December 2, 1996         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS            Vol. XLIII  No. 44

 


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House that the government has reached a settlement in the claim of one of the victims of abuse at Mount Cashel Orphanage, whose matter is currently before the court. Government has also made an offer to settle the claims of thirty-eight other individuals whose cases have not yet gone forward.

Danny Williams, the lawyer representing these thirty-eight other claimants, has informed me that he will advise his clients that the offer is a fair and reasonable one, and I am pleased to announce today that Mr. Williams will recommend his clients accept the offer.

Mr. Speaker, the concerted efforts of counsel for the claimants and counsel for the government have yielded a settlement offer which I believe is fair in light of the circumstances. It will provide reasonable compensation to those who have suffered as a result of their mistreatment at Mount Cashel.

In recognition of the length of time that these matters have remained unresolved, the government wishes to finalize these claims expeditiously so as to bring some closure for the victims. And, Mr. Speaker, the government will seek reimbursement from the Christian Brothers and the Roman Catholic Church.

The government has taken the extraordinary measure of offering to settle these claims in full at this time, in order to end the distress caused to the victims by the prolonged proceedings to date.

This measure is a departure from common legal practice, in which it would have been normal for government to insist that the considerable share of the liability of the other parties be settled as part of any settlement with clients.

Mr. Speaker, we have taken this step because we do not wish to see those who have suffered mistreatment at Mount Cashel, and who have had to relive those memories in the course of the Hughes Commission's work, to once again relive them before a court of law. So, Mr. Speaker, the government has taken the unusual step of offering a full settlement of thirty-eight outstanding claims. We will take it upon ourselves to seek reimbursement from the Christian Brothers and the Roman Catholic Church for their fair share of these costs.

One of the government's urgent priorities for some time has been to see these matters settled. Through diligence and hard work by all parties involved over the past few weeks, I am pleased to say that we have been able to reach a fair accommodation and for this, Mr. Speaker, I commend all parties.

Thank you.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the hon. the minister for providing me with a copy of the statement.

I would like to congratulate the minister, and if he, in any way, personally intervened in his capacity as Minister of Justice and Attorney General on behalf of the victims, I both congratulate him and thank him for his intervention.

I congratulate the counsel for the Provincial Government, counsel for all parties and, in particular, counsel for the claimants who, I am sure, together worked hard to see a resolution of this matter.

There is an air of compassion in my view, Mr. Speaker, on page 3 of the Ministerial Statement, when we read that government has taken this step because we do not wish to see those who have suffered mistreatment at Mount Cashel, and who have had to relive those memories in the course of the Hughes Commission's work, to once again relive them before a court of law. That is the kind of compassion which government has to show from time to time, and again, I congratulate the minister for this statement today.

Thank you.

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

MR. McLEAN: Mr. Speaker, the decision on Friday by Voisey's Bay Nickel Company to locate their smelter-refinery complex in Argentia came as a disappointment to many Labrador communities. As members of this House are aware, this is a very sensitive issue to many of those people who live and work in Labrador. They believe that communities nearest to the resource should benefit the greatest from the development of that resource.

The government agrees. Labrador, in the past, has not shared fully in the economic opportunities of this Province. Mr. Speaker, this will change. While the smelter and refinery will be built on the Island, the government is committed to ensuring that, to the greatest extent possible, the economic benefits, the social benefits, and the infrastructure benefits of the Voisey's Bay development will accrue to the people of Labrador.

The first step taken has been by Voisey's Bay Nickel Company by announcing that their procurement office and the operational headquarters will be located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We are pleased with this decision, because it demonstrates a solid commitment to Labrador on the part of the company.

Secondly, the government is committed to making sure that people from Labrador have a real chance at capturing the jobs at the mine/mill operation. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the provincial college will begin work immediately on the development of a comprehensive training program in mining technology, including a pre-college program, to be administered by the provincial college campuses.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: The college intends to have this program in place and ready for the 1997-98 academic year. That means, Mr. Speaker, that the first graduates of this program will be ready for the start of operations of the mine site in 1999. This program will be developed in conjunction with the company and with Human Resources Development Canada, to ensure that the curriculum meets the exact specifications the company will demand for prospective employees. As a model, we will look to Cambrian College in Sudbury, whose mining program was developed in close consultation with Inco and, as a result, 100 per cent of their graduates were hired by the company.

The college, in conjunction with Voisey's Bay Nickel company and other partners in Labrador, has been identifying training needs to ensure maximum job opportunities for the Labrador people. The college will continue their efforts and introduce the required training on an "as-needed" basis for the Voisey's Bay development.

Mr. Speaker, when I ran for politics, I made a strong commitment to the people of Lake Melville and the people of Labrador. When the Premier asked me to be the Minister responsible for Labrador, I recognized the weight of that responsibility. I accepted this position because I knew the Premier and the government are fully committed to addressing the legitimate concerns of Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. McLEAN: Mr. Speaker, we have an agenda for Labrador. The time has come for Labradorians to share fully in the economic benefits of the Province. I'd like to inform all members of this House that, along with my colleagues, Perry Canning and Wally Anderson, I intend to work tirelessly for the people of Labrador. We intend to deliver.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments today to this Ministerial Statement. It is very hard to really respond to because I really do not know what the statement is all about. Just a short time ago the minister stood up and made commitments to Labrador, the visions of the highway and so on. We are all pleased with that, Mr. Speaker. There is no doubt about that. Like the Premier, by the way, I also lived in Labrador for six years and I still have family who live there. I know the feelings of the people of Labrador, and the minister and the members for Labrador here in this House know that.

From the day the rock was tapped and we knew there was a mine going in Labrador we would assume that training and so on for the mining aspect was going to go there. That was a given, but what the people of Labrador feel right now is betrayed. As far as the mining goes, is that what the statement was all about? All I say to the minister is that words and commitments are not enough, Mr. Speaker, I say to the people in this House. I say that rhetoric and commitment in saying a full and fair share is just simply not enough. Mr. Speaker, they feel betrayed today. They were disappointed and you can imagine why they would feel that way. So really the statement is not a lot to comment on, Mr. Speaker, just compare it to last week's statement where there was a lot of rhetoric and hearsay and really not a lot to be said in the statement. There is nothing to talk about.

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to advise the hon. ministers that the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and the Cabot 500 Celebrations' team have launched a new and aggressive marketing initiative in the promotion of our 1997 anniversary year.

This project represents the largest, singular marketing effort put forward by the department in the promotion of our Cabot 500 Anniversary Celebrations. This project will involve the direct mail-out of more than 400,000 Cabot information kits to the North American marketplace. Each of the province's 200,000 households, 20,000 commercial enterprises, and almost 500 schools will receive a kit containing a keepsake poster which gives a real flavour for this special and world-class event being staged next year in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, of that 400,000 kits, some 200,000 will be distributed to households throughout North America. These addresses were compiled using the "Be Our Guest" campaign database, inquiries to our tourism's toll-free information service, and other key target markets.

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I also wish to inform all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that the 500th Anniversary Festival & Events Calendar will be mailed early in the new year to all households within the Province. I encourage all residents to make plans to vacation here in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1997. As well, I ask all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to encourage friends and relatives to come to this Province and take part in our special anniversary celebrations.

Mr. Speaker, in less than four weeks, Newfoundland and Labrador will officially launch the Cabot 500 Celebrations and the first of its kind, a province-wide celebration of our people, our culture and our land. Newfoundland and Labrador has a significant tourism product to offer visitors. In 1997, we introduce a spectacular roster of new and enhanced events to commemorate John Cabot's historic landfall. Next year we will showcase our tourism product to the world and we will elevate this Province's tourism industry to a new plateau. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to commend the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation on her initiatives to market the Cabot 500 celebrations. I myself am planning to spend my vacation next summer in Newfoundland and Labrador to celebrate the 500th celebrations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OSBORNE: I would urge each and every member of the House to spend their vacation time next summer in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The 400,000 mail-outs going to the people of our Province, and as well to the people of North America, to various households in North America, I hope will prove to be very productive and will attract visitors to our Province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Health. Has the minister taken the time to review the report on the Peninsulas Health Care Board, and if so, will he table a copy in the House today?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, I've taken the time to review the report that was done by the committee that was commissioned by the Peninsulas Health Care Board. I won't be releasing a copy of it in the House. In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the Board to make a decision on any release coming from it. I can advise the hon. member - in fact, I believe he is already aware of it - that the Peninsulas Health Care Corporation has issued a press release today regarding its review of the report. It has also released the full twelve recommendations that were contained in it, and they have committed themselves to implement, in a very timely fashion, all of the twelve recommendations that have come forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Why is the public being left in the dark with respect to failings in the health care system? Now, I ask the minister why won't he tell this House and why won't he tell the health care professionals, and more importantly, minister, why won't you tell the public? How can you claim to guarantee a safe system when you aren't even willing to let the truth come out?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

That is sort of a rambling, un-focused type of question. I think the point of the question, if there was a point, is this: Why are we, or why am I as minister, not prepared to reveal all that is appropriate with respect to anything that we have to do in terms of review or investigation in the health care system.

I know of no other matter that has probably been dealt with so expeditiously as this particular issue on the Burin Peninsula, and we have released today in the press release - or the Peninsula's board has, in the press release -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) we have.

MR. MATTHEWS: That is right, they as being part of the health care system. We have seen to it that the report has been dealt with, that the recommendations have been released. I cannot, quite frankly, prejudge as to whether or not at some point the corporation's board may, in fact, want to release the whole report; but suffice it to say that all of the recommendations, the whole twelve of them, have been released today. They are public. As a matter of fact, I hand delivered a copy of it to the hon. the member on the way in.

MR. SULLIVAN: I phoned you.

MR. MATTHEWS: Yes, you did. You called me this morning, and I appreciate your call. We had a good chat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: I think that type of working together is of some benefit to him.

I did not want to say that, but he admitted that he does call me once in awhile and I treat him with great care and caution. He is delicate; he is fragile; he has a difficult job; he is under a lot of pressure; he is at 40 per cent in the polls, all those sorts of things -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the minister to take his seat.

Order, please!

AN HON. MEMBER: Forty? Fourteen!

MR. MATTHEWS: Didn't I say fourteen?

AN HON. MEMBER: You said forty.

MR. MATTHEWS: Oh, forty. My apologies, I am out by 26 per cent.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, a supplementary.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Last week you asked me to prove my concerns and suspicions, and I did. Today I am asking you to prove not only that a report is written, but that problems have been identified and corrected. Will the minister do that now?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The report has indeed been written. It has been dealt with appropriately, in my judgement, by the board of the Peninsula's health care corporation, and the action that is required to be taken to address the twelve recommendations that have come forward has been committed to me by the board to be in a fast-track mode whereby they will address all of the concerns in as timely a fashion as is possible.

I can only commend the quick action and the due diligence of the volunteer trustees of the Peninsula health care board who have literally been working day and night, Saturday and Sunday, on a gratuitous basis, in the best interest of the people of both peninsulas in the Clarenville area that they serve. I believe it is high time that on both sides of the House we recognize the contribution that volunteers make to our health care system, that volunteers make to our society in general. These individuals give an enormous amount of time to do the business of the Province and they do it in the interest of health care and of the people that they serve.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MATTHEWS: I commend them for their actions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is not the commitment of the members in the health care professions I am questioning, I say to the minister. It is not their commitment. Will the minister name the members who were on that review committee?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to name the members of the committee, although I will have to do it from memory. The committee was chaired by Dr. Ron Whelan as an independent chair, a reputable and renowned physician in the Province, along with Dr. Albert Davis, an independent physician from St. John's, who I believe is associated with the Janeway Hospital. There was a Dr. Cremin representing the medical staff at the Peninsulas who brought forward some of these concerns originally. In addition to that, there was an appointment from my department, Mr. Roy Manuel, an Assistant Deputy Minister, and one other individual. Yes, I believe it was Mr. George Clements, vice-chair of the Peninsulas Health Care Corporation. These were the five individuals who reviewed the matters and prepared the report.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Your own Assistant Deputy Minister is a member of that committee, and he is involved in the writing of that report. Now, you are up to your neck in this in a cover-up, I say to the minister. Will you come clean and table this report?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Minister, you have been involved in this all along, and I say you are involved in a cover-up. Before you lose your last ounce of credibility, you are going to have to provide to me and to the public more than recommendations. I ask the minister: Will you do the appropriate thing and table that report?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: The comments and the tone of the question from the hon. member today, if nothing else ever does, validates the comments that I made to the Telegram the other day when I said: From the Opposition, we generally get a fair degree of innuendo and that sort of drivel that has no foundation in fact and no reason for being made.

It is totally appropriate for the minister of the day to appoint whom he feels can do the best job to do these investigative matters. I make no apologies to the hon. member for having an Assistant Deputy Minister from my department participate as one of five members of that commission, who have done an admirable job in addressing the issues and have brought forth a report that the board has accepted and is acting on.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

My questions today are for the Minister of Finance. Just recently the minister replied to questions asked in the House about our Province losing our autonomy with respect to the HST. As a matter of fact, the minister responded by saying it was a matter of co-operation, not autonomy. Now, I will give the minister this scenario.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: Release the report! (Inaudible)!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SHELLEY: I will give the Minister of Finance this scenario. He is projecting major economic growth in this Province to the point, in fact, that we should be benefitting from mega-royalties in the next decade, like Voisey's Bay and Hibernia and so on. We all hope that the minister is right in those projections. So let us say that we want to lower the tax in this Province in the coming years, two, three or four years from now - which we all hope, and I guess any government would hope, to be able to do that. However, the other two provinces might not be so fortunate as Newfoundland. Let us take that scenario. How do we lower our tax when we need unanimous approval from the provinces which may not afford the same as we do, Mr. Speaker?

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

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker, we do not need unanimous approval from the other provinces to lower any of our taxes. I think the hon. member may be a little confused, or I may have misunderstood his question. If he is referring to the harmonized tax at 15 per cent, no, we are locked into that for the next four years. Part of the reason for that is that -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: I am sorry, I -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, the way the agreement reads is that there has to be - for the next four years we are locked into a rate of 15 per cent, a joint rate: 7 per cent to the Federal Government, 8 per cent to the Province, essentially. The reason we cannot increase the rate, to start with, over the next four years is that we have been compensated for it. We have received $348 million. The Federal Government would view that as being contrary to the agreement.

There is a mechanism in place that we can decrease it at the end of the four years, and I suppose we could look as to whether or not we wish to decrease it sooner. But in answer to the substance of his question, I think we have rationalized sales tax so it is consistent with every other jurisdiction in the country and probably is cheaper, arguably, than some of the larger provinces. It seems to me the next (inaudible) that should take place should be on the personal income tax side moreso than any other.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will ask the next direct question of the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

Will the minister confirm that the Federal Government has retained its autonomy by allowing itself unilaterally the ability to increase the HST? Is that true?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker. That is not the case.

What both parties have agreed to do -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: No, I will explain to the hon. the Leader of the Opposition what the agreement is, if he cares to take the time.

The Federal Government cannot increase its rate to be more than 1 per cent from where it is now. If either party wishes, if I may say, to increase the tax rate, they must offer to the other party, the other half-percentage point. So, for example, if the Federal Government wish to increase its tax by 1 per cent, it would have to offer us the half of that 1 per cent. We could choose whether or not to accept it.

They are also limited, and we are limited to maintaining a 1 per cent differential on the rate base; so, for instance, we can go up by 1 per cent but we cannot go beyond that, nor can the Federal Government, so the latitude there, what we tried to do, through agreement, is to hold each side to some reasonable accommodation as to what the increase would be. What I can do if the member is interested, I will give him a more detailed answer tomorrow, when I will get the full information, refer to the agreement because there is a mechanism in it to control rates.

What I am saying though, is that, we are bound into it for four years. We have no plans to increase our rate for the next four years and if the Federal Government wishes to do so, it probably cannot do so by more than one percentage point.

PREMIER TOBIN: But `Loyola' wants to raise taxes, if he ever (inaudible).

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

MR. SHELLEY: Well, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Premier, we would like to lower taxes, and that is another question to the minister.

Only recently, the minister was projecting major economic growth increase in consumer confidence over the coming years and we all hope that he is right, we all do in this House.

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, the social policy committee was finishing a tour of the Province where the message was doom and gloom, as a matter of fact, a weakened tax base. Now, Mr. Speaker, which is which?

I would ask the minister to confirm which projection he thinks is accurate.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board.

MR. DICKS: Well, Mr. Speaker, I do not share the hon. member's observation that there is a lot of doom and gloom. It is quite the opposite. I find that people believe the economy has stabilized.

Just last week we tabled figures that showed that the economy this year, is stronger than projected for the reasons that we indicated, and what we do project is the next few years there will be some difficult periods, but by all accounts, including those investment analysts, the bank analysts and every other group with some reasonable degree of financial acumen and credibility in the country agree with us, that there will be a substantial period of growth in Newfoundland and Labrador, about two years out, and I accept that, and as far as my public observations are concerned, most people tend to agree with that. They have some concerns over the next few years but certainly, the prospects for growth are tremendous in this Province.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

I had delivered to the minister's office, thirty-four days ago, a `Freedom of Information' request for details regarding the EDGE Program.

The minister, by law, must respond to a Freedom of Information request within thirty days.

Will the minister tell us why he is in breach of the law?

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, I am not in breach of the law.

I sent it to the hon. member last week.

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

MR. OSBORNE: I stand to be corrected, but my understanding of the Freedom Of Information Act states that I must receive it within thirty days.

I asked the minister during the request for the total dollar amount of administering the EDGE Program and the total dollar amount of the tax concessions given to the EDGE companies.

I ask the minister, when can we expect to have this information tabled?

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, as I said to the hon. member, I sent the information - I signed it last week and sent it to his office.

Let me say something else to him, Mr. Speaker. There is really no need for histrionics and asking me under the Freedom of Information. That information is readily available. If the hon. member had phoned me, I would have given it to him over the phone right away.

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

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

My questions are to the Minister of Social Services.

After reflecting on your government's policies and practices relative to home care workers: Will the minister admit that home care workers, most of whom are female, deserve the same social and income benefits, the same assurances of a safe working environment, the same assurances of income protection, as those offered to other workers in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador?

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

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

As I mentioned in the previous Question Period, as a Department of Social Services, we give an allocated amount of money to people to hire the necessary services, and people to do those services in the community. We continue to give that money based on what is in the regulations, and the employer will then hire the people necessary to provide the work.

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

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

Madam Minister, by your government's policies - be they sins of omission or commission - your support of that policy has systematically and effectively denied home care workers access to worker compensation and sick leave benefits, and you have placed your government, unfortunately, in the same category as those employers of a generation ago who denied societal benefits to women and the working poor.

When, Madam Minister, can you assure the home care workers of this Province that they can expect a fair, just, and full share of employee benefits?

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

MS J. M. AYLWARD: Again, as I said in the previous Question Period when the same question was asked, these issues are being addressed. We have talked about them in the past, and I will reiterate the same comments and refer to Hansard of the previous day for the answer.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Madam Minister, this issue is not going to go away. It can appear in Hansard as often as you say, but it is not going to go away. In fact, it is going to blow up in your face and in the government's face.

Mr. Speaker, I say to the hon. minister that each day home care workers in this Province put themselves in jeopardy when they go to work. In some cases their personal safety is at risk. I say to the minister: Why will you not become more proactive? Why will you not become more caring, more compassionate, in dealing with these home care workers, most of whom are female? Do something about it. Get away from the rhetoric.

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, just to address the issue of workers' compensation when it comes to home care workers, we have met with a couple of groups representing home care workers already. We are looking at that issue as we speak. In the past two or three weeks there have been some representations made to the Workers' Compensation Commission to review that issue. There are a number of workers in the Province who have been newly formed in recent times, who are not covered under workers' compensation. That is under review, and we expect to have a decision very shortly.

Thank you very much.

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

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

My question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour.

Mr. Minister, we learned from a government, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, study in 1995 that there are petroleum wastes underneath the former Harnum U.S. Air Force Base at Stephenville. We will learn at the end of 1996, from the preliminary report of yet another government study, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, the kinds of waste and potentially hazardous conditions involved. Then, presumably some time in 1997, we will get the final report of this government study and learn exactly what kinds of wastes and hazards may be there. Mr. Minister, when will the study conclude and the clean-up begin?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. It is a good question.

This government was very proactive in having an evaluation done of the former base site. As a matter of fact there was an in-depth review done last year, and there is a further tender just awarded to Agri-Earth Environmental to now look at a further in-depth review of petroleum products on the ground. There are at least three or four different types of fuels that have been identified. We have met with the federal Minister of Environment, and we have met the federal minister responsible within the Province, the hon. Fred Mifflin. We have notified the federal government in writing that we consider it their responsibility when it comes to liability, and we are doing a full and thorough review of the total environmental problem in the area. We are also working with Transport Canada and Transport Canada is also doing a review of the airport property which joins the other property provincially, and we expect to have a full report early in the new year.

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

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

Mr. Minister we already know there is petroleum waste at the site, and quite possibly hazardous conditions resulting from the military use for the past fifty years, and we do not want those chemicals sitting around in leaky containers and steaming there while governments take their sweet time negotiating who is responsible for them. You mentioned that you have been speaking to the federal minister responsible. Has the minister received a commitment from them, regardless of the American position, that the site will be cleaned up in short order with Ottawa paying upfront and sending the bill to Americans, if that is what it takes? Has he received that assurance from his federal counterpart, and if not would he pursue it further?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, we are working on a full thorough assessment of the site with the federal government. We expect to have a full report early in the new year, which will identify the cost of cleaning up, and identify solutions for cleaning up the site. We are also working and negotiating with the federal government as to potential costs for cleanup. We consider it their liability. We have said that to the federal government and we will be dealing with them over the next few months.

The Premier and the Minister of IGA will also be dealing with them on this matter, in his role, and the government will thoroughly assess the problem first before we go forward. We need to know what the problem is before we go and start talking. We need some concrete results and some concrete answers before we go forward thoroughly. It is a problem we have identified, and we are going to deal with the problem right up front.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I wonder if the minister would inform the House as to how many fish processing facilities his government owns in the Province today?

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

MR. EFFORD: Three, Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South on a supplementary.

MR. FITZGERALD: I would like to ask the minister if the government owned processing facility at St. Lawrence has been sold, and if so for how much?

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

MR. EFFORD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it has been sold for $250,000.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South on a supplementary.

MR. FITZGERALD: I would like to ask the minister if he would inform the House as to how much public money has gone into that particular facility after it was passed on to new owners or new operators last June? Since June of last year.

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

MR. EFFORD: None, that I am aware of, but I can check it out. I can tell you the history of the former Tory government, they put multi, multi-millions into fish plants in the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: Up to the last election they were prepared to spend $75 million buying fish to open up every plant in the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South on a supplementary.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not clear. Did the minister say that he would inform the House as to how much public money has been spent on that particular facility?

MR. TULK: Since June?

MR. FITZGERALD: Since June of last year.

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

MR. EFFORD: Mr. Speaker, as far as I am aware of we have not spent any public money since June, but I will double check and if there was any money spent I will report it to the House. I said that.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As a member of this House for a constituency in the City of St. John's I would like to ask the Minister of Social Services a question with respect to the provincial government and its relationship with the city.

The government and the City of St. John's agreed in 1994 to share equally in funding a transportation service for the disabled, but while the total cost of the service has increased substantially since then the government's share has remained frozen. I would like to ask the minister if she would agree to stand by the government's commitment of two years ago, reaffirm its commitment to the disabled people of this area, and once again provide a share of the funding that is equal to the share provided by the City of St. John's.

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

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, the relationship with the disabled in the City of St. John's is that we give a set amount of money for the administrative costs associated with the HUB. With respect to transportation specifically, I refer to my colleague the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Member for St. John's East.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, I am unclear as to the minister's response. Is the answer now being deferred to another minister?

My question, Mr. Speaker, is to a minister. My question was directed to the Minister of Social Services, so obviously under the circumstances I am forced to redirect. Will the minister agree to stand by the government's commitment of two years ago, reaffirming its commitment to the disabled people of this area and once again provide a share of the funding that is equal to the share provided by the city of St. John's? Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of this minister, this is with respect to the relationship between the provincial government, the city of St. John's and how it affects disabled persons in this city.

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, the funding of the HUB - the transit system for the disabled in the city of St. John's is of course a municipal responsibility. In the past the provincial government has contributed to the cost of that particular service. To my knowledge, the Province has not made a long-term commitment to that funding but that it is an annual contribution of funds that comes through my department to the HUB to help contribute to the cost of operating that service. I believe that the city was advised in 1996-97 that the provincial government had approved an operating grant in the sum of $94,000 - $94,500 or something to that effect and that is the Province's commitment this year to the funding of that particular system.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The minister is partly correct when she uses the figure $94,000. However I would suggest that she is incorrect when she said it is not long term. There is a commitment by the Province, Mr. Speaker, to in fact match the expenditure with respect to transportation for the disabled, for the City of St. John's. In 1997, the total cost of providing this key service will be some $350,000. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the Province is no longer living up to its commitment to match the St. John's share of the funding. I simply ask the minister, why is the government continuing to renege on its commitment to the city and to the disabled people who depend on this much needed service?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, as I said in my previous response, my understanding is that the commitment to the HUB transit system by the provincial government is an annual one. I will have to take under advisement and certainly check back to see the nature of the commitment to which you refer. My understanding is that it is an annual commitment and that it was renewed in this year's budget and would be considered again in next year's budget, as it has in every budget year since the early 1970s.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour.

In 1991 the former administration passed through the Order in Council a motion that had the effect of really extending the Hibernia Special Project Agreement from the construction phase of the project to the development phase of the offshore petroleum platform and associated sites. My question is this: would the minister agree that this Order in Council effectively has taken away all control of labour matters from his department and his officials and has forced, essentially, into the sidelines the labour relations process in this Province? Would he agree also that in doing so that it has put contractors or let contractors into this Province that ultimately should have not been let there and as a result Newfoundland jobs have been lost as the result of this Order in Council?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I would agree with that. Mr. Speaker, there is a site agreement that was signed off in '91 which outlines how labour relations will be conducted at the site and for the most part it has worked fairly well. As a matter of fact it is the same with the hiring practices, Mr. Speaker, for the most part it has worked quite well, over 6,000 people working at the site, major industrial site. One of the major industrial sites in North America, as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker. So considering the magnitude of the construction site, there have been very few problems. There have been some problems with the interpretation of the labour relations agreement at the site, no doubt, but considering the magnitude, Mr. Speaker, not bad.

MR. SPEAKER: Question period has expired.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have leave to ask another question?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. E. BYRNE: One question?

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister, even the minister's own recent forum on labour relations suggested and recommended that this sort of scenario never happen again.

I will ask the minister, does he agree with that Order in Council? What is the minister doing right now? The Premier, in an earlier answer last week, indicated that there would be a consultant or a consulting group hired to look at the petroleum or development phase of the Hibernia project. Can the minister update us on that? Is government or is the minister in fact reviewing the situation of the labour relations at the Hibernia site to ensure that where there are jobs available for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and where they are qualified, that they in fact get the first crack at those jobs?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, let me say first off that this government is extremely proud of the workers who contributed to the development of Hibernia.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: We are very proud of them because they have done an outstanding job, considering that this was a worldwide project where there were a number of sites that had to have parts of the GBS constructed. This site had no work stoppages, Mr. Speaker, over its lifetime, it had over 6,000 people working on it at one time over a number of months, and we saw a great many Newfoundland and Labrador people in our Province get trained up and work very diligently at this work site, and performed and came in on budget. Performed admirably. They are some of the best trained workforce on the planet. We just recently sent sixty-two workers over to Norway who are trained up, and they are wanted.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: They are wanted, Mr. Speaker, in other parts of the world because of the work experience that they have gained at the Hibernia work site. We are getting ready to look at an offshore oil industry now for the first time ever. This government is going to make that a reality. We dreamed about it for ten or fifteen years. It is finally going to become a reality under this government, and under the previous Wells Administration. We are moving forward and I can tell you, the workers in this Province are going to be protected as we develop a world-class labour relations regime for the offshore.

A smelter just announced in the Province, over $1 billion worth of expenditures -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: - a transshipment terminal going to be built. Mr. Speaker, I tell you, the Minister of Labour in this Province has a big worry now. He has to worry about how he can make all of these wonderful work sites be safe, and he is going to do it, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Terra Nova on a point of order.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a point of order related to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition when he suggested - maybe it was stronger than that - that the Minister of Health was a part of, or party to, a cover-up. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that this is out of order or unparliamentary, or both.

I refer to Beauchesne with the requirements for Oral Questions, 409.(7).

MR. TULK: What was that (inaudible)?

MR. LUSH: Beauchesne, 409.(7), for simple reference pages 120 and 121, which says, "A question must adhere to the proprieties of the House, in terms of inferences, imputing motives or casting aspersions upon persons within the House or out of it."

I suggest that to suggest somebody is part of a cover-up is certainly not in accordance with that particular principle.

I also refer, with respect to parliamentary language, to Erskine May, page 380. In talking about parliamentary language and allegations against members, it says, "Good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language...". "Expressions which are unparliamentary and call for prompt interference include:..." - and I am only going to give two - "(1) The imputation of false or unavowed motives...". That is looked into immediately and several examples given.

The second example given by Erskine May, page 381, is, "(4) Abusive and insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder. The Speaker has said in this connection that whether a word should be regarded as unparliamentary depends on the context in which it is used. For example..." - and this is very important - "...expressions which are unparliamentary when applied to individuals are not always so considered when applied to a whole party."

This particular expression was referred to the Minister of Health, and I submit that it was out of order and/or unparliamentary.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader is speaking to the point of order.

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

I refer the House to page 147 of Beauchesne, 490, which reads, "Since 1958, it has been ruled parliamentary to use the following expressions:..." When you read down the side, it says, "Cover-up, Debates, November 16, 1977, p. 941."

I rest my case.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader, to the point of order.

MR. TULK: To that point of order, the Member for Terra Nova is absolutely right. The Member for Waterford Valley, the Opposition House Leader, is absolutely wrong.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. TULK: The truth of the matter is, as my colleague for Terra Nova rightfully pointed out, an expression such as that, when used to refer to parties, is perfectly in order.

I refer the hon. gentleman, if he would turn to the next page, where the Chair has intervened on behalf of somebody who has used the word `cover-up'. The Chair will intervene in such circumstances where you accuse a member of the House of a cover-up. To say that a party is covering up, or somebody outside of the House is covering up, is another matter. But to use such language against a member of the House is very similar to what we saw last spring in this Legislature.

I would say to the Opposition House Leader, what he should be trying to do is get his leader under control, and to get him to use statements and words about members in this House that are parliamentary, as opposed to being unparliamentary.

I would also say to the Leader of the Opposition, I just heard him say: Oh, I will say it outside.

Indeed you might, but you cannot use it in here, and there is a difference. You can use what you like outside, but you cannot use it in here. It is clearly unparliamentary, as my friend from Terra Nova said, and I would ask the Chair to rule it as such, and ask him to withdraw.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The point that has been raised by the hon. Member for Terra Nova is indeed a very legitimate point. It is, no doubt, a legitimate point of order. If members refer to Beauchesne, Section 409, that the hon. member had quoted, "A question must adhere to the proprieties of the House, in terms of inferences, imputing motives or casting aspersions upon persons within the House or out of it." I will take the point under advisement, review Hansard to see exactly what the question was that the hon. member did ask and will report back to the House on the point raised by the member.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In accordance with Section 35 of the Newfoundland Medical Care Insurance Act, I am pleased to table the annual report of the Newfoundland Medical Care Commission for the year ending March 31, 1996.

Notices of Motion

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, "An Act Respecting A Provincial College."

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following Private Member's Resolution;

WHEREAS the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act states in subsections 4.1(1) and (2) that: "4.1.(1) A person may, in the current taxation year, deduct from the amount payable under section 4, the amount payable to the province under the Income Tax Act in respect of mining income in the province for that year. (2) Subsection (1) shall apply only for each year of the 1st 10 years after the achievement of commercial production in the mine from which the mining income is derived.";

AND WHEREAS there is nothing in the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act or any other legislation to exempt Inco or its subsidiaries or operations at Voisey's Bay from these provisions;

AND WHEREAS Premier Tobin stated in this House on November 20, 1996 that "there will be no 10-year tax holiday for Inco";

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urge the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to act promptly to amend the Mining and Mineral Rights Tax Act by adding in subsection 4.1(1) immediately following the words "A person" the words "other than Inco and its subsidiaries and operations at Voisey's Bay".

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the past several days, including today, several questions arose concerning the harmonized sales tax. I would like to just take a moment or two to respond.

Last week I was asked - and I forget who may have asked the question, it may have been the Leader of the Opposition - concerning which tax adjustments we would make. I mentioned at the time that we would keep alcohol and tobacco taxes where they presently are, or our yield from those two particular sin taxes, as they are called, that will yield $25 million. The insurance premiums, a total of the 15 per cent, will give us $35 million - that was my recollection, that is correct - and the tax on used vehicles which is now 12 per cent will go to 15 per cent and we receive all that revenue and that is at $15 million.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: That is at seventy-five and we will have to make another $10 million in adjustments in other areas.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Perhaps some of the groups we fund, will be benefitted by it so we will make approximately another $10 million in adjustments in the programs for a total of $85 million which will result in a harmonization shortfall of $105 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Oh, as opposed to - any other measure we would take would lessen the shortfall.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: No, those are the three major areas. There may be some other expenditure adjustments we will make of $10 million which will be examined in the Budget process. There may be areas where we benefit, there were certain sectors that we now find benefit as a result of harmonization so they will have more funds at their disposal, so we may make some adjustments in that. That is something we have to look at.

The second question was - pardon me?

MR. SULLIVAN: Could I get a copy of those adjustments?

MR. DICKS: Well, those have not been decided yet. They will be decided in the Budget process. The three major areas of adjustment were the alcohol/tobacco taxes, insurance premiums and used vehicles. That is a total of $75 million; there will be another $10 million we will have to make up there as well.

The other questions which arose during Question Period, from my learned friend from Baie Verte, had to do with the mechanisms for changing the rates.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Just decreasing, you do not want to know about the increase, much more intriguing.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Yes. What we have agreed, Mr. Speaker, is that none of the provinces will decrease the provincial rate during the term of the agreement without unanimous approval.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: That is right, and any increase is subject to the majority of the provinces and then there are -

AN HON. MEMBER: Did he ask that today?

MR. DICKS: Well, the hon. member also asked, I believe, about the Federal Government rate? I don't want to over-answer the question, but did the hon. member also ask about the mechanism for the Federal Government rate?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: The Federal Government is limited to half a percentage point increase at a time, and I will be tabling the full agreement shortly when I introduce the bill.

Under section 21, the Federal Government must give us notice of intent to increase that. The increment of increase is limited to one-half of 1 per cent -

MR. SHELLEY: So they cannot increase unilaterally by (inaudible) -

MR. DICKS: No, no. They -

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) per cent twice without anybody (inaudible).

MR. DICKS: If you let me finish, I will tell you how it works then you - You are presenting conclusions. I will tell the mechanism, you draw your own conclusions.

Under section 20, if they are going to - have you read the agreement?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Oh well, then I don't need to answer it. Do you want me to go ahead?

Section 20, limits the Federal Government to half a percentage increase at a time and they have to give notice to the Province.

What we then have under section 24, we have two months notice, we can then indicate back that we intend to increase our rate by one-half a percentage point, under section 25. Now, what further happens is that -

What we have also agreed in section 28 is to maintain a differential between the two taxes that is not more than one percentage point, so we can increase ours by the same half percentage point increment. It is a little complicated in terms of the legal language required, Mr. Speaker, but essentially, the mechanism is that if the Federal Government wishes to increase the tax, it tells us that, it will intend to increase it by half a percentage point, we can then opt to increase ours by half a percentage point as well.

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: No, no. Our mechanism is that they cannot raise it by more than a percentage point.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is a raise?

MR. DICKS: Oh it is a raise, yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Unilaterally?

MR. DICKS: That is right. At all times we have to maintain a differential of one percentage point; under section 28, neither the federal portion of the harmonized tax nor the provincial portion of the tax can be increased, if the increase would result in a change in the difference between the base rate of each tax, that is more than one percentage point, yes.

MR. SHELLEY: So we have an option (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: (Inaudible) one in Hansard in Question Period.

MR. DICKS: No, I see them with the decrease (inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: We will see about that.

Now, Mr. Speaker, what I indicated in Question Period is the same thing I am indicating now, that we have a mechanism so that if either party wishes to raise a tax, the other party has the option to take half the tax increase. But the other thing to remember is that we are bound into this for four years and we cannot increase our portion of tax for four years because we have been compensated for it. It is conceivable that the Federal Government, during the course of this, could increase the tax.

MR. SHELLEY: According the unanimous (inaudible) the increase by the Province (inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Yes.

MR. SHELLEY: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: No. Here is the situation. At the end of four years, we can throw the agreement out the window and revert to the current structure. What we have agreed to is that, if we stayed part of a harmonized system with the other two provinces and the Federal Government, this is the mechanism we will have in future for any decreases or increases. So, if at the end of four years, we do not like this, we can opt out of the agreement, give notice under the agreement and then you can do what you like, but you do not have a harmonized tax. The whole idea of having a harmonized tax is that you agree on principles and mechanisms that keep it uniform.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: If they want to give us some, I will take it.

Petitions

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

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

In Question Period today, I asked some questions of the Minister of Environment and Labour, and he never got a chance to expound upon them because Question Period expired.

I stand today to present a petition by some 5,700 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who support those Newfoundlanders who are extremely qualified, who are ultimately trained, and who have been denied work - commissioning work, instrumentation work - at the Hibernia site.

Mr. Speaker, this is not a new issue. It is a significant petition that calls for, essentially, an investigation of what is taking place right now, an investigation of what is happening with qualified local construction workers, specifically electricians, who have been denied commissioning work at the Bull Arm site, who are asking this House, and ultimately government, and are insisting that development companies present a much more detailed plan, a more transparent employment and training plan for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, to ensure that those people who are qualified, who have the training, who have the necessary experience, who have the academic credentials, that if work exists in this industry, those people, those Newfoundlanders, have first crack at it.

Also, this petition is calling for enforceable regulations that are needed, in the view of the people who have signed it, to protect our construction workers from being treated, really, as second-class citizens in our own Province, in an industry that should be benefitting them, and them first.

This is an issue that was first raised in the House of Assembly about seven or eight months ago, in the first opening of the House after a new government was elected. My colleague, the Member for Bonavista South has certainly brought this matter to the attention of government. In fact, the IBEW, the union that is representing these workers, essentially, met several months ago - about eight months ago, I say to the Government House Leader - with the Social Policy Committee to review the situation. They have laid on the table, to the ministers who said in this House today, who sat on the Social Policy Committee at the time, that they have laid on the table the occupations that have been affected, the number of positions that have been affected, and the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have been laid off one day, only to see people from outside the Province come in to assume the same work the very next day. Yet, Mr. Speaker, nothing has been done.

I hope that this week, we are anticipating, that the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal - she responded to questions asked in the House last week - that she and the Minister of Environment and Labour have met with the IBEW, she has referred the matter to the Canadian Offshore Petroleum Board, and she is anticipating some time, the mid part of this week, that an answer will be forthcoming on this, as I see it, very important issue affecting workers in this Province, people who do not understand today why they are sitting home when they have the qualified experience, background, academic and otherwise, and they should be on site working.

What we are talking about, just to make it clear, we are not talking about complicated work. What we are talking about are hands-on, industrial jobs that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are qualified to maintain and qualified to have. We are talking about high-paying jobs. We are talking about heavy industrial jobs that, if Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who should have those jobs would have them now, certainly would be paying into the tax base here and we would not see money leaving the Province.

I do not think it is too much to ask. I do not think the people who have been denied that work are asking too much when they ask every member of this House, and in point of fact when they ask the government, to put the interest of our working people first, and that qualified, professional, local, tradespeople be given the first opportunity, as was promised them when it comes to employment in the offshore oil and gas industry.

A great deal can be said about the issue further. It strikes at the heart, I think, of the type of Province we want to be, and what we hope to gain from mega-projects and other large industrial sorts of projects that are just currently coming on stream that will mean a brighter future for many in the Province, and hopefully the royalties and the monies we receive from those projects will mean a brighter future for all of us.

For now, Mr. Speaker, I am content to ask on behalf of those who are affected, and on behalf of those who have signed this petition, again some 5,500 to 5,700, that this House accept the petition, support it, and do whatever is necessary to ensure that those people who are qualified right now to access that work, that government, through legislation -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. E. BYRNE: - pressure the situation and change it so that those who are qualified actually find the work and get an equal chance to get it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to support the petition so ably put forward by my friend and colleague, the Member for Kilbride. I am very much aware, I say to the Government House Leader, of what is happening out at Hibernia, because it has been happening out here for quite some time. The prayer of this particular petition was brought forward here when we had another Minister of Labour, the former Minister of Labour. What is happening out there today is nothing short of being criminal to Newfoundland and Labrador construction workers.

In the beginning there was an agreement that was sought, and, I guess, approved with the Hibernia Oil Development Council and the unions in this Province whereby there would be a no-strike and no- work interruption agreement with the Hibernia contract. Mr. Speaker, at that particular time, and the minister can correct me if I am wrong but I do not think I am, when a contractor came in from outside the Province there would be some local provincial contact, or joint agreement, if you would, or a partnership, whereby they would come and form a partnership with another Newfoundland company and go there to carry on the work they bid on.

It is nothing new. It happened out there with G. J. Cahill. They formed a consortium, if you would, with State Electric in Ontario, and now we have a particular company known as Kenonic Controls from Calgary who formed a partnership with Ozark Electric. From what I understand, that particular company was supposed to bring its supervisory personnel into the Province and all hands-on work would be done by our own local people but that is not being done. From what I understand, at that particular site today there are something like 140 electricians there from Calgary and something like nine of our own people working with this particular contractor.

Now, we talk about work that is complicated or not complicated. Mr. Speaker, Newfoundlanders have worked all over this world doing complicated work. Newfoundlanders built the city of New York. Newfoundlanders built Toronto, but still here in this Province today ourselves are not willing to go out and say that Newfoundlanders have the capability to perform skilled labour. It seems like we are not willing to accept that.

On the bridge going across, the link between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, one of the gentleman from my district is today one of the chief engineers on that particular bridge, and I fear if that particular bridge was being built here in Newfoundland he would probably have to leave the Province to find a job. It seems like we don't have faith in our own people. We do not want to go out and put them in a position whereby they do responsible work, and this is evident here today when we see our own Newfoundlanders laid off and told to go home while other people from other provinces continue to work.

I have travelled all over this country myself and worked in jurisdictions. The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture shouts across the floor, and he shouted the other day and said there was nothing wrong with this. There was nothing wrong with this situation because Newfoundlanders are allowed to go to other provinces and work. That is very true, but I say to the member opposite that when there is a layoff, when there is a downturn in work, the people who are travellers outside that jurisdiction are the first people who are laid off. You do not see people from other jurisdictions continue to work in another province while their own people are laid off - it does not happen. But it is happening here. It is happening here and it is a situation where Newfoundlanders, members of Local 2330 of the IBEW, are certainly skilled enough to go and do these duties - like I said, we have no problem with them keeping a couple of supervisory personnel there in order to make sure that they have company representatives to make the job a success, but there is certainly no reason for them to have 140 people from Calgary there and nine Newfoundlanders. That is very, very unfair, especially when you are looking at an employment rate in this Province in excess of 20 per cent, Mr. Speaker, that is unfair. It is a situation out there at that particular construction site today where Newfoundlanders are told to pick up their tools and go home, there is no opportunity for them, but the next day or that evening, you see workers from other provinces coming in through the gate and going to do work that Newfoundlanders are very capable of performing, and should be performing.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, just to take a couple of minutes to respond to the petition. We are working together. The Minister of Development and Rural Renewal and I are working together, Mr. Speaker, to deal with a number of issues pertaining to hiring at Hibernia and also to the labour relations regime at Hibernia.

The specific question about a specific contractor is being dealt with right now as we speak, with the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board who are doing an evaluation of the hiring practices of certain contractors for the commissioning phase of the GBS. That work is being undertaken right now. We have had meetings with union business agents from the different unions in the last two weeks. The ODC, oil development council, were in and gave us a presentation of the their views and HMDC were in and gave us a presentation of their views. We are getting an evaluation done of that information, completed, so that we can know what the facts are, so that the minister and I can then, together, move forward and deal with any concerns that people have, any workers have, about hiring practices at the site.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we are going to ensure that the Atlantic Accord is lived up to. The spirit of the Atlantic Accord is about protecting workers and protecting the rights of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to get hired in the offshore and in the industry when it comes to the oil industry. So the government is very concerned about it. We are working very hard at it. This agreement, there is some discussion, and some discussion about the interpretation of the agreement because a commissioning phase was not agreed upon for these practices to be covered. So there is some confusion over what is occurring now. We are trying to straighten it out as best we can. It will take a little bit longer but we should have an answer in due course. We do have the concern, Mr. Speaker, to say to hon. members, that we have the concern and we want to make sure that it is addressed as we look forward to an offshore oil industry for this Province. Thank you.

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

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

I rise today to present another petition on behalf of some parents in my district. It is addressed to the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador and it asks the House to accept the petition. It says: 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 a paid adult bus monitor program for all school buses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We find that students are presently being unsupervised and are at risk in their safety going to and from school on school buses. The safety of our children is being compromised. We ask the hon. minister and his government to show compassion, leadership and understanding to ensure the safe transportation of our children and in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I presented the petition as an ongoing series of petitions that have been signed by my constituents and are being presented to me almost on a daily basis. The prayer of the petition is self evident. Many of the parents in my district are concerned that their children go to school each day and that their safety is being unnecessarily compromised.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in previous times when I have spoken on this particular series of petitions, we cannot put a price on a child's safety, and certainly, when we fail to take action after we have had so many incidents in our Province where children have been hurt merely by the fact that they get on a school bus to go to and from school. In some cases, unfortunately, there have been very, very tragic results when children have indeed been killed.

Mr. Speaker, parents want the government to look at the monies that have been saved through efficiencies. They want the government to look at monies that have been saved in other ways in the educational budget - the reductions in staff and these kinds of these kinds of things. I say to the government, consider implementing paid adult bus monitors, particularly at the primary and the elementary level. Although the prayer of the petition is for paid adult bus monitors at all grade levels, I do believe that the priority would have to first start with the primary and elementary divisions.

There are other issues. There are issues that affect the age of the buses we have in Newfoundland, and the fact that buses, I do believe, can come from other provinces where they have outlived their life expectancy. We have buses coming particularly from, I think, the Province of Quebec, where I understand that they have stricter guidelines than we have in this Province.

Certainly, I say to the hon. the minister that we have to look at the issue of safety not only from the role that the bus driver has to fulfil. I do not think anybody is blaming the bus drivers. What they are saying is: Yes, we have educational programs for bus drivers, yes we have, I do believe, a willingness on the part of the government to look at the physical structure and the age of the buses. We are asking the minister, however, would he today consider implementing an adult bus monitor program for this Province, and not necessarily have it restricted to volunteers? Because that will probably end up being, shall we say, uncertain in some cases, because we know that volunteers are wonderful people, but parents want the assurance that the adult monitor is there. One way to ensure that is to have them paid to do the job that they do.

I say again that there is a series of petitions being circulated throughout all of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am aware of some 10,000 or more signatures that have been gathered to date. They are coming from all parts of the Island, and I present the ones today coming from the District of Waterford Valley. There will be more petitions like this presented in the days ahead by my colleagues on this side of the House.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I would like to rise today and make a few comments and support the petition that was just presented, and make a few comments with respect to this being long overdue.

For years now, I guess, we have all as parents and teachers and so on looked at the safety of school buses, and in particular - and I tell the minister this - my own experience in my first year teaching. I watched through a school window while I saw kids running behind a bus, and one of the children, grade II or III, I don't know exactly what grade, slipped, and the bus was still backing up. I watched that from inside the building. Luckily he did get up in time and get away from the bus that was moving backwards and the driver didn't see the child.

When I saw that incident, and since then have seen other similar situations where you have so many children running around the bus -and you know what happens after school, how excited they are, and on a Friday evening how excited kids are when they run out and all these buses are in the parking lot. Of course, we have the situation where a lot of these parking lots are not salted or there is no sand or gravel put on those parking lots and it is very dangerous. I said to the group, as I talked to them today, that it is, you know, something that I have been concerned with for a long time as a teacher, and now as a parent who now has a child in grade II and another expected to go into kindergarten next year. As I see that year after year as a teacher, and now as a parent, I get more and more concerned.

Really, we have all, as politicians, teachers, parents and so on, procrastinated in acting on this. Because that is exactly what we have done. We have always known that the problem was there. We have always known the threat to our children. Some of the statistics speak for themselves. I think every member in the House is very sincere when they do speak on this particular issue, and we would like to do something about it.

The fact that six fatalities in this Province, with school buses, Mr. Speaker, since 1985, 150 personal injuries because of this same issue, and over 500 accidents related to bus safety, is incredible statistics and when you stop to look at it, you say it is no wonder that parents are finally starting to say you know, this is the time now that we take the right approach at least, I say to the minister and not solve the problem overnight and decide what the policy is going to be, but take a long, hard look at it.

I know the minister has met with these groups and are very sincere when they talk about that, and you have children in school - I know a lot of the members do here, Mr. Speaker, it really hits home when you think about what price tax you put on safety and the fact that another child in a year from now might be killed in such an incident.

Of course, my colleague here from Waterford Valley, experienced such a thing, Mr. Speaker, back in 1975 or '76, I am sure exactly what year but, Mr. Speaker, what an imprint that leaves a person for the rest of his life as a parent or teacher to witness such a thing, and how it strikes home. So, Mr. Speaker, the message that we had from this group as we spoke to them is, we know that the government is not full of money, there is not a lot of extra money floating around but, Mr. Speaker, what they say, is the start to at least move in the right direction. They do not expect $10 million next year to correct this but they do expect the government to take notice of it and to start to implement something that will seem positive in the way of bus safety in the Province: sensors on the buses, upgrading of buses.

The fact that a bus driver, Mr. Speaker - think about the pressure on that person especially now as this issue becomes more highlighted, and as a bus driver who has seventy-two kids piled on to his bus in the mornings, at noon and maybe in the evening, and the pressure that that poor bus driver, once they get on the bus, we are basically saying to that driver: Now, you have the responsibility of those seventy-two kids, not only loading and unloading, but the fact that there is not even a seat belt on a bus, and a lot of these buses now and especially with the reform we see in Education, will be travelling the highway at fairly high speeds, fifty, sixty, seventy kilometres and imagine, Mr. Speaker, a moose and all those situations we think about on the highway, an accident with seventy-two children sitting there without seat belts, Mr. Speaker, so that issue it self should be reviewed.

Then we look at sensors and as one of the people on the committee said to us, it makes a lot of sense. We have technology these days where we can detect a worm in a fish but we cannot detect that a child is behind a bus so, Mr. Speaker, these issues have to be addressed and addressed quickly. The minister, and no one in government want to stand in this House and send regrets to any family who see more problems that might arise in the near future. So the answer, Mr. Speaker, for government, is to address it quickly and to at least show that they are committed to this by moving in the right direction and some of the monies that are saved through Education, we start to implement and look at some of the issues raised by this concerned group.

Mr. Speaker, I would really like to commend that group for finally getting together and putting these points forward, something that I should have done as a parent and a teacher, something that we all should have done as parents and teachers years ago, but we did not. We put it off, over and over and finally we had to have another fatality to remind us again, so the point is: how many times are we to be reminded before we act on it?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: So, Mr. Speaker, I support the petition and hope we can address it soon.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the hon. members bringing the petition forward and raising the issue again.

The issue is a serious one, Mr. Speaker, that we have in the final stages of review at the Department of Education but again, Mr. Speaker, I would take it, and for the record, that the position now of the members opposite in supporting this petition is that there have to be paid, adult monitors, because that is exactly what this petition calls for and I am assuming, Mr. Speaker, that the members who spoke, signed the petition, therefore agree with the petition because the Opposition critic, I say again, Mr. Speaker, and this is a serious issue that we are dealing with seriously and we want to have some real progress made.

But again, there is difficulty in the opposition party giving a mixed message in terms of information, a while ago, indicating that they thought the solution was probably not paid monitors at all but volunteer, adult monitors. There are public statements to that effect, Mr. Speaker, on the record, in the Province, because it was not commented on by me, as the Minister of Education. The issue was not commented on by anybody representing the government. It was commented upon, Mr. Speaker, by the Opposition critic for education in the press, saying that they felt there was a need and that it probably could be met without the expenditure of any money. I'm just puzzled, Mr. Speaker, as to why now they would not say that together as a united group in Opposition when the petitioners come forward to say: No, I won't sign this particular thing because it asks for paid monitors.

The point made by the Opposition party is that there doesn't need to be paid monitors, we need monitors. Yes, we do need monitors. We have monitors by the way, in Newfoundland and Labrador today. It is a fairly regular feature with respect to school busing in our Province. It is going to continue I'm sure to be a feature. We have committed with the groups that we have met with to look at a whole range of issues from the age of the buses themselves, from some safety devices on the buses, from some two-way radios on the buses, first-aid training for drivers, a whole range of issues. The proper signals and so on, back up lights and back up signals on the buses for when they are moving in reverse, and other issues. Training for the drivers. All of those issues.

The reality though, and I committed to get back to the groups with the results of our cross-Canada review, is currently, today - and members might like to know this, in dealing with the constituents who they speak with, because I'm sure they would like to deal with the issue with more knowledge than with speculation. Yes, there have been accidents; yes, there have been very tragic deaths with respect to school buses in Newfoundland and Labrador. We all agree that one is too many, we understand that. But the record in Newfoundland and Labrador is as good as, if not better than, any in the country. I know that is poor comfort to anyone who has been involved in an accident, and it is no comfort to anyone who has a family member who has tragically died as a result. But those are the issues.

With respect to monitoring, which is what this petition is about, this is the Province that in the current circumstance leads the country with respect to monitoring initiatives. Nobody else in the country has a monitoring program in place today that even comes close to what is in place in Newfoundland and Labrador. Even the parents themselves who have been asked, when I met with them about the idea of paid monitors, they understand that money may be hard to come by, and that if we are going to spend money in an education budget with respect to paying monitors then there are some other things that we will probably have to stop doing.

Some of them as well have come forward and said: Maybe we should be charging a fee ourselves. Because they don't need the government to put paid adult monitors on a bus today. If any parent wants to be a paid adult monitor, and any group of parents anywhere in the Province wants to have a paid adult monitor on a bus with their child would like for it to happen today, December 2 1996, it can happen. It is just a matter of the parents themselves paying from their own resources the fees so that they can pay the monitor. Because in the Province today there are parents and young people doing these jobs without a fee. Whether or not any version of a paid monitor will be a part of the final solution, I don't know.

The issue we take very seriously. Sometimes I'm just a little bit confused by the Opposition. Because their public commentary has been that we don't need paid monitors. Then they stand in the House -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. minister's time is up.

MR. GRIMES: - sign their names, and say they support motions and petitions where there have to be paid monitors. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We will address the issue again in future days, I'm sure.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a petition which I would like to present on this issue, and hopefully at the same time give some clarification to the hon. minister on a point which he continues to raise in response to this serious issue of bus monitors.

The petition reads:

To the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador ask for the House of Assembly to accept the following petition:

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 being unsupervised and are at risk in their safety going to and from school on school buses. The safety of our children is being compromised. We ask the hon. minister and his government to show compassion, leadership and understanding to ensure the safe transportation of our children.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to represent the petitioners with respect to this issue. Secondly, I stand here in support of what this says. Constantly, when this petition, this very serious issue, is raised in this hon. House, the Minister of Education stands and somehow tries to twist what is really the central thesis of these petitions, and says: Oh, the Opposition is unsure as to what its position is. The Opposition says one thing, with respect -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: My position is this, and I will make it quite clear. Number one, it is our duty to represent the voice of individuals in this Province, and we do that by making this petition.

Secondly, with respect to the issue of volunteer bus monitors, it was indeed a reaction that this party, and I as education critic, made a day following a very serious tragedy. It is clear, and obviously understood by everybody in this Province, that a system of paid bus monitors could not be implemented within twenty-four hours of a serious accident. And it seemed to me, and it seemed to our caucus, to be a logical interim step and an option that could be addressed by this government to encourage and implement this system of volunteers. However, because we in this party are prepared to listen to what the people of this Province have to say, we in this party are prepared to invite the stakeholders on this very important issue and listen to what they have to say.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: In fact, only this morning -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: The hon. gentleman is supporting a petition. Is he saying that it is the policy of the Opposition, if they were in government, they would have paid school bus monitors, paid for by government?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We support this position because through our research, and listening to the people of the Province, and having heard what particular groups of concerned parents have said, I am of the belief that what this government ought to do, and ought to do immediately, is encourage and implement a system of paid school bus monitors, adult monitors, who will clearly supervise the young people of our Province while travelling on buses over the roads of this Province. Mr. Speaker, the circumstances are clear. It is my own personal belief, and I have no difficulty whatsoever in presenting this petition.

The point that the hon. minister makes every time the issue of bus monitors is raised in this hon. House, the hon. minister twists the central thesis of the petition, and that is what our position is.

Mr. Speaker, our position is clear and I support this petition wholeheartedly. Thank you.

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

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What is wrong with you over there today, I say to the Minister of Government Services and Lands? You are awfully fidgety. I have not even opened my mouth and I have your irritated already.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: I must be doing a very good job, I say to the Government House Leader.

Mr. Speaker, I stand in my place today to support the petition presented by the Member for St. John's East, but I have to say, right off the bat, that the Minister of Education, every time there is a petition presented in this House, is on his feet trying to say that we are sending out mixed messages. The fact is that the Minister of Education is the one who is doing his job. As the Premier says often times about us doing our job: You can understand that the hon. member is doing a job criticizing, blah, blah, and what have you. The Minister of Education is over there doing his job. He is the one trying to send out mixed messages. He is trying to say that we, on this side of the House, are sending out mixed messages.

When the Member for St. John's East, the critic for education, responded a day or so after the terrible accident with respect to a child being killed in a bus accident, of course, one of the solutions - one of the solutions - was to put volunteer bus monitors on the buses. There are approximately 1,000 buses in this Province, so obviously one of the immediate solutions would be to put volunteers on them.

Now, just in that instance alone, according to my figures, there were approximately sixty volunteers who came forward, as volunteers, in that area with respect to the school which that child attended. Sixty came forward, and now it is down to ten; from sixty down to ten. What that would lead you to believe, that maybe, because of simple logistics, that the volunteer bus monitors may not work. So obviously the next solution would be to put paid monitors on. Now the minister gets up and says, okay, do you support the paid monitors and what have you, it is a good question. I personally do because the minister has, on numerous occasions, as other ministers of the department - what is you problem?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I have a few to do, don't worry. Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader is not taking this issue very seriously I don't think.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at the paid monitors on the buses in this Province and it would not necessarily have to be every bus possibly but certainly the lower grades where the little kids almost have to be lifted up into the buses, probably from grades K-6 or something of that nature you could have paid volunteers??? on it. There are all other kinds of solutions too, Mr. Speaker, with respect to sensing devices and mirrors on the back of the bus like different people have but the government now talks about saving another $9 million I believe. I think the figure is $9 million in education this upcoming year. Is that a figure that is -

AN HON. MEMBER: $9 million?

MR. J. BYRNE: $9 million, yes, after the $20-some million that was saved last year in education. Don't get too upset, I say to the Government House Leader, listen and you might learn something.

If in fact the government is being upfront with the people of the Province when they are talking about education reform - all the money that is going to be saved in education reform is going to go back into education to improve education - Mr. Minister, maybe it would not hurt to take some of this money and put it towards bus monitors. That is one solution that the Minister of Education can look at.

Now just for instance, so the people will know, and I was quite alarmed basically or surprised to find out that since 1985 we have had five fatalities in this Province directly related to bus accidents and children, five. There have been 150 injuries directly related to bus injuries and apparently over 500 accidents with respect to buses in this Province. Now that lends a whole new perspective on what is happening in the Province with respect to busing and in busing children back and forth in this Province, 1,000 buses, something like 90,000 students possibly being bused in this Province, I say to the Minister of Education. So obviously the whole thing has to be looked at with respect to the regulations, what is put in place, I say to the Minister of Education, and if these kinds of stats are accurate - and the Minister of Education is shaking his head in agreement - I say to you, Mr. Speaker, if these facts are indeed accurate obviously we need to do something as soon as possible with respect to bus monitoring in this Province.

Another point that we found out, if a bus breaks down on the highway between communities, that there is no communication. Would it hurt, I say to the Minister of Education, to have a cellular phone on each bus? Could that not be a part of the tendering process to say that -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker. Just in conclusion, Mr. Speaker. Would it hurt to have that as a part of the tendering process that there has to be communication on the bus?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

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

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am just glad that the petition was raised a couple of times today. It is clear now for the record that the position of the official Opposition in the Province is that there must be paid adult monitors on the buses in the Province and that is a priority. So I understand that and we take that as the position of the party. So when we finish our review - I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, that it will be one of the final outcomes but I understand that that is the position supported, of 100 per cent, by the members opposite that anything short of paid adult monitors - not only that, Mr. Speaker, paid by the government, directly from grants to school boards, not paid by the parents themselves but paid adult monitors. So it is nice to see, at least, that they are flexible and they can change their position from time to time because that clearly was not the position just a few short weeks ago.

Just for the record, Mr. Speaker, because this is under review and they mentioned some research that they have done with respect to this issue and monitors in other provinces and other jurisdictions, Prince Edward Island, monitoring program, none; New Brunswick, monitoring program, none, not students or adults; Manitoba, monitoring program, none; Alberta, monitors, none; British Columbia, monitors, none; Newfoundland and Labrador, student volunteers and adult volunteers trained by the school boards with materials provided by the Department of Education, supplemented by the boards, and supplemented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Safety Council. The most extensive and comprehensive program in the country exists in our Province today, but it is clear, for the record, that the Opposition will settle for nothing less than paid adult monitors, paid for by the government through grants to school boards. I am glad they have finally put their new position on the record so that it is clear for everybody.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Orders of the Day

MR. TULK: Motion No. 2 for first reading.

 

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands to introduce a bill, "An Act Respecting Pension Benefits," carried. (Bill No. 46)

On motion, Bill No. 46 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

 

MR. TULK: Order No. 19, "An Act Respecting Judgement Enforcement". (Bill No. 44)

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Judgement Enforcement." Bill No. 44.

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

MR. TULK: In the absence of the Minister of Justice who was called out because of a matter he has to attend to, I rise to move second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Judgement Enforcement."

It is my understanding that by leave of the House the Opposition critic will speak on this bill, and the principle of this bill, outlining whether he agrees with the principle or disagrees with the principle, that we will conclude the debate on this side, and then move the bill into committee for ten days, whereby the people in this Province, the organizations and professions who have an interest, and indeed if the Opposition have an interest in making a presentation, or for that matter people on the government side of the House, who have an interest in making a presentation to the Standing Committee on Social Services, they will be enable to do so by that process. Then when we come back we will move the bill into Committee of the Whole and carry out the various stages of the bill. I think the Opposition House Leader will concur. He does not hear me but I think he will concur that is the procedure we intend to use with this bill.

MR. H. HODDER: Absolutely.

MR. TULK: I am glad the hon. member wasn't listening because we just reduced his salary.

In the absence of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General it gives me great pleasure today, and I am going to read a few notes here if the hon. gentlemen will permit me, to outline the nature, purpose, and effect of an "An Act Respecting Judgement Enforcement." It is my understanding that the bill represents a significant initiative from the Department of Justice, and it is my understanding that it has been prepared after long study and wide consultation as intended to effect comprehensive reform of Newfoundland's existing system of execution law. I am sure that the Member for St. John's East will elaborate on what we mean by execution law when he rises.

I understand it is the body of law that has to do with enforcement by the High Sheriff or his officers of judgement of the court. I understand that the High Sheriff is in the gallery, a former member of this House. I believe he was the member at that time for Grand Bank. Some of us in the House had the privilege of serving with him, I say to the people on this side and on the Opposition side of the House. I have to say the member was a very good member and I am sure he is just as good a Sheriff.

Hon. members of this House are aware, I am sure, that it is a fundamental precept of our society that individuals should honour the obligations they have undertaken, or that the court determines that they have to other individuals. Our civil legal system exists to support that precept and it provides processes by which the scope of these obligations is determined, generally through the judicial system and then they are enforced as a rule through the office of the High Sheriff. The quality of these processes is measured in terms of justice and efficiency. Just and efficient processes for both the determination and enforcement of individual obligations are fundamentally essential to the health of the business community and of society in general.

Mr. Speaker, the bill before this hon. House today for second reading will create a modern, efficient, just, and balanced enforcement system for Newfoundland. It is my understanding from the Minister of Justice and from other people I have talked to that this initiative has a long history. I understand there have been a number of efforts to reform by various bodies and various institutions, justice institutions, legal institutions, to reform execution law in this Province and that today I believe the Judgement Enforcement Act before this hon. House is proof positive of the commitment of this government, and I believe of previous government to see this through to a final conclusion.

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland is not unique in recognizing the need for reform and undertaking research in the area of execution law. I understand that the Ontario Law Reform Commission in its major report on the enforcement of judgeable debts noted that the structuring process of the Ontario system contrives at the outset to promote a substantial degree of confusion and an efficiency in the enforcement of judgement debts.

The commission then referred to the existing system as fragmented, ambiguous, incomplete and archaic and later commented that the law often has left debtors, their advisers and enforcement personnel in some confusion concerning the administration of the enforcement system as a whole and concerning the existence and effectiveness of statutory rights.

Mr. Speaker, I think the comments of the Ontario Law Reform Commission - and I think all of us, as citizens, know this as well - are equally applicable to Newfoundland today.

The fundamental problems with the current system affect not only judgement creditors, but judgement debtors and ultimately society as a whole. The lack of simplicity, efficiency and balance in the present system is unquestioned and this bill seeks to change, Mr. Speaker, that state of affairs.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, it gives me great privilege to move second reading of this bill.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 44 is quite lengthy, as all hon. members are now aware, having received a copy of the proposed legislation on Friday past, and, as the Government House Leader indicated, is the result of a significant effort which, I would suggest, has gone on for perhaps years, perhaps in the days of the Law Reform Commission when, I am sure, this work was either commenced or continued, during the period of the Law Reform Commission in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to note that this particular legislation will be going to Committee and it is appropriate to do so. The legislation is quite involved, quite important and tends to streamline enforcement law or, as the hon. Government House Leader indicated, execution law in this Province. It is imperative that this legislation be scrutinized carefully and that interested parties from the general public have an opportunity to make submissions and raise questions during the Committee stages.

From the preliminary documentation which has been received, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the objective of the Judgement Enforcement Act is to create a modern, efficient and unified enforcement system through a code of procedures that reaches a balance of the interest of creditors, debtors and society as a whole, in a manner that is appropriate for this Province. Again, that draws out the importance of uniformity and consistency with respect to judgement enforcement.

The basic principles which underlie this system created by this act, Mr. Speaker, to reach these objectives, may be summarized as follows: Unification or consistency; the separation of binding of the debtor's property and enforcement procedures to realize on that property; creditor initiation and control of enforcement procedures; collective enforcement and enforcement with respect to all valuable rights owned by the debtor, subject to reasonable exemptions. So clearly, we have the basic principles as expressed in the Executive Summary which was distributed along with Bill 44 on Friday of last week.

Mr. Speaker, as I just indicated, it is highly complex. What this does to the layman is, introduces individuals in this Province to the features, the terminology and the concept of execution law in this Province. It is, as I have just indicated as well, essential that this go before Committee, that it be carefully reviewed, evaluated and the appropriate questions asked.

With respect to the details of this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, I would like to reserve that for further discussion after Committee stage when this legislation is once again before this honourable House. I welcome the legislation. I would like to say that it is time that we have consistent legislation with respect to execution law in this Province, and I look forward to the Committee stages to delve into it further.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, without belabouring any points in this bill, I would move that we, by leave of the House, that we refer this bill (inaudible) -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We have not had second reading. I understood if the minister is closing -

MR. TULK: Well I am closing second reading, Mr. Speaker, and will you consider it now closed?

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting Judgement Enforcement," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 44)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before moving Bill 44 to Committee of the Whole, I would move that Bill No. 44, having received second reading, be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Services, and that the chairperson of that Committee be so instructed and be ordered to report to this House within ten sitting days.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the bill be now referred to the Standing Committee of Social Services.

All those in favour, aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye!

MR. SPEAKER: Against.

Carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 7, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Expropriation Act," Bill No. 33.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will pick up, I guess, where I left off on Friday concerning this particular act. I still have some points I wish to make in regard to this act.

Both the current and the new act say that the government pays the cost, the expenses and the fees, if the Board increases the award of compensation; the aggrieved person pays the cost, expenses and fees if the Board doesn't increase the award; and if no compensation was offered before expropriation, then the Board determines who pays the cost, the expenses and the fees.

This new act, Mr. Speaker, introduces a new element, by saying in clause 11 that the expenses shall include the cost of "counsel, engineers, valuators, stenographers, accountants and other assistants employed by the board as well as the salaries and expenses of the members of the board while employed in and about the hearing." It isn't certain if witnesses are paid under the new process and if that would constitute an expense.

Clearly the PUB process can be far more expensive than the cost of a three-member and one stenographer board. Mr. Speaker, the PUB can increase the cost by commissioning input, which somebody on that particular board may decide that they need in order to reach their decision. The government can act in a mean-spirited way to increase cost at no risk to itself but at great risk to the aggrieved person who could lose a case and be forced to bear the cost. The new process, unlike the current one, allows the government to beef up its counsel and spare no expense to try and win the expropriation case. The potentially unlimited cost would serve as a deterrent to anyone considering a challenge of the government's compensation offer. This is pursued by the threat to accept of course the government's offer. In other word, we are going to say to the person: It may be expensive, you may lose this case, and you are better off accepting. I think, Mr. Speaker, that this is wrong.

Unless the Board's award is greater than that offered by government, the aggrieved person must pay the cost and all the expenses. Again, I feel that that is certainly wrong.

 

The new subsection, which is 34(5), which is the same as the current subsection (4), is even more ominous given the new process. If the government makes no offer for the land prior to expropriation, the Board determines which party pays the cost. The minister, without providing any compensation offered, which a landowner would almost certainly object to - and of course when we do that and we are going to the PUB, then I guess we can all realize just what could happen here. So again, the minister, without providing any compensation, and again which a landowner would almost certainly object to, could order a PUB hearing, the cost of which could be borne by the person whose land is up for expropriation.

I have to wonder here, are we bringing in this new section to deal with maybe the Goulds by-pass road? I understand that landowners in this particular area are now being offered one-sixth of what other landowners in that area, or approximate area, were paid over the last few years. If we are, then I think there is definitely something wrong here. When we look at, from what I understand to be one-sixth of the cost, then, you know, we certainly will find families and people who have had lands in their family for years, some of them probably going to use this as retirement or whatever, and now we are going to pay these people one-sixth of what we paid several years ago. I think, Mr. Speaker, there is certainly something wrong.

Again, I would hope that is not the reason for this particular bill, but again I raise that caution, especially when I know, or understand, that one-sixth of the cost is being offered now to the present landowners.

The current sections, 21, 23, 24, and 25, are to be repealed. Under the current act, section 21, the minister, subject to the Cabinet, sets the board member fees, but these would now be determined under the PUB legislation. This, of course, is under the new part of section 34. Under the current act, the board has civil court power to call witnesses, demand evidence, subpoena documents, and administer oaths. The PUB can do this as well under its other sections.

MR. GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I am talking about expropriation; I wish you had come in earlier. I was hoping to get somebody over there on side with this bill, I say to the Minister of Education.

While the current act sets fees for hearing witnesses, is there such a provision in the new act or the PUB legislation? Provision for stenographers is current in section 25, and is taken care of elsewhere under the new scheme. So again, in the end, the landowner will be the person who will suffer.

AN HON. MEMBER: You have to shaft somebody.

MR. FRENCH: I hope that one is on the record. The Minister of Education says you have to shaft somebody. I hope we have that one recorded.

Section 32, part of which is to be repealed, the new act does away with three provisions of the current act. The board shall include the award, its findings, on all questions of law, in fact, that it has tried, and the amount of compensation that is awarded. The award of the two arbitrators shall be considered to be the award of the board, and the board may correct in any award a clerical mistake or error arising from an accidental slip or omission.

Mr. Speaker, I think this act is certainly wrong. I do not think we should put it under the Public Utilities Act, or put it under the Public Utilities Commission.

I attended a meeting this morning where there were people from the Public Utilities Board, and the impression certainly left by them is that they have all kinds of work to do now. So I wonder here about delays and certainly about costs, because one thing, in some questioning today, they were certainly very straight in the questions that were put to them, and the amount of work that goes into it. Of course, in a lot of areas their whole thing is financed by what they charge public utilities, what they charge Newfoundland Power, what is the fee for the insurance companies that they supposedly regulate. So now we are going to take our expropriations and we are going to carry them over. We are going to say to the PUB, now you are going to do this. We are going to fix the charges and most times these charges probably will go back to the aggrieved person, who in the beginning owns the land. I, for one, certainly don't feel that that is right. I think that is wrong. I think that the person has the right to appeal to a board. That individual has the right, Mr. Speaker, to appoint his own representative to that board and does not have to deal with a body to which he has nobody appointed to represent his or her particular interest.

I feel that that is wrong, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure over the next days as we get further into this bill and get further down the road, I feel pretty confident that somebody on the other side will see that this act is certainly not a benefit to people.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I have to refer to the Goulds Bypass Road where I understand a fair amount of land is to be expropriated. Whether my sources are correct or whether they are not, I really don't know, but they tell me that they have been offered one-sixth the value of their land. If that is the case, Mr. Speaker, then that is a shame; one-sixth of the value of what somebody has had for most of their lives, that they are now going to lose. I think that these people should be compensated and compensated as in the past. My understanding is that right now that is not happening. Again hopefully the minister can intercede there and see that this whole system changes.

For now, Mr. Speaker, I will leave it at that. I am sure as we get more into debate and so on, I will have more to say.

For now I thank you, sir, for your time.

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

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

I rise to offer a few comments and to support the rather detailed analysis given by my colleague, the Member for Conception Bay South, the critic in this particular case for this particular bill, called an "Act To Amend The Expropriation Act."

Mr. Speaker, the intent of the bill is pretty clear in the explanatory note. It says, "This Bill would amend the Expropriation Act by providing that hearings to fix compensation upon expropriation would be conducted by the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities." Mr. Speaker, this is a fundamental change in the way that this Province has been doing things in terms of how we deal with compensation to people when government finds it necessary to take away their property.

Mr. Speaker, it is a fundamental right of people to be compensated fairly, honestly and equitably when government, for whatever reason, deems that it is in the public interest that their property be taken from them for public uses. Mr. Speaker, all of us can cite examples of where it has been deemed to be in the public interest because of the erection of a new highway. So, Mr. Speaker, we can think of places like Pasadena in Western Newfoundland where the Department of Works, Services and Transportation has taken land for the new bypass road. We can note, in passing here, the plea of the lady who was on television there a couple of weeks ago saying that she was not happy with the fact that her life's investment had been taken from her to facilitate the new highway. She felt that all of her property had not been adequately evaluated by the government, and she was aggrieved by it.

Mr. Speaker, I happen to know some of the homeowners in Pasadena and I know some of the anguish that they have gone through when they were told that the piece of property and the home that they had built on that property is now to be sacrificed for the public good. While all of us believe that we have to build highways, we all believe we have to find land to build public buildings, we also have to agree that people who own those public buildings deserve fair, reasonable, and adequate compensation.

My difficulty with the bill is that it takes away from the ordinary person an opportunity for a fair and reasonable hearing in a very expedient manner. While the theory is quite good, and while the intent of the minister might adequately address the issues that might be raised by large corporations, or by people who have sufficient money to be able to hire legal counsel, and that kind of thing, it does not address the issue of the small person, the ordinary resident whose life's earnings are tied up in their property. Because of that, we on this side of the House have to throw questions to the minister.

My colleague mentioned the landowners in the Goulds. Mr. Speaker, it is atrocious that anybody would be offered one-sixth of the value of the land in compensation when someone decides they are going to build a highway through a piece of property. A lot of that land is farmland; that is true. A good bit of it is zoned agricultural. It being the Goulds, that probably is not an unexpected thing. However, farmland is valuable land. The old saying is that farmers lived very poor, but in terms of the total valuation of their assets they tend to be property rich.

Mr. Speaker, we say to hon. members: Is it fair that government will offer the landowners in the Goulds one-sixth of the value of the land in compensation when they are going to take it for the Goulds by-pass road? We say, no.

The bill that is before us now, in particular if you read sections 5 and 11, these are the two sections that really cause us the greatest anxiety on this side of the House. In section 5 it says, "Sections 19 and 20 of the Act are repealed and the following substituted: 19.(1) Where (a) the minister and the owner of land expropriated or detrimentally affected by the expropriation cannot agree on the amount of compensation to be paid for the expropriated land or on account of being detrimentally affected; (b) the owner cannot be found or there is a doubt as to the ownership of the land; or (c) for another reason the minister considers it expedient, the amount of compensation to be paid shall be fixed by the board."

Mr. Speaker, in the old days - and to my knowledge it worked fairly effectively - we used to have the decision-making made in kind of an arbitration process. First, there would be an offer made to the landowner. The landowner would say: No, that is not adequate. That is not the way we would value the property. The landowner would then go back to the authority, be it the government or municipal council, or some Crown agency, and they would say: No, we do not like that. Then there would be an arbitration board set up, and the arbitration board would have its hearings. Then there would be a settlement reached. There was always the right to appeal to the courts if you wished, but that did not happen very often.

That was deemed to be a pretty reasonable process. It was affordable to the landowner, to the property owner, and the award decision in the case of the arbitration was deemed to be final in most cases, unless agreed otherwise, before the process started.

Mr. Speaker, now we have a case where the Public Utilities Board decides. What we have done is, essentially taken the step here to disempower the landowner, the individual, the small person and because of that, we find that we cannot support this particular piece of legislation. The landowner has no representative on the Public Utilities Board and of course, if he has to go out and hire legal counsel, he has to pay for it himself, so when you are talking about a person whose total assets might be less than $100,000, representing a lifetime of savings, might represent an inheritance that has been passed on to that person by family members and now, suddenly, big government moves in and we are going to tell this ordinary person that they are going to take away his land, take away his house, take away his property, take away the property he wants to pass on to his children and his grandchildren or whomever the case might be, we are going to do that and the amount of compensation will be decided by a big group called the Public Utilities Board.

We find that that is not in the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It may be in the best interest of the bureaucracy, it may be in the best interest of the government but it is not in the best interest of ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and we in this House should be more concerned about the ordinary person because it is a very big issue when you decide you are going to take away someone's home, someone's land, that is a very, very big issue. It does not matter whether it is a $20,000 value in some small community in Newfoundland or whether it is a mansion of a home on Waterford Bridge Road, it does not matter. The thing is, you are taking away someone's home, taking away the thing that they call their particular space and their particular place and to do that, is in itself not something that one should take lightly, and to do it in a way which says that if you disagree with what we are saying, then you will have to pay the cost because what happens is that in section No. 11, it says: Section 34 of the Act is amended by repealing subsections (2), (3) and (4) and substituting the following: Item (2) says: Expenses in connection with a hearing held by the board shall include cost of legal counsels, engineers, valuators, stenographers, accountants and other assistants employed by the board as well as the salaries and expenses of the members of the board while employed in and about the hearing.

Section (3) Where the compensation awarded by the board in a case is greater than the sum that the minister offered in writing for the land that was expropriated or detrimentally affected, the minister shall pay costs and all expenses in connection with the hearing held by the board; and then Section (4) reads: Where compensation awarded does not exceed the sum offered, the party which refused the offer shall pay costs and all expenses in connection with the hearing held by the board.

Mr. Speaker, our difficulty is, this is big government, big brother or big sister, the big bureaucracy bulldozing, intimidating, frustrating, playing God in a high and mighty condescending hifalutin attitude, going and crushing down the little fellow and, Mr. Speaker, I as a Member of this House, cannot permit that to happen without saying, this certainly cannot be the intent of government, but I am afraid that would be the result when you are saying to somebody if you question what we are going to do, we are going to say to you, if you cause a hearing of the Public Utilities Board, then be prepared to pay the expenses because a couple of things happened.

First of all look at what is happening. The Public Utilities Board has a budget. They have a budget and they are going to say to themselves: well, you know, if we make a decision here to give this person nothing, then we can collect all the costs of the hearing from the very person who brings the appeal to the Board. Therefore I'm afraid there may even be a tendency on the part of the Public Utilities Board to be - I don't want to say this - prejudicial in its decision making. Because the Public Utilities Board has to live within a budget, and it is in its interest not to award the individual more than the minister had already offered.

I find in this particular case that this piece of legislation is so offensive to the constitutional rights that people have, and they have had ever since King John in England in 1215 said: You can't take people's property away without going and offering them full compensation. I say to Madam Minister, this piece of legislation is a denial of some 800 or 600 or 700 years of legal process. It is a denial that says to people that we in the British parliamentary system said many years ago, and particularly when it deals with the military, which said that you can't come in, you can't force people to give up their houses, you can't force people to give up their property, without due process.

What we are saying here is that the due process - yes, there is a due process here, but the due process has every possibility of crushing the small, ordinary person in this Province. We say this is not fair. We say this is a bad process. Although I know there are similar such proceedings in other provinces, just because it is adopted in Ontario or Saskatchewan or some other part of this country, it doesn't mean we have to do it here. Because of this, I for one cannot support the piece of legislation.

MR. EFFORD: Who cares?

MR. H. HODDER: I hear the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture say over there, "Who cares?" I said I couldn't support it, he said, "Who cares?" I say to the hon. Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture that when they go to build a road down through his district and he finds out that the people who he represents aren't being adequately compensated, then it will be incumbent upon him to care, look after his constituents.

Don't put on to somebody else anything which isn't good enough in your backyard. Don't cause it to be forced on somebody else. Always give the test. If this is not good enough for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in his backyard and his property where he has a home, if this is not a process he would like to see followed for him, then why would he want to go and have it applied to somebody else? Why would you say to the farmers in the Goulds; The offer we are going to give you is one-sixth of the value of the land that you have there? If that is the kind of dictatorial, condescending bulldozing kind of way we are going to do things, then we have reached a very sad place in the governance of this Province.

We have to try to make sure we don't take away from people their fundamental right to treat their home and their land and their property as theirs, and make sure it isn't taken away without having due process, and a process that favours the individual over the bureaucracy and government. I say to all members of the House, consider this piece of legislation, look at its implications, not just for today, but look at it down the road. Because here is a situation that will have tremendous implications for the future and for the future government in this Province.

In concluding my comments I will say to all hon. members that we certainly on this side have given a lot of consideration to this bill. We pride ourselves over here that when we see good legislation we will stand and support it; when we don't see good legislation we will question it. Today we are seriously calling upon the minister: Reflect on your intentions, because this is not good for ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It was not good forty years ago, it is not good today, and it will not be good forty years from now, because you are taking away people's fundamental right to be in control of their own property in the future, and to do what the minister is trying to do here certainly is not in the best interest of ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I stand in my place today to say a few words on Bill 33, "An Act To Amend The Expropriations Act".

As the previous -

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you need some notes?

MR. J. BYRNE: You can write me a few if you want, to keep me going for an hour or two.

As the previous speaker said, basically we will stand in our place on this side of the House and speak to any bill that is coming before the House, especially bills with which we have some major concerns, and we do have some concerns with this bill. Basically it is a fundamental change in the process whereby people in this Province can deal with the government when they are losing rights to their land, or any parcel of land that they may own, and can prove, of course, that they own.

Normally speaking, the Expropriations Act mostly, I believe, is probably utilized most often by the Department of Works, Services and Transportation with respect to the construction of roads, the widening of roads, the building of new roads, and what have you, or in the redirection of roads in the Province and in municipalities within the Province.

The problem we see with this bill, of course, is the change that is taking place with the process.

We have stood in this House this past week to two weeks and questioned the intent, I suppose, of a couple of bills in particular with respect to giving authority to the minister, or increasing the authority of the minister. One was the Minister of Environment and Lands with respect to amendments to the Lands Act. The other, of course, was the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in extending his authority, although the minister says himself that it is not giving him any more authority than he has today. If it is not giving him any more authority than he has today, we see the reason why he would need to make the changes to that particular act.

This change is a complete - I cannot say it is a complete reversal, but it certainly has major implications for individuals within this Province.

Of course, when a person's land is being expropriated by government, or being taken away from him or her, it can be a very contentious issue, especially when you are coming to the point of trying to set the value on the land. Oftentimes there are many, many factors which would determine the value of a piece of property. If we are talking about small strips of land, I suppose, along the frontage of properties, if you are going to widen the road you might take twenty, fifty, or 100 feet, then, of course, the value of the land can be determined oftentimes through the Municipal Assessment Division of Municipal Affairs or what have you. Often people will actually go out and have their own appraiser come in and assess the value of the land themselves, and pass that on to government.

MR. TULK: Jack, boy, you are getting our attention now. We are all (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader is over there now acting the - I cannot say acting the fool, because when I was a kid growing up, my mother told me you should never call someone a fool because you would burn in hell.

MR. TULK: Who said?

MR. J. BYRNE: A person.

MR. TULK: Your mother?

MR. J. BYRNE: My mother.

MR. TULK: Your mother is always right.

MR. J. BYRNE: Always right, so I cannot call the minister a fool. I do not know if it would even be parliamentary to call the Government House Leader a fool. Therefore, I cannot call him a fool.

He is over there now, with his braces stretched out, ready to bust - as one of the members said here earlier - making foolish comments. So, if you are making foolish comments, where do foolish comments come from? He is over there now, trying to make light... Actually, Mr. Speaker, whenever anybody gets up on this side of the House to speak on any bill, normally they are very serious issues that we deal with. Then we have the Government House Leader, who should know better, who is getting paid all kinds of money to keep honour and decorum in this House, and he is the one who interjects the most, Mr. Speaker. Therefore I say that the Government House Leader should be a bit more serious and take these matters we are discussing in the House of Assembly seriously. Of course, I am sure, that these matters brought before the House of Assembly in the form of bills have to be very serious matters or they would not be here.

Now, Mr. Speaker, back to the point at hand, when I was talking about the value and the appraisals of property. Under the current situation, from my understanding of the situation, if an individual is having his or her land expropriated, or taken from them, which is supposed to be for the benefit of the majority of people, there is a process currently in place to do that. Of course it is the arbitration board.

From my understanding an arbitration board is appointed, three members, and the person whose land is being expropriated has the right to name an individual to that board. The minister of the given department would also have a right to name someone, and then both parties could agree on a third, or maybe the chairperson of the board. Now, this is changing. Under this act, the board now, or if a person wants to appeal his assessment, or the expropriation of his land goes to the PUB, and here is where the problem comes into place, Mr. Speaker.

The problem is, now, once it goes to the PUB the PUB can require that different individuals be called. They can call lawyers, they can call witnesses, they can call surveyors, they can call any individual at all and they can set the value, I suppose, or what they are going to charge those individuals for appearing. Now, if the person who wishes to appeal the assessment, or the value put on the land, goes before the board and is not successful, well, then in fact he can end up paying all the costs of that board, including board fees, professional fees, witness fees, and what have you, so that in itself is a deterrent for a person making application to have their appeal heard under the Public Utilities Board.

For example, if I have a piece of property, say in Torbay, Pouch Cove, or out on the Trans-Canada Highway, and they want to widen the road and government wants to take a strip of land from me, twenty feet by 100 feet, or fifty feet wide by 200 feet, whatever the case may be, they can say, this is worth X amount of dollars, and I can, no, it is worth three times that and have an appraisal to do that. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, they do not have to set any value at all. Under this new system, under the Public Utilities Board, they do not have to set any value at all, and then it is up to me to appeal it. It then goes before the Public Utilities Board and if the value of the land is finally assessed by the PUB not to be higher than what I said it was I can be responsible for paying the whole shot. So, my question is, what is the intent of bringing this legislation forward at this point in time?

MR. TULK: Get it surveyed.

MR. J. BYRNE: Now, the Government House Leader talks about surveyors all the time, and I have to know the reason why he talks about surveyors all the time. Every time I am on my feet he brings that point up. I do not know why he does that but he does it. He is persistent in doing that.

I say to the Government House Leader that someone told me here recently that the Government House Leader has a PHD and he was a teacher.

MR. FITZGERALD: He has a masters degree.

MR. J. BYRNE: Now, I wonder how many years the Government House Leader taught in school?

MR. FITZGERALD: He was a good teacher from what I understand.

MR. J. BYRNE: I wonder how many years he taught for nothing? I wonder how many years he went to work every day and decided not to take any pay for it? That is what he assumes I should have done before I came to this hon. House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker.

As I said earlier, I have to question the intent of this legislation - to make that change from an arbitration board to the Public Utilities Board. Is it going to be for the benefit of the public? Really, I do not see it as being a benefit to the public at this time, especially, when it can very well be a deterrent to an individual to make application to the PUB, and that is the way it is worded.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education is not even in his seat over there and he is interjecting.

MR. TULK: What do you want us to do, Jack?

MR. J. BYRNE: Sit down and listen, you might learn something, pay attention, I say to the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: What do you want us to do with the bill?

MR. J. BYRNE: Withdraw it, withdraw the bill. I say to the Government House Leader, we would like for you to withdraw the bill and let the system that is in place now stay in place, let the people have the access.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Withdraw it, I just said to withdraw it. There is no problem. We have another half-a-dozen speakers. I say to the Government House Leader, we sit back and we plan what we do here and we have another number of speakers to come who very well may make an amendment, who may move an amendment to this and I may be up speaking on this for another half hour yet, I say to the minister. So be good, keep your mouths closed or you might have me up speaking for another half an hour on this, in due course. Now the Minister of Social Services has learned a lesson. Look, she is over there with her arms folded and saying, be quiet to everybody. She is telling everybody to be quiet.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is over there interjecting again now today on this very important bill. If I was the Minister of Health - and I can honestly say this, I tell you, I can speak from personal experience - if I was the Minister of Health in that chair today I would be over there with my head hung low, let me tell you that, not in my eyebrows and not looking at anybody on this side of the House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker, because we are after bringing stuff forward on this side of the House with respect to what is going on in the Department of Health and the minister is on his feet every day with the same old rhetoric, blah, blah, blah. He has even admitted to it now. He has admitted to the ongoings.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I have to laugh, I say to the Government House Leader, one in three. He knows what I am talking about, the Government House Leader, one in three. Yes, he knows. That's good enough.

Mr. Speaker, the new section, subsection 5 is even more ominous given the new process. If the government makes no offer for the land part or expropriation the board determines which party pays the cost. Now, Mr. Speaker, what is that doing there? Now why is it there? Again, we have discovered, Mr. Speaker, this past six or seven years - and the cutting, and they are cutting Health, they are cutting Social Services and they are cutting Works, Services and Transportation and they have the Minister of Government Services and Lands bringing in all kinds of hidden taxes. We have here now - and the PUB will determine who pays the costs. Now, Mr. Speaker, why is that the case? Why is it not now, as it is presently, that if a person goes to an arbitration board and says that he is not being paid enough for his land - you have three individuals, one appointed by government, one appointed by the individual himselve, and then two of those people can appoint a third. What is wrong with that? Why are they bringing this forward? I have to question the intent, Mr. Speaker, and I said it at the beginning.

MR. TULK: Sit down and she will answer you.

MR. J. BYRNE: We are not sitting down on this for a while yet, I say to the Government House Leader. You can be wanting to be out of here as much as you can. You did not open up the House until - when did they open up the House? When did the government -

AN HON. MEMBER: A few weeks ago.

MR. J. BYRNE: In November, some time in November and the Government House Leader now is over there swinging his glasses around wanting the House of Assembly to close. He don't want any debate on the bills. He wants to bring it in -

MR. SHELLEY: As our former colleague from Placentia would say, he is about as sharp as a bowling ball.

MR. J. BYRNE: He is about as sharp as a bowling ball. He is over there wanting the House to close. We are opened less than three weeks, Mr. Speaker. We are up here making very good comments, positive, constructive criticism on a bill that is going before this House, Bill No. 33.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: But I am really pleased with myself. I say to the Government House Leader, I am really pleased with myself. If you are being irritated over there and you want someone else to speak on this side of the House, I must be doing a good job because the truth is coming forward. It is finally sinking in, it is getting to him and it is hard for him to take the truth, I say to the Government House Leader, it really is, isn't it?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Great, I would like to see it. Oh sorry, Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader said his blood pressure goes up fifty points when I get up to speak. In that case, Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep it short because we know that if the minister's blood pressure goes up and he has to be rushed to hospital he is going to have to pay seventy-five dollars for the ambulance to get him there, when he gets there, there won't be doctors there to take care of him, cleaning staff will not be there to take care of him.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon?

MR. TULK: I have friends to take me to hospital - I don't know about you.

MR. J. BYRNE: I never -

MR. TULK: I don't have to pay seventy -five dollars to get to hospital.

MR. J. BYRNE: You don't. The Government House Leader, tells us now, he does not have to pay to go by an ambulance to the hospital. Is the Government House Leader telling us that he is getting special preference because he is the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Special (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Special preference?

MR. TULK: Yes.

MR. J. BYRNE: Is it like the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) together.

MR. J. BYRNE: What about if you go to the hospital - do you have to wait in line-ups?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes.

MR. TULK: Oh, I don't. (Inaudible). Do you?

MR. EFFORD: No.

MR. J. BYRNE: Put it on the record that I just asked a good question of the Government House Leader and the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: if they go to the hospital, do they have to get in line-ups, Mr. Speaker, and both of them said: No, they do not have to be because they are ministers in the Tobin Administration. They are ministers in this government and they do not have to get in line-ups like the ordinary Newfoundlanders in this Province.

Now, someone could ask relevancy; well, here is relevancy, Mr. Speaker: We now know that there is going to be an extension to the hospital in Labrador, $15 million. There is going to be an extension to the Health Sciences - all kinds of money being spent -so they may have to expropriate lands. So now, what are the individuals going to do, Mr. Speaker, who disagree with the amount of money that the government is going to make (inaudible)?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I wish I did, I wish we could and it is because - I won't comment on that. But anyway, Mr. Speaker, the relevancy is this that the individuals who own the property that may have to expropriated - how much time do I have left, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Fourteen minutes.

MR. J. BYRNE: Twenty minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: Fourteen.

MR. J. BYRNE: Forty?

MR. SPEAKER: Fourteen.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you looking for compensation `Jack', for your (inaudible)?

MR. J. BYRNE: Never, Mr. Speaker, never. I am just wondering now -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I can read some of my notes here, I suppose -

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, enough of this chitter-chatter back and forth across the House.

Mr. Speaker, the new Act introduces a new element by saying the expenses shall include costs of counsel, engineers, valuators, stenographers, accountants and other assistants employed by the board, as well as the salaries and expenses of the members of the board while employed in and about the hearing.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is going to drive the cost of any hearing out of whack with respect to the amount - compared to the amount of land and the value of the land itself. At this point in time we have three people, three appointed, and they make the decision; I will go in, or the individual will go in, make his case, get a result and then sobeit. But at this point in time now - and I think that this was put in there to deter the public in this Province, Mr. Speaker, when you have a legitimate case to deter people from going to an appeal.

For example: If an individual has a piece of land valued at $10,000 and the government says it is $5,000, can you imagine going through this process for $10,000, especially if there is any risk whatsoever of being below the $10,000? If the PUB comes out and says: We are going to give you $9,999.00, they could actually end up footing the bill for all these people. So he gets his $9,999.00 and will probably have to pay out $20,000 for the appeal. Now, Mr. Speaker, I know what they are going to say -

MR. FITZGERALD: Is that true what you are saying?

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes. The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation can get on her feet and say: Well, the reason that is there is to deter the very thing that you are talking about, so we will not get frivolous -

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that true?

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, it is true - frivolous appeals so we won't have people in this Province coming forward.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) real.

MR. J. BYRNE: This is unreal, sure it is unreal. We could have an individual who has a piece of land valued at say, $100,000, appeals it and government says: We are not going to put any value on it. Just listen to this: I own a piece of land on Kenmount Road and it is valued at $150,000, I had an appraisal at $150,000 and I am going to appeal it. Now, I am saying Kenmount Road but that is -

MR. FITZGERALD: I don't think the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: This is a very important issue. So it is $150,000 I have it valued at and my assessor has it valued at and whatever the case may be. The government doesn't even have to come up with a price, doesn't even have to put a price forward. We will get an appeal. We have an appeal done, and what happens? It comes out at $149,999. Now, I am going to have to - because the government didn't put in a price, and I valued it at $150,000, and it is one dollar under, I may end up having to foot the bill for the whole lot of the Board, the hearings.

MR. FITZGERALD: The government doesn't even have to offer them a price.

MR. J. BYRNE: No. That is from this, now. Unless I misunderstand it, but certainly that is what I understand it to be. The minister, when she is on her feet, can correct me on that. Am I correct on that, I ask the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Pardon? I hope I'm wrong. Yes, I would love to be wrong on that, yes, definitely. I hope I am wrong, I say to the Member for Bonavista South.

Mr. Speaker, there are other issues, I suppose, that we could get on to with respect to this bill. It says: Under the new Act and in certain circumstances, the amount of the compensation shall be fixed by the PUB. I have covered that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes. Is it the case, I ask the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, that under the new Act the minister has a choice of whether and when to make an application to the PUB to resolve the matter? The act gives the aggrieved person no power to demand or speed a PUB hearing. So, in this situation, Mr. Speaker, the minister, and she can answer this question, has a choice whether to go to PUB to make an application to resolve the matter, or she doesn't have to. Yet the Act gives the aggrieved person no power to demand a PUB hearing. Is that fair? If the minister has the authority to go and ask for a PUB hearing, and the individual does not, that in itself is an inconsistency and needs to be questioned.

Aside from the fact that the government doesn't even have to put a price on it and the individual does, automatically can cause that person untold thousands of dollars in cost, down the road, if that person is not successful, and it is up to the minister to go to the PUB or not. I think the minister should address that point when she gets up to respond to these concerns.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes. The new Act says nothing about an arbitrator being appointed on behalf of the aggrieved person, but indicates the process will be determined by the PUB. Who on the PUB represents the aggrieved person, I ask the minister? On the Public Utilities Board, who will actually represent government, who will represent the aggrieved person? The person can go in and make a case himself. At the present time now there is a person on the arbitration board who is put there basically in agreement by the individual or the aggrieved person. But on the PUB, if the PUB is already appointed, who is going to represent the views of the aggrieved person, I ask the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, if that is the case, will that person have to seek independent legal counsel? So, if you go before the PUB and the PUB is automatically appointed, and we know not to call into question, I suppose, the PUB, but they are appointed by government. Now the individual may have to bring in legal counsel and that is another cost to the individual so, in actual fact, I would say, anybody who has a piece of land that is going to be expropriated, Mr. Speaker, that is below $15,000, $20,000 or $30,000, it would probably not be worth their while to go to the PUB.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) going to sleep.

MR. J. BYRNE: That's good. The Minister of Health told me he is falling asleep. Well, maybe the Minister of Health may have something slightly wrong with him. I sincerely hope he doesn't, Mr. Speaker, but I would advise him not to go in the line-up at the Health Sciences. Although, he would not have to wait in the line-up because both ministers already confessed that they would not have to wait in the line-up.

MR. MATTHEWS: This minister waits in the line-up.

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, I am glad to say that the Minister of Health admits he waits in the line-up. But the other two don't.

MR. MATTHEWS: (inaudible) waited for a test in August.

MR. J. BYRNE: Would that be the Waterford or the Health Sciences?

MR. MATTHEWS: No, it wasn't the Waterford. It was the Grace.

MR. J. BYRNE: Do I have a few minutes left?

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I will say that we, on this side of the House, do have some legitimate concerns with respect to this. I know there are members on the other side of the House who listened to every word I said and are taking it in, the Member for Harbour Main over there and a few more. They have legitimate concerns, too, and they would like the minister to address the constructive criticism that is being brought forward by this side of the House of Assembly on this bill.

MR. EFFORD: What bill are you speaking on?

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture has been sitting in his chair there this past twenty minutes and asks the question, what bill am I speaking to? Now, does that not say a mouthful, Mr. Speaker? Can you believe that a minister on that side of the House, a minister of government, is sitting in the House of Assembly and asks a question like that? Does that not say something about that minister? Does that not say a mouthful about that minister, that he does not pay attention?

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I will say that I would like for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation to address the concerns that have been brought forward, and the concerns that will continue to be brought forward by this side of the House, in due course, as time goes on. I will take my seat.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Barrett): If the hon. the Minister speaks now, she closes the debate.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The lady will have an equal opportunity, I say to the hon. the minister. Anybody who would fall asleep during that debate must be a narcoleptic. The Minister of Health would have to be a narcoleptic if he fell asleep during that great speech that was just delivered here by the Member for Cape St. Francis.

I wasn't going to say anything on Bill No. 33, An Act To Amend The Expropriation Act, until the Member for Cape St. Francis just pointed out some facts there which really scare me. Some of the things that he pointed out as it relates to the expropriation of land, and the attitude, I suppose, or what this piece of legislation puts forward, what it allows this government to do.

Normally, in the process of expropriation of land, the owner, I suppose, would put forward a proposal of what he thought a piece of land was worth, and then it would go before an arbitration board. Somewhere in between there, an independent process would take place whereby a fair and equal value was paid for somebody else's property. That doesn't seem to be the case here anymore, once this piece of legislation gets Royal assent. It doesn't seem to be a situation where people might be allowed that opportunity anymore.

Far too often when we talk about a piece of land, in order for the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, or another arm of government, or another department - sometimes they may want to just take a section of a piece of land, I say to the minister. I know, it happened in my district not so very long ago where they wanted to extend an intersection. Because they only wanted to take fifty feet of a piece of land, the gentleman who owned the land lost two prime building lots. So it may not only be a piece of land that somebody wants to take, but you have to look at what is left after to see if that particular piece of land can be used, or if it is of any value to the owner in order to continue to put it on the market for resale value, or to maintain themselves.

When you look at the cost that is being put forward here by government, in paragraph 11, "Section 34 of the Act is amended by repealing subsections (2), (3) and (4) and substituting the following: (2) Expenses in connection with a hearing held by the board shall include costs of counsel, engineers, valuators, stenographers, accountants and other assistants employed by the board, as well as the salaries and expenses of the members of the board while employed in and about the hearing".

Mr. Speaker, you are talking about costs here which will probably be well out of reach for most homeowners, and most landowners in this Province. They would probably be afraid to take the chance.

Now, you have government going in, or the minister, or her department, with the heavy hand and saying: Here is what we are going to offer you. Here is what we consider a fair price for a particular piece of land. And whoever owns that piece of land had better be willing to have a few dollars to back them up if they are going to go and have it appear before the Public Utilities Board to bring about a ruling whereby all the costs of legal fees, engineers, stenographers, accountants and other assistants, may have to be borne by the person who is trying to get a fair and equal value for a piece of property which they rightly own. That is scary stuff.

I wonder why this piece of legislation is being brought forward now. We look at what has happened over in Pasadena. It was only a few weeks ago that we saw a homeowner appear on television. They were blasting there at the time, and there were rocks coming through the roof of her house. Windows were broken out. She was trying to get government to buy that particular piece of land, but government, in its wisdom, would not. They had no value for it. Even though they had destroyed her house, destroyed her property - the contractor did - it was operating with the okay of the Department of Works, Services and Transportation. They certainly awarded them the contract. It is a situation where this lady's property was just about completely destroyed, rendered useless.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: The other minister was twice as bad. I would not even mention his name.

Mr. Speaker, it is a situation now whereby that particular lady, should she have the opportunity to go before government and demand a fair price, a fair return for the piece of property she has, that the minister of the day would have the power to go and say: Here is what I think is a fair value for your particular piece of property. If the lady, or if the individual, the landowner, does not agree with that assessment, does not agree that the price the minister is putting forward is a fair price, then he or she has the option of going and appearing before the Public Utilities Board. They better be prepared to have lots of money in the back pocket, Mr. Speaker, because all those expenses, thousands of dollars, will become the responsibility of the individual who wants and needs to get a fair price for that particular piece of property; and to me that is wrong. We are living in a democracy here whereby we should be able to go ask a fair return, ask the market value for a piece of land and if another piece of land is destroyed in the actions of government then that whole section, Mr. Speaker, should be taken into consideration. If it is two building lots and the government should want to expropriate part or both of them, then a fair return would be the full and fair value of those two particular building lots in order to compensate that particular individual for their loss.

Mr. Speaker, we wonder why this piece of legislation is being brought forward at this time. We wonder why now. Why do we need Bill 33, "An Act to Amend The Expropriation Act?" Why do we need it Mr. Speaker? I fear that with the announcements government are making this last few days, that there may be a lot of land on which individuals may not get a fair and just return. I fear maybe not, Mr. Speaker. There is nothing wrong with making announcements. We welcome all positive news that the government can put forward but when you are looking at the government of the day putting new roads through, bypass roads, Mr. Speaker, around communities - especially the communities that are ribboned along the Trans Canada Highway - when you look at them putting bypass roads in, when you look at the activity down in Argentia, the smelter, when you look at the Trans Labrador Highway, you are talking about massive amounts of land, I say to members opposite. You are looking at massive amounts of land. Who is going to say what a fair value is for a particular piece of land, should I or somebody else own it, Mr. Speaker? Is it going to be the minister of the day or should it be a fair and just hearing like we have been used to in the past?

What is wrong with the arbitration board, I say to members opposite? Why didn't that work? Why isn't that allowed to function as it has in the past? Why now come out and say: If you disagree with a price that I am offering then you must be prepared to dig your hand in your pocket and pay for all our legal costs, all our stenographer costs, Mr. Speaker, and every other cost associated with a decision that might be handed down by that particular board?

Mr. Speaker, I understand that it is close to 5:00 p.m.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, if it is in order, I would move that the House not adjourn at five o'clock.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that this House do not adjourn at 5:00 p.m.

All those in favour, aye.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Against, nay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: Carried.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, another situation of the government of the day, the House Leader, riding rough shod over everybody in the House of Assembly? The situation never fails. When the House is called back it is left two weeks before Christmas, it is left two weeks before Easter, Mr. Speaker, and then the Government House Leader comes in his usual bullying fashion and says we will keep the House open and we will sit night time. We will sit after five o'clock because Opposition members rightly and duly point out, Mr. Speaker, the shortcomings in pieces of legislation that are being put forward to this House. Too bad that the Government House Leader did not open the House in time to deal with the legislation in a timely fashion under the normal hours and the normal workings of the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, we do not mind staying late, we will still point out the shortcomings of legislation. Each one of us here will stand in his place and tell the government what we think is wrong with a piece of legislation such as this.

So those are the couple of points, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to put forward, especially section no. 11, section 34. I think that is wrong, I think the system worked quite well the way it was. I think the Arbitration Board was very effective with a situation where all levels were represented, not as it is now. There is no reason why people should be burdened with all these extra costs simply by going and trying to get their equal rights or trying to demand, Mr. Speaker, a fair and equitable return on a piece of property that is theirs. I do not see anything wrong with that and I think it is wrong for government to step in with a heavy hand and say: We will decide what we think is right, we will decide what the price of your land is going to be and we will decide what you should get in return.

To me that is wrong and I think that the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation should look again at this piece of legislation. There certainly are some changes that should be made there and I would hope that one of us would point them out either in Committee or bring about an amendment before this particular bill is ended for debate.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to make a few comments with respect to Bill 33, "An Act To Amend The Expropriation Act." The intention of this bill is to have the Public Utilities Board, and not the arbitration boards, determine compensation paid to a landowner when property is expropriated.

Specifically, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of clauses that I would like to refer to throughout my brief discussion of Bill 33 this evening. Points that are of some concern to members on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, have to do with the fact that compensation is set by the Public Utilities Board and not arbitration boards. Also, a point of concern is that the minister decides whether to refer it to the board. So, we have the issue again of ministerial discretion.

The landowner no longer has a representative on the decision-making board. There is no representation, Mr. Speaker, or representative when the land is in dispute. The bill raises the costs of the process and intimidates landowners into accepting the minister's offer. Any issue with respect to costs and increased costs has to be treated very seriously and is treated very seriously by members on this side of the House. Also, it is our view that this bill intimidates the landowners even when the minister offers nothing. So these are points that are of some concern, and I would like to develop some of these points within the next few minutes.

With respect to compensation being set out by the Public Utilities Board, not the arbitration board - and this is pursuant to Section 2.(2)(c) and Section 19.(1) - under the old act the failure of the minister and the landowner to agree on a set compensation for expropriated land means an arbitration board is appointed for that particular case. The minister appoints an arbitrator, the landowner appoints one, and the two agree on a third. In other words, there will be an independent person chosen by the two appointees. Or, if the matter goes to court, Mr. Speaker, a trial judge appoints one. In addition, there is also a stenographer. That is the general procedure carried out during the normal course of hearings.

Under this bill, the Board, Mr. Speaker, is the Public Utilities Board and the Public Utilities Board is probably more costly and less swift since it is already bogged down by other responsibilities. Clearly, there are serious, serious issues of a public nature. Most recently, we had the example of the rate hike application by Newfoundland Power. One has to question if an individual expropriation matter was going to be brought before the Public Utilities Board, which issue would, in fact, get priority. Would it be an issue of great public concern, and it is arguable that should be given priority, compared with an individual's request before the Public Utilities Board? There is the problem, Mr. Speaker, because an individual who has a request dealing with expropriation, and that issue being brought before the Public Utilities Board, is going to simply have to wait in line until the matter is raised or indeed called by the board.

On the issue of the minister deciding whether to refer to the board at all, this comes under Section 19.(2). Under the old act, if the minister and the landowner cannot agree on compensation, Mr. Speaker, then the appointment of an arbitration board becomes automatic. Under this bill the minister is given the power to make the application to the board and it, therefore, stands to reason that he will have the choice of whether and when to refer to the matter to the Public Utilities Board.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is the discretion being left to the minister to determine when and if matters are brought to the Public Utilities Board. The landowner, in that particular instance, would have no power to apply to the Public Utilities Board, to establish the time frame and the general rules of the game, as it were, in dealing with public utility matters.

Another issue, Mr. Speaker, has to do with the landowner no longer having a representation on this decision-making board. I refer specifically to Section 20. Under the old act one of the three members of the decision making board was the landowner's appointee. So, this was a person who was independently selected by a landowner and this person would be the representative of the landowner in the decision-making process, or as part of the decision-making process. The landowner's arbitrator can veto the minister's choice of the third arbitrator, and the award decision of any two arbitrators is final. This is the general rule under the old act.

Under this bill, Mr. Speaker, the Public Utilities Board decides and the landowner has absolutely no say in the composition of the board which can be as small, incidentally, as just one commissioner. So one commissioner could, in fact, determine what the result of an expropriation hearing would be. Nor does the landowner have representation at all on the board.

Question: Does legal counsel have to be hired again at further expense to the individual claimant? If that is the case, clearly that is once again another draw back of this proposed legislation.

On the issue, Mr. Speaker, of the fact that there is no representation when land is in dispute, Section 20.(4) is therefore repealed. Under the old act, when ownership of land is in dispute or the owner cannot be found the minister is obligated to appoint an arbitrator, Mr. Speaker, to represent the missing landowner, so in that case we have an absentee landowner who would have some representation before the actual formal hearing. There is no one on the Public Utilities Board to represent the missing landowner. So, who will make the case and defend the rights of the missing or unrepresented or disputed landowner.

Again, this is a serious issue which has to be raised and a question which has to be raised in terms of who will have representation. Will a landowner be adequately represented and will the rights of the landowner be upheld at this newly envisaged hearing under the legislation?

Another point, Mr. Speaker: The bill raises the cost of the process and, I would suggest, intimidates landowners into accepting the minister's offer. I would like to refer specifically to Section 34. It is still the case, Mr. Speaker, that if the board does not award the landowner more than what the minister offered, the landowner must pay all costs, expenses and fees incurred in the award process. So, just let's think about that provision for a moment. What this legislation is doing is, in fact, penalizing an individual who simply wants to make an application under expropriation law to determine the value or the compensation for his or her property. If, in fact, the award is more than what was previously offered, there is a penalty provision in that the applicant has to come up with the cost of the hearing and other costs that may be associated with the hearing.

While the old process involved just three arbitrators and a stenographer, this bill, Mr. Speaker, will in fact drive up the cost. Section 34.(2) specifies those expenses as including cost of counsel, engineers, valuators, stenographers, accountants and other assistants employed by the board as well as the salaries and the expenses of the members of the board while employed in and about the hearing.

So when you see exactly the numbers of individuals and the types of individuals that could be brought before this type of hearing, it is certainly easy to see that these costs can be quite significant. In our view, in the view of the members on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, it is an unfair application of the law in terms of costs that may, in fact, be awarded against an applicant, really only because he wanted to have his day in court as it were.

The Public Utilities Board could be frivolous in commissioning more input than is warranted. If that is the case, we have increased costs once again having to be borne by the applicant. The government could play it in such a way by commissioning expensive input to increase costs and intimidating landowners who fear they won't get an increase and will have to pay costs. Clearly, I don't think government would have the bad faith to do that. However, it does show, nevertheless, that an option is there by government to prolong a proceeding to the point where the costs could be absolutely exorbitant and clearly out of reach by the ordinary applicant. The government may spare no expense, Mr. Speaker, in beefing up counsel to convince the Public Utilities Board not to increase the award, while the landowner may not be able to afford to compete.

So it puts the ordinary citizen, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, in a very precarious situation, that person being forced to deal with the matter as a matter of principle but equally being forced to pay exorbitant costs as a result of the legislation which is being proposed.

This bill intimidates landowners even when the minister offers nothing. I would like to refer once again to Section 34. If the minister has made no award offer prior to referring a claim to the Public Utilities Board for decision, the Public Utilities Board decides which party pays the costs. The minister has the power, Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day to send the matter to the Public Utilities Board without first offering any compensation. The landowner knows the Public Utilities Board could award all costs to him and he could end up with no compensation from the government to offset the expenses. The landowner might be persuaded to accept nothing for the land, rather than face the risk of paying the Public Utilities Board's costs and getting nothing. So this could be interpreted as persuasion by implicit threat.

Mr. Speaker, these are some of the concerns that are being raised by this legislation, which is why we have to be very careful when we review the wording of the legislation simply because it puts the ordinary applicant, the person who simply wants to have a fair hearing with respect to the true evaluation of his land, at great risk. This applicant may very well have second thoughts about whether he or she, in fact, wants to go through with the arbitration process when he or she considers what the risks will be.

So, Mr. Speaker, the legislation is of some concern to us. These are points that are being raised. I would ask that the members on the opposite side carefully reflect upon the significance and the consequences of such legislation being passed.

Some of the important clauses, Mr. Speaker, include clause 5 which repeals sections 19 and 20 and replaces with them with new appeals process with the Public Utilities Board instead of an arbitration board. Many protections which ordinarily are found in the existing legislation are therefore eliminated and lost to the ordinary applicant.

Clause 11, Mr. Speaker, repeals sub-sections 34.(2), 34.(3) and 34.(4) and replaces them with new clauses that will cost the person appealing a lot of money. So it is the cost provision, Mr. Speaker, which is of grave concern to members on this side, and these are unknown costs. When you look at, as I mentioned earlier, the types of individuals and the numbers of individuals who may be called as witnesses to give evidence at a Public Utilities Board hearing, it is quite conceivable that the costs are clearly out of reach and will act as a disincentive to any individual who wants to proceed under the expropriation process.

On point number one, under the current act when the minister and the owner of land impacted by expropriation can't agree on compensation - and again this is under the current legislation - where the owner is in doubt or missing, or for another reason the minister considers appropriate, the amount of compensation shall be fixed by an arbitration board. When you have these situations existing in the old legislation, under the new act, Mr. Speaker, in the same circumstances the amount of compensation shall be fixed by the Public Utilities Board. So, the act indeed gives the Public Utilities Board significant authority, weight and power in determining exactly what should be done.

On point number two, Mr. Speaker, under the current legislation when there is a dispute the compensation to be fixed shall be made by the arbitration board. So, there is an obligation. It is not discretionary, there is an obligation. The minister shall appoint an arbitrator and shall notify the landowner in writing that a board is to be appointed. This is under section 20.(3) of the current act. Under the new legislation, Mr. Speaker, an application to fix compensation shall be made by the minister and this is found under section 19.(2) of the proposed legislation

It is the case that under the current act the appointment of an arbitration board becomes automatic when there is a dispute over compensation. It is the case that under the new act the minister has a choice of whether and when to make an application to PUB, or the Public Utilities Board, to decide the matter.

So, again we are dealing with discretionary power. Again we are dealing with power being given to a minister to determine ultimately what the rights of an applicant will be. The act gives the aggrieved person no power to demand, speed up or expedite a Public Utilities Board hearing. So, the act, Mr. Speaker, raises concerns and I would ask members on the opposite side once again to carefully reflect.

Another point, Mr. Speaker, on point number three: Under the current act the landowner shall appoint an arbitrator who will then be a member of the arbitration board. So the aggrieved person's representative is actually one of the decision makers. Again this is under current legislation. The new act says nothing about an arbitrator being appointed on behalf of an aggrieved person, but indicates the process will be determined by the Public Utilities Board. What does the Public Utilities Board Act say about the appointment of an arbitrator, is a question that can be asked and remains unanswered in the legislation. Who on the Public Utilities Board represents the aggrieved person? It is arguable that there is no representation for such an aggrieved person. Or, does the person need to seek independent legal advice, again, Mr. Speaker, at increased costs and, I would suggest, unnecessary cost to the applicant?

According to the new act, the quorum at the Public Utilities Board hearing can be as little as one commissioner at the discretion of the Public Utilities Board. So, wide discretion, complete discretion being given to government through the ministry to deal with this issue. Under the current system, the aggrieved person's arbitrator has a veto over the appointment of a third arbitrator, and the failure to agree on a third arbitrator will leave a trial judge to appoint the third. This is significant, Mr. Speaker, since the current section 32.(3) says the award of any two arbitrators shall be considered to be the award of the board. Under the new act, the aggrieved person has no say directly or indirectly in who composes the board that makes the decision, for example, the Public Utilities Board.

Under the proposed act, Mr. Speaker - this is the fourth point that I would like to make - the minister has no obligation to appoint an arbitrator to represent a landowner who cannot be found or one whose ownership of the land is in question, because section 20.(4) of the current legislation is repealed.

Other protecting details in the current act are also removed by the proposed legislation, and the minister is not obligated, Mr. Speaker, to notify the person aggrieved or to give thirty days notice to appoint an arbitrator; again a further weakness of the proposed legislation, legislation which again, I would suggest, has to be reviewed very carefully by members opposite.

A further point, Mr. Speaker. Both the current and the new acts say the government pays the costs, the expenses and the fees if the board increases the awarded compensation. The aggrieved person pays costs, expenses and fees if the board does not increase the aware. If no compensation was offered before expropriation, then the board determines who pays the costs, expenses and fees. The new act introduces a new element, Mr. Speaker, by saying that the expenses shall include costs of counsel, engineers, valuators, stenographers, et cetera. So, we do have the problem of costs, we do have the problem of individuals being dissuaded, I would argue, from pursuing their rights under the expropriation laws. Therefore, as I have indicated, we have to review very carefully what the position is concerning this legislation and how it impacts upon individual claimants and how, at the end of the day, the costs could be quite significant.

So, Mr. Speaker, these are just a few points that I wish to make and I would urge members opposite to carefully consider some of these points with respect to the cost impact that it may very well have on those people in the Province who wish to have their properties duly considered.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, I move second reading of the bill, unless there is somebody else who wants to speak.

Mr. Speaker, I would, then, move second reading a this bill.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Expropriation Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 33)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

Tomorrow, we will consider a bill, An Act To Amend The Urban and Rural Planning Act, bill no. 35; a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act (No.2), bill no. 38; and I say to the Minister of Environment and Labour, a bill, "An Act To amend The Labour Standards Act, bill no. 26. Are you here tomorrow? We will take those in that order. I say to the Minister of Justice, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Freedom Of Information Act And The Privacy Act, bill no. 39. We should be out of here, given those things, by five o'clock.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House adjourn.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise the House that the Private Members' motion for Wednesday will be the motion put forward by my colleague from the District of Kilbride.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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