December 13, 1996         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS          Vol. XLIII  No. 53

 


The House met at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

Before we begin routine proceedings, the Chair would like to welcome to the House of Assembly today, in the galleries, forty grade IX students from St. Peter's Elementary School in Upper Island Cove in the District of Port de Grave, accompanied by their instructors, Mr. Wade Reid and Mr. Calvin Peddle. As well, there are sixteen journalist students from Lawrence College here in St. John's, accompanied by their instructor, Mr. William Callahan, who is also a former member of this House.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, most consumers considering purchasing a car or truck may be inclined to wait for the rate reduction which will come from tax harmonization in the Spring. I am pleased to announce today that we have chosen to lower the provincial sales tax on vehicle sales now to encourage consumers to continue their normal buying habits, rather than delay purchases until April 1.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The good news is compounded for the taxpayers.

Mr. Speaker, effective midnight tonight, government will reduce the amount of Retail Sales Tax applied to sales of cars and trucks by registered dealers in the Province from 12 per cent to 8 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: The rate decrease for these automobile sales comes almost four months before the effective tax harmonization date which will see an overall rate reduction for most goods and services from almost 20 per cent to 15 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: To illustrate, on a $20,000 vehicle purchased from a registered dealer consumers will save $856 -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: Order, please, Mr. Speaker!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. DICKS: - with a rate reduction from 12 per cent to 8 per cent. This is a significant amount of money which normally may have influenced a consumer to defer a purchase until harmonization is in place. Now, effective tonight, consumers will be able to take advantage of these significant savings.

The sales tax rate reduction will apply only to the purchase of automobiles from registered dealers. Private sales of motor vehicles will continue at 12 per cent until April 1, 1997 since they currently are not subject to the GST. New and existing leased vehicles will not be eligible for the reduced RST rate, however, effective April 1, 1997, these lease payments will be lower as they will be subject to a reduced federal/provincial Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) of 15 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, we have considered whether this reduction should be offered on other categories of goods and services. However, we were not convinced that it was necessary to offer a similar reduction on other goods and services to avoid a substantial shift in consumer spending during the first quarter of 1997.

We are delighted to offer this tax decrease on automobile purchases and view it as a positive and constructive one for consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Merry Christmas to all, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This statement shows the government's confidence in the legislation by bringing it in on Friday 13. Its shows their faith, I say, in harmonization. Now, this is the same government who cheered here two weeks ago, and pounded their desks, when a minister rose and told us that jobs went down by 4.2 per cent. This is the same government that told us GDP went down by 2.9 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: They are starting to implement HST before this Legislature has had a chance to even speak on it once, before the public of the Province have any opportunity for public consultation. It is an admission, Mr. Speaker, it is an admission that we have a big problem with this HST, and I say to the minister, what we will see is a piecemeal amendment by amendment. Where, I ask, is the decrease on gas to put in that car, where it is now doubled? Where is the break on children's clothing and school supplies, I ask the minister? Where are the basic services that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have indicated they are going to give to their people, I ask the minister? It is not acceptable to start implementing legislation before we have an opportunity for this Legislature to even debate the issue, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the minister, scrapping the GST and hiding it under an HST is what they are doing, but we will see the real problem. The real problem will arise, I say, in less than four years time when that chunk of money runs out.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

When I hear good news from the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I am wondering what is the bad news that is going to follow this good news; but unless you are a person who bought a car last week, it is obviously good news.

I would, however, think it would be also incumbent to give a break to people who are buying used cars on the used car private market. These are people who need the break more perhaps than those who are able to buy new cars through a dealer, and if the true spirit of Christmas would allow the minister, to extend this release to other people who happen not to be able to buy new cars, but in fact are forced to buy used cars because of financial circumstances. So I am pleased with it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: I do say: Beware of `geeks' bearing gifts, but -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Minister of Education.

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House today of two more reports on student performance, firstly, a report of primary mathematics achievement and secondly, a report of basic skills upon entering the high school level. These results, Mr. Speaker, are very promising. These reports, like the results of the Third International Assessment of Mathematics and Science released recently, show that the students in our schools are slowly but surely moving towards our explicit goal of reaching world class standards in our education system.

The results of the mathematics testing done at the end of Grade 3 in the last school year, Mr. Speaker, show that the students of primary school have achieved most of the objectives of the mathematics program. The provincial average for the total test is 81.6 per cent and this score, Mr. Speaker, indicates improvement over the last testing done in 1993 when the provincial average was 74.3 per cent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: The results of the high school assessment of basic skills in reading, vocabulary, language skills, mathematics and work study skills showed that our provincial composite score was equal to the Canadian average. The Canadian Test of Basic Skills is a regular testing program of the Department of Education which measures achievement of our students at the beginning of Grades 4, 7 and 10 and at the end of high school on an annual rotating basis. It shows how approximately 8,000 Grade 10 students who wrote the test performed in a number of basic skills compared to that of the Canadian average.

The results of both assessments showed a considerable range of achievement between school districts and schools. For the Grade 3 Mathematics test there was no difference in the performance of boys and girls. On the Canadian Test of Basic Skills, girls tended to perform better than boys with the greatest difference in language arts skills at the Grade 10 level. Urban students, Mr. Speaker, scored consistently higher than rural students on these tests, but these differences were much more pronounced at the Grade 10 level.

Mr. Speaker, accountability to the public of this Province is a top priority of the Government, and we will continue to monitor achievement with the intent of determining where resources need to be targeted to improve learning of all students.

Copies of the two reports, Mr. Speaker, are available upon request from the Department of Education. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The teacher in the hon. minister shines through once again. He always has something to give us and here we are on Friday morning with more things to be given to the people surrounding him. The teacher shines through with another good news story but in all seriousness, Mr. Speaker, this is a good news story. It is a good news story because there appears to be certainly an improvement with respect to the achievement levels of the students here in our Province with respect to primary mathematics and the report on basis skills upon entering high school. However, Mr. Speaker, there is still some concern and the concern is addressed and noticed in the ministerial statement itself when it says there is a considerable range of achievement between school districts and schools. It points out as well that urban students scored consistently higher than rural students, and that is an area of concern. That is why we must always ensure that all students in this Province, regardless of which community they live, which community they attend school, that they have the facilities, they have the personnel, they have the resources, to ensure not that they reach equality with one another in this Province, or equality throughout this country -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: By leave.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: - or that they even surpass the standards throughout this country.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased to see that the school results are as promising as the minister points out. It proves that we are certainly as smart as the average Canadian student. I think this is good news, but I am surprised to hear this given the reports that we had a couple of years ago from Dr. Bob Crocker, that the previous minister was waving around. I do not know what has happened in the last two years. Maybe students are studying harder, or maybe they are given different tests, or maybe it is a change of government philosophy in what test results they put out, but it seems a bit suspicious that this is the situation.

I have the same concerns as expressed by the Member for St. John's East about the variety of results, and something has to be done to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to perform well in tests and get a good education.

Those are my comments, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Questions

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have questions today for the Minister of Finance.

I ask the minister if he has the commitment from the federal Minister of Finance, Paul Martin, guaranteeing participation of other provinces in the harmonized tax deal.

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

MR. DICKS: Yes we do, Mr. Speaker. We are guaranteed that Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the federal government will participate in the combined sales tax.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Maybe the minister is not aware that these other provinces did sign the deal already - guarantees of other provinces besides those who signed the deal.

Anyway, I will move on and ask him: Have you given the federal Minister of Finance a deadline with respect to having the other seven provinces join in?

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

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The minister has admitted that low income families will suffer because tax is more than double on children's clothing, on school supplies, on oil, gas and electricity. I ask the minister, how will he help those low income families when they are faced with this problem come April 1?

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

MR. DICKS: No, Mr. Speaker, the government has never said that. What we said consistently, based on the analysis by the officials of the Department of Finance, is that incomes as low as $10,000 per family per year will show a net tax reduction of $183 per annum. As it increases the tax gross saving, or the gross saving goes up, but the percentage compared with income goes down, because of consumer spending habits. So there will be no impact on low income families as we see it. What I've said is that we are concerned. We are going to monitor it, and should it prove necessary to offer some form of relief because individuals are unfairly affected. The government is prepared to consider that. At this stage we have no evidence, and in fact all the evidence is to the contrary.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Maybe to the Premier. The Premier says he has only been here for eight months. Well, I guess my calculations, January to December, sounds more like eleven months to me. He asked people to be patient. Why doesn't he give the same due consideration to the people of this Province? Will the Premier hold public meetings in the new year and let people discuss this harmonized tax deal?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has just stood and said to the government opposite that he does not want to see the sales tax rate for new vehicles in the Province being reduced as of midnight tonight. We think it is appropriate to proceed with that reduction, and we think it is appropriate because we have confidence, the majority of members in this House, in the positive impacts of harmonization to proceed without delay. That is why we are putting forward a bill, that is why we will seek passage of the bill, and that is why we look forward with anticipation to the benefits of the first real tax decrease since 1949 in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador on April 1.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Premier's listening skills are no better than his math skills in adding up how long he has been in office, I say to the Premier. Will the Premier tell me why his friend the Minister of Finance in Ottawa had original plans to implement his HST or the BST throughout the entire country, but now it is being pushed on only three Atlantic provinces? Can the Premier confirm that this is the initial stage of unionizing Atlantic Canada and fulfilling his dream of selling this to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, obviously the impact of the last election has left the Leader of the Opposition shell-shocked. Because my math skills are just fine. The election was February 22. The Cabinet was sworn in, and the government was sworn in, on March 15. I stand by my claim of how long we have been in office.

Now the Leader of the Opposition may be reeling from the dates, but I assure him we are very good at adding up the numbers over on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, let me say to the Leader of the Opposition: If the Leader of the Opposition wants to continue to pay 20 per cent sales tax, we will make a special exemption for him, but the rest of the people of the Province want to go down by five points to 15 per cent, and it is time we showed a little confidence in Newfoundland and Labrador, a little confidence in our ability to build a better Province, and we invite the Leader of the Opposition to step out from this continuous forecast. He is like the weatherman, always forecasting rain, drizzle and fog. Well, there is a little sunshine out there as well, and it is time he saw some of it!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would be delighted to step out and debate the Premier in public on this matter at any time, any date, at your invitation, I say to the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Now, since this is free-for-all Friday, I ask the Minister of Mines and Energy one question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SULLIVAN: I have been waiting for the Minister of Mines and Energy to ask him: Earlier this week we learned of government interference in a dispute between Hydro and the Come By Chance refinery. It seems, Minister, that this interference is continuing. I ask the minister: Can he confirm that Hydro officials were able to negotiate a wage increase for their union employees but were prevented from offering the same to management positions until government told them it was okay?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition says he wants to debate this in public any time, any place. This is the time and place, and this is public. This is the public House, the people's House, and if he has something to say, say it here if it is substantive.

Mr. Speaker, as for the Minister of Mines and Energy, the assertion that there has been any undue interference or improper representations with respect to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is absolutely false, and the Leader of the Opposition should go to bed every night giving thanks for the kind of leadership we are getting from this minister. That is why we have an offshore oil and gas industry that is growing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER TOBIN: That is why Hibernia is moving, and Terra Nova is moving, transshipment terminals being built, Amoco is coming back for the first time next year to drill wells in the offshore. That is why we have the largest smelter/refinery complex in all of the world being built in Newfoundland and Labrador.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: That is why we have 270 million pounds of nickel annually going to be produced in this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is sounding like Scrooge, and he ought to be thanking Santa Claus for his good work!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I just say to the Premier: Does that mean you are afraid or not prepared to debate me on this issue?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I am shaking in my boots!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier started his own church, or his own religion, I would be the first to join.

Mr. Speaker, in May of 1995, I brought a bill to this House that would greatly boost the donation of food by supermarkets and other companies to this Province's food banks. Even though similar legislation had a tremendous and positive impact in Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and all fifty states, the government here, in its wisdom, sent the bill to a committee composed of agrifoods, health, and social services ministers to study it and report back to the House at an early time.

Can either one of those ministers, or the Premier, tell me where this bill or this piece of legislation sits today, eighteen months later?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his very good question. It is the best question we have had today, a question concerned about the welfare of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and in particular, at this time of year, concerned about those who have least amongst us. I want to say to the member, I don't know the answer to the question because obviously the initiative predates my time here but I am going to find out where the bill has gone. We are going to investigate, as a government, what we can do in the upcoming budget to give a greater measure of comfort and security and particularly in the area of food to those who need it most and I thank him for his question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Premier, children are going to school hungry and it is undermining their education, as the Special Education Report clearly tells us. Food banks are stretched to breaking point especially with Christmas approaching. Why is it so difficult for this government to follow in the successful path of all those other provinces and states and pass legislation this fall making it easier for supermarkets and other companies to donate food to needy families, especially at this time of Christmas?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will note that the government has just recently provided for an additional $225,000 to ensure that up to 5,000 children in fact can have a meal in this Province. I say to the hon. member, that if he has a suggestion as to how - and I think he is putting one - how that kind of program, that kind of initiative can be expanded, how it can involve the private sector and involve other volunteer agencies, I say to him, putting aside the normal partisanship of the House, that this side of the House would be happy to sit and work with him and all members to see that we give the greatest amount of relief, the greatest amount of help to those who need it most in this society and I welcome his contribution to that discussion and debate.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Premier, this piece of legislation will not cost the government one red cent. I have in my possession a copy of the legislation, Bill 100, that came before this House in 1995. I ask the Premier if the government is prepared to allow me to bring back to the House for debate and to give notice of it here today, that the government this time, will support early passage of this piece of legislation for the sake of hungry children in this Province today?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to say to the member that the House Leader on this side of the House with the agreement of the House Leader on that side of the House should sit and have a discussion about this bill today and we will consider whether we will give it passage in the next day or two. Is that the hon. members intention?

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

I would like to say that it is very positive that our hotels are now starting to get booked for major events for the Cabot 500 celebrations. Hopefully, they will also start to get booked up for those periods next summer when there are not major events planned. Yesterday I asked the minister what she intended to do concerning the shortage of rooms during major events next summer, during the Cabot 500 celebrations? She told me that everything was under control. There is no need to panic, no need for fearmongering, she was implementing a home-stay program. I ask the minister why the hotels in Corner Brook are unaware of the home-stay program? I called these hotels last night, they told me that they were unaware of the program, it was the first they heard of it. Doesn't the minister feel that the hotels should be informed of this program so that instead of turning needed tourist and needed tourist dollars away during the major events next summer, they can offer an alternative accommodations program?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I would be most pleased to answer that question. Obviously when you placed your telephone calls last night you did not speak to the right people. We have been working very closely with he owners of the hotels in Corner Brook through Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador. If you would so wish, I can supply the names of the people we have been working with through Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and the hotel owners to provide you the details of our backup plan. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I say to the minister unless she is going to have the owners of the hotels sit on the reservation desks and tell people of the home-stay program, maybe it should be the people that are on the desks that are offering the home-stay program. These people were unaware of the program. The hotel operator in Twillingate last night told me that he has turned dozens and dozens of people away that he has been booked up for quite some time. He is unable to take extra reservations.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is on a supplementary.

MR. OSBORNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would love nothing more than to see as many tourists as possible stay here next summer. I am not trying to create a problem here or fearmongering. I am trying to suggest an alternative so that we don't drive tourists away. Would it not be better, I ask the minister, for the community and the economy to have an alternative arrangement in place today so that front desk operators can offer tourists help instead of turning them away?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, we have been working very closely with the hotel industry. It is at their request that they have asked us to work with them about a home-stay program. They will in fact be administering the home-stay program when it becomes necessary. It is not necessary at this stage. If we have hotel owners who are turning people away would you please give me the names so that I can address this matter, because I am being told by Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, and the hotel owners, that it is not necessary at this time to put the home-stay program in place until the rooms are full. If this is in fact happening right now I will expect a report on my desk by Monday morning and we will be starting to implement a home-stay program.

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

MR. OSBORNE: I am most happy to give you an example. The Anchor Hotel in Twillingate is already booked and they are sending people away: no, I am sorry we cannot take anymore tourists. That is a good example there. Will you act on that today, and can you table in the House today a copy of your report showing that there is a home-stay program being put in place? The Cabot Year starts only nineteen days from now and serious tourists are already making reservations and plans for next summer. I ask the minister, should she not have plans in place that she can offer us today, and offer the hotel operator in Twillingate today, and offer the hotel operators in Corner Brook today, that will give them the opportunity to provide alternate accommodations and keep the tourists in their communities where the tourists will spend much needed tourist dollars starting now?

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

MS KELLY: Mr. Speaker, I cannot give the hotel owner in Twillingate or the hotel owner in Corner Brook rooms for next year. We cannot build hundreds of rooms by next year, but I have been out just as recently as two weeks ago, to speak to the Tourism Association in Twillingate. As a matter of fact I spoke in the Anchor Hotel and met with the owner of that hotel, and at that time he did not have a concern. I will call the owner of that hotel today and speak to the Tourism Association in Twillingate today to ensure that a home-stay program that we have discussed with them can be implemented quite quickly.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. J. BYRNE: My question today is for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs, and the acting Government House Leader who last night in five minutes broke a gridlock that was going on for hours and hours, so I want to compliment the minister on that.

MR. TULK: Some man, what?

MR. J. BYRNE: He is some man. When the minister confirmed that the main stumbling block in his regionalization plan, and the main thing making towns wary about embracing the scheme is their fear that the Province will use it as an excuse to download even more financial responsibility to the municipal governments which do not have the tax base or the financial resources to carry these costs, and is the minister prepared to admit that it makes no sense to download more costs to municipalities when in most areas the industrial tax base and employment income has shrunk so badly that the towns cannot cover the costs they now have?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, what a disappointing statement to hear from the Opposition this morning. For the past two months I have been travelling around the Province and with the exception of three areas now I have held meetings everywhere in the Province. Municipalities are basically telling me, mayor and councillors around the Province, that regionalization could be a salvation for some communities.

To think that we as a government are suggesting to municipalities the concept of regionalization, because that is all we are doing, suggesting the concept to them. We are not going to impose it. We have no intention of imposing it, and if town councils in the Province wish to pursue that idea it is entirely up to themselves. I have problems answering the question because I am shocked to think that the Opposition are indicating here this morning that they are against helping municipalities through the regionalization process. That sort of throws me and that is why I am having difficulty answering the question. To suggest that we are proposing to download further on municipalities, through the regionalization concept, Mr. Speaker, is totally unwarranted. It really would not have anything to do with government funding to municipalities because right from the outset, and we will continue to offer the regionalization approach on a volunteer basis so towns themselves would decide whether they want to take part in the regionalization concept so the answer has to be no, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

The minister is using the tactics of the Premier by twisting the question. We are not suggesting that we are against regionalization, we are only asking questions to try to get some answers, Mr. Speaker.

Regionalization means roads in local service districts and connected roads between municipalities, in other words, the responsibility of the government will become the responsibility of the municipal or regional governments.

How much does the minister anticipate saving by downloading these costs to this lower form of government and, where are these lower orders of government going to find the money, from an already overtaxed public to cover the cost of these major, new responsibilities?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, that is not what regionalization means. I can't go any further than that in answer other than the fact to tell the hon. member that he does not know, apparently what regionalization means, to ask a question like that.

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

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

The minister knows full-well that if regionalization comes in place that the next step in the process is the downloading of roads to these regional governments.

Can the minister answer this question: How many requests does the minister have in his department from towns and communities that wish to turn back the clock to a simpler time, to reduce their municipal services, eliminate some of the infrastructure, cut their costs and chalk their tax rates down to the bare minimum which is all the people can afford? Now we know we have a bill going through the House that is going to disallow the disestablishment of town councils back to communities and, is the minister open to any requests?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague and critic from across the way must have read Eugene Conway's, the defeated PC candidate's letter in The Compass, just last week.

Mr. Conway is the Mayor of Conception Harbour and he wrote an article some time ago not knowing anything about what he was talking about, not one thing. He did not have one iota of a clue or an inkling of what he was talking about in the paper and it seems to me, that the hon. member is repeating almost verbatim, what Mr. Conway said.

So I say to the hon. member: If you want time, on Monday morning, come over in my office and I will sit you down and I will go through the regionalization process with you. Because those questions you are asking me today are totally off the wall! You do not know what you are talking about, Sir, and I challenge you to prove some of the things that you are saying.

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

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

I have a couple of questions this morning for the minister responsible for forestry. As we all know, we have concerns about the overall state of the forestry. As with our fishery, there is a - we did not listen. I guess a lot of governments have learned that over the years. We did not listen to fishermen. Of course, loggers and other people have many concerns with the forestry.

So in that respect, the wood supply analysis is a very important part of the analysis of the entire state of the forestry in this Province. I understand that the amendment was made and that in 1997 the wood supply analysis should be released. That is the deadline date. I would like to ask the minister today for the record in the House if the wood supply analysis is indeed ready, or if it is not ready, when will it be ready?

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me just say to the hon. member that I thank him for his question, it is very important. As he has heard me say a number of times in the media in the Province, the wood supply analysis is now in the Cabinet process at a certain stage. As soon as Cabinet has dealt with it, which should be in the short term as opposed to the long term, long before March 1997, we will then make a decision as to when and where and if it is going to be made public.

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

MR. SHELLEY: I thank the minister for his answer, Mr. Speaker. On a more local scene, but of course it reflects other parts of the Province. In my district of Baie Verte there are some 200 loggers who work in private sawmills on that peninsula. Also in the White Bay area, the Hampden area, there are also many private sawmill operators in that area. I am not sure exactly of the numbers in that area. But just on the Baie Verte peninsula there are some 200 loggers in the woods.

They are waiting on an answer on what the TAC for them will be next year. There is talk of a 50 per cent reduction, which would basically wipe out half of those loggers. I ask the minister if he would tell the House today and tell those loggers when they can expect an answer, not just for next year but for a longer term.

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, as the hon. gentleman knows, I have had conversations with him outside of this House, as the Member for Baie Verte. I have committed myself to the people of that area, both of the Baie Verte Peninsula and of the Hampden area, that I would come and sit down with them and discuss the issue. The problem is simple. It is that the salvage wood operation that went on there for fifteen to twenty years has now come to an end. There is another problem, of course, and that is the woods is becoming far more mechanized than it was. There is another problem with union contracts. I have committed to those people, as the hon. member knows, to come down either the last part of January or early February to sit down and discuss the problem with them and hopefully give them some sort of hope and solutions to their problems.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As an MHA for a district within the city of St. John's, I am always concerned when I hear the Southlands issue being raised, and it does raise itself as an issue from time to time publicly, and from time to time here in this hon. House. My question is for the hon. Minister of Social Services, who is a city MHA, what her position is with respect to the Southlands development.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's question is out of order. The hon. minister can only answer questions for the department for which she is responsible, and not as a private member of the House.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I ask the hon. Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs if he could give some guidance to members of this House with respect to the Southlands issue. What is this government doing with respect to finalizing and determining a conclusion to this somewhat troublesome issue for many people in this region of the Province?

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

MR. A. REID: Mr. Speaker, I do not consider it a troublesome issue for people living in this area of the Province. I do not consider Southlands to be troublesome or a liability to anyone. Whoever has the honour of having Southlands in the next ten or twenty years, it will certainly be an asset to them.

I answered the same question here some three weeks ago. We are now reviewing a number of areas which are included in the portfolio of Newfoundland and Labrador Housing. When we get through that process - it is coinciding with the total review process - we will have a better idea of where we are going.

I ask the hon. member to sit tight. I have told the City of St. John's that they have to assume right now, for planning reasons and for election reasons next year, that Southlands will stay for the time being where it is. The question is being reviewed, and when the answers are forthcoming I will provide the answers to this House and the hon. member, and to the City of St. John's and the City of Mount Pearl, but I cannot answer his question directly today because of the fact that we are reviewing this. Please give us the time to do it.

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

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question this morning is for the Minister of Health.

Over the last couple of days -

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible) rowdy man.

MR. FRENCH: Well, it is a good thing you were not here; it might have been rowdier. But this is a more serious thing than really paying attention to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Over the last several days, Mr. Minister, a gentleman has died in the community of St. Lawrence because of a health care problem. He had waited for over a year to come into the Health Sciences Centre to have very serious surgery performed. He apparently had waited a year. He went up to number twenty-five on the waiting list, and after his death the family found out that he had been moved down to number twenty-nine. Can the minister tell us today if he has investigated this very serious tragedy and, if so, what measures he has put in place to make sure that this never happens again?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I heard the discussion on CBC Radio this morning with respect to a certain situation, and I gather that is the one to which the hon. member is referring. It is always unfortunate, and it is one of the difficulties that I frankly find, in being Minister of Health, to become more acutely aware on a daily basis of people who unfortunately pass away as a result of illnesses, for whatever reason. It is difficult particularly when people are younger in life and they find themselves ill and needing medical treatment.

The situation to which he refers is not one that I am going to discuss publicly in this Chamber or outside. I have not had representation from anybody to suggest that there has been a difficulty with the health care system, other than what I have heard on the radio, of course, vis-à-vis this situation. I can tell the hon. member, though, two or three things.

Number one, last year, I would remind him, we did generally put an extra $1.5 million in our budget to help address the waiting lists we have for cardiac surgery at the Health Sciences Centre.

I can tell him also that over the past short time we have increased the number of angioplasty procedures that we do at the Health Sciences Centre by about 20 per cent. We have upped and increased our capacity to perform that procedure.

I can tell him, thirdly, that as a result of the generosity of the unions of this Province, particularly those at the Hibernia site -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to conclude his answer.

MR. MATTHEWS: - we now have a Cath lab at the Health Sciences that is second-to-none in terms of its quality, its capability, and its efficiency.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to take his seat.

MR. MATTHEWS: And that will only further add to our ability to get the job done in the area of health care, vis-à-vis cardiac problems.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

We have time for one quick supplementary. The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the Minister of Health that I certainly hope he will investigate this very serious incident. I also heard one of the doctors from the Health Sciences Centre on this morning who said that he really didn't wait a year; he only waited six months. I guess that is very cold comfort to the family.

I ask the minister, now that he has had the report of the Burin Peninsula Hospital Corporation for probably a week or more: Has the minister had time to review it? And has he made a decision as to what happens to the chairman of the health care board on the Burin Peninsula?

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

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have already answered that question on previous occasions. I have a copy of the report that was done for the Peninsula's Health Care Corporation Board of Directors. They are acting on full implementation of all of the twelve recommendations that are in that report, and the one that deals with the peer review of the CEO, I understand, is in progress and will be done in a timely fashion so as to ensure that every recommendation, including that one, is in fact acted upon appropriately.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Oral Questions has elapsed.

Presenting Reports by

Standing and Special Committees

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

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I wish to report to the House that pursuant to Standing Order 54.1, the Standing Committee on Social Services has reviewed and approved Bill 44, "An Act Respecting Judgement Enforcement," for passage through the remaining stages of this House, with an amendment to provide for the striking of the Committee to review the legislation within three years of the proclamation of the bill. Specifically, the amendment reads: After the expiration of not greater than three years and after the coming into force of this act, the minister shall refer the act to a Committee for the purpose of undertaking a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of this act.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South, on a point of order.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier, now that he has had a chance to review Bill 100, and after a brief explanatory statement from me, I ask the Premier if he is now prepared to -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

It is not a point of order. Is the hon. member asking leave?

MR. FITZGERALD: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

MR. FITZGERALD: I ask if he is now willing to introduce this bill for first reading and if he has problems with some of the wording there, then maybe this wording can be changed when the bill goes to Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER TOBIN: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the member for drawing to the attention of the House and the attention of the government, the draft bill. The bill, Mr. Speaker, as you would know, has not been printed for introduction to the House at this time, therefore technically, it cannot be introduced at this time but I want to undertake to the hon. member, that we will take the weekend and arrange consultations with both House Leaders from both parties, analyze the bill and do precisely what the member has just said, make sure that technically we have it right and that we are facilitating a bill that will allow for good food, quality food, to be made available to the food banks of the Province, to be made available to those who can use it.

We all want to ensure that we are not setting a standard of one quality of food for those who are able to purchase it and a lesser quality of food for those who have to depend upon donations. Well, we want to make sure we are not and that we are doing the right thing and, Mr. Speaker, indeed I have had quick consultations around the House. This was a concern raised by the Leader of the NDP and I think it is a fair concern so we will take the weekend to do consultations.

Mr. Speaker, we undertake, if we can have proper consultations and we can craft the right kind of bill that achieves the right intent and purpose, that by next week, as we come back for a number of days next week, that we can deal with this bill, facilitate the provision of good food which now is going to waste in this Province, to make it available to food banks, and I want to thank the hon. member for bringing this to our attention. This is what Parliament should be able to do from time to time, to respond to good ideas and pressing needs in a timely fashion. So I thank the member for bringing this to our attention.

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 a petition by 277 Newfoundlanders from St. John's, Mount Pearl and areas of Conception Bay who are concerned about the issue of school bus safety. The undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland petition the House of Assembly to direct the Department of Education to legislate a paid, adult bus monitor program for all school buses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The petitioners say they find that students are presently unsupervised and are at risk in their safety going to and from schools on school buses and the safety of children is being compromised.

Mr. Speaker, these petitioners are part of a very large and significant group of Newfoundland and Labrador parents who have reason to be concerned about the safety of their children on school buses. Now, Mr. Speaker, this is not something that just arises out of the recent death by a student in Holy Family School, who was a primary school student, who in October, died as a result of a school bus accident. This may have prompted the investigation and the concern that was raised but this is not, I say, just a knee-jerk reaction to that. This is the result of a serious look at the issue of school bus safety as it affects students in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, when you think that up to seventy-two students can be travelling in a school bus, supervised in theory by one person whose real attention ought to be and is directed to driving the school bus, concerning him or herself with traffic and with the operation of a school bus, with road safety and with other hazards of the road that the supervision of up to seventy-two children ranging in age perhaps from five and six in kindergarten to teenagers who can be a little bit rambunctious. The details of supervising these students both on the bus and as they alight from the bus or get on the bus is not something that can seriously be undertaken by a single person who is actually driving the bus.

The petitioners have also from Holy Family School organized a school bus safety committee which has put together a very decent brief, Mr. Speaker, dated December 10 and I am sure the minister has already received a copy of this brief. It is signed by the principal of Holy Family School and the chairperson of the Holy Family School bus safety committee. It is a very comprehensive brief, very well thought out and puts the argument quite squarely to the minister. It talks about the statistics and they are surprising statistics, Mr. Speaker. Certainly I was not aware of the school bus safety record until it was pointed out by these individuals. The statistics provided by government itself tells the story that between 1985 and 1995 there have been 591 bus accidents, 591 accidents with school buses with 155 bus related injuries and up until 1995, five fatalities. The sixth one being in October of this year. That, Mr. Speaker, is a dismal record and speaks for itself of the need for school bus safety. If we have had 591 school bus accidents in a ten year period - with the addition of this recent fatality - six fatalities related to school buses and the operation of school buses, it certainly speaks to the need for a great deal of supervision and a great deal of care.

As was pointed out by the petitioners and in the brief, the need is for a paid adult monitoring program because the kind of commitment that will be required to ensure school bus safety is a serious one. Up to four hours a day would be required to provide proper supervision. That is not something that one can expect of a volunteer on an ongoing basis, if we are going to ensure proper and adequate school bus safety. It is not something that volunteers ought to be doing. It ought to be done by properly trained, adequately insured, careful, consistent and therefore professional and paid care. Something that should be done, Mr. Speaker, we do spend a terrific amount of money on school buses, there is no question about that but that is going to be reduced significantly by the efforts of the changes in government policy, going to be reduced significantly, $2 million or $3 million this year I think is the figure that the Minister of Education has put about.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: The previous Minister of Education has claimed that he could save up to $8 million -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. HARRIS: - or more in a new program and some of that - if I may for a few seconds continue - some of that should be used -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Does the hon. member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. HARRIS: - some of that should be used to provide -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member does not have leave.

MR. HARRIS: - a paid adult school bus monitoring program. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. H. HODDER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise again today to support the petition put forward by my colleague from Signal Hill -Quidi Vidi.

Mr. Speaker, the petition is the same type of petition which has been coming to members of this House on a regular basis. Petitions have been presented to all members or just about all members on both sides of the House in the last little while. We want to note again this morning the fact that this petition is about value. It is about the value we place on children and the value that we place on children's safety. We feel that there cannot be any compromises.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as I have said here in this House on a previous occasion, I have had the sad experience of being at a school and knowing that something has happened on the parking lot, and being called to the parking lot. Then to find that the rear wheels of a school bus had run over a twelve-year-old boy. I can tell you that it is a traumatic experience that will stay with one for the rest of one's life. I can say to you today that when we know that from this report that has been presented by the principal and the teachers and staff of Holy Family School in Paradise, and we know that since 1985 there have been 591 bus accidents recorded, and there have been 155 bus-related injuries. We assume that this is a tremendous expense on the health care system. When you have 155 injuries that means that some children will suffer long-term problems as a result of the accident that occurred in the school bus. We have had five fatalities, six if we include the young child who was killed there a few weeks ago.

I can only tell you that a report done by the Janeway a couple of years ago told us that one-quarter of the health care budget in this Province is spent on accident-related problems. In fact, the report that was done, which was done by a national group, found that in 1994, I think it was, over $200 million in this Province was spent in accident-related injuries. This wasn't all children. This wasn't all in the Janeway. This was the total bill (inaudible) Workers Compensation, it covers the whole gamut of injuries. We have to do something about prevention.

If we have learned one thing from the bicycle safety helmet program it is that you can look at the stats at the Janeway today, and look at the stats at the Janeway shall we say ten years ago. If you compare those statistics you will come to the very obvious conclusion that prevention is working very well when it comes to bicycle helmet safety. In fact, we have lots of stats that show that that was a very good program, and still is.

I say to the hon. the minister, look at the fact of we are spending over $200 million in health care a year in this Province to help to address the issue and the consequences of injuries in total. That is a stat that is available to the government. I say to the minister as well, look at the tremendous success and the savings that have come from the bicycle helmet safety program. Be proactive. Because every dollar that you spend in trying to prevent injury is saved in the health care budget. Therefore we aren't talking about new dollars. We are going to spend them anyway. We are going to spend the money. Either we are going to spend it at the Janeway and spend it at the hospitals, or we are going to spend it in trying to be more proactive and more preventative in our philosophy.

Therefore it is called let's do the right thing, let's be on the side of safety, let's put greater value on prevention, let's put greater value on the safety and the lives of our children, and let's do it in a concrete manner -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: - and you don't have to find any new dollars to do it. It can be done in a proactive way by transferring money from one department's budget -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. H. HODDER: - into another one in a positive manner.

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

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just briefly again with respect to this issue, because I don't want to prolong a debate on the petition. I understand clearly that the parents who signed the petition are serious about the issues of school bus safety. Again though, I've already signalled to the parents when we met them that they should not expect the government, from taxpayers dollars, to pay salaries for adult paid bus monitors.

Maybe the members opposite might get the tape from one of the radio stations this morning on the morning show where some parents from another part of the Province - as a matter of fact, they made a presentation at one of the public consultation meetings, parents from Bonavista North, who were on the radio this morning encouraging the government not to pay for adult monitors because they firmly believe that if we are going to spend money in education, or other areas, that there are other areas and needs where we should spent the money. They described a circumstance which is available to any parents today who feel this is a priority, to volunteer two hours of their time a day, two hours in the morning or two hours in the afternoon. If they think that is the number one priority they can get on the buses now anytime, as those parents in Bonavista North explained, and be volunteer adult monitors.

The legislation that we have before the House provides for school boards and schools to charge a fee. We described yesterday in response to the petition that for the government it is a $4.5 million item, because we could not say we are going to put monitors on your bus but we are not going to put them on yours. We are going to use them in Conception Bay South but we are not going to use them in Labrador. If you are going to put in a general policy it is a $4.5 million bill if you accept that the wage is going to be only $6.00 an hour, which is just above the minimum wage.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to that, the whole point is that parents elsewhere are saying, volunteer or do what the people in St. John's are doing who were not offered busing and decided to spent $10.00 a month themselves to get busing. If adult monitoring paid is the priority for any parents today, they can organize themselves, and pay a small fee of $5.00 or $10.00 a month. If they are so concerned that the safety of their children is absolutely being jeopardized, they can fix the problem now themselves without need of any input from the government or anyone else.

The parents on the radio this morning were encouraging other parents in other parts of the Province to take that kind of action rather than say, let us go to the government, because every time we have something of concern with us and our children we will run to the government. Here it is clearly an instance where, if this is a priority, and I know it is for some parents, they can fix it themselves.

There are many other issues with respect to two-way radios on buses, whether or not we can install seat belts, proper signalling devices, proper back up alarms, first aid kits, proper training for the drivers, proper licensing, and reducing the age of the buses themselves. All of those issues are being looked at and any or all of them might require some money but, from the government purse itself, the issue of safety, if it is going to be better served by an adult monitor, does not need any money from government. The parents can volunteer like they have done in the past, and are going today, or if they feel a paid monitor should be there, they can collect the money themselves, and not a great amount, $5 to $10 a month maximum from the parents of the students on the buses would put paid monitors on the buses today with a minimal contribution from any parent, if that is where they think the greatest priority is. If the government brings in a policy it is a $4.5 million minimum program because we would not be able to be selective and that is the difficulty.

We have discussed the issue with the parents. We are looking at the whole range of safety issues for school bus transportation, but nobody should really expect that the government is going to bring in a Province-wide adult paid monitor system. I regret to have to say that, Mr. Speaker, and I know that members opposite will continue to present the petitions as they are bound to do, but I certainly expect them to understand the broader range of the debate rather than sign and present petitions that do not address the whole range of issues. The petition says only that there have to be paid adult monitors, and regretfully, that will not happen.

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, on the topic that was just raised, the subject matter raised in a petition by the Member for Signal Hill - Quidi Vidi, and responded to by the Minister of Education, I, too, have been asked to present a petition on behalf of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador to the hon. House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador ask for the House of Assembly to accept the following petition: We, the undersigned residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, do hereby petition the House of Assembly to direct the Department of Education to legislate a paid adult bus monitor program for all school buses in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We find that students are presently being unsupervised and are at risk in their safety going to and from school on school buses. The safety of our children is being compromised. We ask the hon. minister and his government to show compassion, leadership, and understanding to ensure the safe transportation of our children.

Mr. Speaker, there are many residents in this Province who will repeatedly ask this government to review this policy to ensure that the safety and security of students is uppermost in the minds of the department at all times.

This is not just an arbitrary request. There has been a review done by many parents in this Province, specifically the parents and students of Holy Family School in Paradise, who undertook a review of this whole situation and were able to identify a number of areas of concern and then make recommendations to the hon. minister.

The areas of concern include the following: The proper and adequate supervision of students on buses, as well as boarding and leaving; driver selection and training; proper school bus maintenance and vehicle communication; safety education programs for students and parents, teachers and drivers; a bus safety awareness program for the public; scheduled bus routes. These are the areas of concern that have been brought to the fore by the parents and the students of this particular school.

On the issue of proper and adequate supervision of students on the buses, as well as boarding and leaving buses, the recommendation by this group is that the government begin a process to implement paid adult bus monitors to assist bus drivers to provide adequate and proper supervision and safe transportation of students within the Province.

On the issue of driver selection and training, the recommendations were that government establish and regulate criteria for the selection of bus drivers, that the government develop an in-depth and comprehensive training program for bus drivers, which would include education and training in the areas of defensive driving, first aid, CPR, student behaviour management, public and human relations, and that school bus driver training and education be continuous and under constant review and regulated by government standards.

On the equally important issue of school bus maintenance and safety regulations, the recommendations are that the government establish recommendations to ensure that school buses are inspected daily by bus drivers who are then asked to submit a written report each day to a regulatory body; also that school buses are inspected on a regular basis, that they be equipped with two-way radios, and that buses be equipped with safety features such as front bumper guards, side safety arms, back-up alarms, exterior side sensors, and back-up mirrors. These recommendations are being made so that these buses are equipped to ensure that children are protected while on the buses in our Province.

On the issue of the education programs on bus safety, this same group is asking and is recommending that the government, in conjunction with the boards, develop school bus safety educational programs to educate the students, parents and teachers on school bus safety; and, secondly, that government establish the position of Director of School Bus Safety at the Department of Works, Services and Transportation level, to work with the boards and the schools to ensure continuing safety for our students.

On the issue of a bus safety awareness program for the public, this same group has forwarded a recommendation that the government, in conjunction with school boards and schools, conduct annually a public awareness campaign on school bus safety, and that the government establish a provincial school bus safety slogan.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, on the issue of scheduling -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I am glad today to rise and support this petition, for very good reasons. Like the hon. the Member for St. John's East said, the first day after the incident he made comments about the possibility of volunteers as one option. Then, of course, we met with more parents. We met with the group that organized these petitions, and they gave us their views.

Really, what we heard that day - and I believe the government side also heard the same group and listened to their concerns - once you sit down and listen to them, really what they have been doing is bringing home the point that a lot of us have been thinking about for years with respect to school bus safety.

I, being a former teacher and a former coach - not just once for an experience - I have been on bus trips many, many times. I have coached many teams. I have travelled with a lot of school groups and so on.

The Member for Waterford Valley talks about his very traumatic experience some years ago, Mr. Speaker, luckily mine was not that bad but I always remember the situation. I was looking out a school window, just the first or second year in my teaching career and seen a kid slip on ice behind a bus while the other kids got away. I watched that child get up and luckily get away from a bus that was moving backward, Mr. Speaker. I could not even get near him, I could not say anything but luckily he got away from that. All I could think about was what a dangerous situation it was. All over this Province we have different parking facilities, they are on grades, of course in different weather conditions you get ice and snow and so on. So every parking lot is different and there is so much danger, Mr. Speaker, in that parking lot. When you get kids all rushing out the same time on a Friday evening waiting to go home or they are excited about this and that, there is very little control.

If anybody in this House has had experience with kids, being a teacher, a coach or whatever, you know how excited they can get and you know when you have a crowd of thirty, forty or seventy students or 200 students in a parking lot ranging from ages 6 to 18, Mr. Speaker, that it is very hard to control them. I have seen it first hand. Mr. Speaker, the more I listen to this group talk, I said to myself, all these things I have thought about too but I never did say much about them. That is the reality of it and I don't expect - and the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs brought it up a couple of days ago about spending and spending.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like for the government to look into this possibility of a bus monitor but also the rest of the education about bus safety because if there are five or six - I don't have the statistics in front of me now but if there were five or six fatalities over the years and so many accidents, that was too many. Maybe for a small amount of money, it may not be a great amount of money, I say to the government, that would put a program in place. We are not talking about hiring somebody for eight hours a day to go on a bus. We are talking about a program that could be adequate, Mr. Speaker, that at least can move in the right direction for bus safety because I am sure there is not a member in this House, on a very serious issue like that, would like to see another fatality or more accidents or anything else.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we all have children going to school and I can just imagine, if you want to make it strike home, just think about your own child. That is all you have to think about and getting a call from a principal some day or an RCMP officer that there was an accident in the school where your child was or just imagine this, you get a rumour that there was an accident at a school that morning and you are out somewhere in town and you get a rumour that there was an accident and some child was hurt. For a minute you are going to panic and say I hope that's not my child.

So, Mr. Speaker, the point is very sincere and very straightforward that the government and the minister - I say look at this option of a paid bus monitor. Also look at the options of bus safety in respect to training the drivers, having a first aid kit on board the bus, making sure the buses are safe. All of those things, Mr. Speaker, cut down on the possibilities of any child in this Province being injured or worse, to be killed in this Province. So that is what it is all about. We are not asking that the government spend millions of dollars and put somebody on a bus eight hours a day and pay them or anything like that. As a matter of fact, the government has that leverage to build a manoeuvrability to look at those different situations but the bottom line, Mr. Speaker, for the amount of money it would be money well spent to make sure - as much as we can because you can never be 100 per cent sure - but to make sure as much as we can that another child is not hurt in this Province or especially a fatality in this Province because of bus safety in this Province.

So, Mr. Speaker, the government should take a very, very serious look at it to make sure that we cover all angles. The bus monitor, the safety of the bus itself, the bus driver, how he is trained and basically I guess what I am saying, is the education of bus safety throughout. I am sure there are other ways that the staff and the teachers can help out. I am sure they would lend a hand as much as they could but I think it is very important that this petition be paid attention to with respect to a paid bus monitor which, like we say, Mr. Speaker, there are so many on the bus they have that particular job which is more specific to what they are doing and I think it is something that has to be looked at seriously -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: - and considered by the government and the minister. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Mr. Speaker, we do have other petitions but in view of the hour and the Government House Leader wishing to pursue with the Orders of the Day, we will wait until Monday to present further petitions.

Orders of the Day

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, before we move into Orders of the Day, just so that we make sure that everybody gets an opportunity to debate this bill and it is an important bill, just so we make sure that everybody gets an opportunity to debate it, to say all that needs to be said about it, I spoke to the Opposition House Leader this morning and advised him that we would not be closing the House at noon, but we would probably be closing it somewhere between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, I would move that the House not adjourn at noon.

MR. SPEAKER: It is moved and seconded that the House do not adjourn at noon.

All those in favour, `aye.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye!

MR. SPEAKER: Against, `nay.'

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nay!

MR. SPEAKER: Carried.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, the Orders of the Day, An Act To Implement The Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement Between The Government Of Canada And The Government Of Newfoundland And Labrador, Bill No. 45.

Motion, second reading of a bill, "An Act To Implement The Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement Between The Government Of Canada And The Government Of Newfoundland And Labrador". (Bill No. 45)

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will come to that shortly. Let me say first of all it is a pleasure to introduce this bill. This is, as the Premier said this morning, the first time in recorded history in this Province, that I'm aware of, that we have actually ever reduced taxes for any protracted period of time. The retail sales tax burden in Newfoundland has been well above the national average for quite some time. In fact, at one point it was as much as 150 per cent above the national average. There are a number of essential ingredients about this harmonization, which makes a lot of sense for the Province.

First of all, it is a tremendous rate reduction from an express rate of 12 per cent down to 8 per cent, but the 12 per cent rate as we know in this Province, because it is on top of the GST, is actually an effective rate of 12.84 per cent. We admit that what is happening in order to make this possible are a number of things. The first is that the base of application of what has been the RST is expanded, so it will include some goods and services that are not now covered, but the vast majority of goods were already included in the RST anyway. The major impact, of course, is the rate reduction itself. It is a very substantial reduction of almost $200 million, but we are adding some things back to make it more manageable so that the total tax loss to government is only $105 million.

We see this as being very progressive. We believe that what is needed in this country, and this Province in particular, are not additional tax measures that place additional burdens on our population and our people who are trying, in often difficult circumstances, to survive and prosper, but what we need to do as a matter of public policy is reduce the tax burden and allow people to make conscious and deliberate decisions about where they want to spend their money, and how they can best utilize the monies in their hands to help the economy grow and to help themselves prosper. We don't believe that government should keep taxing people and adding to our programs to create situations and try to run other people's lives for them. I believe this is the first, for the reason I've said, progressive tax measure we have seen in some time in our Province.

The bill is detailed and it sets out the agreement between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government, and in fact it mirrors the other agreement with the other Atlantic provinces as well. The hon. member across said a few moments ago: Will I explain the - I think he said on page 45. Mr. Speaker, I don't pretend to - or I shouldn't say I don't pretend to understand, but I certainly wouldn't take the House's time to try to elaborate on the rather difficult and complicated formulas given in the appendix to the agreement. It is something that people in taxation make a habit of concocting and trying to put in formulas what are often simple things. But when you get to put them in formulae that echo the sort of taxation laws we have, it becomes somewhat difficult for lay people to understand. I include myself in that group. Nevertheless, I think it is fairly straightforward on the basis of the bill what the impact is, and that is a reduction from, as I said, close to 20 per cent down to 15 per cent.

There are only two or three things I think that need be added at this point. We have had a long, protracted public consideration of this, not just this year, but going back to 1990 when the whole idea of the GST came into being. That debate has been ongoing in this country, and it was very controversial at the time. I'm among those people who would have preferred never to see a GST. I believe at the time it was an unwarranted intrusion into a provincial area of taxation that had always been left to the provinces to raise revenue. However, having said that, and the federal government having done it and become dependent on the revenue, and of course needing it to balance its books and to reduce the deficit, we are in a situation where what does one do?

I'm one of those who would prefer if the federal government had stayed away from it entirely and gotten rid of the GST. But knowing that it isn't going to be case, we as a province had to decide, with an offer of a very substantial amount of money from Ottawa, $348 million, which we have in the bank, by the way, Mr. Speaker, and which we will invest wisely in one form or another, and I will be delighted to advise my colleagues opposite -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: No, it won't be in his Christmas stocking but it will eventually come to all the people in the Province in one form or another. That amount of money is on hand and that made it possible for us to do this. There are some people who perhaps want to create some uncertainty and suspicion about the bill, but the real truth is how everyone slices it, there is a very substantial contribution back to the people of this Province who work so hard to make the place in which we live such a great place, and I can say that the $105 million will increase consumer spending. We expect that over the course of the compensation period, that being four years, we will add to our GDP, that we will see growth in the economy, that we will more than compensate for this tax loss we are now taking and we are able to do it of course, because we have the monies at hand to carry us over the next three or four years or so.

There is only one area of concern that we have, Mr. Speaker, that is with low-income people. I said earlier, that all the analyses we have done and we have used the Stats Canada data bases to see how people of different income groups spend their money, shows that even at a $10,000-income level, there is a tax benefit of almost $180, I think it is $183 to be exact, in tax savings, nevertheless we are concerned that although that is true across a broader group of people, there may be certain individuals who are impacted because of particular circumstances in which they live, and I think particularly of older people or people in more modest circumstances who live in older homes that are not as well insulated as many newer homes are, and who may feel a disproportionate impact from what will be in the near term, an increase in heating cost for example.

But other than those sorts of unique and individual circumstances, most other people who may pay a modestly larger amount of money for domestic heating oil or in fuel oil or gas for their cars, will be more than offset by the tax savings they are going to make across a broad range of goods that they now purchase and on which they pay a 20 per cent taxation. We are going to reduce that to 15 per cent and by far and away, that will moderate the tax increase. To give an example: For people who are in between $75,000 and $100,000, the tax burden will decrease by over $1,100, so even though they pay a little more -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Well there are a lot of people sitting opposite me who are in that income category, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. DICKS: Well, that is not entirely true. There are a lot of people in the middle income category, but we tend to think about low-income people and that is a fair consideration but we cannot forget that there are a lot of people in the middle income category $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 who, in many cases find it very difficult to make ends meet. They still have to have cars to go to work, they still have to get their children to and from school and a lot of these -

AN HON. MEMBER: Heat their homes.

MR. DICKS: Heat their homes, exactly and these are the people for whom we have a lot of concern and part of the reason that we are doing this, is to try to assist people at all income levels but particularly our lower and middle income groups who are finding it very difficult to survive in this Province, and indeed not only here but across this country because there are many factors in Newfoundland that reduce the cost of living beyond what it would be in other parts of the country, particularly if one looks at the cost for housing and purchasing a home, it is a lot different from living in Toronto or Montreal, although Montreal is moderating as well, but Vancouver and the cities to the west of us. So, Mr. Speaker, we view this very positively. I know my colleagues opposite have expressed a concern that we have indicated that we do wish to address and that is with low-income people in particular because there may be unique circumstances.

I do want to say that what we have done is, adopted the GST system in doing this and there are several results of that. One is that the GST credits do continue for low-income people. The $30,000 threshold which business has to meet before the need to remit will also apply. As it stands right now, we have businesses that still have to remit the RST, our provincial sales tax but do not have to remit the GST. Now with this integrated tax structure, all businesses, if they are below $30,000 in gross revenue do not have to collect any sales tax to remit to government. We do have a substantial savings as a result of the integration. We expect that we will save approximately $3 million; we also are in a position where most of our staff, virtually all of them will find positions with the federal government and most of those will be at higher rates of pay and they will also be on a higher pay scale.

We are currently working through the dynamics and the problems that come about as a result of moving people from our system into the federal system but we have been very successful. Some issues remain to be resolved but I am very confident that, that will be resolved to the satisfaction of our employees. In particular I can say that there are some pension issues that we have recently resolved, there are issues of location that are being addressed, and the sense I have from the employees is there is some degree of uncertainty, but in the long run, I think most of them realize that it is going to have a tremendous opportunity to move into an area of the Federal Government which has 43,000 employees. It is going to mean a lot of jobs in this Province being retained and it will mean that a lot of our people who have been doing very good work will receive greater pay in the long run and will have an opportunity for lateral and vertical promotions as well.

The impact on the business community will be very substantial. What will happen is that businesses which now remit to us approximately $170,000 in our current RST formula, will now be able to pass those savings on to consumers in the form of reduced prices. The cascading effect of the GST input tax credits will make our businesses more competitive, not only locally where we expect to see a degree of decline in retail prices, but also nationally and internationally. One of the interesting aspects of this legislation is that a lot of goods are shipped into our Province from outside. The Federal Government will now collect the tax on them for us, and they will remit it to us in the eventual course of settlements over the course of this agreement and onward as long as we chose to remain in that system. What that does resolve for business as well, the problem we have often had with people outside our Province competing unfairly, shipping goods in here and people ordering them so they can avoid the tax. Now, what happens with this new system, is the tax will be collected and we will even out that aspect of goods sales and services.

The other thing is that the Federal Government will collect, on an allocation basis, GST on services of major corporations in accordance with the Income Tax Act so that monies we do not now receive, for instance, in large corporations like legal services done in Toronto, we will receive an allocation of HST on that to the Province in accordance with the allocation formulas under the Income Tax Act.

The other aspect of it that is more apparent, and I think very beneficial, is, what we have done is neutralize purchasing decisions. Up to this point, people, if they were in another province where the retail sales tax burden was less, were inclined, I believe, to purchase there so that they could either not pay the tax or pay it at a reduced rate. With this system we are now at the level. In fact, the taxation in Newfoundland and Labrador following this will be the same as it is in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and about the same as it is in Ontario, in fact, perhaps slightly less. It will less than it is in Manitoba, about the same as in Saskatchewan and B.C. Alberta, of course, is the exception, not having any sales tax.

What we have done in one fell swoop is, we have equalized the sales tax system in Newfoundland and Labrador with virtually the tax system across this country. I believe this is a very progressive piece of legislation. I commend it to my colleagues on this side of the House and opposite. I know we have raised some issues about tax-inclusive pricing and about the cost of tuning up, and I can say with frankness that our assessment, not my personal assessment but the assessment of my officials, both of Revenue Canada who are working on this, and the Department of Finance have come to the conclusion, and from my consultations with the business community, they have validated that the cost of changing in most retail stores is marginal compared to the positive impact from across the board sales tax reduction and the effect of income tax credits.

All I can say to hon. members opposite, and in reply particularly to the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, is that notwithstanding some concern in this sector, the business community is not only supportive but tremendously enthusiastic about this, and I believe for obvious and good reasons. I see our manufacturing sector and all our vital industries, whether it is the forestry industry, the mining industry, all being much more competitive, our oil and gas sector, and I think we are in for a period of very substantial growth, Mr. Speaker.

I think, and as people in this House have acknowledged, and we have said on many occasions, we have a couple of difficult years to get through, but I can tell you that looking up to 1999, Newfoundland will have unprecedented growth. We will see growth rates that we have not seen since perhaps the 1960s when things were proceeding at a frenetic pace in this Province. We see a return of some very substantial growth, and we see the benefits being spread throughout this Province. We are delighted, that in order to get this off the ground, we are able to offer a very substantial tax reduction to the people of our Province. We believe it will be good for business. We see new growth, new opportunities, new jobs, and I can only commend it to my colleagues.

I understand that it is the duty and obligation of my colleagues opposite to raise questions and concerns, and I hope to address them. I know at the end of the day they will be supportive of this because they will see the positive nature of it, and I know that they are as interested as we are in the growth of our Province, in all the sectors, and I am sure they will be as committed as we are to reducing the sales tax burden and the other taxes we hope to get to in due course.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would just like to make one statement before I get into some other areas, and there are many areas here that I would certainly like the minister to respond to in due course. I do have a series of questions.

The St. John's Board of Trade said a hidden tax would make our prices appear to tourists as far higher than they would pay at home, and that this first glance shock will discourage buying. I do not know if the minister is familiar with that statement, but anyway, I just want to go through with the minister, based on the facts and figures that his department has provided. I did releases on this back in April and I can tell you I am familiar with the system to a fair extent. I have followed financial matters for some time and observed budgets of governments long before I got into politics, the financial end of it, and subscribe to numerous financial magazines.

This does not make sense. Maybe the minister can tell us. These are facts from his own estimates. The provincial sales tax this year is $565 million, projected. Last year, of course, it was $570-some million. We have a projected decrease in RST in general sales in the Province. Because the value of the general retail trade in the Province would be about $3.3 billion. Now, let's look at what was collected in GST, I say to the Minister of Finance.

In GST we collected last year in this Province - and the minister said my figures are outdated. I have the most recent figures, Stats Canada, I talked to federal people, and I talked to your department, Minister. The average amount, not counting what isn't collected - the average amount collected has hovered from $279 million to $283 million. That is the range of dollars that GST has been collected in this Province. I stand and I certainly don't refute my three different sources that have followed this, and they are very much in line there.

When you take that figure, I say to the minister, let us take the same GST base - and this is mathematical. When you look at - assuming the business this year and next year under the harmonized tax, assuming sales are the same, I say to the minister, assuming they are the same - the minister said they will increase, and we will allow for that then - take the $283 million using the GST base and change that 7 per cent, I say to the minister, to 15 per cent just on the GST base and let's forget the RST. That would amount to, when you convert that, $606 million total. The Federal Government will keep their $283 million, and the difference, I say to the Minister of Finance, is $323 million. I am sure the minister is following the mathematics of what I am saying. The difference is $323 million. That would be Newfoundland's share of the value-added tax or the VST, they call it in Nova Scotia, or the HST.

We are now taking in, in revenue in RST, $565 million. If you subtract what we are going to take in with the same base of $323 million, we are left with a $242 million shortfall. The Minister of Finance has told us in this House that the $240 million shortfall, he said: We are going to bring in an insurance tax, we are going to bring in the private sale of vehicles tax, and we are going to keep the liquor and tobacco tax where it is. All that will add up to $90 million, I think the minister said, all these other measures that we are going to keep in place. In other words, the part of the RST base we are going to keep - maybe the minister can nod and confirm it - we are going to hang on to about $90 million extra because of the insurance tax, the private sale of vehicles, by keeping the liquor and tobacco tax the same, and some other minor adjustments he wouldn't tell me, basically, or maybe didn't have at his fingertips. It would be $90 million.

Subtract that from the $242 million I just pointed out and we are left with $150 million shortfall. The minister said $105 million. I disputed his figures last Spring, I dispute them today. We are still going to be $150 million short in revenues. Even if it is $105 million, let us go with what the minister's own department and the minister are saying, and take a $348 million pot, that runs out in a little over three years. So after three years, in the year 2000, we are going to be short $105 million, if you listen to the minister - if you listen to me it will be $150 million - on revenues in this Province.

What do we do when we are short those revenues in the Province? If the minister really thinks the price of goods is going down - and I will give an example. Let us take a $100 item that you pay both taxes on now; that is $119.84 that you would pay. Under the new tax-in pricing, the base price of that $100 item is going to increase. When you put your 15 per cent on top, we are going to be up where we are now.

Economists will tell you, that is called inflation. This HST would be an inflationary tax that is going to increase the cost of goods and services, and when you put on your sales tax, even thought it will be lower, the total amount the consumer will pay will still be just as much on items on which we are supposed to be getting a tax decrease. So the consumer pays the same amount, and the Province gets $100-and-some million less in revenue. Now, that is short-term thinking. If all provinces bought into this deal, and we did not have the tax inclusive pricing, we would not have that built-in cost because it would be consistent across the country.

The minister did make a good point, and I agree with the minister. The minister said, if all the provinces have the same tax base, that is acceptable. If every province in the country went in on this deal, the tax-inclusive pricing could be eliminated, and that would be positive, I say to the minister. But it has not happened, and it is unlikely to happen. Even the Liberal Government in New Brunswick, before the election in P.E.I., said they were not going along with it because it was not good. The government after has said it, they are not going on with it because it is not good. Nova Scotia is now going to a public forum on this tax. There is only one government in Canada that is moving rapidly to close the books on this right now, and that is here in this Province.

We have a $348 million pot that is going to dry up in the year 2000, and I ask, what then? What do we do in the year 2,000, when people in this Province are going to be paying an increased price and some other taxation, or a further cutback in services of a social nature in this Province?

Mr. Speaker, that is not acceptable, when there are people out there today paying a substantial amount of money on goods and services right now. It is not a good deal. If it was a good deal, I would say so. If there were several amendments and changes made in this bill -

AN HON. MEMBER: Would you vote for it?

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, I would, I say to the minister.

Education reform, I say to the minister, was just one recent example of a major issue that we supported moving quickly in dealing with it. We took a matter of minutes - I think less than an hour in this House - to deal with it in July, at each reading of that bill. In fact, I think we put a speaker or two up on certain parts of it. We support positive ventures, things that are positive for the Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I just explained it before the minister came in. He did not understand at all.

Over all, there are numerous aspects of this deal that are bad. The compensation package is too little. The compensation package will run out, and I ask: What next, when the compensation runs out?

Tax harmonization, way back in January or February, was not an election issue. The Premier never campaigned and never debated this as an election issue. In fact, as soon as the election was over he came out with a deal on harmonization. He had to know it was happening; still, to come out and sign one so fast. Before the ink was even dry on the writ, he was out with a deal on harmonization that he never brought to the people.

Not only given to the people - we have called for, and I have called for, public debate. I said before, in public debate in the House, and I have said outside that I would debate the minister any time on this bill. I challenge the Premier today. I will debate this in any forum that he wants, at his time and convenience, on the merits and demerits of this particular bill. They are not prepared to do that, because they know it is not good.

People want to be here in this Province for a long time. I have an interest in the future of this Province, and I do not want bad decisions made, like the Churchill Falls decision, and others. We want to avoid decisions that are negative.

This Province does not have the contingency plan, what is going to happen if this deal does not fly. We are not prepared. We have not built that in. There are no basic `outs' without eighteen months notice, when we have already changed the system over, and then come back and reconvert again if the deal gets scrapped. More cost on business means more cost to consumers, because when businesses incur costs, the consumers pay for it out of their pockets. Businesses are going to maintain a certain profit margin, and in this day and age, it is pretty tough trying to do that, and they pass it on to consumers. If not, they are not going to be in business. That is the nature of how it works and this is not going to be positive, I can assure you.

Now, all they could find were the three Liberal premiers, the fourth one would not touch it and we see where he is today. In Prince Edward Island they would not touch it, it was bad. Of course, in Nova Scotia now they have even acknowledged that there are areas that are bad. They have committed, even after this time, an extra $8 million which is not sufficient to put into the pot to help the low-income people who are going to be adversely affected by it. New Brunswick has made reference to it, even though they have not called it to their Legislature yet.

This government is trying to rush something through before Christmas, before the public can fully understand what is in it. Now, what is wrong with taking a discussion on such a major item, to the people, out to the public? There are intelligent, informed people in the public. The people want an opportunity to understand it, to be able to pass their opinions on it, instead of having to try to smoke it through the House, try to pull the wool over people's eyes before they - give the people the facts and let them make their own decisions. Let them hear the minister and the Premier. Let them hear what we have to say and hear what everybody else has to say. They are informed and give them the opportunity -they did not have that opportunity. I have been calling since last Spring for the people of the Province to be able to have an opportunity to debate this particular issue here. It is important. It is an issue of great importance. We have sent committees around this Province on many things, many different aspects but we cannot even put it into a public forum or a committee here in the House to look further at the effects of harmonization on this Province.

As I said, we are going to run into costs. Who do you think is going to pay for the cost of changing the pricing with the tax-in pricing? Who do you think is ultimately going to pay to change over the cash registers and the computerized process? Who is going to pay for that cost?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I know who is going to pay for it. The consumer is going to pay for it, that's who is going to pay. I think the minister should pay for it. The minister seems to be -

MR. EFFORD: Don't ask me why you're not in government.

MR. SULLIVAN: I think you have to start realizing you are the government, that is what you have to do. You have to start realizing you are the government, I say to the minister, and start looking at the people who elected you to do a job. That is where we differ, I say to the minister - that is where we differ.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I say to the minister, if we had some photographs from the night before when he made a late night appearance at the PC Christmas Party, I can tell you his colleagues would not be very happy. I say, the Minister of Government Services and Lands can be an eyewitness to some of this. He was there to witness you and one other of your colleagues there. It was a different Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture than we see every single day, I can assure the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: Was there anything fishy about it?

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, there was something very fishy about it, very fishy. The aquaculture he had in the glass, I tell you was a very interesting mix. I think you would sow the seeds of a new species here and a new thriving industry in the Province.

MR. EFFORD: We had to go there to brighten up the party. You didn't have a party until we walked in.

MR. SULLIVAN: I can tell you minister, you accomplished that task, you certainly did. You succeeded in one thing, you succeeded there, and I am telling you, it was the most entertaining hour or two hours we had all night. I was wondering, I said where is the Member for Port de Grave, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, he has not come up to liven up the PC party. I can tell you, he is okay for a visitor but we don't want him to be a member of this party on a regular basis. No, we are happy with having him where he is.

Now, to get back from that little diversion, I think I silenced the minister there. If he does resurface I may have to go into greater detail of what went on. But I say to the minister, it is going to be passed back to the consumers, any cost incurred on prices. It is the same as any particular business operates. I mean, businesses operate to make money. If a business is not operating to make money, they will not be in it very long, and you have to respect that. That is vital, that is important to the health of an economy. The your businesses are, the healthier the Province will be, more employees would be out there, more people earning money and it is fantastic but, what concerns me is, when we give away over $100 million in revenue to cause an inflationary price in the cost of goods and services. It is not productive, it is not healthy for our economy I will tell you, it does not put extra spending in the pockets of consumers and improve consumer spending, and any expert or economist will tell you that. When the percentage of dollars that are saved in taxes, when it does not go back to consumer pockets but goes into inflationary prices on cost of goods and services, it has a negative impact on economies and that is a very important thing that this government is not looking at and I will just use one example.

I will say again: an item which costs $100 now and you go into a store and buy it, and ring up the 7 per cent and 12 per cent, that comes to $119.84, that is what it costs. Under this taxed-in pricing now that probably came in from Ontario, and a lot of goods come in from other parts of the country, those major chains and there is more movement in the malls in shopping, when you go in to buy that item now, that was $100, they have to have different regulations of taxing in this Province and other parts of the county. That price of goods is not going to be $100 now, that price of goods could be $103 or $104, when you put your 15 per cent on it, you are up to $119.84 and the consumer is paying the same basic price of what you have built in, increased costs and we have lost revenues in the process and that is not good and that is basically what is going to happen with tax-inclusive pricing.

I could give reference, examples the impacts of tax-inclusive pricing. I made reference in Question Period in the House; there are letters that went to the Finance Minister of Canada by businesses that said just alone and there are references - I am sure the minister must be aware but he said he is not aware of anybody. Well I can tell him his federal colleague, Mr. Paul Martin, the Minister of Finance, has information that tells him that and they do a breakdown. They gave him confidence figures to their parent body that showed in Atlantic Canada alone, the costs are going to be $34 million and the advantages from input tax credits are going to be $6 million and there is going to be a net difference of $28 million just in firms that represent a portion of those costs in Atlantic Canada.

I mean, we have to realized, we have to listen to people who understand where the costs should go in the system. I mean, I have just read an article that said: No savings with the new taxes, says a coalition from New Brunswick, they have not brought it to the House yet: Suspicions confirmed, it said. Business representatives in Atlantic Canada made it crystal clear Thursday, the new blended sales tax or HST, with tax-included pricing won't save consumers any money. According to officials, with regional boards of trade and Chambers of Commerce, companies will not be able to pass along savings for the new tax as promised by the Premiers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. They cannot do it, that is what those Chambers of Commerce and companies are saying.

They say the three provinces that would merge this tax, come April to give the impression that the GST is gone. When the Prime Minister and Sheila Copps and the Premier here were going to scrap it, the GST. Now, they are trying to hide it in an area that represents only 6.6 per cent of the population in this country. 93.33 per cent of the population of this country did not buy into this agreement and here we are, down in Newfoundland, with a $340-odd million cheque, we take it and we run to the bank and we pay the price for it forever. When are they going to start realizing that long-term decisions are needed to ensure we maintain an appropriate revenue base in our Province? When are we going to stop making short-term decisions to get us by an election and we all pay the price?

We will never be a `have' Province with a `have not' mentality. We must have a `have' mentality not a `have not' mentality if we want to be a `have' Province and it is not going to be easy to do it because we are locked into such atrocious deals but we have to do our best to negate the effects of those deals and to do something that is going to have some significance and to be able to enhance opportunities of people here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The three governments are out saying there are going to be significant savings. That is what this article is saying, the Premier is saying that there are going to be significant savings at the cash register. That is because business will realize big savings in their tax bills and that is supposed to translate into lower prices.

Well, when did you ever see that happen before? It did not happen with GST. It became largely inflationary. The business coalition said, as chambers of commerce and boards in New Brunswick: If businesses are faced with increased costs, who will bear the brunt of those increased costs? The President, the Chairperson, of the St. John's Board of Trade in New Brunswick said: There is no question, it will be the consumer.

It will be the ordinary people around Newfoundland and Labrador who will bear the brunt of this negative taxation here, that people do not realize what this government is forcing them into.

It goes on to say: The business representatives stressed they are not opposed to a blended tax, which they think is a good thing, and I do think a blended tax is a good thing. I think a harmonized tax is a good thing, but not the type of deal that we have now that is only bought into by 6.66 per cent of Canadians, because the bulk of goods, many things, are coming from outside this Province. They are coming from non-harmonized areas into a harmonized area. There is increased cost with tax inclusive pricing that is going to be detrimental, and a small majority of Canadians is not going to control the large majority of Canadians. The tail was never designed to wag the dog; it is the other way around. We cannot have a fraction of the population, 2 million people in those provinces out of 30 million in Canada, controlling and basically setting the price and standards. There are going to be too many built in costs inherent in a system like that.

Their anger is focused on the government's decision to hide the 15 per cent in the cost of products, so-called tax-in pricing. That is what it is. They are hiding it. They are trying to build it into the price, and to give people the perception they are saving money. The only argument I hear the minister and the Premier using is: Don't you want to go from 20 per cent down to 15 per cent? They do not tell the people the real truth, that the cost of the goods is going up, taxes is going down, the total price is the same, and we are going to pay for it. Every time they get in a car and drive, the taxes on that gasoline that is fairly enormous is going to go, along with our own provincial gasoline tax, from 7 per cent to 15 per cent, more than double. Every time you burn fuel in your home, or electricity in your home, the price is going from 7 per cent taxes to 15 per cent under this new one. To buy clothing for children, it is going from 7 per cent to 15 per cent. School supplies are going from 7 per cent to 15 per cent. Every time you get a haircut, or go to a hairdresser, an accountant, a lawyer, go to any professional people - engineers - these fees are more than doubled.

I tell you, there is something wrong with a system when an expensive mink coat does not go up in price, may go down marginally, and you more than double the costs that you are piling on the people who can least afford to pay it. Isn't there something wrong with people's principles and values and philosophies if that is happening? There is something radically wrong, and we have to look at an equitable distribution of our revenues and our tax base and programs.

On that topic we have rendered, we have given up, our Province's autonomy to deal with those social issues and other issues in the Province because the federal government, in this deal, can unilaterally have two tax increases on their 7 per cent, and we have no influence over it. They can put it up twice, 1 per cent, without any province agreeing with it. They have the autonomy to do that.

If this Province is going to be as prosperous as the Premier and the Minister of Finance tell us, we might want to give a break or reduce the tax to people. If we wanted to do that, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would have to say, yes. If one province tells us we cannot do it, there has to be unanimous to consent to put it down.

We have given the federal government power to unilaterally do something, and we ourselves have to get 100 per cent approval from the provinces if we want a reduction. That is not consistency.

Here is an interesting point by the federal government. The federal government realizes that the tax inclusive pricing is detrimental. They are not going to put it on the postage stamps. It is too expensive. It is too cumbersome. It is too expensive, they said, to have tax inclusive pricing in postage. Then they turn around and make Newfoundland and Labrador - make this Province - and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, have tax inclusive pricing. They said it is too expensive, but it is not too expensive for the Province. They have set a double standard. They have set two different standards here: one for the federal government, and another one for the provinces.

That consistency is not there in this particular legislation to do that. They have admitted it is expensive and costly. What I have been saying the federal government has endorsed. It has endorsed the increased costs on tax inclusive pricing, and the minister and the Premier just ignore it and skirt it off and use it. The only argument they have is the public perception of 19.84 per cent down to 15 per cent. That is the only thing they have to cling to, a perception, and they haven't got a fact to back it up.

They haven't an analysis done that they will table. They either haven't got one done or they have one done and won't tell us what it is because it is detrimental to their position. Other governments have done analyses. Quebec did one three years ago. Quebec did another one this past year. The Quebec government decided tax inclusive pricing is not an option. The Quebec government said it isn't an option. This government gets bought out with $348 million? Bought out with a chunk of money dangled up front so the Premier of this Province can cave in to his former buddy the Prime Minister, and Sheila Copps, and say they got rid of the GST, and to try to fool Canadians. People who saw that public forum on the Prime Minister know that they haven't fooled the Canadian people.

John Nunziata today in The Globe and Mail challenges Chrétien over GST. Prepared to resign and fight a by-election to settle who is telling the truth. That is what John Nunziata said. He had the gall and the guts to tell what happened. When we talk about other misconceptions - it is related to finances I guess. The Premier of this Province - and it really irks me - went to Ottawa, and I will get back a little earlier. The former Minister of Education, the Member for The Straits and White Bay North, told us how bad things are in this Province when he wanted education legislation. How bad their performance was. We have to put the dollars back in the system to improve it. Then when he got the results and got through it he was out reading statements praising how good our students are. Then the Premier goes to Ottawa, and what he told that Liberal caucus is an insult to every Newfoundlander and Labradorian.

He told them about the educational level of students. We are practically illiterate. People can't learn - the dollars in the system. He gave a picture in Ottawa that ran down the education system in our Province, the Premier, to try to sell education reform in Ottawa. You ask members in the Liberal caucus what was said up there. I can tell you, it would be enough to make one shiver what he told. And a very heated thing, one I wasn't allowed to go into, that lasted all night long, and we weren't allowed to meet with the caucus. We - not allowed. Went to Ottawa to try to sell an agreement to people and we weren't allowed to go in. It went on until midnight. He was so exhausted he changed an appointment then in the morning again and ran down the education system in this Province, and then comes back and tells us how great it is now that we got what we want. In other words, isn't that perpetrating a fraud on the people?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, he ran them down in Ottawa, I just told you. Read Hansard and I will tell you -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I said in the Liberal caucus.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: With great respect, you ask him. You ask members of the Liberal caucus.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: We weren't allowed. We were told we would.

AN HON. MEMBER: How do you know what he said in the caucus (inaudible)?

MR. SULLIVAN: We were told. How do you know what he didn't say? Do you know, I ask the minister? Do you know that he didn't say it?

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Speaker, the onus (inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. I ask the minister, do you know that he didn't say it? Were you there, I ask the minister?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: So we are even now. I wasn't there and you weren't there.

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.

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

MR. FUREY: Mr. Speaker, you can't say things about people which are untrue in the House. The hon. member just said that the Premier of this Province said certain things in a Liberal caucus meeting in Ottawa. I asked him was he there. He said no, he wasn't there. How can you make allegations about somebody or what they said when you weren't there to listen or see it?

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: No point of order?

MR. SPEAKER: No.

MR. SULLIVAN: I wasn't there when the Austrian prince was killed which started off a world war. I wasn't there when the Austrian prince was killed which triggered off a world war, but I believe the historians. I was not there when Einstein said E=mc² but I believe it and I believe in the fundamental purpose of it.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, not seeing a Liberal Caucus in Ottawa, to say that he was not in the Liberal Caucus in Ottawa I don't know if he has been in a Liberal Caucus in Newfoundland and Labrador, I say to the minister. What would he know about Liberal Caucuses, I say to him? Maybe the Chilean Caucus, the Government of Chile, maybe the cellular phone conversation as he is driving up the coast and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on one side of the country and the Pacific on the other side. Very relevant, a tremendous cost to the people of this Province, tremendous cost. I wish the Minister of Education was as relevant as I am here today, I think we would be in great shape here in the Province. The Minister of Education likes it so much he wants to come over here for us to share the wisdom and the information we have with him.

I had to straighten out the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and he left. Now I have the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology straightened out on a ten cent Liberal Caucus that is there. Who is the Liberal Caucus Chairman, I ask the minister? Now I will get back again - as a former colleague of mine from Placentia said, before I was rudely interrupted -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) the whole Caucus.

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh well now, I don't know if I want to start - I could be here all day long if I start getting back there. A gentleman of the St. John's Board of Trade said tax-in pricing will force companies to change their accounting, their pricing and their point of sales systems. He said the cost of changes will be enormous and ongoing.

Mr. Speaker, I might need five days just to say all the facts and things I have here and research on harmonization. I don't know if I will get leave from the minister to go on all day long. I said people out there are pleading with government to delay a tax-in pricing until all the provinces in Canada have a blended tax because then the effects of tax-in pricing would be negated if we have a blended tax which all provinces will participate in, then there would be merit in tax inclusive pricing but not until then. The problem of tax-in pricing is not a new concern but people out there say they are getting desperate.

Last month Quebec based MMG Management Group announced a closure of several of its stores in New Brunswick. Stores like Metropolitan, Red Apple and Greenberg. The company said the new tax will cost $695,000 to implement and an additional $563,000 annually to manage. Can you imagine? Between $500,000 and $600,000 to manage it on an ongoing basis and almost $700,000 to implement it. That is an enormous figure. We are only dealing with one company and it is going to put the costs right on the consumer.

Now the Retail Council of Canada released some figures and talked about costs and I asked the minister in Question Period numerous questions pertaining to these. He either did not have a knowledge of these, pretended he did not or did not receive a letter that was sent - and it identifies it in the letter, he has been sending this to the official Opposition and to other parties, to the news media, it has gone out to everybody and the minister plays ignorance that he does not even know what is in it, did not see it and some of the things asked about it he says are not the case. Well I can assure the minister that they certainly are the case.

MR. EFFORD: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: No, but certainly if we had to have the gallery there on Wednesday night we would have had a lot of applause I can tell you. I'm not just here for applause from the gallery, I say to the minister. We are here with concern, and I'm sure the minister should be too, that this is properly debated, that the relevant points are made there. We didn't have the opportunity in a public forum, it wasn't brought out to a public forum which I requested. It was signed in secret.

If it was a good deal the Premier wouldn't be out of this Province when it was signed. He would be down with about 200 people around him extolling the virtues of a harmonized deal and praising it up, but he sneaked out of this Province, sent his Minister of Finance and Treasury Board down to make an announcement. When they announced twenty to thirty ongoing permanent jobs with the transshipment, there were over 300 people there, probably thirty times as many, or at least fifteen times as many, as are going to be working there, who were at the news conference. Here is a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars here, and the Premier either didn't consider it important enough, or felt so ashamed of it that he didn't want to face the heat from this particular deal, that he wasn't here for that particular announcement. The same Premier who didn't campaign on it, who didn't talk about it, who brought it in to please his buddies.

I made reference today to a very interesting topic. I think I have that here. I should get back to this one. It is a very interesting one. If I can find that with all my notes here on - I think it is here. Yes, I found it. Here is what the Premier said. Fisheries minister Brian Tobin on November 25 1995: The idea of a union of the Maritime provinces makes sense. It needs to be studied further and sold to the people in the region, the Premier of the Province said.

AN HON. MEMBER: Atlantica, Atlantica!

MR. SULLIVAN: Atlantica, was what he was going to call it. So maybe realizing his parlez-français is not going to get him prime minister of Canada, maybe Atlantica, Atlantic union here he talks so conveniently about. He said: Whether or not we can consolidate - he not only talks about consolidating services, he said, not only services, but also whether we can consolidate to some extent the political overlap as well, he said. He is talking about Atlantic Canada over a year ago. He is desiring to be the premier of Atlantica.

You can't get Prince Edward Island in on the deal, so this will be a step in the process of getting an Atlantic union by getting a blended tax in these regions there. But the former Liberal leader in Prince Edward Island said: No way, I won't touch it, it is bad, we will be decimated. They didn't touch it. They still got decimated. Can you imagine what the result would be if they had tried to bring it in before going to the people of Prince Edward Island? It would be even more devastating. I doubt if you would find a Liberal seat in Prince Edward Island had they tried that.

In Nova Scotia where the premier - and this is causing considerable problems, that he has now dropped down out of sight. We are even ahead of him, I say to the members. We are even ahead of the Premier of Nova Scotia. He has dropped down out of sight on HST. Because one of the factors here, it is unpopular, that people in Nova Scotia, that many of the leaders in Nova Scotia, business people and consumers and representatives for certain consumer organizations, they see that it is bad, and it isn't going to be sold to the people of Nova Scotia. They are starting to even backtrack already. They are starting to backtrack by saying: We are going to give $8 million in to meet those other costs that our Minister of Finance talked about will be an extra burden.

New Brunswick has made reference too that it is also going to rebate certain amounts. The minister said: Maybe in the budget here, I think he said today, we would be able to find this extra money to give back to people who need to buy clothing, need to pay the necessities of heating and fuel and so on.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, no doubt about it. This deal is going to be the beginning of the Premier's drive to unionize Atlantic Canada. That is basically what it is. He has expressed the desire for that before, and it is starting to lead to that. I say, Mr. Speaker, no other province would agree to this deal so why would you want, what would be the reason why, you want to bring the Atlantic provinces together under one particular union? Is this the drive that the Premier is pushing at? Is this why he has tried to drive a thorn in the side of Quebec? Are these some of the reasons and motives behind what he is doing?

In November of last year he was asked about the union of the provinces. Here is what he said, now, I will just quote what he said: It makes sense to try and consolidate our services. Then, if you are going to do that, ask yourself whether or not we can consolidate, to some extent, the political overlap as well.

This is a frightening comment coming from our Premier, I must say, if that is a goal of his, and he has to tell the people of this Province what he plans to do if this HST is to start.

I am opposed to this tax harmonization deal with Ottawa, and opposed to such union of Atlantic Canada about which the Premier is out promoting and talking about. Is that the gist of what the Premier is talking about?

We have to deal with many important issues here in this Province. As I said, we are taxed to death. We have a high tax rate in the Province, and if we are going to get a break on taxes that was not going to increase consumer costs, it would be positive. Not only are we taxed to death, as I mentioned in Question Period yesterday; death is even taxed higher. To die now, taxes is going from 7 per cent to 15 per cent. They tax you to death, and then they more than double the tax on death. If that is not putting the last nail in your coffin, I don't know what is.

Nova Scotians have said they do not want it. Prince Edward Island did not want it. If the people of Newfoundland and Labrador were aware of the implications of this deal, I can tell you, they would not want it either.

I feel confident that without the other provinces coming on stream - and the minister said today that he has no knowledge of any other ministers, any other provinces, coming on stream - that if this dies a death, what happens to the $348 million we receive? What happens to that? Do we have to give it back then, after businesses increase the cost of those tax-in pricing, changing over their computers and pricing, and pass that on to consumers, and then have to come back and turn back the clock and go redo it all over again, because it is not going to fly within this country when 93.5 per cent of the people of this Province did not buy into this agreement. It is not a workable situation. It is not workable at all.

Electricity: I am sure all of us, as members of this House, deal with many individuals who have made calls and are barely able to make ends meet in the winter. You can imagine the extra fuel costs for people on very marginal incomes, with just one person employed. There are 70-some-thousand people in this Province today depending on social services. There is an estimated 30,000 on TAGS, but a lot of these are not drawing TAGS and never did. A good chunk of these are on unemployment insurance, but those on TAGS and EI and so on, UI, EI, half-way between both now, becoming EI on January 1 fully, are on incomes where they just cannot afford to pay those extra costs of double taxation on electricity - more than double, actually - from 7 per cent up to 15 per cent.

The margin of people who can just get by now have to get a fuel supplement in the wintertime - I think it is $50 a month, the social services supplement, or $51 - can barely keep going now. In fact, people go cold in the wintertime in this Province. Many people are deprived of heat because of the increased cost, and it is not in their budget to do it. They are going to have higher costs to pay.

Maybe the Minister of Social Services could tell us: If, because of the extra cost of heating fuels now, there is going to be an adjustment in the social services budget for winter heating and so on, for fuels and so on for winter heat, because of those increased costs here? Is the Province really going to get a saving in those specific areas, and help build up the cost base in the Province, or are we going to force these people to turn off the heat a bit earlier in the day, earlier in the month, and have to go cold for longer periods of time. Many of these people are sick and disabled. We have people depending on social assistance because of the nature of their condition. They are not able-bodied people. They are elderly people who are on a very fixed income who are now going to pay extra amounts, further squeezing the budget.

I would like to ask a few particular questions. Who really benefits by HST? Let us look at it. Are they young Newfoundlanders who are trying to build their homes, are they going to benefit by this tax? The answer is `no' because we are going to see estimated up to a 4 per cent increase in the cost for a person who wants to build a new house in this Province. That is acknowledged when we go from up to 15 per cent in taxes.

Now there is provision for someone who started a house before April 1, to be able to get a refund of cost on this after that, but that is a house that is in transition. They are not going to benefit people who are trying to build a house. Are families -

Mr. Speaker, there is no quorum here anywhere in the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Pardon?

MR. SULLIVAN: I have been informed there is no quorum in the House. There are only ten people in their seats and you need fourteen.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Sure. Call for a quorum. I call for a quorum. I am the speaker, I am recognized, I am saying we do not have a quorum and I call for a quorum count.

Quorum

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is a quorum present.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Now, that I have an attentive listening audience, including former teachers -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: I will tell the hon. gentleman that it is kind of crazy what is happening here. He ended up with one person on his own side, and I believe there was a quorum here on this side, but in actual fact, Mr. Speaker, he had driven everybody out of the House including his own crew, he was over there speaking to himself. I tell the hon. gentleman that if he wants to keep on speaking I will keep enough people around here. He does not have to bother about his side. We will keep enough over here to hear him.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

There is no point of order.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Are you raising a new point of order.

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

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

MR. J. BYRNE: I do not know if I am going to pull the same tactic as the Government House Leader. I have been noticing that the Government House Leader has been wasting the time of the House on numerous occasions during the past couple of weeks standing on points of order which are continually being ruled: no point of order. I am taking a chance that mine may not be a point of order but I would like to point out that the Government House Leader is continually wasting the time of the House with no points of order.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the hon. member to take his seat.

There is no point of order.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. SULLIVAN: I will graciously accept the Government House Leader's proposal to keep an audience here for me. I will take you up on that offer I say to the Government House Leader.

I would like to ask the minister, who in this Province is benefiting from this deal? Let us look at people who are not. I have just talked about new home owners who are not because their costs are going to be increased by 4 per cent, and that is acknowledged by the industry out there today. Are seniors going to benefit from this? Will seniors benefit or people who are on fixed incomes who are going to see an increase in the cost of fuel and electricity? Even seniors who live in apartments have an extra increase in fees. Management fees are going up from 7 per cent to 15 per cent, certain fees on various rentals. People who depend on the public transit systems are going to pay an increase in fees.

What about young families out there with kids? Are they going to benefit by this tax? The answer is, no, because children's clothing, school supplies, along with heating costs for their homes, music lessons, if you take your kids to the hockey rink today the cost of GST which is 7 per cent is now a 15 per cent tax on ice rentals, and on music lessons. Whatever entertainment those kids go to it increases those costs, more than doubles the tax on those services.

Families with kids are not benefiting, people building new homes are not benefiting from this tax, seniors are not benefiting from this tax, and what about the working poor, the marginal people who are making not much more than you would make on social services? We are now seeing people who spend almost all their income on the basic necessities, the necessities of shelter, of heat, and electricity, the basic things they need. They do not have the disposable income of people in high income brackets but they are the people who are going to be paying the price.

Who else is out there? Families with kids, the seniors, the working poor, the people building new homes, the people who are more disadvantaged are going to be the people who are going to bear the brunt of this bad harmonization deal. I have alluded to this before, and I will again, there are going to be significant increases in the cost of goods and services.

There is a table here, and I am sure the minister has seen it, a table showing what the costs are going to be in Atlantic Canada. I am really appalled that this government hasn't tabled information to substantiate its case on savings on HST. Other governments are out doing an analysis of this but we have not seen one figure or we have not seen a public forum. I challenged the Premier or the Minister of Finance to discuss it in public. The Premier turned it down and would not do it.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: He backed out. He would not do it. Maybe he feels he does not know enough about it.

MR. TULK: (inaudible)

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I am not frightened to death.

The total cost of just ten particular businesses in Atlantic Canada have to increase their cost of goods, it is $33,742,000. They have indicated there are certain options they have. They said: cut employment, limit product selection, close stores or raise prices, and already we are talking about one in New Brunswick who said their costs are going to be $695,000 just to change over and annual costs on top of that they said of $563,000 a year, to meet this new tax system that they are trying to force down people's throats in the Province and that is not - I mean, these are facts coming from people who know business, who are out there from different consumer groups, from business groups, concerned about the increased costs.

There is another concern that we should have too in this Province. It is pretty difficult getting a balanced budget and to give away $100-and some million, to inflationary increases to the cost of goods and services is not correct. I know many individuals out there today and I will just make a reference. If your kid is taking guitar lessons, you have to pay the fee. Look at the price of taking a kid to a hockey rink today. GST went on it just a while back, of 7 per cent, and that was bad enough, now, on April 1, it will be 15 per cent on top of that, what this government did, they took the $10,000 subsidy away from arenas here in the Province further increasing the cost to people. Today, parents are not able to afford to put their kids into many activities because of the costs, and in my own district for example, and it is not only the cost, but other factors, out-migration which comes down to costing jobs, we have seem a minor hockey system go in the last nine years from 308 people down to about 140 people, less than half. Out-migration, costs, can't afford it, increased costs to keep a building operating, you have to increase your rentals, which are some of the lowest in the Province but still people are staying away because they can't afford those extra costs incurred.

So this deal on harmonization is not going to be positive because, how can it be positive when we are giving up $100-and some million in revenues and increasing the cost of goods and services out there? Go in and get a haircut now, or someone going to a beauty salon or take their child out to dance lessons, whatever it may be, to buy a new home, the legal fees on that now, the GST 7 per cent to 15 per cent. The accountant has to do taxes, 15 per cent instead of 7 per cent. Any service out there today in the public, taxi service and other services are increasing. Seniors who depend on public transportation are going to see a substantial increase in rates to be able to meet those particular costs, so there is a cost to almost every sector today.

The people who are making $70,000, $80,000 and hundreds of thousands of dollars, granted they will have some more money to spend but they are not the people out there today to whom we should be catering. They are the people who are going to benefit to a degree and the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board tells us that you can buy a fur coat cheaper. That is basically what he is saying, that you can buy a fur coat cheaper but you are going to pay more to buy school supplies for your kids. You can pay less for a fur coat and you pay more to buy shoes or clothing for a child for the winter, isn't there something wrong with people's basic principles?

You can go out and pay $15,000 for a coat and you might see a little drop in price, a marginal drop, and then you turn around and tack on more than 100 per cent increase on fuel or electricity bills. When you have your light bills come in now, instead of seeing that 7 per cent, if it is a $200 bill, instead of your fourteen dollars taxes right now, you will be seeing a thirty dollar tax on that, and that extra sixteen dollars is a lot of money when families are out there trying to squeeze and budget trying to get by from one day to the next. When people are waiting to get an unemployment cheque or whether it is a social assistance cheque or whether it is a cheque from the job where they are working, on a very low income that is not much more than minimum wage, it is pretty tough to have to dish out that extra sixteen dollars a month just on a light bill.

If you can afford to have a car to get to work, you are going to be taxed heavily. If you buy a second-hand car from the person down the street, under this new harmonization, you would be free from taxes but this government decided to bring in a new 15 per cent tax and I say: yes, if the cap fits, wear it, because basically -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, a nice cap.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That is the going away present I think, going away present for the minister who represents Roddickton, I say.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: That is a sensible minister, a very sensible minister I say. That minister is very sensible. Who was the minister?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, that is a good minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: I say to the Government House Leader: Is that a going away present for the Minister of Justice?

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: He might be forced to run again.

I ask this question of the Minister of Finance. He may be able to answer this one. He certainly will not answer that it be positive. Why would the Government of Canada say we cannot have tax inclusive pricing on postage stamps because it is going to be too expensive, an extra cost, and then make the provinces bring in tax inclusive pricing in their goods? If it is too expensive for Ottawa, why is it not too expensive for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador?

The minister took a chunk of money up front, $348 million, and they are going to spend it, and we are going to have $150 million to plug in our budget.

AN HON. MEMBER: I do not have enough time.

MR. SULLIVAN: Oh, we have plenty of time.

If you look at the job situation today, because of this - the minister said we are going to have harmonized tax to eliminate duplication. Then he gets the GST base and says: Oh, no, we are going to lose too much money - and I say it is $240 million -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SULLIVAN: By leave, just to finish up? I would like three or four minutes.

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition, by leave.

MR. SULLIVAN: Basically, he said -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) move an amendment.

MR. SULLIVAN: No, I am not moving an amendment. I am going to speak on this one.

What he said: the purpose of harmonization, we were going to drop the RST. That is what was said, no RST; we are just going to have the GST base. Then this Province came out, and I got wind of it, and I brought it to the public's attention months ago, there is going to be a new insurance tax with RST on it - or an insurance tax; call it what you like - 15 per cent on top of the hidden 4 per cent in insurance right now. Insurance was 12 per cent before. I do not want to give the mistaken impression there was no tax, but it was RST only, and that would have gone down to zero because there is no RST tax, technically, now. Now we put a new 15 per cent on insurance. If I sell a vehicle to a person down the street, because I am not a registrant under the HST, they would not be required to pay it; they would pay zero, and that would be a break given down to the consumer on the second car, that they would sell cheap. It would be a break to that individual. Now there is a new tax brought in. You pay, when you register, the 15 per cent. That is two extra taxes. Those are two that fly opposite to harmonized tax. We still need people to collect those taxes, to ensure they are collected, they are followed, an insurance tax. Also, they are going to freeze the liquor and tobacco tax, which certainly are not necessities. I will not disagree with that one.

All of these taxes, the minister told me when I asked him, are going to add up to $75 million, and he said there will be another $10 million or $15 million of other little taxes that he did not identify, which I asked about. I wanted to know where they were and how much they were. I did not get the answer, but there is $90 million extra we are going to take in new taxes. Where is the duplication? Who is going to administer these? We still need provincial people to administer them. We still have another set of taxes. We do have a retention, to a degree, of taxes that parallels RST. On top of all of that, we still lost jobs in our Province. We still lost jobs in taxation because what is going to happen: The area of the country now that would not buy into GST, or this new harmonized tax, Prince Edward Island, are the ones who have most of the jobs in processing in dealing with this tax. Does that make sense? The province that did not become a part of this deal is the beneficiary of this tax. Is that sensible? I say, no, it is not. Provinces that buy into a deal should be the beneficiaries. Do you want to maintain jobs in a province that does not go along with the Federal Government having a blended tax. Because there are advantages - and before I sit down - there are advantages if you have the blended tax with every province coming in on stream. There are advantages because the tax-inclusive pricing will not be there. The price of goods and services will not be increased then because we do not have different pricing and different methods in different parts of the country. So I am certainly hoping that I will get an opportunity again when we get into Committee. There are lots of points on different clauses and things that I want to make and I will certainly do that at the appropriate time.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

I was looking forward to this debate on the HST, I say to the Government House Leader. I was looking forward to this debate in particular, Mr. Speaker, because really a lot of times you would like to stand up and say you want to be straightforward and not mix politics in with it and so on, but in this debate you can't, because this debate is all about politics. This debate is all about the root of the whole politics which is back to the last federal election in this country and the GST lie. That is what it is being called, Mr. Speaker, it's as simple as that.

It goes back to that and just in today's paper, today again, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Nunziata. I mean, there is a lot of talk about Mr. Nunziata. He says, not only did the Prime Minister promise Canadians that he would scrap the GST, he also promised the Liberal caucus on a number of occasions, not just once but many times, Mr. Speaker. Then, of course, Mr. Chrétien, in his town hall meetings just a few nights ago - a waitress in Montreal, Miss Joanne Savoie said to the Prime Minister: `I voted for you, Sir, because you said you would scrap the GST.' Now, Mr. Speaker, you can change words around or you can change context. It is almost like the previous Premier saying that he never said he would bring home the sons and daughters. You can say that until the cows come home but the truth is that every Canadian from coast to coast in this country heard quite clearly, and it was the mainstay of the election, it was the main issue debated during the election, it was the issue of the election that did what it did to the federal Tory Party, it was scrapping the GST. That is exactly what happened, Mr. Speaker, and nobody can make any bones about it; it was the GST issue that was the fate of the federal Tory party in the last election.

Mr. Speaker, (inaudible) here of particular importance this week was a clip played on CBC radio, a call-in show in August 1993, when the Prime Minister - or the soon to be Prime Minister, he was Leader of the Opposition at that time - Mr. Chrétien was asked: `Sir, will you abolish the GST?' The reply was, `Yes, I will abolish it.' Mr. Speaker, you can change words around fifty different ways, but the bottom line is that every Canadian and every member in this House knows that the intent - that we felt across the country and across the Province - was that in fact yes, if we have a Liberal Government, the GST will be scrapped. The bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is the GST still there? It certainly is. It is coming on now under the HST, the hidden sales tax or you should say the hidden GST, because that is exactly what it is. There is no other way to move it around. This is all rooted at the last federal election when it was a promise - not just a promise, Mr. Speaker, when you have the Prime Minister who makes commitments on such an important issue, people expect it to be followed through.

Now today, this is an historical debate, because simply put, the Premier of this Province, with his ties with the Prime Minister of this country, a former MP and so on, who won the election, was a part of the winning team of the election that was based on the scrapping of the GST.

This Premier, the Premier of New Brunswick, Mr. McKenna and the Premier of Nova Scotia, who is starting to already feel the effects of it, Mr. Speaker - as a matter of fact, it is being quoted in Nova Scotia papers that Mr. Savage will lose his next election because of his stand on the BST, I think they call it there. They have different names on it, maybe BST is a better name for it, Mr. Speaker. BST, now you can fill in the blanks - BST in Nova Scotia and a long list of debate that has gone on in the Nova Scotia Legislature.

The truth is that we are the only three provinces sucked in to say would you help us out to cover up the GST? It is as simple as that. There is no more to it. What is going on in this House here today, as the Premier of this Province knew very well before he even came back to run in this Province, that he would be bringing forward a `help sales tax'. Maybe that is what we should call it, or a hidden sales tax or a hidden GST. You can call it so many things, BST, HST. The bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is GST under any other name. That is what we could call it. We could call it the GST under any given name - you pick the name. That is what happened here.

Mr. Chrétien stuck to his line that the party platform statement known as the Red Book committed the Liberals only to replace the GST with the harmonized HST, a commitment that Mr. Chrétien said the government has begun implementing. Mr. Speaker, just think about that. The Chrétien Government said they are starting to harmonize the tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, right, Mr. Speaker, in three of the poorest provinces in the country, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. You have to ask yourself the question, why didn't Prince Edward Island decide to take on this erroneous task of trying to cover up the GST and bring it in under some other name? Because the Liberal leader was smart enough to know he was falling, as he was, and he knew if he even uttered a word that they were considering bringing in the GST under some guise, it would be detrimental. Of course, it proved to be detrimental anyway because the Tories went from one seat in Prince Edward Island to forming the government.

A big issue in that Province just a few short months ago was the very same issue we are facing here today. Now, the Premier played it pretty smart - he waited for the election to be over, fully knowing that he would be bringing in a harmonized sales tax in this Province to appease his former leader, his colleague. The Liberal campaign chairman, David Smith, said yesterday, Mr. Nunziata may have been welcomed back if he had made amends, but now he has crossed the rubicon - he has gone too far. He is up against his own leader. The truth is, whether it is Mr. Nunziata or the rest of the Liberal MPs - Mr. Nunziata has a letter signed by Liberal MPs saying they also heard Mr. Chrétien, not in public, but in caucus meetings, saying that to his own MPs, his own caucus. He has a letter signed by Liberal caucus MPs saying that Mr. Chrétien made the promise to them, not in public, but in their own caucus.

So it is not just the Canadian public who are saying, did we hear right, it is their own members. That is what is going on here. It says: `Privately, Liberal strategists agree they still have a heavy GST toll to pay.' This is a quote from a Liberal strategist in Ottawa. `If anybody thinks this is going to go away before the next election, they are sadly mistaken,' said one Liberal strategist. This is our Achilles' heel. That is what he believe it is, because it has not gone away. It might have died off for a little while in the interim between the two elections, but my guess - I am glad to see the minister is getting back on his feet.

Mr. Speaker, you will see that this particular issue - and I will be quoted and marked for it today, that when the next federal election is called, this will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue of the next federal election, because there is no way the people of this country or this Province are going to sit back and listen to a broken commitment, because it was not just a promise; it was a commitment that won the election, and I doubt if George Baker is going to support it. That remains to be seen yet. Does the hon. the Member for Windsor - Springdale know if George Baker will defend the harmonized sales tax here in this Province? I do not know if he does; I am just asking the member. If I know George Baker, he is going to look at the merits of this and agree that this was a broken commitment - not a broken promise, a broken commitment to everybody in this Province who catapulted this particular Liberal Government, under Mr. Chrétien, into office. There is no doubt in anybody's mind, in this Province, that is exactly what happened. The GST is a hidden tax. It is a coverup of the GST, under any guise. You can paint it any way you want it.

MR. LANGDON: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Pardon?

MR. LANGDON: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: I cannot hear you.

MR. LANGDON: (Inaudible) brought it in.

MR. SHELLEY: I am not voting for anybody who brought it in. What I am saying to the Member for Fortune Bay - Cape la Hune is that the Prime Minister of this country won the election on that basis, one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue, during the federal election. Twist it any way you can.

Just look at the fiasco we have started on this particular issue. Let us take a little stroll back through history - Sheila Copps. Of course, first we had Paul Martin - no, we will go back one more step - Paul Martin quoted as apologizing, in the Globe and Mail -the quote is here - as saying: We apologize. Yes, we said we were going to scrap the GST. We did not know what we were talking about. We were just trying to get elected then. Now I am going to apologize. We cannot scrap it. He is recorded as saying it, the Finance Minister: I am sorry that we promised to scrap the GST; we should have never done it.

Then you have the Prime Minister saying: I never did say I was going to scrap it. No, he said he was going to abolish it. Scrap, abolish, what is the difference? The bottom line is that the intent was put out in the minds of Canadians, the people who gave this government their mandate in Ottawa, that the GST would be scrapped, abolished, taken away, or whatever. That is the bottom line.

I say to the members opposite, they should think about this because, I tell you, it will continue to haunt the Provincial Government as well, and this Premier who has come down to carry the torch for his colleague, the Prime Minister, to say: Yes, that is okay. I know you lied about the GST being abolished, but we will carry it, Mr. Speaker. I didn't say he lied.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is what it is. The pressure is on Mr. Chrétien, going back to last Spring when the government brought forward its plan to integrate the GST with the provincial sales tax in Atlantic Canada. At the time, Liberals were badly divided, when Finance minister, Paul Martin apologized for not being able to follow through on the campaign comments, an approach that enraged both Mr. Chrétien and Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps. They were enraged. I guess they were enraged. They said: Don't apologize for us misleading the people and getting elected. We got elected, didn't we? That is what the Prime Minister is saying. I guess it did enrage Sheila Copps.

Of course, then we went through the fiasco. I don't think any member in this House agrees with the fiasco that went on. I believe all members to be hon. here. Nobody believes what Sheila Copps - when the fiasco, the foolishness that went on, for her to resign. And first she did a big poll to make sure she could get elected, then she called a by-election, costing the taxpayers - imagine, costing us five hundred -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: The Copps name is very well known. She didn't win the country, I say to the Member for Labrador. If she had to go across the country it would be a whole different thing. Yes, in her own little region where she is the Deputy Prime Minister, where she is very well known, Mr. Speaker, yes, she did win. Where her father before her was the mayor and so on. But she should have -

MR. H. HODDER: And her sister was a Cabinet minister in Peterson's government.

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, that is right.

MR. H. HODDER: Before she got kicked out.

MR. SHELLEY: What a fiasco, Mr. Speaker. It cost the taxpayers of this country $500,000 for Sheila Copps to try to duck out of a promise and commitment that she made. What a load of foolishness! What a shame! It is foolishness that we abuse our democratic rights in this - when so many countries around the world are fighting to have democratic rights and to vote for the people of their choice, we have a fiasco such as the Deputy Prime Minister pulled in Ottawa.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SHELLEY: Are you finished now, boys?

Mr. Speaker, let us talk about the Harmonized Sales Tax as it reflects upon this Province in particular. The first thing you have to make a comment on is the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board here making his comments today, some interesting comments.

First of all, we are going to have a $348 million slush fund from the Federal Government. They said: We will give you a little gift to get you through this rough ride. The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board, and I will go on record as saying this, I hope and pray that he is right, that by 1999 we are going to be in a boom in this Province. I hope he is right. I hope everything comes on stream. I hope we find another Voisey's Bay; I hope we have Terra Nova flowing; I hope we have other mines and we are into a boom in Newfoundland.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is what we all hope, but there is only one question when the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board starts to talk about the boom and the economy. What, if it does not happen and this Province is short $105 million at least, that is what is being reported? What if we are short, Mr. Speaker, $105 million in two years or three years or four years?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: You would be in Ottawa then, I would say. Then I would ask, Mr. Speaker: How fast is this money going to be spent and where is it going to be spent, $348 million? Is it going to be spread out over the three years? But what about the foolish spending that has gone on in the past by this government, that $348 million could disappear very quickly and then, all of a sudden, we are into the second year when we are supposed to be using it, it is all gone, all of a sudden the economy is not booming like the minister is predicting, so where does that leave us, Mr. Speaker?

What we see here is short-term gain, hoping that Voisey's Bay and Hibernia and everything will be our big saviour again. It has been the history of the problems of this Province to always look at short term. Instead of Voisey's Bay and things like that to be looked at for a long term, it is always, get the quick buck, get the quick dollar, just like Churchill Falls, Mr. Speaker. You have to talk about Churchill Falls when you talk about sell-outs, because here we are, Mr. Speaker, in this Province -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible), Trans City.

MR. A. REID: And in Trans City, the waste of dollars. Term 29, Mr. Speaker, that a lot of people in this Province do not understand as yet but another quick fix. The money for the south coast ferry, all quick dollars, quick fixes, get us through this year or two or our mandate so that we can get elected again and that's it. Then what happens, Mr. Speaker, when it does not happen? Then you go battling back and what happens, we close hospital beds, we close down schools and if we can believe everything else, look what we just found out. The money that we are going to save in Education, what everybody in this Province voted for in Education Reform - and the members know it, they hear it from their own constituents; it is the same thing as not believing that Chrétien said they were going to abolish the GST, it is the same thing in this Province with Education Reform when we hear people say: I voted for Education Reform because I was of the understanding that the money we save through the inefficiencies we have now will be put back into the education system so we can buy more computers, so we can fix up rural Newfoundland schools so we can offer more services, so we can do better for students. That is what is was supposed to be all about and what happens? Just days after we supported the Education Reform, Term 17, the Minister of Education stands up and says: No, we have changed our minds on that now. We made a mistake by saying that. We cannot put it back into education, we are going to put it somewhere else.

MR. FLIGHT: Not true. The minister is not saying that.

MR. SHELLEY: He certainly is saying that. The Member for Windsor - Springdale had better start listening to the news and listening in the House. The minister said it: The money will not be going back into education. It is going to be wasted somewhere else - that's what is going to happen. That is the GST lie, and now we are going to see the same thing happen with education. The point is that we are going to have to start looking at long-term effects and what is going to happen down the road for the generations after us, or when the politicians here in this House are gone ten years from now, or a lot sooner for some people, I say to the Member for Windsor - Springdale. The least of my worries is the Member for Windsor - Springdale. If there were an election call today and the Member for Windsor - Springdale were running in my district, I would stay right where I am. I do not think I would need to go out to the district, Mr. Speaker. I could probably go around to the other districts.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: That is exactly what Mr. Hulan said. The most remarkable minister in the Province, he said, was coming down to Baie Verte - White Bay to take on the unknown in Baie Verte, the little local boy down in Baie Verte. Well, we all know what the end result of that was, and I say to the Member for Windsor - Springdale it will be a very similar result. We all find out very quickly what happens when you make commitments such as these and they are not followed through. They are not called election promises anymore, Mr. Speaker. When you go around campaigning the big buzz word is now called a commitment. So the commitment by the Federal Government and Mr. Chrétien, who saw the polls rise and saw the Tories die because of the GST they brought in, they saw the Tories nose-diving on the GST. It was a smart political move. They saw the Tories diving on the GST so what did the federal Liberals do? They jumped on the bandwagon and said, we will go with you. We will scrap the GST, that is how we will win the election.

Mr. Speaker, they can twist it as much as they want but that is the bottom line. This debate is strictly political and has nothing to do with economics or anything, Mr. Speaker. All it is is an appeasement. It has all to do with an election which is just around the corner, days away, weeks away. They are trying to cover it up. From Ottawa, he called his buddy and said: `Brian, you have to help us out, boy; we are in big trouble. Sheila's fiasco did not work. It is still not covering up. Sheila did not help us at all, and certainly Paul Martin did not help us by apologizing for it, so Brian, the only thing we can ask you and Frank and Mr. Savage to do is cover it up the best you can, will you? Because there is an election coming and we need some MPs out in Atlantic Canada.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you talk about covering up in Atlantic Canada - the most recent poll, two days ago, John Charést, the man with no party, no media attention, 32 per cent in Atlantic Canada. Now, Mr. Speaker, it begs the question, why? Why is John Charést, with no party, no media -

MR. CANNING: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: No party. A two-member party, that's no party. That is pretty close to nothing. Two members out of 292, I say to the Member for Labrador West. Two people in this party absolutely - well, next to no media, a poll is done. Mr. Chrétien is somewhere in the 40s. John Charést, no Opposition status, no sitting in the House of Commons, 32 per cent. Now, Mr. Speaker, there are two reasons for it, two reasons for that poll in Atlantic Canada: first and foremost is John Charést. Mr. Speaker, as people see this -

MR. H. HODDER: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. H. HODDER: Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that it is now 12:00 noon and there was an understanding from the Government House Leader this morning that we may be staying rather late in the afternoon, I am wondering if we could have a mutual agreement on both sides of the House to break for forty-five minutes for lunch?

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

MR. DECKER: Mr. Speaker, we will prepare to break for a half-an-hour or forty-five minutes, whatever we need, by agreement.

MR. SPEAKER: The understanding of the Chair is that the agreement is we will recess for forty-five minutes.

Recess


 

December 13, 1996         HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS       Vol. XLIII  No. 53A


[Continuation of sitting.]

MR. SPEAKER (Penney): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Baie Verte.

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

I'm glad we had a chance to break for lunch and get some more energy so we can make some very good points about this particular bill.

Friday the thirteenth, that is what today is. It is going to go down in history as a day to remember in this Province. It is the beginning of the HST, GST, BST, whatever you want to call it. Even in the last few minutes, while I was breaking for lunch, I had people come up and talk to me about this HST. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, one was so scared - I certainly wouldn't mention her name. As a matter of fact, I can't remember her name, I just met her, but she will be laid off. She works with the tax department here. She was wondering where she will be going after this is all brought through.

In the same conversation, she voiced concerns about herself as a consumer, how it is going to affect her, how she will pay more for her gas now. She said, and I quote: It is nice to be able to buy a new car, but it isn't very good if you can't afford to put gas in it. It doesn't make any sense, Mr. Speaker.

What the government should really, really be looking at, mostly, what it should be looking at more than anything else, is the impact on the consumer, the middle-income and lower-income people especially. The middle- and lower-income people don't go out buying fur coats, which are going to go down in price. They don't go out buying Porsches or Cadillacs such as are in the minister's driveway up there. They go out to buy a second-hand car and hopefully get enough gas to put in it, hopefully get enough money for groceries, hopefully get enough money for their children's clothing and so on. That is why people are starting to ask questions already.

Predominant, Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia, in the talks on this, is how it will affect the average consumer, the average joe. That is what it is all about, how it is going to really impact them directly. They aren't guessing on it, they know. They know that when you are talking about a disposable income, that 70 or 80 per cent of your disposable income is for essentials, I say to the Government House Leader. That is what the disposable income of a lot of people is. For a lot of people in this Province, their disposable income has to do with essentials, necessities.

Mr. Speaker, what are the necessities that are going to go up in price? It is electricity, it is fuel, it is gas for your car, it is children's clothes. Those are the things that are going to go up. Therefore, if most of their disposable income is on necessities and essentials, what happens? The people who can least afford it in this Province, the most vulnerable people in our society in this Province, are the people who are hurt the most.

Mr. Speaker, nobody can argue that point. Even the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board himself has made comments in the past, that, yes, indeed - as a matter of fact, he reiterated his point here today and made reference to the fact that: We might have to do something for the poorer people. That is what he said. Maybe that is why the Premier is leaning towards the motion put forward by my colleague the Member for Bonavista South, about trying to help the poorer people.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Oh, I'm delighted. Nothing wrong with it. Exactly!

MR. TULK: I can see you are overcome with joy.

MR. SHELLEY: I am overcome with joy, Mr. Speaker, I can hardly control myself, I say to the Government House Leader. I would just about jump right over the desk, I'm so excited about it. But that isn't what is going to solve the problem. I'm glad to see that the Premier took that on. I congratulate him for looking at it. I hope he is going to follow through on it now. That is the whole point now, that he follows through on, by the way, something that the Member for Bonavista South brought in some eighteen months ago? I think it was eighteen months ago he brought it in. I'm glad to see the Premier - but I remind the Government House Leader you were with the government that rejected this idea some eighteen months ago.

MR. TULK: I was in the back benches.

MR. SHELLEY: You were in the back benches. Oh, there you go, Mr. Speaker. I agree with the Government House Leader. Now you have the chance to put your clout into action, I say to the Government House Leader, and make sure you support the Member for Bonavista South.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Oh, big difference, I say to the Government House Leader, and we will see if he can put his money where his mouth is, see if he can use the clout that he talks about in the front benches, Mr. Speaker.

The bottom line, Mr. Speaker, not to detract from the point I made, which is, by the way, the most legitimate argument that we could put forward and the one which is mostly affected, is that the lower income people in the Province, even more so than the middle income people - in order to get their own reading on it, I suggest members talk to lower income people, do out their budget for them, and when they give you their disposable income -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SHELLEY: I cannot hear anything, Mr. Speaker; there is too much noise here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. SHELLEY: Mr. Speaker, just as a suggestion to all hon. members on the other side of the House, and I suggest it to my hon. colleagues as well just for your own sake, monitor this to see how people feel. I know you talk to and know low income people in your districts. Just take one family with low income and two or three children, go down through their budget, get what their incoming revenue for the month is, do it on a monthly basis, do what they pay out in necessities, do the harmonization tax, and then do a comparison compared to what it would be now. You will find that low income people will actually be losing more of their disposable income to necessities and essentials. That is exactly what will happen, Mr. Speaker. Guaranteed! Put it into a simple equation.

Take your lower income family: Say you take out for electricity, fuel oil, gas for taking kids to school, clothing for the children, and just watch their disposable income. Right now, I would guess, 70 per cent of their disposable income is going toward necessities, but with this change going through it will be 80 or maybe 90 per cent.

So Friday, December 13, the Scrooge before Christmas, because it started today, on Friday. What was all a part of yesterday and all that fuss last night, Mr. Speaker, was all about the HST. As a matter of fact, this whole sitting of the House is all about the HST.

Get through some - what did he call those bills? Trash? The Government House Leader last night referred to the twelve bills that we did last night as trash. It was recorded in the House. He said: We got through the trash bills. What are you doing bringing trash bills to the House? You should be ashamed of yourself. You should not be bringing trash bills to the House.

MR. TULK: Do you want me to say it again?

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, say it again.

MR. TULK: Trash bills.

MR. SHELLEY: The Government House Leader said: Twelve trash bills coming through the House. What are they doing, bringing trash bills to the House? So, there you go, Mr. Speaker.

This whole session of the House of Assembly is all about the HST. It was not about the so-called trash bills, as the Government House Leader said last night.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: That is right, and it worked.

Mr. Speaker, besides the issue of how long we were here, thank God for the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs last night, the Chair and the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island, that he came to the defense of all of us, as representatives in the House, and saved us from the foolishness that went on here last night. Within two minutes of a cup of coffee with the Government House Leader, what did we have? We had logic. We had a little bit of logic prevail, and it took us out of the foolishness that was going on here last night.

I say to the Government House Leader, I did not want to discuss the amendment to the Mount Pearl Act. All we wanted was some cooperation back and forth here so we could pass twelve, thirteen or fourteen bills, whatever it would be. As soon as we had a bit of cooperation - bang! - before a cup of coffee was gone, we had more done in five minutes than what the minister did in five hours.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: We did the same thing as we said at the beginning of the night.

MR. TULK: No, you did not.

MR. SHELLEY: Yes, we certainly did.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: `He who laughs last...', I say to the Member for Windsor - Springdale. He said twelve. How many bills did we do last night, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: Twelve.

MR. SHELLEY: Twelve bills. What did we say when we came to the House yesterday evening?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SHELLEY: Government House Leader - twelve bills will do. How many did we do? Twelve bills. I rest my case, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. SHELLEY: By leave, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. SHELLEY: Any leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can't say that I am happy to rise today to take part in this particular debate because it is not a debate that should be taking place right here in this House, just a few days -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair is having difficulty hearing hon. members when they are entering into the debate. I would ask that hon. members refrain from shouting across the House.

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can't say that I am happy to rise today to take part in this debate because it is not a debate that should be taking place in this House at this time of year. It is a situation whereby once again we are seeing a piece of legislation that is very negative, not a popular piece of legislation, a bill that most people, I would suggest, would be very, very unhappy with, if they knew the message behind it and if they knew what the effect was going to be on every Newfoundlander and every Labradorian, Mr. Speaker.

The Member for Baie Verte brought forward some points, Mr. Speaker, that members opposite probably can't really associate with, because as you look around over there, you look at a bunch, in most cases, of very wealthy individuals. The Minister of ITT, Mr. Speaker, a very wealthy individual. The Minister of Justice, Mr. Speaker, going around this Province in a big luxury car, and then he leaves the luxury car parked on a wharf and hops aboard a big luxury long-liner, a big luxury boat; a very wealthy man. The Member for Buchans, a very wealthy man. The Member for Bell Island, a very wealthy man. The Member for Trinity North came into a big inheritance, a very wealthy man; and the list goes on. The Member for St. Mary's, a wealthy man. And, of course, Mr. Speaker, not to forget the Minister of Health.

MR. J. BYRNE: Gold chains himself.

MR. FITZGERALD: All you have to do is look at the paraphernalia he wears. All you have to do is look at his jewellery, look at the rings, Mr. Speaker, look at the suntan that doesn't come from a bottle; a very wealthy man. The Government House Leader, Mr. Speaker, a very successful businessman.

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, is he?

MR. FITZGERALD: A very successful businessman in his other life.

MR. J. BYRNE: Oh, his other life. He was here before.

MR. FITZGERALD: In his other life. Today, Mr. Speaker, all you have to do is look at the size of him, the fat cat of the Liberal Party. I would suggest he sold a lot of encyclopedias.

I talked about the Minister of ITT, the wealthy Labradorian down there, very wealthy. The Member for Bellevue -

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

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. TULK: I don't mind the hon. gentleman calling me the fat cat of the Liberal Party but what an insult to my friend from Torngat Mountains up there, to call me the fat cat.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I am only talking about what I know of the Liberal Party, the people that I know.

The Member for Bellevue, Mr. Speaker, has taken more money out of Las Vegas than Donald Trump is after putting in there. He is a very wealthy man.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about the Opposition House Leader?

MR. FITZGERALD: A very wealthy man as well, I have to be truthful. In fact, I will say, as I have said many times here in this House, Mr. Speaker, that I am the poorest member in the House of Assembly. I have said that here many times -

MS M. HODDER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Mary, it is a toss probably between the two of us. But, I would suggest that I am the poorest member in this House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. FITZGERALD: No, they are all down at the bottom, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, Sir.

MR. FITZGERALD: That is why when I stand here in this House of Assembly to speak I represent a section of people that many people over there probably do not know because they do not associate with them and they are not around them. They are the other crowd. Those are the people who elected me, those are the people who I consider my friends, and those are the only people I know. That is why when I stand here and I hear people talking -

MR. G. REID: Did you get a (inaudible)

MR. FITZGERALD: For what, the $500 a plate dinner? Shame, I say to the member, shame. If my party was having a $500 a plate dinner I would not even be in the crowd, I would not be there. I would not pay that for the Tory Party let alone a bunch of monarchy from the Liberal side. Mr. Speaker, it is terrible. Somebody might do that but it will not be this member here, I say to the Member for Twillingate & Fogo.

AN HON. MEMBER: I will remember that. On Friday 13 you made the statement.

MR. FITZGERALD: Well, you can hold me to it. You will never see me at a $500 a plate dinner, or if I am I can guarantee you that somebody else will have paid for it. It will not be my money.

I can understand, Mr. Speaker, why people on the opposite side have no problem with this tax harmonization bill. I can understand that because you are not around the same people who I am around. You do not associate with the same people. It is probably the same thing as taking me and expecting me to move down and live next door to the Minister of Health, in that rich neighbourhood where he lives, and expect me to have as many lights on my house, and expect me to have my lawn manicured as well. I would not be able to compete. I would not be happy. I would not fit in, Mr. Speaker, and that is the reason why I cannot hang around the people with all the wealth.

You hear people talking about how you will get a reduction on fur coats when you introduce this piece of legislation here. Just imagine me going out to Bonavista and sitting down and talking to somebody - or you can pick any town of the thirty-seven I represent in my district - where some lady wants a washer or some lady needs a dryer, or some lady needs to put bread and butter on the table, and I tell them that this new sales tax will mean that if you are making $80,000 a year you will be better off, or if I sit down and tell them, if you buy a new car you will be better off. Can I sit down and tell them, if you go down to Vogue Furriers and buy a fur coat that you will pay less money for it?

That is what this is all about, Mr. Speaker. This is all about people who are very well off today in our society being allowed to be better off than they were yesterday, and the poor, the less fortunate and the downtrodden in this Province, once again being hit with another 8 per cent on the necessities they need in order to survive.

How many members opposite went out and talked to their constituents on this particular harmonized sales tax and told them that their light bills and their hydro bill will go up another 8 per cent? We just went out a few short weeks ago - I do not know if there was anybody from the opposite side but I know there were people from this side who went out and appeared before the Public Utilities Board and spoke out against a 4 per cent rate increase that Newfoundland Power was looking for. They spoke out against it because we were talking about a bread and butter issue. We were not talking about a luxury. We were talking about something that touched the lives of every Newfoundlander and every Labradorian. We went out and said it was wrong.

Now, today we are coming back and saying: No, we won't allow Newfoundland Light and Power its 4 per cent or 6 per cent increase, but we are going to take another 8 per cent away from you in a tax. With an issue such as this, where you touch so many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker, you would think that it would have been an issue during the election a few short months ago, eight months ago. If it was positive, I say to the members opposite, it wouldn't have been hard to hear it. It wouldn't have been hard to hear the Premier going out, standing up and doing his thing that he does so well, to speak about the positive things that would happen should he become premier. If it was a positive thing, the Prime Minister of this country wouldn't be trying to hide it today.

Everybody saw the news a couple of nights ago, saw the Prime Minister go out to one of those town hall meetings, and he was questioned by ordinary people in ordinary places, in places I would suggest probably much better off than Newfoundland and Labrador. The Prime Minister was questioned on it, and it made him look like his integrity and his honesty had disappeared. The man who people held up as the statue of honesty and integrity, a person to whom the taxpayers of this whole country, when they gave Mulroney the flick, reached out to and said: We want somebody who is going to tell us the truth, who is going to be honest with us. All of a sudden it is not so honest any more. He is trying to do through the back door what he is afraid to do through the front door.

MR. TULK: Who?

MR. FITZGERALD: You are going to do something - your cousin up in Ottawa, I say to the Government House Leader, your first cousin up in Ottawa. Mr. Speaker, finally the shine is coming off the Prime Minister.

I went out to the cafeteria down here dinnertime and I couldn't believe - my friend for Baie Verte was up taking part in debate, and obviously some people around the building heard him, knew he was speaking, knew he was making some good points - I couldn't believe the number of people who were gathered around his table down in the cafeteria.

I will tell you what they were talking about. They were talking about their concerns with this particular tax. What he said when he came back here was true. These are people with jobs. These are people who come to work today, make a day's pay, and are probably fortunate enough to have their husband or wife working as well. How many people out there today aren't fortunate enough for that? It was only a few short months ago we saw thousands of dollars, Mr. Speaker, taken away from the people who are the least fortunate of all, and they are the people on social services in this Province.

We saw an emergency funding taken away of $61 a month that was provided for special needs, special food and special medical supplies that those people would need, rather than have them go without. Now today we are allowing them - I think it starts in November or December month. The first of December they get an adjustment of $51 for a fuel allowance during the winter months in order to help pay their fuel bill and their light bill. Now we are going to go and stick another 8 per cent on top of that. We are going to stick another 8 per cent on top of their fuel bill. I doubt very much if we are going to be putting any money back into it. I doubt very much if we are going to be giving the social service recipients of this Province the amount of money that will make up for what they are going to lose with this particular sales tax harmonization.

I was just passed a piece here. It says: Nunziata challenges Chrétien over GST. Prepared to resign and fight a by-election to settle who is telling the truth, the MP says. It goes on to say: Privately Liberal strategists agree they still have a heavy GST toll to pay. If anyone thinks that is going away before the next election they are sadly mistaken, said one.

It will not go away, Mr. Speaker, during the next federal election, and I fear that - there will be by-elections in this Province. The Minister of Justice is not going to be around here too much longer. He is soon going to be gone. He is soon going to be enjoying the good life. All you need next summer, I would suggest, when the Almanac comes out -

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I say to the Government House Leader, that I will make a prediction here today that when the Farmer's Almanac or the Dodds Kidney Pills Almanac comes out, the first thing the Minister of Justice will do, is look to see what the weather is going to be like, if it is going to be windy weather or calm weather in 1997; and if it is a good forecast he is gone, he is out of here. He will be jumping aboard his luxury cruiser and going around the Island. He will be sailing into the sunset.

MR. DECKER: (Inaudible) my constituents. Every summer I (inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: No, you do not, I say to the Minister of Justice. You stay away from your constituents, and you sail around where you can enjoy yourself and lie on the deck rather than have people bothering you, up to Little Bay Islands, down around Bonavista and over around Catalina. I know his whereabouts, Mr. Speaker. When you see the big cruiser come into the bay, playing the Newfoundland music, you don't know if it is the Christmas Seal or the Minister of Justice. It is about the same thing; the boat is about the same size. It is unbelievable.

If I had a boat, or if I drove a car like the Minister of Justice drives and operates, I would never get elected in my again.

MR. DECKER: I don't use that in my district.

MR. FITZGERALD: You probably don't, I say to the minister. You probably park it and hop aboard your little Geo Metro, and they think you are a poor man. They will know.

MR. SULLIVAN: What kind of a boat does he have? Tell us about his boat. I don't know.

MR. FITZGERALD: Oh, he has a big cabin cruiser.

MR. SULLIVAN: How big?

MR. FITZGERALD: I don't know if he has a mate, or if he has staff on it or not, but I know it is a luxury boat, and I know that he spends all of his summers on it, and I know there is a lot of entertaining done on it. In fact, that is how he became the Minister of Justice. I think the Premier was wined and dined on it a good many times, prior to his running for the leadership and becoming Premier of this Province. So it is nothing new; everybody in the House knows what the Minister of Justice is up to.

It is only a matter of time - the Government House Leader, now, is out in Musgrave Town looking for a piece of land.

AN HON. MEMBER: What?

MR. FITZGERALD: Out in Musgrave Town looking for a piece of land to build -

MR. SULLIVAN: Agricultural land?

MR. FITZGERALD: No, it will not be agricultural land.

MR. J. BYRNE: Who are you talking about?

MR. FITZGERALD: The Government House Leader.

MR. J. BYRNE: The Government House Leader?

MR. FITZGERALD: He was out looking for a piece of land on which to build a mansion.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where?

MR. FITZGERALD: Out in Musgrave Town. He is out looking for a piece of land on which to build a mansion. I asked him where he was going to build it. `Way back', he said. I can understand that, because he does not want to be around the poor people - well back.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: Who is it? The fellow who used to be the Deputy Minister of Social Services, the fellow who was a successful businessman in Gander, the fellow who has his Masters degree in Education.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who did you say it was?

MR. FITZGERALD: Right here in front with the suspenders on, the fat cat of the Liberal Party.

Mr. Speaker, taxes are not popular in anybody's book. Nobody likes to see taxes implemented, nobody likes to see a rise in taxes, but we all realize we are living in a world today where we must have taxes in order to provide the services we need, in order to provide for our local roads, our hospitals, education and everything else.

The Member for Windsor-Springdale better leave. He got into trouble here last night I understand, shouting across the floor. So he had better go on now while he is ahead.

Mr. Speaker, one thing that the party should do, whether it is the Liberal Party or the PC Party or that other party, there is one thing that they should do and that is to be up front with the people. The days are gone, I say to members opposite, when you could bring in legislation, bring in taxes and do all the things you want to at will and nobody will find out. Those days are gone. Everybody today listens to the news, reads the paper, has television sets and are much more informed than they were years ago. Members opposite must think that they are still living back in the old Smallwood days, when they would jump aboard the coastal boat and go into a community, see a few people on the wharf and tell them what they wanted to hear, twist it around and go in the back rooms -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: The member knows all about that. Mr. Speaker, they told everybody what they wanted to hear, and all they had to do was show up in the district the next time around, wear a red tie, and they were automatically elected. That does not happen anymore. People are held accountable for their actions.

The Member for Labrador West is not here now, so I probably should not speak his name, but he will know what I am referring to, by being held accountable; he will know. That is what happens. I can come here and support my leader and support my party to the hilt, but if I want to make a career out of politics, if I want to be elected again, I will have to go out and support my people.

The Member for Eagle River is a prime example. Those who sat in this House in the last sitting know what happened to the Member for Eagle River, a prime example of somebody jumping up everyday and talking about what a wonderful leader you have. He could do no wrong. Everything that was happening in Ottawa by his cousins was wonderful. Proud to be a Canadian, proud to be a Liberal, proud to support the former Premier, right behind the former House Leader, and look where it got him. Look where it got him, Mr. Speaker. Look where it got him. There is one thing that he forgot to do, and that was to support the people who elected him. That was the one thing he forgot to do.

There came a time when he had to go back and start knocking on doors. That won't happen to the Minister of Justice anymore. There came a time when he had to go back knocking on doors. The Government House Leader knows all about this; he forgot about his people, he walked away from them.

MR. J. BYRNE: I don't believe it!

MR. FITZGERALD: He did. The Government House Leader walked away from his people. Ask him what happened to him.

MR. J. BYRNE: What happened to him?

MR. FITZGERALD: They gave him the flick.

MR. J. BYRNE: Did they?

MR. FITZGERALD: They gave him the flick. Sure they did, and he would be the first one to admit it. Now he is changed, Mr. Speaker -

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

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

MR. TULK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. gentleman is absolutely right, they gave me the flick, but when they saw what they got come the next election, they said: Come home my boy, come home with us now.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MR. TULK: No, I am sorry! I had to clarify it.

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

MR. FITZGERALD: Mr. Speaker, I never said what happened the next time, but I can guarantee you if he loses sight of why he was elected and if he loses sight in supporting the people who elected him, he will get the flick again.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: If you decide to run. I am talking about if you decide to run. You will get the flick again, if you don't.

That is why I say to members opposite that we don't stand up over here on this side of the House just to be negative, we don't stand up over here on this side of the House because we enjoy hearing ourselves talk and we don't stand here because it is popular to be on our feet and somebody might quote us on television or on radio. Mr. Speaker, we stand here because we represent our people, and there should not be one person opposite who should do any less.

I challenge the Member for Port au Port, a very reputable man, to go back and tell his people what this harmonized sales tax will mean to them, and then come here and stand in his place next week and say that they gave him the go ahead to support it. I challenge him to do that. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that he will not stand because it will not happen, because the district of the Member for Port au Port is not much different than mine, high unemployment and not a lot of opportunity there. The people there are struggling just to survive today.

I guarantee you, if the members opposite can tell me that it is a positive thing to allow people's light bills, their hydro bills, to increase 8 per cent, and if they can convince me that all the services that are not now taxed and that will be taxed with this is a positive thing, and their constituents will agree with it, then they are not listening. I cannot understand, Mr. Speaker, why people would stand and support this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has been asked questions from this side of the House many times, and every time he answers a question it always seems to be a different answer. I am not sure where he is coming from. I cannot get any straight answers from him. I cannot get my mind around them. It does not seem like he is in tune with knowing exactly what is going to happen. It appears to me it is a situation whereby the Prime Minister of this country, who promised to do away with the GST, like he promised to do away with free trade and all the other things that were on his agenda that he thought was popular, now is trying to save face.

MR. McLEAN: Did he buy a new car?

MR. FITZGERALD: No, I did not buy a new car, I say to the hon. Minister of Government Services and Lands. I cannot afford to buy a new car. I just said, I am the poorest man in the House of Assembly. I did not buy a new car, but I did help my daughter with buying a car, and I got ripped off when I got charged 4 per cent sales tax.

MR. G. REID: You hoard your money.

MR. FITZGERALD: I do not hoard my money, I say to the Member for Twillingate, like he does. That is what is wrong with this Province today. If you have a few dollars, spend it. The only difference between you and the Minister of Health is that the Minister of Health spends his money but he spends it in the wrong place. He spends it all south of the border, down where the sun shines. I met him one time in PEI after he had just come back from Florida. We had a good meeting I must say. You were there at the time. I have to say that the minister represented his party well and when he stands to speak he usually, if he can get away from the crowd, makes some sense. The people in Prince Edward Island did not think he was from Newfoundland. They thought he was from Cuba. The Lieutenant-Governor's husband asked me if the Minister of Health, who was a private member at that time, was from Cuba because he was so dark, so black.

MR. NOEL: (Inaudible) anything about his politics.

AN HON. MEMBER: He was Castro-like, was he?

MR. J. BYRNE: That is a good point too.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you come back from (inaudible)?

MR. FITZGERALD: Yes, I did, I say to the member opposite.

He came to me that night - and he was a bit of a character if the member recalls. He was a good judge, there was no doubt about that. He said to me: The fellow who is in government for Newfoundland, is he a cuban? The reason he said that wasn't because of your accent or because you were tall, but because of your suntan, your Florida suntan. He told me that he was off to Hawaii after that or some southern island, Mr. Speaker?

You know, the thought started to click in my head: I don't know how you can do this. Here is the Member for St. John's East - and now I have to bring out the other unfairness - who represents less than 7,000 voters, never gets a call, is not bothered with anybody, drives around in his big Jaguar on the city streets, meets somebody at a stop light and don't even look, Mr. Speaker, couldn't care less, is totally independent. I go down in my little Geo Metro, I go down, Mr. Speaker, in my old second-hand car to Bonavista and I drive around and everybody thinks there is something wrong with my hand because I am acknowledging everybody.

I have sat at a red light for this man here in his Jaguar and blew the horn ten times before I got his attention. He did not know if I was his next door neighbour, if I was the Member for Bonavista South or if I was his son, and he didn't care. That is how independent and how out of touch people on the opposite side are.

I have passed by his house many, many times and the only place I have ever seen him is out on the back veranda. He won't even go out on the front veranda because people might know that he is the Minister of Health and would stop and ask him questions about all the cutbacks and all the hospital bed closures. That is the reason why.

MR. MATTHEWS: Do you go to church on Sundays?

MR. FITZGERALD: I go to church every Sunday in my district, I say to the member opposite. I go to church every Sunday but I go in my district, and I go to all the churches. There is only one church that I don't go to. Those people do not vote, so I don't go there. That is all I am saying.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: It is the only church that I don't go to. I remember calling that church one time when we were trying to erect a war memorial, when I was the Mayor of Musgrave Town. I picked up the phone and I called and said: We are having a memorial service and I wonder if I could have it announced in the church, so that we could have people gather around as we are having a special collection to support a memorial. The person at the other end said: No, we don't believe in war, we don't believe in celebrating war, we don't believe in erecting memorials.

AN HON. MEMBER: So, you wouldn't go to that church.

MR. FITZGERALD: No, but it was a situation whereby their beliefs totally clashed with what my beliefs were, I say to the member opposite; and I don't think that your beliefs, sir, are those either.

AN HON. MEMBER: I don't think Jesus was overly impressed with war.

MR. FITZGERALD: Maybe he wasn't, I don't know, I did not take part in war. You are not going to drag me into a religious argument with you, Rev. Decker, because you know much more about the Good Book than I do. You are a man of the cloth and I am a man of the people. There is a difference.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a man of both.

MR. FITZGERALD: Used to be a man of both, I say. Now, he is something like you, minister, something like you, turning your back on the people, don't know who they are, don't know when you are talking to somebody from your district -

AN HON. MEMBER: I see you have to get your horn checked, boy.

MR. FITZGERALD: I can tell you one thing right now, Mr. Speaker, I have the biggest district in Newfoundland and Labrador, population wise.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: No, you don't. The biggest district in Newfoundland and Labrador, population wise, is Bonavista South; the biggest district. I would suggest to you that there are not twenty-five faces in my district that I would not recognize.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.

MR. FITZGERALD: I will challenge you to that any time at all.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did you say, Roger?

MR. FITZGERALD: I bet you that there are not twenty-five faces - I may not be able to call everybody by name, but I can guarantee you one thing, I will challenge anybody to put twenty-five people in front of you from my district whom I don't recognize.

AN HON. MEMBER: I recognize 100 per cent of mine.

AN HON. MEMBER: Your problem is, they don't recognize you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: They all recognize me. I know the member could not say that without laughing, because he knows it is not true.

MR. SULLIVAN: Almost 5,000 recognized you the last time.

MR. FITZGERALD: Just about 5,000 recognized me the last time; that is right. Anyway, I am not going to get into that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. J. BYRNE: By leave!

AN HON. MEMBER: No leave.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FITZGERALD: She probably can. Most of the people I do not recognize are probably in the ten communities that came in after.

It is a situation, Mr. Speaker, that I try -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FRENCH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I intend to take some time to talk on this particular bill.

I have to say that my friend from Bonavista South made me a little bit nervous earlier when he referred to the Government House Leader as the fat cat of the Liberal Party. I was afraid that he might refer to me as the fat cat of the Conservative Party. He made me a bit nervous.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why?

MR. FRENCH: I have no idea. The only reason I could see that he might call me that, I say to the Minister of Health, is for my size and my size only. One thing he said was totally true.

AN HON. MEMBER: What have you got against big people?

MR. FRENCH: Well, I have nothing against big people; I have been one all of my life.

Again, when he referred to being the poorest member in the House of Assembly, I would have to challenge that. I am not sure he is the poorest man in the House of Assembly. He may be the second poorest, but he is certainly not the poorest man in the House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, today the tax harmonization, the GST or the PST, or whatever we intend to call it here in this particular Province - it was great this morning to see the minister stand in his place and say: We are not going to charge 20 per cent any more on vehicles. I wish he had done that about three weeks ago. He probably could have saved me a few dollars. Unfortunately, he did not; so that is fine. I am not really worried about what I had to pay.

I guess, what I am worried about is the amount of money - the number of cars that are sold or, as our leader said this morning, the number of fur coats that are sold, is not really important; because we have lowered the taxes on that. What will be important to the people of my district is the amount of money they are going to pay on their light bill. That is what will be important in my district, Mr. Speaker, the amount of money they are going to pay on children's clothes. Those are the things that are going to intrigue the people of my district. When we made our cuts in health care, when we made our cuts to social services, I said then and I say now, we have probably hurt some of he poorest people in this Province.

It is very interesting to note in today's Globe and Mail how John Nunziata, who was at one time a Liberal, got the flick from the Liberal Party for being an honest politician, for being a politician who had the gumption to stand up and say to their party exactly what he thought. It is very interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the former Liberal MP, of course, challenged the Prime Minister yesterday to call a by-election in the riding of York, South-Weston to settle who Canadians believe is telling the truth. It intrigues me, Mr. Speaker, that there are three provinces in Canada, and three provinces only in Canada, who have bought into this particular bill. The Liberal Government in Prince Edward Island said absolutely no, when they were the government; absolutely no. What happened to them? Very simply, they did what our Minister of Health was doing, they cut health care, they fooled around with education, and our party came from one to government, I say to the Minister of Justice. That is what happened to the Liberal Party, nothing to do with the GST.

Mr. Nunziata has challenged the Prime Minister. A very interesting show the other night, Mr. Speaker, on television, when the Prime Minister of the country was on and he had a great problem trying to answer questions. When he got cornered, I suppose, like the old saying in this Province, sometimes if somebody gets cornered then they go at you, they leap at you, and the Prime Minister got cornered. He got cornered by an ordinary Canadian who asked him about the GST and his promise to the people of Canada to do away with it.

Now the biggest charade, one of the biggest charades ever, ever in Canada, was the Premier's buddy, Sheila Copps, cousin or whatever you want to call her. That was the biggest charade of all, because after she had so much pressure put on she finally decided to step down. What a bluff! How crazy, Mr. Speaker, to go back and run in the same election and away to go, back in Cabinet, held her seat open, the whole works. I mean, what a farce!

Now, are we doing away -

AN HON. MEMBER: That's democracy boy.

MR. FRENCH: Well, I have another name for it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, fiasco.

MR. FRENCH: Yes.

It is very interesting to note, in this same article, Mr. Speaker, that Canadians right across the country, are now calling into question the integrity of the Prime Minister of Canada, because the Prime Minister of Canada said: We will do away with the GST. As we all know, Mr. Speaker, that certainly did not happen.

Now we are going to cover it up in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are going to cover it up because of some deal that was made. If this deal was so great for our Province there would have been a big do at the Hotel Newfoundland, there would have been free drinks and free food and everything would have been flowing because it would have been a great announcement. It would have been a great chance for the Premier of this Province to stand up and say -

AN HON. MEMBER: Is it in the Red Book?

MR. FRENCH: It is not in the Red Book. The harmonization of the GST and the PST is certainly not in the Red Book. There was no mention of it, of course, back in February. The mention of it will come when we bring it to being in this particular Province. Then, I say, we will find out what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador think of this particular piece of business.

It is also interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, from the same article, today's date, the Globe and Mail - if somebody does not have a copy I will gladly send it over. Of particular importance this week has been a clip played on the CBC radio of an August 1993, call-in show in Toronto, a Toronto radio station, CFRB, in which Mr. Chrétien was asked about the GST. The question, Mr. Speaker, was put quite clearly to the Prime Minister: Will you abolish the GST? Will you, if you become prime minister of this country, abolish the GST? His answer was: Yes, I will abolish it.

Now, what is going to happen about eight months down the road when only three provinces in this country of ours are part of this legislation? Because so far they are getting nowhere with British Columbia, nowhere with Alberta, nowhere with any of the provinces in Western Canada, Mr. Speaker, absolutely nowhere. They won't hear tell of this. They don't seem to be going anywhere with it in Ontario and Quebec. They can't do anything with it in Prince Edward Island. But three Liberal premiers - Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland - have all signed on to this deal.

What a deal it is, Mr. Speaker, for the people of my district! I would love to know where we are going, what we are going to do when we raise the light bills. We spent the greater part of the last session here, day-in and day-out, my colleague for Kilbride and I, presenting petitions, day after day after day, in this House of Assembly about the increase in the utility rates in this Province. Now we are going to see them rise again. We are going to watch them go up again because of this particular piece of legislation.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that that is wrong, certainly wrong when we are going to attack families in this Province who have young children. Why didn't the minister this morning when he came to his feet to read his ministerial statement, if he wanted to give the people of this Province a Christmas present, why didn't he say to heck with cars and trucks in Newfoundland and Labrador? Why did we put it on children's clothing? Why didn't we leave it off children's clothing? Why didn't he, when he got up this morning, again say: Forget the cars, forget the trucks? Why didn't he leave it off our light bills?

I don't know if he gets the same telephone calls I get, but I get lots of them from some of the poorest people in this Province.

MR. EFFORD: Why should he get the same ones as you get? (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Oh no, he may get them too, I say to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture; maybe. They might call him two minutes after they call me. Maybe they even call the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. I don't know if they would or not, but they might.

Mr. Speaker, here is what we are going to do to the people in our Province. We are going to make it more expensive for these people to live.

Mr. Speaker, the compensation package is too little, will run out way too soon, and what happens to us then? Who makes up the shortfall we will have in this particular Province? Where will the money come from then? Will we do as we are now doing to the hospitals in this Province? Will we force more people out the door? Will we serve food that isn't fit to eat? Will we tell people with elderly parents that they have to stay there at feeding time to feed them? Will we say to people that you should be there at night? If you want your mother or your father admitted to hospital, stay there, and if you can't do that, then your mother or your father can't be admitted to hospital. Can you imagine that, Mr. Speaker, in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Can you just imagine last Friday night on the fifth floor of the Health Sciences Centre, when food was served in a container and the food that was in that container was spoiled? It was actually fermenting in the bowl that the soup was served in.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: That came from the kitchen.

I say to the Minister of Health, we are now going to take food from Donovan's Industrial Park and bring it around to the hospitals in this Province, and we can't even get food from downstairs up to the fifth floor and have it fit for human consumption. That happened last Friday night in the Health Sciences Centre.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Don't you worry about that. I can eat just as good as you can, thank goodness.

I would like to carry on, so if you could kind of muzzle this fellow over here, Mr. Speaker, I will keep going.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: No boy, I haven't. Thank goodness for that, I've been lucky. Maybe you have been lucky too. But let me tell you something, there are lots of people around this Province who, when this goes through, won't be as lucky.

AN HON. MEMBER: You wait and see.

MR. FRENCH: I don't want to wait and see. I want something done with it now, Mr. Speaker.

In health care, we had a very serious incident this morning where somebody died in our Province, but somebody comes on radio and says: He was only on the waiting list six months. That isn't very much comfort to the family of a person who has died, and who clearly lay it on the steps and at the doors of health care cuts in this Province. That is what the family of that particular man is saying; and now we bring this in.

Certainly, the tax harmonization has only been approved in three provinces in all of Canada. That should be some kind of a message to us in this Province, some kind of a message to the people in our Province, and some kind of a message to the people in Canada, I say, Mr. Speaker. The people in Nova Scotia don't want it, and the government will pay for bringing it in. They will rue the day that they brought it in. They will pay for that particular day.

As I said earlier, the HST will drive up the price of electricity when thousands of consumers just finished voicing their concerns on electrical rate hikes in this Province. Just imagine, Mr. Speaker! On top of all of this, we are going to lose our autonomy to set the tax rates under this deal. Ottawa can raise the rate unilaterally. Any province can veto a decrease. If our revenue needs increase, what will we do to get the increased revenue? If our revenue needs decrease, how are we going to give a sales tax break? We can't do it without Ottawa, we can't do it without the other provinces. What a great deal to get us into!

Now, the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board tells glowing stories about the economy growing, making up the loss of revenue under this HST. But the government's social advisory committee documents say the next few years will bring an economic downturn because of fewer workers, fewer paying taxes, more seniors with needs, and smaller population and declining transfers. Both can't be true,Mr. Speaker. It can only be one or the other. The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board is painting a rosy picture just to sell this tax harmonization to the people of this Province. I suggest to the Speaker, that this will not work.

The government is breaking its promise on education reform savings going back into education because the HST deal is going to leave us, down the road, in a revenue-crisis situation, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Yes, indeed I am.

The government rushed into a bad deal without considering the consequences and ...

MR. EFFORD: Not only does he (inaudible), he is reading it.

MR. FRENCH: That's good. I am glad I am reading it. I don't want you to miss anything.

... and is desperately sealing the deal, not because it is good for the Province but because they think it is good for the Liberal Party of Canada. That is the only reason we have this deal today, to soothe the cousins in Ottawa, the great Prime Minister of Canada, but we will see what he has to answer to when he goes to the polls this spring. We will see what the ordinary Canadians think of his particular promise.

To make up the new rates, the government is going to have to introduce new taxes on insurance rates in this Province, and if that happens, imagine where we are going to go with insurance in this Province? A while ago, when we had the private members' bill on insurance, it was getting on in the evening and I chose, from our side, not to speak on it. At that particular point in time, Mr. Speaker, I went from $239 a year to something over $2,000 to insure three vehicles. Now, are we going to have to introduce a new tax to drive those insurance rates even higher and higher and higher? I would certainly hope not, Mr. Speaker.

Tax harmonization means the end of the GST rebates. At one time I operated a business in my own community, and let me tell you, the day that those cheques came out, Mr. Speaker, was certainly one of the busiest days I had in any given year, one of the busiest days that I ever had. That was when I owned my own business some time ago. When the GST rebates came out, it would be nothing for us to change seventy-five to one hundred cheques every single day. In a two-day period we would be driven absolutely crazy with GST cheques. That is now gone once we harmonize the tax; that is over with, that is done away with.

We will lose tax-processing jobs because of harmonization, Mr. Speaker. There are people who work in this building today - I believe two separate groups now have been out for meetings with the federal government. The people who I have talked to about these meetings, have learned absolutely nothing about, are they going to have a job or are they not going to have a job? These people want to know, but are being told absolutely nothing. They don't know where they are going. They don't know if, in a month's time or six months time or three months time, they are still going to have their jobs. I think again, that that is certainly wrong.

So, Mr. Speaker, with all these things going on, we have to harmonize taxes in this Province, and we are going to harmonize taxes in this Province; and that is a mistake. We, on this side of the House, intend to do everything in our power to see that this particular bill does not pass.

Again, Mr. Speaker -

MR. EFFORD: How are you going to do that?

MR. FRENCH: Oh, time will tell. We intend, Mr. Speaker, to work and work diligently with the people of our districts. We intend to work diligently, and will continue to work, Mr. Speaker, for the rights of the people who we represent in this Province. Whether the Minister of Fishery and Aquaculture likes it or whether he does not, we have a right and we will certainly do our utmost to see that these people are represented and represented properly.

So, Mr. Speaker, I have to say that this particular piece of legislation is certainly wrong. I guess over the past number of months, on numerous occasions, and I have copies of some of our press releases here, Mr. Speaker, where, time after time after time, we have raised these issues, time after time after time.

It is very interesting to note that in the past seven or eight days gasoline in this Province has gone up another two cents a litre. I don't know if anybody has noticed it but it has gone up. At one time, in my area anyway, you paid 60.9 cents a litre for unleaded gasoline. Today, in my district, that is up to 62.9. I realize that in other parts of the Province it is probably even higher again.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: Gasoline. In the last seven days it has gone up an extra $0.02 a litre. Why? I have absolutely no idea. It is probably another way for the major oil companies to make a few more dollars for themselves. I happen to know a little bit about some of the major oil companies in this Province, having been involved with one in particular for ten years, but that is a story for another time and another place.

MR. WALSH: Certainly another time.

MR. FRENCH: Certainly another time, yes. I agree with the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island, certainly something for another time.

With this tax, Mr. Speaker, as I see it, we will again drive the price of gasoline up; I don't know by how much. I would really like to know how much our gasoline bills are going to rise in this Province. I would really like to know what this tax is going to do to gasoline prices in Newfoundland and Labrador.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: No. Well I am one of them. Oh, yes. Since the oil companies got through with me, yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. FRENCH: You are not one of the wealthies? I believe he is somehow.

Mr. Speaker, the tax on children's clothes: The parents who I get calls from now - in the month of September when school opened my calls increased probably about five times what they normally were, and a lot of the concern was their children going back to school, how they were unable to buy clothes and so on. It was a great cause for concern. When somebody calls you and says: We have used our money to buy children's clothes and we now have nothing to eat, then what do you do? Where do you go? You do everything you can to try and help these people stay alive, because that is all they are doing, they are existing.

Again I look at amateur sports. It will now be taxed at 15 per cent. On the one hand when we preach, of course, all kinds of activities, our minor sports groups, or a lot of them in this Province, are now going to be hit with a 15 per cent tax increase. Again, Mr. Speaker, as one who certainly had a background, as a volunteer anyway, in sports, that really concerns me as well. We are trying to promote things within this Province as it relates to sports, and I have to say that this is really a disgrace.

The government is certainly sending mixed messages on the economy, Mr. Speaker. The tax harmonization, as I see it and as we see it, is certainly a sell-out in this Province. The tax harmonization deal was done and was done very quietly; no fanfare, no anything. I believe the day the deal was signed the Premier was in Ottawa doing business. So it goes to show that there is something wrong here, because if this was such a great thing he wouldn't have been away, he would have been in this Province and he would have been really beating the drum for this particular piece of legislation.

This particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, is harmful to the people of this Province. Hopefully, this tax harmonization deal will fall apart. The signing, of course, was done, and done, as I said, in a very hush-hush meeting. The Province is going to lose, of course, its taxing autonomy in this Province, and there has been absolutely no public consultation on this particular piece of legislation. So the message has to get out to the public about, not the decreases on trucks and cars but the increases on children's clothes, on your light bill, and other things that we have to buy in this Province. There has been no public consultation on that, I say, Mr. Speaker. There was public consultation on other things. I am not so sure just how public that really was.

Even in here, Mr. Speaker, there is no escape clause. We have to rely on somebody else to tell us what we can or cannot do in this Province, and that is shameful: when we have to go to Uncle Ottawa, or whatever you want to call them, and say: Can we change the tax rate in Newfoundland, either up or down, it does not matter which? Can we change this tax rate up or down? Again, we certainly cannot. We certainly cannot change the tax rate in this particular Province.

This deal in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, has created quite a stir, and will continue to cause quite a stir for, I would suggest, many years to come. Let's talk about more to come.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back for a minute to the Globe and Mail.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. FRENCH: By leave, Mr. Speaker?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No leave.

MR. SPEAKER: No leave.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island.

MR. WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am only going to take a few minutes of the allotted time just to probably point out some issues that hon. members opposite seem to be missing. No doubt they have been able to single out one or two items that they can push the panic button on, push the fear button on, push a button that will at least allow people out there to say: Where are we with the oil, and where are we with the electric?

One of the biggest problems they have, Mr. Speaker, is that they neglect -

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

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I know at times that the hon. gentlemen on the other side get carried away, but we are going to hear a very good speech now, it is going to be a very intelligent speech, and I would ask the hon. gentlemen to be quiet so I can hear my colleague.

MR. SPEAKER: It is a point of order. Every member has a right to be heard in the House, but I don't think we need to elaborate any further on it.

The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East and Bell Island.

MR. WALSH: Now that I have been caught in full flight, allow me to try to recapture my thoughts.

Mr. Speaker, one of the biggest problems is that hon. members have forgotten to say, here in the House of Assembly during the debate so far today on this issue, that there will be $105 million re-injected into the economy; $105 million back into the economy. I get concerned when I see them lining up in front of the oil trucks because of the fact that tax is going on the oil. I think they want to be very careful with their argument because a lot of people in this Province also realize that the tax is dropping from 20 per cent to 15 per cent. They tend to bypass other things that people need on a daily basis, items that people have to use daily.

If you were to just take a stroll through a drugstore, you would find that people who use aftershave lotions will see a 5 per cent savings. I sense that maybe hon. members on the other side may not use these items on a regular basis. Everything from Anacin to baby powder, from toiletries to diapers, will all come down from 20 per cent to 15 per cent, and these are items that are used day in and day out by families who themselves are probably starting out in life. Everything from Band-Aids to, in some cases, for the athletes anyway, the Ben Gay comes down. From breath sprays to Bromo Seltzer, from candies and confectionaries, from cat food to castor oil comes down, Mr. Speaker, and we can go on; from furniture to furniture polish. All of those items, and other items that are used on a daily basis, will come down. Kleenex, toilet tissue, things that are used every day will drop from 20 per cent to 15 per cent.

The unwillingness to at least be fair enough to admit, in the argument, that $105 million is being left in the economy - last week during Question Period, Mr. Speaker, there was a big concern for the automobile industry, a big concern that this piece of legislation would now come to the House of Assembly and be passed. What would happen to the automotive industry between now and the first?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WALSH: I was coming to it. Coming on April 1, what would happen? It was listened to and some common sense prevailed.

Yes, as of tomorrow morning the tax on automobiles will move down that 5 per cent with some people seeing anywhere from $200 to maybe $800 savings.

Mr. Speaker, there isn't the fact that we are not listening, there isn't the fact that we are not attempting to do what we can to address the needs of individuals out there, the problem we have in this House is that the Opposition, who have a right to point out flaws, have been able to single out one item, but a willingness to avoid all the other items that are used on a daily basis; from garbage bags that we all use every day.

It is a 20 cent tax that you pay and it is over, but now you only pay 15 per cent. You move from 20 per cent down to 15 per cent. I have never seen, in my eight years in the House of Assembly, a group of individuals who are willing to stand up and tell us: Leave it at 20 per cent. That seems to be what they want to do.

They are afraid, Mr. Speaker, that the average person in Newfoundland, at the end of each month, buying the same basket of goods today that they bought last month and the month before, going back twelve months, that the basket of goods they will buy today will now be 5 per cent less as of April 1. There is no willingness to admit that, no willingness to admit that regardless of the income bracket that you fall in, regardless of how much money you make, at the end of the day there will be a saving. There will be a saving at the end of the day.

Granted, the less a family can afford to buy the smaller the saving. That is correct. But I would rather see, at the end of a year, $185 to $200 going back in someone's pocket, because we moved from 20 per cent to 15 per cent, than I would to leave it the way it is. Add it up any way you want, forget the federal side, forget the GST, with this bill, as of April 1, we will be moving, effectively, the 12 per cent rate, which is the highest in this country, to 8 per cent. Where do you find an argument that is justified to say you should not do that?

The world would know that if the Opposition were not able to single out the oil they probably would have singled out diapers because we missed that one or we did not address it. But at the end of the day the argument still remains the same, 20 per cent to 15 per cent. The average individual in this Province will have from $185 more per year in their pocket, and up. What is the problem with being willing to admit that that adds up, at the end of the day, to $105 million left in the Province to be used for purchases of other items?

If you are going to stand in this House and single out items that will cost more, have the common sense and the decency to at least point out that $105 million will still be left in the economy. Now it is not, Mr. Speaker, that the $105 million is being left in the provincial coffers, no. The $105 million is staying in the pockets of the consumer; $105 million more, not narrowed down in one section of the Province, but the $105 million being spread to every nook and cranny, every hamlet, large cities, small towns, the bays and the coves. The $105 million will stay in those areas.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I heard a point the other day, and this morning as well, about the fact: Who says that the business people are going to pass on those savings? Mr. Speaker, that was said this morning by one of the hon. members, and that, to me, is more than just an attack on the business community in this Province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?

MR. WALSH: It was said here in this House, if not this morning last week: Who said it is going to be passed on? I could research Hansard and find out.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. WALSH: Whether it was this morning or last week is irrelevant, it was said in this Chamber. I think what you will find, Mr. Speaker, is that the reduction that we are seeing will be passed on. You won't see it being held back by the business community, because the consumer is a smarter shopper today than they have ever been. The consumer is a smarter shopper and the consumer will ensure that they get the breaks. They will get it by letting their feet do the talking, they will walk to the store that is offering them the saving.

So let's not forget, at the end of the day, that you have been able to jump in front of the oil truck, to stand in the parade and walk forward. Be very careful.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) oil truck.

MR. WALSH: Well that's what they are doing. They are saying, the tax on oil. Be very careful that the people you think you are trying to defend with that argument are not in the oil truck rolling over you because you are looking to see the taxes stay as they are. We are coming from 20 per cent to 15 per cent. We are going to leave $105 million more in the economy, and at the end of the day, the average item that is purchased, day in and day out, will see the reduction.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. members on the other side have about another five or six speakers lined up and I don't want to steal the time from them, but I wanted to point out, if not some of the inaccuracies, if not some of the flaws in their argument, I want them to at least, during some of their speeches today, to admit to the facts as they are; $105 million in the economy, 20 per cent to 15 per cent and a break, as of tomorrow morning, for anyone who wishes to purchase an automobile. That money stays in the economy, it will stimulate the economy, don't be afraid of it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to make a few comments on the proposed legislation with respect to the harmonization of taxes and how that will impact upon the people of this Province, and quite possibly the people in Atlantic Canada, generally.

I would like to begin by saying, Mr. Speaker, that it is not fear-mongering on the part of members of this side of the House. What it is, is the fear of the unknown. That is essentially the problem with this legislation, the fear of the unknown. We do not know what impact this legislation will have after one, two, three and even, as most critics are saying, after five years, if we have a reverse situation, if we have a situation when the deficit, from a tax revenue point of view, could be significantly higher than what it would be now if the present taxes were to stay in place. What it is, Mr. Speaker, is the fear of the unknown.

It is a situation, with Bill No. 45, "An Act To Implement The Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement Between The Government Of Canada And The Government Of Newfoundland And Labrador," of not knowing exactly what the impact of this legislation will be as time goes on. It has an uncertain future, Mr. Speaker, and it is that uncertain future that I would like to make my few comments and address the House on this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, this package, it can be argued, is too little and will soon run out. It doesn't go on indefinitely. I mean, the benefits and the advantages that are being proclaimed by members opposite, and being envisaged by this legislation, even admits that the benefits or advantages to the Canadian taxpayer are short-lived. Therefore, one has to question the validity of legislation which in and of itself has a benefit which is short-term only. It does not have long-term benefits, or long term repercussions, to the Canadian taxpayer.

Tax harmonization was never an election issue. It was signed in principle, it was a memorandum of understanding or a memorandum of agreement, and it was signed by the Premier shortly after the election, in a way, I would suggest, that the truth was being hidden from the Newfoundland people. The truth was being concealed. Why was this agreement done in this way? Why was it done in a memorandum of understanding fashion? Why was it done without full presentation and full facts being given to the electorate of this Province?

Why is it also, Mr. Speaker, that we only have three, as it turns out, three Liberal governments in Atlantic Canada who were co-signatories to this agreement? What about Western Canada? What about Central Canada? I realize that it was not possible, constitutionally, for certain provinces to join, but there are certainly other provinces within this federation which could have been given, and were given, the opportunity to participate in this legislation, but chose not to. The question has to be asked: Why is that? Why is it three of the smaller provinces in this country, three from one region only, were willing, in secretive fashion, without full disclosure to the people, to enter into an agreement with the federal government of this country?

Businesses, Mr. Speaker, are fearful of the impact this legislation will have. It has a cost factor to the businesses of this region, Mr. Speaker, in that the transfer and the conversion, whether it be done through computers or cash registers or whatever - there are significant costs that will be incurred, I would argue, to the businesses in this region, simply to convert the existing tax regime into the new tax regime. The Retail Council of Canada says the cost of conversion will exceed the savings from harmonization. That is their prediction, that is their statement. Most businesses can't absorb, they argue, the cost without increasing prices or laying off employees. One has to ask the question: Once that happens, where does that get us?

Mr. Speaker, without more provinces entering this deal and becoming participants in this arrangement with our federal government, the cost of administering it will become a great burden, and neither the provinces of P.E.I., Quebec, Ontario or Alberta want it. So again, as I just indicated a few moments ago, why is that? Why is it only certain provinces within this country, and all of those provinces which were prepared to participate from one particular region?

The St. John's Board of Trade, Mr. Speaker, says a hidden tax will make our prices appear to tourists to be far higher than they would pay at home. This first glance shock will discourage buying. Clearly, this Province in particular, which is embarking upon a big year from a tourism point of view, has to do everything in its power to welcome tourists and to ensure that tourists, when they visit this Province, feel they are being treated with fairness and equity, and that there is nothing being hidden from them, and that they know, when they purchase an item, or when they purchase a commodity, exactly what it is they are getting, they know the actual dollar figure with no information being concealed.

My colleagues, Mr. Speaker, spoke at some length earlier today about certain commodities being taxed less, but I think what really offends most people in this Province is this issue of children's clothing, how there is an increased tax for children's clothing of all situations. I mean, the children in this Province are suffering enough. They are suffering in terms of cuts with respect to health care. All we have to do is look at the decision this week - or not necessarily a decision this week, but certainly confirmation of a decision this week that the children were being disadvantaged once it was realized that again the revenues from education savings were no longer going to be redirected to the schools of this Province.

I would argue, Mr. Speaker, that that, in and of itself, is a breach of a commitment, and I would use the word promise, that was given by this government to the people of this Province that the savings which were generated from reforms and changes in our education system would be diverted or redirected directly to the schools and the children of this Province.

I ask the question, and I asked it during this week, and I will repeat myself at this time: Would people in this Province have chosen to support reform, as they understood it to be, if they knew that the money that would be saved as a result of reform would not have gone back to the classrooms of this Province? Would people have voted for reform?

I volunteered the response to that, Mr. Speaker, during the week, that they would not have voted for reform. When the people of this Province took it upon themselves, a majority, granted a very small majority, to support the concept of change in the structure and the governance of our education system, the vast majority, I would argue, did it on the premise and understanding and commitment by this government that monies saved would have been redirected for the benefit of their children.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Mr. Speaker, that is it. The Government House Leader can respond or rebut or argue all he wishes on that point, but there is no doubt in my mind. The educators of this Province, the school board trustees in particular, parents obviously, members of the Home and School Federation and so on, these are the people who are appalled by the fact that the young people of this Province are being short-served once again, once it has become aware to them that the money is not being redirected. That is a decision which, I would say, is fatal and will be fatal to this government in the final analysis. Because the people honour a commitment, the people honour an understanding, particularly one which is fundamental to the decision that was made, whether it be in an election or, in the case of education, a referendum.

Mr. Speaker, the poor spend a greater percentage of their income on essentials that will cease to be tax exempt. When we are talking about poor, the ratio of poor to middle-income to higher-income in this Province is higher than in any other Province. So really the impact of this tax regime will have a greater affect upon a greater number of people because of the larger number of people within our Newfoundland population that are at or below a certain level. Therefore, the impact of this tax, Mr. Speaker, will be greater on a larger number of people simply because they live here in this Province and simply because of the level of income.

How will that impact upon these people - heating fuel, electricity? How many days did we spend in this House presenting petitions, Mr. Speaker, and debating back and forth with members opposite the issue of the application by the company for an increase? How often did we repeat ourselves again, petition after petition, on behalf of the tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders who simply stated they could not afford an increase, who simply stated they had had enough?

Again, Mr. Speaker, what this tax does is impose once again another burden on the people of this Province. Because in addition to heating fuel, electricity is also impacted by this new tax regime, and children's clothing, as I already mentioned. Other areas which we have heard before: funerals, hair cuts, legal fees, real estate costs - the tax rate on basic necessities will be more than double because of this harmonized sales tax. These are options that people in this Province use and take advantage of on a daily basis.

Yes, there was a good news story this morning with respect to the purchase of automobiles, and that is good. I mean, we have to accept that there has to be balance. The role of an opposition is not always to criticize and not always to hammer a government regardless of a decision. There has to be recognition of good news stories. The Minister of Education this morning gave a report with respect to students in our Province entering high school, and a grade III mathematics survey, and again it showed improvements by students in this Province. In fact, in one of these studies students were at a par with other students in this country. That is a good news story, and I will be the first person to compliment the government and to congratulate the government, and to celebrate with the government, if in fact there are stories which are commendable, and if there are reports which when made know to the public can be congratulated.

I will also, as an Opposition member, do my best to speak out against legislation, or speak out against issues which we are strongly adverse to; and this is one of them, Mr. Speaker. Bill 45 is a piece of legislation which unfortunately, in my view and certainly the view of my colleagues on this side of the House, will have a detrimental effect for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in years to come.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians did not want it. We know that. We have heard weeks and weeks of debate in the Assembly of Nova Scotia where members of the Legislative Assembly in that Province debated, as we are today, the advantages and disadvantages of a Harmonized Sales Tax. The Opposition Party in Nova Scotia did its best to represent the interests of, I would say, the majority of Nova Scotians and how they were opposed to this Harmonized Sales Tax.

The Harmonized Sales Tax will drive up the price of electricity when thousands of consumers just finished voicing their opposition to an electricity price hike. I use that example again, Mr. Speaker, to simply point out the fact that it is so obvious that it is a smack in the face to Newfoundlanders, when only just weeks ago if there was one issue on which Newfoundlanders were prepared to voice their concern day after day, it was on that point. This government now had the audacity to, in a secret way, negotiate and agreement in principle, or a Memorandum of Understanding, on the issue of Harmonized Sales Tax. We simply say that is not acceptable, and the people of this Province deserve better.

Mr. Speaker, it is argued as well that we will lose our autonomy to set tax rates under this deal. As a result of this harmonization, as a Province we lose an ability, from an internal point of view, to determine what our own tax regime is. We have now shifted or transferred that responsibility to the federal government. Mr. Speaker, losing control and losing autonomy is really the last thing we want to do in this Province. Goodness knows we have done it with essentially every natural resource that we have ever had, in most cases to our detriment, and once again, even in terms of control and managing our affairs from a fiscal point of view in terms of our own tax regime, our own tax structure, we have now voluntarily shifted that once again.

Ottawa raises, or can raise, the rate unilaterally. Any Province can veto a tax decrease. If our revenues need increase, what will we have to do to get extra revenue? What role do we have to play? How can we determine the outcome of our own fiscal reality when we have lost the control, Mr. Speaker, to determine the very tax regime that we, perhaps, as a Province will decide we need from time to time.

If our revenue needs decrease, how will we give a sales tax back? Again, that is an example as to how we have lost the ability to determine what our own tax regime ought to be, again by this volunteer, somewhat secretive Memorandum of Agreement that was entered into between this Province and the federal government.

The Finance Minister, Mr. Speaker, tells stories about the economy growing to make up for the loss of revenue under the Harmonized Sales Tax. I think what we have to do sometimes is perhaps look at the figures and look at the details, and when we carefully scrutinize them we see that the story is not as glowing as it may appear to be. I want to give just a few examples if I may.

Let's ask the question: How much is earned now in sales tax revenue? Under the Provincial Sales Tax in Newfoundland, in this fiscal year of '95-'96, there was a total of $565 million. The federal sales tax or GST from Newfoundland, in the most recent twelve month period for which statistics are available, is a total of $283 million for a total sales tax revenue from Newfoundland, in a twelve month period, of $848 million.

The next question: How much will be earned under the new sales tax? How much is earned under the new tax regime? Remember, the current GST rate is 7 per cent. The new value added tax, Mr. Speaker, will be 15 per cent. Everything now taxed with GST will be taxed with a value added tax. So the total revenue should increase by a factor of 15/7. When we do the calculations - so that is $283 million - by 15/7 we have a total, Mr. Speaker, of $606 million.

Let's now ask the next question: How much will Newfoundland get under the new tax? The Minister of Finance has dealt with this issue and has raised this issue in the past. I will now raise the question once again: How much will we get, as a Province, under the new tax regime? The total value added tax revenue is $606 million. We now have to subtract the federal government's share,. we have to subtract Ottawa's share, which is what they get now, and that works out to $283 million. So Newfoundland's share of value added tax revenue is $323 million.

Mr. Speaker, let's ask the question: How much will Newfoundland be short compared to what it gets now? Current RST revenues in Newfoundland, as I have indicated, total $565 million and Newfoundland's share of the value added tax revenue, which will be returned to the Province, $323 million. So Newfoundland will, in fact, be short. There will be a deficit according to these calculations, which I have no reason to disbelieve, of $242 million a year. This is what the projected deficit will be when we factor in current retail sales tax revenues and deduct from that Newfoundland's share of the value added tax revenue. We have a total sales tax revenue of $242 million a year.

Now let's look at the federal contribution. Federal compensation starts in year one and it decreases - you see, this is the issue, Mr. Speaker, and this goes back to the unknown. Right now it sounds great. The Province is compensated for entering into this regime, but it has that long term impact. It has that impact, Mr. Speaker, that after year three or after year five, the so called benefits of this regime appear to just simply disappear, and this is the unknown or the uncertainty that is causing problems for members on this side. Federal compensation, Mr. Speaker, starts in year one and it decreases each year over the next four.

Let's go through these figures, Mr. Speaker. Let's ask the question, how much we are short in years one and two, the first two years? How much Newfoundland is short; $242 million, and we subtract 5 per cent which is what the Province pays which equals $12 million. So we are down to $230 million which is the difference - and Ottawa pays 100 per cent of the difference in years one and two only. Newfoundland is short $12 million in each of years one and two.

How much are we short in year three? In year three, Newfoundland will be short $242 million. Again, we subtract the $12 million which is the 5 per cent. The difference is $230 million, and Ottawa pays 50 per cent, not 100 per cent, of the difference. So we have to deduct $115 million from the $230 million, which represents one-half, and Newfoundland pays the other 50 per cent, again $115 million. We add again the 5 per cent which we subtracted above and Newfoundland's shortfall in year three, in accordance with these calculations, is $127 million.

Now, let's go to year four and the situation becomes gloomier.

AN HON. MEMBER: Gloomier?

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Gloomier.

How much in revenue - what is our shortfall? Again, the $242 million figure. We subtract once again the 5 per cent figure of $12 million. The difference is $230 million. Ottawa now only pays 25 per cent of the difference. Notice Ottawa's contribution as we progress from years two, three and four. We began at 100 per cent; then it was cut in half to 50 per cent; now it is cut in half again to 25 per cent, and we see Ottawa paying 25 per cent of the difference. Now we have to deduct $58 million from the $230 million. Newfoundland, this Province, our little Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, now has to come up with 75 per cent simply because Ottawa is only prepared to contribute 25 per cent. Again, the 5 per cent is subtracted from above. Newfoundland's shortfall in year four is $184 million. That is our shortfall.

How much are we short after year five, and every year from then on? Mr. Speaker, the shortfall, in accordance with this projection, after year five is $242 million, and after year five Ottawa pays us not a single red cent in order to recognize some compensation for our loss in revenues - nothing. It pays us nothing. We go from a 100 per cent contribution by Ottawa after year one to absolutely zero after year five. We are set adrift, Mr. Speaker. That is what this agreement does; it sets this Province adrift. We are financially on our own. Here we are in a Dominion, a federation, but this agreement, this secret deal, this Memorandum of Understanding, this non-election issue, this attempt to hoodwink Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, results in a shortfall, after five years, Mr. Speaker, of some $242 million. If that is the case, and if members opposite are proud of that particular fact, let them support this legislation.

As I indicated earlier, Mr. Speaker, I have a responsibility to congratulate the government when good, sound decisions are made, and I will do that. I will be the first to commend government, as we saw this morning, in impressive education studies showing that our students are doing well; but I will also be the first to voice my objection to the passage of any legislation which, in my view, does nothing but put this Province down the drain.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, that is all that this legislation does.

Thank you very much.

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

MS KELLY: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today just to speak to a few items that I have been listening to in the debate this afternoon, and one point in particular that was brought up by the Member for St. John's East. While he brought up many points, I was particularly disappointed with one of the issues that he raised about tourism, in which he said that the harmonized tax would be a deterrent to tourism next year, because of the fact, he felt, that tourists would come into the Province and would see an increased price tag and it would be a huge deterrent. I wish that the hon. member had thought this through a little more and realized that one of the biggest deterrents to tourism in this Province is the fact that we have the highest retail sales tax in the country at 20 per cent. So many times tourists do not come here because of the fact that we have the highest rate in the country. This now will put us on an even keel with other provinces.

Of course, when he presented a picture of why the rest of the country is not doing this - Alberta of course doesn't have a retail sales tax. So there are varying reasons. I think when you look at the economies of Atlantic Canada, that the governments of Atlantic Canada, when they sat down and assessed this, knew that for us to be competitive, and for us not to be always in a have-not position, we had to have a level playing field and we had to be able to compete with everyone else.

I'm very proud of the fact that I'm a part of this government, and that this is the first time since Confederation, since 1949, that we have been able to consider a decrease in the tax rate. I'm quite disappointed that some of the discussion I've been hearing from the opposite side of the House today has not presented a balanced picture.

We had, over many, many hours of very detailed discussion, had much discussion about how this would affect the poor in our Province. We have studied the figures. We have done everything possible to look at how this will affect everyone in our Province. The figures are showing us that the poor will be positively impacted, that they will have more money in their pocket. We have committed that if this is not in fact correct, we will reassess the situation. This is not being brought in to unduly affect the poor. We have very carefully analyzed this, but we also know that if the facts do not bear out, what we are saying here, that we will go back and reassess this situation.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS KELLY: No. We have committed that if these facts do not bear out, that we are being given by the economists, that we will reassess the situation.

In closing, I would like to return the point, I guess, in talking about business in general. This ought to be very good for not only the people of Newfoundland but the businesses in Newfoundland. While it is fair enough to talk about the few disadvantages, there are many more advantages than disadvantages. In particular, one of the biggest advantages is to tourism. It is a wonderful thing to be able to take the tax rate from 20 per cent down to 15 per cent. This has been one of the major impediments -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS KELLY: Well, obviously this is not going to correct everything, but certainly, when we are doing up our tourism brochures, it will be a very positive thing to say that we have an equalized tax rate with the rest of Atlantic Canada.

I would like to, at this time, Mr. Speaker, adjourn the debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for leaving us with a few bright spots after all the fog, rain, drizzle, sleety snow, haze and everything else that we have heard from the other side today. I would like to, on that note, tell them that they can get ready to give us some more fog, haze, drizzle, sleet, snow, rain again on Monday, because we are going to debate this bill again on Monday. I want them to go home and sleep well.

I move that this House adjourn until December 16 at 2:00 p.m.

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