross-reference to the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Services and the people in the penitentiary so they would not be giving them social assistance while in the penitentiary when, at the same time, it costs $100-odd a day to keep them there. I understand there have been some efficiencies undertaken in that regard, but I don't imagine it involves the expenditure of $1.2 million for information technology.

When one looks, in fact, through the office of Executive Council in general, we see substantial expenditures in the area of information technology. Now, I know the government last year sold off the Newfoundland government computer agency known as NLCS for a paltry sum of $9 million, so I am wondering when we see these large increases in the Estimates for information technology, if we are seeing the result of that in higher costs paid by the government for information technology and information technology management, which is essentially the use of computers and computer services.

If I may, I will leave those questions to the minister and hope he will be able to deal with those, and I have a few others after that.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I wonder if I could have leave of the House to answer the question the hon. gentleman asked this afternoon? I promised I would supply him with the information - the Member for Bonavista South. Will the Committee give me leave?

CHAIR: Does the hon. the Government House Leader have leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. TULK: It is a letter addressed to me from the Deputy Minister. It says: `Re the status of the crab price negotiations, the FFAW, representing fisherpersons and the Fisheries Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, FANL, representing crab processors, commenced negotiations on the 1996 crab prices several weeks ago.' We know that. `This past week a mediator was appointed by the Minister of Environment and Labour. Subsequent to meeting with the mediator both parties resumed negotiations but these negotiations broke off on May 30 after the FFAW rejected the most recent price offer from FANL, and no definitive date has been set for the resumption of negotiations.'

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I believe the three issues were raised by the hon. the Member for St. John's -

First of all, he says with respect to the general Estimates of the Executive Council that it has not been cut. In fact, the revised Estimates, or the Estimates last year, the Budget last year, was $23,426,000; it is down to $19,957,000, which is slightly more than was actually spent last year. So I think the general Estimates work very well, and I think it has been proven in the past that the Executive Council has governed itself rather efficiently.

As to whether or not there is a slush fund, or whatever the hon. member termed it, I am afraid that we don't have those things in the Provincial government. I don't know if the hon. member is aware of them elsewhere, but if he knows where they are I would love to find them, because we could use that money for Treasury and other better purposes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Slush fund?

MR. DICKS: I am sure the hon. member said it in jest, and I take it in that fashion.

The reason we have Estimates, of course, is to say exactly where the money is being spent, and we vote on it, so I doubt that one is going to find any or very much latitude in these.

The second question, or the third question rather - I will come back to the second afterwards - had to do with the IT budget for government. I explained yesterday that what we have done is to consolidate the amount for planning, and, to a large extent, try to control the IT expenditures of government. What we have is a commitment to NISL, or whatever it is called now, to spend $17,500,000 per year. Our concern is that the money be well spent and that it not be over-budgeted. Some years it has been in excess of that, and at other times our concern is that some programs and areas that individual departments have gotten into have gotten a little bit out of hand, and I believe that was, without naming the department, there was certainly a controversy or a note made to the Auditor General's Report last year, I think it was, indicating that there were problems with the computer systems in one of the government departments.

Our concern is that - IT being a very seductive notion - that we be very careful about how the monies are spent, and that if a person can adequately perform their duties with an existing computer, or computer system, that we not just automatically upgrade it because there is a new Windows '95 program, or something like this. But in government it is necessary for us to have appropriate networking among our computer systems to make sure they are compatible, and that is the reason the amount is there. This is essentially an amount to properly plan an IT program for government and to control the expenditures. That is one area that we scrutinized very carefully in the Budget, and I believe that we will continue to do so.

His final question had to do with my particular office. I said yesterday, facetiously, that I was trying to struggle by with a level of staff. Essentially, several years ago there were two departments and there were six staff, two executive assistants, two political secretaries, and two departmental secretaries. Now, I have half of that; I have one executive assistant, one political secretary, and one departmental secretary. Frankly, it is very, very difficult to get by on that. My predecessor, Mr. Baker, had two people essentially handling the Treasury Board and the Finance agendas, and the various paper that comes through. As the hon. member may realize, some of the sorts of things we do generate a lot of paper, and there are a lot of controls. The sort of things we do in terms of collecting accounts, monitoring retail sales tax, reviewing and dealing with the many requests we get for exercising ministerial jurisdiction to forgive interest and penalties, and things like that, go through an awful lot of hands. In fact, I am trying to rationalize that system so we have fewer hands for it to go through but we still have appropriate controls.

In essence, there are two comments called for, I believe. One is that, as he says, my salary request is modest. Frankly, I could probably justify another secretary. At this stage, I am going to see if we can do without one. Secondly, the reason the figure was higher last year, $264,000 rather than $162,000 budgeted, was that three people retired from that office, the minister and two of his secretaries. So the extra amount there above and beyond the salary vote was for various severance that was paid, I am told.

I think that deals with the three questions raised by the hon. member.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Yes, I think it does deal with those questions. Particularly, I am interested in this expenditure on Information Technology Management. It is very easy to be overwhelmed, perhaps, by the proliferation of new technologies and programs and processes that are available, and it certainly seems that within government the demand for the latest in equipment and the latest in technology seems to be very great. It seems, at least from my experience and what I have seen, that no sooner do staff and systems get up-and-running and integrated and working, than someone comes along and suggests that this is now obsolete and you have to have a whole new batch of these types of systems. So if, indeed, the government through this information technology management, is able to exercise some sort of control over that kind of wild expenditures that can take place in information technology, then I think it is money well spent. I suppose, if one looks at the figures, it might be around 5 per cent of the information technology budget being used to manage it. Hopefully, it will achieve more than 5 per cent in possible ways of expenditures and we look forward to seeing the results of this effort in the next year.

I was only being slightly factious in talking about the reduction of expenditures and the fact that at the top it seems there is a reduction from Budget, yes, but that means one of two things, either they over-budgeted last year or that there was a built in flexibility with respect to expenditures. I do see that the important thing in this particular instance is what was spent last year, the $19 million, there is no decrease from the amount that was actually spent. Perhaps the minister may comment on the relationship between - once you have gone through the budgeting process and are now looking at last year's Budget and this year's Estimates, do not the revised Estimates play a significant role in determining what the actual expenditures are? Otherwise, we are merely encouraging all government partners to spend every cent that has been budgeted less they lose money in the next round.

There is a tendency in government, for managers, in particular, to make sure they spend their money. Perhaps the minister can comment on that issue in relation to the amount of money that will be spent in the last thirty days perhaps of the fiscal year? Is there a substantial expenditure of budgeted money in the last thirty days? Do we see people rushing out in the last week or so to make sure their budget is spent? Is the minister taking any measures to try to reduce that kind of apparently wanton expenditure of government monies in the last

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I suggest to the Government House Leader that if there is a difference between money being spent on March 31 versus April 1, I would say a fair amount of that goes on in government, in the last thirty days. I am just wondering whether this minister is on to that. Is he aware of that and what measures is he proposing to take or has he already taken to ensure that that is not the case?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: This is a serious question, I say to the Government House Leader, as to how one exercises effective control over government expenditures. When one gets to - eleven months gone in the fiscal year you see that you are under budget - is there something that government can do? Is there something that this minister did during the month of March to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I realize he was only elected on February 22 and appointed to Cabinet several days later but nevertheless, the question is whether or not anything should be done, can be done or has been done by the minister to control that kind of last minute or last several weeks of the fiscal year kind of expenditure that may, in fact, be able to be put off for another year?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

If there is one thing that we will not be accused of, it is that we have been prolix or prolific in our expenditures. As the hon. member knows, we -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) expenditure money. I told you to wring it out just like water out of a cloth.

MR. DICKS: Well frankly, we did that last year. If the hon. member will recall, most of our heads of expenditure are below where they were last year. We took steps last Fall, late last Winter, to freeze, for example, reclassifications, to freeze all furniture and all IT spending in government which are, by-and-large, discretionary items.

I think one has to do it judiciously, though. If you take the point of view that where money is saved, you automatically cut it down to last year's level, what you do is, you also encourage people to spend what you do give them. If a department comes in and makes a good case that it should have $10 million, $5 million or $2 million more than last year, I think we should authorize that; in this case, fine. The Executive Council, I think, is commendable. They had a budget of $23-odd million and they only spent $19 million. That is the way we want people to operate. If they come in and say: Look, we have transportation and communication, we may spend this amount, and they make a good case for it, we say: fine, we will give you that, but make sure you control it and don't spend anything you don't need. That is the way people should manage. Merely because money is available, if used prudently, it does mean you spend it merely because it is there.

If anything, I believe this last year was a good example of how solid, fiscal management by our managers and under the prudent and closer provision of the political authorities, can result in a Budget being brought in on budget; and that is something we intend to do this year as well. Having said that, you do need a degree of flexibility. People need that at the departmental level; we also need to have it in a general sense, as I mentioned in the Budget Speech.

It is very difficult for us to determine exactly where our revenues will be each year. There are also expenditure-driven programs such as in social assistance and to some extent our drug costs, things that we don't directly control. We budget, we try to estimate, but if a mother shows up with three children without a place to live, we don't say: we are very sorry, to pay you would exceed the social services Budget. We pay from what we call user-driven programs. If someone needs a social service that we provide, we provide it to them whether we budgeted the money or not. Now we attempt to do it as prudently and as accurately as we can but it is impossible to predict with absolute certainty how many people will need to place demands on our services, be here to pay our taxes or be here to be counted for equalization purposes. So we do all this and we try to, and I think do an admirable job of budgeting very closely to actual need.

Even if we were, for example, to be off by $30 million, that is less than one percentage point on either expenditure or revenue, and that is pretty fine. I think most people would acknowledge that, given the scope, nature and size of the Province's Budget, it is very difficult to predict with extreme accuracy much more than 90 per cent. In fact, in this case, if we were to be $30 million off - and this was another question raised, and I address it because it is inherent in the hon. member's question - that if we were to be off by $30 million, that is less than half a percentage point of our combined expenditure and revenues.

So as I say to the hon. member, and I know he is aware of this, budgeting is a difficult exercise and it is one for which I do not take credit. I believe our officials do a very good job of predicting revenues and controlling the process. I would say to him, in cases where people have spent less, or departments have spent less last year than this, we should not automatically cut them down to that amount. To my mind, that suggests the way a department should work and what we have to remove in our system, and which I hope to address during the program review process, is to the incentives to spend. Those are not because they are in the Budget, part of it is the fact that people's positions and personal pay is often dictated by the size of the departments and their budgets; and that is something we have to control. We have to get our officials to the point where if there are to be either rewards in terms of promotion or salary increase in our public service, they won't come because you spend more.

There has to be a new ethic and that has to be that promotion and a person's perceived ability will be based on one who provides essential services in an efficient manner and spends less than a colleague might. Those are the people whom I would certainly look to promote and not those who spend the money because it is in their budget. I believe that is a new ethic that the public certainly wants us to espouse and one that I know members of this House themselves have echoed from time to time.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate the comments of the minister in that regard. It is important that in managing government, we ought to avoid certain of the, as the minister calls it, incentives to spend that have been part of government ethic over a certain period of time. I agree that we really need to ensure that those kinds of ideas about government and about the size of one's empire dictating one's salary, for example, ought not to be the operative ethos in a government bureaucracy.

There are a couple of other expenditures that I wonder if the minister can explain. Under the Administration of the Economic Renewal Agreement which is spelled out on page 26, the minister has allocated $340,000, in fact the largest expenditure there for Professional Services. I wonder if the minister could outline how and what particular Professional Services are being spelled out here, what kind of people are they going to and by what process is it determined whose professional services would be engaged for this type of activity?

If I may just repeat for the President of Treasury Board, on Page 26 in Professional Services, $340,000 is allocated for the administration of the Economic Renewal Agreement, and the question was whether or not - this is a very large amount, in fact the most significant amount in that particular vote. I wonder if the minister could explain what professional services we are talking about, why he has chosen to use that as a form of administration, and by what process will the people who are to give these professional services be undertaken? What is intended there?

It is a new vote and it is for the economic renewal agreement. This is the $100 million that everyone accuses the Premier of spending during the election campaign. He spent it three times it has been suggested, and now we are going to have professional services of $340,000 to determine how it is really going to be spent. I am wondering who the Minister of Finance intends to engage to offer these professional services, how he intends to find out who they are, what kind of professional services are we talking about, and why is it not done through the normal administration of government programming?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I said at the outset, it is unfortunate that we did not have another $100 million to spend during the election campaign. We will certainly spent whatever money we can find for economic renewal, particularly where it cost-shared 75/25.

AN HON. MEMBER: You will have to save something for the next election.

MR. DICKS: Well, we will have lots more by the next election, with the improvements in the economy that will take place because of our fine, efficient, and wonderful administration.

In answer to the member's specific question, I should say generally, I am sure the hon. member knows that what this is, is under federal/provincial agreements, there is an amount allocated for administration of the agreements. There is usually a federal/provincial committee that sort of - well, you need the transfer of funds and all these sort of things to negotiate these things. Professional Services in the amount of $340,000 is for consulting services that may arise for specific projects during the fiscal year. I presume those may include, for instance, some engineering services. It is not at this point detailed but you may recall that we have budgeted, I believe, $22 million to be spent of the total of the project monies this year, or the total $100 million. We are going to look to flow it over a three to five year period. We have budgeted this amount on the basis that there may be some consulting services necessary.

One that springs to mind, for example, is Corner Brook. There is $5 million there for the forestry centre, or whatever portion we may flow. I suspect that some of this may relate to those consulting services. Well, of course, you need plans, engineering, and this sort of thing. Sometimes they are budgeted as a part of the cash flow of the individual project to the extent of its construction. The other thing, it may be general consulting services because we are doing things in tourism and aquaculture, in these areas as well.

My note says it is for that purpose, that we may need consulting services of various sorts during the year. I would say to the hon. member that we do this generally, for instance, in departments such as Works, Services and Transportation as well, for any projects, various professional amounts, most of what you see for professional services, and even purchased services often are contractual services of various consultants. In finance it would be actuaries, for example, in justice it would be lawyers, engineers and things like that.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am a little surprised to hear that because it appears that the appropriation is spelled out for the purpose of administration as opposed to the operations themselves. I would think that if you were doing a project for the construction of a forestry centre that part of the cost of building that would be the architectural fees or drawings that are associated with it. This appropriation refers specifically to the administration of the agreement and I am wondering what consultants would be involved with the actual administration itself.

The question is whether or not - the appropriation does not refer to the programs themselves, and one would expect that architects' fees would be part of the cost, for example, of constructing a centre. This appropriation refers to administration specifically, and I wonder whether or not Professional Services related to the administration of the agreement. It seems to me to be a rather large sum for a fairly narrow type of appropriation. In the administration of the agreement there is already a salary there of $81,500, and I am just wondering if the minister has enough specific detail there to say whether not that is actually administration that costs $340,000 in the one year.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Chairman, that is a general amount. I point out to the hon. member that these amounts are done in conjunction with the federal government; it is cost-shared 80/20, as he knows. These amounts have to be contracted for.

The only thing I would say is that - and the hon. member is right to a point. In terms of a specific engineering project, most of those monies are generally allocated, for instance, within the Department of Public Works; however, in terms of general consulting services, for example, if you want to go ahead with an aquaculture project, or how the money should be spent, those sorts of things, those are things that do not necessarily get formulated in the department. When you are talking about economic renewal programs, it may involve general views as to, for example, what type of aquaculture; should it be in the ocean or on land; things like this.

All I can say to the hon. member at this point, as far as I am aware none of this money has yet been allocated. These are negotiated with the federal government. They do, in virtually every case I am aware of, set aside a certain amount of money for consultants' reviews should they so desire them, but at this point it has not been budgeted for any specific items.

I will certainly be prepared to give the hon. member a report a little further into the year, but at this stage the money is set aside in accordance with our agreement with the federal government but with no specific consultive service in mind that I am aware of.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

If I may deal with a specific instance and then a general question regarding employment within the Office of the Executive Council, on page 27 of the Estimates there is an allocation of $324,000 in Salaries for the Newfoundland and Labrador Information Service, which is down from last year's Budget but up by about $45,000 or $65,000 -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Page 27 - up by $65,000 from the actual revised Estimates of 1995-'96.

Could the minister indicate why the increase from the actual expenditures for last year for Newfoundland Information Services? We seem to have lots of information coming out of the fax machines, and the Newfoundland Information Service last year at a cost of $375,000. Why do we need an extra expenditure up to $435,000 in order to continue that service? That is a specific question.

While we are talking about hiring, or adding positions, or filling positions within the Executive Council, perhaps the minister can give us an explanation of the operation of the Public Service Commission in relation to filling these positions. Now, I asked specifically yesterday a question in the House about filling two positions, one of which is in the Executive Council and the other is in the Department of Social Services. The question related to the use of the Public Service Commission in conducting the job competitions.

Now, I was advised yesterday, after making inquiries to the Public Service Commission, that these competitions were not being conducted by the Public Service Commission. It had some role; they were contacted, they may be liaising or some other phrase like that, massaging them or something, but they are not actually conducting the competitions.

I know we have had the Public Service Commission in place for many years. It is designed to enforce the merit principle within the public service. It is designed to be an arm's length organization governed by legislation, and not so close to a particular minister, or to the Executive Council, as to perhaps be influenced by them. Of course, the Report of the Public Service Commission emphasizes, as it did in its Annual Report for 1993-'94, the foundation of the Public Service Commission legislation is the merit principle which provides for the identification, appointment and a promotion of employees based on the best determination of job-related requirements. It is suggested that adherence to this principle supports a hiring and promotion process that is free from political, bureaucratic and personal patronage. And it is the Public Service Commission, that arm's length organization, that the public certainly has confidence in, that is not under the direct influence of a particular minister or within the department. I want to ask the minister two questions; one is, with respect to Newfoundland and Labrador Information Services: Why do we need extra people, apparently, under Salaries? And how is that person hired? Is that person hired through the Public Service Commission, the arm's length body set up by legislation with thirty-five employees designed to enforce the merit principle within the Public Service? Is that person and are all persons under the Executive Council hired in competitions, through competitions organized and carried out by the Public Service Commission?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I will just point out, for the purpose of the record, that from my point of view it is somewhat erroneous merely to refer to the revised estimates and not the budget. In this case, the budget for last year was $538,900 the budget for this year is $435,600, a substantial reduction. The revised figure that was spent last year is $376,100. So, as I said earlier, what we try to do is to allocate on the basis of a case that a department or agency may make to government as to what its needs will be. We then expect that the department or agency will manage its resources properly to spend as little as possible to get the job done. What we don't do is penalize someone for a good performance. In this case, where we reviewed their performance and saw that last year they had a budget of $538,900 spent less, we reviewed and thought, well, you got by, you did a commendable job, we are going to budget you $435,000. In accordance with the department, we agreed you did not need to spend the whole amount. But I really don't accept the principle that several members have made, in addition to the hon. member, that merely because somebody spends less than we budgeted last year that we should budget them no more than they spent. I think the problem with that is if you adopt that as a principle all you will do is encourage people to spend every nickel. So I think that has to be pointed out fairly for the record.

The second point has to do with how staffing takes place. This is Government Information Services. What I can do is tell him that there are a number of people there. Frankly,offhand, I don't know whether or not these are filled by the Public Service Commission. I think these may be recruited. It may be advertisements that appear, they may be Cabinet appointments, I am not sure. These are the public relations officers, for the most part, who advise government. There is a director there, a program co-ordinator, a publications officer and two word-processing equipment operators. That is Information Services, and then there are several people, director of public relations and it looks like a couple of public relation specialists there. So that is the essential part of it.

It did raise the second part of the member's question which had to do with the Public Service Commission and its role. The Public Service Commission right now is in a period of transition. It is a statutory body. It has an obligation to ensure that all hiring done in government meets the merit principle. That is one that this government espouses and one that we intend to continue. We have no desire to change the legislation to do away with that principle. However, the fact remains that the Public Service Commission has thirty-three employees. In doing our Estimates, we tried to fairly consider what its staffing should be and what its role should be when we are going through a period in government with very little, if any, recruiting. I frankly don't believe that the number of people we have there, thirty-three, was appropriate to the current needs. What we have done is, we have appointed a committee of four deputy ministers to review the role of the Public Service Commission and report to us the proper manner in which the merit principle, as espoused in legislation, both done by this House, can be met, and the proper function, the number of people and the type of organization we need to make sure that the Public Service Commission fulfils its mandate.

What I am concerned about is that we have duplication. We have Human Resources personnel in the departments. As members may know, if they have ever been in the Public Service competition, you have a departmental representative, someone from the Public Service Commission and you may have someone from personnel. What we need to preserve and need to find a way to efficiently address is how we can ensure that when government hiring takes place it is the most meritorious candidate. That may be either through a direct process of hiring, through a process of review or some other. At this point, what we said to the Public Service Commission, and Mr. Olivero being the Chairperson, is, report back to us, tell us what efficiencies you can achieve. You know the direction of government, it is certainly not going to be expansionary. You will probably have a lot less hiring to do in the future. What is your view as to how you might best perform this role? What should be the role of the Commission, vis--vis general government departments and its central agencies, and as well, we have four senior deputy ministers to sit on a board to review this.

My recollection is, Peter Kennedy is there; David Oake is there, a former Secretary of Treasury Board, who also in Development, and the other two individuals will be (inaudible) certainly provide the names.

At this point in time, what we have directed is that the normal process of government hiring be adhered to until any changes that might be warranted are reported on and take place, so hopefully we will have that done over the next month or so and I will be in a position to give some fair indication to the House.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I raise the question for a couple of reasons. Obviously, the public has a great deal of interest in making sure that access to whatever positions that are available in government are widely available and that the merit principle is adhered to, and I think that to date, people's expectations are, that can best be handled by an arm's length type of commission such as the Public Service Commission. We seem to have proliferated within departments our own human resource specialists in departments and there was a time when only permanent positions went to the Public Service Commission, and a minister or a department could hire temporarily anybody they liked and quite often that was a way that ministers carried on the grand old art of political patronage in this Province for many years, and perhaps it is still going on.

No effort has been made by this government or the previous government to deal with that issue and, I mean, one still hears, as I did today, about people being engaged in the public service that may - I mean, I suppose it is possible that the merit principle is at work, but I have heard today, for example, that the son of a member opposite who was only elected on February 22, has recently been hired for a position in the Executive Council. Now, it may well be that the merit principle was at work, it may well be, but there is not a lot of public confidence in that if one sees, you know, in a matter of a couple of months after an election, that a new member's son is now employed in the Executive Council. It may be that the merit principle was at work, in disguise; on the other hand, one would not be surprised if there were public scrutiny and if the public didn't really believe that this was, in fact, the operation of the merit principle.

I know that there are a number of Cabinet appointments and perhaps the minister can say, you know, within the government service - and perhaps most of these people are in the Executive Council, I don't know. I know, individual ministers - and that's right - have a political secretary or an executive assistant, and I think everybody expects these people to be political appointees. I wouldn't expect `Loyola Sullivan', for example, to hire a defeated New Democratic Party candidate to work in his office.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The Leader of the Opposition, I am sorry. I stand corrected and I apologize to the House for that. The Leader of the Official Opposition, I wouldn't expect that they would hire a defeated New Democrat in their office any more than I, if I had the resources, would hire a defeated Progressive Conservative in my office, but that is a political office.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Who did?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: What?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Now, that is an interesting one and I am glad you brought it up. I am glad that the Government House Leader brought the hiring of Phonse Faour, and I say to the Government House Leader, that Phonse Faour was hired by this government through the Public Service Commission to work in the Department of Justice, before you were sitting on that side of the House; that goes back, way back. I believe that Phonse Faour was hired to work in the Department of Justice by the last Progressive Conservative Government back in the 1980s, and he was hired in the Department of Justice and worked for the government as a public servant, and has been for many years. And I am not surprised that the new government recognized the talent and ability of a dedicated public servant. I am not surprised that the previous government recognized the talent and ability of a long-standing, public servant dedicated to the non-partisan way to the government of this Province, not surprised.

MR. TULK: You can tell you are not surprised.

MR. HARRIS: But we are not talking about that. We are talking about the distinction that must be made between political positions and those that are understandably political positions. In the minister's office there is a political secretary and there is a departmental secretary.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: In your budget, there is.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I don't get all of the Minutes of Council, I say to the member opposite. The Minutes of Council are not available publicly. If the hon. the Government House Leader wants to give me a copy of the Minute of Council, then please do so.

It is a serious point and a serious question. Perhaps the minister can tell us what portion of positions within the Office of the Executive Council are, in fact, Cabinet positions and do not go through any hiring process at all other than those that may suit the individual Cabinet minister involved, and what portion of people hired under the Office of the Executive Council are, in fact, ostensibly hired based on the merit principle. Is the minister able to give us that kind of information, or will he undertake to provide that information?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Well, after conferring with my hon. colleague, I am in a better position to answer the hon. member's questions. Having spoken with the deputy, deputy minister of Finance, I am now in a much better position to address the hon. member's concerns.

Mr. Chairman, the hon. member raised a number of points; I don't know if I noted them all. First of all, he mentioned that the Executive Council employs the son of a member. I will say two things about that, because I know both individuals concerned. The first is that the person referred to worked in the Premier's Office in Ottawa for the last several years when his father was a civil servant.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I think it is unfair to levy that sort of criticism, frankly. What the Premier did - and frankly, if the Premier is to run the Province properly, he needs people in his office and in the Executive Council, in areas where he needs critical people and key people, to do the work that needs to be done. This particular individual played a key role in federal/provincial agreements, between the Federal Government and the Provincial Government. This was a person who negotiated and handled, when the Premier was Minister of Fisheries, negotiations with the Province and with the Federal Government, liaised with the various departments, to ensure that the $100 million agreement came into place. He is now in Executive Council working with these federal/provincial agreements, someone who I think we are fortunate to have, who was prepared to leave Ottawa and come back to work here in the Province because he is a native Newfoundlander. We are pleased to have him, and I think he will be a credit to the Province.

I think it was implicit in the hon. member's remarks that this somehow was a patronage appointment of a child of a member of this House, and frankly it is quite the opposite. The person concerned, his involvement with the Premier has been over the last several years when he was working with the Premier's Office in Ottawa.

As regards the appointment in Executive Council, I don't have the ratio. Most of those appointments are done in the normal way, merit-wise. There are directors there, statisticians were there, and so on like that. There are a number of appointments that are political, and there are a number of appointments that are at pleasure, executive appointments. All of our executive, our deputy ministers, ADMs, Clerk of the House, Clerk of the Council, they all hold that pleasure. That is the nature of the political process, one that has done British democracy reasonably well over the last 1,000 years.

As regards political appointments, I don't see that the Premier's right to appoint people to political positions should be any different from the hon. member, myself, my political staff, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, and members of this House.

As regards the fourth point dealing with appointments generally, it certainly has been the practice of our government to ensure that the principles at the Public Service Commission are espoused. We limit any temporary appointments to be less than thirteen weeks, because that is about the time period from advertising, interviewing, and filling positions. Once they go beyond that they have to be filled through the normal process.

Albeit people can probably editorialize about certain positions, it is in the nature of running a political system that individuals will and should have the right to appoint to political positions people in whom they have confidence. That is as true as for the Leader of the Opposition, who employs a former member of this House in his office, and for the hon. member who raised the question, who has selected from among many people of the Province, someone to work in his office, and I am sure that position was not advertised through the Public Service Commission. I do the same as do the other hon. members of the House. I don't think there is a better way for the system to operate at that level and frankly, I think if the record were to be examined we are certainly up to the mark in terms of accountability in how we fill the Public Service appointments. We have not expanded the political ones beyond a justifiable area nor have we contracted the Public Service Commission areas to be lowered or less than what they should be.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I accept what the minister says and I raise this question, not for partisan reasons, despite the fact that there are some touchy people over on the other side. There is a genuine public interest in the issue and I think it is appropriate that there be less confusion about that than there is. I think it has to be recognized that there are certain positions that are political - period, full stop, that this Premier, the previous Premier, the Premier before that and the next Premier have the right to appoint people to their office and to their staff that are political positions - there is no question about that - just as the Leader of the Opposition has the right and every member has the right to choose someone in their office who are their political advisors, political aids or political secretaries. I don't think anybody disputes that. There may be people in the public who don't understand that but that is the way the political process works.

There is another category, as the minister pointed out, of Cabinet appointments at pleasure, whether they be deputy ministers or others. Then there are others still who must be hired, who are public servants and who are hired in accordance with the merit principle. What I was asking the minister to do was to clarify that for the House and perhaps be able to identify where those lines are. Where are the borders between political appointments and appointments of the Public Service that are considered to be possibly open for -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The minister wants to talk about full-time members - I don't know whether the minister spends any time running his department or not. I am not sure. I know he gets paid a healthy stipend for running his department and he also has a political secretary to do his MHA work. So if we want to talk about that, we will talk about how much time the minister spends running his department. Either he spends none, in which case he is overpaid or he spends a lot, in which case it is very hard for him to say that he is a full-time MHA, because he only has the same amount of time available as anybody else does.

So let's not talk about that because that is something that I find the people opposite like to talk about, when they get a little sensitive about the fact that on their side of the House there are things being done that are not appropriate and that the people of this Province are not happy with.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Now, Mr. Chairman, it is a serious point and it is quite obvious that at least the Government House Leader does not want to deal with it as a serious point, and wants to divert the attention of the House to something else.

I wonder if the minister can explain where those borders are? There is a border between a political appointment at a certain level, there are executive appointments or Cabinet appointments serving at pleasure and then there are people within the Executive Council who are designated as public servants to be hired on the merit principle. Is the minister able to tell us where those borders are and where one crosses that line? I don't expect the minister to be able to say, off the top of his head, but is he able to tell us -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible). No problem. He doesn't even have to (inaudible), he has it all sorted out.

MR. HARRIS: Well I hope that the minister is able to perform in accordance with the expectations of the Government House Leader and tell us how many people are Cabinet appointments, at pleasure, how many people are political appointments and how many people, under the Executive Council, are hired in accordance with the merit principle?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In accordance with my colleague's comments, I always try to perform up to expectations, with mixed results, but I am blessed that the Government House Leader often has lower expectations for me than I set for myself, so I sometimes satisfy those as well.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, the line between political and civil service appointments is very clear. If one is in the administrative structure of government those are not positions that should properly be chosen politically. If however one is in a political realm, where you are dealing with political issues, district work of the particular member concerned, if you are dealing with intergovernmental affairs to a large extent, there is a matter of politics and a matter of administration. It is very difficult to draw a firm line. It is much the same as the line drawn between art and science, the two do not always coincide. Is medicine an art or an science? Some people will argue it is both, some parts of it are clearly science and others of it are art, particularly prognostication, diagnosticians, diagnosis, things of this sort.

It is difficult to draw the line but may I say this, that someone once said: I cannot tell you what art is but I know it when I see it. I say the same thing, show me a position in government, I cannot tell you in theory definitively where the line is drawn, but give me the position and I will tell you whether it is political or administrative in nature, and whether or not it should be filled through the Public Service Commission.

That being said, I think that is about the clearest answer I can give the hon. member; an artful reply perhaps.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have just a couple of questions for the Minister of Finance. On Page 9, l.1 in the Department Salary Details, Administrative Support at Government House. It shows a private secretary to the Lieutenant Governor and then it shows a secretary to the Lieutenant Governor, and I am wondering where the secretary to the assistant deputy minister comes in there, and if that a situation where we have a secretary to the assistant deputy minister at Government House or is it an assistant deputy minister performing some function as it relates to the Government House right here in this building? What service does such a position perform, and why do we need it since it pays $27,181? A job description would certainly be in order. I would like for the minister to answer that, as it relates to administrative support.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The four positions at Government House: one is the private secretary, whom most people probably know, having been at Government House; Gordon Barnes. It is in the nature of the whole office of Lieutenant Governor and Governor General, that they have a senior person available to assist them with their duties. It is more than a ceremonial function, it is an important function in government. As members know without a Lieutenant Governor one does not have laws. We would have to drastically change our system in order to accommodate a move to a republic and one that I do not think we are about to contemplate shortly.

Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor reports directly to the Lieutenant Governor, and as the hon. member might imagine there is a lot of correspondence that comes in to the Lieutenant Government. Many people in the Province have a habit of writing to any person who holds an official office or whom they see on the news to intervene on their behalf. Of course, it harkens back to a time when the Crown had the right to pardon and dispense favours. Those days are somewhat passed, and to the extent they still exist they have been relegated to the political ring as opposed to the Crown.

As well, the assistant to the assistant deputy minister, I suspect, and I cannot say with certainty, there are two individuals there. They are not political, they are civil service appointments, Cherry Hicks and Yvonne Parsley, and I suspect they are there to handle the correspondence of the private secretary who is in charge of much of the administration at Government House and so on. Essentially, those are the four people. They are not political appointees, they are individuals who hold an office to assist the Lieutenant Governor with the many duties of scheduling.

I think it is fair to say that the Lieutenant Governor is admirably busy. He intervenes and has taken the time to publish his agenda, and I think anybody who looks at his record will see that he is someone who takes his official duties seriously and is much about in the Province representing the Crown's interest. I think the allocation we are asking in this case is a reasonable and fair one.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: I am wondering why the term: Assistant to the Deputy Minister, Secretary to the Assistant Deputy Minister, why is the term Deputy Minister used there, I ask the minister, when he rises again. Also Minister, when you are looking under Establishment Operations, you see a Gardener there, in fact you see two Gardeners, one is being paid $30,593 and Gardener II is being paid $24,752. Are those two positions part-time, seasonal or full-time, Mr. Chairman?

Also, I would like to have some explanation on the Seamstress, Seamstress I; if this is somebody who has a regular job at Government House. Does this particular person go to work at Government House nine o'clock in the morning and work until five o'clock in the afternoon, or is it somebody on call? Is it a service that is rendered, when there is need for sewing? Those are some of the questions I would like to find out about, regarding those particular operations, those particular people who are supposed to have worked at Government House. Some of those wages, if they are part-time, are pretty good wages. I think that you wouldn't find too many people who would hesitate in filing for the job or get paid that well.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I believe that other members have, I said, tried to be humorous. In this case I believe the hon. member's remarks about the Seamstress are sort of intended to needle me a bit.

AN HON. MEMBER: Pardon the pun.

MR. DICKS: Pardon the pun.

May I say, Mr. Chairman, that the Lieutenant-Governor is an easy object and an easy person, or rather I should say his establishment is an easy one to attack. It is a lovely home, probably the finest in Canada; I have seen outside the Governor General's House in Ottawa. People do question from time to time whether or not we, as a Province, can support the establishment. They see it as a person living in luxury, with many personnel about the place to care for his or her needs. It seems some people tend to question more than others.

Whether or not the Lieutenant-Governor were there, the establishment would still have to be maintained and I suspect largely at the same cost. What the Lieutenant-Governor does, and does an admirable job of it, is to provide an official venue and bring certain grace to occasions of official entertainment. Often when one involves politicians on occasions, there is a certain colouration of - if the Liberals are in office only the Liberals get invited; if the Conservatives are in office only the Conservatives get invited; if the NDP are in office, nobody gets invited. What you find I think, with the Lieutenant-Governor, is perhaps a more dispassionate review of who should participate in public events; and to that extent I think he does a very good job in addition to the sort of entertainment and -

MR. FITZGERALD: Are these full-time job, Mr. Minister, are they part-time job, do they work all year round?

MR. DICKS: Oh, these are full-time jobs. There are domestic workers, people there to care for the premises. It has to be cleaned. They have functions, food has to be prepared, things like this. You often find in cases like this - it is a total of $250,000 - if one were to contract out those services I expect the cost would be greater. The grounds are there, they have to be maintained; two gardeners.

I am reminded of a story that I will relate to the private member separately, but when it comes to the question of economies, you know, we have asked the Lieutenant-Governor to have some economies realized at the House and he has done so. I guess it is the view of the government that it is fair to maintain the establishment. The Lieutenant-Governor is fulfilling an important function within our democracy and our system of state. If that were to change, if people make a good enough argument, I am sure the Legislature at some point might indeed move to change that. It might even require a national change.

In the absence of that, Mr. Chairman, we deem that the amounts voted are reasonable in the circumstances. If some member wishes to make a case that we shouldn't have the Lieutenant-Governor at all, that may be the case, and the Legislature is free to make that decision, albeit may require some concurrence federally. Having said that, the positions are there, the hon. member did mention there are five domestic workers. In response to his question, they are full-time positions.

As regards to whether or not he could struggle by with one or two fewer, I think that has been reviewed by the department. Each individual, each area of government expenditure was brought into account. It was felt that this was a reasonable allocation based on the level of activity at Government House.

A related story: I remember the Queen some years ago, someone had criticized her for basically doing nothing and someone challenged the person to do exactly what the Queen did. The person went and had to shake a thousand hands in one day, and at the end of the day acknowledged that it was a very onerous task indeed, to have to be pleasant all the time, to have to be nice to people and that kind of thing. Very often we tend to diminish the value and importance, and also the work ethic, of people who hold what we largely consider to be ceremonial positions, and I think in doing so we do ourselves a disservice because these are important roles in our society.

May I say to the hon. member, whether we have a Lieutenant-Governor, a Governor General, or a President, largely the same sort of expenses and establishments follow. So in this case I suppose the short answer is: Yes, we have a Lieutenant-Governor; yes, he has an establishment; yes, it is used for official functions; and yes, it does have some expense to taxpayers.

Is it of value? I think the people of the Province support it. Many people of the Province see its value. It is ceremonial to one point. On the other hand it is certainly an important official symbol for us, as a Province, to have it continue. I believe that given the nature of our scrutiny of the office, and the expenditure of that establishment, given what is being done down there now, it is a reasonable expense.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Minister, under Protocol, 1.1.03, page 13 of the Estimates, it goes on to list: `Appropriations provide for the coordination of major government events and arrangements for visiting dignitaries.' It goes on to talk about Purchased Services there, $152,700. Then it goes on down at the bottom to give the total cost of running the Lieutenant-Governor's establishment, which is three-quarters of a million dollars.

I ask the minister, if he would explain what Purchased Services might mean, if it means food or what have you. Also, I would like to ask him if government has given any indication -

MR. DICKS: Which head of expenditure?

MR. FITZGERALD: Which heading?

MR. DICKS: Yes.

MR. FITZGERALD: Heading 1.1.03, under Protocol in the Estimates book, I say to the minister, 1.1.03, `Appropriations provide for the coordination of major government events and arrangements for visiting dignitaries.' Under 06. of 1.1.03, it shows the Estimates, $152,700. Last year it was $212,700 and was revised to $131,000. I would like to find out what exactly those purchased services are. When you look at the bottom line there, Total: The Lieutenant-Governor's Establishment, and the cost, it shows three-quarters of a million dollars.

I would like to ask the minister again if government has given any indication to providing the Lieutenant-Governor - and I understand that we, ourselves, cannot do away with the office; that has to be done in consultation with the Parliament of Canada, but we certainly do have the right and we do have the power to have the Lieutenant-Governor situated, I suppose, if you would, or placed in a suite of offices here at the building or in some other establishment. I am certain, Mr. Chairman, that this would cost much less than the three-quarters of a million dollars. I think of lots of things we could use Government House for. When you think about the many things that tried to be done as a legacy building for the Cabot 500 Corporation when it was on the go, this house came up for discussion many, many times, and I think there are other uses for it.

I ask the minister, I guess, if his government has considered that, and if he considers that it probably would be a snide on the office or whatever to have something like that happen. Because I understand the Province of Ontario and the Province of Alberta both have Lieutenant-Governors, and they are both provided with an office in a public building somewhere that is easily accessed by the residents of the Province. I ask him if we have considered doing anything less than that right here in this Province.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Province is not considering doing away with the Lieutenant-Governor's office. I should point out to the hon. member that -

AN HON. MEMBER: Not the office; the residence, not the office.

MR. DICKS: My colleague from Mount Scio - Bell Island mentioned to me that three years ago we did an analysis to determine whether, if we did away with the - if we told the Lieutenant-Governor, `Look, you are a fine person. We want you to do your job, but you are not allowed to live in Government House; don't go there', the savings would be marginal or negligible. You would still have the house to keep up, and you cannot fail to heat it in the winter. It is probably the most historically significant building in this Province. If anybody has been in there, it is a magnificent building. It was built at, I was going to say great cost, but certainly I think it was budgeted for 5,000 and went to 30,000, something of this sort, but it is a remarkable building for a Province with a rather poor economic history, and built at a time of Colonial rule; and one that for many reasons we are proud of.

If the Lieutenant-Governor were to move out tomorrow, it would be absolutely negligent for the Province for refuse to heat it, or fail to heat it. What would we do with the gardens? Would we refuse to mow the lawns? I mean these things have to be done. So if all that you have is a person living in the establishment, it would have to have some use. It would no doubt devolve to official functions. You would still have to supply it either contractual or with your own employees, with the sort of things that are served there; tea, coffee, soft drinks, little titbits, little sandwiches that are served.

Frankly, whether or not we have a Lieutenant Governor, it is still an important establishment. It would, in my view, be foolhardy of any government to just say: Well, that is a very nice building but we are not going to do anything with it. We would squander what is an historic and economic resource of the Province. We would probably be employing tour guides to give people tours of the house. So there is no savings unless one were to say: Well, we don't need that anymore. Let's get the tractors in, demolish it and sell it for building lots. One could do that but I suspect that that would probably meet with some marginal degree of opposition in the general public, and I am sure the member is not advocating that.

Having said that, to the extent that the hon. member raises questions, fair enough, but as long as we have Government House we will have these expenses or something very, very similar. If we did not spend $230-odd thousand this way, we would probably spend $250,000 or $225,000 another way, because we have to use that resource properly.

I would say as well - and I thought I made it clear but I may not have in response to the members earlier questions - that I believe the private secretary to the Lieutenant Governor has the rank of assistant deputy minister which is why the two secretaries at the house are termed as secretaries to assistant deputy minister, because that would be the equivalent we would have to classify people within our system.

Finally, with respect to the Purchased Services under Protocol: I mentioned in a response to a question by the Leader of the Opposition who raised the same question yesterday, that this is an amount that is budgeted each year for official receptions here in the Province. We have people who visit the Province, visiting ambassadors, visiting dignitaries, sometimes Heads of State, premier's from other provinces and so on. As well this amount is there because next year of course is the 500th Anniversary. So I expect that, certainly commencing with the beginning of the year, we will have a number of official engagements and functions that will have to be paid for and I think will probably bring in a lot of revenue just in terms of the general visibility of the Province. A lot of people will visit here. Some of them will be Heads of State. One of them in fact will be the Head of State for Canada, the Queen, and it will entail some expense on behalf of the Province but we really expect that it will be more than offset by the high level of tourism to the Province.

In fact, from my personal point of view, in comments with people in the industry, I think we may be under-estimating, to a large extent, the demand on our tourist resources next year as a result of this celebration; I hope I am right. Certainly it is a modest increase. I forget what the amount is. I try to follow my notes rather than the book but it is marginally up from last year. I think it is an expense that is will justified in view of the celebration that we will be having next year and will probably be more than offset by - pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Yes, and (inaudible) that I think it is appropriate for the Province to invite people here and to entertain them. We had the President of Ireland, for example, here - what's the term? Not the president. Anyway the Prime Minister of Ireland was here and a great occasion -

AN HON. MEMBER: The Prime Minister of Ireland.

MR. DICKS: Ireland yes. So we have visiting dignitaries from time to time and it is good that we do so. It helps us with our export markets for our many products and so on. I think most people see that it is a fairly substantial amount of money, but I think among the things we do is one that most people support as being money invested in furthering the interests of the Province, economically, socially and particularly for tourism.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I am wondering if the hon. the minister would refer to page 23 in the Estimates, the Information Technology Management, head 2.3.13. Under that category it says that the appropriations provide for the coordination of information technologies and for the government as a whole. Included is block funding for all of the information technology initiatives.

There is a substantial increase in item No. 12, which is Information Technology. I am wondering what departments or what divisions of government have been coordinated here and have been brought together as a unit, and if there is any accumulative savings in that, as a total vote?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

That amount, I believe I have said on a couple of occasions to the hon. Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi and to the hon. Leader of the Opposition, is an amount that we budgeted in our department to control the expenditures across government. As members know, we budget and spend, or commit to spend, at least $17.5 million on IT across government.

What we have done here is try to co-ordinate the planning for that. I found that one of the ways we did achieve efficiencies last fall was to look at the amounts that were spent on fixed items such as Information Technology and Furniture, for example. We have, as I mentioned in the Budget, trimmed the property and furnishings budget by 46 per cent over budget, and by, I think, 26 per cent over actual amounts allocated. It is my view that when it comes to a lot of these discretionary items, we should encourage efficiency by having a central method of control.

One of the means by which we were able to balance the Budget last year was to require every department before they spent any money on IT to clear it through Treasury Board. We found that that worked well and we probably avoided some problems in terms of getting into systems that would become very open-ended. As you know, there has been criticisms in the Auditor General's Report at the Department of Social Services which bought into a computer system for $4 million and I think it was spiralling up to $50-odd million. We believe there is need and some efficiency by trying to co-ordinate the planning for all the IT systems in Treasury Board.

The other problem that you have is that - and I am not at all conversant, I mean I play with my computer and I am trying to learn but I don't get as much time as I would like. It is a very involved field, you are trying to set up local information networks in various departments and across government. You are trying to develop a system in government which can interface with the various other areas of the Province where these systems are at work. It is a great information tool, but what you want to ensure is that one department or agency does not go out and get one system that is going to be incompatible with another system in government. So essentially what we are doing here is, we are not spending anymore than our commitment.

Our concern is, number one, that what we spend is wisely spent, that we are not going to have problems of duplication and have to replace computer systems, that one department went out and contracted for this year and we now find next year when we want to build the network that it is incompatible for some reason or another. Thirdly, we want to ensure that we are not going to exceed our budgetary designation by any substantial amount. So I think by doing these things we will get better control.

I believe your second question was: Where that money comes from? Frankly, I forget where exactly it comes from but I think what we did was, we brought together the planning money from the various departments and centralized it, and thought that given the nature of this one task in that it was similar across the various agencies of government that it could best be centralized in one division of government rather than have each department do it separately and independently.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Last year, when we were doing the estimates, Mr. Minister, there was some discussion about providing network services for hon. members of the House in their offices and also, to bring up to grade, the Hansard office and the Library so that it could be readily accessible. I am wondering what is the progress of that initiative as a service to the members of the House: a) to make sure that they have access to the appropriate technologies and, b) to ensure that their offices are networked where possible and desirable, and what programs we have to make sure that all hon. members have access to appropriate levels of computer technology?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I hesitate to tread on the turf of the Speaker, but as a I am member of the IEC, I can speak to the issue.

First of all, the amounts per se are not governed by Treasury Board. The Internal Economy Commission on which we both sit, as the hon. member knows, reviews the budget request from various departments and prepares a budget for Treasury Board. I think the Clerk has done an admirable job over the last several years of updating the members in terms of their equipment. Since I became Minister of Finance, I believe in the last fiscal year, we replaced a lot of the computers and brought them up. I cannot tell you with certainty whether or not there are any current plans to make a local area network of them, and frankly, I am not sure there is any efficiency in that because, from my recollection, most members operate independently. For example, my system is not connected with the Minister of Forestry or the Minister of Fisheries, or any other. What I find is that most of your local area networks are indeed small. The computers in my office are interconnected but I do not see a need to connect, for example, to the Leader of the Opposition. I leave it to the IEC to determine whether or not there is any efficiency, and if it is money well spent, to combine the various members who sit in either Opposition or in government, as private members, in bringing their computers together in a network. I suspect not, having sat in a number of different capacities within government. We all seem to operate fairly independently and I doubt that the Member for Bonavista South would necessarily have need to confer with the Member for Mount Pearl to see what is in his or her computer.

I just say to the hon. member that I believe we too often jump on the bandwagon of technology and buy newer equipment and newer programs on the assumption that this is, first of all, going to be used, which it often isn't, or secondly, that it will promote or improve efficiency, which it doesn't from time to time.

Treasury Board is sensitive to the needs of members and we are certainly guided by the requests and the deliberations of the IEC, but my recollection is that there was not a specific request to promote a network within either government or the Opposition offices.

Having said that, I believe there has been some new equipment provided over the last several years at Hansard. I stand to be corrected by the Clerk, who has a much better recollection of these matters than do I. But, certainly, to the extent it is justified, I am sure that government is prepared to co-operate and make the necessary technology available to members. I also point out that at one point, members were procuring computers out of their own allotment for their offices. That is not the case now. When I was Speaker, we took the step of ensuring that member all had equipment provided by the House, because we believe that is properly government expenditure.

Certainly, we are open to submissions on that. The hon. member is probably as knowledgeable as I on that particular issue. It doesn't fall under Executive Council, and if a submission were to be made to Treasury Board, we would certainly consider it in light of whatever intrinsic merit there was to the proposal.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, if I could move on to the next subhead, 2.3.14, the Opening Doors program which is, of course, a federal/provincial arrangement, and there is an agreement in place under the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Agreement. I want to ask the minister what the status of that is, how many years are left in that particular agreement, what the probability is for the continuance of this particular program to disabled persons, and if there is a possibility of having again a change in the agreement which would effect a downloading of unfunded mandates from the Federal Government. Would the minister like to comment on that?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The government takes very seriously its commitment to helping employ people with disabilities in our workforce. We have fifty-one permanent positions and three contractual positions in that $1.277 million. We believe it is an important matter for us as a fair-minded society to ensure that we provide some degree of opportunity to people with disabilities, and we continue to do so.

I would say it is unfortunate that the Federal Government commitment in this case is very minor. We receive, out of a total of $1.295 million, a mere $25,600, a very paltry commitment to this type of program.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Not in this area. I know that the Federal Government did cost-share under CAP, I believe it was, the assistance program through social services, programs that I suspect might have been targeted to the disabled. As well, in the Department of Health, one of the programs there, Brighter Futures, had to do with the deinstitutionalization of people with mental problems, with difficulties, at the Waterford.

All I can say on that issue is that we are committed to maintaining proper and appropriate social programs. The view of society changes from time to time, and you find that there is a tide in these events. Sometimes it rises in favour of institutions, then it recedes in favour of deinstitutionalization. On this particular one, I think most people would agree that it is necessary for us and appropriate for us to promote the integration of people with disabilities into all workforces, and we should take some leadership role, and that is, in fact, what we have done.

As you will note, we have maintained that program, I believe, essentially at the figure we had last year, and I think it speaks our commitment, as I am sure the Opposition has as well, to this type of process. We don't see that changing. As I said, there are very few areas in this Budget that were not cut. Certainly, this was one, and our general Social Services budget was another, and the third was Health. Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

The Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women: 2.7.02. We note that the vote has changed from $299,500 in the revised budget for 1995-'96 down to $195,900 for the 1996-'97. I am wondering what changes have been made to the Grants and Subsidies and which of these have been eliminated? This is 2.7.02.10. How can we account for the loss of approximately one-third of that budget allocation?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

What I would say on this, is that this is not an overall reduction. The hon. member will note, last year the Women's Policy Office allocation and the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the total budget there was $743,800 and this year we are budgeting $833,800. What we have done in the whole area of women's issues is we have increased the budget. The question is - and we have left this to the minister to determine - the proper allocation of those funds. We have basically three areas, one is the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, which is an outside group, it is not an agency of government. The second is the Women's Policy Office, which is an in-house bureau of government that advises government and audits our appointments, for example, and promotes general sensitivity and awareness of women's issues and problems. The third thing we have done - and I mentioned this in answer to an earlier question - is allocated monies to promote a strategy on family and domestic violence. What we have done is, in an era of restraint, we have said that we recognize this as a legitimate area of expenditure. We are not going to reduce our expenditure, but we want you to find deficiencies within your particular area. We have left it to the minister to determine a proper allocation as among the three areas.

In this case, and I know that there was conferral with the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, which has a large involvement in the violent strategy, I think they may have been reduced by a position there but it might be picked up in the strategy. So it is a matter of determining priorities. In this case, I think most in women's groups, policy areas would suggest that one of the great battles they fight is in this whole area of domestic violence, and that is one we have attempted to address.

I believe the minister has met with two of the groups and addressed the third area and allocated the resources in this way. We believe it is appropriate. It eludes me, I forget exactly what the changes have been but I believe the - there are certainly sufficient funds there for the Provincial Advisory Council to continue to offer advice to government in a timely way and also to participate in the strategy. So, as in other government departments, it is a matter of determining priorities and focusing resources on the most urgent things that need to be done. We believe that the amount allocated in the subheading is a little less but overall the expenditure has increased by a relatively substantial amount, probably something in the order of $90,000, by about 15 per cent. So, in this era and times, I believe it is a substantial improvement.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Unless there are other presenters from my colleagues, to my right, I would suggest that the Chair call the heads. We have no further questions.

CLERK: Subheads 1.1.01 to subhead 2.7.02.

On motion, subheads 1.1.01 through 2.7.02, carried.

On motion, Department of Executive Council, total heads, carried.

MR. DICKS: Mr. Chairman, a point of clarification. With the consent of the Leader of the Opposition, I would ask the hon. the Opposition House Leader to address this. We also have a motion on the $30 million - I don't know if the members wish to debate that or if we wish to put the motion at this point? I did discuss it with the hon. the Opposition Leader.

MR. TULK: I understand it will come up, Mr. Chairman, within the next day in Committee when we move back into the legislative side of the argument. Are we prepared to put the vote on that now? I understood that we were not.

MR. H. HODDER: No, Mr. Chairman, we are not prepared to put the vote on the $30 million this afternoon. We intend to have that allocated when we come to the next session, which I assume would be probably on Thursday.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. PENNEY: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of Supply have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report the passing of the Estimates of the Executive Council and the Estimates on the Legislature, to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

MR. H. HODDER: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader, on a point of order.

MR. H. HODDER: My understanding is that we have passed the Estimates for the Executive Council but not for the Legislature. Could we agree that the clock should stop at 5:00 o'clock?

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

MR. TULK: When we go back in Committee again, it is my understanding, we will do the Legislature and the Contingency Fund. That is to be done when we call Committee again?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Opposition House Leader is on a point of order. The Chair just came in and it can only go on what the hon. the Member for Lewisporte has reported as being passed in the Committee.

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. PENNEY: Mr. Speaker, the report that I just gave was that we had passed the Estimates of Executive Council, and on the legislation, we had reported progress and asked leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, well, the Chair misunderstood the report by the hon. Chairperson of the Committee of the Whole. It has approved the Estimates of the Executive Council but is reporting progress on the Estimates of the Legislature. Is that correct? Okay.

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

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do adjourn until tomorrow at two o'clock, and I understand that tomorrow is Private Members' Day and that we will be debating the motion put forward by the Member for Kilbride. I move that the House do now adjourn.

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