November 18, 1996         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLIII  No. 35

 


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to provide hon. members with the midyear update on our financial position for the 1996-97 fiscal year.

In the 1996 Budget speech of May 16 we stated, "Midyear budget corrections in recent years have created uncertainty in both the public and private sectors and diverted efforts from the real job of planning and providing services". In preparing the budget, one of our objectives was to minimize the opportunity for a disruptive midyear correction to arise this year. Part of our budget plan was the inclusion of a $30 million contingency reserve in the budget to assist in ensuring our budget targets would be met.

I am pleased to report to hon. members today that no midyear correction will be required.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: There have been variances in some revenue and expenditure items, as there is with any budget, but overall we are meeting the financial targets we set for this year. In fact, both revenues and expenditures show favourable developments that could lead to a net improvement in our financial position from the budget forecast. The most significant expenditure variance is projected savings in debt servicing costs. On the revenue side, federal transfer payments could end the year above forecast because of re-estimates of entitlements from prior years. I would note, however, that even if there are no interest savings and no gains in transfer payments, we still would be on target with our budget forecast. We have controlled expenditures. We have accurately projected revenues. We have been realistic. We have been fiscally prudent. We have been competent managers of the Province's finances.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: Because we are on target, and there are no major items which would cause us to materially restate our financial position at this time, we are not issuing a revised budget or a new forecast of our budgetary position at midyear. Sound planning and good management have left our original budget in tact. If the current trend continues, and some factors, such as lower interest rates, reap financial benefits for us, we could realize some improvement over budget in our fiscal performance at year end.

The provincial economy also is performing somewhat better than forecast at budget. This results primarily from the slowdown in Hibernia construction taking place later in the year than initially expected and some positive developments in the fishery. This year we had a capelin fishery that was not anticipated at budget and the shellfishery has been more successful. There will still be a decline in GDP, but in magnitude it will not be as great as initially anticipated.

Mr. Speaker, while our financial performance is showing some improvement over budget at midyear, this will not permit us to be any less vigilant in our fiscal management. There are still risks to the budget in the second half of this year that could reverse some of the improvements that are developing at midyear. This is particularly true of federal transfers which are subject to further federal re-estimates before year end. A budget is simply a financial forecast utilizing the best information available at any given point in time. It is subject always to unforeseen and unforeseeable events.

While we remain confident that we will achieve our fiscal targets this year, the Province still faces significant fiscal challenges over the next several years. Our performance to date indicates that our budget planning has been prudent and responsible and it is imperative that we maintain a sound fiscal position to ensure that we can continue to provide essential and sustainable public services.

I would remind honourable members that the budget plan for this fiscal year is not simply government's plan. It was put in place only after extensive pre-budget consultation with the people of the Province. The first such consultations in our -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.

MR. DICKS: The result is a strategy that was built on a consensus and common sense. Its elements are simple, protecting essential public services by more efficient delivery, while maintaining a sound financial position. It is our objective to operate more efficiently and at a lower cost through better management. It is clear that this is what the people of the Province want. It is equally clear that they do not want increased taxes on average families and irresponsible increases in the public debt.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we must spend less in the coming fiscal years. This is inevitable, given the declining federal transfers and present economic conditions. Spending less means that we must spend smarter. In the budget we announced a process that was established to review all expenditures and programs of government. This program review process is now well underway. A select committee of ministers is reviewing detailed submissions made by all government departments and agencies. It will make recommendations to rationalize our spending and to restructure government. The results of program review will be put before the people for their views and suggestions as part of the 1997-98 pre-budget consultations, before any of the recommendations are implemented.

With the results of the pre-budget consultation process and program review, it is our objective to introduce a three year fiscal plan in the 1997-98 budget. This will permit more effective budget planning throughout government. With the longer planning horizon, departments, agencies and all those funded by government will be better able to focus on their most important task, delivering essential and necessary public services. The three year plan is another example of how this government is addressing the considerable challenge of ongoing fiscal restraint in a managed, consistent and responsible manner. All those who rely on government funding need and deserve a stable, predictable and clear financial basis on which to conduct their service planning. This cannot be done in a fiscal environment that lurches from year to year, interspersed with financial shocks brought on by mid-year corrections.

A key component of our financial plan is to set reasonable fiscal targets and either meet or exceed them. The people of the Province can be assured that this government remains committed to responsible fiscal management. If we are to sustain and over time enhance successful and essential public services, there is no other effective course of action. Our performance this year demonstrates this government's commitment to prudent budget planning, responsible fiscal management and the maintenance of a sound financial position.

I must caution and emphasize, however, that this performance does not signal a reversal of our financial fortunes. The challenge lies ahead, not behind us. We are facing a period of significant adjustment to the size and structure of government. Our commitment to the people of the Province is that we will meet this challenge in a planned, responsible and consistent manner, one that will yield the same possible results in the future that we report to you today.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister did not clarify this here - he certainly may do that later - whether his projections are as they are, because he has dipped into the $30 million contingency reserve or whether we are still not going to have to borrow that amount of money; he has not made that point clear. In fact, the Premier of this Province stated - and I asked that question last spring in the House and the Premier said: I can assure you, I would be glad to make him and not only him, the people of the Province aware if that necessity arises.

He goes on to say that he is prepared to undertake here and now, in the name of Budget transparency, that the Minister of Finance, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, will stand in the House and indicate when those borrowings become necessary and indicate the detail in which they are necessary. He has not indicated if the $30 million have been dipped into one of these budgets, whether he is assuming the expenditure is on line without this $30 million. If the minister is stating that, and we do reach it without touching the $30 million, then I compliment the minister if that is the case.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: But I can assure the minister - The minister avoided addressing the contingency reserve because the Premier said he would come back to this House if we needed to dip into that, and he would have -

PREMIER TOBIN: Point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier on a point of order.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I know the Leader of the Opposition is an hon. man, and I know he would not want to mislead the House; and because I accept he is an hon. man I want to make clear to the Leader of the Opposition, if he had waited a few more minutes for Question Period, so far we haven't borrowed a nickel of the $30 million contingency.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There are several months left in the fiscal year, I say to the Premier, and the Premier has many, many roads to travel.

I am glad, I will say to the Minister of Finance, he took my advice last spring in the Budget. I said what we want to see in this Province is a long-term fiscal plan for this Province. I am glad to see he has at least indicated we are going to see it. I am not sure if it is going to be delivered. In fact, I would say to the minister, many of the areas in which your projections might seem to be what you are seeing is because you made other cuts beyond those budgeted.

In the Budget you indicated there would be no cuts and increases in Social Services. We have had a 10 per cent cut this summer. We have had cutbacks in health care that were not indicated in this Budget. Have you reached your expectations because of cuts that were not set forth in the Budget, and other cuts that have been initiated since the Budget was presented last spring?

The minister said: We must operate in a fiscal environment that doesn't lurch from year to year; in other words, interspersed with financial shocks. Is the minister stating that is what we have been getting for the last number of years? The minister should be standing in his place and not stating he is proud we don't have a midyear correction. In fact, he is admitting that because we don't have a midyear budget there is something wrong. We should never have a midyear budget. Our budget should be realistic. We have missed it six of the last seven years, I say to the minister. I hope it is on target this year, and I hope it is not because -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: By leave to finish up, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. SULLIVAN: I hope the reason it could be on target is not because you went deeper than the Budget allowed, and made those cuts upon the backs of the people here in the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi have leave to respond to the ministerial statement?

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Leader of the Opposition (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has asked the hon. members. The decision is that there is no leave for the hon. Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: In 1990, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador established a Royal Commission to examine all aspects of education in the Province. Government released the Royal Commission Report entitled "Our Children Our Future" in 1992 and, subsequently, established an Implementation Secretariat to guide the implementation of the recommendations in that report.

At that time the Royal Commission indicated that it could not complete a review of special education within the context of the overall review and recommended that a separate, comprehensive review of special education be conducted. Consequently, in March of 1995, Dr. Patricia Canning of Memorial University was contracted, through the Royal Commission Implementation Secretariat, to complete the review of special education. A draft of the report entitled "Special Matters: The Report of the Review of Special Education" was presented to me on July 23, 1996. As a follow-up to this meeting, Dr. Canning was requested to prepare a summary report and invited to make a presentation to the Social Policy Committee of Cabinet. The report was presented to the Social Policy Committee on October 30, 1996. Following that meeting, I requested the printing of l,000 copies for public distribution and these copies are available today.

The report provides a broad review of all aspects of special education and support services for children and youth. It contains 226 recommendations which highlight the need to reformulate strategies from both the prevention and intervention perspectives. In general, early intervention services for at-risk populations and specialized interventions for students with special educational needs are contained and commented on within this report.

Mr. Speaker, the report is being released today and will be distributed as broadly as possible, including to all the major stakeholders in education. Within this context, government will establish a three-stage response to the report that will include the following components:

First of all a detailed internal analysis of all 226 recommendations;

An invitation to the public, including the major stakeholders, to provide responses to the issues and recommendations contained in the report;

And thirdly, an integration of the internal analysis and public response to provide a decision-making framework for government with respect to the full content of the report.

A careful analysis is required in order to develop a well-reasoned response over time. In addition, government will need to consider aspects of this report along with the report of the Select Committee on Children's Interests and the report of the Social Policy Advisory Committee. An implementation plan will be prepared to address the issues and recommendations contained in the report, in concert with the other two reports.

The copies are available to members of the Legislature today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is certainly about time that there has been some response to this report, because it seems to me the only person in this Province who has not responded to this report, entitled "Special Matters: The Report of the Review of Special Education", has indeed been the Minister of Education himself.

The issue of time is what concerns me with respect to this particular issue. We have in 1990 the establishment of a royal commission, almost seven years ago; 1992, the releasing of the royal commission report; 1995, the contracting out in preparation of this report; the presentation of this report in July 1996 to the hon. minister; and here today, November 18 1996, the release of this report. The issue of time is what is of great concern to me.

What we require right now is crisis intervention. Upon careful review of this report it is clear that the young people of this Province and their families require assistance, require immediate attention, with respect to the issue of their needs, and with respect to the issue of special education in our schools. We need immediate response, we need attention immediately, and the issue of time is clearly what the hon. minister is requesting. Time has run out, and when we see -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: - language such as the establishment of "a three-stage response," a "detailed internal analysis...," an "integration of... internal analysis...," a "careful analysis is required in order to develop a well-reasoned response over time." Time is of the essence. The children of this Province demand attention immediately. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member doesn't have leave.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are to the Premier. Will the Premier commit to spending a couple of months in this Province to deal with health, education, unemployment, child poverty and child protection, out-migration, regressive taxation and a lack of consumer confidence, all created by the incompetency of your Cabinet?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I commit to spending many years in this Province dealing with all of those issues with a very confident Cabinet.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Has the Premier reached a negotiated deal with Inco yet?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, we are working away and this development and many other developments, both in the resource sector and the manufacturing sector, in the IT sector and as we reach agreements in each of these sectors we will certainly be making the Leader of the Opposition and the people of the Province aware of the progress that is ensuing.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier, in delaying action on the mineral and mining tax act, may be subjecting this Province to another horrendous deal equalled only by Churchill Falls. Now why is the Premier refusing to act on mineral royalties for Voisey's Bay and risking legal consequences for the people of this Province once again?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, these questions are beginning to sound like they came from VOCM. I want to assure the Leader of the Opposition that notwithstanding the high level of research that is now being done for the Leader of the Opposition in preparing these probing and penetrating questions, that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, this Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, will ensure that the people of the Province get a full and fair share from the benefits and resources from the Voisey's Bay development.

I know that the Leader of the Opposition wants the government to ensure that there are substantial benefits for the people of Labrador in the first instance, both in direct jobs from this development and in other infrastructure development which must occur in Labrador to assist Labradorians but also benefits for the whole of the Province. The Leader of the Opposition knows that this mine and for that matter the mine, mill and the smelter and the refinery are not going to come on stream for a number of additional years and it is important that we get it right. We will take a number of months to make sure we get it right and I think the Leader of the Opposition will even, himself, be able to stand in this House at one point and say that it is a deal, a good deal and one that benefits the whole of the Province, both in Labrador and on the island.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We have not seen anything yet I say to the Premier. Is the Premier waiting for Inco to tell him what he is allowed to get for the people of this Province? I ask the Premier, who is in control?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I ask who is writing these questions?

Mr. Speaker, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, in all honesty, the Leader of the Opposition knows that any time you are developing resource industries, be it the offshore or be it mineral deposits on land, that these are long and these are complex negotiations and discussions if you are trying to make sure that we maximize, to the greatest extent possible, job opportunities for the people of the Province, job opportunities for small business and construction companies and those that provide services in the Province and finally revenue over the long term for the provincial government. The Leader of the Opposition knows that this is not the kind of issue that is going to be resolved by simply standing up and asking rhetorical questions, `Who is in control? Who is going to dictate to who and so on?' The reality is, it is the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador that at the end of the day will set the terms and conditions for this development. That is as it should be and we will take the time necessary to get it done right and if there is some useful and constructive suggestion that the Leader of the Opposition or members of his party want to make, we will certainly take those aboard when they are made in a useful and constructive fashion.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There was legislation in this House a year ago and you Premier, when you became Premier you scuttled that legislation that would give revenues back to this Province.

Now the co-discoverer of this massive resource, Al Chislett, has warned government that a long-term deal with Inco is essential to protect the people of this Province from a short and a sweet deal from Inco, neglecting the long-term commitment that is needed by the people of this Province.

Now, will the Premier guarantee that at least a twenty-year deal for Newfoundland and Labrador will occur?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know why the Leader of the Opposition wants to settle for a mere twenty years. We want something that will last a couple of generations given the nature of this deposit, and I am disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition is willing to sign off on the development with the expectation that it might last a mere nineteen years.

The fact of the matter is, a year ago we were talking about a deposit that had an estimated reserve of some thirty-five million tons and, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition should be paying attention because we are now talking about a reserve that has an estimated total reserve value there of 150 million tons. A year ago we were talking about an annual production of 130 million pounds; this year we are looking at 270 million pounds. The Leader of the Opposition should know that the size and scope of this project grows as more and more reserve is found, and so we are not prepared to say that we will settle for a mere five or ten or twenty years.

We want something like Sudbury, where they began a development over 100 years ago. They had one find initially; they now have sixteen mines, two refineries, tens of thousands of people directly and indirectly employed. That is the kind of thinking we are doing and, yes, we would like to see nickel manufactured right here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Leader of the Opposition should catch up with the government in its optimism and its confidence of turning this into a major development for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I need a fast jet, I say to the Premier, a very fast jet.

The Premier does not hear very well either; I said at least a twenty-year. At least it is twenty more than you have now, Premier.

Will you stand in your place now and commit that you will sign with Inco a deal that is at least twenty years for this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is displaying an abysmal lack of understanding, a totally abysmal lack of understanding of the process that is now under way, when he gets up and asks those kinds of questions.

We want to create an environment where, until the end of the useful life of that mine - and we believe that could be quite substantial, in fact may well be far beyond twenty years - there is a development that creates jobs in the Province, that gives an opportunity for the provision of goods and services by small business people in the Province, and that gives us a long-term cash flow as a provincial government so we can meet our financial obligations, our more fundamental obligations in the area of social policy. For example, for education, for health care, for those who require a measure of assistance because they are unemployed, or those who are on welfare, trying to retrain and come back into the work force, these are the kinds of things that we are concerned about; and for the Leader of the Opposition to stand and try and see the negative in every positive development in the Province, really, is not worthy of the role, the important role, that the Leader of the Opposition must play in this Chamber.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Premier is not prepared to give that commitment. He is not prepared to give that commitment. All he is prepared to give is rhetoric, not commitment.

Now, why have all the other stakeholders in Voisey's Bay made millions while people of this Province are left with nothing but promises of hope? Now, why do you continue to hide your negotiations from the people of this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is really talking, with great respect, without any kind of substance whatsoever here today. Is the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that the government should nationalize Voisey's Bay? I think he owes the people of the Province an answer. Is he saying that we should have de-listed it by taking an effort to nationalize it, that we should pull a Castro or something? Does he think this is Cuba? Is he seeing palm trees on the front lawn? What is the Leader of the Opposition saying?

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

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I just asked the Premier one simple question: Will you give a commitment that a deal for this Province will be a long-term deal, at least twenty years in duration? Will you give that commitment, Premier, if you have so much optimism and confidence on the future of Voisey's Bay, or will you be dictated to by Inco?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, why does the Leader of the Opposition insist on standing up without making any kind of case, without laying before the people of the Province any kind of premise, without giving us any foundation for the kind of concerns that he is raising? Why does he insist on trying to portray INCO as some kind of monolith dictating to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador? Why doesn't he have the kind of confidence in Newfoundland and Labrador that we members on this side have? We happen to believe that it is possible for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to take control of their own fate. We think it is possible for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to fasten their own sail. We think it is possible for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to chart their own course; and we know it is possible for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to change our circumstance and deliver a better day for this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education has just released a special education report that has found some 38,000 children in our Province living below the poverty line, and that while the relationship between poverty, illiteracy and achievement has been recognized in a number of previous reports, including the 1992 Royal Commission on Education, there has been no overall plan to address these problems in a comprehensive manner. That comes directly from page 39 of the report released today.

Is the minister now telling us that we will have to go through yet another three stages before we see any actions on these recommendations and, if so, how long will these stages take?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With respect to any report that is commissioned and done on behalf of the government, I think the honourable members opposite would understand that while there are some 226 recommendations in this report today specifically relating to special matters, special education needs in the schools on behalf of the children and students of our Province, that there are some issues in there, after he takes time to read the full report, that are not cut and dried and do not have unanimous support.

While a particular group looked at the issues and made recommendations, there are constituencies who lobby on behalf of poor children, on behalf of children with learning disabilities, on behalf of children with all kinds of special needs, who will in fact, after they see this report and study it, take some exception and will debate some of the recommendations made in this report which came from a particular group that studied it from a point of view and have made exactly that, just recommendations.

The recommendations, Mr. Speaker, if they are in fact to be actioned, have to be studied carefully by the government itself as to what it means in terms of implementing any or all of them in the school system, what impact that would have, what policy changes might be required with respect to current practise, and any alterations that might be needed to go along with the type of information and the suggestion that is put forward in this report. I think it would be only prudent to wait to hear from parents and advocates of those most directly affected and impacted by these recommendations as to whether or not they think this is the right approach to take in 226 separate incidents.

So there will be some time, Mr. Speaker, as there is with any report - you do not accept reports and carte blanche say that ends the debate, no one else has a point of view, and we now go ahead and implement. There are other groups and people, including the students directly impacted, who, once they see this report, might have some differing points of view with respect to some of these issues, and we will try to implement those that can be implemented at the earliest opportunity.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The ministerial statement earlier today indicates that the hon. minister has had a copy of the draft of this report since July of this year, some two months ago. Mr. Speaker, the report indicates that there is a high number of students in need of remedial or reading assistance, and that this is the most significant problem of general education in our Province, page 285, Mr. Speaker.

The report faults the department in this Province with the lowest reading achievement rate in Canada, for not even having a reading specialist on staff, and for neither recognizing or addressing the remedial needs of children.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The honourable member is on a supplementary; I ask him to get to his question.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, these matters need immediate attention and I ask the honourable minister, what will the minister do in the short term?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With respect to one of the key issues in the report - and I will address the reading matter shortly - the whole notion of poverty, the links between poverty, lack of food, poor children going to school without proper nutrition and so on, while there is a recommendation in this particular report that deals with that, since we did have this report in July - as I indicated in the statement as well, we invited the author of the report, on behalf of those who crafted the report and presented it, to come to a meeting of the Social Policy Committee of Cabinet. We have been working with the Minister of Social Services and the Minister of Health with respect to trying to look at a shorter term, a more immediate response that government might be able to implement even in this fiscal year if it is at all possible, and we will be trying to deal with that issue on a more timely basis, but there are many issues in the education system, particularly with respect to issues like reading.

Once we have deployed the professionals within the system for a start of the school year, and once they are actually assigned to certain tasks by their school boards, and by the school administrations, it is very difficult sometimes to make adjustments in their assignments and their allocations during a school year that is already in progress. There may be opportunities at a break in the session, such as at Christmas or Easter where you might make some reallocations or reassignments, but everybody has to understand that once you have a system in place for a school year, in most instances it is difficult, if not impossible, to make major changes -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. GRIMES: - until you get to an appropriate juncture in that year or in the next school year.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The report makes it clear that there are probably more than 7000 learning disabled students in this Province, more than 7000, Mr. Speaker. In view of the number of recommendations, and there are many, in view of the recommendations as found in this report, what immediate direction will the hon. minister give to the present school boards and the newly constructed school boards in order to place the needs of special education students as a priority in this Province?

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There are some issues raised in the report Special Matters with respect to the allocations of units that are currently provided from the Department of Education to school boards to deal with special education and learning disability matters in the schools. One of the points raised in the report is that some allocations that are provided to school boards for those purposes are being utilized for other purposes. We have encouraged the school boards all along to maximize the use of teachers that are provided, and other professionals within the system, for special education, special learning needs, to use them for those purposes instead of for other purposes. However, decisions with respect to the final deployment of those educational professionals lie with the boards, and they sit and have their meetings as to where the priorities are in their school boards with respect to their listing of them, not the government making a decision in every school in the Province, but the local school boards trying to make sure they have considered all the needs and have deployed the professional educators to meet the needs on a priority basis as they have deemed them for that school year.

We have indicated to the ten new school boards, Mr. Speaker, that when they have their five program implementation specialists in place for next year that we expect that one of those five will be dedicated to the area of special education and special needs, and would co-ordinate all the efforts of the school boards through the head office function, and that would give it the priority it needs from that point of view.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today, of course, are for the Minister of Health, especially with no new cuts to health care. I would like to ask the Minister of Health if he can remember back to this House on May 24, and if he does not he can certainly review Hansard, when the Minister of Health told this House that $100 million, plus or minus, should take care of the capital adjustment that was going to be made both at St. Clare's and the Health Sciences Centre to accommodate the Janeway? At that time the minister told us, again recorded in Hansard, that the saving would be some $25 to $30 million on operational savings a year.

Inside the space of five years that would be more than sufficient to take care of the capital expenditure that would have to be made, but Sister Elizabeth Davis, in her November 12 update - and if the minister does not have a copy I will see that he gets one - said that only $10 million a year would be used to pay off any loan for construction. The minister heard that the same as I heard that. Isn't Sister Elizabeth Davis saving that we will end up spending not $100 million but closer to $200 million, counting the interest, of course, to replace this hospital, and that it will be done not over five or six years but closer to probably twenty years? I ask today, who is telling the truth here, Sister Davis or the minister?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To the latter part of his question let me answer it first; we are both telling the truth. What else would you expect? We would not tell you anything else but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Nothing has changed, Mr. Speaker, in terms of the proposition that the member puts forward. The projected cost of the new construction will be about $100 million, give or take. The annualized savings, once the restructuring is done, will be about $25 million. We can choose, as he says, as a government, to take the $25 million and in five years or four years pay off $100 million. We can choose to pay it off at a rate that will be less than that, let's say $10 million a year as he propositions. That means that we will have $15 million left to spend, possibly on other things in health care. We will decide at what point we have that money available to us, how we will amortize the new construction, and how we will spend most effectively the savings that we will achieve as a result of this very prudent restructuring proposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Mr. Speaker, might I say that somewhere between $20 million a year and $30 million a year there is a fair difference. So the question again, of course, is not answered, but that is typical of the Minister of Health.

Sister Davis' update goes on to say: As our budget becomes more constrained the challenge will be to ensure that the savings are realized to protect the amount needed for repaying the loan. Isn't she acknowledging now that most of the money to relocate these facilities will come from realizing savings or, in other words, health spending restraint? Isn't she warning that the government stands poised to gut what is left of the health care system?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to answer but, I can tell you, the simplistic questions that are coming forward, anybody over here could answer with great ease and intelligence. The fact of the matter is -

MR. FRENCH: (Inaudible) between $20 million and $30 million, you don't know the difference!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: I agree, Mr. Speaker, with the proposition that he puts forward, that there is a big difference between $20 million and $30 million. It is $10 million, if you haven't calculated it out.

The fact of the matter is that the Health Care Corporation has been mandated by this government to carry out a restructuring within the St. John's health care system. There will be savings of $100 million. The basis on which we repay the amortization will follow after we know exactly what the cost is and when we decide how much of that savings we want to spend in other areas of the Province, as well as in the St. John's system, in terms of the health care budget that we have.

Nothing that we have said in the past has changed. The question is really not a question. It is a contemplation in the mind of the critic of health who really has not taken the time to sit down and analyze the information that he already has and put together some serious questions. I say, poor job for five months of work writing questions.

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

MR. FRENCH: Oh my, Mr. Speaker. Too much time in the sun.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did he get all the news (inaudible)?

MR. FRENCH: No, he didn't get all the news. He didn't get the same news. Although he attended the same meeting I attended, he wasn't listening.

Sister Davis warned the government Social Policy Advisory Committee on October 25, Minister, that further cuts to health care will yield diminishing returns - yield diminishing returns - that laying off low-income health care workers who have to go on social assistance doesn't help the Province one iota, and in fact can end up costing more. The Premier may have told the public servants not to worry about their jobs, but that was just days before another 143 health care workers were laid off.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So I ask the same question that Sister Davis asked on October 26. Has our government fully understood the cost to the public coffers of doing this? In other words, does this government really know what it is doing in slashing away at our health care system?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: The simple answer to the question is yes, this government does know what it is doing in terms of structuring the health care budget. We, as we have already indicated to the Province, as a government, have made a three-year commitment to health care in the Province. We have made a commitment to an increased budget, but in the same context we have made a commitment to spending the considerable budget that we have committed to health care in as prudent and in as wise and in as efficient a manner as possible. We will continue to do that and I think the hon. member on the other side, if he were to admit to the truth that he knows in his heart, would admit that that is exactly what is happening in the health care system.

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

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

In view of the failure of the legal system and the Department of Social Services to protect the best interest of Jamie Batten, will the minister now admit the bureaucracy charged under law with the responsibility of safeguarding interests of children and the legal system under which the child welfare system operates have failed absolutely in their mandates to the youngest and most vulnerable of our citizens, our young children? I ask the minister what measures she is taking to restore confidence in the child welfare system, particularly as it relates to child protection services?

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

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

I would like to start off answering the question by saying that I have every confidence in our front-line staff, every confidence in our child welfare workers and the system that they are working with. I also have to say that, as you know, as I have stated here in the House of Assembly, we are looking at a complete review of our child welfare legislation. We are also looking at our social policy advisory committee and the information that will be coming forward within that. We are very open to hearing what the public has to say. We have responded to the public's issues here and the children who are in our care are safe and in particular, the child that you refer to.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

The legal system of our Province is not deemed to be child focused or child sensitive. I quote Dr. Kathleen Kufelt: The welfare of the child is lost in the battle between parents over custody. The minister has a responsibility to act now. I say to the minister, what we have seen is a lot of study, a lot of political procrastination. Will the minister not move today to appoint a child advocate for children and youth in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

As the minister responsible for the implementation of the Select Committee on Children's Interests, we are well aware of the recommendations. We will be studying the advocate issue as well as a number of other issues as it relates to child care in this Province. We are still in the process of listening to the people's comments through our Social Policy Advisory Committee and we will take the appropriate action at the appropriate time.

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

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

We have had more studies than I could name in the time that is left in Question Period. A Royal Commission on education, a report the Minister of Education tabled today, Child Welfare League of America Report, the multiplicity of reports emanating from the Mount Cashel scandal, the report on Children's Interest and it goes on and on and on. As Tom Moores says in his book: the children are crying, Mr. Minister, they are crying for action. They are crying for resolution. We know what needs to be done. We know why it needs to be done. We know where it needs to be done. It is your job to answer the questions of how it needs to be done and when. I will ask the question again, when are you going to do something and not rely on more studies, more paperwork and move from talk to action?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I did not, at any point, say we would not act on any of the recommendations that are in these reports. I said we will do it in a timely way. We are still in the process of listening to people and I want to reiterate that the children in care are safe and I think you need to look at every case individually. We will take the appropriate action at the appropriate time.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. On the eve of the Cabot 500th celebrations the Province is privatizing the printing and distribution of the official provincial road map. My question is: is this a good time to privatize the road map before the most important tourism event in our provincial history? Is there sufficient time for a private company to undertake this project before the next tourism season and is the Province ready for any possible mistakes?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, this certainly is one of the initiatives that we have been working on for several years and have had a lot of advice from private industry and they have been advising us to proceed with this. This is something that would be a very minor privatization and one that we are very happy to make in particular because of the Cabot celebrations that are upcoming.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

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

Before we continue with the routine business of the day, I want to draw members' attention again to some of our Standing Orders dealing with the oral question period. Standing Order No. 31 of course deals with the manner in which Question Period should proceed. I want to draw in particular the members' attention to paragraphs 3 and 4 of Standing Order 31.

Paragraph 3 says: "In putting any oral question, no argument or opinion is to be offered nor any facts stated except so far as may be necessary to explain the same; and in answering any such question, the Minister is not to debate the matter to which it refers."

Paragraph 4 says: "Oral questions must not be prefaced by the reading of letters, telegrams, newspaper extracts or preambles of any kind."

I ask members to bear these in mind when putting questions and when answering questions.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow, according to the rules - but I believe that I have leave also of the House to put the motion today, but we will have to ask that as we go along. The motion is:

That the terms of reference of the Select Committee on No-fault Insurance be repealed and the following substituted:

That the Select Committee be renamed the Select Committee to Review the Property and Casualty Insurance Industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and that this Committee inquire into and report upon the property and casualty insurance industry in the Province in general, and specifically with respect to consumer concerns about the cost of insurance and availability of insurance, and address the following issues, among others:

the practicability, the utility and the desirability of introducing a system of no-fault insurance to compensate persons who suffer damages as a result of the operation of motor vehicles in Newfoundland and Labrador and to address the following issues among others:

the relative merits in respect of Newfoundland and Labrador of a pure no-fault model, a threshold no-fault model, and a choice system; whether the present tort system can be improved; the estimated cost of each plan, and in particular whether it will cause any rise in insurance premiums beyond that anticipated under the present tort system; in the case of a threshold no-fault model, the appropriate threshold; the financial implications for Government, including the recovery of hospital and medical care costs; the potential of a no-fault plan to reduce the burden on the courts; and generally the effect of the adoption of a new regime on those who own and operate motor vehicles, the insurance industry and the legal system;

the present rating territories for automobile insurance and whether these territories are appropriate in today's marketplace;

whether regulation of automobile insurance rates by the Public Utilities Board provides for an effective mechanism to ensure reasonable rates and healthy competition among insurers;

whether Section B Accident Benefits Coverage should be mandatory, or voluntary as is now the case;

the appropriate capital requirements for insurance companies to ensure that policy holders are protected and to provide for a strong property and casualty insurance industry in the Province;

underwriting practices that may have questionable validity;

claims practices that may not be in the consumers' best interests;

adjusting and appraisal practices that may have questionable validity.

Those are the areas among others that are to be covered, Mr. Speaker, by the new role that has been assigned to the Select Committee. It was formerly known as the Select Committee on No-fault Insurance. Further:

That the Committee be authorised to send for persons and papers, to sit in Session and out, and to sit from place to place throughout Newfoundland and Labrador;

And that the Committee report to the House by 30 November, 1997.

Mr. Speaker, I think the Leader of the Opposition would like to say a word, and maybe the Leader of the NDP. I'm prepared to give them both leave before we put the motion to have this Committee struck as read into the record.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, is it the wish for us to participate in the discussion now, or shall we wait till you call it later?

MR. TULK: Let's put the motion now.

MR. H. HODDER: That is okay with us. That would be okay with us, yes.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

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

MR. SPEAKER: So by leave we are moving on to this discussion?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We on this side in this Party concur with the appointment of this Committee. Really it is an extension of the mandate that has already been granted to the Committee. It had been authorized in the prior sitting of the House to examine into the automobile industry and the insurance system pertinent to that. We agree with it and expand it now to include property and other aspects of it as the minister has outlined.

We do have a couple other things I would like to note, and that is, that in this time of restraint we note that the size of the committee - I think there are five members - that gives us some concern. We note that most members or most committees of the House have three members and - I know there is provision for it to go up to seven members. The select committee on Children's Interest was three members. We note that in any time of restraint, it would be more appropriate, particularly since there is a lot of travel involved and that kind of thing, if we could have reduced the number of members to be more appropriate to the economic realities of the Province.

However, having said that -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: To the hon. gentleman, let me just say to him that I wish he had raised this because we could have done it without getting it into the House, but if the hon. gentleman wants to restrict travel to three members of the committee even though the committee is five members in size, I am sure that all members who sat on the committee would agree that we should send, maybe only three members at a time, to any meeting to which they go?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Not a problem -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It is really not a point of order. It is just a point of clarification I guess, by the hon. minister.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

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

We make the point that the cost of operating the various committees of the House, and we agree committees are necessary, but believe the members of the House should be serving in these kinds of committees and we just make the point that we would like to see it as being a little conscious of budget, and with that said, Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House in this party, we agree with extending the mandate to the select committee as named by the minister.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am rising to give leave to have the matter voted on today and in doing so, want to make a few comments about the expanded mandate of the committee.

I was initially concerned about the original committee because it seemed to me that it was driven by the desires of the insurance industry and not by the needs of the people and to them I think, `no fault' really means `no pay' for most people who have accidents. But the expanded mandate of the committee seems to allow for more public participation in dealing with problems that face the insurance industry or face people who need insurance, in order to cover their vehicles but also in particular, I have a concern about people not being able to get insurance to cover their houses, and that is a problem that people in my constituency encounter, Mr. Speaker, when insurance companies are turning them down, one after the other after the other, turning them down for fire insurance on a house, preventing them from getting mortgages, preventing houses from being sold because insurance companies say that their quota for St. John's houses are filled up. So that issue is one that needs to be addressed and it may in fact need to be addressed prior to the report of this committee because it is a very important concern that people whose houses are at risk or whose property is at risk are unprotected at this time, so I am pleased to see that as part of the expanded mandate, and I have received assurances that the committee Chair will be dealing with those issues as they are brought to it by members of the public and certainly MHAs.

I am also pleased to see the question as to whether or not the Section B accident coverages should be mandatory or voluntary, included in the mandate of the committee. This is something that is sort of little known, but many vehicles are uninsured for what is called Section B coverage, which provides for immediate medical needs such as physiotherapy and other medical and in fact wage-loss provisions being available in cases where there is an accident. That is something as well that needs to be looked at and I am pleased to support the expanded mandate of the committee. So with that, Mr. Speaker, I would grant leave to have the matter debated now or voted on now.

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

Order, please!

MR. TULK: We have leave to put this motion now. I wonder if we could do that and then return to Notices of Motion.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. Is the House ready for the question? All those in favour, 'aye'. Carried. Further Notices of Motion. The hon. the Minister of Fisheries.

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a Bill entitled, "An Act To Amend The Fish Inspection Act".

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notice of Motion. The hon. the Minister of Health.

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a Bill entitled "An Act To Amend The Registered Nurses Act".

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

MR. EFFORD: I am pleased to introduce a Bill entitled "An Act To Amend The Jury Act".

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

MR. McLEAN: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a Bill entitled "An Act To Amend The Lands Act" Bill No. 22. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a Bill entitled "An Act To Amend The Expropriation Act".

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a Bill entitled "An Act To Amend The Portability of Pensions Act" Bill No. 2.

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

MR. A. REID: I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a Bill entitled "An Act To Amend The Urban And Rural Planning Act". I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a Bill entitled "An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act".

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. TULK: If we are finished with Notices of Motion -

MR. SPEAKER: Well, we are not finished with Notices of Motion. The chair has recognized the honourable Opposition House Leader.

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

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following private members motion:

"WHEREAS Wednesday November 20, 1996 has been declared National Child Day in Canada;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is charged with safe guarding the interests and safety of all children in our province;

AND WHEREAS it is the mandate of the House of Assembly to ensure that the legal rights and social interests of children are an integral and functional part of our approach to governance;

AND WHEREAS government has the responsibility to assure that the viewpoints, rights and interests of children and youth are carefully considered and fairly represented in all matters that affect them;

AND WHEREAS the Select Committee of the House of Assembly on Children's Interests recommended the establishment of a child and youth advocate;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the government immediately establish the office of child and youth advocate to: a) ensure the rights and interests of children, youth and their families relating to designated services are protected and advanced and that their voices are heard and considered in the establishment of government policies and b) to ensure that children, youth and their families have access to fair, responsive and appropriate complaint and review processes at all stages in the provision of designated services and c) to provide information and advice to the government and communities about the availability, effectiveness, responsiveness and relevance of designated services to children, youth and their families and d) to promote and coordinate in communities the establishment of advocacy services for children, youth and their families;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the office of child and youth advocate function as an independent officer of the Legislature with a clear and unimpeded mandate to review and comment upon the operations, programs and mandates of all provincial government departments and agencies.

MR. SPEAKER: Further Notices of Motion. Is the honourable member standing on a point of order?

MR. TULK: We are not finished with Notices of Motion, okay go ahead.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

MR. TULK: Before we move to Answers to Questions For Which Notice has been Given, I understand that the leader of the NDP has agreed that we would have leave to read the Bills a first time in order that we might proceed with the second reading tomorrow and I know that there was one person who was going to object on the Opposition side, according to the Opposition House Leader, and I respect that, but I am just wondering if that person has changed his or her mind so that we can proceed with the business of the House and get on with it. I wonder if we have leave of the House to now proceed with first reading of those bills?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the House have leave to proceed as the hon. Government House Leader has requested?

No leave.

Petitions

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

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

I rise to present a petition to the hon. House of Assembly on behalf of some residents of my constituency in the City of Mount Pearl. It reads as follows; we the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador do hereby petition the House of Assembly to direct the Department of Education to legislate paid adult bus monitor programs for all school buses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We find that students are presently unsupervised and their safety is at risk when going to and from school on school buses. The safety of our children is being compromised. The petition continues, we ask the hon. minister and his government to show compassion, leadership and understanding to ensure the safe transportation of our children.

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing more sacred than the safety of our children. We know that as adults we have to make sure that all practices are in place to assure that young children can go to and from school in a safe manner. Every year there are accidents in this Province involving school buses. We have probably the oldest buses that are able to operate anywhere in this country. Most members of the House may not know that many of the buses that operate in our school system are indeed buses that have run out of their lifespan in other provinces. We therefore need changes that make sure that bus safety starts with the bus itself.

Mr. Speaker, the parents who signed this petition are asking this House, and asking the Minister of Education if he would take it upon himself to assure that bus monitors are provided. We all know the tragedy that occurred a few weeks ago in the town of Paradise. We are shocked and we are saddened by these kinds of events. I have had the sad experience of being there when a young child was run over by a bus at Mount Pearl Central High School in 1976. I know what it is to be on the parking lot. I have been there and I can tell you that there is nothing more tragic that can occur in a community to a family or to a school system than to find that you have right in front of you a helpless child who is going through, shall we say, a great deal of pain, and in this particular case the child died on the way to hospital.

We want this House to acknowledge the responsibility it has for children's safety and we also want the House to assure that we can have bus monitors. When you look at the issue of safety we know there are training programs for bus drivers, and we know there is a safety program operating in every school, but still we find there are young children who need help getting across the street. In the wintertime we find that bus drivers cannot do everything. We cannot blame the drivers who have thirty, forty, up to seventy-two students in a bus. I tell you that the bus driver cannot drive the bus, cannot monitor the safety of the children when they get out, and do all of those jobs at once. It is not possible for it to be done so sometimes things happen.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I ask the House if they would accept the prayer of the petition as placed before the House?

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

MR. SHELLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad today to stand and support my colleague on this particular petition. Mr. Speaker, I might have a petition on the food fishery later but today we are talking about a very serious matter I say to my colleague. This petition, and a lot of concerned parents in this Province, especially in light of the latest accident in Paradise a little while ago and of course as my colleague also pointed out, in 1976 he had the unfortunate experience to see an accident himself. There was one just a few years before that, a few years after in Petty Harbour, the same circumstance.

Mr. Speaker, from being a former teacher, I have also seen it myself where kids are getting out of school, the inadequate parking for the buses and the crowds of kids that come out, the icy conditions that are in the parking lots, the children playing games and so on. I have experienced it myself, although I have not seen an actual accident but I have seen some close calls in parking lots of schools around the Province myself. We all know that the drivers of these buses - you are talking about kids coming out and running into the bus. You are talking about a Friday evening where kids are excited about getting out for the weekend and so on. All of these things are going on and, Mr. Speaker, there is no way that the driver or a student prefect some schools use, can actually monitor those situations. What you need is somebody to look around the bus, behind the bus and in front of the bus. The only way to do that, Mr. Speaker, is through this resolution as suggested by these parents.

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day when we find out that a situation arises in this Province where a child's life is at stake and that it can be corrected if the right emphasis is put on the situation. Very clearly of course, the parents of a child who finds himself in this circumstance are the people that you should talk to first. They are the people who will say to you that their child's life, through this process, through a monitoring process could have been saved. Mr. Speaker, it is a very serious issue that the Minister of Education and his government should look at, should take into consideration. We all know the budget restraints and so on, Mr. Speaker, but we also know of parents who have experienced this type of disaster. We also know of parents who have had close calls with children in buses, in parking lots and so on and yes, it always comes down to dollars and cents but it also comes to the human side of this. It also comes to the human side.

The Minister of Fisheries should not make light of this at all. He should not make light of it, not one little bit. It is a very serious petition. It is serious from the names on that paper, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that they are serious parents who have some serious concerns about this. When a child's life is at hand, Mr. Speaker, we don't make light of it. We don't look at budget and dollar signs as the last point that we do look at, it is the overall, Mr. Speaker. Are we taking chances that we don't need to be taking? That is why these parents got together and took the time to present a petition, to ask to have a petition presented in this House of Assembly where their elected members - and there are many more coming - where the elected members of this Province, the government at hand, the government of the day, can take it seriously. That is why some people say they make light of petitions sometimes. Now, Mr. Speaker, when you come to an issue like this it is something serious. It is something that the government, the Cabinet and the Premier should take very seriously, bring back and discuss it with the parents who have experienced these types of things.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister, the Premier and the Cabinet, that as we continue to present these petitions on behalf of these people who have basically taken the time to organize themselves and to put this forward as a serious issue, should take it very seriously and should do the right thing and implement the monitors. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just briefly with respect to the petition. I understand shortly after we had the most unfortunate accident earlier in this school year that the Opposition critic for Education, on behalf of the Opposition party, indicated publicly that he thought there was a need and probably a response that all of us could get involved in that did not cost money. I am pretty certain that the public record would indicate that the Opposition critis, the solution that he offered on behalf of his party the next day, was that we could have adult monitors on the bus but it could be volunteer, that it did not need to be paid positions. It is an issue that we are taking very seriously and I am, as a matter of fact, meeting with a group of parents from the Paradise area tomorrow morning who were involved with the school where we had the tragedy earlier in the school year. They are coming forward with some suggestions and we are looking at the situation.

By the way, just so people would know, there is as much as, if not a greater effort with respect to school bus monitoring in Newfoundland and Labrador today than in most other jurisdictions in the country. It is an issue which has been studied across the country over the years. We are dealing with a parent group tomorrow and we will be making some further public decisions with respect to school bus monitors in the not-too-distant future.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in my place today to present a petition to the House of Assembly.

We, the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, wish to petition the House of Assembly to voice opposition to the change in the Crown lands fees.

The Minister of Finance was on his feet today, patting himself on the back, saying what a grand job he has done with respect to the Budget this year. When he brought down the Budget back in the spring he talked about no tax increases this year, but what did we see in the Budget? We saw a lot of hidden tax increases. As far as I am concerned they are tax increases.

We saw every license, fee, permit, that is issued by the Province increased, doubled, tripled, quadrupled, or what have you. We saw a policy put in place by the Minister of Government Services and Lands to basically help rape the pockets of the people of this Province when he brought in a policy to require people to make application by October 31 to apply to have their leases converted to grants. They were put in a position where they had no choice but to do it, because if they did not make application by October 31 they would have to pay much more money in the long haul to obtain a grant; so we have to say from that perspective that it was an dishonest Budget, a dishonest move. What happened this summer in this Province with respect to this very issue by the Department of Environment and Lands was nothing less than ridiculous and unfair to the people of this Province.

The minister attended a meeting last June of over 300 people at the Holiday Inn here in St. John's and, as far as I am concerned, he made promises to the people in attendance at that meeting that he could not keep.

AN HON. MEMBER: What are you talking about?

MR. J. BYRNE: If you would pay attention you would know, so I suggest that you pay attention and stop talking to people over there. Listen and pay attention and I am sure you will have no problem in hearing me.

Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader tried to distract and protect the Minister of Government Services and Lands. As a matter of fact I would have to say that I protected the Minister of Government Services and Lands at the meeting last June, and I think the member sitting next to the Minister of Government Services and Lands will agree. He will agree that I protected the Minister of Government Services and Lands at that meeting because the people were prepared to string him up, and I tried to keep the meeting in control, which I did, because I wanted to stick to the issue. I did not want to have the lynching of a new minister on my hands.

MR. TULK: The unmerciful.

MR. J. BYRNE: Merciful, that is the word, and you guys are unmerciful I say to the Government House Leader.

What had happened was that the minister promised there would be changes to this policy, and in June I checked with the department and nothing happened. In July I checked with the department and nothing happened. In August I checked with the department and I checked with the minister and nothing happened. In September I had a meeting with the minister on this very issue and asked: What are the changes? When are the changes coming? He promised me - I believe that was on a Thursday in September - that by Monday he would have an announcement on it, but there was no announcement, none.

The deadline for the applications was October 31 and I believe, and I stand to be corrected on this date, but I think it was October 10 or 11, sometime in that general area, that the minister made a statement that there would be no changes to the policy. Now, the minister stated they were going to take in $6.2 million in revenues. I stated at the time, when I did some calculations, that the figure would be closer to $20 million. Now, on November 14 the minister puts out a statement, cottage leases, applications received, 3,561; residence, l,l26; commercial, 423, and that was not the full potential of the applications to be received. In actual fact, if you work out the figures, multiply it by an approximate figure for cottage leases of - the bottom line is $2,500, the top is $3,000 you would charge if it was on a lake, so average it out to - (inaudible) $2,750, almost $10 million right there for cottage leases alone, and there was only 87 per cent of the applications received. The potential -

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you figure it out yourself or did somebody help you with it?

MR. J. BYRNE: No, I got the Minister of Education - yourself. But he couldn't help me so I had to do it myself.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that the Minister of Government Services and Lands -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

MR. J. BYRNE: - was not up front with the people of this Province!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Topsail.

Is the hon. member wishing to speak to the petition that is...?

MR. WISEMAN: No, a new petition.

MR. SPEAKER: A new petition, okay.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to support the petition presented by my hon. colleague. I, as well, attended the meeting on Crown lands and I think the minister for Crown lands is shameful. He promised the people at that meeting that within two to three weeks he would get back to them on whether or not he was going to consider changes to the proposed Crown land fee increases, and he didn't. That time lapsed.

He came back in August and again promised a delegation of Crown land owners that he would get back to them within a two- or three-week period, and he didn't. That time lapsed, and he let the time lapse right up until the point that people had to make application to purchase their Crown lands.

I think it is absolutely shameful that he allowed the Crown land owners to wait in anticipation and hope that they would be allowed to have extra time as opposed to coming up with the immediate funding to purchase their Crown lands. I think it is shameful that those people were left in anticipation.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, if there is any member of this House who should make fun of the way another person speaks, it is probably not the member.

MR. EFFORD: I didn't make fun, I was complimenting (inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: He is absolutely right. I think I am probably the last person to let a member of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador down where, on the other hand, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and his caucus colleagues have probably done nothing but let the people of our Province down since the promise of a better tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. OSBORNE: To get back to the petition, as I said, I think it is absolutely shameful that the minister for Crown lands let the time lapse and expire without even getting back to the Crown land owners to let them know that there were going to be no changes. They, out of fear of losing their Crown lands, made application to purchase their land, and the ones who did not make application are still in the fear that they are going to lose their Crown land.

He has also made a promise of helping people, the hardship cases, the people who could not afford to purchase their land. I hope that promise will hold more water than the promises of getting back to the people. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WISEMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise today in this hon. House to present a petition on behalf of some 800 residents of the Province with regard to bus safety. The petition reads:

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland asks the House of Assembly to accept the following prayer:

We, the undersigned residents of the Province, do hereby petition the House of Assembly to support the view that an investigation into the safety regulations on all buses should be made. Particular focus should be specifically directed on installation and enforcement of seat-belt use. As in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Mr. Speaker, many petitions are presented in this House every session, but I believe that this one is of utmost importance as it deals with a subject that is very important to every Newfoundlander and Labradorian, and that is the safety of our children.

How many of us are parents, Mr. Speaker? We know how important the safety of children is, and if we could I suppose we would watch over them all the time; but that is not an option that would be very practical. So, as parents and elected officials, we must find ways to not only keep our children but all the children of Newfoundland and Labrador from harm wherever it is practical.

I did some checking on the matter, Mr. Speaker, and most of us already know that bus safety is divided between the federal and provincial governments. Without getting into specific details we know, of course, that the federal government sets the guidelines for the manufacturing of school buses while the individual provinces regulate the maintenance and the roadworthiness.

Mr. Speaker, we should not be remiss in our duties to ensure the proper levels of safety are met for school buses, whether it be better driver training, an improved monitoring system, or the use of a three-point style seat-belt; and I, along with other members, should take it upon ourselves to look into this matter and make a concerted effort to come up with a plausible solution. The concept of passenger seat-belts on school buses is no more far-fetched than bicycle helmets or even regular car seat-belts. Safety tests show that passenger seats facing towards the rear of a bus with seat-belts are much safer.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to state that I wholeheartedly support this petition, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the efforts made by its organizer, Ms Ann Marie Lane. I would also like to say to Ms Lane and her supporters that I, as the Member for Topsail and a member of a government caucus, support her efforts, and I offer to her any assistance that I can give. Ms Lane is in an unfortunate situation of trying to determine responsibility for the placement of seat-belts in school buses. It appears to me, Mr. Speaker, that while we have the responsibility to ensure buses are maintained, it is the federal government that must change its legislation to make the manufacturers of school buses put three-point belts on all school buses. If the federal government was to enact this legislation I am sure the Province, the provincial administration, can enact retroactive legislation to ensure all existing buses are equipped with proper safety belts.

Again, Mr. Speaker, let me thank Ms Lane for casting some light on what should be a most serious issue, and let me encourage her not to give up her struggle to ensure that safety measures are improved and applied to school buses.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today to support the spirit of the petition which has been presented by the hon. member opposite. The wording of the petition is such that it recognizes that the needs of our young children in this Province must always be paramount. All levels of government, whether it be federal, as has been suggested by the wording of the petition, or provincial, which of course has jurisdiction in this Province, or municipal, all levels of government must ensure at all times that the protection and interest of young people are taken into account. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I certainly have no difficulty in supporting the spirit of the petition as has been presented.

In dealing with busing we are reminded all too often that there are serious concerns with respect to the transportation of our young people having to do with behaviourial problems aboard buses, having to do with poor road conditions upon which the buses must travel, the issue of school monitoring or bus monitoring as has been suggested in the past and again present in this House today. We have a whole host of problems with respect to the protection of young people on the issue of transportation of these young people throughout our schools in our Province. So it is certainly an issue that requires priority, it requires attention - I notice the minister is listening and I am sure has listened to the spirit of the wording of the petition - and it seems to me that it is an issue that requires some further review.

I understand there may well be some discrepancy with respect to some provincial jurisdictions as to what, in fact, the the long-term benefits of seat-belt use on school buses may be. I would be interested in knowing, and I am sure the honourable minister may have the statistics and some of the details with respect to that. If I am not mistaken the Province of Ontario, as has been discussed with my colleague in front of me who indicated that there may well be a study in Ontario which suggests that the interests of students are not best protected by the use of school bus belts - however, the minister may wish to comment on that; but it seems to me the spirit of the petition is such that we must always recognize what is in the best interest of our young people when dealing with transportation of our young people to and from our provincial schools.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have just a few brief comments with respect to the petition again.

There are a number of matters as have been pointed out, I think, with respect to both petitions today involving school bus safety and the safe transportation of students to and from school. They range from vehicle operational matters, how old a vehicle can actually be and still be inspected and licensed for use in a province; that changes and varies across the country; the issue of monitors, whether they be student monitors or adult monitors; the issue of levels of training for drivers of school buses who have to handle the vehicle themselves and also be responsible for some of the conduct of students on the buses. The issue of first aid, CPR training for school bus drivers and any other adults who might be involved as monitors in those situations, and the point just raised in this petition by my hon. colleague, the Member for Topsail, with respect to potential seat-belt usage in buses. We are dealing with a number of those issues and, as I indicated, there will be a meeting with a parent group tomorrow as we continue to explore some of these particular initiatives.

The hon. Opposition critic is correct that in some work that was done a decade or so ago that involved the Teachers' Association, the school boards and others in the Province, there was some research that was predominant at the time that indicated that if the seat-belts were to be just lap-belts and could not be rigged to have some kind of shoulder harness that, in fact, as they were found to be with passenger vehicles, there might be more harm and damage done sometime, and injury, due to just lap-belts rather than proper seat-belts, and all the seat-belt mechanisms for vehicles have been changed as a result of some of that study, which was over a decade ago.

As the hon. member pointed out in his petition, I think the plea and the prayer of the petition, as he explained it, was to try to find some way to rig buses in the future, that the manufacturers themselves might put the appropriate shoulder harness seat-belts into a school bus system if they can find a way to physically do that, and that is an issue for the manufactures and the government of the country as a whole to deal with and is being studied as we speak.

We are trying to deal with the issues and, as I indicated, we will have a meeting tomorrow with one of the parent interest groups. There will be other meetings and we will be trying to deal with a refined and renewed policy with respect to school bus safety in the not-too-distant future.

Orders of the Day

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I call Order No. 1, Address in Reply. I understand that we are going to be, first of all, treated to about eight more minutes of eloquence from the Member for Baie Verte, so have at it, boy.

MR. SPEAKER: Order No. 1, the hon. Member for Baie Verte.

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

First of all, I say to the Government House Leader that I have eight minutes left way back from April when we left the House, was it? I had twenty-two minutes at that time, Mr. Speaker.

MR. TULK: And we were waiting with bated breath.

MR. SHELLEY: I know you have, so I decided to jump right into it and have a few words on Address in Reply. Hopefully the Government House Leader will give me leave and I can continue it. You never know; we will see what happens.

Mr. Speaker it has been a long break. It has been an extended long break, more then usual, that we sit now so late into the fall and all of a sudden thirty to forty pieces of legislation - is that right, thirty? - between thirty and forty pieces of legislation between here and Christmas, and it is the same old tactic again, Mr. Speaker. Come in late into the House of Assembly, bring in the pieces of legislation, do it quickly so no one can notice what is going on; ram it through the House.

Mr. Speaker, look at the last session of the House of Assembly. We are starting to catch on, in only eight month of this administration, catching on to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I say to the Government House Leader, the same old tactic the people of the Province have caught onto in a short eight months. In a short eight months this government has taken on the tactics which it used before, and that is to sneak in the legislation, get it through the House of Assembly, get it passed, sneak it through before anybody can figure out what is going on. It is a perfect analogy of what happened in the election of February, 1996. Rush it through, get it done quickly before anybody catches on to the real issue. Let's put on the big road show. Let's take the hero down from Ottawa. Let's run through the Province. Let's get it all done, Mr. Speaker, before anybody catches on. Don't do the UI; don't worry about Voisey's Bay.

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, today the Premier got up on Voisey's Bay. I don't know if he has been around the Province. Yesterday we arrived in the airport at the same time. I was coming in from Baie Verte, my district, where I visited thirty-three communities in seven weeks. Mr. Speaker, I said I was tired because we had been going around having meetings, and I had been listening to people, and the Premier said: I'm tired too. He said: I have been travelling, too. I said: Yes, you went from Ireland to Vancouver, while I went from Snook's Arm to Nipper's Harbour to Brent's Cove to Fleur-de-Lys and so on. I never went from Ireland to Vancouver, Mr. Speaker, out in the real world.

Then we hear this rosy picture by the Finance Minister today of how everything is so great, how everything is on line. What a joke, Mr. Speaker. What a difference in this Chamber than when you go outside the door and go out into the real world, what a difference. You go out in the real world, which is outside this Chamber, out past the overpass and out into the real Province, outside the Chamber basically, and live in the real world. Then people come in here with the rosy picture that our finances are on target, there are not going to be any cuts to health care; the joke of all jokes, no cuts to health care. You tell one person in the health care sector that there are no health care cuts and they will laugh at you. They will laugh in your face. Go talk to the workers in the hospital in Baie Verte or out in Bonavista; but there are no health care cuts; we were told. It is a joke. Then we sit down and tap our desks because he paints a rosy picture of the finances. What it is is a quick tax grab.

We can see already a trend that is developing with the philosophy of this government, this quick grab of money, HST, the ferry service for the South Coast, the Crown lands tax grab, the fees have gone up triple, double and quadruple. It has all been done in a sly way, Mr. Speaker. There is no other word to use, sly. It is done underhanded. The fees are increased. You go get a rabbit license now and it is gone triple or quadruple, every license you can name, Mr. Speaker. I even talked to a radio dispatcher the other day with a trucking company who said their fees tripled, nothing said about it in the budget. All it was - there were no taxes increased, but watch out now; we are going to do what we can do under the table. That is what happened, Mr. Speaker. This HST - hard sell tax is what it should be called.

AN HON. MEMBER: Horrible sales tax.

MR. SHELLEY: Horrible sales tax is another name for it.

Each and every member in this House should give it very serious thought and very serious study before they support that.

We have the Premier of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and our Premier now who are going to have their big press conference in a couple of days in Toronto, or tomorrow, talking about what a great deal it is. How come Ontario never bought into it? How come Quebec never bought into it? How come Alberta didn't buy into it? Why didn't Manitoba buy into it? It is simple; $348 million that this government is going to get quickly to scam over because they figure in two years or three years Voisey's Bay is going to save us all again, just like Hibernia saved us all. Well, Mr. Speaker, what about it does not happen? Where are we left in three years from now? Where is this Province left in three years from now? What we are doing, Mr. Speaker, is betting again on the future like we have done so often in this Province.

When the Premier gets up today, and with all due respect to the Premier because I know he is an honourable man, like he says to us all the time - with all due respect to the Premier - the truth is that just by standing in the House, any of us as members, any politician, anywhere, federal or provincial, to stand up and say: Oh, don't worry about it, trust me. We are just going to get a fair share.

That is not enough for people any more, Mr. Speaker. Whether you are a Tory, Liberal, NDP or whatever you are, it is not enough. The Premier has to lay the facts on the table. Where has the government been involved? The smelter is about to be announced in two weeks, the one that should go on wheels because it was promised to every district during the election. That is the answer to the smelter; put the smelter on wheels and roll it around. It was promised out in Baie Verte; it was promised in Stephenville.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I didn't promise a smelter out anywhere, I can tell you that, but your colleague certainly did, I can tell you that.

The Minister of Fisheries then gets on the TV to say that we don't want anybody to find out that there may be a tapeworm problem with the fish in Bay d'Espoir. So why was he saying it on television? Would the minister answer that? I couldn't believe it. The minister said: We don't want this to get out; and here he was in front of a CBC television camera. I couldn't figure that one out. Maybe the minister will respond to that. Maybe that is how you cover up the other things.

Mr. Speaker, the trend of the government to date with only, what, nine months into this mandate, is simple and straightforward: quick tax grabs, (inaudible) rolls everything over; hopefully Voisey Bay is going to save us in a few years from now. Then I wonder where the Premier is going after that. Do you think he is going to stick around here for eight years and watch all this unfold? Or is he going to be the hero across Canada again? With the picture in Saturday's Globe and Mail across Canada, a big picture of the Premier. One was there with the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and so on, the big pictures.

In the area close to - I will get the exact figures; maybe we will find out somewhere in the House - $25,000, an ad in The Globe and Mail. I have seen it at least three times, so that is $75,000.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: So it has been in there eight times now, Mr. Speaker, maybe ten; $250,000 dollars so the Premier can have his picture in The Globe and Mail. Now, if the Premier can come back and tell us that since he put that ad in the paper we have all kinds of businesses coming from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and there are jobs being created, power to him; but I have yet to see one job. I can tell you, if the Premier wouldn't mind cancelling that for the next few months and give me the $250,000, I will create a few jobs. I can guarantee you right fast I will have a few jobs created, cutting brush along the highway and getting people back to work.

A big picture of the Premier, Think Again, a half-page in The Globe and Mail, $25,000. That is the priority. Then, of course, the government always gets up and says: We have to be prudent, we have to be fiscally responsible, the Minister of Finance says. Then they cut out rubber gloves for people who change disabled people - social services. So where is the priority, the picture in The Globe and Mail of the Premier, or to cut the rubber gloves for disabled people in social services?

That is the whole gist of the entire problem when you aren't galavanting across the country, when you go out and talk to people in your district. I know I am saying what the other members on the opposite side of the House are hearing, that in their districts people are frustrated. They are sick and tired of seeing the priority of spending go down the drain again. That is what they are sick and tired of. Year after year they see it. They saw the waste in the Hydro privatization, $10 million down the tubes for something we had to chalk up.

Then just look very quickly at the record. First of all, during the election the Premier and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology go down to Marystown; a big announcement, press all over the place. Going to bring in the big petro-chemical, or whatever they were (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: By leave, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. SHELLEY: No leave? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port au Port.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

MR. SMITH: I am glad to see at least one person is awake.

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise today just to have a few brief remarks in this debate. The nature of the debate that we engage in this afternoon is such that it is wide-ranging, as has already been evidenced. In the short time that the House has been reconvened, I can't imagine how I managed to sustain myself for the last number of months living on the West Coast of the Province, but I have managed to survive. It is good to be back here again in the people's Chamber and doing the business of the people of the Province.

If I might, I would like to focus on some of the issues that are of concern in the District of Port au Port that I have the privilege to represent. Over the last little while, as all of the hon. members in this House are aware, there has been a great deal of activity and a great deal of excitement in that area of the Province as it relates to oil exploration, and the activity that has been ongoing both onshore and offshore related to exploration. Many people in that area of the Province have lived in hope and expectation of a major oil find. Since the area has been economically depressed for so long, there is certainly no one any more so than myself who would love to see a major oil find and the economic benefits that could possibly bring to that region and to the people who live there.

There was some disappointment in the last number of weeks when we have heard of the offshore drill rig packing up and moving out, and more recently the drill rig that had been operating onshore for the last couple of years has packed up and left the area, but the interesting thing, Mr. Speaker and hon. members, is the fact that there is still quite a bit of activity in the area, both onshore and offshore, primarily at this point in time seismic work. We have, as we speak, a number of ships operating in the offshore doing seismic work, laying cable, doing some extensive and comprehensive seismic work, and onshore some seismic work ongoing as well, a clear indication that the companies that have holdings in that area are still very much interested in the potential, and committed to follow through with the exploration to try to determine whether in fact the oil or natural gas does exist there in commercial quantities.

Certainly I guess for myself, as the representative for that area, and I am sure for all hon. members in this House, that we hope that they do in fact, in time, find what they are looking for because it can only benefit economically the whole of this Province and in particular, l guess, the possibilities of natural gas or of extreme interest because as we all know this would be a cheap form of fuel that could be used to run industry, and industry is what we need in order to create jobs in that area.

I am also pleased to report to the House one industry that we have been successful in creating in that area in the last couple of years, and one which has shown tremendous promise, and while it is now confined to that area of the Province I personally feel that it has possibilities for the whole of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Of course I speak of Piccadilly Plastics. The hon. members in this House would be aware that this is an industry that we originally started up in a fish plant that was no longer being used. It was a building that was lying idle and going to ruin, and through a combination of the Local Development Association and an entrepreneur we were able to put together a funding package which eventually saw the creation of a plastics manufacturing plant producing creamer cups. The plant in very short time proved to be very successful, produced a top-notch product and one which was very well received in the marketplace.

Now, this was quite encouraging, particularly since in that particular industry the product, while it seems quite simple when one looks at a small creamer cup, the standards are very, very high and there is pretty well zero tolerance in the marketplace since these have to be used in putting in a perishable product. The company that Piccadilly Plastics had contracted with out of Ontario felt it would probably take about six months for this plant to produce a product that would be acceptable in the marketplace, but indeed the workers of that area, many of them who had previously been fish plant workers, demonstrated once again the ingenuity and the skills of our Newfoundland workers, and indeed were producing in less than a month a product which was recognized as top-notch and was accepted in all areas of the marketplace.

Unfortunately last Easter we had the misfortune of a tragic fire at the plant which resulted in total destruction of the plant and all its contents and at that point in time it was a real downer to the people in the area and particularly to those who had lost their work and wondered if in fact the plant would be rebuilt. Well, I am pleased to say that a new modern building now sits on that site and we will be in production again before the end of this calendar year.

The interesting thing, Mr. Speaker, is that what was a tragic occurrence and certainly very negative in terms of the development of that area has turned into a very positive story, because in the interim while the plant was being rebuilt the president of the company has engaged in a very spirited and energetic search for new markets and new products, and has in fact been successful in touching base with a number of American firms who have expressed an interest in doing some partnerships with the Piccadilly Plastics with a view that the plant, once it is opened, will be a larger operation than that which existed there prior to the fire, and indeed will be producing many products beyond that which was taking place in the old plant prior to the fire.

This is certainly a good news story and certainly, I think, with this particular industry in our area it shows tremendous promise

and, Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things that as part of the - I reference the fact that the president of the company had travelled to the States searching out new markets and I had occasion to accompany him on one of those trips and spent some five days down in the New England area talking to a number of prospective companies - and the interesting thing for me, was the fact of the amount of interest that companies had shown and also the tremendous potential that was there particularly aside from the sorts of things that we are doing and propose to do in the Piccadilly area at the present time, it also became quite evident that there were possibilities for a number of many other types of things as well, and one of these was actually the assembly of some of these products.

On that particular trip we had occasion to speak with a number of companies, but two in particular were involved with assembling small, electrical appliances, and with these electrical appliances, just a very small part is an electrical component, the rest of the construction is primarily moulded plastic. Most of that product right now, at the present time, is being produced in China, and despite what we often hear about the work ethic and the Far East, when we hear people compare the work ethic and the Far East compared to our own workforce, we are not always compared favourably in terms of the media reports and these sorts of things.

But it was kind of interesting in talking with these companies to learn two things. First of all, with one company alone, the representative indicated to us at the meeting that on any given day between the U. S. and China, they could have anywhere up to $10 million of products somewhere on the ocean. That gives us some idea as to the volume of this business but also beyond that, Mr. Speaker, the thing that was reported to us by both of these companies and which came as quite a surprise to me, was that, there was some concern that there was not complete satisfaction with the quality of the work that was being produced and in fact, with some products, the rejection rate was quite high.

The figures that Piccadilly Plastics had produced and presented to these companies indicated that our plant could be competitive with the work that is presently being done in China, and of course, this then points out that the possibilities are pretty well unlimited because of the nature of the volume of business that is being done with that particular product. So I look forward, Mr. Speaker, to the re-opening of that plant. The plan right now is to have the plant as I said, operational before Christmas with the original workforce being employed before that time and then in the new year I look forward to a major expansion, so that we will have many more jobs employing people in that area.

Mr. Speaker, the fishery continues in my district as elsewhere in this Province, to be a very important part of the economy and indeed the backbone of the economy. The Sentinel Fishery in my district has been very encouraging; the stocks are showing good signs of returning and we all look forward to the day when the groundfishery will be re-opened; but in the meantime, Mr. Speaker, there is a concern in that the mainstay of the fishery in the District of Port au Port, for the last number of years has been the lobster fishery and for the last couple of years, this particular species is showing, I think, some of the pressures of the kind of effort that has been exerted on that particular resource over the last number of years.

Understandably, at a time when the groundfishery has collapsed, a tremendous pressure has been exerted on those stocks that remain and lobster in particular in my area, has been one that has really shown the strain of the pressure that is on the resource. The catches had been going down, had been declining steadily; the price has been holding fairly well and that has been keeping the fishermen at it and of course, that, and the fact that they have nothing else to turn to is forcing them to stay at it. But I think, Mr. Speaker, and I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, who is here this afternoon, that I think it is something that we do have to take a hard look at. I have talked with the fishermen in my area, also representatives of the FFAW and they have a concern that the lobster resource is of tremendous importance to this Province. We have to make sure that we manage it properly so that the same fate does not befall this species as has befallen the cod fishery.

Also, Mr. Speaker, if I might, with regards to the fishery. One other species that is causing a bit of concern, and that is with regards to the lump fishery, which as hon. members in this House would know, is a roe fishery. The fish itself, nothing is done with it, it is just discarded. It is just the roe that is used. Of course, the animal is actually destroyed. I think it is pretty obvious that this doesn't seem a very productive use of the resource. I'm personally amazed that this fishery has been able to sustain itself at the levels that it has for the last number of years, considering the number of animals that have been destroyed during that point in time, but I think it is something that we need to revisit.

It has been mentioned in this House on previous occasions that in certain areas of the country, and in particular in Scandinavia, and more specifically Norway, they have been experimenting with the idea of being able to extract roe from the fish without destroying it. Maybe that is something that we have to take a hard look at here in this Province since this has become a very valuable fishery. At the present time, I know in my own area, the lump roe fishery this past year, and for the past couple of years, is what has made the difference for the fishermen in my area. Because on lobsters alone they would have great difficulty in making it, but that combined with the lump roe fishery, they have been able to survive.

A couple of weeks ago I had a very distinct privilege to participate at Cape St. George at a ceremony commemorating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the first organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the french language and culture in this Province, Les Terre-Neuviens Franšais, which was established at Cape St. George, as I said, twenty-five years ago, at a time when the french-speaking people in that area of the Province saw their survival as a people, and certainly in terms of their language and culture, being seriously threatened.

A small group of people in a sea of english-speaking people - and particularly at a time when the strains that were brought on by the arrival of the Americans and the establishment of the american base. It is a credit to the leadership in that area, and it is a credit to the french-speaking people of the area, that they have in fact endured today to the point where they now have in that area a school where french first language, the first of its kind in this Province, french immersion programs exist throughout the area. It is now possible for the francophones of that area of the Province to live and work in their native tongue. I think I would like at this time to again extend congratulations to the leadership of the francophone movement who have made this possible.

We are all very much aware that the rural areas of this Province, and certainly the area that I have the privilege to represent is very much a rural area, are coming under tremendous strains, especially in recent years with the closure of the fishery. As I travel throughout my district more and more I see buildings, homes that have been closed up, boards on the windows, many families that have left. Where one time they would be gone just on a seasonal basis, now many of them have made the hard decision to leave permanently.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SMITH: It is still continuing. It is certainly very tragic as I travel the district. The real tragedy I guess that if you look at the rural areas of the Province is that - and the real challenge - and it is certainly something that we are well aware of as the government of this Province - is to find ways to keep our young people in this Province.

In my former career as an educator I had occasion to work with and to see many bright young men and women come through our school system with tremendous talents, talents and skills that we so desperately need now in the rural areas of the Province. The ability to lead that we so desperately need now in the rural areas of the Province, but unfortunately in most cases, in pretty well all cases, these young men and women are leaving to pursue careers elsewhere in this Province in some cases, but in the main elsewhere in this country. While I am pleased to see that we are able to assist this country in providing for them the skilled and talented work force, I think it would serve us much better Mr. Speaker, if a larger percentage of these young men and women could find some reason to remain behind and try to make a living for themselves here in Newfoundland. Trying to respond to that challenge while I was still in the school system one of the things that we tried to do in the Port Au Port area was to emphasize the entrepreneurship courses and this whole idea of trying to get our young men and women thinking in terms of once they left school of going out and creating a job. For most of us, I can certainly speak for myself, I came through a school system where it was my ambition once I left school to go out and find a job. I never thought in terms of being able to go out and create a job. I think now more and more the emphasis is to our young people, use your skills, go out, opportunities are there. If you have the drive and the initiative, we know you have the smarts, but if you have the drive and the initiative and the wherewithal that hopefully the entrepreneurship courses will provide, that many of these young people will be able to go out and create jobs and once they have created jobs for themselves and grow businesses, they will in turn be able to create many worthwhile jobs for their colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, at the present time in the rural areas of the Province we are seeing the zonal board structure coming into place. I think now all of these boards have been struck and indeed are in place. One of the things that I would like to mention, and it is something that I am particularly interested in and indeed at this point in time concerned about, and that is the future of the rural development associations. One of the things that I am seeing, I am certainly seeing it in my own area of the Province that these development associations are having it tough sledding. There is no longer a funding agreement in place that provides administrative funding to them. The agreement that they do have access to the SRDA is proving for many of them to be very restrictive and as a result they are having great difficultly in accessing funding. I think this is a cause for concern Mr. Speaker because I would submit to this honourable house that the continuance of these development associations are critical to ensure the success of the zonal board structure.

I have been involved with the development associations for in excess of twenty-five years and I have seen them function at both the local and at the provincial level, so I have some sense as to what they can contribute and the thing about them Mr. Speaker that we must never lose sight of, they are the only thing that I know of that have been grass roots driven. This is something that grew up within the Province, it grew up in the rural areas in response to a formalized resettlement program and as a result I do not think we should be prepared to lose it that quickly because I think once it is lost at some point in time I would predict that in the future, if in fact that it does disappear at this point in time, then somebody will be out trying to restrict it because it will be necessary to the rural areas of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, in connection with that I think it is rather interesting that one of the initiatives ongoing in my area of the Province at this particular time is an initiative that is entitled Communication For Survival and it is an initiative that involves high tech in a sense, if you consider I guess the television being high tech, but the interesting thing is that it has brought together communities from my own district, Lourdes, my home town and the community of Mainland and also the communities of Ramea and Burgeo. The idea behind the project is to twin these communities, bring them together and through sharing, try to benefit, to learn from one another and maybe be able to apply things that are proving successful in one area of the Province to another area.

Mr. Speaker, the first meeting that I attended where I was briefed on this particular program, the significance of what was being proposed here, I had to say it was really striking to me because we were talking about communication for survival. When I looked at the communities that we were talking about, at that point in time Ramea and Burgeo, I know from talking to the people from that area who attended these meetings they were very, very concerned as to whether in fact there was going to be a future for them or if in fact their fate would be to be resettled to other areas of the Province. Mr. Speaker, it really struck me because one of the communities they were twinned with, the community of Lourdes where I was born, was formed primarily by people who had been resettled from Fortune Bay back in the '30s under the resettlement program of the Commission of Government with the understanding being and the view being that by resettling these people from rural Newfoundland, from the bays to growth areas, that perhaps we could do a better job of providing them with services and could do a better job of providing them with a future.

Well, Mr. Speaker, as a person who saw this first hand, who saw his parents struggle to try to survive and grew up listening to stories, even up until a few years ago when my mom was still living, that someone who had spent over fifty years living on the west coast of the Province and still spoke of a little community down on the south coast as being down home. I think that kind of lesson really stuck with me, Mr. Speaker, because I think it speaks to the heart of what we are all about as Newfoundlanders, that our roots run so deep and there is more to us, as Newfoundlanders - you just cannot pick people up from a little community and move them around as if they were pieces on a chess board. It is not that simple. You are dealing with a lot of very complex issues. So we have to be very careful, as a government and as a people, whenever we consider this sort of thing, that people have to be given the opportunities. Certainly they have to be given the choice. I think we have to have the mobility. If people wish to move, that has to be provided to them but never again, and I am sure this government, it is not something that they subscribe to or ever will subscribe to, where we will talk in terms of forced resettlement. We have to try to work with people where they are, to find the opportunities that are there for them and to work with them to try to generate a future for them and for their children.

Mr. Speaker, here already this afternoon we have heard reference to the Voisey's Bay smelter and the fact that there is an awful lot of interest in this particular project at this point in time and I like the reference that was made to the fact that it should be put on wheels so it could be moved around. I think all of us, wherever we reside in the Province, I think the truth of it is that everybody wants it, there is no question. This is one of the developments and I have been reading recently, it is surprising that a lot of the industry people are a bit surprised that there is so much interest in Newfoundland because in a lot of other areas, with developments of this type, there would be a lot of people saying no, we don't want it here, but in Newfoundland I guess it reflects on the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves, that people everywhere in this Province - there has been a very keen competition over the last number of months wanting the smelter in this area.

I have to admit, I have done my part for my area of the Province and I certainly hope that in the final analysis that we win out but, Mr. Speaker, the reality of it is, this development will be a benefit to the whole of the Province regardless of where this site eventually is. I think the important thing is that in this particular instance it is a decision that has to be left to the industry itself and to the proponents of this development. That is my understanding as to the way things have been progressing and I submit that is the way it must be because in the final analysis we will all benefit from this development, and surely once the announcement is made there will be disappointment. If it does not come to my area of the Province I and the people I represent will be disappointed, but in the final analysis we have to remind ourselves that regardless of where this goes the Province is the winner, and by association as people who reside within the Province we will indeed benefit from this development as well.

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of other points here but if I could there are a couple I would like to get in. I understand I only have a few minutes left. One of the concerns I am hearing in my area of the Province right now, and something that I think all of us in this hon. House need to be aware of, and that is with regard to wildlife management. Over the last number of months, and certainly during this fall when I have had occasion to travel in the country myself, hunting, and I have talked to a number of people who engage in this pasttime, a couple of things have come up.

First of all with regards to the moose population a number of people in this Province are expressing concern. In the area of the Province where I live the numbers of the moose population is a cause for concern. Now, I am not a scientist and I do not know because I have not studied this and can only relate what I see, and I guess most of the hunters with whom I speak are coming from the same perspective. They are saying to me that the numbers are not there. They are not seeing as many animals as they normally did and they are suggesting - I ask the minister who is present today to make note of this and follow it up with his officials, they are raising things like, for example, when we brought in the management areas a few years ago we brought in these restricted licenses, the male only license and now I am hearing from a lot of people with whom I speak, people who have hunted for years, are saying that maybe we should start taking a look at this. Have we disrupted the balance in the sense that with the male only license we are taking a disproportionate number of the males and as a result this is having a negative impact on the moose population. I do not know but it certainly is a cause for concern and I think certainly that the minister and his officials need to explore.

Something that is even more pressing has been brought to my attention. As a matter of fact myself and the Member for St. George's - Stephenville East were presented with a petition some time ago relating to the use of helicopters in this Province. A real concern has been expressed in our area of the Province that people are actually using helicopters in the hunt. Helicopters right now are legal in this Province to transport hunters into the country to hunt, but they are not permitted to be used in the hunt.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I heard of this for awhile and as it happened about three weeks ago I happened to be in the woods myself and had occasion to witness firsthand what hunters have been talking about. A helicopter circled around for about a half hour or forty-five minutes and we just assumed it was probably somebody lost or something happened, but after awhile we saw the helicopter go down and about fifteen minutes later we heard the shots. Now, certainly not conclusive evidence but I think we would have to agree, Mr. Speaker, very, very suspicious. This is the sort of thing we are hearing over and over.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SMITH: By leave. Just a couple of minutes to finish up.

Very shortly, Mr. Speaker, a petition will be presented to the House and I would hope that once it is the minister and his officials will take it upon themselves to look closely at this, to follow-up on it, and if in fact it is a problem to see that it is rectified and rectified quickly.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that all of us who have the privilege and the honour at this point in time to sit as members of this House, indeed it is an honour but it also brings with it some tremendous challenges and I am sure, and I feel confident that all of us working together, that we can certainly make a difference. Many of the problems that we face today and many of the problems that I face in my district, are not going to disappear overnight, but what I am hoping is that in the days and weeks ahead, we will at least make a beginning so that my children will have the possibility of having a future in the area of the Province where I was born and grew up, that young Newfoundlanders who are in school today will be able to make the choice, a few years from now to stay and live in rural Newfoundland and not have to move off to the urban centres of this Province or to the urban centres of this country.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I am always interested to hear the member from the west coast speak in the House because he makes so much sense. Like all members, I believe that his heart is in the right place and when he talks about people within rural Newfoundland having the ability at some time in the near future hopefully, to be able to make a decision where they do not have to move off to urban centres whether it be in the Province or outside the Province, I believe that he has hit on the biggest issue facing this Province today, out-migration, and if it is not a problem, people believe it is not a problem, I ask you to think again.

Let us just look at the last six years or five years for example. In 1992, Stats Canada said that 500 people moved out of this Province. In 1993-94, 1,200 moved; in 1994-95, 4,400 moved and last year 6,600 people packed up and moved out of this Province and that is alarming. In five years what we have seen, averages to about 3 per cent of our population that have moved outside the Province. What was also interesting about this statistics release, was that 70 per cent were young people and young families who purchased one-way tickets, or packed up homes and moved elsewhere to make a living and, Mr. Speaker, that, I think, is the most serious problem that faces the Province and it begs every other question that is asked or must be asked, not only in this Chamber but throughout the Province when we talk about what the future will bring. What will we be like? What type of lifestyle will we have and if the trend continues, the upward trend or the downward spiral continues, we will face serious, serious problems socially; we will face serious problems economically; we will face serious problems fiscally because it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that less people mean less revenues, mean less transfer payments from Ottawa, it means less businesses, it means less jobs and essentially, Mr. Speaker, it means a reduced standard of living for the people of the Province.

Now when questions are asked in the House of Assembly, which there are on many occasions and debate takes place back and forth, like the Leader of the Opposition today asked a question in terms of: what will we wreak from Voisey's Bay? What will be the net revenue generation to us as a people and to the coffers of the Province? Those questions are asked with the future in mind, with the future of rural Newfoundland in mind, legitimate questions. In 1995, the spring of 96, I believe it was in January we were supposed to come back to the House, the former government which the Minister of Mines and Energy was the minister in the former government, of Mines and Energy or Natural Resources as it was called, was prepared to stand up on January 28th, 1996 and debate a piece of legislation that would see significant changes to the Mineral Mining Tax Act, to deal specifically -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: My God, I can't believe it.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Is that right?

But we were supposed to debate a piece of legislation that would have seen significant changes to the Mineral Mining Tax Act, aimed specifically, targeted specifically at Voisey's Bay, because this side of the House, in the fall of 1994 when that piece of legislation came in, we supported it and we did so for a couple of reasons, not the least of which, we too, with the government, wanted to see increased exploration of the mining industry. We too wanted as the government did to see that that increased exploration would have brought increased money, which would have brought increased retail sales, increased jobs and we supported that piece of legislation because we felt and governments arguments were legitimate, as the opposition saw and we felt that it was worth supporting and we did, but that specific piece of legislation was aimed and targeted at the general mining industry, not with a significant find like Voisey's Bay in mind.

From that time on after Voisey's Bay became a concern in terms of the amendments and the taxes that would be provided to a large company whoever would have owned the find or whoever would have developed it or owned the rights to developing it, that was unknown at the time, but from that moment on we began asking for amendments. We debated it in this house many times about some notion of a super tax. Mining companies lobbied both sides of the house in terms of what would be or what could be or what should be in their point of view, but as time goes on Mr. Speaker we are losing valuable ground. The questions today, are legitimately asked because people of the Province are legitimately asking them Mr. Speaker.

Four point six billion dollars has exchanged hands. Diamond Field has made significant money, millions upon millions of dollars. The discoverers of the deposit made millions of dollars. Falconbridge, a company which was bidding to own the rights and the development rights of Voisey's Bay had made significant profits, the company, who down in the states made I guess certain allegations that Diamond Fields still had some responsibility to them. INCO has ensured that they have made significant profits, but the only group and the only class of people who have not made a nickel of that discovery at the moment are the people of the Province and when members of the house or members of the public ask the Premier or ask the government who are charged with the responsibility, legitimate questions in terms of what will be the deal? Has one been made? Where will the smelter go? What revenues will come to the Province or accrue to the Province over a long term? These are legitimate questions that deserve to be answered and I do not think any member of the house - I certainly understand the role of government, I do not think that there is a need to negotiate in public, but there is a need and a release for some public information.

Mr. Chislett recently at an address at Memorial University's fall convocation and recently in one of the local papers generated some thought and some discussion about his concerns and legitimate, very legitimate concerns about the potential future development of Voisey's Bay and what it means to this Province in terms of possible cash flow or what it means for this Province in lost cash flow and that is significant. The Premier and the Minister of Finance stood up today and talked about there will not be a need for a mini-budget, that our revenues are on-line, but underlined fundamentally in his ministerial statement is the thrust that our financial woes are not over and he said that he did not want to create a false sense of hope.

The Premier in his travels across Canada to try to solidify public support around the shameful Churchill Falls agreement, as we now know it to be, has said that very thing in that the reason he is doing it is because he does not want hospitals to close. The reason that he is doing it is that he does not want more schools to close. The reason that he is on this national trip to solidify public opinion is because fundamentally he wants to maintain the highest possible public services that this government can or any government can and that is not a goal and that is not something that anybody can criticize. But, Mr. Speaker when you see legitimate questions being asked and no answers being given one has to wonder.

Another statement Mr. Speaker, I would like to make in terms of the ministerial statement today dealing with the harmonized sales tax and the Provinces signing of an agreement with the harmonized sales tax, which the minister outlined in his ministerial statement today, page four. On page four he clearly said it is our objective to operate more efficiently at a lower cost through better management. Fair enough, a laudable goal. It is clear this is what the people of the Province want. I believe that. It is equally clear that they do not want increased taxes on average families and irresponsible increases in the public debt.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if the minister and government truly believed in that statement today then there is no way that they would have signed an agreement to harmonize the provincial sales tax and the goods and services tax imposed by the federal government. What has happened as a result of it, and I will say it for the Government House Leader, that people do not want increased taxes. HST has done two things to the Province in the long run, it has broadened the base on all goods and services and thus has increased taxes on basic commodities. Oil and gas; oil for home heating fuel up, on average, about 8 per cent. So everybody in this Province, regardless of your social background, regardless of your ability to pay, whether you make $150,000 a year or you make $10,000 a year, there will be an 8 per cent tax applied across the board. Some increase in taxes on average families as I see it, Mr. Speaker.

In electricity rates; there was a huge debate about Newfoundland Power's initial application to the Public Utilities Board for a 5.5 per cent increase. They wanted an extra $27 million in revenue. The Public Utilities Board rejected it out of hand but at the same time, Mr. Speaker, this government has pursued, I guess, a policy initiative in harmonizing the sales taxes that will see, on average, an 8 per cent increase in electricity rates to every person in this Province.

Children's clothes; Mr. Speaker, people who have children - I have a young child, three-and-a-half and another one who will be born in about two-and-a-half months. There are many people out there who are young parents, young families, and children's clothes are a necessity no matter where you look. Whether it is in clothing shops or wherever - you can buy second hand because anybody who has had children knows they go through clothes quickly but it is not worn out where you buy it new right off the shelf. As a result of the harmonized sales tax it will be another hit on average families and average family incomes.

Books; Mr. Speaker, again a necessity. We have seen a report released today which clearly indicates that one of the worst things that the Department of Education has done is in terms of literacy; in terms of remedial reading; in terms of education and poverty. It clearly, in its recommendations, is shameful in tearing strips off the present government or Department of Education for its lack of ability to address that. When you see goods and services, the GST and the provincial sales tax harmonized, and the impact that it will have on average families, it is clear that government has not taken the messages from those reports or government has not, to its fullest extent, acted on this.

The reality, Mr. Speaker, is that the HST, on that level, has broadened taxes. It will cost the average family much more. It is a huge tax grab. Now what have we gotten in return? At the end of the day, what will it mean? We have entered into an agreement by where the first year, 100 per cent subsidy but over a four year period, at the end of a four year agreement this Province will have to make up, somehow or some way, revenue that will exceed $120 million to $150 million. I believe that government's own estimates - in terms of the increased business activity resulting from harmonized sales tax - are way off base and I believe they know it too but what they have in return is a $348 million cheque that is in the bank right now, collecting on average, about $33,000 to $35,000 a day interest. Not a lot because it is not locked in for any long term period because government needs some extra cash flow.

Mr. Speaker, revenue is a significant problem. Most of the debates in this House centre around our ability to pay, our ability to maintain high levels or the highest level possible of public service to the people in the Province but some government initiatives are not indicative or do not indicate that this is a priority for government. If it did, certainly, I do not believe that we would be pursuing initiatives like harmonized sales tax.

If it was such a good and honourable deal, if it had such tremendous impact, or will have such tremendous impact for the people of this Province, one has to ask one simple question: Why didn't the government of PEI, the fourth Atlantic Province, sign into the deal? Why didn't the Liberal government in PEI embrace the harmonized sales tax and take it to the electorate in PEI? Because they knew what would happen if they embraced the harmonized sales tax and entered into an agreement like the other three Atlantic Provinces and went before the electorate. They could not sell it. Tomorrow we will see what the results of the election in PEI will be, but that unto itself, that a reigning government, a government in power, where all other Atlantic Provinces signed into a harmonized sales tax agreement and the very government that was close to an election, on the eve of an election, did not embrace us because of the political fallout and the negative impact it would have on the people of PEI, and this government should have done the same.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: It is interesting that later on this week Premier John Savage, who has had some concerns about the deal, will not be embracing the deal this April of '97 but will look at embracing parts of the deal April of '98.

It is interesting that today, for example, Newfoundland and Labrador Information Services sent out a small thing that says: Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, will hold a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday at the BC Room, Royal York Hotel, and the three Premiers will discuss the advantages for business investment in the Atlantic region associated with the new harmonized sales tax.

Mr. Speaker, I went to the press conferences that the Minister of Finance held, where he talked about who would win and who would lose. He said anybody who is going to buy a new car, anybody who is going to buy a new ski-doo, anybody who will buy a new fridge or new washer and dryer will receive benefits from the new harmonized sales tax - a very, very small portion of the population. When one of the media asked him: What will be the impact upon lower average incomes? There is no doubt, he said, that we have some concern about that but in the long run we will benefit - absolutely no information provided.

MR. TULK: Write this down now.

MR. E. BYRNE: Go ahead. You are going to take care of what? The Government House Leader is going to take care of what?

AN HON. MEMBER: Just write it down.

MR. E. BYRNE: You are going to take care of the low income families. You are going to provide an exemption on home heating fuel and electricity; is that what you are going to do? As the former Premier and great friend of the now Government House Leader once said, it has been proclaimed from on high now that you are going to take care of it; is that right?

AN HON. MEMBER: That has been proclaimed from on high. (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, I can understand what you are saying.

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear the Government House Leader because what he just said is that he is going to take care of the poor average families, so anybody with two or three kids making less than $30,000 or $35,000 will receive an exemption on the HST for children's clothing, will receive an exemption on home heating fuel and electricity, will receive an exemption on oil and gas.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible)

MR. E. BYRNE: Well, that is what I am asking. That is the only way I can see you taking care of it; they will receive some sort of tax rebate. Is that coming?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable. I will get back to my comments in terms of the Minister of Finance who failed to articulate at all what would be the net benefit, unless you bought a new car, a new fridge and stove, a new washer and dryer, what would be the net benefit to the people of the Province. The reality is, I remember asking him in the Legislature here last spring.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) phased out?

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, absolutely. Even most of the accounting firms right now have said publicly, and I have talked to some of them privately, have no idea because they are not sure of the impact of the HST.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: It doesn't matter for you; you make $110,000 a year. You are not the people I'm talking about. I am talking about the people who make less than that, people in -

AN HON. MEMBER: How much?

MR. E. BYRNE: Oh, about $110,000, I would say. The people in the House are not the people I'm talking about, Mr. Speaker. Those who are living close to the poverty line are average families, and there are many of them, people who are on social services. Where will the Minister of Social Services get an extra 8 per cent in her budget, or parts of her budget, to pick up the cost for heat and light, oil and gas? Will there be increases in the social services budget for example, I say to my colleague for Bonavista South? Will there be increases in that budget that will reflect the increases in a basic commodity like home heating fuel or electricity, of 8 per cent?

I asked the Minister of Finance in the spring, what did they anticipate in net revenue increase because the base was broadened. He said they anticipate about a $25 million to $26 million increase in taxes as a result of broadening the base on just one single commodity, electricity and home heating fuel.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ed? (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Poor Brian. They took care of poor Brian. Poor Beaton.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Less than Gerry Glavine, a lot less than Gerry Glavine, a lot less than the Premier's senior policy advisor, about half. Talk about the Liberals taking care of the poor; they took care of poor old Eric Gullage, didn't they? Took care of poor old Eric, that is who they took care of. They took care of poor old Patt Cowan. They took care of poor old Aubrey Gover. They took care of poor old Gerry Glavine. That is the poor they are talking about taking care of, Mr. Speaker. It isn't the poor family out there who, as a result of HST, will see about an extra increase of $1,200 a year of net income gone.

MR. TULK: Did we take care of Fabian Manning?

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) took care of Fabian Manning.

MR. E. BYRNE: Pardon me?

MR. TULK: You took care of Fabian Manning, did you?

MR. E. BYRNE: Political staff, yes.

MR. TULK: You should.

MR. E. BYRNE: He makes, I think - what does Fabian Manning make a year? I think $19,000 a year.

AN HON. MEMBER See how mean you are (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: How is it mean?

MR. TULK: A man in here making an MHA's salary and then you fellows go out and bring him back on (inaudible) $19,000 a year.

MR. E. BYRNE: It is all we had to give him. That is all we had to give him.

There are very important issues facing the Province in terms of the future, in terms of -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: It is all we have, boy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Mean-spirited, mean backbone.

Mr. Speaker, another question that the Minister of Education has to answer -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: What is the status of the negotiations - Mr. Speaker, I can sit down. I thought I was recognized as having the floor. (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member does have the floor.

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

One of the questions that the Minister of Education - I believe he deals with some aspects of it - in terms of the transference of HRD funding to the Province, what will that mean? Will it mean that in terms of training, in terms of training allowances, in terms of employer benefits, what aspects of the EI program -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: A lot more than you have done for them, I can tell you that. Be careful where you are treading minister, because you don't know where you are going, I will say to you. Be careful, because it is a lot more than you have done for them, I can tell you that, and if he was here today he would tell you that too.

In terms of the new EI and negotiations between the Province and the federal government, important questions will come up over the next two or three weeks on what will happen, what the status of negotiations are, what responsibilities the Province will ultimately control and take over. They are legitimate questions, and I think that all of us -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) young fellows (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: I'm open for any suggestions, because if you had it your way we wouldn't have a staff up there.

MR. TULK: That is not true. (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Oh, oh!

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: That is going to happen anyway, I think. It is coming anyway. I see it coming. Guaranteed, I see it coming.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: No, I see it coming.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

There are important questions in terms of the transference of EI responsibilities to the Province and what will that mean. What will that mean? There are examples where we should have greater control over training allowance in this Province so we can intergrade into what we believe to be the priorities, but there has to be a checks and balance in how that happens.

Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Port au Port said, it is a pleasure to be back in the people's House and the people's Chamber. If you have the ability and the honour to represent the interests of a district that we, individually, all of us represent, and ask the pertinent questions, debate the pertinent issues, I guess over the next three to four weeks a lot of that will happen.

With that I will sit down. Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I was looking forward to today. After all summer I thought the Opposition would have sharpened their pencils, but it is obvious to me that they are very much in dire straits.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CANNING: Mr. Speaker, I want to talk today about some of the issues with respect to Labrador West, and some of the things that has happened since this honourable sat.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) smelter going to go in Labrador.

MR. CANNING: Well, I do not know where the smelter is going to go, but I would like to say to this hon. House through you, Mr. Speaker, that just recently we had a pretty tough issue I would suggest with respect to IOC and the Iron Steel Workers of America. There was an issue with respect to lay-offs. They called upon both myself and the Minister of Labour to come in and deal with a very tense situation, and I should say that the Minister of Labour, in his quick reaction, was not only thoughtful, professional, but indeed very effective, and was seen to be such by the members of the union and the company up there.

I want to talk about an issue that came to light during that whole affair, and what I want to talk about is the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, the level of workforce there and its implications to the people of this Province. Now some time ago, in 1993, the Canada Labour Board decided to make a ruling which ill-affected people within our Province. Now, Mr. Speaker, how did this ruling affect those -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having some difficulty hearing the honourable member because of the -

MR. CANNING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Perhaps the Opposition is not concerned about the workers in Labrador West and the work that they seem to be losing to people in our sister Province, but I am very concerned about that happening.

In 1993, as I said, the Canada Labour Board issued a ruling which amalgamate unions on the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway. It, in effect, caused what some call the tyranny of the majority. We have in Sept-Iles a hugh majority in that union, and about twelve to fifteen members in Labrador City in the same union. Now, they have great difficulty with that simply because they have no way of conveying their views through their union body, either through collective bargaining or any other thing. I just want to read into the record some of the things that the union has sent to me, the union representatives in Labrador West.

UTU, that is the United Train Union 1843, has 122 members. One hundred and seven of those 122 are in Sept-Iles; fifteen are from Labrador. The maintenance of way, the people who do the repair on the railway, there are 154 members living in Sept-Iles; there are five in Labrador. All the staff that is required along the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, 65 per cent of that railway is in our Province, while the staff the maintains all those utilities along the railway are from the Province of Quebec.

During negotiations this government and previous governments have had to intervene to protect the rights of workers in Labrador because of negotiations in Quebec under the auspices of the Canada Labour Board. Now this is a situation where we have had to go to the extent of contacting the Commissioner of Official Languages because they could not get any documentation for their bargaining proposals in English. Now, Mr. Speaker, this is entirely inappropriate, unfair and unacceptable. The workers in Labrador West are asking that their government, their House of Assembly, their representatives act in their interest to ask the UTU and to ask the Canada Labour Board to revisit the whole implication of that particular ruling. It is unfair and unacceptable.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that this is a significant issue in Labrador West. It is a significant issue when a loader-operator can be flown up from Sept-Iles for week-long stays in Labrador West to clear snow in the yard at Labrador West. You will never see that happen the other way around. You will never see people within out Province flown down to Sept-Iles to clear snow down there. You will never see a circumstance where they fly people up in a helicopter to change light bulbs along the track, 65 per cent of that track in our Province. The workers in our Province want a fair deal.

The minister and I have already gone to Ottawa to talk to senior officials in the Minister of Labour's office of the Government of Canada and asked them to review this very issue because of its implications on the fairness of workers, for workers in Labrador. I can tell you that this is a big issue and has to be dealt with and has to be dealt with properly and fairly. In my view, the railway should be set up such that the workers in Labrador West take the full, loaded, ore train to the border, exchange it with an empty ore train coming north from Seven Islands and take it back from the border and the other workers in our sister province takes it back to their home.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this has nothing against the Government of Quebec or the people of Quebec. It is for the workers in our Province for a fair and right and proper deal in terms of who should acquire work there. There is a fair amount of work. If we talked about 100 jobs being generated somewhere else, there would be huge announcements on television, there are 100 jobs created here or there or somewhere else. In this case, there is a fair number of jobs that are taken away from people in our Province and given to others so that they should have the work that ought to properly be done by people within Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the local Chair of the union in Labrador West, a gentleman by the name of Arthur Sturge and I have already brought this issue public. We wish to convey to one and all in this Province that this is a terrible and unacceptable situation that begs to be changed. It needs to be changed and in my view, it will be changed.

Mr. Speaker, there are other issues in Labrador West that certainly need to be dealt with. There are issues such as the Motor Registration that has caused great concern to the people of Labrador West and one that I would hope that the minister, in due course, will work upon and I am sure is dealt with appropriately and properly. I look forward to his decision on that.

Mr. Speaker, in all fairness, I am very pleased to represent the citizens of Labrador West. There have been, for a long time, a feeling that they have been left out of the main stay of politics in this Province. They believed for a long time that they provide a great deal of revenue to this Province and often receive little in return. They are not without pride in terms of what they provide to the goodness of this Province but they also ask for appropriate service. They ask for appropriate transportation links and I can say that I look forward to the Minister of Transportation and her initiative with respect to the Trans-Labrador Highway. It is a magnificent initiative. It is an initiative that is very thoughtful and has been dealt with in a way that I believe is both professional and accepted in many respects, in many quarters across Labrador, as her championing the cause for the Trans-Labrador Highway and the transportation initiative, both her and the Minister of Government Services and Lands to ensure that the people of Labrador West, Labrador East and the south coast achieve a transportation link that others would accept as normal.

So we are not asking for anything that other people would not ask for. We are not asking for things that are pie in the sky. We are asking for simply that which everybody else takes for granted. So I am very pleased that this government has taken it on themselves to be very active. The Minister of Environment and Labour is active in terms of the labour issues in Labrador West. The Minister of Transportation is active in terms of the transportation needs of our riding and the other ridings within Labrador. The minister responsible for Labrador is very active in terms of dealing with services and issues that are within his department and within his mandate as the minister of Labrador. I should also say that the Minister of Forest Resources and Agrifoods has been very active in terms of trying to generate some opportunities in forestry and outfitting and I look forward to some decisions coming on in the next short while. I can say too that other ministers, in terms of health and rural renewal, social services, they have been all very, very active and supportive of decisions that would enhance the life of those who live in the region that I am from, those who just ask for being treated fairly for once and that is what we are going to do. But I am very pleased, Mr. Speaker, that we have a Premier who understands that Labrador is a unique part of this Province, has lived and had some of his youth spent in that of the Province and has -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CANNING: I have no difficulty with anybody -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. CANNING: Mr. Speaker, I should say that I have no difficulty with anybody who wishes to travel about this country and this Province and this world to make sure that we have opportunity and prosperity coming to us. As a matter of fact, I happen to believe that is a proper thing for a premier to do, and I applaud him for that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. CANNING: I say to my hon. friends across the way that the people in Labrador are in good hands.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CANNING: I can tell you honestly and forthrightly that the people in Labrador know they are in good hands.

I grew up in Labrador, I spent my young life there, and I remember many years ago Frank Moores and Brian Peckford and others promising a bridge across the Wabush Narrows. They were going to build a bridge across Wabush Narrows. I remember members before me all said that they were going to build a bridge across Wabush Narrows. I can tell you, in eight months there is a bridge across Wabush Narrows.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. CANNING: The fact is that previous governments in years past, especially Conservative governments, didn't pay much attention to the people of Labrador, and the people of Labrador recognize that. You can see across the electoral map of Labrador that they know that and they -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. CANNING: Well yes, and I welcome my hon. friend to Labrador as many times as he wishes to travel there. He taught there and he knows full well the sporting opportunities there. If he collects a few Aeroplan points, perhaps be can find time to fly there to enjoy the ski.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, and we are getting short on time, I would just say that I've been very pleased to represent the people of Labrador, to have the kind of support and enthusiasm that emanates from this particular government, this Cabinet and this Premier. It is a reflection really of many things that were said in the Speech from the Throne. Those things that we have looked upon in terms of wanting to change the name of our Province to ensure that the region of Labrador receives the maximum benefit possible from opportunities within Labrador. Those things are very exciting for me. This is an exciting time to be involved in politics, and I look forward to the development and opening up of opportunities and prosperity in Labrador for a very long time into the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I just stand to adjourn the debate.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 o'clock, November 19th. Before I do, Mr. Speaker, I want to note for the House and for the public that there is a public forum to discuss Voisey's Bay Inco Mine Mill Smelting operation, and there are a number of people in attendance, Cal Powell, Norman Mercer, Sue Dyer, Jim Brokenshire, chaired by Greg Malone. I think, my friends on the other side are eagerly trying to find new coalitions.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, November 19 at 2:00 o'clock.