June 13, 1996             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS               Vol. XLIII  No. 28


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The Chair would like to welcome to the public galleries, eight adult students from the W.I.S.E. school on Parade Street and their instructor, Eileen Clarke.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to announce the establishment of a royalty regime that will apply to the development of all petroleum resources in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area, with the exception of the Hibernia and Terra Nova projects. In conjunction with this regime, the government intends to also provide an exemption from the application of the Province's retail sales tax to all petroleum-related capital and operating expenditures in the offshore area.

This announcement follows a previous statement that I made on June 21, 1994, two years ago almost to the day, when a generic royalty regime was established for the Province's onshore petroleum resources.

Mr. Speaker, this is a significant event from a provincial perspective. Sparked by the Hibernia and Terra Nova oilfield developments, there has been renewed interest by the petroleum industry in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore. Establishing a generic royalty regime will produce a stable framework that will benefit future developments in the Province. It will ultimately translate into more employment creation and a stronger provincial economy as well as provide government with a new source of revenue. The regime has been structured to ensure that we receive our fair share of the revenue from petroleum resources while, at the same time, promoting their exploration and development.

Mr. Speaker, the new regime is designed to reflect the level of prospectivity of the Province's offshore area while being sensitive to the costs and risks associated with offshore petroleum development. The system is similar in structure to the one applied to the Hibernia project and to that applied by the Government of Canada on federal lands and provides for an equitable sharing of revenues.

The regime has the following components: Number (1): a basic royalty, sometimes called an ad valorem royalty, a per barrel royalty, with increasing production, starting from 1 per cent and going to 7.5 per cent of basic revenue.

Number (2): a two-tier net profits royalty. Tier one, 20 per cent of net revenue after a rate of return of 5 per cent plus the long-term government bond rate. Tier two, an extra 10 per cent of net revenue after a rate of return of 15 per cent plus the long-term government bond rate.

The basic royalty begins at a low rate and increases as certain cumulative levels of production are reached, providing an incentive to develop small and marginal prospects by ensuring that minimal royalties are paid on these types of small fields. Once cumulative production reaches 100 million barrels or, if the project becomes profitable well before that point, the Province will receive a minimum of 5 per cent of gross revenue immediately. That would grow to 7.5 per cent with higher production.

The two-tier net royalty is profit sensitive and profit driven. It is designed to reflect changing economic circumstances and to ensure competitiveness with royalty systems in other international and national jurisdictions. When a certain profit level is achieved, the net royalty is applied with the Province receiving the greater of the basic royalty or the tier 1 net royalty payable. If profits increase beyond that level, government revenues will also increase; if these profits further increase significantly, then government revenue will also increase significantly as the tier 2 regime will then kick in at an additional 10 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, the design of this basic plus two-tier net profits royalty system is very purposeful. It provides for three important basic insurances for the Province: number one, it ensures the viability of small and marginal fields, thereby ensuring that these fields will be developed and will produce economic activity and royalties for the Province; number two, it ensures that the Province will receive a royalty for each and every barrel of oil produced, starting with the very first barrel; and number three, it ensures that if oil prices increase or if the profitability of the field otherwise increases in any way, the royalties will also increase with them. We gain on the high side.

I expect that the competitiveness of this royalty regime, coupled with the elimination of the Retail Sales Tax on all petroleum-related expenditures in the offshore, will contribute significantly to the growth of the petroleum industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is always good to come to a specific agreement on a royalty regime. It is also important to have the opportunity to look in-depth to ensure that we are maximizing our return on resources that belong and are developed here in this Province.

The Terra Nova project is exempted. The minister hasn't given any rationale why that might be exempted, or really any update on the status of what is happening on the Terra Nova project, and why it might be exempted. Because we know there are tremendous reserves in the Terra Nova field and the Hibernia field, of course, and other fields may be less significant in real benefit to the Province.

I also understand that the retail sales tax break to Hibernia could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars - well over $100 million over the life of that project; that is very substantial when you look at an exemption under RST, with a harmonized rate, too. I would like to know from the minister: Is the exemption applying to the full 15 per cent under the value-added tax, or just to the 7 per cent owned by this Province?

One of the purposes of giving a tax break is to encourage companies to purchase goods here in this Province that they would not normally purchase here. Has the Province done an assessment of what the companies would normally buy in this Province, and what the net return to this Province would be by giving that exemption, to ensure if we are, overall, going to be net beneficiaries from this break on taxes, or whether it would be more beneficial to achieve the higher rate, and then we might be in a net position overall? That is independent of the independent taxations on the different profit levels. It is important, I say to the minister, to understand that. It is also important to smaller companies to enable them to be in the market, that they are not going to be unduly penalized. That is important too, and there are some provisions made for that in this particular regime.

Once again, I say to the minister, it is important to look at the net benefit, and he makes some reference to an exemption. He has not qualified in any way how that might be applied, and what the Provincial Government estimates and figures are on their research to show exactly how we would benefit by giving this exemption. That is predicated upon ensuring that there is going to be economic benefits or spin-offs by giving this exemption, and until we see, I say to the minister, what these projections are, what will be purchased here that would not normally be, we cannot determine in the final analysis whether this is a good deal or whether it is not. But there are some positive aspects to it, I will agree, by having a different tier level. A two-tier level based on increasing profits is good because it gives us a return, but will we get to those higher levels of profits on smaller types of operations when we have exempted major ones like the Terra Nova field? That is what has to be determined, and we can only answer that when we look at the analysis government has done.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: And in the long term we will see what these benefits are. Only then will we know the true story, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am surprised at the level of detail of the royalty regime on the one hand, and also surprised at what is missing on the other. There has been no public discussion about this and the implications of it, and nothing in what the minister says tells us what kinds of revenues the government expects to receive from this royalty regime. I am not surprised that the Premier is out in Calgary releasing these details because they are the ones who are going to jump up and down and thank him for having a royalty regime in this Province that sees the oil companies paying less on a barrel of oil offshore Newfoundland than individuals are paying on a litre of gasoline at the pumps, Mr. Speaker, when the percentages are looked at.

If we are going to be making those kind of sacrifices we have to know the reason why consumers are paying through the nose, and people who are taking the oil resources and going away and selling them elsewhere are getting such a big deal. There has been no analysis of the cost and benefits of this and no opportunity for public discussion before it has been announced and passed out to the oil companies in Calgary.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise in the House today to announce that the Environmental Assessment Committee review of the Goulds bypass road, and the Environmental Preview Report has been completed. Mr. Speaker, the report has been accepted by my department and no significant environmental impacts are indicated. The proponent of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation will not be required to prepare an environmental impact statement.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Works, Services and Transportation first registered the Goulds bypass road project n 1992. The project is the construction of a two-lane undivided highway through the Goulds from Route 2 at the Commonwealth Ave interchange to Route 10 to the northern end of Bay Bulls Big Pond.

An environmental preview report was ordered by my department and a draft copy was submitted in October 1995. This draft report was not satisfactory and a proponent was provided with a list of deficiencies and revisions in November 1995. The required changes were received by my department in February 1996.

Mr. Speaker, I am aware that farmers in the Goulds area are concerned about the project. I have met with them and discussed their concerns at length, and also met with my hon. colleagues the Ministers of Works, Services and Transportation, and Forest Resources and Agrifoods on several occasions, and have reviewed the environmental preview report thoroughly. After careful consideration we have determined that the report is acceptable and further environmental assessment is not required. The proponent, however, must prepare an environmental protection plan, and this plan must receive the approval from my department.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am delighted to see that it is a go from an environmental perspective, and I say to the minister back four years ago, in August 1992, the minister from Works, Services and Transportation, and Environment, deputy ministers and officials, met with all the municipalities in my area at that time and they raised a very important concern, that the area where the road is going to end is where the trouble really starts in terms of passage there and a safe thoroughfare around Big Pond even though the road - I don't think it has been addressed at all in the particular report or is in the construction plans that now we will still have to navigate around Big Pond, the most dangerous part of that district. I am delighted to see it is going to help in alleviating traffic, the only thoroughfare from my district into St. John's, except for Witless Bay Line that circumvents and goes around there and is a much longer distance. It is important that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: By leave, Mr. Speaker, just to finish.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. SULLIVAN: I think it is important that the ministers look at addressing the problem that was voiced by people unanimously there, every municipality, in dealing with the concern around the Big Pond area to ensure that it is not only a traffic problem and that the environmental problems are addressed in that area too because we have just stopped short, several hundred metres, of addressing the real need in the area. I compliment the minister on getting this out today and announcing that because the people in the district who depend on this transportation through that area are delighted to know that now it is going to proceed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Questions

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Mines and Energy.

I would like to revisit an issue I raised with the Minister of Mines and Energy on May 31. If this Province has the power to tax the electricity we export or to impose a minimum export price then we also have the power to get back some of the $800 million we loose each year on the sale of electricity to Quebec under the horrendous Upper Churchill contract. Now will the minister tell this House if he knows for certain whether the Constitution, as amended in 1982, gives Newfoundland the power to tax the energy output of Churchill Falls?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I would not say -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. minister.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I would say I don't know anything for certain, in that regard. I would not know anything for certain. I would not claim to know anything for certain but the issue of the Upper Churchill contract has been taken to the Supreme Court of Canada twice by previous governments of this Province and I am not proposing to my government that we take it a third. We got shut out the first two times, 9-0.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This debate is about Section 92(a) of the Constitution. A section that the minister said on May 31: is not new but has been there since 1867.

I ask the minister now: Will he confirm that section 92(a) was only added in 1982, 115 years later than the minister said it was there?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I am not a constitutional lawyer, I don't know when these amendments were made, but in answering the last time, the minister next to me, who was a lawyer, said: That is 1867. So I said 1867. If I am wrong, I apologize. Let it be 1982.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, the minister missed it by 115 years, I would say to him. Section 92(a) was not in effect when the reversion act was passed in 1980. This section was not in effect. The whole purpose of adding this section in 1982 was to give some authority to traded goods like energy to the Province, especially after Saskatchewan lost a court case in 1970, a similar case. Will the minister confirm that contrary to what he would have us believe, the Supreme Court has never rendered a decision on whether Newfoundland and Labrador can tax energy output because that specific issue has never been raised with the Supreme Court?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I am not the constitutional lawyer. I haven't gone back and read the two court cases so I don't have an answer for him on the specifics and the details of all that. I would say that a lot of lawyers in this Province and elsewhere have researched all that in great detail in the last many years, and if there were an avenue, I am sure it would have been taken.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, there exists an opinion from a constitutional authority that this Province may well have the power under the current Constitution to tax the electricity we export, or to impose a minimum export price - nothing to do with the price you pay under an agreement.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: We have the power - I will get to you in a minute - to set a minimum price for energy output regardless of who buys it. Surely, we can leave no stone unturned in seeking a full and fair share of our energy resources for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister: Will he and his government institute a tax on the energy output of Churchill Falls?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, we will see in due course.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will provide the minister with a copy of a legal opinion on the matter from the associate professor, William D. Moull, of Osgoode Hall Law School as published in the prestigious Supreme Court Law Review. Will he, at the very least, have his government legal experts examine this legal opinion?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: I will pass it on to them, Mr. Speaker. I am sure they have it.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, if the Province's legal experts determine there is indeed an avenue of taxation, then will you impose a tax on energy output?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to speculate on that at all, at this time.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Won't the minister concede that we have nothing to lose but a heck of a lot to gain from finding out for certain whether we can tax energy output? Won't he admit that getting back a fraction of that $800 million we lose to Quebec each year on a bad deal, wouldn't it be a lot easier to justify using those funds for issues like health care and education and so on? Won't the minister even try, if the legal opinion says we can?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: I think, Mr. Speaker, that is what I said. Let's wait and see. If there were something there, it would have been found long ago. We don't need the hon. member bringing it to our attention today.

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

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

My questions are for the Minister of Health. In the Budget the government announced a change in the maximum amount payable by individual residents in nursing homes from $1,510 a month to $4,000 a month. I understand this information has been communicated to all of the administrators of nursing homes in the Province. However not all nursing homes, according to our information, have a total cost per month of$4,000. Yet, the language used in the memorandum talks about a universal rate.

What measures has the minister taken to assure that residents have not been billed for more than the average cost per resident per month?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The new upper universal rate - maximum rate - that we have set is $4,000. That is based on the average cost to government of a nursing home bed throughout the Province. As a matter of fact, the actual cost is $4,017; we rounded it off at $4,000 to make it simple for all of our purposes, including the hon. member. The rate has been set on that basis.

Some of our nursing homes cost us slightly more than $4,000 to run the beds, in some of the facilities that we fund, the church homes and the interfaith homes, etcetera. Some cost us less, obviously, because some are at a different age in their life and they have different costs to maintain and operate the homes, but on average it is $4,000, and that is the universal rate that we have set based on that factual and actual cost to the Province of funding, on average, a nursing home bed.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, the minister has not answered the question. In cases where the average cost in a particular nursing home is less than $4,000, is the minister then going to permit the home to charge $4,000 in spite of the fact that their average cost is less than that? Our information says that there are homes where the average cost per month is as low as $2,800. Will he give that benefit to the resident and to that resident's family?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, the government has to operate on the basis of the provisions it makes in an overall sense to the long-term care sector in the Province. I suppose there is a proposition that could be made that the cost could be attached to the actual home, but people do not necessarily go into homes because it is their home of first choice. They go into a home through a single-entry system based on the availability of space at that particular time. So a person should not either gain or lose as a result of having to take a placement when that space becomes available wherever that space might be and it is reasonable to expect that person to go. What the hon. member is really suggesting is that we charge some people $2,800, and I would extrapolate from that that he would want to charge others $5,000 or $6,000. We do have some sense of fairness and balance, and we intend to apply that equitably to the extent that we can in all of our policies, including this one.

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

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

What the minister is really saying is that he is going to permit these certain nursing homes to charge $4,000 when, indeed, their rate per person, per resident, is as low as $2,800; and there are homes where the cost is $4,900 a month, I say to the minister.

Some nursing homes have made representation to the minister for a grandfathering clause to exempt current residents from directives contained in the May 28 memorandum. I want to ask the minister: Is he considering such a grandfathering clause that would mean that the approved new rates of $4,000 would not take effect until after May 24 of this year, and for residents admitted after that date? And will he respond in the immediate future to the nursing homes who have made that request?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The answer to the question is: No, we are not considering a grandfathering clause, either in terms of new entrants or people who live, at the moment, in those homes. To the extent that that question has been put to me by nursing home operators, they have already received that response from me.

I am not aware of any written request I have for that. If I have it, I can assure you that the response has either gone or is in the process of going, but the simple answer to the question is no.

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

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

I say to the minister, fundamental principles of Medicare in Canada are the concepts of universality and equal access. Nursing home residents have prolonged, severe, and often debilitating medical difficulties. Does the minister not admit that his latest budgetary measures, which are based upon an ability to pay principle, comprise, if not contravene, the basic intent of Canada's Medicare system?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad the member asked that question because the answer is: absolutely not. The universal medical care system that we enjoy in Canada that was introduced in the late to mid-60s, was envisaged to do two things. The Canada Health Act ensures that it supports the vision that Medicare was based on and that is this: To provide for doctor services and to provide for hospital services for people on a universal basis without regard to their ability to pay and such that they would not be forced to experience a catastrophic financial disaster if they couldn't.

Everything else, Mr. Speaker, that we have added in the name of health care, has been added to the health care menu as an option or as an addition and has nothing to do with and is not a part of, is not mandated by the Canada Health Act, and one of the things that we have added to the very extensive menu that we have now created and is considered to be part of health care is long-term care facilities, but in no way are we compromising the Canada Health Act, in no way are we compromising the basic principles of universality in terms of Medicare.

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

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

An eighty-five-year-old gentleman in my district whose wife is a resident in a nursing home has been told his monthly rate will be changed from $1,510 a month to $4,000; in other words, $48,000 a year. In addition, the family pays $100 a week or $5,200 per year to assure, in this case, the man's wife and mother of a child, is assisted with feeding and personal care, but it doesn't stop there.

Mr. Speaker, the home charges approximately $140

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary, I ask him to get to his question.

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

The home charges $140 for drugs per month that the gentleman could get at about half the cost at the local drugstore. Will the minister assure that the cost of drugs that are administered in nursing homes are at market value and at the lowest possible price?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The answer to the question is, yes. We endeavour to ensure that the best cost is made available to recipients of things that we have to pay for. There are two types of drugs or - not two types of drugs, there are many types of drugs but in the context of a nursing home, the nursing home provides some types of regular drugs that are non-prescription in nature to patients as part of their ongoing care.

The other type of prescription drugs that are provided to people are drugs that are provided on an individual basis through payment from their own health plans or, if they have a drug card as a senior by virtue of qualifying for a drug card, the Province pays for the full cost of that in any event, so there is no proposition or no circumstance where I would envisage anyone having to pay more than the lowest possible price for drugs in terms of accessing it for their care.

People can buy drugs at any drugstore they want if they have a drug card but for the most part, as the hon. member would know, nursing homes do make arrangements sometimes with specific pharmaceutical outlets for purposes of convenience in servicing their clients so that they have ready, easy and quick access to pharmaceutical products, but the lowest cost is the principle that we espouse and that we support.

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

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

Will the minister appraise the House as to the requirements of nursing homes to go to public tender for the purchase and supply of drugs to the home, and how often does the policy require the home to call tenders for the supply of all prescription drugs?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: There is a prescribed time within which they have to go back to tender for specific services that they have in their homes and these things are covered under the Public Tender Act. I am not sure whether it is on a yearly or bi-yearly or tri-yearly basis, but whatever it is, they follow that.

We have had no difficulty whatsoever, absolutely none, I have never heard a complaint or proposition put forward where a nursing home was not following the proper procedure in terms of tendering and/or accessing pharmaceutical products, but to the specific time requirement, whether it is one, two or three years, I will check that with the people who administer the Public Tender Act, my colleague, the hon. the Member for Mount Pearl, with whom you have some familiarity in terms of the district and the individual as well. I can assure you that the hon. member who came from Mount Pearl, the superb Minister of Works, Services and Transportation will provide me with an accurate, a timely and an answer -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: - that will not only satisfy you but that will be concise and fair.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Government House Leader.

Will the minister confirm that a company based in St. Catherines, Ontario has been awarded the contract to repair and refurbish six metro buses, even though the local bidder, East Coast Fleet Repair, had a competitive bid that under the provincial procurement program should have been the winning bidder?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer the question for the hon. gentleman but it seems to me that he might very well be asking the wrong minister or even the wrong government but if he cared to repeat it - some of his colleagues over there were rather noisy - if he cared to repeat it I will try to distinguish exactly what he said.

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

MR. OSBORNE: I asked, will the minister confirm that a company based in St. Catherines, Ontario was awarded a contract to repair and refurbish six metro buses even though a local bidder, East Coast Fleet Repair, had a competitive bid that under the provincial procurement program should have been granted the award?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, it seems that the provincial preference policy and the right to purchase services in this Province belongs to an old minister in this House and it seems to me that the metro bus belongs to the city of St. John's. If he provided more detail we might be able to answer his question a bit better.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I guess whoever the deputy minister is - the acting minister, as this government's left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. The minister knows that under the current provincial procurement policy that local firms can deduct 10 per cent of their bid price when competing against firms outside of Atlantic Canada for work publicly funded projects in the Province. Will the minister confirm that his government ruled against the local company and sent the work to Ontario based on a simple technicality?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman that I will assure him, meet with him outside of the House, get all the details on it, investigate it, get back to him with the kind of answer that I think he is trying to get. I am not sure he is putting the right question to get the answer but with the kind of answer that he is trying to get I will meet with him outside, provide me with the details and like we did the other afternoon for the opposition spokesman on fisheries when my hon. friend was out of the House, provide him with so many details that he will sit over there for an hour reading. I can do no more than that for him.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I read this story in the paper two days ago, `Doesn't the minister realize that the loss of work to Ontario means that there is a loss of eight jobs to our Province, not to mention the loss of income tax to our Province, the loss of payroll tax to our Province and the loss of some $43,000 in retail sales tax to our Province? Will the minister acknowledge that the government cost this Province jobs and revenue when they could have kept the work right here? What are we going to do to ensure that in the future we keep the work here?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, what are we going to do to keep the work here? What this government has always done, bring in good -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: Does the Member for Ferryland, the Leader of the Opposition, need his road to keep him quiet again? Mr. Speaker, what this government has always done, implement good economic policies, good tax policies and good developmental policies. I suggest to the hon. gentleman that I will take his question under advisement, give him all the details. If he wants to stand up and keep going then he should feel free to do so but I will take your question under advisement, which is a perfect parliamentary thing to do and get back to the hon. gentleman.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the hon. Minister of Education and it is regarding budget cuts at the Newfoundland School for the Deaf.

The Budget reduction since 1994-1995 for teachers salaries has been $35,2200 less than the average salary for one teacher. Teachers salaries have remained the same for several years, as we all know. A maximum of six teachers presently on staff are entitled to salary increments for next year. Why are there reductions in teacher allocations for the Newfoundland School for the Deaf at this time when it appears that there is sufficient funding to support at least thirty-three teaching positions, as opposed to the thirty positions which have been allocated for 1996-'97?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With respect to the School for the Deaf, it is a school that is not run by a separate school board, it is run directly by the Department of Education acting as a school board, as are the hospital schools in the Province and a couple of others. In these special schools, particularly the School for the Deaf, rather than use the same teacher allocation per pupil-based, as we do in the school system, where you take the number of students, divide by twenty-three and decide how many teachers are allocated - because the School for the Deaf is known to be very different and houses the students with a residence complex as well as provides for their education, provides for transportation to and from the home for the students on weekends so that they can be with their families on Saturdays and Sundays - instead of going the traditional way of funding and allocating teachers, there has been a block budget given to the School for the Deaf. And through the principal and the administrative staff, they run the full organization, the residents' complex, the transportation system for the students, the housing accommodations, and all of the teaching that goes on with the special needs in the School for the Deaf.

They are given a block budget and in that block budget this year they were reduced very minimally compared to all of the other reductions in education, because we wanted to give them the opportunities and the flexibility in their own global block budget to make the least harmful decisions with respect to the students, both in their instruction, in their accommodation in the residence, and their return to visit their families. We have every confidence, Mr. Speaker, that the administration at that school is able to do that without damaging the program for the students.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Would the minister confirm, however, that the percentage in reduction in cuts with respect to monies being allocated to the Newfoundland School for the Deaf are approximately three times the amount of cuts and expenses with respect to primary, elementary, and secondary schools in this Province?

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

MR. GRIMES: Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest that it is exactly the opposite to what the hon. member just proposed, that there were very minimal cuts to the budget for the School for the Deaf compared to what happened in the primary, elementary, and secondary system, what happened in the college system, and what happened at the university. We were very cognizant and very aware of the special needs at the School for the Deaf, and in fact there are whole program areas in the Department of Education that have been deleted and taken off the books rather than have major cuts in an institution like the School for the Deaf.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Would the minister confirm again that there have been sixteen positions cut with respect to the Newfoundland School for Deaf, including the two teaching positions that I mentioned, and does that not indicate to the people of this Province that there is a change in the philosophy with respect to the existence of an institution which devotes itself exclusively to the needs of deaf children?

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

MR. GRIMES: Again, the representation made by the hon. member is incorrect. In fact, there was great sensitivity paid to the fact that the School for the Deaf does perform a very special role in the Province, and we wanted to make sure that the budget reductions were kept to a minimum so that the service to that special group of students would not be unnecessarily impeded or downgraded in any way.

We have every confidence that the administration of that school, following again the lead of the government generally, will find the majority of the savings at the administrative level rather than at any program delivery level that will have a negative impact upon the opportunities for the students.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Will the minister confirm that there have been sixteen positions cut with respect to the School for the Deaf?

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, we dealt with the issue in some detail in the estimates with respect to the School for the Deaf. I cannot confirm a particular number at this point in time because I don't have documentation in front of me and I don't recall it off the top of my head. I do know there were reductions - reductions in terms of such positions as a vice-principal, who did no teaching, being eliminated or the position being reduced, a teacher going on leave and not being replaced at the administrative level, some supervisory functions at the residence.

But in terms of teaching staff who impact and interact directly on a daily basis with the students, that teaching force is intact, to my knowledge. The basic components of all of the supervisory personnel who are needed in the residence for the evenings and the nighttimes, just to guarantee the safe residence of the students on a day-to-day basis, have been kept intact. There are other matters with respect to purchasing, payroll and so on that were offered to be done from other sources, such as being done directly from the Department of Education, rather than having a separate bureaucracy and administration established at the School for the Deaf.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I would ask the hon. member to take his place.

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have a question for the minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods. With the spray program for the Summer about to get started, could the minister tell me how many sites there are now, overall, and could he tell me if all of those sites have had the final okay and the final green light to go ahead with the spray program for those areas?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, most of the spray that we are doing this year is on the Humber Valley, and there is contention on the West Coast about some of the West Coast watershed areas. The Minister of Environment and Labour and myself are dealing with it.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the minister that as late as this morning I talked to the mayor of Steady Brook. They still have some very serious concerns. They are wondering if the departments of Forest Resources and Agrifoods and Environment and Labour, will be in that area to speak, not just with the council, but to a public meeting out in that area for some concerns that they want to address before the spray program goes ahead.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman must obviously be running out of questions again this afternoon. I want to assure him that the Minister of Environment and Labour and myself will do whatever is necessary both to protect the environment -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible) you would provide the ministers we would have more questions (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: We will provide you all the ministers you want!

AN HON. MEMBER: Where are they?

MR. TULK: They are here!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me come back to the hon. gentleman and answer his question. Let me assure the Opposition House Leader that we will provide whatever answers are necessary and whatever answers are needed, and I am sure the quality of them will be about 2,000 per cent better than the quality of the questions.

Let me assure the hon. gentleman that we will do whatever is necessary to protect the forests of this Province, to protect the environment. I mean, with a Minister of Environment and Labour like that you would have to make sure that the environment is protected.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question period has elapsed.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Windsor - Springdale.

MR. FLIGHT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition to this hon. House of Assembly on behalf of approximately 2,500 people from the District of Windsor - Springdale. Specifically, the petition comes from the Green Bay part of the district, and it is with regard to the closing of the Springdale campus.

The printed prayer on the petition is this: We, the undersigned, strenuously object to the closing of the Springdale campus of Central Newfoundland Regional College effective June 1996 in light of the devastating effect that this cut will have on the Green Bay area, and call upon the government to immediately reverse this decision.

Mr. Speaker, I spent a lot of time in Springdale and the Springdale area at the time of this closing. I want to tell this House that this petition speaks to the level of concern and the level of disappointment and actually, the level of shock that was felt in the Springdale area when the announcement was made.

The closure of the Springdale campus has had two major effects. There are two major aspects with regard to the closing as it relates to Springdale and area. The first is the effect that this is seen to have on future education in the area. It is seen as a loss of opportunity to continue, to further, to upgrade education at home. Most people, when they can attend a college situated within commuting distance of their own home, feel they are attending a university, college or trade school at minimal cost.

Students, potential students, parents and others feel that because of the added cost - board and lodging, and other costs associated with attending school or college away from home - their opportunity and hope to further their education is lost. They will have lost the opportunity, they believe, to continue to pursue their education, to upgrade their education, and to train for future job opportunities. Those opportunities would be lost forever, and that is very difficult to accept, very difficult for the people in the Green Bay area to cope with.

The second aspect is the devastation this will cause, or as is seen by the people who signed this petition, and by people I have talked to in Green Bay on the economy, on the Town of Springdale itself, on the economy of Springdale.

I am told - I cannot verify this, but I have been told - that the closing of the campus in Springdale will cost the Springdale economy about $1 million, and that, I guess, is determined by the loss of the teachers, loss of boarding houses, the goods and services provided in the immediate area to the students and the people who maintain the university.

Springdale is a service town, and it is a service town for most of Green Bay. It is a fully serviced town with all the amenities, all the municipal services, and Springdale pays its own way, and as we continue as a Province to deal with our own financial problems, with our own difficulty in budgets, we are forced to reduce the amount of money we make available to a town like Springdale. Therefore, it gets tougher and tougher for a town like Springdale to cope. Then, we announce the closure of a campus that will, they think and they say, and the say they can prove, cost their economy $1 million. So we should understand and we should sympathize with the reaction that comes from the Town of Springdale as a result of this closure.

No doubt, Mr. Speaker, I am aware of, and I believe government recognizes, the difficulty the decision to close the Springdale campus causes for Springdale and the Green Bay area. This petition can be seen as a plea to government to try to salvage something from the situation. There are local committees putting forward proposals to government to try to find ways to preserve the Springdale campus with a course delivery method or on a cost-recovery basis, and every other possibility is being pursued. Obviously, any level of service that can be salvaged and maintained will be important and valuable to Springdale, both from the educational aspect and from the financial aspect.

Mr. Speaker, on the same day that the closure of the Springdale campus was announced, it was also announced that first-year university would be cancelled at various centres in Newfoundland, and as a result of compromise and discussions between the various boards and government, and the Department of Education, I understand that these courses are being revisited, have been reinstated.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FLIGHT: Just a minute to clue up?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. FLIGHT: I understand that first-year university has been reinstated in various centres, and it is based on that kind of co-operation, on that kind of understanding, that I hope that the people representing government, the Department of Education, dealing with the Springdale committees, can find a solution that will recognize and allow the government to deal with and recognize its own fiscal restraints but will, at the same time, provide a solution that will maintain a community college presence in Springdale and the area.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased today to rise to support the petition presented by the hon. the Member for Windsor - Springdale. I, too, of course, being a next-door neighbour to the Springdale area - not only that, but with the electoral boundary changes now many of my constituents from the King's Point - Little Bay area also attended that community college, and many throughout the year have done that. I was also at the protest rally which they held right after they found out about the closure of their college there.

I would like to reiterate a few of the points the member has already made. The closing of this college is more than the closing down of a building. We are not talking about a building of brick and wood; we are talking about how it affects that entire community, the economics of it, the spirit of the community. When you have a community the size of Springdale, much like the community I come from, Baie Verte, when you have a community college, the spirit of the community is that when you see young people - and older people - who have decided to return and do courses, or do certificate degrees or whatever at the community college, this does a great deal for the spirit of that community. You see young people stay there for one thing. For a lot of people who have low income families they have available for them the courses that they can travel to in their own community or short distances away to do these courses.

The fact of the matter is very simple, because of these college closures around different parts of the Province, specifically today we are referring to Springdale, is that a lot of these low and middle income families who have children will now decide not to do any further education, Mr. Speaker, it is as simple as that because they cannot afford to go to St. John's, Corner Brook or places further away. It gave them a real opportunity to go and do first year courses, which the member also mentioned, first year courses and a stepping stone to go on to do further education. The thrust is, Mr. Speaker, besides the deterrent to education, which this does, it also has a magnificent impact on the economy of a small town such as Springdale and that is the fact of the matter. I did not get all the statistics from the member but I can tell you that I have been speaking to people over the last few weeks out there and it just seems like the whole town has just died. With that college closed down - they had children going back and forth there and of course adults doing courses there. The gas stations have noticed the difference, the hotel has noticed the difference and the grocery stores have noticed the difference. So, Mr. Speaker, it has an impact on a lot of people.

Mr. Speaker, what really bothers me about this is the amount of consultation that was done before this decision on colleges was made. If you want to see the real epitome, the real best example of lack of consultation, the member of the government, the member on the side of the government did not even know that this college was being closed down. So where did these students who go to these campuses and where did the parents get a chance to have an input? They did not have a chance to have input, Mr. Speaker, they did not and that is the whole problem behind this.

It is a real shame that the Government House Leader could even make a comment that this is dull or boring when he realizes - he should go and talk to the Member for Windsor - Springdale, ask them if they find it boring, if they are going to yawn about it? It is very serious I say to the member.

MR. TULK: On a point of order. I did not find the presentation of my colleague boring. The only thing I find boring in this Legislature is the hon. gentleman.

MR. SPEAKER: No point of order, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, he makes those comments, while I am trying to be very serious on this matter and put forward the same views as the Member for Windsor - Springdale did. I will make a comment about it. Now, Mr. Speaker, the point of the matter is that this is very serious and it really has impacted on places like Springdale, Bell Island and those other places. They did not have their fair chance for consultation on this. It was a shock to a lot of people and it has affected the economy in the town and the surrounding area. It has affected the education of a lot of people who would have went through that college to upgrade themselves with education and so on. So, Mr. Speaker, the impact is very, very serious, I say to the Government House Leader, and I am glad that the people have decided on putting forward a petition. They have asked for meetings and they are going to continue. I can tell the Minister of Education, they have not given up on it yet either. It is something that it was an institution, not just a building in town, it was an institution that a lot of people relied upon. It was something that gave spirit to the community to see young people go ahead and get educated and so on. I commend the people of the district for getting together to put forward their views in a petition and other ways and I hope they keep up that view, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Hon. Member for Terra Nova.

MR. LUSH: The hon. member ought to be very serious about this himself, to ensure that what we do here is proper, and the reasons, that there should not be objects on members desks - obvious reasons for it, and I just bring it to the attention of the hon. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

To that point of order, the hon. member is correct, that it has been ruled I guess, consistently in this House in the past, that objects such as containers that were just mentioned are not permissible on the desks. I think the hon. Member for Kilbride recognizes that and he has removed it.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to make a few brief comments with respect to the petition so ably presented by my colleague from the District of Windsor - Springdale, and supported by the hon. Member for Baie Verte.

The issue is a serious one, Mr. Speaker, and as difficult a decision as it was for the government to make with respect to the closure of any campuses in any communities such as in Springdale, at least in this instance, I am encouraged by the fact that while everybody in Springdale, Lewisporte, Bell Island and other locations recognize that there is not much purpose and not much point in coming back to the government to ask us to reinstate funds into the Education Budget to reopen these campuses, that they themselves are continuing in efforts to be creative, to try and find alternate uses for the facilities, because of the facts, as my colleague points out, that it has been an integral part of the community for some time and that while it served a very specific educational need for students in the area and students around the Province who took advantage of certain programs, there was also a certain economic benefit that is undeniable to the community with respect to the operation of the college, and the hon. member for the area, Mr. Speaker, has been instrumental in working with constituents and residents from the area, representatives of the town, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, staff from the college itself in having meetings trying to find other uses to take the facility and use it as a government service centre of sorts for the whole area.

To see if that could be a possibility to have other programming moved into the building other than just educational programming through the community college system and that they are continuing to try and find ways to creatively do that and to generate enough revenue from the campus so that they could continue to operate in some capacity even though it won't be supported by a sustaining grant from the provincial government through the Department of Education, so it has been one of the very difficult decisions that the government, Mr. Speaker, had to deal with in this budgetary process and I can only commend the hon. member for bringing forward the petition on behalf of the constituents and residents of the area and for his continuing work with them to try and find some other reasonable and creative way to use the facility for some other purpose, since it is not going to be provided with subsidies from the provincial government to sustain it as part of the community college system.

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

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

I am pleased to rise today to present what I am led to believe to be one of the largest, if not the largest, petition ever presented in the House of Assembly, some 74,000 names that have been collected from all over the Island dealing with the increase or proposed increase for Newfoundland Light and Power in electricity rates.

Mr. Speaker, day after day, for the last three weeks, I have stood in this House each and every day to present a petition. We have spoken to petitions on it, urging the government to do whatever is required, to do whatever is in their power to insure that an increase in electricity rates does not occur. Four, maybe five weeks ago, all members in this House, passed unanimously, a private member's resolution that dealt with giving the Consumer Advocate all the necessary resources both human and financial to insure that the consumers of the Province were represented to the best of their ability and to insure that an increase in electricity rates would not occur.

Subsequent to that, Mr. Speaker, we have seen Newfoundland Power say they didn't need a 4.9 per cent increase in electricity rates, what they really need was a 2.9 per cent increase, and we agree, Mr.Speaker, that the Public Utilities Board will handle that in due course. But, Mr. Speaker, what has happened since then and what was going on behind the scenes at that time is what really concerns me and it deals with the PST, GST harmonization.

Government has within its power, and what this petition is asking, is asking government to do what is required to ensure that there is no increase in electricity rates. But as a result of the Goods and Services Tax, federal tax, and the 12 per cent retail sales tax being harmonized next April, what will happen immediately as a result is that electricity rates in this Province will rise automatically by 8 per cent. That is not just some idle talk by a Member for Kilbride or some idle talk as a member of the Opposition. That is confirmed by the vice-president of Newfoundland Light and Power and has been confirmed on a number of different occasions.

Mr. Speaker, I submit to this House that government has within its power to exempt a basic commodity like electricity rates, home heating fuel, but especially with respect to this petition, to exempt that from the GST-PST harmonization. Because no matter what income bracket we come from all of us, each and every one of us in this gallery and each and every consumer of power in this Province, will see an increase of 8 per cent across the board.

Where do the 40,000 families who are on Social Services right now who are experiencing cutbacks due to the budgetary situation find that extra 8 per cent? Where do people who are working for minimum wage and below, families who are surviving on next to nothing, find that 8 per cent?

The Minister of Mines and Energy stands in this House today and says there will be an exemption for oil companies in terms of the construction materials that they will buy related to exploration in this Province. When will the Minister of Mines and Energy stand in this House and say there will be an exemption under the harmonization of tax for people who use power who need electricity? That is each and every one of us.

If the Public Utilities Board grants a 2.9 per cent increase in electricity rates to Newfoundland Power what we will see by April 1 of next year, flat across the board, is a 10.9 per cent increase in electricity rates. Frankly, that is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the 74,000 people who have signed petitions willingly, and there are more on the way. It is unacceptable I think to each and every home owner, consumer, and I think it should be unacceptable to each and every member in this Legislature that because of a direct government action we will see automatically an 8 per cent increase across the board in electricity rates.

Make no mistake that while government does not usually, and nor should it, get involved in the Public Utilities Board process, because that is an arm's length quasi-judicial board that is set up to represent the consumer and to look at rate increases based upon the submissions made by utility companies. If we are going to interfere in that process then we should abolish it altogether. But government has at its disposal, and government has the power through Cabinet if the political will exists in Cabinet, to exempt by a stroke of the pen a basic commodity that people, especially people who cannot afford it and there are many of them, there are thousands of them in this Province today - such an increase, that this government can exempt automatically from the harmonized tax, GST-PST, that they can exempt that 8 per cent increase. What this petition is asking is that government do exactly that. Thank you very much.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today in support of the petition from some 74,000 Newfoundlanders who presented this petition here today to the House of Assembly. I sat through part of the session yesterday afternoon and I listened to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture talk about: Did you write a letter to the consumer advocate, have you made a presentation to the Board?

I didn't write a letter to the consumer advocate. I have no intentions of writing a letter to the consumer advocate. What I am going to do - because I got elected by people, people who I came into this House to work for and to try and help out over the next four or five years while I'm here - I intend to appear with my constituents - who, by the way, played a very large part in gathering the names for this petition of 70-odd thousand names. And I will be at the hearing of the PUB, and I will put forward the concerns of the people from my district, and the individual in particular who worked, and worked extremely hard, to see that this petition got into every part of this Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, from Labrador to Port aux Basques to St. John's, and throughout the whole Island.

The 8 per cent that is in this, as my hon. friend has said, at the stroke of a pen the government can eliminate the part that is now going to be added to this if these people are granted their 2.-whatever percentage. As far as I am concerned they should be granted absolutely nothing. Any organization that makes a $28 million profit, I think that is more than adequate. You take your money today and try putting it in a bank, and see what kind of return you will get on your money; and you certainly will not get the kinds of returns that these people are making in their exorbitant profits.

I say that, number one, there should not be GST added onto this. That should be stopped. There is no way that the 8 per cent should now go onto the light bills of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and there is no way that Newfoundland Power should ever be granted - ever be granted - an increase in their rates while they make the exorbitant profits that they make and are continuing to make in this Province. They should not be allowed, and when the time rolls around there should be no increase added to the power bills of the people of this Province.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to simply add to what has been said by the hon. the Member for Kilbride, which was supported by my colleague, the Member for Conception Bay South, by presenting yet another petition from the constituents who reside in the district of St. John's East. As the Member of the House of Assembly for St. John's East, some time ago petitions were placed in strategic places throughout the district, and I am pleased to say that I have, in addition to what has been presented, another 1,500 names -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: - by residents of St. John's East who, like other tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders, abhor what is being done with respect to the claim that it is justified to have an increase in electricity rates in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, it is simply unacceptable to expect ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to pay more for electricity in this Province when Newfoundland Power had a profit margin last year of close to $28 million. It is simply unacceptable, and nobody in their right mind can expect that it is right or acceptable to have Newfoundland Power, in fact, be granted any increase. Therefore, that is why we see tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders who are standing up, speaking loudly, commenting through the media, and voicing their opinions in any way that they can, to make it clear to Newfoundland Power, to make it clear to the Consumer Advocate, to make it clear potentially and hopefully to the Government of this Province, that this is not acceptable.

Mr. Speaker, another point which is worthy of mention is the fact that Newfoundland Power has a monopoly; therefore, people do not have a choice. We have only one company that can distribute the power and this particular amenity of life which is relied upon by so many hundreds of thousands of Newfoundlanders. We have only one; therefore, there is control. There is no option, there is no choice for ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Mr. Speaker, again, on behalf of 1,500 residents of the District of St. John's East, I am pleased to add to the many thousands of Newfoundlanders who have just spoken with respect to the 74,000-name petition that was just presented, and on behalf of the people of St. John's East I trust that this particular petition will be taken seriously and will be a part of a voice that has been heard loudly in this Province in opposition to what is being done in this matter.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and support my colleague, the Member for St. John's East when he adds another 1,500 names to the list, and to say that, I too, put out a petition in my district for people in the district to sign, and there were 2,800 names from the district of Kilbride that were part of this petition. But I am appalled that the Opposition, or the critic for Energy has presented a 74,000-name petition and nobody in government seems to want to respond to the issue.

The reality is that 74,000 names have come from all of our districts, not just from St. John's East, not just from Kilbride, not from Cape St. Francis; they have come from Terra Nova, from Bonavista North, from Port de Grave, from Carbonear, from all areas in St. John's, from the West Coast, the Southwest Coast, the Northern Peninsula, and from Southern Labrador. They have come from each and every part of the Province, Mr. Speaker. When you look at a 74,000-name petition that has been presented in this House, which represents about one sixth, I guess, of the population of the Province, I don't know about anyone else, but I find that significant. And I say that the people of the Province are speaking out loudly and clearly on what their feelings are about an increase in a basic commodity, a necessity for each and every one of us - that a 10 per cent increase, which will amount to about a 10.9 per cent increase through harmonization, and if the Public Utilities Board okays or approves a 2.9 per cent increase, it is unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, there are many people today, and we know them, members in this House know them, people who are on fixed incomes, older people, who cannot afford a 10 per cent increase, who cannot afford to pay the rates that Newfoundland Power is extracting from them right now. There are many people in this Province, and I believe the Minister of Social Services can confirm it, but about 35,000 to 40,000 families who are in receipt of social assistance are living far below the poverty line right now, and they cannot afford to pay another 10 per cent increase in electricity rates.

Mr. Speaker, I say to the Minister of Mines and Energy -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I am supporting another petition.

The reality is also that there are many people working in this Province today who would qualify as the working poor, people who are working for the minimum wage, husband and wife with one, two, three children who are barely getting by. They cannot afford a 10 per cent increase on a basic commodity that is a necessity. They cannot do it.

I say again, say it for the record, that we cannot interfere in the Public Utilities Board process. That is why it was established, and we should not interfere with that process, but government has right now before it the opportunity to intervene directly and exempt the 8 per cent on a basic commodity such as electricity rates where the base has been broadened, because that is what this government's action will do on harmonization.

It is as simple as that; because of tax harmonization, because of an initiative that was dealt with by the Cabinet and the Federal Government, a federal/provincial arrangement that has been made, there will be an additional 8 per cent on everyone's electricity bill at the end of the day. That is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to the 1,500 who signed the petition in St. John's East.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, this is a provincial affair, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. It is not acceptable to the 74,000 people who signed the petition and presented it here today, and it is certainly not acceptable to any of the people in this Province.

With that I will sit down. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to support another petition on the food fishery. Of course, they are still rolling in; even as of this morning, I got another few hundred, from Upper Island Cove, Mount Pearl, Makinsons, Seal Cove, Pouch Cove.

I heard the minister this morning on Open Line, Mr. Speaker, and you could have sworn the minister took notes on me on Wednesday and then presented them on Open Line this morning.

Mr. Speaker, I will read this petition now. This is another petition, and here is their own prayer; I will read it for the sake of technicalities. I don't want to get caught with blue boxes, or not doing everything properly, so I will read the petition: `We, the undersigned residents of ' -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I was going to use the line that my colleague, the Member for Bonavista South used but I -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: They are in my own pocket, anyway.

Mr. Speaker, here is the prayer of the petition: `We, the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, do hereby petition the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to support our petition to open a food fishery for the people of this Province. Every ocean bordering province in Canada - they should have put down, too: and St. Pierre et Miquelon - `except Newfoundland and Labrador, has a food fishery. We, the undersigned, take strong exception to the treatment we are receiving from this government. We did not destroy the fishery and object to the fact that, as a people, our heritage is being taken away from us. We do not believe that a small hand line fishery would damage the recovering stocks.'

Now, Mr. Speaker, you hear this day after day, more and more because people are getting to a point now where they are saying they are going to go fishing - this Summer they are going to go fishing. They phone me day after day from all over this Province. Phone calls that I have gotten have come from Labrador, right on up and down the Northern Peninsula. This morning again I got more calls, and every day I get another example, another story from around the Province. This morning I got a call from Ming's Bight, where last night the caplin were rolling and the children were down on the beach and there were codfish rolling in on the beach with the caplin. There were codfish rolling on the beach. You could catch codfish, I say to the minister, to set another story report from Ming's Bight, one like he told this morning on open line. The caplin were rolling in Ming's Bight last night and codfish were rolling in on the beach with the caplin.

Mr. Speaker, I think the minister is starting to come around. I will say this about the minister, that I hope he continues to listen. It seems like he is listening a little bit now and he is starting to really search his Newfoundland heart, his Newfoundland background. He is not worrying about his profile or backing up the Premier who was ultimately responsible for turning down this food fishery. He is starting to search his Newfoundland soul now, Mr. Speaker, and he is starting to say: Yes, you're right you know, here is St. Pierre et Miquelon, a foreign country, 3 kilometres off our coast they have their water boundaries, they are out jigging the fish and we have to sit home on the shore. Now, Mr. Speaker, I know with all due respect to the Minister of Fisheries, that he is really saying -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I know, I realize that and I wouldn't blame him, Mr. Speaker.

So, Mr. Speaker, he is starting to search his soul now and he is starting to say: Yes, you know, that is right. His principle is going to override this standing on the soap box on government side and this Premier. I know it, he is going to come out and say: Yes, you are right. It makes logical, practical, common sense to allow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to go out and jig a bloody fish with a hand line, do it properly -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Bloody, yes fish are bloody once you cut them open, Mr. Speaker, there is nothing wrong with that is there? That is not unparliamentary. If he has ever split a fish he knows that fish are bloody once you split them open.

They can't catch a bloody fish, and meanwhile, not only can our friends in the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec and so on, catch them, that was bad enough, Mr. Speaker - but, I mean, a lot of people could handle that; but the minister knows that this is the thing that rubbed salt into the wound, this was the final straw, when we saw people in St. Pierre et Micquelon - and God bless them, I am glad they can catch some. But for the people in Newfoundland, that was the final straw. They said: We could handle, almost, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and so on.

I am also glad to hear the minister make a point, and I hope he is going to follow up on it, on the difference of bay stocks. Well, I have been saying for two years that I could not find scientific research for it, the bay stocks, the difference with them as compared to the offshore bio-masses. A very good point, I say to the minister, and it should be researched, because the truth is that the bay stocks are so different from the offshore. The fish that are in the bays spawn and reproduce and go on. They don't go chasing the bio-masses around the Grand Banks and come back to Conception Bay, White Bay or Fortune Bay. Their stocks are rebuilding in the bay. So let people have a hand line, go out and jig a few fish. Do the right, sensible, honourable thing and put a bit of a morale booster back in this Province.

Any Newfoundlander and Labradorian, Mr. Speaker - and I say this for the man who got me started on this, the eighty-year-old who fished all his life and now he looks down at his boat and can't row out a few feet offshore and jig a few fish. That is who I stand on this for, on principle. Mr. Speaker, I know there are fishermen, in my own district who don't support it. They support it for some different reasons and I respect their opinion but, Mr. Speaker, we are not doing it as a popularity contest -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: - we are doing it because it is right. It is the proper thing to do. It is the Newfoundland and Labrador thing to do, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today to support the petition presented by the Member for Baie Verte. I said before in the House and I will say again - I have said it publicly before outside the House - that I believe in a food fishery. The question that I have asked before, and I ask again now is: Why is there no food fishery in this Province?

The answer I gave to that question, of course, was it all had to do with public relations. The minister sitting in someone else's seat here said there is no food fishery because of fishery conservation in the Province. But we all know now that there are plenty of fish in the bays in this Province. I don't profess to be a professional fisherman who knows all about the fishery, but common sense tells me there are enough fish in the bays to allow a food fishery. When we know the number of seals out there that are eating the fish - and I believe the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture himself said there is 4 billion pounds a year being eaten by the seals - was it 4.7 billion? If you permitted a food fishery in this Province, there would be no comparison.

I think the petitions that are being presented in this House by the Member for Baie Verte are finally starting to pay off. I think the provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is starting to see the light. He is starting to understand that there should be a provincial food fishery this Summer. My concern with this Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, of course, is that he is so biased with respect to Liberal districts that if he opens the fishery in the Fall, it will be in Liberal districts only.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) Liberal districts.

MR. J. BYRNE: There, he said it. Let it be known that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture said in the House of Assembly that if he opens a food fishery this Fall, it will be in Liberal districts only. That is right out of the horse's mouth, I say to the public of this Province, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: One end of a horse. He is one end of a horse - I won't say which end.

Mr. Speaker, the petitions are finally starting to pay off. The minister is changing his mind. One of the big reasons I think that he is finally changing his mind is when he sees now that the people in St. Pierre et Miquelon can go out, and if they are three miles off the coast of Newfoundland they can jig a fish. As a matter of fact, I suppose, if the people in Newfoundland, on the Burin Peninsula, decided to go three miles off and anchor their boats, they themselves could jig a fish. Really, it is, I suppose, a question now of the moral rights or the moral wrongs of a food fishery in this Province.

We have seen the provinces in Atlantic Canada being permitted to fish. We have been saying all along that it is not right, that the people of this Province have been discriminated against in not being permitted to jig fish in this Province.

I want to get back to the point of why there is no food fishery in this Province. It goes back to the days when the present Premier was the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. It has to do with public relations and the Estai. The Premier, at that time the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, went out and decided to have the Coast Guard arrest the Estai and bring her in to St. John's. I remember there being thousands of people down on the waterfront, making a big hullabaloo of it. What happened? The Estai was let go in the dark of night, and we paid $140,000. There was one cheque written by the feds, I believe, for $100,000 and another cheque for $40,000 to send the fish back to Spain. What do we get? The Spanish are still out there raping the Banks of the codfish, and all public relations.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of the day wanted to go over to Europe and say: Listen, I want the Spanish, the foreign fleets, removed from the fishing grounds, and I am not even permitting people in my own Province to jig a fish. Therefore, we are looking at it from a conservation point of view, and it all has to do with public relations.

Again, to get back to the subject of the seals, there is no comparison to a food fishery with the amount of fish that is being taken from our waters by the seals. We now see seals going up salmon rivers and getting salmon. I remember people standing here and saying: Seals don't eat fish. There is no proof that seals eat fish. The scientists told us that. Can you believe it? making such statements. Now, we know that the seals - and not only how much they are eating, but they will go and take probably a bite out of a cod and the cod will sink to the bottom, and they will go and kill another fish, and it goes on and on. So it goes up, I suppose, exponentially, the amount of fish that has been taken. So there are no real figures with respect -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I suppose there are no real figures on the amount of fish the seals are eating.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, just a few quick comments about the petitions.

There are a couple of things I would like to do and I plan to do it some time in the near future. I am going to ask somebody, either the Clerk of the House or Hansard or whomever can provide me with the information on the number of times that the Opposition members have presented petitions in support of a food fishery. I am also going to ask the same people to get the information on how many times they have presented a petition in the House in support of a commercial fishery; then the first group of fishermen that I meet and I will be meeting lots more these summer months, each and every one of them, I am going to show them how responsible members on that side of the House really are, how dedicated they are in supporting the tens of thousands of people who are not now working in this Province, the thousands of people who are coming off TAGS.

The people who are coming off TAGS and have, in a lot of cases, to go to the Department of Social Services to find an income, so these people on the other side, day after day after day are presenting petitions in support of a food fishery, to go out there and jig cod with absolutely no concern for the people who derive a living from the ocean, not one time have they presented a petition in the House of Assembly in support of a commercial fishery.

MR. SHELLEY: On, a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte, on a point of order.

MR. EFFORD: Can't take the truth.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, that is the whole point. I am not letting the minister stand in this House and say that members who presented these petitions have no concern for the fish stocks. That is absolutely false, Mr. Speaker, it is not true and he cannot continue to say, and every time he continues to say, I will stand on a point of order and say you are not telling the truth. He can't do that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What I said, Mr. Speaker, was very clear. I will repeat it again. I will ask for the House, the Clerk or the Hansard people to provide me with information as to how many petitions have been presented by members Opposite in support of a commercial fishery. If that is twenty-five or thirty, I will congratulate them for it, if that is nought, I will condemn them for it. That is a fact, Mr. Speaker, so I am not accusing I am pointing out a fact.

MR. SHELLEY: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte, on a point of order.

MR. SHELLEY: A point of order.

If you want to know the number that was presented on the commercial fishery by me, you don't have to ask the clerk, it is zero.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

No point of order. The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. EFFORD: That goes to show how responsible members Opposite are, how much they care about the thousands of people in this Province not now earning any money, don't see any light in the future, no way to earn a living, don't know if there is enough fish stocks out there; all he is concerned about is how many of his friends getting out on a Saturday morning in his khaki pants, going out there jigging cod and laughing at everybody else. I am not going to comment on that any further, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Motion No,1.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House at five o'clock not adjourn.

Motion, that the House do not adjourn at five o'clock, carried.

MR. SPEAKER: Motion 1, the Budget Debate.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise this afternoon to continue debate on the Budget. I had the opportunity the other afternoon to speak on the motion of non-confidence and I would now like to make some comments on the Budget.

Mr. Speaker, over the last little while we have had lots of comments here in this House as it relates to the Newfoundland Dockyard, and I would like today to touch on some issues that deal with the Newfoundland Dockyard especially as it relates to the rights of the employees of the dockyard, and whether the dockyard stays opened or whether it closes, Mr. Speaker, one could only hope that it will stay open and that it will continue to provide employment for some 500 Newfoundlanders who work there.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, there is also the problem with Newfoundland Dockyard of employee rights and severance packages and pensions, that these people who worked there, some of them for some thirty-odd years, certainly have a right.

Over the last little while - I have constituents, of course, who work at the Newfoundland Dockyard and who have approached me concerning their pensions, their rights, what they have been offered. It seems rather strange or rather sad that these people have certainly not been made the same offer as was made by CN Marine to their workers before - or CNR, I should say - before the dockyard went under the control of CN Marine. Of course, one only has to look at the severance packages that are now being offered throughout Atlantic Canada to CNR workers, and indeed to Marine Atlantic dock workers.

A very interesting story comes from somebody I know at the dockyard who has worked some thirty-odd years there and who, some time ago, I guess, was offered a package. Now, a year later, the package seems to be less than it was a year-and-a-half ago. So I guess it seems there is a set of rules again for us, and a set of rules that deal with other people in Atlantic Canada.

The people in PEI who were involved with the fixed link, and who are now going to lose their jobs, have been offered a much better, a much stronger package than we have been offered here in this Province. Again, I think that is totally wrong. We might very well say that is really not our responsibility; that is the responsibility of the federal government; that is the responsibility of CN Marine, and some people could probably live with that. I cannot because of some of the horror stories that I have heard about lengths of time it has taken people at the dockyard to even receive their packages and so on. We have met with management of the dockyard, I have met with the labour people at the dockyard, and it seems to be very strange that again, for whatever reason, we do not seem to be given the same right as other people in Atlantic Canada seem to be getting.

I think that is totally wrong, and I have had the opportunity to talk to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, and was very glad to hear him say that we certainly should not be treated any differently than any of the other people in Atlantic Canada. I guess as this story unfolds, as we get closer to the end of June and the actual shutdown date of the CN dockyard in this Province, it is very interesting to see exactly what will transpire between now and June 30, which is supposedly - supposedly - their closure date.

I was very glad the other day to hear them finally say that they have given the dockyard permission to bid on work. We have already lost one contract when, indeed, we were the low bidder, a contract which we could have won, a contract which could have kept many people at the dockyard employed for some months. The first threat was to not allow us to bid on the next contract. Of course that has been withdrawn, and now the bid will go forward. So I would hope that we are successful in our bidding process with that, and in the end the dockyard in St. John's will win that contract and will keep people all over the Avalon - and it is not only the people who work there, but also the companies in and around the Avalon Peninsula who do work with the Newfoundland Dockyard, so we can only hope for the best there.

As well today we have presented some petitions, as usual, concerning Newfoundland Light and Power, and I touch on those again very briefly, I guess probably the largest petition to ever be presented in this House, some 74,000 names, followed by my colleague here, another one for 1,500; so it can only be hoped that somebody is listening, that somebody will get our message, and that somebody will do something about it. It will be a shame if the utility bills in this Province go up something in excess of 10 per cent; it will be a shame.

As well, yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I asked some questions of the Minister of Education as it relates to the Seal Cove Campus in my district, which I'm going to mention again today for the third time in this House, which seems to be being butchered and stripped apart, torn apart.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Luckily. They are probably going to mine, sir, what they did to yours on Bell Island. They will keep chopping till they eventually close it.

I've met again, Mr. Speaker, with the people at the college in Seal Cove. I've met with them once. They have made it abundantly clear to me -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Yes, you are right. That is why we are closed, I think. I have to agree with my hon. friend across the way. My college in my district, Mr. Speaker, was self-supporting. It was a campus that went seven days a week, offered courses in auto-body mechanics, mechanics, welding, sheet-metal and business administration. Those courses are now gone. The instructor who has instructed the business administration course at Seal Cove was lucky, I guess. The lady gets to keep her job. She gets to bump somebody at Cabot College here and she goes on to employment.

But I would hope, and I await very anxiously, the report from the minister. He did tell me yesterday in Question Period that he would write the people at Cabot College of my concerns and ask them exactly what their long-range plan is for the Seal Cove Campus. I can only hope it doesn't get the same fate as Bell Island and some others around this Province. For a campus that paid its own way, certainly paid its own share, and the economic impact that it had on the area will be drastic. I can only say that I hope that Cabot College decides to leave the Seal Cove Campus alone.

It seems rather strange though that we are now down to the instructors who are left there and one secretary, as I asked in my questioning yesterday, one secretary who is going to do all the work for all the instructors at the Seal Cove Campus. I find that rather difficult. I would love to know who is going to be in charge. I guess it will be somebody at Cabot College. My only hope is that the old saying will be true, out of sight, out of mind, and they will forget that the campus in Seal Cove is there, and the campus will continue to be able to function as a unit and will be there for many years to come. I trust that is what will happen to the campus in my district, and can only hope for the best for my area.

The other thing I would like to touch on, and I touched on it briefly the other day, was the involvement of sport, recreation and tourism to this Province. In 1994 there was a major world class event held. Of course, in 1995 there was one held. In 1996 there will be another. In 1997 there will be another one. The impact of that on the economy of the Province is tremendous. The minister seems to have an ear for these type of things and I can only hope that this will continue as we go forward.

That is about it for me. I've had some disappointments, I must say, in the Budget. I'm not happy with it at all. I certainly can't support it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I'm always happy in that regard, Beaton. I always have a smile on my face. I'm one of these fellows who doesn't have a lot of sleepless nights. I apologize for calling the member by name, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: That is okay. Well, it happens once in a while. A slip of the tongue is not always a slip of the mind.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Is it?

MR. TULK: I've been called far worse.

MR. FRENCH: So have I.

AN HON. MEMBER: Even here.

MR. FRENCH: Even here, has he? Very good.

I can't support the no tax increase but all the fee increases in this particular Budget. When the time comes I will vote according to my dictates.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your time in the House this afternoon. I'm sure we are here for a lot longer today and I certainly don't mind that. You come ready for that when you are elected to this place; and we will be here tonight as the debate continues and however long it takes, it will take.

I guess, before I sit down, Mr. Speaker, I would like to touch on a topic in the House that it seems, in the last day or so, has certainly created a fair bit of controversy, and that is the one on education. I would gladly give up my time on any other debate that I have the right to speak on, to see education reform brought into this House. I would gladly give up my time right now. I would sit down right now if the legislation on education were to be introduced into this House. I guess the smoke and mirrors thing in the Senate, I guess we have fifty Conservatives, fifty-one Liberals, they tell me, and three Independents - two of three who normally vote with the Liberals. So I am not so sure that everything in the House or everything in the Senate is Lowell Murray.

I understand that a certain lady who headed the Liberal Party in Winnipeg at one time is very concerned and may well have some scores that she would like to settle. I would like to know why but I am sure they are there. So the spin that is put on that over the last few days is not totally correct either. The legislation that is before the Senate, if the will is there, Mr. Speaker, can certainly be passed. If this member here - and this is not a position of my party but a position of me personally - had his way, there would be no Senate. I have a personal feeling about that. I think it is the biggest waste of money in Canadian history and would vote tonight, would vote today and would vote anytime day or night to have it done away with. I don't even look at an elected one, Mr. Speaker, that is not in my agenda either. It has been a place that we have been able to (inaudible) Conservatives and Liberals in and out of and it has cost us a fortune.

I remember some years ago being interviewed by a local television station as it relates to the Senate, and I had such very strong feelings and very strong comment on the Senate that it didn't get aired. I certainly didn't expect it to be aired because my feelings were very clear, Mr. Speaker, that I totally oppose it. I totally oppose the Senate, whether they are Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Independents or whatever they are, holding up anything that this Province or any other province in Canada would send forward to it. That is my position. I am a person who voted in the reform, who voted yes. I realize that people on that side of the House and this side of the House voted no. I happen to be a person who has very strong feelings about education reform in this Province and it will take a lot of talking on somebody's part to change my mind. It is time that it was changed, that's why I agreed with the rest of my colleagues that day for the emergency debate in this House. That is why I agreed for the proposals to go to Cabinet and that is why I agreed, because I have no choice, for them to go to the Senate in Ottawa. But, Mr. Speaker, I am totally opposed to that part of our government.

I guess there are people who have feelings about it and say, well, we should all have checks and balances. Well, in this House we make our decisions and we live and we die by the decisions as our own political futures are. We live and die by them in this hon. House, Mr. Speaker. I think that once you are elected to the House of Commons, then the members there should live and die by the votes they cast and the positions they take on various issues. As I said, Mr. Speaker, that is not a position of my party. I don't really know how some of my own members probably feel about it but I do know from people that I talk to in my district that I would probably have about a 95 per cent rating if I, tomorrow, had the power and authority to disband the Senate in Ottawa.

So, with that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your time. I thank you for listening and I will sit down and leave it over there to the Government House Leader who I am sure later on today will get up and have his say on the Budget. I don't believe he has spoken on the Budget yet so hopefully he has been elected for a lot more years than I have and sometime, I hope, before the Budget is passed he will get up and give us his words of wisdom and his words of advice as it relates to the Budget.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to rise for a few minutes just to make a few comments with respect to the Budget and take part in the Budget Debate.

The day before yesterday, I had an opportunity to speak on a few topics with respect to our position as a party in response to the motion of non-confidence which was brought by the Member for Cape St. Francis. At that time, I had an opportunity to touch on some concerns and issues in response to the Budget, particularly in the Department of Justice and in the Department of Education.

With respect to the Department of Justice, the area of concern to which I gave some attention was the reduction in the Province's police protection program. I would just like to be a little bit more specific and give you some figures on that reduction of our police protection program here in this Province. It has been reduced by 10.8 per cent, which represents some $3.6 million, and when you look at the overall reduction in the estimates with respect to the Justice Department we see that that particular area, the area of police protection, has singularly been the area to which this government has created the most significant loss.

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, there are some sixty-five positions lost and, of course, the level of service and closure of offices will result in public services being reduced and the overall feeling by the public in this Province, that police protection is just simply not there. Again, just for clarification, out of the sixty-five positions that are being reduced, thirty positions are eliminated from highway patrol, and I wish to reiterate that that is something which has to be taken very seriously by all citizens of our Province, and by all members of this House regardless of what side of the House we may sit. The fact that there is a reduction in police presence on our highways has to be taken very seriously, and as I indicated the other day, I fear what the consequences of this particular decision may be.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, before I leave the Department of Justice once again, there is a reduction of $1.2 million in funding to correctional facility operations, and it has seen staffing allocations cut by $1 million. Again, we have to look at what the overall effect of this reduction may be. It is difficult to predict what these correctional facilities are, in fact, going to face down the road, because these are institutions which have to deal with the reality of the day.

If, in fact, there is a significant increase in crime, whether it be adult crime or juvenile crime, and if, in fact, incarceration is the result of this increase in adult or juvenile crime, the extent to which those correctional facilities have to operate, and the extent to which these correctional facilities have to accommodate the need, is governed by what the situation is at that date. Therefore, I find it somewhat confusing to see that there has been a reduction in funding to correctional facility operations when we do not know what the need may very well be for 1996-'97.

Mr. Speaker, those two areas with respect to cutbacks in the Department of Justice raise a source of concern for me as a person particularly interested in this area, and I think I am correct in saying with respect to the issue of the reduction in services on our highways, this has to be a concern of all members of this House, regardless of party alliance.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I would like to return briefly to an area with respect to the

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: That is correct.

As a person who travels those highways, just to conclude that, I am sure anybody would have to agree that it is a source of concern.

I wish to return to the area which was brought up during Question Period today, with respect to the Newfoundland School for the Deaf. I indicated that the reduction for 1994-'95 for teacher salaries is $35,200 less than the average salary for one teacher, and that teacher salaries have remained the same for several years.

The question that I ask, and the question which I feel was not adequately responded to, was: If there appears to be in the estimates sufficient funds for up to thirty-three teachers at our School for the Deaf, why is it that only thirty positions have been allocated?

Also, historically, the budget for the Newfoundland School for the Deaf has been approximately three-quarters of 1 per cent of the spending for all of the expenditure in primary, elementary and secondary education. In fact, this year there has been a departure from tradition and from what the historical norm has been. This particular year, the reduction is less than .0072 per cent, or .0072 per cent of the expenditure relating to primary, elementary and secondary education, so in percentage terms it does not sound significant, but in overall terms there is a reduction in hundreds of thousands of dollars to that particular institution.

Again, the overall reduction to the Newfoundland School for the Deaf is 10 per cent of what it was last year. The overall reduction in education generally in this Province is closer to 6 per cent. The overall reduction with respect to expenditure in primary, elementary and secondary education is close to 3 per cent. Therefore, we see that particular institution, namely the Newfoundland School for the Deaf, being affected by approximately three times the amount in allocated reductions - three times - and one has to question the judgement, which is why I ask the minister today: Is there a change in philosophy? Is there a change in direction with respect to where this government sees the Newfoundland School for the Deaf going in the future, because clearly these reductions cannot continue.

The student population has remained the same. If, in fact, it could be argued that the number of students who attend the School for the Deaf is significantly lower for September coming as it is this year, that is a legitimate argument; however, the number of students who enroll at our School for the Deaf on a full-time basis is identical to the number of students who were enrolled for the academic year of 1995-1996. So, clearly, the Newfoundland School for the Deaf is an area of concern.

I would just like to indicate to members of this House the positions, and the number of positions eliminated. I asked the minister today to confirm whether or not there were sixteen positions which were cut in this year's budget. It is clear that there were sixteen, and I would like to refer to them very briefly. We have: food service workers, numbers of positions eliminated, two; utility worker, one, number of positions eliminated at the School for the Deaf, two; cooks, one; nurses, two; residence counsellors, three; supervisory counsellors, two; storekeepers, one; switchboard operators, one; and teachers, two, for a total of sixteen positions lost at our School for the Deaf located here in St. John's.

Other reductions include: $44,000 in transportation and communications; $18,000 in supplies; $43,000 in purchased services; $2,500 in furnishings and equipment; $15,000 in information technology, which essentially translates into computers, for a total reduction from last year in non-salary expenses of $122,500.

To add further to that, Mr. Speaker, next year there is an indication, according to information I have in my possession, that a program referred to as Telephone Pioneers will substantially reduce their financial support for the school library. Since the school moved to its new facilities in 1987, almost all purchases of library books have been funded by the Telephone Pioneers.

This is a significant loss to students in our Province who require special need and who require special attention. These children are hearing-impaired, they have to come and live away from their homes in many cases. These children live in remote areas throughout our Province. They have to live in St. John's away from their parents, away from their families. They require special concerns, they require special attention. A voluntary program such as Telephone Pioneers, their particular availability of funds is apparently reduced dramatically. I would submit that when a school library is affected in this way, this has to dramatically affect the job that the School for the Deaf has in meeting the needs of children who are hearing-impaired.

In addition, the withdrawal of support from the Telephone Pioneers could mean an additional shortfall of from anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 a year. So this particular institution is one which has been significantly impacted upon as a result of this year's Budget, and it is an institution which cries out for more assistance and attention. Therefore, I felt it was necessary to raise this issue and to at least make a few comments on it during debate here this afternoon.

I would like to return briefly to an issue which I spoke on the other day concerning the public examinations. It was an issue that I didn't really discuss because time didn't permit me. It had to do with the whole argument by the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association that at first, when requested by government to assist government in the marking of the public examinations, that it indicated that it would not cooperate simply because it was not invited to participate in discussions; in other words, this famous term that we keep hearing as part of this government's agenda, consultation with the people.

Government did not consult with the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association. Therefore, I would suggest that it is wrong for government to place blame on the professional association of teachers when, in fact, it has to admit that there was not previous consultation and discussion with those individuals who ordinarily, having been adequately and properly briefed, would have been pleased to sit down and work out an arrangement which would be held to be in the best interests of the young people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As I indicated in the past, and I am sure, as all members present are aware, the Student Education Alliance represented the wishes of students in a very professional and organized way and the impact of their presence on Confederation Hill two or three weeks ago was felt by people throughout this Province. Unfortunately, it was too late for them. Unfortunately, the decision that was made to abolish public examinations for this year had been made. It was clearly too late to make any changes to that decision for this particular year.

I only hope that government sees fit to revisit this issue, to abide by the recommendations of its own consultation paper on the senior high school program, and to make adjustments to its thinking and to reconsider the abolition of public examinations, in that this decision does not recognize the concept of standardization, does not, Mr. Speaker, recognize the importance of standards to young people in our school system.

Mr. Speaker, another area which I wish to refer to briefly, is the area of school busing. It has been presented, Mr. Speaker, and representations have been made by numerous speakers in this House. I know my colleagues, as members of the Opposition, have presented numerous petitions on the issue of school busing and how busing or the abolition of busing in certain areas will detrimentally affect families and young people.

As an example, in the area of Brophy Place, Kelly Street, Hunts Lane, Blackwood Place, this particular region of the city, there were approximately ninety families who sent their children to school on school buses, eighty-six children travel on the Pius X bus, sixteen travel on the Gonzaga bus, twenty-eight children ride on the MacDonald Drive bus, a Seventh-Day Adventist bus takes four children to and from Eugene Vaters Academy and Collegiate.

This means that a total of 140 children from this area depend upon busing for transportation to and from school each and every day. One hundred and forty children and, Mr. Speaker, this area is representative of the types of concerns and of the many families in this Province who have voiced their objections to this somewhat cruel decision by government to simply say, again without consultation, again without any deliberation, again, in a spontaneous and arbitrary fashion, to say to Newfoundland people: this decision is going to be made, we don't care how it impacts upon ordinary Newfoundlanders, the decision is made and you have to live with it.

Well clearly, Mr. Speaker, that thinking is unacceptable. That thinking, Mr. Speaker, is totally contradictory to what is in the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and when you have 140 children from just these three or four streets, who live in a certain part of this city, when you have 140 children from this small region, again representative of the types of concerns that are being expressed, one can only see why there is widespread opposition.

I heard the other night for example in, I believe it was in Happy Valley - Goose Bay area of Labrador, where parents, hundreds of parents came out to a public gathering, again with no official representation by the government ministry, who opposed quite effectively I thought, the decision to discontinue busing in their area. Of course, their added concern was the extreme weather conditions that exist throughout many of the months during the school year, a very legitimate concern, a very valid concern, and my question to the government is: Will government listen? Will the Ministry of Education take this into account and view this as a special consideration for the people of particular areas of Labrador where, not only is the decision fundamentally wrong to begin with, but where weather conditions and the whole question of lunch-time busing in the Happy Valley - Goose Bay area has to be seriously considered.

Will the government, for example, seriously consider the 140 children in the Brophy Place, Kelly Street, Hunts Lane, Blackwood Place area, who too, view themselves to be victims of special circumstances. Many of these families are of very limited means. They are low-income families, Mr. Speaker, they do not have the resources to put children on a metrobus. Many of these families do not have their own transportation which would allow them to obviously take their children from one school to another. It is a situation which requires, Mr. Speaker, a second look; it requires special attention and as of yet, I have not heard this government come close to making any decision which would of course, respect the views of these hundreds and hundreds of parents in this Province who have voiced concern on a regular basis, on a daily basis.

So, Mr. Speaker, the area of busing has to be reviewed by this government. It is a feature of this Budget which I cannot accept; it is one of the many features of this Budget which will allow me to not vote in support of this Budget. It is a provision in this Budget which clearly, is not in the interest of the young people and their parents throughout this Province.

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of education I had the opportunity a couple of nights ago to attend a meeting at Mary Queen of Peace School. It was a meeting which was sponsored primarily by the teaching staff of St. Agnes School. It had to do with the discontinuance of a kindergarten program which was scheduled to come on stream for September of 1996. This program is referred to as Literacy 2000 and it was a program which had received almost unanimous support by teaching professionals, by program consultants, by school administrators and by the classroom teachers themselves as to what really was the answer in curriculum and in instructional materials for children at a very young age.

As I indicated, the name of this program is Literacy 2000. It was piloted very briefly, and in fact there was a two-day workshop for primary school teachers in this region held during the past school term. It received unanimous approval by the teachers, by the administrators, by the program consultants. What I find alarming is the fact that this program is now being rejected by government, being discontinued by government, and the savings to government are very minimal. It was quite inexpensive. It was driven by teachers. Teachers themselves, and in fact PTAs, would have been a part of those individuals who would contribute to the program. But for a very minimal amount government, had it not decided to simply pull the carpet out and leave people high and dry, had it not been for that, primary schoolteachers would have had a program which they could have been proud of. The ultimate beneficiaries of that program would have been the young people of our Province.

At that particular meeting there were three tables which were set up in front to try and recognize what the kindergarten or primary school program is all about. One table had this particular program referred to as the Literacy 2000 program, with all of the materials, with the materials which form part of this program so that those in the audience could view it and assess it for themselves.

The second table included the kindergarten program which is in existence today, and this is a startling statistic. It has been in existence for the past seventeen years. The program which the four-, five- and six-year old children are using in our schools - whether it be pre-school or kindergarten level - has been in existence, has been a part of the primary school curriculum, for the past seventeen years.

It has been proven to be so ineffective teachers refuse to use it any more. In fact, teachers bring in their own materials. In the curriculum program which is presented by the Department of Education and which outlines what materials are used for each grade from kindergarten up to Grade XII, the reality is that under the kindergarten breakdown what is truly being provided by the Department of Education is absolutely nothing. Obviously they couldn't leave that blank, they had to put something down, so they put down this archaic program which has been in existence for the past seventeen years.

The third table, which was in front of the audience for all of the parents, teachers and administrators to see, had on it what the Department of Education provides the primary school teachers teaching in the kindergarten area. Do you know what was on that table? Absolutely nothing. The symbol was quite effective. It was easily seen exactly what government, what this government, provides in terms of teaching materials and assistance to primary school teachers. It is a sad reflection of the reality of what is existing in many areas within our Department of Education today.

I made a comment some while ago in this House that the education system in this Province, both secondary and post-secondary, is in a state of crisis, and I stand by that comment. The reductions in a program like I was just referring to, Literacy 2000, the withdrawal of busing, the sudden withdrawal and unnecessary withdrawal of public examinations, the discontinuation of first-year university in many of our communities, the closure of post-secondary institutions in communities which relied so strongly on the existence and the presence of these post-secondary institutions, all add up to what I view to be a crisis in education.

There are so many people out there, not only educators, not only professionals, but just ordinary parents and students, who just shake their heads when they examine what is being done to education. The sad consequence, too, is that our young people are continuing to leave this Province in droves, and I would suggest there is perhaps not one member on either side of this House who has not heard within the last seven days of a friend or an acquaintance, or even indeed a family member, whether it be immediate family or an extended family member, who has not decided to leave, or who, in fact, has left the Province. It is a sad reality of what is happening, and education, and the security one gets in knowing that we have an education system which is there to assist us is so fundamental and so necessary and so important in having young people feel that they can stay in this Province, and when that is gone people lose hope; people lose confidence in their ability to stay; people lose confidence in their ability to want to stay and to raise children of their own, and that has been the consequence and the effect of an education system which is in crisis.

As I say, I am sure it is a feeling that all members have, regardless of which side of the House we may sit, that we are in contact on a regular basis with people, sadly young people, who find it out of necessity to leave their homes, to leave their communities, to leave their families, and to leave what they would not ordinarily want to do, which is to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador and hopefully be a meaningful contributor to our society.

Mr. Speaker, I received a letter the other day from the community of Bonavista where there was an Adult Basic Education program, obviously a program which is designed for adults who, for whatever reason, did not complete their high school education. That program, too, has been cut; and when you see a program such as this, which was instituted from the beginning to provide hope, to provide a second chance to Newfoundlanders who, again for whatever reason, did not take advantage of that chance when they had the opportunity when they were younger, when they see that particular program simply being taken away from them, that, too, adds to the lack of confidence which people have in our communities and in our Province.

Mr. Speaker, I notice that my time is coming to an end. Again, if I have an opportunity to speak on any other bill, whether it be today or at some later date, there are a few other points that I would wish to make which I feel directly affect the education system in this Province and, again, as a result of that, directly affect the confidence that Newfoundlanders have in their ability to stay here, to make an honest living here, and to raise their families here. That, in conclusion, is what I feel education is all about, and that is why I stand by what I said a number of weeks ago in this House, that we have a situation which I would simply classify as a state of crisis in our education system.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: By agreement there will be no adjournment debate at 4:30 p.m., so there is a motion that the House not adjourn at 5:00 p.m. which will be in order.

If the hon. Government House Leader speaks now he closes debate.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Finance it gives me great pleasure to close the debate on this Budget. I wish the Minister of Finance were here. I would commend him . I say to the Minister of Environment and Labour, he is a bright young gentleman and there is no doubt in my mind that he could possibly fill the shoes of the Minister of Finance but I say to him, he would have to work extremely hard to do any better than the Minister of Finance has done this year in bringing forward this Budget and in the manner in which he has done it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: We should, I believe, Mr. Speaker, erect a statue in front of Confederation Building, first of all in honour of the Premier who brought this consultation process with him. It is a new word that the Opposition has now learned. They want consultation about everything. The Tory Party has finally woken up to have consultation about everything. They want to consult on everything that there is now. Even the Tory senator in Ottawa, Lowell Murray has now learned that he should consult Newfoundlanders on making changes to the Constitution. So the Premier has done this Province a wonderful turn in bringing this concept of consultation to government.

The Minister of Finance is the person who put this thing into practice in the beginning. So for that we should erect a second statue on the steps of Confederation Building that finally there are people in this Province who now have a say in how money is going to be spent to give general direction to government and how the finances of this Province should be spent and how they should be raised.

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Opposition. I want to, before I close the debate on this, to congratulate the Opposition. We all recognize in this Legislature that it is the job of the Opposition to oppose. They have to oppose the government. They also have to be ready - I will get to the other part later but one of their main functions, the real functions suggested by the name itself, Opposition, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, is that they have to oppose.

MR. EFFORD: You're overcome boy.

MR. TULK: We have heard over the past number of days speaker after speaker stand on their feet - I am overcome -

AN HON. MEMBER: You're congratulating them?

MR. TULK: That's alright. If I was the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture I would not walk away too long, it is not going to last very long.

Mr. Speaker, their job is to oppose but I have to say to you that they stood on their feet, they have been real martyrs to the cause, they have stood on their feet and attempted time after time to find something but I want to tell you something, Mr. Speaker, I got the biggest surprise of my life on Budget Day in this House. I have been in this House longer than some people care to remember but I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that it is the first time and I would say it is the first time in the history of this Province that I saw the Opposition on Budget Day pound their desks in support of the Minister of Finance, pound their desks. I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, not on one occasion, not on two occasions but on a number of occasions. Even the Leader of the Opposition pounded his desk for some of the measures brought in by the Minister of Finance. They have had a difficult time and they have performed well. They have had a difficult time to try to find something wrong.

The only thing, Mr. Speaker, where they have failed is that they have not - as the Premier has so often said - finally we are getting the yawns. I have something to tell them, they are going to yawn more than that. They are going to be sleepier than they are now.

But, Mr. Speaker, one place where they have failed is that they have failed to put forward an alternative. I picked up this little thing called `Budget Highlights' and I was going to look through it and point out all the wonderful things in it that show that this government has a conscience and has done a magnificent job, but in the interest of time, in the interest of getting on to some other things, I am going to conclude debate on the Budget and ask that the Speaker do the appropriate thing.

Thank you very much.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee of Ways and Means 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 Ways and Means on Supply has considered the matters to it referred and wishes to report progress and asks leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, now.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I have received a Message from His Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor.

All rise.

MR. SPEAKER: To the hon. the Minister of Finance, I the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Newfoundland transmit estimates of sums required for the public service of the Province for the year ending March 31, 1997 by way of further supply and in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution Act 1867, I recommend these estimates to the House of Assembly.

His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the message be referred to a Committee of the Whole on Supply.

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

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I move that the total contained in the estimates be carried, and that a resolution be adopted to give effect to the same, and that that resolution is in Bill 15, carried.

MR. H. HODDER: I am standing to debate the resolution.

MR. TULK: The resolution is carried and I believe I am right now to 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. TULK: The hon. gentleman is telling me he did not understand that? If the hon. gentleman did not understand it and he needs to debate the supply motion then by all means we would withdraw and move it again at a later time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We will continue the debate on supply.

MR. TULK: If the hon. gentleman wants, there is an hour and fifteen minutes left on supply, by all means. I will put the motion again at that point.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We on this side understood that there would be ample time for debate and that it would follow in the sequence that is here. We apologize to the Chair if there is some misunderstanding. We understand that there is one hour and fifty-five minutes left in the debating time of the time allocated of seventy-five hours. I wanted to assure the hon. Government House Leader that we do intend to use that amount of time to its fullest. If it is continued to be in agreement with the hon. House Leader we can rotate on a ten-minute time basis. I do understand that to be the agreement that is before the House.

Over the last number of weeks we have seen a great number of items come before this House, all of them related to the Budget that the government has presented. A few moments ago we listened to the hon. Government House Leader tell us what a wonderful Budget it was, and I'm sure that he would like to believe that. I'm sure that he on his side and his colleagues would like to believe that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador believe that. However, that isn't what we hear from our constituents.

I just wanted to, for a few moments, and for the introductory comments, to say that we on this side deplore some of the actions that have been taken in this Budget. The actions that have been taken, I mentioned them today in Question Period, finding that seniors in this Province have had their rates in nursing homes go up from $1,510 to $4,000. In some cases, even though the nursing homes operate at less than that, we find that the individual resident is being charged $4,000 regardless of the cost the nursing home has in its operations.

We have concerns about that. Concerns about the issues as they pertain to items like social services and the cutbacks that have occurred there. We were told when this Budget process started that there were no cutbacks in Health. However, that is not what we hear from the ordinary citizen. We were told there were no cutbacks in Social Services but that is not what has been communicated to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly those people who find some of their benefits have been cut because of the changes that we have noted in the debate.

We note the tremendous slashing that has occurred in Education. My colleague the critic for Education has talked about the cuts that have occurred in the primary-elementary school division, the senior high school program, the cuts in teachers to the School for the Deaf, and we have all seen the slashing that has occurred at the post-secondary level. Whether it has been the cutting back in the community colleges programs or whether it has been the cutbacks that have occurred at the offerings for first-year University courses in various communities across this Province. We have noted that Memorial University has had a cutting of $8 million in this calendar year. Later on in this very day the University's Board of Regents will be meeting to decide what is going to come down by way of tuition fees for next year. We have compared the Newfoundland tuition fees with those from across the country in various categories and we find that the real equality of opportunity for post-secondary education is under threat in the Province.

We have noted the cutbacks that have occurred to the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. We note that some elected councils in this Province today are saying: Why are we trying to do our best in our local community when the provincial government has deserted us? We have seen the results as evidenced in the town of Englee in the last couple of days, where the council has said: We are so frustrated that we can't raise the kind of monies that we are told to raise, therefore when they can't raise the money, the councils themselves have said we find no other recourse but to pass in our resignation, and this morning on the news, I heard the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs say that he has placed the town in the trusteeship of the Town Clerk, and that kind of thing that is happening in Englee is also occurring or about to occur we understand in other municipalities across this Province.

So, when we look at the happenings at the grass roots level, where real concerns about our Province, its ability to be able to cope with the nature of our economy, its ability to be able to absorb the cutbacks that have been forced upon us, by the nature of the choices that have been made by the government. We know that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board has certain responsibilities and I am sure that all of us, regardless of what side of the House we are on, we have to say to the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board that he was facing difficult choices. We, on this side of the House disagree with some of his choices and that is what the purpose of this debate has been all about.

We would probably have done things differently; I hope we would have done things differently so, Mr. Speaker, regardless of what department we come to, we find it difficult over here to be able to say to the people of this Province, and at the time when the Budget was presented, your statements made about no cutbacks in certain departments, health was mentioned, yet on the one hand, if we look at the increases that have been carried out in the ambulance service, to the people in this Province who are in private rooms or in the case of semi-private rooms in hospitals, we looked at all of these factors and we said: well, really, the Budget didn't you know, fulfil what was said when they said there would be no cuts in the health care costs in this particular Province, and for the people who must avail of the health care services. So, Mr. Speaker, with all of the increases that have occurred, we fail to see how the government can say that they haven't made any cuts and any changes.

We had lengthy debate on the cuts that have occurred in the Ministry of Government Services and Lands; we have the issues here of the cabin owners, the fact that $6.2 million has been cut out of that program, or in this case is not a cut because it is the way in which they have increased their revenues by gouging the cabin owners and those who own Crown lands for their residences. So, Mr. Speaker, we have difficulty accepting this Budget as in the total or best interest of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to have a few introductory comments; my colleagues will be taking as much time as they individually would want to spend on each particular item, and with that I will finish my introductory comments and I believe the Leader of the Opposition will have a few comments as well.

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I certainly would like to add some comments to our Opposition House Leader's pertaining to the Budget for this year and some of the steps that government has taken.

We didn't see the real truth on May 16; there were many, many implications in our Budget that did not come to pass as government indicated. One for example, indicated that there would be no new taxes although they did make reference under that to two specific areas and of course, they have been dealt with here in the appropriate bill, a particular one dealing with the tax on income tax and high income taxes and of course, it is appropriate to take income and tax high income people as opposed to people down on the lower end of the scale; that is certainly not something that we have a problem with.

One other area where taxes are not a financial tax, is a capital tax on banks from 3 to 4 per cent. While banks may have had some problem with that, it is very difficult to justify not putting in an increased tax. Banks are not really the poorest institutions out there today, I can assure you. Many of the banks, some of the major banks, had over $1 billion in profits this past year, and this year they are on target to surpass the profits of last year. If we are going to tax, certainly we have to tax people who have the ability to pay, and I don't think anybody has questioned the ability of banks to be able to pay a particular tax. That is certainly important. We have had some problems with taxes, and indirect taxes basically, that we see.

When we look at the Crown lands one, that is one that has caused a lot of concern. I read a letter from one of my constituents earlier this week with a particular concern. They are not so much opposed to what the government is doing, but the time frame that they are imposing upon them when they do not have the financial means to be able to do it, to be able to pay this price. Many of these cabin owners have worked hard. Some have cut their own wood, their lumber, had it sawn. They have built it with their own hands, and over a period of two and three years some of them completed it, and longer in some cases. They have built it, and then find they have to pay out, at a time when it is difficult for them to do so, with families and increasing costs, and other costs, education being increased, along with other budgetary measures, they are being hit with a heavy tax, $2,500 to $3,000 spread over a five-year period. They are some of the examples of the hardship people are experiencing, without consultation.

Now I do have a problem; people were promised consultation. We were almost bowled over in this last election with the word `consultation'. Most people have friends, or most people have cabins, and many of these are not in a position to be able to pay the price, and certainly not in the time frame government has indicated they are prepared to collect that. That is not an appropriate thing to do. I have to disagree with the government on that particular stance; I don't think it would have been too unfair to go out with some public hearings on that. It happened with the ATV regulations, and my colleague from Cape St. Francis will tell you, we were invited and went to a meeting - the Member for Cape St. Francis went also - a meeting set up by local people who became interested in putting forth concerns to the minister. Now, these people operate ATVs. Some are very responsible, environmentally conscious people.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That is right; the minister did indicate, I think, that she never sat on an ATV in her life.

These people said: Look, all we want to do, before you bring in regulations that are going to affect us -

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is right, and the Member for Topsail will acknowledge that - because the member worked for the minister and can acknowledge it - all we asked was to be conscious of the environment and to give people an opportunity in hearings to put their input in so we could have regulations brought in that are sensitive to the environment, that are going to ensure that the sensitive environment is not disturbed, but also to listen to what people have to say, because people using those machines - we cannot treat everybody like some who tear up the environment and have no regard for the environment. There are responsible people out there who pay $8,000 or $9,000 or more for some of these machines, who are responsible and who want to have regulations that are going to ensure -

I spoke with people at that meeting who do not agree with the actions of many people using the machines. They said they even go hunting with gun racks on the back of machines. They line up with two-way radios, walkie-talkies; they converge down on a marsh on partridges. They do not condone that type of action - they disagree - and they want to have regulations that are going to protect the rights of people who use, not abuse, ATVs in the environment. What happened?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I do know the mess there, and that is why I am so concerned about it, I say to the member. Here is what we asked, let's have some hearings, let's get input and the minister said no. Do you know what they did a year later? They had to come back and do it over in a year and look at bringing in changes because they would not listen to what the people said in the beginning. Now what is so wrong with consulting with people who are out there who understand that? I am sure people sitting on the government side of this House know what I am talking about, very much so. They either have friends or they themselves are the owners of AT vehicles who are very responsible. I know people who would not use their vehicle since because it would be breaking the law. I know people who walked to their cabins since. They don't use it because they want to be responsible in using it and the problem here - and it happened with cabins too, I say to members, it happened with cabin owners. They were not given any opportunity to be consulted. Look, what is wrong with having some hearings to hear what people have to say and then come out -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) realize that.

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I do realize but I say to the minister, last year the minister did not know that a shamrock has three leaves. The minister tried to make a joke in this House - I have Hansard here, the media have their little clippings where the government members laughed at a four leaf clover, they said it is a lucky four leaf shamrock. They filed information - and the scientific name, I say to the minister, is trifolium dubium, trifolium meaning three leaves.

I was delighted yesterday when I received a copy of a letter sent from an official in the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation to indicate to a constituent of mine - who was not a constituent at the time by the way, I think just moved recently in the district, who was a retired school board superintendent and other people who raised concerns, saying what are they doing putting a four leaf clover on an Irish loop drive? The minister said it is not a case of Orange and the Green - and he is quoted in Hansard. He said it is not a case - I said it is a case of having a respect for the culture, the heritage and the religious significance of the shamrock in the Irish history, I say to the minister and that's -

MR. MATTHEWS: You did a good job on CBC today, you sounded like you were having fun.

MR. SULLIVAN: That's right, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

MR. MATTHEWS: You were even nice to my colleague (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I was. I say to the Minister of Health, it was not the first mistake I made and it probably won't be the last. If I was nice to the minister I will probably make many others.

What is wrong with having an Irish Loop drive having a four-leaf clover for a shamrock? People came from Ireland. We got letters from the district. They said: It is a laughing matter. They said: Get that out of there before tourists start coming again this season. And you know what the increase in tourism is in our area?... it is in the thousands and thousands, and the minister will tell you. The archaeological dig - and I will say this to the Minister of Environment and Labour too, I want to mention this because I got a call today from CBC Television. I was concerned. I said to the minister here about a month ago in the lobby one night at 11:30. His department has given approval to allow the storage of wrecks on the side of the highway between Cape Broyle and Calvert. There are hundreds of them on the side of the highway. That meets environmental regulations.

Actually the CBC called me today, and a general comment, and I indicated, and this is factual, I said: Why can government departments allow hundred of wrecks to be piled on the side of a main highway just a few miles from an archaeological dig where there are thousands of tourists driving by on that highway? That isn't appropriate. I said: If the regulations allow that it is time to change the regulations. It shouldn't happen.

There is a business that has - and I commend the owners on the type of business - they are taking wrecks, they are draining -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Car wrecks. No, I'm not talking about human wrecks, I say to the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, wreck, car wrecks. Must say they are gathering -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, there is a fine lot of it in me, and I'm not going to be ashamed of it, I say to the minister, at all. Nobody should be ashamed of their heritage, I say to the minister. There are many car wrecks on the side of the highway. The business that they are doing is gathering these up, and I agree with it. They are going to employ people; I agree with it. But I don't agree with the locations they are permitted on the side of a highway where tourists going up in my district see hundreds of car wrecks in full public view.

I say to the minister something should be done about it. It isn't proper, and it is wrong. How are we expected to show an area with a good aesthetic value, and it is a beautiful surrounding area where it is, and to look at dozens of car wrecks in an area?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, the minister is aware of it. I approached him a month ago before any car went there. They are going there every day, they are in the hundreds there now, I think. It isn't right. The local people are upset. They are circulating petitions that I am going to present. In fact, I had it as an issue to raise in the House in question period. I will do it right now at this point in time because I think it is a concern.

We have to be concerned about tourism in our area. Nobody wants to see in the environment hundreds of wrecks. It is a good business. It should have been out of public view, allowed to extend the road in another hundred feet so we wouldn't see it from the highway. It isn't correct and I can't see - and I would like the minister maybe to comment when I'm finished. I was told that it meets all environmental regulations, and if it does, I would just say to the Minister of Environment and Labour -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Pardon? Yes. I understand, I say to the Minister of Environment and Labour, it meets environmental regulations. The owner - I spoke with her - is very reasonable, understands it. She followed regulations, got it approved. I said: There is something wrong. I agree with your business but it shouldn't be there. If the regulations permit that on the side of a highway, there is something wrong with the regulations.

I think it should be moved, and I don't think the owner should be responsible. When they make their requirements there - before it gets too far. And there are thousands - because it is growing every day. There are thousands of people who are going to drive by. I am receiving calls, there are petitions circulating, the people are up in arms. And, in order to shield it with a wall, if you check, a fifty-foot high wall would be needed to block it. Because when you come over a hill you can see it all down the side of a highway as you drive for about a quarter of a mile.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is it located?

MR. SULLIVAN: It is located between Cape Broyle and Calvert. They were located within the community of Cape Broyle and they had to leave it because of the council regulation. They located in the small parcel of land between the local service district of Calvert and Cape Broyle. It moved into no-man's land where the local service district couldn't get control and where the Town of Cape Broyle couldn't exercise control. The department had control and they approved it, but they couldn't get it approved in the other areas, and that is wrong.

The minister said he will check it. I compliment the minister. He is, I must say, a very reasonable minister, who is very concerned and doing a good job in his department. I will compliment the minister on that. He is one of the few ministers, I can tell you, from whom we get an honest, straightforward answer, a genuine answer, I can assure you that. I compliment him. I haven't heard any of our guys over here saying anything bad about a minister who is genuine and working hard and doing the job.

Back to the other minister. We have heard many things about the other minister over there. He got shut out yesterday, I heard in the House. Was it nine to nothing? Shut out by the Member for St. John's South, I think. I'm sure the minister is getting taught a few lessons there. I want to say to the minister, we do have three-leaf shamrocks there and I am delighted. I should give him a copy of my release. I will do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Good. I have a copy of what the minister tabled in the House last year, I've kept a copy, too. I was just hoping - and I'm sure the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation - and I will suggest a cheaper way to do it so it doesn't cost too much money to replace it, which I did: Get some decals and peel them off, exactly the same size, and put them on over the four leaf clover and that could be done very cheaply. We are looking at only fifty, sixty or seventy signs and so on.

MR. WISEMAN: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I say to the Member for Topsail, when I sit down if you have anything to say, stand up and be duly recognized like we are here, have your say, and I can assure you, I won't interrupt you. I will listen carefully to what you have to say. I will do that, I can assure you. I will, within the limits of this House, talk about the shamrock if I think it is necessary. I won't be concerned and worried about talking about my ancestry, the history, the culture and the significance it means here. I won't be silenced into addressing those concerns, legitimate concerns of people in my district - down St. Mary's Bay and Ferryland district expressed a lot of concerns. I will say to the Member for Placentia & St. Mary's also, it is in his district, too, and I am sure the concern - I am not sure if he has heard the concerns because it was last October, but they are very legitimate concerns down through a part of his district and St. Shotts up to the Mount Carmel area, about the shamrock. He made -

MR. EFFORD: What's the matter with a four-leaf shamrock?

MR. SULLIVAN: It is a four-leaf clover.

MR. EFFORD: What's the matter with it?

MR. SULLIVAN: What's the matter with a four-leaf clover? Nothing, but it shouldn't be on the Irish Loop when a shamrock should be there.

MR. EFFORD: Why?

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Chairman, even, agrees with me, and the members of the House.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: But the people in Tourism are worried. The people in Tourism are concerned, I say to the minister, and the department that the minister vacated -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I haven't seen the last Gallop Poll, but I can tell the minister, I saw the last call for the research poll and you are down 22 per cent over the one before, I say to the member. Basically overall, I must say it is important to the people in the area. It is so important that the tourism department has written a letter and indicated that they are working with the Works, Services and Transportation Department now to replace them with the shamrock, something they would not do when that minister was there because he wouldn't give in that he was wrong. Now that the minister is gone we have a minister who acts objectively. She looks at things in an objective manner, I must say, something the previous minister did not do. I am sure that the current minister will see fit and do what tourism is recommending. I understand they are working together on this, and I say to the minister, one of your directors in the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation has written a letter to a constituent, copied to the Department of Works, Services and Transportation; they are now going to replace the four-leaf clover that should be the shamrock, and that is a positive thing. The minister would not permit it last year when he was minister, he would not entertain it, and now that the minister is not there, I am glad to see that some people have seen the wisdom, the appropriate thing to do. Sometimes it takes some courage to stand up and do the appropriate thing, and I agree that the minister has done it.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, and I am enjoying every minute of it, I say to the Government House Leader, every single minute, because I have been waiting since October to see this happen, and I looked through my correspondence yesterday and there it was. I couldn't resist doing a press release, I say to the minister.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I did so. I will agree with the minister.

Once again, the minister is right. I certainly agree with what the minister said, and I think Peter Miller enjoyed it, too. I am sure Peter Miller enjoyed it in the interview, too, and I am sure the minister enjoyed it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) and it is best thing I have heard (inaudible) in a long while.

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, good. I am glad the minister realizes it is better I am getting, not worse. I wish I could share those same feelings with the minister.

I know, we have several members here very eager to address other important concerns like I have just addressed. I am sure my colleague, the Member for Kilbride, wants to have a few enlightening comments here for the ministers and the members of the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!


 

June 13, 1996             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLIII  No. 28A


[Continuation of Sitting]

AN HON. MEMBER: Are there shamrocks in your district?

MR. E. BYRNE: There are shamrocks everywhere in my district.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Starting in my back yard, I say to the minister.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

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

I want to make a few remarks related actually, to the Government House Leader and some of the comments that he made in closing off one part of the Budget Debate. He gave sort of a back slap or a back of the hand sort of thing, a congratulatory ovation, really, about what the Opposition is supposed to do. He said: In their nature or in their name, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is supposed to oppose government. That, is not necessarily true, Mr. Chairman.

The Opposition's role, I guess, in any Parliament, in the parliamentary democracy that we live with, that we practise, that dictates how we govern ourselves, is that we are supposed to hold government accountable; that is our first role, and in holding government accountable we should be unending in our criticism; we should be unending in our questioning and we should be unending in terms of presenting or even agreeing with government from time to time.

Now, this Opposition has taken a position that when it sees that government is moving in a direction it believes is right, we applaud it, and the Government House Leader referred to that during Budget Day. He said that: we, on several occasions pounded our desks loudly for a number of initiatives in the Budget. That is not entirely true. I recall some of us did tap our desks occasionally for some of the initiatives that we thought would have been gone and we congratulate government for that, but there are many that we do not.

The Government House Leader, and the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture as well, have on many occasions referred to this bunch over here as a bunch of rank amateurs. Isn't that right? A bunch of rank amateurs, Mr. Chairman, who do not know how to question, who do not know what questions to come up with. But I have to say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, while that may be true, I do, as a rank amateur in this House, take some comfort in the fact that Noah's Ark was built by amateurs and the Titanic was built by professionals.

So, Mr. Chairman, it gives us another chance to talk about the Budget, the significant sum of money that any budget really deals with, and the variety of programs and services that government is offering to the people in this Province as a whole, I suppose what government really wants to continue to offer or we, as legislators, want to continue to offer. But I have to refer to the Minister of Health, because he told me he was going to get up and provide more enlightenment to me on the University in dealing with the med school. Yesterday afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition asked several questions, in his absence, which was too bad because he is a member who is known to be very eloquent on his feet, makes up words, sentences, paragraphs as he goes along; he is the only member in the House outside of the Minister of Education, who, after he speaks, sits down, and I will ask him what he said and he says to me: I am not sure myself.

MR. SULLIVAN: That's called stunned.

MR. E. BYRNE: That's called stunned, that's right.

Mr. Chairman, today, for example, the Minister of Education, while the Minister of Health was up, looked at me and said: What a terrific member, isn't he great on his feet? I said: He is almost as good as the Minister of Education, I said the reality is, he is probably even better now because at least, he is not making decisions one day and changing them the next. The credibility of the Minister of Education is very much in question for the first time, I say to all members, since that member was elected to the House. But back to the med school.

The minister said, in questions back and forth one day when I asked him questions that the med school, the increases in tuition were only comparable to the rest of the country. Isn't that right minister, I believe that is what you said? He said that they are only comparable. Now, that is simply not correct. The tuition increases at Memorial are neither comparable to the rest of the country, they are neither reasonable -

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Not after today.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, you don't know that.

MR. E. BYRNE: Oh yes, the minister does know that, and I will get to that now in a second. He knows that, Mr. Chairman, and I will tell you why he knows it. During the budgetary process, the Department of Health, the Department of Treasury Board, and the Faculty of Medicine, including the Dean of Medicine, Dr. Ian Bowmer, and the med students were participating in a process by which they thought there was going to be a 10 per cent cut across the board to the med school funding, and they all participated in a process whereby tuition would go up.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I know the minister has it. I know as much about this as the minister does, even more. It would not be stretching it too far, Minister, to say that I know more about this issue than you, and I am about to demonstrate it, too.

Anyway, that group participated in a process to come up with what the reduction would be, what they felt it would be, 10 per cent across the board, and in that they recommended a fee increase from where it is now, of $2,500, an increase of up to $6,250. Now, that went to Treasury Board and it went to the Department of Health, but - and here is where the but comes from: the minister said he is not sure what the Board of Regents is going to do tonight. At the moment, they are the lowest in the country. He is right, at the moment, but after tonight they will not be. He said, I am not sure but we will see what the Board of Regents says. The Minister of Health knows full well what the Board of Regents is going to do, because under his direction the ADM of finance for the Department of Health, Mr. Chris Hart, when the proposal came back from the meds from the Faculty of Medicine, back to the Department of Health and back to Treasury Board and all the groups who were participating, a letter was sent from the Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance and the Department of Health to the Dean of Medicine - there is no doubt that the minister knows what I am talking about and said it is simply not enough and that tuition level is not only not acceptable but it is not in line with what the cut to med school is going to be and you are going to have to consider other alternatives.

Now, the only other alternative that officials in the Department of Health, under the minister's direction knew, was that they had to up the tuition fees even further, from $6,250 - up from $2,500 - up to $8,000. The minister really put the gun to the Faculty of Medicine's head and said here is what it has to be, so he knows full well. He cannot sit in his seat and tell me he does not knows because he knows full well that after the Board of Regents meeting today, med school fees will go from $2,500 a year up to $8,000. He knows it.

MR. MATTHEWS: Do you have a veto? Do you have a proxy (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, to add insult to injury, the minister is now asking me if I have a proxy. He knows. If he can stand tomorrow in this House and say that I am wrong then I will admit it, I will eat my hat and walk on, but he knows I am not wrong. On top of that, Mr. Chairman, when the question was first raised he said all we are doing is making it comparable. It is only bringing it in line with the rest of the country. Now, this is how this Minister of Health in this Province brings the Faculty of Medicine in line with the rest of the country.

He takes a tuition fee of $2,500 a year, which is the lowest in the country, jacks it up to $8,000 a year, which is the highest in the country. The next highest is Dalhousie University, which is a full 50 per cent lower than what is being proposed here and he calls it comparable. Now, that is his description of what comparable is, and that is his description of what bringing in line with the rest of the country is all about.

We can only hope, Mr. Chairman, that this minister does not use the same logic when he talks about ambulance fees. He has already used that same logic when he talks about ambulance fees, a bad example, but when he uses that same logic as further initiatives in long-term health care, that he has been into, which is another subject for another day. I can only hope that he does not use that same logic.

Mr. Chairman, all of us -

MR. MATTHEWS: You spend too much time (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I spend too much time reading memos from your department, Minister; that is probably the real - it just happens. I don't know what happens. Friday mornings, Tuesday mornings, Wednesday mornings, I will come in and right under the desk, right under my door, is a little brown envelope.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes?

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, information, anonymous, all the time; honestly, I don't know where it comes from. I have no idea where it comes from, but it has been -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Exactly, and I suspect that after next year is over, the Cabinet itself, and what is happening inside Cabinet, could be compared to a wicker basket. It won't be able to hold water for any more than five seconds.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, he knows that. He has more concealed over in that department - I have not really gotten at the good stuff yet, but it is coming, I say to the minister.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. E. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Chairman? We are going to talk for a certain amount of time anyway, I say to members opposite.

CHAIR: Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. E. BYRNE: They have to have it, by the simple fact that they are a west-ender.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to talk about another situation with respect to the Department of Social Services, and this is not something I have talked to the minister about, but if I had a moment just to get her attention: There was a lady in my district who is eight-eight years old. She had three parts of her lung removed about a year-and-a-half ago, and for six-and-a-half or seven months of the year she is confined to her house because she needs oxygen; she has to have it to live. She has been confined to her house basically during the winter months because if she gets a flu, where she has only a very small part of - she has only about one-fifteenth or one-sixteenth lung capacity, and the Department of Social Services, I think, will not buy the oxygen for her; it does not qualify as a drug, I believe, but it is an absolute -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: But she has been cut off; they will not subsidize her. This is her lifeline.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: It is a serious thing. I wrote to the minister yesterday on it, actually. She does not have the correspondence yet, but I am sure I will get an answer in due course from it. The reality is that this is an eighty-eight year old woman who needs this to survive. They have just cut it off. She is on a fixed budget of $860 a month; that is what she has to live. She lives in her own home. During the summer months basically, May, June, July, August and September, she gets out around a bit to some of the garden parties, bingo occasionally, because she can because the weather is better, but she has not had a flu in twelve years. It is remarkable. She has not had a chest flu in twelve years, and the fact is that if she did it would kill her - simply - she would die as a result of it.

About two weeks ago she received notice that the subsidy for her oxygen, which costs $450 a month, basically about 45 per cent of her total monthly budget, was eliminated. I spoke with the individual last night; Mrs. Elizabeth Morey is her name. It is a situation that is, I think, desperate, and I think really, really is extraordinary, it is exceptional, and I believe that any general policy that government has with the elimination of oxygen where it is necessary, or the subsidy for it, in this case does not apply. That is a case that I have made in correspondence to the minister -I will make it to the Minister of Health as well at some time, maybe over the next day or so. I have given her my commitment to look into it, and to do whatever is in my power to ensure that is reinstated for her. It is an absolute necessity, I say to the Minister of Health. I do not know if he can comment on it, in terms of subsidy for oxygen for people who require it to live. This lady in my district came to me yesterday. She has about one-twelfth, or one-sixteenth, of a lung; that is all she has.

MR. MATTHEWS: Is that (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, I just became aware of it late last evening. I went in to see the individual.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) tomorrow morning. I will do what I can for her.

MR. E. BYRNE: Alright, because the cost of the oxygen basically represents about 45 per cent of her total monthly income. And, as I said to the minister, she has had this problem for twelve years, she has not had a flu in twelve years, and if she did, it would be deadly.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who cut her off?

MR. E. BYRNE: The documentation - Social Services is involved, and the Department of Health.

The point I want to make to the minister is that I know there are general policies made all the time, and the need for direction and policy is paramount in the type of system we live in. But I do submit to the ministers while they are here and I have their attention that this is an exceptional circumstance that deserves to be treated differently.

MR. MATTHEWS: Like I said the other day, the Minister of Social Services and the Minister of Health think as much alike (inaudible) as well.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: (Inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, as I said, the role of Opposition is to oppose, but when government or ministers are correct, our role is also to say that yes, they have done the right thing. I think the Minister of Social Services has done the right thing in this case as well. We applaud her for that initiative.

I am operating by leave, but I do appreciate the Minister of Health saying he will take an interest and look into this - it is a very serious matter - on behalf of an elderly person in the community.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: He will have the opportunity to demonstrate it clearly on this case when we talk. With that I will sit down.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Actually, I have a situation something like Ed's, and on a serious note I will talk about it before the minister of turbot gets back and condemns me for being serious. It has to do with Social Services. The chap I am talking about, I have been dealing with now over a period of two or three weeks. Back in February, Social Services gave him the okay to have his teeth removed as he had pyorrhoea, a disease of the gums. Now, for the past month he has been fighting to have false teeth and he cannot get any go-ahead from Social Services. The Department of Social Services will not give him the go-ahead to get false teeth.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: Here is the turbot himself. Baby turbot.

AN HON. MEMBER: The minister of false teeth.

MR. OSBORNE: The minister of false teeth. Anyhow, the chap's name -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) an undertaker (inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: I got a box made up just for you. It puts me in mind of a giant-sized rat trap.

I will make mention for the Minister of Social Services that I can give her that name later this evening or tomorrow and hopefully she can look into the situation for this chap.

Another topic I would like to talk about is the Newfoundland Dockyard. We heard fantastic news here a couple of days ago that the Federal Government was going to allow the Newfoundland Dockyard to bid on the Iroquois. That was applauded by everybody. However, yesterday I had talks with some of the people at the Newfoundland Dockyard and they tell me that while they are allowed to bid on the Iroquois they have a job down there now. It is a tug, it got a cable caught up in its rear rudder, so it needs some work done on the drive shaft. And the government basically told them: If you can't complete the work before the end of this month, put it back in the water, we don't care who does the work.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: I know what is in the rear. That was a slip of the tongue but I know what should be in the rear, and that is no slip of the tongue.

While we all applauded the fact that the Newfoundland Dockyard was allowed to bid on the Iroquois, I find it completely appalling that the government will not allow it to do a job that it doesn't even have to bid on. The tug is down there, it had it up on the synchrolift, and it was told to put it down and put it in the water. Let another tug haul it out to Marystown. It is crazy. Again, lip service is what the Newfoundland Dockyard has been getting, and that is terrible, when we should be doing everything we can as a Provincial Government to ensure that the Newfoundland Dockyard stays alive. A 100-year old industry and we are just letting it slip by the wayside.

On a more positive note, yesterday's announcement on the Marystown Shipyard: The government are putting $5 million into the Shipyard and giving the $45 million guarantee.

MR. TULK: Did you get a (inaudible) today?

MR. OSBORNE: Yes.

MR. TULK: You will get another one tomorrow?

MR. OSBORNE: Will I?

MR. TULK: Yes.

MR. OSBORNE: Good.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) enjoy that much.

MR. OSBORNE: I enjoy them all. I can make them all positive.

The Marystown Shipyard, as I said, that is -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: Pardon?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: That is a fact. I don't deny that.

As I said, it was great news yesterday on the Marystown Shipyard. It is going to be allowed to bid. I guess the only drawback there is that most of the workers of the Marystown Shipyard are going to run out of employment and a great number of them will probably leave the Province before the work becomes available on the Quest, which is not due to come in for almost another year. So a lot of the tradesmen out there are going to be gone, moved to mainland or what have you, as I heard in an interview on the radio this morning. They are quite concerned that they have no work in the meantime. There is no work on the books right now. But I guess the bright spot is that next year we will have the work on the Quest, and hopefully, the Dockyard will be able to survive between now and then to actually take on this job.

Talking about people and tradesmen moving away, yes, we did have the Metrobus issue brought up today and that is -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible). I haven't seen anybody read as much as you read. Do you read everything?

MR. OSBORNE: Of course. I have to read everything to keep on top of things. There is so much of a mess going on, you are providing us with lots of reading material.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are (inaudible) days late on the Metrobus!

MR. OSBORNE: I wasn't as late as you guys.

MR. WISEMAN: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: It has nothing to do with you? The Departments of Industry, Trade and Technology and Municipal and Provincial Affairs -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: That is a fact, they are the ones who give the okay for the work to go away; and it has nothing to do with the Provincial Government? I say to the Minister of Topsail that we probably shouldn't speak if we know not what we are talking about.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: The Member for Topsail. A Freudian slip, probably. I doubt it, but it probably was.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). You are doing a good job. (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you. I didn't even insult you yet and you are leaving already.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: Yes, the Metrobus job is going to St. Catherine's unless we can work it back and I don't know what -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: Yes. Is there some -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible), what would you say about that?

MR. OSBORNE: Now, correct me if I am wrong, I say to the Government House Leader, but does the provincial procurement policy not give a 10 per cent leniency to local companies?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) only 7.5 per cent now.

MR. OSBORNE: So why did he not get the job?

MR. TULK: Because it was only 7.5 per cent (inaudible); 7.5 is 2. 5 per cent short of 10.

MR. OSBORNE: He was within 10 per cent.

MR. TULK: He was not within the 10 per cent.

MR. OSBORNE: Hang on. You are telling me that 7.5 per cent is not within 10 per cent.

MR. TULK: Read the article, read the article, my son.

MR. OSBORNE: My math, when I went to high school must have been a heck of a whole lot different from yours.

MR. TULK: I will send it over to you, look.

MR. OSBORNE: He is not even on the new math. Seven-and-a-half per cent is not within 10 per cent?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) read it.

MR. OSBORNE: Well, we will see, yes, we will see.

I will sit down and watch the news tonight and I will wonder if it is within 10 per cent.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: Make no wonder, you know, the Budget is the way it is; make no wonder.

MR. TULK: They are retarded.

MR. OSBORNE: Make no wonder the Budget is the way it is. The mathematicians -

MR. TULK: He said: I didn't do it properly; I only had 7.3 per cent deduction, I didn't know the difference.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is it?

MR. TULK: That is Mr. Stamp saying that. He said, his failure to understand the rules cost him the contract.

MR. OSBORNE: I will not even tell you what that means, I will let you find out in due course.

MR. TULK: Did you hear me? Mr. Stamp said, his failure to understand the rules cost him the contract: I am allowed 10 per cent but where I didn't do it properly, I only had 7.3 per cent deduction. (Inaudible) read it.

MR. OSBORNE: Perhaps a good set of bi-focals or something, and you had me worried about the media tomorrow. Well, I am glad you brought that up.

The other issue that I have brought up many, many times, and I will bring it up again, is the school-busing issue. The school busing being cut - and unfortunately, some of the ministers are unable to hear the comments although they may have their speakers on. But the school busing is being cut in many areas of the City of St. John's, and the area that I am most particularly concerned about is the area within my district, Shea Heights.

The school busing is being cut in Shea Heights leaving twenty-five to thirty students up there stranded without busing to get to the school that they attend, St. Mary's, which is quite a distance away, it is definitely not within walking distance for five, six and seven-year-old children, and the Metrobus service is not substantial enough within the community to provide them with adequate service. Also, the students of St. John Bosco are being affected by school busing. It is probably not as pressing an issue as the students of St. Mary's, because St. John Bosco is within walking distance of most of the areas of Shea Heights for sure, but the school-busing issue reaches far beyond my district.

There are people up in the Brophy Place area and down in the Quidi Vidi area and so on, who are affected by school busing, and the fact that the busing is being discontinued is just another sign of the Liberal Administration cutting back sometimes on people who just cannot afford to bear the brunt of the cuts. You know, the cutbacks to social services is another example, the sixty-one-dollar cut in social services, is a cut that - I mean, the people in receipt of social assistance cannot afford to lose $61. We, as members of the House of Assembly, are fortunate that we have a substantial pay cheque coming in. Well, the people who are collecting social assistance are not that lucky; they do not have the substantial pay cheque that we get, and because of that, because we do not realize, or many of us probably have not experienced what the recipients of social assistance have to experience on a day-to-day basis, we do not realize how much this $61 cut affects the recipients of social assistance.

When you compound the $61 cut in social assistance with the other cuts that have been brought through with the Budget and the other areas where the Budget is going to cause hardships on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, $61 is a lot of money to these people. When you look at certain appliances now that are not considered necessities - you know, you can get a stove now as a necessity but you cannot get a fridge. With the summer months coming up and some of the recipients of social assistance having small children and infants, I would certainly consider a fridge to be a necessity. While many people in this House may brush this off as not being a very serious issue, it is. It is a very, very serious issue.

We were told we applauded the Budget but this is just not the case. Members on this side of the House have not applauded the Budget in such a manner as was brought forth today, or that was referred to today. This is not an area we can applaud, nor can most of the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the time in the House, and the members who did listen, for listening.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I rise to make a few comments. I am glad to see we have a new Page in the House, Mr. Chairman - two new Pages in the House.

To start with my couple of comments for this evening, just before we break for supper I want to make a positive comment. It may sound strange, but I did it yesterday publicly and I will do it again today. Mr. Chairman, I had a very good positive day yesterday. I travelled to my district with the Minister of Mines and Energy and the Deputy Minister of Mines and made the official announcement of a gold mine in that area.

AN HON. MEMBER: You went by helicopter?

MR. SHELLEY: No, I did not go by helicopter I say to the member. We went the regular way I go to my district. We did go out together because it was my district and I have been paying very close attention to what has been happening in my area with mining over the last little while. We did have a very positive day and there were a lot of compliments passed to the minister's department from the people in the industry at the press conference, talking about the co-operation among small companies and government, which needs to be, Mr. Chairman.

I also complimented the minister and his department publicly at the conference, because we are going to need that type of co-operation, especially with the smaller companies now and also as we get into the mega projects such as Voisey's Bay and so on. It was a very good positive experience for somewhere like rural Newfoundland. Although it is a small mine which will employ about 100 people for the next four years, it lends to my argument or my philosophy this past while in saying that these small projects all around this Province are the best answer, rather than the major projects we keep referring to as being the saviours of the Province, the Hibernias and the Voisey's Bays and so on.

I still believe that these smaller projects, like the mine that opened up in Baie Verte yesterday, Nugget Pond, by a company from Richmond, Quebec, are positive signs for the Province. Especially in the district yesterday, although it was a small mine that opened up, the feeling throughout the district as we spoke to people was very positive, and it just goes to show that small attempts such as this can bring a lot of moral uplift to people. They need something positive, that is the point I am trying to make. People in rural Newfoundland do not need major things, they need a lot of little things to make them satisfied and that is what happened yesterday with the announcement of this gold mine.

Also, EDGE was certainly a factor in this mine coming to fruition and it now becomes a reality because of that. That is why the other day in the House I spoke about EDGE, the concept of it, and how it does help, but I say again that EDGE does that for certain big companies and there is still a part of this Province left out when it comes to new business and entrepreneurs. We are talking about young people in this Province who have great ideas, but sooner or later they lose those ideas and get wrapped up in a lot of red tape. They lose their great ideas and they fall by the wayside, and that is a shame.

The EDGE did help this particular mine and it is up and running. The concrete is being poured actually within days and it is really happening. It is not something that is being talked about; it is actually going to happen. It gave a tremendous boost to the communities in the area, as a matter of fact, the entire peninsula. Even the people who are not involved with the mining industry have received a boost. Of course, there are spin-offs for the economics in the district of the hotels and gasoline and so on.

It is a spin-off that is positive and it is what rural Newfoundland needs, more of that. I really believe that we are going to see a lot more in the Baie Verte Peninsula area, and not only that, but other areas, in the Green Bay area with the Major General. I think we will hear something on that very soon. As far as the mining industry is concerned, I said to the minister on the way out, I mean, he is lucky to be in that portfolio. It is one of the most promising and potential portfolios in the Province right now and if it is handled right -

AN HON. MEMBER: Pick of the jobs.

MR. SHELLEY: It certainly is and the minister knows that. We have talked about it quite a bit. Mining has one of the best -

AN HON. MEMBER: The next Premier, is that what you are saying?

MR. SHELLEY: He could very well be the next Premier, Mr. Chairmen, I say to the minister. I would go further to say that he would make just as good a Premier, or even a better Premier, than the current one. And it could be a lot sooner than we think, a new Premier. I do not know how long the current Premier is going to want to stay down in Newfoundland. It seems like every time we turn around he is gone to Ottawa again or he is talking about Ottawa. Airplane plan points are only a joke - he is between St. John's and Ottawa, steady. I wonder how long the current Premier will be sitting over in this place, as he calls it when he stands to speak so often. It seems like the room is too small and not enough people here to satisfy him. He has gotten so used to the red carpets in Ottawa and the huge House, that I think he misses it. I don't know if we are going to see him very long in this Province.

The Minister of Mines and Energy may very well have a good chance at - I do not think he is going to back down. Once he does make a decision, I do not think he is going to worry, not like the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I don't think the Minister of Mines and Energy is going to call a big press conference to tell us he is not running. If he calls one, I think he will say he is running. Like somebody said, it is amazing for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to call a major press conference, have everybody on pins and needles, to say he didn't have the guts to run. It just seems a bit strange.

Mr. Chairman, not to get off, and to make the point before I leave it, before I talk about Social Services here, it is a positive point. The mining industry has a bright future and a bright potential. We talk about Voisey's Bay so often. That is what everybody gets excited about, but bit by bit these small mines are so important to the economy of, especially, rural Newfoundland. In my area in the Baie Verte Peninsula and the Green Bay area we have some very interesting finds I think we are going to see in the next little while, and we are going to see a lot of these.

This was the third such project in eight months, I think. Is that correct, Minister?

DR. GIBBONS: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, the third since October in that particular area, so that will give you an idea, and maybe one or two more about to be announced. They are all small. Raymo has just come up with a vat leach system for processing gold in the area, with about thirty men working.

Then, Mr. Chairman, above all, we had a tour yesterday of the old Rambler mine site. All members, I would invite any of them to go out and tour that and see for yourself an old mine - and it is a funny contrast here. You see the old mine and the old building, and when you walk in through, the old stairs. Everything looks old. But when you look at the machinery and look at what is going on there, everything is working like clockwork.

That goes to show that we had people there who didn't give up on that mine, who figured that there was potential there and didn't give up on it. They persevered. People like the late Sam Blagdon, of course, had so much to do with it, and people who are there: Clarence Martin now, Peter Dimmel. These guys decided that there was something worth fighting for there, and they took an old mine site and turned it around, and we have 100 people working on that site today. Only last year the minister was there when we pushed the button to the old machinery and it just flowed like clockwork. We went out yesterday and toured the site, talked to the men there. They were very positive.

And it is not just the mere fact of that mine, but it is a real example for anywhere in the Province of people who said: We are staying here and we are going to persevere, we are not giving up, and we will do what we can to make it work. It is a real credit to, like I just mentioned, (inaudible) be on record for saying it, a fellow like Sam Blagdon who put in so much time to this and believed in it and persevered to see it running. It is just too bad he is not here to see it today. It is a credit to him and that type of person why this certain project is up and running.

I must say there was a positive feeling out there yesterday as you walked around and talked to people, even people who were not involved or never got hired there. I talked to my constituents yesterday, people who worked in the logging industry, fishermen, who said: Boy, it is great to see some people back to work, and it was a really good feeling. So the attitude, I think, is to keep in mind, not just at the big mega projects but our small projects which is what can revitalize rural Newfoundland, Mr. Chairman.

Now, I want to talk on another subject, for a couple of minutes, Mr. Chairman, before we break for supper, on Social Services. It is not good, I guess, to go from a positive - which I just referred to - to a negative; but the problem with social services today is, in the last few weeks - the more calls I get, I know all members get them and I am very serious when I speak about these - some of the calls coming in in the last three or four days and the people who sit down and tell the stories. I am sure every member here can get up and tell a story from his district of something that is just almost unbelievable. It is almost impossible to believe some of the situations that are happening in our Province.

The sixty-one-dollar claw-back - I wish the Minister of Social Services were here, just to refer to a couple of examples and to say that, yes, budget cuts and restraints and so on, but what you really have to look at is, what is the bottom effect? What are the implications for people who are on social assistance? It is easy to say, yes, there is abuse in social services and we have to correct them, it is easy to say there are budget restraints, but what we have to remember, you know, once you hear Budget in the House of Assembly, what is going to happen two or three weeks from now to the person out there who really needs these services?

A couple of the stories that I have heard were just unbelievable. So I say to the Minister of Social Services, it is time to really have a good strong look at it again, to see how much money this is really saving and see if we can save it somewhere else. I know that is a tough question for any government, but when you see a person come to you, Mr. Chairman - and I will give two examples: One is a man who is blind because of diabetes, who lives in an apartment by himself and receives social assistance. He has a special diet, of course, because of the diabetes and so on and the sixty-one dollars he was getting a month really meant a lot to him; it was very helpful with taxis which he uses and, of course, with his diet. And, Mr. Chairman, that sixty-one dollars has had a major impact on that type of person, a major impact.

Now, I spoke to another lady today whom I know very well who has a son who basically is an invalid, he is in bed all the time; she had people come in and service that person. Today, they received a memo saying that the rubber gloves used when they service this individual, a grown man, twenty-four or twenty-five years old, have been cut back. I mean, when you hear things like that you just wonder. When you see the cut at the top, when you look at the big picture you say: yes, cuts at the top and there will be cut backs in social services or cut backs in education, or whatever, we just look at it in this House from that perspective, but the person who feels the final effects of those cuts are the people whom I just mentioned, those people who need it the most, the most vulnerable people in our society. Often, many governments, and all parties, I would assume, have made cuts and restraints in budgets and did not really find out the impact of it until weeks or maybe even a month later, and this was such a Budget as that.

What we saw here, Mr. Chairman, is the same situation. A Budget was brought in, and I must admit, every time I have seen a Budget -I have only seen three announced in the House - you sit down for that hour with all the pomp and pageantry and you look back, every thing is perfect and, of course, you are tapping the desk at everything that is said, but you do not really realize what it is all about. But when the smoke starts to clear and you really get down to the crux of it and two weeks later you have a man calling you, saying he is blind and he is being cut back sixty-one dollars, a man who receives a couple of hundred dollars a month, that is when you really see the effect of the Budget.

Now, I wonder how many members in this House would stand up and give a standing ovation if you talked to that person first, or we could find out that day that the Budget was announced, if it could ever happen - of course it can't happen because we don't see the effect of the Budget until later on. But the reality is that two or three weeks later you have a person calling you, like I had today, a person who is really distraught and upset, who says: Because of this cut-back, this is what is happening to me and they tell you their story and they say: You are the cause of this Budget. That is what they say, Mr. Chairman.

We all sit in this cocoon that I talk about, a lot of the time not out in the real world at all. But, Mr. Chairman, I can assure you that by the time we all leave this House, whether it is tomorrow or the next day or whenever, and get back to our districts, get back to the real world again, over the summer months, I will bet you, Mr. Chairman, that a lot of members are going to find out what the real effect of the Budget was and it was not worth a standing ovation. The implications of the Budget are just starting to squeeze out now. And one of the reports that came out, I just read a few minutes ago, a news release of May 16 just after the Budget: `A $13 million increase in fees aimed primarily at business is another form of taxation and will discourage growth and employment in Newfoundland.' That is Peter O'Brien from the Executive Director -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: By leave, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: By leave.

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

They must feel it is that important. All I am saying is that when you hear the Budget speech you do not realize what the implications are until you go out into the real world, until you get out of this cocoon we are in all the time in here. I did not even realize it until I got the calls and until I went out with the minister yesterday and stopped to speak to a couple of people who gave me specific examples of some things that have changed since the Budget was brought down. I even say to them, I didn't realize that. It is nice to applaud and give a standing ovation and thank the minister.

MR. WHELAN: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Chairman, the Member for Topsail is in the wrong seat again and he goes on bickering back and forth. I need protection from the Member for Topsail. He has not had the gall or the gumption to stand up and have a few words, which he can, and I will be glad to sit down and let him speak. If he has some good points to make I will give him leave and let him speak and make his points, but he does not want to do that.

I am just making the point, and it is a general point that I think all of us can make, when we hear Budgets and standing here in this cocoon and talking about how great it is we have to realize what the implications were at the bottom of the line. Even the Minister of Social Services who I spoke to about it, was very sincere about it. I will say that about the minister. She was very sincere about it and she said, yes, it is just starting to filter out now. Even the minister admitted that there are a lot of things going to filter down through the system that we will not realize until we hear back from the person who was affected. That is what I am saying.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: In our cocoon. I did not say the House of Assembly was a cocoon. In our cocoon as politicians. What is wrong with a cocoon? Do you know what a cocoon is? There is nothing wrong with a cocoon, that is like a mother's womb. There is nothing bad about a cocoon.

MR. TULK: You don't know what a Parliament is.

MR. SHELLEY: I don't know what a Parliament is?

Mr. Chairman, the truth is that we, as members and ministers, are saying we see the final results of a Budget once we get out and speak to the people directly affected. And all I am asking the Minister of Social Services - and I wish she were here when I make these comments, in all sincerity.

MR. TULK: She is just outside.

MR. SHELLEY: That is good, I hope she is, because I would like to speak to her again. She said she would be watching what happens and how it unfolds, and how it affects these types of people.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) holding her breath.

MR. SHELLEY: Well, she does not have to hold her breath, I say to the Government House Leader, because it is very serious. I just gave two specific examples and somebody else gave another example here today. All I am saying is that when you see this, as a government, if you make smart moves, and I said that here before, a good and smart government would listen to criticism and listen to people who are directly affected by the Budget, and if there has to be changes made, then make the changes.

It is not such a bad thing for a politician to jump up and say, well, we made a mistake. We did not realize what the impact would be and we will change something. That is what we should be doing, Mr. Chairman. And the people on social assistance - I know you hear this old drab thing all the time, there is so much abuse with social services, and so much abuse with UI. Well, let us cut the abuse but do not cut the people who really need it most. That is like the fellow who compared it to moose hunting, we are not going to cut out moose hunting for everybody because some people abuse it and poach.

People on social services and UI are not there willingly. We hear the argument that there is abuse in social services and UI but I think that is a minority. I think it is a small minority. Even it was half and half, what about the half of the people who need it? That is the point we should remember, that there are people who need it, Mr. Chairman. My message on this particular point on social services - and I am being very sincere about it - is that the implication for people at the bottom of the line, the people who really need it most, the blind person I just talked about, the invalid who is in the bed, the people who are affected most -

AN HON. MEMBER: What about the food fishery?

MR. SHELLEY: I will get into the food fishery in a second. But the people who are affected most at the bottom of the line, I asked the Minister of Social Services to look at those. As a matter of fact, I had a question for her and I hoped she was going to be in the House, but she is not here. She did make some kind of a statement. I was going to have a question for the Minister of Social Services so maybe you can relay it to her. You take questions -

MR. H. HODDER: Are you in favour of a food fishery?

MR. SHELLEY: I will get to that. Very serious, Mr. Chairman.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I want to finish this point first.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I just want to finish this. Okay, I don't mind, I have no problem with that. I will let the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi speak. I just want to make that point today, and I did want to make that point today when I thought about speaking in debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, but this point does make sense. I am going to finish the point. I gave the story, I gave the specific examples. Did you get the specifics and the examples I gave? Talking about people on the Budget with Social Services, people who had $61 taken - some of these people really needed that; it was really important to them and it is really hurting, okay?

Now, here is the point. The Minister of Social Services made a comment a few days ago that if there are people in these extreme situations and so on, they would look at some differences and maybe they could make up for it. I ask the minister today, on these cases, two of which I just mentioned, that she consider them and do the right thing as a minister, not be ashamed that it was a mistake or something like that. It was just a process of Budget and that those people will be looked at a second time.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Well, I hope so. I -

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) emergency (inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, it was discretionary. I know all about it. It was discretionary and it was used, and basically it was given to them without many questions asked. That is the point. It is fair to be -

MR. HARRIS: It was given to them because they needed it.

MR. SHELLEY: Yes. And now, we find these example of two - and I could go on for the entire day on examples, and I know every member here can.

MR. WISEMAN: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Whether it is all or 80 per cent or 20 per cent, if there is 10 per cent who need it, give it to them, that is what I say to the Member for Topsail. Whether it is 80 per cent, 20 per cent or 10 per cent. If it is 10 per cent of the people who needed it, of these people I just mentioned, reconsider it and make some changes or be a bit flexible, be real. Because when we stand and bring down a budget we don't think about that person who was blind, who needed the $61, or some extreme cases. The minister made a point of saying that she was going to revisit some of those and look at the people who were into some extreme situations and do that.

I would like to make that point. Maybe the Minister of Social Services will respond to that before the night is over.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to make a few points. I wanted to follow after the Member for Baie Verte because there are two issues I want to talk about. One of them he has been talking about already, which is Social Services.

The other one I wanted to talk about was the Nugget Pond development. I congratulated in the House yesterday - the member wasn't here, he was busy in his constituency celebrating, along with the minister and others, the opening of the gold mine. There was some mention yesterday in the House - I didn't refer to it because it was too complicated. We were busy saying we were delighted to see any economic development occur in the Province. The EDGE program was mentioned as one of the important factors in this development taking place.

I was kind of wondering about that. Then I look in the Telegram today and there is a very interesting story about what happened in Baie Verte. They start off by talking about gold dropping by $150 an ounce Wednesday but that didn't seem to make any difference, they were opening the mine anyway. When you read on further you find out - page 19 - some of the economics of this mine are kind of intriguing, to me, at least, watching all these issues.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: What I see is this. They are spending $15 million to open a mine. That sounds like a very substantial investment. Then they go on to say that they are going to mine 46,000 ounces of gold per year for five years.

MR. TULK: That is 230,000 (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Twenty-three point five million dollars a year for five years, so $100 million-plus they are going to get out of it. That is the extracted - let us say roughly $500 Canadian so forty-six times 500 is $23.5 million a year for five years. And what is also interesting, it says that this is one of the lowest cost rates of extraction in the country.

Now, here we are in Newfoundland and Labrador with a gold mine, sitting on a gold mine, literally, and the company can extract gold at one of the lowest cost rates in the country, the lowest cost rate in the country. So, what do we do to attract this company to Newfoundland? Do we say: Welcome, we will give you some training programs and make sure we have people on deck, we will welcome you with open arms and show you around? No, we don't say that, we say: We will give you a tax holiday, just to make it even more attractive. It is not good enough you see; you can't just make a certain amount of profit, you have to make a lot of profit in Newfoundland; it is not ordinary profit, I mean, we have to make it really, really, really attractive by giving people a tax holiday.

I mean, it is not good enough for a company to be able to come and mine $23.5 million worth of gold per year at one of the lowest cost rates in the country, it is not good enough, that is not good enough to attract business, apparently, according to this government, they have to give them EDGE status and take away any obligation to pay any taxes on their capital development, no sales tax, no income tax. I don't know how much money they will make but I am saying that, just looking at the economics in the paper, it strikes me that they are sitting on a gold mine alright, and the people of Newfoundland are supposed to be thankful for them for creating 100 jobs, but really, they are coming in and cleaning out the gold reserve without paying any taxes.

Now you know, it doesn't strike me - I can see the tailings operation, the Rambler tailings and the member praised that as being perhaps a marginal operation you know, trying to dig in to the tailings to see what is there and I think that was the idea of the changes in the Mineral Tax Act, so you know, when we talked about this Mineral Tax Act, I think one of the things that I said was: there was going to be no taxes involved at all; not just no mineral taxes, but there was going to be a tax holiday in general and then it was said: No, no. EDGE corporations in mines would never be given. Mines would never be given EDGE status; we had to have this Mineral Tax Act amendments because mines would not have access to the EDGE program, but now this company is coming here, they are not in the Voisey's Bay category but remember, the Mineral Tax Act changes that were brought in in December 1994 are still there, they haven't been amended yet, they get advantage of the new Mineral Tax Act regulation which says: Zero taxes for ten years for all new mineral developments in the Province, Nugget Pond being one of them, and then we make them EDGE corporation so they are paying no mining tax, they pay no mineral taxes and they are not paying any other taxes either, because they have EDGE status, and they are probably getting the land for free and various other things that go with it. Maybe the minister has all the details, I don't know if he announced them yesterday out in Bay Verte. But it seems to me that one of the problems we have in this Province is that government is far too generous to corporations of this nature who are literally going to be carting away the mineral resources of this Province.

I don't know how much this company is going to make. I know just from the figures in the paper today that they are going to extract $23.5 million worth of gold at the lowest rates in the country. I don't know how much they are going to make, but it looks pretty good to me. Maybe the minister knows something different and he can get up and speak when I sit. There is lots of time for that.

Mr. Chairman, I just raise that as a question for hon. members that they may wish to address in this debate, as to wondering whether or not a company which is operating at that level can come in and operate a mine for five years, with $100 million with a gross take, that can't operate unless you give them a tax holiday. There are a lot of people, I suppose, a lot of small businesses in this Province that if you asked them whether they would close down if you didn't give them a tax break would probably answer: Oh yes, we will close down tomorrow. You give us a tax break or we will close down. If the government would turn around and give them a hand-out or a tax break, there wouldn't be one business in this Province which could say they would operate profitably without a tax break.

The other thing I want to talk about is the people on the other end of the scale, Mr. Chairman, who don't extract $23.5 million worth of gold a year, but people who are trying to get by on $300 or $400 a month of social assistance; like the woman I was talking to today who gets a cheque for $159 every two weeks and was crying because the government is taking away $61 of her income every month. The woman was literally crying. I talked to her on the phone. She wants me to come down and see her. I'm not going to be able to do anything except talk to her and listen to her troubles, and tell her: Yes, this government in its Budget and its measures to save money is going to take away $61 from her cheque of $159 every two weeks.

Those are the kinds of call I'm getting. I'm getting them not only from my own constituents - this woman happened to be my own constituent - but I'm getting them from the constituents of the Member for St. John's Centre, who is the Minister of Social Services. I don't know if I've had any from the Government House Leader's district yet. I have gotten them from the West Coast of this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: About what?

MR. HARRIS: About Social Services. I'm getting them from all over the Province. If I get one from the member's district I will be sure to pass it along to the member and ask her to call me back if she isn't satisfied with what the member says. I will certainly do that because I want other members to take care, especially on that side of the House, because they have better access to the minister than members on this side do. There are serious problems with how people are being affected by the changes in Social Services.

There is a new regime at social services; every file is being looked over assiduously and I am sure their instructions: if you can save ten dollars, save it. I had a woman call me today who said that she was in for her annual review and everything was okay, but as she was walking out the door, they said: oh, just a minute, hold on a second, I think we have overpaid you by ten dollars.

CHAIR: Order, please!

I have been asked to mention to the members of the House when the clock approached - I hate to interrupt the member -

MR. HARRIS: Oh I was watching the clock, Mr. Chairman. I wish to thank you for reminding me but -

CHAIR: He was in full flight and I didn't want to interrupt, but

MR. HARRIS: - I was very careful and I notice that it is now one minute to six and lest we hit six o'clock without having discussed the matter, I would come back at seven o'clock and perhaps I can take it up from there?

CHAIR: Oh yes, I knew the hon. member was in full flight and before he really got up to speed, I was just reminding him that we can take it up again shortly.

MR. HARRIS: I want to thank the Chairman for allowing me, in an honourable way, to end at this point, and move that we adjourn the debate until seven o'clock.

CHAIR: We will recess.

Recess

The House resumed at 7:00 p.m.

CHAIR: Order, please!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Before the recess, I was talking about two issues of interest on the debate -

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: By leave?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

CHAIR: The hon. member, by leave.

MR. HARRIS: The hon. Chair is a bit of a tease, is he, allowing me to speak for ten seconds?

I was talking about two issues and they are related because, on the one hand we have a company opening a gold mine and hoping to extract, over a period of five years, $100 million worth of gold, and it receives not only the benefit of the amendments to the Mineral Tax Act which provides a ten-year tax holiday, but also the EDGE legislation. The paper today tells us that the gold production costs are the lowest in Canada; so I guess the question is this on the surface, and I am subject to other people on the other side telling us something different, it is: Why are we giving a big tax holiday through EDGE and through the Mineral Tax Act amendments to a company that can extract $100 million worth of gold at the lowest cost in Canada, and on the other hand, to a woman on social assistance who is receiving $300 a month, take away sixty-one dollars from her cheque and adopt, what seems to be a very, very negative approach to social assistance. Every cent and every dollar that is on someone's cheque is now being so closely scrutinized that they are finding ways -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I am sure, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, that the lawyer for that company advocated on behalf of that company. I don't know who it was, I don't know if he was a friend of the government's or not, I have no idea; I don't know who it was. I am sure that that person advocated very well. They obviously advocated very well for the company because not only did they get the benefit of the Mineral Tax Act amendments, but also the EDGE corporation status and are now in a position to take away and extract $100 million plus of gold without having to pay any taxes. I think whoever was acting for them did a hell of a good job at the expense of the Newfoundland taxpayers, including the poor people on social assistance, who are having their sixty-one dollars taken away. Every time they spend any money, Mr. Chairman, on goods and services they have to pay tax to this Province. So we have a very disturbing circumstance in this Province today when both of these things can go on at the same time.

I am going to sit down now because it looks like the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Minister of Health want to deal with this issue, because there is a serious contrast between how this government treats the wealthy and the big corporations and how it treats poor people on social assistance.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to just comment on a matter which I think is very important to people here in this Province and to each of us here, a very topical item tody on the education reform issue. I know members probably heard what happened in the Senate today. Well,I would like to indicate that yesterday before the Premier left the Province he called me and we had a lengthy conversation. As the Minister of Education knows I went to Ottawa to put forth support for moving expeditiously on Term 17.

During the last couple of days, the last forty-eight hours, I had continuous contact with members of the Senate and this morning I faxed a letter off to John Lynch-Staunton, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and I asked the PC Senators there if they would deal expeditiously with this matter because it is important and fundamental to people here in this Province to ensure that the necessary reforms can be implemented in September of this year; and I made several requests in specifics there as to the importance of doing so.

I received a fax back and spoke with a senator at 6:00 o'clock our time today, 4:30 the Senate had just adjourned for the day, and also received a letter back a half hour after the Senate rose for the day from John Lynch-Staunton, the PC leader in the Senate, indicating that basically what has happened in the Senate today is that not one person voted against it, they have agreed unanimously to having public hearings with the electronic media here in this Province. It was unanimous and also there was not one dissenter in the Senate, not one person. They agreed to report back to the Senate by July 17.

AN HON. MEMBER: It was on the news.

MR. SULLIVAN: I know it was on the news. In fact, I discussed it a half hour before it came on the news. When he came out of the Senate, immediately we had a direct line there; we got it immediately upon the Senate ending on it. Our caucus discussed it. We were concerned and we requested that certainly the PC senators do what was appropriate for the betterment of education here in our Province and to move expeditiously.

I am quite pleased that they have accomplished that. We have gotten to the point now where every single person in the Senate has agreed, everybody present and voting, without a dissenter, all Liberal senators and PC senators and the three independent senators. There are three independent senators, as you know, in the Senate. There are fifty PC senators out of 104 and fifty-one Liberals. So now it is within the fold of the Liberal senators to deal with this now, in due course, on July 17. Of course, I do not anticipate any problems occurring within the Senate on this issue in dealing expeditiously with it. I think it is appropriate there.

I have said from day one, that it is important that there is opportunity for public input on this issue. I voiced loud concerns last year. From the last of May when the House closed, and I have said it here in this House and outside on many occasions, that we did not have appropriate input in dealing with this specific Term 17 as it is worded, or in any form. It was rushed through and rammed through after the House closed, and as an elected member I took offence to that by not having any input in any debate in this House where I was elected to represent people in my constituency.

It was not done appropriately, but the past is passed and it should not deter us from accomplishing what is important in the future on any political differences. I have not tried to make it a political issue at all. I have tried to make it a very apolitical issue, education reform, and I do not think it should be a political issue. It should be an issue that is for the betterment of people in this Province. I am delighted that all senators of all political stripes have seen the need to move expeditiously and to deal with this particular matter.

I think it is an important step forward and I am delighted that it will be accomplished in due course here, and I think it is for the betterment of people on both sides of the House, and also all over Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to hear the report of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the progress in the Senate of the legislation. It seems that July 17 certainly provides lots of time for any public input into that, and I suppose that means that this House will be meeting sometime in July to deal with legislation. Perhaps the Minister of Education can enlighten us on what might transpire as a result of that news. I wonder if the Senate is actually going to meet this Summer to deal with it? Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition can inform us of that, if they are going to report back to the Senate on July 17? Has the Senate already agreed to meet at that time?

MR. SULLIVAN: With leave, or duly recognized?

CHAIR: By leave, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Chairman, when it reconvenes it is entirely at the call of the leader in the Senate. The Liberal leader in the Senate would be responsible to reconvene the Senate. That is strictly in their court then.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

So the decision as to recall would be up to the call of the Speaker, presumably on the advice of the government or the government leader in the Senate, so that at least allows the matter to be dealt with. The Summer holiday vote, as the Government House Leader says is another matter and what the report of the Senate committee will be I do not know, and how long the Senate takes to deal with it is also another matter. It is not exactly news of smooth sailing.

MR. SULLIVAN: Could I have leave?

MR. HARRIS: Certainly.

CHAIR: The hon. Government House Leader.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The PC Senate, or Ottenheimer in the Senate, when he spoke today, indicated that not only should it report on July 17 but when on record, I think - he is the only one - asking that not only would it report back but that they would reconvene and move to deal with it then quickly at that point. He spoke in debate on that to that effect.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, yes. The PC Senator indicated they would want to come back and deal with it and vote on it. That is a suggestion that PC Senator Ottenheimer made in the Senate today.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I suppose we can leave some of the details to see what happen in the fullness of time, but clearly the indication that there was unanimous support for the resolution in the Senate is certainly indicative that some compromise that was acceptable to all those sitting in the Senate was achieved. Based on the comments of the Leader of the Opposition, and certainly in terms of the intention of Senator Ottenheimer, of this Province, it appears that the Senate is not going to unduly delay matters, and will in fact bring matters to a head sometime in the month of July.

Presumably that will either mean that we here will have to pass legislation and cross our fingers, or perhaps more sensibly come back in the month of July and deal with legislation at that time. It does cut a pretty fine point to planning for the Fall in terms of the school system, Mr. Chairman, but it seems that the delay in bringing the matter to Parliament by the Government of Canada is probably at fault here. If that were done more expeditiously in the first instance by the Prime Minister and by the government in Ottawa instead of waiting until June to do so, we would not be having this kind of problem or argument now.

It is a situation that appears to have been, at least for the moment, resolved, and at least we will have an opportunity to deal with it before school starts in September. I think the general feeling seems to be - and it is not just from these people who are demanding reform, but also from those who are going to be affected negatively by reform - there is a sense that the battle is over and that the time is now to sit down and figure out what the results of the reform are going to be. I say that as someone who has had discussions with people who very much opposed the process of reform in the school system and would like to have had things remain the way they are. I think they recognize that the change is going to happen, and I think the important thing now is to find out what the detail of school reform is going to mean, how do we determine the number of, the location of, and the methodology for determining which schools will be uni-denominational, and how that system will operate. I think that people are more or less resigned to the inevitability of change now that the referendum has passed, the legislation has passed, and that the House of Commons which, after all, is the only elected part of the Parliament, has made its decision.

I won't get into a big, long tirade against the un-elected, unrepresentative, appointed Senate. It has been, as most people know, the policy of our party for many, many, many years - forty or fifty years at least - to abolish the Senate; so I won't get into a diatribe about how the role of the Senate, the un-elected Senate in our society, operates.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I would like to thank the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for his nutritional and health advice.

AN HON. MEMBER: You need it.

MR. HARRIS: I tell him that I will take it under advisement and see what I can do.

The issues with respect to supply: I spoke about how government sees fit to treat the companies that are doing very well, the people who are in a position to extract resources from this Province, whether it be at Voisey's Bay or in the oil and gas field, or the mineral field. Today we had an announcement about royalties, and when you see the people from the industry coming out smiling, you wonder exactly what is going on. There has not been really much in the way of public discussion at all about a royalty regime for the offshore. I am very surprised at this government. They said that they have been having discussions for the past two years. They may well have been having discussions for the past two years, but who were they having discussions with? I did not see any White Paper on mineral royalty regimes. I did not see any public hearings and consideration of other regimes in other provinces or other countries. I did not see them having public hearings on that, asking what people in this Province thought was an appropriate share for the Province of its oil and gas. Well, I did not hear that.

You always hear, Mr. Chairman, and this is a constant theme of Newfoundland politics, about how rich in resources Newfoundland is, how wealthy in resources Newfoundland is; and they wonder in the same voice why it is that the people are so poor.

I have given an example, I suppose, with this Nugget Pond mining venture.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nothing wrong with Nugget Pond.

MR. HARRIS: I did not say there was anything wrong with Nugget Pond. I am sure it is a lovely pond, and I bet you the gold glimmers just as brightly as the gold on my wedding band. But I say this to the Member for Baie Verte: We ought not to give the gold away any more than we give the oil away, or the fish away, or the minerals in Voisey's Bay away.

We have to give the Premier some credit. He did not invent the word, but `fair share' is what justice is all about when it comes to the division of the spoils, as it were, from economic assets of a province. They are found in the mineral wealth, in the forest resources, in the fishery resources and in the other resources of our Province. The debate has to be about not whether we are entitled to our fair share or not; I don't think anybody in this House would say we are not entitled to our fair share. The Premier, in the election campaign, tried to sound as if he invented the fact that we should be entitled to our fair share, something that every single Newfoundlander and Labradorian can believe in. Even the Member for Exploits believes that we are entitled to our fair share. That is not the question. The question is: What is our fair share and are we going to get it? That is what it is; that is the question: What is our fair share and how are we going to get our hands on it and still have some economic development to show for it?

The Minister of Mines and Energy will assure us all that they have been thinking about it for a long time. Two years they have been thinking about it. He has not talked to the House of Assembly about it, and has not given us lectures about the royalty regimes in various other places in the world - has not talked about it - has not invited public discussion on it, has not laid out through a White Paper what the government's plans are.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to make a few comments with respect to the commentary by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the New Democratic Party with respect to the ongoing turn of events with respect to the constitutional amendment.

I think the record bears showing in Hansard that the government very much appreciates the efforts of both the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the NDP in bringing the issue forward to the point where it is now, because I think particularly yesterday - I don't think I would be stating the case incorrectly to suggest that all of us were a little bit taken aback by the prospect of a delay into late September. While we all understand and respect and recognize the need for some group - the Senate in this case - to have a time for some hearings and some further debate of the issue, as long as it is done on a timely basis I think the government of the Province and the people of the Province can get an opportunity to proceed with their stated wish, which is true educational reform.

I would like, for the record, to show, Mr. Chairman, that the Leader of the Opposition, clearly as he states - I don't think there was any bragging in what he did - took the role very seriously, responded to a circumstance yesterday, and on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador should be thanked and congratulated for working with their colleagues in the Senate, to ask them to take a reasoned approach to the effort. We do want the record to show our appreciation for that effort very much.

I think both of the leaders should be acknowledged again with respect to the effort in Ottawa a week or so ago, or a couple of weeks ago. While there were a few wrinkles in the logistics of the meeting, the very fact that repeatedly we could suggest to the Parliamentarians in the House of Commons that there had been a unanimous, all-party agreement on this issue in terms of moving forward, they understand that there are points that we will still want to debate when we get to our own legislation to ensure that the intent of the reform is followed through. At least then it will be in our own hands again; it will be in this Legislature,it will be our own legislation, and we will not have to rely upon the Parliament of Canada or the Senate, or the House of Commons - any part of the Parliament of Canada. It will be back in the hands of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador where it should be.

I think, Mr. Chairman, it really deserves recording in the record that the government certainly appreciates the effort. I know that the Premier would be making the comment if he were here at this point, to have the record show how much appreciated the most recent intervention was by the Leader of the Opposition, and the past interventions by both leaders with respect to moving this agenda item ahead.

I think it is critical - everybody recognizes it is critical - in being reasonable in looking at this. The result is showing that we might now have a more reasonable approach to it. There are still a couple of concerns that are back in the hands of other groups for other times now. There is an indication as well that the report will be ready by July 17, I think the date is, at the latest, and that there is an indication from the leader of the Senate that they will convene the Senate on a very timely basis after that and try to put it to a vote. I think they might not be totally fixed on the date when the Senate itself will be called back and a vote put, but it should be, as we understand, very shortly after the July 17. If the committee completes it work before that it could even be earlier than that.

The decisions we will need next, Mr. Chairman, are clearly for the government itself now to look at the legislation, the interim legislation, that is designed to do three things. One is to establish the ten interdenominational boards where I still believe there is consensus on the issue, the basic fundamentals of having ten interdenominational boards rather than twenty-seven separate denominationally based boards. The single construction board: there is still consensus on that issue, while there is no framework agreement nor any agreement of any sort because everybody has walked away from that process for different reasons. The two main items in it which are the ten interdenominational boards and the construction board are still basically agreed to in principle by everybody.

One other related issue that arose very directly when we were in Ottawa, the three leaders, the Premier, the two other leaders and myself as the Minister of Education, that is not tied at all to Term 17, but is a related political debate, is the notion of providing at least enabling legislation for the government to deal with the francophone population of Newfoundland and Labrador as to what kind of school board structure, or provincially based government structure they should have, that that would also appear in the interim piece of legislation that government would bring forward.

The issue for us then: We would look and hope to have the same kind of cooperation and support, Mr. Chairman, as soon as we honour the commitment given by the Premier as well, to share that legislation first and foremost with the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, and then to try and bring it into the House at a time that would be expeditious for us in the Province; not to preclude the examination and the discussion and the vote of the Senate but also to try and be timely, Mr. Chairman, with respect to the rest of the issues.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

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 of Supply has passed the amount of $2,842,497,800 contained in the Estimates of Supply, and ask leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole on Supply have passed the amount of $2,842,497,800 contained in the Estimates of Supply and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again presently, by leave.

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

MR. TULK: I move that the report of the Committee of the Whole on Supply with respect to the Estimates for 1996-97, together with a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, be refereed to a Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means and that the Speaker do now leave the Chair.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR: Order, please!

Resolution

"That it is expedient to introduce a measure to provide for the granting to Her Majesty for defraying certain expenses of the public service for the financial year ending March 31, 1997, the sum of $1,819,371,200."

On motion, resolution carried.

On motion, clauses 1 through to 4 carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bellevue.

MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Committee has passed a certain resolution and recommended that Bill No. 15 be introduced to give effect to same.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again presently, by leave.

On motion, resolution read a first and second time.

On motion, a Bill, "An Act For Granting To Her Majesty Certain Sums Of Money For Defraying Certain Expenses Of The Public Service For The Financial Year Ending March 31, 1997 And For Other Purposes Relating To The Public Service", read a first, second and third time, ordered passed and its title be as on the Order Paper. (Bill No. 15)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Ways and Means to debate Motion No. 2, and that the acting Minister of Finance would now introduce the bill.

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

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR: Order, please!

Bill No. 3. The acting Minister of Finance will introduce the bill.

The hon. the Minister of Health.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In the absence of my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, I have been unavoidably pressed into service on his account tonight, and I want to introduce Bill No. 3 so that we can deal with it. Bill No. 3 is "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act", and the premise on which this piece of legislation is being put forward is to accomplish two things: to make provisions for the implementation of the surtax that was -

MR. GRIMES: He couldn't even say it, look. Broke his heart, he couldn't even say it.

MR. EFFORD: He could hardly get it out. He is that upset, he could hardly say the word.

AN HON. MEMBER: See if John can say it.

MR. EFFORD: Do you realize what you are doing to me?

MR. MATTHEWS: It is difficult enough to pinch-hit for a minister when you aren't used to doing it, but then to have to deal with an issue that has such personal implications, it only adds to the chore. I say that for your benefit; it is not necessarily any reflection of reality.

In any event, Mr. Chairman, Bill No. 3 is put forward to accomplish two things: number one, the implementation of the surtax that was introduced during the Budget on high income earners. It isn't a topic that I'm readily familiar with, high income earners. It is an issue that I wish had more affect on me than it certainly will have. Certainly if I were in the position and income bracket of members such as the hon. the Member for Waterford Valley and the wealthy fish merchants who came from the Southern Shore after they had their money made and went into politics, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, and certainly if I were in the league with the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, one of the wealthy barristers -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: - on Duckworth Street, if I had the familiarity with the subject that these people have, and if this was going to have the affect on me that it will have on them, then it would be even a more difficult task.

Mr. Chairman, I can assure the House that in my judgement there will be very little noise from the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi. I would doubt very much that he will speak to this piece of legislation. I'm sure that he won't want to be so highlighted as being a participant in a debate that so profusely affects his status financially. Notwithstanding that, the legislation has to come forward in order to give effect to the Budget.

The second thing that will be accomplished with the introduction and passing of this piece of legislation will be to permit government to be able to in effect pay the research and development tax credit that was also included in the Budget.

Certainly on a serious note, Mr. Chairman, the fact that this government recognizes the importance of research and development to the economy of this Province at the present, and even more so into the future, I'm sure will more than amply convince the members on both sides of the House to support this measure. Paying a research and development tax is an indication that we believe that the private sector is where the action is and will continue to have to be in the future if we are to redevelop and progress as a province, and see economic development that will take us into the next century, into the next millennium, and beyond.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: I will take my hand out of my pocket, yes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. MATTHEWS: I tell you, the great good fortune, Mr. Chairman, that I have with respect to the hon. the Member for Port de Grave is that he is totally non-partisan and that he sits on my side of the House. With those two things in my favour, I feel so comfortable with him behind my back even that I fear not for knives, for words, for even anything. Nothing but the best is what he thinks with respect to those who are Liberals -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: - to those who are colleagues, and to those who support anything that enhances the activity in the free enterprise sector of the Province. He is a free enterpriser, he is a businessman par excellence; and, apart from the few who I mentioned over there, I can think of no one on this side of the House that the high income surtax will affect more than the hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

He believes in fairness and balance and I'm sure that he is delighted. He has his chequebook out, he is on his way to the Sir Humphrey Gilbert Building as soon as the bill passes to make a down payment on the surtax that will be inflicted upon him as a result of this bill. But he will -

MR. EFFORD: Does somebody have a bottle of pills here?

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Chairman, these are the two basic measures that will be effected as a result of Bill No. 3. I'm certain that there will be very limited debate, because the measures are so eminently fair and so progressive that all members will want to give due support to them in time to come.

CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I was expecting a detailed introduction of each clause of the bill from the minister. I can say, it is not exactly what I received from the minister at all. He said he was pinch-hitting for the minister. I think the Minister of Health should get into the ball game and try to be a part of it instead of coming in as a pinch-hitter in late innings. Then he would be able to give us an explanation of the bill, because there are some interesting things here in the bill. It is no wonder he had a problem pronouncing surtax. I guess it sends shivers through his pocket book to even mention that word, I am sure. I think it was very appropriate that the Minister of Health would introduce this particular bill.

Basically, it indicates here that it is a 10 per cent surtax on provincial taxable income in excess of $7,900; so that equates basically to a surtax on anybody who has a taxable income of $60,000 or more, when you consider the federal portion of that. That is a reasonable direction, to tax people with more money rather than tax people down at the bottom of the scale, I must say, and I support that measure there in the bill, even though we are still taxing at $20,000 less than Nova Scotia. Hopefully, we are not going to see any companies put their top executives in Nova Scotia as opposed to here because the tax will not kick in for another $20,000. I hope that will not happen. Over all, regardless of whether it does or not, it is a positive measure because we have to try to take higher proportions of income from higher income people as opposed to hitting people down further on the scale.

God knows, tax in this Province is high enough. In fact, since 1989 we have gone from 60 per cent of the federal rate of tax to 69 per cent today, which is a 15 per cent increase on our basic tax in this Province - income tax - not counting the surtax that has gone on higher income. So it is more appropriate to move with a surtax, and it will gather up a few more million dollars in revenues for the government, and that is certainly appropriate.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, he did make reference to me. I can say to the minister, I contribute to your wealth by purchasing from your business. You did not contribute anything to mine, or lack thereof, I must say to the minister. Actually, you seem to forget I was a teacher like the Minister of Education, struggling to survive in rural Newfoundland for twenty years.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, now, I can see the Minister of Education did his utmost to see we got down to the minimum wage, I can tell you, and it was not the story he preached when he was President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association; the person who wept on the steps of this building. I saw with my own two eyes, he wept on the steps of Confederation Building because the poor teachers were being the victim of a brutal Peckford government. That is the very Minister of Education today who comes in here and says: Sock it to those teachers. He has not done one positive thing in this Province to entice the teaching environment other than cuts, take textbooks out of student hands. I must say -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, it is very much (inaudible) with money.

AN HON. MEMBER: Relevance please.

MR. SULLIVAN: The relevance? This surtax, the few million we are going to receive, would put those books in the hands of the Kindergarten people, I say to the Minister of Education. Yes, it would put them in peoples' hands. We would not have to be closing all of those colleges if we applied what we are taking in in surtax directly into those expenditures, I say to the minister. You cannot get any more relevant than that; very, very relevant.

The Minister of Education stood in this House and made a reference to textbooks. He said: I don't suppose we would get an co-operation from the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association. He tried to make a policy on collecting books from social welfare recipients, as he stood in his place in the House, right out of the blue. In the article that quoted him yesterday, it was a very apologetic minister who said: We will have to leave that until 1997, after we consult with social workers, and after we consult with teachers in the process.

I know the minister has gotten a little rap on the knuckles before, I can tell him. He stood here in the House and made an apology when the former Premier - he went out in Central Newfoundland, and it was not really good politics to support the government's position at the time. When the minister got away from the spotlight of the city here, he made a little statement that divorced himself from the direction in which government was moving; but when he got back in the city Premier Wells took him aside, took a walk with the minister, and the minister had to stand in his place if he was going to stay in Cabinet because you have you have to have Cabinet solidarity. The minister should know that very well; he has been here since 1989.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, he did not go behind the Chair. He went to the Premier's office, and stood in his place and said: I have to apologize. He did not have his dunce cap on I know that, but he stood in his place and apologized for trying to divorce himself from the direction of that unpopular government policy there. The minister knows all about those things; so I do not really need to pick on the minister too much.

I want to get back to Clause 2. I am sure the acting Minister of Finance has looked at this in great detail. The research and development tax credit, of course, is positive. I say to the minister, it is positive to give funding to research and development because we can never really underscore the importance of research and development and initiatives in that area.

In going through each of those clauses and subclauses there, basically what the rest does - there is nothing that I find that is going to be difficult because all it does in the other clauses, the subsections there, is it deals with provisions: What happens if a company or a partner shuts down, or a subsidiary or a partnership; allows mechanisms here whereby if a subsidiary shuts down the benefits can be passed on to that parent company; or if something is in trust you would have to have the proportionate amount allocated in trust; or in a partnership, if a divorce occurs in the partnership, to look at the benefits that could be accrued on an individual basis in those instances there.

Unless the minister has anything enlightening to add, he did not really have what you call a detailed description of the development and research tax credit at all. He had a very, very broad description I might add. I am sure the Minister of Finance would not have been as long but I am sure he would probably have given us a little more detail on the specifics of this provision.

Mr. Chairman, I do not have a problem and I am sure my caucus, as we discussed numerous aspects of this legislation that will be coming before this House, do not foresee anything to unduly delay this process here. In fact, we will do everything in our power to expeditiously move this particular piece of legislation through the House.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I first of all would like to respond to the comments of the Minister of Education earlier concerning the educational reform process. I also would like to add my acknowledgement which I failed to do when I was speaking because I was commenting on the progress made in the Senate, but I would also like to add, to his, my acknowledgement of the role of the Leader of the Opposition in encouraging, shall we say, the Senate to not unduly delay matters, to do their job but to do it more quickly than had been planned as a result of the motion that was before the Senate yesterday.

I realize that no one in this Province can either control the Senate or the House of Commons. They each have a mind of their own and senators are just as adamant about doing their job as we are about doing ours. I only think it is a bit unfortunate that they have so much power that is unearned from the electorate and that they are an appointed body; but nevertheless they do exercise a constitutionally valid role and ought to be given their due.

I think it is worth noting and showing respect for the role that the Leader of the Opposition has played in doing his part to encourage the Senate, in sitting under his party's banner in the Senate, to cooperate with the process. The result has been a unanimous resolution in the Senate which clearly speaks to the cooperative effort that is under way.

I would like to move now, Mr. Chairman, to the bill before us. Despite the jocular introduction of the Minister of Health on behalf of the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, I do want to say that we are dealing here with a fairly serious and fundamental issue that is of very grave and great importance to the people of this Province, in particular the people of this Province, but the people all across the country. Because what we are talking about here is differentially picking out one group of taxpayers and saying that they should pay more. The surtax determined here with respect to Newfoundland government revenues is based on those with a taxable income in excess of $60,000.

The principle obviously is one which I endorse and has been endorsed by social democrats throughout history. It is one that we have moved away from in this country. I want to let hon. members in on some information that I was reviewing in fact today. It is released by the national anti-poverty organization as part of its program to enlighten Canadians in general about facts on poverty, and about the fact that the distribution of wealth in our country is very seriously skewed in the wrong direction.

I spoke the other day, Mr. Chairman, about the fact that people talk about the national debt all the time and say that per capita the national debt is $22,000, but they don't say anything about the per capita national assets. The per capita national assets are in the range of $84,000 to $88,000, leaving in fact a net per capita of wealth in this country of in excess of $60,000. The problem is not the net wealth, just as the problem in this Province is not necessarily the lack of wealth. The problem is the distribution of that wealth. When the share of that wealth is overwhelmingly held by the few then that is why we have resulting poverty.

Some very interesting statistics which show that the old saying, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, is in fact happening in this country, is a result of changes to our tax system that have taken place over the last fifteen years. The poverty rate amongst young families in Canada under twenty-five years, in ten years nearly doubled to 40 per cent. Ten years ago young families, headed by families under twenty-five, only 20 per cent of them were below the low income cut off; now there is over 40 per cent. That is a very difficult pill to swallow in a society that is supposed to be more and more compassionate instead of less.

One interesting statistic based on 1991, to compare it to previous years: the distribution of Canada's income is becoming more unequal. In 1991 the 10.7 million households in Canada had an average income of just over $43,000. That is a household income, Mr. Chairman. The average income was just over $43,000, for a total income pie of $463 billion. The question really is how was the pie divided. The answer is that it is not very evenly. The slice that goes to the richest 20 per cent of Canadian households was nearly twice as large as that shared by the lower 50 per cent combined. So the top 20 per cent had more than twice as much as the lowest 50 per cent. That is a very, very serious income skew in favour of the extremely wealthy.

What is interesting about this - and we talked about an income tax surcharge here in the Province of Newfoundland. Obviously it isn't going to have any national scope. This is a highlight from the Canadian Fact Book on Poverty released in 1994, Mr. Chairman. It says if only $0.07 of every dollar of the income pie were shifted from the richest 20 per cent of Canadians to Canada's poor there would be enough money redistributed to completely eliminate poverty in the country and still leave the rich with a significantly larger share than the bottom 50 per cent of Canadian households.

That is a very interesting statistic. I know the Minister of Health who - I don't think he is ashamed of the fact that he has done well in his business and made money, nor should he be. I know as a man who is devoted in his private life to charities and good works and charitable works and supporting his church, that he is also concerned about poverty and about the state of people in poverty. What is interesting about this statistic, if it is true, is it seems to me that the ability to eliminate poverty in this country is really within our grasp. Because -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: The Canadian Fact Book on Poverty, published in 1994, first of all says that the distribution of wealth is such that the top 20 per cent of income earners share between them nearly twice as much as the bottom 50 per cent of income earners, of household incomes. If only $0.07 of every dollar of the income pie were shifted from the richest 20 per cent to the poor then that would be sufficient money redistributed to completely eliminate poverty and still leave the rich with a significantly larger per cent than the bottom 50 per cent of Canadian households. I know if the minister could say that could be done he would gladly throw in $0.07 cents of every dollar to say that that will eliminate poverty in this country, as long as every other top income earner, or anyone in the top 20 per cent - I don't even know if the minister is in the top 20 per cent; I'm just using him as an example.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: I'm not going to personalize this except to say that there may be many in this category. If you look at the figures alone, everybody in the Cabinet must be in the category because everybody in the Cabinet is getting an income sufficient to be covered by the surtax. So, let's not be personal about this other than in a jocular fashion.

The reality is that Canadian poverty is a very, very serious problem for the country, and even more so in this Province because we have a rate of poverty - not the highest in the country, by the way. In fact, other provinces in terms of the rate of poverty are higher. The high of household poverty rate is in Quebec: 25 per cent of families live below the poverty line. The lowest is in New Brunswick and Ontario at 18 per cent. Newfoundland is somewhere between those two categories.

If we could eliminate poverty in this country you wouldn't have to worry about all the nastiness and nonsense that goes on and that is going on now in Ontario, for example, where the Ontario government is introducing a workfare program that it is going to pay for, at a cost of $450 million. They are going to pay for it out of the $1.3 billion they are taking away from welfare incomes by reducing the rates by 21.7 per cent. That is where the money is coming from to pay a bureaucracy to run a workfare program. That is the kind of nonsense that is going on in the name of social policy in the Province of Ontario, Mr. Chairman, when in reality the highest 20 per cent of families in Canada are earning twice as much, or have twice as much income, as the lowest 50 per cent now; so the bottom 50 per cent of families earn half as much income as the top 20 per cent. If only $0.07 of every dollar of that top 20 per cent category were taken and transferred to the poor that would eliminate poverty.

I think if that were the focus of government policy instead of trying to set up an economy that is based on the policy dictates of the largest corporations, the transnational corporations and the banks and others, then we would have a much better and much fairer society.

I saw something else that was of interest to me today when talking about globalization and the big push for globalization, and it seems that there are very few players in this global market and that in fact the largest 500 companies in the world control over 70 per cent of all global trade. So this whole notion of globalism and internationalism is really designed, and the policies that relate to that, is really designed to assist very few corporations and they are for the very most part the largest corporation, over 500 corporations controlling 70 per cent of the global trade.

We have a series of contrasts here and I do not think we need to belabour the point about the bill itself. The tax bill is one that we can support. The actual returns from this legislation do not appear to be terribly significant in terms of actual dollars and maybe that is because we do not have that many high income earners in the Province, but the symbolism is important and I think it is right that high income earners be asked to pay a larger share of their income in taxes.

The changes in the income tax rates, combined with all the loopholes that high income earners have, loopholes, tax credits and tax investment schemes, RSPs, and all kinds of other things, really amount to higher income people paying less of a percentage of their income in tax than do people making $15,000 or $20,000. People who make higher incomes actually pay less tax as a percentage of their income than people who are in the $15,000 or $20,000, or $25,000 a year bracket.

People who look fairly at the income tax system, without self interest at heart but looking from a policy point of view, can see that changes can be made to make things fairer for ordinary people. The reality is that people who are on the minimum wage in this Province will be required to pay income tax because the personal exemptions are not sufficiently high to allow people to make more than that on the minimum wage.

I am going to say this, and perhaps the minister will agree with me, I think that we in this country should have a higher personal exemption. The personal exemption should be up around $12,000 or $15,000. Let people make some money, then pay taxes, and charge them higher taxes when they are making money. People who make $12,000 should not be kicking in $2000, $3000, or $4000 in income tax and then going out and paying 15 per cent, or 19 per cent in this Province, on everything they buy. That is not fair. They are paying income tax, plus they are paying the consumption tax on the other end. They are getting it both ways, Mr. Chairman, and that is not fair.

If I were in charge of tax policy, I would give people $15,000 before you touch them for income tax. Let them pay their consumption taxes on their income when they spend it and then as you get up in higher income tax brackets tax them more heavily; make it fairer. The tax system is probably one of the things that most people in this Province and country do not understand very much but has more significant consequences on the kind of country we have than any other type of policy.

The government of Canada, the government of this Province, and governments of every Province are sometimes caught into this thing. I hear the Leader of the Opposition worrying out loud as to whether or not companies will have their executive stay in Halifax because of our income tax here in Newfoundland. There should not be that kind of differentiation and we should not be forced into playing that kind of game. The tax system should be more uniform across the country and fairer to people so that you do not have this kind of competition.

Mr. Chairman, I do support the measure. It is more symbolic than anything else because the amount of money raised by it is not terribly significant in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps the minister can explain what percentage of the total revenues are going to be collected by this tax measure. It seems to me that it is about one-third of 1 per cent or less, and that seems to me not terribly significant; so it is more symbolic than significant from a revenue point of view. Nevertheless I think it is a positive measure and ought to be supported.

CHAIR: Order, please!

Resolution

"That it is expedient to bring in a measure to amend the Income Tax Act."

On motion, resolution carried.

On motion, clauses 1 and 2, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed the resolution and a bill consequent thereto, without amendment, carried.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I move that we do Motion No. 3, Bill No. 4, and I will ask the - there he goes.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Health.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The role of pinch-hitting or standing in for the hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board is getting to be a rather fun role in the sense that there seems to be such an overwhelming degree of support for the first bill that I brought in on that account in the House. The Leader of the Opposition and his Party support it unanimously; the Leader of the other Party, the social democratic conscience of the country, that Party supports it and I am sure that if the hon. the Member for Eagle River had occasion to rise, she would have heartily supported it. So with that level of support we are going to hasten on to Bill No. 4, because this is a bill that will certainly garner the support of the hon. the Member for Quidi Vidi - Signal Hill.

It is a bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act."

I will be interested to hear the reaction, of course, of the members of the official Opposition because being of a Conservative mind-set and of the Conservative bent, this being a tax then on the people who support that Party, I would be interested to hear how they are going to speak to the bill. Certainly, there is no question as to the support that we anticipate from the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

Mr. Chairman, in the Budget that was recently introduced, again there was an increase of from 3 to 4 per cent applied to the financial institutions that fall under this act, and this piece of legislation is simply to facilitate and give legal basis for the implication of that tax.

I think we all agree, certainly I think it is recognized, that of all the types of businesses that operate out there in the real world and in the business sector, if there is any sector that can afford to help out a little in these tough, economic times, it would be the banks and the trust companies. We understand, just by reading the Globe and Mail and listening to the stock market and observing the annual reports that come forward from the banks and the trust companies, that they are making very, very good profits. They are making what any of us would be willing to describe as handsome profits, and on that account, government, I believe in its wisdom, saw fit to bring in an increase of 1 per cent in the taxes that we apply to those institutions.

It will not get us a lot of money, it will get us a few million dollars. It is between $2 million and $3 million I believe was the projected revenue from it. Some would argue that probably it could have been higher. I have no doubt that they could have sustained probably a higher level of increased taxation, but on the other hand we have to give recognition to those who generate and create wealth in the economy, because those also are the people who provide jobs, those are the people who provide employment for the people of the economy.

Government unfortunately has, on too many occasions, been looked upon, Mr. Chairman, as being the vehicle that should be creating jobs for peoples' living. Government, in the first instance, should never be considered and looked upon as the vehicle to create employment. Government should be providing and creating a climate in which the free enterprise sector out there generates jobs and lends to the creation of wealth.

The introduction and passage of this bill tonight, Bill No. 4, to give rise to this increase in tax on banks and trust companies, I'm sure will be heartily received by some, and I think it will be otherwise endorsed favourable by others. I would ask that we deal with this in an expeditious and informative manner because -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: You are going to talk yourself out of the bill.

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Chairman, I'm trying to think on my feet here and wonder if there is some way where I can't increase the percentage of increase that the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board had in mind. I don't think I will attempt to do that. I will stick with what he proposed in his Budget. I would ask for your support of this bill so that we could have a few more dollars from those who can pay most to the taxation base of the economy. Having said that, I was about to sit down, but seeing the crowd that wants to get up and follow me I think I will stay up.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

I have to say to the hon. minister that he is standing up and doing some really good pinch-hitting for his colleague, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. It just goes to show that he is doing better in his wealth portfolio than he does in his health portfolio. Certainly he is giving better answers. He gave a full explanation, did a great job. If he could come tomorrow and give us some answers to our health problems like that we would be up here singing his praises.

We, for the members of the Conservative Party, are quite pleased to stand and endorse this particular bill, although I'm not sure that we have more friends in the corporate community, the banking community, than do the members opposite. Certainly if you look at the contributions that have gone into various political parties and the listing that comes out through the proper forums, you would find out that many of these trust companies and banks are friends to both political parties. I don't know about my friend over here. They probably haven't been quite persuaded yet. They do tend to be equally supportive. In fact, many of them give equal donations to the two major parties.

Mr. Chairman, I want to endorse the principles that are contained in the legislation. Certainly, I think it is a move in the right direction. I think evidence will show that trust companies and banks are quite able to pay this particular increase in their taxation. Also, it has the effect of keeping more of the money that is made by the Newfoundland and Labrador depositors home here, instead of having it sent off to the national headquarters and distributed in other parts of the country. So, Mr. Chairman, we believe it is a step in the right direction. We believe that we aren't unduly hindering development nor are we unduly penalizing anybody in the financial community. We think that the money will stay here, and through the redistribution process that takes place, hopefully jobs will be created.

We do have fears that some of the financial community, the banks and trust companies, might use this as an excuse to down size their workforce. I hope that doesn't happen. It would be unfair and unwise of them if they did use that as an excuse to say that they have to lay people off and that kind of thing.

Mr. Chairman, I just want to again say that we, for the Conservative Party, will be voting for this piece of legislation. With that I will conclude my comments and the comments on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Before introducing the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, the Chair would like to welcome to the gallery Robin McGrath, an author of renown from the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island, and ask the members of the Assembly to welcome Robin to the gallery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I acknowledge as well the individual in the gallery and her husband, both just moved into the District of Conception Bay East & Bell Island from the district that I represented. What the Chairman didn't acknowledge is that the author is also the winner of two awards in the recently announced Arts and Letters Competition.

As to the bill itself, I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this legislation, "An Act To Amend The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act." The last time the government moved an amendment to this act, Mr. Chairman, it tried to sneak it in one afternoon at around 4:30. It wasn't until it had been discovered to be an act to provide special loopholes and special consideration for Fortis that it became known as the Fortis act, giving special tax considerations to a certain type of corporation, only one of which existed in the Province. That fact wasn't disclosed by the minister who introduced it at the time. At least this minister in his acting capacity was able to tell us what the bill was about.

He did say something that I find quite disturbing. He talked about banks and trust companies, how important they are, and about the wealth that they generate and the jobs that they create. Well, Mr. Chairman, I'm not aware of that. The Member for Waterford Valley has talked about this as being a good way of keeping some of the money that the banks have in the Province. Perhaps it may be the only way. The banks certainly invest some of their money in the Province, but the overwhelming role of the banks and trust companies has been to take money out of this Province.

If you ever hear a big wind in Newfoundland it may be the great sucking noise of the wealth of this Province that is in the banks actually going out of the Province and into Toronto, or into mainland Canada, or into the United States, leaving this Province. They do not reinvest very much of their money in this Province. They certainly do not reinvest their profits in this Province. We even have now an ad campaign by one of the largest credit unions in the Province, the Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union, with assets of in excess of $130 million, conducting an advertising campaign in which they are underlining the fact that they reinvest every dollar that is deposited in their institution in this Province in the form of loans and mortgages, and support for business enterprises.

That is the difference, Mr. Chairman, between the credit union system and the banking system. The bank is a business like many others, designed to make profits for its shareholders, and its shareholders are doing very, very well from the profitability of the banks over the last number of years, not only from the business of its customers, Mr. Chairman, but also from the government. Because the government, instead of creating its own wealth, borrows the money from the banks and pays the high interest rates to the banks instead of using the Bank of Canada to create wealth.

This tax is a piddling amount to the banks. It may keep some of the money that the banks have in this Province; it will not keep very much here. We do not have the same kind of traditions in this Province of hating the banks as a matter of government policy. Out west for many years, especially during the depression, there was a running battle between governments and the banks over what they were doing to the western farmers, whether in Alberta or in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Eastern banks were considered the enemy and the governments were trying, time and time again, to find ways of stopping the stranglehold that the banks had over farmers.

There was, in fact, a great history of action by the Alberta government in particular, the Social Credit government of Alberta, trying to virtually outlaw banks in the Province of Alberta because of the devastating effects they were seen to be having on the people of Alberta, in particular farmers, making it very difficult, for example, to foreclose on mortgages. The Alberta government tried to set up its own bank and, in fact, to this day still has a whole series of so-called treasury branches throughout Alberta which take deposits from individuals, pay interest on those deposits, make loans and does other things. So there is a very interesting culture and politic with respect to banking in Western Canada we do not seem to share here.

Our own history has been more that of the fish merchants controlling the credit system, controlling the capital system, controlling all of that. The banks, up until 100 years ago, have had a rather unhappy history in this Province with bank crashes, until 1895 when the Bank of Montreal came in and took over the Government of Newfoundland's finances; and other banks from Canada have dominated the scene. So we do have a long history of the Canadian banks playing a role in Newfoundland.

We have a bit of history of the banks pulling out of places where they do not make money. Eagle River, for example, is a very good example. On the southern Labrador Coast, the Bank of Montreal pulled out of that area a number of years ago and the response of the local community, Mr. Chairman, was, first of all, one of anger that the bank would abandon the service to the business community and to the people of that district. That was the first response. The second response was to get together and form their own credit union, now known as the Eagle River Credit Union, which has been extremely successful in many ways, both in running a first-rate financial institution for the people of that area, but also allowing a safe place for people to deposit their money, providing a good rate of return on people's savings, but also making available to the people of that area loans at decent rates, and also for businesses as well. It has been a highly successful community response. The banks decided they could not make enough money to suit them being there. When we are talking about banks and financial institutions, they are basically responding not to the needs of people, except in so far as that will help their bottom line.

Banks in this country are doing extremely well. They are maximizing their profits by laying people off. They see it as their job to - if they can make more money with less people then they are quite happy to lay people off. Banks in this country have laid off approximately 7,000 people over the last couple of years while their profits have soared enormously to obscene heights. A measly 1 per cent increase in the financial corporations capital tax is not going to place much of a dent in their profits. It may keep a few more dollars - I think the figure, $2 million to $3 million has been mentioned - keep it in this Province by taxing it away from them and letting the Newfoundland government redistribute it, but it is not going to make a significant dent neither on their income nor on the provincial government's finances.

So while we support the measure, it is obviously not going to have any major impact. I would prefer to see government get involved with some sort of differential kind of tax, something that might encourage them to re-invest some of their profits in this Province in a better way. I know that the banks are trying to change their image, they are trying to make themselves more user friendly, trying to make themselves more acceptable to people; but the bottom line is that when all is said and done, they are there to maximize whatever return they can for their investors, their shareholders, and that is not all that often the people of this Province, Mr. Speaker.

So, while we can support the measure, we don't support the comments of the Minister of Health speaking on behalf of the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, but we do see it as an appropriate step that the banks and financial institutions make a more significant contribution to the tax revenues of this Province.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

Resolution

"That it is expedient to bring in a measure to amend the Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act."

On motion, resolution, carried.

On motion, clauses 1 through to 3, carried.

Motion, that the Committee report having passed a resolution and a bill consequent thereto, carried.

MR. TULK: Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee rise and report that the Committee has adopted Motion No. 2, Bill No. 3 and Motion No. 3, Bill No. 4, and recommend that bills be introduced to give effect to the same.

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 Conception Bay East & Bell Island.

MR. WALSH: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report that they have adopted certain resolutions and recommend that Bills No. 3 and No. 4 be introduced to give effect to the same.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairperson of the Committee of the Whole reports that the Committee has considered the matters to it referred and has directed him to report that the Committee has adopted certain resolutions and recommends that bills be introduced to give effect to same.

Resolution

"That it is expedient to bring in a measure to amend the Income Tax Act."

On motion, resolution read a first and second time.

Resolution

"That it is expedient to bring in a measure to amend the Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act."

On motion, resolution read a first and second time.

On motion, the following bills read a first, second and third time, ordered passed and their titles be as on the Order Paper.

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Income Tax Act." (Bill No. 3)

A bill, "An Act To Amend The Financial Corporations Capital Tax Act." (Bill No. 4)

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before moving the adjournment of the House for hon. members, the order of business will be: Tomorrow we will start with Bill No. 10. We will do second reading and then committee stage on Bill No. 10, and hopefully progress to committee stage on Bill No. 9 and Committee of the Whole to consider Bill No. 14 and Bill No. 5.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could ask leave to call first reading of Bill No. 16, Motion No. 7?

A bill, "An Act To Establish The Memorial University Foundation." (Bill No. 16)

On motion Bill No. 16 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

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

MR. TULK: I move that the House at its rising do adjourn until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Friday at 9:00 o'clock in the morning.