December 9, 1996           HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLIII  No. 49

 


The House met at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

MS FOOTE: Mr. Speaker, l rise today to inform hon. Members of this House of progress being made in advancing government's regional economic development agenda in this Province.

The Department of Development and Rural Renewal was established in March of this year to lead our government's efforts to support economic growth and job creation throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in rural areas of this Province. A central component of this mandate involves working with the Regional Economic Development Boards in each of the Province's twenty economic zones.

Within ninety days of my appointment, all regional economic development boards, with one exception, were up and running. The one exception was the zone on the Southern Avalon, where community groups and interests argued that the economies of the two sides of the zone were sufficiently different to require the division of the zone. After extensive consultations with all parties, including the MHAs concerned, I concurred with this view and agreed to the creation of zones 18 and 20.

The establishment and operation of regional economic development boards has involved a tremendous contribution of volunteer commitment and effort. I have travelled to each zone upon the establishment of the permanent boards to thank the hundreds of volunteers involved in this process. I would also like to thank my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House, as well as the federal members of Parliament who have participated in these events, for their involvement and support.

It is important to emphasize, however, that these are not government's boards. They have been democratically elected, based upon structures determined within each zone. For the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador, business and labour, municipalities, community development organizations, education and training institutions, and other stakeholders in regional economic development, are coming together to achieve a clear consensus on their priorities and opportunities for long-term economic growth and job creation. The strategic economic plans the boards are now developing for their individual zones will provide government, for the first time, with a clear reference point to determine the vision, goals and objectives of every region of our Province.

Mr. Speaker, this past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the first collective meeting of Regional Economic Development Boards and I was impressed by the commitment and quality of the individuals leading this process. Board Chairs and their Executive Directors met in Corner Brook to review progress to date and to share views on moving into the implementation phase of their strategic economic plans. They expressed the view that just as the communities within each zone must learn to work together, so too, much the twenty zones work together for the economic well-being of our entire Province.

While the planning process is underway, it must be emphasized that regional economic development activity is also proceeding.

Since the establishment of my department in March, thirty-one projects totalling $6.6 million have been approved through the Strategic Regional Diversification Agreement, which we administer jointly with ACOA.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS FOOTE: These initiatives, such as the long-term initiative on the Great Northern Peninsula to develop Artic Char aquaculture, are establishing the strategic infrastructure necessary for private sector development and long-term job creation.

Mr. Speaker, we have embarked on a new way of doing business in regional economic development in Newfoundland and Labrador. I encourage all hon. members to continue to meet with the boards in their districts and contribute to this federal-provincial-community partnership. Government is committed to making this approach work and is confident the results will lead directly to new job creation, economic diversification and vibrant sustainable communities in all regions of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thank you.

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

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

I would like thank the minister for the statement before the House met, so I had a chance to read it just before I came down.

Mr. Speaker, I attended, of course, the signing in my district with the minister and at that time, Mr. Speaker, I said the same thing as I will say here today.

Of course, rural renewal is what we all look for and I guess the proof will be in the pudding down the road, if we see the actual results of this plan. I was very encouraged and I concur with the minister in saying that, to involve people at the grass roots and work your way up is the way to go in this Province and also, the way to go in this Province is to work from rural Newfoundland and come in. These people have some very good ideas, they are very encouraged but now, Mr. Speaker, they are going to need support and what they need is a long-term plan and something that they can see that is concrete. And rural Newfoundland is going to say: Yes, we believe in rural Newfoundland, and yes, we believe that rural Newfoundland can survive, if we use the initiatives and the people in rural Newfoundland to do that. And we have started on the right track, I say to the minister. There is no doubt about that. I said that before when I spoke with her, but now we also have to see if that phrase `rural renewal' really happens and we will give the minister and the government some time to see if this plan actually comes to fruition and will look down the road to see if we can stand in the House and say `yes', it is working.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to see that these development boards are up and running and that there is an opportunity for democratic participation. What concerns me, though, is that this government may have the same approach to that as they have to the home care boards and the health care corporations and start blaming them for the fact that development is not occurring in rural Newfoundland. If the same pattern is followed as in the health care corporation and home care, Mr. Speaker, we will have this government blaming them next year because there is inadequate funding for rural development in this Province. That is what concerns me, Mr. Speaker, that this is just a tool, that this government may be taking advantage of these people and not giving them the answers. Well, it remains to be seen how successful they will be, given the approach of government to actually turning power over to people in rural communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today, I am pleased to advise hon. members of a new government-industry initiative in the promotion and enhancement of cultural tourism in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, key strategic studies into this Province's tourism potential have consistently identified cultural tourism as a leading advantage for Newfoundland and Labrador. Research indicates that cultural tourism motivates tourists to spend more and to increase their length of stay.

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, in partnership with NewTel Communications, Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, and the federal Department of Canadian Heritage, is pleased to announce the launch of the first Cultural Tourism Award for Newfoundland and Labrador. I congratulate our partners in this initiative for recognizing the inherent value of Newfoundland and Labrador's cultural tourism.

Mr. Speaker, more than 2,000 application forms are currently being mailed to tourism industry partners and related cultural and heritage interest groups throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. This award will promote cultural expression both within our tourism industry and for the economic benefit of our tourism industry. The Cultural Tourism Award will recognize and reward progressive efforts which realize enriched cultural tourism experiences.

Mr. Speaker, the first Cultural Tourism Award will be presented at the upcoming Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador Annual Convention in February of 1997. I encourage all residents and tourism industry partners within Newfoundland and Labrador to take an active role in this program by nominating an individual or group for this Cultural Tourism Award.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for an advanced copy of her Ministerial Statement. The promotion and enhancement of cultural tourism in this Province is very important to the tourism industry. As the minister's statement makes mention, key studies and research have shown that cultural tourism is a leading tourism advantage in our Province, and a motivator to keep tourists here longer and have them spend more money. Perhaps we should be putting even more emphasis on cultural tourism, and the promotion of cultural tourism.

I also want to commend NewTel Communications once again for showing they are a good corporate sponsor, and Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador for their partnership in this initiative.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to announce to the Honourable House of Assembly two very important initiatives in managing the fish and wildlife resources of this Province. The first relates to the establishment of an Inland Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council, and the second is the approval of the Conservation and Stewardship Stamp Program. Mr. Speaker, through these initiatives, this government is demonstrating its strong commitment to include the public and resource users in the decision-making process for the inland fish and wildlife resources of this Province.

Mr. Speaker, the Advisory Council will be responsible for providing comments and advice on a wide range of issues related to provincial inland fish and wildlife conservation programs. The council will be invited to review and provide recommendations on resource management strategies, policies, operational plans, and regulations related to the conservation of inland fish and wildlife resources.

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow a select group of individuals will be sitting down to the inaugural discussions on just how this Advisory Council will work - its structure and its operational procedures. This group was invited from a comprehensive list which is included at the end of this statement.

Mr. Speaker, at this point in time it was premature to include any members from the general public, as there were no set criteria to make that selection. However, it is the intention to include two members-at-large who are not officially affiliated with any particular organization.

Mr. Speaker, one of the first activities to be taken on by this council will be the Provincial Conservation and Stewardship Stamp Program. I am pleased also today to be able to announce to the Honourable House of Assembly that this government has approved the development of this Conservation and Stewardship Program. The Advisory Council will be responsible to define and administer this Stamp Program, and will approve projects submitted by proponents in the area of fish and wildlife conservation.

The establishment of this program, Mr. Speaker, will create a fund which will allow hunters and anglers to make a direct contribution and pave the way for corporate contributions to the maintenance and enhancement of wildlife and fish habitats. Funding will be obtained by the purchase of a Conservation Stamp which will validate any fish and wildlife licence administered by the government.

Mr. Speaker, this initiative will be similar to the national conservation stamp program run by Wildlife Habitat Canada, and they have offered their expertise in helping to set up the program in Newfoundland and Labrador. I am confident that the Conservation Stamp Program will provide a means for consumptive wildlife and fish resource users to contribute in a meaningful way to the betterment of fish and wildlife resources in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the outcome of the deliberations of this group tomorrow and hope to be able to report on the outcome shortly afterwards.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of his statement prior to the opening of the House.

There is one thing that concerns me here in this particular statement. Nobody is going to argue against the need for conservation, but the minister goes on to say "this government is demonstrating its strong commitment to include the public and resource users in the decision-making...." Then he goes on to say in the second paragraph that he won't be including anybody from the general public. I say to the minister: How do you expect the general public to have input, and how do you expect them to be a part of this stewardship and conservation, if you are not going to include them when you put the structure together to set direction and to put the rules and regulations in right from the grass roots up?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, it is true, it is right here in your statement. Mr. Speaker, there is a great fear today that there are people looking at taking over our inland waterways and to deprive the people who normally use them of that particular opportunity. People out there today are scared that outfitters and other people with special interest groups will price them out of a pastime or a sport that they took great pride and great interest in; being able to go out and fish on their favourite river -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: - pay their $10 fee -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: - Mr. Speaker, and to do this on an annual basis. Today, those people are being deprived of that opportunity -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: - by the very fact -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

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

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave!

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

Oral Questions

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question today is for the Minister of Mines and Energy. Is the minister aware that the Come by Chance oil refinery has not paid its power bill since August, until last week when it paid its weekly bill, but no debts that have been incurred since August, which is a substantial amount of money?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I say to the minister, I am aware that there is a dispute regarding a bill but you or I or any business organization out there has to pay their bills. I ask him, why is Come By Chance getting preferential treatment in this case?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, Come By Chance is not getting preferential treatment.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Well why has government interfered and prevented Hydro from following normal debt recovery procedures and collecting the millions of dollars that are outstanding?

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

DR. GIBBONS: We have not interfered, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have been informed that government has interfered and prevented them from following normal procedures. Now I ask the minister, will he stop interfering and allow Hydro to go out and collect their debts as they would do on any other debts?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Hydro will do its business as it needs to, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to ask the minister a question. I ask him if it is a normal procedure at Hydro to replace a retired person's pension by buying an annuity for that person?

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

DR. GIBBONS: I don't know, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: I ask the minister if he is aware - or the Premier -that that has occurred?

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

DR. GIBBONS: No, I am not aware that that has occurred, Mr. Speaker. I don't know what the hon. member is talking about.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A question to the Premier, I ask the Premier is he aware that a retired person's pension has been changed and an annuity has been bought for that person?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition has something to bring to the attention of the House and to the government that he thinks constitutes a problem that we should deal with, he should bring it to our attention but I have to tell the Leader of the Opposition, it is a bit difficult to answer your first three or four questions telling the minister that he should not be interfering with the management processes of Hydro, on one issue, which has apparently gone away very quickly once he got his first three or four questions out but yet on the second issue, barely drawing a fresh breath, he is now saying: Are you micromanaging Hydro on its pension issues? The answer is, we don't know because we are not interfering with Hydro!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health dismissed concerns I raised on November 27, about cuts in hospital cleaning. He said that the hospital administration told him that everything was all right, but information that I receive, Mr. Minister, almost now on a daily basis, tell me something entirely different.

I would like to ask the minister, in the course of his investigation, did the minister become aware of any changes in the practices at St. Clare's Hospital in the disposing of needles that had already been used on patients?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just a slight correction to the hon. member. I did not dismiss his assertions with respect to the cleaning practises at the Health Sciences a couple of weeks ago. The fact of the matter is that the St. John's Health Care Corporation who manages the system issued a statement categorically denying the allegation and the assertion that was being put forward by the member. The people who manage the health care system in St. John's is the St. John's Health Care Corporation and they have the responsibility to do the micromanaging of the system, and as to whether or not they are now disposing of needles that are used in a way specific that is different than they disposed of them a week or two ago, quite frankly, I am not certain. I will undertake to find out the information for the hon. member in the speedy and timely fashion in which we did it in the past.

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

MR. FRENCH: I guess, Mr. Speaker, my impression and the minister's impression are certainly different in the way he answered the question, and certainly in the press release he put out after the House had closed. Will the minister confirm, with St. Clare's administration today, that the containers where the needles are disposed of are certainly not being cleaned and dumped on a timely fashion, and will he confirm that the people responsible for cleaning these facilities have made complaints to the administration that the dumping of the needle containers has now become unsafe and places them in serious jeopardy because the disposal units are too full when it finally comes time for them to be dumped.

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

MR. MATTHEWS: To the second question my answer is as to the first one, ditto.

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

MR. FRENCH: Good, Mr. Speaker. I will give him the third one that he can check out, too, I guess. Will the minister confirm with St. Clare's administration today that at least one of the cleaning staff at the hospital has been stuck with a needle from an undetermined source on at least two separate occasions, and will he confirm that the instances were reported and that the name of the individual has been listed with Occupational Health and Safety at the hospital? Will he ask the administrator to admit, and to acknowledge himself, that the accidents are directly linked to cuts in cleaning at the hospitals, and the increased risk of injury from needles because the container is so full at dumping time?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

To reiterate, the management of the health care system for St. John's, including activities at St. Clare's and all our facilities, is the sole responsibility of the St. John's Health Care Corporation. I will undertake to enquire as to whether or not there is anything untoward happening with respect to the issue he has brought forward, but I have to say also that I have every confidence in the ability of the St. John's Health Care Corporation to appropriately manage the health care system in St. John's, and if anything is happening that is of an untoward fashion I have every confidence they will take action to make appropriate corrections.

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

MR. SHELLEY: My question today is for the Minister of Mines and Energy concerning the copper capacity at Voisey's Bay. On Friday the minister said there was some 135 million pounds. In one report Inco reported 250 million pounds, and in another report through Argentia they reported another 200 million pounds. The minister tabled in the House on Friday the head assays, and I thank him for tabling those, the assays on the reserves, I say to the Premier. He tabled the assays on the reserves. All the mining people I have talked to say they need the head assays of the tons per day, not from the reserves, but the tonnage per day, so I ask the minister if he would table in the House the tonnage per day capacity of copper at Voisey's Bay?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, the tonnage per day is going to depend on the assay of the ore that is mined, clearly it is going to depend on that. In the first five or six years they expect to be mining the ovoid. I tabled the assays that I had available for the ovoid. Okay. I tabled these assays, and it is clear to anyone who takes a look at these numbers, the amount of nickel in these assays, the amount of copper in these assays, the amount of cobalt in these assays, so you can take your proportions accordingly. For the longer term, for the eastern deeps I tabled the assays for the first 50 million tons -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

DR. GIBBONS: - the estimated assays for the first 50 million from the Eastern Deeps. Now, I do not have the printed paper that I tabled on the Eastern Deeps, but it was about .7 per cent copper and about 1.4 per cent nickel. The ratio in math is two to 1. There is about two pounds of nickel for one pound of copper, based on the 50,000 tons in the Eastern Deeps. So when they are mining that, that is how much copper is going to come out relative to the amount of nickel. It is quite straightforward math based on the present estimates.

I have said many times in the past in the public, and maybe sometimes in the House, that these numbers are not known exactly yet as what it is going to be when they start mining. They are going to be approximately as per these assays. These assays are the best we have at this time, and as they find more ore I am sure that the results are going to vary a little bit. There may be a bit more nickel, a bit more copper, a bit less nickel, a bit less copper, etc.; the numbers will vary.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. member to complete his answer quickly.

DR. GIBBONS: When it gets down to it, the smelter/refinery complex at Voisey's Bay is being rated at 270 million pounds of nickel per year. If you are using -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to quickly draw his answer to a conclusion.

DR. GIBBONS: I will get to the conclusion of my answer, Mr. Speaker.

If you are mining 270 million pounds of nickel per year, if the assays are as per what I put out for the Eastern Deeps, the 50 million tons, then you are going to get half as much as that in copper - 135 million pounds of copper.

The company is presently estimating they will produce about 36 million pounds of copper through the refinery/smelter complex at Argentia, leaving about 100 million pounds of copper left over. Assuming there are 2,000 pounds in a ton - that is the normal number -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to take his seat.

DR. GIBBONS: Divide that into 100 million; that is 50,000 tons of copper.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, I say to the minister, I have talked to many people in the industry, many people who know the minister, and they say: Yes, the assays on the reserves are very important, and I thank the minister for giving me those. The head assays for the tonnage per day is what mining companies around the world will look at to see if it is viable to put a copper refinery/smelter there.

There are reports that Noranda in Montreal, Quebec, are now going to increase their capacity by 50 per cent on a copper refinery in Montreal, Quebec - 50 per cent, hundreds of jobs and so on. I would like to ask the minister if he knows if the copper from Voisey's Bay now, which will not be refined here, will end up in Montreal, Quebec, to create jobs.

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, the copper that is in the copper concentrate from Voisey's Bay is going to contain a small proportion of nickel. That small proportion will be looked at more as a contaminate than otherwise. Therefore, with something like this, it is not normal that you would throw all of this into one single copper smelter that is also using regular copper. It is likely that the copper concentrate will go to several smelters for copper, because that way you can mix the copper that has nickel contaminate with a copper concentrate that does not have nickel contaminate, and make it easier to smelt. So it could go to half-a-dozen smelters and refiners of copper in many places in the world market.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, the numbers seem to be bantered around. We have gone from 250 million tons down to 100 million tons, back up to 130 million tons. The bottom line is that it is going out of this Province to create jobs elsewhere.

Mr. Speaker, Inco has said it is not viable. I guess what they mean there is that they do not want to cut into their profits too much; it is not viable for them. I still think it is viable for this Province.

I would like to ask the minister this: Has the government pursued in the past, or are they pursuing now, or will they continue to pursue, other companies, other than Inco, who would come in and set up a copper refinery here in this Province?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to the member's questions because it is very transparent, if you listen to the questions here, what the hon. member is really all about. The fact of the matter is that the Minister of Mines and Energy last week -

MR. SHELLEY: It is about employment for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - and again this week, has made very clear that, to the greatest extent possible within the realm of economic sense, minerals from Voisey's Bay, in this case nickel and cobalt, economic sense. Materials from Voisey Bay, minerals from Voisey this Province. The fact of the matter is we have just had a major announcement of a commitment to proceed with what will be the largest and most technologically advanced nickel smelter refinery complex in the world. The Opposition doesn't want to deal with that. It wants to dismiss that. What we have now -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - is the member opposite being made aware of what the economics are with respect to copper, continuing to ask the question: Is it true that copper might go outside the Province? Mr. Speaker, this is so transparent as to be blatantly obvious. The member now is trying to say that copper, amongst other places it might go, might go to Quebec. This is called the politics of pride and prejudice. The member shouldn't be engaging -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) Lower Churchill.

PREMIER TOBIN: - in that kind of politics on this kind of issue. The Lower Churchill contract -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: If I may say, the Lower Churchill contract needs to be renegotiated because it is a bad contract, it is unfair. But if the member is saying that because we want to renegotiate the Lower Churchill contract we should declare war on the Province of Quebec, that is not the position of members on this side of the House. We want a responsible relationship with all of our neighbours, including the people in the Province of Quebec.

Now, Mr. Speaker -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - the member knows - in conclusion - that to the greatest extent possible all of the products that can be refined in the Province will be refined in the Province. But if the member is going to insist seriously - and I would ask the member to reflect upon what he is saying - that we demand a copper smelter refinery complex, that we subsidize such a complex even if it is uneconomic, what the member is really insisting upon is that there be no revenue flow, because there will be no profits to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, put aside, I say to the member, this attempt at playing politics.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Look at this from an economic point of view -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - and support the government when it brings forward a sensible initiative.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, if this member wanted to play politics all we would have to do is look at the Premier for a little while, every day in this House how he plays politics. I say to the Premier I'm not playing politics.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SHELLEY: What I've done, Mr. Speaker, is investigated this to my fullest. I'm not demanding that a copper refinery go to Labrador. What I'm saying it that every possible avenue should be looked at. I wish that the minister or the Premier would answer the question and forget all of that. Answer me: Have you pursued with other companies the interest of the copper refinery in Newfoundland and Labrador?

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

DR. GIBBONS: Mr. Speaker, no, I have not pursued at this stage any other companies. But if there is any other company out there that wishes to come in and invest in a copper smelter, come on now! If you have the money, come on now. Go get them.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has already confirmed with media in Labrador that they would be pursuing and maybe even negotiating with companies outside of Inco to bring in a copper refinery to Labrador. The second part is that I would start pursuing it right away to look for other companies. So I ask the Premier, is that true?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the member has obviously thought through very carefully these questions, and he has really done his homework and he is putting a very substantive case. I think the whole House can see that, that indeed, compared to the questions by the Leader of the Opposition, they are fairly substantive, I must say. Which is not to say that they are substantive, but merely that they are better.

I say to the member, as I've said once already, there has been an expression of interest by a Chilean interest in copper. We have not entered into any discussions. We have made very clear - and by the way, we have made very clear with Inco, and Inco has made, I think publicly, a statement that if there is interest - in fact, I think it was made the day of the press conference, and the member knows this - that if there is any interest by any party which wants to access the copper that will be produced at Voisey Bay, to be produced in Labrador or smelted in Labrador or smelted anywhere in this Province, Inco has said the copper is available to any party which wants to use it in this Province.

I think that is what we need to know,. That has been said publicly by the company, it has been said publicly by the Province. If there is anybody out there - we have heard one expression of interest - we will follow it up. If there are any others anywhere on the planet who think they can make a viable copper refinery complex out of what is available, we would be glad to talk to them. But, Mr. Speaker, to get up and ask questions that try and create the impression, to say to the people of the Province -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - guess, and I will conclude, Mr. Speaker, guess what? It may be going across the border to Quebec. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador should rise up. Our great enemies -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: - are going to get our copper. Mr. Speaker, that is beneath the member and he should not make those kinds of suggestions.

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

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

My question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour.

In 1994, the former government changed the review process for injured workers from a three-person panel to a single, adjudicator system, and one of the reasons it was supported in the House by the Opposition of the day is because the minister, the then minister, said, that all decisions emanating from the review division would be final and binding on both the commission and on the injured worker, and that the only appeal would be heard through the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. The question to the minister is: One year after, 1995, a Minute in Council or the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, changed the regulation allowing, the Workers' Compensation Commission to review a decision of the review panel, thus not accepting a decision made by the chief review commissioner and causing unnecessary hardship for injured workers in the Province.

My question to the minister is: Is he aware of this? Does he see it as a problem and does he have a plan to correct that situation?

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

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

I appreciate the question from the member.

The review committee that is travelling the Province right now, in the last two months is holding public meetings around the Province to deal with concerns of injured workers. There have been about fifteen meetings so far, public meetings, and there will be more in January. We expect that there will be some recommendations coming forward from the review committee that will deal with the concerns of injured workers.

I would expect that, if that is an issue - and that has been brought to my attention by two or three injured workers in the past - that they will have recommendations to help deal with that issue. I am reviewing it through our office in the past few weeks and we have had some representations on it. It has affected four or five cases along those lines and we are going to be looking at it carefully when the committee comes back with its recommendations, probably in February.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: Another question to the minister is: Why did government, on one hand, introduce legislation that would insure that decisions of the review division would be final and binding, and then, on the other hand, a year later, change it, to allow the actual re-occurrence of a situation they were trying to correct?

For example, I have an injured worker who was in my office just last week, an injured nurse, Diane Lake, whose permission I have - she said I could use her name. Her case was turned down by the Workers' Compensation Commission. It then went to the review division. The chief review commissioner at the time upheld her decision and instructed the Workers' Compensation Commission to reimburse or re-enact her workers' compensation earnings. The Workers' Compensation Commission then overturned that, came back, another review. The second review -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: I am getting to the question because it is an important issue. The second time it came back to the chief review commissioner, it was ruled in her favour again and yet, to this day, Mr. Speaker, the commission has still not re-instituted her earnings. What does the minister say to an individual like that and many more who are in the same situation?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member, I don't want to discuss, I am not going to discuss an individual case in the House of Assembly, but I say to the member that we are concerned that the review commission that we have used independently, claims of the Workers' Compensation Board, that that commission work as effectively as possible and that it be as independent as possible and that decisions rendered be honoured as thoroughly as they can be.

We will be looking at that issue. We are looking at the issue. The review committee that is out publicly holding hearings, will be looking at that issue and so in due course, not very far down the road, I expect that we will have some recommendations. If it is an issue out there, it will definitely be identified by the public in review hearings that are around the Province and so we will be dealing with it. The two or three or four cases that have been brought to my attention, we are reviewing them individually and will be dealing with the commission accordingly.

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

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

I know the minister has received submissions from injured workers on this particular issue.

Let me ask the minister: What would stop the minister and government from moving today and introducing at the Cabinet level or repealing that new regulation that would re-institute and put teeth back to the original legislation that said: that the review division's decisions are final and binding and if they rule in favour of an injured worker, then the commission must live up to them? What would stop the minister from doing that today, and why will he not act? Why is he hesitating and waiting for an independent review to come in, when he knows full-well himself that the situation exists that he has the power to correct, today, not six months from now?

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, we do not invent public policy in Question Period. We are going to do our homework.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I care, this government cares about injured workers just as much as the other side does and we will bring forward, I guarantee you, recommendations coming up very shortly to deal with any proposed changes to help make sure that the Workers' Compensation system works for injured workers, that it works for employers but the main thing is that it is a fair system. We are going to work hard, Mr. Speaker, we are going to listen to everybody and we are not going to be months at it and months at it. We are going to deal with it and if there are problems right now that we have identified, we are going to try to fix them before the commission comes in - I give the undertaking to the member - but we are doing our homework first before we make a move.

Thank you.

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

MR. E. BYRNE: I say to the minister, nobody has suggested it and certainly I didn't that people on this side of the House had a corner in compassion for injured workers but the question was not answered.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister could update us on an issue I asked last week dealing with injured workers with respect to the impact of minimum wage upon the earnings of injured workers. Has the minister met with the commission, and if he has, could he update the House on whether that situation has been rectified and corrected?

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

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

There is a meeting scheduled for Monday with the Workers' Compensation Commission. I will be reporting back to the House once we have determined, after a meeting with the commission -

AN HON. MEMBER: Next Monday?

MR. K. AYLWARD: Yes, next Monday. Once we have a meeting we will be discussing that issue as scheduled and once we deal with that issue I will be coming back to the House to indicate any direction that we may be taking.

Thank you.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs. The government is spending millions of dollars buying new computers and upgrading its information technology system, some of it with federal co-operation agreement dollars. `The provincewide E-911 service would substantially improve the level of emergency response for police, fire, medical, ambulance and other agencies including poison control,' words of the minister, March 21, 1995 in the House. So why has the government cancelled other information technology improvement, namely the rural 911 system upgrade, which can save lives?

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

MR. A. REID: We could not afford it, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, it was only a year ago that the minister stood in his place and said that they could afford it and they were bringing it in. A rapid response time is vital to all emergencies in this Province but especially critical in life and death situations. `An E-911 system significantly reduces time delays in getting information on the emergency and in dispatching proper response,' these are the words of the Municipal Affairs Minister of March 21, 1995 also. Was the government wrong that an E-911 system would reduce time delays in responding to critical life and death situations in rural Newfoundland or is the government now saying it is not a priority anymore?

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

MR. A. REID: No, Mr. Speaker, if there was anyone in the last seven-and-a-half to eight years who has been promoting and been pushing for 911, even 911 across the Province, it has been me. I have been leading sort of a charge on that whole idea for the past twenty years. Certainly, no, we are not in a situation today to be able to say whether or not we will be able, in the future, to continue with the work we have done towards E-911 but last year, Mr. Speaker, at a time of restraint and a time when we were down-sizing government and making serious cuts to some of our social programs we felt at the time that the 911 system could wait for another year or two. At the time, looking at a possible investment of over $3 million to implement the 911 system, it was just too expensive at the time for us to be able to absorb and then justify some of the other things we were doing.

The program is not dead. It is still very much alive. The Newfoundland Telephone Company and ourselves are waiting now for things to get better and hopefully before I am finished as the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs I might have the opportunity, I hope I do, to introduce the 911 system. If I don't live that long, Mr. Speaker, I am certainly sure that whoever replaces me will take the same active initiative when it comes to providing such an adequate service that we deserve, not only in St. John's and Corner Brook but we deserve in all of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, first it was slashing funding in programs and making the hospitals serving rural areas into a shell of what they once were and now it is a policy to turn back the clock on the emergency telephone system in rural Newfoundland. Bill No. 43, before the House now, provides fire-fighters with protection from personal liability.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I am getting to it, Mr. Speaker. What about the personal safety for fire-fighters which comes with quick response time? Why is the government actively undermining the health care network on which rural Newfoundlanders rely, and what are the real savings versus the cost?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that my hon. friend across the way would even suggest that we take money out of the Health care budget or Social Services or Education and put it into a 911 service that really basically, I know and he knows, maybe we can do without for another two or three years. I hope and pray that he is not suggesting - would you suggest that we take it from the Department of Health? I am open, very much so, to the hon. member to write me or suggest to me where we would find $3.5 million at this particular time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: From my point of view -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. A. REID: - it is more important -

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. A. REID: - at this point in time to direct our monies towards health and welfare and social services than it is towards 911.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has elapsed.

The Chair would like to take this opportunity to welcome to the gallery today a former Member of the House of Assembly for the District of St. John's North, Dr. Phil Warren.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair would also like to welcome Mr. Svend Robinson, the Member of Parliament for Burnaby, B.C., who is now seated in the Speaker's gallery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Notices of Motion

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

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will, on tomorrow, ask permission to introduce the following motion:

WHEREAS ground search and rescue organizations have been in existence in this Province since 1972; and

WHEREAS at the present time ground search and rescue units exist throughout most of the Province, both on the Island and in Labrador; and

WHEREAS these ground search and rescue organizations provide a very important service to the people of this Province; and

WHEREAS at the present time the ground search and rescue organizations are dependent primarily on local fund-raising to finance their operations;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this Honourable House, on behalf of the people of this Province, express its appreciation and support for the work of these ground search and rescue organizations; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognize the efforts of these organizations and actively explore ways of assisting them in carrying out their very important work on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Petitions

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present to the House of Assembly, a petition on behalf of in excess of 250 people from St. John's and surrounding areas who say as follows:

We, the undersigned, support the long overdue and needed changes to the provincial Human Rights Code to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination. Gay and lesbian citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador must be afforded the same and equal rights as all citizens.

We also insist that the amendments to the code extend to include not only the areas of employment, goods and services and accommodation, but also must cover the area of employment benefits. We insist that the government deal with this swiftly and fairly during this sitting of the House, as has been promised.

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that has been raised in this House of Assembly on numerous occasions, and in particular by the New Democratic Party. An amendment to the Human Rights Code was presented in the House by the former Member for St. John's East, Mr. Jean Long, a number of years ago. It was also presented by this hon. member in 1992. We have been calling for this amendment. It is a simple, straightforward amendment to the Human Rights Code.

In the last year the Government of Canada, the Parliament of Canada, has amended at long last its Human Rights Code. Meanwhile, this Province has been fighting with the Human Rights Commission in the court over whether or not the code ought to be read to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground.

Mr. Speaker, last spring in the House, on June 14 of this year, I asked the Minister of Environment and Labour, who is also responsible for human rights, a question concerning this very issue and asking when the Province was going to end its hypocrisy, when they were going to end their toing and froing on the issue, and actually amend the code. At that time the minister said, and I quote, "We are drafting, people are getting the amendments ready, Cabinet has to have a look at it and then we will bring it forward to the House of Assembly. So the House Leader will soon, in very short order and in due course, have an amendment that we can lay here on the Order Paper for the House of Assembly to have a vote on for the first time. Yes, it is about time that we brought it forward, Mr. Speaker, I totally agree."

Now, Mr. Speaker, this is six months later. Presumably the draft has been sitting around in the minister's office for the last six months. I am sure Cabinet has met dozens and dozens of times since then, and yet we have no amendment to this House.

Mr. Speaker, I asked earlier today for a copy of the proceedings of bills, or the progress of bills in the House of Assembly as of today, or as of December 6, and there have been twenty-six pieces of legislation brought to this House since November 18 when the House opened. Yet, we have not seen a straightforward amendment to the Human Rights Code that would include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen a particular bill that affects it though, and this is Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Pension Benefits. Do we see in that an inclusive definition that would provide for equal benefits for survivors of gay and lesbian couple relationships? No. We see a definition of spouse in clause 2(ff) of the bill that a spouse is defined as "a person of the opposite sex" or a person who is not being prevented by law from marrying a member of a pension plan or a former member of a pension plan.

While the member says on the one hand that he intends to change the Human Rights Code, and it is just a matter for his Cabinet to sit down and review the draft legislation and bring it before the House, on the other hand the same Cabinet is sitting down and putting forth to the House the pension benefits bill which continues the act of discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation in the form of pension benefits.

That is an issue that was before the Supreme Court of Canada only last year where two gentlemen from British Columbia brought a case to the Supreme Court of Canada insisting that the regulations for pension benefits be changed to include the survivors of couples who are together, who live together, who are couples in every other respect other than by law, and have the courts and have the law recognize that.

I want the minister not only to confirm to the House that he will introduce this legislation and introduce it now, but he and the government will accept changes to the pension benefits legislation to ensure that gay and lesbian couples have rights for survivors the same as heterosexual couples.

Mr. Speaker, there are whole other areas of government policy that ought to be included in this -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave!

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

MR. HARRIS: There are whole other areas of government policy that ought to be changed to reflect this, and I ask the minister -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: - to commit himself and his government -

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - to making those changes.

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

MR. K. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is a pleasure to speak to the petition put forward by the member.

The government in the spring committed to bringing forward an amendment to the Human Rights Code to deal with sexual orientation. We are doing that. We have been working on it actively for the past few weeks. We have been consulting with Justice to ensure that we have the right wording to put forward the amendment. There are four or five different provinces that have included different parts in their amendment. We have just been going through the process of ensuring that we get the amendment right.

The government is committed to doing it. The government is going to be bringing it forward shortly. We have been working on it the past number of days, as a matter of fact. We are still working on it. We aren't very far away, but we are committed. I can tell the member, I can tell the House, that we are committed to bringing forward an amendment to deal with this issue, and we will be doing so shortly. We are dealing with, ensuring though, and looking at the other jurisdictions across Canada, just to make sure we have it right. It will be brought forward shortly. We discussed it in caucus and we discussed it further in Cabinet, and we will be discussing it shortly to finalize the amendment, Mr. Speaker. We will be dealing with it shortly, I can assure the member. Thank you.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, second reading of a bill, An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Operation Of Schools In The Province, Bill No. 48, the Minister of Education. Here he comes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Operation Of Schools In The Province". (Bill No. 48)

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to take a few minutes today if I could with respect to introducing Bill No. 48, and to spend some time putting some of the issues here in context.

In the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the last couple of years or so there has been a lot of attention paid to the education issues and been focused with respect to education reform, a referendum in the Province, a change of the Constitution, and issues that arose during the election last February with respect to school viability, the designation of schools as being either for single denominations or for more than one denomination, transportation issues, and so on.

The reality of it is that in introducing Bill No. 48 today we are looking at the first really significant change to the Schools Act, as we call it in short language, since the move towards integration in the late 1960's. So there have been a number of issues and I will point out in my introductory remarks in introducing the bill, Mr. Speaker, that there are issues contained in Bill 48 that many members in this Legislature, many members of the education community, many members of the public generally had thought were already legislatively provided for. It reflects some of the things actually, that over time, have come into common usage in the school system but the actual provision for them in Legislative language will not be confirmed until Bill 48 is passed.

So the bill itself goes into complete detail with all aspects, Mr. Speaker, of running the schools in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it deals with all the issues beginning with the rights of students, the rights of parents, rights and responsibility of school boards, how school boards will operate schools, how principals themselves and the staff will actually run schools, all of those issues are contained because this is a revision that has been promised and started upon and worked upon many times over the past thirty years or so, but it is now consolidated in this particular Bill 48, so there are a range of issues, Mr. Speaker, that go well beyond those that have dominated the media over the last few days and I think members of the education community, like Dr. Warren who was recognized here today, who spent some time in this administration of 89-90 and so on, as the Minister of Education, would have recognized that when people see, hear and read that there is finally a provision in this particular Schools Act in Bill 48 that outlaws corporal punishment in the school.

There will be many people who would have thought that, that was the case because of course, the flagrant, open use of corporal punishment had ended as a policy matter some time ago, a long time ago in many instances, there were still a few isolated incidents under very strict conditions, Mr. Speaker, where, it could legally be used in the Province but it has fallen out of practise, but to give assurance and Legislative guarantee to that kind of provision, Mr. Speaker, it is this bill that finally brings in the language that others in education have worked on for many years, and I am sure they will be very pleased to see those kinds of things being highlighted in the bill. So I might point out, if I could, Mr. Speaker, by just making reference to certain sections of the bill as we go through, the significance of them, what it is intended to accomplish, and I will spend a few minutes with respect to the issues that most people have felt have been tied in to the referendum of 1995, the debate about changing the Constitution, the denominational issues, the further functioning of schools in the Province as either single denominational schools or multi-denominational schools, the viability issues that were raised, I will deal with those in a little more detail but there are a number of others as well that I will mention in passing.

I would just like to point out, Mr. Speaker, to members of the House, that the bill is divided into several sections. The first section, part one, deals with issues relating to students and this is the way the bill is organized, Mr. Speaker, deliberately so, and interesting to note, that students would be the first section of the bill because all of us here acknowledge of course, that it is for the students that we run and organize the whole of the education system and they should take priority. So sections three to fourteen, after we get pass some definitions and terminology, Mr. Speaker, these sections make provision which directly affect students such as the students right of access to an education program, the continuing adherence to a policy of compulsory attendance in the Province, Mr. Speaker, because that has been debated over the years as to whether it should continue on or not as a compulsory feature.

The provision for and allowance for home instruction under certain circumstances and I might point out here, Mr. Speaker, that the members of the House may have actually been approached recently by a group who are proponents of home schooling and home education, who are asking for the act to be changed beyond what is in this proposal. Currently, we are re-enforcing and restating, Mr. Speaker, the provision for home schooling provided the parents because we have a compulsory attendance system but if the parents go to a school board and go to the Director of Eduction and apply to have their children educated at home, it can be agreed to; the proponents for home schooling, Mr. Speaker, are hoping that rather than have to apply to a school board, they could just inform the school board that they were going to keep the students and children at home and teach them themselves.

We debated the issue and came down on the side of the argument, Mr. Speaker, that we would provide for home instruction home schooling but we certainly would not encourage it beyond what it is today and we are not promoting it as a choice of schooling in the Province. We are allowing for it in the legislation and that is all, so I am sure that the group that we have been dealing with might be somewhat disappointed that we did not go further but there is no impediment to what they are doing now in the Province with home schooling, but there is no enrichment of the right to do it and no promotion of it further in this particular legislation.

Sections 3 to 14 also guarantee the right to the instruction of French for individuals who have and want to exercise rights under Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and also deals with the issue of student records, who can avail of them, who can have access to them and under what circumstances and conditions.

After those sections are covered in the new bill there is a second part of the act, in Bill 48, that deals with rights and responsibilities of parents, because the parents, of course, are charged with the responsibility to exercise the rights on behalf of these children who are of school age. Sections 15 to 20 that follow up on that obligate parents to enrol their children in school, and also to establish an entitlement for the parents themselves to receive information regarding a student's progress and their record as they move through the school system.

In there as well, Mr. Speaker, there is a section that provides an appeals procedure relating to decisions which affect students, and it also points out that because we have students in the schools now who are nineteen years of age and older, that they are treated as adults in their own right and can access records as if they were a parent the same as the parent themselves. Once those rights, obligations, and responsibilities are spelled out for the students and the parents the bill moves on to a third section which talks about the schools themselves, how they should be organized, about the length of the school year, the length of the school day, and issues of that nature.

Section 24, for example, requires that a principal be appointed for every school and it outlines the duties and responsibilities of those principals in the schools. It goes on further in Sections 25 and 26 and sets out the requirements for every school to have a school council, a new initiative that has already begun in the Province and is very popular where it has been in use, and is a direct result of recommendations made from the Williams Commission Report, and proposed and promoted by educators in the Province even before that. It is a real direct way to give parents, teachers, and members of the community a real say at the school level as to what their school is going to do, how it is going to function, what the priorities are going to be, and what kind of schooling parents want their children to be exposed to in the actual physical building that they attend.

Sections 27 to 32 provide for the opening and closing dates of school for the year. It spells out the length of the instructional day for students, and establishes conditions under which schools may be closed. Member might be interested to note that there were some recommendations from the Williams Commission Report, again, suggesting clearly that the length of the school day and the length of the school year should be increased in this new legislation. That does not occur in this legislation, but we have had dialogue with the Teachers' Association, and as they are now already involved in a round of collective bargaining, it has been made clear that government would hope that between the Teachers Association and the Department of Education we might be able to convince parents of the concern they raised before the Williams Commission Report that gave rise to those two recommendations.

The recommendations were to lengthen the day and the lengthen the year. The issue was referred to, in education circles, as Time on Task. Parents were concerned that the school year was a bit too short, or that there were too many interruptions, or that some day the school day was being interrupted to the point where they were not sure there was enough effort being put into the basic education for students focusing on the direct prescribed curriculum. The issue has been described as issue of Time on Task in the school system, and we have asked the negotiators with the Teachers' Association at the bargaining table to try and come forward with proposals so that together we can go forward, and afterwards, the government and the Teachers' Association, in unison, suggest to parents that we have made some improvements in terms of Time on Task and may not need to legislatively change the length of the school day, or the length of the school year, so there are no changes with respect to that in this particular legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Does it say anything about school busing?

MR. GRIMES: Busing is not a legislative right. It is a regulation and a necessary part of the system, but there is no reference anywhere in this to an entitlement to a school bus for any purpose.

MR. SHELLEY: (Inaudible) Time on Task.

MR. GRIMES: The length of day and the length of year, and it is being discussed at the bargaining table. The other commitment that the Premier gave on behalf of this particular government during the election last February was that issues that impact directly on the teacher's work day and the teacher's work life would not be determined by a unilateral act of the Legislature but would be bargained at the bargaining table and they were presented with proposals from government last week when negotiations began. The basic proposition that we put forward, Mr. Speaker, that I addressed also at the teacher's annual general meeting last spring was that we know it is an issue. The public has brought it forward as part of their public dialogue and if we cannot convince anybody after the negotiations that we have done anything about it and if the only thing that is going to convince parents in Newfoundland and Labrador that there is more time spent on task in schools is going to be a longer day and a longer year then we would revisit the issue and see if we would need to legislate if we cannot find other productive solutions. So that is an issue that we will wait to hear back on in another year or so, Mr. Speaker.

Section 33, Mr. Speaker, it repeats again - it outlines the responsibilities of teachers in the system. Section 36, this is the one that for the first time, outright with no ifs, ands or buts prohibits the use of corporal punishment in the schools.

Section 37-40 outlines conditions under which students may be suspended or expelled. These are to try to help again with teachers with respect to classroom management issues, particularly when there is repeated disruptive behaviour that there are suspensions of a certain maximum time allowed. All of the officials, educators get together and try to come up with alternate means of addressing improper behaviour. If at the end of the piece, Mr. Speaker, there is no way to properly control and/or correct a student's behaviour and if they continue to be disruptive to the point that other students are being denied and deprived an education in the final analysis, even though there is compulsory attendance in the Province between the ages of 6-16, students can be denied that right and expelled from school if their behaviour is not corrected through all other measures that are attempted.

Section 41, Mr. Speaker, requires the minister to establish methods to ensure that schools maintain adequate programs and performance standards. It is an important section, Mr. Speaker, because in this particular bill, as we deal with the rights and responsibilities of school boards and the duties and responsibilities of the department on behalf of the government, hon. members and the public, generally those involved in education, will see a shift. There is clearly more autonomy given to school boards to make the decisions at the local level and the government, Mr. Speaker, will carve out for itself the role defined in Section 21, which is to monitor performance standards and guarantee that an adequate program is maintained in all of the schools that are operated in the Province.

I will address that issue again, Mr. Speaker, briefly when I come to Section 77, which deals with viability and is a major issue that has been discussed publicly in the last little while because it is a tie-in between Section 77 and Section 41, that is going to make the system work in terms of viable schools and what will be viable. It will be viable if it meets the criteria established by the minister under Section 41.

Sections 43 and 49, Mr. Speaker, provide for the establishment and operation of private schools. Again, as with home schooling, the government and this legislation is not encouraging that approach but it is certainly providing for private schooling just as it provides for home schooling under certain circumstances.

Then, Mr. Speaker, it looks at the whole issue in Part IV of the school itself, school boards and how they will run the system locally in ten geographic areas now on behalf of the people of the Province. So we have had a section looking at students, a section looking at parent rights, a section looking at the schools themselves, how they shall run and then a Section outlining duties and responsibilities now in Part IV for school boards.

It requires in Section 52 that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council divide the Province into school districts. Everybody knows, Mr. Speaker, that we now have ten that will be totally in charge of the system as of January 1, 1997.

Sections 53-67, Mr. Speaker, point out and allow for the establishment of school boards for each district. It provides for the election of interdenominational school boards. We discussed these matters, Mr. Speaker, in detail in the summer when we passed the legislation and allowed for the interim boards. The election will occur on the same basis. I believe, Mr. Speaker, today we have provided a first draft to all members again of the suggested ballot forms that might be used in the school board elections, to allow for the election to occur as contemplated in Term 17, two-thirds elected by denomination on a per capita basis, and one-third elected at large.

We are open for comments with respect to the forum. We will have to finalize it in advance of the first election that is slated now for September of 1997.

Also, that section provided for the appointment of the interim school boards, which we have done, and for the operation of such boards with all the powers that the elected boards will have afterwards.

I should also point out that in the election process it is clear that with respect to the ballot there have been some issues raised publicly that are not dealt with in the legislation, but the regulation and the by-laws of the school boards governing the school board election will make it quite clear that in order to run for office there is no authority needed from any other source, even in a denomination, as to whether you can offer yourself or not. The at-large need no prior approval from anyone to put their name on a ballot. Neither do the denominational representatives need prior authority from anyone. They have to declare that they are of one of the denominations, and they ask to have their name placed on the ballot to represent that group.

Voters do not have to declare their affiliation as they go to vote, and everybody is entitled to vote for the at-large and for one of the three denominational categories, if they choose. It is entirely up to themselves.

Those matters will be made more clear and will be presented publicly prior to the election in September, and be part of the constitution and by-laws of the boards and also the by-laws that run the actual election themselves, but those issues have all been dealt with already and they will be appended as regulations with respect to and accompanying this Act.

Sections 68 to 72 are new sections dealing with conflict of interest by school trustees. It has been considered in the last few years that the trustees are in positions where there should be certain guidelines with respect to possible conflict of interest. They are introduced in Bill 48, in sections 68 to 72.

Section 75 outlines the duties of the school boards, and section 76 goes into detail as to the powers those school boards have as a result of exercising those particular duties.

Section 77 is critical to this whole piece and is more relevant to one of the current debates that has been going on in the Province for a couple of years. It describes the conditions which are necessary for a school to be viable in the Province, so the whole viability criteria. Members would remember that back in January the government produced a piece of legislation and some appended regulations on viability that indicated that if you did not have certain minimum numbers of enrolments at certain grade levels, you could not run schools. That issue has been totally set aside in this bill. Viability will be basically any school which can meet the requirements set out in section 41, and section 41 basically says that the school has to be able to offer the minimum prescribed curriculum that is prescribed in any one year by the Department of Education through the minister's office.

I believe also we have available, if members want - there is, every year, a prescribed curriculum that every student from K-VI is to be exposed to, another curriculum and guide and so on for VII-XII, and everybody knows there are very detailed guidelines with respect to curriculum options for graduation requirements in the High School, Levels I, II, and III.

What it amounts to is that a school board, in consultation with the parents locally, can continue to operate any school in the Province as long as that school, in their judgement, and they can convince the government, offers the minimum core program to every student in the school. If there are to be course options that are in the minimum core program that cannot be offered in the school, then one of two things will occur.

If the school is so isolated that there are no other options for students but to go there, the government must provide additional resources, either in human resources, teachers and/or technological age, Distance Education, and those type of availabilities.

At the end of the piece there is a section that actually says, all of the schools in Newfoundland and Labrador that are established and operating in September of 1997 must be viable schools, so they will be viable by virtue of the fact that they will be enriched, enhanced, and built up, so that they can be viable when they are in isolated areas, or they will be viable by virtue of consolidation and coming together in other areas. In any event, every school that operates in September of 1997 will have the capability of offering the minimum prescribed core curriculum.

As we know, Mr. Speaker, there will be instances, as there are today, and this will continue into the future, where because there are larger groupings of students in some places, some schools, many schools, will be able to offer, and thankfully so, more than the minimum prescribed curriculum. But everybody in the Province will be exposed to and will have an opportunity to take advantage of the minimum prescribed curriculum. If people want to see what the list is, if we have not already circulated it, it can be provided readily. I will get some copies sent over from the department for distribution in the House.

MR. FITZGERALD: Does the minister have the final say on which schools are viable (inaudible)?

MR. GRIMES: At the end of the day, the minister, Mr. Speaker, under section 41 and a combination of section 77, could actually override the decision of a school board to run a school if the minister believes the school is not offering the minimum program. If the school is offering the minimum program, the minister has no ability to override the decision of a school board to operate a school.

Mr. Speaker, those are the issues that are there. It defines a school which must exist, and if it must exist because it is necessarily existent for geographic reasons, then it must be supported by the government to the extent that it can offer the minimum core program. It obligates government to provide additional resources to small, isolated schools. What we are going to do with the school boards in January is develop a list of the schools which will be entitled to additional resources, and that will actually be appended to the Act as a schedule to the Act. Rather than have questions, we will work out that issue with the schools boards in consultation, and everybody will agree as to which schools will get additional resources.

That does not mean that schools that do not get additional resources will have to close. They will all have to be viable, but there are some by virtue of their physical location and their limited number of students that will need additional resources. The ones that are entitled to additional resources to help them stay open because of their isolated position are the ones that will be listed in the Act, and we will consult with the school boards on that very early in the new year.

Before I go on from section 77, hon. members should know that there is one other very important tie-in to section 77 and viability. We will be changing an allocation formula for teachers. We have discussed it with the teachers' association, we have discussed it with the school boards. It was discussed regularly in our public consultation. The notion is that to make sure that we can provide the additional resources as needed to these necessarily existent small, isolated schools we will be changing the small schools definition to match that. Because there are many small schools now which avail of additional teaching units under a current definition and they are actually in the same community with other small schools.

They know that they will not be getting the additional resources. They will still have to decide whether or not they can run the minimum program with their reduced number of teachers, or whether they should consolidate and become one school, and those types of issues. Everybody has been placed on alert. They are all fully aware that in communities where there are two or three small schools which are all now getting additional teachers under a small schools formula, none of them will get additional teachers. Then they will have to decide what level of program they can run with the reduced number of teachers.

That may, in some cases, we admit quite frankly, it may lead them to a decision to consolidate where they otherwise may not have chosen to do so, but we feel that is the right direction to take, it is the right approach to take. We will work with the school boards to go through that system of determining viability and determining how many schools they actually need to physically run for 1997 through the first couple of months of the calendar year.

In sections 78 to 82 with the school boards: This again provides, as we did in the summer legislation, for the establishment of denominational sub-committees for the school boards, and it delineates the powers of those committees with respect to uni-denominational, single-denominational schools, and the powers of the committees with respect to interdenominational schools.

A number of changes that hon. members might note from the summer legislation. This again is an issue that has been in place with the interim boards now for a few months. We had a provision saying that the different denominations that have rights under Term 17 under the Constitution could have subcommittees in each board of three to eight, there were reasons given why they needed three and some cases eight in others. The unfortunate outcome is that in almost every case, the denominational committees decided to nominate eight people, there now prevails a circumstance in many boards where you have a board of eighteen and you have three subcommittees that total twenty-four, the school boards have come back to us and said: it is non-workable, there are too many, you do not need eight people to exercise the rights that are laid out in this legislation so we are proposing an amendment here - and I think it was part of the debate in the summer - that it was proposed actually and suggested by the Opposition, that if people maximized the subcommittees that it would be too large and non-workable and we have compromised here and indicated that the maximum should be four, Mr. Speaker.

There are also a couple of other issues that have arisen just by virtue of the first time going through and they are: Members of the subcommittees will be elected members of the board unless they do not have enough, that is clarified, and also, Mr. Speaker, in the public consultations, while most people thought it was fair for impartiality at the board and most appropriate, that whoever becomes the chair and the vice-chair of the school board, no matter how they get on the board, because there is a separate election for chair and vice-chair, that they not sit on denominational subcommittees, that they remain impartial or neutral and conduct the overall affairs of the board rather than getting involved in the affairs of the subcommittee for a particular denomination. So those changes are made with respect to that, Mr. Speaker, from the summer legislation.

Then sections 83 to 88, Mr. Speaker, provide for the designation of schools as un-denominational or interdenominational and again, I believe today we have provided a form, a first draft of a form that we intend to send out to all of the parents who will have children in the schools for next year and the whole notion is laid out that the parents would indicate to the board whether they want their child, and there would be one registration form for every child in the system next year, so that the school board, Mr. Speaker, at the end of the piece, would have a clear indication of what kind of school every single student for the next school year should be in if they can arrange for it. So the designation process provides for that.

I might point out, Mr. Speaker, and members opposite might be interested to note as well, that we have been having some discussions with the integrated group who have a right to act as a single group under Term 17, and we are asking them I guess, through this process, to basically not ask to have integrated schools designated as un-denominational, that they would allow all of the integrated schools to automatically become inter-denominational because that is what they say they are in any event and then that the only un-denominational schools might be Roman Catholic, Pentecostal or Seventh-Day Adventist.

We have not heard back from them directly yet. I spoke with the chair of the IC on Friday, we had a good discussion about the matter but the forum that we are proposing is one that suggests that all of the integrated schools would switch their names to inter-denominational and they would have all the same rights and privileges in that respect. The understanding that we have is that the schools involved in integration, want very little or nothing basically to do with governance and running schools. They just want to guarantee that there is a religious influence and that is the whole notion of an inter-denominational school, Mr. Speaker, so we are hoping that they will publicly agree, to not ask to have un-denominational integrated on a registration form as a choice because a lot of people find that confusing in any event, and we have had some discussions to date. That is not language, Mr. Speaker, that is in the legislation but it is language that is in the form that has been presented with respect to the registration and designation process.

Section 89 allows the boards as well to establish attendance zones, Mr. Speaker, which will be critical in this process, requires the board to appoint directors, assistant directors which they have already done, outlines the duties and then, Mr. Speaker, there are some sections from 95 to 101, that after detailed consultation with the denominational authorities and the current twenty-seven board representatives, we think we have come to a reasonable and satisfactory approach as to disposition of properties because some properties held by school boards, some properties held in the names of the churches and so on, and we believe that in sections 95 to 101, we have had extensive consultation, we believe we have laid out the scenarios whereby the properties are always available to the ten new boards as long as they need it for education.

If they are no longer needed for education, Mr. Speaker, and there is a disposition of the property, that the disposition would follow, who put the money in, so that if it were built by the churches, it seems logical that it would revert to a denomination. If it were built by the people, it would revert to the school board on behalf of the people. If it were a shared cost and if the building is disposed of, any proceeds would be shared, Mr. Speaker, between the school board on behalf of the people and between the particular denomination. So those issues are there, it allows twelve months from January 1, Mr. Speaker, for them to work out all the details of the individual properties and if there are still a few in which the boards, the DECs, have not been able to work out the disposition issues, then the minister is given the right to make a ruling or intervene at the end of a twelve month period.

Section 102 and 104, Mr. Speaker, provide the authority to pay the grants for operations and maintenance that the school boards get from the government. Section 105 outlines the powers of the minister with respect to education, and Section 106 is one that is required to allow us to establish regulations to run things like school elections, a designation process, and those types of issues, and also to set up regulations relating to issues like school busing.

Section 111 goes on to provide the enabling legislation to establish the Commission Scolaire Provinciale Francophone, and that particular section, again, we will probably not be in a position by the time we close this debate before Christmas to do as the Francophone population would like. They would like for all of the organization, duties, and responsibilities of the commission Scolaire to be spelled out in the act just like they are for the anglophone school boards.

However, we will do it by regulation at this point because we have not progressed far enough in our discussions with out Francophone representatives to finalize the legislative language in the next few days. If we can get it done in the next week or so we will certainly bring it forward, go through committee stage, and try and introduce it. We have given them that commitment. I have checked with the legislative people and with our own officials who are still discussing it with them but they do not feel that they are going to be able to resolve the issues, and the language, between now and Christmas. We only started the discussion in detail in the last week or so.

AN HON. MEMBER: Will you bring it in in the spring session?

MR. GRIMES: We could bring it in as early as the spring.

Then the last section deals with the consequential things that have to occur with respect to that. Other items are dealt with, a couple of other items, in Bill 27 with respect to the provincial construction board and the Denominational Education Councils and what their future is, but that will be a separate debate as a companion piece to this.

I felt it important, Mr. Speaker, to give that much commentary by way of introduction because this is a very comprehensive piece of legislation. It does deal, as I said, with a lot more issues than the three or four that have been dominate in the public in the last little while. It is the first major reworking of the schools act in almost thirty years, and I think there are a lot of issues here, their time has come, it is time to proceed, and we certainly look forward to participating in debate. We look forward, as well, Mr. Speaker, to entertaining any notions where we might still have to make adjustments or change through the committee stage clause by clause.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DECKER: Would the hon. members give me permission to move that the House not adjourn at 5:00 o'clock?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Justice has moved that the House not adjourn at 5:00 o'clock, carried.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased today to participate in the debate on this somewhat historic occasion with respect to Bill No. 8, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Operation Of Schools In The Province". I think the minister will agree that this particular piece of legislation has been a long time arriving to this point. There has been significant debate, in not only months but years.

MR. GRIMES: (Inaudible) Tory Senators.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I remind the hon. minister that we are not only talking Tory Senators. We are talking many interest groups, we are talking about citizens of this Province, we are talking Liberal Senators, we are talking people from various backgrounds, and that is not the purpose of the debate here this afternoon. The purpose of the debate here this afternoon is to deal with the legislation as it is before us. The purpose of this debate this afternoon is to try and make sure that the piece of legislation that will govern the operation of schools in this Province is the best possible piece of legislation that this government, and this House, can present.

Mr. Speaker, we could get into a long account of the history of the development of education reform and why we are where we are today. We can begin with the discussions and the debates leading up to the referendum. We can talk about the referendum exercise itself. We can talk, Mr. Speaker, about the fallout as a result of the referendum, however, as I have indicated, that is not the purpose of this debate. This debate is to point out weaknesses which members on this side of the House perceive to be existing in this legislation and to point out to the hon. the minister some possible suggestions for improvement.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that this legislation appears not to address significantly issues and recommendations which were illustrated in the Williams Royal Commission, for example: classroom-oriented reforms, length of school day, no change, length of school year, evaluation and evaluation of students. These classroom-oriented recommendations are not evident in this legislation. So it is unfortunate that these particular recommendations are not seen, however, Mr. Speaker, that does not mean, obviously, that this legislation is something which is not welcomed. It is clearly welcomed by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It is welcomed by educators, by parents and by students alike who want to see, Mr. Speaker, once and for all an end to this education debate.

The minister is quite correct, it seems to me, when he says to the members of this House that there are other features or other areas of concern which are being addressed in this new schools Act, the new Act, by the way, which is some thirty years since the original Act, to the best of my knowledge.

There is much more to this legislation, Mr. Speaker, than dealing with the viability of schools or dealing with the designation of schools in this Province or dealing with the busing issue which, as the minister points out, is pursuant to regulation in any event. Most of the discussion, Mr. Speaker, on the topic of education reform has dealt with the designation of schools, the definition of interdenominational schools, the definition of a uni-denominational school and what schools will remain open. In other words, the viability criteria. That is what most of the discussions have centred around. But there is much more, Mr. Speaker, and it is my opinion, and having discussed this with my own colleagues on this side of the House, that the features of this legislation, in particular, those sections which deal directly with the affairs of students and parents, it is some of these provisions which upon reflection, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest need improvement.

What I would like to do, for the benefit of those present, is make some suggestions or point out areas within the legislation, which it is the opinion of members on this side of the House, need to be reviewed and carefully scrutinized to ensure that this legislation is, as I said at the outset, the best possible legislation that can be given and presented to the public of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, some of the clauses, to say the least, upon reading them closely, appear to confuse the reader. This bill was clearly rushed in order to deal with education reform expeditiously and it is important therefore that we look carefully at certain sections. We, as an Opposition, Mr. Speaker, have an obligation I would suggest, to ensure that all sections, all clauses of this Act are not ambiguous, are clear, are not void because they are uncertain or unclear but they give a clear message to the people of this Province as to exactly what the intent of the legislation is.

What I propose to do for the next few minutes is just review some of the provisions. I would ask the minister and his colleagues to perhaps give some attention to some of these points. Some, I am sure, he may claim have some validity and others, I am sure, he will claim do not, and that is fair enough. But at least, Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister to give some consideration to the points that are being raised.

I begin, Mr. Speaker, with section 5.(c) of the proposed legislation, and this deals with the issue of students being excused from attendance at schools. It states: Notwithstanding section 4, a student is excused from attending a school where the student... (c) with the prior written approval of the director, is under instruction satisfactory to the director, at home or elsewhere, for a period specified by the director.

The problem, as I see it, with that particular section, is the blatant inconsistencies which will exist throughout this Province. Let us remember, we have ten school boards, each with its own director, so clearly, we have ten different directors who will establish the guidelines and the recommendations as to under what circumstances a student may be excused from attendance.

It seems to me that there ought to be some guidance given to directors, and perhaps a series of criteria which ought to exist for directors, to ensure that this practice of students who may well, for a legitimate reason, and once it has been established that they wish to be at home or have instruction other than at a regular school, that there be a consistent set of criteria.

The wording of subsection (c), what this will suggest, is that we can have ten different sets of guidelines, ten different sets of rules, ten different directors, ten different school boards, establishing when a student may legitimately be excused from regular school attendance.

Section 6.(1): A parent of a student may provide, at home or elsewhere, instruction for that student where the student is excused from attending a school under paragraph 5.(c).

So, clearly, the legislation makes reference to the fact that it is well within the law, and it is clearly acceptable, for a student to be educated in a setting other than a traditional school; however, I repeat: Section 5.(c) suggests that we could be in for a problem due to the possibility of inconsistencies from board to board.

Section 7: The period for which a student may be excused from attending a school under paragraph 5.(c): (a) shall be valid for no longer than a school year; and (b) may be renewed upon application to the director each school year.

Again, this only fosters the inconsistency, because we have the legislation, under section 7.(b) even extending this arrangement for an education outside of the traditional classroom, and again, it being at the discretion of the director as to when this arrangement may be renewed or extended.

Mr. Speaker, I see some weakness with this particular provision, and again the minister may want to review this.

My next point is really more in the nature of a question, and maybe the minister, either in response or at some later date, can make some comment with respect to section 10, where it states: Where a student's parent requests in writing, the principal of a public school or person in charge of a private or provincial school or a school established under section 51 shall excuse that student from participation in religious education, activities and observances conducted in the school.

It seems to me that this provision is somewhat incongruous, and I will suggest why. In certain situations, the determination of a uni-denominational school will be determined by the numbers. Obviously, if numbers warrant, a school can be declared to be uni-denominational pursuant to the legislation now before us. What section 10 attempts to suggest is that a student whose very name and application helped create a uni-denominational school may now apply to the principal of that school to be excluded from religious education. My question, therefore, to the minister, and this is perhaps for clarification more than anything, is: Is that a situation that can in fact take place? that a student or a family or a number of students or a number of families, whose statistics are needed for the formation of a uni-denominational school, can simply turn around and ask to be excluded from religious education, religious activities, et cetera?

If that is what this section is saying, pursuant to section 10, and I believe it to be the case, well, Mr. Speaker, clearly we have an inconsistency. Because we have other provisions of the Act clearly establishing how and when a uni-denominational school may be created. Now we have a section that once you are in the loop you can withdraw or apply to get out of the loop.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, this is a point of consideration where I would ask, upon careful review of Hansard by the minister, perhaps this evening or tomorrow morning, that he may be in a position to respond.

Continuing on with the issue of student records. It is a delicate issue because we are now dealing with a very sensitive issue of student rights, the rights of the child and the rights of a parent. Section 12 creates the provision, in (1), where "A student record shall be maintained for each student in the manner required by a policy directive of the minister."

The wording of subsection (6) has to be improved, in my view. Section 12(6), and I will read it for members' benefit, says:

"Without the written permission of the parent of a student, or the student if the student is 19 years of age or older, (a) a student record shall not be admissible in evidence in a trial, inquiry, examination, hearing or other proceeding except to prove the establishment, maintenance, retention or transfer of that student record."

One suggestion to the minister would be maybe just simply to put this in reverse. The presentation of this wording is most ambiguous, and the wording, I would suggest, simply has to be reversed, to ensure that this legislation can be written and understood clearly by those individuals who simply want to be in a position to understand the law with respect to the Schools Act.

Section 12(6)(b) states: "a person shall not be required to give evidence respecting the content of the student record in a trial, inquiry, examination, hearing or other proceeding." Again, the way this section is written, it is just unclear. One suggestion may be that subsection 6(a) in fact introduce that section, and that it then be followed by the body of section 6 itself, just to make the reading of the legislation a little bit more straightforward from that point of view.

Section 13, with respect to school fees. This is an issue, I would say to the hon. the minister, although, as he pointed out in his introduction, busing is not a factor with respect to this Act because it is pursuant to regulation; however, regulations are pursuant to this Act. Therefore, indirectly, busing is, I would argue, part and parcel of the Act, although specifically pursuant to the various board regulations.

My question to the minister is this, with respect to section 13 and school fees. It states quite clearly in (1) that "A fee shall not be imposed upon a student or parent of a student with respect to the enrolment or attendance of that student or a program or course of study undertaken by that student in a public school." So if we take the word "attendance," it is clear that clause 13 of this Act states that fees shall not be imposed. My question to the minister is: How is it in certain jurisdictions today parents in this Province are being charged a user fee for busing, when in fact it says "A fee shall not be imposed...with respect to the enrolment or attendance...?" It may be an issue that requires some clarification.

Because it seems to me, if this government is insistent on establishing a system of user-fee for busing, there could easily be a challenge with respect to that practice being carried out, if the legislation makes it clear that fees shall not be imposed for attendance. I would ask the minister to give some thought to that issue as well.

Mr. Speaker, section 14 needs clarification, in my view. Section 14 deals with failure to pay a fee. It states: "A person shall not be denied enrolment or attendance at a public school or a program or course of study in a public school by reason only that a fee referred to in subsection 13(2) has not been paid."

That makes sense; however, the next section creates a bit of a problem. It is only a minor point, but it could create a problem, and that is subsection (2). Again, for the benefit of the minister, I am referring specifically to section 14.(2), which says: "Subsection (1) shall not apply to a student who possesses a student authorization under a Canadian visitor visa and who has come to the Province from outside Canada for the purpose of attending public school."

Mr. Speaker, this particular section needs to be tidied up, and I will give the minister the reason why. It is quite conceivable that you could have a person who is in Canada on a Canadian visitor visa but who comes to this Province from another province in Canada. The way the legislation is worded, if you have a person here on a Canadian visa, therefore an excluded person in terms of fees, that person is obligated to make payment. If that person comes to Canada with a visa, clearly he is in that class. But if that person arrives, say, at another province in this country, and comes to Newfoundland from another province within the country, there is an argument that he or she may be excluded from this provision. It is a small point, but a point that could be argued by simply a person who comes to Toronto, for example, obtains a student visa for a non-resident, stays in Toronto, and then makes application and is given permission by Citizenship Canada to attend, say, a high school in Newfoundland. The wording of this legislation will do this government a disservice because this government may not be in a position to request and collect fees which it deserves in that situation. Again, it is an inconsistency that perhaps the minister may want to - or an area that may be improved upon.

Mr. Speaker, section 16, I feel, is a very critical section and one that really requires further scrutiny and consideration by the minister in finalization of this Act. Section 16 states: "A parent shall ensure that his or her child attends school unless the child is excused from attendance under this Act."

So there is a clear legal onus and obligation on every parent - and a parent is defined in the Act; a parent can be a guardian or a person who has legal custody, or the natural mother or father - that parent has a clear, legal obligation to ensure that his or her child attends school.

The next section 17.(1) states: "A parent who neglects or refuses to enrol his or her child in school or does not ensure that his or her child attends school is guilty of an offence."

Mr. Speaker, if the wording of this provision continues in its present state, I would suggest there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of parents in this Province who are subjecting themselves to prosecution by this Act, simply because their children refuse to go to school. It goes without saying, and all of us can speak of our own friends or our own relatives, or people whom we know as acquaintances, who have difficulty with their fourteen-and-fifteen-year-olds. Now, if they are sixteen, we are not under the legal shroud. I think the minister would agree with that. You can have, and there are - all we have to do is look at our young offenders' court - fourteen-and-fifteen-year-olds who refuse outright to attend school. Very often they end up in young offenders' court as a result of it. There are problems. Parents are at their wits end to ensure that their very children attend school; however, for whatever reason, there is a problem and a student refuses to go.

Now, if we carefully look at section 17, those parents - granted, they did not interfere or attempt to block that child from going to school, but it could be argued that that parent neglected to enrol his or her child. If this wording continues, I would argue there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of parents in this Province who are subjecting themselves to prosecution under the terms of the School Act and the penal provisions which apply, perhaps not necessarily - yes, it does apply under subsection (4). There has to be a qualification, I would suggest to the minister, and wording like, `under reasonable circumstances' or `when it is established that all efforts and attempts have been made by parents.' At least that kind of wording is supportive of the parents and to put it bluntly, Mr. Speaker, gets them off the hook. They need no longer be concerned about the strong arm of the law and some day being given a summons to appear in court pursuant to Section 17(4) of the Schools Act because their little Johnny or their little Mary was not in school today and has not been there for the past week. So I think, again, a rewording of that section can save many parents a lot of grief, Mr. Speaker, and it is something that I would ask the hon. the minister to give some consideration to.

Section 17(4) is the enforcement section, Mr. Speaker, of that very section that I just spoke of. It states, "A person who is guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or to both a fine and imprisonment." So my question is: How is that enforced, Mr. Speaker, if there is no qualifying wording in the earlier section? A reasonableness test, a reasonableness standard, in my view, Mr. Speaker, has to be applied so that this Act will mean something. Then it is clear that if a parent wilfully violates the act there is a penal provision of some strength but if a parent, in good conscience, tries his or her best to have his or her troublesome fourteen-or-fifteen-year-old boy or girl go to school but because of problems beyond that parent's control, that child does not go to school, there has to be a mechanism in place to get that parent off the hook. The existing wording, Mr. Speaker, is a weakness. In conclusion on that point, I would simply ask the minister to reconsider wording of that section.

Section 18, Mr. Speaker, requires careful examination as well. This has implications, I would suggest to the minister, not only to parents of children but to each and every Newfoundlander. Let's look at it, Section 18, a duty to report, "(1) A person who has reason to believe that (a) a child who is required to be enroled under section 15 is not enroled..." So in other words, you have a delinquent fourteen-or-fifteen-year-old or, "(b) a child who is receiving instruction under Section 6..." So that goes back to the home situation. That would be a rare example. Here is the kicker, Mr. Speaker, "shall report that belief to the director for the district in which that child resides." This puts a legal obligation, a legal onus on every single Newfoundlander and Labradorian who may be aware of the fact that there is a little Johnny or a little Mary who is not in school today. There is a legal obligation, a duty to report. It is almost, I would say to the minister, similar to the obligation under child welfare legislation that if a person becomes aware of abuse there is an obligation to advise the department and to report immediately. It clearly states in Section 18, that there is a duty to report.

Now it says, under subsection 2, if I could just carry on with that for the benefit of the minister. Section 18(2), "An action shall not lie against a person who makes a report or the director with respect to an action taken as a result of a report received under subsection (1) unless the report is made or the action is taken maliciously." So, in other words, if a person conjures up a report or simply wants to get somebody in trouble, then an action can lie but, Mr. Speaker, this section 18 says nothing about what happens if a member of the public simply fails to honour his or her duty to report. Mr. Speaker, there is perhaps an answer to that question and it lies towards the end of the legislation when there is, what I would call a basket penal provision, or a basket penalty provision. I forget the number, but somewhere in the Act it states that if there is no specific reference to a penalty for any particular clause there is a global or a basket penalty that can be applied.

Mr. Speaker, if that is the case, and I believe it to be, if a member of the public fails to recognize his or her duty, and fails to report a child who refuses to go to school, there is a penalty provision in the Act, and anybody, I would suggest to the minister, who has knowledge of a person not attending school, and pursuant to this Act should be, and fails to report it, that person can be penalized. I think it requires clarification. Otherwise, everybody is at risk of prosecution under this Act, because of perhaps a wording which simply does not go far enough.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I am just told by my colleague that the penalty provision that I have just referred to, is section 107(1). The minister, I am sure, is familiar with it in any event. It states: "A person who violates a provision of this Act for which another section of this Act does not provide a penalty," - so that would be this section - "commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction." Mr. Speaker, it is a section which needs some cleaning up, I would suggest.

Section 19 deals with regular attendance. It states in (1) that: "A teacher, principal and director shall make every reasonable effort to secure the regular attendance of students at school." Section 19(3) is a somewhat lengthy section, and it states that: "Where the director receives a report under subsection (2) and is satisfied that every reasonable effort has been made to have the student return to regular attendance and these efforts have been unsuccessful he or she shall" - again we see the wording `shall'; so there is an obligation, not a discretion, he or she shall - "refer that matter for investigation to the nearest detachment of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary or of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."

So, Mr. Speaker, if it has not been drawn to the attention of the authorities by a member of the public, because of the obligation which is placed on the director of the school board to report it to the RCMP or the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, it will obviously then become known to the appropriate police authority. Therein is the reason that the police authority will have to lay charges against a member of the public who failed to exercise his or her duty to report. It is an area that requires, in my view, some further attention.

I would ask the minister to really listen to this particular issue under section 21. It says: "Where property of a board or of an employee is destroyed, damaged or lost by the intentional or negligent act of a student, that student and his or her parents are individually and collectively liable to the board in respect of the act of that student." In other words, property of a board or of an employee is destroyed, damaged or lost. If there is an intentional act by a student in that school who, say, goes into the staff room and steals the purse of a female teacher with $500 in it, okay? that clearly is an intentional act. I have a feeling that most people would not argue with the fact that if a student conducts himself in that way and commits that criminal offence, and if the student is not in a position to -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Well, apart from the Young Offenders Act. But if the student is not in the position to compensate the victim for losses, that the parent then has to own up. I believe most people will agree that is a reasonable law. However, the word "negligent" causes a bit of a problem. You could have a student, Mr. Speaker, who through no fault of his or her own, no act of intention, no malice, no forethought whatsoever, simply out of his or her own negligence conducts himself or herself in a way which causes significant financial loss to that school. What I am getting at, Mr. Speaker, is that the word `negligent' is loosely referred to in this section. It has to be more clearly defined, there has to be criteria, Mr. Speaker, which will make it clear to the reader of this legislation, exactly under what circumstances have to exist in order for a student to be declared to be negligent and then having the parents possibly be responsible for the losses.

Section 22, Mr. Speaker, talks about an appeal. I simply ask the question: An appeal for what? You know where a decision affects a student, the parent of the student or a student may appeal the decision. It is not clear under what circumstances an appeal may be, number one requested, and number two granted. The answer may be an easy one, it may be any issue that directly affects or impacts upon a student. That may be an appealable issue, but again the legislation is not clear as to when and how that is done.

Mr. Speaker, section 25, deals with school councils and the hon. minister will be pleased to know that I am not going through every section in this legislation. Most of the provisions dealing with designation of schools and the constitutional issues, we have all discussed those at length, perhaps ad nauseam. What I am talking about now, Mr. Speaker, is the issue of the rights of students and how those rights affect the rights of parents, because this is really what is new in this legislation. This is what is being revised. It is the old Schools Act that is being repealed and we have these new sections which deal directly with a person's legal interests, which really, are being seen for the first time, and again, it is imperative, I would submit to the minister, that we, as I have stated from the beginning, we present to the public of this Province, the best possible legislation. To rush it through, a week or two before Christmas in the interest of saying it is done, is unfair to the people of this Province, when their very legal rights are at stake and it is important that we debate these, that the minister perhaps give some consideration to some of the points which my colleagues and I, may wish to raise in the next day or so.

Section 25, Mr. Speaker, deals with school councils, school council is not defined. There is a section in the act which states under what circumstances or the functions of a school council but a school council itself is not defined. I would suggest that it ought to be so that there is a reference point. These school councils, it is clear, Mr. Speaker, are going to be integral parts of our education system in this Province from today onwards, and something as important as a school council lacks a definition in the very act where it is established, no definition.

Mr. Speaker, a minor point - there is a reference in the act to the fact that a principal is ineligible from becoming a chairman of a school council. It is just, I find, a peculiar section. If a principal is ineligible, why isn't a teacher? I mean, it is the same bargaining unit. Both are important parts of the school community, therefore if a teacher can be eligible for chairmanship, why can't a principal? So it is a question I ask and maybe the minister may want to refer to that at a later date.

Mr. Speaker, I am looking for the question on corporal punishment, section 36, Mr. Minister, I believe, is it?

MR. GRIMES: Yes.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thirty-six, yes. Okay, I will come to that briefly.

Functions of school councils - and this is more of an observation than any thing, It says: "The purpose of a school council is to develop, encourage and promote polices, practices and activities to enhance the quality of school programs and the levels of student achievement in the school". Then it states: "To advise on the quality of teaching and learning in the school". It seems to me that, although I have heard that the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association is very supportive of this legislation, I find myself questioning why they would particularly like this section where really you have a student council, a completely independent body, passing judgements on the quality of teaching and learning in the school. It just strikes me as odd that this section would receive the support, which I assume it has, from the teachers' professional association.

Likewise, section (3)(a): approve, for recommendation to the board, a plan for improving teaching and learning in the school;

Section (3)(d): consider the information respecting performance standards in the school.

Under section 26.(4), I would suggest that this section may be in conflict with the earlier section found in this legislation with respect to school fees. Subsection (4) states: The school council may, subject to the by-laws of the board, approve a levy, the payment of which is voluntary, once in a school year, instead of, or as a supplement to, fund raising activities for the school.

Now, what may get that section off the hook in terms of it not being a conflict, and I believe the minister is writing down this word right now, it may be the word `voluntary', because if it is a voluntary act clearly it is up to the parent or the student as to whether or not they will pay that levy. But I find that this section perhaps raises questions because we talk about a levy in lieu of fund raising; yet it appears to contradict an earlier provision of this legislation indicating where fees will not, in fact, be -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Section 13, where fees will not be levied upon individuals.

Under section 31, on page 20: Unless assigned to other duties by the principal or absent because of illness or other unavoidable cause, a teacher shall be in school during a period in the morning and in the afternoon immediately preceding the time set for the opening of school as required by the by-laws of the board.

One gets the impression, when reading this section, that the only time that it is essential, or required by law, for that teacher to be present is immediately preceding the morning and afternoon session. There is no indication that, for example, after school supervision, which is part and parcel of a teacher's duty, or busing supervision, for example, which often takes place immediately following school dismissal, it tends not to allow for that type of supervision period. Clearly, and I am sure the minister will agree, that is something that, if it is established by the school administration, it is incumbent upon that teacher that he or she remain pursuant to the request of the school administrator.

Mr. Speaker, section 32 was referred to briefly in the introduction by the minister, indicating that: A teacher in a school shall, for the purpose of determining payment of salary, be considered to have taught on a day or part of it when...

And it gives the list of reasons when a teachers is considered to have taught, but there is no mention - and again this is more of a question, perhaps, to the minister - as to when a teacher involves himself or herself in in-service activities. Every other reason under the sun in the preceding eight or nine paragraphs is given, but there is no reference to the obligation of a teacher to be present for in-service, and therefore having fulfilled the requirement of - what is the word I am looking for - having to then determine payment of his or her salary.

Mr. Speaker, section 34: A teacher shall keep a school register in the manner the minister may require.

Again, it is very discretionary, no clear indication to the teacher as to how this is to be done. Is it the traditional keeping of a register? Is it subject to change? Will it vary from board to board?

Section 36, Mr. Speaker, and the hon. minister may think this is an extreme example, but I am willing to indicate to the minister that despite the minister's position that corporal punishment has now been outlawed, I would argue that the wording of this section is unclear and ambiguous. We are talking about Section 36.

It says, "A person employed by a board shall not administer corporal punishment to a student". On the face of it perhaps the minister is right, that corporal punishment is outlawed, but it does not go far enough. It does not say that no person shall administer corporal punishment. It does not say that corporal punishment is outlawed in Newfoundland schools. There is room, I would suggest, for this particular provision to be abused. How? Again, it may be an extreme case. It says nothing about a person employed by a board, for argument sake, a teacher, to simply act as a supervisor, or an observer, of corporal punishment being administered by another person to a student in that school. Again, it may be an extreme situation, but it is not clear. When the minister says that corporal punishment is now outlawed I challenge the minister to rethink the wording of this section because I submit to the minister that the wording of this, believe it or not, as much as there was an effort, and I think there was an honest and genuine effort by the government to achieve the fact that once and for all corporal punishment is outlawed in our schools, it does not go far enough. It does not say that no person shall administer it, and it leaves open the possibility of a school teacher witnessing a parent, or perhaps an older student, maybe a high school student, in the act of administering corporal punishment to a student in that school. Perhaps extreme but not impossible.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I say to the Government House Leader that if a parent comes into that school and says that his or her child, to be properly disciplined, in the opinion of this parent, ought to get the strap twice on each hand, if that teacher simply stands back and allows the parent to administer corporal punishment there is no violation.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I agree with the Government House Leader, that most school boards have dealt effectively with this issue.

MR. TULK: Today you will be charged with child abuse if you do.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: The Government House Leader stands to be corrected. The Criminal Code of Canada makes it quite clear, that under reasonable circumstances corporal punishment can be administered.

MR. TULK: (inaudible) a judge.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: A judge may not agree with it but I can tell you a defence council would certainly use it, and because of the wording of the Criminal Code of Canada that person charged with that offence will be acquitted.

I do not want to belabour the issue but my concern is that this section simply does not go far enough, and the wording ought to be changed to ensure that at no time, even at the request of a parent while in a particular school in this Province, that a child be administered corporal punishment, physical punishment, at the hands of any person. The act, I say, in conclusion on this point, simply does not go far enough in that regard.

Mr. Speaker, Section 37 dealing with the topic of suspension of a student, states, "A teacher may suspend a student from a class period in accordance with the by-laws of the board". Section 37, Subsection 7; "Where a period of suspension is extended under subsection (6), before reinstating the student, the director may require certification from a medical practitioner or other professional person whom the director considers appropriate, that the student no longer threatens the safety of board employees or students".

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the director of a school can circumvent the wishes of a parent and immediately go to a medical practitioner or other professional person - perhaps a psychologist, psychiatrist - and have that child assessed, and apparently done without the consent of the parent or guardian or legal custodian of that child. This is a fundamental right of a parent that if he or she has a child in a school and has been suspended, that if the director in his or her own discretion wishes to have that child further examined medically, psychologically, or psychiatrically, that it at least be done with the consent of that child's parent. With the knowledge of and (b) the consent of that parent. That is all I think any reasonable person would ask in these circumstances.

Section 37(10): "Where the suspension is cancelled under paragraph (9)(c) the director" - and look at the next word - "may strike the suspension from the student record." It is clearly within the discretion of a given director in a given school at any given time when he or she sees fit, for whatever his or her personal reasons may be, at his or her own discretion to strike the suspension from the student record. What this means is that a given director of a given school board at a given time may decide not to do it, and that record of suspension may very well be on that student's record forever, causing unnecessary grief when that student obviously wants to make application for employment or further post-secondary studies upon graduation.

So the word "may" - it seems to me, we need a set of criteria here, we need circumstances. This is perhaps an example of when this legislation really, when trying to deal with the other issues, dealing with the issues of a constitutional nature, if I may put it that way - designation of schools and school boards, and viability of schools - we had neglected to adequately secure and protect the rights of the ordinary school student, the ordinary parent, the ordinary citizen in this Province. This is a result, I would argue, of over-emphasis on the constitutional points, and simply insufficient time and speedy drafting at no cost on issues which are of fundamental importance dealing with the basic rights of individuals in this Province.

Section 38, if I may continue, on the issue of expulsion. Again, this is an example of where this legislation appears to be somewhat rushed. It says in (1): "Where a student is persistently disobedient or defiant or conducts himself or herself in a manner that is likely to injuriously affect the proper conduct of the school, the principal shall (a) warn the student and record the date of and reason for the warning." My question to the minister is: If a warning mechanism in put in place, is it therefore necessary that a child, before he or she is expelled, must be suspended first? Because if that is the way it is, it is not possible then under the terms of this legislation to expel a child immediately. Why? Because of the warning mechanism which is built into the act.

Section 38(1) states: "...[T]he principal shall (a) warn the student and record the date of" - so therefore, if you have a very serious offence occurring, which I think anybody would agree warrants the expulsion of a student, under the provisions of this act that student first has to be warned. That student has to be warned and a record, date and reason for the warning, notify the students parent. There is all this sort of mechanism built in which appears to make it impossible to expel a student immediately in the event of just unacceptable conduct by that student simply because he or she has not been warned in accordance with the act.

Mr. Speaker, under Section 38(5), "A board may re-admit a student who has been expelled." No indication as to when or under what circumstances. I mean expulsion is a very serious event in a students life. It happens rarely these days. It is for the most serious of breaches of behaviour, perhaps criminal conduct or abuse or some very serious charge or allegation but it does not say under what circumstances under subsection (5) that the board may re-admit a student. Again, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this requires further clarification.

Under Section 39, "A student who has been expelled shall have the right to be re-admitted at the commencement of the next school year." How is this right exercised, I simply ask the minister? Okay, you have the right to be re-admitted, does it guarantee re-admission? Again, I ask the minister, Mr. Speaker, what are the criteria? And these are the questions that - and I say to the minister, if these issues are not dealt with now there are going to be ten directors phoning the minister, knocking at his door, writing the minister, looking for an interpretation of this legislation as to how that director ought to conduct himself or conduct herself in dealing with the affairs and conduct of students. So this is the time to do it. This is the time to do it. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that if the minister feels that some of these sections or some of the points that are being made have merit and may very well prevent problems down the road, which I am sure he does not want or need, Mr. Speaker, there are provisions in this act, I would suggest, which perhaps should be delayed. Not the structural changes, which we all want, not the viability issues, not the board structure, not the designation issues but those issues which affect the rights of students and parents. Mr. Speaker, maybe we should sit back and further scrutinize the consequences of many of these provisions if in fact they are legislated without change and without amendment.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue with Section 40(1) which states, "Where a student has been expelled under section 38, a parent of the student or, if the student is 19 years of age or older, the student, may, within 15 days of the effective date of the expulsion, make a written request to the board that the expulsion be reviewed." Under Section 40(3) it states, "The order of a review panel made under subsection (2) is binding upon the student, school, board and other persons affected by it." In other words, it appears that there be no further right of review. Once there is a review that is it, it is final, it is binding.

Section 41, and I agreed with the minister earlier when he said that Section 41 was an essential governing part of this act in dealing with the maintaining of standards.

Section 42, "A person shall not (a) disturb or interrupt the proceedings of a school, school council or board; (b) loiter or trespass in a school building... (c) canvass, sell or offer to sell goods, services or merchandise to a teacher or a student in a school without the approval of the school council, and if there is no council, of the board." I go back to the fund-raising issue, Mr. Speaker, does this mean that each time there is to be a fund-raising procedure carried out or practice carried out, that permission is to be sought from the school council in order to raise funds.

If that is what it means, I would suggest that could be very difficult and very time-consuming and very onerous on school councils.

Section 43 goes on and on and talks about private schools, and you know what, Mr. Speaker? There is no definition of a private school in the legislation. I go to the definition section of the Act and, under section 2.(m), it states: "private school" means a school established under section 43.

I go to section 43, and what does it say to me? In the legislation, section 43.(1) states: "A person may, with the prior written permission of the minister, establish and operate a private school in the Province."

Again, it does not tell us what a private school is. There will obviously be confusion, I would suggest. Are we talking about a private school in terms of the post-secondary level? I do not think so. That is not what is envisaged by that. But the lack of a definition, by a person who is not familiar with what the legislator's intent might have been, leaves open the possibility of again uncertainty and vagueness in terms of what that section means.

I would assume that a private school is with respect to, what? Can anybody help me?

AN HON. MEMBER: School for the Deaf.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Right, the School for the Deaf. Again, do you see the problem? We are all guessing, because the Act does not clearly state what a private school is. So we have to guess what is meant by it, and that is not the purpose of new legislation. New legislation has to be definite. New legislation, particularly when it is the first time in thirty years that it has been presented, has to be such that the reader and the person who has a vested interest in education in this Province knows exactly what the legislators had in mind, so that when this legislation is eventually passed, presumably this week or next week or whenever, but December of 1996, that when a person reads the Act, he or she will be able to say: By gollies, this legislation is clear, it is unambiguous, it has been worked at diligently by the framers and drafters of this legislation, and it makes sense.

Unfortunately, there are too many loopholes. There are too many fundamental weaknesses which need to be corrected.

Mr. Speaker, under section 50.(1): The minister may establish a provincial school.

Section (n) in the definition section says to me that: "provincial school" means a school established under section 50.

When I get to section 50, again it is not clear what this legislation means by a provincial school.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Government House Leader, what is a provincial school?

MR. TULK: Pardon me?

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I am sorry. Mr. Opposition House Leader: What is a provincial school?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER (Barrett): Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: There is the problem, Mr. Minister. The definition is missing.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Doctor Warren I know very well. I will conclude by saying, and I mean this quite sincerely, that I had the honour and the privilege of working very closely with Dr. Philip Warren. In fact, when I studied education at Memorial, Dr. Warren was my thesis supervisor. He was a gentleman, and much of what we are talking about today was the subject matter of many of a class that I enjoyed with Dr. Warren. I am glad that he is here to at least listen to some of the debate that is taking place this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, I have a few more points but we will address them at a later date.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise today to offer some comments on the bill before the House, Bill 48, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Operation Of Schools In The Province".

Now, Mr. Speaker, this Act has been a long time getting here and has had a bit of a rocky road. I would ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, if he would be kind enough to listen to the debate and to, maybe, give the courtesy that we gave to the Minister of Education when he was giving his comments, and we all might be able to participate in the debate without the acrimony that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture throws across the Legislature from time to time.

Mr. Speaker, it has been many a long year in coming, however we all recognize that today is a day when we want to try to draw some closure to the debate that has been going on in this Province for the last numbers of years, and this act is intended I do believe, as an initiative of the government and as an initiative of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and all the stakeholders who made representations to the Royal Commission, to the various people who turned up at the public hearings that were conducted by the minister, to those people who turned out in the various interest groups and so today, we kind of come to this stage.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the issues we have before us are well outlined by the minister. They have been outlined by my colleague, the Member for St. John's East and critic for Education. We received this piece of legislation on Friday and most of us spent some considerable time over the weekend trying to go through it, and some of the comments made by my colleague, the critic for Education, have been indicative of the kind of attention that we have been giving this particular piece of legislation.

We have some concerns with the legislation itself. Some concerns are with what is there and some concerns are with what is not there and, Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I think we all want to do in this process, is to get away from governance issues. They have been debated with the church leaders, they have been debated with the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association, with the Federation of School Boards and with anybody else who has an interest as a stakeholder in Education in this Province. They have been debated for the last numbers of years and while some people like myself believe that I would have liked to have seen the issues of governance unfold a little differently from the way they have, I am prepared to say that what we have now is reflective of a compromise, and I am prepared to accept that in the interest of going forward in Education. Because what we have today is certainly not what was envisaged by Premier Clyde Wells when he was the Premier. It is not as strong, I do not think, in its legislative form, as he would have wanted.

However, I say to all hon. members that this is what we have. It has been passed out to various stakeholders and I understand from some media comments today, that this piece of legislation has been endorsed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association. I have not heard very many negative comments coming from the church leaders, so I assume that there is some consensus unfolding, however much I might think it does not go far enough on the issues of governance. And I say that with all due respect to those people who hold a different viewpoint from that which I do, and I communicated to this House and the public, my viewpoint on governance. However, that is not the issue now.

The issue today is for us to get on with the job of doing what is best for the children of Newfoundland and Labrador. One of the questions I have to ask in terms of this legislation is: Where are the child-centred reforms we talked about when we had hearings on the Williams Royal Commission? Where are the child-centred reforms that are the framework of the Williams Royal Commission? Because I do not see those reforms jumping out at me when I read this legislation. I see this legislation primarily centred on governance, and that is probably indicative of the dialogue that has taken place in the last number of years. And that is okay. However, I think that what we have to do is get beyond where we are now and let us get on to look at the issues that affect the classroom.

I want to say here that I believe we should be empowering parents and children in urban and rural Newfoundland to make sure we have assurances there is going to be equal access to educational opportunities. I say that because I believe every child, regardless of where that child is in this Province, should have equal access to a good quality education. I am pleased to hear the minister say in his introductory comments that he is going to introduce a small schools policy. That is a great initiative. We have been pushing for it for a number of years. So the young child who is in Monkstown in Placentia Bay, where there is a total of three students - and up until this year they had their own school, but this year they have been moved to Marystown, I do believe, and they are now going to school there. But last year in Monkstown there was a school with three students. These three children, two in grade VIII and one in grade III last year, deserve the same quality education as anybody who lives in Mount Pearl, Grand Falls, Gander or Labrador City.

So, Mr. Speaker, we believe we shall have to move forward on classroom issues. I want to make a few comments along that line. My colleague, the Minister of Education - I call him my colleague as a member of the House of Assembly - mentioned the section dealing with students, Part I. I am pleased to see that the first part of this new Act refers to students, because that is what education is all about. All the other stuff that we have in education, all the bureaucracy, and all the other issues that cloud the whole issue, we have, in the last few years, lost our focus where it should be, which is right at the classroom level, right with students.

However, what I do not see in this particular piece of legislation is something that gets mentioned on page 365 of the Williams Royal Commission report, and it is to deal with connecting education, chapter seventeen, and it talks about preschool children. Now, Mr. Speaker, we, in this Province, have been told repeatedly that what happens when a child gets to school at age 5 is to a large extent dependent on what happened to that child in the home environment or in the community environment. What I do not see in this piece of legislation is any reference whatsoever to a preschool commitment in education. As a matter of fact, as far as the education Act is concerned, a child does not exist until the year in which they reach five years of age, on or before December 31.

That, I do believe, is a weakness of any education bill. We acknowledge that children who are between the infancy time and five years, do have some interaction with the Department of Health. However, I know that in some parts of this Province there have been some communities where the preschool health check is not done anymore because of cutbacks in funding. Although the Minister of Health and in fact the Deputy Minister of Health was not aware of that until recently but in some communities the pre-school health check is not being done.

So, Mr. Speaker, we can have a child in this Province from the time that the public health nurse says to the parent that they will not be visiting any more, the next time that that child has interaction with government is at a time when the child registers to go to kindergarten, five years later or some fraction of five years. Now, Mr. Speaker, that is not good enough. We cannot say we have a solid educational system until we look at pre-school children. When we talk about a sound educational system we have to look at children and the way we deal with them before they get into school because children come to school disadvantaged. Not every child enters kindergarten with an equal advantage. In fact, the work that I was part of with the Select Committee on Children's Interests it came out to us repeatedly over and over again: Will somebody please tell us how to be better parents to our pre-school children? It was said to us over and over again: Will somebody take some initiative and help us, as parents, to be better parents, particularly to our pre-school children?

It is an indictment on all of us when we acknowledge that a five year old child enters kindergarten already disadvantaged. So one of the things that this act does not address at all is the issue of pre-school. We don't say that we have any interest in pre-school children at all. In fact, the Minister of Education last spring cancelled full day kindergarten and cancelled the kindergarten program. After all the great work that was done on the kindergarten program we decided that it was better to save a million dollars than it was to implement that program.

So, Mr. Speaker, when we look at school systems I say over and over again, we have to start right at infancy. We have to learn from what they are doing in other countries when they are trying to address the children before they get to school. What we are doing and all too often, is we are quite willing to invest money in the latter years of the school system because we can find there from the federal government all kinds of money, stay in school initiatives. You can get the federal government to invest money at that end of the spectrum but we cannot find people who are willing to put money into the front end and, Mr. Speaker, that is where money would be well spent. Let me tell hon. members opposite, research shows that intervention that occurs between the ages of eighteen months and thirty-six months are the optimum time to intervene.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: No, obviously the hon. the Government House Leader should have had intervention but he has been suffering from it ever since. We cannot go back but I am sure that some hon. person here will try to have intervention with the minister. It is never too late but I say to the hon. Government House Leader, that the issue here is maximizing the dollars that we have. What I am saying is, I don't see in this bill anything that gives me any comfort that we are taking care of the very youngest of our children and the very youngest of our school population. Mr. Speaker, we just had this report here, it is called Special Matters, The Report On The Review of Special Education.

A few days ago I had some dialogue with people who participated in the writing of this report and their greatest fear is that this report, along with all the others, is going to end up on some shelf gathering dust and that would be a shame because this report is a crucial document. I know the minister has said that that is not going to happen to it. He is going to address it but we want to say to the minister that this report by Dr. Patricia Canning is very important in terms of where we are going with educational reform. While we have the new act here, the real essence of whether we are going to be successful or not will be what we do with the classroom issues that are here. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the act started off talking about students.

I want to make a few more comments. I notice that in Section 12, Subsection 2 (a) it says: a record shall only be reviewed by the parent of the student. Mr. Speaker, I assume here it means either one of the parents. In some cases, when I was principal of the school, I had a parent come to the school wanting to see the records. The parent could be the father, only to find that a few hours later I have a parent coming to the school who wants to see the records and it can be the mother, but it so happens that the child is either in custody, needs to be dealt with in terms of how do you define the word `parent'. That needs to be addressed by the minister.

I want to talk about school fees, Section 13, Subsection (1). "A fee should not be imposed upon the student or parent of a student with respect to the enrolment or attendance of that student or a program or course of study undertaken by that student in a public school system." Then in Subsection 2, "Subsection (1) shall not apply to a fee for the cost of supplies provided to a student".

Mr. Speaker, what we have happening in many schools today is a re-institution of the school tax. I have two grandchildren, a young grandson who is in Grade V, and a young granddaughter in Grade 2, and their school fees in September amounted to a total of around $120. I want to say we have to be very careful with school fees because what we have now is a system of indirect school taxation and the government opposite, in the early part of their mandate, said that they would abolish school taxes.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if school taxes were in place today many parents would pay no more than they pay in school fees. What do the schools say they are charging school fees for? The cost of supplies. What kind of supplies? It amounts to basically paper in the primary division, because many of the learning materials have to be duplicated or they have to be taken off in various ways by the school. So you find that if you can have in some schools school fees that amount to up to $60 a student you have to ask yourself: Really, is that what you intend here? Is this another indirect tax?

I would say to the minister that if we didn't have these kinds of school assessments put on, many schools would find themselves very short of operating funds. So in a way it is a way in which the schools take the lead role and say: We can subsidize our instructional budget by putting in some school fees.

I talked yesterday to a school principal who told me that three years ago in this junior high school they had two children who did not pay their school fees. Then the year later they had seven children. Last year there were seventy children, and this year 123 children have not paid their school fees. That is what is happening. Because you make it discretionary, you say that it is voluntary. What is happening is that more parents are saying either: We can't afford it, or they are saying: No, we don't have to do it, so therefore we won't do it. Therefore the few people who do pay - and that, in this case, would still be a majority - that it isn't universally applied. Therefore we have to look at this issue in terms of its fairness. Also, it is an issue where I think the government should be a little bit more cognizant of what is really happening out there in the school community.

I wanted to say to the minister about school councils. I believe this is a great initiative. I've said so before. School councils are a way of empowering the community. That is a good initiative. It is consistent with what is happening all across the country. I want to also compliment the minister for saying that every school in the Province should have a school council. That is a very positive thing. It says to the community: This is your school. You have to take some part in running it, some part of leadership. And I think that is a great initiative. However, in section 25.(2)(c), it says: "No fewer than 2 shall be representatives of the community... And we have not defined `community'. "There is no definition of `community', whether it means the municipal boundaries, whether it means a church community, or whether it means something else. So we have not defined the word `community'. Therefore, it is open to a variety of interpretations.

I also note, in section 27.(1): Schools shall open and close for the school year on the dates determined by the minister.

That is okay except that we had in the Williams' Royal Commission report, in recommendations 136-138, a great deal of reference to the length of the school year and the length of the school day. There have been many, many studies done on that. I think of one study by Dr. Terry Boak, and I think there was a student by the name of David Hodder.

AN HON. MEMBER: Any relation to Harvey Hodder?

MR. H. HODDER: No relation to me whatsoever.

They did a study in which they found there could be up to forty-five days a year lost in instruction.

Consequently, I want to say to the minister that these recommendations on page 326 of the Royal Commission report, referred to the length of the school day, and I will just look at that for awhile. The current rules are: Kindergarten, 2.5 hours; Grades I-III, four hours; and Grades IV-XII, five hours. That is exactly what is recommended by the minister now, so we have had no change. In spite of all the Royal Commission said, we have not changed it at all.

I am not taking any great comfort from the fact that the minister says he is going to have this part of the negotiations with the NLTA. The relationship between school performance and instructional time has been researched, and there is a very pervasive and very positive relationship between time spent on instruction and achievement.

Mr. Speaker, we know that, as a general rule, the more time we spend on instruction in the classroom, the better are the chances that our children will achieve. And I say to the minister that his piece of legislation is not showing any reflection of the Williams recommendations and I think that is regrettable. The same thing goes for the length of the school year.

In Japan, they spend 243 days a year in their school year and what they do in Japan is, 210 are prescribed by the Minister of Education and the other thirty-three are determined to be for in-service or field trips. In the rest of Canada, the school year is basically 200 days with, on average, ten days that are for in-service or field trips or other activities. Newfoundland has the shortest school year in Canada. And we say in 1996, knowing the relationship between instructional time and the length of the school year and the length of the school day, we say to the minister: something has to be done. Although he has indicated it would be a subject for collective bargaining, I think he should know exactly where people stand on this issue and I do believe that we have to make some improvements in that area. Also there are the issues of Time on Task.

Again, that is not referred to here and in fact, one of the things that is not defined in this piece of legislation is the word instructional time itself or the word `instructional'. The word `instruction' is not defined here at all. So until we define what we mean by `instruction', which is central to this piece of legislation - because, after all, this is what we are talking about, instructional time, we have not defined the word `instruction'. But it is defined in other Acts in other parts of Canada. Therefore, until we define what we mean by something, there is not much use in our saying we are going to talk about instructional time if we have not defined exactly what it is.

Mr. Speaker, the other point I wanted to make here, the minister did not comment on it. Again, it comes from the Williams Royal Commission and it is about the re-allocation of savings from restructuring to further improvements in the teaching-at-the-classroom level, and I refer particularly to recommendation 203 of the Williams Royal Commission report, on page 415, and that Royal Commission report recommended to government, that government increase its commitment to education and reallocate within the education system any savings realized through restructuring. I didn't hear any commitment today from the hon. the minister saying that the hon. the minister was going to go and make sure that any savings from the restructuring we are going through, the closing of schools, that they would be allocated to the classroom teaching.

Because we want to make a point here. I want to make a point of saying that together with early intervention, which I have talked about during my time allocated, we want to say that if we are going to go and address the issues of early education, early intervention, people with learning disabilities - as I mentioned, the Patricia Canning report -, we have to be doing these things with a determination and a dedication that any money saved in this process of restructuring will benefit the children of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is what education is about. If we aren't going to benefit the children then the whole thrust of restructuring will have lost, I think, a tremendous opportunity to benefit the people who are our primary mandate.

When I say that I'm saying let's never forget the real change in education occurs at the classroom level. That is where we talk about issues of learning disabilities, that is where we see issues of child poverty, that is where we see the greatest negative impact by children who are disadvantaged when they enter school. It is also where we can see the greatest positive opportunity for change and for re-direction.

I say to my hon. colleagues in the House that there are many other comments that we will be making on this side of the House. I see that my time is rapidly coming to a close. I wanted to just mention one further thing, section 77, and that deals with school viability. In that section I know the minister commented on the words "minimum requirements." I'm pleased that the minister sent over a copy of his minimum requirements. Again, I assume this is the definition he wants us to apply to the words here, "minimum requirements." I wanted to say that perhaps we should be looking at a different set of minimum requirements because -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave!

MR. H. HODDER: Because with the thrust nowadays -

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

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that many of the small schools in the Province will be able to meet those minimum requirements, and that is where we run into difficulty. Are the minimum requirements so loose that we are going to be able to have practically any school, or any classroom being able to say, yes, we are meeting the definition of minimum requirements, because presumably every small school in Newfoundland today meets those definitions, and if they do, therefore they will stay open. If they meet those minimum requirements they will stay open, so therefore if you look at minimum requirements as your criteria for school viability we will have absolutely no closures of schools, and no consolidation whatsoever, because people will use those minimum requirements to suit their own ends.

With these things said I will yield to one of my colleagues, and I am sure that at the committee level we will be making more and more comments and recommendations for change and improvement.


 

December 9, 1996         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS         Vol. XLIII  No. 49A


[Continuation of sitting)

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

A couple of the difficulties I have with this particular bill, which I would like to address to the Education minister, for example, is section 95. I have some real concerns with section 95, which states: "All real and personal property used for the purpose of education by a board immediately before this section comes into force shall continue to be used for the purpose of education by the board. Section 95 (2) states: "The use of all real and personal property by a board under subsection (1) shall be without compensation to the person or association of persons in which the title of the property is vested."

My question to the Education minister is: Does this mean that a property that is now owned - and the title of the property is owned by a denominational board. Does this give the government the right to use this particular building, to operate this particular building, without any rental income back to the denominational board? According to the way I interpret the readings, that is exactly what it is saying, that the government now has the right to use the buildings without any remuneration or compensation back to the particular denominations.

Section 95 (4) (a) states: "All matters necessary for the board to manage, use, equip and improve the property while the property is required by the board for the purpose of education;" and it goes on to section 95 (5): "Where property used for the purpose of education by a board, or funds for the purchase, construction or maintenance of that property, have been provided by a religious denomination, and title to the property is vested in a board," again, the board has the right to use this property without any compensation or remuneration back to the denominational board.

That raises some concern because of the fact that monies that were invested into the building for its purchase, for maintenance and upkeep throughout the history of the building - now the building just gets passed over to the Provincial Government, or to a particular school board and the school board has the right to use that building, maintain it, equip the building and so on, but no rent has gone back to the denomination for their investment on the building. I would ask the minister to further clarify.

Another area of concern in this bill is the fact that we have a section here where we give the denominations a right to have uni-denominational schools; however, in order to become a uni-denominational school, you have to fill out your form and send it back. Now, it is not 50 per cent of the forms sent back that say `yes' they want a uni-denominational school in a particular area, it is 50 per cent of the possible forms that could be sent back which basically means that even if you have say, 70 per cent of the forms returned and 70 per cent of those forms say that they want this school to be uni-denominational, well, then, in essence, you have 70 per cent of the respondents saying they want a uni-denominational school. However, it is only 49 per cent of the possible respondents and, in that case, the school is not allowed to be a uni-denominational school, because the 30 per cent of the forms that were not returned are automatically deemed to go with the notion that they want interdenominational or private schools.

Another area of concern that I have is, the powers that are endowed to the minister, such as his ability to approve private schools and approve courses for a private school. Again, it is just a case of the powers that the government are giving themselves through enforcement of these bills or approval of these bills in the House. It does not have to be approved by Cabinet or even by the House, the minister himself has the power to say a school can become a private school and what courses this private school can teach and so on.

The minister also has the ability to close a private school if, in his opinion, it does not comply with the Act, and there is absolutely no right of appeal specified in the Act. So the school is closed and that particular owner, the owner of the private school, has absolutely no right to go back to the minister or go back to the government and appeal that decision. It is a final decision.

The minister also has the full right to determine how and when school boards are elected, subject to Cabinet, and with his Cabinet colleagues, the minister can determine the number of trustees per district. They have the right to dissolve former boards by order, and the Cabinet may dissolve any board. They may also veto the constitution of any particular board.

The real problem that I have here again - and perhaps the hon. Minister of Education can give me an answer - is on the issue of properties that the school board will now take over and give absolutely no remuneration or compensation to a particular denomination that is actually the title holder of that particular building and the particular property. That is the area here in which I have the most concern, and I am sure that the different denominations, and the heads of the different denominations, will also be very concerned with this particular issue.

If I were the owner of a building and in that building I operated a particular type of operation, a store or what have you, and I decided that I wanted to give up operating that store but I am going to let somebody else operate the store - just come in and operate the store as long as they maintain and equip the building - but they have to pay absolutely no rent or compensation to me, that would be a problem. So I ask the minister if, indeed, under section 95, I am reading this properly.

Mr. Minister of Education, am I reading this section 95 properly, that the board now has the right to operate and use a building without any compensation or remuneration to a particular denomination that held a title to that building previously?

MR. GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: So a Pentecostal denomination or a Roman Catholic denomination has absolutely no remuneration or compensation for the investment that they had in a particular property?

MR. GRIMES: If it is no longer needed for education -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: You are struck amazed are you?

Keep it going Tom! Do not mind what he is telling you.

MR. OSBORNE: If it is no longer needed for education - but as long as the board is using that particular property for educational purposes, even though the denomination invested their money, time and labour into constructing the building, maintaining it and keeping equipment in the building, there is absolutely no compensation or remuneration back to that denomination until the board decides that that building is no longer required for educational purposes. Was there any consultation on this with the denominations?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: And they are okay with this?

MR. E. BYRNE: Move on Tom, do not listen to him.

MR. OSBORNE: The other issue I direct to the Minister of Education is the issue of the responses on whether or not people want a denominational school. Is it a fact that if only 70 per cent of the people respond, then the 30 per cent of the people who do not respond to whether or not they want a uni-denominational or an interdenominational school, that 30 per cent is automatically assumed to go with the interdenominational? So even if you get 70 per cent of the people responding, and that 70 per cent say that they want a uni-denominational school, that is only 49 per cent of the total possible respondents, so it is turned down. It then becomes an interdenominational school. That is a pretty neat set-up.

The minister, as I have mentioned, also has the right to approve private schools and the courses for those private schools without any consultation from the House or any consultation from the public, and has the right to close the school if, in his opinion, it does not comply with the Act, without any consultation from the House, without any consultation from the public. Is that a right now that the minister has? So that is presently a right that the minister has even before this Act is put in place? Does the minister also have the right to determine how and when a school board is elected, right now, before this Act is put into place?

MR. GRIMES: The last elections were actually held almost eight years ago. There is supposed to be an election every four years (inaudible).

MR. H. HODDER: Nineteen eighty-nine.

MR. GRIMES: But the last school board elections were deferred and delayed. Because we thought this was going to happen three years ago, but now we are going with the next four, so it will be eight years by next September.

MR. H. HODDER: November of 1989.

MR. GRIMES: But the last elections were held under the Act with the minister setting up regulations, and they will be changed now as we have to elect two-thirds (inaudible).

MR. OSBORNE: Basically, those are the only concerns and problems I have with the Act, other than - I mean, there is a number of probably grammatical errors throughout the Act and so on, which leads me to believe that it was probably put together in a hurry.

I have had consultation with some of the religious denominations in my district, and I am led to believe that they are not comfortable with the fact that they have to pass their investment over to a school board without any compensation. As I said to the minister, I am led to believe that the denominational authorities are not one hundred per cent comfortable with that. As I mentioned, if I were the property owner and I put the investment in there up front, the dollars, and the dollars to maintain and keep up that property throughout the years, and just had to pass it over to the board for them to use for as long as they determined they needed the building, and then at some point the building is probably to the age that it is no longer considered a solid structure and so on, the government or the board can just pass it back to the denomination and say: `Well, we are done with it'; and there is no rent or compensation back to the denominational authorities. I am going to have to go back and speak to them, because I am led to believe, as I have said, that they are not comfortable with this. And, as well, I do not think I am comfortable with that part of the Act.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I rise on this particular bill, I say to the minister, not to drag it out but just to make a few general comments about it. We will be talking on the counterpart to this, Bill 27. Of course, we will have some time in Committee to bring out some more specifics and that is when you get a better chance, I guess, to get more detail on some parts of the bill.

It was very interesting to finally get the bill and start to read through it. I have many notes on it. This whole process has been a learning experience for everybody in this House, I say to the minister. It has been a long time coming, and I guess the first thing I would like to say is, `Let us get on with it'. Everybody says that.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Oh, we certainly do want to get on with it, but then again, after going through all we have gone through with the divisiveness and the referendum and so on, I think it is incumbent upon us as members in the House - not just in Opposition, any government member - to stand up and make your comments on this particular bill and put your opinions forward, and even talk specifically on some of the things in the bill.

As I read through it first and then, of course, discuss it a bit further on, there is some vagueness to some parts of the bill, definitions in particular. The stating of definitions in it is not really as clear as you would like it to be. I am sure the minister, or any government member, would not like to rush this through. After all the things that we have done with this, the referendum and the debate and so on, you would not just jump up on this and within an hour or two rush it through the House. It is an historical piece of legislation which will impact on the lives of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for years and years to come, and that is why there should not be a rush on it. Somebody should not be rushing us to finalize this legislation and vote on it immediately.

Education reform is something that we have all talked about for many, many months and years, and we have all decided that it was time for us to move on and reform education. There is nobody in the Province - I would say zero - who would even consider that education reform was not needed in this Province. That is why we want to take the bill step-by-step, clause-by-clause, talk about it, make sure that we have in place here - this is the point I want to make today - what this whole process was supposed to lead us to, which was a better system of education in the Province for the student.

So often when we are caught up in debate, and the media and so on over the last months and years, we sort of lost touch with the real issue here which was improving education for the students of Newfoundland and Labrador so that they are better people who are going to be progressive, productive members of society in our Province. That is what it is all about, the student, and at times we have lost touch with that particular part of this whole issue, when we get down to the referendum and the divisiveness and religions and so on. And when religions were brought into it the divisiveness started.

I think also we can say clearly that there was confusion. There was confusion on both sides; there was confusion in government; there was confusion outside government, and there was a lot of confusion leading up to where we find ourselves today speaking on this and debating it in this House.

Mr. Speaker, the politics of it that the Premier continues to talk about, the Senate and the House of Commons, and how they voted and so on, is behind us now. What we have to do now is look at what our students in this Province will look forward to next year and the year after and so on. And in three, four, or five years from now we will not have to look to the Minister of Education, whoever that may be at that time, and say: We had our chance to reform. We should have had an air-tight, sturdy piece of legislation that would say: This is exactly what we need. This is what is going to be best for the students in this Province. Therefore, let us pass it and make it into the law of the land so that we do the right thing in this Province.

Mr. Speaker, clearly, what we should really be doing is making sure that we look through this thoroughly - every member of the House, not just Opposition members - and decide if it is, in fact, what the people of this Province wanted when they decided to vote. Whether they voted yes or no in the Province, and for whatever reasons, is past. What we have for the future, and what we have to deal with today in this Legislature, is, in fact, that what the people of this Province wanted for education reform is obtained through this legislation. That is what we have to be most concerned about.

The issues like school busing and, of course, religion in the schools, all of those things that have been controversial and a lot of different opinions as we went through the process leading up before the last election, have torn at the very thread of the people in this Province when it comes to what they want for their children. It is too bad, really, when you look at the process that we went through, that there had to be so much of that, but a lot of it was rhetoric and media hype, a lot of it was the confusion of one media saying something, somebody in the House saying something, all of us speaking differently.

Even within the government, Mr. Speaker, there were a lot of contradictory remarks as the process went through, but I think we have overcome that and I can say to the minister and to the Premier that we are all looking forward to the day when we can say: Okay, the legislation is through the House. This is something significant, it covers the points raised and the concerns of parents in the Province. And, speaking as a teacher, it is something I want to mention today, in this part, because I will be more specific later on in my debate. But, Mr. Speaker, as I just ran through it, for example, Physical Education in the schools - I would have liked to see the minister have something changed in that rule where it was compulsory in the schools, where it became a big part of education in a lot of schools. In many parts of the States now and in parts of Canada, they talk about physical activity and how it involves the students and the extra curricula involved with that. It is a big part of the education process.

I know there are many members in this House who were influenced by extra curricula activities in the schools - sports, the science fairs, I mean, anything you mention above and beyond the actual books in school, that is what it comes down to, I guess; that is what I am saying, where you moved away from books: literature, math and the courses. A great deal has to be said for many students in this Province who now find themselves maybe even sitting in this House of Assembly, who went through school and were encouraged to stay in school through such activities, Mr. Speaker. But it was not addressed in this. As a matter of fact, I noted that Physical Education, marked by an asterisk, said that it could be taught by the classroom teacher.

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot to consider when we say that, and I guess the real people who know the difference are the people who did it for years, Physical Education teachers and coaches throughout the system who had such great impact on children as they went through school. That is one thing I noticed was not addressed here, Mr. Speaker.

Kindergarten reform, when we first talked about it with the previous Minister of Education, it was not very well thought out when we talked about Kindergarten and the length of day and so on. We did not take into account the busing routes and the distance from the schools, the road conditions and those things. Those are the things, Mr. Speaker, when you talk to people one on one, out in the communities, the real people who want these changes, those are the things they bring up.

The minister and I were at the meeting in Baie Verte when the minister came to visit the district, and the things people had to say there - they talked about road conditions, distance from the school and so on; those have to be big factors for consideration when you talk about the viability of schools, and that will have a major impact on schools in this Province over the next year when we see this legislation pass the House. So it is not something you rush through. It is not something that you say, `Okay, I just read through it at a glance, let us get on with it' - and I do want to get on with it, I say to the minister, and there are many people in this House who will say the same thing. But to get on with it and close the door and say let us do it quickly and get it over with, after going through such a long process that we just went through, is not good enough.

It is time to bring these issues to the floor of the House where we can get into more specifics and debate the bill clause-by-clause. We should raise the concerns, we should see how vague some of terms are; we should see if the definitions are straightforward and we should make sure that it is a tidy, neat package of legislation, Mr. Speaker, before passing it through the House. Because the end result is a better education. And this minister, Mr. Speaker, has an historical piece of legislation before him that he knows has to be proper, has to be done without any delays. It has to be done right, and that is the whole point of this, Mr. Speaker, it has to be the best possible legislation to get at our final objective, which is a better school system for this Province.

I also want to make mention now of people who were involved. The minister will be talking to the different groups now, as he says, the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association and the school councils and so on, but I wonder how much input they really did have in arriving at this piece of legislation we see here today - not after the fact, but before, prior to the legislation coming to the House. That was a year ago that we had our vote on this, and the problems we had with the House of Commons and delaying it, and then the Senate delaying it and so on. Those were things beyond our control. There were things beyond our control. But while that was happening, work on this piece of legislation could have been cleaned up, tightened up. Definitions could have been more precise. There could have been less vagueness on some of the articles in here that we have read through and that we have some concerns with.

Our critic for education has been studying it very closely, having some very good discussions with many people in our own caucus but also within the field, teachers, parents, school board appointees and so on, and they also have some concerns. So when they look at the legislation they do not want us to come in here today and after one hour's debate just say: You did not notice anything with the legislation that it should be rushed through.

That is the only reason why I would like to stand today in this part of the debate, I say to the minister, on this particular part. It is more general - but to say that we are going to take the legislation piece by piece, have more discussions with our caucus. I suggest that members on the opposite side also look through the clauses one by one. If you have some specific concerns on this historical piece of legislation, just stand up and make note on it that there are concerns that you have. It should be a nice tight, neat package of legislation without any loopholes, I say to the Government House Leader, without anything that we are going to want to retract later and end up in court cases and so on.

We do not want a messy reform, that is what I say. That is what we want to make sure of, that we do not rush through this historical piece of legislation without looking at it clause-by-clause, being specific, raising concerns, and making sure that on the final day we vote in this Legislature on this education reform, it is a strong, tight package of legislation that covers every aspect of education reform.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: In all seriousness, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, that we have a nice neat, tight package of legislation that goes on, so that we see the end result, which is a better education.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do say that. I do suggest to the minister that we take our time with it, look at it clause-by-clause, in detail. I will have more specifics as we debate it clause-by-clause. There are some specifics. But I say to the minister, let us have a tight, neat package so that people understand it well, and we can go forward from there.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. EFFORD: The minister is going to leave, because he cannot stand it.

MR. FRENCH: I am not sure if he - he should be staying, but that is alright, I will see that you get copies of it, Minister. That is quite alright. I will look after you, you know I will. I looked after you before; there certainly is no problem between this minister and me.

I would just like to touch on a couple of issues here, Mr. Speaker.

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible) the Minister of Health. If the Minister of Health were half as quiet -

MR. FRENCH: Oh yes, well, that is alright. He is okay. He is alright, you know.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a couple of points on this. Earlier this year I had the opportunity in this House to talk about the Senate. I, as one member in this House, speaking for myself and not for my colleagues or anybody else but just as one particular member, I think I spent a great deal of time one day -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Well, you are not far behind me, I say to the Government House Leader.

I spoke a great deal about the Senate in Ottawa. If I had my way it would not even be up there, but that is just one person's opinion. It is certainly my opinion. I have listened for quite some time - being somebody who voted ever before I got into politics for education reform to have the education system in this Province changed. I voted for that and will continue to vote for it. I will be supporting this particular piece of legislation because I believe that we need education reform. I do not think we should be blaming everything on the Senate. I think we probably had ample time to get it through the House, Mr. Speaker, when the Premier was the Minister of Fisheries, and we did not. I am sick and tired of hearing somebody talking about the Tory Senate and so on because I could talk about Michael Kirby and I could certainly talk about the Chairman of the committee that was here in Newfoundland holding public hearings, who was a Liberal and who voted, Mr. Speaker, to defeat Newfoundland and Labrador's bill that went to Ottawa. As far as I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, that says no. So that says enough for me.

I guess, Mr. Speaker, the only disappointment I have in this particular bill is that we did not do everything that was in the Williams report. I know Dr. Williams and I have a great deal of respect for him. It is unfortunate, I guess - and I say to the minister that we probably did not incorporate everything that Dr. Williams had in his report into our education reform bill. At least we have made a start. At least we are going to change, or hopefully we are going to change the education system in this Province.

I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, that I, for one, will certainly support this particular piece of legislation. If anything, I say to the minister, we should probably have gone even further, we probably should have incorporated all of what Dr. Williams said in his report. I think probably somewhere down the road - I do not know if we will ever have this opportunity to do what we are doing here again, but I would have been even a bit happier if we had put in everything that was in Dr. Williams' report. So I look forward to this particular bill, Mr. Speaker, seeing that it is approved, and I, for one, will certainly vote for it.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is going to raise the (inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Well, I hope so. I hope that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who voted in the referendum to have education changed, are getting what they want. I hope what the previous Administration promised is what we are going to get in this reform. I go back, Mr. Speaker, to my own daughter who came up through this system and who, while attending university in Nova Scotia, made it a point on the day that the referendum vote was being held to call home and say to me and to her mother that whatever we did on that particular day, to be sure that we got out and voted. We certainly voted in favour of education reform.

So, I say, Mr. Speaker, that I am one who believes in education reform, believes that it is long overdue, and I look forward to this piece of legislation being passed. I thank you for your few minutes.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: In conclusion, Mr. Speaker.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise, Mr. Speaker, to pass a few comments on Bill 48, "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Operation of Schools in The Province." This piece of legislation, I suppose, is nothing new; it is something we have been expecting for awhile. We started passing all kinds of blame on who held it up, where, who did what, who was responsible for it reaching this House at such a late stage, and we are under the gun again. In order to get this piece of legislation through the House of Assembly, we find ourselves again sitting at nighttime just a few days before the Christmas season.

Mr. Speaker, the minister of the day went around and held consultation as it related to changes in the schools Act, and changes in the education system. I do not know if many of the things he heard, many of the things that came before him in the consultation process are written into this piece of legislation or not, but I compliment the minister. I compliment the minister for going around the Province and including the stakeholders in this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, another thing I compliment the minister for - and you have to speak honestly about people when they come forward and react to problems, especially when there are so many of them at the beginning of the school year. I remember a phone call coming through to the minister's office at five o'clock one evening when he was here in his office in St. John's, and eight o'clock that night he was down in Plate Cove West meeting a group of concerned residents. I compliment the minister for that, because that is the kind of thing that is needed.

When you have your school closed down and when you have the students, the future of this Province, being unable to attend school because the parents want to make sure that they are going to and from school in as reasonable and as safe a manner as possible, and have no other alternative but to keep them out of school in order to show their frustrations with the system, then the minister certainly responded to that particular request and went down. And even though he did not say all the things the parents wanted to hear, even though he did not give them the answer, as they saw it, as a solution to their problem, he did go and he stood before them and answered their questions and put forward the reasons why he thought it could not be done, the reasons why he thought the changes had to be made to the busing system. That is something I can understand.

Mr. Speaker, according to the minister, busing or transportation is not addressed in this legislation because it is a regulation rather than a piece of legislation. But I think it is something that should be addressed, something just as important as curriculum, just as important as the classroom, or the school that our students attend. If you are going to expect to put students on a bus at 7:30 in the morning and have them coming home at 4:30 in the afternoon, it is a situation where children will be getting up in the morning and going out on the sides of the streets in rural Newfoundland without sidewalks, without a protected area in which to stand, before daylight, to get on a school bus, and they will come home and exit the school bus after dark in the evening.

It is a situation where many of our students today put in more time going to school, being at school, and coming from, than I would suggest, many adults in the real world do who get up in the morning and go to work and come home, Mr. Speaker. And the day does not stop there - they then have their studies to attend to, they have homework. It could run into a ten- or eleven-hour day for those particular students.

We are not talking about students in Level III or Level II, we are talking about students, six years old. In fact, we are talking about students going to school in the morning, or coming home in the evening if they go a half-day, in some cases, four years old. They do not have to be five until December 31. So you have students out there today going to school, four years old, and expecting them to get out, stand on the side of a busy thoroughfare before daylight, waiting to get on a bus. I think this is wrong and I think it is something the minister or the school boards are going to have to address. If we are going to go closing down schools, and if we are going to talk about the viability of schools - and that is what that means - if we are going to be doing those kinds of things and saying we are going to bus our students to another location, then the least we can do is provide a decent means of transportation for them and put them on a bus where they will not be overcrowded - almost like you would fill it up with freight.

In my district, there is a seventy-two passenger bus - one bus carries sixty-nine students and the other has, I think, seventy-one students on that bus. The students are from Kindergarten to Level III. Some of those Level III students are not, I suppose, of a size that you can expect three people to sit in a seat and be comfortable, especially when you consider that they are dressed up in their winter clothes, they have their gym clothes on their backs and they have their books in their arms. It is certainly not a very safe way to have our students travelling over our highways, and, in some cases, over the Trans-Canada, going to and from school. This is the kind of thing of which we have to be very cognizant.

Another point about schools is that if we are looking at reforming education, and we are looking at giving students in rural Newfoundland the same opportunity as students in the urban areas as it relates to industrial arts programs, access to computers, et cetera, then we are going to have to give them decent classrooms and decent schools to attend.

My particular area, in the Musgravetown - Bloomfield - Lethbridge area, I would suggest that probably the high school in Musgravetown is the last wooden structure or the oldest wooden structure school in Newfoundland and Labrador. It was built back in 1959 and was probably the last wooden structure school that was built. This particular school today, even though the school board has done a lot of repairs and upgrading to it over the years, is still in a very dilapidated condition. The junior school, the elementary school in Lethbridge, is another older wooden structure. In this particular school, the children have to be moved out of their classrooms sometimes in order to get away from leaky roofs and water falling from the ceiling down on to the floor.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: In the Lethbridge school, I say to the minister. Any time you are in the area there and you go upstairs in L. R. Ash school it is not hard to see what I am talking about. They are probably two of the oldest wooden structure schools in this Province. They have done some repairs to it. I think they put a new roof on the school, or part of a new roof, last year. The school is still there.

Mr. Speaker, the parents have spoken out, they have come forward and they are saying: We need a new school. They do not mind having an all-grade school where Kindergarten to Level III go together. That is not a problem, but they do want and they do need a good school. The school board has recognized their efforts, they are saying: Yes, you need a school, and if we ever get enough money to build a new school then this is where it will go, this is where the need is. But you always have to go back to government and ask them for the few paltry dollars that are needed.

The former Minister of Education would get up and talk about all the money that was wasted in years gone by, and say that is the reason why the people in this area do not have a good school, that is the reason why the students have to vacate their classrooms because of leaks, and this sort of thing. Mr. Speaker, it is not good enough anymore, to be placing blame. We have to respond and we have to put money back into the system that is going to supply us with good schools in order to educate our people.

I do not know how much money the minister is going to save by bringing abut this school reform, but I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the money that is going to be saved, be put back into education, because that is where it is badly needed. A few years ago, we saw the school tax being done away. The school tax was an unfair tax because people were not paying it, and the reason it was done away was because we had no sensible means of collecting it. But at least, the taxes that were collected were directed back to the school board.

Now, we are still paying school taxes, in fact more people are paying it. More people are paying more taxes than they ever paid before as it relates to the school tax when it was changed and tied in with your income tax, but the particular money goes into general revenue and does not necessarily go back into education. Out in rural Newfoundland today, I can assure you, there is certainly a need for monies to be spent in education. Mr. Speaker, I talked about two schools in my district; the one in Musgrave Town is not in my district but a lot of the students from my area go there to attend this high school.

Mr. Speaker, moving on down to Bonavista, Discovery Collegiate is probably the flagship of all schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a beautiful school, new, well-constructed, with a group of educators there second to none in Newfoundland and Labrador. They have a program there second to none in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is one of the best schools and one of the best equipped schools, with the best educators in all of this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is that, `Roger'?

MR. FITZGERALD: In Bonavista - the flagship of Newfoundland and Labrador bar none. The curriculum they offer there, the opportunities there are second to none. In fact, some of the parents from outside the area put in requests to take their children themselves in their own private cars and drive them to Bonavista, and that is because this particular school will give them an opportunity and allow them to go to some of our colleges and post-secondary institutions prepared. That is why the parents want to do that, Mr. Speaker.

I am not saying that every community in Newfoundland and Labrador should have a school like Bonavista has, but they should certainly have good schools and should certainly be providing a curriculum that is no different from what the schools provide here in St. John's or Mount Pearl or some of the other urban centres, Mr. Speaker. I think it is important to give every student in Newfoundland and Labrador equal access to a good education. We talk about our students underachieving. The Premier says in one breath that our students are underachieving, and in the next, Mr. Speaker, he jumps to his feet and says quite the opposite - how we can compete with anybody, anywhere in this country. I believe we can compete. I know we can compete, but we have to give students the opportunity and the environment in which they learn.

If we are going to have them going to school on crowded buses, and not able to eat a sensible breakfast in the morning because the road is so bad going to and from their school, then how can we expect them to achieve, and how can we expect them to compete? The Minister of Works, Services and Transportation is well aware of this, because I brought it up in the House before: A particular school in Plate Cove closed probably seven years ago. At that time, they consolidated the school with the one down in King's Cove, so the students down in this particular area, all the way up to Summerville, are being bused from Summerville down to King's Cove, going over one of the worst roadways in Newfoundland and Labrador, probably the worst.

In fact it is so bad that the Department of Works, Services and Transportation cannot even do a good job of ploughing the roads in the wintertime. Even after the snowplough goes over the roads, in some places there are four or five inches of slush left on the road. It is not uncommon for buses to stop and wait, on the top of some of these hills, until either the salt truck comes by or another piece of equipment different from the flyer that passed by an hour ago comes by, in order to clear the road so they can safely manoeuvre the hill. That is not uncommon, and it has happened already on two occasions this year. I do not know if we had what you could call a snowfall. We have had snow but certainly not something you would consider a snowfall.

AN HON. MEMBER: A `dwy'.

A `dwy' is the word for it, a rural Newfoundland name. We had a snow dwy and because of that, the students in that area there have already lost time out of school.

I have not studied this piece of legislation very much. I have read part of it, but I know there is a real problem there with people being able to interpret some of the rules and regulations. I remember, I introduced a bill into this House a few months ago and the Government House Leader of the day would not approve it because he said he had problems with the wording of it.

MR. TULK: What bill was that?

MR. FITZGERALD: It was Bill 100, the good samaritan bill, an Act to take away the litigation of having department stores donate food, Mr. Speaker. That will come up because I think it was a good bill. In fact, it was a bill in which the wording was copied almost word for word from the province of Ontario.

MR. TULK: I think what we should do is, between now and the Spring session take a look at the bill and (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: It was an Act, Mr. Speaker, that would put groceries in food banks in this Province, and by doing that, many of our students would be able to probably go to school with a full stomach, be able to go and access the food banks. I have talked to store owners in the area here. A gentleman, Mr. Egbert Walters, who is the Chairman of the St. John's Food Bank, read the Act and thought it was a good piece of legislation. It has been implemented in five other provinces in Canada, a piece of legislation that is in fifty of the states in the United States. But `old Eddie Escobar' got on his feet and said he had problems with the wording, and my comment to him at that time was very simple: if it was good enough for Eddie Greenspan it should be good enough for Eddie Roberts.

MR. E. BYRNE: If it was good enough for what?

MR. FITZGERALD: If it was good enough for Eddie Greenspan it should be good enough for Eddie Roberts.

MR. E. BYRNE: That is right. I will remember that line.

The only reason that particular piece of legislation was not allowed to go through this House is because it was introduced by a member in Opposition. It was partisan politics, I say to members opposite.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is a good reason.

MR. FITZGERALD: No, it was not a good reason, I say to the minister. Because when I see the need that is out there today, when I see so many people going to food banks and lining up outside food banks, when I see, Mr. Speaker, grocery stores in this Province today taking food off their shelves because tomorrow the `best before' date may be up or because the can is dented or because the label is torn or because you cannot read all the printing on the package, when I see this food going to the dump today, and I see so many people out there in need, then I say there is something wrong with us. Mr. Minister, if you say it is right, then I say no, it is totally wrong, because there is nothing right about that.

Especially when you see the season that we are into today and you see the Salvation Army - and almost every church service you go to you hear the clergy saying: Next Sunday bring a Christmas hamper, Bring a hamper so we can respond to the needs. Why do you think you see the Salvation Army out with their kettles? Why do you think people pay special attention and want to give and buy food hampers and take them to the food banks this particular time of the year moreso than any time of the year? It is because there is a real need out there. We can live in all our little cocoons here and we can close our doors and remove ourselves from it, but the need is certainly there and it is a need that should certainly be attended to.

Bill 48 goes on in section 13(2) - and maybe the minister when he responds can address this. It says in (a) a fee can be imposed on a student "for the cost of supplies provided to a student; and (b) a fee for other services provided to a student outside school hours." I ask the minister: What services are we talking about? What supplies are we talking about? What are we talking about here? It is very vague. Nobody knows what services we are talking about here.

Is it going to be a situation now that extra-curricular activities are going to have to be paid for by the parents? Is it going to be a situation whereby - and it is not uncommon, especially if somebody - well, all the schools, where you have other students doing private tutoring after school hours.

So is it a situation now, Minister, where the paper and the pencils and the pens and the other supplies and the cost of the tutor is going to have to be borne by the parents? Is it going to be a cost now whereby if you take part and put forward a tournament, that the student coaches, the educators now, are going to be wanting to be paid, and the parents and the students are going to have to go out and go fund-raising to look after those services? Is that what is meant here?

The minister talked about the school busing system. It is not included in the legislation. The reason it is not included in the legislation, he says, is because it is a regulation. But section 76(m) of Bill 48 says fees are allowed to be levied "for the transportation of students." There is permission to levy fees for the transportation of students. School boards today, after the passage of this Act, will be able to levy fees for the transportation of students. I ask the minister if he would explain that when he gets up to respond to the bill. I know the bill is a fairly long one compared to most of the bills that go through the House, but they are real concerns and the minister knows they are concerns.

The vagueness that is there, the question begs to be asked. Because, are we talking about now levying fees for students to travel on school buses? Is that what we are talking about? We saw that happen on one particular bus route here in the St. John's area just a few short months ago. I saw people in my district, when we had the busing problem - and we still have it, but there has been enough of an agreement or enough change to satisfy the students and the parents as of now, but it will arise again. At that particular time - and the minister knows that parents were coming forward and saying, `We are willing to pay a fee to get our school bus back.' My comment to them was: Do not be willing to pay a fee - why should you? Why should you, because you live in Tickle Cove or Open Hall, have to pay a fee when people living in Clarenville or Deep Bight do not have to pay one? Let us not get into that. If you are going to impose fees and if you are going to expect people to pay, then let us treat everybody alike. If it is going to cost me x number of dollars to travel on a school bus, then everybody else should pay it; but if it is not going to cost me, then do not go out and charge somebody else just because they are into a particular set of circumstances over which they have no control. Now, that is what is happening, I say to the member.

If you go out and take away enough services and make students suffer and put up with enough hardship, then parents, because they are human, will respond and they would be willing - I am sure they would be willing to pay a few extra dollars, but that should not be, I say to the minister. I think everybody in this Province today are paying enough taxes in order to provide bus transportation for their children to and from school. That is the least that can be done.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that we are going to break now for supper. Is that correct, Mr. Speaker? I will have a few more brief words after supper when I get the chicken down into me. So I will adjourn debate now until 7:00 p.m. There is nothing like being in control in this House.

Recess

MR. SPEAKER (Barrett): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South adjourned debate.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I suppose everything that I was saying was reaffirmed, if anybody had a chance to watch the news. I did not see one person on the news who agreed with what the minister was saying, not one. Most of the people said it was totally confusing. The things that they voted for were not there in the bill. The news was a good reflection of what people out there think this piece of legislation is all about.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Nobody on the news tonight agreed with Bill 48, not one person. I missed Ray Guy. I am sure Ray Guy would have given an honest opinion of exactly what this particular bill contains.

Moving on from that, the minister talks about viable schools in Bill 48. What are we going to call viable schools? Is it going to be up to the minister to decide what a viable school is? Is the minister going to decide by probably the political process what a viable school is? Is he going to go in and decide, because a school needs repair, or because of its location, whether it is a viable school, or if there are problems within that particular area in getting teachers, or keeping educators there, is this what he is going to use in the criteria to determine what he feels is going to be a viable school?

MR. EFFORD: If (inaudible) Liberals.

MR. FITZGERALD: I know how the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture would decide. That is why Bill 28 gives me great concern. That is why I stood here many times and talked about Bill 28. I have no problem with the Minister of Education making those decisions. My great fear is that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture might be the Minister of Education some day. God bless us! God spare us the thought!

MR. EFFORD: I am finished with the plants.

MR. FITZGERALD: Finished with the plants, then he will go around closing down schools. Then he will start on the churches.

The election of school boards - How are you going to elect somebody to a school board, I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture? How are you going to decide that you are going to vote as a Pentecostal or as a Roman Catholic, or as a Protestant? How are you going to be distinguished, Minister? Who is to say? Do you have to bring the parish priest with you to swear your allegiance? How are you going to distinguish the way people vote? Tell me; I do not know. It is not here. It is certainly not in Bill 48.

We talk about the Williams report. How often have we sat here in this House and talked about the Williams report, and what a good report it is? Very few, if any, recommendations were brought from the Williams report into Bill 48. The Williams report made a lot of sense, and the recommendations that they brought forward would have probably seen a real change in our school system.

Mr. Speaker, I fear that this particular reform - with all of the processes that we have gone through to bring about school reform, and all the expense incurred by the taxpayers of this Province, I fear they are not going to get the reform they wanted, and they are not going to see any big changes in the education of students through this particular bill.

There are a lot of uncertainties there that we will not know until all of a sudden it hits us straight between the eyes, when you see some of the changes that the minister will have the power to implement when bringing about restructuring of our school system.

Mr. Speaker, those are some of the concerns that have been echoed to me. Those are some of the concerns that I have been able to pick up from reading this particular bill. They are real concerns - concerns that I am sure the minister is going to be confronted with as time goes by. They are concerns that are going to be raised by parents, by students, and by educators as well, Mr. Speaker. Because it is certainly not spelled out very clearly what this particular bill contains, and it is certainly not spelled out very clearly what changes -

AN HON. MEMBER: Did I get you on television this evening?

MR. FITZGERALD: No. You are going to get me in The Evening Telegram tomorrow, though.

AN HON. MEMBER: Am I?

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, I say to the minister. I say to the minister that his wife is looking after him. In fact, I believe she even writes the Ministerial Statements for him now. That is why when I stand here to respond he always gets a little news clip. It is not the Ministerial Statements, but it is the response after. I have got you and the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture on the news more often than you have ever been scrummed before, Mr. Speaker, and that will continue.

Mr. Speaker, those are some of the concerns, and I understand my time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: No, they will not be here long.

Those are some of the concerns. I do not know if I told the Government House Leader my record here with respect to dealing with government members, with government ministers. Have I told you that?

MR. TULK: What?

MR. FITZGERALD: My record of dealing with some of the members in government. Would you like for me to go over it again? About the former Minister of Social Services, Mr. Speaker. First when I got elected I was shadow member for the Minister of Social Services. It lasted three months. Where is he now? Where is the former Minister of Social Services, the Member for Terra Nova? Gone. He sits in the front benches but he is gone. Even before him, the Minister of Works, Services and Transportation, where is he now? Up sitting in the benches, up on the fourth floor, gone! Then I went and they put me in as shadow member for the former Minister of Fisheries, Food and Agriculture. Where is he now?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Gone!

MR. FITZGERALD: Gone, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Government House Leader. Now, I say to the Government House Leader, I am the shadow member for Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Agrifoods. So you should confer together because your future in this House is going to be very short. The two of you people will be either in the back -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: I will make a prediction.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FITZGERALD: Within sixteen months you and the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture will either be sitting in the back benches -

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave!

MR. FITZGERALD: - or you will be gone! You will be gone, one thing or the other. That is the record that I bring, Mr. Speaker, and it is a record that I have been very proud of.

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

The hon. member's time is up.

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member does not have leave.

The hon. the Member for Cape St. Francis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, can you control that crowd over there, please? I am up to debate a very serious bill that has come before this House - a very serious bill, Bill 48.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Right in order, I would say.

AN HON. MEMBER: Number one, polled the best Opposition member in the House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. J. BYRNE: I take a bow.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: We know - quite familiar with it.

MR. FITZGERALD: How many were polled?

MR. J. BYRNE: Are you finished now?

MR. TULK: Would you like (inaudible)?

MR. J. BYRNE: No.

MR. TULK: You do not want to know?

MR. J. BYRNE: No, I do not need to know.

Mr. Speaker, Bill 48 finally, at last. All the talk that has gone on in this House and in the Province these past two or three years since the former Premier took a whim in his head -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What did he say? I did not hear him.

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) for supper.

MR. J. BYRNE: I had a little bit of chocolate for dessert.

Mr. Speaker, ever since the former Premier took a whim, when he was probably ten or twelve years old, to change the education system in the Province... We have been talking about this since he has been Premier and finally, after two years, the Education Minister brings Bill 48 before the House.

Now, there are a few questions that need to be asked, but before we get into the bill itself, Mr. Speaker, what has to be addressed here - and it has been overlooked in many of the debates inside and outside the House of Assembly - is what is best for the student. Hopefully, this bill will address that, but really, I do not see it. I have not had time really to study it in detail. We will get into that, Mr. Speaker, in Committee stage, I would imagine; but some general comments.

Now, the Member for St. John's East was on his feet today and he did a very good job. The Minister of Education is nodding his head in agreement. Everyone in the House, who heard him speak, has to agree to that. Other members on this side of the House did a good job in discussing this bill on a number of points.

There is one point, Mr. Speaker, that I have to bring up - two, actually. Right off the top - and the Premier, every opportunity he gets he talks about this, even this past weekend he talked about it, Mr. Speaker, and that is the Senate. He talked about the Tories in the Senate delaying education reform, but what the Premier never talks about is the bill, Term 17. The amendments to Term 17 were in the House of Commons for six months before his cousins in Ottawa decided to address it. Then it goes to the Senate, and the Senate is there with a sober second thought, and by some strange coincidence, Mr. Speaker, the majority of the senators are Liberal. Yet, the Premier, every time he gets to speak about the Senate, he talks about the Tories delaying debate or delaying Term 17. The majority of the senators are Liberal - my understanding is that is the case. Well, they outnumber the PCs, do they not? Do they or do they not? How many did not vote and how many were not there for the vote? That is never discussed.

In the meantime, the bill is before the House. It is about time, Mr. Speaker, for this bill to be before this House. I am hoping that it will get all said and done and that students in this Province will benefit but really, the bottom line, from the education minister's point of view and the government's point of view, I think, is to save dollars. There have been commitments made by the minister, by the Premier and by the previous Premier that any monies that are saved by the various changes to education in this Province will be directed back to the schools, to education and to the students.

MR. TULK: I break out in a cold sweat whenever he is talking. I get cold shivers, because I know there is one (inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: You look like you had a shower since you left here. You must have had some sweat somewhere.

MR. TULK: Cold shivers break out all over me.

MR. J. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, a few questions that need to be asked: Does this bill really reflect the Term 17 referendum? It is important to determine whether this bill will give people what they believe they were voting for in the referendum. Mr. Speaker, are they really going to get what they voted for? I hope they will. The majority of the people spoke and I hope they will get it. But there are some people out there now having second opinions on whether, indeed, they are getting what they voted for back over a year ago.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: What is one of my constituents saying down in the corner? I do not know what he is saying. I cannot hear him anyway.

MR. FITZGERALD: `Ralph' said something about the bog, I do not know what it was - something about the bog.

MR. J. BYRNE: The rattling bog down in the corner.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) certainly surveyed every bog there was.

MR. WISEMAN: No, I did not say you (inaudible). I did not say that.

MR. J. BYRNE: If the Irish Descendants wrote that song they wrote it for the Member for Topsail - `the Rattlin' Bog.'

Mr. Speaker, where are the classroom-centered reforms in this? The minister himself stood in his place today and he said that the Williams' Royal Commission is not really addressed in this bill, and many of the concerns with respect to the classroom-oriented reforms are not here. The length of the school day, for example, the length of the school year, and evaluation and so on, are not addressed in this bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, he has all the answers. Well, if the member has all of the answers, I would like for him to get up and speak on the bill for half-an-hour or so, and give us all the answers.

What district is he from?

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. J. BYRNE: `Langdon'.

MR. FITZGERALD: `Oliver Langdon', is he a member? He is not a member.

MR. J. BYRNE: Fortune Bay - Cape la Hune. I would like for the Member for Fortune - Cape la Hune to get on his feet and say a few words on this bill and set us all straight.

AN HON. MEMBER: Cape lagoon.

MR. J. BYRNE: Lagoon is it?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. J. BYRNE: The Blue Lagoon.

Mr. Speaker, this bill - well, not the bill itself - the talks have been going on for a couple of years. We had the education referendum a year ago in September, and we had the amendment to Term 17 going through the House and the Senate. Now, here we are, three weeks before Christmas, the bill is introduced into the House of Assembly on a Friday, brought in on Monday, and it is hoped to get it through second reading today.

I understand where the minister is coming from, in a certain respect, saying that he needs to get this done now; there is a process that has to be followed. He actually sent out the logistics, I suppose, of what is going to happen in the next six to eight months, and when you look at it from his perspective you say: well, yes, that makes sense, and that makes sense, and that makes sense, I must say. But the thing is this: Why was it so late in coming here? I know they talked about the Senate delaying it, but it could have been back six months before this if the House of Commons had dealt with it in the first place.

I want to comment on a few of the comments of the minister. When he spoke, introducing this bill today, he was very general. He did not get into a lot of detail. There were very few details, but he addressed some points. One, he said that this Schools Act - which is the short title - the detail of it will address all aspects of running a school. It deals with the rights of parents, and rightly so; of course, it should deal with the rights of parents.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible) better, even though we are close to Christmas.

MR. J. BYRNE: Can you slow down and say that again?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Sobeit. Life on a big ship, I say to the Government House Leader.

It deals with the rights of boards.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Now, I do not suppose I need to explain that to you.

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Development and Rural Renewal shook her head. She did not know what I meant when I said `Life on a big ship'. Life on a big ship - now, sit down and figure it out.

MS FOOTE: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: I will explain it to her. They are on the planet and the planet is going through space, so `life on a big ship', I say to the Minister of Development and Rural Renewal.

The most important thing to me, is the fact that the minister said it deals with the rights of students - very important. Another point he made when he was on his feet - he talked about a provision which outlaws corporal punishment. Now, the Member for St. John's East commented on that, and actually, I think he got carried in the media tonight, that there is a bit of ambiguity there, that it is not necessarily so that it outlaws corporal punishment, and that is the type of thing and the types of clauses that are in this bill that are vague and ambiguous and need to be addressed, and we plan to address all of those sections clause-by-clause in Committee.

The bill addresses compulsory attendance and allowance for home instruction. Now, that is an interesting one. The minister said, when he was on his feet, that this new bill will allow for parents to teach their children at home. The government will not promote parents teaching their children at home, but it will be permitted. The government will allow that to happen.

I made a lot of notes when the minister was on his feet.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Speaker is listening.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, I am sure he is.

There is an appeal procedure, Mr. Speaker, with respect to students, and I picked up on that here. I had a few notes made. Now, if I can just find it - I want to make a comment on that because it is a very important issue. Here it is, one point here. According to this, the school can use the student record against the student, but the student does not enjoy the same privilege. Section 12(6)(b) says no one has "to give evidence respecting the content of the student record" in court. Why not? What if the student is aggrieved? The student cannot use it against himself. Also, though the parent request that the principal review the matter, there is no stipulation that the principal shall review it or shall report back or shall make changes. That is a very serious issue here that I think needs to be addressed.

Here is another issue. The minister talked about the rights of the parents. In this bill it says: The parent shall comply with a request according to the terms set out in the request, whatever that might be. So whatever the principal or the school requests the parent to do, to meet with the principal or the school, whatever the case, they have to. What if it is unreasonable in terms of frequency, of timing? Will the parent be fined because he or she refuses to meet with the board? It is a very important issue that needs to be addressed.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not planning on standing here all night and going for a full half-hour on this, although there are many issues that can be addressed here, as you can see. There are a few more points I will make while I am on my feet. There are some powers of the minister that I want to address. I have been on my feet since this House opened on probably four or five different bills, and it seems that a lot of the bills are giving more powers to the ministers: the Minister of Government Services and Lands, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Minister of Justice, and now, the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. J. BYRNE: Is there a story behind that? I would imagine there is.

Mr. Speaker, power to the minister - he gets to approve a private school, he gets to approve courses for a private school. Now, when they say the minister approves this, does he approve it together with Cabinet, or just he, himself? Does he have the authority to do that himself? He closes a private school if, in his opinion, it does not comply with this Act, and there is no right of appeal. So is it Cabinet or is it the minister?

He "may establish and operate a provincial school," says section 50(1). Can he explain to me what a provincial school is? He makes or disposes of property upon the dissolution of the boards. Now, he did speak on that today, and when he was on his feet it did seem to make some sense, what he was saying. I have not had a chance to confirm it or to talk to the groups that own the buildings and the land. But what he said seemed to make sense, that once this school or a building is not being utilized for school purposes anymore, it can be sold off and it will go back to the group that owned it in the first place. It seems to make sense.

Also, he talked about school viability standards, and he actually sent around, Mr. Speaker, something about school viability. It references if a school can provide the courses that are going to be required in the education system, but when it boils right down to it, we still do not have that school viability. We are still waiting on it. I remember a year ago in the House of Assembly when the Member for St. Mary's - The Capes asked a question about school viability and it was brushed aside. That is what it boils down to now, the future of the schools in this Province and the future of a lot of communities, is their viability. The minister is introducing legislation today, Bill 48, where we still do not have school viability.

The minister can make a final decision to approve or veto severance or similar matters for employees of the board being phased out. Approval by the minister, again. What is going on here?

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is not in his seat, but if he wants to say something he can get on his feet again.

MR. TULK: He is afraid. He is frightened to death.

MR. J. BYRNE: He is afraid. He is frightened to death. The Government House Leader says the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is frightened to death to get on his feet and speak to this bill because, I suppose, he would not want to cross ways with some of the people in his district. I imagine that is what the Government House Leader is talking about.

MR. TULK: I say he is afraid of you.

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, he is afraid of me. I cannot imagine in wildest terms how anybody could be afraid of me, the Member for Cape St. Francis. I cannot imagine it, I say to the Government House Leader. Now, here is another example of some of the stuff that is in this bill.

MR. H. HODDER: (Inaudible).

MR. J. BYRNE: Who said that?

AN HON. MEMBER: `Harvey'.

MR. J. BYRNE: No more favours for the Opposition House Leader. No more am I getting on my feet and talking for a half-hour. They are trying to divide and conquer, Mr. Speaker. It is not going to work.

Now, another issue with respect to the Minister of Education: A board decision on an appeal except expulsion is final. There is no way to (inaudible) an appeal. We talk about rights of the student that is supposed to be inherent in this bill, and that is what he talked about when he was on his feet, but once the student is expelled he has no right of appeal, Mr. Speaker. Now, what kind of a right is that?

I am not going through this clause-by-clause, but some of the things just pop out as you read. Where the board considers it necessary they arrange for a system of transportation of students to and from schools. Now, the minister was on the news tonight about this but he did not mention the one thing I am going to say now. Anyway, they can levy a transportation fee. Now, if the board decides to put on more busing or if the parents in the area want more busing, they can levy a transportation fee. So, now, we are getting into a situation in the Province where some user-pay, no doubt, is coming, in certain areas depending on the board itself. There are ten boards and you can have one board charging for transportation and another board not charging for transportation, or you may five boards charging for transportation and all charging different amounts, all charging different rates themselves within five and still have five not charging anything. Now, what kind of logistic problems are we developing here, Mr. Speaker? We have a multitude of issues that can be addressed with respect to this Bill 48.

I think I am about to sit down now, Mr. Speaker.

MR. TULK: Hold that thought for a minute.

MR. J. BYRNE: You want me to stay up longer? I have two more pages of notes and the Government House Leader wants me to stand for another few minutes, sobeit. I am always willing to oblige, Mr. Speaker. There are a few more people on this side of the House who wish to speak to this bill. I am just skimming my notes here now.

Here is one, Mr. Speaker, with respect to issues important to teachers. The minister was on his feet today saying, what they are going to do is, any concerns or issues that are strictly applied to teachers themselves, they are going to leave it to the bargaining table and resolve it that way, hopefully. If they cannot resolve it well then, the minister talks about bringing in legislation, that legislation is possible. So, again, Mr. Speaker, I suppose the bottom line is that they can play the heavy hand, bring in the legislation and do what they want.

Just one more thing, Mr. Speaker, before I sit down - well, a couple of things, actually. Section 41 refers to performances of the boards themselves. They are giving more autonomy to the boards, and maybe that could be a good thing, but then again, the minister can override the boards. As usual, the minister can override the boards. We have seen that so often in legislation before the House this sitting, this Fall, that the minister is getting all kinds of power - more power, I suppose, than one individual should have.

The minister, when he was on his feet, talked about allocation of teachers. He said the small school formula for teachers is going to be changed, but it is going to be changed by agreement with the teachers themselves or the NTA. He mentioned that this may force consolidation with schools within any given community. It could be a very good thing, Mr. Speaker. For example, down in Pouch Cove, since I have become an MHA really, Mr. Speaker, trying to get the two schools in Pouch Cove to come together, which is the Pouch Cove Elementary and St. Agnes. I have met with the PTAs, with the DEC, with the Avalon Consolidated, with the RC School Board, and with teachers. We had one big meeting and, Mr. Speaker, they have agreed to do that. Now, it is a prime example of how things can work.

If the minister would like to see a prime example of how consolidation can work, how two schools can come together, all he has to do is put his John Henry on the contract and we will have a new school built in either Pouch Cove or Flat Rock, in that area, to service about 350 to 400 students. It is desperately needed. The two buildings down there now are very old and the students in Pouch Cove, Flat Rock and Bauline, Mr. Speaker, deserve a new school in the area. They are looking forward to it. There was a commitment made previously to do engineering drawings and design for a new school in the area, and hopefully, when all this is said and done and we have the new boards in place, Mr. Speaker, and the new zones in place, we will see a new school in that district to service the K - 8 in that area.

On that note, speaking about a situation in my own district which is definitely related to education reform in this Province, I am going to thank you for your time and take my seat.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am not going to belabour the point and speak a half hour in debate but I just wanted to raise a couple of points for the Minister of Education. When we get into clause-by-clause debate on this piece of legislation, obviously it will become clearer.

What is interesting about this debate, Mr. Speaker, more interesting than anything else contained in the legislation, is the change in attitude and the change in philosophy with this government compared to the one that introduced education reform just a short time ago. And to say that one person could not have that much of a change - but the philosophies of all the ministers in the former government, that now sit in the ministries in this government, have changed completely.

MR. J. BYRNE: Yes, big time.

MR. E. BYRNE: Now, I would like to just address uni-denominational schools and the allocation set out in the legislation that uni-denominational schools will be permitted under certain circumstances. The minister indicated that where 50 per cent plus one of the people in a specific community wish to maintain a uni-denominational school and they vote to do so, then the school will be maintained as a uni-denominational unit.

If I can get the attention of the Minister of Education for a moment: In terms of the criteria by which a uni-denominational school will be allowed to remain uni-denominational, for instance, if there are in a community, 600 parents of children going to a school and they are registered, let us say, in terms of those who actually vote, if only 40 per cent of those vote, or say 50 per cent, for argument sake, which is 300, those other 300 parents who failed to exercise their right to come out and vote for a uni-denominational school or not, are they factored out of the equation? Is it just those who voted that count? Those 300 who did not vote, are they considered, or do they play a factor at all?

MR. GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, by leave, if that was -

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

MR. GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, just to provide the answer by leave, because his colleague, the Member for St. John's South, raised the same issue earlier today. The indication clearly on the designation form - and we have not really been referring to it as a vote, we have been referring to it as a registration - every student will be registered in the school. But I understand we are talking about exactly the same thing.

The notion clearly indicated on the form itself the school board will do everything in its power to get a registration form back for every student. If they cannot get a form back by whatever mechanisms are used, any forms that are not returned, where they know there will be a student in the school, it will be considered that those students and the parents of them are satisfied to have their child attend an interdenominational school. They will be factored in as if they had voted for an interdenominational school.

MR. E. BYRNE: So the assumption will be made, in terms of the regulations put forth by government that will govern the school board itself and the decision of whether a school remains uni-denominational or interdenominational, that those who choose not to exercise their right to register - you call it register a vote; it is splitting hairs, I would maintain to you - then I assume that all of those people who did not are voting for an interdenominational school, that is what you are saying.

So, for a community, or a group of communities, or within a particular school board, it would have to be abundantly clear that if a particular class of people within society wish to maintain a uni-denominational school no matter what that may be - whether it be a Pentecostal system, RC or Integrated - they would have to en masse demonstrate clearly to the board, and thus to government through the board, that their wishes would be that. It is just that fixed, it is pure and simple, that is it.

MR. GRIMES: Yes.

MR. E. BYRNE: Okay, fair enough, I appreciate - pardon me?

MR. NOEL: No sitting on the fence.

MR. E. BYRNE: Exactly. It is too bad government did not introduce a regulation for all the people who did not vote in the referendum. Maybe the results would have been somewhat... more askew than what they were. Who knows? Anyway, I appreciate the minister taking the time to just outline - because I was not here in terms of the former... the Member for St. John's South talking about when he mentioned it.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of reform -

MR. OSBORNE: Excuse me, `Ed', the present member.

MR. E. BYRNE: That is what I said, present member. I almost said former member, but we know where he is - he is gone. One hundred and forty-one people took care of that situation pretty quickly for you, to your benefit, I say to the current Member for St. John's South.

Outside of - and I believe the minister referred to it - outside of the most public-debated issues on this particular topic, Mr. Speaker, there is a lot contained in the legislation, a lot that is new, that has not necessarily received much public viewing or public debate. I guess, when we get into the clause-by-clause debate, it will give us a better opportunity to further explore the ambiguities that are associated with parts of the legislation and certain clauses of the legislation, and some of the inconsistencies I think further articulated - I am not going to reiterate what the Member for St. John's East said, the critic for education, because it has already been stated for the public record. But there are inconsistencies I think that we will - as all members of the House, certainly would have the opportunity to be involved in this Province - have the opportunity to debate those inconsistencies and move on.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I would just like to clue up by saying that this piece of legislation is a long time coming. I believe an inordinate amount of discussion has taken place, as the Member for St. John's East said, some would agree, ad nauseam, the amount of discussion and reports that have taken place on it. There have been many debates both in Question Period and in private members' debates. I recall the Member for Fortune Bay - Cape la Hune introducing a private member's resolution when I was first elected to the House dealing with Adjusting the Course, which was part of a document that went from the Cabinet and government of the day to the churches in the negotiations that were ongoing at the time.

Suffice to say that the time has come to move on with this particular issue. The legislation is before the House. Where there are inconsistencies, we will have an opportunity as members to debate those in the clause-by-clause debate and we look forward to it at that time.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Education, if he speaks now, he will close the debate.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the participation in the debate. I have made quite a few notes, actually, and one of those is that we will look for an opportunity again to inform the House that tomorrow we are having a session with some representatives from the denominations again because they have expressed a couple of concerns.

There are several items that the Opposition critic mentioned that I think we should look at in more detail and probably have a meeting between now and when we go to the Committee stage. Because references are made here where we might be able to make some amendments, some deletions or some additions and I think it is in all of our best interests to get the best language. The issues are clear here, but if we take the time now to get the best possible language, we will, only at the end of the piece I think, do what has been expressed here today, which is take an opportunity to try to do something that is going to be in the best interests of the students at the end of the whole debate. I think that is the motivation and the spirit that surrounds this debate in this Legislature since we have been at it now for some time.

So I certainly appreciate the commentary and look forward to any further questions over the next few days, privately, individually or otherwise. Again, we will look forward to some opportunities to improve the language with respect to some of these issues at the Committee stage. With that, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate again the participation and I am pleased to move second reading of the bill.

On motion, a bill "An Act To Revise The Law Respecting The Operation Of Schools In The Province," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 48).

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, Order No. 23, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Education," (Bill No. 27).

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Education," (Bill No. 27).

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not believe it is necessary for me to go into very much detail at all with respect to Bill 27.

There are two issues contained and covered in the bill, "An Act Respecting Education". One, we dealt with in detail during the summer and this, now, re-affirms our statement and commitment to a single construction board that will handle capital construction requests from our ten school boards, prioritize them on the basis of need and allow for the appropriate distribution of capital funds. The representatives from the denominations, from the members at large, appointed by the minister at a chair - their duties are outlined in this Act.

The second issue that is dealt with, Mr. Speaker, is the future fate of what are currently known as the Denominational Education Councils. This piece of legislation, in fact, section 8, abolishes the current denominational education councils. It has their capital and operational proceeds and funds revert to the Crown. Then, because the denomiations, though, still have very significant rights under the new constitutional provision, it re-establishes and incorporates a single, denominational education commission in which the representatives of the denominations holding rights work together. They are given twenty-one days after the commencement of the Act to organize themselves in the fashion they see fit to make sure that they can do their jobs as outlined in section 3, subsection 5, which talks about the duties of the new commission. Also, Mr. Speaker, it brings their budget in line with an amount that is considered to be reasonable by the minister on behalf of the government.

We have discussed this with the denominational educational representatives before. This is the same proposal that they signed, the January legislation. We will be meeting with them one more time tomorrow to see if they have any final thoughts with respect to it, but at this point, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to suggest that this is the approach that we think is appropriate and we will see what kind of reaction we get in the next few days. I am certainly eager to listen to any commentary through the debate in principle here with respect to Bill 27 at this point of second reading.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just want to have a few comments on Bill 27, which, as the minister indicated, sets up a commission that is basically going to be a corporation. It does not make any specific reference, I say to the minister, as to the number on the commission. Of course, we are assuming that the commission is going to be - and it makes reference to its being funded but there is no reference to how many or limitations or how big it can be, you know, how big a bureaucracy within limits. I know there has to be reasonable latitude for representation based on numbers on it and to keep them in proportion, so there has to be certain flexibility there. But, I do not know if the minister had in mind specific sizes, because, of course, it is a committee that is going to be funded by the people of the Province. So there should be reasonable monitoring to ensure that the size of that committee is going to be reasonable, to keep expenses for administration down as much as possible, that enables more funds to filter directly into the system, to students - that really, is what this purpose of change is all about. So that is one specific point I noticed there.

Of course, the commission, too, will have authority to set up denominational committees for each board. The minister, in his notes today, in, I think, the session with the media, I remember reading through - there can be up to four, I believe he mentioned, four denominational committees under each board? I think the minister made reference to four but I guess technically that could go higher if the churches in integration might want to exercise theirs individually. There has not been any indication they want to do that, but if, for some reason, they wanted to, it is possible that each board could have more than four denominational committees there.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you want me to explain (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. I will just toss that in, and when you are summing up is fine.

Within a district under a specific area now, there could be an R.C., Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist and the church in integration, they would be the four that the minister made reference to maybe in the Questions and Answers here this morning in his session. They still have rights as individuals, of course, and if it could be practical or how it develops, it is possible one may want to exercise those rights individually rather than collectively. I gather that same option is still there, because it is a right that is there. But I guess, practically, we are looking at possibly four - we could be looking at up to four denomination committees within each board or each district now. That could be forty altogether within the Province. That is certainly a possibility and it is, I guess, a real likelihood in many areas, in many districts that we have denomination committee especially where there are schools that may be uni-denominational, that is a possibility and even if they are not, that committee is still going to have the responsibility for religious education, observances and so on dealing with the specific religious aspect so, certainly in their best interests is to have a committee.

It is possible, too, I suppose, I say to the minister, that in areas where numbers are very minimal in certain parts of the Province, they may want to have those rights exercised by their - on a more provincial basis that may determine that. But in any event, however it shapes out, we may have the potential of thirty-some, forty possibly, different denominational committees within each structure of the Province and that is certainly - it can be administrative but, to my knowledge, they are not funded at all, so it is not a direct outlay of costing the system. But, of course, the commission is going to be funded by the Province and that is an area where I think, we need to be cautious that we are going to contain costs.

There is another point there that says: The construction board that is established receive proposals for school boards for the erection, extension and equipment of schools, and then it goes on in 6(d), once again it makes reference to advise the minister respecting future allocations of erections, extension and equipment. Now, equipment can be interpreted in different manners because certainly schools have been getting a per capita grant to enable them to supply students with provision of instruction materials and others. How liberal is the term `equipment' going to be used? Is it equipment that is used in the capital construction of a facility, whether you are putting in a fume hood, for example? Are computers included in equipment? What other types of equipment basically are included?

The word equipment is not defined here, of course, in the Act. It does define numerous other terms of a general nature. It even defines what the minister is. (Inaudible).

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, it defines what the minister is. It does not define equipment, I say to the minister.

MR. TULK: Does it define the minister's equipment?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: I do not find any reference to any personal aspects of the minister here at all, other than what the minister is, and I think that should be left to the interpretation of the general public. I say to the Government House Leader, there have been many instances since last Spring where the minister would have been described in very many different ways, I assure him.

Overall, I am sure when the minister stands, he will make some reference to what is determined. I know he might be kind of reluctant, Mr. Speaker, to be specific on aspects of this legislation. We would certainly like to have some references. Because it did come up in previous discussions about what constitutes equipment. Is it of a capital nature? Whether it is a part of the structure, like in a lab, the lab structure itself, the piping, desks, the chairs in a lab, the fume hoods in a lab. Does it include computers in a computer room, and so on? What type of specifics and where does it end in terms of equipment? I am sure the minister could enlighten us on those area.

Before I conclude, I think there are a few points I would like to make of a very general nature. That is in terms of specifics, I say to the minister. It is unfortunate that this Act was delayed to this point in time. In fact, we were looking, certainly, to see this earlier. We had asked to have it earlier to give us extra time. We did get an advance copy Friday and we did take some time to go through it over the weekend and try to analyze it in as much detail as possible. But is very difficult, really, in a day or so to go through all the details of a lengthy bill. We have attempted to analyze and look at each of the particular clauses of that bill.

I know the Premier is very quick to put the blame on the Senate, as he stated - I think I heard him on the news today - on the federal Tories in delaying it. Basically. it is a process here. This House passed this last Fall after the referendum. We brought the resolution here last October. We indicated and we had hoped that we were going to have quick passage in the House of Commons last Fall. That was the impression, the intent we gave, to get the House back here in early October, to get it to the House of Commons. Now, the Premier, as our federal Cabinet minister, did not get it to the House of Commons last Fall. It took us five months later, from January into late May before we got - we had a seven-month delay, I mean, beyond the suspense of veto that the Senate had.

I do not make any apologies for the Senate at all. In fact, we should have had this sooner. It would be nice to have a little more time, rather than put it through quickly. We do not want to unduly delay legislation. It is important to move forward, but we do not want strictly to have something go through when a slight amendment might improve it. I did suggest an amendment in July that was well taken and it was supported in the legislation. In going through a lengthy bill, first time through, everybody do not always pick up all the specific points. But in the previous bill we debated here today there are numerous areas for interpretation, and aspects that could be fine-tuned. There could be better language, and the verbiage could better represent, could avoid some problems in the future, and who knows, maybe some challenges on the legislation also as a result of that.

Without further delaying this, the minister, can probably, in summing up, just touch on the specific points I have made. I do not expect him to touch on my generalities, he can leave that aside and just keep it specific to the few points on the bill.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak briefly on this bill and the previous bill which was before the House. There was no warning of extended sittings, so it is pretty difficult for people to make plans when they have already made other plans.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) priorities (inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: That is right. We all have priorities, and leaders -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: I say to the hon. gentleman, that for those of us who sat in this House this evening, there are fifty-two members in this House

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: Forty-eight.

MR. TULK: Forty-eight, I am sorry. Well, some of us here are worth more than one. There are forty-eight members in this House, and I say to the hon. gentleman that he had the same notice as everybody else when the Minister of Justice rose in his place this evening and gave notice that we would be sitting after 5:00 p.m. He has no room to complain.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order. The hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am looking to the right of the Government House Leader.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: I see the Premier has had a very, very severe haircut. I will not make comment on the absence of members in the House, but just say that the Premier appears to have had a very severe haircut; so he must have been out some time during the day to obtain such a haircut.

I do want to say a few words about both of these education bills because they are of significant importance to the Province -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. HARRIS: - because they do affect something that we all, in the end, wanted to see happen, and that was that government move on and move forward with the details and specifics of education reform.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. HARRIS: I will not say anything about sex change operations in this House.

I think it deserves some serious comment because this legislation is designed to put into effect what the people of this Province thought they were voting for when the referendum was before them in September of last year.

Now, there has been a great deal of debate on the referendum itself but also on what people thought they were voting for. One of the concerns I have, and it has been just expressed by others in this debate, is that this legislation that was brought forward, was suggested to all hon. members last Spring, and indeed, last Summer when we were in the House briefly in July, would be made available to all parties in the House in draft form, not a mimeograph version of what was already printed by the Queen's Printer and given to everybody else under the sun, a committed version of it that the government was going to stand by, come hell or high water - but a draft form so that everybody could have a look at it and presumably have some input on it before the final version was printed. That was what those of us on this side of the House - certainly this hon. member - expected when the commitment was made in this House. The minister was here when it happened. In this House the commitment was made to break with parliamentary tradition, and the normal traditions of government, that legislation that has gone through the process of Cabinet is not shared with the other side of the House prior to its being finalized but to discuss that and to ensure that all hon. members have an opportunity to review it, in draft form, before it was finalized, so that if there were issues of contention, that they could be brought forward. The obvious implication of all of that was that there would be an opportunity for this legislation to come forward presumably as some sort of consensus, not just from the government but from the House itself. Well that didn't happen, Mr. Speaker. I think it is worth recording that despite the co-operation that was received by government and by government members on this side of the House - in the form of a unanimous resolution back in May and a trip by the three leaders to the House of Commons to persuade or attempt to persuade their federal colleagues in their respective parties to support the legislation - despite that co-operation, there has not been the follow-through on that commitment that was set forth by the Premier in the presence of the Minister of Education, in this House, in its previous sitting. So I want that on the record, Mr. Speaker, because it is not something that happens often but when that kind of commitment is made, I certainly would expect that it would be fulfilled and it certainly was not in this particular case.

Now, the legislation itself, in broad terms, represents a significant change in education. I am a little concerned when I see that all of a sudden, all those people who were up in Ottawa trying to lobby against the final passage of this are now saying they do not seem to have a problem with any of this. That kind of worries me. So I want to look very closely at the details of this legislation and how it is going to operationally affect the election of school boards, in particular, the nomination of candidates for school boards and the operation of the rules. We cannot leave everything to regulations, Mr. Speaker. There has to be some control by legislation to ensure that whatever rules are made - either by this government through regulation or by the school boards themselves in terms of decision-making about particular schools - they have the widest possible understanding in the public and the widest possible legal support.

Now, there was a considerable amount of debate on the national level and it was, I guess, pretty attractive to a lot of parliamentarians to the change that was made or was suggested in the legal text of Term 17, and that legal text provided the changes that were passed in this House. The proposed changes were to replace `the political control of the government' with the words: `where numbers warrant'- that separate schools or denominational schools could be, in fact, put in place where numbers warrant. While I disagree at this point in time - and I have to say, I supported that amendment when it was before this House in the Fall of last year. I supported the amendment because I believed at that time - I have changed my mind since then - that that amendment would provide a fair balance between the desires and, in fact, the rights of the adherence of separate school education, a balance between their rights and those rights of the general population. So I supported it at that time, it was defeated. I then supported the main motion which was the amendment to Term 17 as it was passed in the referendum. Now, I know the Minister of Health is very interested in this issue, as a very high-profile member of a particular denomination which has a great interest in this issue. I know the minister - if he has ever had any political pangs of conscience, must have had them on this issue. I know the Minister of Health is very interested in it but I suspect that he has, along with his colleagues, adopted a position that even though the legal text does not say `where numbers warrant' when it comes to the decisions about whether or not one should have a separate school in a particular area, there is a political dimension of the same issue. There is a political dimension of that, and I know that if we left it to the judges and to the courts there is no predicting what might happen in any particular case.

AN HON. MEMBER: The lawyers would make more money.

MR. HARRIS: The lawyers might make more money, and they are probably making enough money now, as it is, so there is no need to generate more work for lawyers or judges, but I would suggest, I say to the Leader of the Opposition, that he would not want a judge necessarily deciding in a particular community in his district whether a school should or should not be a particular school. That is something that really is a matter of public policy, that should be decided by the government in terms of what is a proper number for the administration of a school.

We do not see any evidence of what this number is in the legislation. This has been a political process of wait and see, wait and see, wait and see, and we are not going to tell you what we are going to do because you might not vote in favour of it.

The time has come for the government to put its cards on the table and say, `Now, what is the plan? What is the magic number?' The number that was important, that everybody wanted to know, is: What is the government's version of `where numbers warrant'? What is the magic number in terms of the government's view of `where numbers warrant'?

The Minister of Health has amongst his broader constituency - he does not have much of a constituency in St. John's North; I am told that he will not talk to them anymore.

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. HARRIS: He does not take calls from his constituents anymore. He is like the Minister of Social Services.

AN HON. MEMBER: I heard he never had any calls.

MR. HARRIS: Well, we give his number to all of his constituents who call our office, and we say: `Call the minister. Say you want to speak to him directly.'

I say, the minister has a broader constituency, because to the adherents of his faith, he speaks for them in government, and I think that he has a stake in what the magic number is. What is the magic number in terms of the government's view of how many people there have to be to make a viable school in a particular district or region?

It is time for the Minister of Health and all ministers, including the Minister of Education, to lay their cards on the table and tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador what they have in mind, because once again we are being asked in this House to support something that has not been properly defined, and to expect the debate to go on without any specifics.

There are limits to the expectation that you can have of even the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in terms of his - how much faith would you put in the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to allow them to have the discretion?

There was a time when government was saying, for example, about fish plants: We are not going to decide. We will not decide whether a fish plant should live or die. But now, yesterday in the news report, next week the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is going to have a list of the fish plants that are going to be - There is going to be a list. The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture is going to release the list of the fish plants that are going to live, and all the rest of them are going to die. This is the government that was never ever going to have anything to do with it - would not interfere with the public, would not interfere with the market, did not want to touch the market, was not going to do anything. Now, fresh with a piece of legislation that he said did not mean anything, that he said did not change a thing, it was only designed to give the minister the power he already had, four days later, the minister says: I am going to release a list! You will all know!

Now, is the Minister of Education going to come out with a list next week? Is the Minister of Education going to come next week and say: Here is the list of schools that are going to close, and here are the ones that are going to open, now that I have the power? Is that what is going to happen? He is nodding, Mr. Speaker. I want it recorded that he is nodding.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nodding asleep.

MR. HARRIS: He was nodding off a minute ago but now he has woken up. So is that what we have from this government, a plan behind the public legislation?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. HARRIS: Now, Mr. Speaker, if I have not moved the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to speak on this debate, I have to say I am disappointed. But I did want to raise these few points because I think the people of Newfoundland are being duped by this government into believing that the reform they voted for is going to be put into place. I think what we are really doing is handing back to the minister and the government the right to make decisions about this, decisions that we, in this House, certainly will have no control over.

So I look forward to the minister in his reply in closing debate to elucidate some of these points and tell us what exactly he has in mind. What is the magic number? Are we going to have a list next week on the heels of the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture's list of fish plant closures of which schools in the Member for Baie Verte's riding will be closed after Christmas, or next Fall? Are we going to have that list, or are we going to be expected to vote on this without knowing what the bottom line is going to be?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): If the hon. the Minister speaks now, he will close the debate.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I take it some of these people are anxious to leave the Chamber, but maybe I might just mention a couple of things by way of response before I move second reading of the bill with respect to the hon. the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi and the Leader of the New Democratic Party. I do apologize on behalf of the Premier and the government for the tight time lines here. We would have preferred to have given the actual draft of the bill to a lot of people a week or so ago, but the issues - while the details are here and being seen sometimes for the first time, the issues, as I have said before, have been broadly debated in the Province for a long time.

With respect to the issue of the magic numbers, where would numbers have warranted had we gone that route, we decided not to go that route at all. In the debate today with respect to Bill 48, it is a program-based approach that we are taking. If you can offer the minimum program that we distributed today, copies of what is the prescribed minimum program, then the school boards have the discretion to run a school.

With respect to the Leader of the Opposition and his intervention and comments with respect to the new denominational education commission, yes, there will be a need for each of those that have rights to be able to exercise them individually under the new Term 17. But what the government will fund, and I have had this discussion with the representatives of the current denominational education councils - there are currently three of them. The Seventh-Day Adventist group does not run a council. They have just had a program co-ordinator who sort of acts as a superintendent. We will be dealing with them as to what kind of presence they would like to have.

The indication clearly is that for the new commission, the new corporation that is outlined here in section 3.(2), we will fund them to the degree - I have actually talked to them about a ballpark figure. The expectation is that a reasonable number that the minister might approve under section 4 and find reasonable would be in the range of $300,000 or $350,000 a year for their operation. That would enable them, in the discussions I have had, to have a paid staff representative, one each for the Pentecostals, the Integrated, the Roman Catholics. Some of them now have two. They would have to share office space, they would have to share support staff, Mr. Speaker, they would have to share operational budgets. They would be able to do very little.

If they wanted to run an organization similar to what they are running now, they will have to be supplemented in their funding from the denominations themselves. The government will provide some core funding. We have talked in the range of $300,000 to $350,000 as a maximum. They will decide under section 3 within twenty-one days how to organize themselves. They have been given a hint from us that there will be a clear maximum on how much money the government is willing to provide.

The committees at the school board level have still caused some concern as to the number, size and scope of them, which is why in Bill 48 we limited it to four per committee, even though there might be four of them. The Seventh-Day Adventists, again, have not come forward yet in the interim boards asking to establish sub-committees, but the others have, and most times they have appointed eight. So we are going to cut that back to four per sub-committee at the board level. They will exist, in all likelihood, significantly into the future.

I am sure if there are other questions and commentary, we can deal with them in Committee in the next couple of days. With respect to the equipment issue, two things: While the definition is not at the front of the bill, the equipment, when I checked with them how that has been interpreted over all the years, this mirrors language that is in use today that talks about the basic standard equipment: desks, lab desks, sinks and so on, some minimal computers, some basic lab hardware, beakers, test tubes, Bunsen burners, those types of things. It does not include chemicals and specimens and those other kinds of instructional materials.

There is a basic allocation of equipment, that if you are building a lab in a school, then you equip the lab to a certain minimum level. That is what is required there. The same thing with gymnasiums. It does not include -

MR. SULLIVAN: Anything except consumables?

MR. GRIMES: Basically yes. The hardware that is needed to be part of it, a minimum - if they want more they have to raise funds for it, but a minimum allocation.

The other thing, the last comment with respect to that, Mr. Speaker. I do not think it would be appropriate or in the best interests of myself, the members of the government, or anybody in the House if there were any public showing of the minister and/or his equipment. We will not have any of that going on to demonstrate anything about that. That will not be part of any explanation or any further dealings with this issue. With that then, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the commentary, and I am pleased to move second reading of the bill.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

On motion, a bill, "An Act Respecting Education," read a second time, ordered referred to a Committee of the Whole House on tomorrow. (Bill No. 27)

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me congratulate the Minister of Education on an historic day in Newfoundland. Let me also congratulate the Opposition on their co-operation and, of course, their part in this debate as well. I certainly can say that I am glad that the single member of the NDP got back to the House just in the nick of time so that he could get on the record as well.

Tomorrow we will doing, on today's Order Paper, Order No. 22, Bill 47. I will put ministers on notice. We will doing second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Dental Act," Bill 31. That should bring down the House. There should be gnashing of teeth. Second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Physiotherapy Act," Bill 49.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: I say to the Member for Baie Verte, he might even get his black dress on with that one.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. TULK: Then it is second reading of a bill, "An Act To Amend The Liquor Control Act And The Liquor Corporation Act", (Bill No. 50). That seems like an appropriate bill for this time of year. We will go then to Order 21, second reading of a bill, "An Act Respecting Pension Benefits", (Bill No. 46).

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

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