December 4, 1996          HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS           Vol. XLIII  No. 46

 


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (L. Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

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

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

Mr. Speaker, when the Hibernia oil field begins its production stage, oil from the platform will be shipped to a unit many of us have come to know as the Transshipment Terminal. It is in this facility that oil from Hibernia will be stored, until it is loaded onto tankers for shipment to markets.

Mr. Speaker, the environmental assessment process is the screen through which government analyses projects for their environmental impacts. It begins with the registration of the project's documents with the Department of Environment and Labour, and proceeds with a public review and a thorough and multi-sectoral review by agencies from both Provincial and Federal Governments.

The Transshipment Terminal Project was registered with my Department in September of this year and the provincial environmental assessment process proceeded subsequently.

Mr. Speaker, I have written to the proponents, joint venture partners, Chevron Canada Resources Ltd., Mobil Oil Canada Properties, and Petro-Canada, to inform them that an environmental impact statement will not be required. This means, Mr. Speaker, that the project is released from further assessment by the Province, and the proponent may proceed with the undertaking as described in their registration documents subject to all applicable permits, approvals, authorizations and relevant legislation.

Mr. Speaker, this project has been released from the Province's environmental assessment process only after a comprehensive and stringent review of the project. The proponent has volunteered to submit an Environmental Protection Plan, and has also agreed to develop an Environmental Effects Monitoring Program that will include the participation of groups from government, academia and industry, and to submit the program to my department for approval. We have also met directly with the proponent, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that we are going to have a state-of-the-art protection plan for oil spill response in case of any emergencies.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to also repeat that the project is released from the Province's environmental assessment process only. The federal environmental assessment requirements will be addressed through a Comprehensive Study under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I did not have a chance to see the Ministerial Statement prior to the House opening, but in listening closely, what I can assume is that government has decided that they want the project to go ahead with the best possible speed, with the greatest protection to the environment. It seems, in releasing the proponents from an environmental assessment, on the one hand, they have also provided for and see, as an initiative of government, as a priority, to ensure that the greatest protection measures will be in place in the event that there may be some significant or otherwise damage to the environment.

I can only say, Mr. Speaker, that it seems to be a statement of intent, that the real details in terms of what government will demand from the proponent, what will be included or not included from the protection plan remains to be seen and I look forward to that information being tabled in the House to give all members a greater degree of certainty that environmental protection, along with development, is a concern of the government.

Thank you.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

DR. GIBBONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to inform the Members of the House of Assembly that Amoco Canada Petroleum Company Ltd. has confirmed that it will drill at least one well on the Grand Banks in 1997. It has now contracted its rig. In May 1997, Amoco will commence drilling the West Bonne Bay prospect, located fifteen kilometres northeast of the Terra Nova oilfield. The drilling of this well will employ approximately 200 people for about three months.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. GIBBONS: This well, Mr. Speaker, will be drilled on land for which Amoco bid more than $90 million in work commitments in 1995. This was the largest single bid for an individual land parcel in the Province's history and still is. Obviously, Amoco, a major international player in the oil industry, sees tremendous potential on these lands, and with success, will very likely drill more than one well.

Mr. Speaker, I am more than pleased to welcome Amoco back to the East Coast. Amoco, with Imperial Oil, was one of the original explorers on the Grand Banks in the 1960s. They were one of the first companies to drill on the Grand Banks at that time and now we welcome them back and wish them every success.

Let me also say, Mr. Speaker, that I believe that the return of Amoco, combined with the record high bids in the recent offshore land sales on September 30, which totalled $125 million, signals a turning point in oil and gas exploration on the Grand Banks.

Bob Erickson, Chairman and President of Amoco Canada is quoted in yesterday's news release as saying, "The East Coast's ongoing infrastructure activity, complemented by Newfoundland's royalty announcement last June, provides better certainty for these types of exploration ventures."

With renewed exploration, I am confident, as minister, that we will see the discovery and delineation of other major fields to follow on the heels of Hibernia and Terra Nova.

Thank you.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, let me join with the minister on behalf of my colleagues in the official Opposition to say we open arms, too, with a huge welcome to Amoco -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: - to ensure that the success of the Hibernia project and the spin offs that will come from that will ensure maximum benefit, but I also say to the minister and to government: let us also renew our commitment to ensure that greater technology transfer takes place within our oil and gas industry, and as a result of greater technology transfer more opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in terms of employment exist, and let us learn from those mistakes that we made in our first project to realize greater benefits for each and every person in this Province.

Thank you.

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

No leave.

The Chair would like to take this opportunity to welcome to the House today, a group of business people from Italy led by Meneguzzo Armando.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Social Services. Would the minister confirm whether or not the following statements that are found in the Strategic Social Plan consultation documents are accurate, that the labour force will be drastically reduced. Seventy per cent of the Province's labour force is between the ages of twenty and forty-four years, and this part of the population is expected to decrease by about 95,000 people which is close to 30 per cent by the year 2016, and the additional health care and other costs associated with an aging population will have to be met by a smaller population paying taxes, and a smaller population will result in reduced transfer payments since these transfers are based partly on population size. Will the minister confirm those statements that are on page 10 of the consultation document?

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

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

If you are quoting from Page 10, and that was the book we published then I would confirm that is what is in the book, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister if she will confirm if these statements are accurate?

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

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

I think, as you referred to that information in the book, it is accurate. We are looking at a workforce that is declining, obviously, because we have a larger group of elderly people who are beyond the years of work. In any particular environment, or in any set of demographics, when you have an older population they require increased health care needs. That is an obvious statement to make and, as most of us know, the older people get the more likely they will avail of health care services. If we have a growing elderly population, and we have a shrinking mid-group working population, yes, there will be a smaller percentage of people contributing to the tax base for the health care needs of the Province, and that is one of the reasons why we have reformed the health care system to try to address those needs, to try to shift the health care of the community in a way that we can address the needs of an aging population.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would now like to ask a question of the Minister of Finance.

On Monday in the House the Member for Baie Verte asked the Minister of Finance questions regarding the harmonized sales tax. The minister responded that he expects a substantial period of growth two years from now in this Province. He is counting on more people paying taxes, and an increase in population to offset the harmonized sales tax revenues. I ask the minister: Do you still stand by that statement which you made on Monday?

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

MR. DICKS: Yes, absolutely, Mr. Speaker.

Simple mathematics would indicate to the hon. member that by injecting another $105 million a year into the economy, that is approximately .875 per cent of our provincial GDP in nominal terms, which is roughly $12 billion in total. That is additional monies that would not otherwise be in the system. So year over year that will add to the growth that would otherwise not be there.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would now like to ask the Premier if the Minister of Social Services is advocating false doom and gloom to accommodate the elimination of her social policy? Or is the Minister of Finance spinning numbers representing substantial income and economic growth in order to sell a tax harmonization deal that is bad for this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is right; an hon. member is spreading false doom and gloom, but it is the Leader of the Opposition who is doing so.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition this week has been looking for contradiction, looking for tragedy, looking for problems where none exist, has done it repeatedly. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition got up late in the question period and claimed that my brother had met Mr. Fallon and that a secret deal had been worked out. Of course, all of that has been denied by all of the parties involved. But for greater measure, one of my staff spoke to both Mr. Fallon and to Mr. Terry Tobin yesterday. They claim never to have met each other. I suspect his questions today have as much validity as his questions yesterday: None whatsoever.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I must say, the Premier's answers are very consistent. He is telling us he doesn't know, and that is nothing new, I say. I ask the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board: Does he believe the Retail Council of Canada is a reputable organization?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition can't have it both ways. In this hon. House when one stands up and makes an accusation, as the Leader of the Opposition did yesterday, we assume it was a serious accusation. It was said in the House. You either substantiate the accusation or you withdraw if you are an hon. member. The Leader of the Opposition's credibility in terms of putting so-called facts before this House is much in question. I would ask him, as an hon. member, to withdraw today the accusation made yesterday, given that it has been denied by everybody named in it.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I ask the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board: Does he believe the Retail Council of Canada is a reputable organization?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the question is, is the Leader of the Opposition a reputable questioner?

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Mr. Speaker, I will ask the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board again if he believes that the Retail Council of Canada is a reputable organization.

MR. TULK: The question is out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: We on this side of the House have an obligation to answer questions, and we intend to answer those questions when they are factually based, when they seek information. That is our obligation. We will do so.

But I say again to the Leader of the Opposition, on any number of occasions during this past week the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, has made statements which have proven to be absolutely false. In the health care file, there have been claims that have turned out to be false, a claim that an ambulance operator assisted in surgery. That has turned out to be absolutely false. A claim that a meeting occurred between Mr. Fallon and a Mr. Terry Tobin: That has turned out to be absolutely false. It is time for the Leader of the Opposition to do his research, or have whoever's doing it do a better job, or to come clean and apologize to those who have been maligned in this House this week by this Leader, so-called, of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I recognize that we should wait until after Question Period is over, but this is getting rather out of the ordinary, I say.

I quote to the hon. Leader of the Opposition from Section 409, subsection 8 of Beauchesne, "A question that has previously been answered ought not to be asked again." Section 410, subsection 9, "Questions should not repeat questions already asked although this does not mean that other questions on the same point are out of order." Now, Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman just asked the same question three times after they were answered and I suggest to him that he is totally out of order in doing that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

To that point of order, yes, the Chair had made note that the hon. member had repeated the question and was going to allow the member to ask a supplementary but provided that supplementary was not the same question.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Finance told me in the House last week that the harmonized sales tax would be deflationary, not inflationary. You added that you were not aware of studies or substantial opinion which believed it was inflationary. Now my question to the Minister of Finance is, not withstanding the fact that only three provinces have signed onto this deal and that the Retail Council of Canada has said that the cost of adopting taxing pricing with only three provinces will exceed by many times the savings in harmonization, will the minister remove this Province from this disastrous taxing initiative?

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To start with there are four provinces that have adopted harmonized sales tax. That was at first when it came in originally in 1991. But I say to the hon. member that there is no substantial body of opinion which suggests that the harmonized sales tax would be inflationary, quite the opposite, the experience has shown that it would be deflationary and I don't know which study the hon. member is questioning. I have received many reports on this. I have reviewed the federal government's statistics which are by-partisan, they were reviewed by and accumulated by his predecessors, they are reviewed by our current government and the opinion is very uniform, Mr. Speaker, so I don't know where the hon. member is drawing his information from or citing his conclusions but in either event, they are economically unsound.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am drawing them from a letter given to the finance minister dated November 29 of which I was sent a copy and showing a study done by retailers. I ask the minister, has he seen this presentation by the Retail Council of Canada and does he agree with what the Retail Council of Canada is saying in this letter?

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

MR. DICKS: Mr. Speaker, I have met with the retail industry in this Province. I have met with and my colleagues in other provinces have also met with them. There is concern in the retail industry that they will have to bear the expense of changing their computer systems to allow for a decrease of tax, and there is some concern expressed about the cost of doing that. So I have said to the retail industry, on the one occasion that this issue was raised with the Chamber of Commerce in this City and other places, that I will give them a clear choice. If they are concerned about the cost of changing their computer systems, then we will leave their tax rate at 20 per cent. Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? I have not heard a single whisper back since.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So the minister is stating that he is not aware of the Retail Council of Canada's letter and implications. I ask him: Will he indicate that they have stated that they will reduce the number of employees or increase the price because of the harmonization with three provinces? Will the minister confirm that?

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

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker, that is completely ill-founded. I will say to the hon. member, if he truly believes that the retail industry in this Province wants the current system to remain in place, then I will make a deal with him. If he can bring to me a majority of the retailers in this Province who want to maintain a current 20 per cent tax rate on the sale of goods, with no GST input credits, or if they want a fully integrated tax system with cascading, as is now in effect, and a 15 per cent tax rate, then I will do exactly as he suggests. But I suggest to him that if he thinks for a minute that the retail council in this or any other Province is in favour of a 20 per cent tax rate or, further, that the people of this Province want a non-harmonized sales tax, he is clearly and very sadly mistaken.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Government Services and Lands on a topic he is so proud of, namely the sale of Crown lands.

The minister said, on November 26, that government had a 39 per cent response rate on commercial leases, not the 10 per cent to 15 per cent he anticipated. Of course these businesses want their land, and it would be silly to think otherwise, I say to the minister, but at what price? Does the minister have any idea how much the government will collect in revenues from the buy-out of these commercial leases?

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

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not have the figures with me here. I can certainly have the figures for you tomorrow as to what we have collected to date, but I would suggest to the hon. member that it was a very good program, as we stated last week in the House, and I am certainly prepared to provide the figures tomorrow.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Minister, a 39 per cent response rate on commercial leases means a 61 per cent non-response rate. Has the minister heard from any of the 61 per cent? Has anyone expressed concern to him or his department that this revenue grab came out of the blue at a very bad time and left the businesses unprepared to purchase or finance the land on which they are situated? Have any businesses expressed concern that the policy could jeopardize their operations?

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

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Obviously, if we heard from 39 per cent we did not hear from the others at this particular time. I would suggest that nobody is hurting in terms of the commercial properties. We are getting indications that the commercial leaseholders are required to purchase by the banks when they are mortgaging at any rate, and they are very interested in this particular program.

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

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

I say to the minister, I think you should listen to the question and answer the question. Does the minister realize that government is giving away Crown land for free to EDGE companies that may create new jobs? Why, then, is the government turning around and discriminating against local companies already hiring Newfoundlanders, and forcing them to pay for Crown lands, and perhaps forcing them to lay off Newfoundlanders in order to pay the bill for the leases or the grants?

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

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would suggest to the hon. member that there are very few people in the Province getting free land. We brought in a new program for market-value pricing that will certainly indicate to everybody in the Province that land will be under ownership of the individuals and the corporations and companies that purchase that land. We feel it is a good program. It has worked very well to date and we have no reason to turn back on what we have been doing to date.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My first question today is for the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

Since the Voisey's Bay smelter and refinery have gone to Argentia, and the Premier has committed that the government will be more sensitive to the needs and concerns of Labrador, can the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation therefore, give us an update today, on the situation with the air ambulance service for St. Anthony which services southern Labrador; or is she still calling for the privatization proposals after saying: privatization is more expensive? And is she still refusing to even write into the tender specs, that this service must be based in St. Anthony, adjacent to southern Labrador?

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

MS BETTNEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The privatization process is in progress with respect to the air ambulance as announced by this government approximately a month ago. We are now in the process of determining the tender specifications that we will call for, I expect that that process will be completed within the next month and that the tenders will be called by the beginning of the new year.

Those tender specifications will define the service levels that government requires for the air ambulance service for the Province; they will also define the nature of the service. It will accommodate government's being able to evaluate the quality of the service that we will expect to maintain within the Province as a whole. It is a very comprehensive document and, in view of that, we are taking considerable time to try to ensure that we design a good tender document so that we will have a comprehensive proposal to evaluate when they come from the private sector.

It is our intention to proceed to evaluate fully, how we will administer and deliver the air ambulance services to the Province through the private sector. So, in terms of the initial questions that you are asking, are we going to privatize the service? We have announced that, yes we are proceeding on that course. We will define within the tender document all of the specifications that are necessary for us to ensure that we can continue to deliver a high-quality air ambulance service to the entire Province, in the most economical and cost-efficient measure and way.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My next question is for the Minister of Health.

The government is racing full steam ahead into privatization that its own figures prove just does not make sense.

Has the Minister of Health issued a call for proposals or tenders for the provision of medical personnel to accompany the air ambulance, and if so, is there a specification that such personnel will be based at St. Anthony, adjacent to the Northern Peninsula and southern Labrador, which rely on this service?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To the question, my hon. colleague, the Minister of Work, Services and Transportation, has just indicated that all of the necessary specifications vis--vis, equipment, level of services, type of medical services and all these sorts of things that would be appropriate in an air ambulance service, would be outlined fully in the comprehensive package that will be going forward, the RFP that will be going out to the industry and included in that, will be the delineation of the level of service on a personnel/medical basis as well as on an equipment basis.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again for the Minister of Health.

Has the government entered into any arrangements with any health care firms, and with any participating group from St. John's for the provisions of medical support personnel and related services to air ambulances operating in Newfoundland and Labrador as of today?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Again, all of the required specifications on all aspects of the air ambulance services that we are going forward to possibly privatize by way of an RFP, that is being issued by Works, Services and Transportation include all of the information that would be needed by Works, Services and Transportation, to make an appropriate judgement as to whether or not we are doing the right thing.

As we have done historically, every year for I do not know how far back, the Department of Health indicates the level of service that a health system needs in terms of Medivac services. The Department of Works, Services and Transportation has historically taken and continues to take responsibility to deliver that level of high quality service. I have every confidence the track the minister is on will prove to be the appropriate one, if in fact at the end of the day she deems it appropriate to bring forward a privatization recommendation to Cabinet. We are not that far down the road in the process yet, but the -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to take his place.

MR. MATTHEWS: - RFP concludes everything.

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

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

My question is for the acting Minister of Development and Rural Renewal. Last Monday, I believe, or Tuesday, in the House I put questions asking government to investigate why qualified Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, dealing with the commissioning work at the Hibernia site, were not hired. The minister in response said that within the next week or so - first of all she said she has referred the matter to the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board, she has met with those parties who are interested. Can the minister or government indicate today that a decision has been reached by the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board? If it has, when will they table it? If it has not, when can we expect it?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. Meetings were held with Hibernia and also with CNOPB. They were directed by the minister to look into a situation regarding hiring practices by certain contractors at the Hibernia site in the commissioning phase. That report is due to the minister and a decision -

AN HON. MEMBER: Due when?

MR. K. AYLWARD: It is due within the next few days, very shortly. A decision has not been rendered yet as to the next direction. As soon as the minister receives that report, gets some direction from the report, and discusses it with the rest of government, we will make a further decision on it. We have been moving on it very quickly. We are concerned. We want to make sure that the Atlantic Accord is lived up to for hiring practices at Hibernia, and we are going to ensure it as we move ahead.

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

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

I don't think anybody would disagree that in a new and emerging industry specialists are required to assist any group or society with that development. I would like to ask the minister this question: In order for technology transfer to be meaningful on the one hand and real on the other, would he insist, with future developments, that companies that would come to the Province, that are involved in development - would he insist as Minister of Labour that they present a much more detailed training and employment plan, to the Province, to developers, to ensure that maximum jobs are granted for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and that where qualified personnel exist in this Province and jobs are available that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians actually get those jobs?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, this government is going to do whatever it has to do, to ensure that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in this Province, residents in this Province, have an opportunity to work in the oil industry. Over 6,000 people at peak times worked at Hibernia, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians mostly, almost to every man and woman. We are going to work towards that end to ensure that every opportunity is provided.

I am also advised that there have been over 170 joint ventures in the last four to five years at Hibernia. The transfer of technology that has occurred has been substantial. We have to do more and we are going to do more, but we have all had a learning experience. There have been some very big positives come out of the Hibernia development. Every opportunity for every person in this Province is going to be pursued diligently by the government, as is the spirit of the Atlantic Accord. We look forward to seeing what the results are going to be as we walk through the next number of developments that are now on the horizon that have recently been announced by this government. Thank you.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, based upon the minister's response, then, I could assume that the seventy to eighty people who should be working at the site today who are qualified, within the next two weeks will in fact be actually working at the site. That is what the minister is really saying.

A final question. It has become obvious, there is no question in my mind, that the Hibernia site has been a huge success for this Province. But there have been some areas which we need to address as a House of Assembly and which government needs to address, and one of them deals with dispute resolution. Would the minister agree that we need a more definitive set of enforceable regulations that are needed now to protect, on the one hand, people who are qualified and who are at the site, to ensure that with - those regulations would ensure that where a dispute exists that a dispute is rectified and handled immediately? Would the minister agree that that is what is needed right now?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, we have had over 6000 people working at this site, for the most part without any problems. When you have a large industrial site you do run into some problems, but I do agree that we need to have, in the future, and even at the present time, as quick as possible, a resolution to problems when they arise, especially at work sites anywhere in the Province for that matter.

In this case we are pursuing that very diligently, and we are going to ensure that we have, and are looking at mechanisms to ensure, that in the future, especially, and also in the present, to deal with any disputes at work sites, especially at Hibernia. We want to ensure that resolutions can be brought forward to deal with these problems as quickly as possible because the longer they fester the tougher it is on everybody involved.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Let me ask the minister one final question, dealing with what the labour regime will look like in terms of the production aspect of the Hibernia site, the Premier, I guess, in a question last week announced that they would be looking at what an effective labour regime would look like. Can the minister update the House on what initiatives have been taken by government to date in terms of addressing, redesigning, or looking at what effective labour regime will be in place for the production phase of the Hibernia platform?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, for the last thirty days, since the Premier announced at a conference with the labour unions and labour workers, further consultation to look at an offshore labour relations regime for the offshore industry, we are looking at our present labour law, we are looking at labour laws in Norway, in Europe, and in other jurisdictions. We are evaluating that at this present time, and we are going to be announcing the hiring of a consultant to look at this for us also, and to give us some advice in the next number of months, in the short-term, to give us advice and help us with the direction we need to go. We are going to be consulting with the labour movement, we are going to be consulting with HMDC, and all who are interested in the future of the offshore. We are going to do our homework, we are going to do it well, and we are going to do it right.

Thank you.

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

MR. OSBORNE: My questions are also for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Some six months ago the minister stated that it was time for action on the cleanup of the St. John's harbour. He stated that the Province was going to set up a fund and start putting monies aside for the cleanup of the harbour. Has the government started putting this money away, and how much has been earmarked to date by the Province for the harbour cleanup?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, first I thank the member for the question. We have been very supportive in getting the St. John's harbour cleaned up. We did not indicate specifically that we were setting up a fund. The City Council of St. John's have indicated they were setting up a fund, but we have indicated that we are very supportive. As a matter of fact over the last year and a half we have brought together the councils in this area to ask them to look at a plan, and to make it a priority, for when they come forward to the governments, federal and provincial, for municipal or for federal funding.

They have done that, Mr. Speaker, and we are very pleased with developments that have occurred in the past few weeks. They have brought forward a plan working with the local group ACAP, a coastal action plan here in St. John's. Their proposals are very sound. They are based on good engineering work that has been done and carried out just recently, and the government here will take it under consideration and will be making it a priority for consideration further, and will also be seeking the federal government to see where they are going to be going with this. We are very pleased with the homework that has been done and we are looking at it as a priority.

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I refer the minister back to media coverage at the time at which point he did state that the Province would be setting up a fund. As he stated, St. John's, Mount Pearl, and Paradise, have committed to providing one third of the $35 million for phase one of the harbour cleanup. Will the Environment Minister confirm that the provincial government is also willing to contribute one third of the monies needed for a harbour cleanup under an infrastructure program? Will he also tell us if there will be funding available from the Province for the harbour cleanup, regardless of Ottawa's response?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, again we are very pleased that the councils of Paradise, Mount Pearl and the City of St. John's have come together finally to make this a priority. During the last year and a half they have been working on this and have come together and put forward a plan to deal with the cleanup of St. John's harbour for the whole region.

We are very pleased with this and we are going to be looking at it. If an infrastructure program is announced by the federal government we will be looking at this as a provincial government, as a priority. We now, for the first time, Mr. Speaker, have the regional municipalities who have now put this forward as a priority for municipal funding. This is the first time that that has ever occurred. Mr. Speaker, I can't commit here today that we are going to sign the cheque. What I say to the House, Mr. Speaker, is that we are very pleased they brought it forward. They have their homework done. We are going to consider this, Mr. Speaker, because we want to see the St. John's harbour cleaned up!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, we have been a pro-active government when it comes to the environment. We just announced a deposit return system.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: We just announced a deposit return system, Mr. Speaker, for the first time in twenty odd years. We are going to see kids, Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Question Period has expired.

MR. K. AYLWARD: We are going to see kids, Mr. Speaker, going out around this Province cleaning up this Province, getting some funds for the schools and getting some funds for charity groups. Mr. Speaker, I tell you, we are a pro-active government when it comes to the environment -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. K. AYLWARD: And I can assure the member, that when it comes to St. John's harbour that we are going to be there, Mr. Speaker, we are going to be there. Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, on a point of order.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have what I think is a very important point of order. It may be a question of privilege. I leave it to Your Honour to determine whether it falls in the category of a point of order or a point of privilege, as a member.

Mr. Speaker, it has to do with the response to ministerial statements in this House. Today, for example, the Minister of Environment and Labour gave a statement as to what was going to happen with the removal of a very important project from the environmental assessment process. I wanted to say how shocked I was that the government was going to do that, but I was denied the opportunity to do that by the Official Opposition who wanted to cheer the minister on.

Then, the Minister of Mines and Energy got up and talked about the continuation of oil exploration offshore.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to get to his point of order.

MR. HARRIS: I am introducing the point of order, Mr. Speaker, by saying what has been going on in this House since the fall session started, and asking Your Honour for an interpretation of the rules of the House, because the policy seems to be that the Official Opposition does not want anyone else over here to oppose government business and government statements.

I think a proper interpretation of the rules would allow people on the Opposition who want to stand up and respond to ministerial statements to do so.

Mr. Speaker, there are no provisions in our Standing Orders as to how ministerial statements are to be handled; therefore, we go to Beauchesne. Now Beauchesne indicates that, in responses to ministerial statements, the Official Opposition is entitled to half the time of the government, minister, and that other people speaking are entitled to half the time of that Official Opposition spokesman, and the right to speak is given to parliamentary parties.

Now we have no notion of parliamentary parties in this Province. Our rules do not speak to parliamentary parties. So I would suggest to Your Honour that the proper interpretation for this House is the Elections Act, which provides for registered political parties. Now, registered political parties is a well-known concept as a result of the new Elections Act, and the new Elections Act provides that there are registered political parties who can meet certain qualifications, and those registered political parties are represented here in this House. There are three of them. And I would suggest that a proper interpretation of the rules would provide that a spokesperson, or a member of a registered political party, has a right to speak in the House to ministerial statements, and that the privileges of this member, in the opposition, to oppose or to speak in opposition to ministerial statements are being denied by the Official Opposition, and the interpretation of the rules which require unanimous consent.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. Opposition House Leader want to speak to the point of order?

MR. H. HODDER: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, on each occasion when the hon. member rises, you, as the Speaker of this House, will ask all hon. members, "Does the member have leave?" It is then incumbent upon each member of this House to make a decision: whether that member will give access and say yes, or whether the member chooses to deny the leave.

Mr. Speaker, the member who raises the point of order is a single member of this House. He has no more status than any other single member of this House. It is my understanding that should his membership increase in number then he will have status of one of the parties that would be given recognition in the House. Until that happens, the member has no more rights than any other single member of the House. If that were not the case, the Speaker of this House would not be asking for leave on each occasion when the hon. member wishes to speak.

Members on this side of the House exercise their right to either give consent or to deny consent when the member rises, and we will continue to do that as we have done in the past.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, technically and parliamentary the Opposition House Leader is right. You can't deny the hon. gentleman is just an individual member of the House, the same as the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair. But I know that there have been times in this Legislature when the Opposition has not stuck to that technical detail. It has given the member of the NDP the right to speak on certain occasions. It seems to me that it is using a rule of the House, and abusing a rule of the House, and using the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi when it hopes he is going to say something to oppose the government, or criticize the government in some way.

There are occasions we believe on this side - I agree, we cannot give blanket leave to the hon. member. It isn't a rule of this House that the hon. gentleman be given the right to speak on every ministerial statement. But there are occasions, and the hon. gentleman will know that there have been occasions, when we on this side, even though we know that he is going to stand and lambast us and kick us and boot us all over the place, that we have said to him on occasion: You can have leave.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible)!

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

MR. TULK: So, Mr. Speaker, I think the (inaudible)

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. member -

MR. TULK: To come to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think the hon. gentlemen on the other side, if they are going to stick to the parliamentary rules of the House, then they should stick to the parliamentary rules of the House and not use them to their advantage, and indeed on occasion give the hon. gentleman time to say something.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is ready to rule on the point of order.

The hon. member knows that the practice in this House has been that whenever a ministerial statement is presented the Official Opposition party or the critic of the Official Opposition party is given half the time of the member or the minister presenting the statement. That has been the practice ever since I've been here, and ever since all of the other members have, I guess, been here. That is the practice that will stay in place. Because if not, if we recognize private members for ministerial statements, then any member of the House could stand and respond to that particular statement. There is no point of order.

Petitions

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise again today to present to the hon. House a number of petitions that have been forwarded to me in the last several days relative to the issue of paid adult bus monitors. I have read into the record on previous occasions the prayer of the petition. Basically what the parents who signed the petition are asking is that the government examine the issue of paid adult bus monitors. They believe that their children who are going to school on school buses that are unsupervised are at risk, and they want the government to place the safety of their children as a priority issue.

As we have said on previous occasions, there are circulating throughout the Province great numbers of those petitions. I'm to understand that several thousand will be presented in the next several days. However, as they arrive at my office I try to present them in a timely fashion, and that is what I am doing this afternoon.

We have had some discussions. A few days ago the hon. the Minister of Education did rise in his place and talked about the programs in various other parts of Canada and we appreciate that. We appreciate the fact that he has done some research or has caused research to be done by his department officials. We also had some commentary from the minister relative to safety programs that are being put in place for school bus drivers and we appreciate that. We also note that the minister is looking at lowering the maximum age of the buses that can be used to transport students to and from school in Newfoundland and Labrador and making that maximum age more consistent with the maximum age that is now in place, particularly in Ontario and in the Province of Quebec.

We appreciate all of these efforts; however, the parents who have signed these petitions are calling for paid adult bus monitors and we, as Members of this House, are required as the representatives of our constituents to present these petitions to the House, and ask the minister for his consideration. So, Mr. Speaker, today I present four more pages of petitions that have been signed by my constituents in the city of Mount Pearl. I will table them with the House and I am sure the Minister of Education will take into consideration the wishes of these parents when he is giving further consideration to the issue that has been raised on a number of occasions already in this House.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand to support this petition as has been presented by my colleague, the Member for Waterford Valley.

This petition, once again, addresses the issue of adult monitoring programs in the Province and, Mr. Speaker, it addresses specifically the fact that students are being unsupervised and are at risk in their safety going to and from school on school buses and the position of the petitioners is that the safety of children in this Province is being compromised.

Mr. Speaker, we heard the other day the hon. minister make reference to the fact that there are indeed some initiatives being worked on and developed in this Province with respect to monitoring, and in fact, safety programs are in place to deal with safety, particularly of primary and elementary school children and an issue with respect to a minimum age of buses is also being addressed by the department.

However, I would ask the minister, and in support of this petition, that perhaps the minister would look at what is being requested by the many parents in this Province, and that is an issue of adult bus monitors. It is felt by many parents in this Province that student bus monitors does not go far enough. Granted, it tends to deal with a situation on an interim basis, it tends to deal with the situation, perhaps, on a tentative basis but it does not go far enough in ensuring, Mr. Speaker, that the safety and protection of children, particularly primary and elementary school children, are being considered at all times. So, Mr. Speaker, I stand to support this petition. I support the position being made by many parents and school administrators as well.

In fact, the concept of adult-bus-monitor program is one which is required in this Province, and in view of many of the statements that have been made by parents, particularly in recent days, I stand to support their initiative and will continue to do so.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the presentation of the petition again because it is a serious issue that is currently under review in the department. I just want again, to add some information. Because it seems that the Opposition members are going to persist in presenting these petitions, even though, as I pointed out the last time when the petition was presented that they have since changed their position from the beginning days, because this petition, Mr. Speaker, is very specific. It is not about the general issues of bus safety, it is about one particular aspect of it, which is paid adult monitors, and that is one part of a wide range of issues that are being studied. The initial reaction from the Opposition a while ago is that they didn't think that was necessary. But now, rather than sit with parents who bring these petitions to them and talk about the whole range of issues and what other solutions might be possible, they feel there is some politics in just getting up, presenting a petition and saying, `we are for adult paid monitors.'

Just for the record, Mr. Speaker, it might be interesting to note this: When members of the party opposite were the government - in the late 1970s when the Progressive Conservative Party was the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the first school bus regulations for the Province were brought in, and the good news is they did a good job. They did a very good job, Mr. Speaker, because the regulations that have been in place now since 1979 have been reviewed periodically by Progressive Conservative Governments for the next decade, right up to 1989 and there was seen to be no need to change, including the issue of monitors and adult paid monitors. The government of which their colleagues were members for ten years, addressed that issue ten years in a row, Mr. Speaker, and came to the conclusion that adult paid monitors need not be part of the system and this government, which has been in place since 1989, has reviewed that issue repeatedly and has concluded as well that adult paid monitors need not be part of the system.

I pointed out in the House again, in response to the petition the last time, Mr. Speaker, that the record does show, because they indicated in supporting the petition a day or two ago that they had done some research on the matter, obviously, very little. The record shows that in other jurisdictions in Canada, nobody has a monitoring system on school buses that is anywhere close to what we have in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have the most advanced system in the country, to my knowledge. And now, rather than sit and discuss the issue with parents who are dealing with one aspect of school bus safety, they are saying, `oh yes, we will present your petition and we are all for adult paid monitors,' because they think there is something in that for them politically is the only motivation - I know we are not supposed to do that, Mr. Speaker. The only motivation I can suggest in concurring with it, rather than discussing the broad parameters of bus safety, including monitoring, is that they think there must be some political constituency to play to with respect to this issue.

It is a serious issue, Mr. Speaker. Our review is just about complete. We have met with the parents groups and we will again, to indicate what adjustments, if any, we will make to regulations with respect to school busing in general, including monitors on those buses to ensure the safety of the passengers.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It being Private Members' Day, Motion 3.

Private Members' Day

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to put forward a private member's motion.

MR. TULK: Does the hon. gentleman want to speak to that (inaudible)?

MR. FITZGERALD: I think we should grant everybody who wants to speak, an opportunity to speak. What will happen, I say to the Government House Leader - maybe you should confer with our House Leader. I beg your pardon?

MR. DECKER: What happened to the other motion (inaudible)?

MR. FITZGERALD: I don't know but this one was put forward first, I say to the Minister of Justice.

MR. DECKER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: No, this one was put forward first, I say to the minister. Yes, it was put forward first. This one was put forward, I say to the justice minister, at the last sitting of the House of Assembly. It reads;

WHEREAS the current automobile insurance rate structure in Newfoundland and Labrador is unfair and the rates are unacceptably high; and

WHEREAS the statistical territories used as guides in setting insurance rates do not reflect fairly the risks to motorists in different areas of the Province;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this Honourable House express its disapproval of the current automobile insurance rate structure and insurance rates;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador take appropriate action to produce an improved automobile insurance rate structure that is fair and that gives consumers insurance rates that are more reasonable.

Mr. Speaker, this particular resolution was brought forward, I suppose, after many conversations that I have had in my own particular district and I guess as it related to the unfairness the way the territory rating was structured. Nobody seems to want to admit any part of being an accessory to the fact that we have the Province divided into three territories, and how those three territories were derived.

Right now in this Province we have the Avalon Peninsula and the Bonavista and Burin Peninsulas, as far west as Port Blandford, in Territory 1; the remainder of the Province in Territory 2; and Labrador in Territory 3. Those three territories play a big part in the way insurance companies come up with rate premiums when you go to insure your automobile. It plays a big part.

I put forward a couple of scenarios here in the House before of a single, twenty-year-old, male driver with three years driving experience, driving - you had to pick a vehicle - a 1992 Ford Ranger pick-up. If he lived in Territory 1, and this gentleman purchased automobile insurance, public liability would cost him $2,224; collision, with $250 deductible, would cost him $883; comprehensive, with $100 deductible, would cost him $164. If that same individual was living in Territory 2, points west of Port Blandford, that same policy would cost him, for $500,000 public liability, $1,515 as compared to $2,224, a saving of $700 there in public liability, an item which is compulsory. You must have public liability today in order to drive in Newfoundland and Labrador. Collision, with $250 deductible, would cost him $1,237 as compared to $883; and comprehensive $164 as compared to $114, with a difference of $453.60.

Mr. Speaker, the people on the Bonavista and Burin Peninsulas thought it was very unfair to be lumped in with the urban area of St. John's, Mount Pearl, and Conception Bay South, and I can understand that. I can understand the risk of having an accident in here, when you get up in the morning and drive to work during rush hour, is much, much greater than getting up and driving from Bonavista to Port Union, or from Arnold's Cove to Clarenville, much, much greater; but the reflection of the risk is certainly not fairly directed on the cost of the premium.

I understand, from talking with the Superintendent of Insurance, that finally they have admitted as well that there is a real problem here, that some of this needs to be changed. We fully realize that there is a committee of the House structured to look at aspects of insurance, the select committee, to review property and casualty insurance in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Some people are saying: Well, the committee does not have to report back to the House until November, 1997. We feel that this change should be implemented and brought about now. We feel that the insurance rating territories do not have to wait for the Select Committee on Auto Insurance to report back to the House.

Mr. Speaker, I am a member of that particular insurance committee, and I feel it is probably the best committee on which I have served in the four years that I have been here. I think it is going to be a committee that will produce some positive results, make some positive suggestions, to come back to government and save the taxpayers and the residents of this Province probably hundreds and thousands of dollars as it relates to insurance premiums once we receive submissions, and we allow people to voice their opinions, and look at a medium there that will give us good coverage, good protection, for a fair price. Also, Mr. Speaker, I feel that the insurance companies will get a fair return on their money and on their investment, and on their risk as well.

Mr. Speaker, this particular territory change, I understand from listening to the minister here in his response to a petition that I presented some time ago, may not necessarily have to wait for the committee to report back to the House. In fact, I understand that the minister is awaiting a paper now from the Superintendent of Insurance to go back and make a suggestion to Cabinet that they look at taking the Bonavista and Burin peninsulas out of Territory 1 and putting them in Territory 2 now, which would reflect a fair risk and a fair premium for the risk that is involved. I would ask Cabinet when this particular paper comes before them by the minister that they would certainly listen and pay heed.

The way in which insurance companies rate drivers is something that has to be looked at in this Province as well. I think it is certainly unfair, it is unheard of in other provinces I'm sure, the way that insurance companies look at placing individuals in categories when they go and apply for insurance. One time if you had auto insurance in this Province - for those of us who do have auto insurance, and there is a fair number driving today who do not have auto insurance, and I would like to touch on that before I move on.

There was a write-up in The Evening Telegram not too long ago which suggested that approximately between 6 per cent and 8 per cent of drivers in Newfoundland and Labrador were driving without automobile insurance. I would suggest to the minister, I would suggest to people opposite, that the percentage is much greater than that. In fact, it is probably as high as 20 per cent of the people in this Province driving today without automobile insurance - not underinsured, but without insurance whatsoever.

Here is what happens, I say to members opposite. You go today and you purchase automobile insurance. Let us take the minimum of insurance, which is $200,000 public liability, Section D, and some companies require you to have Section B as well, which is medical payments. That is the least amount of insurance that you are allowed to drive with. A lot of insurance companies arrange a financing schedule whereby you can come forward, you pay 25 per cent of your insurance as a down payment, and you finance the remainder over a seven- or eight-month period, or six-month period, depending on the policy of a particular company.

Those people who want to short-circuit the rules and regulations go purchase their insurance, they get their pink slip called a public liability card, and that is it. Once they get the pink slip and once they get a policy number with an expiry date that will show one year from the date that they purchased, they are on their way. Nobody bothers to check anything after that. There are no payments made, the driver is driving without insurance, and should you be involved in an accident with one of those drivers who are driving without insurance, then your own insurance company must pick up the tab and pay for the cost or the claim of that particular accident. I would suggest once your insurance company does that, you will find when the renewal date comes around again you will be penalized by having to pay a higher premium.

I have brought this situation up here in the House before, and I spoke to the Minister of Justice at the time. The Minister of Justice said: There is not a lot we can do about it. The reason why we cannot do much about it is that the division of Motor Registration and the insurance companies are not in sync together with their computer programs. You can't go to an insurance company today and print out a message and send it over to Motor Registration informing them that somebody, Joe Blow, has cancelled his insurance.

I find that hard to accept. Today we are living in a day of all the modern technologies, and the cost of providing this free flow of information back and forth between insurance companies and Motor Registration would take us out of that market because of price. I fail to believe that. Today if you are stopped on the highway by one of the police forces in this Province they can get in their cruiser and call a number. It is only a matter of seconds before they can tell if your vehicle is registered, if the name is proper, and they can give you your driver's abstract. If you call an insurance company today and look for a price on insurance, if you are a new applicant, within the flick of an eye they can have your old driver's abstract appear before them, on their own computers that are tied in with motor registration. Still if somebody allows their insurance to lapse, we cannot come up with a system that will allow Motor Registration and the insurance companies to send that information back and forth between the two offices.

Mr. Speaker, because of that and because of the high cost of insurance premiums a lot of people, as high, I would suggest, as 20 per cent, in this Province are probably not carrying insurance. So what do the insurance companies do today? They take the easy way out, and they say: What we will do, in order to make up for those people who are not carrying insurance, is tack an $11.00 premium charge on everybody who is responsible enough to have insurance, on everybody who is responsible enough to pay their bills. So, each individual in this Province today who has an insurance policy on their vehicle, if you look at it closely enough, you will find - and I think the rate is pretty well standard, it is either $10.00 or $11.00 - you will find there is an $11.00 surcharge on that particular policy to pay for the people who are not responsible enough to carry insurance.

To me, Mr. Speaker, that is certainly not the way it should be. We have been led to believe in the past that if you are responsible and purchase what you have to purchase, and carry the insurance coverage you are suppose to, then there is no reason why we should have to pay for those people who are not insured or who are under-insured.

Now, if I were in business today, and I am not a business person, but if I were in business today and I could see an opportunity out there to increase my business by probably as much as 20 per cent, then I would probably be one of the first ones who would be willing to invest some money to make sure that if we could come up with a way of directing this information from the insurance companies to the Motor Registration. I would be one of the first ones to say: Let's make this a joint venture and share the cost, because we can see how we can increase our premiums, see how we can increase our profits, and our applicants will increase by 20 per cent by making those people who have not purchased insurance and have not paid their premiums come on side and be responsible.

I am not convinced that that cannot happen. The only way to make it happen, I say to members opposite, the only way to make it happen is to reach out and get at those plates on the vehicles. You can talk about increasing charges, and you can talk about increasing penalties all you want, but I say to members of the House that that will not work. It is obvious, Mr. Speaker, that if somebody will take the chance today to go out and drive their vehicle, and take the chance of being involved in an accident, to maim or kill somebody, if they were willing to take that chance and not be protected, then I can assure you it will not bother them a lot to be irresponsible for a lot of other things.

The only way you can reach out and get at those people who are irresponsible is to take the plates off the cars. You might say that we cannot use our policemen to do that, that we have to put them to better use, that we have other things our RCMP and RNC should be doing, and I am the first to agree. It does not have to be an RCMP officer and it does not have to be an RNC officer, it can be any peace officer.

If you owe the bank money today, Mr. Speaker, it will not take long before somebody is calling you, you are quickly identified, and somebody is either knocking on your door to collect the money, or somebody else is bugging you and will be bugging you the rest of your life until they find you in order to collect the outstanding fee. If you go downtown and get a couple of parking tickets the RCMP or the RNC, especially in rural Newfoundland, do not take a long time to knock on your door and say: We have a ticket here that is certainly not paid.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at insurance rates in this Province this past couple of years, you will find that they have skyrocketed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave.

MR. E. BYRNE: By leave, Mr. Speaker. Is there a lineup on the other side? Is the Government House Leader prepared to speak on this? Does he have ten or twelve people who want to speak on it who are pressing?

MR. TULK: I can tell you seriously, we are all in agreement with the resolution, and what we would like to do is have a couple of people get up and vote on it.

MR. FITZGERALD: Just to clue up this part of it here, I say to the Government House Leader.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at insurance rates today in this Province you will notice that in the past number of years insurance rates have sky-rocketed. They have gone through the roof.

The other day, Mr. Speaker, we were presented with some accident statistics from Motor Registration, and you will find that the number of accidents, the number of injuries, and the number of fatalities, have certainly not gone through the roof compared to insurance rates. In fact, I have statistics here that show 1983 up to the present - well, let's use 1995 because 1996 is not complete yet. In 1983 there were 10,013 accidents here in this Province. In 1995 the number of accidents was cut in half, 5,848. In 1983 the number of injuries was 2,352. The number of injuries in 1995 was 2,461. Maybe that tells us something. Maybe that tells us why our rates have gone through the roof.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member is speaking by leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: Maybe, Mr. Speaker, that is the reason why the insurance claims have gone through the roof. Maybe it is because of settlements in courts, because every other statistic here indicates that our insurance rates should be lowered, in any case that our insurance rates should be much, much lower than they are today.

Mr. Speaker, I will allow other people to speak to this because I know there are members on the other side with great knowledge of what I am talking about, and I am sure they would want to add some words to this discussion. I will allow that now. There are other topics that can be brought up on this. I stuck to the automobile insurance because it is not my intent to short-circuit the committee, or to talk about what has happened in the committee since we have been structured.

MR. TULK: Are they dealing with automobile insurance too?

MR. FITZGERALD: I beg your pardon?

MR. TULK: They are dealing with automobile insurance too?

MR. FITZGERALD: They are dealing with both automobile insurance and with casualty and property insurance, I say to the Government House Leader.

This is a petition that was presented to me, or a resolution that was brought forward because of grave concerns on the Bonavista Peninsula and on the Burin Peninsula, and I thought it was very timely to have presented it either today - well, we thought we would get it on earlier but there were other more pressing things that we considered should have been spoken about at the time.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will allow some other member from the opposite side to speak, and I will clue up debate at the end.

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

MR. McLEAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to speak to the resolution brought forward by the Member for Bonavista South.

The whole situation with insurance in the Province certainly has escalated in the last few years with the rapid increase in the prices that our people have to pay for premiums. Because of this, government has taken a very proactive position in terms of trying to deal with the situation.

Mr. Speaker, last year the previous government had identified a select committee to deal with one specific area of insurance, which is no fault. When the government changed, this present government determined that we needed to expand the role of this particular committee to deal with other aspects of insurance, one of those being the automobile insurance.

I will just relate to you, Mr. Speaker, that the role we have provided now for the Select Committee to deal with the insurances will relate to the whole aspect of no fault, the areas of automobile insurance and other areas as well.

I think, Mr. Speaker, some of the major concerns that have been brought forward in the last year are with regard to the rating territories which were identified a number of years back by the insurance people in the provincial system. Those territories, at that particular time, were set out to determine rates in the different areas. Essentially, Territory 3 was determined to be in Labrador. Territory 2 was to be the Island, except for the Burin, Bonavista, Avalon and east of the Port Blandford area.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in the last number of years the rates have increased dramatically in these particular areas, especially in Territory 1.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I am trying to listen to the hon. the Minister of Government Services and Lands.

MR. McLEAN: Mr. Speaker, in the resolution that the member has brought forward, government has certainly taken the initiative in terms of dealing with this. The Select Committee which will be dealing with all aspects of the insurance industry will not be reporting to the House until November, 1997. So what we have done, as a government, because of the concerns and the submissions that we have received from the people in the Port Blandford, Bonavista and Western Avalon areas, is we have decided to take interim look at areas where we can deal with this situation of the high rates.

Government's initiative, Mr. Speaker, is always to try to be fair and represent the people fairly in terms of the rates that we certainly have control over, in terms of insurances. Now, we do know that in the Province of Newfoundland, insurance rates are governed by the PUB. As well, we also know that there are only two other areas in Canada that have insurance rates regulated by the PUB.

One of the things that we are anticipating, while the Select Committee is dealing with the insurance rates, is to take a serious look at what we can do in Territory 1. Mr. Speaker, there are perhaps a number of ways that we can deal with the insurance rates in area one. We are looking at those at the present time. One of the problems that we had when we were trying to determine what to do in Territory 1 was the lack of statistical data that we would need in order to make changes that would improve the situation. It is easy to change things, but when you want to change things you really want to change them by knowing what you need to do or what information you need to have before you change it to make it a better situation than it currently is. We have been gathering this kind of data since this government started. We have been very interested and very concerned about the problems that we have been having in this particular rating territory.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the rates in Labrador, which is Territory 3, we have not been getting very much input on, neither have we been getting a lot of concerns about the rates in Territory 2, but in Territory 1 we have had many, many interventions and concerns, both from the Member for Bonavista South and members on our own side as well who are very concerned about the rates. That certainly has given us the impetus to deal with the situation prior to the Select Committee being able to report on this. Now when the Select Committee reports in November, Mr. Speaker, we anticipate that they will bring recommendations that will resolve this issue permanently. The solutions that we are anticipating presently are only temporary and they will only be in effect until the select committee reports to the House in November of 1997.

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House, are always anticipating that we can do things that will improve the situation for the insurance payers in the Province. We do realize, as the hon. member said, that there are people out there without insurance and that is another area that we will be dealing with as well, in trying to minimize the numbers that are out there without insurance driving on our highways. We all know that that will cause other problems in the insurance industry and with government in terms of coverage or lack of coverage and those types of things.

What I would say, in speaking to this resolution, Mr. Speaker, is that we have no problem in supporting this resolution because it is a reasonable resolution; it is very timely. We also, certainly, are taking the initiative to deal with this and we have been doing this since we formed the government back in March.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise in my place today to support the resolution put forward by the Member for Bonavista South.

It is a very timely resolution and the member, I believe, introduced this resolution back in July and has been waiting some time to get this resolution to the House and to have a chance to say a few words on it. Basically, the resolution is asking this House of Assembly to express disapproval on the current automobile insurance rates structure.

From personal experience, I can get into a lot concerns myself with respect to insurance rates. I can tell you -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I can sit down. I will give leave to the Government House Minister if he wants to get up and speak to the resolution?

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

The Chair has recognized the Member for Cape St. Francis.

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

There are a lot of points to be made with respect to this resolution and the insurance rates within the Province. The Member for Bonavista South and the Minister for Government Services and Lands spoke of the three territories and the different rates being charged in the territories. Of course, from the insurance companies' point of view, there are logical reasons why they would have different rates for the different premiums within these three different areas. Basically, it is due to the number of accidents, I suppose, and the number of accidents then, depends upon the amount of traffic that is in each area.

People pay premiums to the insurance companies based on what insurance they have, of course, Mr. Speaker. We have collision, we have comprehensive and we have public liability. As the Member for Bonavista South mentioned, there are different deductibles for each type of insurance that you have. Now the risks involved, as I said, in different areas of the Province, are a big factor in what we would pay.

Some of the concerns that I have with respect to what we pay in the Province, and I suppose it is similar in other provinces - for example, back in, I believe it was in 1990, I had an accident in the middle of a snow storm at an intersection. We, of course, settled it and the insurance company paid up. It was not a lot of money, only $3,000 or $4,000. I have been paying, since back in 1990, almost six years, an increased premium on my insurance. It was only this past month or so I went to my insurance company and asked: Why are my rates so high? The answer I got was: Well, you were involved in an accident six years ago which was valued at $3,000 or $4,000. I am still paying for that to this very day.

Now, Mr. Speaker, just to give you an example of what people are paying in this Province, I have full coverage on my two vehicles, and I am paying $2,800, for two people. I have been driving myself for approximately twenty-five, twenty-six years and my wife the same amount of time, basically. We are now paying almost $2,800 for insurance because I had an accident six years ago. My wife has not had any accidents.

I will give you another example as to why people in this Province are so concerned with respect to automobile insurance. My wife was driving two years ago and a rock flicked back from a car in front of her and broke the windshield. She had the windshield replaced. Six months later, a young kid threw a rock and broke the windshield, so we had the windshield replaced again. I phoned the insurance company asked: How much would it cost to have the windshield replaced? I was going to pay for it myself. I was prepared to pay for it myself rather than have the insurance company pay for it, my rates go up, and pay for another six years. They told me my deductible would go up somewhat. What ended up happening was that the windshield - I forget the figures now - was probably $300 to $400, and in the long haul I think I ended up paying as much as $900 overall for the windshield. I paid more to the insurance company to have the windshield replaced than if I had had the windshield done myself at one of these glass companies.

MR. TULK: You are some stunned.

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, there you go. A lot of people in the Province are in the same boat, I say to the Government House Leader. I had made the call beforehand, before I had the windshield replaced, I say to the Government House Leader. So, those are some of the situations in the Province that we are dealing with today.

Last year, the Minister of Government Services and Lands said that there was a committee put in place to look at automobile insurance, and basically look at no-fault and make comparisons. I know members on the other side of the House are on that Committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What are you saying, preacher? I can't hear what you are saying. Speak up.

AN HON. MEMBER: I said, last year (inaudible) Government, Services and Lands than this year.

MR. J. BYRNE: No, that isn't true. Now, listen to what I'm saying. I said the Minister of Government Services said last year there was a committee put in place. Okay? That is what I said.

I know the Member for Humber Valley is on that Committee, and went around with other people. They have done a lot of investigation with respect to no-fault insurance this year, after this government was elected. I agree with what they have done. They have expanded basically the responsibilities of that Committee. They are going to be reporting back, as the minister says. I think, hopefully, they will be making recommendations that will help resolve the situation within the Province with respect to the high premium rates that people are paying.

One of the reasons, I think, that we are now paying higher premium rates, Mr. Speaker - and I'm not saying this to insult anyone, any of the public or whatever the case may be. We have a tendency now, in more recent years, to become a bit more Americanized. I don't know why that is the case, but now we see people suing for everything, right, left and centre. If there was a minor accident, maybe a few years people would just forget about it and go on their merry way and say: Okay, no problem. Today I think people see the opportunity to get a buck from an accident and of course they are suing.

I've had discussions with some people in the insurance industry. Basically - and I'm sure there are people in this House who know much more about this than I do - what is happening now is it depends on injury, and they are setting certain settlements, I suppose, depending on the injury, if you had a broken arm, if you had a whiplash, or whatever the case may be. They are setting rates now where they would pay out to the individual hurt, rather than basically going to court. Court fees are astronomical, and that in itself is driving insurance rates up.

The costs, as I said, to the individuals are very restrictive. For example, people in the Province now - and I've talked to some people in the know. It seems to be on the increase now, that people are driving without automobile insurance, and they are taking the risk to be fined rather than paying out $2,000 and $3,000. If they are caught and go to court they will be fined for driving without automobile insurance. The fines that are being set out, I believe, are not as high as what the insurance rates or the insurance premiums are, so they are taking a risk.

They aren't only taking a big risk with respect to having to pay a fine, but the problem here, as I see it, is they are taking a risk if they injure someone or could injure someone for life. Then that person could be left holding the bag, possibly in a wheelchair for the rest of their life, and not getting any compensation, and that is the type of risk that people are prepared to take now because they really cannot come up with the cash to pay the premiums for the insurance companies. In the economy of today I can understand why. I do not agree with it, by any stretch of the imagination, but I can understand why people are prepared to take that chance.

When you sit back and think about it, if an individual now is on social services, or the working poor, making $5 to $6 an hour, with two or three children, it is pretty hard to pass out $200 or $300 a month, depending on the situation, I would say, but it is pretty hard for those individuals to say: Well, what am I going to do this month? Am I going to put a bit of bread and butter on the table for my children, or am I going to pay out $200 to my insurance company? That is a legitimate concern, and that is what the committee will have to look at in due course when they look at why our premiums are increasing so fast.

Another point, I suppose, that the insurance companies are looking at, and I had some discussion with the insurance companies on this, too, a couple of years ago the then Minister of Works, Services and Transportation dropped motor vehicle inspections. People, especially the insurance companies, wondered why that was the case, why the minister did that. Was he being lobbied by somebody, some groups? I do not know. I still do not understand the reasoning behind that. It was only recently, when the responsibility went to the department of the new Minister of Government Services and Lands, there was some talk that they were reviewing reinstating motor vehicle inspections. Again, the Minister of Government Services and Lands came out and basically made the statement that they would not be reinstating motor vehicle inspections. Again, I believe people in the insurance industry were quite alarmed at that. What is happening now, I believe that in some cases, depending upon the age of the car, insurance companies themselves are actually asking for motor vehicle inspections, and rightly so, that they would request motor vehicle inspections, because over the long haul, if you break it through, what you will see is that they are trying to keep the standard of the automobiles on our highways at a certain level.

Personally speaking, I have seen, on our roads, cars that maybe two years ago would not be on the highway, by any stretch of the imagination. Just as a lay person, not being a mechanic or a police officer, or what have you, I can just look at cars and say: Well, I question whether those cars should be on the highway.

It was only yesterday, I believe - it was in the media today, in the news this morning - that on Logy Bay Road there was an inspection situation set up where a number of cars were hauled in and inspected. I really do not have the results to comment on how many were actually taken off the road, but there were a few taken off the road, I believe, I say to the Constable sitting down at the end.

There are a lot of factors involved with respect to the motor vehicle insurance within this Province. I made a few notes on this as people were up speaking so far, and I have pretty well covered what I wanted to say.

There is one point here that I did not mention, the fact that insurance companies now also charge more, I think, for your premium if a person has gotten a ticket - a speeding ticket, or driving through a red light or what have you. I suppose that can be looked at in two ways. If a driver, over a number of years, over a certain period of time, is consistently getting speeding tickets, or is consistently going through red lights or amber lights, or whatever the case may be, and putting people's safety at risk, and by putting other people's safety at risk they are putting themselves at risk, and they are putting their insurance companies at risk, and what have you, I can see that there would be a higher premium for that. But there are people - and I am not condoning it, but - there are people who would drive along any given highway, or on Torbay Road, or Logy Bay Road, or Kenmount Road, and be preoccupied. They are not supposed to be, but they have something on their mind, and they might go fifteen or twenty kilometres over the speed limit and probably get a speeding ticket, and their insurance rates could very easily go up because of a speeding ticket.

I see the Member for Humber Valley making notes, and I know that he is well informed on this issue, so when he gets up he will probably make a comment on that point. Maybe it is one ticket, two tickets, or five tickets, I am not sure, but I certainly do not agree with the fact that if a person gets one speeding ticket that his insurance rates would go up. It could be that in any given situation, on any given day, that any of us could be preoccupied and our speed could creep up on us unknowingly, but we should not have to pay for that. We pay the speeding ticket, we pay the price, and we pay the penalty at that point in time, so really I do not know if we should, in other words, pay the price twice.

Also, the Member for Bonavista South made a comment on the fact that our insurance premiums go up because people are driving without motor vehicle insurance, and the premiums go up by $11.00 for each individual in the Province who is responsible enough to have automobile insurance, and who is concerned about their driving, and about injuring someone else, or whatever the case may be. Now, we have to pay an extra $11.00 for those people who do not care about insurance, or who are driving without insurance. Now, $11.00 may not sound like a lot but it adds up, I suppose, Mr. Speaker.

MR. TULK: Did you get your windshield fixed yet?

MR. J. BYRNE: Twice, I say to the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Did you get a refund back from your insurance company?

MR. J. BYRNE: No, I had to pay it back.

That is the very point we were talking about, the Government House Leader interjecting again and making jokes about a very serious issue.

MR. TULK: I am not making jokes.

MR. J. BYRNE: You are making jokes, and making levity of the whole situation, and it is a very serious situation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I take it that my time is up, and may be a few members on the other side will address the concerns that have been spoken to on this side of the House.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WOODFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to echo some of the comments made by previous speakers, and also in doing that I would say from the outset that I will be supporting the motion put forward by the Member for Bonavista South. It is sort of a motherhood issue and one that I have been always, for some time now, interested in and concerned with. Especially, with the way insurance rates are set in this Province. That, as far as I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, is the bottom line. It is the root of all evil when it comes to the insurance industry in this Province.

The minister stated in his statement that there are only two other jurisdictions in Canada that use the PUB board for setting rates. That is not necessarily bad, just about you use the PUB board. The problem we have with it, as far as I am concerned, and this is a personal opinion - the member has already stated that we have a committee in place. The previous committee was dealing with purely some type of no fault insurance for the Province. The terms of reference has been expanded now to include all property and casualty insurance in the Province, namely auto, residential, commercial and so on.

In doing that, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that have come to light, especially, as I have said before, with regards to the setting of rates by the PUB board. That is based primarily on a bench mark range and that bench mark range is arrived at by an actuarial done by the PUB board. Done by whom? Done by an actuarial that is hired and paid for by the PUB board. Now, if the filing and the claim is made within those bench mark ranges, then in most cases it is automatically accepted, but if it is not then there is a review called. Who intervenes, Mr. Speaker? Who has the money and the resources in this Province, especially consumers, the ordinary constituent and consumer, to intervene, and every member in the House knows this over the years, especially as it pertains to Newfoundland Power, Newfoundland Hydro, and so on, the telephone companies, so it becomes an intimidation process and it just does not work. If anybody ever read the actuarial done by the PUB board for the setting of rates in this Province, just take note of the references on the bottom of pretty well every page in the actuarial.

It says; stats obtained from IBC, stats obtained from a certain province, stats not available in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Who is IBC, Mr. Speaker? IBC represents all the insurance companies in Canada and we base our rates, our bench mark range in rates based on this type of actuarial. That to me, Mr. Speaker, is totally wrong. There is a conflict, no question, when you look at the references made to IBC, brokers and insurance companies in this Province and other parts of Canada.

The other thing, Mr. Speaker, is that people have said to me: So what? We don't have to go to Johnsons, we don't have to go to LeGrows, we don't have to go to RC Anthony. You have to have insurance, Mr. Speaker. How many people in this Province today can go out, buy a vehicle and not have insurance, who have the money and all they have to do is put liability on it? They do not have it. The banks want to be covered and leasing companies want to be covered. In fact, leasing companies today have a minimum of $1 million coverage for liability insurance on their vehicles. You cannot take it off the lot unless there is $1 million worth of coverage on it. Our minimum coverage for liability in the Province is $200,000. Now most people, if they have a vehicle and it is not financed by a financial institution, can go out and just put the liability on it, drive away and take chances on that.

When you go down through - the Member for Cape St. Francis just mentioned about the tickets. We go out on the demerit system, your point system, if you lose points you pay a fine. If you get caught a second time, you lose points and you pay a larger fine. Then you go into an insurance company to renew your insurance policy and what do they do? They punch in on the computer and they say: Okay, Mr. John Doe from somewhere in the Province, oh I'm sorry, you had two speeding tickets last month or six months ago, your insurance has gone from $478 up to $1,700. Worse still, Mr. Speaker, I have examples from people in the Province showing that just because they made a claim, put it in, notified the insurance company and never claimed a thing, claimed absolutely nothing and their insurance rates have gone up.

I have examples of people with two and three speeding tickets, switched over to a facility association. Why? When we switched a few years ago from judgement recovery, Mr. Speaker, in this Province, that is the only avenue uninsured drivers had in this Province, they went over to a facility insurance. It was done for what reason? To cover people who were hit by uninsured drivers in the Province. Then we put a system in place where every - the Member for Bonavista South has already stated this - every policy holder in the Province pays eleven dollars, everybody, to cover - well it might be gone up now to twelve, it used to be eleven dollars - to cover uninsured drivers in the Province. So the insurance companies are covered but the onus should be on the insurance companies as far as I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that motor registration is notified when someone cancels insurance or do not pay their insurance. Most companies - and I am sure members in the House know full well, when they get a renewal for their insurance they get this little so-called pink slip. It comes with your renewal, automatically.

I will never forget the story - an RCMP officer stopped me last spring just outside of Cormack. He said I meant to tell you before about this, Mr. Woodford, but I stopped six drivers this morning before 8:00 a.m. He said four of those drivers never had insurance. Now two, he said, I could prove right away, I knew because of the dates on them. The other two he said, had the pink slips. He said, I can venture to bet that they did not have insurance. If an RCMP officer stops you on the road or an RNC officer, he walks up to your window, you put down the window, he asks for your license and insurance. The only thing that he can guarantee when he goes back to his cruiser is that you have a license. You might think that he is checking out your insurance, he is not. He does not know. He may take the name and the dates off your insurance policy -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: That is true, that is a fact. Most people figure they are checking out their insurance and license but they are not. They are checking out your license, they will get your license and registration but they are not checking on the insurance. What some of them do now, they take your name and information off your insurance slip and when they go back, if you are a suspect, they will phone the insurance company, the name of the insurance company is on it and determine then whether they have insurance or not but they do not do it. I thought for years that when they checked your licence they automatically checked your insurance.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: Yes, like your licence, but it isn't so. Mr. Speaker, the problem with it is that when we go in to get insurance the consumer is nailed. Because every insurance company in this Province is tied into the Motor Registration data base. Every one of them. All they have to do is punch in their computer and bring up the Member for Bonavista South or the Member for Conception Bay South or the Member for Humber Valley and tell you whether you had a speeding ticket last month, tell you whether you had an accident. They have all that there, and then you are nailed for it. When you lose your points, when you pay your fine, your second fine, then you go to your insurance company the next year, and then you are nailed for a higher increase in your insurance rates. So you can't win.

To me, fifteen minutes to speak on a subject like this, I think that we should probably be given a week in the House for each member to speak for seven or eight hours and bring out all the pros and cons of insurance and the way it is carried out in this Province. Because every consumer in this Province, everybody is touched by it, one way or the other, whether it be auto, residential, or commercial. We have to have it, people must have it. Most responsible people in the Province will carry it.

The member stated he believes there is probably, what, 20 per cent. I'm the same way, probably higher.

AN HON. MEMBER: Twenty per cent of what?

MR. WOODFORD: Twenty per cent of the drivers in this Province driving without insurance. Now, IBC says there is 6 per cent to 8 per cent. I think there is more than that, to be honest with you. Something is going to have to be done in that situation.

With regards to the rating territories in this Province, rating territories one, two and three, we all know now why the increases on the insurance rates in territory one are so high. Because of the urban centre and more accidents, that is why, they are telling us, that the rates are up. I agree. Why should someone out in Burin Peninsula -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: That is right. Bonavista, and out around the outside have to pay those same rates. We do it on an individual basis. When they go in - and I had two tickets. They rolled me over into facility insurance. If I had two accidents they rolled me over into facility insurance and nailed me for $3,000 or $4,000. But yet, because someone is driving in an urban centre, and someone is out in Bonavista South or Burin, they will pay the same rate. Just go west of Bonavista, different rate altogether, as much as 20 per cent less. Go to Labrador, in rating three on Labrador, it is different still. But yet -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WOODFORD: The member said to me (inaudible) going to get a ticket for snowmobiles down in Wally Andersen's district. But Wally Andersen is after getting three or four tickets, so he isn't here, I'm sorry, to....

AN HON. MEMBER: For speeding.

MR. WOODFORD: For speeding. Mr. Speaker, it is very serious business. Last year when we looked into this with regards to the no-fault part of it, the insurance companies said, and this is no secret, that it was brought on by third-party claims. Third-party claims. Well, put it bluntly, the law firms in the Province were to blame, the chiropractors, and the physiotherapists. When we figured and said and suggested that the terms of reference were going to be expanded to include all types, all property and casualty insurance, what happened? The insurance companies went right snaky, so to speak. They did not want us looking into underwriting practices. I was told in no uncertain terms: What right do you have to look into underwriting practices?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) true.

MR. WOODFORD: I asked a gentleman, I said: What right have you got to question me for looking into underwriting practices? I'm representing the consumer. Every man and woman in this House was elected to represent the consumer. But yet you aren't allowed to question underwriting practices, which is done by regulation. Some of it is by legislation. It has to be brought back into this House and dealt with,. Most of it is done by regulation through the Superintendent of Insurance, and they can do pretty well what they like.

We have to question the claims practices, we have to question the time limit on settlements, we have to question whether the PUB board is an effective mechanism for dealing with insurance rate increase in the Province and there are a number of other things as far as I am concerned, if we do nothing else on the committee, only address the underwriting practices and the validity of some of those practices, then as far as I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, we will be doing the consumer justice. We will be doing the consumer justice.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WOODFORD: We just saw Friday evening, Johnsons Insurance, a great company, well run, a good, efficient company like all other insurance companies in the Province we hope, and the latest information I had, they are - $40 million. Who were they bought out by? Royal Insurance, a company that is worth $100 billion. Who runs Icon? Who is looking after the interest of the people of the Province on that when you look at AXA, $450-billion industry, just bought out a insurance company in Europe the other day for $250 million, $67 million in profits last year in the States.

An example last night, when we had a gentleman looked after in a hotel room, where did he come from? Some part of the United States, went in and went and checked out a hotel room without a piece of equipment, not a piece of equipment. There is another company in the Province looked after by another company, outside the Province. So, Mr. Speaker, we are going to have to question, somewhere along the way, why such large increases?

I have been noticing and I am sure the Member for Bonavista South and other members of the committee have been noticing though, in the last few months, certain things have been addressed that never have been addressed before.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. WOODFORD: Mr. Speaker, just a couple more minutes?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber Valley, by leave.

MR. WOODFORD: I won't take other members time but I will try to just deal with this particular one I was just talking about, Mr. Speaker.

With regards to the increases by the companies, something has to be done with regards to the way they go in and just ask for rate increases. I noticed and members noticed, some of the press clippings in the last few weeks, one as late as today, and I will just quote, comments made by IBC and so on: "But the mountain of claims may have hit a plateau sooner than expected, allowing some insurances companies to quickly jump into the black." Quickly jump into the black? "Our experience would suggest, yes, claims have levelled off."

MR. FITZGERALD: Sold the other day for 100 million.

MR. WOODFORD: "The size of the claims has levelled off but accident rates have also decreased."

True, the Member for Bonavista South just mentioned it, 9,900 and some odd accidents back in 1991. That was when the reporting, Mr. Speaker, was $500 or over, a change I think it was in 1991. Now, today, it was 3,100 and some odd accidents, cut by 66 per cent or 70 per cent, when the reporting is $1,000 or more and has to be reported. Previous to 1991, it was $500; a thousand dollars since 1991 but yet, the accidents in the Province have gone from 9,900 and some odd down to 3,100 and some odd this year, Mr. Speaker. Fatalities went in 1991, from fifty-one down to today, twenty-six. The exact figure on the accidents with 9,934 to 3,177 today when our insurance rates in this Province have gone anywhere from 26 per cent to 42 per cent in the last four years.

Now, Mr. Speaker, someone will have to explain why such large, large increases. So this committee, Mr. Speaker, has a lot of work to do. We were told not to go outside the purview of looking at auto insurance. Don't go outside, it is none of your business. Well, Mr. Speaker-

AN HON. MEMBER: Who told you that?

MR. WOODFORD: Certain people here in the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: But not in the House?

MR. WOODFORD: No, no, not in the House.

We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of questions to ask. Like I said, this is the type of subject on which you could go on and on, but I am sure there is not a member of the House who has not been touched one way or another by the way that insurance rates are set, but more importantly by the way they are administered and treated by insurance companies in this Province.

I think the people of this Province deserve better, and I think it is incumbent upon each member of this Chamber to make sure that our clients, that our consumers and our constituents, are treated in a fair and equitable way.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, there is unanimous consent on this resolution, I think, that we are all going to vote for the resolution. I just want to make a point. We were waving at each other across the House, and I do not know whether the hon. gentleman on the other side is ready to put the motion and adjourn the House so that we can get on, maybe, with some business that we all have to do, and maybe do some work in our offices, or have meetings that we all need to carry out, because we are all in agreement on this resolution.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, with the agreement of my colleagues who are present here in the House, having had a chance to discuss it with them and with the mover of the motion, and in agreement with my hon. colleagues on the opposite side of the House, we would have no objection to perhaps permitting my friend, the Member for Bonavista South to have some concluding comments. Then we could put the question and we would agree to adjourn the House for the day and to reconvene tomorrow at the regular time.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: I will not prolong the debate any further. I thank members, both opposite and on this side, for supporting this resolution. It is one that I think touches us all, and the people that we support out there.

I suppose insurance, by its very name, when you look at it, why do we buy insurance? We buy insurance to protect us. You go out and buy a life insurance policy today, and if you die tomorrow you do not have somebody knocking on your door, saying that there is a price on dying. But you go and buy auto insurance, and as soon as you go to use it, what happens? You have to pay extra for it. Insurance, by its very name, right here, as it relates to auto insurance, to me is a farce and not truly representative of the reason why we buy protection.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank members opposite, and members on this side as well, who spoke in favour of this resolution, and I would implore the Minister of Government Services and Lands to try to bring his suggestions to Cabinet for approval, especially to get the Bonavista and Burin Peninsulas taken out of Territory 1, where they are placed now, and put in Territory 2, where the reflection of the risk would be an indication of the reflection of premiums, because I feel that right now it is certainly unfair for those two particular areas to be lumped in with the greater urban area, to be paying the cost of insurance premiums as they have been charged since Confederation, I guess.

Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

All in favour of the motion, `aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: Opposed, `nay'.

I declare the motion carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before we move the adjournment of the House, I should inform members in my usual, magnanimous, co-operative, ever-loving manner -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who are you talking about?

MR. TULK: Talking about me, boy.

I should inform the Opposition House Leader that tomorrow we are going to start with Order No. 13 on today's Order Paper, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act". (Bill No. 25) We will leave out No. 38 until the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs returns to the Province, and then we will just move down the Order Paper. I presume that by tomorrow evening at 5:00 o'clock we should have most of it done.

With that I move that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

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