June 6, 1996               HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLIII  No. 23


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The Chair would like to welcome to the gallery from Frampton Elementary School in Monkstown, three students, two Grade IX students and one Grade IV student. They are accompanied by their teacher, Ronald Buckle and chaperon, Betty Dunphy.

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 to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

I ask the minister if she would confirm if the Province pays the cost of operating twelve tourist chalets around the Province at an approximate cost of $4,500 each?

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

MS KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I don't think it is twelve. We do pay $4,500 but I am not sure of the exact number. There are two ways, actually, the Province contributes to visitor information centres. I think four are run by the Province, the ones that are at Port aux Basques and the Gateway ones and the others are run with grants of $4,500 yearly to the various associations and Chambers of Commerce that run them, but I am not sure of the exact numbers.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

At Witless Bay, there has been a tourist chalet that cannot open this year, one that had been receiving increasing numbers of enquiries, and a tremendous job was done there by students in manning it, with an ecological dig, boat tours - a tremendous opportunity for tourism in the area. However, they can't open, because they need $2,000 to be able to operate it. So I ask the minister: Is it possible to see that the department can assist, in some small way, for the provision of $2,000 to ensure that a tourism chalet that served a very important purpose in a growing tourist area can be opened this year?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, already my department is working with the group who run that tourist chalet and have been trying to get this problem resolved. I believe that is one of the tourist chalets that get the $4,500 a year, but it is well recognized, the unique problems that they are having this year in opening. I think this is a problem whereby several communities in a region were attempting to do a very good job here. If I understand it, is that not the one that maybe St. Pierre is involved in also and have not come on-stream this year? I may be mixing up two here but there are two tourist chalets that we are working with at this time because we recognize they have special difficulties. I will certainly continue to do that work and we are doing it as quickly as we can.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

No, apparently not, there is a letter from you, Minister, indicating that there will not be any direct financial support to this facility this year. In light of the department having spent in the hundreds of thousands, really, to go out around the world actually, to encourage people to come to our area, I just ask the minister - a very small portion, probably only 2 per cent or less than 2 per cent of what was spent just on Bristol, if it could be used to have something to provide to those people when they come here to our Province. Will the minister ensure that, since it is important to have chalet and information available to direct people when they come to our area?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I think actually the tourism chalet that I am referring to is the one that leads down into Marystown and down to the South Coast, but this one that you are referring to, I am also aware of. It is the other one, actually, that has the more difficult problem to solve. I will take it under advisement. I know that we do not have any other funds in our budget and we are trying to treat everyone as equitably as we can. But my staff have been working with the group there to try to find a way, within the community and through other means, that will solve their problems for them. I cannot commit money that I do not have but we are endeavouring to do everything we can to help in that area and I commit to you that I will continue to do that.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General for the Province and it regards the Trans City affair.

Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that the Attorney General in the Canadian Parliamentary system is recognized as the head of the Bar, is assumed to be a member of the Bar, and is, indeed, the chief legal officer of the Crown with duties of representing the Crown in court in all matters in which rights of a public nature come into question, how is it that the present Minister of Justice and Attorney General can act independently and objectively on this issue of reviewing the Court of Appeal decision, and in responding to a request for a judicial inquiry when, as Cabinet Minister in the two previous Liberal Government administrations, he was an active participant in all decisions surrounding the Trans City affair?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member has some reason to suggest that in my previous position as a member of Cabinet, I did something which is illegal or wrong, I challenge him today to put his case forward and we will deal with it. As of this moment, the court which dealt with this matter, both the Trial Division and the Appeals Division, said there was no grounds for any punitive damages. That has been decided. And, if the hon. member knows something that he wants to make public, do it today and we will deal with it, and if I have any reason, I will no longer sit in this place, but I am quite confident in saying there is no action on my part whatsoever which interferes with my ability to carry out the role of Attorney General in a completely impartial manner.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, this is a matter of position. The present Attorney General for this Province was a Cabinet minister in the previous two Liberal Government administrations. He is presently the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. A request has been made for the conducting of a public judicial inquiry. We had a response yesterday that there will be a review of the most recent decision from the Supreme Court of Newfoundland Appeals Division. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, in the interest of the integrity and the respect for the position -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: My question: Should he not now dismiss himself from any further involvement or consideration of any aspect whatsoever of the Trans City affair?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I will not answer that question until the hon. member lays his evidence on the table. What evidence does he have that I, or any other Cabinet minister, did something which is illegal and which the courts already decided against.

The hon. member cannot hide behind his position in this House and make accusations which are totally unfounded, with no basis whatsoever. If he has the basis, put it forward. If he doesn't, then I would suggest that he stop this line of nonsense.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

Mr. Minister, you attended a meeting last night with 250 people who are quite upset with the new policy with respect to the Crown land pricing policy. Will the minister commit in this House to lobby Cabinet to make changes to the policy, addressing the concerns that he heard last night and, in particular, the concern with respect to the time frame of the new policy?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

MR. McLEAN: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated at the meeting last night, I will bring back the concerns that they have, and bring them forward to Cabinet, and deal with them in that manner.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. During the recent Budget, the Budget shows an expenditure under the estimates for the Labrador Highway of some $4 million. Can the minister inform the House if, indeed, the design work has been done, and when we might expect to go the public tender for this particular project?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the design work for this project and a number of the others are in progress. I would expect it to be able to go to tender by the middle of July. We are anticipating and estimating that we will be able to complete that work during this summer construction season.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As well in the Estimates we were informed that there was approximately $6 million in provincial funding for work to be done throughout the Province in capital works this summer. Can the minister now furnish the House with the list of work to be done, and again inform us when we might go to tender on this particular work?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I will be making a public announcement on the allocation of the funds for the provincial roads program at the transportation dinner taking place tomorrow, the last day of Transportation Week in the city. The projects have been decided on, and I will be releasing them publicly.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I find it rather strange that we are not going to get them in the House, but anyway -

As well, Mr. Speaker, over the last number of years there has been a large public outcry as it relates to the laying of calcium chloride on the unpaved roads that come under the jurisdiction of the department.

Can the minister inform the House if the tender has been indeed called for this work and if so, has it been awarded; and if it has been awarded, when will this work commence?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I missed the early part of the question and the specific work that the member was referring to. I would ask him to repeat it, please.

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

MR. FRENCH: It is concerning, Minister, the calcium chloride for the unpaved roads in the Province. I think there is some funding, we were told, in Estimates this year. I just wonder if we have gone to public tender, if not, when we intend to go; and again, what is the department's date for the laying of this calcium chloride?

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

MS BETTNEY: Yes, Mr. Speaker. As the member indicated, of the $6 million that he referred to in the provincial roads program, $500,000 was reserved for the calcium chloride program for gravel roads in the Province this summer. Tenders have been issued for obtaining the calcium chloride. I don't have the specific date when the tenders will close; however, again the tenders were issued at such a time that the material will be available for normal distribution during the peak summer months.

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

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

My questions are to the Minister of Education. The indoor air quality at Donald C. Jamieson Academy in Salt Pond, Burin, is making children sick. As a result of the alarming high carbon dioxide levels and low humidity, children are experiencing severe headaches, nose bleeds, extreme fatigue, nose irritations and other respiratory problems. The poor air quality problems were confirmed by a study completed by the Department of Environment and Labour's Occupational Health and Safety Division in February.

Is the minister familiar with this emergency situation at Donald C. Jamieson Academy, and what measures have the minister taken to address these problems?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, we have been aware of the report for a little while now, that was done through Occupational Health and Safety. There are matters as well, Mr. Speaker, where there have been studies done on other schools in the Province indicating that there are different limits of air quality difficulties being experienced in some schools.

We are convening a meeting very early next week, actually, to see whether or not the situation at Donald C. Jamieson is the worst of the matters that we have to deal with, because we have a limited budget. We understand that if there is a very serious threat to health, to the point that the public health people and the Occupational Health and Safety people, Mr. Speaker, would recommend the actual closure of the facility if it is not dealt with, then we will have to look at some emergency way of dealing with that over the summer. The meeting to make those kinds of decisions is scheduled for very early next week with officials from the Department of Environment and Labour and also our own officials in the Department of Education.

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

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

Dr. Catherine Donovan, the regional medical health officer for Eastern Newfoundland, has expressed great concern, I say to the minister, for the health of the 560 children who live each day in that school environment. In fact, we have correspondence to that effect.

The school needs a new mechanical ventilation system. Our children in Newfoundland and Labrador shouldn't have to suffer needlessly, I say to the minister, while we go through a bureaucratic process that involves his department, other government departments, the IECs and DECs. Dr. Donovan says this issue must be addressed before this school opens in September.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. H. HODDER: I ask the minister: When will you cut through that red tape and make a decision? It is necessary to have it done before these children go back to school in September of the next school year.

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

MR. GRIMES: I thought I had answered that, Mr. Speaker, to the point that that is exactly what we are doing. There are no delays, no red tape. There are a number of schools in the Province that have some air quality difficulties. There is always a financial limitation as to how many of them the government could address at any one time. If the situation at the Jamieson School is the worst one and has to be done, and the students cannot possibly return there in September without the correction, then it will be dealt with.

Mr. Speaker, the meeting to determine as to whether or not that is the exact situation, is being held next week. There will be no additional risk to the students. There is no way to do the work, if it is required to be done, while they are in school for the next two weeks. It will be done if it has to be during the summer when there are no students in the school. There will be no further health risk, there is no delay, Mr. Speaker; it is being done on a timely basis with the understanding that if the correction is absolutely necessary then it will be done in the summer period when the school is in recess.

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

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

I say to the minister, that the levels of carbon dioxide are five times the normal acceptable levels at Donald C. Jamieson.

I ask the minister if he would talk to the officials at the DECs. He and I know, and the public of Newfoundland knows, that there are $4 million to $6 million sitting in the DEC account. Will he express to the DECs the desire of his government to access that money so that the children of this Province can have a safe, healthy school environment come this September?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The issue is being dealt with to the credit of the Denominational Education Councils with respect to this matter. They have indicated to the government that they are certainly willing to see the monies expended in the most reasonable fashion to correct difficulties in the schools that need capital expenditures; and I applaud them for taking that approach.

The monies voted this year, the $4 million, Mr. Speaker, will go to the construction board rather than be allocated on a per capita basis to denominations. From the monies of the $4 million, plus any monies that the councils themselves will make available sometime during the year, if this is the priority I am confident it will be dealt with. The meeting to determine whether or not this is the priority in the Province and has to be done, will occur early next week.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. On many occasions I have stood here in the House and relayed the concerns of the people in the district of Bonavista South as it relates to Route 235, where the school children have to get on a bus, go to school and for many mornings during the week are not able too eat breakfast, because of the condition of the road.

I wonder if the minister would inform the House today if there is any money being brought forward in her budget to do upgrading and repairs to Route 235?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the details of the provincial roads program, as I indicated earlier, I will be announcing tomorrow. I would say, for the information of members of the House, that given the amount of the provincial roads program, the $6 million, that government is very constrained in the amount of upgrading work that it can do. There are a number of projects that are carryovers and commitments from last year. Primarily, in addition to that, what we will be focusing on, is doing essential projects such as bridge work and culvert repair. Those comprise the majority of the projects that I will be announcing in the details of those tomorrow. I will have to simply leave it until that point to announce the specifics of which projects, in which communities, will be undertaken.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, this is unbelievable. I can't interpret what I am hearing from the minister. The House is expected to go to a luncheon club to find out what the capital spending is for her department?

I say to the minister, this is not a social club, Minister. That should be done right here in the confines of this House. We shouldn't have to go out and take part in some social activity to find out how the people's money is being spent.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: Now, I say to the minister: If she is not going to say if there is any money to be spent on Route 235, I also ask her about another road in my district, which leads to the only provincial park. This government has closed down two sites in the district already; there is one provincial park that serves the whole area. The road from Bonavista South to that particular park is in such a deplorable condition that you can't even pull a trailer over it, I say to the minister. I ask the minister: Is she going to bring forward any money from the budget for her department this year to upgrade this particular road?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will be sitting in advance of the luncheon to which I referred. It is my intention to bring the details of the projects that I will be announcing to the House, and announce it as a Ministerial Statement tomorrow morning.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology.

I ask the minister: Will he provide the House with the report on his meetings today with the Marystown Shipyard workers' union and, can he tell the House the significance of these discussions today?

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

MR. FUREY: No, Mr. Speaker, I can't report on the discussions today. They are fairly significant discussions. I met, this morning, with the unions and management and I will be meeting with them again right after Question Period, but I can't report at this time on the outcome of the discussions.

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

MR. OSBORNE: I ask the minister: Is it true that National Defence is now ready to award a contract on the QUEST of the Marystown Shipyard? Is the Marystown Shipyard, which is owned by the Provincial Government, in any position at this time, to sign a contract on the QUEST?

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, these are all part of the discussions. Certainly, Marystown, amongst five other bidders across the country, bid on this particular vessel. We have had some indications from Ottawa. It will require a significant performance bond to be posted by the Province. It will require a significant outlay of cash to operate the yard over the next years to execute on this project. These are part and parcel of the discussions that I am having with the unions, with management, with the board and with Cabinet.

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

MR. OSBORNE: I ask the minister if he can provide us with details of the preconditions that the Shipyard and Cabinet must meet before they can sign a contract or accept work on the QUEST.

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time, in the fullness of time, all shall be told.

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

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

My question today is for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, regarding the Goulds bypass road.

As the minister knows, this issue about the bypass road in my area and in the area of Kilbride, certainly on the Southern Shore, has been ongoing for some three years. Can the minister say or indicate today when her department will be making up their minds on whether or not that road will proceed?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, as the member is aware from previous conversations that we have had, this issue of the Goulds bypass road is now with the Department of Environment and Labour for an environmental review and a decision by that department. So I am not in a position to be able to say when the decision will be released from environment on their environmental assessment of the Goulds bypass.

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

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

I am sure that while the minister indicates that she may not be in a position to tell the House if or when that Goulds bypass road may or may not proceed, I am sure that she has met with the environment minister on a number of occasions. Six weeks ago we were told that the decision would be made within ten days. I ask the minister: What is the hang-up? Is there a particular problem dealing with that road, that her department is looking at - or that the Department of Environment and Labour have requested from the Department of Works, Services and Transportation?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, when the Department of Works, Services and Transportation last dealt with this issue it was in the context of further consultations between my department, the Department of Agriculture and Agrifoods and the Department of Environment and Labour. This was the process that we had agreed to in a public meeting that took place, that was called by a group of farmers from the Goulds, some months ago.

So, at this time, the department and the Minister of Environment and Labour have conducted the consultations and explored some of the additional information that we were requested to look at by the farmers and that I presume, from his perspective as the Minister of Environment and Labour, he wished to pursue. Again, at this time, he has gotten that information, it is now back within the Department of Environment and Labour and with the minister for a final decision.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: A final question to the minister, very quickly. Does the minister, without getting into the details of whether or not that road will go ahead - we will assume that it will be going ahead - does the minister see construction activity on that road beginning this construction season?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the plans, I believe, at least as I have been aware of them since assuming this responsibility, have been for the actual design and project to begin in the Fall if it receives the required approvals. So I would anticipate again, if the Department of Environment and Labour does issue an approval for this project, that the project would start up in the Fall in terms of the design work.

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

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

My questions are for the Minister of Health.

Mr. Speaker, nearly two years ago, a senior official in the Department of Health said in relation to fetal alcohol syndrome that from a health care perspective, this is an entirely preventable affliction, yet, nothing has been done to combat this serious problem in our society. When will the minister adopt a reasonable and corrective approach to the promotion of healthy lifestyles and ensure that his government understands the true nature of a healthy public policy and that these matters are not the sole responsibility of the Department of Health?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. member will probably recall, if he saw the Budget Speech a couple of weeks ago, that one of the areas where we put an extra $2 million, in terms of resources this year, was into the area of community health. That translates, really, into saying that we are putting money into areas of education, health prevention and into areas of promoting healthy lifestyles and activities that would, amongst other things, see a decrease in the level of incidence in the syndrome to which you just referred.

So, clearly, the Department of Health, in concert with the expectations of the public, is resourcing the community health boards, at a level as never before, in a positive direction. We are proceeding to address that issue and other issues by putting, as we have done in the Budget, an extra $2 million alone this year into community health initiatives which will deal with that and other matters thereto related.

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

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

Again, to the Minister of Health: The minister sat in Cabinet what his colleague, the Minister of Justice, removed one-half of the RCMP patrols across this Province on our highways. The RCMP say that this will result in more accidents. The minister sat in Cabinet while another colleague removed the requirement of inspection of vehicles. How can the minister say that he is promoting a healthy public policy while he condones such ill-advised and unhealthy public initiatives?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not aware of any information that brings any correlation into being with respect to the decrease in Mounties on the road and a deficiency in the physical, mental, or spiritual health of anybody in the Province. I think the hon. member has put forward a question based on a concocted view that the question might have some validity in some people's minds. In point of fact, taking Mounties off the road will not cause an increase in either an unhealthy population or in any other thing I know of that has to do with health. I would really like to ask the hon. member what is the point of the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has elapsed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

When this conversation is finished across the House, we will proceed with the routine business of the House.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to present the report of the Public Tender Act exemptions for the month of March 1996.

Petitions

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in the House today to present a petition to voice opposition to changes in the Crown land fees. As many members in the House are aware, we held a public meeting last night and we had a tremendous turnout. There were almost 300 people there, with myself and my two colleagues, as well as other members of the House who attended that meeting. The minister was there. The minister had previously stated in this House that, in his opinion, even on the radio show yesterday, that he could see no opposition to the changes in Crown land fees. Well, I am sure that last night, if that was any indication to him, he left that meeting with a very clear understanding that there is a strong voice of opposition to the changes in Crown land fees.

As I have mentioned many times in the House on this particular issue, many people in this Province, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, are unable to come up with the large sums of money that government are demanding for the purchase of Crown land. Even over a five-year period, based on the 20 per cent fair market pricing system, many people in Newfoundland and Labrador are unable to come with that money over a five-year period, and these people have a genuine concern of what is going to happen to their cottages.

So, I am proud to present this petition to the House today and I hope that the minister will take heed from the meeting last night, and the many, many petitions that we will be presenting in the House on the Crown lands issue.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise to support the petition presented by the Member for St. John's South.

There was a private member's resolution voted down in this House yesterday and there were members on that side who stood in this House and said that if there were any hardship to be caused by this policy it would affect very few people.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Government Services and Lands last night, attended a meeting with, we are saying 250 people - that is a conservative number; it was closer to 300, but we will say 250 - and the people were demanding public consultation, which is what was in the resolution. They wanted the minister to come back to Cabinet and ask Cabinet to review the policy to basically extend the time frame where people would have to come up with the money to foot the bill for their grants.

The minister was at the meeting and the people were pretty upset, and he saw it, and the members of his staff were there. My intention at that meeting was to have information flow back and forth type of thing, but we did not get into a lot of question and answer because most of the people got up and made statements, and asked why there wasn't public consultation before this policy was brought into being.

I suppose the minister did his best with the number of people there. As I said, there were a lot of emotions flowing, there was a lot of conviction in the room, there was a lot of passion in the room. I know one individual got up, a gentleman; he was a pensioner at 65 years old. He sold his house here in St. John's and moved to the Hodgewater Line in his cabin. He had his wife with him; she was 71 years old. They figure that it is virtually impossible for that man to come up with the money, anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000.

AN HON. MEMBER: He sold his house?

MR. J. BYRNE: He was renting, actually. I should not say he sold it. He gave up his house in St. John's and moved out.

MR. GRIMES: You said he sold it.

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay, I made a mistake, I say to the Minister of Education. If he was so committed to this policy beforehand, maybe he should have been at the meeting last night. The Minister of Education has made quite a few mistakes, and he has been on the hot line quite a few times this sitting, Mr. Speaker.

Back to this petition: The people who stood last night and spoke at this meeting - one gentleman from Bay Bulls wanted to know why his lease was renewed back in '85 for $75 and was renewed again in '95 for $75. If the government was having problems with raising the money, why didn't they have an increase at that point in time, a legitimate, reasonable increase? That wasn't the case. He brought up a very good point. If he has a lease now, with respect to the legality of it, how can he be forced, basically, with respect to the time frame of October 31, to apply for a grant? He was saying that possibly the Crown Lands Act should be changed, and he asked a question to the minister, if the Crown Lands Act was changed, and it wasn't changed to meet that condition.

Again, as I said, when you call a public meeting, you really don't know how many people are going to turn out. I was personally expecting that if we got 100 people to that meeting it would be a great success, but as I said we got at least 250 people. Since that meeting last night I have had a number of calls in my office. I got one call from an individual just before lunch, from Port au Choix. They had a meeting up there with respect to -

AN HON. MEMBER: Whose district is that in?

AN HON. MEMBER: Chuck's district.

MR. J. BYRNE: Chuck.

Anyway, they had a meeting with 100 people and they did not have anybody there to answer any questions, and he was wondering if I could go up and have a meeting, or call a meeting in Deer Lake, so that the people from the Northern Peninsula could come down to that, so the people in the Deer Lake and Corner Brook area could attend that meeting; and he was quite upset. He said that the people at the meeting were quite upset. There are all kinds of rumours flying around, and they don't have the information, so they were hoping someone would clarify the situation.

I suggested that he call the meeting, he contact the minister's office, and have the minister's staff go out and at least address the questions that they have. I told him that I could not make it while the House was sitting, and maybe that would be a good idea to try to get the situation cleared up for those people. He said that at that meeting the people were really upset. He has been at public meetings before, and he never saw anybody being so upset.

I remember the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island yesterday in this House stood on his feet and said there were going to be very few people affected by this, there were going to be very few people have any hardship with respect to this new policy. I had three people from his district come to me after the meeting last night and ask what the comments were of the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island. I suggested that they get a copy of Hansard and read for themselves, because I would not want to put words in his mouth.

They were quite upset that the member on that side of the House, and all members on that side of the House, defeated that resolution yesterday.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I would just like to say I support the petition and I am sure there will be a very large number of petitions coming forward in this House.

Thank you.

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

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

I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to present a petition from the residents of Calvert, Shea Heights, Mount Pearl and St. John's, who wish to ask this House to voice their concerns relative to the change in the Crown land fees.

Now, Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the critic, has already talked about the meeting held last night, and we would like to thank the minister for turning up to a meeting called by the Opposition in the House. It was very courageous on his part. People didn't get any answers but they certainly had the minister available to them and the minister gave them the kind of answers which they had expected to receive. In other words, they didn't get anything at all.

Mr. Speaker, the minister yesterday, accused the Opposition of disseminating misinformation, of not giving the correct answers. So the minister himself last night went down to the meeting and he stood in his place and he said he was going to give the correct answers. Well, at the end of the meeting, there wasn't one, single person in that audience who was convinced that the minister had any answers whatsoever, and there wasn't one, single person who stood in his place last evening and agreed with the comments made in this House yesterday by the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island; not one, single person.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am wondering, who is in tune with the population? Where is all this dialogue that is supposed to take place? The minister went down last evening, not one, single person said: I am in agreement with the minister; not one. The minister in fact, I understand - I didn't attend the meeting because I had another meeting on in my district - but I understand that the minister didn't exactly get a very warm reception. We give him credit for going. With more experience, perhaps he will stay home, but it certainly was a courageous thing on his part. It is not very often we get ministers to come out to meetings that are called by the Opposition.

However, the point that we want to bring forward today and say to the minister: Did he hear what people said last night? Did he listen? Oh, you have to listen in order to be able to hear. So we are saying to the minister: Did he really take note of what people were saying, and is he now so determined that this is the best way to grab $6.2 million from the people unexpectedly? They had no idea until the Budget came down as to where the tax grab was going to be.

The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board stood in his place and said: I want to announce today there are no tax increases in this Budget, and the members on the opposite side weren't content to go and thump their desks, they all stood in their places and applauded with their hands. They said: This is a wonderful thing, no tax increases. Then of course, we read the fine print. Maybe the fine print was also in the Liberal Red Book, it wasn't consultation, it was insultation. So basically, we have to read the fine print because in the fine print, to the cabin owners in this Province, it said: Oh, by the way, our contract with you, which you thought was for twenty-five years or fifty year, that is not true. We are going to change it. We have the power of the Legislature to go and change things, so we are going to say that what you thought you had as a contract, no longer is in existence. That is the kind of government we are, we change the rules as we see fit.

The minister responsible, last night went down to the meeting and try to convince the people down there that this was all in their best interest, that they had a moral duty to agree to what he was saying and that this is a wonderful opportunity to get ownership of your piece of land.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I know the calls that we have been getting in our office - I have a lengthy letter here with an invoice attached to it and came from a resident in my district. It is two pages long. I would love to have time to be able to read it to the House in total but I can only tell you what this says to this gentleman. It outlines his contract and then says what the government now expects them to do. There is a big difference between the two.

So we say to the hon. minister -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: - do what is right, change your mind and start really consulting with the cabin owners of this Province.

Thank you very much.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to support the petition but I cannot say that I agree with everything that the Member for Waterford Valley has said. I think that the minister was certainly courageous in coming to the meeting but I think he was also interested in what people had to say and wanted to hear what people had to say. I would not want to discourage him and other ministers from coming to public meetings to hear what the people have to say. I also agree, though, that it is important that they listen and that they take the concerns back to what appears to be a bit of an ivory tower over on the other side; a group of people in decision making roles, who are so out of touch with the reality of life for ordinary people in the Province that they make these kinds of changes and regulations without consideration of the fact that the people who are affected by them are affected quite drastically by them.

I think the minister, to be fair to the minister, got his eyes opened as well as his ears opened a little bit last night when he heard people who are genuinely passionate about the little bit of ground that they had and the effort that they put into building a cabin or cottage on that ground, in many cases over a long period of years.

I had occasion last night, and I did not in the House yesterday, but I told the group last night that in my own family we had a similar experience in the '70s and early '80s where our family acquired a cottage lot from the Province, from Crown lands. It has been subsequently sold by the family, but during the '70s all of us, as a family, worked together. When we had a few dollars to put together we bought some rough lumber and cement and by hand, by our own labour over a period of a number of years - it was not done in one summer or six weeks or in a contract to some third party because we did not have the money to do it - but over a period of a number of years, one year putting the roof on, the next year getting some clapboard or some siding for the outside, over a period of years a cabin was built for the family to enjoy because we did not have the means for fancy vacations out of the Province, in Florida or anywhere else, and this was a form of recreation for our family.

The people who were at that meeting last night are exactly the same kind of people; people who by their own hands, by their own efforts, by their own contribution have built a little place for themselves to be able to enjoy with their family in the country, enjoying nature, enjoying the outdoors, enjoying a bit of opportunity to get a respite from the city or from other aspects of life. These are the people who were saying: Look, we don't want any free ride, we don't expect to get something for nothing. But they were also saying: We don't want the government to turn around on October 31 and say if you don't come up with the money to buy your cabin lot out now, buy out your lease and turn it into a grant, we are going to deprive you of all the money that you have paid so far. That is what they are doing, that is what the government plans to do. If an individual was paying $75 a year on a lease and over the last five, ten, fifteen years has paid maybe $600, $700, $800 or $1,000, if they don't buy out that lease by October 31, that $1,000 is going to be gone. Whereas, if they do buy it out on October 31, if they happen to have the money to buy it out, that $1,000, $800 or $700 is counted towards the purchase price.

All the people were asking for last night was that government understand the economic and financial position these people are in, that it is unfair to deprive them of the rights that are contained in their lease, to have their payments go towards the purchase price of those lots, and that people were very passionate and emotional and felt very strongly about what government was doing to them.

Now, I think the minister did listen. I think he heard what was said and I think he was surprised. Perhaps when he was sitting around in Cabinet there were people saying, as the Member for Port de Grave said yesterday: Who doesn't have $2500? Let them all pay. Maybe when they were sitting around in Cabinet he was listening to people like the Member for Port de Grave say that, and he said: Oh, well, I guess, maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am wrong, so I guess I will go along with it. Everybody in Newfoundland must be as well off as the Member for Port de Grave.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: Last night he learned the difference, so I hope he will take that difference back to his Cabinet and have it changed.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to support the petition that was put forward by the Member for Waterford Valley.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is out of order. Only two members can speak on the side presenting the petition.

MR. FITZGERALD: Okay, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to present

a petition.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: The petition reads: A petition to the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislation session convened. The petition of the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador:

WHEREAS many Newfoundlanders do not use Newfoundland Power delivered electricity to heat their homes, instead use wood furnaces because they cannot afford to do otherwise; and

WHEREAS Newfoundlanders suffering from the fish resource crisis, the general economic downturn and deep government spending cuts can ill afford increases in essential commodities like electricity at this time; and

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I am happy today to rise and present this petition from the district of Bonavista South. Once again the people are speaking out and saying that this particular utility is already charging enough and we cannot afford to pay anymore. I think the Newfoundland Light and Power have applied to the Public Utilities Board for something like a 4.9 per cent increase in electricity rates. Coupled with the harmonization of the GST and the PST we will see not only the 4.9 per cent increase but also another 8 per cent increase which will mean in dollars and cents that every Newfoundlander that heats a house in this Province, will be paying anywhere from $50 to $60 or $70 a month more that they are already paying. Most of those people are living on fixed incomes. Many of them are living in rural Newfoundland, in older homes which are not build according to the R-2000 specifications and as a result of that, Mr. Speaker, their hydro bills, in most cases, are very expensive.

I say to the government opposite that maybe they should take a lesson from New Brunswick Power. This was a headline in The Evening Telegram just yesterday, `New Brunswick Power promises it'll be lean and mean.' I would just like to read a couple of lines from this particular piece that was written in the paper. `New Brunswick says it believes it can get in fighting shape for a competitive marketplace without cutting jobs, without cutting salaries and without raising rates.'

That was put forward by Mr. Frank Wilson who is the chairman of New Brunswick Power, but New Brunswick Power has ruled out privatization, at least in the near future. `There's no point in having a privatized monopoly like Nova Scotia, said Wilson, noting electricity prices are higher in the neighbouring province. To be successful we have to be the electric utility of choice rather than relying on being the only choice.'

Mr. Speaker, those particular words come from the largest Crown corporation in Atlantic Canada, and it seems like here in Newfoundland we are all ready to cave in anytime there is a suggestion made by Newfoundland Power or Newfoundland Hydro for a rate increase - allow them to do it and we have to stay at arm's length.

The people I know of out in my district, I can assure you, cannot go and dip their hands in their pocket and write out a cheque for another extra $50 or $60 every month of the year. When we look at the cutbacks in social services just since this new Budget was brought in, where there was $61 of emergency money, if you will, that was there for people in need, people who had an extra expense some month, it was always there for them, and now we have seen that disappear. Coupled with this rate increase that this particular utility is looking for, I say to the government opposite, it is going to be a real hurt inflicted on many of the people who are out there today. I would also suggest that $28 million is a tidy profit for any company, whether it is a utility or any other business in this Province today, considering the economy that we are facing.

So I call on the government, and I call on government members, to speak up for their constituents, the people who elected them to serve in this House of Assembly, and let's not get sidetracked because we happen to have a job ourselves. Let's not get sidetracked because we can afford, or somebody here might be able to afford, to pay an extra $50 or $60 a month.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: Let's not judge everybody by somebody else's ability to pay.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to back the petition by my hon. colleague, in support of the petition. Many of the members in the House of Assembly on this side have spoken in outrage against the power rate increase application by Newfoundland Power. We have heard very few members from the opposite side of the House rise in support of any such petitions, or even to present their own petitions.

Mr. Speaker, it may seem insignificant, a 2.9 per cent rate increase by Newfoundland Power, but when you combine that with the tax harmonization, the fact that school busing in the metro area is being discontinued, that is an added burden on families. Social services, in certain cases, are being cut back; the $61 allowance is being eliminated. Crown land fees are going to be increased, insurance fees are going to be increased, all of this coming within a very short period of time, and many people are unable to face these collective burdens. Many people are going to find that all of these increases collectively put together are going to put them in great despair.

Mr. Speaker, while I find it very frustrating that it is only members on this side of the House who rise in support of such petitions, or present such petitions condemning the power rate increase application, I feel that deep in the hearts of the members on the opposite side of the House, they, too, are very much aware of what a burden this will place on many people in Newfoundland and Labrador and, for some reason, perhaps through caucus agreement, have agreed not to get up in support of such petitions. But I feel that many members on the other side of the House are, as well, aware of what such a rate increase would do to many families, how devastating it would be.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand and support the petition that was presented by my hon. colleague, and if it comes to a vote in the House of Assembly, if it gets that far, I hope that most members will do a lot of soul-searching and vote against any increase in power rates by Newfoundland Power.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. TULK: Order No. 2, Mr. Speaker.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I am ready to carry the bill.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. DICKS: Under Order 2, there are two matters, one is the Legislature and the other is the Contingency Fund. I am prepared to answer questions on either of these. I would merely point out for the record that the Legislature does not come under me, as Minister of Finance, it is under the Internal Economy Commission, which is a by-partisan committee of this House. The hon. the Opposition House Leader sits on it and another member of his caucus with whom he is now conferring, as well as several ministers on this side of the House and officials of the Legislature including the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

These are straightforward estimates, I believe. If they vary at all from last year, it is on the downward side. As members know, we have reduced members' benefits, in particular, by approximately 11 per cent. The other measures of efficiency achieved in those areas which report to the House of Assembly, including the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer who is also responsible for the Elections Act and the Conflict of Interest guidelines and the Hansard Office, and so on, all have shared in the effort to contribute to the efficiencies we are finding in government. I believe if members review these, which I know they have, they will see that those targets have been met.

Last year, the overall Budget for the Legislature was $11,338,000 being budgeted, $14,115,700 was spent and that is simply because we had elections and that is an expensive process taking up some $2 million each time.

This year we have decreased the Budget to $10,666,000 which is a reasonably substantial reduction in that the order of decline of expenditures across government is approximately 2.8 per cent to 3.3 per cent. In actual terms of where the Budget would otherwise have been, it is down even more substantially. So I will certainly be prepared to answer, as best I can, the questions of hon. members. I should say the IEC largely controls the Budget done in consultation with Treasury Board but I think it is a process to which members of the House on both sides are privy.

The second area covered by the motion before the House is that of the Contingency Fund. Essentially, while we are asking the House this year to avoid the problems that we have had in past years, of mid-year revisions, is to give the government a degree of flexibility. It is less than 1 per cent of our expenditures, less than 1 per cent of our revenues. I think it is fair to take both into account in determining what our flexibility is and we are asking for about .4 of a per cent. Because we feel that in the course of the year, given prior experience, it is quite conceivable that expenditures may increase due to the programs which are user-driven, and secondly, that revenues may fluctuate and vary. It is very difficult to determine the strength of the economy from time to time. Very much in our Province is determined by the nature of our resource industry. Some of those are difficult to predict, the fishery in particular.

So, Mr. Chairman, each year we project and we do our best. Our own people do a very good job. The secondary which causes us the greatest concern is that of the Federal Government revenues. Equalization is, as well, a very difficult area of revenue to predict in that it depends on the strength of the national economy and, as well, the number of people in this Province.

What we have indicated to the Legislature in the Budget is that we believe it is wise and prudent to put in the Budget a figure - in this case $30 million - to allow some flexibility. It is a figure that we believe is - it is one we would ask the House to fairly consider. It is not an amount to be dipped into at any point during the fiscal year. We have told departments that you have a budget. There will be no Special Warrants. If you wish to do something, find the money within your budgetary allocation. So we intend to stay away from that special leave within government which comes flying at Cabinets and Ministers of Finance on a regular basis, and that is, great new ideas with no funding.

So hopefully my colleagues and I, with the fine leadership of our Premier, will resist that very selective notion of spending money we don't have.

Having said that, Mr. Chairman, we do believe that there is a reasonable down side on the whole area of revenues. The fiscal situation of the Province, the demographics are in a great state of flux mostly because of the problems in rural Newfoundland, and secondarily, in urban Newfoundland which supplies much of rural Newfoundland with its commercial needs, caused by the dislocations as a result of the failure of the fishery over the last several years. That period of stabilization is now occurring. We expect that rural Newfoundland will be revitalized over the next couple of years due to initiatives taken by this government and also the ultimate, eventual and, I am hopeful, triumphant recovery of the fishery.

So having said that, Mr. Chairman, I do believe that there exists sufficient support, detailed in the estimates, to, of course, justify the expenditures for the House, without which our great democracy would not continue in the fine form in which it has since 1855, if not 1835.

Secondly, Mr. Chairman, we would commend to the House, should the day ever occur, to the Province's detriment, that my colleagues across the House would form the government, we would certainly indulge them with a similarly adequate measure of flexibility in the estimates they might present to us or my successors, I am sure.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I must say, the minister is very presumptive there, in indicating the Opposition will concur with what he said. It is my understanding, too - and I guess I'll direct it to the Government House Leader - that this Contingency Reserve Fund would be dealt with separately from the Legislature, which is outside that. We will deal with the Legislature. So I will confine my comments to the Legislature, and we will deal with this Contingency Reserve Fund, this up to a $30 million blank cheque that the government has asked us to endorse in this House; I will deal with that later on in the day.

Under Legislature, 3.1.01, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, he made mention to the minister that there was an increase of approximately $2.8 million, I say to him, this year in the spending under the Legislature, mainly because of the election that necessitated almost $3 million, I think. If we look at the specifics it went from -

MR. DICKS: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. Actually, about $2.97 million, almost $3 million.

MR. DICKS: The $1.8 million was for the general election. The other amount, I believe, had to do with the referendum. So, one was an election, one was a referendum. But the cost of running a general election in the Province is approximately $1.8 million, not $3 million.

MR. SULLIVAN: I thank the minister.

I will first comment on the general election. I must say, in the thirty-third month of the mandate we had an election, and they had a mandate for sixty months. Halfway through the mandate, we subjected the people of this Province to a $2 million expenditure. They couldn't get the election over fast enough.

When I look around the House, Mr. Chairman, and see the government's budget and what it promised and what it delivered, I get to see how much of a waste of almost $2 million that was. It was an entire waste of $2 million, to bring back a government that promised to give us something and they gave us something entirely different from what they had promised.

In the referendum, too, I say, Mr. Chairman - if we talk about the referendum, it's another $1 million, that's $3 million. It was a referendum that this House of Assembly had no say over. In fact, very abruptly one day in the House they made a decision, late in May last year, that the House wasn't going to sit tomorrow or anymore and they left legislation on the Order Paper and shut the House down. And the Premier - they went to the public the next day and announced there may well be, it is possible we may consider, having a referendum on the education issue, on amending the Constitution.

Then, three weeks later, they announced: There will be a referendum - the day that schools closed in this Province. Then, weeks and weeks later, they decided on the wording for the referendum. Then they decided to have it over before schools opened again, when people were all gone for the summertime.

We have had expenditures

MR. TULK: Imagine if he had lost the election.

MR. SULLIVAN: I think I won the election in my district, as the member did. I think we have a tremendous Opposition here, I say to the Government House Leader. I just wish we had a tremendous government that I could stand up here and praise what the government is doing, I say to the Government House Leader.

This Legislature has to approve now, a $3-million increase, certainly in a referendum where elected members had no input into the wording, no chance to debate that, no chance to discuss it at all; that is the $3 million. Yes, I would say to the Government House Leader, and I said before, when I look at the people sitting in the decision making, I start to question, yes, are we getting a return on our dollars that we are spending on that. We would have to say no and I am sure the people of this Province would have to say no, and I am quite sure they would if they had the opportunity today, I say to the Government House Leader.

If he wanted to save real money under the Legislature - and this is something that I have spoken on many times before - he should have accepted a judge's decision, an independent commission, who proposed forty seats for this Province. They arranged to have forty public hearings around this Province at a cost of hundred of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money, and after thirty-two meetings, the Premier directed the Minister of Justice then or the Government House Leader then, to go out to Clarenville on the thirty-second meeting and ask that we not have forty seats, look at forty-six seats.

MR. TULK: Why don't you go back and look at Frank Moores when Frank Moores was gerrymandering the Province; it is the same thing.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I would disagree with it. I would disagree if he did. I would disagree with it. I can tell you in 1970 they may have gerrymandered and I would have disagreed, but in 1983, under Brian Peckford, they accepted the independent commission's report. That is what they did. You are going back twenty-three years to justify what you did last year. It was wrong and that is why Peckford, in '83, accepted the independent commission's report. The learned judge's recommendations were gerrymandered. The Government House Leader of the day went out to Clarenville, Mr. Roberts, and he said, not to look at forty. We had just spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the report and he sent someone out, he referred a member - I am not sure about the first name.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I will ask the Government House Leader if he could stop interrupting for a little while.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I know it is a tall order, Mr. Chairman, to ask that of the Government House Leader, but let's hope he can follow and keep the appropriate decorum in the House for which the Government House Leader is supposed to set the standards, and that would certainly be appropriate.

As I indicated, the Government House Leader of the day, went out to Clarenville and interfered with a process that was independent, in the hands of an independent judge and a committee, and asked to have, more like forty-six seats. So the judge and his committee came back and said: We will recommend forty-four. But the government was not happy with forty-four, they wanted more. They came back with a forty-eight seat proposal, forty-eight seats.

If you are looking at saving dollars in this Legislature, it is about time we started cutting at the top in elected members and the dollars that are spent in this House, and it has not been done. Now, we had an opportunity to go from fifty-two seats to forty. We have the highest per capita of any province in this country except Prince Edward Island. It is a very rural province that has that low-population base. We had an opportunity to have forty seats here to save in the millions, not a little token effort of a few hundred thousand dollars. We had an opportunity to save taxpayers in the millions.

We have legislation in this Province that gives flexibility between urban and rural Newfoundland. We have legislation that allows the population to vary within plus or minus 25 per cent, to give some degree of flexibility in geography like the South Coast of Newfoundland for example. It is a very tough geography and is difficult when you have as many members there as you do in a small section in several city blocks within the City of St. John's, but there must be a reasonable balance so we can have a fair representation by population.

I don't advocate having twice as many in an urban riding because we have to maintain a fair amount, so that there is going to be normal representation. We had a chance to do that. We had an opportunity to do that and this government came back and had a 10 per cent difference.

I will give an example now: The Member for St. John's North, in the City of St. John's, I think has 6,700 to 6,800 people listed as voters in his district, in St. John's North. My district runs from Maddox Cove to Trepassey, and has over 8,400 voters. I have almost 1,700 more than the member in St. John's North, who can walk around the boundary of his district in fifteen minutes. In other parts in here we have more. I don't think we should have bigger ridings with more people geographically in twenty-some communities, an increase of 50 per cent in population within that specific area here, and they have vast reductions, down to almost half in some areas, in urban areas. There should be a reasonable balance within plus or minus 25 per cent; and I will use an example. If you take the forty seats in this Province, as I am proposing, into the population, we are looking at a little over 14,000 per riding.

An urban district should not be allowed to go up any more than 25 per cent of that; 17,500 would be the upper limit. Maybe we would only need to go to 15,000 or 16,000, because there are more urban ridings now because the urban area is growing and the rural area is declining in numbers. So we wouldn't have to go as high because there is a higher percentage of ridings now that are going to be urban. We could go slightly above that by a couple of thousand, and maybe a rural area could be down to probably 12,000.

Still, in a riding we have right now, we have far more than that and we have forty-eight seats. We could have forty seats and have roughly the same number. An extra 2,000 members in an urban riding, I don't think any of the members here in the city would indicate that another 2,000 members would seriously affect their ability to represent the people, or would give people their undue representation. I think it is within a range that is acceptable. I think we need to be looking at ways to save money.

In the Legislature here they are clutching and clawing $61 out of people who need to get batteries for hearing aids for two kids who have problems in school. Their parents are on social assistance and now they cannot get batteries for hearing aids. They cannot even use it to provide lunch where the cupboards are bare in houses, at $61. Here we could have saved millions of dollars by cutting back the seats in the House of Assembly and they would not do it. Now, that is wrong.

Do we need forty-eight people representing us? Do we need sixteen Cabinet ministers representing us? The United States has twelve - the United States, with a quarter of a billion people. We have sixteen here with half a million people. I mean, get real in this Province! Move into modern times and look at ways that we can give reasonable and honest representation, and try to look at the people who are hurting out there in our society today.

We have to look at ways to better administer our dollars that we have here in this Province. We have not done it. We are just trying to pad the political pockets, is what has happened here, and that is not the appropriate way to go. I disagree with it, and we have to start looking at some real cuts here; and forty seats is not inappropriate.

Ontario and Alberta, and other smaller provinces, Saskatchewan, all of these have far, far more members, and Saskatchewan is a very rural area. In fact, in Saskatchewan -

AN HON. MEMBER: We will give up one of ours.

MR. SULLIVAN: You might have to give them all up the next time, I say to the member. You might have to give them all up at the rate you are going. You won't have to worry, I say to the member.

Saskatchewan is very rural. In fact, 65 per cent of Saskatchewan lies outside Regina and Saskatoon. Only 35 per cent or so is in those two major cities; the rest of it is a rural area. It is as rural as you are going to get and they have far more people per member than we have here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I think we need to be looking at reasonable ways, realistic ways, in which we are going to cut down expenses and so on.

Running with an election in thirty-three months - I think elections should have to occur every four years. Every four years, nobody could prepare for it. You would stand up, and if you did a job in four years you would go out and get elected, and if you didn't you get kicked out of office. They should be fixed terms. It should not be at the whim of any one individual here in the Province. In the U.S. it is every four year; we know when it is going to be. I mean, Peckford call them in three years twice. We called it here in this Province in thirty-three months, a little over two-and-a-half years. That is crazy, subjecting the people to millions of dollars because one individual wants to call an election, because he figures if we don't call one now we won't win it next month. Well, I would say, whatever will be will be. Put it on a fixed term. You can plan; you can give a four-year term, and you won't be riding a wave of political opportunity to try to get elected into office. It would be based upon merit, responsibility, integrity, and doing what is best for the people with a long-term plan. These are the things we should judge when we have elections, be able to judge different administrations accordingly.

That is the appropriate thing to go and it saves dollars for the taxpayers. Would you not sooner use this measly $61 a month - in some cases they only utilize a certain per cent, 20 or 30 - for people on social assistance, for example, which probably adds up to $1 million less for the year, when here in the Legislature we could save well over $1 million. Now, someone who is getting $89 a month as an individual, I think, on social assistance, and a family gets $372, I think that is the total amount they get to live on, and here we are here in the House - how many do we need anyway? How many do we really need in this House of Assembly?

It is time to start looking at priorities, priorities in spending. We talk about health care and there being no decrease in health care. Well, there are 125 people getting laid off in our health care system, and that is direct layoffs as a result of this Budget, and we are told it is going to have a slight increase in its budget, and we are going to maintain it for three years. Well, we are not going to be maintaining the same health standards for three years. That is not factual, it is not true, and we will see that. How can you take 125 people out of a system, not counting the several hundred that are going to be taken out by the restructuring in St. John's - they are separate, that is just out of the system itself, direct employees - and expect to have a better health care system?

The minister said: We are not going to jeopardize safety by taking thirty patrol officers off our highways. If we are not going to jeopardize safety why did we waste the money all these years? Why did we have them there last year, the year before, and the year before if we did not need them? Is that not irresponsible on the part of government, to be wasting money when they do not need them? Then the Minister of Justice stands up and says that it is not going to effect safety. I heard the superintendent, I think it was, for RCMP in Eastern Newfoundland, indicating it is going to increase accidents. It is going to increase accidents and there are going to be violations by taking thirty people off the RCMP patrols in this Province. I think eleven on the Avalon Peninsula, six on the Burin Peninsula, and another thirteen across Newfoundland and Labrador, and then they tell us it is not going to effect the speeds at which people travel, and it is not going to increase accidents.

The Minister of Health today said it is not going to have any effect on health. Injuries are sustained because of a lack of proper prevention and promotion, one particular reason, safeguards not being put in place to ensure that the public is protected. It is crazy for someone to stand in their place and tell us that.

The minister should stand up and indicate: Look, budget, these are tough times. We don't have the money, we know we might be compromising it, but we have to live within our means. Come upfront and tell us the truth and do not try to tell us they are cutting and it is not going to have any effect. We know it has an effect. Ask people out there on the highways today, and ask people around the Province what effects cuts are having. They have gone to the very limit, the people here in this Legislature who are making decision.

The unfortunate thing here is that many things do not get to the Legislature of this Province. We find out about them later. The elected members do not know what is going on. An example today: We are going to announce at a luncheon tomorrow the capital works projects for the Province. The Legislature is sitting and we do not know, we have to go to a luncheon to find out those things. I give the minister credit, she came back and said she would announce it, and I compliment her on that. She is very upfront, sincere, and doing a good job. I say that to the minister. Most ministers would not stand up and do that. I can assure you that they would not do it, but she had the guts to do it, to come back and admit: Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I did not know how it operates. I compliment the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation for doing that. There are many other people who wouldn't do it. I think the minister is sincere. If she did get scolded about something, so what, as long as you do the right thing. If you get scolded doing the right thing, at least that person can be happy with it. If your colleagues are not happy with it, it's something else.

I am sure the minister responsible is very interested, I say to the minister, in saving dollars here in our Legislature. I know there is a ten-year review and that does not prevent anybody from moving within that scope. We are not mandated, we have the powers to be able to make laws here, to be able to change things and to be able to look at more efficient ways of spending the dollars and to look at things from an administrative point of view. Because here in this Province, it has been tough times. They are not going to get any better in the short term, I can assure you. There are no projections of growth in our economy for two years. It is anticipated that in three years time it could be up to 7 per cent growth. That is one of the long-term projections.

Of course, they can be changed on an ongoing basis. There are lots of factors, if Voisey's Bay is delayed unduly or it may slow it down. On the West Coast,there is exploration that might be accelerated, that will help the economy. There are good positive signs coming there, which is positive for our Province, that hopefully we will have a very bright future and that we can maintain those services that we have out there today. But until we get to that point in time, we have a responsibility to ensure that we don't waste any money out there, that we don't be wasting those dollars that could be more efficiently used, and this has not been done.

We have - and I will comment a little later on this - they have so little confidence in their own Budget that they are asking this House of Assembly to approve $30 million without giving us any information as to where they are going to spend it. They want approval of $30 million to spend without approval.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is to pay off the Trans City stock.

MR. SULLIVAN: Is it? Maybe it is the Trans City. It is my understanding that the lowest bidder on Trans City, if they had awarded it, would be $19 million less to this Province. The preferred bidder, they would have saved $12 million. On top of that they have already given it away, they have to pay $1.6 million and it would have been $3.2 million because the appeal court judge ruled that the reason it is $1.6 million is because we are not sure that company, Health Care Development, would have gotten all three contracts. One other company might have gotten another contract so we are going to leave the door open so we can award that company $1.6 million. That is the intent of reducing the amount that was awarded in the liability for breaking the Public Tender Act. That was the guilt -

MR. J. BYRNE: What about the $19 million that does not appear in the contract, what is that going to cost?

MR. SULLIVAN: The $19 million on the long-term financing is going to be over thirty years. If you look in our Budget - you can see in this Budget, under Consolidated Revenue Fund, on top of that, I say to the Member for Cape St. Francis, we are paying $77,700 every year out of our Budget for thirty years to put aside and we have to buy these back when we are finished. We have to buy them back, $15 million at fair market value with depreciation. I think it is $15 million it is going to cost us to buy them back, that we paid out an arm and a leg in tenders to get just because -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: - and circumvented and told by officials they circumvented. The judge in the trial court and the three learned judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the highest court in this Province, indicated that you are guilty, you violated the Public Tender Act so we are going to award damages. We are going to award damages to a company that was wrong in this, in this Province. Now, there is something wrong when we spend about $30 million, all the costs, the Trial Division, the cost of the appeal, the preparations and all the related costs. I think they have to pay some costs associated, not solicitor/client costs directly but other costs I understand they have to pay, too. All these extra costs, and now they are debating whether they are going to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada and run up thousands more when they were found guilty. You can go to whatever limit, you can only delay justice for so long. Justice gets served in the long term. You can only put it off. I can see them wanting to put if off until after the election. They didn't want it to surface on the eve of an election, and now it's out. Maybe that is one of the reason why they got the election over so quickly.

Overall, in conclusion, I just say to the Minister of Finance, we had an opportunity to save a few million dollars - I am back again, I am not going to run away. I am going to get back to this a little later. We do have opportunities to save a few million dollars here of public money. We wasted $3 million this year, it was not necessary. We had an opportunity to save another couple. We could have saved $5 million under this item in the Budget, this year alone. They went out and spent - they said instead of doing that we will get $6 million off Crown land people. We will charge them now. People who took three years to build their cabins now, were paying $75 a year, we are going to go out and make them pay $2,500. If they happen to be on a pond, they are going to pay $3,000. This, for people who don't know where their next food is going to come from, not saying where the next $3,000 is going to come from, and there are a lot of these people out there.

Last night there were 250 people or more at the Holiday Inn. Is there another meeting somewhere else in the Province?

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, one just a couple of days ago, 100 people attended.

MR. SULLIVAN: One hundred people attended a meeting up on the Northern Peninsula, just in that area. I mean, people are living around this Province. Government said, no new taxes, and they increased fees up to six times, I think, in some cases. In order for a seventeen-year-old to go out now and get a driver's license, it costs about $80, assuming they pass the test the first time. If they have to do a second road test, it will cost $130. A seventeen-year-old, doing Grade XI, in level II - that $130 is out of the parents' pockets. That is a tax to me. That is a tax. Crown land is a tax. You can call it what you like, it is a tax on land. When we assess land under municipal government, we call it a property tax and when we assess it here we do not call it that, we call it a fee - it is a tax. It doesn't matter what the arrangement is, it is a tax - money paid out of people's pockets.

Whether in a direct form or an indirect form, it is another form of taxation, and in this Budget there were dozens and dozens of instances of taxation, where they got up and preached: no new taxes. Didn't we hear that before? Where did we hear that from? Was it George Bush? No new taxes, I think he said. George Bush said, no new taxes, and we found out what happened. When Bill Clinton got hold of him the next time around, we found out what his tax policies were.

We are confident that this government will find out exactly what people think of their policies and their tax policies, their hidden taxes, when people have a chance to voice their opinions again in a duly constituted manner - that I hope, for the taxpayers' expense, although, I don't know if they would want to wait another four years to get an opportunity to express it. I strongly believe in having elections every four years, but it is too bad they don't get an opportunity to express how they feel about the promises they were given over the past few months and how this government has delivered on them. I don't think the report card would be very very good at all.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

Mr. Chairman, I have a number of questions for the Minister of Finance with regard to the Legislature, but before I get into that I am going to say a few general comments with respect to the Legislature.

This House of Assembly now has forty-eight members to represent the population of this Province. I believe there is somewhere around 570,000 people in the Province and that number, of course, is decreasing daily. Since this Administration took over in 1989, we have seen an outflux of people in this Province daily and it is increasing daily in recent years, Mr. Chairman.

We have forty-eight members here now in this House of Assembly and people have various points of view on the number of people to represent the population of the Province. As we know,the previous administration had an independent commissioner to go around this Province to have hearings and to see how many MHAs should be sitting in this House of Assembly. The first recommendation was that we would have forty, and then the government of the day got involved in making recommendations to the Commission to change the former - the Government House Leader went to, I believe it was Clarenville, to make a presentation to the Commission, and what I find peculiar about that, Mr. Chairman, is that now that we have the public hearings on the rate increase for Newfoundland Power, we have asked that the government make a presentation on behalf of the people of this Province to let them know where they stand with respect to the rate increase and they decided that they cannot interfere with the process. Yet, the Administration and most of the people on that side of the House, most of the Cabinet ministers, Mr. Chairman, who were in place in the previous administration, saw fit to make a presentation to the Electoral Boundaries Commission when it would benefit themselves and benefit the members of the House.

Mr. Chairman, the bottom line is that the number dropped from fifty-two members down to forty-eight members. There was to be savings in this House of probably half-a-million dollars to the taxpayer - which is not a lot of money to some people, but I wouldn't mind having it in my bank account, I say to members opposite. Half-a-million dollars - but what did we see? When this Administration and this new Premier got elected, we saw an increase in the number of Cabinet ministers in this House of Assembly and the savings that we had, approximately half-a-million dollars, we lost that half-a-million and, in actual fact, it has probably gone up to, if there are four or five new Cabinet ministers, probably two to three million dollars Mr. Chairman, which is a lot of money that could have been saved in this year's Budget. We had hundreds and hundreds of people getting laid off from the civil service, yet we had new Cabinet ministers put in place - increased the number of Cabinet ministers where, in actual fact, they probably should have been decreased.

Mr. Chairman, because of this -

AN HON. MEMBER: What would you recommend?

MR. J. BYRNE: What would I recommend for what, Cabinet?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, the former Premier decided that - what was there, fourteen, in the previous one? He managed to survive with fourteen; and how many are there now, sixteen or seventeen?

AN HON. MEMBER: Seventeen.

MR. J. BYRNE: Seventeen. So, if they survived with fourteen, why was there a drastic change up to seventeen? Is it because we have a new Premier? and he had a lot of people to please on that side of the House. He got thirty-six people elected, and that would be about twenty more than I would like to have seen elected. Anyway, sobeit, the people decided.

AN HON. MEMBER: Thirty-seven.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thirty-seven, is it? No, it can't be - yes, right on, okay.

So we have maybe millions of dollars extra to be spent on salaries, staffing for those offices, when we had to let go civil servants, upwards of 1,000 to 2,000 people.

Mr. Chairman, any extra money that this government decided to spend on Cabinet ministers, if the money had been put into the operations of this Province rather than in the pockets of the Cabinet ministers, a lot of hardship need not take place in this Province. We could have seen the $61 that has recently been cut from social assistance in this Province saved.

I remember back in January, I went on an appeal for a social assistance recipient in my district and we managed to, on appeal, get that $61 for that individual. That family received a letter the other day cutting out that $61, and how many people across this Province received that same letter? That could have been saved and the hardship on the poorest people in this Province could have been relieved.

We heard the Minister of Finance, when he presented the Budget Speech, say that there be no new taxes. Yet, we saw an increase of $6.2 million to come out of the pockets of the people of this Province, the cabin owners in this Province - $6.2 million. As I have said earlier today, we had a meeting last night with 250 people in attendance at the Holiday Inn, a meeting that was called by three members on this side of the House, three members of the Opposition, myself, the Member for St. John's South, and the Member for St. John's East, and we had 250 people turn out to that meeting. Now, Mr. Chairman, if you call a public meeting and you get 50 people or 100 people you usually find that with that number you would consider the meeting to be quite a success, but we had 250 people, people from Pouch Cove, people from the Topsail area, people from Conception Bay East, people from the Southern Shore, Bay Bulls, people from Conception Bay East & Bell Island, people from all over the area - 250.

Actually, one individual came up to me after the meeting last night and said he was in from Grand Falls. He wanted to attend that meeting, and he would love to see a public meeting called in the Grand Falls area. So there is a lot of concern out there with respect to the $6.2 million that is going to be dragged out of the pockets of the people of this Province, the cabin owners in this Province, and not only the cabin owners, but the people who have residences, residential leases in this Province. That is money coming out of their pockets also, money that they cannot afford.

Also with respect to the Legislature, and the extra money that has gone into this Legislature - well, I can't say it went into the Legislature, I suppose; it has gone into Cabinet - and the money that could have been saved, maybe we could have relieved some of the increased fees that have been charged to the people of this Province. The increased driver road test fee from $15 to $50, is three-and-a-half times what the people were paying before. They increased the driver learner's permit from $15 to $30, a one hundred per cent increase - more money coming out of the pockets of the poorer people in this Province. They increased the application fee for Crown lands from $50 to $100. Now, that is quite an increase also, but again, it is part of the $6.2 million.

We had people say in this House that it is not going to cause any hardship, or it is going to cause hardship to very few people in this Province, and we heard, I believe, the minister say that there are 5,945 leases affected - or people affected - I can't say 5,945 people, because that is the number of leases. If you take the average family in the Province, probably four people, Mr. Chairman, that is looking at over 20,000 people affected.

What about those people in this Province, Mr. Chairman, who probably have been saving their money - wanting to build a cabin and saving their money to pay for the lease, to pay for the application fee, to pay the documentation fee and now, these people, if they are going to have to pay $500 or $600 a year, they will not be able to make application. So there are those numbers, and we can't even measure those numbers, Mr. Chairman. We can get some reading on the actual leases in place now but we can't get a reading on the number of applications that could be forthcoming.

Now, there are a lot of issues with respect to Crown lands. One would be the Ministerial Statement made by the minister yesterday, part of his statement being that now, the government would be in competition with the private developers in the Province. I was going to ask the minister about that, but there are so many questions to ask, I never got around to him yet - the Minister of Government Services and Lands. But, if we now have competition with the private developers out there, will the revenues of the department actually be decreased now because we will get fewer applications to the Crown Lands division, and people will probably start going to the private developers more. So, in actual fact, the government department could actually lose revenues, Mr. Chairman.

Now, we have seen in this Province also, health care cuts and again, I have to go back to the Legislature and this House and the Cabinet of this Administration. How many millions extra we are going to have to pay because of the increase in the Cabinet size? We saw health care cuts in this Province, we saw social services cuts in this Province, we saw education cuts in this Province.

Now, with respect to education cuts, Mr. Chairman, we have, before the election and during the election this past winter, we have had the Administration or the new government preach that we need to educate our people, the solution to our problems is to educate our people.

Mr. Chairman, that is basically taken right out of our Blue Book, that we have to educate our people; but what is happening here is, they are saying: Don't do as I do, do as I say. Education in this Province has been - I can't say the word `raped' I suppose, because that might be a bit strong, but it has been dramatically cut. The possibilities for people being educated in this Province have been dramatically cut. Post-secondary education is being cut; we have the Kindergarten program being cut; we have the community colleges being cut in this Province. Colleges such as the one on Bell Island and in areas like that have been dramatically cut. So, if we are going to educate our people, and that is going to be the solution, shouldn't we be putting more money into Education and not taking away from it, Mr. Chairman?

The former administration talked about a balanced Budget last year, and I remember the critic for Finance at the time, standing in his place when they brought down the Budget, not the one for 1996-'97 now, but the one for 1995-'96. And it was supposed to be a balanced Budget but, of course, the administration of the day made a lot of one-shot deals such as the ferry system on the South Coast and tried to balance their Budget. And the critic for Finance at the time, the Member for Mount Pearl, stood here and said: We are going to be $60 million short. Basically, we were laughed at, but it is a fact, that is what came to pass, that they were $60 million short.

The new Minister of Finance actually stood in this House and said that - (inaudible) referred to the Budget as `smoke and mirrors' and now we have a new Budget for 1996-'97, and they decided that we could borrow now, all of a sudden, after letting hundreds and hundreds of people go from the civil service, from different corporations controlled by the government. From the RNC, we had a number of people hired on last year, they had their one-year probationary period up and just before Christmas, I think it was the week of Christmas, they had notice that they were to be let go. I was talking to one RNC officer who actually had his letter, his one-year probation, I think, that is the time frame; anyway, he received his letter the week of the announced cuts that he had passed his probation and would be hired on permanently; and then he gets the notice that actually he had to be let go because of the cuts.

Now I can get into a lot of issues with respect to the RNC, Mr. Chairman, I know a lot of the RNC officers. I am hearing some pretty scary situations arising with the RNC with respect to equipment. In one particular case, Mr. Chairman, the equipment that these people have to use remains to be questioned in due course. The vehicles themselves, Mr. Chairman - if they are talking about saving money, I know the RNC have in their fleet I believe it is an '86 or an '87, I am not sure if it is a Chevelle, or Chev anyway, with probably over 200,000 kilometres on it. Actually now, instead of going out and getting a new vehicle they are talking about replacing the motor; and it is probably done now. Can you imagine putting that kind of money into an old vehicle like that and giving it to the RNC to utilize when they don't know in any given situation when they are going to have to be in pursuit of a car, another vehicle or what have you?

So we have to look at the common sense here. The RNC has been hit pretty hard over the past few years with the down sizing, with their equipment, with the extra areas that they have to patrol. Also the RNC had to go from a two-man vehicle to a one-man vehicle in patrols. It just goes on and on and on. Yet we can find money here to increase the number of Cabinet ministers in this House of Assembly. So you have to wonder about the priorities, I suppose, of this administration and it leaves a lot to be desired.

Now, Mr. Chairman, with respect to the health care cuts, I have to give the minister - on a scale of one to ten, what kind of a rate would he get? Well I don't know if I could give him a five. I would have to sit back and do a lot of thinking before I could possibly give him a five, but I will give him a compliment. I did go to him with a problem a few weeks ago and he did resolve the problem for me and I appreciate that. The problem was pretty serious and let me tell you, if I get people coming to me in my district with a problem for social services, health or what have you, I usually try to go through the system to get it dealt with. I usually have fair and reasonable success but this situation was just too hard to let go.

Basically, Mr. Chairman, it was a situation where I had two individuals, an older couple in my district - he was eighty-one and the lady was eighty-three years old. She was in bed - and I mentioned this here before - with a broken hip. This individual, this poor gentleman, had to basically stay up at night with his clothes on. He was that nervous he would not take his clothes off. He tried to stay awake all night to take care of his wife of probably fifty years. I was trying for two to three weeks to get that lady in hospital, to try to get some respite care for her and to give this man a break. I finally did get it resolved but it took a lot of time. If you have a person who is eighty, eighty-one or eighty-two years old who has to go through that process to get in hospital, Mr. Chairman, it says a lot for the health care system in this Province.

I know the Minister of Health has been on his feet a number of times in this House of Assembly saying that the health care in this Province is improving. Now, by no stretch of the imagination can anyone really believe that statement. Now I have had personal experience with the hospitals over the past three or four years. I would say I have cost this government or the people of this Province a fair dollar myself, and I appreciate those places when having an opportunity to go there. We are really lucky to have these hospitals and the health care to go to. I can say, with respect to the staff and the Health Science Centre, any experience I have had in there so far, Mr. Chairman, has been nothing but positive for me. All I can say to the staff is basically give them a thank you. I could not really complain, but then I know that the staff are understaffed and overworked. I know that the nurses in the Health Science Centre - and that is where I can speak of because that is the experience I had - are overworked like you would not believe, Mr. Chairman.

Even the general cleanliness of hospitals now is not as good as it was three or four years ago. You can walk through the corridors now and see bits of paper on the floor and that type of thing. I know the people in there are trying to do the best they can, but I suppose you have to have a certain amount of people to do a certain amount of work, and if you do not have that how can you do it?

There are all kinds of other issues I can get on with, Mr. Chairman, a number of other issues I would like to address with respect to the Legislature. I have some questions actually that I am going to direct to the Minister of Finance if he is listening. He might want to make a few notes because these are specific questions with respect to the estimates. He can answer them if he decides to, or if he can.

On the Legislature in the House of Assembly, on Page 53. Section 1.1.01, Administrative Support, you have Employee Benefits there going from $1800 spent last year to $6000. I am curious as to what that would be for.

We have Supplies under the same section going from $33,000 up to $42,000. I will address this section and then you can get up and I will get back up again. Purchase Services are going from $41,900 up to $49,000.

Do you want to address these three questions, I say to the minister? I am getting back up again if you do not get up.

MR. DICKS: I refer the question to the hon. Member for Kilbride who sits on the IEC and probably has detailed knowledge.

MR. E. BYRNE: I just came in and I did not hear the question.

MR. DICKS: The hon. member was asking questions in 1.1.01, Executive Support. I believe he asked the question about the $8300 there?

MR. J. BYRNE: The Employee Benefits, Supplies and Purchased Services. Why the increases?

MR. DICKS: Supplies have increased marginally, and the Purchased Services: I have frankly no idea.

MR. J. BYRNE: No idea. What a minister!

MR. DICKS: It is not the minister, it is the IEC, which is comprised of the Member for Kilbride -

MR. J. BYRNE: And the Minister of Finance. He controls it.

MR. DICKS: - and the Minister of Finance, The Government House Leader and the Opposition House Leader, who sit down and do all those things, and we try to decide on the amount for members. As to what Purchase Services would be. In this case there is an IT amount in there, and it might have to do with other sorts of Purchased Services. I do not think we would need legal advice expressly. But as to what it would be in this allocation precisely I honestly do not recollect.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

I have a number of specific questions. Oops! A page gone. We are spending all kinds of money in this Province and here I pick up a book, Estimates 1996, and a page just fell right out. I do not know what we are spending our money on, Mr. Chairman, but I think we should be getting a better product that this.

With respect to Page 54 -

AN HON. MEMBER: It is done by public servants.

MR. J. BYRNE: Public servants.

On Page 54, I say to the Minister of Finance, under Transportation and Communications, Transportation and Communications has gone from $55,800 up to $205,200. Does the minister want to look at that?

MR. WALSH: He is going to take it under advisement.

MR. J. BYRNE: I am not asking the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where are you?

MR. J. BYRNE: Page 54, under Transportation and Communications, Section 1.1.03. It has gone from $55,800 to $205,200.

MR. DICKS: Under Legislature, 1.1.05.

MR. J. BYRNE: The minister may not be able to answer that, so I will just move on to a few other concerns.

AN HON. MEMBER: We can answer it if you want the answer.

MR. DICKS: If you could just tell me the category again? This is Standing and Select Committees. Well, as the hon. member probably knows there are committees in the House that include the Public Accounts Committee which submitted to the House a rather, rather large and extravagant budget, which as the hon. Member for Kilbride knows, far beyond the estimates that have ever been spent in this House before, in its recorded history, and particularly in the last three or four years. In my absence it was approved, and we have a rather large amount for some other committees in this House. The IEC decided just the other day that we were not going to let all of those frivolous committees spend all that amount of money.

The next question, please.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

I appreciate the opportunity to speak about the salary, the accounts, the Budget allocation for the Legislature. He knew he would draw me out in terms of the extravagant budget submitted by the Public Accounts Committee, to set the record straight.

In the last three years, the Public Accounts Committee has spent very little and, in my opinion, has not necessarily done the work that it should have been doing. I say that with the greatest respect to past members of the Public Accounts Committee. I thought when we as a committee met, myself, the Vice-Chairman, certainly, and other members, that we had expressed, I guess, our desire to be more active, to be more proactive in terms of ensuring that government accounting, or public funds that the government provides to Crown agencies and other agencies of government, that we, as a committee, had the wherewithal to hold hearings, to seek answers on public financing, and how financing of public monies was spent.

As the Minister of Finance indicated about a budget that we submitted to the Internal Economy Commission, we certainly did submit a budget that was above and beyond, a little more, not much more, a little more than what went on in previous years; and the IEC, in their wisdom, approved a budget for the Public Accounts Committee that saw -

AN HON. MEMBER: They were wise.

MR. E. BYRNE: They were wise, and the Minister of Finance was indeed there. Nothing was approved at that committee in his absence; he knows that full well. Actually, the suggestion that he made in terms of what the Public Accounts Committee budget should be was endorsed by all IEC members, including me as Chairman of Public Accounts. So I just wanted to set the record straight on that.

Mr. Chairman, we are talking about the House of Assembly and the Legislature in terms of the expenditures the House has made. We look at many parts of the House in terms - let's look at the Office of the Electoral Officer, for example, the Chief Electoral Officer. This is an area that I think we should have a serious look at.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me?

We should have a serious look at, I guess, the role of the Chief Electoral Officer. Everyone knows what his role is, but the reality is that that position and that office is operating under new legislation that was brought in by a previous government in terms of electoral legislation, dealing with finances, how much we can or cannot spend, those areas. I think it is time that we just have a review, in my opinion, of how that new legislation is working, how the Chief Electoral Office and the staff at the electoral office are coping with the legislation, and to see if there are any efficiencies that we may be able to find certainly there.

I know that the House and the Internal Economy Commission certainly looked at - and my colleague from Waterford Valley certainly can attest to this - every possible way within the Legislature, the salary count, or the vote required in the Legislature, the amount of money required, to make suggestions where we could, to keep the functions of the Legislature alive without reducing any further what the benefits are within this department.

The reality is, Mr. Chairman, if you look at Hansard operations, for example, when we look at the money spent on Hansard, if we start diving into how Hansard operates right now then we are faced with the question of: Do we still provide, or will we be able to provide and maintain the services of Hansard which are essential to the record of this House? Hansard right now is operating at a bare bones. We looked at that and we said there is no way that we could go anywhere else, that we could take anything else from that office without effecting and affecting the service that it provides to this House, and in turn the service that it provides to the people of the Province.

In the record of the House when the Minister of Education gets up to speak I am always interested in the responses that he gives, and so are many people in the Province lately. Hansard has to, for the record of the House, provide the next day, or shortly thereafter, for members in this House, what the recorded answers to questions are, what the recorded positions of members are on particular issues, particularly ministers such as the Minister of Education, so that we can see clearly, and the people of the Province, through Hansard and the recorded record, can see clearly where government stands on a particular issue at a particular time.

So it is very important, when we look at the operations of the Legislature that we don't impact the service it now provides. There is very, very little room left, if any, for further reductions to take place within the Legislature, because if we do move in that direction, if we do start cutting services, the very services that we are supposed to be providing as elected officers will cease to exist. So that is just dealing with Hansard.

Certainly, there are other areas, Mr. Chairman, within the whole department of the Legislature, which includes the Auditor General. I think that from that point of view, I recall the Auditor General met with our committee and proposed what she saw would be a 9 per cent or 10 per cent cut across the board, and we accepted it and moved on; but again, we have to be careful. I mean, the Office of the Auditor General is a most important function when it comes to the role of government. It is an arm's length, hands-off department that produces a report for this House and for the people of the Province each and every year about how government financing is spent, and really holds government accountable in terms of government's own rules and regulations, and has government spent outside those regulations, where have they spent outside those regulations and by how much.

So there are areas - in terms of the Public Accounts Committee, the only Standing Committee of the House, much of it's work and direction comes from the Auditor General's Report. So it is essential, I think, that when we look at the Legislature in terms of what the Legislature is supposed to be providing, what it has to provide, what it should continue to provide, then we need not look any further in terms of the Legislature in terms of what we can or cannot pass.

If government really is intent on saving money in the Legislature, they can do it in a couple of areas. Unlike any other department, the Legislature has no programs or services, has no programs whatsoever. We can't cut say, like the Industry, Trade and Technology Minister, we can't cut a market and product development fund which he had for small businesses; unable to cut any programs. If we want to save money, it is on salaries and salaries alone, and if we really are serious about saving money, then maybe we should have accepted the recommendations provided by the Mahoney Commission and reduced the size of this House to forty-two members.

There has been much debate about that already, I am not going to further debate that point. We have what we have right now, forty-eight members.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to stand up and speak a few moments about the Legislature and I look forward to, certainly the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, making a few more comments on some of my comments.

Thank you.

CHAIR: Before I recognize the hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, it is 4:04, and on a Thursday, normally I would announce the questions for the Adjournment Debate at 4:30 at this time. It is the understanding of the Chair that there is an agreement with the House Leaders that the Committee would rise at approximately 4:25 and the House would go into the Concurrence Debate; so there will be no Late Show at 4:30.

The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to say for the record, I made a few facetious comments about the ambitious Budget of the hon. Member for Kilbride, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and must be commended for that. I just wanted to see if he was awake at the time the comments were made and obviously he was and if not, he certainly responded to the stimulation.

Yes, the Public Accounts Committee is perhaps one of the most vital and important institutions of this hon. House and I am delighted that the hon. member is showing such enthusiasm for his new position.

Another reason I arise is that the hon. Member, I believe, for Cape St. Francis, asked earlier about the $42,000 for Purchased Services and I have the pleasure of informing the House that my good friend, the Clerk, who is always very informed on these issues, tells me that it is due to the fact that we have new members who like to have stationery and cards and things like this and have to be equipped and all that. That is one of the reasons that it is beyond what it was last year when our membership was more stable, but the whim of the electorate is such that they choose to change us every now and then and some of us even choose to leave of our own accord, and that necessitates some adjustments on our paper and our machinery and our equipment and things like this.

So I thank the Clerk for his advice and I trust it clarifies the mystery of the estimates for my hon. colleague.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Well, basically I would say to the Minister of Finance, that of course the members on this side of the House are always so upfront and want to know the answers and open and honest and what have you, we are here to ask these questions and it is good to see that we get the answers.

Now, Mr. Chairman, as I said earlier, I want to talk about the size of the House of Assembly, meaning the decrease from fifty-two seats down to forty-eight seat. To save a few dollars for the people of the Province, the previous government and the previous Premier - what was his name, the previous Premier?

AN HON. MEMBER: Wells.

MR. J. BYRNE: Wells, that is it. Premier Wells thought that it was a good idea to reduce the House of Assembly and save the people of this Province some money, and of course we all believed that that would be a good idea, so we went along with it and supported the idea. The members on this side of the House decided to support forty, what the commissioner recommended, but of course the members on that side of the House decided to go with forty-eight after some input form the former Government House Leader. Anyway we saved four seats, from fifty-two down to forty-eight. Then, as I said earlier, Mr. Chairman, in my few words, the present Premier decided to increase the size of cabinet and cost the people of this Province hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Chairman, that money that we could have saved, and it was a possibility to save, could have put some more bread and butter on the tables of the poor people in this Province; and this administration decided to take it right out of their hands, Mr. Chairman. I have said numerous times in this House, that there are people in this Province who do not know where their next loaf of bread and pound of butter is coming from. As soon as I say that sometimes I see members on the opposite side of the House snicker and laugh and what have you, but it is a fact, that is a fact. Can you imagine if we had another two or three million dollars to put into Social Services or into the health care of the Province. It probably could - I will not say save a few lives, but it could make life a lot easier for a lot of people.

I remember when this House opened after this administration was elected in March and I said to the Minister of Social Services that I hoped she would have a heart and show some compassion, because my biggest problem, Mr. Chairman, with the previous administration was that, as I said before, they had no heart, that they were like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, they had no heart and they were not even smart enough to know that they needed to have a heart and go look for one, Mr. Chairman.

Basically, the House of Assembly is here to represent the people of this Province and to try to make life easier for these people, to make decisions, to administer the wealth of the Province, to administer the revenues of this Province, in the best way they can. The people of the Province who are being hit the hardest by this administration are the poor people of the Province.

During the election we saw members, or I couldn't say members at the time, but we certainly saw candidates go around this Province making all kinds of commitments that they could not keep, Mr. Chairman. One of the biggest offenders, I suppose, or biggest culprits - I don't know if that is a good word to use in this House - is the Premier. He went all over this Province telling this people that we will have a better tomorrow; elect the liberals and we will have a better tomorrow. But what do we find out?

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell them about the member's button.

MR. J. BYRNE: What are we finding out? We are having a bitter tomorrow.

AN HON. MEMBER: Talk about the member's button.

MR. J. BYRNE: TNT, TNT.

AN HON. MEMBER: Dynamite.

MR. J. BYRNE: Dynamite, yes, TNT. Well, I did not give much thought to that button, T&T, tiny and tony - what?

AN HON. MEMBER: You have to bring in one.

MR. J. BYRNE: I would never wear a button. I can stand in this House right here and now and emphatically say: Never wear a button. Never put a liberal button on my chest. It will never be there. I do not even want one. I would not want one in my hand, I would be afraid that it would burn a hole right down through.

AN HON. MEMBER: They were not very popular. He opened the trunk of his car and the trunk of the car was right full, two months after the election. They were all returned.

MR. J. BYRNE: If I put one of those buttons in my hand, I say to the Government House Leader, if I put one of your buttons in my hand it would burn a hole right down through. I would have to go over to the Health Science and there is not enough staff over there to take care of it. The Minister of Health there, there is no point in calling him. What would I do?

AN HON. MEMBER: Nobody wanted them. Nobody would wear them.

MR. J. BYRNE: Trunk load of buttons. So what did you do -

AN HON. MEMBER: Take them back and recycle them.

MR. J. BYRNE: I was going to ask the Government House Leader, what did you do with all your buttons? Did the people take them?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Fifty thousand, 500 left. So what did you do with them, use them for ballast in a boat or something?

MR. H. HODDER: He used them for his root maggots in the garden. He puts them out in his garden and gets rid of the root maggots.

MR. J. BYRNE: Iron for his garden.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Anyway, Mr. Chairman -

MR. FITZGERALD: Did you hear what he said, Beaton? He said you put then out in the garden to get rid of the root maggots.

MR. J. BYRNE: I will just repeat that for the House, the Member for Bonavista South said that the Government House Leader used his buttons, the buttons in his election, he used them in his garden to get rid of the root maggots on his carrots. That is what he used his buttons for.

Mr. Chairman, this is a very serious topic that we are on here today. We are talking about the Legislature of this House and the Legislature of this House is very serious. It controls the workings of the Province, the taxation of the Province, actually the running of the Province with respect to the revenues and taxation, expenditures and what have you. We are just now debating the Legislature itself and the runnings of the House.

Anyway, Mr. Chairman, I have taken up most of my time on this topic so I am going to sit down and let one of my colleagues stand up and say a few words and maybe address some of the concerns of the Government House Leader. Thank you.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Chairman, if it is the wish of the Government House Leader, we, for our party, have finished our discussions on the Legislature.

On motion, subheads 1.1.01 through 3.1.01, carried.

On motion, Department of the Legislature, total heads, carried.

CHAIR: The next one is the Contingency Reserve.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I rise today to make some comments relative to the fiscal Contingency Reserve that the Government House Leader has put on the Legislature agenda for this afternoon. We know that this particular matter was mentioned in the Budget.

Now, Mr. Chairman, the information we have supplied to us is on one page and it mentions that in item No. 1.1.01, Contingency Reserve. It says appropriations provide for reserve for unforeseen expenditures which may arise during the course of the fiscal year to guard against negative revenue variances.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I had expected the Minister of Finance to be here to explain to the House what negative revenue variances he was anticipating for this fiscal year. However, we have nothing explained, we have no commentary from the Minister of Finance. I was wondering if some of the members in the Cabinet opposite would care to rise and maybe they could explain to us what negative variances we are anticipating and why these negative variances could not be provided for in the regular estimates of the various government departments.

So, Mr. Chairman, we would want to have more information. We just simply cannot find ourselves, this afternoon, willing to vote $30 million without any explanations whatsoever. Although we, on this side, want to be cooperative and understanding, and we are a very pleasant group here this afternoon and very cooperative, we would ask the Government House Leader if he intends to rise and explain what the negative variances might be for the government, what would give cause to these negative revenue variances and what kinds of things this $30 million is supposed to cover, and give us some examples.

I suspect it might have something to do with retail sales tax variances and these kinds of things but we do not have any explanations. I am wondering if the Government House Leader would want to have a commentary on that, or if he would arrange for one of his Cabinet ministers to have a short commentary so we could have some explanations. Then you might find us on this side a lot more willing to vote on this Contingency Reserve.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, the heading, while I say to the hon. gentleman that I have not -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: How is that?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: I am really happy that the Member for Bonavista South is concerned about my weight. There is another lady from out in his town who is concerned about the same thing, and she won't let me eat either.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: No, he is concerned about my weight; he showed me his stomach.

Mr. Chairman, I don't have the kind of detail that the Minister of Finance could provide to the hon. gentleman, but let me just say to him that the history of Budgets in this Province since probably 1949 has been that no Budget - and there have been mid-year adjustments, and all those kinds of things - put forward in this Province that has accurately projected the finances and the revenues and the expenditures of the Province. We felt, to be quite frank with you, the government felt, that this had caused a great deal of uncertainty among a lot of people. For example, the Opposition House Leader will recognize that last year the government announced that there was a $60 million variance in their Budget. The amount of uncertainty that was there, that that caused, was unbearable for many people. He knows that. He recognizes that. So we felt that in order to allow for that kind of adjustment that we should not have a mid-year adjustment, that we should build in a variance, a possible variance, and that is all it is, a possible variance.

There could be emergencies arise, and unlike other governments, including former Liberal governments, former P.C. governments, we don't want to be doing things with Special Warrants, I say to the hon. gentleman. We don't want to do that. We want to say: Here is what our expenditure is going to be, and that is it. We are prepared to have a $30 million variance, and we think that is all that we will need. If it is not, I think that will bring us up to required borrowings of some $44 or $45 million. If we don't require it, then that means that is $30 million we don't have to borrow; it is a $30 million savings.

We have to be quite frank with the hon. member, unless something happens of which we have no control, the government has no intention of borrowing that $45 million. It is there so that we have it there and we do not have to cause the kind of anxieties and so on that were caused by the Budget announcements that were made last fall, and the adjustments that were made. It is that simple. The money might very well be there next year. If not, if we have to spend it, of course, we come back and this House holds us accountable. There will be a fall session, there will be a winter session next year, and if we mishandle those funds the hon. gentleman will have the right to stand in his place, the Public Accounts Committee will have the right, of which the Member for Kilbride is the Chair, to question any of the expenditures that we make under that heading.

I say to him, it is more or less a fund that will allow government to run smoothly and in the right fashion; nothing else intended.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

Some of the concerns that the Government House Leader raises are, I think, very much shared by people on this side. We have great difficulty with Special Warrants. We recognize that governments of all stripes have had to resort to Special Warrants at various times; however, remember last year that we had passed the Budget and then it wasn't too many weeks after that before there were Special Warrants in connection, I think, with Marble Mountain, and Special Warrants in connection with buying water bombers, I do believe.

Mr. Chairman, we want to make sure of one thing, that is, that in allowing this fiscal contingency reserve - some people believe that this might be a reason why the government may not want to call the House together as soon as they otherwise would, and I would like to think that there is no connection between this particular fiscal reserve and maybe not having a Fall session of the House. I don't think these two things are connected. But, you know, we understand that this is purely a financial arrangement, that the government will be having a Fall session of the Legislature, that there will be a full accounting, as the Government House Leader has said, everything brought back here and itemized.

The other thing that we would want to guard against is the fact that if, at the end of the day, we use the $30 million, or $25 million or $28 million of it, then we want to make sure that we get all the information on it. And if we don't use it, we don't want the government saying things like: Well, we have a surplus. Because you don't have a surplus if you don't have the money there to back it up. Borrowed money does not make surpluses.

So, I say to the Government House Leader, there is some concern and maybe he would briefly want to comment on the fact that we understand it will mean that there will not be a need for a supplementary budget in the Autumn, as far as you would see now, and that it is purely there as a fiscal management strategy.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me just say to the honourable gentleman - and he knows this just as well as I do, better than I do maybe, I don't know. If I could predict that there would be no need ever in this Province of $30 million for a supplementary budget or interim financing or whatever, I would not be sitting here, I would be making a fortune telling the future events of the world. The truth is that the government has no intention of not opening the House this Fall. There is no connection between this $30 million and whether we open the House or not. I say to the hon. gentleman, that would be fool-hardy anyway, because the truth of the matter is that if we mismanaged this fund somehow, we are only putting off the inevitable. We have to come back into this House; this is not a communist country - this Legislature has to open. We can't stay out of here forever, if we do, then we won't be around very long. The Public Accounts Committee is there. I say to him, there are no hidden agendas here, it is just a matter of our thinking that this fund can help us have a smooth fiscal year, and not in the middle of the year -

AN HON. MEMBER: Why only $30 million?

MR. TULK: Well, we felt that that should do it. I suppose we could have said $150 million, but why do that? Because that leaves you wide open for extra expenditure and that kind of stuff. But that's all it is. That was the thought. And a surplus - well, it obviously will not show up as a surplus, it will cut down the amount that you would borrow if you don't spend it. So, that's all it is, no more, no less.

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

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

If we take the Government House Leader's rationale for a $30 million contingency fund, that means that the substance and the articles that are contained in this Budget really do not matter because it is not the real budget.

MR. J. BYRNE: That's right.

MR. E. BYRNE: That's what he is saying. Now, his rationale, also -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I just want to make a few points, I think they are legitimate. You will decide in your own mind if they are legitimate or not, I guess, but I would like to make them anyway.

He has indicated that since 1949, most Budgets that have been presented in this House have been off, and needed to come back in some way shape or form, be revamped, provide extra revenue, whatever the case may be, that government needed. I have to point out, Mr. Chairman, since 1989 that has been the case each and every year. Around March or April, under normal circumstances, we have been presented with a Budget that we have debated in the House, and then, in November we have come back to the House with a mini-Budget or an update on the financial status of the Province that would see the Budget we had debated in April not really, in fact, the real budget, because six months later, we are in trouble. So what does it say? Does it question government's ability to put together a Budget? Are there forecasts estimated up to give a more, or the perception of a more positive outlook around April or May every year? I mean, these are things that I think the Government House Leader has talked about and referred to.

Now, he has also said that that $30-million fund - correct me if I am wrong - the $30-million contingency fund is not going to be spent; it will be held in abeyance until and when or until and if, it is necessary to adjust, or we need more revenues or - is that what the member has said? Is that what he said, that you are not borrowing that money right now, that it will be held -

MR. TULK: You know what I said -

MR. E. BYRNE: No, no. I didn't -

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: This is all I said. I said there is a $30-million fund, right?

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes.

MR. TULK: And if it has to be spent for some emergency, for some unforeseen thing that is not in the Budget - and, by the way, let me say to the hon. gentleman that what we are talking about is a $3-billion Budget - $30 million is what per cent of that? One-tenth of 1 per cent or is it 1 per cent? One per cent? one per cent variance that you could have in your Budget. But we don't want to see - as the Minister, she is gone now, but as the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal said, it is good planning. We don't want, in the middle of the year, to have to go to the civil servants, for example, and say, Now, you are gone through the door because we have a $60 million variance, and put people through all kinds - you know, that is an example of the kind of stuff that we don't want to have to do.

I think the day is long gone, too, when you should be governed by Special Warrant and we are trying to get clear of it. Now, if we go over the $30 million, I don't know what action the government will take, but all I am saying to the hon. gentleman is, we are trying to make the planning for the financial realities in this Province a bit more logical, a bit more sensible, and the truth is, that regardless of if we spend $300 million, we have to come back to this Legislature and answer to it. So you can't hide stuff like that - there is no such thing as trying to hide stuff like that.

The hon. gentleman will know that everybody has to go through a Cabinet process that I had to go through for the first time this year. He will know that you can't hide. In those types of circumstances in these days, you can't hide, you have to face the music. So there is no hidden agenda, there is nobody behind the trees looking out trying to shoot somebody else or anything like that. It is just a matter that we want to do this thing right.

Now, I have to sit down and have a chat with your House Leader.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: I appreciate the Government House Leader's comments. If my understanding is correct, we pass this here today, we vote on it, it goes ahead. If, if extra revenue is required for government to meet its commitments to the people of the Province in terms of the services and programs it offers, and if we need a portion or all of that $30 million, the Government House Leader said that we will be coming back to the Legislature to deal with that? Is that what you have said? No.

MR. TULK: What I said was, if we spend that $30 million, the truth is that we have to come back and answer to you for the way that that is - and you will decide at that point whether (inaudible) or not.

MR. J. BYRNE: Before you spend it?

MR. TULK: No.

MR. E. BYRNE: Good point, good point.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) otherwise we wouldn't be asking you to pass it now.

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, there you go, so why should we pass something we don't know (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Okay, fair enough. I have made a few comments just to - you know, dealing with it, and the Government House Leader has answered my questions. I appreciate it. Thank you.

On motion, subhead 1.1.01, carried.

On motion, Contingency Reserved Fund, carried.

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: The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee on Supply have considered the matters to them referred, wish to report the account centres for the Legislature and for the Contingency Reserve passed, and request leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole on Supply reports that the Committee have approved the Estimates for the Legislature and the Contingency Supply, report progress and ask leave to sit again, now.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, it is after 4:30 but the Opposition House Leader has agreed to give the government this time to adjourn at 4:30 but we have agreed by leave that we would sit until 5:00 and debate Order No. 3. We will do the Government Services Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The House has agreed that we will forego the adjournment motion and move to, under Orders of the Day, Order 3, Government Services Committee.

The hon. the Member for Topsail.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To begin the debate, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Government Services Committee, beginning with the Vice-Chair, the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis, also, the hon. the Member for Conception Bay South, the Member for Kilbride, the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's, the Member for Trinity North, and the Member for Port au Port.

Now, I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if I didn't pass on my thanks to the Member for Torngat Mountains, the Member for Twillingate & Fogo, and the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island for their substituting for members who could not attend due to unforseen circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have had the pleasure of chairing the Government Services Committee. I am pleased to have worked with such a fine collection of hon. members in order to serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I want to commend the ministers and staff of the various departments who appeared before the Committee. I want to commend the minister and the staff of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, the minister and staff of the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, the staff of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, the minister and staff of the Department of Finance and Treasury Board, and the staff of the Public Service Commission, also, Mr. Speaker, the minister and staff of Government Services and Lands.

As I reported to the House,all departments under the Government Services Committee reviewed their expenditures without amendments. I might add that I was very impressed with the keen knowledge that the ministers and their staff have on how and where monies were spent in 1995, and how they plan to spend future monies in 1996-'97. This, in my opinion, is a good sign of sound, fiscal management for now and the years to come.

I was most impressed with the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, and the Minister of Government Services and Lands, with their in-depth knowledge of their respective departments, especially when one considers that these ministers have been have been Ministers of the Crown for approximately three months.

Mr. Speaker, after spending three hours in committee with each department, question after question was asked on where and why the Province's monies were being spent. Now I know members opposite will raise questions as the debate continues, but as I stated in my first speech in this most hon. House of Assembly, I have been involved with government since 1989, and during that time I had many opportunities to observe the Estimate reviews. This year, to the best of my knowledge, is the first time that the committee went through heads and subheads, line by line, in such detail. In my view this is, by far, the most thorough and comprehensive review that I have ever witnessed. In fact, there were times when I felt that the ministers and their staff members were being dispositioned, rather than questioned by some committee members.

Mr. Speaker, we reviewed the expenditures of the Department of Finance, the Public Service Commission, the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, and the Department of Government Services and Lands. After hearing the exhaustive line of questioning in committee stage, I am sure that many of the questions will be duplicated here in the House throughout the course of the debate. I might add that we completed the Estimates in the time allotted, and not one of the meetings went into overtime.

Again, I want to say thank you to the committee members, and I move the adoption of the committee report.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am pleased to stand in my place today and say a few words with respect to the Government Services Estimates Committee. I would like to also thank the members of the committee. A lot of questions were asked of the different ministers and their staff. Granted, maybe some of them will be duplicated here today, and maybe they won't.

I attended the meetings of Finance, Municipal and Provincial Affairs, Government Services and Lands, and Works, Services and Transportation. The meetings did go on; some of them were longer than others. I don't know if we went the full three hours on any of them. I think we went pretty close to three hours on one, which was Works, Services and Transportation. I had a lot of questions, and the way I do the committee meeting hearings, I go through the Estimates line by line, and if I see any differences from what was budgeted, the revised and proposed for this year, I question it.

I would have to agree with the Member for Topsail, and the committee Chairman, that I did have a lot of questions for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. I certainly don't mind giving credit where credit is due, I say to the Government House Leader. For a new member of the House of Assembly and a new minister to the department, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation was well versed on the department. I complimented her staff at the meeting. I have to say that the present Minister of Works, Services and Transportation certainly seemed to be more forthcoming with the answers than the previous Minister of Works, Services and Transportation. He did not give the answers last year, and I used to ask him a lot of questions also.

Of course, a prime example of the previous Minister of Works, Services and Transportation was just that he sat in his chair.

AN HON. MEMBER: Because he could not give us answers.

MR. J. BYRNE: He could not give us answers, no. He wouldn't take it upon himself to give a Tory an answer, I suppose. That is his attitude, I say, Mr. Speaker.

The present Minister of Works, Services and Transportation had her staff there. As I said, we went on and on and on, and I believe the minister felt, and made a comment after the meeting, that she was probably relieved. I don't know how often she would want to go through that process, but then again she had the answers. A lot of the answers that were given - I accept the answers given, of course; I have no choice but to do that. I do not necessarily agree with the way that money is being spent in certain areas, Mr. Speaker, but that is for her to decide.

Actually, I have been trying to get some money from the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation for my district. I tried in vain with the previous minister and was not to successful. I had a meeting with the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation and her staff there a while back. I thought it to be a fairly good meeting, a reasonable meeting, I suppose. The minister really could not make any outright commitments to my district. I pointed out to her the situation with the roads in my district and how they have deteriorated over the past while. I wanted her to come on a drive with me, herself and her staff, to experience the roads in the district of Cape St. Francis, but she told me that she was quite familiar with the road, she was familiar with Marine Drive. I really do not know how familiar she is with the WindGap; that is probably one of the worst road in my district, Mr. Speaker.

The minister said today in the house that capital works - I do not know if it is capital works so much, is it, to be announced tomorrow, just the maintenance projects? The Provincial Roads Program: I don't know what may be coming to my district from that program, Mr. Speaker, but I certainly hope that we do get what is rightly deserved in that district. That district has been neglected over the past number of years with respect to Works, Services and Transportation. We haven't gotten any major contracts at all for upgrading.

I know, and I informed the Minister, of the agreements that were worked with the towns of Logy Bay, Middle Cove and Outer Cove and the town of Flatrock. The previous minister was aware of these and, of course, they we never taken advantage of.

I say to the Minister of Chickens - no, Minister of Fisheries is it? What is your problem?

MR. EFFORD: You don't even know you got an upgrading.

MR. J. BYRNE: Upgrading? Is anybody getting an upgrading?

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't pay any attention to him, he is gone.

MR. J. BYRNE: He is gone, yes. The Minister of Fisheries is gone. He finely got the position he wanted. The previous Minister of Fisheries - what a minister! This minister can't hold a candle to the previous minister, can't hold a candle to him at all. When the previous minister stood in his place, we did not know if he was standing or not. Can't hold a candle to the previous Minister of Fisheries.

AN HON. MEMBER: What a minister he was.

MR. J. BYRNE: What a minister! I agree.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I want to get on to the roads in my district, the bridges and what have you, and the money that is going to be spent in this Province this year.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Did I? I know, that is why I said it.

The District of Cape St. Francis, as I said earlier, has been neglected over the past while, when it comes to the roads. Now I managed to get a bit of money spent there last year on maintenance and to get a little bit of work done because I -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: Vote Liberal

MR. J. BYRNE: Vote Liberal. Yes, you did your best this time around to get the people in the district to vote Liberal. They were promised the world, but, no, in their wisdom, the people in the District of Cape St. Francis decided who to vote for.

MR. EFFORD: They have backhoes and everything down there now.

MR. J. BYRNE: Backhoes. What?

MR. EFFORD: Backhoes and (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Is that right? That is like in every other district in the Province, is it?

MR. EFFORD: Is it ever.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, the District of Port de Grave. I wouldn't think about taking a drive through the District of Port de Grave on the roads out there, with the money that has been spent in that district over the past while. I don't know how the minister can have the face to do what he has been doing over the past years in the District of Port de Grave.

Now, the present minister, the Member for Mount Pearl - Mount Pearl of course, is a city and takes care of a lot of it's own roads and what have you, and I don't say that Mount Pearl would be looking for a lot of money from the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. But I know I am looking for money from the Department of Works, Services and Transportation and that is why I am on my feet today. I want to -

MR. E. BYRNE: You are so subtle, Jack.

MR. J. BYRNE: I know. As I was saying earlier, the members on this side of the House are open and upfront. They let people know where they stand and they let people know what they want. The members on that side of the House, and in particular certain ministers and certain previous Ministers of Works, Services and Transportation, weren't too subtle either, when it came to putting pavement in their districts. So I am looking for the same thing now for my district.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) I told you the truth.

MR. J. BYRNE: You told me the truth. So, is the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture saying that Tory members are getting nothing from this government? Is that what he is saying?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) getting any fish? No, no (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Fish? There is no fish out there because of you. The people in this Province can't fish anymore because of people like you, who won't go to your Premier and try to talk him into getting a food fishery underway in this Province, this year, Mr. Speaker.

Back to Works, Services and Transportation - I have a lot of things to say on Municipal and Provincial Affairs, Government Services and Lands and Finance. I was up on my feet a while ago on Finance, so I will just get back to Works, Services and Transportation.

In my district, we worked out an agreement with the Town of Logy Bay - Middle Cove - Outer Cove and Flatrock a couple years ago. I was the one who instigated it. I went to Ernie Hettasch on the White Hills, I took him around my district -

MR. E. BYRNE: Get on to Government Services and Lands. You have to (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I cannot get on to Government Services and Lands because I have too much to say on that in due course. I am reading the ministers now, so I am going to speak about the top one first and, as we go down the list, we will see who comes last.

With respect to Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, there was a deal worked out. They went down, drove the roads, and saw what needed to be done. The Town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove was going to take over the roads, which is what the government has been pushing for years and years and years, the connector roads, and there is no money. This administration, or the Liberal administration, has been cutting, cutting, cutting, and they lost a prime opportunity there.

The WindGap in Flatrock, from Gallows Cove Pond right on down through and up to the Town Hall in Flatrock, the road is in deplorable condition. I have driven the road. I have had the area supervisor, the director, down and driven the roads on a number of occasions looking to get something done with those roads. They are getting to the point now where they are dangerous.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, I was just suggesting that we call another public meeting in the area and invite the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, but there is no need for that? We are not talking about the previous minister, now; we are talking about the current minister.

The Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island is not in his seat, and he is talking about jumping in front of a parade. Well, it is too bad the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island wasn't at that meeting last night, or he would have been run over by that parade. He would have been flattened out. If he had gotten up in front of that group last night and given the speech he gave in the House yesterday, he would have been flattened. I had to control the people there yesterday, do my best to control them, to help out the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

MR. E. BYRNE: Did you send out his speech to everyone that was there?

MR. J. BYRNE: I will get into that. I had to do my best to help out the Minister of Government Services and Lands because I am a fair guy. I had called a meeting last night to deal with the issue. People from the District of Conception Bay East and Bell Island came up to me and asked me what the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island said, and I told them. This is what I said to them - I will be up front and tell you. I said it in the House here. I said to the member that when I spoke to end debate yesterday, that I always thought the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island had a few clues, until he got on his feet yesterday and made the speech he did. They said: Well, we would love to see that speech. I said: Well, that is no problem. It is word for word, verbatim - three people. So what I did, I said: I will send you a copy of the speech.

AN HON. MEMBER: I will get you an extra couple of dozen copies.

MR. J. BYRNE: I am not going to do that. I am only going to send it to the people who request it. If there are a couple of dozen people request the speech, I will ask you to get me a copy of Hansard so I won't have to make the phone call.

AN HON. MEMBER: One of the guys who was there last night came in this morning and paid cash for his claim (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I say to the Member for Topsail, the Member for Topsail is trying to have, I think, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture as his mentor, trying to interrupt all the time; but I say to the Member for Topsail, get up on his feet and state his views with respect to that Crown lands policy, and let the people of his district know where he stands, let the cabin owners in his district know where he stands on that.

Go back over there in the corner where you are supposed to be, and when the opportunity comes, when you get up to clue up debate on this, you can tell us where you stand on the increased rate for Crown lands, which is going from $75 to $500. It is going up six or seven times, for the minimum one. That could be up ten times for some, we don't know yet. If the Member for Topsail wants to get on his feet and say he fully supports the new -

MR. WISEMAN: I said that yesterday.

MR. J. BYRNE: You did not say that yesterday. I say to the Member for Topsail, that he was not on his feet in this Legislature yesterday, and was not reported in Hansard as saying he supported that policy. He voted for it, but I know there are members on that side of the House who told me personally that they were not in favour of that policy, yet they voted for it. They did not say anything to let people know where they stood, but they voted for it.

AN HON. MEMBER: A good policy.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, a good policy, alright. We will see how good the policy is when the Minister of Government Services and Lands convinces the Cabinet to change the policy.

I remember when the previous Minister of Environment and Lands, the former member for your area, Conception Bay South, was it - anyway, the previous Minister of Environment and Lands did the same thing, brought in the ATV regulations - and this man here was her executive assistant.

AN HON. MEMBER: (inaudible)

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, he went to the public meetings alright. What happened to you? You got the same thing happen to you that could have happened to the Minister of Government Services and Lands last night, but I was there to protect him. We did not protect you. You got flattened at those meetings, and what happened? We had to put a committee in place afterwards from which we are still waiting to get a report. The Member for Harbour Main - Whitbourne did committee hearings on it afterwards. After we begged, bawled and did it all, we finally got public hearings on it, and they made a report last May to the Minister of Energy, I think it was, made a report on the ATV regulations and we are still waiting to see what they are going to do about the ATV regulations.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible)?

MR. J. BYRNE: Who?

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Lands.

MR. J. BYRNE: Lands. Oh, my God, the Minister of Government Services and Lands got that report and now he is involved with the Crown lands pricing policy. He got the report on the ATV regulations that were reported a year ago from the public hearings and there has been nothing done with that yet. There are businesses going out of business, ATVs not being sold any more; people with trails all over the place not going anywhere. It is like this government, trails all over the place but not going anywhere, going around in circles and loops, in the bushes and in the dark and what have you. That is what is going on in this Province today.

AN HON. MEMBER: Now you are changed on it. Remember you said there were going to be no more trails, you weren't allowed to have trails (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Trails! I said to the minister of the day about trails, that you should go out and walk a few of them, and have a look and see where they are going; or drive a few of them.

I have gotten waylaid here now. I am going to spend a couple of hours at this; I can see that coming now.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: If you people continue to interrupt, what can I do?

I am only about one-tenth of the way through Works, Services and Transportation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't stop the clock, Mr. Speaker. Keep the clock going.

MR. J. BYRNE: Surrender, give up, resign, the whole lot you, and we will call an election.

AN HON. MEMBER: Here boy, look, a white handkerchief. We give up; we surrender.

MR. J. BYRNE: You don't know your colours; is that white? Are you sure that is white?

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, there is a bit of white there.

MR. J. BYRNE: What are those brown spots on it?

Mr. Speaker, I am only about one-tenth of the way through Works, Services and Transportation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you running for Mayor of Torbay any time soon?

MR. J. BYRNE: No, not likely. I was mayor once. That is a good topic to get onto, that is under Municipal Affairs.

AN HON. MEMBER: Another two hours.

MR. J. BYRNE: That is under Municipal Affairs and Housing, and I was a former mayor. With respect to that -

AN HON. MEMBER: Ed, sit him down will you; take him out for (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I think what I will do, since it is 4:55 p.m., is adjourn debate; how's that?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn at this time. I think the hon. member has adjourned the debate. Before we do that I want to tell them that tomorrow we will proceed with the Government Services Committee and the Resource Committee.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Friday, at 9:00 a.m.