December 5, 1996           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLIII  No. 47

 


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair would like to take this opportunity to welcome a group of senior management officials from the China National Petroleum Corporation. These officials are attending a training session at Memorial University in St. John's and they are accompanied by Mr. Glenn Rowe, Director for the Centre for Management Development, Faculty of Business Administration in Memorial University.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

As well, today in the Speaker's Gallery, we have the former Member for Harbour Grace, Mr. John Crane, and I would like to welcome him as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would also like to recognize and welcome forty-five students from the Democracy Class at Queen Elizabeth High School.

They are accompanied by their teacher, Mr. Fred Wood and Mr. Derek Stevenson.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: We also have a group from the Rabbittown Literacy Project in the District of St. John's North and they are accompanied by Doris Hapgood who is the co-ordinator, and tutors, Elizabeth Gabriel; Cecil Sullivan and Lori Hapgood, and we would like to welcome them as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I have been asked to remind hon. members that this evening at 6.30, the annual Christmas Lights Across Canada ceremony will be taking place on the front steps of the building and that all members and their families are invited to attend.

Statements by Ministers

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, this is an historic moment for education in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Yesterday, the House of Commons passed the amendments to Term 17 of the Terms of Union between Newfoundland and Canada which were requested by this government on behalf of the people of the Province. The Newfoundland Legislature, by virtue of this amendment, will now have control over the way schools are organized and administered in this Province.

In 1991, the hon. Clyde Wells appointed a Royal Commission to study the delivery of education in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Royal Commission, Mr. Speaker, reported containing over 200 recommendations aimed at improving the educational opportunities for children in this Province and removing inefficiencies in the administrative structure. Many of these reforms could not be implemented until extensive changes had occurred in the manner in which schools and school boards were administered.

After receiving the Commission's report, Mr. Speaker, government entered into negotiations with representatives of the denominations involved. After nearly three years of discussions, government and the denominational representatives were unsuccessful in reaching agreement on a restructured school system. In the Fall of 1995, government sought the approval of the people, in a referendum, to amend Term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada, in order to proceed with the restructuring plans.

Government took the first steps towards broad education reform when, in November 1995, it requested the Parliament of Canada to amend Term 17. The House of Commons passed the resolution in June, 1996. However, it was unnecessarily delayed in the Senate until November 27, 1996 when it was returned to the House of Commons and received final approval yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, the new school districts have now been established, the interim school boards have been appointed and have hired their senior administrative staff. We are now in a position to move forward with the more substantive reforms to the education system, which will have a direct effect on improving educational opportunities and programs for the students themselves.

During September and October of this year I conducted a series of nineteen public consultations and invited public discussion on student transportation, school viability, and the designation of schools and on other matters related to the proposed reforms. Approximately 5000 individuals attended those consultation sessions, and as a result, about 250 submissions were presented and in excess of 1000 people completed survey forms by mail. A new draft Schools Act, and a new draft Education Act have subsequently been prepared, taking into consideration the comments received in response to the January 3 documents and the presentations, suggestions, and comments received.

 

The interim school boards which were appointed in August will assume full responsibility for the administration of schools by January 1, 1997. These boards have told me and the government that they must immediately begin the process of reorganizing their schools for the 1997/'98 school year. It is unfortunate that the process has been somewhat delayed. However, we are prepared with the co-operation of our colleagues in this House to do as the people of the Province expect us to do; that is, to move the education reform agenda forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, while the legislation will, I expect, be introduced very quickly, we remain committed to consulting with our major partners and stakeholders in education, the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association, the Newfoundland and Labrador School Boards' Association, the Denominational Education Councils, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Home and School Federation. I expect to do this within the next few days.

On behalf of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I wish to publicly acknowledge the contribution of each and every member of this Legislature, to date, in unanimously supporting government's efforts to amend Term 17.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: It is imperative that, in these times of rapidly declining enrolment and scarce resources, the current complex system with its duplication of school boards, administrative offices, schools and transportation systems, be fundamentally redesigned for educational excellence and fiscal responsibility. The children of the Province, Mr. Speaker, deserve no less.

Thank you very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Unfortunately, the tradition which was established by the hon. minister with respect to providing Ministerial Statements well in advance was broken today. I just received this copy. It is unfortunate, because it is with respect to such an important issue.

Mr. Speaker, my comment in reaction to this is: Let us now, all of us in this Province, forget the unfortunate history on the road to education reform. Let us forget perhaps what we can call an unnecessary course of events, and in the interest of all of the students of this Province, let us now deal with the present and the future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, the vote in the Commons yesterday was clearly a decisive vote, and I agree with the hon. the minister that we must now move quickly. We must move along in the interest of the students of our Province.

I also support the position of the hon. the minister in consulting with and debating the issues of reform with all the interested parties, all the stakeholders in education. We must do this; we must do it now. We must move along with legislation very quickly, and we have to do this in the interest of everybody.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Finally, Mr. Speaker, in accordance with a point that was made by the hon. the Premier several months ago, we on this side of the House would be interested in seeing draft legislation as quickly as possible.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank hon. members for giving me leave to speak on this historic occasion. As the minister has indicated, it is a long time coming. When I was a university student, as we all were, we first became aware of the serious problem that we had in this Province with the duplication of schools and effort. And after a lengthy and sometimes acrimonious battle to change the Constitution, we are now at the point where consensus has been reached in this House. The House of Commons has agreed to change the Constitution of this Province and to allow us all to move forward.

I hope in doing so, we can ensure the religious denominations and their adherents that they do have in this Province, even after these reforms, more rights, more access to all of the schools of the Province, to teach religious beliefs, than in other province of this country. That should be, Mr. Speaker, a reason for consolation and satisfaction, not a reason for acrimony or concern that their rights have been eliminated.

I join with the minister and with the Official Opposition spokesperson on education in hoping that we can all go forward with a piece of legislation, having reviewed it, that will not bring forth great debate in principle in this House, but we can move forward to having implementation of the plans for reform.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. EFFORD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Since my appointment as Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, I have repeatedly spoken to the need to diversify the fishing industry of this Province. I have highlighted specific fisheries development opportunities for underutilized species, in particular, and my department has already undertaken a number of initiatives relative to inshore shrimp, Atlantic king crab and porcupine crab. I have also stated that we should derive greater benefits from the northern shrimp fishery which, to date, has been prosecuted by offshore freezer trawlers. Indeed, I have made representation to my federal colleague on a number of occasions speaking to the need to provide greater participation in the fishery by inshore vessels immediately adjacent to the resource.

Hon. members may be aware that the hon. Fred Mifflin, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced on November 29 past that his department will be seeking industry views on sharing increases in the northern shrimp quota. This fishery occurs from off Eastern Newfoundland, along the Labrador Coast, and into Davis Strait with seventeen licence holders, including eight in Newfoundland and Labrador. The combined shrimp quota for 1996 is 37,600 tonnes and each licence receives an equal allocation.

Minister Mifflin has noted that should quotas increase above existing levels, additional access should be granted. We understand the resource is very healthy and that quota increases are likely when the new multi-year management plan is announced by the end of March, 1997.

Mr. Speaker, I have made repeated representations to my federal counterpart and his department about the northern shrimp fishery which in the past has been of little benefit to inshore fish harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador. Minister Mifflin's initiative means that for the first time ever, these harvesters will have access to that great resource.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. EFFORD: I commend him for his action, and the cooperation he has given the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador on this issue and others.

Mr. Speaker, this announcement presents a significant economic development opportunity for those regions of the Province adjacent to the northern shrimp resource. It is the position of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador that those regions must be the primary beneficiaries of benefits associated with any increase in quotas for northern shrimp. This is the position that I again will be communicating to my federal counterpart. Our inshore fish harvesters have the capability to prosecute this fishery, and there are plants which will have a strong interest in providing onshore processing opportunities. I encourage industry to take full advantage of this new opportunity, and submit proposals to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Mr. Speaker, this announcement, together with the recent recommendation relative to the limited reopening of the 3Ps and West Coast cod fisheries, demonstrates that the rebuilding of our fishery has taken a turn for the better. I am most encouraged by these developments and I have every confidence that this shrimp resource opportunity will strengthen our fishery and will provide welcome economic benefits to those who will participate in the harvesting and processing sectors of this fishery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

First of all I thank the minister for providing me with a copy of this ministerial statement prior to the opening of the House. I say we finally got a fisheries minister up in Ottawa who is starting to listen to Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: We certainly welcome that because that is certainly a pleasant change but the minister failed to say how this particular species was going to be fished. Anything that would give our rural Newfoundlanders an opportunity to go back into their fish plants and to allow inshore fishermen an opportunity to harvest a new species, Mr. Speaker, is certainly welcome news but from what I understand, the way that this particular species is now fished, it causes great concern by many of the people out there, even the fishermen themselves, whereby they use the Nordmore Grape and they go out and scrape it over the bottom. By the very process of harvesting this particular species of fish, Mr. Speaker, it is destroying tons and tons of juvenile cod, juvenile turbot, juvenile halibut and this is coming from the fishermen themselves saying it is not uncommon to have to shovel those small juvenile fish off the decks of their boats.

Mr. Speaker, while this is welcomed news, and it will provide opportunities, I say to the minister: Be very cautious about this particular fish now and into the future.

Thank you.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the hon. Members of the House of Assembly of the signing of the Canada/Newfoundland Farm Business Management Agreement. This agreement will provide approximately $780,000 over three years, 1996 to 1999, for the Farm Business Management Program for Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Speaker, this program will help to expand the farm management culture from its previous emphasis on production to include a more business oriented and market responsive approach.

Mr. Speaker, a major focus of this agreement is to sponsor projects which are designed to enhance the ability of farm managers to effectively manage change. As with other provinces across the country, Mr. Speaker, the agricultural industry in Newfoundland and Labrador has changed radically in the past three to five years. By re-identifying the human resource development needs of the industry, the Canada/Newfoundland Farm Business Management Program will ensure that the funding allocations made through this program have the greatest effect and impact in assisting farm managers to grow with these changes.

Mr. Speaker, this program will be used to upgrade the farm management skills of Newfoundland and Labrador's farm businesses, almost all of which are family owned and operated. Through their farm organizations, farmers will be able to initiate projects which use technology for improved information management, or involve the refinement of marketing knowledge and skills, the application of business planning, and the development of farmers' entrepreneurial skills. Mr. Speaker, the Canada/Newfoundland Farm Business Management Program will promote strategies designed to increase the competitiveness of the industry in domestic and international markets.

This partnership program, Mr. Speaker, is equally funded by the federal and provincial governments, and includes the Province's ongoing Farm Business Management Program as part of our contribution. This Canada/Newfoundland Farm Business Management Agreement has been signed as part of a renewed national initiative, the Canadian Farm Business Management Program, which has been operating since 1992. However, Mr. Speaker, this new program places more emphasis on encouraging greater integration and co-ordination of government and industry efforts in areas of farm management skills, development and training. Mr. Speaker, the agreement has been refocused to support activities which will achieve value-added benefits to the agricultural industry. It will provide the opportunity for greater sharing of materials, tools and information among the provinces, as well as the incremental development of tools and information to improve the competitiveness of the sector.

The overall goal of the Canadian Farm Business Management Program is to help farm managers successfully manage their farm businesses through more effective use of farm business management information and skills. Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, this should result in a financially stronger, more market oriented sector, and in strengthened individual farm operations.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I again thank the minister for providing me with a copy of this ministerial statement prior to the opening of the House.

It is certainly welcome news to the farming industry. Anything that we can do to help this industry and lead it along is certainly encouraging. Because farming, especially root crop farming in this Province, has enough to contend with already when we consider our weather and the type of soil that we have here.

The one thing I would like to impress upon the minister once again - he has addressed it here - is marketing. It is certainly unfair to the farmers in this particular Province whereby when it comes harvest time all of a sudden we get vegetables from other provinces being dumped onto the market here, lowering the value of locally produced vegetables right here in this Province. Our same farmers are not provided the opportunity, or don't have the privilege, of taking their crops to other provinces, as the minister is well aware. This is one thing that the farmers in this Province have continually made me aware of. I know that the minister is aware of it, and I think he or the government should move as soon as possible to do whatever is needed in order to ensure that this doesn't continue to happen, and our farmers are given an equal opportunity to compete in the marketplace today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Oral Questions

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Environment and Labour. I ask the minister: Why has the provincial government given up our autonomy on environmental assessments regarding the transshipment facility?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, first off, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. The government has given up no autonomy whatsoever when it comes to environmental assessment. This project was registered like any other project under the Environmental Assessment Act. It was duly examined by all of the experts that we have in different departments, including the federal, including provincial. The opinion that came back to this minister was to release the project from assessment. It doesn't mean it is released from all the other authorizations and permits and protection plans that we will require for it. Not only that, it has to go through federal jurisdiction, also the federal environmental assessment act, which it is doing now. It may take still some time to do that. This project, I can assure you, will be protected within the Department of Environment and Labour.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you. Will the minister confirm that this Province has responsibility for environmental assessments onshore and for up to three miles offshore?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have responsibility under the Environmental Assessment Act for that area.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Minister, you received a development plan from companies which resulted in their being released from the provincial environmental assessment. Are you setting a dangerous precedent for such a large industrial development? Will you release this plan to the public to alleviate any concerns in this regard?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, this project was registered in September of this year. It was public in September of this year, and I can tell you -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: If the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, was concerned about this earlier the fall, maybe they would have asked some questions about the project, because they could have picked up the document and read it. Because it was quite available. Since September, as a matter of fact. As a matter of fact -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, this is a public document. It was duly registered in September. Any person in this Province can get a copy of the document. They can look at whatever they think is a concern, and they can register that concern. As a matter of fact, if they still have a concern they can register the concern. I will have a copy delivered this afternoon, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I asked the minister for information that would alleviate concerns when they made a decision and decided not to go to an environmental impact statement. That is basically the procedure. I ask the minister, is he aware of a report that indicates that Placentia Bay is considered one of the high risk areas for navigation in this country, and one of the least able to respond to a spill? An area that is fundamental now in the recovery of our fishery.

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, there are two federal acts which will govern the federal environmental assessment act and the concerns that people may have about navigable waters, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to any transshipment activity. Now both these acts are being looked at by the federal officials and they will have to make a decision as to whether or not the present documents submitted, deals with offshore water navigations. So, Mr. Speaker, the federal government, in its jurisdiction is going to deal with that concern, but further to that, I have already met with the proponent.

I called in the proponent only a couple of weeks ago and asked them directly and said to them directly: I want to make sure and I want to be assured, that even if the federal government is going to be looking at this, I want to make sure that you submit to me, an environmental protection plan to this provincial government, which will also cover any potential for oil spill response, and I asked them directly if they would submit that, they have agreed to do so to this provincial government even though, they may not be required normally, but we are getting it for our purposes because we want to ensure, as a provincial government

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. K. AYLWARD: - and those officials of the company have agreed. But also, they still have to go through the Federal Environmental Assessment Act, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister expects the oil to know when it is within three miles of the shore?

We must be ready for an oil spill. Now, while nobody will want a spill to happen, it would be negligent to ignore the possibility, and the Coast Guard is not capable of responding and neither is the provincial government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister, during a critical twelve hours after a spill, what will we do and who will do it in the case of a spill?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, first off, the federal government, through the Federal Environmental Assessment Act and also under the Canada Shipping Act, is going to require, for sure, on site, immediate response for any potential oil spill, on shore, right on site and they will have to have it. But also, not only will the federal government require it, they will not move ahead on this project unless we get the same thing through an environmental protection plan, Mr. Speaker. We have written to them and asked for this and required it and they will give it to us. So on both counts, they will have to submit both to the federal and provincial governments a response program that meets for sure, any immediate response to an oil spill that may occur offshore.

It does not matter how close to shore. We are going to ensure that, that sensitive area is evaluated thoroughly, we are going to make sure that the company has the best technology, Mr. Speaker, because it is a sensitive area in Placentia Bay and we want to make sure that we cover it off and we are going to do our best to do that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In the case of a spill, I asked him what will we do? He said we will evaluate it and we will look at things. I think it is a bit too late then Mr. Minister to evaluate things after we have had a spill.

Now, Mr. Minister, we have the Come By Chance oil refinery, we have the smelter and refinery just recently announced at Argentia, we have the transshipment facility -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I sure hope it does. These facilities will mean nothing to the people of Placentia Bay or to this Province if one oil spill takes it all away.

Now, Mr. Minister, an environmental assessment is not red tape. Will you reverse the decision and do what is right to ensure that Placentia Bay will never have to be resettled again?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, you know, storage tanks are not a new thing in this Province or in Atlantic Canada. I mean, we have a number of tanks all over the Province close to our shores, Mr. Speaker, which right now, are under the strictest guidelines on the planet, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to environmental protection. Right now there is a response program that is already set up for Come By Chance refinery and Holyrood refinery and which are already in place, but I will tell you now, Mr. Speaker, we are not satisfied with that. We are going to want better than that when further activity occurs in the transshipment area.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. K. AYLWARD: Yes, we have double-hold vessels, they are going to be the biggest and the best in the world. Some of the best built vessels in the world, double-hold for sure; but, given all that other protection, we are going to ensure that we have a proper protection plan. We are looking at, right at this point in time, the technology they are using in Norway, we are looking at the technology they are using in Europe, we are having briefings on that in the next few weeks and I am going to be sitting down again.

I have already met with the Director General of Fisheries and Oceans, and Coastguard previously, a little more than a month ago to discuss this issue, and we will be meeting with the federal minister next week in Toronto.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SHELLEY: I was going to give the minister some leave so the show could go on, but we have to stop the show for a little while to ask a few questions of the Minister of Mines and Energy.

Of course, most of the hype and talk about Voisey's Bay has been related to nickel, and for good reason, of course, as there is lots of good nickel, some of the best quality and quantity in the world at Voisey's Bay. There are also reports by Inco that there are substantial amounts of copper at Voisey's Bay. I would like to ask the minister if he can confirm that there are some 250 million pounds of copper to be produced at Voisey's Bay annually?

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

DR. GIBBONS: No, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to confirm that 251 million pounds of copper will be produced annually at Voisey's Bay. l will confirm there is copper. Everybody knows there is copper, there is nickel and there is cobalt, and there are probably traces of other elements. What is going to happen at Voisey's Bay, when we are into full production and full capacity, is that we will be producing enough ore at the site to feed a smelter that is going to produce annually 270 million pounds of nickel, 7 million pounds of cobalt, and 36 million pounds of copper.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. GIBBONS: Thirty-six million pounds of copper represents about 20 per cent of the copper we anticipate at the site based on our present knowledge of the site. The numbers cannot be exact. It is going to be variable, depending on exactly how much ore is produced in a year, and depending on where it is coming from in a year.

In the initial phase of the open pit, there is a little more copper in that, and there is a little more nickel in that than there is in the underground. The reserves are higher in the underground but the grades are lower and there will be less copper, and more tons will have to be produced to get it. In the production from this deposit 20 per cent of the copper will be produced through the refinery at Argentia.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, the minister should be able to confirm it because it is right here in the report by Inco, and I am sure he has read it. I have read it a few times and I am sure the minister must have read it. Mr. Speaker, it is from the source.

It is some 250 million pounds, and I say that to be conservative numbers, I say to the minister. There are 250 million pounds of copper concentrate - the sample which I have here today, Mr. Speaker, 250 million pounds of copper about to move out of this Province. Can the minister tell us who has advised the government on the viability of smelting and refining copper at Voisey's Bay? Did the Province depend solely on Inco's information, or did it seek independent advice from people within the industry, or whether it is true that our copper has to be shipped out of the Province for refining because it is not viable here? Is that true, Mr. Speaker?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, at Argentia we are going to have the biggest smelter and refinery complex in the Western world.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. GIBBONS: It is going to be year 2000 technology, the most advanced smelter refinery complex in the world, the most environmentally clean complex in the world, and through that complex we are going to put the nickel concentrate from Voisey's Bay which will contain most of the nickel, most of the cobalt, and about 20 per cent of the copper.

Now, about 80 per cent of the copper will remain, and on an annual basis about 50,000 to 70,000 tons of copper will go elsewhere, based on assessments that have been done that copper will not be smelted at that complex. It is not economical to do so. It is not economical to build a copper smelter for 50,000, 60,000 or 70,000 tons of copper per year. In the last ten to twenty years in Canada and the United States, eight, ten or more small copper smelters have closed because they were not big enough to be economic.

New copper smelters that are built today in the world are four to five times as big as the one that will have to be built to deal with the amount of copper that will be available from Voisey's Bay. Internationally today copper smelters run much bigger than that. If you look today into South America you would find that there are copper smelters there, the Chilean copper smelters that are pushing a billion pounds of copper per year. So the economic scale is such that you don't build new small copper smelters. There is another aspect of this particular ore, that if it does not have a dedicated smelter you will not be sending it all or selling it all to one particular smelter as well. It is likely because of a nickel contaminant in it that this particular copper will be sold to several smelters in various places to produce it.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, that is exactly my point. I am delighted that the refinery that we are about to get is supposed to be state of the art and so on. What we want to make sure of is that every possibility, every stone is turned to make sure that we are not shipping 250 million pounds of copper concentrate and maybe, by the way, Mr. Speaker, even more of that out of this Province than you would find elsewhere. So we are going to lose that 250 million pound base, at least that much.

Now, Mr. Speaker, isn't it possible that we could look at others, besides Inco, to find out if it is possible for a refinery copper smelter to be built in Labrador so that a refinery can stay there in Labrador with copper?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, if there is somebody out there, whether it is on the other side of the House of Assembly or elsewhere in the Province or the world that is interested in building such a copper smelter, we would welcome them, absolutely welcome them. I am sure the company would be glad to make the product available to them on a commercial basis, no problem to do it but in terms of our assessment of the economics of this, you are dealing in copper with something that is running around ninety cents a pound. I am not sure what it is today. It might be ninety-three cents a pound today and nickel is running over $3 a pound. The last time I saw a price on nickel it was $3.18 a pound. There is a huge difference in price between the two. The nickel is the commodity which has the big commercial value in this case and there is no question, it is very viable and very economical but when you look at the 80 per cent of the copper that is going with the copper concentrate and compare that to what is done elsewhere in the world, in terms of copper smelting, a copper smelter at 50,000 to 70,000 tons a year is not in the category that most people would build today. If there is someone out there who wants to build one, come on and do it. We would be glad to see you do it.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, the minister is missing something here. It is not somebody should build one, it should be Inco that should build this copper refinery smelter in Labrador. I say to the minister, hasn't Inco said that they will be importing nickel for its refinery in Argentia? Isn't that correct? So if we are that close, Mr. Speaker, to 250 million pounds or more, why can't Inco of course look at the possibility of importing copper like they would import nickel to Argentia? Why isn't that a possibility?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, we want the most economic venture possible relative to Voisey's Bay. Absolutely the most economical venture possible and at the end of the day, we would like a few tax dollars for the people of this Province as well. We would like a few royalty dollars for the people of this Province as well and we are not interested ourselves, as a government or a people, in seeing something subsidized so that it would lose money and pull down the revenue that is going to be possible from this particular development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

DR. GIBBONS: We want to maximize the development to the benefits of the people of this Province.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. I am just simply asking the minister again today, and the whole reason for the line of questioning, have you had a second opinion, besides Inco who takes care of their shareholders, not Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, that is the government's job, to make sure with a second look that there is a possibility of a viable smelter here in this Province, I will ask the minister that again?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, we have first opinions and second opinions and other opinions. There are a lot of people who have opinions and we did not ask Inco for an opinion first, second, third or last.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

DR. GIBBONS: Lots of people have opinions on what is viable. We have our own people who are well capable with the people that we have working for us to use the knowledge that is available about this industry to do an evaluation of this industry, and we have done that. So we do not need to ask Inco for their opinion, and their opinion alone. We believe this decision is well-founded.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, according to a 1993 financial audit, $18,000 was misspent by the Town of Pouch Cove and, according to a 1995 financial audit, $16,000 is unaccounted for. Residents have demonstrated their outrage that their tax dollars have gone missing; yet, the circumstances remain a mystery and no one has been able to assure residents this will not happen again. I ask the minister: What has he done to get to the bottom of the situation in Pouch Cove? And what action does he have planned to bring about an acceptable resolution to the situation?

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

MR. A. REID: Two questions, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: The first question was: What have I done, or what am I planning to do? There have been two separate police investigations in that town - finished, complete - the report sent back to the Department of Justice and ultimately to me.

What do I do with the town? I would certainly take the recommendations of the member into consideration if he would propose the suspension or the expulsion of that particular council. I would take it under consideration. But I will say to you and this hon. House, the last thing that I want to do, as a minister representing some 280 communities in this Province, is to go out and do any more suspensions or firing.

I say to the hon. member: If he has suggestions of what the minister should do with that council, make them to the House so that we can discuss them with the people in that community.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

I say to the minister: Give me your salary and I will give you the solutions, no problem.

This is a very serious situation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you taking this (inaudible) again today?

MR. J. BYRNE: You watch now and find out.

The minister has watched this situation develop in Pouch Cove. He has seen another messy situation play itself out in Conception Bay South, where he did not listen to the member there. We are not talking about an isolated incident.

Is the minister concerned that his department may be providing inadequate resources to train new staff and municipal councillors? And is he concerned that his department may have inadequate staffing to monitor these situations and address them before they blow up like this?

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

MR. A. REID: No, Mr. Speaker. In this particular case relating to this particular community, I can honestly say that we do not have inadequate staff. Our staff at the regional office has been almost on a daily basis visiting the town, talking to the people in the town, talking to the councillors. If anything, in the past three or four months we have spent more time out in that particular area than we have in any other community on the Northeast Avalon. So do not say in this House, and leave the impression, that the staff of the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs are not able or capable of handling that particular community.

I do say to the member: I am in a situation where I have to make a decision, and make it quickly, on what to do in that particular town, but I do not want to be accused in this House, or for the member for that area to stand in this House in a month's time and accuse me for firing another council. So I say to you, in all honesty, if you want that council fired, you tell me right here and now to fire that council and I will consider what you propose.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: The minister is looking for solutions from this member here, and I will give him a solution, no problem. I have yet to ask for the council to be fired.

AN HON. MEMBER: No? What are you going to do?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, 841 of Pouch Cove's 2,000 residents have petitioned the House to have the Auditor General do a full investigation to get to the bottom of things in Pouch Cove. I am presenting that petition in the House today.

I ask the minister: Given the fact that neither he nor anyone else has been successful in finding out what is going on in Pouch Cove, or in clearing the names of those who may quite wrongly be under a cloud of suspicion, will he now agree to contact the Auditor General to impress on her the importance of this matter, and to urge her to undertake a thorough investigation of circumstances at Pouch Cove so the truth can come out?

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

MR. A. REID: Number one, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General does not come under my department, so I cannot direct the Auditor General to do anything. My immediate reaction to your request would be no. Let me tell you why I would suggest that we not send the Auditor General into Pouch Cove.

If the Auditor General goes into Pouch Cove, you are looking at a tremendous amount of expense, you are looking at a long period of time before a final answer or final decision would be made. What I would suggest to the hon. member - and I am sure a lot of us do it, I know I would do it; I am sure other members of the House do it - is that maybe if the member went down privately and met with that town council itself and offered his assistance, his long years of experience that he has himself in the municipal field, offer, make suggestions to the council itself. Who know? The council may resign! The council may resign on its own. I don't know. I have heard the mayor say on several occasions that he wasn't running anymore. Maybe he would resign if the member asked him to resign, and then we could have another election, which could probably address some of the problems down there.

But I say to the hon. member, you and I, let us go down together. I would be glad to go down and meet with the council, you and I, and talk to them and try to come to some sort of solution, rather than to go down and spend $100,000 or $150,00 on further investigations that ultimately are not really going to prove a lot. Because we are going to have an election in six or eight months, and maybe at that point in time the people of Pouch Cove will elect those people whom they want to elect. I offer the hon. member, let us go to Pouch Cove, you and I, not to meet the 800 people who signed the petition, but maybe we can talk to the town council.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I have no problem meeting with the minister and the town council in Pouch Cove, none whatsoever, but I will say to him that there were almost 400 people in a public meeting that the town council itself called, 400 people, with the police officers there that did the investigation, the town engineer there, their auditors there, and other people who represented the town, and it was demanded on the spot that the council resign - with almost 400 people there - and it didn't.

AN HON. MEMBER: Therefore your question is ...?

MR. J. BYRNE: Therefore my question is this. Will he not again reconsider the question I asked? Because when all is said and done, you can ask the council to resign. It can very well resign. That is still not getting to the solution of what went on in that town that caused $34,000 to be gone, misspent -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I ask the minister would he reconsider and ask the Auditor General to do an investigation into the town, as he did with the town of Conception Bay South?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows as well as I do - probably nobody else in the House is as familiar with the police investigation that went on in Pouch Cove. The hon. member knows what went on in Pouch Cove. I know what went on in Pouch Cove. The question of sending in the Auditor General would be very expensive as far as we are concerned for that particular community.

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: No, we would have to pay for it, the government themselves, so you would be looking at $150,000, $200,000 if they went in to do that type. We asked the Constabulary to go in and see if they could come up with any basis for criminal charges. The report is available, Mr. Speaker, to anyone in this House. They can read the Constabulary reports and pretty well find for themselves what went on in Pouch Cove. We are working with the council and the staff at Pouch Cove right now to try to set up a system whereby we make sure that this doesn't happen again. I am not in any position to say what will happen to those people who have been named in both investigations. I think you would have to ask the Minister of Justice to -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to conclude his answer.

MR. A. REID: The answer, Mr. Speaker, basically is no, I am not in a position to ask the Auditor General to go in, but I will offer whatever assistance I can to the community, and even to the member, if he so wishes.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Justice. Could the minister inform the House if the committee chairman looking at pay increases for provincial court judges is being paid for his services?

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

MR. DECKER: No.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My next question is to the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation.

I would like to ask the minister if she is aware of road conditions on the Bonavista Peninsula whereby, just entering into the winter months, already the schools have had to be closed down there because of the breakdown of equipment? I ask her if it is because of cutbacks, or is it because of the department not being prepared for the winter months?

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

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, I am very aware of the road conditions in this area of the Province, as I am in other areas of the Province. There has been a complete assessment that has just been finished on all of the provincial roads. It does identify areas where there is major improvement needed to the infrastructure.

It is also a fact that we have had less finances than we would like to have had to be able to do regular maintenance, both throughout the summer and as we head into the winter months.

The staff of my department are doing the best they can with the resources they have at their disposal. As conditions change, they will be keeping a close eye on it. Again, the department will be responding as best they can within the resources that they have at their disposal.

We are keeping a very close eye on conditions, both in this district, in this area, as we are in all others, and we will be responding as we can to the conditions that arise.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

I just want to remind hon. members again that, when presenting questions, the supplementary questions, as stated in Beauchesne, 410.(8), states: Supplementary questions should flow from the answer of the Minister. So members should not be jumping from one minister to another with various questions.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have for tabling, the 1996 Annual Report of the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Notices of Motion

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following bills entitled:

"An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Operation Of Schools In The Province".

"An Act Respecting Education".

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I really do not expect the same level of accolades.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce the following bills entitled:

"An Act To Amend The Physiotherapy Act".

"An Act To Amend The Dental Act."

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

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled:

"An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act And the Liquor Corporation Act".

I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply to consider Certain Resolutions for the granting of Supplementary Supply to Her Majesty.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair.

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow introduce the following resolution:

WHEREAS the people of Labrador have long since felt a great deal of frustration because they have not received a full and fair share of its resources; and

WHEREAS the people of Labrador are demanding to be full partners in this Province; and

WHEREAS the time has come to correct the inequities in Labrador giving the people more control and input into the development of their region

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this honourable House call on the hon. the Premier and the government to commence the following: Commit to enact, a Labrador Advisory Council to provide input on policy and legislation related to Labrador; establish Legislative commitment to develop an act representing Labrador to properly deal with and recognize the differences and unique challenges of the Labrador region; establish Legislative commitment to provide a regional royalty fund through ensuring that a percentage of provincial royalties derived from resources within the region are used for the benefit of Labrador and Labradorians; establish Legislative commitment to develop a Crown corporation to accept and administer funds resulting from the royalty fund and establish an administrative and governing body of the corporation which shall consist of representatives from each region of Labrador; commit to the completion of a highway system comparable to the Trans-Canada Highway within the region; commit to ensure that all communities in the region have adequate and modern water and sewer services completed; commit to prepare a long-term energy plan for the region to be tabled in the House on or before December 1997; commit to a regional preference policy for resource development in the region, which would guarantee maximum economic opportunities for the people of that region; commit to continue ambulatory services; commit to provide law enforcement services that are accessible to all areas of Labrador; commit to assist with the resolution of land claims of the aboriginal peoples of Labrador; commit to provide proportionate government offices and local service centres within the region; and commit to ensuring accessibility to post-secondary training for Labradorians in sectors where the employment opportunities are greater in that part of the Province.

Thank you.

Answers to Questions

For which Notice has been Given

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

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

In response to a request by Mr. Jack Harris, MHA, Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi the following information has been prepared for tabling in the House of Assembly.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: In answer to a question posed by Mr. Jack Harris, Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi during the Summer sitting of the House. The question was tabled on July 21 and I hereby table the information that was requested.

Petitions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

MR. G. REID: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition to the House on behalf of 2600 residents of the Twillingate area in the great district of Twillingate & Fogo. It reads, Mr. Speaker;

WHEREAS the plant in our community of Twillingate has just been shut down as a result of the moratorium on groundfish stocks resulting in the layoff of hundreds of people; and

WHEREAS the fishery is the main employer for the people of Twillingate and the surrounding area,

WHEREFORE the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the provincial government to issue a crab and shrimp license for our plant in order to provide employment for our area.

Mr. Speaker, as I said it contains 2600 names out of a population of approximately 4000 people so I would hazard to say that it represents every adult on Twillingate Island. The reason all those signatures are there, Mr. Speaker, is because practically every adult on Twillingate Island depend on the fishery for a living, and many of those, up to 400 or 500 of them, have depended on the fish plant in Twillingate for the past fifty or sixty years for their income.

I understand that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is currently reviewing the policy regarding the issuance of processing licenses, and I humbly beg the minister, if he finds it in his heart to issue new crab licenses that Twillingate be placed top on his list of priorities.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. EFFORD: Just a couple of minutes to make a few brief remarks. My colleague, my friend, representing fish plant workers and fishermen of Twillingate Island brings the concerns of his people to the House of Assembly because since the closure of the fishery down there, as in many other parts of the Province, they are going through a desperate situation where not enough income can be derived from the few species of fish that the fishermen can actually catch and be processed in that particular fish plant.

Since assuming the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture back in March, I have had continuous meetings, and a consultation process has been ongoing with all of the people in the industry to try and determine the type of processing sector industry that we could have for the future fishery in this Province that can be sustainable to the individual needs of the communities where the plants exist.

We know that 220 plants cannot exist. We know there are not enough resources. No matter how much development of underutilized species or all species of fish we can harvest in the future, we could not sustain that number of plants. We have put a lot of thought into this. We have had a lot of consultation with the industry. We are about ready to make some recommendations to Cabinet that will address the needs of certain areas and certain regions in the Province, but certainly not all.

The one thing that I can honestly say is that a fish plant that survives in the future must be sustainable for the longest season possible to the community in which that fish plant is located. It is going to be a difficult decision to make. Can they all operate? No, they cannot. Can they all have all species of fish? No, they cannot. These are the decisions that we will be looking at and making recommendations to Cabinet. That announcement will be forthcoming in the very near future.

There is going to be a lot of pain out there, but we have to do it for the overall best interest of the industry of the future; and when we make the decisions, those plants which will survive will be for the longest season possible and develop an industry for the long term in the future.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in my place to present a petition, as I said earlier I would, on behalf of 841 residents of the Pouch Cove and Shoe Cove area; 841 people out of a total population of 2,000, quite significant. The wording of the petition is:

To the hon. House of Assembly of Newfoundland in legislative session convened, the petition of the undersigned residents of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland:

WHEREAS we, the citizens of the Town of Pouch Cove, have lost confidence in the ability of the Town Council of Pouch Cove to effectively govern the town, as demonstrated by the 1993 financial audit in which $18,000 was misspent, and by the 1995 financial audit in which $16,000 is unaccounted for; and

WHEREAS the town council has adopted a very uncooperative attitude toward the taxpayer residents of the town, and have demonstrated total insensitivity to the concerns of the taxpayer residents;

WHEREFORE your petitioners humbly pray that your hon. House may be pleased to request the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to instruct the Auditor General for Newfoundland and Labrador to undertake a full and comprehensive investigation into the practices, policies, finances, administration, and all aspects of the Town Council of Pouch Cove.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, not only do I have this petition of 841 signatures; I also have 104 letters with 148 signatures, addressed to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, Mr. Reid, which I will present to him after I say a few words on this petition.

Mr. Speaker, I asked questions in the House today along the lines of the petition, and the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs does not seem to be too anxious to get to the bottom of what is going on in Pouch Cove. He was trying to throw it back across the House, basically, in wanting solutions from me. When I put forward a solution, that the Auditor General go in and do an investigation, he basically turned it down.

Mr. Speaker, he can very well say that we can meet with council. He was trying to get me to say to get council to resign, but in the wording of my questions there is a cloud of doubt over various people on council and the administration of the town itself: the previous clerk, the previous assistant clerk, and the previous town manager to that. So, in actual fact, what may happen, what I have been saying all along, to get to the bottom of it and basically vindicate certain people, the Auditor General's report could do that.

We had two police investigations there, the most recent completed in September and then continued on, and a report was put in very recently to the town, just before the town council itself decided to call a public meeting, and the police investigation itself was inconclusive.

The people in the public meeting down there last week, some 400 people, or close to it, were very curious as to why the police investigation was inconclusive. How come they could not get to the bottom of it, or to at least lay charges? Basically, I think it goes back to the fact that the procedures and the policies that were put in place by the Town of Pouch Cove were not sufficient to allow the police to have a proper paper trail to the person or persons who took the money.

Mr. Speaker, I saw, only today, a copy of the audit that was done very recently, and there are some very serious questions that need to be answered. I think that the minister should really request that the Auditor General go in and do an investigation. That is what the people want. They want to get to the bottom of this, Mr. Speaker.

Another point I want to make is with respect to the questions that I asked. I asked the question: Does Municipal Affairs have inadequate staffing to allow proper investigations of the municipalities? Each year municipalities are supposed to send in their audits and those audits are supposed to be reviewed by Municipal Affairs. From what I have been told, there are only three people available to review close to 200 audits per year. So no wonder we can see that these problems arise within the towns.

Now, the town of Conception Bay South, Mr. Speaker, we know what went on up there and the minister had to fire the whole council. I think the MHA for CBS was requesting the minister, for ever so long, to take certain actions. There were two reports done on the Town of Conception Bay South before the Auditor General went in. When the Auditor General went in and did an investigation, they got to the bottom of what went on in the Town of CBS.

Mr. Speaker, it is a very similar situation happening now in Pouch Cove. We have had two police investigations done, they had two financial audits done and now the police investigation is inconclusive. We know there was at least $16,000 taken by people cancelling out receipts and taking cash out of the till. Yet there can be no charges laid.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, by leave, just to conclude.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, the hon. member has asked for leave. Does he have leave?

MR. EFFORD: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. J. BYRNE: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. J. BYRNE: I just want to point out that the Minister of Fisheries -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: - has refused leave on this very important matter.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise to support the petition put forward by my colleague in the great district of Cape St. Francis. As a member for the area, he brings forward the petition from the residents of Pouch Cove. Basically, the petition asks for the government to consider, through the office of the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, to have the Auditor General look at the matter of a legislative audit for the Town of Pouch Cove.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that part of the mandate of the Auditor General is to look at audits for the 291 municipalities in the Province. However, we know that the Auditor General is not able to do legislative audits for all 291 municipalities. In fact, in this year, I do believe, the Auditor General will be doing audits for three municipalities at maximum. Therefore, it is not a great, shall we say, request, and the minister would be totally within the parameters of the office that he holds, to ask for that particular request from the Auditor General.

What might happen is that the Auditor General, in selecting municipalities on which to do a legislative audit this year, could select Pouch Cove. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is not a slow process, it is going to take considerable time; but part of the mandate of the Auditor General is to conduct audits on the municipalities in the Province and, as the minister knows, that is not done very often. It is very much an infrequent kind of thing. As I said, in this fiscal year she will be able to do audits on only three.

So maybe the minister should consider the request put forward by the good people of Pouch Cove. They are acting in some sincerity. Obviously, I have great reluctance in saying that the town council of Pouch Cove should be dismissed. Because until we can say that they have done something that is legislatively wrong, in other words they either have failed to do something they should do, or they did something they should not have done. Therefore it would be very difficult to go and say to the elected people in Pouch Cove: We are going to turf you out of office. That is not the intent. The intent is to find those parts of the legislative mandate that is given to the town council in Pouch Cove where they have failed to live up to their mandate, if they indeed have.

That being the case, there is only one way to find that out, and that is to have the Auditor General do an audit. Without doing that it would be wrong, I say to the minister, for him to suggest, or anybody else to suggest, that we simply go down and we turf out the seven volunteers of the community who have given of their time. Without just cause it would be wrong for us to ask them to vacate their offices.

Mr. Speaker, I support the petition put forward by my colleague, and ask the hon. the minister if he will give it some consideration.

MR. J. BYRNE: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis on a point of order.

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

A few minutes ago when I was up speaking on my petition - I would just like to have a clarification from the Speaker. I believe the Speaker was prepared to give me leave to continue on with the petition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: No, it is.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: It is just a question, Mr. Speaker. I want to address it. The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture denied leave and he wasn't in his chair.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: I am wondering if it is permissable that the minister can deny leave when he is not in his chair.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair will check the point raised by the hon. member and report back to him. The Chair itself does not have the power to grant leave. The leave must come unanimously from members.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I want to try to be as accommodating as I can in regard -

AN HON. MEMBER: Diplomatic.

MR. A. REID: Diplomatic. Well, it doesn't -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: I don't have any sisters living in Pouch Cove, put it that way. I am trying to be as diplomatic, as my hon. colleague or friend said, as I can, and I want to do something for Pouch Cove. The problem I have with it is the excessive cost of sending in an auditor to do a complete audit on Pouch Cove's books. Pouch Cove's books have already been audited. There is a whole host of -

MR. J. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Give me a chance to speak, now. I gave you a chance to speak, I never interrupted you once. Over in the regional office right now there is a whole host of recommendations that have been made to the people of Pouch Cove on numerous occasions - not only with this council, the previous council - on what they should be doing with regard to the accountability, what they should do with regard to employing someone on a full-time basis to handle administration and so on. I can provide every single person that signed this petition in Pouch Cove these recommendations.

It is my opinion, and the opinion of my staff, and I say this quite honestly to the member and to the House, it is our opinion that it would be basically a useless exercise to go down, because the Auditor General would come back and make the same recommendations as already have been made. I would say this to the hon. House, Mr. Speaker, that if the Town of Pouch Cove wants someone to go in and do an independent audit to find out what is going on down there, yes, but I don't see why we would need to send in the Auditor General. If the Auditor General goes in, you know as well I do what she has to do with regard to sending in people.

Why can we not ask an independent firm to go in there, make some recommendations to council, and maybe, at the end of the day, do just as good a job as the Auditor General would do? At the same time, then, maybe the people who are screaming and bawling and putting in petitions to the hon. member to have something done would be willing to dig a little deeper in their pockets and pay a few tax dollars to have a report like that done, with the help of the government and through Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

By coming in through the back door, because that is basically what they are doing, they are asking the Auditor General to go in because they know they do not have to pay for the Auditor General. If they don't have enough responsibility to assume the situation they are in down there, and if they think they need a complete audit done, then I would suggest they go out and hire a firm from St. John's or somebody else to go in and do the audit. Then I would look at the possibility of assisting in some way the community in paying the bill at the end of the day. But I do not agree with sending in the Auditor General. I hope the hon. member tells the people of Pouch Cove what I said.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

The hon. member is asking for leave to speak to the petition again.

MR. EFFORD: For what?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) the points the minister just made.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave!

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

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

Orders of the Day

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 13, "An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act", (Bill No. 25). I think the Member for Waterford Valley, the Opposition House Leader, adjourned the debate.

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

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

I want to make a few more comments on Bill 25. The minister has joined us and I want to just make a few comments, and in particular, repeat some of the things I said a few days ago.

If you look, Mr. Minister, at clause 1, there are some matters you might want to address here. This is a section which forces a member of the council who becomes insolvent or bankrupt during the term of office to stop being a member of council. It also deletes subsection 9.2 of the City Of St. John's Act which says: a person who becomes bankrupt or insolvent may be eligible for re-election after that person has obtained an order of discharge or a proposal acceptable by the creditors.

Now, we know that this would bring the City Of St. John's Act more in sync with the general legislation governing those who hold elective office. There was some concern expressed in the House the other day about the remaining subsection, where it says that if you were absent from the Province for a period of twelve consecutive months, therefore you would stop being a member of council, or if you are convicted of an indictable offence - and we had the question the other day, Mr. Minister, if there were any time constraints on the matter of the indictable offence.

There is nothing mentioned in the Act, therefore we had the question of whether or not someone convicted of an indictable offence, say when was a young person, maybe nineteen or twenty years old, if that would permanently bar one from being able to run for public office in St. John's when he might be forty-five or fifty years old, and we had some discussion on that. We know that we have to have rules and regulations but we need to have a couple of constraining things put in there that would not prevent somebody from running for office, let us say, thirty or forty years after they have been convicted of some relatively minor, indictable offence. So we wanted to have your comments on that.

Clause 3 says the city is not liable for a nuisance and we wanted to get some comments on that as well. What does that mean? For example, as I mentioned earlier, Mr. Minister, does it have any relevance to the Tock situation? As the minister knows, Neil Tock, who owned a house on Labrador Place in what was then the St. John's Metropolitan Area Board jurisdiction, had some damage caused by flooding in his basement. The flooding was caused by the drain outside the manhole being filed with debris, hockey sticks and so on and so forth. And when the flooding occurred, he sued the St. John's Metropolitan Area Board and in court, through the decision rendered by Judge William Adams, the St. John's Metropolitan Area Board was found liable because he said the authority was liable for the nuisance.

That was later on appealed, as the minister knows, to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland which upheld Judge William Adams' decision. It went from there to the federal court, the Supreme Court of Canada and it was upheld there as well. I want to know if there are any implications, any relevance of this definition towards that decision, because it is not defined, and at least, the bill should define what we mean by the word `nuisance', and who is responsible for it, to what extent does this have a liability for a resident who might be, shall we say, inconvenienced, for example, if someone builds an office tower next to one's home, and that becomes a bit of a nuisance.

In the city of St. John's, we have had a number of instances where people who own property have been, shall we say, inconvenienced, and what they said was that the new structures became a nuisance to them. So we wanted to ask the minister if he would have a little comment on his definition there.

Of course, then the issue was raised the other day as well, of the grants to the City of St. John's and the downloading that is taking place. In this case, although it is a relatively small amount of money, the good Mayor of St. John's was on the air yesterday morning talking about the fact that over the last number of years the Province have decreased their support to the City by about $4 million. The City of St. John's, coming up for its budget hearings in a few days from now, find themselves having a very significant shortfall in revenue. Although it is a small amount, as a percentage of the total City budget, it does indicate some concern. The City of St. John's has written all the MHAs protesting it, and I am sure the minister has received copies of that correspondence as well.

In addition, although it is a small amount, making it retroactive to April 1, 1996, has the effect of cancelling this particular grant nine months into the fiscal year. We do not think that is a very reasonable thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, with these few comments - I do not believe that any of my colleagues on this side have any further comments. If they do, they are certainly welcome to have them, but I will probably ask the minister if he would have a few comments on these matters when he closes debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. If he speaks now he closes the debate.

MR. A. REID: Very quickly, Mr. Speaker, I think most of us who have had past experience in municipal administration would realize that for at least two sections of this particular bill, even though it is "An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act", it is also included in a number of other bills that I have to present to the House in the next couple of days, and it will go beyond just the City of St. John's and cover the whole Province eventually.

Clause 1 of the bill basically is something that has been there for a long time and, based on insolvency and whether a person is bankrupt or not, and whether they can sit on city council, was antiquated as far as we were concerned, and council asked for that to be removed.

In respect to maintenance of roads, snow clearing of roads and maintenance of roads in the wintertime, it basically gives the City more authority to go out and set regulations as it relates to cars parked in wrong places, vehicles parked on the sides of the roads, things obstructing sidewalk snow clearing, and that sort of thing.

My hon. colleague, the Member for Waterford Valley wanted to know about the nuisance liability. He mentioned the fact that there was a court case some years ago with Metro Board, and this is basically a follow-up to that. He was right on. He knew exactly what he was talking about when he made that comment. It now gives protection to the City - the same thing will be in the Municipalities Act later on; it will give protection - and Mount Pearl and Corner Brook, and all the other communities.

We have been running into - when I say `we', Mr. Speaker, I refer to we who have been municipal politicians - for years and years and years being challenged in the courts by people who blame town councils for all kinds of the weirdest types of things. A drain blocks up with ice in the wintertime, for example, and we get an early flood, and somebody's basement floods, and we get taken.

MR. J. BYRNE: Can you define (inaudible) in the Act?

MR. A. REID: Yes. As far as I know, there are going to be a number of definitions in the Act, I believe. I am not sure about that, but I can check that for you.

Council gets sued for all kinds of weird things, acts of God, and liability in regard to water running down on the left-hand side of the road instead of the right; it is just unbelievable. To put legislation in place to protect municipalities from this type of nuisance, the Act now will give magistrates the authority, to judge on a fairer basis, not allowing municipalities, of course, to get away with something they do intentionally.

My final comment is on the annual grant. If the City of St. John's - and apparently they do - think it is a down-loading on the City, I guess, that is what it is. Last year we had to make a number of decisions with regard to trying to save some money to balance our budget, and that was one of the areas that we thought the City of St. John's could absorb. I admit, quite openly, that sometimes it is difficult for the City of St. John's, as well as every other community in the Province, to meet its budgetary targets, but in this particular case it was something we had to do, that we defined, and I was instructed to do, and I carried that out.

With that, I move second reading.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The City Of St. John's Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 25)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 36, Order No. 14, "An Act To Amend The Assessment Act And The St. John's Assessment Act".

MR. SPEAKER: What Order did the hon. Leader call?

MR. TULK: Order No. 14, Bill No. 36, Mr. Speaker.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Assessment Act And The St. John's Assessment Act." (Bill No. 36)

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

MR. A. REID: This is another housekeeping bill, basically, Mr. Speaker. I think my colleagues on both sides of the House are aware that the City of St. John's has been having all kinds of problems. Not only the City of St. John's, but most of the larger centres in the Province are having problems with assessments, times of assessments, and a base date for assessments.

When challenged in court, some magistrates are saying that assessments should be done on a reassessment basic every year, and some others are accepting the fact that they can be done every two, or three years, and there is no uniform legislation which says that it has to be done in a particular period of time, whereby giving magistrates and appeal boards some sort of guidance on how far they can go back for assessments or how far they can go ahead.

Clauses 1, 2, 3, and 5, of the bill basically introduce a uniform tax base date for assessments of property, and 5 and 6 confirm the current base dates as applicable to assessments made in 1995, and 3 and 6 basically say that the Assessment Act institutes a requirement that property be reassessed every three years.

Hopefully, in two or three years time property will be reassessed every one year under the new assessment policy that we are trying to finish up right now.

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

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

I am going to say a few words on Bill 36, "An Act To Amend The Assessment Act And The St. John's Assessment Act". Mr. Speaker, the minister made a few comments on introducing the bill, saying it is a housekeeping bill and it is basically there to be more efficient with respect to the City of St. John's who had problems with their base date. I think a lot of municipalities across the Province have had problems with their base date over the past number of years.

For example, a lot of the smaller municipalities thought they would have their assessments done, I believe, every five years, but in actual fact, it went anywhere from five to ten years. So any way that Municipal Affairs can improve upon that, of course, we would certainly support.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I think it could very well be, I say to the Government House Leader. There are a few things that need to be mentioned. The minister mentioned when he was introducing the bill that the magistrates and the appeal boards often times do not have a base to start out from when they are hearing appeals, and having judgements made, so from that perspective alone, I suppose it would be a positive thing.

For a number of years when I was a mayor of a small town, I was often of the impression that maybe what we should be doing is privatizing assessments and let each municipality do their own assessments or hire a firm or a professional company to come in and do the assessments. The answers were always given that we could not do that, Mr. Speaker, because of the inconsistencies. The different towns would not be compatible, they would not be consistent from one town to the other.

Now the City of St. John's, of course, Mr. Speaker, have their own employees, have their own assessing department in St. John's and I believe Corner Brook has the same. But when you sit back and look at it with respect to privatizing, I think that is where this department may be heading, to privatizing the assessments, Mr. Speaker, across this Province to all municipalities. Certainly, as it now stands, the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs does the assessments and they charge out over, I think, a period of six years, the amount of money it would cost to do an assessment for a municipality. For example, if you took a small town with 5,000 or 6,000 people you might have 15,000 properties within that municipality. If you took the total value of the Municipal Affairs assessment and cost to do that, well, they would average it out over six years and it may cost the town $20,000, $30,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year, depending on the assessed value and the number of properties and what have you. Now apparently, they are talking about increasing to every two years, the base rate, the base year and effectively that would be every three years, as the minister pointed out and rightly so. Again, I think that would be, maybe now if we look at every three years it will end up being every six years. The way it works now currently is every six years but it can be anywhere from six to ten years. So that in itself could speed it up, I would say to the minister.

Now, apparently, the St. John's Board of Trade would like to see that the assessments be done every year. I have asked the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs in this House questions with respect to the assessment division and why it takes so long to have assessments done. He has been telling me for the past while and other people in this House - and I would say to many mayors and councils across the Province, that they are going to a computerized system and the computerized system would certainly speed matters up. They would have reassessments done every year in due course. and if that is the case, that can have a pretty big impact on taxpayers in the different municipalities. Because, as it now stands, if I have my piece of property assessed say, in 1995 or 1996 and I have to wait six years or five years to have that property assessed again, when that assessment comes in, the taxpayers can take a pretty big jump in their taxes. Their mil rate, applied over a six year period versus a two year period, would be a more gradual increase.

With respect to the way the system now works in the longer span, depending on the situation, municipalities in effect could be losing revenues, could very well be losing revenues, because they have to go so long before they have the reassessments done. On the other hand, some property owners, Mr. Speaker, may in fact pay more taxes than they should pay because given the circumstances in any municipality, given the circumstances of the economy and other factors, of course, property values can decrease. So if we wait for five or six years, Mr. Speaker, an individual could actually pay more money than he or she should have paid because the tax rate could have decreased. So, Mr. Speaker, that is something that can be improved upon, and hopefully, it will be improved upon with respect to this legislation and going through the House.

Now, I don't have a lot to say on this bill, really, other than the fact that in previous years smaller towns could have been hurt because of the fact that they had to wait so long for their assessments. Now, the time frame will be shortened up. So, Mr. Speaker, I don't really have much to say on that. I don't know if my colleague here would like to say a few words on it. I am just checking a few of my notes and I see that I have covered the things that I wanted to cover. That is pretty well it, I think. I will let someone else have a few words.

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

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

I have just a few comments on this bill. In some regards this bill is a bit overdue, in that there have been calls over the last number of years for the minister to look at the whole issue of assessment. We are pleased he has brought forward some amendments, because this certainly has been asked for by the Federation of Municipalities for the last number of years. When we talk about doing the assessment revision for both the Assessment Act, which is for all the other municipalities, and for the City of St. John's, we are basically changing the whole assessment for all municipalities in the whole Province.

Making January 1 - "`base date' means (i) January 1, 1996 or (ii) January 1, of every third year after 1996," this is a positive step forward. As the minister knows, we have had some difficulty over the years with different municipalities, some of them adjacent to each other, having different base years. It has caused some great troubles in court when the people who are doing the revisions to the assessments and arbitrating on the decisions required as a result of people challenging the assessed values, some of the court systems have had great frustration with the fact that the assessment dates change. Often they find themselves having to make decisions on property values that are somewhat irrelevant to the current market values.

For example, all throughout the 1980s we found the court system was often making decisions when the base year might have been three or four years before that and, of course, the values of property had gone up considerably. Now we find the opposite is happening when we have deflationary circumstances. We find that some businesses and some home-owners are asking to have their property assessed because the market value now, for example, in some parts of the City of Mount Pearl, is not nearly as great as it was, say, three or four years ago. Some people would like to have their property reassessed more often than every five years. The only way you can change the base year is if you are going to go and do a reassessment.

I am very pleased to see that we are going to make it mandatory that all property be reassessed every three years. I think that is a positive thing. I do note that the St. John's Board of Trade has asked that the assessment be done every year. That would be ideal, that would be great. It would mean that if you did it on an annual basis you could reflect the year-by-year changes in the market value of property. However, there is an appeal process that is in place, and any business person who feels that his or her business has been improperly assessed in comparison to the market values of the current time can apply and can have that re-adjusted on an annual basis.

I think it is a reasonable compromise. We did have a five-year reassessment program in the Province. It is now on a three-year basis. I think that is somewhat reasonable. However, we do want to note as well that the minister for some time has been talking about putting all of the assessment for the Province on a computer system. We are wondering what the progress might be on that, how it is coming along, and whether or not we can have all the municipalities on a computer-generated assessment program within the next several years.

Also, there has been some call by some of the major municipalities to have the right to do their own assessments. Thus, for example, in the City of Mount Pearl we find that it costs a lot of money for the City to pay to the Province the cost of doing the assessment. In fact, the City of Mount Pearl could do its own assessments a lot more cheaply than having them done by officials of the department, or under the department's guidance.

The overriding factor would be if, indeed, the assessments in the City of Mount Pearl were consistent with residential values in the City of Mount Pearl. There are checks and balances, and there is an interaction that occurs between the real estate industry and the municipality to govern that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister: What is the status of what we might call the privatization, is one way to put it, but giving the municipalities the right to be able to conduct their own assessments? Some of the municipalities in the Province, the larger ones, can certainly do that, and do it a lot cheaper, but what is happening now is that we have the City of Mount Pearl, the City of Corner Brook, the Towns of Grand Falls and Gander, and in essence these municipalities are subsidizing the smaller ones. That is not deemed to be satisfactory. It is a way of sharing the burden.

The minister knows that assessments in certain other parts of Canada are not always done on a provincial basis; however, this might be something that he is looking at having done on a regional basis. Perhaps that is one of the functions that he could assign to the regional councils when they get established. Hopefully that is one of the things that a regional council could do, which is look after all of the assessments within that particular region. We could regionalize assessments even. It would be a step forward in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I also wanted to just comment on this. One of my colleagues made note of the fact, to ask a question of the minister, if there had been consultation with the Federation of Municipalities, and in particular with the City of St. John's, and if their agreement had been received on this particular matter. I am assuming that it has; however, the minister might want to comment on that as well.

Mr. Speaker, it is a more progressive piece of legislation than we see in some cases; however, there are certain difficulties that the minister might want to address, particularly if he is going to address the issue of computerization, and whether or not the larger municipalities, and the larger towns and the two other cities, can have the same benefits as St. John's when it comes to governing and conducting its own assessment program.

With these comments, Mr. Speaker, I will yield to any of my colleagues if they wish to speak on this matter. If not, I look forward to the minister's comments during the closure of second reading.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I agree with the comments made by the hon. minister and my colleagues with respect to the purpose of this act essentially being to co-ordinate the assessments of properties in the City of St. John's. It is always a point of some discrepancy when properties are being assessed, whether it be in a two-year period or a three-year period, and that assessment is being carried forward to determine fair market value at a specific date. Whether it is five years or one year, clearly we cannot satisfy everybody because there is a risk, as I see it, regardless of what we do. If we go with a five-year period of assessment, clearly that may be disadvantageous to a home owner if, in fact, the property value has decreased in that period of five years. Conversely, if the fair market value of a property has increased within that five-year period, clearly that person is equally in a position where he is disadvantaged.

Mr. Speaker, the act essentially uniforms the law with respect to assessment. Clauses 3 and 6 of the St. John's Assessment Act stipulate that the property which these acts apply shall be assessed or reassessed within two years of the base date, which is effectively every three years, because it is two years after the first twelve-month period. Simply changing the legislation to read that an assessment must be performed every three years will not, in and of itself, facilitate timely assessments which reflect current market values, as I mentioned earlier. Equally, as I've indicated, one drawback with an increased frequency of assessments, however, is that residential property assessments will tend to rise more quickly, and consequently the tax burden experienced by individual property owners may increase more rapidly.

Therefore I guess it is a compromise position. The base rate is now being set perhaps as a compromise position to help home owners in a situation who obviously want to have the best benefit of their property and have the best fair market value appraisal which will benefit them in the event of either resale, or in the event of an assessed taxation of their property.

Mr. Speaker, I have nothing further to say other than the change is obviously an acknowledgement of some uniformity with respect to assessment. Other than that, we support the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, one of the questions was asked about the assessment division in my department. Yes, the assessment division - the cities of Mount Pearl and St. John's, the Federation of Municipalities, are actively pursuing the devolution of the assessment division, which should take place in the next short while. The municipalities have been notified of that. Also, while notifying municipalities of that, they have also been notified of what it is going to mean to them in cost, especially in rural Newfoundland. Their cost will triple. Even with that said, we are going to move in that direction because that seems to be the approach that a lot of the members of the House have been asking for for a number of years. We are going to go along with them now and we are going to do that, and I hope we don't have an outcry from rural Newfoundland when it comes to assessment.

I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The Assessment Act And The St. John's Assessment Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 36)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 15, second reading of a bill, An Act To Amend The St. John's Municipal Elections Act, Bill No. 37.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Municipal Elections Act". (Bill No. 37)

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

MR. A. REID: Yes, Mr. Speaker. This is picking up from a previous bill that basically changes the time of election from November to September, and every four years hereafter. Polling day will be the last Tuesday in September for municipal elections beginning next year. That is in a number of other bills. I don't really need to say anything other than that. I don't think we need to talk for ten minutes on it, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to say a few words on Bill No. 37, An Act To Amend The St. John's Municipal Elections Act. Basically there are no real problems. I don't see any real problems with it, other than one which I will get to in due course.

I believe the City is in favour of this, to move the date back from November to September. In actual fact, it is a good move because if the council gets elected in November it really doesn't give it a lot of time to get into the swing of things and to know what is going on within the City. It doesn't give them a lot of time to prepare budgets, getting to know what the budget is all about, to compare last year's budget, next year's budget, to look at the regulations. A good time of year, too. You have winter coming on. To me it is a good move, really, and no problem with that.

The only thing that I would comment on, and the minister can address this. I stand to be corrected, but I thought there was a movement afoot - or some City councillors believed there should be a separate election for the deputy mayor, as there is a separate election for the mayor. I'm just wondering if this minister addressed that and why they didn't pursue that further, or why it isn't here in the act, a reason why there wasn't a separate election for the deputy mayor.

I had a few notes on this but basically I agree, it is a good move from my perspective and I think that most people do support that but we will see what happens with it in Committee. Other than that, that is all I have to say.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, if he speak now, he closes the debate. Oh, okay.

Hon. Members should avoid standing when there is - the hon. member for St. John's South - it is confusing to the Chair because there are so many people standing.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I apologize to the House. My colleague was standing behind my chair and I could not get up.

Mr. Speaker, there is just one item in this bill I wish to speak to and that is in regards to the neglects that the bill makes to an election related change that the City of St. John's has requested, and that is, to have a slot on their election ballots for the position of Deputy Mayor.

It is my understanding that the City of St. John's has requested this and they wish that the position of Deputy Mayor be chosen by the general populous as opposed to, by the councillors from within, once they are elected.

I am wondering if the minister will re-evaluate and revisit this request by the City of St. John's in making this change although, I realize that it would require several amendments to the act and would probably delay the bill in passing before the House. But it is in fact, an item that the City of St. John's has requested and I think, based on that, we should probably entertain the idea.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, if he speaks now, closes the debated.

The hon. the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

MR. A. REID: To answer the question on the Deputy Mayor, yes, Mr. Speaker. We are actively pursuing that with the city right now and if the city decides to pursue it further, knowing the implications of it, I am pretty sure that we can get it through the House in the spring in lots of time for the election next fall.

I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.

On motion, a bill, "An Act To Amend The St. John's Municipal Elections Act," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No.37).

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 16, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act', (Bill No. 42).

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act". (Bill No. 42).

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

MR. A. REID: This one cleans up a number of areas, Mr. Speaker. I think the most important one in this particular one of the act, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act", is the designation of liability for -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Harvey, this is a combination of all of them, isn't it?

MR. H. HODDER: Yes, (inaudible).

MR. A. REID: That includes town councils, the liability regulations, the elections to choose these -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. A. REID: Yes. So you are all familiar with that. I do not need to discuss this any further. They know about that, so I am going to let them speak on it anyway.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to take some time today to make some points concerning Bill 42, "An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act".

There are changes of course to the Municipalities Act and some that are proposed in this bill, Mr. Speaker, are profound. They cover five different subject matters, some of which are more controversial than others of course, and I will just go through them.

First of all, the snow clearing of roads. Now, if this is just simply, I guess a change - if the change is just simply a clarification and it is acceptable to the municipalities and has nothing to do, say, downloading of snow clearing responsibility, then it certainly seems acceptable to me.

Number 2, the nuisance end of it, Mr. Speaker, if nothing else, an amendment is certainly needed to define the word `nuisance' and this term I think is in place, in I believe three other bills that have been introduced, so if for no other reason, at least that term is certainly defined.

The elections, these changes seem acceptable, Mr. Speaker, and again, these changes are placed in three other bills as well. The community councils; as of January 1, 1997, all communities will become towns and all community councils will become town councils. The bill makes the change, of course it follows from this, and this change seems to be acceptable in principle.

I have some concerns, Mr. Speaker, with the fifth one which deals with fire-fighters. Under this bill the fire departments can be made responsible for responding to emergencies other than fires and even when they are outside the municipality in question, fire-fighters, including volunteers of course, will be trained in standard first aid and basic life support. This, no doubt, ties in with the Firefighters Protection Act also before the House this fall. It has implications, Mr. Speaker, or it seems to me to have implications for private ambulance operators and it demands very, very careful scrutiny in this area. I think having been, when we formed a volunteer fire department in Conception Bay South some years ago and being one who was involved in recruitment for that particular department and today it is probably one of the best fire departments, volunteer fire and partially paid department, Mr. Speaker, probably one of the best in the Province.

I know that for a while of course they were getting these calls on 911 and they were responding to emergencies and really, Mr. Speaker, I guess emergencies that they really did not want to respond to. I think after some time they met with the ambulance people, the local ambulance operator in this particular area and they worked it out. They were actually getting calls to attend all sorts of things and really and truly there was actually no need for fire departments to attend. Some of these were - Friday night somebody was at the local club, something went wrong, the ambulance went and the fire department sent two units. Mr. Speaker, it was an absolute waste of time and certainly a waste of taxpayers money.

So in the question of the private ambulance operators, I think, Mr. Speaker, we have to be very careful here that we are not going to do the same thing. As I see this bill, it looks to me like maybe that is what we are going to do. We are going to have maybe ambulances responding to emergency calls. An ambulance is fine but I am not so sure that we should have volunteer fire brigades responding to the same particular call.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Yes, okay. Well I have no problem with that. I have no problem with that, it will just depend on where we sign off on this thing. Like in my district, I don't feel that our partially paid and volunteer fire department should be responding to emergency calls.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: That's right, yes. Now if they need the jaws of life or something, then fine. So this bill makes changes on about five different subjects, Mr. Speaker, and I am glad that the minister interjected that because certainly in that case on the Southern Shore if the fire department had responded then who knows, we may have saved a life and that of course would have been certainly a great thing. So the bill touches on about five different subject matters. Some of which are more controversial of course than others.

Now, Mr. Speaker, snow clearing, and I will touch on this as I run through the five particular areas. The snow clearing of roads which is clause 6. This clause, Mr. Speaker, confirms a right of councils to make regulations on winter maintenance of roads.

MR. SPEAKER: It is Thursday afternoon, it is 4:02 - I hate to interrupt the hon. member. I thought he might stop early but it looks like he is going to continue on. Under the rules I have to announce the questions for the Late Show at 4:30. The first question is to the Minister of Mines and Energy, re my question on copper viability, and that is the Member for Baie Verte. The second question is to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, re my question on accommodations re the Cabot Celebrations, and that is the hon. Member for St. John's South. The other question, number three, is to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs re my question on Pouch Cove by the hon. Member for Cape St. Francis.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The snow clearing of roads, Clause 6, this clause confirms the right of councils to make regulations on the winter maintenance of roads and the snow clearing. Basically, Mr. Speaker, this is the same way we do the amendments to the City of Mount Pearl, the City of St. John's and the City of Corner Brook. These changes seem fairly straightforward and unless it is part of a scheme to download snow clearing responsibilities, and cost, from the Province to the municipalities, then I really do not see this as being a problem.

Section 180 lists the types of regulations a council can make, and, of course, the listings are fences, signs, times of recreational vehicles, traffic flow, protection and cleaning of roads, and sidewalks. This bill, of course, adds (f) as something the council can make regulations about. Now, in respect to the winter maintenance of roads and snow clearing, including regulations which prohibit or control parking during winter months, and (2) they prohibit or control the erection of structures which impede or hinder winter maintenance of roads or snow clearing, and prohibit or control the deposit of snow on sidewalks and public roads.

The minister could be asked to explain what situations have created (inaudible) as spelled out in the explanatory notes to clarify and confirm the authority of the councils to make regulations respecting winter maintenance of roads, and certainly for snow clearing, Mr. Speaker. Under what sections have municipalities been making regulations regarding snow clearing until now? Section 166 (1) of the act already states the ownership, management, and control of all public roads, sidewalks, and bridges in the town, except highways classified and designated by the Department of Works, Services and Transportation, and the bridges and the highway are vested in the council. Has the Federation of Municipalities called for this change, Mr. Speaker? If the change is simply for clarification and is acceptable to municipalities -

AN HON. MEMBER: What one is that?

MR. FRENCH: That is the one on the highways, where they can make rules and so on concerning snow clearing and so on.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Then this would have nothing to do with the downloading of snow clearing responsibilities? Then that, Mr. Speaker, again, is certainly acceptable to us over here.

The sections on the nuisance, clauses 20 and 23, these clauses insert new sections on the nuisance basically the same way they do to the amendments of the City of Mount Pearl, the City of St. John's, and again the City of Corner Brook.

Section 447.1 will state, "A municipality and its councils are not liable for a nuisance." Section 641.1 states, "A local service district committee is not liable for a nuisance." Similar changes are in the amendments to the City of Mount Pearl, the City of St. John's Act and, of course, the City of Corner Brook Act, and the term `nuisance' is not defined in these bills. Neither do these bills say who is responsible or liable for damages caused by a nuisance. If nothing else, an amendment is needed to really define `nuisance'.

Clauses 21 and 22, and again these changes certainly seem to be acceptable, are amended, sections 506 and 510, to set a municipal election in 1997 and every four years thereafter; change the polling day to the last Tuesday in September, which I have to say makes a great deal of sense to me, and being a former councillor I certainly had it happen to me; you get elected in November and you are expected to do a budget and have it ready for presentation by December 31. I kind of applaud the minister here on moving it back. It gives the council the opportunity to get its feet wet and have a chance to do this. I am also pleased, while I am up today, to also -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Well, I applaud the minister on moving the elections back to September. It gives a council more time to get their feet wet and do their budget.

I am glad to see as well, while I am talking on this particular bill, I also understand that the minister, through his department, has arranged, I know, for the new council and the new mayor that were just elected in the district of the Member for Topsail and my district, that they are going to have a seminar, I believe, this Saturday, where they will certainly have the opportunity to meet with people from the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. It will give them the opportunity, any of them who have any questions, to get involved. In that regard, I think these changes are certainly acceptable.

Community councils, and there are a list of clauses: 1(1),(2),(3) and (5), and then there are 2, 3, 4, 11, 12, 13 to 19, and 27. Again, these changes seem to be okay in principle. We do not really have a lot of difficulty with these. I guess from (1), (2), (3), and (5), it just removes the word `community' and so on from the definition of the clerk and so on. Again, we do not really have a great deal of problems with this particular section.

Clause 2 says a community, its towns, cannot be amalgamated together, which makes sense if there are no longer any communities, of course. Also, that a town can no longer be disestablished so that it has the status of a community. Again, it certainly makes sense to me.

Of course, clause 3 deletes references to communities from adjustments to assets and liabilities following an amalgamation or an annexation. Again, Mr. Speaker, that seems to make sense from my point of view. Being a former municipal councillor, I see merit in that.

Clause 4 is important. It adds a new section 7.1(1), which says, "Every community constituted or continued under this Act is continued as a town." A community council existing on December 31, 1996 shall be continued as a town council." In (3), "The property, assets, powers, rights, obligations and liabilities vested in or charged against a community council on December 31, 1996 shall continue to be vested in or charged against a town council continued under subsection (2)." Again, we have no great problems with that. There are implications of making a town council a community council, and the changes will come into effect in less than a month.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I will gladly give him leave if he wishes to sing, Mr. Speaker. Clause 11 repeals sections 257 to 303 of the Municipalities Act which together form Part II of the Municipalities Act entitled Communities. Since communities become towns, there is no longer any need to reference any of these sections. The provisions related to towns are contained, Part I on towns in section 3 right through to section 256.

Clause 12 deletes reference to community from Cabinet powers to adjust assets and liabilities and establishing or changing regions. Clause 13 deletes reference to communities from the requirements to publish a notice or intent to order a feasibility report on establishing or changing a region. Clause 14 deletes reference to community from the description of powers of a regional council. Clause 15 deletes reference to community from the description of areas that are not unorganized.

Clause 16 deletes reference to community from the list of entities that may be required to connect to a regional service. Clause 18 deletes reference to community from the list of entities that must be sent to a regional council budget. Clause 19 does the same as clause 18 regarding of course revised budgets.

Clause 27 brings all of these sections on community councils into force on January 1 1997. On that date all communities will be towns and all community councils of course will become town councils. If these changes are approved in principle then the details of the changes - again, we would have no real problem with these particular changes.

Number five, the section on fire fighters. These changes indicate that fire fighters will be moved into the area of emergency response that until now have been handled by ambulance operators. The minister pointed out a case here a while ago where I honestly believe that if we had had somebody besides an outside ambulance coming all the way from St. John's, then I think it could have made a difference.

These changes should be seen in light of the new fire fighters protection act which protects fire fighters from liability from acts or perceived negligent in the fulfilment of their duties. Clause 1(4) adds a paragraph (h) to the list of definitions to define fire fighter. The definition is essentially the same as the one in the fire fighters protection act which also includes volunteers.

Clause 1(6) adds paragraph (j.1) to the list of definitions, and states "`other emergencies' means a non-fire related emergency and includes medical emergencies for which a fire department has been authorized by the minister to act as the first responding agency." This subsection clearly means fire fighters will be responding to medical emergencies as well as fires.

Clause 5 repeals subsection 57 which states: The town fire chief is responsible for the organization, training and operation of the town's fire brigade and for fire prevention and fire protection within the town. It replaces the subsection with: "The town fire chief is responsible for the organization, training and operation of the town fire department."

The limitation is removed. It says fire departments are responsible for fire protection and fire prevention within the town, Mr. Speaker. I guess as an explanatory note here, this would include all fire department's activities, including all activities related to fire and other emergencies. The government clearly wants to expand the mandate of fire departments to include other emergencies besides those related to fires and the department is also no longer limited to responding within the town. I guess, as the minister has said, where there is a local ambulance, I guess between them and the fire department, they work out a system between them where this works.

Clause 7 repeals Section 192. Section 192 states, "The council may establish, operate and maintain a town fire department composed entirely or partly of volunteer members or of paid employees, and acquire or provide a fire hall, fire alarm system, fire engines, hydrants and other apparatus and appliances for the purpose of fire fighting, fire prevention..." Again, Mr. Speaker, in my town we have a partly paid and a partly volunteer fire department that I will say works quite well together. It is a pity really that we could not employ more fire-fighters with this particular department because these fellows are certainly very well trained in the execution of their duties. They do a tremendous job for the whole town of Conception Bay South and surrounding areas. Of course in Holyrood, again I am extremely lucky, they have their own fire department. Again, in Holyrood, it is totally volunteer. It replaces Section 192, Mr. Speaker, but "The council may establish, operate and maintain a town fire department composed entirely or partly of volunteer members or of paid employees, and acquire or provide a fire hall..." and so on and so on it goes. I guess the changes, for the purpose of fire-fighting and prevention in responding and providing emergency services for other emergencies that may be authorized by the minister either inside or outside the boundaries of that particular municipality.

Mr. Speaker, I guess the minister could have made this amendment essentially by adding the words, highlighted and perhaps he did not want to draw attention to the fact that the town fire department can now be made responsible for responding and providing emergency services for other emergencies that may be authorized by the minister, either inside or outside the town boundaries. This is clearly, I guess, and again it involves an emergency response service that would or could have absolutely nothing to do with fire-fighting.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Okay, yes. I guess in my area of the Province it probably won't make a difference because we are serviced by a private ambulance operator and then again in other parts it may be affected.

Clause 8, 9, 10, 24 and 26, Mr. Speaker, "would expand the jurisdiction of fire departments to include responding to emergencies other than fire," according to the particular piece of legislation. I guess clause 8 amends section 195 by saying that council may enter into agreements with other municipalities, local service districts, or persons for joint fire fighting, or for responding to other emergencies.

Clause 9 amends section 198 by saying a fire department's right-of-way over all traffic, and the right to close roads, applies when responding to not only a fire but also to other emergencies.

Clause 10 amends section 200 so it reads with the added words highlighted, the officers or members of a fire department, or of another municipality or a local service district fire department, or person that gives aid to the town fire department in fighting a fire or responding to other emergencies are considered to be officers and members of the town fire department while they are giving that aid. I think, Mr. Speaker, that is a good idea.

Clause 24 amends subsection 642(b) to the effect that a local service district committee may own and operate a fire hall, and of course the other apparatus, for fire fighting, fire protection, and responding to and providing services for other emergencies as may be authorized by the minister either inside or outside the town boundaries.

The fire services are no longer just for fire fighting and fire protection. So not only does a town, but also a local service district see its fire fighters get into emergency response.

Clause 26 amends Schedule B of the Act, which defines the duties of the Fire Chief. I do not really feel that it is necessary for me to get into that.

Also, paragraph (d) is amended to read: shall respond to and take command at fires or other emergencies, through subordinate officers, and direct fire fighting or other emergency activities.

I guess there are some questions here that I have to ask. Is standard first aid and basic life support training enough? Is it enough for some of these firemen, because some of these firemen only have that particular point of training. When some of the trainees are volunteers, and the training is minimal, and experience is minimal, will they be adequately prepared to respond to emergencies? I hope so. I sincerely hope so.

Who will provide the first aid and basic life support training? That is a question in this Province that certainly bears some answering, certainly bears some looking into.

Mr. Speaker, will this Province continue, as it has done for the past number of years, to make this a blank cheque for St. John Ambulance, where only St. John Ambulance in this Province is allowed to do training? Will St. John Ambulance still continue on with a lucrative monopoly on all the approved first-aid training in this Province? Or will we now give the Red Cross the right - who are qualified, by the way, to do this particular training - will we now permit the Red Cross to enter into this particular field? I hope so, because if it does not it will certainly create an air of suspicion in this Province, because we all know where somebody very close to the Red Cross is located. I will leave that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) St. John Ambulance.

MR. FRENCH: That is where he is, yes. And why, for the past number of years we have gone with St. John Ambulance, why we have denied the Red Cross, who have been into this government, by the way, on numerous occasions, looking for this change, and this change has not been granted.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: I know who he is, and what he does. I know his connections with that side over there. I know them quite well. I have known the gentleman for years. He is a friend of mine, by the way. I do not like his politics, but that is fine; he probably does not like mine either.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education on a point of order.

MR. GRIMES: Just for clarification for the hon. member, because I know he is on a very important point, just so that he would know as well that the same people that he referenced as coming in to see this government many times about the status for the Red Cross also came in for about ten years in a row before that to see the previous administration on the same issue, so this has been going on since about 1975 or so. The other administration, Mr Speaker, found a reason to say no as well, many times.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I hope now, that through the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, we will give the Red Cross the opportunity in this Province to get into a field which St. John's Ambulance has a monopoly on, and hopefully now we will allow Red Cross into that field and they can offer the same training and just maybe, the cost of these things might be reduced. Hopefully, Mr. Speaker, they would be.

Now of course, who is going to pay for the training? I guess the answer to that is very simple. This training will have to be paid for by the particular municipality and again, you know, unfortunately, what will the cost be to municipalities and again, we should look at something in this regard.

Will we have to train more volunteers under this system than the dedicated employees under the current system? I think that is something that we have to consider. These people give up a lot of their time and energy and I have certainly had the pleasure of working with them and you know, for no salary or little or no salary, these people provide twenty-four-hour service throughout municipalities all over this Province. So, why the period of twenty-four months after authorization before the minimum standards for first responder level certificate has been completed?

What we are now saying to our ambulance operators in this Province, they must have all of their people trained, they must have them all trained; they must all be over a certain number of years, they must all do the CMA course. So again, you know, I think we have to tread carefully here, Mr. Speaker, so that we can make sure that the people who are responding are trained to respond. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that these workers won't be on the street without the proper training to train the firefighters to take command in a non-fire emergency and I guess that will come when that training is available.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. FRENCH: Clause 17, Mr. Speaker, amending subsection 351 -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It being Thursday, I will call on the hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I think that we have, behind your back there so to speak, I think we just made an agreement that the Opposition - and that is their privilege - would forego the Late Show and we would spend the next half-an-hour on legislation and adjourn at five.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave, by leave

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is trying to determine whether in fact there has been an agreement in the House?

MR. H. HODDER: Yes, Mr. Speaker. We wish to confirm that we are in a very agreeable mode over here this afternoon and in order to help the government get their Legislative Agenda through, I consulted with all my colleagues and I confirm that we are giving up the opportunity to bash the ministers for an extra half-an-hour today and that we will go with legislation until five o'clock.

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

MR. FRENCH: I am quite comfortable over here, I say to the hon. the Minister of Health. I am quite comfortable over here, Mr. Speaker, and who knows, the next time around I just might be over there and the Minister of Health might be over here.

Mr. Speaker, I am practically down to the end of my remarks. Most of this bill, while some people may consider it to be quite boring -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FRENCH: - I don't -

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

The Chair is having some difficulty following what the hon. member is saying.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: You won't get one on my mother's lawn, God love her, she's dead and gone.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, like I was going to say before I got interrupted over there, so now I have to start all over again, while this may seem boring to some people, having been involved in municipal politics I think for most of what is in here I commend the minister for making some of these changes. While I may not agree with all of them I think it is a step in the right direction.

By and large I guess most of what is in this particular bill as I see it - I have some concerns, and I will say that, that I have some concerns about the ambulances and so on. Hopefully my concerns will be addressed. I certainly have concerns with Red Cross not being able to do first-aid training in this Province. I know they have been in quite recently, and from what I understand they will be back again. With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your attention.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Government House Leader just stood in his place again and thought this was going to be the end of discussion on this bill, one speaker. One speaker to a bill, Bill No. 42, there are profound changes in this bill, let me tell you. We agreed we would forego -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

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

Would the Government House Leader like me to instruct Hansard to turn on the microphone so that could be for the record?

MR. J. BYRNE: There you go.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. J. BYRNE: I give leave to the minister, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I was saying that there was a poll done which showed the hon. gentleman -

MR. J. BYRNE: From Cape St. Francis.

MR. TULK: - was the best Opposition member in the Legislature -

MR. J. BYRNE: Which one?

MR. TULK: - followed by the Member for Bonavista South, followed by the Member for Kilbride. He came over here just now and like a fool I told him! Now I can't get him to sit down.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: We totally disagree with that.

MR. J. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Government House Leader for putting that in Hansard. The member he was referring to of course was the Member for Cape St. Francis, I say to you, Mr. Speaker.

By the way, the Government House Leader approached us and asked us if we would forego the Late Show this evening to discuss legislation, and we agreed to do that. We agreed to do it. When we get up to discuss Bill No. 42 he is complaining that we are discussing legislation. He is a hard man to please, I say to you, Mr. Speaker, a very hard man to please.

Bill No. 42, An Act To Amend The Municipalities Act. There are five sections in this that are being dealt with in this act, five different issues. Of course, one is the snow clearing of roads. The minister made a good point when he - he didn't take much to introduce it, now. Come back to the minister. When the minister stood in his place to introduce this bill he basically was up for maybe thirty seconds, and he said that the Opposition knows more about this legislation than he does. Obviously we do, there is no doubt there. But he did make a statement to the Member for Conception Bay South when he was talking about snow clearing that this bill now will give the municipalities the authority to remove automobiles on roads in the wintertime that are blocking roads, say, in snow storms, or they haven't removed their vehicles -

AN HON. MEMBER: They have always had authority.

MR. J. BYRNE: No they don't. They had the authority to ask the police to do it, Mr. Speaker. They had to get the police to do it. Now they can actually hire probably two trucks themselves and tell the owners of the tow trucks to go down and take away the vehicles that are blocking the roads, which are consistently parking on the road right-of-ways and blocking traffic. Really, that is a good move, I suppose, with respect to this legislation. No problem there. We agree with that on this side of the House, I do believe, unless someone else wants to get up and point out some fact that we don't know.

Now, the other issue with respect to this amendment to the Municipalities Act deals with nuisances, which I believe we had in the two previous bills. The point that was brought forward when these bills were being discussed was the fact that nuisance was not being defined. Now, I asked the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs earlier, with respect to one of the other bills, if they would be looking at defining nuisance. He thought they would be, but he wasn't sure, but maybe the definition of nuisance would be in the regulations that would be forthcoming with respect to this bill.

Another issue, of course, is elections, elections of municipalities within the Province. In the City of St. John's Act which we discussed just a little while ago they are moving up the date of elections, and they are moving up the day of elections for municipalities across the Province. Again, as I stated earlier when I was speaking on the previous bill that is a good move, of course. You are giving basically a two month jump on the new councils coming in to help prepare budgets, to look at budgets, to study the previous budgets, and to sit down and logically and sensibly prepare budgets for the upcoming year.

That in itself is a good move and is a positive move, Mr. Speaker. I cannot see any towns or anybody have a major problem with that. It not only gives them time to prepare budgets but it also gives them time to look at the regulations of the town, to study the Municipalities Act, to look at the town plan and the zoning regulations. A town budget has an impact on all those things and it certainly has an impact on the zoning and regulations within the town.

The two big changes with respect to this legislation here are the community councils. As of January 1997 all communities will become towns. That is not quite correct, all community councils will become towns and this is a major change, I suppose, but is it acceptable? I wonder if all the municipalities, or the community councils agree with that move? I know that the minister has great faith, and he is a great promoter, I suppose, of regionalization.

Now, we really do not want to get into the amalgamation issue of many years ago. Regionalization, in itself can be a good thing, and I think this is a step towards regionalization, but there are a few concerns I have with respect to that. When a community council now becomes a town council there is the responsibility at the present time of the roads and the connector roads. I am just wondering if the minister would address that, and is there some sort of downloading going on here from Works, Services and Transportation to the new town councils?

Are they now going to be responsible to do work that they are not presently responsible for on certain roads within the region they are situated? That is a concern of mine and I think it would be a major concern of anybody, especially the community councils themselves. I am wondering how far this will go in light of the fact that many communities that are not even community councils really do not pay taxes? They are getting certain services from the provincial government, especially Works, Services and Transportation, in snow clearing, road maintenance and what have you, so I would think that would be a major concern of the people in those areas.

Also, of converting from a community council to a town council. It may be simple, or it may sound simple to some people, I suppose, converting from a community council to a town council. It may sound simple to some people, I suppose, who are not familiar with the situation, but if you have a community council in place - even to just look at the basic letterheads, the letterhead of the community council. How many did they have printed? Now, they become the town council of such and such, Mr. Speaker. Cheques printed and ordered, and what have you, Mr. Speaker. Signages on their vehicles and signages within the community, the sign saying the community of such and such, will now become the town of such and such.

All this costs money I say to the minister and I am just wondering what impact overall it will have on the community councils in the Province, and basically what effect it will have on the taxpayers within the community councils themselves and the town councils. Will these community councils now, when they become town councils, have to increase their mil rate to come in line with maybe other towns in the areas, which is not necessarily a bad thing? The minister has been trying for years to get the mil rate of all the municipalities in the Province up and increased. My concern all along with that, Mr. Speaker, is the fact it depends on the services of the municipality involved. Now is it right that a municipality that does not have water and sewer should have the same mil rate as a town nearby that has water and sewer? Is it right for a town that has sidewalks, curb and cutter and engineering, all of these services, all paved roads, all sidewalks along the front of their properties, is it right for those communities that are more rural to have to pay the same mil rate? I don't think it is necessarily right that they should have to pay the same mil rate.

A prime example of course, Mr. Speaker, is the town of Logy Bay - Middle Cove - Outer Cove. It is a rural town and for years the minister has been trying to get this town to increase their mil rate and of course there is a whole issue - and I have spoken on it in this House a number of times with respect to the regional fire-fighting. It was only last week that I had a meeting with the minister and the mayor of Logy Bay - Middle Cove - Outer Cove to try and resolve the situation down there that the government created. So there are all kinds of questions that can come forward with respect to legislation of this nature. I believe that it is geared to regionalization, amalgamation and what have you and it can be a good thing, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, a last issue with respect to this amendment, the Municipalities Act, Bill 42, is to deal with fire-fighters.

I say to the Government House Leader, I didn't hear that.

MR. TULK: I am some glad that there isn't nine over there like you.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, there are nine over here like me and actually nine of us certainly balances out the few on the other side of the House - there are a few more on the other side of the House, I have to admit to the Government House Leader, a few more.

MR. TULK: There is too much noise here.

MR. J. BYRNE: Too much noise? Are you the Government House Leader? Don't you have any control over the members on your side of the House? Our Opposition House Leader has great control. Did you notice how we are always here paying attention, full bodies? We take our turn stepping outside when necessary, for obvious reasons.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, whatever. There are certain things people have to do, human nature being what it is, I say to the Government House Leader, but I am surprised actually that there are so many over there right now.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Speak up, I can't hear you.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, a very important issue here, number five, and that is fire fighters. With respect to fire fighters, I will tell you now that really we have to have a serious look at this situation with respect to the fire fighters. These changes indicate that fire fighters will be moved into the area of emergency response that until now has been handled by ambulance operators.

What is going on right here? What is happening right here? I hope the minister can correct me on this if I'm wrong, but will now the fire fighters and the volunteer fire fighters in the various towns across this Province be responsible for going not only within their town, but outside their town, and responding to calls other than fires. Emergency calls.

The Minister made a comment to the Member for Conception Bay South and he referred to the situation in Witless Bay and why this was being put in here. But I'm wondering if in fact this comes into place or comes to be and this act is approved, or this bill is approved, what impact would that have on ambulance operators. I'm wondering would that have any impact on the private ambulance operators within the Province. It could very well have an impact.

The fire fighters will be responding to medical emergencies as well as fires. I'm wondering what impact that may have. The government clearly wants to expand the mandate of the fire department to include other emergencies besides those related to fires. The department is also no longer limited to responding to within the town, which is what I had said. I have a lot of questions that I can get into, and I will get into in due course. I don't know if there is anybody else on this side of the House who wants to speak to this bill today.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: You have a few words to say.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay. I don't know if I can finish what I have to say this evening.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I have a lot of questions, a lot of concerns.

Mr. Speaker, in section 192 it says: "`...fire fighting, fire prevention and responding and providing emergency services for other emergencies that may be authorized by the minister, either inside or outside the town's boundaries.'" What impact will that have on health care in the Province? Will these volunteer fire departments now be responsible for responding to emergencies and take people to hospitals where the private ambulance operators may be affected? Will these people now have to go further distances, will there be a longer response time, Mr. Speaker, because of this legislation? These are just a few questions that come to mind right off the top of my head and, I would like the minister to address that.

Another point, Mr. Speaker, under a certain clause in this bill: Council may enter into agreements with other municipalities, local service districts or persons for joint firefighting or for responding to other emergencies.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that, to me, is a move to either simplify regionalization, maybe to encourage regionalization within any given area and maybe to - other than encourage, what is a good word for encourage - I do not want to use the word `force' because I don't think that is what the minister means, but certainly, to strongly encourage regionalization within - what is the word? coerce, entice what have you, Mr. Speaker, that type of thing.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to throw out a few questions to the minister. We have only a few left to go.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) dye your hair.

MR. J. BYRNE: Do I dye my hair? I would say to the Government House Leader just compare this: The Government House Leader is grey. I think it is grey from worrying, stress from being Government House Leader. Do you see a grey hair on my head?

MR. TULK: I don't see any hair on your head.

MR. J. BYRNE: Not a grey hair on my head.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Of what?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. J. BYRNE: Well, I will say to `the legal beagle' from Topsail, that at least, I am here; I am being paid to be in the House of Assembly; I am being paid to do a job and all I can see is the Member for Topsail, over there with his thumb in his mouth sucking away. That is all I can see the member doing, he is never on his feet responding to anything, just sucking on his thumb.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious bill that is going through the House. It has profound changes coming in this municipalities act, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is mad now.

MR. J. BYRNE: Who is mad?

AN HON. MEMBER: You.

MR. J. BYRNE: I am smiling. See the look on his face. It is not me. If the member cannot take a joke, now ...

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, be quiet. If you want to speak, get up and speak on the bill. You have lots of time to do that.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the minister.

MR. TULK: You are not speaking on the bill.

MR. J. BYRNE: I am asking questions on the bill, and the minister is there now listening. The minister is going to be listening to about ten questions that I want to ask.

MR. TULK: That is for Committee.

MR. J. BYRNE: That is true, too; I could do that in Committee. I really could, couldn't I? I have to say, the Government House Leader made a good, logical, sensible point.

MR. TULK: And you're not going to stop?

MR. J. BYRNE: I am going to sit down. I am going to save my eight or ten questions for Committee, but one thing I am going to say -

MR. FITZGERALD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I am going to sit down and let the Member for Bonavista South get up.

MR. TULK: I don't think the Member for Bonavista South is going to rise (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Is he going to rise? If not, I have to go until we adjourn debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: I have just a few questions; that is all.

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay, I will do that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Can I adjourn debate? If I adjourn debate -

AN HON. MEMBER: No. Keep going, `Jack' (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: No, I am not adjourning debate. Oh, well, I will keep going then.

Mr. Speaker, I think there are a few others on this side of the House who want to speak to this bill, and if I sit down now they will not have the opportunity to speak to this bill.

With respect -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible). I will do it now.

MR. J. BYRNE: Okay, I am going to sit down and give leave to the Member for Bonavista South, but I want to say that I do have a number of questions to ask the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs in Committee, and that would probably be a good time to do it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am not going to drag this out. I just say to the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, we are talking about the Municipalities Act, and I do not know what would encourage anybody to put his name forward to run to serve on a community council or a town council in rural Newfoundland and Labrador today. At one time, people wanted to get involved in town councils and municipal councils, community councils, because they could see where they could do some good for their community. There were always a few dollars there. You could get a couple of thousand dollars for a kilometre of road; there was a per capita grant; and people got involved because they saw a need in their community. Governments would respond to that need, put some money there and it would benefit the whole communities. Today, Mr. Speaker, about the only thing that municipal councillors can do in rural Newfoundland is go out and collect taxes and cause bad friends among their neighbours and other people in the communities. I fear, although the election in Conception Bay South is not an example, because there was a fair amount of interest there, but I fear, Mr. Speaker, in many rural Newfoundland towns come next September that you will find there will be very few people come out and offer themselves to serve on their municipal councils.

There is one thing I want to raise with the minister and I think the minister has not corrected it in those two pieces of legislation - I think the minister should address it - and that is whereby a fire chief cannot offer himself or herself to serve on a council. I don't know why that was incorporated in the Municipalities Act. I am talking about the fire chief in a community council or town council not being allowed to offer himself and be elected to serve on a municipal council. I say to the minister, if it is not true, then he should put that out there, because a lot of people who wanted to become part of the town council in the last election were deprived of running because of information that was put forward from his department.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing that raises my concern is when the minister talks about having firemen trained to take part in first aid. I would like to know who is going to pay for this training? Are the municipalities going to be responsible for providing the training? Are the fire department members themselves going to be expected to go out and have fund-raisers in order to pay for that training or is it something that the government see as a need, Mr. Speaker, and they will respond and look after the cost of providing this training to those volunteers? The minister also talked about the firemen being insured when they go outside their own municipality. I am not so sure that this has not been in operation all along and if it is not, then I fear that many, many fire departments, especially in rural Newfoundland, that have been responding to emergencies, have been probably operating without insurance protection for quite some time.

The other issue that I would like to raise with the minister - and this will be the last issue - is a situation whereby fire departments are formed in areas that are unincorporated. I think of Lethbridge, in my district, Mr. Speaker, where there is no form of local government, it isn't a community council or a town council or a local service district. People don't want it, but still you have a group of volunteers there with fire fighting equipment, a good fire department, and because they aren't part of an incorporated community cannot get liability to protect the firemen when they go out responding to an emergency.

I think that is wrong. I think that those particular people, even though they aren't involved in an incorporated town or community, should still have the protection of liability because they are doing the same chores and going forward and exposing themselves to the same risks as other people in other communities that have the protection of being part of a town council or a community council.

With those points, Mr. Speaker, I will adjourn debate. I understand the Opposition House Leader wants to make a few remarks.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to ask for clarification of a matter which arose earlier today. My comments are not intended in any way to challenge the Speaker's ruling on a matter of a point of order raised by the -

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, (inaudible) adjourned the debate.

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

I understand that the hon. member adjourned the debate, but the House has not adjourned yet. The hon. member rose on a point of order.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In question period today the Member for Bonavista South asked a question of the Minister of Justice, to which he replied very quickly and said the answer was no. Then the Speaker gave consent for the member to go to the next question. The member did not preface it by saying that he was rising on a supplementary.

We recognize that in Beauchesne it does say in 410(8): "Supplementary questions should flow from the answers of Ministers." However, in a previous ruling in 1990, on October 31, there was an incident or a circumstance in the House where a number of questions were asked by the Member for Ferryland. The Speaker at that time gave clarification on that, and he said: "The Chair will concur that when an hon. member addresses a question to a new minister, then the Chair will accept that to be a new question."

Mr. Speaker, I'm wondering -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. H. HODDER: - if we could on tomorrow have clarification for the future direction of the House, and ask for your consideration on that matter.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Yes, the Chair will take the point of order raised under advisement.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, to the point of order?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, to that point of order. I think the Speaker made it amply clear today what the ruling is, and what the orders of this House are. If you rise to address another question on a question that does not flow from your first question it is not a supplementary and you should put the question to the appropriate minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It is now 5:00 o'clock. Do we have the motion to adjourn?

This is Thursday and we did not have the adjournment debate, but it now being 5:00 o'clock this House will now stand adjourned until tomorrow at 9:00 o'clock in the morning.

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